Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Secession: Screw You Guys! I'm Going Home

My Letter to the Editor, Wall Street Journal
In Michael Trinklein's "Altered States" in the Weekend Journal of April 17-18, he states, "Seceding from the nation is illegal...". The Supreme Court ruled in 1869 in Texas v. White that "The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States". It's curious why he didn't state in the article that seceding from a state is also illegal. Or is it that the Court was simply wrong to declare secession illegal? At the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, it was widely understood that any state would retain the right to leave the union after ratification if its people determined it was no longer a beneficial agreement. The writings of Thomas Jefferson, Alexis de Tocqueville, George Mason and many others document the thinking of the time was that it would be downright ridiculous for states to be compelled to remain part of a country when the costs and sacrifices outweighed the benefits. New Englanders spent years trying to secede from the union long before the South tried to secede. To the founders, secession was a very real and obvious course of action to check an overbearing central government. Today, talk of secession draws a condescending chuckle mostly because we've been told it's illegal, impossible and a dead issue settled by Lincoln's use of force. The tone of the article reinforces that perspective. As a long-time   reader of the WSJ, I expect more than breezy excerpts - even in the Weekend Journal. Given the facts about the intent of the founders, the issue of secession seems worthy of a more weighty piece written by a journalist. Leave the excerpts and promotional book reviews to the online retailers.
Paul Entin
Bloomsbury, NJ

Addendum: Rhode Island, New York and Virginia only agreed to ratify the Constitution based on the clear and obvious understanding that the states would leave the union if it no longer benefited its people. Here's a fine explanation from History Vortex.

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