In my posts involving the myth of “We the People”, I neglected to address the myth of the perpetual union, which I will now address.
The myth of the perpetual union is one of the most easily exploded myths regarding the Constitution so it’s amazing that people still believe it. The myth that the Union was intended, implicitly, to be perpetual has been used to justify the North’s position in the Civil War and ever since as a legal bulwark against secession.
The idea of the Union being perpetual came from the Articles of Confederation, which were properly called the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union”. Firstly, this term of perpetual union was dropped and never mentioned in the Constitution, although The Great Deceiver Abraham Lincoln equated the preamble to the Constitution to this which stated that it was created “in Order to form a more perfect Union,” meaning that if one state seceded it would be ‘less perfect’ and the whole compact ceases to exist. How then, may I ask, did the Northern ‘Union’ continue to exist after the SDouthern states seceded? The answer is it didn’t cease to function. To paraphrase (I believe Tom Woods), it would raise (conscript) one of the largest armies ever, continue to jail thousands of dissenters, shut down hundreds of newspapers, deport a Congressman, and ultimately win the war. How is that for functioning?
Second, the term perpetual, back then, did not mean forever and incapable of dissolution. According to Kevin Gutzman, it simply meant that the compact had no provision in it specifying an end date, from which thereafter it would be null. In the 16th and 17th centuries, treaties were referred to as perpetual. It is clear from a look at history that these treaties didn’t last forever, with the sovereign countries forced to adhere to the treaty for all eternity. Rather, it meant the terms were to be continued to be followed from that point forward, with no desired/specified end date. If perpetual meant forever and indissoluble, than I’d sure like to hear the explanation for how the Articles of Confederation were dissolved for the Constitution, as these were explicitly ‘Perpetual’. Shouldn’t we consider the Constitution void and still be under the Articles of Confederation?
As if this evidence wasn’t enough, 3 states EXPLICITLY reserved the right to secede in their conditional acceptance of the Constitution; Virginia, Rhode Island and Maryland. If these states had the right to secede from the United States, it is inconceivable that any of the other States would not have this same legal right.