Friday, September 30, 2016

A Conversation between Dolley and Aaron

Dolley Madison in One of Her Famous Hats
It was Aaron Burr who introduced James Madison to Dolley. Madison was a painfully shy bachelor. Burr was his friend from college. And Dolley was that flirty widow lady who lived in the same boarding house with Burr. Burr was not interested in Dolley, but he thought that she would do his friend Jemmy Madison a world of good. So he set them up. He told Jemmy that Dolley was interested in him. He told Dolley that Mr. Madison had shown an interest in her. That's all it took!

In Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain, I extrapolate from these well know facts about the first lady who loved hats to create a meeting between Aaron Burr and Dolley Madison right after the end of the War of 1812.
Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates
A milliners shop would have been just the place to find Dolley, Everyone knew of her fascination with head gear.

Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates
The letter from Jean Laffite to James Madison  did not meet with much better success than the letter from Theodosia to Dolley, pleading on behalf of her exiled father.

Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates
Aaron Burr may or may not have spoken to James Madison on behalf of Jean Laffite. But this small snippet of a conversation between Aaron and Dolley rings true. What else would they have said to each other?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Contribution Over Time

Looking back over poetry from my twenties, I am overcome by its fluency and eloquence. I doubt I will ever write poems quite like that again.

There Can Be Gods is a poetry anthology  I  contributed to in 1989
The cover ilustration is by Linda Holt

For some people, the idea that as we mature we may lose our abilities to create, while retaining property rights to works made long ago is unacceptable. Those people believe we are not really poets, unless we write poetry all the time. They think it is all in the work and never in the works -- all labor and no product. They think people should be paid a decent wage for the work they do today,  instead of a fee for the product they made yesterday. They believe we are valuable to others only so long as we work, and the moment we stop working, we become a burden  on society.

Socialists keep saying that we owe a debt to our predecessors and that's why we have to pay taxes to the state, but when it comes to paying royalties or rents or interest on money in the bank, they are against that, because they will not acknowledge our contemporaries' debt to us. "Rent seekers" are bad. "Workers" are good. But what if today's rent seekers are yesterday's workers or their descendants? What happened to the debt to our predecessors? Where did that concept go?

We are born only once. It changes everything. We are never the same after that. And as poets we only ever  write about it once.

We are born only once. We emerge into consciousness only once. We only have one life, and as we sharpen our self-discipline, we lose a certain kind of spontaneity and fluency. It doesn't just happen to poets. I think that it happens to everyone, in  one way or another, and if we want to preserve and honor the value of what  we have created in our youth, we have to acknowledge that our riper fruit is different. And sometimes not as juicy.

When my first novel, The Few Who Count  came out, most people agreed that it was not quite a mature work. But The Few Who Count continues to sell a little each year, ever since it came out on Kindle:

The Few Who Count, though by no means a bestseller,  does appeal to a certain readership. Its message about the corporate entity is as true today as it was then.

Vacuum County is my most critically acclaimed book

I finished writing Vacuum County in 1993. It was a well-crafted novel, and for years I held out for publication by a New York publisher. Eventually, I gave up, and so it came out in 2012 in time for the 19th anniversary of the Mt. Carmel Massacre.  It has seven perfect reviews. And nobody is buying it.

I will never write a book like Vacuum County again, because there is no reason to write Vacuum County again. I said what I had to say there, and then I moved on. Vacuum County deserves a place in literature. But the idea that I should just keep repeating myself by creating equivalent novels is completely unrealistic. That's not how the creative process works. It would be just as wrong as if I got stuck in a loop  writing that same perfect poem about birth over and over again.  It can't happen. This is not how life works.

Our Lady of  Kaifeng -- Part One

Our Lady of Kaifeng is a followup to Vacuum County that readers respectfully accept. It's literary. It's deep. It's meaningful, and it does not mess with anything too sexual or raw or disturbing. It's a deep novel, but somehow it does not ruffle feathers. People write nice reviews or they write no reviews, but nobody is going to be so enraged by Our Lady of Kaifeng that they are going to write something hateful. And nobody is ever going to buy it, either. Unless, of course, my other novels take off.

Our Lady of Kaifeng -- Part Two

But in the very middle of writing Our Lady of Kaifeng -- somewhere in between writing Part One and writing Part Two -- something weird happened to me. And I lost some of my respectful readers along the way. Which is okay, because those respectful readers never helped me sell any books, anyway.

The weird thing that happened was Theodosia and the Pirates.

Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain

 Novels are not planned. They just happen. Like babies. I mean, they do, if you are lucky. And I consider myself lucky.

Theodosia and the Pirates The War Against Spain

This is not imply that any of my novels, critically acclaimed or not, is selling particularly well. But each of them is different, and each was written for a reason, and I am not planning to re-write any of them, nor will I ever write any of them again. Each is a unique experience.

Maybe The Few Who Count was a little unripe -- a little raw in terms of skill. Maybe Vacuum County represents the peak of my achievement, and maybe Theodosia and the Pirates is a bit over-ripe.  Perhaps Our Lady of Kaifeng is mature, respectable fruit that nobody will ever rave about, except those who are hopelessly intellectual and well read

I believe that even if I never write again, I have already made my contribution. My task now is to make sure that it sells, because if it doesn't sell, for society it is as if it never happened. In the same way, and for the same reason, I am not planning to have any more children, or to adopt any more chimpanzees, but I plan to see those in my care into adulthood and into a place where they can have lives of their own and make contributions of their own. I don't need to teach another ape to read and write. I just need to prove that I have already done this, so that the world may know and learn from my experiences.

There is a time to sow and there is a time to reap, and there is no shame in reaping what you have sown, even if you never plan to sow again. There is a time to work, and then there is a time to get rents and royalties and interest on the work you have already done. It would be very bad for society if we threw away every book that was written or devalued people's nest eggs the moment they retired. Honoring those who came before us includes honoring you and me for our contributions in the past even though we are still alive and not ever going to contribute in quite the same way again. And it also includes allowing us to pass our savings onto our children when our time here on earth is done. 

No, an inheritance is not a windfall to the heir. It's a contribution from the dead to the living. And it's a contribution we should be allowed to make to the heir of our choice.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

We Annexed Texas the Right Way

Davy Crockett
Yesterday was a Friday, and at The Libertarian Republic I posted a list of the top five libertarian war heroes. Even though the list format tends to promote facile generalizations, I am happy with the article I wrote, and so I want to share it here.

Even though the biographies of the five men are short and superficial, using the list format enabled me to make the following point about the Neutrality Act and about how the annexation of Texas was done the right  way:

The United States was founded on the principle that residents of a geographic area should be allowed to decide for themselves how they want to be governed. It was also founded with the help of volunteers from elsewhere, like the Marquis de Lafayette, who fought in the American Revolution, just because he liked the ideas the Americans espoused. At the very start of the Republic, it was understood that any individual American could decide for himself what foreign wars he wanted to fight in and what Empire or regime he wanted to help topple, without asking for permission from the government of the United States. That's why American privateers fought on behalf of the French against Britain at a time when the United States was at peace with Britain. But wanting to put an end to this, in the Jay Treaty negotiations, Britain lobbied for the passage of the Neutrality Act, thereby putting an end to the legal pursuit of foreign policy by individual Americans for fun and profit. But this did not mean that Americans stopped trying. Aaron Burr was one example of somebody who wanted to help Hispanic colonists to liberate themselves from Spain. Long after Jefferson had ruined Burr, there were Mexican revolutionaries still writing the former Vice President letters asking for his help in their liberation from Spain. Jean Laffite, the smuggler and privateer, founded Galveston as a stronghold against Spain. But... just as they had done when he contributed to the defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans, the American government drove him away from Galveston so that they could give Texas to Spain on a silver platter under the terms of the Adams-Onis treaty. The United States did not drive Laffite out because they wanted Galveston for themselves. In fact, if it had been up to the American government, Texas would never have belonged to the U.S. But men like Davy Crockett and Sam Houston, when they got fed up with the corruption in Washington D.C. and opposed President Jackson's Indian Removal Act, went to help the Mexicans in Texas liberate themselves from what was now Mexico. They formed their own government, and the Republic of Texas eventually chose willingly to be annexed by the United States.
That's the story. And by looking at the biographies of the five men on my list in close succession, I think that you can see it is a single story with a unified plot line.  The theme of the story is individuals fighting against foreign governments, whether their own government allows it or not.

The Louisiana Purchase had been unconstitutional, precisely because entry into the Union was supposed to be voluntary. You were not supposed to be able to buy new territories and new constituents at the expense of the taxpayers. Jefferson was afraid that Burr was out to steal the territories that he bought, by turning the residents in those territories against the idea of eventually being annexed into the United States. This was completely untrue. Burr was going after fresh new territory south of the border. He was doing it at his own expense, without getting the United States into debt and without conscripting a single soldier.

But let's face it: Talking to the people living in American-held territories and suggesting that they might not want to be annexed would not have been treason. So even if Burr had been plotting what Jefferson thought he was plotting, it would not have been wrong.

Lots of people today do not know that Texas independence from Mexico was achieved through the rebellion of the people who lived in Texas against Mexico, including most Hispanic residents. It was not some Anglo-led plot to hurt Hispanics. It was the exact opposite of the policy being pursued by Andrew Jackson against the Cherokee nation. The government of the new Republic of Texas was inclusive.

If Davy Crockett and Sam Houston had obeyed the Neutrality Act, Texas would never have joined the Union at no cost to the taxpayers of the United States. The Neutrality Act should be repealed, so that Americans can continue to help others abroad when they choose, without involving the rest of us against our will.

But the other side of all this is that the idea of secession is something Jefferson was afraid of as early as his second term. A lot of Southerners don't know this. Once you start behaving like a Statist, buying and selling territories and the people in them, it makes you paranoid. Andrew Jackson's martial law during the Battle of New Orleans was something that happened because he did not really trust the people of Louisiana not to betray the United States to the British. He completely misunderstood them, lumping all "foreigners" together. He could not see how the French speaking population of the territory that had newly been annexed actually hated the British. But when you try to impose yourself on others, you also tend to think the worst of them.

The Neutrality Act did more harm than just destroying the individual careers of specific privateers. It put us on the slippery slope to the loss of all our civil liberties, because there in black and white in the body of the Statute the right of people to decide for themselves what government to support and which one to fight against was abridged. It undercuts the very reason for the American Revolution. It meant that we all came under the thumb of  foreign empires, if once our government negotiated a treaty with them. Thank goodness that real patriots like Sam Houston  never paid any attention to this law.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Austin Petersen on Religion

I've been too busy writing  libertarian articles to keep up much with this blog, but I would like to share an unusual interview that Austin Petersen just gave which focuses on his religion or lack thereof. Too many people who are atheists are left wing liberals. Too many people with the right views on property rights and free trade are also very committed to Christianity and often unable to disengage from it long enough to understand the first amendment. Austin Petersen is not afraid to come out in favor of freedom, and yet admits he is not a believer.

Watching the Apologia TV interview with Austin Petersen, I noticed how very much like one of our Founding Fathers he is. No, not Washington or Jefferson or Adams. Someone more outspoken and different and the grandson of a great theologian. Of course, I'm talking about Theodosia's father, Aaron Burr.

Thomas Jefferson may have been just as much an agnostic as Burr, but he hid behind language that made him sound like a Creationist. Who again was it he said had endowed man with rights? Burr was not militantly anti-religious, but he was also no hypocrite. He was cordial to religious people, and yet he did not lie to them. Even on his deathbed.

We had one chance to have an open non-believer as president when Burr was in the running. In 2020, we may get another opportunity, if Austin Petersen runs for president again.