My Turn: It’s time to talk about independence
We’re glad to have had the opportunity to entertain the Monitor editorial board with last week’s launch of the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence (“The circus is leaving town, and yet . . .,” editorial, Nov. 14). Mohandas Gandhi, a successful secessionist in his own right, is widely thought to have summed up his strategy for independence by saying, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” We’re grateful to the board for helping us skip right to the second step.
What’s not so funny, though, is the way that New Hampshire citizens suffer every day at the hands of a federal government that has long since ceased to resemble anything our founders could have envisioned when the independent republic of New Hampshire agreed to join the United States. It’s true that this federal government has declared secession to be illegal, unconstitutional and entirely unsuitable for polite conversation. This shouldn’t surprise anyone – after all, it has also declared that chattel slavery in the 19th century was legally enforceable at the federal level, that American citizens can be detained indefinitely and without trial on the flimsiest of pretexts, and that the city council can take your home away by force as long as it’s careful to re-gift it to politically connected special interests afterward.
This, incidentally, is why the foundation didn’t create and doesn’t necessarily endorse any of the petitions asking the White House to let us peacefully assert our independence. While we’re thrilled to see the support for local control that these petitions reflect, we also know that when it comes to setting limits on its own power, the federal government has proven itself about as reliable as an alcoholic trying to set limits on his own drinking. It’s time we stopped giving the government opportunities to relapse.
Instead, let’s start looking closer to home for answers about independence. Our own New Hampshire Constitution, for instance, has governed our state wisely and well since 1784 – three years before the U.S. Constitution was even written. Its authors included some pretty crisp and incisive sentiments concerning the proper response when confronted by a government that has snapped its tether. According to the patriots who transformed New Hampshire from a Crown colony into a free and independent state, withdrawing our consent from an out-of-control regime isn’t just a right, it’s a duty.
“The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression,” Article 10 reminds us, “is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.” It’s hard to get much clearer than that.
What does arbitrary power look like?
It looks like the U.S. Attorney’s office trying to steal the family-owned Caswell Motel because its owners couldn’t stop guests from dealing drugs in the privacy of their rented rooms. It looks like the Department of Justice conducting an armed raid on the Gibson guitar company for the dastardly crime of building beautiful instruments using sustainably harvested tropical woods. It looks like a president of the United States unilaterally ordering the assassination of American citizens overseas. Ben Franklin warned us while wearing a silly hat that those who give up liberty for security will soon find themselves short on both. It’s been a long time since the government in Washington made even a pretense of providing us with either.
The foundation’s message is simple: We in New Hampshire can do better. We can do better than to mire ourselves in endless wars, than to saddle our children with trillions of dollars in debt, than to see our neighbors subjected to nighttime raids and warrantless searches. We can re-establish New Hampshire as a beacon of freedom and prosperity that will inspire our fellow Americans and the world. Most important, we can secure a future for our children that’s brighter and better than the one they’re offering us in Washington.
In January 1776, the citizens of New Hampshire told a corrupt, overbearing and distant government that we could take care of our own. It worked out pretty well, at least for a while. Why shouldn’t we try it again?
(Chandler Gabel is secretary of the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence.)