Leave Madison Alone

Joe Ellis explained the absence of serious Madison biographies… by proclaiming “he’s boring as hell” and that “only lawyers like him.”   As previously stated, Ellis’s recent comments on the Framers and Original Intent cast doubt on the rigor of his scholarship- and these nuggets of wisdom only enhance the evidence of his misguided revisionism.

Never far apart

Never far apart

The revision Ellis is peddling holds that Madison and other Framers… rejected the doctrine of Original Intent on its face.  The only empirical evidence supporting this notion is Madison’s oft quoted explanation for not publishing his notes on the Constitutional Convention.  Once established, the government continued to disappoint Madison, driving him closer to his friend Jefferson.  During his presidency, Madison undoubtedly supported Original Intent as he battled John Marshall and Congress for the soul of the Constitution.  He feared the elasticity in the Constitution was being abused by ambitious demagogues- Madison wanted the power of government restrained- his original intent.

What have your wrought, Joe?

What have your wrought, Joe?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Say it ain’t so Joe

Historians can say the darndest things…  the profession has been sullied by superfluous tales of alleged sexual dalliances, rumors, and tabloid style conjecture.  It’s open season on the Founding Fathers, the more outrageous the interpretation, the more air time and book sales can be generated.    The current crop of historians, struggling to carve themselves a slice of relevance, is degrading the profession to the point where the messaging more closely resembles Morton Downey Jr. than Dumas Malone, Edmund Morgan, or David McCullough.   Say something crazy, but say it often and say in LOUD !  

LISTEN TO MY HISTORY !

LISTEN TO MY HISTORY !

Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph Ellis… is known to stretch the truth about his past, but his scholarship is considered sound and his storytelling compelling.  Recent comments Ellis made during the tour for his latest book cast doubt on his judgement, if not his scholarship.  Ellis blasted the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United vs. FEC with highly partisan and poorly worded hyperbole.  Comparing Supreme Court cases to the Scott vs. Sanford ruling of 1857 makes for an interesting sound byte, but unless supported by relevant evidence(beyond Ellis’s political leanings) it is a dubious historical comparison intended to shock rather than enlighten.  He goes on to attack the Heller vs. DC ruling of 2009 as a scurrilous attempt by Conservatives to force the doctrine of Original Intent upon an unwitting society.  Ellis has a political axe to grind with supporters of the 2nd Amendment- his reputation as an historian providing a thin veil of legitimacy to his misguided partisanship.  He’s screaming that Original Intent is wrong and damaging our society- all the while, his new book stays on the best seller lists.

Trust me, I'm a professor

Trust me, I’m a professor

Joe should remember the words of his supposed hero–

“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” Thomas Jefferson

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Not Just Muskets and Militas

Plenty of pundits have been speaking for our Founders…. recently.  There is no greater speculative contest than the battle over original intent of the Founders.  The second amendment continues to be misconstrued, misapplied, and misunderstood.  No real progress can be made as long as the pundits control the debate while debasing the work of our Founders.  Look to their words….

“To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”  George Mason- 1788

“…while on the other hand arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as property.  The same balance
would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside …”   Thomas Paine

“Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself.  They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence …the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they  deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”   George Washington

“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the people of other countries, whose leaders are afraid to trust them with arms.”   James Madison

“The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.”  Patrick Henry

“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”   Samuel Adams

“No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”   Thomas  Jefferson

Any questions?

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Book Review

Schultz, Duane, Custer; Lessons in Leadership, London, Palgrave

Publishing, 2010, ISBN 978-0-230-61708-7

Custerbook

 

Plenty of ink has been spilled over George Armstrong Custer in the last 30 years.  Recent archeology has provided new insight to Custer’s most famous battle, but studies of the great General’s life have reached an impasse.  Duane Schultz contributes a slender volume on Custer to the Great Generals series from Palgrave Publishing, and does his best to distinguish his work from the well worn Custer biographies.

“We built a foundation of thoughtful preparation, teamwork, and mutual understanding which has made our forces the most effective and agile in the world…We probably owe it all to Custer.”   Such insight would have provided much needed depth to Schultz’s biography, unfortunately this passage is found in General Wesley Clark’s introduction.  Clark contributes an interesting premise, Custer’s perceived recklessness provided valuable lessons to the American military.  Schultz’s biography doesn’t stray from the usual Custer fare- boy general, personally brave, heroic during war, always ambitious, chivalric soldier caught in the wrong type of struggle where he pays the  ultimate price.

In a surprising move, Schultz attempts to revive the story of Custer’s Indian love-child.  A rumor first promulgated by Custer’s enemy, Frederick Benteen, scholars discarded it long ago- most effectively in 1984 by Evan Connell’s  Son of the Morning Star.   Schultz relies upon questionable sources and unreliable claims in oral history to support a rumor that contributes little to our understanding of Custer’s character.  The revisionism of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s has been effectively refuted by more disciplined studies of the last 20 years.  Custer provided New Left historians with a suitable villain to the image of the noble savage- the exploitation of an Indian woman added to his disreputable resume.  Strange that Schultz would imply that the rumor could be true when well received studies from Connell, Jeffrey Wert, and Robert Utley have all relegated it to history’s ash heap.

An analytical study of Custer’s leadership and its effects on the evolution of the American military would be a valuable contribution to Custerology.  Duane Schultz’s brief biography does not fill that need, but it does provide a fast read on one of America’s more controversial figures.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Essential Civil War Reader

Books that need to be on every Civil War Buff’s shelf….

Probably would happen

Probably would happen

  • Battle Cry of Freedom, by James McPherson.  Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this is the best one volume account of the War told by its greatest storyteller.  It traces the conflict from Free Soil to the assassination of Lincoln in an authoritative voice that has yet to be rivaled.
  • To the Gates of Richmond, by Stephen Sears.  Only Sears could encapsulate the quagmire of McClellan’s Peninsular campaign into a single, eminently readable volume. The book brilliantly weaves multiple story-lines from common soldiers all the way to the Commander-in-Chief-  Sears proves there is no greater authority on the McClellan/Lincoln feud.
  • No Better Place to Die, by Peter Cozzens.  The rare book that definitively recounts the battle, while bringing humanity to the brave men who fought it.  Cozzens’ tactical knowledge is matched only by his exhaustive research into hundreds of primary sources.  No finer battle study has been produced- Stones River is no longer a forgotten battle.
  • Gettysburg; The Second Day, By Harry Pfanz.  No man knew Gettysburg better, Dr. Pfanz’s book is the definitive study of July 2, 1863.  By focusing on the pivotal day of the battle, Pfanz brings the sacrifices of the men into clearer perspective.  Far too much ink has been spilled on Pickett’s charge, Pfanz shows us  the battle was truly won the day before.
  • The Iron Brigade, By Alan Nolan.  More than a unit history, Nolan’s book is military history at its finest.  By tracing the unit through primary sources, from its Commanders to the private soldiers, Nolan’s book provides a rich and exciting narrative.  The detailed description of battles with the legendary Stonewall Brigade set the book apart.  This book is the standard all subsequent unit histories are measured.
  • Joshua Chamberlain: A Hero’s Life and Legacy, by John Pullen.   The perfect companion to Pullen’s regimental history of the 20th Maine, this biography of its legendary leader stands the test of time.  Pullen separates myth from fact in recounting Chamberlain’s heroic military service.  Like any great biographer, Pullen finds the man in the midst of hyperbole and legend.
Soul of the Lion

Soul of the Lion

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Review: The Arsenal of Democracy

Originally posted on Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History:

The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at Warby A.J. Baime

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.  Hardcover, 384 pages.  Now also available in paperback.Cover Arsenal of Democracy

To begin with, be forewarned that the title is deceptive. The Arsenal of Democracy focuses in on just one producer and one product; all others mentioned are minimal. That producer is the Ford Motor Company and the product the B-24 Liberators.
The book opens to a history of Henry Ford, the foundation of his company, and its pre-war history. Also discussed in-depth is his son, Edsel, and Edsel’s desire to create an aviation division within the company. This segment also shows the first divisions between father and son, as their relationship was tumultuous. For example, even after Henry stepped down as president in favor of Edsel, he kept undermining his son and trying to run the company. And this…

View original 531 more words

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Richard Ewell’s Leg?

Originally posted on Emerging Civil War:

Confederate Major General Richard Stoddard Ewell was bending down, trying to see below the musket smoke and setting sun.

The Battle of Groveton, one of the opening salvos in the Battle of Second Manassas had evolved into a stand-up, straight line, salvo by salvo firefight.

Ewell wanted to see the Union dispositions.

While kneeling, a Union minie bullet slammed into his left patella and seared down the leg. The ball had followed the the bone for six inches, which smashed the bone into multiple pieces.

Ewell yelped in pain.

View original 632 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized