What is Secession?
This is going to be a brief and quick synopsis of what secession is and what it is not. It is the part one in a multipart series on secession.
Secession. It is a word that is highly charged in the US. It is usually frowned upon and demonized, yet sorely misunderstood. Not only misunderstood on what it is but its history as well. Let’s start off with what the definition of secession is.
Secession, according to the Oxford dictionary it is this
“The action of withdrawing formally from membership of a federation or body, especially a political state.” It offer further enlightenment with this “Origin: Mid 16th century (denoting the withdrawal of plebeians from ancient Rome in order to compel the patricians to redress their grievances): from French sécession or Latin secessio(n-), from secedere go apart.”
In its most basic form it is to leave or remove oneself. In the political arena it means to remove a portion out of another. An example would be the state of Texas seceding, or leaving, the Union to be its own country. A more recent example would be Brexit, where Britain voted to leave the EU. This was an act of secession allowed in the EU charter.
Now that we know the definition, it is time to find out where it comes from.
Secession can be seen as a natural right. Some will object to this as they see rights differently, however, I will use this structure of rights to move forward. Secession can be deduced from a right that Americans should be familiar with, the right to free association and self determination. (Where these rights come from can be found in a great article here ) Along with the right to freely associate come the right to disassociate. Within this, a group of individuals can decide to remove themselves from the political bonds that bind them and create for themselves a governing body of their own prerogative. (I am precluding individual secession for now)This is the basic idea of secession. A group of individuals decide to leave the political community they have been in and form their own. This does not abolish the political apparatus that ruled before, it simply alters it. This can, and should, be a peaceful act barring aggression from either side of the conflict.
What secession is not.
Secession is not a code word for bringing back slavery. It is not something that is inherently violent, and it is not something that needs to be banished. Secession doesn’t mean that groups of people cannot get along or that there has to be hatred. It can be as peaceful as both sides would like it to be. Violence is not a key factor in secession, as a matter of fact it doesn’t have to be a part of it at all. Lastly, secession is not a crazy idea. It is healthy to question if a polity is too big or whether a political unit as big and diverse as ours should be ruled under the same ideas. These questions, far from being divisive, should be asked, debated, and answers sought after, not from the intelligentsia but from everyone.
In short, secession is the act of a group removing itself from another. Simple, yet a contested idea for sure.
Next we will look at the history of secession.