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Topic: American History (Read 32969 times)
The Forgotten Gettysburg Addresser
Reply #150 on:
June 22, 2013, 06:38:06 PM »
The Forgotten Gettysburg Addresser
Despite Edward Everett's considerable gifts, the world has little noted what he said about a certain battle in 1863.
By BOB GREENE
One-hundred-and-fifty years later, you've still got to feel a little bad for him:
The poor guy who wrote and delivered the Gettysburg Address, and who then saw himself and his speech fade anonymously into the mists of history.
No, not that Gettysburg Address. The other one. The one that was supposed to be the main event that day.
The man's name was Edward Everett, and his story serves as a melancholy lesson for any of us who become cocksure that we're about to cross the finish line as the winner in something: our work, our play, any of the things at which we hope to succeed and prevail.
(Edward Everett (1794-1865)).
Everett had every right to be certain that he was going to be celebrated. He had gotten the prime job—he had been selected to be the featured speaker on that hallowed day in 1863 in Gettysburg, Pa.—and he had written a wonderful speech. And then . . .
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is July 1; sesquicentennial commemorations in that Pennsylvania town have been going on for much of the year and will culminate in the fall with ceremonies memorializing Abraham Lincoln's magnificent speech on Nov. 19, 1863. Everett will be an afterthought at best.
He was quite an accomplished fellow. He had been president of Harvard University, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. senator, governor of Massachusetts, U.S. secretary of state, minister to Great Britain. He was also, by all accounts, a terrific speechmaker.
So when, in 1863, the national cemetery in Gettysburg was being dedicated, Edward Everett was a natural choice to be the day's billboarded speaker. It wasn't clear that President Lincoln would even be in attendance. When Lincoln did agree to come to Gettysburg, his role was defined as making "dedicatory remarks." The day's "oration"—that's how it was described—was reserved for Everett.
He nailed it. He had prepared meticulously. He had researched and recreated in lovely yet searing language the facts and meanings of the Battle of Gettysburg. He spoke for two hours, and used all of his considerable skills to mesmerize the audience. He would have been justly confident in believing that the first words of his address would go down in history:
"Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. . . ."
Great stuff. And, a couple of rousing hours later, here was his windup: "But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg."
As Everett returned to his seat, he might well have assumed that he had just delivered a speech for the ages. By my count of his text, he had spoken 13,508 words.
Then, after some music, Lincoln stood up. A two-to-three-minute speech. Fewer than 280 words.
It's not difficult to understand why some people (falsely) assumed that Lincoln might have jotted the speech on the back of an envelope on the train from Washington to Gettysburg. He was finished almost before he began.
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
And, not much more than a blink of an eye later:
". . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
All of Everett's preparation, all of his dramatic elocution, all of his talent and intellect and exhaustive research . . . destined to be forgotten.
He received a consolation prize: Lincoln gave him one of the five copies of what, forevermore, would be known as the Gettysburg Address.
To historians—at least those who elect to notice Everett—his own speech is routinely referred to as the Gettysburg Oration.
Whatever his private thoughts might have been as he listened to Lincoln's brief remarks (a fleeting "Is that all you got?" would have been understandable), Everett was gracious in the aftermath. The next day, he wrote to Lincoln, expressing admiration for the "eloquent simplicity & appropriateness" of the president's speech: "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."
Lincoln was magnanimous (he could afford to be). He wrote back to Everett: "I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure."
One line in Lincoln's speech did turn out to be half-right: "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. . . ." Not true for Lincoln's words; true enough for Everett's.
We would all do well to keep in mind: Sometimes, regardless of how diligently you prepare, of how splendidly you do your job, of how thoroughly you consider every aspect of the task, you get blindsided by fate.
It would be convenient to be able to neatly conclude this tale by reporting that, the fame of the Gettysburg Address notwithstanding, two years later Lincoln went to Ford's Theatre and saw his days on Earth come to an untimely end, while Everett, though his speech was consigned to obscurity, went on to live a full and happy life.
But in fact, in January 1865 Everett came down with a bad cold while making another speech, this one in Boston, and died soon after. Lincoln outlived him by three months.
Sometimes, a guy just can't catch a break.
Mr. Greene, a columnist and commentator for CNN, is the author, most recently, of "Late Edition: A Love Story" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2010).
WSJ: Pickett's Other Charge
Reply #151 on:
June 22, 2013, 06:43:50 PM »
Pickett's Other Charge
On the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, a look at the family secrets its officers kept
By SCOTT D. SAGAN and SAMUEL K. SAGAN
With the arrival in a few weeks of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, it is worth pausing to note not just the event itself but the history of its commemoration. It was only in July 1887—a full generation after the end of the Civil War—that the anniversary of the battle received national attention for the first time. Reunited in southern Pennsylvania with their former Union foes, Confederate veterans walked once again across the field of Pickett's Charge and shook hands with the Northerners along the old stone wall on Cemetery Ridge.
[image] Scala/Art Resource
Gen. George E. Pickett lived with a Native American woman out West and had a son with her.
Gen. George Edward Pickett's young widow, Sallie Corbell Pickett, was "the center of attraction on the field" that day, according to the New York Times. She signed autographs and passed out daisies and clover heads to the Virginian veterans as they started their mile-long march toward the Union line. The survivors of Pickett's division had chipped in 25 cents each to help pay for Sallie's travel expenses.
The reunion launched Sallie Pickett on a career as a professional widow, promoting her husband's fame and protecting his reputation for courage and chivalry. But on that July day in 1887, Sallie was also harboring a family secret: George Pickett had lived with a young Native American woman before the war, when he was stationed in the remote Washington Territory, and their mixed-race son, James Tilton Pickett, was now demanding his share of the general's property.
Sallie Pickett could not afford the professional and personal scandal that would emerge in the postbellum South if it became known that her revered husband had crossed racial lines and had a secret "half-breed" son. What was a young widow to do?
She hid the truth. And the story of "Jimmie" Pickett remained hidden for decades until a local Washington state historian, who knew Jimmie personally, mentioned him in her book in the 1920s. By then Sallie had fabricated her own story to explain why there was an Indian boy out west bearing the name of her husband. According to her 1908 article in McClure's Magazine, George Pickett had "made the local Indians his friends, learned their languages, built schools for them and taught them…. One of the old chiefs insisted upon making him a present of one of his children."
Her coverup was part of a larger conspiracy of silence among U.S. officers who had taken Indian "wives" and abandoned them and their children when they moved back east to fight in 1861. Private diaries and local records reveal how common sexual relationships were between white officers and native girls in the Washington Territory before the war.
At Fort Bellingham, Robert F. Davis—the nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis—had an Indian "wife" and son, and Edmund C. Fitzhugh—later Pickett's adjutant at Gettysburg—lived with two native women and had three children with them. Future Union officers were no different: Philip Sheridan—later cavalry commander for the Army of the Potomac—shared his bed with a Rogue River Indian girl in Oregon; James W. Forsyth—Sheridan's chief of staff and later commander of the 7th Cavalry at the Wounded Knee massacre—had a Lummi lover near the San Juan Islands.
In addition to sexual attraction, mutual economic and political benefits encouraged officers to enter into intimate partnerships with Native Americans. From the officer's perspective, an Indian "wife" could serve as an emissary between the fort and local tribes and could warn when danger appeared on the horizon. From the tribal chief's perspective, an arranged interracial "marriage" brought prestige and better economic and political ties with the incoming conquering army.
George Pickett, like other officers, almost certainly did not marry his Indian "wife" in an American civil or religious ceremony. A civil marriage between a white man and an Indian woman was illegal after 1855 in the Washington Territory, when the legislature in Olympia passed antimiscegenation laws prohibiting marriages "when either of the parties thereto is a white person and the other is a negro or Indian, or a person with one-half or more negro or Indian blood."
Most officers' Native American mistresses and children left few records behind. Jimmie Pickett, however, was an exception. Jimmie's mother had died soon after childbirth, and George Pickett sent his son, along with $100, to a childless white couple farming near Olympia. After George Pickett went east to join the Army of Northern Virginia, he never saw Jimmie again, never wrote to him and never sent additional financial support.
But Jimmie's foster parents sent him to Union Academy in Olympia in 1876 and later scrimped and saved to send him to the San Francisco Institute of Design. Jimmie eventually became a successful artist and an illustrator for the Portland Oregonian and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Gen. Pickett died unexpectedly of "gastric fever" on July 30, 1875. The 17-year-old Jimmie received his first letter from Sallie announcing the death. This sparked a warm correspondence between them that lasted until it was discovered that George Pickett had owned land near Fort Bellingham, prompting questions about inheritance.
Sallie had acknowledged that Jimmie was her husband's son, but now she insisted that he was a bastard and had no inheritance rights. Jimmie fought back, working with a local Bellingham lawyer who provided free legal advice. Jimmie had a decent case, for although his mother and father were not legally married, the antimiscegenation laws had been changed by the Republican-controlled legislature and a local court had recently ruled that mixed-race children of common-law marriages could be considered legitimate.
Desperate to avoid a scandal, Sallie settled out of court, giving up her claim to the property in exchange for $5, while still maintaining that she and her son, George E. Pickett II, were "the only heirs at law" of Gen. Pickett. Jimmie again fought back in his own affidavit that insisted that the general had three "heirs at law," "his wife Sallie C. Pickett and his two sons George E. Pickett and this affiant."
Jimmie immediately sold the land for $750. But he did not get to enjoy his inheritance for long. He died unmarried and childless in Portland from typhoid fever in 1889. Sallie's career as a professional widow, using what she considered a more elegant pen name, LaSalle, continued for another 40 years. Her popular 1899 book about her husband's military experiences, "Pickett and His Men" was later determined to contain significant plagiarism, and she published two editions of her wartime letters from Gen. Pickett that are now recognized to contain many forgeries.
LaSalle became a significant figure straddling the Lost Cause and Reconciliation movements, traveling widely on the national lecture circuit. She published many articles about her husband and the joys of Southern plantation life, including a nine-part series in Cosmopolitan. LaSalle Corbell Pickett was not a stickler for the truth.
The story of Jimmie Pickett highlights the contrast between the Old South, where the widow of a famous general could not publicly acknowledge his half-Indian son, and the more progressive Northwest frontier, where a young man of mixed race could be integrated into white society.
—Scott D. Sagan is the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. Samuel K. Sagan is a senior at Crystal Springs Upland School in Hillsborough, Calif.
The choices made at Gettysburg still reverberate
Reply #152 on:
July 01, 2013, 04:42:17 PM »
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle at Gettysburg.
But before what is remembered as Pickett’s Charge — mostly a brisk 19-minute walk — headed toward Cemetery Ridge, choices made by Lee and some of his generals had put victory beyond the reach of valor. They were, however, choices.
Books about battles, historian Allen C. Guelzo says tartly, have “acquired among my academic peers a reputation close to pornography,” war being, in their eyes, chiefly a manifestation of American savagery. But, he says dryly, one cannot discuss the 19th century without discussing the Civil War era, whose “singular event was a war.” And one conducted, not least at Gettysburg, with an “amateurism” — a “bewildered, small-town incompetence” — that magnified its bloodiness.
and another one from Noonan
Reply #153 on:
July 03, 2013, 09:38:17 PM »
It appears Abe spent some months formulating and polishing his speech destined for the Ages.
And he didn't need a teleprompter let alone a speechwriter.
WSJ: The Internal Enemy
Reply #154 on:
September 15, 2013, 08:12:44 PM »
Book Review: 'The Internal Enemy' by Alan Taylor
Slaves were feared in Virginia, yet they wanted to be Americans much more than to murder them.
MARK M. SMITH
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, so the story goes, were the architects of liberty during the nation's formative years. These Virginians, with their insistent beliefs in American independence and self-determination, were the true stewards of freedom in the Early Republic.
To Alan Taylor this is as much myth as Parson Weems's account of George Washington and the cherry tree. The ideals of freedom expressed so eloquently by Jefferson and Madison were betrayed by their actions. By defending slavery and protecting their economic interests, the men we venerate as the Founding Fathers rendered their proclaimed commitment to liberty shrill and hollow. In his impressively researched and beautifully crafted "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832," Mr. Taylor introduces us to far less familiar custodians of American liberty—slaves and former slaves like Bartlet Shanklyn, Jack Ditcher and Jeremiah West.
The Internal Enemy
By Alan Taylor
Norton, 605 pages, $35
The Cocoon of Dread An 1831 engraving of Nat Turner's revolt.
In the past two decades, Mr. Taylor has established himself as one of our leading historians of the Early Republic, with a particular mastery of the social, economic and political intricacies of daily and national life. But he is also a gifted writer, and one committed to narrative history. His main focus here is the War of 1812, but he admirably contextualizes it with a brilliant account of slavery in Virginia during and after the Revolution. He sets out to explore the "causes, course, and consequences of the flight by slaves to join and help the British" during the war years of 1812-15 in an effort to "reveal the social complexities of slavery in Virginia from the American Revolution through Nat Turner's revolt in 1831."
Mr. Taylor shows us that the greatest promoters of liberty in America were the very ones profiting from slavery. The Revolutionary War only tightened the relationship between slavery and freedom. Thanks to slave births, Virginia's enslaved population swelled from 210,000 at the beginning of the war to 236,000 at its conclusion, and slavery remained "as prosperous and important as ever." White Virginians were among the most vocal critics of Britain before and during the revolution and were particular in deploying the language of bondage to make their points. George Washington thought the British aimed to "make us as tame and abject slaves as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway." Men like Jefferson and Madison blasted parliamentary taxes as "chains of slavery" but fought to preserve ownership of two-fifths of the state's population. In this, they saw no contradiction.
Virginia's planters were particularly incensed that British commanders encouraged slaves to flee to their lines and freedom. It didn't occur to them that the 800 Virginia slaves who ran away in 1776 were embracing a version of liberty more ecumenical in scope than the one peddled by the Founding Fathers. Little wonder that around 6,000 slaves fled Virginia plantations during the revolution, many of them finding freedom with the British, whom they saw as champions rather than oppressors.
But for the rest of the enslaved of Virginia, Mr. Taylor shows, the revolution was a calamity. Runaways recovered from the British were sold. Twenty-three slaves escaped Jefferson's Monticello, and he sold all six that he managed to reclaim, principally to punish them for disloyalty. Even more havoc was wrought among slave families when the newly minted Americans discarded the old British laws governing the inheritance of property, abolishing primogeniture and entail. As property that could now be divided among multiple heirs, slave families were suddenly split asunder. The sale of slaves increased after the revolution, with at least 100,000 Virginia slaves sold between 1790 and 1810. The system of slavery emerged stronger after 1776; slaves and their families more vulnerable.
During the War of 1812, Virginia's slaves subscribed to the old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. *Drawing upon memories of the Revolutionary War, they were alert for opportunities to run to British lines and liberty. Roughly 2,400 slaves escaped during the three years of war, and it is on this relatively unexplored exodus that Mr. Taylor trains his eye.
Initially, the British worried about feeding, clothing and freeing such refugees. But they quickly proved their worth as excellent scouts, happy to share their detailed knowledge of Virginia's shoreline, countryside and military positions. The runaways compromised Virginians' "security by identifying militia weak points and hidden shipping to the British." They also empowered the Royal Navy. "Formerly wary of the Chesapeake landscape, the British gained confidence after they recruited runaways for guides," writes Mr. Taylor. The British then did the unthinkable, enlisting 400 male runaways into a special battalion, the Colonial Marines. These troops helped the British strike into Virginia's interior and, eventually, to apply the hard hand of war to the nation's capital.
While the British saw the runaways as a way to strengthen their military position, the slaves were careful to get assurances of their future liberty. In 1814, once it became clear that the runaways were militarily invaluable and essential to securing fresh provisions for the army—once, in other words they had taught the British just how indispensable they were—the ex-slaves insisted that they be allowed to bring their families so that they too would be free. Mr. Taylor identifies a two-stage process here: "In the first, a pioneer runaway made initial contact with the British, and then in the second stage, he returned home to liberate kin and friends." The British, now dependent on the refugees, had little choice but to agree to harbor entire families on their ships.
Slaveholding Virginians loathed the British for encouraging the runaways, which was not only potentially economically ruinous but also perceived as a direct attack on their homes and way of life. Whites lived in a constant "cocoon of dread" of slave revolt. Slaves were their "internal enemy," their presence making planters a fretful, panicky bunch, quick to resort to terrible violence to defend their world. This skittishness clouded the judgment of the masters and blinded them to the basic fact that slaves weren't seeking revenge but, rather, equality and opportunity. "Blacks," says Mr. Taylor, "wanted to be American citizens rather than to murder them." This was what the British understood, and they believed freed slaves fully capable of functioning responsibly in civil society—albeit only as members of the lower rungs.
Americans were deeply offended when the British captured, impressed and whipped white American sailors. The British, they howled, were treating them like slaves and blurring racial lines critical to preserving white, republican freedom. Little had changed in the slaveholding mind-set since the revolution largely because these "otherwise honorable men" still saw the maintenance of slavery "as their duty." These lovers of liberty, Mr. Taylor writes, "sustained an exploitative and encompassing economic system dedicated to property in humans, the pursuit of profit, the rights of creditors, and the interests of heirs" because they saw "no other choice." To them, the institution of slavery and their own liberty were inseparable.
The war resulted in liberty for thousands of Virginia's slaves and their families. The British transported the bulk of refugees—almost 3,000 of them—to the barren soil of Nova Scotia, the Royal Navy's principal North American base, where the former slaves and their families eked out a living. Here they pondered the meaning of their liberty and explained it in letters to their erstwhile masters in Virginia. Bartlet Shanklyn wrote to his: "When I was with you I worked very hard and you neither g[ave] me money nor any satisfaction but sin[ce] I have been hear I am able to make Gold and Silver as well as you." Or, as Jeremiah West wrote to his former Virginia master from Halifax in 1818: "Thank God i can enjoy all comforts under the flag of old England and Here i Shall remain." Jack Ditcher, a slave implicated in an insurrection plot in 1800, summed up the sentiments of many when he declared, "We have as much right to fight for our liberty as any men."
If "The Internal Enemy" makes Virginia's Founding Fathers look appallingly self-absorbed, it also makes them look distinctly human. We tend to ask a great deal of our Founders, placing them on pedestals and expecting utter consonance between their words and actions. In so doing, we have come perilously near to dehumanizing them, in the same way historians used to depict slaves as objects rather than living, thinking agents.
Jefferson and Madison and the legion of slaveholding Virginians were manifestly men of their time and place. Like slaveholders elsewhere, they were on the cusp of momentous historical change. They had been schooled in a world where bondage and unfree labor were historically and geographically the norm. Not so with Virginia's runaways during the War of 1812. They bequeath us a version of freedom born in bondage and refined in the act of escaping from slavery. As such, they offer us a powerful and authentic iteration of the responsibilities and meaning of liberty, one arguably more enduring than the version espoused by the other, more conventional Founders.
WSJ: Founding Patients
Reply #155 on:
October 01, 2013, 03:06:09 PM »
George Washington died in 1799 following a horse ride in the rain. The precise cause of death is uncertain, but it was probably an infection, strep or staph. Epiglottitis followed, making it hard for him to swallow or breathe. And the medical treatment he received from his neighbor and physician, Dr. James Craik, only made things worse: The patient was bled four times, removing approximately half of his blood supply.
As Jeanne E. Abrams shows in "Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health," Washington's treatment was typical of the state of medical science and technology in those days. Indeed, Washington was far from the only Founding Father who had to endure primitive and dangerous medicine. All of the Founders, Ms. Abrams writes, "experienced dramatic and often tragic personal encounters with disease and epidemics."
The book chronicles the health, well-being and interactions with medicine of the Founding Fathers, to give us a sense both of the medical treatment of the time and of the Founders' thoughts on health care. After an introductory chapter on the state of health in revolutionary America, Ms. Abrams provides chapters on each of the Founders that she covers: George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John and Abigail Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. She concludes with some lessons we can learn from this tour.
The founding generation's afflictions ranged from the annoying to the fatal: All four of Martha Washington's children, and George Washington's stepchildren, died of disease. Washington's father and brother died young, as did his sister and half-sister. Washington himself was afflicted at different times by smallpox, pleurisy, hemorrhoids, dysentery and possibly tuberculosis. Franklin suffered gout, gallstones, psoriasis and frequent colds. Jefferson outlived five of his six children. Dolley Todd's husband, John Todd, died from yellow fever in 1793. Were it not for this tragedy, she wouldn't have become the wife of James Madison and one of our best-remembered first ladies.
Our fourth president, Madison had it particularly tough. In addition to an awful stomach and malaria, he may have had epilepsy. He was also terribly frail, at 5-foot-4 and less than 100 pounds. Despite all this, he managed to live to 85.
By Jeanne E. Abrams
(NYU, 306 pages, $30)
The Founders were aware that the medicine of their day left much to be desired. Jefferson observed that doctors did "more harm than good." His prodigious reading included works on science and medicine. Jefferson knew medicine as well as many doctors of the time. This may not have been that difficult: Of the 3,500 or so doctors in revolutionary America, only 10% had degrees. Throughout their careers, both Franklin and Jefferson sought to promote the use of scientific methods in medicine. Jefferson was also a critic of the barbarity of bloodletting, writing in a letter in 1814 that "in his theory of bleeding . . . I was very much opposed to my friend [Dr. Benjamin] Rush, whom I greatly loved; but who has done much harm, in the sincerest persuasion that he was preserving life."
The problem of primitive medicine would continue to plague American politics through the 19th century. James A. Garfield, our 20th president, died in 1881 after his doctors probed his bullet hole with unsterile fingers and metal instruments. The wound, if it had been left untreated, would likely have not been fatal. It wasn't the would-be assassin who killed him—it was the horrific medical treatment he received.
Ms. Abrams, a professor of Jewish studies at the University of Denver, also explores the Founders' approaches to what we would now call health policy. The farsighted Washington understood that the most pernicious threat to his army during the Revolutionary War wasn't the British. It was disease. He tried to expose his men to weaker forms of smallpox and strictly enforced rules that led to a healthier camp environment. As president, John Adams signed legislation that led to the creation of the Public Health Service and the post of surgeon general. Jefferson insisted that students at the University of Virginia, which he founded, be taught the basics of medicine. Franklin invented bifocals and the first American catheter.
Such innovations were sorely needed. The public-health system in early America was abysmal. As Ms. Abrams explains, local legislators in Philadelphia proposed clearing the bad air that was thought to bring yellow fever by firing cannons into the sky. With ideas such as these governing public health, it seems miraculous that any of the Founders lived as long as they did.
The book stumbles a bit toward the end, as the author tries to tell us what the Founders would have thought of health-care policy in the 21st century. This is always a dangerous move, and Ms. Abrams steps on the biggest health-care land mine of them all: Obamacare. According to the author, "the founders' commitment to the public good undoubtedly meant that they would've looked with approval on providing the opportunity to access good health care for all Americans." This is a dubious claim at best, made worse by the fact that there is no way to verify it. The Founders carry so much sway today precisely because they were visionaries whose view of limited government and the ingenuity of the people helped redefine the world. But it is presumptuous to say definitively where they would have stood on any single modern controversy.
Fortunately, this kind of speculation takes place only on the last page of "Revolutionary Medicine," and the rest is a readable and eye-opening account. We know so much about the Founders, but we rarely pause to think just how difficult "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" can be when you lack a good doctor or science-based care.
Mr. Troy, a former deputy secretary of health and human services, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. His latest book is "What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.
Retouched Civil War fotos
Reply #156 on:
October 07, 2013, 10:41:51 AM »
Morris: The Start of the Cold War
Reply #157 on:
October 19, 2013, 01:02:54 PM »
What if JFK was not shot?
Reply #158 on:
October 23, 2013, 11:09:06 AM »
I guess the only thing one can say for sure. More White House interns would have been essentially taken advantage of. That said. Oswald unwittingly won big time. Thanks to him we have had the Great Society, the anti-US counterculture of the 60's and a march forward towards a more socialist society. Would Vietnam have turned out like it did? Who knows? I don't think so. Would we have had Civil Rights like we did? Maybe not. I agree with it now in some form or another. Kennedy was not a big government guy according to this article. Interesting he stiffed the unions. Why didn't West Virginia mobster unions serve him up the 1960 primary win?
All conjecture. All water under the bridge but interesting to think what if.....
What if Kennedy lived?
By Jeff Greenfield October 21, 2013 12:15 PM
If Kennedy Lived
Jeff Greenfield's new book, "If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History" will be published Tuesday, October 22 by G.P. Putnam's Sons. This is an excerpt from the book's introduction.
It was Thursday, July 14, 1960, in Room 9333 of the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, and Kenny O’Donnell was furious at the man he had just helped nominate to be president of the United States.
Again and again, Sen. John F. Kennedy had assured the unions, the civil rights leaders, the liberals and intellectuals whose support he was seeking that Texas Sen. Lyndon Johnson would not be his choice for vice president. Yet now, little more than 12 hours after the Massachusetts Democrat had won a first ballot nomination with a razor-thin margin of five delegates, he had offered the second slot on the ticket to Johnson — and Johnson had accepted.
“I was so furious I could hardly talk,” O’Donnell remembered years later. “I thought of the promises we had made … the assurances we had given. I felt that we had been double crossed.”
So O’Donnell demanded to confront Kennedy face to face and the nominee complied, taking O’Donnell into the bathroom, and assuring him that the job would actually diminish Johnson’s power by placing him in a powerless, impotent job.
“I’m 43 years old,” Kennedy said, “and I’m the healthiest candidate for president in the United States. You’ve traveled with me enough to know that I’m not going to die in office. So the vice presidency doesn’t mean anything.”
The man who gave his disaffected aide this reassurance had lost a brother and a sister in airplane crashes; had almost died when his ship was destroyed in the South Pacific during World War II; had been stricken with an illness so serious in 1947 that he had been given the last rites of his church; had undergone a life-threatening operation in 1954 to save him from invalidism, an operation so serious that he was away from his Senate seat for nine months; who was living with a form of Addison’s disease — hidden from the press and public — that required a regular dose of powerful medicine; and who lived virtually every day in pain.
For a man so often described as “fatalistic” — who on the day of his murder mused to his wife, and to that same Kenny O’Donnell, about the ease with which “a man with a rifle” could kill him — Kennedy’s blithe assurance about his invulnerability to fate seemed astonishing. (If nothing else, his immersion in history must have taught him that seven presidents had died in office.)
Maybe, though, Kennedy’s words were not so astonishing. They reflect an impulse deep within the human spirit: to push aside the power of random chance, in favor of a more orderly, less chaotic universe. What has happened, the argument goes, is what had to happen. Even for someone like John Kennedy, who had seen sudden, violent death take two of his siblings, and come close to taking him more than once, had dismissed the whole idea of considering that possibility when choosing the man to stand “a heartbeat away.”
For most historians, the idea of lingering over the roads that might have been taken, but for a small twist of fate, to project what might be different about our lives, or our country, or world, seems at best a parlor game, at worst a fool’s errand, like asking “What if Spartacus had a plane?” That is the view that most historians share, in dismissing “counter-factual” history, the “what-if?” questions.
It is, however, not a unanimous view. In his book “Virtual History,” Harvard University historian Niall Ferguson offers a different approach: to examine “plausible or probable alternatives … only those alternatives which we can show on the basis of contemporary evidence that contemporaries actually considered.” It is an approach he calls “virtual” history, and it is anchored in the concept of “plausibility.”
This is the approach I’ve taken in “If Kennedy Lived,” a book that tries to answer in fictional terms a question that is very much alive today: What if John Kennedy had not died 50 years ago in Dallas? The small alteration of history that saves his life, in my account, is no high drama; it is, simply, a minor meteorological matter; had the rain not stopped in Dallas minutes before the president’s arrival, the bubble-top would have remained on the Presidential limousine, greatly improving the odds of Kennedy’s survival.
And after that tiny twist of fate saved the president? Any speculation about the alternative history has to put aside political ideology, or personal affection or distate for JFK, and turn to what we know about his beliefs, impulses and character. For me, for instance, his innate caution, his skepticism about Vietnam — expressed long before he’d become president — his distrust of his military advisors’ advice and his fear of miscalculation and misguided assumptions that shaped his behavior during the Cuban missile crisis all point to the likelihood that he would have disengaged.
But his political calculations, his fear of being tagged with a “Who Lost Vietnam” label, would have made him disengage by stealth, rather than by an open acknowledgement that victory was beyond our power. And a 1960s with no massive war in Vietnam would have meant a very different counterculture, one where “sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" still emerged, but where convulsive violence did not. In short, Woodstock, yes; Altamont, no.
Similarly, knowing JFK had little legislative skill and few ties to the congressional power brokers (as opposed to Lyndon Johnson) made it far less likely that he could have passed the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964, or pushed a Great Society agenda through the Congress, even if he had wished to. (And his skepticism about ambitious government programs might have kept him from even proposing so grand — or grandiose — an idea).
Beyond questions of policy, there are more personal matters: Would his extramarital sex life have been threatened with exposure? In fact, it nearly became a public matter in the weeks before his assassination, and had such exposure been a threat after Dallas, history tells us the Kennedys would have worked to keep the story quiet by means fair and foul. (If you doubt this, look at what the administration did in 1962 to force steel companies to toll back their price hikes. “Abuse of power” is not too strong a term.)
All this is by way of saying that alternative history cannot be hagiography, nor “pathography.” Anyone seeking to imagine an eight-year Kennedy presidency has to come to grips with his strengths and weaknesses, his admirable and deplorable character traits, in trying to determine how a change in the weather in Dallas would have changed — and not changed — one of the most turbulent periods in our history.
The real Lone Ranger was black
Reply #159 on:
October 29, 2013, 10:34:37 PM »
Truman saves Europe
Reply #160 on:
November 02, 2013, 10:44:55 AM »
Interesting details from the American Revolution on the Glenn Beck show.
Reply #161 on:
November 12, 2013, 10:14:34 AM »
Morris: History of the Korean War
Reply #162 on:
November 18, 2013, 06:45:22 AM »
WSJ: JFK was a conservative
Reply #163 on:
November 18, 2013, 07:32:30 AM »
Exposing the Myth of JFK's Politics
Liberals decried him as president, then rewrote the record after Dallas.
By L. Gordon Crovitz
Nov. 17, 2013 5:57 p.m. ET
Fifty years after John F. Kennedy's assassination, a surprising fact has been rediscovered: In his time, he was not considered a liberal.
"Understanding Kennedy as a political conservative may make liberals uncomfortable, by crowning conservatism with the halo of Camelot," Ira Stoll writes in his new book, " JFK, Conservative." Yet "it could make conservatives uncomfortable, too—many of them have long viscerally despised the entire Kennedy family, especially John F. Kennedy's younger brother Ted."
Mr. Stoll makes a strong case that in 1960 "the anti-Communist, anti-big government candidate was John F. Kennedy. The one touting government programs and higher salaries for public employees was Richard Nixon, " he writes.
JFK's false image as a government-loving peacenik was created "partly because of the work of liberal historians, partly as a result of shifts in American partisanship," Mr. Stoll writes. (Disclosure: I'm on the board of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published "JFK, Conservative.") The best-selling biographies of the president after his death were by two of his more left-wing advisers, Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
It's often forgotten how troubled left-liberals were by JFK. New York Times NYT +1.87% columnist Tom Wicker disdained as "bellicose" his Inaugural Address pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden" to defend freedom. Former Democratic aide Chris Matthews understood "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country" as "a hard Republican-sounding slap at the welfare state."
After making tariff reduction his top legislative goal for 1962, Kennedy announced that "the most urgent task confronting the Congress in 1963" was cutting marginal income-tax rates—not an antipoverty program or a civil rights law. "The soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now," he said. Liberal adviser John Kenneth Galbraith reported that Kennedy told him to "shut up about my opposition to tax cuts."
Kennedy's tax cuts were even to the right of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, which worried that "the economic impact of lower taxes is a guess at best." But he was right. The tax cuts, enacted after his death, created years of strong economic growth. The editorial page later championed supply-side economics, and Ronald Reagan cited JFK's precedent in embracing the idea.
In 1981, Sorensen admitted that "most of us and the press and historians have, for one reason or another, treated Kennedy as being much more liberal than he so regarded himself at the time." This admission was made only in private, at a meeting of administration veterans at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Likewise, Kennedy's Treasury secretary, Douglas Dillon, called JFK "fiscally conservative," but only in a speech to the Century Association, a private club in New York City, in 1993.
"It was too late," Mr. Stoll said in an interview. "The myth had already been created." Asked whether the increased transparency of our digital era would make it hard to repeat the spin job that portrayed Kennedy as a liberal, Mr. Stoll said: "The Internet does make fact-checking easier and deception harder."
Mr. Stoll discovered via the Internet that Sorensen's and Schlesinger's biographies reversed the chronology of two key foreign-policy speeches to make it look as if the president drifted more dovish. But JFK's later speech, at the Berlin Wall, was hard-line. He referred to communism as an "evil system" and gloated that free countries "have never had to put up a wall to keep our people in." Reagan used "evil empire" and began his "Tear Down This Wall" speech by saying, "Twenty-four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin."
The Internet led Mr. Stoll to a startling quote about Harold Christoffel, a United Auto Workers official who was sentenced to prison for lying to Congress about communist influence on a strike at an Allis-Chalmers plant in Wisconsin that made turbines for Navy destroyers. "The 1941 Allis-Chalmers strike was a commie strike," said Massachusetts Rep. John F. Kennedy. The source was a 1947 issue of the Dispatcher, the newspaper of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Mr. Stoll said it wasn't in the catalog of the Wisconsin Historical Society, but "a Google GOOG -0.16% search did turn up the LinkedIn profile of the intern who listed on her profile the experience of having processed and cataloged the papers for the Society." That led Mr. Stoll to the old news story.
Getting history right is important: The political tradition of economic growth, limited government and peace through strength worked for JFK and Reagan, two of the most popular postwar presidents.
Beck: Shay's Rebellion
Reply #164 on:
November 21, 2013, 04:00:55 PM »
A Day That “Unexpectedly Changed America”
Thursday, Nov 21, 2013 at 11:57 AM PST
Glenn Beck’s new book, “Miracle and Massacres“, is about helping people connect with the true, untold history of America. In chapter two, Glenn tells the story of Shays’ Rebellion, a conflict that crystallized the flaws of America under the Articles of Confederation and led to the Constitutional Convention.
Pick up an autographed copy of “Miracles and Massacres” by Glenn Beck HERE
Anarchy and tyranny — two radical extremes on the scale of government control. Each side has its lures and traps, and each has its advocates among those naïve or power-hungry people who still haven’t learned the hard lessons of history.
One of those lessons — an event we now remember as “Shays’ Rebellion – threatened to explode into something big enough to tear our new nation apart at the seams.
The end of the Revolutionary War was only the beginning for the young United States. There were many troubled years between 1783 and the day the final draft of the Constitution went into effect.
The foreign debt we accumulated during the revolution was enormous and, unlike today, that debt had to be paid … on time and in cash. But there was a big problem: the Articles of Confederation had created a central government so weak that it was unable to collect or even regulate taxes. That left it up to each of the 13 individual states to decide how to extract their share of what was owed from its citizens.
Massachusetts was hit particularly hard, and the farmers of that state, many of whom were veterans of the very war that had freed them from British tyranny, took the brunt of it. At the same time they were losing their homes and their land to rising taxes and foreclosure, some lacked the qualifications to even cast a vote in protest. Now, facing ruin and debtors’ prison, they felt powerless to fight back against the government policies that were bankrupting them.
When all else failed, a leader emerged to give his fellow citizens a voice — a farmer and a veteran named Daniel Shays. He organized a group of 1,500 like-minded men, and together they marched on the Springfield Courthouse, clubs and pitchforks and muskets in hand. Without firing a shot they sent the judges home and put a stop to that day’s foreclosure hearings.
It was a victory for anarchy, but it was short-lived. As word of this action spread, other pockets of resistance sprang up and similar scenes took place across western Massachusetts. As the confrontations escalated, the government responded, meeting force with force.
A final confrontation was still to come – a bloody battle that cost lives, and changed everything. But that was only a short-term consequence. The lasting impact of Shays’ Rebellion was the Constitution itself.
Designed to be strong enough to stave off anarchy, yet balanced enough to keep tyranny at bay, the Constitution handed citizens the greatest power of all — a vote in a representative republic.
Now, thanks in part to the warning triggered by a simple farmer in Massachusetts, we all sit here today with every bit of power we need to change our country … if only we’d remember how to use it.
The original Alaskan gold rush
Reply #165 on:
November 21, 2013, 10:36:47 PM »
second post on this thread
Reply #166 on:
November 22, 2013, 01:12:18 AM »
Some interesting photos circa Mexican-American War 1847. The bottom one is reportedly the burial site of Henry Clay's son killed in the war 1847 age 36. He served a term in Congress from Kentucky:
Reply #167 on:
November 22, 2013, 01:20:43 AM »
Two amazing photos. One the first known action battle photo ; 1870 I presume during the Franco Prussian war. To the right is one soldier apparently at the moment he is shot.
Another photo from 1847 showing American troops in Mexico.
Now we see war and death in our living rooms all the time.
Morris: How Truman got re-elected in 1948
Reply #168 on:
November 22, 2013, 07:49:23 AM »
Re: American History
Reply #169 on:
November 22, 2013, 10:49:51 AM »
Dick's radio show is excellent. I am not sure if it is national. He pissed me off with his dead wrong prediction for the '12 election. Yet he is extraordinarily insightful and does have very interesting talking points which I do not see or hear anywhere else. I think we should continue to listen to him.
Interesting history lesson on how Truman got elected. The democrats today are going to try the EXACT same strategy. Balkanize the country pull on female heart strings, play up the rights issue for Latinos Gays and all the rest. Then pass as many bills in the Senate. Maybe as Harkin calls change the rules to all legislation in the Senate, then sit back and call Congress the "do nothing Congress" as the economy flounders. All the while The grafter Clinton crew will be all over the media map drumming into our heads like the mediocre pop songs today over and over again how she is for getting things done and working with the other side. Bill will be out there reminding us how the economy was better (thanks to a boom in tech - all which crashed just months after he left) and how he crossed the aisle to fix Medicaid (he was kicking and screaming and did so only when the polls instructed him to).
Perhaps the Truman '48 election is the going to be redacted in '16. I am also going to post this on the 2016 thread where I think the analogy is quite strong.
Reply #170 on:
November 22, 2013, 12:17:43 PM »
Of a communist murdering a conservative American president.
Reply #171 on:
November 23, 2013, 10:18:13 PM »
thought to be oldest photo of house in NYC. 1848.
The origins of Thanksgiving
Reply #172 on:
November 28, 2013, 12:35:55 PM »
Morris: Roots of the Vietnam War
Reply #173 on:
December 07, 2013, 12:00:59 PM »
WORKING FROM MEMORY HERE:
I would add that after the French defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu by General Giap, that President Eisenhower started getting us involved in Indochina-- including Laos. The promised elections out of the Geneva Accords after DBP were denied in the south by , , , Bao Dai? Diem? because communist Ho Chi Minh would likely have won a fair election. As JFK was coming to power, the US allies in Laos had suffered setbacks at the "Plain of Jars". IMHO JFK increased US advisors in Vietnam in part as a face-saving move to cover that we had not done well in Laos.
WSJ: American's Great Game
Reply #174 on:
December 12, 2013, 11:32:21 AM »
Book Review: 'America's Great Game,' by Hugh Wilford
In 1951, the CIA created a front group to promote an anti-Zionist view of the Middle East and weaken American support for Israel.
By Michael Doran
Dec. 11, 2013 7:09 p.m. ET
Kim Philby, the British turncoat who spied for the Soviet Union, described Kermit Roosevelt as "a courteous, soft-spoken Easterner with impeccable social connections, well-educated rather than intellectual, pleasant and unassuming as host and guest." Theodore Roosevelt's grandson, Philby thought, was "the last person that you would expect to be up to the neck in dirty tricks."
Roosevelt, who headed the CIA's Middle East division in the Eisenhower administration, is best remembered today for engineering the coup that toppled Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. But in "America's Great Game," Hugh Wilford reminds us that Roosevelt was also deeply involved in the Arab world. Indeed, he was the agency's foremost "Arabist." The term usually refers to State Department regional experts who were the intellectual, and often biological, descendants of American missionaries in the Arab lands. These officials were fiercely anti-Zionist, convinced that American support for Israel was a strategic blunder of the first order. This was because, as Mr. Wilford writes, they believed "in the overriding importance of American-Arab, and Christian-Muslim, relations."
The book examines the role of CIA Arabists by tracing the careers of Roosevelt and two of his comrades: his cousin Archie and Miles Copeland, an Alabama jazz musician who, like many in the early CIA, wound up at the agency through his work in its wartime precursor, the Office of Strategic Services.
The author, a historian at California State University, Long Beach, makes deft use of declassified government documents. He also draws on the personal papers and memoirs of CIA agents and their associates, sources that until now have remained almost entirely untapped. We learn, for example, that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles often ran important diplomatic missions through Roosevelt rather than normal State Department channels. But the most important of the Arabists' efforts was the attempt, in Eisenhower's first term, to turn Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's charismatic strongman, into a strategic partner—a gambit that failed miserably.
In addition to analytical rigor, Mr. Wilford has an eye for a good story. It helps that his characters were larger-than-life figures. Kermit—or "Kim," as he was known—is at the center of the drama, and his personality is captured in all of its complexity. The portrait of Archie is less well-developed, mainly because he was more tight-lipped than his cousin. The two learned early that, as grandsons of Teddy, they were expected to take the world by storm. Kim's upbringing, especially, was modeled on aristocratic life in Victorian Britain. His time as an adult, he was led to believe, would be split between writing, exploration, big-game hunting and national service.
America's Great Game
By Hugh Wilford
(Basic, 342 pages, $29.99)
By the time the two cousins were ready to strike out on their own, however, the family fortune had dwindled. Even with money, living up to the Roosevelt name was hard. Without money, it was nearly impossible. The CIA was an elegant escape from this dilemma, offering a career that combined adventure, travel and service to country—all on the salary of a government bureaucrat.
Miles Copeland, the third subject of the book, came from a very different world. Nothing in his career prior to his wartime service had prepared him for the central role he would play in American-Arab affairs or the close relations he would develop with the patrician Roosevelts. In bringing his character to life, Mr. Wilford is aided by Copeland's garrulousness. His two memoirs are probably the most revealing first-person accounts ever penned by an American covert operator.
Copeland was a full-time self-promoter, and he never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn. His first posting to the Middle East was in Syria in 1949, where he worked closely with Archie, who was then working out of Beirut. Whereas Archie, the more punctilious of the two, put together a network of agents and studiously collected reports, Copeland flew by the seat of his pants. When Archie accused him of fabricating reports to Washington, Copeland didn't deny it. "What's the difference between my fabricating reports and your letting your agents do it?" Copeland retorted. "At least mine make sense."
The Middle East in the 1950s offered surprising opportunities for such men. Kim was, for instance, the motive force behind the 1951 founding of the American Friends of the Middle East. Seemingly a private outfit dedicated to citizen diplomacy, it was actually a CIA front that sought to weaken support for the Jewish state in the U.S. You read that right: The CIA created an early counterbalance to the pro-Israel lobby, promoting an anti-Zionist reading of the region until 1967, when the radical magazine Ramparts exposed agency funding to domestic organizations.
The Roosevelt cousins, Copeland and other leading Arabists believed that a century of American missionary activity had paved the way for a Pax Americana in the region—if only the Israelis could be sidelined. The early Eisenhower administration was their heyday. Eisenhower and Dulles gave such professionals in the State Department and the CIA carte blanche. But the Arabists' massive efforts notwithstanding, Nasser drifted into the Soviet orbit and began spreading nationalist revolt throughout the region.
Why? In answering this question, Mr. Wilford rehashes the conventional wisdom, which holds that, despite its generally pro-Arab stance—including taking Egypt's side against Britain, France and Israel in the 1956 Suez Crisis—the U.S. under the Eisenhower administration still followed in the footsteps of empire and maligned the Arabs. The author might have questioned the core assumptions of the Arabists: Was sidelining Israel really the best way to create a Mideast Pax Americana? Would anti-Western Arabs led by Nasser ever have proved reliable U.S. allies?
But this criticism is a quibble. Mr. Wilford is a careful historian, with no Middle Eastern ax to grind. The main goal of "America's Great Game" is to shed light on the role of the CIA in the Middle East. It succeeds magnificently.
Mr. Doran, who served as a deputy assistant secretary of defense in 2007-08, is a senior fellow of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is writing a book on Eisenhower and the Middle East.
American History from Revolution to Reconstruction
Reply #175 on:
January 15, 2014, 12:25:59 PM »
I have not had a chance to give it a thorough look, but as first look it looks to be an excellent resource site.
The Wars of Reconstruction
Reply #176 on:
January 18, 2014, 09:03:49 AM »
Book Review: 'The Wars of Reconstruction' by Douglas R. Egerton
Reconstruction was meant to tear slavery from the American soil by stripping ex-Confederates of political power and transforming slaves into educated, landowning citizens.
Fergus M. Bordewich
Jan. 17, 2014 4:28 p.m. ET
For many Americans, Reconstruction is still remembered, if it is remembered at all, as a period of racial anarchy, political failure and the "humiliation" of the defeated South. Indeed, it is probably fair to say that Americans' impressions of the era have been shaped, if only half-consciously, by films such as "Birth of a Nation" and "Gone With the Wind"—with their caricatures of predatory Yankee carpetbaggers and venal scalawags—more than by detailed knowledge of what actually happened in the South between 1865 and 1876 and in the years that followed.
The Wars of Reconstruction
By Douglas R. Egerton
Bloomsbury, 438 pages, $30
An 1868 illustration evoking the difficulties faced by the Freedmen's Bureau, the agency responsible for transforming Southern society, in the face of white opposition, to accommodate freed slaves. The Granger Collection, New York / The Granger Collection
The history of that era has rarely if ever been as well told as it is in Douglas R. Egerton's forcefully argued and crisply written "The Wars of Reconstruction." Mr. Egerton presents a sometimes inspiring but more often deeply shocking story that reveals the nation at its best and worst, when newly freed slaves and idealists, both black and white, struggled heroically against pitiless white terrorism to preserve the rights that Union armies had won on the battlefield and that Republican members of Congress affirmed in the years after the war.
Mr. Egerton, a history professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and the author of "Year of Meteors," a first-rate account of the 1860 election, asks us to see Reconstruction not as bad policy further doomed by corruption and incompetence but as a profoundly forward-looking program that was subverted by organized violence. Even among historians, Mr. Egerton says, the central question about Reconstruction is usually why it "failed, as opposed to ended, which hints that the process itself was somehow flawed and contributed to its own passing." In fact, he argues, the policies of Reconstruction were not only just but also economically sound, and they brought desperately needed change to the South until they were "violently overthrown by men who had fought for slavery during the Civil War and continued that battle as guerrilla partisans over the next decade."
Reconstruction was driven by a genuine moral commitment to tear slavery from American soil by its roots, by stripping former Confederates of political power while transforming former slaves into educated, landowning citizens. It also had a political dimension that was less idealistic. Republicans hoped to craft a majority for their party in the South by welding together coalitions of newly empowered blacks and Unionist whites who, some believed, were only waiting for encouragement to join hands across the racial divide.
The prospects for enlightened reform were promising in the months after the Confederate surrender in April 1865. Most Confederates understood that their power was shattered and were prepared to accept whatever terms the North offered. Mr. Egerton amasses considerable data to show that biracial Reconstruction governments were often politically dynamic and no more corrupt than their all-white counterparts. They worked hard to pass legislation and provide services that decades of antebellum planter control had neglected.
At the state level, laws expanding married women's property rights were enacted, divorce proceedings were modernized, minors were protected against parental abuse, and white fathers were made financially responsible for their mixed-race children. Black-dominated city councils paved dirt streets, established boards of health, and integrated police forces and public conveyances. Hundreds of blacks were elected to local, state and national office, including the U.S. Senate and House.
Aggressive federal land reform transformed lives. At the time of secession, almost no Southern blacks owned land; by 1880, 20% of black farmers did, a remarkable advance in the face of unremitting white hostility. Dramatic achievements were also registered in education, thanks to hundreds of black and white teachers who volunteered to work in new schools sponsored by the federal Freedmen's Bureau serving primarily black children and adults. This effort marked a revolution in a region where the education of slaves had been illegal almost everywhere. "De white folks didn' never help none of we black people to read en write no time . . . ," recalled one former slave quoted by Mr. Egerton. "If dey catch we black chillum wid a book, dey nearly bout kill us."
The Freedmen's Bureau schools quickly achieved what Mr. Egerton calls "spectacular gains in literacy." Less than two months after the end of the war, freedmen's schools were educating 2,000 children in Richmond, Va., alone. By the spring of 1866, at least 975 schools and 1,400 teachers were educating more than 90,000 students in 15 Southern states. By late 1869, more than 250,000 pupils were enrolled in freedmen's schools. As Mr. Egerton notes, literacy was imperative for black economic security: Ex-slaves needed to read in order to understand deeds and labor contracts.
Although freedmen's schools were open to whites, few attended. "Despite the absence of statewide systems in most Southern states," Mr. Egerton writes, "most parents preferred to consign their children to illiteracy rather than to see them educated alongside black children." White Families who did send their children to bureau schools were typically ostracized or physically beaten.
Mr. Egerton notes that, in the postwar years, blacks in the North, inspired by the new civil-rights legislation and the heroic example set by black Union troops during the war, were more willing to confront authority and challenge the North's own ingrained racism. Northern blacks, though not subject to the same systemic violence as in the South, were sometimes denied equal schooling, segregated in public conveyances and abused when they tried to vote.
Although defenders of the old South will doubtless disagree, Mr. Egerton makes a compelling case that American society as a whole would have benefited mightily had Reconstruction been permitted to fulfill its early promise. In particular, it would have saved the U.S. from the long Jim Crow agony of racial repression and the distortion of national politics by the South's determination to protect segregation at any price. So what went wrong?
Reconstruction's problems began with what was arguably the worst decision that Abraham Lincoln made as president, when he dropped from his 1864 re-election ticket his capable vice president, the abolitionist Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, and replaced him with Andrew Johnson, the Unionist Democrat from Tennessee. Fearing defeat in the November election, Lincoln hoped to shore up support among Northern Democrats and win the trust of voters in the reconquered areas of the seceded states.
Lincoln's assassination, a week after Appomattox, put Reconstruction in the hands of a racist, formerly slave-owning alcoholic who sabotaged efforts to extend civil rights—and physical protection—to newly freed slaves. Johnson encouraged Southern whites to reassert their power and ignored violence against freedman and white Unionists who were trying to form biracial coalitions. By executive order, he returned hundreds of thousands of acres to white planters. Republican military officers were replaced with compliant Democrats, many of whom averted their gaze when armed "white leagues" drove teachers from their schools, assassinated local black leaders, and intimidated defenseless black and white Unionist voters. Blacks who dared to defend themselves were murdered wholesale. Lawlessness, not Reconstruction, became the order of the day.
In Arkansas, one freedman reported in a letter to Pennsylvania Rep. Thaddeus Stevens that "the Rebbels" had "Burned Down a fine African Church which Cost the Freed Man about $5000" and left "24 Negro Men Women and Children" hanging from trees around their cabins. In New Orleans, 34 blacks and three white allies where shot down under white flags. In Texas, at least 62 freedmen were murdered in December 1867 and January 1868. In the run-up to the 1868 presidential election, across the South, as many as 1,300 black voters may have been murdered.
Johnson was impeached in 1867 and came within a hair's-breadth of being removed from office, a cliffhanger ably described by Mr. Egerton. (A more exhaustive treatment can be found in David O. Stewart's "Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy," published in 2010.) Ulysses Grant of course won the 1868 election, and for a few years federal troops attempted to protect Republican voters in the South. But the violence didn't end. Vigilante outfits—the Ku Klux Klan was just one of many—had learned that they could get away with murder and continued to do their bloody work.
Mr. Egerton vividly chronicles local terrorist campaigns across the South. While not usually coordinated from state to state, they followed similar patterns of ruthless vigilante warfare. Rarely did gangs of white "redeemers," as they liked to call themselves, bother to conceal their identity. In 1873, more than 100 black Republicans were massacred in Colfax, La., almost all of them unarmed, after they had surrendered to a force of white vigilantes. Similar slaughters took place across the former Confederate states; only the numbers of the dead varied. One white participant in the Colfax massacre, quoted by Nicholas Lemann in "Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War" (2006), which deals at length with this atrocity, blithely reported: "Luke lined [five men] up and his old gun went off, and he killed all five of them with two shots. Then it was like popcorn in a skillet."
As the years passed, Southern revisionists turned such massacres into glorious "victories" against "armies" of savage blacks that had never existed. Today, in Edgefield, S.C., there is a shrine to the "Red Shirt" movement whose bloody "redemption" of South Carolina from biracial democracy is dramatically rendered in Stephen Budiansky's "The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox" (2008). Red Shirt leader "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman, who boasted of his role in a notorious massacre in Hamburg, S.C., in which several disarmed black militiamen were murdered, was later elected to the U.S. Senate and became a role model for the young Strom Thurmond.
Paradoxically, Andrew Johnson's incompetence helped to empower congressional radicals who, in 1868 and 1870, pushed through passage of the 14th and 15th amendments guaranteeing black citizenship and the right to vote. But Northern attention, never wholly committed to the cause of black rights, soon drifted elsewhere. Federal troops were needed on the western frontier, and the enforcement of civil rights flagged.
The close presidential election of 1876 was pivotal. With key votes in dispute, neither Samuel Tilden nor Rutherford Hayes had a clear majority in the Electoral College. White-dominated former Confederate states, in a notorious compromise, agreed to yield their votes to allow the election of Hayes, a Republican, in return for guarantees that federal troops be withdrawn from the South. Thereafter the Democrat-controlled House agreed to approve military appropriations only if federal troops were never used again in the Southern states. One might say that the violence that had crushed Reconstruction's highest aspirations now reaped its reward: Northern abdication and Jim Crow.
"The Wars of Reconstruction" won't entirely replace Eric Foner's magisterial and equally wide-angled "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877" (1988), which devotes more attention than Mr. Egerton's book to economic and labor matters and to the development of capitalism during the period. Mr. Egerton's prose, however, is more readable and compelling than Mr. Foner's. He moves his narrative forward with a fine eye for the drama of events, offering a chorus of contemporary voices along the way: those of ex-slaves, war veterans, do-gooders, opportunists, educators, churchmen and politicians of every stripe, among them defenders of racial privilege. He includes as well ex-Confederates such as the politically courageous James Longstreet, Robert E. Lee's senior corps commander, who after the war became a Republican and embraced biracial reform, and Northern black crusaders such as Octavius Catto of Philadelphia, who helped make the assertion of civil rights a national cause. Collectively these figures, speaking to us amid Mr. Egerton's always acute presentation of the intricacies of federal and state politics, bring to life the war that was taking place not just in the halls of government but also deep in the small towns, red-dirt hamlets and cotton fields, where the bloodiest combat of Reconstruction took place.
The author remedies a particularly glaring deficit in our memory. He shows that black officeholders in the early Reconstruction era—demeaned by many pro-Southern historians and portrayed as lascivious buffoons by fictionalizers such as Thomas Dixon Jr., whose novels became the basis for "Birth of a Nation"—were substantial citizens well-prepared to govern. They had often risen from a middle class of ministers and businessmen that existed in antebellum America beyond the view of racist whites. By the turn of the 20th century, however, once-effective biracial coalitions across the South had been destroyed and black voters almost completely disenfranchised through physical intimidation and electoral trickery. White supremacists took control in all the former Confederate states.
Anyone who lived or worked in the Jim Crow South could see the price that African-Americans paid for the crippling of Reconstruction. In the mid-1960s, I spent a couple of seasons registering black voters in a remote rural county in Virginia. It was always difficult to persuade would-be voters to appear before hostile white registrars, even more so after the Ku Klux Klan held a rally festooned with Confederate flags on the steps of the courthouse where the blacks were required to register. On one occasion, I saw an entire black family flee out the back door of their cabin when I, an unfamiliar white man, approached.
Mr. Egerton makes abundantly clear why, a century after the Civil War, blacks in the South could still feel so vulnerable that they would flee at the sight of a white stranger. He reminds us, through the irresistible force of accumulated facts, that postwar history might have been very different and that we would today be a better nation for it. As he writes: "Members of a nation who rightly regard themselves as residents of a more just and democratic society than many others on the planet are collectively loath to admit that good and honorable policies were consciously overturned by a reactionary minority while thousands of people across the nation found it easier to look the other way."
—Mr. Bordewich's most recent book is "America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union."
Reply #177 on:
March 01, 2014, 05:07:49 PM »
Over 40 minutes, I have not watched this yet, but it comes recommended
Gen Charles Lee, Renegade Revolutionary
Reply #178 on:
July 04, 2014, 05:32:02 PM »
Book Review: 'Renegade Revolutionary' by Phillip Papas & 'Charles Lee' by Dominick Mazzagetti
Temperamental, conceited and sometimes downright odd, Charles Lee bridled under the command of General Washington.
by Stephen Brumwell
July 3, 2014 8:31 p.m. ET
Charles Lee has long been cast as one of the bit players in the drama of American independence. The Revolutionary Army general is remembered, if at all, for being dressed down by George Washington at the Battle of Monmouth.
Lee is, remarkably, the subject of two new biographies. If that were not enough, he has also appeared on the small screen in "Turn," the popular AMC drama loosely based upon the activities of the Culper Spy Ring, which fed intelligence about British military operations to Washington. In "Turn," Lee is depicted as having a fondness for debauchery and a readiness to collaborate with the enemy to gratify his own ambitions. Both Phillip Papas, in "Renegade Revolutionary: The Life of General Charles Lee, " and Dominick Mazzagetti, in "Charles Lee: Self Before Country," demonstrate that this picture is not far from the truth.
Charles Lee was born into a respectable gentry family in Cheshire, England, in 1731. The son of a British army colonel, Lee was commissioned into his father's regiment at 14. He fought in the French and Indian War, serving alongside George Washington in Gen. Edward Braddock's doomed campaign to capture Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio in 1755. Posted to Albany, Lee befriended the local Mohawk Indians, acquiring the suggestive tribal name "Boiling Water" and a native bride who bore him twins. In 1758, he was seriously wounded attacking French fortifications at Ticonderoga (America's bloodiest day of combat before Antietam in 1862).
By Phillip Papas
NYU, 403 pages, $39
By Dominick Mazzagetti
Rutgers, 271 pages, $32.95
'Washington's Rebuke of Lee' (ca. 1921), by Clyde Osmer DeLand. Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent,/Courtesy of Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection,/Bridgeman Images
With the American war winding down, Lee sought glory in Portugal, where, in 1762, Britain sent troops to help her Iberian ally rebuff a Spanish invasion. Under the command of "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne, another soldier destined to play a key role in the Revolutionary War, Lee led a dashingly successful night-time raid on a Spanish force. Such exploits did not bring the recognition Lee sought. In an era when patronage was paramount for promotion, the outspoken soldier had an unfortunate knack of alienating influential men, including the young King George III. Granted a royal audience, Lee interrupted his monarch's attempts to apologize for his stalled army career, stating: "Sir, I will never give your Majesty an opportunity of breaking your promise to me again."
Lee found consolation in a libertine lifestyle, mingling with a hard-drinking literary crowd fond of licentiousness, bizarre antics and radical politics. He was prone to extreme mood swings, alternating wild binges with long bouts of lethargy and depression, and Mr. Papas speculates that he might have been suffering from bipolar disorder.
In the 1760s, Lee, a gifted linguist, rambled across Europe, visiting its fashionable courts and wilder frontiers. He met Frederick the Great of Prussia and became a close acquaintance of Stanislas, King of Poland. Lee was awarded the honorary rank of major general in the Polish army and observed the Russians campaigning against the Ottoman Turks and Polish rebels, witnessing how small bands of irregular fighters could seriously disrupt and impede unwieldy regular forces. Combined with what he had already seen of frontier warfare in America, this experience did much to convince him of the superiority of guerrilla tactics over conventional ones.
During the escalating crisis between Britain and her American colonies, Lee's radical politics made him a vocal advocate for the patriots. He settled in Virginia and, as hostilities loomed, played an undeniably important role in inspiring resistance. He published a widely read pamphlet in 1774 that maintained that British army regulars could be beaten by a well-armed and motivated militia.
Many of Lee's American contemporaries were awed by his intellect and knowledge of the wider world. Yet his scrawny physique, unkempt appearance and devotion to his dogs raised eyebrows. Even in today's pet-centric society, a dog owner who insisted on seating his trusty hound at the dinner table, where it would proffer a paw to guests (a scenario recounted in a letter by an astonished Abigail Adams), might be considered odd. In Lee's era, such behavior suggested that he was barking mad.
Lee was the most experienced soldier available to the Continental Congress in 1775. As an Englishman, however, he was not eligible for the top command, which went to Washington. But Lee was far from content to play second fiddle to the reserved Virginian, who was in every sense his temperamental opposite.
Events in 1776 did nothing to diminish Lee's regard for his own abilities. Sent south by Congress that spring, he won acclaim for repulsing a bungled British assault upon Charleston, S.C. By contrast, Washington's reputation faltered as powerful forces tumbled him out of Manhattan. As Washington retreated across New Jersey, Lee repeatedly ignored Washington's pleas to reinforce him, convinced that he knew best how to win the war by using his troops for raiding parties to wear the enemy down. But Lee squandered his chance: On Dec. 13, while lodging in an isolated tavern at Basking Ridge, N.J., he was captured by British cavalry. Tellingly, just minutes before, he had been penning a letter criticizing Washington's abilities as a general. With characteristic pungency, he had written his friend Gen. Horatio Gates about how "a certain great man is most damnably deficient."
For the British, the capture of the popular general was a coup, and many patriots were correspondingly despondent. But Lee's removal from the field of battle was, in a way, fortuitous. On Dec. 22, 1776, Thomas Rodney, another officer in the Continental Army, noted in his diary that "too much confidence had been put in Lee," a circumstance that must have "greatly embarrassed" Washington. With Lee gone, the commander in chief "would be at liberty to exert his own talents." Rodney's analysis was astute: Within a fortnight, Washington had won his great victories at Trenton and Princeton.
Once it became clear that Lee would not be executed as a traitor to his king, he settled into a comfortable captivity and was soon corresponding with British officers. He even drafted a proposal suggesting that the rebellion could be crushed within months by deploying British warships to support an influx of crown troops from Maryland to Rhode Island, thereby encouraging an upsurge of loyalism. Mr. Papas, a professor of history at Union County College in New Jersey, is unconvinced that this document proves outright betrayal, largely because there is nothing to suggest that British Gen. William Howe took it seriously. By contrast, Mr. Mazzagetti, a lawyer and amateur historian, is less forgiving, seeing the proposal as hard evidence that Lee really was willing to betray the revolutionary cause in 1777.
In the event, "Mr. Lee's Plan" remained undiscovered until the 1860s, and, when he was exchanged in 1778, he rejoined the Continental Army with his reputation intact and his confidence in guerrilla warfare unshaken. But during his captivity much had changed. Thanks to the rigorous training regime of the former Prussian officer Baron Steuben, Washington's troops had emerged from the Valley Forge encampment confident enough to face the redcoats in a conventional, stand-up fight. Their chance came in June 1778, when the British evacuated Philadelphia and withdrew to New York across a blisteringly hot New Jersey. Lee chivvied the rear of the enemy column, but when the British turned to fight near Monmouth he was soon in trouble. Irate to find Lee's troops retreating without orders, Washington gave him the rough side of his tongue before stabilizing the situation.
The battle ended in a draw, and Lee's performance would likely have been considered unworthy of further rebuke were it not for his own intemperate personality. "Boiling Water" seethed with such resentment against Washington that he fired off a trio of increasingly insolent letters, voicing his discontent and demanding a court-martial. Washington was happy to oblige. In what amounted to a showdown between the commander in chief and his rival, the military court found Lee guilty of misconduct and disrespect and suspended him for a year.
Lee harnessed the press to defend himself and denounce his enemies, a misguided policy that cost him any lingering support—and resulted in a duel with one of Washington's aides, John Laurens (who wounded Lee). He never rejoined the Army and died in 1782 in Philadelphia, his passing barely noticed amid expectations of ultimate victory over Britain.
Mr. Papas argues that Lee's contributions to the winning of American independence, both as a propagandist and as a soldier, deserve recognition. To Mr. Mazzagetti, by contrast, any such merits are outweighed by the self-obsession that prompted Lee to cynically betray a cause he had once championed. Despite their differing verdicts, these are both soundly researched and readable books that can be equally recommended.
Much about Charles Lee's personality remains a mystery, but his latest biographers concur in emphasizing his vastly inflated ego. Given his craving for attention, Lee would surely be delighted to know that he is not yet forgotten.
—Mr. Brumwell's "George Washington: Gentleman Warrior" won the 2013 George Washington Book Prize.
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