The Plot to Assassinate Jefferson Davis?

On March 2, 1864, William Littlepage was searching the pockets of a dead Union officer just outside of Richmond, VA. But instead of a pocketwatch or other baubles, Littlepage discovered two mysterious documents. These papers, now known as the Dahlgren Papers, cast light on a plot designed to bring an end to the Confederate States of America. Were Union leaders planning to assassinate President Jefferson Davis?

The Dahlgren Affair?

By March 2, 1864, the Union had taken control of the Civil War and Confederate hopes of victory seemed increasingly dim. Ulysses S. Grant was just a week away from taking over the responsibilities of Commanding General of the United States Army. And President Lincoln, along with his top generals, had reached the conclusion that the only way to break the South was to wage total war.

It was with this backdrop that 13-year old Littlepage found himself searching the dead body of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, who’d been killed earlier that day in a failed raid on Richmond, VA. After discovering the documents, Littlepage took them to his teacher, Edward Halbach. Halbach quickly examined the papers and realized he had a veritable bomb in front of him.

The papers described a plan to raid and torch Richmond, VA. The idea for the attack had originated from Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick was known as “Kill-Cavalry” due to his willingness to sacrifice his own troops as well as Confederate troops in order to achieve his goals. The plan was for Dahlgren’s cavalry to enter the city from the south. After stopping to free Union prisoners and meet up with Kilpatrick, the enlarged force would descend upon Richmond in order to “destroy and burn the hateful city.”

The Plot to Kill Jefferson Davis?

A second set of orders, which were probably intended for Captain John Mitchell (Dahlgren’s second-in-command), provided more detail on the plot.

“We will try and secure the bridge to the city, (one mile below Belle Isle,) and release the prisoners at the same time. If we do not succeed they must then dash down, and we will try and carry the bridge from each side. When necessary, the men must be filed through the woods and along the river bank. The bridges once secured, and the prisoners loose and over the river, the bridges will be secured and the city destroyed. The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and Cabinet killed.” ~ Dahlgren Papers, as published in the Richmond Sentinel (3/5/1864)

Although the Civil War was horrendous and bloody, it had been fought as a sort of “Gentleman’s Affair” up until that point. However, the Dahlgren Papers appeared to change that by targeting Jefferson Davis for assassination.

The papers were swiftly transported up the Confederacy’s chain of command. And by March 4, they’d reached President Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis agreed to release them to the press and by March 5, the Richmond Daily Dispatch was blaring the headline, “The Last Raid of the Infernals.”

Northerners were skeptical of the papers and declared them to be fraudulent. But the Confederacy was not swayed. Angered by the assassination plot, President Jefferson Davis decided to release Confederate prisoners into Northern cities. He hoped that this would create fear and chaos, thus buying valuable time for his fledgling nation.

Were the Dahlgren Papers Authentic?

On March 30, General Robert E. Lee sent a copy of the Dahlgren Papers to Northern General George Meade and expressed his desire to know if the orders had been authorized by the U.S. government. Meade asked Kilpatrick to investigate. Kilpatrick responded that he’d endorsed the Papers…or at least part of them. He claimed that the sections about burning Richmond and killing President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had been added after the fact. With that, the official investigation pretty much came to an end.

But privately, General Meade was suspicious. He thought that the Dahlgren Papers were authentic. And since Kilpatrick was Dahlgren’s superior officer, it stood to reason that Kilpatrick might’ve been the one to issue the order. Thus, as Stephen Sears said in his book Controversies and Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac, relying on Kilpatrick to handle the investigation was “equivalent to ordering the fox to investigate losses in the henhouse.”

What happened to the Dahlgren Papers?

In July 1864, Dahlgren’s father went public to declare the Dahlgren Papers “a bare-faced atrocious forgery.” He based this upon a photographic copy of the original orders, in which his son’s signature was misspelled as “Dalhgren.” Others pointed out that the orders had been written on both sides of thin paper. Thus, the misspelling might’ve been nothing more than ink leaking through the paper. Unfortunately, it was impossible to say for certain…

…because the Dahlgren Papers had vanished.

At the end of 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton requested the Dahlgren Papers from Francis Lieber, who headed up the Confederate archives. In 1879, Lieber requested the papers back. But they had gone missing. In his article, “The Dahlgren Papers,” James Hall sums up current opinion on the fate of the papers.

“Perhaps it is an uncharitable thought, but the suspicion lingers that Stanton consigned them to the fireplace in his office.” ~ James Hall, “The Dahlgren Papers,” Civil War Times Illustrated (November 1983)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

While the origin of the orders remains in question, there is a growing consensus, led by historians such as Sears, that they were probably authentic. And if this is the case, there is a decent chance that President Lincoln himself was aware of the assassination attempt on Jefferson Davis. Interestingly enough, this may have indadvertedly led to his own death.

The targeting of President Jefferson Davis was, in effect, a declaration of total war upon the South. The South, led by the mysterious Confederate Secret Service, responded in kind. As reported in Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln, this shadowy organization set out to kidnap President Lincoln in order to sue for peace. But when that effort fell short and General Lee was forced to surrender in April 1865, the Confederate Secret Service enacted one final operation…the assassination of President Lincoln.

“Judson Kilpatrick, Ulric Dahlgren, and their probable patron Edwin Stanton set out to engineer the death of the Confederacy’s president; the legacy spawned out of the utter failure of their effort may have included the death of their own president.” ~ Stephen Sears, The Dahlgren Papers Revisited

The U.S. Postal War?

In 1844, Lysander Spooner launched the American Letter Mail Company, a private alternative to the government-owned U.S. Postal Service. His young firm took the country by storm, leading to dramatic improvements in delivery time and vast decreases in postage costs. But the U.S. Postal Service didn’t appreciate the competition and fought to regain its monopoly. What was the U.S. Postal War?

The U.S. Post Office Monopoly?

Until 1844, the U.S. Post Office held a monopoly on mail delivery. Service was slow and rates were high.

“It cost 18 3/4 cents to send a letter from Boston to New York and 25 cents to send one all the way to Washington DC. A letter sent from Boston to Albany, NY written on a 1/4-ounce sheet of paper and carried by the Western Railroad, cost 2/3 as much as the freight charge for carrying a barrel of flour the same distance.” ~ Lucille J. Goodyear, Spooner vs. U.S. Postal System

Lysander Spooner Launches the U.S. Postal War

Lysander Spooner knew an opportunity when he saw one. Spooner was an individualist anarchist hailing from Massachusetts. Although partly motivated by profit, his true purpose was to “challenge the constitutionality of the postal monopoly.”

While the Articles of Confederation had empowered Congress with “the sole and exclusive right and power” of “establishing or regulating post offices,” the Constitution was far more vague on the matter. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution empowered Congress “To establish Post Offices and postal roads.” But the document was silent on the matter of private competition. With this loophole in mind, Spooner organized his own company, which he called The American Letter Mail Company. And he wasted no time in advertising his new venture, which attacked the idea of a governmental postal monopoly head-on. In effect, he launched the U.S. Postal War.

“The American Letter Mail Company has established post offices in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston, and will deliver letter daily from each city to the others – twice a day between New York and Philadelphia. Postage 6 1/4 cents per each half-ounce, payable in advance always. Stamps 20 for a dollar. Their purpose is to carry letters by the most rapid conveyances, and at the cheapest rates and to extend their operations (as fast as patronage will justify) over the principal routes of the country, so as to give the public the most extensive facilities for correspondence that can be afforded at a uniform rate.

The Company design also (if sustained by the public) is to thoroughly agitate the questions, and test the Constitutional right of the competition in the business of carrying letters – the ground on which they assert this right are published and for sale at the post offices in pamphlet form.” ~ New York Daily Tribune Advertisement

Spooner’s company and the U.S. Postal War caused considerable angst among politicians. The U.S. Post Office earned gigantic profits, but often reported losses. That was because the profits were distributed by politicians via patronage to politically connected groups, namely: “(1) coach contractors, (2) rail and steamboat companies, (3) postmasters, (4) publishers of printed matter, (5) officials with the franking privilege, and (6) rural voters.

The U.S. government fought back in the U.S. Postal War, initiating lawsuits against Spooner. They threatened to jail him and pressured railroad operators to stop delivering his mail. But this proved unsuccessful and by 1845, the Post Office found itself rapidly losing business. The Postmaster General appealed to Congress and received permission to lower postage rates. Undeterred, Spooner lowered his own rates even further, causing even greater distress for politicians.

Alas, Spooner’s efforts and those of others like him (most notably James W. Hale), were in vain. In 1851, Congress lowered the postal rate to three cents per half-ounce letter and enacted laws giving the U.S. Post Office an effective monopoly over mail distribution. The U.S. Postal War was over. Spooner’s company was forced out of business and by 1860, private mail delivery was virtually eliminated in the United States.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

On December 5, 2011, the U.S. Postal Service announced “major budget and service cuts.” First-Class mail will take a day or two longer to deliver and stamps will rise one cent to $0.45. Despite those changes, the U.S. Post Office is expected to rack up a loss of $14.1 billion next year.

While the rise of email is certainly a factor here, a bigger problem is the postal monopoly itself. Government-enforced monopolies have little reason to cut costs, lower prices, or improve service. Perhaps it’s time we take a page from history and allow true private competition in the mail industry. Between 1845 and 1851, the U.S. Postal War launched by fromSpooner, Hale, and others forced the U.S. Postal Service to cut postage rates by 79%. At the same time, the U.S. Postal War led to service innovations, such as stamp prepayment and small-town intracity delivery. Is there another Lysander Spooner out there, waiting to reignite the U.S. Postal War? We can only hope.

Did Game Theory Save Mankind?

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union wielded enormous arsenals of nuclear weapons. Citizens of the world lived in fear that the conflict would someday heat up, resulting in a devastating nuclear war that would destroy the world. Into this confusion and terror stepped the RAND Corporation and a team of Game Theory experts. Did Game Theory stop Mutually Assured Destruction and save mankind?

Game Theory: The Prisoner’s Dilemma?

The chart above represents the “Prisoner’s Dilemma.” In this game, two men are arrested for various crimes. However, the police lack enough information to make the main crime stick. So, the police separate the men and offer them both the same deal. If one prisoner confesses while the other one doesn’t, the confessor will go free while the other prisoner will serve a full 20 year sentence. If both prisoners confess, they will each receive a ten year term. However, if both prisoners keep quiet, they will each be charged with a lesser crime and receive a one year term. This is a one-time situation and the prisoners are not told of each other’s decision. What should they do?

Game Theory: Solving the Prisoner’s Dilemma?

If Prisoner B confesses, Prisoner A’s best strategy is to confess as well since 10 years is a shorter term than 20 years. If Prisoner B doesn’t confess, Prisoner A’s best strategy is still to confess since being free is better than a year in prison. Thus, Prisoner A’s best choice is to confess. Knowing this, Prisoner B will do the same thing and they will both go to jail for 10 years. What makes this game interesting is that the prisoners would be better off if they both kept quiet. And yet, logic dictates that they both confess instead.

Game Theory & Mutually Assured Destruction?

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a nuclear stand-off. So, the RAND Corporation hired some of the world’s top game theorists to study the situation. At the time, both nations had the same policy: “If one side launched a first strike, the other threatened to answer with a devastating counter-strike.”

This became known as Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD for short. And indeed, the idea of this happening was “mad” since it could’ve brought about a nuclear winter. However, game theorists were worried about Mutually Assured Destruction. They thought the two countries had boxed themselves into a prisoner’s dilemma that could threaten mankind’s very existence. Here’s how it worked:

“Suppose the USSR launches a first strike against the USA. At that point, the American President finds his country already destroyed. He doesn’t bring it back to life by now blowing up the world, so he has no incentive to carry out his original threat to retaliate, which has now manifestly failed to achieve its point. Since the Russians can anticipate this, they should ignore the threat to retaliate and strike first. Of course, the Americans are in an exactly symmetric position, so they too should strike first. Each power will recognize this incentive on the part of the other, and so will anticipate an attack if they don’t rush to preempt it. What we should therefore expect…is a race between the two powers to be the first to attack.” ~ Don Ross

Strategies to Deter Mutually Assured Destruction

This analysis led the RAND Corporation to recommend the United States taking actions designed to show their commitment to Mutually Assured Destruction. One strategy was to ensure that “second-strike capability” existed. A second strategy was to make leaders appear irrational. The CIA portrayed President Nixon as insane and/or a drunk. The KGB, which appears to have come to the same conclusion as RAND, responded by fabricating medical records to show that General Secretary Brezhnev was senile.

Another strategy was to introduce uncertainty at stopping Stop Mutually Assured Destruction. For example, by building more nuclear missiles and storing them in numerous locations, it was less likely that the President could stop all of them from being launched in the event of a Russian attack. A third strategy was to ensure Mutually Assured Destruction. Russia went so far as to create Perimeter, or Dead Head, which was the closest thing this world’s ever seen to a doomsday machine.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, did the game theorists save the world from Mutually Assured Destruction? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know for certain. But advancements in game theory have shown that the Cold War models weren’t really accurate. Nuclear war was usually modeled as a one-time game. But as long as one preserved second strike capabilities, the “game” would’ve been played over and over again with both sides exchanging repeated waves of missiles.

The outcome of nuclear war is the same whether one initiates an attack or responds to it. And since this outcome is worse than “no nuclear war,” the optimal move is to not launch missiles. Of course, this depends on a number of assumptions. Second-strike capabilities must be available and known to the other side. Both sides must have perfection detection equipment since a false positive like the one recognized by the heroic Stanislav Petrov could lead to nuclear war. Perfectly rational leaders must be in place. And finally, both sides must be unable to defend an incoming attack.

Still, one could argue that the game theorists were on the right track. By making it clear that retaliation was more likely than not, both nations managed to discourage each other from ever launching a single missile. Then again, it was never clear that the maximum payoff for either side was to destroy its enemy while avoiding its own destruction. Indeed, maybe the games being played weren’t just between nations but rather, within them as well.

“A wise cynic might suggest that the operations researchers on both sides were playing a cunning strategy in a game over funding, one that involved them cooperating with one another in order to convince their politicians to allocate more resources to weapons.” ~ Don Ross

The New York Gold Conspiracy?

On September 24, 1869, the price of gold on the New York Gold Exchange hit $162 an ounce. Shortly after, it plunged to $133 an ounce, ruining scores of investors in the process. What was the Black Friday New York Gold Conspiracy?

Jay Gould & James Fisk: The Plot to Corner the Gold Market?

During the Civil War, the U.S. government began issuing “greenbacks” in order to raise money. Greenbacks were a fiat currency (similar to that used today) and thus, were not backed by gold or anything else. After the war ended, the government began to withdraw the greenbacks from circulation. This was accomplished by buying greenbacks with gold. This allowed the price of gold, which had reached $300 an ounce, to return to a more normal level of $130 an ounce by early 1869.

Around that time, a group of investors, led by Jay Gould and James Fisk, saw an opportunity to generate enormous profits. They wanted to, in effect, “corner the gold market.” But they feared the U.S. government’s tendency to stabilize gold prices. They needed to find a way to temporarily take the government out of the game. And in order to do that, they needed to seize control of its monetary policy.

Gould and Fisk recruited Abel Corbin, President Ulysses S. Grant’s brother-in-law, to their cause. Together, the three men badgered Grant to stop selling government gold, arguing that it would make farmers more competitive in overseas markets and thus, raise farm prices.

Black Friday!

By September 1869, Gould and Fisk were convinced that their plan had worked. They began buying large amounts of gold with very little money, thanks to small margin requirements. As they accumulated a large position, they were able to manipulate the market price higher and higher, making plans to unload it before the inevitable fall. Prices rose and stocks fell. President Grant immediately grew suspicious of his brother-in-law and told his wife to add a note in a letter written to her sister:

“Tell your husband that the President is very much distressed by your speculations, and you must close them as quick as you can.”

On September 23, gold reached $142 an ounce. Gould, who’d learned that Grant was on to the scheme, began secretly unloading his position. Fisk, completely unaware of what was about to happen, did not. The next day, Black Friday, the price of gold ran all the way up to $162 an ounce (the actual blackboard is shown above). Then word reached the New York Gold Exchange that the Treasury was selling $4 million of gold. Abruptly, prices collapsed, sending gold reeling back to the mid $130s.

Many investors, who’d bought gold on margin, were ruined. Gould “was rumored to have cleared $10 or $11 million” although this remains in question. Fisk is believed to have escaped harm by repudiating his trades.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Black Friday caused a brief financial panic. But for the most part, no one paid a price for the scandal. Gould and Fisk escaped punishment, thanks to sympathetic Tammany Hall judges. President Grant was accused of being involved in the Black Friday scheme. However, it didn’t stop him from being reelected in 1872.

Over the years, others have tried to corner various types of financial markets. But Gould’s and Fisk’s Black Friday attempt might just be the most audacious of them all. By enlisting the gigantic hand of government to aid their cause, they took corporatism to a whole new level. On a relative basis, one could make the claim that Gould and Fisk caused the biggest one-day crash of gold in U.S. history on Black Friday, maybe even of all time, and got away with it.

The Switch in Time that Saved Nine?

In 1937, President Roosevelt proposed his notorious “court-packing plan.” It altered the ideological composition of the Supreme Court and singlehandedly changed the course of a nation. What was “the switch in time that saved nine?”

The Four Horsemen vs. The Three Musketeers?

During the 1930s, the Supreme Court contained two voting blocs. The “Four Horsemen,” which consisted of Justices Pierce Butler, James McReynolds, George Sutherland, and Willis Van Devanter, believed in upholding the Constitution and personal freedom. They generally opposed Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. The Three Musketeers, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, and Harlan Stone, supported the New Deal. Chief Justice Charles Hughes and Justice Owen Roberts acted as swing votes with Hughes often siding with the Musketeers and Roberts usually finding equal ground with the Four Horsemen.

From 1935-1937, the Four Horsemen and Justice Roberts struck down several parts of the highly unconstitutional New Deal. Roosevelt and his supporters despised the Horsemen. However, unless one of them retired, there was nothing he could do to stop them. That is, until he and his attorney general came up with the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937.

President Roosevelt’s Court Packing Plan?

This was the infamous “court packing plan.” President Roosevelt proposed that he be given the power to appoint a new justice for every sitting justice that continued to serve six months past his or her 70th birthday. The bill would’ve allowed him to add 44 federal judges as well as 6 Supreme Court justices. It encountered tremendous opposition even from Roosevelt’s supporters. The public lost faith in him and a previously supportive Congress began to question if the President was trying to create a dictatorship.

The Switch in Time that Saved Nine?

Less than two months after the Bill was announced, Justice Roberts joined the Three Musketeers and Chief Justice Hughes in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, which upheld minimum wage legislation. It was a strange vote considering the fact that Roberts had previously been on the other end of several decisions regarding the minimum wage. Since then, it has become known as “the switch in time that saved nine,” alluding to the theory that he switched sides in order to stop Roosevelt from usurping the Supreme Court’s independence.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Was the Switch in Time that Saved Nine deliberate? Did Justice Roberts abandon his ideology for political purposes? These questions remain a source of vigorous debate to this day. According to research conducted by Professor G. Edward White, the votes were cast a few days before the court-packing plan was announced. Others point out that Roberts wasn’t a consistent supporter of the Four Horsemen and suggest that his ideology, if indeed he had one to begin with, was actually closer to the Three Musketeers.

On the other hand, there’s some interesting circumstantial evidence to suggest that Chief Justice Hughes engineered the Switch in Time that Saved Nine. Knowing that Roosevelt planned to go after the Supreme Court, Hughes took Roberts under his wing and convinced him to abandon his principles. Also, according to Burt Solomon’s FDR v. The Constitution: The Court-Packing Fight and the Triumph of Democracy, even Roberts’ newly-found allies didn’t understand the Switch in Time that Saved Nine. Harlan Stone, one of the Three Musketeers, wrote a letter to Felix Frankfurter in which he called the Roberts’ vote, “a sad chapter in our judicial history” and referenced “explanations which do not explain.”

The Switch in Time that Saved Nine, as well as the subsequent retirement of Justice Devanter, ultimately led to the defeat of President Roosevelt’s court-packing bill. Still, it could be argued that Roosevelt won in the end as he held the office of President for another eight years, allowing him the opportunity to replace eight Justices and in essence, remake the Supreme Court in his image. But if Roosevelt won, then who lost? Some would say the American people themselves. As Judge Napolitano put it in his book The Constitution in Exile:

“Justice Owen Roberts switched ideological sides and brought a conclusive end to the Constitution as protector of natural rights, the free market, and federalism.” ~ Judge Andrew Napolitano

The Lost Amendment?

On December 6, 1865, America officially abolished slavery with the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, some people, known as Thirteeners, believe that this was actually the 14th Amendment. The real 13th Amendment, they argue, has been erroneously removed from existence. What is the Lost Titles of Nobility Amendment?

The Titles of Nobility Amendment?

In 1983, David Dodge and Tom Dunn were searching through public records in Maine. They came across an 1825 copy of the U.S. Constitution. To their surprise, it contained a strange 13th Amendment, which is now referred to as the Titles of Nobility Amendment. For the next few years, Dodge and Dunn searched archives across the United States. They recovered 18 documents printed between 1822 and 1860 that also included this previously unknown amendment. And slowly, a bizarre story began to unfold.

In the early 1800s, American citizens were extremely concerned about foreign involvement in their newly formed government. For example, the marriage of Jerome Bonaparte (Napoleon’s younger brother) and Betsy Patterson caused some controversy when they gave birth to a baby boy. Although Patterson was an American, she wanted her child to have a title from France. She may have even wanted a title for herself, reflected in the fact that texts at the time referred to her as the “Duchess of Baltimore.”

The idea of its citizens holding allegiance to another country didn’t sit well with the young American government. And the idea of such a person holding a U.S. political office was unthinkable. Thus, the Titles of Nobility Amendment was created in order to modify the following section of the Constitution:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” ~ Article I, Section 9

The amendment, shown below, would’ve extended the law to all citizens. Furthermore, it would’ve increased the law’s domain, making it illegal for a citizen to receive any sort of honor or title from a foreign country without the consent of Congress.

“If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain, any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.” ~ Titles of Nobility Amendment

Was the Titles of Nobility Amendment ever Ratified?

In order for a U.S. amendment to become law, it must receive support from two-thirds of the members of each house of Congress or be approved by a convention called by two-thirds of all states. Afterward, it must be ratified by either three-fourths of the states or by three-fourths of the convention. So, how did the Titles of Nobility Amendment do?

Pretty well, it turns out. The amendment passed both houses of Congress by large margins. Then it was presented to the states. At the time, there were 17 states so 13 votes were needed for ratification. But by that time, America was engrossed in the War of 1812 and the amendment was forgotten. When the issue was raised again by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1818, he discovered that twelve separate states had voted for ratification, three had rejected it, and one had taken no action. The sole remaining state, Virginia, apparently never replied. So, how did it end up in all those copies of the Constitution? Is it possible that Virginia did ratify the bill and this oversight was corrected?

Dodge thought so. His research led him to a rather significant discovery. On March 12, 1819, Virginia’s legislature published its own official edition of the Constitution and amendments. That edition contained the mysterious Titles of Nobility Amendment.

“Knowing they were the last state necessary to ratify the Amendment, the Virginians had every right [to] announce their own and the nation’s ratification of the Amendment by publishing it on a special edition of the Constitution, and so they did.” ~ David Dodge

The Lost Titles of Nobility Amendment?

Wow. So, if Dodge is correct, how could the United States, in effect, lose an amendment? According to a 2010 Newsweek article on the subject, it’s not so hard to believe.

“If you find it hard to believe that an amendment to the Constitution could have been in effect for four decades and then mysteriously excised and forgotten, well, the times were different. There was no single reference copy of the Constitution to which scribes with quill pens ceremoniously added amendments as they were ratified.”

Of course, Dodge’s evidence is fairly circumstantial. And Jol A. Silversmith, who has written extensively on the subject, argues that by 1819, 13 votes wouldn’t have been enough since other states had joined the Union. A quick check shows that America had 21 states as of March 12, 1819, which means that 16 votes would’ve been required for ratification.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

David Dodge and other proponents of the Titles of Nobility Amendment believe that a greater conspiracy is at work. They think that the amendment was deliberately excised due to the fact that it would’ve made it illegal for lawyers to hold political office since the British Bar refers to American lawyers as “Esquire.” Silversmith and others consider this crazy due to the fact that Esquire carries no special privileges and is not inheritable, among other things.

Interestingly enough, the Titles of Nobility Amendment is still technically pending since its time for ratification was never limited by the 1810 Congress. In order to pass, it would require another 26 votes although I imagine that state legislatures that had already voted on the amendment would demand a revote. In total, 38 votes would be needed in order for the bill to become law.

You may scoff at the idea of modern society passing a law that’s been in limo for over two hundred years. But there is precedence. After all, how do you think the 27th Amendment was passed?

How Wild was the Wild West?

The “Wild West” is an expression used to refer to life in the western United States during the late 1800s. For decades, films and books have depicted the Wild West as a place of gunfights, outlaws, and mass disorder. But recent scholarship shows otherwise. It turns out that the Wild West may not have been so wild after all.

Was the Wild West a Powder Keg waiting to Explode?

The Wild West has long been a staple of American culture. Immortalized in dime novels and Hollywood movies, it has long been depicted as lawless, violent, and chaotic. And a cursory look at trends taking place in the American west during the 1800s would seem to confirm that image.

The Wild West was populated with strangers from various backgrounds, countries, and nationalities who wanted to get their hands on gold. For the most part, they didn’t intend to stay in the area – they wanted to get rich and get back home. Most individuals carried guns. And to top things off, there wasn’t much in the way of official government to keep the peace. At first glance, the Wild West appears to be a power keg filled with a toxic mixture of greed, racism, and unregulated firearms. To top it off, the area exhibited little in the way of long-term community or government law enforcement.

How Wild was the Wild West?

One might expect such a situation to lead to violence and daily gunfights. But a growing body of research suggests the opposite – that the Wild West may have actually been quite peaceful and prosperous. Let’s take a look at some of the strange truths we now know about the Wild West.

  • Bank robberies were rare: According to historian Larry Schweikart, bank robberies were almost non-existent in the Wild West. From 1859-1900, there were only about a dozen or so robberies. In fact, such crimes only became a problem during the 1920s when automobiles allowed for easy escapes and physical security became less important to a bank’s success due to the Federal Reserve assuming responsibility for the system.
  • Private agencies provided law and order: According to Terry Anderson and P.J. Hill’s book, An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West, “private agencies provided the necessary basis for an orderly society in which property was protected and conflicts were resolved.” Such agencies included land clubs, cattlemen’s associations, mining camps, and wagon trains.
  • Homicides were also relatively rare: In his book Cattle Towns, Robert Dykstra examined five major cattle towns between 1870 and 1885. He found that only forty-five murders took place over the fifteen years.

All this is not to say that hatred, violence, and murder didn’t exist during the Wild West but merely to say that the amounts of it that occurred were far less than has been portrayed in the popular media.

Why was the Wild West relatively Tame?

This can be partly credited to the establishment of private organizations. According to historian Tom Woods, private land clubs created their own laws to “define and protect property rights in land.” Wagon trains that transported people to the west had their own constitutions and judicial systems. Mining camps formed contracts to restrain their own behavior and developed their own legal systems. Those who didn’t approve were free to leave and mine elsewhere. Cattlemen’s associations also wrote constitutions and “hired private ‘protection agencies’ to deter cattle rustling.”

The result was peace…a peace that only began to deteriorate once formal government was introduced into the region…a peace that astounded observers of the time:

“Appeals were taken from one to the other, papers certified up or down and over, and recognized, criminals delivered and judgments accepted from one court by another, with a happy informality which it is pleasant to read of. And here we are confronted by an awkward fact: there was undoubtedly much less crime in the two years this arrangement lasted than in the two which followed the territorial organization and regular government.” ~ J.H. Beadle, Western Wilds (1860)

What about Violence toward the Plains Indians?

Now of course, this just covers the settlers themselves. Treatment of the Plains Indians was marked with violence right? Well, according to Woods, the first half of the 19th century was notable for relatively peaceful trading between the Indians and the settlers. It wasn’t until the second half of the century that violence became the norm. And much of that violence “sprang from…U.S. government policies” rather than civil society. More specifically, at the end of the Civil War, “white settlers and railroad corporations were able to socialize the costs of stealing Indian lands by using violence supplied by the U.S. Army.” In other words, rather than paying for land, politicians beginning with Abraham Lincoln were determined to seize it on behalf of the Union Pacific Railroad. In the process, they enriched themselves as well as numerous prominent American families.

Unfortunately, that seizure came at a high cost…the vicious and deliberate extermination of the Plains Indians by forces led by former Civil War generals. General William Sherman sometimes referred to the affair as “the final solution of the Indian problem.” As many as 45,000 Indians, including women and children, died between 1862-1890 as a result of this government-initiated campaign.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, it would appear that civil society in the Wild West was actually rather tame. The “wild” was supplied by the U.S. government’s so-called Indian Wars, which served to permanently alter the settlers’ once-friendly trading relationships with the Plains Indians.

But why does popular culture continue to portray the typical Wild West city as being full of death and violence? It turns out that the problem begins at the academic level.

“The ‘frontier-was-violent’ authors are not, for the most part, attempting to prove that the frontier was violent. Rather, they assume that it was violent and then proffer explanations for that alleged violence.” ~ Roger McGrath, Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier

Anarcho-capitalists often use the Wild West as an example of how individuals can foster a peaceful existence in the absence of government. Essentially, settlers created their own institutions in order to deal with the very specific problems they faced. Violence was relatively minimal in civil society. But the arrival of formal government brought with it a culture of violence as well as a wave of violent genocide that haunts us to this day.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

What is the Report from Iron Mountain?

In 1967, Dial Press published a book called Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. It remains one of the most controversial works of all time. Who wrote the Report from Iron Mountain? What does it say? And most importantly…is it real?

What is the Report from Iron Mountain?

The Report from Iron Mountain purports to be the findings of a 15-man Special Study Group. It hints that it was commissioned in 1963 by the Department of Defense and was produced by the Hudson Institute, which is located at the base of Iron Mountain in New York. The purpose of the supposed top-secret study was “…to determine, accurately and realistically, the nature of the problems that would confront the United States if and when a condition of ‘permanent peace’ should arrive, and to draft a program for dealing with this contingency.”

The Report from Iron Mountain states that from a historical perspective, war has been the only reliable way for a government to perpetuate itself. Fear of an enemy will cause civilians to accept government intrusion into their lives. Also, war creates loyalty for political leaders. But during times of peace, people begin to turn against taxes and intrusion.

“The war system not only has been essential to the existence of nations as independent political entities, but has been equally indispensable to their stable internal political structure. Without it, no government has ever been able to obtain acquiescence in its ‘legitimacy,’ or right to rule its society. The possibility of war provides the sense of external necessity without which no government can long remain in power. The historical record reveals one instance after another where the failure of a regime to maintain the credibility of a war threat led to its dissolution, by the forces of private interest, of reactions to social injustice, or of other disintegrative elements.” ~ Report from Iron Mountain

The Report from Iron Mountain sought to find a credible substitute for war and considered several ideas such as an alien invasion. However, aliens were ultimately discarded for an “environmental-pollution model.” In passages that are eerily prescient of the current global warming debate, the Report proposes that people would be willing to accept a lower standard of living, higher taxes, and increased governmental intrusion in order to “save Mother Earth.”

Was the Report from Iron Mountain Real?

As you can imagine, the Report from Iron Mountain sent giant waves rippling throughout the world back in 1967. It became a New York Times bestseller and was translated into fifteen languages. Its authenticity quickly came under question, a debate that continues to this day.

On one hand, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s an authentic document. In 1967, the U.S. News and World report claimed that the report was real and that it had confirmation to that effect. In 1976, John Kenneth Galbraith (under a pseudonym) wrote in the Washington Post that he had been invited to participate in the Special Study Group.

“As I would put my personal repute behind the authenticity of this document, so would I testify to the validity of its conclusions. My reservation relates only to the wisdom of releasing it to an obviously unconditioned public.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

On the other hand, Leonard Lewin, who wrote the original introduction to the book, came forward in 1972 and claimed to be the author. He said that it was meant to be a satire. Supposedly, he got the idea from a New York Timesarticle that discussed how a “peace scare” led to a stock-market sell-off.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, who wrote the Report? In all likelihood, Lewin was indeed the author. In 1990, Liberty Lobby published its own edition, claiming that the study was in the public domain since it was a U.S. government document. Lewin sued for copyright infringement and received an undisclosed settlement.

The bigger question regards its authenticity. Most scholars consider it a hoax. Still, numerous groups continue to believe that the Report from Iron Mountain is genuine and that Lewin only called it a hoax on orders from the United States government. Others would say that whether its authentic or not misses the point. What really matters is that the ideas presented in the document are no longer just ideas…they are rapidly becoming a reality.

Real-Life Superheroes?

For decades, fans have thrilled to the fictional exploits of superheroes such as Superman and costumed heros like Batman. But such people, who dedicate their lives to protecting the public, aren’t real. Or are they? Meet Phoenix Jones, the most famous real-life costumed hero in America.

Phoenix Jones & Real Life Superheroes?

The United States, and perhaps the world as well, is on the verge of a costumed hero revolution. Across the nation, some 200 ordinary citizens are donning colorful costumes and heading out into the streets on a regular basis, ostensibly to serve the public. However, these people are quite different from their fictional counterparts. They mostly stick to simple tasks…stuff like community service and neighborhood patrols.

And then there’s Phoenix Jones. Phoenix, pictured above without costume, is perhaps the most famous real-life costumed hero in America. His real name is Benjamin John Francis Fodor and he’s 23 years old. He belongs to a ten-member team called the Rain City Superhero Movement. This Seattle-based squad is probably the closest real life example to the Justice League or the Avengers.

While most costumed heroes prefer to remain on the sidelines, Phoenix is best known for wading into the thick of the action. His weapons include a stun baton, a net gun, and pepper spray. He wears a bulletproof vest and stab plating. And good thing too since he’s been hit with a baseball bat, stabbed, held up at gunpoint, and had his nose broken via a kick to the face.

Phoenix Jones…Hero…or Villain?

A few days ago, Phoenix Jones was arrested and charged with four counts of assault. As best as I can tell, a group of individuals was fighting in the street (they claim they were dancing but later one of the girls in the video admitted there had been a fight). Phoenix along with his sidekick Ghost attempted to break up the altercation. The crowd turned on him and he discharged his pepper spray, hitting a young lady in the face. She went ballistic and went after him with her stiletto heels.

Similar to recent comic book story lines, Phoenix’s arrest has raised concerns regarding the legality of costumed crime fighters. The young lady claims that Phoenix’s behavior was irresponsible. And Seattle policemen have expressed their opinion that bystanders should call 911 rather than attempting to intervene in fights (it should be noted that Phoenix and his comrades called 911 numerous times during the fight).

“Just because he’s dressed up in costume, it doesn’t mean he’s in special consideration or above the law.” ~ Detective Mark Jamieson

While some people might agree with Detective Jamieson, a less charitable person would point out that while Phoenix was arrested for the pepper spray discharge, a police officer who did the same thing would receive nothing more than a rebuke. Which, from a certain point of view, places police officers above the very laws they are sworn to protect. As William Grigg put it:

“That’s right: Seattle can’t afford to have oddly dressed people prowling the streets, ready to wade into ambiguous situations and use unnecessary force. Unless, of course, they’re government-licensed purveyors of mayhem, such as Ian Birk – the Seattle Police Officer who murdered local artist John Williams on a street corner in August 2010. Williams, a woodcarver and chronic inebriate, was carrying a carving knife in a crosswalk when Birk pulled up in a cruiser. Seven seconds later, Williams was dead. While Birk was forced to resign from the department, no criminal charges were filed against him. [Phoenix’s] problem, you see, was that he wasn’t wearing a government-issued costume.” ~ William Grigg, Is It ‘Assault,’ or ‘Enforcement’? That Depends on the Costume (Lew Rockwell)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Vigilante justice is a controversial topic in America. Many are frightened by the prospect of someone like Phoenix Jones “taking the law into their own hands.” And this is understandable since innocent people will inevitably get hurt. At the same time, our present system of law enforcement leads to innocent people getting hurt everyday. False arrests, police brutality, and police protecting their own from the wheels of justice does happen, perhaps more often than we care to admit.

Modern law enforcement is really just a government monopoly. And monopolies are generally characterized by high costs and substandard service. With that in mind, perhaps there’s room for competition in the law enforcement arena. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a place in this world for costumed heroes like Phoenix Jones.

Predicting “Future Crime?”

In the popular television show, Person of Interest, a mysterious billionaire named Mr. Finch uses a secret computer program to identify people connected to “future crimes.” While Mr. Finch uses the program to save lives, it’s easy to imagine such a thing being used for evil (see: Minority Report). Fortunately, this frightening technology doesn’t exist in real life…does it?

FAST: Future Attribute Screening Technology…or Future Crime Technology?

In 2008, news began to leak out that the Department of Homeland Security was working on a program named Project Hostile Intent (now called FAST, or Future Attribute Screening Technology). Its purpose was to detect “‘mal-intent’ by screening people for ‘psychological and physiological indicators’ in a ‘Mobile Screening Laboratory.'”

Recently, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained an internal document from the Department of Homeland Security. It revealed that FAST is not just a piece of hypothetical technology. Future crime technology is real. And its being tested on real people, albeit voluntarily.

The concept behind FAST is fairly simple. Government agents will use “video images, audio recordings, cardiovascular signals, pheromones, electrodermal activity, and respiratory measurements” to examine individuals from afar. Advanced algorithms will then analyze this information. This will supposedly allow agents to “predict” future criminal behavior and give them a “head start to stop a crime or violent act in progress.”

Future Crime versus Criminal Profiling?

Technologies to predict the future seem to be all the rage in government agencies these days. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is developing a program to detect traitorous insiders who plan to turn on their colleagues. Meanwhile, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) is working on technology to predict future global events and the “consequences of U.S. intelligence actions.”

Still, the government’s desire to predict the future isn’t new. After all, FAST is, in certain respects, just a more advanced version of the common yet controversial practice of “criminal profiling.” But while profiling usually focuses on just one or two factors, such as ethnicity or gender, FAST goes to a whole other level. It examines ethnicity, gender, age, occupation, breathing patterns, body movements, eye movements, changes in pitch, changes in speech, changes in body heat, and changes in heart rate among other things.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, it would appear that the government is laying the groundwork for a system to predict crime. Fortunately, it’s only confined to employees of the Department of Homeland Security at the moment. Right?

Wrong. It turns out that FAST “has already been tested in at least one undisclosed location in the northeast.” While the nature of this location remains unknown, the DHS claims it wasn’t an airport.

EPIC is concerned about the privacy implications and believes that FAST needs to be reviewed. And it’s hard to argue with them. The privacy concerns are mind-boggling to say the least, especially since the government plans to “retain information” that it collects. In addition, the idea of being spied upon, profiled, singled out, and questioned by government agents for a crime not yet committed is disturbing to say the least. The potential for abuse is alarming and real…Very, very real.