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Rethinking The American Union For The Twenty-First Century edited by Donald Livingston

November 1, 2012 by  

Has America grown too large? Is she too divided? Has increasing centralization pulled her so far away from the vision of the Founding Fathers that they would be looking in the wrong direction to even see her? And what was their plan for preventing all this from happening in the first place?

All of these questions and more are considered in Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century. This book is a collection of seven essays that cover the idea that America has grown too large, too indebted and too divided to maintain a republican form of government, and that it is time to separate the Nation into a group of independent federations. It covers the issue from the historical aspect of the Nation’s founding and how the Founders felt about secession, to the legal ramifications of secession, to the practical aspect of how a divided Nation might work.

Each essay is written by a different author. The idea for the project came from a meeting at Charleston, S.C., in February 2010 called the Abbeville Institute Scholars’ Conference. Editor Donald Livingston (no relation) wrote the introduction, “The Old Assumptions No Longer Apply.”

In it he lays the groundwork for each of the subsequent essays. The authors of the other sections are: Ken Masterson Brown, “Secession: A Constitutional Remedy that Protects Fundamental Liberties”;  Thomas DiLorenzo, “The Founding Fathers of Constitutional Subversion”; Marshall DeRosa, “The Tenth Amendment Awakening, the Supreme Court Be Damned”; Donald Livingston, “American Republicanism and the Forgotten Question of Size; Kirkpatrick Sale “‘To the Size of States There Is a Limit’: Measurement for the Success of a  State”;  Yuri Maltsev, “Too Big to Fail? Lessons from the Demise of the Soviet Union”; and Rob Williams, “Most Likely to Secede: U.S. Empire and the Emerging Vermont Independence Effort.”

Brown writes that the Founders intended for the States to have the right to secede if the Federal government overreached. They believed the union was a compact of the States and that if either side breached the compact, secession was a lawful remedy. He backs his position with words recorded during the ratification conventions of each State and other historical references.

But the ink was barely dry on the Constitution when there were those who were already at working changing the meaning of the words used during the ratification process. By 1833, Senator Daniel Webster of Maryland, in arguing against three resolutions introduced opposing the extension of the Tariff of 1828, was using pretzel logic regarding the agreement that resulted in the Constitution.

“The Constitution, Sir, is not a contract, but the result of a contract; meaning by contract no more than assent. Founded upon consent, it is a government proper. Adopted by the people of the United States, when adopted, it has become a constitution. The people have agreed to make a Constitution; but when made, that Constitution becomes what its name imports. It is no longer a mere agreement,” Webster said.

That is directly contradictory to Article VII which states it is a “Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.”

Others, like Abraham Lincoln and Salmon P. Chase, argued the Union was perpetual, though they could point to nothing in the Constitution that provided for it to be perpetual, nor any utterings from any of the ratification proceedings.

Total war — not the bloviations of Webster, Lincoln, Chase, John Marshall or Joseph Story — cemented into the place the nationalist theory of the American founding as advocated by Alexander Hamilton, DiLorenzo writes in his section, “The Founding Fathers of Constitutional Subversion.”

He covers the activities of Hamilton, Story, Webster and others to subvert the Constitution and centralize government. But he also writes in great detail about the activities of Lincoln and his speeches (and the Lincoln worship that has developed around him) that cemented the nationalist view of the Constitution in the public’s psyche.

In “Tenth Amendment Awakening, the Supreme Court Be Damned,” DeRosa examines the 10th Amendment movement and the effect it is having on generating interest in politics on the local level. But in detailing the history of the movement, DeRosa also delves into Lincoln’s logical fallacies concerning the legality of secession.

On the one hand, Lincoln argued (and made executive orders based upon) the illegality of secession. Yet he recognized that the Confederate States of America was an independent nation (and therefore the legality of secession) when he blockaded Confederate ports. Under international maritime law, a nation can close but not blockade its own ports.

In “American Republicanism and the Forgotten Question of Size,” Livingston discusses what makes a republic too large. He concludes that a large republic, one the size of the current United States, loses its ability to remain a republic and government power grows. Republican governance is much more suited to smaller population sizes.

Kirkpatrick Sale delves deeper into the idea of size and what makes a republic successful. He compares the United States with other nations and ponders whether a United States divided into a number of federations would be successful.

In “Too Big to Fail? Lessons from the Demise of the Soviet Union,” Maltsev explores whether peaceful secession is possible. He posits that, based upon the successful breakup of the Soviet Union, the answer is yes.

Finally, in “Most Likely to Secede: U.S. Empire and the Emerging Vermont Independence Effort,” Williams discusses where the movement is, where it is headed and how it might be a model for the other States.

The book is chock-full of history, and the writers all make interesting and persuasive points that the Union has outgrown itself and some remedy must be undertaken if the increasing centralization is to be checked.

Bob Livingston

is an ultra-conservative American and author of The Bob Livingston Letter™, founded in 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • independent thinker

    Interesting concept.

    • Robert Smith

      How’s bout that Palun guy’s plan to make Alaska an oil rich country by itself? Just another way to screw the rest of us.


      • dan

        I’m afraid you have the former Governor confused with British Petroleum….
        i’m sure you would agree that we nationalize oil,medicine and education,eh,comrade?

      • Robert Smith

        “i’m sure you would agree that we nationalize oil,medicine and education,eh,comrade?”

        We ALREADY have a lot of education for the general public thanks go local, state, and federal government. It’s a good thing that America has a large pool of EDUCATED workers.

        Medicine should be universal for everyone. When the choice is death for those who don’t have it I’m sure you will agree that the government needs to take up the slack left by those who would rather see them die on the steps of the hospital.

        Oil, like other commodities needed for life like water, natural gas, and even the air we breath needs to be not nationalized but heavily regulated like utilities used to be. Still private companies where through regulation they are among the safest of investments, a good deal where the consumer isn’t gouged, and business like trimming trees and safe transportation of the materials is paramount. Everyone wins, the stockholder, the consumers, and Americans.

        Without regulation we have scams like Enron, the trees don’t get cut and take out power lines, and new generators are few and far between.


  • kaptkane

    I agree…interesting concept.
    Actually, I’ve been thinking along thee lines for several years now.
    When one looks at the complexities involved ie; the “legal system” we now have, the almost 50/50 division of political ideology that we suffer, I personally believe that it’s too big to fix!
    It’s time (imho) for the “liberal” States to divorce the “conservative” States.
    It will be interesting to see which group is better off in 10 years!

  • Warrior

    The “progressive” nation? A nation of “takers” could last what, maybe a day?

    • Robert Smith

      As opposed to the looters who are keeping the corpse alive to keep the money flowing up to them.


    • Nadzieja Batki

      What will the “progressives” do when there are no more people to take from? Will they turn on each other like savages?

  • Ted Crawford

    Wouldn’t it be far more practical, far more productive and far more benificial to America and even the World Community if we simply returned to our Constitutional roots? Paying particular attention to Article 1, sections 7, 8 & 9, and the Tenth Amendment?
    Perhaps convene an Article Five Convention, to remove, or at least studiously alter, the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment, making it more appropiate for our current times, and to repeal the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments?
    That would remove all but one, (even a stopped clock is right some of the time) of the four Amendments passed during the Administration of, what I consider at least to be) our first truly Socialist President!

    • Orren John Winjum

      I wish I had kept my Confederate money. It’s at least as valuable as the green back
      since the Fed screwed us over.

      A modernized confederacy is the way to go. The closer power resides in the people,
      and far away from centralized government, the better.

  • s c

    One of the problems in trying to come up with solutions is to use focused, specific terms. Politicians, are to blame for most of America’s problems. They use various forms of nonspeak, and as long as they get to control a conversation, there isn’t much point in dealing with them directly.
    To me, our most pressing need is to DISCOURAGE people from getting involved with politics (those who want to be career politicians, that is). In effect, a career politician is the same as a career criminal. Criminals tend to wind up behind bars. Politicians don’t. Talk about something that’s NOT F A I R !
    For far too long, Americans have put too much faith in those who don’t care about us (politicians). How many politicians do you know personally? Can you think of even two politicians who have made your life better? By the way, would you feel good about being in the military if you had to endure a Chicago thug who pretends he’s a Commander-in-Chief?
    From what I’ve seen, we’d get better representation and more honesty from a child than we’ll ever get from a politician. I fear America’s clock is ticking, and far too many people prefer to float through life with non-functioning brains. By the way, that’s also a good way to describe 99% of most people who wind up in Washington [politicians]. Admit it, people. We’re probably screwed. We TRULY have the best government that money can buy. And damn few people understand that point. So much for the joys of public education, eh? All that money and time and resources, and for WHAT?

    • Nadzieja Batki

      I am curious what would happen if we actually limited the Federal Government and reverted to the authority of States. Would we become a balkanized nation? Each State dictating who can come in and who can leave, controlling businesses and public institutions. Creating the situation we are trying to avoid.

  • Doc Sarvis

    Proponents of this book and its authors are willing to throw in the towel for our country. Patriots – NOT.

    True Americans work together for our country.

    • Doc Sarvis

      that’s – …throw in the towel On our country…

  • Dan Mancuso

    Interesting concept, but the problem is though that the same people – Lincoln’s bankster masters – who started the war of northern agression are still in charge. The death and destruction of a ‘civil’ war in the modern age is not something I would like to ever consider. But something must be done to bring America back to it’s Constitutional roots of states rights!

  • Henry

    I would like to preserve the Union as the Founding Fathers intended. But at the same time, I wonder what will happen if we don’t stop soon and reverse direction. The world seems to have forgotten what happens when the Government controls the People instead of the People controlling the Government; DISASTER EVERY TIME. The amount of people that are now in favor of Government intrusion in our lives is astonishing and very scary. The socialist agenda of today’s Democratic Party really worries me, and what is just as troubling is that recent immigrants to the U.S. appear to also be in favor of this socialist agenda. Again, I don’t want to destroy the Union but we have to figure something out soon to preserve personal liberty. If Patrick Henry were alive today, what would he think of us?

  • Bernard Forand

    Presently our world is entering into a globalization pheromone. Alleviated by Liberal International Free Trade Markets. Competition increases between the sovereignties. As it is with business in competition, contracting your base stimulates failure. Expansion and growth is a common natural component for success. Example; note how the European nations are seeking to unify their various sovereignties as globalization increases. U.S. expands by assimilating new territories into states. Globalization will dictate growth as a necessity for survival. Assimilations will continue until eventually we are a United World. Those that chose to shrink away from their competitors are advocating their submissive surrender from any leadership capability. In turn, they will be assimilated, by the larger competitors leadership.


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