Ron Paul: 'Secession is a Deeply American Principle'

By on November 20, 2012 in Current Events with 53 Comments

The notion of individual state secession has gathered a lot of attention since residents of various states began petitioning the White House to allow their states to secede from the union. The petitions began after the recent election and have garnered many signatures; in some cases, the number of signatures obtained has been enough to trigger the automatic review and response the White House offers. (see Update on State Secession Movement – Will It Work?)

One of the states in the list of petitions that has gathered some of the most signatures is Texas. Texas Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), who is known for holding Libertarian viewpoints on issues, has recently responded to the secession petition movement in a post on his web site.

Paul writes:

Is it treasonous to want to secede from the United States?  Many think the question of secession was settled by our Civil War.  On the contrary; the principles of self-governance and voluntary association are at the core of our founding.  Clearly Thomas Jefferson believed secession was proper, albeit as a last resort. Writing to William Giles in 1825, he concluded 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.”

Keep in mind that the first and third paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence expressly contemplate the dissolution of a political union when the underlying government becomes tyrannical. 

Do we have a “government without limitation of powers” yet?  The Federal government kept the Union together through violence and force in the Civil War, but did might really make right?

Secession is a deeply American principle.  This country was born through secession.  Some felt it was treasonous to secede from England, but those “traitors” became our country’s greatest patriots.

There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents.  That is what our Revolutionary War was all about and today our own federal government is vastly overstepping its constitutional bounds with no signs of reform.  In fact, the recent election only further entrenched the status quo.  If the possibility of secession is completely off the table there is nothing to stop the federal government from continuing to encroach on our liberties and no recourse for those who are sick and tired of it.

Paul ultimately concludes by saying:

In a free country, governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. When the people have very clearly withdrawn their consent for a law, the discussion should be over.  If the Feds refuse to accept that and continue to run roughshod over the people, at what point do we acknowledge that that is not freedom anymore?  At what point should the people dissolve the political bands which have connected them with an increasingly tyrannical and oppressive federal government?  And if people or states are not free to leave the United States as a last resort, can they really think of themselves as free?

If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free.

What is your opinion? Should states be allowed to secede if they feel the federal government is overreaching, or should states have to stay within the union at all times? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

© 2016 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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  1. citizenofus1776 says:

    Succession was settled by the Civil War. Still, if you really object you can always move to a more favorable country. Right now we are suffering from the professional politicians in Congress who are working for their own selfish interests instead of the country’s. That’s why we need term limits as in the https://petitions.whitehouse.g…. Problem solved

  2. Paul says:

    The only problem with secession is it usually can’t be done without a well-prepared force, just as all military operations require.  Us Southerners found this out the hard way.  It is a last resort, and we are by now so spoiled that I cannot forsee a bunch of spoiled brats getting past bluster.  If liberals push their ideas too far though, I expect a geezer like me could drive a druck over an IED.

  3. Dwshopp says:

    This is not the country I fought for. The lack of respect for the constitution is leading us down a very bad path. The president of this country is NOT supposed to lead the country by executive order. The Executive Branch is not to create law but to enforce it. In God we trust.

  4. Dave A says:

    What a bunch of crap.  Nobody is running roughshod over anyone.  Last I checked, “when the underlying government becomes tyrannical” hasn’t happened yet.  EVERY LAW has been approved by a majority in Congress AND signed by a President [or the Congress has had a sufficient majority to obviate a President’s objection [veto].  This is just anti- Obama, racially motivated rhetoric.  i don’t seem to recall this level of discussion on secession under ANY other President – in the ‘modern age’ but I could be wrong.  I’m sure there have been sufficient nuts out there under Ikle, Kenney, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush [1], Clinton, and Bush [2] that all wanted secession, but this now is much more mainstraem than I can recall over these past Presidents.  BUT… If Texas really wants to secede, let them put it on a state-wide referendum and if they want to become their own country, let ’em have at it.  ZERO US federal spending, subsidies, contractiors, etc. for Texas.  No more planting and agricultural subsidies, oil subsidies, welfare, sovial security, medicare, ANYTHING.  you get to start it all over again.  No US federal dollars for ANYTHING.  Yea, go ahead and print up your own currency, create your own postal system, have your own border patrol, legal system, etc. etc.  HAVE FUN! 

  5. Snowbreath says:

    Our country “seceded” from England primarily because we had no new world Representatives in English government.

    Mr. Ron Paul and elected Tea Party Representatives are conclusive proof that many segments within our society have elected Representatives serving their interest.

    Mr. Paul and others talk of secession not for lack of representation but because they, the minority, are not able to control everything.   

    Mr Ron Paul believes the Federal government runs “rough shod over the people.”  That is not my belief.  Do the states that desire to secede want to put Jesus in their court house and exclude all other religions or  bring back Jim Crow laws or allow public schools to close so only wealthy can afford education or and ban contraception?   

    Could be a wonderful place for a wealthy white Christian straight male.  That describes Mr. Paul and me.  The difference is I believe the Federal Government does a better job looking after the rights of all American citizens than do individual states.

  6. Fed_Peasant says:

    Ron Paul has sucked up federal pay & a large military pension for a long, long, time.  This crack pot is full of it!!

  7. Lclon says:

    If people want to succeed, let them go. Just ensure that they do not remain on land that the federal government purchased which is the entire United States. They will have to buy their own land.

  8. HR Manager (Retired) says:

    I am amazed at all the fuse being made about the “secession movement”, as some are calling it, and the attention it is getting even from what is considered the main stream press.  This is nothing new – just ask any Texan who is unhappy about something the Fed’l gov’t is doing or he thinks it is doing.  Their first reaction is always that they want to again become the Republic of Texas.   The only reason these petitions have gotten any attention is because the Prez promised to respond to ANY petition the White House received which has at least 25K signatures.  If he had choosen to do what previous presidents had done and ignore petitions sent to the WH no one would be talking about them.  It is time, well actually it is past time, that we get pass this silliness and focus on the important stuff – ending the war, further improving our economy, immigration and electing reps who will work together and whose agenda is to make the quality of living better for EVERYONE in our country. 

    • ReaperComing says:

      it is okay when the dems brought it up in 2004 but now it is a problem always double stand with those guys and gals

  9. grannybunny says:

    How many services have you personally received from Planned Parenthood?  Based on your false concept of their mission, I suspect that you have no personal knowledge of the organization.  However, 1 in every 5 women in America has benefitted from their services — the vast majority of which have nothing to do with abortion – and knows that Planned Parenthood provides high-quality medical care, regardless of one’s ability to pay.  If they are racially-biased, I never saw it, as both their staffs and patients appear to represent a cross-section of America.  Apparently, you are not aware that they are non-profit.

  10. interested says:

    I love the discourse that Rep. Paul manages to stir among the people.  Regardless of his standpoint – right wing/left wing, right or wrong, all depending on your point of view and background, he is interesing.  Look at the comments here and you will see people that agree with him and those that don’t.  Some mildly and some violently so – on both sides.  But that is what discourse is about.  So that we can rationally, calmly think about and come to some conclusions about the questions being raised.

    In this case, I am a southerner by birth and raising.  I have lived in many parts of the US over the last 60+ years and experienced much of what this wonderful country has to offer, as well as some of the bad things that I would like to have avoided.

    Secession, yes, that is a “State’s Right” providing that the majority of the voters in that state agree.  Not the Governer and house and senate of that state.  And just like each territory had to petition to become a state, each state needs to petition to secede.  And the remaining states get to approve/disapprove of it.

    Am I in favor of it?  No, I still see the evidence of what happened in and after the Civil War (or as some of the older folks in my family used to call it “the war of Northern Agression”).  And I don’t want to see that ever happen here again.

  11. Drawohken52 says:

    Unfortunately “We the People” are allowing politicians to re-interpret the meaning of words, as a way to get around the constitution.  Nothing really new, but over time it has eroded our rights.  While a state seceding is unlikely, having the debate does present another loud voice from the crowd saying enough!

  12. Ray says:

    It helps if you go back and read the question…. Yes, states should have the right to secede as highly unlike as that may be.  We are a free society and a state should have the right to secede if the citizens of that state want secession.

  13. Dnice says:

    The fact that we have a voice in the process is a major difference between all the other forms of succession attached to this country.  The Colonist didn’t have a voice in how they lived.  Slaves didn’t have a voice in how they lived.  Women didn’t have a voice and how they lived. So think about it if the majority felt a change needs to be made in our process you can believe a change will be made.  And answer this, what state at this point and time would have a play to succeed and truly support itself.  Where do they go to offset the federal dollars they currently receive to help operate their state.  

  14. Liblady says:

    “There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents.” I agree, but the election just measured what response the people chose. I think Sen Paul needs to acknowledge this.

    • grannybunny says:

      He can’t.  He — and many others, apparently — are awash in “sour grapes” over the election results.  It’s ridiculous.  There’s no one in America whose candidates all won; mine certainly didn’t.  But, we still need to look forward and decide how to move forward — together — in a constructive manner.

  15. Snowbreath says:

    I watched the Republican Convention and primary debates where some sounded like they want to ban contraception and turn education over to the religious right so they could ignore science .  They would like to have a voucher system for education which really is a way to fund religious schools while defunding public education.  I prefer separation of church and state.

     I have listened to several Governors turn down Federal money so they can defund Planed Parenthood thereby removing a source of medical care for thousands of poor women.  There are many more examples but I will not bore you.

    I am most suspicious of groups wanting  secession claiming it would provide more freedom for the inhabitants of their state.  I suspect those groups would like to replace certain Federal requirements with different more stringent requirements of their own.

    A true Libertarian would reduce all laws, State and Federal, to a minimum. 

    • Kevin Cowley says:

      Planned Parenthood should never receive $1 or tax payer money.  Their mission is to kill babies, and to do it in a racially biased manner.  They don’t care about women, just making money regarless of the moral consequence.  The federal government, especially under the current government which chooses to ignore whatever laws they wish (like not defending DOMA, or forcing religious organizations to violate their firmly held tenants), has given most thinking Americans great reason to contemplate the dessolution of the present union.  A union that incurrs debt the way our inept current government does, leaving it for several future generations, can not long endure.  We have many Domestic Enemies, and many of them are elected or appointed officials.  Since most patriotic Americans have sworn an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC” it appears that we might soon be called upon to do so.  While I pray for our elected officials, I seriously doubt many of them believe in any god but themselves.  When we create god in our image, we have a very small god!

  16. Ray says:

    I hope our Representatives are listening, the people are expressing their dissatisfaction with our current state of affairs and changes need to be made in how we do business.

    While secession is legal I doubt any state could get 51% of voters to agree.  Who would want all the problems associated with becoming your own country?  Passport required to visit family and friends, no support in the event of a disaster (slow as it might be), the pullout of all U.S. military and federal functions and the loss of medicare and social security, ect., ect.

  17. LaborAttorney says:

    Ron Paul is having fun.  He is a highly educated, intelligent, man with some wacky tendencies.  He realizes that these petitions represent a fringe of a fringe and there is no popular will to secede anywhere.

  18. Stevebro6510 says:

    @anotherguessed to think this has anything to do with only one particular event or political party is obscene and counter productive.
    As for your comment regarding United States it is the United states government that is illegitimate. Employing new government is about RESTORING the strength of the people not destroying it.
    As it stands now we the people are just pawns. The people that choose to remain sheep will not thrive under tyranny. Natural selection can be a beautiful process.

  19. steve5656546346 says:

    The very logic of our founding is EXACTLY the same logic that was used for Southern succession…and could be used for any other succession.

    The Civil War established two things:  any succession was not going to be through force of arms; and slavery was not a just cause!  But, either our country should not have rebelled against England, or it is possibly a legitimate aspiration now:  choose one.

    All great nations fall, but the last election established that a slight majority of Americans want that fall to be expeditious, and that we will not make any effort at all to forestall it–we are past the tipping point.  It is only natural that not all States want to fall with the rest of the country:  and that seems to be a fair aspiration.

    • Lfwr says:

      You and others need to get the word right:  secession not succession.

    • ReaperComing says:

      Steve you are correct the people have chosen and now they will get what the voted for, it is gone

    • sandiegoret says:

      Funny you say that all states do not want to fall with the rest of the country and, yet, the states talking secession because they don’t want to fall with the rest of the country are by and large the states that are living off the largeness of the government–they are the states that receive way more money from the government than they pay in taxes.  

    • LVRichardson says:

      “…a slight majority of Americans [who voted] want… “  If one didn’t vote, one has no voice and connot legitimately complain about the results.

  20. grannybunny says:

    The Founding Fathers were protesting the Colonies’ total lack of representation in Parliament.  Americans have representation, only it is skewed — due to partisan political redistricting — and diluted due to the undue influence of monied interests, which is only getting worse since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision granted corporations Free Speech rights superior to those of natural persons.  The remedies are not to dissolve our imperfect Union, but to continue to seek to perfect it, say, by insulating redistricting from the political process, campaign finance reform, etc.

  21. mthomas304 says:

    As a Southerner and serving military member I am amazed that the topic carries any traction at all with most Americans. We do NOT live in a tyranny – I’ve seen tyrannies first hand and have spent the majority of the last 30 years fighting them. Talk of succession is nonsense – but if it makes you feel better – go for it. We are one people and one nation.

    • Manage This! says:

      Well said!
      Americans are – as a body – the most spoiled and delusional of the “educated” countries on this planet.  We expect everyone to be “like” us.  Instead of looking with introspect and thoughtful consideration toward “ALL” of the issues – not just the ones that satisfy their personal desires and agenda.
      I too have been in the military – retired now – and my observations of the countries in which I served are an education in humility that most Americans can rarely connect with.  The term spoiled American is not spoken lightly in other countries – it is our shame and worse – it is also based entirely on the internal belief that everyone should get what they want, just because we are Americans.
      I don’t know when it started – but I can tell you that as far as the developed nations of the world – we are nearing the lowest level in relation to others in several areas:
      1.  Education – we suck at this – except for a very few educators, most of our teaching staff are more concerned about having a work day that is strictly in the classroom.  Working outside the classroom is forbidden – so why should we expect our kids to be any different.
      2. Our system of employment and income balancing is horribly corrupted.  Seems if you are the wealthiest, you have rights that the rest of the country does not have – which includes the right to rip off nearly anyone else who does not have the gift of money.  Criminal acts, outright theft and incomes that are ridiculously off the charts are probably the foundation that started it – and they are just getting worse, not better.  To earn a seven or eight figure salary – what the hell justifies that in light of current economics?
      3. The salvation of the many – in the name of “responsibility” should not include the payment of welfare to individuals who just keep having kids for the lack of any other income source.  End Welfare – set up some kind of work relief system and mandate that work for pay is the only way.
      4. Foreign nationals birthing their kids in USA should not automatically grant citizenship to the kids and retrospectively award that citizenship through relation to the rest of the family.  This needs to change – and should have been changed decades ago – we are not exercising sound judgement on our citizenry responsibility by leaving such a ridiculous law on the books unmodified.  You want to be American – do it the right way!
      5. If you are American – the B.S. about hiring your workforce in another country needs to stop – I don’t care that it will put another $10M in your pocket – or the board of directors’ pockets – what I care about is how you can believe you are doing the right thing by exporting your work just to increase your #@0a876547c7a506015845d2a73b48fddb:disqus ^^N paycheck.  You want to higher a foreign country to do your work – move your worthless butt to that country and live your live there – as a citizen of that country – get the #477 out of mine.
      6. The service minded approach to governing the citizenry – if you are educated at all – has been proven to work only when there is an equally minded I must serve mentality.  We don’t have that – too many leaches believe that you must serve me first as I deserve – and their short minded expectations do not see a need to fulfill the obligation on the other side.  SO, end this farce, Invoke the mandate that you get nothing without contributing something worth what you are getting.
      7. The screwed up mess our government is in – it is not the fault of the present administration – and though they are struggling to find a way – it is not their responsibility to solve it – it is the body of the nation that needs healing – not the mind.  Clean the trash from your soul and the rest will find a way to recover.  Absent that, the disease that is based on wealth and its opposite – welfare – will end this country and turn us against one another – just as it has done every other country in which the citizenry failed to observe their obligations to the nation before their self interests.
      8. BIG BROTHER – AKA the Patriot Act – and DHS (and its subagencies – specifically TSA) are a police state entity – are we so worthless as a nation that we need to actually do this to our own people?  If you have a disease – you extricate it from the body quickly – you don’t radiate the whole body to kill a cancer and you certainly don’t destroy freedom in the name of protecting your own interests.  Too many big pockets have their hands in the management of the INFORMATION to ensure their interests are served first.

      As Americans, we each have a responsibility to obtain the education and means to properly understand all of the topics – not mindlessly follow the banter and manipulation posed by the media and other manipulators.  Greed is our common enemy but our jealousy of others is the tools by which Greed has gained a foothold in our society.

      The internet is a great source of information, education and capacity – instead we use it for immediate gratification, web-gaming, puzzle playing and sharing indiscretions of anyone we want to with anyone we want to.  We are the base animals that we have chosen to become – instead of being the better person by becoming the educated citizen our ancestors expected.

      Changing your government will not solve the problem if you are not first willing to change yourself!

      • Ross200 says:

        You obviously learned nothing from the election results two weeks ago. The American People rejected people like you who use words like leaches and are anti-immigrant.  You right wingers nauseate me. 

        • Manage This! says:

          I learned much more than you apparently did – “LEACHES” are exactly what I stated – the ones who take and provide very little benefit for the act. As for the scope of the election – your belief in Romney/Ryan was a hopeless expectation of redemption. Both of them have so many skeletons in the closet I would shudder to think of what would have happened if they had actually made it to the position of power. Ryan is a criminal – with clear evidence that says he should have been imprisoned years ago. The money schemes he has attempted have cost many americans their entire life savings and in some cases all of their property as well. He is a carpet bager of the 21st century-promising riches while stealing your property.
          As for Romney – you really should take a look at the impact his decisions had on Massachusetts – with rare exception – the state hates his guts and would never have allowed him another term. He basically killed the economy there and destroyed the education system while misleading everyone with his brags about the best in the nation – which happened before he even made office and what happened after was a far cry from success. They are bleeding out and no one knows what to do to stop the hemmoraging.
          When you vote for someone – take a little time and actually check the facts – these things they claim to have accomplished and look at the timelines that apply. It may be a painful experience – but in the long run, you might just help to save our country from making foolish decisions based on biased information.

      • Happy2b22 says:

        I like your statements.  I believe that our present administration is trying to destroy America from the inside out.  They are keeping our nation fighting among ourselves.  This administration spends money we do not have (lots of it).

        I am not sure if I think we should consider secession or not.  But I do believe that our Government is trying to run too much of our lives.  People should be responsible for themselves and their actions.  The only people who should be getting help are our truely disabled ones.  We have too many lazy people who choose not to work because our Government will pay them better than them having a job.  We should not be paying for anything or giving money to people here illegally.

        I THANK every military person who has fought for the freedoms that we have.  It is too bad that our Government is slowly taking away some of these freedoms.

      • little taxpayer says:

        1.  Sort of agree with, although the problem varies widely by school district.
        2. Disagree with.  Most of the wealthy did not start that way.  They were poor to middle class who worked hard and had great ideas that benefited lots of people.  The few that take short cuts and break the law are usually found out and punished, although not soon enough in many cases.
        3. Sort of agree with. A certain level of poverty will always exist because of various disabilities, but the best way to move people out of poverty is to instill a work ethic and sense of pride in paying your own way.
        4. Kids born in the US are citizens.  If the parents/family are here legally, great.  If they are here illegally, we as a nation have a lot of work to do figuring out what to do with them.  Our “leaders” have failed miserably.
        5. Disagree.  I think it’s better to have a US based company providing some employment and lots of taxes even if employees are overseas than to have the business bankrupt and all the employees unemployed.
        6. Not exactly sure what you are saying, but I agree that too many people think the US government is Santa Claus and vote accordingly.
        7. Disagree, I think.  What made this country great was not the government.  It was the ideals in the Declaration, Constitution, Bill of Rights that let every person strive to advance toward success for their own self-interest. Part of that self-interest included having safe and stable community and country, which government originally was designed to achieve.  Government has been corrupted by people striving for power acquired largely by taking money away from producers and giving it to people who will vote to continue receiving that money.
        8. Agree. 

    • anotherguessed says:

       Amen! Well said!!

    • LVRichardson says:

      As with anything, just because it’s not the “worst you’ve ever seen”, doesn’t mean it isn’t.  Just as our impoverished peoples are wealthy compared to the “truly” impoverished, doesn’t diminish the claim.  So too, tyranny.  Just because we’re not there yet, by comparison that is, doesn’t mean we can’t get there from here.  We are on the road, my friends.

  22. anotherguessed says:

    Then I suppose we should change the name “UNITED States of America” to “Sort of United, when Everyone Agrees with the Results of the Last Democratically-Conducted Election, but  Fragmented when Not Everyone is Happy, States of America”. I don’t think it “flows” quite as well, not to mention the resulting size of American coins.

    • darsco says:

      we have not been united for quite a few years now. see last few election numbers, msnbc-rush limbaugh. maybe we could have the united liberal states and the united conservative states. liberal states would fail though due to the rush of welfare people moving there for better hand outs.

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