Neocon war hawk Nikki Haley is rarely shy about using force against other people. Most recently, she has called for airstrikes on Iran and Syria, imposition of aggressive economic sanctions, and the elimination of leaders supposedly tied to a drone attack on U.S. soldiers stationed in Jordan. The foreign policy establishment applauds her bellicosity. President Biden apparently believes her advice sage and in recent days has used U.S. airpower to attack multiple targets in the Middle East.

But in an uncharacteristic lapse into humanity, Haley has drawn the ire of pundits. When appearing on the Breakfast Club radio show hosted by Charlamagne tha God, Mr. God asked whether a President Haley would use force against Texas if it seceded from the union. Haley tried to dodge the question, but when pressed she said: “If Texas decides they want to do that, they can do that. If that whole state says, ‘We don’t want to be part of America anymore,’ I mean, that’s their decision to make.” Thus, Haley would not spill the blood of Texans or Americans if Texas sought to withdraw from the union.

A pox on her house! Leftist pundits have described Haley’s peacenik remarks as “a bizarre gaffe” and claimed that Haley “knows better.” The New York Times lamented the statement and announced that “the states are just lines on a map” with no constitutional significance. A real Republican president, we are told, would not flinch at the loss of 620,000 on the battlefield. Haley needs to get with the Lincolnian program. Feeling the heat, Haley walked back her comments rather than sticking to principle. But this was not enough for the mainstream media.

In scourging Haley, commentators repeatedly assert that the Constitution does not mention secession and thus states may not leave the union. Of course, the Constitution mentions nothing about abortion but the same commentators howl because the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade (1973) based on its lack of constitutional grounding.

Friends of centralization argue that the Civil War settled the issue and the Supreme Court agreed in Texas v. White(1868). But the Reconstruction Congress also agreed that blacks and whites should attend segregated schools in Washington, D.C., and separate-but-equal was established Supreme Court precedent for years. Fortunately, “settled” constitutional mistakes can always be rectified.

How would the Framers and ratifiers of the Constitution react to Haley’s remarks? With cheers! The independent states forming the union would not exist absent a secession from the British Empire. Every American revolutionary was a believer and a participant in secession.

The Constitution, drafted just four years after the Treaty of Paris ended the War of Independence, did not reject our revolutionary principles. Had pro-ratification forces (the Federalists) claimed that after ratifying a state could not leave the union, we would still be governed by the Articles of Confederation. The people were already leery about the proposed federal government and three state ratification conventions explicitly claimed the power to reassume powers delegated to the federal government, i.e., to secede.

In the early 1790s, senators from New England were frustrated with Southern insistence that the United States retaliate against the British because of affronts to American commerce. Senators Rufus King and Oliver Ellsworth (from Massachusetts and Connecticut, respectively) approached Senator John Taylor of Virginia to discuss a peaceful dissolution of the union. Nothing came from the talks, but more significantly no one doubted their propriety.

As Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, noted in 1819, “if any state in the union will declare that it prefers separation . . . to a continuance in union . . . I have no hesitation in saying ‘let us separate.’”

Belief in secession was practically universal in the early American republic. The celebrated American historian Robert Remini has noted that Andrew Jackson in the 1830s was “the first and only statesman of the early national period to deny publicly the right of secession.”

The Framers and ratifiers did not see states as lines drawn on paper, but as preexisting political communities where the people exercised ultimately authority. Consequently, the Constitution required that the people acting in separate state conventions ratify the Constitution. The Philadelphia Convention did not consider a national act of ratification because its members understood the place of the people of the several states in American political theory.

Hence, James Madison averred in his Virginia Resolutions of 1798 that “the powers of the federal government” result “from the compact to which the states are parties.” Jefferson in his Kentucky Resolution of 1798 further noted that “each party [to the compact] has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.” In other words, a state in its highest sovereign capacity can choose to leave the union when its rights are trampled.

Haley’s initial embrace of secession was not a gaffe, but evinced an understanding of our federal system. Unfortunately, she retreated when faced with criticism. Nonetheless, she should be praised for her refusal to call for military attacks in case of a hypothetical Texas secession when appearing on the Breakfast Club. If she would just learn to exercise the same restraint in sending American forces abroad, she might merit consideration at the ballot box.