I have a couple responses to the questions about Texas Secession. First of all, serious debate should not be framed as an Order of Secession, which historically has been a race-based argument. Instead, Texans should frame the debate as a declaration of independence, which historically has been a democratic argument. Secession, quite frankly, is an idiotic idea. Just ask the Federalist New Englanders after the War of 1812, John C. Calhoun after the Nullification Crisis, or the now defunct Confederate States of America.
Can Texas Secede?
Yes and No. It depends on who you ask.
NO–According to most professional Texas historians–NO!!! (I don’t think you could find an academically-trained Texas historian that would say yes). According to historians, the Civil War settled the question. The bloodiest conflict in American history answered the secession question in no uncertain terms. And in fact, the United States does not and still does not recognize that Texas ever seceded. The federal government held that Texas was in “rebellion,” but never left the Union. If Texas tried to secede again, the cost would probably be the same in terms of lives, treasure, and extremely hard economic times. History indicates that the federal government would try to crush the “rebellion.” So called “Peaceful Secession” is a pipe dream. Just ask Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson what they do rebels who threaten secession. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln handled rebellion by projecting force–Jackson through the Force Bill and Lincoln through war. So technically Texas never seceded from the Union. They tried and they lost.
YES–According to Confederate sympathizers, Lost Causers, and Texas Nationalists, Texas can secede because Texas was an independent nation for almost ten years. It is true that the Republic of Texas was an independent nation. However, arguments for secession start to fall apart after serious scrutiny. This secession analysis ignores latter historical developments. Not only does it look at the question within in the bubble of Texas Revolutionary history, but it also ignores the input of the most famous Texans from the period. For example, Sam Houston opposed secession during the Civil War. The hero of the Texas Revolution believed secession to be illegal and a stupid idea. Plus secession gets wrapped up with the moral issues of slavery or a state’s right to protect the peculiar institution of slavery. If you don’t believe slavery and race played the most important role in secession then take a look at Texas’s “Order of Secession.” It is probably the most racist, pro-slavery document that I have ever seen. There is no doubt that other issues like tariffs (taxation) played a role too. But slavery dominated the debate over secession.
Can Texas Declare Independence?
That is up to Texans. Viable arguments for Texas Independence might include democratic, environmental, and local resource arguments. The Texas economy is large and it would suffer tremendously if federal dollars and military bases were removed from the state. But, Texas is diverse in terms of agricultural products and industrial capacity. So in terms of business and environmental diversity, the state of Texas could be mostly self reliant. For example, Texas does produce beer, wine, oil and gas, sugar, rice, wheat, cotton, peanuts, fruit and vegetables, meat, and many other products necessary for daily life. Local control and more authority in Austin as opposed to DC could make Texas more democratic with people having more say on local candidates and concerns. However, Texas is not politically or ethnically monolithic and that diversity would have to be reflected in the government and protected by the government. The most pressing concern would be the state’s ability or inability to protect civil rights and liberties, of which Texas has had a very mixed record. The historical record from the Reconstruction period, for example, is especially poor.
Could Texas try seceding again?
Yes. A group tried in the 1990s, but again they failed miserably. Ultra right-wing conservatives hijacked an organized Republic of Texas movement. Texas Liberals and Moderates were split from the organization and hard liners and militia types took over the movement riding it into nearest arroyo. The federal government ended up chasing right-wing militia wannabes in the west Texas wilderness. The current movement for secession probably will end up like the movement from the 1990s if it is run by the same angry white men. Texas secession would only be successful if all Texans, rich, poor, Liberal, Conservative, Moderate, black , white, yellow, brown, green, etc. agree that the federal government has seriously trampled on Texan rights. Race-based arguments criticizing “Obama’s America” will never unite Texans. Just ask Austin. Unless conservatives plan on cutting Austin and San Antonio out of Texas, then tax policy, spending, and race issues are not going to unite Texans together against perceived “tyranny.” The only way to unite Texans would be against actual tyranny.
What is the history of Texas independence?
The original Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico set in motion the Texas Revolution, which ultimately freed “Texians” (as the called themselves at the time) from the tyranny of Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana. Texans complained they were “the contemptible sport and victim of successive military revolutions and [Mexico] hath continually exhibited every characteristic of a weak, corrupt, and tyrannical government.” Furthermore, Mexico could not protect Texan property and properly defend the state from so-called “Indian depredations.” “Obama’s America” has not displayed these tendencies. In fact, the American military is at the height of its strength. Special forces killed Osama Bin Laden after the President of the United States Barack Obama ordered Seal Team Six into action. There have been no military revolutions in the United States ever. In “Obama’s America” Texas houses the largest military in base in the world. “Weakness” is not displayed by the federal government in Texas.
“Corruption and tyrannical government,” however, are up for debate. In fact, this is a matter of perspective and subjectivity to a certain extent. Yes, Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, the Drug War, unmanned drones, warmongering neo-conservatives groups like PNAC, illegal wiretaps, government invasion of privacy, and many other issues bring up serious questions about liberty and tyranny in the United States. But in no way, can Texans call President Obama a socialist and consider that a reason for independence. This idea can not be taken seriously by critical-thinking people. Texans take full advantage of the military-industrial complex, federal money for infrastructure, social security, medicare, medicaid, and many other programs that are forms of socialism. Perhaps, it isn’t Stalinism, but it is what I call Socialism “Light.” For this Texan to take this socialist epitaph seriously, Texans must quit suckling from federal tits. Governor Rick “Good Hair” Perry is a perfect example of this inability to see the inherent contradictions in taking federal dollars while at the same criticizing the federal government.
Finally, if Texans do want to secede, then they should think about it first. Don’t leave because you are angry. Anger and fear blind people. People ignorant to the realities of the world make stupid and irrational decisions. Instead, leave because you are informed and leave because know you can make a better life for yourself and your family. That would mean approaching Texas independence in a balanced and inclusive way. For example, Texas should make foreign alliances before declaring independence. Securing trading partners and diplomatic ties would be imperative. Relationships with Mexico, France, Great Britain, Russia, China, Canada, Japan, Jamaica, and the rest of the world would have to be established.
The debates over Texas nationhood go way back in Texas history. For example, they were heated issues for two Texas president–Sam Houston and Mirabeau Lamar. The subject should be taken seriously, but I am afraid it is being made into a political mockery by both the Left and the Right.
(Photograph of Sam Houston. The first President of the Republic of Texas Sam Houston was an outspoken critic of Secession before the Civil War.)
(Photograph of Texas President Mirabeau Lamar, who was a Texas nationalist. Lamar Street in Austin is named after this proponent of Texas power and prestige. Lamar and Houston fought many political battles over the fate of Texas.)