Browsing "Prescient Warnings"

Calhoun on the Evils of Government Patronage

Like Jefferson, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was well-aware of the corrupting and polarizing effect that political parties, patronage and news publications exerted on the American public. He observed that their object was “under form of law to take from others and appropriate to themselves more than would otherwise be so taken and appropriated.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Calhoun on the Evils of Government Patronage

“Were a premium offered for the best means of extending to the utmost the power of patronage, to destroy the love of country, and to substitute a spirit of subserviency and man-worship; to encourage vice and discourage virtue, and, in a word, to prepare for the subversion of liberty and the establishment of despotism, no scheme more perfect could be devised; and such must be the tendency of the practice, with whatever intention adopted, or to whatever extent pursued.

If to this difficulty . . . there be added others of a formidable character . . . .on the part of government, in large communities , to seize on and corrupt all the organs of public opinion, and thus to delude and impose on the people; the greater tendency in such communities to the formation of parties on local and separate interests . . . some conception may be formed of the vast superiority which that organized and central party, consisting of office-holders and office-seekers, with their dependents, forming one compact, disciplined corps, wielded by a single individual, without conflict of opinion within . . . and aiming at the single object of re-taming and perpetuating power in their own ranks, must have, in such country as ours, over the people, a superiority so decisive that it may safely be asserted that, whenever the patronage and influence of the government are sufficiently strong to form such a party, liberty, without a speedy reform, must inevitably be lost.

Every lover of this country, and of its institutions, be his party what it may, must see and deplore the rapid growth of patronage, with all its attendant evils, and the certain catastrophe which awaits its further progress, if not timely arrested.

Among [the patronage interests], the first and most powerful is that active, vigilant and well-trained corps which lives on the government, or expects to live on it, which prospers most when the revenue is the greatest, the treasury the fullest, and expenditures the most profuse, and, of course, is ever the firm and faithful supporter of whatever system shall extract the most from the pockets of the rest of the community, to be emptied into theirs.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, pp. 106-110)

The North's Path to Bloodshed

President James Buchanan knew precisely the origin of the troubles plaguing the country at mid-nineteenth century. The radical abolitionists and the purely sectional Republican party were threats to the peace of the country as they both fomented race war in the South. Not forthcoming from either were peaceful and practical proposals to end slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The North’s Path to Bloodshed

“In his message of December 3, 1860, President Buchanan said to Congress, and virtually to the people of the North (p. 626 Vol. 5, Richardson):

“The long continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects.  I have long foreseen and often forewarned my countrymen of the new impending danger. The immediate peril arises not so much from these causes as from the fact the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves and inspired them with vague notions of freedom.

Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar.  This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehension of servile insurrections. Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and children before the morning. Self-preservation is the first law of nature and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest purpose. But let us take warning in time and remove the cause of danger.”

It cannot be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation of the North against slavery has been incessant.  In 1835 pictorial hand-bills and inflammatory appeals were circulated extensively throughout the South of a character to excite the passions of slaves, and in the language of Genl. Jackson, to stimulate them to insurrection and produce all the horrors of a servile war. At the Presidential election in 1860 the Republican Party was greatly agitated over the Helper Book which instigated massacre.

Lincoln and Seward would not say that they were for massacre, but the Abolitionists had the vision of the X-ray and could see through such false pretenses. The doctrine of both “the irrepressible conflict” of Seward and “a house divided against itself cannot stand” of Lincoln, pointed directly to bloodshed.

The Abolitionists voted for Lincoln, and Wendell Phillips, who rejoiced at his election, said in a speech at Tremont Temple, Boston, a few days later: “There was a great noise at Chicago, much pulling of wires and creaking of wheels, then forth stept Abraham Lincoln.  But John Brown was behind the curtain, and the cannon of March 4 will only echo the rifles at Harper’s Ferry.

The Republican Party have undertaken the problem the solution of which will force them to our position.  Not Mr. Seward’s “Union and Liberty” which he stole from Webster’s “Liberty first” (a long pause) then “Union afterwards” (Phillips, Speeches and Lectures, pp. 294, 314).

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-65, Captain S. A. Ashe, Raleigh, NC, 1935)

Back to Original Principles

Jefferson foresaw the constitutional crisis of the late 1850s and the need for the States to “arrest the march of government” which had been threatening its creators with military action since the days of Andrew Jackson. As he instructs, the solution to the crisis was a convening of the States to modify their agreement, not the agent warring upon a free people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Back to Original Principles:

“The [Supreme Court] judges are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would on an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control; but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance.

However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions . . . may induce [two or three large States] to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the express consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents.

They imagine they can lead us into a consolidated government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution.

(Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825; The Jefferson Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnall’s, 1900, pg. 191)

Liberty No Longer Sacred to Republicans

As the Southern States departed the old union to form a more perfect one, they took with them the old Constitution of the Founders—leaving the North to its own peculiar political revolution. As Prince Napoleon observed in 1861, the North behaved as a European monarchy would, calling its unhappy subjects “rebels,” and brutally suppressing Americans seeking liberty.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Liberty No Longer Sacred to Republicans

“In Washington, the field was left free to the partisans of the Union and also to the men of the Republican party—the party that led Lincoln to the presidency—because of the departure of most of the Senators and Representatives of the seceded States. Therefore, Congress and the Cabinet are in almost complete agreement as to the necessity of waging war to its bitter end. The Confederates are to be treated as rebels—as if they were the subjects of a monarchy instead of the citizens of a republican confederation. In a word, they have to be vanquished by arms, in the style familiar to old Europe.

This great determination, coinciding with the ascension of the Republican party to power, marks the beginning of a new era for American society. It launches her on a road — from which her founders and older statesmen would certainly have withdrawn –filled with dangers, but which might also lead her to supreme greatness. Mr. Lincoln and his friends seem to have decided to go ahead without worrying too much about the somber predictions of the Democratic party, which lost the last election, and which evokes, at every turn, the memories of the past — Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Jackson.

“What are you doing?” the Democrats inquire. “You trampled down the fundamental principle, basis of our success and power — the principle which recognizes the freedom of each State within the confederation, just as each citizen is free within each State. By riveting the State to the confederation, with an indestructible chain, by denying the State a right to secede, you prepare the way for the enslavement of citizens by society and for the destruction of individualism. No liberty is sacred to you any longer.

In the name of the public good you are changing the American republic into something similar to what the Convention made of the French Republic (the ideal of political and administrative unity). We will become a pale copy of our elders rather than the precursors of a new humanity. The military element responsible for your triumph will be needed to keep you in power. You are going to travel the same road as the French Revolution, and you will be lucky if you can also find, under the scepter of a soldier of genius, order and glory in obedience instead of the degrading catastrophes illustrated before your eyes by the military regimes in Mexico and the South American Republics.”

All these historical prosopopoeias leave Mr. Lincoln’s friends rather cold. I suspect them of being rather ignorant of what is called philosophy of history. Without worrying too much about general principles, they run to where the house is burning and throw onto the fire all that they can lay their hands to in order to put it out. Their financial inventions to raise money would cause laughter even among the most ignorant in economics.”

(Prince Napoleon in America, 1861, Camille Ferri Pisani, Indiana University Press, 1959, pp. 44-46)

Properly Observing Pearl Harbor Day

Properly Observing Pearl Harbor Day

The sacrifices of those who served in the American military in December, 1941 should be recounted often for us all to ponder and appreciate and the 3000 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor should not have perished in vain.

The sincerest memorial to those who fought and died in this tragedy (and others) is to analyze and discuss the multitude of reasons why it happened, and how do we ensure that American servicemen are not knowingly put in harm’s way for political purposes ever again. As there is far too much information available today for the surprise attack myth to survive scrutiny, and thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and declassification of hundreds of thousands of decoded Japanese messages, we can now get a more clear picture of how events unfolded in 1941.

The myth reported by court historians and the media is that the US was minding its own business until the Japanese launched an unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor, thereby dragging a reluctant US into a world struggle. In reality, the US under FDR had been deeply involved in Far Eastern affairs for some time, and those policies actually provoked the Japanese attack.

As Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Production stated in 1944 . . . ”Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty to say that America was forced into the war”.

After FDR’s numerous provocations toward Germany without retaliation (while the US was neutral) he switched his focus to Japan and had assistance with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who stated in October 1941 that “for a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.”

And as early as January 27th, 1941, US Ambassador to Japan in Tokyo, Joseph C. Grew noted in his diary that . . . ”there is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the US, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course, I informed our government.”

Even Adm. Ernest J. King wrote a prescient report on 31 March 1941 that predicted a surprise Japanese dawn air attack on Hawaii as the opening of hostilities. The United States military had prepared for a Japanese-American conflict since 1906 with “War Plan Orange” which predicted the Philippines as the target, attacked by surprise for which the Japanese were notorious.

Also, in early 1940 Claire Chennault, the American airman hired by the Chinese, was urging General Hap Arnold and Roosevelt to provide bombers with which to firebomb Japanese cities in retaliation for their attacks on China.

While we cannot excuse Japan’s aggressiveness in Asia in the 1930’s, our government continually provoked the Japanese by freezing assets in the United States, closing the Panama Canal to her shipping and progressively reducing exports to Japan until it became an all-out embargo along with Britain’s. The Philippines, by 1941 were reinforced to the point of being the strongest US overseas base with 120,000 troops and the Philippine Army had been called into service by FDR.

General MacArthur had 74 medium and heavy bombers along with 175 fighters that included the new B-17’s and P-40E’s with which to attack or defend with. The mobilization of troops and munitions has always been recognized as preparation for attack and we thus assumed this posture to the Japanese.

We then implied military threats to Tokyo if it did not alter its Asian policies and on 26 November 1941, FDR issued an ultimatum that Japan withdraw all military forces from China and Indochina as well as break its treaty with Germany and Italy. The day before the 26 November ultimatum was sent , Secretary of War Stimson wrote in his Diary that “the question was how we should manoevre them (the Japanese) into the position of firing the first shot.”

The bait offered was our Pacific fleet.

In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson, the commander of the Pacific Fleet flew to Washington to protest FDR’s decision to base the fleet in Hawaii instead of its normal berthing on the US west coast. His concern was that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to attack, was difficult to defend against torpedo planes, lacked fuel supplies and dry docks. Richardson came away from his meeting with FDR “with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the US into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected.”

Richardson was quickly relieved of command and he was replaced with Admiral Kimmel, who was still concerned about Pearl Harbor’s vulnerability, but did not challenge FDR.

Also to be considered was the April, 1941 ABD Agreement FDR concluded with the British and Dutch in Indochina that committed US troops to war if the Dutch East Indies were invaded by the Japanese. Add to this the 1940 $25 million loan and Lend-Lease aid provided to China.

The Dutch and British were of course eager for US forces to protect their Far Eastern colonial empires from the Japanese while their military was busy in a European war, and it has been said that this was the primary reason for war with the Japanese. FDR’s dilemma was his 1940 election pledge of non-intervention (unless attacked first) to the American people, and the US Constitution, which provided only Congress with authority to declare war.

One of the most revealing elements in FDR’s beforehand knowledge of Japan’s intentions was our breaking of the Japanese diplomatic and naval operations codes as early as mid-1939. Copies of all deciphered Japanese messages were delivered to Roosevelt and the Secretaries of War, State and Navy, as well as Army Chief of Staff Marshall and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark.

With no deciphering machines in Pearl Harbor, though three machines went to Britain, the commanders in Pearl Harbor were left completely dependent upon Washington for information. It should be understood that with this deciphered information, our government officials could not have been better informed had they seats at the Japanese war council.

It is in this bare political light that Pearl Harbor should be examined and judged for historical perspective. Our military should not be a pawn used by presidents to initiate war and this is the basic reason the Founders deliberated extensively on the establishment of a standing army which might be used as such and for political benefit.

As nothing happens in a vacuum and the post-World War One US Neutrality Acts were in place to avoid the political machinations that dragged us into that conflict, FDR’s relentless erosion of US neutrality and his secret agreements with foreign governments led to that unnecessary loss of brave American servicemen.  We hopefully have learned from this.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sources and Suggested Reading:

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor, James Rusbridger & Eric Nave, 1991, Summit Books

On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor, Memoirs of Adm. Richardson, 1973, Naval History Division Press

Pearl Harbor Countdown, Adm. James O. Richardson, Skipper Steely, 2008, Pelican Publishing

The Years of MacArthur, Volume 1, D. Clayton James, 1970, Houghton Mifflin Company

Blankets of Fire, Kenneth P. Werrell, 1996, Smithsonian Institution Press

Desperate Deception, Thomas E. Mahl, 1998, Brassey’s Books

Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War, George Morgenstern, 1947, Devin-Adair Company

Ten Year’s in Japan, Joseph C. Grew, 1944, Simon & Schuster

Hamilton and Jefferson's Capital Deal

Despite stiff opposition to the new Constitution and its centralized federal power, Alexander Hamilton’s funding schemes found approval in deals and speculation on future profits with federal bond schemes. He additionally wanted to establish a central bank, though wary of this enterprise issuing paper money as governments could not be trusted to exert self-discipline in fiscal matters.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Hamilton and Jefferson’s Capital Deal

“Hamilton knew perfectly well that every State wanted the capital, and that Jefferson and Madison especially wanted the capital located in the rural South, away from what they regarded as the commerce and corruption of the cities. Hamilton intercepted Jefferson outside President Washington’s Broadway [New York City] mansion one day shortly after [his government assumption of State debt] bill’s defeat and asked for help in getting his bill through Congress. Jefferson, who had opposed the adoption of the Constitution itself, and favored the States in nearly all federal-State disputes over the distribution of power, was opposed to the bill.

Nonetheless, he offered to meet Hamilton the following night for dinner, with Madison in attendance. There a deal was made. Enough votes would be switched to ensure passage of Hamilton’s bill, in return for which Hamilton would throw his support to having the new capital located on the muddy and fever-ridden banks of the Potomac. To ensure Pennsylvania’s cooperation, the temporary capital was to be moved to Philadelphia for ten years.

The deal was made, and the bill was passed and signed into law by President Washington. Hamilton was right that [federal] bonds would find acceptance in the marketplace, and the entire issue sold out in only a few weeks.

The new government, with a monopoly on customs duties and possessing the power to tax elsewhere, was simply a better credit risk than the old [Articles of Confederation] government and the States had been. When it became clear that the US government would be able to pay the interest due on these bonds, they quickly became sought after in Europe, just as Hamilton had hoped, especially after the outbreak of the war in which the other European powers tried to reverse the tide of the French Revolution.”

(Hamilton’s Blessing, The Extraordinary Life and times of Our National Debt, John Steele Gordon, Penguin, 1997, pp. 30-33)

Dec 1, 2014 - Prescient Warnings    No Comments

An AntiFederalist Warning

North Carolinian Timothy Bloodworth (1736-1814) was a self-made man: minister of the gospel, farmer, politician, smith, physician and wheelwright. Benevolence toward his fellow man was said to be his most distinguishing characteristic.  He was first elected to the legislative assembly at age 22, and elected to Congress in 1784.  Bloodworth resigned in 1787 to return home where he fiercely fought ratification of the new Constitution he saw as an opening wedge of tyranny.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

An AntiFederalist Warning

“(In 1788) North Carolina’s Anti-Federalists contended that the adoption of this centralizing Constitution would lead to the destruction of the rights of the States and their people;  the removal of government from popular control; that capital and industry would be promoted at the expense of agriculture;

[T]hat the omission of a Bill of Rights would be disastrous; that a government so far removed from the people was dangerous—as all had learned with a central government in London; and that State governments would be swallowed up by the national government.

Timothy Bloodworth of New Hanover county maintained that the Constitution would set up an “autocratic tyranny, or monarchical monarchy.” Thomas Person of Granville county insisted that it would be impractical and dangerous,” and noted Baptist preacher Lemuel Burkitt predicted that should the Constitution be put into effect, the district for the capital would become a walled city with a standing army of 50,000 or more, to be used for “crushing the liberties of the people.”

(North Carolina and the Federal Union, Hugh Talmadge Lefler, UNC Press, 1954

 

Nov 27, 2014 - Prescient Warnings    No Comments

America's Self-Evident Course in Foreign Policy

President John Adams in his Fourth of July, 1821 address reiterated the foundation-stone of American foreign policy with: “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion only of her own. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication . . . [and in doing so] She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

America’s Self-Evident Course in Foreign Policy

“[President George Washington said]: Put not your trust in allies, especially those who are stronger than you. At worst they will betray or disappoint you; at best they will make you the pawn in their games. Trust instead in the Lord and yourselves in your dealings with aliens, and cast not away the protection conferred by a generous Providence.

The second great tradition of US foreign policy is habitually dubbed “isolationism.” This, despite dogged efforts by some diplomatic historians to instruct us that no such principle ever informed American government, and that the word came into general use only in the 1930s. What brought “isolation” to the consciousness of the American public was the propaganda of navalists like Captain A.T. Mahan, who sought to pin on their anti-imperialist critics a tag that implied they were old-fashioned curmudgeons.

Thus the Washington Post proclaimed at the time of the Spanish-American War that “the policy of isolation is dead,” and the Oxford English Dictionary first made reference to the concept in 1901: “Hence, Isolationist, one who favors or advocates isolation. In US politics, one who thinks the Republic ought to pursue a policy of political isolation.”

The Encyclopaedia Britannica never made “isolation” a rubric, and only after World War II did its articles on diplomacy refer to the phenomenon. Most telling of all, not even the “isolationists” of the 1930s had any use for the term, preferring to call themselves neutralists or nationalists. So, our vaunted tradition of “isolationism” is no tradition at all, but a dirty word that interventionists, especially since Pearl Harbor, hurl at anyone who questions their policies.

Let us dispense with the term altogether and substitute for it a word that really describes the second great tradition in American foreign relations: Unilateralism. It was a natural, even inevitable corollary of the first American tradition, for if the essence of Exceptionalism was liberty at home, the essence of Unilateralism was to be at liberty to make foreign policy independent of the “toils of European ambition.”

Unilateralism never meant that the United States should, or for that matter could, sequester itself or pursue an ostrich-like policy toward all foreign countries. It simply meant, as Hamilton and Jefferson both underscored, that the self-evident course for the United States was to avoid permanent, entangling alliances and to remain neutral in Europe’s wars except when our Liberty – the first hallowed tradition – was at risk.”

(Promised Land, Crusader State, Walter A. McDougall, Houghton-Mifflin, 1997, pp. 39-40)

Andrew Jackson and the Spoils System

Small “r” republican John C. Calhoun of South Carolina predicted the result when political victory became a license for partisan favors to be distributed to base and corrupt party men.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Andrew Jackson and the Spoils System:

“[For] the first forty years of our history were singularly free from the spoils system, with the coming of Andrew Jackson, “the man of perpetual fury,” all this had been changed. Jackson frankly divided the spoils of political victory with his fellow Democrats and established a precedent which successive administrations, Democrat, Whig and Republican alike, had eagerly followed, till slowly, but with terrible certainty, the partisan conception had grown into a system, generally accepted as an unavoidable incident of popular government.

There had, of course, always been indignant protestants. Calhoun, in 1835, declared:

“So long as the offices were considered as public trusts, to be conferred on the honest, the faithful and capable, for the common good, and not for the benefit or gain of the incumbent or his party, and so long it was the practice of the Government to continue in office those who faithfully performed their duties, its patronage, in point of fact, was limited to the mere power of nominating to accidental vacancies or to newly created offices, and would, of course, exercise but a moderate influence either over the body of the community or over the office holders themselves; but when this practice was reversed – when offices, instead of being considered as public trusts, to be conferred on the deserving, were regarded as the spoils of victory, to be bestowed as rewards for partisan service – it is easy to see the certain, direct and inevitable tendency . . . to convert the entire body of those in office into corrupt and supple instruments of power, and to raise up a host of hungry, greedy and subservient partisans, ready for every service, however base and corrupt.”

(Grover Cleveland, The Man and the Statesman, Volume I, Harper & Brothers, 1923, pp. 121-122)

Nov 21, 2014 - Prescient Warnings    No Comments

Patrick Henry Fears an American King

Patrick Henry opposed the adoption of the Constitution as he feared the consolidating purpose of it.  He foretold that the growing power of the federal agent would oppress the States  and “use a standing army to execute the execrable commands of tyranny”; he warned of leaving the agricultural States of the South at the mercy of the trading and manufacturing States of the North through treaty and protective tariff bills, as well as “an army of Federal officers” sent forth to harass the people and interfering in their elections.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Patrick Henry Fears an American King:

“The great danger to the country lies in the temptation to the political party controlling Congress to so manipulate the elections as to perpetuate its powers. Another danger in Federal elections, foreseen by Mr. Henry, was the improper use of money. He predicted that rich men would carry the elections and constitute an aristocracy of wealth. Bribery in elections has become open and shameless, and the most conspicuous corruptors of the people, instead of being relegated to infamy, are too often rewarded by high official positions.

The conduct of the Northern members of the Congress, especially in the matter of the Mississippi, induced Mr. Henry to predict, that under a government that subjected the South to the will of a Northern majority, that majority having different interests, would never consent to Southern aggrandizement. The history of the country may be appealed to for the fulfillment of this prophesy, and the justifications of the fears he expressed.

Mr. Henry’s declaration that the Federal Government “squints toward monarchy,” is now, after a century of trial, admitted to be true by writers on the subject. Professor Hare . . . after stating that in England the prime minister is the responsible executive officer, and that he is controlled by the House of Commons, adds:

“Our system, on the contrary, intrusts the executive department of the government to a chief magistrate, who, during his term of office, and so far as his power extends, is virtually a king . . . When President Polk precipitated hostilities with Mexico by marching an army into the disputed territory, Congress had no choice but to declare war which he had provoked, and which they had no power to terminate . . . A chief magistrate who wields the whole military, and no inconsiderable share of the civil power, of the State, who can incline the scale to war and forbid the return of peace, whose veto will stay the course of legislation, who is the source of enormous patronage which is the main lever in the politics of the United States, exercise functions more truly regal than those of an English monarch . . . every inch a king.”

(Patrick Henry, Life, Correspondence and Speeches, William Wirt Henry, Volume I, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891, pp. 404-406)

 

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