A Perpetual Union

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Introduction It may seem odd today, but the phrase “the United States of America are” was in common usage when referring to our nation. While seemingly nonsensical by today’s understanding of the United States, the use of the plural form reflected the general belief that the Constitution of the United States of America linked otherwise independent, sovereign states. The belief that the American Union was a bonding not of individuals, but of independent states, was ultimently the legal basis for the succession of North Carolina in 1861, the purported formation of the Confederated States of America, and the resulting Civil War. After years of bloodshed and terror, this understanding of the Union was repudiated on the battlefields and in the courts, and with “United States are” became the United States is.” No better place is the change reflected than in 1868 North Carolina State Constitution’s clear statement in Article I, Section Four that North Carolina shall always be a part of the Union and its citizens shall always be Americans. While this idea is taken for granted in modern times, recent rhetoric throughout the states, including our own, once again suggests that the United States of America may not be an everlasting union. As we approach the 150th anniversary of the framing of the 1868 North Carolina Constitution, we must appreciate the blood and treasure that has been lost to allow this simple idea of enduring national unity to stand today and in perpetuity. The Historical Idea of Succession While it may seem ludicrous today, prior to the Civil War, the right of a state to secede from the Union was seen by many scholars as a legitimate exercise of state sovereignty well precedented in our nation’s history and inher... ... middle of paper ... .... While the Governor’s veto of the bill prevented it from becoming law, its adoption by a majority of both houses of state government reflect a growing trend towards the legitimacy of the federal government. As we approach the 150th anniversary of the North Carolina Constitution of 1868, let us commemorate the Article I, Section Four’s prohibition of secession. While there is little reason to believe that North Carolina will ever dare try to separate itself from the United States of America, it is important to remember to blood and treasure lost to make this so certain. Despite the wide range of differences between each state, whether political or cultural, we must remember that we are far better off united. Regardless of current rhetoric, because of Section Four, “the United States of America are” will never take the place of “the United States of America is.”
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