P.S. I Love You

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190 Responses

  1. Mr. Blue says:

    Oh, good lord.Report

  2. greginak says:

    Wow that was a weird letter.Report

  3. Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    I can hardly wait for Density Duck to reply. I’m sure it will be classic.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    I see Chick-fil-A as more analogous to unwanted groping on a subway or public transit bus.Report

  5. J.L. Wall says:

    This could, of course, be a simple typo, but that 46% number refers to a poll of Mississippi Republicans, not the total from a national poll. (Where I’m from, we take every opportunity that presents itself to single out Mississippi for shame — otherwise, we might wind up on the bottom of a national ranking somewhere or other.)Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to J.L. Wall says:

      That was my thing- I read 46% of the GOP, thought ‘holy Moses’, read the link, and thought “Ohhhhh… 46 percent of the Mississippi GOP- that’s a bit more plausible!” Of course, 73% of people misread statistics, so it’s understandable.Report

      • M.A. in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Yes, just a typo on my part. I was editing the paragraph and pulled a bit too much to shorten the sentence.

        46% of Mississippi GOP, however, is… the old, racist South “Mom” that the letter writer “loves” while considering the rest of the nation an “abusive Dad.” So I think my point there stands.Report

  6. Tom Van Dyke says:

    He thinks he’s scoring points calling me “traitor” and “racist” and “ignorant,” … but the tears he sees on my face aren’t tears of shame. They are tears of sorrow at the monster he is turning into.

    As a clever fellow once said, Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.Report

  7. Shazbot5 says:

    So, let me get this straight.

    Texas is a teenage girl who -when she was a child- killed her murderous Mexican father. Then years later she got raped (along with her adoptive mother and step sisters) by her adoptive dad and step brothers. Yet she still stands by her rapist dad and always did and will. But now she is moving out because her rapist dad is spending too much of her allowance and/or taking her money with his Iranian and Chinese drinking buddies, not because he and her brothers are rapists.

    I am certain that I saw Texas on Jerry Springer.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      I’ll go with this Springer-like analogy:

      Georgia, (Virginia, etc) was a teenage girl imprisoned by an abusive, sorta rapey, father – a father so dastardly-yet-loving he helped her kill the local popular girl when she showed up in town, I might add. Her abuse seemed everlasting, but then! …. she was righteously liberated from this terribly taxing relationship by her step father who threw nasty old Dad outa the house. Unfortunately for Georgia, though, after a few years, Step Dad raped and pillaged her some more. So she turned back to her rapey, abusive father for help. And the French.Report

    • agorabum in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Actually, I think that Sam Houston cut off the testicles of Mexico with a scythe and threw them into the gulf of Mexico; out of that foam, Texas was born. Texas joined in with the Titans of the south who ruled the lands of the northern shores of the gulf. These Titans devoured their own people in slavery. After a generation of devourment, the children of the North brought forth a leader, born of the south but who cast aside its ways, and refused to obey the desires of the titans to spread across the land and feed. The children of the north freed the enslaved, who joined them in the revolution, and cast down the titans.
      The surviving titans brought forth a myth of the ‘lost cause’, which spread through the land. This now angers the gods, who have decided to tie up Texas to a rock and have Barack Obama eat the liver of Texas every day (it grows back at night).

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to agorabum says:

        Agorabum—Dude, welcome. Kind of a Marxist Kipling ala BlaiseP.

        Sam Houston cut off the testicles of Mexico with a scythe and threw them into the gulf of Mexico; out of that foam, Texas was born.

        I love it. This LoOG got some serious shit going on.Report

  8. BlaiseP says:

    I wish we could carve out a little bit of Texas and give these secessionistas what they’re asking for. Take away their passports and their drivers’ licenses, revoke their citizenships and put them behind barbed wire and a mine field, exactly as they want for the Mexican border. Let them come up with a court system, police, jails. Hell, send some Libertarians down there to show them how to remake their corner of the world into a Volunteerist Paradise. And make them run an embassy in Washington and negotiate for work visas.Report

  9. DRS says:

    James M. McPherson addresses this whole issue of Southern understanding of their history in his book of essays (and a very good read it is too) This Mighty Scourge:


    In particular, read Chapter 8: “Long-Legged Yankee Lies: The Lost Cause Textbook Crusade” (see pdf of this chapter at http://www.irishbrigadecamp.com/8%20Long-legged%20Yankee%20Lies.pdf ) which details how various Confederate veterans’ groups worked hard to ensure that the Lost Cause version of history prevailed and that the official line of the letter-writer above would become the True Version of History. For over 100 years southern kids were raised on these myths.Report

  10. Damon says:

    I really don’t see the need for such hostility. This whole “secessionists are a bunch of racist homophobes who want their women pregnant and barefoot and we’re not letting them leave anyway.”

    WTF cares if they leave. I’d think you all would actually encourage it. All the libertarians and the conservos would leave and you’d have you own paradise here. Isn’t that what you want? Maybe you guys are like the Shadows and the Vorlons, you want to make sure when you win that the other side knows you won?Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Damon says:

      The funhouse of mirrors gets pretty intense after a while, doesn’t it? Canada’s got its Quebecois who want to secede, Spain’s got the Catalan, Nigeria’s got the Boko Haram, everyone’s got someone who’s dissatisfied and wants to exit the proposition they’re in.

      America is about different viewpoints. Start up some commune somewhere, that’s an American tradition too. The Amish, the Mormons, they’ve all tried the commune thing. They made it work.

      But the Amish managed to disconnect themselves from the outside world, the power grid, Social Security, conscientious objector status. Maybe you should leave, if you’re so unhappy. You’re already disconnected from the rest of us. You don’t believe in us any more, not that you ever did. Disconnection is all you guys know.Report

    • mark boggs in reply to Damon says:

      All the libertarians…would leave

      Really? I certainly would want little of what a secessionist Alabama had to offer when they could ignore all them voting and civil rights amendments.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Damon says:

      WTF cares if they leave.

      None of us, probably. The question is where they go, what they take with them. The problem isn’t that they want to leave, it’s that they want to take part of our territory, occupied by people who don’t want to leave, with them.

      People in all 50 states have signed secessionist petitions. Are all 50 states going to secede?

      I say let’s be generous. Buy them a bunch of old oil rigs, put them in place for these folks, and tell them that’s their new homeland and they’ve got 60 days to turn in their passports and get the hell out of the U.S.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

        I would miss their food. And their college football. Let’s keep our priorities straight here, okay?Report

      • Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        Some Texans want to secede. I can assure you that Austin, San Antonio, and Houston would certainly lack a majority vote to leave. (Heck, I’d be surprised if they got as high as a third to secede in those cities).

        So do they get to stay US citizens? Or dragged along by Texas? Can they then secede from Texas and petition to join the US?Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Morat20 says:

          A state might have to be redrawn. E.g., if the state as a whole voted to leave, but some counties on the border with what remained of the U.S. voted to stay, they should stay. Austin, unfortunately is too smack dab in the middle to make staying functional, so they’re screwed as a matter of practicality. But as I said elsewhere, I’d support a resettlement program for anyone who wants to leave the seceding state and remain in the U.S.

          Or to answer your question with a question, what happened to the loyalists in 1776? Did the outcome get determined by their preferences? Should it have been? No and no, and we could follow Great Britain’s model of doing right by them, but actually do it a lot better than they did.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

            So Austin COULD secede from Texas, forming it’s own state in the middle? If Texas leaves the US, it’s obviously made the precedent for doing so.

            Austin could then make an alliance with the United States. I can’t see Texas getting into a shooting war with the US over Austin, even if it does contain their capital building.

            Which I’m sure Austin could make the new capital of the Republic of Austin.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Morat20 says:

              I think secession of interior regions is a hell of a lot trickier than secessions of border regions. But that’s all a practical problem, and if you could make it work on a practical level to be an independent hole in the donut, I’d support you as a matter of principle. And were I’d president I’d certainly grant you diplomatic recognition and sign a mutual defense treaty with you. I’d even bring you into NATO if you weren’t such a bunch of lefty anti-war activists who’d spend every NATO meeting protesting nuclear bombs and our Middle East policies. 😉 (That’s as president–as a citizen that’s exactly why I’d want you in NATO.)Report

          • NewDealer in reply to James Hanley says:

            Berlin was smack-dab in the middle of East Germany

            Hmmm…this could be a problem….Report

    • M.A. in reply to Damon says:

      WTF cares if they leave.

      How about all the people, in fact the majorities in most of the states (even the southern ones!) who don’t want to secede? Who can see the secessionists for what they are?

      All the libertarians and the conservos would leave and you’d have you own paradise here.

      I think libertarians and many conservatives and the conservatarians take one particular line too far, or fail to consider all the variables. My impressions of their philosophy come back to the “golden hammer” theory – when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That’s why the standard conserva/tarian response to anything fiscal is “tax cuts tax cuts tax cuts”; it’s the only thing they know and they’re not about to go outside their comfort zone into other tools or consider if whacking something with a hammer could cause more harm than good.

      Would I want all of them to just up and leave? No, I don’t think so. I’m not a big fan of the vegan crowd, and there does need to be a balance. We need the conservatives and their point of view, we just also need them to grow up and learn to express it intelligently and in a sane and considered manner rather than throwing temper tantrums every time they don’t get their way.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

        How about all the people, in fact the majorities in most of the states (even the southern ones!) who don’t want to secede?

        Sigh. Please re-read (or read for the first time) my last sentence in my first paragraph.

        Really, we’re on the same side here, so there’s no need to pick a fight based on not reading what I actually wrote.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Damon says:

      “WTF cares if they leave. I’d think you all would actually encourage it.”


      I flipped through this book in a B&N once. It was interesting, if a bit silly. What stood out was that it was on one of the tables of “Recommended Reads” or “Best Sellers” or whathaveyou at the B&N closest to Vanderbilt’s campus. I haven’t seen it in a northern store, not that I’ve looked for it.Report

      • Trumwill in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m actually sitting on a post from a couple months ago regarding this very book. The shorter version – if I never get around to posting it* – is that it is the sort of destructive thing that only feeds into the problem. It’s a point of frustration even for liberal southerners and others among us that would be considered “a credit to our people” by correct-thinking outsiders.

        * – This post, and the response to this post, decreases the likelihood considerably that I will actually do so.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Trumwill says:

          Can you elaborate, Will? Maybe I’m just fried but I can’t follow what your different pronouns are referring to.Report

          • Trumwill in reply to Kazzy says:

            I’m actually sitting on a post from a couple months ago regarding this very book. The shorter version – if I never get around to posting it – is that [books and the “don’t let the door hit you on the way out, a-hole” mentality in general] is the sort of destructive thing that only feeds into the problem. [This mentality]’s a point of frustration even for liberal southerners and others among [the south and its progeny] that would be considered “a credit to our people” by correct-thinking outsiders.

            In other words, the trashing of the south is not merely caused by southern intransigence and bad attitudes, but is the cause of intransigence and bad attitudes as well. The secession petitions are entirely inappropriate. The response to them, however, are not helpful. Especially as it comes down to considering the entirety of a people by the loudest of its malcontents. It actively undermines those of us who actually want the South to be a better place (rather than a convenient punching bag for all that is wrong with this country and/or our ideological opponents).Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Trumwill says:

              Thanks for humoring my brain fuzziness.

              I think that, culturally, we are far better off having the South than not having it. Economically? Militarily? Politically? I really don’t know enough to say. I brought up the book not to necessarily endorse it but because to me it was a novel idead; I’ve never really seen a serious argument put forth attempting to oust the South at the North’s behest. I’m confident you are right that such arguments, especially when given in the way that booked seemed to, are problematic for a host of reasons.

              While not quite the Mason/Dixon Line, I’ve crossed from living in NYC to “upstate” NY (apparently everything north of 125th St is “upstate”… I live 45 minutes from the GWB) and see how frustrating the rhetoric coming from “downstaters” is about the uselessness of the rest of us. It does little to bridge the real divide that does exist. And, yes, I used to spout that rhetoric myself.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                To be perfectly blunt, I might say the opposite. The culture aspect is the most mixed bag. Economically and militarily I don’t think there is any doubt.

                But, for me anyway, it ultimately doesn’t matter. It makes me very uncomfortable in general to openly talk about which Americans America (or the rest of America) would be better off without. Or at the least we should be very careful about how we conduct the conversation.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I, personally, really value a diversity of cultures. I like regionalism… At least to an extent.

                I’m only inclined to see “peace out” to folks if they are playing the, “No, I’m like really leaving this time, for real.”

                You are right to identify it as ugliness “Americaness” litmus tests, just going the opposite direction that we’re accustomed to.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                I am inclined towards agreement on cultures, though I also understand the frustration that comes with culture classes. And all cultures and cultural norms are not created equal. At the end of the day, though, we do have to live with one another. And even if you want them, you can’t have the material benefits without having the cultures clashing.

                I think there is a difference between “whatever, dude” (or “peace out”) and “Okay, fine, let me tell you what I really think of your lot.”

                I have a laundry list of good reasons as to why the South should stay in the US (and why the US should want the South to stay). But I have almost never had to use them. The last time I did? When that book got a review in the NYT.

                I know that there are people who think differently and that my southern cohort is not exactly a random sample of the population, but it’s cheap to put your name on a petition and I consider the very fact that my cohort (generally educated, middle class or upper, etc.) is at most ambivalent or afraid to mention it in polite company to be indicative of how little energy there actually is here. It’s a ballyhooed temper tantrum.

                Treating this like a substantial “thing”, whether to demonize people or to boost it as somehow justified frustration at the PTB, is doing a disservice to all. It’s redneck gawking, which comes at a cost. It’s instigators want nothing more than to draw out reciprocated regional disdain.

                (I recognize that I am rambling, and that a lot of this isn’t particularly in response to anything you said. I’ve had a lot of this pent up over the last couple of days, weeks, and when that book came out.)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                No worries, man. I love your ramblings and appreciate your perspective!Report

            • M.A. in reply to Trumwill says:

              The secession petitions are entirely inappropriate. The response to them, however, are not helpful.

              May I ask what sort of a response you would find to be helpful?

              It’s hard to dignify something as off-the-wall as the letter I wrote about with any sort of response that is not either aghast, or a very firm rejection. Myself, I’m quite aghast.

              There may be only a few responses really. Ignore it, parody it, vociferously oppose it, or sympathetically agree with it. If we leave the last one off in the case of behavior you feel entirely inappropriate, and if we consider that ignoring it is probably unhelpful, then we’re left with humor (which will most likely come off as condescension to those who bear hidden or open sympathy to the secessionists) or vociferous opposition.

              My final point is that it would be one thing if the right wing media were slapping this down – but they’re not. They’re treating the secessionists as if they bring something meaningful to the conversation. In other words, they disagree with you about the inappropriateness and that is indicative of a larger problem within the conservative bubble as it currently exists.Report

              • Trumwill Mobile in reply to M.A. says:

                What, me disagree with Fox News? Unthinkable!

                The first, final, and total point of this post was HATE HATE HATE HATE which is why I chose not to respond to it.

                To answer your question, the appropriate response is to call out these loudmouth jackasses, but not to say stupid crap like how much better off we would be without that region or denegrate the region as a whole. You didn’t, but I was talking about the book and not you.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Trumwill says:

          Please post it. I’m one of those northerners who is sympathetic to expelling the south, so I’m one of the people who needs to read your post.Report

  11. Rufus F. says:

    “All the libertarians and the conservos would leave”

    Oh, I’d say you’re vastly overstating the size of the secessionist movement.Report

    • M.A. in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I think you meant to reply to Damon with this one – and while I agree that the secessionists don’t make up the full group of the conserva/tarians, they make up a more sizable portion than many believe.

      Larry Kilgore, secessionist, got 8% of the Republican primary of Texas… in 2006 on a secessionist platform. (He just changed his name to “Larry SECEDE Kilgore”, capital letters as such, and is apparently running for governor for 2014 now according to a recent NYT profile.)

      To listen to the radio shows, the “south shall rise again” crowd are growing in number every day. It’s very disturbing to hear them come out of the woodwork, lots of “woah between thuh states” rhetoric and commentary very similar to what was in this letter. I can’t remember ever hearing this kind of stuff this openly ever, though I guess I have to imagine it was hiding not far under the surface to start with – which will surely reinforce the existing views that non-southerners have of the South even further. It’s not going to make people think that the Southerners aren’t still a bunch of bigots when they start sounding even more like Jim Crow advocates and secessionists from the 1960s and prior decades.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

        M.A., I do wish you’d stop conflating libertarians with conservatives in general, and especially with that type of conservative. It’s not honest.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

          There are secessionists who call themselves libertarian. Isn’t it fair to say the Libertarian creed generally espouses the doctrine wherein only voluntary associations are truly legitimate? Insofar as these folks don’t want to accede to some Tyrannous Regime in Washington, intent upon Snatchin’ Away their Preshis Freedoms, it seems a fair cop to attribute their justifications to libertarian sentiments.

          Now of course, this comes with many a caveat, most notably that you, James Hanley don’t agree with such doctrines and justifications. So stipulated. But there are people out there who are appropriating the libertarian brand. Maybe someone at Cato or elsewhere knows a good trademark lawyer, there might be some infringement goin’ on. But maybe not.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I’m not saying there aren’t secessionist libertarians. And I’m not even denying there are people who straddle a border between libertarianism and southern neo-confederacy–Ron Paul has lots of such people, unfortunately (even though it’s not clear he’s truly one himself). And I’m happy to stand with M.A. in bashing those folks vigorously.

            I’m only objecting to M.A.’s practice of branding all of libertarianism with that type of brush.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

              The problem with Libertarianism, and I’ve said this before ad nauseam, is the insistence on voluntary association as the only ethically viable construct for society. There’s much to commend in that sentiment, I’m not entirely opposed to it. I’m a Liberal. I hate tyranny. I hate Communism more than than a fat dog hates a fast car. But in so saying, I believe secessionists have broken faith with this nation.

              M.A. said all not all the conserva/tarians were secessionists. I’m not sure how many such secessionist maniacs are out there in the weeds. Maybe M.A.’s right, there are more of them that many people believe. The sentence is a wash: caveat followed by imputation.

              I’m sick of all this grinning and aw-shuck-ing about the secessionists. It’s been around all my life, the Stars and Bars on the various state flags, the xenophobic populism, the cheap shots and dog whistles about States’ Rights. I’m pleased to know you oppose all such aw-shucks-ing and attenuation of the threat these people pose to the republic. There is that little matter of the voluntary association doctrine, though. Seems to me the Libertarians have a not-so-subtle beef with the form and nature of this republic which might need some clearing up.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I actually don’t have a problem with a serious secessionist movement. I think the southern states had the authority to leave in 1861. Doesn’t mean they were wise to do so, or that they had good reasons. But it’s hard to be opposed to secession and be a proud citizen of the U.S., which itself is the product of a successful secession movement (and one based, I’d argue, on flimsier grounds than we are generally taught, having started with a “they want us to pay for our own defense against the Indians” complaint, coupled with a demand to be able to move across the Appalachians and into the Indians’ territory, while not being taxed for the further military defense that would entail).

                I’m serious that I would let Texas secede if a sufficient number of Texans wanted to (not that I’m willing to be pinned down on what that number is). I’d let them go, and create a resettlement fund for anyone who wanted to get the hell out of there and stay with the union. Or if some southern Texas counties wanted to, instead of the whole state.

                Kansas, Utah or some other non-border state? Sure. I’m tempted to say and then let’s put a border wall all the way around them, because if they want to be treated as a foreign country then fine, we’ll treat them that way. But since I believe in free trade and free emigration, I guess not that much would really change.

                But these secessionists mostly aren’t serious. As I said below, they don’t want to take their ball and go away, what they really want to do is keep the court. That is, they don’t want to secede from the U.S., they want to secede the U.S. from its rightfully elected president. If they’re serious, they can do what the libertarians tried to do–pick a state and try to move enough people there to give it a sufficient groundswell for secession. In all seriousness, Texas seems like the most likely candidate.

                If you have to force people to stay in your community, you’ve got a problem. We don’t need a metaphorical Berlin Wall to keep people in. And if we really can’t live with each other, let’s separate. But functionally we can’t do it county by county within a handful of states, so let the secessionists get serious and cluster their own selves together someplace and let that place be their new homeland.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Such a scheme is so obviously intolerable at a practical level I think we both agree it would never work. As for 1861, there was a good deal of discussion surrounding the grounds for secession. We’ve never had another Constitutional Convention, which would level-set this mechanism.

                Virginia reserved the right to withdraw from its Article VII ratification of the Constitution if things didn’t work out on a Constitutional basis, which was accepted, largely because it was a tacit admission the Constitution had to work as advertised. I think New York tried to make the right to secede explicit in its ratification but Congress said any such reserved right in such a ratification wasn’t sufficient under Article VII. Many of the states tried to get some sort of riders attached and there was a big to-do about it all, but remember, the Supreme Court wasn’t really in the picture yet, all this was dealt with in Congress itself.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I’m not persuaded such a scheme is intolerable at a practical level. But it does require that we draw some lines that may be somewhat arbitrary. E.g., it’s probably not practical to allow a handful of counties scattered here and there to secede. But if Texas wants to secede, or Rhode Island? There are complexities, but they can be worked out. And if in fact we can’t persuade a majority of Texans, Rhode Islanders, or whomever, to voluntarily stay, then I can’t see the justification for forcing them to stay at the point of gun.

                The thing is, I don’t think these secession movements are serious. These folks don’t really want to give up the benefits of being a U.S. citizen. But if they really were, and were willing to cluster together somewhere? I’d let them go with no qualms.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Couldn’t be done without a Constitutional Convention. From the time of the ratification of the Constitution until today, there’s been no exit clause allowed in any admission of any State to the Union. Once you’re in, you stay in. Frankfurter’s opinion in United States v. Louisiana, 363 U.S.121

                The readjustment of the relationship between the States that had remained in the Union and those that had seceded presented major issues not only for the political branches of the Government, the President and the Congress, but also for this Court. Insofar as the perplexing and recalcitrant problems of Reconstruction involved legal solutions, the evolution of constitutional doctrine was an indispensable element in the process of healing the wounds of the sanguinary conflict. It was in aid of that process that this Court formulated the doctrine expressed in the famous sentence in State of Texas v. White: ‘The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States.’ 7 Wall. 700, 725, 19 L.Ed. 277.

                This theory served as a fruitful means for dealing with the problems for which it was devised. It is unrelated to the question now before us, namely, whether, when it ‘approved’ as an entirety the Florida Constitution as a condition to the recognition of that State’s full membership in the Union, Congress exercised its undoubted power to approve the seaward boundary claim contained within it. It is in essence the contention of the United States that approval could only have been manifested explicitly, that Congress must have ratified the boundary provision in so many words, either expressly in the Reconstruction Acts, or by an authoritative gloss upon them in a committee report or a speech on the floor by a responsible chairman. But in these matters we are dealing with great acts of State, not with fine writing in an insurance policy. Florida was directed to submit a new constitution for congressional approval as a prerequisite for the exercise of her full rights in the Union of States and the resumption of her responsibilities. Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                I know the Constitutional argument. I’m arguing something rather different. A higher law argument if you will (although I usually avoid those).

                But constitutionally, nothing in the Constitution actually prohibits allowing a state to secede. Notably, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union explicitly spoke of a perpetual union. They also spoke explicitly about each state retaining its full sovereignty and independence, which makes for some contradiction. But the Constitution skipped over any clear statements on either of those points. Making perpetual union a possibility was the clear point of the effort, since it had become clear the Articles would not produce any such thing, but it was a wish, a hope, a goal, not an explicit requirement.

                Frankfurter’s 20th century revisionist history aside, if California says “we’d like to be an independent country,” there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that prohibits Congress from saying OK. Nor is there anything clearly authorizing Congress to do so, but we’re well past the sell date of the claim that Congress can only do what it’s explicitly authorized to do.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Casting aspersions on Frankfurter won’t save your argument. Nor will saying these secession movements aren’t serious allay anyone’s suspicions.

                In other news, Rick Perry has been proclaimed King of Texas by popular acclaimReport

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Casting aspersions on Frankfurter, eh? He was a fine liberal law professor, then turned against civil liberties on the bench. Dissed first amendment protections for speech and religious freedom. He deserves the aspersions, may he rot in hell.

                There is nothing in the Constitution about whether or not there is a right to leave. The Founders could have said there wasn’t–they didn’t because they probably could not have gotten enough states to ratify under that condition. The issue was settled by the Civil War, as a matter of might makes right, rather than as a matter of law. The Court has simply followed that de facto rule ever since, turning it into a de jure one, although no doubt in complete sincerity. But there’s no doubt that at the time of ratification, there was no consensus that the commitment was irrevocable. The first states to murmur about secession weren’t even in the south. The “constitution forbids it” argument is one that’s been socially constructed over time. It could be socially reconstructed, just as the right to abortion could be, or as Frankfurter’s denial of religious freedom for Jehovah’s witnesses was.

                That’s not to say it should be. Only that it could be. It would be trivially easy, given the absence of any mention, one way or the other, in the Constitution.Report

              • Couldn’t be done without a Constitutional Convention.

                Well, there’s theory and then there’s practice. Given substantial voting majorities on both sides of the divide that agree to a split, who’s going to stop it? Granted, given that situation, it’s probably straightforward to get the necessary amendment passed. But even without that, if on a given date everyone simply starts acting like there’s two countries, what’s going to stop it?

                I admit that I’m in favor of an eventual split — although the line I want to draw is quite different from the North-South division people seem to be generally considering here. If both sides agree that they would be better off going their own way, the rest is just accounting.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Them what lives by the Constitution must die by it, too. I thought Congress made the laws, not the courts, though I could be mistaken in that. You being a PoliSci guy and all, I’ll defer to your judgement on this front. Congress didn’t tolerate exit clauses when the Constitution was ratified and if the Civil War was the triumph of Federalism, it didn’t stop the Constitution from being amended, much to the dismay of those who remembered the halcyon days when Negroes were only 3/5 of a person and women didn’t vote at all.

                The States be damned. They have their own constitutions. If Rick Perry wanted to convene a state constitutional convention for Texas and get himself crowned the Jackalope King on that basis, let him try.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

                Just say that they’re living Constitutions, they obviously can’t mean what they say, the Founders could never have foreseen, and that, seriously, it’s not a suicide pact.

                Honestly, is there anything that the Constitution forbids anymore?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                I thought Congress made the laws, not the courts, though I could be mistaken in that.
                I can’t find the quote right now, but some federal judge or other famously said, “Do judges make law? Sure, I’ve made a few myself.”

                But more to the point, we’re talking about what the Constitution means or doesn’t, or more precisely what it can be reasonably interpreted to mean. Congress ain’t got dick to do with that.

                Congress didn’t tolerate exit clauses when the Constitution was ratified
                WTF? Congress as we know it didn’t exist when the Constitution was being ratified. Your statement is a total non-sequitur.

                if the Civil War was the triumph of Federalism,
                I’d argue it was the first serious blow to federalism, the moment when the Supremacy Clause became very very real.

                it didn’t stop the Constitution from being amended, much to the dismay of those who remembered the halcyon days when Negroes were only 3/5 of a person and women didn’t vote at all.
                Yeah? I have no idea what relevance this truism has to our discussion here.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, here the discussion can either become theological or mathematical. Russell’s Paradox is the mathematical route.

                Congress did exist before the Constitution. Articles of Confederation, 1781. I can’t believe you teach PoliSci and don’t know that much civics. That’s shocking.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Congress did exist before the Constitution. Articles of Confederation, 1781. I can’t believe you teach PoliSci and don’t know that much civics. That’s shocking.

                Oh, lord, Blaise, that body shared the name, but it wasn’t the same thing at all. It didn’t simply evolve into our current Congress, it was totally chucked and replaced with a brand new beast.

                And that Congress had almost nothing to do with the drafting of the Constitution. It authorized a convention for the purposes of considering revisions to the Articles, which convention immediately went beyond it’s authorization and decided to unceremoniously dump the Articles entirely, and it approved sending the proposed Constitution to the states for consideration of ratification. That’s it. It neither wrote nor changed one single jot or tittle of the Constitutional text. So to say it brooked no exit clauses is simply a nonsensical statement. In fact it did brook an implicit exit clause, Article VII, which made the new Constitution binding only upon those states that ratified, freeing any non-ratifiers from the union (in fact neither NC nor RI ratified until after the Constitution had taken effect, elections had been held, and the new government was up and running–they could have, had they chosen, remained independent).

                I do teach political science, and I do know this. And I’m amused at your errant hubris.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, it was, nonetheless, a sitting Congress and it promulgated the Constitution for ratification by the various states. You want it both ways: the Constitution doesn’t have anything to say about secession so therefore it allows it, I’m led to believe. You think it must fit in somewhere under rights reserved to the states or something. That’s fine.

                But wherein lies your beef with me when I say but Congress said any such reserved right in such a ratification wasn’t sufficient under Article VII. , hmmm? The Continental Congress set about writing the US Constitution because the Articles of Confederation were entirely inadequate and all the states/colonies knew it.

                Do you want me to go back and edit that comment to read Continental Congress? Or do you want me to say Congress could just pass a law saying Texas can bugger off on the basis of a few signatures on a petition? Congress could do that. We’ve got Article V for amending the Constitution, too. Wrote quite a bit about that, too. The Continental Congress told New York State they couldn’t hold onto an exit clause and no other state admitted to the republic has been allowed such a clause either, whatever Rick Perry, King of the Jackalopes might say to the contrary. Texas v. White, the case cited earlier by Frankfurter, specifically removes that possibility for any state.

                Texas was the only state admitted into the union as an independent republic, unless you think of the Original 13 as sovereign states. The US also assumed 10 million dollars of Texas debt when they were admitted. Texas voted to join the union and they got their own state constitution at the same time. And no, they aren’t going to be allowed to exit the republic. SCOTUS said so.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                I can’t believe I’m encouraging this, but tell me, Blaise, how does Russell’s paradox apply?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Congress had almost nothing to do with the drafting of the Constitution.

                Horseshoes and hand grenades, Hanley. You and Almost. The Constitutional Convention hotly debated the issue of severability and it was defeated.

                States went so far as to attach proposed bills of rights to their ratifications in some cases, and they urged their members in the new government to tirelessly advocate for them. Yet these were not “conditions” of their ratification. And it was made clear, in convention after convention, that a state’s “conditional” ratification of the Constitution would not be accepted by Congress.

                In New York’s convention, for instance, on July 24, 1788, Antifederalist John Lansing Jr. moved that a resolution be adopted giving New York the right to secede from the Union if certain amendments were not adopted within a certain number of years. Alexander Hamilton, who had anticipated such a proposal, had written to James Madison several days earlier and posed the question to him. Madison, in his capacity as a Congressman, had replied, indicating that Congress would not consider a conditional ratification to be valid. Hamilton read the letter to the convention, and Lansing’s motion was defeated on the 25th by a vote of 31 to 28.*

                *”Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution,” vol. 18, p.295. Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                The Continental Congress set about writing the US Constitution because the Articles of Confederation were entirely inadequate and all the states/colonies knew it.

                No, that’s just historically inaccurate. The Continental Congress did not set about writing the Constitution in any way, shape or form. It happened this way.

                Step 1. Hamilton and Madison meet each other when both are visiting Washington. A meeting between VA and MD over navigation on the Potomac is also happening at Big George’s house. Alex and Jemmy start talking about this and other conflicts that are occurring, and agree something needs to be done.

                Step 2. Alex and Jemmy promote a meeting in Annapolis to discuss conflicts among the states. Only a handful of states show. The only successful item of business was to propose a recommendation to the Congress that there be a meeting among the states to discuss these issues and suggest ways the Articles can be amended to resolve them.

                Step 3. The Congress approves such a meeting, for the purpose of recommending amendments to the Articles (not for the purpose of crafting a substitute document).

                Step 4. All the states but RI meet in Philly, as a “Federal Convention,” not as Congress, where the Virginians shock everyone by grabbing control of the agenda and saying WTF cares what the Congress said, let’s just recommend chucking the whole set of Articles lock, stock and barrel; blow the whole thing up and start completely from scratch. Others object that this is beyond the scope of what Congress authorized. It is, but they decide they don’t care. After all, they’re just proposing, not putting something into effect.

                Step 5. Congress receives the document, swallows its tongue in shock, discusses it, and agrees to send it out.

                At no point did Congress “set about” to write a Constitution. At no point did they authorize anyone to write a Constitution. All they did was, when presented with an unauthorized Constitution, was to agree to let the states decide if they wanted it or not. As described by Rufus King delegate from Maine, the Constitution was a creation of the states, independently of the Articles, which was submitted to Congress only to satisfy the formal process.

                wherein lies your beef with me when I say but Congress said any such reserved right in such a ratification wasn’t sufficient under Article VII. , hmmm?
                Congress doesn’t get to say what the Constitution means. They can make an argument about it, but they’re not the authoritative interpreters. As Justice Jackson said of the Court, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”

                And no, they aren’t going to be allowed to exit the republic. SCOTUS said so.
                And nowhere have I argued differently.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Presumably you understand the paradox. So here’s how it applies: Congress is established in Article 1. But each state has to ratify the Constitution. Only Congress can pass a law. The Continental Congress is presented with the Constitution as drafted. But since most of the delegates to the Constitutional Committee were members of the Continental Congress already, who did they present it to? The set that is not a part of itself?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Heh, James Madison speaks authoritatively for the whole Congress? I think not. I mean, this is rich. You say “Congress” wouldn’t allow it, and the best you come up with is the assessment of one of the prime movers in this whole process, a guy who had political motivations galore to pressure a state to do it the way he preferred.

                I guess if John Boehner tells you what Congress will not accept in the fiscal cliff debate, you’ll take that as the authoritative, definitive, statement of Congress? Why do I doubt that?

                Do you really think that if the Congress decided they wanted to accept ratification of the Constitution they would have rejected a states’ ratification on grounds of not allowing secession? And how binding would any agreement made by a dissolved government be? No more binding than what the new government ageed to.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                The Continental Congress did not set about writing the Constitution in any way, shape or form.

                With a few exceptions, the delegates to the Convention were already members of the Continental Congress. That’s just ridiculous.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’ve given you the cite. The matter was put to a vote, secession clauses were disallowed.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Re: The paradox. Legally not the same body. That matters. Had they so chosen, the Congress could have drafted the proposed Constitution as a Congress. They did not choose to do so. That matters.

                I’m got to go to a banquet now. As usual, a discussion between is going south fast, so in order to avoid having another ugly one, I’ll let this comment be my last word.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                But since most of the delegates to the Constitutional Committee were members of the Continental Congress already, who did they present it to?

                The rest of them.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                As I said already, the people who weren’t there (Rhode Island especially, since it began with the expulsion of heretics from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was furthermore heavily into the slave trade) were afraid of what the big states were doing up there in Philadelphia. They’re why Article VII is there: nine states make a quorum, enough to form the country but the dissenters could stay out of the bargain if they so desired. The Constitution passed on to the Continental Congress, which sent it out to all the states.

                But the Constitution had come down in fair copy to all the states from the Continental Congress, not from the Committee. It isn’t until 1792 that real elections are held and James’ “Congress we know” came into being.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                “As I said below, they don’t want to take their ball and go away, what they really want to do is keep the court.”

                But who owns “the court”? If Texas wouldn’t to secede and take all non-federal lands within the current borders of Texas, would that be acceptable?

                On the one hand, it seems perfectly logical that it ought to be. That is Texan land; who else can make a better legitimate claim to it than them?

                On the other hand, that land only (or primarily) exists because of actions taken by the federal government at some point in time. At the risk of walking into a “You didn’t build that trap” Texans are not wholly responsible for having built Texas. Does this give the federal government any legitimate claim to the territory itself?*

                * I realize Texas is not the best example of this because they were once an independent nation of their own. Speaking more generally, think of the land acquired by the federal government with federal funds in the Louisiana Purchase. COuld any of that land rightfully be claimed by its current inhabitants in a secessionist movement?Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

                Any one of the western states from the Rockies to the Pacific would be a better example. The federal land holdings there are very large — anywhere from 30% to 85% of the area in each of those states. There’s a certain amount of resentment in the West (justified or not) that the western states weren’t treated fairly. Federal lands in an Ohio or Illinois were quickly turned over to either private parties or the states. Western states were promised they would be treated like the earlier states, but in practice they weren’t.

                The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 made permanent federal ownership the law and was generally resented in the West. Western states were eventually brought on board — sort of — when the law included language that said the federal agencies would make their decisions consistent with state and local desires to the extent possible. I think you can find examples in all of the western states where the state/local authorities believe that the feds haven’t followed up on that.Report

      • Chris in reply to M.A. says:

        I can’t remember ever hearing this kind of stuff this openly ever

        You must be very young, and a yankee.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to M.A. says:

        Ah, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t remember hearing expressed openly before the Internet. Anyway, I’m going by the 922,000 aspiring secessionists on the White House site and this study suggesting they likely represented about a third as many actual individuals:
        And then the US population being about 314 million. So about 1 in 100 (my math might be wrong- I’m not a libertarian after all) are willing to sign something nonbinding online to express displeasure and that they’d like to secede. (I’d love to see a study on what percentage spelled secession correctly) Then I’m really thinking about the waves of liberals that were expected to move up here to Canada when Bush got reëlected and how few I ever met even when living in the biggest city in Canada (basically one and that was online).

        I agree that these people and that letter are very disturbing though.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F. says:

          So about 1 in 100 (my math might be wrong- I’m not a libertarian after all)

          Heh. Was that deliberate?Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Before you can get your card to become a card-carrying libertarian you have to take and pass Math for Libertarians. It’s not hard, but a real mathematician might have a stroke if they saw the syllabus.Report

          • Heh. Was that deliberate?

            Yeah, I was poking (very) gentle fun at the libertarian comments around here that read like an exasperated, “Come on, you guys! If you understood the numbers just a little better, you’d be libertarians by now!”Report

        • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

          The serious folks will tell you exactly how they plan on sneaking through the border, and why the Canadian government will feel obligated to protect them. Well, the smart ones, anyhow.Report

          • DRS in reply to Kim says:

            The serious folks will tell you exactly how they plan on sneaking through the border, and why the Canadian government will feel obligated to protect them.

            Yup. And we’ll explain that French is an official language and the federal government is required to provide services in both languages from coast to coast. And gay marriage is legal. And we’ve got abortion on demand (although we don’t call it that – we just call it healthcare). And evangelical Christians are nowhere near as numerous as they are down there (although they try to disguise that by being really loud when they want to get a point across). And we like gun control on the whole – no 2nd Amendment up here.

            Yup, just like home.Report

        • dhex in reply to Rufus F. says:

          i like the umlaut in reelected!

          that said, of course they didn’t. the “gonna pack up my bags and go moral galt in canada” gang was about as serious as these secessionist hosers. remember when there was gonna be a race war and neo nazis would assassinate obama, like, for sure?*

          some people need post-election hysterias as a way to run down the emotions from presidential elections. it’s like getting hardcore into crafts as a coping mechanism for a life tragedy, but more theatrical.

          *that last bit is gathering some small steam again because, i think, people love the whole aesthetic package of martyrdom almost as much as they love the notion that those they oppose are pure evil. like chocolate and peanut butter, for people who can stand such unholy creations.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Seccession amendments are the pathetic, less eager brother to “I’m leaving because the wrong guy won”.

          See, the “I’m leaving” crowd at least is pretending they’ll take action. They’ll get up, pack up their stuff, pick another country and go there and won’t you be sorry! (They won’t, but in their dreams they’re at least pro-active).

          The “secession petition” crowd isn’t even active. They want everyone around them to leave the country, taking them along. They don’t want anything to change other than the guys up top. No effort on their part, no sacrifice.

          Like the sovreign citizens, worthy only of mockery and contempt.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Morat20 says:

            Instead of taking their ball and going home, they want to claim the court and kick out the winners.Report

            • Scott in reply to James Hanley says:

              Kick out the winners? Last time a state’s legally elected legislature voted to succeed the fed gov invaded. So much for the rule of law.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Scott says:

                So, just to get this straight — your belief on the ‘rule of law’ is that if me and my family got together and voted for our household to secede from Texas, Texas has to let us stop paying taxes and become an independent country.

                Or else they’re violating the rule of law?


              • James Hanley in reply to Morat20 says:


                I’m not arguing your point, but do you think Great Britain violated the rule of law in fighting the secession of the North American colonies?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley says:


                The “Rule of Law” is its own thing, mind.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

                Rule of whose law? Great Britain’s? Certainly.

                Then again, the Revolutionairies won. The Confederacy lost. Rule of Law only exists by either the consent of the governered or at the tip of the sword.

                The problem with Confederacy 2.0 is that the secession movement has neither consent of the governed (neither Southern nor the rest of the US) nor a sharp sword.

                Just an amazing capability for hysteria and a delusional belief that the silent masses are behind them. Silently.Report

              • Scott in reply to Morat20 says:

                Why don’t you read what I actually wrote. Since when did one family comprise a state’s legislature? That is stupid even for libruls.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Scott says:


                Why do we draw the line at a state?Report

              • Scott in reply to James Hanley says:

                I guess it is states bc there is no mechanism to represent anything smaller than a state in the federal govt. It is an interesting question.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                But states don’t actually have a method to secede that involves their representation in Congress. So what about a county in North Dakota hard on the Canadian Border, one that’s pretty much out of the way of everyone else? If it decides to secede from both Florida and the U.S., should we allow it? Or even a township, hard on the border, in that county?

                I don’t mean that as a question to pin you down, by the way, Scott–you clearly got my point. I just mean it as a general question for all of us to ponder about the legitimacy of denying secession. We Americans don’t seriously question the colonies’ right to secede from the British empire, but in contrast we don’t seriously question the federal government’s right to prevent states or counties from following the model that founded this country. I find that weird.

                But clearly there are some secessions that would be, on a practical level, much more problematic than others. If the red swath of states up the middle of the electoral map all seceded as a group, they’d split the rump U.S. into two separated sections, against the will of those folks. So if we take secession seriously–and if we admire the American Revolution we must–how would we make reasoned judgements about where to draw the line on which secessions could be tolerated and which wouldn’t?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                I tend to think that if a group of folks REALLY didn’t want to be a part of a given governing body or entity, such should be there right.

                But I’ll fully cop to having no real plan for how to handle such situations practically and logistically.

                If I wanted to truly give up citizenship and secede the Kazzy household from the US, I should. But how exactly would that be done? Would they put a border guard at the end of my driveway to ensure I don’t enter without authorization? As I mention above, do I *really* own the land that my house is on?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Exactly, Kazzy. I don’t think the question is one of principle at all. That is, I don’t think there’s a good basis for the principle that unhappy group X can’t secede. If we say that, we have to reject Israeli independence, and Palestinian independence, and say that we absolutely oppose a Kurdish state, since it would require secession from at least three countries.

                The principle of a sacrosanct U.S. as it currently is, an entity that can only grow and never shrink, is the principle of imperialism.

                I think the only good objections are pragmatic. In some cases those are easily overcome (would we really have a problem letting Brownsville, TX secede?), but in other cases they would not be and are surely serious enough to disallow secession. But if we’re going to disallow secession, better to try to give them what will make them willing to stay than to force them at the point of a gun, if possible. No country should be making a large subset of its citizens that unhappy if there’s any way to avoid it. But if the differences really are reconcilable, or if a sizable subset really is totally nucking futs…well, if their secession really is pragmatically unworkable and they can’t be bribed at a reasonable price, then and only then do I think we might have an argument for using guns.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                For a long time, when the issue of Kashmir was a bigger news topic, my response was always, “Why don’t you just let the people there decide?” Most folks dismissed this because the various states had an interest, dagnabbit, and they weren’t about to let a bunch of people decide. Sometimes they’d retort, “Well, should we let YOU decide if you want to be part of America?” “Yea,” I’d say. “I mean, I should have at least some say, right?” Then I’d be dismissed as being needlessly contrary or difficult. I guess that is how most folks respond to libertarians, no?

                I do think there are principled objections if the state itself was a major player in the acquisition/development/whatever of the land being disputed, but not necessarily such that the conversation should not be had, just that there might be greater reason to include the overarching state in the decision making process.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Scott says:

                James got the point you missed.

                If a state can leave the US because of ‘majority vote by their state government’, can a city leave a state by vote of the city council?

                Can a county leave a state? A precinct or ward leave a city?

                And all the way down at the bottom, can I — as owner of property — take a poll of all legal residents of my property and leave my city, my county, and my state?

                There’s no difference between me declaring my property independent of Texas than Texas voting itself independent of the US. Either a majority of residents voted for it, or their representatives did.

                Luckily, my household is small enough to function through direct democracy — we don’t need a representative system.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Morat20 says:

                That’s not how federalism works. States have standing under the Constitution; localities do not. A state could abolish localities if it wished to, and indeed have taken over the government of several.


                There is no constitutional right to local self-government in the United States. In 1907, the Supreme Court decided, in Hunter v. Pittsburgh, that under the Constitution local governments are nothing more than “convenient agencies for exercising … such powers as may be entrusted to them” by the state. As a result, “the state may modify or withdraw all such power, may take without compensation such property, hold it for itself, or vest it with other agencies, expand or contract the territorial area, unite the whole or part of it with another municipality, repeal the charter and destroy the corporation … with or without the consent of the citizens, or even against their protest.”

                Many American cities have been annexed by other cities against the protest of their residents. In fact most of the nation’s largest cities have grown through such forcible annexations of neighboring territory and smaller cities. Not only can existing towns and cities be absorbed into larger governments, but states can also decree that an unincorporated community simply be governed by a neighboring city without being formally annexed—and without its residents having a vote in the election of that city’s government. Thirty-five states allow local governments to exercise such “extraterritorial jurisdiction” over people and property outside city limits. As a result, citizens can be regulated, fined, and taxed by local governments they did not elect.


              • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:


                That is a procedural argument and probably an accurate one (I’m not up to snuff on federalism… or much else for that matter) with regards to the specifics of state secession from the United States of America, but I’m not sure it does us much good if we’re looking more broadly at the principled objections to secession efforts vis a vis the rights of individuals towards self-determination.

                There are lots of things that CAN’T happen because of the current language of laws or whathaveyou. But, for me at least, I’m more interested in what ought to be, not what is.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Morat20 says:

                Kazzy, by all means don’t let me interfere with the exchange of ignorances. FTR, the secession question was settled definitvely by Mr. Lincoln quite awhile ago, and any revisit today is purely symbolic.

                And one of the points of the Texas thing is an unhappiness with the abusiveness of attacks exactly like that in the OP and its enablers. Once again, the irony meter hath broke.

                He thinks he’s scoring points calling me “traitor” and “racist” and “ignorant,” … but the tears he sees on my face aren’t tears of shame. They are tears of sorrow at the monster he is turning into.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Morat20 says:

                Kazzy, I didn’t mean to interfere with the exchange of ignorances. There are just so many one can take before piping up.

                The secession question was settled by Mr. Lincoln, so it is only symbolic at this point. The OP compounds the offense the Texas person complains about

                He thinks he’s scoring points calling me “traitor” and “racist” and “ignorant,” … but the tears he sees on my face aren’t tears of shame. They are tears of sorrow at the monster he is turning into.

                via an ugly and dishonest conflation of Texas, Mississippi, the entire Republican party, and a single poll taken by a left-wing organization. But we have got used to such dishonesty, although we wish there indeed a way to escape from it.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:


                I’m simply pointing out the difference between a thought experiment and a real-life assessment.

                In the latter, you have correctly summed up practical limitations to secession movements in the US.

                In the former (which I am interested in), we are attempting to get at where to draw the line that the US has drawn and how to justify it. The US has drawn the line seemingly as you’ve stated. But in Kazzy’s Hypothetical World, no such precedent exists and I am attempting to come up with a rights-based logic for approaching secession. I’m not sure that makes us ignorant.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Morat20 says:

                Well, you’re going to see resistance to Obamacare at the state level. That’s real.



                As for secession, I believe we’ve established that localities have zero standing, whereas states do. There is a difference between the legality of an entity with standing and one that does not.

                At least that was the argument in the American Revolution, that the united States composed a duly constituted authority, but again, probably facts that nobody cares about. Rock on.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

                Kazzy, I’m at a coffeeshop in Redstone, so I’ll have to keep this short, but I think in this case it’s rather impossible to separate the abstract from the real/procedural in something like this.

                I think that, to some extent, it should be possible for people within a state to split and join another state or become a state. If that’s what the people want there. But procedurally, there are some problems with this even apart from the lack of permissibility within the Constitution (the State of Spokane hereby demands two Senate seats…).

                There may be a contradiction in saying that the State of Alaska should be able to secede*, but the City of Corpus Christi should not be allowed the same. You need a certain building block. A critical threshold of people, a certain amount of land, or whatever. I don’t know what that threshold is. Or maybe with a certain amount of history or cultural identity you can overlook it (say, Rhode Island).

                * – God Bless Abe Lincoln. That’s not where I’m going with this.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:


                I’m sure a line ought to exist. I just don’t think, in our thought experiment, we need be bound by historical US precedent. Up above (or down below… Somewhere…) I spoke of Kashmir, which certainly should not be limited to US precedent.

                There definitely exist practical reasons to prevent by statute secession of individual households. There might even be principled reasons that are logically consistent with allowances for larger bodies.

                That’s all I’m saying. I’m not talking about Rick Perry seceding from Austin which itself seceded from Texas which itself seceded from the US, all attempting to do so under current US law. I’m talking about pure hypotheticals, where we are not bound by precedent but instead are trying to create it.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Scott says:


                But my point applied both to you and to Scott. I assume you don’t argue that the North American colonies secession from the British empire was illegitimate. So where do we draw the line?Report

              • Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

                Legitimate? Hmm. That’s a tough word.

                Successful, yes. As the Southern Secession was not. Was one more legitimate than the other? Only that one won, and the other did not. Both strove to break part of a larger whole away.

                A Texas Secession — or a Southern one in general — would be, bluntly, unsuccessful. Legitimacy is unimportant. There simply does not exist even a largish, fervent minority willing to spill blood to secede (at least not their own). Much less a majority.

                And the US, unlike Great Britain, is unlikely to say “Not worth it” — since New Texas or the New Confederacy would share a border with it — not be two months voyage across the ocean.

                Drawing the line is pretty simple, because in the real world it’s about pragmatism. You need some sizeable majority in a province, county, state or whatever WANTING to leave — and at least a majority in the rest of the union that doesn’t care one way or another. If you get neither, you can’t have a peaceaful seperation. And if you can’t have peaceful, you need a sizeable minority willing to shed blood to leave. (And they’ll have to turn against their own neighbors first. Texas wants to leave? The secessionists will have to assault it’s cities first.

                The South trying to secede against what amounts to the wishes of it’s entire minority populations and it’s major urban centers? Please .

                Nor do I think the rest of the US would be sanquine about the South trying Civil War 2.0.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                It’s a thought experiment. We’re assuming a hypothetical Texas, or to make the hypothetical easier, a state X, where in fact a majority, let’s say a supermajority, do want to secede.

                But if you’re willing to entertain doubt about the legitimacy of the U.S. Revolution, then I think you’re roughly on target with where I’m going, which is that it’s hypocritical to be reflexively pro American Revolution/secession and reflexively anti-state X revolution/secession. I tend to favor both, but a person who is skeptical of both (even if they could end up favoring one and not the other, for some specified reasons) is being consistent, which is all I’m really pushing at. (And I didn’t mean it as pushing you in particular so much, as anyone who tended to take those contradictory reflexive positions–I hope my using you as a stand-in didn’t come off as too pushy against you personally.)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:


                You also need folks willing to shed blood to block secession. I might balk at the idea of needing a passport to visit New Orleans. I certainly won’t take up arms to avoid it though.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

                You seem to think I’m pro-American revolution.

                Not really. Kinda ancient history. Good, bad, it was what it was.

                Now anti-Confederate Secession? Oh yes. Got lots of reasons there, ones more…recent and pressing. (To those who feel the Civil War is history, well…you don’t meet the South Will Rise Again folks or see as many idiotic confederate flags as we do).

                Hypotheticals are all well and good, but frankly even as intellectual problems they’re kinda pointless if they ignore the pragmatic side. Maybe, in one theory of government or another, secession is a good and valid right.

                But is it a pragmatic right? One that can actually be applied? Well, sometimes. And I don’t think that ‘sometimes’ is purely a matter of governmental formation. Most of it seems to involve a combination of who, why, and where. It just doesn’t work at all without those.

                Provinces/states/whatever on the border? More pragmatic than, say, Iowa in isolation. A certain size relative to the union as a whole? Bigger is better — the entire South versus, oh, the miniscule population of South Dakota.

                And then again..”why”. Secession is a big deal. If the why isn’t a big deal to a WHOLE lot of people, it won’t happen.

                Secession in America? Pointless intellectual wanking. Not happening. No state is ‘red’ enough (and, at least now, the blue states are more towards emigrating out of America than seceding it in case of the Wrong Man Winning) to even convince their own populace.

                There’s no…real…coherence behind secession in America. The “where” sorta works — basically the states most likely to make a serious go of it are the former Confederacy, which are a mostly contiguous edge of the US.

                But the “why” and the “who” don’t work. “Because a Democrat got elected with a majority of the vote”? And “A small fraction of given state’s population”?

                Not even remotely close.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                No, I got that you’re not necessarily pro-American Revolution. The folks I’m gigging are the ones who are, who look at it as a sacred holy event orchestrated by demi-gods, but who think any modern day secession movement is inherently satanic and evil, orchestrated by demons.

                But I’m with you on the stupidity of these particular folks today.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Scott says:

                Which state legislatures voted for secession? In the ones I know of, secession was declared by “special conventions”.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Which, depending on how they’re done, could be either more powerful or less powerful than a legislative vote.

                E.g., the Constitution was ratified by special conventions. But a handful of skinheads meeting in Clovis, CA for a “special convention” would hardly gather the same amount of respect.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                Scott said

                a state’s legally elected legislature voted to [secede]

                This probably did happen in at least one state, but I don’t really know. I’d expect that someone’s done a paper on the secessions and how they were achieved, but if it’s online, it’s well-hidden.

                Since the pre-Civil War secessions were all based on suppressing the votes of a significant minority (in South Carolina and Mississippi, actually a majority) I’d have a hard time calling them legitimate. Though that’s yet another way that the modern GOP is the true heir of the Confederacy.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                The only one in modern times was AlaskaReport

              • James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Oh, I wasn’t arguing with you. I don’t know the numbers myself. I just find the idea of a special convention to be uncertain in terms of legitimacy, absent more information about it. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the special conventions had no reasonable claim to democratic legitimacy, even if we’re generous and grant them the non-citizenship status of slaves.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                An Article V Constitutional Convention would be legitimate. It’s the one part of the constitution we haven’t really seen in action, I believe. Despite hundreds of applications for such a convention, we’ve never actually had one.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                As a political scientist, I’d be fascinated to see one. As a citizen, the thought terrifies me.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                It’s an interesting question. If I had a job where researching and publishing a paper on this would be rewarded (hint, hint), I’d strongly consider diving in.Report

              • Chris in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I don’t believe any state seceded as a result of a vote in the state legislature. In 3 or 4 states (I know Tennessee was one of them, and Virginia after their 2nd secession convention, the first having failed to vote for secession), the convention established a state-wide referendum which ultimately determined whether the state would secede. In no case was it left up to the legislature.

                Delegates to the commission were, in most (maybe all) cases, voted for by the people, not by the legislatures. If the legislatures had any roll, it was in calling the conventions, though in some states the conventions were the results of referenda as well.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:


                That’s a historian’s paper. Not really my kind of thing at all. I’d only find it rewarding if I could find a good theoretical angle, such that the bare facts would reveal something meaningful about politics in general.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I’ll bet you would often find situations where neither the populace nor the legislature were pro-secession, but the slaveholding interests found some anti-democratic, illegitimate way to make secession seem like the will of the people. Or is “Money corrupts the process” too cliched?Report

              • Chris in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Mike, look up North Carolina’s secession process. I suspect that was part of what happened there.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Scott, Chris is saying that state legislatures never voted for secession. Do you have any counter-examples?Report

              • Scott in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Which states are those you are referring to?Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Scott says:

                South Carolina and Virginia, at least.Report

              • Scott in reply to MikeSchilling says:


                I could be wrong, I’ll have to look into the subject. Would a vote by a special convention authorized by the legislature by less legitimate in your view?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I don’t believe in the right of a state to secede, and if I did, secession to preserve slavery is disgusting. But that aside, I suppose that a legislature does have the right to delegate its decisions.Report

          • Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

            The folks I know who said “I’m going to leave the country if Palin gets elected” were serious, as far as I can tell. Then again, they’re the type to have businesses in other countries.Report

            • Scott in reply to Kim says:

              Really, all the libruls that said the same thing about Bush never left.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Scott says:

                I doubt many conservatives left either. I applaud all those going Galt, as with the current high levels of unemployment there are plenty of people eager to step into their shoes.

                99.99% of people claiming to leave or Go Galt don’t. The 00.01%, good on them. They made a life choice and followed it to the bitter (or perhaps sweet) end.

                Speaking of Going Galt, I wonder how Tom’s plans to quit his job and move to food stamps are going.Report

              • Kim in reply to Scott says:

                Schott left. Not that he was able to vote, but he did leave, and expressedly because of the changing political climate.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Scott says:

                Then there’s Glenn Beck, telling our servicemen in uniform not to re-enlist while Obama is Commander in Chief. While Bush was invading Iraq on the basis of a mountain of lies, he was singing a different tune, natch. Remember his Rally for America, back in 2003, where he was all about S’porting Our Troops?

                Now there’s real patriotism for yez.Report

  12. Scott says:

    Honest Abe allowed West Va. to leave Va. but wouldn’t let the southern states leave the US.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Scott says:

      Even though the W. VA secession was more clearly unconstitutional than the VA secession! The only way the Union could have legitimately recognized W. VA as a state was if VA was no longer part of the union, but truly a foreign state, something Lincoln explicitly denied.

      Similar problems attended ratification of the 13th and 14th amendments. The southern states were not allowed representation in Congress unless they ratified the amendments. But if they were states, so that they had authority to ratify, they could not legitimately be denied representation. If they could legitimately be denied representation, they weren’t states and had no authority to ratify.

      But sometimes political realities trump constitutional niceties. Has ever been thus, and ever will be. Que sera sera.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Scott says:

      And he freed the black slaves, but he made white people pay taxes.Report

    • Chris in reply to Scott says:

      Yeah, because those are the same things.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        True, they weren’t. Vest Virginia secession was explicitly unconstitutional, whereas Virginia secession was not.Report

        • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

          James, are you familiar with this bizarre episode?Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

            Heh, I’d only heard vaguely of it, but never knew the details.Report

          • Scott in reply to Chris says:


            What makes their desire to have their civil and political needs met bizarre?Report

            • Chris in reply to Scott says:

              Scott, you aren’t familiar with the “State of Franklin,” are you?Report

              • Scott in reply to Chris says:

                I read the link and it slide like the settlers needs weren’t being met.Report

              • Chris in reply to Scott says:

                I’m quite sure they weren’t. That’s not what makes it bizarre. Maybe you should read the link closer, so you can process how it all went down: the U.S. owed a lot of money to a lot of people, so North Carolina voluntarily gave up an unruly portion of the state (now the eastern portion of Tennessee), but then decide they want it back when it became clear Congress wanted nothing to do with it, while the people in that portion decide they don’t want to go back (for a variety of reasons), and so they declare themselves a state, but Congress wants nothing to do with this little feud, so for 4 years, Franklin (as they decided to call their little enclave) was in a state of limbo, with its own “state” government, but not a state or even a territory officially, and still claimed by North Carolina, which couldn’t exert much control over it. Then people in Franklin started to realize that, you know, being part of an official state with real resources has its benefits (especially when the Cherokee nations are attacking you at every turn), and so they started begging to be taken back. But there were a few folks left, and they decided maybe the Spanish, who had a reputation for kicking aboriginal ass, would take them in, and they tried to convince the Spanish to take over Franklin. And in the end, North Carolina got rid of those territories anyway (and Tennessee became a state a few years later).

                You don’t find this bizarre?Report

        • MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

          The more logical (and perfectly legal) thing would have been to recognize the West Virginian government as the legitimate government of all of Virginia.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

            I like the idea, but are you sure it would be perfectly legal?

            One the plus side, Congress gets to decide the qualifications of its members, and at the time state legislatures appointed Senators, so they could certainly have only recognized the senators appointed by the Wheeling based government.

            On the negative side…well, that’s about all the connection there really was between state governments and the federal government back then, so maybe there is no negative. Maybe you’re wholly correct about this.

            It does require Congress to determine which of a state’s government-claimants is the “true” one, which is a bit weird, but iirc, they had that issue with competing government-claimants in Rhode Island once upon a time.Report

            • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

              I’m not sure if it would have been legal, but it would have made things even more interesting in 1861. Much of the population of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee, particularly in the mountainous regions of those three states, was against secession. West Virginia was able to break off from Virginia largely because it was bordered by Union states. However, if Lincoln had said, “We’ll now treat the government in West Virginia as the government in Virginia,” we might have seen a similar thing happen in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, resulting in some interesting political and strategic quandaries for the South. If East Tennessee and Western North Carolina are controlled by the Union, with their own pro-Union governments, and enclaves of Union troops, the South’s strategic situation gets pretty dire.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                the South’s strategic situation gets pretty dire.

                We could probably wargame that without too much difficulty.Report

              • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

                I suppose we could. Consider this variable: a lot of the mountain folk joined the Confederate Army when the Union invaded the southern states. Otherwise, they probably would have remained neutral. If Lincoln treats the mountain regions of those 3 states as the representatives of the 3 states, and offers to protect them with troops, now the South has to invade those regions (if not, the North has a troop pipeline down the Appalachian Trail from Kentucky into Georgia and South Carolina). Now the mountain people join the Union Army, and the South has to deal with a large enemy salient that almost cuts their nation in two.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Chris says:

                “Join the Army and take a hike down the Appalachian Trail!” (I guess that wouldn’t work, because, as Rick Santorum reminds us, before DADT soldiers never had sex.)Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Chris says:

                I think it’d be interesting too to see how this would have changed the international situation. It would have made it even more difficult for the CSA to claim itself as a sovereign state for international recognition.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Chris says:

                Why not legal? All eleven states are still part of the Union legally and all contain some loyal citizens who are entitled to a state government. The physical continuations of the legal, pre-War governments no longer even claim to represent states of the Union, and are moreover actively taking part in violent treason. Each state have a government in its unoccupied territory, if any; and if there is none, then a government in exile.Report

  13. Citizen says:

    “I have been greatly abused, have been obliged to do more than my part in the war, been loaded with class rates, town rates, province rates, Continental rates and all rates … been pulled and hauled by sheriffs, constables and collectors, and had my cattle sold for less than they were worth … The great men are going to get all we have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it, and have no more courts, nor sheriffs, nor collectors nor lawyers.”

    The south will not rise again, the dissent will rise. Secession is a roll call, for the whole will not be split, but consumed.Report

  14. MikeSchilling says:

    M.A., you left out the part about how the birth parents (Mexico) tried to kill Texas by outlawing slavery. (This precedes the part where the adoptive parents (guess who) tried to kill Texas by placing some restrictions on its spread.)Report