Could an American state secede?

How likely would it be that a state or group of states might attempt to secede from the union and what would be the likely ramifications of the state or group’s secession? Would the US army invade, could a state peacibly negotiate to part ways with the other states, are there any possible or probable scenarios where this might happen in the future?

Been tried. Didn’t work out so well. You may not have heard of it though it is not well documented. I think it was called The American Civil War.

Chortle, I forgot to mention the civil war. I’m aware of it, thanks.

American citizens are just that. They are not citizens of individual states, they are American citizens who reside in certain states. Any state that tried to secede would be depriving its residents of the rights guaranteed in the constitution. So yeah, I think any governor who tried could expect a boat load of federal troops to put a stop to it.

Depends on the circumstances. If a “Jerico” type situation happened, then maybe different unions would form and the US might not never be a unified country again. Or, if some effort was made to eliminate or change the Senate so that each state no longer had equal suffrage, then some states might be justified in seceding.

But under any type of normal circumstance? Very unlikely that the feds would allow it. I think that is more or less the situation in most countries. The peaceful splitting up of Czechoslovakia was very unusual.

It could certainly be accomplished peacefully though a Constitutional amendment - that is, rather than unilateral secession, a state negotiates terms of separation and the terms are then accepted by Congress and the President, and passed by the state’s legislature.

Under current circumstances I cannot think of any state where such an action would have the support of a significant fraction of the populace.


The other catch is that the state would have to be an economic powerhouse and it would have to be one of the outlying states. Wyoming, for instance, could never secede because it has no economic power to speak of and the US could isolate it by forbidding travel through its territory or airspace. California could probably secede, but based upon its financial situation of late it could not reasonably expect to survive without Federal subsidies.

I leave it to the lawyers to debate whether it could be done from a legal perspective, but realistically it would be difficult for any state so inclined to do it from a practical standpoint.

Are you saying that California receives more in federal funding than it generates in tax revenue to the federal government? I find that pretty hard to believe.

No, I didn’t say that. But if California leaves it loses the power of the “full faith and credit” of the United States and would find its borrowing power as an independent nation to be sorely diminished. In addition, they would not have the resources of an organization like FEMA when the next big one hit.

Of course, given their power problems, one might wonder how they will generate their own given the auspices of CARB and the environmentalists, as the split with the US will surely be acrimonious and will cause the US to tell them to suck wind. And how will they make up the lost income for hundreds of thousands when the US military deserts them? How about the businesses that will leave California?

It’s not as easy as just saying “I declare independence”. There are a lot of considerations. That’s why, in general, secessionists are morons. They think that somehow their lives will improve. In most if not all cases nothing could be further from the truth.

By your criteria, perhaps Hawaii or Alaska? They’d probably be the most likely.

Pshaw. California’s economy is already bigger than the economies of independent countries like Canada, Spain and South Korea. It has major seaports, a huge agriculural base, and is a powerhouse in both heavy and high-tech industries. If the split with the rest of the United States was amicable California would function just fine as an independent nation.

The Civil War was a function of the geographic isolation which existed 150 years ago. It would not happen again over what would be essentially a financial disagreement (there being no other compelling reason for secession).

If a State decided to secede from the Union there would be a lot of hooing and hahing but the dissolution would be peaceful.

“Brother against brother” was a figurative term, for the most part, during the Civil War. Today it would be a literal term.

It’s more likely, though, that the entire Union will collapse fairly rapidly (and peacefully) when the financial house of cards upon which the world economy is built finally catches up with itself. I don’t think this is within the next generation, but neither can current trends continue indefinitely. If even only foreign investors tried to cash out their US holdings the US could become insolvent almost overnite.

Consider how relatively peacefully the USSR collapsed, with mostly financial chaos but very little of anything else.

Aren’t we also citizens of our states?

Interestingly, traditional insurance law terminology uses the word “foreign” to mean other U.S. states. For the condition that we usually describe as “foreign” in everyday language they use the word “alien”.

Well, we’d just up the state income tax to be similar to the federal income tax. We’ve got about 40M people, and the world’s eight largest economy (or something like that). I think we could manage to scrape by. :slight_smile:

We are US citizens and State residents.

We are both United States citizens and citizens of the state wherein we reside.

I don’t know that it would take a Constitutional amendment, but at the very least I’d say it would take an act of Congress (not just a unilateral declaration by the state legislature or some state secession convention). The Fourteenth Amendment is a big part of the reason why right there–in addition to being citizens of South Carolina or North Dakota or Hawaii, the citizens of those and the other states are also citizens of the United States, and the government of the United States therefore has a duty to protect the property, rights, and lives of those citizens. Even if a majority of the citizens of, say, Hawaii vote to secede, it’s up to Congress to ensure that the remaining 49% (or 32% or 24% or 1%) of the U.S. citizens there aren’t going to be herded into camps or massacred or have “haole” branded on their foreheads, or be forced to sell their houses and other property at a ruinous loss and flee the homes they’ve lived in for generations. In addition to some guarantees of the rights and safety of those who wish to remain American citizens, presumably secession would have to be approved by a majority vote (I’m assuming we haven’t just lost the War of 2072 to the Russo-Chinese Alliance and are being forced to cede Alaska and Hawaii to the victorious allied powers at missile-point). It would be a political question that Congress woud have to specify whether “majority vote” means 50% +1 of the people who bother to show up on some particular Tuesday; or two-thirds of those who bother to vote; or an absolute majority of the population (which might mean 74% of those who actually cast ballots).

There’s also the issue of what you do in a West Virginia-type situation. Say a solid majority of the people of Washington state vote to secede and join Canada; but a closer analysis of the voting totals shows that an overwhelming majority of the people in Seattle voted to quit the Union, but an equally overwhelming majority of the more sparsely populated eastern portions of the state voted to stay in the good old U.S. of A. Congress might tell Western Washington they can only go join British Columbia if they cede everything east of the Cascades to a new state which will remain in the Union (or merge with Idaho). Again, this would be a political question, and Congress would have to sort it out.

Excuse a dumb foreigner. What’s a “Jerico” type situation?

But see here. The courts refer to state Residents not state citizens.

It’s a reference to the TV series Jericho in which the small town of Jericho, Kansas finds itself completely isolated after a widespread nuclear attack across the U.S.

Trouble is, it more closely resembles The Langoliers than The Day After, in that everything is so terribly mysterious to the point of seeming supernatural.