The Right Opinion

What Ron Paul Gets Wrong

By Ken Blackwell · Nov. 17, 2012

Congressman Ron Paul has just delivered his valedictory address in the House of Representatives. And he has told TV interviewers that the American Revolution was a wonderful example of secession. He’s a much better OB/GYN, I’m sure, than he is a student of America’s history. He could  be cited for political malpractice.

If the Founding Fathers and the Patriots who fought and won the Revolution were seceding, why is it that none of them ever called it secession? They certainly had the word back then. They invoked the well-known right of revolution. They had read their John Locke and their Montesquieu, to be sure, but they most often listened to sermons advocating independence – especially those of the New England clergy.

Then, again, why is it that the Confederates of 1861 did not claim that their Secession movement was an exercise of the right of revolution? They were careful not to call it revolution. That’s because if they as slaveholders had a right of revolution – to secure what they regarded as their unalienable rights – then so did their slaves.

No one was more eloquent on this point than Thomas Jefferson. Although a slaveholder throughout his life, and never able to disentangle himself from that peculiar institution, Jefferson wrote at length about the injustice of slavery. “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.” Speaking of slavery, Jefferson said “we have the wolf by the ears.”

Movingly, he said “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and His justice cannot sleep forever.” He went on to say that in a revolution by the slaves to secure their undeniable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, God would be on the side of the slaves.

Congressman Paul is wrong to suggest that our American War of Independence was an act of secession from the British Empire. Those Whiskey Rebels ion the Pennsylvania frontier in 1794 were certainly unhappy with taxes on their only cash crop, corn. They rebelled against the Excise Taxes imposed by the new Washington administration. President Washington himself led troops into the field to put down that rebellion by force. It was an overwhelming show of force, too.

President Andrew Jackson was himself a slaveholder, but when in 1832 South Carolina tried to Nullify federal laws within their state’s borders, Jackson called it treason. And he rattled his saber. Ex-President James Madison backed him up to the hilt. Madison compared the leader of the “Nullies” – John C. Calhoun – to the serpent in the garden. Tough stuff.

When Virginia’s governor told Jackson he could not march troops through the Old Dominion, Old Hickory roared back. He would march at the head of the army, he said, and if any man tried to bar his way, “I will hang him as high as Haman!

Virginia backed down. South Carolina backed down. And John C. Calhoun, it is recorded, became even paler.

What Ron Paul is talking about is dangerous. Those of us who are dissatisfied with the election results – and there are millions of us – have no recourse but to ballots. There must be no recourse from ballots to bullets, said Jefferson. Said Lincoln.

If Ron Paul wants to advocate revolution or civil war, he should say so openly. If he wants to invoke the right of revolution, he should tell his followers to count the cost. We suffered 630,000 dead in the Civil War. Is he willing to lose that many again? Or, with our population increase, ten times that many?

Other politicians, those in Lincoln’s time, pooh-poohed the idea of much bloodshed from secession. One fire-eating secesh leader said he would wipe up with his handkerchief all the blood that might be shed over secession.

Such careless men were not hanged, mercifully. But they deserve the awful censure of history.

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32 Comments

Tony in Massachusetts said:

Mr. Blackwell, I think you might be over-analyzing Ron Paul's analogy, and grossly misinterpreting what he is trying to do.

He wants an ideological revolution. He wants people educated. He wants the duopoly, which is really two sides of the same coin, to end in our current Government.

"Those of us who are dissatisfied with the results have no recourse but to ballots". That one line shows how misguided you are on Ron Paul's agenda. A) his followers were dissatisfied with the options in the election, the result didn't matter. B) He couldn't disagree more that your only recourse is a ballot. The Paul folks are getting involved in their county/state political infrastructure and having a say that way.

He's advocating discussion, ideas, and choices. Not robotically voting for the same two empty suits every 4 years.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 5:40 AM

Tim in Pennsylviania replied:

Hey Tony,
I was going to make the same response to this article, but you did it for me. Ron Paul has stated many times that he wants a peaceful intellectual revolution through changing peoples minds, not a blood soaked war type of revolution.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 4:37 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Some follow Peter, and some follow Paul, but both are on the same side! Ron Paul showed America that he knows his Constitution, far better than the neo-marxman---Obongo, who has a college degree in that subject. On foreign policy, is where Tea Party Conservatives, and Ron Paul part company."When you listen to Paul, speak on F.P., we wonder, and wonder, and wonder still?"

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Larry in Honolulu replied:

What is the ideal foreign policy of the "Conservative" Tea Party. Oh, you may want to rename your political party because I think RP has the IP on that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bNiDx7qTjA

You may think that the Tea Party is something conservative or Republican, but it is purely libertarian. But, the masters of the R's and D's couldn't stand for this so, of course, they had Neo-Conns and the Religious Right join the party. As if these people didn't already have a "party."

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 6:26 AM

Larry in Honolulu said:

The author of the piece first asserts that Dr. Paul is advocating secession. Second, the author plays semantics with Dr. Paul's assertion that our Revolution was an act of secession from the British Crown. I listened to Dr. Paul's final speech in the HOR and his CSPAN interview later in the week. Dr. Paul said, in crystal clear American English, that he was not an advocate of secession in our current circumstances. He did, however, assert that there is no Constitutional provision that would prevent such an act. Clearly, if states grant the federal government power, in all logical measures, this granting of authority can be removed at the state's discretion. The author also moves on from secession movements to basic nullification, which is a more basic right of those that grant the federal government authority. And the evidence that is presented against nullification is the federal government's readily available use of violence through standing armies against it's own people and threats of summary execution.

The interesting black hole in this rhetoric is not the portrayal of Dr. Paul. No, the shadow being cast over my computer screen is the author's lack of empathy for those that have supported Dr. Paul and his principles. We have an unconstitutional banking system, a destruction of the Bill of Rights, a congress that will cater to anyone with a check book and reward anyone that can scribble their name on a voter registration card, yet this author--of the Patriot Post-- is spending his organization's time and resources criticizing the most constitutionally consistent member of our elected body in the past three decades.

Oh, author of this article, you are no Patriot. Please don't tread on Dr. Paul's coat tail at the risk of tripping and falling on your face.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 6:01 AM

Anonymous in USA said:

Isn't this nitpicking semantics?

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 7:52 AM

Richard Haydn in Cleveland, OH said:

Mr. Blackwell,
Ron Paul supporters are not the Tea Party. That group has for the most part been taken over by war mongers. We are also not supporters of Romney, whose minions did their best to disenfranchise us.

Were Jackson to materialize in present day America he would be amazed and disheartened by the growth and intrusiveness of government in our lives. He would be an ally of Ron Paul. Jackson's dying words recalled what he believed to be his single greatest achievement - he had killed the national bank, the FED of his day.

No need to bother much with the secessionist petitions. Rest assured, the populace is too concerned with the Bieber/Gomez dating story to bother. Let us resume printing money, bailing out the big boys, and sticking it to the retirees and working people by debasing our money. This is what both parties do. As Ron Paul supporters, we count you both in the same club.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 8:51 AM

Bruce R Pierce in Owensboro, KY replied:

Who's Bieber/Gomez, I want to know where John Gault is.

Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Rick in Chicago said:

An exercise in hair-splitting? A friend wrote something on Paul's exit speech from a different angle at politicalluther.blogspot.com

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 8:58 AM

Jim in People's Republic of Bloomington, IN said:

What do you suggest we do when the ballot casting process (voting) becomes corrupt with fraud, and when the media, which in a nobler day was the watchdog of government, becomes the chief cover-up agent and cheerleader for a despicable, constitution-trashing administration? Please, Mr. Blackwell, share with us your ideas.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 9:39 AM

jARROD in Chicago said:

Right back to "slave owners", let us not forget who sold the slaves into bondage. It was their own people!!! And yes stop over analyzing.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Terence Conklin in Nevada said:

We can discuss semantics or we can address our very real problems. Since semantics is your choice Mr. Blackwell, The American Revolution was a secession which unfortunately required many deaths to accomplish. The thirteen States left English control and became independent. The Confederate States of America also seceded. They didn't call it a revolution because they imply wanted to become independent. They didn't seek to overthrow the government of the United States. They just wanted out. In doing so they actually improved upon the Constitution they had lived under by banning the importation of slaves and folding the Bill of Rights Amendments into the body of their new Constitution. The north crushed their attempt after a war so bloody and sad that we could never tolerate such a crime again. The period of "Reconstruction" was marked by military governments imposed on the Confederacy, voting rights being withheld, and the rise of the intense anger we have even to this day. The war is often referred to as the "War of Northern Aggression" and rightly so. The north could have simply allowed the south to be independent and live under a government of the people's choosing. I know you'll jump in here to point out that the slaves had no choice and you are right, but the fact is the times were different then and the north accepted slavery when it suited them too. It was a travesty of human nature to subjugate other human beings and in time I have no doubt that the south would have evolved out of that practice, probably with better results than what we experienced with the backlash of Reconstruction being directed at black Americans instead of the real culprits in congress.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 11:28 AM

Jeff in Las Vegas replied:

Ah... the other side of the narrative that isn't taught in our schools. We are taught that Lincoln freed the slaves... but how many deaths could have been avoided if things were handled differently? Our history is full of us doing "right things", when the reality was quite different. Look what we did to the Indians. Instead of telling the real story, we make a story that supposedly justifies our actions, with "heroes" to boot. Thank you for sharing a different perspective.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 11:40 PM

Abu Nudnik in Toronto replied:

A sad fact is that the Cotton Gin would have made slavery obsolete. What would have happened to those souls without work, without the legal status of a human being?

Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Joe in KY said:

Clearly this author is trying to create devisiveness by arguing the silliest of semantics, all the while claiming to be a "patriot" (not!).

I assume this is an establishment website, one that is founded and funded by the very government Ron Paul's revolution seeks to restore back to a constitutional republic.

No thanks Mr. Blackwell to your dishonorable hit piece on the champion of Liberty. You should be ashamed and issue an apology for this disinformation and propaganda.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Thomas Jefferson in Washington said:

A "secession" is a separation by definition.

That's what happens in a revolution. It is a separation of political bands which connect others.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Secede: To withdraw from fellowship, communion, or association; to
separate one's self by a solemn act; to draw off; to retire;
especially, to withdraw from a political or religious body.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM

scum in jefferson city mo said:

Yawn. Ron Paul has forgot more American history than you will ever know. History fail.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 2:40 PM

dan in Santa Monica said:

Mr Ken Blackwell
If you are advocating perpetual war, Totalitarianism, Fascism and the financial collapse of the United states then you should just come right out and say it. Other wise it is clear that you are trying to gain notoriety slandering Ron Paul.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 2:43 PM

ron in bama said:

go figure - a black guy wrote this horrible article.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 3:31 PM

Michael in Chicago said:

Ron Paul certainly doesn't want another war. He is extremely consistent about his opposition to most wars and about the need to justify a war and go through the proper constitutional procedure for declaring a war.

What's more - he is also extremely consistent about stating that the path to change is through education and convincing. In fact, for him, the ballot reflects the thoughts and beliefs of the populace and therefore the real recourse to take is to convince people of one's views.

Now, I haven't heard his particular thoughts on the right to secession and I may also disagree with what he says on that point, but in terms of a politician who believes in peaceful, non-violent means of making serious societal changes - few can equal Ron Paul.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 3:48 PM