What if there are really only 49 states after all?

Consider that one of our 50 states may be an illegitimate child, and could (although likely inconceivably) be forced to move back home. One of President Trump’s SCOTUS candidates. Judge Amy Barret, thinks that West Virginia is unconstitutional and it is something I never considered until this point. It’s a fascinating want if…

First of all statehood during a Civil War could be questionable, as Congress votes to grant statehood and nearly half the states were at war with the rest. So even a partial Co cress granting a state is already contest worthy.

Secondly, Article Four, Section Three of the Constitution explicitly states that a new state cannot be formed *within the jurisdiction* of an existing state, unless the state legislature agrees to such action. As Virginia had seceded, was it still subject to the Constitutional requirement?

After seeding, a second “reorganized” state government of Virginia was created, then recognized by Lincoln, and the state voted to allow the northwest counties to go their own way, forming West Virginia. Congress then gave their stamp of approval with the caveat that all black males over 21 years old be declared free males.

But the question lingered and Virginia, after the war, sued to re absorb those wayward counties. A very Lincoln friendly Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that West Virginia is legitimate.

The matter may not be settled. The Supreme Court from time to time reverses itself. Should Judge Amy Barret be confirmed on the Supreme Court, and Virginia sues to reclaim their lost counties, the matter could end up before the Supremes. How would the other justices rule? We have no idea. But consider one of the most damning pieces of evidence Virginia could use are writings of Lincoln, who constantly held that the southern states had not seceded, but instead were akin to runaway children. That makes his recognition of a different Virginia state legislature as illegitimate (#fakeassembly?), giving merit to Virginia’s original lawsuit.

I wouldn’t hold your breath, but it sure is an intriguing Constitutional exercise. And one that would effect my birth certificate, having been born in Wheeling, (West?) Virginia.

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A lot of White House wind: Canadians, the President’s House and a blustery tale.

The President this week made an inflammatory statement to Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau in a phone conversation regarding trade between the two nations, citing a retaliatory reason as “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?”  The reference is from 1814 when the British stormed (foreshadowing, as we shall see) Washington in revenge for America attacking and burning govermental buildings in York, Ontario, Canada earlier in the War of 1812.

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The burning of the White House has popular legend to it, as Dolly Madison famously grabbed the Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington and threw it in the back of a wagon as they sped out of town as the British came upon the White House grounds.  The Smithsonian Magazine has a fascinating long-form essay on the days surrounding this from the First Lady’s point of view.

When the British entered the Executive Mansion (as it was called in its day), they found the table set for a dinner party.  What happened next reads right from President Trump’s narrative for impudent, boorish behavior, with the actions by the British right out of Reality TV stuff.   Consider the memory of a British officer who was part of the partaking:

“When the detachment, sent out to destroy Mr. Madison’s house, entered his dining parlor, they found a dinner-table spread, and covers laid for forty guests… They sat down to it, therefore, not indeed in the more orderly manner, but with countenances which would not have disgraced a party of aldermen at a civic feast; and having satisfied their appetites with fewer complaints than would have probably escaped their rival gourmands, and partaken pretty freely of the wines, they finished by setting fire to the house which had so liberally entertained them.” – George Robert Gleig, 1814

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What burned that day were more than the White House, as first the Capitol had been torched, and after the White House the Treasury Building, The War Department and the Navy Yard were all set afire.

But of these fires, the decision to torch the symbols of democratic America was determined… by a vote of His Majesty’s loyal subjects (although officers).  British General Cockburn (yes, let that name sink in), led the vote in Congress as it were, “Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned? All for it will say ‘Aye.’”

The terror of the citizenry that day was exacerbated by an Executive Decision made by President Madison in his capacity as Commander in Chief.  After leading his troops out of DC (one has a hard time imagining a modern president actually commanding troops), he ordered the destruction of the one bridge crossing the Potomac.  The people of DC were trapped in town with the incendiary British.

But what happened the next day after that tragic August day could be seen as fate or a Shakespearean tragedy… maybe both.  White most of these iconic buildings are framed in stone, their utter destruction by the fires would have been certain had mother nature not intervened.  A tremendous storm literally shook before a day could pass, the deluge dousing the remnants of the flames the British set.  But this was no ordinary summer storm, as a today viewing the record of the witnesses it is believe it was a tornado that tore through town, doing far greater damage to homes that were spared the torch.

“Of the prodigious force of the wind it is impossible for you to form any conception… The darkness was as great as if the sun had long set and the last remains of twilight had come on, occasionally relieved by flashes of vivid lightning streaming through it; which, together with the noise of the wind and the thunder, the crash of falling buildings, and the tearing of roofs as they were stript from the walls, produced the most appalling effect I ever have, and probably ever shall, witness. This lasted for nearly two hours without intermission, during which time many of the houses spared by us were blown down and thirty of our men, besides several of the inhabitants, buried beneath their ruins. Our column was as completely dispersed as if it had received a total defeat, some of the men flying for shelter behind walls and buildings and others falling flat upon the ground to prevent themselves from being carried away by the tempest.” – George Robert Gleig, 1814

But it’s what happens next that has a very different ending than where America is today in 2018. The British withdraw from Washington, in the face of thousands of American reinforcements angling for a counter-attack on the city.  They move on instead to Baltimore, and famously fail to take Ft. McHenry and ultimately abandon attempts to capture that city.  An Anthem is born from it. The war will end without a real victor, with one more legendary battle happening at New Orleans after the fact (news of the peace treaty traveled too slow), where Andrew Jackson will reap glory with a rag-tag bunch of soldiers in combat that, according to his official report, saw 2,100 British fall within a span of a half hour and only 13 Americans fell.  Jackson will ride this into the Presidency in 1828, after failing to win the Electoral College in 1824 despite winning the popular vote.

While the War of 1812 ended with no clear cut international victor, the real winner may have been the American people, who rallied together in outrage that the British had burned the nation’s capital. The new sense of patriotism created a brief era of unity,

“…[t]he war has renewed and reinstated the national feelings and characters which the Revolution had given. The people . . . are more American; they feel and act more as a nation.” – Albert Gallatin, former Secretary of the Treasury and Ghent Treaty participant

President Trump finished the week ruffling the feathers of the Canadians and other allies at the G7 summit in Canada, and it appears that no American unity is anywhere on the horizon.  The storm of American politics rages on.

J. 

The FIRST Witch Hunt was the worst one…

Ah, the President of the United States does love to mangle American History.  This morning he set to his favorite Historical Misappropriation Delivery Tool… Twitter and said:

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Well, actually… no.  The single greatest Witch Hunt in American political history was the one that actually gave you the name with which you use: witch hunt!  Now whether his is the second or 200th can be debated, but not the “single greatest”.  Continue reading

The Original #fakenews was Born on Today in 1770

In 2017 #fakenews does not really mean the news is false, but is now broadly interpreted as being “made up” to fit a narrative. The current President likes to hammer on CNN and the New York Times as “fake news” but nothing in what they report is false.  To the partisan eye it may be intentionally misleading, but it is not fake.

That said it was on this day in 1770 that #fakenews may have been born. The setting: a group of protesters become increasingly angry at government presence. Tempers flare and violence ensues.  When the smoke clears 5 lay dead and seven are wounded.  Those are the facts that could be readily agreed upon by all — but it is not how it will be presented to America. Continue reading

Robert E Lee, MLK and Southern Heritage

Making rounds of the internet this week was a Biloxi, Mississippi city government posting that referenced that Martin Luther King Day also being known officially as Great Americans Day, which was started in 1985 by the city. Turns out Robert E. Lee was born the same week (albeit a century earlier) as MLK.  Biloxi likely started this in response to President Reagan signing the law in 1983 that the holiday would become federally recognized in 1986.  So it gives this damned Yankee an opportunity to dig into the hero worship of the great Virginian general of the Civil War and examine his place in Southern Heritage.

Robert E. Lee’s success on the battlefield was unparalleled. In reality he only lost two twice as a commander, one at Gettysburg and a final time where he surrendered his troops at Appomattox Courthouse in what is wrongly attributed as the end of the Civil War (it would continue elsewhere in the south for six more weeks or so).   Celebration as a great General, even though many of these were waged against the United States, I suppose is due. But throughout the land there are not nearly as many George Patton statues nor street names. Continue reading

How Christmas evolved in America

Regardless of your spirituality, Christmas in America has grown into a cultural holiday that embodies the best of America, giving you the choice of how much religion you partake with the occasion.  It’s hard to support the belief that some news channels and a handful of people have that there is a “war on Christmas” as it dominates the landscape for two months, if not more.

275px-puritanchristmasbanThe real war on Christmas was waged before America was its own nation, as Puritan America wanted nothing to do with it.  There is disagreement among scholars as to the exact birthdate of Jesus, as the Bible is silent on the special day. Puritans went so far as to outlaw Christmas and invoke fines for those who partook in the occasion. Continue reading

Should the Electoral College by tossed?

For the second time in five presidential elections, the Electoral College winner was not the winner of the popular vote.  As Democrats have twice been on the losing side of these two elections, many on the left are calling for the termination of the Electoral College. Indeed, when your side loses the call to change goes out. President-Elect Trump after the 2012 election

Of course when you win, you feel differently:

Partisanship aside, is the Electoral College the right method for electing a president?

Continue reading