Constitutionally: Any Reason Secession IS NOT legal?

I know we fought a nasty-ass war over this one, but having just re-read the constitution, I found nothing to indicate a state could not legitimately , by action of its legislature, secede from the union. In fact, that would appear to be bolstered by the ninth and tenth amendments which essentially say “if the constitution doesn’t mention it, it’s the state’s and/or people’s right”:

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

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.

You might start with this thread.

It mentions some opinions of the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) on the issue of state boundaries, etc.

As you may know, the SCOTUS is the final authority on what the Constitution means.

Sorry, but the U.S. Supreme Court says once you’re in, you only get out by the consent of the Union. See State of Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868):

Thanks, but I was actually looking to get debate here by the members based on the text of Constitution, not reiteration of the Supremes positions which are (much like Roe V. Wade) only based on the constitution in the most derivative of ways. (the preamble? c’mon guys, that’s kinda like giving a movie a bad review because the previews were no good. The preamble isn’t operative for crying out loud, it’s a… well… preamble pretty much sums it up – a “talking beforehand”… If anyone ever tried to outlaw abortion because it violates the ‘establishment of justice’ they’d get laughed out of the place.

The supremes had no choice of course. We can’t allow secession as a political matter; a practical matter. It would destroy the fabric of the nation. What I’m getting at is this: let’s admit that’s why we do it. It’s not some sacred constitutional tenet, it’s just a friggin lousy idea!

And if your response is that SCUS being “the authority” means there’s no point us discussing it, then you’re welcome to not participate… but that argument could be pretty well used to nullify almost all discussion here – there’s always an “authority” on any topic.

So again, my view is that there is nothing in the constitution preventing secession. Anyone differ?

The Constitution says what the Supremes say it says.

You’re missing the point here: Constitutional law doesn’t only encompass the text of the document, but also how SCOTUS and its lower courts have interpreted and applied the document. Laws by their nature aren’t read in a vacuum; rather, particular facts and circumstances need to be interpreted and judged based on what’s in them. The intent of the authors needs to be considered. Later cases are evaluated in light of prior cases: this particular legal issue is or is not like that one.

We can criticize SCOTUS, and certainly if you ever argued before them on secession, you could use your 10th Amendment argument, but that doesn’t nullify the validity of the SCOTUS opinions here.

Sorry for trying to answer the question as posed, which is, “Any Reason Secession IS NOT legal?” The answer is YES, because the SCOTUS said so by interpreting the text of the Constitution. The opinion of the SCOTUS is just as valid and binding as the Constitutional text upon which it’s based.

How about this for a debate topic: “The SCOTUS was wrong in its interpretation of the Constitution when it ruled Secession is not legal”

No, I’m not missing the point, I simply don’t agree with the point.

I did not ask about constiutional law, interpretation, etc. I asked for a discussion of the Constitution, the document, and whether any of the text in it supports or prohibits secession.

You’re answering a different question than I asked, and again I say if you don’t want to examine MY question, that’s fine, start 'yer own thread. If nobody does, the thread will die a quick death, cuz I’m done with it unless it germinates.

But please dispense with answering a “what has the supreme court said about secession” question that was not asked here. I know what they’ve said. I don’t care. I’m interested in what the people HERE have to say about it. If any Supreme Court justices are members, I’ll listen happily to whatever they feel like typing up too.

If it helps, think of this as “What is your interpretation of the Constitution as it addresses the issue of secession?”

And Bearflag -

You didn’t answer the question, you answered the topic… The Subject line or Topic and the question are not one and the same. The topic is a representation of what lies within. It’s supposed to be accurate, but is not intended to be comprehensive, so far as I can read…

The full original post is the question, and it’s pretty clearly directed at consitutional interpretation by members, not reiteration of the supremes’ moldy oldy decisions.

Enough! Not looking to debate the debate here.


Article. IV., Section. 3., Clause 1: New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union.

To allow secession would be to allow a state to trump a Congressional act.

I find this a bit silly.

First, would the US hold something as unconstitutional an action that it did to free itself from tyranny. That would make us hypocrites since the US seceded from England.

Second, if, for example, California decided to secede, wouldnt that mean the constitution of the US is irrelevant to the new nation of california? Why would it worry about the articles of constitution of a nation it decides to be free of? If it did, wouldnt seceding be pointless?

A state needs approval from Congress to get in; it seems reasonable to require them to receive approval to leave the Union.

If you wish to debate the constitutionality of secession based only by the text, you likely will not develop the fullest answer. Textual analysis isn’t the only legitamite form of constitutional analysis. In this area, limiting discussion to the text means we must ignore such relevant topics as the Civil War. But, if all you want to do is read the Consitution, you are correct in noting that it doesn’t spell out provisions for leaving the Union in the same manner as it has provisions for joining the Union.

Ok…I go with what SCOTUS said on this issue. I know that answer will piss you off but frankly the SCOTUS did a far more scholarly job of interpreting the Constitution than I am capable of. Having read their opinion I find I agree with it and couldn’t improve upon it if I tried (and I do not agree with all SCOTUS opinions even if they are more scholarly than I am).

Further, what the SCOTUS says is as good as being in the Constitution itself.

I think a state should be allowed to secede but it should not be easy which is how it is today so all’s well on this point in my book.

As a practical matter, the US military would be coming along shortly to remind us Californians just how relevant the US Constitution is…

What Whack-a-Mole said.

I think it is a different matter if one of the original 13 states wanted to succeed. They vountarily formed a union, and I think they should be able to voluntarily leave.

On the other hand, the other states, were mostly “purchased”. e.g. the Louisianna Purchase, Gadsen, or obtained by war, Hawaii, New Mexico, etc. Thus, since we as a nation “bought” the Dakotas, then how could Dakota legally leave? We bought and paid for that land as a nation.

Maybe Texas could leave since they were an independent country before joining, but the rest of them leaving would cause problems in how would they pay us back for “the ground” that my ancestors paid for.

Susanann, you’ve likely noticed that the Civil War era answered the question as to whether one of the original 13 states could leave the Union. It also answered whether Texas coud leave the Union. So far, the answer is they can’t leave.

Might does not make right.

Just because the south lost their war for independence, nor any court decision, does not mean it is “legal” or “constitutional”.

Lincoln did what he “wanted” to do, not necessarily what was constitutional - his record of violating the constitution is well recorded.

The Supreme Court not only has been wrong, and admitted it was wrong in actually reversing its decisons, but many cases are 5-4 votes meaning that almost half the Supreme Court judges disagree with each other.

The poster of this topic said he was aware of the war for southern independence, and he knows that the confederacy lost in its bid to be a separate nation.

Again, I also see nothing in the Constitution prohibiting sucession for the original 13 states, but I do see a can of worms for other states to do so since they did not join the union as seperate independent entities(except for Texas).

Ohio would have to find a way to pay the rest of us back for all the land of Ohio that the US citizens purchased, and their offer for a “buy back”, may be refused by the other states.

Am I the only one who’s always thought that the Texas vs White read as a decision made under duress? I’m pretty certain if it wasn’t decided that way there would have been nine hangings on North Capitol Street.

T vs W was clearly designed to acheive through ‘legal’ means the eradication of the concept of secession whether or not the Supreme Court thought it was constitutional or not.

Actually, I’d be interested in another look at it by the Supremes. I bet, more than a hundred years down the road, it might be an interesting argument.

Comparative Law: Didn’t the Canadian Supreme Court declare a right to secede with consent from the national government?