by R.C. Sproul Jr.

Grassroots movement seeks to reassert states rights, tame the federal government…

A pair of small paintings—one of Stonewall Jackson, the other Robert E. Lee—hang on my wall as emblems, a means to communi­cate my loyalties. They serve as sort of living-room bumper stickers, slightly more subtle than the Confederate flags we sometimes see on the grilles of trucks in our rear-view mirrors.

I love the South. I love it that heroic men once fought for the principles of states’ rights, that I am not alone in my fear of the leviathan that is the federal government. And I am thrilled that such people still exist.

There is a new General Lee—J. Bracken Lee. He was once governor of the sovereign state of Utah and now serves as the chair­man of the Committee of 50 States. The committee is pushing to find 38 state legislatures that will pass what they call “The Ultimate Resolution.” The resolution states simply that should the federal debt ever pass $6 trillion, the federal government would be dissolved. Each and every federal employee from top to bottom would be let go, released, fired, sacked.

The reasoning is fairly simple in a Ross Perot sort of way: We hired them; we can fire them. Prior to the constitutional convention, each state was a sovereign, free, and independent nation. We hired the feds to manage a few carefully delineated affairs. Economist Walter Williams draws a corporate analogy to explain why this idea might be plausible. He reasons that the relation­ship between the states and the federal government is akin to the relationship between stockholders (principals) and a corporation (their agent). Stockholders are free to dis­solve corporations and fire officers, direc­tors, and CEOs. It is the states that created the federal government, not vice versa. It would seem that an organization that could run up a $6 trillion debt is fit for destruction.

There’s a second equally important clause to the resolution. It says that should Congress or the president seek to suspend the Constitution, the states would take back all delegated powers and the federal gov­ernment would cease to exist. (Unfortunately the resolution says nothing about what can be done when the Constitution is symbolically honored but no longer obeyed.)

There is precedent in American history for such an action—but it’s never been peaceful. In 1861 a group of disgruntled stockholders, having failed to persuade management of the error of its ways, determined to seek its fortune elsewhere. They sold their stock, pooled their assets, and created a new corporation. What followed was a hostile takeover—otherwise known as the Civil War—one perpetrated by the same corporation that had divested its stock in an English concern less than a hun­dred years previous. The official notice of that earlier divestiture said this: “Whenever a government becomes destructive of these ends, [the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness] it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.”

J. Bracken Lee has his own Stonewall Jackson, a right-hand man waging the war in the trenches. I spoke with Joseph Stumph, president of the committee. He told me of some early good news from the front. In less than a year since the resolution was created, seven state legislatures have already introduced it. New Hampshire, whose state motto is “Live free or die” was first. In Arizona, a House committee unani­mously passed the resolution. Florida, Mis­sissippi, Utah, Hawaii, and Colorado round out the seven. Stumph has kept busy speak­ing to citizen’s groups and state legislatures. He hopes not to have to “pull the trigger” in the resolution, but he says at least the threat will serve to keep Washington honest.

It’s time we sent those entrenched mismanagers a lesson. It’s time that those of us who recognize the sovereignty of God give some attention to the sovereignty of the states. It’s time to evoke the memories of the founding fathers, both those who suc­ceeded more than 200 years ago and those who were overrun more than 100 years ago.

It’s hard for me to remember that the two gentlemen hanging on my wall were mere mortals. I must not so revere them as to believe that it can’t happen again. All it takes is some right understanding and a great deal of moral fortitude. Knowledge and character.

Lee and Stumph are heading in the right direction. They may one day find a place on my wall. The Committee of 50 States deserves at least our interest and most probably our support. What we need is an army that will stand like a stone wall against infringements of state’s rights.

The moral of the story? If at first you don’t secede, try, try again.