George Washington achieved iconic status during… his lifetime. His peers held him in such esteem that by the time of his death most Americans were left unaware of the life he led. Washington quickly faded in the collective memory- he became a statue, figuratively as well as literally. This dehumanization has caused Washington’s name and reputation to plummet in our national remembrance. Recent polls of some 600 historians show Washington ranking #3 behind Lincoln and FDR. Many of the same writers cite unwarranted “hero worship” as the reason for the decline.
Myth or man?
What troubles many delusional historians… is that Washington was aware of his image as the great patriot-hero. This was an image he went to great lengths to protect. This type of self-awareness irks 21st century sensibilities, but was common and accepted in the 18th century. Washington was not as well read, educated or worldly as his peers, but he always acted appropriately, worked efficiently, and governed wisely.
Washington should still be first… in the hearts and minds of his countrymen. His great strength was character- the ability to lead men without ruling them. The example he set has endured through the trials and tribulations of our republic- he is truly, the essential American.
“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…
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.
Filed under Ephemera, News
As long as young adults seek ways to… “discover themselves” and anger their parents- there will be audience for Howard Zinn’s A People’s History. Parental units are part of the so-called establishment and our farthest reaching right-of-passage in America is fighting the conformity of the “the man.” The biggest error in judgment these young rebels make is seeing the establishment as encompassing every facet of our existence- even our history…. Zinn is where too many young minds are exposed to distorted, often lazy examinations of these crucial moments.
The failure to see our Founders as truly revolutionary… is the most damaging element in Howard Zinn’s rambling. That’s what A People’s History is really, unsubstantiated neo-Marxist rambling. Europeans were murdering oppressors driven by greed; Natives were peaceful environmentalists seeking harmony with nature. The Founding of America was perpetrated by an elite few looking for a more efficient way to accrue wealth. To Zinn and his readers this is all very provocative, but when placed under the scrutiny of peer review it is amateurish.
Maybe there’s hope
Zinn’s work fails on many levels… but contextually he refuses to surrender bias to the complexities of human interaction. The Pequot war was not as simple as “Red Man Good, White Man Bad.” Our Founders were not only motivated by greed- trying explaining that to Robert Morris. To impressionable undergrads, these arguments are their first bites from the apple of nonconformity. To the middling academics who refuse to take Zinn to task, the book is an opportunity to gain some anti-establishment credibility with the youngsters.
Progressive historians like Charles Beard… went to great lengths to discredit the work of America’s first published historian, George Bancroft. The Nationalist school of American history revered our Founders and proclaimed American exceptionalism. Beard argued that America’s founding ideals were nothing more than a clever disguise for our true inspiration, greed. The New Left revisionism that pervades historiography today is a mere continuation of Beard’s fundamentally flawed concept- America really isn’t that great….
Great men, not demigods
Neo-Nationalism is a historical school of thought… that strives to reconcile two wildly opposed views of America’s past. Common ground is sought within the discipline- social, political, military historical study working in concert to preserve the common threads that bind all Americans together…
- America’s founding ideals are exceptional- and are standards that are difficult to attain- our history is comprised of the struggle to uphold these ideals.
- The Founders were extraordinary men- but not infallible… we have to learn from their example- good and bad.
- The history of America is not the story of class struggle- the silent masses played a vital role in our history and their stories should be told- but not through Marxist constructs.
- History should be popular. Our past must be understood by the citizenry- historical studies targeted only at academics cannot be how we measure the discipline. There is a way to make history insightful and enjoyable.
We cannot escape history…
Filed under Ephemera, News
“FDR: A Biography” is French-American biographer, historian and journalist Ted Morgan’s 1985 biography of the 32nd president. Morgan was born Comte St. Charles Armand Gabriel de Gramont but changed his name (to an anagram of “de Gramont”) after becoming an American citizen in 1977. Morgan won a 1961 Pulitzer Prize in journalism and his 1982 […]
The HMS Leopard fired broadsides into an American warship… about to conduct a diplomatic transport. Three American sailors were killed and 18 wounded, including Commodore James Barron. An overt act of war carried out to apprehend four Royal Navy deserters, only one of which was a British subject. American citizens were abducted and eventually received corporal punishment. The British Captain ignored Barron’s overtures and humiliated the Americans thoroughly.
June 22, 1807- Act of War
President Thomas Jefferson remarked… “Never since the Battle of Lexington have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present, and even that did not produce such unanimity.”
James Madison drafted the official US response- honor was at stake…
- England disavow the action- an apology was preferred
- British warships must leave American territorial waters
- Four abducted America sailors be returned
- British government pay restitution for damages
- Royal Navy stop impressing sailors from ships under the US flag
- Admiral George Berkeley, the Royal Navy’s North American commander, be recalled
King George III was slow to respond to any American demands… The Jefferson administration responded with the Embargo Act of 1807- an economic disaster. James Madison inherited the diplomatic quagmire in 1809. President Madison, who had drafted the American demands as Secretary of State, still saw them as pending…. For President Madison, the Chesapeake/Leopard affair had not been resolved.
The unfavorable but vaguely-formed image of Herbert Hoover I’ve retained for three decades (since my last American history class) left me wary about meeting him on my journey through the best presidential biographies. But I grew increasingly optimistic about my encounter with this time-worn president as I began to observe his life through the biographies […]