Arizona’s Lace-Curtain Secessionists

March 21, 2011

by Bernie Quigley at

First I heard about ideas like this when driving through Chapel Hill, N.C., 15 years ago and listening to a radio interview with Dr. J. Michael Hill, writer and founder of The League of the South, a secessionist organization that seeks through democratic and non-violent means a “free and independent Southern republic.”

It was a local NPR show and quite a generous interview, as I recall. The interviewer brought to her story that morning surprise so featured in NPR stories in those days when it was discovered that penguin husbands sat on the eggs (Huh!”) or pig snouts could actually smell out truffles in the hills of North Carolina. Now that is something to think about. And here was a guy who wanted to reawaken the Confederacy.

Before the cry of the Orcs went up, he did manage to get a word in. Isn’t it against the law to, you know, secede, asked the interviewer?

Reared in Rhode Island, where we were taught funny things about the South — possibly because of the vastness of our involvement in the slave trade — I was quite surprised by the answer. As I recall, he said that it was one of those historic snafus. When Ulysses S. Grant became president after the Civil War, Jefferson Davis, president of the South, was in prison, pending, potentially, a trial for treason for advocating the secession of the Southern states. But Grant was advised that such a trial would open or reopen a can of worms because Davis may have been within his constitutional rights in that regard. The invasion of the South as it hatched in the minds of Northern thinkers was called “higher law” in motive. It would be a moral campaign to end slavery. It was not constitutionally sanctioned. In fact, Jefferson had written a secession clause in Virginia’s Constitution and New York and Rhode Island had one too. (Huh!)

This little breach of constitutional etiquette did not go unnoticed here in Vermont and New Hampshire when George W. Bush invaded Iraq, an invasion that took place with full cooperation of an appeasing and weakling Congress of Easter Peeps and a cowardly and accommodating Supreme Court; an invasion that brought torture, stripped Americans of their most basic constitutional rights, repealed habeas corpus and unleashed other un-American and unconstitutional strategies. An invasion for which men of honor lied outright at the United Nations and the press went along fully embedded in the cause.

It was in my opinion inspired by “the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man” — John Locke’s phrase to describe the essence of tyranny. So secession was proposed in Vermont.

Now liberal Arizona wants to secede from conservative Arizona simply because it lost influence in a recent election. Paul Starobin, author of After America: Narratives for the Next Global Age, wonders what California would look like broken in three. Or a Republic of New England. “Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society,” he has written.

Capote’s Holly Golightly meets Nathan Bedford Forrest. In an age where world opinion is formed on Oprah’s couch, Nobel prizes are given to just anybody and Lady Gaga forms the mind (or mindlessness) of a generation, the question that should be asked is, is there anything left? Is there anything to retrieve? Is there anything worth retrieving?

© 2011 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., a subsidiary of News Communications, Inc.