The event, presented by the Temple American Inn of Court in conjunction with Gray's Inn, London, pitted British barristers against American lawyers to determine whether or not the American colonists had legal grounds to declare secession.
For American lawyers, the answer is simple: "The English had used their own Declaration of Rights to depose James II and these acts were deemed completely lawful and justified," they say in their summary.
To the British, however, secession isn't the legal or proper tool by which to settle internal disputes. "What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union? Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right," they argue in their brief.
A vote at the end of the debate reaffirmed the legality of Jefferson and company's insurrection, and the American experiment survived to see another day.
All law has to be backed by force. With sufficient force, it becomes true in fact. Without force, it is a joke. With enough force but no will to enforce it--such as in the case of the Soviet Constitution (or, many would say, the American)--it is the darkest sort of humor.
So, honestly, the fact is that the American secession is legal by fiat, just as the UK's criticism of secession is only based on the hypothetical ability to stop it. Law, I think, follows force. It certainly doesn't precede it. Incidentally, your brother's graduation from law school is a really bad time to start harping on post-hoc legal rationalization from Henry VIII to Barack Obama. Just sayin'.
But where America frustrates me is in its inconsistency (the UK's hypocrisies might upset me more were I to live there, or were it at the height of its power). We support secession when we are seceding, but killed hundreds of thousands to prevent Americans seceding from other Americans. We refuse to be subject to the same market fluctuations and price undercutting as everyone else, but cudgel smaller countries into the "global market." We are against imperial expansion yet squat on our formerly-Mexican lebensraum all the same. Our revolutionaries were thugs from the very beginning. They cleansed the Ohio River valley in order to distract from their unwillingness to revise or cancel debts. Washington was the first American leader to raise troops to fire on their own people. The revolution was powered by the people and the men with the statues led the counterrevolution. Even Jefferson expanded the power of the centralized state which, from opposition, he rightly sought to limit.
Have a great fucking weekend. Tear down some idols.
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