Colonel Ulrich Dahlgren led a group of Union troopers…. on a daring raid to free Union prisoners of war held at Belle Isle, Richmond VA. Dahlgren’s men were supposed to slip into the city on February 29, 1864 during a staged cavalry raid. The raid never materialized and Dahlgren’s troopers were unable to penetrate Richmond’s defenses. Dahlgren was killed trying to fight his way out of the city limits on March 2. Most of his men were captured. A young boy, rifling the Colonel’s pockets found copies of his orders….let the debate begin.
A noble mission
Conspiracy theorists hold that the orders were to kill Jefferson Davis… and the Confederate cabinet. For the conspiracy to hold water, it must be proven that the orders came from above Dahlgren. No such link has ever been found and only hearsay and speculation connect the orders to anyone outside the US Cavalry. The incriminating passages occur at the very end of longer lines of text as if added on hastily, ” If we do not succeed they must then dash down, and we will try and carry the bridge from each side. When necessary, the men must be filed through the woods and along the river bank. The bridges once secured, and the prisoners loose and over the river, the bridges will be secured and the city destroyed. The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and Cabinet killed. ” —–Four pages of written orders, and that is the only line that mentions what is seemingly the objective of the mission….but no where else are such objectives mentioned. Bull-Honkey !
The best case the evidence presents the conspiracy theorists… is that Dahlgren altered the orders himself. But why would he do such a thing? Why didn’t Dahlgren discuss the assassinations in his address to the men (that the survivors witnessed?) Historian Duane Schultz has uncovered enough evidence to suggest that Confederate agents tampered with the orders. What is clear is that Confederate agents used the forgeries as propaganda, which may have influenced John Wilkes Booth.
99 men signed the Declaration of Independence and Constitution… a group we consider the Founders. Plenty has been written about what set this generation apart- today, it seems most writers attempt to separate them for alleged transgressions. Today we accuse them of being greedy aristocrats determined to maintain their vast fortunes- we forget what actually made the Founders different. Of the 99 signers- only eight had fathers who attended college…
The Enlightenment in America
By all accounts, Peter Jefferson was a significant… part of early Virginia society. A wealthy planter, surveyor, and political leader- he had married into the powerful Randolph family. Jefferson was part of the vanguard of planters pushing into western Virginia. He was a self-made man whose hard work and ambition propelled him into the upper crust of Virginia society. But, he did not read Latin, he couldn’t play the violin, he wasn’t fluent in all the Romance languages, and he never questioned the religious or slave owning hierarchies in Virginia. The generation his son excelled in was very different- Thomas Jefferson was exceptional- yet, somehow, we have come to forget it today.**
**Gordon Wood explains this quite well in “Revolutionary Characters”
Filed under Ephemera, News
Give ‘Em Hell Harry !
Barack Obama faced an obstructionist Congress in 2012… much like the one Harry Truman faced in 1948. Truman waged a fiery campaign against what he termed the “do nothing Congress” and surged past a floundering Thomas Dewey. The 80th Congress was dominated by Conservative Republicans who blocked most of Truman’s domestic agenda that he laid out in 1945. Congress then passed the controversial anti-union Taft-Hartley Act over Truman’s veto. Truman went back to his populist roots and crisscrossed the nation championing the common man. The people rejected Republican obstructionism. Truman’s victory is the greatest election upset in our history.
Don’t always believe the polls
Truman faced a Congress with both houses… controlled by Republicans. Obama was confronted by a divided legislature, but it is giving him just as many headaches. Obama’s biggest problem is a flagging economy that has prompted legislative initiatives following a shift in control of the House. When Democrats controlled both houses much of Obama’s program was enacted, including the massive healthcare overhaul. The election proved that Truman’s tactics are still viable; Obama returned to some of Harry Truman’s rhetoric of ’48. Obama channeled Harry Truman to secure his second term. Unlike Truman, his legacy is still in doubt….
Did he really say “trillion ?”
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Challenger: Henry Clay- United States Secretary of State, Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives
Challenged: John Randolph- United States Senator from Virginia, Seven term US Representative from Virginia
The Offense: On the floor of the US Senate, Randolph challenged the legitimacy of the John Quincy Adams administration and implicated Clay was part of the “Corrupt Bargain” which gave the presidency to Adams. Clay demanded public satisfaction and was ignored; he quickly challenged Randolph to a duel.
Henry Clay of Kentucky
Background: The fiercely proud, frontier statesman, Henry Clay had already been wounded in a duel in 1809. Clay was arguably the most influential politician of the early republic period; guiding the country through the War of 1812, crafting the American System of economics following the war, and transforming the Speaker position to the powerful post we recognize today. John Randolph of Roanoke was brilliant, eccentric, and unpredictable. He defied Jefferson in 1807, opposed the War of 1812, and became a loyal Jacksonian; Randolph frustrated many in his native Virginia. It is believed he suffered from consumption and consumed liberal amounts of opium to manage his pain. Randolph was a crack shot and many powerful people in Washington approached him on Clay’s behalf- Henry Clay was too valuable to lose in a duel…..
John Randolph of Roanoke
The Field of Honor: Saturday, April 8, 1825- The duel was held in Virginia, Randolph declared that only Virginia soil could catch his blood. Dueling was illegal in Virginia, so both men would face criminal charges. Randolph’s Second, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, tried in vain to settle the dispute; even after Randolph’s pistol discharged early because of a hare-trigger. Clay demanded a reload and his satisfaction. At 30 paces, the two men turned and fired….both missed. Clay shouted, “This is child’s play!” and pistols were reloaded. Clay fired first and hit Randolph’s coat, missing the mark again. The Code Duello demanded that Clay absorb his opponent’s charge. Randolph took his time, a very tense 2 minutes passed…..he aimed high and fired over Clay’s head. The two men met halfway and shook hands, Clay asked, “Mr. Randolph are you hurt?” “No”, Randolph replied, ” but you owe me a new coat.”
Crawford, Allen Pell, Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 2009,
“A remarkably disciplined scholar… Jefferson spent money on books the way less purposeful young men spent it on whisky or women.” Allen Pell Crawford begins his study of Jefferson’s retirement at Monticello by reiterating long-established traits in the Sage of Monticello’s character. Crawford spends the first 50 pages concisely detailing Jefferson’s life through the presidency. No new ground is broken and it is clear that the author included this introduction to fit with the book’s overriding structure, chronology.
Crawford crafts a detailed and …readable account of Jefferson’s retirement following 1809. Ample time is spent exploring the personalities in Jefferson’s extended family including his intricate relationship with his daughter Martha. Family was vital to Jefferson’s being and all the heartbreak he experienced is recounted in painstaking detail. Crawford misses a real opportunity to examine loss, one of the accepted but underdeveloped themes in Jefferson scholarship. Rather, Jefferson’s much maligned finances are retold as Crawford does his best to link them to some character flaw, though he never is able to attribute it to more than carelessness. Readers unfamiliar with Jefferson’s retirement will read with disillusion of the attempted murder of his beloved grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. More examination of the crucial relationships with Madison and Adams could have brought much-needed depth to Crawford’s analysis of Jefferson’s intellectual character. This remains the book’s weakest element, the examination of Jefferson’s mind.
Jefferson’s mind eludes Crawford… despite his best efforts to explain its inconsistencies. “Jefferson’s view of himself as an empiricist may also suggest how little self-knowledge he possessed…” Crawford’s error is applying traditional analysis to a mind like Jefferson’s. Biographers long ago discovered that Jefferson possessed diametrically opposed psychological features. Nowhere is this more evident than in the discussion of Jefferson and slavery. Volumes have been written about Jefferson and the contradiction of his slave owning. Crawford falls prey to the politically correct pseudo-scholarship that dominates current Jefferson discourse. This brand of scholarship deals in absolutes forged in modern racial attitudes leaving no room for nuance or ambiguity. “That Jefferson could not act when urged to do more to end an institution that he acknowledged to be a moral wrong indicates the extent to which he was lacking in moral imagination.” Crawford ignores the clear and well documented evidence to contrary to make the socially acceptable conclusion. The urgency with which Crawford recounts the rumors regarding Jefferson’s alleged affair with Sally Hemings nearly draws the narrative to the level of tabloid storytelling. Readers familiar with the controversy can’t ignore the fact that Sally stopped having children after Jefferson started residing at Monticello fulltime.
Allen Pell Crawford never actually… decides what kind of book he is writing. At times Twilight at Monticello is a chronological account of Jefferson’s retirement, while also trying to examine complex features of Jefferson’s psychological makeup. The result is a confused narrative filled with interesting tidbits and politically correct platitudes. Readers unfamiliar with Jefferson’s later years could find some use for Crawford’s study, but students of history won’t find much use for the book off their E-readers.
Even the eternal optimist within… Thomas Jefferson was dragged down to earth by loss. Behind the iconic image was a man who loved deeply and lost nearly everyone dear to him. Despite the pain, Jefferson remained optimistic, immersing himself in books and his correspondence. He told his friend John Adams;
“You ask if I would agree to live my 70. or rather 73. years over again? To which I say Yea. I think with you that it is a good world on the whole, that it has been framed on a principle of benevolence, and more pleasure than pain dealt out to us.”
Tugging at his enlightened nature… was the depression that followed the loss of his loved ones. Jefferson pondered the concept of grief to Adams;
“I have often wondered for what good end the sensations of Grief could be intended. All our other passions, within proper bounds, have a useful object.”
Jefferson outlived his wife and all but one… of their children. The thought of living out his days alone terrified him;
“This morning between 8 & 9. a clock my dear daughter Maria Eppes died…. My evening prospects now hang on the slender thread of a single life. Perhaps I may be destined to see even this last chord of parental affection broken!”
Sadness and reflections….