Thursday, December 4, 2014

Consequences of the Louisiana Purchase

I have finished reading Matthew Warshauer's book and have posted a review on Amazon.

Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law Review

In looking back on what I learned from reading about the refund debates, the biggest thing that stands out was what a mistake the Louisiana Purchase was and what a very big price we paid for it in both the loss of life in a war fought to keep it, the loss of our civil liberties under martial law imposed during the Battle of New Orleans and in the financial shenanigans that bankrupted our economy right after the War of 1812.

Please understand, I am not saying that the states which were once part of the Louisiana Purchase should not be part of the union. On the contrary, I think that they inevitably would have been, had we followed a constitutional course of action, But you cannot "purchase" land for mere money, and a country committed to civil liberties cannot possibly maintain ideological purity when it buys not only the land but the people who live on it.

The corrupting influence of the Louisiana Purchase can be seen in Andrew Jackson's belief that the people of Louisiana were not faithful to the United States, and hence there was a necessity to impose martial law on an unwilling population. He made it seem that if not for his heavy handed, dictatorial treatment of everyone in the city, the non-English speaking population would have embraced the British invaders.

It wasn't true. The people of Louisiana did not want the the British to win. Those of French descent particularly hated Britain and everything it stood for. The Battle of New Orleans was won through the voluntary donations and exertions of the French speaking Baratarian volunteers, Jean Laffite chief among them.

But sometimes the hidden sense of guilt that we have for being a conqueror can make us paranoid, because deep down inside we feel that if anyone had done to us what we did to our subject population, we ourselves would rebel. That's what happened to Andrew Jackson, and for a few months he ran roughshod over an entire population, just in case there might be some spies or turncoats or terrorists or saboteurs among them. And twenty-nine years later he returned to Congress and asked for an endorsement of those actions. And he got it! This precedent was in turn used to subdue civilian populations during the Civil War and during World War II and after 9/11 and ever since.

But there's also an economic price for the Louisiana Purchase that we are paying to this very day. The original notes for the purchase were made out to France, but Napoleon turned around and sold them to a British Bank, and when the payments came due, we paid almost all our gold and silver reserves to Britain, precipitating the Panic of 1819.

Today, people who are against a strong monetary system point at the business cycle's ups and downs and say that being off a hard specie standard is what keeps us from having crises like the one in 1819. But it was not the free market that caused the Panic of 1819. It was the Louisiana Purchase all over again.

So how should we go about getting new territories? The colonization of Texas by independent Americans is one example. Filibustering is the American way. It allows independent individuals to pursue their own interests, while keep the government out of it. This way any war that occurs is a private war, waged only by those who stand to gain from it.

The Neutrality Act should never have been passed. Americans should have been free to settle anywhere and fight for independence from European empires. Then, years later, when everyone who lived in the territory actually wanted to join the United States, they could petition to join the union.

This is how a government by the consent of the governed operates. It does not  put the union above the people. It waits to be asked nicely to join. And if we had lived by this creed of consent of the governed,  we would have been left free both in the economic sphere and in the matter of civil liberties  That's why I think repealing the Neutrality Act is the first step in regaining our freedom.


  1. I was never a fan of Jackson anyway, and the fact that the one claim to fame he had - winning the Battle of New Orleans could not have been achieved without Jean Laffite, which he did not acknowledge, makes me think he was one of the most self-serving presidents in US history. His hatred for Native Americans was always a sore spot for me anyway.

    1. Hi, Julia. Certainly Jackson's treatment of Native Americans was a great stain on his honor.