Were the States Sovereign Nations?

by Brian McCandliss, LewRockwell.com

A defining – but so far unasked – question regarding the Civil War is the political status of the states: specifically, was the “United States of America” indeed, as our popular Pledge of Allegiance claims, “one nation, indivisible?” Or was it, rather, a union of sovereign nations, bound only to each other by mere treaty, as with any other treaty – such as the current United Nations? (As a point of fact, the term “union” is the only term used in the text of the Constitution to refer to the United States, while the word “nation” never appears a single time).

This question seems to be the proverbial “elephant in the room” of American law and history, for its answer is key in defining a state’s right of secession: this question marks the difference between, for example, Boston seceding from Massachusetts, and Spain seceding from the United Nations. While in the first instance, few would question the legal right of state officials to use force in preventing local urban inhabitants from seceding with a state’s city, such an exercise against a sovereign nation in the latter example would be (hopefully) viewed as nothing short of ruthless imperialism equivalent to that of Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler or Genghis Khan.