Govs. Greg Abbott (R) of Texas and Gary Herbert (R) of Utah have about as much control over their destiny today as Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce did in the Pacific Northwest in the 1870s. But a sea change occurs today as Abbott leads Texas and 25 other states to challenge what he has called the "lawless trampling on the Constitution" by President Obama over his executive action on immigration. The rise of the governors to influence is a political phenomenon. As the presidency has been corrupted by populism, the Congress by money and influence peddling, the courts by partisanship, the people turn now to their governors.

In this unique challenge to what is perceived to be federal overreach, they come to see their responsibilities first to their people and places and not to Washington. The states rise again as actual places; cultural, political, natural and even spiritual realms, instead of simply economic zones; borderless, fenceless space formed to the arbitrary will and whim of centralized government.

Several years ago, Parag Khanna, a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, wrote a prescient op-ed in The New York Times, "The End of The Nation State," citing a United States National Intelligence Council's report on how the world will look a generation from now:

One scenario, "Nonstate World," imagined a planet in which urbanization, technology and capital accumulation had brought about a landscape where governments had given up on real reforms and had subcontracted many responsibilities to outside parties, which then set up enclaves operating under their own laws. These aren't states; they're "para-states" — or, in one common parlance, "special economic zones."

But America is already a centrally planned and executed realm of "para-states" and "special economic zones." Was it not intended from the first?

Historian Frank Owsley wrote in his classic essay, "The Irrepressible Conflict":

In the beginning of Washington's administration two men defined the fundamental principles of the political philosophy of the two societies, Alexander Hamilton for the North and Jefferson for the South. The one was extreme centralization, the other was extreme decentralization; the one was nationalistic and the other provincial; the first was called Federalism, the other States['] Rights, but in truth the first should have been called Unitarianism and the second Federalism.

Obama, addressing the governors' challenge in his essay yesterday in The Hill, speaks on behalf of Hamilton. The governors speak on behalf of Jefferson. This might be seen as a new political era rising; in Owsley's terms, a rising era of Jefferson.

There is stunning innocence today in those who make the claim that if Detroit were only filled with new immigrants from here, there and everywhere, it would blossom like a lotus. Just as the great European migration to the Northeast did in the 1830s. It absurdly suggests that the Industrial Revolution occurred spontaneously because the Europeans arrived. It was obviously the other way around. The laborers were brought out of necessity with as little sentiment as was coal brought by the trainload; to fire and fill the factories under horrific conditions and to fight wars on a grand scale.

We face an auspicious age ahead in America because in the states and regions, citizens and their governors are able and willing to visualize and create their own destinies as Jefferson intended. The Indian wars are over, the West is vibrant with life, liberty and commerce. It is time for governors to take responsibility, as Abbott and his colleagues are doing, as Jefferson intended.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at