On The Cantonization Of The United States

Some time ago I wrote about the cantonization of India [1] were large states were breaking apart based on the separatist pressures within them, a process I am keenly interested in in general [2].  Yet this process is an ongoing one that we see across the world and certainly in the United States as well.  The desire of temporary electoral majorities to reject minority rights and seek to enforce their own (frequently misguided) political agendas through control of political institutions has exacerbated the usual town and country debates around the world and created a space for secession movements to flourish.  Where politics is increasingly hostile and increasingly important, very often people come to the understanding that they simply cannot be a part of the same institutions any longer.  We have looked at this process over the years mostly at the national level by looking at secession movements within countries, but such movements also exist within lower levels of government as well, and it is worth discussing this process somewhat.

When I was a preteen, my mother, brother and I moved out of my grandparents’ place and rented a single-wide trailer from a local farmer who was active in a secession movement to create something called Alafia County from the eastern and southern parts of Hillsborough County.  Believing that the concerns of the rural and exurban hinterlands of Hillsborough County would never be addressed so long as Tampa and its immediate suburbs dominated Hillsborough County, he wanted to separate the area east of the Tampa Bypass Canal or so and south of the Alafia River into a new county that would be centered on Plant City.  The movement didn’t pick up steam, but it represents my own early experience with the centrifugal pressures that exist on the local level of governments.  Later on, as a young adult when I returned to Florida for a few years, the coastal islands of Pinellas County, the next county to the west of Tampa, explored splitting off from the rest of the small county and forming a county that would include just the islands, which would have been the smallest county in the state but one with considerable resources as well as concerns relating to beach erosion and bridges.  Suffice it to say that this has been a subject I have cared about for a long time.

In between the local level and the national level, we have the state level, and it is little surprise that secession movements here have been active recently.  For example, I have read reports of at least five of these movements existing at present, with the most serious ones being in Oregon for an expansion of Idaho or in Virginia for an expansion of West Virginia to escape intolerable progressive-run state governments.  Given the ruin that results from the adoption of progressive politics in places like New York and (especially) California, it would make sense that anyone who has any sense would want to escape that sort of fate by any means possible, even if it means becoming a part of Idaho or West Virginia.  What makes less sense is that many of the people who escape the ruin of those policies by moving to other areas still persist in voting for the sort of candidates that perpetuate that ruin.  Sadly, it is difficult to have any sense these days when it comes to matters of politics as they deal with the hard realities of practical life.

There are different ways that such secession movements can succeed.  In Switzerland, for example, the splitting of cantons into half-cantons is an orderly process that has helped to defray conflicts like that between Protestants and Catholics as well as the town & country conflict in Basel that threatened considerable disorder.  In the United States, the constitution requires that any secession movement within a state have the support of the state which is being seceded from.  Previously in American history Vermont came into the Union after having been viewed as a part of New York, and Maine was once a part of Massachusetts while Tennessee was part of North Carolina and Kentucky was part of Virginia.  More controversially, the Pierpoint government of Virginia (the Unionist government) approved the secession of West Virginia.  Since then there have been no such movements approved and the dilution of power and influence that would result from this process would seem to discourage any future attempts unless a Civil War force the issue to the surface again.

My own personal feelings are somewhat complicated regarding this matter.  Ideally, I would think it worthwhile for people to develop better skills at coping with disagreements so such matters do not get out of hand and threaten peace.  Yet at the same time as someone whose own communication and peacemaking skills are rather limited, I can understand the appeal of separation.  It does tend to lead to a lot of fragmentation and weakening in general, but such is the spirit of our times.  We live in an age where we can hold little or nothing together and where we lack the skills to be able to deal with conflict successfully and frequently even to put up with those we do not agree with.  And even when we do manage to preserve a superficial unity it is often nowhere near as successful as we would wish it to be.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/05/20/the-cantonization-of-india/

[2] See, for example:







About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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