High Crimes Forgiven

Imagine politicians as ideological… as the stubborn stalwarts who occupy the halls of Congress today, living in the early 19th century.  At a time when dueling was still a tolerated method for settling matters of honor, the big talkers of our modern “Tea Party” surely would have sought safer methods for opposing the proponents of “big government” waste.  What would they have thought of our third President fighting an undeclared war in the Mediterranean, or dipping into the treasury for a sum double the federal budget to buy the Louisiana territory?


Would the bluster of current… ideologues such as Darrel Issa and Trey Gowdy have moved Thomas Jefferson to change his policies? Members of the 8th Congress were far more flexible, even pragmatic when dealing with Jefferson’s expansion of executive authority.  Opposing either of Jefferson’s perceived transgressions would have severely damaged their chances of returning to the 9th Congress.  The Louisiana Purchase was immensely popular with the American people, regardless of the Constitutional process it seemed to subvert.  Impeach Thomas Jefferson for violating Article 1; Sec. 8-9 of the Constitution?  Blind ideology would have been silly then- perhaps it still is today…

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Movie Review- Black Robe

Black Robe- 1991; Directed by Bruce Beresford


Too often great films are overshadowed… by inferior productions with slicker marketing, more funding, and appearances by A-list stars.  Such is the case with Bruce Beresford’s moving tragedy, Black Robe.  Released the same year as the stunningly inferior Kevin Costner vanity piece, Dances with Wolves, Beresford’s haunting epic is now relegated to bargain bins and syllabi of Colonial American history courses.


Black Robe tells the tale of a 17th century… French Jesuit and his journey deep into the Niagara frontier to a Huron mission.  Cultures clash as the Priest struggles with his own faith during the difficult process of converting the natives.  Father LaForgue (Lothaire Bluteau) is trusted into the care of Algonquins who must guide him on the dangerous mission.  The ensuing journey tries the beliefs of both the indigenous cultures and the Europeans-  exposing their vulnerabilities with the harshness of pre-colonial North America.

Father LaForgue explains the written word

Father LaForgue explains the written word

The film is meticulously researched …presenting authenticity in everything from weapons, customs, to native dialects.  Whereas,  Dances with Wolves portrays the laundry list of politically correct platitudes and simplistic mythology presented as all-too-convenient fact-  Black Robe is  frank; both brutal and poignant in its interpretation of a wondrous and tragic period of history.  Few films have so accurately captured indigenous culture.  Beresford’s underrated masterpiece stands as a testament to the historical and cultural potential of film.

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Tale of Two Progressives

The Presidential election of 1912 featured… two Progressive candidates.  Woodrow Wilson, the Governor of New Jersey, represented the new spirit of reform and change sweeping the Democratic party.  Former President Theodore Roosevelt was mounting a third party challenge, as his own Republican party continued its shift to the right.  Both candidates supported business reform, child labor laws, and union rights- strong Progressive platforms by both parties made them seem indistinguishable…who was the true Progressive?


Women’s suffrage was the decisive issue… Roosevelt and the Progressive(Bull Moose) Party openly declared support for the suffrage amendment, “We pledge our party and its candidates to support loyally and work for the women’s suffrage constitutional amendment at all stages.”    Wilson and the Democrats were lukewarm, at best,  to the idea of national action on Women’s rights.  Roosevelt lost the popular election  by roughly 2.1 million votes.  Could women have made up the difference?  Wilson would not publicly support women’s suffrage until 1918.


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Facts in Five

US Steel edition…

  • US Steel was not founded by Andrew Carnegie-  JP Morgan formed the US Steel Trust in 1901
  • Carnegie’s steel company was the largest and most profitable partner in the Trust
  • US Steel was the world’s first billion-dollar corporation
  • Carnegie sold his interests to Morgan for $400 million – equivalent to $13.3 billion today 
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers logo uses the same design as the US Steel logo
Do as I say, not....

Do as I say, not….


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Impossible to Speak

Words James Madison never uttered…. but when considering the US Senate as it exists today, the naive can almost hear the Father of the Constitution proclaim the following lunacy with pride:

I never said that, nothing of the kind…..


The United States Senate will be chosen by popularity contest in each state.  There will be no prerequisites to holding membership, citizens seeking their very first public office are preferred candidates.  Legislative inexperience is desired to gain popular support from the well-educated masses.  Citizens from different states should establish residence in select states and seek the office of US Senator there.  Unfamiliarity with the constituencies in the new states must not deter ambitious office seekers.  Key political alliances and endorsements will sway the voting public when these insignificant issues arise.  Once is session, the Senate will thrive due to all the untested legislative acumen and uninformed opinions. 

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Weekly History News Roundup

Texans again threaten to secede… poll supports secession if Clinton elected


Nixon library gets historical make-over…. historians seek to balance a “failed presidency”


Vanderbilt University purges word “Confederate”…  school forced to break ties with influential donor


King family settles dispute over MLK’s Nobel medaltwo sons looked to sell the medal: terms undisclosed


Civil War trust preserves Perryville battlefield... group secures 70 acres of Kentucky battlefield


Perryville preserved

Perryville preserved

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Dances with Cliches

Hollywood demands that historical epics be simple… and Kevin Costner obliged with the trite western drama, Dances with Wolves.   Costner provided everything the politically correct elite of the movie industry expected;  white man- murderous, greedy, BAD :  red man- peaceful, egalitarian, GOOD.    Hollywood responded by heaping praise and awards (robbing Goodfellas) on Costner’s three-hour cinematic apology.  This simplistic, naive tale passes for history in many circles, a fact that should frighten people concerned with historical accuracy.  Filmmakers constantly use their medium for revision, but in terms of history, such efforts do more harm than good.  No revision is required when a better example can be studied.

Plays with Camera- distorts our history

The complex history of American Indian policy… was better dramatized by the great filmmaker, John Ford, in the classic Fort Apache.  Ford created a classic piece of historical fiction without passing judgements or applying modern moral standards to a by-gone era.  The characters are real, not stereotypical (well, drunk Irishmen abound) cut-outs of revisionist fantasy.  Not all white men are bad, not all Indians are noble; instead, the complex relationships build conflict throughout the film.  Ford’s attention to the details of frontier military life provide a rich background to the tale of Cochise and the Apache wars.

Sad when great films are forgotten

The history of Westward expansion is too important… to leave to Hollywood.  History as presented by California elites is convenient, judgemental, and ultimately, poorly told.  Revisionist history has found a powerful ally in Hollywood, but discriminating audiences can and should resist the dubious lessons.

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