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 on Theodore Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech  
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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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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 on First State of the Union Address  
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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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The Cavalier’s Glee

Something for the weekend.  The Cavalier’s Glee, a song which captures well the daring spirit of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia under General Jeb Stuart. The song was written by Captain William W. Blackford, an engineer on the staff of General Stuart.  It is sung by Bobby Horton, a man who every American is indebted to for his constant efforts to bring Civil War songs to modern audiences.

Published in: on January 21, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Cavalier’s Glee  
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The Confederacy Victorious

Part one of a rather well done nine part “mockumentary” on Youtube which posits that the Confederacy not only won its independence but actually conquered the South.  The fake commericals are a hoot!

Published in: on January 20, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Send For Haym Salomon

“I am a Jew; it is my own nation; I do not despair that we shall obtain every other privilege that we aspire to enjoy along with our fellow-citizens.”

Haym Salomon

One of the main problems confronting the American patriots during their struggle against Great Britain was financing the Revolution.  Largely cut off from trade with Europe by British blockade and occupation of the major American ports throughout the War, American finances throughout the conflict were in a state of perpetual collapse.  Somehow the Americans, barely, found the funds to keep their armies in the field until victory was achieved, and one of the prime heroes of the financial portion of the American Revolution was merchant and financier Haym Salomon.

Born in Lezno, Poland in 1740, Salomon was a descendant of Jewish refugees from Portugal.  As a young man he traveled throughout Western Europe gaining the mercantile skills that would serve him throughout his career and displaying a facility in learning languages, becoming proficient in eight.  In 1775 he settled in New York City as a financial broker for foreign merchants.  He swiftly became an ardent patriot and joined the local Sons of Liberty.

After the British conquered New York City, Salomon was arrested as a spy and served 18 months.  The British made use of his linguistic skills to communicate with their Hessian mercenaries.  Salomon secretly urged the Hessians to desert and helped other Americans escape captivity.  Arrested again by the British in 1778, and this time sentenced to death, Salomon escaped and made his way to Philadelphia.  Resuming his work as a financier, he swiftly rose to prominence, becoming the agent of the French consul to America and paymaster of the French forces in North America.

In 1781 he began to work closely with Robert Morris, the Superintendent of Finance for the Continental Congress.  He skillfully sold $600,000.00 in bills of exchange to raise desperately needed funds for the War effort.  He played a pivotal role in the Yorktown campaign.  Washington needed at least $20,000.00 to finance the sending of his army to Virginia.  Told by Robert Morris that there were no funds and no credit, Washington gave him this order:  Send for Haym Salomon.  Working his financial wizardry, Salomon raised the funds that allowed the Continental Army to win the War at Yorktown. (more…)

Published in: on January 19, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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General George S. Patton: Art and Life

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.
George S. Patton

The classic movie biography Patton (1970) has become so closely associated with General George S. Patton, that we are sometimes in danger of forgetting that Patton sounded nothing like George C. Scott.  A more accurate portrayal, considering Patton’s high-pitched voice, would have been to have the voice of Patton voice acted by the late Truman Capote!  The video above, a clip from the Ronald Reagan narrated film, The General George S. Patton Story, reminds us both of Patton’s voice and his eloquence.  Patton had the gift of demanding instant attention when he spoke, and keeping that attention skillfully by mixing drama, humor, theatrical poses and raw force of personality.  All these elements are skillfully captured in the Patton film.  Here is the unforgettable opening to the film where the Patton personae is firmly fixed in our minds from the outset of the film:


Published in: on January 18, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on General George S. Patton: Art and Life  
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The War That Gets No Respect

When it comes to the War of 1812, the ignorance depicted in the above video is no exaggeration.  Of all our major conflicts, our Second War For Independence is the most obscure to the general public.  In this bicentennial year of the beginning of the War, we will do our small bit on this blog to help correct this situation.   The War of 1812 was an important struggle in American history for a number of reasons, a few of which are:

1.      Until the War of 1812 the British tended to treat the United States as if it were a wayward colony that would ultimately become part of the British Empire again.  After the War the British understood that we were an independent power and a permanent factor in their calculations.

2.     The War established the United States Navy as an aggressive and resourceful combat force, unafraid to pit daring and skill against the massively more powerful Royal Navy.

3.     The War ended American dreams of conquering Canada.

4.     As a result of the War, the Indian tribes east of the Mississippi could no longer provide serious resistance to American expansion into the Northwest and the Southwest.

5.     The Star-Spangled Banner symbolized the new surge of nationalism that the country experienced as a result of the War. (more…)

Published in: on January 17, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Abolitionist and the Liberator


Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist of 19th century America and Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator, who led the fight to gain the right to vote for Irish Catholics in 19th century Ireland, have always been two of my heroes.  Most Americans tend to be unaware of the connection between them.

Throughout his life Daniel O’Connell had been an opponent of slavery, and made his sentiments known at every opportunity, calling upon Irish-Americans to attack the “Peculiar Institution”.  He was frequently quoted by opponents of slavery in the United States.  While a boy and a slave, Douglass had heard one of his masters curse O’Connell for attacking slavery, and Douglass knew that he must love O’Connell if his master hated him so.  In 1846 Douglass went to Ireland for four months and went on a speaking tour.  O’ Connell was seventy-one and had just one more year to live.  Douglass was a mere twenty-eight.  However, a firm friendship quickly sprung up between them.  O’Connell, perhaps the finest orator of a nation known for oratory, heard the eloquent Douglass speak in Dublin and proclaimed him the “Black O’Connell”.

The wretched condition of most of the Irish moved and shocked Douglass as this passage he wrote in a letter to William Lloyd Garrison on March 27, 1846 reveals:

The spectacle that affected me most, and made the most vivid impression on my mind, of the extreme poverty and wretchedness of the poor of Dublin, was the frequency with which I met little children in the street at a late hour of the night, covered with filthy rags, and seated upon cold stone steps, or in corners, leaning against brick walls, fast asleep, with none to look upon them, none to care for them. If they have parents, they have become vicious, and have abandoned them. Poor creatures! they are left without help, to find their way through a frowning world—a world that seems to regard them as intruders, and to be punished as such. God help the poor! An infidel might ask, in view of these facts, with confusing effect—Where is your religion that takes care for the poor—for the widow and fatherless—where are its votaries—what are they doing? The answer to this would be, if properly given, wasting their energies in useless debate on hollow creeds and points of doctrine, which, when settled, neither make one hair white nor black. In conversation with some who were such rigid adherents to their faith that they would scarce be seen in company with those who differed from them in any point of their creed, I have heard them quote the text in palliation of their neglect, “The poor shall not cease out of the land”! During my stay in Dublin, I took occasion to visit the huts of the poor in its vicinity—and of all places to witness human misery, ignorance, degradation, filth and wretchedness, an Irish hut is pre-eminent. It seems to be constructed to promote the very reverse of every thing like domestic comfort. If I were to describe one, it would appear about as follows: Four mud walls about six feet high, occupying a space of ground about ten feet square, covered or thatched with straw—a mud chimney at one end, reaching about a foot above the roof—without apartments or divisions of any kind—without floor, without windows, and sometimes without a chimney—a piece of pine board laid on the top of a box or an old chest— a pile of straw covered with dirty garments, which it would puzzle any one to determine the original part of any one of them—a picture representing the crucifixion of Christ, pasted on the most conspicuous place on the wall—a few broken dishes stuck up in a corner—an iron pot, or the half of an iron pot, in one corner of the chimney—a little peat in the fireplace, aggravating one occasionally with a glimpse of fire, but sending out very little heat—a man and his wife and five children, and a pig. In front of the door-way, and within a step of it, is a hole three or four feet deep, and ten or twelve feet in circumference; into this hole all the filth and dirt of the hut are put, for careful preservation. This is frequently covered with a green scum, which at times stands in bubbles, as decomposition goes on. Here you have an Irish hut or cabin, such as millions of the people of Ireland live in. And some live in worse than these. Men and women, married and single, old and young, lie down together, in much the same degradation as the American slaves. I see much here to remind me of my former condition, and I confess I should be ashamed to lift up my voice against American slavery, but that I know the cause of humanity is one the world over. He who really and truly feels for the American slave, cannot steel his heart to the woes of others; and he who thinks himself an abolitionist, yet cannot enter into the wrongs of others, has yet to find a true foundation for his anti-slavery faith.

It is a tribute both to Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell that their compassion was not limited to people like them, but extended to victims of injustice far removed from them.

In his memoirs published in 1882, Douglass recalled O’Connell: (more…)

Published in: on January 15, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Abolitionist and the Liberator  
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