Tonight I attended a lecture sponsored by the George Washington Society. The topic was the Confederate States of America’s claim that they were the true heirs to the legacy of Washington, one Confederate going so far as to suggest that the nation be named “Confederate States of Washington.”
There were a few reasons for this, chief among them Washington’s rebellion against another government viewed as too large and encroaching. Additionally, the CSA knew they couldn’t succeed without Virginia, so appealing to Virginia on the basis of their favorite son was a smart political move.
However, the speaker effectively refuted this point, quoting Washington multiple times as saying the Union must be preserved. Apparently, Washington felt that by accepting the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War, the individual states were committing themselves to be a united nation in perpetuity.
I had always tended to the belief that any nation founded in a secessionist movement must be amenable to allowing secession or else its association is hypocritical. But during the lecture it occurred to me that in many ways a nation is a contract, and contracts are not voidable by one party without the agreement of the others involved in the contract. If one party attempts to leave a contract without the consent of the others, a penalty must be paid. Just as no new state can be formed by taking the land from one state without its consent and that of Congress, no state should be able to secede without the consent of Congress. I used to feel that while the South seceded for the wrong reasons, they were within their rights. I’ve now changed my mind on that: States do not have the right to leave the country without the express consent of the other states through Congress.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention, one of the attendees mentioned the Washington-Rochambeau Reveolutionary Route Association (W3R, you may have seen their signs around and wondered what that was). They exist to promote study of the American Revolution, with a specific focus on the travels undergone by the Continental Army under the leadership of Washington and Rochambeau. They’re currently lobbying Congress to get the Washington-Rochambeau Route declared a National Historic Trail. Senator Biden and Congressman Castle are co-sponsors of the bill in their respective Houses of Congress.