Secession Fever

If the U.S. were to escape any adjustments to its borders, it would be a rare case.


Credit:White House

Catalonia is seriously considering a divorce from Spain. Scotland feels the same way about the maybe-not-so-United Kingdom. And on a White House website, a flurry of post-election petitions have been filed by all 50 states asking for permission to secede from the Union.

Among the few notables to take seriously the eruption of secession fever is Rep. Ron Paul, the retiring libertarian lawmaker. Without endorsing nationhood for Vermont or his native Texas, he stirred the pot a bit, remarking: "Secession is a deeply American principle. This country was born through secession. Some felt it was treasonous to secede from England, but those 'traitors' became our country's greatest patriots."

In reply to Paul, pundits at publications from The Christian Science Monitor to U.S. News & World Report insisted the Civil War had "settled" the matter and announced that further discussion of secession was "deeply un-American." Whatever the fate of the current secession petitions, if the U.S. were to escape any adjustments to its borders, it would be a rare case. Polities from the Roman Empire to Yugoslavia have risen, splintered, and disappeared, proving every bit as mortal as their inhabitants. Born in a Declaration of Independence, the United States will almost certainly see parts of its territory take separate paths someday. 

NEXT: Poll: More Than Half of Republicans OK With Government Shutdown

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “In reply to Paul, pundits at publications from The Christian Science Monitor to U.S. News & World Report insisted the Civil War had “settled” the matter and announced that further discussion of secession was “deeply un-American.”

    So… the Constitution is a suicide pact?

    1. I wonder how these people would feel if it were the northern anti-slavery states that wanted to secede from the slavery-permitting United States. Imagine Lincoln getting Lee to fight to keep the north in the Union. Hilarity.

    2. I don’t see a civil war clause in the Constitution allowing civil wars to amend it. Also, why not clearly state “no secession” in the amendments enacted after the Civil War? Could’ve done it if they’d wanted to.

      1. Didn’t need to. Most people interpret Texas v. White as settled Supreme Court precedent say that secession is a no-no.

        I disagree. But if you’re a member of the majority who believes that, why bother with a Constitutional Amendment for something you think is already settled law?

    3. further discussion of secession was “deeply un-American.”

      Well, yes. Becoming “un-American” is the whole point of seceeding.

  2. I just don’t get what’s a big deal about peaceful secession. It just seems like it fits perfectly within the concept of freedom of association. If secession is unpatriotic, so is every ex-pat who has left the country for opportunity elsewhere.

    The only sticking point would be the percent of the debt owed by the departing state. It’s not like Texas or Mississippi hasn’t ever used federal funds for anything, and it would be somewhat unfair to leave their percentage of the debt burden with the non-seceding states, even if debt is their whole reason for their leaving. How this would be calculated I have no clue, as population would likely shift one way or another with a secession and land area is not a gauge of debt burden.

    1. If secession is unpatriotic, so is every ex-pat who has left the country for opportunity elsewhere.

      Um, have you seen the news lately?

      1. Tina Turner – UnAmerican!

        1. That racist one-percenter bitch just couldn’t stand being made to pay her fair share by a black president.

          1. Well, to be fair, she does have a reason not to trust him.

            1. ???

              1. Uh, Ike was a black man.

    2. You can use this arguement to charge those who renounce their citizenship with exit fees.

      What rights a group has shouldn’t be different than what rights an individual has.

      1. Good point, but if Texas and the old Confederate South seceded without assuming their debt burden, the debt burden on the average remaining American would jump from $52760 per person to $78064 per person. And if they can leave without debt burden, it’s only logical all the other states “secede.” There would be enormous complications from completely walking away from our debt.

        There’s also one difference between an expat and a seceding state – a seceding state is claiming land that was under the administration of the previous country. An individual isn’t “stealing” themselves by moving overseas. I just think serious advocates for secession need to be more pragmatic in their expectations and rhetoric and be willing to make significant compromises to keep any potential secession peaceable.

        1. No, advocates of secession should not be willing to compromise or concede anything to those who would continue to hold them in bondage.

          1. Sorry, but as much as Texas secession appeals to me in concept, I wouldn’t be willing to die for it, nor would most people. Another Reconstruction would surely not be a libertarian dream either.

            My point is that if secessionists offer to pay their percent of the existing federal debt, the resolution is much more likely to be peaceable and remaining Americans wouldn’t have as much cause for anger at us walking out on our portion of the check.

            1. Appels to democratic solutions or concessions to democratic sensibilities are not going to carry the day.

              Are you willing to die to prevent folks from seceding? Do you think that most of the “remaining Americans” would be willing to die to prevent others from seceding?

              1. When their economy crashes without the South, their debt burden goes instantly sky high, and mass unemployment results, I bet there are more than a few willing to get paid to help reclaim the lost states.

                1. I agree that there our many Lincolns in our midst.

                  However, we appear to differ upon the numbers who would willingly agree to play the role of cannonfodder as those who would not be held in bondage will not hesitate to make life miserable for those who would be cannonfodder and their families.

              2. I would also put as a condition of paying our share of the debt burden that we get control of all federal assets on our lands, including military bases.

        2. An individual isn’t “stealing” themselves by moving overseas.

          Yes they are. You really think you own your own body? Your body is on loan from the prison union, to be returned if you are caught breaking the rules.

        3. The land “belongs” to the state (or really, the individual, or really, the state), it goes with the state.

          The USA is a confederation of sovereign states.

        4. Fuuuck that. We’re taking Aspen back too.

    3. It just seems like it fits perfectly within the concept of freedom of association.

      What freedom of association? If someone does not want to associate with you, say they are a landlord or a business owner, you can sue them blind. The concept of freedom of association has been turned on its head. It means the freedom to force someone to associate with you. So in that context, secession is a violation of the freedom of association because it violates the federal governments freedom to force states to associate with it.

    4. In any case, I wouldn’t say that the current government organization is an unlimited partnership – the states have no real say/control in what obligations the federal government takes on – in which case its rather unequitable to burden a junior partner with debts he didn’t agree to take on.

      1. the states have no real say/control in what obligations the federal government takes on

        This is wrong. The states elect their own Congressional representatives, who vote on federal spending. Not saying it makes them completely liable, but to say they have no control is disingenuous.

        1. The states elect their own Congressional representatives

          No they don’t. The people do. In this context the states would be the state governments which, thanks to the 17th Amendment, have no say in Washington.

          1. Fair enough. But semantic. The same people who elect the state governments elect the Congressmen, and the state is nothing more than the amalgamation of those individuals.

            1. Society is the amalgamation of those individuals. They can come and go. The state governments are the subset of those individuals who have the last word in violence and thus the license to steal. They aren’t going anywhere.
              Government debt is taxes that haven’t been collected yet.
              It is the state governments that collect the taxes, and they have no say in what debt Washington takes on.

    5. I think the way to solve this problem, along with most of our others is to change how taxes are collected. The federal government should not be able to take money directly from individuals, but instead each state should pay their share of cost of running the Fed based on the number of Representatives in congress. Large states get more say so in what happens in the house, but also have to foot a larger tax bill.

      No longer would state reps. have to fight and play ball with the Feds to get the money back they would have had in hand anyway.

  3. Accept your lot!

  4. I’ve never understood how the Civil War is supposed to have settled the matter. Unless you consider “Bitch, I’ll kill you if you leave me” to be a valid argument.

    1. Unless you consider “Bitch, I’ll kill you if you leave me” to be a valid argument.

      Isn’t “Bitch, I’ll kill you if you…” the basis of all government power?

      Seriously. Government derives its power from the fact that government agents can kill you and there is not a damn thing anyone will do about it.

      1. Well, yeah. But whenever someone (like Ron Paul) makes the case for why secession is perfectly moral and just, the fact that the Union won the Civil War is invoked as if it’s some kind of counterpoint. When it isn’t at all. I mean, I think we’re all aware that the government will try to kill us if we leave. Paul’s point is that they’d be wrong to do so just to keep people from peacefully deciding to exercise their right to self-governance, and the Christian Science Monitor almost literally says, “Because fuck you, that’s why.”

        I just find it worrying that so many people really think that’s any kind of answer. Not just for the obvious reason that it’s so openly tyrannical, but also because it’s a fucking stupid response that doesn’t even address the point.

        1. When people say that they are basically saying “Might makes right. I’m on the side of might. That makes me right.”

          That is there morality.

          1. *their

        2. Ive always thought the civil war argument means you (the unionists) better be prepared to win the war and force the seceding states back in again.

      2. It is funny. If the law said a woman couldn’t divorce or even separate from an abusive husband, they would be shrieking. But it’s totally different in this cases, because governments are never abusive.

        1. Agreed.

          Accordingly, why should the abused woman have to agree to pay for a portion of the debts generated by her husband in order to obtain her divorce?

          1. That not my argument. A divorced couple is usually ordered to share the burden of existing debt. It would be unfair to force one or the other to pay the complete burden for shared debt.

            1. “It would be unfair to force one or the other to pay the complete burden for shared debt.”

              I agree. And yes it was. But it was worth it.

            2. Why should the party that did not incur any of the debt be required to pay any portion of it?

              The same principle applies to an assoiciation of folks who decide to say sayonara to uncle sam. Why should such folks pay for the debts of those who confiscated their property, usurped their liberty, arrested their movement, ransacked their homes and assassinated their puppies?

              1. We DID incur that debt. That’s the debt I’m talking about. Not only has Texas long taken more than they have paid into the federal coffers, but we have benefitted from the non-state specific Federal spending that has accumulated over time.

                A wife and husband buy a house and have kids, then one party chooses to walk (regardless of the reason). Why should the other party bear the full cost of their accumulated debt and responsibilities?

            3. Man, you should tell that one to my brother. He’d be glad to hear it . . .well, no he wouldn’t as he got saddled with all the debt after his divorce. She walked away clear.

              Yes, I know you said usually.

              1. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just that it’s not fair when it does. It wouldn’t be fair to the average American taypayer to suddenly owe $20,000 more each on existing debt because Texas and the South wanted out and didn’t want to pay for the spending they benefitted from and accepted.

                1. To be honest I’m not exactly sure it’s fair that I owe, what did you say $50,000 +/-, as my part of the Federal debt. I don’t recall being asked if that was okay and sure as hell don’t approve of all the spending from which I see little benefit.

                  But to paraphrase Clint, “Fairness has got nothing to with it?” I’m sure Tony would agree with him on this issue.

          2. abused woman

            LOL, histrionics.

    2. Well, exactly – ultimately that is how all governmental issues are solved.

      If they weren’t backed up by the use of force how many people do you think would actually pay taxes, register for selective service, or obey the speed limit?

      1. Given that I only do (or did) one of those three, and that grudgingly, I’m not the guy to ask.

    3. It was sort of more like…

      King Cotton: “If you pick that bearded sumbitch, we’re out of here!”

      Yankees: “LOL, U MAD?”

      King Cotton: “FUCK YOU! We’re out! And we’re taking all of this other shit with us we think we’re entitled to!”

      Yankees: “Hold up! You don’t just get to take forts and post offices and roads! Those are joint property of the partnership!”

      King Cotton: “FUCK YOU TYRANT!”

      Lincoln: “Sup guys? I just got here, what’s the score?”


      Lincoln: “WUT?”

      Yankees: “Glad you finally logged on, Linc. They’re taking forts, roads and post offices and stuff.”

      Lincoln: *checks rulebook* “I don’t think they can do that. Didn’t all the states kick on that stuff?”

      King Cotton: “FUCK YOU! We’ll do what we want! And keep your dirty Yankee hands off our Negroes!”

  5. Can’t wait for the cosmos to come out and cry about “bigots.”

    1. Stop being a bigot, Mary’s Personality #3024, and people will stop calling you one.

    2. Can’t wait for the bigots to come out and cry about “cosmos.”

      Oh wait! You’re already here doing that.

  6. Slightly off topic, but wook at the cute wittle seal!…..mouth.html

    1. Also slightly off topic, do you like the dailymail?

      1. Sadly, the DM covers many domestic stories better than domestic papers. That and they have lots of pictures. I like pictures. Pictures are cool. Very cool. Cool pictures.

        Pictures like these.…..lcano.html
        Or these.…..suits.html

        Pictures are cool.

        1. You know, you’re right about the paper’s coverage.

          Anyways, all cool.

    2. Damn nature, you scary!

      1. I was just thinking this last night. Most wild life die a violent death.

        1. Thank god. TV would be a lot more boring if they didn’t.

        2. Caught a Sci Channel program years ago where a komodo dragon followed a small deer it had bitten until it was overcome from the infection a couple of days later. Then, the dragon and another that came along began eating the deer from the tail forward while the deer, which was lying up like deer do with it’s legs folded underneath, watched. I thought, now that is nature in microcosm.

    3. D’awwwww.

  7. The Constitution lists a number of things a “State” shall not do.

    Secede is not among the prohibitions.

  8. One point I was thinking about: if secession is illegitimate, Texas secession at least shouldn’t bother them because we never should have been part of the US in the first place and should still belong to Mexico. If Texas secession is illegitimate, might as well hand all the states seized in the Mexican War back with an apology attached, since the Mexicans were justified in demanding the return of their stolen property.

    Oh, wait. The whole country was founded on secession. But that’s different.

    1. Seceding from England was OK because we had enough might to make it right.

      Seceding from the federal government is illegitimate because they’ve got more might.


      Might makes right.

      1. America didn’t win it’s independence because the Patriots burned London to the ground and beheaded George III. They fought the English until the English finally agreed to, as George III put afterwards, the separation.

        It wasn’t so much of “might makes right” as “it’s less costly to agree than to continue pressing the issue.”

        1. So Perry, Jindal, or anyone else whose state wants to leave the union just needs to get his hands on a few nukes and point them at DC and NYC after making their demands

          That seems like far and away the easiest and most peaceful way to secede. We’ll call it cold secession.

          1. Reminds me of Last Resort.

          2. As a last resort, yes. Be aware that the D.C. mandarins have nukes of there own and there’s not a lot in Loser-ana worth nuking.

            Seeing the rebirth of the Republic of Texas might be interesting, but you’d have to be really sneaky about acquiring the necessary artillery to make any “peaceful” secession stick.

            1. Seeing the rebirth of the Republic of Texas might be interesting, but you’d have to be really sneaky about acquiring the necessary artillery to make any “peaceful” secession stick.

              How fortunate then that Pantex—and its 100s, if not 1000s, of nuclear warhead components—is in Texas. If there’s any place besides a silo or EHW/sub pen that has nuclear weapons, it’s there.

    2. Time to go ride rollercoasters at Seven Flags Over Texas.

  9. “the United States will almost certainly see parts of its territory take separate paths someday.”

    I certainly hope so!

  10. The separation problem is different these days. It’s no long a north vs. south or east vs. west, it’s rural vs. city. The so called “red states” are really determined by the number of people living in the city vs. the country. Those who want to be free to live their own lives vs. those who want to be just a part in a greater collective. It’s individualism vs. collectivism.

  11. The Civil War is usually discussed nowadays as a purely legal issue – do the States have the right to so-and-so, does the federal government have the right to do such-and-such. At the time, however, it seemed to be an entirely practical problem. What the war really settled was the obvious fact that hostile successions might be resisted, particularly those which would cripple the remaining part of the US.

    In the America of the 1860s, the lower reaches of the Missisippi-Missouri complex were as vital to commerce and the nation’s economic viability as they had been when President Jefferson had sent a commission to try to buy the port of New Orleans from some foreigners. A few decades later, things might have been different, due to the spectacular growth of the railroad system and the rise of significant east-west traffic in partial replacement of the earlier north-south flow. But in the meantime, a hostile South would essentially blockade much of the North’s interior commerce. It didn’t have to be that way, but some Southern gentlemen decided that a hostile split would more likely be permanent than a more amicable separation, and they bombarded a Federal fort to be sure that the proceedings were indeed unmistakably hostile. It’s hard to see how the North could have effectively answered a hostile move with anything but hostile counter-moves of its own; ie, a war.

    It’s not at all clear that an orderly and peaceful succession would lead to another war.

  12. CONDOR XC-007 Master Series Automatic Key Cutting Machine…..-2005.html

  13. Thank you very much

  14. pundits at publications from The Christian Science Monitor to

  15. seriously the eruption of secession fever is Rep. Ron Paul, the retiring

  16. seriously the eruption of secession fever is Rep. Ron Paul

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.