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January 18, 2014


Parts I and II allude to the then approaching American Civil War on the issue of slavery, a war that was easy to predict from the cozy retrospect of today. It was not all that certain at the time. Those on the scene did not enjoy our vantage point, and though war seemed inevitable amidst the threatening editorials of newspapers and angry stump speeches of politicians both North and South, it was not necessarily seen as a done deal among many on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

There were Unionists who held slaves and those who wished to leave the Union who did not. It was a time of political upheaval with Democrats and Southern Whigs in the South fighting one another for political control, even though both favored slavery. (The Democrats won with their argument that Whigs were not sufficiently FOR slavery – a stand reminiscent of today’s libertarian and tea party bullying attempts to drag mainline Republicans to their right wing extremist “positions”).

Lincoln himself vacillated with varying positions on Southern slavery as an institution, whether it should be allowed in the territories (that were destined to become states), application of the Fugitive Slave Act in given situations etc. Lincoln even backed a slave holder for president, Zachary Taylor, a Whig and a military hero as a general in the Mexican War. He backed Taylor though he recognized Taylor’s shortcomings on grounds that the Whigs needed somebody who could win, and that America’s short history proved that generals could win. He was and is right – witness Washington, Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Grant,  Eisenhower et al. Taylor’s reign as president was relatively benign; and if we had to have a slave holder for president we are fortunate that it was not John C. Calhoun, whose reign would have been anything but benign. We must remember as well that our first several presidents (excluding Adams) were slave-holders though Unionists irrespective of party. The two concepts were not mutually exclusive at the time, not even among intellectuals such as Madison, a slave holder.

Today we have extremists who want to form their own country, secede from the United States, nullify the application of federal laws etc. It’s as though we are reliving through another Calhoun experience, though not based upon slavery as the defining issue. We are all witnesses to the threats and bullying of mainline Republicans by their libertarian and tea party components; threats of primary opposition for mainline House and Senate Republicans, threats to withhold votes on key legislation and other bullying tactics employed against their own. These threats made against Republicans are made not on grounds of slavery revisited but rather on grounds that mainline Republicans are not sufficiently obstructive to the governing process. These people would dismember the Union because they do not like the programs and initiatives of the federal government. They would even shut down the government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States of America with their extremist nonsense. Republicans who wish to compromise in order to effectively govern are treated as pariahs and targeted for primary opponents. These libertarian and tea party people don’t seem to understand that if they are successful in secession or in forming their own country, then they will have given up their American citizenship in the process and will thereafter have zero influence on American policy. They are apparently opposed to whatever programs and initiatives Democrats and mainline Republicans put forth, compromises included, but offer none of their own, being content to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. When the Rand and Cruz Control rants are stripped of their phony baloney, we find anarchy pure and simple. They have no governing philosophy; they offer only mayhem.

I will return to Calhoun, the Missouri Compromise and offer further commentary and insight on present day government-haters in Part IV. Stay tuned.  GERALD  E


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