Thursday, September 11, 2014

McKinley Shot!

The sad news of the McKinley assassination from the the Evening Star (Washington D.C.) on September 6, 1901.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

John Quincy Adams, Executive Order of July 11, 1826

Most are aware that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day (July 4th) in 1826. Needless to say, this coincidence on Independence Day got a lot of attention at the time. There were public honors from the military for both men.

John Quincy Adams Administration issued an Executive Order on July 11, 1826 to elaborate on this.

It noted, "A coincidence of circumstances so wonderful gives confidence to the belief that the patriotic efforts of these illustrious men were Heaven directed, and furnishes a new seal to the hope that the prosperity of these States is under the special protection of a kind Providence."

Honors included, "Sharing in the grief which every heart must feel for so heavy and afflicting a public loss, and desirous to express his high sense of the vast debt of gratitude which is due to the virtues, talents, and ever-memorable services of the illustrious deceased, the President directs that funeral honors be paid to him at all the military stations, and that the officers of the Army wear crape on the left arm, by way of mourning, for six months."

And more praise, "Never has it fallen to the lot of any commander to announce to an army such an event as now calls forth the mingled grief and astonishment of this Republic; never since History first wrote the record of time has one day thus mingled every triumphant with every tender emotion, and consecrated a nation's joy by blending it with the most sacred of sorrows. Yes, soldiers, in one day, almost in the same hour, have two of the Founders of the Republic, the Patriarchs of Liberty, closed their services to social man, after beholding them crowned with the richest and most unlimited success. United in their end as they had been in their highest aim, their toils completed, their hopes surpassed, their honors full, and the dearest wish of their bosoms gratified in death, they closed their eyes in patriot ecstasy, amidst the gratulations and thanksgivings of a people on all, on every individual, of whom they had conferred the best of all earthly benefits."

"Such men need no trophies; they ask no splendid mausolea. We are their monuments; their mausolea is their country, and her growing prosperity the amaranthine wreath that Time shall place over their dust. Well may the Genius of the Republic mourn. If she turns her eyes in one direction, she beholds the hall where Jefferson wrote the charter of her rights; if in another, she sees the city where Adams kindled the fires of the Revolution. To no period of our history, to no department of our affairs, can she direct her views and not meet the multiplied memorials of her loss and of their glory."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lincoln's Tomb in Springfield, IL

I had the privilege of visiting Springfield, IL last week. I was able to stop by Lincoln's Tomb. It is a beautiful structure. Abraham Lincoln, his wife, and two of his sons are buried here. Thought I would share a picture of the tombstone.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

US Presidents: Lists and Records

I found an interesting Presidential website titled US Presidents: Lists and Records. The site describes itself as, "The presidents of the United States are so much fun. Understanding them helps us understand American history. We have compiled a series of lists about the presidents, and will be adding more as we think of new categories."

Included are very useful items such as the 1995 historical ranking of 41 presidents conducted from Siena College, which Presidents were left-handed, the relative share of popular and Electoral College vote each president won, and regular and pocket vetoes issued by each, etc,

Monday, June 23, 2014

John Adams on Sally Hemings Debate

I’ve never paid that much attention to the Jefferson-Hemings debate.  I’m perfectly okay believing either side of the coin, honestly leaning more towards, yes, he did father those kids. The ins and outs of the relationship also haven’t greatly interested me either, as Jefferson was always clearly a slave owner and this is a typical issue of slave owners, one of the many reasons why slavery was a terrible institution.   

I’m currently reading Passionate Sage by Joseph Ellis (incidentally the article I referenced above was written by Ellis as well….although I didn’t do that on purpose!), which I think I mentioned before, but I had gotten distracted from it and only recently returned to it.  Anyway, I just got the section about the rekindling of the Jefferson-Adams friendship and interestingly enough Adams didn’t believe the stories that were circulating then about Jefferson and Hemings.  Ellis writes:
Adams claimed to give no credence to the scandalous stories about Jefferson’s alleged relationship with Sally Hemings, his mulatto slave.  As a fellow victim of similarly venomous vendettas, Adams empathized.  But he went on to speculate that the allegation was "a natural and almost inevitable consequence of the foul Contagion in the human Character, Negro Slavery.”  Jefferson was seriously contaminated by that contagion and could not escape the prevalent suspicion that “there was not a planter in Virginia who could not reckon among his slaves a number of his children.” Even though the Sally Hemings story was probably not true, Adams surmised with obviously satisfaction that it would remain “a blot on his Character” because it symbolized the inherently immoral condition in which all slaveowners, Jefferson included, lived.

I never thought about Adams having an opinion on this matter, although it makes sense given when the story first broke, so I found this interesting enough to share!  I couldn’t find a full copy of this letter online (MHS let me down….), so sorry about that.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Skydiving for his 90th!

So George HW Bush went skydiving for his 90th birthday!  Good for him!  Here's a bit of backstory to go with this:
Mr. Bush said his first experience skydiving was leaving his plane during World War II when his engine caught fire and waiting for hours to be picked up out of the ocean.

“I did it wrong, I pulled the jump cord too early and hit the tail of the plane,” he said. “I decided later on that I wanted to do it right. That did spark my interest in making another jump.”

Mr. Bush said he often thinks about the two other men in the plane with him, both of whom died, and why it was him who survived. Despite that, he said he’s thoroughly enjoyed his second chance on life that’s included serving in Congress, as an ambassador to the United Nations, as director of the CIA and as the 41st president.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Did Wilson have a brain malfunction?

This article argues that Wilson had serious issues well before his stroke:
Wilson’s judgment seemed grossly impaired by the war years. He was extraordinarily petulant and irrational by 1918, and contemporaneous observers who were in a position to know commented often on his strange and quirky ways.

In 1919, Wilson’s pre-existing medical and mental conditions arguably led to a breakdown months before his paralytic stroke, which occurred on October 2. The nature of this breakdown could be seen as early as February, in a series of words and actions that prefigured his behavior of November and December, at which point he was clearly out of his mind.

When Wilson sailed to Europe aboard the USS George Washington, he had — typically — no substantive strategy for preventing the kind of vindictive peace that he had warned against in his 1917 “Peace Without Victory” speech. One of the advisers recruited for the U.S. peace delegation, Yale historian Charles Seymour, recalled that Wilson turned to him during the voyage and asked, “What means, Mr. Seymour, can be utilized to bring pressure upon these people in the interest of justice?” It was very late indeed for Wilson to be thinking in these terms, especially after the many missed opportunities in 1917 and 1918 to build the political pre-conditions for “peace without victory.”

This talks about a major shift in his health and behavior:
...something drastic seemed to happen to him on April 28 — something that did not come to light until many years later, when historian Arthur S. Link was editing the Wilson documents from 1919. Let Link and his editorial colleagues tell the story: “It became obvious to us while going through the documents from late April to about mid-May 1919 that Wilson was undergoing some kind of a crisis in his health . . . . Whatever happened to Wilson seems to have occurred when he was signing letters in the morning of April 28” when his handwriting changed and became almost bizarre.

 The editors continue: “Wilson’s handwriting continued to deteriorate even further. It grew increasingly awkward, was more and more heavily inked, and became almost grotesque.” Link summoned some medical specialists who told him that in their own opinion there was simply no doubt about it: Wilson had suffered a stroke on the morning of April 28.

And then he threw away yet another opportunity to strike a blow for “peace without victory.” When the terms of the Versailles treaty were made public there was widespread outrage regarding their severity. David Lloyd George, the British prime minister, was stricken, and he called the British delegation together on June 1. Their decision was unanimous: the terms of the treaty should be softened.

But when Wilson was approached, he declared that the severe terms were perfectly appropriate. According to one account, he proclaimed that “if the Germans won’t sign the treaty as we have written it, then we must renew the war.”