Worst moment in US History:
— William M. Briggs (@mattstat) March 1, 2016
If you can’t read the tweet, it is a poll. It asks Worst Moment in US History with selections (the percents of 42 votes, current as of posting time):
- G.W. refuses monarchy (17%)
- Lincoln’s bloody war (10%)
- Wilson’s war of empire (21%)
- President Hillary (52%)
Now this is Twitter and characters are limited, so it wasn’t possible to list more than a handful of events. I also couldn’t explain that I meant to strictly limit it to US history, which means the rebellion against England doesn’t count since the US was not yet.
G.W. is, of course, George “The-Not-First” Washington. It is better to say Washington didn’t pursue a monarchy than that he turned it down, and it’s not a good bet he would have got it even if he did have himself fitted for a crown. But it’s fun to ponder what might have been had we adopted a non-suicidal form of government. I didn’t vote, but this would have been my choice.
Lincoln couldn’t bear for States to act independently, and he didn’t bear it. Before hyperventilating about slavery (I’m assuming none of my readers ever owned any or were one), don’t forget Lincoln wanted to “repatriate” blacks to Africa. We’re in the Land of Counterfactuals, so anything goes. If the South forced a truce before Sumter, I’m guessing the North, which would have turned into a bloc, would have invaded one or more of the Southern states, in much the same way we even now aggressively seek to export the blessings of democracy. So we might now be in the same shape.
Wilson, in full export mode, allowed the marvel of an unconditional surrender of Germany, and we all know where that went. Not the least of which was this: Russia falls, Communism rises, gifting us with an unimaginable body count. Wilson was also not so nice with Americans who opposed his European adventures.
I can’t see how we can now recover limited government. If it’s at all consoling, all democracies end in tyranny, rebellion, or revolution. But surely hastening our demise would be installing the evilest person we’ve ever had as President. Trump would be far from ideal, but Hillary would cackle her way toward mandated Utopia. Perhaps she, like the Lincoln the Great, would suspend habeas corpus for even more video creators. Hillary’s ideal? Think of Logan’s Run with embedded Islamic terror cells. The old joke that Everything That Isn’t Forbidden Is Mandatory would replace the old Constitution, if not at the start of her reign, then soon after its end.
Obviously many more events then my four suggest themselves, such as the throwing over of the perfectly good Articles of Confederation for the adoption of a Constitution with an ill-considered Bill of Rights. Those initial amendments, as Hamilton warned, gave government the idea that its power was unlimited. And boy did it stay with that idea. What’s that? You never heard Hamilton’s objections? You must have attended a government-run school.
I go further, and affirm, that Bills of Rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretence for claiming that power.
Et cetera. Well, we all know how Hamilton ended.
Perhaps the Spanish-American war—remember who might have blowed up (yes: blowed up) the Maine!—is on your list. Maybe FDR hardening nascent socialism (hello Social Security), maybe his gleefully carving up Europe with the tyrant Stalin. Maybe the creation of an income tax so that the government knows all your most intimate secrets, and uses the money from the same to grow, grow, grow. Maybe Bush, elder or junior, galavanting around the Middle East exporting more Democracy—and we know where that led, too.
I can’t see our Obama as the worst moment, even though he did his level best to have the State replace God. Obama had helpers, too, primarily all Democrats in Congress and nearly all Republicans. And all these people were only digging the same hole created earlier. They only quickened the pace slightly.
What say you?