Secession the “History” Books Neglect to Mention

by Al Benson Jr.

After posting my last article on secession a reader informed me that I had left out the most important part–the fact that secession in this country went all the way back to 1776. It was never my intention to neglect that, but he felt that I did. I have to agree with him–it did go back that far, though most historians today never bother to label what the 13 colonies did in regard to England as secession. By the same token, we are never informed by the “historians” that the New England states threatened secession in the early 1800s no less than three times, one of those times being over the War of 1812, which interrupted the Northeast’s commerce with England. The fact that British troops were torching Washington was of little consequence to the New Englanders if it caused commerce to be stalled.

However, one writer, James McClellan, in a book called Liberty, Order and Justice published by the Center for Judicial Studies in Washington in 1989. McClellan wrote, on page 65, that: “In any event, 1763 marks an important turning point in Anglo-American relations, for this is the year when the mother country embarked upon a bold new course of action to increase revenue, tighten restrictions on colonial commerce, and require the Americans to assume a greater share of the imperial tax burden. In response to Parliament’s abrupt change of colonial policy, the Americans began to question the constitutional basis of parliamentary statues designed to impose a new economic relationship between the colonies and England. Reaffirming and at the same time reinterpreting their ancient rights and privileges, they turned in the final stages of resistance to thoughts about the nature of free government. In the end, they came reluctantly to the conclusion that secession was their only recourse.” And they had tried a lot of other options first. Secession had not been their first choice, as today it should not be the first choice, but should rather be the one measure to protect the liberties of the people when all other legitimate choices have been tried and failed. When you are in the position of trying to deal honorably with a rogue government and nothing else will work, what other choice to you have except bondage?

And so the Declaration of Independence was written and it listed all the problems the colonists had with England as the reasons for their secession from England. I had not always realized that the Declaration was a secession document. One day, several years ago now, I was rereading it and looking at all the reason the colonists gave for their action and the thought just struck me “The Declaration of Independence is really a secession document.” That was a new thought to me and I wondered if I had, as the English say, gone “a little bit around the bend.” But in subsequent reading in the months after that I found that several other writers had come up with the same conclusion, and so I felt I was not all that far out of line.

Back in June of 1992, Lew Rockwell Jr. wrote an article for “Free Market” in which he said: “In the U.S., meanwhile, the central government gets more tyrannical and expensive by the day. Is it time to think about bidding it adieu? Certainly, secession from Britain made a lot of sense.” And Rockwell quoted Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration where he said: whenever “any Form of Government becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it and to instutute a new Government.” When a “long train of abuses and usurpations” shows “a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.” And to really do that, you need to secede.

Back in 1994, Columnist Sam Francis did a column noting that Professor Walter Williams had argued in favor of secession, and Francis agreed with him. And then Francis went on to mention a couple little tidbits that, for some reason, hardly seem to make it into most “history” textbooks in our day. He said: “The Confederates of yore were hardly the first to uphold the right of states to secede. In 1815 the Hartford Convention seriously discussed the secession of New England. Later, some abolitionists proposed secession because they just couldn’t stand being part of the same country with slaveholders, a sentiment the slaveholders reciprocated. Confederate General George Pickett, who opposed secession on grounds of ‘expediency’ never doubted the right to secede and noted that the textbook on constitutional law he used as a cadet at West Point acknowledged secession’s legality.” I believe that book was written by William Rawle, LL.D and entitled A View of the Constitution Secession is dealt with in Rawle’s book on pages 238-239. So the concept of secession was taught in a book used at West Point, and some future Confederate leaders got their view of secession from a book used at the United States Military Academy. That being the case, you have to wonder at what point secession became treasonous. Today’s “historians” will never tell!

Other sources have cited secession sentiment in even the Middle Atlantic states–New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Author William C. Wright has written that: “The secession movement was prominent in the five Middle Atlantic states.”

So secession was not just a “Southern Thang.” The spirit of secession manifested itself in New England and the Middle Atlantic states and it was evident, to those who are willing to look, even in the Declaration of Independence. So those that scream that secession is treason either are totally ignorant of U.S. history or they fervently hope their audience is.

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3 thoughts on “Secession the “History” Books Neglect to Mention

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