The beginning is more than half the whole, the ancient philosopher famously said. The ongoing failure of America’s free institutions is especially due to the failure, in this generation, to understand and perpetuate the faith of the founding. The success American liberty has achieved from that time to this owes much to the fact that the outstanding leaders of the founding generation were willing to articulate the reasonable faith that characterized what they called the “genius” of the American people.
So in our time it is the apostasy of America’s elites, and their willful disrespect for, and rejection of, the reasonable, decent moral understanding of the people, that engenders and deliberately promotes the failure of liberty. The foundational premise of that understanding is the self-evident truth that the Creator God endowed each and every human being with rights, inherent in the nature of humanity, that human government exists to secure. A necessary corollary of that understanding is the right of the people to alter or abolish government institutions that abandon this purpose of government, abusively violating the rights just government power exists to defend.
In the aftermath of the recent election, a new secessionist movement has surfaced in which citizens are “posting petitions on the White House site requesting permission to peacefully secede from the union.” This week a WND article about this movement referenced an article that cited “a 2006 letter purporting to be from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia that said: ‘There is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, “one Nation, indivisible.”)’” If accurate, Scalia’s quotation of words from the Pledge differs significantly from the official text, as set in the U.S. Code at 4 USC 4. The official text reads “one Nation under God, indivisible …” The omission in the purported Scalia letter reflects the understanding of right characteristic of America’s apostate elitists, for whom right and law are ultimately a matter of strictly human contest and decision. In light of the elitists’ abandonment of the principles of government articulated in the American Declaration of Independence, Scalia’s purported denial of any right to secede is logical enough. But only so long as we recognize that it is not the logic of liberty or constitutional self-government that he follows. It is the logic of arbitrary human will with no warrant of right except a contest of wills that is tragically inclined to end in civil war.
What’s interesting, though, is that the petitions that are currently the focus of media attention do not assert secession as a matter of right. They seek permission to secede, albeit from an authority (the executive branch of the U.S. government) the Constitution in no way explicitly empowers to grant such permission. As far as implied powers are concerned, the U.S. Constitution provides that new States “may be admitted by Congress into this Union. …” Any implied constitutional power to permit the whole or partial dissolution of the Union would therefore most logically belong to the legislative branch. Any petition for permission to secede from it would have to be presented to the U.S. Congress, following procedures properly adopted into law by its legislative power. Even this is problematic, however, since the authority to enlarge the Union does not in and of itself imply any authority wholly or partially to permit its dissolution. Be that as it may, there is certainly no constitutional or logical warrant for the notion that the executive branch has the authority to permit the dissolution of the Union, except by dereliction of duty.
None of this thinking, however, goes to the heart of the matter. The U.S. Constitution’s Ninth Amendment clearly states that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Whatever explicit constitutional warrant may or may not exist to permit the dissolution of the Union, the unalienable right and duty “to alter or abolish” government that evinces a design systematically to trample God-endowed right must be among the rights retained by the people. Otherwise, as they follow the law He has written upon their hearts, people would have no warrant from God to defend their exercise of right against abusers of government power who seek by force to suppress it.
Every exercise of unalienable right involves and implies this appeal to the authority of God. It makes sense that in denying the right of secession, the purported letter from Justice Scalia omits the Pledge’s reference to God. By the same token, however, the true right of secession can only be recognized and properly implemented in the context of God-endowed right, and for the sake of fulfilling our primordial natural obligation to respect the will of our Creator. The permission to secede from a Union that no longer respects this obligation is properly sought from God, not the abusive human powers determined to violate His will. But though it can be right to make this appeal to Heaven, the law of love by which God ultimately governs His creation commands us to make absolutely sure that it is necessary to do so.
Many Americans cannot find the courage to secede from a sham party system that has systematically and repeatedly thwarted their right to representation. I find it hard to believe that such timid souls are now seriously disposed to assert the right to secede from the Union. Perhaps that is why their move to secede takes the form of supine, inappropriate supplication to an executive who represents the very forces seeking to overthrow the liberty of the American people. Rest assured; Barack Obama will seriously entertain their petitions only if and when by doing so he serves that liberty-destroying agenda.
As I suggest in a recent article at Loyal to Liberty, I think it better serves the cause of decent liberty to consult the wisdom of America’s founders. Among the relicts of their faithful example there is a disused banner that might be raised in an effort to preserve liberty by restoring the true character of the Union, instead of destroying it. But this uplifting effort will require the concerted political will of people ready boldly to reassert the faith of the founders, as well as the form of government which respects the character that faith makes possible.