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Seceding seldom succeeds, but Vermonters try

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Politics, like fall foliage, turns faster in Vermont. The state was out front opposing slavery and first to approve civil unions. And if the activists who met here last month succeed, the state will set another precedent: first to secede since 1861.

No, this wasn't a clandestine meeting of militants. It was a convention for Ver- monters, held in the plush, gold-domed capitol.

And its keynote - that separating from the United States is a just remedy for the federal government's trampling of state sovereignty - is echoing beyond the snow-capped Green Mountains.

From Hawaii to South Carolina, dozens of groups across America are promoting a similar cause. Their efforts aren't politically popular - yet. But they are reviving one of the most passionate debates in US history: Can a state legally secede?

For the Second Vermont Republic (SVR), the group that hosted the convention, the answer is "yes."

"If we had a right to join the Union, we certainly have a right to disband from it," SVR founder Thomas Naylor told the assembly. In his view, Vermonters should join the cause if they:

• Say the US has lost moral authority and is unsustainable, ungovernable, and unfixable.

• Want to help take back Vermont from big business, big markets, and big government - and do so peacefully.

Other separatist groups

Naylor's talking points aren't unique to Vermont. Separatist groups with diverse causes share the view that the federal government has grown too big and too powerful. Many say obedience to the Constitution would restore America's lost liberty. But some insist that the federal government long ago overstepped its constitutional powers, leaving secession as a valid recourse.

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