A friend called me rather randomly today to ask if the state of Minnesota could secede from the U.S. It was just an off the cuff example, prompted by the realization that the U.S. has “colonies” like Saipan that some of us never knew existed (until our friend announced she was going to teach there). That prompted some speculation and eventually ended with the secession question.
It’s a fun little question, especially given our preference for freedom. If a state wants to secede, and democratically votes to do so, why shouldn’t they be able to? It seems to go along with our spreading of freedom abroad.
My initial guess was that secession wouldn’t fly. That’s part of what prompted the Civil War (among other things). Wikipedia backs me up, noting that Congress passed a law making it illegal for a state to secede. Which sounds kind of silly, if you think about it.
I realize the reasons for not wanting a state to secede. You want to keep the nation together. But isn’t it somewhat against our national character, our focus on freedom and all that, to not allow a state to jump ship if they want to?
At any rate, it’s fun speculation. The Wikipedia entry includes some details about failed secessions over the years, including states in the northeast, South Carolina, the obvious Civil War, Texas seceding from Mexico (so we’ll take a seceding state, but we won’t let our states secede?) and speculation about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan seceding from Michigan and becoming it’s own state (Ha! They could rival Wyoming for lowest everything [actually, such an act would make the Upper Peninsula the state with the smallest population by quite a margin: 328,000 in the U.P., 509,000 in Wyoming]. Plus I think there’s something in the Constitution about not taking land away from any state. Update: OK, I guess you can do it with approval from both state’s legislatures and Congress.) It’s also fun to note that Michigan traded Toledo for the U.P., which I think was a pretty good deal for my old home state.
- Read my review of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War.