Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who I admire and respect very much and who ought to have been Ohio Governor, turns a clever and nice phrase about Ron Paul’s speech in this column found at Townhall:
Congressman Ron Paul has just delivered his valedictory address in the House of Representatives. And he has told TV interviewers that the American Revolution was a wonderful example of secession. He’s a much better OB/GYN, I’m sure, than he is a student of America’s history. He could be cited for political malpractice.
Was the American Revolution an example of secession? Well, if secession is defined as an attempt of one part of a nation or empire to seek independence, than the American Revolution was indeed that. But I would submit the Revolution was a fight for liberty, started in 1775 when British forces attempted to seize an arsenal and two leaders (Samuel Adams and John Hancock) and the next day fighting commenced. It was more than a year before the United States declared independence.
But it gets worse for Blackwell:
Then, again, why is it that the Confederates of 1861 did not claim that their Secession movement was an exercise of the right of revolution? They were careful not to call it revolution. That’s because if they as slaveholders had a right of revolution–to secure what they regarded as their unalienable rights–then so did their slaves.
Maybe the Confederates did not call their effort for independence revolution because perhaps they felt they acted within the law? EVERY state that seceded acted through their legislature or through a properly called convention:
The first state to secede from the Union was South Carolina. Significantly, this was not the first time that the people of South Carolina had discussed secession. During the debate over tariffs in the 1830s, South Carolina seriously considered secession. Fortunately, John C. Calhoun helped to solve the problem and South Carolina remained in the Union. But on December 20th, 1860, South Carolina held a secession convention in Charleston. The debate was quick and short. Representatives voted unanimously, 169 to 0 for secession. The rupture of the Union had finally occurred, and the secession of South Carolina opened the floodgates as four more states from the Deep South quickly joined her.
In early January 1861, Mississippi held a convention in Jackson to consider secession. Delegates voted 84 to 15 to secede from the Union. On January 9th, 1861, Mississippi joined South Carolina. Florida joined the secession ranks the next day on January 10th. Her convention had met in Tallahassee and had voted 62 to 7 for secession. On January 11th, Alabama passed her secession resolution. The Alabama delegation had met in Montgomery and had voted 61 to 39 for secession. On January 19th, Georgia called delegates to Milledgeville and voted 209 to 89 for secession. A weeks later Louisiana became the sixth state to leave the Union. Her convention met in Baton Rouge on January 26th and voted 113 to 17 for secession. Ironically, as Louisiana was leaving the Union, Kansas was admitted on January 29th.
Texas was the seventh state to leave the Union. On, February 1st, Texans met in Austin and voted 166 to 7 for secession. Interestingly, the Union commander of the Department of Texas was Brigadier General David Twiggs, a Georgian. Upon secession, he ordered all military forces and stores under his command turned over to Texas authorities. On March 1st, the United States dismissed Twiggs from the Regular Army. Two months later in May 1861, the Confederate States appointed him Major General in the Provisional Army of the Confederacy.
The first was Virginia. On April 17th, Virginia, the traditional leader of the South, passed a succession bill 88 to 55. Significantly, Virginians had voted down a similar bill on April 4th, by a vote of 89 to 45.
Lincoln followed Virginia’s succession with an order to blockade all Southern ports. On May 3rd, Lincoln called for 42,000 three-year volunteers. Arkansas then joined the Confederacy on May 6th. The state convention had met at Little Rock and had voted 69 to 1 for secession. Tennessee seceded the same day. Earlier, on February 9th, Tennessee had held a statewide election and had rejected secession by a vote of 68,282 to 59,449. But with Lincoln’s call for more volunteers, the Tennessee State Convention met at Jackson. Delegates voted 66 to 25 for secession.
A week later, on May 13th, Great Britain declared its neutrality. On May 16th, the Confederate Congress authorized the recruiting of 400,000 volunteers. Four days later, on May 20th, 1861, North Carolina became the last state to join the new Confederacy. State delegates met in Raleigh and voted unanimously for secession. All of the states of the Deep South had now left the Union.
This was not an insurrection or a coup d’etat for which the Federal certainly could defend the states from! Blackwell confuses lawful secession by states with revolution.
What Ron Paul is talking about is dangerous. Those of us who are dissatisfied with the election results–and there are millions of us–have no recourse but to ballots. There must be no recourse from ballots to bullets, said Jefferson. Said Lincoln.
No one contends Ron Paul called for violent overthrow – except apparently Ken Blackwell! In fact, nullification of South Carolina over the tariff was indeed illegal and unconstitutional: The tariff was the exclusive province of the Federal government! Nullification is really a political weapon and only works when enough states act and cause the Congress to decide this is too hot politically. Case in point: Real ID. The Federal government tried to institute a national ID card but so many states said no that they had to back down – not because they could not exercise their power to make the states do it but it because the issue became too controversial politically.
It is ironic that Blackwell cites Lincoln and suggests that the South was responsible for the loss of life in the so-called Civil War:
If Ron Paul wants to advocate revolution or civil war, he should say so openly. If he wants to invoke the right of revolution, he should tell his followers to count the cost. We suffered 630,000 dead in the Civil War. Is he willing to lose that many again? Or, with our population increase, ten times that many?
First the 630,000 dead number is not accurate: It’s more than that. However, I must ask the question again: Did Lincoln have the right to forcibly stop secession of states when they acted through their elected representatives to do so? If so, Blackwell is right. BUT IF NOT, then the South is not responsible for these deaths: Lincoln and the North is. Yes the Confederates fired the first shot. However, they were goaded into it by Lincoln’s attempt to rearm Fort Sumter.
Ken Blackwell takes the position that secession is revolution and thus illegal. It’s still a free country. He has that right and I defend his right to say it. But who’s committing political malpractice? While the Confederacy was foolish and silly to break the Union over slavery and alleged racial superiority, that is not an answer to the question of: Was it legal and constitutional? Even if so, I do not support secession today. I do not want to choose a new flag, new laws, a new history nor a new citizenship. Let’s retake the government we have – through elections!