In 1845, Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837, lay close to death.
“What act of my administration will be most severely condemned by future Americans?” he asked his doctor.
“Perhaps the removal of the bank deposits,” said the doctor–referring to Jackson’s withdrawal of U.S. Government monies from the first Bank of the United States.
That act had destroyed the bank, which Jackson had believed a source of political corruption.
“Oh, no!” said Jackson.
“Then maybe the specie circular,” said the doctor. He was referring to an 1836 executive order Jackson had issued, requiring payment for government land to be in gold and silver.
“Not at all!” said Jackson.
Then, his eyes blazing, Jackson raged: “I can tell you. Posterity will condemn me more because I was persuaded not to hang John C. Calhoun as a traitor than for any other act in my life!”
John C. Calhoun had once been Vice President under Jackson and later a United States Senator from South Carolina.
His fiery rhetoric and radical theories of “nullification” played a major part in bringing on the Civil War (1861-1865).
Calhoun was an outspoken supporter of slavery, which he declared to be a “positive good” rather than a “necessary evil.” He supported states’ rights and nullification–by which states could declare null and void any federal laws they disliked and deemed unconstitutional.
Historians have not condemned Jackson for failing to hang the senator. But perhaps he was right-–and perhaps he should have hanged Calhoun.
It might have prevented the Civil War-–or at least delayed its coming.
Over time, Southern states’ threats of “nullification” turned to threats of “secession” from the Union.
Jackson died in 1845-–16 years before the Civil War erupted.
The resulting carnage destroyed as many as 620,000 lives. More Americans died in that war than have been killed in all the major wars fought by the United States since.
When it ended, America was reinvented as a new, unified nation–-and one where slavery was now banned by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Equally important, the Federal Government had now set a precedent for using overwhelming military power to force states to remain in the Union.
But within days of Barack Obama’s decisive winning of another four years as President, residents across the country have raised the call of treason.
They have done so by filing secession petitions to the Obama administration’s “We the People” program, which is featured on the White House website.
And how has the Obama administration responded?
By backing down when agents of the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were threatened by armed militia members and states’ right protesters.
For more than 20 years, Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher, has refused to pay fees for grazing cattle on public lands, some 80 miles north of Las Vegas.
BLM says Bundy now owes close to $1 million. He says his family has used the land since the 1870s and doesn’t recognize the federal government’s jurisdiction.
In 2013, a federal judge ordered Bundy to remove his livestock. He ignored the order, and in early April, 2014, BLM agents rounded up more than 400 of his cattle.
Over the weekend of April 12-13, armed militia members and states’ right protesters showed up to challenge the move.
Fearing another Waco–regarded by Right-wing Americans as a second Alamo–the BLM agents backed down and released Bundy’s cattle. And then retreated.
Right-wing bloggers and commentators have portrayed the incident as a victory over Federal tyranny.
Abraham Lincoln dedicated his Presidency–and sacrificed his life–to ensure the preservation of a truly United States.
And Robert E. Lee—the defeated South’s greatest general—spent the last five years of his life trying to put the Civil War behind him and persuade his fellow Southerners to accept their place in the Union.
But today avowed racists, fascists and other champions of treason are working hard to destroy that union–and unleash a second Civil War.
President Obama could have chosen a different approach to dealing with armed militia groups–before treasonous talk become treasonous acts.
That of Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln–and William Tecumseh Sherman.
Sherman, whose army cut a swath of destruction through the South in 1864, said it best. Speaking of the Southern Confederacy, he advised: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.
“We cannot change the hearts of those people of the South. But we can make war so terrible that they will realize the fact that ….they are still mortal and should exhaust all peaceful remedies before they fly to war.”
And Obama could have similarly warned these 21st-century traitors that he was prepared to meet treason with the full force of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
By failing to do so, he has almost certainly encouraged Right-wing secessionists to even greater acts of treason and violence.