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Monday, March 26, 2018

The Right To Take Your Damned Arms

Yeah, Godwin's Law was repealed, so here's the nuttery: “Nazis and leftists have been using children for decades in their attempts to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.”

I already noted on March 14 that the Continental Congress was totes fine with disarming the vast anti-rebellion population, despite their being law-abiding British citizens.  But hey, let's add a few more resolves and whatnot.

Take this one from the standing committee at Brookhaven, New York, on September 1, 1775:

Resolved, That if any person or persons shall hereafter oppose or deny the authority of the Continental or of this Congress, or the Committee of Safety, or the Committees of the respective Counties, Cities, Towns, Manors, Precincts, or Districts, in this Colony, or dissuade any person or persons from obeying the recommendations of the Continental or this Congress, or the Committee of Safety, or the Committees aforesaid, and be thereof convicted, before the Committee of the County, or any thirteen or more of their number, who shall or may meet upon a general call of the Chairman of such Committee, where such person or persons may reside, that such Committee shall cause such offenders to be disarmed; and for the second offence they shall be committed to close confinement, at their respective expense.

A report to John Adams on October 16, 1775:

In the first Place, the Committee of Safety, during the Recess of the Congress, pass’d a Resolve to impress all the Arms of those who had not sign’d the Association by the 16th of Septr., the Time of passing the Resolve, which was done too, only in Consequence of a Letter, or Letters, from your Body, as it is generally imagined. This was first attempted to be carried into Execution on Long Island, in Queen’s County, by sending out one or two of their own Board, with 4 or 5 Citizens, who at the same Time were restrain’d from exercising any manner of Coercion whatever by private Instruction, unless endanger’d by Violence &c. According they went out on the 23rd Ultimo and were treated in the most contemptuous Manner, even to Insult and Threat; declaring they knew no Congress, neither would they sign any Association, nor pay any Part of the Expense accruing by an Opposition to the King’s Troops &c. On the Contrary, that they were determin’d to support the “King’s Laws” and defend themselves against all other Authority &c. Some of this happen’d within 5 or 6 Miles of the City, and some further. They got a few worthless Arms, from some of the most Timid, who, it was tho’t, had concealed their best.

And following the lead of Congress, you've got the likes of Pennsylvania on April 6, 1776:

Resolved, That the Freeholders and Freemen of every Township, Borough, Ward and District, within this Province, qualified to vote for members of Assembly, shall respectively meet together, at some convenient Place, within their several Townships, Boroughs, Wards and Districts, on the Twenty-fifth Day of this Month, and then and there chuse by Ballot three Persons for Collectors of Arms...

Resolved, That the said persons so chosen, or a Majority of them, shall disarm all disaffected Persons before described, and shall appraise, or cause the Arms taken from them to be appraised as aforesaid, and shall pay to the owners the Value of such Arms as are fit for Use, or that can be conveniently made so, depositing all the Arms in the Manner before-mentioned...

I hate Continental Fucking Nazis.


March 26, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, RKBA | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, March 25, 2018


RMJ's comment below brought to mind more quotations and stuff, particularly this:

Is my right to live without the threat of violence (the pursuit of happiness is kind of hard without it, and that's what Jefferson said gummint was for, primarily; oh, that one comes after "life", doesn't it? Hard to pursue anything in death....) really in conflict with someone's ability to own an "assault weapon" (yes, it can be legally defined; it has been before)...

That "right" to own a firearm ain't the untrammeled, unalloyed, and pure "right" they seem to think it is...

Indeed, it necessarily cannot be because we have many natural and constitutional rights, which inherently place limits on our rights and exercise thereof when they come into contact with others' rights.  Now I'm no declarationist, but there's an important marriage of two constitutional aspects in that document of Jefferson's:

[A]mong these [unalienable Rights] are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men...

Those rights are certainly not disparaged by Amendment IX, and in fact are a significant drivers for framing gummint in our Constitution.  And as RMJ notes, if we're dead, it's wicked hard to pursue a lot of our other rights, which is why even Dear, Dead Justice Vaffanculo wrote in Heller:

[L]ike most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.

In flinty, individualist Vermont, where the General Assembly is tackling gun safety regulations, the state constitution's Article 1st codifies our Declaration's statement of principles:

That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

And decades before Heller, the Supreme Court of Vermont declared:

[T]he language of [Article 16] does not suggest that the right to bear arms is unlimited and undefinable.

The Castle Doctrine is all well and good, but I'm not sure anybody reasonably envisioned castles walking around in the public space, armed to the teeth such that scores of kids can die at the merest pull of a trigger.  Our society doesn't have to allow that, despite certain absolutist snowflakes' objections.


March 25, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, RKBA | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Conclusion Is Strictly Syllogistic

Quoting myself from a few years back:

As George Washington, in his capacity of president of the Philadelphia Convention, noted in his letter accompanying the new Constitution's transmittal to Congress:

It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all: Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved...

Democratic and republican forms of government are messy and full of conflict between individuals and their rights.  We all have natural rights to ourselves, property and fruits of our labor, but we cede a certain portion to government (e.g., the right to not be taxed, or as libertarians call it, not be robbed) so that we might increase our overall protection.  The formula is a difficult one and there is no single way to achieve this, but we work hard to create constitutions that try balancing individual rights and the powers necessary for government to protect them.

And another time a couple years back:

Consider what John Dickinson, writing as Fabius, said in defense of our Constitution during the ratification debate 18 years after the Boston Massacre:

[I]n forming a political society, each individual contributes some of his rights, in order that he may, from a common stock of rights, derive greater benefits, than he could from merely his own...Humility and benevolence must take place of pride and overweening selfishness.

Americans swim in a sea of overweening selfishness.  So jealous are some of their right to carry any weapon they cannot countenance regulation that might possibly put the smallest of inconvenient limits upon that right (don't get me started on that Ben Franklin quotation).

I'm glaring at certain selfish people in our society right now...


March 24, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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What Do We Want? A Complete Ban On Memes!

Posted by a friend on another friend's timeline:

As you know, dear reader, I hate memes.  They are generally glib, and usually the comments that accompany them are equally so.

In this particular case, it's more of the ad hominem dismissal of motivated, passionate kids, who are actively engaged in a cause that is very directly linked to their own survival.  So clearly these are not the types who eat Tide Pods, but rather are trying to push a policy outcome to regulate a dangerous product, not unlike we do with other dangerous products (including Tide Pods, medicine, cars, etc).

And as is typical, there's a strawman in there as well.  Nobody is, in fact, arguing for anybody's rights to be taken away.  Rather, they are exercising one of their rights to place some limits on another right when it comes into conflict with yet another right.  In this case, suggesting that perhaps certain firearms are “dangerous and unusual weapons" per Heller, which also noted that the 2nd Amendment RKBA is not unlimited (any more than any right).

There is tension in democracy, tension in civil society, and tension when rights collide.  When resolving such issues, there's always a delicate balance.  Neither gratuitous Tide Pod insults nor frantic claims of self-defense have convinced me that unfettered access to AR-15s and their ilk along with high capacity magazines is necessary, let alone protected by our Constitution.

G-d bless the kids and other activists using our political system to find a political solution to a horrifically bloody problem.


March 24, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, RKBA | Permalink | Comments (1)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Cornerstone Speech

Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America, speaking to "the largest audience ever assembled at the Athenaeum" in Savannah on March 21, 1861:

I was remarking, that we are passing through one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world. Seven States have within the last three months thrown off an old government and formed a new. This revolution has been signally marked, up to this time, by the fact of its having been accomplished without the loss of a single drop of blood. [Applause. ed note: just wait a few weeks.]

This new constitution, or form of government, constitutes the subject to which your attention will be partly invited. . . .

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other -- though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.

Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact...The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically...Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.]
Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind -- from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were.

They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just -- but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails.

But please do tell us how the whole unpleasantness was about tariffs.


March 21, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (2)

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Friday, March 16, 2018

The Age Of Innocence

So Louise Slaughter (pictured to the right at Eschacon05) died at age 88.  She was cool.

Yet I can't help but note that she'd been in office for 32 years.  Our old Senator, Pat Leahy, has been in office since 1975.  Junior Senator Bernie's been in DC since 1991.

At some point, we really need to make way for newer generations.  Yay for Conor Lamb, a mere babe at 33.  And yay for all those activist kids fighting for their lives against the NRA and its stooges, following in the footsteps of youth in bygone eras.

The olds can act like 4th-graders and fuck things up pretty badly through their entrenched myopia.  Perhaps our graduated ages of maturity, majority, and responsibility need to be adjusted.

In light of our current political environment, imma become more militant about term limits, mandatory retirement, and ever lower voting ages.  Who's with me?


March 16, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (3)

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When Europe sends its people, they're not sending their best.

All this while ye Indians came skulking about them, and would sometimes show them selves aloofe of, but when any aproached near them, they would rune away.

 - William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation

So this is the day that a particular indigenous person reportedly came to Plymouth Colony in 1621 and said, "Go away, Mexicans! My name is Donald Trump."  I might be making that up.

Anyway, as I've noted before, even with the real event being such a yuuuge part of our common lore, I can't find any contemporaneous documents recording Samoset's alleged words verbatim.

Bradford wrote simply of the encounter:

[A]bout ye 16. of March a certaine Indian came bouldly amongst them, and spoke to them in broken English, which they could well understand, but marvelled at it. At length they understood by discourse with him...

Mourt's Relation provides a bit more detail:

Fryday, the 16.a fayre warme day towards; this morning we determined to conclude of the military Orders, which we had began to consider of before, but were interrupted by the Savages, as we mentioned formerly; and whilst we were busied here about, we were interrupted againe, for there presented himself a Savage which caused an Alarm, he very boldly came all alone and along the houses straight to the Randevous, where we intercepted him, not suffering him to goe in, as undoubtedly he would, out of his boldneffe, hee faluted vs in English, and bad vs well-come, for he had learned some broken English amongst the English men that came to fish at Monchiggon...

Now, understanding that not finding stuff online is hardly dispositive, the earliest formulation of the mythological greeting I could dig up comes from The Annals of America in 1829:

On the 16th of March an Indian came boldly, alone, into the street of Plymouth, and surprised the inhabitants by calling out, " Welcome, Englishmen ! Welcome, Englishmen !" He was their first visitant; his name was Samoset...

Then it seems by the turn of the 20th century that version had solidified into legendary fact (one notable exception being Edward Arber's recapitulating and cleaning up Mourt's).  Anyway, I wonder why the narrative apparently started to take shape in the first couple decades of the 19th century?

Perhaps since our other founding myths were maturing by Independence's 50th anniversary, people were looking more at earlier colonial epochs as well?  It also seems more or less around the same time as New Englanders' interest in their Puritanical history increased, at least if one can judge by the establishment of the Pilgrim Society and its celebrations.

Whatever the impetus, I find the evolution of such things to be fascinating, despite its being agitprop Trump would be proud of.


March 16, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

any further experiments on their patience may have fatal effects

Months after several generals appealed to Congress regarding late pay and changes to their promised pensions, an anonymous letter circulated the Continental Army's camp at Newburgh on March 10, 1783:

My friends! after seven long years your suffering courage has conducted the United States of America through a doubtful and a bloody war; and peace returns to bless—whom? A country willing to redress your wrongs, cherish your worth, and reward your services? Or is it rather a country that tramples upon your rights, disdains your cries, and insults your distresses?

Have you not lately, in the meek language of humble petitioners, begged from the justice of congress what you could no longer expect from their favor? How have you been answered? Let the letter which you are called to consider to-morrow make reply! “If this be your treatment while the swords you wear are necessary for the defence of America, what have you to expect when those very swords, the instruments and companions of your glory, shall be taken from your sides, and no mark of military distinction left but your wants, infirmities, and scars?

If you have sense enough to discover and spirit to oppose tyranny, whatever garb it may assume, awake to your situation. If the present moment be lost, your threats hereafter will be as empty as your entreaties now. Appeal from the justice to the fears of government; and suspect the man who would advise to longer forbearance.

Washington responded to the threats of mutiny on March 15:

[T]o suspect the man who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every man who regards that liberty and reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for, if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us.

The freedom of speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter. I cannot, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army, and from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it compleat justice: that their endeavours to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt.

But, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their determinations are slow. Why then should we distrust them, and, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired, and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No, most certainly, in my opinion it will cast it at a greater distance.
While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner, to exert whatever ability I am possessed of in your favour, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures, which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity, and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained. Let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress

Legend has it that those assembled weren't impressed, but:

After reading these remarks, Washington prepared to read a letter from a Congressional delegate, but then stopped to put on eyeglasses, saying: “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind, in the service of my country”; this has also been reported as: “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.” Some of the officers—having been assembled by Washington to check a rebellious spirit among them—were moved to tears.

Trying to screw Americans out of their entitlements is an age old tradition Paul Ryan is trying to uphold.  But now there's no George Washington who can calm things down, which...probably is a good thing at this point.


March 15, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Unilateral Disarmament

That crazy Continental Congress, 14 March, 1776:

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several assemblies, conventions, and councils or committees of safety of the United Colonies, immediately to cause all persons to be disarmed within their respective colonies, who are notoriously disaffected to the cause of America, or who have not associated, and shall refuse to associate, to defend, by arms, these United Colonies, against the hostile attempts of the British fleets and armies; and to apply the arms taken from such persons in each respective colony, in the first place to the arming the continental troops raised in said colony; in the next, to the arming such troops as are raised by the colony for its own defence, and the residue to be applied to the arming the associators; that the arms when taken be appraised by indifferent persons, and such as are applied to the arming the continental troops, be paid for by Congress, and the residue by the respective assemblies, conventions, or councils, or committees of safety

Disarming Americans to defend America is the American way.


March 14, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, March 12, 2018

People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?

Adopted unanimously by the Congress of the Confederate States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, sitting in convention at the capitol, the city of Montgomery, Ala., on the eleventh day of March, in the year eighteen hundred and Sixty-one:

  • Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included within this Confederacy, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all slaves.

  • The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.

  • Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy.

  • No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

  • The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.

  • No slave or other person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs,. or to whom such service or labor may be due.

  • The Confederate States may acquire new territory...In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.

So you see, it was always about tariffs.


March 12, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

Slavery, Good Or Bad? Opinions Differ.

Thomas Paine wrote on March 8, 1775:

To Americans:

That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every principle of Justice and Humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications.
Certainly, one may, with as much reason and decency, plead for murder, robbery, lewdness and barbarity, as for this practice. They are not more contrary to the natural dictates of conscience, and feeling of humanity; nay, they are all comprehended in it.

But the chief design of this paper is not to disprove it, which many have sufficiently done; but to entreat Americans to consider....

With what consistency, or decency they complain so loudly of attempts to enslave them, while they hold so many hundred thousands in slavery; and annually enslave many thousands more, without any pretence of authority, or claim upon them?

Slavery was bad.  It was good that some people early on in our revolutionary days realized how it conflicted with our purported ideals.  But of course, our actual ideals were mostly okay with slavery, which is why MAGA resonates with the racists in power and their racist base.


March 8, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

But We Don't Want The Irish!

Dunno, I think Noz is barking up the wrong tree here:

If conservatives really believed in “strict constructionism” they would not bring this lawsuit relying on the idea that immigration regulations are a solely federal power. The Constition does not grant Congress the ability to restrict immigration, and Congress did not try to regulate the movement of non-slaves across our international borders for the first hundred years of this country’s existence. The Courts didn’t “discover” Congress’ immigration power until the late 19th century.

True it wasn't until 1875's Chy Lung v Freeman changed the game, but there wasn't much (perceived) need to regulate immigration until then. 

I'm not convinced SCOTUS wrongly decided, from a conservative or liberal POV.  Uniform policies in this arena are more than proximate to the enumerated power to regulate naturalization and foreign relations/commerce (Art I, Sec 8), make absolute sense in a federal system, and not explicitly prohibited (Sec 9).  And there's my favorite, the Elastic Clause.

Doesn't mean Jefferson Beauregard "I Hate Blacks and Pot" Sayshuns is right to sue the world's 6th largest economy, or have his jackbooted ICE thugs destroy families.  But that's a separate issue.


March 7, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (1)

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The word 'Liberty' in the mouth of Mr. Webster sounds like the word 'love' in the mouth of a courtesan.

Daniel Webster, kicking off his famed Seventh of March speech on the Compromise of 1850:

Mr. President, - I wish to speak to-day, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. It is fortunate that there is a Senate of the United States; a body not yet moved from its propriety, not lost to a just sense of its own dignity and its own high responsibilities, and a body to which the country looks, with confidence, for wise, moderate, patriotic, and healing counsels. It is not to be denied that we live in the midst of strong agitations, and are surrounded by very considerable dangers to our institutions and our government. The imprisoned winds are let loose. The East, the North, and the stormy South combine to throw the whole sea into commotion, to toss its billows to the skies, and disclose its profoundest depths. I do not affect to regard myself, Mr. President, as holding, or as fit to hold, the helm in this combat with the political elements; but I have a duty to perform, and I mean to perform it with fidelity, not without a sense of existing dangers, but not without hope.

Not sure if this was an act of moral courage or not, but it cost him his job in the end.


March 7, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Notwithstanding your Calvinism

You and I, once Saw Calvin and Arius, on the Plafond of the Cathedral of St. John the Second in Spain roasting in the Flames of Hell.

 - John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 28 March 1816

The Thought Criminal:

In one of her most important essays, Open Thy Hand Wide [from When I Was A Child I Read Books] Marilynne Robinson makes an extremely persuasive argument that, contrary to common belief, liberalism in the traditional American sense of the word, of ample provision of a life to the destitute and poor, equal justice, equality and a democratic governmental system was a direct result of the Calvinism of New England and, especially, the influence of the Geneva Bible, its extensive commentary and even in the choice of words used to translate the original languages of the Scriptures.
She starts with a short history of the distortion and vilification of Calvinism and how it relates to the program to do the same with the Jewish Bible, that latter effort going back into the classical period. But, most influential for us, she shows how some late 19th and early 20th century writers such as Weber, Santayana, Mencken, Belloc, D.H. Lawrence really got the ball rolling to produce the feeling of certain knowledge of what John Calvin said and what the Calvinist tradition consisted of while actually not knowing anything except what such writers said about both. It's quite fascinating to fact check the foundations of such common received wisdom that constitute the academic and cultural consensus because it's my experience that a very large part of it is complete bilge, though I have not done it nearly enough in the case of Calvinism. I'm not a Calvinist, but that's to say I disagree with a percentage of what he said, especially in a few areas where I think he was more of a disciple of Augustine than of Moses or Jesus.

Read the whole thing, as they say, you Calvinist swine...


March 6, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (3)

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Happy Dred Compromise Day!

History's discordant rhymes plague us: compromise over a couple new states; 37 years later, gone, along with a man's freedom.  Fuck that motherfucker, Taney, to whom Roberts aspires to be.


March 6, 2018 in And Fuck..., Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, March 05, 2018

His Blessing and Tears of Transport, will be a sufficient Consolation to me

Traditional Boston Massacre post because, today's date back in the dark days of '70.  John Adams recalled years later:  

Endeavors had been systematically pursued for many months, by certain busy characters, to excite quarrels, rencounters, and combats, single or compound, in the night, between the inhabitants of the lower class and the soldiers, and at all risks to enkindle an immortal hatred between them. I suspected that this was the explosion which had been intentionally wrought up by designing men, who knew what they were aiming at better than the instruments employed.

If these poor tools should be prosecuted for any of their illegal conduct, they must be punished. If the soldiers in self-defence should kill any of them, they must be tried, and, if truth was respected and the law prevailed, must be acquitted. To depend upon the perversion of law, and the corruption or partiality of juries, would insensibly disgrace the jurisprudence of the country and corrupt the morals of the people. It would be better for the whole people to rise in their majesty, and insist on the removal of the army, and take upon themselves the consequences, than to excite such passions between the people and the soldiers as would expose both to continual prosecution, civil or criminal, and keep the town boiling in a continual fermentation. The real and full intentions of the British government and nation were not yet developed; and we knew not whether the town would be supported by the country; whether the Province would be supported by even our neighboring States of New England; nor whether New England would be supported by the continent. These were my meditations in the night.

So JA, being dedidcated to the rule of law, defended the perfidious Ministerial Army guys.  His co-counsel, Josiah Quincy, Jr, argued on December 3, 1770 (from which the HBO miniseries appears to have taken Adams' court speeches):

[T]he law has planted fences and barriers around every individual; it is a castle round every man's person, as well as his house. As the love of God and our neighbor comprehends the whole duty of man, so self-love and social comprehend all the duties we owe to mankind, and the first branch is self-love, which is not only our indisputable right, but our clearest duty; by the laws of nature, this is interwoven in the heart of every individual; God Almighty, whose laws we cannot alter, has implanted it there, and we can annihilate ourselves, as easily as root out this affection for ourselves. It is the first and strongest principle in our nature; Blackstone calls it "the primary canon in the law of nature."

That precept of our holy religion, which commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, doth not command us to love our neighbor better than ourselves, or so well; no christian divine hath given this interpretation. The precept enjoins, that our benevolence to our fellow men should be as real and sincere as our affections to ourselves, not that it should be as great in degree.

A man is authorized, therefore, by common sense, and the laws of England, as well as those of nature, to love himself better than his fellow subject; if two persons are cast away at sea, and get on a plank (a case put by Sir Francis Bacon), and the plank is insufficient to hold them both, the one hath a right to push the other off to save himself. The rules of the common law, therefore, which authorize a man to preserve his own life at the expense of another's are not contradicted by any divine or moral law.

We talk of liberty and property, but, if we cut up the law of self-defense, we cut up the foundation of both, and if we give up this, the rest is of very little value; and, therefore, this principle must be strictly attended to, for whatsoever the law pronounces in the case of these eight soldiers will be the law to other persons and after ages. It would have been better if all the persons that have slain mankind in this country, from the beginning to this day, had been acquitted, than that a wrong rule and precedent should be established.

This is a reasonable notion, as opposed to contemporary NRA agitprop.  Anyway, Adams picked up another case a few years later and also appealed to the Castle Doctrine:

An Englishmans dwelling House is his Castle. The Law has erected a Fortification round it—and as every Man is Party to the Law, i.e. the Law is a Covenant of every Member of society with every other Member, therefore every Member of Society has entered into a solemn Covenant with every other that he shall enjoy in his own dwelling House as compleat a security, safety and Peace and Tranquility as if it was surrounded with Walls of Brass, with Ramparts and Palisadoes and defended with a Garrison and Artillery.—This covenant has been broken in a most outragious manner. We are all bound then to make good to the Plaintiff his Damages.

Every English[man] values himself exceedingly, he takes a Pride and he glories justly in that strong Protection, that sweet Security, that delightfull Tranquillity which the Laws have thus secured to him in his own House, especially in the Night. Now to deprive a Man of this Protection, this quiet and Security in the dead of Night, when himself and Family confiding in it are asleep, is treat[ing] him not like an Englishman not like a Freeman but like a Slave—like a miserable Turk, or Tartar. Is not this a base Affront? No Man who has a Soul, who has the Spirit of a Man in him can ever after during his whole Life, ever forget such an Indignity, tho he may forgive it. He can never think of it without Pain of Mind, without Impatience, Anger, Resentment, Shame and Grief.

Now back to the Massacre.  Adams wrote of a commemoration on March 5, 1773:

Heard an oration, at Mr. Hunt’s meeting-house, by Dr. Benjamin Church, in commemoration of the massacre in King Street three years ago. That large church was filled and crowded in every pew, seat, alley, and gallery, by an audience of several thousands of people, of all ages and characters, and of both sexes.

I have reason to remember that fatal night. The part I took in defence of Captain Preston and the soldiers procured me anxiety and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly, and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the quakers or witches anciently. As the evidence was, the verdict of the jury was exactly right.

This, however, is no reason why the town should not call the action of that night a massacre; nor is it any argument in favor of the Governor or Minister who caused them to be sent here. But it is the strongest of proofs of the danger of standing armies.

Naturally, they held these events annually as reminders of British perfidy and rally the People.  The scene when the powder keg was really ready to explode, just weeks before Lexington and Concord:

On the morning of March 6, 1775, Joseph Warren, a physician-turned-revolutionary leader, stopped his one-chair carriage in front of Boston's Old South Church. Warren climbed down from the carriage, followed by a servant holding a small bundle. The two men crossed the street and entered an apothecary's shop. When Warren came out of the store he wore a Roman toga. He now crossed the street once more and burst into the swarming Old South to deliver the fourth annual Boston Massacre oration.
Revolutionary oratory was about much more than spoken words; it was also about a delicately formulated theatrical apparatus whose purpose was to transform mere speech into moving performance. For if there was one thing Revolutionary orators knew, it was that if you wanted to move people to action, you had to touch something deep within them. Taking their cues from the tradition of great Roman orators such as Cicero, they thus deployed a range of imagery designed to excite listeners' passions. Only in doing so, these orators came to believe, could the disagreement with Britain be transformed from a legal and constitutional matter to a matter for the passions—a matter of injustice, of dishonor, and of familial disgrace. As the reception of his oration suggests, Warren was a master of these techniques.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to know just what Warren's oratorical arsenal consisted of. Even though thousands attended the massacre oration, and we have several accounts of Warren's performance, reconstructing the event remains difficult. Nonetheless, there is much to be learned about Boston's mobilization for revolution from the events surrounding this singular act of public speaking.

"This day," the Boston Evening Post informed its readers on March 6, 1775, "an Oration will be delivered by Joseph Warren Esq., in commemoration of the bloody tragedy on the 5th of March 1770." But observant Bostonians recognized that this would not be just another commemorative address. The British forces now stationed in the city, Samuel Adams noted, were likely to resent any insinuation that their actions had been barbaric and would surely "take the occasion to beat up a Breeze." A later account reported that there was a "threat uttered by some of the British officers, that they would take the life of any man who should dare to speak of the massacre on that anniversary."

In his diary, Massachusetts royal governor Thomas Hutchinson recalled a larger assassination plot during Warren's oration. An English officer, according to Hutchinson, reported that if during the meeting Warren would say "anything against the King, etc., an officer was prepared, who stood near with an egg, to have thrown in his face; and that it was to have been a signal to draw swords; and that they would have massacred Hancock, Adams, and hundreds more." The Virginia Gazette, reprinting a report in a London newspaper, elaborated on the awkward egg episode, claiming that "this scheme was rendered abortive in the most whimsical manner, for he who was deputed to throw the egg fell in going to church . . . and broke the egg." Tensions clearly ran high as March 6 approached.

The presence of a large crowd, including British soldiers, seems one of the few undisputed facts regarding the oration's unfolding. A nineteenth-century biographer of Warren recalled that "many people came to town from the country to take part in the commemoration," and Frederick MacKenzie, a British officer, reported at the time that an "immense concourse of people" assembled at the Old South building for the occasion. Both patriots and loyalists acknowledged the presence of redcoats in the crowd, and both confirmed the obvious point that for them this was a most offensive and most disrespectful occasion. Samuel Adams claimed to treat the "many . . . officers present" with civility as he showed them to their seats, so "that they might have no pretence to behave ill."

The Boston Gazette, a radical patriot publication, labeled the "party of soldiers" at the Old South "perpetrators," claiming they came to harass the congregating Bostonians. Frederick MacKenzie claimed that "the troops conceived it was a great insult under the present circumstances, to deliver an oration on the occasion." Thus "a great number of officers," which Hutchinson estimated at three hundred, "assembled in the church and seemed determined to take notice of, and resent any expressions made use of by the Orator, reflecting on the Military." The hall was overcrowded, the audience filling the aisles, while the soldiers occupied the stairs, perhaps hoping to scare Warren into silence. Whether they were "many," a "party," or "a great number," as different accounts claimed, the presence of fuming British redcoats among the packed patriot crowd must have added an ominous sense to the impending drama.

But Warren would not be intimidated. In fact, if contemporary accounts are correct, his chosen attire—the plain white Roman toga—established a dramatic contrast between the speaker and his redcoat antagonists. It was almost as if Warren knew they would be there and chose the garment precisely to antagonize them. As they sat stiffly in their heavy red wool coats—the sartorial definition of Britishness—he would hold forth, in the flowing freedom of his billowing white garment—the sartorial definition of ancient, primordial virtue. Of course the garment's color was not its only distinctive quality. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find clothing more unlike that of these British soldiers.

Then Thomas Paine tweeted that people should stop politicizing tragedy...


March 5, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

This being the day fixed for the meeting of the new Congress

1789, the Greatest Constitution ever written by white guys hell-bent on maintaining the institution of slavery finally comes into effect as the House and Senate meet to determine they don't have a quorum.  But don't worry, they eventually got their shit together enough to elect Washington, name a Sergeant at Arms, establish the Judiciary, introduce a Bill of Rights, etc.


March 4, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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A Pox On The Ministerial Army

General Washington wrote to President Hancock on March 19, 1776:

It is with the greatest pleasure I inform you that on Sunday last, the 17th Instant, about 9 O’Clock in the forenoon, The Ministerial Army evacuated the Town of Boston, and that the Forces of the United Colonies are now in actual possession thereof. I beg leave to congratulate you Sir, & the honorable Congress—on this happy Event, and particularly as it was effected without endangering the lives & property of the remaining unhappy Inhabitants.

I have great reason to imagine their flight was precipitated by the appearance of a Work which I had Order’d to be thrown up last Saturday Night, on an Eminence at Dorchester which lay nearest to Boston Neck, call’d Newks Hill. The Town, although it has suffer’d greatly is not in so bad a state as I expected to find it, and I have a particular pleasure in being able to inform you Sir, that your house has receiv’d no damage worth mentioning. Your furniture is in tolerable Order and the family pictures are all left entire and untouch’d. Capt. Cazneau takes Charge of the whole until he shall receive further Orders from you.1

As soon as the Ministerial Troops had quitted the Town, I order’d a thousand Men (who had had the Small Pox) under Command of General Putnam to take possession of the Heighths, which I shall endeavour to fortify in such a manner as to prevent their return should they attempt it...

The siege had been going on since '75, but the sneaky fortifications begun on March 4, really did turn the tide.

Also, too, the Bloody Pox had a terrible impact on the Continental Army, but the siege was no fun for the Tories and British (or the Whigs, for that matter) in Boston, but at least there was booze to pass the time until Knox's expedition brought guns from Ticonderoga (thanks to an assist from the Green Mountain Boys).


March 4, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, March 02, 2018

History Raps

House Journal, March 2, 1807:

Mr. Porter, from the Joint Committee for Enrolled Bills, reported that the committee did, this day, present to the President of the United States, for his approbation, the following enrolled bills, to wit:
"An act to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, from and after the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eight;" 

Later in the day, the chamber was informed by Samuel Otis, Senate Secretary, President Jefferson did approve and sign the act (which had originated in the Senate).

And 52 years later:

The largest sale of human chattels that has been made in Star-Spangled America for several years, took place on Wednesday [March 2] and Thursday [March 3] of last week, at the Race-course near the City of Savannah, Georgia. The lot consisted of four hundred and thirty-six men, women, children and infants, being that half of the negro stock remaining on the old Major Butler plantations which fell to one of the two heirs to that estate...

The sale had been advertised largely for many weeks...and as the negroes were known to be a choice lot and very desirable property, the attendance of buyers was large. The breaking up of an old family estate is so uncommon an occurrence that the affair was regarded with unusual interest throughout the South. For several days before the sale every hotel in Savannah was crowded with negro speculators from North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, who had been attracted hither by the prospects of making good bargains.

Nothing was heard for days, in the bar-rooms and public rooms, but talk of the great sale; criticisms of the business affairs of Mr. Butler, and speculations as to the probable prices the stock would bring. The office of Joseph Bryan, the Negro Broker, who had the management of the sale, was thronged every day by eager inquirers in search of information, and by some who were anxious to buy, but were uncertain as to whether their securities would prove acceptable. Little parties were made up from the various hotels every day to visit the Race-course, distant some three miles from the city, to look over the chattels, discuss their points, and make memoranda for guidance on the day of sale.

The buyers were generally of a rough breed, slangy, profane and bearish, being for the most part from the back river and swamp plantations, where the elegancies of polite life are not, perhaps, developed to their fullest extent. In fact, the humanities are sadly neglected by the petty tyrants of the rice-fields that border the great Dismal Swamp, their knowledge of the luxuries of our best society comprehending only revolvers and kindred delicacies.
At the sale might have been seen a busy individual, armed with pencil and catalogue, doing his little utmost to keep up all the appearance of a knowing buyer, pricing "likely nigger fellers," talking confidentially to the smartest ebon maids, chucking the round-eyed youngsters under the chin, making an occasional bid for a large family, (a low bid--so low that somebody always instantly raised him twenty-five dollars, when the busy man would ignominiously retreat,) and otherwise conducting himself like a rich planter, with forty thousand dollars where he could put his finger on it. This gentleman was much condoled with by some sympathizing persons, when the particularly fine lot on which he had fixed his eye was sold and lost to him forever, because he happened to be down stairs at lunch just at the interesting moment.

As the NRA and its stooges like to say, banning the specific trade of something doesn't stop evil.  Historian Eric Foner has noted that after the act took effect, slavery naturally expanded until we settled the issue through an extension of politics by other means.  Which to me demonstrates the need to start somewhere and to not stop, as opposed to shrugging and moving on.


PS--Also interesting to me that the same journal entry shows the House was closing the loop on An Act Making Appropriations for Carrying into Effect Certain Treaties with the Cherokee and Piankeshaw Tribes of Indians, which included some modest payments to the tribes for ceding various lands.  Part and parcel of another American genocide.

March 2, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

Make the Articles Great Again!

We have at length finished the Confederation and shall send it to the different States in a few days with strong exortation to give it quick consideration and speedy return.

 - Richard Henry Lee to Samuel Adams, November 15, 1777

Quick consideration and speedy return.  Yeah.  Not so much: didn't go into effect until March 1, 1781 (Maryland was the last to ratify about a week earlier).

And to tell a family secret?  Slavery was a big topic during the debates, reminiscent of some sort of fractional compromise people might recall.

Anyway, as a frame of effective government, the Articles sucked.  Let's just face up to that.  As an expedience during the Revolution, they provided a bit more organization than the ad hoc Continental Congress and saw us through the early days as an independent nation.  Great, so far as that goes.

Yet Madison laid out a dozen problems with the Articles, including some faves of mine:

2. Encroachments by the States on the federal authority.
5. want of concert in matters where common interest requires it.
6. want of Guaranty to the States of their Constitutions & laws against internal violence.
7. want of sanction to the laws, and of coercion in the Government of the Confederacy.
11. Injustice of the laws of States.

#11 presaged Federalist 10 with a dash of Federalist 44, detailing the threats to liberty States pose.  #6 is pretty awesome as well:

According to Republican Theory, Right and power being both vested in the majority, are held to be synonimous. According to fact and experience a minority may in an appeal to force, be an overmatch for the majority.

1. If the minority happen to include all such as possess the skill and habits of military life, & such as possess the great pecuniary resources, one third only may conquer the remaining two thirds.

2. One third of those who participate in the choice of the rulers, may be rendered a majority by the accession of those whose poverty excludes them from a right of suffrage, and who for obvious reasons will be more likely to join the standard of sedition than that of the established Government.

3. Where slavery exists the republican Theory becomes still more fallacious.

Well, thank G-d we dodged THAT bullet!


March 1, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)