Walter E. Williams

A fortnight ago, in "Let's Do Some Detective Work," I provided unassailable evidence that Congress had vastly exceeded powers delegated to it by our Constitution. In last week's column, "Getting Back Our Liberties," I argued that liberties lost are seldom regained, but there was an outside chance to regain them if enough liberty-minded Americans were to pursue Free State Project's proposal to set up New Hampshire as a free state.

Free State Project ( intends to get 20,000 or so Americans to move to New Hampshire and, through a peaceful political process, reduce burdensome taxation and regulation, reform state and local law, end federal mandates, and attempt to restore constitutional federalism as envisioned by the nation's founders.

Since there was only a remote possibility that we could successfully negotiate with Congress, the Courts and White House to obey the U.S. Constitution, I speculated that liberty could only be realized by a unilateral declaration of independence -- namely, part company. Quite a few readers criticized the idea, calling secession unconstitutional. Let's look at it.

On March 2, 1861, after seven states had seceded and two days before Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, Sen. James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin proposed a constitutional amendment that said, "No State or any part thereof, heretofore admitted or hereafter admitted into the Union, shall have the power to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the United States."

Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B. Florence of Pennsylvania and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit secession. Here's my no-brainer question: Would there have been any point to offering these amendments if secession were already unconstitutional? I'm guessing, no.

But there's more evidence. The ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island explicitly said that they held the right to resume powers delegated should the federal government become abusive of those powers.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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