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State Sovereignty: The Final Hope


The common misconception is that we are a sovereign nation of fifty states.  The reality is that our nation is a republic of fifty sovereign states.  A game of semantics?  There is a difference between the two ideas.  Even if the difference seems to be subtle, the effect is great.  In his first inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan said, “We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around.”  This country is a union of sovereign states with a common federal government to provide certain services for the common good of the group as dictated by the powers enumerated in the Constitution.  It is not a national government with a territory of fifty states to serve the government.  The government has become a beast that continues to grow, demanding more of its subjects as it grows.

One change that I would support and see as a positive step, but in reality I do not expect to ever see happen, is to repeal the 17th amendment.  Article 1, section 3 of the Constitution states in part, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”  The Senators were appointed to serve the interests of their state, to prevent other states from passing laws that would put their state at a disadvantage.  Today’s Senators have no fear of being recalled by their State Legislature if they fail to act in the best interest of their state.

Amendment 17 – Senators Elected by Popular Vote. Ratified 4/8/1913. History

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

The states in effect gave up a means of control to the federal government.  The state I live in, Minnesota, frequently has a legislative body that is far from conservative.  Even though I am at odds with their decisions on a regular basis, I would much rather have them retain control of the situation with the ability to rein in a Senator that plays party politics over the interest of the state.

Some states are actually beginning to make a stand as legislators introduce resolutions based on the Kentucky Resolutions of Thomas Jefferson.  According to Joseph Sobran, “The Resolutions were written in protest against the Alien and Sedition Acts, which Jefferson saw as unconstitutional. It’s now generally agreed that he was right. He stressed that if the Federal Government were to be the final and exclusive authority on what the Constitution meant, it would be free to define the extent of its own powers — which would defeat the whole purpose of a written constitution.  On this occasion Jefferson didn’t call for secession, but later secessionists would draw on his powerful arguments. He treasured the Union, but he abhorred the idea that the states could or should be kept in the Union by force. They were still, in principle, “Free and Independent States.” They could remain free and independent only if they remained sovereign. In 1816 Jefferson would write that “if any state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation … to a continuance in union … I have no hesitation in saying, ‘Let us separate.’” He hoped it would never come to that, but he saw that the ultimate right to withdraw from the Union was essential to the Union’s free and voluntary character”

Another States issue of recent weeks is the talk of the ability to secede from the Union.  Now remember, this is a Union of States.  The preamble to the Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  The union is of states, multiple sovereign states.  They created the federal government and gave limited powers to it, reserving all other considerations to themselves individually.  The federal government has over stepped those bounds frequently and radically.  The states have given over their rights to the feds, or maybe better put, have sold their souls, had they had souls.  The states voluntarily joined the union, and the threat of secession is the power the states held to keep the government in check.  Secession is a tool the states have to help keep the federal government in check, to control it’s actions.  While it is not a tactic to be used carelessly, it is a necessary tool to retain freedom from tyranny.

When the original thirteen states formed the union, they wrote The Declaration of Independence.  Adopted on July 4, 1776, it was sub-titled, The United Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America. The opening paragraph is:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

They declared their separation from England and understood that it may be necessary from time to time as a government became tyrannical and oppressive.  The men who made the stand against England declared the colonies to be free and independent states.  They believed, and set up our nation based upon the belief, that” governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The second paragraph begins:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

The closing paragraph is:

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levey war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.  And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

They were independent states who formed the government and gave it limited powers which they controlled.  The states controlled the federal government, the federal government was not created to control the states.  The Articles of Confederation also states, “Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence.”

When the USSR broke down as a union, the United States basically supported the states such as Georgia, Bosnia and Croatia in their secession.  Does the same government now declare secession to not be valid?  If a government demands that it is illegal for a state to secede from a voluntary union, isn’t that justification to consider secession as an option to tyranny?  If you would like to see the secession movements around the world, check: .

Secession Quotes

Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right – a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.” – Abraham Lincoln, (speech in Congress January 1848)

A nation, therefore, has no right to say to a province: You belong to me, I want to take you. A province consists of its inhabitants. If anybody has a right to be heard in this case it is these inhabitants.” – Ludwig Von Mises. Omnipotent Government, p.90

This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.” – Plato (circa 400 B.C.)

When all government, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the Center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” – Thomas Jefferson

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

Only a despotic and imperial government can coerce seceding states” – William Seward US Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln in 10 April 1861 to Charles Francis Adams, Minister to the Court of St. James (Britain)

We do heartily accept this doctrine, believing it intrinsically sound, beneficent, and one that, universally accepted, is calculated to prevent the shedding of seas of human blood. And, if it justified the secession from the British Empire of Three Millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.” – The New-York Daily Tribune, December 17, 1860

“The consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin of all that has proceeded it.” – Robert E. Lee to Lord Acton December 15, 1866

“We dissent . . . because the powers vested in Congress by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of he several states, and produce from their ruins one consolidated government, which from the nature of things will be an iron handed despotism, as nothing short of the supremacy of despotic sway could connect and govern these United States under one government. . . . [I]t would . . . produce a despotism, and that not by the usual gradations, but with the celerity that has hitherto only attended revolutions effected by the sword.” (The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania to their Constituents, December 18, 1787), in R. Ketchum, ed., The Anti-Federalist Papers, pp. 237-256).

George Orwell, During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

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