American politics at its most uncivil

1792 John Trumbull portrait of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton

1792 John Trumbull portrait of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton

Tim Stanley wrote in The Spectator last week about American politics. Here is some of it.

To anyone complaining that American politics in 2016 is uncivil, consider this: in 1804, the vice president of the United States shot the former Secretary of the Treasury in a duel. Alexander Hamilton, the retired secretary, probably fired first and aimed into a tree, to show he meant no harm. Vice president Aaron Burr, however, shot Hamilton in the abdomen and left him to die. He went home and had breakfast with a cousin, and failed to mention how he’d spent his morning. A few weeks later, Burr was back at his job, chairing the Senate. President Jefferson, who hated Hamilton, invited him to dinner. Trump calling Clinton a crook doesn’t compare.

Ron Chernow’s magnificent biography of Hamilton is now out in paperback in the UK and has gained fame for inspiring a musical. It also has a lot to say about the early American republic. It was a revolutionary republic, a nation crafted out of ink and imagination. […]

Hamilton argued that the republic needed a sizeable government to survive. As the nation’s first Treasurer, he helped create a national bank and new taxes. He also thought it would be wise to make peace with the British. Inevitably, he was cast as an Anglophile and a monarchist, even a traitor. […]

A talent for business and writing brought him to New England and, through heroic action in the War of Independence, he worked his way onto the staff of George Washington. In other words, Hamilton far better reflected the meritocratic ideals of the American dream than his aristocratic peers ever did.

Chernow argues that Hamilton was actually trying to make the fledgling nation work. Yes, he undermined Jefferson’s ambition of creating a libertarian utopia of family farms. But how could the republic raise arms to defend its people without taxes? How could industry flourish without access to credit? How could the United States survive if it couldn’t pay its debts? Hamilton betrayed America as an ideal when he erected a monstrous new state machinery, maybe, but that machinery was still laughably small. […]

This is America. A rowdy battle of ideals in politics, but a big compromise in practical government.

via American politics at its most uncivil — in 1804

And you know, that is still true, many many of us, on both sides, have a complete set of ideals for the government. When Tim mentioned that the entire USG that Jefferson inherited was 130 people in what we call the civil service, I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one who wished it were still so. But those times were not these, and many remember that Reagan didn’t get everything he wanted either, but neither did Obama, and neither will anybody else. It’s always been a balancing act, and it’s worked pretty well, and it always probably will, as long as we manage to remain true to another of Tim’s paragraphs, I think.

Hamilton’s conservatism was fostered first by witnessing the evils of the Caribbean slave trade and later by the violence of the revolution. He wanted a republic that would balance liberty with order. The mob must never be allowed to get its way.

I think that is what we all know, deep in our bones.

1066/1776 and all that


We’ve had a couple of posts in the last week concerning battles in Saxon England. Many Americans, I suspect, think it no part of our heritage, but in that, they are wrong, these battles shaped the development of England, and that shaped America. Jessica wrote about this a few years ago and her thoughts are perhaps even more valid today. Neo

It is hard to pin down what you mean by culture, but despite the efforts of the MSM to pretend that our culture comes from all sorts of wonderful and weird places such as Kenya, the values on which this country was formed were those of a Christian heritage. It was a particular type of heritage. The early pilgrims were of British descent and of Protestant inclination. They were men and women who saw themselves as like the Israelites of old – in the wilderness, building a new Jerusalem – a shining city on a hill. But they also brought with them something from their British heritage – a love of law and freedom. Unlike some countries where the law was seen as the enemy of freedom, in England, from Magna Carta onward, it was seen as the protection of the liberties of the people.

But those Barons of Norman descent at Runnymede did not invent that idea; they inherited it.  The Normans were, as befitted the descendants of Scandinavian pirates, a tough lot; they could not have taken so much land if they had not been. But in England they found the descendants of other men from the North, the Saxons, and those Saxons had developed their own way of doing things.

For all that modern historians doubt the idea that the Saxons developed a form of consultative government via the Witan, that was not what those who settled America believed. They came with the idea that democracy had begun in the Saxon forests, and they applied it in the wilderness they settled. These were tough men and women too, but they valued freedom above all things. For that they crossed the Atlantic in small ships; for that they endured the hardships of building a new Jerusalem. Sustained by their Christian faith, and strong in their love of freedom, these people forged a nation and a culture. It was the threat to that from the German tyrant George which drove them to rebellion. Kipling expressed it best here:


The  snow lies thick on Valley Forge,
The ice on the Delaware,
But the poor dead soldiers of King George
They neither know nor care.

Not though the earliest primrose break
On the sunny side of the lane,
And scuffling rookeries awake
Their England’ s spring again.

They will not stir when the drifts are gone,
Or the ice melts out of the bay:
And the men that served with Washington
Lie all as still as they.

They will  not  stir  though  the mayflower blows
In the moist dark woods of pine,
And every rock-strewn pasture shows
Mullein and columbine.

Each for his land, in a fair fight,
Encountered strove, and died,
And the kindly earth that knows no spite
Covers them side by side.

She is too busy to think of war;
She has all the world to make gay;
And,  behold, the yearly flowers are
Where they were in our fathers’ day!

Golden-rod by the pasture-wall
When the columbine is dead,
And sumach leaves that turn, in fall,
Bright as the blood they shed.

It was a brothers’ war, and when it was over they bore no real ill-will and became friends and allies.

They could do that because of a shared love of freedom and the same concept of justice. There was no need to ask what culture was, and those uncounted millions who found in the New World a haven, embraced those values – so much so that people took them for granted – they were surely universal. Rule for the people and by the people did not fade from that land, and even after a second and bloodier war of brothers, the nation united around those shared values. To become an American was a great a noble ambition for every immigrant. It never meant junking your ancestor’s past, but it did mean embracing a better life – and recognising the values of your new country which made that possible.

Somewhere, and we can speculate where and how, that simple truth got mislaid by our rulers. The next few posts explore some of this – and invite you all to think about it with us.


dsc00985Another battle that we should take notice of, this one before the Battle of Hastings that made the phrase “1066 and all that” so famous. This one was exactly 1000 years ago today. Amazing thing is that for the participants it was likely just as important as Hastings.

This is the battle where Cnut, King of Denmark, about whom an old Norse poem says this:

Skjöldungr, vannt und skildi
skœru verk, inn sterki,
(fekk blóðtrani bráðir
brúnar) Assatúnum.

Strong Skjöldungr, you performed a feat of battle under the shield; the blood-crane [raven/eagle] received dark morsels at Ashingdon.

There are some wonderful takeaways here, Skjöldungr refers to Cnut’s heritage, his ancestors were the  legendary Skjöldung dynasty – the Scyldings of Beowulf. And the blood-crane here might refer to the legendary Raven banner of Denmark, which is mentioned in the Encomium Emmae Reginae, which says this.

Now they had a banner of wonderfully strange nature, which though I believe that it may be incredible to the reader, yet since it is true, I will introduce the matter into my true history. For while it was woven of the plainest and whitest silk, and the representation of no figure was inserted into it, in time of war a raven was always seen as if embroidered on it, in the hour of its owners’ victory opening its beak, flapping its wings, and restive on its feet, but very subdued and drooping with its whole body when they were defeated.

Now that’s a banner fit for a warrior race! It must be said though that the Encomium is quite unreliable. And besides, I think the author might protest a bit too much.

On the other side was Edmund Ironside, son of Æthelred the Unready (actually, I think Unraed, which means “without counsel”) but both seem to be true, he had died in April 1016, and Edmund his son succeeded him, finally uniting (most) of the English.

via A Clerk of Oxford: The Battle of Assandun: Three Sources

And so these were the sides that met at Assandun, the Danes (and likely some of the English as well) against the English under the leadership of another legendary captain Edmund Ironside.

And so, as The Clerk of Oxford tells us, from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

[The [Danish] raiding-army turned back up into Essex, and went towards Mercia, and destroyed all that they overtook. Then when the king [Edmund] heard that the army was inland, he gathered all the English nation for the fifth time and travelled behind them, and overtook them in Essex at the hill which is called Assandun, and there they fought a hard battle together. Then Eadric the ealdorman did as he had so often done before, and first began the flight with the Magonsæte, and so betrayed his king and lord and all the English nation. There Cnut had the victory, and won for himself the whole nation of the English. There Bishop Eadnoth was killed, and Abbot Wulfsige, and Ealdorman Ælfric, and Ealdorman Godwine, and Ulfkytel of East Anglia, and Æthelweard, the son of Ealdorman Ælfwine, and all the best of the English nation.]

England had a new king, a Dane, in whose train was a young Dane by the name of Godwine, who would go far, and whose son Harold Godwineson would become the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, killed at Hastings.

But before that would come to pass, Edmund, who had retained Wessex in the settlement after Assundun, died a few months later, and Cnut became King of all England. In a few years, he would dedicate a minster at Assundun in Essex, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us:

[In this year the king and Earl Thorkell went to Assandun, with Archbishop Wulfstan and other bishops, and also abbots and many monks, and consecrated the church at Assandun.]

And the Clerk explains:

The people named in this entry indicate the importance of this church to the new Danish regime. Wulfstan is the great archbishop of York, whom we last encountered in 1014 railing against the disloyalty of English people who collaborated with the Danes; he had by this time had quite a change of heart, and become one of Cnut’s chief advisers and law-makers. (A lot can happen in six years!) Wulfstan presided at the consecration of the church at Assandun, and one of his surviving sermons, ‘On the Dedication of a Church’, may well have been preached on this occasion. The other person named by the Chronicle is Earl Thorkell, who was remembered as the hero of Assandun, and whom Cnut had recently made Earl of East Anglia. Any event which could bring these two men together must have been pretty extraordinary. We can also populate the Chronicle‘s crowd with various people likely to have been there, standing beside Cnut, Thorkell and Wulfstan: Cnut’s new wife Emma, Earl Godwine (and his new Danish wife, Gytha?), Æthelnoth (soon to be made Archbishop of Canterbury), the Norwegian earl Eiríkr, newly appointed earl of Northumbria, and more. The church was entrusted to Stigand, a priest probably of Anglo-Danish origin, who though very much a winner after the Danish Conquest was very much a loser after the Norman Conquest. With hindsight, there are many tantalising connections and ironies to be drawn out from this disparate collection of people – English, Danish, Norwegian and Norman – who were between them to shape England’s fate throughout the eleventh century: the following year Thorkell would be outlawed, three years later Wulfstan would be dead, and fifty years later the young priest Stigand would be Archbishop of Canterbury, crowning the upstart Godwine’s son King of England.

There are (at least) two choices for this church, this is one of them:


Again quoting from The Clerk of Oxford

All that said, let me show you what I saw at Ashdon. If Ashdon is Assandun, Cnut’s minster would be this church, St Botolph’s, which is actually in the nearby village of Hadstock. Why not Ashdon itself? I’ll quote the guidebook: “While it is just possible that evidence for an Anglo-Saxon building is encapsulated in Ashdon church, there is nothing to suggest a structure of minster-proportions; hence historians have turned to Hadstock where a large and imposing Anglo-Saxon church cannot fail to command attention. There is no doubt that it was a minster, and of the period in question; it stands on the same ‘Hill of the Ash Trees’ as Ashdon.”

The core of the present church is late Anglo-Saxon, and thus plausibly of the date of Cnut’s minster. It’s worth noting that St Botolph, the dedicatee of the church, was one of the saints in whom Cnut took an interest; Cnut was responsible for the translation of Botolph’s relics to Bury St Edmunds, where he founded a church on the anniversary of the Battle of Assandun in the 1030s. There’s some suggestion there was a shrine to Botolph here, not just a dedication – the archaeologists talk about traces of an empty Saxon grave in the fabric of the south side of the church.

All in all, quite an important anniversary, which would likely be more important still if St. Edward the Confessor hadn’t died childless only 50 years later. Such are the ways of history.

[More, and more pictures, today from The Clerk of Oxford. Yay!

The Real Drivers in this Election

10b3foBookworm posted yesterday about how polarized this election has become. It’s something we’ve all noticed, although most of us haven’t thought about it, or how we got here. Here’s some of it.

A Progressive friend is relentlessly pushing “Trump is awful” stories on me. I, a conservative, invariably counter by pointing out that Hillary’s list of sins and failures is infinitely worse.

I realized yesterday that my arguments are irrelevant. My friend will never vote for someone who is not 100% pro-abortion, pro-socialized medicine, or pro-open borders.  Given a choice between a rotting dead body that is pro-Abortion and a genuine angel from Heaven that is pro-Choice, he’d vote for the rotting body every time.

Even as we endlessly talk down the other side’s candidates (because few people are really comfortable talking their own candidate up in this bizarre election year), what really matters is the ideological divide underlying this election. The following list might help you decide on which side of that divide you live. Once you decide, do remember that you will never get people to accept your candidate, no matter how flawed their own candidate, until you get them to accept your ideology.

National security

  • Conservatives believe that America and her allies are safest when America projects military strength that acts as a deterrent to predatory actors around the world.
  • Progressives believe that America is itself a predatory actor and that it and, indeed, the rest of the world are safest when it is passive and weak.


  • Conservatives believe that guns’ defensive benefits far outweigh their ability to kill.
  • Progressives believe that guns have no utility other than killing and that only police should be allowed to carry them.


  • Conservatives acknowledge that, among America’s approximately 1.5 million state and federal police, there are individual bad actors, including racists, but strongly believe that the vast majority are decent men and women who routinely put their lives at risk to keep the American public safe.
  • Progressives believe that America’s police are inherently racist and corrupt and that they must be kept on the shortest leash possible, especially when dealing with the inner city black community (but that they and private bodyguards to celebrities should still be the only people allowed to have guns).


  • Conservatives try to heed Martin Luther King’s dictum to look past the color of people’s skin in order to judge them by the content of their character.
  • Progressives believe that race is of paramount importance in that it determines both how people act and how others act towards them.

There is considerably more, it’s all good, so you should read the whole thing!: Progressive v. Conservative ideologies, not the candidates, are the real drivers in this election *UPDATED* – Bookworm Room

Honestly, I don’t have much to add to this. She is completely right, in my judgment. This election has turned us into bitter-enders and on both sides. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and yes, no matter what it is, I’m worried.

But as always, there are rhymes in history. I like many of you tend to see this as the most important election in history but is it? My friend over at Practically Historical reminds us here of the rhymes.

Americans have a need to inflate the importance… of the times in which they live.  This is best illustrated by the hyperbole we attach to each Presidential election.  Every four years we are confronted by “the most important election in a generation.”  Each succeeding election contains events “never seen before.”  The election of 2016 has been especially unheralded- two candidates resoundingly distrusted by the electorate-  a truly unprecedented political event…. or is it??

Hold your nose and vote

Hold your nose and vote

1884 was just such an election… Republican James G. Blaine and Democrat Grover Cleveland were both equally distrusted by the American people.  Blaine admittedly took bribes from railroad companies, while Cleveland confessed to fathering a child out-of-wedlock.  The campaign asked the American people to decide which candidate was least objectionable.  October found the two troubled candidates in a virtual dead-heat.  1884 also introduced us to that most predictable election year phenomena, the October surprise.

Ma ma where's my pa?

Ma ma where’s my pa?

A week before the General Election… Samuel D. Burchard, a teetotaling Republican reformer, addressed a gathering of the Republican National Committee.  His fiery speech included the infamous attack on Democrats and their association with “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.”   In one rhetorical flourish, he linked Democrats to the three most divisive issues of the day- alcoholism, Catholic immigration, and memories of the Civil War.  The clumsy effort to purify his own party galvanized his opponents and sent them to the polls in record numbers.

He’s right, of course, there very little that is completely new in history. So we’ll see what happens, always keeping in mind that Adam Smith wrote that “there is a lot of ruin in a nation”. We should be grateful that it is so.

“You need both a public and a private position”

hillary-two-facedWell, I probably don’t need to tell you who said that. But yes, it was Hillary Clinton, in one of her high priced confidential speeches, you know, on Wall Street and such. What she said a bit more fully, is this.

 She says, “you need both a public and a private position.”  One for public consumption and the other for what you really believe.

Pamela Engel in Business Insider says this.

In one speech she gave to a Brazilian bank in 2013, she advocated for “open trade and open borders.”

“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere,” Clinton said.

In the same speech, she also said the US needs “a concerted plan to increase trade already under the current circumstances.”. . .

Clinton says on the campaign trail that she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement championed by President Barack Obama that aims to slash tariffs and promote economic growth among 12 nations in the Pacific Rim.

Clinton has publicly opposed TPP since October 2015, when the text of the deal was finalized.

“I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president,” she said at acampaign rally in Michigan in August.

But her opposition marked a departure from the praise she gave the deal during her tenure as secretary of state. She once said TPP “sets the gold standard of trade agreements.”

In another private speech mentioned in the Clark email, Clinton said it’s important to have both a “public” and “private” position on certain issues.

“If everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least,” she said. “So, you need both a public and a private position. “

via “You need both a public and a private position”

On free trade, well, I’m sympathetic to her private position, although I do think there need to be safeguards to make trade fair as well as free, but protectionism isn’t going to work. Never has, never will. Open borders is a completely different kettle of fish, we can always use immigrants provided they bring something with them, we don’t have enough low skilled labor jobs anymore for our people, so it’s silly to import more. We don’t need to end immigration, but we do need to control it.

But her beliefs on any given issue is not the point, really. The point is the hypocrisy of having one position in public for the rubes that live in the country, and a diametrically opposite one for the so-called elites that run it. That’s enough for me to decide she’s unfit for any government position.

She simply untrustworthy, but we’ve known that for decades.

Hurricane Hysteria [Updated] | Power Line

This cartoon, from Watts Up With That, sums it up:

This cartoon, from Watts Up With That, sums it up:

From Powerline, with no comment,  because none is required.

The much-hyped Hurricane Matthew still hasn’t made landfall. It has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane as it makes its way up the Southeastern coast. It may yet do great damage here, as it already has in Haiti, but the disappointment in some quarters is palpable. Matthew had been hyped as the poster child for global warming, striking just in time to give Hillary Clinton a boost in Sunday’s debate. That plan likely will have to be shelved.

For the record, the U.S. is in the midst of the longest stretch in recorded history without being struck by a Category 3 or higher hurricane–more than ten years. Many expected that streak to be broken by Matthew, but it didn’t happen. There has been no increase in hurricanes either in the U.S., or throughout the North Atlantic, since 1880.

Still, there is no doubt that if Matthew had struck the U.S. as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, we would have heard about nothing for days except global warming. […]

Global warming hysteria stopped having anything to do with science a long time ago. It is now 100% politics.

UPDATE: Roger Pielke has updated his chart to show how the current hurricane drought shatters all previous records, going back to 1900. The rising trend line means more days between Category 3+ hurricanes:

via Hurricane Hysteria [Updated] | Power Line

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