Eventually, petitions were filed from all fifty states, but only eight states filed petitions containing the necessary number of digital signatures warranting a response, originally 25,000 (later changed to 100,000). Those eight states were: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. The response from the White House was, to put it simply, “No.”
I was born in 1938, just three years before America entered World War II. In that war Americans were brought together by the external threat it posed to our freedom. But only 77 years before my birth, the United States was setting about destroying itself from within, and that internecine war was also about freedom.
The Fugitive Slave Act, followed two years later by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-selling novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, inflamed the passions of the Abolitionists and northerners in general and exacerbated the differences between free and slave-holding states. One state, South Carolina, in its declaration of secession in 1860, noted, "an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slave holding states to the institution of slavery." They protested that northern states had failed to "fulfill their constitutional obligations" to return fugitive slaves to bondage and in fact, were known to interfere with the process. Other southern states echoed the sentiment. Mississippi, in its declaration, “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery,” and went on to contend that, “a blow at slavery is a blow to commerce and civilization.”
One hundred and fifty-two years after Lincoln’s inauguration speech the United States of America elected its first black president. Americans regardless of race, creed, or color, felt justly proud of the progress made since those dark days of slavery. Yet only days after Barack Obama was reelected, tens of thousands of disaffected residents of the southern states, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, and over 600,000 Americans nationwide, raised their voices in a digital cry of secession. Whatever their grievance; abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, Obamacare, or Obama himself, their cry of secession is a sure sign that “we the people” are not all guided “by the better angels of our nature.”
As we move in the days and years ahead to confront the critical issues facing our nation, our attitudes must not be shaped by fear, but by courage, and we must not be defined by our differences, but by our common dreams for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and for our posterity. We must do together what the Founding Fathers set out for us to do, form a more perfect Union.