Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jefferson vs. Burr 2: Who's the Bad Guy?

Henry Adams writes in his history of Jefferson's administrations:

"Among the other party leaders who have been mentioned,-Jefferson, Madison, Gallatin, Marshall,-not one was dishonest. The exaggeration or equivocations that Jefferson allowed himself, which led to the deep-rooted conviction of Marshall that he did not tell the truth and must therefore be dangerous, amounted to nothing when compared with the dishonesty of a corrupt man. Had the worst political charges against Jefferson been true, he would not have been necessarily corrupt. The self-deception inherent in every struggle for personal power was not the kind of immorality which characterized Colonel Burr. Jefferson, if his enemies were to be believed, might occasionally make misstatements of fact; yet he was true to the faith of his life, and would rather have abdicated his office and foregone his honors than have compassed even an imaginary wrong against the principles he professed. His life, both private and public, was pure" (Adams, 132-3).
 My comments:

What a remarkable statement from a man who, in this very history, repeatedly proves quite the opposite!  

Jefferson's “exaggeration and equivocations” were extremely dangerous and damaging to those against whom they were directed, and we need look no further than the example of Burr to see this; nor is it even arguable that Jefferson exaggerated and equivocated in Burr's case. Jefferson's “misstatements of fact” with regard to Burr are well-established and acknowledged even by those (as here) who continue to believe Burr was unprincipled. 

(For more on Jefferson's involvement in ruining other men, including assassination, see my review of Buckner Melton's book "Conspiracy to Treason" - As I suggest in the review, this is a history that has not yet been written and deserves more attention.) 

Misstatements of fact should not be taken so lightly, especially when they are done with knowledge of their falsity, as we know was true in Jefferson's case, and most especially when such misstatements issue from the mouth of one in power against one without power (and particularly when the one in power had colluded with others to divest of all power the one now without power). That such wrongs can continue to be glossed over by biographers and historians is quite astounding and perhaps shows the limits of objective reason under the power of adverse suggestion. Jefferson should have been held accountable for such abuse of his office and for intentionally making misstatements of facts, which in essence is fraud. Barron's pocket legal dictionary: fraud - “intentional deception resulting in injury to another.” It “usually consists of misrepresentation, concealment, or nondisclosure of a material fact, or at least misleading conduct, devices, or contrivance.”

Nor were either Jefferson's political or personal life “pure” in any positive sense. Most people know about Jefferson's "pure" personal life, and again, Henry Adams shows that Jefferson repeatedly undermined and violated his own principles throughout both his terms in office.

Adams continues (my comments inserted in red):

"His associates, like Madison, Gallatin, and Monroe, were men upon whose reputations no breath of scandal rested. [A questionable statement. Burr intervened for Madison to prevent a duel and for Gallatin when Federalists attempted to exclude him from serving in Congress. Neither of these were instances of “scandal,” but largely because Burr prevented them from becoming so.] The standard of morality at Washington, both in private society and in politics, was respectable. For this reason Colonel Burr was a new power in the government; for being in public and in private life an adventurer of the same school as scores who were then seeking fortune in the antechambers of Bonaparte and Pitt, he became a loadstone for every other adventurer who frequented New York or whom the chances of politics might throw into office. The Vice-President wielded power, for he was the certain centre of corruption."
My comments:

Adams does not even attempt to prove any of his assertions about Burr. He states them as matters of fact, without the least bit of evidence. 

Washington was respectable? But Burr was the center of corruption? As Nancy Isenberg shows in her biography of Burr, Washington was no more respectable than any other city in America at that time (233-5).

Nonetheless, it is likely true that Burr attracted fortune seekers. But what is wrong with that? Wasn't America built by fortune seekers?

Adams continues:

"A government restricted to keeping the peace, which should raise no taxes except for that purpose, seemed to be simply a judicature and a police. Jefferson gave no development to the idea further than to define its essential principles, and those which were to guide his Administration. Except the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, this short passage was the only official gloss ever given to the Constitution by the Republican party; and for this reason students of American history who would understand the course of American thought should constantly carry in mind not only the Constitutions of 1781 and of 1787, but also the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and the following paragraph of Jefferson's first Inaugural Address:—

'I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the preservation of the general government in its whole Constitutional vigor, as the sheet-anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the People,—a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority,—the vital principle of republics, from which there is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia,—our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burdened; the honest payment of our debts, and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information, and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected;—these principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment; they should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety' (Adams, 138-9).
My comments:

Henry Adams, himself, shows (for over 1300 pages) how those who believed in Jefferson and followed his “revolutionary” precepts were deceived and later betrayed by each of his several and various courses of action. We forget today that Jefferson's experiment failed on all levels. Not only did his primary doctrine of “peaceful coercion” not work, but Jefferson abandoned the field all too readily, and not only turned tail but turned Benedict Arnold on his followers and violated most of the precepts he declared in his address: absolute acquiescence to the majority, supremacy of civil authority, and the guarantees of the right of habeas corpus and impartial trials. Worst of all, the person upon whom he practiced these abuses of his own doctrines was his own (r)ejected vice president: Burr. 

For those who haven't read about the final events leading up to Burr's trial, a brief look with a view to Jefferson's wrongs: Jefferson sanctioned Gen. Wilkinson's unlawful suspension of habeas corpus and declaration of martial law, unlawful seizures of property and persons without warrant, and unlawful transports of the seized persons hundreds of miles out of the district. He may also have ordered or sanctioned Wilkinson's order to capture Burr "dead or alive" (without trial), and he also announced to all the world Burr's guilt (again, before trial, and thus tainting the fairness of any jury comprised of an informed citizenry). (John Adams wrote a private chastisement of Jefferson's pronunciation. [I will dig it up & post it when I find it.])

Not only did Jefferson later continue to show complete support for Wilkinson, whom Jefferson also knew was an agent for the Spanish government (having been in their pay since the 1780's), but he went after Burr with such a vengeance that it has for two centuries perplexed historians. Jefferson not only personally directed the prosecution against Burr (improperly meddling in a trial where he had a personal stake) -- directing strategy, supplying witnesses, and literally ordering the prosecutors to continue even when their case clearly was falling apart -- but he went after Chief Justice John Marshall for his ruling on treason which led to Burr's acquittal, attempting to obtain the interest of his party in impeaching him. None of these facts is disputed even by Jefferson's advocates.

Jefferson's later statement to Burr that Jefferson would not support his endeavors because Burr had lost the confidence of the people was beyond unkind,* since Jefferson was the one who did his utmost to cause that loss. (*TJ's statement was in his Anas. Another quote for me to dig up & post here later.)

It is as easy to say today as it was then, after the purposeful destruction of Burr's name and career, that Burr was the one who would be dictator, emperor, tyrant. 

Easy to say because of the view of him that has stuck that he planned to invade and become emperor of Mexico. This just begs the question, as the assertion does not prove the fact, and there is no proof of the fact. [Note that I say there is no proof that "he planned to invade and become emperor." I am not saying that Burr did not plan an expedition that contained a contingency to march on Mexico if the U.S. went to war with Spain (which was deemed very likely at the time). He did not plan to do so without a war or without permission from the government. More on this at a later time.]

The evidence for Burr-as-emperor (or Burr-as-traitor) involves what he said to foreign consuls to whom he owed no allegiance. His statements to his fellow Americans about his intentions show the complete contrary. If one is to judge Burr's credibility, one needs to look backward in time when he stood on his reputation, not beyond when all opinion was turned against him:

I am authorised in saying that it is the wish of Govt. that American setlers should go to the country west of the Mississippi in the Orleans Territory -- Indeed a man high in office, & in the confidence of the Pres[iden]t. told me that I should render a very great service to the public and afford pleasure to the administration, if I should take ten thousand men to that country -- (I wish it was in my power) -- Notwithstanding all this, I am told that the utmost alarm has been excited in your neighbourhood on account of preparations which I am making for about 100 or 150 Setlers -- The rumors of my building Gun Boats, Ships &ca. have been fabricated by a few designing men illy affected to the Govt. and I am surprized to hear that some well disposed and intelligent men have become the Dupes” (Burr to Edward W. Tupper, 18 Nov. 1806, Kline 2:1002).

Kline notes that "Most contemporary reports indicate that AB and his associates hinted that their friend "high in office" was [Secretary of War] Henry Dearborn" (Kline 2:1004n5). This would support Burr's statement that Jefferson sanctioned his expedition. (Jefferson sanctioned numerous such filibusters and was, in fact, at the time of Burr's, funding the unlawful Pike and Lewis & Clark expeditions into Spanish territory. See Roger Kennedy, “Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character,” 123-30.) (This issue may be up next.)

The Reports which charge me with designs unfriendly to the peace and welfare of this and the adjacent Territory are utterly false, are in themselves absurd, and are the inventions of wicked men, for evil purposes – I do assure you Sir, that I have no such design, nor any other which can tend to interrupt the peace or welfare of my fellow Citizens, and that I harbour [neither] the wish nor the intention to intermedle with their Government or concerns – On the Contrary my pursuits are not only justifiable, but laudable, tending to the happiness and benefit of my Country Men and Such as every good Citizen and virtuous man ought to promote -- *** / If the alarm which has been excited for the most mischievous purposes should not be appeased by this declaration, I invite my fellow Citizens to visit me at this place and to receive from me in person such further explanations, as may be necessary to their Satisfaction, presuming that when my views are understood, they will receive the Countenance and Support of all good men -- / It is hoped Sir that you'll not suffer yourself to be made the instrument of arming Citizen against citizen and of involving the Country in the horrors of Civil War, without some better foundation than the Suggestions of rumor or the vile fabrications of a man notoriously the pensioner of a foreign government” (Burr to Cowles Mead [Acting Governor of Mississippi], Jan. 12, 1807, Bayou Pierre, Kline 2:1008-9).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Burr at Jefferson's Inauguration

Burr's most recent biographer, Nancy Isenberg, writes that "Burr arrived in Washington on March 1, 1801, three days before Jefferson took the oath of office. On his trip to the Capitol, he met his daughter [Theodosia] and new son-in-law [Joseph Alston] in Baltimore. There, Burr was greeted by an adoring crowd and a discharge of sixteen cannon. A local committee addressed the incoming vice president, praising his patriotism for having disclaimed all competition with Jefferson. Burr graciously thanked the citizens of the city, and echoed what he had said during the election crisis: 'No person could have supposed that I would have stepped in between the wishes of the people and the man whom they have looked up to.' / The inaugural was an informal affair. Jefferson, dressed in plain attire, had walked to the Capitol from his boardinghouse. There were no grand procession as there had been for Washington, and no fancy carriage as with Adams" (Isenberg, 223-4; citing AB quote from NY Daily Advertiser, March 6, 1801).

Mary-Jo Kline, editor of the Burr papers, says that “The new vice president then gave the oath to senators-elect who presented their credentials. Jefferson 'attended by the Heads of Departments, the Marshal of the District, his officers and other gentlemen,' then entered the chamber. Neither the Senate proceedings nor contemporary newspaper accounts record any remarks made by AB and merely note that he vacated his seat at the head of the chamber for the president. AB sat next to the chief justice on the president's right while Jefferson delivered his inaugural address” (Kline 1:519n2, citing Ann. Cong. 6th Cong., p. 762-3; Washington National Intelligencer, 6 March; Washing Federalist, 7 March; NY City Daily Adveriser, 10, 12 March; NY City Amer. Citizen, 10 March).

Isenberg notes that “the most telling gesture was that of Burr graciously offering his seat to the president-elect” (224).

Burr wrote: “The Mail closed at an earlier hour than I had supposed[;] it affords me the opportunity to add – That we have gone through the Ceremony – The Day was serene and temperate – The Concourse of people immense – all passed off handsomely – great joy but no riot – no accident – The Paper Contains Jefferson's Speech – A.B.'s cannot be published for it was not written[;] it consisted of about three sentences” (AB to Caesar A. Rodney, March 3, 1801, Kline 1:518).

Celebrations took place around the country. (Isenberg lists some at 224.) The Albany Register recorded that toasts were given [in Albany] for the president and vice president. For “Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the United States; his uniform and patriotic exertions in favor of Republicanism eclipsed only by his late disinterested conduct” (James Parton, The Life and Times of Aaron Burr [1858], 294-5).

Focusing more on the image of the three men, Burr biographer Milton Lomask wrote “Most members of the audience in the Senate chamber that day would live long enough to have reason to recall with feeling the tableau that now presented itself: Jefferson seated at the center of the platform, flanked on his right by a man he would one day accuse of treason; on his left by the stubborn jurist who would frustrate all efforts to convict the accused” (Lomask, Aaron Burr [1979], 1:297).

Biographers Herbert Parmet and Marie Hecht focused on the meaning of the day to Burr: “Waiting for the swearing-in and anticipating the Inaugural Address, the new Vice President looked forward to political tranquility. From Philadelphia, one week earlier, he had written to Gallatin concerning the charges in circulation about his conduct during the recent campaign. 'They are now,' he had observed, 'of little consequence & those who had believed them will doubtless blush at their own weakness --,' It was natural, or at least it should have been, that his industry and skill should now be rewarded. His friends were sure that Jefferson could not have won without Burr's work. So was he. There was no reason to suspect, therefore, that the journey to the nation's second highest office would be anything but triumphal” (Parmet & Hecht, Aaron Burr: Portrait of an Ambitious Man [1967], 169).

Indeed, according to Albert Beveridge, John Marshall's biographer: “The proof is overwhelming and decisive that nothing but Burr's refusal to help the Federalists in his own behalf, his rejection of their proposals, and his determination, if chosen, to go in as a Republican untainted by any promises; and, on the other hand, the assurances which Jefferson gave Federalists as to office and the principal Federalist policies – Neutrality, the Finances, and the Navy – only all of these circumstances combined finally made Jefferson president” (Beveridge, The Life of John Marshall [1919], 2: 545-6, citing & quoting James Bayard).

In his contemporary letters and in 1806 testimony he gave in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by Burr against James Cheetham, Bayard recorded the views of the "Federalist managers":

"Burr has acted a miserable paultry [sic] part. The election was in his power, but he was determined to come in as a Democrat ... We have been counteracted in the whole business by letters he has written to this place" (Bayard to Bassett, Feb. 16, 1801, quoted in Beveridge, 546n1). Another Federalist wrote: "Had Burr done anything, for himself, he would, long ere this, have been President" (Cooper to Morris, Feb. 13, 1801, id.) Bayard again:“The means existed of electing Burr, but they required his cooperation. By deceiving one Man (a great blockhead) and tempting two (not incorruptible) he might have secured a majority of the States. He will never have another chance of being President of the U.states and the little use he has made of the one which has occurred gives me a humble opinion of the talents of an unprincipled man” (Kline 1:487). (For the complete story of the lawsuit and the texts of the various testimony taken by those involved in the 1801 electoral tie, see Kline 2:872-6.)

With respect to Burr's position in the party at that time, Henry Adams wrote: "Colonel Burr was the chosen head of Northern democracy, idol of the wards of New York city, and aspirant to the highest offices he could reach by means legal or beyond the law" (Adams, 132).

Typically, Burr is considered “unprincipled” for having allegedly aspired to use illegal OR legal means to attain high office as well as when, on the contrary, he made “little use” of his chance to corrupt and deceive others to attain high office.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Surrendered into the Hands of His Enemies

In 1801, after Jefferson's inauguration, Burr "succeeded in obtaining for [his friend, John Swartwout,] the marshalship of New York," but "[n]o sooner did the news of this arrangement reach the ears of De Witt Clinton than [Clinton] remonstrated, and in a few days drew from President Jefferson a letter addressed to Governor [George] Clinton [De Witt's father], which in effect surrendered Burr into the hands of his enemies" (Henry Adams, History of the USA during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson, 156). [Hereafter: Adams, HATJ.]

On September 30, 1756, when Burr was eight months old, he fell very ill. His mother wrote in her journal that "a violent Fever seized him" and the doctor "was affraid the Child would not live till morn." She exclaimed: "O God made me submit! He made me say the Lord gave, and the Lord may take, and I will bless his name -- He shewed me that he had the first right, that the Child was not mine[;] he was only lent, and I could freely return him and say Lord do as seemeth good in thy sight" (The Journal of Esther Edwards Burr: 1754-57, p. 228-9).

On September 24, 1757, Aaron Burr, Sr. died. On November 2, 1757, when Burr was about 20 months old, Esther wrote that her son had fallen ill again:

My little Son has been sick with [the] slow Fever ever since my Brother left us, and has been brought to the Brink of the Grave but I hope in mercy God is bringing off him [sic] back again -- and I was innabled to Resighn the Ch[ild] (after a severe strugle with nature) with the gre[a]test freedom -- God shewed me that the Child w[as] not my own but His, and that he had a right to recall what he had lent when ever he thought fit, and I had no reason to complain or say God was hard with me. This silenced me. But O how good is God! He not only kept me from complaining but comforted me by ennabling me to offer up the Child by Faith, I think if ever I acted [with] Faith. *** He enabled me to say that altho' thou slay me yet will I trust in thee -- In this time of tryal I was lead to enter into a renewed and explissit Covenant [wi]th <...> God <...> in a more solemn manner than ever before with the greatest freedom and delight, after much self examminnation and prayer I did give my self and Children to God with my whole Heart. ***  [A] few days after this one Eve in talking of the glorious state my dear departed Husband must be in, my soul was carried out in such longing desires after this glorious state that I was forced to retire ... to conceal my joy. ***  I think dear Sir I had that Night a foretaste of Heaven. ***  This was about the time that God called me to give up my Child" (Diary of Esther Burr, 295-6).
  Esther's father, Jonathan Edwards, died March 22, 1758 of smallpox (after taking the vaccine), and Esther herself died of the same disease on April 7. The infant Burr and his sister, Sally, were sent to live with the family of Dr. William Shippen in Philadelphia. Esther's mother journeyed there that summer to take the children back to Massachusetts, but contracted dysentery and died in October. Young Burr and Sally remained with the Shippens until their mother's youngest brother, Timothy, married and was able to take them in March 1760.

After Jefferson's inauguration, "[w]hile Jefferson withheld from Burr all sign of support, De Witt Clinton and Ambrose Spencer, acting in unison with the President, detached the Livingstons from Burr's interest," and during the summer and fall, "the State and city offices [in New York] were taken from the Federalists and divided between the Clintons and Livingstons, until the Livingstons were gorged; while Burr was left to beg from Jefferson the share of national patronage which De Witt Clinton had months before taken measures to prevent his obtaining" (158, Adams, HATJ).

James Cheetham (!) "was servile in his devotion to DeWitt Clinton" and concocted defamatory stories about Burr, calling him "an 'intriguing and inexplicable man,' and in the same breath explain[ing] how utterly transparent the vice president was."

"Jefferson backed Cheetham: the president was no longer neutral, having chosen sides among the factions vying for power in New York." He "could have -- and should have -- investigated [Cheetham's] charges [against Burr]. But he did not" (Isenberg, Fallen Founder, 243, 244).

Aaron Burr to Jeremy Bentham, January 23, 1809, Edinburgh:

"I have got on pretty well here, and with rather more discretion than usually falls to my lot, not having said or done, publicly, more than twenty outrageously silly things. Avoiding all ugly, naughty topics. From any man, save one, if I cannot vanquish, I can escape. In the hands of that one, I am just what Theodosia is in mine. This was perceived after the first two hours; and seeing no retreat, nor anything better to be done, I surrendered, tame and unresisting, to be disarmed, stripped,  hacked, hewed, dissected, skinned, turned inside out, at the will and mercy of the operator. Much good may it do him." (M.L. Davis, ed., Private Journal of Aaron Burr, 1:169)

Burr & Jefferson - 1

About a week or so ago, I finished reading Henry Adams' circa 1300-page history of Jefferson's two administrations. Adams' portrayal of Jefferson is remarkable and his insights into events is no less remarkable. But, as usual, his view of Burr is badly skewed.

Two things I discovered:

(1) Jefferson was the most revered and most powerful president perhaps ever in American history ... and he ended in utter humiliation and disgrace, nearly having precipitated the secession of New England and quite nearly a revolt, and having completely alienated even his most avid supporters.

(2) Had Burr not left the country, had he stayed and fought it out, he might have had another chance at regaining power.

(3) What Jefferson vehemently persecuted Burr for actually came true after Burr and at the hands of others not in any way affiliated with Burr. This means, Jefferson either anticipated what happened and projected it onto Burr or he acted the part of the persecutor foreshadowing his own persecution.

Today, I determined to write my novel on the internet and to do so in an unusual way. I intend to annotate Henry Adams' tome, filling in on Burr as I go. I've begun to see that the task of reconstructing Burr requires placing him in context and that requires retelling the entire story of Jefferson's two administrations, at the very least (and probably also the electoral tie). If I annotate Adams' book, I can use it and turn it into a novel by supplying the missing scenes and internal dialogues. This is nothing Shakespeare wouldn't have done.

I learned something crucial today. It's amazing how after 30 years of reading on this subject, I still make discoveries. I knew that Burr had claimed that his expedition to the west was sanctioned by the Jefferson administration. Today I came upon a letter from Burr that says the following (original spelling retained):

I am authorised in saying that it is the wish of Govt. that American setlers should go to the country west of the Mississippi in the Orleans Territory -- Indeed a man high in office, & in the confidence of the Pres[iden]t. told me that I should render a very great service to the public and afford pleasure to the administration, if I should take ten thousand men to that country -- (I wish it was in my power) -- Notwithstanding all this, I am told that the utmost alarm has been excited in your neighbourhood on account of preparations which I am making for about 100 or 150 Setlers -- The rumors of my building Gun Boats, Ships &ca. have been fabricated by a few designing men illy affected to the Govt. and I am surprized to hear that some well disposed and intelligent men have become the Dupes (Burr to Edward W. Tupper, 18 Nov. 1806, Kline 2:1002).
 The editor of Burr's papers writes: "Most contemporary reports indicate that AB and his associates hinted that their friend "high in office" was [Secretary of War] Henry Dearborn" (Kline 2:1004n5).

When one considers that Burr put Jefferson in office, that without Burr's efforts in New York, Jefferson would never have been elected -- not even close --, and that Burr had consistently refused to make a deal with Federalists to steal the election from Jefferson, Jefferson's perfidy in allowing Burr to believe Burr had the Administration's permission and encouragement to go west and settle his lands ... considering, too, that such filibustering expeditions as Burr's planned one into Mexico were supported by Jefferson both before he came into office and after, both before and after Burr's ... one must admit that Jefferson's perfidy is monumental and terrible. So great, in fact, that it should be viewed as evil and one cannot help but see the picture Jefferson caused to be painted of Burr as a giant projection of Jefferson's perpetrated evils upon Burr.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Secret Lives of Lawyers

Lawyers live secret lives. And they live secretive lives.

Secretiveness does not, itself, make for a secret life. We can be secretive ABOUT something and still live our life out in the open for all to see. Look at Dick Cheney, who admitted that he thought torture was fine, but will never tell you whether the U.S. ever tortured anybody. (I admit that it is questionable how open Cheney's life is to others, but I use the torture admission as an illustration.)

But for lawyers, their secret lives arise out of their secretiveness. They cannot tell anyone the better part of what they know, see, think, or experience. The obvious reason for this is that lawyers are required by professional ethics to retain confidences and to plan strategy without giving it away to opponents. Like soldiers, lawyers' entire existence is lived on a battleground. Everyone who is not a comrade must be treated like an enemy.

All of us have secret lives.

Henry David Thoreau wrote: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."

Secret lives, by their very nature, must create some degree of desperation, because what is secret is alone and we are social animals. We do not live in vacuums. We need each other; we cannot achieve anything without others. Those who think they go it completely alone are still riding on the unseen wings, or trying to escape from the shadow, of those who came before.

Lawyers, however, (like spies) not only must take many secrets to their graves but cannot even let loose a sigh of complaint about anything to anyone. The loneliness of law is mitigated by the amazing closeness generated through communication with co-counsel, which creates strong bonds that can almost feel like love.

Nonetheless, nobody knows the human being behind the attorney face.

And most good attorneys learn how to carry poker faces. Long ago, I learned to figure out which eye to look at when conversing with someone. I realized that people have a "public eye" and a private one. They (nearly always) prefer you to look at one of their eyes and not the other. One eye reveals more than the other. The public eye might be open and inviting while the private eye is full of anxiety and sorrow. This discrepancy between the expression of the two eyes is revealing about the internal life and experiences of the person.

Good lawyers learn how to look you straight in the eye unflinchingly, with BOTH eyes equally, so you can see nothing about them inside.

What does this do to a person? I mean, what does it do to the life of the lawyer? I think something must die inside that person to live in such isolation. Perhaps this is also why lawyers are not known to be the most sympathetic persons. While they deal with the most intimate details of their clients' lives and must grasp the meaning of those details within the sum of those lives, they cannot "get involved emotionally." What a toll this has to take on the soul of the lawyer! While they learn to see and comprehend the lives of others, they must remain detached and aloof.

This aloofness is not the same as what I've written about elsewhere with respect to the Author Self. The Author Self is the part of the writer that knows the whole story which you will write, knows all the details of the lives of your characters, but also knows none of it can be changed. While lawyers gain a similar sort of understanding about human nature, their aloofness is more total because the Author Self is only part of a writer; it is not her whole life. An attorney learns not to share even with her husband, children, best friend.

It is true that writers must also learn, as Maria Rainer Rilke wrote, not to "torment [people] with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend." Letters to a Young Poet, Letter Four. But writers have the joy of telling the truth -- their truths -- within their stories, even if they cannot trouble their acquaintances with their daily concerns.

Lawyers live both more distantly and more closely to others. Yet the isolation can take its toll. So instead of reviling lawyers, we should strive to love and understand their lonely existence and (for the lawyers who actually do take their obligation seriously) their courageous strength to live that lonely life well.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Near Death Experience

You see your whole life flash before your eyes. Then you see a long dark tunnel with a light at the end. Out of the light emerge loved ones who have died before you. You feel filled with love and compassion. But your loved ones tell you to go back, it's not your time yet.


You feel so cold. You cannot get warm. You hear the urgent voices of those who are trying to rescue you, by they are distant and distorted. There is no pain.
Then you slowly float up. Looking back down, you see your lifeless body lying below you. 

Somehow you return. When you awake, you feel nauseous and weak. It was better being dead.

But you've chosen none of this. You are a ragdoll in the hands of a careless child, a leaf tossed by the wind, a mere molecule of water vapor sucked up into the stratosphere.

You just want to be left alone.

What can you tell anybody anyway? What do you know?

Maybe you come back with a renewed sense of connection to all living things and a new purpose in life.  But who is going to listen to you? Who do you think you are, telling others how things are?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ericksonian Hypnosis & Trauma-Based Programming

I have for at least ten years wanted to write about what I had learned about this subject, both from my own healing work and from research. This post is intended merely as a quick survey and introduction to the topic.

There are as many different kinds of survivors of trauma as there are forms of trauma. There are war vets and others who experienced severe trauma in adulthood, who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are those who suffered traumas throughout childhood or in adulthood that were not severe enough to cause dissociative problems, but who developed any number of other symptoms: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, psychosis, and socio-psychopathic disorders. Then there are those who suffered sufficiently severe and prolonged physical trauma so early in their lives that it affected the way their brains and personalities developed. And there are those who were intentionally subjected to such early trauma for the purpose of creating mind-controlled slaves.

There are three main things that interested persons need to learn about if they are going to understand the effects of early trauma.

The first one is Ericiksonian hypnosis.

The second is early childhood trauma-based programming.

The third is dissociation and dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder).

Ericksonian Hypnosis

The master hypnotist, Milton Erickson did not develop his skills in hypnosis in order to harm anyone, but the fact is, those practices can be so used and they have been.

It is perhaps harder to hypnotize an adult to act against his or her own best interests, but it is not hard to do so with a child, if the hypnosis is connected with the child's survival. In that case, hypnotic suggestions acquire nearly absolute power over the child, even well into and through adulthood.

Erickson's techniques are most thoroughly described in Stephen G. Gilligan's book, "Therapeutic Trances: The Cooperation Principle in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy."

While Erickson utilized a multitude of methods, the basic approach is as follows:

(1) establishing rapport and pacing, (2) disorientation (incongruency, dis-association, confusion), and (3) the command (to go into a trance and/or to engage in some particular action).

These are very simple steps, but they are not easy to master. The hypnotist must genuinely feel and express empathy for the "subject" and must work hard to establish the rapport which causes the person to lower his/her defenses. The hypnotist must then actively set about to cause the subject's disorientation and then must know the exact right moment to give the command.

But, if these steps are done with the proper finesse, hypnotic trance and suggestibility are not that hard to bring about.

Early Childhood Trauma-Based Programming

Trauma-based programming means hypnosis is induced through, or is used in conjunction with, actual physical and psychological trauma. Trauma tends to induce trance. Whether the trance is induced through trauma or is coincident with it, the connection becomes engraved onto the psyche of the child, so that any later reminder ("trigger") of the connection will again induce the same level of trance. If post-hypnotic suggestions were made, the trigger will revive them and cause them to be re-enacted, outside the will (and maybe even outside the conscious awareness) of the subject (who, by now, may be well into adulthood).

The prime ingredient of trauma-based programming is the fear of annihilation.


All trance causes dissociation. Dissociation is a disconnection of some kind. Some kinds of dissociation just disconnect the person from the task she was engaged in a moment before. Some kinds disconnect the person from shared activities with others. Some disconnect the person on a deeper level: one experience of the self from another, such that the person develops multiple but disconnected experiences of the self.

Severe dissociation usually points to trauma. Mild dissociation, on the other hand, is often found in those who engage in artistic endeavors of any kind. Dissociation and heightened but relaxed focus on something are often found together.

This ends my introduction. Later posts will depend, in part, on questions and responses I get from readers.