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Secession

Secession

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Secession is the act of withdrawing territory from a state and converting it into an independent state or joining it to another state. In the latter case, secession is combined with irredentism. Secession is a negative term, one that is more likely to be used by its opponents than its advocates. Supporters of secession prefer to describe themselves as struggling for something positive. For example, those who support Quebecs secession from Canada describe themselves as sovereigntists or independentists, not as secessionists.

Secession can usefully be distinguished from three other terms with which it is often confused. First, it is not a synonym for self-determination but one form that a struggle for self-determination might take. Second, it is different, particularly in the minds of international lawyers, from decolonization, which involves the separation of a colony from its metropole, with a colony typically defined as a racially distinct territory separated from the metropole by saltwater and whose people do not enjoy metropolitan citizenship rights. Secession, by contrast, is seen as withdrawal from a state, with the territory involved usually a contiguous piece of the states territory or a nearby island. Third, secession is an act that is initiated and carried out by those who want a new state of their own. It should be distinguished, therefore, from partition, which implies the fresh division of a territory by an external (third-party) actor (OLeary 2005). Irish nationalists sought the secession of Ireland from the United Kingdom, but the latter partitioned Ireland, as they later partitioned India and contributed to the partition of Palestine.

Secessions are generally attempted by minority nations that want their own state (or to be joined with another state), though Russia, with a significant majority of the states population, seceded from the Soviet Union. There is no prospect of immigrant ethnic groups, such as the Chinese community in British Columbia or the Koreans in California, seceding from their respective states, as these are not mobilized as nations. Nor is it foreordained that a minority nation will become secessionist. There is evidence that the timely accommodation of minority nations, involving territorial autonomy and, in the case of sizable minorities, inclusive power sharing (consociational) politics at the center, can reduce support for secession.

States almost invariably oppose secession. Many states explicitly rule it out in their constitutions. Some, such as Ukraine or Turkey, even make it impossible to change their constitutions to allow secession. In these cases, the unity of the state is a higher value than popular sovereignty. Americans need no reminders that states are often prepared to resist secession with considerable force, even if it costs many lives.

As international law is written by states, it is hardly surprising that its provisions on secession are very restrictive. International law recognizes a legal right of peoples to self-determination, but this right was intended to apply only to historic European colonies, that is, to acts of decolonization. It was developed, moreover, at a time when significant numbers of acts of decolonization had already occurred. The right is a once-only right, to be exercised at the point of decolonization, and does not extend to minority regions within colonies or to minority or majority regions that intersect colonial frontiers. Oddly, then, the international legal right to self-determination is built on the constructs of imperialists. Since World War II (19391945), there has been only one clear example of a successful, internationally recognized secession that was opposed by the states authorities, the case of Bangladesh, which seceded from Pakistan with Indias help in 1971. With one questionable exception, all other secessions have either been agreed to by central authorities (East Timor, Eritrea, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) or have been recognized after central authority had collapsed (the fifteen republics that seceded from the Soviet Union). The Soviet Unions republics had the additional advantage of a constitutional right to secession. The questionable exception is Yugoslavia. The secessions of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina were opposed by Belgrade (Serbia and Montenegro), but the Badinter Commission nonetheless ruled that Yugoslavia was in a state of dissolution. To bolster its case, the commission also cited a clause in the Yugoslav constitution that gave its republics the right of secession.

The unwillingness of the states system to sanction secession is underlined by a number of de facto secessions (Bahcheli, Bartmann, and Srebrnik 2004). Here, secessionist authorities have failed to win recognition from other states even though they have succeeded in monopolizing the sovereign functions of government on their territory, often for years or even decades. These regions include Transnistria (Moldova), Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Somaliland (Somalia), the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (Cyprus), and Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Georgia). The strangest case of a de facto secession is Kosovo, which was liberated from Serbias control by an international military alliance in 1999. In spite of this, the international community has so far refused to recognize Kosovos independence. If it does, it is likely to do so in a way that does not set a precedent for others. It may help Kosovos case that, while it was not a full republic of the former Yugoslavia, it enjoyed equality with these republics within federal institutions and a similar level of autonomy. This may allow other states to argue that Kosovo is a special case, sufficiently like the full republics of the former Yugoslavia to enjoy similar rights.

While lawyers have debated the legal right to secession, philosophers have argued about the moral right. As liberals are committed to the idea of a legitimate state, it is difficult for them to rule out secession under any circumstances, although some suggest the priority should be to make the state legitimate, not to break it up. The two main liberal schools of thought on secession are based on just-cause and choice theories (Moore 1998). Just-cause theorists have traditionally taken a restrictive view of secession, arguing that a right to secede exists only when the state has been egregiously abusive. One of their most prominent representatives has recently offered a softer version of this: Minorities can secede if they are denied autonomy (Buchanan 2003). Choice theorists, using democratic arguments based on consent, analogize from marital to political divorce: Minorities should be able to leave if they want to and not just if they have been abused or not accommodated (e.g., Beran 1984).

Some scholars believe that states, particularly Western democracies like Canada and the United Kingdom, are becoming less resistant to secession and less likely to oppose it by force (Kymlicka 2001, pp. 387393). In 1998, the Canadian Supreme Court established a process whereby a province can secede, providing there is clear support for breakup, and after negotiations with the federal authorities. The prime minister of the United Kingdom, John Major, opined in the early 1990s that Scotland could secede if it wanted to, and in the Belfast Agreement of 1998, London confirmed that Northern Ireland could join the Republic of Ireland, provided that this was approved by referendums in both jurisdictions. Ethiopias republics have also been given the right to secession, and recent peace settlements in Sudan and Papua New Guinea have extended this right to South Sudan and Bougainville, respectively. From the other side, one academic has argued that minorities, particularly in western Europe, are no longer as insistent on secession, provided they are given autonomy and are included in international (European Union) institutions (Keating 2001). Neither of these trends is universal. In most parts of the world, states are at least as insistent on maintaining unity as they ever were, and there are still many secessionist movements.

The record of secession as a method of conflict resolution has been mixed. In some cases, the transition from one state to two, or several, has been relatively smooth (Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Norway/Sweden). In other cases, breakup had disastrous consequences (Yugoslavia, with respect to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, but so far not Slovenia or Macedonia). These contrasting cases suggest a straightforward point: Secessions that are opposed by the center and/or a significant community within the secessionist region are more likely to be violent (McGarry 1998).

SEE ALSO Borders; Confederate States of America; Conflict; Decolonization; Ethnicity; European Union; Partition; Quebecois Movement; Self-Determination; Sovereignty; U.S. Civil War

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bahcheli, T., B. Bartmann, and H. Srebrnik, eds. 2004. De Facto States: The Quest for Sovereignty. London: Frank Cass.

Beran. H. 1984. A Liberal Theory of Secession. Political Studies 32: 2131.

Buchanan, A. 2003. Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination: Moral Foundations of International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Keating, M. 2001. Nations Without States: The Accommodation of Nationalism in the New State Order. In Minority Nationalism and the Changing International Order, eds. Michael Keating and John McGarry, 1943. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kymlicka, W. 2001. Reply and Conclusion. In Can Liberal Pluralism Be Exported? Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe, eds. W. Kymlicka and M. Opalski, 347413. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McGarry, J. 1998. Orphans of Secession: National Pluralism in Secessionist Regions and Post-Secession States. In National Self-Determination and Secession, ed. Margaret Moore, 215232. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Moore, M. 1998. Introduction: The Self-Determination Principle and the Ethics of Secession. In National Self-Determination and Secession, ed. Margaret Moore, 113. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

OLeary, B. 2004. Partition. In The Social Science Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., vol. 2, eds. A. Kuper and J. Kuper, 708710. London: Routledge.

John McGarry

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Secession

SECESSION

SECESSION in American history is best defined as the removal of a political entity from the federal Union. It is closely related to, but not synonymous with, nullification; it can only be understood in contrast with Unionism.

The precedent for secession had, in the eyes of its advocates, been established with the American Revolution (1775–1783). Thus the possibility of secession from the federal Union was broached almost as soon as that union was formed. In 1790, faced with the economic threat of Alexander Hamilton's proposal for an assumption of debts, the Virginia legislature warned that it might be necessary at some future point to sunder ties. In 1798 and 1799 the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions (drafted anonymously by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) proclaimed the rights of states to nullify federal legislation. This right was based on a "compact theory of union" that held that the union was simply an agreement between the sovereign communities of states. It indicated to many federalists that republicans were prepared to sever the union.

Yet it was the federalists themselves who first came to contemplate the possibility of secession. The greatest threat of secession prior to the Civil War (1861–1865) was made by New England federalists. Dismayed by the prospect of Jefferson's reelection, they secretly considered the possibility of withdrawing from the Union, only to be restrained by Alexander Hamilton in 1804. The federalists' fears had new focus with the War of 1812 (1812– 1815). From the beginning, federalists considered it to be "Mr. Madison's War," created by the ineptitude of Republican administrations. With the British occupation of Nantucket, their annexation of Maine east of the Penobscot, and increasingly frequent raids on the New England coast, it seemed to federalists that there was no longer any protection that the federal government could offer states. This led to the Hartford Convention of December 1814, where measures were taken toward the formation of a "Dominion of New England." Secession was not immediately threatened but was intimated. News of peace arrived in Washington on the same day as a list of the Convention's ultimatums, ending New England's flirtation with secession.

Previous dalliances with the idea of secession were overwhelmed by the enormity of subsequent events. The South's long fight to preserve the slave system that its leaders saw as its cohering center, both economically and culturally, did not tend inevitably toward secession. That it did eventually has obscured the tortuous process by which secession came eventually to be seen by Southerners as their only possible relief from Northern domination.

Foremost in the fight to preserve slavery was John C. Calhoun. Yet while Calhoun was the theorist who revivified Madison's idea of nullification for use against tariff acts in 1828 and 1832, he was also staunchly against secession. As a member of Monroe's cabinet, he had pushed for national improvements such as canals and roads. Even when Calhoun no longer advocated federal power for such ends, he ran for president three times. He was not interested in seceding from the Union over which he hoped to one day preside.

Yet Calhoun found himself surrounded by critics of nullification. An aging Madison denounced Calhoun's philosophy and renounced the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions that he had drafted. He now claimed that they were only to be understood within the context of federal union. Thus, "nullification" could be nothing more than the appeal of a state to public opinion within the Union. The nullification that Calhoun proposed would only, Madison feared, lead to the dissolution of the Union. A small number of states could not seek to override the desires of the majority. Calhoun's theories could only give


comfort to those in the South seized by "madness," which drove them to look for "greater safety in disunion."

Those who did seek such comfort found no succor from Calhoun. Men such as Robert Barnwell Rhett and Jefferson Davis, who believed with varying degrees of firmness in the right of a state to secede from the Union, found Calhoun's doctrines of nullification to be both mystifying and useless. Nonetheless, he remained an unopposable force in Southern politics until his death in 1850. Unable to muster support across the South for nullification, Calhoun also prevented his more radical juniors from uttering threats of secession. What Southern union there was came only in response to the threats of Northern abolitionists.

With Calhoun's death, South Carolinian politicians once again planned to secede. In May of 1851, a conference of politicians met in Charleston to advocate secession as the only cure for abolitionist corruption from the North. Yet the conference failed; no other Southern state chose to follow South Carolina's lead. It was only the election of Abraham Lincoln that provided the initiative to override the proslavery Unionists in the South.

Secession has thus never had any cohering power inherent to itself at any point in American history. It required great external threats against a regional community to spur them toward secession from the federal Union. Since the carnage of the Civil War, no state or region has seriously contemplated secession.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Banner, James M. Jr. To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts, 1789–1815. New York: Knopf, 1970.

Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

McDonald, Forrest. States Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, 1776–1876. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.

Albert LouisZambone

See alsoAntislavery ; Federalist Party ; South, the: The Antebellum South ; andvol. 9:South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession .

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secession (in political science)

secession, in political science, formal withdrawal from an association by a group discontented with the actions or decisions of that association. The term is generally used to refer to withdrawal from a political entity; such withdrawal usually occurs when a territory or state believes itself justified in establishing its independence from the political entity of which it was a part. By doing so it assumes sovereignty.

The U.S. Civil War

Perhaps the best-known example of a secession taking place within the borders of a formerly unified nation was the withdrawal (1860–61) of the 11 Southern states from the United States to form the Confederacy. This action, which led to the Civil War, brought to a head a constitutional question that had been an issue in the United States since the formation of the union. It was the principal point in the controversy over states' rights.

The secessionists argued that the union created by the Constitution was only a compact of sovereign states and that power given to the federal government was only partial and limited, not paramount over the states, and effective only in the specific fields assigned it. The states, being sovereign, had the legal right to withdraw from the voluntary union. The opponents of the right of secession believed that the Constitution created a sovereign and inviolable union and that withdrawal from that union was impossible. Prior to the Civil War secessionist sentiments were evidenced in both the North (see Hartford Convention) and South, but as the North grew more powerful, talk of secession became more common in the South.

The nullification movement, which held that any state could declare null and void any federal law that infringed upon its rights, was an attempt to eradicate the need for secession by giving the states complete sovereignty. Measures such as the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 were merely delays in resolving whether the states or the federal government was to possess sovereignty. Desiring to maintain the slave system and threatened by the North socially and economically, the South finally seceded from the Union soon after the election of Abraham Lincoln. The defeat of the Confederacy in the bloody war that followed settled the constitutional controversy permanently.

Other Historical Examples of Secession

An early example of secession is that of northern Israelite tribes from the larger Davidian kingdom after the death of Solomon (933 BC). Venezuela and Ecuador were created in 1830 when they seceded from Gran Colombia. Military action by Finnish nationalists enabled Finland to secede from a weakened Russia after 1917. In the 1960s the attempts of Katanga to secede from the newly independent Congo and of Biafra to break away from Nigeria were both crushed in long and bloody civil wars. By contrast, the secession (1971) of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) from the state of Pakistan was accomplished successfully with the help of India, the Baltic states regained independence from the USSR immediately before its dissolution, and Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 after the overthrow of the latter nation's government.

Bibliography

See J. T. Carpenter, The South as a Conscious Minority (1930); D. M. Potter, Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis (1942); K. M. Stampp, And the War Came (1950); D. L. Dumond, The Secession Movement, 1860–1861 (1931, repr. 1963); U. B. Phillips, The Course of the South to Secession (1939, repr. 1964); L. C. Buchheit, Secession (1978); G. Craven, Secession (1986); J. A. Rawley, Secession (1989); R. J. Cook et al., Secession Winter: When the Union Fell Apart (2013).

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Secession

SECESSION

The act of withdrawing from membership in a group.

Secession occurs when persons in a country or state declare their independence from the ruling government. When a dissatisfied group secedes, it creates its own form of government in place of the former ruling government. Secessions are serious maneuvers that lead to, or arise from, military conflict.

A secession can affect international relationships as well as the civil peace of the nation from which a group secedes. Most countries consider secession by a town, city, province, or other body to be a criminal offense that warrants retaliation using force. Because the primary mission of most governments is to maximize the comfort and wealth of its citizens, nations jealously guard the land and wealth that they have amassed. In rare cases a government may recognize the independence of a seceding state. This recognition may occur when other countries support the independence of the seceding state. However, for most countries, the involuntary loss of land and wealth is unthinkable.

Most countries have laws that punish persons who secede or attempt to secede. The United States has no specific law on secession, but the federal government and state governments maintain laws that punish sedition and other forms of insurrection against the government. On the federal level, for example, chapter 115 of title 18 of the u.s. code annotated identifies treason, rebellion, or insurrection, seditious conspiracy, and advocation of the overthrow of the government as criminal offenses punishable by several years of imprisonment and thousands of dollars in fines. These are the types of crimes that can be charged against persons who attempt to secede from the United States.

The u.s. civil war was the result of the single most ambitious secession in the history of the United States. In February 1861 South Carolina seceded from the Union, and Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee followed suit shortly thereafter. These states seceded because they objected to attempts by the federal government to abolish the enslavement of black people. The mass secession led to four years of civil war and the death of hundreds of thousands of people. The seceding states established their own government called the Confederate States of America and fought the U.S. military forces with their own army. When the Confederate forces were defeated in April 1865, the seceding states rejoined the United States.

cross-references

U.S. Civil War.

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secession (in art)

secession, in art, any of several associations of progressive artists, especially those in Munich, Berlin, and Vienna, who withdrew from the established academic societies or exhibitions. The artists of Munich formed a secession in 1892 that spread to other German cities. The Berlin Secession split away from the Verein Berliner Künstler in 1892; in 1899 it held its first exhibition in its own building. The group was led by Max Liebermann and included Lovis Corinth, Hans van Marées, and Franz von Stuck. When, in 1910, young artists of Die Brücke were excluded from the Berlin Secession exhibition, Max Pechstein led the rejected painters and organized the New Secession group. The Vienna Secession was organized in 1897 by 19 leading Austrian artists. Their leader was Gustav Klimt, whose decorative, exotic murals exemplify Secessionstil, the Viennese version of art nouveau. The Photo-Secession group was an American association of modern photographers founded in 1902 by Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen in New York City in reaction against pictorial photography.

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secession

se·ces·sion / səˈseshən/ • n. the action of withdrawing formally from membership of a federation or body, esp. a political state: the republics want secession from the union. ∎  (the Secession) hist. the withdrawal of eleven Southern states from the Union in 1860, leading to the Civil War. ∎  (the Secession) variant of Sezession. DERIVATIVES: se·ces·sion·al / -shənl/ adj. se·ces·sion·ism / -ˌnizəm/ n. se·ces·sion·ist / -ist/ n.

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secession

secession Formal separation from an organized body. The term usually applies to the withdrawal of a political unit from the state of which it formed a part. An example is the secession of 11 Southern states from the USA to form the Confederate States of America (1861).

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Secession

Secession the withdrawal of eleven Southern states from the US Union in 1860, leading to the Civil War; the term War of Secession is sometimes used for the American Civil War.

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Secession

Secession

a body of seceders, 1600; secessionists collectively, 1862. Also, secesh.

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Secession

Secession. See Sezession.

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