Author: Stephen DeVoy
As an anarchist, I do not believe the legal issues surrounding secession are of any importance. From an ethical standpoint, individuals have the right to self determination and the right to disassociate themselves from any association, including that of the state. However, since not all of us are anarchists, I delved a bit into any legal foundation for secession and this is what I found.
The Right of the People of Massachusetts to Overthrow Their Government (Including the Government of the United States of America)
The Massachusetts Constitution is one of the most affirmative state constitutions in terms of its bill of rights which form the very first part of the constitution. The preamble itself contains an explicit declaration that the people of Massachusetts have the right to overthrow their government:
"Preamble: The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquillity their natural rights, and the blessings of life: and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness..."
Moreover, the test for whether the conditions for overthrow are justified are much broader than I expected. For example, Article VII states that when the government acts not for the common good but for the good of any class, the people have an incontestable, inalienable and indefeasible right to overthrow it and institute a new government. The new government, according to this article, need not resemble in any way the former government:
"Article VII. Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men: Therefore the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it."
Now, one may argue, as Lincoln did (and Lincoln is considered to have been completely incorrect by many on this issue), that once admitted no state may leave the union (which reminds me of the mafia). One may argue that U.S. law takes precedence in this matter over the Massachusetts Constitution, but I do not see how this is possible, for the Massachusetts Constitution was ratified by the U.S. Government and it states that this right to overthrow the government is "incontestable" (cannot be argued against), "unalienable" (can never be removed), and "indefeasible" (not capable of being annulled or voided or undone). If the U.S. Government seeks to annul this article, then it seems that Massachusetts is no longer part of U.S. anyway, since its government would cease to be legal (no constitution - no government).
Right to Defend Themselves While Seceding
It seems, as well, that the people of Massachusetts have the right to bear arms against the U.S. Government should the U.S. Government wage war on the people of Massachusetts, which could happen if the state were to secede:
"Article XVII. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it."
Go for it.