• This is a political forum that is non-biased/non-partisan and treats every person's position on topics equally. This debate forum is not aligned to any political party. In today's politics, many ideas are split between and even within all the political parties. Often we find ourselves agreeing on one platform but some topics break our mold. We are here to discuss them in a civil political debate. If this is your first visit to our political forums, be sure to check out the RULES. Registering for debate politics is necessary before posting. Register today to participate - it's free!

On Secession

As evidenced by the conversation taking place in the “Would Slavery Still Exist?” thread, there exists a good amount of confusion regarding the fundamental characteristics underlying the split from England by the American Colonies, the founding of the United States, and the subsequent formation of the Confederate States. Because this issue is so pivotal to promoting patriotic ideology, the actual historic events tend to get a little muddied with hyperbole. The following is a brief summary of events and concepts.

The British colonies in America were established by charters granted by representatives of the King of England. For much of their history prior to hostilities, the colonies experienced primarily self-government with each colony determining its own structure. In the 1760s and 1770s the colonists of the thirteen eventual American colonies banded together in opposition to what they felt was oppressive rule by a distant overlord. This culminated with the official declaration of separation in 1776.

To this point, most would likely agree with the narrative. However, unlike most elementary textbooks tell us, this is not the point at which the United States of America was formed.

The Declaration of Independence put in writing the claim that it is the right of the people at large to alter or abolish the government which reigns over their lives at any time. It establishes that governments are not self-originating, but that they are created purposefully by the people. Upon listing the crimes of King George III, the document stated that the former British colonies were now “Free and Independent States.” Contrary to the modern concept of the term “state,” this statement was a declaration that the thirteen colonies were now thirteen independent and separately sovereign nations which had temporarily united for this particular cause. At no point in this document was a single controlling government suggested or created.

As early as 1764, a number of the colonies sent secret delegates to the Committees of Correspondence. These committees were initially formed in reaction to the increasing encroachment by Britain. Their purpose was to coordinate information and tactics of resistance against various measures forced upon the colonies. The outcomes of these meetings were entirely voluntary by the participants. In 1773, a permanent committee – the Committee of Correspondence and Inquiry – was proposed. The following year, as a result of the increasing volatility in the colonies, a new “patriotick Assembly” was proposed “to meet in general congress, at such place annually as shall be thought most convenient; there to deliberate on those general measures which the united interests of America may from time to time require.”

At the end of 1774, the First Continental Congress met and adopted the Articles of Association. These articles were essentially a trade embargo with Great Britain and attempted to maintain allegiance with the King. Within the document, they referred to themselves as “his majesty's most loyal subjects” and the colonies as “British America.” The Continental Congress is often construed as the de facto beginning of a new nation, but the historical evidence states otherwise. Keep in mind that the members of the Continental Congress were properly considered traitors and met for seditious purposes.

During this time, the various political bodies of the individual colonies had been meeting in order to discuss the same events. Separately, they had deliberated not only how to react to the increased pressures from Britain, but how to interact with the other colonies through the committees and congress. The following year in 1775, the Second Continental Congress met to discuss the increasingly volatile events. After a second attempt at preventing war had failed, the congress drafted and approved the Declaration of Independence. This document was signed and ratified by delegates sent to a general meeting (congress) of the various independent colonies. Up to this point, they had been separate colonies of the British Empire. After the adoption of the Declaration, they collectively became sovereign states/nations.

The former colonies, now nations, drew up their own constitutions and declarations. Considering these documents along with the famous Declaration of Independence, it is clear that the prevailing interpretation of these statements was simply a split with the mother country and not the formation of a replacement. It is also clearly evident that the concept of secession was inherent in humanity and was not restricted to that location and time in history. For example, the Virginia Declaration of Rights states: “…whenever any Government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”

The Declaration of Independence echoes this concept: “…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.”

Mid 1776, the Continental Congress formed a “committee to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between these colonies.” Their result was the Articles of Confederation. Article XIII of this document states that “the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the union shall be perpetual.” However, this presumption is in direct violation of the ideals underlying the foundation of the Confederation itself; namely, the right of the people writ large.

The Constitution of 1789 further empowered the central authority, but did not alter the ability of the people to “alter or abolish” the government. This right can arguably be shown as recognized by the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Consternation over conflicts of interest culminated in 1828 when Congress passed the “Tariff of Abominations.” The Tariff of 1828 was a protective tariff intended to shelter the industrial North from foreign imports. As is true of all protectionist restrictions, this had the unintended consequences of harming other sectors of the economy. Writing in opposition to this act, John C. Calhoun penned the South Carolina Exposition and Protest. Within this document he noted the effects of tariffs; an effect which continues to escape the grasp of self-proclaimed economic “experts,” namely that the “object in the Tariff is to keep down foreign competition, in order to obtain a monopoly of the domestic market. The effect on us is to compel us to purchase at a higher price, both what we purchase from them and from others.”

This was quickly followed by the Ordinance of Nullification in 1832 and a little known act of Congress called the Force Bill of 1833. These two acts mark the pivotal moment in American history between continuing on a path of individual liberties or one of imperialism. The Ordinance of Nullification declared the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 unconstitutional and prohibited their enforcement within the state. In response, the Force Act authorized the President to utilize military force to collect taxes from these tariffs.

The situation continued to deteriorate until 1860, when, over the following year, eleven states declared their secession from the union. Their respective declarations stated various reasons for this separation in similar fashion to the historic – and revered – Declaration of 1776. The major difference between the Declaration of 1776 and the various declarations of 1860/1861 was the outcome of hostilities. Britain denied the legitimacy of the colonies to separate in 1776 for much the same reasons as the United States denied the legitimacy of the southern states in the early 1860s. However, the fundamental ability of a population to sever ties with a government did not change throughout those ninety years.

In summary, there exist two possibilities: 1) it is the right of all people, throughout the globe and for all of posterity, to declare independence from their government, or 2) the right of a people to become independent of their government exists solely in the ability to physically overcome restrictive force to the contrary. Put differently, it is either individual liberty of popular tyranny.


Jan 2, 2014
Reaction score
Political Leaning
Your conclusion results in a false dilemma. It is never as simple as individual liberty versus "popular tyranny". At the same time, the obverse, the argument to moderation, is equally fallacious.


DP Veteran
Oct 11, 2011
Reaction score
Political Leaning
But it is that simple. It is certainly possible to choose to live in shades of gray, but the ultimate fact of life comes down to either liberty or tyranny. Either a person can do whatever he damn well pleases or else he is nothing but a slave to the tyranny of his environment. This is not to say that a person cannot voluntarily choose to adhere to societal mores in order to increase his quality and enjoyment of life. But forcing a person to make these concessions is no less than tyranny.
Top Bottom