By Bill Kauffman, Reason
Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union, by Richard Kreitner, Little, Brown and Co., 496 pages, $30
The late Thomas Naylor, gentle godfather of the modern Vermont independence movement, used to sign off with “God bless the Disunited States of America.”
Naylor attracted a stalwart and colorful band to his project, ranging from the diplomat George Kennan (the author of the Cold War “containment” policy had come to view the United States as overly confining) to a delightful mélange of populist “woodchucks” (native Vermonters), organic-farming greens, Ethan Allen impersonators, and more. Naylor’s Second Vermont Republic had a merry, slap-happy, larkish feel, but Naylor, who died in 2012, was dead serious. And now, barely two decades since secession talk first scented the Green Mountain air, the entire country is getting an invigorating whiff.
Break It Up—a book about America’s episodic secessionist flare-ups, by Nation contributor Richard Kreitner—may well be a firebell in the night, to borrow Thomas Jefferson’s phrase. Secession, after all, is our heritage and our probable future. It is as American as applejack, runaway slaves, and prison baseball. His fellow progressives, says Kreitner, “too hastily dismiss one of America’s founding principles—the right to alter or abolish a destructive form of government—as irreparably sullied by association with slaveholders.”