I lost my mother on the 1
Mama suffered from Alzheimers, and though she still remembered me—and things from the long ago—she knew or cared little about what was going on around her in the present. That included food. Never a big eater, shed recently stopped eating completely. I was in the process of getting hold of my brother (who lives out of town) to discuss whether or not we wanted to go with a feeding tube, but the morning after consulting with the nursing home regarding that option, I was wakened with a call from that facility and told Mama had been rushed to the hospital. Shed gone to sleep, and there in her dreams shed gone away. She had no intention of coming back.
Lola Mignon Gibson (Nonnie to her
family) was born on the 29
Unfortunately, and I think this is true of many of us, I did not develop a real interest in my ancestry until all the people who could talk to me about it were gone, but I have done a little research into where I came from.
Grandma Gibson, Mamas paternal grandmother, named her. Dubbing her granddaughter “Mignon” indicates a French origin—it means “small” or “petite” just like the steak. Now I know enough history to know France is a Catholic country and theres not a hint of Catholicism in our family history. But in a conversation dealing with the orgin of her name, Mama said her people (and she was talking Grandma Sallys) were French by decent. When I questioned Wooldridge not sounding very French she said it had been Anglicized. If either one of us had given it much thought at the time—and this was a lifetime ago—we’d have realized that Grandma Gibson was not a Wooldridge.
Wooldridge is actually a prolific English surname. Gibson, I have learned in my research of not only the family, but of the South and Mississippi, is a very good French Huguenot surname. The Huguenots were French Protestants primarily from Normandy, descended from the Vikings and linked to the Scots-Irish Protestants like blue eyes are linked genetically to red hair.
The Huguenots came early to the South—primarily to escape France, which was, as I stated earlier, full of Catholics—and they (in tandem with like minds among the Scots-Irish) often allied with Mother England—meaning the Brits footed the bill—in attempts to infringe on those “Catholic” Frenchmen, eyeing the lower Mississippi Valley for protection of its lucrative fur trade in the upper valley. English interest in the lower Mississippi is what drove French expansion into what is now Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. I dont know when the Gibsons arrived in Arkansas, but I do know roughly when Grandma Sally’s “distaff” side got there. This latter line, as it turns out, is particularly special to me, made all the more precious for its Mississippi link.
All my life Ive been the consummate “daddys girl”, but a few years ago I was on a quest for a Confederate ancestor. From word of mouth I knew he was back there (actually they were back there), but I had no concrete info as to who and where. I was searching the web one night for my ephemeral Confederate in Georgia where Charles Russells (Hip I called him, and he was my daddy) people hailed from. The Russells had come to the Georgia Up Country from “the Carolinas” and were characterized as happy, red-headed, blue-eyed Scotsmen. My great-grandfather, Hugh Henry (illiterate) wed Mary Price (who could read and write) in 1870 or 1871. She was quarter-blood Creek, though I have one cousin who seems to think she was Cherokee. The family passed through east Tennessee and with the Carolina connection, I wouldnt rule Cherokee out at this point, but the “Creek” information came from an aunt, which makes it one generation closer to the mix—pun intended.
My fathers mother was a “King”—her father being James Albert King. The Kings were septs (branch) of the clan McGregor, which was one of the first Highland clans removed during the Scottish clearances. Georgia was a penal colony and many Highlanders settled (or were settled) there. Im only speculating here—this branch of the family is murky, and theres little information on my branch of the Russell and King families documented on Ancestry or RootsWeb.com, but to make a long story short, on the night in question, I found hundreds of Russells and Kings in Georgias Confederate rolls, but I couldnt confirm my relationship to any one of those fine young men. Before turning off the computer for the night, I decided to take a quick look at Mamas side.
As it turned out, someone on her side had done quite a bit of research on the family (Ancestry.com). I found Sally Wooldridge and her father Hugh—I found his first wife, Grandma Sallys mother, Nancy Young—a name I had heard before. Turns out shed been born in Mississippi in 1870. Now that I hadnt heard, and as far as I know, Mama didnt know it either.
Then I found Nancys father, my great-great-grandfather, Phillip Sherrod Young, who had been born in Chester County South Carolina in November of 1840. His family immigrated to Pontotoc County Mississippi (along with a number of other Chester County residents) as pioneers in 1842 after Indian lands were opened to white settlers. He was two. In January of 1861 he wed Sarah Alabama McKeown the daughter of another such family. The Scots-Irish McKeowns had immigrated to South Carolina from County Antrim in Ulster, Northern Ireland in the early 18th century.
Sarah and Phillips first baby was born in December of 1861. Their second baby didnt arrive until March 1866—eleven months after Appomattox. Seven more babies arrived over the next 14 years—births in the case of babies number 3 and 4 occurred only 10 months after babies two and three. From that evidence, I deduced two things—there was a virile daddy and a fertile mama and they seemed to like each other. And the lack of babies between 1861 and 1866? Im sure you’ve jumped to the same conclusion I did. Daddy wasnt there.
I knew I had my Confederate, I just needed to confirm him in the rolls—which I did many weeks later, in the roster of Company G, Pontotoc County Volunteers, Third Battalion, Mississippi Infantry, Confederate States Army.
Phillip and Sarahs baby following my great grandmother was born in Arkansas in 1873. That period encompassing 1870-1873 comprises three of the darkest years of Reconstruction in Mississippi. I do not know that adverse conditions drove the family from the state, but I do know the Youngs appear to have thrived in Arkansas.
My “reputedly” handsome French Huguenot-descended granddaddy (Mamas father) disappeared during the 1927 flood, apparently hoping everyone would believe him drowned—a ruse that did not fool Grandma Sally or her daddy, Hugh Wooldridge. Fed Gibson had abandoned his wife and four daughters for another woman. Mama was three. With the help of her family—both the Wooldridges and the Gibsons, devastated by their sons betrayal—Sally Gibson raised her four daughters alone.
Despite Granddaddy Gibsons perfidy, Mignon Gibson Russell came from great stock. Combine her blood lines with those of my dads and, it turns out a microcosm of the Southern populace flows through my veins.
I am very proud of those credentials.
This past week I began Hillsdale College's second course series on the U.S. Constitution titled "The Progressive Rejection of the Founding and the Rise of Bureaucratic Despotism" also known as Constitution 201. I have a great deal of respect for Hillsdale College, an independent liberal arts college located in rural Michigan. My admiration stems from the school's rejection of all federal monies, thereby refusing to compromise its values and principles, which mirror my own. Founded in 1844, Hillsdale is an old school with, from what I've been able to ascertain from photographs, a beautiful, quaint campus and small student body. If I were to find fault, the only one I could muster to date is its admiration for Abraham Lincoln, which apparently extends back, well, to the days of Lincoln.
But I don't fault Hillsdale for that, the school is, afterall, located in Michigan; and if I displayed malice toward everyone who admired Lincoln, I'd spend my life bent out of shape. For the most part, if I can't come up with a good reason for arguing a point regarding the man (by that I mean, if I think I might actually accomplish something), I keep my mouth shut. But some injustices I simply can't ignore.
One such occurred in Hillsdale President Dr. Larry Arnn's introduction to Constitution 201. Dr. Arnn alluded to the seeds (at least some of them) of progressivism in the United States as having been sown in the Confederacy. He based this thought on two tenants of American progressivism: rejection of the nation's founding principles and the use of science as a liberal tool for the "betterment" of all mankind.
To support the argument, Dr. Arnn referenced the speech made by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens on March 21, 1861 in Savannah, Georgia citing the subordination of the Negro race as a corner-stone of Confederate society. Vice President Stevens stated modern science "proved" the Negro genetically inferior to the white man. I'm certainly not agreeing with Vice President Stevens or any of the other hundreds of thousands of people who agreed with that "finding" at the time. What I find umbrage with is the use of Stevens' speech defending slavery as indicative of "progressive" thought in the South.
For two hundred years before Stevens made that speech, slavery had thrived in the British colonies and had been justified using the same opinion Stevens espoused even without the "proof" of science.
More disturbing to me is the challenge that Stevens was speaking "in opposition to the equality principle of the American founding." Based on the evidence presented, opposition to the "founding" existed from the start. To add insult to injury, Dr. Arnn made no reference to the Republican Party's gross disregard for the Constitution in its subjegation of the South and its subsequent, purposeful destruction of the checks and balances critical to the survival of the Federal Republic established by our founders under said Constitution.
Now, I don't consider myself a sophisticated person. I'm not particularly well versed in political terminology, but for me the term "liberal" (synonomous with "progressive") conjurs up an individual who believes everyone should be equally successful and that government should ensure that success through regulation and wasteful expenditure of other people's money. My money. Hillsdale's introduction to Frank Goodnow's (American Political Sciences Association) paper titled "The American Conception of Liberty" echoes this concept of a liberal. The intro states, "Progressive political science was based on the assumption that society could be organized in such a way that social ills would disappear."
Now, let's think back. What is considered the great social ill on the day Vice President Stevens made that speech? Oh yes, slaveryat least it was to those not in the South. Personally, I think the "liberal" Republicans would have done well to focus that energy relieving society's ills on the North's factories, orphanages, and sweatshops, but then I don't buy the Civil War having been about slavery, either.
The equality principle referenced, of course, is found in the Declaration of Independence"...all Men are created equal,..." It didn't matter that the clause was written by a Southerner and slave owner and that the Declaration was signed by a number of slaveowners who risked their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor so that our nation would win its independence. It doesn't take a genius to figure out there's a disconnect here and there always will be. The point I want to make is this particular "equality" principle was missing in the Constitution, and it is the Republicans'/Lincoln's bizarre adherence to the Declaration of Independence's taking precedence over the Constitution as this nation's founding document that excuses the Republicans' subsequest violations of the Constitution and destruction of the republic that to this day they are credited with saving.
I argue, as the South has for, gosh, two centuries now, that The Declaration is the document by which we informed King George we were opting out of his empire. The Constitution, written eleven years later, with the Articles of Confederation sandwiched in between, is the document, ratified by thirteen sovereign states, that formed the Federal Republic of the United States of Americaunder a limited central govenment, its powers granted by the consent of the governed through powers delegated by their sovereign states. It is the document our founders designed specifically to keep in check the anticipated growth of what would become, by its very nature, a large, all-powerful central government. Note that it is a large, all-powerful govenment that is critical for carrying out a liberal agenda. Equality, validated in the Declaration, formed one of the tenants of the Republican Partynot because it cared about each individual, but because representative government wasn't working for it. Sovereign states, which could counter the overreach of the central government, got in the way of its "liberal" agenda.
I've always heard it argued that the concessions made to the slave states during the writing of the Constitution were done so the Southern states would ratify it. Darn rightwe played the major role in writing the thing. If the Northern, non-slave holding states did not agree with the Constitution, they shouldn't have ratified it. They could have written their own Constitution, instead of desecrating ours. It was a bad marriage from the start with one partner, in bad faith, determined to change the other.
For eighty years the South was the bulwark against the proponents of strong central government and the tyranny of democracy over representative govenment. The most damaging attack made against the republic was that made to representative government 150 years ago by Lincoln's Republican Party. That's where the seeds of liberalism were sown, not in the Confederacy. That group of Republican tyrants created a fertile field, which continues to put forth its ever-increasing bounty of crop-choking weeds to this day. The party doesn't matter. What matters is the restraints are gone.
You want to promote the South for laying the foundation for "liberal progressivism"? Well, maybe we do deserve the blame. We lost the War.
Thanks for reading,
Ive recently pulled out my fifth novel set in Mississippi, a historical mystery/suspense set during Presidential Reconstruction (1865-1866) in Claiborne County. I completed the first draft and a series of tweaks to Camellia Creek before Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast back in 2005, and I hadnt looked at it since. In the interim, I established Loblolly Writers House and published my first four novels in all formats. I continue my struggle for effective marketing. This blog is a recent aberration of the latter; another is Twitter, which I hope will direct interested readers to my blog and my novels.
Regarding Twitter (the blog looms before you), Im growing followers. Mostly I attract and am attracted to Twitterers of a like mind. Just the other day, one such follower mentioned we should be following the opposition if we want to start a dialogue. I think she made a good point, and Im for enlightening discussion (140 characters a quip, however, does require some innovation), but I dont think I want to give up people of like minds either.
My work is decidedly pro-South and therefore politically incorrect. I believe the South was right for all the right reasons, and to point out those reasons, I dont have to look farther than the Constitution, the soul of this Federal Republic. The Souths losing the War Between the States proved a devastating blow, not only to the region, but to the Republic itself.
This brings me to the provocation that sparked this blog post. Ive noted, and replied to, more than one of my fellow Tea Party followers regarding their 140-character tweets meant to, I think, malign the Democratic Party and its racist history while praising the Republicans for championing equality—hence, vote Republican against Obama in November. I can come up with lots of reasons to vote against Obama, and the Republicans are my only real alternative; I dont need naïve and/or revisionist history to sway me.
The Tea Party champions the rights of the taxpayer within the framework of the Constitution; at least thats how this Tea Party supporter interprets its purpose. References supportive of the Republicans of Lincolns day (and the administrations immediately following his death) while blatantly maligning the Democrats of that same time period miss the point, not to mention those tidbits of history tossed out in tweets are usually taken out of context or confused with later history, and when challenged, the tweeter can offer no valid reference. Okay, maybe he can cite what hes seen on contemporary television or read on Wikipedia. Not one offered me even those.
I take issue with offenses cited between 1865 and 1876. This period is the setting for more than one of my books, and its one about which I have a good laymans knowledge. I wont try to mislead you; I look at that most disgraceful period in our nations history from the Southern taxpayers point of view. That was a time when the defeated Southerner across the war-ravaged South, couldnt fight his way through mobs of non-taxpayers to the polling booth, assuming there was a candidate worthy of his vote even allowed on the ballot. That was true even if he had sworn allegiance to the United States and regained his vote (the ex post facto deprivation of which was unconstitutional to begin with). For yearsover a decade in some states and Mississippi was onethe downtrodden taxpayer was not represented in his legislature or in Washington, and puppet governments squandered the revenues critical to the Souths recovery.
For those who delve back in time, and Tea Partiers do, look at Reconstruction not necessarily from a Southerner’s point of view, but as an American through the prism of the Constitution, because thats the period when States touting loyalty to the Union abrogated their responsibility to not only the Constitution but also themselves by ceding unprecedented power to a Federal government flush with victory, drunk on power, and poisoned by the hate-filled greed of the Radical Republicans. Power never recovered by the States, freedom forever lost. For Tea Partiers to tacitly extol the virtues of the Republicans by maligning the Democrats of that period is oxymoronic.
Personally, if the objective is to represent the contemporary Republican Party as supportive of the taxpayer and the Tea Party, it would be prudent, in my opinion, to leave the Republicans dubious rise to power one-hundred and fifty years ago out of the justification.
My husband and I filed our federal income tax this past April, on schedule, a remarkable feat considering this middle class family owed in excess of $25,000 dollars. Yep, $25,000+. Thats in addition to the $29,000+ we’d already had withheld from our pay or paid into 2011 quarterly “estimated tax.” And by “paid on schedule” I mean we paid the IRS. The money to ward those sharks off still has to be paid back to the credit card we’d just gotten out from under. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with those people—I tell them how much I can afford to pay each month, then they look at my finances and tell me how much I will pay each month. That’s the point where I’d have been arrested for sedition.
The whys and wherefores of our April shocker aren’t really relative to the point I want to make. Suffice it to say a modest inheritance, early dipping into a retirement account for needed farm equipment, and contract work amounting to another forty-hour plus work week pushed us, without our realizing it, into a higher income bracket. Our actually buying a few items we’d been putting off, for years, and doing things we’d always wanted to do, but had been reluctant to spend money on, should have raised the red flag. It didnt. We won’t make that mistake again. We need to stay home, drive dilapidated automobiles, and jury rig everything that goes wrong in this house and let our grown kids—who can’t make ends meet—go on welfare instead of trying to help them.
What we really need to do is quit working and draw social security—early. But I’m sure there’s a hitch there, too.
I’m ranting now and getting farther off point. Our taxes were, according to the law, legitimate and have been paid. But it’s less about paying an exorbitant amount like that in one fell swoop than it is about the way the politicians in Washington waste our money without making any effort to cut back. It’s about how taxpayers are the ones who are threatened with a felony conviction for failure to pay enough while someone who doesn’t even file gets hit with a misdemeanor. The IRS goes after responsible people who are paying taxes, no matter how little they have or what they need it for. But the real question is this: Why do people who pay no income tax vote? They shouldn’t. They didn’t when this nation was founded. Only those with a vested interest (property) paid taxes, and they were the ones who had the right to vote. I’m not saying we should return to the days of the landed gentry, but allowing people who pay no federal income tax and share the benefits of, even going as far as live off, those who do is tantamount to thieving politicians buying votes with the taxpayers’ money. Votes that now outnumber the taxpayer. Yeah, speaking about paying “their fair share,” how about the fifty percent of the population that pays nothing at all? They’re the ones failing to do their part. I don’t want the rich to pay more. Jiminy—I think in 2011 I must be considered among the rich. And I ain’t rich, folks.
I highlight this point in my novel Wolf Dawson, the setting of which is late Congressional Reconstruction following the Souths loss in the War Between the States. In the book, I reference a rebellion that occurred in Warren County, Mississippi in 1874 when its tax-payer league arrested a crooked sheriff (under indictment in New York for malfeasance before he ever arrived in Mississippi) and ran him out of the county. The incident ended in bloodshed and ultimately the arrival of Phil Sheridan with federal troops and the reinstatement of the crooked parties, but marshal law in Mississippi was not reinstated and with the election the following year, tax-paying Mississippians won back their state and the Republicans scurried north like cockroaches scramble for cover when the lights turn on. Truth is, Mississippians had kept cockroaches out of the state (I’m speaking metaphorically here. We’ve got plenty of cockroaches in Mississippi and always have had) until they lost the War, at which time the occupying Republicans invited them in and kept them—and themselves—well-heeled with tax-payer’s dollars. Taxpayers, I should add, who were not allowed to vote. Today Americans, even many Southerners forget that crucial point. The taxpayer was not allowed to vote. Even after returning Confederate soldiers swore allegiance to the United States and were reinstated as citizens, they couldn’t “fight” their way to the polling booth, so don’t even go there with me.
Now go back another century to Sam Adams and cohorts who dressed up like Indians and poured British tea into Boston harbor. Same thing. No vote, no tax (vice versa in our case here). It’s one of the basic tenants of this nation. Universal suffrage is not. Universal suffrage is a politician’s way of putting into place an electorate that will put and keep him in power while he, his ilk, and his constituents steal, then squander the taxpayers’ money (buying more votes).
A flat tax is necessary to capture the fifty percent of Americans who are not paying federal income tax.
No tax, no vote.
Thanks for listening to me vent,