Eaton V. United States
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
If the Congress do not consent that government shall send a force … to check the insolence of these scoundrels and to render the United States respectable, I hope they will resolve at their next session to wrest the quiver of arrows from the left talon of the Eagle and substitute a fiddle bow or a cigar in lieu.
~ William Eaton
The subject matter of William Eaton’s quote could be applied to any number of current issues. Too many leaders place biased priorities over the foundational spirit of our founding.
If the name of Eaton was the correct answer on a multiple-choice test, who among us could come up with the correct question? Actually, his name and his story have much to do with the idea that the individual and the sovereignty of our nation are at once singular and united with our American model, but let’s first delay that thought.
It is getting to be time to ramp up the celebration of fall works.
It is work, but it is also a reminder of heritage in cow country.
In our world, the days of following the work with the wagon and a hoodlum stacked high with bedrolls and equipment have been displaced with nights under roof and gooseneck trailers. Hay has replaced the need to jingle the horses, but oats still have a place in buckets and feeders (there aren’t nearly as many stanchions as we knew as kids). The sounds at the corral in early mornings, though, will largely mimic the times of old as will the preparations for the day.
Few are still milking cows to get done before horses are loaded, but you can bet the cowboys still assess each other’s tack and horses picked for the day. The mornings are now cold enough that missing a seat inside the pickup cabs and having to climb into the back will immediately remind everybody why a Levi jumper is still a most practical outerwear selection.
Our predecessors taught us that lesson well.
Most of them packed a can of Prince Albert or a sack of Bull Durham along with their rolling paper in their left jumper pockets whereas that is only a memory today. In a wind, those old cowboys could hunker down in those jackets and roll a smoke and light it with a kitchen match all with one hand. Health has now eliminated that, but the smell of that smoke in the early morning would sure bring back memories.
Jumping out and setting up circles and drives are throwbacks that are eternal.
The absence of pitching horses should make most everybody happier, but there will always be somebody in the mix gingerly stepping on and trying to get lined out before something happens that might result in a wreck.
It might be an occasional stretch to declare most cattle today are gentler than their predecessors, but the attempt has long been to seek and insist on stock that is easier to handle. Wild cattle are not welcome for the most part and we have worked hard to make it that way.
The general skill level is probably not on par with our predecessors, or perhaps a better way to say it is that there are fewer and fewer cowboys to select from than the industry of decades ago. What few that are truly accomplished, though, are throwbacks that always bear watching. Two or three in each crew make the entirety of the work not just more efficient, but elevates an old-time cowboy expression, copacetic, into an appropriate description.
Nostalgia, timelessness, and the celebration of many things not the least of which is the individual are all appropriate descriptions when the last gate is shut, and the horses are unsaddled at the end of fall works. There is a reminder that conclusions are important, and … so is the relationship between the steward and this God given land.
The plight of William Eaton is an important American lesson.
Eaton’s foray into our history took place back in 1805 when the United States finally decided to stand up to the tyranny and exploitation of the Barbary Coast pirates of the Mediterranean trade routes. As it turned out, he was an individual who believed there were some mountains that needed defending even if that meant death, and, as he demonstrated, the United States Constitution became the mountain he elected to defend.
Through twists of intrigue, Eaton was clandestinely assigned the task by Thomas Jefferson to displace the head tyrant and Bashaw of Tripoli, Yussef Karamanli, with his more malleable brother, Hamet Karamanli. In that process, Eaton endured unbelievable hardships and personal debt to protect the United States from the racketeering assaults on American cargo ships by the Bashaw. In the end, Jefferson abandoned Eaton and Hamet Karamanli with a treaty replete with hidden side deals that paid ransom to the Bashaw in exchange for his conditional allegiance. Of course, Yussef continued his gangster ways extorting luxurious demands on the U.S., drinking brandy with his concubines, and bankrupting his kingdom.
Jefferson eventually suffered politically with what today can be termed biased based, appeasement rule that saw him squander seven years by economic theory and unconfessed pacifism that flew in the face of his words in the Declaration of Independence. On the last day of his administration, he rode home horseback in a snowstorm in what must be considered a degree of disgrace.
Eaton, never forgiving Jefferson and the federal government for capitulating to an enemy of his country and his Constitution, died a broken man. His life remains a largely unknown lesson that conclusions are important, and … so is the relationship between the citizen and this God given land.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Government has become an elitist, biased based appeasement rule. The citizen and the Constitution are nothing more than adjuncts to a byline.”