Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Fighting the Snivel War
Further evidence of why I hate people:
In the early months of the U.S. Civil War, the city of Tampa needed ammunition and other supplies to defend against attack but the city was financially strapped and was short on cash, so it issued a promissory note for $299.58 to storekeeper Thomas Pugh Kennedy on June 21, 1861.
Kennedy's great-granddaughter says the city never made good on its loan. Now, Joan Kennedy Biddle and her family are suing to collect the payment, adjusted for inflation, plus 8 percent annual interest.
The total bill: $22.7-million. I kid you not. This lady wants over 22 and a half MILLION clams over a 147-year-old IOU. Biddle’s attorney, James Purdy, filed the suit in the Hillsborough Circuit Court last week. He did not return calls for comment from local papers, oddly enough.
Biddle wouldn't give specifics on why she decided to sue now, using as evidence a piece of paper that has been handed down as an heirloom for generations. “This thing has been in the family since the date on the note, and it has never been repaid," said Biddle, aged 77. "My daddy told me, and I certainly believe him."
Well, hell, Granny…if Daddy said it then it HAS to be true! I hope Daddy never said the moon was made of green cheese. Did Daddy also blame Alabama Barking Spiders for the funny noise when you pulled his finger, too?
In legal documents, Purdy argues that the statute of limitations doesn't apply in the case because at the time the note was issued, the state had no such statute on such documents. Spoken like a true ambulance-chaser who smells blood in the water and a payoff around the corner.
Biddle also pointed out that in the 1990s the federal government agreed to pay the Seminole tribe for land illegally taken in the 1820s. Well, I guess forcing indigenous peoples off their land and onto reservations, stripping them of their rights and claims, introducing great stuff like smallpox and syphilis, and destroying their entire culture is pretty much the same as 300 bucks, isn’t it?
But Tampa area attorney John Grandoff said the city can defend against the case using the "doctrine of laches," which prevents claims from being made after an extraordinary passage of time. "It's kind of how the court feels about whether it's been too long or not," Grandoff said. "It's total discretion on the judge's part." Tampa City Attorney David Smith said he doesn't consider the claim valid.
Rodney Kite-Powell, curator at the Tampa Bay History Center, noted that the Tampa of 1861 is not the same city that exists today, quite literally.
Tampa was originally incorporated in 1855, and was abolished in 1869 in part because residents had no money to pay taxes, and the city had no money to pay its bills; it was reincorporated in 1887. At the time the IOU was issued, Tampa was a tiny town with about 800 residents, and city limits that included just a portion of today’s modern downtown. It also was home to Fort Brooke where Confederate soldiers were stationed, hence the need for ammunition, to defend against the dreaded Yankee Scourge.
Biddle said she's known about the note since she was a little girl. "I showed it to the attorney, and he said it looked very interesting," she said. "It's strange that the thing has never been collected." Yeah, pretty strange, Nana. How about the complete and utter upheaval in the former Confederacy following the war, and the ensuing Reconstruction? And lest we forget that by war’s end, there was 6000% inflation in the Confederacy.
And if you think that the U.S. government is responsible for the debt of the Confederate government, you would be ever-so-slightly mistaken. As written in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution: “But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.” The loan was definitely to aid the insurrection that was the Confederacy and its war against the United States. That note was issued over five months after Florida seceded from the Union.
Sounds to me like some little old lady who needed some cash got an earful of crap from a shyster who wanted a cut of the profits.
Tell you what. I say we pay the lady back. I say as a gesture of good faith, the City of Tampa can give Mrs. Biddle her $300.00. That’s all that was promised, it seems, so that’s really all that’s owed. Besides, that promissory note was issued in Confederate dollars by a city that ceased to exist a few years later in a country that also no longer exists. So, if she wants 22.7 million dollars, pay her back in Confederate money. I’m sure there are oodles of it lying around somewhere in a Mason jar behind the still. If not, Xerox some. Or just hand her Monopoly money, since they’d be worth about the same.
Or…give her a gallon of gasoline. By year’s end it’ll be at about 22 million dollars a gallon anyways.