It was a dark day on Jan. 6 as Congress planned to confirm the Electoral College vote for the next president. Around 1 p.m. a group of pro-Trump protesters pushed their way into the Capitol building, disrupting the official count as Congress was forced into lock down. The issue at hand was the President’s claims of voter fraud and a stolen election.
This was by no means the first contested election in the U.S. The 1800 and 1824 elections were both decided in Congress. The 1876 and 2000 elections were both decided in the courts. Let’s also not forget the South seceded from the nation in 1860 because of Lincoln’s election. In fact, in 2001, 2005 and 2017 some Democrats protested the final confirmation vote the same way some Republicans did this year. In these cases, the Vice Presidents acted like Mike Pence this year and did their duty and confirmed the vote even with political pressure not to do so.
The differences between this current election and the past ones were that the controversies did not involve a sitting president. They were always between two new candidates. 1800 did have an incumbent president in the race, but the controversy was between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Trump is the first sitting president to contest his defeat. The other more important difference was those election controversies were all handled peacefully, except 1860. Yes, there have been many protests over elections, but trying to take the Capitol to obstruct the vote is unprecedented.
There have been other elections with fraud claims, most recently, the 2016 election that Democrats claimed foul because of Russian influence. Yet, the one I think is important because of the behavior of the candidates is not remembered today as controversial but at the time was called out by many as fraudulent.
Today, when discussing the 1960 election, most think of the young charismatic John F. Kennedy manhandling and crushing the much older Richard Nixon in the first televised debates. I would argue this is a false memory. For one, Nixon was only four years older than Kennedy and, two, this was one of the closest elections in history. The closeness of the election meant that several states were swing states and just one or two of them going the other way meant a difference in the president.
Two of the states that could have gone either direction were Texas and Illinois. Both ultimately voted for JFK, but not without some controversy. In Texas it was claimed that JFK’s V.P., Lyndon Johnson, used undue influence and fraud to guarantee a Democratic win. Yet it was Illinois that captured the nation’s attention, especially the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley. Daley is one of the men credited with the quote, “Vote early and vote often.” On election night, he called JFK to tell him basically that, with a little luck and some help from some friends, he would win the state. Daley was a mayor either loved or despised, depending on your political leaning, but no one questioned his power over the city and even the state. Daley was rumored to be involved in ballot stuffing, especially in Cook County, that turned the state towards Kennedy.
The cries of corruption were minimal on election night and ultimately JFK was the victor. It was after the election that the rumors began to build. The man more than any other who began to beat the drum of fraud was a reporter and friend of Nixon, Earl Mazo. He began to investigate the rumors and wrote a series of articles detailing his evidence. He had found graveyards in Chicago where all the permanent residences had voted. The story that most stuck out was the 56 voters whose residences all turned out to be the same abandoned house. Yet as interesting as these stories were, most were never published at the insistence of Nixon.
Nixon asked his friend to stop running the stories. His request was not because he felt they were untrue. In fact, Nixon, for the rest of his life, privately insisted the election was stolen from him, and many from his administration insisted they had evidence of fraud. What Nixon believed, however, was that in the midst of the Cold War his nation could not afford a challenge to democracy. Recounts were requested, but after a couple of legal challenges failed, Nixon did what was best for the nation and stepped aside. It was Nixon’s job as sitting Vice President to confirm the votes for Kennedy in the same ceremony that was interrupted Jan. 6 with Pence. Nixon did what Trump could not. Whether or not there was fraud, Nixon believed there was. But he put his ego aside for the good of the nation and did not resist.
While all of Trump’s court challenges were completely legal, almost all of them were found by several courts to be without merit. We have seen similar actions in many elections. Where Trump will be remembered with infamy was his refusal to accept the outcome even after the courts rejected him. The difference may be this: eight years later Nixon ran a second time and won. However, after Jan. 6, even Trump’s staunchest supporters turned on him, making any effort for a second run obsolete.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog
A ‘Rush to Judgement’ of Lord Fairfax in community college renaming effort?
After 50 years of orogenic calm, suddenly the directors of Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) are trying to change the college name, and the school’s public relations cadre has been in full-blown smackdown and smearing of the deceased namesake, Lord Fairfax the 6th.
We know Mr. Fairfax was a slave owner, but let’s look at the other things they have been saying about him.
The former college president said he was a “very minor historical figure”. Yet, Mr. Fairfax was responsible for the settling of over 5 million acres locally! Like it or not, he was the face of local colonial rule, and he helped-along George Washington, who grew-up to protest the colonial slave trade and lead the army which ended that rule.
They said Fairfax was an out-of-touch, stingy aristocrat, and “never had to work”. However, he donated land and performed civic duties, serving as a Frederick County Justice of the Peace and County Lieutenant. Historian Bishop Meade wrote, “It deserves to be mentioned of Lord Fairfax, that, titled as he was, and rich, he never failed to perform his duty as a citizen and neighbor”.
While, yes, through the colonial system, he came unto his land holdings, he did not sit in a recliner playing Xbox. That land had to be surveyed, appropriated and governed, by foot and horseback. Fairfax eschewed English castle life and settled in something visually similar to a horse barn, in the then-wilderness of White Post, Virginia.
Regarding privilege, it is only fair to note that the annual salary for the head of the Virginia Community College system is an aristocratic $481,045!
Moreover, LFCC’s website states: “There are historical records indicating he also engaged in long-term sexual abuse of enslaved women”. One member of the re-naming board said he “partook in a pay-for-rape scenario”. Where is the proof for these outrageous statements?
Similar claims are circulating on the Internet and likely derive from Stewart Brown’s biography on Lord Fairfax, published in 1965, a book referenced by the Board’s re-naming committee. Let’s take a closer look at it.
In the appendix, Brown said he had in-hand a receipt written by Fairfax’s clerk, to wit: “February 27, 1777: Received of Curtis Corley ten shillings on the Lord’s ship account, for bring a negro wench to bed. Cary Balengar”. Let’s assume that is an exact quote from receipt, because accuracy matters here.
Elsewhere in his book, Brown altered the included phrase into, “bedding down a negro wench”, and remarked that this meant Fairfax was paying for sex. He further speculated that this was evidence on a rumor that Fairfax had children by numerous slave women, and that at the age of 83, was thus “sufficiently virile” not to be near death. However, Brown gave no foundation for the rumor or his opinion.
Yet, the Collins Dictionary says “to be brought to bed” is an archaic British English expression meaning “childbirth”. Given that, does it make better sense that this was simply a receipt for delivering a baby, as others have already suggested?
Before we neuter and vandalize Fairfax’s name, let’s do OUR homework.
Rockland, Warren County, Virginia
Dave Stegmaier is silencing Shawnee
I recently posted some comments on Dave Stegmaier’s Facebook campaign page. It was respectfully written, and I expected that same respect in return. Instead, my questions were left unanswered and then deleted. I was then blocked from commenting altogether. In fact, he also deleted comments made by others questioning his posts. Why?
My comments were related to the details involving the radio system and the county’s RFP. Did we select a system that is out of scope from what we requested? I also commented on Mr. Stegmaier’s post regarding how he voted April 14th and shared a link for others to check for themselves. If his post was honest, why did he delete the link I provided that would prove it?
I am a Frederick County native. I attended Bass-Hoover, Aylor and graduated from James Wood. As a lifelong resident, Mr. Stegmaier’s treatment of my comments and those of the others he deleted did not sit well with me. We have a right to be heard and acknowledged.
Mr. Stegmaier accused his opponent, Josh Ludwig, of playing politics in one of his posts. Who’s really playing political games?
We need a representative who cares enough about our concerns to offer an answer, not silence and ignore us. Someone who will keep their promises made while running and vote accordingly. Dave is not doing that, and we need someone who will. I believe Josh Ludwig is that person. The clear choice for a true conservative voice.
Frederick County, Virginia
Here are some examples of myself and others being silenced in Shawnee by Mr. Stegmaier, as these comments have since been removed:
One county citizen weighs in on municipal ‘Sludge War’
In regard to the “Sludge War” and most specifically the Town of Front Royal’s Mayor Chris Holloway, the people should consider this carefully: Blackmail is wrong. It is immoral and unethical. It has no place in government. For hurting this entire community by calling on debts and refusing to have a working relationship with the County, that could be considered extortion.
If you get what I’m saying and live in the Town, please consider running for Town Council or Mayor. As it turns out, Mayor Holloway has been found wanting. True leaders lead by example and what a total sham to have a Mayor who sets a precedent for malicious, retaliatory antics consistently used by angry bullies lacking in critical thought.
Front Royal needs YOU!
An Appeal to Heaven
Prayer has always been powerfully employed in our country for guidance, protection and strength, from the earliest time when we were only loosely united and isolated colonies. The Pilgrims at Plymouth relied on prayer during their first and gloomiest winter. George Washington “appealed to heaven,” when his Continental Army crossed the icy Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776, in a logistically challenging and dangerous operation. Benjamin Franklin called for prayer during the Constitutional Convention in July, 1787. Tempers flared and interests clashed as the delegates sought their respective goals. It was at this time Franklin offered his famous appeal for harmony and reconciliation, an appeal for God’s intervention.
Later in October, 1789, President Washington would say at his Thanksgiving proclamation, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” Colonials believed their newly established nations many freedoms were a direct gift from God.
President Abraham Lincoln was also aware of the benefits of prayer. It was his belief that, “it is the duty of nations as well as men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God.” At the most tumultuous period in his presidency, he found the dire need for supplication. Before the battle of Gettysburg, he turned to God in prayer. “I went to my room one day and I locked the door and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed to him mightily for victory at Gettysburg.”
Today the need for continuous and relentless prayer is greater than ever.
Our nation again faces spiritual warfare on all fronts pushing our citizens into drug abuse, gambling debt, bankruptcy and suicide, along with an epidemic of dysfunctional families, violence and dissension. Our leaders must bow their heads in prayer just as the great people did in the past to avoid plunging our nation into a certified death spiral. God has provided us with everything we need to win the spiritual confrontations, accentuating the awareness to know it, believe it and act upon it. It’s through prayer that we recognize and wield the weapons and wear the spiritual armor as described in Ephesians 6.
We must ask the Lord to bless our political and corporate trailblazers with wisdom and protection and to give us the fortitude to overcome the challenges that lay ahead. We pray that corporate leaders have insight to follow in God’s ways toward peace, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We pray for our national and local elected officials to heed God’s wisdom in their legislation, judgments and activities. We pray that each of us does our best in our efforts as we are striving to do God’s will.
Stephens City, Virginia
Couple marries again… for the first time
When California couple Ann Shulman and Steve Colwell needed a copy of their marriage license for a business transaction recently, they turned to the file cabinet where they kept their important documents–but it wasn’t amid their birth certificates or passports. No matter. Shulman sent off a letter to the state’s Vital Record Office requesting a copy, and expected its arrival in a matter of weeks.
What she received instead came as a shock: a certified copy of the pubic record of marriages in California dating from 1905—with no record of their May 5, 1991 wedding. There appeared to be no such union in Marin County or in the entire sunny state of California.
Which meant… they weren’t legally married? How to tell Colwell’s 93-year-old Catholic mother that they had been living in sin all these years? Or their two sons, James and Daniel, 23 and 21 respectively, that they were illegitimate?
In the end they decided to do the right thing: to get married again, for the first time—thirty years later to the day. This time the nuptials took place in Front Royal, VA, near Browntown, where Shulman’s family has owned a farm for 56 years. The bride wore her original wedding gown with cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat. They planned to honeymoon in Browntown.
In the pantheon of great American presidents, a few are always at the top. Lincoln usually comes to mind, then Washington, and Jefferson. In the 20th century, the president who makes every list is Franklin Roosevelt. What makes FDR interesting is that, unlike Lincoln, FDR was beloved in his own time. Because of the way he handled the Depression, it was not uncommon to see FDR’s picture hanging in homes in a place of honor. Don’t get me wrong. Some people had issues with this president, but most appreciated his efforts to relieve the nation’s pains. Yet there was one episode where he did receive rebuke from both sides of the political aisle and the population at large and that was his effort to pack the Supreme Court.
Here was the situation. When FDR took over the nation in 1932, we were in the midst of the greatest depression in our history. The president wanted to tackle as many problems as he could in his first 100 days (starting a precedent that has lasted till today). Many of his proposals became part of his alphabet programs like the WPA, AAA, TVA, and the CCC. One of his first and, it turned out, most controversial was the National Recovery Administration. The NRA, in an effort to reduce competition, created codes that did things like set prices. The problem for FDR was that in 1935 the Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional.
FDR, worried that more of his New Deal plans would be rejected by the courts, came up with a plan to get the courts on his side. He proposed adding a new judge for every member of the Court over the age of 70, which meant adding six new justices to the bench, enough to turn the tide of the court in his favor. He claimed the court was overworked and suggested the new justices could relieve some pressure. The problem was that most Americans and both sides of Congress saw it for what it really was, a power grab. Even though the Democrats held the majority in both houses of Congress, a vote for FDR’s measure failed. The failure was partly because one judge had begun voting for FDR’s programs, but also because the courts were seen as sacred and people feared FDR’s plan could destroy the separation of powers.
Constitutionally, FDR had the power to propose this court-packing scheme. As with many things, the Constitution is silent on the number of judges to the high court, simply saying in Article 3, Section 1: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which set up the Court with six judges. John Adams dropped it down to five, but then Jefferson brought it back to six and then later, when the Federalist judges did not die fast enough, he moved it to seven. Later Jackson added two more as the population grew and more judicial districts were needed. The Civil War saw some jumbling as Lincoln moved the number to ten, only to be reduced to seven by Andrew Johnson. Finally, under Grant the number was put to nine and since 1869 it has remained that way.
Now, in 2021 President Joe Biden is considering legislation to increase the number of justices for the first time since FDR. The president’s reasoning is that the Republicans have gained an unfair advantage with Trump’s three new justices. Democrats are still understandably upset at Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett after Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in his last year. However, though understandable, what the Republicans did was legal, if not morally, correct. What Biden is trying to do is no different than FDR, who wanted to make sure the courts agreed with him. If Clinton had won in 2016 and liberal-leaning judges controlled the court, there would be no call for equality in the court coming from Democratic camps.
I normally try to explain history, not solutions, but this is one area where I believe the Founders failed. Not that their system failed, but they could never have foreseen how partisan we have become.
Judges are supposed to follow the law, not a party. I would propose a new amendment to the Constitution that goes back to the original number, six, or maybe eight. With an even number, the new law would allow Republicans to choose four and the Democrats to choose four. If a judge dies, then the party of that judge gets to choose the new one. I know this sounds crazy, but with an even number justices will have to compromise over the law and not political leanings.
If Biden decided to, he might be able to pull off increasing the number of judges. Historically Speaking, however, he would need to be extremely careful. FDR won his second election by carrying all but two states before he tried something so daring. Biden does not have that same type of support. FDR, who was beloved, was seen as going for a power grab. Biden, who is nowhere nearly as loved, may not be able to survive the hit.
Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.