Archive | Secession

California Dreamin’ of Secession

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone recently called for southern California to secede and form a new state:

Is the state of California about to go “South”?

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone apparently thinks so, after proposing that the county lead a campaign for as many as 13 Southern California counties to secede from the state.

Stone said in a statement late Thursday that Riverside, Imperial, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa and Mono counties should form the new state of South California.

The creation of the new state would allow officials to focus on securing borders, balancing budgets, improving schools and creating a vibrant economy, he said.

“Our taxes are too high, our schools don’t educate our children well enough, unions and other special interests have more clout in the Legislature than the general public,” Stone said in his statement…..

Stone said he would present his proposal to the Board of Supervisors July 12.

The new state would have no term limits, only a part-time legislature and limits on property taxes.

Even if Stone succeeds in getting other southern Californians to support his plan, it faces very long legal and political odds. As Bill Whalen points out, the Constitution does not allow a state’s territory to be divided without its own consent. And the admission of a new state to the Union requires approval by Congress. Obviously, the California state legislature is unlikely to agree to the secession. And even if it does, congressional Democrats are unlikely to approve the admission of a state with two new Republican senators unless a new majority-Democratic state is admitted at the same time (e.g. – Puerto Rico or the District of Columbia).

Ironically, the Constitution is far more clear about making it hard for territories […]

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Whitewashing Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy

The New York Times has an article on yesterday’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy:

Before a cheering crowd of several hundred men and women, some in period costume and others in crisp suits, an amateur actor playing Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy on the steps of the Alabama Capitol on Saturday, an event framed by the firing of artillery, the delivery of defiant speeches and the singing of “Dixie.”

The participants far outnumbered the spectators, but it was to be the largest event of the year organized by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and one in a series of commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy and the War for Southern Independence. (Referring to the Civil War as anything other than an act of unwarranted Northern aggression upon a sovereign republic was rather frowned upon.)

The Sons’ principal message was that the Confederacy was a just exercise in self-determination that had been maligned by “the politically correct crowd” through years of historical distortions. It is the right of secession that they emphasize, not the cause, which they often describe as a complicated mix of tariff and tax disputes and Northern attempts to politically subjugate the South.

The Times article reports that the SCV sought to downplay as much as possible the fact that Davis’ motive for secession was to protect and extend the institution of slavery. Unfortunately for them and other apologists for the Confederacy, the real Jefferson Davis unequivocally stated in 1861 that the cause of his state’s secession was that “she had heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of […]

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The 150th Anniversary of South Carolina’s Secession

At Ricochet, Hillsdale College Professor Paul Rahe has a post on the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s vote to secede from the Union. I’m one of the few Americans sympathetic to the general idea of secession who is also unequivocally hostile to the secession effort undertaken by the Confederacy in 1860-61.

In my view, the Constitution doesn’t clearly either forbid secession or permit it. Rahe emphasizes that there is no provision in the Constitution permitting secession. But there is also none banning it. The Constitution conspicuously omitted the section of Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation mandating that the union be “perpetual.”

In practice, the morality of any given secession movement depends critically on the reasons why the secessionists want to form their own state and the likelihood that it will be less unjust than the regime they seek to leave. Some secessions have clearly been defensible on these terms, including the Baltic States’ secession from the USSR, the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, Norway’s early 20th century secession from Sweden, and America’s own secession from the British Empire. By contrast, I have argued that the Confederate attempt at secession was indefensible because it was undertaken for the evil purpose of perpetuating and extending the oppressive institution of slavery (see here and here).

In South Carolina’s case, among others, you don’t have to take my word about their motives. The state’s leaders condemned themselves through the South Carolina secession convention’s own official declaration of its reasons for seceding from the union. Here is a relevant excerpt:

The right of property in slaves was recognized by [the Constitution] giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by

[…]

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A New Rebel Mascot for a New South – Admiral Ackbar May Replace Colonel Reb at Ole Miss

Students at the University of Mississippi have started a campaign to replace the school’s longtime mascot Colonel Reb with Admiral Ackbar, leader of the Rebel Fleet in Star Wars. Colonel Reb was retired in 2003 because “coaches and athletic boosters concluded that C. Reb and other symbols of the Confederacy hurt the school’s recruiting prospects.” The movement has attracted national attention, and Lucasfilm says that they may license the use of Ackbar by Ole Miss.

Both science fiction fans and Confederacy-haters have reason to cheer this development. Given my view of the Confederacy (see here and here, and here), I fall into both categories. From a competitive standpoint, it also makes good sense to replace a mascot who represented an evil cause that failed with one that symbolizes a just cause that won. Winners make better mascots than losers.

The Ole Miss Rebel Alliance – the student group promoting Ackbar as the new mascot – originally did so as a joke. But they also acted for the more serious purpose of preventing the reinstatement of Colonel Reb:

Six days before the Ole Miss student body was called to vote on whether to accept the responsibility of developing a new mascot, four students came together to fill a void for those who were ready to lay Colonel Reb to rest.

Drawing comedic inspiration from a squid-like Star Wars character, Tyler Craft, Matthew Henry, Joseph Katool and Ben McMurtray launched the Ole Miss Rebel Alliance and unwittingly introduced Admiral Ackbar as a potential mascot candidate….

A Web site was created featuring the now-viral image of Ackbar dressed in a red hat and jacket similar to that of his predecessor….

“We started this as sort of a fun thing,” Craft said. “We did it with satire,

[…]

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Why the Issue of Secession Isn’t “Settled”

In a recent post, co-conspirator Eugene Volokh argues that the Civil War did not settle the issue of the constitutionality and moral defensibility of secession. I made a detailed argument to the same effect in this 2008 post.

I’m not going to restate all my analysis here. But I will say that I don’t think that secession is either clearly unconstitutional or always morally wrong. I agree with Eugene that secession at this particular moment in American history is probably both infeasible and likely to cause more harm than good. I don’t think, however, that that will necessary remain true indefinitely.

In many federal systems, secession is an important safeguard for minority groups and a guarantee against excessive concentrations of power in the central government. Historically, at least some secessions have done great good, such as the “Velvet Divorce” between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, Norway’s early 20th century secession from Sweden, Finland’s secession from the Russian Empire, and the Baltic States’ 1991 secession from the USSR. The American Revolution was, of course, a violent secession from the British empire, one that most Americans surely believe to have been justified.

Not all secession movements are defensible. As I see it, their merits depend crucially on the nature of the regime they are seeking to secede from and the quality of the one they are likely to establish. For this reason, I am one of the relatively few Americans sympathetic to the general idea of secession who also believes that the Confederate secession effort of 1861 was utterly indefensible. The Confederates seceded for the deeply unjust purpose of defending and perpetuating slavery, a point that I discuss in detail here and here. For that reason, among others, their defeat and the resulting abolition of […]

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