Friday, August 2, 2013

RIP, Princess Shirley

Princess Shirley Joy Casley, of the Principality of Hutt River, passed away July 7, 2013, age 84. 

Her husband of 66 years, Prince Leonard Casley (and his associates) declared independence for their wheat farm and seceded from Australia on April 21, 1970 in response to blatantly unjust wheat production quotas for which there was seemingly no other recourse.

Quoting from the article linked above:

... in the late Sixties Len Casley bought the property that would become Hutt River. He and his older sons set about clearing 5,600 hectares and produced 14,700 bushels of wheat — only to discover that, under the then prevailing quota restrictions, the West Australian Wheat Board would pay him for only 10 percent of it. There was no right of appeal, and no compensation offered.

Casley petitioned the state governor, Sir Douglas Kendrew, who refused to intervene. The aggrieved farmer decided on unilateral action, and on April 21 1970 he declared independence from the Australian nation. Having studied the Treason Act of 1495, he had concluded that it was illegal to hinder a de facto prince; he had therefore declared himself Prince of what he called “Hutt River Province” (after the river that ran through his property). The principality has never been recognised in Australia or anywhere else.

[skipping a bit] Today the 20-odd residents of Hutt River are classed as non-residents of Australia by the Australian Taxation Office, which at the same time resists any attempt to turn Hutt River into a base for tax evasion or avoidance schemes. The province levies its own income tax of 0.5 per cent.
According to Australian law, the government had two years to respond to the Casley’s 1970 declaration, which it never did, so although still officially unrecognized, the Principality of Hutt River achieved legal status on April 21, 1972, and has functioned as an independent sovereign nation ever since. They get about 40,000 visitors a year these days.

As you might imagine, the Casley’s actions have inspired others around the world, so much so that they’re considered the “founders” of the micro-secession movement, and almost half of the world’s 70 or so micronations are Australian enclaves.

It also seems to me that Australia has a “let’s not freak out over this” policy towards such things, which I think is wise.

NOTE: Regardless of whether their government is pushing good policies or bad, in fact no matter what life in general throws at them, Australians have a well-known and much-deserved reputation for not freaking out over things. It's part of their national identity. It is unfortunate for the rest of the world that this is not also one of their chief exports.

Closer to home, in 2009 Texas Governor Rick Perry got a lot of flack for saying that Texas had retained the legal right to secede from the United States, as part of the treaty we signed to join.  Even though Perry never actually advocated for secession, the media smelled blood in the water and went crazy, calling him an ignorant idiot among other things, because apparently that whole "Texas has a unique right to secede" thing is something of a myth.

In my eyes, however, this is a very forgivable mistake because when we were kids WE WERE ALL TAUGHT THIS IN SCHOOL. This was taught in public and private schools - I should know, I attended both.  It was considered “common knowledge”.  If it really isn’t true that “we retained the right to secede when we joined”, then it is a mystery to me how that became such a widely believed myth. 

Post-Civil War, in 1869 the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v White – in denial of observable reality – that the State of Texas had never really seceded, because it supposedly had no right to do so.  This is known as “political fiction”.

I would strongly suggest people read Brion McClanahan’s article “Is Secession Legal?” from The American Conservative.  Mr. McClanahan fairly presents the “secession is illegal and here’s why” side of the argument first, citing examples from Texas v. White, up to a letter written by Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in 2006. Then he turns the ship:
These arguments seem like a fairly strong case against secession. Three Supreme Court justices, one famous president, a bloody war, and the language of a modern pledge of allegiance offer conclusive proof that secession, while an entertaining philosophical exercise, has no legal basis. Their various opinions and conclusions, however, all have gaping holes.
He goes to great and delicious lengths to point out the flaws in the various “secession is illegal” arguments, and repeatedly makes a convincing case that (IMHO) both our most basic law, and “higher law” (example: “Sovereignty, in fact, cannot be surrendered at all; it can be delegated, as in the powers granted to the general government in Article I, but never surrendered.”) recognize the right to secession.  It is a long read, but please check it out.

Granted, were Texas ever to secede we would hardly be a “micronation”. In fact, we’d very much be one of the “the powers of the earth” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Ahhhh... That sounds so sweet.

In the meantime, congratulations to the Principality of Hutt River for 41 years of telling an unjust and heavy-handed government that they can just bugger off, and making it stick, and at the same time we offer our belated condolences on the loss of one of your two beloved founding monarchs, the Dame of the Rose of Sharon.

Photo credit: NEWSPIX, via

No comments:

Post a Comment