Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mysterious Christmas Eve Tragedy of 1945, family distraught over SIX missing children Fayetteville, West Va

The billboard that stood for decades in Fayetteville.
The Appalachian Project

Mysterious Christmas Eve Tragedy 1945
Fayetteville, West Va

One of the all time great mysteries in Appalachian history comes from the little town of Fayetteville, WV. The story of the Sodder family is one that has drawn massive scrutiny yet has bamboozled investigators and researchers for almost 70 years now.

It is the story of what began as a simple Christmas that turned into a never-ending nightmare for a family of Italian immigrants.

George and Jennie Sodder along with nine of their children (only a son in the military was absent) went to bed on Christmas Eve, 1944. At approximately 1 a.m. on Christmas morning, Jennie Sodder awoke to find that their house had caught on fire. Jennie frantically roused her husband and together they attempted to round up their children to get to safety. George, Jennie and four of their children made it out then George went back in to save the other five missing children when he couldn't find them outside.

George charged back into the house where he was met with a cloud of flames and smoke. Knowing the children were likely upstairs, George went back out to where he kept a ladder...but it was missing. He then decided to use one of his two coal trucks to back them up the upstairs window...but neither would start despite firing up the day before. He even tried to get water from a rain barrel to throw on the fire...but the water was frozen solid.

The house was now engulfed by a billowing cloud of smoke with, presumably, the missing Sodder children inside. The Sodder's oldest daughter ran to a neighbor's house to call the fire department but there was no operator. Another neighbor who saw the flames also tried to call about the fire but to no avail. Despite the fire station being only 2 1/2 miles away, it was 8 a.m. on Christmas Day before the fire truck made it to the Sodder's home some 7 hours after the fire began.
At this point, George and Jeannie Sodder were despondent thinking that five of their children had perished in the fire. The Fire Chief, F.J. Morris, told them the fire hadn't been so hot that it would completely incinerate the children's bodies but an initial search turned up no remains. The cause of the fire was deemed to be faulty electrical wiring. The local authorities looked to close the books on the case quickly as it appeared to have just been a tragic accident.

After the initial shock began to pass, the Sodders started to doubt that their children had actually died in the fire. They began to piece together all of the loose ends that had occurred before the fire. A series of odd events had preceded the fire that the Sodders began to question:

* A few months before the fire, an stranger had come to their home looking for work as a coal hauler for the Sodders trucking company. Looking at their fuse box, he remarked, "This is going to cause a fire someday." It struck the Sodders as odd because their system had just satisfactorily passed an inspection by the power company.
* During that same time frame an insurance agent had attempted to persuade them to buy life insurance. When they declined, the agent angrily declared that their house "is going to go up in smoke" and "your children are going to be destroyed" for George Sodders outspoken criticism of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Fayetteville had a strong Italian community at the time and George Sodder's harsh comments didn't make him popular in the neighborhood.
* Just a few days before the fire, the older Sodder boys had spotted a strange man sitting in a car watching the children come home after school.
* An odd phone call had come through just after midnight shortly before the fire broke out . It apparently turned out to be a wrong number as a female voice asked to speak with someone Jennie had never heard of. Jennie was struck by the sound of laughter and commotion in the background of the call.
* Soon after getting in bed from the phone call, Jennie heard a loud thud on the roof followed by the sound of something rolling off. It wasn't long after this noise that Jennie discovered the smoke in the house.

All of these strange events made strong doubts creep into the minds of the Sodders about the fate of their children. A series of curious happenings continued following the fire:
* No trace of the five missing children would be found in the rubble.
* A follow-up inspection led a telephone repairman to tell the Sodders that it appeared the wiring had been cut and not burned. They began to realize that the power should have been off throughout their house if it had been faulty wiring yet that wasn't the case.
* The Sodders discovered a strange object made of rubber in their yard in the days after the fire. George strongly suspicioned that it was the encasement for an explosive device used to start the fire.
Soon after, reported sightings began to pour in:
* A witness claimed to have seen a man fleeing the scene of the fire with a block and tackle device that is used to remove engines from vehicles. Just the kind of device that could have disabled the two coal trucks from starting.
* A witness stated she saw the missing children in a car that passed by while the fire was burning.
* Another lady claimed to have spotted the children at a location around 50 miles west of Fayetteville in the company of two men and two women - all Italian.

The Sodders became more and more desperate to get answers to what became of their children. They chased every lead and hired a private investigator to assist in the search. They wrote a letter to the FBI but were unable to secure assistance reportedly due to a lack of cooperation from the Fayetteville police and fire departments. The Sodders had the site of the fire excavated and once again went through the debris looking for any sign of the children - but nothing turned up. George and Jennie Sodder offered a reward of $5,000 for information and went so far as to have a billboard erected along Route 16 that stood for years.

The last major development occurred in 1968 when a letter postmarked in Kentucky was sent to Jennie Sodder with just a picture inside. The back of the photo read simply, "Louis Sodder. I love brother Frankie. Ilil Boys. A90132 or 35." The photo bore an uncanny resemblance to their son Louis who was 9 at the time of the fire. The Sodders once again hired a private investigator to follow up on the letter to see if anything would come of it. They once again came up empty-handed.

George Sodder passed away not long after the letter was received leaving behind Jennie and unresolved questions about his children. For her part, Jennie became more and more withdrawn as she secluded herself inside their home wearing only black. She kept the billboard up until she finally passed away in 1989. The remaining Sodder children and grandchildren continued to investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire after her death. The mystery continues to this day as questions about what really happened still far outweigh answers.

Theories abound as many think the children perished in the fire and that their remains were completely incinerated. Several people think the children were kidnapped by someone they knew which is why they didn't put up a struggle. Some think the Sodders were victims of arson and that the children were taken to Italy or sold into slavery - perhaps by someone with ties to the mafia. The real truth may never be known but one sad truth cannot be changed - George and Jennie Sodder both left this world without ever having closure about the fate of their five precious children. The torment and nightmare of their lives following the fire is an unspeakable tragedy that no one should ever have to face. - Shane

What do you think happened?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Beginnings of the Vast Divide: Who Really won the War for Independence?

Royall House & Slave Quarters
Medford Ma.

On March 19, 1810, future industrialist Francis Cabot Lowell purchased the Royall estate from the collaborative of Boston businessmen who had bought it from Isaac Royall's granddaughter and heir 4 years earlier. Lowell subdivided the land and by May 22 had sold the parcel containing the mansion and slave quarters to the Tidd family, who would own it for 50 years.

Early cotton mill Waltham Mass.
In June, Lowell sailed to England, his trip presumably financed, at least in part, by his recent real estate transactions.

There he toured the flourishing textile mills “for the purpose of obtaining all possible information on the subject, with a view to introduction of the improved manufacture in the United States.” Britain kept a close hold on its advanced milling technology, allowing neither plans nor textile workers to leave the country, so Lowell memorized the power looms' construction as a way to bring this technology home.

Upon his return in 1812, Lowell formed a company to expand upon what he'd seen in England, building the world's first fully integrated textile mill in Waltham, Mass., (shown here) where "cotton entered as a bale and left as a bolt." This idea would soon spread to other New England cities, changing the region's agricultural economy to one based in industry. By 1826 there were 400 cotton mills in New England, and by 1831 nearly 800 mills in 12 states processed 78 million pounds of cotton into 230 million yards of cloth.

Fueled by the invention in 1793 of the cotton gin by Westborough, Mass., native Eli Whitney, and the demand of the growing Northern textile industry, cotton production in the American South became increasingly dependent on plantations and slavery. The number of enslaved laborers in the cotton industry increased from around 700,000 in 1790 to around 3.2 million by 1850                                      

The “Great Divergence”

 Sven Beckert (Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Knopf) relates how in 1898, the German ambassador to the United States approached Booker T. Washington, asking him to send students and professors—the sons and grandsons of slaves—from Tuskegee to Germany and then on to the West African colony of Togo to transform cotton agriculture there: “an amazing story of African Americans advising deeply racist German colonialists in Togo about how to make local peasants produce cotton for world markets.”

Beckert himself has sought to answer this big question through a decade-long study of cotton—the commodity that started the Industrial Revolution and, he argues, shaped the present global capitalist system: glorious at its best, but at its worst, a “race to the bottom” that seeks the cheapest labor and materials. Beckert’s work has culminated in Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Knopf), to be published in December.
 As he writes in the introduction:

Particularly vexing is the question of why, after many millennia of slow economic growth, a few strands of humanity in the late eighteenth century suddenly got much richer. Scholars now refer to these few decades as the “great divergence”—the beginning of the vast divides that still structure today’s world, the divide between those countries that industrialized and those that did not, between colonizers and colonized, between the global North and the global South.

Taking a global perspective sheds fresh light on capitalism’s reliance on transoceanic connections, such as the simultaneous rise of industrial wage labor in Europe and slave labor in America. “We have hundreds of books on the Industrial Revolution in England,” says Beckert, “and these books focus, as they should, mostly on the expansion of cotton manufacturing, because that’s the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. central to industrial capitalism as it emerges in the nineteenth-century.”

Slave children picking cotton
And then we have hundreds of books on the expansion of slave agriculture in the United States. But these stories are, as I show, very tightly linked to one another because with the growth of cotton manufacturing in Europe, huge needs for cotton emerged there. And since cotton does not grow on the continent of Europe, but it grows very well in places like…the United States, there is a huge expansion of cotton agriculture there, almost all of it based on slave labor. Slavery is Slavery is central to industrial capitalism as it emerges in the nineteenth-century.”

Beckert tells how in 1785 British customs agents in Liverpool seized bags of cotton from an American ship when it sought to deliver the cargo. They didn’t believe the cotton came from the United States because at that time the plant was grown almost exclusively in the Ottoman Empire, the West Indies, Brazil, or India. “That the United States would ever produce significant amounts of cotton…seemed preposterous,” he writes. It was, he concludes, a “spectacular misjudgment,” given the ensuing transformation of the American South from producing “tobacco, rice, indigo, and some sugar” to producing cotton.

~~it upends the American sense of independence and self-determination: European industrialists and financiers were key to this transformation of the American South.

"The ‘Magical Thinking’ Behind The GOP Plan To Cut Programs For The Poor"

The ‘Magical Thinking’ Behind The GOP Plan To Cut Programs For The Poor


Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI),  Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Tom Price (R-GA)
Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Tom Price (R-GA)
CREDIT: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

On Tuesday, House Republicans released a budget proposal that, among other things, promises to reduce spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and Medicaid by using a favorite budgeting gimmick that could wind up cutting millions off from the support they need. Then on Wednesday, Senate Republicans are expected to release a budget that would do something very similar.

The aim is to save the federal government money while still serving the needs of the poor. Overall, the House budget purports to save $5.5 trillion in spending while still “ensur[ing] assistance is provided to those in need.” But Republicans plan to do this in part with something called block granting, which significantly changes the way programs are funded. But as past experience with block granting shows, the poor will suffer if these programs are reformed this way.
Currently, Medicaid and SNAP are cost-sharing partnerships between states and the federal government. If need and enrollment increase for these programs — say, during a severe financial crisis where more families struggle to afford food and need food stamps to get by — then the government shares that increased cost. If these programs were to be block-granted, on the other hand, it would mean the federal government would give states a fixed amount of money to pay for them that wouldn’t change even if demand changed. In return, states are promised more flexibility in how they implement the programs.

This relies on “some magical thinking that states know how to [run these programs] and no one is letting them,” said Mark Schmitt of the New America Foundation. The House budget document says that when it comes to food stamps, “the core challenge is that while states have the responsibility of administering the program, they have little flexibility to ensure it is well run,” but that block-granting it would give them the room to “administer the program in ways that … achieve better results.” Of Medicaid, Republicans claim the change would “give states greater freedom to build the most effective programs for their communities … to better cut down on waste, fraud, and abuse.”
As Schmitt pointed out, however, states can already ask for waivers to experiment with new ideas. But it’s unlikely they can find so much innovation as to be able to provide the same assistance with less money. Instead, these budgets are meant to show Republicans are interested in cutting federal spending. There are only two ways to do that. “Either you cut specific benefits … that people can see and you’re naming them, or you have some kind of magical thing, a balanced budget amendment, something else,” he said. Block-granting avoids the details: it’s a way to do it without cutting specific benefits because states supposedly have a better way to administer the program. “It’s dodging the specifics,” he said.
Instead, states would have to grapple with the details. Given the freedom that usually comes with block grants, they could make many choices in implementing them. But ultimately the reform would mean a severe cut, if past experience is any guide.
The last major anti-poverty program that was block granted was welfare in 1996, at the time called Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). just 26 percent of the low-income families who are typically eligible, compared to 72 percent in the 1990s. States are incentivized to reduce their roles, not reduce poverty.

The government froze the amount of money it gives to states to run their welfare programs, which was $16.5 billion at the time of reform and hasn’t been increased or updated since, therefore losing 28 percent of its value over time. The number of people served has at the same time decreased dramatically, falling from a peak of 5.1 million people to just 1.9 million by 2010 and today reaching

Things only get worse when the economy sours. Unlike SNAP, which was able to rise to meet increasing need during the heights of the financial crisis, TANF couldn’t keep up.

Other programs that have been block granted over the years haven’t fared any better. Of the 11 major programs created with block grants in recent decades, eight have shrunk. Some of the declines are severe: Title 1 funding, or Education for the Disadvantaged, has fallen 115 percent since it was created, while the Social Services Block Grant has fallen 87 percent and the Community Development Block Grant, Home Investment Partnership Program, and the Training and Employment Services Block Grants have all seen declines around 60 percent.
The Republican budgets aren’t the first time conservative lawmakers have floated the idea of block-granting anti-poverty programs. All three versions of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budgets sought to block-grant SNAP and Medicaid. He also proposed block grants in his audit of the country’s anti-poverty programs.

But while none of these documents specify exactly how much would be cut and how many people would be affected, estimates still exist. Block-granting Medicaid and SNAP would kick many people off of both programs. Ryan’s Medicaid plan would have meant federal spending on the program would get cut by $810 billion, or 22 percent, over a decade, dropping between 14 million and 27 million from the rolls by 2021. It would also slash SNAP by $137 billion, or 18 percent, over a decade, kicking millions of people out of the program.

And while states were in favor of welfare reform in the 1990s, their support is unlikely now. That’s because welfare reform was “a complete windfall,” Schmitt said. States were promised they could lock in the amount of money the federal government was giving them at the peak of AFDC enrollment, even after enrollment had started to decrease, giving them an extra infusion of cash. “It was just an incredibly good deal for governors,” he noted. “They had no reason to oppose it.” But as the numbers show, states aren’t going to get a windfall from block-granting Medicaid and SNAP today. Instead, they’ll be stuck with reduced funding and the job of figuring out where to make actual cuts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Papal Bull “Inter Caetera: Doctrine of Discovery, 1493

A primary source by Pope Alexander VI
Demarcation bull, granting Spain possession of the New World, May 4, 1493.Pope Alexander VI's Demarcation Bull, May 4, 1493. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)
The Papal Bull “Inter Caetera,” issued by Pope Alexander VI on May 4, 1493, played a central role in the Spanish conquest of the New World. The document supported Spain’s strategy to ensure its exclusive right to the lands discovered by Columbus the previous year. It established a demarcation line one hundred leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands and assigned Spain the exclusive right to acquire territorial possessions and to trade in all lands west of that line. All others were forbidden to approach the lands west of the line without special license from the rulers of Spain. This effectively gave Spain a monopoly on the lands in the New World.
 The Bull stated that any land not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered,” claimed, and exploited by Christian rulers and declared that “the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.” This “Doctrine of Discovery” became the basis of all European claims in the Americas as well as the foundation for the United States’ western expansion. In the US Supreme Court in the 1823 case Johnson v. McIntosh, Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion in the unanimous decision held “that the principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands.” In essence, American Indians had only a right of occupancy, which could be abolished.

The Bull Inter Caetera made headlines again throughout the 1990s and in 2000, when many Catholics petitioned Pope John Paul II to formally revoke it and recognize the human rights of indigenous “non-Christian peoples.”
Wherefore, as becomes Catholic kings and princes, after earnest consideration of all matters, especially of the rise and spread of the Catholic faith, as was the fashion of your ancestors, kings of renowned memory, you have purposed with the favor of divine clemency to bring under your sway the said mainlands and islands with their residents and inhabitants and to bring them to the Catholic faith. Hence, heartily commending in the Lord this your holy and praiseworthy purpose, and desirous that it be duly accomplished, and that the name of our Savior be carried into those regions, we exhort you very earnestly in the Lord and by your reception of holy baptism, whereby you are bound to our apostolic commands, and by the bowels of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, enjoy strictly, that inasmuch as with eager zeal for the true faith you design to equip and despatch this expedition, you purpose also, as is your duty, to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion; nor at any time let dangers or hardships deter you therefrom, with the stout hope and trust in your hearts that Almighty God will further your undertakings.

With this proviso however that none of the islands and mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, beyond that said line towards the west and south, be in the actual possession of any Christian king or prince up to the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ just past from which the present year one thousand four hundred ninety-three begins. And we make, appoint, and depute you and your said heirs and successors lords of them with full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind; with this proviso however, that by this our gift, grant, and assignment no right acquired by any Christian prince, who may be in actual possesssion of said islands and mainlands prior to the said birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, is hereby to be understood to be withdrawn or taking away.

Moreover we command you in virtue of holy obedience that, employing all due diligence in the premises, as you also promise—nor do we doubt your compliance therein in accordance with your loyalty and royal greatness of spirit—you should appoint to the aforesaid mainlands and islands worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and expeienced men, in order to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals. Furthermore, under penalty of excommunication “late sententie” to be incurred “ipso facto,” should anyone thus contravene, we strictly forbid all persons of whatsoever rank, even imperial and royal, or of whatsoever estate, degree, order, or condition, to dare without your special permit or that of your aforesaid heirs and successors, to go for the purpose of trade or any other reason to the islands or mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole to the Antarctic pole, no matter whether the mainlands and islands, found and to be found, lie in the direction of India or toward any other quarter whatsoever, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south, as is aforesaid, from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde; apostolic constitutions and ordinances and other decrees whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding.

We trust in Him from whom empires and governments and all good things proceed, that, should you, with the Lord’s guidance, pursue this holy and praiseworthy undertaking, in a short while your hardships and endeavors will attain the most felicitious result, to the happiness and glory of all Christendom.

And, in order that you may enter upon so great an undertaking with greater readiness and heartiness endowed with benefit of our apostolic favor, we, of our own accord, not at your instance nor the request of anyone else in your regard, but out of our own sole largess and certain knowledge and out of the fullness of our apostolic power, by the authority of Almighty God conferred upon us in blessed Peter and of the vicarship of Jesus Christ, which we hold on earth, do by tenor of these presents, should any of said islands have been found by your envoys and captains, give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole, namely the north, to the Antarctic pole, namely the south, no matter whether the said mainlands and islands are found and to be found in the direction of India or towards any other quarter, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde.

Doctrine of Discovery and U.S. Expansion

The Doctrine of Discovery and U.S. Expansion

"No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…"

This idea, which is a bedrock of American democracy, is from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was completed in 1787. That same year, the U.S. government enacted the Northwest Ordinance, which created the first organized territory out of the region that is today Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Among other regulations, the ordinance set forth a guiding principle for the treatment of Native Americans and their lands:

"The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed."

Just seven years later, in 1794, the U.S. government sent a regiment led by General "Mad" Anthony Wayne to conquer a confederation of American Indian tribes attempting to keep hold of their lands. At the Battle of Fallen Timbers, a band of 800 Native Americans was slaughtered and 5,000 acres of crops were destroyed. The tribes of the region were forced into a treaty that limited them to the northern region of what is today Ohio, and it took them twenty years to recover from the loss of lives and property.

In 1802, President Jefferson signed the Georgia Compact, which stated that in exchange for land (what is today Alabama and Mississippi), the federal government would remove all American Indians within the territory of Georgia "as soon as it could be done reasonably and peacefully." By 1830, the U.S. government had passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the President to remove the remaining Eastern Indians to lands west of the Mississippi. Between 1938 and 1939, under President Andrew Jackson, 15,000 Cherokee Indians were forcibly taken from their land, herded into makeshift forts, and made to march-some in chains-a thousand miles to present-day Oklahoma. Over 4,000 Cherokee died from hunger, disease, and exhaustion on what they called Nunna daul Tsuny or the Trail of Tears. By the late 1840s almost all Native Americans had been moved to lands west of the Mississippi.

It seems astonishing that a country founded upon the ideal of "life, liberty, and property" could move from a policy of "good faith" toward the Native Americans to one of complete domination in the space of one generation. In order to understand how such a contradiction could occur, it is necessary to go back in time almost seven centuries before the American Revolution.

In 1095, at the beginning of the Crusades, Pope Urban II issued an edict-the Papal Bull Terra Nullius (meaning empty land). It gave the kings and princes of Europe the right to "discover" or claim land in non-Christian areas. This policy was extended in 1452 when Pope Nicholas V issued the bull Romanus Pontifex, declaring war against all non-Christians throughout the world and authorizing the conquest of their nations and territories. These edicts treated non-Christians as uncivilized and subhuman, and therefore without rights to any land or nation. Christian leaders claimed a God-given right to take control of all lands and used this idea to justify war, colonization, and even slavery.

By the time Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492, this Doctrine of Discovery was a well-established idea in the Christian world. When he reached the Americas, Columbus performed a ceremony to "take possession" of all lands "discovered," meaning all territory not occupied by Christians. Upon his return to Europe in 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the bull Inter Cetera, granting Spain the right to conquer the lands that Columbus had already "discovered" and all lands that it might come upon in the future. This decree also expressed the Pope's wish to convert the natives of these lands to Catholicism in order to strengthen the "Christian Empire."

In 1573 Pope Paul II issued the papal bull Sublimis Deus, which denounced the idea that Native Americans "should be treated like irrational animals and used exclusively for our profit and our service," and Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) formally excommunicated anyone still holding Indian slaves. By this time, however, the Doctrine of Discovery was deeply rooted and led nonetheless to the conquest of non-Christian lands and people in every corner of the world.
Although the U.S. was founded on freedom from such tyranny, the idea that white people and Christians had certain divine rights was nevertheless ingrained in the young nation's policies. The slave trade, for example, and centuries of violence against black people depended upon the idea that non-Whites were less than human. The theft of Native American lands required a similar justification.

In 1823, the Doctrine of Discovery was written into U.S. law as a way to deny land rights to Native Americans in the Supreme Court case, Johnson v. McIntosh. It is ironic that the case did not directly involve any Native Americans since the decision stripped them of all rights to their independence. In 1775, Thomas Johnson and a group of British investors bought a tract of land from the Piankeshaw Indians. During the Revolutionary War, this land was taken from the British and became part of the U.S. in the "County of Illinois." In 1818, the U.S. government sold part of the land to William McIntosh, a citizen of Illinois. This prompted Joshua Johnson, the heir to one of the original buyers, to claim the land through a lawsuit (which he later lost).

In a unanimous decision, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the Christian European nations had assumed complete control over the lands of America during the "Age of Discovery." Upon winning independence in 1776, he noted, the U.S. inherited authority over these lands from Great Britain, "notwithstanding the occupancy of the natives, who were heathens…" According to the ruling, American Indians did not have any rights as independent nations, but only as tenants or residents of U.S. land. For Joshua Johnson, this meant that the original sale of land by the Piankeshaws was invalid because they were not the lawful owners. For Native Americans, this decision foreshadowed the Trail of Tears and a hundred years of forced removal and violence. Despite recent efforts to have the case repealed as a symbol of good will, Johnson v. McIntosh has never been overruled and remains good law.

In 1845, a democratic leader and prominent editor named John L. O'Sullivan gave the Doctrine of Discovery a uniquely American flavor when he coined the term Manifest Destiny to defend U.S. expansion and claims to new territory:

".... the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty… is right such as that of the tree to the space of air and the earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth."

The idea of Manifest Destiny was publicized in newspapers and debated by politicians. It furthered the sense among U.S. citizens of an inevitable or natural right to expand the nation and to spread "freedom and democracy" (though only to those deemed capable of self-government, which certainly did not include Blacks or Native Americans).

Whether called the Doctrine of Discovery or Manifest Destiny, the principles that stimulated U.S. thirst for land have been disastrous for Native Americans, African Americans, Mexicans, and many others both in North America and abroad who lost life, liberty and property as the result of U.S. expansionism. The history of Christian law helps us to understand how our leaders-many considered heroes and role models today-undertook monstrous acts in the name of liberty. This insight into the prevailing ideas of the day, however, does not excuse their behavior. Some may have truly been misled by the ideals of Christian discovery, but others acted knowingly out of self-interest, greed and bigotry. Even as far back as Columbus, however, there were religious and political leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, who knew better and worked against racism, colonization and slavery.

When the Indian Removal Act of 1830 came up for debate in Congress, for example, New Jersey Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen, a strong believer in Christian compassion, led a bold attack with a six-hour speech that extended over three days. Frelinghuysen predicted terrible suffering and therefore argued to uphold the independence of the Cherokee Nation. Many other members of Congress, including Tennessean Davy Crockett, fought against the Act. Though it passed in both houses, 47% of Congress (116 of 246 members) voted in opposition to the bill.

It is tempting to view the problems of the past as ancient history-long resolved and no longer relevant to our lives. The effects of manifest destiny, however, continue today. American Indian Nations are still in court over land disputes, and countless native people suffer from extreme poverty and other social problems as a result of past policies. September 11th and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have ignited age-old debates about U.S. objectives. Though the public discourse no longer includes terms such as "expansion," "discovery," and "destiny," discussions about globalization, preemptive war, and the responsibilities of the world's only "superpower" echo familiar themes. It is perhaps fitting that this dialogue ensues as the country commemorates the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, or Corps of Discovery, which paved the way for U.S. expansion. The anniversary presents an important opportunity to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of Indian genocide, to learn about contemporary native culture and issues, and to work against prejudice and discrimination in local communities.

  1. How did U.S. policy toward Native Americans change between the 1780s and 1840s? What were the reasons for these changes? How were Native Americans impacted?

  2. Did U.S. treatment of Native Americans during this era reflect the values of the U.S. Constitution?

  3. What was the Trail of Tears?

  4. What was the Doctrine of Discovery? How did it influence U.S. law and policy?

  5. What was the significance of the court case, Johnson v. McIntosh?

  6. What is Manifest Destiny? How did this movement affect U.S. society?

  7. Do you think the ideas of Manifest Destiny relate to present-day conflicts? Why or why not?

  8. What do you think are fitting ways to commemorate the Lewis and Clark bicentennial?

 Lewis and Clark: The Unheard Voices ©2005 Anti-Defamation League 

Key Lime Pound Cake with Key Lime Cream Cheese Icing

Key Lime Pound Cake with Key Lime Cream Cheese Icing

  •  4 sticks butter, that’s 1 pound, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fresh key lime juice
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk, (I always keep a good number of those small, 5 ounce cans in my pantry.)
  • 4 teaspoons key lime zest, minced
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 300°.  Cover inside of 10 inch tube pan with non-stick spray.  My pan is 10  1/2″ and it’s just fine.  Set aside.
  2. Using a stand-up mixer or electric hand-held, beat the butter well until light in color and fluffy.  Add the sugar and again beat well for at least 5 minutes.  I use a stand up mixer and beat the mixture 10-15 minutes.  I don’t like a “grainy” cake.
  3. One at a time add the eggs and beat only until the yellow disappears.
  4. Now mixing by hand, gradually flour to the butter-egg mixture alternating with the key lime juice and milk.  Begin and end with flour.  Beat well but just enough to incorporate all ingredients.  You don’t want a tough pound cake!
  5. Pour evenly into the tube pan and tap pan on the counter to loosen any air bubbles.
  6. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes in the pan then transfer from pan to cooling rack and allow to cool another hour or until completely cool.
The cake is far better the following day or 2 days later.
Key Lime Cream Cheese Icing
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons key lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Using a hand mixer beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until well mixed.
  2. Add confectioner’s sugar and beat well until completely smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add key lime juice, zest and vanilla and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Ice cake.
This makes quite a bit of icing.  After icing the entire  pound cake I fill the middle hole with the excess icing.  When the cake is served icing can be taken from the middle and dolloped along the side the slice of cake.

Monday, March 16, 2015

SNOW JOB: Boston Breaks Records

OSTON (Reuters) - After hosting parades through snowy streets and weathering storms that snarled traffic and commerce over the last few months, Boston residents have seen the snowiest winter in the city's recorded history, the National Weather Service said.
Boston got 108.6 inches (275.8 cm) of snow over the winter, surpassing the city's previous 1995-1996 record of 107.6 inches. The new record was officially set at about 7 p.m. on Sunday, after a storm dropped 2.9 inches on the capital and largest city in Massachusetts.
"Boston, you survived the snowiest winter on record!!!," the National Weather Service in Taunton wrote in a message on Facebook.

The record-setting inches, the most snowfall of any season since 1872, the first year on record, came after a day of rain began melting snow piles around the city and hinted at the onset of spring.
"Superbowls, World Series', Stanley Cups, and snowfall records. We are truly a title city," said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, on Twitter. "There will be no parade," he deadpanned.
Boston earlier on Sunday held its annual St. Patrick's Parade in slushy streets and last month celebrated the New England Patriots' win at the NFL's Super Bowl with a parade through roads lined with snow piles. 
"I don't feel a sense of accomplishment," said 34-year-old Tyler Comings, an economist, as he walked on newly snowy sidewalks in Cambridge. "I think other people take more delight in it than do people in Boston."
Caitlin Isbister, a 33-year-old acupuncturist, was more gratified to see some kind of reward for a winter that at times brought the entire city to a halt, forcing the closure of schools and offices, shutting down public transportation, and hurting businesses.
"At least we got something to show for it," she said.
(Editing by Eric M. Johnson, Robert Birsel)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Square Pi: Only in Indiana

Indiana Pi  
Dr. Edwin J. Goodwin, M.D., a physician in the community of Solitude, Posey County, Indiana, was one of a long line of mathematical hobbyists to try to square the circle.  Dr. Goodwin thought he had succeeded, and, apparently a loyal Hoosier, decided that the State of Indiana should be the first beneficiary of this "new mathematical truth."
In 1897, Dr. Goodwin wrote a bill incorporating his new ideas, and persuaded his State Representative to introduce it.  Taylor I. Record was the Representative from Posey County to the Indiana General Assembly.  Representative Record was a farmer, timber and lumber merchant.  The session of 1897 was in his first and only term in the legislature.  During the debate on the bill, he was quoted as saying he knew nothing of it, but introduced it at the request of Dr. Goodwin.1 Representative Record submitted the bill, House Bill 246, on January 18, 1897.  

Dr. Goodwin had copyrighted his solution to squaring the circle, and his idea was to allow Indiana to use these new facts in its schools free of charge.  People in the rest of the country and the world would have to pay him a royalty.  The preamble of the bill outlined this generous offer:
A Bill for an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered as a contribution to education to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same, provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the Legislature of 1897. 
The bill itself is crammed top to bottom with 19th century mathematical jargon.  It seems likely that few members of the General Assembly understood it (many said so during the debate).  They were right not to understand.  Petr Beckmann, in his History of Pi, wrote that the bill contained "hair-raising statements which not only contradict elementary geometry, but also appear to contradict each other" (p. 175).  Click here for the full text of the HB 246, 1897. 
Even for the mathematical novice, though, one statement stands out.  Towards the end of the second of three sections of the bill, it says "the ratio of the diameter and circumference is as five-fourths to four."  Pi is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of the circle, and the ratio 4 to 5/4 is 3.2.  A nice, round, wrong number.
The House Bill 246 was referred to the House Committee on Canals, also known as the Committee on Swamp Lands.  Perhaps the leadership thought the bill had something to do with surveying.  Representative M. B. Butler, chairman of the Canals Committee, recommended that it be referred to the Committee on Education, and this was done on January 19.
The newspapers followed the debate.  The Indianapolis Sentinel, on January 20, reported that the bill was "not intended to be a hoax."  The article also reported that Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Geeting believed that Goodwin had found the solution to the problem of squaring the circle.  
The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative S. E. Nicholson, reported the bill out of committee "with the recommendation that said bill do pass."  It was taken up by the full House on February 5, and passed unanimously, 67 to 0.
Most of the local newspapers merely reported this action, but the Indianapolis Journal wrote the next day that "this is the strangest bill that has ever passed an Indiana Assembly."
 Now in steps our hero.  On February 5, the head of the Purdue University Mathematics Department, Professor Clarence Abiathar Waldo, was in the Statehouse lobbying for the University's budget appropriation.  Professor Waldo had been an instructor of mathematics (and Latin) at several seminaries, institutes and colleges in the Midwest for more than 20 years.  He had also been in administration, as a Registrar and Vice President at other institutions, which may explain why he had been given the task of keeping track of the University's appropriation.  He was the author of a book titled Manual of Descriptive Geometry.2
He was astonished to find the General Assembly debating mathematical legislation.  Naturally, he listened in.  Naturally, he was horrified.  He heard a Representative speak for the bill:
The case is perfectly simple.  If we pass this bill which establishes a new and correct value of pi, the author offers our state without cost the use of his discovery and its free publication in our school textbooks, while everyone else must pay him a royalty.3
After the debate, a Representative offered to introduce him to Dr. Goodwin.  Professor Waldo replied that he was already acquainted with as many crazy people as he cared to know.  
That evening, Professor Waldo "coached" (as he put it) the Senators about the bill.  Still, on February 11 the bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Temperance.  With a speed we can only admire, the committee reported the bill favorably the next day, and sent it to the Senate floor for debate.4 
This time its reception was different.  According to the Indianapolis News report of February 13, quoted by Edington (p. 209), 
...the bill was brought up and made fun of.  The Senators made bad puns about it, ridiculed it and laughed over it.  The fun lasted half an hour.  Senator Hubbell said that it was not meet for the Senate, which was costing the State $250 a day, to waste its time in such frivolity.  He said that in reading the leading newspapers of Chicago and the East, he found that the Indiana State Legislature had laid itself open to ridicule by the action already taken on the bill.  He thought consideration of such a propostion was not dignified or worthy of the Senate.  He moved the indefinite postponement of the bill, and the motion carried.  
The Indianapolis Journal had Senator Hubbell saying that "the Senate might as well try to legislate water to run up hill as to establish mathematical truth by law."  The Journal noted that one who spoke against it intimated that there was anything wrong with the theories it advances.  All of the senators who spoke on the bill admitted that they were ignorant of the merits of the proposition.  It was simply regarded as not being a subject for legislation (Edington, p. 210).
Senator Hubbell moved to postpone further consideration of the bill indefinitely, and the motion passed.  According to Beckmann, the bill "has not been on the agenda since" (p. 177).  The official history of the Indiana General Assembly (p. 429) gives the credit to Professor Waldo
Thanks mainly to this alert professor, who convinced the Senate not to tamper with "unsolvable mysteries . . . above man's abilities to comprehend," the Indiana General Assembly failed to do in 1897 what no one before or since has done, i.e. square the circle.

Beckman, Petr.  A History of Pi.  Boulder, Colorado:  The Golem Press, 1982 (5th edition).
Debris (Purdue University Yearbook), 1897.
Debris (Purdue University Yearbook), 1899.
Edington, Will E.  "House Bill No. 246, Indiana State Legislature, 1897," Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 45 (1935):  206-210.
Shephard, Rebecca A., Charles W. Calhoun, Elizabeth Shanahan-Shoemaker and Alan F. January.  A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly, vol. 1, 1816-1899. Indianapolis, Indiana:  Indiana Historical Bureau, 1980.
Walsh, Justin E.  The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1816-1978.  Indianapolis, Indiana:  Indiana Historical Bureau, 1987.

1.  Here's Representative Record's entry in the Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly (p. 323):
RECORD (RECORDS), Taylor I.  HOUSE, 1897 (POSEY).  Born October 12, 1846, Greene County, Indiana.  Attended common schools.  Married Sallie A. Cox, 1867 (4 children) - died 1882; married Mary Yeager, 1883 (1 child).  Farmer; timber and lumber merchant.  Democrat.  Died November 20, 1912, Lynn Township, Posey County, Indiana. 
Back to the text.

2.  Here's Professor Waldo's entry in the 1897 Debris, the Purdue yearbook (p. 20): 
CLARENCE ABIATHAR WALDO, A.M., Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics.
Graduate Wesleyan University 1875, A.B.; 1878, A.M.; Professor of Mathematics and Natural Science at Drew Female Seminary, 1875-76;  Professor Latin and Mathematics at Hackettstown Collegiate Institute, 1876-77;  Instructor in Mathematics and Registrar at Wesleyan University, 1877-81;  Professor Mathematics and Vice President Hackettstown Collegiate Institute, 1882-83; studied in Universities of Leipsic and Munich, 1882-83;  Professor Mathematics Rose Polytechnic Institute, 1883-91; Professor Mathematics De Pauw University, 1891-95;  President Indiana College Association, 1891;  Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science; Ph.D., 1894;  Author of "Manual of Descriptive Geometry."
Click here for a full sized photo of Professor Waldo, from the 1899 Purdue yearbook, Debris.
Back to the text.

3.  Here's Professor Waldo's account of what happened, quoted in Edington (p. 210):
    As the session of the Legislature was drawing toward its close it chanced to be the duty of the writer to visit the State Capitol and make sure that the Academy appropriation was cared for.  When admitted to the floor of the House, imagine his surprize when he discovered that he was in the midst of a debate upon a piece of mathematical legislation.  An ex-teacher from the eastern part of the state was saying: "The case is perfectly simple.  If we pass this bill which establishes a new and correct value of pi, the author offers our state without cost the use of his discovery and its free publication in our school textbooks, while everyone else must pay him a royalty."  The roll was then called and the bill passed its third and final reading in the lower house.  A member then showed the writer a copy of the bill just passed and asked him if he would like an introduction to the learned doctor, its author.  He declined the courtesy with thanks remarking that he was acquainted with as many crazy people as he cared to know.
    That evening the senators were properly coached and shortly thereafter as it came to its final reading in the upper house they threw out with much merriment the epoch making discovery of the Wise Man from the Pocket.
Edington notes that Waldo was writing 20 years after the event (the account was published in 1917), and apparently did not check his facts.  Waldo put the year down as 1899 (causing Edington much wasted effort in the records of the 1899 legislature).  Waldo was apparently present for the House debate, on February 5, and remembers having "coached" the senators that evening.  Yet the bill passed the Temperance Committee six days later.  Were these senators still uncoached, or did they pass it so it could be ridiculed on the floor of the Senate? 
Back to the text.

4.  They must have been drunk.  Edington (p. 209) speculates that this may have been "done intentionally, for certainly the bill could have been referred to no committee more appropriately named."  Waldo says he coached the Senate the week before.  Either he had not coached those on the committee (who were then probably unpleasantly surprised by its reception in the full Senate), or the Senators on the committee were just having some fun, or Professor Waldo remembered incorrectly, and he did his coaching on February 12, after the bill passed the Senate Temperance Committee but before the Senate debate.
Back to the text.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Once Upon a Time in America

Jane Collins
10 March 2015

Once Upon a Time in America

Once upon a time, there was a dream called America. Around the world, people dreamed of freedom to be themselves, to believe as they liked, to make things happen. The country was called the United States, but the dream was America.
After World War II, Europe was a ruin and all its dreams lay in tatters. America, uninvaded, was intact. The dream of individual freedom seemed to thrive there.

In the dream of America, there was opportunity for everyone. You could say what you thought, write it, publish it. You could join a union to get better pay and working conditions, health care, and a pension so you wouldn’t have to work till you dropped. You could go into business for yourself, own property, maybe get rich. It didn’t matter where you came from. In America, you could live the dream – at least if you were a straight white man.

But even as others began to insist on sharing that dream – black people, women, gays – the actual country of America changed hands.

The new America belonged to the rich. They took over behind the scenes, at first, building companies so much bigger and better funded than ordinary businesses that Mom and Pop stores disappeared. The fruit stand could not compete with the supermarket.

If you wanted a secure and prosperous life in this new America, you went to work for a big corporation. All you had to give up were your rights of free speech and association. You had to pledge loyalty to the Company, not to your fellow workers, much less to the good of your fellow citizens.

Once upon a time, America was a dream of democracy. As the decades passed, the reality turned into laissez-faire capitalism: Let money do what it will. Money ruled, and non-rich people were only pawns in the great game of Who Can Accumulate the Most Wealth.

Little by little, ordinary citizens lost whatever influence they once had on the government. Campaigns became so expensive that politicians had to appeal to the very rich in order to get elected. The rich put them in office, and they worked for the rich so they could stay in office.
As this reality became more obvious, ordinary people lost faith in the democratic process. They stopped voting. It was a vicious cycle. The more corrupt the system became, the less citizens participated in it, throwing the contest to the rich without a fight.

Finally the Dream was so undermined, so diminished, such a weak force in the real country of the USA, that the rich – the oligarchs, the true rulers of the system – were able to buy the favors of the highest court in the land. They convinced this court to make decisions that would cement their ownership and perpetuate their power: Corporations are people; and money is speech.
When the Court ruled that corporations have all the rights (and yet none of the responsibilities) of individuals, it gave the rich a way to escape accountability for their wrongdoing. They could lie, steal, cheat, even kill without consequences, so long as they did it in the name of the Corporation. Then, if citizens complained of their crimes, the Corporation would take the blame.

Since a corporation is not truly a person, it can’t go to jail. So if found guilty in spite of all the lawyers it can muster, it will either pay a fine, which it can add to the cost of its products so citizens (“consumers”) end up paying the fine themselves, or disappear, which, not being a real person, it can easily do. The real human perpetrators of corporate crimes walk away from them unpunished.
The more this happens, the more disillusioned people become. They never see justice. In the biggest thefts in history – the Savings and Loan debacle in the 1980s and the recent Wall Street crash – banks took the homes and retirement funds of millions of Americans, and no one has been held accountable. When the highest office in the land was stolen, in Gore v. Bush, the thieves included members of the Supreme Court. Prisons fill up with poor people, and the oligarchs who stole everything from them go free.

Bad as were the results of the Court’s first ruling, the second, in the horribly misnamed Citizens United case, was worse. If money is speech, poor people can’t afford it. “Free speech” joins “justice” as another empty promise. These dull glimmers are all that is left of a dream that once shone like a beacon to the world’s downtrodden masses.
The American Dream has been stolen. If we are ever going to get it back, Americans will have to wake up from the spells cast by corporate advertising, get up off the couch, and act. We must unite, because the Dream belongs to everyone, not just a few. We have to see past all the artificial boundaries set up to pit us against one another – the fictions of race, creed, gender – to act as one people and fight to regain our lost rights.

And we have to carry out this struggle without violence. Our common enemy is a culture built on greed and aggression. Our task is to replace that culture with one built on community and compassion. Our methods must be nonviolent; violence only maintains the status quo.
We know there is no “happily ever after” to this tale. There will always be greedy and violent people trying to rule the rest of us. But that’s no reason to give up.

We are only starting to understand the horror of our situation, and the hope that lies in solidarity. We have barely begun to fight.

Conservatives and education: Jefferson had it right

Why the right hates American history

Thomas Jefferson knew that education is vital to a functioning Democratic Republic. Conservatives have other ideas

Thomas Jefferson, Oklahoma, AP History, Social Security, New Deal,
Why the right hates American history 
Thomas Jefferson (Credit: White House Historical Association)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

 Sure, the war on education helps Republican lawmakers destroy unions and slash government spending, but it’s our history of progressive change that makes Conservatives hate accurate depictions of our past.
Just think about Social Security, The New Deal, freeing the slaves, or child labor laws… all represent great turning points in our nation that progressives made possible. The fact is, our entire history – from our revolution to healthcare reform – is filled with progressive accomplishments, and it’s hard to sell the Conservative brand to people who know that history.
Many of the today’s biggest political issues, like our privacy rights, would not even be up for debate today had it not been for the attack on education. If more Americans had had a strong understanding of our history, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would have never been able to pull off the Patriot Act. And, we wouldn’t be discussing the Orwellian government spy agencies like the NSA in this day and age.
While we can’t undo the damage to the Fourth Amendment overnight, we can protect our remaining rights by passing on accurate history, and protecting public education.
Thomas Jefferson recognized that education is vital to a functioning Democratic Republic.
In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson wrote: “And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people. This last is the most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them…. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
In light of Oklahoma’s recent attack on AP History, it would be easy to argue that today’s Republicans don’t recognize the value of a good education. However, the reality is that they do, and that the spreading attack on public education is far more sinister.
When the Patriot Act was signed, Bush and his ilk claimed the power to violate citizens’ private lives because, they said, there is no “right to privacy” in the United States. In that, they – perhaps purposefully – overlooked the history of America and the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776. And they missed a basic understanding of the evolution of language in the United States.

Of course, they weren’t the first to have made these mistakes. And, the Conservatives waging today’s war on education hope that they won’t be the last.
When I was a teenager, it was a felony in parts of the United States to advise a married couple about how to practice birth control. This ended in 1965, in the Griswold v. Connecticut case before the U.S. Supreme Court, when the Court reversed the criminal conviction of a Planned Parenthood program director who had discussed contraception with a married couple, and of a doctor who had prescribed a birth-control device to them.

The majority of the Court summarized their ruling by saying, “Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy….”
However, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart disagreed back in 1965, saying that he could find no “right of privacy“ in the Constitution of the United States. Using his logic, under the laws of the day, the couple in question could themselves have been sent to prison for using birth control in their own bedroom.
As Justice Stewart wrote in his dissent in the case, “Since 1879 Connecticut has had on its books a law which forbids the use of contraceptives by anyone…. What provision of the Constitution, then, makes this state law invalid? The Court says it is the right of privacy ‘created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees.’ With all deference, I can find no such general right of privacy in the Bill of Rights, in any other part of the Constitution, or in any case ever before decided by this Court.”
In that view of American law, Justice Clarence Thomas—who still holds a seat on our nation’s highest court—agrees.
In his dissent in a 2003 Texas sodomy case, Thomas wrote, “just like Justice Stewart, I ‘can find [neither in the Bill of Rights nor any other part of the Constitution a] general right of privacy,’ or as the Court terms it today, the ‘liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.’”
This type of rationale is how we ended up with the Patriot Act and the NSA, but someone with a real knowledge of our history would see where these men were wrong. The Constitution doesn’t grant a right to eat, or to read, or to have children. Yet do we doubt these are rights we hold?
The simple reality is that there are many “rights” that are not specified in the Constitution, but which we daily enjoy and cannot be taken away from us by the government. But if that’s the case, Thomas would argue, why doesn’t the Constitution list those rights in the Bill of Rights?
If you know your history, you know that the reason is simple: the Constitution wasn’t written as a vehicle to grant us rights. We don’t derive our rights from the constitution.
Rather, in the minds of the Founders, human rights are inalienable—inseparable—from humans themselves. We are born with rights by simple fact of existence, as defined by John Locke and written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” the Founders wrote.
Humans are “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights….” These rights are clear and obvious, the Founders repeatedly said. They belong to us from birth, as opposed to something the Constitution must hand to us, and are more ancient than any government.
The job of the Constitution was to define a legal framework within which government and business could operate in a manner least intrusive to “We, The People,” who are the holders of the rights. In its first draft it didn’t even have a Bill of Rights, because the Framers felt it wasn’t necessary to state out loud that human rights came from something greater, larger, and older than government. They all knew this; it was simply obvious.
Thomas Jefferson, however, foreseeing a time when the concepts fundamental to the founding of America were forgotten, strongly argued that the Constitution must contain at least a rudimentary statement of rights, laying out those main areas where government could, at the minimum, never intrude into our lives.

Jefferson’s insistence on a bill of rights exemplifies the progressive thoughts and actions that fill our rich history, and provide a perfect example of why education is vital to our democratic republic.
Jefferson was in France when Madison sent him the first draft of the new Constitution, and he wrote back on December 20, 1787, that, “I will now tell you what I do not like [about the new constitution]. First, the omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly, and without the aid of sophism, for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction of monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land….”
There had already been discussion among the delegates to the constitutional convention about whether they should go to the trouble of enumerating the human rights they had held up to the world with the Declaration of Independence, but the consensus had been that it was unnecessary.
The Declaration, the writings of many of the Founders and Framers, and no shortage of other documents made amply clear the Founders’ and the Framers’ sentiments that human rights were solely the province of humans, and that governments don’t grant rights but, rather, that in a constitutionally limited democratic republic We, The People—the holders of the rights—grant to our governments whatever privileges our government may need to function (while keeping the rights for ourselves).
This is the fundamental difference between kingdoms, theocracies, feudal states, and a democratic republic. In the former three, people must beg for their rights at the pleasure of the rulers. In the latter, the republic derives its legitimacy from the people, the sole holders of rights.
Although the purpose of the Constitution wasn’t to grant rights to people, as kings and popes and feudal lords had done in the past, Jefferson felt it was necessary to be absolutely unambiguous about the solid reality that humans are holders of rights, and that in no way was the Constitution or the new government of the United States to ever be allowed to infringe on those rights.
The Constitution’s authors well understood this, Jefferson noted, having just fought a revolutionary war to gain their “self-evident” and “inalienable” rights from King George, but he also felt strongly that both the common person of the day and future generations must be reminded of this reality.
“To say, as Mr. Wilson does, that a bill of rights was not necessary,” Jefferson wrote in his December 1787 letter to Madison, “…might do for the audience to which it was addressed….” But it wasn’t enough. Human rights may be well known to those writing the constitution, they may all agree that governments may not infringe on human rights, but, nonetheless, we must not trust that simply inferring this truth is enough for future generations who have not so carefully read history or who may foolishly elect leaders inclined toward tyranny.
“Let me add,” Jefferson wrote, “that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”
Madison took Jefferson’s notes and shared them with Hamilton, Adams, Mason, and others, and then sent a letter to Jefferson outlining the objections to a Bill of Rights that had been raised by the members of the constitutional convention.
On March 15, 1789, Jefferson replied to Madison: “I am happy to find that, on the whole, you are a friend to this amendment. The declaration of rights is, like all other human blessings, alloyed with some inconveniences, and not accomplishing fully its object. But the good in this instance vastly overweighs the evil.
“I cannot refrain from making short answers to the objections which your letter states to have been raised [by others]:

“1. ‘That the rights in question are reserved, by the manner in which the federal powers are granted.’ Answer: A constitutive act [the Constitution] may, certainly, be so formed, as to need no declaration of rights. …In the draught of a constitution which I had once a thought of proposing in Virginia, and I printed afterwards, I endeavored to reach all the great objects of public liberty, and did not mean to add a declaration of rights. …But…this instrument [the U.S. Constitution] forms us into one State, as to certain objects, and gives us a legislative and executive body for these objects. It should, therefore, guard us against their abuses of power, within the field submitted to them.”
In this, Jefferson is stating openly that the purpose of the Constitution—and even the Bill of Rights—is not to grant rights to the people, but to restrain government. It doesn’t grant, it limits.
And, Jefferson said, his proposed Bill of Rights was only a beginning and imperfect; it would be nearly impossible to list in detail all the rights humans have. But a start, a try, is better than nothing—at least it will make clear that the purpose of the constitution is to limit government:
“2. ‘A positive declaration of some essential rights could not be obtained in the requisite latitude.’ Answer: Half a loaf is better than no bread. If we cannot secure all our rights, let us secure what we can.”
His third point was that the states may try to limit peoples rights if the explicit nature of government and rights wasn’t spelled out in the Constitution through a Bill of Rights, so the constitution protected citizens from tyrannical state governments who may overreach (as the Supreme Court ultimately ruled Connecticut had done in banning birth control).
And, finally, Jefferson noted that if they were to err, it would be better to err on the side of over-defining rights—even if past efforts had proven unnecessary or nonviable—than under-defining them.
“4. ‘Experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights.’ True. But though it is not absolutely efficacious under all circumstances, it is of great potency always, and rarely inefficacious. A brace the more will often keep up the building which would have fallen, with that brace the less. There is a remarkable difference between the characters of the inconveniences which attend a declaration of rights, and those which attend the want of it. The inconveniences of the declaration are, that it may cramp government in its useful exertions. But the evil of this is short-lived, moderate and reparable. The inconveniences of the want of a declaration are permanent, afflicting and irreparable.”
A Bill of Rights wasn’t necessary, but it was important. We all knew the constitution was designed to define and constrain government, but it’s still better to say too much about liberty than too little.
Even though this thrown-together-at-the-last-minute Bill of Rights doesn’t cover all the rights we consider self-evident, and may inconvenience government, it’s better to include it than overlook it and risk future generations forgetting our words and deeds.
Beyond that, there’s good reason to believe—as the majority of the Supreme Court did in the Griswold case, the Texas sodomy case, and at least a dozen others—that the Founders and Framers did write a right to privacy into the Constitution. But, you probably had to sit through an AP history course to hear about that reason.
Living in the 18th Century, the Founders never would have actually used the word “privacy“ out loud or in writing.  In fact, a search, for example, of all 16,000 of Thomas Jefferson’s letters and writings produces not a single use of the word “privacy.” Nor does Adams use the word in his writings, so far as I can find.
The reason is simple: “privacy“ in 1776 was a code word for toilet functions. A person would say, “I need a moment of privacy” as a way of excusing themselves to go use the “privy” or outhouse. The chamberpots around the house, into which people relieved themselves during the evening and which were emptied in the morning, were referred to as “the privates,” a phrase also used to describe genitals.
Privacy, in short, was a word that wasn’t generally used in political discourse or polite company during an era when women were expected to cover their arms and legs and discussion of bedroom behavior was unthinkable.

It wasn’t until 1898 that Thomas Crapper began marketing the flush toilet and discussion of toilet functions became relatively acceptable. Prior to then, saying somebody had a “right to privacy” would have meant “a right to excrete.” This was, of course, a right that was taken for granted and thus the Framers felt no need to specify it in the Constitution.
Instead, the word of the day was “security,” and in many ways it meant what we today mean when we say “privacy.” Consider, for example, the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated….”
Similarly, “liberty” was also understood, in one of its dimensions, to mean something close to what today we’d call “privacy.” The Fifth Amendment talks about how “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property…” and the Fourteenth Amendment adds that “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property….”
And, of course, the Declaration of Independence itself proclaims that all “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So now, thanks to the war on education that began with Ronald Raegan, we have come to that remote period in time Jefferson was concerned about. Our leaders, ignorant of or ignoring the history of this nation’s founding, make a parody of liberty and flaunt their challenges even to those rights explicitly defined in the Constitution. And, perhaps worse, they allow monopolistic corporations to do the same.
Our best defense against today’s pervasive ignorance about American history and human rights is education, a task that Jefferson undertook in starting the University of Virginia to provide a comprehensive and free public education to all capable students. A well-informed populace will always preserve liberty better than a powerful government, a philosophy which led the University of California and others to once offer free education to their states’ citizens.
As Jefferson noted in that first letter to Madison: “And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people. This last is the most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them…. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
The majority of the Supreme Court wrote in their opinion in the 1965 Griswold case legalizing contraception that, “We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights [and] older than our political parties…” saying explicitly that the right of privacy is a fundamental personal right, emanating “from the totality of the constitutional scheme under which we live.”  But, they never would have understood that inalienable right without a real education about our history.
We must teach our children and inform the world about the essentials of human rights and how our constitutional republic works—deriving its sole powers from the consent of We, The People who hold the rights—if democracy is to survive. And, we must stand up to anyone who tries to block us from sharing our progressive history.