Pat Buchanan

No, it is not 1860 again.

But with all the talk of the 10th Amendment, nullification and interposition, states rights and secession -- following Gov. Rick Perry's misstatement that Texas, on entering the Union in 1845, reserved in its constitution a right to secede -- one might think so.

Chalk up another one for those Tea Party activists who exploded in cheers when Sister Sarah brought up the dread word in endorsing Rick Perry in the primary.

Looking back in American history, however, these ideas, these sentiments, decried as insane inside the Beltway, were once as American as "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere."

"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical," wrote Thomas Jefferson to James Madison from Paris in January 1787, about Revolutionary War Capt. Daniel Shay's anti-tax rebellion in Massachusetts.

Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution

In the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, both of these founding fathers sanctioned the idea that states could interpose their own sovereignty and nullify acts of Congress. Both were enraged by the Alien and Sedition Acts of John Adams and the Federalists, written into law to combat sedition during the undeclared naval war with France.

On taking office, President Jefferson declared the acts unconstitutional, refused to prosecute those charged and freed the imprisoned writers.

In 1814, Timothy Pickering, another veteran of the revolution and secretary of state to both George Washington and Adams, was a force behind the Hartford Convention, which argued for New England's secession and reuniting with Great Britain. Massachusetts opposed Madison's War of 1812 that had caused the British blockade that destroyed their trade and prosperity.

The war's end and Jackson's victory at New Orleans, however, aborted the Hartford movement and finished off the Federalists forever.

In 1832, it was Vice President John Calhoun who inspired South Carolina to vote to nullify the Tariff of Abomination that was killing the cotton-exporting South and enriching Northern manufacturers. To the chagrin of Madison, Calhoun invoked his and Jefferson's Virginia and Kentucky resolutions in defense of Carolinian defiance.

In 1845, it was Massachusetts again. Ex-President John Quincy Adams declared that admission of Texas to the Union as a slave state might constitute grounds for secession and civil war.


Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .
 
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