Between the time that Abraham Lincoln began publicly debating slavery issues during his run for Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat in 1858, and his election to the White House in 1860, parts of the South and Southwest had undergone the final stage of alienation from the circles of political power in Washington, D.C., and points north.
Before Lincoln took office in March of 1861, the entirety of the Deep South, along with Texas, had seceded from the Union. While the fact that the President-elect opposed continuing a system of slavery and its expansion into new Western states may have been the effective reason for official Southern separation, it was the manner in which Mr. Lincoln was willing to end that system – or at least his rhetorical approach to the matter – that probably turned off a majority of the Southerners the most.
Indeed, Mr. Lincoln opposed popular referendums on the slavery question in newly formed Western states and made comments prior to his election about the fallibility of a nation divided into two different societal systems. Apparently this was enough to incite Southern politicians, despite reassurances from Lincoln (before he took office) that his Administration would not pursue a dismantling of the South’s economic system which was largely built on free labor.
Despite the raw number of people in the rural South which would have benefited from abolition, by the time the War ended in May of 1865, the Confederate military employed over 1 million people, about 260,000 of which died in battle or Union prisons. An additional 137,000 were wounded.
What was it then that animated so many non-slave owners to rise up against the federal government if a majority would have benefited from an end to a system of free labor? After all, the highest ratio of slave-holding families in the South according to the 1860 census was Mississippi with 49 percent. Even in that state, where a majority of the population were slaves, only 8.7 percent of the total free population were slave owners.
While a draft was instituted by the Confederate Congress in April 1862, most of the Rebel army consisted of volunteer soldiers who were eager to win independence for the Southland. That rebel spirit lives on today, both in the old Confederacy and in the West, from Texas to the southern Rock Mountains, where physical independence is still characteristic of its people.
A Reuters poll conducted in August 2014, however, found that just under one in four Americans favor their state seceding “peacefully”, with the strongest support in the Southwest (34 percent) and Rocky Mountains (26 perceent). The Old South (including West Virginia and Kentucky), supports independence from the federal government at the exact rate of one in four.
So, who are these people who seem to favor a seemingly unrealistic, albeit honorable, vision of a free and independent state? Two organized groups stand out: the League of the South (LOS), and the Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM). One seeks independence of “the Southern people”, the other for Texas alone. Both see the boundaries of their homeland as encompassing a distinct set of people who share cultural, ethnic, and historical heritage. And they hold the federal government in contempt just as Jefferson Davis and all the Southern governors did 150 years ago.
Both are serious about their respective movements: TNM is currently seeking signatures to put a referendum on the state-wide primary ballot next year which reads, “The State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation. FOR or AGAINST.”
What’s the reason for this effort? TNM’s mission statement makes it fairly clear: “. . . while we are part of the Union, everything is ultimately dictated from or allowed by the bureaucrats in D.C. . . . Every campaign cycle, Texas candidates are recipients of massive amounts of cash from outside of Texas . . . Independence means the door shuts on the interests from outside of Texas and a return of power back into the hands of Texans.”
That sounds fair enough, and certainly not many will argue with the notion that an over-reaching federal government that spends more than it earns, with an accrued debt of over $18 trillion and climbing, is a thing worth freeing oneself from. Texas, after all, was an independent state for a short period of time during the 1830’s after seceding from Mexico, has a high military participation rate among its people (250,000), and the lowest unemployment rate for a state with a population over 5 million.
Despite a strong case from the state of Texas, a single independent state would unlikely be successful on any level. The League of the South more ambitiously seeks independence for the entire South, from Maryland to Texas, in the name of “Southern nationalism”. LOS president Dr. Michael Hill, seems to have taken up the cause set forth by Jefferson Davis a century and a half ago, when he declared after retreating from the burning Confederate capitol in Richmond, “it is my purpose to maintain your cause with my whole heart and soul; that I will never consent to abandon to the enemy one foot of the soil of the States of the Confederacy . . . If, by the stress of numbers, we should be compelled to a temporary withdrawal from her limits . . . we will return until the baffled and exhausted enemy shall abandon in despair his endless and impossible task of making slaves of a people resolved to be free.”
Dr. Hill must have studied ol’ Jeff Davis’ words from back then, as he has described LOS’ objective as one to promote the survival, well-being, and independence of Southerners. At a recent LOS meeting in Alabama, Dr. Hill went into detail on the philosophical basis on which his organization rests: “(the) fundamental problem . . . is one of identity . . . until there is an organized effort to rally Southerners based on their true identity as an historic people and then take that organization and use it aggressively to push for the protection and advancement of that identity then all else is going to be futile.”
In that same speech in July, Hill lamented that many of the South’s aristocratic families, who have bloodlines dating back to the Civil War and stood to benefit from a successful Confederate government, have “sold out” to the Republican Party’s national interests today. Hill points most recently to the removal of the Confederate flag at the Alabama and South Carolina state capitols as evidence that the political elite in the South are no longer on the side of its people or even its identity.
Worse, the Democratic party and the ‘radical left’ in America are “Cultural Marxists” and the spawn of the devil. No compromise is possible now with a divided U.S.A., the laws of which mandate gay marriage and abortion, but deny a symbol of historic heritage for many of its people (an estimated 50-80 million people are descendants of Confederate veterans, according to the latest U.S. census).
To that end, an LOS militia – “The Indomitables” – has apparently been organized and is currently being trained by one its members, one Floyd Eric Meadows, a 12-year Army and Navy veteran. On LOS’ website Michael Hill wrote about the organization’s para-military objective of achieving a second secession. “The primary targets will not be enemy soldiers; instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and others of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.”
Later, in a Facebook post, Hill offered this truism: “Some advice for the Indomitables: A man possesses only those rights for which he is able and willing to fight. Otherwise, they are merely abstract legalisms.”
Despite some clever speeches by pro-secession leaders, public outcry for a new Southern government has been tepid. Any radical government reformation needs strong, unified, support and so far the Secession movement has come up short. A rally held in Montgomery, AL, on a Saturday this past summer for “secession from the U.S.A.” was expected to draw up to 300 people – only 30 were in attendance.
However, 200 Confederate flag rallies have been held since the Stars and Bars were removed from the Alabama state capitol in June, attracting a total of 24,000 people. 70 more will be held “in the coming months”, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
This could be a make or break time for the likes LOS, TNM, and pro-separatists across the South and West. If no one shows up this winter at protests showing Southern pride, pro-secession sentiment and a general hate for the federal government, the cause may be deemed dead until the Washington Establishment coerces an independent-minded people the way abolitionists threatened to in the 19th century.
For now, however, Secessionist talk can still mainly be considered an idle threat. For it to be successful this time, nothing short of violent revolution will be required. Even Rick Perry, who at one time as Governor hinted that secession was a justifiable option given the current political situation nationally, more recently reneged saying, “We’ve got a great Union. There is absolutely no reason to dissolve it.”
There’s a lot more Rick Perrys and Robert Bentleys in the South than there are Michael Hills. If Dr. Hill wants independence from Washington, his best bet would be to move West – deep into the mountains of Arizona or Nevada. There at least he could hide out among allies of the Confederate cause. When Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina throw in the towel on Southern resistance, it’s time for the hold-outs to move on and settle where they’ll at least be amongst those sympathetic to the cause.