Liberals, Conservatives, & The Origin and Evolution of Political Parties

How many of you, (and be honest), when you go to vote know little to nothing about the candidates you are casting your vote for? How many of you just look to see if there is an R or a D next to their name and vote for the candidates belonging to the same political party you do? Is that a fair assessment of how extensively you check a candidate out before electing them to office? Although there probably are exceptions to this rule, I would bet that this is how most people vote. Sure, there may be some who watch the campaign ads and the debates to help them formulate an opinion among candidates of the same party, but I would venture to guess that there are very few who do any kind of extensive research on candidates from the ‘other’ party, or their own party for that matter.

So basically what we have in America is a voting populace who votes not for individual character traits, but a people who cast their votes based primarily upon which party a candidate belongs to. I call this party over principle as what party the candidate belongs to is more important than what the candidate stands for.

Most people in this country choose a political party to affiliate with because the party they choose stands for the beliefs that they themselves hold. There are times, however, when your political party endorses a candidate who you feel is not the best choice, but is better than the candidate being endorsed by the ‘other’ party. So you vote for this candidate because he/she is the lesser of two evils. For some reason this soothes any guilt you may feel about voting for a candidate you feel has some issues you don’t entirely agree with.

But what if there were another candidate, one who did not belong to either of the two main political parties, who did stand for almost everything you believed in, would you vote for them? I doubt it. I got into a heated discussion with a former friend, (yes he stopped being friends with me because of this), about this very issue. It happened when Ron Paul was running. If you took all the qualities you believe in and put them in a list down the side, then put your candidate and Ron Paul’s name at the top, then went down the list and put checkmarks for which candidate stood for the same things you do, and found that Ron Paul scored higher than your candidate, would you vote for them? Again, I doubt it. I asked my friend to do this with Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Ron Paul outscored Mitt Romney…by a long shot. But in one area my ex-friend disagreed. So he refused to vote for Congressman Paul even though he stood for far more things that he agreed with than did Romney. I called him a traitor to his beliefs…and that was the end of our friendship of 20 years. I could have been more tactful, or held my tongue, but I call it as I see it, and he didn’t like it.

Whenever we have a presidential election the news media has a field day with their teams of political experts analyzing the outcomes in real time. So I’m sure we’ve all seen the maps with the states colored red or blue based upon how that state traditionally votes, or is currently trending. It’s all based upon party affiliation, or at least which party a state is showing its support for at the present time. So what it boils down to is Americans vote for either Republicans, or Democrats, or conservatives and liberals.

I hear those two words tossed around a whole lot, conservative and liberal, and I have to wonder if people really understand what they mean. From what I’ve seen most people think conservative equals Republican and liberal equals Democrat. But, is that really the case? What is a conservative and what is a liberal?

According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary a conservative is a person who believes in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society, one who does not like or accept changes or new ideas. A liberal, on the other hand, believes that government should be active in supporting social and political change, one who is not opposed to new ideas and does not necessarily conform to tradition or commonly accepted values and beliefs. So basically, at least according to the dictionaries definitions, a conservative likes things the way they are and a liberal doesn’t, and wants to implement change.

If you can be honest with yourself, and use the values of the Founding Fathers as your baseline reference, then both parties are guilty of being liberals, as neither one adheres to the values held by our Founding Fathers. To be honest, at least the Democrats have the courage to admit where they stand. The Republicans on the other hand call themselves conservatives, but they are far from what I consider to be conservative when it comes to adhering to the Constitution and defending the Bill of Rights.

Just to show you what I mean about conservatism and liberalism, let’s play a simple game. Pretend that instead of it being 2015, it is 1776 right now. Who would you consider to be the conservatives, and who would you consider to be the liberals? Conservatives, being the ones who dislike change, would be the loyalists who wished to see the colonies continue to remain under British rule. The liberals, on the other hand, would be the ones whose beliefs differed from the status quo and wanted to bring about radical change.

The reason I bring this up is because liberalism and conservatism are not political parties, they are states of mind in regards to one thing, and one thing only…how much change they are willing to accept. A true conservative wants to see very little change, while a liberal is all about change.

Political parties, especially the Republicans and Democrats are not about change per se, they each have stated platforms of beliefs they adhere to. Those platforms are subject to change as the times demand. For instance, if you were to go back 25 years and look at the platform of the GOP, or Republicans, I’m sure you would find no mention of defending the Homeland against terrorism. However, that is a major talking point of most GOP candidates now. It has become part of their platform.

People today consider themselves to be either conservative in their beliefs, or liberal. They choose the political party which they believe stands for the same things they do. But in reality, at least how I see the political parties today, they stand for something entirely different.
If you ask me I consider what we call liberals to be more like Marxist/Socialists who believe in equality for all regardless of merit, and who believe in a redistribution of wealth; taking from those who have and giving to those in need. I like to say that liberals have the Robin Hood syndrome, they take from the rich and give to the poor. Those who profess to be liberals often do so because they support a specific cause. In that aspect liberalism can be the umbrella which covers a wide range of people with different beliefs. Some may support gay rights, while others may be environmentalists. But those who affiliate themselves with the Democratic party, the party which openly admits to being liberal, often do so because of a specific cause that they feel strongly about. Liberalism covers all these groups that believe they are entitled to something, or feel disenfranchised by the system, and promise that they will use the power of government to take care of their needs, or benefit their cause.

Conservatives on the other hand, although claiming to stand for traditional values and beliefs, are more akin to Fascists. Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator during World War II once proclaimed that “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Today conservatives, or at least the GOP itself, is more the party of big business and corporate special interest groups. In a speech delivered back in 2000 George W. Bush declared, “This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base.” That right there sums up what conservatism, as far as political party ideologies, stands for in America today. While I am all for the rich being entitled to keep what they own without unfair taxation upon them, what I am trying to get at is that the GOP considers them to be their base, while the average Tom, Dick and Jane American have no party which represents them, and more importantly, there is no true political party, or power, that stands for a strict adherence to Constitutional principles. That is the point I was trying to make.

Whatever your personal beliefs are you cannot deny that our country is pretty divided along political party lines. I’ll bet you didn’t know that our Founders were not too fond of the idea of political parties, or factions as they often called them.

In fact, in 1789 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I am not a Federalist, because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

John Adams is also quoted as saying, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

So if they were so against political parties, how did these parties come into existence, and how have they evolved over the course of our nation’s history? If you think about it there were factions before George Washington was sworn in as our first president under the new Constitution. There were those who believe that the Constitution was inherently good, and it was what this country needed. These were known as Federalists. Then there were those who believed the Constitution went too far and granted this federal government far too much power at the expense of the states and of the rights of the people. These were known as the anti-Federalists. Not very catchy names, but they summed up the views that divided them.

But the truth as to where political parties came from you have to go back to the Washington administration and look primarily at two men; Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson served as President Washington’s Secretary of State, while Alexander Hamilton was his Secretary of the Treasury. The difference of views and the political battles these two men fought are the stuff of legend, at least it is if you are as interested in this kind of thing as I am.

Both men grew up under different circumstances and served in different capacities during the American Revolution. Their life experiences and education shaped their views on politics and political power. Jefferson believed in a weak federal government with limited powers while Hamilton believed in a much stronger federal power with little to no power retained by the states. This rivalry, and difference of opinion gave birth to the first political parties in this country. There were the Federalists who sided with Hamilton, and the Democratic-Republicans who sided with Jefferson and James Madison. There major differences were the scope of powers granted government by the Constitution, not the ideological differences that divide the two parties today.

Then in 1829 the Democratic-Republicans split into two camps. There were the Jacksonian Democrats who are the forerunners to today’s Democrats, and there where the Whigs. The Jacksonian’s believed in a strong executive, (president), while the Whigs favored a strong Congress. The Whigs eventually came apart due to the deaths among their party leadership and a division over the issue of slavery.
From this point forward there were basically two different parties and two, constantly shifting, ideologies. There were the Republicans and Democrats and although the names have continued up to present times, the things they have stood for have evolved.

The big difference now is that neither party stands for limited government as did the original Democratic-Republicans. Both parties see government as a means to further the goals, or agendas of the special interests that their party represents.

The party machinery that are the Republican and Democratic Parties themselves act as filters and weed out anyone who does not adhere strictly to the party platform. That is why when Ron Paul ran he had to do so from a grassroots level, even though he was running as a Republican. The party itself refused to endorse, or back him due to his belies differing from those of the people who fund the GOP. In short he was a threat to the interests of the base that George Bush spoke of.

That is the major difference between most Americans, and the few I consider to be friends and allies in the battle against the increasing size of, and intrusion into my life of, government. We vote for principle as it pertains to adhering to the limits of power contained within the Constitution. Everyone else votes along party lines and the differing ideologies that they have.

The sad thing is that if you really took the time to dig in to who funds the parties, you would find that both parties are controlled by the same group of people. A perfect example of what I’m trying to say is that TV commercial for Twix candy bars. They show the right Twix camp and the left Twix camp, each saying their side is better. But in reality they are both owned and manufactured the same. So it is with political parties in America today. They may present themselves as being different, but on major issues they are in lock step with each other. If their truly was any difference you would see one party, (when it controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency) repealing legislation passed by the other party when it held the reins of power. But you don’t see that because in regards to the important issues to those who really control our government, they are both the same.

George Carlin said it best when he spoke of a big club that we aren’t members of. They give us the illusion of choice when in reality we are choosing from two clowns working for the same puppet masters. That is why I no longer affiliate myself with either party. I realize that they are just puppets for the corporate and banking interests that run things from behind the scenes in America. If everyone else could just see this then maybe we could begin to affect change in America, change for the better. But as long as you believe that ‘your party’ is better than the other one, things will continue to erode in this country.

You can call yourselves Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, but if you support either party you are falling for a lie. The only true party you should belong to is the INFORMED party. The party of people who have seen behind the curtain, looked beyond all the smoke and mirrors, and seen the truth for what it is. If you belong to any other party you may as well walk into the voting booth and flip a coin, because regardless of whether you get heads or tails, you still end up with the same face value of that coin. The same thing applies when you vote for an R or a D, you still get the same face value in matters of importance.

In short I’m asking people to pull their heads out of their asses, and I know from experience that it simply isn’t going to happen. So go on, believing your lie if it makes you feel comfortable. But know this, it is a lie and when the truth is finally revealed you will sorely wish that you had listened to people like me.

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What Else Can I Say (To A People Who Don’t Care)

Moments after being sworn in as the first president of these States United under the new Constitution, George Washington stated, “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” I’m going to be blunt, does that mean anything at all to you, or as Andy Dufresne asks the warden in The Shawshank Redemption, “Are you obtuse?” In case you’re not aware, obtuse means slow to understand something.

For nearly two decades now I have been writing these little missives, [articles], and I have yet to see that they have had any real affect on the way people think. I don’t do this for pleasure, and I certainly am not profiting from it. I do it because for some reason I am able to see beyond the lies that I have been told by everyone from my school teachers to the news media and our elected public servants. For some reason I have been blessed, or cursed depending upon how you look at it, with the ability to think for myself. I can listen to a news broadcast, or a speech delivered by some two bit hack politician, and detect the lies and bullshit that others readily accept as truth, without ever stopping to think about it.

I also do this because, even though our country is in a shitty state right now, I still love it. I write these missives because, aside from a few others I know, most people can’t see the end result of their ignorance and apathy when it comes to how much power they allow their government to amass, and the resulting loss of their rights and liberty. I write these missives, repeating the same basic premises over and over, trying different approaches, in the hopes of rekindling that spirit of resistance to tyranny that led our Founders to seek independence from England and establish a system of government which would best prevent that same tyranny from ever happening here in America.

So far I have been unsuccessful in achieving my goal. I don’t know, is it me, or are the people of this country truly that apathetic and brain dead that they cannot comprehend the basic principles upon which this republic was founded? I could honestly care less about what you do with your personal time. If you want to plant tulips, read fiction novels, or spend your time watching television, that is perfectly acceptable to me. What I cannot understand is how whatever it is you do with your spare time can take precedence over the future of your country, and more importantly, the erosion of your liberty. That is unfathomable to me.

In drafting our Constitution the delegates who attended the convention in Philadelphia had to struggle with two things. First they had to create a system that was strong enough to overcome the faults within the Articles of Confederation. Then they had to find a way to protect the rights of the States, and of the people.

That right there is where most people in this country get it wrong. Most people believe that the purpose for government is to do things for them, to provide things for them, when in truth the reason government exists is to manage the general affairs of the nation, while protecting our rights and leaving us alone to improve our lot in life.

In a speech delivered to the Virginia Convention in December of 1829, James Madison stated, “It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated.”

So, how to create a system which overcame the flaws in the Articles of Confederation, and served the purpose which Madison referred to above? It was no easy task the intricate balance of powers, the checks each branch placed upon the others to ensure no one branch obtained too much power. Yet for the system to work as designed it was essential that the people be knowledgeable about it. As Madison would say in Federalist 51, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” Yet today, right here and now in America, people are less concerned with how well their government is protecting their rights in comparison to how many benefits it is providing for them.

In 1788 and 1789 the legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia adopted resolutions in response to President Adams signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts which they felt were a direct violation of the powers granted government by the Constitution. In Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Kentucky Resolution he states, “Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force…” (my emphasis)

Jefferson went on to say, “…the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers…” Think about that. The government created by this compact, [the Constitution], was not the final judge of the powers delegated to itself. This includes those black robed thieves, otherwise known as the Supreme Court, who have legislated from the bench to dictate what laws are constitutional, and what rights we may enjoy, and to what extent.

Well then, if the government is not the final judge of the powers granted it, who is? Why, that would be the unspoken of fourth branch of government…the people. It all ties back in to what Washington said, that the experiment was entrusted to us. It was our job to remain informed regarding how our system was supposed to function, it was our job to ensure that only honest and virtuous people were elected to office, and yes, it was our job to stand up and disobey laws which we felt violated the Constitution. For our system to function efficiently it was up to the people. That is why Jefferson, in his Notes on Virginia, said the following about government, ” It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.” It is why nearly 50 years later he would write, “Time indeed changes manners and notions, and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them. But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this it is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible.” It is why James Madison would state at the Ratifying Convention in Virginia, “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks — no form of government can render us secure. To suppose liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”

It was up to us to keep our government in line, to ensure that our liberties were passed on from generation to generation. And you know what? We fucked up. It didn’t happen all at once, that would have been too obvious, too much for the people to accept, and would have led to revolt. Instead it happened a bit at a time, a little whittling away at our rights here, a little expansion of governmental powers there. But it has been consistent and steady since at least as far back as the Civil War, probably even further back than that.

In a speech given in 1788 James Madison declared, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Years earlier, in his Summary View of the Rights of British America, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers (administrators) too plainly proves a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing us to slavery.”

These gradual and silent encroachments have been going on for so long that we have become accustomed to them and consider them to be business as usual from our government. But that does not make them right. If you would only read what the Founders said about the powers granted government, read the Federalist Papers where they describe this system, and the anti-Federalist Papers where men opposed to the system describe how they feared it would turn out, you may learn something and realized that you have been duped, led like a fool to your own destruction.

For instance, anti-Federalist known as Brutus wrote the following in 1788, “I can scarcely contemplate a greater calamity that could befall this nation, than to be loaded with a debt exceeding their ability ever to discharge.” That means that his greatest fear was that our country might one day end up so deep in debt that we could never hope to repay it. How close does that sound to our current situation when we have an $18 trillion debt, which is $2 trillion more than the Gross Domestic Product of the United States? That means we owe more in debt than this entire country is worth!

It sounds like Brutus’s worst fear has come true. Add to the unsustainable borrowing and spending that our government is doing, the fact that our rights and our liberties are being stripped from us in the name of public safety or the war on terror, and very little remains of the republic that our Founders created over 200 years ago.

How many laws has our government passed which penalize us for doing things they say we should not do? In 1782 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” While this was in reference to laws requiring, or restricting religious beliefs, the first part of the quote is also worth paying attention to; The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others. Does my not wearing a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet hurt anyone? How many laws can you count that you can be penalized for violating, yet hurt no one if you do?

Consider this as well, in 1785 James Madison wrote, “The preservation of a free government requires, not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained, but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great barrier which defends the rights of the people.” Yet government continues to pass laws that do just that, overlap the barrier which defends our rights. Gun control laws, TSA searches of our persons at airports, NSA surveillance of our communications. I could go on and on, but the government no longer protects our rights, it violates them.

And we allow this because?

Samuel Adams once said, “If the liberties of America are ever compleatly ruined, of which in my opinion there is now the utmost danger, it will in all probability be the consequence of a mistaken notion of prudence, which leads men to acquiesce in measures of the most destructive tendency for the sake of present ease.”

Adams completed his quote by saying, “The tragedy of American freedom, it is to be feared, is nearly compleated. A tyranny seems to be at the very door. It is to little purpose, then, to go about coolly to rehearse the gradual steps that have been taken, the means that have been used, and the instruments employed to encompass the ruin of the public liberty. We know them and we detest them. But what will this avail, if we have not courage and resolution to prevent the completion of their system?”

Although he was speaking of the ruin of public liberty by laws enacted by Parliament and the Crown, he may as well have been talking about America today where we allow our rights to be trampled upon in the name of safety, and our government to expand its scope of powers for the general welfare of the people.

History does repeat itself, and if you were capable of opening your eyes to it you would see it happening right here, right now, in the land of the free. But you are too unwilling to spend the time needed to educate yourself, and to then apply what you have learned in the selection of men and women to represent you. You hold on to the failed two party paradigm that we must accept either a Democrat or a Republican and that any other choice is a choice for the other guy.

Not standing up for what is right is the corruption of principles which Jefferson warned us about. We have been misled into believing that we have a choice between conservatives and liberals and that is all we have. When the truth is that although the two parties may sound different, upon closer examination you would see that both parties are guilty of expanding government and diminishing your rights.

But this is all information I have spoken of before, and nobody seems to be able to get it. So I ask, what the hell am I doing trying to inform a people who no longer care? Am I wasting my time and efforts? I’m not saying I intend to give up on my country, that is far from the case. I am saying that I am giving up on the America people ever caring enough to do what needs to be done to change the course this country is on.

I will write, or speak, until my dying breath. I am just not holding said breath until the people understand what I have been trying to tell them. From what I can see, that is what is known as a lost cause. I will continue to feel this way until you, the people of this country, prove otherwise, until you prove to me that you finally get it and realize that our system isn’t broken, it is just that you have asked too much from the people you elect and it is your fault that it no longer functions as it was supposed to.

In closing I would like to leave you with the following quote by Samuel Adams, “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”

And if you don’t know what infamy means, it means disgrace. So, if you choose to remain uninformed, ignorant and apathetic, the resulting collapse of our nation will bring disgrace to you. I have tried to warn you, but you would not listen. So don’t come crying to me when it all falls apart and you are seeking someone to blame. I would ask that when that day does come you find the closest mirror and take a look at the person responsible.

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You Don’t Want To Be Labeled A Hypocrite, Do You? (My Thoughts on the protests against American Sniper)

Although I cannot find anything on their website either confirming or denying it, I have been reading that the Coalition To Stop Gun Violence is up in arms over the film American Sniper, the Chris Kyle story. From what I’ve been reading the CSGV has even set up a Facebook page for its followers to post their comments on the subject. Again, I could not find it for myself just to see what people have been saying. It wouldn’t surprise me though, if it were all true. The rabid hatred of guns and gun owners by some people has given me ample enough reason to believe that they are capable of something like this.

However, from all that I have read regarding this issue there has been no comment as to the reason they are targeting this film for protest. Is it because Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper in the film, is a war hero with the most confirmed kills of any American sniper? Or is it simply because the film’s title has to do with guns? One can only imagine what their reasoning is, but since there is no real data available as to why, I would like to make a few comments regarding what may have been their reasons.

If the CSGV is targeting this particular film because they are against the war where Chris Kyle served, than they are truly misguided. Chris Kyle did not declare war on Iraq, he merely served his country during the war. Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper did not invade Iraq, they merely made a film about one person who served over there with honor. I don’t think this is the reason why there is such a fuss about this particular film, but I had to address the possibility that it was.

Could it be that those protesting this film are against the idea of one man having the power of life and death, and taking the lives of so many people? This is a bit more feasible, but I still don’t think it is the real reason. Snipers are a part of military culture. Going back to the Revolutionary War sharpshooters were selected to pick off high value targets such as British Officers. As military hardware evolved so did the sharpshooters, who became known as snipers. They required specialized training in the skills needed to hit a target up to a mile away. We use snipers and our enemies use them too; they are a part of war and if these protesters are targeting this film because Chris Kyle was a sniper, then they should also be aware that he is not the only one who has that for a particular skill set.

I think it is more likely that they are upset at his effectiveness as a sniper, having 160 confirmed kills with a possible total reaching as high as 260. Is it a crime to be good at what you do? Is it a crime to do your job in combat, which in Kyle’s case was to protect those combat soldiers and marines who were endangered by enemy insurgents? People who have never experienced the horror of war have no right to condemn the actions taken by those who have. In war you often do not know who your enemy is and if a 12 yr old boy, or girl, picks up a rifle and aims it at your comrades you have to make a choice, does that person pose a threat to them, or are they just an innocent who happened to pick up that rifle? I have read Chris Kyle’s book, which was the foundation for the movie, and he says that every shot he took he can justify. That is, every shot he took he did so because he believed that it was to save American lives.

So again, I ask, is it a crime, or a sin, to be good at what you have been trained to do? If these protesters are targeting this film for the reason that Kyle was an effective sniper, then I believe the protesters may be losers who hate anyone who is good at what they do, be it chef, an engineer, or, in this case, a sniper.

I think those protesting this film are doing so for a whole bunch of reasons combined. I think they are misguided, and since this film is about a gun who is good with a rifle, and since they hate guns of all kinds, they decided to protest this film.

But the film is not just about Chris Kyle’s time in Iraq killing enemy insurgents. I would bet that most of the people protesting this film have not seen it, nor have they read the book. If they had they might realize it is more about his story and, more importantly, a tribute to his fallen friends who died in the wars that our government started.

It is of no importance how I personally feel about the war, Chris Kyle did what he was asked to do and he did it honorably. If honor and distinguished service are things which offend people these days then this country is in far worse shape than I ever thought.

And, if these protests are about people who truly despise guns, then I would ask them to do me one favor; the next time they find themselves in a situation where their lives, or property, are in danger, do not call a policeman to come protect you. Call your priest instead. If you hate guns that much then don’t call someone who has one to come protect you if you feel threatened. That, my friends, is the very definition of hypocrisy, and you don’t want to be labeled a hypocrite, do you?

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We Are Not Your Enemy

The First Amendment protects, among other things, the freedom of speech. It does not demand that you speak, it only protects your right to do so. It does not require that you obtain a permit to speak nor does it require that you register your speech with the government. It also does not limit how many words you can use when you speak, or write an article or book. Free speech cannot be restricted simply because another takes offense at what you say. However there are some common sense rules that one should apply when exercising their right to speak freely. For instance, one should not burst out with a sudden inspired oration during church or while in a movie theater as it would disturb the others in attendance. One should not speak falsely about the character or actions of another as that is slander or libel. But other than that, free speech is just that…free and unlimited.

Why is it then that people will stand up for their right to speak freely, but then turn around and be so eager to see the right to keep and bear arms slowly but surely taken from them? Before you answer it must be understood that those who wrote our Constitution, and those who demanded that a Bill of Rights be included, were very conscious of the importance of the things they were including in those documents.
You have the right to eat, the right to breathe, the right to wear clothes to keep you warm…so why didn’t the Founders include those rights as well in the Bill of Rights? They didn’t because they were commonly accepted as being among our natural rights as human beings. The rights they did include in the Bill of Rights were those that were also amongst our natural rights, but were those which may be subject to violation by those who would seek to tyrannize and oppress a people. Our Founders included those rights because they were not necessary for our sustenance, but for the survival of our liberty.

So again, why is it that so many of you are so eager to see more and more limitations imposed upon the right of people such as myself to keep and bear arms?

I do not claim to be a lawyer or an expert on the law…not as it has been written by men anyway. There are simply too many subcategories of law for me to even begin to understand them all. Have you ever had occasion to visit a lawyer’s office? I have. I once had to get some legal documents prepared for my wife so her father could come to the U.S. from the Philippines. When I was in his office I saw entire bookshelves filled with bound volumes of law books. I asked him if they were all the law books ever printed, to which he said, no, they were just the ones for civil law.

You see, there is civil law, criminal law, business law, maritime law, international law, etc, etc. To become acquainted with all the laws ever written would take ten lifetimes and even then new laws are constantly being written or old laws are amended and updated. So, understanding every law is something nobody is really capable of.

With that being said, there is something you really ought to consider. In February of 1788 Federalist No. 62, written by James Madison was published in New York. In it Madison wrote, “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what is will be tomorrow.”
How can a person be expected to abide by the law when the laws being written are so complicated you cannot make heads or tails out of them? How can a person be expected to abide by the law when they are constantly being amended or updated? And more importantly, how can you be sure that the laws are even legal if you don’t understand the nature and purpose for which laws were to be written? If you don’t understand that, how can you even know that by certain laws being written the lawmakers themselves are not guilty of violating a fundamental law?

This is no more important than when it comes to laws being written which restrict a person’s right to keep and bear arms. Gun control laws, as you are fond of calling them, are not written based upon a legal right to limit, or restrict, ownership of guns. Instead they are written because of an emotional desire to control crime and provide you with a measure of safety in your lives. They are knee jerk reactions to a specific event in the hope that by passing a ‘new’ law that you will prevent another tragedy from occurring which takes the lives of innocent people.

You either stand for freedom, or you do not. If you say you believe in freedom then a person has the right to say whatever they want, wear whatever clothing they want, eat whatever they want, and own whatever type of firearm they want. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that a person can eat, wear, listen to, or say whatever they want, but they cannot own this, or that, type of gun. As Jefferson said in our Declaration of Independence, government is instituted to protect our rights…all of them.

There are many forms which government may take, but ours is unique in that it was a system where the ultimate power and authority lay with the people, who elect representatives to act in their behalf, while being limited by a written law; a constitution.

When I speak of the Constitution I can almost picture people thinking about that piece of parchment on display at the National Archives in Washington D.C. People view the Constitution more as a historical relic than an actual law which is binding upon us all. People pick and choose which parts of it they want to be relevant in their lives and disregard those that they do not like. But we cannot do that; either we have a Constitution and every clause in it is binding, or we don’t. If we don’t, then our government ceases to have any authority over us because it only exists because the Constitution created it.

In 1791 Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet entitled The Rights of Man. In it he describes what a constitution is, “A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal, but a real existence; and wherever it cannot be produced in a visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the creature of a constitution. The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting its government. It is the body of elements, to which you can refer, and quote article by article; and which contains the principles on which the government shall be established, the manner in which it shall be organised, the powers it shall have, the mode of elections, the duration of Parliaments, or by what other name such bodies may be called; the powers which the executive part of the government shall have; and in fine, everything that relates to the complete organisation of a civil government, and the principles on which it shall act, and by which it shall be bound. A constitution, therefore, is to a government what the laws made afterwards by that government are to a court of judicature. The court of judicature does not make the laws, neither can it alter them; it only acts in conformity to the laws made: and the government is in like manner governed by the constitution.”

Do you understand that, that our Constitution is, in fact, a law? In 1866 the United States Supreme Court clearly stated, “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances.”

What is law, and the purpose for which laws are instituted? In 1850 noted Frenchman Frederic Bastiat wrote “What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.” But he didn’t stop there, continued by saying, “Each of us has a natural right—from God—to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?

If every person has the right to defend—even by force—his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right—its reason for existing, its lawfulness—is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force—for the same reason—cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.”

That is very similar to the writings of John Locke whose Second Treatise was a big influence on many of our Founding Fathers. All these men, Bastiat, Locke, and our Founders, all believed in the right of self-defense and that government was created to protect that right, and as Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, “…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Our Founders hoped that our Constitution would survive the ages, that its balances of power, the checks each branch held over the power of the others, and the rights it protects in the Bill of Rights would be enough to ensure a lasting form of republican government. It would, only if people understood it, and held those they elect to the limits it imposes upon them.

Whether you understand the Constitution or you don’t, whether our elected representatives understand it, or they don’t, the fact remains that it is still the law and therefore if we violate it, or allow it to be violated by our agents, we are criminals, or at the least accomplices to a crime. It matters little whether your intentions be good, you are guilty of breaking the Supreme Law of the Land if you ask that any of its clauses by violated, or any of our rights be restricted.

Article 6 of the Constitution clearly states that “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

Article 5 states, “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States.”

Article 4 Section 2 states, “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”
Therefore, if the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, and therefore, if an amendment is duly ratified by the states and becomes part and parcel of the Constitution, it also becomes the law of the land. Finally, if, as it says in Article 4, that the citizens of all states shall enjoy the same privileges and immunities, do you for a minute believe that a right which is protected by Constitutional amendment should not be equally enjoyed by the citizens of every state? How then can you explain the various laws which some states enact upon gun owners while other states have no such restrictions? Does that sound like it is equal among all the citizens to you?

There are laws in my home state that prohibit me from owning magazines of a certain capacity that people in the neighboring state of Nevada do not have. There are certain firearms that were I to live in Texas I could purchase, but being as I live in California they are considered illegal. Some states allow for open carry, while my state does not. I ask, is this equality? And I haven’t even begun to discuss the myriad laws which say under what circumstances people can use firearms in their own defense, and the criminal charges that will be brought against them if they do. Again, where is the equality in all these different laws?

The Second Amendment only states that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. It makes no mention of what type of arms, nor does it place limitations upon a person’s right to carry an arm on his person for self-defense. It makes no mention of requiring that firearms be registered, nor does it say that you need a permit to ‘bear’ one. As I asked earlier, do you need a permit to speak in public? If not, then why do I need a permit to carry a gun? After all a right is a right is a right…if the Bill of Rights does not state that a permit is required, THEN NO PERMIT IS REQUIRED!

Permits, registration of firearms, limits upon what type, caliber, or magazine capacity are all laws passed by government, often at the request of a panicked citizenry after a shooting, to make the people feel safer. Yet they are all unconstitutional infringements upon a right. In the landmark case of Miranda v Arizona the Court ruled, “Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them.” This applies equally across the board to all our rights.

In 1943 the Supreme Court heard the case of West Virginia Board of Education vs Barnette. In the Court’s opinion Justice Robert Jackson declared, “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

According to that you cannot vote upon the elimination or restriction of a right. Our legislators cannot pass legislation which even touches our ability to exercise a right. And the courts are required to apply those Constitutionally protected rights, not attempt to interpret to what extent the people can exercise them. So when it says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, it does not mean that the courts can interpret that to mean only under certain circumstances, and with certain limitations placed upon it. Shall not be infringed means exactly what is says, which is do not attempt to interpret, or limit it!

Yet there are people in this country who want to see it come to pass that no private citizen may own a firearm. In a document signed by former secretary of HUD Henry Cisneros, and Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, they clearly state their goal, “There is little sense in gun registration. What we need to significantly enhance public safety is domestic disarmament . . . . Domestic disarmament entails the removal of arms from private hands…”

These people realized that to accomplish that goal they could not just pass a law which required all guns be surrendered to the government, although that is what they would have liked to have done. No, they needed to pass a little law here, a little law there, until it becomes almost impossible for a private citizen to own firearms. In an article published in the New York Times in 1993 it states, “Gun violence won’t be cured by one set of laws. It will require years of partial measures that will gradually tighten the requirements for gun ownership, and incrementally change expectations about the firepower that should be available to ordinary citizens.”

Notice that they do not say the disarmament of the people, they cloak their goal under the guise of eliminating gun violence. That is something everyone can agree upon and support, the elimination of unnecessary deaths caused by the misuse and abuse of firearms. But to punish those who have done no wrong, to restrict their ability to freely exercise a right because others are not as responsible as we are is wrong, and it is unconstitutional. Can I demand that your freedom of speech be taken from you because you have not taken the time to research a subject, or because you are an idiot? No, I can’t. Neither can you demand that a law be passed which violates my rights because someone else abuses theirs. Each person should be judged according to their actions, not the actions of others.

Passing new gun laws will not solve crime. Just look at the following example. Chicago and Houston Texas are similar in size, in racial makeup and population. Yet Chicago has very strict gun laws and Houston does not. If gun laws worked then you would think Chicago would be a much safer city. It is not. Crime is higher across the board and deaths caused by guns are as well. The fact is that criminals prey upon the defenseless. If you take away a person’s right, their ability, to defend themselves then America will become a haven for those who prey upon the defenseless.

It does not matter how many gun laws are passed there will always be those who are violent by nature and who will not adhere to the law no matter how harsh the punishment. Would you see all responsible gun owners punished because of a few bad apples? Responsible gun owners view the taking of a human life as an act of last resort. But we also believe that it is right to do so if our lives, our property, or our liberty is threatened.

Unlike most Americans, most of the gun owners I know are educated as to why the Founders included the Second Amendment among those submitted which eventually became the Bill of Rights. It was not to hunt, nor was it to protect our homes against crime, although these are secondary benefits which the right to keep and bear arms provides. No, the right to keep and bear arms is a failsafe, a last resort should our Constitution fail and the people need the ability to defend themselves against tyranny, it is the one right put in place which allows for the defense of all the others.

To say that we should not be allowed to have high capacity magazines, so-called assault rifles, short barreled shotguns, and all the other limitations gun control laws place upon us defeats the purpose of the Second Amendment.

Had the British had automatic weapons…had the South had automatic weapons, do you think there might have been a different outcome to the War for Independence and the Civil War? God forbid that another war occur on American soil, but should a rebellion occur how well would one side fare when they are limited to single shot rifles and pistols while the government has access to the latest and most advanced military hardware?

You may not understand these principles as all you are concerned with is making America a safer place for you and your children. That is a noble cause, really. But unfortunately your methods are misguided and faulty. There will always be evil and evil does not care about laws. The best defense is to be prepared for evil and willing to defeat it with the same violence and force that it would bring to you. This is true whether you are talking about the common criminal, or the kind that hold elected office.

You see gun control as a means to reduce crime and make America safer. I see it as a way to make us unable to resist the ever increasing tyranny of government. As noted statesman George Mason once said, “To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them.”
In the year I was born, 1958, the Supreme Court ruled that “The claim and exercise of a constitutional right cannot be converted into a crime.” A decade later, in Walker v Birmingham, the Court also ruled, “The right to defy an unconstitutional statute is basic in our scheme. Even when an ordinance requires a permit to make a speech, to deliver a sermon, to picket, to parade, or to assemble, it need not be honored when it’s invalid on its face.”

Gun control laws, no matter how small and insignificant they may appear, are a direct attack upon a constitutionally protected right… they are criminal acts by those who have sworn an oath to protect those rights by supporting and defending the Constitution.

Whether you see it that way or not is irrelevant, the facts support this point of view. But, let it be known that if you make the claim of being a freedom loving American, then turn around and support any measure which infringes upon my right to keep and bear arms, YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE! And if you are successful in having measures passed which do just that you are either a criminal, or an accomplice, who is guilty of breaking the Supreme Law of the Land and are unworthy of calling yourself an American.

In closing I would like to leave you with two quotes from the Sixteenth American Jurisprudence, an encyclopedia of law and legal maxims. You may not care, but we, the gun owners of America hold these principles to be true, especially as they apply to any efforts to limit our ability to freely exercise our rights.

“The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it.

No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law, and no courts are bound to enforce it.” – Sixteenth American Jurisprudence, Second Edition, Section 256 137, 180

“Since an unconstitutional law is void, the general principles follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority on anyone, affords no protection and justifies no acts performed under it. No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it.” 16 Am Jur 2nd Section 177

Whether you believe it or not, us gun owners are not your enemies, we are the defenders of your rights and liberty. If we are disarmed there will be no one to stand up for you and your rights. The government could then enact whatever laws it wants and you will be unable to stop them. Do you honestly believe that a people unable to resist tyranny could simply vote it out of office? As Patrick Henry once so famously said, “O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?”

Keep these thoughts in mind the next time you consider casting your support behind even stricter gun control laws.

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Am I A Freak of Nature?

I know that I am not alone in feeling the way I do about my country. Unlike magnets where opposites attract, human beings tend to gravitate towards those who share similar beliefs. While it is true that there is strength in numbers, one has to be very careful not to fall into a herd mentality and allow others to think for them. From my own experience that is what sets me, and the friends I have chosen, apart from the vast majority of people in this country…we tend to think for ourselves.

There is a quote that I recently discovered is falsely attributed to Thomas Edison. I have used it myself in my articles, and even though no record exists that Edison ever said it, I believe it to be true nonetheless. The quote is as follows, “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

While I do not consider myself a great thinker, I do like to believe that I think. The quote above appears to insinuate that the majority of people do not think at all. I believe that to be untrue, it is just what they think about is different than what I think about. It is all a matter of priorities and I believe that for most Americans their priorities are not where they should be. Most people are far too concerned with things that entertain them and not those things which expand their knowledge. Like it or not, your brain is much like a muscle, if you don’t use it for what it was intended it tends to get lazy and atrophy.

Maybe that’s one reason why so many people where I work like to read my articles; I am an oddity, someone who, instead of memorizing sports data going back two decades, has spent their time studying American history and politics. I can’t count the times people have told me that they could not remember everything I do about this country’s history, or spend the time I do reading books about our Founding Fathers. People seem to think I am so very smart, but I’m not. I simply care enough to take the time to educate myself. If I were truly smart I would come up with a ‘new’ idea, or be able to find a way to motivate people to spend the time to learn for themselves.

Like I said, it’s all a matter of priorities. English actor Stephen Fry, who has played everything from Mycroft Holmes to Dietrich in V for Vendetta is also an author. In his book The Fry Chronicles he writes, “There are young men and women up and down the land who happily (or unhappily) tell anyone who will listen that they don’t have an academic turn of mind, or that they aren’t lucky enough to have been blessed with a good memory, and yet can recite hundreds of pop lyrics and reel off any amount of information about footballers. Why? Because they are interested in those things. They are curious. If you are hungry for food, you are prepared to hunt high and low for it. If you are hungry for information it is the same. Information is all around us, now more than ever before in human history. You barely have to stir or incommode yourself to find things out. The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.”

Yeah, he is an actor, so what? Does it mean that simply because he is an actor that he is incapable of thinking, of being right? Alexander Hamilton was one of our Founding Fathers. He served alongside George Washington in the War for Independence, both in battle and as Washington’s aide. Hamilton was a bastard child who had no formal education, and although I do not share his views on government, I do admire his intellect. Hamilton once said, “Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have is this. When I have a subject in mind I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it…the effort which I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”

I’m sure some of you have heard the old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I am more inclined to say that you can lead people to information but you can’t make them think. How else can you explain some of the ridiculous beliefs that people hold? They most certainly cannot be attributed to critical thinking.

For instance, many people believe that cops are racist murderers the target the black youths in our cities. Yet these same people believe that only cops should have guns. Other people claim that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, but they believe in a woman’s right to abort a fetus. There are those who cry out about the human rights violations committed by leaders of other country’s yet turn a blind eye to the violations of our freedoms right here in America. Then there are those who say that the leaders of other nations are guilty of meddling in the internal affairs of other foreign lands yet how many countries has the U.S. invaded to remove a dictator to install a democracy whose government is more agreeable to U.S. foreign policy? How can people even hold such contradictory beliefs and then expect them to be taken seriously?

I don’t know if it is due to our educational system that is not teaching our youth to think, or if it is something else. I do know that I don’t see a whole lot of thinking going on. When I was growing up we didn’t have 24 hour a day cartoon channels, 300 cable channels to choose from, video games and cell phones. We either went outside and played, or we buried ourselves in books. My earliest memories from elementary school were of having to do book reports. The teacher would assign a book for us to read and give us a certain amount of time to read it.
Then, upon completion, we would have to write a report on it explaining the story line and our thoughts regarding it. There was no Wikipedia so that we could just plagiarize someone else’s synopsis. We had to think for ourselves.

Maybe that is why, to this day, I still love to read. It may also explain why I, and others from my generation, are able to compare the things our Founding Fathers said about government to the way our government actually is, and see the drastic difference between the two. It may also explain why we are so easily able to see the peril in allowing government to expand its power and regulate and control almost every aspect of our lives. It is also why we protest every infringement upon our rights. You may feel that it is necessary for the public good to sacrifice a little of your freedom to be a bit safer and more secure. We don’t see it that way.

Let’s say your rights are a $10 bill. Something happens and the people cry out that government must do something to prevent things like that from happening again. So the government proposes a law that eliminates $1 worth of your rights. So you now have $9 worth of rights remaining. Then later something else happens and you again call upon government to do something. So they pass another law eliminating another $1 of your rights. This process keeps repeating itself long enough and you won’t have any rights remaining. Is that what you want?
When our Founders spoke of our rights they used words like unalienable, inviolate, absolute. What those words meant is that our rights are untouchable, that no man, no body of men, could take them from us, not even if a majority of the people demanded that they be restricted. Our Founders were so firm in their belief that their rights were sacred and unalienable that they chose to fight to protect them rather than see them slowly taken from them by a tyrant. Are people today so ignorant, so meek and timid, that they would sit back and allow their freedom to be taken from them as long as they have a TV to watch and food to eat?

I really don’t know what I can do or say to get people to care. Maybe it really is a lost cause. All I do know is that I can’t just sit here and watch the country I love turn to shit and not say something about it. Irish statesman and political theorist Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Well I’m not going to remain silent, even if it means that the things I say are in your face offensive. I take more offense at my rights being taken from me than you could ever hope to be offended by the things I may say.

I saw something on Facebook the other day that I would like to share. It was simply a quote that said, “If you could read my mind I’m pretty sure you would be traumatized for life.” I would like to change the wording a bit, “If you could read my mind you would wither under the contempt I feel for you and your lack of concern for the future of this country.”

Out of all our Founding Fathers I admire and respect Thomas Jefferson the most. Yet it is Samuel Adams who provides me with the two quotes that best quantify how I feel at this point in time. The first comes from Adam’s Liberty Letters, written in 1771, “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”

The second comes from an article Adams published advocating for American independence in 1776, “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
You may live in this country, you may vote, pay your taxes and be an upstanding member of your community, but if you don’t hold to the same principles for liberty and freedom that our Founders did I do not consider you a true American. An American would not allow their freedom to be taken from them for any measure of security. An American would not care more for what was on TV than what is going on in their government.

If you want me to consider you an American, then you better begin acting like one. Otherwise I have nothing but contempt for you. Yes, I may sound harsh, but so did Sam Adams when he said may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. There was no middle ground for Adams, and there is none for me.

Maybe mankind has evolved and what is happening in our country is the natural course of things. If that is the case then I truly am a freak of nature, a throwback to times when rights meant more than what was on television, and even more than life itself. That could be why General John Stark of the War for Independence said Live Free or Die. In any case, that is what I consider to be the true measure of what it means to be an American, whether you value your rights and are willing to stand up for them, or if you will allow them to be taken from you by those who have taken a sacred oath to protect them.

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The Civil War Pt. 5

Part 8: Wars End & Reconstruction

From the onset of the Civil War the major battles fought were primarily won by the Confederates, with a few scattered wins for the Union. The momentum was in favor of the South until Gettysburg. Although the total losses suffered by both sides were almost equal, Lee lost a third of his general officers which was a blow that may have played a role in the tide turning towards the Union. Whatever the case may be, things did not go well for the Confederacy after Gettysburg and on April 19, 1865, with his forces surrounded and outnumbered, Lee chose to surrender instead of waste any more lives fighting battles he knew he could not win.

Prior to researching for this I had already known most of that. What I did not know is that prior to the actual surrender Lee and Grant had exchanged a series of letters, with Grant explaining the hopelessness of Lee’s situation, and Lee asking Grant the terms of any surrender. Lee himself may have realized that they were outnumbered and faced total annihilation, but he still had some fighting spirit left in him.
On April 7, 1865 Grant sent Lee a short letter stating, “The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.”

Lee responded by saying, “I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.”

General Grant read Lee’s response and sent the following to Lee in return, “Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon,–namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.”

As these series of letters were being sent back and forth between Grant and Lee fighting was still going on. No one knows whether that weighed heavily upon Lee and influenced his decision to meet with Grant formally for terms of surrender. It is questionable that Lee, at that moment, considered surrendering because his next letter to Grant stated, “I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but, as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia; but as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A.M. to-morrow on the old state road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.”

Lee finally agreed to meet and arrived at Appomattox Court House before Grant. The two generals chit chatted about having met once prior to the onset of current hostilities when Lee asked Grant to put the terms of surrender down on paper. Grant did so and Lee, seeing that they were acceptable, agreed to them.

The terms were as follows, “In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander to sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.”

Lee’s answer was short and to the point, “I received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia, as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.” With those exchanges of paper the war had ended, nearly four years to the day that it had begun, and at a cost of over half a million lives and unimaginable damage to property and they psyche of the people.

Grants terms were relatively simple, put down your guns, stop fighting, obey the laws of the Union and you can go home, live your lives, and we won’t bother you anymore. Unfortunately, that is not how things went. It has been said by some historians that later in life Lee was to say, “Governor, if I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand.” Some claim Lee never said that, while others claim he did. If he didn’t, he may as well had said it, because the way the South was treated after the war was almost as bad as the horrors it suffered from during the war.

In closing I would like to leave you with a few final thoughts. This first quote is something I did not realize, but now makes much sense after much study about the causes given by both the North, and the South for this terrible conflict. I found it on page 440 of my friend Jeff Bennett’s book What God Has Joined, and it states, “The differences in Union verses Confederate principles can be seen in their choice of mottos, Manifest Destiny for the Union and Divine Providence of Almighty God for the Confederacy. Additionally on the United States Great Seal is the motto: E Pluribus Unum, Out of many one, and on the Confederate States Great Seal the motto: Deo Vindice, God will Vindicate. The former being secular and denotes a virtual right to rule, whereas the latter derives from the Confederate People’s belief that God rules in the affairs of men, and we aught to submit to His will in all things.”

Furthermore, Robert E. Lee said something once that I believe to be true, “We did not fight to perpetuate human slavery, but for our rights and privileges under a government established over us by our fathers and in defense of our homes.”

And, in a speech given on April 29, 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis said, “We feel that our cause is just and holy; we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacrifice save that of honor and independence; we ask no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone’ that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms.”

It is said that history is written by the victors. If that is true it is hard to find the real story as to what happened during the years that constituted Reconstruction. History also changes over time. Sometimes, directly after an event the historical records are incomplete, and one-sided. But then, as time passes by, more information is found which paints a clearer picture as to what really happened. Such is the case with Reconstruction.

Most people believe Reconstruction was merely the North’s efforts to get the South back on its feet again after the war. While that may seem honorable and fair, it is not exactly the whole truth. As the Civil War had not been fought to end slavery, and that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had been a wartime measure, when the war ended slavery was still intact as an institution in the South. That all changed in 1865 with the passage and the ratification of the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery. Among those who fought hard to end slavery is one Thaddeus Stevens, a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. Stevens was a part of the radical-Republican Party and a staunch abolitionist.

In December of the year that the war ended Stevens delivered the following speech. I include it in its entirety because it is worth your understanding what many in the North felt about the South. So read what Stevens said, and then I will continue with my thoughts.

“The President assumes, what no one doubts, that the late rebel States have lost their constitutional relations to the Union, and are incapable of representation in Congress, except by permission of the Government. It matters but little, with this admission, whether you call them States out of the Union, and now conquered territories, or assert that because the Constitution forbids them to do what they did do, that they are therefore only dead as to all national and political action, and will remain so until the Government shall breathe into them the breath of life anew and permit them to occupy their former position. In other words, that they are not out of the Union, but are only dead carcasses lying within the Union. In either case, it is very plain that it requires the action of Congress to enable them to form a State government and send representatives to Congress. Nobody, I believe, pretends that with their old constitutions and frames of government they can be permitted to claim their old rights under the Constitution. They have torn their constitutional States into atoms, and built on their foundations fabrics of a totally different character. Dead men cannot raise themselves. Dead States cannot restore their existence “as it was.”

Whose especial duty is it to do it? In whom does the Constitution place the power? Not in the judicial branch of Government, for it only adjudicates and does not prescribe laws. Not in the Executive, for he only executes and cannot make laws. Not in the Commander-in-Chief of the armies, for he can only hold them under military rule until the sovereign legislative power of the conqueror shall give them law. Unless the law of nations is a dead letter, the late war between two acknowledged belligerents severed their original compacts and broke all the ties that bound them together. The future condition of the conquered power depends on the will of the conqueror. They must come in as new states or remain as conquered provinces. Congress . . . is the only power that can act in the matter.

Congress alone can do it. . . . Congress must create States and declare when they are entitled to be represented. Then each House must judge whether the members presenting themselves from a recognized State possess the requisite qualifications of age, residence, and citizenship; and whether the election and returns are according to law. …

It is obvious from all this that the first duty of Congress is to pass a law declaring the condition of these outside or defunct States, and providing proper civil governments for them. Since the conquest they have been governed by martial law. Military rule is necessarily despotic, and ought not to exist longer than is absolutely necessary. As there are no symptoms that the people of these provinces will be prepared to participate in constitutional government for some years, I know of no arrangement so proper for them as territorial governments. There they can learn the principles of freedom and eat the fruit of foul rebellion. Under such governments, while electing members to the territorial Legislatures, they will necessarily mingle with those to whom Congress shall extend the right of suffrage. In Territories Congress fixes the qualifications of electors; and I know of no better place nor better occasion for the conquered rebels and the conqueror to practice justice to all men, and accustom themselves to make and obey equal laws. .

They ought never to be recognized as capable of acting in the Union, or of being counted as valid States, until the Constitution shall have been so amended as to make it what its framers intended; and so as to secure perpetual ascendency to the party of the Union; and so as to render our republican Government firm and stable forever. The first of those amendments is to change the basis of representation among the States from Federal numbers to actual voters. . . . With the basis unchanged the 83 South ern members, with the Democrats that will in the best times be elected from the North, will always give a majority in Congress and in the Electoral college. . . . I need not depict the ruin that would follow. . .

But this is not all that we ought to do before inveterate rebels are invited to participate in our legislation. We have turned, or are about to turn, loose four million slaves without a hut to shelter them or a cent in their pockets. The infernal laws of slavery have prevented them from acquiring an education, understanding the common laws of contract, or of managing the ordinary business of life. This Congress is bound to provide for them until they can take care of themselves. If we do not furnish them with homesteads, and hedge them around with protective laws; if we leave them to the legislation of their late masters, we had better have left them in bondage.

If we fail in this great duty now, when we have the power, we shall deserve and receive the execration of history and of all future ages.”
At points during that speech I could almost sense the animosity felt towards the South. The feeling was probably mutual in most instances. Both sides probably blamed the other for bringing that war upon them and neither wanted to accept responsibility for their sides mistakes.
But something Robert E. Lee said bears mentioning. It seems that one day Lee witnessed a woman who was speaking harshly about the North. Lee chastised her by saying, “Madam, don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States Government. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.” Lee, it seems, wanted to put the war behind them and return to how things were before it ever started.

Much of what happened during the years following the end of the war was the same thing that led the South to leave the Union in the first place. But now with a Republican majority in the Congress, there was little they could do to oppose it. Heavy taxes were once again levied upon the South, placing an even heavier burden upon their crippled economy. Add to that the fact that almost a quarter of all Southern males died during the war, and the destruction of the homes and infrastructure, the South was at the mercy of the North, and from the viewpoint of some historians, the North showed no mercy.

One of the first things Congress did upon the end of the war was to hold sessions and revoke the Articles of Secession issued by the Confederate States, declaring secession to be illegal. Later, in 1869 the Supreme Court would state, as part of its ruling in Texas v White, that secession was, in fact, illegal. With these moves the federal government, an entity created by the people, trampled upon the very principle that led to this nation’s creation back in 1776, that a people have the right to sever ties with a government that becomes destructive of the end for which it was established. The government had become all powerful, almost completely doing away with any state power and authority in the affairs of the federal government. The states had basically become federal territories, much like the original 13 states had once been British colonies, subject to the absolute will of the King.

The North also blackmailed the South by threatening that if they did not ratify the 14th Amendment, they would not be allowed representation in Congress.

During Reconstruction those Southerners who held office, and had been firm proponents of secession, where, for the most part, removed from office by Union military forces who had remained in the South after the war. It is said that to the victor go the spoils, and in this case the North took advantage of that adage. Outnumbered in Congress the South was forced to carry the brunt of subsidies for Northern Railroad interests, amassing $132 million worth of debt. With their crippled economy, which would take almost a century to fully recover, that was adding insult to injury.

Heavy burdens were placed upon an already defeated, and battered South by corrupt politicians who sought to plunder via taxation and land acquisition, what remained of the South’s wealth. One can only imagine how they must have felt, seeing their lands ruined by war, then having the burden of funding the expansion of Northern interests. Is it any wonder that there are still deep seated animosities towards ‘Yankees’, and the federal government among many in the South?

Reconstruction may have gotten the South back on its feet again, but it did so at the profit of those in the North, and would probably had been accomplished much quicker had the North not plundered the South after the war.

The Civil War was a war that did more than kill 620,000 people, it also killed off a belief system and set the stage for an all powerful federal government that believed it had to answer to no one for its actions. Robert E. Lee once stated, “We did not fight to perpetuate human slavery, but for our rights and privileges under a government established over us by our fathers and in defense of our homes.” Those rights and privileges where the real losers of the Civil War, and things have only gotten worse since.

Part 9: Conclusion

Throughout American history there have been certain pivotal points that have set, or altered the course our nation took. The War for Independence was one of them. When our Founders stated that a people had a right to sever the ties that bound them to another and establish a system of government that best suited the needs of the people it was a turning point in history. Never before had a people had that opportunity. Then came the Civil War, where the South wished to exercise what was a commonly held belief, that the right to secede was still a fundamental principle. The federal government, (notice I did not say the North), disagreed. The federal government is an entity created by consent of the states. In some cases it’s authority is superior to that of the states, in others it isn’t. The Constitution makes no mention of the Union being perpetual therefore the states believed, as do I, that they had the right to secede if the they felt the federal government was no longer serving their best interests.

When the federal government decided to go to war against the South it did more than kill over half a million people and ruin the economy of the South, it fatally injured the concept of state’s rights. When the 17th Amendment was passed years later the states lost all say in what laws the federal government could enact. In effect, the states became subjects to an all powerful entity that viewed them as being beholden to the greater power and authority in Washington D.C.

History can be a dry subject if you look at it from the wrong perspective. If all you care about is dates, events, and names, then yes, history can be boring. But if you look at it from the perspective of seeing how and why a country got from point A to point B, then history can be fascinating. Way back in 1788 Thomas Jefferson wrote that ” Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

Can you honestly believe that a group of men, who had just fought a war to gain their independence from a tyrant, would establish a system of government when they knew that, in time, it might also become tyrannical, and not leave the people a way out?

The perspective one must view the Civil War from is not from the issue of whether slavery was wrong, that it was fought to end the practice. No, the perspective must be to ask whether or not a single state, or group of states, held the right to separate from the Union. Our Founders felt they did, as did many in the North who had considered it prior to the Civil War. Another point one must consider is that the Constitution created the government with limited powers and for the most part it was a servant to the people and the states. If this body could then assume the authority to dictate to the states that they be required to adhere to the Union, was the federal government still a limited one, or had it become one of limitless power?

The Civil War settled, not by negotiation, not by legal proceedings, but by force, the belief that the federal government was superior to the states and that it could demand adherence to its will, whether that will be constitutional or not. The Civil War was another pivotal moment in our nation’s history and is worthy of your focused consideration. It was our nation’s second war for independence, and this time freedom and independence lost. Since then our government has grown exponentially. How do you think, I wonder, we might fare in the future should the people grow weary of it and decide it is time to rid themselves of its intrusion into their lives and infringements upon their liberty?

I have no idea how such a decision might turn out, but after having studied the Civil War extensively, I can tell you how the federal government would react.

These are all things I hope I have caused you to think about. I hope that I have presented the material in as impartial and unbiased manner as possible. I feel strongly that the South was in the right and the North, nay, the federal government way overstepped its authority. Still, I hope I have kept my feelings to myself as best I could and caused you to revise your opinions on what led to the Civil War and who was in the right.

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The Civil War Pt. 4

Part 6: Of War and Devastation

Although I have primarily been focusing most of my attention upon Abraham Lincoln, he was not alone in the events which led up to the Civil War, his predecessors had played their parts too, going back to at least Andrew Jackson, and probably even earlier. Yet it was Lincoln who was president during the Civil War, therefore he was the one who history lays all the laurels, while I lay much of the blame for what was about to happen.

Abraham Lincoln won the presidency only because the Democratic Party had split in two before the election, giving the Republican Party enough votes to take a majority and give Lincoln the presidency. He had won the election but had, as of yet, not been sworn in when the opening battle of the Civil War took place.

Before I go any further I need to say something about war. I know this may not seem appropriate, or even relevant to this discussion of the Civil War, but in 1991 the rock group Guns n Roses released their fourth studio album entitled Use Your Illusion II. On it there is a song entitled Civil War. At the end of the song singer Axl Rose poses the question, “What’s so civil about war anyways?”

In answer to that question I would say…NOTHING. The old saying war is hell aptly fits as war is cruel, it is brutal, and it leaves scars both mentally and physically upon the people who participate in it, as well as those who witness it.

War is nothing but the massed killing of one group by another. It matters not whether it be fought over territorial acquisition/defense, religious beliefs, political disagreements, war is mass murder on a scale that would be inconceivable were it to happen in society.

When people are called upon, either by their belief systems, or by their government, to go out and kill other human beings it does something to a person. It unleashes a side of man that is normally kept locked away inside him, (except for mass murderers and psychopaths who do not fit into typical societal beliefs). When this happens it is often difficult, if not impossible, for that baser side of human nature to take over. When that happen atrocities will occur…there is no preventing that.

For as long as man has existed on this planet in numbers, wars have existed as well. As long as wars continue to exist atrocities will occur as well. It is unfair for those of us who have never experienced war to condemn those who have participated in one for the actions they took during a conflict. We have not undergone the emotional trauma of seeing friends violently killed in front of their eyes and had to take the life of another human being to save our own, or simply to inflict as much loss upon an enemy as possible.

I say this now because I am do not wish to condemn those who fought against each other during the Civil War. I will mention atrocities that happened, but I am not laying blame. I do so only to show that the war did more than divide the country in two based on different political beliefs, but it also inflicted wounds upon the country, particularly the South, that have never really healed…not even to this day.

Prior to the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln Union Army Major Robert Anderson moved the 85 men under his command from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter in the middle of Charleston Harbor South Carolina. Isolated and without a supply chain the Union forces were quickly running out of food and supplies. Meanwhile South Carolina had grown tired of Union troops being positioned on what they now considered to be soil independent from the Union.

On a Thursday in April of 1861 Confederate General P. T. Beauregard sent aides to the Union forces demanding that they give up the fort, to which they replied…NO. The following morning at 4:30 a.m. the Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter. The shelling lasted for a day and a half and on Saturday April 13th Major Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter to the Confederates.

Not a single Union soldier was hurt during the battle, and upon surrendering the Confederate’s allowed the Union soldiers to peaceably leave, AND fire a 100-gun salute. It was a gracious move on the part of the Confederates showing that they wished no ill will upon the Union soldiers, but still they took the first shot, they had started the war.

Yet, even in the North there were those who believed that the government had forced the hand of those in South Carolina. Newspapers in the North abounded with commentaries regarding the South’s firing upon Fort Sumter. On April 17, 1861 the New York Evening Day Book wrote that the event at Fort Sumter “…was a cunningly devised scheme to arouse, and, if possible exasperate the northern people against the South.”

On April 13, 1861 the Providence Daily Post had written, “For three weeks the administration newspapers have been assuring us that Fort Sumter would be abandoned, but “Mr. Lincoln saw an opportunity to inaugurate civil war without appearing in the character of an aggressor.” Whatever the case may be, the war had started, just as it had 3/4 a century ago at Lexington and Concord.

Over the course of the next four years at least 237 major battles took place at the cost of around 620,000 lives, with many more injured or crippled for life. If you think about that number, that would be close to wiping the entire city of Boston Massachusetts off the map. That is a lot of death and destruction over the issue of whether a people are allowed to determine if they can secede and form a system of government that best suits their need, or if they are to be in bondage to a system of government that holds them to the Union at gunpoint with the threat of violence and destruction.

Upon ending of hostilities at Fort Sumter President Lincoln must have realized that the South was not going to return to the Union peacefully so he sent out the call for 75,000 recruits. During this time Virginia had not yet seceded from the Union. It was during this opening period that Robert E. Lee was called upon by Francis Blair, a close associate of Abraham Lincoln, and offered the opportunity to lead Union Forces against what the North was calling open rebellion against the government. Lee declined saying he could not see himself fighting against fellow Virginians. A few days later Lee is placed in charge of the Confederate Army while the Union Army was placed under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant.

As stated, there were close to 250 battles that took place during the Civil War. Some of them small, but others much larger, with accompanying larger body counts for both sides. For instance, the first battle of Bull Run, or Manassas, was a Confederate victory with the Union losing 2,950 and the Confederates losing 1,750.

Then there was the Battle of Fort Donelson, a lesser known battle, but a costly loss to the Confederates. At this battle the Union lost 2,331 while the Confederates lost over 15,000 men. The battle of Shiloh was more equally divided with the victor going to the Confederate Army. Thirteen thousand Union soldiers died during this battle, and 10,000 Confederate soldiers lost their lives. The second battle of Bull Run/Manassas was also a Confederate victory with them losing 8,350 and the Union losing 13,830.

During the battle of Battle of Antietam 23,100 lost their lives. Almost 18,000 died at the battle of Fredericksburg, 23,000 at the battle of Stone River, 19,000 during the siege of Vicksburg, and in incredible 51,000 at Gettysburg.

Those are just a few of the battles that took place during the four years the Civil War raged on. With such a horrific loss of life suffered by both sides and the horrible things those men must have witnessed it is amazing that there were not more atrocities committed by both sides during that terrible period in our nation’s history.

Yet atrocities did happen. Both sides had guerilla fighters who often fought independent of the traditional armies of the North and South. They were given many names, Red Legs, Jayhawks and others. These fighters often raped, pillaged, and burnt dwellings and towns down to the ground in their fight for their sides. That is not to say that these type things did not also occur under the commands of both Union and Confederate officers, because it did. I am just saying that the atrocities happened.

However, there is a big difference between strategies and ideologies of the Northern and Southern commanders during this conflict. The Southern commanders, particularly Robert E. Lee, only wanted to force the Union out of the Southern States, to leave them in peace to live as an independent nation of Confederate States. His intent was not to invade and occupy the North, although Stonewall Jackson is known for his view that the only way to bring the war to a speedy end was to invade the North and show them as little mercy as they had to the South. Jackson felt that if the Northerners were witness to the horrors the South had witnessed the people would pressure Lincoln to end the war.

Although the Confederates fought with equal ferocity as the North, and atrocities were committed by both sides, for the most part the South only wanted to end the war as quickly as possible and return home. It has been said that General Robert E. Lee is said something along the lines of “It is good that war is so terrible, lest we come to like it too much.” Yet the Northern commanders, two men in particular, seemed to almost take pleasure in the destruction they wrought upon the South. These men were General William Tecumseh Sherman and General Philip Sheridan.

During the war President Lincoln spent as much of his free time as possible at the War Department, monitoring the war and sending messages to the commanders in the field. It is inconceivable that he could remain in total darkness as to what was happening under the commands of his generals.

Some records do exist and they shed light on the fact that it appears that Lincoln, and his generals, not only wanted to win the war, they wanted to punish the South for dividing the Union and causing the war.

In 1864, Sherman wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, stating, “There is a class of people, men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.

“Sherman is quoted as writing, “The government of the U.S. has any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war – to take their lives, their homes, their land, their everything…war is simply unrestrained by the Constitution…to the persistent secessionist, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better.”

Sherman, however, is probably best known for his march to the sea in which he marched from Atlanta Georgia, all the way to the port of Savannah, destroying almost everything in between. Over the course of this march, which lasted from November 15- December 21, 1864, Sherman’s troops left a 60 mile wide, 300 mile long path of destruction, the path, it is said, can still be seen from the air today. Sherman also must have witnessed firsthand the raping and pillaging that occurred as his men destroyed everything in his path, yet he did nothing to prevent it.

A Union soldier, serving under General Sherman, once wrote home that, “I tell you the truth when I say that we are about as mean a mob as ever walked the face of the earth, it is perfectly frightful. If I lived in this country I would never lay down my arms while a Yankee remained on the soil. I do not blame Southerners for being secessionists now. I can relate many things that would be laughable if they were not so horribly disgraceful.”

But, Sherman was not alone in his campaign against unarmed civilians. General Phillip Sheridan is equally guilty of war crimes against civilians. Under direct orders from General Ulysses S. Grant, General Sheridan took 35,000 infantry troops and literally burned the entire Shenandoah Valley to the ground. In a letter to Ulysses S. Grant, Sheridan wrote, “I have destroyed over 2,000 barns filled with wheat, hay and farming implements; over 70 mills filled with flour and wheat, and have driven in front of the Army over 4,000 head of stock and have killed and issued to the troops not less than 3,000 sheep. Tomorrow I will continue the destruction down to Fisher’s Mill. When this is completed, the Valley from Winchester to Staunton, 92 miles, will have but little in it for man or beast.”

Now these could be the acts of a few Generals, operating outside the humane parameters of war. But the question needs be asked, did they meet with President Lincolns approval, and even his endorsement. Lincoln must have known of these events, yet he kept Sheridan and Sherman in command. Yet on the other hand he relieved General George McClellan for his lack of aggressive tactics. Lincoln, it appeared, would do anything to win the war, including allowing his generals to reduce 40% of the nation’s economy to a shambles, and killing untold numbers of innocent civilians.

As I stated earlier in this segment, I am not condemning the actions of men in combat. I do, however, condemn the justification of such actions by those in command, especially if that justification and authorization comes from the president of the United States.
I know some will take sides in regards to the Civil War over the issue of who held the moral high ground. It is not my point to try and sway your views in that regard. I do however hope to show you that the North, possibly under direct order from a president of the United States, used brutal tactics to win this war and devastate their opponents.

While the war was primarily fought on battlefields, and in cities and towns across the country, there was more going on than simply fighting. The North was trying to maintain support for the war, and punishing those who spoke out openly against it.

Part 7: On a Political Level

While the war raged on across the land, and the waterways of America, there was not universal support for it in the North. So Abraham Lincoln was not only fighting against those he felt were in rebellion against the United States, he was also fighting a political battle to maintain support for the war as well. This was not an easy thing for him to do, especially with the horrific loss of lives, especially those lives lost by Union soldiers in the early stages of the war.

Lincoln never really cared one way about fighting a war to free slaves. He may have found slavery revolting, but his intent was to force the South to return to the Union, not to end slavery. Yet in 1863 he issued a proclamation emancipating slaves in certain states. The proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, in part states, “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…” Read that very carefully, as it is quite telling. Lincoln only freed slaves living in states, or parts of states, which had not been reclaimed by Union forces, and which were still in a state of, as Lincoln declared, rebellion.

It was immediately seen for what it was, a political, or military ploy, by many in the North, and abroad. The New York World wrote, “The President has purposely made the proclamation inoperative in all the places where we have gained a military footing which makes the slaves accessible. He has proclaimed emancipation only where he has notoriously no power to execute it.”

Even Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Seward, made fun of the proclamation by saying, “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”

What Lincoln was attempting to do, was to incite a slave rebellion where there were only women and children left to hold down the plantations. In this, he hoped to weaken the South, and cause them to accept defeat sooner. It was merely a political and military ploy which had no effect, other than to ensure Lincoln a place in history as a great humanitarian.

Lincoln also had to deal with an antagonistic press whose constant barrage of anti-war writings were playing heavily upon public support for the war. Lincolns response was to suspend Habeas Corpus and have them put in jail without formal charges being brought against them.
If you are aware of your history, then you will know that in 1798, President John Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts to squelch opposition to a war that Adams feared was about to break out between the U.S. and France. Opponents of these acts included Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who wrote the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions in response.

On September 4, 1862, President Lincoln issued a similar declaration, which in part stated, “Whereas, it has become necessary to call into service not only volunteers but also portions of the militia of the States by draft in order to suppress the insurrection existing in the United States, and disloyal persons are not adequately restrained by the ordinary processes of law from hindering this measure and from giving aid and comfort in various ways to the insurrection;

Now, therefore, be it ordered, first, that during the existing insurrection and as a necessary measure for suppressing the same, all Rebels and Insurgents, their aiders and abettors within the United States, and all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting militia drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice, affording aid and comfort to Rebels against the authority of the United States, shall be subject to martial law and liable to trial and punishment by Courts Martial or Military Commission:

Second. That the Writ of Habeas Corpus is suspended in respect to all persons arrested, or who are now, or hereafter during the rebellion shall be, imprisoned in any fort, camp, arsenal, military prison, or other place of confinement by any military authority of by the sentence or any Court Martial or Military Commission.”

This went against Supreme Court Justice John Marshall’s opinion that, “if…the public safety should require the suspension [of habeas corpus] it is for the legislature to say so.” Yet Lincoln did an end run around this ruling and took it upon himself to do so under the powers granted him as commander in chief of a nation at war. Lincoln even had an arrest warrant issued for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because he had ruled Lincolns actions unconstitutional.

So, Lincoln was not the hero and great man that he is made out to be. But I will admit that he did one thing that I admire and he is due credit for it. As with all wars, they cost a lot of money to maintain. With the revenues from the tariffs upon the South no longer coming into the Treasury, Lincoln was running up a huge debt to fund the war. Bankers were charging him ridiculous interest rates, sometimes as high as 35%. At one point Lincoln declared, “I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the Bankers in the rear.”

Lincoln found a solution for his problem via a friend Colonel Dick Taylor, who told Lincoln, “Just get Congress to pass a bill authorising the printing of full legal tender treasury notes… and pay your soldiers with them and go ahead and win your war with them also.” Although Lincoln would be using this minted money to finance a war I do not personally agree was justified, it is one of the powers the Constitution grants Congress, so why not do it? For that I will give Lincoln credit, for everything else he did I hold him to blame for forever ripping the balance of powers between the people, the states, and the federal government apart. The damage done during the Civil War, and after, has never healed fully. I have been to the South and I has witnessed the deep seated animosity many Southerners hold for the North, and for the government. Sure, due to the Northern victory Lincoln kept the Union intact, but it was never the same and the wound that was left festering at the Constitutional Convention still exists and, in fact, was exacerbated after the conclusion of the war itself.

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The Civil War Pt. 3

Part 5: The Issue of Secession

South Carolina had tolerated, what they considered to be, a bullying government which kept meddling with their states rights, so their state legislature passed a resolution which stated, “The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.” They went on to list, as did the Declaration of Independence seventy-six years ago, their reasons for taking such drastic measures.

Some may claim the Civil War did not begin with the secession of South Caroline, instead it began when they fired upon Fort Sumter. I disagree. I believe the issue which forced South Carolina was an issue that was never settled completely during the Constitutional Convention, and came to a head forcing South Carolina to sever ties to the Union. In that respect South Carolina was much like Boston prior to the War for Independence; it was the first to feel threatened by a sovereign government, and the first to actively stand up against it. Eventually 11 states would leave the Union, splitting the nation in half.

Now if you think back to something I said earlier in Part 1, Alexander Hamilton feared a separation of the Union because the North would be small in comparison to the South. In addition to the Union’s reduction in size would also mean an accompanying loss of revenue for the federal government. Abraham Lincoln could not allow this to happen. He must have knew that for the government to survive the Union must survive, and the he was faced with the problem of how to accomplish that.

In 1862 Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to Horace Greeley. In it he unequivocally stated his goal, “I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.”

If there was any doubt in your mind that Lincoln is the great man who fought a war to abolish slavery, that right there ought to put an end to such thoughts. Lincoln’s only concern was keeping the Union intact. The question is, was he justified?

What is secession? One dictionary defines it as; “the action of withdrawing formally from membership of a federation or body, especially a political state.” The question brought about by, first South Carolina, then eventually ten other states, is stated simply as does the Constitution authorize a state to leave the Union, or does it grant the federal government the authority to force them to remain a part of it?

In truth, the Constitution itself makes no mention of whether the Union can or cannot be dissolved. There are but two references that might justify Lincoln taking the country to war to hold the Union together. The first of these is found in the Preamble to the Constitution which states that the purpose for which the document was written. Among the reasons was “…to form a more perfect union…” and “…insure domestic tranquility…” The other is found in Article 6, paragraph 2 and is commonly known as the Supremacy Clause. It states, ” This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land…” Those are the only two sections of the Constitution which come close to supporting Lincolns position, so let’s take a moment to look at both of them.

Before I state my belief I have to lay some groundwork, which means I’m going to have to go back in time to the Declaration of Independence and work forward from there. If you look back at the period leading up to the War for Independence, and compare it to the time just prior to the Civil War you will see that there are many similarities. Chief among those was the fact that the people, and the states felt that the government was infringing upon their state sovereignty and that their only recourse was to severe the ties that bound them together.
What is, if it isn’t a declaration of secession, the Declaration of Independence? The colonies, and that’s exactly what they were, colonies established by the permission of the King of England, were part of the British empire. They fell under the umbrella of its jurisdiction and protection. For all intents and purposes they were British territories. They were however granted some autonomy in how they ran their local affairs and governed themselves. But make no mistake, it was the King of England who ruled over them, being their sovereign, with Parliament being the ruling body, or government, which could legislate over them.

Remember though, this time in American History was a period when the Age of Enlightenment played a major role in the thinking of many in this country. That Age brought about a major shift in the thinking when it came to rulers and subjects. Although they understood the peril they faced, the colonists believed that their rights were not subject to the arbitrary will of a monarch…especially when they had no representation in the legislative process of the governing body…Parliament.

So in 1776, after a “…long train of abuses… ” the colonists declared their independence. The names of fifty six men appear on that document today, but they did not all sign it on the day the final copy was presented to the Convention that authorized Jefferson to write it. Once they did they realized the enormity of what they all had done. America, puny little America, had stood up to the largest empire on the planet at the time and told them to take a hike, that it wasn’t gonna push them around anymore. That took courage, a belief that they had exhausted all other options, and a strong belief that no matter the outcome that their decision was the right one.

The Declaration of Independence opens by declaring, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Yes it was an act of open rebellion against their government, but this document was also the finest declaration on the origin and state of human rights that has ever been produced. To paraphrase what Jefferson so eloquently said, the Declaration states that men have rights given them by their Creator, God. That governments are created by man to protect, not trample upon, those rights. That when government no longer does its job that the people can alter or abolish their government and establish a new one which better provides for their security.

The United States, as we know it today, was not created by this document. All the Declaration of Independence did was to declare to the King, and the entire world, that 13 united colonies were stating that the King of England had abused his position and authority and that, therefore, they were no longer bound to him as subjects, that they were free men. That is best summed up with words from the document itself, “…That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown…” Honestly, that’s all the Declaration of Independence was, a declaration of the 13 colonies to secede from the mother country.

Up until now the colonies considered themselves merely 13 states, united in a common cause…independence. That is why people misunderstand and misinterpret documents and the writings of our Founders, because the ability to understand simple grammar and sentence structure is beyond them. Take for example to two following examples; the united States of America and the United States of America. Upon first examination most people would presume that they are one and the same. They are not. In the first example united is a verb which is acting upon the noun, States of America. What this means is that the states are united in purpose. On the other hand, when the word united is written with a capital U it transforms the three words into a pronoun describing the 13 United Sates as a single entity.

It was not until the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were written, and later ratified, that the pronoun United States of America was used. Up until then the Congress was merely a body of men who gathered together and could not accomplish anything at all unless the delegates to it got permission to do so by their State Legislatures. The States still held all the power and authority and had the delegates chosen to pass a resolution, or declaration against the will of their home states then all the states had to do was ignore it. The Congress had no real authority.

The Articles of Confederation were, I believe, more a wartime effort to give the states some sort of governing body that could run the war from one location without each state fighting as an independent nation against the British Army which occupied their territory.

The Articles of Confederation do say a few things though that are worth discussing, first is the very title itself. Most people have taken to calling them simply the Articles of Confederation. But the actual title is the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. That right there implies that the union of states created by this document is perpetual, i.e. eternal, and cannot be severed or broken apart. This position is further verified in Article 8 where it states, “Every State shall abide by the determinations of the united states, in congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual…”

However, there is something interesting in Article 2 of that document. Article 2 declares, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” If you have ever read the Bill of Rights this is strikingly similar to the 9th and 10th Amendments.

One thing that is obvious though is a Section or clause within the Articles of Confederation which declared the document itself to be perpetual. There is absolutely no mention of an amendment procedure which would provide a means of fixing flaws in the system. Yet in 1787 that is exactly what happened, another convention was convened to amend the Articles of Confederation because it had become painfully clear that the document created a Congress that was woefully unable to perform the functions it was created to do.

So in May of 1787 delegates assembled together in Philadelphia, behind closed doors, sworn to secrecy, and set down to fix their flawed system. There were those in attendance who had a different objective. Instead of amending the Articles of Confederation a few wanted to trash the entire plan and start from scratch to create a stronger government more capable of performing the functions it was to be created for.

Creating a new system from scratch went far beyond the authority granted the delegates by their State Legislatures…yet that is what they decided to do anyway. From the outset there were those who did not like the idea of a Constitutional Convention. Rhode Island refused to send any delegates and later Patrick Henry would declare that “I smell a rat.”

I won’t go into detail about the various plans and compromises that were presented during that summer in 1787. The important thing to consider is this; the Articles of Confederation declared that the Union was to be perpetual. However during that summer in 1787 the delegates basically overstepped their authority and figuratively threw that document in the trash and wrote a new document outlining the system of government we know today.

The question you must ask yourself, and I have read arguments supporting both sides of this question, is since they did not amend the Articles of Confederation does that mean that the Union is, or is not considered perpetual? The Constitution itself makes no mention of it being a perpetual union. The only references that come close to even broaching the subject are the Preamble and Article 6. The Preamble is merely a declaration of intent, it states the purpose for which the document was being written. This is a fact later confirmed by Joseph Story in his Commentaries on the Constitution. So what was the intent? Well, the Preamble states “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It is important that we discuss this in more detail. The Preamble does not state that it was an act of the government modifying itself to grant itself more power. Instead it was an act of the people creating a system of government with the powers which were granted within the text of the document itself.

Secondly, it states the purpose, to form a more perfect union, as well as establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty. It does not, however, specifically state, as did the Articles of Confederation did, that the Union was to be perpetual.

So let’s look at this from the perspective of a timeline. First we have a document that declares it the right of the people to dissolve the bands which tie them to another body and to create their own system of government. Next we have a document that creates a Perpetual Union. Then we have a document that can be considered to either enhance that perpetual union, or to trash that belief and simply create a system of government to serve certain specific functions.

Like I said, I have read arguments from both sides of the subject as it pertains to whether or not the Union is perpetual. I support the belief that it was, and remains, the right of the people to shake off what they believe to be the chains of oppression, be it from any form of government…even one they created.

Now the following is important for you to understand. Thirteen years prior to the commencement of the Civil War Abraham Lincoln shared my belief that it was the right of the people to, for lack of a better word, secede. In fact, Lincoln himself stated, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, most sacred right- a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to excercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own, of so much territory as the inhabit.”

Yet once he became president Lincoln switched positions and said that the States that had seceded did not have that right. He intended to keep the Union together as a single entity, even if it meant that he had to do so by going to war. Now that I have provided a historical background on the issue of secession, what about the people of the country, what did they feel about the subject?

Secession was not first broached by South Carolina in 1860, it had been discussed before by other colonies prior to South Carolina actually doing it. As I have already told you, up to the time that the Southern States seceded, they held a political majority in Congress, and often held the presidency as well. This did not sit well with the Northern States. On three separate occasions the subject of secession was broached, not by the South, but by the North.

In 1803 Senator Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts declared, “I will rather anticipate a new confederacy, exempt from the corrupt and corrupting influence and oppression of the aristocratic Democrats of the South…” Pickering predicted “There will be…a separation…”

Pickering’s colleague in the Senate, James Hillhouse echoed those sentiments by saying, “The Eastern States must and will dissolve the Union and form a separate government.”

These leaders in the Senate felt that they had to separate from the destructive policies of the Democrats. The policies they objected to were enacted by presidents like Jefferson, and those who followed in his beliefs regarding the purpose for which governments should exist. These early New England secessionists adhered to the concepts that had been eschewed by Hamilton, and those who followed him. That is why I say the roots of the Civil War began all the way back at the beginning. It was an issue that caused a division in this country that had never truly been healed. It caused New Englanders to distrust, nay, even hate the Southerners, and it caused the Southerners to feel the same about the North. This early attempt at secession by the North was only one time that division cause problems for the concept of a perpetual union. The Civil War was when the concept that a state, in fact, did have the right to secede was to be tested.

In response to those who opposed his, and the Democratic Party’s views in general, Thomas Jefferson said the following in his Inaugural Address, “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

In 1839, another president, John Quincy Adams, declared, “The indissoluble link of union between the people of the several states of this confederated nation is, after all, not in the right but in the heart. If the day should ever come(may Heaven avert it!) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collision of interests shall fester into hatred, the bands of political associations will not long hold together parties no longer enamored by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies, to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint.”

Prior to South Carolina actually seceding from the Union a Frenchman by the name of Alexis de Tocqueville came to America to study us and our system of government. His research led to the classic book Democracy in America, wherein he writes, “The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the states chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right.”

In the proceedings by the states prior to the ratification of the Constitution each state held arguments both in favor of, and in opposition to the new government which the document would create if enacted. Once Virginia agreed to ratify it they wrote a declaration stating so, but they also included the following statement within their agreement, “…the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.”

During the War of 1812 the state of Massachusetts declared that the government had not fulfilled its responsibility under the Constitution to protect it, so it declared that it was time to form a New England alliance of states separate from the remainder of the Union.

William Rawle, who wrote the book covering the Constitution that was used at West Point to educate military leaders, said the following about a states right to secede, “It depends on the state itself to retain or abolish the principle of representation, because it depends on itself whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right would be inconsistent with the principle on which all our political systems are founded, which is, that the people have in all cases a right to determine how they will be governed…The states, then, may wholly withdraw from the Union…”

Those are all quotes from people in positions of authority who supported the belief that a state, or a group of states, held the right to secede from the Union should they feel that the government no longer served their best interests. It was commonly held that the Union was not perpetual, that it could be dissolved should a state choose to separate from it.

But what about the general populace, did they support this view as well? It’s hard to say what everyone was thinking back in 1860, but I can provide quotes from those who were interested enough about the subject to voice their opinions in their local newspapers.
On November 1, 1860, the Albany Atlas and Argus wrote, “We sympathize with and justify the South because their rights have been invaded to the extreme. If they wish to secede we would wish them God-Speed.”

On November 13 of the same year, the Bangor Daily Union wrote, “Union depends for its continuance on the free consent and will of the sovereign people of each state, and when that consent and will is withdrawn on either part, their Union is gone. A state coerced to remain in the Union is a subject province and can never be a co-equal member of the American Union.”

On the same day the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote, “Any violation of the constitution by the general government, deliberately persisted in would relieve the state or states injured by such violation from all legal and moral obligations to remain in the union or yield obedience to the federal government…let them [the Southern states] go.”

All I’m trying to say here is that it was believed, at least among some, that a state held the right to separate itself from the Union. If that be the case, then did Lincoln have the right, the authority to force those states which had seceded to remain in the Union?

In his first inaugural address Abraham Lincoln stated the following, “I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.”

Lincoln brings up points that should be addressed. The first we must discuss is Lincolns mention of universal law. Universal law is explained as being concepts of legal legitimacy actions, whereby those principles and rules for governing human being’s conduct which are most universal in their acceptability, their applicability, translation, and philosophical basis. So let’s look at how universal law applies to secession. According to most states, and a good percentage of the people, it was acceptable for a state to secede from the union. Therefore was Lincoln adhering to, or opposing universal law when he went against the common belief that the states could secede should they choose to do so?

John Locke, in his Treatise on Civil Government had declared, “When any one, or more, shall take upon them to make laws, whom the people have not appointed so to do, they make laws without authority, which the people are not therefore bound to obey; by which means they come again to be out of subjection, and may constitute to themselves a new legislative, as they think best, being in full liberty to resist the force of those, who without authority would impose any thing upon them.” This was one of the principle beliefs held by the Founders when they sought to ‘secede’ from Britain. It was also considered a universal law, made the more so due to the fact that at the time it was still believed that the Constitution was only a document which outlined a system of government. It was the states that ratified it that gave it any power and authority over them. Therefore if they agreed to it, they could later choose not to and to separate from it.

Lincoln also said something which bears close examination. He declared that “It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” When the Southern States seceded from the Union did their actions terminate the government established by the Constitution? No, by their seceding they merely stated that they no longer wanted to be a part of the Union upon which that government held authority over. It did not terminate its existence, it merely severed the bonds between them, as did the Declaration of Independence. The monarchy and Parliament did not cease to exist when the colonists gained their independence no more than the federal government ceased to exist when the Southern States seceded.

As Lincoln was so fond of using the word ‘imply’, what he implied is that the federal government is bigger and stronger than the governments of the individual states, and therefore the federal government is saying to the States that they did not have the right to secede and divide the Union in two. It was all coming back to the fear expressed by Alexander Hamilton during the Revolutionary War when the British had been attacking in the South while Washington sat idle in the North guarding New York. Could it be that Lincoln also understood this, that if the South were allowed to secede that it would prove a death blow to the government itself due to the loss of revenue that was derived from the tariffs imposed upon them? If so, then did Lincoln actually care about the survival of the Union, or did he care more about the survival of the government?

I suppose we will never really know. But these are the facts that I have learned regarding the events which, in my mind, led up to the Civil War. As the saying goes, the stage had been set, the actors in place. Both president Lincoln and his predecessor had made their decision that the South did not have the right to leave the Union, and the South had said they had. It was a powder keg waiting for a spark to ignite it, and that spark would come soon enough, and the resulting war would take the lives of more Americans than all our other wars combined.

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The Civil War Pt. 2

Part 3: Tensions on the Rise

As stated earlier, the states which comprised the union during the period when the Constitution was written were vastly different from each other. This became even more pronounced when it came to economic and political power in the decades leading up to the Civil War. The South was mainly agricultural, and still somewhat aristocratical, something that Thomas Jefferson hoped to do away with by making more people landowners, and by providing more people with a basic education. Both these things helped keep the richest people firmly in power, leaving the less wealthy to work without hope of a voice in how their government operated, as at the time only landowners had the right to vote. The North on the other hand became primarily involved in industry and merchants and grew more rapidly than the South.

The South relief heavily on imports to run their plantations and the North did not. At the same time the primary source of revenue for the federal government came via tariffs imposed upon goods imported into the United States. This burden was felt more by the Southern States than by those in the North. Yet since the North was becoming more heavily populated, and therefore stronger due to representation in the federal government, the bulk of that money was spent in the North. The Southerners felt that they were being robbed to fund the betterment of their northern brethren.

In 1828 Congress passed an ordinance which placed a heavy burden upon the Southern States, with the sole purpose of benefitting the Northern States. Labeled the Tariff of Abominations by the South, South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Nullification which stated, “Whereas the Congress of the United States by various acts, purporting to be acts laying duties and imposts on foreign imports, but in reality intended for the protection of domestic manufactures and the giving of bounties to classes and individuals engaged in particular employments, at the expense and to the injury and oppression of other classes and individuals, and by wholly exempting from taxation certain foreign commodities, such as are not produced or manufactured in the United States, to afford a pretext for imposing higher and excessive duties on articles similar to those intended to be protected, bath exceeded its just powers under the constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and bath violated the true meaning and intent of the constitution, which provides for equality in imposing the burdens of taxation upon the several States and portions of the confederacy: And whereas the said Congress, exceeding its just power to impose taxes and collect revenue for the purpose of effecting and accomplishing the specific objects and purposes which the constitution of the United States authorizes it to effect and accomplish, hath raised and collected unnecessary revenue for objects unauthorized by the constitution.

We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the several acts and parts of acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws for the imposing of duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities…are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens; and all promises, contracts, and obligations, made or entered into, or to be made or entered into, with purpose to secure the duties imposed by said acts, and all judicial proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affirmance thereof, are and shall be held utterly null and void.”

The federal government had to do something. If it remained idle and allowed South Carolina to declare that any law passed by Congress was null and void, what was to prevent other states from doing the same? So the government was prepared to use force to enforce the laws it passed. South Carolina, in response, prepared to defend itself from an assault by troops from the federal government. However, the fuse for war was extinguished when the threat of war, and a compromise tariff were introduced.

Thirty years prior to the Civil War, a test run had occurred when a state stood up to the monster that the federal government was becoming. The South, however, did not forget, nor did they forgive. They still felt that the government no longer served the best interests of the people, nor the states. Instead they believed, as I do today, that the federal government best serves the interests of those who hold money and power in industry and banking. This was a scar that never healed for South Carolina, and almost thirty years later it would burst into all out war.

Part 4: Tensions Boil Over

Slavery was slowly fading out of practice among the Northern States during this time. This resulted in a number of things happening. First it created a division amongst the religious leaders in the country, with those either supporting the institution of slaver living in the South, and those opposing it living in the North. That could explain the growth of the abolitionist movement in the North, the fact that congregations were influenced heavily by their pastors.

But this also led to the value of slaves as property going up. As the demand for cotton grew the price of the slaves used to pick it went up also. That is simple supply and demand, the more need for a commodity which arises leads to the cost for such a commodity to go up.

Now I’m not stating that I consider slaves to be a commodity akin to something we now own today like our homes, our cars, or our clothing, but back then they were considered as property. Even then the government had passed the Fugitive Slave Act which required that escaped slaves making their way to the North be returned to their masters in the South. So still the government recognized slaves as property belonging to the person who had purchased them. Not saying it is the right way to view another human being, but that is the way people felt about it back then.

Also during this time immigration was primarily centered upon the North, with seven out of ten immigrants moving to Northern States. This led to an increase in power among the North in Congress. The South may have feared that they would once again impose, what they considered, unjust tariffs upon them, crippling their economy.

An in regards to tariffs, the North, particularly Pennsylvania were demanding higher tariffs to protect the growing steel industry. All this did not bode well for the South, especially South Carolina who held the majority of slaves, and who had already risen up against the subject of tariffs.

However one of the biggest arguments leading up to the Civil War was not necessarily the legality of slavery, but it’s spread into new territory. It could be said that the South wanted to see slavery expanded as it offered them cheap labor to farm their crops, but it is also probable that they wanted the practice to expand so that slave holding states retained power in Congress due to the 35ths clause.

Two opposing views were held in government. The first was stated when the Constitutional Union Party submitted the Crittenden Compromise. This compromise would have permanently allowed slavery in slave states, and extended the practice, as well as the Missouri Compromise line to the west, allowing slavery to grow south of the line, and to be prohibited to the north of it. This compromise failed.

Another belief, held by Abraham Lincoln and the Republican party was that the Constitution did not hold legislators to a policy of balance. This means that slavery could be abolished completely in a newly established territory at the discretion of Congress.

Then there was the belief held by Illinois Senator Stephen Douglass and Senator Jefferson Davis that held that each new territory had a right to determine for itself whether to institute, or prohibit, the practice.

Again, I’m not saying slavery is an institution which I would support as it is a crime against mankind and repulsive. I am saying, however, that it was Constitutionally accepted. The Constitution also states that all states shall be given a republican form of government. Therefore, if newly created territories, and newly admitted states were to be equal to those already in existence, then the views held by Douglas and Davis would be the ones that held the most legal backing. This came to be known as the Calhoun Doctrine, named after the statesmen John C. Calhoun from South Carolina who espoused strong states rights, and the limited authority of the federal government to interfere therein.

All these things led to the South feeling more and more closer in belief to their way of thinking, while the North was doing the same among the Northern States. Pressure was building and it was only a matter of time before things came to a head.

It was the election of Abraham Lincoln which was the final straw for the South. They feared that with his election the practice of slavery would be restricted to where it existed at present, which also meant that the expansion to the west of the country would introduce more free states into the Union, diminishing their say in Congress. Having already stood up once to the federal government, South Carolina made a fateful decision that would alter the course of American History, it decided to separate from the union.

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