Friday, June 29, 2007

U.S. President Approval Ratings Since 1946

Back in May President Jimmy Carter once again criticized President George W. Bush by stating, “I think as far as the adverse impact on the nations around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.” It wasn’t the first time President Carter had criticized Bush. Over the last several months Carter has expressed his viewpoint regarding the treatment of Hamas by the Bush administration, the use of military tribunals, and for blurring church and state. Of course Carter isn’t the only ex-president to say something about a current administration over the years, but clearly Carter has ended a long standing tradition that ex-presidents keep silent on the performance of current ones.

I wonder if Mr. Carter wanted to rethink his comments from May after seeing his approval ratings in the Wall Street Journal's graph representations for every president since 1946? I won’t bore you here with the details of how the data was collected, but it is posted at the Wall Street Journal site in their online article titled How the Presidents Stack Up.

This is a really interesting look at the presidents from Truman forward. As seen here the presentation begins with all of the presidents on the same graph. To look at individual presidents go to the site and click on the “previous” or “next” button or click on the individual president names.

Many have weighed in on their own interpretation of the data, but the concensus is Americans like their presidents at the beginning of their terms much better than at the end with amazingly one exception. President Clinton finished higher than when he started. Apparently being impeached doesn’t have anything to do with approval in modern day America.

Also the current Bush ratings are low, but he isn’t as low as Truman, Nixon, or even Carter...yet.
Truman shows the largest fluctuation of highs and lows, and even though Reagan looks flat he’s been treated much different in the here and now. Actually, when I teach the various presidents I enjoy teaching and learning about the various details concerning Truman. Does this mean future generations really decide how well a president did or didn’t do?

These graphs could be used in interesting ways in the classroom. When I taught fifth grade the curriculum covered Reconstruction through to the president day. By the time we fought World War II it would be late in the year and I generally ended by dividing the content into presidential administrations from Truman on.

One of the things I would do with this online tool is I would delete the individual report information other than the graph itself. I would divide the class into groups at the end of our study of an administration such as Carter and give them all an altered graph. The group’s task would be to review the entire administration and analyze why the graph indicates highs and lows.

After the discussion each student would plot administrative and historical events on their individual graphs. They would not have to plot something just because the majority felt a certain way. They could deviate from the group if they felt strongly about an event, so that their graphs would be more of an individual process.

At the end of the plotting we would post the graphs in the room and students could compare and contrast. Where did their thinking converge? Where did it take different paths? Why?

Finally, I would allow students to see the Wall Street Journal results and a final comparison could be made. Students would reflect on their learning by turning in a reflective piece of writing with their graph.

Many thanks to the Wall Street Journal for activating my “how can I use this in the classroom” brain and many thanks to my fellow Georgian, Pastor Bill over at Provocative Church for providing the clue that this article existed.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lincoln China

Lincoln china is distinctive and easy to pick out because of the purple border. That purple (officially called “Solferino”) got Mary Lincoln a lot of criticism as too “royal.” Added to this the US was at war and many citizens felt the US should not be spending money on things like china (as a note, this is the picture I could find - definitely a bad background color choice! The depth of color in china is very difficult to photograph - Truman green is a prime example).
To Mary Lincoln’s credit, though, china was a necessity in 1861 – there was not a complete set of any pattern when the Lincolns moved. So by September of 1861, a full set of china was made and delivered to the White House that had been personally selected by Mrs. Lincoln (a first):
2 bowls for salad
4 shells for pickles4 meat platters in each of 6 sizes (9", 10", 13", 15", 18", and 20")
4 fish platters in various sizes and forms
2 butter dishes with drainers and covers
6 uncovered vegetable dishes or "bakers"
96 nine-inch dinner plates
48 soup plates
4 large water pitchers
2 bowls for ice

The brochure on the china exhibit currently at the National First Ladies Library gives us more insight to Mary Lincoln’s china purchase:
Mary Lincoln understood the importance of maintaining the proper appearance so that visitors from other nations would perceive the United States as strong and her husband’s administration as in control. In an effort to reinforce this perception, the Lincoln administration was incredibly active socially in the midst of the Civil War.

So while White House china often seems like a trivial purchase, it actually is fairly important to the administration for necessary social functions.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Off to China

I am leaving for China tomorrow. I will not be posting here for a few weeks. I leave this blog in the capable hands of Jenny and Lisa. I guess when I get back I will have to write a China related post on the American Presidency. (Is Nixon in China the best option?)

If you are interested. I have a write up of my research plan at my other blog. It is information literacy related. It is at Chinese Students and Their Use of the Web for Research.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Where's Mrs. Bush?

Laura and Jenna Bush
The current answer - picking vegetables in Africa (just a side note here - not a color to really pick veggies in!). Mrs. Bush has been speaking about the African Education Initative and touring an AIDS hospital. From her remarks en route to Senegal, you can see some of what she has planned for this trip.

Now why'd I post this - apart from that's it is kind of cool? Well, one of the major functions of modern first ladies are their work with charities and "mercy" missions like this. I give tours at the National First Ladies Library in Canton, OH, and one of the questions that just about every tours asks when we get to our gallery for First Ladies is what will we do if a woman is elected president? They are trying to be cute about the name, etc., most of the time. But there is a deeper question here and I always bring out a little of it. Would a man be willing to do the UNPAID duties of a First Lady? Would the good that most First Ladies do be lost? The Office of the First Lady now takes over the entire East Wing - it is a major part of our executive branch. First Ladies now even work for legislation. State entertaining may sound overblown at times, but it is is a major part of international diplomacy. It is required for events like the visit of the Queen of England or the President of Vietnam. Presidents without wives have appointed women to stand in - these hostesses include Harriet Lane (for James Buchanan), Angelica Van Buren, Betty Taylor Bliss, Priscilla Tyler Cooper just to name a few - to fill this role. If a woman is elected (and one will probably be eventually), would her husband be willing to do the job? Or would she appoint a stand in? Just something to think about today!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Vast collection of Lincoln items comes to library

Millions of dollars worth of Lincoln memorabilia are heading to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The article Vast collection of Lincoln items comes to library by Pete Sherman has the details.

Sherman wrote, "Shortly after Memorial Day weekend, a tractor-trailer arrived in Springfield. Two drivers had taken it from California, nonstop, from the home of Louise Taper. Inside were millions of dollars’ worth of Taper’s private collection of Abraham Lincoln-related artifacts and documents. One of only three of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats known to survive was included among them, worth potentially millions all by itself. The hat and all the rest - items numbering more than 1,500 - now belong to Springfield."

Taper had built quite a collection. It also included Lincoln’s blood-soaked gloves from the night of his assassination and thousands of documents and letters, including large assortments from Mary Todd Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth.

There is also a poem written by Lincoln the poet! Here is the clever piece:

Abraham Lincoln is my name and with my pen I wrote the same I wrote in both haste and speed and left it here for fools to read.

I am grateful to Louise Taper for having the desire to collect and then donate all of this Lincoln material. As a fool, I would love to see Lincoln's poem (and one of those hats!) in person.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Washington’s Mt. Vernon

In January I posted a series of posts about presidential homes, I’d visited in Virginia. Now you might have noticed a serious gap – I didn’t go to Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington. The reason was simple – I’d already been there ten years earlier so I choose to go places I hadn’t been. Now even if you didn’t notice, George and Martha certainly did and have been harping on me ever since that I really needed to feature Mt. Vernon at the APB so that’s what I’m doing today.

Mt. Vernon Today

Mt. Vernon is owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association since 1858 and has been open to the public since 1860. Before that it was owned by the Washington family, but was in disrepair.

Mt. Vernon in 1858

The house at Mt. Vernon is quite lovely, but it is the 500 acres of grounds that make this such a spectacular place to visit (45 acres are open to visitors). You can take a virtual tour of the house on the web if you can’t make it to Virginia. You can also tour the grounds virtually. There is so much to do and see at Mt. Vernon – there are tours running constantly on a huge variety of subjects, there are a multitude of buildings to see and then there are several great centers/museums to tour as well. Mt. Vernon could be a week long trip in itself and it is a great place to take kids.

The gristmill

Now since there is so much I could feature from Mt. Vernon, I’m choosing one of the newest attractions – the gristmill:

George Washington first acquired a gristmill when he inherited Mount Vernon from the widow of his half-brother, Lawrence, in 1754. This first enterprise was a "custom mill," where wheat and corn were ground not for sale, but mainly for neighboring farmers and for consumption on the Estate.

In 1770, Washington decided to build a "merchant mill," which began operation the following year. Here flour and cornmeal were ground, not only for use at Mount Vernon but also for sale up and down the East Coast of America and as far away as Portugal and the West Indies. The new mill had two pairs of stones. One pair was used to grind wheat into flour, and the other pair was used to grind corn into meal. It is a reconstruction of this mill that you can see today at Mount Vernon.

The water for the mill came from Dogue Run stream. The flour Washington sold was loaded onto ships from a wharf located on the stream's waterfront.

At this same location, Washington ran a distillery for making whiskey, and a cooperage, where barrels were made for storing and shipping the products produced at the site. Mount Vernon archaeologists began a long-term excavation of the entire area in the spring of 1997, and excavated the Distillery until 2006. The Distillery is being rebuilt and will open to the public in the April 2007.

The website is also a great resource – including teaching resources, the papers of George Washington, the archeology and preservation going on continuously at Mt. Vernon, and tons of in depth information on Washington, his family and his home. As such, I’m also going to feature one piece from the website information. There is a great piece about the building of Mt. Vernon and the men (slaves as well as white contractors) who built the house:

Over the four decades he spent building Mount Vernon, George Washington struggled to acquire the necessary materials and skilled workmen to carry out his vision. With few manufacturing operations in the colonies, Washington was forced to import a wide variety of specialized building materials to complement the more basic items like lumber, bricks, and mortar, that could be acquired from the plantation or purchased from local suppliers. Washington employed an array of workmen to carry out his projects. These included skilled Mount Vernon slaves who worked as carpenters, painters, and brickmakers, as well as hired white craftsmen.

Lund Washington: For almost a decade Lund Washington served as the Mount Vernon plantation manager. During the extended period when George Washington was away during the Revolutionary War, his responsibilities increased to include overseeing a variety of construction projects. It was he who was called upon to carry on the second major expansion of the mansion that George Washington had embarked upon just before he was called away to the war in 1775. Lund apparently did not share his cousin’s relish for building, and he seems to have been especially frustrated by the wartime shortages of materials and manpower. George Washington kept in close contact with his manager through weekly correspondence, and their letters back and forth include detailed instructions and advice on the one hand and questions and progress reports on the other.

Thomas Green: For Washington, dealing with the idiosyncrasies of his workers appears to have been an ongoing challenge. The behavior of Thomas Green, a skilled “joiner and house carpenter” who served as “overlooker” of the slave carpenters for six years, typified some of the problems Washington found so exasperating. Green’s fondness for drink, his stubbornly independent nature, and his tendency to move from one project to another without finishing, often left Washington fuming over Green’s idleness and carelessness. How did Thomas Green manage to keep his job? A shortage of men with his high level of skill certainly worked in his favor. In addition, Green had married Sally Bishop, the daughter of Washington’s personal servant, Thomas Bishop. Convinced that Sally and her children would suffer if her husband were fired, Washington’s loyalty to the Bishop family compelled him to keep Green employed.

Isaac: Skilled in carpentry and charged with considerable responsibility, Isaac occupied a unique place in the Mount Vernon labor structure. While the great majority of slaves worked as field laborers, many were trained in a variety of building trades and plantation crafts such as brickmaking, carpentry, painting and plastering, spinning and weaving, and blacksmithing. Isaac was in charge of the carpentry shop, which called for both turning skills and bench carpentry. He made spokes for wheels, axletrees for carts, handles for chisels, and fingers for cradling. Isaac also made and repaired sills, plates, posts, and rafters for building frames. By the 1790s, Isaac was directing the other carpenters in erecting simple buildings.

William Sears: English woodcarver William Sears arrived in the colonies in 1752, at the age of 20. He may have been a convicted felon, sentenced to seven years’ indentured servitude for stealing clothes. George Washington’s neighbor, George Mason, bought the indenture and Sears spent five years creating brilliant ornamental carvings throughout the interior of Mason’s home, Gunston Hall. By 1772, with a wife and child, Sears had become a respected, independent artisan. Two years later, he was commissioned by Washington to carve a chimneypiece for Mount Vernon’s small dining room. Sears may have provided the design, an illustration from Swan’s pattern book, The British Architect. The final result was magnificent, and is considered by many to be the finest single piece of decoration at Mount Vernon.

Some things to remember if you do visit Mt. Vernon:

  • It is extremely close to DC – just 16 miles. You can drive (there is free parking) or take the metro (you’ll have to grab a connector bus, but its easy). There are also various bus tours during the season.
  • Mt. Vernon is open year round, but does have shorter hours during the winter. There are programs year round, so check out the website or call ahead if you want to see if you can make one of these great events.
  • Adult tickets to Mt. Vernon are $13 (additional $2 for the gristmill tour if you add it when you buy your general ticket). There are discounts for seniors and kids.

Mt. Vernon also asks all visitors to abide by these customs and courtesies:

  • Photography is prohibited in the Mansion, all of the galleries of the Museum, and in the Leader's Smile Gallery of the Education Center.
  • Strollers and motorized "scooters" are not allowed in the Mansion or the George Washington Museum.
  • No food and beverage, except bottled water, is allowed on the estate.
  • Dogs that are service animals are welcome at Mount Vernon, but are not permitted in the Mansion, the theaters of the Ford Orientation Center, or the galleries of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.
  • No gum in the Mansion.
  • Never take flowers or other plant materials.
  • Do not feed the animals.

Take a day (or a week!) and explore the home of our first President - you can do it in person or via the web!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Martin Van Buren and the Nullification Crisis

In early 1832, the United States was close to Civil War. The Nullification Crisis pitted South Carolina against the Federal government over whether a state had the right to nullify Federal laws it did not agree with. Both sides had mobilized forces and the possibility of war had been real. While the crisis was handled by President Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren gave the President support and advice.

Wikipedia notes this of the Nullification Crisis, "The Nullification Crisis was a sectional crisis during the presidency of Andrew Jackson created by the attempt by the state of South Carolina to nullify a federal law passed by the United States Congress. South Carolina, in turn, was reacting to the Tariff of 1828 (also called the "Tariff of Abominations"). The lingering effects of an economic downturn, political maneuvering on both the national and the state level, conflicting interpretations of state versus federal powers, threats of secession, threats of federal coercion, and the fears of a sectional conflict over slavery all exacerbated the situation. The debate ultimately led both the United States and South Carolina governments to mobilize for a military confrontation. The compromise solution had the effect of turning public attention away from the subject of protective tariffs. While tariffs remained a political issue, public support for sectional volatility centered increasingly on slavery and territorial expansion."

Andrew Jackson, a southerner, did not agree with the tariff that started the crisis. However, as commander-in-chief and as the protector of the Constitution, he believed South Carolina had no right to nullify Federal law. He considered it a treasonous act and he openly threatened South Carolina with war. As can be imagined, this helped to inflame the state's rights advocates in South Carolina who had no desire to back down.

Andrew Jackson was forced to tone down his message. He did not want war but he also could not give in on the issue of nullification. He turned to several for advice including his Secretary of State Martin Van Buren who urged caution. He advised Jackson on ways to soften his approach which might help to build support among the other states, particularly those in the south.

In addition, Van Buren used his political connections in New York to help get support for the President. New York was one of the most powerful states in the Union and support there was crucial. Van Buren was from New York and had even briefly served as Governor of the state in 1829.

Martin Van Buren, in a report to the New York Legislature in 1833, wrote, "Even at this critical emergency in our public affairs, when so much discredit is apprehended to the sacred cause of State rights from the excesses of South Carolina, the confidence of the Committee in the correctness of that cause is strengthened by the exemplary conduct of her sister States." Van Buren eventually got the support he needed from the state legislature.

Finally, in 1833, a compromise was reached where the tariff which started the crisis was gradually reduced to pre-1828 levels. At the same time, Congress authorized the President to use force if necessary to enforce Federal law in South Carolina. The crisis was defused for a time but South Carolina would eventually lead most of the south into rebellion in 1861 almost three decades later.

Martin Van Buren shined through the whole Nullification Crisis. Andrew Jackson increasingly relied on his advice and made him his Vice-President in 1833. Further, he worked hard to make sure that Van Buren followed him into the Oval Office as the next President of the United States. The Nullification Crisis did not solve the problems which would eventually lead to the American Civil War but it did help Van Buren rise to the presidency.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First Lady Pin Money

Sometimes all a woman needs to complete an outfit is a carefully selected pin.

My mother had several. Your mom probably had several as well.

It is believed that English women began wearing pins after they were introduced by Catherine Howard, one the many wives of King Henry VIII, and as most fashion trends usually begin, Queen Catherine borrowed the custom from the French. In the beginning much like any hot item pins were very expensive, and many women began to receive extra money over and above the normal sum given to them to run the household so that their pins could be purchased. The term “pin money” was born.

The practice was so popular that men began including provisions for pin money in their wills even though it was not a common practice to leave a woman something outright unless it was controlled by a man. The Testamenta Eboracensia---a selection of wills from the Registry of York, 1542 includes this selection from one will, “I give my said doughter Margarett my lease of the parsonadge of Kirkdall Churche…to by her pynnes withal.”

Eventually the price of pins came down, more ladies could afford them, and the original purpose of pin money changed to include any extra little luxury or treat a lady might want to purchase.

Fastforward to 1912 and the will of Henry G. Freeman, Jr. made provisions for pin money---pin money for the First Lady to be exact. Mr. Freeman, a wealthy real estate investor from Philadelaphia, felt that the salary of the U.S. President ($75,000 at that time) was not large enough to provide for extras. The will set up a trust that would provide the sum of $12,000 for the first lady’s “own and absolute use” and the payments “shall continue in force as long as this glorious government exists.” The distribution of the money would not begin until Mr. Freeman’s last heir had passed away.

Seventy-seven years would go by before there would be any distribution from the Robert J. Freeman Trust. Many a First Lady would live in the White House and not benefit from the pin money during that time.

In 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy bought the pin you see in the pictures presented with this post from an antique store in London. The sunburst pin is platinum plated and contains 211 Swarovski crystals. The website WB Jewelry Chest presents reproductions of Jackie Kennedy’s jewelry for sale, and advises she wore the sunburst pin on dresses, jackets, coats, blazers, and even in her hair. Of course, JFK had the resources to purchase his wife’s extra little luxuries and treats as have other residents of the White House which makes the Freeman Trust such an interesting throw back to times past.

During the administration of Georgia H.W. Bush the last Freeman heir passed away and the trust fund become active in November, 1989. A fairly recent article by John Yang from MSNBC mentions the fund and how it has been spent. First Lady Barbara Bush donated a portion of the money to charity and also used it for “something nice for my grandchildren.” First Lady Hillary Rodam Clinton and First Lady Laura Bush also have benefit from the fund, however they have both disclosed they donated the entire amount to charity which is a great tax write off since the money is taxable. (Mr. Yang’s article was not able to specify how Mrs. Bush has spent the money, but another updated source stated she had donated the money to charity as well.)

As I researched this small bit of presidential trivia I couldn’t help but wonder how I could use this information with my students. I believe the Freeman pin money is a perfect example to use with students to show them the changing thoughts and attitudes concerning husbands and the care of wives going all the way back to the 1600s.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Alien and Sedition Act

The Alien and Sedition Acts were passed by the Adams administration in response to fear that the US would soon be going to war with France. The PBS film, John & Abigail Adams, has a nice segment on these laws (I just watched this film last week - a little cheesy, but not bad and it has very good historian guests). The PBS site talks about why Adams passed these laws, which were extremely unpopular:
The pressure on Adams was relentless. The Republican press savaged him, attacking his character and his policies with increasing frequency and virulence. Abigail Adams, who supported her husband's signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts, feared for her husband's physical safety. Adams himself feared riots, and the High Federalists (the ultra-conservative wing of the party with which Adams was not aligned) feared bloody revolution of the French sort.

Abigail Adams, who was usually quite politically savvy supported these measures because she hated what the press was doing to her husband. So what did these laws say? The Alien Act tried to control the foreigners and their movements within the US - aimed mostly at the French who we were nearly at war with. The Sedition Act's goal was to control the press and their barrage of bad press against Adams. The Alien Act was never used. The Sedition Act however was used - some publishers choose to moderate their publications in reponse while others continued and were fined and arrested:
Sixteen indictments resulted from the Sedition Act, and five out of six of the leading Republican papers were tried for libel. James Callender, a journalist and a paid operative of Jefferson commissioned to smear Adams in the press, was arrested and jailed, as was Benjamin Franklin Bache, the editor of the Aurora and grandson of Benjamin Franklin.

The backlash of negative publicity from these acts as well as problems with France seriously hindered Adams' attempt for reelection in 1800. Now you might see a parallel to more modern events - some journalists have compared the Alien & Sedition Acts with with the current PATRIOT Act.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Jimmy Carter Proclamation of Flag Day

Proclamation 4660 - Flag Day and National Flag Week, 1979

May 18th, 1979

By the President of the United States of America, a proclamation

Two years after the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress chose a flag which tellingly expressed the unity and resolve of Colonials who had banded together to seek independence. The delegates voted "that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation."

With the addition of thirty-seven stars, and after more than two centuries of history, the flag chosen by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia is our flag today, symbolizing a shared commitment to freedom and equality.

To commemorate the adoption of our flag, the Congress, by a joint resolution of August 3, 1949 (63 Stat. 492), designated June 14 of each year as Flag Day and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its observance. The Congress also requested the President, by joint resolution of June 9, 1966 (80 Stat. 194), to issue annually a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as National Flag Week and to call upon all citizens of the United States to display the flag of the United States on those days.

To focus the attention of the American people on their country's character, heritage and future well-being, the Congress has also, by joint resolution of June 13, 1975, set aside the 21 days from Flag Day through Independence Day as a period to honor America (89 Stat. 211 ).

Now, THEREFORE, I, JIMMY CARTER, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate the week beginning June 10, 1979, as National Flag Week, and I direct the appropriate officials of the Government to display the flag on all Government buildings during the week. I urge all Americans to observe Flag Day, June 14, and Flag Week by flying the Stars and Stripes from their homes and other suitable places.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of May,in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred seventy-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and third.


[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 11:05 a.m., May 8, 1979]

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Eisenhower and the Red Menace

The Fall 2001 edition of Prologue had an article by Michael Birkner on Eisenhower and the “Red Menace.”
This article starts with a comparison of Joseph McCarthy and Dwight Eisenhower – both Republican Party leaders. But while McCarthy’s light quickly burnt out, Eisenhower remained a hero of the Republicans and the country. In 1952, McCarthy and Nixon (who was Eisenhower’s VP), both campaigned on anticommunism:
McCarthy had won the hearts of conservative Republicans with his slashing attacks on "twenty years of treason," and he continued through the campaign year to insist that only a Republican administration could possibly find and destroy the enemy within our ramparts. For his part, Nixon— who had helped expose Alger Hiss as a communist agent during the New Deal years— was more measured than McCarthy in proclaiming that communists were in the government. But Nixon made subversion a typical speech theme and talked ominously about Dean Acheson and his "cowardly school of communist containment."

Eisenhower choose a much more moderate stance:
Eisenhower differentiated himself from McCarthy and Nixon mainly by including in his speeches about national security references to the Constitution and civil liberties. "Freedom," Ike told a large crowd in McCarthy's Wisconsin on October 3, "must defend itself with courage, with care, with force, and with fairness." In a speech to the American Legion, Eisenhower called for the elimination from American life of traitors who would "destroy the American constitutional system." He quickly added: "Let us forever hew sharply to the fundamental American principle that every man is innocent until he is proved guilty. To do less is dangerous to our freedom at home and to our world position of leadership."9 Ike knew that a stated commitment to civil liberties would matter less politically than his attacks on the Truman administration, but it was important to him that it be included. His sense of balance on the communist question— what one of his aides later called "vigilance without fanaticism"— was what he intended to make the hallmark of his presidency.

To appease the public, Eisenhower quickly moved as President to implement a new internal security program:
In one of his first initiatives as President, Eisenhower directed Attorney General Herbert Brownell to make his first priority plugging holes in the Truman internal security program. By April 1953 the President issued Executive Order Number 10450. This measure took President Truman's emphasis on "loyalty" and added "security" to the realm of suitability for employment in the executive branch. In plain terms, it meant that discovering disloyal acts or communist party membership was not the only basis for dismissing a government employee. Employees who were alcoholic, homosexual, or "blabbermouths" could be dismissed summarily under the program devised by the Justice Department. As it took shape during the spring and summer of 1953, Ike's internal security program was multifaceted. In addition to the employee security program, it entailed vetting the foreign service of individuals suspected of unorthodox views and potentially subversive associations, more aggressive prosecution of communists under the Smith Act of 1940, deportation of communist aliens, and exclusion of subversives who sought entrance into the United States.

Much of the implementation of the new program would be coordinated by the newly established internal security division of the Department of Justice. The division was headed by William F. ("Tommy") Tompkins of New Jersey, a former drug-buster and organized crime fighter as U.S. attorney in Newark. Both Tompkins and his boss, Attorney General Herbert Brownell, publicized their efforts at every opportunity, the better to contrast their administration's commitment to a pro-active internal security program with the allegedly lax procedures of the Roosevelt-Truman years.13 This approach to what ordinarily would be a circumspect operation was also designed to counter Joe McCarthy's headlines about alleged communist infiltration in the U.S. Army, State Department, and other executive offices. Tompkins, for example, regularly addressed professional and service organizations about what the administration was doing to "destroy" communism in America. His speeches were filled with data about indictments handed down and security risks dismissed from government as well as tales of spy rings (usually dating back to the Truman years) uncovered. All of this was designed to make Americans feel more safe. Their government was on task, and the communists were on the run.

Eisenhower tried to keep a line between this security program and violating personal civil liberties. He showed his willingness to but security first with decisions like the Oppenheimer and Rosenberg cases. None of this was enough for the rabid anticommunist McCarthy, though. Eisenhower refused to directly confront McCarthy, but unlike what some of his political opponents said, Birkner argues that Eisenhower knew what he was doing:
Ike was neither out of touch nor awed by McCarthy, for whom he felt a deep and abiding contempt. The President's refusal to engage McCarthy in 1953 may be attributed to several factors: first, Eisenhower's early assumption that a coherent and effective domestic anticommunism program would convince Americans that McCarthy was not a credible spokesperson; second, Eisenhower's consistent aversion to "getting into the gutter" with McCarthy; and, not least important, Eisenhower's assessment of the political implications of directly criticizing a popular figure among Republican conservatives.

The article goes on to quote Eisenhower on this issue:
As he repeatedly told friends, he would not give a publicity hound the publicity he craved. "I would give [McCarthy] no satisfaction," Ike would later recall. "I'd never defend anything. I don't care what he called me, or mentioned, or put in the papers. I'd just ignore him."

For all this, though, Eisenhower’s policy of non-condemnation made him look like he was letting McCarthy go wild to the public:
Ike could fairly say that no one who knew him mistook his views on Joe McCarthy. But Ike's views on McCarthy were not readily accessible to the mass media and average citizens.

During the height of McCarthyism, the question of McCarthy would obsess the Eisenhower administration. It was when McCarthy took on the army in 1954 that Eisenhower finally acted, behind-the-scene, to end McCarthy’s reign of terror:
Early in January 1954 McCarthy announced his plan to subpoena members of the army's loyalty and security board regarding their actions in cases at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. It was in response to this McCarthy initiative that Herbert Brownell convened a secret meeting of key administration figures, seeking their counsel about the possible costs and benefits of refusing to honor McCarthy's subpoenas. At this meeting, which originally focused on questions of separation of powers, Army Counsel John G. Adams described the persistent demands McCarthy and his aide Roy Cohn had been making for special treatment for David Schine, another McCarthy aide, who had recently been drafted into the army.

The tide was already turning even before May/June of 1954. McCarthy was losing allies and Eisenhower was making “shrewd” moves:
Among them were giving speeches outlining what his administration had done to assure that no communists remained in the executive branch; asserting executive privilege when it came to internal White House documents that McCarthy sought for his subcommittee on investigations; denying McCarthy's requests for access to military personnel to question them about communism in their ranks; refusing to allow McCarthy access to members of loyalty-security boards; continued back-channel support for anti-McCarthy Republicans in the Senate (and occasional public pats-on-the-back to several of them); and effective wooing of conservative senators— notably Everett Dirksen and Charles Potter— when procedural issues were raised relating to the Army-McCarthy hearings.

Ike also continued to make strong public statements against McCarthy's methods without ever directly naming the senator. Whether this was true hidden-hand leadership is debatable, but it undoubtedly contributed to the process by which McCarthy was forced to make increasingly outrageous statements— such as his call, in late May 1954, for civil servants to report directly to him on "graft, corruption, communism, [and] treason" in the government, thus bypassing the President and congressional committees. By the time the televised hearings began, McCarthy was, as even his most sympathetic biographer concedes, at the end of his tether physically and mentally, increasingly dependent on drink, and relying much more heavily on his instincts than on research or preparation for the hearings.

Birkner ends with these thoughts:
The abiding and ultimately unanswerable question about Eisenhower and the Red Menace is connected to a cost-benefit analysis of Ike's refusal to meet McCarthy head-on. Did the President underestimate his ability to shape public opinion and control his party? Or was Ike right to believe that had he denounced McCarthy he would have splintered his party and sacrificed not only his domestic agenda but also the public's faith in a two-party system? Given the complexion of the Congress and the intensity of many Americans' fears about communist subversion— and given what we know about McCarthy's stumble and fall in 1954— Eisenhower's choices seem increasingly defensible. Because history is not a matter of do-overs, we cannot be sure what would have happened had Eisenhower played things another way. It is clear, however, that with McCarthyism purged from the body politic, the nation enjoyed the peace and prosperity associated with the Eisenhower era. Throughout his eight years in the White House, Americans consistently liked Ike. Increasingly, historians have come to like him, too.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bush first to visit Albania

President Bush's recent trip to Albania marked the first time a US President has visited this small country.

The US is supporting the newly democratic Albania's attempt to join NATO:
While the United States supports Albania's bid for membership in
NATO, Bush said this country still has to make more political and military reforms and crack down on corruption and organized crime.

"We are determined to take any decision, pass any law and undertake any reform to make Albania appropriate to receive the invitation" to join the western military alliance, Berisha said at a news conference with Bush.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Lincoln Letter: "A Significant Find"

Lincoln Letter: "A Significant Find". CBS has this news story about a newly discovered President Lincoln letter. It was found three weeks ago in a batch of military papers stored at the National Archives in Washington, DC. In the letter, Lincoln tells his generals to pursue Lee after the Battle of Gettysburg. They did not do so and Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia got away.

By failing to finish off Lee's army, the war may have been extended by two years. It is hard to say for sure. Maybe Lee could have saved his army even if he had been pursued. Also, there were other concentrations of rebel forces throughout the south and many would have still fought on. Maybe the war would have been shortened but probably not by two years.

From the article:

The National Archives unveiled on Thursday a handwritten note by Abraham Lincoln exhorting his generals to pursue Robert E. Lee's Confederate army after the battle of Gettysburg, underscoring one of the great missed opportunities for an early end to the Civil War.

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein describes the letter as "a significant find," reports CBS News correspondent Peter Maer.

Gettysburg, a town in southern Pennsylvania, marked the farthest northward penetration by the rebellious southern army in the 1861-65 war, which ended slavery in the United States. During three days of fighting July 1-3, 1863, the Confederates suffered 28,063 dead, injured or missing and the U.S. side 23,047.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Should Thomas Jefferson be the Democrat’s Hero?

Susan Dunn asks the question of whether the Democratic Party should still be using Thomas Jefferson as their mascot. FDR brought Jefferson to his high point in the 1930s by choosing him as his personal mascot.

Dunn illustrates that while FDR used one Jefferson, his opponents used another. FDR’s Jefferson was:
an Enlightenment thinker who believed that the young republic offered limitless possibilities for liberty, equality, and happiness. His imagination was ignited by the idea of perpetual change and renewal -- especially in laws and constitutions. "The earth always belongs to the living generation," he jubilantly wrote to Madison. Optimistic, forward-looking, he embraced the unknown. "I steer my bark with hope in the Head, leaving Fear astern," he wrote in 1816.

His opponents saw a different Jefferson:
During the Depression, Jefferson was also the hero of FDR's most virulent opponents, especially the two conservative Democratic senators from Virginia -- Carter Glass and Harry Byrd -- who loathed the New Deal. Believers in pay-as-you-go, simple Jefferson-style government, Glass and Byrd voted against farm bills, labor bills, unemployment bills, minimum wage bills, and public works programs -- virtually all the legislation that comprised the New Deal. "I am seventy-six years old in genuine Jefferson Democracy," Glass declared in 1934, "and I do not care to mar the record before I die by embracing brutal and despicable bureaucracy."

Glass and Byrd were hardly the first southern leaders to put a conservative spin on Jefferson. They were merely following in the footsteps of Virginians of the early 19th century -- men like U.S. Representative John Randolph of Roanoke and Virginia Judge Spencer Roane -- who took inspiration from Jefferson as they struggled to keep the industrializing and urbanizing modern world at bay.

Dunn ends by saying that while we can ignore the flaws of Jefferson as so many have done, we would be better to accept them as part of who he was:
Or, more courageously, we can embrace the duality of Jefferson -- hailing the idealist and the democrat, the icon of Roosevelt's New Deal whose soaring words about equality and unalienable rights still inspire us to greater moral heights, while also accepting and seeking to understand the conservative Virginia planter who was so different from us and who saw, through the windows of Monticello, a very different world. Instead of denying those differences, Democrats might instead study and learn from them -- to gain more insight into Jefferson's belief in the land, the South, and the states and his faith in liberty, equality, and happiness. And in so doing, we might also gain a deeper understanding of the long, complex history of the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

FDR's D-Day Prayer

Here is the text of the prayer:

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Franklin D. Roosevelt - June 6, 1944

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Jackson's Marriage at Springfield Plantation

One of the best known presidental love stories is that of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. The website Rachel and Andrew Jackson: A Love Story shares information about their devotion to one another. During the day Andrew Jackson carried a minature portrait of Rachel and at night he placed a portrait of her on his bedside table. The website also shares an exchange of letters between the couple when Andrew Jackson was off serving his country during the War of 1812. Rachel Jackson wrote, “Do not my beloved husband let the love of country, fame, and honor make you forget you have me.”

One of the reasons the Jackson love story is so poignant is the circumstances of their marriage and subsequent remarriage in Nashville in 1794. During the 1828 election the confusion surrounding Rachel’s first marrage and divorce was played out in the press. Rachel Jackson was called many things and branded a scarlet woman. Once Jackson was elected she was afraid of what she might have to endure from the Washington social set. Unfortunately she never had to face further criticism because she passed away before Jackson was sworn in making the story even more tragic.

The homeplace for Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage, advises Rachel Jackson’s mother sent her to Natchez, Mississippi to visit friends following her supposed divorce from Lewis Robards. However, we now know it might not have been that simple since the divorce was not final when Rachel Donelson and Andrew Jackson were married in Natchez, Mississippi in 1791.

No matter which source you examine one thing is for sure….most don’t agree on who knew what and when did they know it. Some say Rachel did go to Natchez at her mother’s request while others state Jackson actually took Rachel to get her away from an abusive situation with the first husband. Jennie posted about the Jackson’s marriage/divorce status earlier this year here at American Presidents Blog referring to an excellent article by Ann Toplovich.

What many sources never mention including The Hermitage site are the names of the people Rachel and Andrew Jackson knew in Natchez, Mississippi, and the location of the original wedding.

During a recent trip to Natchez, Mississippi I uncovered the following….

In the summer of 1789 Jackson travelled to Natchez, Mississippi, and some sources report he took an allegiance to the King of Spain. At the time Natchez was still under the Spanish control.. By giving his allegiance Jackson was afforded the right to trade, citizenship, and most importantly he could receive land grants. In fact, Jackson owned some type of merchant business in Bruinsburgh, Mississippi near the mouth of Bayou Pierre in Claibourne County. There was also a race track nearby where Jackson spent considerable time. Some sources state he received shipments of slaves from his partner in Nashville and sold them to nearby planters. Sometimes he carried the slaves to nearby Louisiana when he could get a better price. It would have been during this time he met many of the planters in and around Natchez.

Two researchers, Robert Remini and Andrew Burstein both agree that Jackson carried Rachel Donelson to Natchez in 1790 to provoke the divorce from Lewis Robards. They ended up at the plantation of Thomas Marston Green, Jr. called Springfield Plantation. The story goes that Rachel and Andrew were married at Springfield Plantation in 1791 though no record of the marriage exists. The Green family had arrived in Natchez from Virginia along with several other Virginia families who set out to make new plantation claims in the Mississippi Delta region.

Many defenders of Andrew and Rachel Jackson use the Green family as their evidence that every action of the Jacksons was above board and everything was an honest mistake because the family had a stellar reputation regarding the company they kept. Rachel’s family, however, was connected to the Green family since two of her neices were married to Green family members. It has been documented that Rachel might have spent at least fifteen months at Springfield Plantation as well as Second Creek, a nearby plantation owned by Thomas Green’s bother, Abner.

Besides the infamous site of Andrew and Rachel Jackson’s first marriage Springfield also boasts Georgian-Adam-Federal woodwork and hand carved mantels. It is one of the earliest plantation homes built in the Delta region and can boast as one of the first houses in America with a full colonnade across the front. The entry room is large for homes of the time period and there is no formal staircase. An enclosed stairway leads directly into the only guest room in the house. This would be the room Rachel and Andrew Jackson stayed in as their honeymoon suite. Can you imagine the rest of family and the servants having to trapse through your honeymoon room on their way to the rest of the upstairs level? It doesn’t sound very romantic even if the marriage was properly performed or not.

Today, this very historic home is privately owned by the Williams family of St. Louis, but tours are given daily. Two hundred acres still remain intact with the property and it is still a working plantation with a restored slavequarter structure that can be reached by a short walk down the “quarter road”. Two very different tour experiences can be seen here and here complete with pictures.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Mamie Eisenhower and the Election of 1952

I found this article in the November 1952 issue of Good Housekeeping while sorting through a collection a few weeks ago. I liked it so much that I've transcribed it for you to enjoy as well. I thought it was a very well written piece with a great message:

“Vote for my husband or for Governor Stevenson, but please vote
by Mamie Eisenhower

When Good Housekeeping asked me to write this piece, my initial reaction was to say an immediate an emphatic “No, thanks.”

I am not a writer.

And then I changed my mind – about this article, anyway. I said “Yes” because of a letter I received from a young girl whom I do not know, have never seen. Here is what she wrote:

Dear Mrs. Eisenhower:
I live with my parents and I am a high-school senior. Although my fellow students and I like to have as much fun as anybody our age, we still have a serious side. Most of our boy friends are now about 18 – old enough to fight, but oddly enough not considered old enough to vote! As a matter of fact, my own boy friend has just been drafted.

Because your son, John, is now in Korea, I thought you of all important Americans would understand what I am going to say. I feel so useless at home, not being about to do anything. Besides, I read that during the last presidential election (when I was still in grammar school) only half of the eligible voting public ever got to the polls! I don’t think this should happen again, so I’ve dreamed up a way to help. On Election Day I am offering my services for free (baby sitting, dishwashing, cleaning house) to any neighborhood mother or wife so she can get out and cast her vote. I talked the scheme over with my girl friends, and they agreed to join me in this teen-age crusade.

But I’d like to reach more people. That is why I am writing this letter. Through you – perhaps – my idea could spread to other towns and other teen-agers.

Jeannie C-

I am proud to publicize Jeanie’s letter. I hope other teenagers will follow her example. Our sober-thinking young people put to shame the kind of woman who claims she has no time to vote, or who argues “What does one vote matter?” With the right to vote goes a public trust that must be exercised just as surely as any official must exercise his.

During the past year when my husband’s title was Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, I recall walking in Paris and seeing what looked to be window boxes smack against the cement subway wall. I thought, How clever the French are with their flowers. Then I went closer. Though the flowers were still beautiful, I saw they had a purpose. I didn’t have to know much French to understand: Above the buds were seven plagues in memory of six boys and a girl, their ages ranging from eighteen to twenty-two, each shot to death on that spot, August, 1944. Their markers face the Place de la Concorde, where Marie Antoinette lost her royal head, but somehow Marie Antoinette did not concern me; it was those young others dying in my time and even in Jeanie’s time in grammar school. I stood still, as every woman stands when she sees those markers, and I closed my eyes and prayed to God,” Please don’t let this happen again!”

I believe one way to keep it from happening is to use your vote. Whether your ballot goes for an Eisenhower or a Stevenson, cast it. Cast it while you thank your stars you live in a land where you have the privilege of declaring your choice.

I hoped you enjoyed this slice of Mamie. I think her personality comes across really well in this piece.

Friday, June 01, 2007

History Carnival #53

Welcome to History Carnival #53. I hope you enjoy your visit to the American Presidents Blog. My thanks to the dozens of people who have made over forty submissions. I have not included everything due to multiple post nominations for the same blogs, multiple nominations for the same posts, and some submissions I did not feel were appropriate for the carnival. Note to future hosts: Since the History Carnival is now monthly; there will be a lot of submissions. Start early!

As a librarian, I feel compelled to put all of these in categories. However, I only got a B in cataloging in library school so forgive me if some of the categories are a bit off.

Teaching History

Danny Loss in The failings of narrative history argues that history should not necessarily be taught as a chronological narrative that goes either forward or in reverse. Frumteacher talks about making history interesting in History and irony.

Eric argues that teaching about human sacrifice can help get the attention of teens in Human Sacrifice in Hunter/Gather Europe?

Ancient History

Ashok in The Relevance of Thucydides: History as Personal examines personal history, Athenian Imperialism, and Thucydides. Magistra in Haircuts and virtue politics looks at virtue politics from ancient Rome to John Edwards.

Mary Beard is No Fan of Hannibal. Hey, neither were the Romans but maybe they did help to build up his historical image…

Nouri posted about the pre-Islamic Middle East in Observations on the Arabs and the Superpowers.

Middle East

Elder of Ziyon, using Time Magazine looks back in Jerusalem, 1952 to how Jerusalem was when it was divided back then.

Ian Welsh looks at what he considers a critical historical flaw in American foreign policy in A Mile in My Enemy's Shoes.


M notes in A Corpse of Course the story of Dr. Semmelweis (the man who discovered the importance of washing one's hands before anyone knew about germs) and about the Semmelweis Museum in Budapest.

Kristan Tetens in Who Are You Calling Nellie? looks at what John Major and Melba have in common.

DoDo in An Empire Past in Color presents beautiful color photos of Czarist Russia from 1910. Lynne Viola in The Unknown Gulag, Part I: Looking for the Kulaks examines the penal institutions for the roughly two million peasants who were labeled kulaks and forcibly expropriated and deported to the most far-flung and forbidding hinterlands of the Soviet Union.

Henry Farrell in Napoleons of Crime asks whether the Mafia in Italy was a result of a weak state, something that pre-dates the Italian state, or something else.

American History

Tim Abbott writes about the first capture and destruction of an enemy war vessel by the Americans in war "A Bright, Smart and Successful Affair": The Battle of Chelsea Creek and the Taking of the Schooner DIANA.

Rob MacDougall has a fun post about Charles Adiel Lewis Totten in Dungeon Master Zero who may have been the first Dungeon Master as well as being a proponent of Anglo-Israelism.

Miland Brown in James Henderson Blount - American Rebel Separatist examines the life of the man who authored a report which may have led President Cleveland astray on Hawaii in 1893. Jennie Weber from right here at the APB has a nice story about Theodore Roosevelt in Tallmadge, Ohio.

Epppie in About Louis Armstrong has a piece on the place of Louis Armstrong and black music in American cultural history. Kainah has a Seven-Part Series on Kent State which the submitter wrote, "I'm nominating the whole series for its brilliance."

As the world mourns the passing of Jerry Farwell, Ahistoricality gives us something from the old Moral Majority in Jerry Falwell's Dead. Actually, the presented list has a few good points on it…

Elementaryhistoryteacher wrote about 13 Great Homes from Natchez, Mississippi.


Natalie Bennett in Looking at hedges with new eyes looks at, well, hedges. Let me add that the hedge post got submitted three times so it must be good. Gillian Polack in Coleslaw looks at a history of coleslaw.

Larry Lehmer in Remembering the places where memories were made has a discussion of personal and family history.

Penny L. Richards in In Search of....the first TAB does some sleuthing as to the origins of the term "Temporarily Able-Bodied."

Konrad Larson rightly criticizes the many out there that are making Copyright Claims on US Government Documents. These are all in the public domain so how are people copyrighting them?

Next Carnival

Rebecca Goetz at Historianess will host the next History Carnival on July 1st. Use the handy submission form provided by Blog Carnival if you have suggestion for inclusion.

Thanks for visiting!

Michael Lorenzen