America’s Sovereign States: The Obscure History of How 10 Independent States Joined the U.S.

It is often said that before the Civil War, the United States “are,” but after the War, the United States “is.” This is a reference to the formerly theoretically sovereign nature of each state as compared to “one nation, indivisible.”

More than just the theoretic sovereignty of the individual states, the territory now comprising the U.S. has a rich history of sovereign states outside the control of the federal government. Some of these you’ve almost certainly heard of, but a lot of them are quite obscure. Each points toward a potential American secession of the future.

Vermont Republic (January 15, 1777 – March 4, 1791)

Current Territory: The State of Vermont

The earliest sovereign state in North America after the Revolution was the Vermont Republic, also known as the Green Mountain Republic or the Republic of New Connecticut. The Republic was known by the United States as “the New Hampshire Grants” and was not recognized by the Continental Congress. The people of the Vermont Republic contacted the British government about union with Quebec, which was accepted on generous terms. They ultimately declined union with Quebec after the end of the Revolutionary War, during which they were involved in the Battle of Bennington, and the territory was accepted into the Union as the 14th state – the first after the original 13.

The country had its own postal system and coinage, known as Vermont coppers. These bore the inscription “Stella quarta decima,” meaning “the 14th star” in Latin. They were originally known as “New Connecticut” because Connecticut’s Continental representative also represented Vermont Republic’s interests at Congress. However, the name was changed to Vermont, meaning “Green Mountains” in French.

Their constitution was primarily concerned with securing independence from the State of New York. Indeed, the state was known as “the Reluctant Republic” because they wanted admission to the Union separate from New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire – not a republic fully independent of the new United States. The genesis of the issue lay with the Crown deciding that New Hampshire could not grant land in Vermont, declaring that it belonged to New York. New York maintained this position into the early years of the United States, putting Vermont in the position of trying to chart a course of independence between two major powers.

The Green Mountain Boys was the name of the militia defending the Republic against the United States, the British and Mohawk Indians. They later became the Green Mountain Continental Rangers, the official military of the Republic. The “Green Mountain Boys” is an informal name for the National Guard regiment from the state.

In 1791, the Republic was admitted to the Union as the 14th state, in part as a counterweight to the slave state Kentucky. The 1793 state constitution differs little from the constitution of the Republic. The gun laws of Vermont, including what is now known as “Constitutional Carry,” are in fact laws (or lack thereof) dating back to the days of the Green Mountain Republic. The constitution likewise included provisions outlawing adult slavery and enfranchising all adult men.

Kingdom of Hawaiʻi / Republic of Hawaii (May 1795 – August 12, 1898)

Current Territory: The State of Hawaii and the Johnston Atoll

Hawai’i as a sovereign state is almost as old as the United States itself. Its origins were in the conquest of the Hawai’ian island. Western advisors (and weaponry) played a role in the consolidation of several islands into a single kingdom under Kamehameha the Great, who conquered the islands over a period of 15 years. This marked the end of ancient Hawai’i and traditional Hawai’an government. Hawai’i was now a monarchy in the style of its European counterparts. It was also subject to the meddling of great powers France and Britain, in the same manner of smaller European states.

The Kingdom was overthrown on January 17, 1893, starting with a coup d’état against Queen Liliʻuokalani. The rebellion started on Oahu, was comprised entirely of non-Hawai’ians, and resulted in the Provisional Government of Hawaii. The goal was, in the manner of other states on our list, quick annexation by the United States. President Benjamin Harrison negotiated a treaty to this end, but anti-imperialist President Grover Cleveland withdrew from it. The failure of annexation led to the establishment of the Republic of Hawaii on July 4, 1894.

In 1895, the Wilcox rebellion, led by native Hawai’ian Robert William Wilcox, attempted to restore the Kingdom of Hawai’i. The rebellion was unsuccessful and the last queen, Liliuokalani, was put on trial for misprision of treason. While convicted, her prison term was nominal. She was sentenced to “hard labor,” but served it in her own bedroom and was eventually granted a passport to travel to the United States, which she used to extensively lobby against annexation.

When pro-imperialist President William McKinley won election in 1896, the writing was on the wall. The Spanish-American War began in April 1898, with the Republic of Hawaii declaring neutrality, but weighing in heavily on the side of the United States in practice. Both houses of Congress approved annexation on July 4, 1898, and William McKinley signed the bill on July 7th. The stars and stripes were raised over the island on August 12, 1898. And by April 30, 1900, it was incorporated as the Territory of Hawaii.

Continue reading America’s Sovereign States: The Obscure History of How 10 Independent States Joined the U.S. at Ammo.com.

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Brexit is Progress

It’s interesting to me how Brexit is portrayed by the statist media as a step backwards. Like anyone who is intelligent should understand it’s a disaster to pull out of a Big State, and only rubes would want such a thing. And, obviously, it’s going to lead to starvation and chaos in the streets.

How ridiculous.

To me, it’s secession. Something I’m always in favor of.

Yes, I understand it reeks of “nationalism”, which I oppose. But I also oppose globalism when it means ever-bigger government. I’m in favor of “national” (territorial) societies and global societies, and I oppose political governments/states of any size because politics is antisocial.

No, the UK’s government isn’t better than the EU. It is irredeemably corrupt and evil– just like any political government. But at least it’s smaller than the EU’s political government. And Brexit makes the EU a little weaker.

Just as Texit would make the US Empire a bit weaker. That’s a good thing.

Break up all governments into smaller and smaller bits until you get to the individual– the only legitimate government there can ever be.

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California Secession: A Good Start

On April 23, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla approved language for a 2020 ballot proposal submitted by the Yes California Independence Campaign. The proposal will — assuming the campaign can collect and submit signatures from 365,880 registered voters by October — kick off a process already widely known as “Calexit” (after the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” from the European Union).

That process entails three parts: Asking Californians (in 2020) if they want to “discuss” secession; if yes, asking Californians (in 2021) if they want to secede; and if again yes, asking 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures to pass a constitutional amendment allowing California to leave the United States.

Whether or not that last step should be necessary is debatable, but seeing as how the last American secession resulted in a four-year war and a million dead, getting buy-in from DC and the other states might be the wisest course. Either way, if Californians want to go their own way, they should be free to do so, as should other existing states and even smaller areas and groups.

As an independent nation, California would boast the fifth largest economy in the world, and would rank 36th in population (by comparison to the world’s 196 existing countries) and in the top half by area (it’s larger than Hungary, Greece,  or Portugal). It has its own coastline (but its secession would still leave the US with access to the west coast via Oregon and Washington). It has its own border with a country other than the US (Mexico). It relies on other states for energy and water, but making that trade international rather than merely interstate doesn’t seem like an insuperable problem.

In short, California looks like an excellent test case for independence. It mostly has what it needs to function on its own.

As for relationships with other states and with a national capital 2,375 miles from its own, it’s far from obvious that the people of California have so much in common with the people of Texas or Florida or New Hampshire or Wisconsin that all five states need a government in common.

Ultimately, political government itself is the problem and a system of market anarchy or panarchy (competing “public service” providers within the same geographical area) is the solution. Until we can feel our way to such an arrangement, peaceful secession, decentralization, and devolution are probably the best outcomes we can reasonably hope for.

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How to Compromise on the Government Question

The libertarian philosophy posits absolute liberty among consenting individuals. Don’t want the government? You shouldn’t be forced to pay for it or live by its rules. Want the government? You should voluntarily pay for it and voluntarily live by its rules.

But, per the libertarian philosophy, where governments exist they must be voluntary, via fully informed consent.

A radical libertarian believes voluntary association is required in a free society. A pragmatist libertarian believes the philosophy should evolve to include not only non-libertarians, but anti-libertarians.

So how does a libertarian who’s engaged in politics go about political discourse? The bait-and-switch scheme and willful ignorance are in opposition to libertarianism. Libertarian candidates can make the case for voluntary government, but also make the case for voluntary secession from said government.

Policy? It’s easy. The government itself can be a public option. In the face of competition, people can opt for private sector or, via a case-by-case basis, opt for a government service, through user fees.

That’s compromise. Without compromising libertarian principles. Gary Johnson, Bill Weld, Bob Barr, Wayne Allyn Root, Alicia Mattson, Tim Hagan, Larry Sharpe, Alicia Dearn, etc. are examples of pragmatists who seek to make libertarianism indistinguishable from liberals and conservatives.

That’s not to say all radical libertarians are rational, but even the irrational ones understand the philosophy. Want positive change? In the words of Carla Howell: be bold.

You can call for the abolition of mandatory payment (theft) for government education and offensive military without the baggage of “anarchism.” It’s called strategy, without the dishonesty.

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Economic Nationalism: Elitism in Populist Clothing

My old friend and former American Conservative editor Dan McCarthy gets it all wrong about Donald Trump’s “national security” tariffs on aluminum and steel.

I won’t discuss Dan’s strictly economic case for the tariffs — I’ve already discussed this— but I want to draw attention to a few other things, beginning with his lament — which is embraced by many other conservatives and progressives — that the American economy has become a “service economy.” In fact, all economies are service economies, as Bastiat well understood. There is nothing intrinsically better about heavy industry. People grow richer when they produce things that other people value. We have no grounds to disparage “services.”

Dan shows he’s not keeping up when he writes, “[A] middle class is hard to imagine in a postindustrial economy consisting of a tiny capital-controlling elite and a vast population of Amazon warehouse workers.” While I oppose all government measures that have created and fostered the capital-controlling elite, Dan is wrong to disparage service workers as mere warehouse drones. (Not that this sort of work is per se deserving of disparagement.) Paul Thanos writes:

The services sector is wide and diverse and covers a wide array of sectors including retail, financial services, digital services, real estate, hospitality, education, health, social work, computer services, recreation, media, communications, and electricity, gas and water supply.

While employment in manufacturing has indeed declined — beginning before the demonized NAFTA, WTO, and Chinese membership in the latter — manufacturing output has done the opposite. As Mark Perry points out:

In inflation-adjusted constant 2014 dollars, US manufacturing output has increased more than five-fold over the last 67 years, from $410 billion in 1947 to a record-setting level of output last year of $2.09 trillion.… Although we frequently hear claims that the US manufacturing sector is dying or in a state of decline, manufacturing output in the US, except during and following periods of economic contraction like the Great Recession, has continued to increase over time, and reached the highest level of output ever recorded in 2014.

It is mainly technology, not trade, that has done away with old-style factory jobs, so there aren’t so many jobs for Trump’s tariffs to save. Dan says little about the many people who could lose jobs — in export and steel- and aluminum-using industries — because of the tariffs. How is that good for “the country” or the middle class?

But doesn’t the elimination of jobs create hardship for those who have to find new work? Of course. Life is change and adjustment. Instead of trying to thwart that inexorable process, the government should remove its special-interest impediments to adjustment, such as barriers to economic and geographical mobility, among them occupational licensing and land-use restrictions. (See my “How the Government and Special Interests Thwart Economic Mobility.”)

Nor need we worry that manufacturing is down as a percentage of GDP. Perry again:

The decline in manufacturing’s share of U.S. GDP over the last forty years is nearly identical to the decline in world manufacturing as a share of world GDP, which fell from 26.6% in 1970 to 16.2% in 2010. Therefore, we can conclude that the declining share of manufacturing’s contribution to GDP is not unique to America, but reflects a global trend as the world moves from a traditional manufacturing-intensive “Machine Age” economy to more a services-intensive “Information Age” economy. [Emphasis added.]

These developments, of course, have come in an economic order that is far from free. Corporatist government intervention has certainly distorted development here and abroad. But we can be confident a truly free market would also have seen the emergence of a “services-intensive ‘Information Age’ economy.” The big difference, I surmise, is that without government privileges, capital would be more widely owned and, as earlier libertarians predicted, bosses would be hunting up workers rather than vice versa.

Be that as it may, Dan is wrong to believe the “service economy” imperils the middle class. Yes, it’s shrinking, but that’s because people are moving up and out of it. Donald Boudreaux writes: “The American middle class, if it is disappearing, is disappearing – contrary to Mr. McCarthy’s implication – not into the lower class, but into the upper class.”

That calls for emphasis. So let’s turn to Scott Sumner (pay attention to the graph Sumner displays): “The main reason that the middle income group has shrunk is that more and more Americans have incomes above the (arbitrary) cut-off point, and fewer and fewer are either “middle income” or poor.”

Dan also buys the national-security argument for the tariffs, something Trump’s own secretary of defense [sic] does not:

[T]he US military requirements for steel and aluminum each only represent about three percent of US production. Therefore, DoD does not believe that the finds in the [Commerce Department] reports impact the ability of DoD programs to acquire the steel or aluminum necessary to meet national defense requirements.

Moreover, if the U.S. government were not policing the world, its demand for resources and labor would shrink considerably, leaving them available for more and better consumer goods. (For more on the national security canard, see this and this and this.)

Dan warns that if the government does not support strategic industries, the country won’t have the capacity to fight and win wars. He has the Civil War and World War II in mind. This requires further examination. One may reasonably attribute many evils to Lincoln’s violent crusade to preserve the Union, including the emergence of a continental, then hemispheric, then global empire that has wreaked havoc for generations. (Secession would have cut the distance of the Underground Railroad dramatically, shortening the escape route for self-liberated slaves, who would no longer be subject to the federal fugitive-slave law.) About World War II, may I point out that this horror could not have taken place had the U.S. government not had the resources to enter the Great War in 1917? Let’s please do a full accounting. World War II gave a big boost to the Soviet Union and the Chinese communists: aren’t those also to be chalked up as products of the U.S. government’s access to awesome industrial power?

I also want to highlight Dan’s mischaracterization of those he calls “free-trade ideologues” and “extreme free-traders.” He writes:

Free-traders are not indifferent to national security nor blind to the benefits a nation derives from having a middle class. But the priority of goods is different: Free-traders tend to believe that only by making economic efficiency the supreme goal of public policy can those other ends be achieved. Division of labor produces greater wealth, and so free trade makes everyone better off, with the harm to those whose manufacturing jobs are lost outweighed by the good that comes from, say cheaper flat-screen televisions. Dollars decide. The figures are the outward and visible signs of the fundamental economic truth. [Emphasis added.]

The economics discipline certainly has had many practitioners who appear to hold efficiency as the supreme goal of public policy. But radical free-traders never put their main case in those terms. From Adam Smith to Richard Cobden and John Bright to Frédéric Bastiat to Lysander Spooner to Henry George to Herbert Spencer to William Graham Sumner to Benjamin Tucker — and right on through to Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, and Murray Rothbard, free trade was a primarily matter of individual freedom and the peaceful social cooperation it spawns. Dollars don’t decide. People do.

Yes, the “system of natural liberty” has the invisible-hand effect of enabling people to get the most value at the lowest cost, but “efficiency” was not to be the goal of government policymaking. (See Rothbard’s “The Myth of Efficiency.”) Let’s not confuse principled free-traders with the technocratic professors who spend their time scribbling equations, drawing curves, and describing one-dimensional “economic man’s” pursuit of material wealth. The free-trade movement, which coincided with the antiwar movement, aimed to liberate people so they could make better lives. (To see why economics is not essentially about wealth and efficiency, see my “The Ubiquity of Economic Phenomena.”)

Earlier Dan writes,

Economic nationalists do not accept the blame made by extreme free-traders that any degree of industrial protection must inevitably lead to less national wealth. But so what if it does? If the price of national security and a durable free middle class is a modest reduction in gross domestic product, the economic nationalist is willing to pay it.

Evidently the economic nationalist is not only willing to pay that price himself; he’s also willing to force it on everyone else. What Dan calls “a modest reduction in gross domestic product” may mean a great deal to the poor who struggle to make ends meet, not to mention advance. At any rate, that price isn’t required for a durable and growing (upper) middle class (and beyond) or security. It’s all cost and no benefit.

An indication of the flaw in Dan’s analysis can be found in this sentence: “For 25 years, free-trade orthodoxy has been a bipartisan consensus among America’s policy elite.” Really? Free-trade rhetoric and a lowering of tariffs (mostly in other countries because U.S tariffs were already low) — yes. But the so-called free-trade consensus has produced government-to-government trade agreements that, while moving tariffs in the right direction, have also included carve-outs for American cronies, such as sugar producers, and imposed rigid freedom-infringing intellectual-property regimes on developing countries. Alas, Dan has allowed himself to be fooled by labels.

Dan’s preference for economic nationalism misses something essential: it is elitism in populist clothing. Politicians, bureaucrats, and their “experts” — that is, an elite — would make life-altering decisions for the rest of us. He mocks free-traders for thinking that the “middle class … must take care of itself.” Who does he think should take care of it? Why, better “leaders in Washington” of course.

“Economic nationalism,” he writes, “requires constant balancing and adjustment if it is to be pursued correctly.” And just who is qualified for that delicate job (and why would the voters recognize him)? Dan ought to reread F. A. Hayek’s Nobel address, “The Pretence of Knowledge.” He should also reacquaint himself with the incentive problems elaborated by James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, and the public choice school.

“Economic nationalists,” Dan writes, “are intent upon protecting not only certain industries but also a multilayered free-market political and economic order that is anchored by a healthy middle class” (emphasis added). Right, and George W. Bush “abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.”

Economic nationalism, obviously, is a kind of nationalism. Thus it’s tribalism, and tribes have a central leadership that demands sacrifice in the name of collective welfare and security. Another nationalist, John F. Kennedy, said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

“Neither half of the statement,” Milton Friedman wrote in 1962, “expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society.”

Radical free-traders recognize the glaring category mistake in Kennedy’s admonition: a country can neither do things for you nor have things done for it.

What free traders oppose and economic nationalists embrace is the presence of rulers who do things to you.

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Entanglements

Nobody asked but …

I’ve just been listening to a BBC report about the reconciliation of BREXIT to the supposed desires of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the EU, and the UK.  Sorry, but I have to say “I told you so.”  The leaving of overcomplicated situations is overly complex.  The software design principle reapplies —  high cohesion, low coupling.

— Kilgore Forelle

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