A Secessionist Bookshelf: A Modest Beginning

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"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

All the mainstream news outlets are laughing at the secession sentiment across the nation, so brace yourself. There are over eight state sovereignty resolutions floating about under the rubric of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in addition to nearly twenty pending resolutions in other states. The DC embrace of Obamunism is frightening plenty of folks to include state legislators and driving Montana to kick the ATF out of the state in a landmark move to completely ignore the unconstitutional and hoplophobic notions of our rulers in Mordor on the Potomac when it comes to the keeping and bearing of weapons.

Secession has been broached in polite conversation by the Governor of Texas, no less. It is not as if the notion is new since the unfortunate victory of Union/Yankee forces in 1865. New England threatened it decades before Lincoln’s War and the Great Depression spawned a variety of secessionist discontents.

We don’t have to be embarrassed by the notion of secession. We are a nation birthed in divorce from a tyrannical Crown and the Second American Revolution popularly known as the Civil War. Lincoln’s Jacobins won that fight but we don’t have to suffer that forever nor yield them a high ground of virtue.

The esteemed Donald Livingston avers:

"As part of expanding this imagination, we must work to remove the moral and philosophical prejudice against the very idea of secession. America was born in secession; secession is essential to the idea of a self-governing people; and until 1865 was widely considered an option available to an American state in all parts of the union. But secession short of national sovereignty is also possible. Parts of cities and counties may secede. A part of a state may secede and form another state as twenty-seven counties in northern California proposed to do in 1992. The mere discussion of the merits of such proposals, whether or not they succeed, will serve to detoxify the idea of secession and re-awaken in Americans the long slumbering notion of self-government induced by the opiate of the Lincolnian ideology of a modern unitary American state."

For the first time in generations, secession can be a topic of polite conversation albeit slightly odd. We need to capitalize on this and shake Americans out of the government supremacist fever dream that has gripped these united States since the woeful conclusion of the Second American Revolution.

A number of readers have written and inquired after a basic canon of reading to reinforce the intellectual gunships of our minds for the coming fight. I have made a number of book recommendations throughout my essays and these will be new additions. I am purposefully suggesting the more arcane or unknown tomes because many writers before me have provided ample lists or annotated bibliographies. Consider this an introductory sampling to whet your insurrectionist taste buds.

First and foremost, the number one imprint in my mind for these books is Liberty Fund. I have been collecting their books for nearly two decades and the offerings are huge and may consume a lifetime of reading pleasure and exploration in the mental forests of liberty and freedom. Tall timber indeed. Start with Cato’s Letters by Trenchard and Gordon loosely credited with providing tremendous impetus to the First American Revolution. They are lyrical, witty and eminently readable despite their eighteenth-century pedigree. In Cato Number 15 (1720), to wit:

"Freedom of speech is the great bulwark of liberty; they prosper and die together: And it is the terror of traitors and oppressors, and a barrier against them. It produces excellent writers, and encourages men of fine genius. Tacitus tells us, that the Roman commonwealth bred great and numerous authors, who writ with equal boldness and eloquence: But when it was enslaved, those great wits were no more."

Next, I would suggest Hyneman and Lutz’ American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760—1805. Worth every penny just to read the stirring Noah Webster entry, “An Oration on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence” (1802). Take a gander at the selections available at Liberty Fund and you will find plenty of other books which speak to the issues of today despite their antiquarian vintage. There is a reason the Founders bridged back to the Greco/Roman epochs for their primary inspirations.

Now for the real intellectual heavy lifting. Start a liberty reading group and get together over adult beverages to discuss these. Look for a copy of the Anti-Federalist Papers and absorb these documents. They speak more to the libertarian mindset than the oft-quoted Hamiltonian articles and essays in the Federalist Papers.

The next volume would be a modest but important tome called Men Against the State: The Expositors of Individualist Anarchism, 1827—1908 by James J. Martin. Martin rivals Harry Elmer Barnes as one of the most important historical revisionist influences in American letters and a bracing writer at that. He explores a relatively unheralded fight by the embryonic state resisters in the nineteenth century after the initial hopes of limited government are dashed against the rocks of statism. Martin’s books provides a wonderful introduction to the man I consider the giant of liberty in the nineteenth century, Lysander Spooner. Lawyer, abolitionist and fiery polemicist, Spooner was prolific and devastating in his critiques of the state and its predations. Spooner’s No Treason is the first stop but you will find his reasoning irresistible to pursue. In a letter to Grover Cleveland (one of my favorite Presidents), he comments on his Inaugural Speech:

"Sir, if a government is to “do equal and exact justice to all men,” it must do simply that, and nothing more. If it does more than that to any, — that is, if it gives monopolies, privileges, exemptions, bounties, or favors to any, — it can do so only by doing injustice to more or less others. It can give to one only what it takes from others; for it has nothing of its own to give to any one. The best that it can do for all, and the only honest thing it can do for any, is simply to secure to each and every one his own rights, — the rights that nature gave him, — his rights of person, and his rights of property; leaving him, then, to pursue his own interests, and secure his own welfare, by the free and full exercise of his own powers of body and mind; so long as he trespasses upon the equal rights of no other person."

We move on to the trenchant critiques of the War of Northern Aggression of which Charles Adams is the first stop in his magisterial When in the Course of Human Events. I can recommend no more accessible and informative read for the layman than this treatise on why secession was not only justified but an imperative for survival of the Southron culture and people at the time. I eagerly await his anticipated volume on the exchanges between John Stuart Mill and Charles Dickens as the latter manned the gunwales to mount a withering defense of the Confederacy in the London papers. There is an entire cottage industry on Confederate apologia available as evidenced by the King Lincoln archives on LRC. In addition, both of DiLorenzo’s books on Lincoln are excellent resources.

I find the twentieth century is chock-full of courageous writers who speak to the individualist/non-interventionist strain of political philosophy to draw intellectual armament for the secession fight here and now. Whether it is Mencken, Nock or Chodorov; they are a sampling of the vast pool of knowledge presently in the memory hole which will lead us out of our present regrettable circumstances as a nation.

I would recommend the entire canon of my friend, Kirkpatrick Sale, leading sage of the Middlebury Institute and a keen advocate of secession. I also consider Gore Vidal’s canon to be an almost seamless narrative education in historical fiction on why the American Leviathan was destined to become the monster it is. I actually consider Vidal the keenest novelist in the twentieth century. And lastly, I would offer the fascinating ruminations of Bill Kaufmann, the iconoclastic author of Look Homeward America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals, an excellent writer who offers some savvy observations on America’s historical flirtation with localism and decentralist tendencies.

This list is not comprehensive by any stretch and I am sure more recommendations will follow in the future. I have arranged the books in a relatively chronological order for simplicity’s sake. America has been the most nourishing soil for individualism in the West since the Hellenic world. Individualism and the state don’t mix. The scales are falling away. Eyes front, the fight is ahead of us. Tom Paine would be proud.

“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors; they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, it we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”

~ Samuel Adams, article published in 1771

William Buppert [send him mail] and his homeschooled family live in the high desert in the American Southwest.

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