A gargantuan, bureaucratic empire sits on the shores of a majestic bay, connected to the Atlantic Ocean to her east and on the banks of a mighty river to her south; west is land as far as the eye can see. It’s a government that controls the lives of tens of millions; its revenues total in the tens of billions yet its regard for human liberty is less than this week’s dictator of Venezuela.
The only hope the God-fearing, republican-minded citizen has of freeing himself from the beast is to secede from it, but most people say that is illegal.
Some readers may expect this writer to now spell out the reasons why the Old Confederacy should risk war and undertake secession again, but I am not talking about what I fondly call Mordor-on-the-Potomac, I am of course referring to its evil twin: New York. Recently, both urban and rural citizens of the empire state — a self-fulfilling nickname that is — have dusted off their copies of former governor George Clinton’s “Cato” letters and discovered that republicanism is their ancient birthright. This right no longer exists for those outside of the famous five boroughs. Their affairs in Albany, the empire state’s Kremlin, are decided whether upstate representatives attend each year’s legislative sessions or not.
Enter John Bergerner and the Upstate Conservative Coalition whose aim it is to “divide our state into two completely autonomous regions; the New Amsterdam Region and the New York Region.” Sounds reasonable enough to me, albeit woefully short of the amount of schism needed. The plan proposes the lower portion of New York including Manhattan would be home to about 12 million people and the new northern region, to be called “New Amsterdam,” home to 7 million.
This is not the first time “upstaters” have tried to separate from their ruling masters, only to be met with the alleged road block to this initiative: “While approval of both congress and state legislature is needed to divide NY into two states.” If we look to the U.S. Constitution for guidance on what the process is to become a new state, Article IV Section 3 says, “New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state, nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned, as well as of the Congress.”
This settles the issue of how New Amsterdam can become the 51st state in the current American union but it does not settle the question of whether she has to become a state in the union after separating from Mordor-on-the-Hudson. As we shall see, the answer to that question is no. Just think of it — the new governor of New Amsterdam can be its president instead.
There is nothing in the current Constitution of New York that seems to legally prevent any township or county from seceding. If anything the Constitution provides some guidance on how new towns or counties might be formed. Article IX, Section (d) of the New York Constitution informs us that local governments retained the right to annex which I take to mean join towns/counties together as long as “the annexation is in the over-all public interest.” What is even more compelling is that in her ratification “instrument” of 1787, New Yorkers proclaimed “[t]hat the Powers of Government may be reassumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness.” Translation? Not only can Upstate New York give Low State New York the heave ho-they can say goodbye to the grandest, government, boogieman of all: Washington.
Ironically, novelist Norman Mailer ran for Mayor of New Your City in 1968-69 on precisely the opposite platform of making New York City the 51st state and leaving the North behind. Mailer complained of “upstate legislators who don’t care about the city but control our schools, police, housing, and money.” Mailer’s “Power to the neighborhood” campaign proposed a radical concept: republicanism. He promised if elected to empower citizens “to work for their deepest and most private and most passionate ideas about the nature of government, the nature of man’s relation to his own immediate society.” In Mailer’s failed campaign we hear echoes of upstate New Yorkers today. Manhattanites, Mailer said “have no purpose other than to watch with a certain gallows humor the progressive deterioration of their city.” In other words, the citizen’s interests aren’t served by their out-of-scale government.
If you have ever spoken to anyone living in the hinterlands of New York, they believe their overall public interest is about as cherished in Albany as conservatives are at Governor Cuomo’s pinochle games. This is the same problem the citizens of the western counties of Maryland, the northern counties of Colorado, the area surrounding Tucson and the northern part of CA have expressed: their state governments represent interests hostile to their way of life and preference for government. Why should any of them remain in league with what amounts to being governed by a foreign entity, with the rest controlled by Mordor-on-the-Potomac?
This is the great issue of our time folks: scale, and the fact that we are politically way out of it. In 2012 Professor Donald Livingston (a professor emeritus of philosophy at Emory University) compared present day New York to present day Switzerland. “New York has 18 million people in it, roughly. Switzerland has 7 million people. Switzerland is a good example of a human scale federation. In territory it’s a little over half the size of South Carolina. It has 26 little states, not counties, states. These states have their military force, a militia, they determine citizenship. On average, these come out to around 30,000 people per state.”
At the time that New York ratified the Northwest Ordinance it was held that a good representation in the growing United States territory was “1 legislator for every 500 males.” Let’s assume all these dudes were handsome and married, that would bring the representation up to one rep per 1,000 adults. Currently in New York each of the 150 Assembly members represents 129,000 people and each Senator represents 307,000, what kind of “representation” is that?
Nearby New Hampshire boasts one state representative for every 3,300 citizens for a total of 400 members. You could fit nine New Hampshires at 9,350 square miles inside the 54,556 square miles of New York. Is it any coincidence that New Hampshire remains the low tax, low tyranny leader among all 50 states? This means that the effort to split the gargantuan monster state of New York into two pieces, while I applaud the effort, is a joke. With 19 million residents the secessions shouldn’t stop until eight states have been formed and if you really want to secure what Cato called the “publick liberty,” keep going until only the two islands — Manhattan and Long — remain intact, then treat them like Switzerland.
For 2500 years, western civilization kept the concept of Plato’s republic near and dear with republics rarely growing to 200,000 citizens. Athens, Venice, and Florence are prime examples of this scale and yet each produced art, culture and philosophy still revered today. Our colonial explorers and then Founding Fathers are proof that those ratios of scale kept the “publick liberty” safe enough to produce the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the United States and the industrial revolutions of the last 150 years. The United States was never intended to be one gigantic blob of democracy, but a robust collection of republican states. That intent is more dead than the next star to be killed on AMC’s The Walking Dead.
What wonders might the Adirondack Republic, Kit Carsonia, or the State of Carrollton produce, once Americans get their heads screwed back on straight and address the political, social and cultural decay brought on by our hegemonic, one-size-fits-all approach to big government?
Mike Church is a radio host appearing daily on the SiriusXM Patriot Channel. He is an author and editor of “Patrick Henry-American Statesman” and is the writer and director of 7 Docudramas on American history including “The Spirit of ‘76” and the upcoming “Times That try Men’s Souls-Washington’s Crossing.”