The Declaration of Independence: Thirteen Colonies Yearned to Be Free

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE - Philadelphia Gazette

by Diane Rufino, July 4, 2019

Independence Day – What it really means….

What does Independence Day – the 4th of July – mean to you? Is it just a holiday to eat, drink, and light off fireworks? Do you display and wave the flag of the United States out of habit – because everyone else on the block does it? Do you cover your table with a plastic table cloth of stars and stripes and decorate your yard with red, white, and blue because that’s what Target and Walmart remind you to do with its holiday displays and sales? Do you actually understand what the 4th of July signifies? Did you sleep through that lesson in American History Class? Was it even taught to you at all?

I just hope you aren’t one of those Americans who thinks it’s the big event of the summer to enjoy cook-out food and watch fireworks.

When I was very young, I thought Independence Day marked the day when the 13 colonies defeated the British for our independence. Then in middle school, I learned that it marked the date the Declaration of Independence was signed. That was the extent of my understanding until I did my own reading. Soon I learned that not only was the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776, but that it was an act of treason against the British Crown. It was an act of treason because while the colonies were fighting for their independence, the British were fighting to quash their rebellious nature for good. Rebellion against the Crown was high treason and it would not be tolerated.

But it wasn’t until I graduated law school that I was finally able to appreciate the real significance of the Declaration of Independence. First and foremost, and above all else, it was a secessionist document. It announced the separation (secession) of America’s thirteen independent colonies from the (oppressive) mother country, Great Britain. Sure, the name of the document was “The Declaration of Independence,” which pretty much tells the reader what it will declare. And yes, the ultimate purpose of the document was to declare the intention of the colonies – to be free and independent from Great Britain. But, the American colonies could only claim their independence if and when they had severed their bonds with Great Britain. That is, they could only claim their independence once they had seceded from her.

Amazingly, I learned all about secession and about it being a fundamental, organic right that no constitution or other compact or agreement can extinguish from reading and studying the Declaration of Independence. (I never learned about it in school, which makes complete sense. The government would never want its children to grow up having a fundamental understanding of the right of secession. Abraham Lincoln, after all, is the government’s poster child, it’s greatest president…… He destroyed the idea in the mind of the States and then in the minds of American citizens that there is no right of secession).

Second of all, it set out the reasons for secession, laying the primary reason on the importance of man’s natural and inalienable rights and the right to have a government that secures them and protects them for the enjoyment and free exercise of the People. Simply put, as its author Thomas Jefferson explained: “The Declaration of Independence… is the declaratory charter of our rights, and of the rights of man.” And in that magnificent document, Jefferson has laid out the natural order of our rights and the natural purpose and limits of government.

But before I go any further into the meaning of the Declaration, I think it’s important to make clear, as Michael Maharrey makes clear in his article “The Declaration of Independence Birthed 13 Sovereign Nations,” (Tenth Amendment Center, July 3, 2019), that July 4, 1776 marks the date when thirteen independent colonies, not a consolidated group of colonies, declared their independence. When the war was concluded, when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 and then when the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 4, 1783, what was birthed was NOT an independent United States of America (one nation) but rather thirteen independent States, united in their affection for one another and their willingness to work together for common goals.

Just look at the words of the Declaration and of the Treaty of Paris.

The last paragraph of the Declaration famously reads:

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 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 levy 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.

One of the key points of the Treaty of Paris reads: “Britain acknowledges the United States (New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) to be free, sovereign, and independent states, and that the British Crown and all heirs and successors relinquish claims to the Government, property, and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof.”

The Declaration of Independence was almost forced on the colonies by history’s happenstance. It began with the colonies’ restlessness in the wake of an over-zealous King and Parliament which first sought to extract tax revenue from them (without representation) and then to oppress and subjugate them as a means of punishment. They were punished for daring to stand up for their rights as Englishmen, as Englishmen had done for over 500 years of their history. Indeed, the history of England has been a history of repeated attempts, first by the barons and then by all subjects, to assert basic human rights and to demand from the King a promise (a charter) that he will respect such. Some of the attempts were successful and some only temporary, but all of England’s notable charters were signed and limited the reach of the King and Parliament, even if only for a very short time.

Some of these charters and other significant documents include: The Charter of Liberties of King Henry I (1100), the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Right (1628), the Grand Remonstrance (1641), and the English Bill of Right of 1689. This history is critical for the foundation for our country because all total, these documents establish the notion that government must respect boundaries on the individual, acknowledging that they have certain essential rights and liberties. The rights and liberties asserted and re-asserted in these documents are the “rights of Englishmen” that the colonists most eagerly embraced and were most eager to protect.

Author Brion McClanahan explains the significance of England’s grand history in his article Rethinking the Declaration of Independence: “In 1100, King Henry I of England agreed to restrictions on his power through the Charter of Liberties. The English barons rejected absolute authority and sought to preserve traditional decentralized “government.” Just over one hundred years later, in 1215, King John was forced again by the English nobles to sign the Magna Charta. The “Great Charter,” as it is known in English, declared that the king was not above the law – making him essentially equal to the nobles – and it resisted the trend toward centralization in England. Though on the books, the Magna Charta was often ignored by more powerful English monarchs, but several of its provisions became the basis of English common law, most notably the writ of habeas corpus.” (See the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679).

In October 1214, King John returned to England in disgrace. His mission to reconquer his lost territory in northern France had failed and other military campaigns were unsuccessful as well. He taxed England’s barons heavily to finance these campaigns and they were not happy. Upon his return, he found that a group of angry barons from across the country had formed an association and were prepared renounce him as king. Over the next eight months, they made repeated demands to the King, requesting that he give them a guarantee that he would observe their rights. But the negotiations amounted to nothing. And so, on May 5 of that year, the barons gathered and agreed to declare war on King John. On May 17, 1215 they captured London, the largest town in England, without a fight. With London lost and ever more supporters flocking to the side of the barons, the King John realized he would have to address their concerns.

On June 8, he notified the barons of his willingness to negotiate. Over the next few days, the barons assembled in great numbers at Runnymede, a relatively obscure meadow just a few miles from Windsor castle, where King John was based. They arrived to repeat their demands and negotiate peace terms. On June 15, the barons presented their terms to the King and he signed the great document – The Great Charter (“Magna Carta”).

In Chapter 39 of Magna Carta, one of the document’s most important clauses, King John made the following promise: “No freeman shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”

Here, it was agreed that the Crown and his administration would not arrest, outlaw, banish, or incarcerate any free man, deprive him of his rights, possessions or legal standing, or otherwise take official and forceful action against him, except in accordance with the lawful judgement of his equals or in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom. This was, in embryonic form, the principle of due process of law: The government shall not deprive any person subject to its jurisdiction of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Magna Carta provided that justice was to be guaranteed to every person in the Kingdom, that the right of justice would not be sold, delayed, or denied to any person. Thus, this critical, historic document provided that every freeman — i.e., every Englishmen who was not a serf — was to enjoy security and protection from illegal interference by the King (ie, government) in his person and property. [See Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr. (Professor of Political Science), “The American System of Government….”] The terms listed in the Magna Carta would later be referred to as “the ancient rights and liberties of Englishmen” in the English Bill of Rights of 1689.

King John, in giving his consent to Magna Carta, agreed that: (1) the Monarch was subject to the law of the Kingdom and (2) the law placed limits on royal authority. This reflected an early stage in the development of the central idea of English and American constitutionalism — the idea that the ruler was not above the law and therefore had to abide by the law and stay within the limits the law imposed on his power. [See Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.]

Under Magna Carta, the King still governed England, but he had to share with the barons one important sphere of political authority — the power of taxation. All royal requests for extraordinary taxes had to be submitted to the Common Council for its consideration and decision. When it came to the King’s raising revenue by means other than collecting the feudal fees and aids in amounts due him by customary right, he had to share with the barons, the largest and most powerful bloc in the Common Council, the authority to make binding decisions. The requirement, stipulated in Magna Carta, that the King submit proposals for extraordinary taxation to an assembly of his leading subjects — the barons and the Church officers of high rank — was one small but significant step on the long road to firmly establishing as a constitutional guarantee, truly binding on the Monarch and all other officers of the government, the age old principle of English government that no subject could be taxed without his consent, given by the subject directly in person or indirectly through elected representatives in a legislative assembly. [See Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.].

When Britain began taxing the colonies without allowing them representation in Parliament, particularly with the Stamp Tax, the colonists asserted this basic right from the Magna Carta in their protest slogan “No taxation without representation.” The phrase actually originated with Massachusetts attorney James Otis about 1761, who proclaimed: “Taxation without representation is tyranny!”

After the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right of 1628, which was written by Parliament, was presented to King Charles I to re-assert the civil liberties of his subjects. The Petition contained four main points: (1) No taxes could be levied without Parliament’s consent; (2) No English subject could be imprisoned without cause–thus reinforcing the right of habeas corpus; (3) No quartering of soldiers in citizens’ homes; and (4) No martial law may be used in peacetime. Each of these four points enumerated specific civil rights that Englishmen felt Charles I had breached throughout his reign. Although he’d never been that popular as the monarch, his abuse of power against the people escalated to an intolerable level after Parliament refused to increase taxation and finance his unpopular foreign policies. The purpose of the Petition was to seek redress for the serious grievances Charles had committed.

When Charles showed no sign of repenting, Parliament drafted an extensive list of grievances which it presented to him on December 1, 1641. The grievances included 204 instances of gross abuses of the King’s power and usurpations of the rights of the people. Preceding this list of grievances were the following significant paragraphs:

For the preventing of those miserable effects which such malicious endeavours may produce, we have thought good to declare the root and the growth of these mischievous designs: the maturity and ripeness to which they have attained before the beginning of the Parliament: the effectual means which have been used for the extirpation of those dangerous evils, and the progress which hath therein been made by His Majesty’s goodness and the wisdom of the Parliament: the ways of obstruction and opposition by which that progress hath been interrupted: the courses to be taken for the removing those obstacles, and for the accomplishing of our most dutiful and faithful intentions and endeavours of restoring and establishing the ancient honour, greatness and security of this Crown and nation.

The root of all this mischief we find to be a malignant and pernicious design of subverting the fundamental laws and principles of government, upon which the religion and justice of this kingdom are firmly established.

The Grand Remonstrance would help precipitate a civil war in England and eventually lead Parliament to file official charges of high treason against Charles I. He would be tried, convicted, and executed (beheaded) in 1649. His son Charles II was exiled and his other son James II was able to escape to France dressed as a girl.

When England erupted in this civil war, the Parliament asserted its authority and suspended the reign of the Monarch, and by 1688 had become the driving force behind English law and policy. From 1649 to 1660, England became a republic. At first it was ruled by Parliament, but in 1653, Oliver Cromwell, commander of the army, became Lord Protector of England and served until he died (1658; his son took over briefly). Eventually the blood line of Charles I was restored in 1660 first with Charles II (who sat on the throne at the time of the plague and the great fire of London) and then in 1665, with James II. He was terribly unpopular, and in fact, was widely hated by the people. Not only did he force his Roman Catholic faith on the British people, but he willingly allowed the persecution of Protestants. He was forced to give up the crown in the Glorious Revolution (the “Bloodless Revolution”) of 1688.

When King James II was expelled from England in 1688, Parliament invited King William III of Orange and his wife Mary II (daughter of James II), of the Netherlands, to assume the throne. Parliament promised no resistance. The only requirement was that they sign the English Bill of Rights that Parliament had drawn up on behalf the people. It condemned James II for violating the rights of Englishmen, which the Parliament called the “laws and liberties of this kingdom,” and placed restrictions on the powers of the monarch. William and Mary “gladly accepted what was offered them” and signed the English Bill of Rights.

Those from England who settled the colonies, particularly Massachusetts, seeking freedom from religious persecution (Puritans and Pilgrims) and others, brought this history – and these rights – with them. After all, they were still Englishmen; they were living on a continent claimed by England and establishing settlements and communities pursuant to land patents issued by the King.

But the bond of affection would seem to be one-way only. While the colonists sought to live as loyal subjects to the Crown, enjoying the same the rights and liberties as the citizens of England, England sought to exploit the colonies for raw materials, trade, and taxes. For several years, things were good. No complaints. But just as the British colonies were growing and expanding, there were French colonies growing and expanding as well – in the frontier region west of Virginia up to Canada. They were mainly fur-trappers. Eventually, Britain felt its American colonies and interests were being threatened and the two empires went to war. It lasted seven years (the French-Indian War, aka, the Seven Years War, 1754–1763), and eventually, the French were expelled and England secured greater territory. Believing the war was primarily for the benefit of the safety and security of the colonies, Parliament enacted a series of taxes on the colonies to recoup the money it had spent. [Note that around 1750, the plantations were established and against the wishes of the colonies, Britain pushed the slave trade on them to ensure that raw materials such as sugar, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and rice were produced plentifully and productively and shipped to England]

Accordingly, Parliament enacted the following taxes: The Navigation Acts (1651, 1660, and 1663; duties on tobacco and molasses, to name a few), the Plantation Duty Act (1673; a duty on plantations), the Sugar Act (1764; a duty or tax on sugar), the Stamp Act (1765; a tax on all documents, including legal documents, calendars, cards, etc), and the Townshend Acts (1767; duties on items imported by the colonists, including glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea). The colonists were outraged. They weren’t outraged at the taxes themselves, but rather by the violation of their essential right to have representation in the legislative body that passes such tax measures. “No Taxation Without Representation!” They compared the current king, King George III, to Charles I for indiscriminately taxing the colonies without their consent. The Sons of Liberty organized at this time – originating in Massachusetts and New York and eventually having a presence in all thirteen colonies – and they were extremely effective at protesting these taxes and frustrating their enforcement.

Protests heightened with the passage of the Tea Act in 1673. The Tea Act allowed the British East India Company, which had a surplus of tea, to have a monopoly on import tea to the colonies. In passing this act, Parliament actually thought it was doing a favor to the colonies by providing tea at a reduced price (due to the surplus). In fact, the cost of the tea, together with the new tax (“a mere 3 pence”), would be lower than the cost of the tea provided by other sources. But Parliament didn’t get it. The colonists didn’t think government had the right to force a monopoly on them and interfere with the trade of colonial tea merchants. Colonial merchants couldn’t compete with the less-expensive tea that the East India Tea Company provided so abundantly. And so, the colonists once again took matters in their own hands. In Pennsylvania and New York, colonists did not allow British tea ships to enter the large city ports. They sent ships out into the harbors to block the tea ships. In Boston, they had a “party.” On that evening of December 16, 1773, approximately 100 “radicals,” members of a secret organization of American Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, dressed up as Mohawk Indians, boarded three East India Company ships, broke open all 342 wooden chests of tea, and dumped them into the Boston Harbor. The value of the tea destroyed, in today’s market, would amount to about $1 million.

Well, that particular act of protest was the one that the broke the camel’s back. At first King George III didn’t seem too perturbed at the incident, but soon, the tide of British public opinion would grow against the colonists, whom they regarded as rebellious and childish, and that rising sentiment would force Parliament and King George to punish the citizens of Boston for their recalcitrance. Parliament would no longer tolerate disobedience; the colonies’ “rebellious spirit” would finally have to be addressed and they would have be made to obey British laws. Parliament would no longer be soft when it came to obeying British laws. It would show the colonies what happens to those who happen to have a “rebellious spirit” and are disobedient, and in doing so, reinforce upon them the need to obey its laws. What followed would be a series of laws called the “Coercive Acts” (also referred to as the “Intolerable Acts”).

On March 28, 1774, in response to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed four acts which together became known as the Coercive Acts. These individual acts included: (1) The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid (no ship carrying colonial goods could enter or leave Boston Harbor until the Massachusetts Colony paid for all the tea that was destroyed); (2) The Massachusetts Government Act, which effectively revoked Massachusetts Charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay (1691), its colonial charter, prohibited democratic town meetings, and turned the royal governor’s council into an appointed body with wide-ranging powers (in other words, shifting government authority from Massachusetts colony to the royal governor); (3) The Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in Massachusetts; and (4) The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in their private homes as a last resort.

Indeed, the situation was intolerable. Parliament ordered the Royal Navy to blockade the Boston Harbor, preventing ships from entering and bringing in goods and supplies and blocking colonial merchant ships from leaving and selling their goods. By fiat, the basic structure of colonial government was altered. England was now governing the colony. To add insult to injury, King George appointed General Thomas Gage, who had served as the head of the British Army in North America, as the new Governor of Massachusetts, and he brought troops with him. On May 13, General Gage arrived in Boston with four regiments of troops. Aside from the fact that the colonists felt stripped them of their previously enjoyed rights, perhaps more unnerving was the presence of four thousand British soldiers in Boston. Under the Quartering Act, there would be guaranteed residence for the British Army and the citizens of Massachusetts would be required to quarter them, if necessary (otherwise they would have to remain on ships). The Quartering Act required the colonies to house British soldiers in barracks provided by the colonies. If the barracks were too small to house all the soldiers, then localities were to accommodate the soldiers in local inns, stables, ale houses, and houses of sellers of wine. Should there still be soldiers without accommodation after all such public houses were filled, the colonies were then required to take, hire and make fit for the reception of his Majesty’s forces, such and so many uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings as shall be necessary. Finally, British officials could abuse these acts and be free from prosecution in the colony.

In response, provincial militias started to gather munitions and store them in the countryside out of reach of the British regulars.

On May 26, Parliament dissolved Virginia’s colonial government – its Virginia House of Burgesses. And on September 1, General Gage seized the Massachusetts Colony’s arsenal at Charlestown, located just across the Charles River from Boston – near Bunker Hill.

On Benjamin Franklin’s advice, the colonies decided to meet in a common body to address Britain’s treatment of the colonies, in particular the blockade of Boston Harbor and the Intolerable Acts on the Province of Massachusetts. And so, on September 5, the First Continental Congress met with 56 delegates in Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia. Twelve out of the thirteen colonies sent delegates (Georgia did not send any). The Continental Congress, which would meet on two separate occasions, became the governing body of the “united” colonies during the time leading up to and then during the American Revolution.

On October 14, the First Continental Congress adopted a Declaration and Resolves against the blockade, the Coercive Acts, the Quartering of troops, and other objectionable British actions. These resolutions listed a series of grievances against Parliament (where have we seen that response before?) and appealed to the King to intercede on behalf of the colonies for proper respect for their rights as Englishmen. The Declaration and Resolves began as follows:

The good people of the several colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North- Carolina and South-Carolina, justly alarmed at these arbitrary proceedings of parliament and administration, have severally elected, constituted, and appointed deputies to meet, and sit in general Congress, in the city of Philadelphia, in order to obtain such establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties, may not be subverted: Whereupon the deputies so appointed being now assembled, in a full and free representation of these colonies, taking into their most serious consideration, the best means of attaining the ends aforesaid, do, in the first place, as Englishmen, their ancestors in like cases have usually done, for asserting and vindicating their rights and liberties, DECLARE,

That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following RIGHTS:

Resolved, N.C.D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.
Resolved, N.C.D. 2. That our ancestors, who first settled these colonies, were at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural- born subjects, within the realm of England.
Resolved, N.C.D. 3. That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights, but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.
Resolved, 4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council: and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented in the British parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved.

The Declaration and Resolves was presented to the King and then to Parliament on January 19, 1775. King George laughed and dismissed the document and the Parliament did not even address it. King George, to whom the Declaration was addressed, never even offered a formal response, for in his mind, he did not have to submit to the demands of the colonists, whom he regarded as insolent children. He famously said to the Prime Minister Lord North: “The die is now cast, the colonies must either submit or triumph.” He would not negotiate with them. His tacit response made it clear that he meant to maintain political unity between the colonies and the United Kingdom even at the expense of the happiness of the colonists.

Word of the Intolerable Acts and the subjugation of the colonists in Boston began to spread to other colonies and they began to react. Perhaps the most famous response came from Virginia, and Patrick Henry!

Because England had dissolved Virginia’s colonial government, its Virginia House of Burgesses, the state’s colonial leaders were forced to meet in secret. And so they did, on March 20, 1775, at a small church which is now called St. John’s Church, in Richmond, away from the Capitol in Williamsburg. Delegate Patrick Henry presented resolutions to raise a militia, and to put Virginia in a posture of defense. He believed that martial law would eventually come to Virginia. Henry’s opponents urged caution and patience, holding out hope that the King would eventually respond – and respond generously – to the Declarations and Resolves. On the evening of the 23rd, Henry presented a proposal to organize a volunteer company of cavalry or infantry in every county of Virginia and delivered a fiery speech in support of it. His final words “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” would be a rallying cry for the cause of independence and indeed, his entire speech is probably the most stirring, most passionate case in defense of liberty in our American history.

The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Patrick Henry succeeded in convincing the body of delegates to pass his resolutions. Virginia would call up a militia.

On April 14, 1775, General Gage received orders from London to take decisive action against the rebel-rousers of Boston – the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. In the wee hours of the April 19, seven hundred British troops were dispatched to Lexington, where they would capture Adams and Hancock, and then to Concord, where they would seize a secret stockpile of colonial gunpowder (Gage had received intelligence about its location). But spies and friends of the Sons of Liberty leaked word of Gage’s plan. One lantern hanging from Boston’s North Church informed the countryside that the British were going to attack by land and two lanterns if they were going to attack by sea. A series of horseback riders – Paul Revere, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott – galloped off to warn the countryside that British troops were coming.

Word spread from town to town, and militias prepared to confront the British and help their neighbors in Lexington and Concord. Colonial militias had originally been organized to defend settlers from civil unrest and attacks by French or Native Americans and selected members of the militia were called “minutemen” because they could be ready to fight in a minute’s time. Sure enough, when the advance guard of nearly 240 British soldiers arrived in Lexington during the early morning hours, they found about 70 minutemen waiting for them on Lexington Green. Both sides eyed each other not knowing what to expect or what to do. Suddenly, a bullet rang out. It would be known as “the shot heard round the world.” Seven American militiamen were killed in that skirmish. The British retreated to Concord, where they found an even larger, more organized group of militiamen. They then retreated back to Boston, and as they did so, new waves of Colonial militia intercepted them. Shooting from behind fences and trees, the militias inflicted over 125 casualties, including several officers. The American Revolution had begun. By happenstance…. not because of the blockade of Boston Harbor, not because of the Intolerable Acts, not because of the quartering of troops, not because of King George’s rejection of the pleas of the Colonies in the Declarations and Resolves, and not because of the other instances of mistreatment of the colonies. It was because the British had come for their ammunition.

Thus, the war for independence began over the colonists’ right to bear arms and store ammunition for their defense.

Not fully expecting the standoff in Massachusetts to explode into full-scale war, the thirteen colonies agreed to reconvene the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775. Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington were some of the esteemed delegates.

By the time the Second Continental Congress met again, war was already underway, and so its purpose primarily became to conduct the war and manage the efforts. Already, colonial militias had seized arsenals, driven out royal officials, and besieged the British army in the city of Boston. On June 14, the Congress voted to create the Continental Army out of the militia units around Boston and quickly appointed Congressman George Washington of Virginia as the Commanding General of the Continental Army. On July 6, Congress approved a Declaration of Causes outlining the rationale and necessity for taking up arms in what had become the American Revolutionary War. The original draft was written by Thomas Jefferson but the final was written by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Much of Jefferson’s language was retained in the final draft. The Declaration insisted that the colonists do not yet seek independence from the mother country but were forced to take up arms “in defense of the Freedom that is our Birthright and which we ever enjoyed until the late Violation of it”, and will “lay them down when Hostilities shall cease on the part of the Aggressors.’ [Interestingly, the very first sentence of the declaration includes a condemnation of the institution of slavery, which the Crown imposed on the colonies].

On July 8, 1775, the Second Continental Congress drafted what was called the Olive Branch Petition, which it sent to the British Crown as a final attempt at reconciliation. In it, the colonies expressed their collective desire to remain loyal to the British crown. King George, however, refused to receive it.

Rather, on October 27, the King spoke before both houses of the British Parliament to discuss the growing concern about the rebellion in America, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Great Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to move quickly to end the revolt and bring order to the colonies. He spoke of his belief that “many of these unhappy people may still retain their loyalty, and may be too wise not to see the fatal consequence of this usurpation, and wish to resist it, yet the torrent of violence has been strong enough to compel their acquiescence, till a sufficient force shall appear to support them.” With these words, the king gave Parliament his consent to dispatch troops to use against his own subjects, a notion that his colonists believed impossible.

At this point, note that just as the British continued to implore the King to respect their rights and liberties with their various charters and petitions and remonstrances, the colonists followed their same path. The colonies would have preferred to remain associated with Great Britain through bonds of affection and respect, sharing the history and bounded government that had been established for over 500 years, but for over 15 years, the actions and reactions by King and Parliament amounted to “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations” which were clearly designed to establish absolute rule over the colonies. We can see how England’s own history is providing the path – even the format and the words – for Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Paine, who moved to the colonies from England at the end of 1774, published his pamphlet “Common Sense” in January 1776. Common Sense advocated independence from Great Britain; Paine used moral and political arguments to encourage common people in the Colonies to fight for an independent government – one that suited their happiness; he appealed to their common sense. And it worked. The publication was wildly popular.

The two sides had once and for all reached a final political impasse and the bloody War for Independence would now be conducted in earnest. The skirmish had now become a war for independence.

On April 12, the state of North Carolina authorized her delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence. This was the first official action by a colony calling for independence. The 83 delegates present in Halifax at the Fourth Provincial Congress unanimously adopted the Halifax Resolves. The Resolves read:

The Select Committee taking into Consideration the usurpations and violences attempted and committed by the King and Parliament of Britain against America, and the further Measures to be taken for frustrating the same, and for the better defense of this province reported as follows, to wit,

It appears to your Committee that pursuant to the Plan concerted by the British Ministry for subjugating America, the King and Parliament of Great Britain have usurped a Power over the Persons and Properties of the People unlimited and uncontrolled; and disregarding their humble Petitions for Peace, Liberty and safety, have made divers Legislative Acts, denouncing War Famine and every Species of Calamity against the Continent in General…..

Resolved that the delegates for this Colony in the Continental Congress be empowered to concur with the delegates of the other Colonies in declaring Independency….

North Carolina’s state flag proudly displays this historic date.

Virginia followed suit. On May 15, 1776, the Virginia Convention passed a similar resolution. It read:

Resolved, unanimously, that the Delegates appointed to represent this Colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent States, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the Crown or Parliament of Great Britain; and that they give the assent of this Colony to such declaration, and to whatever measures may be thought proper and necessary by the Congress for forming foreign alliances, and a Confederation of the Colonies, at such time and in the manner as to them shall seem best: Provided, That the power of forming Government for, and the regulations of the internal concerns of each Colony, be left to the respective Colonial Legislatures.

At that same Convention, Virginia decided to instruct its delegate in the Second Continental Congress to introduce a formal resolution to declare the colonies independent from Great Britain. And so, on June 7, delegate Richard Henry Lee, introduced a resolution, termed the Lee Resolution or Resolution of Independence, which contained three parts: (1) to declare the united Colonies rightfully independent of the British Empire: (2) to establish a plan for establishing foreign relations with the Colonies; and (3) to establish a plan of a confederation to unite them officially.

The Lee Resolution simply read:

Resolved, 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;

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances;

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed three concurrent committees in response to the Lee Resolution – one to draft a declaration of independence, a second to draw up a plan of treaties “for forming foreign alliances,” and a third to “prepare and digest the form of a confederation.” A Committee of Five was assembled to draft a document to explain the reasons for independence and it included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston of New York, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. According to Adams, Jefferson proposed that he, Adams, do the writing of the document, but he declined. Rather, Adams said, it should be Jefferson. Jefferson was known for his writing skills. As Adams told him: “Reason first: you are a Virginian and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second: I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third: You can write ten times better than I can.”

Jefferson completed his draft of the declaration in just a few days. He argued in his opening two paragraphs that individuals have inalienable rights, that governments are instituted by consent of the people primarily to secure those rights, and that people have the right to overthrow their government when it abuses their fundamental natural rights over a long period of time. Then, in a direct attack on King George (in like fashion to the Grand Remonstrance of 1641 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689), Jefferson listed 27 grievances against King George III – 27 instances when the king violated the “the ancient rights and liberties” of the American colonists. Having thoroughly laid out his proof that the king was a “tyrant” who was “unfit to be the ruler of a people,” Jefferson continued on to condemn the British Parliament and the British people. “These unfeeling brethren,” he wrote, had reelected members of Parliament who had conspired with the king to destroy the rights of the colonists. Jefferson ended his draft by stating, “we do assert and declare these colonies to be free and independent states….. ”

When Jefferson submitted his draft to the Congress on June 28, the delegates left the first two paragraphs essentially unchanged. Instead, they concentrated on Jefferson’s list of grievances against King George and the British people. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to declare the independence of the American colonies from English rule. And on the July 4 – the Fourth of July – it approved the final edited version of the Declaration of Independence.

News of the colonies’ independence rang out in all the colonies.

While the 4th of July is the date that we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the 56 signers didn’t actually affix their signatures until August 2. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, was the first to sign his name and he did so in big letters. The story goes that after he signed his name, he gazed upon it and said: “There! His Majesty can now read my name without his spectacles!”

In explaining the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote: “This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.”

For most of my life, I marveled at the Declaration. Its words were stirring, its declarations were brilliant, its indictment of King George was compelling, and its conclusion was heroic. I assumed the ideas, the words, and the flair were all the brainchild of Jefferson. But after reviewing the historical documents he had studied all his life, and taking into account the various resolutions and declarations written and adopted by the various colonies at the time, it’s quite clear that the Declaration is a composite of several documents. First of all, Jefferson essentially copied the form of the English Bill of Rights (and to some degree the Grand Remonstrance before it) as he sat down to compose his draft. Thus, Jefferson’s indictment of King George III was not a radical departure from accepted English practices. He was following English tradition, which in turn he adapted to American circumstances. I’ve seen signs and tee shirts calling our Founding Fathers “Our Founding Liberals,” but realizing that Jefferson, in writing the Declaration, followed established English tradition and re-asserted the “ancient rights and liberties” that for over 500 years have defined Englishmen, our Founders were actually quite conservative.

Winston Churchill commented on this tradition: “We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.”

In addition to historic English documents, Jefferson also borrowed language from George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Resolves in drafting the Declaration. Mason asserted that “all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights…namely the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and maintaining happiness and safety.” Jefferson altered – shortened – his language in his original draft to state: “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In fact, Jefferson adopted his famous phrase from John Locke’s 1689 publication Two Treatises on Civil Government – “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Everyone at the time understood that Jefferson equated “happiness” with property and safety. By “equal,” Jefferson meant that all citizens or freeholders are, as Mason wrote, born “equally free and independent” under the law. Note that the barons of England asserted their legal equality with the king in 1100 and 1215. So, Jefferson was not stating anything new. [ See Brion McClanahan, “Rethinking the Declaration of Independence”]

By its very name, the Declaration of Independence was a bold assertion of independence. Because it was asserted in defiance of the King, it was a highly treasonous document. Its signers were traitors. The outcome of the war would decide their fate. On October 19, 1781, British General Cornwallis surrendered his troops at Yorktown, Virginia and the British were defeated. After six years of fighting, the Colonies had won their independence. And once the Colonies had become independent, the Declaration essentially ceased to have any legal force. That which it sought to accomplish had been accomplished.

But that’s not where the Declaration of Independence’s story ends.

The Declaration may lack legal force but nonetheless, it remains the source of all legitimate political authority here in the United States and it memorializes the principles on which our country is founded. Abraham Lincoln once referred to the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence as “the electric cord that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.” And Calvin Coolidge remarked that “the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence predicated upon the glory of man and the corresponding duty to society that the rights of citizens ought to be protected with every power and resource of the state, and a government that does any less is false to the teachings of that great document — false to the name American.”

A review of the most famous paragraphs of the Declaration remind us of the essential principles that make up our political foundation and ground our precious liberties.

The first paragraph reads:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands 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.

The first paragraph characterizes the nature of the Declaration. When Jefferson writes that it is time for the colonies “to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another” he is saying that the colonies intend to secede from Great Britain. The Declaration, first and foremost, is a secessionist document. What follows in the other paragraphs are the reasons and explanations for the decision to “dissolve their political bonds”; that is, to secede.

The phrase “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them” is a particularly significant one. It means that our rights are not a gift from the State, but arise from our nature. This marks a paradigm shift from the system in England. English law was still dictated by the Divine Right of Kings. Even though charters, petitions, and a Bill of Rights put limitations on the Crown and to some extent, on government in general, they still acknowledged that the King and the State had power over the individual. Without such charters, petitions, and Bill of Rights, the King and government could treat the individual as it wanted, generously or oppressively. Thomas Jefferson was making it clear that in the United States, rights are NOT a gift from the State, to be enjoyed at its benevolence, but rather that they arise from Nature and from God, separately and equally. God and Nature go hand in hand. God who created the heavens and the Earth also created the laws of nature. For those who believe God to be the great author of Nature, then rights come from Him, as our Creator. For those who lack faith, they can rest assure that our Declaration equally recognizes that all individuals possess fundamental rights because they are natural rights – part of our very humanity from birth. Even if you do not believe in a God Almighty, still you must respect the laws of nature. In this way, Jefferson was laying out the concept of Individual Sovereignty in a way that its people could universally understand and agree, irrespective of the particulars of their individual and very diverse faiths. Individual Sovereignty is the basis of our Rights in this country.

We may argue yet what are Nature’s Laws, but this much we can be certain: All people must observe and ultimately obey it, just as the laws of nature apply equally to all human beings. Since governments are merely fictional entities created by mankind and not by nature, rights supersede government. Saying that government is more important than the individual would be “unnatural.”

In the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads:

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 of 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

In this paragraph, Jefferson’s mighty pen goes into greater detail about the nature of the aforementioned natural rights. He tells us that our rights, which are endowed by our Creator (or Nature), are unalienable and although are numerous, the most obvious ones are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” “Unalienable” (which is the same as “inalienable”) means that the individual can never been divested of these rights. They cannot be taken away or denied. They remain with the individual and government cannot take them away. “Life,” of course, is clear enough. “Liberty,” according to Jefferson, was the degree to which an individual can exercise his rights, his freedom. The rights which come under this umbrella would include the rights asserted in the Magna Carta, for example, or in the English Bill of Rights, or in Virginia’s Declaration of Rights. (Remember the time period that the Declaration was written). “Pursuit of Happiness” includes property, but encompasses much more. “Pursuit of Happiness” means an individual should be able to freely exercise all his rights in order to live his life to its full potential. That “full potential” includes the ownership of property and the fruits of one’s labor, mind, and personality (all that which makes a person a unique “individual”). “Property” was too narrow a term for Jefferson. Now, just as the individual has the rights to Life, Liberty, and Property, he also has the equal right to protect them. This right of self-protection and self-preservation is also a natural right. Samuel Adams summed it best: “Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.”

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” is another important principle. It is a critical and basic tenet of our form of government. First it states unequivocally that the primary role of government is “to secure these rights.” In other words, in the grand scheme of things, individual rights are supreme over the authority of the State (ie, government). The primary role of government, and the motivating force behind the formation of government, is to secure the inalienable rights, endowed by our Creator (Nature), of each individual. This means that government is to be ideally limited to the role of a policeman, a judge, a prison warden, and a military force. Furthermore, this provision explains that government has no powers of its own, but only “derives” its powers from individuals consenting to transfer power to it. This is where the doctrine of Individual Sovereignty comes from. In a state of Nature, man has full sovereign power to govern himself – to provide for himself, to protect himself, to think and act as he wants. He is responsible for himself and his conduct. What is especially critical about this principle of “deriving powers from the consent of the governed” is that power delegated by the people is always “temporary” in nature. The people can always re-assume their sovereign power – their right to govern themselves.

Having told us the proper function of government, Jefferson then tells us what gives cause to changing it: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of 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 first thing to note is that governments are always “temporary.” Government exists at the whim of the people and have no right in and of itself to its own existence or longevity. Government is a “creation.” It is not a natural institution. Because is arises by the “consent of the governed,” it is a product of compact. Compacts have elements of contract law and agency law. The second thing to note is the Declaration acknowledges that individuals have the RIGHT to establish their government to effect THEIR happiness and their safety. When government ceases to serve those purposes, then individuals are well within their natural right to abolish that government and establish another.

The Declaration goes one step further and challenges individuals to be vigilante of their rights and critical of their government. “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

How will a people know for sure when it is time to “abolish” their government? Or how will they know when it is time to dissolve political bonds that tie them to another; that is, how will they know when it is time to secede from another political body? The Declaration, in that last sentence, tells us: “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

And that line, as Jefferson will explain in the section that follows, sums up the position of the Colonies. In that section, Jefferson sets out to make the case that the conduct of the King is a history of abuses and usurpations. Historical precedents such as the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689 had established the principle that the King was not to interfere with the rights of Englishmen, as held by the people. The list of grievances essentially all stem from a refusal by the King and by Parliament to recognize these rights in the colonists and instead, to abuse their power by interfering, burdening, and evening denying those rights. Jefferson lists 27 grievances against King George III – 27 instances where he violated the rights of the colonists – which he, Jefferson, (and the Second Continental Congress, as evidenced by its adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776) believe evidences a design to reduce them under an absolute Despotism (tyranny).

What are some of these grievances?

The first, for example, reads: “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” With this grievance, Jefferson points to the fact that the King repeatedly refused to ratify Colonial legislation, thus tacitly refusing to ignore their right of colonial self-government.

Grievance ten reads: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” One can look at the Stamp Act to see what Jefferson means by this item. After the passage of the Stamp Act, stamp distributors were appointed in every considerable town. In 1766 and 1767, acts for the collection of duties created “swarms of officers,” all of whom received high salaries; and when in 1768, admiralty and vice admiralty courts were established on a new basis, an increase in the number of officers was made. The high salaries and extensive perquisites of all of these, were paid with the people’s money, and thus “swarms of officers” “eat out their substance.”

Grievance eleven reads: “He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.” This item refers to two notable situations – namely, the British troops kept in America following the war with France (Seven Years War) and then following the Boston Tea Party, the King established martial law in Massachusetts under General Gage. A subsequent grievance refers to the quartering of British troops in and among the colonies. One of the Intolerable Acts of 1774 was the Quartering Act, a particularly offensive law to the colonists.

After the treaty of peace with France, in 1763, Great Britain left quite a large number of troops in America, and required the colonists to contribute to their support. There was no use for this standing army, except to repress the growing spirit of Republicanism among the colonists, and to enforce compliance with taxation laws. The presence of troops was always a cause of complaint; and when, finally, the colonists boldly opposed the unjust measures of the British government, armies were sent hither to awe the people into submission. It was one of those “standing armies” kept here “without the consent of the Legislature,” against which the patriots at Lexington, and Concord, and Bunker Hill so manfully battled in 1775.

Of course, Jefferson included a grievance addressing an early, but repeated, grievance – that of “taxation without representation,” The grievance reads: “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:”

One should read all the grievances. Some we are familiar with from our study of American History in grade school but others would absolutely shock us with their severity.

In the last paragraph of the Declaration, Jefferson will finally make the case that because of this evil design, the Colonies have a right and a duty to dissolve their political bonds with the King.

The last paragraph reads:

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 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 levy 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.

The Declaration of Independence ends with these powerful words: “For the support of this Declaration, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” We can never forget that the Declaration was a treasonous document, which, if the British had won the war, would have sealed the fate of each of its signers and earned them a date with a hangman’s noose. But they believed in their cause. They believed in the words they wrote in that document and they believed in their case against the King. And they were willing to risk it all.

Signer Benjamin Rush (of Pennsylvania) wrote: “Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants?”

After signing his name in a large flowing style, it is rumored that John Hancock’s full response was this: “There! His Majesty can now read my name without his spectacles. And he can double the reward on my head!” Benjamin Franklin, insisting that every single delegate sign the Declaration of Independence, said: “We must all hang together or surely we shall all hang separately.” The large, burly Virginian, Benjamin Harrison, turned to the pipsqueak from Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, and joked: “I will have a great advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes, but from the lightness of your body, you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead.”

One day after the Declaration was adopted by the delegates to the Second Continental Congress, John Adams wrote home to his wife Abagail: “I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction.”

In a speech he gave on the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (5 July 1926), Calvin Coolidge reflected:

Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination… In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause… If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.

By a stroke of remarkable coincidence, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day – the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826. Jefferson preceded Adams in death by five hours.

When I think about Independence Day, I think of our magnificent story. I think about the uncompromising determination of people to live free and the eternal vigilance it took to finally secure lasting boundaries on government. I think about the ways the British and then the colonists expressed their discontent with the King and the many ways they sought to exert their rights, and how the many efforts culminated in their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence. I think about how our Founding Fathers brilliantly turned government on its head – transforming a system of government based on the Divine Right of Kings to a system predicated on Individual Sovereignty. I think of a continuum of a story that began in 1215 with a stand-off on the meadow at Runnymede in order to secure a promise from an arrogant and ambitious king that ended with a document signed by 56 delegates assembled together from 13 separate states on July 4. The continent may have changed, but man’s yearning to be free did not.

Now, as we all know, a country is a physical location inhabited by a body politic. Principles are embraced by people and not by geography, and so liberty and independence is a spirit that must live in all of us. If it doesn’t, then we suffer oppression together. As Machiavelli once said: “It is just as difficult and dangerous to try to free a people that wants to remain servile as it is to enslave a people that wants to remain free.” The Declaration embraces our revolutionary spirit, and God help us when our country has the spirit of an aging grandmother. The key is to always keep that revolutionary spirit. And maybe that’s what Independence Day is all about…. to reflect on our history and to rekindle that spirit every year.

In conclusion, I would like to implore that on this Independence Day and on every Independence Day, that we remember the advice that was once given to us by James Madison: “The people of the U.S. owe their Independence and their liberty to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprised in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings.”
References:
Diane Rufino, “Independence Day: The Story of Us,” Diane’s Blogsite (www.forloveofgodandcountry), July 3, 2016. Referenced at: https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2016/07/08/independence-day-the-story-of-us/

Mike Maharrey, “The Declaration of Independence Birthed 13 Sovereign Nations,” Tenth Amendment Center, July 3, 2019. Referenced at: https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2019/07/03/the-declaration-of-independence-birthed-13-sovereign-nations/

“Breaking Down the Declaration of Independence,” SAISD Social Studies Department – https://www.saisd.net/admin/curric/sstudies/resources/teacher_zone/Hands_On/gov_econ/pdf/ho_us1_breaking_doi.pdf

The List of Grievances in the Declaration of Independence, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grievances_of_the_United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

Brion McClanahan, “Rethinking the Declaration of Independence,” Abbeville Institute, July 4, 2016. Referenced at : http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/rethinking-the-declaration-of-independence/

Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr. (Professor of Political Science), “The American System of Government: The American Constitutional System – English Origins (1066-1558),” Cyberland University of North Carolina.
Referenced at:  http://www.proconservative.net/CUNAPolSci201PartFourB.shtml [In-depth study of the Magna Carta]

The Petition of Right of 1628  –  http://study.com/academy/lesson/petition-of-right-of-1628-definition-summary.html

The English Bill of Rights of 1689  –  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/england.asp

The Grand Remonstrance  –  http://www.constitution.org/eng/conpur043.htm

The Declaration and Resolves  –  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/resolves.asp

Patrick Henry’s Speech of March 23, 1775 – https://www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/giveme.cfm

Halifax Resolves  –  http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-revolution/4328

Preamble and Resolution of the Virginia Convention of May 15, 1776 – http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/const02.asp

The Lee Resolutions  –  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/lee.asp

“Boiling It Down, This Is What You’ve Said,” Mark America, October 15, 2011. Referenced at:  http://markamerica.com/2011/10/15/boiling-it-down-this-is-what-youve-said/

Winston Churchill, “The Sinews of Peace”, address at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri (March 5, 1946); in Robert Rhodes James, ed., Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963 (1974), vol. 7, p. 7288.

Calvin Coolidge, speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (July 5, 1926).

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This Thing We Call “Sovereignty”

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE - early draft

by Diane Rufino, February 20, 2019

On September 3, 1783, representatives from the American states, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay, and a representative of King George III signed the Treaty of Paris to officially end the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain. The first Article of that Treaty acknowledged:

“His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free SOVEREIGN and Independent States; that he treats with them as such, and for himself his Heirs & Successors, relinquishes all claims to the Government, Propriety, and Territorial Rights of the same and every Part thereof.”

In the Declaration of Independence, the document that  preceded the Treaty, the document which “proclaimed to a candid world” that the States were separating themselves from the political bonds with Great Britain (seceding from the British Empire) and declaring themselves independent, our Founders articulated the government theory that justified their act of secession and their independence. It was premised on the doctrine of INDIVIDUAL SOVEREIGNTY. This doctrine was articled by these words:

“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 of 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……… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security….”

In other words, the individual was born to be free and meant to live free. He has rights so foundational, so fundamental, so integral to his humanity, that they can never ever be taken away from him, or violated or burdened by government. In fact, as the Declaration says, governments are instituted for the primary purpose of securing the rights of the individual (while also establishing a peaceful ordered society for individuals to so enjoy their freedom). The people would always be greater than government.  Governments would always be subordinate to the will of the people. The rights of the individual would always be the priority in the American States. Governments would always be considered “temporary,” to exist at the will of the people and only to the extent that it protects their rights, keeps them safe, and extends their happiness. Government would never have any right or power to pursue or secure its own permanent existence. (Too bad Abraham Lincoln didn’t understand this founding principle; over 650.,000 lives could have been spared)

The first constitution of the “united States,” establishing the first union, was the Articles of Confederation. Article II of that document declared that “Each state retains its SOVEREIGHTY, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”  This provision would be the historical precursor to our Tenth Amendment.

The Tenth Amendment essentially states the very same thing; it just doesn’t include the phrase “each state retains its sovereignty.” But that fact is certainly implied.  Government powers reside with a sovereign state or entity.

This union, as we all know, was dissolved when each state convened a state convention to consider the ratification of the US Constitution of 1787 and therefore to form “a more perfect union.”  In other words, each state, as the Declaration described for the course of action with respect to Great Britain, “dissolved the political bonds” holding it together with other states.  Several states had issues with the new Constitution, skeptical of the new government so formed and the powers it was delegated, and so their ratifications were “conditioned” on several things: on amendments, on a Bill of Rights, and even on the fidelity of the government (its ability to remain limited). Four states that stand out in particular are New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The first to ratify conditionally was Massachusetts. The state wanted a Bill of Rights to be included (it reserved the right to consider its ratification null and void should one not have been added). The first three states, however, took their conditioned stance more forcefully; they included “Resumption Clauses” in their ratification documents.  That is, they reserved the right, as SOVEREIGN states, to resume all the powers they had delegated in the Constitution.

Virginia included this provision in its ratification:  “Do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”

New York included this provision:  ““That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same……”

And Rhode Island included this provision:  “That the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same……..”

Why did these states reserve the right to resume the (limited) government powers that were delegated by the Constitution to the new common government?  Because they were SOVEREIGNS with inherent rights to rule.

So what does this word “Sovereign” mean?  What is “Sovereignty”?  Many people don’t exactly know what the these terms mean and their significance.

Sovereignty is inextricably linked to the supreme right to govern and the supreme power to govern.

Government in the United States requires the understanding of three terms: Self-government, sovereignty, and social compact.

Sovereignty is the power to rule; to make laws and to govern; a sovereign is a country, government, or entity that has supreme power or authority.  The individual is a sovereign. It is a self-evident truth that individuals are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  “Unalienable” or “inalienable” means “incapable of being taken away.” Just as individuals, as sovereigns, have certain inalienable rights, other sovereigns (such as countries, governments, entities) have rights that can never be divested or taken away. That is what New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island articulated and re-asserted in their Resumption Clauses.

Individual Sovereignty is the inherent and independent right to do all that is necessary to govern oneself. In the United States, the People are sovereign. In fact, only the individual is truly sovereign, because only the people, and not government, have inherent rights to life, liberty, and property, along with the right to protect and preserve it.

Governments govern people, and without people, there would be no need for government. In other words, the sovereign individual precedes government. Government has to get its powers (its authority to make law and to enforce laws) from somewhere and it’s the people who assign it those powers. They delegate the rights they themselves originally were vested with to govern themselves and their property to the government; dominion (jurisdiction) and power originate from the individual.

In the United States, we enjoy self-government, or at least, we used to. Increasingly government has taken it upon itself (at the federal, state, and local level) to tell us what we can and can’t do. When our country was founded, the people were trusted with self-government; they were, for the most part, moral and upstanding people who valued family and decency. They worked, provided for themselves, raised their families right, and therefore required minimal laws to constrain their conduct. But we all know what happened to the fabric of society and the character of too many people in our country; and so, more and more laws were required.

But let’s get back to government and the government philosophy on which our country was founded.   Government power originates from the people, for the people – “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The Declaration of Independence tells us this.  Government arises out of social compact. John Locke tells us this, and being that our Declaration was written with Locke’s philosophy in mind, our Declaration also tells us this.  The federal government was established by the social compact known as the US Constitution. The federal government is its “creation” – an agent to serve the states. State governments are established by the compacts that are the state governments.

John Locke’s philosophy of government is based on nature and natural law (Natural Law is referenced in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence).  Each person is an individual, of course. God created each of us with rights in our personhood; he didn’t create us with “collective rights.” Those would be “civil rights.” Long ago, human beings migrated around, to find land to farm, to provide food for themselves, to herd their animals, to provide shelter, to be near a ready food source, etc. They existed, pretty much, as individuals. But then as they populated, more and more individuals came to occupy the same area.  And that was OK because man is a social creature.

Because man is a social creature, he forms together into communities. And in order that communities run smoothly and common services be provided to protect everyone’s rights and property, governments are instituted. And so, individuals delegate some of their sovereign power of self-defense and self-preservation to a government. That is why the bulk of government is always supposed to be closest to the individual, where it is most responsible and most accountable. Our rights and liberties are most protected when people have the frequent opportunity to see their elected officials and look them in the eye, and when those officials see a personal story behind acts of legislation, etc.

This is exactly what our Declaration of Independence tells us about our individual sovereignty. In the first paragraph, we are told that our sovereignty is based on Natural Law and God’s Law – “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.” The only rightful power our government has is the power that the People – by the consent of the governed and according to the precise language and intent of our Constitution – have temporarily delegated to it. In that grant of power, in a system based on the Sovereignty of the Individual, there is always a mechanism to take that power back. That is why the Declaration explicitly states that the People have the right to “alter or abolish” their government (when it becomes destructive of its aims). In fact, that right is so important and so fundamental, it is listed with the other inherent rights that individuals possess. In other words, what the Declaration is saying is that the People of the “united States” have the right to reclaim the sovereign power that they temporarily delegated to that government to govern and protect their liberties.

Again, this is because our system was premised on the Sovereignty of the Individual.

When government exceeds its powers, it takes powers away from other sovereigns that hold those powers – which are the States and the People (recognized or re-stated in the Tenth and Ninth Amendments, respectively).  Abuse of power is necessarily a usurpation of the rights of others. When government exceeds its powers, we are told that our only right is at the ballot box. This would indicate that the people are no longer recognized as sovereigns.  When government exceeds its powers, states have been told they must comply or they are coerced into complying. This would indicate that states are no longer viewed as sovereigns. But nothing has changed constitutionally to warrant this change in outlook or in government philosophy. The Declaration tells us, and sovereignty dictates, that individuals always have the right to resume their inherent rights and powers to govern. This, in plain terms, means that individuals always have the inherent right to secede (or abolish their bonds with government, including abolishing government completely) or to refuse to comply with an illegitimate, immoral, or arbitrary law (as Rosa Parks did). Similarly, states have the inherent right to resume their powers to govern within their borders and over their jurisdiction.  That resumption can take several forms, including secession (permanent, perhaps even violent), or nullification (peaceful; exercising the right not to recognize or enforce actions of the federal government that are in abuse of its powers).

Nullification and Secession are two rightful and reserved remedies reserved to the parties under compact theory.

If individuals or states no longer have a mechanism to take it back, then they are no longer sovereigns. If the government tells We the People that we don’t have the right, or the power, to “alter or abolish” our government for abuse or tyranny, then we have already lost our freedom and our system of government is no longer based on the sovereignty of the individual. If the States are told that they no longer have a recognized right of secession, then they are nothing more than geographical boundaries in one consolidated land, under the dominion and subjugation of the federal government.

Without the sovereignty that our country was founded on, the unique character of our government system – the premise that our rights come from God and that government is obligated to secure them, and that because we are such sovereigns, we can “alter and abolish” our government – becomes now merely a myth; it’s folklore…. “There once was a time……”  The fact is that government has taken over; IT has become the supreme sovereign. It has become so powerful that it has extinguished the sovereignty of the People and the States, or at least has whittled the reserved powers of the State down to nothing (token sovereignty).  We, in the United States, now enjoy our rights only to the extent that government allows us to. That’s the reality. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently threatened that Democrats will one day soon use the Emergency Powers Act to confiscate guns. And Senator Elizabeth Warren wants a near confiscatory income tax on the very wealthy. What the US Congress can’t, or won’t do, the federal courts will…  and they do.

If sovereignty is stripped and if rights and powers are permitted only to the extent that government allows, how are we any different from any other country where government is supreme over the individual?

In 1868, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to secession. (Texas v. White). It concluded that when the Constitution was signed, a permanent, perpetual Union was created. (However, Justice Salmon Chase did acknowledge that secession might be permitted if ALL states decided together to dissolve the Constitution and the Union or if the people revolted… In other words, only if people are willing to lay down their lives might they be permitted to wrestle sovereign power from the government). In a letter he wrote in 2006, Justice Scalia also opined that there is no right of secession. And in 1958, the Supreme Court ruled that States have no right to try to remind the federal government of its constitutional limits and to prevent its encroachments upon the rights of the people through nullification efforts (Cooper v. Aaron).

So, next time you hear people profess the opinion that the Supreme Court has given the final word on efforts to reclaim sovereign power, ask yourself: “Does it have the authority to permanently deny sovereignty?”  It does not.  It doesn’t even have the authority to temporarily deny it.  Sovereignty was not surrendered permanently in the creation of the US Constitution.

Nullification is an essential first step in reclaiming power that the federal government has unilaterally and inappropriately usurped from the states and from We the People. No one wants to exercise the right of secession. I’d like to think we would all prefer to remain in a harmonious relationship with our fellow states, if that can be possible.

 

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SECESSION: Both a RIGHT and a REMEDY

SECESSION - constitution ripped in half

by Diane Rufino, September 23, 2018

Gene Kizer Jr. is a brilliant historian. He has written an excellent account of the causes of the War of Northern Aggression (aka, the War to Prevent Southern Independence; aka, the War Between the States; aka, the Civil War), in his book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, and he has written some excellent articles as well, including on the right of secession. In his book and in his articles, he makes the case (most effectively) that secession was a reserved right of the states and that it was, in fact, exercised legitimately.

At the heart of the “Civil War” (which is, by the way, a most incorrect term for the conflict) was the right of the southern states to secede from the Union. That is, the lens through which we should look at, and assess, the war is whether Abraham Lincoln and his administration pursued a legal war by asserting that the eleven southern states that seceded from the Union had no constitutional right to do so.

The answer is that the southern states absolutely had the right to dissolve their union with the northern and more western states and their political bond to the federal government. Every state had and continues to have that fundamental right. Acknowledging this and therefore acknowledging that Lincoln incorrectly assessed the situation, he unconstitutionally assumed powers that were not granted to him, nor to the federal government in general.

Secession is a viable option to each state under three essential theories, and perhaps even others:

(1)  Each state has an essential right to determine its own form of government, under the natural right of self-determination. This natural right is articulated clearly in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence (“whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of 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…”), and in fact, forms the basis for the decision of the thirteen American states to secede from Great Britain. The first paragraph of the Declaration makes this point quite clear:

       When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands 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.

The Constitution does not prohibit nor limit the natural right of secession, even in Article I, Section 9 which is the provision that puts limits on the sovereign power of the states, but rather includes the very powerful and declaratory Tenth Amendment which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In other words, because the Constitution did not expressly prohibit the right of secession, that right is reserved (continues to be reserved) to the states. And to make it absolutely clear that the right of secession is a state right, the states demanded that the Tenth Amendment be added to the Constitution as a restatement of that fact.

So, the states have the RIGHT to secede.

(2)  Secession is also a REMEDY, reserved to the states by the very nature of the Constitution. The Constitution is a social compact, which essentially is a contract, or an agreement, among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, such as mutual protection and to regulate relations among members. For example, a typical social compact calls for the sacrificing of some individual freedom for state protection and other public services. Social Compact was a theory articulated in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries by philosophers such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as a means of explaining the origin of government and how an organized society is thus brought into being.

As we all know, every contract and every agreement can be broken. There may be consequences, usually monetary, but no contract is absolutely unbreakable. A contract or agreement can be broken by a breach of obligations (for example, a person doesn’t make his obligatory mortgage payments; the lending bank can then foreclose under a breach of contract) which is an affirmative breach, it can be broken because the purpose for the contract has been eliminated (for example, an entertainer is contracted to perform once monthly at a Las Vegas casino but the casino is destroyed in a fire), or it can be broken simply because a party wants out. Contract remedies are essentially designed to put the non-breaching party in a position had the breach not occurred  (for example, a contractor quits a job in the middle of building an extension on a house; the contractor must pay to have the job finished, by another contractor) and they usually involve monetary damages. Sometimes, however, money cannot make the non-breaching party “whole” (put them back into a position had the breach not occurred) and a court will order “specific performance,” which means that the breaching party will be compelled to perform some service by the court.

When the states were debating the Constitution in their Ratifying Conventions, three states (Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island) included “Resumption Clauses” as specific conditions upon their ratification – clauses asserting the right to secede from the Union at a future time.

Virginia’s Ratification document (June 26, 1788) included this Resumption Clause: “The People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”

New York’s Ratification document (July 26, 1788) included this Resumption Clause: “That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.”

Rhode Island’s Ratification document (May 29, 1790) included this Resumption Clause: “That the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.”

Essentially, these clauses reserved the right of the state to leave the Union and resume all their sovereign powers and rights. With these clauses, the states simply put into writing a right they thought naturally belonged to their respective states. In fact, the right of secession was understood and agreed to by the other states, including George Washington who presided over the Constitutional Convention and served as a delegate from Virginia.

These clauses, because they were included in the ratification, and because they were accepted when the states formed into the Union, became applicable to every state that joined the Union. The fact that the states expressly reserved the right to secede (for no specific reason other than it may be “necessary to their happiness…”) shatters the notion and the argument by Abraham Lincoln in 1860 that the Union was intended to be perpetual and no state could secede.

Reserving the right to secede is an express reservation of the part of each state to un-make its agreement to join the Union. It is an express right to terminate its association with the compact (the Constitution), and thereby no longer be a party to the Union. Put simply, it is an express right of termination.

In contract law, the express right of termination is referred to as a Right of Rescission. Since it is a right to un-do the contract (to get out of the contract), it is a contract remedy.

Thus, the states have reserved secession as a REMEDY. (As a remedy to leave the Union, or secede from the Union) at some point when they deem it necessary for their happiness.

Rescission is defined as the unmaking of a contract between parties or the unwinding of a transaction. As mentioned above, it applies where a party to a contract exercises a Right of Termination that he or she had expressly included, or reserved, in that contract. In contract law, it is sometimes said that the party has included (or exercised) a right to rescind the contract. It is exercised in order to bring the party, as far as possible, back to the position in which it was before entering into the particular contract (the status quo ante). If the contract is between two parties, then both parties go back to the position they enjoyed before entering into the contract. If the contract – or compact – is between many parties, then technically only the party exercising the right of rescission is relieved from the compact; the others are free to retain the force of contract/compact.

If there is any doubt as to the intent of Virginia, for example, to take its Resumption Clause seriously, look at the language it used in its Ordinance of Secession, which it adopted in Convention on April 17, 1861 to secede from the Union:

AN ORDINANCE to Repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution:

The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention, on the 25th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eight-eight, having declared that the powers granted them under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States.

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the Ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United State of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

This Ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.

Done in Convention, in the city of Richmond, on the seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia

(3)  Secession, or the termination of the agreement to remain in the Union, is a viable contract/compact remedy under breach theory.  When one signing member to the agreement violates or breaches its obligations, then the other signing member (or any of a number of other signing members) are relieved of their obligations under the agreement. In other words, the breach by one party, especially if material in nature (that is, if it is enough to fundamentally alter the relationship of the states in relation to one another or to affect the ability of the federal/common government to serve all states in a fair, equal, and impartial manner) is enough to invalidate the entire agreement altogether, thus allowing the other party, or other parties, to walk away and also allowing remaining members to continue to enforce the agreement if they so desire.

In the case of the Southern states, they seceded over several material breaches of the compact – several violations by the Northern states of their obligations under the Constitution:

(a)  They believed the Protective Tariff was an unfair and confiscatory tax on the South, almost completely discriminatory in nature and punitive as well. It was no secret that the North had a great disdain for the South and its values and its “simple” agricultural lifestyle (and even its use of slavery). According to the Southern states (John C. Calhoun of South Carolina articulated it probably better than most), the federal government was a common government that was created and intended to serve each state equally. The North knew full well that the protective tariffs (1828 and 1832) were born almost exclusively and to their detriment, by the southern states. But the Northern states, and particularly northern businesses, benefitted far too greatly from the confiscation of those tariff revenues (more than half of the revenue was funneled almost directly from the South to the North) to ever consider giving them up. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln ran on a platform of increasing and the protective tariff to its highest level ever. That platform issue, together with his promise to prohibit the spread of slavery into new territories and future states, were enough for all of the Southern states to refuse to even put his name on the ballot.  In fact, the Morrill Tariff was passed by the US Congress and signed into law by President James Buchanan in 1861, just two days before he left office and Lincoln was inaugurated. Lincoln kept his promise to enforce that tariff.

If the federal government was not serving the states equally, and if it had merely become a vehicle hijacked by one region of the country to serve its own interests (at the great expense of the other region), then the states of the North had breached their obligations and the very purpose of establishing the Union had become frustrated. The South believed the tariff issue constituted a material breach and thus gave them ample reason (under the Declaration of Independence – “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of 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…”) to leave the Union.

(b)  Lincoln’s inauguration as a purely sectarian president was of great concern to the South. His interests and agenda were solely to further those of the North.  His promise to prohibit the spread of slavery to any new territory and any new state was a violation of the US Constitution.  Article IV guarantees every new state to the Union the right to be admitted on the same footing as every other state. Slavery, unfortunately, was protected under the Constitution, and therefore, every new state added to the Union would be subject to its same terms and conditions. The Southern states believed that Lincoln’s government was acting in abuse of the Constitution and because the North supported his agenda, those states, again, breached the terms of the compact and thus gave the states of the South reason to dissolve their bonds with the Union.

(c)  The Northern states routinely refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws, which were laws enacted pursuant to the Fugitive Slave Clause of the US Constitution (Article IV, Section 2, clause 3). To the South, the Fugitive Slave Clause was a valued provision in the Constitution.  The laws were widely ignored or frustrated (were “nullified”) by states, localities, and even by individuals (such as those who organized into mobs in order to free runaway slaves from local prisons).  The states of the South took notice and in fact, in some of the ordinances of secession, they cited the refusal of the North to comply with the Fugitive Slave Laws, as well as its support of violence to stir slaves to revolt (such as the John Brown massacre; Brown was vaulted to martyr status by Northern members of Congress).

The Fugitive Slave Clause of the US Constitution (aka, the Slave Clause or the Fugitives From Labor Clause) required that a “person held to service or labour” (usually a slave, apprentice, or indentured servant) who flees to another state to be returned to the owner in the state from which that person escaped. The provision was rendered moot with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. The exact text of the Fugitive Slave Clause read: “No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due.”  The North refused to help enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws, claiming that it has no obligation as a state, to do so. The Laws were federal laws and if the federal government intended for them to be enforced, it was going to have to do so itself – with its own agents, its own courts, and its own prisons. The states and localities refused to assist – they would not use their officers, their prisons, any state personnel, or even any state court to uphold the laws and return runaway slaves back to their owners.

The states of the South believed the states of the North had a compact (constitutional) obligation to honor its provisions, including those it didn’t approve of.  Because the North refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws and frustrated the Fugitive Slave Clause of Article IV, which was included for the benefit of the South, the Southern states concluded that the Northern states committed a material breach of the terms of the compact and hence, they were justified in leaving the Union.

One should read Gene Kizer Jr’s article “The Right of Secession” (link provided below). It provides an excellent overview of the legality of secession, in particular, as a right endowed and reserved to each state. Then one should read his most excellent book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States.

 

References:

Stephen C. Neff, “Secession and Breach of Compact: The Law of Nature Meets the United States Constitution,” Akron Law Review: Vol. 45: Issue 2, Article 4 (June 2015).  Referenced at:  https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1067&context=akronlawreview

Virginia’s Ordinance of Virginia (April 17, 1861) – http://www.nellaware.com/blog/virginia-ordinance-of-secession.html\

Gene Kizer Jr, “The Right of Secession,” Bonnie Blue Publishing.  Referenced at:  http://www.bonniebluepublishing.com/The%20Right%20of%20Secession-FULL%20PAGE%20FORMAT-USE.htm

Gene Kizer Jr., Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States;  Charleston Athenaeum Press (November 1, 2014).

Gene Kizer Jr., “Barbarians At the Gate,” Abbeville Institute, March 8, 2018.  Referenced at:  https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/the-barbarians-at-the-gates/

To the Protesters of North Carolina’s State Monuments and the Agitators Regarding the State History: The Most Effective Means of Protesting is to MOVE OUT & STAY OUT of NORTH CAROLINA !!

SILENT SAM (Chapel Hill)

by Diane Rufino, August 28, 2018

Every day I get angrier and angrier at people who act out their aggressions which are based on lies, mistruths, and liberal indoctrination. I’m talking about the desecration and the toppling of the Silent Sam monument at Chapel Hill – a monument dedicated NOT to the Confederate cause and NOT to the support of slavery and NOT in support of white supremacy, but rather erected simply to remember the 1000 or so young men who were students at Chapel Hill during the years 1861-65 who enlisted and fought for their state. The monument to those young men was akin to a headstone or other grave marker, or even to the Tomb to the Unknown Soldier.  And yet, a group of protesters, many from the hate/home-grown terrorist group Antifa, sought to tear it down.

I’m sorry, but these people need to study their history before acting out like a bunch of mental defective crybabies, destroying public property, and disrespecting the sacrifice of those who fought in a war that they didn’t ask for and probably couldn’t even comprehend why it was being forced on them. (Hint: It has NOTHING to do with slavery or white supremacy. For those looking for the true committed white supremacists, look to Abraham Lincoln himself and his party affiliates), and look to the northern and western states/territories).

North Carolina did NOT want to secede.  She had great affection and loyalty to the Union, despite all the efforts the North took to tax her and the other southern states discriminately and punishingly and to frustrate and harm her interests. In fact, she was the last state to secede. The reason she seceded was because Abraham Lincoln, thru his War Secretary, Simon Cameron, demanded that North Carolina send thousands of troops to “put down the rebellion” in the wake of Fort Sumter (ie, to invade the South and wage war against her). The Governor of NC, John Ellis, replied on April 15: “I regard the levy of troops made by the administration as a usurpation of authority.  I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country and to the war upon the liberties of a free people. You will get no troops from North Carolina.”

The next month, the state called a convention to consider secession and this time, on May 20, 1861, the people of the state voted to approve an Ordinance of Secession from the United States. [Only three months earlier, in February, North Carolinians by popular vote refused to even call a convention to consider a Secession Ordinance. That’s how strongly they wished to remain a part of the Union, EVEN as hostilities grew against the south and against its institution of slavery, and even as sentiment was growing and getting more heated for its abolition].

So, the REAL history of North Carolina and the Civil War (more aptly, the War of Northern Aggression or the War to Prevent Southern Independence), is that she seceded ONLY when Lincoln gave her the ultimatum: If she was to remain in the Union, she would need to pick up arms and wage war against her neighbors, the states she was close to and the ones she had far more in common with than any in the North. North Carolina seceded over principle. She seceded over the proper construction of the US Constitution and the authority it granted to each of the branches of government in DC and especially as that power with respect to the sovereignty of each individual state. She did NOT understand the Constitution (nor would she have ever ratified it) to have the power to force or coerce one state to wage war or engage in violence against another state, and MOST especially, to do so for the government’s bidding, to further its ambitious agenda, or to consolidate power in the federal government).

She did NOT secede over slavery, she did NOT secede over any white supremacy agenda, she did NOT secede to further any oppression against black persons…….  She seceded on principle. She seceded in support of the greatest government principle of all — the federal government was created for only limited purposes and when a government exceeds its delegated authority, it becomes tyrannical and ambitious and the people – ANY people – when they so decide, have the natural right to alter or abolish that government and establish a new one that suits them better.

The Silent Sam incident serves to show us here in North Carolina that our state history is not known and is not being properly taught. It is a proud and distinguished history. Perhaps the remedy is to gut the political and history departments of our state universities and have their programs reviewed by state historians to make sure that accurate and respectful history is taught, and not some progressive/liberal view that seeks to taint her principles that serves its purposes: to excuses the gross constitutional violations of Abraham Lincoln and his administration, that justifies his willing slaughter of over 620,000 Americans, that justifies the government’s initiation and prosecution of the war, that justifies the consolidation of government power over the states, and that justifies the grand monument to Lincoln on the national mall (“He saved the nation!  He preserved the Union!”)

As I have said for years in describing the notion that Lincoln “saved the Union” —   LINCOLN SAVING THE UNION IS LIKE A HUSBAND BEATING HIS WIFE TO SAVE THE MARRIAGE.

Don’t let North Carolina down.  Remember the principles she, at one time, held so dear. Remember the cause she so honorably and so generously gave.  Preserve her history and her honor.

With that explanation, here is a meme I just created.

 

MEME - Antifa Protesting Confederate Statues (If You Don't Like NC History, the best way to protest is to MOVE OUT)

The Right of Secession, as Reserved by the States in Their Ratification of the US Constitution

SECESSION - We Did it Once Let's Do it Twice

by Diane Rufino, June 1, 2018

Louisiana voted to secede from the Union on January 26, 1861. Shortly thereafter, her senators, Judah P. Benjamin and John Slidell, resigned their positions in the US Senate. In his FAREWELL ADDRESS to the Senate, on February 5, 1861, Senator Benjamin expressed perhaps the strongest argument for the Right of Secession. He said:

“The rights of Louisiana as a sovereign state are those of Virginia – no more, no less. Let those who deny her [Louisiana’s] right to resume delegated powers try to successfully refuse the claim of Virginia to the same right, in spite of her [Virginia’s] expressed reservation made and notified to her sister states when she consented to enter the Union. And sir, permit me to say that, of all the causes which justify the action of the Southern States, I know none of greater gravity and more alarming magnitude than that now developed of the denial of the right of secession. A pretension so monstrous as that which perverts a restricted agency [federal government], constituted by sovereign states for common purposes, into the unlimited despotism of the majority, and denies all legitimate escape from such despotism, when powers not delegated are usurped, converts the whole constitutional fabric into the secure abode of lawless tyranny, and degrades sovereign states into provincial dependencies.”

To deny the Right of Secession, as President Abraham Lincoln did (although only AFTER he became president), as powerful orator Senator Daniel Webster did (although only AFTER he realized the financial ruin that secession would reap on northern states), and as too many liberal elites and too many Americans (because of indoctrination in our public school system and at our liberal universities) believe today is to condemn Americans ultimately to tyranny, to subjugation, to an existence far different from the one that the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights had once promised, to the loss of liberty, to the control by political parties (not political movements, which are good and are true expressions of democracy), and to the rule by political elites. In other words, we would have to acknowledge that we are not a free nation anymore, that we are not a free people. We as a country and as a people wear the veneer of freedom and liberty.  The experiment started by those far wiser than any alive today, which established for us in America, and indeed for the rest of the world, the right of self-determination and the right of self-government, and which was predicated on the grand notion – the very revolutionary notion – that those rights were far more important than the right of any government to seek to cement its existence, would be dead. If we give up on our right to secede, then we have lost that precious system and that noble ideal. That noble ideal is what guarantees our freedom and our liberty. If we abandon that right to secede, we are no different from the system we initially separated from, Great Britain, where government was – and still is – superior to the people.

To be clear, the fundamental principle guiding our independence was the right of a people to secede from a political body, exercising the right of self-determination and the right of a people to establish their own government – one that serves their interests and concerns best. We cannot allow the proclamations of one leader, Abraham Lincoln, who did so for purely political purposes (explained historically, accurately, and in great detail in Gene Kizer Jr’s book, SLAVERY WAS NOT THE CAUSE OF THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES, as well as in Albert Taylor Bledsoe’s book, IS JEFFERSON DAVIS A TRAITOR?; references to both provided below) to destroy this great principle of independence and freedom.

It is important to understand that secession was a right implicit with every sovereign body politic and a right expressly and explicitly reserved to the States under the terms of the ratification of the Constitution:

First of all, let’s look at these two very powerful arguments:  [Taken from Mr. Kizer’s article “The Right of Secession,” Referenced at:  http://www.bonniebluepublishing.com/The%20Right%20of%20Secession.htm ]

(1).  There had to be a specific constitutional prohibition on secession for it to be illegal. Conversely, there did not have to be a specific constitutional affirmation of the right of secession for it to be legal. Why? Because of the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  This amendment states nothing new, but is merely a restatement, as the Preamble to the Bill of Rights explains. It is a restatement of the fact that the federal government can govern ONLY as to the express (and that is made clear also in the Preamble) powers granted/delegated to it by the Constitution, Articles I-III, and States are prohibited from doing certain things ONLY if it states so expressly therein. The power to prevent secession is NOT granted to the federal government and the right to secede is NOT prohibited to the States under our Constitution.

Aside from the fact that there was (and is) no constitution prohibition on secession, there was (and is) also NO constitutional sanctioning of any kind of federal coercion to force a State to obey a federal law when to do so would act to perpetrate an act of war on the offending state by the other states. After all, the federal government was established as a common agent for all States, tasked with serving the interests of each equally.

While we are talking out what the federal government can and cannot do, there is also NO constitutional provision, nor any moral foundation, for the federal government to coerce one or more States to invade or otherwise inflict armed conflict against any other State or States. Again, each State is an equal beneficiary of the agency provided by the federal government.

(2).  The arguments for the right of secession are indeed unequivocal. There is the constitutional right based on the Compact Theory, and the revolutionary right based on the idea that a free people have the right to change their government anytime they see fit. Compact Theory is based on Natural Law – that people, in deciding to live together in communities, decide for themselves the form of government to establish laws for their mutual safety, security, and peace. They decide for themselves the government that will best establish laws for their ordered existence. Compacts are the vehicle by which the people form that government and delegate powers to it. It is a form of Contract. The Compact Theory views the Constitution as a legal agreement between the states – a compact – and if any one state violates the compact, then the entire agreement becomes null and void. Northern states unquestionably violated the Constitution on a number of grounds including unconstitutional Personal Liberty Laws on their books, as well as by deliberately harboring fugitives from justice by protecting the sons of John Brown who were wanted by Virginia for murder at Harpers Ferry. Northern states also made a mockery of the Constitution’s Preamble, which states clearly that the Constitution was established to “insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare.” Certain prominent Northern leaders with the acquiescence of states like Massachusetts were utterly at war with the South and doing everything they could to destroy the domestic tranquility of Southern states by encouraging slaves to murder white people, poison wells, destroy property and commit other acts of rapine. John Brown himself had been encouraged and financed in the North.

The revolutionary right of secession is based on the Declaration of Independence and the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and John Locke, “that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, ….. ”

These words come directly from the Declaration of Independence. This passage was also used, verbatim, in South Carolina’s Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. A similar sentiment was expressed by Abraham Lincoln in 1847 on the floor of the United States House of Representatives:

“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.”

And now let’s look at the strongest piece of evidence, of which Senator Judah P. Benjamin referenced in his farewell speech above (“Virginia’s express reservation”):

Three of the original thirteen states were particularly skeptical of the government that the newly-drafted Constitution created and so they ratified it only conditionally. These three states were Virginia and New York, the great powerhouses of the New World, and Rhode Island (tiny, but very liberty-minded). In their ratification documents, adopted at their Ratification Conventions, they specifically and carefully reserved the right of secession. These are referred to as the “Resumption Clauses” or “Resumptive Clauses,” and they are exceedingly important to understand this topic. I attached Virginia’s ratification document at the end of this article. You will see that Virginia conditioned her ratification on several things, including the Right to Secede and on the addition of a Bill of Rights (for which she made a number of suggestions).

Since the other states, which had unconditionally ratified the Constitution, consented to Virginia’s conditional ratification, they “ostensibly assented to the principle that Virginia permissibly retained the right to secede.”  This is an essential element of contract law, of which compact theory follows. All negotiations, all conditions, all limitations, all reservations, etc become part of the compact agreement which affects all parties, as long as those negotiations, conditions, limitations, reservations, etc are not rejected by any of the other signing parties. With the additional acceptance of New York’s and Rhode Island’s conditions (their Resumption Clauses; their right to secede), the existing states of the Union clearly, albeit tacitly, accepted the doctrine of secession. Again, this is a matter of contract law, the most firmly-entrenched area of law. Furthermore, according to the Constitution, all States that joined the Union after the first thirteen also had the right of secession since new states entered on an equal footing with the exact same rights as the existing states.

Virginia was the first state to state explicitly that she would only ratify the Constitution as long as she reserved the right to leave the Union so created by it.  If Virginia didn’t ratify the Constitution, it was very likely that New York, Rhode Island, and certainly North Carolina also would not. The plan for “a more perfect Union” would be defeated. In her “Ratification of the Constitution by the State of Virginia; June 26, 1788,” the state of Virginia included this express provision:  “Do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.

To reinforce how strongly Virginia valued that Clause one simply has to look at her Ordinance of Secession from the Union (April 17, 1861). She used the exact wording of her conditional ratification of the US to sever her political bonds with the federal government and to resume all her sovereign powers and rights to determine a new and more favorable government for her people.

A month later, on July 26, 1788, New York conditionally ratified the Constitution. In the ratification declaration adopted at her Convention, New York wrote:

“That the Powers of Government may be reassumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the Government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same; And that those Clauses in the said Constitution, which declare, that Congress shall not have or exercise certain Powers, do not imply that Congress is entitled to any Powers not given by the said Constitution; but such Clauses are to be construed either as exceptions to certain specified Powers, or as inserted merely for greater Caution.”

And then finally, almost two years later, on May 29, 1790, Rhode Island asserted her own conditional ratification:

“That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness:- That the rights of the States respectively, to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same; and that those clauses in the said constitution which declare that Congress shall not have or exercise certain powers, do not imply, that Congress is entitled to any powers not given by the said constitution, but such clauses are to be construed as exceptions to certain specified powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.”

Historian Dave Benner explains in his article “Can States Secede from the United States?” (IntellectualTakeOut.org, March 7, 2017):

       During the ratification debates, many figures firmly challenged the suggestion that coercive force could be used to obligate a state’s membership in the union. Melancton Smith of New York suggested that such coercion would be an anathema to the cause of liberty: “Can it, I say, be imagined, that in such a case, they would make war on a sister state?”

       He ridiculed the notion, declaring that “the idea is preposterous and chimerical.” George Mason, known today as the “Father of the Bill of Rights,” also rejected the assumption that war would befall a seceding state. Answering an inquiry regarding whether the government could “use military force to compel the observance of a social compact,” Mason scoffed at such a prospect, declaring that it would be “destructive to the rights of the people.”

Respected professor, author, and speaker (and founder of the Abbeville Institute), Donald W. Livingston noted, in his article “The Secession Tradition in America,” the conclusion offered by famed historian and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville, who spent several years in America studying its political system and societies and who studied the US Constitution on the right of secession. De Tocqueville wrote: “The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and, in uniting together, they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the States chose to withdraw its name from the contract, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so; and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly, either by force or by right.”

Abraham Lincoln intentionally re-characterized the Constitution in order to force the Southern States back into the Union, where its money could continue to fund the federal government and could continue to enrich the Northern states. He also sought to force the Southern States back into the Union because under the Confederate Constitution, protective tariffs (the lifeblood of northern industry) were prohibited and it would interact with other countries on a policy of Free Trade. Free trade would have signed the death of the Union because then only people in the North would have purchased its products and its industry and indeed its economy would have crashed. To that end, Lincoln denied the right of secession and characterized the Constitution as creating a “perpetual union,” which was just plain hogwash. Every compact, just like every contract, can be broken. He said the Southern States were “in rebellion against the United States” even though they made it exceedingly clear that they merely wanted a peaceful separation, and to remain on good terms with their former government. In order to prevent other States (the so-called “border States” and others that were clearly more pro-South than pro-North) from leaving the Union and joining the Confederacy, he sent in the Army of the United States to put them under martial law. Politicians sympathetic to the Confederate States were forcibly removed from office (and many jailed) and their state governments fundamentally changed to force them to be loyal to Lincoln. This was in violation of Section 4 of Article IV of the Constitution (The Guarantee Clause), which states:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and [the United States] shall protect each of them [the States] against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

By removing duly-elected members of State legislatures and altering the governing bodies by force, Lincoln violated the Constitution (just another of the many times he violated the Constitution) and denied the border States the guarantee that the federal government who assure them a republican (the will of the people) form of government. Furthermore, as to all the States, including the border States, the western States (like Kentucky and Missouri), and the Southern States, the Constitution guaranteed them protection AGAINST invasion and was not a license for Lincoln to be the invader.

 

References:

Gene Kizer Jr, “The Right of Secession,” Referenced at:  http://www.bonniebluepublishing.com/The%20Right%20of%20Secession.htm

Gene Kizer Jr, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, Charleston Athenaeum Press, 2014.  [Chapter: “An Annotated Chronology of the Secession Debate in the South”; pp. 171-72)]  Available as a book, which was the resource I used) and also online at:  http://www.bonniebluepublishing.com/index.htm

Albert Taylor Bledsoe, Is Jefferson Davis a Traitor? (1865).  Reprinted by Forgotten Books (2012).  https://www.amazon.com/Davis-Traitor-Secession-Constitutional-Previous/dp/B008TYU1E4

Dave Benner, “Can States Secede from the United States?”, IntellectualTakeOut.org, March 7, 2017. Referenced at: http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/can-states-secede-united-states),

Donald W. Livingston, “The Secession Tradition in America,” 1998.  Referenced at: http://www.ditext.com/livingston/tradition.html

“Ratification of the Constitution by the State of Virginia; June 26, 1788,” The Avalon Project (Yale Law School) – http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/ratva.asp

 

- 2018 (BEST, gray sweatshirt, Wake Up Call trip)

 

ADDENDUM:

Ratification of the Constitution by the State of Virginia; June 26, 1788.

Virginia to wit

We the Delegates of the People of Virginia duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly and now met in Convention having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us to decide thereon Do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will: that therefore no right of any denomination can be cancelled abridged restrained or modified by the Congress by the Senate or House of Representatives acting in any Capacity by the President or any Department or Officer of the United States except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes: & that among other essential rights the liberty of Conscience and of the Press cannot be cancelled abridged restrained or modified by any authority of the United States. With these impressions with a solemn appeal to the Searcher of hearts for the purity of our intentions and under the conviction that whatsoever imperfections may exist in the Constitution ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein than to bring the Union into danger by a delay with a hope of obtaining Amendments previous to the Ratification, We the said Delegates in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia do by these presents assent to and ratify the Constitution recommended on the seventeenth day of September one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven by the Federal Convention for the Government of the United States hereby announcing to all those whom it may concern that the said Constitution is binding upon the said People according to an authentic Copy hereto annexed in the Words following; .

Done in Convention this twenty Sixth day of June one thousand seven hundred and eighty eight

By Order of the Convention

EDMUND PENDLETON, President  [SEAL.]

Virginia towit:

Subsequent Amendments agreed to in Convention as necessary to the proposed Constitution of Government for the United States, recommended to the consideration of the Congress which shall first assemble under the said Constitution to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed in the fifth article thereof:

That there be a Declaration or Bill of Rights asserting and securing from encroachment the essential and unalienable Rights of the People in some such manner as the following;

First, That there are certain natural rights of which men, when they form a social compact cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Second. That all power is naturally vested in and consequently derived from the people; that Magistrates, therefore, are their trustees and agents and at all times amenable to them.

Third, That Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the People; and that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

Fourth, That no man or set of Men are entitled to exclusive or separate public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in Consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of Magistrate, Legislator or Judge, or any other public office to be hereditary.

Fifth, That the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers of Government should be separate and distinct, and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression by feeling and participating the public burthens, they should, at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into the mass of the people; and the vacancies be supplied by certain and regular elections; in which all or any part of the former members to be eligible or ineligible, as the rules of the Constitution of Government, and the laws shall direct.

Sixth, That elections of representatives in the legislature ought to be free and frequent, and all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with and attachment to the Community ought to have the right of suffrage: and no aid, charge, tax or fee can be set, rated, or levied upon the people without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor can they be bound by any law to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.

Seventh, That all power of suspending laws or the execution of laws by any authority, without the consent of the representatives of the people in the legislature is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

Eighth, That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence and be allowed counsel in his favor, and to a fair and speedy trial by an impartial Jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, (except in the government of the land and naval forces) nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself.

Ninth. That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned, or disseised of his freehold, liberties, privileges or franchises, or outlawed or exiled, or in any manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty or property but by the law of the land.

Tenth. That every freeman restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy to enquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same, if unlawful, and that such remedy ought not to be denied nor delayed.

Eleventh. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by Jury is one of the greatest Securities to the rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and inviolable.

Twelfth. That every freeman ought to find a certain remedy by recourse to the laws for all injuries and wrongs he may receive in his person, property or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely without sale, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay, and that all establishments or regulations contravening these rights, are oppressive and unjust.

Thirteenth, That excessive Bail ought not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Fourteenth, That every freeman has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person, his papers and his property; all warrants, therefore, to search suspected places, or seize any freeman, his papers or property, without information upon Oath (or affirmation of a person religiously scrupulous of taking an oath) of legal and sufficient cause, are grievous and oppressive; and all general Warrants to search suspected places, or to apprehend any suspected person, without specially naming or describing the place or person, are dangerous and ought not to be granted.

Fifteenth, That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together to consult for the common good, or to instruct their Representatives; and that every freeman has a right to petition or apply to the legislature for redress of grievances.

Sixteenth, That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their Sentiments; but the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and ought not to be violated.

Seventeenth, That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated Militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free State. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the Community will admit; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by the Civil power.

Eighteenth, That no Soldier in time of peace ought to be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such manner only as the laws direct.

Nineteenth, That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead.

Twentieth, That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and that no particular religious sect or society ought to be favored or established by Law in preference to others.

 

AMENDMENTS TO THE BODY OF THE CONSTITUTION

First, That each State in the Union shall respectively retain every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this Constitution delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of the Federal Government.

Second, That there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand, according to the Enumeration or Census mentioned in the Constitution, until the whole number of representatives amounts to two hundred; after which that number shall be continued or increased as the Congress shall direct, upon the principles fixed by the Constitution by apportioning the Representatives of each State to some greater number of people from time to time as population increases.

Third, When Congress shall lay direct taxes or excises, they shall immediately inform the Executive power of each State of the quota of such state according to the Census herein directed, which is proposed to be thereby raised; And if the Legislature of any State shall pass a law which shall be effectual for raising such quota at the time required by Congress, the taxes and excises laid by Congress shall not be collected, in such State.

Fourth, That the members of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be ineligible to, and incapable of holding, any civil office under the authority of the United States, during the time for which they shall respectively be elected.

Fifth, That the Journals of the proceedings of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be published at least once in every year, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances or military operations, as in their judgment require secrecy.

Sixth, That a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published at least once in every year.

Seventh, That no commercial treaty shall be ratified without the concurrence of two thirds of the whole number of the members of the Senate; and no Treaty ceding, contracting, restraining or suspending the territorial rights or claims of the United States, or any of them or their, or any of their rights or claims to fishing in the American seas, or navigating the American rivers shall be but in cases of the most urgent and extreme necessity, nor shall any such treaty be ratified without the concurrence of three fourths of the whole number of the members of both houses respectively.

Eighth, That no navigation law, or law regulating Commerce shall be passed without the consent of two thirds of the Members present in both houses.

Ninth, That no standing army or regular troops shall be raised or kept up in time of peace, without the consent of two thirds of the members present in both houses.

Tenth, That no soldier shall be enlisted for any longer term than four years, except in time of war, and then for no longer term than the continuance of the war.

Eleventh, That each State respectively shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining it’s own Militia, whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the Militia shall not be subject to Martial law, except when in actual service in time of war, invasion, or rebellion; and when not in the actual service of the United States, shall be subject only to such fines, penalties and punishments as shall be directed or inflicted by the laws of its own State.

Twelfth That the exclusive power of legislation given to Congress over the Federal Town and its adjacent District and other places purchased or to be purchased by Congress of any of the States shall extend only to such regulations as respect the police and good government thereof.

Thirteenth, That no person shall be capable of being President of the United States for more than eight years in any term of sixteen years.

Fourteenth That the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such courts of Admiralty as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish in any of the different States: The Judicial power shall extend to all cases in Law and Equity arising under treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States; to all cases affecting ambassadors other foreign ministers and consuls; to all cases of Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or States, and between parties claiming lands under the grants of different States. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be a party, the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction; in all other cases before mentioned the supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction as to matters of law only: except in cases of equity, and of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, in which the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the Congress shall make. But the judicial power of the United States shall extend to no case where the cause of action shall have originated before the ratification of this Constitution; except in disputes between States about their Territory, disputes between persons claiming lands under the grants of different States, and suits for debts due to the United States.

Fifteenth, That in criminal prosecutions no man shall be restrained in the exercise of the usual and accustomed right of challenging or excepting to the Jury.

Sixteenth, That Congress shall not alter, modify or interfere in the times, places, or manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives or either of them, except when the legislature of any State shall neglect, refuse or be disabled by invasion or rebellion to prescribe the same.

Seventeenth, That those clauses which declare that Congress shall not exercise certain powers be not interpreted in any manner whatsoever to extend the powers of Congress. But that they may be construed either as making exceptions to the specified powers where this shall be the case, or otherwise as inserted merely for greater caution.

Eighteenth, That the laws ascertaining the compensation to Senators and Representatives for their services be postponed in their operation, until after the election of Representatives immediately succeeding the passing thereof; that excepted, which shall first be passed on the Subject.

Nineteenth, That some Tribunal other than the Senate be provided for trying impeachments of Senators.

Twentieth, That the Salary of a Judge shall not be increased or diminished during his continuance in Office, otherwise than by general regulations of Salary which may take place on a revision of the subject at stated periods of not less than seven years to commence from the time such Salaries shall be first ascertained by Congress. And the Convention do, in the name and behalf of the People of this Commonwealth enjoin it upon their Representatives in Congress to exert all their influence and use all reasonable and legal methods to obtain a Ratification of the foregoing alterations and provisions in the manner provided by the fifth article of the said Constitution; and in all Congressional laws to be passed in the mean time, to conform to the spirit of those Amendments as far as the said Constitution will admit.

Done in Convention this twenty seventh day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty eight.

By order of the Convention.

EDMD PENDLETON President  [SEAL.]

(1) Reprinted from Documentary History of the Constitution, Vol. II (1894), pp. 145, 146, 160, 377-385

On the Eve of South Carolina’s Decision to Leave the Union, Horace Greeley Articulates and Supports the State’s Right to Secede

Robert E. Lee - Surrender at Appomattox

by Diane Rufino, May 7, 2018

Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Daily Tribune, was the embodiment of the North. In an editorial for the paper on December 17, 1860 (three days before South Carolina voted in Convention to secede, and amidst rumors that the state would likely secede), Greeley articulated the view of secession that most in government and in the North held. In that brilliant editorial, entitled “The Right of Secession,” he wrote:

We have repeatedly asked those who dissent from our view of this matter to tell us frankly whether they do or do not assent to Mr. Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; and that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government,” etc. etc. 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 million colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of five millions of Southerners from the federal union in 1861. If we are mistaken on this point, why does not someone attempt to show wherein and why we could not stand up for coercion, for subjugation.  We do not think such would be just. We hold the right of self-government to be sacred, even when invoked on behalf of those who deny it to others. If ever ‘seven or eight States’ send agents to Washington to say “We want to get out of the Union,” we shall feel constrained by our devotion to Human Liberty to say: ‘Let Them Go!” We do not see how we could take the other side without coming in direct conflict with those Rights of Man which we hold paramount to all political arrangements, however convenient and advantageous.

Of course, when Northern businessmen and northern businesses realized how badly they would suffer without the stream of money coming from the South and its tariff collections and in trade against a “free-trade” Confederacy (the Confederate Constitution prohibited protective tariffs), their view of secession changed.

Even Europe saw the Civil War for what it was. Europe understood that at its core, the American “Civil War” as an exercise of the right of secession. If the South had the right to secede from the Union, which Europe believed it had (articulated to a “candid world” in the Declaration of Independence), then the South held the moral superiority in the conflict and Southerners were the heroes. The North was the great villain, starting a fratricidal war merely for commercial and economic gain.  Certainly Great Britain knew what was going on, for the Confederacy was hoping it would join the conflict on its side and the North was doing what it could to prevent that from happening (ie, the Emancipation Proclamation).  The legendary English writer, Charles Dickens, expressed this view very clearly in commentary during that period.

British Lord Acton (John Dalberg Acton) wrote the following to General Robert E. Lee in November 1866, a year and a half after his surrender at Appomattox:

…… I saw in States Rights the only available check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will (of the federal government), and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the Old World the salutary and liberating influence which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution was expressly and wisely calculated to remedy. I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore, I deemed that you were fighting the battles for our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.

The South, unequivocally and without doubt, had the right to secede from the Union. Anyone who believes in the Declaration of Independence and in the debates in the several Ratifying Conventions to determine whether the Constitution (creating a limited government) would be ratified HAS to believe in the right of secession and HAS to respect the decision of the Southern States to seek their independence. After all, the Declaration of Independence is the greatest Ordinance of Secession ever written and the most eloquent expression of the right of and the desire to pursue independence.

 

***  This article is based, in part, on sections from Gene Kizer Jr’s book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, Charleston Athenaeum Press (2014)

The Truth About the 13th Amendment

LINCOLN MEME - Dishonest Abe

Excerpted from Lawrence “Mike” Scrugg’s book, The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths (Chapter 7: “The First Thirteenth Amendment”). 2011, Universal Media (Charlotte, NC) –  with some additions and commentary by Diane Rufino

Mike Scrugg’s book, THE UN-CIVIL WAR, is an excellent book – an excellent reflection on the causes, treatment, and aftermath of the Civil War. I am posting this excerpt, which is the entire seventh chapter of the book (“The First Thirteenth Amendment’) for the primary purpose of introducing you to this book and encouraging you to purchase it and read it.

Ludwell H. Johnson used the words The American Illiad in the subtitle for his comprehensive book on the American “civil war,” entitled NORTH AGAINST SOUTH. The Iliad analogy is very appropriate for two reasons. First, the war was a traumatic, bloody, and nation-changing event. The enormous casualties and destruction alone would sear its battles, personalities, and tales of heroism into America’s memory. Second, what most Americans know about the causes of the war is pious myth.

Most Americans are at least vaguely aware that the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution passed by Congress and approved by the States in December 1865 following the “civil war” abolished slavery. But this was actually the second 13th Amendment. The US House of Representatives had passed, with the required 2/3 majority, a 13th amendment on February 28, 1861. This same amendment was passed by the US Senate on March 2, 1861. It was then send to the States for final approval. As per Article V of the Constitution. 3/4 of the States must approve the amendment before it can officially become part of, and hence “amend,” the Constitution. Two days after the Senate’s approval of the amendment, the newly-elected president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, promised to support it in his inaugural speech.

But what was this first 13th Amendment and what became of it?  Here is the wording:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of such State.”

The first 13th Amendment would have forever prohibited any Constitutional change that interfered with slavery in any state!

Lincoln endorsed this amendment, which would have permanently engraved slavery into the Constitution by two statements in his inaugural address:  First, self-quoting what he had written earlier to New York Tribune editor, Horace Greeley: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

Later in the speech, he specifically promised to support this first 13th Amendment with these words: “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution has passed Congress to the effect that the federal government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose, not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied Constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

In other words, Lincoln had no problem with an amendment which would have prohibited the federal government from interfering with slavery in the States!  In addition, he felt the Constitution already prohibited the federal government from interfering with slavery in the States !!!

The reason for this first 13th Amendment was, of course, to reassure the Southern States that were threatening to leave the Union that there was not and never would be any danger of Congressional or federal interference with slavery in the States. [Remember that by the time the Senate approved the amendment, seven Southern States had already seceded from the Union – South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas]. The slavery question was a concern to the Southern States, of course. The South had an agrarian society and its economy was supported by the exporting of its crops. The Northern States had gradually phased out slavery, but then again, there had been but a few slaves in the North. Phasing out slavery in the North was a much less daunting social and economic endeavor. It would be an enormous undertaking in the South. The calls of radical abolitionists in the North for immediate abolition of slavery regardless of the economic cost to the South and heedless of the hardship it would suddenly inflict on the slaves themselves, though not really a prevalent Northern sentiment, was a worry to the South. Slavery was by no means universally popular in the South, and many Southern States and individual Southerners were already struggling with how they might phase out the institution of slavery without devastating the Southern economy. But Southern States preferred to handle the slavery question when, if, and however they saw fit. Like Lincoln and many other political leaders in the North, the South considered how to handle the slavery question to be the Constitutional right of each State respectively.

Slavery was an issue that caused tensions between North and South, but it was by no means the only issue. If slavery was the only crucial issue, the South had no reason to secede. The first 13th Amendment would have guaranteed the question in their favor.

But there were other important issues to the South… more important ones.  One enormous issue was the question of the protective tariffs and in particular, the Morrill Tariff that had been passed by the predominantly Northern Congress with the support of only one Southern congressman. It was passed by the Senate and signed by President Buchanan only two days before Lincoln took office, and Lincoln pledged to support it. The Morrill Tariff, like others in the past, was a severe economic hardship to the agricultural South (in particular to South Carolina and the Gulf States), but a protective benefit for the industrial North – for its manufacturers. To make matters worse, most of the revenue was collected at Southern ports but subsequently used to the benefit of Northern States. In other words, the South was being plundered for the benefit of the North. To look at it a different way, the federal government, which was supposed to be a common government for ALL the States, to serve their interests equally, was effecting policy to benefit only one section of the country, while knowingly and intentionally harming another. Southern States were furious over this tariff, which had just been raised from an average under 20% to an average which would reach 47% (and would affect more items). The Morrill Tariff was part of Lincoln’s and the Republican Party’s campaign platform. In fact, Lincoln further endorsed the Tariff in his inaugural speech and strongly implied that even if the South seceded, the tax would be collected by the Union Navy at Southern ports.

There were other issues as well. North and South had developed different views of government. The South favored the limited and decentralized federal government of the Constitution, but the North was strongly tending towards a powerful centralized government. Early in the years of the American republic, the South and especially Virginia had dominated national politics. But massive waves of immigration to Northern manufacturing States now made them much more populous and politically dominant. Between 1845 and 1855 more than 1.5 million Irish adults and children alone emigrated to America (because of the great potato famine).  And then there was the outright hostility and even violence towards the South. John Brown and his sons butchered 5 pro-slavery settlers in Kansas and then led a raid on Harpers Ferry. The radical abolitionists exhibited unmitigated hatred of all things southern and continued to aggravate tensions.

The first 13th Amendment became a moot issue, though, after the firing on Fort Sumter and then Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops to invade the South. The outbreak of the “civil war” that would claim the lives of over 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers and as many as 50,000 Southern civilians effectively cancelled the first 13th Amendment.

On March 2, 1861, the same day the first 13th Amendment was passed by the Senate, another Amendment to the Constitution was also proposed. This amendment would have outlawed secession. This is a good indication that most of Congress indeed realized that the right of secession was implied when the Constitution was originally ratified by the States and effectively reinforced by the 10th Amendment. If that wasn’t so, why would they attempt to outlaw it?  In fact, textbooks used at West Point for years before the war had explained the validity of the right of secession.

Indeed,  most members of Congress understood each State had a fundamental right to secede (as the colonies did from Great Britain in declaring their independence). Lincoln himself, at one time, believed the same. As a junior representative from Illinois, Lincoln addressed Congress on the Mexican-American War, asserting that the US should take only that portion of the Texas territory that represents the desire of the people to secede from Mexico (and not the additional 500,000 square miles of land from Mexico it was seeking – territory comprising Arizona, New Mexico, and California; otherwise, the US would be imperialistic).  On January 1848, he spoke these words: “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.”  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/the-war-with-mexico-speech-in-the-united-states-house-of-representatives/ ]

Yet, when the Southern States actually exercised this fundamental of sovereign states’ rights and left the Union, Lincoln had a change of heart. All of a sudden, he no longer recognized secession as an “inherent” or “natural” sovereign right. And this was a problem, because he was the president and as it always seems to be, the views of the president become the views of the government.  In his first Inaugural Address, he articulated his “new understanding” of the right of secession:

“I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it–break it, so to speak–but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?   Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was “to form a more perfect Union.”  (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861; http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/lincoln1.asp ]

The notion of a States’ right of secession – to withdraw from the Union – HAD to be dispelled and de-legitimized if Lincoln was to be able to claim power to preserve the Union and then make good on that promise. There could be no rightful exercise of federal power to force the States to remain together when the States possessed (reserved) the supreme sovereign power, restated by the 10th Amendment, to withdraw from the Union.

On July 22, 1861, the now Northern only Congress passed a joint resolution (“The Crittenden-Johnson Resolutions on the Objects of the War, 1861”) defining the federal government’s goals in the war:

“Resolved.. That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the dis-unionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; That this war is not being prosecuted upon our part in any spirit of oppression, not for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and all laws made in pursuance thereof and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.”

In other words, the Northern Congress stated in that resolution that preserving the Union and NOT interfering with the institution of slavery was the purpose of the war.

Later, on August 22, 1861, Lincoln explained his thinking on the war to editor, Horace Greeley, an abolitionist:

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some an leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps save the Union.”

Nearly two years into the war, in September 1862, Lincoln found it expedient to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. This proclamation actually freed no slaves in any territory under Union control. It was done primarily as a war measure. Lincoln hoped that the Proclamation would encourage slave uprisings in the South, thus causing Confederate troops to be diverted. The overwhelming majority of the slaves, however, proved remarkably loyal to the families of their Southern masters, most of which were away in the Confederate Army. Some say that it was also to please the anti-slavery British and thus keep them from coming into the war on the side of the South. The British did not come into the war on the side of the South, but they were also not so stupid as to be fooled by this ruse. The North, after all, imposed the protective tariffs on the South, which had harmed trade with Great Britain. Though the Proclamation had disappointing military results, and only made the British more skeptical of Northern intentions, it did please those radical abolitionists who did not seem to mind the hypocrisy of a document that did not free a single slave in Southern territory occupied by the Union Army. After a period of discontent in the North and in the Union Army over the Proclamation, the abolition of slavery began to be used to bolster the moral purpose of the war. Ever since then, it has been a prime propaganda tool justifying and glorifying the war as a just and noble and moral cause.

However, as can easily be seen in the first 13th Amendment, Lincoln’s speeches, and Congressional resolutions, slavery cannot be said to have been the cause of the war. It was an issue causing much tension, but it was not the cause of the war. These tensions are very much misunderstood today. Contrary to current misinformed public opinion, most Northern objections to slavery were not really of a high moral tone. Many Northern States, such as Lincoln’s Illinois, severely restricted the possibility of any Blacks, free or slave, taking up residence within their borders. Ohio and Indiana even prohibited free Blacks from even entering their states. Northern attitudes towards Blacks that drove much of the “Free State vs. Slave State” controversy can best be summarized by an October 16, 1854 quote by Abraham Lincoln himself:

“Whether slavery shall go into Nebraska, or other new territories, is not a matter of exclusive concern to the people who may go there. The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these territories. We want them for the homes of free white people. This they cannot be, to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted with them.”

A common, but practical solution of what to do with the emancipated slaves was colonization (repatriation). That meant sending them back to Africa or to Central America. Lincoln himself was strongly in favor of colonization. Lincoln was a great admirer of Senator Henry Clay, who first proposed the colonization solution in 1827. Lincoln frequently stated his advocacy of colonization and spoke to black pastors and leaders about it, and on December 1, 1862, in a message to Congress, stated: “I cannot make it better known than it already is, that I strongly favor colonization.”

This was undoubtedly spoken to reassure Northern politicians who were uneasy with the possible migratory consequences of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln opposed slavery and was in favor of gradual, compensated emancipation and colonization. But he obviously considered the Union (preserved) and Northern business interests a much higher priority than eliminating slavery. To his credit, he recognized and hated the dangerous fanaticism of the radical abolitionists. But all the current and post-war talk (propaganda) about the war being a noble crusade to free the slaves and of Lincoln being the great Emancipator is a shameless fraud.

Preserving the Union was the principal purpose stated by the North. That might be called noble – if using violence, killing 620,000 young men, killing women and children (civilians), starving families by killing livestock and scorching the land, and forcing states to bear a subservient and exploited status in an unwanted and, to them, an unprofitable Union at gunpoint can be called ‘noble.” The North had more than just territory in mind when it said it wanted to preserve the Union. Loss of the Southern States would mean loss of most of the tax revenue, of which over 90% came from the tariff duties that were paid by the South States and so burdened them. They would also have to compete with the South’s proposed free-trade policies, which would have wreaked economic havoc on the North, just as the protective tariff had wreaked economic havoc on the South. The South would have gained economically by independence, whereas the North would have lost considerably both in tax revenues and in trade.

The real reason Lincoln sought to preserve the Union was to preserve the ability of the federal government to continue collecting tariff revenue from the Southern States. He admitted as much when he was sworn in as president.  Referring back to the section of his first Inaugural Address above where he dispelled the right of the States to secede from the Union, he continued:

“It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it……   I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.  In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.”

Notice that when he spoke the words “the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself” he is really declaring that the federal government has as its primary purpose the obligation to ensure its preservation. This is in absolute, direct contradiction to the cherished principles of the Declaration of Independence.

Despite the tension that divided the South from the North, beginning in 1828, over the protective tariffs (recall the Nullification Crisis which nearly precipitated secession in 1832) and the concerns of South Carolina over Lincoln’s (and the Republican Party’s) platform in the 1860 presidential election, Lincoln chose to ignore such concerns in his Inaugural Address. He said: “One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”

The so-called “Civil War” was not really a civil war after all. A civil war implies that both sections of the “same country” were fighting for control of the same government. The South had seceded from that government; it wanted nothing more to do with it. Two names for the war are fare more appropriate:  For the South, it was the “War for Southern Independence” and for the North, it was the “War to Prevent Southern Independence.” It was not a glorious crusade to free slaves. Unfortunately, most Americans today accept the pious fraud that the “Civil War” was all about ending slavery. The first 13th Amendment, however, provides shattering documentary evidence disproving that cherished humbug.

BOOK - The Un-Civil War (Mike Scruggs)

 

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