By Nathan Barton
I recently commented on efforts in California and Oregon to withdraw those states from the Union, following the election of Donald Trump as Massa (POTUS) (assuming that the Electoral College does indeed vote as expected).
Since then, I find that the Oregon (OREGONE – bad pun) has apparently been smothered in its crib – or succumbed to SIDS. And I was reminded that one of the several dozen Texan Independence movements which had tried to get the issue put on the GOP primary ballot earlier this year had been rebuffed, despite Rick Perry’s rhetorical support of “restoration” of the Republic of Texas over the past several years. And recently, Darryl Perry reminded me of the briefly popular fad a few years back (after RINO Mitt Romney ensured the present squatter in 1600 PA got to stay there another four years) of all of these “Change.org” petitions to have virtually EVERY one of the Fifty States secede (I don’t know if anyone added the territories, such as DC to that list), although only six actually garnered enough signatures to get an “official” response. Darryl has a good article, worth reading, and has a unique perspective there in New Hampshire with his background.
But I think that he does an injustice to secession movements by comparing the Change.org petitions to serious efforts to leave the Union (defunct or not). Those petitions (and surely most of us adults recognize this) are meaningless, at best attracting some attention and giving people a cheap and (presumably) risk-free way of blowing off steam, whether the issue is secession or getting Katy Perry to put more clothes on.
But secession is both a serious business AND an important fact of history as well as a factor in how society works, and closely tied to human freedom and liberty. So let me point out several points in favor of secession.
In practice, there are two kinds of secession. The first (and more common) is withdrawal from an existing state, nation-state, or empire. This can be as few as a single person or family “voting with their feet” to an entire clan or tribal federation or alliance. The second (and rare, whether successful or not) is for residents of a particular area (however defined) to withdraw from their motherland, with either a majority or a significant minority of the residents of the area seceding being in favor of it. We need to keep both of these kinds in mind.
The idea is ancient: in the Bible we read of both kinds. Abraham and his family seceded from the city-state of Ur, and all of Mesopotamian society, by moving first to Haran and then to Canaan. (I suppose we could also say that Noah and his family also seceded, but that required very significant divine intervention.) A few hundred years later, some of Abraham’s descendants did it again, in that mass migration-secession called “The Exodus.” The second kind of secession is best seen in the Old Testament when Jeroboam led the ten northern tribes of the Hebrews in seceding from the united kingdom ruled by Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon.
The world’s map today is built in large part by a great many successful (and a few unsuccessful) secession movements. Here are just a few, outside North America.
Pakistan and India’s partition after the British Imperial Raj was really secession. Bangladesh later seceded from Pakistan.The more recent division of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Even more recently, the independence of both Eritrea and South Sudan, in NE Africa. The American-backed secession of Panama from Columbia prior to building the Panama Canal. Northern Ireland is the result of British loyalists refusing to join the rest of Eire in leaving. The Swiss cantons departed from both the Austrian Archduchy and the “Holy Roman Empire.”
The current configuration of six of the seven Scandinavian nations is the result of a game of musical chairs resulting from repeated secession and reunifications.
The secession of Crimea from Ukraine in order to join (rejoin) Russia is very recent, also.
We could name many more; and this is not even counting the various gaining of independence from various empires, starting with the breakup of the Roman and Islamic empires and continuing right down to the decay and collapse of the French, British, and Soviet Empires.
The map of North America is even more influenced by secession. The old United States was, of course, the secession of thirteen different polities of Englishmen from the United Kingdom. Several of those thirteen states were established by secession from from others: Connecticut and Rhode Island from Massachusetts Bay/Plymouth Plantation, and South Carolina from North Carolina.
Canada itself can be considered the result of secession: Upper (English) Canada should have been a part of the American War of Independence but chose rather to remain loyal to Britain. The State of Vermont seceded from New York, was briefly independent, and then joined the Union. The State of Maine seceded (with the agreement of Congress) from Massachusetts. (This was part of the Compromise of 1820, to balance slave and non-slave states.)
Mexico itself is the result of seceding from the Spanish Kingdom and Empire. Five of the present nations of Central America, first from the Spanish Empire, and then from the breakup of the Federal Republic of Central America. Chiapas State of Mexico had been one of the Central American states (then known as Los Altos) but seceded and voted to join the United Mexican States. The State of Texas seceded from the United Mexican States and then joined the Union. During the War between the States, West Virginia (again with approval of the US, NOT the CS Congress) seceded from Virginia.
North America was also the scene of many unsuccessful secession movements, including:
The best known Confederate States of America, leading to the failed War for Southern Independence (War between the States)
The Northwest or Riel Rebellion sought independence from the Dominion of Canada for the metis peoples of what is today Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Quebec’s continuing efforts to secede from Canada.
The West Florida Republic, in what today is part of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle.
The Rio Grande Republic of several Mexican states along the Rio Grande.
The Republic of Yucatan was briefly independent twice, first from Spain in 1821 and then from Mexico (1841-1848) and nearly joined the USA.
The Republic or State of Deseret attempted to be independent of the United States, established first on Mexican land annexed by the USA.
The Republic of California was briefly independent but suborned by American military commanders and admitted to the Union in the compromise of 1850.
A variety of attempts to secede from various of the Fifty States, but remain within the Union, have taken place over the years, including:
Jefferson State involving parts of far Northern California and Southern Oregon
Absaroka involving parts of the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming
New York City from New York State
West Kansas in Southwestern Kansas
Northern Colorado, the most recent, in 2013, in which 5 of 11 counties voted to secede from Colorado and seek admission
Various proposals by pieces of California to secede from the State of California
North America currently has several secession movements “in progress” which I know of:
Quebec Province, mentioned above
The Second Vermont Republic, leaving the Union
The various efforts, including at least a half-dozen separate efforts, to establish a Second Republic of Texas
The Alaska Independence movement
The Alberta Republic movement
New Hampshire Liberty (Darryl Perry’s movement)
Southern or Baja Arizona movement
Chiapas State (Zapatista) movement was seen as an independence movement by some, and an attempted Mexican revolution by others.
Worldwide there are many efforts. Some of the best known are the Scots in the United Kingdom, the Catalan in Spain, and the Lombards in Italy. The Russian Federation is filled with them. BREXIT can be considered an in-progress secession (or independence) from a proto-empire. And I haven’t even addressed all the various fringe attempts, like Sealand and Wales, the Basque country, and the breakup of Belgium.
Whether or not you agree that secession is a basic human right, it is definitely an action which has been taken throughout history and happens regularly today.
In Part II, let’s look at WHY we should support secession, both in general and specifically here in North America.