Skip to comments.Unthinkable..
Posted on 03/12/2006 6:01:59 PM PST by pickrell
As I began covering the story, I had to lay out the players and circumstances, in my mind. We have a President who hails from a party which purports to be committed to limiting the growth of the Federal Government, and yet has taken pre-emptive action without the approval of Congress. His idea was to forestall an inevitable, greater war, by acting directly, and through like minded members of his administration, yet has exceeded any previous limits to Presidential authority.
He has justifed this action in his mind, by ascribing intentions to foreigners, without convincing proof of this being first taken to Congress, in order for them to exercise their sole power to declare war. Arguments have been heard in Congress that this action will stretch the ability of the United States military to protect the country, by making unavoidable the open-ended committments of substantial numbers of troops to occupy and maintain peace in unfamiliar territories.
The opposition in Congress can rightfully rage that this has been necessitated by his warlike talk, of threats of invasion, and by twisting the truth with the help of his subordinates.
We were fortunate to be able to obtain documents of previously unpublished interviews with the President. In them, we see the conspiracy for what it is.
"Mr. President, it is reliably reported that your extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador, James Monroe, has concluded an astonishing bargain with the French First Consul, Mr. Bonaparte, in which the government of the United States has been bound by agreement to pay some 80 millions francs, or 15 millions of dollars, in a land deal which has frankly enraged members of Congress. Cries are heard that this money will have to be borrowed abroad, from the Dutch, and which could better be spent alleviating poverty, once and for all. And rumors abound that this sale comes from a territory which France illegally seized from Spain no more than a few weeks ago. Surely, by the way, the most colossal "property flip" for the next 200 years. Imagine the capital gains tax, for a start."
"Yes," he admitted, "I understand that Mr. Monroe has been successful beyond our wildest imaginings. Mr. Madison reports to me that the extent of the buy, which originated as a simple attempt to keep Louisiana of the hands of a foreign power, is not even defined within known boundaries, but rather encompasses the land to the east of the great Mississippi into areas unknown. But before you excoriate James Monroe, you must first understand a few things. Perhaps they may not be well known a few hundred years from now, but at least the truth must mean something, now, while it can."
I settled in and poured both of us some more tea while Mr. Jefferson endeavored to explain what the public didn't know, and couldn't be told at the time.
The President steepled his fingers together, "Sometimes a President gains information that actions are afoot by a foreign power which, if known by the American public at large, would arise such a hue and cry for war that carnage would be unstoppable." He licked his lips and continued. "As you know, our infant Republic has used the Mississippi River as a 'western seacoast', providing affordable water transport for millions of our farmers, and the sudden loss of this waterway would plunge the country into chaos.
"Any analyst will place a finger on the port of New Orleans as the controlling chokepoint vitally necessary for this commerce, since it commands the traffic along the great river. Any country in control of this waterway, no matter how unoffensive at first to our barges and commerce, must be regarded as the greatest of threats we face.
"Now you may ask, 'If such is the case, why did we seem to have no problem before, since Spain has harmlessly to us administered this port and this region, after their king was given it by France some 50 years or so ago?'. We sent no armadas to seize and neutralize this threat before now? What changes have arisen? Is not France a great friend of ours? Anyway, how in the world is this suddenly Bonaparte's to sell?"
I had to nod my head and smile as each of this questions indeed surfaced without my voicing them!
"Now I must tell you things which will never be known to people presently alive," his hard glare assigned this not as a request, but as an immutable fact. I swallowed and nodded.
"Several months ago, Bonaparte was already preparing for war with England. He had to balance the costs of equipping his forces against his desire for new colonial assets. He opted for both. His thoughts were that a large army acting quickly enough could seize and invest New Orleans with troops, and so command the port that it would be proof against counteraction. What Americans do not know, is that such a force was indeed already sent under General LeClerc, with 20,000 soldiers. Their instructions were to stop briefly to put down the slave uprising on Saint Domingue, (now Haiti), on the way, and then proceed directly to seize New Orleans. Bonaparte simply renounced the previous gift from the dead French king to the dead Spanish king. Worse, he did so in secrecy, knowing our reaction if such was made public before his troops could hand us a fait accompli."
Jeffersons eyes seized mine, "How do YOU think your readers would react if they knew that such an act of war was already in progress? Could I have explained to them the cost in millions, and the toll in lives that such a war would extract from us, as young and unprepared a Republic as we are? I would have the satisfaction of thumping my chest grandly and saying 'I told the truth!'... and yet would have to watch as the carnage and destruction unfolded, in a war I could have prevented, through some carefully orchestrated deception. How grand it must be for those who put their own preening ahead of the families of those soldiers who will therefore never return home."
"I understand," I blinked in puzzlement, "but surely no troops have been reported ...?"
"No, they haven't left Haiti. Yellow fever is devastating them, while the slave revolt is proving unmanageable. God has provided an interlude from war for us. And in this interlude I have done some lying. I have sent word through several channels that I ache for war. Word that not only I, but many in Congress also are committed to war. That our armies are even now preparing. But since we have had offenses committed against our shipping by both the French and the British, that we know not yet which way to point our cannon!"
I had to cough a bit, "I was given to understand sir that we have no appreciable standing army, sir. And the French will surely know which way we will fire since their troop shipment is now known to us!"
"In that, young man," Jefferson smiled, "you show ignorance of the few tools which a President may use to minimize war and safeguard his country. Fortunately, we have intelligence assets which convey such information, such as the sailing of the French invasion fleet, without our newspapers broadcasting that we are reading their mail. Our country, and Mr. Bonaparte, do not know that we know! He may suspect, he may fear, but the French First Consul must suspect many things... Imagine the harm that would result from the despicable newspaper publication 'that we were somehow tapping communications!' Imagine further the hot-headed demands for immediate war, in response to this act of Bonaparte! I would have no choice but to be overridden by the Congress, if the people knew all that my Administration knows. For the people of the United States also do not know that, when forced to do so, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. In the worst case, such as ours, it can even mean the army you don't have, but must desparately convince the enemy you do have! I only pray that no recurrence of national madness ever finds future commanders facing the same such dire circumstances. I would hope that a day comes when future Secretaries of Defense may state honestly what realities are faced, and be allowed to keep those secrets which safeguard the nation. I would pray that he would never be stripped of those few tools he has to save lives."
He inclined his head, "This is necessary because what the general populace knows must inescapably also soon be known to our adversaries, who are then by default pushed over that semantic line and become our enemies. The French don't know how that we don't have a standing army of any size ready to react... because young men like you are too responsible to print such things..."
Under the heat of such a look, I somberly nodded more promises. "I understand better now, sir, but surely the French will eventually discover the extent of our weakness?"
"True, true...", he allowed, "but by then we had our chance to act as recklessly as the Federalists have always accused us Republicans of acting. We sent James Monroe over to Paris, while we also worked overtime through what may someday become known as our "psy-ops" department, to cause Bonaparte to ponder the cost and difficulty of retaining what he had seized. And to balance in his mind that cost, versus the immediate cash benefits of selling New Orleans to us. We had no clue that we could buy another third of this great continent, instead of merely a port city! What terrible pressure Monroe must have faced, to know that Congress, (who had secretly been consulted), had only mentioned the sum of 2 millions, thinking that only a port was on the auction block. Imagine the man who now risks personal political destruction, retaining his poker face when 20 million is quoted as the cost of the entire Louisiana Purchase, hundreds of thousands of square miles! Imagine on your own hook, going over your authorized budget by over 700 percent, for the future of the nation!"
I looked away as his eyes welled up for a bit, out of embarrassment to be a mere writer in the company of such a man, while I had done nothing for my country as yet.
"We should fall to our knees," he continued, "to render thanks to God for such a man as this, and I will not see him suffer for it."
A mischievous twinkle re-appeared, "To spare him, I think I shall sentence him to be exiled directly to London, for 2 years at hard diplomacy, with time off for good behaviour. (The Congresses, not his!). The heat should certainly be off by then..."
He stared in the distance for a while, "I understand that many among the Federalists do not understand the gravity of war, and the dangers this country faces. They act like children, eager to seize on my admitted, perhaps extraconstitutional... duplicities and machinations... towards the French, and the British too, for that matter." He smiled, "For we played them off against each other for a while, holding future lucrative commerce up as bait. Yet another tool of the President..."
The scorn returned, "That the elites do such things in the simple, irresponsible glee that such may harm me politically and so benefit them... is so hard to accept, since we are less than a score of years away from the last war, and since they certainly understood responsibly then. I should just go back to Monticello and attend to my library as a simple commoner.
"Will this stretch the military to terrible limits, requiring them to explore, invest and pacify a great land area again as big as we have now? Of course it will. We are in the habit of asking impossible, unfair things of our servicemen. This country will be insulated from disaster by the herculean tasks that our soldiers and sailors regard as routine.
"The saddest part is that once again, when the impossible task is over, and we go from that fearful and trembling hope that they will somehow preserve our lives at the cost of their own... back to shamefully excluding them from 'civilized society', so that our universities may keep 'soldiers and dogs off of the grass', now that the threat is overcome by their blood."
He seemed to come back from where ever he was at, mentally, and speared me with a stare. "Imagine if the press of our day was less attached and cogniscent of the dangers the nation faces, and instead decides to abandon all pretense of their duty to apprise the public of both sides of these issues. Imagine if in their pique at not being privy to crucial government secrets, they toss their responsibilities to the future aside, and act the pack of rabid dogs, that they might.
"Imagine if they decline to make the people understand that massive bloodletting has been avoided, a huge territory which will in time produce countless bounty for our grandchildren has been obtained at four cents per acre! Imagine if they instead so fixate on the scent that political blood is in the water, and that 'Jefferson and his accomplices' have done something censurable, or even impeachable! You in the press hold the future of the country in your hands through your honesty and fair balance... or through your delinquency and bias. The choice is yours, later. But not now. Not THIS time. Not when the country is so young. Only you- will ever know..."
He stood up to signal that the 'interview which never happened'... was now over.
Later, as I am typing up this interview, to seal it in a time capsule, in the cornerstone of some nondescript city building, before erasing it from my mind, I can't help but feel a tiny bit of disappointment in our great President.
I can't believe that he would ever conceive that my brothers in the press would knowingly endanger the security of the country, merely out of spite against a President of the United States that they didn't like.
That, Mr. Jefferson, is unthinkable...
I'm sure some dumbass will read three lines of this and flame the hell out of you. Good post.
Not bad, I like it.
I'll read this ...but I am already feeling a bit jaded.
I figured the president in question would be Abe Lincoln.
Bump this bad boy. This is good stuff.....
Wow. Just... wow.
I would like to see the United States bring Canada and Mexico into the union. Later on, we can go after Cuba and Denmark (Greenland).
Bravo-great stuff (full disclosure: you almost had me).
And you got all of this out of your fevered mind did you?
I suppose it is a bit repetitive, and I shouldn't delight in pulling the reader's leg in the first few sentences. But I can't help but marvel at the fact that history so often repeats itself, and how by such good fortune, (and the incredible character and courage of a few good men)...
...we have so far steered a course through dangerous waters.
Denmark? Denmark??? You're a madman, Sam! But I like it!
And don't even start me on that guy Seward. We paid the Russkis how much for a bunch of icebergs? Sheesh...
...we have so far steered a course through dangerous waters.
"A special Providence protects fools, drunkards, small children and the United States of America." - Otto von Bismarck
LOL. The word is that we rejected the first Russian offer. They proposed that for an extra $ 5 million, they would also haul away Massachusetts for us. We held out to pay no more than $4 mil, and look what we're stuck with now...
I'LL PASS THE HAT! WAIT, IVAN, WAIT!! I'LL PASS THE HAT!!
Thanks for the felicitations! I hadn't even noticed.
I've actually been hanging around here since about 1997, '98 or so. I just never bothered to jump in and play till '04.
You have a good sense of humor, Bill. Don't ever let the bastards grind it out of you. Ron
When dealing with politicians and/or statesman I always keep in mind the old saying
" The Louder He Spoke Of His Virtues, The Faster We Counted Our Spoons"
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