I usually ignore such nonsense, but since this misleading claim can be so easily and quickly debunked:
- King had no strong allegiance to either party, believing that “the Negro should be more of an independent voter…this would give him more bargaining power” and stating “I’m not inextricably bound to either party.”
- In 1956, he wrote in a letter to Miss Viva O. Sloan, “I haven’t fully decided which candidate I will vote for. In the past I have always voted the Democratic ticket.”
- He also supported John F. Kennedy for President but, despite urgings from friends, decided not to publicly endorse either candidate. “I felt that Kennedy would make the best president. I never came out with an endorsement.”
- He strongly opposed the Vietnam War, in part because he felt money used to finance the war should instead be devoted to anti-poverty programs: ”A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
- Later in life, he was a self-identified democratic socialist: ”There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
In the future, let’s try not to rewrite history.
If President Obama wants to get anything done in his second term, Democrats in the Senate will have to overcome one major obstacle: the filibuster.
In the last four years, Republicans have used the filibuster to prevent landmark pieces of legislation — such as the DREAM Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act and additional measures to stimulate the economy — from even reaching the floor for debate, let alone a vote. Republicans have shattered previous records for filibuster use, and the share of bills introduced in the Senate that have been passed has reached an all-time low.
“Mitch McConnell has orchestrated a strategy of killing bills in the middle of the night,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., a leading advocate of filibuster reform, said in an interview Saturday on Up w/ Chris Hayes. Merkley said the abuse of the filibuster had warped the Senate, making it a far less productive place than it has been for most of its history. “The Senate is completely different today. It’s paralyzed and broken today in a way no one could have envisioned a couple of decades ago.”
History Mini-Lesson of the Moment Vol. 7: Political Dueling
Imagine: Henry Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush, writes a slam piece in Newsweek on Vice President Joe Biden. Fed up with the criticism and determined to regain his honor, Biden challenges Paulson to a duel. The duel takes place, Paulson is killed, and despite initial charges against the Vice President, all are dropped and Biden continues about his life.
Were this two hundred years ago, the above scenario wouldn’t be much of a stretch. In 1804, Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President to Thomas Jefferson, was so fed up with all the public criticism by former Secretary of the Treasury, author of The Federalist Papers, and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, that he challenged Hamilton to a duel.
In Burr’s mind, Hamilton was attempting to sabotage Burr’s running for the governorship of New York - a position he needed as Jefferson was not selecting him for the position of Vice President during his second term. When Burr eventually lost the governorship, he blamed Hamilton. As such, he wrote Hamilton a letter, demanding an apology. Hamilton refused, writing back saying that Burr needed to be more specific about what insult he was supposed to apologize for, as he did not know what he was referring to:
I stand ready to avow or disavow promptly and explicitly any precise or definite opinion which I may be charged with having declared to any gentleman. More than this can not fitly be expected from me; and especially it can not reasonably be expected that I shall enter into an explanation upon a basis so vague as that which you have adopted. I trust upon more reflection you will see the matter in the same light with me. If not, I can only regret the circumstances and must abide the consequences.
Burr considered this an unforgivable slap in the face. After a few more increasingly bitter exchanges, Burr felt he had no choice but to regain his honor and this is when he finally challenged Hamilton to a duel.
While dueling was a gentleman’s way of settling disputes, this was a time when it was beginning to be frowned upon and in most states outlawed. Hamilton had previously taken part in as many as ten duels, but not a single one ended with a shot - as was often the case, since duels were mainly just a way of saying, “Okay, we both showed up, I’m not afraid to shoot you and you aren’t afraid to shoot me, so let’s just call it even and both live a little longer.”
To the Hamilton family, dueling was not new. Besides Alexander’s various dueling experiences, his 19 year old son Philip Hamilton was killed on a dueling site just outside of New York in Weehawken, New Jersey. Naturally, this had a significant psychological impact on Hamilton.
The reality is that dueling was pretty usual in the states at this time. The concept of dueling as a means of regaining one’s honor had been popular in Europe for centuries. A group of men in Ireland even wrote up an “official” list of dueling rules in 1777. Above all, dueling rules required a dueler to have a “second” with him, and it was up to the seconds to “reconcile the parties without violence” before a duel could take place. As such, many duels ended without a shot ever being fired.
Hamilton would, of course, accept Burr’s challenge. In the days leading up to the duel, he would write his wife Eliza a letter:
The scruples of a Christian have determined me to expose my own life to any extent rather than subject myself to the guilt of taking the life of another. This must increase my hazards and redoubles my pangs for you. But you had rather I should die innocent than live guilty. Heaven can preserve me and I humbly hope will; but, in the contrary event, I charge you to remember that you are a Christian. God’s will be done!
After an agreed upon date and time, both men arrived at the dueling site, which happened to be the same site in which Philip Hamilton was killed. Their seconds were already there. Each man then stood his ground, and the witnesses all turned around, so as not to be indicted for lying under oath when they claimed to have not witnessed the duel. Hamilton’s second started the duel and both Burr and Hamilton took a shot within moments of one another. Hamilton shot above Burr’s head, hitting a tree limb. Burr’s shot hit Hamilton in the torso, tearing up his liver before becoming lodged in his vertebra.
Dr. David Hosack, a physician, rushed to Hamilton’s side. He recounted:
When called to him upon his receiving the fatal wound, I found him half sitting on the ground, supported in the arms of [his second] Mr. Pendleton. His countenance of death I shall never forget. He had at that instant just strength to say, ‘This is a mortal wound, doctor;’ when he sunk away, and became to all appearance lifeless.
Hamilton later died. Burr took a boat to Manhattan and had eggs and toast.
Many historians believe that Hamilton shot and missed on purpose. Some speculate that he shot at Burr, rather than at the ground in front of himself which was the understood procedure for dueling without death, because he wanted Burr to shoot back. It remains a mystery, although there is much historical speculation. In a letter that Hamilton wrote the night before, he said:
I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire.
This can be (and has been) interpreted in a variety of ways. Some historians have speculated that Hamilton went into the duel with no intention of shooting Burr. Some have argued that he had been manic depressive for a few years (large in part due to the dueling death of his son), which caused him to provoke the duel with suicidal intentions.
And if Hamilton’s plan had been to destroy Burr’s political career… it worked. It all but ended with his killing of Hamilton who was maybe not widely loved, but he held a certain respect across the nation being one of the Founding Fathers. Of course, Hamilton’s intent will never be known and other historians believe that Hamilton did show up that day planning to kill Burr. Meanwhile, Burr’s charges of murder would be dropped, but he would died many years later… broke and broken.
Hamilton had written one final letter though. It was to be delivered to his wife Eliza upon his death. It read:
If it had been possible for me to have avoided the interview, my love for you and my precious children would have been alone a decise motive. But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel, from the idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish which I know you would feel. Nor could I dwell on the the topic lest it should unman me.
The consolations of Religion, my beloved, can alone support you; and these you have a right to enjoy. Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted. With my last idea, I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of women. Embrace all my Darling Children for me.
July 4, 1804
- Vol. 1: The Emerald Gem: Bare-Knuckle Boxing in 19th Century England
- Vol. 2: Roosevelt’s List: The Japanese-American Concentration Camps
- Vol. 3: Two if by Sealand
- Vol. 4: Robert Owen: Social Reformer
- Vol. 5: Martin Luther was a Dick
- Vol. 6: Stokely Carmichael