One of the most exciting political developments in recent years has been the secessionist movement, which has flourished among a number of American states and across the globe in places such as Venice and Scotland. The common thread in nearly all these movements has been opposition to the modern nation-state, which secessionists believe has become totalitarian and now hopelessly bankrupt.
Many secessionist groups draw their inspiration from American history–in particular, the country’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, as well as the southern states’ valiant attempt to secede from the Union in the 1860s. While secessionists have pointed to America’s past for much of their inspiration, one group they seem to have ignored are the Antifederalists.
“Antifederalist” was the term given to those opposed to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. They were not an insignificant segment of the population and consisted of such luminaries as Sam Adams, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and Richard Henry Lee, who wrote under the pseudonym of the “Federal Farmer.” Still under-appreciated to this day, Lee’s political thought equaled, if not surpassed, those of the more celebrated Founding Fathers.
The Antifederalists correctly predicted that the Constitution would usurp the sovereignty of the individual states and become a highly centralized national state. Moreover, they saw that it granted too much power to the executive branch.
A number of historians believe that at the time, most Americans opposed ratification; and had it not been for some shrewd and, quite frankly, underhanded tactics by their opponents (the Federalists), the Constitution would not have been ratified. Patrick Henry certainly thought so when he wrote: “Let me say, sir, that a great majority of the people even in the adopting states have been shockingly misled.”*
More than two centuries later, their fears have turned into grim reality. History, however, is written by the victors; and the Antifederalists and their perspicacious views have been largely forgotten.
For secessionists, the Antifederalist literature should be a prime reference point to be repeatedly invoked to justify their cause. For secessionists to succeed, the battle of ideas must be first won; and the writings of the Antifederalists provide ample ammunition for those who seek to break away from the corrupt and tyrannical nation-states that dominate the globe.
The future of human liberty and economic well–being depends on the success of the secessionist movements. The political parties of the world, be they “liberal” or “conservative,” have no interest in scaling back the size and scope of the state. Any chance of real reform through the current political system is hopeless since it is rigged to enrich the power and pocketbooks of the political elites.
Thus, all efforts – whether on a practical or an “intellectual” basis, which strengthen the secessionist cause – need to be encouraged and supported by those concerned about the future of freedom. Participation in politics or the electoral process is futile and counterproductive, as the Antifederalists long ago recognized: “But, remember, when the people once part with power, they can seldom or never resume it again by force. Many instances can be produced in which the people have voluntarily increased the powers of their rulers; but few, if any in which rulers have willingly abridged their authority.”**
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom