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May 1, 2008

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By Zach Mitcham

Winding up a mountain and back in time
My wife and I visited the Georgia mountains this past weekend. She reminded me that it was the first time in 30 months we had been away together alone. We sat on the cabin porch looking at the dogwoods in full bloom, seeing the huge hawk circle over the mountain, never flapping its wings.
We laughed at the reports we heard from home, realizing our soon-to-be 3-year-old was probably not going to come back to us without a good fight, given that she was living the toddler good life with her grandparents.
We drove down the mountain on the steep, winding road, which is no wider than a cart path, and tapped on the door of Mr. and Mrs. Kimsey, friends of the family. Mr. Kimsey has always made me think of my father’s father, both in his facial features and his soft-spoken manner. He has trouble with his legs and back and struggles to get around. Meanwhile, Mrs. Kimsey broke her wrist in a fall several weeks back and her arm remains in a cast.
We visited without calling and felt guilty realizing we had woken them from a nap. But they sat and talked to us for two hours, chuckling often despite their obvious ailments.
“How’s the economy your way?” asked Mr. Kimsey after we’d been sitting there awhile.
I shook my head. “It’s hard to say.” And I don’t know what to make of it. I really don’t. I have plenty of fears and apprehensions. I think most anyone who pays attention feels those same anxieties. What is going on? Where are we going to be in a couple of years?
I recognize that I am on the other side of a river from the Kimseys and anyone who saw the 1930s. I have always looked with some degree of puzzlement at Depression-era thriftiness carried on through better times. My father laughed that his father kept dental floss for more than one use.
I remember my grandmother talking about the excitement of getting an orange at Christmas. As a spoiled child on the holidays, I would have treated that orange as ammunition if that was all “Santa Claus” brought.
I remember my former landlord in his 90s talking about working for 10 cents an hour, buying a car for $250 and never feeling like he would pay it off.
How odd the iPod must seem to the Depression-era man or woman, all the gadgets and knick knacks, the accoutrements of comfort, the constant blitz of buying.
The talk of walking a long distance to school in the snow is a cliché to young ears, but it’s just a recitation of fact to those who actually did. Mr. Kimsey talked of walking behind the more fortunate kids with shoes, then he and his brother warming their feet in the creek. He talked about the price of land on the mountain, how just a few dollars could get you something, but who had the dollars? Over the years, the Kimseys have seen the mountains altered with divots of “progress” as cabins dotted the hillsides.
I hope I remain ignorant about certain things, like what it actually felt like to live through the Great Depression. I don’t invite such a hard lesson into my life, or yours. But I also can appreciate that hard knowledge, that memory of desperate days that remains with our elders, the deeper understanding of the blessing of a full stomach.
My wife and I left the Kimseys, drove to a restaurant, filled our stomach and finally steered our headlights back up the mountain. I thought of how time will pass. Change will come. I thought about the hard facts, but then I let it go, opened a book and lost myself in someone else’s story, enjoyed the evening for what it was, a moment of comfortable forgetfulness.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

By Frank Gillispie

If you want to challenge me, you need to get your history straight
Who is wrong here? I said in a recent column that the war for Southern Independence was not about slavery. Terry D. Adams said I am wrong. Dear readers: when I make a bold statement like that you can rest assured that I have a very strong reason for doing so. The South did not rebel over slavery. Any fifth grader with a calculator and a copy of the United States Constitution can easily prove it.
Slavery was fully protected by the United States Government before and during that conflict. If the South’s purpose was to keep that protection, all they had to do was remain in the union!
I refer you to the records of history. The Missouri Compromise, the Kansas Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Act all prove that Congress recognized the legality of slavery. The Three-Fifths rule proved that the Constitution recognized the right of states to enact slavery rules. The Dred Scott Decision clearly put the Supreme Court on the side of slavery. Even Abraham Lincoln recognized the right of states to exercise slavery in his first inaugural address when he said that he had no intention to interfere with slavery in the states where it exist, nor did he have any authority to do so.
The only legal way to end slavery was with a constitutional amendment, and that could not be done until after the conflict was resolved. Here’s why.
The Constitution sets forth very rigid rules for amendments. For the Constitution to be amended, two thirds of both houses of Congress has to approve the measure, then three fourths of the states have to ratify it. Now here is where the calculator comes in.
In 1860 there were thirty four (34) states in the union. Fifteen (15) of them were slave states, and nineteen (19) were free. Sense three-fourths of the states were required to ratify an amendment, anything over one fourth of the states can block it. Your calculator will quickly show you that it only took nine of the thirty four states to block an amendment. Thus, the South had plenty of power to keep slavery for as long as they wanted it. The leaders of the Southern states were not stupid. If slavery was their cause, they would have never left the union!
Today, with 50 states, any 13 states can block an amendment. Thus the original 15 slave states would still have enough power to block any amendment they found objectionable.
Now, Mr. Adams was not entirely wrong. He said that the plantation owners were interested in expanding slavery into the western territories. They were because the slave population had grown well past what was needed for the existing plantations.
He said the Union could not afford to have an independent South. That is also true, but the reason, again, had nothing to do with slavery. It was due to the massive excise taxes they were collecting in Southern ports. Not only would they have lost all that tax money that was being used to build infrastructure for Northern industrialist, it would have opened a wide border over which untaxed merchandise would have been smuggled.
As you see, I can document my arguments with the historical record. If you want to challenge me, you will need to do the same.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is His website can be accessed at


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