The Once and Future Republic of Vermont

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Ian Baldwin and Frank Bryan
Sunday, April 1, 2007

BURLINGTON, Vt.

The winds of secession are blowing in the Green Mountain State.

Vermont was once an independent republic, and it can be one again. We think the time to make that happen is now. Over the past 50 years, the U.S. government has grown too big, too corrupt and too aggressive toward the world, toward its own citizens and toward local democratic institutions. It has abandoned the democratic vision of its founders and eroded Americans' fundamental freedoms.

Vermont did not join the Union to become part of an empire.

Some of us therefore seek permission to leave.

A decade before the War of Independence, Vermont became New England's first frontier, settled by pioneers escaping colonial bondage who hewed settlements across a lush region whose spine is the Green Mountains. These independent folk brought with them what Henry David Thoreau called the "true American Congress" -- the New England town meeting, which is still the legislature for nearly all of Vermont's 237 towns. Here every citizen is a legislator who helps fashion the rules that govern the locality.

Today, however, Vermont no longer controls even its own National Guard, a domestic emergency force that is now employed in an imperial war 6,000 miles away. The 9/11 commission report says that "the American homeland is the planet." To defend this "homeland," the United States spends six times as much on its military as China, the next highest-spending nation, funding more than 730 military bases in more than 130 countries, abetted by more than 100 military space satellites and more than 100,000 seaborne battle-ready forces. This is the greatest military colossus ever forged.

Few heed George Washington's Farewell Address, which warned against the danger of a permanent large standing army that "can be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." Or that of a later general-become-president: "We must never let the weight of [the military-industrial complex] endanger our liberties or democratic processes." Dwight D. Eisenhower pointedly included the word "congressional" after "military-industrial" but allowed his advisers to excise it. That word completes a true description of the hidden threat to democracy in the United States.

The two of us are typical of the diversity of Vermont's secessionist movement: one descended from old Vermonter stock, the other a more recent arrival -- a "flatlander" from down country. Our Vermont homeland remains economically conservative and socially liberal. And the love of freedom runs deep in its psyche.

Vermont seceded from the British Empire in 1777 and stood free for 14 years, until 1791. Its constitution -- which preceded the U.S. Constitution by more than a decade -- was the first to prohibit slavery in the New World and to guarantee universal manhood suffrage. Vermont issued its own currency, ran its own postal service, developed its own foreign relations, grew its own food, made its own roads and paid for its own militia. No other state, not even Texas, governed itself more thoroughly or longer before giving up its nationhood and joining the Union.

But the seeds of disunion have been growing since the beginning. Vermont more or less sat out the War of 1812, and its governor ordered troops fighting the British to disengage and come home. Vermont fought the Civil War primarily to end slavery; Abraham Lincoln did so primarily to save the Union. Vermont's record on the slavery issue was so strong that Georgia's legislature resolved that a ditch be dug around the "pestiferous" state and it be floated out to sea.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity