What Can We Learn from 1860?

One of my friends read “Should We Talk About Secession,” an article just posted on the ‘net. He’s from the wild and wooly Montana-Idaho-Wyoming school of thought and commented, “I’ve been talking about it for two years.”

Woohoo…some of us have been talking about it since 1840.

I haven’t read the piece yet, not wanting to be influenced by another writer before I see what I have to say. Signature chuckle…well, how do I know what that is? I haven’t written it, yet.

That only sounds like an odd thing to say; it isn’t. That is how our minds work, you know: we dump information in the hopper, our brains process the data, and then we have to get the results out either through writing or speaking. “Thinking” is the act of imposing order on facts, of deducing connections, of correlating interlocking facets, of discerning order and patterns. Thinking is similar to using a washing machine: first you put in water, detergent, and dirty clothes. Close the lid and turn the machine on. Go away for a while. Sure enough, in general when you return the device has cleaned your clothing, but it isn’t anywhere near ready to wear. You have to get it out of the cavity and process items further by drying and then folding and putting away. Only then do you have fresh, clean jeans to wear.

What I think about secession basically is that it is a consummation devoutly to be wished, but a dangerous pursuit to advocate publicly. Janet Napolitano and the alphabet soup guys do not take kindly to the notion of freedom in any way, and for the precise reason that Abraham Lincoln did not. When asked why he didn’t just let the South go, Lincoln exploded in a rage, “Let the South go? LET THE SOUTH GO? How, then, should I fill my coffers?”

Documented historical fact. Look it up for yourselves. Winners write history and the North/Leftists have had nearly 160 years to spin their propaganda, but the fact is that the South was the wealthy portion of the country back then. Cotton was, indeed, king, the Feds had gotten themselves into monetary trouble, and bankruptcy was imminent! The back room Congressional brawls were over whether to declare the USA closed at the Mississippi and raise taxes, or to hit tariffs even harder to benefit their factories and shipping businesses, improving their bottom lines and increasing tax revenues. Greed and tariffs won. Hit the South for the enrichment of the North. Hit those who produced cane, corn, and cotton for the benefit of those who consumed and controlled shipping and rail transport and to increase federal control.

We are still disagreeing over the same issues, although the team names have changed. The War for Southern Independence (aka “The War of Northern Aggression” on our side and “The War of the Rebellion” on the other) was about financial matters and the proper role of government. The Southern states had been sold a bill of goods that they were going to get something similar to the original Articles of Confederation before the Constitution and still expected that. Th’ Yankees, for simple terminology, have mocked “States’ Rights” deliberately and consistently as a giant joke since who flung th’ chunk, but it isn’t and they know it quite well. It is a grave issue of utmost importance to those of us who wish to be responsible for our own behavior and neither beholden to any government anywhere nor raped for the benefit of those who outvote us.

The war was and is about freedom and money, what else? Slavery was a distraction, an attempt to pretty up the naked aggression of the North, long after the war was started by firing on Ft. Sumter, and Lincoln never freed a single slave. His famous proclamation applied only to slaves in territory he did not control; it certainly did not free slaves in the North. Yes, the Northerners had slaves, too, and Yankee ship captains were the ones who plied the slave trade. Not one Southern ship was ever a blackbirder.

Lincoln was looking for spin and a highly-emotional issue to cloak his behavior. He was a despicable man, the original Illinois super politician.

The South was in a manpower bind, with every free man already working, and was phasing out slavery as rapidly as possible, should this issue still disturb you. Slave labor is the most expensive, least effective solution to a problem, but until machinery was invented to pick cotton and process cane, the South had no other choice save not remaining in business.  Slaves have to be fed, housed, clothed, purchased, and provided with medical care, and then someone has to stand around constantly to get any sort of work at all out of them. Slavery is wildly uneconomical, and sharecropping isn’t much better in terms of Return On Investment. Southerners came from different portions of the British Empire; the North was settled by small shopkeepers and religious zealots, while the richer land and more hospitable climate of the South drew those who live on and in harmony with the land, particularly those from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

If you’re still dubious, here are some facts: 70% of all Southerners never owned a single slave. Slaves were very expensive; a prime field hand cost $2,000, making him at least a Maseratti. A trained ladies’ maid or butler was even more. Sure, you could abuse a slave because you owned him, but how many people would? Do you key your car and take a baseball bat to the windshield just because you can (so long as you do not file an insurance claim?) Normal people don’t. Free blacks who owned slaves were more likely to do so, historically. Yankee overseers weren’t always nice, either, abusing the workers occasionally in an attempt to exceed production quotos.  Even so, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was sheer, sentimental, sensationalist hogwash.

27% of those in the South never owned more than two slaves. Slaves were a luxury in a land where it was all but impossible to hire a maid or a farm hand.

Only 3% ever owned three or more slaves, and no, neither Gone with the Wind nor Mandingo were at all true to life. Yes, there were a very few stereotypical antebellum mansions, just as there are a very few of those who own ski lodges in Vail and summer places on Martha’s Vineyard, and buy ambassadorships and $540 Lanvin tennis shoes.

The BIG question is…why did the Southerners resist so fiercely? Would you go fight and die for Nancy Pelosi’s power when there is nothing in it for you? Would you fight to maintain Al Gore’s lifestyle? Would you go into battle to ensure that Michelle Obama can have ten thousand dollar purses? What stupid questions. Of course not.

The South fought for what it believed, which was that we were free and independent states entitled, in writing, to withdraw from the “union” whenever we wished, and to govern ourselves as we see fit. That we saw no reason to be impoverished for the benefit of shipbuilders, bankers, and politicians. That all we wanted was to be left in peace instead of being robbed and attacked. That Yankees are crazy and our totally different lifestyle is vastly superior…and we haven’t changed our minds.

Once again, the issue was and is redistribution of wealth and unbridled governmental control. I wrote recently about the enormous tariff Obama slapped on tire imports. 5,000 tire workers lost their jobs when several manufacturers of low-end tires could not compete with China, which holds about 15% of the market. Well, Statists can’t have that! 5,000 voters and union favor are clearly more important than affordable tires for most of us. The tariff was raised from 4.7% to nearly 40%, and the cheapest tire (not counting one of those ridiculous donuts) in WalMart went immediately from $49 to $125. Did this reopen the tire plants or create 5,000 jobs to replace those that could not compete in a faintly free market? No, of course not. It did not, and will not, create a single job. It did become another enormous tax on the American driving public. “Oddly” enough, only enormous tires for 18-wheelers are exempt, leading one to suppose that Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., still has a bit of influence.

A tariff IS a tax, a way of transferring wealth.  It targets the many for the wealth of a few. It is monopolistic in nature. By hobbling Chinese imports, American manufacturers are not obliged to practice competitive business policies. Their market is protected at the expense of the customer. Mind, I haven’t really any problem with monopolies, which are self-correcting in a free market. Goodyear (or whoever) couldn’t compete at the low end, and China snagged 15% of the market. If US manufacturers want the low-end market back, they need to produce better tires at the same prices or cheaper similar tires than China can.

My preliminary thoughts on secession, then, are that we should understand what we want and how we can get it. Do many really care whether or not Hawaii, for example, becomes a free nation again? Sure, some few Romantics do, but for all practical purposes Hawaii has belonged to Japanese Democrats most of my life. The Hawaiians of the blood royal have a very good point: the US wrested the throne from Queen Liliuokalani. Beats me why they want it back, but it sounds fair to me.

What we had better care about is whether or not the massive Federal government continues to grow unchecked and ever more rapacious and dictatorial. It makes me very nervous when new laws make it impossible for us to leave the country without proper documentation! Shades of the Berlin Wall. Canada and Mexico make no such demands; Washington D.C. does. Do you deal well with something called a “trusted traveler” document? I don’t. How about “no fly” lists that forbid you to get on an aircraft going anyplace? Not healthy, people. Not all Gulags are in northern Russia. A gulag is a state of mind and overwhelming force, not a matter of location.

RFID-chipping animals, machinery, clothing, and humans is to increase government surveillance, identification, and control. One problem in Iraq and Afghanistan, as it was in Viet Nam, is that the “insurgents” blend into the rest of the population. Be very wary of the national “driver’s license” which functions as an identifying document and must be carried on your person. Eye askance the “traffic cameras” which are springing up, for they are meant to track vehicles, read those drivers’ licenses, and allow your every move to be monitored.

Big Brother watches us more every day, controls more of our lives, and is backing us into corners where we can neither flee nor supply our own needs through our own efforts. The Food “Safety” Bill will make it illegal to use any save genetically-modified seeds from Monsanto (dangerous and do not propagate from what you grow), allow the government to know where every head of cattle and chicken is, and make it possible to locate every bite of food so that it can be confiscated at federal whim. It turns possessing raw milk out of your goat and the chicken you killed for dinner into crimes.

Taxing us at rates over fifty percent is unacceptable, but controlling the food supply is intolerable. Gun confiscation became far closer by a proposed “simple” tax of $50/year on each gun, something that need not even be voted on by Congress, since it is presented as “an IRS issue.” In order to take our guns, first they have to know where they are. As the founding father said, “Fear the government that fears your guns.”

Fear the government that has changed from the most basic of “thou shalt nots” to incessant meddling with every aspect of our lives, and holds that we are cows to be stripped for personal gain and to buy votes. King John is back on the throne, and in this version he does not have a brother named Richard, off fighting in the Holy Land. Robin Hood is a crony of the Sheriff of Nottingham. A successful secessionist movement that established a smaller truly independent nation with time to undo the harm of the past would be a start…but would Washington let the people go? I don’t think so.

Linda Brady Traynham

November 17, 2009

The Daily Reckoning