Can Texas Really Secede from the Union? Not Legally

Neo-secessionists are having a moment, even if they have no legal ground to break away

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Christopher Anderson / Magnum

Downtown Midland Texas, 2005.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like the 1860s — and not just because Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln opened nationwide this past weekend. There is a secessionist movement afoot: hundreds of thousands of Americans from all 50 states have signed petitions to secede. Texas is in the lead — no great surprise, perhaps — with ABC reporting last week that the Lone Star State’s petition was the first to get more than 25,000 signatures. It now has more than 100,000.

That 25,000 mark, which at least seven states have hit, is significant. The petitions were shrewdly placed on a White House website called We the People, which invites members of the public to appeal directly to the federal government. The site promises that petitions that garner more than 25,000 signatures within 30 days — subject to some exceptions — will get a response from the White House.

What exactly are the states’ grounds for seceding? The answers are a bit scattershot. The Texas petition complains that the U.S. is suffering economically “from the federal government’s neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending” and throws in alleged abuses imposed by the Transportation Security Administration, which could be summarized with the phrase “Don’t touch my junk.” Virginia’s petition cites, with somewhat arbitrary punctuation and capitalization, “Corruption,Lies,and Cover-Ups.Including potential Voter Fraud.”

(MORE: Why We Need a Voters’ Bill of Rights)

Scoff if you will, but it is clear that the neo-secessionist movement is having a moment. The Drudge Report, that calibrator of the far-right zeitgeist, exulted in a headline on Nov. 14: “Secession Movement Explodes.” And articles have been appearing elsewhere online with headlines like “Is Secession the Answer for Utah?” (If it is, what exactly is the question?)

Of course, anti-secessionists are gleefully responding. Chuck Thompson, the author of Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, has written a piece titled “Go Ahead and Secede, Texas. I Dare You.” In it, he argues that the small-government utopia that Texas secessionists are dreaming of — a country with weak trade unions, negligible taxes and no guaranteed health care — “already exists. It’s called the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

As the petitioning and flame wars continue, though, it’s worth stepping back and asking a basic question: Is any of this legal? Can a state actually secede from the union?

It’s a question that law professors sometimes like to ponder, but the answer certainly must be no. The Constitution, which provides processes for new states to enter the union and for current states to divide or reconfigure, does not have a provision for states to leave the union. A state would have to leave by force — something Abraham Lincoln knew a lot about — since there is no legal basis it could point to for breaking away.

(MORE: Why We Are Still Fighting the Civil War)

It is often said the Civil War answered this question: that when the South surrendered at Appomattox, the idea of secession was also defeated. In fact, no lesser authority than Justice Antonin Scalia — who would probably rank No. 1 or 2 in a parlor-game bet over which Justice is most likely to sign a secession petition — has said precisely this. In response to a letter from a citizen asking if there is a legal basis for secession — a letter that it is remarkable for being answered by a sitting Justice — Scalia wrote in 2006, “[The] answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”

Of course, it is highly unlikely that any of these legal questions will have to be re-examined, because for all the secessionists’ petitions, they remain a perversely small minority. Even in the states that are racking up the most signatures, governors have been quick to distance themselves from secession talk. The conservative Republican governors of Alabama and Texas have come out publicly against secession, and the governor of Louisiana — whose state’s signature total was second only to Texas’ on Nov. 14 — called the idea “silly.”

(MORE: Should a Person Be Jailed for Swearing in Court?)

In fact, just like 150 years ago, pro-union forces are starting to respond with vigor. A petition recently went up on We the People titled “Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America.” It has gotten more than 24,000 signatures, and counting.

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561 comments
MichaelRoss
MichaelRoss

We always view history from our moment in history and we never think about what leads up to events like the Revolution or the Civil War. Truth be told, America was founded through a great Secessionist Document called the Declaration of Independence. We fought Britain to get Independence. If Texas wants Independence, they may have to fight for it. I say if they want it, let them have it. Besides, if it doesn't work out, we would probably admit them back into the Union anyway.

HarleyManwarren
HarleyManwarren

who you  gone to call when mexico trys take texas   for there own!

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

Texas can legally secede, ignorance to the contrary notwithstanding.

Of  course a shill-media outlet like Time will never cop to it,  and Adam Cohen is a dunce for citing Scalia as some sort of expert, when it's like asking Hitler whether Poland has the right to be separate from Germany.

Ya see, Adam, each state is SOVEREIGN, and that means they have the right to secede, and help people leave their soil who refuse to do so when asked. If you care to look at a map, Ft. Sumter is INSIDE South Carolina.

But Adam Cohen is a dimestore hack for a lapdog publication, so it's clear who's pulling HIS strings; he has no mind of his own, or incentive to bite the hand that feeds him.

His argument is simply "The Constitution, which provides processes  for new states to enter the union and for current states to divide or reconfigure, does not have a provision for states to leave the union. A state would have to leave by force."

(FACEPALM)

Thisbrain-trust is typical of Yale trash--much like his colleague Akhil Reed Amar, his litter-mate in the whelping-box of lapdogs.

No, Adam, wrong again: and it's such a nonsense-argument is proof of your vapidity. The Constitution doesn't HAVE a provision for states to secede, because they don't NEED one, you IDIOT!

They ARE SOVEREIGN STATES!

I suppose a functioning brain is not allowed to teach at Yale.

Dead-Eye
Dead-Eye

Let Texas go,  If I was President I would cut Texas off at the knees, I would Block all sea ports, all Interstate highways, all US highways, and all State Routs and all county routes in to Texas, then I would set up long range long johne missals to guard all routes in to and out of texas.

diamond_browning
diamond_browning

I am all for Texas leaving the union and 99.9% of all Texans feel the same--Texas supports the rest of the country--Our only hold up is a governor that is afraid to make waves-

JeffreyWatts
JeffreyWatts

Samantha, You're wrong. Texas has a 12 billion dollar budget surplus. Also, we pay in to the fed far more than we receive. Texas is the 9th largest economy in the world, and we do this with no state income tax. California has the 2nd highest state income tax in the nation, and is 30 billion in debt. Illinois is right there with them. The south (mainly Texas) is the only thing driving America's economy right now. When we leave, America will become Greece.

SamanthaAlexander
SamanthaAlexander

Let Texas and the rest of the south secede.  The entire region is comprised of  nine of the nation’s  poorest states, They are against government spending, yet all of its states get far more in government subsidies than they give back in taxes,  Blue States have been the providers while Red States are parasites."  More power to them, let Texas and the rest of the south secede thereby allowing the rest of us to be done with these parasitic, illiterate hillbillies.

Regio121
Regio121

Exactly and thanks KyleJackson the same reasons the Union had before the invasion to Tejas and California, a lot to gain and nothing to lose. Nerveless I do not support any secession from the USA.

KyleJackson
KyleJackson

First of all if you read the Texas constitution you'll plainly see Texas reserve the right to secede (which was acknowledge by US Congress with NO retort or rebuttal)

As to @coach777b- Lets go over some numbers (since you OBVIOUSLY didn't)
1) Gross Domestic Product, Texas GDP 1.245 Trillion in 2008 (Ahead of 183 other independent nations)

2) Population, in 2010 census Texas population was in excess of 26 million people (Ahead of 117 other independent nations)

3) Labor Force, 2009 Estimate for Texas labor force stood at 11,861,400 (More than 152 other independent nations)

4) Energy, Texas Crude Oil Proven Reserves: 4,613 millions barrels, ranked 1st in the nation. When wisely used, able to last Texas another 100-300 years easily. Besides Texas Oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear capabilities, Texas is a leader in wind, solar, and methane energy development and practical usage.

5) Exports, Texas exports in 2006 totaled $150.8 billion making Texas 28th Globally (Ahead of 167 other independent nations)

Potential Government Revenue for and Independent Texas
Texans paid 225.4 billion to federal tax system in 2005 (The latest year of accessible data)
Texans paid 77.5 billion in state taxes in 2008.   Combine the two you have a potential Government Revenue of $302.9 billion per year.
This would place Texas 12th in the world in budget revenues (Ahead of 183 other independent nations)

Military
The US spends 4% of its GDP on the military and defense. Applying this percentage to the GDP of Texas gives us a figure of approx. $50 billion per year, And would rank Texas 5th globally in military spending (Ahead of 190 other independent nations)

So this being said, I'm willing to bet the union has more to lose by losing Texas, than Texas has to lose by splitting away from the union.

Shenonymous
Shenonymous

First off, here are four references in order for you to check out the information for yourself.  Looks like the Huffington Post is a wellspring of information on this topic.
References:  http://www.businessinsider.com/no-you-cannot-secede-from-the-united-states-2012-11
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/16/secession-poll_n_2147048.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-cesca/secession-obama-2012_b_2138541.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/14/secede-from-the-union_n_2126467.html
     The fact is that in none of the 40 states where petitions have been filed for their secession do the majority of their citizens support the action and only 22% of Americans believed that "any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic.
While the Constitution does not specifically address the question of secession, the Supreme Court regularly and consistently has interpreted the Constitution to have created a union that cannot be  put asunder, that is torn apart or put into pieces.
     FYI:  Some history of secession in the United States shows South Carolina pulled out of the union that actually was the start of the Civil War in 1861.  Texas seceded twice: first from Mexico, then again to join the Confederacy.  THere really is a longer history but this is the gist of it.  If anyone is interested a google search would produce 2 million six hundred seventy results!
     Constitutional Law professor, Rob Vischer, “The Civil War made plain that when it comes to secession, it’s really going to be about brute force.”  As a practical matter, because of the dependency on the federal government for many funded programs, not necessarily welfare programs but national defense, infrastructure, etc., chaos would ensue were secession be allowed, states would go bankrupt as all of the ones crying for secession at the moment are on the brink.  Vischer further reminds, and a very important reminder it is, that all of the secession petitions do not originate from state legislatures, nor governors, they are “just coming from private citizens — and a very small percentage of citizens in every state.”

JDFTE
JDFTE

There is no provision in the Constitution for secession? The 10th Amendment covers that - "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."

Therefore, if no provision is either given nor forbidden, it is in the hands of the people and state.

shaggy_the_clown
shaggy_the_clown

If Texas secede I'm still moving there at some point, we'll let the states that don't secede end up being bought by China.

Funny how the civil war ties into this seeing as it was the democrats who were on the south, and the north were the republicans, and the south lost, but they are still trying to push their agenda n are somewhat succeeding due to the collapse of moral society.

AlexanderFrye
AlexanderFrye

Any state has a right to secede. According to OUR Declaration of Independance, any people that give consent to be governed, have a right to seperate from any government. To say that, no state, has that right is completely asinine. Look to the Declaration that Jefferson crafted, all of the facts with which the King of Great Britain was accused of and you will start to see what "Just powers" our government is being destructive of.

"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from theconsent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomesdestructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolishit, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principlesand organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely toeffect their Safety and Happiness." -Declaration

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@HarleyManwarren They took Texas FROM Mexico, you oaf. Taking it back would be against both international law, and the laws of physics.

True, Texans did have help from the US, the US also had help from France in taking their own country from the British-- who stand no more chance against the US, than Mexico does against armed Texans.

And then there's the whole UN, which Texas could join as a separate nation.

MichaelRoss
MichaelRoss

@SarahGoodwich  Absolutely right! There is no provision for succession because the federal government doesn't grant power to the states, it receives power from the states. But unfortunately for those of us who read the constitution today we see that our current system of government is no where near where our founding fathers placed it. American People have been reciting the Nationalist Pledge of Allegiance so long they think we are one FEDERAL country and states are just a nice way of drawing lines on a map. Woe is me I tell you, I support my STATE first! Hang the Federal Government, its way to big and out of control.


By the way, most dont realize that the treaty signed with Great Britain after the Revolutionary war made by the crown with EACH INDEPENDENT STATE. Not the US as a whole!

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@Dead-Eye So you get internet there in the asylum. Good, gives you loons something to do.

Uba
Uba

@Dead-Eye You have to be able to spell missile first

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@SamanthaAlexander  The SOUTH? What makes you think that only the South wants to secede? New Hampshire, Vermont, Colorado and other states have secessionist movements; and 28 states have already passed sovereignty laws expressing outrage at the federal govenrment's usurpation of national authority.

domgood6
domgood6

@SamanthaAlexander LOL, God I wish all of you Yankees felt that way, you would not survive a week! if our government collapsed. I hope you people keep all of your Queers, your Illegals, all of your Muslims, all your Negros who are on Welfare lol. We hillbilly's know how to protect our family's, how to grow and feed our family's. What part of history did you not get moron when you went to School! Do you have a Clue where the Headquarters of all of the Largest business's are located! THE SOUTH! Moron. Where does 85% of all consumed food come from! THE SOUTH MORON! One thing is for sure DUMBO! Us Hillbillies will be eatin tonight.   

DeanCole
DeanCole

I dont think you must have taken US History in school You would no the North disliked the south making all that .money being grown by blacks that were sold in the north to southern plantations. Not one slave was ever sold under the stars and bars they were all sold under our US flag. Anthe last time I was North of Va. I dont think I ever met such rude unhappy people .Oh  I forgot you help elect your hiness Obama

SamanthaAlexander
SamanthaAlexander

@SarahGoodwich ... I hope you get your wish for secession, Sarah.  As far as many of us are concerned, the sooner the better for the USA.  By the way, the Founding Fathers would not have given any of you the time of day, I don't know why you people keep dragging them through the mud by posting their pictures on your ludicrous forums.

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@roberteosborn as usual, nothing but despotic arguments.

The truly ironic thing is how they justify themselves by supposedly opposing SLAVERY lol

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@KyleJackson Texas has the right to secede, but the Texas Constitution as nothing to do with it.

Rather, Texas simply never stopped being a sovereign nation unto itself; rather its people simply delegated a few powers differently, but that power always remained with them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fWgyKuUHOs

AlexHill
AlexHill

@KyleJackson it has gotten so bad I wouldnt mind to see them secede. Beteer for them but not the US.

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@Shenonymous  Also, remind me again when the Supreme Court had the power to rule over the sovereignty of nations? On right, NEVER.

No, a sovereign nation can do as it wills, and it can't lose its sovreignty unless wishes to do so. You pundits claim that they did this via the Constitution, but you can't find anything concrete so just infer it from nothing.


DerekElliott
DerekElliott

@JDFTE Well, you are right and wrong... The State in question [legislation] has to vote and concur with the secession before it can even happen.  Yes, the people control opinion, but not decision.

coach777b
coach777b

@AlexanderFrye 

Asa much as I dislike Scalia, I assume he has more judicial experience than you and probably knows how to spell Independence. Should you yahoos manage to secede without getting blasted all over the landscape by the U.S.Military, what are you going to do to sustain yourselves. First, all the Black folks will leave rather than face slavery. Then the Hispanics will bail, seeing the handwriting on the wall.

All U.S. Military installations will leave after blowing up each facility. Any Federal installation will depart, leaving a consulate. You'll need a passport to leave your 'new' nation. Say Goodbye to Grandma in Oklahoma! . Texas is one of the top states in the nation that takes in more federal dollars than it puts in. That means that you'll be on your own with no Army, Navy or Air Force. Look out for Venezuela or China. We might help but you're going to have to do a lot of a***kissing to get our help.We'll put you on our list but North Korea, China or Afghanistan are ahead of you.

So I say, if your hatred for a Black President is that great, maybe you need to secede!

seanjohn0724
seanjohn0724

@AlexanderFrye The Declaration of Independence is not a legal document. It's a declaration with an expansion on philosophies from previous scholars. Now, this is a great document for philosophical musings, but in a nation that has a Constitution that is clearly the law of the land, no other philosophies or documents have any weight.

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@Uba @Dead-Eye  Spelling is the least of anti-secessionist's problems; they have to learn to READ first, particularly the Founding documents. They're even actually admitting that secession was legal before the Constitution, but not after; that's when you know they've are few fries short of a Happy-Meal, since secession was the only sure way that a state could ENFORCE the Constitution, which would mean nothing otherwse. That's why Big Government has exploded since Lincoln murdered anyone who opposed his ruthless reign of terror   It wasn't a civil war, that's only when states CAN'T legally secede.

snoopyjnr
snoopyjnr

@domgood6 @SamanthaAlexander  White racist skanks

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@SamanthaAlexander @SarahGoodwich 

I don't know why you type, as you have no brain.

Must be a reflex, like monkeys with typewriters in an infinite universe.

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@DerekElliott @AlexanderFrye 

The government is not the reigning sovereign; the People of the individual state are.

Therefore the government can only do what the People of the state authorize, otherwise it is gone rogue.

AlexanderFrye
AlexanderFrye

@coach777b @AlexanderFrye 

Your'e seriously giving out English and Grammar corrections on the internet... "Asa much as I..." Where ever you're getting your information from as far as Texas receiving more tax money than we give, you're an idiot. Next time try providing a basis for your claims, like this; Texas is a "tax donor state"; in 2005, for every dollar Texans paid to the federal government in federal income taxes, the state received approximately $0.94 in benefits. Cite>"Texas". Research Areas. The Tax Foundation. 2010. Retrieved October 15, 2010.

Oh, and as far as military goes, try citing claims once again because you're looking even more like an idiot. Try looking to see where the world's only fifth generation jets are made and a good majority of military vehicles. Then, look here, it appears we supply more bodies to the military... http://www.statemaster.com/graph/mil_tot_mil_rec_arm_nav_air_for-recruits-army-navy-air-force


Oh and lastly our GDP ranks 15th in nation (yes, nation) rankings. Keep your racial prejudices to yourself. No one said anything that was hating a specific race or ethnicity.


butsonmatthew
butsonmatthew

@seanjohn0724 @AlexanderFrye hey moron, the declaration has been cited many times in Supreme Court cases and if it weren't law it would be like citing the bible in court, it wouldn't hold up, so you can go back and correct every case that has put the "wrong people" in jail. Besides anything is legal if you're the winning side, and justice, liberty, and natural rights have and will always prevail.

AlexanderFrye
AlexanderFrye

If that was the case then our fore fathers had no right to seperate the King's land, am I right? If I'm not mistaken, that act was punishable by death under the pretence of treason, no?

See here's where you're wrong, the primary purpose of the Declaration was "to express the international legal sovereignty of the United States". In which the United States would have to prove to European powers they were not reliant on British Rule. In other words the document played a role in the United states recognition as a state hood.

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@JamesBass  It's all here in one quick video:https://www.yhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ0iVGQ2kc8outube.com/watch?v=QQ0iVGQ2kc8

All the documents are cited quoted directly therein.