Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It was requested by someone very dear to me (cough "Xinxin" cough) that I restart my blog.  So here it is, back and better (maybe) than ever.  Hopefully someone somewhere will follow this stream of unconsciousness.

I have been reading a biography of James Monroe for the last bit and thinking how much history repeats itself.  By the way, Monroe was not Marilyn's brother, as someone said (cough "Xinxin" cough).  He was the 5th president of the United States.  Maybe one of the least known, except that lots of people might think he was related to Marilyn.  No, instead he was the last of the Virginia Quartet: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe.  Now there was a brain trust.  Where are these guys now that we really need them.  Dead, of course. But their legacy, both good and bad, is still with us.  First, the bad parts everyone wants to blame them for, namely slavery.  What most people don't know, or wish not to know, is that slavery was quite common in the northern states.  Our friend Ben Franklin was said to own three slaves, and there is archaeological evidence right in downtown Philadelphia that many of our Founding Fathers brought their slaves with them even while writing "All Men are Created Equal."  But that's another story for another day.  The fact is that our republic was born on two opposite sides of a political coin.  On one side was the agricultural south, dependent on trade with Europe.  On the other side was the manufacturing north, much more self dependent than their cousins to the south.  Thus, you had Jefferson and Madison thinking of a nation of states with their own set of laws and relatively free of a strong central government.  On the other side, essentially controlled by Alexander Hamilton (if you don't know who he is take a look at your $10 bill), were the Federals who wished for a strong central government ruled over by a monarch-like president.  The Federal(ists) linger to this day, and in fact our government has it's stamp on every facet of our lives.  The Federalists of the late 1700s to about 1820 faded from the scene, but their concept/view of a domineering government was reborn when the Civil War erupted.  The Southern states demanded their rights as originally conceived in the Constitution.  Lincoln and the north did not see it that way, and our nation and the federal government was changed forever.  The intent of the Founders, particularly Jefferson and Madison, was a federal government with only those powers specified in the Constitution.  If it was not written in the Constitution then the states had that power.  But the Federalists saw it differently, thus the federal government obtained implied powers.  As soon as the Constitution was dry the Founders found ways to circumvent the stated powers, and again it continues to this day.  As an example just think about what happens when you go to the airport.  The 4th Amendment says, to paraphrase, no unreasonable search and seizure.  The intent was that you are innocent until there is proven guilt.  But when you enter the airport, in the name of safety, EVERYONE IS GUILTY AND SURRENDERS THEIR 4TH AMENDMENT RIGHTS.  As Franklin said, and he was paraphrasing someone else whose name escapes me, "A nation that surrenders it's rights in the name of safety deserves neither."  But we all roll over in the name of safety.  So, by the time Monroe became president in 1817 the Constitution was just a piece of paper that was ignored according to which way the wind was blowing.  Thus, when General Andrew Jackson felt like invading a foreign nation for reasons of national security (did they have weapons of mass destruction?), mostly on a whim, he did so without any ramification.  Oh, in case you don't know, the foreign nation he invaded was Spain.  Yes, it's true.  The Spanish territory he invaded and pretty much stole was what we now call...ready for this...Florida.  Yep, Florida.  Was he recalled or punished for this provocative action?  No.  Somehow he was deemed a hero and the federal government used the implied powers as a shield.  Hmm.  So does history repeat itself?  In the words of Sarah Palin "You betcha!"