In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Who was exactly the foe? What was our quarrel with the foe? What major issues of freedom or democracy really separated Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany from King George V’s England? Why should the United States and Canada have fought for the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? It seems that all of the major nations involved in World War I (except POSSIBLY Tsarist Russia) were already headed (prior to World War I) towards one closely related formulations of “Social Democracy” in which “public welfare” outweighs “Freedom” and “Constitutional Government” and preponderant values.
Yes, it’s Remembrance Day/Remembrance Sunday again, as it always is just one week after Bonfire Day when we “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November” and that’s just three days after the Day of the Dead, All Souls and All Saints Day. It’s not for nothing that a now retired (and free) house-elf of mine named Antonio Rodriguez said that November was the saddest month of the year, “cuando se nota que se alargan las noches es el mes más repleno de mis memorias….el día se acaba muy rapido, cuando recordamos que así de repente pasa la vida“¹.
This November, the re-election of Barack Hussein Obama has inexplicably saddened me, depressed me so much more than I expected. Because I fully expected Obama to be re-elected, and I had no enthusiasm for Romney at all—zero, zip, zilch. But it somehow feels that night has really fallen now. Nobiscum semel occidit brevis lux, dormienda est una nocte perpetua, said Catullus², as if presaging Antonio’s autumnal depression by 2000+ years.
So for this November, I am going to suggest that we sing dirges in the dark for the day that Freedom Died. I am not at all sure which day we should call the final death of American Freedom, it has been such a long, slow process. And after all, truthfully, I write this memorandum with the full (and not even terribly uncertain) expectation that I will not be arrested for writing this piece, not today Saturday November 10, nor Sunday November 11, nor even on Monday November 12…..
But as sure as 6079 Winston Smith knew he would receive that final bullet to the head in 1984, I feel certain that, eventually, another good Judge appointed by some de facto President with the advice and consent of an unthinking senate will summon me formally or informally and “want to talk to me” again, about my writings, or about my protests. It will happen under color of law, just as it did when those wonderful Southern District of Texas Judges Lynn N. Hughes and Janis Graham Jack “wanted to talk to me” in 2006-2008. I left Texas because I really didn’t want to talk to them anymore, and they’ve left me alone since. But I know that with the passage of time they or their successors will deprive me of my liberty without due process of law, for having written this, or some other challenge to the eviction or enclosure of the free from their land, or death of the brave in their homes….
So right now, let’s remember the Declaration of Independence that American men have been fighting and dying for since 1776, and let us remember that the government of the United States, since at least 1933, and possibly a long time before that, has become so oppressive and intrusive into our everyday lives as to render laughably trivial all of the oppressions and intrusions complained of in that remarkable text penned by Thomas Jefferson and the Committee of Five….(John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman were the other four).
Let us then think of the limited, Democratic-Republican, form of government framed in the summer of 1787, and how that was revered as a “new covenant” between the people and a “more perfect union” than had ever been created before. Americans started dying for the Constitution in the War of 1812 for the first time, but well over half a million died in 1861-1865, and one third of the United States were laid to ruin and waste, over constitutional disagreements.
From that time on, from the reconstruction which began during that War Between the States and Continued until Samuel J. Tilden gave up the Presidency he had fairly won in 1876 to Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden gave up the Presidency to which he had been elected to avoid a second Civil War, but in his “concession speech” delivered eight months after the election, on June 13, 1877, in the City of New York which had elected him, and to which he had given both the greatest Public Library and Public Park and most honest government of any City in the world, he foresaw America’s future of bought and bartered elections.
As reported in the New York Herald on page 3, in column 2:
Everybody knows that, after the recent election, the men who were elected by the people President and Vice President of the United States were “counted out,” and men who were not elected were “counted in” and seated .
NO PERSONAL WRONG.
I disclaim any thought of the personal wrong involved in this transaction. Not by any act or word of mine shall that be dwarfed or degraded into a personal grievance, which is, in truth, the greatest wrong that has stained our national annals. To every man of the four and a quarter millions who were defrauded of the fruits of their elective franchise it is as great a wrong as it is to me. And no less to every man of the minority will the ultimate consequences extend. Evils in government grow by success and by impunity. They do not arrest their own progress. They can never be limited except by external forces.
MUST NOT BE CONDONED.
If the men in possession of the government can, in one instance, maintain themselves in power against an adverse decision at the elections, such an example will be imitated. Temptation exists always. Devices to give the color of law, and false pretences on which to found fraudulent decisions, will not be wanting. The wrong will grow into a practice, if condoned-if once condoned.
In the world’s history changes in the succession of governments have usually been the result of fraud or force. It has been our faith and our pride that we had established a mode of peaceful change to be worked out by the agency of the ballot box. The question now is whether our elective system, in its substance as well as its form, is to be maintained.
THE QUESTION OF QUESTIONS.
This is the question of questions. Until it is finally settled there can be no politics founded on interior questions of administrative policy. It involves the fundamental right of the people. It involves the elective principle. It involves the whole system of popular government. The people must signally condemn the great wrong which has been done to them. They must strip the example of everything that can attract imitators. They must refuse a prosperous immunity to crime. This is not all. The people will not be able to trust the authors or beneficiaries of the wrong to devise remedies. But when those who condemn the wrong shall have the power they must devise the measure which shall render a repetition of the wrong forever impossible.
Should we remember and mourn Samuel Tilden’s concession as the day that Freedom Died in America? I know that my great-grandparents were only children or teenagers on that day, and they still believe in American Freedom, even living in the South which had been conquered (but which was at least partially freed by the “Compromise of 1877” which led to Samuel Tilden’s giving up the Presidency).
For the next 50 years, American Freedoms slipped away slowly but surely in the name of “beneficial” governmental regulation, starting with vast grants of undeveloped Western Lands to the railroad companies in the 1860s-1870s. During the War of 1861-1865, many strange things unrelated to the wars happened, including the creation of the Department of Agriculture in 1862, the first branch of government lacking any roots in the original constitutional conception of the Federal Government.
The power of the Union, and the fall of the Confederacy, were both related to the relative development of the railroads in the North and South³. But it was after the war, during the Reconstruction Presidencies of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, that these “Imperial” railroads became so great as basically to be threats to the supremacy of the United States government. And the railroads spun off subsidiary “support” industries such as steel and coal, and eventually oil, which themselves threatened to consume the United States Government, and in fact, did so.
The great railroads grew and acquired astronomical powers in the years 1865-1900 in both the U.S. and Canada as a result of the vast giveaway of public land to the private sector (the earliest form of “corporate welfare”). Another political compromise resulted from the tensions created by the increase in the power of the railroads: ten years after Samuel J. Tilden’s concession speech, the first post-War Democrat to be elected, Grover Cleveland, a New York successor of Tilden, approved the governmental regulation of the railroad industry by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887, which was the first “Independent Commission” created outside the constitution (and was dissolved only in 1996 under the Presidency of another Democrat, William J. “Bill” Clinton). That same year, Congress voted to elevate Lincoln’s non-cabinet level “Department of Agriculture” to the full cabinet, and Grover Cleveland signed this bill in 1889. By several extensions including the Hatch Act of 1887 and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, the Federal Government, by and through the Department of Agriculture, extended both regulatory and educational functions to every county in the United States of America.
Few people today even blink at the idea that Federal power over our everyday lives should have begun in the Department of Agriculture, but on Remembrance Day, I think these are things to be remembered….and up to a point, they are things to be regretted and mourned. NOTHING in the Original Constitution (never mind the Declaration of Independence) would have allowed for the Federal Government moving into the fields of agricultural production and education but this was the path that “social democracy” took in the United States—slow but steady step-by-step infiltration.
Regulation and the destruction of the original constitutional form of government continued with the Antitrust Acts of the 1890s which, again, were designed to restrain the major industries which the Federal Government had brought into being in the USA during and after the war between the states. And finally, the Federal Reserve and the Income Tax capped the merger of Federal and Inter-state Corporate business during the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson (although both policies were formulated by Republicans Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft).
During this same half century (1865-1915), other innovations were taking place in America that destroyed the original framework of limited government, in particular, concerns for “public health” became paramount. Starting with the creation of a Department of Chemistry inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and culminating Theodore Roosevelt’s “Biologics Act of 1902” and “Food and Drug Act of 1906” the government somehow found itself always wiser and more capable of judging what made the public healthy than any private choice or consumer (market-based) decision-making….and this trend towards “consumer protection” culminated with the Constitutional Amendment permitting Federal Prohibition in 1919.
As is well-known, the “Prohibition Era” led to the first ever “crime wave” in U.S. History, and evasion of government regulation has become the chief “non-violent” form of crime ever since (with major “violent” episodes during Prohibition and the “War on Drugs” of course leading to ever greater suppression of human rights in the name of public safety.”
Today, we cannot turn on or off the electric lights or water in our homes without being directly or indirectly subject to massive Federal regulation, supplemented and implemented by the States.
So did American Freedom die on the day that the Food & Drug Act was implemented in June of 1906? If so, it died a very quiet death. Or did American Freedom die the day that Prohibition was repealed under the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt which decided that Constitutional Amendments were no longer going to be necessary to regulate commerce, because it was going to be so easy just to appoint Judges to the Supreme and Circuit Courts who could discover new and previously unrecognized powers to regulate in the Interstate Commerce Clause of Article I of the Constitution.
And to think that, if only Roosevelt had been around to threaten to “pack” the Courts in the 1850s, slavery could have been abolished by Congress without a Civil War, without a Constitutional Amendment, just by KNOWING that the Interstate Commerce Clause permits the regulation of how many chickens a farmer raises for his own and his family’s consumption without ever putting those chickens or their eggs into the stream of interstate commerce….
In fact, in the era of Obama, slavery probably could have been abolished by executive decree without any input from Congress at all…. what a shame that the 19th century was filled with such antiquated notions as “genuine democratic-republican decision-making” limited by the “express powers granted to the Federal government in the constitution.”
So let’s see now—what was our quarrel with Germany during World War I again that led to November 11 being called first “Armistice Day,” then “Remembrance Day”? Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland had all taken major steps towards “Social Democracy” ahead of the United States, and the United States was basically 20-30 years behind on this particular curve…..
In a strange but true way, the last war that was fought anywhere in the world over real constitutional disagreements was the American War Between the States, and in that war, and in reconstruction culminating in the Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1877 after the Election of 1876, Freedom and Constitutionally Limited Government suffered a permanent defeat from which they have never recovered.
So Constitutional government died a slow but painful death. And somehow, the greatest pain is NOW upon us, as we face another four years under Barack Hussein Obama.
¹ “By the time you can notice that they nights are getting longer, that is the month most filled with memories….the day ends quickly, and this forces us to remember that so quickly does life itself pass.”
² “When for us the brief light has past, we must sleep in eternal night.”
³ A great popular song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” sung by Joan Baez and Johnny Cash among others, sentimentally commemorates the role of train travel in the War Between the States—but the South’s inability to expand its railroad infrastructure during the war was without doubt one of the key infrastructural reasons for the failure of the Confederate States of America in the first ever Marxist-shaped and envisioned war of “Dialectically Conflicting Modes of Production”:
Virgil Caine is the name and I served on the Danville train ‘Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again.
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive. By May the tenth, Richmond had fell; it’s a time I remember, oh so well.
The night they drove old Dixie down: And the bells were ringing. the night they drove old Dixie down. And the people were singing, they went, “La, la, la”.
Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me “Virgil, quick, come see, there go the Robert E. Lee”.
Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good, Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest. But they should never have taken the very best.
The night they drove old Dixie down: And the bells were ringing, the night they drove old Dixie down; And all the people were singing: they went, “La, la, la”.
Like my father before me, I will work the land. And like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand.
He was just eighteen, proud and brave, but a Yankee laid him in his graveI swear by the mud below my feet. You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat.
The night they drove old Dixie down—And the bells were ringingThe night they drove old Dixie down; And all the people were singing. They went, “Na, na, na”.
The night they drove old Dixie down: And all the bells were ringing, the night they drove old Dixie down; And the people were singingThey went, “Na, na, na”