Contemporary opinion, including that of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, says a state's right to secede died with the hundreds of thousands of bloodied victims of the Civil War and that the sentiment behind the dozens of petitions on the White House website seeking permission for most of the 50 individual governments to leave the union will be fruitless.
But historians would note that Thomas Jefferson, a "pole star among political philosophers because he based his politics on the eternal, self-evident, fundamental truths that all men are created free and equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inherent and inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," believed states have a right to leave the U.S.
It was in a letter to William B. Giles on Dec. 26, 1825, that Jefferson addressed the issue after participating in the fight over separation from England, the rise of a new nation and the tribulations it faced in its first decades.
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In a letter marked "not intended for the public eye," Jefferson wrote that states "should separate from our companions only when the sole alternatives left, are the dissolution of our Union with them, or submission to a government without limitation of powers."
He continued, "Between these two evils, when we must make a choice, there can be no hesitation."
His letter, posted online at Constitution.org, sheds light on the arguments raised on the Obama administration's online petition site, where dozens of petitions are seeking permission for virtually all of the states to leave the union.
The Blaze reported on 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.')"
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Scalia wrote, in response to a question about a hypothetical secession movement, the U.S. can't even be sued over the issue without first granting permission, which would not happen anyway.
The movement began with citizens from Louisiana and Texas posting petitions on the White House site requesting permission to peacefully secede from the union. There is supposed to be a response from the Obama administration, according to site rules, if there are more than 25,000 signatures, a mark which both states have passed already.
However, Obama could ignore them completely, as the site itself is set up as a political tool for the administration to hear concerns. The site says officials can choose to not respond if they wish.
The petition site has no force of law, as critics have pointed out. In fact, some have launched countering petitions to strip the citizenship of those who petition for states to leave and force them to pay their state's share of the national debt before departing.
Critics of the current administration have responded, in turn, by petitioning for the impeachment of Obama.
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Condemnations of the secession pleas have been numerous. The Houston Chronicle pointed out that when Texas joined the union, it was given permission to divide itself into five states if it chooses but has no right to secede.
"But the bottom line," the paper said, "is that any state – or confederation of states – can illegally secede from the Union. But the result, as we discovered in 1861, is Civil War."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry sparked speculation several years ago by stating, "Texas is a unique place. When we came in the union in 1845 one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. … If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come out of that"
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However, the Chronicle said, "Perry repeatedly said that he does not favor secession. After the secession petition took off, Perry's press secretary, Catherine Frazier, underscored his opposition to secession with this statement: 'Gov. Perry believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it. But he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government."
RedState founder Erick Erickson also blasted the idea, writing: "We have no plans to secede from the union. If you do, good luck with that, but this is not the place for you."
Several prominent GOP governors also have rejected the idea. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's spokesman issued a statement that while there is frustration, Bentley "believes that states can be great laboratories of change."
"I don't think we'll be seceding," said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
But citizens of the following already have created petitions at the White House site:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
There even was a new petition to "Allow all of the seceding states to reform into a new United States." It explains the new nation would be "based on the principles laid down by the Founding Fathers."
The people's frustration is being revealed.
Daniel Miller of the Texas Nationalist Movement told CBS: "The fact of the matter is, that there cannot be a union between those that esteem the principles of Karl Marx over the principles of Thomas Jefferson. Here in Texas, we esteem those principles of Thomas Jefferson – that all political power's inherent in the people."
Michael Childs at PatriotAction.net's forum wrote that the nation "has never been more divided during my lifetime."
"We are racially divided, divided by wealth, ideologically divided, divided by sexual preference, divided by religion, city dwellers against the rural population, etc," he said.
"The petitions are short and to the point. For example, a petition from the Volunteer State reads: 'Peacefully grant the State of Tennessee to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.' … Of course, this is mostly a symbolic gesture. The odds of the American government granting any state permission to go its own way are on par with winning the lottery while getting hit by a meteor while seeing Bigfoot while finding gluten-free pizza that tastes like the real thing."
An "American veteran" who posted the Alaska petition said: "We who took the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, now declare Washington, D.C., to be the domestic enemy to the freedom and liberty of all Alaskans and indeed, 50% of the free citizens of the USA. Therefore, we declare our secession in support of the US Constitution. LET MY PEOPLE GO!"
Another petition cited Obama's unrestrained power in declaring war in Libya without congressional approval, forcing Americans to buy a private product – health insurance – through Obamacare, disrespecting the Constitution by calling it flawed and appointing "czars" without Senate approval.
The issues seem to point to the subject of Jefferson's letter.
He wrote about the expansion of power then by the federal government "towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic; and that too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power."
He continued: "Take together the decisions of the federal court, the doctrines of the president, and the misconstructions of the constitutional Compact acted on by the legislature of the federal branch, and it is but too evident, that the three ruling branches of that department are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities; of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions foreign and domestic."
He targeted the same authority that Obama has cited in his promotion of Obamacare: "Under the power to regulate commerce, they assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufactures, and call it regulation to take the earnings of one of these branches of industry, and that, too, the most depressed, and put them into the pockets of the other, the most flourishing of all.
"Under the authority to establish post roads, they claim that of cutting down mountains for the construction of roads, of digging canals, and aided by a little sophistry on the words 'general welfare,' a right to do, not only the acts to effect that, which are specifically enumerated and permitted, but whatsoever they shall think, or pretend will be for the general welfare. And what is our resource for the preservation of the Constitution?"
Political debate at that point, reasoned Jefferson, was futile.
"Reason and argument? You might as well reason and argue with the marble columns encircling them. The representatives chosen by ourselves? They are joined in the combination, some from incorrect views of government, some from corrupt ones, sufficient voting together to outnumber the sound parts; and with majorities only of one, two, or three, bold enough to go forward in defiance. "
He warned against giving up too easily.
"If every infraction of a compact of so many parties is to be resisted at once, as a dissolution of it, none can ever be formed which would last one year. We must have patience and longer endurance then with our brethren while under delusion; give them time for reflection and experience of consequences," he said.
And he continued: "[We must] keep ourselves in a situation to profit by the chapter of accidents; and separate from our companions only when the sole alternatives left, are the dissolution of our Union with them, or submission to a government without limitation of powers. Between these two evils, when we must make a choice, there can be no hesitation."
WND previously reported that hundreds of thousands of people are petitioning the White House in the blossoming battle over secession.
Ever since WND first reported that Louisiana citizens had filed an online petition with the White House to secede from the U.S., tens of thousands of residents in most other states have joined them.
What's more, a pair of contrary petitions have been added to the White House website, including one to "strip the citizenship" of those who have petitioned for secession and another calling for their deportation.
The White House website explains that once a petition reaches 25,000 signatures, it will be placed on a queue for response from the administration. The website also maintains a page for previous petitions that have received a White House response. And the White House reserves to right to simply ignore questions.
The original Louisiana petition, which has served as a pattern for many of the new states, reads as follows: "We petition the Obama administration to: Peacefully grant the State of Louisiana to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government."
It continues, "As the Founding Fathers of the United States of America made clear in the Declaration of Independence in 1776: '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 petition concludes with a further quote from the Declaration of Independence: "'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 abolish it, and institute new Government.'"