One Nation Indivisible
[As we observe Presidents Day, the birthdays of two great Presidents - one instrumental in the birth of our nation, one in the preservation of the same - here's a repeat from 2005.]
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
Those quotes are taken from a rather unknown document. They're not the writings of Abraham Lincoln. They're not laws passed during the conflict that divided this great nation. They're two articles from a document entitled 'The Constitution'.
The Constitution provides methods for addressing injustice in the Union between states. It formed a representative government, where wrongs can be addressed. Each state was given both equal and proportionate representation. There are methods of recourse against a perceived injustice; however, the Constitution affords no means of secession.
Any recourse outside of the afforded methods would be 'extra-legal', or illegal. It would be a move of rebellion, a move of revolution. Secession is outside the legal scope of the Constitution. There would be no ground for the succeeding states to stand upon except that of an ' unalienable right' being denied them. The seceding states would have to view themselves as equivalent to the colonies during the revolution, and view the Union ľ and the states that make it up ľ as equivalent to England. The only acceptable reason for secession would be the preservation of universal rights, and only because those rights were being unduly denied them.
Although the reasons for conflict between the seceding states and those loyal to the Union are as numerous as the battles that were fought, there is one reason for war. It was the question of secession. Could a state withdraw itself from the Union? Were these United States one nation indivisible? How should the Union respond to those determined to secede?
The federal government is but a union of states. The constitution does not bind the states to a central entity, but binds the states together to from a common entity. That is the foundation of the Union. At the basis of the Union is the concept that it is a Union of States, with no state having sole control over the future of the Union. Any injustice done by the 'federal' government - the Union - is an injustice done by the collection of states, and must be addressed in that context.
At the point of secession the seceding states would be declaring that all legal measures have been exhausted, and that the infraction of the Union upon their rights was great enough to warrant the dissolution of the Union. It would be almost tantamount to declaring that a representative government cannot succeed, for their position is that of representation not being enough.
If a representative government cannot sufficiently protect the significant freedom of states or citizens, the fabric of the Union is destroyed. At this point all that is left is a treaty. An agreement between completely sovereign states which can be dissolved at whatever point it is deemed unnecessary or cumbersome. All that is left is an alliance that can be disregarded whenever a conflict cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
There is not a both-and solution. It's either-or. Either the Union would be completely dissolved, or it would remain indivisible. At the point of extra-legal secession the Union would have not only the right, but the obligation to preserve itself. To preserve not only itself, but the concept of representative democracy. For if extra-legal secession is permitted, the states seceding may form a different union or federation, but it will not last. It would not be long until other differences divided that new confederation, and then divided it again. And it would not be long after that the original Union too would perish.
Do the states have the right to secede? Perhaps, but if they ever would successfully exercise that right, while still being governed under the system set in place by our founding fathers, it would be the end of that great and noble experiment in freedom. If the Union fails, so have the ideas upon which it was founded. And if a representative government cannot succeed at the level of the states ľ it cannot succeed at the level of the individual. For the Union was not established solely by the states, it was established by the people represented by the states.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union...
I am glad I write this from the perspective of what could happened if a state successfully seceded ľ not the perspective of wondering what could have been if the Union had be preserved.
The civil war was a war between brothers. One brother fighting against the other, fighting to protect his freedom. One brother fighting with the other, fighting to preserve both.