When the Rule of Law Fails: A Reprise Post

So, reading the story of this numbskull (link found through Instapundit) bloviating on MSNBC about the fierce urgency of abolishing the police reminded me of a long post that I did some years ago about what happens in a lawless, politically corrupt, violence-plagued city when the otherwise upright and law-abiding citizens get fed to the teeth with lawlessness, corruption and violence, and decide to take matters into their own hands. Brittany Packnett Cunningham, apparently noted as an anti-police activist, likely would not like what happens when citizens are finally pushed an inch too far.

The resulting post of mine was originally in three parts, but reposted here in total, below the fold. The story of the Vigilance Committee of 1856 was one that I had originally researched as providing a turn of plot for my Gold Rush adventure, The Golden Road. The hero of that novel, young Fredi Steinmetz worked for a time in San Francisco with his friend Edwin, selling copies of James King’s Evening Daily Bulletin on the streets and delivering to subscribers late in 1855, but left for the diggings before the Vigilance Committee renewed itself. The situation in San Francisco, which finally boiled over, reminds me very much of current events; naked chicanery at the polls, political corruption, a high level of crony capitalism, and criminals terrorizing ordinary citizens and going unpunished.

The Committee of Vigilance, 1856: A Reprise Post from 2012

When gold was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in 1848, it seemed as if most of the world rushed in to California – which, until then had been a sparsely-settled outpost of Mexico, dreaming the decades away. The climate was enchantingly mild, Mediterranean – warm enough for groves of olive trees and citrus to thrive, and the old missions crumbled away as if nothing had or would ever change. The old, proud Californio families with names like Verdugo, Vasquez, Pico and Vallejo kept vast cattle herds and lived in extensive but rather Spartan-plain estates. There were a few handfuls of American settlers who had come overland, or by sea; they tended to what little trade there was, and an energetic and slightly shady Swiss entrepreneur named Johann Sutter had a vast agricultural and establishment centered around a fortified holding in present-day Sacramento. It was on his property, and in the course of building a saw-mill that gold was discovered. And change came upon the enchanted land – and the place called Yerba Buena turned almost overnight from a hamlet of eight hundred souls on the shore of San Francisco Bay into a ramshackle metropolis of 25,000 and more in the space of two years.

The responsible citizens had once before resorted to a Committee of Vigilance, in response to a riot instigated by a criminal element known as the ‘Hounds’ in 1851. The Hounds were housebroken, following a judicious culling of the most notorious ring-leaders – either hung or exiled, but it was only a temporary solution. Five years, a couple of devastating fires, and who-knows-how-many thousand hopeful Argonauts later, the situation in San Francisco had degenerated to a point beyond the toleration of responsible and civic-minded citizens … again.

And this time, it was more than just a situation of sober citizens faced with obstreperous criminals – by 1856 it was a collective of sober citizens arrayed against a corrupt, criminal-allied, and crony-capitalist big-city machine. Several decades after the event, popular historian Stewart E. White wrote, “The elections of those days would have been a joke had they not been so tragically significant… the polls were guarded by bullies who did not hesitate at command to manhandle any decent citizen indicated by the local leaders. Such men were openly hired for the purposes of intimidation. Votes could be bought in the open market. ‘Floaters’ were shamelessly imported into districts that might prove doubtful; and, if things looked close, the election inspectors and the judges could be relied on to make things come out all right in the final count…” White also noted, “With the proper officials in charge of the executive end of the government and with a trained crew of lawyers making their own rules as they went along, almost any crime of violence, corruption, theft, or the higher grades of finance could be committed with absolute impunity…” White contributed a lot of the corruption to an influx of what he called low-grade Southerners, who were apt to use what he called ‘pseudo-chivalry’ in response to personal or political criticism, ‘battering down opposition by the simple expedient of claiming that he had been insulted.’

In the midst of all this, there were business reversals; a local and trusted financial and express firm failed. Its assets were taken over in what was suspected to be shady means which benefitted – of course – certain businessmen closely associated with the local machine. A crusading newspaper editor, James King of William and his Daily Evening Bulletin riveted and titillated the reading public as thoroughly as he angered those whom he targeted. King criticized various pillars of the city, in editorials and in straight news stories. He pulled no punches; he named names, explained methods and connections. About the same time a gambler, Charles Cora, shot and killed a well-known and well-liked US Marshal named William Richardson who was unarmed at the time. This was an unprovoked, cold-blooded shooting. Conviction seemed almost certain, although Cora was a good friend – a very good friend of both the local sheriff and the keeper of the jail, where he waited trial in considerable luxury and comfort. No expense was spared in Cora’s defense – and when the case came to trial, the jury couldn’t come to a decision and Cora was released. The law-abiding element in town seethed.

Several months later, King wrote another sizzling editorial – this one concerning an appointee to the position in the federal customs house. The appointee was the choice of one James P. Casey – a member of the board of county supervisors, and also a member in good standing of the political establishment. This, no doubt accounted for the curious circumstance of being elected to the board despite the fact that he didn’t live in the district, had not been on the ticket, nor been a candidate … and no one could be found who voted for him. Doubtless, Casey was already in King’s sights – for besides disparaging the customs-house appointee, King also noted that Casey had previously been an inmate in Sing-Sing. Casey accounted himself affronted, and paid a visit to the Daily Evening Bulletin offices to demand an apology – which was not forthcoming. After some hours drinking and fuming, Casey left the bar and waited just across the street for King to pass on his way home. At about 5 PM, King left the newspaper office, and as he passed by on his way home, Casey shot him. King fell, mortally wounded – while Casey’s friends hustled him off to safety in a nearby police station lock-up.

The shooting of James King – political murder disguised as a justifiable response to a personal insult – inflamed the city of San Francisco immediately. King, shot in the chest but still clinging to life was taken to his house. Meanwhile, an enormous mob gathered at the police station, and the police realized almost at once that the accused James Casey could not be kept secure. He was removed under guard to the county jail. The indignant mob was not appeased, not even when the mayor of San Francisco attempted to address the crowd, pleading for them to disperse and assuring them that the law would run its proper course and justice would be done. The crowd jeered, “What about Richardson? Where is the law in Cora’s case?” The mayor hastily retreated, as the square – already guarded by armed marshals, soon filled with armed soldiers. The angry mob dispersed, still frustrated and furious. No doubt everyone in authority in the city breathed a sigh of relief, confident that this matter would blow over. After all, they controlled the political apparatus of the city, at least one newspaper, as well as the adjudicators and enforcers of the law … little comprehending that this shooting represented the last, the very last straw.

Several days later, a small advertisement appeared on the front pages of several morning papers: “The members of the Vigilance Committee in good standing will please meet at number 105 ½ Sacramento Street, this day, Thursday, fifteenth instant, at nine o’clock A.M. By order of the Committee of Thirteen.”

The effect on the general public was electrifying. Crowds descended on the building at the designated address – a three-story hall which had been built for the short-lived local chapter of the Know-Nothings. The Vigilance Committee of five years before, which seemed to have been an age ago, so quickly had the city grown, had been brutally efficient in sorting out the criminal gang called the “Hounds.” And now, many members of the original committee – who had whipped and housebroken the Hounds – were taking up responsibility again. The image of a ‘vigilante’ most usually implies a disorganized mob; lawless, mindlessly violent, easily steered but ultimately uncontrollable. The Vigilance Committee was something much, much worse than that.

They were organized, they were in earnest, they would not compromise … and they would not back down.

And they proved to be very, very efficient. Immediate support for the Committee was overwhelming. A dozen members of the original committee reconstituted themselves, chose a leader and an executive committee, and began enlisting members. The line to enroll in the Committee was day-long: eventually there would be 6,000 – all of them vetted and vouched for, sworn to secrecy. Two thousand of the first-enrolled were assigned to military-styled companies of a hundred. The organization had to move operations to another building – swiftly fortified and eventually called Fort Gunnybags.

Almost immediately, the established political machine – which termed itself without irony as the “Law and Order Party” – demanded that the Governor of California call out the militia against this citizens’ insurrection. The Governor came hustling from Sacramento and requested an interview with the head of the Vigilance Committee, one William Tell Coleman. Coleman was polite, but firm; insisting that the Committee proposed no insurrection against civil authority – they merely wished to see that established laws were enforced. The Governor was mollified; he would not call out the state militia – but he was not yet aware that the Committee intended to take Charles Cora and James Casey into custody, give them a fair trial and administer such punishment as would be dictated by the verdict.

Which operation was carried out, with military precision and efficiency, on the following day, which was a Sunday morning. Of course, rumors and speculation ran wild, all over town that something was about to happen at the county jail building where Casey was being held. It couldn’t be denied that the Law and Order party might have been spoiling for a fight. Spectators gathered on the rooftops, at the windows of buildings around the square, and on every eminence which offered a view. Their patience was rewarded: a column of marching men – in civilian clothes, but carrying rifles with fixed bayonets appeared at the end of a street which emptied into the square – then another column, from another converging street. Then a third column, joined by a fourth: they marched into the square and took their places in regular ranks four-deep all around the square. An observer, a Southerner remarked to a friend, “When you see those damned psalm-singing Yankees turn out of their churches, shoulder their guns and march away of a Sunday, you may know that hell is going to crack shortly.”

But there was more. The silent ranks of men stood, waiting … waiting for a command which came presently. From out of a side street came a body of sixty men – drawing a field gun by means of a long rope. The cannon was wheeled into the middle of the square, aimed at the front door of the jail. Slowly and deliberately, it was charged with powder and shot, while another man lit a slow-burning match and stood at attention. And there they all waited silently … until a Vigilante on horseback rode into the square, and up to the door of the jail. He leaned down, rapped on the door with the butt of his riding whip and passed a note to someone within the jail … Silence descended on the square, on the men standing at attention by the cannon, on those in ranks around the edge of the square, and watching from rooftop and window. An eerie silence, broken only by the sound of carriage wheels.

Three carriages entered the square, and as they halted before the jail door, the ranks of waiting men presented arms. Half a dozen men descended from the carriages – William Tell Coleman and the other leaders of the Committee. They talked for a few moments through the wicket-gate … and then they were admitted into the jail, to speak with Sheriff Scannell.

“We have come for the prisoner Casey,” Coleman told him. “We ask that he be peaceably delivered us, handcuffed at the door immediately.”

“Under existing circumstances,” replied Sheriff Scannell, “I shall make no resistance. The prison and it’s contents are yours.”

“We want only the man Casey at present,” One of the other Committee members added. “For the safety of all the rest, we hold you strictly accountable.”

Casey was taken to the Committee headquarters – later, Charles Cora was also added to the Committee’s bag. Three hundred men guarded Fort Gunnybags, another hundred the jail, while the rest were relieved for the moment. The next day, Vigilantes patrolled the streets, and warned merchants selling weapons not to sell any such … for now. James Casey and Charles Cora were allowed visitors. On Tuesday, Cora was brought before the Committee and informed that he would be tried for murder. All the forms of law would be observed, and he would be represented by a lawyer. Who was one of the Executive Committee … Cora provided a list of witnesses, who would testify in his defense, and they were all sent for; none could be found.

That evening, word arrived that James King of William had died. Sometime that evening, both Cora and Casey were convicted and sentenced.

Thursday at noon was the time set for King’s funeral to begin. The nearby Unitarian Church where it was to be held was jammed to overflowing by mid-morning, and the procession with the coffin was said to have been two miles long. Mourners stood in the streets to pay their respects … and in the street before the Vigilance Committee’s headquarters there were also men standing; men in three ranks, in the pose of attention as they had stood in the square before the county jail on Sunday morning.

Just before one o’clock, the tall windows on the second floor of the building were opened; from two of them, a pair of small wooden platforms were pushed out, and balanced on the edge of the window-sill. Above, from the flat roof of the building, a pair of heavy beams was set into place, just over the platforms; a noose of heavy rope dangled from the end of each beam. Then … silence again, although those who waited in the street below could hear the faint music of a church organ. The music seemed to be a cue of some kind. Charles Cora, his eyes covered by a white handkerchief blindfold was guided out of the window, to stand silently on the little platform. A few moments later, James Casey followed; he was not blindfolded at his request, but his nerve broke, looking down at the implacable faces below. He babbled, pleading that he was not a murderer, he had done nothing, he only responded to insult … the words fell into grim silence.

In that silence, the commotion at the door of the Unitarian Church could be heard clearly; James King’s coffin was being carried out by the pall-bearers. From the steeple above, the church bell tolled a single note. Another church bell joined, and then another and another, as those men in the street presented arms. The platforms beneath Casey and Cora dropped … and justice as it had been declared by the Vigilantes was done.

Postscript: the Committee did not disband, immediately. They went on adding members, conducting military drill, and doing business – one item of which was the formation of a list. Those on it would either leave, or be charged and tried under the ordinary rules of law. Only two more miscreants were hanged, and thirty banished officially, although it was estimated that at least eight hundred left town voluntarily. The Committee formally dissolved in August of that year, with a grand parade and an open house of “Fort Gunnybags.”

Many years later, a curious visitor to the city asked, “What has become of your Vigilance Committee?” “Toll the bell, sir – and you will see!”

57 thoughts on “When the Rule of Law Fails: A Reprise Post”

  1. That is an amazing tale, Sarge, and very well written. Great job!

    Was it difficult to find documentation about the events?

  2. No, Gavin – not at all, although there were some objections to the original post – that the murdered US marshal might have been armed at the time. Some of the stories had it that was Cora’s mistress and the marshal’s wife were in a social rivalry that might have been the start of the bad feeling.

  3. All this is reminiscent of the Third Republic of France:

    False accusation of treason (The Dreyfus Affair).
    Wife of a politician assassination a newspaper editor (Madame Callaux).
    Assassination of Jean Jarres.

  4. “low-grade Southerners, who were apt to use what he called ‘pseudo-chivalry’ in response to personal or political criticism…”

    The pro-Southern Democrat faction in California were known as “the Chivalry”. They were commonly prone to violence.

    US Representative Philemon Herbert (served 1855-1857; migrated from Alabama) got into a brawl in the restaurant of Willard’s Hotel in Washington, and shot and killed the headwaiter. (This was two weeks before Rep. Preston Brooks of SC assaulted Sen. Charles Sumner of MA in the Senate chamber.)

    Another was Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court David Terry, who killed US Senator David Broderick in a duel in 1859. He was from Kentucky via Texas. Terry showed up in San Francisco during the Vigilance Committee action, stabbed a Committee member, was convicted in a trial by the Committee, but released. Oddly, he was a Know-Nothing.

    Broderick, a Democrat from New York, was the Boss of the San Francisco “machine” from 1851 to his death. Again oddly, he was a Free-Soiler who quarreled with his pro-slavery former ally Terry.

  5. I’ve been through Athens, TN a few times on my way to ride the Tail of the Dragon. They had a more recent incident where WWII vets broke a corrupt political organization during an election.

  6. As the Instantman observes from time to time, the police aren’t just there to keep the public safe from criminals. They keep the criminals safe from the public as well.

  7. I believe that William T Sherman was there at the time and his bank failed, causing him to return to Ohio. I have also read that he had some involvement with the vigilantes.

  8. Yes, he was – as a civilian employee of a bank whose building still exists in downtown SF, and he didn’t really approve of the Vigilance Committee, either, although IIRC, he tactfully refused a request to take charge of an army detachment to go up against the vigilantes. Discretion was the better part of valor, I think.

  9. >> impunity…” White contributed a lot of the corruption to

    I think *attributed* in place of contributed. Otherwise, very well constructed.

    The 1820 Missouri Compromise promised the political South that any new states formed from the West, (but south of the southern border of Missouri) would be admitted as slave states. Those compromising thought the plantation agriculture of the east and gulf coast “South” would and could not be transplanted to the deserts of the south “West”. The prospect (so to speak) of slave owners growing rich from the sweat of Black (or even “yellow” Asian) slave gold-miners was too much, and politicians began breaking the “compromise”. (Nobody objected, everybody hoped, to grow rich from their OWN labor in gold mines.) The California exception to the Missouri Compromise course came back to bite the butts of farmers a generation later in the barely northwesterly Kansas-Nebraska territories. I mention this all to indicate the 1850s tensions between North-and-South origin Californians was informed and possibly funded by interests far from the west coast.

  10. The most interesting contemporary description of what happened during the Second Vigilance Committee was the memoir written by William Heath Davis. His book “Sixty Years in California” published in 1889 gives all the background as it seems he was one of the prime movers.

    The book is available in the Internet Archive and is easily the best book written about the last days of the Californios era and the early days of the state. A great read. Although a trader Davis was well read and wrote a clear concise and often very vivid description of what he saw and the people he met. None of the overwrought prose of the typical booster literature of the period.

    Davis comes over as a very straight forward and trustworthy witness for the times and the people. Very much the straight dealing Yankee businessman. He later went on to found was is now the modern San Diego. The old mission was inland.

  11. It’s really interesting when you trace out the roots of slavery, in terms of the culture of the slavers themselves.

    A considerable number of the same ne’erdowell wannabe aristos that wound up owning plantations in the South were refugees from the English Civil War; the so-called Cavaliers. They set the cultural stage, with the same sort of exploitative mentality that they’d demonstrated in England. They wanted to be masters; therefore, they made themselves masters and lorded it over everyone. It was an easy step from exploiting and abusing indentured Europeans to outright enslaving Africans brought in under (initially) the same laws.

    You can track the lineages through American history; many of the same assholes around here who made life miserable for migrant orchard workers in the early 20th Century were descended from unreconstructed Southern Confederates who fled the South trying to get away from the fruits of their behavior. It’s really odd to work through the local history and realize that a lot of the immigration locally can be attributed to these people’s endless quest for cheap labor to make themselves wealthy off the labor of others. They tried it all, Bohemians, Armenians, and it was only when they finally settled on illegal Mexican migrants who’d cooperatively go home every season after getting screwed over that things settled down, labor-wise.

    There’s a whole aspect of American culture and folkways that simply isn’t noticed, taught, or remembered. That which dates back to the various flavors of failed aristocrats who gravitated towards the South and its “free labor” and nascent plantation aristocracies. A lot of the tension between North and South can be read as a continuation of the English Civil War, and the essential conflict between the exploitive behaviors of the aristocracy and the rising mercantile middle classes. Family lore has an abiding disdain for the aristos; they’re seen as useless do-nothings who live off the sweat of other men’s labor, poseurs with swords and horses, playing at being a better class of human rather than what they actually are, land-based pirates with good publicity.

    You can see the same basic conflict continuing, mutated almost beyond recognition, in a lot of the things going on today. The Democratic Party, whether you want to admit it or not, is the party of the Aristocratic Autocrat. They’ve always gravitated towards that end of things, whether it was plantation owners or modern monied classes. Once you start looking at it through that lens, it’s hard to miss. Where you had status in the Old South based on how many slaves you had working for you, today it has shifted to how many clients you can get to vote for you, many of whom are actually descended from your old slaves. It’s actually sort of funny, in a dark and macabre way, when you think about it.

  12. Interesting story, of which I was totally ignorant.

    The former slaveholders who went to Brazil after the ACWABAWS were surprised that the Brazilians weren’t impressed with their preferences–the Brazilians were trying (not very successfully) to move beyond field-hand management.

    They were also surprised that the dark skinned Brazilians didn’t treat them as a master race.

    I can’t speak for other places, but there are few or no politicians around here today on the D-side, W/white or B/black whose ancestors owned slaves. (Or the R-side for that matter.)

    Both of the West TN congressmen (the R and the D) are descendants of people who were living in shtetls or Jewish ghettoes in the 1860s, I think. (The D boasts that he’s the white male congressman who votes like a B/black woman–and he wins.)

    For better or worse, the D machine around here is a B/black enterprise mostly.

  13. Bravo Zulu Sarge,

    Saw a quote today, which I immediately stole:
    “Because the Constitution exists we have laws, courts, police, and peace. When the Constitution no longer exists we will not have any of those: we will be playing by new [no] rules.”

    After one stolen election, no surety that the one in November will not be stolen, the failure of government at all levels to perform the most basic of duties of protecting citizens [especially children], the collapse of the economy due to deliberate government actions, and the prospect of literal food shortages within the year [and the anticipated resultant civil disorders in urban areas]; it brings to mind the first verse of a filk [yes, “filk”] song called Jefferson and Liberty.

    The Night of Fire is yet to come,
    The Tyrant’s Shadow down the years,
    Demands we kneel or take the gun,
    And go shed blood instead of our tears.

    We might be in need of Committees of Vigilance.

    Subotai Bahadur

  14. Slavery south of the border was waaaaay different than in the Old South.

    Ever wonder why there were so few blacks in Mexico? They were brought in and used as foremen by the Spaniards, over the natives. They perpetrated so many abuses over the years that when the natives were able to, they mostly exterminated them. That’s the root of the folkways behind the Mexican antipathy towards blacks.

    Similar things took place elsewhere in Spanish Central and South America. Brazil, being Portuguese, was different. Another factor was that in Portugal, the cultural attitude towards slavery was… Different. Many Portuguese had been slaves themselves, and they kept a lot of the old Roman traditions about slavery and freed slaves. Culturally, slavery in Portugal was a lot less “racial” and a lot more “Well, you f*cked up and lost a war… Oh, well… It’s slavery, for you… Maybe your kids will be able to free themselves…”

    Slavery in North America was a somewhat different thing, being as it was created and then grafted on to a culture that didn’t have slavery as a tradition. The old aristos who did it were men who’d come from a cultural place that had a very strange and unrealistic set of beliefs about their place in the world and their own “natural virtues”. They wanted their damn serfs back, thankyouverymuch, never mind that those uppity bastards had de-serfed themselves after the Black Plague came through and killed all the labor force…

    Long-term, I think those aristo bastards would have done the same thing that the French eventually managed in Haiti; pissed-off the slaves enough that they decided to massacre them all. Slavery is an inherently unstable social structure, which is something that people at Davos ought to carefully think through, before trying to implement a variation on it, yet again.

  15. The Democratic Party, whether you want to admit it or not, is the party of the Aristocratic Autocrat. They’ve always gravitated towards that end of things, whether it was plantation owners or modern monied classes.

    I think that is a recent phenomenon. The Democrats were the party of slavery, no question. They then reinvented themselves as the party of the working man. People like Truman validated this. Roosevelt was one of the old aristocrats. Lyndon Johnson tried to build a tradition of correcting poverty and failed spectacularly. In recent times, the Democrats attracted rich men whose wives were devoted to abortion, Then, they started a fascist system to reward those men. The government-Industrial complex became a lot bigger as America became financialized. Fortunes were no longer made by “titans of industry” like Carnegie or even JP Morgan. Now, we have people like Larry Fink of Black Rock, a huge hedge fund. Manufacturing, like Henry Ford, went to China and financial firms, like those that were bailed out in 2008, took over as the power in politics. The Democrats (and Republicans) genuflected.

  16. The Democrats have always had contempt for the Blacks. Look at how they put them right back on the Plantation, with the policies of The Great Society. Evil people, smug in their own sense of superiority.

  17. I’ll grant you that the Democrats always posed as the “party of the working man”, but the reality is that they were always, always of the plantation owner class. Look at the way they treat and use blacks. How many actual blacks are in positions of power inside the Democratic Party? Obama? He’s not even really black on his father’s side, whose people come from Afro-Arab slave traders. His mother’s side is pure red-diaper Communist, posing as staunch Americans while suborning everything in sight. Kamala Harris? Indo-Caribbean; not a drop of actual, y’know, Afro-American.

    It’s always been a pose, just as with the way they swindled the average Southern Cracker that didn’t own slave one. Get someone else to do your dirty work, and serve as your proxy.

    You can go a long, long way analyzing the Democrats as residual unreconstructed Cavaliers, ne’erdowell parasitic wannabe aristos who never contributed anything to whatever society they were a part of. Look at how the cheated Eli Whitney out of any benefit from his invention of the cotton gin; purest venal self-interest. Irony is, had Whitney not invented the cotton gin, most of those sorry bastards would have been bankrupt under the burdens of keeping their little slave-owning “aristocracy” going.

  18. Thanks, Sgt Mom – fun to read, interesting, and, yes thought provoking. At least we got through the twentieth century without another in the series of the “Cousin’s Wars” but the tension between the Cavaliers and Roundheads does seem a thread through all this. And now we have those who believe in the wisdom of crowds and the open market and the free press versus those who believe in what they may see as a benign (and knowledgeable and sometimes technocratic) emperor (while the some see an oppressive and irrational monarch creating chaos – say James Comey and Fauci and. . . oh, well. And the side that found empowering the translations of the Bible into the vernacular versus those who thought neither the Irish nor slaves should learn to read lest they become restless. Oh, well, it is late and I’m wandering off into overgeneralizations, I suppose. And in some ways our culture has profited from those two sides rubbing against each other.

  19. Place no faith in the, “wisdom”, of the crowds. Rather that the crowds should have no power over the individual. Thus if the individual is, “wise”, then she/he and theirs will likely thrive, while those that are not likely will not. See Aesop, the ant and the grasshopper.

    As to the Open Market, if not interfered with or corrupted it simply follows the natural law of supply and demand and rewarding those who produce service and/or product that others want and are willing to pay for, at a price the individual feels it’s worth. Most natural laws are fairly wise, if sometimes brutal. After all, natural laws are what put us here and created here to put us.

  20. I was about to post what Mike K just said. Anyone who They want to lock away forever for anything related to Jan 6 gets thrown in the hole, and its impossible to convict anyone who was “anti-Trump” no matter the smoking gun they hold in their hand. Burn DC to the ground and salt the earth.

  21. }}} Lyndon Johnson tried to build a tradition of correcting poverty and failed spectacularly.

    You mean the guy who said, “I’ll have those niggers voting democrat for the next 200 years”?

    Then there’s LBJ’s chauffeur, a black man:

    His chauffeur, a man by the name of Robert Parker, recalled that LBJ once asked him if he would prefer his real name as opposed to “boy,” “nigger,” or “chief.” Parker responded that he would prefer to be called by his given name. LBJ responded, “As long as you are black, and you’re gonna be black till the day you die, no one’s gonna call you by your goddamn name. So no matter what you are called, nigger, you just let it roll off your back like water, and you’ll make it. Just pretend you’re a goddamn piece of furniture.”

    When LBJ appointed the first black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, he remarked, “when I appoint a nigger to the bench, I want everybody to know he’s a nigger.”

    (sorry for the n-word, but it’s what he said, and I believe it should be quoted as-is to make it clear about the man’s literally brutal bigotry.)

    “Tradition” was not his goal. Eliminating Poverty was not his goal. Racial equality was not his goal. Power was his goal, as those uppity blacks in the South gained voting rights, despite efforts to reject such.


    And yes, his efforts regarding poverty were all about power, too:

    “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.”

    Truman understood these kinds of people:

    “Professional liberals are too arrogant to compromise,” Truman said. “In my
    experience they were also very unpleasant people on a personal level. Behind
    their slogans about saving the world and sharing the wealth with the common
    man lurked a nasty hunger for power. They’d double-cross their own mothers
    to get it or keep it.”

    – Harry S Truman –

    LBJ was very much a “professional liberal”.

    I like Truman. He was definitely a bigot, as was Bess (the above quote is from an interview with him by a young Jew. He was not allowed in the house during the interview — which spanned multiple days — so it took place on Truman’s front porch (this was Bess’s edict, but apparently Truman did not fight it).

    But on some levels, he was able to rise above that clear bigotry:

    “My forebears were Confederate… Every factor and influence in my
    background — and my wife’s, for that matter — would foster the personal
    belief that you are right.
    But my very stomach turned over when I learned that negro soldiers, just
    back from overseas, were being dumped out of Army trucks in Mississippi and
    Whatever my inclinations as a native of Missouri might have been, as
    President, I know this is bad. I shall fight to end evils like this.”

    – Harry S Truman –

    So I measure Truman much higher in the scheme of things than bigoted PoS assholes like LBJ. He wasn’t great on race, but it was educationally ingrained, and he did implicitly understand what was absolutely heinous racial injustice.

  22. The title of “When the Rule of Law Fails” reminds me of the prelude to the Spanish Civil War. Specifically, it points to the murder of José Calvo Sotelo, one of right’s leaders in Parliament, by members of the Assault Guard, a highly politicized police force. Allegedly the Assault Guard killed Calvo Sotelo in revenge for the murder José del Castillo, a Lieutenant of the Assault Guard, who in turn had been killed in revenge for the murder of rightists Luis Llaguno and Andrés Saenz de Heredia.

    The Popular Front government’s refusal to take action against the murderers of Calvo Sotelo- though they had been identified- showed the right that there was no rule of law in Spain, thereby increasing support for the ensuing uprising of the army. (Leftist historian Paul Preston points out that the uprising would have occurred regardless of Calvo Sotelo’s murder. While this is probably the case, his murder vastly increased civilian support for the uprising and also increased the resolve of the conspirators. Stanley Payne’s histories of the era are more objective than Preston’s. Or such is my bias.)

    The link points out that members of the left seized all documents related to the murder case.

    The judicial investigation was hurriedly buried. The Civil War put a stop to any remaining pretense of legality.

    On July 25, 1936, at 12:45 PM, in broad daylight, a dozen members of the militia of the Popular Front, entered the buildings of the Ministry of the Interior, led by a man in civilian clothing. Inside the office of the judge charged with investigating the case, they seized by force all the records and files pertaining to the assassination, and took everything away. Thus disappeared all documents relating to the inquiry, including the scientific evidence of the medical examiners, and the reports of the interrogation of the chief suspects.

    The article also points out that murder of leading rightists had been in the works.

    We cannot repeat this enough – it is not the military uprising of July 1936 that is origin of the destruction of democracy, as the leaders of the PSOE nowadays claim. On the contrary, it was because democratic legality was destroyed by the Popular Front that the uprising began. In 1936, no one, neither Left nor Right, believed in liberal democracy as it exists today. The revolutionary myth believed by the entire Left is that of an armed struggle. The anarchists and the Communist Party did not believe in democracy. The vast majority of socialists and most notably their leader, the very prominent, Largo Caballero (the “Spanish Lenin), who advocated the dictatorship of the proletariat and rapprochement with the Communists, also did not believe in democracy.</blockquote.


  23. I’ve read Caro’s biography several times. Caro was a would-be liberal who learned about LBJ through his research. Nothing like Doris Kearns Godwin, whose “biography” was a hagiography. In the last volume, so far (I don’t know if he will ever finish the last) he discusses the relationship of LBJ and Kennedy. Life Magazine had prepared a full expose on Johnson’s corruption. The Kennedy brothers planned to drop him from the second term ticket and the Life profile would have been the last straw. The Life editorial staff had a final meeting on Thursday for the issue next week. They broke for lunch and heard about the assassination on the radio. The issue was scrapped that afternoon. It was that close.

  24. If anyone is interested in alternate history, S.M. Stirling has a quadrilogy in which the US took over the Canadian territories after the Revolutionary War, so the Tories fled to South Africa rather than Canada. This was followed by many of the losers of the U.S. Civil War, as well. The state formed there became known as the Dominion of the Draka. Slavery continued, unabated, with the Draka playing a significant part in WWI, becoming a world superpower as a result (they wound up swallowing much of sub-Saharan Africa following WWI)

    This is the point where I challenge the continued mirroring of events, but Stirling did not have any major breaks with history until WWII. His first story in the series, Marching Through Georgia, is set in the middle of WWII — the “Georgia” in this case being the one in the USSR — reveals that the Draka have adopted a largely Spartan life pattern, even down to many of the Spartan traditions. They are very powerful, militarily, and are on the side of the Allies, not the Axis.

    Needless to say, while the series is very good, it’s also very dark.

  25. LBJ always seemed like the most likely suspect for Kennedy’s assassination, given his corruption and all the other “tells”. He also had the most to gain by it…

    The essential corruption of the US body politic goes back years, far enough that you have to really wonder if it wasn’t always corrupt, to one degree or another. You stop and think about it, and what’s changed the most of late is that the corrupt are now acting out in the open, and with utter disregard to consequence.

    Sussman getting off is a precursor. The future prosecutions of any of these assclowns will have to take place out in the hinterlands, or they’ll never be found guilty. Likewise, they need to move prosecutions of protestors out of DC, because they’ll never get fair trials in the other direction, either. The number of Clinton faction supporters on that jury is insane… How the hell were they not challenged by the prosecution?

  26. “How the hell were they not challenged by the prosecution?”
    They were, the judge rejected all their objections, even about the juror who only revealed after the trial had started that her kid is on a school rowing team with Sussman’s kid. Total banana republic stuff.

  27. …also the judge’s wife is Lisa Page’s (aka Peter Strzok’s lover) lawyer. It’s all such a joke.

  28. O ja, Rule of Law is gone, but that truth will take a while to penetrate the brains of the distracted, deceived masses.

    Both the elites and the underclass get a pass (as does any anti-Trump action), but that won’t last forever. The mostly honest workaday Americans, whatever their politics, continue to live in a dreamworld of bread and circuses, and their awakening (ha!) is going to be something remarkable.

    And our circuses don’t even have animals to eat when the bread runs out.

  29. Thank you for reminding me of the Vigilance Committee Sgt Mom – I had read about it years ago, and it receded from my memory. Was mention of it in Mark Twain’s book Roughing It?

    I believe it was.

    Some thoughts came to mind reading this. It was rather brazen asking for members in a newspaper – and telling of the meeting place/time. These days, the powers that be would send in undercover people to infiltrate and take down the leaders.

    And were such a movement rise today, inevitably some innocents would be caught up in the anger.

  30. The government is going to be able to infiltrate the precursor “canary in the coal mine” stabs at vigilantism. Hell, they may even try to gin some up as “warnings” to anyone thinking about participating in them.

    The actual events, however? The ones they really need to be worried about? They’re not going to be amenable to infiltration for two reasons: One, some of them are going to be spur-of-the-moment affairs that simply come out of the clear blue, so far as preparations go, and the others are going to be run by the real professionals at this stuff, who’re likely feeding those planted agents a line of bullshit as we speak.

    I strongly suspect that McVeigh and Nichols were being “run” by BATF or others in the Federal system, and that they knew they were. This is why the actual attack on the Federal Building came as a total surprise–They were supposed to be hitting somewhere else in OKC. I know that the local Army EOD detachment at Tinker AFB had been notified to be prepared for a support mission in OKC that morning, but in a different location. The EOD tech that told me about that was emphatic that the site they’d been given the warning order for was on the other side of town from the Federal Building, and that there was a distinct note of panic from their liaison when that didn’t eventuate. Make of that what you will.

    The guys that they need to be worried about already know about the whole agents provacateur issue, and have likely already taken steps to deal with that. I’d be very worried about what all those gentlemen who’ve been through the JFK Special Warfare School are up to, and who’ve been involved in Robin Sage exercises, down the years. You aren’t going to see those guys getting caught up in the whole entrapment schemes, should they decide to act.

    The FBI no doubt thinks it has everything pegged; that they’ll be able to intervene and stop whatever is coming. The reality is that they’re only going to be effective against the amateur and the nutcases. The pros are going to be operating under the radar with fieldcraft that they won’t be able to get inside, and if they don’t have actual infiltrators embedded…? Forget it.

    I hate to point it out for everyone, but all the “success” they’ve had down the years has mostly been stage-managed BS; they found someone to manipulate into serving as set-piece victims, and then “caught” them; fish in a barrel. They’re managing to look good, but the ones that you need to worry about like the Boston Marathon bombers, are operating under their radar. Even when warned by the Russian FSB, the FBI screwed that one up…

    So, yeah… When the time comes and this stuff is starting to happen, the vaunted “Homeland Security” types are going to be entirely ineffectual, for varied and sundry reasons. I don’t see that as a good thing, either… I don’t like the idea of vigilantism, I do not advocate for it, but I fear that the idiots running things are making the rise of that phenomenon almost inevitable.

  31. Kirk @ May 30, 2022 at 2:44 pmThe Democratic Party, whether you want to admit it or not, is the party of the Aristocratic Autocrat. They’ve always gravitated towards that end of things, whether it was plantation owners or modern monied classes.

    Mike K @ May 30, 2022 at 8:50 pm:
    I think that is a recent phenomenon. The Democrats were the party of slavery, no question. They then reinvented themselves as the party of the working man.


    From the Framing until the collapse of the Whigs in 1853-55, all parties were “parties of slavery”. The Federalists, the Jefferson Republicans, the Democrats, the Whigs, and the Know-Nothings all had numerous slaveowners among their leaders and never opposed slavery. Most of the large slaveowners were Whigs.

    Meanwhile: the Federalists and later the Whigs were generally identified with the upper classes, while the Jefferson Republicans and Democrats claimed to champion the common man. Look at the fight over the Bank of the United States. The election of 1840 was widely viewed as a trick: the Whigs portrayed their candidate as a rough-and-ready frontiersman (“Log Cabin and Hard Cider”), while labelling the Democrat as an effete snob.

    The elitism of the modern Democrats arises (IMO) from the Left’s takeover of the academy and from the Left’s traditional strength in urban culture.

  32. The thing you have right is that the early Democrats claimed to be for the “common man”, but the biggest takeaway I had from reading all of their “source literature” dating back to that period was the leading lights of the party had nothing but contempt for said “common man”, and felt that they needed to “guide” the dirty bastards along the way.

    You’ll also note, if you go back and look at who wound up identifying as “Democrat”, that an awful lot of the elitist wannabe aristo scum like the plantation owners gravitated towards them. It’s not accidental, at all, that the Democrats were the primary movers and shakers behind the Secession; they’d been priming themselves for that bit of business since the early days of the Republic.

    Scratch a Democrat, find an aristo wanting to lord it over others. The way they gained black America as clients is entirely in keeping with how they finagled their way through the 19th Century with the various immigrant communities, exploiting them all the way. The abandonment of the Irish and Italians for their new clients, the blacks? Entirely in keeping with the pattern. The blacks are about to be discarded, or at least, are planned to be, once the illegals come on board. I suspect, however, that that is going to backfire. Badly. Biden is losing the Hispanic vote so quickly that it’s not even funny, and I surmise that won’t be changing. The majority of the people fleeing Central America did not come here to reprise their places at the bottom of things, underneath the rico bastards that the Democrats are most comfortable actually representing.

    I think you can make a case for your line of thinking as well as I can for mine; history is a funhouse mirror, sometimes. It can vary wildly based on where you start looking, and with what set of ideas you start out with. The distaste I have for the Democrats isn’t based on any partisan preference for the Republicans, but on family history that the Democrats inflicted on us. I think most of my ancestors were Republicans mostly because there wasn’t another alternative, and that the Democrats drove them away. The things that did not get into the history books about what went on during the Wilson administration would turn your hair white, were they happening today. If they dug that racist bastard up and then desecrated his remains in some imaginative way? I think a lot of people would rest easier in their graves, afterwards.

  33. From the Framing until the collapse of the Whigs in 1853-55, all parties were “parties of slavery”. The Federalists, the Jefferson Republicans, the Democrats, the Whigs, and the Know-Nothings all had numerous slaveowners among their leaders and never opposed slavery. Most of the large slaveowners were Whigs.

    I disagree. How do you explain The Northwest Ordinance of 1784?

    As reported by the committee on March 1st, the Ordinance outlawed slavery in the territory and stated that “free males of full age” could form a temporary government by adopting the constitution of an existing state.

    Slavery was banned north of the Ohio river. Salmon P Chase tried several cases defending slaves who were in transit on the river and stopped at Cincinnati, walking into Ohio. He held they were free because of the Northwest Ordinance.

  34. Per our current president, the 2nd amendment was never absolute, and you couldn’t buy a cannon when it was passed.

    So then, how did the vigilantes get the cannon, I wonder…

  35. Joe Biden is both an ignoramus and a damned liar. You only have to look over his history of plagiarism and outright fantasticism throughout his career to recognize that he has only a fleeting acquaintance with reality as the rest of us understand it.

    Putting him in charge of the country was a criminal act, and the cabal that did so has a lot to answer for. No matter how flawed Donald Trump was and is, four years of him would have been exponentially better than four years of Biden.

    Although, I fully expect to see him go bye-bye, for varied and sundry reasons, sometime shortly after the mid-terms. Either the Democrats are going to recognize the threat he poses to their future, or the Republicans are going to do to him what the Democrats tried doing to Trump, which will likely come with massive public acclaim. Either that, or they’re going to ease him aside with an Article 25 move. What happens to Harris? No idea, but I gotta feeling she’s going to be playing Agnew, somewhere along the line.

    You can hear it coming, with the way Biden is complaining about his staff “walking back” his objectively insane statements. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he goes even further off the deep end when and if the mid-terms are as bad as they’re looking right now, and I’d be even less surprised if some of our allies don’t quietly read the idiots in DC the riot act and demand his removal for cause. Dumbass would have caused WWIII, if the Soviets were still running things. He still might…

    I have no idea what the idiots behind Biden were thinking. They could have frauded nearly anyone into office, with the depth of field they demonstrated for vote fraud. Why the hell did they pick him? It’s like they have some sort of suicide impulse, or something.

    I swear to God, about the only way Biden/Harris made sense as candidates was if someone, somewhere, made a bet about how they could put anyone into the presidency, and someone else said “Hey, hold my beer…”

  36. who gives a farthing, the damage has been done, the cancer is perhaps irreversable, can we recover the Republic, with so many parties working against it, both in and out of government,
    seemingly (sarc) in debt to china and other foreign powers,

  37. “about the only way Biden/Harris made sense as candidates was if someone, somewhere, made a bet about how they could put anyone into the presidency”

    What Biden brought to the presidency was the simple fact that he was a nonentity. He would do as he was told, and not try to run anything. As long as he gets his pudding and his 10%, he stays out of the way. Plus both Biden & Harris can easily be impeached over corruption at any time, if that becomes necessary.

    That leaves the question of who really is in control? Maybe the answer is a clique (politicians, media, bureaucrats, CEOs, academics) rather than an individual — a group of people who all think alike anyway, and spend most of their time looking left & right to make sure they don’t get out of line with the clique. Maybe a hundred or so people, surrounded by their useful idiot hangers-on. The benefits of being an insider are so large (“above the Law”, for a start) that none of the members of the clique will ever take the risk of trying to elevate themselves above the group.

  38. ron klain susan rice, and robert malley, the three sorcerers who share an eye, klain handles economics health policy, energy rice cultural social matters (the so called blm point person according to the directive unearthed by daily signal) and malley foreign policy, there are other players but those are the main figures,

  39. Susan Rice is a proxy for Obama. Obama’s people, including her, were the ones who sabotaged Trump before he took office. Biden has his small circle of lackeys, they’re all non-entities and idiots. I believe Blinken was his staffer, etc.

  40. I hate to sound like a broken record (what dat?) but it just reinforces the point that the United States Senate is no place to develop or use executive leadership skills.

    Truman–who I too have come to regard pretty highly–is a rare exception, but he had been an officer and small businessman. He was also probably better-read in history than his more educated peers, which probably helped him see the big picture.

  41. Cousin Eddie @June 1, 2022 at 7:43 pm:

    Truman–who I too have come to regard pretty highly–is a rare exception, but he had been an officer and small businessman.

    His business career lasted less than two years, and ended in bankruptcy.

    However, Truman showed real executive ability as Chief [administrative] Judge of Jackson County. During his tenure, the county built out its network of paved roads (needed to accommodate the new automobiles). The work was done on time, within budget.

  42. Thanks for the legal scholarship, Kirk. If Campos sparks a repeal movement of the FPA, bully for him. (I thought I recognized the name: Lawyers, Guns, and Money.)

    But I was rating Truman on his handling of the important issues facing him in 1945 – 1952. How to settle the most destructive war in history, how to reestablish (or establish) functioning economies in Europe and Asia, how to deal with the race question here and elsewhere, how to deal with a powerful and inimical USSR . . .

    Given the accidental nature of his presidency, and the mess he was handed, I’ll stick to rating him pretty high as a product of the US Senate, which was my original point.

    I always appreciate Rich Rostrom’s comments and clarifications. I had a vague memory of that local governance experience, after posting.

  43. “Pendergast reluctantly backed [Truman] as the machine’s choice in the 1934 Democratic primary election for the U.S. Senate from Missouri, after Pendergast’s first four choices had declined to run”
    So close to being a nobody no one would have ever heard of outside of western Missouri…

  44. well the choices were him or Wallace, we dodged a bullet, our state with this soviet tool, and his handlers I wouldn’t have gainsayed

    would Dewey have really been better, (he didn’t deserve the derision that Truman dropped on him) or would he have been another welfare state manager like Ike turned out to be, the Company as well as the NSA and the Pentagon arose under his watch, and we know where that ended up, validating much of Hoover’s insinuations, to Walter Trohan in the Chicago Tribune, he was pushing the square deal what eventually metamorphized into Medicare, he wasn’r really eager for direct intervention in Asia, the likes of Chubb, Sargaent, Fairbanks and co, really made the choice simpler, the late Codevilla in the Claremont Review of herman’s truman vs macarthur, concluded the latter was in the right,
    despite many mistakes leading into the confrontation,

  45. Well, the president from the Kansas City machine seems to have been infinitely better than the one from the Chicago machine, that’s for sure…not sure we’re going to recover from that guy…

  46. clearly, his influence like seed pods are all over this camarilla, to call it a regime is too charitable, Rice was the one who was the decider over Benghazi, along with Powers, Malley was considered too radioactive to be Senate confirmable, yet they slotted him over into negotiator for the Iran deal, klain, was a holdover from gore, soon to be replaced by mao’s musketeer, anita dunn, whose husband was obamas counsel from perkins and coie,

  47. }}} Subotai Bahadur

    You may appreciate a meme that has been floating around for quite a few years.

    A picture of Darth Vader, with the text:

    “When I hear you say ‘The Constitution is a Living Document’, I generally translate that to, ‘I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it further’.”

    It’s very funny, except not, if you get my drift.

  48. }}} From the Framing until the collapse of the Whigs in 1853-55, all parties were “parties of slavery”. The Federalists, the Jefferson Republicans, the Democrats, the Whigs, and the Know-Nothings all had numerous slaveowners among their leaders and never opposed slavery. Most of the large slaveowners were Whigs.

    Jefferson, Washington, and the others, all would have gladly ended slavery were it possible/practical.

    As it was, the slaves represented too much of the “accepted wealth” of the nation, and to abolish slavery would have instantly undercut — to the point of destruction — an economy that was already teetering on the verge of collapse, with the Revolutionary War debts and the issues handed down to them via the precursor Articles of Confederation.

    Their solution was to constrain the growth and continuation of slavery by banning the importation of new slaves.

    They failed to see the notion of inherited slavery, which allowed replacement and expansion through “breeding” more slaves.

  49. In other news, Chile’s new socialist president just announced he’s taking all the guns…

  50. Maybe the answer is a clique (politicians, media, bureaucrats, CEOs, academics) rather than an individual — a group of people who all think alike anyway, and spend most of their time looking left & right to make sure they don’t get out of line with the clique.

    I agree it is a committee but it is made up of radical climate warriors. The Green New Deal is a pathway to society collapse. It just depends on how far they are able to go before the economy just doesn’t work. Getting back to normal may take a long and painful time. Germany after WWI is my idea of what it would be like.

  51. well schwab’s coffee clatch covers a lot of ground, but soros and steyer are also overlapping players, yes its a recipe for demolition of the West, like a bond villain would bring about,

  52. }}} yes its a recipe for demolition of the West, like a bond villain would bring about,

    Yup. Been saying it all along: PostModern Liberalism is a social cancer. Literal, not figurative.

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