Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bleeding Kansas --- Part 1

Thomas Friedman in Today's New York Times:

"We have to have a proper election in Iraq so we can have a proper civil war there.

"Let me explain. None of these Arab countries - Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia -are based on voluntary social contracts between the citizens inside their borders. They are all what others have called "tribes with flags" - not real countries in the Western sense. They are all civil wars either waiting to happen or being restrained from happening by the iron fist of one tribe over the others or, in the case of Syria in Lebanon, by one country over another.

"What the Bush team has done in Iraq, by ousting Saddam, was not to "liberate" the country - an image and language imported from the West and inappropriate for Iraq - but rather to unleash the latent civil war in that country. Think of shaking a bottle of Champagne and then uncorking it."

I agree with that 100%. It is one of the things I have been trying to say all along.

Now for my contribution to the discussion:

What will the elections in Palestine and Iraq possibly lead to?

The example I know most about is Bleeding Kansas 1854-1857.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 repealed the 36-30 slavery line of the Missouri Compromise and left the remaining unorganized territories of the Missouri Compromise to determine the fate of slavery in their territories, subject to popular sovereignty, whatever that meant.

As a practical matter, no one felt that Nebraska (which also included modern North Dakota and South Dakota, and parts of Montana) would be hospitable to slavery in any form. Most people felt the same about Kansas. However, Kansas shared a border with slave state Missouri. People on both sides of the slavery issue went to work to create facts on the ground.

Aid societies were set up, mostly in Massachusetts, to give people from the North financial assistance to emigrate to Kansas. Although there is some dispute about how successful these aid societies were, and how many people they represented, they were certainly loud. Loud enough to convince the slave-holders on the Missouri border that a great invasion of Northerners were coming to Kansas to ruin their way of life.

In order to preserve their way of life, people from Missouri, who happened to be “residing” in Kansas on March 30, 1855, the day of the first election (i.e. they were visiting for the afternoon) voted along with everyone else. Despite a pre-election census showing that 2,905 eligible voters lived in Kansas, 6,307 total votes were cast.

In the face of this massive fraud, the territorial governor let the election results stand. He said that he could not change the results of the election unless the votes were challenged in compliance with the statute. In the few instances that parties with standing to challenge were able to overcome the legal hurdles and quickly make a showing of fraud, the challenges were upheld. However, the resulting legislature was so pro-Southern that when the legislature met, it refused to seat the pro-Northern representatives.

Had the popular sovereignty thus exercised by 6,307 voters, wherever they came from, and however long they had stayed, been enough popular sovereignty to decide the issue of slavery in Kansas once and for all until the end of time? Clearly, a great many people, including the Kansas legislature and the Southern politicians in Washington, answered that question yes.

The Kansas representatives who had not been able to fill their seats, who represented a majority of the people living in Kansas from day-to-day, thought otherwise. A rival legislature met in Topeka in the middle of 1855 to draft a “free-state” constitution for Kansas, and a “free-state” election was held in late 1855, ratifying the work of the free-soilers. Despite the popular success of the election, it was unclear that the Topeka group had any legal authority to call an election at all.

By the first anniversary of the great Kansas-Nebraska Act, the once and for all settlement of the slavery issue, Kansas had a “legal” government, acting as a result of a fraudulent election, and an “illegal” government, acting as a result of an election where the results seemed to follow the census.

By the end of 1855, Kansas was beginning to bleed in earnest

(More next time)