HISTORY CORNER: Can U.S. states break away and form new nation? It’s been proposed and tried before

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  • WIKIPEDIA Proposed flag of the Republic of Cascadia.

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    CASCADIA INSTITUTE The proposed Republic of Cascadia would be a “bio-region” from Alaska to Northern California and the Rockies to the Pacific.

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    Photo courtesy of SETH HALLERAN Catalonian activists in streets of Barcelona seeking to break away from Spain.

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    CASCADIANOW In support of Cascadia, the LGBTQ has created its own flag.

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    GOOGLE IMAGES Oregonians in 1941 attempting to create the State of Jefferson, combining parts Southern Oregon and Northern California, shown here stopping cars and collecting tolls on Highway 99.

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    PUBLIC DOMAIN Proposed State of Jefferson flag, the double X signifying “the long-time injustice suffered by the provincials at the hands of Salem and Sacramento.”

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    Photo courtesy of LEV LAZINSKIY Supporters of Calexit plan to form a new nation rally in Sacramento.

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    Cartoon courtesy of DARYL CAGLE

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    RADIO FREE EUROPE Georgia (country, not the state) regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away and became independent in 2008, supported by Russia, but few nations have recognized them.

  • WIKIPEDIA Proposed flag of the Republic of Cascadia.

  • 1

    CASCADIA INSTITUTE The proposed Republic of Cascadia would be a “bio-region” from Alaska to Northern California and the Rockies to the Pacific.

  • 2

    Photo courtesy of SETH HALLERAN Catalonian activists in streets of Barcelona seeking to break away from Spain.

  • 3

    CASCADIANOW In support of Cascadia, the LGBTQ has created its own flag.

  • 4

    GOOGLE IMAGES Oregonians in 1941 attempting to create the State of Jefferson, combining parts Southern Oregon and Northern California, shown here stopping cars and collecting tolls on Highway 99.

  • 5

    PUBLIC DOMAIN Proposed State of Jefferson flag, the double X signifying “the long-time injustice suffered by the provincials at the hands of Salem and Sacramento.”

  • 6

    Photo courtesy of LEV LAZINSKIY Supporters of Calexit plan to form a new nation rally in Sacramento.

  • 7

    Cartoon courtesy of DARYL CAGLE

  • 8

    RADIO FREE EUROPE Georgia (country, not the state) regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away and became independent in 2008, supported by Russia, but few nations have recognized them.

When the South tried to break away from the United States triggering the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said in his first Inaugural Address, “No state, upon its own mere notion, can lawfully get out of the Union … in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken.”

After the war, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with him.

Texas has talked about breaking away, and so have 20 other states. A CBS report after President Obama’s re-election in 2012 said, “The White House petition website has been flooded by a series of secession requests, with malcontents from New Jersey to North Dakota submitting petitions to allow their states to withdraw from the union.”

Those states were Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Since then, California joined the movement with a ballot measure funded mostly by Silicon Valley billionaire Tim Draper. He acquired the necessary signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Rejecting the idea, Seth Kaplowitz, a finance lecturer at San Diego State University said, “It would be ridiculous to secede from the union. The only person who would probably be happy about that is probably Donald Trump.

“All this is basically saying is that we’re really not one state — we’re so large and we really have three different personalities, therefore each personality should be its own state. The reality is that you can say that about virtually any state.”

The plan would split California into three states: one from San Francisco north; a narrow glitter coastal strip roughly from Santa Barbara to north of San Diego, with the rest of the state the third.

Objections to the ballot measure from an environmental group and the California Supreme Court caused it to be removed from the ballot.

Tim Draper then abandoned the effort.

Attempts to split California happened before. In 1941, a movement sought to form a new state called Jefferson by combining rural parts of Northern California and Southern Oregon — the residents of both states being unhappy with their state governments in Sacramento and Salem.

The movement fizzled when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

President Obama faced a barrage of petitions for secession from Texas and a number of other states.

The Texas petition blasted the federal government’s “neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending,” and claimed that leaving the Union would protect Texans’ “standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.”

Another example: Since 2003, some disgruntled groups in Vermont have sought to establish the “Second Vermont Republic (the first being from 1777 to 1791), describing themselves as “a nonviolent citizens’ network and think tank opposed to the tyranny of Corporate America and the U.S. government, and committed to the peaceful return of Vermont to its status as an independent republic and more broadly the dissolution of the Union.”

Today, an even bigger vision for new boundaries is a movement started in the 1970s to create a new nation called the Republic of Cascadia. There are several versions of what the Cascadia map would look like. The most extensive would stretch from the Alaska Panhandle to Northern California and from the Pacific Ocean to the Rockies.

Cascadia would include British Columbia, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, northern California and western Montana, as well as small portions of adjacent states and provinces.

Why do they want to secede? There are plenty of reasons; perhaps the most popular being dissatisfaction with the federal government and/or dislike for President Trump.

Nonprofit CascadiaNow (CN) describes Cascadia as a “unique coastal bioregion that defines the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada, as defined through the watersheds of the Fraser and Columbia watersheds … a positive and inclusive, place-based movement focused on building autonomous and equitable local infrastructure that is both resilient and sustainable …transcending arbitrary state borders and shifting our actions and impacts locally — a bioregional community that fosters a culture rooted in the love of place, cultural competence and sustainability.

“Today sociologists, geographers and ecologists are redefining regions based on the commonality of the ecological systems and the human interactions within geographic systems called bioregion,” says Alexander Baretich From the Republic of Cascadia website.

The Cascadia Institute poetically calls Cascadia “a real place — more a living body than an image or idea … a land rooted in the earth, and animated by the turnings of sea and sky, the whole mid-latitude wash of winds and waters.”

There’s a readily discernible undercurrent of leftist political and green agenda in the Cascadia movement. For example, CascadiaNow! says:

“The Cascadian Independence Project is a grass roots social movement dedicated to building awareness and support for local democracy, global community, and the freedom and eventual independence of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

“Our work connects, supports and advances our society in the Pacific Northwest by promoting policies for increased direct democracy, land rights, individual rights, environmental sustainability, social justice and freedom.

“In the past several months, we have begun a process of moving away from a specific ‘platform’ and instead towards a set of unified principles that embodies many aspects of a society we would like to see in the Pacific Northwest.”

What those “aspects of a society” are was not reported.

Alexander Baretich, designer of the Cascadia flag, said in an interview that Cascadia is not necessarily about secession, but is rather about oil, global warming and other environmental and socioeconomic problems.

Cascadia climate change activists are collecting signatures to petition the Nobel Foundation Board to create a new Nobel Prize for the Fight Against Climate Change, quoting Alfred Nobel stating that Nobel Prizes are awarded for work that was “for the greatest benefit to humankind.”

Today, there are three main Cascadia factions — each with a different vision:

Since 2005, the Cascadian Independence Project, or Cascadia Now!, has promoted the Cascadia movement leaving the U.S. and Canada to form a new nation.

Other organizations like Seattle’s Crosscut online newspaper, and Sightline Institute, a think-tank “committed to making the Northwest a global model of sustainability, with strong communities, a green economy, and a healthy environment,” and Cascadia Prospectus view the Cascadia movement as “more of a transnational cooperative identity — not secession.”

The Republic of Cascadia — which runs the Save the Pacific Northwest Octopus Campaign and Sasquatch Militia — and others are considered “whimsical expressions of political protest.”

Cascadia activists are still vigorously pursuing their goal, but no boundaries have changed yet.

In the 1930s, the State of Jefferson movement sought to form a separate state out of Northern California and Southern Oregon. Locals in the region — then suffering from the Great Depression — didn’t like the governments in Sacramento or Salem.

Similarly, in 1956, groups from Cave Junction, Ore., and Dunsmuir in the shadow of California’s Mount Shasta, also threatened to join Northern California and Southern Oregon, calling the new state Shasta.

Today, Puerto Rico wants to break away and Canada has been plagued with secession movements since the 1800s.

Disgruntled regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia sandwiched between Russia and Turkey fought for independence and succeeded.

Scotland has been fighting to be independent for 300 years, and so have the Catalonians and Basques in Spain.

States breaking away from the U.S. to form a new nation is considered highly unlikely due to the Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court rulings and difficulty of the process — plus facing uncertain public and media support.

It’s been just over 500 years since Sir Thomas More published his book “Utopia” in 1516, in which he described an eponymous idyllic island-nation with many of today’s socialist values, but with its people working willingly and harmoniously in assigned roles and places of residence, following strict guidelines.

Ancient Tibetan scripture and Chinese lore also describe a hoped-for paradise. British writer James Hilton wrote a 1933 fictional novel “The Lost Horizon” about a search for such a place in the high mountains of Asia that he called Shangri-La.

In his book, they found it. In real life, we’re still looking.

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Contact Syd Albright at silverflix@roadrunner.com.

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Secession a tough job…

“Even partial independence can be a costly objective, and secession, if not done correctly, can lead to cultural suffering and bloodshed. With independence comes uncertainty and instability. Secession is a process that usually breeds animosity, and a newfound freedom can force a nation to ignore the desires of its citizens and instead focus on its relations with other countries.”

— The Seattle Globalist

Cascadia still evolving…

“Cascadia is a shared notion, and one in active evolution. We’re still inventing ourselves as a regional culture. Cascadia is a recognition of emerging realities, a way to celebrate commonality with diversity, a way to make the whole more than the sum of its parts. Cascadia is a shared notion, and one in active evolution. We’re still inventing ourselves as a regional culture. Cascadia is a recognition of emerging realities, a way to celebrate commonality with diversity — a way to make the whole more than the sum of its parts.”

— Paul Schell, former mayor of Seattle

California won’t split…

“Yes California’s dreams of secession are unlikely to become a reality, as the majority of Americans oppose efforts to split the nation. While CaleExit has convinced some Californians, there is also little appetite for it statewide. According to Hoover Institution’s State Poll from January 2017, 25 percent of Californians support independence from the union, 58 percent oppose and 17 percent are unsure.”

— Stanford Daily

New Calexit plan…

Another new #Calexit plan hopes to establish an autonomous Native American nation (not a reservation) by giving back to Native Americans most of California’s federal lands (which happen to be the state’s least productive areas).

Supreme Court on secession…

Robert Bruce Murray in Legal Cases of the Civil War writes that in the Texas v. White case (1869), the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the U.S. Constitution did not permit states to unilaterally secede, a ruling that is a road block for the Cascadia movement, California and other states to break away from the Union.

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‘Look for History Popcorn every Wednesday brought to you by Ziggy’s.’

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