Mar 30, 2019Posted by on
This week on Facebook: Last weeks post prompted me to research secession¹, whereupon I was surprised by the increase in the desire of various factions within States to secede (although living with the vestiges of the British Empire, I shouldn’t have been). There are as many and varied reasons for secession as there are methods of seceding, equally there are many are arguments for and against secession. Secessionist sentiments are in all of the major and minor political ideologies, with some having successfully seceded in the past 250 years or so and some failing to do so.
When I was at school being taught about the American Civil War², the emphasis for its causes were more about the abolition of slavery than secession. Despite his abhorrence of slavery if Abraham Lincoln was an abolitionist he was, first and foremost, a defender of The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. Abraham Lincoln, First Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858
There was no hidden agenda in Lincoln’s abolitionist views, he was well aware of the economic servitude imposed by slavery. He sincerely believed that was no reason in the world why the negro was not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A view typical of that which States and secessionists claim for their respective followers today. However, Lincoln’s views on slavery did not take precedence over saving the Union of the United States.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be the Union as it was. If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. Letter to Horace Greeley (1862)
Nevertheless, when elected to the presidency of the United States in November 1860, seven southern states seceded from the Union and after his inauguration as President that year four more followed. Lincoln considered secession an illegal act³ which led to the American Civil War. In 1816 Thomas Jefferson had put the problem somewhat differently.
“I would rather the States should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture.” Thomas Jefferson to Willian Crawford (p35)
To end America’s Civil War Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, however it only applied in those areas not under Union control as of 1863. It was a political gesture that did not apply in the border states or places such as New Orleans, which were already under Union military occupation by that time. The abolition of slavery throughout the United States did not occur until the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.
The tension and complexities of our contemporary society are reflected in the views of Lincoln, particularly those on economic servitude, but including those that may lead to a civil war. I wrote a piece about Lincoln, Civil Liberties and the Constitution some 150 year after the presidential election of 1864. This presidential election proved Lincoln’s support of Constitution of the United States and nullified any debate about him being a dictator.
The presidential election of 1864 was one of the most important in American history. It was, first of all, remarkable that it even occurred. It took place in the Union states during a bloody civil war, with no precedent for voting in a divided nation, and with seemingly ample justification for postponement. The 1864 Presidential Election
A State and its secessionists both wish to live by the rules subscribed by their interpretation of the law, or the changes to the law that may be introduced by them. The United States did this in introducing the Thirteenth Amendment, but perhaps even more than the abolition of slavery, the American Civil War cemented the concept of Federalism.
History continues to be replete with the use of the military as a political means for secession, or to suppress it. In many cases the legality of secession may be the reason for its suppression, whatever the reason, those for or against secession claim that such acts are in the service of democracy. However, military factions follow what are essentially political ideologies with scant regard for democracy.
By a curious convention of British politics, those ordinances which affect most intimately the life of the subject are least likely to have been authorised by any kind of popular mandate. T. E. Utley (1968),
This raises the question of what a ‘popular mandate’ actually is and it is easer to say what it may not be rather than what it is. It may not be the mandate written into an ochlocratic referendum, or that of a mandated ochlocratic parliament by a political party, it may not be the simple majority that advocates of progressivism appears to demand in the name of democracy. Even if a mandate has the support of an absolute majority (or whatever the chosen majority is), it may still not be popular to all, or quell the desire for secession.
1. The Right Of Secession In Europe And Around The World: Secession is a delicate subject, since it deals with fundamental aspects of present-day politics, above all the right to self-determination, and the sovereignty and unity of the state. In recent years, international law has normally favoured the latter rather than the former, in the name of sustaining the stability of the international system. There has however been one exception: the right of self-determination of colonial people and states.
2. Why secessionism is on the rise in Europe: Secessionism is on the rise all across Europe, with movements in search of both independence from their central governments and accession to the EU. In September, Scots will confirm or reject the 1707 Act of Union with England, whereas in November Catalans will vote in an unauthorized referendum about their independence. Flanders has also been fiercely – but so far unsuccessfully – pushing for a similar ballot. Ironically, these three ripe secessionist movements are challenging ancient, well-established monarchies.
3. Secession from the European Union: The member states of the European Union seem unaware of the clouds that are gathering above their heads. They have identified the most serious problems of the EU, but are treating them with nonchalance, and fail to understand what the British secession (Brexit) implies. They are slowly sinking into a crisis which may only be resolved by violence.
4. As Globalists Centralise, Secession Fever Grows Worldwide: Nowhere are independence movements more numerous and more vocal at the moment than in Europe. As the emerging Brussels-based super-state seeks to finalize its smashing of national sovereignty and self-government across the bloc, whole nations are increasingly in open revolt. In the United Kingdom, for example — itself facing the increasingly likely prospect of Scottish secession — polls show the public is ready to peacefully extricate the nation from the EU as soon as possible. The political class has done its best to contain the anti-EU fervor, but to little avail.
5. If Brexit Can Happen, Can Texit? Many historians believe that when the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox in 1865, the idea of secession was also defeated, according to McDaniel. The Union’s victory set a precedent that states could not legally secede. It is also important to note that the European Union is a loose association of compound states with pre-existing protocols for a nation to exit. In contrast, the U.S. Constitution contains procedures for admitting new states into the nation, but none for a state to leave.
Referenced Articles Books & Definitions:
- A bold text subscript above and preceding a title below (¹·²·³), link to (usually free) content.
- Links (without superscript) and in italics reference the intended context of words used.
- Links without superscript and not in italics reference a source.
- A long read url* is followed by a superscript asterisk.
- Brackets containing a number reference a particular included article (1-5).
- Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
- JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.
¹Secession (url*): Threats of secession can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals. It is, therefore, a process, which commences once a group proclaims the act of secession (e.g. declaration of independence). It could involve a violent or peaceful process but these do not change the nature of the outcome, which is the creation of a new state or entity independent from the group or territory it seceded from.
²American Civil War (url*):American Civil War, also called War Between the States, four-year war (1861–65) between the United States and 11 Southern states that seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.
³Lincoln on secession (url): The secessionists claimed that according to the Constitution every state had the right to leave the Union. Lincoln claimed that they did not have that right.