"Why would I? I’m a Black man living in the former capital of the Confederacy. I knew what these monuments meant. I always believed they had no place on a grand boulevard." Levar Stoney
On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Richmond Virginia’s Mayor Levar Stoney introduced an ordinance to the City Council calling for the removal four of the monuments to Confederate heroes that together with the famous equestrian Robert E. Lee monument lined the capital’s historic Monument Avenue historic district. Using the public emergency clause, Stoney and the majority of the council accomplished what they had set out to do two years prior. Stoney had shared his personal views about Richmond’s monuments to reporter Andrew Lawler stating:
Stoney never clarified just who “they“ were. Nor did the reporter ask him.
Later, in a public address, Stoney married the removal of monuments to a broader national racial justice movement, re-animating them and giving them purpose by changing their meaning as well as the motives of the generations of Southerners who built them.
In the statehouse, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, with a speed uncharacteristic of government had Virginia’s strict monument preservation and protection law amended, removing all protection for Civil War- period memorials. Breaking an 1890 agreement between Virginia and the owners of the monument, Northam announce the state was proceeding with the removal of the jewel of all Confederate monuments, the renowned Robert E. Lee monument.
A brief survey of history reveals the culture of the North and the Progressive Left became decisively more secular and revolutionary by 2013. That was the year a hashtag became a movement: Black Lives Matter. It began with the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trevon Martin seventeen months earlier. The deaths of two African-Americans in 2014, Michael Brown and Eric Garner took the social justice group to the streets and into the national limelight. The death of George Floyd and these others provided cover for the illegal vandalism and stealing of Richmond’s monuments and many others in the South, Richmond’s five and by the Fall of 2020 another 103 monuments.
The first and only previous desecrations of Richmond monuments were by individuals who spay-painted BLM and Black Lives Matter on the Jefferson Davis monument in 2015 and the Robert E. Lee Monument in 2018. To show the difference in the times. In 2015, 39-year-old Joseph Weindl was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and in 2018, the city offered a $1000. reward for the capture of the vandal. In the summer of 2020 while millions of dollars in damage to the five monuments, not a single person was charged or fined.
No one could foresee the coming storm. The motionless likenesses of Southern, continued as always to attract both homeowners and tourists alike. And, , statistics showed that the overwhelming number of deaths of black Americans were at the hands of other black Americans and claims that blacks were targeted by police were likewise false. But the BLM cause was picked up by power-seeking politicians, celebrities, and the usual suspects the news media. When a group came to Charlottesville to oppose the removal of the Robert E. Lee memorial, these groups saw the opportunity to once again attack the South, southerners, and their culture. They were met by a not one but two compliant and enabling governors.
If there is to be justice for the monuments, and as the culture and political pendulum begins to swing in the opposite and corrective direction, such can be achieved. A knowledge of who is liable, and a history of the events and actions is necessary. The actions first in New Orleans and then replicated in Richmond were legally unprecedented. In such situations, the courts rely on prior cases, law and outcomes. Presently, there is only one legal action related to the removal of Richmond’s Lee monument awaiting the Supreme Court. A case they will unlikely take up pertaining to a breech of an 1890 agreement.
The actions by both mayors resulted in very different legal consequences, and as such will require very different legal strategies. The tragic wholesale removal of 108 monuments over the summer of 2022 had its beginning on July 10, 2015 when the Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu met unannounced with the City Council and requested that they reclassify all four of the city’s great Confederate monuments as “nuisances”, thus setting the stage for their removal. Landrieu did not give a specific reason for his request, but only 25 days prior, a lone white gunman Dylann Roof murdered black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. Lousiana along with all the former Confederate states, with the exceptions of North Carolina and Florida, had very strict laws to protect their Confederate monuments, including Virginia.
Culminating in the burial of confederate soldiers and the erection and dedication of a Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery on July 4, 1914, the nation moved to heal the divide by extending equal respect to soldiers of the South. A century later, New Orleans’ stated his opposition in a speech commemorating the removal of the city’s lee monument.
Later in the same speech, Landrieu attempted to redefine the monuments with an interpretation that was counter to what 57% of Americans polled believed.
The case against Landrieu and New Orleans’ City Council is both a state and federal matter. Landrieu and the city failed to obey state laws protecting the four monuments removed by city order beginning April of 2017 and ending with the removal of the grand Lee monument and speech on May 19, 2017 (three months before the Charlottesville, Virginia incidents). It can be clearly shown that the majority of Americans had no objections to the Southern monuments and unlike the extreme views of Landrieu, were comfortable with symbols of the South. Just weeks prior to Landrieu request to the council A poll by CNN, conducted between June 26-28 and reported ten days before Landrieu met with the council showed that 57% believed the Confederate flag reflected Southern pride, while only 33% felt it was a symbol of racism. As with the later actions by the Richmond mayor and council, New Orleans officials forced an undesirable outcome and loss for the city and did so by not democratizing the process. So lacking in transparency, the city still refuses to reveal the name of the donor who paid the expense to remove all the monuments.
While Landrieu saw the political benefits for crusading against Southern monuments after the Charleston shootings in 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center, saw the fund-raising benefits. SPLC went right to work researching and targeting every monument, memorial and symbol, and even creating a grassroots website to promote their removal and track their success. The website targeting monuments is entitled Whose History Is It? Meanwhile Landrieu goes national with a book tour for his book on the subject, promoting revisionist history entitled In the Shadow of the Monuments, taken from Richmond real estate ads of the late nineteenth century, and doing a segment with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. Directly related to the fate of Richmond’s five grand monuments, Stoney, unsuccessful at removing Richmond’s monuments, recruited Landrieu for a large event at Richmond’s Museum of History and Culture on March 22, 2019.
Efforts by Stoney and Councilman Michael Jones moved at a snail’s pace. It appeared that Richmond would not be joining New Orleans in purging their public spaces from those symbols of slavery and white supremacy. Scandals related to the founder of the SPLC and their offshore bank accounts, as well as their losing several large defamation suits, allowed the Richmond monuments to live another year. But when a black man died at the hands of police many miles away in Minneapolis on May 26, 2020, Richmond’s downtown became a battleground of violent protest. It took only four days until gunshots were heard, fires broke out and the five unprotected monuments were attacked with impunity. Knowing that the monuments were magnets for the mobs, Stoney did nothing to protect them. Governor Northam and the Virginia Assembly, likewise, removed all protection on June 4th by amending the long-standing state law thus eliminating arrest, fines and punishment for defacing or removing them.
When the mob focused its hate on the great Lee monument, it was almost 130 years to the day of the monument’s grand dedication ceremonies. The events of the great unveiling of Richmond’s Lee monument appeared in the May 29, 1890 issue of the Alexandria Gazette. The monument, they reported had been years in its planning and construction. The base which was completely covered in graffiti 130 years later was made of James River and Maine granite at a cost of $42,000. In current terms that would be 1.1 million dollars. The bronze equestrian statue of Lee on his horse Traveller was created by Paris sculptor Charles Antonin Mercie, taking years of study. The horse alone took two years. Mercie was paid $18,000. The final cost, paid by thousands of individual contributions was $75,000, which today would be over 2 million dollars. The article in the Alexandria Gazette announced:
Newspapers of that time give an accurate picture of how each of Richmond’s monuments were financed, and their costs. They also reveal who then owned them. In 1928 for instance, the Richmond paper announced that the state had promised $10,000 toward the monument for Confederate naval officer Matthew Fontaine
Maury. It announced the need to raise an additional $40,000. From private contributions. So, both the state and private individuals were vested in its making.
The application for National Historic Landmark painstakingly includes mention of 358 historic and architecturally significant residences and churches starting with J.E.B. Stuart on the 1600 block and ending with the Arthur Ashe monument on the 3300 block of Monument Avenue. The documentation clearly shows the inter-relatedness of 358 buildings with the six monuments, with the monuments being both the reason for their being there and the glue that joins them together. You will find nothing that could compare in any other American city.
At the beginning of the War for Southern Independence, Richmond and New Orleans were the Souths two largest cities. Unlike New Orleans, Richmond had to rebuild entirely after the war. In the years after the war, New Orleans competed with Richmond funding and erecting monuments to their heroes. But Richmond’s Monument Ave was much more than erecting monuments; it was urban renewal. Over the next several decades the neighborhoods and monuments were built together. This historically unique relationship became recognized and celebrated when in 1997, Monument Avenue became the first American street to become a National Historic Landmark.
It is this distinction and national recognition that is the basis for a lawsuit to restore all of Monument Avenue’s monuments. Besides the cover sheet for the approved application, that indicates complex ownership of the buildings and monuments that make up the landmark, the very language and supporting documentation are impossible to ignore:
While I am not an attorney, It was very clear in 1997 that a department of the federal government, the National Parks Service and its appointed historical authorities not only acknowledged the inseparable nature of the properties but its importance of the sculptures honoring Confederate heroes. Stoney and the Richmond City Council violated 18 U.S. Code 1369 Destruction of Veterans Memorials, since the United States recognized Confederate soldiers as veterans early in the twentieth century and this national healing memorialized by the burial of Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. This law comes into play because all the monuments were “under the jurisdiction of the federal government” when they became designated as national landmarks. The law reads:
When mayor of the city in the summer of 2020, the city had a population of 234,081 people. There were no public meetings and the mayor and council never got consensus from the residents and stakeholders. Using am ‘emergency” as a justification, they first refused to protect the valuable monuments from vandalism and arrest the criminals, but in only a week’s time, removed the statues from their pedestals.
American historians and political scientists know that the majority of Americans have moderate views. They occupy the political center. Likewise, then, the majority of 326.7 million Americans have no animosity toward the South or fearful thought of the South rising again. The majority of Americans appreciate the history and the heroic figures and places associated with that history. This makes Ralph Northam and Levar Stoney a very small minority and their views and beliefs extreme.
A local contractor Devon Henry, who had contributed $4000 to Stoney’s political campaign, after no Virginia contractor would agree to the monument’s removal contracted a Connecticut company to remove the monuments. Unlike Landrieu’s private donor, this cost Richmond 1.8 million dollars. It was not till September 19, 2022 that any official called for an investigation into Stoney’s obvious pay to play with the monuments.
Justice for the monuments calls for a substantial lawsuit that would challenge the actions of Stoney and the city on the basis of ownership of the monuments. As stated, the cost to make the Robert E. Lee Monument today would be in excess of 2 million-dollars. The other four: Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart and Matthew Fontaine Maury at 1.5 million each establishes the value and loss of 8 million-dollars. The Maury monument for instance, finished in 1929 cost $50,000. Today the same small monument would cost $867,860. While in the process of redevelopment, the city of Richmond, the state and the city gave up small portions of property for the creation and installation of monuments. The receipts for the sculptors and materials, as well as the contractors show clearly the monuments were privately owned. A fact not discussed at the time and now, two years later.
Adding further insult to injury, Mayor Stoney announced on New Year’s Eve, 2021 that the city and state had made an agreement to convey ownership of the statuary from the monuments to the Black History and Culture Museum of Virginia. The Museum director promised that the former proud monuments would be used to tell a completely different narrative from the one intended by the true owners. Lee, Davis, Stuart, Jackson, and Maury would then be paraded as artifacts of a pro-slavery and white supremacist culture clinging to their Lost Cause. Meantime, the exceptional bronze artifacts, worth millions lie scattered on the grounds of Richmond’s water treatment facility.
Because the entire district, mansions, homes and apartment buildings owed much of the value of their properties because they existed in the shadow of the monuments will now collectively lose value, an amount almost impossible to approximate. There will also be in the decades to come, a measurable decline in tourism dollars. And for what? So that a politician could virtue signal?
Upon their speedy removal, a variety of people entertained ideas for monuments and memorials that could be put in the now empty parks. No one could agree. It turned out that no matter the individual be considered, all were not without sin and had reasons for disqualification. In terms of history, everyone being considered would leave Richmond with unreasonable and historically inauthentic markers. A prime example being the proposed creation of monuments to famous abolishionist in the city that was the Capital of the Confederacy.
Stoney’s speedy removal violated all that was left of Virginia’s law. The Virginia assembly left the stipulation in the law that mandated a thirty-day notice by officials, so that the monuments might find another home and safety elsewhere. A small point, but a matter that is more evidence of the mayor’s recklessness. The Richmond police department has refused to respond to my Open Public Records Requests. I feel strongly that there exists proof that Stoney ordered the police to stand down as far as arresting individuals for defacing and damaging the five monuments. Afterall, after many nights of violence against the city and businesses, the only arrests were weeks later and to enforce a band against assembling.
True Southerners should be grateful to the individuals who successfully brought about the designation of Monument Avenue as a National Historic Landmark. Using their federal protection under the law in a well-crafted lawsuit, the South and her monuments can get their well-deserved days in court. Only by seeking a favorable outcome can we return what was stolen to their rightful owners, the generations that will follow.
“The demise of the third compact is going to fray the sense of national unity that has stilled secessionist sentiments. If millions of people in one section of the country are told that they’re presumptively evil, and that the presumption really can’t be rebutted, they’re going to wonder if they belong somewhere else.” - F.H. Buckley
“An older conflict, however, re-emerged. One need only consult an election map broken down by county to see this ancient Anglo-American conflict in colors of red and blue, center versus periphery, court versus country. The great metropolitan cities and suburbs, college towns, the financial centers, the techno-autocrats of the left coast, and their suburbs arrayed against the
small towns and rural counties of America. Neither slavery nor sectionalism nor the two-party system obscures the conflict now. A wide and deep enmity and distrust now separates Americans and reaches its icy hands to divide colleagues, friends, and families. - John Devanny
As 2020 comes to an end, over one half of American are faced with the inevitability of having lost our Republic. Not so much a conscious understanding of the cruel reality, but somewhere in the back of their brains, that it has been lost and it is now finally, beyond repair. Millions wring their hands and pray God help us. We lost it to a coup. The victors, even in 2020 a minority of far-left adherents to Political Progressivism or Socialism using the Democrat Party had over time brought about the Republic’s demise.
It is both critical and instructive to understand that this destruction was a long-time in the making. It would be correct to say that the stealing of the 2020 Election was simply the finale. Regardless of whether it is truly an authentic quote, many Americans have grown up telling the story of Ben Franklin, when stopped outside of Constitution Hall was asked by a lady "Dr. Franklin, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
"A republic," replied the Doctor, "if you can keep it.”
All who have studied world history know that, when all is said and done, the enemy of liberty and freedom is the bigness of the state. This is a proposal for secession necessitated by the right for both sanctuary, as well as home rule.
The Federal Government is only going to become bigger. The subject of secession in the United States has been repeatedly attacked. Should the many seek such a remedy and proceed to create a plan, it will meet the actions of Lincoln and the Republican Party in the middle of the Nineteenth-Century to not only make it illegal, but to refashion a Union that eliminated all efforts to assert home rule.
Trump in a Historical Context
Our Republic has reached this tipping point now, as opposed to years down the road, simply because Trump was not supposed to win in 2016. The enemies of the Republic were literally caught off guard. The masks and the gloves came off, for his form of nationalism could not stand. While, I seriously doubt that the Trump presidency will get the proper footnotes in American History, Trump should be viewed historically as the last attempt to restore the Constitutional Republic. Trump worked to change the system from within, relying on our system of elections. He learned what we have now all learned, that the bigness of the bureaucracy resisted and would have none of it. Trump was not the only candidate to learn the hard lesson. Socialist Bernie Sanders learned it as well. Win it fair and square, you will lose. In these final days before the party and the presidential candidate that was bought and paid for by the billionaire class takes office, the voters cling to candidate Trump, and will fail to learn the hard-dealt lesson that comes from not American History, but World History.
A Republic, a Democracy or an Oligarchy?
On November 6, 2020, political commenter Tucker Carlson on his evening show on Fox News insightfully, using his knowledge of world history, revealed the modern-day Emperor’s New Clothes tale that is the Biden presidency. The headline read “A Biden Victory Would Usher in the Age of Oligarchy. As stated earlier, Americans lack a knowledge of world history. Most cannot tell you the difference between a Republic and a Democratic State. Tucker is completely right in his analysis. What is now completely apparent about Joe Biden and the 2020 general election should shake liberals and conservatives alike. But few know what an oligarchy is - a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few - and thereby why we should run, and not walk away.
The Trump presidency, as I stated, was the desired check on the corporate take-over of America. With a Biden presidency, all stops to the take-over will be removed. The entire State, leaders in both political parties and the entire media complex will consign to create the false appearance that all is well and we have a democratic republic, when in fact it was lost. Appearances is the key word here.
That evening Tucker Carlson stated: “It’s becoming clear that there is no Joe Biden. The man you may remember from the 1980s is gone. What remains is a projection of sorts, a hologram designed to mimic the behavior of a non-threatening political candidate.”
Add to this uncomfortable reflection that immediately waiting in the wings is the threatening replacement of Joe Biden by his vice president Kamala Harris. Tucker then asks the logical question: If Biden is a hologram, “Who is running the projector?” He concludes that the Biden campaign was purely a corporate one. If Biden wins the presidency it would be the first time in American history that a multinational corporation created, and then installed, a president.
Rush Limbaugh in December stated the obvious about the 2020 Election. People are happy to be rid, once and for all of Donald Trump. The ends justify the means when it comes to reinstating the status quo. But, just as many refuse to see that the emperor has no new clothes. They are willfully blinded to the fact that the emperor derives his power not from the people, but from a few elites.
A movement toward secession as a response is believed to be that of the South is still dealing with the tyranny of the Northern mindset of the 1850s and 1860s. Now we must face a much different paradigm, a union of states moving to an oligarchy.
If I not mistaken, was it not the corporate/big business interest that kept the thumb of the British crown on the colonies? History is repeating, but it is 1776 and not 1860.
December 11, 2020
The evening of December 11, 2020 was when I believe our Republic reached a tipping point. Like so many Americans, I was waiting for a sign that our nation could right the ship and that all was not lost. That day, the Supreme Court refused to take up the Texas et al lawsuit, and thus kicked the can down the road while delivering the presidency to a man and a political party that had stolen the election.
I have listened intently and have always agreed with the many essays offered by Southern scholars on websites such as that managed by the Abbeville Institute regarding revisionist history and defending our Southern heritage, its monuments and flag. But when the SCOTUS refused to hear the reasonable suit brought by Texas, it became apparent that we are wasting precious time, for they will not listen. I wish to implore others to move away from such exercises, and rather focus on solving the problem, and to face head on that much of the past will not help us with this entirely different paradigm. I summon the visionary in each and every one of us in this most perilous of times. I call for creative acts. As a life-long artist, I know all too well that destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin. That is there are those times when one must destroy something in order to create something in its place, or, more appropriately, acknowledge the destruction by others and the need to rebuild.
Presently, some estimated 74 million Americans know that Joe Biden is not and will not be our legitimately elected president. They also know that the Democrat Party has become the most degenerate political party in American History: a party that vowed to fundamentally transform our Republic and which has sown the seeds of hatred and division for decades. There are some estimated 74 million Americans who know that our Department of Justice and Intelligence agencies have been weaponized by Democrat partisans against our people, and we now have two, and not one, systems of justice. The same Americans have had their news censored or fabricated by big tech and the American Media. We know all of these things. For many of us, we have been directly attacked and have been silenced or have lost our jobs due to our political beliefs. The radicals have further assured us that they have only just begun this political cleansing, and there is more to follow.
Since the 1990’s, our schools, colleges and universities have been corrupted. Students are taught to hate their country, revisionist histories and even treason are the norm and not the exception. In every Southern state today, a teacher or professor who embraces conservative thought will not be employed, and these past years they have fired the few remaining teachers with different views. All the Southern Universities have rejected diversity of thought and replaced it with monoculture and a heavy dose of identity politics. This critical piece by itself promises to destroy the Republic and our stated values for good. Our system of free market capitalism, a hallmark of our democracy, has likewise been corrupted. We now have the greatest disparity in wealth ever, which will only lead to what Tucker Carlson refers to as a “Romanoff moment”, when the masses revolt and America becomes another socialist nightmare. I find Carlson's knowledge-based assertions more reliable than most on the political right and definitely all of the political left. I will them compare with those of another individual with even more political capital throughout this proposal.
None of these radical changes were consented to by “We the People”. In fact, we the people voted against these changes in overwhelming numbers on November 3, 2020. It is reasonable, therefore, that many Americans on the right have been considering secession. Recently, callers to the Rush Limbaugh radio show have brought up the solution and Rush has been careful to respond that he has not endorsed the idea and “probably will not”. Rush like so many American conservatives’ frames everything in terms of American History. European and World History are not his strong suit. They are mine, however, and it will require an understanding of European and World History to implement a successful secession movement in the United States in the twenty-first century.
While we can all learn going forward from the secession of Southern States leading up to the Civil War, there is also so much baggage from those events and times that will hinder a secession movement especially in the South today. Moving forward toward a successful secession movement, here in the South or elsewhere, we must turn our attention to Brexit and the European Union and the former USSR. A primary reason for my proposed secession movement begin in the South is because of our historic ties to Europe. As Southern essayist Richard M. Weaver noted:
“The first step to understanding the peculiarities of the Southern mind and temper is to recognize that the South, as compared with the North, has a European culture – not European in the mature or highly developed sense, but more European than that which grew up north of the Potomac and Ohio rivers, in several respects, even more European than that of New England.”
The secession movement I propose, beginning with the South must be tied to the principal of Home Rule, and thereby in nature would not be not akin to South Carolina and its Rebellion in 1860. For when we secede, it must be clear that we are not the rebels. No fist shaking, name calling and no arguments. Those regions that elect will simply take their ball and go home. In the gentle, reasonable and mannerly way of Southern people, we refuse to be forced into a union which we never agreed to and to which we can never pledge allegiance. We will declare no contest exercise our right to Home Rule and simply walk. My ear to conservative media indicates that Americans all over the United States are waiting for someone to frame secession and set an example. We will have a great deal of support. By the South leading, it will be the opportunity to reintroduce the South to so many Americans and people abroad. For the South is not what they have made it to be, we have grown and changed for the better, while retaining our unique cultural identity. Changes due to immigration have made the South a diverse and potentially a dynamic laboratory for democracy in the twenty-first century. The South has eradicated behaviors that reinforced racial inequality, only to have its enemies reinstate them in a proposed system based on intersectionality and rights based on racial identity.
The South as explained by Weaver “has been a kind of nation within a nation”. The incorporation of Northern ways and the subversion of our Southern schools and universities, since Weaver penned those words has been tremendous. What he wrote is still true and his dreams for the South may still be manifested, but our response to the present must be quick and deliberate. We also need the understanding of the Southern people.
A Much- Needed Sanctuary Infused with Diversity
The South is not anything that is fixed. It welcomes today, as it has for centuries, many interpretations. Much has been written about the Great Migration by blacks in the South after the Civil War. We have not caught up with the dramatic reversed migration and repopulating of the South post 1970. It is, I believe, not only instructive but enlightening to view the increasing immigration to the south not only by Northeast and Midwestern middleclass whites but, by the blacks, many of whom are the descendants of freed slaves.
I found an interesting article from 2019, entitled “I’m a black man who moved to the Deep South. Here is what it is teaching me about race." The very personal account by Jeremy Tisby that appeared in Vox.com tells his story as an educated black man from the Midwest who ended up in a small rural Mississippi Delta town in Arkansas, teaching in a Public Charter middle school for Teach for America in the 1990s. After reading the article, it had little to do with what now Dr. Tisby was taught about race, and more about how he came to love and value the South. The story begins with his friends and family members questioning his move to begin with. The story ends with him still there way past his two-year agreement and raising a family there.
His article has many remarkable observations. Tisby declares that he was stricken by the “immediacy of the past”, how “nothing stands between you and the stories you hear about slavery, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement." He declares that “this history is in the ground you walk on and the people you live with. Its real down here."
Southern writer Rick Bragg, ten years my junior writes candidly and expressively about growing up in the South from a white perspective. He describes as a young boy attending an all-white church during the turbulent sixties. He grew up in Alabama. In his biographical accounts, he recounts how the preacher did not “give in to the expediency, to opportunism”. They preached rather about loving each other and if possible, helping the poor and sick. He wrote:
“It may be that it didn’t take in the long run. But it was perhaps the first time I understood the power of words and formed a belief in my people, which I have retreated into when I was hurt to my bones by the rhetoric of the New South. I guess nostalgia is our sanctuary in sorry times.”
For Alabama-born Rick Bragg, his childhood memories, memories unique to Southern life provide him sanctuary.
For me, a newcomer and very recent newly adopted son of the South, living as I have all but the last five years of my life in the North, the attacks on the Confederate monuments in Richmond, the total vitriol and hatred made evident awakened me to the harsh reality of the present. Those of us who identify as Southerners have come to a place in history, where not only do we have nothing in common with the present Union, but they wish us harm.
My story is one like so many American from the Northeast wishing to retire in a warm climate and with less taxes. Unlike my neighbors, I used all my free time to explore my new Southern home. My life dramatically improved when I found that I could offer my skills as a historian and writer to gather and write important history of this place that was not yet collected and preserved. I soon began teaching courses around what I had discovered. Beginning in 2020, first with the pandemic and then the general election, when others involved in history and anthropology near me discovered my conservative views, they acted together to attack my person, forcing my resignation from three boards and my firing from teaching at a local university. This did more to reinforce my fear of a diminishing Southern life. I have learned that the South as sanctuary is becoming a fleeting notion. It brings grave concerns.
Sanctuary Alone Necessitates Secession
Recently, again while listening to the Rush Limbaugh radio show, a caller who I recognized from my old home asked about whether Southern States such as Florida could become “Sanctuary States” for families like his living under the tyranny of a far-left Governor and State Legislature. He was referencing the pandemic lockdown and loss of personal liberties in New Jersey vs Florida. I called him right after and brought up the idea of secession, but I could not tell him that Florida with its many leftist residents now living there is increasingly becoming such a sanctuary possibility. This is true today about many places in the South which have become nothing more than mirror images of the radicalized centers in the North, Midwest and western states. Therefore, all proposals for a Southern Secession in the twenty-first Century need to be grounded in the present and not be simply a revival of previous episodes. The South then and now has always viewed secession as the proper interpretation of the Constitution, that being that we entered into a compact with limited and delegated authorities to a federal government, while maintaining the states in that compact as having sovereignty and independence. Secession was simply a repeal of those ordinances of ratification.
While back at the originating point, certain states were wary that they could be forced to remain and there may be no exit clause. The War with Great Britain kept those concerns quiet. The South has always maintained that “the law is on their side”. The forces which have declared war on the South in 2020, have both a stated and demonstrated contempt for the Constitution, our governing Law. Having the law on our side is silly in the present context. States as well, as shown in the 2020 presidential election care little for the Constitution and the Supreme Court appointed to interpret and uphold it. If it sounds like anarchy, it is, and only a fool would play along.
The first, and now only, book to deal with the call for secession in the twenty-first century is American Secession, by F.H. Buckley 2020. Buckley’s work departs from the mainstream of Southern scholarship on the subject because he takes it on seriously as a way forward today, and not a rehashing of the history of secession. Buckley writes:
“It might be that bigness is badness, that we’d be better off split into two countries. But which state will take the first step, as South Carolina did in 1860? Which state will begin the process, knowing how it would the government from all the immediately helpful things it can do, such as building roads and fixing potholes? Which state will pour oil on the passions of the day, and inflame them further? Which state will court the risk of invasion, of civil war? Which state will bell the cat?”
After carefully considering not only the past, but the present, I can answer Buckley simply by saying it will not be any state. It will be southern counties. Buckley, who is so incredibly knowledgeable and reasonable on the subject of modern-day secession is unfortunately stuck in the old paradigm. He falsely assumes that Southern states have unity within, that the places within each state hold in common enough to secede as a state. The context of the South has changed dramatically. In my state of Florida, cities like Miami and Palm Beach dominate, yet they are the least representative of Southern culture which can be found in all the lesser-known counties. Miami, Palm Beach and even Orlando could be anywhere in the United States or the world for that matter for they chose deliberately to reject a Southern identity which is found in our history, values and culture. This is the same for Atlanta, Charlotte and most of the industrialized Southern cities. They have nothing in common with the rest of their state, and they are run now by traitors or useful idiots. These cities are the reason that a secession movement here in the South cannot be by Southern states.
Let the Counties Secede
Buckley’s important contribution to the present discourse and debate is his affirmation of the principle of “Home Rule”. After careful consideration, Buckley is not for states seceding. He is not closed on the subject either. He brings up home rule as a secession-lite.
“So, we’re likely to remain united. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of disunion. It’s the direction in which we’re headed, and the notion that it couldn’t happen again, is fanciful. That’s why we need to ask what might be done to restore the bonds of affection that have been so frayed. Home rule is one answer, but more generally what is needed is moderations from both sides.”
I am sure that Buckley wrote this prior to the post-Memorial Day riots. Clearly, he would see how ridiculous it is now to ask the North to act with moderation. But now, after the stealing of the election, coupled with announcements that the Democrats will compile enemy lists and proceed to punish Donald Trump, his family, his administration, as well as his voters, we need to run, and not walk, here in the South to form a new union and provide a critical sanctuary.
Buckley uses examples beginning with the American colonies and Canada and Ireland as examples of attempts in Home Rule. He ends his book calling for Home Rule as a way out of today’s American problem, all the time acknowledging that, as previously drafted, all attempts at Home Rule failed. He is still thinking in the box. He’s thinking nations and nation-states. I propose, thinking smaller, an obvious solution since bigness lies at the heart of why secession is necessary.
A Confederation of Southern Counties
What I am proposing is a secession by Southern Counties from their respective states and thereby from the federal union of states and the formation of a Confederation of Southern Counties. The definition of a confederation varies but basically, a confederation is an organization consisting of different groups of people working together for business or political reasons. It works best for our needed purpose, since by definition is open to interpretation and regional expression. The newly form confederation would recognize and affirm the principle of home rule and the political sovereignty of the counties in the south. Historically, a state is a collection of counties. No counties, no states.
The history of the formation of and division into additional counties is the expression of home rule in our American republic. The dramatic changes to existing counties and the later creation of additional counties by “divisionists” as new lands were settled and populations increased and demands for home rule took president. South Carolina is a perfect example. In Colonial times between 1682 and 1686 there were four mammoth counties that divided and became 11 by 1769. Then in 1785, a record 23 new counties were created, and again between 1786 and 1897 another 21. Finally, between 1902 and 1919, another 6. Today of the 61 counties in South Carolina, 46 exist. With each new county, their creation was born out of the time-honored, not American, but universal principal calling for Home Rule. It is a rich a dynamic history which I propose be at the heart of a Southern Secession (and elsewhere) present day secession movement in response to the hijacking of our original Republic by the rebellious Democrat Party and its allies.
What cannot be denied when as F.H Buckley even argues is bigness is necessitating secession, states as well as the federal government are to massive and subject to corruption and centralization of power. Therefore, any visionary movement to create a new form of government, like the visionary movement taken on by our founding fathers needs to use the past to inform the present, and avoid the obvious pitfalls, as well as the historical precedence. Having the counties secede is an affirmation of a reality mentioned by Richard M. Weaver decades ago:
“Another cardinal point… is the Southerner’s attachment to locality. The Southerner is a local person – to a degree unknown in other sections of the United States.”
I encourage all who have been awaken, and have no false hopes regarding what is in store, if we fail to act to embrace home rule while denouncing all calls negotiate or compromise. The southern counties have the means by which fulfill the civilizational promises for a peaceful and prosperous country. They have the right scale to corrected the tyranny of bigness that subverts our freedoms. To paraphrase Robert Hayne:
“Freedom is something that gathers around the hearth, inheres in local associations and endears to a man his place of habitation, it was a protection to enable him to enjoy things, not a force or a power to enable him to do things.”
They also have the one and most important thing missing in other areas of the United States: the South has the moral imperative. I can think of no better way to address the horrific treatment of the South from 1896 to present day, than that these very rooted counties be the architects of a new and more perfect union, while our enemies refashion the failed socialists’ systems and a new slavery under the corporate globalists. Richard M. Weaver stated it best in his essay entitled “Discipline in Tragedy” The Southern Tradition:
“If the world continues its present drift toward tension and violence, it is probable that the characteristic Southern qualities will command an increasing premium.”
I believe, as do many other sons and daughters of the South, that it is the South’s destiny to right the ship. There are many of us here in the South and elsewhere that believe as Weaver did, to rely on the Sothern tradition in such a dark time as this because Southern philosophy “not based upon optimism will have better power to console than the national dogma.” Such a secession movement by Southern counties would fill the latent destiny that Weaver and so many others implied in their writings. Weaver called them his principal theme, “those things the South believes it has contributed to this great, rich, and diversified nation and which it feels have some right to survive and to exert their proportionate influence upon our life.”
Anyone familiar with the strengths and latent potential for good governance within our many counties know all too well the great redundancy and duplication in employees, departments and services. Communicated properly to the citizens, they will soon see that the gains will greatly outweigh the losses. All counties are experienced and highly organized to provide all necessary services to its residents, and with state budgets as they are today, counties would absolutely improve the delivery of services and the quality of life significantly. Just look at education. Under the United States Constitution, those rights, that are many, not assigned to the federal government are reserved for the states. As I have stated, a state is nothing more than a collection of counties. The creation of a national Department of Education in 1980 was an over reach and in violation of our constitution. The states meantime have a sad history of not assuring equal education to poorer counties. In the 1990’s I was part of a reform in public education in Bergen County, New Jersey when counties created their own magnet schools, that within one year, out-performed all others in the state.
Important to my Southern argument, the great moral argument, both the federal and the state departments of education, have allowed a myth-laden false and derogatory curriculum on the causes, events and outcomes of the “Civil War”. All have essentially taught children in the South to hate the South. Elsewhere, children are being taught that the United States is evil from its founding. Control of our history required a takeover of our schools. Why else would those on the political left want to abolish school choice and close charter schools that are proven to out-perform their public alternatives. With secession by and a new union of Southern counties, that injustice would end. Those counties that wish to remain within the state and the federal union, will be free to teach what they will. This is an important feature of me proposed secession movement. Unlike our enemies, we will not force or coerce by any means a Southern County to secede and join our confederacy. We will hold the higher ground. Any violence as a result of our reasoned separation will not come from our county members.
The Dillon Rule
You might ask, what keeps counties from leaving their respective states? Well until the Civil War, the needs to work together due to the needs of the counties outweighed any differences. But immediately after the war, that all changed. What those of us who wish to move forward on a Confederation of Southern Counties need to understand is the case law begun by an 1868 decision, known as the Dillon Rule. Later adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court is an afront to the ideals of our founding fathers and the principle of home rule. The theory of state preeminence over local governments were expressed as Dillon's Rule in an 1868 case: Municipal Corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control. In Municipal Corporations (1872), Dillon explained that in contrast to the powers of states, which are unlimited but for express restrictions under the state or federal constitution, counties only have the powers that are expressly granted to them. It holds that municipal governments have only the powers expressly granted to them by the state legislature, those powers necessarily implied by the express powers, and those that are essential and indispensable to the municipality's existence and functioning. Further, the powers expressly granted to the counties should be narrowly construed, and any ambiguities in the legislative grant of power should be resolved against the county. However, when the state has not specifically directed the method by which the municipality may implement its granted power, the municipality has the discretion to choose the method so long as its choice is reasonable.
The Supreme Court and the Dillon Rule
The Supreme Court of the United States cited Municipal Corporations and fully adopted Dillon's emphasis on state power over municipalities in Hunter v. Pittsburgh, which upheld the power of Pennsylvania to consolidate the city of Allegheny into the city of Pittsburgh, despite the objections of a majority of Allegheny's residents. The Court's ruling that states could alter or abolish at will the charters of municipal corporations without infringing upon contract rights relied upon Dillon's distinction between public, municipal corporations and private ones. However, the Court did not prevent states from passing legislation or amending their constitutions to explicitly allow home rule. A review of Southern States that allow home rule, have partial home rule, or none is very varied. In the United States, home rule now refers to the authority of a constituent part of a U.S. state to exercise powers of governance delegated to it by its state government. In some states, known as home rule states, the state's constitution grants municipalities and/or counties the ability to pass laws to govern themselves as they see fit (so long as they obey the state and federal \constitutions). In other states, only limited authority has been granted to local governments by passage of statutes in the state legislature. In these states, a city or county must obtain permission from the state legislature if it wishes to pass a law or ordinance which is not specifically permitted under existing state legislation.
“Forty of the fifty states apply
It is important to note that while few Southern counties have been granted home rule, most people recognize that as local governments, all counties have demonstrated they are or could be capable of delivering all the required services for their citizens. It was a real eye-opener for me, when I determined the road to secession would require county governance, how few states grant such powers of self - rule to their respective counties. I will reference the major “Southern” states I am considering in this call to secession and the number of counties in each, as well as their stance regarding home rule for their counties. I will begin, however, with Florida with which as a resident I am more familiar, here is how such a movement would be initiated.
Secession by Counties Beginning with Florida?
You have to start somewhere. When reviewing the majority of Southern states, there are presently 67 sovereign counties in the state of Florida. Unlike almost all of the other Southern States, the electors of Florida in 1968 granted Home Rule to counties who chose to be self-governing. Charlotte County was one of the 20 counties chartered. These 20 counties comprise more than 75% of the state’s population. Regarding secession, within the 20 counties are at least five that ally with the radical Democrats and would oppose our movement.
Ideally, knowing in advance that certain heavily populated and left-leaning Counties such as Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward, Hillsborough, Sarasota and a few others with a large federal presence will decline the opportunity, there could be as many as 60 counties wishing to gather signatures for a voter referendum to secede. In the Florida Constitution there is no authority for, but no mandate against such a local referendum. The following is the statute that applies. Florida statutes Title XII, Ch. 166.031 mandates the powers of initiative and referendum for the amendment of city charters. Once 15,216 signatures from registered voters are gathered, it would take only 30 days to schedule a special election. The pressures on the county commissioners and employees to stop the process will be significant. But I contend that there is safety in numbers. If, simultaneously 60 other counties follow suit, and that is duplicated in the other southern counties, how will they suppress it? It is high time for the federal government and the state governments as well, that they accept the fact that we are vast territories, and vast territories that surround them.
Other Southern Counties
Virginia has 95 counties, and only three have charters. Counties in Virginia have no powers to hold a voter referendum. That power is limited to four city municipalities only. Therefore, an initiative such as the one I am proposing would be illegal. Considering the question of secession, what difference will it make. It will be almost impossible without the residents of Virginia getting the electors to grant counties home rule charters, as was done in 1968 in Florida. West Virginia surprised me the most. The state which has 55 counties grants such powers to hold local initiatives to their cities only.
North Carolina which has 100 counties is a total no on both home rule charters as well as county voter initiatives.
South Carolina with 46 counties has unfinished business. The South Carolina Constitution authorizes Home Rule Charters, but in all their years, the General Assembly has not passed the required legislation to implement the provision. South Carolina’s counties symbolically would be important in leading the new movement. There is that hurdle however.
Georgia, on the other hand, with a walloping 159 counties is a go, as far as county run voter initiatives. There are only the signature requirements which differ on county population size. Counties with over 500,000 people require the standard 10% of voters. However, counties with 5,000 – 50,000 population require 20%. And less than 5000 require 25% registered voter signatures.
Alabama with 67 counties, only 2 have Home Rule and there are restrictions big time on voter referendums.
Mississippi with 82 counties has no chartered Home Rule counties and restrictions as well on local ballot initiatives.
I do see great promise early on for the State of Louisiana. Of their 64 parishes, 23 already have Home Rule charters. It is important to note that they have different laws from any of the other states and some of the strongest identity as Southerners first.
So far, and without Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri. Arkansas and Texas, the states I have described total a potential number of 735 Southern Counties. Taking out those already lost and identified with the North, there are about 600 counties voting to secede from their respective states and the federal union. Compare this scenario to one or two states attempting to secede.
Bringing Back Committees of Correspondence
To rapidly facilitate the secession movement by the Southern counties, I recommend reinstating the Committees of Correspondence that served our colonial forefathers well in our War for Independence. While we will be seeking independence, we do not seek war. We are presently at war and the forces that have renewed the old conflict and reopened the wound. Richmond after the death of George Floyd testifies to that. Their actions this past summer and since clearly show that we have nothing in common, but we will not be conquered twice.
With the great number of Southern Counties working in union for the same purpose, each become a laboratory and can share best practices with the others. Initially it will require those familiar with referendum ballots, canvasing for signatures, phrasing the issue and communicating to the county residents and voters, the reason for secession and all the things given up and potentially gained.
Simultaneously, a group will need to conference on the proposed organization of the confederation and draft a Constitution delineating limited powers and authorities. Major considerations and gathering of experts to figure out currency, treasury and financial aspects for the new confederation of counties. A primary consideration and concern by citizens will be our dependence on the present Social Security Administration. We will need the services of our best Constitutional and case law attorneys.
Why Just Southern Counties?
I passed these ides off to my closest friend and associate. He immediately asked, "Why limit it to only Southern counties?" While, we know how successful Donald Trump and his America First movement have been literally all around the United States, especially in rural counties, none have a distinct identity apart from being American that the South has. It also is no small thing, that none of these other states were invaded by federal forces. Sure, Midwesterners have developed many cultural and unifying traits, but are they strong enough to stand up against other states and counties and walk out? I seriously doubt it.
Perchance should such strong feeling prevail in those counties, then the movement by Southern counties can only encourage and help them. I am presently surrounded in my Southwest Gulf Coast County with neighbors from counties in Michigan and Wisconsin to name some. So far, the majority of them love the North, the Democrat Party and hate Donald Trump. Personally, I would welcome neighbors who respected the South and our traditions. The point is, there is I believe greater safety in numbers. My ideas for secession in the twenty-first century will require large numbers of neighboring counties with strong regional identity and affiliations to the land and its history. That is more readily found in the South.
Calling All Dreamers and Builders
Reaching the tipping point the evening of December 11, 2020 for me was actually a relief. I have always been a creative person, a builder. I know though how to cut my losses and continuing to believe that things in my country were not as bad as they appeared was living the lie. I did my homework and played out hundreds of scenarios, possibilities to believe our American Republic could be rescued. The house is forever divided and now rotten to its foundation. You cannot build or make repairs, putting good into bad. I have always known when to walk away and build somewhere else. This is such a time and what I will be building is a new country.
I predict the much time will be wasted states and municipalities calling for those who refuse to obey the laws, make things up as they go and “fundamentally transform the Union as put forth by Barack Obama. Yes, they should leave. But then who is being naïve? The Democrat Party wants the power that comes with running the federal government. So, there are no signs that in the foreseeable future they will do anything but continue to gain power and control, and take unwillingly and by political force states that remain loyal to the Constitution in a totally new direction of their liking, or to the dictates of the oligarchy. Anyone today, who thinks otherwise is not seeing what is clearly before them. Secession author F.H. Buckley is one of those not dealing with reality, and totally underestimating the American Left, the Political Progressives. and the multinational corporations. He has a lot of company.
Ted Ehmann was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He is a lecturer of the social sciences and the humanities at the PGICA.org. in Punta Gorda, Florida. He has served as president of the Charlotte Harbor Anthropological Society in Charlotte County since 2018 and was founder of the Charlotte County Florida Historical Society in 2019.