THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: There is a lot of talk these days about the Constitution of the United States. Indeed some have enshrined the Constitution as if it were some sort of Holy Writ. In fact, not only does the U.S. Constitution have nothing to do with the founding of the United States, but it wasn't even our first form of government! The 'Articles of Confederation' (1777 - 1787) was the first document outlining the function of American government. That document was eventually replaced by the Constitution which has since served as our SECOND attempt at self-governance. Neither of these documents, not the Constitution nor the Articles of Confederation, were the founding documents of the United States. That designation is reserved for one document alone -- The Declaration of Independence.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Signing of the Declaration of Independence
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security...
-- The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
As in the case of the thirteen British colonies in America, each of them had their own local state government. Likewise, these state governments frequently sent representatives to a regional 'Continental Congress' which in many ways functioned as a precursor to an independent government. Yes, the principle America was founded on was the notion that people (organised in the states they reside) have the right, to pull away (secede) from one form of government, become independent, and even reorganise under another form of government of their own making. It was a revolutionary idea to say the least, and one the king of England did not agree with. After a long and bitter war with the British crown, the king signed thirteen separate agreements to end all hostilities with each of the thirteen colonies. It was called the Treaty of Paris, and it was signed on September 3rd, 1783. After all the platitudes about 'freedom' and 'liberty' as well as what that means to various people, in the end, America was founded on just one thing -- the right to secede!
Some eighty-five years later, something happened that turned all of this on its head. It was called the American Civil War. We can debate the circumstances and causes of the Civil War ad nauseum but it will not scratch the surface of this issue. To debate the causes of the Civil War is to miss the point entirely. The point is; do states have the right to secede or don't they? Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers said 'YES' and they fought a war to defend it. Almost a generation later, as the New England states were seriously considering secession from the rest of the United States over the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson was asked what he thought of New England secession. He responded with the words 'they will all be our children' pointing out that they had the right to leave America, and even if they did start their own country, they would do so in the spirit of the American Revolution and remain Americans by common heritage. New England secession never happened, but the movement itself, along with Jefferson's response to it, underlines the position of America's founding. People (organised in the states they occupy) have the right to lawfully secede.
So which is it? Who is right? Is it Jefferson or Lincoln? It has to be one or the other, but it cannot be both.
Before addressing this issue in the comments section below, please keep in mind this is not about the alleged 'causes' or 'circumstances' leading up to the American Revolution and American Civil War. Any comments disparaging one side or another, concerning these alleged 'causes' or 'circumstances' will likely be moderated. This is solely about the principle enshrined in the document above. DO STATES HAVE A RIGHT TO SECEDE OR DON'T THEY????