2012 Endorsements: George Washington

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 16th, 2012

2012 Election

At first the Six Nations feared the French taking their Land more than the British

George Washington entered the history books when he entered the Ohio Country.  Where the French and the British were claiming the same land in North America.  While his contemporaries went to college Washington went to war.  Over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  In the harsh frontier lands of the Ohio Country.  Fighting for the British against Britain’s archenemy.  France.  Who had seized a half-built fort near the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers.  Renamed it Fort Duquesne.  And proceeded to turn the surrounding area French.  Until, that is, Washington arrived on the scene.

It is much debated about what happened when the British fell upon a French force outside of Fort Duquesne.  Especially who fired first.  Or what happened after the French surrendered.  The French commander, Joseph Coulon de Villiers, sieur de Jumonville, was wounded.  And as he explained he was on a diplomatic mission to deliver a message to the British Washington’s Indian ally, Tanacharison, who was the diplomatic representative of the Six Nations (Iroquois Confederation), brutally murdered Jumonville while he was explaining his diplomatic mission.  Tanacharison spoke fluent French.  And had apparently heard enough.  For he feared the French taking their land more than the British at that time.

So this international incident brought war once again between the French and the British.  The Seven Year’s War as they called it in Europe.  Or the French and Indian War as they called it in British North America.  Even though the British also had Indian allies.  There were more French in the area.  So Washington built a fort to wait for their counter attack.  Fort Necessity.  The French came.  And after a brutal fight the British surrendered.  The Articles of Capitulation Washington signed included the word ‘assassination’.  Of Joseph Coulon de Villiers, sieur de Jumonville.  Washington later claimed the document was poorly translated from French and that he did not know he was admitting to assassinating a French diplomat.  Whether he did or not it put the blame of the French and Indian War on the British.  Not a very auspicious start for America’s indispensible Founding Father.

Washington felt that the British looked down on him and his Fellow Americans

The British came up with a bold plan to remove the French from North America.  By marching into the Ohio Country.  And taking Fort Duquesne.  Then capturing the forts along the Great Lakes.  And then capturing French Canada.  A bold plan.  Executed by a very experienced general.  Edward Braddock.  A veteran of European battles.  But without a clue of what it was like fighting in the American wilderness.  He had at his disposal the largest military force ever assembled in America.  Equipped with the finest arms.  So confident of victory he told the Indians that were friendly to the British that he didn’t need their help.  And that he was going to take all their land for the British Crown.  Making most switch sides and fight alongside the French against the British.

Washington requested to join General Braddock.  Hoping to get a good military career out of this great military expedition.  And a commission in the British Army.  Braddock took him along.  But disaster fell upon the expedition.  A force of French and Indians fell onto the lumbering column and attacked.  The British regulars formed into ranks as they would on any European battlefield.  And were shot down in droves.  Then broke and ran.  Braddock fell mortally wounded.  Washington then took command and rallied the troops and made an orderly retreat.  While having two horses shot out beneath him.  And four musket ball holes in his jacket.  But he didn’t suffer a scratch.  Washington learned a lesson that day.  You didn’t win battles in the American wilderness with European tactics.  No matter how superior you numbers and arms.

He never would receive that British commission.  Feeling in part that the British looked down on him and his fellow Americans.  They may have been part of the British Empire.  But they were not truly British.  Which made it difficult for Washington to respect his British superiors.  In fact, though he was a good soldier who followed orders he often felt superior to his superiors.  And preferred giving orders.  With the future of a British commission not in the cards he retired from the army.  Married Martha Dandridge Custis.  Thanks to her wealth he became one of the wealthiest men in Virginia.  As well as becoming one of the more successful planters in Virginia.  He had wealth (through his marriage to Martha).  Land.  And leisure time.  He lived the good life.  And spent the money.  And why not?  He married into great wealth.  And had vast land holdings earning wealth.  Life was good.

If George Washington were around Today he would Likely Endorse Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

He bought the finest things from London from Robert Cary.  Who ran London’s largest mercantile houses.  Cary & Company.  Washington also sold his tobacco crop to Cary.  And early on he complained about the price he was getting for his tobacco.  And all the charges on his invoices.  But he had even bigger problems.  He was spending more than he was earning.  With the balance due coming from the wealth he got from his marriage.  Worse, his account at Cary & Company was in arrears.  The price for those fine things continued to go up while the price he was getting for his tobacco did not.  He didn’t trust Cary.  But he recognized the real problem was tobacco.  And mercantilism.  Where American colonists sent raw material to the mother country.  And bought finished goods from the mother country with the proceeds.  Making the planters dependent on people like Robert Cary.  Well, after this revelation Washington made some changes.  He planted wheat instead of tobacco.  Wheat he ground into flour in his own mill.  Which he sold locally.  Without going through Cary.  He built a ship to fish the Potomac.  And bought a ship to transport his goods to markets in the Caribbean.  Even all the way to Europe.  He set up a small textile shop to produce linen and wool fabric.  These changes helped Washington return to profitability.  Unlike some of his fellow planters.  Like Thomas Jefferson.  Who would die in debt.

Washington was an astute business man.  Who did not like being controlled by men in faraway places.  Around this time Parliament passed the Stamp Act to raise revenue to help pay the costs of the British Empire.  While he agreed with his fellow colonists that this was taxation without representation he did see something good in it.  The higher tax would reduce British imports.  As Americans gave up on British luxuries and provided for their own needs.  Which would help the Americans get away from the control of people in faraway places.  Something he was more and more interested in.  Economic independence.  Then came the Royal Proclamation of 1763.  Which shut off the Ohio Country to American settlers.  To ostensibly keep the peace with the Indians on the frontier.  Which stung Washington particularly hard.  Having helped to defeat the French to clear them from the Ohio Country King George was now denying this land to those who won it.  Still, they did promise to give some land to the veterans who fought there.  As long as they were a veteran of the British Army.  Yet another British slight directed at Washington.  And evidence of British cronyism when it came to the rule of the American colonies.  Then came the Intolerable Acts.  The Quebec Act.  The Townshend Acts.  Further encroachments by men in faraway places.  Washington had had enough.  And joined those demanding independence from Great Britain.

So if George Washington were around today who would he endorse in the 2012 election?  Well, he would not like the party that wanted to reach further into business affairs from faraway places.  Or that raised taxes and increased the regulations on business.  Or one that elevated the state over businesses.  Where the government picks winners and losers in the market place.  Like the mercantilism of old.  He would not like the smug, elitist politicians who know better than we do.  And change things in our lives to what they perceive as being for our own good.   Such as telling us what cars to drive or what fuels to use to make our electric power.  He would not like the massive spending.  Or the debt it gave us.  As his brief brush with inundating debt shook him to his core.  Making him turn away from the governing powers, returning to his rugged individualism of his days in the Ohio Country.  And so on.  Clearly the party he would not endorse would be the Democrat Party with their oppressive rules and regulations and their nanny state.  So it is likely that if he were around today he would endorse the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

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Mercantilism, North America, Pontiac’s Rebellion, American Revolution, Northwest Territory, George Rogers Clark, Louisiana Territory

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 31st, 2012

Politics 101

The French claimed great Territories in the New World but they did not Settle them nor could they Defend Them

In the Age of Discovery the Old World discovered the New World.  The Portuguese bumped into Brazil while sailing around Africa.  And they stayed awhile.  Which explains how the language from tiny Portugal is one of the top ten spoken languages in the world today.  Because of Brazil.  Population 205,716,890 in 2012.  The Spanish pretty much discovered and settled the rest of South and Central America.  Working their way up the Pacific coast of North America.  And into Mexico, Texas and Florida.  Because of this Spanish is now the 4th most spoken language in the world.  The British discovered and settled North America east of the Appalachians between Maine and Georgia.  They also settled parts of Canada south of the Hudson Bay.  And some of the Maritime Provinces.  Today English is the 2nd most spoken language in the world.  The French also came to the New World.  But they weren’t as successful.  Today French is only the 10th most spoken language in the world.

The Age of Discovery was also the age of mercantilism.  Which is why the Old World was racing to settle the New World.  So they could establish colonies.  And ship back raw materials to the mother country.  And in Spain’s case, all the gold and silver they could find.  Which they found a lot of.  Mercantilism is a zero-sum game.  To maximize the export of manufactured goods.  And to maximize the import of raw materials and bullion.  To always maintain a positive balance of trade.  And whoever had the most overseas colonies sending raw material back to the mother country won.  And as they expanded throughout the New World they eventually began to bump into each other.  As well as the Native Americans.  Who weren’t mercantilists.  But hunters and gatherers.  Like all Europeans were some 5,000 years or so earlier.  Before they became farmers.  Moved into cities.  Where they took control of their environment.  And became more efficient.  Growing ever larger populations on smaller tracts of land.  Which proved to be a great threat to the Indians.  For when these Europeans took their land they also increased their numbers.  Greatly.  And this fast growing population had the latest in war-fighting technology.

Soon they were stepping on each others’ toes in the New World.  The British and the Spanish north of Florida.  The British and the French between the Mississippi River and the Appalachians.  In New Brunswick.  And large parts of Ontario and Quebec.  A lot more territory was in dispute between the British and the French.  And that’s because the French claimed so much territory in North America.  Their claims included the lands around the St. Lawrence Seaway.  All the land around the Great Lakes.  And pretty much the total watershed into the Mississippi River.  The French had profitable business in the fur trade.  They used the rivers in North America for that trade.  With a few forts scattered along the way.  Where they traded with the Indians.  But the big difference between the French and everyone else is that the French claimed the land.  But they didn’t settle it.  Which made the Native Americans tolerate them more than the other Europeans in the New World.  But in the days of the mercantilist empires that was a problem.  Because everyone wanted everyone else’s land.  And if it wasn’t settled with large and growing populations, someone else was just going to take it.

The Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 tried to make Peace with the Indians but Inflamed the Americans

And that’s what happened in the French and Indian War (1754–1763).  The European powers came into conflict with each other over their North American territories.  The British came out the big winners.  And the French were the big losers.  Losing pretty much everything east of the Mississippi to the British.  And everything west of the Mississippi to Spain.  The various Indian tribes fought alongside the various European powers.  But it is the fighting on the side of the French that we know them for in this war.  Where their fighting against the British Americans was some of the cruelest fighting in the war.  For the Indians liked the non-settling ways of the French.  While they didn’t care for the settling ways of the American colonists at all.  Who kept encroaching on their hunting grounds.  So at the conclusion of the French and Indian War the Native Americans were restless.  Something the British were keenly aware of.  And after the long and expensive war they just fought they didn’t want a return to hostilities.  So King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763.  Setting the border between the British American colonists and the Indian lands along the watershed of Appalachia.  Lands where the rivers flowed to the Atlantic Ocean were the American colonists’ lands.  Lands where the rivers flowed into the Mississippi River and its tributaries (east of the Mississippi) were Indian lands. 

This did not go very well with the American colonists.  For they planned to expand west until they could expand west no further.  At the shore of the Pacific Ocean.  Especially Virginia.  Who wanted to expand into Kentucky.  And into the Ohio Country (across the Ohio River from Kentucky).  Before the Proclamation of 1763 could even go into affect the Indians rose up in the Great Lakes region, the Illinois Country and Ohio Country.  Where the British displaced the French.  Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763–66).  A rather nasty and brutal war where the Indians killed women and children as well as prisoners.  And the British used biological warfare against the Indians.  Giving the Indians smallpox-infested blankets.  In 1774 Parliament passed the Quebec Act.  Which did a lot to further annoy the American colonists.  Especially that part about extending the province of Quebec (the former French territory from Labrador all the way to the Great Lakes region) south into the Ohio and Illinois country.  Many lumped the Quebec act in with the Intolerable Acts of 1774 which were to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party.  All these acts of Parliament and proclamations of the Crown failed in one of their main objects.  Maintaining the peace on the frontier.  One year later there was another shooting war in North America.  And this one did not end well for the British.

The American Revolutionary War evolved into a World War.  Once the Americans defeated a British army at Saratoga the French joined the American cause and declared war on Great Britain.  Eager to get back their North American territories.  The Spanish would join the French in alliance and declared war on Great Britain.  Primarily to settle some old scores in the Old World as opposed to helping the American cause.  They had the lands west of the Mississippi and control of that same river.  They had no desire to see the Americans advance any further west.  In fact, they wanted to expand their territory at the expense of both the Americans and the British.  The Indians, meanwhile, saw the Americans as the greatest threat and allied with their two-time past enemy.  The British.

The Indians were Little More than Bystanders while the Europeans Traded their Land with each Other

The war in the frontier lands of the West was as nasty and brutal as ever.  The British coordinated their war effort against the Americans from their frontier outposts.  Where they traded with their Indian allies.  Some even paying the Indians for each scalp they brought back from their raids.  And so the Indians crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky.  Throughout the war.  And attacked these frontier settlements.  While the Americans fought a defensive war.  Until one man arose.  Who believed the strongest defense was a strong offense.  And he took the war to the Indians and the British in the West.  Saving Kentucky.  And conquered the Northwest Territory. 

George Rogers Clark’s plan for conquering the Northwest was bold.  First take Vincennes (in southern Indiana near the Illinois border).  Travel up the Wabash River.  Down the Maumee River.  And then on to Detroit.  After taking Detroit head north to Michilimackinac (on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula).  The Virginian authorities liked the plan.  And commissioned him colonel in the Virginian forces.  And authorized him to conquer the Northwest.  For Virginia.  So Clark led his men down the Ohio River.  And traveled all the way to Kaskaskia near the Mississippi River in southern Illinois.  Not far from St. Louis.  Took it.  And marched to Vincennes.  And took Fort Sackville at Vincennes.  Shortly thereafter Henry Hamilton (who had a reputation for buying scalps from the Indians), governor of Detroit, Left Detroit and headed to Vincennes.  Gathering Indians along the way.  Recaptured Vincennes.  Then Clark returned and in one of the most fabled actions of the entire Revolutionary War took back Vincennes.  Despite the British and Indians greatly outnumbering Clark’s force.  Detroit lay open.  But Clark did not have the men or provisions for that conquest.

Meanwhile the Spanish were looking to cash in on their alliance with France.  And moved against British outposts from New Orleans.  Taking Baton Rouge.  Natchez.  Mobile.  And Pensacola.  To turn back the Spanish Governor Sinclair of Michilimackinac gathered a force and headed to the Spanish outpost St. Louis.  With the ultimate goal of taking New Orleans.  It did not go well.  The following year the Spanish launched an offensive of their own to take Detroit.  They got as far as St. Joseph on the other side of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  Around the bottom of Lake Michigan from Chicago.  A lot of land changed hands in the Northwest.  But thanks to Clark much of it remained in American hands at the end of the war.  Who came out the big winners in this war.  The British ceded all their claims east of the Mississippi to the Americans.  Including all of the Illinois and Ohio country.  Including Michigan and the lands surrounding the Great Lakes south of Canada.  The French did not drive the peace as they had hoped.  And recovered none of their North American territories.  The Spanish emerged with pretty much what they had when they entered.  Only with the Americans across the Mississippi instead of the British.  Who were much more interested in westward expansion than the British.  But they didn’t have to worry about the Americans crossing the Mississippi.  For Napoleon strong-armed the Louisiana Territory from the French in exchange for some land in Tuscany.  Who would later sell it to the Americans.  While being rather vague on the exact boundaries.  Which the Spanish would have to worry about in the years to come as the Americans headed west.  Towards Spanish country on the west coast.

Of course the Indians were the greatest losers.  For they were little more than bystanders while the Europeans traded their land with each other.  Making the Native Americans ever more restless.  And unwilling to give up their hunting and gathering ways.  Which sealed their faith.  For while they retreated west the American population exploded.  Due to their efficient use of the land.  It was the New World against the Very Old World.  Modern farming civilizations displaced the hunters and gatherers everywhere in the world.  A trend that started some 5,000 years earlier.  And the history of North America would be no different.  The Indian ways since then have been fast disappearing.  The Indian languages were so rarely spoken in the 20th century that the code based on it was the one code the Japanese couldn’t crack during World War II.

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Jumonville, Washington, Ohio Country, French and Indian War, California, Louisiana Territory, Gibraltar and League of Armed Neutrality

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 12th, 2012

Politics 101

Washington’s Killing of Joseph Coulon de Jumonville Precipitated the Seven Years’ War

In the Revolutionary War the Americans were feeling out the French since hostilities broke out in 1775.  For good reason.  The French lost most of their North American possessions in their last war with Great Britain.  The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763).  Where the French were in Canada and in the great river valleys in the interior of North America.  And the British were in what is now the U.S. east of the Appalachians.  The British and their American colonists won that war.  And took the French possessions.  In fact, the American commander in the Revolutionary War, George Washington, opened hostilities against the French in the French and Indian War (1754–1763).  Which precipitated the subsequent world war.  The Seven Years’ War.

As the French and the British expanded their territories in North America they eventually bumped into each other.  And it was in the Ohio Country that the name George Washington entered our history books.  Then only a major.  Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia sent Washington into the Ohio Country to tell the French to kindly vacate their posts in the area.  The French refused.  Washington returned to Virginia.  Governor Dinwiddie sent him back to the Ohio Country to protect a fort the Ohio Company was building at present day Pittsburg.  Before he got there a French force had chased out the British.  And then began building Fort Duquesne for their own post at present day Pittsburg.

While on the march to what was now going to be Fort Duquesne Washington’s Indian allies discovered a small French force led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.  Which the Americans and their Indian allies ambushed.  The facts are a little hazy about what exactly happened but Jumonville ended up dead.  And the French blamed Washington.  Said that he killed a diplomat who was doing exactly what Washington had done earlier.  Trying to reach a foreign power with a diplomatic message about the Ohio Country.  Only the French didn’t kill Washington.  As Washington (or someone under his command) had killed Jumonville.  Both sides debated the truth for a long time to come.  But the French response was to attack the nearby Fort Necessity that Washington built to keep an eye on Fort Duquesne.  Captured Washington and his men.  But then let them go.  And shortly thereafter France and Great Britain declared war on each other.  To settle the Ohio Country question.  As well as other outstanding issues between the two great powers.  Which precipitated the Seven Years’ War.  That didn’t end well for the French.

The French hoped to Dictate the Terms of Peace once the Americans won the Revolutionary War

Flash forward some twenty years and here were the Americans feeling out the French to help them in their cause.  So they could gain their independence from Great Britain.  So they could control the Ohio Country.  And other parts of North America.  Whose military was led by the guy that killed Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.  And started the war that lost France her North American possessions.  Which created a very interesting political picture. 

The French hated the British.  That goes without saying.  For they gave the French a humiliating defeat.  But the British had help from their British North American colonists to win that fight.  Who also helped to take away not only the Ohio Country but New France itself.  All of Quebec.  And the Surrounding areas of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.  So would they enter into another costly war with Great Britain?  To help someone obtain their independence from Britain’s constitutional monarchy?  Would the French, an absolute monarchy, help the Americans?  Of course they would.  If the Americans could just impress them enough that they might win this thing.  So the French wouldn’t risk losing anything more to the British.

Well the French were impressed with the American win at Saratoga.  And they joined the Americans.  Made some treaties with them that were favorable to the French.  And hoped that once they won that it would be the French who would dictate the terms of the peace.  For one of their conditions of joining the Americans was that there would be no separate peace between the Americans and the British.  No.  That peace would involve the French.  As the French were already going into great debt helping the Americans in every way short of fighting alongside of them, they were going to make sure they got a favorable return on their investment when taking that last step. 

When Aid came it was not to Support the Americans but to Gain Something from their Common Enemy, the British Empire

After negotiating this treaty the French turned to the Spanish.  Another longtime foe of Great Britain.  And who still had sizeable possessions in the New World.  From South America all the way up the Pacific coast to California.  And up through Mexico all the way through the Mississippi River and surrounding areas.  That big chunk of North America between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains we called the Louisiana Territory.  And parts of southern Florida they ceded to Great Britain in the last war that they wanted back.  So unlike the French the Spanish worried more about the Americans than the British.  Especially their southern and western boundaries.  But the French made their case anyway. 

France’s foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, said the Spanish had much to lose if the Americans lost.  For a strong British presence in North America would eventually threaten California.  And her other possessions.  Great Britain was the threat.  Not the Americans.  Who had no Army, Navy or manufacturing base that could threaten Spain’s North American possessions.  At least, not in the immediate future.  Whereas the British did.  So it was in Spanish interests to help the Americans.  And weaken the British Empire.

Well, the Spanish were all for weakening the British Empire.  But they didn’t trust the ambition of the Americans.  They still saw them as the immediate threat to Spanish territory in North America.  Besides, the whole idea about rebelling against sovereign authority didn’t sit well with them.  Sovereigns had sacred rights to their territory.  They may not have liked the British but they believed in those sacred rights.  Especially when they were holding a lot of territory in the New World.  And the idea about supporting a people in their rebellion against their sovereign was risky business.  It just might give their own people ideas.  They would enter the war.  But not in an American alliance.  They made a treaty with the French.  Offered little to the Americans in blood or treasure.  Then declared war on Great Britain.  Her immediate goal being Gibraltar.  The southern tip of the Spanish peninsula.  That the British had taken in a previous war.

As the Americans approached other European nations the result was pretty much the same.  When aid came it was not so much to support the Americans.  But to gain something from their common enemy.  The British Empire.  Most European nations stayed out of the war.  At most joining in the League of Armed Neutrality to protect their commercial trade.  To protect their ships from the Royal Navy trying to prevent arms and supplies reaching America.  Though this didn’t help the Americans in the short run.  It did make the war far more costly for the British.  Which helped the Americans in the long run.

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LESSONS LEARNED #17: “The raison d’être of federalism is to keep big government small.” -Old Pithy.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 10th, 2010

ALEXANDER HAMILTON WAS a real bastard.  John Adams hated him.  Thomas Jefferson, too.  George Washington looked at him like a son.  Aaron Burr killed him.  Politics.  It can get ugly.

Hamilton’s father was having an affair with a married woman in a loveless marriage.  Fathered two children with her.  First James.  Then Alexander.  Both born on the British island of Nevis in the Caribbean.  His father then moved the family to the Danish island of St. Croix.  Shortly thereafter, Hamilton’s father abandoned his family.  Alexander was 10ish (there is some disagreement about his year of birth). 

At age 11ish, Alexander became a clerk at Cruger and Beekmen, an import-export firm.  There he learned about business and commerce.  People noticed his talent and ability.  Soon, they collected some money and sent him off to the American colonies for a college education.  Hamilton’s fondest memory of his childhood home was seeing St. Croix disappear into the horizon from the ship that delivered him to America.

Hamilton’s father did have some nobility in his lineage but he squandered it before it could do Alexander any good.  He was an illegitimate child (a real bastard).  His father abandoned him.  His mother died while he was young.  He had little but ability.  But that was enough to take him from St. Croix to the founding of a new nation.

Hamilton served in the Continental Army.  He served as General Washington’s aide-de-camp.  Hamilton was in the know as much as Washington.  His understanding of business, commerce and money made him acutely aware of the financial disarray of the Army.  And of the Continental Congress.  What he saw was a mess.

The Continental Congress was a weak central government.  It could not draft soldiers.  It could not impose taxes to pay her soldiers.  It could only ask the states for money to support the cause.  Contributions were few.  The congress tried printing money but the ensuing inflation just made things worse.  The Army would take supplies for subsistence and issue IOUs to the people they took them from.  The Congress would beg and borrow.  Most of her arms and hard currency came from France.  But they ran up a debt in the process with little prospect of repaying it.  Which made that begging and borrowing more difficult with each time they had to beg and borrow.

The army held together.  But it suffered.  Big time.  Washington would not forget that experience.  Or Hamilton.  Or the others who served.  For there was a unity in the Army.  Unlike there was in the confederation that supported the Army.

WARS ARE COSTLY.  And France fought a lot of them.  Especially with Great Britain.  She was helping the Americans in part to inflict some pain on her old nemesis.  And in the process perhaps regain some of what she lost to Great Britain in the New World.  You see, the British had just recently defeated the French in the French and Indian War (aka, the 7 Years War).  And she wanted her former possessions back.  But France was bleeding.  Strapped for cash, after Yorktown, she told the Americans not to expect any more French loans.

Wars are costly.  The fighting may have been over, but the debt remained.  The interest on the debt alone was crushing.  With the loss of a major creditor, America had to look elsewhere for money.  The Continental Congress’ Superintendent of Finance, the guy who had to find a way to pay these costs, Robert Morris, said they had to tax the Americans until it hurt they were so far in debt.  He put together a package of poll taxes, land taxes, an excise tax and tariffs.  The congress didn’t receive it very well.  Representation or not, Americans do not like taxes.  Of the proposed taxes, the congress only put the tariffs on imports before the states.

Rhode Island had a seaport.  Connecticut didn’t.  Rhode Island was charging tariffs on imports that passed through her state to other states.  Like to Connecticut.  Because they generated sufficient revenue from these tariffs, their farmers didn’t have to pay any taxes.  In other words, they could live tax free.  Because of circumstance, people in Rhode Island didn’t have to pay taxes.  Connecticut could pay their taxes for them.  Because of the Rhodes Island impost.  And the Robert Morris’ impost would take away that golden goose.

As the congress had no taxing authority, it would take a unanimous vote to implement the impost.  Twelve voted ‘yes’.  Rhode Island said ‘no’.  There would be no national tax.  ‘Liberty’ won.  And the nation teetered on the brink of financial ruin. 

DEFALTION FOLLOWED INFLATION.  When the British left, they took their trade and specie with them.  What trade remained lost the protection of the Royal Navy.  When money was cheap people borrowed.  With the money supply contracted, it was very difficult to repay that debt.  The Americans fell into a depression.  Farmers were in risk of losing the farm.  And debtors saw the moneymen as evil for expecting to get their money back.  The people demanded that their state governments do something.  And they did.

When the debtors became the majority in the state legislatures, they passed laws to unburden themselves from their obligations.  They passed moratoriums on the collection of debt (stay laws).  They allowed debtors to pay their debts in commodities in lieu of money (tender acts).  And they printed money.  The depression hit Rhode Island hard.  The debtors declared war on the creditors.  And threw property laws out the window.  Mob rule was in.  True democracy.  Rhode Island forced the creditors to accept depreciated paper money at face value.  Creditors, given no choice, had to accept pennies on the dollars owed.  No drawbacks to that, right?  Of course, you better pray you never, ever, need to borrow money again.  Funny thing about lenders.  If you don’t pay them back, they do stop lending.  The evil bastards.

Aristotle said history was cyclical.  It went from democracy to anarchy to tyranny.  Hamilton and James Madison, future enemies, agreed on this point.  A democracy is the death knell of liberty.  It is a sure road to the tyranny of the majority.  If you don’t honor written contracts, there can be no property rights.  Without property rights, no one is safe from arbitrary force.   Civilization degenerates to nature’s law where only the fittest and most powerful survive.  (In the social utopias of the Soviet Union and Communist China, where there were no property rights, the people’s government murdered millions of their people).

WINNING A WAR did not make a nation.  Before and after the Revolution, people thought in provincial terms.  Not as Americans.  Thomas Jefferson hated to be away from his country, Virginia.  Unless you served in the Continental Army, this is how you probably thought.  Once the common enemy was defeated, the states pursued their own interests.  (Technically speaking, they never stopped pursuing their own interests, even during the War).

In addition to all the other problems a weak Continental Congress was trying to resolve, states were fighting each other for land.  A localized war broke out between Pennsylvania and Connecticut over the Wyoming region in north east Pennsylvania.  And a region of New York was demanding their independence from that state.  Hamilton helped negotiate a peaceful solution and the confederacy admitted the new state, Vermont.

There were problems with the confederation.  And people were getting so giddy on liberty that that they were forgetting the fundamental that made it all possible.  Property rights.  States were moving closer to mob rule with no check on majority power.  And the smallest minorities held the legislation of the Confederate Congress (the Continental Congress renamed) hostage.  Land claims were pitting state against state with the Congress unable to do anything.  Meanwhile, her finances remained in shambles.  She had no credit in Europe.  And creditors wanted their money back. 

They were choosing sides.  And you can probably guess the sides.  Hamilton had no state allegiances, understood finance and capital, saw how an impotent congress was unable to support the Army during war, saw provincial interests hinder national progress and threaten civil war.  George Washington, Virginia’s greatest son, had long looked to the west and saw America’s future there.  Not Virginia’s future.  His war experience only confirmed what he believed.  America had a great future.  If they could only set aside their provincialism and sectional interests.  James Madison saw the tyranny of the majority in the Virginian State House first hand.  He liked partisanship.  He liked competing ideals debated.  He did not want to see a majority stampede their vision into law.

These were the nationalists.  Madison wanted a strong federal government to check the tyranny of the states.  Hamilton wanted to do away with the states altogether.  Washington wanted what was best for these several united states as a whole after so many labored for so long during the Revolutionary War.  Ultimately, he wanted to capitalize the ‘u’ and the’s’ in united states and make it a singular entity.

On the other side were many of the old 1776 patriots.  Many of who did not have any army experience.  Such as Thomas Jefferson.  In them, the Spirit of ’76 was alive and well.  The Revolutionary War was to free the states from the yoke of British oppression.  They remained provincials.  They did not spend up to 8 years in an army made up of soldiers from different states.  They had no sense of this nationalism.  They saw everything through the eyes of their state.  And a strong central government was just another yoke of oppression in their eyes.

THE ANSWER TO all of their concerns was federalism.  Shared sovereignty.  The states would give up a little.  And the new central government would take up a little.  The drafters of the Constitution set up a 3-branch government.  It included a bicameral legislature.  Membership in the House of Representatives would be proportional to a state’s population.  They would have power of the purse.  Including the authority to levy taxes.  In the Senate, each state would get 2 senators.  They would be chosen by the states’ legislatures (a constitutional amendment changed this to a popular vote).  This was to keep the spending of the House in check.  To prevent mob-rule.  And to check national power.  Each chamber would have to approve legislation for it to become law.  But each chamber did not need to have unanimous approval. 

That was in the legislature.  In the executive branch, the president would be head of state and execute the laws written by the legislature.  He would also conduct a uniform foreign policy.  The president could veto legislation to check the power of the legislature.  And the legislature could override the president’s veto to check the power of the president.  Where the law was in dispute, the judiciary would interpret the law and resolve the dispute.

At first glance, the people didn’t love the U.S. Constitution.  Those at the convention didn’t either, but they thought it was the best they could do.  To help the ratification process, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote a series of essays, subsequently published as the Federalist Papers making the case for ratification.  Those opposed wanted a Bill of Rights added.  Madison did not think one was necessary.  He feared listing rights would protect those rights only.  If they forgot to list a right, then government could say that it wasn’t a right.  He acquiesced, though, when it was the price to get the Virginian Baptists on board which would bring Virginia on board. 

Madison promised to add a Bill of Rights after ratification.  So the states ratified it.  And he did.  The final document fell between what the nationalists wanted and what the ‘states’ government’ people wanted. 

OVER THE FOLLOWING years, each side would interpret the document differently.  When Hamilton interpreted broadly to create a national bank, to assume the states’ debts and to fund the debt, the other side went ballistic.  Madison, the father of the Constitution, would join Jefferson in opposition.  For they believed the point of the constitution was to keep big government small.  Hamilton was interpreting the ‘necessary and proper’ clause of the Constitution to make government big.  Nasty, partisan politics ensued.  And continue to this day.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUITH #17: “The raison d’être of federalism is to keep big government small.” -Old Pithy.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 8th, 2010

BONJOUR.  A LITTLE French there.  To go with the use of the French expression ‘raison d’être’.  Which means reason for being.  Sounds better in French, n’est-ce pas?

I like Canada.  Both parts.  The French and the English parts.  I’ve met and become friends with people in Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton and Corner Brook.  And elsewhere.  I like to talk to my Francophone friends about that day on the Plains of Abraham.  And I like to speak French to my Anglophone friends.  And they both like to point out to me what they believe to be America’s lack of tolerance and compassion.

The Canadians may be a tolerant and friendly people.  Everyone says that about them.  That they’re nice.  And they are.  But they have to work at it at times.  For there ain’t a whole lot of love between the French and English.  Not now.  Or then.  When French Canada became British.

Like it or not, that animosity has been at the van of Western Civilization.  And it would compete in the New World.  Colonize it.  Fight in it.  And give birth to a new nation.  One that would break from the ways of the past.

“WHO’S THAT, THEN?” one filthy peasant asked another.

“I don’t know.  Must be a king. ”

“Why?”

“He hasn’t got shit all over him.”

(From Monty Python and the Holy Grail – 1975.)

What is a king?  Besides someone who “hasn’t got shit all over him.”  A king is where sovereignty lies.  And sovereignty?  In a word, supremacy.  Supreme authority. 

The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, was an absolute monarch and his word was the absolute law of the land.  And he could do pretty much whatever the hell he wanted.  He built his gorgeous palace at Versailles.  Because he could.  Over in England, the king was sovereign, too, but Parliament checked his power.  So the British king wasn’t an absolute monarchy.  In England, the king could do whatever he wanted as long as Parliament agreed to pay for it.  For Parliament controlled the purse strings.  There would be no Versailles in England.

Now France and England were always at war.  Their fighting even spilled over into the New World.  The 7 Years War (as the Europeans called this world war) went by a different name in North America.  The French and Indian War.  The British won.  France lost Canada and other colonial possessions.  Their loss, though, was America’s gain.  The French and Indian attacks on the American Colonists ended, leaving them with peace and prosperity.  But it was costly.  As wars are wont to be.

Over in England, Parliament had to pay that cost.  But taxes were already pretty high at the time in England.  If they raised them further, it could cause trouble.  So what to do?  Well, there were some who pointed out that the American colonists really came out the clear winner in this latest contest.  They got peace and prosperity without really paying anything to get it.  Shouldn’t they pick up part of the tab?  I mean, fair is fair, right?

And they probably would have gladly contributed as good English subjects.  However, and this is a big however, they felt they weren’t treated as good English subjects.  In fact, they felt more like Parliament’s bitch than English subjects.  And to add insult to injury, they had no vote in Parliament.

Parliament passed a series of acts that the Americans would call the Intolerable Acts.  Both sides missed opportunities for compromise and peace.  Instead, tempers festered.  Parliament would bitch-slap the colonists.  And the colonists would bitch-slap Parliament.  Eventually throwing some British East Indian tea into the water.

Now Britain’s king, King George, had a bit of a problem on his hands.  The Americans were challenging his sovereign rule.  There was a name for this.  Kings call it treason.  And they kill people for it.  King George was the supreme authority.  Anyone challenging his authority was challenging his right to rule.  That’s why acts of treason are typically punishable by death.  You don’t stand up to kings.  You grovel.  And these uppity Americans surely weren’t groveling.

And just how does a king get this authority?  Well, you don’t vote for them.  They either inherit power.  Or they kill for it.  It’s a story as old as time.  Patricide.  Matricide.  Fratricide.  And sometimes the killing was by someone outside the family.  But that’s how sovereign power changed.  A king or queen died.  Naturally.  Or with a little help.  And when a new sovereign ascended the throne, he or she usually killed all other possible contenders.

If King George didn’t put down the American rebellion, it could spread.  To Canada.  To other English colonies.  Or give someone ideas back at home that the king was weak.  And challenge him for his throne.

These are things kings think about.  Power can be precarious.  Even when it’s absolute.  As King Louis XVI would learn in France.  During the French Revolution, the people, challenging the king’s sovereignty, sent him to the guillotine.  Chopped his head off.  His wife’s, too.  Marie Antoinette.

ENGLAND GAVE BIRTH to modern, representative government.  It was a balance of power between the many (the common people in the House of Commons), the few (the aristocratic rich in the House of Lords) and the one (the sovereign king).  Each provided a check on the others.  The king was the supreme power but he needed money to wage war and build things.  Parliament collected taxes and paid for things they approved of.  And the House of Lords was to keep that spending from getting out of control as they understood money and costs (that’s what rich people are good at).  They were to protect the nation from the evils of pure democracy where the people, once they realize they can, will vote themselves the treasury.

Most of the American colonists were transplanted Englishmen.  Or came from English stock.  They were English subjects (at least in name if not in practice).  They understood representative government.  Their colonial governments were in fact very British.  The Rule of Law was the rule of the land.  The governed consented to taxation.  And the government collected the taxes they consented to. 

You can probably see where this is going.

Taxation without representation was very un-English.  The fact that it was okay in the American colonies chafed the American English subjects.  I mean, it really frosted their shorts.  It wasn’t right.  By English law.  Or by precedent.  Anger at Parliament turned into anger at the king.  Questions of sovereignty arose.  Should the king be sovereign?  Or should the people?  In 1776, the American colonists stated their opinion in a very treasonous document.  The Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The U.S. Constitution emphasized the sovereignty of the people in the preamble.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Kings were out.  The Rule of Law was in.  No aristocracy.  No hereditary offices.  In America, it would be different.  After the Battle of Gettysburg some 75 years later, Abraham Lincoln would reiterate this at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…

…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

THE AMERICAN COLONISTS rebelled and broke away from Great Britain because they were through with being her bitch.  In fact, they weren’t going to be anyone’s bitch.  That’s why there was a lot of opposition to the establishment of a strong, central government.  They didn’t want a national government taking up where Great Britain left off.  And they didn’t want an American president to be just another King George.  The people won their liberty.  And they intended to keep it.  So they could pursue that happiness Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence.

Federalism was the solution.  The states’ governments would retain most of their powers.  Only those things they could not do well (regulate ‘free-trade’ interstate commerce, negotiate trade agreements with other nations, wage war, etc.) would be done by the new national government.  The people would remain sovereign.  Strong state governments and a ‘weak’ central government would share power.  In effect, the new central government was to be the people’s bitch.  But you’d never know that by looking at things today.

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