GOP’s shutdown debacle resembles our first in 1879!


Today’s shutdown crisis has an eerily familiar predecessor. It echoes America’s first battle over a government shutdown, which came not in the 20th century, but rather, shortly after the Civil War. In 1879, ex-Confederates in Congress, desperate to turn the direction of the nation, refused to fund the government unless the Republican president promised to abandon his party and do things their way. Republicans then saw the situation for what it was. “If this is not revolution,” House Minority Leader James Garfield concluded, “which if persisted in will destroy the government, [then] I am wholly wrong in my conception of both the word and the thing.”

Garfield knew exactly what revolution meant. He had fought to protect his government from revolutionaries at the Battle of Shiloh, where more than 13,000 Union soldiers fell, and at Chickamauga, which took another 16,000. Only 14 years later, the very same men who had made war against the government on the battlefield were making war against it from their congressional seats.  More…

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