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That the Union Not be Abandoned to its Enemies

Many Southerners like Georgia’s Benjamin H. Hill wanted to hold out against secession after Lincoln’s election, and labeled the purely sectional Republican Party as disunionist and an enemy of the Constitution. He reasoned that if Andrew Jackson could coerce South Carolina for nullification thirty years prior, why not coerce the guilty Northern States who nullified the federal fugitive slave law?

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

That The Union Not Be Abandoned To Its Enemies

“On the fifteenth of November [1860], following [Howell] Cobb, [Robert] Toombs and [Alexander] Stephens, Hill appeared before the Assembly and made an eloquent argument against immediate secession or any precipitate action. The speech is primarily a closely reasoned appeal for moderation and a plea that passion and prejudices be discarded in the face of the imminent crisis.

“What are our grievances?” asks Hill; and then he proceeds to enumerate them, outlining the discriminatory policies and propaganda of the Republican party and laying special emphasis on the nugatory action of various free-State legislatures, affecting the fugitive slave laws. Hill represents the Republican Party as the real disunionist party, and quotes from various abolitionists who damn the Union and Constitution because they permit slavery. The grievances, then, are plain, and agreed of all Southern men.

Moreover, Hill believes the redress of grievances is not so hopeless a prospect in the immediate future. But suppose, for the sake of argument, redress of grievances within the Union is impossible, surely it is worth the effort; and all are agreed . . . that if such redress fails, then secession must come. But what are the remedies then, which are proposed within the Union.

First, the demand must be made by all the Southern States that the laws protecting slavery and requiring the rendering up of fugitive slaves must be enforced. The demand can be made as an ultimatum if need be. If necessary, let the federal government enact a force bill against any recalcitrant Northern State refusing obedience, as was done against South Carolina in 1833. Let the wrangling about slavery cease, and the entire machinery of government, if necessary, be put behind the enforcement of existing laws.

And Lincoln must come to this view. His only strength is in the law; he is bound by oath to carry out the law. A Southern president had once coerced a Southern State; now let a Northern president coerce a Northern State, if it comes to that. Hill insists that such a resolute attitude has never been taken by the Southern States, and he pleads that the Union not be abandoned to its enemies without making this effort to save it . . . He asks: “Is this Union good? If so, why should we surrender its blessings because Massachusetts violates the laws of that Union? Drive Massachusetts to the duties of the Constitution or from its benefits . . . Let us defend the Union against its enemies — not abandon it to them.

On December 6, Cobb, in an address to the people of Georgia announcing his resignation from [President James] Buchanan’s cabinet, averred that : “the Union formed by our fathers, which was one of equality, justice and fraternity would be supplanted on the 4th of March by a Union of sectionalism and hatred — the one worthy of the support and devotion of free men, the other only possible at the cost of Southern honor, safety and independence.”

This was followed up on December 23 by Toombs telegram to the Savannah Morning News, after the failure of the Crittenden Compromise: “I will tell you upon the faith of a true man that all further looking to the North for your constitutional rights in the Union ought to be abandoned. It is fraught with nothing but ruin to yourself and posterity.”

(Secession and Reconstruction, Haywood J. Pearce, Jr., University of Chicago Press, 1928, pp. 43-45)

 

Jun 19, 2016 - Articles of Confederation, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on Very Clear Instructions, Difficult to Misunderstand

Very Clear Instructions, Difficult to Misunderstand

The invitation to appoint delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was specific in mentioning only revisions to the existing Articles of Confederation that governed the United States. The delegates from New York, Yates and Lansing, returned to their State and reported to Governor Clinton that some in the Convention wished to abolish the Articles and adopt a new document, something they were not sent there to accomplish.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Very Clear Instructions, Difficult to Misunderstand

“Office of the Secretary of Congress

February 21st, 1787

(Circular)

Sir, I have the honor to transmit to your Excellency herewith enclosed an Act of the United States in Congress Assembled, and am, With great respect, Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and Most Humble Servant,

Chas. Thomson

Resolves of Congress (From Executive Letter Book)

“Whereas, there is provision in the Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union for making alterations therein by the assent of a Congress of the United States and of the Legislature of the several States;

And Whereas, experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation, as a means to Remedy which several of the States, and particular the State of New York, by Express Instructions to their Delegates in Congress have suggested a Convention for the purposes expressed in the following Resolution, and such Convention appearing to be the most probable means of establishing in these States a firm National Government.

Resolved, That in the opinion of Congress, it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of Delegates who shall have been appointed by the several States, be held in Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and Reporting to Congress and the several Legislatures such alterations and provisions therein, as shall when Agreed to in Congress and Confirmed by the States under the Federal Constitution, be adequate to the Exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union.

Chas. Thomson”

Liberalism’s New World of Freedom

Liberal internationalists can be counted on to explain the complex causes of war as simply “unprovoked aggression,” and eliminating aggression anywhere they saw as the only way to make the world safe for democracy. Regardless of public opinion, diplomats like George Kennan advised the public to allow national leaders to speak for them in “councils of the nations,” Republican presidents replaced Democratic presidents “without the slightest diminution of executive power,” and Congress was seen as an obstruction to liberal progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberalism’s New World of Freedom

“Since the beginning of this century, American liberalism has made little measurable progress toward two of its most important goals: a more equitable distribution of income and an improved level pf public services. Confronted with the realities of corporate power and the conservatism of Congress, the reforming zeal of the liberal state has been easily frustrated.

This is mirrored in the stymied hopes of the New Freedom by 1916, the stalemate of the New Deal by 1938, and the dissolution of the Great Society by 1966. What is left by these aborted crusades is not the hard substance of reform but rather the major instrument change – the powerful central state. In the process the ideological focus of liberalism have moved from the concepts of equality and democracy to those of centralization and governmental unification.

The liberal search for national unity and an expanding domestic economy could not be separated from the vision of an internationalist order which was “safe from war and revolution and open to the commercial and moral expansion of American liberalism.”

This was a vision shared by Woodrow Wilson and Cordell Hull. To Hull and Wilson and later to Dean Rusk, peace required the restructuring of diplomacy through an elaborate network of collective security arrangements; prosperity demanded the removal of national trade barriers.

Such a vision, as N. Gordon Levin has brilliantly argued, could not contain within it the forces of either revolution or reaction and led almost inevitably to a foreign policy marked by conflict and crisis. Each new foreign policy crisis in turn strengthened the state apparatus and made the “National Idea” seem even more appropriate – a development which liberals, especially of the New Deal vintage, could only see as benign.

Peace and prosperity, political themes of the Eisenhower years, were considered indulgences by Kennedy liberals such as Walter Rostow. Eisenhower’s cautious leadership was considered without national purpose.

To those liberals the American mission could be no less than “the survival and success of liberty.” The “National Idea,” glorified by such transcendent goals, became a Universal Mission, viz., Arthur Schlesinger, Jr’s assessment, “The United States has an active and vital interest in the destiny of every nation on the planet.” Presidents felt mandated not only to complete a mere domestic program but rather, to quote the Kennedy inaugural, “to create a new world of freedom.”

Nevertheless, such missionary rhetoric was eminently compatible with the liberal mission of government problem solving and reform emanating from the top. Setting the tone in 1960 for another liberal return to power, Townsend Hoopes insisted, “Under our system the people can look only to the President to define the nature of our foreign policy problem and the national programs and sacrifices required to meet it with effectiveness.”

After a generation of such fawning rhetoric, it is little wonder that the modern president’s conception of himself bears closer resemblance to the fascist notion of the state leader than even the Burkean concept of democratic leadership. As President Nixon described his role, “He (the president) must articulate the nation’s values, define its goals and marshal its will.”

(The Ideology of the Executive State: Legacy of Liberal Internationalism, Watershed of Empire, Essays on New Deal Foreign Policy, Myles Publishing, 1976, Robert J. Bresler, pp. 2-4)

Betrayed by Yankees Perverting the Constitution

The presidential messages of Jefferson Davis were filled with assertions of the South’s legal right to secede and form a more perfect union, and determine its own form of government to the letter of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Not losing sight of this, even in early 1865, one Confederate congressman stated that “This is a war for the Constitution, it is a constitutional war.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Betrayed by Yankees Perverting the Constitution

“Contributors to Confederate periodicals explored parallels between the Confederacy and other fledgling nations or independence movements – the Dutch republic, the “young kingdom of Italy,” and the Polish and Greek rebellions.

But the authors were careful to dissociate the South from genuinely radical movements; it was the conservative European nationalism of the post-1848 period with which the Confederacy could identify most enthusiastically. The Dutch struggle, an essayist in the July, 1862, issue of the Southern Presbyterian Review explained approvingly, was like the Confederate, for in both situations, “not we, but our foes, are the revolutionists.”

The Daily Richmond Enquirer was even more explicit about the Poles:

“There is nothing whatever in this movement of a revolutionary, radical or Red Republican character. It is the natural, necessary protest and revolt of, not a class or order, but an ancient and glorious nation, against that crushing, killing union with another nationality and form of society. It is . . . the aristocratic and high-bred national pride of Poland revolting against the coarse brute power of Russian imperialism . . . At bottom, the cause of Poland is the same cause for which the Confederates are now fighting.”

The Southern government welcomed a Spanish analogy between Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and northern advances across the Potomac. British recognition of the new Italian state encouraged [Robert] Toombs to see parallels there, as well. “Reasons no less grave and valid than those which actuated the people of Sicily and Naples,” he explained, had prompted the Confederacy to seek its independence.

But the nationalist movement with which the Confederates most frequently identified was . . . the American War of Independence. A central contention of Confederate nationalism, as it emerged in 1861, was that the South’s effort represented a continuation of the struggle of 1776. The South, Confederates insisted, was the legitimate heir of American revolutionary tradition. Betrayed by Yankees who had perverted the true meaning of the Constitution, the revolutionary heritage could be preserved only by secession. Southerners portrayed their independence as the fulfillment of American nationalism.

Secession represented continuity, not discontinuity; the Confederacy was the consummation, not the dissolution, of the American dream. A sermon preached in South Carolina explained that “The doctrines of the original Puritans were, and are, the doctrines of the Bible . . . but the descendants of the Puritans have gone far astray from the creed of their forefathers.”

[Southerners strived] to avoid the dangerous “isms” – feminism, socialism, abolitionism – that had emerged from Northern efforts at social betterment. But the logic of Confederate nationalism . . . was to prescribe significant shifts in the Southern definition of Christian duty. Secession thus became an act of purification, a separation from the pollutions of decaying Northern society, that “monstrous mass of moral disease,” as the Mobile Evening News so vividly described it.”

(The Creation of Confederate Nationalism, Drew Gilpin Faust, LSU Press, 1988, pp. 13-14, 27, 29-30)

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation

Following the War Between the States, the freedmen were exploited by the infamous Union League to help ensure the election of Northern radical Republicans who exploited and bankrupted the exhausted South.  The emergence of the Ku Klan Klan was a predictable result.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation  

“Reconstruction” is a curious name to apply to the period following the war. Indeed, the war had left widespread destruction, but the government in Washington had no policy of reconstruction.  The South was left to its own economic devices, which largely amounted to being exploited by Northern interests who took advantage of cheap land, cheap labor, and readily available natural resources. This exploitation and neglect created an economic morass, the results of which endure into the twenty-first century.

Not surprisingly, governments based on the leadership of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedmen, groups that represented a minority of the population, met widespread and violent opposition. This attempt to create a government based on racial equality was made even more ludicrous when many of [the] Northern States rejected the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, creating a situation where the States that said they had worked to free the slaves failed to grant equality to people of color.

(Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff, Michael R. Bradley, Pelican Publishing Company,

Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism”

“Roosevelt the First,” as Mencken referred to Theodore, seemed unaware that his own party was responsible for the national malady he spoke against – it was the Republican Party’s marriage of government and business in the 1860s that unleashed the Gilded Age as the conservative South was no longer there to resist the government corruption and scandal. As he asserted new powers for the president, Roosevelt was creating new authority beyond what the United States Constitution confers upon the executive branch, his New Nationalism was indeed a refuge for “presidential lawbreakers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism”

“[Former President Roosevelt] arrived in New York on June 18 [1910], after visiting courts and other interesting scenes in Europe. In all these places he received great honor, and his landing in New York called forth a demonstration worthy a world hero.

The public was curious to see whether Roosevelt would side with his old friend [William H. Taft], now the President . . . Shortly after landing he visited Taft and outwardly all seemed harmonious. In all he said openly he did not criticize Taft, but he did not abate his opposition to big business in politics.

Then suddenly he hurled a thunderbolt. Speaking on August 31 at Osawatomie, Kansas, he announced a political program, which he called “New Nationalism.” Government by the people, he said, was threatened by wealth in national politics, and the power of the nation should be so extended over it that it could not do what it is doing.

To reach this end he would give the federal government all needed power. If the Constitution was not strong enough he would amend it. He denounced what he called the “twilight zone” between federal and State authority, “a refuge for lawbreakers, and especially for lawbreakers of great wealth, who can hire the vulpine legal cunning which will teach the way to avoid both jurisdictions.”

“New Nationalism,” he added, regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare, rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than one class or section of the people.” From the individualism of [Grover] Cleveland to the “New Nationalism” of Roosevelt was a long step.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 175-176)

 

Threats of Federal Interference in Elections

The Republican Party used freedmen votes to win elections from Grant onward, though the election of Democrat Grover Cleveland demonstrated that more federal election interference in the South was needed to ensure GOP victories. Amid Republican claims that free elections were not being held in the South, Senator Zebulon Vance spoke against the Republican’s 1890 Force Bill and their assertion of electoral purity:

“[t]he supporters of this bill . . . is the same party, which inaugurated Reconstruction. By Reconstruction, it will be remembered one-fifth of the votes in eleven States was suppressed by law. The punishment of disfranchisement was freely inflicted [on Southerners] as a punishment for crime without trial and conviction. Thousands upon top of thousands of other votes were suppressed by fraud . . . [and] there were received and counted the ballots of those who were not entitled to suffrage under any law known to American history or tradition.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Threats of Federal Interference in Elections

“At the end of Reconstruction period the South, which had lost so much in other ways, gained in its representation in Congress through counting all the Negroes in the apportionment. In 1860 it had 108 representatives, in 1880 it had 135. In the same period the three Middle Atlantic States rose from 66 to 73, and the six New England States declined from 41 to 40.

The Southern gain worked for the advantage of the Democrats and the disadvantage of the Republicans. The Republicans, now controlling both houses of Congress, were indignant at a situation which . . . deprived them of votes in the House. This feeling led them to bring in the Federal Election Bill of 1890 . . . On its face the law applied to all parts of the country, but it was aimed mainly at the South and the city of New York.

Candid Southerners did not deny suppressing the Negro vote, but they justified it by saying a great wrong had been done when Negro suffrage was imposed on the South by military force; and they insisted it was necessary to eliminate that vote in order to have good government. Southerners gave clear warning that it would be impossible to enforce a law to put the South in the hands of the Negroes.

The bill passed the House but came to a halt in the Senate. The more it was considered the greater was the unwillingness to enter upon the stormy course its passage would produce. The proposal was finally killed by an agreement between eight free-silver Senators and a group of Southern senators.

The threat to pass the election bill alarmed Southerners greatly, and the defeat of the bill did not altogether remove their fears; for federal interference might be renewed at any time.

Another source of anxiety to the Southern Democrats was the appearance of the People’s [Populist] Party in their midst with a fair prospect of dividing the white vote. These two things led Southerners to pass certain amendments to several State constitutions, in order to exclude the Negro from voting without incurring penalties for violating the Fifteenth Amendment.

To do this it was necessary to word the alterations so that the Negro was not disenfranchised upon the specified grounds of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” the only grounds on which at that time the rights of suffrage might not be denied.

It was natural that these amendments should go to the Supreme Court for interpretation. But that tribunal showed a strong unwillingness to pas upon them in fact. To overthrow them would produce a critical situation in the South, where the whites were more determined that the Negroes should not rule either all or any part of the section. The Court showed a desire to avoid precipitating a sectional conflict.

Nevertheless the Fifteenth Amendment is still a part of the federal Constitution; and when the Negro race comes to have the weight of trained intelligence and the substantial possession of property, it will probably find a way to qualify and vote under the present State amendments.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 22-24)

Washington Will Be a Fortified City

Lemuel Burkitt (1750-1807) was a Baptist preacher and member of the 1788 Hillsborough Convention which considered the new union proposed by Alexander Hamilton. A devout anti-Federalist, he demanded a maximum of State rights and the preservation of individual liberties, and thus was highly suspicious of Hamilton’s centralization of power schemes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Washington Will Be a Fortified City

“At the sessions of the courts, at county militia musters, in the taverns, wherever men gathered, the main topics of conversation [in 1787] were the Constitution and its framers. In the heat of argument no man’s character was above attack and no past political or military service could overcome party animosity. Thomas Person, a general of the Revolution and patriot of undoubted sincerity, denounced Washington as “a damned rascal and traitor to his country for putting his hand to such an infamous paper as the new Constitution.”

Willie Jones, leader of the [North Carolina] anti-federalists, found it necessary to deny in the public press that he had “called the Members of the Grand Convention, generally, and General Washington and Col. Davie, in particular, scoundrels” . . . William Lenoir of Wilkes county said later in the debates in the convention that his constituents had instructed him to oppose the adoption of the Constitution. William Lancaster of Franklin [county] said that his own feelings and his duty to his constituents induced him to oppose the adoption of the Constitution, since he believed every delegate was bound by his instructions.

Lemuel Burkitt, a Baptist preacher strongly opposed to ratification, was a [convention] candidate in Hertford county. In explaining the selection of an area ten square miles [to be] the seat of the [federal] government, Burkitt said: “This my friends, will be walled in or fortified. Here an army of fifty thousand, or perhaps, a hundred thousand men, will be finally embodied, and will sally forth, and enslave the [American] people, who will be gradually disarmed.”

[Hugh] Williamson . . . did not consider paper currency as honest tender because of its rapid depreciation. However convenient depreciated paper appeared to those who used it to discharge their debts, he contended that the credit and finances of the State had been injured by it. No part of the North Carolina debt of North Carolina had been discharged by the operations of paper money, “the whole advantage of depreciation being a mere juggle,” by which one citizen was injured for the convenience of another.”

So great were the evils of paper money that the dignity of government was wounded by declaring it legal tender, industry languished, the orphan was defrauded, and the most atrocious frauds were practiced under the sanction of the law.”

(The Ratification of the Federal Constitution in North Carolina, Louisa Irby Trenholme, Columbia University Press, pp. 107-110; 117)

Generations Living Off Future Generations

Jefferson wrote in 1792: “As the doctrine is that a public debt is a public blessing, so they think a perpetual one is a perpetual blessing, and therefore wish to make it so large that we can never pay it off.” Prior to 1861 it as common for American presidents to view that indebting future administrations was both immoral and unconscionable.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Generations Living Off Future Generations

“On September 6, 1789, Jefferson admonished James Madison from Paris that the country should get straight, “at the threshold of our new government,” how we are to keep the debt from destroying the democracy. Jefferson’s premise, which he believed to be “self-evident,” is that one generation cannot – either morally or in fact – bind another.

It follows that “No generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.” The “earth belongs in usufruct [trust] to the living . . . [T]he dead have neither powers nor rights over it.” If one generation can charge another for its debts, “then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation.”

Jefferson continued: “The conclusion then, is, that neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself assembled, can validly engage debts beyond what they can pay in their own time.”

Madison wrote back that he generally agreed but thought debt was justifiable if it built a project that benefited the future taxpayer – a useful bridge, for example. Jefferson answered that the power to borrow was too dangerous to allow exceptions – any exception would expand or destroy the prohibition.

Madison’s argument seemed plausible, but Jefferson’s camel’s-nose-under-the-tent concern was right. No government will stay within Madison’s exception. World War II, the last time this country could make any kind of legitimate case for a benefit to future generations, was in fact financed 47 percent by pay as you go taxes, which provided $137 billion out of a total cost of $304 billion.

Jefferson could not get his 1798 amendment adopted, but the country got more chances to adopt Jeffersonian principles in 1994, 1995, and 1996 when Sen. Sam Nunn (D., GA) proposed a Balanced Budget Amendment. At the time, the national debt was large (about four trillion dollars) but could have been dealt with. It was not yet a perpetual debt.

Senator Nunn called his legislation the “Jefferson Amendment.” It required that Congress balance expenses with revenues [and] the public constantly supported Nunn’s amendment by 75-percent margins. But he was defeated by the Clinton Cabinet, which argued that the economy would crash if the federal government couldn’t borrow.

A New York senator said the amendment’s passage could “lead to the devastation of the banking industry.” With the defeat of the Nunn Amendment, the boat sailed for the Republic.”

(Just One More Thing, William J. Quirk, Can the Republic Be Restored?, Chronicles, May 2009, pg. 15)

The Constitution Changed with No Text Altered

The following quotes from Colonel Edward M. House’s papers reveal how Woodrow Wilson saw his role as president. The first shows the fear Northern congressmen felt for a Southerner being in control of the politically-important federal pensions for Northern War Between the States veterans. Dewey Grantham wrote in his “Hoke Smith,” that there were “by 1893 almost a million pensioners receiving over $156 million annually, or almost one third of the entire expense of operating the government.” In the last quote House states that Wilson would not tolerate aggression against other republics, yet is silent on the aggression in 1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Constitution Changed with No Text Altered

February 13, 1913:

“Chance plays its parts in history. Had Mr. [Walter Hines] Page been in town, he would have been offered and would have accepted the Secretariat of the Interior, and he would not have gone to London as Ambassador. But before his return, the party leaders in Congress learned of the suggestion and objected strongly. Page, they pointed out, was a Southerner, and no Southerner should be the Secretary of the Interior because of his control of [federal Civil War] pensions.”

September 28, 1914:

“We talked much of leadership and its importance in government. He thinks our form of government can be changed by personal leadership; but I thought the Constitution should be altered, for no matter how great a leader a man was, I could see situations that would block him unless the Constitution was modified. He does not feel as strongly about this as I do.”

November 7, 1914:

“There were no outside visitors for dinner, but the President artfully evaded getting alone with me in the study. He was afraid I would renew the McAdoo-Tumulty controversy. However, he need not have worried. He began to speak of a flexible or fluid constitution in contradistinction to a rigid one. He thought that constitutions changed without the text being altered, and cited our own as an example. At the beginning, he thought, there was no doubt that there was no difference of opinion as to the right of the States to secede. This practically unanimous opinion probably prevailed down to Jackson’s time. Then there began a large sentiment for union, which finally culminated in our Civil War, and a complete change of the Constitution without its text being altered.”

December 19, 1914:

“Justice Lamar telephoned that the Argentine Ambassador was back . . . he excused himself for a moment and took [Ambassador] Naon aside to inform him how thoroughly I represented the President. At lunch I reported to the President the substance of my conversation with the Ambassador from the Argentine . . . “The President said in talking with them I could go very far, and he was emphatic in the statement that the United States would not tolerate . . . aggression upon other republics.”

The Intimate Papers of Colonel House, Behind the Political Curtain, 1912-1915, Houghton Mifflin, 1926, pp. 121-122, 212-213,

 

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