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Jewish World Review
April 22, 2009 / 27 Nissan 5769
Texas Gov. Rick Perry rattled cages when he suggested that
Texans might at some point become so disgusted with Washington's gross
violation of the U.S. Constitution that they would want to secede from the
union. Political hustlers, their media allies and others, who have little
understanding, are calling his remarks treasonous. Let's look at it.
When New York delegates met on July 26, 1788, their ratification
document read, "That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People,
whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power,
Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly
delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the
government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their
respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same."
On May 29, 1790, the Rhode Island delegates made a similar claim
in their ratification document. "That the powers of government may be
resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their
happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and
appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right,
which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of
the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the
people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom
they may have granted the same."
On June 26, 1788, Virginia's elected delegates met to ratify the
Constitution. In their ratification document, they said, "The People of
Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the
Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be
resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or
oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at
As demonstrated by the ratification documents of New York, Rhode
Island and Virginia, they made it explicit that if the federal government
perverted the delegated rights, they had the right to resume those rights.
In fact, when the Union was being formed, where the states created the
federal government, every state thought they had a right to secede otherwise
there would not have been a Union.
Perry is right when he says that there is no reason for Texas to
secede. There are indeed intermediate actions short of secession that states
can take. Thomas Jefferson said, "Whensoever the General Government assumes
undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force."
That suggests that one response to federal encroachment is for state
governments to declare federal laws that have no constitutional authority
null and void and refuse to enforce them.
While the U.S. Constitution does not provide a specific
provision for nullification, the case for nullification is found in the
nature of compacts and agreements. Our Constitution represents a compact
between the states and the federal government. As with any compact, one
party does not have a monopoly over its interpretation, nor can one party
change it without the consent of the other. Additionally, no one has a moral
obligation to obey unconstitutional laws. That's not to say there is not a
compelling case for obedience of unconstitutional laws. That compelling case
is the brute force of the federal government to coerce obedience, possibly
going as far as using its military might to lay waste to a disobedient state
and its peoples.
Finally, here's my secession question for you. Some Americans
accept and have respect for the Tenth Amendment, which reads, "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."
Other Americans, the majority I fear, say to hell with the Tenth Amendment
limits on the federal government. Which is a more peaceful solution: one
group of Americans seeking to impose their vision on others or simply
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