Saturday, April 18, 2009

Is it Texas Uber Alles, Governor?

by Norman Markowitz

A few years ago I was giving a lecture before a group of students about U.S. Presidents and wars of aggression. After I had dealt with James K. Polk and the Mexican-American war, a student asked me if I would give up the conquests of the war, the contemporary U.S. Southwest. I said, as a joke, that I would never give up California, Arizona, Nevada, or New Mexico, but would think about Texas.Now the Republican Governor, Rick Perry (no relation to the best of my knowledge to Commodore Matthew Perry, who fought in the Mexican War and is best known for "opening Japan to the West" aka threatening the Japanese with a naval attack and having them sign an agreement opening trade) has mentioned the possibility of re-examining Texas relationship to the Union before group of rightwing yahoos straight out of central casting (not the internet search engine) shouting "secede" according to the press.

First let me present some relevant history before I address Perry's nonsense the way hipsters used to address political nonsense half a century ago-with counternonesense.

Texas slaveholders rebelled against Mexico after Mexico abolished slavery, in part because the Mexican government sought to gain protection and support from the British Empire which had abolished slavery in its colonies in the early 1830s, since it was no longer profitable.

The administration of Andrew Jackson, slaveholder, nationalist and expansionist, looked toward the annexation of Western territories, including Texas, whose leader, Sam Houston, was a Jackson protege from Tennessee.But Jackson feared the power of the British Empire, which he had fought as a teenager in the revolutionary war. Another Jackson protege, James k\K. Polk, carried forward Westward expansion by annexing Texas and provoking a war with Mexico over the Texas Mexican border.

Polk's real aim was to purchase California and he ordered General Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed territory in the hope that war would break out when the attempt to purchase California failed. The U.S. won a sweeping victory--not only was the U.S. more advanced than Mexico but the Mexican land barons could not mobilize the masses of indigenous people living under their heel to fight against the Americans.

Texas entered the Union as a slave state after abolitionists failed in their campaign in Congress to have a resolution, the Wilmot Proviso, attached to any treaty ending the war that would bar slavery from all annexed territory. Texas joined the slaveholder's confederacy and fought against the Republic during the Civil War, although, to be fair, Sam Houston sided with the union and there was significant opposition to the slaveholders power in the state then, just as there is significant opposition to the oil and natural gas corporations power in the state today.

Governor Perry and his GOP friends should know that the union won the civil (under the leadership of Republicans who talked about hanging secessionists)and that the fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States established national citizenship and its supremacy over the states That settled the question of secession for all states. If one wishes to take him seriously, whatever conditions real or imagined by Governor Perry which prevailed when Texas entered the union through the machinations of a slaveholder President have not prevailed since 1866. Neither have there been any slaveholder Presidents since the fall of the Confederacy

Unless Perry and his friends could convince the Congress of the United States to voluntarily support such a secession, it would be an act of treason and it would be the duty of the U.S. government to use our 500 billion plus military to smash the secession, occupy Texas, and begin its reconstruction so that it could be re-admitted to the Union. Repealing the "right to work law" abolishing the death penalty, drawing representative electoral districts and making anger management a required school course might be some of the conditions for re-admitting Texas to the union

Now for some some counternonesense to Perry's nonesense in the form of leading questions. Since the plantations of some of the leading confederates were confiscated and turned over to the slaves (this was done only in a very very limited way, but the best example was the confiscation of Confederate President Jefferson Davis lands in Mississippi) should not the U.S. army confiscate the assests of the the oil and natural gas interests and make those assets public property, to compensate the American people not only for the cost of occupation but also for what these companies have done to the U.S. for so long? Should all the military industries in the state face nationalization for supporting the Perry secession?

Should the sordid history of business corruption and racist abuse directed against Mexican-Americans and African Americans among others, the dishonor that Texas has brought to the United States for so long for its championing of the death penalty lead to economic and political war criminals trials--a sort of judgment at El Paso?

Or should Texas be allowed to leave the union and become a buffer state between the United States and Mexico (with the U.S. of course controlling the oil)? Perhaps Texas could then become a neutral, a Switzerland of the Western Hemisphere? Since Commodore Perry in the
1850s suggested to the State Department that the U.S. attempt to establish sovereignty over Formosa as a way to can access to the China market and General Asian Trade, perhaps some bold leader might suggest trading Texas to China for Taiwan? However, it should be made clear to Perry (the Governor, not the late Commodore) that Texas slavery will under no circumstances be restored.

What is so wacky about this is that Perry appears to think, from the press commentary, that he can make some political capital out of such a statement. If he can, then he and his supporters deserve each other. As for President Obama, enemies like this should bring him many more friends among post nineteenth century Americans (or, for Perry and his friends, post-bellum Americans).

Perhaps Perry's statement was a ploy to encourage more respect for the intelligence of another Texan, GW Bush, at least by comparison. If our readers have any answers or questions for Perry, please send them in.