Review: Is Secession Treason?

5 Star, Secession & Nullification

secession treason1866 treatise, exquisitely relevant and valuable today, November 4, 2008

Albert Bledsoe

This book, self-published in 1866 (Eighteen Sixty Six) is a treasure. The author did such a good job that his work was used in defending Jefferson Davis against charges of treason. I am impressed on every page with the diligence that went into looking at the original papers, the early drafts of the Constitution, the records of the debates, and the personal correspondence of the Founding Fathers thereafter.

The book centers on three questions:

1) Was the Constitution a compact–a voluntary agreement?
2) Were the STATES the parties to the compact?
3) If so, did the STATES reserve the right to withdraw from the compact?

I have been enthralled with this book tonight, especially as I compare it to the mockery of what passes for democracy in this country–grand theater that will give us a pseudo-President, the lite side of the bi-opoly crime family, and no attention at all to the substance of governance (for amplification, including everything the two candidates did NOT address in this pathetic campaign of dissemblance, see Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography) which is also free online (as are all my books).

Chapter 1 explains why this question mattered in 1866: if it was treason, Lee and Jackson and Davis and others were traitors. If not treason, then heroes.

The heart of the book is eight chapters, each of which examines a different means of demonstrating that the Constitution was a compact among the sovereign states, and that they all therefore have retained the right of secession.

Throughout the book the author is severely dismissive of Daniel Webster, who has been lionized, as has Abe Lincoln, for defending the Union, but as the author demonstrates, Webster was all too willing to fabricate the facts to suit his argument (others have made this point about Lincoln).

Key points for me early on, as made by the author:

1) 1833 was the first time anyone sought to advance a doctrine of an indivisible union.

2) In the drafting of the Constitution, those assembled explicitly rejected “national government” and went instead with “a government of the United States,” i.e. the federal government is an administrative entity created by the states to serve a common purpose, NOT a “national” authority with sovereign status over the states or for that matter the people.

The author spends time on the confusion caused by the first words of the Constitution, “We the People,” and rolls out a dazzling array of quotes from early drafts and correspondence that conclusively say:

1) At first all of the States were listed by name.

2) Only after all the provisions had been agreed to was the full document (still having all the states listed in the first sentence) referred to “a committee on style” (quotes in the original).

3) It was the Committee on Style that dropped the list of states and substituted We the People

4) All those engaged in this endeavor did not protest because they all knew the intent of the words was stylistic rather than a conveyance of sovereign authority.

Other interesting discussions:

1) Massachusetts objected to the Louisiana purchase, resolving in its legislature that such a purchase far exceeded the authority granted to the federal (not national) government, and that the purchase if carried out would by its very nature abolish the original union of the thirteen colonies.

2) Thomas Jefferson is quoted from one of his resolutions, “Resolved, where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.”

3) Commerce regulation for mutual benefit was the original intent, which has morphed into a monster intruding into every aspect of state and local life.

Chapter 15 focuses on how each of the colonies was a realm unto itself, with very specific territories, identities, and interests.

Chapter 16 summarizes seven arguments in favor of secession as a right:
1) Doctrine of Reserved Rights
2) Sovereignty of the States
3) Silence of the Constitution
4) Fundamental Principle of the Union
5) Right of Self-Government
6) Opinion of Well-Informed and Intelligence Foreign Observers (here De Tocqueville is the most prominent, but there are others)
7) Virginia Ordinance of Ratification

The author in Chapter 17 provides a good faith summary of the arguments against secession, but in fairness to his disposition other books would have to be consulted.

The book concludes with observations on the causes of secession of the South, which the author is certain was legitimate:
1) Destruction of the balance of power between South and North
2) Section legislation that exchanged poverty of North for wealth of South
3) Formation of “the party of the North” pledged against the South
4) “utter subversion and contemptuous disregard for all the checks of the Constitution” (I cannot help but think of Dick Cheney and the treasonous betrayal of the public trust by both “parties”)
5) Unjust treatment of the slavery question which was explicitly excluded from the Constitution
6) “Sophistry and hypocrisy of the North”
7) “Horrible abuse and slander” of the South by the North (loss of face)
8) “Contemptuous denial of the right of secession

The last quote on the last page (202) cites one Mr. Grayson (first name not in text or index), “Republics, in fact, oppress more than monarchies.”

For now, with several more books on secession pending this week as I prepare for the New Hampshire meeting on 15 November, I simply have to say that I buy in to what this author sought to communicate. We live in a United States of America, not a United Peoples of America (that would have required respect for both slaves and Native Americans).

Other books on secession:
Secession: How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire
One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution
Constitutional History of Secession

As a free concise primer, look online for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Secession written by Allen Buchanan.

Three books on the idiocy and criminality that have prevailed:
The Bush Tragedy
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders

Three books of hope:
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

I do not wish to dissolve the Union. I do wish to dissolve the illegal aspects of the government we have now, including Congressional gerrymandering, vote fixing, electoral fraud, bribery on demand, and a dismissal of the policy process in favor of ideological lunacy.

Whoever wins this election will be impotent UNLESS they connect directly to the people and choose with great deliberation to break the backs of the two criminal parties while asserting the public interest and demanding the four reforms (electoral, governance, intelligence, and national security).