Can a U.S. state secede from the Union? Is there a clause in the Constitution which allows states to secede from the Union, or can this process be done by voting?
I come across questions like this periodically. I usually give a version of the same answer, and get a lot of people telling me that I cannot predict the future, or X, Y or Z could happen to make secession a realistic possibility. So let me try to be very clear and cover all the bases here.
Under the legal, constitutional and political system that currently exists in the United States, unilateral secession by any state is impossible. There is no right of secession. It is not a power that exists for the states. The Civil War literally resolved this question. If you don't believe me, listen to the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia:
"...the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede."
The Supreme Court actually ruled on this question in 1869, in the case of Texas v. White. In this case, the Supreme Court was asked to determine whether certain acts by the government of Texas during the period when it had seceded from the United States during the Civil War were legally valid and enforceable. This required the Court to rule on the Constitutionality of Texas's act of secession itself, to determine whether Texas had ever left the Union at all. Here is an excerpt from that opinion, which is a precedent that is still in force:
The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and 725*725 arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form, and character, and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these the Union was solemnly declared to "be perpetual." And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained "to form a more perfect Union." It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?
But the perpetuity and indissolubility of the Union, by no means implies the loss of distinct and individual existence, or of the right of self-government by the States. Under the Articles of Confederation each State retained its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right not expressly delegated to the United States. Under the Constitution, though the powers of the States were much restricted, still, all powers not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. And we have already had occasion to remark at this term, that "the people of each State compose a State, having its own government, and endowed with all the functions essential to separate and independent existence," and that "without the States in union, there could be no such political body as the United States."
Not only, therefore, can there be no loss of separate and independent autonomy to the States, through their union under the Constitution, but it may be not unreasonably said that the preservation of the States, and the maintenance of their governments, are as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and the maintenance of the National government. The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States.
726*726 When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration, or revocation, except through revolution, or through consent of the States.
Considered therefore as transactions under the Constitution, the ordinance of secession, adopted by the convention and ratified by a majority of the citizens of Texas, and all the acts of her legislature intended to give effect to that ordinance, were absolutely null. They were utterly without operation in law. The obligations of the State, as a member of the Union, and of every citizen of the State, as a citizen of the United States, remained perfect and unimpaired. It certainly follows that the State did not cease to be a State, nor her citizens to be citizens of the Union.
It's important to understand here that the Supreme Court was both giving voice to, and actually writing into American constitutional law, the United States government's official view of the Civil War: that the states which claimed to have seceded did not actually secede because that's not something the states can actually do, and so those states, and their citizens, were always part of the United States.
Now, prior to the war there was legitimate debate over whether secession was possible. No less an authority than James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, argued in 1832, not long before his death, that unilateral secession was not possible:
The essential difference between a free Government and Governments not free, is that the former is founded in compact, the parties to which are mutually and equally bound by it. Neither of them therefore can have a greater fight to break off from the bargain, than the other or others have to hold them to it. And certainly there is nothing in the Virginia resolutions of –98, adverse to this principle, which is that of common sense and common justice. The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from them lies in confounding a single party, with the parties to the Constitutional compact of the United States. The latter having made the compact may do what they will with it. The former as one only of the parties, owes fidelity to it, till released by consent, or absolved by an intolerable abuse of the power created.
What Madison was saying here was that, since the Union was formed as an agreement among the states, that agreement cannot be dissolved without the agreement of all the interested parties involved. So for one state to leave the Union, or one group of states, would require the permission and agreement of all the states. One state does not have the right to enforce its will on the rest of the states, and end a mutual agreement without mutual consent.
This was one of many arguments Lincoln drew upon when responding to the secession crisis in 1861. But beyond that, Lincoln also argued that the states are not like puzzle pieces that you can just lift out of the union, free and clear, with no impact on the rest of the country. What would happen, he suggested, to businesses which conducted business across state lines, or that had employees in multiple states, if one or more of those states seceded and formed their own country? What would happen to treaties and trade agreements between the United States and foreign powers if some states left the Union and stopped abiding by them? What would happen to navigation rights and access to waterways and rivers that border multiple states, if one of those states left the union? What about businesses that use those waterways to transport goods? What about private individuals that like to sail upon those waterways? What about bridges that cross them? What about railroads that cross state borders? What happens to all of these things if one state decides they are now a separate country, and they are permitted to do so?
The point of this argument was not that these issues could never be resolved; it's that a state's decision to leave the Union affects the lives and livelihoods of many people outside that state's borders, and so the people who are affected by that decision must have some say in whether or not it is allowed.
In the modern world the integration of the states that Lincoln spoke of is even more dramatic. Take, for example, airspace. Right now, all civilian air traffic over the United States is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration. Air traffic control is a federal responsibility because air traffic usually crosses state lines. Air defense over the United States, and most of North America, is handled by NORAD and the U.S. military's complex of radar and radio communications systems that track incoming aircraft. What happens if, all of a sudden one day, an independent country pops up in the middle of what is currently U.S. airspace? What about bridges and tunnels that cross from one state to another? What about federally constructed and funded roads, like the interstate highways? What about power lines? Many states use electricity that is partially generated outside their borders. What about finance? What if you have a bank account in a bank that is now based in a foreign country, with a different national currency? (Oh, if you started your own country, yeah, you'd need your own currency.) What if you had investments or property that suddenly becomes part of a separate country, and is now subject to rules and regulations that you have no representation in? What about taxes? Right now, many states receive back in federal funds more money than they pay in taxes.
What happens if one of the states that receives more money than it pays in taxes, like Mississippi or Alabama, seceded from the union? Well, it would save the rest of the states money, I suppose. But the people living in those states, to maintain the same level of services they received while in the Union, and the same standard of living, would have to dramatically increase the taxes they charge their now-independent citizens. This is because our tax and finance systems are integrated, national systems. You can't just lift a state out without major, major disruption.
Now, at this point, many secessionists are thinking, "Well, nobody said secession would be EASY, just that it is or should be POSSIBLE." But the point here, again, is that if your decision as a single state to leave the Union affects people living in other states in a negative way, then Madison's formulation - that a mutual agreement requires mutual assent to dissolve, and states can't secede without the unanimous agreement of all the states - starts to be a lot more clear and logical. If a decision made by the people living in one state would be highly disruptive to the lives of people living in other states, then those people who would be affected should have a right to say, "No, you do not have a right to do this to us if we do not agree."
And what about people within a state that disagree with the decision to secede? Supposing Texas voted to secede (again). And suppose that 70% of the people of Texas were in favor of this decision. This would mean that 30% of the population of the state did not want to leave the United States. If the rest of the population of the state can force this decision upon them, then they are forced to either surrender their nationality and citizenship in a country they love, and which gives them the same set of rights everywhere in the United States that they might choose to travel, or else they have to leave their homes and their jobs behind and move to a state that remains in the Union. Faced with this, would it not be reasonable for this minority to call out to their national government to protect them from this? Especially if they were a minority of the population of Texas, but their views matched a majority of the population of the United States as a whole, which did not want Texas to secede?
The 14th amendment of the Constitution says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdictions thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state in which they reside." The wording and ordering of this clause was very deliberate. You are a citizen of the United States FIRST and by birth (or by law through naturalization) and you are automatically also a citizen of the state you happen to live in, just because you live there, and if you move to a different state, you automatically become a citizen there. The states have no power over citizenship. This was not always true, and it was not clear what the boundaries were between state and national citizenship were prior to the 14th amendment. But the Constitution is clear now. National citizenship takes precedence. It literally comes first. So would not the national government be obligated to defend its citizens who called upon it for help, if their state was trying to force them to become part of a different country against their will?
For all of these and many more reasons, secession is a practical, legal, constitutional and political impossibility.
Now, as I said, I have written other answers like this before. And I always get comments that say something to the effect of, "You can't see the future! Just because secession wasn't allowed in the past does not mean it won't be in the future!" Or "If a state really wanted to leave, there's no way today the federal government would actually use force to make them stay."
So you can certainly say, "Well, things can change!" Sure. The American people could, at some point in the future, choose to amend the Constitution to grant the states the right to secede, or grant universal consent to a state to leave the Union. But it's really important to understand how massively huge and dramatic a change this would be from the current legal, constitutional and political culture of the United States. It is no more and no less realistic to say that the people of the United States could someday choose to allow secession as it is to say that the people of the United States could someday choose to have a King. The people, as the ultimate sovereigns, could in fact amend the Constitution to establish a monarchy (thereby surrendering their sovereignty to a single individual.) This is something that technically CAN happen. Since I can't see the future, I cannot say, definitively, that this will NEVER happen.
But I can say with a fair degree of confidence that the history and culture of the United States makes such a decision staggeringly unlikely for the foreseeable future; in fact, so unlikely as to say that it is not a realistic possibility.
The same thing may be said about secession.
So the answer to this question is "No."
The people saying "no" aren't understanding the primary issue of secession -- namely, can people determine how they wish to be governed and by what means? Secession, by its very nature, has nothing to do with the "legality" of the act within the government it is trying to secede from - the law is completely irrelevant (even if there were one).
So, YES, YES, YES a State can secede from the union. Though many assumed that the Civil War "solved" the issue of secession it did no such thing. Even those that argue that it is illegal can't point to anywhere in the Constitution that does not allow for secession. However there is plenty of evidence from the framers that it's not only legitimate, it's a given, a true human right.
In reality, the framers of the Constitution always felt that the nation was nothing more than an agreement between sovereign entities that could part when the union did not suit their needs. The framers of the Constitution always saw that government was there to protect the inalienable rights on the people (not grant them rights). When government ceased doing that effectively, then the people -- and states -- had the natural right to leave the union (since, in essence, the union left them). The Federal government - and the United States - was only meant to provide for things that the individual states would have had a hard time doing as individual entities (protecting itself from foreign invasion, for instance).
It's popular to argue that this is "settled" - it's the easily argument for people not willing to make the effort to look into the issue more deeply. Or those that just don't understand the what "secession" really means.
One only needs to look at how the country was formed to understand how it can be taken apart. The Constitution is only in power because of the agreement of the individual, sovereign states. Every state had to vote on it - and if they voted "no" there was no desire to "force" them into the Union. North Carolina voted "no" 3 times and was successfully not invaded by the others each time. In fact, they could have just went their own way and the other states would have been fine with it.
While it's known that James Madison understood that secession was always a viable option for states, he would have likely argued that nullification was the better course of action -- something he and most of the attendees of the conventions saw as a given at the time. In other words, there's no need to leave the Union because a State can always choose to ignore, or nullify, Federal laws that overstepped the bounds of the Constitution.
But there is a buffer issue here. The question isn't about legality of secession -- which is an absurd notion to begin with. It's about if a State (i.e. the people) can leave the Union. The very simple answer is Yes, of course.
Why? Well, one of the better arguments is the Declaration of Independence.
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
Much like the Colonies, a State could just say, "We are done with it, thanks." The Colonies weren't looking to whether an English law existed for them to sever ties with Great Britain. Rather, they looked to the Laws of Nature and Nature's God as the deciding factor -- in short, they said that the oppressed have a natural right to choose their own destiny.
In that sense, every State, through the desires of their people, have a right to decide how they want to be governed. If, for instance Rhode Island's people no longer wanted to be a part of the Union -- would you, as a citizen of Montana, support a military action to force the people of Rhode Island into your little club? Would you support killing people in Rhode Island to make them join? Bomb Providence?
The point is, that the world today is NOT the 1860's -- it's vastly different. The Federal government would use many means to prevent the secession of a State -- primarily withholding Federal funds. In the end, however, if there was a vast groundswell of support in a state (especially a major State like Texas) there would be little that the Federal government could do if the State were willing to take the short-term economic hit.
Now, I've seen some argue that the Federal government would go to war -- Russia/Ukraine style to "protect" the rights of US citizens not in favor of the State's secession. My argument would be that unless the State used military force in their secession rather than economic and will to be peacefully left alone to their own devices, there would be no support for military action (in all likelihood those citizens would be offered a dual citizenship).
Many see secession only in the light of a bloody civil war -- the fact is that when the US breaks up, it'll likely be peacefully and for geographic and economic reasons and not result in bloodshed.
This is all assuming that the US government just let them go without a fight which wouldn't happen.
First, they would have to deal with all the residents who didn't want to lose their US citizenship. People aren't as loyal to their state as they once were. The people who would leave would most likely be the non-natives. They are probably more educated and technically skilled than the natives because highly skilled people tend to be more mobile. So, there would be a brain drain.
Second, if the country were land locked (Kentucky? Are you kidding me?), they would be totally at the mercy of the US government for exports. We would squeeze the shit out of them economically until they said uncle and came back much poorer as a result. Even if they did have access to the sea or bordered Canada or Mexico, other countries may not willingly let this new country adopt all the US trade agreements. So, they will be on their own.
Third, all the residents would lose 100% of their social security benefits. This is what happens when you renounce your country.
Fourth, the legal messes everyone would be in would be titanic as the two countries tried to sort things out. If you've ever been through a nasty divorce you might have an idea of what I'm talking about only multiply it by 10 million or so.
Fifth, they will lose all US government funding instantly. That would be a shock of epic proportions. Every federal employee would be laid off. Most federal contracts would soon be cancelled.
Sixth, they would have to raise a huge amount of money in a short period of time and the only way to do that would be to get outside investors to bail them out. Depending on how spiteful the US decided to be, they could be shut out from any foreign investment which would include Wall Street of course.
Basically, they would be completely at the mercy of a pissed off US government and have ZERO representation. They would learn pretty quickly what it is like to be a third world country under the "protection" of the good old USA.
So, it is one of the more colossally stupid ideas anyone has come up with recently.
What Americans are taught about the War between the States by a government-controlled education system. The same government that waged an undeclared war against a nation made up of States that lawfully responded to several threats to their existence by seceding.
What must be asked is why it was important for those in authority to wage such a devastating war. Was it to "Save the Union" or some other reason?
Thomas J. DiLorenzo, "Yankee Confederates: New England Secession Movements Prior to the War Between the States," in David Gordon, ed., Secession, State and Liberty, Transaction Publishers, 1998.
THE SECESSIONIST LEGACY OF NEW ENGLAND FEDERALISM
Throughout these episodes, historian Edward Powell has written, "the right of a State ... to withdraw from the Union was . . . not disputed."62 There was indeed virtually universal support -- from Republicans and Federalists alike -- for the right of secession. Moreover, this belief in the right to secession was alive and well in the North at the outset of the War Between the States. Contrary to what most Americans have been taught, many -- perhaps most -- northerners believed the South should have been permitted to peacefully secede, however unwise they thought secession might have been for the South. This belief is the legacy of the early-nineteenth-century New England secessionists.63 It will be useful to cite just a few examples.
On 10 November 1860, the Albany (New York) Atlas and Argus editorialized that "we sympathize with and justify the South" because "their rights have been invaded to the extreme limit possible within the forms of the Constitution." If the South wanted to secede, the editors wrote, "we would applaud them and wish them God-Speed."
The declared, eleven days later, that "like it or not, the cotton States will secede." The government will not then "go to pieces," but Southerners will be allowed to regain their "sense of independence and honor."
On 24 November 1860, the Concord (New Hampshire) Democratic Standard complained of "fanatics and demagogues of the North" who "waged war on the institutions of the South" and appealed for "concession of the just rights of our Southern brethren."
Two days later, the New York Journal of Commerce condemned the "meddlesome spirit" of people of the North who wanted to "seek to regulate and control" people in "other communities."
On 13 November 1860, the Bangor (Maine) Daily Union defended southern secessionists by explaining that the Union "depends for its continuance on the free consent and will of the sovereign people" of each state, and "when that consent and will is withdrawn on either part, their Union is gone." If military force is used, then a state can only be held "as a subject province," and can never be "a co-equal member of the American Union."
On the same day, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle clearly explained that "any violation of the constitution by the general government, deliberately persisted in would relieve the state or states injured by such violation from all legal and moral obligations to remain in the union or yield obedience to the federal government." And while the editors saw "no real cause for secession on the part of the South, should any states attempt it there is nothing to be done but let them go."
The Cincinnati Daily Commercial echoed similar sentiments by advocating that the southern states be allowed to "work out their salvation or destruction in their own way" rather than "to attempt, through forcible coercion, to save them in spite of themselves."
The Davenport (Iowa) Democrat and News, on 17 November 1860, editorialized against secession, but in its editorial it noted that it was apparently in the minority in the North, where most of "the leading and most influential papers of the Union" believe "that any State of the Union has a right to secede."
One such paper was the Providence (Rhode Island) Evening Press, which wrote on that same day that sovereignty "necessarily includes what we call the 'right of secession'" and "this right must be maintained" unless we would establish "colossal despotism" against which the founding fathers "uttered their solemn warnings."
The Cincinnati Daily Press repeated this sentiment on 21 November 1860: "We believe that the right of any member of this Confederacy to dissolve its political relations with the others and assume an independent position is absolute -- that, in other words, if South Carolina wants to go out of the Union, she has the right to do so, and no party or power may justly say her nay." This, the editors surmised, is what the Declaration of Independence means when it says that whenever government becomes destructive of the protection of lives, liberties, and the pursuit of happiness, then "it is the right of the people to alter or abolish" their government and "to institute a new government."
The New York Daily Tribune made the exact same point on 17 December 1860, adding that if tyranny and despotism justified the American Revolution of 1776, then "we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861."
Once South Carolina seceded on 20 December 1860, dozens of northern editorialists viewed it as a confirmation of the principle of sovereignty and self-government, while others, like the Indianapolis Daily Journal, said "thank God that we have had a good riddance of bad rubbish."
The Kenosha (Wisconsin) Democrat wrote on 11 January 1861, that secession was "the very germ of liberty" and declared that "the right of secession inheres to the people of every sovereign state."
The New York Journal of Commerce, sensing the war fever in Washington, reminded its readers on 12 January 1861, that by opposing secession, northerners would be changing the nature of government "from a voluntary one, in which the people are sovereigns, to a despotism where one part of the people are slaves. Such is the logical deduction from the policy of the advocates of force."
The Washington (D.C.) Constitution concurred, stating that the use of force against South Carolina would be "the extreme of wickedness and the acme of folly." It further opined the desire "that all the Southern States will secede."
On 5 February 1861, the New York Tribune characterized Lincoln's latest speech as "the arguments of the tyrant -- force, compulsion and power." "Nine out of ten of the people of the North," the paper surmised, were opposed to forcing South Carolina to remain in the Union.
"We ought to let them go," said the Greenfield (Massachusetts) Gazette and Courier, once additional southern states began to follow South Carolina's lead.
The Detroit Free Press declared on 19 February 1861, that "an attempt to subjugate the seceded States, even if successful, could produce nothing but evil -- evil unmitigated in character and appalling in extent."
The New York Daily Tribune argued once again that "the great principle embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration ... is that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed." Therefore, if the southern states want to secede, "they have a clear right to do so."
On 21 March 1861, the New York Times intoned "that there is a growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go."
"The people are recognizing the government of the Confederates," the Cincinnati Daily Commercial wrote on 23 March 1861, and "there is room for several flourishing nations on this continent; the sun will shine brightly and the rivers run as clear . . . when we acknowledge the Southern Confederacy as before."
"Public opinion in the North," said the Hartford (Connecticut) Daily Courant on 12 April 1861, "seems to be gradually settling down in favor of the recognition of the New Confederacy by the Federal Government." The thought of a "bloody and protracted civil war ... is abhorrent to all."
There were, of course, northern papers that supported going to war over secession. The point of this section has been to illustrate how widespread was the view among important opinion makers in the North that to deny the right of secession was to deny the very essence of the Declaration of Independence itself. Lincoln had anything but strong public support when he decided to wage total war on the South. His war dictated the death of one of the most important rights of a free nation -- the right to secession -- as well as the deaths of 618,000 young men.
63 These beliefs are chronicled in Howard Cecil Perkins, Northern Editorials on Secession (Gloucester, Mass.: American Historical Association, 1964). The following references to newspaper articles are all taken from this source.
Clearly, the primary consideration is the legal right to do secede- just like Brexit from the EU.
In response to secession-petitions for the American states, White House Author Jon Carson issued the following statement:
The Constitution is a Secession Document
Did you know that 11 states peacefully seceded from the Union in 1789?
The other two states decided to join the seceding states within the following two years.
The Constitution was designed to be a document of secession from the Union if less than 13 states ratified it by the time it went into effect. This is indeed what happened. The subject of secession is covered in the Constitution here: Article VII reads, "The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same." Notice that it says that when 9 states ratify it, the Constitution will only apply to those nine. In 1787, the Framers of the Constitution had reason to believe that not all 13 states would ratify it, because Rhode Island rejected the Constitutional Convention and its delegates did not sign it.
Additionally, the ratifying convention in Rhode Island in 1788 chose not to ratify the Constitution. Yet six states chose to ratify the Constitution after that rejection. Those states were willing to leave the 13-state union to create a new union that did not include Rhode Island.
Ratifying the US Constitution was a declaration of secession from that 13-state Union that had been established by the Continental Congress and formalized by the Articles of Confederation. How can anyone say that secession from the Union is unconstitutional, when the Framers wrote the Constitution as a declaration of secession from the Union?
The Articles of Confederation described the Union as a "perpetual union." In case anyone doubts that the states were "United" or in Union before the Constitution was ratified, Article 1 reads: "The style of this confederacy shall be ‘The United States of America.'" Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation stated that any alteration to the Union must be "agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State". The reason this was not followed by the 11 states is presumably because unanimous consent seemed out of reach. The act of creating and ratifying the Constitution did not follow any process spelled out in any other document. When there is sufficient support for secession, neither the basic law of the land nor a minority faction can block the exit of "sovereign, independent states." Their sovereignty was only temporarily (and partially) submitted to this basic law.
Still, after Rhode Island ratified the Constitution in 1790 (after almost 15 months outside the Union), all 13 states had finally given their consent to it. Thus, the Constitution is authoritative today because the states consented to it, even though it is in violation of the previous basic law.
The ordinances of ratification passed by the state legislatures of New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island stated that those states reserve the right to secede, and recognize the right of any state to secede. It was not necessary to make explicit the right to secede though, as it is implied by the fact that the states retained their sovereignty and merely delegated some authority to the central government (the federal government). Indeed, the Constitution does not give the central government the authority to send troops to a state without its permission, so the Constitution prohibits the central government from preventing secession by invasion. The Constitution also states that all new states enter the Union with the same status and privileges as the first states.
The end of the term of the last President of the Congress of the Confederation was in November 1788. But if North Carolina and Rhode Island had wished, they could have continued to operate the Articles of Confederation as a confederation of two states. We know that the 11 ratifying states did not remain in the 13-state union because the government of the 13-state union was dissolved in 1788.
North Carolina went for a year without a president or Congress, and Rhode Island a year and a half. Modern readers might be surprised that these states would be without any central government for so long. But it's doubtful that citizens suffered, as the Articles of Confederation had not delegated many powers to the central government. All 13 states had been operating as more-or-less independent countries since their founding. That had only changed when the French & Indian War (1754-1763) caused Great Britain to become more involved as it needed more taxes from the colonies to pay for the war.
How can people say that states can't secede from the Union today, when they have done so peacefully and successfully in the past? How can people say that state secession is unconstitutional, when it was the writers of that Constitution who led 11 states to secede in 1789? And these Framers included a plan of secession from the Union in Article VII! Could the Framers have implied anywhere that state secession from the Union is unacceptable, in a document that proposes state secession from the Union?
Another example of the secession of an American state is Vermont, which seceded from New York in 1777. Although it considered re-joining the British Empire and merging with the Province of Quebec, it remained a totally independent country for 14 years until it re-joined the United States in 1791.
The American experience of secession has been mostly a good one. And dozens of nations overseas have peacefully seceded in modern times.
Seven American Secessions:
1776 1st secession: 13 colonies from British North America/Great Britain
1777 2nd secession: Vermont from New York and from the USA
1789 3rd secession: 11 states left the 13-state union, leaving behind NC & RI
1860, 1861 4th secession
1946 Philippines secedes from USA
1986 Marshall Islands and Micronesia secede from USA
1994 Palau, a Pacific island, secedes from USA
Timeline of America's First Three Secessions:
1774/09/05 First Continental Congress convenes
1774/10/20 Articles of Association are signed (a coalition of 13 colonies to ban trade with Great Britain until Great Britain might relent)
1776/07/04 Secession from British North America. Declaration of Independence signed by 13 colonies, but not by British Quebec, British northern maritime colonies, Bermuda, or British Caribbean colonies. It is not a revolution because they don't try to overthrow the government in Britain.
1777/01/15 Vermont Secession from New York & USA. Vermont explores joining the British Quebec but doesn't. Vermont never joins the Articles of Confederation.
1781/03/01 Articles of Confederation ratified, forming a "perpetual union" of 13 states (that lasted 8 years). Sovereignty and independence of each is "retained."
1783/09/03 In Treaty of Paris, Great Britain acknowledges each of 13 colonies as "free and independent states"
1784/03/01 Virginia cedes claims to Northwest Territory. First territory held by central government - first "US territory"
1787/09/17 Final draft of the Constitution signed by delegates of 12 states and sent to Congress
1787/12/07 Delaware ratifies Constitution
1787/12/12 Pennsylvania ratifies Constitution
1787/12/18 New Jersey ratifies Constitution
1788/01/02 Georgia ratifies Constitution
1788/01/09 Connecticut ratifies Constitution
1788/02/06 Massachusetts ratifies Constitution
1788/03/24 Rhode Island referendum rejects Constitution by a vote of 237 - 2708
1788/04/28 Maryland ratifies Constitution
1788/05/23 South Carolina ratifies Constitution
1788/06/21 New Hampshire ratifies Constitution. Constitution now ratified by 9 states, triggering future secession from the central government and from the Union of 13 states
1788/06/25 Virginia ratifies Constitution by a vote of 89-79 (if it hadn't, it would have reclaimed the Northwest territory)
1788/07/26 New York ratifies Constitution by a vote of 30-27
1788/08 North Carolina state convention votes against immediately ratifying the Constitution, 84-184
1788/11/15 End of the presidency of Cyrus Griffin, the last president under the Articles of Confederation
1789/03/04 The Constitution goes into effect. Two states are outside the new federal union that had been inside the Union of 13 states.
1789/04/30 George Washington's term begins. Citizens of North Carolina and Rhode Island have no president.
1789/09/25 Bill of Rights proposed
1789/11/21 North Carolina ratifies Constitution after 8.5 months outside the Union
1790/05/29 Rhode Island ratifies Constitution after 14.8 months outside the Union by a vote of 34-32. If it hadn't, it could still be an independent country today.
1790 New York acknowledges Vermont's land claims and sovereignty for the price of $30,000
1791/03/04 Vermont ratifies Constitution and rejoins the US after 14 years of total independence
1791/12/15 Bill of Rights ratified