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Secession against federal tyranny

By J.K. Baltzersen
web posted November 20, 2023

Lincoln delivering the Gettsyburg AddressEight score years ago, the log-cabin President stood at the major battlefield of the Civil War and proclaimed that government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not perish from the Earth.

Americans learn in school that he saved the union. So did yours truly, as an international school brat in Africa with an American-dominated curriculum.

These days, anyone showing the slightest sympathy for secession risks being labeled a neo-Confederate and apologist for slavery. It is true that the main initial reason for the secessions of the 1860s was the slavery issue, although there was no immediate threat of emancipation. The Dred Scott decision even made it clear that slave owners could not be deprived of their slaves without due process of law.

Lincoln did not go to war to end slavery. The North even had four slave states on its side: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. They probably wouldn't have liked to hear they were fighting a war to end slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn't even free slaves in loyal states, a proclamation whose purpose probably was to prevent foreign intervention, in particular by the British Empire and France, and to cause slave insurrections on plantations where women had been left in charge. There was probably not much support in the North for going to war to end slavery. The proclamation even caused desertion to rise in the North.

National divorce is these days an emerging topic. Guilt by association with the pro-slavery Confederacy is frequently used as an "opposing argument."

America was created with an intent of a limited central government. Yet normalcy in Washington tends to imply more centralization, i.e., more power to Washington. All the polarization in America should, however, suggest the solution lies in the opposite direction, namely decentralization. Decentralization is, of course, possible within the union. But if Washington does not listen, secession may ultimately be the inevitable solution.

The war to prevent Southern secession ended with putting an end to chattel slavery, finalized with the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This was indeed a good outcome. Yet most other countries ended chattel slavery in less bloody ways, which should suggest it is right to question the necessity of the Civil War.

About half a century after the end of the American civil war, Europe had what could be labeled its civil war, known as World War One. Randolph Bourne, who barely lived to see the Armistice on November 11, 1918, not surviving till the end of the year, wrote in that same year the essay The State, from which is known the aphorism "War is the health of the State." Bourne elaborated:

The ideal of the State is that within its territory its power and influence should be universal. As the Church is the medium for the spiritual salvation of man, so the State is thought of as the medium for his political salvation. [...] it is precisely in war that the urgency for union seems greatest, and the necessity for universality seems most unquestioned.

So, while the Civil War did the good of ending chattel slavery, it did not, as we are taught, save the Union. It created a more centralized union, alien to the ideal of limited government of the Founders who had seceded from the British Empire four score and seven years earlier.

It was arguably the Confederacy fighting for government of the people, by the people, and for the people, which Abraham Lincoln opposed and deciding by war, i.e., might is right, the question of whether secession is allowed. Again, the South was not invaded to emancipate the slaves.

When the founders fought for independence, it was on the grounds of the government in London being tyrannical. But to secede from the American Union is not to be allowed.

States' rights were referred to prior to the Civil War, as Tom DiLorenzo argues in The Real Lincoln, by Northern abolitionists in their opposition to slavery, as an argument against complying with federal fugitive slave legislation. Lincoln destroyed states' rights, and thereby removing an essential bulwark against federal tyranny.

Just like Westminster decided what was good for the colonists back in the days, Washington is to decide what is good for Americans today. I suspect a lot of Americans would sharply disagree.

Again, decentralization is possible with the existing federal union. Theoretically at least. That requires a systematic reduction of the federal government's power. But Washington doesn't seem to be willing.

It may turn out another national divorce may be necessary to end another form of slavery, political slavery by Washington, with high taxes, excessive regulation, and the mightiest government in recorded history – and for government of the people, by the people, and for the people to flourish. ESR

J.K. Baltzersen is a Norwegian author and political commentator. He has edited and co-written a book on constitution, democracy, and liberty.


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