The Breakway Republic Of Vermont?

At Riverwalk Records, the all-vinyl record store just down the street from the state Capitol, the black "US Out of Vt.!" T-shirts are among the hottest sellers.

But to some people in Vermont, the idea is bigger than a $20 novelty. They want Vermont to secede from the United States — peacefully, of course.

Disillusioned by what they call an empire about to fall, a small cadre of writers and academics is plotting political strategy and planting the seeds of separatism.

They've published a "Green Mountain Manifesto" subtitled "Why and How Tiny Vermont Might Help Save America From Itself by Seceding from the Union." They hope to put the question before citizens at Town Meeting Day next March, eventually persuading the state Legislature to declare independence, returning Vermont to the status it held from 1777 to 1791.

Whether it's likely is another question.

But the idea has found plenty of sympathetic ears in Vermont, a left-leaning state that said yes to civil unions, no to slavery (before any other) and last year elected a socialist to the U.S. Senate.

About 300 people turned out for a 2005 secession convention in the Statehouse, and plans for a second one are in the works. A poll this year by the University of Vermont's Center for Rural Studies found that 13 percent of those surveyed support secession, up from 8 percent a year before.

"The argument for secession is that the U.S. has become an empire that is essentially ungovernable — it's too big, it's too corrupt and it no longer serves the needs of its citizens," said Rob Williams, editor of Vermont Commons, a quarterly newspaper dedicated to secession.

"Congress and the executive branch are being run by the multinationals. We have electoral fraud, rampant corporate corruption, a culture of militarism and war. If you care about democracy and self-governance and any kind of representative system, the only constitutional way to preserve what's left of the Republic is to peaceably take apart the empire."

Such movements have a long history. Key West, Fla., staged a mock secession from America in the 1980s. The Town of Killington, Vt., tried to break away and join New Hampshire in 2004, and Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Texas all have some form of secession organizations today.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at and

The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App