Arch Stanton Guest Post: Attempted American Secessions, Ranked


Pretty self-explanatory subject right? Do I really need to introduce this more than “here’s a bunch of times people attempted to make their own states or countries”? If you think so, that’s unfortunate because we’re starting now:

Civil War/War of Northern Aggression if you’re a fucking loser: Yadda yadda yadda – it’s the Civil War, you know about it already, and I’m not going to delve into the history when we have more interesting ones to address. I will add this attempted secession continues to this day with the “League of the South.” Surprisingly, it’s all racists who want reparations for their “loss of assets” once the slaves were freed. Cute.

Texas v White (1869): Like the Civil War, this entire article could be about the various times Texas seceded and attempted to secede and divided and/or attempted to divide itself. We’ll touch on the big ones. First: After the Civil War, Texas moved to secede from the Union by itself since the whole “fight for it” didn’t go as planned. The Supreme Court decided unilateral secession is unconstitutional because the (still valid!) legal basis was that Texas could not secede from the United States because it was illegal. Credit were it’s due –  pretty infallible logic right there. This has done absolutely nothing to distill the notion to Texans that they could leave if they want to. I don’t know where they would get that idea, oh here’s Governor Rick Perry (who received a D in a class called “Meats”, which is hilarious and I will remind everyone until the end of time about, until you realize he went to Texas A&M where “Meats” is like a 700-level class): “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that…” I can never tell if Texas is the greatest American state or the absolute stupidest, and then I realize the answer to one begets the answer to the other.

Texas (1836): Texas seceded from Mexico, Mexico said they couldn’t do that, Texas told them to fuck off y’all like Texas is wont to do whenever someone addresses them. Mexico threatened to reclaim the territory if the United States admitted them as a state, which the US promptly did with what I imagine was a smirk while staring directly into the Mexican ambassador’s eyes. War was fought, Mexico got stomped, and Texas lived happily ever after, for thirty-three years before they attempted to secede again. There are like thirty more of these, but these are the two most interesting ones that cover most of the good stuff.

Absaroka (1939): Big swaths of Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming had had enough of FDR’s bullshit New Deal, and had enough with Democratic policies dictating rural ranchers and farmers livelihoods. This attempted secession was ended when anyone with the actual ability to make it happen ignored them, leaving it to peter out on its own.

Vermont (1791): While the states were doing their Articles of Confederacy thing (ie, everyone bumping into each other and making a huge mess), Vermont was largely governed as part of New Hampshire. Despite this, New York had a reputation to uphold as a group of outstanding assholes, and declared it part of New York, going as far as to send militias to the territory to tell them to stop saying they weren’t part of their state. Eventually, Vermont was granted independence, but many in New York STILL disagree about this! Yes, there are New Yorkers who claim Vermont’s independence was invalid then, and thus remains a part of New York now. When I think of aging hippies who like ice cream and the Grateful Dead, I know I think of New York.

Maine (1820): Originally part of Massachusetts up until 1820, Maine sought to establish their own state. The Massachusetts government asked who the fuck they were, and they told them whatever they wanted to hear so these mealy-mouthed fishermen would leave them alone.

West Virginia from Virginia (1863): West Virginia apparently wanted nothing to do with the Confederacy, marking the last time West Virginia was on the right side of history, and sought approval to secede, which was granted. After the Confederacy got their asses handed to them in the Civil War, Virginians then claimed West Virginia’s secession was invalid as it was not granted under the United States Constitution, but instead under the Confederate Constitution which were no longer a thing, so therefore West Virginia isn’t a thing, because logic and reason escapes these people. In Virginia v West Virginia (1871), the Supreme Court told Virginia to go pound sand and leave West Virginia alone. We have all been singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver ever since.

Staten Island, New York (1993): After being the shittiest borough since the island was originally swapped for beads, Staten Island was fed up with being heavily-taxed, poorly supported with infrastructure and transit, and being the recipient of the rest of New York City’s garbage. The proposal gained a ton of steam on the island, and was roundly ignored everywhere else because, again, who gives a shit what anyone on Staten Island wants.

San Fernando Valley, California (2002): Attempted to secede from Los Angeles. Apparently wanted the porno-film-making part of town to be separate from the regular film-making part of town.

Killington, Vermont (2006): Killington requested to leave Vermont and to join New Hampshire, to which New Hampshire said no thanks. This is the city equivalent of being the fat kid on a pick-up baseball team who gets stuck playing left field, who then declares he’s going to the other team only to find out the other team doesn’t want him either.

Superior/Sylvania (1858): You know how Michigan looks like a mitt, and then has that other little part that everyone forgets about? Well the other little part was tired of being forgotten about and proposed they be left to their own devices. If you’ve ever met anyone from the Upper Peninsula (UPies is the preferred nomenclature – literally pronounced ‘you-pees’), you understand why this is a terrible idea. They pout that everyone forgets they exist, at which point everyone forgets they exist again and returns to ignoring them. It must be tough to be “Wisconsin, but shitty”.

Miller Beach, Indiana (2007): “Beach” sounds exotic until you realize it’s in Indiana, and actually a part of the city of Gary. Denied.

Calabash, North Carolina (1998): Calabash wanted to secede from itself. They really proved a point by reincorporating as “Carolina Shores”, and then asking if Calabash would continue to share its fire and emergency services with them.

Alaska: Apparently constantly threatening to secede or divide among itself, but in 2006 a request made it to the Alaska Supreme Court (Kohlhass v State) where it was determined secession was illegal and thus no initiative to secede would be presented to the Alaskan people for a vote. I imagine Alaska is basically  “Texas with more bears”, or “Alabama if people got lost in the woods more”, or “Georgia without all the DUIs”, or “cold Florida”.

Republic of Madawaska: Originally claimed independence from Maine/the United States and eastern New Brunswick in 1827. I imagine this had a lot to do with the idea that no one had any idea which section of the woods belonged to who. As to “why”, well no one really knows. They were lumberjacks, not historians, so they didn’t write much down. There was a war between Maine and Canadian lumberjacks where the only casualties were the result of a bear attack. Everyone forgot the war about until 1842 when someone pointed out Canada and the United States were technically still at war, which was news to federal officials on both sides. About the Republic of Madawaska, tough shit I guess. Was it an American state, Canadian territory, or an independent country? No one really had a long term plan here, which is basically the same reason anyone ends up in northern Maine.

California: What a trash heap this is. #CALEXIT has been a thing since 2010 – that’s before #BREXIT was a thing! – when the left-leaning citizens wanted to separate from the rest of the American states. After Trump was elected, this faux movement gained a second life, with as much as 32% – ONE-THIRD OF THE FUCKING STATE – being in favor of secession as of 2017.

Here’s the fun part – that was the LEFT leaning secession movement. Let’s get the the RIGHT leaning movement – the proposed state of Jefferson, which would include the southern part of Oregon and all the not-city parts of northern California. Originally proposed in 1941 by indignant California Republicans who were tired of being pushed out of state politics due to their rural and more spread out population. This has been an on- and off-again topic since then every time some huffy hillbilly gains political office and complains about all TUH LIBURALZ down in San Francisco and Los Angeles telling them how to live their lives. This movement has seen a resurgence as all the counties pushing for it voted heavily for Trump despite the rest of the state voting for Hillary. With a likely Jeffersonian capital of Fresno, I like to imagine the state song would be a Korn song.

Jefferson (1859): This is a different Jefferson! In 1859, a bunch of landowners in Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah and what was then the Washington territory decided they were going to do their own thing and have their own state. WHICH IS WHAT THEY DID. They elected officials from remote corners of all these other pre-existing territories and states, passed laws and operated almost entirely free rein for over sixteen months! The federal government created what is now Colorado, and most of the laws from Jefferson were rolled over. But for a while there it was a bunch of ranchers who essentially successful seceded for almost two years before someone noticed and told them to cut that shit out.

New Shoreham, Rhode Island (1984): A tiny town located on Block Island threatened to secede because the state denied them the ability to ban mopeds from the island. When this was announced, Massachusetts and Connecticut both pushed to reincorporate this tiny town that had HAD ENOUGH OF THESE MOTHERFUCKING SCOOTERS. The state backed down and let them control the amount of scooters on the island.

Conch Republic (1982): Key West declared a “tongue-in-cheek secession” from Florida and the United States, certainly the only incident in history in which that phrase has ever been used. Originally stemming from real concerns about the US Border Patrol blocking access to and from the islands, the secession has been a source of local pride and boost for tourism with a much-celebrated Independence Day on April 23. I imagine everything in Key West is “much celebrated”, as their state song is almost certainly a Jimmy Buffett song.

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Cascadia: Basically the same premise as Jefferson – all the conservative-leaning counties want to govern separately from the more liberal cities and coasts. This one is slightly different as it includes parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana – and here’s the best part – all of British Columbia, because what could possibly be a bigger fuck you then making a new American state out of Canadian territories. I cannot overemphasize how thrilled I am that there is a movement full of angry conservatives who want to stick it to Democrats by repossessing a chunk of Canada. They aren’t much for sharp shooting and prefer to just scattershot everyone everywhere.

American Revolution: YOU KNEW THIS WAS NUMBER ONE U-S-A! U-S-A!

But seriously, I came in with four or five incidents in mind only to learn there are hundreds of these attempted secessions or proposed states. Almost ever state has at least one incident where people threatened to leave or start their own country, and each is fascinating. This is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s a wild ride.

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