Missing the mark
Letter writer David Welch totally missed the mark by insinuating the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Smith Act of 1940 includes the ordinance of secession, which they clearly do not. The Alien and Sedition Acts were highly tyrannical in nature and basically gave the federal government full authority to arrest and jail citizens for saying or printing defamatory remarks concerning federal officials, which was a direct violation of the First Amendment. These infamous acts also expedited Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to author the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, which in essence stated that whenever the federal government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void and of no force. The Alien and Sedition Acts were eventually repealed, beginning in 1801 under then President Thomas Jefferson.
The Smith Act of 1940, on the other hand, basically targeted communists, anarchists and fascists who were indeed covertly desiring to overthrow the U.S. government. This law had absolutely nothing to do with secession, which is basically a political divorce. The ordinance of secession is neither rebellion or insurrection, does not advocate the overthrow of an existing government, and most certainly is not an act or declaration of war. It is merely a civil process that has no necessary connection with war and is based upon two issues: the natural right of self-government and is a reserved power to the several states per the 10th Amendment, meaning they possessed this power both before and after the Constitution’s ratification in 1788.
Prior to 1787, when the U.S. Constitution was first proposed, the federal government, as we know it, did not exist. The states were in every respect sovereign nations and were governed by their respective state constitutions. Eventually, those nations agreed to create a federal government, which would be their agent by affording it specific and limited delegated powers.
Even though secession was commonly understood to be perfectly legal, the 10th Amendment was added in 1791 to draw a line in the sand, which ascertained unmistakably the powers that were to be granted to this newly created federal government and those that were to be reserved by the states. Therefore, the act of secession was clearly not delegated to the federal government under Article I, Section 8 and was not prohibited to the states under Article I, Section 10, which means it was specifically reserved to the states (nations).
Until this power is prohibited to the states by “the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof” as required in Article V, secession remains as legal today as it was in 1776, 1787 and 1861. Loy Mauch Bismarck