AskDefine | Define secession

Dictionary Definition



1 an Austrian school of art and architecture parallel to the French art nouveau in the 1890s [syn: sezession]
2 the withdrawal of eleven Southern states from the Union in 1860 which precipitated the American Civil War
3 formal separation from an alliance or federation [syn: withdrawal]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The act of seceding.

Usage notes

A common example of usage is the withdrawal of 11 Southern states of the United States of America from the Union in 1860–1861, precipitating the U.S. civil war

Related terms


Extensive Definition

Secession (derived from the Latin term secessio) is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. It is not to be confused with succession, the act of following in order or sequence.

Secession Theory

Mainstream political theory largely ignored theories of secession until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s through secession. Theories of secession address a fundamental problem of political philosophy: the legitimacy and moral basis of the state’s authority, be it based on “God’s will,” consent of the people, the morality of goals, or usefulness to obtaining goals.
In his 1991 book Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec philosophy professor Allen Buchanan outlined limited rights to secession under certain circumstances, mostly related to oppression by people of other ethnic or racial groups, and especially those previously conquered by other peoples.
In the fall of 1994 the Journal of Libertarian Studies published Robert W. McGee’s article ”Secession Reconsidered.” He writes from a libertarian perspective, but holds that secession is justified only if secessionists can create a viable, if minimal, state on contiguous territory.
In April 1995 the Ludwig Von Mises Institute sponsored a secession conference. Papers from the conference were later published in the book Secession, State and Liberty by David Gordon. Among articles included were: “The Secession Tradition in America” by Donald Livingston; “When is Political Divorce Justified?” by Steven Yates; “The Ethics of Secession” by Scott Boykin; “Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State” by Murray Rothbard; “Yankee Confederates: New England Secession Movements Prior to the War Between the States” by Thomas DiLorenzo; “Was the Union Army's Invasion of the Confederate States a Lawful Act? by James Ostrowski.
In July 1998 the Rutgers University journal “Society” published papers from a “Symposium on Secession and Nationalism at the Millennium” including the articles “The Western State as Paradigm” by Hans-Herman Hoppe, “Profit Motives in Secession” by Sabrina P. Ramet, “Rights of Secession” by Daniel Kofman, “The Very Idea of Secession” by Donald Livingston and “Secession, Autonomy, & Modernity” by Edward A. Tiryakian. In 2007 the University of South Carolina sponsored a conference called “Secession As an International Phenomenon” which produced a number of papers on the topic.

Justifications for Secession

Some theories of secession emphasize a general right of secession for any reason (“Choice Theory") while others emphasize that secession should be considered only to rectify grave injustices (“Just Cause Theory”). Some theories do both. A list of justifications may be presented supporting the right to secede, as described by Allen Buchanan, Robert McGee, Anthony Birch,, Walter Williams, Jane Jacobs, Frances Kendall and Leon Louw, Leopold Kohr, Kirkpatrick Sale, Human Scale, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980. and various authors in David Gordon’s “Secession, State and Liberty,” includes:
  • The right to liberty, free association and private property
  • Consent as important democratic principle; will of majority to secede should be recognized
  • Making it easier for states to join with others in an experimental union
  • Dissolving such union when goals for which it was constituted are not achieved
  • Self-defense when larger group presents lethal threat to minority or the government cannot adequately defend an area
  • Self-determination of peoples
  • Preserving culture, language, etc. from assimilation or destruction by larger group
  • Furthering diversity by allowing diverse cultures to keep their identity
  • Rectifying past injustices, especially past conquest by a larger power
  • Escaping “discriminatory redistribution,” i.e., tax schemes, regulatory policies, economic programs, etc. that distribute resources away to another area, especially in an undemocratic fashion
  • Enhanced efficiency when the state or empire becomes too large to administer efficiently
  • Preserving “liberal purity” (or “conservative purity”) by allowing less (or more) liberal regions to secede
  • Providing superior constitutional systems which allow flexibility of secession
  • Keeping political entities small and human scale through right to secession
Aleksandar Pavkovic, associate professor at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Macquarie University in Australia and the author of several books on secession describes five justifications for a general right of secession within liberal political theory:
  • Anarcho-Capitalism: individual liberty to form political associations and private property rights together justify right to secede and to create a “viable politival order” with like-minded individuals.
  • Democratic Secessionism: the right of secession, as a variant of the right of self-determination, is vested in a “territorial community” which wishes to secede from “their existing political community”; the group wishing to secede then proceeds to delimit “its” territory by the majority.
  • Communitarian Secessionism: any group with a particular “participation-enhancing” identity, concentrated in a particular territory, which desires to improve its members’ political participation has a prima facie right to secede.
  • Cultural Secessionism: any group which was previously in a minority has a right to protect and develop its own culture and distinct national identity though seceding into an independent state.
  • The Secessionism of Threatened Cultures: if a minority culture is threatened within a state that has a majority culture, the minority group needs to be granted a right to form a state of its own which would protect its culture.

Types of Secession

Secession theorists have described a number of ways in which a political entity (city, county, canton, state) can secede from the larger or original state:


The Constitution of India does not allow Indian states to declare independence, and separatist political parties have been banned. Secessionist movements in Kashmir and Punjab have been suppressed by the military.
Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatist movement allege that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has the right, under international law, to leave the Indian Union after a plebiscite. India rejects this argument, arguing that the UN resolutions on which this right is based are archaic, on three grounds: 1) Pakistan has not withdrawn its troops from its share of Kashmir-a prerequisite for a referendum; 2) The Kashmiri legislature ratified the union of Kashmir and India; 3) Indian Kashmir has been integrated into India, and secession is literally impossible.
In the 1970s and 1980s, some Sikhs began a movement to create a Sikh state known as Khalistan in the Punjab region bordering both India and Pakistan. Indian military forces crushed the violent insurgency in the 1980s, destroying part of the famous Golden Temple during one incident.


The northern-Italian party Lega Nord has declared in 15 September 1996 the secession of Padania (Northern-Italy) for the differences of culture and economy between North and South, for opposition to the centralism of Rome. The politics of secession has been turned off by Lega Nord, after the coalition with the Centre-Right parties and the proposals of devolution and federalism. Although, an ineffective Parliament has been conserved into the Party and its regional sections are named as "national".

Norway and Sweden

Norway and Sweden had entered into a loose personal union in 1814. Following a constitutional crisis, in 1905 the Norwegian Parliament declared that King Oscar II had failed to fulfill his constitutional duties on 7 June. He was therefore no longer King of Norway and because the union depended on the two countries sharing a king, it was thus dissolved. Sweden agreed to this on 26 October.


Somaliland seceded from Somalia in 1991. To date, it is unrecognized by the UN or any other state.


Between 1967 and 1970, the unrecognised state of Biafra (The Republic of Biafra) seceded from Nigeria, resulting in a civil war that ended with the state returning to Nigeria. The Military Head of State at the time, Col. Yakubu Gowon, proclaimed of the war, "No victor, no vanquish". However, Biafra evidently lost.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has a number of different secession movements:
  • The Principality of Sealand, a small platform off the English Coast has declared its independence, although its legal status is doubtful.
The Republic of Ireland comprises the only territory that has withdrawn from the United Kingdom proper; as the Irish Free State it gained independence in 1922 (independence had been declared in 1916).

United States

American revolution

According to some secession theorists, the American Revolution, in which thirteen British colonies successfully fought for independence from the British Crown, was a secession, as opposed to a revolution. Revolutions seek to replace current governments, while secession movements merely seek separation from current governments. According to this view, the independence movements of Latin American countries were also examples of secession (from Spain or Portugal). Other positions emphasize the colonial nature of British rule, and the previous restrictions on participation by colonists in the government.

Northeast United States and the Hartford Convention

New England most often considered seceding from the union: in 1803 over the Louisiana Purchase, in 1808 over the embargo of British trade, in 1814 over war with Britain, in 1843 over the annexation of Texas, and in 1847 over the Mexican War. Opposition to the War of 1812 (which lasted until 1815) spurred Federalist party members from the north-eastern U.S. to convene informally the 1814 Hartford Convention where there was some discussion of secession from the nation. The war ended soon afterwards, and revelations about the secession discussions politically destroyed the Federalists.

South Carolina

During the presidential term of Andrew Jackson, South Carolina had its own semi-secession movement due to the "Tariffs of Abomination" which threatened both South Carolina's economy and the Union. Andrew Jackson also threatened to send Federal Troops to put down the movement and to hang the leader of the secessionists from the highest tree in South Carolina. Also due to this, Jackson's vice president, John C. Calhoun, who supported the movement and wrote the essay "The South Carolina Exposition and Protest", became the first US vice-president to resign. South Carolina also threatened to secede in 1850 over the issue of California's statehood. It became the first state to secede from the Union on December 20, 1860 and later joined with the other southern states in the Confederacy.

Confederate States of America

See main articles Origins of the American Civil War, Confederate States of America and American Civil War.
One of the most famous unsuccessful secession movements was the case of the Southern states of the United States. Secession from the United States was declared in thirteen states, eleven of which joined together to form the Confederate States of America. The eleven states were Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Note that these are not listed by order of secession; South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, on December 20, 1860; Tennessee was the last, and seceded on June 8, 1861. In addition, in Missouri and Kentucky secession was declared by its supporters but did not become effective, and was opposed by pro-Union state governments. This secession movement brought about the American Civil War. The position of the Union was that the Confederacy was not a sovereign nation, but that a rebellion had been initiated by individuals. Historian Bruce Catton described President Abraham Lincoln's April 15, 1861 proclamation after the attack on Fort Sumter which defined the Union's position on the hostilities:
After reciting the obvious fact that "combinations too powerful to be suppressed" by ordinary law courts and marshalls had taken charge of affairs in the seven secessionist states, it announced that the several states of the Union were called on to contribute 75,000 militia "in order to suppress said combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed." ... "And I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse, and retire peacefully to their respective abodes within twenty days from this date.

West Virginia

The western counties of Virginia making up what is now West Virginia seceded from Virginia (which had joined the Confederacy) and became the 35th state of the U.S. during the course of the American Civil War, and remained separated after the war ended.

Texas secession from Mexico

The Republic of Texas successfully seceded from Mexico in 1836. In 1845 Texas joined the United States as a full-fledged state. Mexico refused to recognize Texas independence and warned the U.S. that annexation meant war. The Mexican–American War followed in 1846, and the United States defeated Mexico.

Recent efforts in the United States

Examples of both local and state secession movements can be cited over the last 25 years. Some secessionist movements to create new states have failed, others are ongoing.

City secession

There was an attempt by Staten Island to break away from New York City in the late 1980s and early 1990s (See: City of Greater New York). Around the same time, there was a similar movement to separate Northeast Philadelphia from the rest of the city of Philadelphia. San Fernando Valley lost a vote to separate from Los Angeles in 2002 but has seen increased attention to its infrastructure needs (See: San Fernando Valley secession movement).

County secession

In US history, over 1,000 county secession movements existed and only three succeeded in the 20th century: La Paz County, Arizona broke off from Yuma County and the Cibola County, New Mexico effort both occurred in the early 1980s, and the High Desert County, California plan to split the northern half of Los Angeles and eastern half of Kern counties, was approved by the California state government in 2006, but has never been officially declared in the mean time.

State secession

Several towns in Vermont including Killington recently explored a secession request to allow them to join New Hampshire over claims that they are not getting adequate return of state resources from their state tax contributions.
Advocates in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with off and on intensity, have called for it to become a separate 51st state (sometimes with northern Wisconsin and Northeast Minnesota) called "Superior". Similarly some in the Little Egypt region of Illinois want to separate due to what they consider Chicagoan control over the legislature and economy.
In November 2006, the Supreme Court of Alaska held that secession was illegal, Kohlhaas vs. State, and refused to permit an otherwise proper Initiative to be presented to the people of Alaska for a vote.
In March 2008, the comptroller of Suffolk County, New York once again proposed for Long Island to secede from New York State, citing the fact that Long Island gives more in taxes to the state than it receives back in aid.
In 1977, The islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, tried to secede from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (they also tried to secede from the United States and become an independent nation)
In Florida there have been calls in the past and present to separate the state into north (a more southern culture) and south(a more northern culture).
With the decision of the United States Supreme Court to hear District of Columbia v. Heller in late 2007, an early 2008 movement began in Montana involving at least 60 elected officials addressing potential secession, citing its compact with the United States of America.

Secession from the U.S.

On July 13, 1977, the City Council of Kinney, Minnesota, led by Mayor Mary Anderson wrote a "tongue in cheek" letter to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance informing him of the city's secession from the Union to form the Republic of Kinney. Vance never acknowledged the letter.
The mock 1982 secessionist protest by the Conch Republic in the Florida Keys resulted in an ongoing source of local pride and tourist amusement.
The group Republic of Texas generated national publicity for its actions in the late 1990s. There have been repeated attempts to form a Republic of Cascadia in the Pacific Northwest. The Hawaiian sovereignty movement has a number of active groupings which have won some concessions from the State of Hawaii. Founded in the 1983, The Creator's Rights Party seeks to have one or more states secede in order to implement "God’s plan for government" and is fielding political candidates in 2007 around the United States.
Efforts to organize a continental secession movement have been initiated since 2004 by members of Second Vermont Republic, working with noted decentralist author Kirkpatrick Sale. Their second "radical consultation" in November of 2004 resulted in a statement of intent called The Middlebury Declaration. It also gave rise to the Middlebury Institute, which is dedicated to the "study of separatism, secession, and self-determination" and which engages in secessionist organizing.
In November 2006 the same group sponsored the First North American Secessionist Convention which attracted 40 participants from 16 secessionist organizations and was (erroneously) described as the first gathering of secessionists since the Civil War. Delegates included a broad spectrum from libertarians to socialists to greens to Christian conservatives to indigenous peoples activists. Groups represented included Alaskan Independence Party, Cascadia Independence Project, Hawaii Nation, The Second Maine Militia, The Free State Project, the Republic of New Hampshire, the League of the South, Christian Exodus, the Second Vermont Republic and the United Republic of Texas. Delegates created a statement of principles of secession which they presented as the Burlington Declaration. The Second North American Secessionist Convention in October, 2007, in Chattanooga, Tennessee received local and national media attention.

Secession in Former Yugoslavia

In the early 1990s, Croatia, Slovenia, and later Bosnia and Herzegovina decided to secede from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which resulted in the bloody Yugoslav wars of secession and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The Slovenia war was brief and of low intensity, with fewer than 100 deaths on both sides. However, large Serbian minorities in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina fought against secession, sometimes aided by the Yugoslav army, and formed their own secessionist enclaves. However, the secession of Macedonia in 1991 was not resisted. Serbian attempts to repress secessionists in Albanian-majority Kosovo led to the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Kosovo declared independence on February 17, 2008 and was recognized by the United States and some other countries a day later and over the next few days, but remains under United Nations administration. Montenegro peacefully separated from its union with Serbia in 2006.

External links


  • Aleksandar Pavkovic with Peter Radan, On the Way to Statehood: Secession and Globalization with Peter Radan, Ashgate, 2008.
  • Allen Buchanan, Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination: Moral Foundations for International Law (Oxford Political Theory), Oxford University Press, USA, 2007.
  • Aleksandar Pavkovic with Peter Radan, Creating New States, Ashgate, 2007.
  • Marc Weller, Autonomy, Self Governance and Conflict Resolution (Kindle Edition), Taylor & Francis, 2007.
  • Anne Noronha Dos Santos, Military Intervention and Secession in South Asia: The Cases of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, and Punjab (Psi Reports), Praeger Security International, 2007.
  • Wayne Norman, Negotiating Nationalism: Nation-Building, Federalism, and Secession in the Multinational State, Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.
  • Aleksandar Pavkovic with Igor Primoratz,Identity, Self-determination And Secession, Ashgate Publishing, 2006.
  • Robert, F. Hawes, One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution, Fultus Corporation, 2006.
  • Secession And International Law: Conflict Avoidance-regional Appraisals, United Nations Publications, 2006.
  • Marcelo G. Kohen (Editor), Secession: International Law Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Miodrag Jovanovic, Constitutionalizing Secession in Federalized States: A Procedural Approach, Ashgate Publishing, 2006.
  • Igor Primoratz, Aleksandar Pavkovic, Editors, Identity, Self-determination And Secession, Ashgate Publishing, 2006.
  • Christopher Heath Wellman, A Theory of Secession, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Bruno Coppieters, Richard Sakwa (Editors), Contextualizing Secession: Normative Studies in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press, USA, 2003.
  • Percy Lehning, Theories of Secession, Routledge, 1998.
  • David Gordon, Secession, State and Liberty, Transactions Publishers, 1998.
  • Metta Spencer, Separatism: Democracy and Disintegration, Rowan & Littlefield, 1998.
  • Percy Lehning, Editor, Theories of Secession, Routledge, 1998.
  • Aleksandar Pavkovic, Fragmentation of Yugoslavia: Nationalism in a Multinational State, St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
  • Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.
  • Allen Buchanan, Secession: The Morality Of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter To Lithuania And Quebec, Westview Press, 1991.
  • Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations, Routledge & K. Paul, 1957.
secession in Welsh: Ymwahaniad
secession in German: Sezession
secession in Spanish: Secesión
secession in French: Sécession (politique)
secession in Dutch: Secessie (politiek)
secession in Polish: Secesja (politologia)
secession in Russian: Сецессия
secession in Ukrainian: Сецесія (право)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1