By Bob Hurst
The word "secession" had all but disappeared from the American vocabulary except as a topic of discussion at various "roundtable" groups or as an academic exercise. Then came the election of November 6, 2012, and suddenly the topic is back in the forefront of American discussion and has gone viral on the Internet.
It is no secret that the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama has split the country in a manner unseen since the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. That election brought about an internecine struggle that resulted in the destruction of millions of lives and the squashing of the bid for independence of the Southern States by an overpowering and tyrannical central government.
A great many Americans, infuriated by the actions and policies of the first Obama Administration ( profligate spending resulting in an almost 6 trillion dollar increase in the national debt, policies and regulations that are destructive to job creation resulting in record unemployment, a huge increase in food stamp and welfare recipients, etc. ) anticipated a defeat for Barack Hussein Obama and an end to his policies. When this didn't happen, there was initial stunned disbelief by the large segment of the population who are conservative and still believe in the principles of the Founding Fathers.
I have to admit that I was both disappointed with the results of the election and angered that so many people voted for the continuation of the administration and policies of this man that so many others of us believe is destructive to the continued existence of this country as a land of freedom and exceptionalism. I was quite gloomy for a few days and then, suddenly, the emails started coming.
I can't remember if the first one came from Texas or Louisiana but it was from one of the two. It seems that a movement has sprung up whereby groups in individual states are gathering signatures on petitions calling for the individual states to secede from this current union of states. I also started receiving forwarded emails requesting that I participate in polls being conducted by radio stations, TV stations and newspapers regarding this topic.
I started following this movement on the Internet and as of several days ago (November 13) 27 states had already submitted petitions to the White House expressing a desire on the part of the signers for the secession of that particular state. This was impressive to me but not nearly as impressive as the tally just three days later which revealed that petitions by then had been submitted by all 50 states (although I recall Obama saying during his first campaign that he had visited 57 states).
As of this latest posting, seven states had submitted more than 30,000 signatures each with Texas leading the way with more than 100,000 signatures gathered. Not surprisingly, the other six states are all Southern states - Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina. What IS surprising is that petitions have come from so many northern "progressive" states. I mean, come on now, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and even Vermont (a state that has had a declared Socialist representing the State in Congress for more than 20 years) siding with Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and other Deep South states. It must be starting to get very cold in Hell!
One possible reason for this unusual phenomenon is that this nation is so divided and obviously many citizens are so angry about the actions and policies of the current president and his administration that they are beginning to look at options. I found the following statement from Ron Paul about this phenomenon to be interesting: "It's very American to talk about secession - that's how we came into being." And he's right! Washington, Jefferson, Mason, the Adams (John and Sam), Henry Knox, Franklin, Patrick Henry - they were all secessionists.
In fact, there have been secession movements that were aided by the U.S. government. The secession of Texas from Mexico in 1845 and the secession of Panama from Colombia (Gran Colombia) in 1903 come quickly to mind. Secession can be achieved peacefully, also, as occurred when Norway split with Sweden in 1905. Another example closer to home involves the continuing effort of Quebec to secede from the Canadian central government. A secession referendum in 1980 received a 40% favorable vote from the citizens of Quebec and a subsequent referendum in 1995 receiived a 49.4% favorable vote. The Canadian government has pledged on several occasions that should Quebec eventually pass a referendum of secession the Canadian government will not use armed force to try to prevent the province from achieving independence.
There had actually been a precedent for Lincoln to draw upon had he only chosen to do so. In 1830, only thirty years before the secession of South Carolina, Belgium had achieved a successful separation from the Netherlands without warfare and with hardly any bloodshed. It is this attitude of peaceful cooperation concerning these other civilized nations that causes me to feel anger and disdain toward Abraham Lincoln and the Radical Republicans of the 1860's for not allowing the Southern Confederacy to part in peace but, instead, forced a bloody and destructive war on the South which had devastating effects for many decades.
There are two questions that always come quickly to mind when regarding the great conflict that raged from 1861 to 1865. The first is why did the Southern States wish to leave the Union and the other is why did the Northern States refuse to let them go in peace. Unfortunately, for the last half century the myrmidons of political correctness in academia, the media and the political world have been shouting a simplistic and incorrect reason - slavery.The line goes something like this: 1) slavery was bad and the evil Southern people were willing to fight a war just to keep a certain race of people in bondage; 2) slavery was bad and the fine, altruistic people of the North were willing to leave their homes to go down South and fight a war to free those people from bondage. The noted author and economist, Jeffrey Hummel, saw it differently though and summed it up nicely with the following: "Emancipation was therefore a consequence of the Civil War. But it was a consequence unintended at the outset, and played no discernible role in the northern refusal to let the lower South go in peace."
Now, don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that the question of slavery played no role in the conflict. The role of slavery, however, was more of an economic issue (one of many) than the primary causative factor. The reasons for Southern secession are myriad and much too numerous to cover in this brief article. Suffice it to say that the differences between those of the North and those of the South went back many decades. The fact that nine of the first twelve presidents of this country were Southerners only intensified the harsh feelings held by northerners toward the South. Southerners were certainly aware of this attitude.
Secession and war are two vastly different matters and it seems unlikely to me that secession alone could have inflamed Northerners so much that they were willing to go to war because of it. It is equally obvious that millions of Northerners would not have been willing to go to war for the sole purpose of freeing slaves. One has only to recall that the abilitionist societies were very unpopular. It was a frequent occurrence for the offices of abolitionist newspapers to be ransacked and often set ablaze as the citizenry considered these groups too radical. It is mildly amusing to me that some abolitionists had even called for the secession of New England states to get them out from under the U.S. Constitution which sanctioned slavery.
I think that great blame for the war can be laid at the feet of Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party of that day. Lincoln had told Horace Greeley, Publisher of the New York TRIBUNE, that his primary interest was to "save the Union" and that whatever he did towards slavery was solely in regard to what helps "save the Union". This indicates strongly that had there been no secession there would have been no war. Why was saving the Union so important to Lincoln. I think it was because of the potential economic effects of disunion more than some esoteric reasonimg toward preserving national boundaries.
From what I have read of Lincoln, he was an individual who sought great power and the newly-formed Republican Party did likewise. Lincoln was determined to save the Union by force if necessary because, without the South, the Union would lose its cash cow. By some estimates the Southern States were supplying up to 75% of federal revenues. This would be gone with secession. There had been discontent in the South for decades concerning the distribution of tax revenues. As early as 1832 South Carolina had threatened secession over the issue of the "Tariff of Abominations". Many Southern political leaders had complained about the heavy collection of tariff revenues in Southern states which were then used for infrastructure and capital projects in northern states.
There were other concerns as well on the part of the North toward Southern secession. There was the fear that the lower Mississippi River would be closed to northern vessels with a negative impact on northern trade. There was also great fear in the North that because the South would be a free-trade zone the manufacturing interests in the North would lose out to European competition. There was also great concerm among northern investors about the large loss of revenue flowing from the South. Another concern was that if Southern secession was successful, other regions might just follow suit. The newly-formed and suddenly-in-power Republican Party would face quick oblivion if all these scenarios played out. Notice that all these concerns were economic in nature. Then, as now, always follow the money.
From what I have read of Lincoln (from sources who are not "gate-keepers" of the Lincoln myth), he was a crude and vile man who delighted in telling crude stories and off-color jokes. He also enjoyed disparaging women and opponents. It is obvious from comments he made during the debates with Stephen Douglas and his expressed views concerning the settlement of the western territories that he thoroughly despised black people. Before his election as president, he had been an attorney for powerful business interests - not the little man. Despite all this, he was apparently very charismatic and could almost mesmerize people with his speaking ability.
Because of the complexities of the man it is difficult to determine completely why he was so determined to wage war on the South. It is not difficult, though, to determine what many others thought of and have written about his actions.
The noted New England abolitionist, Lysander Spooner, after the war wrote that the North fought for the principle that "men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support a government they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them criminals and traitors." (Note: This sounds eerily like the present, don't you think?)
In September of 1862, the London TIMES editorialized that, "If Northerners...had peaceably allowed the seceders to depart, the result might fairly have been quoted as illustrating the advantages of Democracy; but when Republicans put empire above liberty, and resorted to political oppression and war rather than suffer any abatement of national power... Democracy broke down."
The historian, William Appleman Williams, wrote: "... the cause of the Civil War was the refusal of Lincoln and other northerners to honor the revolutionary right of self-determination - the touchstone of the American Revolution."
And finally, a series of revealing quotes from the outstanding author and economist, Jeffrey Hummel:
"Insofar as the Civil War was fought to preserve the Union, it was an explicit rejection of the American Revolution."
"... most arguments marshaled to deny the legitimacy of southern independence in 1861 apply with almost equal force against American independence in 1776."
"... as a revolutionary right, the legitimacy of secession is universal and unconditional. That at least is how the Declaration of Independence reads."
"... we ought to be able to view Lincoln's justifications for the Civil War with a healthy dose of skepticism."
So where does all this leave us today? In 1861 this country had a power-hungry and self-centered president with a large portion of the country strongly opposed to him and his party. It resulted in secession and a terrible war. Today we have a power-hungry and narcissistic president with fully half the country strongly opposed to him and his party. Where will this end? Will the infant secession movement continue to grow or is it destined to be merely an expression of discontent and displeasure with the current occupant of the White House and the ultra-liberal policies of the Democrat Party? I simply hope that this current unpleasantness can be resolved without internal warfare. This country has certainly had enough of war over the last quarter of a century.
It seems that the ancient curse, "May you live in interesting times", has fully enveloped us in this country. I would gladly settle for times that were less "interesting" but more profitable for all. We shall see.
Previous articles of CONFEDERATE JOURNAL are available in book form. Articles from 2005-2007 are in Volume 1 which can be ordered online at http://createspace.com/3540609 while articles from 2008-2009 can be ordered at http://createspace.com/3543269.
Bob Hurst is a Son of the South who has special interests in the Confederacy and the antebellum mansions of the Old South. He is Commander of Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and is also 2nd Lieutenant Commander, Florida Division, SCV. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-878-7010 (after 9PM Eastern time).