Diplomacy as a Contact Sport

James K. Polk entered office in March of 1845… with two potential wars hanging over the country.  Negotiations with the British concerning the Oregon territory had reached an impasse while the new government in Mexico, under José Joaquín de Herrera, refused to recognize Texas independence; the Mexican government also considered American annexation an act of war.

“We should do our duty toward both Mexico and Great Britain, and firmly maintain our rights.”

 

British Minister Richard Pakenham rejected the compromise… of the 49th parallel as the boundary in the Oregon territory.  American expansionists were demanding 54°40′  or a war to obtain it.  Popular opinion held that America,  “by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent”.  Polk had to find the diplomatic middle ground or face a second war with the world’s superpower in 5o years.

 

Despite the better efforts of revisionists, Mexico wanted war… Texas had won independence in a fair fight and wanted to join the United States.  The Herrera government refused the treaty of San Jacinto ex post facto.  Texas annexation was legal, and a clear victory for the Polk administration.  Herrera decided to push north of the river Nueces and confront the Americans.  Polk had made all the correct political moves to annex Texas, now he had to defend the new American territory.

Old Rough and Ready ready to defend Texas.

 

Polk was confronted with diplomatic crises… from the moment he took office.  How did he do?

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Guilt by Association

“You will Do well to try to inoculate the Indians, by means of Blankets, as well as to Try Every other Method, that can Serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. — I should be very glad [if] your Scheme for Hunting them down by Dogs could take Effect; but England is at too great a Distance to think that at present.”  Lord Jeffrey Amherst to Colonel Henry Bouquet- July 16, 1763. 

Let the Yanks take all the blame...

Let the Yanks take all the blame…

A small passage from an insignificant letter…from the Royal Governor of North America to a soldier under his command during Pontiac’s Rebellion- its ramifications are infamous.  The astoundingly befuddled plans of two British officers(most North Americans had already been exposed) has been inexplicably  linked  to American Indian policy of the late 19th century.  There is not a scrap of evidence that any US officer advocated using biological warfare against any Indian nation; yet, popular sentiment holds it as an indisputable fact.  Our government committed many wrongs in its dealings with American Indians- this is not one of them.

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Facts in Five

Don’t call him “Teddy” edition

  • No one called him “Teddy” to his face; the nickname he preferred was  TR.
  • TR claimed he decided to be a Republican after watching Lincoln’s funeral parade from his grandfather’s Manhattan townhouse.
  • Frightened of his activism, the Republican party decided to “hide” Roosevelt on McKinley’s ticket in 1900
  • Roosevelt’s Progressive politics can be traced to the time he spent representing a poor, predominately immigrant district in the New York legislature
  • It was TR that ordered Commodore George Dewey’s squadron to the Philippines in anticipation of war with Spain
Always be ready to use the Big Stick

Always be ready to use the Big Stick

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Conference at Charlestown

Originally posted on Emerging Civil War:

Ulysses S. Grant. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Ulysses S. Grant. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The fall of Atlanta in early September, 1864 sent shockwaves through the Northern states. Sitting at his headquarters at City Point on the James River outside Petersburg, Virginia, Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, hoped that his subordinate in the Shenandoah Valley, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, would launch an offensive and capitalize on the Union success. For the better part of a month, Sheridan had marched his command up and down the Valley, having nothing to show for his maneuvers except an indecisive skirmish at Charlestown. For two weeks, Grant waited for Sheridan to take the offensive and deal a blow to Lieut. Gen. Jubal Early’s Army of the Valley. When none came, Grant decided to pay Sheridan a visit.

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Nathanael Greene Homestead – Coventry

Originally posted on Trails & Walks in Rhode Island:

Major General Nathanael Greene Homestead
Taft Street, Coventry, RI
Trailhead: 41°41’38.98″N, 71°32’39.51″W
Last Time Hiked: August 23, 2014
 
 
Approximate distance hiked: 1.5 miles
Easy with slight elevation.

On this property behind the homestead there is a small network of trails that run along and near the Pawtuxet River from the Washington Secondary Trail to a small peninsula. There is a spot to view the Anthony Trellis Bridge as well as the Clairiant Falls along the river. The falls are a manmade dam that once served a large mill building across the river. To access the trails follow the driveway to the right of the homestead. There is an opening in the stone wall here. Follow the path to the cemetery. There is an opening in the stone wall to the left of the cemetery. This is the access point to the trails. As for the homestead itself, there…

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Throwing Stones Through Conception Windows

At the center of the Jefferson/Hemings controversy... is the contention that Thomas Jefferson was in residence at Monticello 9 months prior to the births of Sally Hemings’s  four surviving children.  These ‘conception windows’ now serve as one of the three legs of the case for Jefferson’s paternity(along with the inconclusive DNA and inconsistent oral history.)

Behind closed doors?

Behind closed doors?

Fraser Neiman’s 2000 analysis... published in William and Mary Quarterly seemed to be just the type of evidence the paternity advocates wanted, the proverbial smoking gun.  Jefferson was at Monticello when Hemings conceived her children– case closed.  This is just the kind of scholarship that sells books, but at the same time,  assails history.  When it comes to the Jefferson/Hemings controversy, minds were made up before the DNA results, Annette Gordon-Reed’s revisionism, and Neiman’s loosely connected dots…whatever circumstantial evidence produced is now seen as definitive– scholarship be damned.

Be true, keep it real

Be true, keep it real

  • Neiman bases his assumptions solely on recorded birth dates in Jefferson’s Farm Book.  Jefferson was not present for all the births and there is no way of knowing when he recorded the events.
  • The conception windows are established by Neiman counting backward 267 days- a full term pregnancy.  There is no proof Sally Hemings carried all her children to term. It seems unlikely that a woman in the 19th century would have six full term pregnancies.
  • Jefferson was present at Monticello for  long stretches where Hemings did not give birth.  Neiman implies throughout his study that Jefferson’s visits consisted of sexual liaisons. Jefferson was at Monticello for nearly two years before the birth of Harriet Hemings(there were two Harriets)  in January 1795.   There are three year gaps between two of her births- Jefferson’s visits to Monticello did not result in a Hemings pregnancy.
  • Beverly Hemings’s conception date was set prior to July 8, 1797- yet Jefferson doesn’t arrive at Monticello until July 11.  Neiman cleverly fudges the numbers in this case.
  • Hemings’s next birth was not discovered in the Farm Book, but in a letter to Jefferson’s son-in-law, John Wayles Eppes.  Jefferson relates the birth  to “Maria’s maid.”  Maria was not living at Monticello during this time (Spring of 1799.)  Sally Hemings’s residence at Monticello is never firmly established.
  • Harriet Hemings was born in May of 1801, shortly after Jefferson became President.  Evidence suggests he was in the Charlottesville area during the conception window, but also reveals he was rarely at Monticello during the crucial period of August-September 1800.
  • Madison Hemings(one of the original sources in the oral history) was conceived during April of 1804.  Neiman wants us to believe that Jefferson did this during the final days of his daughter Maria’s life(she died April 17) and her funeral–with large number of extended family present.
  • There is evidence Sally Hemings worked outside the Monticello community.  When Martha Jefferson Randolph  informed her father of Harriet Hemings’s death, she wrote the letter from her home at Bellmont.  Jefferson referred to “Polly’s maid” giving birth in 1799.  If Sally was Martha’s maid at this time- they were not living at Monticello.
  • Sally Hemings conceived her last child, Eston, when Jefferson was 64 years old.  Jefferson took up permanent residence at Monticello in 1809- Sally Hemings stopped having children.  She was 35 at that time.  Wouldn’t Jefferson’s presence mean more births?

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Free Exercise thereof

Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs trampled on the Constitution…. during his war on Mormons in 1838.  When systematic harassment and confiscation of property failed to drive the Mormons away, Boggs issued the infamous Executive Order 44- the Mormon Extermination Order;

No religious freedom for Mormons

Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operation with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace–their outrages are beyond all description. If you can increase your force, you are authorized to do so to any extent you may consider necessary.

To avoid further bloodshed… Mormon leaders agreed to leave Missouri, but the damage had been done.  Partisan militias continued the bloody campaign of violence and terror continued for another two years.  The order ultimately cost Boggs his political career, but it stands as a stark reminder of religious intolerance in America.

 

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