Project Contract


For this project we will be researching the secession of Western Virginia from Virginia during the early American Civil War. West Virginia secession took place both as a result of pro-Union sentiment and a strong opposition to taking part in a war advocated by elite Virginians. Over the previous fifty years, Western Virginians increasingly felt that they lacked fair taxation and representation in proportion to their contributions to the state. This included suppression not only of industry but expansion of the franchise for poor white males and increased access to education. One of the most pressing grievances was $20 million in debt for the state of Virginia, where associated improvements were felt mainly in the Tidewater region. With tensions building higher, the people from the Western region of the state took a call to action. As a result, the Richmond and the Wheeling Conventions were held. After Wheeling, the decision to secede was put to a vote that was backed by the Union Army. Those with Confederate sentiments retorted with violence with events such as the Jones-Imboden Raid. Through all the mayhem, West Virginia was eventually granted statehood on June 20, 1863.


This project will include the background and information of secessionists and the immediate aftereffects of the secession. Our goal is to provide accessible resources for West Virginians seeking to learn more about their state’s origins. To accomplish this goal, we intend to build an easy-to-use website with multiple pages outlining the causes of the secession, the event itself, and the consequences of it. There will be a homepage which provides an introduction to the event. It will also include a citation page to ensure our resources are properly cited, and a page explaining the origins and intentions of the project. We intend to use WordPress, StoryMap, and Timeline JS in building our website.


-Every Wednesday before class we will meet in person to discuss how the project is going-


Monday, February 13: Contract Draft Due (Abi + Kendall)

Thursday February 23: Contact to Archivists (Abi + Kendall)

Monday, February 27: StoryMap (Abi) and Timeline Due (Kendall)

Monday, March 1: Final draft of project Contract due (Abi + Kendall)

Monday, March 13-14: Visit to Archive (Abi + Kendall)

Saturday, March 18: Causes (Abi), Event (Kendall), and Effects (Kendall) Pages Due

Monday, March 20: About Page and Homepage Completed (Kendall)

Friday, March 24: Citation Page Completed (Abi)

Monday, March 27: Rough Draft of Website Due (Abi + Kendall)

Wednesday, March 29: Meeting to refine the website (Abi + Kendall)

Wednesday, April 5: Make changes Based on Feedback from class (Abi + Kendall)

Thursday, April 6: Ask people outside the class to look at the website and give feedback (Abi + Kendall)

Wednesday, April 12: Finalize Changes Based on Feedback from Unfamiliar Users (Abi + Kendall)

Monday, April 24: Final Project Due


Each of us will be responsible for either the StoryMap or the Timeline. Each of us are responsible for constructing half of the pages for our website. We plan to travel to the archives together, so that the research will be split 50/50. Each of us is responsible for contacting and negotiating with one archivist for our archival visits.


Updated Project Contract



1777 – upper portion of upstate NY secedes

1791- seceded portion becomes the State of Vermont

1962 and 1964 – precedent of “one man, one vote” established

2013 – Stephen Hawley introduces a bill that would allow each NYS county to provide feedback for possible secession

Currently, there are various groups calling for upstate secession, with various amounts of cohesion. Upstate New Yorkers claim that they have been adversely affected by policies created by New York City politicians, causing them economic and social hardship. Some have called for New York State to be split up into New York (downstate) and New Amsterdam (upstate). One of the largest disputes among various secession groups is where to classify upstate and downstate. Some say the southern border of New Amsterdam should stretch horizontally from Pennsylvania, while others say that New Amsterdam should encompass everything except Long Island and the NYC Metro Area. The biggest actors currently are:, UpstateNYSecede, State Senator Joseph Robach, and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley.

While the upstate New York secessionist movement is not based on ethnic identity, upstate New Yorkers share a cultural identity based on shared history as well as political, economic, and demographic factors. Upstate New Yorkers generally also share political and economic interests, which provides both cultural unity within upstate as well as significant reasons to break away from downstate. Upstate tends to be a blend of conservatives and moderate liberals. Also, Upstate New Yorkers share certain economic concerns, such as the loss of manufacturing jobs and the flight of businesses that once were central to upstate New York’s economy. Upstate New Yorkers in favor of secession believe that NYC, which is more liberal and has economic interests that are quite distinct from those of upstate, has too much influence in Albany. They argue that this negatively affects upstate, particularly by pushing a more liberal agenda and passing regulations that are driving business out of upstate, resulting in decreasing economic opportunity and freedom. The strategy of upstate New York secessionists is mainly based around amending the NYS Constitution. To do this, the proposal for a NYS Constitutional Convention on the 2017 ballot would need to be passed, and delegates who will support the amendment that would split New York into two different states would have to be elected.

Project Contract

Mission Statement and Goals

In our project, we are tracking the upstate New York secession movement, from the founding of New York State to the present. We are hoping to provide a comprehensive, easily navigated, website that would consolidate information about various upstate NY secessionist groups, as well as explain and analyze their motivations and goals.

We will start by looking at the history of upstate NY secession, by looking briefly at the Vermont secession. Then we will proceed to making a timeline about the movement and tracking it through history. We will focus a lot on the specific grievances presented by upstate NY secessionists and how they evolved over time, specifically since we are dealing with a movement that related to politico-economic grievances. We will end by looking at the current status of the movement, putting emphasis on the various groups currently engaged in upstate secession activism and the legislators in the NYS assembly and senate with upstate NY secession on their agendas. Finally, we will look at the future of the NYS secession movement by researching the upcoming NYS constitutional convention and efforts made by secessionist groups to influence constitution writing.

One goal of our site is to consolidate information on one database, since there are currently many web pages, news articles, and social media pages dedicated to various upstate NY secession movements. However, our primary aim is to explain and analyze the goals and motivations of the many groups involved in the upstate New York secession movement. This includes both leadership analysis and regional analysis of the movement.

Our audience will be primarily college students in this course, our professors, and future employers who might want an example our our technical skills. We will further make a consolidated effort to make accessible to other New Yorkers looking for research about upstate secession and activists hoping to find information and link up to groups using our page. Because of the diversity of New York State, we will ensure to use layman’s terms to describe political concepts and use simple interactive imagery, so it would be accessible to older generations of site visitors. It is our mission to also make the site very hyperlink heavy, to lead visitors to more information and primary sources, since this is a contemporary, and quickly evolving issue.

Basic Site Structure and Intended Features

Our site will consist of multiple sections with different focuses. We will have a homepage with a brief overview and pictures. There will also be an “About” section where we talk about the class and the project and and “About Us” section where we introduce ourselves. A page or section will be devoted to the history of the movement, including the Vermont secession, relevant court cases, and relevant past legislation, to act as a primer to the movement and its history in upstate. This may be where we put a timeline of events. In the history section, we will analyze  the various motives and grievances that have led the upstate NY secessionist movement and further calls for autonomy in the past. There will be another section to address more current aspects of the movement. This will include pages on individual actors, group actors, legislation, and strategy. This is where much of the analysis on leadership and specific movements will be focused. A final section will be focused on the future of the movement, particularly the potential NYS constitutional convention and possible outcomes.


For our WordPress site, we will use one of the themes that readily displays pages and subpages, such as Hemingway. We plan on incorporating interactive elements into our website, including a timeline and a map. For the timeline, we will use TimelineJS. For the map, we will use StorymapJS and/or GIS. We will use Canva graphic design software to edit images. If we get a chance to do a formal interview with legislators involved in the movement, we may use some kind of audio editing; however, this is very conditional.


  • February 13th – initial visit to Livingston County Historical Society for inquiry regarding possible information about upstate secession  (Maria)
  • February 17th – reach out to several key legislators who have sponsored bills regarding upstate NY secession in the past (Maria)
  • February 23rd – Homepage, About page, and About Us page (Rachel)
  • February 25th – meet in person again and go over contract edits (Rachel + Maria)
  • February 27th – first draft of timeline (Maria) and storymap (Rachel)
  • March 1st – final contract due
  • March 6th – Revised timeline and storymap, and bibliography of secondary materials to be consulted (Maria + Rachel)
  • March 10th – March 19th – Work on individual pages (to be decided and divided up at a later time)
  • March 23rd – meet and go over website draft (Rachel + Maria)
  • March 27th – first draft of website due
  • March 27th – April 24th – meet weekly to consolidate individual progress
  • April 24th – website must be completed (Rachel + Maria)
  • April 25th – GREAT Day presentation

Kolossov, “Ethnic and Political Territorialities in Post-Soviet Space.”

The author focuses on the fall of the Soviet-union and the emergence of a new-born Russia. What I found most interesting about this article is was the idea of the importance of language in unified states. In particular, the role that educational systems in a new born state plays in the cultivation of new states. That role ranges from creating a unified language to creating a shared national identity that can transcend through many cultures and differing ethnicity. He stated, “the educational system and the nation-state are strictly interdependent: once cannot exist without another” (75). The extreme heterogeneity of post-soviet Russia only furthered the ethnic division, which Kolossov points out as being one of the highest reasons for conflict within an emerging nation-state. The Russian population’s lack of ability to identify with the country they live in was counteractive to the emergence of the new-born state, but states the importance of civic and ethnic identity to people. The author’s point is that how people view their civil and ethnic identities had profound effects on the post-Soviet state of Russia. These identities and how people view them set the political goals of Russia, whether that hinders or advances them, the studies show that ethnic identity is a primary concern that shapes the political views within Russia.

Duerr “Secessionism and the European Union – Scotland”

Written after the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, this chapter of Duerr’s book covers the history and character of the Scottish National Party. The SNP has a fairly long history, beginning in 1934 as a merger of two Scottish nationalist parties. It slowly became relevant by winning by-elections beginning in 1945 and peaking in membership in the 1960s, collapsing, and then very quickly growing again in the 2010s. It won a rigged game in the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood by creating a majority government in 2011 with a system designed to prevent such a thing, and was able to pass the bill that became the Scottish referendum. This book was apparently written before the SNP’s bloodbath of Labour seats in the May 2015 UK general election, with 56 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster.

Duerr spends a lot of time talking about the careful distinction the SNP makes that it is a civic nationalist party rather than an ethnic nationalist one. SNP nationalism isn’t even based on a distinctive national language, with Gaelic being spoken by less than 1.5% of the population. The SNP also denies a distinctive Scottish national culture, with one MSP Christina McKelvie calling Scotland “a wee melting pot”, although at the same time, MEP Alyn Smith says, “We’ve got a clear self-image since our borders haven’t changed for hundreds and hundreds of years…So we have a very clear concept of nationhood, which is distinct from our concept of statehood.” Given the ethnic homogeneity of Scotland (96% white and 84% ethnic Scotch) but the distaste that many have for ethno-nationalism, the SNP has to do a bit of a tightrope walk regarding this issue.

The SNP’s success at obtaining their independence referendum was many years in the making. A 1979 referendum to create devolved legislatures in Wales and Scotland failed for lack of turnout, and devolution did not occur until a second referendum on the same issue in 1997 was a success. The Prime Minister at the time, John Major, expressed the opinion that devolution “is the Trojan horse to independence”. This is more or less what Jason Sorens was talking about in Secession when he explained why governments often oppose autonomy movements, as they fear a slippery slope where confidence in self-government leads to growing support for secession. In this case, Major may have been right that the SNP’s success in Holyrood lead to the narrow 45/55 split during the 2014 referendum. However, the UK government and the Scottish government peacefully agreed to honor the results of the referendum, a very important and noteworthy difference from many historical and contemporary secession movements and the toleration of them by their ruling governments.

Reading Reflection–Kolossov

This piece is a nice compliment to Anderson’s “Imagined Communities.” Kolossov also identified national (or political) identification as ultimately being an arbitrary social construct. Kolossov’s primary focus is on the ethnic identities of former members of the Soviet Union and how their perception of ethnicity and its significance in their life has changed.

Ethnic identification was vital for the new states emerging from the Soviet Union because these suddenly independent nations had to very quickly establish a sense of unification amongst a people that had none of cultural or linguistic ties that might have traditionally bound them together politically. This is, in large part, due to the (again) rather arbitrary regional division by the USSR. The newborn states born of the USSR had to create some form of community in the wake of an incredibly diverse empire. This brings to mind the post-World War I carving up of the Middle East by Great Britain and other European powers. In that case, those decisions exacerbated pre-existing tensions between religious and ethnic groups. Though these situations are quite different, it does remind us of the importance of self-identification in the creation and destruction of communities.

This article, particularly at the beginning, emphasizes the idea of individual choice reminding me of our discussion a couple of weeks ago. Kolossov argues that both ethnic and political identity are ultimately decided by an individual and spends the rest of the article demonstrating ways a state might try to manipulate social factors such as language to help form an identity that aligns personal affiliation to an ethnic group (such as Ukrainian) and state (such as the Soviet Union). Where that social influence begins and ends is up for debate but it seems that Kolossov is arguing that a successful state is reliant on a series of individual choices. It’s a provocative statement. Again, those choices can be motivated by a plethora of factors but it is ultimately the choice (or in some cases I would argue inability to choose otherwise) to identify as a member of a nation.

Spencer Klaw, “Without Sin,” Chapter 1

Spencer’s reading gives a brief overview of the Oneida Society. The society lasted from 1848 till 1879 in upper New York State and consisted of over 300 Christian Communities. Their leader and founder was John Humphrey Noyes, who was regarded as being the anointed leader chosen directly by God (largely self-exclaimed by Noyes). The community was a commune, their most radical concept being “complex marriage,” which was a marriage of every man and women in the community. Men and women were encouraged to be with many partners in the community and in some cases obligated. There was an obligation for young members of the community to have sexual relations with older members of the community for “spiritual development.” Where this many seem like sexual freedom, it actually was not. Marriage can be viewed as a limitation on sexual freedom by only having sex with one person, but the Oneida Society was the other extreme, people were discouraged from being with only one person. The community was directly involved in the sex life of community members, often directly by Noyes. If a couple wanted a monogamous relationship because they fell in love, then were criticized by the community and could have been disbanded. Many of the concerns in the later years, closer to disbandment had to do with issues of members no longer wanted their sex lives regulated by Noyes or anyone else. Such as the Protestant movement wanting sexual freedom from the Catholic Church. The lack of privacy in many other aspects of life in the Oneida communities such as intellectual freedoms and even small signs of individual ambition were discouraged. This whole community was an experiment set up by Noyes, who seemed to bend the community to his sexual and intellectual wills through sessions of “mutual criticism,” where community outliers would be several criticized in an effort to realign the individual with community values and ideals.
I can see the benefit to women, who would experience increased sexual and economic freedom in the Oneida Society compared to other communities in the nineteenth century. Also, the concepts of people regularly changing jobs to prevent boredom and increase happiness and old people choosing to work as much or as little as they wanted, largely being taken care of the community were positive.
Where I draw serious problems with the Oneida Society is in Theological justification and the stifling of individual ambition. I do not see where Noyes would draw justification from the Bible (specifically the New Testament) for the type of sexual behavior that was carried out in the Oneida Society. Moreover, to specifically argue against marriage within a Christian community, which has Biblical justification as an important union between a man and women under God seems paradoxical. The communal style of living solves some issues of selfishness and individual greed, but it also limits individual ambitions that result in great works of literature, art, or technology. If one is constantly criticized for stepping slightly outside group ambitions, firstly, they do not have the ability to exercise freedom, and secondly, the group will be less likely to advance. The idea of individual ambition is to advance oneself and be recognized, but it also to bring something new and ambitious to society. Without that, you have a complete group ideology that can keep a society stagnant for a longer period of time.

So, the Oneida Society was too extreme in its communal manner, driven ironically by the individual intentions of Noyes that was self-proclaimed leader appointed by God.

Communities of Discourse



This piece was extremely fascinating to me. Wuthnow takes the first half of this piece to discuss how an ideology becomes a major movement. He begins with “articulation” meaning that a group must define the parameters of their core beliefs…separating them from the mainstream practices that are popular during their time. This provides us with a definition of what the group stands for while also highlighting the distinct differences between the two groups. From there, the ideology must grow from the environment it has been placed in, aka the accepted culture of the time and the social environment of the time. From this, the ideology is then accepted by the main institution. For an idea to really take off, it has to eventually be accepted by most. Then, how this idea functions within the institution is how it is reflected upon.


Then, Wuthnow finally has enough context for the reader to finally make his argument. He claims that the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the rise of Socialism all went through the above described steps to become successful social movements. He also argues that current social movements are shaped by the social environment of the time and vice versa. Then two then make selections on their beliefs, forms of rhetoric, productivity, etc. Wuthnow says that the developmental changes in politics shapes the overall view of how we see ourselves (past, present, and envisioning our future). The interwoven aspects of politics, economics, and social climates help push ideas like the Protestant Reformation transform into movements.


I liked that Wuthnow said that social changes take forever to occur and that they change ever so slightly over time. It made me think of court cases and how interpretations of the law are come to  based off of the precedent(s) set by previous cases. However, I don’t think class structure was really discussed as much as it could have been. I know he says his argument is against the idea that class structure had much (if anything) to do with these movements, but I think it is important to think about a concept so big and revolutionary that can change the thinking of people across differing socio-economic statuses. I do agree that it may not have had as great of an impact on these movements, but I do think how it affects these movements is very important and should be acknowledged by scholars who are closely looking at these events.




Duerr discusses Scottish nationalism and secessionism, a topic of importance considering the recent secession referendum of 2014. The UK has an interesting makeup in terms of identities – a makeup Duerr refers to as a multinational state – because many individuals identify as both Scottish and British, and do not find issue with doing so.

I actually read some of my classmate’s responses before doing this reading, and though Maria explained seemingly contradictory identities really well through the idea of hierarchical identities (with the example of Jewish ethnicity on her passport despite being born in the Russian federation and baptized into Orthodox Christianity). For the same reason, individuals can identify as Scottish and British. This dual identity helps understand why many members of the SNP do not support independence, but only want greater autonomy. They maintain their Britishness as a significant part of their identity, but have shifted their Scottish identity to a position of greater importance in their personal hierarchy.

The SNP is portrayed as postmodernist, placing a focus on policy rather than territory or identity. The process of creating a national identity separate from ethnicity is difficult – but in many ways very necessary – in a globalized world. Scotland has an increasing (though still small) number of citizens who are ethnic minorities and there is obvious concern that a nationalist movement, no matter how civic it now claims to be, may still be inherently driven by ethnic concerns. However, examination of SNP issues did show that the focus tends to be on attempts to achieve greater political autonomy and less on issues tied to ethnic identity (like language, culture, etc.).

Given how high support was for independence – 45% of the referendum vote – there’s concern whether further steps towards greater political autonomy will be enough, or if they are simply a long, slow road to full secession. Eventually, it comes down to how individuals in Scotland identify – whether as fully Scottish or British, or as Scottish and British – and how they prioritize their different civil identities.

“Without Sin” Reading Review

Spencer Klaw’s, “Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community” is a fascinating overview of the Oneida community. Adherences of the Oneida community were a combination of Christian and Communist attempting to create a Utopian community and were led by John Humphrey Noyes. The Oneida community practiced several unusual principles, but were most notorious for their complex marriage system. They believed that every man was married to every woman and vice versa; through complex marriage, selfishness could be dissolved.

Analytically, the Oneida community had all of the major attributes of a cult. The leader had just enough power to exert over the community that they both loved him and worked for him. This book is a prime example of the complications of carrying out the Utopian or Communist society. Although a complex marriage system and its consequences may sound ideal to some, not everyone in the community is going to completely agree on the principles to carry in their lives.

Reading this introduction to Klaw’s work of the Oneida community was completely captivating. I found it interesting that the women of the Oneida community were almost egalitarian in the community, or at least compared to the rest of the 19th century United States. There was some control exerted over women, including not allowing long hair, however, men were the ones required to practice birth control and women did not have to bear more children than desired.

However, from just this small introduction to the Oneida community, it is hard to establish an opinion of whether this was a secessionist or separatist movement. Upon further research of the community and its collapse, I was able to form more of an opinion considering the Oneidas. After the original leader, John Humphrey Noyes, passed on the leadership to his son Theodore, the community began its decline. As a result of Theodore being agnostic, the community fell apart. From this background information, I believe that the decline of the Oneida community would be considered more of a separatist movement. The groups wanted to both be removed from each other and establish their own troops, however both failed. On the contrary, the separatist movement could be considered from the point of view as Noyes moved his community from Putney to Oneida New York, as a result of hostility from the surrounding community. Either way, I don’t believe that the separatist movement in the Oneida was the most prominent aspect of their history.

Reflection on Duerr’s Secessionism in the European Union

Chapter 5 of Glenn Duerr’s Secessionism in the European Union covers the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland. The SNP was founded in 1934 and began gaining momentum as a party following the discovery of oil in the North Sea (81). The party then began to win more elections, winning more seats in the British House of Commons, European Parliament, and Scottish Parliament (82). While membership fell in the 1990s, it has since been growing following the 2014 referendum for Scottish independence, in which 45% voted in favor of independence (77).

The SNP’s movement for independence is particularly nuanced. First, though many Scottish voters support the SNP, they do not all support independence (78). Furthermore, there is some debate over what exactly constitutes Scottish values (79). This is complicated by the fact that Scotland is one of several subnational units within the UK, whose divisions are reinforced by differences in religious holidays, as well as sports (79-80). Despite this, many people (including tennis icon Andy Murray, for example) claim both Scottish and British identities (79-80). Also, identity is even more difficult to pin down due to the fluidity with which people can move across the UK, meaning that identities across subnational units can be mixed and therefore bind people across the UK together (80). Further complicating this is the fact that there has been a change of demography since World War II, with an increase in immigrant communities and people of color living in Scotland (81). Given these factors, Duerr says that the UK can most accurately be considered a multinational state (81).

The SNP is typically characterized as a postmodern nationalist movement, in which territory and identity are not nearly as important as policy choices (78). However, there are concerns that there is still a potentially harmful ethnic component to the movement. Duerr argues that the case for civic nationalism needs to be made more strongly in order to show that the movement is truly inclusive of a more diverse interpretation of Scottish identity (78). This is particularly important given the substantial South Asian and Afro-Carribean immigrant communities that have developed in Scotland in the post-World War II era (81). According to research presented by Duerr, the SNP discusses issues of economics and political autonomy far more than immigration, culture, or language, and economics and political autonomy are given as the primary reason for secession, rather than culture (85-6). Based on statements made by the SNP in these policy areas, they can be categorized as “mostly civic/mixed,” as there are some issues, such as ambivalence toward joining important EU institutions and a lack of diversity in the party, that prevent it from being considered fully civic (99). However, the party has moved more towards civic nationalism over time due to increase diversity in Scottish society (100). Overall, Duerr says that the civically-framed issue of independence will likely remain on the political agenda, as the SNP seems unlikely to lose significant support in the near future (100).

Given the events that have occurred since this book was published in 2015, I think it is likely that the SNP will continue to gain members and momentum and that the push for independence may become more popular, even among those who may have previously supported the SNP but not independence. In the Brexit referendum, a majority of Scottish voters voted “Remain,” which makes sense given their economic interests. Since a majority of Scots disagree with the outcome of Brexit, and considering the SNP’s focus on issues of economics and political autonomy, this may result in increased popularity for secession, or for more devolution at the very least.