As the United States celebrates its independence from Britain, this year the holiday comes with a historical twist: Britain has just declared its own independence from Europe. And the sudden, dramatic decision is inspiring a number of local movements in the United States.
The spirit of Brexit—the people of the U.K. throwing off the yoke of an oppressive empire across the water—has invigorated secession movements across America, knots of people from Vermont to Hawaii who envision a future in which they break off from a nation too big, too distant or just too weird to feel like home anymore.
It’s unlikely any of these states will actually secede, no matter how inspiring Britain’s example; the Civil War showed that the government in Washington doesn’t take these attempts lightly. In the 1869 Supreme Court decision Texas v. White, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase wrote that the federal Constitution “in all its provisions looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States.” The case effectively established the legal principle that no state can secede from the Union.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t keep trying. In the spirit of Independence Day, here are a few of the states that see in Brexit a renewed sense of hope for their own independence movements.
“In the wake of the U.K.’s 'Brexit' vote, we are receiving queries from all over the world— is a ‘Vexit’—Vermont nonviolently seceding from the United States of Empire—next?”
That was Rob Williams writing in The Vermont Independent, an online publication closely associated with Vermont’s independence movement. The effort might not be well known, but it’s ready for its close-up: “We have the blueprints, we have the platform, we have the book, we have the passport, and we have the flag,” wrote Williams.
As Bernie Sanders’ relentless insurgent candidacy might suggest, Vermont has never been all that comfortable in the United States; during the Revolutionary War in 1777, a group of future Vermonters declared independence from both the crown of Great Britain and the colony of New York. The Vermont Republic, aptly named the “reluctant republic” even back then, more or less operated as an independent nation for the next 14 years—until the Civil War and the controversial issue of slavery encouraged it to become the new nation’s 14th state in 1791, two years into President George Washington’s first term. Its constitution preceded the U.S. Constitution by more than a decade.
Today, Williams is part of a group of intellectuals and activists trying to revive the dream of a Second Vermont Republic. Tomas Naylor, professor emeritus of economics at Duke University, founded the group in 2003...