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Peaceable Americans Form a More Perfect Union

In President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address he pointed out that “sovereign States here represented have proceeded to form this Confederacy; and it is an abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government remained.” He added simply, “The agent through which they communicated changed.” Thus there was no “destruction of the Union” as was charged by the North, but merely a reduction in the number of constituent States forming the union of 1787.

Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.org

 

Peaceable Americans Form a More Perfect Union

“On February 15, 1861, before the arrival of Mr. Davis at Montgomery to take the oath of office, the Congress passed a resolution providing “that a commission of three persons be appointed by the President-elect as early as may be convenient after his inauguration and sent to the government of the United States, for the purpose of negotiating friendly relations between that government and the Confederate States of America, and for the settlement of all questions of disagreement between the two governments, upon principles of right, justice, equity and good faith.”

Truly, as Mr. [Alexander] Stephens, of Georgia, one of the delegates to this Montgomery Congress, says . . . “[the Confederate Congress] were no such men as revolutions or civil commotions usually bring to the surface . . . Their object was not to tear down, so much as it was to build up with the greater security and permanency.” And we may add that they meant to build up, if so permitted, peaceably.

In this spirit of amity and justice, the first act of the Louisiana State convention, after passing the ordinance of secession [from union with the United States], was to adopt, unanimously, a resolution recognizing the right to free navigation of the Mississippi River (which flows down from Northern States of the great inland basin and empties into the sea within the confines of Louisiana), and further recognizing the right of egress at that river’s mouth and looking to the guaranteeing of these rights.

President Davis’ inaugural address, delivered February 18, 1861, breathe the same spirit of friendship toward our brothers of the North. He said in part:

“Our present political situation . . . illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 24-25)

 

George Davis’s Last Public Address

Renowned Wilmington, North Carolina attorney and statesman George Davis served as the last attorney general of the Confederate States of America, 1864-1865. He was selected as a North Carolina delegate to the Washington Peace Conference of February 1861, and was elected to the North Carolina Senate before becoming Attorney General. His eminent bronze statue stands in downtown Wilmington, erected and dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911.  Davis was said to have little toleration for new ideas and did not believe in popular education – it was a heresy with him. He was a Cavalier, not a Puritan, and stated that “this thing you boys are advocating, called progress, and the introduction of new notions is wrong. It is but synonym for graft and rascality.” Read more about Davis at www.cfhi.net.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

George Davis’ Last Public Address

George Davis’s last public address was a memorial of his former chief, President Jefferson Davis, in December 1889, on which occasion he spoke without notes in Wilmington’s famous Thalian Hall Opera House. Already in feeble health, George Davis spoke of his fallen President being a “high-souled, true-hearted Christian gentleman, and if our poor humanity has any higher form than that, I know not what it is.”  Davis ended his last oration with:

“My public life was long since over; my ambition went down with the banner of the South, and, like it, never rose again. I have had abundant time in all these quiet years, and it has been my favorite occupation to review the occurences of that time, and recall over the history of that tremendous struggle; to remember with love and admiration the great men who bore their parts in its events. 

I have often thought what was it that the Southern people had to be most proud of in all the proud things of their record?  Not the achievement of our arms!  No man is more proud of them than I, no man rejoices more in Manassas, Chancellorsville and in Richmond; but all the nations have had their victories.

There is something, I think, better than that, and it was this, that through all the bitterness of that time, and throughout all the heat of that fierce contest, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee never spoke a word, never wrote a line that the whole neutral world did not accept as the very indisputable truth.

Aye, truth was the guiding star of both of them, and that is the grand thing to remember; upon that my memory rests more proudly than upon anything else. It is a monument better than marble, more durable than brass. Teach it to your children, that they may be proud to remember Jefferson Davis.”

 

Sumter: The Republican Party’s Salvation

Clearly, the immediate cause of war in 1861 was the Republican Party. Rather than pursue compromise in the Peace Conference led by former President John Tyler, or follow former President James Buchanan’s [and Kentucky’s] suggestion of solving the issues in a National Convention of the States, the turbulent party of Lincoln chose “party over country” and plunged the country into a destructive war which claimed the lives of a million people, and sacrificed the Constitution to a military dictatorship.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Sumter: the Republican Party’s Salvation

“After the failure of the Crittenden Compromise, Kentuckians refused to call it an ultimatum. They seemed to have felt that if an earthquake should swallow up the State it would not be more disastrous to them than disunion and civil war. They, therefore, responded with alacrity to the Virginia summons for a Peace Conference.

Unfortunately, the delegations from the northern States were made up of carefully picked “not-an-inch” Republicans, and the Peace Conference made no headway toward conciliation.

In the meantime, the Kentucky Legislature suggested the calling of a great national convention freshly elected by the American people, to deal with the subjects in controversy as became a free, intelligent and enlightened people. Kentucky did not want the Union to be broken in the “mortar of secession to be strung together on a rope of sand”, but neither did she want a higher law than the Constitution of the United States interpreted by the Supreme Court to be set up by a Republican minority.

However, the reinforcement of Fort Sumter directly brought on a so-called disturbance of the public peace and a call for 75,000 troops was thus substituted for the call of a National Convention. Of course, it was obvious after the spring elections that the non-compromising Republicans could secure only a minority of the delegates to such a Convention freshly elected by the people.

Moreover, the calling of such a convention would have been a substantial admission on the part of the Republican leaders that they, themselves, were not representative of the nation and that their argument in favor of a sectional control of the national government was invalid.

In other words, the calling of a National Convention would have amounted to an admission that the Republican party leaders were wrong in the premises – not on the slavery question, but on their advocacy of a sectional control of the national presidency. Lincoln’s statement that if [Major Robert] Anderson came out of Sumter, he, himself, would have to come out of the White House, was doubtless a correct estimate of the effect a withdrawal of troops from Sumter and the calling of a National Convention would have had on the political fortunes of the sectional Republican party.

It can be readily understood just why Republican party politicians would prefer the reinforcing of Sumter to the calling of a National Convention. An appeal to the brain of the nation meant the party’s annihilation, while an appeal to the brawn of the north meant the party’s salvation.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University Press, 1921, excerpts pp. 111-113)

 

Jul 30, 2018 - Jeffersonian America, Prescient Warnings, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Conservatives, Southern Statesmen, Tenth Amendment, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

Jefferson foresaw problems between the States and the general government, and noted in an 1824 letter to John Cartwright that if a collision can “neither be avoided nor compromised, a convention of the States must be called, to ascribe the doubtful power to that department which they may think best.” He saw further that the “encroachments of State governments will tend to an excess of liberty which will correct itself, while those of the general government will tend to monarchy, which will fortify itself from day to day, instead of working its own cure. The very basis of the Tenth Amendment was to forbid the general government from assuming powers not delegated.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

“Jefferson’s real concern was for American law, not international morality. He said he feared he had “gone beyond the Constitution” in agreeing to purchase Louisiana. Much as he believed the United States “must have the Mississippi”; much as he wanted there to be one nation on the continent, and an overland route to the Pacific coast, he was at least as much concerned for human liberty.

With respect to foreign affairs, he believed that only a strong Federal government could conduct them. But with respect to internal affairs, he believed the Federal powers were very narrowly defined, and that all other powers, including the right to secede, belonged to the States.

He utterly rejected the Federalists’ theory that the Constitution “implied” that the government could assume any powers not specifically spelled out in that document. If that we so, he felt, a future Federal government could justify almost anything on grounds that the laws it passed helping to promote the general welfare, even if their effect was to convert the republic into a monarchy.

The only protection the people had, he felt, lay in their control of their State governments. If the several States did not retain all powers not granted to the Federal government, they might as well give up any pretense of having rights of their own.

The issue of States’ rights versus Federal rights was a basic problem to the framers of the Constitution, as the vague language of the Constitution suggests; it was a basic problem to Jefferson; it became a bloody one during the Civil War, and it still to great extent plagues the United States today.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, excerpts pp. 341-342)

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

Both Jefferson and Hamilton recognized that sectionalism had been a part of American politics since colonial days, and the emerging West was adding a third section to the political landscape. The political problem facing Federalists and Republicans was “how to win the allegiance of the absconding swindlers, murderers, fugitive slaves, bankrupts, brigands and failures” who settled the wild areas of the West. And certainly those Westerners would give their political allegiance to whomsoever got them what they wanted. Therein lay the seeds of future war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

“[Jefferson] saw that factions were forming in the United States, and the political parties were emerging. This was something the Founding Fathers had not envisioned when they wrote and agreed upon the Constitution. But it was clear enough to Jefferson that, on one side, there was a Federalist Party, led by Hamilton.

This party, he felt, had made a virtual prisoner of Washington . . . and was hiding behind his prestige to effect its nefarious scheme of converting the United States into a monarchy for the specific benefit of Northern financiers. Hamilton, Jefferson somewhat wildly wrote, “was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

Jefferson saw the Federalists as aristocrats who were the enemies of natural law and the rights of man. They interpreted the Constitution to mean the Federal government could seize any rights not specifically denied it, in order to destroy liberty. They were hand in hand with the financiers of Great Britain, and their opposition to slavery was not humanitarian, but just a hypocritical way of seeking to undermine the economy, and hence the power, of the agricultural Southern States.

On the other side, in Jefferson’s view, there ought to be the “anti-Federalist” party, which would stand for strict construction and the rights of States in order to safeguard the rights of man. As he saw them, the anti-Federalists were those who feared the creation of a national bank as another Federalist plot to destroy these rights; they were the true revolutionaries, whereas the Federalists represented the forces of reaction.

As revolutionaries, the republicans were therefore the enemies of monarchical Great Britain and the friends of revolutionary France. If they believed in slavery, it was because – well, of course nobody could really believe in slavery; the South was at heart republican and of course someday slavery would be abolished, but not right now. It was not the time to raise that question: the times now demanded opposition to the anti-revolutionary Federalists.

The anti-Federalists should form a party.”

There was meanwhile a nation to govern – one whose destiny lay clearly in the West. Here, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, were two-hundred thousand American settlers whose political opinions could be decisive. Both saw opportunities to speculate in western lands [but] both feared that the balance of political power might shift from the East Coast to these broad western lands with the swift growth of population there. It was a possibility that occurred to western politicians as well.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 242-244; 247-248)

 

Providing for Self Defense

Following individual State efforts to defend themselves from invasion, the Confederacy’s Chief Ordnance Officer, Josiah Gorgas, succeeded greatly through shrewd judgments and able administration collecting the weapons of war for the South’s field armies. By 1864 he had produced vast quantities of war materiel for large armies with blockade-running importation, establishing industrial centers and armories, plus scavenging discarded weapons and materiel from the battlefields.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Providing for Self-Defense

“Acting far ahead of the rest in self-protection as it had in secession, South Carolina early had established a Board of Ordnance to take charge of the State’s needs in the matter of arms, and the people’s convention as well as the legislature showed immense interest in making appropriations for public defense. The chief ordnance officer, Colonel Edward Manigault, soon engaged in strenuous efforts to collect and prepare arms and ammunition for the State forces.

No sooner had other Southern States accepted responsibility for their own defense than they, too, engaged in plans and efforts to provide means of protection. Tennessee, for example, put its limited powder-making facilities in Nashville to work, and Texas, never to be outdone, established the Texas State Military Board to handle its military affairs.

North Carolina also went into the matter of military preparation with accustomed verve. Soon the legislature began active subsidy of one war industry. The firm of Waterhouse and Bowes, located on a little creek near Raleigh, started powder manufacture, which would attract the favorable notice of the Confederate Ordnance Bureau. The Tar Heel State also developed a zealously guarded monopoly on Confederate supplies of milled cloth.

Prior to the organization of the Confederate government in Montgomery in February, 1861, certain seceding States had, on their own initiative, undertaken a rather nebulous form of military co-operation. South Carolina and Georgia, the latter State militantly led by vociferous Governor Joseph E. Brown, decided to aid Florida and Alabama as much as possible.

[The Confederate Adjutant General’s office officially] assigned Major Gorgas as Chief of Ordnance [on] April 8, 1861 . . . [and] authorized the President or Secretary of War to contract for the purchase and manufacture of heavy ordnance and small arms; for machinery to manufacture or alter small arms and ammunition, and to employ necessary agents and artisans to accomplish these objectives.

Not convinced that the South would be allowed to escape the drain of a long, desperate struggle . . . [President Jefferson Davis] early became an advocate of careful preparation. [He sent] Raphael Semmes . . . to undertake a purchasing mission to . . . Washington, New York, and various New England cities to buy munitions. He met with more success than probably either he or Davis had anticipated, and by the time he returned to the Confederacy had shipped or had arranged the shipment of a considerable quantity of supplies.”

(Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance, Frank E. Vandiver, University of Texas Press, 1952, excerpts pp. 55-57; 58)

Kentucky’s Vichy Government

Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin replied to Lincoln’s illegal request for troops in April 1861 with “I will send not a man nor a dollar for the wicked purpose of subduing my sister Southern States.” His State government tried in vain to maintain neutrality while he personally championed a peaceful settlement between North and South, and acceptance of the Crittenden Compromise proposed by fellow Kentuckian, John J. Crittenden. With the increasing number of Northern troops in his State and the consequent political intimidation, he was forced from office in favor of a Lincoln-appointed military proconsul.  By waging war against a State and adhering to its enemies, Lincoln committed treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Kentucky’s Vichy Government

“On August 18, 1861, a meeting was held in Scott County, Ky., of a number of prominent Democrats; and after a full discussion of the situation, it was determined to send commissioners to Washington and Richmond, with a view to ascertaining, if possible, whether the neutrality of Kentucky would be respected by both sides.

Upon the recommendations of this conference, Governor Magoffin appointed Frank K. Hunt and W.A. Dudley, both Union men, as commissioners to Washington, and George W. Johnson commissioner to Richmond.

In the letter to President [Jefferson] Davis sent in response to that written him by Governor Magoffin, an borne by Mr. Johnson, appears the following language, which certainly very logically and properly summed up the situation:

“The government of the Confederate States has not only respected most scrupulously the neutrality of Kentucky, but has continued to maintain the friendly relation of trade and intercourse which it has suspended with the United States generally. But neutrality, to be entitled to respect, must be strictly maintained by both parties . . .”

Mr. Lincoln replied that he did not believe that it was “the popular wish of Kentucky that the Federal force already there should be removed, and with this impression I must decline to remove it.”

This declaration made it plain to men of all shades of political opinion in Kentucky that the occupation of the State by Federal troops would be continued, and that their number would be increased, not only to completely suppress any sentiment in favor of the Confederacy and action taken in that behalf, but in order to make Kentucky a base of military operations against the States further South.

In a very short time after this declaration by Mr. Lincoln, numerous arrests were made of Kentuckians of known Southern sympathies, or of prominent men who ventured even to question the legality of the aggressive acts committed by Union leaders.

George W. Johnson was one of the first and boldest to denounce such tyranny. He escaped arrest by quitting his home and seeking the Tennessee border within a few hours before the soldiers who were ordered to make him a prisoner arrived at his house.”

(Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, CSA, Cooper Square Press, 2001 (original 1911), excerpts, pp. 148-149)

Joseph Davis Encourages Black Entrepreneurs

As a young man, Jefferson Davis learned life at the feet of his older brother Joseph Emory Davis (1784-1870) the management skills necessary to operate his own Mississippi plantation, “Hurricane.” As described below by author Hudson Strode, Jefferson “was convinced that servitude was a necessary steppingstone to the Negro’s eventual freedom and “measurable perfectibility,” and that those brought from Africa “were benefited by their contact with white civilization and Christianity.” Further, he viewed “the instrument of supplying cotton to the textile industry, which meant better employment in England and on the Continent, as well as New England, the Negro made a real contribution to world prosperity.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Joseph Davis Encourages Black Entrepreneurs

“In one special characteristic Jefferson was deemed a spiritual son of his brother: “he could hardly comprehend anyone’s differing from him in political policy after hearing reasons on which his opinion was based.”

While Jefferson reveled in Joseph’s talk and Joseph’s books in the evenings, by day he was diligent in the pursuit of agriculture. He carefully remarked his brother’s methods of slave management and agronomic techniques. In Natchez with Joseph sand James Pemberton, he had bought ten carefully selected slaves. He had put his faithful body servant in charge of them . . . Pemberton, with a shrewd understanding of both the black man’s and white man’s psychology, [and who was] indispensable.

But even more so was Joseph, who was noted throughout Mississippi for his model plantation. Strange as it may seem, the democratic plutocrat Joseph had been influenced by the utopian philosophy of the socialist Robert Owen, whose “A New View of Society” he had read before meeting him on the stagecoach in 1824.

As Joseph’s Negroes testified both before and after the War Between the States, they were mostly kindly treated. No overseer was ever given the right to punish them. The Negroes enjoyed a kind of self-rule devised by Joseph, in which the older or more settled ones acted as the jury for offenders. Though the Negroes themselves set the penalty, the master reserved the right to pardon or mitigate the severity of the sentence, which Jefferson noted he did more than often.

The slaves were encouraged to be thrifty, resourceful and inventive. They could raise their own vegetables and produce their own eggs to supplement their weekly rations. Eggs bought by the big house were paid for at market prices, though they could also be sold at any market.

When a slave could do better at some other employment than daily labor, he was allowed to do so, paying for the worth of regular field service out of his earnings. One of the slaves ran a variety shop, and sometimes he would buy the entire fruit crop from the Davis estates to sell and ship. Joseph chose his favorites from among the Negroes for advancement according to their qualities and aptitudes. Any individual talent that revealed itself was nurtured.

Jefferson was particularly impressed by a responsible and gifted Negro named Benjamin Thornton Montgomery, whose father, John, had been born a slave in Loudon County, Virginia. John had been taught to write by his master’s young son . . . John’s bent was carpentry, he became an expert in building. Then he took up civil engineering, devising his own instruments.

John passed on his knowledge of reading and writing to his son Ben Montgomery, who had acquired a little library of his own by the time Jefferson came to Hurricane. As the Montgomery boys grew up they helped Joseph with his large correspondence, business and political.”

(Jefferson Davis, American Patriot: 1808-1861, a Biography of the Years Before the Great Conflict, Hudson Strode, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955, excerpts pp. 111-113)

Ben McCulloch’s Visit to New England

Ben McCulloch (1811-1862) of Tennessee was a soldier in the Texas Revolution, a Texas Ranger, major-general in the Texas Militia, a major in the US Army during the Mexican War, a US marshal, and lastly a brigadier-general in the Confederate States Army. He was killed in action by an Illinois sniper at the battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862. McCulloch’s prewar visit to New England in mid-1856 allowed him to view that region’s notable historic and transatlantic slave trade sites. His younger brother Henry served in both Houses of the Texas Legislature and was also a Confederate brigadier; their father Alexander was a Yale graduate, ancestor of George Washington, and veteran of the Creek War of 1813.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Ben McCulloch’s Visit to New England

“Increasingly contemptuous of the North and its institutions, and set in his belief that an abolitionist conspiracy was in place not only to end slavery but to destroy the South’s political liberties, Ben recommended to Henry, then a member of the Texas legislature, that he introduce a joint resolution appointing commissioners to negotiate with the owners of Mount Vernon for its purchase by the State of Texas. “It would be a proud day for our State when it was proclaimed that she owned the Tomb of Washington. Besides,” he wrote, we may want a campaign ground near the city in the event of the election of a Black Republican candidate.”

During the final weeks of June 1856, with [Franklin] Pierce’s term of office drawing to a close and the great regional controversy over the expansion and perpetuation of slavery reaching a crisis, McCulloch took his first trip into New England. After spending no longer in Boston than required to visit “the monument on Breed’s Hill, Faneuil Hall, the Commons, etc.,” Ben reported to Henry that “the whole population looked as though they were just returning from a funeral. Too puritanical in appearance to be good neighbors or patriotic citizens.”

[In Albany, New York, Whig presidential candidate Millard Fillmore] told the North that the South “would not permit a sectional president of the north to govern them.” McCulloch shared this opinion most earnestly, and he vowed to be “the first to volunteer my services as a soldier to prevent it, and would rather see the streets of this city knee deep in blood than to see a black republican take possession of that chair.”

(Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition, Thomas W. Cutrer, UNC Press, 1993, excerpts pp. 140-141)

Jul 3, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Lost Cultures, Southern Conservatives, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots, Southern Women    Comments Off on “There Are Some Things Worse than Death”

“There Are Some Things Worse than Death”

The world of the Old South was deeply rooted in Greek civilization, and saw the glory of warriors as did Xenophon: “And when their fated end comes, they do not lie forgotten and without honor, but they are remembered and flourish eternally in men’s praises.” It was said then of family attachment that “one’s kin were indistinguishable from oneself” – the defense of the kin-related community was the brave man’s obligation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“There are Worse Things than Death”

“Among the attitudes brought from the Old World was the ancient system for determining who belonged among the worthy and who did not. The first signs of an archaic honor appeared in the forests – not where Hawthorne’s story opens, but in regions beyond the Alps, before Christ, before Rome. The ethic of honor had Indo-European origins.

From the wilderness of central Europe and Asia a succession of conquering tribes had come into prehistoric Greece, then, a millennia later, into Roman Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain, and finally, in the last upheaval, by sea from Scandinavia into parts of the once Roman world.

These peoples shared a number of ideas about how men and women should behave. They had thoughts in common about the nature of the human body, the mind, the soul, the meaning of life, time, natural order, and death. Myths, rituals, oaths, grave sites, artifacts, and most especially word roots all indicate a common fund of human perceptions that lasted in popular thought from antique to recent ages.

The overriding principle for these generations of human beings was an ethic almost entirely external in nature. It was easily comprehended and was considered physically demonstrable without resort to abstraction, without ambivalence or ambiguity. Differentiation of what belonged in the public or private realm were very imprecise [and evaluations] depended upon appearances, not upon cold logic. Southern whites retained something of that emphasis.

As Walker Percy, the contemporary novelist, once remarked about the South of not long ago, there was an “absence of a truly public zone” completely separate from the interior life of the family, so that the latter “came to coincide with the actual public space which it inhabited.” Family values differed not at all from public ones.

Intimately related to brave conduct . . . was family protectiveness. [When] the Civil War began, Samuel David Sanders of Georgia mused about Confederate enlistment, “I would be disgraced if I staid at home, and unworthy of my revolutionary ancestors.” Moreover, these strictures kept the armies in the field.

Said a kinswoman of Mary Chestnut in 1865: “Are you like Aunt Mary? Would you be happier if all the men in the family were killed? To our amazement, quiet Miss C took up the cudgels – nobly. “Yes, if their life disgraced them. There are worse things than death.”

(Southern Honor, Ethics & Behavior in the Old South, Bertram Wyatt Brown, Oxford University Press, 1982, excerpts pp. 33-35)

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