I heard mention of a conference of secessionist movements this past weekend, and when I asked Google about it, I stumbled onto the Vermont movement’s website. While these folks are mostly Marxists railing against George Bush and corporatism, many of their complaints with the size and scope of the Federal government resonate with mine. Moreover, there is a wealth of information regarding our history and tradition of splitting States and territories. I have read many of the articles there and intend to explore it further; but one recent one discussing the conference as “upcoming” entitled, “Untied (sic) States,” is a good overview of the whole movement:
The Manchester conference brings together secessionists of all types. Writing in Orion, Bill Kauffman described the crowd from 2006 as “ponytails and suits, turtlenecks and sneakers, an Alaskan gold miner and one delegate from the neo-Confederate League of the South who wore a grey greatcoat, as if sitting for a daguerreotype just before the battle.” Despite—or perhaps because of—their ideological differences, they all share a common cause: to regionalize, to decentralize, to debunk the myth of a nation indivisible and replace it with a story that gives difference its due. That story is by no means a new one. The idea of political separatism is, as Middlebury Institute founder Kirkpatrick Sale puts it, “as American as America.” From the 13 colonies declaring their independence from the British Crown in 1776, to the rash of state-splittings that took place during the early years of the Republic, to Norman Mailer’s secessionist 1969 campaign for mayor of New York City, the aura of divisibility has long been a part of the American tradition.
Then there is a good discussion of the attempted formation of the State of “Jefferson” out of northern California and southern Oregon counties in 1941. It fell apart in the national solidarity after Pearl Harbor. There are serious folks trying to revive it. Some remarks by one of the leaders of the Vermonters struck a chord, for I have said similar things recently in the discussion over at Troy’s place:
Sale, whose impeccable leftist credentials—he was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s and remains a contributing editor of The Nation—have not kept him from being accused, like Naylor, of being a crypto-racist because of his willingness to associate with the League of the South, takes a similar tack. Such diversity is “the reality of America today,” he tells me. “It’s more than just blue states versus red states, it’s all kinds of states wanting different things. So I say—let them. And if it turns out that the state I’m in does things that I don’t like, then I can go somewhere else nearby where an independent republic is to my liking.” It’s really none of his business, he says, what might go on in an independent South; all that the Vermonters want is the authority to keep the ever-encroaching Leviathan from continuing to entangle itself in their own corner of the woods.
To the extent that all this sounds at once deeply radical yet strangely familiar, things are exactly as they should be. The “so-called American Revolution,” Sale observes, “was in fact a war of secession, not revolt.” What’s more, the early years of the Republic established a tradition of states seceding from one another when they reached a certain size: Maine from Massachusetts in 1820, Tennessee from North Carolina in 1796, Kentucky and (more controversially) West Virginia from Virginia in 1792 and 1861. And as for the other events of 1861? Those “were not so successful,” he admits, “but they failed only because corporate America, becoming strong and expansionary in the North, found a dictator who could crush them.”
After a mention of the Civil War and States’ rights, and how Leftists must tread ever so lightly when aligning themselves with Southern movements, because of political correctness over the race issue; another point is mentioned:
The modern American empire, which Naylor eagerly compares to the Soviet Union in its declining years, may simply be too large for the good life—and it’s not only the outright separatists who chafe against the strictures of centralized federal authority. The Free State Project, for example, aims to recruit enough liberty-minded citizens who are willing to move to New Hampshire to turn the state into a libertarian haven. At present, five years into their drive, over 8,700 individuals have committed to head to the Granite State once FSP reaches a critical mass of 20,000 members. The FSP agenda is a decidedly non-secessionist one: the goal is simply to carve out a corner of America where it is once again possible to live free.
I recommend the whole article; and for those seriously interested in this subject, their site is worth exploring in depth. I find the notion that there are Leftists of a like mind regarding getting out from under the thumb of DC comforting. That they are more than willing to say, “You can have Texas to do as you wish with it, if you will leave us alone to do as we wish in Vermont,” is music to my ears. Where do I sign up? ◄Dave►