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June 04th, 2010 | Author:

What if:

  • Abraham Lincoln, like James Buchanan before him, said of the South, “As sovereign States, they, and they alone, are responsible before God and the world for the slavery existing among them.”
  • Lincoln decided that “preserving the Union” was not worth the cost in blood.
  • Congress legitimized secession and officially recognized the Confederacy.
  • The Confederate States of America still existed today.

United States map of 1861

I know.  This is an odd subject, even for me, but you can blame it on Rand Paul.  Or rather, you can blame it on an article by Sheldon Richman that was stirred by Rand Paul’s comments on the Civil Rights Act:

Why assume that legislation was the only way to stop segregation and today is the only thing preventing resegregation? We can easily imagine scenarios in which private nonviolent action could pressure bigots into changing their racial policies.

But we don’t need to imagine it. We can consult history. Lunch counters throughout the South were integrating years – years! – before the civil rights bill was passed. It happened not out of the goodness of the racists’ hearts – they had to be dragged, metaphorically, kicking and screaming. It was the result of an effective nongovernment social movement.

Starting in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, lunch counters throughout the South began to be desegregated through direct but peaceful confrontation – sit-ins – staged by courageous students and others who refused to accept humiliating second-class citizenship. Four years before the Civil Rights Act passed, lunch counters in downtown Nashville were integrated within four months of the launch of the Nashville Student Movement’s sit-in campaign.

Students were beaten and jailed, but they won the day, Gandhi-style, by shaming the bigots with their simple request to be served like anyone else. The sit-ins then sparked sympathy boycotts of department stores nationwide. The campaign wasn’t easy, but people seized control of their own lives, shook their communities, and sent shockwaves through the country. State and city governments were far slower to respond.

Could not slavery have been abolished using the same methods?  Britain accomplished this without war, largely influenced by a boycott of  sugar.

An anti-sugar pamphlet by William Fox was published in 1791; it ran to 25 editions and sold 70,000 copies in four months. Spurred on by pamphlets and posters, by 1792, about 400,000 people in Britain were boycotting slave-grown sugar. Some people managed without, others used sugar from the East Indies, where it was produced by free labour.

Grocers reported sugar sales dropping by over a third, in several parts of the country, over just a few months. During a two-year period, the sale of sugar from India increased ten-fold (see Adam Hochschild: Bury the chains). James Wright, a Quaker and merchant of Haverhill, Suffolk, advertised in the General Evening Post on March 6th, 1792, to his customers that he would no longer be selling sugar.  He declared:

“…..Being Impressed with a sense of the unparalleled suffering of our fellow creatures, the African slaves in the West India Islands…..with an apprehension, that while I am dealer in that article, which appears to be principal support of the slave trade, I am encouraging slavery, I take this method of  informing my customer that I mean to discontinue selling the article of sugar when I have disposed of the stock  I have on hand, till I can procure it  through channels less contaminated, more unconnected with slavery, less polluted with human blood……”

(A full copy of this article can be read here)

Citizen actions like these could well have pressured the south to ultimately ban slavery at the state level without killing about 618,000 Americans in war.  Compare that to American casualties in WWI (53, 402), WWII (291,557), and Vietnam (47, 424), and then imagine the impact it had on the citizenry.  Look at the economic disruption as well, and it seems that other less-costly solutions to slavery could have been found.

And if they had, and two American governments existed?  We can’t know the outcome, of course, but it seems to me there would be some important advantages.

First, states rights would have been upheld, limiting the role of the federal governments.

Second, dividing the country in two would, by simple mathematics, have reduced the power of those governments.

Third, two governments would have provided some healthy competition, as people decided where they wanted to live.

Fourth, all those confederate rebels could openly fly their flags.  :)

I know this “what if?” is a little off the beaten path, but I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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October 16th, 2008 | Author:

… I want to thank John McCain (and perhaps wife Cindy) for leading the way and solving one of our problems. We’re planning to build a house in a very rural area, and we’re not sure how good the cell coverage will be. We’ve discussed satellite phones and all manner of alternate communication systems.

Now I learn that all we have to do is call Verizon and A T & T, and they’ll each bring a portable cell tower – for free! – and set it up for us to use. At least, that’s all the McCain’s had to do for their remote ranch in Arizona. If it worked for them, it should work for us, don’t you think?

Yeah, right …

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Category: abuse of power, leadership  | Comments off
October 16th, 2008 | Author:

In times of national distress, America looks for wise leadership. Unfortunately, in our day it’s very difficult to find. I’ve looked back at past leaders of our country, and discovered that it was not always this way. During a tumultuous time in our history, Senator James Harlan of Iowa introduced a resolution that was adopted the next day, and subsequently signed by the president. Oh, for humble Senators and Presidents like this today.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State


Special thanks to Abraham Lincoln Online.Org


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Category: leadership, prayer  | Comments off