Guest Author - Tom Stewart
My wife Vicky and I recently returned from a weeklong trip through Tennessee. We started in Nashville and spent a couple of days there enjoying the music and food. We then spent two days in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We ended the trip in Bristol for the NASCAR race. While the vacation was great, this is not a travel site, and it was a little side trip that we took that sparked this article.
Not far from Gatlinburg is an area in the Smoky Mountains National Park called Cades Cove. This area, hidden in a valley in the Smoky Mountains but not isolated by any means, was once a microcosm of the American Dream. The first European settlers arrived in 1818 and they took advantage of the abundant wildlife and the fertile ground for farming. The population of Cades Cove at one point grew to over 700 people, enough to support several churches, which we were able to see on our trip through their community.
This area is one of the most visited sites in the entire Smoky Mountains National Park because of the beautiful panoramas, the wildlife, and the well preserved original buildings. The one thing we were not able to see are the citizens of Cades Cove. Why? Because there aren't any. The last residents moved out in the 1940’s, with the post office closing in 1947. This happened because the federal government, along with the willing assistance of the state legislature, decided to create the Smoky Mountains National Park. The mechanism they used was the power of “eminent domain”.
Eminent domain refers to the right of the government to take private property as long as it is for a proper purpose, and the property owner is to be given “fair” compensation for the taken property. I think most people would agree that there are legitimate purposes for the use of this power. Just about everyone at one time or another has taken a ride on the Interstate Highway System. All of that land was acquired by the federal government so that the roads could crisscross the country. Of course, if you were one of the people whose property was taken for this purpose, you may not feel too warm and fuzzy about it.
Back in the early days of our country, land was plentiful and the federal government was rightly limited by the Constitution. The founders and the majority of the people were weary of the power of a central government, which is why the Fifth Amendment was written. It expressly limits government abuses, which is why eminent domain was included.
Today, the federal government has grown in power and scope, far beyond what the founders intended. It touches every aspect of our lives and controls everything from our healthcare to our death taxes. This power has not come without a corresponding reduction in trust of the federal government. Opinion poll after opinion poll consistently show that the people’s trust in their government is under 20%.
So now we have a government that we don’t trust and it has the power to take our private property as long as in their judgement it is for a legitimate purpose.
Let’s go back to Cades Cove for a minute. When the Department of the Interior first proposed the Smoky Mountain National Park, Cades Cove was not included. Here you had a thriving little slice of America nestled in the mountains living the American Dream. Suddenly their world is shattered because their land interfered with a contiguous parkland. Now, I am not opposed to National Parks and having lands set aside for perpetuity for generations to enjoy. However, that has to be balanced with the rights of the average citizen. Was it really necessary to displace an entire community for a park? Wouldn't the park not still be one of the best in the world if they had left the people of Cades Cove alone? Was that really a legitimate purpose?
OK, that is ancient history. The people are gone and nothing is left but a few well preserved buildings. What’s the big deal? I mean, the feds have been relocating people for a long time. Remember the Japanese Internment Camps? How about those FEMA trailers that Hurricane Katrina victims were forced to move to. What could possibly go wrong?
Remember that we have a government that we can’t trust and it is now using the “Green Movement” to acquire private property. They call it “Sustainable Development” and they use the false notion of man-made global warming to close factories, increase the population density of public housing units, and take private property to make “greenspace.”
You may have heard of something called “Agenda 21”, which is a United Nations program to eliminate private property rights all over the world. The United States is a prime target of theirs. The use of eminent domain is a crucial tool to make that happen here. It is creeping Socialism and if left unchecked, our way of life and our form of government will be gone forever.
As we were driving the 11 mile loop through what is left of Cades Cove, my wife remarked at how unfair it was that those people were displaced for such a small portion of the park. Vicky is about as non-political as you can get but she recognized immediately that there was no pressing need, no national security purpose, no public safety reasons at all for what happened here. This was just the federal government flexing it’s muscles because it can. Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development will do the exact same thing to the rest of the country.
After my wife’s remark I was immediately struck by the fact that what happened in Cades Cove could happen to every one of us unless we regain control of our government. We all need to get involved by attending city and town meetings, running for office or supporting those who do, and holding our elected officials accountable for their actions. There is a new park in my town that was put in a location that no one uses, will not likely ever use, and now that property is unusable for anything else. It will likely stay that way until the people make our elected officials sit up and take notice.
Our Constitution begins, “We the people of the United States”, not “We the government”. We need to start paying more attention and stop letting the power shift from us to them. Agenda 21 puts the power squarely in the government’s hands.