One Nation . . . Indivisible?

by | Jun 27, 2017


As a child in government schools, I must have recited the pledge of allegiance thousands of times. And not once did it occur to me that the “one nation . . . indivisible” part of it is simply an embrace of the Lincolnian heresy, a preemptive attack on the potential for any kind of organized withdrawal whatsoever. At this point in history, can we not see what a terrifying affirmation this doctrine really is? No matter how oppressed people may be, their secession from the overbearing super-state is obstructed by invisible ideological walls. Thus the words of the Declaration of Independence have turned inward and eaten themselves like an absurd snake consuming itself from the tail forward. Recall those words?

[T]o secure these rights [of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . . [W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. . . . [W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The Declaration from which the foregoing passages are copied was a declaration and justification of the secession of thirteen British colonies from the British Empire. To repeat, secession from the established state. Yet, owing to the Republican triumph in the War Between the States, the victorious party’s anti-secessionist doctrines became enshrined in the dominant ideology of the nation. Too bad. Secession is certainly not necessarily a bad thing, however repulsive one might find the secession of the Confederate states to have been in 1861.

Americans have cheered secession in many parts of the world in recent decades. Yet, in the USA, secession remains tainted by its association with the defense of slavery in the 1860s. Americans need to get over that knee-jerk association and recognize that secession might—not necessarily, but might—be an essential first step in people’s escape from an intolerable government and in the reestablishment of their liberties.

Reprinted with permission from The Independent Institute.


  • Robert Higgs

    Robert Higgs is Retired Senior Fellow in Political Economy, Founding Editor and former Editor at Large of the Independent Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, the University of Economics, Prague, and George Mason University.

    View all posts