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Deja Vu

November 30, 2012

Union Busting


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2012: After the recent reelection of President Barack Obama, conservatives across the country have attempted to regroup, but some in Texas have suggested they might be better off as a new nation of their own. Texas secessionists have started a petition for removal from the Union that has received tens of thousands of signatures, but some of the details have yet to be resolved. The New York Times reports:

The secession movement in Texas is divergent, with differences in goals and tactics. One group, the Republic of Texas, says that secession is unnecessary because, it claims, Texas is an independent nation that was illegally annexed by the United States in 1845. (The group’s leader and other followers waged a weeklong standoff with the Texas Rangers in 1997 that left one of its members dead.) Mr. Kilgore, the candidate who is changing his middle name, said he had not signed the White House petition because he did not believe that Texans needed to ask Washington for permission to leave.

“Our economy is about 30 percent larger than that of Australia,” said Mr. Kilgore, 48, a telecommunications contractor. “Australia can survive on their own, and I don’t think we’ll have any problem at all surviving on our own in Texas.”

1860: The election of Abraham Lincoln plunged an already ideologically fractured nation into turmoil, and South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, was especially vocal in its displeasure. The New York Times reprinted an editorial from a Charleston newspaper that derided Lincoln and advocated a dismantling of the Union:

The inquiry necessarily addresses itself to every man—Is the election of Lincoln, in itself and by itself, a hostile act? Doe it endanger the peace or threaten the liberties of the South? All admit that his election will be conclusive evidence of a sectional domination, avowedly aggressive, and proclaiming a purpose reconsistent with the enjoyment of our rights and the maintenance of State equality.

For myself, I am free to declare that the election ought to be regarded as an act of determined hostility; and I regard it also as immediately threatening the peace and safety of the South. As such, we should not wait till we experience the first or least of its pernicious consequences; but forseeing them, put ourselves at once in the attitude of independence, and thus escape or be prepared to defend ourselves against them.

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The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced.
Victor Hugo, 1862
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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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