A New Age of Jefferson: New Hampshire’s “Free Staters” started it all

free-state-projectBy Bernie Quigley

Hat tip: Tenth Amendment Center

At the beginning of every movement is a wild bunch. Rowdy workers on the docks in Boston, John Brown and his half-mad family. When historians trace back from Scott Brown to the beginning, they will get to a wild bunch in New Hampshire called the “Free Staters.”

They moved here a few years back and live on the edge of the forest, not more than a handful at first but expecting thousands to follow, intending to start the republic fresh again. And in a way they did. I came to their attention with an article in 2003 titled “A States’ Rights Defense against Dick Cheney” premised on Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions, making the claim that New Hampshire and Vermont need not participate in the war on Iraq without the permission of our state governors.

They had moved up here drawn to our state motto, I think – Live Free or Die. But it was no big ideological thing, more a free-spirited awakening which brought the usual scoffs from the lace curtain MSM and conventional political religionists here in the cold where local politics sometimes seems a substitute for religion. I received an email from one blithe spirit who said that she was basically about “ . . . opposing gun laws, legalizing marijuana and Hillary is a bitch.”

What we had in common was the premise that Thomas Jefferson had recognized the natural state that formed of its own initiative when ideology was removed from the equation. And acknowledged that in the Constitution by declaring that the states had the natural right and the ability to defend themselves against an abusive, arrogant, immoral or delirious federal government.

From then till now, this idea has taken off. I think now it cannot be held back. It will bring us a new breed of politician and a new political generation. It is already doing so.

This thinking first began to move last February when Dan Itse, a New Hampshire state representative, read commentary related to Jefferson and the Kentucky Resolutions and proposed a 10th amendment defense against the Obama administration’s deficit spending; spending so extensive that it would tax future generations. 37 other states immediately followed his initiative.

Then again on April 15, 2009, when the Tea Party revolts started across the country. When Texas governor Rick Perry appeared at one at the Alamo it brought greater legitimacy to this movement. His friend Ted Nugent brought his own inimitable style. Sarah Palin undoubtedly brought this movement nationally when she led support of other governors to the NY 23 race, bridging the Tea Partiers and the mainstream.

Mainstream conservatives and the Tea Partiers need to merge, Palin told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren. “Definitely, they need to merge. I think those who are wanting the divisions and the divisiveness and the controversy — those are the ones who don’t believe in the message. And they’re the ones, I think, stirring it up.”

They have already merged.

The election of Bob McDonnell as Virginia’s governor completed this transformation and fully legitimized the Jeffersonian ideals in Jefferson’s home state. This can be seen now as the new mainstream. The election of Scott Brown insured that Massachusetts and the East would not be left out.

In his speech in response to President Obama’s State of the Union, McDonnell made several references to the singular man of the Enlightenment who awakened the world: “It was Thomas Jefferson who called for ‘A wise and frugal Government which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry ….and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned…’ He was right.”

Jefferson could awaken us again in 2010 and 2012. And it all started up here in woods of New Hampshire with the Free Staters. Never underestimate the power of a handful of rural red necks, duty-bound, born-again to the Constitution and hell-bent on a free vision of starting the world again. ‘Twas ever thus.

Bernie Quigley [send him email] writes a “Pundit’s Blog” column for “The Hill,” political journal in Washington, D.C. He is a prize-winning writer and has worked more than 30 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and book, movie, music and art reviewer. He lives in the White Mountains with his wife and four children.

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