Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thoughts On the Civil War and What Precipitated It...

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Purveyor of Truth


Over at Contra O'Reilly Will Hart has been running a interesting series on the Civil War and what the primary causes were. Historians continue to disagree with the root, or primary causes. However it is generally accepted among knowledgeable and unbiased experts that slavery had very little to do with the onset of the War Between the States. Causes were primarily economic and constitutional. Will, in his posts has done a good job of pointing this out with supporting documentation.

This site offers the following, a July 2013 article by David Hirsch in support of Will Hart's arguments. Arguments this site wholly concurs with.
Arthur Hirsch's recent article about the Battle of Gettysburg reveals a disturbing ignorance of the political dynamics that brought this nation to a war that 150 years later remains the most cataclysmic event in our history ("A defining day relived," July 2).

It accepts the shallow but unchallenged premise that the Civil War occurred because slavery was practiced in the South, and that righteous resolve to abolish the institution left the U.S. with no option other than a resort to arms. This is a myopic view with which many historical facts simply cannot be reconciled.

The war resulted from causes unrelated to slavery and abolition. It was entirely a consequence of the Southern states' secession, which occurred despite the undeniable fact that the slave states could not have hoped for better protection of slavery than that afforded by the U. S. Constitution — provided they remained in the Union.

Both Lincoln and the slaveholders well knew in 1860 that a constitutional amendment ending slavery would never be mathematically feasible. But Lincoln further understood that the South was gravitating toward secession as the remedy for a different grievance altogether: The egregiously inequitable effects of a U. S. protective tariff that provided 90 percent of federal revenue.

Foreign governments retaliated for it with tariffs of their own, and payment of those overseas levies represented the cost to Americans of their U. S. government. Southerners were generating two-thirds of U. S. exports, and also bearing two-thirds of the retaliatory tariffs abroad.

The result was that that the 18.5 percent of America's citizens who lived in the South were saddled with three times their proportionate share of the federal government's costs.

Campaigning At New York's Cooper Union, Lincoln, arguing for unlimited federal control of slavery in America's territories, seduced his audience with research disclosing how 21 of the 39 Signers of the Constitution, by joining elsewhere in various other acts of legislation that awarded this territorial authority to the U. S. government, revealed that delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention included a clear majority whose intent had in fact been that this authority be granted to the federal government.

But in 1860, the overriding issue of the day was not slavery in the territories: it was secession. And when addressed in this latter context, Lincoln's same research undeniably proves there had been majority intent among delegates to the 1787 Convention that each state was to retain a permanent right of exit. Ten of Lincoln's foregoing 21 Signers represented slave states. Absent a retained secession option, not one of them would have signed a Constitution that empowered the U. S. to prohibit territorial slavery. Alone, the Northwest Territory represented the potential in 1787 for five new non-slave states, which would promptly have reduced the Old South to just one-third of eighteen total states: and the Constitution they were crafting was to permit any amendment that was opposed by only one-quarter of the states — including one that could abolish slavery if six more non-slave states were thereafter admitted. Lincoln could not have failed to recognize that the Signers had been in agreement upon a right to secede, without which no constitution would have gelled at all. Accordingly, secession remained in 1860 a right both legal and honorable.

In the face of all these considerations, Lincoln could have proposed a Southern slave emancipation reciprocated by sweeping federal fiscal reform that would replace the protective tariff with a nationwide income tax. Instead, Lincoln's remedy was the catastrophic one that denied Southerners their exit by military force: which represented exercise of a federal authority conspicuously absent from the all-inclusive list of powers granted by the Constitution to the U. S. government. Such a transformative quid-pro-quo may or may not have proven achievable. But in as much as it was not even attempted, no Gettysburg visitor should ever be led to believe that the Civil War objective of the U.S. was anything other than preservation of its protective tariff in the Old South.

Thank you Will for opening up the discussion over at your place. I'm relatively confident that this age old discussion will likely never be settled.

47 comments:


  1. "However it is generally accepted among knowledgeable and unbiased experts that slavery had very little to do with the onset of the War Between the States."


    That in itself is a biased statement. Have you or Hart conducted a scientific poll on this to back that up? Who are the "experts?" Nothing in that statement is backed up by evidence, so until I see that a majority of experts in American Civil War history believe it, I take that as merely opinion.

    I can offer this link as a counter-argument to the statement.

    And this as well:

    The Civil War was a culmination of confrontations concerning the institution of slavery.

    To claim slavery had "very little" to do with the Civil War is ignoring history, or at the very least, cherry-picking events to support that supposition.

    It would be like claiming the American Revolution had nothing to do with overthrowing British Rule and Independence, and was only fought over unfair taxation.

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    1. Ah, cherry picking, the age old fall back. My response... There is cherry picking all around. Good when progressive historians do it, bad when consevatives do. Laughable from any pers
      pective really. But it is what it is.

      Shaw, I was a history major. Admittedly that was 40 years ago but the posistions I studied were in agreement that economics and states right were the major issues. I find no reason to think otherwise now.

      As I said, there remains debate among scholars even to this day. Likely it will continue. That is a good thing, in so long as the discussion remains honest and opinions of both arguments are respected.

      Should I find time I could find and present other links to support the posistion both Will and I put forth.But what would the point be? Nothing we might document will change your mind, right?

      It was was what, 154 years ago? And still it is being discussed and debated.

      Really, my point...

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    2. Shaw, did you ever take an introductory history course in college? If you did and you still have the textbook, I challenge to go back and read the chapter on the events leading up to the civil war (which was almost fought 30 years earlier - President Jackson having sent the soldiers down to South Carolina - over tariffs). I would be astonished if you found that the author said that it was fought predominantly over slavery. a) Lincoln pledged in his inaugural speech to support the Corwin Amendment and to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act (which would have been null and void once the South seceded). b) Lincoln threatened to invade the South if the South refused to pay the tariffs that had been more than doubled by the Morrill Tariff Act of 1860. c) Congress in 1861 (July 22nd) said that the North had no intention of interfering with any of the South's "institutions" and would in fact cease hostilities once the Confederate states re-entered the Union. d) The Emancipation Proclamation essentially codified slavery in the northern and border states (Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri), many sections of West Virginia, and in all of the conquered territories of the Confederacy (New Orleans and other sections of Louisiana) and promised to restore it in the Confederate states if they simply returned. e) Of the 105 southern Congressmen, only 1 voted for the Morrill Tariff Act of 1860. f) In HIS inaugural address, Jefferson Davis spoke at great lengths about the tariff (so, too, John C. Calhoun) and it was obviously a huge bone of contention with him. f) There was initially very little support for war with the South (and, yes, this included hundreds of newspapers and even a great many abolitionists) and it was only when Lincoln maneuvered the South into firing first that the public opinion started to change (and even then Lincoln still needed the draft - so much for Lincoln believing in freedom). I'm sorry, Shaw, but you are very superficial on this issue and Les is spot on.

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    3. RN: When there are cherries here the size of pumpkins, they will be picked. The cherrypicking claims are merely some sort of evasion, anyway... you will notice that the "cherrypicking!" retorts contain nothing in the way of refutation.

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    4. Miss Shaw knows what she knows, and NOTHING you -- or any lousy pre-1960's history book says -- is EVER going to change her mind. She -- like ALL leftists -- KNOWS what "RIGHT," and RIGHT must PREVAIL no matter how many lies, half-truths and distortions must be told -- or how many MILLIONS must DIE -- to achieve whatever "CORRECTION" the left deems "necessary, right and proper" to IMPOSE on this fractious world.

      This, of course, will be interpreted as an endorsement of slaver on my part, which of course it is not, but the Left will brook no disagreement, no questioning of motives, and no opposition whatever to what-they-regard-as their Sacred Agenda.

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    5. With all due respect FreeThink Shaw and the rest of the liberal set certainly do not have a monopoly on "Sacred Agenda."

      "Sacred Agenda" is alive and well over at the RNC, NRA, Freedom Works just to name three. Rampant partisanship is an equal opportunity affliction and does not discriminate.

      I guess we all know what we know and once we know it we seem to stop considering any other information.

      I wise man once told me long ago, or maybe I read it, but whichever it is true... The older we get the more we find out how much we don't know.

      Anyway, I'll hold to my position on this post and thread, after all there is so much given to interpretation. Isn't there?

      We humans are a curious species indeed. Wouldn't you agree FT?

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  2. I don't even know where to begin. As a student of history, I can tell you that that tariffs had nothing to do with it. The British import tariff (I assume that's the tariff he's talking about) was far lower by the time of the Civil War than in earlier years.

    Nullification and secession were directly tied to slavery, so this guy is just clueless. Just making it up as he goes.

    JMJ

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    1. Well, if ya don't know where to begin check back in when you pick your point.

      As a history major I can tell you economic realities and states rights were the major driving forces. Slavery, while in the mix, was not a primary.

      Check out Contra O'Reily, read all his entry posts on the subject and check in later.

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    2. With the caveat that I majored in physical chemistry and minored in plant physiology and radiation physics, I am a history buff, we note that historians attempt to interpret events in the context of the time of those events. For us at this vantage point to put any spin of
      our own political philosophy into such interpretation tends to negate the proper, IMO, list
      of many causes for the Civil War. Here's my philosophical spin: most libertarians are
      simplycopperhead sympathizers, perhaps for different reasons, but our choices seem to be Union, Confederate or Copperhead.

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    3. With the caveat that I'm a philosophy buff, I prefer to view my issues in that light. Probably right about as often as I am wrong.

      But who's counting?

      Copperheads indeed.

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    4. No, Jersey, YOU are clueless. The Morrill Tariff Act of 1860 more that doubled the tariff rate from 15% to 37.5% and it also included numerous new items which fell disproportionately on the South. And if in fact it wasn't a huge factor, then why in the hell did Lincoln threaten to invade the South if they didn't collect it? Read a book, man!

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  3. No serious student or scholar of history believes that, Les.

    JMJ

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    1. Martin Kelly, the top five causes for the civil war.

      The Top Five:

      1). Economic and social differences between the North and the South.
      2). States versus federal rights.
      3). The fight between Slave and Non-Slave State Proponents.
      4). Growth of the Abolition Movement.
      5). The election of Abraham Lincoln.

      This list is in agreement with the profs I had 40 years ago. But hey jmj, no serious person believes it. Besides I'm a fossil right dude?

      Have a good evening.

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    2. Slavery seems to be the common thread in Kelly's top five. If my NCAA brackets so far are any indication, you don't have to take me seriously, though!

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    3. Fair enough BB Idaho, fair enough.

      Interpretations, historians will continue to differ, the issues were complex, and each generational revision (perhaps based more on politics and PC than anything else) will yield new insights maybe. Or, political and or social indoctrination. Who knows. I'll continue to stand by my understanding and position. Cause it really don''t matter to me as it ain't gonna affect then price of a rack of lamb and a fine burgundy.

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    4. It makes people feel better about American history to pretend the institution of slavery was not the main cause of the Civil War, but when you look at all the causes, slavery is the constant factor, even regarding tariffs. We can pretend otherwise all we like, parse and hedge and separate the facts, but in the end, no serious student of history or historian thinks slavery was not the number one cause of the Civil War.

      JMJ

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  4. " My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that." Abraham Lincoln August 22, 1862 Letter to Horace Greeley, Editor of the NY Tribune.

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    1. "Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VIII, "Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Indiana Regiment" (March 17, 1865), p. 361.

      "What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other's consent. I say this is the leading principle - the sheet anchor of American republicanism." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Speech at Peoria, Illinois" (October 16, 1854), p. 266.

      "We think slavery a great moral wrong, and while we do not claim the right to touch it where it exists, we wish to treat it as a wrong in the territories, where our votes will reach it." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, "Speech at New Haven, Connecticut" (March 6, 1860), p. 16.

      "In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Letter to Joshua F. Speed" (August 24, 1855), p. 320.

      "I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Letter to Albert G. Hodges" (April 4, 1864), p. 281.

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    2. Uh, I never said Lincoln was pro-slavery. I am well aware of Lincoln's feelings on the matter, he was however, capable of separating his personal feelings from his civic responsibilities, a capability I fear alien to most modern politicians. The point is, and by his own words, that Lincoln went to war to save the Union, and incidentally to redefine and expand the breadth and depth of federal power. Sorry to shatter your illusions about the man but Lincoln did not go to war to free the slaves.

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    3. Actions, Shaw. People are judged by their actions. While it may be true that Lincoln was ambivalent on a personal level regarding slavery, not only did he pledge to support the Corwin Amendment and enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, he also helped push through 2 key resolutions of the Crittenden Compromise; a) that the fugitive slave laws should be consistently enforced and b) that the "personal liberty laws" in the North which nullified the Fugitive Slave act should be repealed. I'm sorry, Shaw, but this Finntann fellow is 1000% correct here.

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    4. Lincoln didn't go to war in the fist place, Finn. The South started it. Lincoln, and the Union, were dragged, reluctantly, in.

      JMJ

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    5. Sorry, Jersey, but Lincoln broke the truce first by bringing in that warship and, even if the South did fire first, nobody was killed and it hardly warranted an invasion which ultimately became one of the bloodiest wars in all of human history.

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  5. If I might make an observation regarding multiple comments: "To claim slavery had "very little" to do with the Civil War is ignoring history", "Nullification and secession were directly tied to slavery, so this guy is just clueless.", "Slavery seems to be the common thread in Kelly's top five."

    The article does not state that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War, it states a position against the premise that "the Civil War occurred because slavery was practiced in the South, and that righteous resolve to abolish the institution left the U.S. with no option other than a resort to arms."

    You are all arguing that slavery was an issue for the South, the article never disputes this, it states that slavery was not an issue for the Federal Government and not why the federal government went to war against the Confederate States.

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    1. It was certainly not some righteous fight. But the South understood that slavery was coming to an end and the powers that were in the South realized their entire way of life was going to come crashing down. That's what the war was really about.

      JMJ

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    2. Slavery and their entire way of life was coming to an end anyway, the Civil War just hastened the collapse. But you're missing the point, the question isn't why we fought the war, or the south fought the war, but why the North fought the war, and the answer isn't slavery.

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    3. My comments challenged this statement in this post: "...it is generally accepted among knowledgeable and unbiased experts that slavery had very little to do with the onset of the War Between the States."

      Slavery had very, very much to do with the Civil War, despite what some revisionist historians claim.

      Plus, what (O)CT(O)PUS said.

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    4. Finn, you are parsing. Slavery caused the war, whether it was ever explicitly given as a reason or not.

      JMJ

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    5. Jersey, slavery was a southern issue, not a Union one. The Union went to war to assert the power of the federal government, its goal (initially) was not the abolition of slavery but the restoration of the Union. There are two sides to every issue and you're trying to make slavery your grand unification theory. Read Lincoln, despite being personally opposed to slavery he did not go to war to free slaves... or are you calling him a liar?

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    6. Jersey is an ignoramus, Finntann. The man has obviously never read Lincoln's inaugural address in which he was 100% accommodating to slavery and then threatened to invade the South if the Confederate states didn't pony up. I mean, I don't know how much more crystal clear that it could be here.

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  6. Excellent observation Finntann. Thanks for clearing it up for them.

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  7. The civil war was fought to preserve the Union.

    The Union was breaking apart because several southern states were seceding.

    Several southern states were seceding because of slavery.

    If there had been no slavery, there would have been no civil war.

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    Replies
    1. If there had been no slavery, there would have been no civil war.

      Yeah, and Putin wouldn't have invaded the Crimea if the Ukraine wasn't controlled by fascists.

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    2. Muddying the conversation with what's going on in Russia doesn't help. People here may try, but it won't work to pretend slavery wasn't a large part of what caused the Civil War.

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    3. Shaw the point I'm making is that slavery wasn't the reason the Union went to war any more than fascists in the Ukraine are the reason Putin invaded Crimea. No one said slavery wasn't a large part of what caused the Civil War... what they are saying is that slavery isn't the reason the UNION went to war.

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  8. Taxation? States rights versus federal rights? Slavery versus emancipation? The Abolition Movement? This argument is about all of these and none of these. This argument is about a failing common to all humanoid males: YOU CAN'T MULTITASK TO SAVE YOUR BUTTS.

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    Replies
    1. Rights -vs- Responsibiliy

      The former is meaningless without the other.

      Respect

      The glue that binds them.

      And (O)CT(O)PUS, would your last bolded words be sexist? At the very least it is stereotyping.

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    2. Actually, Les, that's not a sexist remark. Men cannot multitask the way women can.

      And women, overall, are not as big and muscular as men. Those are facts, not sexist remarks.

      Delete
    3. Those who can't multitask have no sense of humor either.

      Delete
    4. Well, speaking for myself, I'm having fun and enjoying it all with a smile and a laugh or two!

      Delete
  9. An analysis of secessionist legal documents by the Civil War Trust, which I have been a member of
    for several years, notes that the institution of slavery was the main factor driving secession. It could be argued that secession was
    fine and legal, or rebellion- even taking up arms against your country-treason-.. The northern states
    were of mixed feeling (there was strong abolitionist sentiment) but Lincoln was determined that the
    union be preserved. The south initiated combat, essentially starting the war. There was slavery:
    there was the largest blood-letting the US had ever seen: then there was no slavery. While we can
    ponder other scenarios and what ifs, we are stuck with historical facts. A closer study of the the
    other factors, states rights, tariffs, fugitive slave law, slavery in new states, cotton exports , etc.
    all involve in one way or another slavery. But it is an interesting exercise to review the POV of
    economists, philosophers, sociologists in the matter of interpreting historical events.

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  10. For the record I concur wholeheartedly with Finntann's sober, rational, thorough assessment of the point at issue, and admire the unemotional style in which he presents his arguments.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - First, it gave force to the executive power to change conditions in the national interest on a broad and far-reaching scale. Second, it dealt a devastating blow to the system of slaveholding and an economy built upon it, which had been muscular enough to engage in warfare on the Federal government. Third, it enabled the Negro to play a significant role in his own liberation with the ability to organize and to struggle, with less of the bestial retaliation his slave status had permitted to his masters. Fourth, it resurrected and restated the principle of equality upon which the founding of the nation rested.

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  12. Slavery was the biggest single issue that caused the civil war.

    The south broke up the Union because of slavery.

    The north went to war to put the Union back together.

    No slavery, no secession, no war. It is that simple.

    But then I think that is what most people are saying. Slavery caused the war, but it was not the reason the North went to war. The North went to war to preserve the Union which was broken because of slavery.

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  13. Slavery was a serious national and international issue, Finn. I don't know what kick you guys are on here, but it's very unpleasant. Yes, the North went to war to preserve the Union, as was the right thing to do. The South needed to be defeated in war - in a war they started - in order to drag them into the 19th century and beyond. The South was a despicable and stupid structure in pretty much every conceivable way and fortunately there was great man in Lincoln to understand that and bring it to an end.

    And I don't need a lightweight lecture on Lincoln. Forced Into Glory, and excellent read, shows just how Lincoln and the rest of the powers that were in his America did what they did regarding slavery and why, and there was not very much genuine care for black people going on.

    JMJ

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  14. Time for another rack of lamb, medium, and a fine burgundy.

    Waters getting deeper, time to head for dryer ground.

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  15. I agree with RN's list by Martin Kelly on the top 5 causes of the Civil War. The "economic and social differences between the North and the South" is a reference to the economics of slavery and the social differences of people's acceptance (or non-acceptance) of slavery. "States versus federal rights" is in reference to the rights of slave states to have their escaped slaves returned to them.... the rest are more obvious. So, all 5 have to do with slavery, which is confusing (that RN would cite reasons from someone who disagrees with him in regards to his agreement with Will Hart). Or perhaps RN changed his mind since writing this commentary?

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  16. Derve, you are simply out of your league. The bush league that is. Leave the serious discussions to the grown ups.

    ReplyDelete

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