Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Does Any of This Sound Familiar?

Remember the old adage about history repeating itself?  See if any of this sounds familiar? 

Following the American Revolution, it was by no means certain that the United States would survive as a single country.  It was only by virtue of a series of compromises that the United States became a viable nation.  The glue that brought it all together was Alexander Hamilton’s offer to assume the war debts of the states in exchange for the establishment of a single currency.  The states that had already paid their debts thought it unfair.  Why should those who had been profligate get a bailout? 

Sound familiar?

·         The election of 1800 is regarded by historians as the first “contested” election.  The incumbent, John Adams, represented the federalist view that embraced a strong central government.  Adams’ opponent was Thomas Jefferson who favored states rights and thought a strong central government was anathema to our founding principles.  The once great friends hurled epithets at one another.  Pamphleteers aroused the voting public with slogans and insults.  In the end, Jefferson prevailed following a tie in the Electoral College with the House of Representatives deciding the final outcome. 

Sound familiar?

By 1819, the US suffered its first financial crisis.  To make matters worse, corruption was abundant.  Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, the great orator, received fees for services rendered to the Second Bank of the United States.  The country’s richest man, John Jacob Astor, paid a retainer to Thomas Hart Benton, Senator from Missouri, to push through laws that benefited him financially; and, President Monroe himself received loans from wealthy patrons that were never repaid.  Andrew Jackson, who had no experience of Washington, DC, campaigned to “turn the rascals out”. 

Sound familiar?

Jackson himself was very controversial in his day.  He was accused of behaving like “a Bonaparte” for having attacked the Spanish territory of Florida without Congressional approval, a clear violation of the Constitution.  His fiercest critic was Henry Clay who said of him, “I cannot believe that killing 2500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies for the various, difficult and complicated duties” of President.  Jackson was thought a rube – too inarticulate and poorly educated to be President. 

Sound familiar? 

Following the Civil War, it was the railroads that made the western US a viable part of a national economy.  But, not before a stock scam contributed to the Panic of 1873.  Securities fraud by the Northern Pacific Railroad brought down Wall St. firm, Jay Cooke & Co., the preeminent investment bank of its day. 

Sound familiar? 

Before the 1930’s, the Panic of 1873 was called the Great Depression because it lasted so long and brought down not only the economy of the United States but also that of Europe.  It was left to President Rutherford B. Hayes to put in place reforms that turned things around.  He tied US currency to gold and silver thereby tightening the money supply, increasing interest rates and attracting investors anew. 

Hayes’ election was controversial.  A Republican, he lost both the popular vote and the Electoral College.  But, 20 electoral votes were in dispute and Congress appointed a commission to decide the outcome.  Congress was controlled by Republicans and they decided in his favor. 

Sound familiar?

Many have pointed out that this election is the most divisive in our history.  Do they remember what happened after the election of 1860? 

But, divisive might be the word of the year.  “Cruz Wins Divisive GOP Runoff” was the headline in July 31’s USA Today.  British newspaper, The Guardian, ran a headline Sunday, “In Paul Ryan, Romney Makes a Risky and Divisive Choice”.  In May, the New York Times ran an article titled "How Did Wisconsin Become the Most Political Divisive Place in America"  The Huffington Post featured a blog by author Warren Adler titled "The Most Divisive Political Campaign in History".  Mr. Adler has written 32 novels including “War of the Roses”.  If you’ve read it or seen the movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, you know that Mr. Adler knows what divisive means. 

If this year’s election is the most divisive in our history, it will be because we want it that way.  We, as consumers, choose to watch the Sunday morning talk shows and cable news nightly opinion shows and embrace the divisive phrase of the moment.  We pass on derogatory emails about the candidates, some meant to be jocular others not so much.  We post our one sided views on our Facebook pages, read political blogs and editorials argue vehemently while hiding behind pseudonyms.

Why?  Perhaps, it’s because the candidates haven’t given us anything new to consider.  All they have to talk about is what’s wrong with the other guy.

So, what do we do?  Rutherford B. Hayes isn’t around anymore.  So, you have to ask:



  1. Very interesting John. I, for one, am very concerned about this election. I believe we need to do something positive for the economy, scale back the government, reduce regulations on businesses, and overhaul the entitlement section. The question is do you go with the devil you know or the devil you don't know?
    Posted by Martin Migliori

  2. Thanks for your comment, Martin. My answer to your question: first, figure out if you're happy with the devil you know. If not, take a flyer on someone else.

    1. We've just completed an Olympics so your comment reminds me of a coach from my youth who said the devil at church may be after your soul but the devil on the playing field wants to hold you back. He called that devil 'FEAR' and 'UNCERTAINTY'.

      Something to think about with this election.

  3. Thanks for the history lesson and perspective, John.
    I truly enjoy your blog postings.

    Bill Greene

  4. Enjoyed your thinking again! Fascinating the comparison’s to history. Does anyone really know what will turn things anew to the positive? Seems as though there is a pain in the future regardless of whether we spend more or spend less.

  5. Again John, the leader is you and others who communicate sensibly. The issues at hand are momentous and side taking is hoodoo.

    I hasten to note that Hayes, a Lincoln Republican, was troubled by the disparity between the rich and the poor, saying in an 1886 speech:

    "free government cannot long endure if property is largely in a few hands and large masses of people are unable to earn homes, education, and a support in old age."

    His diary a year later records his thoughts even further:

    "In church it occurred to me that it is time for the public to hear that the giant evil and danger in this country, the danger which transcends all others, is the vast wealth owned or controlled by a few persons. Money is power. In Congress, in state legislatures, in city councils, in the courts, in the political conventions, in the press, in the pulpit, in the circles of the educated and the talented, its influence is growing greater and greater. Excessive wealth in the hands of the few means extreme poverty, ignorance, vice, and wretchedness as the lot of the many. It is not yet time to debate about the remedy. The previous question is as to the danger—the evil. Let the people be fully informed and convinced as to the evil. Let them earnestly seek the remedy and it will be found. Fully to know the evil is the first step towards reaching its eradication.
    Henry George is strong when he portrays the rottenness of the present system. We are, to say the least, not yet ready for his remedy. We may reach and remove the difficulty by changes in the laws regulating corporations, descents of property, wills, trusts, taxation, and a host of other important interests, not omitting lands and other property."

    Sound familiar? ? No?

  6. Daniel Latch • Great to see your mention of President Rutherford B. Hayes. He is too often overlooked for his contributions and his philosophy.

    For the uninitiated reader, Hayes championed the economic ideas of the third most famous American of his time along with Mark Twain and Thomas Edison. His economic philosophy gave birth to the most popular board game of all time which totally corrupted what he stood for. Curious to know more? See

  7. @Daniel. That's a great link. Thanks for passing it on.

  8. I don't know anything about the financial crisis in the early 19th century, but those of the 20th century are most definitely fabricated to manipulate us further into slavery.

    By the late '30s, the rise of Fascism forced our owners to postpone the plans they had for us. They decided to first destroy Fascism and wait until the corruption of moral values was sufficiently strong to prevent a new rise of Fascism, which was the only force capable of stopping them in their tracks.

    Today, about 80 years after the election of Hitler, they're ready to proceed as planned and finish what Fascism tried to stop : the enslavement of the many by a tiny group of wealthy men.

    Here's Woodrow Wilson on the invisible government :

    " Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it. [ ... ] American industry is not free, as once it was free; American enterprise is not free; the man with only a little capital is finding it harder to get into the field, more and more impossible to compete with the big fellow. Why? Because the laws of this country do not prevent the strong from crushing the weak. [ ... ] The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy. [ ... ] We have restricted credit, we have restricted opportunity, we have controlled development, and we have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world — no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men. "

    --- Woodrow Wilson - The New Freedom (1913)

    Here's Edward Bernays aka "the father of public relations" on the use of propaganda by that invisible government :

    " The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. [ ... ] Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government. "

    --- Edward Bernays - Propaganda (1928)

    The truth is out there. You just need to know where to look.
    Posted by John Slegers

  9. Interesting article.

    We should learn from history!!!!
    Posted by valerie carlin, BSc (hons) CeMap CeFA CeRER

  10. John, I just had a minute to read this --- I am super impressed with not only your knowledge but your writing ability…. Thought provoking John! Thanks for sharing…


  11. This is a great article, John. Such a change of perspective compared to what they air on TV or even in most newspapers.
    Posted by Robert Spencer

  12. Thanks, Robert. I don't watch much TV news nor do I read the local newspapers. So, I don't know what I am missing. (I don't much care either.)