If you prefer safe and sterile, quiet and predictable, one should avoid a candidate forum, like one conducted on June 2nd, in Casper, by Libertysplace4u. Organizers of the event prefer rough and tumble when liberty and freedom breakout. One reporter covering the event described it as a “raucous forum” marked by heckling, insults, yelling and lack of decorum, at the Hilton Garden Inn. It drew candidates from Natrona County running for GOP elected office, ranging from the Coroner, to our embroiled Assessor, who sparked a toxic debate on property taxes, with more finger pointing than solutions, legislative hopefuls, and would-be gubernatorial candidates, trying to distinguish themselves from their opponents, where sharp elbows often prevail.
Like any public event with a crowd of more than 150 passionate and opinionated citizens, co-mingled with politics, one should expect ruffled feathers and bruised egos. In the end, voters are better informed, ready to vote in the Wyoming GOP primary. Intoxication of self interest distorts sensibility, reason and deference to others in the room. No “safe spaces” in liberty.
Whenever liberty and freedom break out anywhere, expect untidy, where tempers flare and civility quickly evanesce in the heat of the moment. Libertysplace4U founders contend for advancing virtuous liberty, at the risk of raucous moments, loss of tranquility and grazed feelings. We’re convinced it’s worth it. Purist disagree, offering instead, predictability and insular gatherings, without risk.
Our nation’s political history’s punctuated by yelling, heckling, and in some cases, fisticuffs, with eye gouging for good measure, or dueling. Politicians have long understood that mankind’s reason will do all it can, while his passion and prejudice do more than can be expected, given his proclivity to zealous self preservation at nearly any cost. Our Founding Fathers sought those whose self-interest was in check, to the extent possible. Many of our Founders understood the biblical account of man’s condition, absent redemption by Christ. Yet, man’s capable of both the great and despicable. Still he’s capable of mischief and self-interest, under certain provocations.
Daniel Webster, stated his commitment “against everything which, in his judgment, may weaken, endanger, or destroy the Constitution.” He too knew of the fragility of liberty and “the dangers of good intentions.” Further, he argued, “There will be men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good master, but they mean to be masters.” Lying, cheating, self aggrandizement, as a play book by some, then and now, was what Jefferson must’ve had in mind when he warned, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
Our forming Republic in the 18th and 19th century was marked by partisan warfare, according to a 2021, book, “The Age of Acrimony: How American’s Fought to Fix Their Democracy.” Grinspan chronicles the struggle to save our Republic, and warfare is a fair word describing the battles since 1779. In 1910, influential Kansas journalist, Willam Allen White wrote, “The real danger of a democracy is that we will get drunk on it.” His warning of the intoxicating potential of politics came at a turning point, just as raucous politics of the 1800’s were sobering up, into the more temperate style of 20th century America.” Since our Founding, divisiveness of politics remains.
The most infamous floor brawl in the House of Representative erupted as members debated the Kansas Territory pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution late into the night of February 5-6 in 1858. Shortly before 2AM, Pennsylvania GOP Galusha Grow and South Caroliina Democrat Laurence Keith, first exchanged insults, then fisticuffs. In an instant the House was in total chaos, according to the “Congressional Globe.” More than 30 members joined in the fight. Speaker James Orr, South Carolina Democrat, gaveled furiously for a return to order, and ordered the Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest non-compliant members. Wisconsin GOP members John “Bowie knife” Potter and Cadwallader Washburn, ripped the hairpiece from the head of William Barksdale, Democrat from Mississippi. After donnybrook, once calmed, the hall broke into laughter and jeers. Two days later Kansas joined the Union in 1861, as a free state.
President Trump was excoriated for “mean tweets” and crude street talk. Today many recoil at the incivility in 2022. We have nothing on antebellum congressman. Three decades before the War between the States, House and Senate members often threatened each other with violence, and often acted on it too. They faced off in duels. Fired shots in Congress, and they beat each other senseless with canes. In total, from 1830 to 1860, at least 80 acts of physical violence was documented, in a revealing book by Joanne B. Freeman, “The Field of Blood.” When Congress was unable to solve the problem of slavery without resorting to violence, she argues, war became the only option.
Take the 1838 duel between Jonathon Cilley, Democrat from Massachusetts, and William Graves, a Whig from Kentucky. The duel emerged after James Webb, a Whig editor from New York, charged Cilley, and by extension all Democrats, with corruption. Cilley demanded an apology. Webb refused, and challenged Cilley to a duel. It was beneath the dignity of congressman to duel lowly journalists, so Graves, a fellow Whig, stepped in for Webb. Neither wanted to duel, according to Freeman, who wrote, “But both parties were egging them on.” On February 24, 1838, Grave’s bullet killed Cilley instantly. Everyone was shocked; most angry. Another Democrat later wrote, that he was proud of Cilley for facing death with “an unflinching eye.” Such untidy moments as these are glaring.
In 1842, Edward Black, a proslavery representative from Georgia, threatened to linch an antislavery congressman of Ohio, for challenging the gag rule, then attacked him with a cane when he refused to stop. A year later, according to Freeman, John Dawson a proslavery Louisiana congressman, threatened to cut the throat of another rule breaker calling him “a damned coward and damned blackguard.” Two of the five most violent brawls happened during the gag rule period, instigated by southerners. Between 1855 and 1858, 52 people were murdered in Kansas, 36 of them antislavery advocates, and 5 of them proslavery diehards killed by John Brown. That, according to Freeman, was before his raid on Harper’s Ferry, where 16 were killed in the raid.
Politics is a full-contact sport. Machiavelli clarified, “Politics have no relation to morals.” Napoleon Bonaparte remarked, “The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of good people.” John Adams and Thomas Jefferson stood together in America’s perilous dawn. But politics soon divided them. Yet in their twilight years the two old adversaries began a remarkable correspondence that’s a testimony to the power of friendship and principles of liberty, transcending politics. Both used words like a sword, leaving open wounds. However, the two came to embody the American political dialogue. Both died on July 4, 1826, within five hours of each other. Providential?
Thomas Paine warned of “The summer soldier and sunshine patriot.” Is liberty self-perpetuating? Does individual liberty continue without an external force? What if one or two generations ignore the principles of liberty? How long would it take for liberty to evanesce? Fret not over who gets their egos bruised, or feathers ruffled over a nasty comment in the heat of passionate exchange. Inconvenient? Reject “Let’s be reasonable” and the voices of the malevolent, who fear to join this generation of patriots, willing to cross swords, when necessary, fight for liberty and freedom. There’s a meme for a smiley face, and one for vomit.
Constitutional liberty demands a force behind it equal to, or greater than, the object itself. That’s the physics of liberty. It becomes increasingly clear, that the ruling impulse of tyranny won’t be thwarted by dormancy, denial, fear of discomfort, or sappy milquetoast words, when engaging in the rough and tumble public square of ideas. We ask tough questions like, “What if the mantle of liberty rested solely upon our shoulders?” What would it look like? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a resident of Natrona County, and a voice of Liberty’splace4uwy.com His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org