How Silicon Valley almost joined the Confederacy... and the Rand Paul speechwriter who probably wishes it had
Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Lincoln by Confederate thespian John Wilkes Booth. The New York Times and AP have posted their original stories on the assassination — the Times' even features a digital replica of how the original article and newspaper looked to readers 150 years ago.
As most people know, California was with the Union during the Civil War, and voted both times for Lincoln — in a close vote in 1860 and overwhelmingly in 1864. Still, what's less well known is an incident in which what is now called Silicon Valley almost turned its back on Lincoln. The story goes like this...
Just before Lincoln was assassinated, he reportedly instructed the Speaker of the House, Schuyler Colfax, to deliver a big thank-you speech from the President to California's miners. One of the key California mines on Lincoln's mind was the New Almaden mine in San Jose, just a few miles south of eBay's current headquarters in Campbell. The mine was the United States' largest producer of red mercury (quicksilver), the key chemical in gold and silver mining, which the Union needed to finance the war. Two years earlier, in 1863, a dispute over ownership to the mining lands' title had broken out, nearly sparking an armed rebellion in Santa Clara Valley against the Union when one of Lincoln's corrupt aides tried to use federal troops to essentially steal the mine for his own interests. Lincoln ordered him to call off the troops, and Silicon Valley avoided the shame of having gone Confederate to protect a lucrative mercury mine.
Still, for some romantic diehards, the idea of a Silicon Valley that would support Wilkes Booth over Lincoln is an idea to be savored. One of those diehards is a man called Jack "Southern Avenger" Hunter, author of "John Wilkes Booth Was Right," and former chairman of the Charleston, South Carolina chapter of the extreme-right League of the South.
More importantly, Hunter is a close associate of Senator Rand Paul, the presidential wannabe who has announced plans to open an office in Silicon Valley in order to attract tech money for his own campaign.
How close? In 2011, Hunter co-wrote Sen. Rand Paul's first book, "The Tea Party Goes To Washington", published in 2011. He also served as Sen. Paul's head of social media, and was the Ron Paul 2012 campaign's main blogger when Rand's dad ran for president.
In 2013, the Washington Free Beacon was first to reveal that Hunter "spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist." Stunningly, as the Huffington Post reported, Rand Paul stood by his "Southern Avenger," before later allowing him to resign on his own.
Still, as others pointed out, Hunter was hardly the first neo-Confederate on Rand Paul's staff. In 2010, Rand Paul's senate campaign spokesman, Chris Hightower, resigned after a Kentucky blogger found all sorts of racist gibberish on his MySpace page. In fact, Rand Paul's own "Suggestions for Further Reading" list in his 2010 book includes books by Thomas Woods, a neo-Confederate secessionist and former member of the League of the South; and Murray Rothbard, the anarcho-libertarian who promoted the politics of Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, and who supposedly ghost-penned Ron Paul's racist newsletters. Rand Paul has written that Murray Rothbard "was a great influence on my thinking."
As Rand Paul makes the Valley his second home, one wonders if there are any more neo-Confederates waiting to come out of the Team Rand woodwork, wishing that the New Almaden mine standoff hadn't ended so peacefully in Lincoln's favor and the Confederate flag had flown over Silicon Valley.