Posted tagged ‘History’

When Marshall Met Pershing

October 3, 2017

When Marshall Met Pershing, War on the RocksOctober 3, 2017

(This is an inspiring story about military leaders who prefer to be told candidly what’s wrong than to be given disingenuous false tales.

I served only in only the Chairborne JAG Corps about half a century ago, but still have fond memories of an 8th Army JAG colonel who advised the 8th Army commander on legal matters. Colonel Friedman had submitted a memo to the CG affirming the consistency of an 8th Army regulation with Army regulations. I, a young captain, wrote and gave Colonel Friedman a memo demonstrating that he had been wrong. He agreed, took it to the 8th Army CG and the regulation was changed as I had indicated it needed to be.– DM)

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives/U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center

As Bradley would later note of Marshall’s apprenticeship under Pershing: “Few junior officers in the history of the U.S. Army had ever had … so much high-level exposure and responsibility for so long a period. Few gained so much in terms of personal and professional growth.” Marshall’s relationship with Pershing marked him for high command, and Pershing’s loyalty to and support for his former aide would prove critical in the years to come.

This relationship might never have come to fruition if not for Marshall’s moral courage in challenging the intimidating AEF Commander one hundred years ago today. Yet of at least equal importance was Pershing’s ability to appreciate and productively channel dissent. History is replete with military officers who spoke their minds freely but were squelched by intolerant senior officers or an entrenched military bureaucracy uninterested in heterodox or innovative ideas.

****************************

Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the key moments leading to the Allied victory over the Axis powers in World War II.

Don’t worry, your math is not wrong.

Oct. 3, 1917, is the centennial of General John J. Pershing’s inspection of the 1st Infantry Division at Gondrecourt, France. This obscure event would not only have significant repercussions for the American effort in the next world war, but also offer lessons for leadership development in the U.S. military a century later.

When Pershing assumed command of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), which was created and deployed to France after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, he essentially had to create and organize an army from scratch. In the spring of 1917 no U.S. divisions existed anywhere but on paper. Moreover, upon arriving in France, Pershing was constantly pressured by British leaders to relinquish his troops and integrate them into the British Army. He needed combat-ready forces to strengthen his hand in this debate and prevent the AEF from being stillborn. With few other units yet to reach France, Pershing took an inordinate interest in the summer and fall of 1917 in the first American unit to arrive, the 1st Division.

As the division conducted training in Lorraine, Pershing frequently visited its headquarters on short notice to check on its progress. A previous review with French President Raymond Poincaré on Sept. 6, 1917, was a disaster, and Pershing took out his frustration on the 1st Division’s commander, Major General William L. Sibert. Pershing inspected the 1st Division again on Oct. 3, this time at Gondrecourt to watch a demonstration of a new method for attacking an entrenched enemy. After the demonstration, Pershing called upon Sibert for a critique. Although Sibert possessed a brilliant record as an engineer, he had little experience with infantry tactics and had only witnessed the demonstration for the first time alongside Pershing. Consequently, his comments were halting and confused.

Pershing then called upon two other staff officers whose responses were also unsatisfactory. The general erupted and “just gave everybody hell,” particularly Sibert, whom he dressed down in front of his own officers. The division showed little for the time it had spent in training, Pershing snapped. They had not made good use of the time, and had not followed instructions from AEF headquarters at Chaumont regarding open warfare formations. Pershing excoriated Sibert, questioning his leadership, his attention to details in training, and his acceptance of such poor professionalism.

The 1st Division staff felt a possessive affection for their commander, and as Pershing turned to leave, the tall major who had been serving as acting chief of staff spoke up, angrily protesting Pershing’s unfairness. Pershing was in no mood to listen and began to walk away. Suddenly, he felt the major’s hand grabbing his arm.

“General Pershing,” the major said, “there’s something to be said here and I think I should say it because I’ve been here the longest.”

Pershing turned back and gave the impertinent young officer a cold, appraising glance. “What have you got to say?”

A torrent of facts poured forth: the promised platoon manuals that never arrived and had set back training; the inadequate supplies that left men walking around with gunnysacks on their feet; the inadequate quarters that left troops scattered throughout the countryside, sleeping in barns for a penny a night; the lack of motor transport that forced troops to walk miles to the training grounds. Finally, the deluge subsided.

Pershing looked at the major and calmly said: “You must appreciate the troubles we have.”

The major replied, “Yes, I know you do, General, I know you do. But ours are immediate and every day and have to be solved before night.”

General Pershing eyed the major narrowly and then turned to leave, the 1st Division staff looking nervously at the ground in stunned silence. After a while, Sibert gratefully told Major George C. Marshall that he should not have stuck his neck out on his account, and the rest of the staff predicted that Marshall’s military career was finished. Marshall shrugged off his friends’ condolences, saying: “All I can see is that I may get troop duty instead of staff duty, and certainly that would be a great success.”

Yet no retribution for the incident ever came. Instead, whenever the AEF commander visited 1st Division from Chaumont, he would find a moment to pull Marshall aside to ask how things were really going. Pershing had finally found an officer who would tell him the unvarnished truth rather than gloss over inadequacies. Marshall eventually received orders transferring him to the AEF General Staff to work under Colonel Fox Conner, the head of the AEF’s Operations section. Together, they would form the core of the group that planned the two great U.S. offensives of the war — Saint Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. Pershing was impressed, and after the Armistice asked Marshall to become his aide.

After the victory parades and celebrations of 1919 faded, Marshall began an apprenticeship that would not only broaden his horizons, but also indelibly shape the leadership of American forces in World War II. Although military historians still debate how the Allies were able to defeat the Axis powers in World War II, Marshall’s efforts as Chief of Staff beginning in 1939 directly contributed to each plausible theory. More specifically, Marshall’s contributions under each explanation can be traced back to his experiences serving with Pershing during the five-plus years after World War I.

Some historians argue that the Allied victory was primarily due to U.S. commanders who displayed “aggressive and determined leadership.” If so, much of the credit for these commanders’ success belongs to Marshall, who as Chief of Staff selected or approved all army and corps commanders. However, this process began when Pershing became Chief of Staff of the Army in 1921 and Marshall was installed in an office near his chief in the State, War, and Navy Building. As other staff officers who had been with Pershing in France moved on to other assignments, Marshall became increasingly important, and Pershing sent many proposed letters, draft reports, and staff recommendations to him for comment. Reading the flow of paper in and out of the office, Marshall eventually became familiar with the entire army establishment. In the fall of 1921, he served on a board investigating the alleged inequities of the Army’s single-list promotion system. Examining the service records of hundreds of officers gave him detailed background on the careers of many men who would later serve under him.

More importantly, perhaps, Marshall served as a mentor to many of the generals who served under him over the next two decades, including Omar Bradley, Matthew Ridgway, and Joe Collins. Bradley stated that, “No man had a greater influence on me personally or professionally” than Marshall. One hundred and fifty future generals attended the Infantry School at Fort Benning during Marshall’s tenure as assistant commandant, with another 50 serving on the faculty under his direction.

Other historians cite the American infantry’s ability to adapt to the battlefield as the key to victory. Peter Mansoor, for example, argues in The GI Offensive in Europe that the U.S. Army “accomplished its mission in Western Europe because it evolved over time into a more combat-effective force that Germany could sustain on the battlefield.” Again, Marshall deserves a share of the credit under this theory, thanks to his efforts from 1927-1932 to revolutionize the training of company grade officers at the Infantry School. And again, the origins of Marshall’s efforts can be traced back to his years with Pershing.

After World War I, Pershing sought to lay the foundation for fighting a future war by establishing boards to evaluate the lessons offered by the AEF’s experience. Marshall was put to work sifting through the reports of these boards and the records of the AEF. He set down these lessons in the January 1921 issue of the Infantry Journal, warning of the dangers of divided command, of reliance on textbook tactics, and of assuming the next war would be the same tactically as the last one. He also noted that quick thinking and quick action were more important than proper order formats:

Many orders, models in their form, failed to reach the troop in time to affect their actions, and many apparently crude and fragmentary instructions did reach front-line commanders in time to enable the purpose of the higher command to be carried out on the battlefield.

Marshall disseminated these lessons as assistant commandant of the Infantry School,  warning students that an officer “must be prepared to take prompt and decisive action in spite of the scarcity or total absence of reliable information. He must learn that in war, the abnormal is normal and that uncertainty is certain.” Indeed, even historian Jorg Muth, who is highly critical of professional military education and leadership development in the interwar Army, concludes: “The only highlight of the U.S. Army’s educational system in the first decades of the twentieth century was the Infantry School and then only when George C. Marshall was the assistant commander.”

Conversely, Martin Van Crevald in Fighting Power argues, “The American officer corps of World War II was less than mediocre.” Although few historians go quite to that extreme in disparaging the U.S. Army’s performance, others such as Russell Weigley argue that America’s materiel preponderance in terms of weapons systems and munitions deliverable to the front lines ultimately mattered more than battlefield effectiveness. Once again, Marshall’s understanding of mobilization and logistical issues can be traced to the early post-war years. In December 1919, Secretary of War Newton Baker sent Pershing — with Marshall and his other staff accompanying him — on a national tour of army camps and war plants to recommend those to be retained in the post-war drawdown. By the end of the inspection tour, Pershing knew more about the Army than anyone else, knowledge that was almost completely shared by Marshall.

Moreover, Marshall’s time in Washington gave him essential experience in dealing with the nation’s civilian leaders. He dealt with congressmen on the two military affairs committees, rubbed shoulders with the secretary of war, and briefed Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Despite his personal aloofness from partisan politics, he came to understand politics and politicians far better than most military men. This skill would prove critical two decades later when President Franklin D. Roosevelt needed a point man to convince a still-isolationist Congress of the urgency of mobilization before Pearl Harbor. Without Marshall’s credibility and skillful lobbying, followed by his herculean efforts to expand, train, and equip the army, transforming it from a constabulary force of 100,000 to an efficient eight million-man force, there would have been no materiel preponderance to fall back on when combat effectiveness fell short. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would describe Marshall as “the Organizer of Victory,” and President Harry S. Truman would say of Marshall’s role as Army Chief of Staff: “Millions of Americans gave their country outstanding service … George C. Marshall gave it victory.”

This is not to argue that Marshall was solely responsible for the Allied victory or that he was infallible. To be sure, he made a number of errors in judgment: arguing against providing aid to England during the Blitz, promoting Lloyd Fredendall to a corps command (in which position Fredendall would fail badly during the North Africa campaign), and supporting an early invasion of France before U.S. forces could gain badly needed hardening in North Africa and Sicily. These mistakes show Marshall was human. Yet it is far from hagiography to acknowledge his critical role in the Allied war effort, or to recognize that if America owed an incalculable debt to Marshall for his leadership in the next world war, a significant portion of the interest would deservedly go to General John J. Pershing. As Bradley would later note of Marshall’s apprenticeship under Pershing: “Few junior officers in the history of the U.S. Army had ever had … so much high-level exposure and responsibility for so long a period. Few gained so much in terms of personal and professional growth.” Marshall’s relationship with Pershing marked him for high command, and Pershing’s loyalty to and support for his former aide would prove critical in the years to come.

This relationship might never have come to fruition if not for Marshall’s moral courage in challenging the intimidating AEF Commander one hundred years ago today. Yet of at least equal importance was Pershing’s ability to appreciate and productively channel dissent. History is replete with military officers who spoke their minds freely but were squelched by intolerant senior officers or an entrenched military bureaucracy uninterested in heterodox or innovative ideas. George Patton, for example, was repeatedly reprimanded for his outspokenness, and consequently spent the 1930s writing anachronistic treatises on the continuing importance of the horse cavalry in order to save his career. As Stephen P. Rosen notes in Winning the Next Warmilitary innovations are often stillborn without the top cover from a senior officer capable of giving subordinates space in which to flourish. Marshall was fortunate to find such leadership not only in Pershing, but again twenty years later when, as Assistant Chief of Staff of the Army, he dared to openly disagree with FDR’s pronouncements on mobilization in a 1938 Oval Office meeting. FDR, like Pershing before him, saw the value of Marshall’s frankness rather than insubordination.

In the wake of the controversies surrounding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the quality of American generalship has been called into serious question. In May 2007, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling wrote that the “debacles” in Iraq “are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officers corps,” who “failed to prepare our armed forces for war.” In 2012, Thomas Ricks argued that, “To a shocking degree, the Army’s leadership ranks have become populated by mediocre officers placed in positions where they are likely to fail. Success goes unrewarded, and everything but the most extreme failure goes unpunished.”

Regardless of the merits of these critiques, the retention and development of junior officers for future strategic leadership is today a hotly debated topic amongst generals, former commanders, and academics — debates that formed the backdrop for the Obama administration’s uncompleted “Force of the Future” initiative. The centennial of the Marshall-Pershing confrontation offers a reminder that a key to developing strong leaders is to foster an environment in which openness and criticism are not only tolerated, but can be channeled to foster innovation.

Benjamin Runkle is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and has served as in the Defense Department, as a Director on the National Security Council, and as a Professional Staff Member on the House Armed Services Committee. He is current a Senior Policy Fellow with Artis International.

Courageous WWII Spy Jeannie Rousseau Has Died at 98

September 4, 2017

Courageous WWII Spy Jeannie Rousseau Has Died at 98, SmithsonianmagBrigit Katz, August 30, 2017

(Inspirational story of the day. — DM)

Jeannie Rousseau photographed in 1939 or 1940 (Public Domain)

 Rousseau played down the magnitude of her decision to collaborate with the Allied forces, to put her life at risk.

“I just did it, that’s all,” she told Ignatius. “It wasn’t a choice. It was what you did.”

********************************

In 1943, British intelligence analysts received alarming information about German plans to build V-1 and V-2 rockets at a testing plant in Peenemünde, a region on the Baltic coast. Britain deployed 560 bombers to attack the facility, temporarily derailing the Nazi program and saving thousands of lives. The vital intelligence about Peenemünde had been transmitted by an unassuming, but fearless young French woman named Jeannie Rousseau, who died last week, at the age of 98, reports William Grimes of the New York Times.

Rousseau was born in Saint-Brieuc, in Brittany, in 1919. She had a talent for languages and learned to speak German fluently, according to Olivier Holmey of the Independent. In 1940, when German forces arrived in France, Rousseau’s father, a former official with the foreign ministry, volunteered his daughter to act as an interpreter for Nazi officers in Brittany.

But Rousseau did more than just translate. She began passing bits of information to a local chapter of the French Resistance and was arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of espionage in 1941. She was quickly released—“German officers would not contemplate that their charming translator might be a spy,” Holmey writes—but the Gestapo ordered her to leave the French coast.

Rousseau landed in Paris, where she secured a job as an interpreter for French businessmen, helping them negotiate contracts with German occupiers. Soon, Rousseau took on a more significant role with the Resistance. While traveling on a train from Paris to Vichy, she had a chance meeting with Georges Lamarque, an acquaintance from her days at university. (Or perhaps the encounter was not so chance. As journalist Anne Sebba notes, Rousseau decided to go to Vichy “in a bid to find out what was going on there, instinctively recognizing that there might be an opportunity to use her knowledge but not yet knowing how.”) As it turned out, Lamarque was building the Druids, a small intelligence-gathering chapter of the Resistance, and he asked Rousseau if she would be willing to help the cause. She agreed, and began collecting information under the alias “Amniarix.”

During her interactions with Nazi officers in Paris, however, Rousseau went by the name Madeleine Chauffour. Using charm and cunning, she cajoled classified information out of the officials—including their plans to test rockets at Peenemünde.

“I teased them, taunted them, looked at them wide-eyed, insisted that they must be mad when they spoke of the astounding new weapon that flew over vast distances, much faster than any airplane,” Rousseau said during a 1998 interview with David Ignatius of the Washington Post. “I kept saying: What you are telling me cannot be true!’ I must have said that 100 times.”

Eager to prove her wrong, one of the Germans showed Rousseau drawings of the rockets. She couldn’t make much sense of them, but she had a “near-photographic memory,” according to Grimes of the Times. She transmitted the plans in great detail to Lamarque, who passed them on the British. That information ultimately persuaded Prime Minister Winston Churchill to bomb the test site, Ignatius noted.

In 1944, the British decided to evacuate Rousseau to London for a debriefing. But according to Rousseau’s Washington Post obituary, also written by Ignatius, she was betrayed to the Nazis on her way to the meeting point. Rousseau was captured, and sent to Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp. She was later transported to the subcamp Torgau, and then back to Ravensbrück and then to the subcamp Königsberg, a new punishment camp that was a “particularly abominable” place, according to journalist Sarah Helm. In order to escape it, she and two others ultimately snuck their way onto a truck full of prisoners with typhus to get back to Ravensbrück.

Throughout, Rousseau appears to have been helped somewhat by the Nazis’ inability to properly identify her. When she arrived at Ravensbrück, she gave German officials her real name, Jeannie Rousseau. They did not connect her to the “Madeleine Chauffour” described as a spy in documents that were sent separately to the camp.

Still, Rousseau was on the brink of death when she was liberated by the Red Cross in 1945. While being treated for tuberculosis at a sanatorium in Sweden, she met Henri de Clarens, who had survived Buchenwald and Auschwitz. They later married and had two children.

In the years following the war, Rousseau worked as a freelance interpreter for the United Nations. She was made a member of France’s Legion of Honor in 1955, and was named grand officer of the Legion in 2009. She has been awarded the Resistance Medal, the Croix de Guerre, and the C.I.A.’s Seal Medal.

But Rousseau rarely spoke publicly about her wartime experiences. Her interview with the Washington Post in 1998 reportedly marked the first time that she had opened up to a journalist. At the time of the interview, Rousseau played down the magnitude of her decision to collaborate with the Allied forces, to put her life at risk.

“I just did it, that’s all,” she told Ignatius. “It wasn’t a choice. It was what you did.”

 

The U.S. Constitution and civil war

August 24, 2017

The U.S. Constitution and civil war, Dan Miller’s Blog, August 24, 2017

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM)

I wrote and published this article on December 27, 2011. Providing historical perspectives on the constitutional ramifications of the war, it has had more than 46,000 views. Perhaps it may provide useful perspectives now, as we seem to be heading toward another potentially more deadly and divisive civil war.

Only we can prevent another civil war. Will we?

Formerly great universities, once bastions of constitutionally protected free speech, are now trying — often successfully — to kill it. Fake news abounds increasingly in our “mainstream” media, which neglect or minimize legitimate news. Our history, good and bad, are being relegated to the trash can.  Our history made America what she is and reflecting on it can help to make her even better.

************************************

Emasculating the Constitution is bad way to preserve the nation.

The first shots in the United States Civil War were fired by the South during an attack on Fort Sumter a century and a half ago on April 12, 1861, not long after President Lincoln’s election on November 6, 1860 and about five weeks after he assumed office on March 4, 1861.

As summarized by Wikipedia,

As Lincoln’s election became evident, secessionists made clear their intent to leave the Union before he took office the next March.[123] On December 20, 1860, South Carolina took the lead by adopting an ordinance of secession; by February 1, 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed.[124][125] Six of these states then adopted a constitution and declared themselves to be a sovereign nation, the Confederate States of America.[124] The upper South and border states (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) listened to, but initially rejected, the secessionist appeal.[126] President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy, declaring secession illegal.[127] The Confederacy selected Jefferson Davis as their provisional President on February 9, 1861.[128]

The war still stirs “a trove of memories.”  Some are of glory, others of misery and despair. A few have suggested that we are now engaged in another “civil war” of sorts, although not an armed conflict. The prospect of armed conflict over various issues, including illegal immigration and infringements of the Constitutional right to bear arms, has been raised.  I occasionally come across comments at various blogs contending that the reelection of President Obama could precipitate another civil war; much the same as did President Lincoln’s election. It was noted here that thought has been given to a new civil war by some on the left.

[T]his afternoon, MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan took to his show to yell fire in a crowded theater, asking viewers, “Are things in our country so bad that it might actually be time for a revolution? The answer is obviously ‘yes.’”

. . . .

Ratigan invites on cartoonist Ted Rall to talk about his new book The Anti-American Manifesto, and argue the case for violent overthrow of government. Quoting John Locke, Rall argues that “the people have an obligation to revolt,” and that “nothing will radicalize the American citizen more than being thrown out of their home by a bank.” Citing frustration with both parties, who he called “in bed with the duopoly,” Rall also noted that “the American left has been very peaceful since the early ’70s… and where has it gotten us?”

It seems to have been suggested here, in a piece written by Cokie Roberts in the contexts of Arizona’s then new immigration law and ObamaCare, that we need to ignore parts of the Constitution to save the rest.  According to this comment about her article,

Toward the end this statement is made: “It’s hard to imagine what would happen politically if the Supreme Court sided with some states against Congress. The already severely frayed fabric of government would certainly be further torn apart. It’s far better to leave the health care debate in the arena of electoral politics — and for the losers to accept defeat. That’s the essence of democracy.”

Again, the suggestion is made to just accept the federal government’s decree even if unconstitutional. The thing that struck me here though was the “essence of democracy” concept. That may be how a democracy works, but that’s not how a Constitutional Republic works.

It seems appropriate to look at the conditions that led to and resulted from Civil War (1861 – 1865) in the context of the U.S. Constitution.

The Civil War of 1861 – 1865

In this article, I examined some of the factors leading to the Civil war and questioned whether we might have another. I contended that it would be a very bad idea even though a Rasmussen poll released on August 7th had reported that

just 17% of Likely U.S. Voters think the federal government today has the consent of the governed. Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe the government does not have that consent. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

Even though the rights of the states atrophied massively with our Civil War and have continued their decline ever since, to have another would brutalize if not destroy what’s left of the most important of the many documents that have made the United States exceptional among nations. As I wrote in my earlier Civil War piece,

The United States have the best constitution ever written; we need to protect and defend it as citizens bound, as well as protected, by it. Leaving the union is not the solution; we can be more effective from within than as outsiders and the Constitution deserves and needs all of the protection and defense we can provide.

As suggested below, failures to protect and defend the Constitution “as citizens bound, as well as protected, by it” propelled the Civil War and should not propel another.

The Civil War and States’ Rights

From a common Southern perspective, the Civil War was fought to preserve states’ rights. As noted in my earlier article,

Robert E. Lee and many others of the South held their principal allegiance to their states. However, they did not wish the Union to be divided by force.  According to Lee,

There is a terrible war coming, and these young men who have never seen war cannot wait for it to happen, but I tell you, I wish that I owned every slave in the South, for I would free them all to avoid this war.

Nor were they willing to have it restored by force over the objections of their states and were prepared to resist that force militarily. Shortly after Virginia had seceded on April 17, Colonel Lee — still an officer in the Army of the United States — wrote, “Virginia is my country, her I will obey, however lamentable the fate to which it may subject me.” After the war, in 1865, he declined an Englishman’s offer to escape the destruction of postwar Virginia: “I cannot desert my native state in the hour of her adversity. I must abide by her fortunes, and share her fate.” In a letter of April 20, 1861 to General Winfield Scott he asked that his resignation from the Army of the United States be accepted. The letter ended,

Save in defence of my native state, I never desire again to draw my sword. Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness and prosperity, and believe me, most truly yours,

Virginia was the eighth of the eleven states to secede and was the state farthest north geographically. She became a principal battlefield during most of the Civil War.

The view that defense of states’ rights was the principal cause of the Southern Secession has been challenged, not well I think, for the reasons offered below, here and elsewhere.

Ending slavery as the reason for the Civil War

According to many, the Civil War was fought to end the scourge of slavery.  Not all in the North shared this view.  As noted in my earlier Civil War article, Lincoln had said on April 17, 1859,

I think Slavery is wrong, morally, and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union.

I say that we must not interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists, because the constitution forbids it, and the general welfare does not require us to do so. (emphasis added)

According to the National Endowment for the Humanities,

While the Civil War began as a war to restore the Union, not to end slavery, by 1862 President Abraham Lincoln came to believe that he could save the Union only by broadening the goals of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation [of 1863] is generally regarded as marking this sharp change in the goals of Lincoln’s war policy. (Insert added)

The United States Constitution

The U.S. Constitution should be considered as it dealt with the institution of slavery at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and until after the war ended with a Union victory in 1865. As soon-to-be-President Lincoln noted in 1859, the Constitution forbade interference “with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists.” Only after the Civil War was the Constitution amended, in 1865, 1868 and 1870, to eliminate slavery and its horrific consequences.

Slavery was contemplated and protected under the Constitution as ratified in 1788 and as it remained in force in 1865. Here are the pertinent articles; only one pertinent amendment, the Tenth, was in force as of the beginnings of the Civil War and, indeed, until the South was conquered.

Article I

Section 2. Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Section 9: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person. (Emphasis added)

Consistently with Section 9, the importation of slaves into the United States was prohibited by Federal law enacted in 1807 and effective as of January 1, 1808.

Article IV required the return of fugitive slaves who escaped to “free” states.

Section 2: No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

In 1850, the Federal Fugitive Slave Act was enacted to ensure implementation of Article IV, Section 2. It was bitterly opposed in the North and was essentially nullified when the Civil War began.

Article V, by 1861 remained a part of the Constitution but was no longer effective due to its expiration date. It provided

[N]o Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article;

Hence, when the Civil War began and until after it ended, Federal efforts to eliminate the institution of slavery by force of arms against the states where slavery was lawful contravened the protections to which the institution was there entitled under the Constitution. It could be argued that it also contravened the Tenth Amendment, quoted below.

By 1861, the Constitution had been ratified by thirty-four states, including those, and the citizens of which, engaged on both sides in the Civil War. Aside from the quoted portion of Article V which was already obsolete due to the passage of time, the protections afforded the institution of slavery were countermanded by the Thirteenth,  Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments only after the end of the Civil War. The process of Southern reconstruction impelled their ratification.

The Tenth Amendment, ratified in 1791 along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, remains in effect. It provides,

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Thirteenth Amendment provides,

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Proposed on January 31, 1865, thirty states had ratified it by 1865. It “was specifically rejected by Delaware on Feb 8, 1865; by Kentucky on Feb 24, 1865; by New Jersey on Mar 16, 1865; and by Mississippi on Dec 4, 1865.” They later ratified it.  Although approved by Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas and Virginia,

The governments of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas were those established under President Lincoln’s Reconstruction policy.  In Virginia, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified by a “rump” legislature, which had begun meeting in Alexandria shortly after the Civil War began, claiming to be the legitimate and loyal representative of the state in the Union.  It had earlier approved the creation of the state’s western counties into the new state of West Virginia.  The U.S. State Department accepted the ratification from those four and, later, other Southern states.

The Fourteenth Amendment provides in relevant part,

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Proposed on June 13, 1866, the Fourteenth or “Reconstruction Amendment” had been ratified, also by thirty states, by 1868. It

was specifically rejected by Texas on Oct 27, 1866; by Georgia on Nov 6, 1866; by North Carolina on Dec 14, 1866; by South Carolina on Dec 20, 1866; by Kentucky on Jan 8, 1867; by Virginia on Jan 9, 1867; by Louisiana on Feb 6, 1867; by Delaware on Feb 8, 1867; and by Maryland on Mar 23, 1867. New Jersey’s ratification was rescinded on Mar 24, 1868; Ohio rescinded its ratification on Jan 15, 1868

Virginia (in 1869), Mississippi and Texas (in 1870), Delaware (in 1901), Maryland and California (in 1959) and Kentucky (in 1976) later ratified it. However, it is noted here that

When a fair vote was taken on it in 1865 . . . it was rejected by the Southern states and all the border states. Failing to secure the necessary three-fourths of the states, the Republican party, which controlled Congress, passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867 which placed the entire South under military rule.

The purpose of this, according to one Republican congressman, was to coerce Southern legislators to vote for the amendment “at the point of a bayonet.” President Andrew Johnson called this tactic “absolute despotism,” the likes of which had not been exercised by any British monarch “for more than 500 years.” For his outspokenness Johnson was impeached by the Republican Congress.

Although impeached (the articles of impeachment are at the link) by a vote of one hundred and twenty-six to forty-seven by the House, conviction by the Senate failed by one vote (thirty-five to nineteen). In 1875, Johnson became the first former President to serve in the Senate.  In 1862, President Lincoln had

appointed him military governor of Tennessee. In an effort to win votes from Democrats, Lincoln (a Republican) chose Johnson (a War Democrat) as his running mate in 1864 and they swept to victory in the presidential election.

The Fifteenth Amendment provides,

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Proposed on February 26, 1869, it was ratified by 1870, also by thirty states.  It was

specifically rejected by Kentucky on Mar 12, 1869; by Delaware on Mar 18, 1869; by Ohio on Apr 30, 1869; by Tennessee on Nov 16, 1869; by California on Jan 28, 1870; by New Jersey on Feb 7, 1870; and by Maryland on Feb 26, 1870. New York rescinded its ratification on Jan 5, 1870, and rescinded the rescission on Mar 30, 1970.

California later ratified it in 1962, Maryland in 1973, Kentucky in 1976 and Tennessee in 1997.

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments permitted substantial growth in racial equality in later years.  Although ultimately beneficial, that does not diminish the heavy handed way in which they were proposed and ratified. Nor does it diminish the problem that in seeking to end slavery by force of arms against the Southern States, the Federal Government attempted to right wrongs by emasculating the Constitution.  History offers substantial support for the Southern view that it fought the Civil War to prevent efforts by the Federal Government to exceed its powers under the Constitution and thereby to nullify rights it guaranteed to the states. The Constitutional rights of the citizens of the Southern States which permitted slavery were among those the Federal government sought to nullify by the Civil War and later, having won, to defeat through Constitutional amendments during “Reconstruction.”

That is not intended to suggest that those who felt morally compelled to oppose slavery were in the wrong, only that the ends adopted lost more than a little of their luster by virtue of the means used. For the Federal Government to oppose slavery by force of arms was inconsistent with the Constitution from which all Federal powers derived and still derives legitimacy and under which the entire nation was and is still to be governed.

Conclusions

The U.S. Constitution is well worth saving, but not by violating, ignoring or otherwise diminishing it. We can properly amend it, a difficult process when the states are free to ratify or reject amendments.  However, it is the only viable way unlikely to lead to long lasting scars or conceivably to another Civil War. The rights of the States are the keystone of the Federal system upon which the country was founded and prospered; chipping away at them even piece by piece, a few at a time, is perverse.

To have another civil war to preserve the federal union by disregarding the Constitution would be no less destructive and no less perverse than was the former. The Constitution provides sufficient political and legislative processes, if wisely used, to implement necessary changes and enough judicial safeguards to prevent Federal overreach in doing so. The Executive is required to follow the Constitution and to usurp neither the Congressional nor the Judicial prerogatives it embodies. The individual rights it guarantees are no less crucial.  To avoid civil unrest and perhaps civil war, we should give far more thought than at present to returning to these and other basics of our form of government. Governments rot when their citizens let them and can recover only when their citizens demand it.

An Émigré Explains Why The U.S. Should Want Russia As An Ally

February 22, 2017

An Émigré Explains Why The U.S. Should Want Russia As An Ally, TheFederalist, February 22, 2017

(Please see also, Is a Trump-Putin Detente Dead? — DM

I am a Russian-born U.S. citizen. Since my old country is all in the news now, unsurprisingly, several people have asked me about the latest spat between the two countries. I have rounded up a few frequently asked questions (FAQ) in no particular order, and here they are.

Question: Is Russia our foe or ally?

Answer: Neither. Lord Palmerston famously quipped, “Great Britain has no friends, only interests,” and the same applies to other countries. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were geopolitical adversaries during the Cold War. Prior to that, they were allies in World War II when both faced an existential threat from Nazi Germany and Japan. Now both Russia and the United States are facing a threat of radical Islam, which may bring the two countries together again.

Q: But can we cooperate with the Russians after they captured large chunks of Ukraine and Georgia?

A: Well, the Soviet Union captured Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 1939, yet Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill cooperated with Joseph Stalin and actively supported his war efforts. The West never recognized the annexation of the Baltic republics; it just put that matter on the back burner for the sake of a more urgent goal. Henry Kissinger calls this realpolitik.

Q: Donald Trump has picked Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, as his secretary of State. Tillerson has warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. How do we know which side Tillerson is on?

A: Let me cite a historical precedent. Another famous American oil executive was friendly with Soviet leaders. His name was Armand Hammer. He had numerous personal and business ties with the USSR, starting in the 1920s. In 1957, Hammer became president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum. He used his connections to end the Cold War between the two countries. According to his biographer, Hammer was “a go-between for five Soviet General Secretaries and seven U.S. Presidents.” Paradoxically, Hammer’s efforts on behalf of the USSR made him a darling of the American Left, even though he supported the Republican Party.

Q: Has Putin ordered the murder of Russian journalists and other political opponents?

A: That has not been proven conclusively, but is plausible. Regardless of whether that is the case, it should not determine American foreign policy. That was clear to FDR and Churchill, who were well aware of Stalin’s atrocities.

Q: Did Russia side with Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential race?

A: Of course, it did. Nations do take sides and interfere in other nations’ internal affairs all the time. For example, the United States actively encouraged the Arab Spring in several countries and even supported Syrian and Libyan “moderate” rebels. It was the job of the sitting U.S. president to prevent any Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Q: Is Russian spying on U.S. institutions a new phenomenon?

A: Absolutely not! However, things change. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, it was the conservative Right that was alarmed by Russian spying and Communist infiltration of the federal government. The Left dismissed that concern, mocking it as looking for “reds under the beds.” Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of spying for Russia and executed, became martyrs of the Left. Even in the 1970s when I arrived in the United States, the Left’s favorite motto was “it’s better be red than dead.” Things really changed in the 1980s.

Q: What happened in the 1980s?

A: When Ronald Reagan became president, he faced fierce opposition from the Left. The media elite ridiculed him as an unsophisticated cowboy and right-wing warmonger for calling the USSR an evil empire. The opposition became violent when Reagan proposed an anti-missile defense system, which the media dismissed as a “star wars” program. However, when an opportunity came up, Reagan held productive summits with former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. These summits eventually led to the end of the Cold War.

Q: Is Putin a reincarnation of Stalin?

A: The two leaders represent two different generations separated by a period of 70 years. During those 70 years, the world has changed, and so has Russia. Stalin ruled Russia with an iron fist, while today’s Russians enjoy a degree of freedom. Putin is more pragmatic than Stalin. Yet contemporary Russian society is still quite different from its Western European counterparts, which is perhaps just fine, given that the latter are in a deep crisis now.

Q: Can the United States rely on Russia in the war on radical Islamic terrorism?

A: If it were a matter of life or death, I would always choose to have Russia on my side, rather than a Western ally, such as France. When Russians wage a war, they do it to win, not to satisfy lawyers by following every rule specifying acceptable ways of killing the enemy.

Here is an example. Somalian pirates threatened international shipping in the Indian Ocean between 2005 and 2013 by taking hostages. The American, French, Italian, and other navies rescued many hostages, caught pirates, and sent them to their countries. The arrests, trials, appeals, and imprisonment cost hundreds of millions of dollars. According to a Guardian report, there was a fear that “trials in European courts would encourage, rather than deter, pirates from committing crimes of piracy.”

In contrast, when a Russian destroyer rescued a Russian tanker with its crew from pirates in 2010, they did not arrest the pirates. They disarmed the pirates and set them adrift in an inflatable boat. The released pirates did not reach the coast. Rumor has it that the rescuers made a hole in the boat before releasing it.

The Mainstream Media’s Pointless Fixation on Trump and Putin

February 7, 2017

The Mainstream Media’s Pointless Fixation on Trump and Putin, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, February 6, 2017

(According to several recent DEBKAfile articles, Trump and Putin are already working to restrain Iran in Syria. See, e.g., Russia freezes Syrian, Iranian military movements. — DM)

allies

Meanwhile, in the real world, America and the rest of the West have two serious problems. You could even call them crucial — Iran and ISIS.  Putin can help with both.

**************************

You would think the mainstream media had had a collective lobotomy or is suffering from some mass version of premature Alzheimer’s disease, considering how quickly they have forgotten the red reset button with Russia, the chummy open-mic whisper from Obama to Medvedev, and the even chummier backslapping between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in their zeal to poleax Donald Trump for his lax attitude toward Vladimir Putin.

Was Putin less an ex-KGB agent in those not so distant Obama days, less a killer? Surely those same media geniuses are not such historical illiterates they have never heard of the KGB’s bloodthirsty antecedents — the GRU, the NKVD, and the Cheka?  As we all know,  or should, Russians, Soviet and otherwise, have been offing each other for a long time — well before Donald Trump came on the scene, although you wouldn’t believe that, considering the swill currently being written by our residents of digital Grub Street.

Have they actually forgotten that FDR dealt regularly with Stalin (indeed was his ally), a dictator whose despotism dwarfed Putin’s and who ended up murdering more people than Hitler? Estimates range from 30 to 60 million.  Nevertheless, Franklin complimented Uncle Joe on more than one occasion over a number of years to get what the American president wanted.  (Attn.: youthful New York Times reporters — in case this surprises you, you can read about it in “Caught between Roosevelt and Stalin: American Ambassadors to Moscow” by Dennis J. Dunn or, more simply, in the columns of your own monstrous Walter Duranty.)

Roosevelt and Churchill sat with Stalin at Yalta, where they cozied up to the general secretary in manners the MSM, or even the fevered swamps of the alt-left, would not dare contemplate about our current president in their most extreme moments of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Yet now even the likes of Charles Krauthammer are all in a dither about Trump’s too friendly attitude toward Bad Vlad — Donald’s supposed (actually cherry-picked and virtually non-existent) declaration of moral equivalency between us and them — as are such Republican stalwarts as Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio. How virtuous of them to remind us ignorant folk of what we have all known for years — Putin’s ugly character and behavior. How astoundingly insightful.  Perhaps they will get a good mention on CNN.

Meanwhile, in the real world, America and the rest of the West have two serious problems. You could even call them crucial — Iran and ISIS.  Putin can help with both. And, as both Vlad and Donald undoubtedly know, Trump has considerable leverage to get that accomplished by muscling Putin economically, if and when Donald chooses to do so.

Horrifying as ISIS is, Iran in particular is becoming increasingly dangerous every day, firing off long-range test missiles right and left that soon will be capable of hitting Europe or even, in one report, Boston. They are also undoubtedly quietly continuing their nuclear research, waiting to mate their spanking new weapons of mass destruction with a 21st century delivery system and become the hegemon of the Middle East.  Obviously Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states are alarmed.  Israel always has been.  The rest of us should be too.

Anyone who believes or trusts in Obama’s Iran deal — clearly the biggest American foreign policy blunder in recent memory — to save us from this situation is, to be blunt, a fool. That deal is our Munich.

Iran must be reined in — and quickly.  Winnowing Russia away from the Islamic Republic is a key part of the solution, though not simple. First the Revolutionary Guards have to be extricated from Syria.  Putin is thought to be nervous about Iranian ambitions himself.  There is opportunity here for Trump.  Instead of blathering on endlessly about how he rates Putin on a scale of ten (Trump has already  stated several times he doesn’t know if he can get along with him), the media should start investigating what’s really happening here geopolitically  and not endlessly parse Trump’s language, looking for an opportunity to pounce.  I can’t imagine anything more useless and self-destructive.

Avoiding the fatal mistake of disregarding the record of the past

January 1, 2017

Avoiding the fatal mistake of disregarding the record of the past, National Review, Thomas Sowell, December 27, 2016

Thomas Sowell is retiring from writing his weekly syndicated column. This is his final column.

If you want to understand the fatal dangers facing America today, read The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill. The book is not about America, the Middle East, or nuclear missiles. But it shows Europe’s attitudes and delusions — aimed at peace in the years before the Second World War — which instead ended up bringing on that most terrible war in all of human history.

************************

Any honest man, looking back on a very long life, must admit — even if only to himself — being a relic of a bygone era. Having lived long enough to have seen both “the greatest generation” that fought World War II and the gratingest generation that we see all around us today makes being a relic of the past more of a boast than an admission.

Not everything in the past was admirable. Poet W. H. Auden called the 1930s “a low dishonest decade.” So were the 1960s, which launched many of the trends we are experiencing so painfully today. Some of the fashionable notions of the 1930s reappeared in the 1960s, often using the very same discredited words and producing the same disastrous consequences.

The old are not really smarter than the young, in terms of sheer brainpower. It is just that we have already made the kinds of mistakes that the young are about to make, and we have already suffered the consequences that the young are going to suffer if they disregard the record of the past.

If you want to understand the fatal dangers facing America today, read The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill. The book is not about America, the Middle East, or nuclear missiles. But it shows Europe’s attitudes and delusions — aimed at peace in the years before the Second World War — which instead ended up bringing on that most terrible war in all of human history.

Black adults, during the years when I was growing up in Harlem, had far less education than black adults today — but far more common sense. In an age of artificial intelligence, too many of our schools and colleges are producing artificial stupidity, among both blacks and whites.

The first time I traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, as the plane flew into the skies over London I was struck by the thought that, in these skies, a thousand British fighter pilots fought off Hitler’s air force and saved both Britain and Western civilization. But how many students today will have any idea of such things, with history being neglected in favor of politically correct rhetoric?

You cannot live a long life without having been forced to change your mind many times about people and things — including, in some cases, your whole view of the world. Those who glorify the young today do them a great disservice, when this sends inexperienced young people out into the world cocksure about things on which they have barely scratched the surface.

In my first overseas trip, I was struck by blatantly obvious differences in behavior among different groups, such as the Malays and the Chinese in Malaysia — and wondered why scholars who were far more well-traveled than I was seemed not to have noticed such things, and to have resorted to all sorts of esoteric theories to explain why some groups earned higher incomes than others.

There are words that were once common but that are seldom heard any more. The phrase “none of your business” is one of these. Today, everything seems to be the government’s business or the media’s business. And the word “risqué” would be almost impossible to explain to young people, in a world where gross vulgarity is widespread and widely accepted.

Back when I taught at UCLA, I was constantly amazed at how little so many students knew. Finally, I could no longer restrain myself from asking a student the question that had long puzzled me: “What were you doing for the last twelve years before you got here?”

Reading about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and the widespread retrogressions of Western civilization that followed, was an experience that was sobering, if not crushing. Ancient history in general lets us know how long human beings have been the way they are, and dampens giddy zeal for the latest panaceas, despite how politically correct those panaceas may be.

When I was growing up, we were taught the stories of people whose inventions and scientific discoveries had expanded the lives of millions of other people. Today, students are being taught to admire those who complain, denounce, and demand.

The first column I ever wrote, 39 years ago, was titled “The Profits of Doom.” This was long before Al Gore made millions of dollars promoting global-warming hysteria. Back in 1970, the prevailing hysteria was the threat of a new ice age — promoted by some of the same environmentalists who are promoting global-warming hysteria today.

The continuing education of the reluctant scholar

November 22, 2016

The continuing education of the reluctant scholar, Washington Times editorialWesley Pruden, November 21, 2016

trump-youth_protests-jpeg-64f6a_c0-214-5274-3289_s885x516

In this Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, file photo, high school students protest in opposition of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory in San Francisco. Thousands of high school students have taken to the streets in cities across the country.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, and some of our history class dropouts are at least getting the lesson they missed in seventh-grade civics.

The ill wind blowing across the fruited plain is teaching all those dropouts how America elects the president, and they’re having trouble with the idea that when you have winners and losers somebody has to lose.

There’s abundant bitterness everywhere over this election because nearly everyone expected Hillary Clinton to win it. It was her moral right, after all. The “legacy” media threw away all its long-held traditions of objectivity and joined the Democratic campaign not as observers but as participants.

Donald Trump met several television news personalities Monday at Trump Tower, ostensibly to talk about press access to the president in the new administration, and instead the TV notabilities got the remarkable dressing down from the Donald that they should have got long ago from their editors and managers for the way they all jumped into the tank to swim with Hillary.

Losing was not always like this. The late George McGovern, a thoroughly decent man who offered thoroughly wrong ideas about how to transform America and lost 49 of the 50 states in 1972, told with a wry chuckle how a man and his small son approached him at an airport a fortnight or so after the election to commiserate.

“I was heartbroken when you lost,” the man told him, “and I’m glad to have the opportunity to thank you in person and to shake your hand for all you’ve done for America.”

Mr. McGoo, an authentic American hero who flew dozens of combat mission as a bomber pilot in World War II, returned the thanks, and the boy put out his hand, too. “You shouldn’t feel bad,” he told Mr. McGoo. “Second place is still pretty good.”

Well, close is only good in horseshoes, and losing always hurts plenty. But the Democrats stayed out of the streets, nursed their hurt the way grown-ups always deal with their disappointments, and soon returned to the sound of the guns to fight on another day. They eventually won again. That’s how it’s done.

But the aftermath of this election is different, if not necessarily unique. The left, including many of the merely liberal, thought Hillary Clinton was entitled by right to win the election. She won more than a million more popular votes than Donald Trump, which is impressive but not unprecedented, and the Donald won more electoral votes (and by an impressive margin). Those are the rules, and both candidates knew the rules when the campaign started.

In the homestretch of the campaign of 2000, Al Gore and the Democrats felt the race tightening, as it usually does, and calculated that they might win more electoral votes but fewer popular votes than George W. Bush. Mr. Gore rightly reminded everyone in several late speeches that it was the electoral votes that count. In the event, it was he who won the popular vote and George W. the electoral vote.

When that happened this year the grumbling started quickly because most voters are ignorant of how things work. The only thing most Americans know about the Electoral College is that it must be in the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference, the toughest in all of college football, and might be the only college that could beat Alabama.

So naive are many of these voters that some of them are writing to the 290 Republican members of the Electoral College (or 306 if the popular vote in Michigan holds up) to urge them, occasionally under threat of death, to put aside their sworn allegiance to Donald Trump and vote for Hillary Clinton instead. A petition seeking this highly unlikely result has so far acquired more than 4 million online signatures. It’s legal, though in certain cases such an unfaithful elector could be sentenced to prison and fined besides.

In the nation’s history only 157 faithless electors declined to vote for the candidates they promised to support, and 71 of those cast an unexpected ballot because their man died before the Electoral College met in session. No elector has been “faithless” since 2004, when an elector, promised to John Kerry, voted instead for his running mate, John Edwards (and misspelled his name to boot).

The dead-enders trying to deprive the Trump-Pence ticket of their promised electors imagine their task is not so hard; “all” they have to do is persuade 37 of the 306 Republican electors to switch their votes, which would deadlock the election at 269 to 269. That still wouldn’t change the final result because it would throw the election to the House of Representatives, where each state would cast one vote. The Republicans would likely still win. It just wasn’t a Democratic year.