With a surprising number of Americans open to secession in the wake of the Scottish referendum, a U.S. state lawmaker is pointing citizens to the nation’s founding documents, which he contends support the right of states to break away from the union.
A Reuters/Ipsos survey found nearly 25 percent of the American public strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state breaking away. The poll found the historic Scottish referendum last week, even in defeat, has fueled talk of secession in the U.S.
New Hampshire Republican state Rep. Dan Itse, the author of a new book on state rights, contends the Constitution of his state and the U.S. Constitution give states sovereign authority over their own affairs.
“If you look at our New Hampshire Constitution from 1784, which predates the U.S. Constitution by a few years, the Bill of Rights in New Hampshire refers to New Hampshire as a free, sovereign and independent state,” he said in an interview with WND.
Secession, he believes, is the last resort of the states to ensure that the union is held together by the consent of the governed.
He pointed out that contemporaries of the Founders often used the words state and nation interchangeably in their writings.
“This was not accidental, because they saw the need to ensure that any state in a union of states had the right to maintain their liberties independent of an all-powerful central government,” Itse said.
Itse, author of the book “States Have Powers: The Power of the People,” emphasizes the Founders were intentional in their use of the word “state.”
They also carefully used the term “union,” he said, ensuring that with the formation of a union, safeguards would be in place to protect the rights of states.
Itse said that in his effort to understand the Founders’ ideas, he tried to “think like James Madison.”
“What was he thinking when he worked out the details of the balance of power between the central and the federal government?” Itse asked.
“I wondered, if I were sitting in their shoes, how would I think about it? How would they write this out since they had a great economy of words? What did they mean by the phrase ‘perpetual union,’ for instance?
He pointed out that the phrase is in the Articles of Confederation, which recognized the states as sovereign and independent. The articles were written, he noted, after fighting a seven-year war against the British Empire, which the colonies at one time had trusted to guarantee their liberties.
“Thinking on this, and as they drafted the Articles of Confederation, would they have entered into a union, a perpetual union, if they could not also withdraw from that union when that union became injurious to their liberty?” Itse asked.
“The answer is categorically no,” he told WND. “And I have never posited that question to anyone where they didn’t come up with the proper conclusion.”
Itse added that anyone who examines the conditions leading to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence must conclude the Founders would never have intentionally put themselves into another situation that would lead to an authoritarian government.
“The Founders stated in the Declaration that a people have the right to throw off tyranny. They would not have put themselves in a position where they would have to resort to arms if they couldn’t do it legally,” Itse said.
Veteran constitutional attorney Edwin Viera agrees that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution viewed the states as sovereign entities.
“The Declaration of Independence explicitly treats the states as independent states (in the plural) with independent powers,” Viera said.
He acknowledged the Founders did not “preclude the states, or ‘We the People,’ from stripping some of those powers in whole or in part from the states and transferring them to Congress.”
Nevertheless, he said, the states and the individual have clearly defined authority and autonomy, according to the U.S. Constitution.
“The government has no lawful power to do to any citizen what any person would not have the lawful power to do to another person themselves,” he explained.
He said the Founders emphasized in the Constitution, in Article Eight and others, that all power derives from the people.
“This means that all officers and their agents are accountable to the people. If all power derives from the people, then the government can’t have any power that the people don’t have individually,” Itse said.
One of Itse’s strongest beliefs is in regard to the limitations on treaties. In his book, he writes that no treaty can legally be ratified that nullifies the authority of the Constitution or takes away any right granted to the people.
“It should be pointed out that treaties are approved by the Senate, which is a house of Congress. Therefore, the treaties which they can lawfully approve would be limited to those areas of the law in which they have been given lawful authority,” he writes.
Itse applies the principle to the Second Amendment.
“If the Constitution says the people have the right to keep and bear arms, how can the Congress legally ratify a treaty that would take away that right?” he asks. “They can’t. If the Constitution says that the federal government can’t infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms, then how can they ascribe to a treaty that limits that right?”
Itse told WND that as an engineer, he tries to keep things simple.
“It’s a logical impossibility for the Senate to actually ratify a treaty that would take away a constitutional right. In fact, it’s not constitutional or legal for them to approve a treaty that would go against the Constitution,” Itse said.
“No treaty can violate the Constitution. Therefore, a purported treaty that attempts to do so cannot be ratified. I should imagine that some purported “treaties” would also violate the Declaration of Independence, and be invalid on that ground,” Viera told WND
Itse contends many members of the federal government are either unaware or are ignoring the limits set by the Constitution.
“Here’s where the people need to be cognizant of the limits of federal power: The people need to be aware of the illegitimacy of those treaties so they feel empowered to act. One of the best ways to act is to prevail upon their state legislators to force their federal lawmakers to enforce the Constitution,” he said.
Viera argued an international agreement that would take away Second Amendment rights, such as the Small Arms Treaty, cannot be legally binding on the American people.
Another current issue, he said, is the stream of executive orders coming out of the White House.
“The president has no authority to make law himself or to write an executive order that changes or nullifies any act of Congress,” he said. “He can write an order telling the members of the executive branch to follow the laws of Congress, but he has no authority to tell any person to do anything.”
Lawmaking power, he noted, has been delegated to Congress.
“We did not delegate the power to make law to the president, nor did we delegate the power to make law to the judiciary,” Viera said.
“Furthermore, the legislature doesn’t have the legal power to delegate the lawmaking power to any other branch of the government. We didn’t give them the power to delegate it.”
The people must act
Itse said his book was written as a commentary on the New Hampshire Constitution as it relates to the constitutions of the other states and the federal government.
He said the only remedy the country possesses to stop the federal government’s usurpation of power from the people is for the people to act.
“The first thing that has to be done is to spell out the issues in a believable manner. You have to be able to explain these issues in a way that doesn’t make you look like a wing nut. I think I’ve done that. There’s no hyperbole in the book.
“I don’t point to any grand conspiracies. It is simply a fundamental doctrine in the documents. We have to make it clear,” Itse said.
He uses as an example an 1808 letter drafted by the New Hampshire Legislature to President Thomas Jefferson.
“The letter to Jefferson stated clearly that the union of the states was not accomplished by the Constitution. The letter refers to the states as independent states,” Itse said.
Itse believes the ultimate issue the people need to remember is that the Founders believed in the power of the states more than in the power of strong central government.
“The Constitution itself doesn’t hold us in union; it forms a framework for the union. What holds us together is a sense of common purpose – unanimity. We believe the same things,” Itse said.
He said the people need to remember that when the common purpose is no longer represented by the central government, there is nothing holding the nation together.