John McCain won four New England states in last Tuesday’s Republican
primary. The vote totals in Massachusetts (two-thirds for McCain) were
exactly the inverse of Georgia (two-thirds for Bush), nicely
illustrating the huge politico-regional divide that is still a living
reality. As the liberals constantly remind us, this is a hugely diverse
country. Why, then, should we be living under a single political system?
Clearly, many people of these states want the chance to elect McCain
as president, while the rest of the country wants to deny them the
chance to do so. This is a terrible situation, the very definition of
political oppression. One’s heart breaks for these poor souls who want
to be ruled by McCain, and also for McCain, who so badly wants to rule
them. Will they never get the leader of their choice?
Democracy is supposed to mean majority rule and minority rights. New
England is in the minority here, but these states have no rights. Why
should they put up with this? Indeed, they shouldn’t have to.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont should not have to
accept someone else’s choice of presidential contender. They should be
free to exercise the right of self-government, and to live under a
president of their own choosing.
Our forefathers decried being taxed to support a government that
ruled without consent. Their solution was to declare independence from
Great Britain. A long train of abuses and usurpations convinced them it
was time to exercise the right to abolish that particular form of
government and establish another. They did so in a peaceful act of
secession. If the Brits hadn’t objected, the transition would have been
an easy one.
Secede, New England! Form your own country. Declare your
independence. Lay out your grievances and decry the tyranny of living
under the rest of us. Invoke the rights of man and decry inequality
under the law. You have the natural right to pursue happiness in a
manner you see fit. You don’t even have to pledge your lives, fortunes,
or sacred honor. Most everyone will be glad to see you go your own way.
Skedaddle. No objection here.
You have a thriving economy, a marvelous history of civic
involvement, and a regional consciousness that befits a free and
independent people. You would become one of the wealthiest places on the
face of the earth. Free of the burden to support us poor Southerners,
fund vast national parks in the West, or pay for highways you don’t use,
you could have a tax cut and your new government would still be awash in
revenue. The McCain administration could accomplish wonders once free of
the evil forces of Bible-Belt yahooism.
But isn’t secession a radical step and a total departure from
history? Not if you look at New England’s history. The idea of secession
was hatched there. When Jefferson was elected in 1800, he was denounced
by Yankee preachers as the Anti-Christ because he favored the strict
separation of church and state. “He was hated with an unholy hate,”
writes a Jefferson biographer. There was also an ethnic dimension: most
New Englanders were of English stock and they were terrified of mixing
with the German, Irish, and Scottish blood predominant in the lower
states, to say nothing of the blacks in the deep South.
Tensions between the Yankees and the rest of the country grew until
New Englanders threatened secession in 1803, barely one generation after
the Constitution had been ratified. They objected to the expensive and
expansionist Louisiana Purchase, and truly they had a point. This
executive usurpation dramatically altered the relationship among the
states. Worse, Jefferson undertook it without consulting Congress and
without attaining agreement among the states.
Under the plan, the New England secessionists didn’t envision
economic isolation. They wanted free trade with the rest of the country
but no entangling political alliances — exactly as George Washington
proposed with regard to the rest of the world. Separating right then
would have spared decades of heartache to follow. Alas, it was not to be
because Aaron Burr, the secessionist point man, lost his race to be the
governor of New York, and his victorious duel with Hamilton discredited
their cause, for the moment.
Jefferson fulfilled the worst of New England expectations when he
imposed a trade embargo in 1806, in retaliation for a British capture of
an American ship. But what was New England to do without trade? Why
should its commercial aspirations be sacrificed at the hands of a
tyrant? Secessionist tempers already inflamed, matters got worse under
James Madison, who in 1809 imposed a rule that permitted the arbitrary
seizure of goods. The Yankee secessionists struck back with a
declaration that “any state is at liberty by the spirit of (the
Constitution) to withdraw itself from the union.” Darn right.
The next major attempt at New England secession was over the War of
1812. By the time Washington, D.C., was captured and burned by the
British in 1813, New England was in an uproar. Most historians say that
nearly everyone wanted to form a New England Confederacy. The result was
the great Hartford Convention of 1815, but the political leaders
betrayed the just aspirations of the citizens who sent them there.
Still, they took step after step closer towards full secession, but by
the time it appeared close to becoming a reality, the war ended.
Later, New England abolitionists in the American Anti-Slavery Society
found they could not, in good conscience, be part of a country that
permitted slavery. At the same time, they didn’t want to risk mass
immigration of blacks into their neck of the woods. The Society passed a
resolution: “Resolved, that secession from the United States Government
is the duty of every Abolitionist.” They further said that the
dissolution of the American Union was “one of the primary objects” of
their anti-slavery agitation.
As Thomas DiLorenzo explains in Secession, State, and
Liberty, it was only later that the Southern states caught on to the
secessionist idea, finally deciding they had had enough of the huge
Northern-imposed tariff burden that injured their trading relations with
the world. The South had the courage and foresight to carry it through.
As with the earlier declaration of secession from Britain, all would
have been peaceful, were it not for the unconstitutional and brutal
armed attempt to prevent it, the bloody conquest, and the military
dictatorship called Reconstruction.
But there’s no reason to repeat the ghastly mistakes of the past. If
New England wants to secede this time, and avoid oppression by a country
that clearly does not share its values, it should be free to go. No
questions asked. Go your own way. We can all still be friends. We can
still trade. The United States is vastly too big as it is. It should
have been broken up into a few pieces much earlier. We could use a
little more competition between independent political units.
There are a lot of folks in the South that would like the idea. Just
the other day, 4,000 people joined together in Montgomery, Ala., to
demand cultural secession from the North, as a first step toward
full-blown political secession. The League of the South is right to
argue our forefathers never envisioned a union by force; the
Constitution was supposed to be a voluntary compact among the states.
Show us the way, New England, and secede now!
What about states like Maine that went for Bush? Should they be
forced into the McCain governmental orbit solely because of an accident
of geography? Of course not. Non- contiguous nation states are perfectly
feasible, especially with modern communications technology. For that
matter, there is no reason to limit the right to secede to states.
Extend it to cities, neighborhoods, even households. Everyone should
have a government of his own choosing.
In the end, the principle that should dictate the future is the one
laid out by our first secessionists: it is the right of a people to
alter the form of government under which they live if it no longer
protects their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Secede, New England! You have nothing to lose but your chains!