Tag Archives: American history

Hidden History of the Confederacy Reveals Some Good Advice

mikewithdogs Guest Editorial by Mike Duminiak

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    In the simplification of history in order to spoon feed it to children in public schools, we often lose sight of many important lessons. In public schools children are taught that Lincoln fought the Civil War to free the ConfederateStatesofAmericaSealslaves and that the Confederacy was nothing more than about slavery. So ingrained in this view in generations of Americans that knowledge about the Confederate government is almost entirely absent.

By design or simply by consequence, we fail to learn any lessons for our own government. The convention in 1861 to revise the U.S. Constitution for adoption as the Constitution for the Confederacy is the only time in our history when a concerted effort was made to review the entire Constitution. The ambiguous sections that serve as the gray area in which the federal courts set and then later break precedent were clarified. Problems that were unforeseen in 1787 were addressed. Problems that hadn’t even happened yet, but were realized to be possible were proactively addressed.

Nearly 150 years later, most of these lessons have been forgotten. In that same span of time we have seen issues addressed by that convention become modern political battle grounds. It makes sense to look beyond placemat history and consider the modifications made at that historic convention; the only time aside from 1787 when representatives of the States met to thoroughly review and debate all parts of the Constitution.

In a move that predates the 14th Amendment, the Confederates changed the voting rights to be uniform across the entire Confederacy and not subject to individual State requirements. This is an unexpected change from aConfederate_States_Map government supposedly focused solely on State’s Rights and demonstrates that while State’s Rights was a key view of the Confederates, they also understood that in any federal governmental structure, the people should have equal rights regardless of the State in which they live. This matter already having been addressed in the U.S. Constitution after the war, I do not cite it as a proposed point to consider for revision but as demonstrative of the kind of forward thinking of the Confederate Constitutional Convention.

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

Two major additions to the Confederate Constitution should be especially noted. First was the prohibition of Congress to appropriate any money unless requested to do so by the President in a budget request, to pay for their own expenses (staff, travel, etc.), or to pay verified claims against the government. The Congress therefore could not create a new program or earmark funds. It could only approve or deny budget requests from the executive departments relayed by the President. Second, the Congress was prohibited from authorizing any money beyond the budgeted amount. If a project cost more than budgeted, additional money could not be allocated to it without having to receive another new budget request to be passed as a new bill. Such changes in our Constitution would radically restrain our Congress and bring our spending under control.

Another change of interest made in the Confederate Constitution was that federal judges and other officers whose authority was exercised entirely within a single State were subject to impeachment by a 2/3 majority of the legislature of that State. This measure allowed the States to redress corruption of federal officers acting within their borders in cases where the federal government failed to act. As most federal offices are filled by political patronage, this provision sought to curb abuses of that system.

Also ahead of their time, they provided that any Cabinet Secretary or similar officer could be granted a seat in either house of Congress for the purpose of discussing issues relative to that executive department. The Congress today uses hearings and subpoenas to compel the executive branch to answer questions of the legislative branch. In a far more civil manner, the Confederate Constitution provides for this.

The line item veto was provided to the President of the Confederacy. This issue has been raised by Democrat and Republican Presidents alike, but a jealous Congress that runs off trading votes for pork always fails to pass a Constitutional amendment to provide it. The line item veto would allow a President to keep what is good in a bill and veto all the pork. It certainly still deserves to be considered.

An interesting provision in the Confederate Constitution that presaged the shift towards free trade is the provision that prohibits the government from laying any protective tariffs. As trade issues are still hot political topics, this view adds a new dimension. Rather than be purely for free trade, the Confederate government sought only to prevent protectionism. Trade restrictions or tariffs for other reasons were kept as both an ConfederateCvseconomic and a diplomatic recourse.

A major change in the power of the government was a prohibition on using federal government funds to develop infrastructure. The Confederates believed both in private railroads and turnpikes as well as State funded projects, but opposed federally funded ones as they used money from all people to benefit only the section served by the improvement. Our government used the commerce clause to justify the building of interstate highways. Hawaii and Alaska, being unable to be connected to other States complained that they were taxed for a highway system they could not use and so the government expanded its authority of interstate commerce and built highways that are entirely intrastate. The legal separation between intrastate and interstate commerce is now gone and the federal government exercises powers far beyond its Constitutional limits.

In an interesting clarification of the commerce clause, the Confederates allowed for the Congress to place tariffs (taxes) on goods imported or exported from one State to another (interstate commerce) if 2/3 of both houses of Congress concurred.

Lastly and as important as the first two changes I mentioned in this section is the Confederate Constitutional requirement that every bill have only one subject which had to be expressed in the title. This eliminated the “and for other purposes” practice that allowed bad bills to be amended into good ones so that they would pass. Such a change has been sought in our Constitution for years, but career politicians always thwart efforts to implement it so as not to lose their power.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

The Confederate President was limited to a single term of six years. This allowed the President to have sufficient time to implement a multi-year plan, removed politics from the office of the Presidency by eliminating the need to pander in order to gain re-election and prevented any person from building a ‘lifetime Presidency’ as FDR had done. Our Constitution was amended after FDR to limit the time a person could serve as President, but there is some merit to the Confederate model of a single six year term.

The President was also Constitutionally empowered to fire any civil servant. This exact issue was the source of the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and a source of political scandal as recently as George W. Bush when several members of the Justice Department were fired. The only requirement placed on the Confederate President in this area is that such firings be reported to the Senate and the reasons for the removal be presented.

Finally, the President is prohibited from appointing a person rejected by the Senate to a fill a position during a subsequent Senate recess. This issue arose most recently when John Bolton was put forward for U.N. Ambassador and rejected by the Senate, but was then appointed to the position by President George W. Bush during a Senate recess when confirmation is not required.

AMENDMENTS

The Confederate Constitution’s amendment process was changed. It completely removed the Congress from the process and left the matter entirely to a convention called by at least three States. Proposed amendments would then be effective if ratified by 2/3 of the States (rather than the original 3/4). This change serves two purposes. First, it prevents entrenched politicians in Congress from blocking amendments that would limit their power. Second, it makes the amendment process a bit easier so that the argument to ‘re-interpret’ the Constitution would be lessened in favor of actually amending the document to address potentially needed changes.

CONCLUSION

There are many other changes in the Confederate Constitution. Most are insignificant and the others deal with issues that are no longer applicable to today, such as slavery. However the changes that have been cited deserve to be reviewed and debated in the present. Many of the challenges we face with our own government could be addressed by the application of some or all of these revisions as modern day Constitutional amendments.

Many of the greatest minds of the 19th century, those who directly inherited the government created and tested by the Framers and who knew them, were present at the 1861 Confederate Constitutional Convention. Their wisdom and the decisions they made should not be carelessly discarded. They should be reviewed as potential starting places for fixing problems in our Constitution that have plagued us for over 200 years such as deficit spending, piggy-backing bad bills onto necessary ones, pork-barrel projects, corporate welfare, federal corruption and general partisanship.

Every cloud has a silver lining or so the saying goes. Out of the ashes of the Confederacy with its doomed adherence to slavery, there is some value. Many of the revisions they made when given the opportunity to hold a second Constitutional Convention are as relevant to us today as they were to them 150 years ago. The time has come to polish the tarnish off that silver lining and use it to improve our own government so that it fulfills the promise of being a government of the people, by the people and for the people that millions have died to secure.

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*Editors Note: Those without intellectual integrity will try to describe this post as an account of pro-Confederacy propaganda. They will try to explain that it promotes the racist past of slavery that led to our nation’s bloodiest war. Before any reader tries to extrapolate such a lie from the facts pointed out here, I want it to be clear that neither myself or the guest blogger, Michael Duminiak, deny the fact that slavery and racism are and were despicable human practices. Nor do we deny their ugly role in the history of our nation. However this post is not based on second grade, bullet point teachings of history. It does not make some claim that we know George Washington chopped down a cherry tree because he could not tell a lie. It does not deal with simple historical storytelling . It analyzes some of the lessons which can be found in the factual details of our history. Especially parts of history which are often ignored and usually lost on those who try to rewrite it and others who allow themselves to be spoon-fed the conclusions articulated by some in brief summaries. For instance, the issue of slavery is often considered the sole reason behind the creation of the Confederate States and the Civil War. However, the issue of slavery was one part of a broader issue, the blatant disregard for the tenth amendment. It is also worth noting that only 6% of the Southern population owned slaves.So as one reads this account, it is important to remember that what is being dealt with here is not simply popular perceptions. What is being dealt with here is akin to an archaeological dig. Mike Duminiak delves beneath surface of history and uncovers what most do not even examine. The opinions and conclusions presented in this post are based on actual events which have been unaltered and are often overlooked and cannot in any way construed as policies or sentiments that defend slavery or promote racism. Any attempts to do so would be juvenile, insincere and wrong.
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235 YEARS LATER AND ALL THAT THE TEA PARTY WAS ABOUT IS FORGOTTEN

antbostonteaparty6f165December 16th, marks the 235th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.

As many of us struggle to make the most of the holiday season, this major event in the history of the creation of our nation will go unnoticed.
Trying to cope with the troubling economy makes it harder to afford the newest wii or xbox for our children before Christmas day rolls around. While we cope with it, we will not be thinking about the individuals who, 235 years ago, were more preoccupied with their rights than their Christmas gifts.
Yet, in the spirit of the holidays we should take at least a moment to reflect.

Not only should we reflect on what we have and be grateful for it but we should also take a moment to reflect on those who came before us and whose plight made life better for us . Those who helped to define our nation and shape it’s future.

235 years ago the residents of the American colonies had enough. They could no longer quietly tolerate the oppression of a ruling authority that dictated too much. They were tired of the majesty’s demands upon them and it all came to a head in Boston when the cry of “taxation without representation” resulted in a tea party that was anything but sedate or civil.

Back then, American colonists were developing a sense of independence that wanted government out of their lives. They wanted to make their own wages without a ruling authority limiting how much of  it they could earn. They wanted the right to have a say in the way their territory was run.

This spirit led to the Declaration of Independence and eventually it led to the birth of what the world would came to know as the freest, most innovative and powerful nation in the universe.

Today, we still hold that impressive title but many of us see it being lost.

That greatness is a bi-product of freedom. A freedom that has allowed individuals to flourish well beyond the limited framework that any one established authority could set it’s people on. The diversity of thinking, and goals has created the greatest pool of ideas known to man. antteaparty4

Our freedom and individuality has been the key to our greatness but unlike the people of colonial America, today, Americans are giving up their freedom and relinquishing their individuality to a controlling authority that they want to give greater control to.

Instead of demanding “no taxation without representation” we are accepting of the practice.

If you live in New Jersey but work in New York, in addition to a litany of federal taxes and state taxes, you have to pay a commuter tax. Does paying that tax give New Jerseyans the chance to vote for leaders and representatives in New York? Heck no! But without any representation for them in New York, they are forced to pay taxes to New York.

This scenario is not limited to New York. It exists almost everywhere in the nation but that does not make it right. It is simply an indication of the spirit that has been lost since days of old.

Further indication of this is made in other areas of government.

Instead of that sense of responsibility that the colonists had, today we look towards government for everything. Where the colonists wanted less of the majesty’s governance, we want more of the federal bureaucracy’s governance.

Have a business that isn’t successful? Let the government bail you out.

Want to start a business? Let the government give you a grant to do it.

Lost money on a business deal or investment? Let the government give you the money back.

Let the government do everything and pay for everything, right?

Wrong!

The money the government gives you is not theirs to give away.  It is  your money, it is our money. It is the tax dollars we let them take from us and the more we refuse to do for ourselves, the more money they take from us.

Economically, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing but in reality it is anything but a good deal.

When the bureaucracy of government does something, they do so in a way that costs much more than any individual or private sector institution can. So by letting the government do more, is allowing more money to be wasted. If you needed a hammer would you buy one for 8 bucks at Home Depot yourself or would you buy the same one from the Pentagon for 108 dollars?

The government needs to get out of our business and Americans need to recapture the independent spirit that founded this country and made us the great nation that we are.

We need to start doing for ourselves what we have come to expect government to do for us. Our reliance on a controlling authority has taken control of our lives away from us. That reliance has created a dependency that has led to the growth of government and that growth has created the need for more money. Money that is raised by increasing the taxes that the people have to pay.

The Boston Tea Party may not have been a cozy afternoon antboston-tea-party5gathering but it was a good thing. It signaled our deep rooted yearning for our God given freedom and believe it or not, freedom is still a good thing.

235 years later Americans are far removed from that fact. Instead of demanding less government and more personal freedom, we ask for more government and more government action. Instead of protesting excessive taxation we just held an election that endorsed more taxes and “spreading the wealth around”.

Maybe we will have to lose some of our freedom in order to realize what all the hullabaloo in Boston was about.

Slowly we already have lost some of our freedoms but apparently not enough. Not enough to select candidates who want to limit government. Not enough to force representatives to stop trying to solve problems by restricting our freedoms and creating more problems.

Just how much freedom we must lose before we begin to miss it, is quite important.

That freedom made us the great power and people that we are and the more of it that we lose, the further from greatness we shall fall.

So today, before charging the spouses gift on that past due credit card, take a moment and reflect on the participants of the Boston Tea Party. A bunch of colonists who saw more value in their freedom than any Christmas gift. A group of soon to be Americans whose desires for a better life led them to renounce the authority of a government for the sake of their freedom and the eventual freedom that we have come to take for granted and whittle away.

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A man took a trip out West after a harrowing IRS audit. He stopped in a bar, and after a few drinks, stated to no one in particular, “IRS agents are horses’ asses.”

One of the locals spoke up on hearing this: “Mister, you’d better watch what you say. You’re in horse country.”

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