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Archive for the 'USH: Early Years' Category

Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.

Courtesy Tufts Magazine

I hail from West Yakeedom?

Thomas Jefferson’s 1769 Newspaper Ad Seeking a Fugitive Slave

Sunday, October 5th, 2014



Aside from a handful of slaves (including some of Sally Hemings’s children), Jefferson never freed his bondspeople—unlike George Washington, who left provisions in his will for the emancipation of his slaves upon Martha’s death.*

Sex Lives of the American Founding Fathers

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

In Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Past, Dr. Foster examines the long history of stories Americans have told about the sex lives of the Founding Fathers and find no shortage of material to examine — and compelling evidence that none of them were virgins.

George Washington: The Reluctant President

Friday, July 25th, 2014

“Any student of Washington’s life might have predicted that he would acknowledge his election in a short, self-effacing speech full of disclaimers. “While I realize the arduous nature of the task which is conferred on me and feel my inability to perform it,” he replied to Thomson, “I wish there may not be reason for regretting the choice. All I can promise is only that which can be accomplished by an honest zeal.” This sentiment of modesty jibed so perfectly with Washington’s private letters that it could not have been feigned: he wondered whether he was fit for the post” – From Ron Chernow in the Smithsonian Magazine

George Washington Wanted a Simple Inauguration

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Washington told anyone who would listen that he was unfit for the job. He constantly fretted about it. He wrote that waiting for official word of his selection was like waiting for his hanging. “I wish there may not be reason for regretting the choice,” he said upon being informed of the official decision. During his ride to the inauguration in New York, he confessed his fears at every stop. In the first line of the first inaugural address he said, “No event could have filled me with greater anxieties.”

Washington’s reluctance to serve is legendary. It was a mixture of healthy modesty and genuine fear that at 57 he was not up to the task. But it was also a public relations ploy. Washington showed reluctance in the hope that his countrymen would not think he had taken the job to enrich himself or that anyone should want such a post for that reason. 

In Our Time: The War of 1812

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the War of 1812, the conflict between America and the British Empire sometimes referred to as the second American War of Independence. In June 1812, President James Madison declared war on Britain, angered by the restrictions Britain had imposed on American trade, the Royal Navy’s capture of American sailors and British support for Native Americans. After three years of largely inconclusive fighting, the conflict finally came to an end with the Treaty of Ghent which, among other things, helped to hasten the abolition of the global slave trade.

Although the War of 1812 is often overlooked, historians say it had a profound effect on the USA and Canada’s sense of national identity, confirming the USA as an independent country. America’s national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner began life as a poem written after its author, Francis Scott Key, witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. The war also led to Native Americans losing hundreds of thousands of acres of land in a programme of forced removal.

Mudslinging in 1800 and Beyond

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

I want to push back a bit on the Diehl-Rocks thesis that the election of 1828 is the genesis of dirty campaigning. Thomas Jefferson supporters accused Adams of being a hermaphrodite with “neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” In response, the Adams campaign accused Jefferson of being the son of a half-breed Indian squaw and a mulatto father.

Of course the election of 1800 is just the beginning. One of my favorites was in 1876 when Democrats accused Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes of shooting his own mother and stealing the pay of dead soldiers while he was a Union general.

None of the above had to show their original long form birth certificate.


‘Master’ Jefferson: Defender Of Liberty, Then Slavery

Monday, October 29th, 2012

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” there’s compelling evidence to indicate that he indeed meant all men, not just white guys.

But by the 1780s, Jefferson’s views on slavery in America had mysteriously shifted. He formulated racial theories asserting, for instance, that African women had mated with apes; Jefferson financed the construction of Monticello by using the slaves he owned — some 600 during his lifetime — as collateral for a loan he took out from a Dutch banking house; and when he engineered the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Jefferson pushed for slavery in that territory. By 1810, Jefferson had his eye fixed firmly on the bottom line, disparaging a relative’s plan to sell his slaves by saying, “It [would] never do to destroy the goose.”

Faced with these conflicting visions of Jefferson, scholars usually fall back on words like “paradox” and “irony”; but historian Henry Wiencek says words like that allow “a comforting state of moral suspended animation.” His tough new book, Master of the Mountain, judges Jefferson’s racial views by the standards of his own time and finds him wanting. Unlike, say, George Washington, who freed his slaves in his will, Jefferson, Wiencek says, increasingly “rationalized an abomination.”

7 minute book review of “Master”

NPR Interview: Mickey Edwards On Democracy’s ‘Cancer’

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

In his 16 years in Congress, Republican Mickey Edwards came to a strong conclusion: Political parties are the “cancer at the heart of our democracy,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.

In his new book, The Parties Versus the People, the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma details how party leaders have too much control over who runs for office, what bills make it to the floor and how lawmakers vote.

Thomas Jefferson Defends America With a Moose

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Europeans said America was “degenerate.” Jefferson was obsessed with proving them wrong.

Kinda funny.