Even if Tim has established that the South seceded improperly, there still remains this vital question: Did the North responded appropriately? Contract law recognizes a firm distinction between breach and remedy. To say that someone has breached a contract is not, for instance, to say that you can kill them. For an analogous argument that the North over-reacted, see Jeffrey Rodgers Hummell, Emacipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War (Open Court Pub. Co., 1996).
But set that aside. I here want to challenge an argument that Tim did make, rather than one he might have made. He says, on page 8 of his paper,
Because the sovereignty of a state is distinct from that of the union, a state can no more absolve its people of their allegiance to the federal government than the gas company can absolve a customer from paying her electric bill. The people, who adopted the Constitution, may decide to allow the people of a state to leave the union—through Congressional action . . . or by adopting a Constitutional Amendment . . . . But unilateral secession is unconstitutional.
I don't quite see how the latter point follows from the former. Suppose for the sake of argument that a state cannot unilaterally secede. Why does it follow that the people of a state cannot secede without the permission of the federal government? Granted that the gas company cannot absolve me from paying my electric bill, in other words, why do I need the permission of every other electric customer to go off the network?
Again: Suppose that 100% of the people of the state of California decide that they want to secede. Even supposing that the state of California could not secede on behalf of its citizens, why could they not dissolve that state and create a new political entity independent of the U.S. federal government? I don't quite see why the citizens of, say, Iowa should have any say in the matter.
Granted, that is not quite how the seceding states went about matters. And granted that, even in my scenario, the former citizens of California might owe damages to the U.S. federal government (which is not to say that the feds could rightfully invade "New California"). But none of that goes to show, Tim's claims to the contrary notwithstanding, that U.S. citizens cannot, independent of the states that claim sovereignty over them, unilaterally disclaim their allegiance to the federal government.