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Monday, July 4, 2016

The First "Brexit"

This July 4, 2016 weekend had particular resonance, as it followed by a week or two the monumental vote by the citizens of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union.  I visited both Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga, two well-preserved and important places for the first Brexit, the withdrawal of the American colonies from the United Kingdom.  Here is a scene from the reenactment activity at Fort Ticonderoga:


I thought of this connection, I must say, before I saw various columnists also drawing the analogy.  The American colonies were not in the same legal posture to the United Kingdom as the United Kingdom was to the EU, but nonetheless, there was a strong economic and sovereignty-related set of arguments.  A better analogy might be if Scotland withdraws from the United Kingdom.  It seems unlikely that the United Kingdom would send an army to retain Scotland, and indeed, the fact that a Scottish exit from the U.K. and return to the E.U. as an independent nation is being discussed as if it is within the realm of possibility.

The Brexit concept is broader and more profound than just this vote.  It is reflective of a different time and mindset in history.  Nations come and go and come again; witness Poland, which literally vanished for a bit as an independent nation. 

Of equal import are the discussions of so-called "Texit," with Texas withdrawing from the United States.  In 1861, an American president sent troops on a four-year campaign to prevent secession.  Would such happen today? Granted, the EU charter provides for such an eventuality within the EU; the American Constitution does not address secession.  However, There is hundred year old Supreme Court authority ruling that a state may not secede from the United States (see Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869)).

The King and Parliament no doubt thought the law precluded American independence.  The Declaration of Independence was at odds with that and, if read literally and in its essence, would also be at odds with those who find permanence to political boundaries drawn long ago.

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