November 14, 1902 Teddy Bear

In 1972, the weekly journal of the British veterinary profession, the Veterinary Record, ran an article in their April 1st edition. It described the diseases common to “Brunus Edwardii”, a species “commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America”. The article reported that “Pet ownership surveys have shown that 63.8% of households are inhabited by one or more of these animals, and there is a statistically significant relationship between their population and the number of children in a household”.

Theodore Roosevelt was in Mississippi in November 1902, helping local authorities settle a border dispute with Louisiana. There was some downtime on the 14th, when Governor Andrew Longino invited Roosevelt and some other dignitaries on a bear hunt.

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Holt Collier

The hunt was a high profile affair, attended by a number of reporters, and led by a former slave and Confederate Cavalryman, the famous bear tracker Holt Collier:  a man who had killed more bears than Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, combined. Yes, I meant to say that. He was a black man who fought, in uniform and by his own choice, for the Confederate States of America. Real history is so much more interesting than the political or pop culture varieties.

Late in the afternoon, Collier and his tracking dogs cornered a large female black bear. Roosevelt hadn’t “bagged” one yet, and Collier bugled for the President to join him. He would have ordinarily shot the bear when it killed one of his dogs, but Collier wanted the president to get this one. He busted the bear over the head with his rifle, hard enough to bend the barrel, and tied it to a willow tree.

TR-teddy_earRoosevelt declined to shoot the animal, calling it “unsportsmanlike” to shoot a bound and wounded animal. Instead, he ordered the bear put down, putting an end to its pain.

The Washington Post ran an editorial cartoon, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi”, by Clifford K. Berryman, depicting both the state line dispute and the hunting incident. Berryman first drew the animal as a large, fierce killer, but later redrew the bear, making it into a cute, cuddly cub.

Morris Michtom owned a small novelty and candy store in Brooklyn, New York. Michtom’s wife Rose had been making toy bears for sale in their store, when Michtom sent one of them to Roosevelt, asking permission to call it “Teddy’s Bear”. Roosevelt detested that nickname, but he said yes. Michtom’s bear became so popular that he went on to start what would become the Ideal Toy Company.

In 1972, the weekly journal of the British veterinary profession, the Veterinary Record, ran an article in their April 1st edition. It described the diseases common to “Brunus Edwardii”, a species “commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America”. The article reported that “Pet ownership surveys have shown that 63.8% of households are inhabited by one or more of these animals, and there is a statistically significant relationship between their population and the number of children in a household”.

Brunus Edwardii

It went on to describe some of them medical afflictions, common to this creature.  The article was overwhelmingly popular, except for the usual curmudgeonly contingent, who seem to experience life as a need to complain, in search of a target.

One such was A. Noel Smith, a zany funster if there ever was one, who sniffed, “I have been practising veterinary medicine for the past 12 years or more “across the pond” and my Veterinary Records arrive a month or more late. However, I still open them with interest and read what is going on “at home”. April 1st’s edition thoroughly soured my interest. How three members holding sets of impressive degrees can waste their time writing such garbage in a journal that is the official publication of the B.V.A. is beyond my comprehension, as is your effrontery to publish it under “Clinical Papers”.

I’ll bet he’d be a hoot to have a beer with.

For the record,”Brunus Edwardii”, is latin for Edward Brown. The internet dictionary etymologyonline.com explains the origins of “Brown” as, among others, Dutch, for  “Bruin”.

Edward Bruin. Edward Bear.  Author A.A. Milne’s proper name, for Winnie-the-Pooh.

November 6, 1860 A Peculiar Institution

From the earliest years of the “new world”, every economy from Canada to Argentina was, to varying degrees, involved with slavery.  Spanish and Portuguese settlers brought the first African slaves to the new world in 1501, establishing the new world’s first international slave port in Santo Domingo, modern capital city of the Dominican Republic.

From the earliest years of the “new world”, every economy from Canada to Argentina was, to varying degrees, involved with slavery.  Spanish and Portuguese settlers brought the first African slaves to the new world in 1501, establishing the new world’s first international slave port in Santo Domingo, modern capital city of the Dominican Republic.

Hundreds of thousands of African slaves entered the Americas through the sister ports of Veracruz, Mexico, and Portobelo, Panama, “products” of the “Asiento” system, wherein the contractor (asientista) was awarded a monopoly in the slave trade to Spanish colonies, in exchange for royalties paid to the crown.

The first such contractor was a Genoese company who agreed to supply 1,000 slaves over an 8-year period, beginning in 1517.  A German company entered into such a contract eight years later, with a pledge of 4,000.

Richard Schlecht
Painting by Richard Schlecht, National Geographic

By 1590, as many as 1.1 million Africans had come through the port of Cartagena, Colombia, sorted and surnamed under the “casta de nación” classification system.  To this day, black residents of the Colombian interior bear names like Kulango & Fanti, indicating their origins on the Ivory Coast or Ghana:  Musorongo, Loango & Congo, (Congo Region), or Matamba, Anchico & Ambuila (Angola).

In the American colonies, 17th century racial attitudes appear to have been more fluid than they would later become.  The first black Africans, 19 of them, came to the Virginia Colony in 1619 not as slaves, but as indentured servants. Their passage, involuntary as it was,  was paid for by a term of indenture, a sort of ‘temporary slavery’, usually lasting seven years.

John Punch ran away from his term of indenture in 1640, along with two Europeans. The trio was captured in Maryland and sentenced to extended terms of indenture. Alone among the three, Punch was punished with indenture for life, effectively making him the first ‘slave’ in the American colonies.

Born in Angola in 1600, Anthony Johnson was one of that original 19, captured by an enemy tribe and sold to an Arab slave trader.  Johnson was sold to a Virginia planter at the age of 21, paying off the cost of his passage with a seven-year term of indenture.  As a free man, Johnson himself became a successful planter, going on to “own” indentured servants of his own.

One of them, John Casor, sued for his freedom in 1655, claiming to have completed his indenture of “seaven or Eight years”, plus seven more.  The court ruled that Casor himself was considered “property” and not his contract, making him the first person arbitrarily ruled a slave for life.

Map-of-Slave-Trade

The unthinking view of history holds American slavery to have been a strictly southern-states phenomenon, but it isn’t so.  As late as the eve of the Civil War, “northern” slavery was more widespread than you might expect. The 1860 census reported 236 slaves in New Jersey, 90,368 in Maryland, 2,290 in Delaware, and 3,680 in Washington, DC. There were slaves as far north as New Hampshire as late as 1840. New York wouldn’t legally emancipate its last slave until the following year.

Massachusetts became the first American colony to legalize slavery in 1641, with the passage of the ironically named “Massachusetts Body of Liberties”.  Slavery was legal at one time or another, in all 13 original colonies and even before, when slavery of and by native Americans, was commonplace.

In 1637, the Pequot tribe of southeastern Connecticut was all but wiped out in a bloody war with an alliance of English colonists from the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth and Saybrook colonies, and their native American allies of the Narragansett, Mohegan, Niantic and Montauk tribes. Surviving Pequots were forced to become slaves in English households, or shipped to Bermuda or the West Indies, and exchanged for Africans.

Indigenous and African slave populations in northern climates were small compared with the more agricultural economies of the south, which were themselves a drop in a bucket compared with the slave economies of central and south America.

An essay from the New York Public Library (nypl.org) gives a sense of scale to the transatlantic slave trade. “As a whole, the transatlantic slave trade displaced an estimated 12.5 million people, with about 10,650,000 surviving the Atlantic crossing. Thus, even though a substantial number of Africans actually reached the United States, they were only a small proportion, about 3.6 percent, of the total number of Africans who were brought to the Americas. More Africans went to Barbados (435,000), while almost three times as many went to Jamaica (1,020,000). The number of Africans arriving in North America was considerably less than those who were taken to Brazil (4,810,000)“.

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 opened vast new territories. The fight for which would be free and which would permit slavery, would go on for years.

The philosophical underpinnings of southern secession was borne of the Hartford Convention of December 1814 – January 1815.  There, delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, along with “unofficial” delegates from New Hampshire and Vermont, met to discuss New England’s secession over the War of 1812. The convention reported that New England had a “duty” to assert its authority over unconstitutional infringements on its sovereignty, putting forth a legal position very similar to the later nullification position taken by South Carolina.

reynolds-political-map

Protective tariffs were instituted in the wake of the War of 1812, intending to help domestic manufacturers compete with foreign imported goods. Instead, they tended to help northern manufacturing economies, while increasing the cost of manufactured goods to the southern states, and making it more difficult to export cotton.

By this time, cotton was becoming the chief cash crop in most southern economies, and tariffs hit South Carolina particularly hard. Throughout the colonial and early national periods, the Palmetto state climate sustained a strong agricultural economy. South Carolina’s fortunes were hit hard with the panic of 1819, and slow to recover as the gulf states increasingly entered the cotton markets.

The Tariffs of 1828 – ’32 lead to a nullification crisis in South Carolina, where the state told the federal government to pound sand, and mobilized military assets to defend itself against federal enforcement measures sure to follow.

That time the crisis was averted, but a pattern had been established for events to come.

CaningSectional differences grew and sharpened in the years that followed. A member of Congress from Kentucky killed a fellow congressman from Maine.  A Congressman from South Carolina all but beat a Massachusetts Senator to death with a cane, on the floor of the Senate. A fist fight involving at least 30 Congressman broke out on the floor of the US House of Representatives.

Southern states talked about secession as early as 1850. Senator Stephen A Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, in theory allowing a territory to determine its own free or slave status. This effort to “democratize” the issue led to the brutality of the “Bleeding Kansas” period, where pro-slavery Missouri “Border Ruffians” and anti-slavery Kansas “Jayhawkers” crossed one another’s borders, primarily to murder each others civilians and burn out one another’s towns.

Abraham Lincoln delivered his “House Divided” speech on June 16, 1858, in which he said “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.  A year later, John Brown was holed up at Harper’s Ferry, trying to start a slave insurrection.

After 57 ballots, the Democrat’s convention of 1859 adjourned without selecting a candidate for the Presidential election. Northern Democrats nominated Stephen A Douglas, while southern Democrats nominated John Breckenridge.

Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States on November 6, 1860, on a platform confusingly specifying “That all men are created equal”, an “abhorrence of all schemes of disunion”, and “The maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively”.

One year later, to the day, former United States Senator and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis was elected to a six-year term as the first President of the Confederate States of America.

 

 

 

October 14, 1912 Can’t Stop a Bull Moose

The 9000+-member audience was stunned when Roosevelt announced “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot—but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!”

The first “Progressive” era began as a local movement in the 1890s, largely in response to the corruption of the political machines, and the monopolistic corporate excesses of the “gilded age”.  By the 1920s, Progressivism had come to dominate state and national politics, bringing with it the national income tax, direct election of Senators, and Prohibition, with the 16th, 17th and 18th amendments, respectively.

progressiveGreat believers in the perfectibility of the public sphere, Progressives eschewed old methods as wasteful and inefficient, leaning instead toward the advice of academics and “experts”, looking for that “one best way” to get things done.

Progressive politicians covered both sides of the political aisle, with leaders such as Wisconsin Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr. and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes on the Republican side, and Woodrow Wilson, and the attorney, politician and orator William Jennings Bryan (he of the famous “Monkey Trial”), on the side of the Democrats.

When Theodore Roosevelt first appeared on the political scene at age 23, there was little to hint at the Progressive he would later become.  “TR” was sworn into office in 1901, following the assassination of President William McKinley.   At 42 he was the youngest man to ever take the oath of office, and possibly the most energetic.

As President, Roosevelt pushed executive power to new heights, attacking “Captains of Industry” with a two-pronged strategy of anti-trust legislation, and regulatory control.  TR was the “Conservation President”, creating the United States Forest Service (USFS) and establishing no fewer than 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments.  All told, Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land.

william-howard-taft-nationalRoosevelt retired from politics after two terms to go on African safari, backing William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination.

Taft easily defeated Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan in the 1908 election, but his presidency proved to be a disappointment to the Progressive wing of the party.

The more conservative Taft didn’t take the expansive view of his predecessor.  By 1910, Roosevelt had returned to a public speaking tour against his own hand-picked successor.

The federal government needed to assume a larger role in the lives of every-day Americans, argued Roosevelt, who, despite repeated assurances that he was done with politics, challenged Taft for the 1912 Republican nomination.  When asked if he was up to another campaign season, Roosevelt replied he was ready and felt as “fit as a bull moose”.

The final split came with the June Republican party convention in Chicago, when the party rejected Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” platform, nominating Taft as its standard bearer for re-election.  Roosevelt and his reform-minded supporters broke with the party, forming the “Progressive”, or “Bull Moose” party, as the Democratic convention selected former Princeton University President and New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, to be its candidate.  This was going to be a three-way race.

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1912 Election

John Flammang Schrank emigrated to America in 1885, at the age of 9.  His parents died a short time after, leaving him to work for an uncle, a tavern keeper in the Kleindeutschland, (“Little Germany”) section of New York.  Schrank’s aunt and uncle left him a sizeable inheritance on their passing, in hopes that he would live a quiet and peaceful life.  Schrank was heartbroken at losing this, his second set of parents.  When his first and only girlfriend Emily Ziegler died in the General Slocum disaster of 1904, John Schrank became unhinged.

He drifted up and down the east coast for several years.  In September 1912, he became obsessed with Theodore Roosevelt.  For three weeks, John Schrank followed the Roosevelt campaign, stalking the candidate across eight states.  On the afternoon of October 14, Roosevelt was in Milwaukee, dining with local dignitaries at the Hotel Gilpatrick, before a planned speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium.  As the former President was getting into his vehicle, he turned to wave to well-wishers. Schrank was four or five feet away when he fired his .38 caliber revolver, hitting the former President in the chest.

jjustice14n-5-copy
John Flammang Schrank smiles as he’s taken into custoy for the attempted assassination of Theodore Roosevelt

The bullet pierced the fifty folded pages of Roosevelt’s speech and a metal spectacle case, before lodging in his chest.  The former President coughed once into his hand, to see if there was blood.  Seeing none, TR concluded that his lungs were fine, and decided to give the speech.  The 9000+-member audience was stunned when the candidate announced “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot—but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!” Roosevelt spoke for 80 minutes, before going to a Milwaukee hospital for treatment.

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Roosevelt x-ray

Theodore Roosevelt lived the rest of his life with that bullet in his chest.  Six more years. As for John Schrank, he claimed in a letter found on his person, that the ghost of William McKinley had instructed him to avenge his death with the assassination of his former Vice President.  He would live out the rest of his days at the Central State Mental Hospital for the criminally insane, in Waupun, Wisconsin.

Schrank letter

Woodrow Wilson easily defeated his opponents to become the 28th President of the United States, garnering 435 electoral votes to his opponents’ combined total, of 96.

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Fifty pages long and folded in half, Elbert Martin holds the speech that saved TR’s life

September 14, 2004  Fake but Accurate

“Conservative” news sources like PJ Media rose in the aftermath, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that a bunch of bloggers “in their jammies” uncovered in hours what the vaunted news gathering apparatus of CBS News failed to figure out in weeks.

It was September 8, 2004, less than two months before the 2004 Presidential election.  CBS News aired a 60 Minutes™ broadcast hosted by News Anchor Dan Rather, centered on four documents critical of President George W. Bush’s National Guard service in 1972-‘73.  The documents were supposed to have been written by Bush’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, who’d passed away in 1984.

GW-Bush-in-uniformThe documents came from Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, a former Texas Army National Guard officer who had received publicity back in 2000, when he claimed to have been transferred to Panama after refusing to falsify then-Governor Bush’s personnel records.  He later retracted the claim, but popped up again during the 2004 election cycle.  Many considered Burkett to be an “anti-Bush zealot”.

Within hours of the broadcast, the documents were criticized as forgeries.  Internet forums and blogs challenged the terminology and typography of the memos.  Within days it came out that the font used in the memos didn’t exist at the time the documents were supposed to have been written.

That didn’t stop the Boston Globe from running a story entitled “Authenticity Backed on Bush Documents”, a story they later had to retract.

Criticism of the 60 Minutes’ piece intensified, as CBS News and Dan Rather dug in and defended their story.   Within the week, Rather was talking to a Daily Kos contributor and former typewriter repairman who claimed that the documents could have been written in the 70s.  Meanwhile, the four “experts” used in the original story were publicly repudiating the 60 Minutes piece.

Other aspects of the documents were difficult to authenticate without access to the originals.  CBS had nothing but faxes and photocopies, and Burkett claimed to have burned the originals after faxing them to the network.

Fake but AccurateThe New York Times interviewed Marian Carr Knox who’d been secretary to the squadron in 1972, running a story dated September 14 under the bylines of Maureen Balleza and Kate Zernike.  The headline read “Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says“.

The story went on to describe the 86 year-old Carr’s recollections that she never typed the memos, but they accurately reflected the feelings of Lt. Col. Killian.  “I think he was writing the memos”, she said, “so there would be some record that he was aware of what was going on and what he (Bush) had done.”

Yet Killian’s wife and son had cleared out his office after his death, and they didn’t find anything even hinting at the existence of such documents.  Others who claimed to know Carr well described her as a “sweet old lady”, but said they had “no idea” where her statements had come from.

CBS News would ultimately retract the story, as it came out that Producer Mary Mapes collaborated on it with the Kerry campaign.  Several network news people lost their jobs, including Rather and Mapes.

dan-rather-cnnPublic confidence in the “Mainstream Media” plummeted.  Many saw the episode as a news network lying, and the “Newspaper of Record” swearing to it.

“Conservative” news sources like PJ Media rose in the aftermath, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that a bunch of bloggers “in their jammies”, uncovered in hours what the vaunted news gathering apparatus of CBS News failed to figure out in weeks.

Such news media bias is nothing new.  In 1932-33, New York Times reporter Walter Duranty reported on Josef Stalin’s deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians, known as “Holodomor”.  “Extermination by hunger”.   With 25,000 starving to death every day, Duranty won a Pulitzer with such gems as:  “There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be.” – (Nov. 15, 1931), and,  “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda.” – (Aug. 23, 1933).

Walter Duranty

The 1993 NBC Dateline “Exploding Truck” edition didn’t get the desired effect when they crash tested that pickup truck, so they rigged another one with a pyrotechnic device.  Sure enough, that one exploded on cue.  The “Exposé” was fiction masquerading as “News”, but hey.  The explosion made good television.

In a transparent attack on an administration with which it had political disagreements, the New York Times ran the Abu Ghraib story on the front page, above the fold, for 32 days straight.  Just in case anyone missed the first 31.

And who can forget that edited audio from George Zimmermann’s 911 call.  Thank you, NBC.

If the point requires further proof, watch ABC News Charlie Gibson’s 2008 interview with Sarah Palin, then read the transcript.  Whether you like or don’t like Ms. Palin is irrelevant to the point.  The transcript and the interview as broadcast, are two different things.

The political process is afflicted when news agencies act as advocates in the stories they cover.  Our system of self-government cannot long survive without an informed electorate.  That may be the worst part of this whole sorry story.

Bill Clintons Cat
Press photographers, in search of the perfect image. Of Bill Clinton’s cat.

August 29, 1854  The President’s Desk

The British government ordered at least three desks to be fashioned out of the ship’s timbers, the work being done by the skilled cabinet makers of the Chatham dockyards.  The British government presented a large partner’s desk to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880.  A token of gratitude for HMS Resolute’s return, 24 years earlier.

(AP Photo/Look Magazine, Stanley Tretick, File)
The desk, known as the Resolute Desk, has been used by almost every American President since, whether in a private study or the oval office. 

HMS ResoluteHMS Resolute was a Barque rigged merchant ship, purchased by the English government in 1850 as the Ptarmigan, and refitted for Arctic exploration.  Re-named Resolute, the vessel became part of a five ship squadron leaving England in April 1852, sailing into the Canadian arctic in search of the Franklin expedition, which had disappeared into the ice pack in 1845.

They never found Franklin, though they did find the long suffering crew of the HMS Investigator, hopelessly encased in ice where they had been stranded since 1850.

Three of the expedition’s ships themselves became trapped in floe ice in August 1853, including Resolute.  There was no choice but to abandon ship, striking out across the ice pack in search of their supply ships.  Most of them made it, despite egregious hardship, straggling into Beechey Island between May and August of the following year.resoluteice2

The expedition’s survivors left Beechey Island on August 29, 1854, never to return.

Meanwhile Resolute, alone and abandoned among the ice floes, continued to drift eastward at a rate of 1.5 nautical miles per day.

The American whale ship George Henry discovered the drifting Resolute on September 10, 1855, 1,200 miles from her last known position.  Captain James Buddington split his crew, half of them now manning the abandoned ship.  Fourteen of them sailed Resolute back to their base in Groton CT, arriving on Christmas eve.

Resolute hulk
LLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS, England, October 4, 1879: “The Old Arctic Exploring Ship Resolute, Now Broken Up At Chatham Dockyard”

1856 was a difficult time for American-British relations.  Senator James Mason of Virginia presented a bill in Congress to fix up the Resolute, giving her back to her Majesty Queen Victoria’s government as a token of friendship between the two nations.

$40,000 were spent on the refit, and Resolute sailed for England later that year, Commander Henry J. Hartstene presenting her to Queen Victoria on December 13.

Resolute served in the British navy until being retired and broken up in 1879.  The British government ordered at least three desks to be fashioned out of the ship’s timbers, the work being done by the skilled cabinet makers of the Chatham dockyards.  The British government presented a large partner’s desk to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880.  A token of gratitude for HMS Resolute’s return, 24 years earlier.

KENNEDY
(AP Photo/Look Magazine, Stanley Tretick, File)

The desk, known as the Resolute Desk, has been used by almost every American President since, whether in a private study or the oval office.

FDR had a panel installed in the opening, since he was self conscious about his leg braces.  It was Jackie Kennedy who brought the desk into the Oval Office.  There are pictures of JFK working at the desk, while his young son JFK, Jr., played under it.

Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford were the only ones not to use the Resolute desk, as LBJ allowed it to leave the White House after the Kennedy assassination.

The desk spent several years in the Kennedy Library and later the Smithsonian Institute, the only time the desk has been out of the White House.

Jimmy Carter returned the Resolute Desk to the Oval Office, where it has remained through the Presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and, so far, Donald Trump.

President Trump at Resoute Desk

August 28, 1948 Landslide Lyndon

‘People have been saying for 40 years, ‘No one knows what really happened in that election,’ and ‘Everybody does it.’ Neither of those statements is true. I don’t think that this is the only election that was ever stolen, but there was never such brazen thievery”.

In 1944, Texas political Boss George Berham Parr and Webb County Judge Manuel “Black Coke StevensonHawk” Raymond had a favor to ask of then-Governor Coke Robert Stevenson. They wanted the Governor to appoint a Raymond relative, E. James Kazen, as Laredo district attorney.

The Governor wasn’t playing ball. The United States was at war at that time, and the commander at the local Army Air Force Base opposed the appointment, saying that half his men were down with VD. A district attorney from the local political machine, he argued, would mean lax enforcement of prostitution laws, and his high sick rate was adversely effecting the war effort.

Stevenson was persuaded, and he appointed another man to the job. George Parr would not forget the slight.

Four years later, Coke Stevenson was running for the United States Senate. Parr had a debt to repay to Stevenson’s opponent, Congressman Lyndon Baynes Johnson, who had helped him obtain a Presidential Pardon back in 1946. He had some payback to do on Stevenson’s account as well, but that would be payback of a different sort.

Landslide LyndonTexas had only a weak Republican party in 1948.  The winner of the Democrat’s three-way primary was sure to be the next Senator.

When the votes were counted on August 28, Stevenson was the top vote getter with 37.3%, edging out Johnson at #2, by 112 votes out of 988,295 cast.

Texas state law requires an absolute majority to determine a primary winner, so a runoff was held between the top two finishers.

Stevenson held the lead at the end of counting.  Five days later, Jim Wells County amended its return. 202 additional votes had been “found”, hidden away in Box #13 from the town of Alice.

200 of the 202 had voted for Johnson.  By a miraculous coincidence, each had signed their names in alphabetical order, in the same penmanship, each apparently using the same pen.

An investigation was called, and the executive committee of the Texas Democratic Party upheld Johnson’s victory, 29-to-28.   Stevenson sued.

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Fortas, Johnson

A Federal court ordered Johnson’s name off the ballot pending the results of an investigation, but the matter was settled in Johnson’s favor when Associate Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black voided the order on the urging of Johnson lawyer, Abe Fortas.

Purely coincidentally I’m sure, the very same Abe Fortas would himself be appointed to the Supreme Court by then-President Lyndon Johnson, in 1965.

Johnson went on to defeat the Republican candidate in the general election.  The primary ballots were “accidentally” burned some time later.

‘Means of Ascent’ author Robert A. Caro, the second volume of a projected four-volume Johnson study entitled ‘The Years of Lyndon Johnson’, told the New York Times in a 1990 interview: ‘People have been saying for 40 years, ‘No one knows what really happened in that election,’ and ‘Everybody does it.’ Neither of those statements is true. I don’t think that this is the only election that was ever stolen, but there was never such brazen thievery”.

LBJ had “won” his primary by 87 votes, August 28 forever marking the day on which he would be known as “landslide Lyndon”. Johnson easily defeated Republican Jack Porter for the Senate seat, later becoming Vice President and then President after the texas-ballot-boxassassination of John F Kennedy, a man whom many believe stole his own election from Richard Nixon in 1960, with the help of Chicago’s Daley machine and a little creative vote counting in Cook County.

Johnson never acknowledged stealing the election, but Ronnie Dugger, editor of the Texas Observer, once visited him in the White House. Then-President Johnson pulled out a photo of five “ol’ boys” from Alice, grinning back at the camera with the infamous Box 13 between them. Dugger asked LBJ if he had stolen the election. President Johnson’s only response, was to laugh.

 

August 1, 1794 Whiskey Rebellion

A federalized militia force of 12,950 was raised to put down what President Washington saw as armed insurrection, marching on Western Pennsylvania in October 1794.  It was a larger force than General Washington normally had under his command, during the late Revolution.

On ratification of the modern constitution in 1789, the founding fathers gazed out at what they had wrought.  What they saw, was debt.Constitution

The Continental government had been unable to levy taxes under the Articles of Confederation, the only major income source being foreign import duties. The government had borrowed money to meet expenses during this period, accumulating $54 million in debt.  The states themselves another $25 million.

Compounding the problem was the matter of runaway inflation, which had plagued the Articles of Confederation period. The colonies had printed paper currency to pay debts, as did the national government. Silver coinage remained stable due to the inherent value of the metal itself, but there was nothing behind this paper money. At one point, you could buy a single sheep for $2 “hard currency”, or $150 in paper “Continental Dollars”. To this day, you might hear the expression “worthless as a continental”.

The first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, reported in his Report on Public Credit, urging Congress to consolidate state and national debt into a single debt to be funded by the federal government. Hamilton felt that existing duties were as high as they could be without depressing imports, so he recommended the first excise tax on a domestically manufactured product – whiskey.  The more meddlesome of Hamilton’s contemporaries were enthusiastically in favor of a “sin tax”, just as they are today.  The “Whiskey Act” became law on March 3, 1791.

The whiskey tax was immediately unpopular, particularly in the west where it was, for all intents and purposes, an income tax.  At a flat rate of 7¢ per gallon, the tax weighed more heavily on the western frontiers, where whiskey was sold for 50¢ a gallon.  About half what it sold for in the more established regions of the east.

Furthermore, coinage wasn’t easy to come by on the frontiers.  In many areas the medium for exchange was whiskey itself.  The stuff was popular, it’s value was relatively stable, and it was easier to transport than the grain from which it was distilled.

Folks on the western fringes of the new nation already felt the federal government was doing too little to secure them against the predation of Indians.  This whiskey tax was the final straw.

Whiskey_Insurrection
Illustration of the Whiskey Rebellion from “Our First Century”, R.M. Devens 1882

Petitions were signed against the new law and there were hearings, none of which settled the matter satisfactorily. Events reached a boiling point in May 1794, when federal district attorney William Rawle issued subpoenas for more than 60 Western Pennsylvania distillers who had not paid their excise tax. All 60 were expected to appear in excise court in Philadelphia, an expensive, disruptive trip that these poor farmers were loathe to undertake.

The war of words became a shooting war as US Marshal David Lenox was delivering these writs in Allegheny County, south of Pittsburgh, on July 15.

Braddocks FieldMore shooting incidents occurred in the days that followed.  Objections to the whiskey tax gave way to a long list of economic grievances, as over 7,000 gathered in Braddock’s Field on August 1. They talked of secession and carried their own flag, each of its six stripes representing one of 6 Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio counties.

At last they marched on Pittsburg, burning the barns of Major Abraham Kirkpatrick, who had previously led soldiers against them.

A federalized militia force of 12,950 was raised to put down what President Washington saw as armed insurrection, marching on Western Pennsylvania in October 1794.  It was a larger force than General Washington normally had under his command during the late Revolution.

Washington himself rode out to check on the progress of his army, the first and only time in history that a sitting American President led an army in the field.

whiskey-rebellion-300x214The whiskey rebellion collapsed in the face of what was then an overwhelming army, with 10 of their leaders brought to Philadelphia to stand trial. Two were sentenced to hang for their role in the rebellion, but President Washington pardoned them both.  The whiskey rebellion was over.

All internal taxes were repealed in 1800, when President Thomas Jefferson returned US fiscal policy to a reliance on trade tariffs.  With the Napoleonic wars ongoing in Europe, business was good.  National debt was reduced from $83 million to $43 million, despite $11 million spent on the Louisiana Purchase.

President Andrew Jackson paid off the national debt in its entirety, in 1835.  The first and only President in United States history, ever to do so.  Since that time, the Federal government has saddled the American taxpayer with approximately $301 million in additional debt.  Per day.