Archive for the ‘Declaration of Independence’ Tag

How About Declaring Actual Independence?   6 comments

Most of us read the beginning statement of the Declaration of Independence in Government class back in high school. It’s a wonderful statement of political philosophy.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Sometimes, it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them to another and to launch out on their own. When they do that, they ought to have a good argument for doing so.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Government exists for protecting the rights best summed up as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (John Locke said “property”, but Thomas Jefferson and his editorial committee wanted to avoid that whole discussion of slavery, so they decided upon “pursuit of happiness”). Government derives its power from the people and so, if the people decide government is no longer serving their rights, they have a right to dissolve those bands. It’s not just their right, it’s their obligation to throw off despotic governments and to provide structures to protect their rights going forward. The Colonies have patiently tried to find common ground with the King of Great Britain, but we have failed. Here is our argument, the evidence of his tyranny.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

King George had suspended the provincial laws in the colonies and expected the colonists to wait until he (or Parliament) got around to deciding what laws would replace them, but it had been several years and so far … crickets.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He expected the legislative bodies of the colonies to meet in places where the people they ruled could not easily attend the meetings and influence the outcomes. I’m a long-long way from Washington DC. How about you?

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

Although there have been no state legislatures dissolved, think about Puerto Rico which voted years ago now to become a state, but Congress has refused to take up the issue. Now their government is out of money and about to collapse. Is it possible that one reason for this is that they don’t control their own economic destiny because Congress has refused to allow them to control their own political destiny. And even if they were allowed to become a state, Alaska is a state, but we usually have to ask Congress’ permission for just about anything of value we might want to do. And, let’s remember the 30 state constitutions that were set aside just last week.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

President Obama is not the first president hoping that the legalization of unlawful immigrants will swing voter registration and resultant elections in the direction of his political party. President Reagan tried it too and look how well that worked out.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

King George controlled the colonial judges. Today, someone appears to be buying off the Supreme Court on the issue of health care and for those of you would are so up in arms about the United case, maybe you ought to be asking if money didn’t change hands on that one too.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

Can we say czars? The ACA has created entire new offices within the Department of Social Services. In fact, the federal administration has grown substantially during the Obama presidency.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

The next time you get pulled over by a plain-brown wrapper and talk to a cop wearing kevlar, ask yourself “is this not a standing army among us that we have no consent over?”

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

When the president of the United States is allowed to sign onto treaties without the consent of Congress that obligate us to change our laws and structures within our own borders, we are subject to jurisdictions foreign to our constitution. Remember that when we’re all living nine to a unit in high-rise apartment blocks because of international global warming regulations written into some UN treaty President Obama thought was a great idea and Congress wasn’t allowed to vote on.

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: (I live in a huge military town and military helicopters frequently fly over my house, sometimes really low and really slow.).
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: (Military personnel can and have killed civilians in my town and then been tried in military courts without any civilian oversight.)
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: (There’s a new trade law that just gave the president unmatched authority without the advice and consent of Congress).
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: (The ACA is a tax imposing unconstitutionally because the Senate cannot originate spending bills and the House was never allowed to vote on it).

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: (The Patriot Act allowed this. The replacement to the Patriot Act pretends not to allow it. Do you believe that? I don’t).

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences (Could we talk about entrapment here? The only terrorist attacks this government has stopped were ones where federal agents solicited the terrorism, provided the plans and the — so far — non-working bombs.)

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: (Jefferson was alluding to Quebec here, but again, consider Puerto Rico)

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: (How often in the last few years have you thought “That can’t be constitutional?)

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. (Congress might as well be a figurehead government for all the power it has these days.)

You should get my point, but there are more examples that I’m sure you could find parallels for in our own times.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

People are trying to petition for redress, with little or no ability to be heard.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We haven’t exactly gotten to this point yet, but maybe we should. Maybe it is time to be honest about the condition of our country and choose independence. Of course, that holds risks.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

I’m not sure how much sacred honor most of us have left today. As a nation, we’ve been here twice before. It worked out the first time. It didn’t work out the second time. Whoever fires the first shot loses is the general consensus. And I don’t disagree. This battle will not be won with armed conflict, but it might be won with civil disobedience.

So what happens if we keep it non-violent and demand our rights? Well, we’ve been there before too and that worked out pretty well, though we should be prepared for worse than water cannon to be directed at us these days.

The question is — how much do we actually value liberty? It sure looks more like we value comfort and a federal Sugar Daddy to keep us placated more than we value our rights of freedom of speech, religion, self-governance, fair trial, privacy, security in our persons, places and papers … well, pretty much, we have traded liberty for security and getting just about what we deserve.

Alaska Asks — What is a Colony?   2 comments

Again, this is the continuation of a speech given by Ernest Gruening at the Alaska Constitutional Convention 1955, what some have called Alaska’s Declaration of Independence. I tend to see it as just cutting one set of bonds to wrap ourselves up in another set of bonds, but that’s another argument.

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Let Us End American Colonism – Part 3

But that is only a small part of the evidence of our colonialism under the American flag. Let us submit more facts to a candid world.
First, let us ask, what is a colony? And let us answer that question.

A colony has been defined in a standard college text-book by a Columbia University professor as “a geographic area held for political, strategic and economic advantage.”

That, as the facts will show, is precisely what the Territory of Alaska is–“a geographic area held for political, strategic and economic advantage.”

The maintenance and exploitation of those political, strategic and economic advantages by the holding power is colonialism.

The United States is that holding power.

Inherent in colonialism is an inferior political status.

Inherent in colonialism is an inferior economic status.

The inferior economic status is a consequence of the inferior political status.

The inferior economic status results from discriminatory laws and practices imposed upon the colonials through the superior political strength of the colonial power in the interest of its own non-colonial citizens.

The economic disadvantages of Alaskans which in consequence of such laws and practices redound to the advantage of others living in the states who prosper at the expense of Alaskans–these are the hall-marks of colonialism.

Let us take a look at these hall-marks of colonialism deeply engraved on the policies of the United States in Alaska in the field of transportation. Transportation is the key to almost all development. None have demonstrated this better than have the Americans within the non-colonial areas of their 48 states where transportation of every kind–railways, highways, airways–have linked, built and developed a dynamic domain of continental dimensions.

First, let us scrutinize sea-borne transportation. It was, for seventy-three years, until 1940, the only form of transportation between Alaska and the states. Alaska suffers a unique discrimination in maritime law.
Thirty-five years ago the Congress passed a merchant marine act which is known officially as the Maritime Act of 1920. In Alaska it is referred to as the “Jones Act,” after its sponsor, the late Senator Wesley L. Jones of the state of Washington. The act embodied a substantial modification of existing maritime law. It provided that goods shipped across the United States, destined either for the coastal ports of the Atlantic or Pacific or for shipment across those oceans to Europe or to Asia, could use either American or foreign carriers. The foreign carriers principally involved were Canadian.

For example, a shipper from the Atlantic seaboard or from the industrial cities of the middle west of products destined for points to the west could ship these across the country wholly on American railroads or on Canadian railroads, or partly on either.

And when these goods arrived at their Coast destination, he could send them across the Pacific in either American or foreign vessels, or southward in either. But at that point in the legislation, creating this new beneficial arrangement, two words had been inserted in Article 27 of the Act. Those two words were, “excluding Alaska.”

Now what did those two words signify? They signified that Alaska, alone among the nations, or possessions of nations, on earth, was denied the advantages afforded all other areas. The same discrimination, obviously, applies to products shipped from Alaska.

What was the purpose of this discrimination? Its purpose was to subject Alaska to steamship service owned in the city of Seattle. Senator Jones no doubt assumed, and correctly that this would be most helpful to some of his constituents there, as indeed it proved to be, but at the expense, the heavy expense, from that time on, of our voteless citizens of Alaska.

This was in 1920. Under the limited self-government which Congress had granted Alaska through the Organic Act of 1912, more limited than had been granted any other territory, Alaska was still a youngster. Nevertheless, the fifth Territorial legislature meeting the next year, 1921, protested strenuously against this specific and flagrant discrimination, and ordered the Territorial Attorney-General to take the matter to court. The Territorial legislators believed, and so expressed themselves, that this new legislation enacted by Congress at the behest of Senator Jones of Seattle, was in violation of the commerce clause of the Constitution, which forbids discrimination against any port of the United States.

The case came to the Supreme Court of the United States on an appeal from a decree of the United States District Court dismissing the suit brought by the Territory and by an Alaskan shipper, the Juneau Hardware Company, which sought to restrain the Collector of Customs in Alaska from confiscating merchandise ordered by the hardware company and others in Alaska from points in the United States shipped over Canadian railroads, through Canadian ports and thence to Alaska by Canadian vessels, or merchandise to be shipped from Alaska to the United States in like manner.

In pleading the cause of the Territory, Alaska’s Attorney-General John Rustgard argued that both the Treaty provisions and the specific extension of the Constitution to Alaska by the Organic Act of 1912 rendered the discriminatory clause unconstitutional. It looked like a clear case.

The Government–our government–which was defending this discriminatory maritime Act, was represented by the Solicitor-General of the United States, the Honorable James M. Beck of Pennsylvania.
Let the candid world note well the language of his argument:

“The immunity from discrimination is a reserved right on the part of the constituent states … The clear distinction of governmental power between states and territories must be constantly borne in mind … If the fathers had anticipated the control of the United States over the far-distant Philippine Islands, would they, who concern the reserved rights of the states, have considered for a moment a project that any special privilege which the interests of the United States might require for the ports of entry of the several states should by compulsion be extended to the ports of entry of the colonial dependencies … ?”

Let the candid world note that the case for the United States was presented on the basis that discrimination against a colonial dependency was proper and legitimate and that “any special privilege” required in the United States would supersede any obligation to a colonial dependency. The colonial dependency involved was and is Alaska.

Mr. Justice McReynolds, in rendering the decision of the court, declared:

“The Act does give preference to the ports of the States over those of the Territories,” but, he added, the Court could “find nothing in the Constitution itself or its history which compels the conclusion that it was intended to deprive Congress of the power so to Act.”

So it was definitely established by the highest court of the land that Congress had discriminated against Alaska, but that, since Alaska was a colonial dependency, such discrimination was permissible and legal.
Every plea by our Alaska legislatures over a period of 35 years to rectify this grave and unjust discrimination has been ignored by successive Congresses. They have “refused assent” to every attempt by Alaska’s delegates to secure remedial legislation.

Now the question naturally arises whether this discrimination imposed by the legislative branch of the federal government, approved by the executive branch, and sanctified by the judicial branch, was to prove to be more than a mere statement of the legality of such discrimination. Was it more than a mere affirmation of the subordinate and inferior status of Alaska’s colonials as compared with the dominating and superior status of the American citizens of the states? Did this discrimination also carry with it economic disadvantages? Indeed it did.
Several private enterprises in Alaska were immediately put out of business by the action of Congress in 1920 even before the Supreme Court upheld the legality of that Congressional action.

A resident of Juneau had established a mill to process Sitka spruce. He was paying the required fees to the Forest Service and had developed a market for his product in the Middle West where it was used in airplane manufacture. He was shipping it through Vancouver, where it cost him five dollars a thousand to ship by rail to his customers.

The “Jones Act” automatically compelled him to ship his spruce boards by way of Seattle. Here he was charged eleven dollars a thousand, as against the five dollars he had been paying, plus some additional charges, which totalled more than his profit. In consequence his mill was shut down and a promising infant industry, utilizing an abundant but little used Alaskan resource was extinguished. Not only did the “Jones Act” destroy this and other enterprises, but prevented still others from starting and has prevented them ever since. If anyone doubts that political control of the Territory through remote forces and absentee interests does not cause economic damage to the people of Alaska he need but look at the working of the maritime legislation directed against Alaska and Alaska only.

Its immediate effects were to more than triple the cost of handling Alaska freight in Seattle on purchases made in Seattle, as compared with Seattle-brought cargoes destined for the Orient. Alaska’s delegate, at that time, the late Dan Sutherland, testified that the Seattle terminal charges on shipments to Hawaii or Asia were only thirty cents a ton, and all handling charges were absorbed by the steamship lines, the result of competition between Canadian and American railways and steamship lines. But for Alaska, where Congressional legislation had eliminated competition, the Seattle terminal charges on local shipments, that is to say, on goods bought in Seattle destined for Alaska, were one hundred percent higher, or sixty cents a ton wharfage. So Alaskans paid $1.10 a ton for what cost Hawaiians and Asiatics thirty cents a ton-nearly four times as much.

This was by no means all. On shipments anywhere in the United States through Seattle, and destined for points in the Pacific other than Alaska, the total handling charges were only thirty cents a ton wharfage, and all other costs were absorbed by railroad and steamship lines. But for identical shipments consigned to Alaska, an unloading charge of sixty-five cents a ton was imposed, plus a wharfage charge of fifty cents a ton, plus a handling charge from wharf to ship of sixty cents a ton. These charges aggregated over five times the cost to a shipper to other points in the Pacific, and had to be paid by the Alaska consignee or shipper, and of course ultimately by the Alaskan consumer.

These damaging figures were presented by Delegate Sutherland at a public congressional committee hearing and made part of the official printed record. No attempt was made by the representatives of the benefitting state-side interests, either then or later, to explain, to justify, to palliate, to challenge, to refute, or to deny his facts.

If there is a clearer and cruder example of colonialism anywhere let it be produced! Here is a clear case where the government of the United States–through its legislative branch which enacted the legislation, the executive branch, through the President, who signed it, and the judicial branch, which through its courts, upheld it–imposed a heavy financial burden on Alaskans exclusively, for the advantage of private business interests in the “mother country.”

Nor is even this by any means all on the subject of railroad and steamship discrimination against Alaska, and Alaska alone. In addition to all the above extortions against Alaska’s shippers, suppliers and consumers–the direct result of discriminatory legislation –all the railroads of the United States charge a higher rate, sometimes as much as one hundred per cent higher for shipping goods across the continent, if these goods are destined for Alaska.

There is a so-called rail export tariff and a rail import tariff, which apply to a defined geographic area with exceptions made for other areas, which penalizes Alaska and Alaska alone.

Please note that the service rendered by those railroads, for the same distance, is exactly the same, whether the article to be shipped goes ultimately to Alaska or elsewhere in the Pacific or whether it stays on the mainland of the United States. But the charges for Alaska, and Alaska only, on that identical article, for identical mileage, and identical service, are specifically higher, sometimes up to one hundred per cent higher.

This abuse, as well as the others dating from the Jones Act have been the subject of unceasing protest from Alaskans. Alaska’s legislatures have repeatedly memorialized the Congress and the federal executive agencies asking for equal treatment. Again and again have Alaska’s delegates sought to have the discriminatory clause in the maritime law repealed. But each time the lobbies of the benefitting stateside interests have been successful in preventing any relief action.

How powerful these lobbies are and how successful they have been in maintaining these burdensome manifestations of colonialism may be judged from the unsuccessful efforts of the late Senator Hugh Butler of Nebraska to get the discriminatory words “excluding Alaska” stricken from the Act. He introduced a bill for that purpose.

In a speech on the Senate floor on December 4, 1947, he denounced “the discrimination against the territory in the present law”, that is the Maritime Act of 1920, and urged that there was “need for the prompt removal of that discrimination if we are to demonstrate that we are in earnest in our determination to promote the development of Alaska.”
In a subsequent communication to Senator Homer Capehart, who was then chairman of a sub-committee on Alaska matters of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce to which Senator Butler’s bill was referred, Senator Butler specified the character and extent of the abuse which Alaska was suffering, saying:

“Today after 27 years of operation under the Jones Act of 1920, the carriers have failed to establish satisfactory service. . . . The Territory is still without adequate transportation to meet its needs. . . . Most Alaskan coastal towns are not connected with the continental United States, or with each other, by highway or rail. Accordingly they have been at the mercy of a steamship monopoly of long duration. There could be no competition from rail or bus lines which would compel better services or lower rates. American steamship lines have not been able or willing to meet Alaska’s transportation requirements. The service has been infrequent and the rates exorbitant.”

This caustic language was Senator Butler’s. And his testimony and vigorous denunciation are highly significant, not merely because he was very conservative, but because for the first fourteen years of his Senatorial service he was a bitter opponent of statehood for Alaska, a stand which made him the beau ideal of the anti-statehood elements within and without the Territory. He professed conversion to statehood for Alaska in 1954 only a few months before his death. He was still an unqualified opponent of Alaskan statehood when he issued this devastating indictment of the maritime transportation in 1947 and 8.
After going into further detail on the injurious effects on Alaska of the Jones Act, and the fact that most of the “merchandise . . . food products . . . and other commodities” shipped to Alaska were “an exclusive Seattle prerogative,” Senator Butler continued:

“The passage of this amendment to the Jones Act could well mean the difference between the slow, continued strangulation of Alaska’s economy, and the full development of the Territory’s vast potentialities.”

Senator Butler then spoke of the discriminatory rates in favor of canned salmon, which industry, he pointed out, likewise centered in and around Seattle, saying:

“The people of Alaska have long been subject to higher rates than has the salmon industry, for general cargo. These higher rates are, in fact, a decree penalizing the resident Alaskan for living in Alaska; the lower rates are, in effect, a decree requiring the Alaska resident to make up for whatever deficits accrue from the costs of shipping canned salmon and salmon-cannery needs….The strangling provisions of the present laws would be eliminated by the enactment of S. 1834.”

S. 1834 was Senator Butler’s bill to remove this manifestation of colonialism.
And Senator Butler concluded:

“The development of Alaska would be accelerated, and justice would be done to those permanent residents of our northwestern frontier, who have, for so many years, struggled valiantly against discouraging circumstances to develop that area.”

Despite Senator Butler’s powerful position as the Chairman of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs when his party controlled the Congress, this legislation failed. It did not even come out of committee. Eight more years have passed since that time; the tragic situation as far as Alaska is concerned, in its key transportation, has further deteriorated. Steamship freight rates have continued to go up and up, far above the levels that Senator Butler termed “exorbitant.”

Invariably, whenever the operators announced another rate increase, the Alaska territorial authorities used to request the maritime regulatory agency to secure an audit of the company’s books in order to demonstrate that the increases requested where justified. But almost invariably the increases were granted without such audit and often without question. It may well be asked whether, if Alaska were not a colony, but a State, its two Senators might not be reasonably effective in at least securing a demonstration from the carrier that its financial situation justified the rate increase demanded and promptly acceded to by the federal maritime bureau.

But actually, if Alaska were a State, the whole discrimination in the Jones Act would go out of the porthole. Alaska would then get the same treatment in the transportation of freight that is accorded to every other area under the flag and to foreign countries. But as a colony it gets no consideration in this matter either from the legislative branch, the Congress, or from the executive branch, in this instance the Federal Maritime Board, successor to other agencies similarly subservient to the vested interests within the colonial power.

The net result of those cumulative charges–50 to 100 per cent higher railroad freight rates to Seattle, higher unloading and transfer charges in Seattle, higher wharfage and higher longshoring charges, and finally higher maritime freight rates to Alaska ports–all higher than anywhere else for any but Alaskans, has been and is greatly to increase the cost of living in Alaska. This in itself has been and continues to be a great hindrance to settlement and permanent residence in Alaska, a heavy burden on private enterprise in Alaska, a forecloser of new enterprise, and obviously a great obstacle to development.

How absurd in the light of these facts–and others similar to be submitted to our candid world–is the allegation of the small minority of Alaskans and of others “outside” that we are not ready for statehood. How shall we get readier with these handicaps? How can we cope with what conservative Senator Butler described as “the slow, continued strangulation of Alaska’s economy, ” if the throttling grip of colonialism is not loosened?

To complete the maritime picture, beginning last year all passenger travel on American boats has ceased. The Alaska Steamship Line has eliminated it. This is a blow to an infant and potentially great industry in Alaska, the tourist industry, which four years ago the Alaska 1961 legislature sought to develop by establishing the Alaska Visitors’ Association, financed jointly by territorially appropriated and publicly subscribed funds.

One postscript remains on the subject of maritime transportation before we pass on to other of Alaska’s colonial disadvantages. Though it is invariably pointed out by Congressional opponents of statehood that Alaska is a non-contiguous area, separated from the main body of the 48 states by some 700 miles of foreign territory, or 700 miles of either international or foreign coastal waters, the United States persists in maintaining the coast-wise shipping laws against Alaska. Their removal would make a steamship line eligible for the subsidies which American flag ships in the European, African or Asiatic trade receive. That might, were Congress sufficiently interested, induce some competition in the Alaska steamship trade from other American carriers. That the imposition of the coast-wise shipping laws is not a necessary corollary to being a colony, is proved by the fact that the United States has suspended the coastwise shipping laws for the Virgin Islands. But it has declined to do so for Alaska.

Alaska List of Complaints   Leave a comment

The following is an exerpt from Ernest Gruening’s “Let Us End American Colonialism” speech at the Alaska Constitutional Convention in 1955.

It is a very long speech so I am posting it in continuous sections to make it more “bite-sized”.

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Let us recall the first item of grievance in the Declaration of Independence:

“He has refused assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

“He,” of course, was King George the Third. Put in his place, in place of the “he”, his contemporary equivalent, our ruler, the federal government.
Has it, or has it not, “refused assent to laws most wholesome and necessary for the public good?”

We Alaskans know that the answer is emphatically, “Yes, it has.”
He, or for the purpose of 1955, it, the federal government, has “refused assent,” although requested to do so for some forty years, to the following “most wholesome and necessary laws:”

First. A law transferring the control and management of Alaska’s greatest natural resource, the fisheries, to the Territory of Alaska, as it transferred the corresponding resources to all other Territories in the past.

Second. It has “refused assent” to a law repealing the thirty-five year-old discrimination in the Maritime Law of 1920, the “Jones Act,” a discrimination uniquely against Alaska.

Third. It has “refused assent” to a reform of our obsolete and unworkable land laws, which would assist and speed population growth, settlement and development of Alaska. It alone is responsible for over 99% of Alaska being still public domain.

Fourth. It has “refused assent” to a law including Alaska in federal aid highway legislation.

Fifth. It has “refused assent” to a law abolishing the barbarous commitment procedure of Alaska’s insane which treats them like criminals and confines them in a distant institution in the states.

Sixth. It has “refused assent” to placing our federal lower court judges, the United States commissioners, on salary, and paying them a living wage.

One could cite other examples of such refusal to assent to “laws most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

But let us instead pass on to the second item for complaint, which is similar to the first, in the Declaration of Independence:

“He has forbidden his Governors to pass laws of immediate and growing importance. . .”

Substitute for the “He”, then the British royal executive, the present American federal executive, and substitute for “his governors”, his party leaders in Congress, and recall their vote in the House of Representatives last May 10, killing a law “of immediate and growing importance”–the statehood bill.

Let us go still further down the list of our revolutionary fore- fathers’ expressed grievances, again quoting the Declaration of Independence:

“He has obstructed the administration of Justice, by refusing his assent to laws establishing judiciary powers.”

“He”, is today the whole federal government. It has for a decade “obstructed the administration of justice” in Alaska by refusing assent to establishing additional judiciary powers, where they were needed, namely in the Third Judicial Division, while repeatedly increasing  the number of judges in the “mother country,” the 48 states. And although the population of Alaska has more than tripled in the last forty-six years, the number of federal judges established in Alaska in 1909 remains unchanged. And federal judges are the only judges this colony is permitted to have.

Let us look still further in the Declaration of Independence:

“He has affected to render the military independent and superior to the civil power.”

Is there much difference between this and the recent presidential declaration that the defense of Alaska, that is to say the rule of the military here, could be better carried out if Alaska remains a Territory?

One could go on at length drawing the deadly parallels which caused our revolutionary forefathers to raise the standard of freedom, although, clearly, some of the other abuses complained of in that distant day no longer exist.

But Alaska is no less a colony than were those thirteen colonies along the Atlantic seaboard in 1775. The colonialism which the United States imposes on us and which we have suffered for 88 years, is no less burdensome, no less unjust, than that against which they poured out their blood and treasure. And while most Alaskans know that full well, we repeat:

“To prove this let the facts be submitted to a candid world.”

To begin at the beginning, the Treaty of Cession by which Alaska was annexed, contained a solemn and specific commitment:

“The inhabitants of the ceded territory … shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States. . . ”

That was the pledge. The United States has not kept that pledge. Yet a treaty is the highest law of the land. And it is made in the clear view of all mankind.

The United States has broken that pledge for 88 years. It has not admitted the inhabitants of Alaska to the enjoyment of “all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States.

“All the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States” would entitle us to vote for President and Vice-President, to representation in the Congress by two Senators and a Representative with a vote, and would free us from the restrictions imposed by the Organic Act of 1912, and the Act of Congress of July 30, 1886. Obviously we have neither the vote, nor the representation, nor the freedom from restrictions. We suffer taxation without representation, which is no less “tyranny” in 1955 than it was in 1775. Actually it is much worse in 1955 than in 1775 because the idea that it was “tyranny” was then new. Since the Revolutionaries abolished it for the states a century and three-quarters ago, it has become a national synonym for something repulsive and intolerable.

We are subject to military service for the nation–a privilege and obligation we accept gladly–yet we have not voice in the making and ending of the wars into which our young men are drafted. In this respect we are worse off than our colonial forefathers. King George III did not impose conscription upon them. They were not drafted to fight for the mother country. Therefore there was no revolutionary slogan “no conscription without representation.” But it is a valid slogan for Alaskans today.

The treaty obligation of 1867 is an obligation to grant us the full equality of statehood, for which Alaskans did not press in the first 80 years of their subordination, but which now, overdue, they demand as their right.

Alaska – Graduate Studies in Patience   Leave a comment

Ernest Gruening, Governor of the Territory of Alaska, thanks President Harry S Truman for his support of the statehood cause. Truman backed the drive beginning in 1946 , the first President to do so explicitly. Although a statehood bill was passed by the House in 1950, it was killed in the Senate.

Truman’s successor, President Eisenhower, did not support statehood, and almost a decade after Truman’s initial declaration of support, Ernest Gruening was still campaigning on behalf of Alaska. He gave the following address on April 11, 1955 at the Alaska Constitutional Convention. [“Let Us Now End American Colonialism” is excerpted from Ernest Gruening’s memoir The Battle For Alaska Statehood.]

It’s important to note that Alaska was not yet a state when we wrote the constitution in an attempt to force the United States Congress to vote on statehood. Not only had Congress not voted to advance us to statehood status, Alaska had not yet held a plebiscite on the issue.

Some have characterized this speech as the Declaration of Independence for Alaska, but statehood didn’t grant us independence. It didn’t even make us a full-fledged state like California, New Jersey or Texas. The arguments made by Gruening in the speech are important because they explain some of the remaining anger Alaskans have toward the Lower 48. We are no different in our attitude toward the federal government as the United States was in its attitude toward its former colonial master, England, and with good reason, for we were treated in much the same unjust way.

So, this is a really long speech. I’m going to break it up to make it “bite-sized”.
________________________________________
Let Us Now End American Colonialism
________________________________________
We meet to validate the most basic of American principles, the principle of “government by consent of the governed.” We take this historic step because the people of Alaska who elected you, have come to see that their long standing and unceasing protests against the restrictions, discriminations and exclusions to which we are subject have been unheeded by the colonialism that has ruled Alaska for 88 years. The people of Alaska have never ceased to object to these impositions even though they may not have realized that such were part and parcel of their colonial status. Indeed the full realization that Alaska is a colony may not yet have come to many Alaskans, nor may it be even faintly appreciated by those in power who perpetuate our colonial servitude.

Half a century ago, a governor of Alaska, John Green-Brady, contemplating the vain efforts of Alaskans for nearly forty years to secure even a modicum of workable self-government, declared:

“We are graduates of the school of patience.”

Since that time Alaskans have continued to take post-graduate courses. Today, in 1955, sorely tried through 88 years of step-childhood, and matured to step-adulthood, Alaskans have come to the time when patience has ceased to be a virtue. But our faith in American institutions, our reverence for American traditions, are not only undimmed but intensified by our continuing deprivation of them. Our cause is not merely Alaskans’; it is the cause of all Americans. So we are gathered here, following action by our elected representatives who provided this Constitutional Convention, to do our part to “show the world that America practices what it preaches.”

These words are not original with me. But they remain as valued and as valid as when they were uttered five years ago. They remain no less valid even if their noble purpose is as yet unfulfilled. We are here to do what lies within our power to hasten their fulfillment.

We meet in a time singularly appropriate. Not that there is ever a greater or lesser timeliness for the application by Americans of American principles. Those principles are as enduring and as eternally timely as the Golden Rule. Indeed democracy is nothing less than the application of the Golden Rule to the Great Society. I mean, of course, democracy of deeds, not of lip-service; democracy that is faithful to its professions; democracy that matches its pledges with its performance. But there is nevertheless, a peculiar timeliness to this Alaskans’ enterprise to keep our nation’s democracy true to its ideals. For right now that the United States has assumed world leadership, it has shown through the expressions of its leaders its distaste for colonialism. And this antipathy to colonialism–wherever such colonialism may be found–reflects a deep-seated sentiment among Americans.

For our nation was born of revolt against colonialism. Our charters of liberty–the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution– embody America’s opposition to colonialism and to colonialism’s inevitable abuses. It is therefore natural and proper that American leadership should set its face against the absenteeism, the discriminations and the oppressions of colonialism. It is natural and proper that American leadership should lend such aid and comfort as it may to other peoples striving for self-determination and for that universally applicable tenet of American faith–government by consent of the governed. Indeed, as we shall see, we are pledged to do this by recent treaty commitments.
What more ironical, then, what more paradoxical, than that very same leadership maintains Alaska as a colony?

What could be more destructive of American purpose in the world? And what could be more helpful to that mission of our nation than to rid America of its last blot of colonialism by admitting our only two incorporated territories–Alaska and Hawaii–to the equality they seek, the equality provided by the long-established and only possible formula, namely statehood?

America does not, alas, practice what it preaches, as long as it retains Alaska in colonial vassalage.

Is there any doubt that Alaska is a colony? Is there any question that in its maintenance of Alaska as a territory against the expressed will of its inhabitants, and subject to the accompanying political and economic disadvantages, the United States has been and is guilty of colonialism?

Lest there be such doubt, lest there be those who would deny this indictment, let the facts be submitted to a candid world.

You will note that this last sentence is borrowed from that immortal document, the Declaration of Independence. It is wholly appropriate to do this. For, in relation to their time, viewed in the light of mankind’s progress in the 180 years since the revolt of the thirteen original American colonies, the “abuses and usurpations” –to use again the language of the Declaration–against which we protest today, are as great, if not greater, than those our revolutionary forbears suffered and against which they revolted.

Declaration of Independence 2013   2 comments

Finishing our review of the Declaration of Independence, we need to stop and consider where that leaves us today. We’ve found that there are a lot more similarities between 1776 and 2013 than we may have realized. I know I was surprised to find that our government may have become even more oppressive than King George and Parliament. I found myself asking throughout my research — was that all it took for them to be so angry? Then I remembered that it wasn’t the colonists that fired the first shot. It was British Army. The British (the ruling class) were the ones who were angry over the colonists’ impertinent claims to self-governance and they meant to whip them back into line.

At heart, the first American Revolution was about self-governance. Contrary to popular belief, the British Crown had only been the titular government of the American colonies for the 150 years preceding the Revolution. For five generations, the Crown had practiced “benign neglect” and the people of America had governed themselves. By the mid-1760s, following the French and Indian War, England was asserting control over the colonies and their residents. The catalyzing event was the Declaratory Act of 1766, which put the colonists on notice that Parliament considered itself in control and that body did not need to consult with the colonists, who had no representation in Parliament.

The Declaratory Act was, unlike our laws today, clear and forceful in its statement that the colonies had no right to liberty or the pretense of liberty at any level of life and certainly not in the arena of governance. Today, our politicians enact laws that infringe on our basic liberty and our ability to govern ourselves at the local, state and federal levels, while also intruding on our private lives. These laws regulate many of our activities from cradle to grave and everything in between. There’s not a legal commercial transaction not governed by regulation of business and few personal behaviors not controlled through the power of taxation.

Yes, civilized people must rightly tolerate a measure of intrusion into our lives and infringement of our liberties to live in a civil society. Off the desert island, compromise is necessary. My rights end where my neighbors’ begin. We can all agree there, I think. But how much is too much? Increasingly, polls show that most of us believe we’ve crossed that line. Like the American colonists, those of us who have known liberty recognize when our liberties are impinged without our consent or permission. Though we elect representatives, a full 60% of voters today say that the federal government lacks the consent of the governed.

In retrospect, the Declaratory Act displayed arrogance on the part of Parliament and ignorance of the colonies. We see that same arrogance and ignorance from our elected representatives today. Consider Nancy Pelosi’s “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”. That was outrageous, but this arrogance runs throughout the political class in our country and is not limited to one political party. The Patriot Act is still in force, even though we the people have been questioning its use on us for some time.

In 1766, this type of arrogance started the American Revolution. In the 21st century, consider the “tea party” movement which has been pushing back against runamok government for over four years. The catalyzing event there was overspending, but the Affordable Care Act has kept the spirit if not the energy alive. The Occupy movement railed against crony capitalism – which has been a lesser target for the Tea Party. Anytime liberal 20-somethings and middle-aged homeowners start agreeing on something in the political realm, there’s probably something going on there that needs looking at. Polling on issue after issue indicates the government is out of step with the majority of Americans. Are we witnessing the roots of the second American Revolution?

The political class would do well to heed their own history.

America sprang from the idea that the people can and should govern themselves.  When the representatives of the people regularly pass and impose laws, rules and regulations which the people do not support, history dictates that we need to reform the government or, if reform is not possible, remove it. When repeated elections fail to accomplish that goal, the people have a history of doing it through other means.

Luckily, the colonists who created the United States based on the principle of self-governance also gave us a Constitution which provides methods to restore liberty without bloodshed. They understood the cost of bloodshed as we do not. Today, we must use all of the means they gave us if the flame of liberty is not to be extinguished by a political class out of touch with the citizens and apparently ignorant of history.

The fight for liberty and self-governance is part of our heritage.  We fought for them in 1776 when we declared our independence and officially began the American Revolution.   We fight for them today as we participate in what my grandchildren’s history books may call the second American Revolution.

We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore   Leave a comment

We’ve come to the end of the Declaration of Independence, but not to the end of the discussion because if we just leave it there, we’d all better start stocking up on food and ammunition because hard times are coming — revolutionary times.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.—

American citizens in the 21st century have only just recently begun to awaken to the growing tyranny. Many of us didn’t recognize what was fomenting under the Bush 2 administration. The Patriot Act seemed like a good idea at the time, months after our countrymen had been murdered by terrorists.

Please recognize, however, that the tyranny has actually been growing for just about 100 years, since Woodrow Wilson launched the nascent administrative state and began slowly whittling away at liberty and self-government. In that time, people have warned us what was coming, but we’ve chosen to take half-measures or, worse, allow the tyranny to grow in the interest of civil peace and national security.

So, we’ve been slow to deal with the loss of freedom, but I think we’re waking up now. The “tea party” movement and Occupy Wallstreet are just two examples of how the people are starting to finally recognize that self-governance has left the building. We pretend that elections will make a difference, but really … was there a substantative difference between Barack Obama and John McCain on the use of the surveillance state?

Hmm, I hear crickets ….

The exercise of the tea party movement should have taught us something, if only that an organization that requires donations to keep the doors open is at a disadvantage if it can’t get tax-exempt status. So if Marco Rubio replaces Barack Obama in 2016, who do you think his administration will target for “special treatment” so that they can’t be an effective voice for opposition in the country? Self-governance is an illusion in an illusion in the United States. It’s a great, old-fashioned idea that exited stage-left some time ago and we the people didn’t notice because we the people were too busy not talking about religion or politics to wake up to reality.

How are we going to fix that? Well, I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t believe armed revolution is our next choice. That said, we have options for “disavowing these usurpations”.

Posted August 3, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in History

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Uprisings – Riots — What’s the Difference?   Leave a comment

We’re still looking at the Declaration of Independence and seeking parallels to our own times.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

The British had encouraged slave and Indian revolts against the colonists. For example, in 1775, Lord Dunmore of Virginia, swore to members of the Virginia House of Burgesses that if “any Injury or insult were offered to himself” he would “declare Freedom to the Slaves, and reduce the City of Williamsburg to Ashes.” The governors of North and South Carolina also were planning similar uprisings. General Gage, commander in chief of the British army in America, tried to persuade various Indian tribes to attack the colonists.

No parallels to today, really, other than to note the riots our President did not condemn following the Zimmerman acquittal. Uprisings, indeed!

Are these riots motivated by our government leaders seeking to put so much stress on society that we will gladly accept a dictator? We know that huge corporations in conjunction with US government agencies have orchestrated such uprisings in other countries — South America, the Middle East. Why do we assume they won’t turn those skills on us if we become problematic enough for them?

Because we’re Americans and it can’t happen here?

It already has happened here. The riots over the Zimmerman case were small potatoes compared to what we’re capable of. Remember South Central?

Do we believe our government wouldn’t encourage it if it met their agenda? I used to believe that, but when a sitting president stands up before the American people and does not condemn riots motivated over anger that the US justice system worked and they didn’t like the outcome because it wasn’t a racially-motivated decision ….

It CAN happen HERE!

Posted August 2, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in History

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