The Right of Revolution in US states

Ever wondered how to implement the “right to abolish the government” or the “right to revolution” recognized by many state constitutions? How do you accumulate enough legitimacy for a new state constitution to replace the current one? A new constitution can be as radical as you want it to be, if you can get it recognized.

The Dorr Rebellion of 1840s Rhode Island tested this.

Thomas Dorr’s political faction organized town meetings throughout the state, which sent delegates to a convention which drafted a new constitution. The faction organized an election to ratify the constitution, which passed easily. They claimed that turnout was more than half.

Then elections were held to hold offices under the new constitution, which resulted in 2 state governments for the same state. The governors led armies against each other, but Dorr backed down before bloodshed each time, which convinced the feds to stay calm. Dorr’s government dissolved after his demands were met by the establishment government.

His faction was led by Irish-American Democrats who wanted to expand the franchise (voting privileges) to those who didn’t own property. Even though the state militia was mostly Irishmen, the militia went into battlefields on behalf of the establishment governor. If they hadn’t, POTUS would have had to decide whether to invade at the invitation of the establishment government or to recognize Dorr’s government.

If POTUS/Congress are willing to order an invasion, economic sanctions, or FBI arrests, then they are the ones who will decide whether to recognize your new state constitution or not. If they are not willing, then the power struggle will be within the state itself. If the power struggle is within the state, a key question is to which government will employers/employees decide to send taxes or tax withholding?

Today, the fedgov is much more important, so if armies started roaming around they might secede from US, not just the state government.

SCOTUS decided that judges have no role in deciding which government was legitimate. So the New California and New Illinois movements would have to convince SCOTUS to overturn this precedent if they want SCOTUS to declare CA or IL government to not be “republican form of government.”

SCOTUS did allow POTUS & Congress, because they’re political branches, not a judicial branch, to declare governments & state constitutions illegitimate in the South during Reconstruction if POTUS/Congress decided they weren’t a “republican form of government.” And in 1863 Abraham Lincoln used this power to recognize an alternate legislature of Virginia, which gave permission, on behalf of Virginia, to the creation of West Virginia.

Don’t focus on courts. Focus on the awesome power of a 50% vote of Congress/POTUS. But don’t expect moderates in Congress to go for anything radical until the political climate gets much more dire, because most people still watch Dem news media. So feds will require you get the state’s permission to do anything, unless your state secedes from the US first.

This is why the Greater Idaho movement is working to get approval of their proposal from Oregon’s Legislature, or possibly a statewide ballot initiative. It’s a win-win for both sides of the state. But are politicians bold enough anymore?

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