Here come the new Green Mountain Boys. The Middlebury Institute, a think tank devoted to the study of separatism, secession, and self-determination, is planning the First North American Secessionist Convention in Burlington, Vt.
More than a dozen secessionist organizations are likely to send representatives to the gathering on November 3 and 4, the director of the institute, Kirkpatrick Sale, said. The room at the Wyndham Burlington hotel can hold about 50 people, he said. The organizers have picked the right state for this radical gathering: Vermont was an independent republic between 1777 and 1791.
"Vermont has a very strong self-identity," Mr. Sale said, and added that New England states were talking about secession around the time of the War of 1812.
Why secession? "It's the only principled, moral way to go," Mr. Sale said. The goal is not to take over any national government but to "simply absent ourselves from it," he added.
Mr. Sale is working with an emeritus professor of economics at Duke University, Thomas Naylor, who is a founder of the Second Vermont Republic, an association that seeks to return Vermont to an independent republic.
Representatives from both red and blue states appear to be joining in — although "joining" is probably not the right word. According to the Web site MiddleburyInstitute.net, responses as of June had come from "Hawaii Nation, Alaska Independence Party, League of the South and several of its chapters, Southern National Congress Committee, Southern Caucus, Christian Exodus, New State Movement, Puerto Rico Independence Party, Parti Quebecois, the State of Jefferson, and the Second Vermont Republic."
A strong response has also come from secession supporters in "Cascadia" (Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia) and "Delmarva" (Delaware, Maryland, and the Virginia Peninsula), among other areas, according to the site. Scholars, researchers and journalists professionally interested in secession may be in attendance, as well.
Convention attendees will first "assess what stages these various organizations are at, how far along they are, and how many members they have," Mr. Sale said. They will then discuss what they are planning to do and go over various successful secessionist strategies.
"It's an expression of frustration," a history professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, John Patrick Diggins, said.
"I don't think secession is a viable plan," a Columbia University professor of history, Eric Foner, told The New York Sun. "But ‘getting out from under America' is an old tradition. There have been such currents throughout American history, but in the half-century after the Civil War, they were very much reduced, for obvious reasons."
At the beginning of the Civil War, New York's mayor thought the city should secede from the Union and trade with both the North and South, Mr. Foner said.
"It would be a great loss to the U.S. if Vermont absconded," a Columbia University sociologist and School of Journalism professor, Todd Gitlin, told the Sun.
If Vermont seceded, it would be more difficult to reach an Electoral College majority, Mr. Gitlin added. "He wants to elect a president in a corrupt" system, Mr. Sale said, when told of Mr. Gitlin's comments.
In an article in Adbusters magazine in January, Mr. Sale wrote, "For one thing, as hurricane Katrina has glaringly shown, the Federal government is a clumsy, bureaucratic, politicized, and insensitive instrument (and as the rebuilding will show, corrupt as well), and states and localities that give themselves over to depending on it are in real trouble."
Noting the tradition of secession in American history, Mr. Sale told the Sun that he doesn't know why it should be impractical for Vermont to secede. "The first group of secessionists was the Founding Fathers," he said. "The American Revolution was in fact a secession from the United Kingdom."
But a professor of history at Harvard University and author of the forthcoming book "The Declaration of Independence: A Global History," David Armitage, said, "It seems to be one of the few observable laws of world history since 1776 that any state that has declared its own independence will thereafter prevent any part of that state from declaring its independence."
Mr. Sale in the past has pointed out that the Constitution is silent on the matter of secession and that the Tenth Amendment reserves powers not delegated by America to the states or the people. But the Supreme Court decision Texas v. White et al. in 1868 declared that the Constitution does not allow states to secede. Sometimes, towns have revolted.
The founder of National Review, William F. Buckley, said secession is not the easiest thing to do because one has to decide "where to secede to." Many who in effect seceded to Canada in protest eventually "inched their way back" to America, he added.