Please Stop Using The Indians in Immigration Arguments

This tweet by Mickey Kaus reminds me of an irritating chesnut that pro-immigration types love to trot out whenever they encounter disagreement. It usually takes the form of

“Well, it’s a shame that the Indians didn’t think of border control!”

Or something equally smug. It’s stupid for two reasons:

  1. The Indians did think of that. Which is to say, they contested white overlordship of North America with everything they had. There’s hardly a state in the Union that was not wrested from the natives violently. Some more than others, but still. The idea that the Indians meekly welcomed the palefaces to America is just plain wrong. They fought. They fought hard. They just had too many material disadvantages to overcome.
  2. Why on earth would we want to emulate their results? So, in an argument about whether our immigration policy is letting in too many foreigners, you deliberately bring up the people from whom foreigners took the continent, as an argument for letting more foreigners in. Precisely whom is this supposed to persuade?

The answer, of course, is no one. It’s not an argument; it’s an exercise in social signalling. By saying it, you get to be one of the good, socially aware people, thus trumping any need to actually be right on a policy question. Because if you’re one of the good people, your opponent must be one of the bad people, so whatever he says is bad.


I Get Bad Reviews

I’m starting to think I should keep all my short-form content free on Amazon. Sarah Hoyt advises it, and now I’m starting to wonder if the price of zero would spare me reviews like this:

2.0 out of 5 stars No true fan of Aaron Burr would like this book., November 23, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: A Brief Conversation With Aaron Burr (Paperback)

This book is way too brief for its “conversational” purpose. It does no justice to Colonel Burr, except to make him out to be somewhat irascible, which (though justified) he certainly would not have been when talking with another, unless, of course, he knew that the author would be treating him in such a shallow way.

Fieri non potest, si iocum confutuere



The Myths of Gettysburg

The Union Forever!

150 years ago, today, my great-great-great-grand-uncle, Dallas Patrick, a private in 11th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry
(40th Volunteers), was taking part in the largest land battle ever to take place on the North American continent. I’ve been to Gettysburg on several occasions, and some part of me would kind of like to be there to see the re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge. But another part of me is just fine with sitting here and breaking down some of the mythic detritus that has gathered around this scar of history. To wit:

Read more

Little-Known Facts About Aaron Burr

  1. Early Advocate of women’s education and abolition.
  2. Presided over the Senate’s first impeachment trial, that of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. Even Burr’s enemies’ praised his conduct of the trial. One Senator wrote that Burr had presided with “the impartiality of an angel and the rigor of a devil.”
  3. Had it in his head that he ought to be Emperor of Mexico.
  4. Loved the ladies. Loved, loved the ladies.
  5. Spent his sunset years hanging out with the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who coined the phrase, “the greatest happiness to the greatest number.”

All of which is but prologue to what I’ve been working on for Glass Mind Theatre’s upcoming Brainstorm event. The deadline’s today, and it hasn’t been selected yet, obviously, but I have hopes.

So Which President, Living or Dead, Would You Like to Drink With?

Face in the Blue has a most excellent question of great historical and political import: In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every American President, Who Would Win and Why? Which brought to my mind the bit of campaign fluff about whether Barak Obama is the kind of guy the average American would enjoy drinking with, especially compared to Mitt Romney, who as a Mormon, does not drink. So I thought I’d do a brief peruse of our 44 heads of state and figure which ones would be the most fun to sit down with at a table in a bar and knock back a few. These are my utterly unfair guesses: Read more

Scrapping With the British Navy

The usual round of books and look-backs on the War of 1812 commenceth. Austin Bay seizes upon a book on the naval war between the US and Britain:

In 1812, Great Britain presented U.S. war planners with a very challenging strategic problem, one with contemporary irony given America’s 21st century military might: How do you wage successful war against a global superpower?

Two numbers illustrate America’s quandary. The RN began the war with around 500 warships. The U.S. Navy had 14, though when the war began not all were crewed and seaworthy. Shipping and trade were critical issues to both belligerents, and RN lions ruled the high seas. In comparison, the USN was a poorly funded mouse.

However, as Kevin McCranie demonstrates in his new book, “Utmost Gallantry: The U.S. and Royal Navies in the War of 1812” (Naval Institute Press), the tiny USN was a talented, courageous, well-led and therefore dangerous mouse.

It’s not the size of the navy in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the navy.

Of course, having your opponent distracted by Napoleon never hurts.

Conrad Black Says Some Rather Silly Things About the American Revolution

In National Review of all places. (h/t: Memeorandum)

I’m skipping over the “you know, the wogs never had it so good as under the Raj” part of the article, and deal merely with this:

The colonists had the better of the argument with the British, but individual Americans did not have substantively more liberties at the end of the Revolution than they had had at the beginning, nor more than the British in the home islands had (then or now or at any time in between), apart from having a resident sovereign government. The whole American notion of liberty came from the British, along with the common law and the English language. If the Americans had maintained their British status, they would control Britain and Canada and Australia and New Zealand now (another 120 million people and over $5 trillion of GDP), have all their energy needs met, and enjoy better government than they have actually endured for the past 20 years. It would have been much easier to abolish slavery and, if there had been a Civil War, it would not have lasted long, nor cost a fraction of the 750,000American lives that it did. There would have been no World Wars or Cold War, or at least no conflict remotely as perilous as those were. The United States would also have less than its current 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated people, and wouldn’t have a legal cartel that devours 10 percent of its GDP. These are matters that, though they verge on secular heresy, Americans may want to consider, in between singing splendid anthems and rereading Jefferson’s defamation of poor old George III and his blood libel on the American Indian in the Declaration ofIndependence, this national holiday.

In the words of the mother country, bollocks.

1. The newly independent Americans enjoyed self-government without interference from an imperial power on the other side of the ocean. Their rights to free speech, a free press, freedom from having soldiers quartered in their homes, freedom of religion and the right to bear arms were guarunteed (in Britain these things were officially granted only to Protestants). The national government was inherently limited in scope (then, at least). Excessive bails and fines, violations of habeas corpus, ex post facto laws, titles of nobility and bills of attainder were all outlawed. However much these built on British innovations, their enshrinement in American law represented a plus for liberty.

2. How would America “control” the other commonwealth nations if it had remained part of the Empire? Britain no longer controls them. America would not be the same colossus; absent the American Revolution, Louisiana would have remained French, Texas and the Southwest Mexican, Alaska Russian. We would still be a handful of colonies huddling the Atlantic seaboard: marginally more important than Canada or Australia, but hardly the dominant power in the English-speaking world.

3. How the guaruntee that no Civil War would have erupted over slavery, or that it would have been relatively costless? Why assume that the abolition of slavery would have been so easy in the British Empire if it had still ruled over its most prosperous, populous slaveholding colonies? Why assume that Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia would have found London abolitionists less obnoxious than their Boston counterparts? Why assume that the British Army would have found conrolling the Carolina hinterlands any easier in 1860 than they did in 1780? For that matter, why assume that the Crimean War-era British Army would have been any more adept at keeping it’s casualties low than the Union and Confederate Armies were?

4. Why would there have been no World Wars? What about the addition of the Thirteen Colonies to the weight of the British Empire would have made Wilhelm II less blithely fatalist about stumbling into war with every other major power in Europe?

A final note about the causes of the Revolution. The colonists of the American Revolution did not care to be blamed for the Seven Years War, which had it origins in European power-rivalries, nor did they care to pay for it. The idea that the colonists were unwilling or unable to defend themselves without British Armies is absurd. What they were asking for was what they had always enjoyed: home rule, with accompanying powers of taxation and self-defense. I should like it noted for the record that after 1783, every settler colony of the British Empire, from Canada to Australia, to South Africa, to Kenya, that asked for home rule got it without a shot being fired in anger. The American Revolution made even the British Empire more liberal.

You’re welcome.

The War of 1812

It was our first official war, and we very nearly lost it. Today it is remembered chiefly for giving birth to the poem that became our national anthem. It wasn’t the most important war even then: Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, which occurred the same year, was far more significant. But there are some resonances that remain even today:

  • After the Battle of Lake Erie, Oliver Perry sent a note to William Henry Harrison with  the words: “We have met the enemy, and he is ours.” When Walt Kelly parodied that to “We have met the enemy, and he is us,” people actually knew the reference.
  • Speaking of which, William Henry Harrison’s career was made by the war. Whatever the tragicomedy of his thirty-day presidency in 1841, thirty years previously, Harrison was a military hero second to George Washington and Andrew Jackson.
  • Speaking of which, while Harrison was conquering the Midwest, tossing out the British and breaking the power of the Indian tribes, Jackson was doing much the same in the Deep South. The Battle of New Orleans was a thundering defeat of the same British military that would crush Napoleon at Waterloo later that same summer (the British commander at New Orleans, Packenham, who died in the battle, had served under Wellington in Spain).

It’s our first official war, and its our first forgotten war. Maybe over the nest three years we’ll remember it a little.