Friday, August 18, 2017

Power Corrupts

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

― Lord Acton

Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich has accused President Trump of "trying to start a civil war" to forestall his impeachment for treason.

It can't happen here, you say?

I have two words for you.

Aaron Burr.

A Revolutionary War hero, Burr lost the 1800 presidential election to Thomas Jefferson, becoming his vice president.

Jefferson rapidly distanced himself from Burr, withholding support for his renomination to a second term in 1804.

Alexander Hamilton, quoted by a newspaper at the time, called Burr "a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.”

Burr killed Hamilton in a duel over the remark, and fled from New Jersey to New Orleans, where he met with an agent of America's old nemesis, Spain. Together, the two men plotted to create their own independent republic in Texas, and began assembling a militia to seize the land.

In 1807, while leading that militia, Burr was arrested for treason in Alabama by the federal government (his co-conspirator had snitched on him), and taken to Richmond for trial.

As it happened, Burr was acquitted on grounds that he had not waged war against the US.

Chief Justice John Marshall argued that Burr had a First Amendment right to voice opposition to the government, and that merely to engage in a conspiracy against it isn't enough to be convicted of treason: you have to wage actual warfare. "There must be an actual assembling of men for the treasonable purpose, to constitute a levying of war," Marshall wrote.

After the trial, Burr fled to England, where he tried without success to convince several foreign governments to provide him an army with which to seize Texas.

He returned to America five years later, when the incident was all but forgotten, and lived to age of 80.

Powered by Blogger.