Short Takes

Haven’t had much time to blog lately as I have been getting out another book. Nothing to do with the Civil War, this one’s the fourth edition of River Rescue, first published way back in 1985. If anyone out there in our radio audience is a canoeist, kayaker, or rafter, it might interest you.

Did Lincoln have cancer?

John Sotos has a theory about why Abraham Lincoln was so tall, why he appeared to have lumps on his lips and even why he had gastrointestinal problems. The 16th president, he contends, had a rare genetic disorder – one that would likely have left him dead of cancer within a year had he not been assassinated. And his bid to prove his theory has posed an ethical and scientific dilemma for a small Philadelphia museum in the year that marks the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.

The dilemma is whether to allow DNA testing of part of a bloodstained pillowcase that cradled the president’s head just after he was shot. Sotos thinks Lincoln had multiple endocrine neoplasia, which almost inevitably leads to cancer. Many historians have remarked on Lincoln’s physical deterioration in office, but most have ascribed it to the extraordinary burdens of the presidency. Sotos thinks that whether Lincoln had been assassinated or not, he would not have survived long into his second term.

Some nice photos of a Jacob’s double rifle from a British source. I’ve written about the Jacob’s and its eccentric inventor before, and mentioned that a few were used in the Civil War. Another one here.

Something else I’ve mentioned before is Whig History, defined as “the tendency in many historians to write on the side of Protestants and Whigs, to praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasize certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present.” Or, in today’s terms, to see the purpose of history as the creation of the multicultural welfare state. This view was put forth by historian Herbert Butterfield in The Whig Interpretation of History in 1931. Butterfield wrote “not as a problem in the philosophy of history, but rather as an aspect of the psychology of historians.” One can see this in the current crop of Boomer historians, whose consciousness was formed by the Black Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and the Vietnam War, and who tend to see things through that prism. The book’s on an Italian web site, but you can read it in English free.

Texas governor Rick Perry’s remarks that, according to some, are “stirring up talk of states’ rights and secession, notions that for many conjure the specters of the Civil War, slavery and racial segregation.” Horrors! Eric Wittenberg dismisses it as “neo-Confederate hooey” (love that word, my dad used to use it) and it’s attracted luminaries like Rachel Maddow. But, as Professor Bernardo de la Paz notes, it’s not quite so simple. Texas is unique in more ways than one. It’s not only the largest state, it’s the only one that used to be an independent country. All others were either English colonies or territories that acceded to statehood. Texas seceded from Mexico (some activists will tell you that was illegal, too) in 1836 and did not join the United States until 1845. Although the agreement between Texas and the US does not specifically allow secession, it does not forbid it either. And it does specifically allow:

New States of convenient size not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas and having sufficient population, may, hereafter by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution

So as Professor de la Paz remarks, Texas could conceivably set the state boundaries at the city limits of El Paso and carve out another state or three, call it Flatlandia or whatever, and maintain that it’s outside the jurisdiction of the United States. This would be entirely outside the purview of Texas vs. White.

I’ve addressed the issue of secession several times, at the most lengthy in regards to Prof. Ilya Somin’s post on the matter. As he notes, the Constitution itself is silent on the matter. North Dakota recently passed a sovereignty resolution, and of California has discovered States’ Rights for pot smoking. So it’s still a live issue.


One response to “Short Takes”

  1. elektratig Avatar


    On the “Texas Tots” issue, see here.

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