We often talk of World War II, it was a major series of events in American and world history, as long as those survivors were in charge, things were better than ever, as they leave the stage, we are seeming to come face-to-face with the fact that they went too easy on us, and the discipline to succeed in the real world appears to be lacking. We need to look back and take the lesson that America was taught starting today, 75 years ago.
75 years ago today, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. We were thus thrust onto center stage of the 20th Century’s biggest conflict and the most clear-cut war for liberty in the history of the world. It’s a day to remember the sacrifices made by that generation, who are now leaving us at a very rapid pace. They saved the world for freedom, this would be…
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Andrew Jackson nearly lost everything in 1795… He had worked tirelessly to build himself up from frontier orphan to respected lawyer and public servant. Jackson was the epitome of the self-made man, a true American success story. By 1795, Jackson was one of Tennessee’s elite, acquiring the bulk of his wealth through land speculation. Jackson’s gambles in this speculation laid the foundation for his war on the National Bank.
Looking to acquire a trading post on the Cumberland river… Jackson accepted bank notes for payment on land he sold in Philadelphia. When the creditor went bankrupt in 1795, Jackson was libel for the notes- a debt he could not afford. For the next two years Jackson scrambled to pay the debt- selling large tracts of his estate to satisfy the banks. Old Hickory blamed the banks and their paper money for his troubles- a simplistic view of the complex financial game that had made him rich.
Jackson’s views on finance were largely unique to the frontier… westerners historically were in favor of paper currency due to shortages of coin in the wilderness. Jackson was able to fuse his own prejudices to the western tradition of distrusting eastern elites. The Second National Bank would serve as a suitable target for Jackson’s rage. It stands as one of the great political maneuvers in US history- convincing westerners to go along with his policies despite of their own economic interests. The people loved Old Hickory, not necessarily his policies.
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Fans of the musical “Hamilton” enjoy hearing the Framer rap… about issues dealing with our Constitution. A novel approach that has undoubtedly peaked the interest of the notoriously cynical millennial generation.
Practically Historical encourages young audiences to read Hamilton… as his political writings are some of the most valuable in the American canon.
I do more than rap
Americans have granted power to a most dangerous demagogue… and he appears willing to sacrifice almost anything for what he defines as “security.” Hamilton cautioned his people in Federalist #8
“But in a country, where the perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it, her armies must be numerous enough for instant defence. The continual necessity for his services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionally degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees, the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors.”
Friendship was not just a social convention to Jefferson… but he considered it essential to the human condition- a bedrock of civil society. Acquaintances come and go, but true friends grow, mature, and age with you. Jefferson realized that later in life, friendships would be therapeutic.
Oh really…..do tell.
“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.”
The Revenant- 2015 Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 20th Century Fox
The second Hollywood production detailing the harrowing plight… of mountain man Hugh Glass, Leonardo DiCaprio won an Academy Award for his performance. Mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions, Glass miraculously survived and in an improbable 200 mile journey, traveled to safety at Fort Kiowa in present day South Dakota. “The Revenant” plays fast and loose with history, creating a curious subplot involving a Pawnee wife and son who never existed. Instead of portraying actual events, screenwriter Mark Smith creates a frontier revenge fantasy- Glass’s motivation is changed from simply recovering his property to avenging his murdered family(fictional.)
The 1823 Ashley Expedition was a who’s who… of American frontier history: Jim Bridger, Jedidiah Smith, Giles Roberts, and Glass were all members of the ill fated journey up the Missouri River. “The Revenant” relegates the mighty Bridger to the minor role of conniving thief and does not mention Smith at all. The climactic death struggle between Glass and Fitzgerald is another Hollywood creation. Glass did confront the men who abandoned him, but history shows a simple exchange of money, not the blood and guts which sell movie tickets.
The true star of the film is the bleak North American landscape… filmed primarily in Northern Alberta, the cinematography is stark and stunning; effectively illustrating the hopeless nature of Glass’s journey. Tom Hardy is an effective villainous presence, but the rest of the cast is swallowed by the expansive scenery. Long stretches of the film focus exclusively on DiCaprio’s vengeful Glass, the lack of dialogue drawing more attention to the desolate backdrop. Despite his best efforts, DiCaprio is unable to compensate for the simplistic and historically inaccurate script.
President-elect Trump should take notes from Lincoln’s example… As the country waits impatiently for Trump to roll out his cabinet, all eyes are now focused on the all important position of Secretary of State. A laundry list of sycophants and “yes” men have emerged to offer advice, or themselves, to Trump for consideration. The lack of foresight in the choices already made sends a clear message that he’s not looking for the best men, just “his” men. He obviously isn’t ready to learn from history.
Rivals no longer
Lincoln snatched William H. Seward’s dream… the Republican Presidential nomination, right from his grasp in 1860. Rather than humiliating a vanquished foe, Lincoln turned to Seward for help. The crisis at hand demanded the best people in our government. Lincoln could have built a team of acolytes who possessed little beyond loyalty. Seward was the best man for the job and he was Lincoln’s first cabinet appointment. The two men put aside their political and personal differences and formed the diplomatic team that saved the Union.
Get off my lawn!
Trump trolls Twitter feeds looking for conflict and indignation… Not the kind of coalition building promised following his rather indecisive victory.
The Cabinet post of Secretary of State was once… the springboard to the Presidency. Today, they largely fulfill the President’s role as the nation’s chief diplomat. Rarely are they seen or heard unless on some pan-global mission. What makes a great Secretary of State–timing, deals, and moxie. Here are three great ones:
The Spanish-American War was a ‘splendid little affair’
John Hay- Cut his political teeth as Lincoln’s private secretary, Hay led the State Department during the McKinley and Roosevelt administrations. He was the primary architect of America’s global expansion during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hay was responsible for the Open Door policy in China and the series of treaties that allowed the Panama Canal to be constructed.
Why stop with the taking of Mexico?
James Buchanan- Buchanan is proof that the office is not just a rubber stamp for the President. Buchanan and Polk did not see eye to eye on every issue. At times Polk needed tempered and Buchanan’s ambition needed checked. Together, the two men cut a diplomatic course that nearly doubled the size of the country for a second time.
Try to forget my father for now….
John Quincy Adams- Largely seen as a failure after losing Presidential reelection, Adams’ diplomatic career is stellar. He helped craft foreign policy during the Monroe adminstration and is widely considered author of the Monroe Doctrine. Adams also negotiated Florida away from Spain, settled our northern boundary with England, and secured American rights in the Oregon territory.
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