Tax revolts are nothing new. Neither are the many and sometimes novel ways that politicians have concocted to fleece those of us who pay their bills.
In the age of Edward the Confessor somewhere in the English midlands, there lay the Kingdom of Mercia. It was 1040 or thereabouts and Leofric, Earl of Mercia, had a problem. Leofric was the kind of ruler who never saw a tax he didn’t like, his latest the “Heregeld”, a tax to pay for the King’s bodyguard. The Earl’s wife Godgyfu had other ideas, her name in the Olde English, signifying “Gift of God”. Today, we call her “Godiva”.
Take pity on the people of Coventry, Godiva said, they are suffering under all this oppressive taxation.
A guy can only take so much, even if he IS an Earl. Tired of his wife’s entreaties, Leofric agreed to repeal the tax on one condition; that Godiva ride a horse through the streets of town, dressed only in her birthday suit. Lady Godiva took him at his word. She issued a proclamation requiring all townspeople to stay indoors and shut their windows, so it was she took her famous ride through Coventry.
The story probably isn’t true, any more than the one about Tom, the guy who drilled a hole in his door so he could watch and lost his sight at what he saw. But a thousand years later, we still use the term “Peeping Tom”.
Tax revolts are nothing new. Neither are the many and sometimes novel ways that politicians have concocted to fleece those of us who pay their bills.
On December 31, 1695, King William III decreed a 2 shilling tax on each house in the land. Never one to miss an opportunity to “stick-it-to-the-rich”, there was an extra tax on every window over ten, a tax which would last for another 156 years.
It must have been a money maker, because the governments of France, Spain and Scotland followed suit. To this day, you can see homes where owners have bricked up windows, preferring darkness to the payment of yet another tax.
In Holland, they used to tax the frontage of a home, the wider your house the more you paid. If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, narrow houses rise several stories, with hooks over windows almost as wide as the building itself. These are used to haul furniture up from the outside, since the stairways are too narrow. The narrowest home in Amsterdam can be found at Singel #7, the house itself barely wider than its own front door.
You can find the same thing in the poorer quarters of New Orleans, where the “shotgun single”, a home so narrow you can fire a shotgun in the front door and pellets will go out the back, and the “Camelback” (second story out back) are the architectural remnants of long-dead taxation policy.
The Roman Emperor Vespasian who ruled from 69 to 79AD, levied a tax on public toilets. When Vespasian’s son, the future Emperor Titus wrinkled his nose, the old man held a coin under the boy’s nose. “Pecunia non olet”, he said. “Money does not stink”. 2,000 years later, the name remains inseparable from public urinals. In France, the er…pissoir… is called vespasiennes, in Italy vespasiani. If you need to piss in Romania you could go to the vespasiene. History fails to record the inevitable push-back on Vespasian’s toilet tax, but I’m sure that ancient Romans had to look where they walked.
Environmentalist types in Venice, Italy have been pushing a tax on tourism, claiming the city’s facing “an irreversible environmental catastrophe as the subsequent increase in water transport has caused the level of the lagoon bed to drop over time”. Deputy mayor Sandro Simionato said that “This tax is a new and important opportunity for the city,” explaining that it will “help finance tourism”, among other things. So, the problem borne of too much tourism is going to be fixed by a tax to help finance tourism. I think. Or maybe it’s all just another money grab.
As of December 2015, state and territory tax rates on cigarettes ranged from 17¢ per pack in Missouri to $4.35 in New York, on top of federal, local, county, municipal and local Boy Scout council taxes (kidding). Philip Morris reports that taxes run 56.6% on average, per pack. Not surprisingly, tax rates make a vast difference in where and how people buy cigarettes. There is a tiny Indian reservation on Long Island, measuring a few miles square and home to a few hundred people. Tax rates are close to zero there, on a pack of butts. Until recent changes in tax law, the tiny reservation was selling 100 million cartons per year.
If all those taxes are supposed to encourage people to quit smoking, I wonder what income taxes are supposed to do?
Back in 2013, EU politicians were discussing a way of taxing livestock flatulence, as a means of curbing “Global Warming”. At that time there was an Australian ice breaker, making its way to Antarctica to free the Chinese ice breaker that got stuck in the ice trying to free the Russian ship full of environmentalist types. They were all there to view the effects of “Global Warming”, until they got stuck in the ice.
Honest. I wouldn’t kid you about a thing like that.
For every wound, a balm.
For every sorrow, cheer.
For every storm, a calm.
For every thirst, a beer. – Irish toast, author unknown
Given the right combination of sugars, almost any cereal will undergo simple fermentation, due to the presence of wild yeasts in the air. It seems likely that our cave-dwelling ancestors experienced their first beer, as the result of this process.
Starch dusted stones were found with the remains of doum-palm and chamomile in the 18,000-year old Wadi Kubbaniya in upper Egypt. While it’s difficult to confirm, University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern suspects, “it’s very likely they were making beer there”.
Chemical analysis of pottery shards date the earliest barley beer to 3400BC, in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.Tacitus scorned the bitter brew of Germanic barbarians. Wine seemed better suited to the sensibilities of the Roman palate. Nevertheless, letters from Roman cavalry commanders of the Roman Britain period, c. 97-103 AD, include requests for more “cerevisia“, for the legionaries.
In North and South America, native peoples brewed fermented beverages from local ingredients including agave sap, the first spring tips of the spruce tree, and maize.
Pilgrimsleft the Netherlands city of Leiden in 1620, hoping not for the frozen, rocky soil of New England, but for rich farmland and a congenial climate in the New World. Lookouts spotted the wind-swept shores of Cape Cod on November 9, 1620 and may have kept going, had there been enough beer. One Mayflower passenger wrote in his diary: “We could not now take time for further search… our victuals being much spent, especially our beer…”Prior to the drum roaster’s invention in 1817, malt was typically dried over wood, charcoal or straw fires, leaving a smoky quality which would seem foreign to the modern beer drinker. William Harrison wrote in his “Description of England” in 1577, “For the wood-dried malt, when it is brewed, beside that the drink is higher of colour, it doth hurt and annoy the head of him that is not used thereto, because of the smoke“.
Smoky flavor didn’t trouble the true beer aficionado of the age. When the Meux Brewerycasks let go in 1814 spilling nearly 400,000 gallons onto the street, hundreds of Britons hurried to scoop the stuff up in pots and pans. Some lapped it right up off of the street, doggy-style.1,389 were trampled to death and another 1,300 injured in a stampede for the suds, when someone thought the beer had run out at the coronation of Czar Nicholas II, in 1896.The 18th amendment, better known as “prohibition”, went into effect at midnight, January 16, 1920. For thirteen years it was illegal to import, export, transport or sell liquor, wine or beer in the United States.
Portable stills went on sale within a week and organized smuggling was quick to follow. California grape growers increased acreage by over 700% over the first five years, selling dry blocks of grapes as “bricks of rhine” or “blocks of port”. The mayor of New York City sent instructions on wine making, to his constituents.
Smuggling operations became widespread as cars were souped up to outrun “the law”. This would lead in time to competitive car racing, beginning first on the streets and back roads and later moving to dedicated race tracks. It’s why we have NASCAR, today.Organized crime became vastly more powerful due to the influx of enormous sums of cash. The corruption of public officials was a national scandal.
Gaining convictions for breaking a law that everyone hated became increasingly difficult. There were over 7,000 prohibition related arrests in New York alone between 1921 and 1923. Only 27 resulted in convictions.Finally, even John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a lifelong teetotaler who contributed $350,000 to the Anti-Saloon League, had to announce his support for repeal.
It’s difficult to compare rates of alcohol consumption before and during prohibition. If death by cirrhosis of the liver is any indication, alcohol consumption never decreased by more than 10 to 20 per cent.
FDR signed the Cullen–Harrison Act into law on March 22, 1933, commenting “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The law went effect on April 7, allowing Americans to buy, sell and drink beer containing up to 3.2% alcohol.
A team of draft horses hauled a wagon up Pennsylvania Avenue, delivering a case of beer to the White House – the first public appearance of the Budweiser Clydesdales.“Dry” leaders tried to prohibit consumption of alcohol on military bases in 1941, but military authorities claimed it was good for morale. Brewers were required to allocate 15% of total annual production to be used by the armed forces. So essential were beer manufacturers to the war effort, that teamsters were ordered to end a labor strike against Minneapolis breweries. Near the end of WWII, the army made plans to operate recaptured French breweries, to ensure adequate supplies for the troops.
18 states continued prohibition at the state level after the national repeal, the last state finally dropping it in 1966. Almost 2/3rds of all states adopted some form of local option, enabling residents of political subdivisions to vote for or against local prohibition. Some counties remain dry to this day. Ironically, Lynchburg County, Tennessee, home to the Jack Daniel distillery, is one such dry county.
The night before Roosevelt’s law went into effect, April 6, 1933, beer lovers lined up at the doors of their favorite watering holes, waiting for their first legal beer in thirteen years.
A million and a half barrels of the stuff were consumed the following day, a date remembered to this day, as “National Beer Day”.
So it is that, from that day to this, we celebrate April 6 as “New Beer’s Eve”. Sláinte.
For every wound, a balm. For every sorrow, cheer. For every storm, a calm. For every thirst, a beer. – Irish toast, author unknown
Begun on November 1, 1955, the conflict lasted 19 years, 5 months and a day. On March 29, 1973, two months after signing the Paris Peace accords, the last US combat troops left South Vietnam as Hanoi freed the remaining POWs held in North Vietnam.
Since the late 19th century, the area now known as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam was governed as a French Colonial territory. “French Indo-China” came to be occupied by the Imperial Japanese after the fall of France, at the onset of WWII. There arose a nationalist-communist army during this period, dedicated to throwing out the Japanese occupier. It called itself the “League for the Independence of Vietnam”, or “Viet Minh”.
France re-occupied the region following the Japanese defeat which ended World War 2, but soon faced the same opposition from the army of Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap.
What began as a low level rural insurgency, later became a full-scale modern war when Communist China entered the fray in 1949.
The disastrous defeat of French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1953 led to French withdrawal from Vietnam, the Geneva Convention partitioning the country into the communist “Democratic Republic of Vietnam” in the north, and the State of Vietnam in the south led by Emperor Bao Dai and Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem.
Communist forces of the north continued to terrorize Vietnamese patriots in north and south alike, with aid and support from communist China and the Soviet Union.
The student of history understands that nothing happens in a vacuum. US foreign policy is no exception. International Communism had attempted to assert itself since the Paris Commune rebellion of 1871, and found its first major success with the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917.
US policy makers feared a “domino” effect, and with good cause. The 15 core nations of the Soviet bloc were soon followed by Eastern Europe, as Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia fell each in their turn, into the Soviet sphere of influence. Germany was partitioned into Communist and free-enterprise spheres after WWII, followed by China, North Korea and on across Southeast Asia.
Communism is no benign ideology, morally equivalent to the free market west. Current estimates of citizens murdered by Communist party ideology in the Soviet Union alone, range from 8 to 61 million during the Stalinist period.
Agree or disagree with policy makers of the time that’s your business, but theirs was a logical thought process. US aid and support for South Vietnam increased as a way to “stem the tide” of international communism, at the same time that French support was pulling back. By the late 1950s, the US was sending technical and financial aid in expectation of social and land reform. By 1960, the “National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam” (“NLF”, or “Viet Cong”) had taken to murdering Diem supported village leaders. JFK responded by sending 1,364 American advisers into South Vietnam, in 1961.The war in Vietnam pitted as many as 1.8 million allied forces from South Vietnam, the United States, Thailand, Australia, the Philippines, Spain, South Korea and New Zealand, against about a half million from North Vietnam, China, the Soviet Union and North Korea. Begun on November 1, 1955, the conflict lasted 19 years, 5 months and a day. On March 29, 1973, two months after signing the Paris Peace accords, the last US combat troops left South Vietnam as Hanoi freed the remaining POWs held in North Vietnam.
Even then it wasn’t over. Communist forces violated cease-fire agreements before they were even signed. Some 7,000 US civilian Department of Defense employees stayed behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting an ongoing and ultimately futile war against communist North Vietnam.
The last, humiliating scenes of the war played themselves out on the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon on April 29 – 30, 1975, as those able to escape boarded helicopters, while communist forces closed around the South Vietnamese capital.
The “Killing Fields” of Cambodia followed between 1975 – ‘79, when the “Khmer Rouge”, self-described as “The one authentic people capable of building true communism”, murdered or caused the deaths of an estimated 1.4 to 2.2 million of their own people, out of a population of 7 million. All to build the perfect, agrarian, “Worker’s Paradise”.
Imagine feeling so desperate, so fearful of the alien ideology invading your country, that you convert all your worldly possessions and those of your family into a single diamond, and bite down on that stone so hard it embeds in your shattered teeth. Forced to flee for your life and those of your young ones, you take to the open ocean in a small boat. All in the faint and desperate hope, of getting out of that place.
That is but one story among more than three million “boat people”. Three million from a combined population of 56 million, fleeing the Communist onslaught in hopes of temporary asylum in other countries in Southeast Asia or China.
They were the Sino-Vietnamese Hoa, and Cambodians fleeing the Khmer Rouge. Ethnic Laotians, Iu Mien, Hmong and other highland peoples of Laos. The 30 or so Degar (Montagnard) tribes of the Central Highlands, so many of whom had been our steadfast allies in the late war. Over 2.5 million of them were resettled, more than half to the United States. The other half went mostly to Canada, Europe and South Pacific nations.
A half-million were repatriated, voluntarily or involuntarily. Hundreds of thousands vanished in the attempt to flee, never to be seen again.The humanitarian disaster that was the Indochina refugee crisis was particularly acute between 1979 – ’80, but reverberations continued into the 21st century.
Graduating UMass Lowell in 1972 with a degree in nuclear engineering, John Ogonowski joined the United States Air Force. During the war in Vietnam. The pilot would ferry equipment from Charleston, SC to Southeast Asia, sometimes returning with the bodies of the fallen aboard his C-141 transport aircraft.
Today, we remember him as Senior Captain on American Airlines flight 11, one of thousands murdered by Islamist terrorists, on September 11, 2001. When he wasn’t flying jumbo jets, John Ogonowski was a farmer. Until he was killed in his cockpit, John mentored Cambodian refugees turned farmers on his Dracut, Massachusetts “White Gate Farm“, helping them grow familiar crops, in an unfamiliar climate. Just as those old Yankee farmers had once mentored his Polish immigrant ancestors, generations before.
Military Working Dogs (MWDs) served with every service branch in Vietnam, mostly German Shepherds and Dobermans but many breeds were accepted into service.
It is estimated that 4,900 dogs served between 1964 and 1975. Detailed records were kept only after 1968, documenting 3,747.
A scant 204 dogs ever left during the ten-year period. Some remained in the Pacific while others returned to the United States. Not one ever returned to civil life. An estimated 350 dogs were killed in action as were 263 handlers. Many more were wounded. As to the rest, many were euthanized, or left with ARVN units, or simply abandoned, as “surplus equipment”.
There would be no war dog adoption law until 2000 when WWII Marine War Dog Platoon Leader and Veterinarian Dr. William Putney made it happen, with assistance from Congressman Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland.
The day it opened in 1982 there were 57,939 names inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Over the years, the names of military personnel who succumbed to wounds sustained in the war, were added to the wall. As of Memorial Day 2015, there are 58,307.
In the end, US public opinion would not sustain what too many saw as an endless war in Vietnam. We feel the political repercussions, to this day. I was ten at the time of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Even then I remember the searing sense of disgrace and humiliation, at the behavior of some of my fellow Americans.
In 2012, President Barack Obama declared a one-time occasion proclaiming March 29 National Vietnam War Veterans Day and calling on “all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.”
In 2017, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) co-sponsored a measure to declare March 29 Vietnam Veterans Day from that day forward, to honor US service members who served in the war in southeast Asia. The measure passed the United States Senate on February 3 and the House of Representatives on March 21. President Donald Trump signed the measure into law on March 28 designating the following day and every March 29 henceforward, Vietnam Veteran’s Day.
The recognition and gratitude due those who served in an unpopular war, was long overdue
British historian Edward Crankshaw writes, the German government saw “in this obscure fanatic one more bacillus to let loose in tottering and exhausted Russia to spread infection”.
The “War to End all Wars” dragged into its third dismal year in 1917, seeming as though it would go on forever. Like two exhausted prize fighters, neither side could muster the strength to deliver the killing blow. Many single days of the great battles of 1916 alone produced more casualties than every European war of the preceding 100 years, combined. At home, the social fabric of the combatant nations was unraveling.
By 1916 it was generally understood in Germany that the war effort was “shackled to a corpse”, referring the Austro-Hungarian Empire where the war had started, in the first place. Italy, the third member of the “Triple Alliance”, was little better. On the “Triple Entente” side, the French countryside was literally torn to pieces, the English economy close to collapse. The Russian Empire, the largest nation on the planet, was teetering on the edge of the precipice.
The first of two Revolutions that year began on February 23 according the “Old Style” calendar, March 8, “New Style”. Long-standing resentments over food rationing turned to mass protests in and around the Russian capital of Petrograd (modern-day Saint Petersburg). Eight days of violent demonstrations pitted Revolutionaries against police and “gendarmes”, that medieval remnant combining military units with the power of law enforcement.
By March 12 (new style), mutinous units of the Russian military had switched sides and joined with the revolutionaries. Three days later, Car Nicholas abdicated the Imperial throne.
Amidst all this chaos, Kaiser Wilhelm calculated that all he had to do was “kick the door in” and his largest adversary would collapse. He was right.
Following the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty, the more moderate Menshevik “Whites” vowed to continue the war effort. The split which had begun with the failed revolution of 1905 was more pronounced by this time with the radical Bolsheviks (“Reds”) taking the more extreme road. While Reds and Whites both wanted to bring socialism to the Russian people, Mensheviks argued for predominantly legal methods and trade union activism, while Bolsheviks favored armed violence.
In 1901, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov adopted the pseudonym “Lenin” after the River Lena, the easternmost of the three great Siberian rivers flowing into the arctic ocean. The middle-class son of a professor of mathematics and physics and the daughter of a well-to-do physician, Ulyanov became radicalized after the 1887 execution of his brother, for plotting to murder the Czar.
The man was soon convinced that capitalist society was bound to give way to socialist society with a natural transition to communism, not far behind.
Lenin was in exile when the war broke out, arrested and briefly imprisoned for his Russian citizenship. The radical revolutionary was released due to his anti-czarist sentiments when he and his wife, settled in Switzerland.
British historian Edward Crankshaw writes, the German government saw “in this obscure fanatic one more bacillus to let loose in tottering and exhausted Russia to spread infection”.
Lurching toward food riots of his own and loathe to unleash such a bacterium against his own homeland, a “Sealed Train” carrying Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and 31 dissidents departed from exile in Switzerland on April 9, complements of the Kaiser. Leaving Zurich Station amid the jeers and the insults of 100 or so assembled Russians shouting “Spies!” “Traitors!” “Pigs!” “Provocateurs!” Lenin turned to a friend and said. “Either we’ll be swinging from the gallows in three months, or we shall be in power.”
North through Germany and across the Baltic Sea, this political plague bacillus traveled the length of Sweden arriving in Petrograd on the evening of April 16, 1917. Like the handful of termites that brought down the mighty oak, this small faction inserted into the body politic that April, would help to radicalize the population and consolidate Bolshevik power.By October, Russia would experience its second revolution of the year. The German Empire could breathe easier. The “Russian Steamroller” was out of the war. And none too soon, too. With the Americans entering the war that April, Chief of the General Staff Paul von Hindenburg and his deputy Erich Ludendorff could now move their divisions westward, in time to face the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force.
On July 17, 1918, an assassination squad from the Ural Soviet of Workers’ Deputies murdered Czar Nicholas along with his wife and children, family physician, servants and dogs. It was the end of the Romanov Dynasty, the end of Czarist Russia. The citizens murdered by the totalitarian system of government which would rise in its place, has been estimated as high as sixty million.
“Oh no! Nothing’s worse than Cartman with Authoritah.” ~ Stan Marsh
A French proverb comes down to us from 1742, attributed to one François de Charette: “On ne fait pas d’omelette sans casser des oeufs”. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was a big fan of socialism in his day and an enthusiastic supporter of the gulags, of Josef Stalin.“[The] unfortunate Commissar” he wrote, must shoot his own workers “so that he might the more impressively ask the rest of the staff whether they yet grasped the fact that orders are meant to be executed.”.
Connoisseurs of the animated series South Park will remember the Prime Directive of Mr. Garrison’s favorite third grader, Eric Cartman. “You will respect my authoritah“!
All well and good for a cartoon. Few would have guessed the real-world Federal Government would poison its own citizens, to enforce its own authoritah.
The Eighteenth Amendment establishing national prohibition of intoxicating liquors was passed out of Congress on December 17, 1917 and sent to the states, for ratification. The “Volstead” act, so named for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Andrew Volstead, was enacted to carry out the will of congress.
At last ratified in January 1919, “Prohibition” went into effect at midnight, January 16, 1920. For thirteen years it was illegal to import, export, transport or sell intoxicating liquor, wine or beer in the United States.“Industrial alcohol” such as solvents, polishes and fuels were “denatured” and rendered distasteful by the addition of dyes and chemicals. The problem was, it wasn’t long before bootleggers figured out how to “renature” the stuff.
The Treasury Department, in charge of enforcement at that time, estimated that over 60 million gallons of industrial alcohol were stolen during Prohibition.
Not to be defied, the federal government upped the ante. The Parasite Leviathan, would not be defied.
By the end of 1926, denaturing processes were reformulated with the introduction of known poisons such as kerosene, gasoline, iodine, zinc, nicotine, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, quinine and acetone.
Treasury officials went so far as to impose a requirement of no less than 10% by volume of methanol, a virulent toxin used in anti-freeze.
You will respect my authoritah.
You can renature this stuff ’til the cows come home. It will kill you.
Sixty people wound up at New York’s Bellevue Hospital on Christmas eve 1926, desperately ill from contaminated alcohol. Eight of them died. Within two days, the death toll stood at thirty-one. The number soared to 400 by New Year’s Day , with no end in sight.
Many who didn’t die, probably wished it. Holiday revelers experienced hallucinations, uncontrollable vomiting, even blindness.
TIME Magazine reported a doubling in toxicity levels in the January 10, 1927 issue, compared with the old method: “The new formula included “4 parts methanol (wood alcohol), 2.25 parts pyridine bases, 0.5 parts benzene to 100 parts ethyl alcohol”. TIME noted, “Three ordinary drinks of this may cause blindness. (In case you didn’t guess, “blind drink” isn’t just a figure of speech).”
To paraphrase Wikipedia, Pyridine is a highly flammable chemical structurally related to benzene, with the unpleasant smell of dead fish.
New York medical examiner Charles Norris was quick to understand the problem and organized a press conference to warn of the danger. “The government knows it is not stopping drinking by putting poison in alcohol. Yet it continues its poisoning processes, heedless of the fact that people determined to drink are daily absorbing that poison. Knowing this to be true, the United States government must be charged with the moral responsibility for the deaths that poisoned liquor causes, although it cannot be held legally responsible.”
Norris pointed out that the poorest people of the city, were most likely to be victims: “Those who cannot afford expensive protection and deal in low-grade stuff”.
The towering sanctimony of the other side, is hard to believe. Teetotalers argued the dead had “brought it on themselves”. Long-time leader of the anti-saloon league Wayne Wheeler proclaimed “The Government is under no obligation to furnish the people with alcohol that is drinkable when the Constitution prohibits it. The person who drinks this industrial alcohol is a deliberate suicide.”
You will respect my Authoritah.
In its thirteen years of existence, Prohibition was an unmitigated disaster. Portable stills went on sale within a week of enactment and organized smuggling was quick to follow. California grape growers increased acreage by over 700% over the first five years, selling dry blocks of grapes as “bricks of Rhine” or “blocks of Port”. The mayor of New York City himself sent instructions to his constituents, on how to make wine.
Smuggling operations became widespread as cars were souped up to outrun “the law”. This lead in time to competitive car racing, beginning on the streets and back roads and later moving to dedicated race tracks. It’s why we have NASCAR, today.
Organized crime muscled up to become vastly more powerful, due to the influx of enormous sums of cash. The corruption of public officials was a national scandal.
Gaining convictions for breaking a law everyone hated became increasingly difficult. The first 4,000 prohibition-related arrests resulted in only six convictions and not a single jail sentence.
It’s hard to compare alcohol consumption rates before and during prohibition but, if death by cirrhosis of the liver is any indication, alcohol consumption never went down by more than 10 to 20 per cent.
In the end, even John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a lifelong teetotaler who contributed $350,000 to the Anti-Saloon League, had to announce support for repeal.
On December 5, 1933, the state of Utah triggered the magic 2/3rds requirement to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment, repealing the Eighteenth and voiding the Volstead Act, returning control over alcohol policy to the states.
Not to be defied, federal officials poisoned industrial alcohol until the very last day, resulting in the death of no fewer than 10,000 Americans. They didn’t even pretend not to know, what was happening.
You will respect my authoritah!
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Seymour Lowman had the last word among those who would tell you, “I’m from the government. I’m here to help”. If deliberately poisoned alcohol resulted in a more sober nation Lowman opined, then “a good job will have been done”.
The Jonestown murder/suicide of November 18, 1978 produced the largest loss of civilian life in American history, until the Islamist terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Those who knew him as a child remembered a “really weird kid“, obsessed with religion and death. He’d hold elaborate, pseudo-religious ceremonies at the house, mostly funerals for small animals. How Jim Jones got all those dead animals, was a matter for dark speculation.
It was depression-era rural Indiana, in the age of racial segregation. Father and son often clashed over issues of race. The two didn’t talk to each other for years one time, after the time the elder Jones refused to let one of his son’s black friends, into the house.
Jim Jones was a bright boy, graduating High School with honors, in 1949. He was a voracious reader, studying the works of Stalin, Marx, Mao, Gandhi and Hitler and carefully noting the strengths and weaknesses, of each.
Jones married Marceline Baldwin in 1949 and moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where he attended Indiana University and later Butler University night school, earning a degree in secondary education.
Along-standing interest in Leftist politics heightened during this period, when Jones was a regular at Communist Party-USA meetings. There he’d rail against the McCarthy hearings, and the trials of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Jones recalled he later asked himself, “How can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church.”
“Reverend” Jim Jones got his start as a student pastor at the Sommerset Southside Methodist Church but soon left, over issues of segregation. He was a Social Justice Warrior in the age of Jim Crow.
The New York Times reported in 1953, “declaring that he was outraged at what he perceived as racial discrimination in his white congregation, Mr. Jones established his own church and pointedly opened it to all ethnic groups. To raise money, he imported monkeys and sold them door to door as pets.”
Jones witnessed a faith-healing service and came to understand the influence to be had, from such an event. He arranged a massive convention in 1956, inviting the Oral Roberts of his day, as keynote speaker. Reverend William Branham did not disappoint. Soon, Reverend Jones opened his own mission with an explicit focus on racial integration.
Thus began the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ.
Jones’ integrationist politics did little to ingratiate himself in 1950s rural Indiana. Mayor and commissioners alike asked him to tone it down, while he received wild applause at NAACP and Urban League conventions with speeches rising to a thundering crescendo: “Let My People GO!!!”
Jones spoke in favor of Kim Il-sung’s invasion of South Korea, branding the conflict a “war of liberation” and calling South Korea “a living example of all that socialism in the north has overcome.”
Jim and Marcelline adopted three Korean orphans, beginning what would become a family of nine including their only biological child, Stephan Ghandi. The couple adopted a black boy in 1961 and called him Jim Jr., the Jones’ “rainbow family” a reflection of the pastor’s congregation.
An apocalyptic streak began to show, as Jones preached of nuclear annihilation. He traveled to Brazil for a time, in search of a safe place for the coming holocaust. He even gave it a date: July 15, 1967. On returning from Brazil, the “Father” spoke to the flock. The “children” would have to move. To northern California, to a new and perfect, socialist, Eden.
For Jim Jones, religion was never more than a means to an end. ”Off the record” he once said in a recorded conversation, “I don’t believe in any loving God. Our people, I would say, are ninety percent atheist. Uh, we— we think Jesus Christ was a swinger…I must say, I felt somewhat hypocritical for the last years as I became uh, an atheist, uh, I have become uh, you— you feel uh, tainted, uh, by being in the church situation. But of course, everyone knows where I’m at. My bishop knows that I’m an atheist.”
Faith healing. The California days
Jones referred to himself as the reincarnation of Gandhi. Father Divine. Jesus, Gautama Buddha and Lenin. “What you need to believe in is what you can see…. If you see me as your friend, I’ll be your friend. As you see me as your father, I’ll be your father, for those of you that don’t have a father…. If you see me as your savior, I’ll be your savior. If you see me as your God, I’ll be your God.”
The years in California were a time of rapid expansion from Temple Headquarters in San Francisco to locations up and down the “Golden State”. Jones hobnobbed with the who’s who of Democratic politics, from San Francisco Mayor George Moscone to Presidential candidate Walter Mondale. Even First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
“If you’re born in capitalist America, racist America, fascist America, then you’re born in sin. But if you’re born in socialism, you’re not born in sin.”
California Assemblyman Willie Brown called Jones a combination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Albert Einstein and Mao Tse Tung. Harvey Milk wrote to Jones after one visit: “Rev Jim, It may take me many a day to come back down from the high that I reach today. I found something dear today. I found a sense of being that makes up for all the hours and energy placed in a fight. I found what you wanted me to find. I shall be back. For I can never leave.”
Meanwhile, Jones was building the perfect socialist utopia in the South American jungles of Guyana, formally known as the “Peoples Temple Agricultural Project”. Most simply called the place, “Jonestown”.
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Marshall Kilduff wrote in the summer of 1977, telling a grotesque tale of physical and sexual abuse, of brainwashing and emotional domination. Chronicle editors balked and Kilduff published the piece in the New West Magazine.
That was when Jones and his congregation left town and fled. To Guyana.
A long standing drug addiction became more pronounced in Jonestown where the preacher spoke of the gospel of “Translation”, a weird crossing over from this life to some other, finer plane.
Some 68% of Jonestown faithful were black at this time, congregants who somehow got something from this place, they couldn’t get at home. Inclusion. Fulfillment. Acceptance. Whatever it was, the cult of Jonestown was mostly, a world of willing participants.
Mostly, but not entirely. Those who entered Jonestown were not allowed to leave. Those who escaped told outlandish tales of abuse: mental, physical and sexual.
Former members of the Temple formed a “Concerned Relatives” group in the Fall of 1977, to publicize conditions afflicting family members, still in the cult.
Concerned Relatives produced a packet of affidavits in April 1978, entitled “Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones“. Jones’ political support began to weaken as members of the press and Congress, took increasing interest.
California Congressman Leo Ryan led a fact-finding mission that November, to see things for himself. The Congressional Delegation (CoDel) arrived at the Guyanese capital on November 15, with NBC camera crew and newspaper reporters, in tow.
The delegation traveled by air and drove the last few miles by limo, to Jonestown. The visit of the 17th was cordial at first, with Jones himself hosting a reception in the central pavilion. Underlying menace soon came to the surface as a few Temple members expressed the desire, to leave with the delegation. Things went from bad to worse when temple member Don Sly attacked Congressman Ryan with a knife, the following day.
Ryan’s hurried exit with fifteen members of the Temple met no resistance, at first. The CoDel was boarding at the small strip in Port Kaituma, when Jones’ “Red Brigade” pulled up in a farm tractor, towing a trailer. The new arrivals opened fire, killing Congressman Ryan and four others. One of the supposed “defectors” produced a weapon, and wounded several more.
Back at the compound, Jones lost an already tenuous grasp on reality.
Fearing assault by parachute, lethal doses of cyanide were distributed along with grape “Flavor Aid” for 900+ members of the People’s Temple, including 304 children.
This wasn’t the first time the Jonestown flock believed they were ingesting poison, for The Cause. It was about to be the last.
Jones spoke with an odd lisp which seemed to grow more pronounced, at times of excitement. You can hear it in the 45 minute “death tape“ below, his words sometimes forming a perfect “S“ and at other times, lapsing into a soft “TH” or some combination, of the two.
You can hear it clearly, in the recording. Heads up dear reader. If you care to listen, it’s 45-minutes of tough sledding.
Jonestown “Death Tape”. November 18, 1978
The murder/suicide of November 18, 1978 produced the largest loss of civilian life in American history, until the Islamist terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Jones: How very much I’ve loved you. How very much I’ve tried, to give you the good life…We are sitting on a powder keg…I don’t think that’s what we wanted to do with our babies…No man takes my life from me, I lay my life down…If we can’t live in peace, then let us die in peace. Christine [Miller]: Is it too late for Russia?
Jones: Here’s why it’s too late for Russia. They killed. They started to kill. That’s why it makes it too late for Russia. Otherwise I’d said, “Russia, you bet your life.” But it’s too late.
Unidentified Man: Is there any way if I go, that it’ll help? Jones: No, you’re not going. You’re not going. Crowd: No! No! Jones: I haven’t seen anybody yet that didn’t die. And I’d like to choose my own kind of death for a change. I’m tired of being tormented to hell, that’s what I’m tired of. Crowd: Right, right. Jones: Tired of it. Unidentified Man: It’s over, sister, it’s over … we’ve made that day … we made a beautiful day and let’s make it a beautiful day … that’s what I say.
“A lot of people are tired around here, but I’m not sure they’re ready to lie down, stretch out and fall asleep”. Jim Jones
On this day in 1794, the United States Government established a permanent navy and authorized the building of six frigates.. One of them, USS Constitution, saw its first combat in the Quasi-War and remains in service to this day, the oldest commissioned warship in the United States Navy.
Imagine you consider yourself to be somewhere in the political center. Maybe a little to the left. Now imagine that, in the space of two years, national politics have shifted to the point you find yourself on the “reactionary right”, subject to execution as such by your government.
And your personal convictions have never so much as wavered.
America’s strongest Revolution-era ally lost its collective mind in 1792, when France descended into a revolution of its own. 17,000 Frenchmen were officially tried and executed during the 1793-’94 “Reign of Terror” alone, including King Louis XVI and Queen consort, Marie Antoinette. Untold thousands died in prison or without benefit of trial.
The monarchical powers of Europe were quick to intervene. For the 32nd time since the Norman invasion of 1066, England and France once again found themselves in a state of war.
France was the American patriot’s strongest supporter during America’s revolution, yet the US remained neutral in the later conflict, straining relations between the former allies. Making matters worse, America repudiated its war debt in 1794, arguing that it owed money to “l’ancien régime”, not to the French First Republic which had overthrown it and executed its King.
Both sides in the European conflict seized neutral ships in the act of trading with their adversary. The “Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation” with Great Britain, better known as the “Jay Treaty”, all but destroyed relations with the French 1st Republic. France retaliated by stepping up attacks on American merchant shipping, seizing 316 American civilian ships in one eleven-month period, alone.
In 1796, the French Republic formally broke diplomatic relations with the United States, rejecting the credentials of President Washington’s representative Ambassador Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
The following year, President John Adams dispatched a delegation of two. They were the future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall, and future Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, he who lends his name to the term “Gerrymander”. Their instructions were to join with Pinckney in negotiating a treaty with France, with terms similar to those of the Jay treaty with Great Britain.
The American commission arrived in Paris in October 1797, requesting a meeting with the French Foreign Minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand. Talleyrand, unkindly disposed toward the Adams administration to begin with, demanded money before meeting with the American delegation. The practice was not uncommon in European diplomacy of the time, but the Americans blanched.
Documents later released by the Adams administration describe Nicholas Hubbard, an English banker identified only as “W”. W introduced “X” (Baron Jean-Conrad Hottinguer) as a “man of honor”, who wished an informal meeting with Pinckney. Pinckney agreed and Hottinguer reiterated Talleyrand’s demands, specifying the payment of a large “loan” to the French government, and a £50,000 bribe to Talleyrand himself. Met with flat refusal by the American commission, X then introduced Pierre Bellamy (“Y”) to the Americans, followed by Lucien Hauteval (“Z”), sent by Talleyrand to meet with Elbridge Gerry. X, Y and Z, each in their turn, reiterated the Foreign Minister’s demand for a loan, and a bribe.
Believing that Adams sought war by exaggerating the French position, Jeffersonian members of Congress joined with the more warlike Federalists in demanding the release of the commissioner’s communications. It was these dispatches, released in redacted form, which gave the name “X-Y-Z Affair” to the diplomatic and military crisis which followed.
American politics were sharply divided over the European war. President Adams and his Federalists, always the believers in strong, central government, took the side of the Monarchists. Thomas Jefferson and his “Democratic-Republicans” found more in common with the “liberté, égalité, fraternité” espoused by revolutionaries.
In the United Kingdom, the ruling class enjoyed the chaos. One British political cartoon of the time depicted the United States, represented by a woman being groped by five Frenchmen while John Bull, the fictional personification of all England, looks on laughing from a nearby hilltop.
Adams’ commission left without entering formal negotiations, the failure leading to a political firestorm in the United States. Congress rescinded all existing treaties with France on July 7, 1798, the date beginning the undeclared “Quasi-War” with France. Four days later, President John Adams signed “An Act for Establishing and Organizing a Marine Corps,” permanently establishing the United States Marine Corps as an independent service branch, in order to defend the American merchant fleet.
At this point, the United States had no other means of fighting back. The government had disbanded the Navy along with its Marine contingent at the end of the Revolution, selling the last warship in 1785 and retaining only a handful of “revenue cutters” for purposes of customs enforcement. On this day in 1794, the United States Government established a permanent navy and authorized the building of six frigates.. One of them, USS Constitution, saw its first combat in the Quasi-War and remains in service to this day, the oldest commissioned warship in the United States Navy.
American military involvement proved decisive. Before armed intervention, the conflict with France resulted in the loss of over 2,000 merchant ships captured, with 28 Americans killed and another 42 wounded. Military escalation with the French First Republic cost the Americans 54 killed and 43 wounded, with only a single ship lost. That one, was later recaptured.
By the turn of the century, the naval power of the English speaking nations brought about a more agreeable negotiating position with the government of First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte. The Convention of 1800 ended the Quasi-War, asserting American rights and ending the alliance with France.
The entangling French alliance of 1778, was dead. The Napoleonic Wars would be fought entirely on European soil.
A Trivial Matter
Between 1803 and 1812, the Royal Navy’s manpower needs greatly exceeded voluntary enlistment. 5,000 to 9,000 American sailors were forcibly “impressed” (kidnapped) into service, becoming a major casus belli for the war of 1812.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone”. President John F Kennedy, addressing a White House Dinner honoring Nobel Prize recipients, 1962.
In April 1962, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy addressed a White House Dinner, to a group of Nobel prize winners. Some of the greatest intellects of the era were assembled in that room. The President began:
“Ladies and gentlemen“, he said, “I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone“.
Jefferson himself knew how he wished to be remembered. He left specific instructions. Three accomplishments the founding father himself saw as his own legacy, inscribed on the stone which marks his grave:
Here was buried Thomas Jefferson Author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson served two terms as President of the United States, but didn’t put it among his top three accomplishments. That’s how much he couldn’t stand politics.
The public life of Thomas Jefferson reads like a timeline for the founding of this nation.
In a time when colonists considered themselves to be Englishmen, Jefferson sought to disestablish the Anglican communion of the Church of England, seeking from the earliest days of his public career to establish a freedom from state-sponsored religion.
The preamble to the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom written in the man’s own hand, states “that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry“.
Jefferson expanded on the principle decades later, in a letter to the Baptist church of Danbury, Connecticut. Referring to the United States Constitution, Jefferson writes:
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State“.
Jefferson drafted no fewer than 126 bills in three years as Virginia state legislator and later governor, introducing measures for public education and religious freedom. Alarmed at the growing power of the landed aristocracy, Jefferson took aim at laws of entail and primogeniture, that permanent, hereditary and near-feudal system of increasingly large plantations worked by white tenant farmers and African slaves.
Assigned to a committee of five to write the Declaration of Independence, it is Jefferson’s hand we see on our national birth certificate.
Jefferson fled when the Patriot turned traitor Benedict Arnold burned the city of Richmond at the head of a British Army, and narrowly escaped a cavalry force under “Bloody Banastre Tarleton”, sent for his capture.
Martha Skelton, née Wayles, became Mrs. Jefferson in 1772, following the death of her first husband. The marriage lasted ten years until her death in 1782 and produced six children, two of whom lived, to adulthood.
Jefferson was inconsolable on the death of his wife and withdrew for weeks, from the public eye. He later burned their correspondence, leading some commentators to describe the relationship as “enigmatic’.
I don’t think so. On his death some forty years later, Thomas Jefferson still wore a locket about his neck, containing a lock of Martha’s brown hair.
Jefferson was minister to France in the early days of the French Revolution, and witnessed the storming of the Bastille. He was a regular companion of the Marquis de Lafayetteand contributor to Lafayette’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It’s here in 1787, that Jefferson is believed to have begun a sexual relationship with one of his slaves, sixteen-year-old Sally Hemings. Modern DNA analysis has demonstrated a connection along the male Jefferson line, with at least one of Hemings’ children.
Thomas Jefferson became the nation’s 1st Secretary of State on this day in 1790, serving the first administration of President George Washington.
As President of the United States, Jefferson personally tutored Corps of Discovery Meriweather Lewis of the Lewis and ClarkExpedition, in the sciences of mapping, botany, natural history, mineralogy, and astronomy and navigation, and gave the man unlimited access to his library at Monticello, at that time the largest collection of geography and natural history books in the world.
In 1819, the 76-year-old Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, personally organizing its state charter and planning for the course curriculum, while designing the architecture for ten Roman and Greek pavilions forming a quadrangle connected by colonnades and surrounded by serpentine walls.
As if that wasn’t enough, the man cut 791 verses from the King James bible with a razor, and rearranged them into the 46-page volume The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly known as the Jefferson Bible. He then translated the thing into French, Greek, Latin and back to English. It interested him to do so.
On the subject of slavery, the man remains an enigma. Jefferson referred to the “execrable commerce …this assemblage of horrors” while he himself owned slaves. As many as 600, over the course of his life.
In an ending no fiction writer would dare to contemplate, Jefferson and fellow founder John Adams died on July 4, 1826, fifty years to the day from the birth of the Republic they had helped create.
It is fashionable today, to judge the past by the standards of our day. As if the present were somehow exempt from the just scorn of future generations.
The founder’s ideal of freedom Of religion has somehow morphed into an imagined freedom From religion. Candidates argue for abolishing the Electoral College, transforming this self-governing Republic to a Democracy. Somehow the image of five wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch, comes to mind.
A week ago, a member of the United States House of Representatives criticized the third President, for believing African slaves to be 3/5ths of a person.
I would not condone the odious practice of one human being “owning” another, any more than I’d endorse those places where the practice continues, to this day. I don’t know anyone who does. It’s worth mentioning though, Spanish and Portuguese settlers brought the first African slaves to the new world, 275 years before the “Shot Heard ’round the World“. Every New World economy from Canada to Argentina was engaged in slavery. The first English colony to legally adopt the practice was Massachusetts, with the ironically named “Massachusetts Body of Liberties,” of 1641.
The 3/5ths compromise of the United States Constitution was a political concession. The young nation was broke in the wake of the late Revolution, in need of new forms of taxation. Southern states argued that slaves should be counted as persons for purposes of apportionment. More seats meant more votes in Congress, more electors in the Electoral College.
The more industrialized states to the north saw such a measure as placing a disproportionate burden of taxation, on themselves. The 3/5ths compromise kicked the can down the road, passing the Gordian knot to be settled by another generation, in rivers of blood.
The connection between Jefferson and the 3/5ths compromise stems from the election of 1800. Jefferson defeated Aaron Burr through disproportionate electoral support from the southern states, though it took 36 ballots, to do so. The Congressman’s claim seems a bit of a stretch: the third President was away in France while the Constitution was being written.
In a perfect world, our self-appointed ruling class would have cracked a book. Candidates for political office would better understand our shared history. The real thing is so much more interesting than the pop culture and political varieties.
A Trivial Matter
While a brilliant writer, Thomas Jefferson received no such gift when it came to public speaking. It’s not that his speeches were’t well written and meaningful, he was just a lousy speaker. His voice was halting and often inaudible, barely better than a mumble. John Adams once said, “During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together.” Unlike his predecessor, President Jefferson delivered the State-of-the-Union address in writing, beginning a practice which would continue until Woodrow Wilson’s first term, in 1913.
The Presidential election of 1884 was as close as any in history and Republicans made hay with the Halpin scandal. “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa”?
Born this day in 1837, Stephen G. “Big Steve” Cleveland was 33 the day he left his practice of law to become Sheriff of Erie County, in western New York.
As Sheriff, Cleveland was responsible for carrying out the sentence of death, either with his own hands, or by that of a deputy. For this, the hangman was paid a fee of ten dollars.
Sheriff Cleveland took care of this job himself, personally releasing the trap door on September 6, 1872 and hanging one Patrick Morrissey, who’d been convicted of stabbing his mother to death in a drunken rage. He executed another convicted murderer six months later, hanging John Gaffeny on February 14, 1873.
The fees for these and other services were surprisingly lucrative, amounting to $40,000 over a two year term, equivalent to $836,556, today.
A lifelong Democrat, Cleveland had a reputation for ‘shooting straight” at a time of rampant political corruption, by both parties.
Elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1871, Cleveland was called upon to approve a street cleaning contract awarded to the highest bidder. The difference between high and low bids came to the considerable sum of $100,000, a pot of money which could be expected to find its way back to the politicians who’d approved it.
This sort of graft had long been a feature of political life in New York, but not now. Mayor Cleveland vetoed the measure, describing the scheme “as the culmination of a most bare-faced, impudent, and shameless scheme to betray the interests of the people, and to worse than squander the public money“.
This reputation for honesty propelled Big Steve’s political career from the Mayoralty of Buffalo to the Governor’s mansion, in New York.
Talk about corruption. Five years earlier, one New York city alderman’s committee estimated that Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall machine fleeced New York taxpayers to the tune of $25 to $45 million. Later estimates ranged as high as an astonishing $200 million, equivalent to a jaw-dropping $2.8 Billion, today. As Governor, Cleveland earned the ire of the city’s Tammany Hall machine, with eight vetoes in his first two months in office.
In 1884, the “Buffalo Hangman” found himself Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Boston Globe columnist and political commentator Jeff Jacoby notes that “Not since George Washington had a candidate for President been so renowned for his rectitude.”
Despite all that rectitude, the candidate was not without skeletons in his closet. One was a relationship with one Maria Crofts Halpin which produced a son, named Oscar Folsom Cleveland.
Halpin insisted to the end of her days, that she’d been raped. Big Steve claimed she was crazy and overly generous with her affections, accepting paternity only as a way of doing right by an old girlfriend. Cleveland did manage to get the woman involuntarily committed, for a time, and the boy taken away to be raised in anonymity, by his adoptive family.
The Presidential election of 1884 was as close as any in history and Republicans made hay with the Halpin scandal. “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa“?
Despite all of it, Stephen Grover Cleveland won the popular vote by one quarter of one per cent, and an electoral college victory of 219-192, leading to the rejoinder “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House, ha ha ha“.
Fun fact: The only former executioner ever elected President of the United States, Grover Cleveland is best remembered for being the only President to ever serve two non-consecutive terms. The 22nd and 24th President of the United States was also, something of a medical miracle.
President Grover Cleveland was inaugurated for the second time in the midst of a disastrous recession known as the Panic of 1893. The nation suffered vast unemployment, with hundreds of businesses closing down. The railroad industry was devastated. With Americans struggling everywhere, many looked to the new President to provide hope and a new direction.
Early in his second term, the President noticed a bumpy and rapidly growing patch, on the roof of his mouth. White House physician Dr. Robert Maitland O’Reilly took one look and pronounced: “It’s a bad looking tenant, and I would have it evicted immediately”.
The health of the famously rotund, cigar chomping President was already a matter of public concern. Cleveland feared a cancer diagnosis would set off a panic. The tumor would have to be removed and the whole procedure, kept secret.
The only answer to the prying eyes of the press was to do it on the move, and there could be no scar. President Cleveland announced a four-day vacation aboard a friend’s yacht, a cruise through Long Island Sound to Buzzard’s Bay and on to the President’s summer home, on Cape Cod.
A surgical team of six boarded the yacht in disguise. On July 1, 1893, the President was strapped into a chair and anesthetized, with ether. The tumor was removed in a ninety minute procedure, along with the entire left side of the upper jaw, and five teeth. For all that, there was no external incision. The President’s life was saved, the trademark mustache undisturbed.
The operation remained secret until 1917, nine years after the death of the former President. A medical miracle for the time, the President’s surgery is studied, to this day.
A Trivial Matter
Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to call the official residence, the “White House.” Prior to that, the building was called the Executive Mansion or the President’s House.
Even at the convention, many of the framers were concerned about the larger, more populous states governing at the expense of the smaller states. The proverbial five wolves and a lamb, voting on what’s for lunch.
Early discussions concerning the American experiment in self-government began nearly twenty years before the Revolution, with the Albany Congress of 1754 and Benjamin Franklin’s proposed Albany Plan of Union. The 2nd Continental Congress appointed a drafting committee to write our first constitution in 1776, the work beginning on July 12. The finished document was sent to the states for ratification on November 15, the following year.
Twelve of the thirteen original states ratified these “Articles of Confederation” by February, 1779. Maryland would hold out for another two years, over land claims west of the Ohio River. In 1781, seven months before Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, the 2nd Continental Congress formally ratified the Articles of Confederation. The young nation’s first governing document.
The Articles of Confederation provided for a loose alliance of sovereign states. At the center stood a congress, a unicameral legislature, and that’s about it. There was no Executive, there was no Judiciary.
In theory, Congress had the authority to govern foreign affairs, conduct war, and regulate currency. In practice, these powers were limited because Congress had no authority to enforce requests made on the states, either for money or for troops.
The Union would probably have broken up if the Articles of Confederation were not amended or replaced. Twelve delegates from five states met at Mann’s Tavern in Annapolis Maryland in September 1786, to discuss the issue. The decision of the Annapolis Convention was unanimous. Representatives from all the states were invited to send delegates to a new constitutional convention in Philadelphia, the following May.
The United States had won its independence from England four years earlier, when 55 state delegates convened in Philadelphia to compose a new constitution.
Delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies met on May 25, 1787 at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania State House, the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. Only Rhode Island abstained. The building is now known as Independence Hall.
The assembly immediately discarded the idea of amending the Articles, instead crafting a brilliant Federal system of checks and balances over three months of debate. The Federal Republic crafted by the framers delegates specific, limited powers to the Federal Government, with authority outside those specified powers devolving to the states.
Even at the convention, many of the framers were concerned about the larger, more populous states governing at the expense of the smaller states. The proverbial five wolves and a lamb, voting on what’s for lunch. The “Connecticut Compromise” solved that problem, creating a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower house (House of Representatives) and equal representation of the states in the upper house (Senate).
The Constitution was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates on September 17, 1787. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until ratified by nine of the 13 states.
Five states: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut ratified the document in quick succession. Some states objected to the new constitution, particularly Massachusetts, which wanted more protection for basic political rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and of the press. They wanted it specified that powers undelegated to the Federal government, were reserved to the states. A compromise was reached in February, 1788 whereby Massachusetts and other states would ratify the document, with the assurance that such amendments would be immediately proposed.
The Constitution was ratified in Massachusetts by a two vote margin, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify on June 21. The new Constitutional Government would take effect on March 4, 1789.
On September 25, the first Congress adopted 12 amendments, sending them to the states for ratification. The states got rid of the first two, and so the Congress’ original 3rd amendment became 1st, of what we now call the “Bill of Rights”. Today, the United States Constitution is the oldest written national constitution in operation in the world.
It’s interesting to note the priorities of that first Congress, as expressed in their original 1st and 2nd amendments. The ones that were thrown out. The first had to do with proportional representation, and would have led us to a 6,000-member House of Representatives, instead of the 435 we currently have. The second most important thing in the world, judging by the priorities of that first Congress, was that any future Congress could not change their own salaries. Any such change could affect only future Congresses.
That original 2nd amendment, reading that “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened”, took effect in 1992 as the 27th amendment, following a ratification period stretching out to 202 years, 7 months, and 12 days. We must not be too hasty about these things.
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