Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Review: Failures of the President: From the Whisky Rebellion and War of 1812 to the Bay of Pigs and War in Iraq

Book Review: Failures of the President: From the Whisky Rebellion and War of 1812 to the Bay of Pigs and War in Iraqby Thomas Craughwell with H. William Phelps

I was recently asked to review this book by the publisher, who has also provided the excerpt posted below.
The first thing you will notice about this book is the cover, which has George Washington with an egg on his face. While the book starts with this bit of humor, it is a serious attempt to look at the places were the US Presidents have made mistakes and what the consequences of these mistakes are. The authors state they do not want to “bash” any president and overall, I would say they have succeeded. The book looks at the incidents and their consequences and while where the president had his problems are clear, it is not incendiary.

The book is divided into chapters by “failure.” While some presidents do not appear in this book, most are featured just once (Carter and Nixon both had the “pleasure” of appearing twice). The division of this book makes it very useful for teachers as each chapter could offer an excellent lesson about the incident and how the president dealt with as well as what went wrong. It would be a great exercise for students to look at a problem facing a US president and how things can go wrong, sometimes even with good intentions. Presidents, just like everyone else, make mistakes in judgment.

Each chapter begins with some background material and then the incident is explained in depth. At the end of the chapter, the authors try to wrap up what went wrong and what the long term consequences of it were for the United States. Often incidents are only discussed by the immediate consequences, but this work tries to bring in some long term repercussions, like the precedent set by the internment of the Japanese Americans in the 1940s that could affect us in the era of the Patriot Act.

In the introduction, the authors start with the idea of the fifty year rule and how opinion of a president often changes over time. While they begin with this, they certainly do not follow it, instead going all the way to George W. Bush and the current war in Iraq. Since the US is only 200 odd years old, some leeway in the fifty year rule would be understandable, but I think trying to tackle a current administration was not the best decision. The previous chapter, on Reagan and Iran-Contra, is much more acceptable as it is now twenty years in the past and so there is some distance from the incident. Given the authors’ own comments on how opinion changes over time as well as the very polarized opinion of the war, I think that the authors should have put this chapter on the back burner for a few decades.

In their introduction, they also made the case why they left out the Clinton scandal. The authors argue that the Clinton scandals, while embarrassing, were not damaging to the United States. I would argue that they should have been left out, just not for the reasons they mention. I think they should have left it out because it is too recent. I do think we are starting to see some repercussions from this, but I’m going to put them on hold for another decade (I am being good here on heeding my own advice).

My final criticism of this book is that there are no in text citations. In my opinion, all research-based works need to have in text citations. The authors do provide some “suggested reading” at the end, organized by chapter and that is certainly helpful, but simply not enough. While this book is intended for a wider audience than historians, it should still have citations.

All that said, some of the chapters are exceedingly well done (I especially liked the chapters on the Pullman Strike and the attempt to annex Santo Domingo) and provide excellent fodder for historical discussion. I found the middle chapters – on lesser known presidents and incidents – to be the most interesting and useful. Some of the topics (Watergate certainly) have been overdone, but some of these earlier topics are due for some redress. While the well versed presidential reader will enjoy the book, I see it as most useful to the novice as it takes the time to provide the necessary background to each incident allowing someone who knows little about the “failure” in question to delve into the topic. I think teachers will also find it very helpful in providing good lecture material and a great opportunity to look at presidential decision making.

Book Excerpt: Failures Of The Presidents: From The Whiskey Rebellion And War Of 1812 To The Bay Of Pigs And War In Iraq

The Bay of Pigs Invasion
John F. Kennedy

A TOTAL FAILURE. Many of the men of Brigade 2506 believed fervently that they were the first wave of Cuban freedom fighters who would liberate their homeland from Castro. They were convinced as they storrned ashore that they would be supported overhead by some of the finest fighter pilots of the U.S. Air Force, and they thought that as they advanced into Cuba, the U.S. Marines would be right behind them. Whether the insurgents had talked themselves into this conviction or the trainers from the United States had made such a promise is still a subject of debate.

The air support promised by the CIA consisted of sixteen B-26 twin-engine light attack bombers. From an airstrip in Nicaragua to the Bay of Pigs was a journey of 1,000 miles, round-trip, which left a B-26 with enough fuel to provide less than forty minutes of air cover for the Brigade. Anything longer than forty minutes and the pilots risked running out of gas somewhere over the Caribbean.

On April 14, 1961, just three days from the invasion, Kennedy called CIA Operations Chief Bissell to ask how many planes he planned to use in the operation. Bissell told the president the CIA planned to use all sixteen of their B-26s. "Well I don't want it on that scale," Kennedy replied. "I want it minimal." So Bissell cut the number of planes for the invasion to eight. The next day, those eight planes attacked the three airfields of the Cuban air force, knocking out some of the aircraft, but not enough to cripple the fleet.

On the morning of April 17, as the Cuban militia pinned down the men of Brigade 2506, the Cuban planes that had survived the air strikes attacked the exiles from the air. Meanwhile, the B-26s, their fuel low and their forty minutes up, veered away from the beach for the flight home. The Brigade's commander, San Román, radioed his CIA handlers for help. "We are under attack by two Sea Fury aircraft and heavy artillery," he reported. "Do not see any friendly air cover as you promised. Need jet support immediately." When San Roman's request was denied, he replied, "You, sir, are a son of a bitch."

With the sea at their backs, no means of retreat, and no chance of advancing into the interior of Cuba, the Brigade was in a desperate position. Back in Washington, the CIA and the Kennedy administration concluded that the invasion would fail. In a conversation with his brother, Robert Kennedy, the president said he wished he had permitted the use of U.S. ships to back up the Cuban exiles. "I'd rather be an aggressor," he said, "than a bum."

On April 18, Kennedy authorized six fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Essex to provide one hour of air cover for the CIAs attacking B-26s over the beach at the Bay of Pigs. But the jets from the Essex and the B-26s missed their rendezvous because the Pentagon forgot to factor in the one-hour difference in time zones between the B-26s' base in Nicaragua and the beach in Cuba.

That same day, Kennedy's national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, gave the president a status report on the invasion. "The Cuban armed forces are stronger, the popular response [is] weaker, and our tactical position is feebler than we had hoped," Bundy said. That was perhaps the kindest possible description of the Bay of Pigs operation.

As a humanitarian concession, the president permitted U.S. destroyers to approach the Cuban coast to pick up survivors. The ships were authorized to get within two miles of shore after dark, but no closer than five miles during daylight hours. The directive meant the rescue mission was beyond the reach of almost every man in Brigade 2506. A handful who had managed to swim to one or another of the bay's outlying cays were picked up, but the rest lay dead on the beach or were captured by Castro's forces.

At 2 p.m. on April 19, after two days of being pounded by militia, tanks, and the Cuban air force, Commander San Román and Brigade 2506 surrendered. "Everything is lost," Allen Dulles told former vice president Richard Nixon. "The Cuban invasion is a total failure."

Sixty-eight Cuban exiles were killed in the Bay of Pigs debacle; 1,209 were captured, and nine of them died of asphyxiation in a windowless sealed truck that took them from the beach to prison in Havana. After twenty days of interrogation, the prisoners were given show trials and sentenced to life in prison.

Soon after the conviction of the men of Brigade 2506, Castro made a public offer to exchange the prisoners for farm machinery. Kennedy leapt at the proposal. Immediately he formed the Tractors for Freedom Committee, chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, with the purpose of collecting donations to purchase farm equipment for Cuba. But the group was not able to meet Castro's exorbitant demand of $30 million worth of capital relief, and it disbanded. The tractor deal fell through.

Negotiations between the two governments went on sporadically over the next twenty months. Finally, on December 24,1962, Castro announced that he was releasing the Brigade 2506 prisoners in exchange for $53 million in medicine and food from the United States. He also promised, "as a Christmas bonus," to permit 1,000 of the prisoners' relatives to emigrate to the United States.

The animosity between Cuba and the United States intensified after the Bay of Pigs debacle. Cuba allied itself with the Soviet Union, while America continued its policy of isolating Cuba economically and diplomatically. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev viewed America's failure at the Bay of Pigs as a sign of Kennedy's weakness and inexperience, an assessment he felt was confmned after meeting Kennedy at the Vienna Summit of April 1962, where it appeared to some that Kennedy was sandbagged by Khrushchev's threat to cut off West Berlin from the Western powers. Within six months, Khrushchev was placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, an action that brought the world as close as it has ever come to all-out nuclear war.

In the face of the missile crisis, Kennedy held firm. The Soviets backed down, removing the nuclear weapons from Cuba, but the tension between Cuba and the United States has dragged on for more than forty years. During that time, political observers and historians have argued that the failed invasion actually strengthened Castro's grip on Cuba. Certainly Che Guevara thought so. In August 1961, at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Uruguay, he sent a note to Kennedy saying, "Thanks for Playa Giron [another name for the site of the invasion]. Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it is stronger than ever."

The above is an excerpt from the book Failures Of The Presidents; From The Whiskey Rebellion And War Of 1812 To The Bay Of Pigs And War In Iraq
by Thomas J. Craughwell with M. William Phelps
Published by Fair Winds; September 2008;$19.95US/$21.95CAN; 978-1-59233-299-1
Copyright © 2008 Thomas J. Craughwell

Author Bio
Thomas J. Craughwell is the author of several books, most recently How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World (Fair Winds Press, 2008) and Stealing Lincoln's Body (Harvard University Press, 2007). He has written articles on history, religion, politics, and popular culture for the Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, and U.S. News & World Report. He lives in Bethel, Connecticut.

Journalist, lecturer, and historian M. William Phelps is the author of eleven books, including his most recent, Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America’s First Spy(Thomas Dunne Books, 2008). He lives in Vernon, Connecticut.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Abe Lincoln in Hawaii?

As we celebrate the new Lincoln pennies, let us not forget the lost years Lincoln spent in Hawaii. Obviously, the time Lincoln spent surfing and finding himself in the 50th state benefited the nation.

OK, yes this humor. My thanks to Tom McMahon for this picture. His blog has sent a lot of traffic here over the last few years and I am happy to return the favor.

This fake Lincoln penny resonates with me for one reason. A few years back, I dealt with a reference question from a student seeking information on Hawaiian deaths in the American Civil War. I naively assumed the student was seeking information on Hawaiian Kingdom volunteers who fought for the Union or the rebels. It was a tough question.

However, after a more extensive reference interview, I discovered that the student had been tasked with finding information on the casualty rates of southern states in the war. As Hawaii is the most southern state in the Union, she assumed Hawaii had been a Confederate state and wanted more information...

As a librarian, I am an educator. I spent a good half hour teaching this patron about Hawaiian history. She was shocked to discover that Hawaii was not annexed to the USA until 1898 and did not join the Union until 1959. I am thankful that the reference desk was not busy when I talked with her. The desk is often backed up with patrons and had she come in at a busy time I would have had lesser opportunity to interact with her. She switched her emphasis to Georgia and we had great success in finding statistics.

Although I was a bit alarmed by her lack of knowledge of American history, I enjoyed the interaction. Us librarians can really make a difference at the reference desk.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Madison's Montpelier....$24 Milllion Later

I’ve been in the middle of home renovations for what seems like forever. New hardwood floors, new appliances, updated furniture, etc. We get one room halfway cleaned up, and it’s time to tear another one down not to mention the decisions on color, fabric, and window treatments. I don’t do well in that type of situation…it takes me to long to decide because I like so many things. By the time I decide it's time to start over again.

Two things I haven’t thought of during our renovation is making our home smaller and actually removing the plumbing….totally. I mean, I’m five weeks out from having intestinal surgery. Believe me, I have issues in that area.

Why on earth would anyone want to remove their indoor plumbing?

Historical accuracy comes to mind, and that’s the reason why Montpelier, the home of President James Madison has been undergoing renovations. This article explains the home has undergone a $24 million architectural restoration with a goal of returning the structure to the way it was between 1809, when Madison was elected the nation’s fourth president, and 1836, the year he died.

The renovation took five years and was celebrated on September 17th, the 221st anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

On my next trip to Washington D.C., I’d love to drive out to Montpelier and explore the library where Madison did much of his research and thinking about ideas that we are all so familiar with today regarding our freedoms. An original bookcase has been returned to the room, and you can actually see a spot on the floor where it is believed Madison spilled some ink as he worked. I wonder….would they let me run my finger across it?

The article goes on to discuss Madison’s stature as a Founding Father. He is credited with most of the writing involved with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, yet there is no monument to him like the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial. Those involved in the restoration felt Madison’s home should become that monument to his contribution to our nation and hence the need for historical accuracy.

In a former post here at American Presidents, Jennie visited Montpelier during the renovations and posted some pictures of the front of the mansion comparing the larger mansion to the newly renovated smaller version. Check it out here.

You can view the Montpelier website here with the special Restoration section located here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Trivia Answers

I thought I'd post the answers to the trivia questions I put up earlier with a source for each one (although some of them I really hope you knew!).

What president got stuck in a bathtub in the White House?
William Howard Taft

Who was the first president born west of the Mississippi River?
Herbert Hoover

What kept Ronald Reagan out of combat during WWII even though he was in the Army?
Poor eyesight

What famous Confederate had Zachary Taylor as his father-in-law?
Jefferson Davis

What president played college football at the University of Michigan?
Gerald Ford

Who created the Civil Service System?
Chester Arthur

Name the only father/sons to be president?
John and John Quincy Adams
George H.W. and George W. Bush

Who served as president from 1885-89 and from 1893-97?
Grover Cleveland

How many presidents graduated from West Point?
Two US presidents graduated from West Point:
Ulysses S. Grant (1843)
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1915)
And one Confederate President:
Jefferson Davis (1828)

How many presidents did not have a vice-president?
Four Presidents didn’t have VPs:
John Tyler
Millard Fillmore
Andrew Johnson
Chester Arthur

Some other presidents also didn’t have VPs for periods during their presidency.
For example, Harry Truman

Thursday, September 25, 2008

History Carnival

The history carnival is coming to the APB on October 1st - submit those posts!

New Lincoln Pennies!

The US Mint is releasing four new Lincoln pennies. I find this exciting and I am actually going to be happy to get pennies back as change as I look to get one of each of these designs. The East Bay Business times notes:

"The front of the new pennies will retain the familiar profile of Lincoln. The backs of the four new coins will feature the log cabin in which Lincoln is said to have been born; an image of him reading while working as a log-splitter; a standing pose besides the state capitol in Springfield, Illinois; and a image of the half-finished U.S. Capitol, its state when he was inaugurated in 1861."

The first of these pennies will be put into circulation on Lincoln's birthday which is February 12, 2009.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eisenhower on SPAM

I just visited the Spam musuem in Austin, MN (I'll post a review of it on my personal blog after I get home and upload my pictures), but I did notice a fun little presidential tidbit while I was there. They had a letter that President Eisenhower wrote to H.H. Corey of Homel in 1966. Now I couldn't find the letter online, but I did find an excerpt for you form an NYT article in 1987 about Spam's 50th anniversary:
''I ate my share of Spam along with millions of other soldiers,'' Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote to Hormel in 1966. ''I'll even confess to a few unkind remarks about it - uttered during the strain of battle, you understand. But as former Commander in Chief, I believe I can still forgive you your only sin: sending us so much of it.''

A new Spam lover is Todd Palin, who likes it when snowmaching - sometimes with peanut butter on it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Presidential Trivia

I found this list of presidential trivia questions over at a message board and some were already answered, but I thought I'd post them here and see how we all did!

1.What president got stuck in a bathtub in the White House?
2.Who was the first president born west of the Mississippi River?
3.What kept Ronald Reagan out of combat during WWII even though he was in the Army?
4.What famous Confederate had Zachary Taylor as his father-in-law?
5.What president played college football at the University of Michigan?
6.Who created the Civil Service System?
7.Name the only father/sons to be president?
8.Who served as president from 1885-89 and from 1893-97?
9.How many presidents graduated from West Point?
10.How many presidents did not have a vice-president?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Calvin Coolidge Biography

I just finished David Greenberg’s biography of Calvin Coolidge. This is from the American Presidents’ Series, which I have found very well done.

I recently read a biography of Grace Coolidge so decided to read this one next. This book really gave me a new understanding of Coolidge and his presidency. I was also fascinated by the many parallels I saw between the 1920s and the 1990s and early 2000s. Coolidge is often overlooked and seen more as a placeholder president, but this biography really showcases what Coolidge did well as well as what he didn’t. It in no way blamed Coolidge for the Depression, but definitely showed that all the blame can’t be placed solely on the Hoover administration. In addition, this book offers interesting insights in the career of Herbert Hoover in Coolidge’s administration.

One trait I really admired in Coolidge was his fiscal policies. Coolidge really was into a “penny saved, a penny earned.” I could connect with someone who would pare down White House dinner menus to save on the bottom line!

Greenberg points out that Coolidge’s main problem is that he saw a very narrow view of the office and left many things untouched and what he did do, he usually delegated. Where Coolidge excelled though was in public relations. Coolidge really knew how to use the media, including the new venue of radio to bring the President the people. I was incredibly impressed with this aspect and it showed a completely new side of Coolidge to me. Through this innovation Coolidge really was the first president that Middle America could feel they knew. In addition, Coolidge and his advisors really played up his modest roots and played to the media. Coolidge was always willing to post for photographers. This really showcased that while Coolidge was seen as a relic of the prior century, he was very much aware of the new one.

This biography is definitely worth the time to read and you will hopefully emerge with a much fuller picture of “Silent Cal” and might even get a few insights into the modern world.

And just because I couldn't resist - the youngest reader of this biography! Adam stole it a few times!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

USS Sequoia

I recently watched the Save Our History episode on the USS Sequoia. I found this presidential yacht fascinating. There have been 5 presidential yachts and the Sequoia was purchased by Herbert Hoover to replace the larger Mayflower. Jimmy Carter decided to get rid of the boat as an unneeded expense. The Sequoia was the Air Force One of its day.

Some interesting facts:

  • The Sequoia was modifed to accomodate the handicapped FDR with the installation of an elevator. LBJ later replaced the elevator with a bar so he could mix his favorite drink.
  • JFK celebrated his last birthday on the Sequoia.
  • Nixon retreated here right to contemplate resignation.
  • Many foreign leaders were brought to the Sequoia including Churchill, Brezhev, Trudeau, Queen Elizabeth and even Emperor Hirhito.

I forgot to put this up last night and remembered after I went to bed, so this is a bit of postscript. If you look at the history facts listed on the Sequoia's homepage, most of them are actually legend according to the Save Our History segement. Like Truman decided to drop the bomb while on board - he was at Potsdam and it couldn't be true. Since most of the cruises were unlogged, there is often no way of knowing what actually happened and so a lot of myth surrounds the Sequoia.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Have Faith in Massachusetts by Calvin Coolidge

I just finished a biography of Calvin Coolidge (expect a book review next week) and I wanted to share this book, Have Faith in Massachusetts, which is a collection of Coolidge's early speeches. While we think of Coolidge was from Vermont, he was actually the Governor of Massachusetts and this is where he first made his name in politics (the Boston police strike specifically).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prohibition Presidential/Vice-Presidential Candidates

Do you think alcohol should be banned in the USA? Alcohol has been banned successfully in many Muslim nations but attempts at limiting it elsewhere have failed rather spectacularly. However, one of America's oldest political parties is still trying to get voters to go for it.

According to Wikipedia, "The Prohibition Party is a political party in the United States best known for its historic opposition to the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. The Party was an integral part of the temperance movement and, while never one of the nation's leading parties, it was an important force in US politics in the late 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. The party has declined dramatically since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Today, it advocates a variety of socially conservative causes."

To give it credit, the party was a major player in Presidential elections for a time. However, the two major parties took up prohibition advocacy and stole most of the support the party was receiving. After it was obvious that banning alcohol did not work, the Prohibition Party spiraled into the state of virtual obscurity it has today.

According to Prohibition presidential/vice-presidential candidates, here is the list of Prohibition Party Presidential tickets:

President: James Black (PA), lawyer, civic activist

Vice-President: John Russell (MI) minister, newspaperman (Methodist)

5607 reported votes, 6 states

President: Green Clay Smith (KY) lawyer, military officer, Democratic congressman (Baptist)

Vice-President: Gideon T. Stewart (OH) newspaperman, civic activist

9737 reported votes, 10 states

President: Neal Dow (ME) businessman, military officer, civic activist (Quaker)

Vice-President: Henry A. Thompson (OH) mathematician, pres. Otterbein Univ. (United Brethren)

10,304 reported votes

President: John P. St. John (KS) adventurer, lawyer, military officer, Republican governor

Vice-President: William Daniel (MD) legislator, civic activist

153,128 reported votes

President: Clinton B. Fisk (NJ) banker, military officer, founder of Fisk University

Vice-President: John A. Brooks (MO) college president

249,945 reported votes

President: John Bidwell (CA) rancher, military officer

Vice-President: James B. Cranfill (TX) minister, newspaperman (Baptist)

271,058 reported votes ** the record vote and percentage for the Prohibition Party (2.3%)

President: Joshua Levering (MD) businessman, WMCA official, trustees president Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Baptist)

Vice-President: Hale Johnson (IL) lawyer

130,617 reported votes (plus 13,969 for an alternative slate in some states)

President: John G. Wooley (IL) lawyer, orator

Vice-President: Henry B. Metcalf (RI) banker, manufacturer, trustees pres. Tufts College (Universalist)

209,469 reported votes

President: Silas C. Swallow (PA) minister (Methodist)

Vice-President: George W. Carroll (TX) businessman, philanthropist

258,205 reported votes

President: Eugene W. Chafin (WI) writer, local official, lawyer

Vice-President: Aaron S. Watkins (OH) lawyer, president Asbury College (Methodist)

253,231 reported votes, 28 states

President: Eugene W. Chafin (WI) writer, local official, lawyer

Vice-President: Aaron S. Watkins (OH) lawyer, president Asbury College (Methodist)

207,828 reported votes

President: J. Frank Hanly (IN) newspaperman, teacher, lawyer, Republican governor

Vice-President: Ira Landrith (TN) YMCA official, president Bellmont College(Presbyterian)

221,329 reported votes

President: Aaron W. Watkins (OH) lawyer, president Asbury College (Methodist)

Vice-President: D. Leigh Colvin (NY) historian, temperance society executive

195, 923 reported votes

President: Herman P. Faris (MO) banker, businessman

Vice-President: Marie C. Brehm (CA) suffragette, first legally qualified female vice-presidential candidate

56,289 reported votes, 16 states

President: William F. Varney (NY) business administrator

Vice-President: James A. Edgerton (VA) newspaperman, writer, philosopher

20,106 reported votes (plus 14,394 for an alternative slate in CA), 6 states

President: William D. Upshaw (GA) lecturer, Democratic congressman

Vice-President: Frank S. Regan (IL) lecturer, state legislator

81,869 reported votes, 22 states

President: D. Leigh Colvin (NY) historian, temperance society executive

Vice-President: Claude A. Watson (CA) lawyer, business administrator (Free Methodist)

37,847 reported votes, 25 states

President: Roger W. Babson (MA) economist, businessman (Congregational Christian)

Vice-President: Edgar V. Moorman (IL) businessman

59,492 reported votes, states (28)

President: Claude A. Watson (CA) lawyer, business administrator (Free Methodist)

Vice-President: Andrew Johnson (KY) evangelist, lecturer (Methodist)

74,758 reported votes, states (26)

President: Claude A. Watson (CA) lawyer, business administrator (Free Methodist)

Vice-President: Dale H. Learn (PA) realtor, insurance salesman, civic activist

103,343 reported votes, 19 states

President: Stuart Hamblen (CA) musician

Vice-President: Enoch A. Holtwick (IL) historian, president of Los Angeles PacificJunior College

78,181 reported votes, 20 states

President: Enoch A. Holtwick (IL) historian, president of Los Angeles Pacific JuniorCollege

Vice-President: Edwin M. Cooper (CA) lawyer, YMCA officialIn New Jersey, the ticket was Holtwick and Holdridge.

41,937 reported votes, 10 states

President: Rutherford L. Decker (MO) minister, co-founder of National Association of Evangelicals (Baptist)

Vice-President: E. Harold Munn, Sr. (MI) television executive, educator

46,239 reported votes, 11 states

President: E. Harold Munn, Sr. (MI) television executive, educator

Vice-President: Mark R. Shaw (MA) minister, peace activist (Methodist)

23,267 reported votes, 9 states

President: E. Harold Munn, Sr. (MI) television executive, educator

Vice-President: Rolland E. Fisher (KS) evangelist (Free Methodist)

15,123 reported votes, 9 states

President: E. Harold Munn, Sr. (MI) television executive, educator

Vice-President: Marshall E. Uncapher (KS) educator, salesman

13,444 reported votes, 4 states

President: Ben Bubar (ME) state legislator, temperance lobbyist (Baptist)

Vice-President: Earl F. Dodge (CO) Prohibition Party executive secretary/chairman(Baptist)

15,961 reported votes, 9 states

President: Ben Bubar (ME) state legislator, temperance lobbyist (Baptist)

Vice-President: Earl F. Dodge (CO) Prohibition Party executive secretary/chairman(Baptist)

7237 reported votes, 4 states

President: Earl F. Dodge (CO) Prohibition Party executive secretary/chairman (Baptist)

Vice-President: Warren C. Martin (KS) member of Kansas state Board of Paroles and Pardons (Free Methodist)

4204 reported votes, 5 states

President: Earl F. Dodge (CO) Prohibition Party executive secretary/chairman (Baptist)

Vice-President: George Ormsby (PA) businessman, president National Council of the International Organization of Good Templars (Presbyterian Church in America)

8004 reported votes, states (4) : Arkansas (1,319 / 0.14%, Colorado (4,604 / 0.34%), New Mexico (249 / 0.05%), Tennessee (1,807 / 0.11%) -- also: 16 write-ins from Michigan, 5 write-ins from Michigan, 7 write-ins from North Dakota

President: Earl F. Dodge (CO) Prohibition Party executive secretary/chairman (Baptist)

Vice-President: George Ormsby (PA) businessman, president National Council of the International Organization of Good Templars (Presbyterian Church in America)

935 reported votes, states (3) : Arkansas ((472 / 0.05%), New Mexico (120 / 0.02%), Tennessee (343 / 0.02%) -- also: 21 write-ins from Colorado, 2 write-ins from Massachusetts, 3 write-ins from North Dakota

President: Earl F. Dodge (CO) Prohibition Party executive secretary/chairman (Baptist)

Vice-President: Rachel Bubar Kelly (IL) educator, president of Women's Christian Temperance Union

1294 reported votes, states (4) : Arkansas (483 / 0.05%), Colorado (375 / 0.02%), Tennessee (324 / 0.02%), Utah (111 / 0.02%) -- also: one write-in from Illinois and 4 write-ins from Massachusetts

President: Earl F. Dodge (CO) Prohibition Party executive secretary/chairman (independent Baptist)

Vice-President: W. Dean Watkins (AZ) retired aeronautical engineer (independent Baptist)

208 reported votes, 1 state : Colorado (208 / 0.01%)


Internal party fighting led to rival tickets being nominated. Both were ignored by just about everyone.

And the 2008 Prohibition Party ticket is:

President: Gene Amondson (AK) Evangelist and Artist(Church of God, Anderson)

Vice-President: Leroy Pletten (MI) Law Enforcement Consultant(Church of God)

Unless Islamic Law is every close to being voted (or legislated) into existence in the USA, it is safe to say that the only benefit to being on a Prohibition Party ticket is almost automatic entry into Wikipedia as a notable person worthy of an article. Regardless, even if the modern party is irrelevant, historically it played an important role in American history and is worth remembering.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Presidency and the American Imagination

At Central Michigan University, the Clarke Historical Library has launched a new exhibit titled The Presidency and the American Imagination. As a CMU librarian, I must say I have enjoyed seeing this exhibit go up. I have made many suggestions to Frank Boles who is the Director of the Clarke. This is a nice exhibit and I hope those of you in Michigan can come and visit it. The playing of past presidential campaign commercials is a real plus. I think I might vote for Stevenson this year...

The event schedule for this display can be found at http://clarke.cmich.edu/Presidential%20Display.pdf. I hope to attend all of these if my child care arrangements work out.

From the site:

All of these presentations will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the Park Library Auditorium on the campus of Central Michigan University.

Following each presentation there will be a reception in the Clarke Historical Library where attendees can explore "The Presidency and the American Imagination," the Library’s current exhibit.

These events are free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Hoover and the 1927 Mississippi Flood

Until Katrina, the worst flood of American history was the 1927 Mississippi flood and it was flood relief that made Herbert Hoover a household name in the US. What kind of damage are we talking:

The human and geographical extent of the 1927 Mississippi River Flood speaks for itself:

  • 16.5 million acres flooded in seven states
  • 637,000 people dislocated
  • $102 million in crop losses
  • 162,000 homes flooded
  • 41,000 buildings destroyed
  • 6,000 boats used in rescue
  • 250 to 500 deaths.

There were 154 Red Cross camps that cared for refugees. All camps were segregated. Many other refugees stayed with friends or relatives.

President Coolidge delegated the task of flood relief to his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover. Hoover had already done relief work in Europe and helped "tame the Colorado" and quickly jumped into this huge new project:

Hoover's faith in American generosity and know-how was dramatically confirmed in the spring of 1927, when the Mississippi River rushed over its bank, flooding 20,000 square miles under a sheet of yellow water and leaving 600,000 people without shelter. Over three hundred people died in the greatest natural disaster in American history.

Hoover rushed to the scene to assess needs and direct resources where most needed. He went on the radio to raise $15,000,000 for the Red Cross. Coordinating the efforts of eight separate government agencies as well as the Red Cross, the Secretary of Commerce assembled an armada of 600 ships, ordered a trainload of feed from Chicago (promising, "We'll settle this later"), and organized vast tent cities for tens of thousands of refugees. Hoover's relief was color-blind; in one southern city he brusquely told a group of white businessmen that unless they produced $5 million by the time his train left he would start transporting neglected Blacks north that same night.

Visiting ninety-one communities, Hoover's message was the same in each: "A couple of thousand refugees are coming. They've got to have accommodations. Huts. Water mains. Sewers. Streets. Dining halls. Meals. Doctors. Everything. And you haven't got months to do it. You haven't got weeks. You've got hours. That's my train."

"I suppose I could have called in the whole of the Army," said Hoover later. "But what was the use? All I had to do was to call in Main Street itself."

This flood relief would be part of what would help Hoover get elected. President Coolidge was very much against giving federal flood relief, believing that it should be taken care of locally. Coolidge was afraid of setting a precedent of federal aid to local communities. It would take a huge effort on Congress' part to get Coolidge to sign the flood relief bill. Herbert Hoover would be criticized during the Depression for the same opinion - that local communities should put up the money, not the federal government. You'll note that in the segement from the Hoover library, Hoover says that he didn't need the army, but rather "Main Street." This is the same theory he would use to justify that Depression relief needed to be done locally.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Legal Fate of Jefferson Davis

To go with my guessing game from last Thursday, I thought I'd post on Knox and Jefferson Davis. Sarah Knox Taylor Davis was the daughter of President Zachary Taylor and the first wife of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy (who while not a US President, still has an important place in US history). Zachary Taylor opposed this marriage because he didn't want his daughter to marry into army life, but she married Jefferson Davis anyway, apparently with her father's blessing as Davis had decided to resign from the army. You can read one of their courtship letters online. Sarah died shortly after her marriage and so never lived to see the Civil War.

Jefferson Davis was the only president of the Confederacy. What happened to him after the war ended?
What, exactly, happened in the case of The United States v. Jefferson Davis? Enough intrigues, maneuvers, plot twists, and changes of the political wind exist to fill a book (and it would make a good one). It is quite a complex matter, but the bottom line is that the case never went to trial and the indictments were dismissed. The proceedings dragged on into 1869, but Davis himself was only in the courtroom on two separate days.

Davis was captured by troops and held at a military base (Fort Monroe) in a state (Virginia) under martial law. Had he been linked to the Lincoln assassination, his trial would have taken place before a military tribunal, but the fabricated case connecting him to the assassination (the primary informant was convicted of perjury) fell apart before Davis was charged. The government soon decided that any trial for treason would have to be in a civil court, and in Virginia, the base of Davis' alleged treasonable activities, directing armed rebellion against the United States. Neither John C. Underwood, circuit court judge for the District of Virginia, nor Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, who presided over the circuit including the Virginia district, felt he had any authority as long as Davis was held by the military. Chase in particular wanted to avoid such dangerous legal waters, and he continued to find excuses to avoid hearing the case. Underwood's competence was questionable, and he was known to be overly zealous (he had bragged to a congressional committee in 1866 that he could pack a jury to insure a conviction), so Chase's presence was essential for a respectable verdict.

Because of the issues of military control of Davis' imprisonment, Chase refused to issue a writ of habeas corpus in June 1866, but almost a year later, in conjuction with an order to the military authorities from the president, a writ of habeas corpus brought Davis to Richmond to be transferred to the authority of the federal courts. He appeared before Underwood on May 13, 1867, bail was set at $100,000, and the bond was immediately posted. "Deafening applause" broke out in the courtroom when Davis was freed. Horace Greeley, one of a growing number of northerners who wanted the case settled so the country could get on with the healing process, had secured backing for the bond and personally guaranteed a quarter of it. He was in the courtroom that day and met Davis after his release.

After half a year with his family in Canada, Davis returned to Richmond in November 1867 for what was supposed to be the beginning of the trial. Court convened on the 26th, but Chase was not present, and the government asked for a postponement. Davis was released on his own recognizance, and the defense asked that some sort of consideration be given him so he would not be "subjected to a renewal of the inconvenience" of making the trip to Richmond if a trial was not going to be held. As it turned out, Davis would not have to appear in court again during any of the subsequent proceedings.

As time passed, many elements changed, and so did the players. U.S. attorneys general came and went (three different men were involved in the Davis case). Andrew Johnson was impeached and nearly convicted. And the 14th Amendment was passed and ratified. Johnson began to fear that if Davis were tried and acquitted--a very real possibility with a Virginia jury--he (Johnson) would be impeached again and removed from office. For a variety of reasons, no significant action was taken until after the 1868 election.

In an unusual twist, Chase made known to Davis' attorneys, a distinguished group of northern and southern litigators, his opinion that the third section of the 14th Amendment nullified the indictment against Davis. His contention was that by stripping the right to vote from high Confederate officials, a punishment for treasonable activities had been legislated, so Davis could not be punished again for the same crime. Davis' friends reminded his lawyers that Davis (who was in Europe and out of telegraphic range) wanted a trial because he saw it as an opportunity to vindicate both himself and the actions of the Confederacy, i.e. the constitutional right to secede. Davis' lawyers, however, pointed out that Davis' life was at stake, and there was a general agreement that they could not pass up the opportunity to arrange what they believed to be an honorable settlement. One of the attorneys later wrote Davis that the defense team also felt that if they could establish a precedent based on the 14th Amendment, it would lift the threat of prosecution for other Confederate leaders as well.

On November 30, 1868, Davis' lawyers filed a motion requiring that the government attorneys show cause why the indictment (the latest of at least four indictments which had been handed down with the same charge--another long story) should not be quashed. A hearing on the motion was held before Chase and Underwood on December 3-4, and on the 5th they announced their finding. The vote was split--Chase favoring laying aside the indictment, and Underwood, who had overseen the grand juries responsible for the indictment, wanting the case to be tried. Chase's anger with Underwood was obvious, and he stated for the record why he believed the 14th Amendment exempted Davis from further prosecution.

The certificate of division between Chase and Underwood was forwarded to the Supreme Court, and the indictment technically remained pending, but there would be no more action taken. It was clear that Chase would favor overturning a guilty verdict, making the government hesitant to proceed. The Davis case remained on the circuit court docket for February 15, 1869, but the government indicated at that time that it would not prosecute (nolle prosequi). The indictment was, therefore, dismissed, as were indictments against thirty-seven other ex-Confederates, including Robert E. Lee. Davis' lawyers contacted the Justice Department to make sure that other indictments against him in Washington and Tennessee were not going to be prosecuted.

You can also read about Davis' second wife, Varina Davis.

Now I'm also going to end with a question for you all - who was the US President who served in the Confederate Congress?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Hawaii and Alaska

What an interesting election. The 2008 Presidential Election is going to go down in history as one of the most historic. Yes, Barack Obama is the first major party nominee who is an African-American. Yes, Sarah Palin is only the second major party candidate for Vice-President who is a woman.

However, what many are missing, is the fact that that both major parties have candidates on the presidential ticket from Hawaii and Alaska. The outside of the 48 states is well represented.

Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Even though he represents Illinois now in the Senate, he would be the first Hawaiian resident to be elected President. Sarah Palin was born in Idaho in 1964. She moved to Alaska as an infant with her family. She would be the first Alaskan elected Vice-President.

Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959. It will have taken one of these states only fifty years to get claim to a President or Vice-President. I think that shows how well both former territories have been integrated into the USA.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Carter's Challenges

I’m not a huge fan of Jimmy Carter, but I have to admit his rise to the forefront of the Democratic Party in the mid-seventies is something to ponder and study especially due to the fact that he faced several challenges.

The American Experience website states, Traveling around the country long before other candidates began their campaigns, Carter listened, assessed the national mood, and decided it was the perfect time for an outsider like himself to run. While running essentially as a moderate to conservative Democrat, Carter emphasized his message of honesty, integrity, and character over specific issues. "I will not lie to you," he said, and he meant it. "The fact that he was unknown was part of his appeal," remembers Carter speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg. "And he brought simple verities to the campaign trail: a promise not to lie to the American people, a promise to be good, a promise to love. And this was enough to bring him through the early primaries."

Carter’s campaign took off with success in the Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary, and the Florida primary, but many better known politicians in the Democratic Party couldn’t understand how an unknown peanut farmer/governor from Georgia could garner ANY primary wins. They launched something we remember today as the “ABC Movement”----Anyone But Carter. Some of the possible ABCs were Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington, Senators Mo Udall, Frank Church, Fred Harris, and Governor Jerry Brown of California. However, none of these folks could ever really seriously get a major campaign underway though they tried. Two Time Magazine articles….Stampede to Carter from June 21, 1976 and Carter Battles a Revolt from August 11, 1980…..relates a bit about the events during this period.

Carter was also helped by Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., the father of the famed civil rights leader. Carter lost several later primaries, but due to King’s involvement Americans…..especially Black Americans….learned how Carter had been a progressive leader during segregation in Georgia and had been at the forefront of repealing laws that ending voting restrictions in Georgia that worked against African Americans.

Another challenge Carter faced was his name. Though his name on his birth certificate is listed as James Earl Carter the candidate had never referred to himself in that way preferring the more friendly and down-to-earth, Jimmy. Recently while I watched an episode of The Antiques Roadshow that featured an interesting piece of memoralbilia from the 1976 Presidential Election. I’ve pictured it below. You can read a bit about the Maine affidavit more here.

It is an affidavit Jimmy Carter had to offer to the State of Maine in order to get them to change his name on their ballot from James Earl Carter to Jimmy Carter.

Why did President Carter feel so particular about his name? The man, a former attorney for the Maine Democratic Party and President Carter stated, “Well, the unfortunate thing was that this campaign took place not too many years after Martin Luther King was assassinated by a man whose name happened to be James Earl Ray. A lot of people made that connection when they heard the name James Earl anything. Beside that, Mr. Carter was convinced that there would be confusion as to who it was that was really on the ballot.”
No matter the challenge during that election season Jimmy Carter prevailed.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

History Carnival

The latest history carnival is now up at Osprey Publishing. We will be hosting the next history carnival here on October 1st! Submit your posts here.

A Colored Man's Reminisences of James Madison by Paul Jennings

The White House historical society has a memoir by Paul Jennings, a former slave, on it's site so you can read this rare account of James Madison by an African American. The page also includes a scholarly article on the memoir. I pulled out the part where Paul Jennings talks about each of the Madisons in turn:
Mrs. Madison was a remarkably fine woman. She was beloved by every body in Washington, white and colored. Whenever soldiers marched by, during the war, she always sent out and invited them in to wine and refreshments, giving them liberally of the best in the house. Madeira wine was better in those days than now, and more freely drank. In the last days of her life, before Congress purchased her husband’s papers, she was in a state of absolute poverty, and I think sometimes suffered for the necessaries of life. While I was a servant for Mr. Webster, he often sent me to her with a market-basket full of provisions, and told me whenever I saw anything in the house I thought she was in need of, to take it to her. I often did this, and occasionally gave her small sums from my own pocket, though I had years before bought my freedom of her.

Mr. Madison, I think, was one of the best men that ever lived. I never saw him in a passion, and never knew him to strike a slave, although he had over one hundred; neither would he allow an overseer to do it. Whenever any slaves were reported to him as stealing or "cutting up" badly, he would send for then and admonish them privately, and never mortify them by doing it before others. They generally served him very faithfully. He was temperate in his habits. I don’t think he drank a quart of brandy in his whole life. He ate light breakfasts and no suppers, but rather a hearty dinner, with which he took invariably but one glass of wine. When he had hard drinkers at his table, who had put away his choice Madeira pretty freely, in response to their numerous toasts, he would just touch the glass to his lips, or dilute it with water, as they pushed about for the decanters. For the last fifteen years of his life he drank no wine at all.

You can go enjoy this entire piece and accompanying commentary.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention started today in the Twin Cities. As someone who grew up in Alaska, I was very interested in McCain's VP choice, the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. Now to go with this current event, as I did last week, here are some past Republican conventions to explore: