08 May 2013
Most of the cultural and political trends in this country I find offensive or merely vapid, but, as an historian, I do feel interest and even some excitement in what's happening in places like South Carolina. The Palmetto State's House of Representatives has passed a bill that declares ObamaCareless (see the list of domanisms) to be "null and void" within South Carolina's borders. Over 180 years ago, South Carolina made the same pronouncement about the federal tariff laws of 1828 and 1832, and threatened to leave the Union if the laws should be enforced; President Jackson, however, made a proclamation in which he warned that enforcement would indeed take place, and, after the US Congress enacted a Force Bill in support of this, the Carolinians backed down. (Further, a compromise in 1833 substantially reduced tariff duties.) It was thought that the crisis had ended, but it had only abated, for South Carolina did secede from the USA in 1860, and for the same underlying reason why it had considered doing so 28 years earlier. (That's right: The "US Civil War", or, more accurately, War of Southern Independence, was not fought over slavery, contrary to our secular mythology. What became the Confederacy seceded because of a desire for autonomy; Southerners thought that whether slavery—opponents of which included Robert E. Lee, but not Ulysses S. Grant, an Ohioan who'd had slaves of his own—and tariffs were legal in their States was none of the rest of the country's business. It might be noted also that autonomist sentiment was not unique to the South; in New England where I live, there was a strong secession movement in rightful opposition to the pointless and unprovoked War of 1812.) Military action achieved its objective of preserving the Union—that, not the abolition of slavery, was the reason why the North (and part of the West) went to war—and so the issue of "States' rights" again submerged, but the oppression and ineptitude of Emperor Nerobama's administration are driving it back to the surface. (And this trend will only be exacerbated if the federal government raises taxes to pay down the approaching-17-trillion-dollar debt. Why should residents of solvent States help to defray a debt, the largest part of which is owed to the public anyway, which Washington ran up all by itself?) It wouldn't surprise me if one or more "States" (v.i.) such as South Carolina or Texas (where the secessionist volcano that erupted in 1861 is waking from dormancy) should withdraw from the USA during the next generation, and it wouldn't disturb me either. I've no wish for civil war, of course, but presumably D.C. won't use force or the threat thereof to compel States to remain in the Union, as it did in the Nineteenth Century. Besides, why ought the ironically termed "States" (which name was given to the thirteen original former colonies because they were all theoretically independent political units, viz., "states", which gave up only so much of their sovereignty as was deemed necessary for the sake of forming a confederation) not be permitted to withdraw from the United States of America if they choose to do so? Is this country a prison? Texas was a fully independent republic for nine years prior to its annexation by the USA, which took place a mere 16 years before the Lone Star State joined the Confederacy; Texans who favored the incorporation into Columbia likely didn't regard this as action as irrevocable. There's also, of course, the matter of hypocrisy. If the 13 original States became such by rejecting the authority of the royal government, don't they and the 37 that came later have the right to reject the authority of the government that replaced it?