Williams Is Wrong — There Is No Right To Secede

Posted: December 11, 2012

Columnist Walter Williams recently advanced the mischievous argument that the United States Constitution permits a state to secede from the Union (“The Constitution Permits Secession,” Dec. 1). However, the question of unilateral secession by a state is settled constitutional law.

In Texas v. White, the Supreme Court determined unequivocally that no such right exists. No state can leave the Union on its own initiative. The question of whether a state may leave the Union with the mutual consent of the remaining states is more ambiguous, however.

On this issue, the arguments of Michael C. Dorf, Michael I. Sovern Professor of Law at Columbia University, are worth consulting. But Williams’ assertion that there exists a straightforward right for a state to secede on its own initiative, acknowledged in the United States Constitution, is flatly wrong.

Kevin R. Hardwick
Associate Professor of History
James Madison University

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