From my History in Politics series:
Since Governor Rick Perry of Texas has entered the Republican Presidential Primary, he seems desperately anxious to distance himself from remarks he made not long ago about his State’s seceding from the Union. Having a Jefferson Davis in the White House, he realizes, is probably not something most Americans would welcome, even in the South.
However, if I were a reporter covering Mr. Perry, I would confront him on this issue with a number of direct questions. Like: “Governor, if you were President and a State – say it was your own Texas – said it was determined to secede, would you let them go or would you, like your fellow Republican Abraham Lincoln refuse to allow them to break up the United States of America and use force if necessary?”
Following up would be: “Governor, had you gone ahead with your threat to take Texas out of the Union, where would you have taken the former Lone Star State? Would you have joined with Mexico? Or would you have reverted to being the independent Republic that broke away from Mexico and clamored to be accepted by the United States as a Slave State (that is, a State in which Slavery was legal)? Speaking of which, one of your arguments for Secession was that Texas had a clause in its agreement with the U.S. that it could pull out if it so wished.”
An interesting question would then be: “What about Vermont, which also entered the Union as a former independent Republic? The Green Mountain State’s status is particularly cogent now because a law was recently passed there setting up a ‘single payer’ Canadian-type health care system within its boundaries. Suppose you are President and try, as you most likely would, to do away with what you would surely label ‘a Socialist experiment.’ If Vermont, unable to stave off your Federal pressure, decided to secede, would you send in the troops?”
But let’s get back to Texas – independent or Tex-Mex or whatever. Here’s some questions:
What happens to your athletic teams? I’m thinking particularly of your college football elevens. I know of no instances where teams from other countries, even our closest neighbors Canada and Mexico, compete in the various leagues and conferences we have. Would the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Christian, Southern Methodist, Baylor, Rice, etc. be precluded from competing for BCS berths? How big would that be? Needless to say, if Texans are no longer Americans, they will need passports to enter the United States. Will quotas be set up for Texan immigrants? Will an Iron Curtain be erected to keep Texans in Texas? Will Texas join the United Nations? Will Texas seek a free trade agreement with the U.S.? What about U.S. military bases currently on Texas soil? Remember, Mr. Perry, the attack on federal Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor was the spark that lit the Civil War.
“Governor,” I would go on, “perhaps you have studied the Civil War and the events that led up to it. Perhaps you know about the Slave Power, as it was called then, and how strong and powerful these pro-Slavery forces were before 1860. Their political reach was dominant in all three branches of the federal government, controlling both bodies of Congress, the Supreme Court and the Presidency under its northern allies like Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. Perhaps, Governor, you are contemplating such total power at play in Congress again – a new Slave Power, fueled by selfish billionaires and shock troops who call themselves Tea Partiers, in a distorted attack on taxation instead of taxation without representation. Maybe you suddenly feel Texas may not have to secede, after all, if the new Slave Power can win all the marbles. Is that why you’re keeping silent on Secession now?
Or are you also waking up to the fact that a carelessness with words can catch up with you. “Secession” has not been a popular initiative in American history. Several decades before the South attempted it with such disastrous results, a political party in the North, the Whigs, self-destructed after they met in Hartford, Connecticut and, because of their opposition to the War of 1812, openly discussed taking New England out of the Union.
It is ironic, Governor Perry, that your recent attack upon a fellow Republican, Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve Board, led you to denote that his carrying out of his job in way you didn’t like was “treasonous.” Did you not realize that “Secession” in the United States was juridically deemed “treasonous.” Those who fought for the Confederacy were charged as “traitors.” A subsequent “Amnesty,” applied to 11 million men, brought them back into the nation’s fold. Possibly, seeing you’re a Texan, some of your ancestors were thus pardoned.
“Secession” and “treasonous” are not terms to be loosely used, Governor Perry.