Secession and Coercion

Hopefully, Great Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union demonstrates that Civil War is not a necessary consequence of secession.

Negotiated settlements are workable and peaceable alternatives. In fact, the recently updated Article 50 of the EU Constitution requires a negotiated settlement. While the Confederacy could not point to a similar article in the U. S. Constitution to justify its departure, neither could the remaining members cite an article that prohibited such action. Moreover, when New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia ratified the federal Constitution they did so conditionally by reserving their rights to withdraw from the Union whenever it was in their best interests.


While admitting differences between Great Britain’s withdraw from the EU and the Confederacy’s split with the USA, there are frightening similarities in the rhetoric of the unionists. Chief among them is the attempt to portray the departing states as morally depraved and the truncated unions as ethically superior. In America 150 years ago such language did precede Civil War. As to the present situation, consider remarks excerpted from some of the most popular reader comments in today’s New York Times article about the Brexit vote.

“What I found distasteful in the UK “leave” debate was the full Monty bigotry card. Nationalism fueled by fear and hatred of others…” —D. L. Willis, M.D.

“Immigration is what this is all about and the racists and fear mongers have won.”—Jon Champs

“Hopefully the racist, xenophobic, sentiment that helped the “leave” campaign win won’t similarly help Trump…”—Spencer

“Trump supporters are exactly like the Leave storm troopers; xenophobic and racist.”—Robert

If the remaining members of the EU attempt to force Britain back into their Union the resulting war will not be “all about” racism, bigotry and xenophobia, just as the American Civil War was not “all about” slavery. It will be at least equally about coercion.

Assuming the U. K. is as racist and bigoted as Brexit opponents quoted above think, should the Union Jack be removed from Hawaii’s flag?


My Civil War Books

The Confederacy at Flood Tide
Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated



2 thoughts on “Secession and Coercion

  1. terry6400

    I wrote a little parody that expresses my sentiments on Brexit.

    Britain secedes from the Union. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron resurrects Abraham Lincoln from the dead. Lincoln immediately asks, “Who will pay our taxes?” All of London shouts in unison, “We don’t care. Free the slaves!” Lincoln, upon hearing “free the slaves,” organizes a 75,000 man army, and invades England, only to find the slaves already left for Greece on the underground railroad.

    Cameron had urged Britain to remain in the Union, warning of economic and security consequences of an exit. Sound familiar? Too bad Britain didn’t feel the same way about the South seceding from the Union in 1861. Maybe the outcome would have been different, and patriotic southerners would not be forced to live among all the flag haters today.

    1. Phil Leigh Post author

      Actually, until after the Emancipation Proclamation many, perhaps most, British did side with the Confederacy. Since Lincoln initially claimed that the war was not over slavery, they took him at his word thereby conducing the differences were self-determination (South) and conquest (North.)


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