Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Agrarian Past, Industrial Revolution, Federalists, Republicans, Reynolds Affair and Philip Freneau

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 20th, 2012

Politics 101

Jefferson could not Turn a Profit on his Plantation and was Forever in Debt Leading to a Lifelong Disdain for Merchants and Bankers

At the time of the Founding America was (and would be for a long time) an agrarian nation.  A country of farmers.  Big and small.  Rich plantations.  And lots of hard-working family farms that were far from being rich.  Yeomen famers.  Who, to borrow a phrase from Oliver Wendell Douglas, “got their hands dirty!”  For those of you too young to recognize this line it’s from the 1960s classic sitcom Green Acres.  Where Douglas was a rich New York City (NYC) attorney who moved out of NYC to Hooterville to be a farmer.  Who he called the backbone of America.  Much like Thomas Jefferson.

Douglas and Jefferson shared a lot in common.  Both were lawyers.  Both were part of high society.  And both could make a good speech (or put something great in writing).  Douglas lived on Park Avenue in NYC.  And he and his wife travelled in the top social circles.  Just like Jefferson.  They both enjoyed the best of the best.  But neither were very good farmers.  The Douglas farm was a disaster despite his best efforts.  While Jefferson could not turn a profit on his plantation.  And was forever in debt.  Leading to a lifelong disdain for merchants and bankers.  Especially merchant bankers.

Alexander Hamilton was born on the British Isle of Nevis.  And raised in St. Croix.  Hamilton was a bastard child.  Illegitimate.  A stigma that spurred him to do everything aggressively in his life to show he was not a second-class person.  He worked at an early age.  In commerce.  And he was very good.  A natural.  Very smart.  And brave.  A veteran of two American wars.  He loved America.  But having been born and raised outside of the country he had no allegiance to any state.  Put it all together and it made Hamilton a nationalist.

Jefferson wanted to hold on to the Agrarian Past while Hamilton wanted to bring on the Industrial Revolution

Hamilton was just as much a Patriot as the other Founding Fathers.  Perhaps more so as he actually served in the Continental Army.  And while serving he saw how poor military power and poor financial power made a country dangerously weak.  The Americans almost lost their Revolution because of a weak nation that could not provide for her army.  So he wanted to make America strong.  And united.  The key in Hamilton’s eyes to making America a powerful nation (like Great Britain) that could stand up against any enemy was a strong union.  And in the Washington administration he advanced policies towards that end.  Ironically, policies that would do more to drive the nation apart.

So Hamilton (Secretary of Treasury) and Jefferson (Secretary of State) could not be more different.  And as they started to push their agendas in the Washington administration they grew to hate each other.  For their visions for America couldn’t be more different.  Despite both being ardent Patriots.  Jefferson wanted to hold on to the agrarian past.  While Hamilton wanted to bring on the Industrial Revolution.  Jefferson believed in the landed aristocracy built upon virtue and talent.  Not the aristocracy money could buy you.  Or birth or a title like in a monarchy.  Which Jefferson believed Hamilton was trying to turn America into.  As did all the farmers throughout the South and in the West.  Who all hated bankers and merchants.  Those people who made money off of other people’s labors.  Investors and speculators.  While speculation in land, on the other hand, was perfectly acceptable as it was what the southern gentry did to acquire their wealth.

And so began the political parties.  The Federalists were for a strong national government that Hamilton tried to make as strong as possible.  And the anti-Federalists.  Who already felt that the national government had grown too strong.  Or as they would become under Jefferson’s leadership, the Republicans (which were NOT the forbears of the current Republican Party).  In general, southern planters.  While Hamilton led the Federalists.  In general, northern businessmen.  The game of politics was born.  And it got dirty pretty quickly.  Thanks to each party’s friends in the media.  The newspapers of the day.  Which were pretty much political arms of these parties.

The Newspapers launched Vitriol at each Other including a Lot of Lies, Slander and Libel

The Treasury Department was the largest government department.  It was huge.  With a huge budget.  Whereas the State Department was basically Jefferson and a few clerks.  Hamilton no doubt felt he was the most important man in America next to the president.  And Jefferson was sure that Hamilton was using his position to steal money from the treasury.  So sure that Jefferson and his Republicans launched Congressional investigations that turned up nothing.  Convincing Jefferson that Hamilton was a better thief than even he had imagined.  Jefferson still pressed and had a colleague introduce multiple resolutions in Congress against Hamilton hoping to get Hamilton thrown from office on a House vote.  The House voted down all resolutions.

James Reynolds was a con man who made his money by defrauding veterans.  And other criminal pursuits.  Tired of the scale of these scores he came to Philadelphia to make some bigger money.  By using his wife, Maria, to seduce and have an affair with Alexander Hamilton.  So he could blackmail him.  Which she did.  Then he did.  When Reynolds’ criminal past caught up with him and sent him to jail he talked about the affair.  Which was more than just an affair.  He told some Republicans that he and Hamilton were using treasury funds to fund speculation for personal gain.  Jefferson and the Republicans were overjoyed.  Sure that they at last had a way to get rid of Hamilton. When confronted in his home to answer these charges he fessed up and told the truth.  Which included no speculation with treasury funds.  While all the money paid to Reynolds came from his own pocket.  All treasury funds were present and accounted for.  Politicians being the gentlemen they were then were satisfied and promised to never speak of Hamilton’s marital indiscretions.

So the political battle between Hamilton and Jefferson would carry on in the press.  Hamilton contributed most of his writings to the Gazette of the United States which wrote positively about Federalist policies.  And enjoyed a national circulation.  So Jefferson countered that by setting up a Republican national paper.  The National Gazette.  Who James Madison helped kick off by convincing Philip Freneau to come to Philadelphia to edit the paper.  Which he did.  And Jefferson helped him with his finances by hiring him into the State Department.  Putting him on the payroll to attack Washington’s treasury secretary while he was the sitting Secretary of State.  Trying to undermine the very administration he belonged to.  And the war between the two men escalated.  The papers launched vitriol at each other.  Including a lot of lies, slander and libel.  Enlisting other papers to join in the journalistic malfeasance.  People who talk about negative political campaigns today have no idea how ugly it was back then.  There was no interest in reaching across the aisle.  They just wanted to destroy the opposition so they could advance their policies.   Much like it is today.  Only without it being about principle.  But advancing the privileged government class.  That other aristocracy that Jefferson hated.

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American Revolution, Vietnam, Civil War, Guerilla War, Fabian Strategy, Jackson, Arnold, Lafayette, Clinton, Cornwallis and Yorktown

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 21st, 2012

Politics 101

In a Civil War where the Enemy was Everywhere and Holding Cities meant little the Only Way to Win was to Kill the Opposing Army

The American Revolutionary War was a lot like the Vietnam War.  Both involved a people on one side of the conflict torn apart by civil war.  Both were bloody.  Both involved a military superpower fighting on the far side of an ocean.  Both involved the French (the French role in Vietnam was in the decade which preceded the American’s two decades).  In both conflicts the French suffered politically at home and profited little for the blood and treasure they invested after the war.  In both the underdog used a Fabian strategy where they avoided major battles for their winning strategy was simply not to lose.  So they fought to extend the war to make it more costly (in both treasure and politics) for the other side to keep fighting.  Both involved poor military planning where decisions were based more on politics than military necessity.  In both the Americans and French were on the same side.  During the American Revolution they were both on the winning side.  In Vietnam they were both on the losing side (though the French stopped fighting before the Americans began fighting).  And, of course, both were wars contesting overseas colonies.

The fighting was cruel in Vietnam.  Especially against the civilians.  As the opposing sides fought through villages people suffered if they had shown the ‘wrong’ loyalties when the other side had controlled the village.  The North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong (the guerilla insurgents in South Vietnam) did some nasty things.  As did the South Vietnamese American allies.  Even some Americans did some nasty things.  There were few innocents.  Though the Americans were probably more innocent than most.  For when they did something nasty it became public.  Eventually.  And the Americans punished those responsible.

Both sides used killing as the primary strategy.  The Americans introduced the body count.  Measuring the success in military operations in the number of enemy dead.  The Viet Cong conscripted anyone who could fight.  Removing most young men from villages in areas they controlled.  Or they killed anyone who could fight against them.  Both sides tried to kill as many of the other as possible because in a civil war where the enemy was everywhere and holding cities and hills meant little the only way to win was to kill the opposing army.  So they couldn’t fight you anymore.

Neither the Patriots nor the Tories could claim the Moral High Ground in the Deep South

General George Washington quickly adopted a Fabian strategy in the American Revolutionary War because he had no choice.  He was fighting the world’s sole superpower.  And when the war broke out the Americans had no army or navy.  So until they did they fought a guerilla war.  Especially in the south.  Where Patriot partisans controlled the country.  And Tories loyal to the British held the cities.  And manned posts in the interior.  Under the command of British General Cornwallis.  Who reported to General Clinton comfortably ensconced in New York City.  Waiting for General Washington to launch an assault on New York.  Which would never come.

The civil war in the south was about as ugly as civil wars get.  And the ugly stuff was American on American ugliness.  Patriot against Tory.  The British charged that the partisans were killing innocents and neutrals.  And the Americans claimed the Tories were doing the same.  Neither side could really claim the moral high ground.  A young Andrew Jackson (hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 and America’s seventh president) even said, “In the long run, I am afraid the Whigs [the Patriots] did not lose many points in the game of hanging, shooting and flogging.” 

It was a merciless guerilla war in the South.  And they did kill wholesale.  Because that’s the only way to win a civil war.  You kill fighting men until there are not enough of them left to fight back.  And the fighting was not always honorable.  The British captured Jackson in a Waxhaw meetinghouse.  When a body of Tories dressed as locals advanced ahead of a body of Redcoats.  The trick worked.  They captured eleven.  And a British officer gave Jackson scars that would leave him a lasting hatred of the British for the rest of his life.  The officer demanded that Jackson clean his boots.  Jackson claimed he was a prisoner of war.  And that the British officer should treat him as such.  The officer saw him as a partisan traitor.  And brought his sword down on Jackson’s head for his insolence.  Jackson tried to shield his head with his left hand, leaving two deep scars.  One on his head.  The other on his hand.

The Grand Battle George Washington longed for was before him at Yorktown 

The changing fortunes of war in the South often changed the fighting spirit of those fighting the war.  On both sides.  British deserters joined the American lines.  And American deserters joined the British lines.  The Americans serving in the Continental Army were still hungry, thirsty and half-naked.  The Battle of Eutaw Springs was the last big battle in the Deep South.  And it almost ended in a route of the British.  Had not the hungry, thirsty and half-naked Americans stop their pursuit when they entered the abandoned British camp.  As they enjoyed the spoils of war the British returned.  And another 3 hours of bloody fighting continued.  In the sweltering heat of the Deep South.  By the time it was over the Americans lost.  The American casualties were just over 500 (about 25% of their force).  The British lost over 800 (about 40% of their force).  A costly victory for the British.  Despite this loss the Americans were in control of the lower south.

Up until this point Virginia had seen little of the ravages of war.  Lucky for them as Virginian governor Thomas Jefferson, though a brilliant thinker, was a pretty poor wartime governor.  Washington urged him to prepare some defenses.  But he didn’t.  General Cornwallis urged General Clinton to abandon New York and conquer Virginia.  An action he believed would win the war.  Clinton refused for awhile.  But finally agreed to send a force under America’s greatest traitor.  Benedict Arnold.  A new brigadier general in the British Army.  Who landed unopposed in Virginia.  And moved at will.  Tarleton’s cavalry came up from the south to join Arnold.  Entered Charlottesville.  Captured members of the Virginia legislature with Jefferson just escaping in the nick of time.  With the addition of British reinforcements in Virginia Washington sent a force under Lafayette to Virginia to help with their defenses.  A perfect storm was gathering for the British in Virginia.

Cornwallis himself entered Virginia.  And futilely gave chase to Lafayette.  Cornwallis wanted Clinton to commit a major force to the conquest of Virginia.  Clinton wanted the few thousand troops he sent to Virginia returned to New York.  Clinton ordered Cornwallis to hold a position on the Chesapeake with his reduced force.  Cornwallis thought that order was stupid and ordered a withdrawal of his own forces.  Clinton countermanded that order.  Insisting that he pick a place and defend it.  Cornwallis picked Yorktown.  With his back to the sea.  And hopefully the British fleet.  While he moved towards Yorktown the hunter became the hunted.  Lafayette harassed him all the way.  Worse, the French were also on their way.  And the French fleet would engage the British fleet and defeat them.  And a French force would join Washington who came down from New York.  Finally able to abandon his Fabian strategy.  The grand battle he longed for was before him at Yorktown.  Cornwallis was trapped.  And would surrender his Army.

With the surrender of a second British army the initiative went to the Americans.  To continue the war would cost far more British blood and treasure.  But that price was too high.  The British wanted out.  Conceding that the Americans were indeed independent of British rule.  The delaying Fabian strategy, though costly, had worked.  As they would again in another American war.  Where the Americans instead would be fighting on foreign land.  In a place called Vietnam.  Only the Americans would suffer the same fate the British did in the American Revolutionary War.  As a Fabian strategy can be a very effective strategy.  As long as time is on your side.

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Vengeance, Loyalists, Patriots, French, British, Indians, Frontier, Ohio Country, Massacres, Washington and Westward Expansion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 24th, 2012

Politics 101

The American Colonists kept moving into the Interior of the Country into Indian Lands

History has shown civil wars to be the bloodiest of wars.  For when people you know and grew up with kill your friends and family, well, things get a little ugly.  They escalate.  And there are a lot of opportunities for revenge when people in towns and villages join different sides in the war.   When friends and family fall in combat people retaliate by attacking the families left behind.  Those who didn’t take up arms.  The women and children.  They destroy their crops.  Burn their homes.  Force them to flee for their lives.  Then these acts are met with new acts of vengeance.  They don’t force family members to flee.  They kill them.  Then these acts are met with new acts of vengeance.  Instead of killing they rape, torture and mutilate their bodies.

When the American Revolutionary War broke out it tore families and towns apart.  People remaining loyal to the Crown became Loyalists.  Those rebelling became Patriots.  It was not uncommon to find Loyalist and Patriot in the same family.  And they hated each other.  That hatred grew as the people they knew and loved suffered the horrors of war.  Hardening them into merciless killers.  The people you were fighting were not soldiers.  They were fighting the lowest of traitors.  So there was no need for honor.   The people they were killing were no better than feral animals threatening their peaceful lives.  They deserved to die.  And worse.  This was civil war.  This was part of the American Revolutionary War.  And it got worse.

During the French and Indian War (aka the Seven Years’ War) the French allied with the various Indian tribes against their long-time foe.  The British.  The Indians fought on the French side because it was the lesser of two evils.  The French were sticking to the rivers and had small colonies.  The British had larger colonies.  And they kept moving into the interior of the country.  Which the Indians wanted to stop.  And in trying they made the war on the frontier a bloody one.  And very cruel.  The word used in official correspondence of the time used to describe them was savages.  For the unspeakable cruelties they did to white men, women and children.  They did not fight European style with bands and grand formations on the field of battle.  They made people suffer and live in fear.  The way they have always fought.

The British, the Loyalists and their Indian Allies advanced out of the Frontier into the River Valleys

Well, there was another war on the continent.  This one between the British and the American colonists.  Both sides tried to get the Indians to fight on their side.  Some were friendly with the Americans.  Some remained neutral.  But a lot fought with the British because they saw them as the lesser of two evils.  The American colonists were expanding further into the interior of the country.  In violation of their British treaties that were to keep the Americans out of the Ohio country.  Something the British agreed to without consulting their American colonists.  Who had every intention of moving further west.  So once again the Indians made the war on the frontier a bloody one.  And very cruel. 

Not all the British were on board with this.  Edmund Burke denounced this policy.  As did William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.  Who said in the House of Lords, “What! to attribute the sacred sanction of God and nature to the massacres of the Indian scalping knife?  To the cannibal savage, torturing, murdering roasting and eating…Such horrible notions shock every precept of religion, divine or natural, and every generous feeling of humanity.”  Even the Americans had their reservations about using the Indians.  George Washington wrote to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, “Gentlemen: You will perceive, by the inclosed Copy of a Resolve of Congress, that I am impowered to employ a body of four hundred Indians, if they can be procured upon proper terms.  Divesting them of the Savage customs exercised in their Wars against each other…”  Both sides were worried about using the unpredictable and uncontrollable Indians.  And for good reason.

The British had forts at Niagara, Detroit and Michilimackinac (on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula).  From these strongholds they controlled the Great Lakes and the frontier.  They, the Loyalists and their Indian allies advanced out of the frontier into the river valleys.  The Allegheny, the Susquehanna, the Mohawk, the Schoharie, the Monongahela.  Into the Ohio country.  And the frontier of New York.  Leaving a path of devastation in their wake.  Smoldering homes.  Ravished farms.  And a lot of dead.  The Loyalists and their Indian allies killing and torturing fleeing soldiers.  Prisoners.  Civilians.  And taking scalps.  There was a growing list of these massacres.  Wyoming.  Cherry Valley.  German Flats.  Blue Licks.  In the end these massacres did not help the British.  They just made the war more savage.  And turned anyone on the frontier who were neutral or leaning Loyalists into Patriots thirsting for vengeance.

George Washington was no Better than King George and Parliament in Restraining American Expansionist Ambition

The Americans couldn’t control their Indian allies any better than the British could.  They, too, were embarrassed by these savage acts that went counter to the rules of war and Christian teachings they were trying to adhere to.  But their embarrassments were short lived as the Americans had fewer Indian allies.  And, therefore, fewer atrocities.  For it was the Americans that were trying to expand into Indian hunting grounds.  And it was the British trying to restrain that expansion.  So more of them fought on the British side.  And thus the British had more of this blood on their hands.  Which only served to hurt their cause.

The opening and closing of the American Declaration of Independence are familiar to many people.  The stuff in the middle is not as well known.  Which is a laundry list of “repeated injuries and usurpations” committed by King George against the American people.  Including, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”  This British Indian policy was one of the items that pushed the Americans past reconciliation with the British.  And into open rebellion.

Fast forward to the Washington administration of the new United States of America.  Washington saw America’s relations with the Indians as a matter of foreign policy.  He spent more time trying to negotiate with them then he did with the Europeans.  For America’s future was in the west.  He wanted American expansion.  That would coexist with sovereign Indian lands.  Hoping in time that these lands would become future states within the new and growing union.  And the Indians would assimilate into the American way of farming and manufacturing.  Giving up their hunting and gathering ways that require such great tracts of land.  But, alas, that was not to be.  For he was no better than King George and Parliament in restraining American expansionist ambition.  The individual states ignored the new federal treaties with the Indians and negotiated their own treaties.  Or simply moved onto their land. 

Rather ironic, really.  Washington fought with the British against the French and Indians to secure American westward expansion.  He fought in the American Revolutionary War against the British to secure American westward expansion.  And the first major failure as president of the United States was over American westward expansion.  The subsequent treatment of the Indians would become what he feared.  A policy of confiscation that he worried “would stain the character of the nation.”  Which it has.  For the conflicts on the frontier were as violent and vicious as they ever were.  Forcing the Americans to send in troops to once again subdue these hostilities.  And to protect the Americans living on or near the frontier.  Which put the Americans and the Indians on the path Washington so wanted to avoid.  War.  Instead of conciliation.  And assimilation. 

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Trenton, Saratoga, Valley Forge, Rockingham, Chatham, American Problem, Carlisle Commission, Professional American Army and World War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 5th, 2012

Politics 101

General Gates gave the British Lenient Terms of Surrender at Saratoga allowing a Defeated British Army to be Replaced by Another

When the Americans began fighting for their independence the British said, “Really?  You’re going to fight us?  The greatest military power in the world?  Yeah, right.  Forgive us if we don’t tremble in our boots.”  Then came Lexington and Concorde.  Bunker Hill.  Then the Siege of Boston.  Not exactly an auspicious start for the greatest military power in the world.  But a little premature for the Americans to be feeling big in the britches department.  For the British had a cure for britches that ware too big.  It’s something they called the greatest military power in the world.  Which General Sir William Howe unleashed on the Americans on Long Island.  And he didn’t stop pushing the Americans back until he took winter quarters in New Jersey.  General Howe took those big American britches and shrunk them down in good order.  Very disheartening times for the Patriots.  Times that Thomas Paine wrote “try men’s souls.”

The British were feeling confident.  Even their hired mercenaries.  The Hessians.  Who where in Trenton.  Across the Delaware from Washington’s army that was “almost naked, dying of cold, without blankets, and very ill supplied with provisions.”  Ill conceived words from the Hessian commander.  Considering that naked, starving army surprised the bejesus out of them.  Giving the Americans a much needed win in the field against the British.  Or their Hessian allies.  Giving the Patriots fresh hope.  After they had just lost pretty much all of it.  And when they emerged from winter quarters they came out fighting.  Came close to a couple of victories.  But unable to pull out a victory.  Losing more land in the process.  Including Philadelphia.  And when the army took winter quarters at Valley Forge they were “almost naked, dying of cold, without blankets, and very ill supplied with provisions” again.

But it wasn’t all bad.  For there was an American victory up north.  At Saratoga.  Where a British army surrendered.  To an American force.  Something the French had great trouble doing themselves in the last century.  So this win was big.  But it could have been bigger.  For General Gates gave the British painfully lenient terms of surrender.  Allowing the British army to go back to Britain if they promised that they would never fight in North America again.  Of course the fault with that logic is that if that army went back to Britain they could relieve other forces that could fight in North America.  So the victory was a hollow one militarily.  As it did not weaken the enemy militarily.  Worse, had that British army been interned in a POW camp the war may not have continued for another 5 years.  For that win at Saratoga brought the French into the war.

The Americans weren’t Interested in Making a British Peace, what they Had in Mind was an American Win

The British did not want to broaden this war.  And the last thing they wanted was to bring in their old nemesis.  France.  Who would be glad to broaden the war.  And would rejoice at the opportunity to bring some hurt down on their old foe.  And perhaps recover some of their lost North American possessions.  So the British started to send out some peace feelers.  They approached Benjamin Franklin in January of 1778.  But he was not interested in what terms the British offered for Parliament to recognize America’s independence.  For Franklin said it was not up to Parliament to recognize their independence.  It was up to the Americans.  And they already did.

The British even tried bribing prominent Americans.  Such as Franklin and Washington.  In exchange for their help in convincing the American people to end their rebellion they would bestow upon them titles and rank.  And privilege.  Including generous pensions.  But Franklin and Washington weren’t for sale.  Parliament held heated debate about the American problem.  And the Americans and the French entering into any treaties.  Lord Rockingham led the Whig opposition who favored American independence.  While Lord Chatham vehemently disagreed with giving up sovereignty over America.  As it would be an insult to the Crown.  He was making his case passionately in Parliament when he collapsed.  This became his last speech as he died shortly thereafter.  His last breaths in Parliament were for naught, though.  As they agreed to send a peace commission to America.  To try to end the war before the French could affect the outcome. 

The Carlisle Commission arrived in Philadelphia as General Clinton (who replaced General Howe) was moving his army back to New York.  Which did not give the British a strong negotiating position.  For it is usually easier to get someone to accept your generous terms when you have the world’s most powerful military behind you.  Giving people something to think about if they don’t accept your generous terms.  The Americans refused to negotiate with them, though.  The British then tried bribing some prominent Americans.  Even tried to appeal directly to the American people.  Who just suffered a British army occupying their city.  So the British made no progress towards a negotiated peace.  Even though the terms were generous.  And had the British offered them a few years earlier the Americans would have accepted them.  For they gave them most of what they wanted then.  But after three years of war things changed.  The British had done things they couldn’t undo.  Certain unrestricted warfare things.  And the Americans weren’t desperate to make peace.  For they had survived 3 years of war against the greatest military power in the world.  Recently defeating one of their armies in the field of battle.  And now had the French as allies.  No, the Americans weren’t interested in making a British peace.  What they had in mind was an American win.

After Surviving 3 Years of War and 6 Months at Valley Forge the Americans had Reason to Believe they could Win this War

As General Washington entered winter quarters in the barren land of Valley Forge the British were settling in for a comfortable winter in the city of Philadelphia.  The British moved into comfortable homes while the Americans raced the calendar to build some barracks before the snow fell.  They had little food.  No meat whatsoever.  Many were barefoot.  Few had a decent shirt to wear.  And blankets were few.  To stay warm soldiers huddled around fires.  Or shivered under shared blankets. 

Some 2,500 men would die in all during the 6 months of Valley Forge.  But the army emerged intact.  And with confidence.  They now had an ally.  France.  And during that awful winter they also trained.  Under the Prussian Baron Friedrich von Steuben.  Who may have lied on his resume.  But he knew how to drill an army into shape.  And that’s what emerged from Valley Forge.  A professional army.  As good as any in Europe.  Even European officers led some of their units.  Who came over to fight for the cause.  Combat engineers like Louis Duportail from France.  And Thaddeus Kosciusko from Poland.  Also from Poland was cavalry commander Count Casimir Pulaski.  And, of course, Marquis de Lafayette from France.  The one foreign officer that never caused Washington any grief over persistent demands for promotion and rank.  Not Lafayette.  Who proved himself in battle.  And even changed his political persuasion during the war.  From monarchy to the liberty of republicanism.  Washington looked upon Lafayette as a son. 

After surviving 3 years of war and 6 months at Valley Forge the Americans had reason to believe they could win this war.  For the army that emerged from Valley Forge was a better army than the one that defeated General Burgoyne at Saratoga.  And they were less alone.  Thanks to France.  And these foreign officers.  Making it more difficult for Britain.  For with France (and her ally Spain joining in) the American Revolutionary War became a world war.  Diverting British resources elsewhere as their new enemies looked to take advantage of Britain’s American problem.  Which the Americans knew when rejecting the Carlisle Commission.  Namely that a quick peace didn’t favor the Americans.  It favored the British.

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War Debt, Seven Years War, Revolutionary War, Articles of Confederation, U.S. Constitution, Central Government, Federal Spending and Fiscal Policy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 7th, 2012

History 101

Americans don’t like Paying Taxes

Americans don’t like paying taxes.  A dispute over taxation without representation led to American independence from British rule.  For Britain had been fighting for many years in many wars.  And ran up an enormous war debt.  Which they had to repay.  Because some of that debt was incurred protecting the American colonists from the French and Indians during the Seven Years War, some had a bright idea.  “Here’s a thought,” they said, “Let’s have the Americans pay their fair share.  I mean, fair is fair, right?  Besides, it’ll be a lot easier getting money from the Americans than it will be getting it from Parliament, eh wot?” 

The Seven Years War, though, was a world war.  Fought in many countries and on many seas.  Costing lots of money.  Which Parliament was financing with lots of taxes.  But the British taxpayer had tax fatigue.  And felt they had no more taxes to give.  Or wanted to give.  As they had a say in Parliament raising taxes further was a nonstarter.  But the Americans had no representation in Parliament.  So what could they do?  Turns out they could do a lot.  Now the Americans weren’t unreasonable.  They just didn’t appreciate the, “Oh, by the way, here’s your share of the war debt.  We’ll tax you accordingly.”  Which the British did.  Without so much a by-your-leave.  Rubbed the Americans the wrong way.  If the British had shown them the numbers and gave them a chance to agree on what their ‘fair share’ was they probably would have paid.  And stayed loyal to the Crown.  But the British didn’t.  So the Americans didn’t.

Now fighting wars is expensive.  Especially long ones.  And the Revolutionary War was a long one.  Eight years until they penned their names to the Treaty of Paris (1783) officially ending it.  In these eight years the Americans ran up a great war debt.  And needed to repay it.  Just like the British.  The very thing that started the Revolutionary War.  Now it was the Americans’ turn to raise taxes.  They tried taxing whiskey.  Which led to another tax rebellion.  The Whiskey Rebellion.  For Americans still didn’t like paying taxes.  This time, though, it was a tad different.  Because those they were taxing had representation.  And the new ‘nation’ (a confederation of ‘equal’ states) had the legal authority to impose this tax.  And to put down the rebellion.  Which General Washington did.  To the howls of liberty-loving patriots everywhere.  The tax quietly went away.  But it didn’t solve the nation’s problems.  They were broke.  Needed money.  And they had to get a handle on the massive sums they owed for the world of nations to take them seriously.

Hamilton thought both Jefferson and Burr were Scoundrels but at least Jefferson was a Principled Scoundrel

The new ‘nation’ (that confederation of ‘equal’ states) was the problem.  Just as the world of nations didn’t take the Americans seriously these ‘equal’ states didn’t take the new national government seriously.  There was no taxing authority.  So the federal government could only ask for contributions from the states.  Which often came in late.  And when they did they were often less than they requested.  Some states even refused to pay anything.  Worse, the states were making their own treaties with other nations as well as the Indian Tribes.  Or reneging on the treaties the federal government made with other nations and the Indian Tribes.  The confederation wasn’t working.  They needed something new.  And once George Washington was onboard they called a meeting in Philadelphia (1787) to rework the Articles of Confederation.

Of course they didn’t rework the Articles of Confederation.  They replaced them with a new U.S. Constitution.  And a new nation.  The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution began with “We the people.”  The sovereignty of the new nation wasn’t with the states.  It wasn’t with the new federal government.  It was with the people.  It was a nation of the people, by the people and for the people.  To borrow some words from Abraham Lincoln.  Which meant that although the thing they created had more power than the confederation of states it replaced, its power was limited.  Very limited.  The Framers designed it to do only those things the states could not do well individually.  National defense.  Coin uniform money.  Establish post offices and post roads.  Make national treaties with other nations and Indian Tribes.  Declare war.  Create a standard of weights and measures.  But little more.  In fact, the Constitution listed more things the new government couldn’t do than listed what it could do.  To quell everyone’s fear that they just replaced one far away central power (the British Crown) with another far away central power (the central government of the United States).  Especially when it came to taxes.  Raising taxes required approval by two houses of Congress and by the President.  Making it difficult to raise taxes.  The way Americans liked it.  For Americans didn’t like paying taxes.  And still don’t.

Getting the new Constitution ratified wasn’t a walk in the park.  The size and power of the new central government appalled those Patriots who worked so hard during the Revolution.  James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, joined forces with Alexander Hamilton and wrote a series of articles arguing for ratification.  The Federalist Papers.  And were successful.  Then when Alexander Hamilton was putting the Constitution into action as Secretary of the Treasury in the Washington administration, Madison didn’t like what he saw.  For Hamilton wanted to use the power of government to make the United States an economic superpower like Britain.  His opponents, though, saw a man who wanted to be king.  So Madison joined the opposition.  Led by Thomas Jefferson.  And the politics got ugly.  Before it was done the Jefferson camp would write about an affair Hamilton had.  And the same muckraker who exposed this affair would later write about a Jefferson affair with a slave.  Sally Hemming.  The people in the different camps hated each other.  Especially Hamilton and Jefferson.  They hated each other with a passion.  But they were principled men.  For when the election of 1800 came down to either Thomas Jefferson or Aaron Burr, Hamilton backed his archenemy.  Thomas Jefferson.  Both Jefferson and Burr were scoundrels as far as Hamilton was concerned.  But at least Jefferson was a principled scoundrel.  Burr took great offense to some things Hamilton said about him around this time.  And challenged him to a duel.  In which Hamilton suffered a mortal wound.  Pity.  For Hamilton was a true Patriot.  And perhaps the greatest treasury secretary the United States ever had.

It’s not the Spirit of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison that lives on in Politics but Aaron Burr

Funny how things change.  The new nation almost didn’t survive because of the opposition towards a strong central government.  And towards federal taxes.  Now federal spending includes just about everything under the sun.  Most of which the Framers excluded from the Constitution.  And the taxes!  They have reached a level none of the Founding Fathers thought would ever be possible.  Even Hamilton.  He was ‘big government’ for his day but he would be disgusted to see what became of his beloved Treasury Department.  And the money they pull out of the private sector economy.  Not to make America an economic superpower.  But to buy votes.  And for personnel gain.  The true underbelly of democracy.  Where people come to public service not to serve.  But to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayer.  Like that scoundrel that killed him.  Aaron Burr.

Even worse they use fiscal policy to further their spending ways.  The federal debt grows.  And now whenever a recession rolls around they use Keynesian fiscal policy to ‘lessen’ the affects of the recession.  Which is just a clever way to keep on spending after they’ve run out of money.  Because this spending is now stimulus.  And if the government stops spending it will make the recession worse.  Clever.  And it’s just coincidental that friends of the administration benefit most by this Keynesian stimulus spending.

It would appear it’s not the spirit of Alexander Hamilton that lives on in Washington.  Or Thomas Jefferson.  Or James Madison.  It’s the spirit of Aaron Burr.  Scoundrel extraordinaire.  And role model for the political elite.

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Libya is free from Kadafi, so what’s Next? Peace? Or more Blood?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 27th, 2011

Living in Peace is one Advantage of an Oppressive Dictatorship 

Tripoli has fallen.  Kadafi‘s days are numbered.  Now it’s time for a glorious rebirth.  And peace.  If they can make peace.  And keep it (see Some fear post-revolution Libya may look like Iraq by Borzou Daragahi posted 8/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Although young men protect their own neighborhoods, major institutions such as banks, ministries and historic sites remain relatively unprotected. A number of banks and commercial towers have been thoroughly looted. Law enforcement is left in the hands of rebel fighters, some of whom had never been to their country’s capital.

Young men continue to pillage military sites abandoned by Kadafi’s men, carting away huge stores of weapons, just as Iraqis hauled off guns and explosives later used to make car bombs and launch attacks on Iraqi and U.S.-led forces.

Stores of weapons in the hands of angry young men?  Rarely does that end well.  And rarely does lawlessness just spontaneously turn into lawfulness.  Put the two together (angry young men with weapons and lawlessness) and what do you get?  Woe to anyone that is identified as a loyalist.

Reports also have begun to surface of reprisal killings of suspected loyalists, although few accounts could be fully verified given the chaos and lack of communications in Tripoli…

More obvious right now is the visceral violence of rebel forces hammering away at residential neighborhoods known to be strongholds of Kadafi supporters.

Rebel fighters use artillery and antiaircraft guns in such districts, which include Abu Salim, Hadba and Salahadin. At one point this week, rebels were firing assault rifles into residential apartment blocks in Abu Salim, where they suspected a sniper was holed up.

Civil wars tend to be the cruelest of wars.  And the bloodiest.  They split up neighborhoods.  And families.  With vengeance often being the battle cry.  For these aren’t soldiers on a distant battlefield who don’t know each other.  This is far more personal.  It’s typically someone you know killing someone you know.  And what makes it especially cruel is that before the war these were people you called friends.  Or family.  This kind of killing unleashes an indescribable hatred.  And searing anger.  Hence the vengeance.

Members of the district council insisted that the men had taken up arms against the revolution and were being held pending trial. But they also said some of those arrested included people pulled out of their cars at checkpoints because they looked “suspicious,” often code for dark-skinned Libyans and others of sub-Saharan African descent…

Said one Tripoli taxi driver, “I have a fear that one day we’ll be like Iraqis, wishing for the days of Moammar Kadafi.”

As bad as Saddam Hussein was, at least he kept the peace.  That’s the advantage of an oppressive dictatorship.  People live in fear of the state.  Not each other.  And if you behave properly, the state might just leave you alone.  As long as you’re not an intellectual.  Can read.  Or wear glasses.  If you’re not a threat to state power, or a perceived threat, life can be good.  All you have to do is to say nothing.  Avoid eye contact.  And never, ever complain.  For if you thought things were bad, just wait until after you complain.

Typically in Civil Wars, the Winning Side often Unleashed a Bloody Purge on the Losing Side 

Many people may not know this but the American Revolutionary War was part civil war.  Those loyal to the Crown fought for the Crown.  Against the Patriots.  And the bloodiest fighting during the Revolution was between Loyalist and Patriot.  Especially in the South.  Where some unspeakable horrors took place.

Now typically in civil wars, the winning side often unleashed a bloody purge on the losing side.  But not in America.  At the end of the war there were no reprisals.  No hangings.  No persecutions.  At least, not by those in power.  Most of the Loyalists just left.  They went to Canada.  Or back to the UK.  General Washington resigned from the army.  And the elected civilian authority made the peace.  Quite shocking.  For few generals ever voluntarily give up near absolute power.  And returned to their farm.  He was the American Cincinnatus

About a decade later, the French Revolution erupted.  A more classical civil war.  Far more bloody.  With plenty of reprisals.  And guillotining.  The streets of Paris ran with blood.  The Reign of Terror purged political enemies.  Than the people who unleashed the Terror fell victims to it themselves.  The fighting unleashed Napoleon Bonaparte onto Europe.  And the Middle East.  Made him a great general.  Even impressed a composer by the name of Ludwig van Beethoven.  A fan of republican government.  Even dedicated his Third Symphony to him.  And then Bonaparte made himself emperor.  So the revolution to overthrow a king ultimately ended up with an emperor.  Infuriating Beethoven so that he slashed the dedication page from his symphony.

Two revolutions that were part civil war.  One atypical.  The American.  And one more typical.  The French.

Winning the War was one Thing.  Winning the Peace was Another. 

At the time these were some pretty nasty wars.  But they pale when compared to the American Civil War.  Some 620,000 died.  That’s a huge number.  About 2% of the population then.  To get an idea about how devastating 2% of the population is consider this.  With today’s population that would equal some 6 million dead.

Winning the war was one thing.  Winning the peace was another.  The war was horrific.  And a lot of Northerners wanted a hard peace.  To make the South pay.  But Abraham Lincoln wanted an easy peace.  Near the end, shortly before Robert E. Lee’s surrender, Lincoln met with General Ulysses S. Grant, General William Tecumseh Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter.  He discussed the easy peace he wanted.  He said he did not want any retribution.  Any trials.  Any hangings.  If the defeated Confederates would sign paroles promising to never pick up arms again against the United States, they could simply go home.  He wanted to bring the South back into the Union.  As quickly and as painlessly as possible.  Forgive and forget.  Echoing his sentiments in his second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all

The South was beaten.  Lee was surrounded.  The question was what would Lee do?  Surrender?  Or disband and head into the hills.  Carry out guerilla war?  This was weighing on everyone’s mind.  It terrified Lincoln.  Grant and Sherman feared it, too.  Even Lee.  When Grant met Lee at Appomattox to discuss surrender, Grant offered very generous terms.  In keeping with Lincoln’s wish for an easy peace.  It had a very favorable affect on Lee.  And his men.  Lee surrendered.  And once his war was over he dedicated his postwar life to making peace.

A similar surrender was negotiated between Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston.  Despite the assassination of Lincoln.  Which happened after Lee’s surrender.  Sherman waged hard war throughout the South.  But he did not hate the South.  War was war.  And once the war was over, he followed Lincoln’s directive for an easy peace without hesitation.  Eager to ‘let the South up easy’.  And bring them back into the Union.

Lincoln’s assassination infuriated the North.  They wanted vengeance.  They wanted retribution.  And they wanted to hang Lee.  But Grant stepped in.  Said he made the deal with Lee.  And the deal would be honored.  Or he’d resign.  President Andrew Johnson relented.  And Grant wrote Lee to assure him there would be no trial.  His terms would be honored.  And Lee reciprocated by dedicating his remaining life doing what he could to bring the South peacefully back into the Union.

Let us Judge not, that we be not Judged

The Civil War ended in 1865.  It easily could have gone on.  But thanks to Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee and Johnston, the war ended.  And the peace began.  The Southern people looked to Lee even in defeat.  For he was like George Washington to them.  Loved.  And respected.  Washington’s and Lee’s words and deeds carried great weight in their postwar years.  And made peace possible.

But Lee surrendered to Lincoln as much as he did to Grant.  And it was Lincoln that made the difference in this civil war.  Made it different from other civil wars.  For he could see beyond the conflict.  To a higher plane.  As he said in his second inaugural address.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

This is what you need for reconciliation.  Do they have that in Libya?  Let’s hope so.  But history has shown this to rarely be the case.  You need great people.  A Washington.  A Lincoln.  A Grant.  A Sherman.  A Lee.  A Johnston.  Is this person in Libya?  Or is Libya to descend into terror?  Time will tell.

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The KISS Army Supports the U.S. Military

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 13th, 2010

A friend of mine took his sister to a KISS concert.  There were big KISS fans some 20 years ago.  Back when some on the Right warned the masses about their ‘devil’ music.  Said that ‘KISS’ stood for Knights in Satan’s Service.  Neither my friend nor his sister were devil worshippers, though.  They just liked the music.  And they put on a great live show.  KISS took the stage to entertain.  And they entertained the hell out of you.

All these years later and they still entertain the hell out of you.  There’s a new ‘Ace Frehley’ and a new ‘Peter Chris’ these days behind the makeup, but Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are still doing it like they did in the 1970s.  Paul Stanley was still bare-chested.  And pretty buff.  For a 58 year old man.  At least, according to my friend’s sister.  Based on her droolage when Stanley wiggled his ass.  And they call men shallow and superficial.

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are great patriots.  During the concert, three Air Force staff sergeants walked out on stage.  Stanley said they donate $1 from each ticket sold to the Wounded Warrior Project.  That night, the check they presented to the sergeants was in excess of $300,000.  That was just that night.  They do more to support our warriors.  Far more.  Money.  And their personal time.  When it comes to their support of the military, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley walk it like they talk it.

Now that’s irony.  A band once feared by the Right for being devil worshippers doing good.  One could almost say ‘doing God’s work’.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #10: “Conservatives like the Rule of Law whereas Liberals prefer militant, radical change.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2010

CONSERVATIVES LIKE THE way things were.  They like things that have proven track records.  Liberals, on the other hand, don’t.  If it’s the old way then it’s the wrong way.  For no matter what history has proven, they want to tinker.  They want to change things.  Stir the pot.  Mix it up.  Raise a little hell.

A lot of people don’t really understand what a conservative is.  They think Big Business.  They think rich fat cats.  They think of people who step into their horse-drawn carriage on the back of a poor person down on his hands and knees.  They think racist.  They think segregationist.  They think warmonger.  They think militant anti-government reactionary.  They think Nazi.  And they think wrong.

A conservative practices conservatism.  And Merriam-Webster OnLine defines conservatism as:

a: disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)

Conservatism, then, reflects the principles of the Founding Fathers.  After the Revolution, of course.

OUR FOUNDING FATHERS were not conservatives when they broke from Great Britain.  They were liberals.  Progressive.  Looking for a new way that was different from the established, conservative ways of Great Britain.  They were the culmination of the enlightenment.  Of a new way.  Where rank did not matter.  Where who your father was didn’t matter.  All that mattered was you.  And what you did.

Before they became conservatives, then, they were radical liberals.  They took up arms against the government.  There were many reasons for this.  The Stamp Act.  The Intolerable Acts.  The Quebec Act.  These and other issues raised tensions between the mother country and her colony.

The colonists fell into two camps: the Patriots (Whigs) and Loyalists (Tories).  The Loyalists were the conservatives.  They wanted to keep British America British.  The Patriots were the radical liberals.  They wanted independence.  And, of course, there were a lot of undecided that fell in between.

As the American-British breech widened, many wanted to remain British.  They wanted reconciliation.  Even Benjamin Franklin.  In fact, he was seeking a royal appointment in the colonies.  He was a conservative.  He fit the Merriam-Webster OnLine definition.  But he would eventually change.  As many others did.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

THE FOUNDING FATHERS who made this country were conservatives.  They were conservatives before the break from Great Britain.  They became liberal progressives during the Revolution.  Then became conservative again.  The Constitution created a government so conservatively British that Thomas Jefferson would attack the Washington and Adams administration vehemently, even though he was a member of those administrations.

The lesson here is this.  Conservatives live under the Rule of Law.  They like to do things the way their parents did.  Liberals, on the other hand, don’t.  They want to break from the established way of doing things.  And they have no problem with breaking the law to do so.  Or overthrowing a government.

WHEN IN COLLEGE, liberals didn’t spend a lot of time in history or economics classes.  Had they, they would have learned the lessons of history.  And probably have become conservatives.  But radical liberal professors can influence young, influential minds spending their first time away from home.

Most parents raise their children conservatively.  They teach them right from wrong.  To obey the law.  They give them curfews.  They meet the boys dating their daughters.  They tell them to ‘say no to drugs’.  And tell them not to drink until they are legally old enough to do so.

But when kids go to college, things change.  Their kids break the law (there’s underage drinking and drug use).  Yes, they were doing some of this before college, but before college, it was more difficult to do.  Because of their parents.  Their parents aren’t at college, though.  So some of these kids stray.  They become liberal.  Part in protest against their parents.  Part because it’s more fun to be a liberal in college.

Of course, when these kids become parents, they tend to move towards conservatism.  Something about being a parent.  In fact, they become their parents.  It’s what having kids does.

FOR MANY BEING a liberal is a period in their life.  For some, though, it’s a journey from which there is no returning.

In the sixties, during the Vietnam War, conservatives obeyed the law and served when called.  It was liberals who burnt their draft cards and went to Canada.  It was liberals who were militant, anti-war protesters.  It was liberals who made up the Weather Underground who wanted to overthrow the U.S. government and establish a proletarian dictatorship.

Eco-terrorists are liberals.  The Unabomber mailed bombs to protest industrial society.  EarthFirst! began the practice of spiking trees (which damages saws and maims lumberjacks).  The Earth Liberation Front burns down new housing developments and SUV dealerships.  Greenpeace commits piracy on the high seas.

ONE OF THE DEFINING differences between liberals and conservatives is how they act in respect to the Rule of Law.  Conservatives are law-abiding.  Liberals are too.  Unless they don’t like a law. 

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