The Tar Babies

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The Federal Government

In A.D. 2000 we must cling to that fact. We must convince ourselves that once, like Camelot, there really existed such a country, founded on freedom and human dignity. We must try hard to remember because it no longer exists. In 1776, when Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence articulated the American struggle to break away from the tyranny of George III, brave men pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to create a confederation of states based on those ideals. But that dream died with the Civil War, with the establishment of a Federal Government, all-powerful, all-consuming, even more dangerous than any European monarchy because it performs its monstrosities under the benign banner of “We, the People.” In truth, Lincoln did not believe in government “of, by, and for” the people. Or else he would have allowed the South to be the democratic, self-governing confederation it was. If we are to understand our present predicament we must return to those bloody years, 1861-1865.

The War for Southern Independence (Chief Justice Rehnquist calls it not “The War Between the States” but “The War Against the States”) was a tax revolt, pure and simple. For forty years, even before Andrew Jackson fought against the tyranny of a central bank, the South had suffered under unbearable tariffs designed to suffocate its economy in favor of Northern ports, textile mills and industry. In 1833 a so-called “compromise” bill fathered by South Carolinian John C. Calhoun and Kentuckian Henry Clay only pretended to reduce protectionism by delaying any tax reduction into the distant future. The tax rate that year was 50%. Calhoun had, according to William W. Freehling in The Road to Disunion, “perpetuated the highest tariffs ever to be charged in antebellum America, throughout the worst cotton depression his constituents would ever suffer.” This tariff robbed them of forty bales per hundred. But it passed the House 119-85 and the Senate 29-16. Charles Adams, in When in the Course of Human Events, gives a broader view. He points out that the tariffs of the 1830’s and 40’s represented a total revenue of about $107.5 million, with the South paying about $90 million and the North $17.5 million. By 1860 the total exports from the South had reached $214 million, while those of the North were $47 million. This represents a discrepancy between 87% and 17%. Add to this imbalance the fact that the South had to pay fishing bounties ($13 million, which was 83% of the National Treasury!) and $36 million for shipping from Northern ports. After Sumter and secession, The Philadelphia Press saw through the “South-as-aggressor” propaganda: “It is the enforcement of the revenue laws, NOT the coercion of the State, that is the question of the hour. If those laws cannot be enforced, the Union is clearly gone; if they can , it is safe.” Lincoln understood that. He had wailed, when contemplating secession: “What then will become of my tariff?” The South knew well enough what they were facing when the new President boasted, in his first inaugural:

“The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; BUT BEYOND WHAT MAY BE NECESSARY FOR THESE OBJECTS, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.” (Italics and capital letters are mine.)

“Beyond what may be necessary” meant only one thing. Invasion, despite the disclaimer. A reign of terror had begun.

The first signs came just after the inauguration, when an embassy of Southerners went to Washington, authorized to negotiate for the removal of Federal garrisons from Fort Pickens (Pensacola) and Fort Sumter (Charleston). The President was indisposed, and Secretary of State Seward refused to see the Southern delegation. Then, in the newspapers and from Seward himself came the news that Fort Sumter would be evacuated. It was a lie. Frantic preparations for a major military operation–disguised as a humanitarian provisioning effort– were under way. On April 6 the frigate Powhatan set out for sea with 10 heavy guns and 400 men as a convoy for the transports Atlantic, Baltic, and Illinois. These transports were hardly carrying groceries. The Atlantic sailed with a battery of 4 guns and 91 men, plus 400 soldiers. That same morning the cutter Harriet Lane set out to sea with 8 guns and 100 men.

Late that night the Baltic joined the squadron with 20 surfboats and 200 recruits. The Illinois followed with 500 cases of muskets and 300 soldiers. The sloop-of-war Pawnee joined them as they sailed into Charleston harbor. Besides the flagship Powhatan there were 11 vessels with a force of 285 guns and 2400 men. To “provision” a small island whose soldiers had been buying their vegetables at Charleston markets and who even had a resident butcher! In fact the tiny island of Sumter represented not a Federal fortress so much as it did a Federal toll booth, strategically located to collect tariffs and duties from incoming ships.

And therein lies the key. The South, with low duties, represented free trade, while the North, with its protective tariffs, feared the flow of European ships into Southern ports, a traffic which could cripple New England textile mills and the burgeoning industries spreading along its major rivers. That little toll booth represented millions of lost revenue. It became an insult to national honor far beyond its military value. During that April night, as a raging fire from the bombardment consumed the barracks and threatened American lives, Federal gunboats stood off at a distance and, under orders, did nothing. They had gotten what they had come for. The South had fired the first shot. The North could now claim a self-righteous–even a religiously righteous–cause.

Lincoln was quick to act. That shot at Sumter fell on April 12. Less than a week later Lincoln found a slick lawyer with a loophole which allowed him to delay the next session of Congress for three months. In those three months he tore up the Constitution and became an instant dictator. Without the consent of Congress he called up the militia. On the 21st of April he ordered the navy to buy five warships.

On April 27 he suspended the right of habeas corpus, a suspension which allowed him to arrest and imprison (by military order, without trial by jury) any newspaper editor who disagreed with the administration. In the end over 14,000 people were imprisoned and over 300 newspapers over the country–in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut–were shut down. On May 3rd he called for more troops, again without the approval of Congress. By the time Congress met in July it went along with everything Lincoln had done, including the unconstitutional arming of troops. Without the absentee Southern senators and congressmen, those who were left were afraid of being arrested by a military officer for “treasonable speech” and sent to prison. When a rumor spread that certain members of the Maryland legislature were not enthusiastic about Lincoln’s policies, Secretary of War Cameron ordered Major General Banks to arrest all or any part of the state legislature rumored to have Southern sympathies. In the middle of a September night, all suspects found themselves locked up in the prison at Fort McHenry, and democracy in Maryland ceased to exist. To make sure that it remained dead, Lincoln ordered all members of the Federal armed forces to vote in the November Maryland state elections, even though they were not residents of that state. When the Supreme Court objected to Lincoln’s nullification of the writ of habeas corpus, Lincoln ordered the arrest of Chief Justice Roger Taney. Lincoln’s orders to the federal marshal instructed him “to use his own discretion about making the arrest unless he should receive further orders.” Based on that loophole, the marshal decided not to issue the warrant, but the Constitution–what remained of it–hung from a thread.

Lincoln’s assault on that document was not limited to his initial attacks on critics. In 1863 an Ohio Democrat named Clement Vallandigham ran for governor of his state on a peace platform. Lincoln had him arrested and convicted by a military court. By this time Lincoln had put Secretary of State Seward in charge of “Internal Security,” a nineteenth-century version of the KGB. With habeas corpus gone, no judge could expect an appeal to that writ to be upheld, even if you could get a judge rash enough to try. One brave soul did, but Judge Taney had retired by that time, and the writ was automatically denied, with the excuse that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction over military tribunals. Thus a precedent had been set, to be used by the Lincoln administration for the rest of the war. The military was now above the law, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, even the Supreme Court. As for Vallandigham, the Ohio gubernatorial candidate, Lincoln personally signed the order that banished him from the United States–without a trial, for the crime of “sympathy for the enemy.” The President seemed to be out of control, consumed by revenge. It was not enough that he had destroyed the Constitution with his midnight arrests and imprisonments, but he had actually tried to arrest the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for the crime of disagreeing with him. He was acting like a madman–like, as my students said of Marx, “a nut case.” Yet, after all these years, perhaps we can understand, if not forgive, his moods, which often bordered on the insane. Historians have recorded a medical history of syphilis, and many now agree that he suffered from manic-depression. In fact, during his first weeks in office, he kept to his room. William Henry Seward, the Secretary of State, ran things. Until Sumter.

As for slavery, Lincoln wavered–depending on his audience. Except for a fanatic fringe of abolitionists, Northerners, remembering the bloody revolution of the blacks against Napoleon’s troops in Haiti, and fearing an influx of freed slaves from the South, were against emancipation. In Massachusetts there was talk of secession if the slaves were freed. In his first inaugural Lincoln stated unequivocally, “I have no purpose directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Most of Lincoln’s generals were against emancipation. General Hooker said that if the war was being fought to free the blacks instead of in defense of the Constitution, three-quarters of his army “would lay down their arms.” Evidently General Fremont did not agree. In August, 1861 he freed the slaves in the area of his command in Missouri. Lincoln immediately expressed his disapproval. It was a war “for a great national idea,” he insisted, and that idea was “the Union, and General Fremont should not have dragged the Negro into it.” Fremont was relieved of his command. That next summer, in May of 1862, General David Hunter tried freeing slaves in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Again, Lincoln objected. Then something happened. The American ambassador to France wrote to Secretary of State Seward complaining about Lincoln’s rejection of emancipation by firing Fremont. Evidently this one objection caused Lincoln to realize that his war was seen in Europe through entirely different lens. Emancipation could become a tool, could enhance the cause of the North, could open a flood of diplomatic and ( most importantly) trade and economic aid from overseas. Like Bill Clinton reading the polls, Lincoln took a 180-degree turn. The legend of the “Great Emancipator” was being born.

But not quite yet. In the summer of 1862 Lincoln met with free blacks and advised them that, since they could never be the equal of the white man, and since the two races would never be able to live together in harmony, the best thing for them to do would be to follow the advice of the American Colonization Society (he was its president) and emigrate to the Caribbean, or South America, or to the new country of Liberia on the west coast of Africa, now officially recognized by the United States. Horace Greeley, publisher of The New York Tribune, was shocked and printed on August 20 an open letter to the President asking him to clarify his views on slavery. Lincoln replied that his sole purpose was to save the Union. If he could do it by freeing all the slaves or only some slaves or no slaves at all he would do exactly that. In other words, slavery was tied unconditionally to the Union. Lincoln cleverly avoided the fact that colonization meant expulsion. Greeley’s fears were not unfounded. Lincoln was substituting a crazy emigration scheme for emancipation–almost a month to the day before his famous Proclamation would be announced on September 22. But the idea didn’t die. Even after the war, over a thousand blacks sailed from Georgia and South Carolina to Liberia in 1866 and early 1867 under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. But by that time American blacks felt more American than African, and the effort ended. As for the Proclamation, it freed nobody, not the slaves in the Confederacy, over which Lincoln had no jurisdiction, nor the slaves in the North, expressly omitted “because the Constitution promised the protection of property.” In fact, after Gettysburg it was met with such rage that blacks were hanged from the lampposts on Broadway in the New York riots, resisting the draft. The result in the South, as recorded in Edward A. Pollard’s Southern History of the War, was puzzlement and contempt when Southerners realized that, under the Constitution, such a proclamation could not be given except under the pressure of military necessity. Since this emancipation would not be implemented until January 1, 1863, what sort of “military necessity” could be delayed for a hundred days? And, if slavery was really the cause of the war, why had Lincoln waited two whole years–of horrible slaughter–before he issued his proclamation?

In effect, despite the setback for Lee at Antietam that September, the war was not going well for the North. Both Bull Runs (July, ’61 and August ’62) were disasters. As was Fredericksburg, Virginia in December of ’62. Shiloh, in April, had been a draw, and, in spite of the Yankee capture of New Orleans in May and the Southern debacle that lost Kentucky for the South at Perryville in October (with ironic credit being given to that most Northern of Southern generals, Gen. Bragg–who should have been wearing blue rather than gray), the scoreboard was tilting toward the South. An indication of Lincoln’s desperation was not his famous proclamation but another, often ignored order issued just before, one that reaffirmed the abolition of habeas corpus. This time, as William Safire writes in Freedom, the nullification was much broader and much more official, having the blessings of Secretary of War Stanton, who considered such a move “absolutely” necessary. The reign of terror would not end with the war, but would gain momentum with Lincoln’s assassination and the mass hangings of suspects, even of Mary Surratt, the landlady who rented a room to John Wilkes Boothe. Afterwards, terror took the misnomer of “Reconstruction.”

But what does all this have to do with Marxism? One word. CONTROL. And the fostering, the nurturing–one could almost say the forced feeding–of hatreds within our society which have caused divisions still with us. Divide and Conquer. When one reads the Northern newspapers of the day calling for the extinction of all Southern white people, and the scorched-earth policy that would leave the South “a desert,” the institutionalized contempt introduced by Lincoln’s policies becomes obvious. The term “ethnic cleansing” had not yet been invented, but one has only to remember that it was this same generation, lusting after Southern blood, that murdered and hunted down the American Indians. Custer fought for the Union in Virginia, and died at Little Big Horn. It was General Grant (then President Grant) who gave the order to slaughter all the buffalo, in an effort to starve the Indian into oblivion. And it was Lincoln who executed thirty-nine starving Sioux, whose only “crime” was complaining that the Federal Government had cheated them of promised provisions. They were hanged, all thirty-nine, at one time. As was Nathaniel Gordon, a Yankee slave trader from Maine, caught selling Africans to Cuba and South America in 1862. Thousands of New Yorkers protested the sentence, but the abolitionists were beginning to have a voice in politics by that time, and Lincoln, perhaps as a result of his successful dictatorship, began developing a Jehovah complex. He “granted” Gordon a 13-day delay, deliberately ignoring the cruelty of that added punishment, but excusing himself with the insufferably pontifical pronouncement that “it becomes my painful duty to admonish the prisoner that relinquishing all expectation of pardon by human authority, he refer himself alone to the mercy of the common God and Father of all men.” Lincoln thus joins Pizarro condescendingly counseling the Inca before he killed him, or the Spanish Inquisitors self-righteously lighting fires under “heretics.” In fact, toward the end, Lincoln seems to have suffered from the Greek sin of hubris. By evoking “God’s will,” he in effect blamed God for the war. God was punishing the country, North and South, for slavery. He became Yahweh on Mount Sinai sending out pronouncements. And now he reigns as the Great Emancipator in his Greek temple by the Potomac. Across the river Robert E. Lee’s home still stands, its gardens a national cemetery. It has been said that the victors vowed nobody would ever want to live in Arlington again. They were right, but one wonders if that decision was totally without vengeance.

As for racism, it has remained a tool of the Marxists and the “politically correct” ever since. Divide and Conquer. But the recent sugar-coating of division with the popular word “diversity” cannot change the real thrust of a major effort to “keep hate alive” (to misquote Jesse Jackson) by “playing the race card” (a phrase used in the O.J. trial). Gone is the old idea of a melting pot, the creation of a new nation of Americans. But realistically, perhaps it could not have happened anyway. We are a diverse people. I can remember reading to my students the last words of Captain Scott, who died in Antarctica trying to find the South Pole. The final entry in his diary read: “I shall die like an Englishman.” Would any of us, I asked them, have written “I shall die like an American?”

Still, in the 30’s, in the middle of the Depression, I can remember as a child in Water Valley, Mississippi (that same town where Mrs. Parsons read Uncle Remus), a deep sense of community, almost of family, between the races. Despite the “Colored Only” sign on the waiting room at the railroad station, and the segregated water fountains, my childhood experiences verified the old saying that the South loved the individual but hated the race, while the North loved the race but hated the individual. My father never visited Bolivar, Tennessee, without seeing Zilfrey. His father had been a lawyer in that town, with six children, five boys and a girl, and Zilfrey was their cook. When my grandfather died he left Zilfrey a farm in his will. I remember going out there with my father and finding Zilfrey sick in bed with the flu. Her relatives lived just across the road, but nobody had been to see her. My father went into town and brought back a doctor, and arranged to have someone care for her. She lived in a cabin by herself. The floors were spotless, and there was a big iron kettle in the yard for boiling clothes. She was a shriveled little woman of uncertain age who chewed tobacco and wore a red bandana on her head. I can still see her standing in her kitchen, smiling over at me as she told how she used to make “big breakfass” for “those boys” before they went hunting. She looked up at my father. “My, my, Mista Fred, you wuz a fine baby then. Who woulda knowed you would grow up to be such a big boy?” My father was seventy.

Of all the “colored” people I knew, I will always remember Gertrude, our cook, with love. She nursed me through the mumps, had a cow named Pearl and a beautiful vegetable garden. When I lived in England in the ’50’s I wrote her a letter which was answered by one of her neighbors. She had moved to Detroit. Like everybody else in our town during the 30’s we suffered major financial setbacks and really couldn’t afford even the meager wages we paid our “help.” We gave them leftovers and clothes and paid their doctor bills. It was a genuine, personal form of welfare, although we did not call it charity. They were our people. And when people are in trouble, you help. When the Depression was at its worst, our house must have been “marked” because we had hesitant visitors in pin-striped suits, men from the “hobo” camp politely asking if we had any work to do. They never begged. They always asked for work. We lived in a small house with an even smaller fenced back yard. Of course we had no work, but I remember my mother and Gertrude helping me hand out mounds of food to those quiet men, embarrassed at their plight, but too hungry to refuse. People help one another. Without the Federal Government telling you what to do.

Those Depression days were not that far from the Civil War. When I was little I used to watch (I can still see them in my mind) Confederate veterans rocking in cane-back chairs on the lawn at Jefferson Davis’s home, Beauvoir, near Biloxi. It had been turned into an old soldier’s home, where they could reminisce and remember so much as they gazed out on that emerald-blue water of the Gulf of Mexico. Little did they know that the main result of that war would be the Federal Government. Before 1860 the country was known as “these United States.” After the war it became the United States–“indivisible” in the oath demanded by the victors of Confederate veterans before they could regain their citizenship (even though, as a constitutional lawyer recently reminded me, the word is not in the Constitution).

With its stranglehold on every aspect of our lives, the Federal Government has become an Empire more vicious than the one we fought in 1776. That, too, was a tax revolt. Over tea! What if Paul Revere had had taxes that consumed half of his income! As Alan Keyes, a presidential candidate, has said, we Americans are tax slaves. Yet most Americans are in deep denial over the clever, silent invasion of Marxism in our culture. The capitalists who hire the workers are now the villains.

And the workers are shackled by taxes, the small businessmen by endless, often meaningless regulations. A total control, a death-grip of Marxist dedication to the annihilation of capitalism has mesmerized our elected–and non-elected–officials (those heads of agencies which really run our government)–to the point that we no longer realize the danger to our freedom. The Great Nanny on the Old Plantation will take care of you, overseen and urged on by the Big Man in the White House–whether you want to be taken care of or not. You will have Social Security and Medicare, a Federal Department of Education, health insurance, the IRS and prescription drugs, whether you want them or not.

I witnessed the result of Federal control in education when I taught high school in Kentucky. During one of those years the students lost 34 days as “snow days.” I was puzzled. Yes, there had been snow, but not so much that 95% of the students could not have come to school, even those from the more mountainous eastern side of the county. I spoke with the principal. He explained that the Federal Department of Education paid per head on the school bus. Fewer students on the bus, fewer dollars. Thirty-four days from a school year, when school starts in August, is a tremendous pressure on a schedule. Free school lunches were another puzzle. One very wealthy student, a particularly rude young man, would often whiz by me in his new Corvette as he swung into the parking lot. One day I saw him in the free lunch line. I asked the principal about the qualifications one had to fulfill to get a free lunch. He said “None. There are no qualifications.”

The same rule seems to work anywhere the Federal Government operates. Never mind that prices skyrocket once “the government” sets the ceiling. No matter that the doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies will charge what Big Brother wants, even if the charge is ridiculous. Never mind that some people who work for the IRS are sometimes vicious, more often stupid. Those IRS encounters have a way of embedding themselves in our memories. Mine began one day in Lexington, Kentucky. We had been called in for an interview, and we had been waiting in a large oval outer sanctum. An argument arose at a desk across the room.

A soft-spoken older man in a comfortable tweed jacket and jodhpurs–I had seen his kind at horse farms across the state–was explaining why he had been late with a payment. The woman at the desk, her legs crossed, leaned back and flipped a long cigarette holder in her hand and said, loud enough to be heard beyond the door, “Just remember, what you make every day, by five o’clock it’s OURS” as she thumped her chest.

Even worse than the IRS is something as silent, and as invasive as cancer, and as insidious because it is stealthy and treacherous, a virus destroying, bit by bit and daily, our individual freedom. I refer now to our old friend, “P.C.” The president of our little country bank complained to me recently that government regulations are killing him. I asked why. “I can’t even compliment one of my female employees–I can’t say ‘My, you look good today,’ or ‘What a lovely dress’ without living in danger of sexual harassment!” When an educated, usually erudite friend of mine recently argued that he couldn’t understand my contention that there is a connection between Marxism and the Federal Government, I remembered the banker. James Madison once wrote: “I believe there are more instances of abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

We have had our share of violent and sudden usurpations, at Waco, and Ruby Ridge, and recently, in the Elian Gonzalez case in Miami. The idea that an Attorney-General of the United States could order armed storm troopers to break into a private home, terrify a six-year-old child whose mother had drowned trying to get him to “the land of the free,” would seem like a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it happened. Even more astounding was the reaction of the Media–that great interpreter of the polls for “the American people,” telling us what to believe, like the propaganda arm of a would-be Marxist government. “CNN” could well be the Clinton News Network. We have seen the Constitution in shreds as the result of Lincoln’s dictatorship, and now with Bill Clinton’s endless Executive Orders (more than all the previous presidents put together). On the internet I found an interesting comment on the Constitution: “It has become merely an ornamental relic that serves no real function other than that of making the American people feel as if the document still matters to those who govern.” The comment that follows echoes de Tocqueville’s analysis all those long years ago: “It appears that the modern electorate chooses their leaders for the same purpose that they attend a magic show. Their actual desire seems to be that the performer deceive them.”

As we turn from the performer in the White House–whoever he will be–one startling fact remains. The welfare state has been turned on its head. No longer does the government provide for the people (with their hands out). Now the people (through their enormous tax burden) provide for the government. It is the great government bureaucracy that is the beggar, and the people the suffering benefactors. Yet “the people” don’t seem to mind. It is as if they have been tranquilized beyond thought, beyond realizing cause-and-effect. A fortyish engineer recently admitted that he paid half his salary in taxes, but it didn’t bother him. In fact, he was amused by friends who, upon retirement, suddenly had to actually, physically pay their taxes, no longer automatically taken out of their paychecks by the “payroll” tax. “As long as it was unseen they didn’t worry about it,” he said. “As soon as they retired and realized that they were paying high taxes, they were unhappy.” “And you?” I asked. “Aw, the economy is good,” he said. “I don’t worry about it.” He doesn’t worry that half his salary goes to taxes. How much tax will it take to make him realize, in Alan Keyes’s words, that he is a tax slave?

Another phenomenon in the United States, A.D. 2000, is the apathy of the American voter. We have neighbors who have never registered to vote–neighbors who work hard and love their children. I used to wonder how the German people could have allowed Adolph Hitler to come to power. I no longer wonder. The apathy is not limited to voting. The welfare climate has created another kind of apathy–the weakening of the work ethic. Too many businessmen complain that they can’t find people willing to work. Deep within this grievance is a maxim unavoidable to those who understand the reality of economics. It is simply this. Destroy the work ethic and you destroy capitalism. Then the Marxism that began with the socialistic programs of FDR will be complete.

Great upheavals seem to come in cycles. If you take 1860 (when the dictatorship of Lincoln created the Federal Government) and count backwards 70 years, you get 1790, a good round figure for the beginning of this country. If you take that same fateful date of 1860 and move forward 70 years you get 1930, the date the Frankfurt School, with its devotion to Marxism, arrived in America. Now, 70 years later, we are in the year 2000, when desires have become “rights” and “rights” have become “entitlements.” We are already in socialism. Perhaps it is too late to stop the downward slide into total totalitarianism. But as long as there is history, and people who want to understand it, perhaps there is hope. I sometimes think of a story about the last ruler of Granada, when the Christians under Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Moors from Spain. It is said there is a spot between Granada and the sea, a rise of hill where he stood gazing back on all that lost glory. It is called El suspiro del Moro–the Sigh of the Moor. His wife, so the story goes, upbraided him. “Why,” she said, “do you weep? You could have saved it when you had the chance. And you didn’t.”

Let us hope we don’t wait too long.

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