State Nullification, Secession, and the Human Scale of Political Order

Monday, January 1, 1900 12:00 AM

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George Kennan, author of the Cold War policy to contain the Soviet Union and described by some as the Aconscience of America,” taught that a regime can become dysfunctional by simply becoming too large. Near the end of his long career in service to his country, where he stood for moderation and realism in international politics, he judged that the American regime had grown too large for the purposes of self government and that we should begin a public debate on how to divide it in the direction of a more human scale.
Many Americans today feel in their bones the truth of Kennan’s insight. For the first time in 144 years the topics of State nullification and secession have again entered public discourse. Nullification and secession were understood by the Founders as remedies to unconstitutional acts of the central government. Yet over a century of nationalist indoctrination and policy has largely hidden this inheritance from public scrutiny. The aim of the conference is to recover an understanding of that part of the American tradition and to explore its intimations for today.
  • How did the central government to which were delegated only enumerated powers break free from what Jefferson called Athe chains of the Constitution”?
  • How did (and does) financial centralization lead to political centralization?
  • Are State nullification and secession constitutional?
  • Fifteen states peacefully seceded from the Soviet Union, the most centralized regime in history. How did they do it?
  • Learn about The Second Vermont Republic, a serious secession movement in Vermont, and why thinkers as diverse as George Kennan, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Walter Williams have supported it.
  • Are Aristotle and Kennan right that there is a human scale to political order? If so, how big is too big?


  • Kent Masterson Brown, Historian and Constitutional Lawyer - ”An Indissoluble Union: The Ultimate Nonsequitur”
  • Marshall DeRosa, Prof. of Political Science, Florida Atlantic University - ”State’s Rights versus National Wrongs: The Tenth Amendment Awakening, the Supreme Court be Damned”
  • Thomas DiLorenzo, Prof. of Economics, Loyola University, Maryland - ”The Founding Fathers of Constitutional Subversion”
  • Peter Jones, Former Director, The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, and Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh - ”Foundations of Civil Society: Decorum, Scale, and Conversation.”
  • Yuri Maltsev, Former advisor to Gorbachev=s government on perestroika and Prof. of Economics, Carthage College -”To Big to Fail? Lessons from the Demise of the Soviet Union” 
  • Donald Livingston, Prof. of Philosophy, Emory University - ”Secession: the Founding Principle of American Republicanism.”
  • Thomas Naylor, Emeritus Prof. of Economics, Duke University and Founder of the Second Vermont Republic - ”The Vermont Village Green: An Alternative to Empire”
  • Lawrence M. Reed, President, Foundation for Economic Education - ”Money Mischief and the March of Centralization”
  • Kirkpatrick Sale, Director of The Middlebury Institute and author of The Human Scale- ”To the Size of States there is a Limit: The Human Scale of Secession”
  • Kyle Scott, Prof. of Political Science, University of Houston - ”Get the State Out: Moving Beyond State-Centered Discussions of Federalism”
  • Clyde Wilson, Distinguished Emeritus Prof. of History, University of South Carolina - ”Greed and Centralisation in American History”


Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, South Carolina. Rooms have been reserved at the low conference rate of $129 (for double or single). Participants should reserve their own rooms by calling the Hotel at (843) 722 0600, and should do so as soon as possible as the number of rooms at that rate is limited.


The fee is $350 (if received before November 15; thereafter $400). Includes: breakfast, a luncheon reception at the Washington Light Infantry Armory, two finger food suppers, and the banquet. Included also are transportation and fees for private showings of items rarely seen, including the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession; the original South Carolina secession flag; the large and magnificent secession banner designed to celebrate the emergence of a new federal union of States; and the Nullification House where Calhoun and others crafted the ordinance of nullification.



To register send a check for the conference fee payable to Abbeville Institute, 478 Burlington Rd., Atlanta, GA 30307. A limited number of scholarships are available for students enrolled in a college or graduate program. For information about scholarships and all other questions call: (404) 377-0484 or email abbevilleinst”  For more about the speakers and lectures visit


Lectures only: $200; with banquet: $260.


Those who want to enjoy Charleston=s architecture and gardens as well as its historic sites can book rooms immediately before or after the conference at the special rate of $129. Boat tours to Fort Sumter leave from Liberty Square within easy walking distance of the hotel