One attack leveled against Sarah Palin in this now-brutal campaign is her husband’s involvement in the Alaska Independence Party and her association with it. The AIP advocates Alaskan secession from the U.S. and a limited government. While I certainly don’t like Palin, or most politicians for that matter, this attack is absurd. Secession is America’s founding principle and an essential liberty in any free nation.
The Revolutionary War has a misleading name as it was in fact a massive secession of the American colonies from the British Empire. Americans did not overthrow the British government as would happen in a revolution, they separated themselves from it. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence then created 13 “Free and Independent States,” not one.
Americans were so terrified of a strong central government that it took until 12 years after the Declaration to ratify the Constitution. Several founding fathers – including Jefferson, Patrick Henry and the Anti-Federalists – opposed the Constitution for giving too much power to the federal government and rightly predicted future usurpations of power. Some states, including Virginia, ratified conditional on the right to secede from the United States and the prevailing view for almost a century was that of a voluntary union.
Secession was put to rest by Lincoln and the Civil War, or so it is thought by many. This is the flawed reasoning of might makes right – the Confederacy lost, so secession is illegal. This assertion is patently absurd; the force of arms cannot undo a right, only bury it. Lincoln, like modern politicians, fancied the second sentence of the Declaration containing “all men are created equal” but apparently failed to read the rest of it, which defended secession and rebellion as a right and duty.
The Civil War was initially fought by the North to consolidate federal power, not to end slavery. Lincoln put it best: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it.” Honest Abe, among other depredations, shut down hundreds of northern newspapers, jailed thousands of dissidents, suspended the writ of habeas corpus and invaded Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, taking over their legislatures to force them to join his war. It took 620,000 American lives to “save” the Union. Lincoln thought, as Janet Reno would say, it was worth it.
One prominent historian, Marxist, and Lincoln admirer, Columbia professor Eric Foner, actually opposed the breakup of the Soviet Union and urged Gorbachev to mimic Lincoln and force seceding territories back into the union. If Gorbachev had followed Foner’s advice, what would differentiate his actions from Lincoln’s?
Secession is the last peaceful defense against a government that has overstepped its lawful bounds and eroded rather than protected liberty. To deny the right of secession is to deny freedom and betray America’s founding principles. Lest we be tyrants, we should let Alaska secede, along with any other territories and peoples that wish to do so.