Sunday, April 27, 2008

The end of Reconstruction: The Day Freedom Died

ON EASTER SUNDAY 1873 approximately 80 black freedmen were murdered by white supremacists in the small Louisiana town of Colfax. That mass murder might have gone unnoticed except for a tenacious U. S. attorney in New Orleans whose attempt to bring the guilty to justice ignited a legal battle that resulted in the virtual undoing of Reconstruction in the South.

Journalist Charles Lane tells the improbable but true story of the event in The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction.

After the Civil War many white Southerners resented the influx of Northern carpetbaggers and their political alliances with the newly freed black slaves. Those alliances resulted in a Southern Republican party that in some areas – aided by Congressional Reconstruction laws protecting black voters – could control local and state politics. To counter this, many Southern whites took to violence and intimidation to keep the freedmen from voting.

U. S. attorneys across the South, assisted by U. S. marshals and often times by army troops effectively used the courts to put down the supremacists and their allies in the Klan and similar organizations. That is until the Colfax Massacre and a ruling by a circuit riding Supreme Court justice pulled the thread which eventually led to the unraveling of the garment of Reconstruction.

This is a rich, well-researched, but sad story of life for the freedmen in post Civil War Louisiana. If you are a history or Civil War buff, or would just like to know why racial relations developed the way they did, this read is for you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

ADF sues school on behalf of Christian athletes club

LAKE CHARLES, La. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit and a request for a temporary restraining order against Calcasieu Parish Public Schools Thursday. School officials prohibited students of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club from using school buses to attend an event even though the school does not prohibit other clubs from using the buses.

“Christian student groups shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “All student groups have the same First Amendment rights, and schools cannot deny benefits to one club while granting the same benefits to another.”

ADF attorneys pointed out in a letter to the school district that Christian students should not be denied transportation to the event simply because the club and event concern religious subject matter, especially when it allows non-religious clubs similar access to transportation. After school officials failed to respond favorably to the letter, ADF attorneys filed suit.

If the court grants the request for the temporary restraining order, the FCA club will be allowed to attend the May 1 event. Non-club-related activities for which the school has used its buses for approved field trips include movies, bowling, alligator hunting, and trips to the shopping mall.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Divorce, unwed parenting costs taxpayers $112 billion per year

DIVORCE AND OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHS cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by four groups advocating more government action to bolster marriages.

The study was conducted by Georgia State University economist Ben Scafidi. His work was sponsored by four groups who consider themselves part of a nationwide “marriage movement” - the New York-based Institute for American Values, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Families Northwest of Redmond, Wash., and the Georgia Family Council, an ally of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family.

The Wisconsin Family Council has issued this press release in connection with the report.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Election of 1800 -- Adams vs. Jefferson

IN THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION YEAR it is interesting to take a look at America’s first “true” presidential election: the 1800 race between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson that ended in an electoral vote tie between Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr. That story is masterfully told in Edward Larson’s A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign.

Larson, professor of law and history at Pepperdine, traces the story of how the rising political factions set two founding fathers on a partisan collision course, the fires of which were stoked by Alexander Hamilton and the French Revolution.

Adams was the incumbent Federalist president and Jefferson was Adams’ Republican vice president. Political differences between the two had begun years earlier over the role of the national government versus the role of the individual states and continued into Adams’ administration over relations with Great Britain (favored by the Federalist) and with France (favored by the Republicans), among other issues. While Adams tried to steer a more moderate course he was attacked on his flank by fellow Federalist Hamilton who attempted to engineer the election of Adam’s running mate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, by manipulating the Electoral College vote.

At the time electors were chosen by a combination of methods; some states elected them by district, some by state-wide elections, and in some they were chosen by the legislature. When chosen, electors cast two votes without making any distinction between their vote for president and their vote for vice president. Banking on Pinckney’s popularity in the south, Hamilton sought to obtain enough Pinckney-Jefferson southern votes to put Pinckney ahead of Adams and into the presidency. Hamilton’s plan failed, but the electoral vote did produce a tie between Jefferson and Burr which was finally broken by the House of Representatives after thirty-six ballots in February of 1801.

The election had everything we find in modern elections: race, religion (Jefferson was accused of being an atheist), foreign affairs, and efforts in several states to “rig” the electoral vote.

And, of course, the reader must keep in mind that several years after the events in the book, Burr killed Hamilton in a duel.

A very good read for the history or political buff.