This story has been told and retold. Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”
To which Franklin supposedly responded, with a rejoinder at once witty and ominous: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
The question is, do we really want to keep it?
At the time of the American Revolution, the term United States referred to 13 separate countries that were united together for a common cause. The term United States was plural—These United States as opposed to The United States.
In December 1860, South Carolina declared that it had left the union and in April 1861, fired on the Union’s Fort Sumter, which surrendered. Some historians believe that until that attack, those in the North would have been happy to let them leave; they further state that the attack on Fort Sumter was the costliest military victory of all time.
South Carolina issued a statement explaining it’s reason for seceding. While many Southerners claim that the Lost Cause was about states’ rights, it is helpful to note South Carolina’s explanation for seceding included the following:
A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.
The Constitution of the Confederate States, which parallels the United States Constitution in many ways, includes the following:
Article IV, Section 2, Paragraph 3—No slave or other person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs; or to whom such service or labor may be due.
Today, some fear that we may be dangerously close to another split. Perhaps it will not be as bloody as the Civil War, but the split itself will be terribly damaging and costly. Blue (progressive) States tend to be on America’s east and west coasts, while Red (conservative) States are more in the center of the continent. Like in the Civil War, the division is accompanied by, if not caused by, a difference in values. The Blue States are more developed, more industrial, and produce as much wealth as most of the world’s countries. The Red States rely more on agriculture and mining—particularly fossil fuels. Wells can be tapped out and mines abandoned. Many farms located in Red States are owned and operated by corporations based in Blue States.
In the nineteenth century, Abraham Lincoln was intent on maintaining the Union. I don’t see the sanctity of the Union being the driving force for either side if Red and Blue States separate. Of course, both daughter countries would lack any significant influence on the world stage and would be unable to stand up to any powerful nation—any powerful nation, not just Russia and China.
The upside of such a division is limited. Various American politicians would be able to thump their chests and claim righteousness to the same people who already agree with them.
The first Civil War was instigated by Southern states. If we face another division, it will be due to the influence of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. I hope they all decide to stay with the Red States.