Eben & Madison Project Proposal

For our website, we want to research the Mormon migration across the U.S. and into Utah territory following the lynching of Joseph Smith. We will emphasize the Latter Day Saint secession from the United States Government.   We would like to outline their path and the altercations they had with non-Mormons- peaceful and violent. Once they got to Utah, at that time part of Mexico, they believed they were free of U.S. control and Brigham Young (Joseph Smith’s controversial successor) established a theocracy in the territory. But after the Mexican-American War, the US gained the Utah Territory, and Mormons were subject once again to US jurisdiction. They were denied statehood for 50 years due to their polygamous practices, the third president of the LDS church (John Taylor) even stating “God is greater than the United States, and when the Government conflicts with heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven against the Government. The United States says we cannot marry more than one wife. God says different”. The fourth president (Wilford Woodruff), however, ended polygamy in the faith after claiming to receive a revelation from God, and Utah gained statehood six years later. The ending of polygamy in the church caused one of its most major splits – into the LDS and FLDS (Fundamental) churches, the latter of which still practices polygamy to this day.

Throughout our research project we will emphasize multiple different secessionist movements.  Number one, the Latter Day Saint split from the United States Government.  Number two, the split in the LDS church itself and the FLDS secession from the LDS.  Number three, the suspected- and definitely spurious- claim that Utah is still trying to secede from the union.  

On the website itself, we will have an interactive map tracing the Mormon migration, with key points – settlements, battles, sabotage, etc – highlighted.  We will also include a timeline with our map.  With the large amount of resources Southern Utah has concerning the Mormon pioneers, we will be able to include actual journal entries, early settlement photos, and many more primary resources.  

Upstate New York Secession Proposal

The secessionist movements of upstate New York have a long history. In 1777, an upper portion of New York successfully seceded during the American Revolution and officially became the state of Vermont in 1791. Since then, various movements from upstate New York have been formed around the basis that upstate New York should secede from downstate.

The most pressing reasons are presented to be political. Baker v Carr (1962) and Reynolds v Sims (1964) established the precedent of “one man, one vote” giving New York City (NYC), a small portion of New York State (NYS) which holds a significant percentage of the population, political influence in both state and national legislatures. Most recently, in February 2013, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley introduced a bill that would allow each county in NYS to provide feedback regarding a possible partition.

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

Secessionist groups are wishing to secede from New York State. Currently, there is a demographic divide between downstate and upstate New York. While downstate NY occupies roughly 4,000 square miles, it houses over 12 million people, while upstate stretches across 54,000 square miles while only housing 7 million. The economic differences are also important to note. Downstate residents have a GDP per capita of $71,181 while upstate residents have a GDP per capita of 51,807, below the US average GDP per capita of 53,041. Demographically, downstate NY has a higher percentage of non-white minorities and immigrants, while upstate NY tends to be more Caucasian and house generational families.

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. As mentioned before, upstate New Yorkers are mostly Caucasian and are not recent immigrants, and they have a shared history dating back to the colonial period, when much of upstate was not yet part of New York State. 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.

On our website, we would like to examine this movement’s history, including its origins, motives, and strategy, and make our research on this topic accessible to the public. We plan on including interactive elements, such as a timeline to show the movement’s history and a map of New York State districts.

Quaker Proposal

The Quaker movement to North America took place in the mid-seventeenth century to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Quakers were a different group from the Puritans and those distinctions caused considerable friction between the two groups. The conflict between the Puritan majority and the Quaker minority was the catalyst for the series of events that led to the creation of Pennsylvania by William Penn as a safe haven for Quakers within North America. The struggle to find respite from the Puritans, in a land colonized on the principles of religious freedom, was a defining moment in North American religious history.

In the northeast, due to the persecution of the Quakers largely within the city of Boston, there was a movement south to Rhode Island even before the Pennsylvania colony was founded. This occurred to retreat from the attacks that took place, including the killing of Mary Dyer on the Common for her Quaker beliefs. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony there was the strictest persecution against Quakers than was seen in any colonies outside of those in Plymouth and New Haven Connecticut, eventually hosting a number of laws which could result in the imprisonment, torture, and killing of accused Quakers.

The basis of the Quaker religion was the exact opposite of the response that was given to them, the ideas that were held were those of a God not only ruling over every person, but of an aspect of God within each individual. This belief led to the recognition of a need for respect for each individual, as well as a general opposition to violence and the idea of slavery. Quakers had a stronger belief in human rights and social welfare than that of the opposing Puritans was the basis of the conflicts throughout the early colonization of America. A number of early Quaker ministers were women, seeing them as equal under the eyes of Christ, and that each person was able to connect with God and Jesus Christ on a personal level, and that any individual could have a personal experience, connection, and conversation with higher beings.

The Quakers are still an active group today and their tendency to go against the mainstream is something consistent about their history. They were abolitionists, conscientious objectors, and women’s rights activists before larger social justice movements formed. The Quakers are a case of a truly successful secessionist group.

The Vermont Republic

The origin of the Vermont Republic lies in the so called New Hampshire Grants, land granted by the governor of New Hampshire from 1749 to 1764. These claims were disputed by New York and eventually the grants were struck down by the British Board of Trade in 1764 and further invalidated by the New York Supreme Court. Disputing these claims, Ethan Allen led a group of settlers/militia men called the Green Mountain Boys to defend themselves from New York militiamen and British soldiers attempting to enforce the property claims. They were able to successfully keep the New Yorker’s out of the territory and maintained order in the area. Ethan Allen brought the Green Mountain Boys to the aid of the fledgling American Revolution by sacking Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, later by leading American troops in the failed 1775 invasion of Canada.
In the meantime, the New Hampshire Grants declared independence as the Republic of New Connecticut (later Vermont) in 1777. The constitution was very liberal, abolishing slavery and giving universal male suffrage as well as guarantees common to the United States Bill of Rights (freedom of the press, religion, right to bear arms, etc). During the Revolutionary War it generally held to a policy of neutrality between the British and Americans, acting as a safe haven for dissenters from both armies. However in the Battle of Bennington in 1777, the Green Mountain Boys came to the aid of the Americans in a town near the border of Vermont, defeating a force of British and Hessian soldiers. On the other hand, Ethan Allen (returning to Vermont after his release from captivity in 1778) was involved in controversial negotiations between Vermont and Great Britain known as the Haldimand Affair. The proposal was for Vermont to join the British Empire again. Allen met with the Governor of Quebec, Fredrick Haldimand, in 1781, but the negotiation was thwarted by the end of the war. Vermonters switched to working towards eventual union with the United States, which was achieved in 1791 as the first post Constitution state, winning Vermont the recognition of self government the Green Mountain Boys originally fought to defend.
The Vermont Republic is important to secessionist history because it incorporates the ideas of community, political autonomy, and secession. The actual secession was represented by the 1777 Vermont Constitution, which separated Vermont from the iron grips of New York and New Hampshire. Both New York and New Hampshire tried to incorporate Vermont into their states post American Revolution. The importance of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys to the state of Vermont is unparalleled by any other entities throughout the state’s history. A bold claim, I know, but the state of Vermont would not exist as we know it today without the action of secession, it would just be part of New York or New Hampshire. In our project we are going to attempt to trace the seeds of secession that sprouted prior to the Revolutionary War and bloomed throughout the beginning of the war, eventually leading to the Vermont Republic. We will pay particularly close attention to the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, with an emphasis on why they decided that secession was the correct action. That will include their definition of community and secession personified in the writings of leading figures within the Green Mountain Boys such as Ethan Allen. There is roughly a twenty year period of successful secession and independence that was traded in for semi-autonomy. We think the Vermont Republic is a good example of a successful secession movement driven by a simple desire to owe no allegiances or bow to no throne (to quote the Song of the Vermonters).
By: Tony Mastrantonio and Nate Schnittman

McDonald Territory Proposal

In the most South-Western county of Missouri lies the town of Noel. Today this town is the home of only 1,832 people, a fact that belies its history. During the Spring of 1961, Noel was the capital of its own independent political entity; the McDonald Territory.

The causes of the secession of McDonald County from the State of Missouri were unique when compared the many secessionist movements of American history. The roots of this movement can be traced to the decision of the Missouri State Highway Commission to omit Noel, and most other McDonald County towns, from its “Family Vacationland” map in 1961. This was detrimental to the tourist industry, an important source of income for the county, and therefore angered many of its citizens.

In response to this apparent slight against the county by the state government, the people of McDonald County decided to establish their independence from Missouri. They even went so far as to establish border control with a territorial militia, as well as issuing visas to non-residents who entered the territory. In addition to establishing a militia, the people of McDonald Territory established a seat of government at Noel, not the traditional county seat at Pineville, with the new government being run by elected officials. Amongst these officials there was talk of McDonald Territory becoming the fifty-first state of the United States or joining the states of Arkansas or Oklahoma.

The secessionist movement eventually came to an end in the summer of 1961 when the Missouri government proclaimed that if the secessionist movement were not put to an end, all state employee retirement pensions would be suspended, all state employees would be fired, and all state funding would be withheld. The movement officially ended as Missouri Supreme Court Justice Mary Russell read a letter from the Missouri House of representatives asking McDOnald County to stay with Missouri, promising that it would be put back on the map. The citizens were thus pleased, and showing no more objections, reunited with the state of Missouri.

We hope to bring more awareness to this often forgotten piece of Missouri history through our course website. Through exploring the McDonald County archives, obtaining oral histories, and the State Archives in Jefferson City.

Research Project Proposal

Abi Stephens and I have chosen to study the secession of West Virginia from Confederate Virginia. The secession echoes sentiments held in other regions of the Appalachians and uses them to create a formal state government. Western Virginians based their argument on the perception of ill treatment by the Virginian government. Their declaration mirrors the Declaration of Independence, which focused on taxation without representation.

In the case of West Virginia, this meant the unequal benefits reaped by the Tidewater region of internal improvement, costing the state 20 million dollars within fifteen years. It also referred to the lack of representation of the Western region of Virginia in the state’s government. While there was a lot of pro-union sentiment in this area, their secession had less to do with that and more to do with their feeling of mistreatment.

There were two conventions held in Wheeling, Virginia to determine how to achieve the goal of secession. During these conventions, governmental positions were decided upon for the creation of the state of West Virginia. To ensure the success of the vote for secession, Western Virginia had Union soldiers posted at polling sites to prevent pro-Confederate men from casting a vote. They also made voters swear their allegiance to the Union before voting.

We feel the complexity of this secession movement ties in well with the course. The region ties in well with the focus of the course and has parallels to the informal sentiments expressed in other parts of the Appalachians.

Instructions for Draft Proposal

Hope you’re all having an excellent end to the week. I’m posting here to clarify a point that’s been raised by some of you: for Monday’s draft proposal, you only need one blog post per pair. You should work together to draft the proposal, but we only need to see one version of it ahead of class. Good luck getting things done – really looking forward to seeing what you’ve come up with!

Anderson’s Imagined Communities

This was truly a fascinating read. The way Anderson defined community and outlined the development of imaginary communities was illuminating. Essentially Anderson argues that “nationalism” is a relatively modern way to define communities and is ultimately a rather arbitrary method of categorization. Though Anderson did an effective job arguing his point this is a concept that is difficult to reiterate–nationality is a widely accepted premise that connects us to a huge amount of people in spite of the fact that these are people that we never will meet or interact with. Anderson then goes and breaks down the factors that created this phenomena including religion, language, historiography, and the development of print media.

I particularly liked the comparison between nationalism and organized religion. It’s interesting how the decline of religion in Western Europe during the Enlightenment was contemporary with the rise in nationalism. It affirms the idea that people need to feel connected and a part of something–anything–larger than themselves even when it defies realism.

This reading left me to wonder how far this idea of the imaginary community could be broken down. In the United States, smaller groups identify as states even though people in those states cannot possibly interact with every other member of the states. In addition, those states can be divided into counties which are then chunked into cities, towns, and villages. All of these communities are simply geographic places and it is unlikely that even in the smallest unit (towns, villages, hamlets, etc.) that everyone will meet everyone. As those units grow smaller and smaller, the borders that divide them become more and more porous, confusing, and logistically unnecessary yet still remain important factors in how people define themselves. I am a Methuenite, as well as a Massachusetts resident, as well as a New Englander, as well as an American. All of those descriptors bind me to a group of people to whom I have no other ties to besides the fact that we grew up in physical proximity to each other. These connections seem even more superficial when one takes into account the amount of diversity that exists in these imagined communities. As proven by the current political climate there is no guarantee that members in small communities with share the same values, priorities, religion, or language which could all be considered markers of a traditional community.


Jason Sorens explores the nature of secession and various historical secessionist movements in his piece. He pays particular attention to establishing what the contributing factors that cause a group to seek total secession – rather than improving status with the majority or higher levels of self-governing autonomy within the existing state.

There are a variety of standards which must be met by a group in order for secession to even become a possibility. The most important are a shared cultural identity and territorial proximity. Cultural identity – which can be civic, religious, ethnic, etc. – is required to actually create a group and ensure it has common interests it feels are not being met by the present political system. Territorial proximity is needed because there must be a physical space  for purposes of political and economic organization after the separation takes place. Physically disparate groups can still have a shared cultural identity, but their needs will differ as they will exist in differing political and economic situations. (Though I think it’s important to point out some of these groups may seek to leave the lands they occupy and congregate in a single territory in order to establish a single state, such as Zionists, even though their migration would be a cultural, not a secessionist, one.)

Sorens explores the economic and political factors of secessionist movements and the various strategies they use to get their needs met, but essentially it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. Sorens points out that the minority is often unable to trust the actions of the majority, and the majority is often unwilling to commit to lasting compromises. The fact that many nations do not guarantee the right to secede to the populace (or do not guarantee such attempts will be met with violence) is more likely to promote secessionist movements – minorities who cannot legally secede do not feel like they have a final option, or ultimate bargaining chip, to use with the majority (for whom it is economically beneficial for the minority to not divide the state). If greater in-state autonomy is a truly viable option, achieving that status will typically prevent the minority group from seeking further separation.

Sometimes it is economically beneficial to secede – such as in cases where the minority is paying more into the state fiscally then they are receiving in services. In other cases, detrimental economic effects are mitigated by the newly-independent’s state to maintain trade relations in an increasingly globalized world. Even in cases where there will be economic turmoil following a secession, sometimes the minority group will decide that the cultural benefits – typically expression and maintenance – are more important than economic security.

This excerpt was fascinating. Honestly, I had never given much thought to why secession happens in a more general sense before this point. I definitely believe that groups should have the right to secede from their nation, though I had never thought that such a right could actually be a preventative measure against such actions – it seemed simply part of the right to self-determination. The distinctions Sorens made between ethnic and civic common identities in nations is valuable not only in the context of secession but in understanding many political actions within different nations. It’s understandable that majority powers would be disinclined to allow for the right to secede, but I believe a better cost-benefit analysis needs to happen on the part of such decision makers – the U.S.’ attempts to prevent secession were historically disastrous, fiscally and in terms of human life.