By now, you’ve certainly heard about the secession petitions sweeping the country.

By the middle of last week, there were 69 separate petitions covering all 50 states. The total number of signatures exceeded 675,000, according to a report in the Daily Caller.

These petitions reveal the depth of frustration many Americans feel. Certainly, the reelection of Pres. Obama drives much of the angst. But underlying the raw emotion of politics runs a deeper river of concern. More than $16 trillion in debt, the prospect of never-ending war, civil liberty violations and the increasingly long and heavy-handed reach of federal regulations have pushed many past the point of fed up (pun intended). Those who recognize that further centralized planning from D.C. will only result in more of the same reached a breaking point on Nov. 6. The reelection of a president who excels at war making, civil liberties violations, running up debt and adding layers of regulation finally increased the pressure to the point that the dam broke. (Not that Mitt would have been a whole lot better, but that’s a different post.)

And out vomited a torrent of secession talk.

The problem: it’s all talk.

Let’s be honest; the secession petition movement is just plain silly. If you plan to secede, you don’t send a petition to the king and ask permission. You just do it, al la 1776. Can you imagine Sam Adams and Patrick Henry sending a petition to King George III, begging him to let the colonies separate from the motherland?

Of course, the colonist did appeal to the crown. They protested. They petitioned parliament. They implored the Crown to respect the liberties of Americans. The King ignored their pleas and continued to crack down. Finally, once the colonists ran out of options, they simply declared independence.

They didn’t ask permission.

Asking the White House to let you do something is dumb. And of course, the establishment loves reporting on and making a big deal about something that will have zero effect.  Let’s be honest. No state is prepared to secede. And most of the 657,000 people who’ve signed these petitions have not considered the ramifications. It would likely lead to armed conflict. Sure, it’s fun witnessing how many people can’t stand this criminal government, but how about channeling that energy into something effective?

Secession has always been act of last resort.

Understandably, the anger and frustration level grew over the last four years. We marched on D.C. and protested. They ignored us.  We voted some of the bums out in 2010. We ended up with new bums. We sued in federal court. Judges put their seal of approval on expansive federal power.

But, we still have one last hope.


Simply defined, nullification is any act, or set of actions, that results in a particular law being rendered null, void or even just unenforceable within the borders of a state.

Nullification has always represented the moderate middle road between unlimited submission and outright rebellion. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison formally laid out the doctrine of nullification in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798. The resolutions explicitly stated that the objective was to preserve the Union, while stopping the “progress of evil,” when the federal government tries to exercise power it was not delegated. Judge Abel P. Upshur was an early defender of nullification. He insisted it was a different, more moderate path than secession.

In the first place, a State which withdraws from the Union, breaks the Union. This is true ex vi termini, and therefore, need not be proved. But I have already shown that the resolutions of 1798, proceed upon the idea, that the Union is to be preserved; and indeed, that is the main object of resistance, as therein contemplated. In this respect, therefore, secession is not a means of resistance within those resolutions.

In the second place, the resistance therein contemplated, must be such as will, “arrest the progress of evil.” Will you be so obliging as to tell me, sir, how a usurped power can be resisted, by giving way to it? In one way, indeed, the evil may be arrested by secession; the usurped power may be rendered nugatory, by withdrawing from its reach, all the subjects upon which it can exercise itself. I can scarcely imagine, however, that this tame and submissive idea, was entertained by the Statesmen of 1798. It appears to my humble understanding, that secession, so far from being a form of resistance to usurped power, is the precise reverse; it is neither more nor less a running away from the oppressor. And far from “arresting the progress of evil,” it encourages and invites the evil, by removing all restraint from the wrong-doer. In this view, therefore, it is not within the resolutions of 1798. (Emphasis original)

Through nullification, we can block and roll back unconstitutional expansions of federal power. It also provides an opportunity to help Americans understand the proper intended role of the federal government, its rightful relationship to the states and and the importance of checks on power. Even if a state were to attempt secession, without a proper understanding of the need for divided sovereignty and the danger of centralized power, the new government would carry into it the same evil nullification was intended to arrest.

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We don’t need to submit to unconstitutional federal power grabs. But neither is it time to sever ties from each other. We should first walk that moderate middle road between unlimited submission and outright rebellion – the lost path to liberty.

Through nullification, we can arrest the progress of evil. We can roll back overreaching federal power. And we can preserve the Union with the benefits it provides when the proper checks on power remain in place.

Jefferson called nullification the rightful remedy. He didn’t say anything about petitioning D.C. Restoring liberty and putting the Republic on the right track will take more than a few mouse clicks. Typing your name on a petition might make you feel like you’re a rebel. And it might set the media jaws a-flappin’.

But it won’t do anything to change the trajectory of the United States. I encourage all of you to get involved in a movement that can actually yield tangible results.


For information on how to volunteer at the Tenth Amendment Center, click HERE.

Mike Maharrey

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