Can a US state secede?

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,428
Las Vegas, NV USA
#1
It's been discussed but I have some possibly new thoughts on the matter.

1. The 13 original colonies were largely self governing until the run-up to the rebellion.

2. From 1783 to ratification of the Constitution by 9 states, the states were for practical purposes independent. The weak Continental Congress could not tax or pass laws. It could only pass "ordinances" for the unorganized territory the US was granted under the 1783 treaty.

3. All subsequent states were formed from land under federal jurisdiction or the jurisdiction of other states except Texas.

Given these points, could a better case be made for the 13 original states and Texas to secede than for the other states? The Constitution does not explicitly forbid secession and it's never been tested in court. In May, 1861 a Royal Proclamation of Neutrality by the UK effectively identified both the USA and CSA as belligerents. There were no further actions to formally recognize the CSA but it was named as an "entity" in business transactions.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,295
Dispargum
#2
If the other states were willing to let the seceding state leave then it could happen. As in any case, the courts only get involved if someone complains. If no one complains, then it's legal. Similarly, if the question was put to the test of arms, but no one was willing to fight to preserve the union, then the seceding state would get away with it.

I cannot imagine a scenario where some states have rights that other states do not. The scenario described in the OP where the original 13 plus Texas can but the other states cannot seems overly legalistic and based on obscure historical precident. Most Americans don't think that way and whether the question was to resolved in court, on the battlefield, or ignored will be decided by public opinion.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
#4
No countries in the modern day would allow a state or province of theirs to secede, American or not. Democracy doesn't even factor into it, it's all about territorial integrity, reputation and economics. Just look at what happened in Barcelona to see how successful a peaceful secession supported by a large proportion of the population ends up. We tend to think we are more civilised and just and democratic than our ancestors but in many ways that isn't really the case. The CSA tried to use the legalistic argument that there is nothing in the Constitution explicitly forbidding secession, and were this handled in court they might have won based purely on legal grounds, but as we all know that didn't happen. Secession can only happen if the most powerful entity in the country - in most cases the federal government - allows it, legal arguments be damned. It is a case of might over right.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,428
Las Vegas, NV USA
#5
I cannot imagine a scenario where some states have rights that other states do not. The scenario described in the OP where the original 13 plus Texas can but the other states cannot seems overly legalistic and based on obscure historical precident. Most Americans don't think that way and whether the question was to resolved in court, on the battlefield, or ignored will be decided by public opinion.
I spoke in relative, not absolute terms. So Texas might have a better case in court if the Federal Government challenged it than say Wyoming. What would the court consider in the absent of clear constitutional guidelines? Geographically Texas is better positioned to secede being on an international border, having a substantial coastline and a large population. It likely it could function as an independent state. Wyoming was one of six thinly populated states, four in one month, admitted to boost Republican representation in the Senate during the administration of Benjamin Harrison.

I don't know if courts would evaluate historical circumstances. In Canada, they were considered. Quebec existed long before Canada did. The main issues were what Quebec owed the rest of Canada in terms of federal investments paid for in large part by other Canadians. The "unique culture" argument was not an issue. Quebec narrowly voted to remain.
 
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stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,428
Las Vegas, NV USA
#6
The CSA tried to use the legalistic argument that there is nothing in the Constitution explicitly forbidding secession, and were this handled in court they might have won based purely on legal grounds, but as we all know that didn't happen. Secession can only happen if the most powerful entity in the country - in most cases the federal government - allows it, legal arguments be damned. It is a case of might over right.
Lincoln took no action until Fort Sumpter was fired upon. He could then call for troops to suppress a violent insurrection. Officially there was no CSA; only an illegal rebellion against the lawfully constituted government.
 
Jun 2017
398
maine
#10
Should the last s in States be dropped then? Not that I have a dog in this fight, just idle curiosity.
I shouldn't think so. The central government is limited and not all-powerful. Each state differs from the others--legally. The states have exclusive powers that sometimes have brought them into conflict with the central government.