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"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - George Santayana

The history of the United States is full of territorial land grabs, and not just from Native Americans tribes or European colonies. Americans will even grab land from other Americans, even when they share cultural and national ties.

While not matching exactly to Putin's grab of the Russian speaking peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine, America faced its own peninsula-based territorial war between Ohio and Michigan in the 1830s. While it seems silly to think a fight over state lines could happen today, the history of territorial wars is more vast than many realize and, as I will show later in this piece, the threat of territorial land grabs still exist, especially as the naked ambition of Governor Scott Walker threatens the peace and pasties of the great Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In 1835 Ohio was a growing state and Michigan was still a territory. The exact border, however, was unclear, due to conflicts between the Northwest Ordinance that governed the creation of states and the Enabling Act of 1802 the began the statehood process for Ohio. Ohio had used there own surveyors to give themselves more territory than the Northwest Ordinance allowed for.

Ohio, led by Government Robert Lucas, used its power in Congress to block statehood for Michigan in 1833. Frustrated, Michigan territorial Governor Stevens T. Mason called for a constitutional convention for statehood in January 1835. Ohio countered by passing a law setting up county governments in the disputed Toledo Strip. So confident was Lucas that he named the county with the city of Toledo after himself.

Robert Lucas, imperial Governor of Ohio
Michigan countered with the Pains and Penalties Act, outlawing Ohio from setting up an occupational government. Both Ohio and Michigan sent their militias to the disputed region, beginning the Toledo War.

Former President John Quincy Adams, then serving in Congress, sided with Michigan and against Ohio's imperialistic aims saying "Never in the course of my life have I known a controversy of which all the right was so clearly on one side and all the power so overwhelmingly on the other."

A Bad Election

Andrew Jackson sought to intervene, but was biased toward Ohio due to its representation in Congress and its status as a swing state in Presidential elections. When his Attorney General advised him that the strip belonged to Michigan, he nonetheless sent federal arbiters to set up sham local elections. Robert Lucas agreed, holding elections under Ohio law. Michigan refused to support those bad elections,] and arrested participants under the Pains and Penalties Act.

Battle Begins

The opening shot began during the Battle of Phillips Corners, where Michigan opposed an illegitimate surveying team attempting to redraw the border lines. No one was harmed when Michigan fired warning shots before taking members of survey team into custody. First blood was drawn on July 15th, 1835 when Two Stickney, son of occupying militia Major Benjamin Stickney, stabbed a Michigan sheriff during the family's arrest and fled south into Ohio.

Ohio responded to Michigan's act of self-defense much like Russia, passing laws to set up a court of common pleas and fund militia activity to prop up their illegitimate government. That included running a midnight session of the court of pleas in Toledo to avoid detection by Michigan authorities.

The Will of the People

Andrew Jackson removed Stevens T. Mason as territorial governor, and replaced him with the unpopular John S. Horner. Horner was burned in effigy and pelted with vegetables when he arrived at the territorial capital. Michigan citizens voted for a draft constitution and Mason as their governor. Congress refused to seat Michigan's elected delegation.

Stevens T. Mason, Michigan Governor
In 1836 Andrew Jackson signed a bill allowing Michigan statehood, but only under the condition it cede the Toledo Strip. Michigan held a special convention and initially rejected the offer. But financial strain caused by the war, and the promise of payouts to states for a federal surplus led to a second, legally dubious convention that was not called by the state that did accept the terms. Michigan was given the Upper Peninsula as compensation, then considered a wilderness unfit for farming.


Stevens T. Mason would go on as Governor of Michigan. Robert Lucas would go on to be appointed Governor of Iowa Territory, where he was most known for using his powers to roll over the legislature and pick fights with surrounding states. Most notably he found himself in another border war, this time with the state of Missouri, leading to theHoney War.

Scott Walker: Today's Lucas/Putin?

Do American citizens today face the prospect of an imperial governor? Yes. Evidence would suggest Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the most likely governor currently in office.

It's even in his name
The first evidence seems innocuous enough. In 2011 Wisconsin launched a controversial winter tourism campaign in which they portrayed the state as a mitten. This angered the citizens of Michigan, who have long had the nickname "The Mitten State" because their state actually looks like a mitten.
The outline of Wisconsin looks nothing like a mitten, even if a sizable minority of Wisconsin citizens do have a hand that looks like that due to snowblower accidents.
Heed the safety warnings, Wisconsinites  
But suppose the Mitten image wasn't just for tourism. Perhaps it was propaganda for more insidious plans. Months after this campaign came out, news stories began appear about a secession plan for the Upper Peninsula. While secession had been proposed before, it was mostly in the 19th or early 20th century when geographic isolation was the push. Even the 1970s push can be dismissed, because people were entertaining a lot of crazy ideas in the '70s.

Notably, the most recent push does not mention including parts of Wisconsin, as previous campaigns had. What does this have to do with the Mitten campaign?

The biggest bar to secession is that most people, even if they are unhappy, are even more uncomfortable with the radial decision to change states. It takes a lot to break ties, let alone having to go to the DMV for new licenses and plates. But suppose Wisconsin wanted to show they to are kind of mitten shaped, and that even after leaving Michigan citizens were still living in the region as a peninsula above a mitten.

It stands to reason that had Michigan not been forced to take the Upper Peninsula as compensation for the loss of Toledo the Upper Peninsula would be part of Wisconsin. And the Upper Peninsula, while thought barren at first, was a rich source of mining and forestry, on top of tourism and the best pasties you've ever had.

Not only would the resources be a boon for Walker, but he has faced struggles in his promise to have 250,000 new jobs in his state by the end of his first term. Adding the Upper Peninsula would allow him to claim the added jobs from the new territory and cover the failure of his policies to meet his promise.

April 7th, The Day That Will Live In Infamy?

Prior to invading Crimea, Russia made headlines as the host of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. For Walker, the NCAA tournament has provided the sports cover for his imperial ambitions. The second round of the NCAA (and official round where people start to care) featured the Wisconsin Badgers playing in Milwaukee. After a triumphant send off, Wisconsin has proven a tough competitor. Wisconsin potentially faces the University of Michigan in the Final Four on April 5th and Michigan State in the Championship game on April 7th. A clean sweep of both would provide Walker a propaganda boost.

2014 Midterms

Of course, Russia did not invade Ukraine just because of the Olympics. The crisis and change in leadership in Ukraine pushed the move. But with Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder considered out of touch by most voters and polls narrowing his lead, aclose or contested election could be grounds for Walker to invade while claiming to represent the conservative regions of the Upper Peninsula. An ousted Rick Snyder would have plenty of incentive to drag his feet, especially if there were vested interests in annexation who had contributed to his secretive NERD fund.

Eternal Vigilance

If Michigan wants to avoid losing the Upper Peninsula to Wisconsin as it lost Toledo to Ohio, it must start demanding answers from Governor Snyder about where he falls on the issue, and must make sure the Michigan National Guard is both ready and able to counter any invasion.

At the same time, Michiganders of conscience must be aware of any propaganda being distributed to promote secession, annexation or simply to promote Wisconsin. They need to follow the propaganda to its source and make the citizens of Michigan aware. Failure to do so will only embolden Wisconsin to grab more, starting with the valuable tolls from the Mackinac Bridge and down further until not only is Lake Michigan a pond in the Wisconsin empire, it gets renamed Lake Walker.

Beware the grasping hand under the fake mitten
Follow me on Twitter @Philip_R_Moon

Originally posted to PhilipMoon on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 08:35 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.


Thoughts on the Future of the Upper Peninsula

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Comment Preferences

  •  Applause (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilipMoon, jorogo

    Look, I tried to be reasonable...

    by campionrules on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 08:43:02 AM PDT

  •  Join Canada (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If we get stuck in the future  with a Idiot Republican President along with a Republican House and Senate it will be an easy move for those of us who don't want to see everything we own and have work for given to the 1%

    Dogs and Philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards (Diogenes)

    by Out There on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 02:16:01 PM PDT

  •  Support The Foundation for a Sustainable Wisconsin (0+ / 0-)

    Join in on the conversation to support independent candidates for high office in Wisconsin - The Foundation for a Sustainable Wisconsin:

  •  I love this. (0+ / 0-)

    Any invasion would have to be the most polite engagement in histoy.

    Though NCAA bball would likely be the most contentious flashpoint, there could be others. Having a little getaway in Wisconsin within a few miles of youper territory, I'd learned to take my "empties" north to cash in on Michigan's deposit refund. Though I don't buy all my beers in the U.P., I do almost all of my up-north shopping there, so I feel somewhat entitled. On the last visit, I noticed a new sign posted at the supermarket kiosk warning that Wisconsin cans were no longer welcome here. The outrage welled up inside me until I couldn't help let out a "What the heck, eh?" You guys better watch out; if that happened to a Walker zombie, serious retaliation might be called for - you know our roads don't get paved for free! The great deposit-toll war isn't so far fetched!

    Our state tax dollars and its sensible management put up the resources to literally pave a mile-long stretch of what used to be a wilderness path leading into a wild-river waterfall nearby to the point that a limo could now negotiate it, just so Tonette could stroll to a "doncha just love what we've done with the wilderness" photo op without all those nasty tree roots and dirt and rocks underfoot (I love the pitch that by doing this the "rivers are protected from development"), so you know we have the resources to "improve" life in the U.P. as well - for your own good, of course.

    "All war is stupid" - JFK

    by jorogo on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 07:31:37 AM PDT

  •  And that Wisconsin "mitten"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ashes of Roses

    It's really a fist!

    "All war is stupid" - JFK

    by jorogo on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 08:14:52 AM PDT

    •  Wish I could rec a million for Solidarity Fist! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Also, re: pasties, we don't need to take the place over for them, but we'd be ok with da UP just sending us some--gotta keep our strength up to fight Walker another day, you know.  :)

      •  I've still not tried one of those pasties. (0+ / 0-)

        I got close twice. Once, I got one carry-out, but when I opened it in the car, it was.....frozen! Not what I expected to snack on while driving.

        The other time, the place put cheese, sorta, on all their pasties....american cheese! I'm a proud Wisconsinite, and it is my strict policy that I will not eat that crappy cheese-like manufactured product. Many a fine burger and sandwich has been ruined by not having real cheese on it.

        But I'll keep trying. I hear the rutabega is most traditional style - I'm good with that.

        "All war is stupid" - JFK

        by jorogo on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:32:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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