Seeking permission to secede from the union?

Politico reports this morning that residents of 14 states have used an official White House website to petition for permission to secede from the Union rather than remain in a country that would reelect Barack Obama as president. Many of the petition explicitly mentioned Obama and/or developments during his presidency as the reason for seeking to secede.

This has, of course, no legal significance and would have none unless or until it rose to the level of a state government officially seeking to secede. But there are more than 14 individuals expressing interest in the idea. Writes Politico:

“The two most popular petitions, Texas and Louisiana, have both drawn more than 10,000 signatures each as of Monday morning. The Texas petition needs only 7,000 more signatures to trigger an official White House response.”

There is an urban legend that Texas, as a condition of its joining the union, retained an explicit right to secede. That’s not true. It is true that language in that law suggested that Texas retained the right to break itself up into 5 smaller states. It’s not clear Texas could get away with that now, but if it did occur, it would have an interesting impact on the membership of the U.S. Senate, which would have 10 members instead of two from the territory now encompassed by Texas.

The U.S. Constitution is silent on the question of whether states have the right to leave the union, by whatever process. At the time of the Civil War, the seceding states called special conventions to reverse the ratifications by which they had originally joined the union (or at least joined it under the 1787 Constitution). President Abraham Lincoln took the position that secession was impossible and the Civil War ensued, perhaps settling the question.

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Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/12/2012 - 12:57 pm.

    108 Senators

    Now THAT’s an interesting possibility to ponder. Is there room in the Senate chamber for 8 more desks? How would they arrive at House Congressional districts? Would all the new Senators be in the Rick Perry, Know-Nothing Theocrat mode, or would there be some in the spirit of Milly Ivins or Ann Richards? I recall reading of the splitting-up possibility, but don’t recall coming across anything that suggests what the new states would be named. Indeed, I thought the question of secession had been settled at Appomattox Court House in April, 1865.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/12/2012 - 01:54 pm.

    All those opposed?

    What would the petitioners say if secession were to be made irrevocable? That no matter how much they plead after their “nations” turn into festering underdeveloped (but low tax and regulation!) hell-holes, after the Kenyan islamo-fascist usurper retires, they are still out?

    Y’all be careful what you wish for, hear?

  3. Submitted by Peter Lindman on 11/12/2012 - 01:55 pm.


    I’m curious about the conditions set for re-admittance following the Civil War. Were Confederate states accepted back into the Union without prejudice or was there an agreement that prohibited further attempts to leave the US?

    • Submitted by Andrew Bloomberg on 11/12/2012 - 03:14 pm.

      The official position of Pres. Lincoln and the United States Government was (good lawyer that he was) that there was no secession – that the territory of the so-called Confederate States of America never left the United States (constitutionally impossible, Lincoln believed) but was, rather, simply under the power of a group of criminal rebels. Now, the Federal Government in reality recognized the soldiers fighting on that side as legitimate soldiers rather than criminals, for practical reasons if nothing else (treat Southern POWs as criminals, you get reprisals) but from a legal perspective there was never such a thing as the CSA. Therefore, because the states never left the Union, there was no formal process for re-admittance. There was, however, a process of allowing states to set their own electoral laws, control their own state governments, and be free of Federal troops, and all of the Southern states had regained this right by 1876. In practice, this process was brought about state by state through, frankly terrorism and violence as southern whites, largely former Confederate soldiers (read: the remnants of the old southern Democratic Party), murdered or threatened blacks who attempted to participate in the political process. 1876 marked the point when the North (read: the Republican Party) buckled to political pressure and a lack of interest and finally acquiesced to this process.

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/12/2012 - 01:59 pm.

    The prime advantage of secession being no more Texan candidates for President.

    And nothing says “love” more than “divorce”, eh?

  5. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/12/2012 - 02:21 pm.

    Enough signatures?

    I can’t imagine that all the people of any given state would agree to such nonsense, but IF there are enough signatures, and IF the state governments agree, and IF the cogs are all set in motion, what happens to those people that would rather remain US citizens? Do we offer refuge? Where? How? Many of these would-be revolutionary states include some of the poorest people in the nation. How do we find their voices amongst the secessionists? How do we finance their well-being should they want to remain?

    I know it’s ridiculous to entertain such thoughts, but…

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/12/2012 - 04:16 pm.

      Enough signatures

      It appears that TX has enough signatures. I’d like the Official White House response to be “Isn’t that just special.” (Yes, I do imagine it in the MN mom voice that actually means “pull up your pants and wipe the snot from your nose, because that’s just one more reason I’m not taking you seriously.”)

  6. Submitted by Lora Jones on 11/12/2012 - 02:41 pm.

    I can’t say I’d particularly mourn a Red State Secession

    Our tax dollars are routinely redistributed to the red states — as Jon Stewart underscored during the Republican National Convention. The lack of that support, their right-to-work-for-less laws and virtually non-existent environmental regulations would indeed make them hell-holes, as Mr. Holbrook indicates, pretty darned quick.

    I bet Canada would let us use their airspace to reach the West Coast without having to invade Dakota-Montana-Idaho airspace . . .

    Just sayin.

  7. Submitted by Ghislaine Ball on 11/12/2012 - 03:26 pm.

    Texas Secession

    I don’t know anyone who would try to stop them.

  8. Submitted by Andrew Lewis on 11/12/2012 - 04:39 pm.

    Mr. Black’s abstraction, apparently in order to poke fun at Texas and Louisiana, does not mention that those blue darlings: New York, New Jersey, Florida, Oregon, and Colorado also petitioned to secede. It’s great that you model citizens got your shots in on Texas though.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/12/2012 - 05:16 pm.

      Texas is the only one that will (and has already) get enough signatures. And even if any of the others do, 25,000 signatures is spitting in the wind. The thing that annoys me about the news articles on the topic is that they almost inevitably say that the states are seeking permission to secede. That’s incorrect. It’s individuals signing a petition.

  9. Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/12/2012 - 06:32 pm.

    Secession is a silly notion

    If only because even the Reddest state has a large minority of folks who aren’t Red, and vice versa.

    But there is a very serious question here about the viability of this nation. Our concept of a democratic nation rests on a shared set of basic values, or goals, and in which political debate and elections are about which policies are more suited to achieve them. What the past 20 years have shown ever more clearly is that there is not a shared set of values, and that the debate and elections, instead, are about which set of values will prevail. One is centered on individual self-determination: equal opportunity in a framework of tolerance, mutual support and a safety net. The other is that you get the attributes that you are born with, for better or worse, and make your way by force of will and any means necessary, and have no obligation to the larger group except as you choose: an anarchy that eventually results in alot of self-determination by some, very little by most. Nearly half the voting public ascribes to the latter, or at least votes for it.

    If this is true, then those calling for “compromise” are just reciting a lazy conventional wisdom. Two different positions on how best to achieve a shared goal can be compromised. But there is no compromise between two entirely different goals. Can a nation continue under these conditions? Or is the solution two nations, each founded on very different values and goals? It’s not feasible, of course, but nevertheless…

  10. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/12/2012 - 06:41 pm.

    Approved with the following conditions:

    Please pay your fair share of the National Debt: ~ $53,378 @ 25,674,681 people=
    Please close all military and government facilities and remove all equipment and personnel:
    Please require Visa’s for all trips to the other 49
    Please create your own currency
    Please cease and desist all further commerce with the other 49 until we have established trade agreements, tariffs etc.
    Please remove the: Cowboys, Rangers, Spurs, Mavericks, Stars, Texans etc from all (NFL etc. other leagues, we don’t want them foreigners here in America the land of the free!)
    Please remove all those Texas colleges form the college leagues etc. as well. we don’t want hem foreigners playing here in America the land of the free.
    Please immediately foreclose on all Fanny and Freddie backed loans.
    Please Close Houston control and remove all equipment.

  11. Submitted by Gary Doan on 11/12/2012 - 07:33 pm.

    25 + States now

    Texas now has well over the 25,000 signatures required for an official White House response. When the administration promotes division of citizens, by classes and personal beliefs, what would you expect?

    • Submitted by Tim Walker on 11/13/2012 - 07:34 am.

      The Administration promotes division?

      Please elaborate, because I just don’t see it.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/13/2012 - 12:33 pm.

      What do I expect?

      Texas being what it is, I’m sure a secession petition at any time would be expected to attract at least 25,000 signatures.

      Incidentally, I’ve heard that a substantial number if the signers of this petition are not Texas residents.

  12. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 11/14/2012 - 08:15 am.

    Leaving in a huff

    Don’t we see this after every election? People ranting about leaving for some other place? Isn’t this just the 2012 version of the ‘Jesusland’ cartoon that passed around endlessly in 2004?

  13. Submitted by David Mensing on 11/15/2012 - 10:41 pm.


    Covering this silliness is overplaying it. It does show that the fringe is alive and well, particularly in Texas.

  14. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 11/16/2012 - 04:22 pm.

    Austin wants to stay in the US, so now what?

    If that should pass, former-Texas can’t refuse their choice. Interesting conundrum if more groups decide THEY want to leave former-Texas as well. Former-Texas suicide.

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