Is Secession 'Anti-American'?

In response to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s defense of states' rights, State Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) says secession is anti-American. He even threw in a gratuitous race card to try to vilify the governor.

It should go without saying that the United States of America began with a series of thirteen secessions. The founding document of the American union is itself a collective "declaration of independence" that affirms unilateral secession to be part of our inalienable right of liberty. The U.S. Constitution (to which Rep. Dunnam has pledged an oath) affirms that the federal government’s authority is both "enumerated" and "delegated," while the powers of the states are "reserved."

In other words, according to the Constitution, the states are the boss of the union, not the other way around. This is why leaders of the Texas state legislature, backed eloquently by Gov. Rick Perry, are reminding the bloated federal apparatus of its proper place as servant of the states. And Texas is not alone.

Furthermore, the United States has supported many secessions around the world.

One would hope that a politician from Texas would have a clue as to how his state, a former province of Mexico, unilaterally became an independent republic that in turn joined the American union. And concerning more recent times, it should be noted that the United States never castigated the Baltics for seceding from the USSR. Nor did the United States argue that the Soviet Union was "indivisible" or that it would be "anti-American" to support the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. The United States recognized the 1993 unilateral secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia (there goes Rep. Dunnam’s race card…).

Indeed, Rep. Dunnam’s remarks are not just ignorant, but are an affront to the families of those Americans who risked their lives in uniform defending the right of self-government — especially those who died in that cause. Indeed, not only the Texans who wore Confederate gray in defense of states' rights and secession, but also all of the first American secessionists from north and south alike, who fought under General Washington, who froze at Valley Forge, who saw their homes and farms burned to the ground, who risked life and limb, year after year, even when things looked bleak, defending the principle that our American states are not colonies, not provinces, not conquered territories of a centralized government — but rather states, sovereign states, in a voluntary union of their own creation.

Far from being anti-American — secession, resistance against tyranny, and the right to self-government are quintessentially American, and are the hallmarks of all free peoples around the world. And what could be more ironic than the very epicenter of the overextended federal government being named after the chief of the American secessionists?

Rep. Dunnam’s line of reasoning condemns George Washington and all our heroic revolutionary ancestors as "anti-American." Maybe it's not just the federal government, but also Rep. Dunnam himself, that needs to be reminded for whom he works.

George III and the British Parliament learned that lesson a little too late.

April 18, 2009

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