S for Severed States


I saw this article recently in the Wall Street Journal about some people on Long Island wanting to secede from the rest of New York State for a bunch of reasons; it won’t happen, BTW, because the state legislature wouldn’t allow it. But it reminded me that the 50 states in the US were not always the size that they are currently.

Even before there was a United States, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York all insisted that Vermont was a part their state. That’s why Vermont declared itself a kingdom in 1777, and Vermonters to this day refer to the state as the “Northeast Kingdom”, though it became the first state after the original 13.

In the early days of the Union:
*Connecticut laid claim on a piece of what is now northern Ohio
*Kentucky would be carved out of what was part of Virginia
*Georgia included the northern portions of what is now both Alabama and Mississippi

Of course, the Louisiana Purchase changed the equation, with the federal government attempting to control all the unincorporated territories of the country, sometimes with resistance at the state level.

Read about the Wisconsin-Michigan kerfluffe.

What is now Maine was once part of Massachusetts, plus some territory claimed by Britain as part of Canada. Maine (free) and Missouri (slave) became states in 1820 and 1821, respectively, I remember from my American history, as a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which “stipulated that all the Louisiana Purchase territory north of the southern boundary of Missouri, except Missouri, would be free, and the territory below that line would be slave.”

The Missouri Compromise was repealed by the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, which brought those states into the Union but eliminated the provision limiting slavery. Indeed, the part of Missouri Compromise that allowing Congress to control slavery in the newly emerging territories was declared unconstitutional in the horrific 1857 Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court.

This led to the American Civil War, during which the northwest counties of Virginia seceded from Virginia to become West Virginia. (WV is the answer to the trivia question: “Which state east of the Mississippi River was the last to join the union?”

Read about some of the United States’ international boundary disputes here, and about the curious case of the Republic of Texas here.


ABC Wednesday

0 thoughts on “S for Severed States”

  1. A great history lesson Roger! I think it’s great that our states are fairly autonomous and can maintain their individual identities (and culture). Great post!

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  2. I didn’t understand a word of what was written. But fortunately you provided maps as well and enlarging those helped me out a great deal. Fascinating post.

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  3. Wonderful post, as always. There seems to be a wild cry to go back to where the States once were. I wonder if it means washing clothes in the creek, churning butter and swapping chickens for medical care. Gadzooks.

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  4. What a lot of great information, – I have ancestors who started their lives in North America in New York State, but came north to Canada as Empire Loyalists. Charles’ family came to the U.S. with the Winthrop Fleet, so we have lots of interest in American history. Thank you for sharing this, Roger.

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  5. Possibly the best post yet of the entire project! I am much more appreciative of American history the older I get. We are an amazing nation; how we got here and what it took to get us where we are today. Too bad most of Congress doesn’t seem to remember.

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  6. Fascinating. I had no idea that Vermont was sometimes referred to as the ‘Northeast Kingdom’ – sounds like something from a fantasy novel, rather lovely actually. 🙂

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  7. This is really interesting. I came across your post from my Google alert for “Northeast Kingdom.” I just needed to let you know that the term NEK refers to the three counties in the northeast part of the state: the most remote and wild part of the state. The counties are Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties. The state as a whole is NOT the Northeast Kingdom.

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  8. The Long Island succession news reminded me of the rumors floating around at one time of the upper peninsula of Michigan wanting to succeed. They had kicked around the name of Superior, which would have been an even worse idea then succeeding.

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  9. That was a great lesson, loved to know more about it! Here in Brazil we have the same problem… The southern part would love to secede from the rest of the country. Not going to happen either, of course… But they even have websites and even more, a flag for when it happens! Oh well, they can dream, right? :oP

    Cool S post!

    Kisses from us.

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  10. So very interesting.
    Being a native Long Islander I am glad it will never happen. Upstate, Manhattan, Long Island, it’s all NY, at least to me.

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  11. Saturday May 29th, 2010
    Dear Roger,
    Thank you for visiting and commenting on my S-post about Silver. I had to force myself to choose really early on because “S” is a letter with interesting possibilities.
    I think you have chosen an interesting S-word because it shows an unusual angle on American history. The “United” States was not always so “united”! My dear father and I used to discuss similar ideas. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think it would have been possible for one or more of the states to secede from the union up to the time of the War Between the States. Abraham Lincoln seems to have put a stop to that possiblity. But actually, the states were more like nations that agreed to cooperate with each other, than a unified nation.
    All of this became very interesting when Sweden decided to join the EU. The lawmakers voted in Sweden with the tiniest possible majority margin. Something they got thrown back in their faces when the referendum to adopt the Euro failed, and Sweden could keep the crown.
    Forgive me for this political discussion, which is actually very rare on my blog. I ususally avoid politics.
    Take care Roger! Wonderful history lesson!
    Best wishes,
    Anna

    You have already visited, but in case another commenter gets curious about my post, this link will take them there!

    Anna’s S-words

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