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Frank Gillispie
Frank Gillispie

Frank Gillispie is the founder of the Madison County Journal; his Frankly Speaking column appears in numerous publications.

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Doomed to repeat? – Commentary by Frank Gillispie

Philosopher George Santayana’s contention that “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it” has been often quoted. That one is applicable to a large number of people and events in today’s society. Santayana had another quote about history that is not as well known, but just as significant. I will use that quote to close this column.

I use his quotes because a very significant part of American history has been ignored, and it is in the process of being repeated. At the center of the 19th century, between 1850 and 1860, a group of radical northeastern politicians seized control of our national legislature and set out to take over the nation’s economy. The first thing they did was to create a massive tax increase.

Actually, the tax was already in place. Most of the federal budget was financed with a protective tariff designed to force their products on an unwilling people who preferred the better quality goods from England. The rural states, mostly in the South, were paying up to 80% of all federal taxes. Meanwhile, a major portion of the funds were being spent to subsidize the same northeastern businessmen. The change in the tax code forced on the nation by these radicals would have doubled the amount of money being drained from the poor Southerners and given to the rich Yankees.

Recognizing the total devastation this new tax would have on their economy, the Southern states chose to leave the Union and set up their own country. The North realized that this move would greatly interfere with their money making schemes so they chose to launch a massive war to force the southern states back into the union. Over 600,000 soldiers on both sides died in that conflict. Another 50,000 civilians, women, children and elderly men, died in the south due to the atrocities committed by Union generals.

So what about today? We have another group of left wing elitists with their roots deep in the same northeastern culture who are trying, and succeeding in taking over Congress. And already we are hearing calls for more taxes and more government spending. And who are encouraging them? The descendents of those robber barons who think they can earn massive profits from a high taxing, big spending government.

Now, that huge tax increase was the final straw that led the south to secede. But when the instigators of this unfair tax program saw the massive bloodshed and economic devastation their plans were producing they had to find something other than their plans to blame it on. So after over a year of denying that slavery had anything to do with the war, they decided to use that sad situation to excuse their destructive actions. Today, almost anyone you ask about the causes of the War for Southern Independence will only list Slavery. They have never heard of the Morrell Tax! Because of our ignorance of history, we are letting them get away with it again. And I fear that our nation will once again suffer drastic damage because of it.

Now here is the second Santayana quote I promised you. Santayana also called history a "pack of lies" told by "people who weren’t there." He certainly got that right.

Copyright © 2007 by Frank Gillispie
frankgillispie671@msn.com, Hull, GA

Related Links
More Lincoln Myths Exposed - J.A. Davis

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America's Worst Scandal: the 14th Amendment - J.A. Davis

Confusing 'Republican' and 'conservative' - J.A. Davis

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Illegal Immigrants are Criminals - Frank Gillispie

Resisting Tax Tyranny - Frank Gillispie

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Editorials from Northern Newspapers

Many newspapers favored allowing the southern states to peacefully leave as the one below by Greeley. But later in February and March of 1861, the sentiments changed...

"If the Declaration of Independence justified the secession of 3,000,000 colonists in 1776, I do not see why the Constitution ratified by the same men should not justify the secession of 5,000,000 of the Southerners from the Federal Union in 1861... We have repeatedly said, and we once more insist that the great principle embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that government derives its power from the consent of the governed is sound and just, then if the Cotton States, the Gulf States or any other States choose to form an independent nation they have a clear right to do it... The right to secede may be a revolutionary one, but it exists nevertheless; and we do not see how one party can have a right to do what another party has a right to prevent. We must ever resist the asserted right of any State to remain in the Union and nullify or defy the laws thereof; to withdraw from the Union is another matter. And when a section of our Union resolves to go out, we shall resist any coercive acts to keep it in. We hope never to live in a Republic where one section is pinned to the other section by bayonets ." --Horace Greeley, New York Tribune [ full editorial 12/17/1860 ]


"The predicament in which both the Government and the commerce of the country are placed, through the non-enforcement of our revenue laws, is now thoroughly understood the world over....If the manufacturer at Manchester [England] can send his goods into the Western States through New Orleans at less cost than through New York, he is a fool for not availing himself of his advantage...If the importations of the counrty are made through Southern ports, its exports will go through the same channel. The produce of the West, instead of coming to our own port by millions of tons, to be transported abroad by the same ships through which we received our importations, will seek other routes and other outlets. With the lost of our foreign trade, what is to become of our public works, conducted at the cost of many huindred millions of dollars, to turn into our harbor the products of the interior? They share in the common ruin. So do our manufacturers...Once at New Orleans, goods may be distributed over the whole country duty-free. The process is perfectly simple... The commercial bearing of the question has acted upon the North...We now see clearly whither we are tending, and the policy we must adopt. With us it is no longer an abstract question---one of Constitutional construction, or of the reserved or delegated powers of the State or Federal government, but of material existence and moral position both at home and abroad.....We were divided and confused till our pockets were touched." ---New York Times March 30, 1861


"The Southern Confederacy will not employ our ships or buy our goods. What is our shipping without it? Literally nothing....It is very clear that the South gains by this process, and we lose. No---we MUST NOT "let the South go." " ----Union Democrat , Manchester, NH, February 19, 1861


From a story entitled: "What shall be done for a revenue?"
"That either revenue from duties must be collected in the ports of the rebel states, or the ports must be closed to importations from abroad.... If neither of these things be done, our revenue laws are substantially repealed; the sources which supply our treasury will be dried up; we shall have no money to carry on the government; the nation will become bankrupt before the next crop of corn is ripe.....Allow rail road iron to be entered at Savannah with the low duty of ten per cent, which is all that the Southern Confederacy think of laying on imported goods, and not an ounce more would be imported at New York; the railroads would be supplied from the southern ports. ---New York Evening Post March 12, 1861, recorded in Northern Editorials on Secession, Howard C. Perkins, ed., 1965, pp. 598-599.

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