Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Secession in Vermont?

So says this article. Hat tip: Drudge.

Discussions - 16 Comments

I propose a one year "trial separation," whereby the good people of Vermont would be able to see the effects of secession. All federal funds that normally flow to Vermont would be suspended during that time. All federal government employees would be suspended during that time. I think they would very quickly come to see the folly of their ways.

Does anyone know if Vermont is a net provider or net user of federal funds?

Don, are you a conservative? Why would you want to bribe Vermont to stay in the Union with federal funds that they (or no one else for that matter) should be getting in the first place?

I say, go Vermont. The Country would be without it's one Socialist Senator, and the effects for Vermont would actually be conservative in a crunchy, self reliant sort of way.

Dan, I simply propose the good citizens of Vermont be given an opportunity to see the folly of their ways in a manner that does not set the precedent for dissolution of the union.

I do agree with you that the best way to cure a liberal is to force them to live with the consequences of their beliefs. Unfortunately, what we too often see is those consequences being addressed through outside subsidy from the state or federal governments, or the liberals moving out once they've destroyed the host environment. California is a great example of the latter -- the liberals are leaving and taking up residence in Arizona, Utah, Montana and Colorado. Did you know that Salt Lake City has a Democrat mayor, and a fairly moon-batty one? All that, incidentally, to point out that anyone who thinks the western states can be counted on as reliably red are fooling themselves.


Apparently you aren't familiar with me from the many Lincoln/secession/WBTS threads. What is the "folly" of wanting to leave a bloated Union? Why would "dissolution" be bad? From a localist, decentralist paleoconservative perspective, not a left wing one.

Is a three trillion dollar budget not proof enough to you that something is amiss?

Vermont and Quebec should link up to form a new bi-lingual leftist paradise state with a schlerotic Euro-style economy. USA and Canada would both rejoice. :) And, just think, no more Pat Leahy.

They can get 300 folks to show up for a meeting. Reportedly, support in Vermont as a whole is up to 13% in support of secession from 8% a few years back. Not believable numbers, to be sure, but pause-making.
I say take them seriously, even though there is not a snow-ball's chance in hell of it happening. In our lifetimes, we might see Quebec secede from Canada, due to cultural differences that are always hard for nations to reconcile, and more interestingly, we might see Alberta secede as well if Quebec goes or if Canada goes to absolute liberal pot, due not to linguistic cultural differences, but to ideological-cultural ones, PLUS enormous economic incentives. Vermont only has the ideological-cultural incentive to split, and so it will never really catch on. And, the U.S. Constitution doesn't allow it, unlike the situation in Canada.

But if something like 5% of Vermont's citizens are willing to SAY in a poll that they support secesh, that's a number that, fringey as it is, is disturbing. Disturbing enough to elicit more than conservative mockery, although there should be a good helping of that also.

Conservatives should say: 1) Oh, Vermont liberals, we support the principle of federalism, and so we are committed to defend your right to experiment with nutty socialist ideas to the extent that state authority permits. And we agree with you that that authority should be broader. Best of luck with your experiments, but don't expect bailouts, and keep in mind that gay marriage rights are not workable if made portable to other states, so don't be surprised if we seek a national resolution of this.

2) Oh, Vermont liberals, we look forward to hearing your elected representatives, officials, and newspapers denounce your secessionists, AND THE FEVERED LEFT WING RHETORIC that bred them. And, if you do not denounce them, but blame their coming to such views upon CONSERVATIVES or BUSH, then you will basically be saying that secession is ALMOST justified, and thus you will not be at all surprised when we say, "You..all of you who do not unequivocally denounce the extremism of these persons...are, by any sound definition, UNPATRIOTIC. That is simply a FACT."

3) Oh, Vermont secessionists, since you are rightfully proud of being the first state to abolish slavery, and since many of your ancestors and ancestors' kinsman died in Civil War and/or killed the insurgent soliders of the Confederate states, perhaps you will be so good as to explain why it was wrong for those states to secede. Or at least have the decency to apologize for wrongfully invading their land and slaying their sons. And do point out how each and every argument in Lincoln's July 4th, 1861 message to Congress is incorrect. And please explain, why, if those arguments were convincing then, why they will not be convincing now...that is, you do not merely have to show that Lincoln was wrong in every one of those arguments, but you have to show why such arguments will not convince the citizens of the other 49 in this day and age. Because if you can't do that, then you have to explain why it is that the U.S. would refrain from sending in armed forces to quash what they would regard as a rebellion, and why it is that the likes of you wouldn't be arrested for and convicted of, LEGALLY and not Ann Coulter-style, you-know-what.

4)Oh, Vermont secessionists, since you will be able to do none of this, you will surely admit that your crusade is a merely symbolic gesture. Do inform us then, at what percentage of support, is it 20%, 40%, 60%, do you intend to let your supporters know that, if taken literally, it is an insane idea. Likewise, do explain to us, if this is what you know in the back of your mind you will have to do, why it is worth anyone's time to commit to your cause, writing literature, conducting meetings, making phone-calls, etc. If you are serious about Vermont having more say in its destiny, then apparently we conservatives can count on your temporary alliance on certain sorts of pro-federalism legislation and on appointing pro-federalism justices. But if you are not willing to do that, then it seems your secession noises are really just about wanting to be more radical-chic than anyone else, and so perhaps you would be better off flying to Venezuela and elisting in one of the goon squads Leader Chavez is going to need more and more of. Or maybe, if you are too preciously pacifist, you could make ice-cream for Chavez' goon squads--it gets hot down there after a day of beating up "anti-progressive elements."

Finally, 5) one more for the Vermont liberals...where did these nutsoes, er, "concerned and engaged citizens," come from? Were they, perhaps, "educated" by your lovely schools, "informed" by your lovely newspapers? Please tell us how it is again that, like the patriots of old, you are dedicated to the civic education of your fellow citizens.

This sounds like the radical opposite of the libertarian Free State Project in New Hampshire. Heh.

I wonder if Vermont will allow dual citizenship? That way all those summer and weekend home owners would get to vote in Vermont, too. They will surely be taxed to death to bring the worker's paradise into being. I can't see this working out. For one thing they couldn't continue to soak the other 49 states with the milk price support program.

And, Dan Phillips, Yankee self-reliance is all but extinct in Vermont, and on the wane in New Hampshire, having been overwhelmed by carpetbaggers moving in from New York and Mass.

Carl Scott,

"And, the U.S. Constitution doesn't allow it"

Oh really? Where might it say that?

"by any sound definition, UNPATRIOTIC. That is simply a FACT."

So patriotism is what then? Worship of the modern nation state? It is unpatriotic to love the local more than the distant? Then on what grounds does one give loyalty to the US instead of the World? Do a word study on patrotism and see if it supports your definition.

Tell you what, Mr. Do A Word Search...YOU try to refute a few of Lincoln's arguments in that speech I referenced.

I'm on record in NLT as saying that the constitutional case against secession was far from air-tight, that it was something of a grey area in terms of what the Constitution and various founders said, although as a practical matter w/o question gravely irresponsible of the Southern fire-eaters to pursue. But if you want to keep defending secesh against those HORRIBLE neo-con Lincoln-lovers, if you want to keep denying there were powerful arguments on both sides, if you want to insist that by God, the the Civil War didn't solve this question for liberty-lovin' you, then just be aware of the fact that you'll be paving the road for the sorts of secessionists like these Vermonters who rather obviously HATE all defiling connection with the American Empire far more than they LOVE their Vermont. Most of them are probably anti-political to the core, and are waiting for the John Lennon super-state. But imagine a best-case scenario for a seceded Vermont, in all seriousness, say they could actually achieve their enclave of small-is-beautiful semi-socialist town-meeting would still be so only by being a freeloader on the security purchased by the blood and treasure of the United States. Why in the world would the other states have any interest in allowing that to happen? And the same goes if Utah or Idaho or Alabama or some other would-be conservative paradise got similar ideas.

P.S. I would have liked to have stayed in California all my life...I don't like NOT being more provincial than my lived-in-four-different-states life has turned out to be, and I have the greatest fo respect for those who want to increase the practices of local and state liberty, who hold up Federalism and/or Wendell Berry-esque visions as their ideals, but damn it, I know in my gut I'm an American before I was a Californian or a San Diegan, or what have you, and the people in Vermont ought to know the same thing. Federalism within Nationalism. Love it, or secede off into your private fantasy-land. I'm aware of conservative historian John Lukacs' case for patriotism over nationalism, but it doesn't seem to add up to that much for me as an American.

P.P.S. I AM NOT trying to start this Civil War thing up again...I know what Dain and others have said, what's reasonable there, and what I have disagreed with in past comments. I only care about this because I suspect these Vermonters are harbingers of somethig we're going to see more of over the long haul.

From Calvin Coolidge:

"Vermont is a state I love.
I could not look upon the peaks of
Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox
without being moved in a way
that no other scene could move me.
It was here that I first saw the light of day;
here that I received my bride;
here my dead lie, pillowed on the
loving breast of our everlasting hills.

I love Vermont
because of her hills and valleys,
her scenery and invigorating climate,
but most of all because
of her indomitable people.
They are a race of pioneers who have almost
beggared themselves to serve others.
If the spirit of liberty should vanish
in other parts of the union
and support of our institutions should languish,
it could all be replenished from the
generous store held by the people of
this brave little state of Vermont."

He must be spinning.

Dan Phillips, upon thinking about it more, I admit my "And the U.S. Constitution doesn't allow it" remark is confusing, given my later response to you. The remark was mainly designed to note that that's the consensus view in the U.S. about our Constitution, whether perfectly accurate or not, in stark contrast to the situation faced by Canadians.

I do think there was more room for debate on the issue than many would like to admit, despite thinking that at the end of the day that the evidence solidly favored the anti-secession interpretation. I do think the Civil War should have completely settled this, and I would support an amendment to the Constitution that made secession's illegality explicit. It is important to point out that insofar as certain paleocons make pro-secession arguments not merely to cast the Confederate cause in a more favorable light for the sake of historical judgment, but in a "and-it-still-applies-today" manner, they embolden these Vermont sorts of folks.

Carl Scott said: Why in the world would the other states have any interest in allowing that to happen? And the same goes if Utah or Idaho or Alabama or some other would-be conservative paradise got similar ideas. He's right, of course. I suppose that I ought not to point out that this was a MAJOR concern expressed by Lincoln and other sober thinkers of the anti-secessionist view. They saw, even then, the huge national security risks and the dangers for all Americans in our splitting apart. (Not to mention that it probably would have led to a lot more slavery.) Leaving that aside, from the point of view of national security as well as economic stability and the preservation of liberty--Americans have to be united. Indeed, that is why we united in the first place. We could not have fought and won the Revolution as separate entities united only for that purpose. We could not, and did not, maintain our security and happiness in the aftermath of that Revolution as separate entities united only in that interest. We got rid of the Articles of Confederation precisely because they were so crippling to our unity as a nation--not a confederacy. But today it ought to be even more clear to people--especially when considering national security, that a "house divided against itself cannot stand." Our enemies will not hesitate to exploit it. To imagine that Vermont or Alabama or Utah could fend off the kinds of threats that face us as a nation is worse than pure fantasy . . . it is lunacy.

"fend off the kinds of threats that face us as a nation is worse than pure fantasy . . . it is lunacy."

Julie, does it occur to you that some of us don't think the threats that you obviously are referring to are that great? I think immigration is a much bigger threat to our national character and integrity than is Islamic terrorism. I also think that the security state reaction to the perceived threat of terrorism is a greater threat than the terrorism.

Also, has it occurred to you that it could be precisely our bigness and attempts to make ourselves safe (past and present) that are contributing to the problem? 50 micro-countries instead of one big one I think would be very safe. Because we wouldn't be the big super-power attempting to impose our will on the rest of the world.


I agree that the legal case for secession is, like most things, not entirely clear cut. I think the majority of the evidence supports a legal right to secede, the most compelling being that 3 States specifically reserved it and the arch New England Federalist seriously discussed secession long before the South did. But you can pull up quotes and documentation that supports both sides.

That is why I usually tend to argue for secession as a philosophical good and not just a historical legal right. Why I think it is good is because it is an attack at the heart of the modern post French Revolution nation state which is a huge part of the problem.

That said, the WBTS did not settle anything unless you are endorsing some brute might makes right argument. Are you? If secession was a legal right and philosophical good in 1861 then it is a legal right and philosophical good today.

I will just be ashamed for my native South if Vermont does it first.

I have read the Anti-Federalists, Dan Phillips. I am familiar with your arguments too. So yes, everything you offer has occurred to me. While much offered by serious Anti-Federalists and in the debates between Jefferson and Hamilton were and are illuminating and tempering to overly ambitious nationalism, I think it is lunacy to suggest that 50 independent states would be more secure than a United States of America. I am glad that the vast, vast majority of our population--then as now, and God willing forevermore--understand that. And I am truly sorry for you if you seriously believe that immigration controls are a deeper threat to our security (unless you mean that we may be letting in terrorists--in which case you may have a point as I have referenced here on a few occasions) than is terrorism and Anti-American sentiment in general.

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