To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Monday, July 15, 2024


Secession Obsession



In the Dec. 1 edition of the Lawton Constitution, there was another bit of Economics Professor Walter E. Williams attempts at historical opinion. He, like many of his ilk, cherry pick facts and events to build a case.

Albert Einstein once observed: If the facts do not fit the theory, change the facts. Mr. Williams has taken those words to heart.

In his op-ed “Is Parting Company a Bad Idea?” the professor of economics begins, “For decades, it has been obvious that there are irreconcilable differences between Americans who want to control the lives of others and those who want to be left alone.”

It is a statement full of “dog whistles” and “red flags” intended to appeal to the ultra rightwing, separatists and secessionists.

Williams attempts to build a case on the fact that there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that specifically denies the right to secede. He begins his argument with the 1787 constitutional convention in which various arguments were made against Federalism. His case continues by quoting a couple instances where amendments were offered to make secession illegal, after seven southern states seceded.

His argument is that the amendments were proof that there is nothing contained within the Constitution to prevent any given state from seceding.

He goes to great length to build an argument for the right to secede, stating that “the Constitution would never have been ratified if states thought that they could not maintain their sovereignty.”

That, in and of itself, displays Mr. Williams’ lack of research or his real intent – which is to continue to foment unrest.

To really understand the issue it would be necessary for one to read the Federalist Papers, missives written to convince the states that ratification of the Constitution was the best choice for effective government.

Most of these so-called Constitutionalists pride themselves on constitutional purity and the rule of law as the way to govern. I do not disagree. I agree that it is through our established form of government – a Republic – that effective and egalitarian governance is possible.

The Supreme Court is often cited as the final authority in matters of the Law of the Land.

On April 12, 1869 a Supreme Court decision in the case of Texas vs. White, made secession of any state illegal. In accepting original jurisdiction, the court ruled that Texas had remained a state ever since it first joined the Union, despite its joining the Confederate States of America and its being under military rule at the time of the decision in the case.

In deciding the merits of the bond issue, the court further held that the Constitution did not permit states to unilaterally secede from the United States, and that the ordinances of secession, and all the acts of the legislatures within seceding states intended to give effect to such ordinances, were “absolutely null.”

The court’s opinion was delivered by Chief Justice Salmon Chase, a former cabinet member under Abraham Lincoln. An excerpt of Chase’s decision is as follows:

“The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to ‘be perpetual.’ And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained ‘to form a more perfect Union.’ It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?”

As we pledge our allegiance “to the Republic for which it stands” when we recite the Pledge of Allegiance we are not pledging to some sort of tenuous, factious confederation of states. When we Pledge our Allegiance it is to The Republic – a system of governance based on the rule of law – which has been embodied in our Constitution and which has been defined and protected by our Supreme Court.

It is time to quit acting like a bunch of sore losers and pick up the mantel of citizenship and responsibility and do the hard work of building a more perfect Union.

Don Nelson lives in Lawton, OK and is an occasional contributor to The Oklahoma Observer


Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.