One of These Things is Not Like the Others? A Comparative Analysis of Secessionist Movements in Vermont, Quebec, Hawai'i and Kosovo
Brian M. Lusignan
Vermont Law School; Boston College
April 15, 2009
Despite a widespread belief that support for secession is limited to society’s radical fringe, modern secessionist movements remain surprisingly legitimate. In Vermont, several well-organized secessionist groups draw on the state’s history as an independent republic to justify the state’s withdrawal from the United States. Nationwide, popular support for secession is surprisingly strong. And internationally, the right of “peoples” to self-determination is well-entrenched but riddled with complexities. Secession remains a perennially controversial and divisive subject, but one that merits debate.
This article describes the intersections between Vermont's modern secessionists, its independent history, and the international right to self-determination. The article focuses on the potential international legitimacy of Vermont secession. Part I provides an overview of the development and claims of modern Vermont secessionist movements. Part II gives a short history of Vermont independence, focusing on how this history has been misinterpreted by modern secessionists. Part III outlines the international right of peoples to self-determination, demonstrates the nebulous and confusing nature of the right, and ultimately shows that Vermont secessionists cannot invoke it. Part IV describes the right of self-determination as applied to Hawai'i and Kosovo, and uses these points of reference to illuminate the relative weakness of Vermont secessionists' claims and the complexities inherent in the right to self-determination. The article concludes by suggesting that Vermont's independent tradition is best honored by engaging modern secessionists in serious debate.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Keywords: international law, self-determination, secession, Vermont history, Hawai'i, Kosovo, Quebec
Date posted: April 16, 2009 ; Last revised: June 21, 2009