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The Case for Southern Secession (Again?)
by John P. George
Why should Southerners believe that secession should be any more feasible now than in 1861? After all, didn't the failed War for Southern Independence end the question of secession forever? In addition, what possible benefits could there be from forming a new Southern confederacy? These are probably the most frequently asked questions of League of the South members.
Secession today appears to be a serious but popularly accepted option everywhere except here in the United States. Fifteen years ago, someone suggesting that Russia would voluntarily allow the three Baltic states their independence after their re-annexation, at the point of a bayonet in the 1940s, would have had been considered a hopeless romantic and/or lunatic. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia (and possibly Canada) and a rebirth of Scottish nationalism, Southerners too are increasingly wondering whether or not greater autonomy for the South is possible.
Lincoln and the War notwithstanding, self-determination and independence remain just as much a legitimate aspiration today for Southerners as in 1861. It is impossible to read the Declaration of Independence and not believe in the right of self-determination without being hypocritical. While the purpose of this paper is not discuss in great detail the Constitutional questions concerning secession, let it suffice to be said that many constitutional experts before the War believed strongly in the Constitutional right of secession. This was based on the very origin of the federal government itself (states, in effect, had to secede' from the old Articles of Confederation in order to join the Union). In addition, the tenth amendment states specifically that since the 'power' of secession is nowhere prohibited in the Constitution, that right is guaranteed to the states ('reserved to the states respectively'). Lincoln, of course, was opposed to the question of secession going to the Taney Supreme Court because he knew lie would not prevail. What Lincoln was unable to accomplish by Constitutional means, lie was quite willing to do by forcing the South to stop Union supplies from reaching Ft. Sumter thus precipitating the War. The War itself did not, of course, settle the Constitutional question unless one believes (as Lincoln did) that might makes right.
Secession and independence remains the only an answer for the South today. Aside from the fact that the old ordinances of secession were perfectly legal and repealed only at the point of a bayonet after the War, thus giving the South a legitimate reason for returning to the status quo antebellum, the Federal government (and the North in general) has again and again demonstrated a continual arrogant abuse of power against the South. From the First Reconstruction (1865-1877) to the Second Reconstruction (1957 [when Federal troops were sent back into the South]) to the present, the Federal government has shown a habitual disregard for state rights by regarding the states as the servants of the central government rather than the reverse.
Complete Southern autonomy and the establishment of a true confederate system is the only solution for the South that can remove the possibility of new encroachments against state rights by the Federal government. Devolution of central power back to the local and state level will remove an unneeded and unwarranted level of bureaucracy and provide the greatest amount of freedom and empowerment to the people.
Southern independence will allow us to work out our own problems by ourselves and not by Federal force. From slavery to segregation to under 21 drinking, the Federal government has been unwilling to let us work things out among ourselves if it has not been the proper solution at the proper speed deemed appropriate by our Federal 'Big Brother'. In the case of secession we were told, 'We don't care what you want, you will remain in the Union whether you want to or not.' In the ease of desegregation it was, 'If you don't move fast enough with what we consider "all deliberate speed" in our social engineering, we will send Federal troops back into the South to force you with violence if necessary to do as we say to do.' In the case of the question of whether those under 21 should be able to drink, it was 'Since the Constitution says nothing about a drinking age, you will raise the drinking age to 21 or else we will not give you back some of the Federal highway tax money that we have forced you to pay us.
Southern independence will allow Southern culture and heritage to flourish. The South will no longer have to struggle constantly to be permitted to celebrate its own holidays and traditions. Most importantly, the statement that the South is a history without a nation will no longer be true; we will have our national history without Yankee revisionism. We will be able emphasize again our agrarian and small town values and stop the process of every Southern city becoming an architectural carbon copy of Northern urban sprawl, strip malls and urban congestion.
Southern independence will check the inane drift toward world government through the United Nations. The same people who love a strong federal government think nothing about chipping away at our national sovereignty and freedom. Not surprisingly, our scalawag President Clinton was opposed to U.S. support for Chechnya since the U.S. had opposed secession. Imperialistic nations such as Russia, our own Federal government, and China can be counted on not to support secession and independence for the people of Kosovo and Tibet.
Southern independence is based on the belief that there are basic and distinct differences in culture, religion, political ideology, and ethnicity that form a nation distinct from the North. Ethnically the white population of the South has been predominantly from Great Britain and Ireland and northern Europe and Protestant Christian in religion. Politically the South has long been more conservative than the North or West, and regardless of ethnic background (e.g., black, Cajun, or Cherokee) all Southerners share a common history and certain similarities in cuisine, language, and music. To find out the differences between the North and the South, just tell a Southerner there aren't any!
Southern independence and nationalism will check the growth of liberal internationalism, social engineering and radical egalitarianism. While Marxism is dead or dying throughout the old communist block nations, it remains an insidious virus within Western liberalism which has distorted liberalism from its previous lofty aims of individual freedom. It is this Marxist tainted liberalism which promotes an androgenous, homogenized, and centralized society under the guise of 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism'. Southern nationalism is based on the belief that cultural heritage and traditions can best be maintained through ethnic autonomy. Robert Frost and his ilk notwithstanding, good fences do make good neighbors. Radical egalitarians not only want to tear down their neighbors' fences; they also believe that 'What's mine is mine and What's yours is also mine.' Thus in their striving towards equality of condition, racial preferences become "affirmative action" and any scientific research into inherent racial or gender differences becomes taboo. SAT score requirements for minorities in colleges and physical requirements for women in the armed forces are lowered in order to meet radical egalitarian dogma. Instead our Southern heritage celebrates true diversity (as in complementary differences between men and women) and true multiculturalism (where differences are recognized yet evaluated accordingly instead of pretending that all cultures are equal).
Even without an organized political party to promulgate Southern nationalism, public opinion polls have indicated that approximately ten percent of the South's population would support Southern independence if it could be obtained without violence. This means that a Southern nationalist party organizing for elections today would start out with a larger base of support than the Parti Quebecois did when it came into existence when less than five percent of the Quebecois supported independence for Quebec. Such a political party in the South could run candidates for local election and support national candidates it felt best represented the interests of the party.
And even a single state seceding and gaining independence would be more economically viable and politically feasible than some of the national states that have come into existence over the past fifty years. Even allowing for some of the financial technicalities (e.g., assumption of a per capita portion of the national debt). Imagine how wonderful it would be to wake up one morning in a state free of the dictates of Washington, master in its own house, and master of its own destiny!
As the single star of a new 'Bonnie Blue Flag' grows to include others, a true confederacy could be created, i.e., one with a truly weak central government that is created solely to be the servant of states (and not vice versa). Such a central government would attend almost exclusively to foreign affairs, a common currency, postal system, and defense. The new constitution would take seriously Patrick Henry's admonitions against the ratification of the old Constitution.
A bumper sticker appeared several years ago which stated, 'If independence sounds good in Lithuania, it'll play great in Dixie.' If independence can be obtained from the Soviet Union without bloodshed by three small Baltic states, surely the same can be done by the South. Someday we will be able to repeat in fact the lines from Timrod's 'Ethnogenesis' written in 1861 upon the formation of the first Confederacy:
John P. George holds a B.A. degree in sociology and philosophy from the University of Georgia, an M.A. degree in historical sociology from the University of New Brunswick in Canada, and a Ph.D. from Mississippi State University. In addition, he has completed graduate work at the University of Munich in Germany. He presently teaches at John Hancock Academy in Sparta, Georgia, and is a member of the League of the South.