Theodore Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech

Two Presidents have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Barack Obama in 2009, for no reason I can discern other than a slap at his predecessor George Bush by the left-leaning award committee, and Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for being the driving force behind the negotiations that led to the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.   Due to his duties as President, Roosevelt was unable to give his acceptance speech until May 5, 1910.  It is an interesting address.   Peace, he stated, was not the highest good unless it was wedded to righteousness.  Peace is evil if it is merely a mask for sloth and cowardice.  Tyrants have often prattled about peace in order to silence opposition to their schemes.  Individuals, and nations, must ever be ready to defend themselves.  He then offered some practical suggestions for a more peaceful world.  Arbitration of disputes between nations.  The establishment of a tribunal at the Hague.  A League of Peace by the great powers to attempt to keep the peace of the world.  The irony of course is that it was the European Great Powers that would lead the world into War just four years after Roosevelt’s speech, but of course the future was for him an unknown country, just as our future is to us.  The text of the speech of Theodore Roosevelt: (more…)

Published in: on January 31, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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January 30, 1862: Launching of the Monitor

150 years ago, naval history turned a page with the launching of the iron clad USS Monitor after a rushed construction of 118 days.  The above video is a 1/16th scale operating model of the engine that powered the Monitor.  Go here to view the USS Monitor Center at the Mariner’s Museum. (more…)

Published in: on January 30, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Why Most Academic Histories Today Are Rubbish

As longtime readers of this blog know, I have a deep and abiding passion for history.  I lament the fact that most histories produced today by academic historians are usually politicized drek, often written in a jargon that makes them gibberish to the general reader.  Historian K C Johnson has a superb post lamenting this situation:

The study of U.S. history has transformed in the last two generations, with emphasis on staffing positions in race, class, or gender leading to dramatic declines in fields viewed as more “traditional,” such as U.S. political, constitutional, diplomatic, and military history. And even those latter areas have been “re-visioned,” in the word coined by an advocate of the transformation, Illinois history professor Mark Leff, to make their approach more accommodating to the dominant race/class/gender paradigm. In the new academy, political histories of state governments–of the type cited and used effectively by the Montana Supreme Court–were among the first to go. The Montana court had to turn to Fritz, an emeritus professor, because the University of Montana History Department no longer features a specialist in Montana history (nor, for that matter, does it have a professor whose research interests, like those of Fritz, deal with U.S. military history, a topic that has fallen out of fashion in the contemporary academy).

To take the nature of the U.S. history positions in one major department as an example of the new staffing patterns: the University of Michigan, once home to Dexter and then Bradford Perkins, was a pioneer in the study of U.S. diplomatic history. Now the department’s 29 professors whose research focuses on U.S. history after 1789 include only one whose scholarship has focused on U.S. foreign relations–Penny von Eschen, a perfect example of the “re-visioning” approach. (Her most recent book is Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War.) In contrast to this 1-in-29 ratio, Michigan has hired ten Americanists (including von Eschen) whose research, according to their department profiles, focuses on issues of race; and eight Americanists whose research focuses on issues of gender. The department has more specialists in the history of Native Americans than U.S. foreign relations.

It’s true, of course, that departments heavy in African-American historians might have lots of scholars who focus on such topics as a sympathetic portrayal of Ward Connerly’s efforts against racial preferences. Or a department heavy in women’s historians might have lots of scholars who focus on such topics as a study of grassroots pro-life women, as part of a project suggesting that feminists don’t speak for a majority of U.S. women. But in the real world, figures with such interests would have almost no chance of being hired for an African-American history or gender history line. (more…)

Published in: on January 29, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (6)  
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Theme From Patton

Something for the weekend.  Theme from Patton (1970), by Jerry Goldsmith, interspersed with stills from the films and photographs of General Patton.

Published in: on January 28, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Eddie Rickenbacker: Cheater of Death

Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s Ace of Aces in World War I, cheated death in aerial combat many times over France.  Between April 29, 1918 and October 30, 1918, with several weeks lost due to being grounded for an ear infection, he shot down 26 German planes and observation balloons and earned seven Distinguished Service Crosses, the French Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Honor.  Here is the Medal of Honor citation:

Edward V. Rickenbacker, Colonel, specialist reserve, then first lieutenant, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, September 25, 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines Lieutenant. Rickenbacker attacked seven enemy planes (five type Fokker protecting two type Halberstadt photographic planes). Disregarding the odds against him he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.

One would have thought that with the ending of the War Rickenbacker could have said farewell to the Grim Reaper until his peaceful death in civilian life, but such was not the case with Rickenbacker.  He went on to an extremely successful business career, most notably as the head of Eastern Air Lines. 

On February 26, 1941, Rickenbacker was on board a Douglas DC-3 that crashed outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  Rickenbacker suffered grave injuries and was trapped in the wreckage.  Despite his own predicament he did his best to keep up the spirits of the other survivors who were injured, and guided the ambulatory survivors to find help.  Rickenbacker’s death was erroneously reported in the press, and he spent ten days near death, an experience he reported as being one of overwhelming calm and pleasure. (more…)

Published in: on January 27, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Checkers Speech

The  “Checkers Speech” given by Richard Nixon which allowed him to stay on the ticket as Vice-President on September 23, 1952.  The speech got its name from Nixon’s use of the pet dog given to his daughters, Checkers, to gain sympathy by stating that the girls had gotten fond of the dog and he would not return it.

One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something—a gift—after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Tricia, the 6-year-old—named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.

The whole scandal arose because of accusations that Nixon had a private slush fund provided by donors.  It is amusing to contemplate considering his future, but Nixon was absolutely innocent of wrong-doing.  Having private donors pay for campaign expenses including travel costs and postage was completely legal at the time.  (more…)

Published in: on January 26, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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First State of the Union Address

Last night President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address for 2012.  The first State of the Union Address was on January 8, 1790.  President Washington delivered it to a joint session of Congress.  Thomas Jefferson ended the practice of the President delivering the address to Congress, regarding the speech as similar to the annual Speech From the Throne of the King of the England, and therefore too monarchical for Jefferson’s Republican tastes.  Instead Jefferson sent annual messages to Congress on the State of the Union.  The practice of the President personally delivering the speech was revived by Woodrow Wilson in 1913.    The State of the Union Address was initially known as the President’s Annual Message to Congress.  FDR first used the term State of the Union in 1934, and by 1947 this became the common name for the address.

Washington’s address in 1790 was notable for its conciseness and its clarity of thought.  Would that all of his successors could say the same about their addresses!  Here is the text of  President Washington’s first State of the Union Address: (more…)

Published in: on January 25, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Padre of Guadalcanal

BE058992Frederic Gehring was probably lucky that he was born and reared in Brooklyn.  It has always been a tough town and it prepared him for the adventurous life he was to lead.  Born on January 20, 1903,  he went on to attend and graduated from Saint John’s Prep.  Setting his eyes on being a missionary priest, he entered the minor seminary of the Vincentians, Saint Joseph’s, near Princeton,  New Jersey.  Earning his BA in 1925, he entered the seminary of Saint Vincent’s in Philadelphia.

Ordained as a priest on May 22, 1930, he was unable to immediately go to China due to military activity of the Communists in Kiangsi province.  For three years he traveled throughout the US raising funds for the missions in China, and, at long last, in 1933 he was able to pack his bags and sailed for China.  Laboring in the Chinese missions from 1933-1939 in the midst of warlordism, civil war and the invasion of China, commencing in 1937, by Japan must have been tough, but Father Gehring was always up to any challenge.  For example,  in 1938 Japanese planes strafed a mission he was at.  Father Gehring ran out waving a large American flag in hopes that the Japanese would not wish to offend a powerful neutral nation and would stop the strafing.  The Japanese planes did fly off, and Father Gehring was pleased until someone at the mission pointed out that maybe the Japanese had simply run out of ammo!  In 1939 Father Gerhring returned to the States to raise funds for the missions.

Immediately following Pearl Harbor, Father Gehring joined the Navy as a Chaplain.  In September 1942 he began an unforgettable six month tour of duty with the First Marine Division fighting on Guadalcanal.  Marines, although they are often loathe to admit it, are a component of the Department of the Navy, and the US Navy supplies their support troops, including chaplains.  (One of my friends served as a Navy corpsman with a Marine unit in Vietnam.  After his tour with the Navy he enlisted with the Marines, was commissioned a Lieutenant, and spent his entire tour with a detachment of Marines aboard an aircraft carrier.  As he puts it, he joined the Navy and spent his time slogging through the mud with Marines.  He then joined the Marines and spent his time sailing with the Navy.)

Guadalcanal marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific.  In August 1942 the US went on the offensive for the first time when the First Marine Division, the Old Breed,  landed on Guadalcanal and took the Japanese air base there.  This set off a huge six month campaign, where US forces, often outnumbered on land, sea and in the air, fought and defeated the Imperial Army and Navy.  The importance of Guadalcanal is well captured in this quote from Admiral William “Bull” Halsey: “Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours”.

Guadalcanal

Upon arrival on Guadalcanal, Lieutenant Gehring quickly became known as “Padre ” to the men of the Old Breed, the title usually bestowed upon chaplains, especially if they were Catholic priests.  He soon became known for wanting to be where the fighting was in order to help the wounded and administer the Last Rites.  Initially this took some of the Marines by surprise.  Jumping into a foxhole during a heavy fire fight, a shocked Marine already in the foxhole, noticing the crucifix dangling from his neck, cried out to him, “Padre, what are you doing here?”  Gehring calmly replied, “Where else would I be?”  He would routinely say Masses so close to the fighting, that the Marines said that he would say Mass in Hell for Marines if he could drive his jeep there.  The Marines quickly decided that it was a lost cause asking the Padre to stay behind the lines.  They were doing well if they could convince him to stay within friendly lines!  Three times he went out on behind the line missions to rescue trapped missionaries on the island, mostly Marist priests and sisters, rescuing 28 of them, assisted by natives of the Solomons.  For this feat he was the first Navy chaplain to be awarded the Legion of Merit by the President. (more…)

Henry and Lucretia Clay and Their Eleven Children

When studying history it is easy to forget just how different the past is from our own times.  The people we encounter in history are children of their times, just as we are children of ours, and the impact of that fact should never be forgotten by anyone seeking to understand a period of history.

Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, one of the towering figures of the first half of the nineteenth century, and his wife Lucretia provide a simple example.  They had eleven children.  In a time when families with more than three children are a rarity, that alone is a fact that separates them from most of us, but it is the fate of those children that points out another major difference.  At the time of his death, Henry Clay had outlived all of his six daughters and one of his five sons. Of the six girls, two died in infancy, two as children and two as young women.  One son, Henry Clay, Jr, predeceased his father, dying at the battle of Buena Vista in 1847.  By the time that Lucretia Clay died, she had outlived another son, who died a few months before her in 1864. (more…)

Published in: on January 23, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Adams v. Jefferson: the Necessity of Government

A debate between Adams and Jefferson from the John Adams mini-series on the necessity of a written constitution.  I am all on the side of Adams.  Putting one’s faith in the good sense and decency of people in general, and being cavalier about political arrangements as to government, is a short route to chaos as History woefully tells us.  Jefferson’s views on this topic were tellingly set forth in a letter to William Smith on November 13, 1787:

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Jefferson, for a man who did not spend a single day in the Continental Army during the Revolution, was quite free in his talk about bloodshed.  Most of the Founding Fathers, including Adams, viewed the misery and the blood of the Revolution as a regrettable necessity in the setting up of a new nation, and dreaded a repetition of such a conflict.  Not so Jefferson who seemed to view such conflict as a necessary and normal part of a free society.  Fortunately, heads wiser than Jefferson’s helped frame an enduring Constitution.  James Madison, ironically the closest political associate of Jefferson throughout most of Jefferson’s later political career, summed up the necessity of government well in Federalist 51: (more…)

Published in: on January 22, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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