Negative Politics 1800 Style

Reason TV reminds us that there is nothing new in regard to negative politics.  The Election of 1800 still takes first place in regard to the vilification ladled on the Presidential contenders, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, a subject I discussed in this post.  One may deplore negative politics, but I suspect that it is part and parcel of the electoral process and that attempting to drive it from politics through legislation, something that I think would be impossible in any case,  would be the classic example of the cure being worse than the disease due to the diminution of freedom it would entail.

Published in: on October 31, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Negative Politics 1800 Style  
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Something for the weekend.  Chester by William Billings.  During the American Revolution, this was the unofficial national anthem for the new United States.  As we participate in elections it is good to recall the struggles throughout our history that bequeathed to us the freedoms we enjoy today.  We stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded us, and we should never forget that. (more…)

Published in: on October 30, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Chester  
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Anti-Lincoln Attack Ad

As we near the end of the election season, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the political ads that infest our airwaves will soon vanish for the moment.  If television had existed in 1860, I have no doubt that political attack ads would have been unbiquitous, and that the above video would have, judging from vitriolic partisan attacks in the newspapers of the day,  been a temperate example.

Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  
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Of Politics, Bigotry and Stupidity

 A week before the Presidential election in 1884, the Reverend Samuel D. Burchard, a Presbyterian minister, at a Republican gathering denounced the Democrats as the party of “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion”. James G. Blaine, the Republican candidate, denounced the anti-Catholic remarks three days later, but it was too late and Blaine lost the election. The memorable phrase helped cement most Catholics as Democrats for a century.

Now the Democrat Farmer Labor Party of Minnesota (Minnesota Democrats) are doing their best to help drive Catholics into the arms of the Republican Party with this piece of tripe:



John Wayne Speech Therapist

Content warning in regard to the above video for harsh language.  It is also immensely funny and heartwarming.  They simply do not make actors like Wayne anymore!  The scene is from the movie The Cowboys (1972).  The movie is most memorable for the scene in which Bruce Dern mortally wounds John Wayne’s character by shooting him in the back.  Wayne warned Dern while rehearsing the scene:  “America will hate you for this!”  Dern replied, “Yeah, but they’ll love me in Berkeley!  Here Dern reminisces about the movie:

Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Founding Fathers and Slavery

Too often we forget that the Founding Fathers found slavery well-established in all the colonies.  It is therefore astounding that most of the Founding Fathers were hostile to an institution that was hallowed in tradition and the law.  Abraham Lincoln was correct in regard to most of the Founding Fathers and slavery when he said during the Lincoln-Douglas debates: (more…)

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Founding Fathers and Slavery  
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“The Blame and Shame of It”


Samuel Sewall was a remarkable man.  Possessed of perhaps the keenest legal mind in his day in late 17th and early 18th century Massachusetts, he would rise to be Chief Justice of Massachusetts.  He would write the first anti-slavery tract in the colonies, The Selling of Joseph.  For 56 years he kept a diary which provides insight into the Puritan mind in a time of transition.  As a junior magistrate, he  participated in the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.  He was the only judge to repent of his role in that debacle, and he did so in 1697 when he publicly apologized:

Samuel Sewall, sensible of the reiterated strokes of God upon himself and family, and being sensible that as to the guilt contracted upon the opening of the late Commission of Oyer and Terminer at Salem, he is, upon many accounts, more concerned than any that he knows of, desires to take the blame and shame of it, asking pardon of men, and especially desiring prayers that God, who has unlimited authority, would pardon that sin and all his other sins, personal and relative. And according to His infinite benignity and sovereignty, not visit the sin of him or of any other, upon himself or any of his, nor upon the land. But that he would prowerfully defend him against all the temptations to sin for the future, and vouchsafe him the efficacious, saving conduct of His Word and Spirit.

It is hard for most people to admit error;  doubly hard for those in public life.  In this political season it is appropriate to remember someone who had the honesty and courage to admit that he was wrong.


Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Magna Carta


We in America are the heirs of a very old English political tradition which established many of the concepts of civil liberty that we treasure.  At the heart of this tradition is Magna Carta, the great charter of rights that King John’s rebellious barons compelled him to sign at Runnymede on June 15, 1215, 795 years ago. 

Documents like Magna Carta were commonplace in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, when the authority of kings were strictly restricted by nobles, commons and the Church.  However, what is unusual about Magna Carta is its vitality.  The English never forgot it, and whenever there was political upheaval in ages to come after 1215, the cry of Magna Carta was ever heard.

Much of Magna Carta contains provisions of little relevance to our time, although its general theme of  restrictions on governmental power is timeless.  Three provisions are just as important today as they were on that long ago June 15th:

(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

 These provisions remind us that the study of history is not a mere antiquarian’s amusement, but rather an examination of the building blocks on which our world rests.  The text of the Great Charter: (more…)

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  

Shiloh’s Hill

Something for the weekend.  Shiloh’s Hill.  This moving song on the battle of Shiloh is based on a poem written by M. G. Smith who fought in the battle with Company C, 2nd Texas Volunteer Infantry.  The song is performed by the 97th New York regimental string band. (more…)

Published in: on October 23, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Militia in the American Revolution: Historical Background

This is the first post of a series looking at the American militia in the American Revolution.  The activity of the militia in that conflict is one of its salient features.  From the embattled farmers who took up arms at Lexington and Concord to the militia units that marched into New York City with Washington in 1783, the role of the militia in the war was all-important.

Often damned during the war for their frequent inability to stand toe to toe in combat against highly trained British regulars, the militia provided the patriots with a force against the British different in nature from the trained Continental regulars, but very effective when used properly by commanders who understood the vices and virtues of untrained citizen soldiers. (more…)

Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Militia in the American Revolution: Historical Background  
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