Online Petitions for Secession: Have Americans Forgotten the Past?

Citizens in nearly thirty states have signed online petitions propagating secession from the United States. These states have filed their petitions with the We the People Program, a facet of the Obama Administration which attempts to facilitate citizen participation in government. Though the ability to petition a presidential administration is not a new concept, the online petition program is. Petitions bear little to no legislative power, but the implications of online petitions for secession are palpably unsettling.

A group of citizens in Texas have the most support for secession, with 81,989 online signatures for their petition. The petition requests the government to “peacefully grant the state of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own new government.” If a petition meets the required threshold of 25,000 signatures by the December 9 deadline, which it already has, the Obama Administration must issue a response. The logic behind the signors of the Texas petition is a belief the federal government has failed to reform foreign and domestic spending. The petition further states:

“The citizens of the US suffer from blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA, the TSA, etc. Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union, and to do so would protect it’s citizens’ standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.”

In an ironic twist, citizens in the city of Austin, a liberal pocket of Texas, have also filed a petition. Their respective petition is to “Peacefully grant the city of Austin, Texas to withdraw from the state of Texas and remain part of the United States.” Citing differences with legislation imposed from more conservative regions of the state, their petition reads:

“Austin, Texas continues to suffer difficulties stemming from the lack of civil, religious, and political freedoms imposed upon the city by less liberally minded Texans. It is entirely feasible for Austin to operate as its own state, within the United States, in the event that Texas is successful in the current bid to secede. It is important for Austin to remain in the union as to do so would protect it’s citizens’ standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers.”

In no way should citizens of Texas be singled out as bellwethers for secession, for citizens in states around the country have authored similar petitions for secession. The states with some of the highest signatures pro-secession, and corresponding signature numbers are: Florida (24,754), Georgia (23,197), Alabama (22,648), North Carolina (21,440), South Carolina (16,904), Arkansas (16,270), Colorado (15,743), Indiana (14,518), Kentucky (13,610), Mississippi (13,596), and Montana (10,325).

Though these are not formal declarations of independence by any means, one should look at history to decipher the implications of seceding from the United States.

True Secession

One of the key events that set off the “War Between the States” was South Carolina’s secession from the Union on December 20, 1860. Seceding shortly thereafter were Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The Confederacy opened fire on Fort Sumter from April 12, 1861, which officially spiraled the country into a full blown civil war. After the Union Army surrendered Fort Sumter, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina seceded as well, creating the eleven unified Confederate States of America (CSA). The Confederacy lost one of the most costly wars in our nation’s history, and the CSA reentered the Union beginning with Tennessee in 1866, followed by the ten other states intermittently until Texas rejoined on March 30, 1870.

Mock Secession

In 1982, the Key West City Council formally complained about Border Patrol checkpoints on the US-1 to the federal government. The complains claimed the check points (for illegal immigrants and narcotics) hurt the tourism industry in the area. They also filed an injunction against the road blocks in court, which ultimately failed. As a form of protest, Mayor Dennis Wardlow and the Key West City Council declared their independence on April 23, 1982. They believed that since the Border Patrol had set up a checkpoint as if they were a foreign nation, they would operate as such and initiate a “mock secession.”

Mayor Wardlow was proclaimed Prime Minister of the “Conch Republic,” of which he symbolically declared war against the US by breaking a loaf of bread over a man’s head who was dressed in a naval uniform. He surrendered one minute immediately after, asking the man for one million dollars in foreign aid. Although this was done primarily in jest, and no blood was shed, it signifies the division as seen in nearly thirty states petitions for secession.

Though the petitions may seem trivialized, these signatures magnify the division in American politics today.