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The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests. -- Patrick Henry


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What is Secession?

Secession, in a nutshell, is a State withdrawing from the Union. In the spirit of the Founding Fathers, it is the ultimate "check and balance" for the Federal Government. Without the option to secede, individual states would not be able to keep the power of the Federal Government in check. But, before we can properly examine a modern act of secession, we need to know a little about how the Union became the Union in the first place.

Thirteen Colony-states revolted against England and declared their freedom, in other words, they seceded from the British Empire. At the end of the revolutionary war, these 13 Colony-states were, for all intents and purposes, independent countries, loosely united in a Confederacy. While the 13 colonies had much in common, they were not subordinated under one central government. The colonies existed as independent country-states for about 10 years until the Constitutional Congress, made up of representatives of all 13 colonies, delivered the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution was eventually ratified by all 13 colonies and the United States was born.

Nobody forced any of the 13 colonies to join the Union. Some of the colonies resisted joining the Union and, only after many guarantees and lots of explanation from the likes of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, did they finally agree to the formation of the Union. The state of New York offered so much resistance that Madison, Hamilton, and Jay published no fewer than 85 essays in the New York newspaper to explain the meaning of the Constitution and why joining the Union was a good thing to do. These essays became known as "The Federalist Papers".

During the years preceding the Civil War, the Southern states become increasingly troubled by the heavy hand of the Federal Government, and threatened secession. After much debate about limits to the power of the Federal Government, the Southern states (beginning in 1861), including Texas, seceded from the Union. This was done simply by declaration. The Southern states formed a Confederacy, and became known as The Confederate States. The Union, led by President Lincoln, objected to this action and the president deployed the US military into war against The Confederacy. Eventually, about 10 years later, the Southern states were re-admitted into the Union. FYI... the Southern states did not secede over the issue of slavery, they seceded over the issue of States Rights. You can read more about this in our blog.

Current law does not address secession. The Constitution is silent on the issue. Each of the several states has its own Constitution as well as its own governing body, usually comprised of a governor, a congress, and a Supreme Court. The governments of the several states often mirror the government of the United States. To secede from the Union, a state congress would simply need to vote in favor of secession and sign a declaration indicating such. From that moment, the state would be an independent country.

 

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