Frank Zappa played in New York on Halloween for years, and I went every year. It's therefore particularly appropriate that I wish you Happy Halloween with "Goblin Girl."
Booknotes: A More Civil War
1 day ago
In 1811 [the new British Minister to the United States Augustus John] Foster was thirty-three. He was handsome, self-assured, and so confident of his superior breeding that he felt able to ignore American crudities and insults. Foster's diary and letters are full of contemptuous comments - he was particularly amused when an uncouth congressman urinated in his fireplace and when other legislators, confusing caviar for jam, had to spit out their overly large mouthfuls.
Taking a stand as “the big cheese” in Washington, DC, this sculpture of the 16th President of the United States was made from a 1,000-pound block of mild Cheddar cheese by sculptor Troy Landwehr. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Bridge.
"The Lord the Mighty Lord must come to our Assistance, or I fear we are undone as a nation." Thus wailed a Republican leader [identified in a footnote as Nathaniel Macon], not merely a carping Federalist, at the end of February, 1809. But Jehovah did not deign to aid his chosen people. Instead, He sent James Madison as his vice-gerent, and the new President was no Moses. Madison never pointed out any route to a promised land of peace and plenty, and for more than two years the United States wallowed in purposeless humiliation.
[Jefferson's] most ambitious venture in foreign policy had failed, save only in perhaps delaying the outbreak of war with England - and that, until a less favorable time. The Embargo imposed many of the disadvantages of war on the nation by destroying trade; it secured none of the prospective advantages, such as the conquest of territory or the capture of enemy ships and commerce at sea. Diplomatically, Jefferson failed either to coerce or seduce the European belligerents. Economically, the Embargo proved ruinous at home. Politically, it encouraged fissiparous tendencies in Republicanism and temporarily reinvigorated the most unpleasant forms of Federalism. If Jefferson had acted strongly at the opening of his last Congress [in December 1807], he might have achieved an acceptable substitute for the Embargo. By his inertia he was negatively responsible for its continuation until February, 1809, and for the disgraceful scenes of humiliation and panic which sullied America's reputation for years.
In this satirical  cartoon, "Intercourse or Impartial Dealings," President Jefferson is depicted as being held up for money by Napoleon and King George. Critics of Jefferson believed that he had paid too much for Louisiana and was prepared to pay too much for the Floridas. This cartoon also satirizes the failure of Jefferson's use of the embargo and restrictions on trade as a curb on French and British depredations of American shipping.
If the Embargo was considered as a prelude to war, a precaution, or shock treatment of European psyches – Jefferson talked of all these – occasional violations did not much matter. In any event all risk would be borne by the transgressing shipowner [whose vessel might be seized by the British or French]. As the coercive emphasis [i.e., the rationale that the embargo was intended to coerce the British and the French into respecting American rights] increased in the spring of 1808, becoming the only possible excuse for the continuation of a policy that had demonstrably failed in its other aims, airtight enforcement of the Embargo assumed new importance. The President devoted most of the energies of his last year in office to this task.
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In the summer of 1808, after gathering much information during a visit to New York, [Secretary of the Treasury Albert] Gallatin wrote to the President that “if the embargo must be persisted in any longer,” new legislation must be passed to “invest the Executive with the most arbitrary powers & sufficient force” to execute them. He suggested that not a single vessel be permitted to move without presidential approval, that collectors be permitted to seize goods “any where” and to remove rudders and rigging from any suspected vessels, and that “a little army” be collected along the Canadian frontier.
With those difficulties we must struggle as well as we can this summer; but I am perfectly satisfied that if the embargo must be persisted in any longer, two principles must necessarily be adopted in order to make it sufficient: 1st, that not a single vessel shall be permitted to move without the special permission of the Executive; 2d, that the collectors be invested with the general power of seizing property anywhere, and taking the rudders or otherwise effectually preventing the departure of any vessel in harbor, though ostensibly intended to remain there; and that without being liable to personal suits. I am sensible that such arbitrary powers are equally dangerous and odious. But a restrictive measure of the nature of the embargo applied to a nation under such circumstances as the United States cannot be enforced without the assistance of means as strong as the measure itself. To that legal authority to prevent, seize, and detain must be added a sufficient physical force to carry it into effect; and although I believe that in our seaports little difficulty would be encountered, we must have a little army along the Lakes and British lines generally.
These suggestions, perhaps designed as much to shock the President into a reconsideration of his policy as to make the Embargo effective, did not shake the Chief Executive, who replied [in a letter dated August 11, 1808], “I am satisfied with you that if the orders & decrees are not repealed, & a continuance of the embargo is preferred to war (which sentiment is universal here), Congress must legalize all means which may be necessary to obtain it's [sic] end.”
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
The communications now made, showing the great and increasing dangers with which our vessels, our seamen, and merchandise, are threatened on the high seas and elsewhere, from the belligerent Powers of Europe, and it being of the greatest importance to keep in safety these essential resources, I deem it my duty to recommend the subject to the consideration of Congress, who will doubtless perceive all the advantages which may be expected from an inhibition of the departure of our vessels from the ports of the United States.
Their wisdom will also see the necessity of making every preparation for whatever events may grow out of the present crisis.
The act was scarcely more than a sketch of a policy. . . . Jefferson had secured his object, had pressured the Congress into passage of the act without revealing his own motives. But if he should fail either to advance to war or to secure British – and French – relaxation of the assault upon American commerce, the President's magnificent feat of legislative dexterity would turn to ashes in his mouth.
Perhaps a half-felt sense of inadequacy caused Jefferson to order that no mention of his presidency be chiseled into the stone that marks his grave.
In 1805 Jefferson had passed the age of sixty, a fact of more than ordinary significance since the story of his life is in part the story of a gradual shedding of youthful enthusiasms.
The end of the Cold War has produced many such numbing silences. The speed with which the Soviet empire imploded and the economic ruin and popular revulsion that were revealed have made it clear that baby boomer intellectuals and journalists, viewing the world through the distorted lens of Vietnam, overwhelmingly got it wrong. Peasants ate less and were slaughtered more on the other side of the Iron Curtain; the jails were fuller; the KGB's list was a lot longer and a lot deadlier than Joe McCarthy's. A team of French historians calculated the worldwide death toll of communism during the 20th century at more than 93 million. When Hoover Institution historian Robert Conquest used newly available data from the Soviet Union to update The Great Terror, his account of Stalin's murderous purges of the 1930s, his publishers asked for a new title. "How about I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?" Conquest suggested.
Columbia's Eric Foner, a past president of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, staking his bid as founder of what might be called the Smiley-Face School of History, denounces "the obsessive need to fill in the blank pages in the history of the Soviet era." He wasn't talking about pesky American historians using the Freedom of Information Act to ferret out new horror stories about J. Edgar Hoover but about a Moscow exhibition on the Soviet gulag. What possible good could come of learning the details of that?
During the second session of the Thirty-fourth Congress [the session that began in December 1856], southerners pushed a bill through both houses that allowed a representative of the United States government to travel abroad and assess the European consumption of cotton. For this exploration Franklin Pierce chose John Claiborne, a Mississippi states' rights leader and later biographer of the fiery John A. Quitman. Claiborne returned in early 1857, cutting short his visit, and presented his findings. The report substantiated the southern belief that England's economy depended upon cotton, and Claiborne further hypothesized that if the cotton supply should ever be “cut off,” the event “would be followed by social, commercial, and political revulsions, the effects of which can scarcely be imagined.”
In trying to implement his policy [of supporting the right of neutrals like the United States to carry goods], he [Jefferson] ended up completely stopping the flow of all American overseas trade and at the same time repressing his fellow citizens to a degree rarely duplicated in the entire history of the United States. Jefferson's extraordinary efforts to defend the rights of neutrals to trade freely drove the country into a deep depression and severely damaged his presidency. He ended up violating much of what he and his party stood for.
During the Revolutionary era Hamilton had shed his youthful religious inclinations and had become a conventional liberal with deistic inclinations who was an irregular churchgoer at best. People even told stories about his joking references to religion. During the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 [Benjamin] Franklin proposed to call in a minister each day to lead the delegates in prayers "to the Creator of the universe" in order to calm the rancor of the debates. Hamilton is supposed to have replied that the Convention did not need any "foreign aid." When Hamilton was later asked why the members of the Convention had not recognized God in the Constitution, he allegedly replied, "We forgot."
Before the war, it was said "the United States are." Grammatically, it was spoken that way and thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the war, it was always "the United States is," as we say today without being self-conscious at all. And that sums up what the war accomplished. It made us an "is."
Before 1861 the two words "United States" were rendered as a plural noun: "the United States are a republic." The war marked a transition of the United States to a singular noun.
This survey examines use of the phrases “United States is” and “United States are” in opinions of the United States Supreme Court from 1790 to 1919. The familiar claim, popularized by Shelby Foote in the Ken Burns Civil War documentary, is that the Civil War marked a shift in usage from plural to singular. This survey demonstrates that in the Supreme Court this account of the timing of the change is not accurate. Although patterns of usage changed abruptly in the 1860s, justices continued to use the plural form through the end of the nineteenth century. Indeed, the plural usage was the predominant usage in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. Only in the beginning of the twentieth century did the singular usage achieve preeminence and the plural usage disappear almost entirely.
This survey demonstrates that the plural usage of “United States” did not fall into disuse on the Supreme Court until more than a generation after the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse. Whatever innumerable and profound changes the Civil War worked on the United States, it did not, grammatically speaking, make us an “is.”
Randolph had denounced the Yazoo scandals in January 1805; he quarreled with Jefferson and Madison over the Florida scheme in December of that year [the so-called Two Million Dollar Act, passed in February 1806, the funds of which were intended to be used to purchase the Floridas from Spain]. On March 6, 1806, he spoke against [Andrew] Gregg's Resolution, which was intended to cut off commerce with Britain – here siding with the Federalists, though not joining them. By August 15, his alienation from Jefferson was complete; and he formed the faction of the Tertium Quids, which little band of Southerners he led most of the rest of his life.
The Judges were unanimously of Opinion, that, as by the Constitution of the United States, the individual states are prohibited from making laws which shall impair the Obligation of Contracts, and the resolution in question, if operative would impair the Obligation of the Contract in Question, therefore it could not be admitted to bar the action.
This paper examines the decline of the contract clause in constitutional jurisprudence. Although the contract clause occupied a key and much-litigated place in constitutional law during the nineteenth century, the Supreme Court never read the clause with literal exactness. Over time the Court began to limit the reach of the contract clause in a number of ways. It early distinguished between contractual rights and the remedy available to enforce such rights. States retained some room to modify enforcement procedures. Thereafter the Court insisted upon strictly construing legislative grants and recognized an inalienable police power to protect the health, safety, and morals of the public. Moreover, the Supreme Court upheld rent control laws and mortgage moratorium measures as valid legislative responses to emergency conditions which trumpted contracts between individuals. In short, the Supreme Court recognized so many exceptions to the contract clause as to virtually read it out of the Constitution. The advent of New Deal constitutionalism in the late 1930s, which downplayed economic rights and affirmed broad regulatory authority, completed the effective destruction of the contract clause. Despite some fleeting interest in revitalizing the clause, and a few decisions enforcing contract clauses in state constitutions, this once-powerful provision remains at the fringe of modern constitutional law. The paper contends that the decline of the contract clause likely reflects a diminished faith in contractual bargaining and competitive markets.
Each year of his presidency [Jefferson] habitually called for further reductions in the [federal] debt. If the public debt were not extinguished, he warned [Albert] Gallatin in 1809, "we shall be committed to the English career of debt, corruption and rottenness, closing with revolution. The discharge of the debt, therefore, is vital to the destinies of our government."
By 1810, even with the $15 million in cash and claims spent on the Louisiana Purchase, the Republicans had reduced the federal debt to half of the $80 million it had been when they took office.
Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, un grown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love.
SWEDISH tourism bodies have been swamped with inquiries from millions of men captivated by a mythical town rumoured to be home to 25,000 sex-mad lesbians.
The town of "Chako Paul City" is said to have been founded in 1820 in the northern Swedish woods by a wealthy man-hating widow.
Two blonde women are rumoured to stand guard at the town, which also features a medieval castle.
Many of the town’s female residents became lesbians “because they could not suppress their sexual needs”, Chinese news service Harbin News reports.
The myth has been embraced by the Chinese media, with millions of men crippling the country’s internet providers trying to find out how to get to the town.
However, men have been warned by media reports that they risk being “beaten half to death” by police if they dare pay a visit.
"I've no idea where this came from but it's not true," local authorities' spokesman Claes Bertilson told Sweden’s new service The Local about the rumour.
“At 25,000 residents, the town would be one of the largest in northern Sweden, and I find it hard to believe that you could keep something like that a secret for more than 150 years.”
Mr Bertilson said he did not know where the fictitious account could have originated.
“I have no idea where something like this could have come from,” he said.
Although Per Wilhelmsson of the tourist office in Umea in northern Sweden said he had never heard of Chako Paul City, he did confirm that tourism in the area is bustling.
“Our tourism industry is doing quite well, among the best in northern Sweden,” he said.
The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.
It is the first time since 1980 that the commission has revised its guidelines on endorsements and testimonials, and the first time the rules have covered bloggers.
But the commission stopped short today of specifying how bloggers must disclose any conflicts of interest.
The FTC said its commissioners voted, 4-0, to approve the final guidelines, which had been expected. Penalties include up to $11,000 in fines per violation.
The rules take effect Dec. 1.
He [the president] . . . shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
IT HAS been mentioned as one of the advantages to be expected from the co-operation of the Senate, in the business of appointments, that it would contribute to the stability of the administration. The consent of that body would be necessary to displace as well as to appoint. A change of the Chief Magistrate, therefore, would not occasion so violent or so general a revolution in the officers of the government as might be expected, if he were the sole disposer of offices. Where a man in any station had given satisfactory evidence of his fitness for it, a new President would be restrained from attempting a change in favor of a person more agreeable to him, by the apprehension that a discountenance of the Senate might frustrate the attempt, and bring some degree of discredit upon himself. Those who can best estimate the value of a steady administration, will be most disposed to prize a provision which connects the official existence of public men with the approbation or disapprobation of that body which, from the greater permanency of its own composition, will in all probability be less subject to inconstancy than any other member of the government.
After all the arguments were ended and the question taken the Senate was ten to ten, and the Vice-President with joy cried out, “It is not a vote!” without giving himself time to declare the division of the House and give his vote in order.
The consequences of such a close vote were immense: on it turned the future nature of the presidency. Indeed, as Madison noted in the House, the Congress's decisions on this issue of removal “will become the permanent exposition of the Constitution; and on a permanent exposition of the Constitution will depend the genius will depend the genius and character of the whole government.” If the Senate had been able to claim the right of approving the removal of presidential appointees, executive officials would have become dependent on the will of the Senate, and the United States would have created something similar to the English system of cabinet responsibility to Parliament.
Of course, nowhere in the world was there more tinsel and titles than at the Court of Versailles, more indeed than Shippen had ever imagined. The protocol was incredibly elaborate: arriving at half past ten, "we were not done bowing until near 2"; in fact, "the business of bowing" went on so long, Shippen told his father, that "any but a Scotchman would have been tired of [it]."