The Breaking of Nations, Part One: Preface

Once or twice a decade in the mass media—news mass-produced for the masses of consumers by the masses in the press—stories about secession movements flare up like a cheap match and then burn out.  Most recently, we have heard about disgruntled people in the Pacific Northwest who want to break away from their masters in Seattle, Portland, and Sacramento and join with the sturdy yeoman of Idaho.  How little they know!  Washington today is Colorado yesterday, California the week before—and Idaho tomorrow. 

The progressive virus is not a paper tiger put together out of newsprint and television images:  It is a deadly infection that infects and corrupts everything it touches.  If you think there are sensible people—Conservatives, Catholics, Evangelicals—who stand up to the leftist twaddle, go talk to self-described Conservatives, and you will hear them explain how their brand of reform will actually help minorities, or read anything Pope Francis has said or denies having said, or tune in any megachurch pastor fleecing the sheep in the great state of Texas.  

Let me confess: Even the slightest hint of somebody somewhere yearning to breathe free and break away from the world-mass fires my imagination.  Perhaps I was scarred by standing on the Charleston battery in the Spring of 1961, watching the reenactment of the firing on Fort Sumter.  If Southerners had known that the fort would soon become a monument to Union aggression dedicated to destroying all things Southern, they would have blown it out of Charleston harbor.  

As a boy I thrilled to stories of Jacobite ancestors who stood bravely to fight the loutish German princes who had usurped the throne of the Stuarts, and, reading Caesar in second year Latin, I could not help experiencing a powerful sympathy on behalf of the noble Vercingetorix and the Celtic warriors who refused to knuckle under to the future dictator-for-life. It was only natural that I should have conceived the idea of a Southern Partisan Quarterly Review or of joining with the friends who founded what we originally called the Southern League. In knocking about here and there as I have done, I made a point of meeting Quebec and Scottish nationalists, and I spent a good deal of time meeting and interviewing the leaders of the Lega Lombarda, which become the Lega Nord.

Even as a Southern partisan and honorary Lombard, I did not make the mistake of turning either secession or smallness into an idol.  The unification of England, had it been completed by the Ango-Saxons, would have prevented the Norman invasion, and, to name the most obvious example the rise of Rome to a position of power, first in Latium and then in all of Italy, produced many benefits, not the least of which was the transmission of Greek culture, by way of Latin, into the civilization of Europe.  Not all human communities are either capable or deserving of independence, and to advocate the rights of “Kosovars” or Bosniaks or Kurds is the best way of discrediting autonomist movements.

When I was writing for the British press, my editors and friends in London viewed my enthusiasm for Scots Nats and Lombard leghisti with amusement, just as they pretended to be horrified by my sarcastic attacks on the special relationship that had drawn Americans into two World Wars.   Although Sam Francis and I were quite sincere in putting forward our “America First” arguments that were later taken up by Pat Buchanan, my London editors viewed me as a reliable ally in their campaign to keep America British.  Frank Johnson and the others were well aware that my attachment to English literature and history grew out of a deep-seated loyalty to our common British traditions.

I don’t know how many American Conservatives were aware of the strategy that was being pursued by a number of journalists in and out of the United Kingdom.  The UK’s prosperity and security depended, so they believed quite rightly, to a considerable degree on the special relationship with America whose state security apparatus (the CIA) was an offshoot of British intelligence), then it was vitally important to keep America in her position as a moral and cultural colony of Great Britain, but that position was being threatened by Third World immigration and globalization of the American economy.  This partly explains John O’Sullivan’s clear-headed assertion of what he called “the national question,” when he was trying to rescue National Review from Mr. Buckley’s rather poor taste in junior colleagues.  Once over dinner, I tried to warn O’Sullivan against Bill’s weaknesses, but he was confident of his own abilities and knew very well (though to his own cost) that he was the best thing to hit NR since the death of James Burnham.

It was John who requested me to write the rather tedious overview of secessionist movements that makes up most of this essay, though I have updated and improved it in many places.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

3 Responses

  1. Vince Cornell says:

    It’s one of the political judo missed opportunities for Mr. Trump in that when the secession movement gained so much publicity in California early on in his Presidency he didn’t throw all of his support behind it. If he had come out trying to make a deal and help broker the actual secession of California, it would have been a win-win for him. If the liberals did the predictable thing and balked and fought back, it would have been against their own populace and a clear, public demonstration of their actual hatred of the concept of democracy despite all their lip service (much like the current Bernie torpedoing). It would have been much more public than the “take it behind the shed and shoot it” way the California Supreme Court killed the secession proposition. If, by some outlandish chance, Mr. Trump succeeded and California left the union – then Glory Be to God and may we remember Trump fondly in our history books for generation upon generation until the end of ages!

  2. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Mr Cornell, you are exactly right, and what a glorious day Calexit would’ve been. Unfortunately, I think, everyone in power drank the Lincoln Kool-Aid long ago. No president, actual or potential, wants to say he was the one who “lost” California. They’re just not hardwired that way. As for all the Joe Sixpacks out there, mention secession and they’ll tell you to get a life. Especially down here in the erstwhile land of Dixie, where they’re all counting the days until the new SEC season begins.

  3. Dominick D says:

    It is hard to think anyone would be blamed for ‘losing’ California. Most Americans would probably support some type of inverse secession mechanism; whereby a state is forcibly kicked out of the union.