Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Magic Number Is "12"

See, 13 states can drop out of earlier associations and form their own country, but if 11 try the same thing, it's a no-no.

(Hideously uncomfortable historical note: somebody's gonna wonder if slavery might be a limiting factor, too. The short, sad answer is no; it was legal in all 13 colonies at the time of Revolution and only Vermont and Massachusetts had put an end to the practice before the 18th Century ended. What's the Oscar Wilde quote about "We're all standing in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars?" Gotta do more than just watch, sir).


Divemedic said...

Many point to the Civil war as evidence that states cannot secede. I say that they do not read history properly. The southern states did in fact secede, and were only brought back in to the country by force, making the former Confederacy occupied territory. This proves that secession is recognized under the law and constitution. (and also makes it hard for the US to take the moral high ground against Israel's West Bank)

Proof: Art IV, section 3 of the US Constitution says that "no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State." Since West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia, the only way that WV could be a state is if Virginia was not a state at the time of WV's admission to the union. This means that VA's secession must have been legal.

Standard Mischief said...

There's also the curious case of West Virginia which, if the parent state of Virginia had not seceded, would not have been allowed to be formed (article IV, section 3).

(And for those who are interested, there is quite a few claims that the county by county referendums had agents from the North on hand to make sure the election went the right way.)

Of course, this was when Lincoln was in office. He's our first President to violate the Constitution wholesale.

Earl said...

Glad the comments mentioned West Virginia, did it come in as a Free State?

wolfwalker said...

Standard Mischief wrote: "Of course, this was when Lincoln was in office. He's our first President to violate the Constitution wholesale."

No, he wasn't. That dishonor belongs to Andrew Jackson, who threw away the Constitution's sections on treaties in his dealings with the Southeastern Amerinds. It's possible (barely) to argue that Lincoln's actions during the War of the Rebellion were justified by the exigencies of wartime, but no decent human would dare claim that the Trail of Tears had any redeeming value whatsoever.

Ian Argent said...

Quote all of Art IV, Sec 3:
"New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

I've heard various histories about which legislature did the conenting, and under what circumstances. But there was a legislative act of consent

Roberta X said...

Wolfwalker: amen!

Ken said...

+1 to wolfwalker.

Also, I'm reading Ellis's Founding Brothers as time permits, and he puts considerable attention into the slavery issue during the founding era. Of particular interest are the first Quaker petition in 1790, the petition signed by Ben Franklin just before he died, and the Congressional activity surrounding those.

Although Ellis appears to be a Hamiltonian and a durn Federalist sympathizer ;-), it's a heck of a well-written work. I recommend it.

Don Meaker said...

States can leave the union, or be kicked out, but the legal process to do so doesn't include firing on US installations. Rather, it would be by amendment (3/4ths or states) or by court case. Southern Gentlemen in 1860 didn't think they had a case, and so didn't file a suit.

The magic number: Enough to win

Don Meaker said...

I will also note that Texas v. White was the supreme court case that held that secession as practiced by Texas in the War of the Rebellion, had no legal merit.

Dave_H said...

Our country was founded by an act of secession. The legality of it would be determined by the success or failure of it, just as it was by George Washington and co. A good number of our celebrated revolutionary heroes might well have ended up with nooses around their necks had things gone the other way.
I give you a portion of the Declaration of Independence. It makes the founding fathers position on the question quite clear. In my opinion it takes incredible mental gymnastics to say that it would not apply to our current government if things got far enough out of hand. Of course, just as in previous circumstances, the people would be greatly divided over whether the threshold for action had been reached.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Ian Argent said...

The line from 1776 delivered by Bn Franklin seems particularly apt: "Don't you know that revolution is only illegal in the third person, such as "their revolution?" In the first person, such as "our revolution" it's perfectly legal."

Jenny said...

1. "The magic number is: Enough to win" - agreed. :)

2. RE Old Hickory. Jackson would (and did, IIRC) argue that his policy of Indian Removal was a means of getting the Cherokee et al away from the States, esp. GA, who (quoting State sovereignty) would otherwise have disposed of their claims - and possibly *them* - entirely. So there's an argument to be made that Removal - evil as it was - was in the realpolitik of the day a way of ensuring they at least got *something.* That's not saying it's right or an ideal solution... but few things are as easily handled in the thick of things as we would like from our vantage point two centuries later.

3. "Founding Brothers" - I'm growing increasingly skeptical of Ellis. He's one of those types that can read you a list of quite true things... but do it in such a way you come away with scorning the person he's talking about - for an example read his account of Washington on the breastworks at Yorktown, then the original account in Joseph Plumb Martin's diary. All the *facts* are the same - to include Martin's reflections - and yet Washington comes off *much* worse in the Ellis book. Likewise his "mindreading" of Jefferson, constantly inserting the worst possible motivation for his actions in the narrative.

I still think Ellis is worth reading... just um... not without double checking him on anything that sounds "off." And with a great big cellar of salt for his Federalist-leaning take on things.