Saturday, December 7, 2013


I would like to welcome everyone to the Carnivalseque! If you are unfamiliar Carnivalseque is an interdiscipinary blog carnival dedicated to pre-modern history. Every six weeks or so a new blogger hosts the carnival from nominations that are received. I've been fairly dormant on my blog over the last 6-8 months due to a career change which, as excited as I am, has taken a considerable amount of my free time. Hosting has forced me to get back to reading and writing about history, which I so dearly love. So let's get started.

Title: Archaeology and History: A Fruitful Dialogue?
& The Great Divide? Historians, Archeologists and the Interpretation of the Past
Blog: History Matters @unishefhistory
Author: Charles West & Hugh Willmott
What an appropriate way to start our Carnivalesque with the discussion of archaeologists versus historians. Sometimes there can be a revival or even animosity between the two disciplines. A series here by the Department of History highlights why early medieval history is "blessed, not cursed, to have two vibrant intellectual traditions working on the same period of time."

Title: How to Make a Cooked Bird Sing, c. 1450
Blog: Ask the Past advice from old books @askthepast
Author: Elizabeth Archibald
Posted for Thanksgiving Day this is hilarious and I promise you won't be disappointed when you read it. Anything I write here will not do it justice.

Title: F - Facial Reconstruction
Blog: Hx: Leppers, Lancets, Lobotomies
Author: Paul Middleton
There are some pictures in this that are pretty graphic however if you are interested in a brief history of facial reconstruction which dates back to 1597 then this is for you.

Title: When and How Geology Became a Science
Blog: The Renaissance Mathematicus @rmathematicus
Author: Thony Cristie
The history of geology as a science has in important role in the disciplines that we study. Tied nicely with the History Matter posts on archeology and history this posts focuses on how geology became a science. It even provides some great links a fuller look into this subject.

Title: Oliver Cromwell: God's Warrior and the English Revolution
Blog: A Trumper of Sedition @portal_romanesc
Author: Keith
This is an excellent book review about Oliver Cromwell written by Professor Ian Gentles.

We did not get as many nominations as I had hoped but still we have some great blogs here on various disciplines that are worth reading. Please feel free to comment on additionally great blogs you have read over the last few months that would fit great into the world of Carnivalseque.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Revolutionary War Roundtable of the Backcountry

This might be a mouth full but what a wonderful group of people I had the privelege of meeting on Monday night, October 21st. I was graciously invited to speak by Charles Gray to this roundtable on the "Regulators of North Carolina" and had a fantastic experience. I was honored to speak to many scholars and historians such as authors John Buchanan ( and Dr. Christine Swagger. Thank you again to all the people that came and for Wofford College for inviting me to this event. If you are interested in the next roundtable please visit the Wofford College website below.

If you are intersted in finding out more about the Regulators of North Carolina then visit!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50th Anniversary of "The Speech"

Fifty year ago today one of the greatest men of courage and fortitude stood in front of hundreds of thousands of people and gave what is easily considered the greatest speech in United States, if not World History. I considered spending time dissecting the speech and going over all the aspects of what Martin Luther King Jr said that day but I decided that the best thing for you and I to do is watch and listen to the speech. Only this way can we truly soak in the powerful words that were said on August 28, 1963 during one of the most tumultuous time in our nation's history.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Journey to Liberty: The "Master of Life" Speaks

As we continue to examine how our nation was shaped 250 years ago I came across this speech by the Ottawa Chief Pontiac in the spring of 1763. As Europeans moved into North America in the sixteenth century and trampled upon the lands of the Native American people, their cultures started to mingle. The biggest side affected was the Indian way of life as they started to trade with their new European friends. Alcoholism became a huge problem and many Europeans took advantage of this by getting Indians intoxicated and then making unfair trades. As the French and Indian War began the majority of Native Americans tribes sided with their longtime ally France yet as the war concluded in 1760 many tribes feared what was going to happen with the land and their very way of life. Pontiac believed that the white man had become a poison on their very way of life and used the "Master of Life" as a means to explain it to his people. As he talks from the "Master of Life" perspective it has a very Christian theme to it all. 
"I am the Master of Life, whom thou desirest to know and to whom thou wouldst speak. Listen well to what I am going to say to thee and all thy red brethren. I am he who made heaven and earth, the trees, lakes, rivers, all men, and all that thou seest, and all that thou hast seen on earth. Because . . . I love you, you must do what I say and [not do] what I hate. I do not like that you drink until you lose your reason, as you do; or that you fight with each other; or that you take two wives, or run after the wives of others; you do not well; I hate that. You must have but one wife, and keep her until death. When you are going to war, you juggle, join the medicine dance, and believe that I am speaking. You are mistaken, it is to Manitou to whom you speak; he is a bad spirit who whispers to you nothing but evil, and to whom you listen because you do not know me well. This land, where you live, I have made for you and not for others. How comes it that you suffer the whites on your lands? Can you not do without them? I know that those whom you call the children of your Great Father supply your wants, but if you were not bad, as you are, you would well do without them. You might live wholly as you did before you knew them. Before those whom you call your brothers come on your lands, did you not live by bow and arrow? You had no need of gun nor powder, nor the rest of their things, and nevertheless you caught animals to live and clothe yourselves with their skins, but when I saw that you inclined to the evil, I called back the animals into the depths of the woods, so that you had need of your brothers to have your wants supplied and I shall send back to you the animals to live on. I do not forbid you, for all that, to suffer amongst you the children of your father. I love them, they know me and pray to me, and I give them their necessities and all that they bring to you, but as regards those who have come to trouble your country, drive them out, make war on them. I love them not, they know me not, they are my enemies and the enemies of your brothers. Send them back to the country which I made for them. There let them remain." (Pontiac's proclamation from the 'Master of Life', retrieved from on 1/14/13)
Pontiac's goal was to separate themselves as much as possible from the white man and hold on to their way of life. He wanted them to return to their origins, return to the way of life that once made them a great and proud people. You can see in the language that Pontiac foresaw that a war was necessary. On April 27, 1763 Pontiac made another speech, this time to various Native American tribes and convinced them to help lay siege to Fort Detroit. In a matter of weeks Pontiac's War began. Although his name is the most prominent of the chiefs many historians believe he did not play a big role such as Francis Jennings who wrote, "Pontiac was only a local Ottawa war chief in a 'resistance' involving many tribes." (Jennings, Empire of Fortune, 442) Pontiac's role however should not be too greatly diminished. Speeches such as this one and the one on April 27, 1763 played keys roles in sparking the conflict. This war led Great Britain to pass the Royal Proclamation of 1763 in an attempt to prevent conflict between the Native Americans in the west and the colonists in the East. What it did instead was add another log in the fire toward independence in the United States.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The George W. Bush Legacy

As the George W Bush Presidential Library opens today many pundits and even historians are weighing in on how Bush will be remember, what is his legacy? As much as people would like to talk about this now the emotions run too high on how people feel about him one way or the other. The consquences of his accomplishments and even his failures can not be properly evaluted at this time in history. It can take a minimum of 20-25 years to be able look back and see the big picture on the impact a President has had on our country. There are numerous examples of Presidents who have been considered failures after leaving the White House but as time continues the scope of their impact changes. It is difficult to argue against the fact the Bush was a good man, strong in his faith, and who loved America but his impact on our history and society will take some time to determine.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Yesterday's News: June 30, 1815

I love all things about history, not only the things that have changed over the last two hundred years but also the things that have not. As I was reading through an old London paper called "The Courier" and I saw on the front page an advertisement for a house for sale. The simplicity of the article was great and yet at the same time I notice how similar the advertisement is to ones we see today.
"Impeccable Tudor home nestled on over one private treed acre in prestigious Coldstream. The home boasts updated kitchen & baths"
"To be sold or let for a Term, a moderate-sized Family House in excellent repair, situate in a cheap and pleasant part of the Country of Somerset."
Both of these advertisement are extremely similar yet one is from 1815 and the other is from 2013, can you guess which one? (the one from 1815 is the bottom one) The rest of the advertisement is fairly similar as well detailing the elements of the home that would appeal to everyone, how much land is available, and who to contact to make the purchase. It's amazing how simple things don't change.

This newpaper was provided by...
Historic Newspapers -

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Tradition of Night Baseball

I had the pleasure last night of continuing a tradition with my wife of attending Opening Night at Great American Ballpark to watch the Cincinnati Reds take on the Los Angeles Angels. We love baseball as a family and since we've been married we have always gone on Opening Night. It is a tradition for us that we look forward to each year and despite the extremely chilly temperatures, in the mid 30s, we loved every minute. This tradition of playing baseball at night actually took some getting used to for the fans. The earliest game played under the lights was on September 2, 1880 in Massachusetts. The players had difficulty seeing, leading to many errors being made, and the spectators got bored because it was difficult to make out the majority of the action on the field. Various other attempts were made over the next few decades to illuminate the American pastime but with little interest as the low light made it difficult to watch (

The first Major League Baseball game played at night was in Cincinnati, Ohio at the old Crosley Field on May 24, 1935 where the Cincinnati Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1. The spectators finally caught on to the enjoyment of watching the games at night after a hard days work, since before very few could attend games in the middle of the day during the work week. The Reds played all their opponents at least once at night the rest of that season and despite their losing record, attendance went up. By the 1940s most of the Major League teams had lights installed and were hosting night baseball games, except the Chicago Cubs. Holding fast to their traditions Wrigley Field did not host a night game until 1988 and even now they have very few night games compared to the rest of the league. For all the other teams, night baseball is now the tradition and the rare "day game" is a novelty. If you have not taken the opportunity to attend a night game with your family and/or friends then I highly encourage each and every one of  you to do so. It is like no other sport to watch live. (  GO REDS!!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

History Links: History Here App

There are very few apps out that about history that have grabbed my attention. Typically I find them to be very shallow and un-informing for an individual who studies history. The History Channel however has created a fantastic app for finding historical places to visit, and it's right at your finger-tips. It is called "History Here" and like many apps it searches the location you are in and displays a map which identifies all possible historical sites nearest to you. The map is highly interactive giving you the ability to scroll anywhere in the United States and search for red arrows marking locations of interest. If you touch one of these red icons it displays what is located at that spot, including address, phone number, and a summary of why it is historical. The app even allows you to switch between map and satellite, read through all historical sites nearby in a list format over scanning a map, even the ability to suggest a historical site be added.

This is the ultimate history travel guide. You have no need to search the internet or purchase guides if all you are looking for is a window into the world of history. The only thing I believe this app is missing is the ability to mark a location, Visited. You could write comments on your experience, add personal photos for others to see, even the red icon to change to green once it is marked that you visited it. Over all I would highly suggest the getting this app and using it on your next great adventure.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

YouTube History: American Revolution

I encourage everyone to watch these old "Schoolhouse Rock" videos to learn about history and government. I learned so much watching them when I was young.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The American Citizens Handbook: Part 3

In our society today there are two groups of people that are worshiped: celebrities and athletes. Magazines, news columns, even TV networks are dedicated to telling every little detail of these peoples' lives for our personal entertainment. They are placed on pedestals for all of America to see and revere. There was a time however when very little thought was given to these types of individuals, instead our country regarded people of intelligence, creativity, and ingenuity as those to look up to, those to honor. In 1900 the Chancellor of New York University, Henry Mitchell MacCracken, developed a plan to honor those Great Americans in our nations history. Individuals were nominated by the public and elected by a board. An individual could not be nominated unless they had been dead for at least 10 years and by 1922 that had been expanded to 25 years. The idea behind this was that their impact on our history has to have been studied and understood over a period of time, sometimes those impacts can take decades to be truly seen.  

A memorial colonnade was built on the grounds of the then New York University, today it is Bronx Community College, where the bronze busts of 98 Americans are currently on display. As individuals were nominated and then elected a sculptor was selected to create the bust of each candidate. Also as individuals were elected they were placed into various categories which helped in creating a structure to the Hall of Fame. When you think about a sports hall of fame the athletes are generally admitted in the category of their position, so in the same manner an individual that was entered into the Hall of Fame of Great Americans was placed into one of the following categories.

Humanitarians, Social and Economic Reformers
Engineers and Architects
Physicians and Surgeons
Missionaries and Explorers
Lawyers and Judges
Business and Philanthropists
Artists, Musicians, and Actors

The popularity of the Hall of Fame went far beyond what many expected. The national press covered the election process, historians say people would debate on who should be nominated, many say the Hall was even mentioned in "The Wizard of Oz" when the munchkins tell Dorothy "You will be a bust, be a bust, be a bust in the Hall of Fame." Sadly after NYU left the campus abruptly in 1973 the funding and notoriety of the Hall of Fame died with it. Donors and support were hard to come by and there it current sits, in obscurity  Luckily the city put some money forth to renovate the facility and maintain it however very few people today know the colonnade even exists and even fewer go to visit it. I desperately wish I had the resources or connections to restart this project. I truly believe that if the funding could be gathered, and with the advent of social media, it could be popular again. The public and media would love to watch and cover an event that honored Great Americans of our past. I truly believe that bring this back to relevance would open people's eyes again to our history and culture. The first ballot could include such Americans as:

Martin Luther King Jr
John F Kennedy
George S Patton
Dwight D Eisenhower
Henry Ford
Robert Frost
Douglas MacArthur
Jonas Salk (he has until 2020 till he can be entered)
John Steinbeck
Ernest Hemingway
Harriett Tubman
Langston Hughes

Who else do you think should be nominated to the next ballot for the Great Americans Hall of Fame?

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: A List of Values
Part 3: The Hall of Fame of Great Americans
Part 4: Documents
Part 5: Conclusion

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Valentine's Day Present

I have the wonderful joy of currently raising a 17 month old son. My wife and I could not be happier or prouder of the way our little guy has turned out so far. He consistently brings laughter and joy to our lives and like I'm sure most parents say he is incredibly smart. I can't wait till he gets old enough that and we can take him to such great museums and battlefields as well as great cities of history like Boston and Washington D.C.

In light of that my wonderful wife got me for Valentine's Day a gift that will aid in my pursuit of making my son a fan of history and specifically early American history like I am. Other not exactly toddler age age type books I will nonetheless be reading them to my 17 month old son tonight. 

The following is a link to one of the books I got which I would highly recommend for your children. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Journey to Liberty: Treaty of Paris (1763)

Our road to independence was not an overnight coup or even an ever changing revolution, it was a journey with ups and downs that spanned nearly 20 years. Sandwiched between two Treaty of Paris' the American colonist were a new people, not exclusively English, German, or Dutch but American. As this new world expanded and grew it became more and more evident that being only a colony of a greater empire would not sustain itself. This very long series titled "Journey to Liberty" starts today and will take us through the next 20 years of how resentment grew, anger boiled over, and eventually revolution was declared. Our journey as an American people is important and must never be overshadowed by modern events or overlooked by any social or philosophical ideal. Our Journey to Liberty is one that speaks to us all, defines us all, and helps us understand what our present and future will hold. It reminds us of our destiny, it reminds us of our purpose, and it tells the rest of the world that we are different and proud of it.  Our path to freedom was paved not by ungrateful colonists upset over taxes, not by simple farmers wanting to be left alone, and not by founding fathers who were seeking selfish ambition. Our freedom, our independence was gained by a people who believed that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," and England was instead placing the heavy hand of monarchy and parliament upon them. Our nation is founded upon the great principle that "all men are created equal" and the history behind how we came to be a nation like that is crucial to understand. So we start, 250 years ago, and begin to see the wheels of discontent turn toward separation from Great Britain.

The year 1763 was a pivotal year in the formation of our American Republic. It was 250 years ago today that the peace treaty was signed between Great Britain, France, and Spain which ended the Seven-Years War or better known in North America as the French and Indian War. This treaty not only changed the landscape of North America but set in motion the events that would lead to American Independence.

European countries over the previous century had been scrambling for control of lands in North and South America as the need for natural resources grew. While Spain and Portugal mainly fought for land in the South it was Great Britain and France that were fighting for land in the North and by the mid-eighteenth century some of the richest of all the land that both countries were fighting over was the Ohio Valley. Wealthier American colonists, especially those in Virginia such as the family of George Washington, had been speculating along the Ohio Valley region and had money heavily invested in expanding and growing it. At the same time France started building forts in the area to secure what they believed was their right to do because it was their land. A stalemate had begun and someone was going to have to break it. After various attacks took place in 1754 and 1755 led by non-other than George Washington, General Braddock and others, action was necessary by the British army. In lite of the defeats that occurred there was little interest in England to fight the French for territories in North America. However in 1756 England finally declared war on France which began the Seven Years War. France saw success at first with the help of Indian allies in the region yet by 1757 England, led my William Pitt, and borrowing heavily to finance the war effort, saw success because Pitt viewed the situation as an opportunity to vastly expand the British Empire. Pitt even paid American colonies for raising troops to fight against the French. Eventually Spain joined on the side of the French but it was little help. With the help of Prussia as an ally in Europe, England continued to see victories and so they trained their eye on French and Spanish territories all over the world. After the fall of Montreal in 1760, fighting all but stopped in North America but continued in Europe. The war officially ended with the Treaty of Paris which was signed on February 10, 1763.

Why is this war and the ending of this war so important in the history of our American Revolution? How is it that we can look back to the events of the French and Indian War and its aftermath and see the wheels of revolution start to turn? It has a lot to do with what had been happening in the colonies over the last century and what changed with how England dealt with the colonies afterward. "It would be a mistake to overstate the independence of families from the social milieu, both local and regional." (Lemon, Colonial American in the Eighteenth Century, "Colonization: 1490s-1770s", p.131) Since the first settlers landed in the New World there was no assistance from the mother country, they were left to fend for themselves, they had to work together with the people around them, and rely on each other physically, socially, and politically. Even the Mayflower Compact, our peoples' first governing document speaks to their independent nature, and although they give recognition to the King of England their laws and governance were to be left to their own accord.
"In the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience."
The basic colonial government started at the top with a Governor appointed by the British Crown, from there you had his council and then the elected Assembly. As the population grew and the economy expanded the power of the elected Assembly grew as well. The colonists would drink to the King of England but with him and his army far away to enforce their will there was a major disconnect in what it meant to be a British citizen and a colonist. With those sentiments the Governors had trouble administering their authority or implementing British laws without the cooperation of the colonists. "By the mid 1700s American political ideas became apart of a "great tradition of the eighteenth-century commonwealthmen, the radical Whig ideology that arose from a series of upheavals in seventeenth-century England - the Civil War, the exclusion crisis of 1679-81, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688." (Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause, p.51) All these factors led to a citizenry who were accustomed to self-government. Each colony elected officials who would levy taxes, create colonial budgets, and maintain order. To all of the sudden be forced to take orders from the British Parliament and Crown on matters that for over a century they had controlled for themselves was a difficult pill to swallow. It is true they always considered themselves loyal British subjects but this was not England and the rules were different, they had been since the Pilgrims first landed here to settle. However by the mid-1700s the British Government failed to see it the same way and wanted to implement their will upon the people.

As the French and Indian War commenced in the mid 1750s the separation between the colonies and the mother country was evident. Written sometime in the 1820s by William Wells, grandson to Samuel Adams, he spoke of the events before and during the French and Indian War stating, "The events of the war, and the government mismanagement (since the first colonists came here)... prepared the people for the struggle which was to rend the colonies from the mother country. The press commenced the discussion of popular rights, and no doubt many speculative minds calculated the probable fate of America at some future date as a separate sovereignty." (Carr, Seeds of Discontent, p.315) Clearly the path to creating a new nation was being paved since the first settlers landed here in the late sixteenth century however it took something major to push them over the edge. As the British started to maintain a standing army in the colonies for the first time ever, limit the expansion west (which was one of the key purposes in fighting in the French and Indian War as far as nearly all the colonists were concerned), and begin direct taxes that the colonists had never seen before or approved it becomes quite evident that the colonists were getting pushed closer to that edge. As we will examine in the coming years one decision after another by the British, forced the American colonists to rise up and stand against injustice, eventually getting to the realization that their destiny would be to create a new "Nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

History in Film: Ironclad

I'll say one thing for the movie Ironclad, its graphic and bloody. I'll say another thing, it was definitely trying to be something else other than a real account of the siege of Rochester Castle. The movie starts off telling the story of the civil war waged in England resulting in the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. What followed became known as the First Baron's War which lasted for two years. There are elements of the siege which hold true in the movie. The biggest would be the burning of the pigs underneath the keep of Rochester Castle. This holds to historic fact and key element of the war that I'm sure most British people remember best. I really felt the movie was working extra hard to recreate the movie King Arthur in a different yet similar setting. A single moral hero and his amoral group roughnecks try and save the day against barbarism and tyranny. Sounds like King Arthur to me. There is no evidence I could find of Templar Knights fighting at the castle, in addition history tells us that nearly 100 men were defending the castle yet the movie only depicts around 20.

As a man it was a fun movie to watch; simple plot, lots of action. Paul Giamatti as King John and Brian Cox as Baron William d'Aubigny help to solidify the film with their superb acting although at times I felt Giamatti was overdoing it. Overall I probably would not recommend the movie however if you would like other opinions than my own than I encourage you to read The Armed Historian Blog who gives a wonderful critique and even links an additional critique within his blog.

Entertainment Value - 3.5 out of 5
Historical Accuracy - 2.5 out of 5

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Our Nation Divided: French Intervention

The Confederacy was not stupid, from the beginning they knew that the Union army had the power of manufacturing and extensive transportation to secure them the armament necessary to win a war. In order for the South to be victorious they needed the either the French or the English to intervene and recognize the Confederacy. The South was going to need their manufacturing to produce weapons necessary to win and were hoping cotton could be their leverage. Lincoln recognized this potential scenario and worked hard at keep European sentiments on the side of the Union. In fact one of the biggest reason Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation was to secure European support because they had ended slavery decades ago. In a blog titled "Foreign Intervention during the Civil War", from President Lincoln's Cottage Blog the author references an article in Harper's Weekly in July 1862 which talks about how the English Parliament and the French Emperor were debating the idea of getting involved in the American conflict. Europeans had far more in common with the Southern states then the North, this had been true since the American Revolution. Europe would have been pleased probably to see the United States split in two, however in reality the European powers found it morally difficult to support the Confederacy because the centerpiece of their way of life was slavery and Europe could not support it publicly  Behind closed doors however many diplomats stated the elite of France and England supported the Confederacy.

The threat of foreign intervention was echoed in a letter published in The News York Times dated February 3, 1863. The correspondent writes "Thus I may tell you to-day that the indications are for intervention." This is the very thing the North feared and the South was waiting for. France finally felt they were in a better position to support the separation of the United States after the results of the Battle of Fredericksburg. They believed that "separation in the United States is final." The correspondence indicates that a deal was made with "Mr. Slidell", who was the South's minister to France, "for a large quantity of cotton, will ask the American Government for facilities for getting it out, promising, at the same time that no contraband of war shall be introduced in exchange, and if the American Government will not consent to this, they will take it by force." On February 3, 1863 the United States was on the edge of war with France if they tried to break through the Northern blockade. Luckily thanks to diplomatic talks this possible crisis was averted, but the aspects of foreign intervention was an important part of the Civil War and should not be overlooked. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Celebrating the Life of Martin Luther King Jr

For most people it is fairly easy to remember this day each year as kids are home from school and the post office is not delivering. However the holiday goes by for many without reflecting on the purpose. Martin Luther King Jr is one of the most influential individuals in American if not World history. His work toward social equality in the nation was vitally important and key step toward "this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'" (King, "I Have A Dream" Speech, 1963) The following timeline of his life was brought to my attention by the people at I was more than happy to share it when I saw how simple and visually appealling it was and hope that everyone will share it with friends and family in an attempt to better educate the citizens of this country on this great man who impacted this great nation.

MLK Infographic

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Best Inaugural Addresses in U.S. History

Every January 20th someone is set to take the oath of office as President of the United States and as our country looks to this individual for guidance and direction for our country and we look toward their inaugural address to help us understand what direction we will be heading. Over the past couple centuries the citizens of this country and the world have heard many speeches and many of them say the same basic things we hear from all great politicians. However there are seven inaugural addresses that stand out among all others, both because of circumstances by which they were given and the individual who delivered them. As always I have placed these in chronological order rather than any specific order of importance.

1) George Washington - First Inaugural Address - 1789: The inauguration address is not something mandated by the constitution or any law, it was something created, and like many other Executive Branch traditions, our first President of the United States George Washington is who to thank. Washington was not much for giving speeches and shied away from them at all costs however it is no surprise he recognized his new role and stepped up to give direction and understanding of what to expect. You must place yourself in the time period and realize that many people in the world saw absolute power corrupt absolutely and anyone who takes the reigns of power in a country usually takes advantage of that power. Washington's first inaugural address conveyed a humble attitude toward taking on such an important task that the "voice of my country" had given him. He knew he had to easy the people minds that the revolution was not fought for no reason. He was holding fast to the guides of the Constitution and even mentions the need for the passage of the Bill of Rights. He spoke about, "the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." Truly there was no one greater at this time in our country to take on the task of being our first leader, our President then George Washington. 

2) Thomas Jefferson - First Inaugural Address - 1801: The election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson has gone down in history as one of the bitterest, most divisive in American history. As Jefferson came to the podium on March 4, 1801 he was President of a country whose government changed hands from Federalist control to Republicans and the people were deeply divided politically. Jefferson knew this transfer of power must be handled carefully or the Union could fall apart. 
"But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."
Jefferson's speech was the first real inaugural speech to receive widespread public attention and set a precedent for the style in which future Presidents would follow. Jefferson's speech helped in healing the bitter feelings which came about thanks to the election. 

3) Abraham Lincoln - Second Inaugural Address - 1865: The Civil War had ravaged this country for four years and the end was finally in sight. Abraham Lincoln had won reelection and now the need for reconciliation was paramount to the future of our reunited nation. He knew that the burden of reuniting this broken country rested on his shoulders and with that in mind delivered his most important speech. 
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the fight as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
"Despite being in a position of great strength, Lincoln 'held out the olive branch to the defeated Confederacy at a time when very many people in the North were vowing to exact vengeance,' said H.W. Brands, a professor of history and government at the University of Texas at Austin" (CBCNews, Retrieved 1/18/2012) Sadly Lincoln would not be able to fulfill that peace and bring this country's pain to a quick and decisive end. One month later Lincoln was assassinated and the job of mending the country's wounds fell to his ill-equipped Vice-President Andrew Johnson.   

4) Theodore Roosevelt - Only Inaugural Address - 1905: One of the great and most fiery orators in our nation's history, TR only was given one opportunity for an inaugural address as his first term as President was not due to an election but rather the death of President William McKinley. As the twentieth century was dawning the United States was stepping into a new position on the world stage, as a global leader. TR recognized this and believed it the United States' responsibility to step willingly into this role. It was a new era for American politics and you can see that in his inaugural address.  
"Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities. Toward all other nations, large and small, our attitude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights. But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most when shown not by the weak but by the strong. While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression."
Theodore Roosevelt's speech was one of the first to ever highlight the importance of foreign affairs. The speech demonstrates the transition this country was going through in the early twentieth century and how a leader like TR was willing and able to help this nation move in the right direction. 

5) Franklin D. Roosevelt - First Inaugural Address - 1933: Few economic crises in the world could possibly match that of the Great Depression which was sparked by the stock market crash of 1929. FDR's voice at this time was not one of an economic guru, banker, or long-time politician but rather as a father speaking to his children. As the nation was facing the most difficult economic situation it has ever seen, FDR was there to reassure his children, the American people, that he was there to help. He spoke of how with a little trust in him this economic crisis could be solved. 
"This is a day of national consecration. And I am certain that on this day my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days."
Franklin Roosevelt was seeking a new kind of Presidency as he was facing a new kind of crisis. He spoke of seeking "broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency" and demanded "action and action now." Reporters wrote of tears streaming down the face's of those in attendance as his speech ended. Before people in the country saw little hope for the country's future however FDR was going to be the savior of America. 

6) John F Kennedy - Only Inaugural Speech - 1961: The election of John F Kennedy marked the beginning of a new era, a new generation was stepping into the presidency and the old was stepping away. Although it was not the first inaugural event televised, Harry S Truman's was actually the first, it was the first which captured the nation's attention, as a young energetic President who wanted the word to "go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage - and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world." Kennedy was now the leader of the free-world, the spokesman for democracy and he had to at this moment make sure Communist Russia understood his position of strength and resolve. Refusing to wear an overcoat despite the bitter cold temperatures, JFK challenged the nation to step up as a society in order to create a better tomorrow. 

"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
Many try to tout Kennedy as this great champion for liberal Democrats however his rhetoric is much more conservative in thought. Kennedy's appeal lies in his conviction of right and wrong not partisan politics. At times he seemed like a conservative and then on the other hand he called himself a liberal. Kennedy shows in his inaugural speech that he speaks for the American people as a guardian of freedom and liberty which no other form of government will ever be allowed to take away here or anywhere else in this world. This inaugural address was meant not just for the American people but for all democratic nations in the world. 

7) Ronald Reagan - First Inaugural Address - 1981: Since the death of Kennedy in 1963 the United States was having difficultly in trusting their leaders. Johnson led the country into the Vietnam War, Nixon left office in disgrace, Ford was an un-elected President, and Carter was... well he was Jimmy Carter and at the end of his term we were in a deep economic crisis. In steps in the cowboy, Ronald Reagan, a former actor, and a man who is both genuine in what he says and charismatic in how he says it. Expectation were pretty high for Reagan who was known for giving an excellent speech, and he did not disappoint. He laid out his agenda for the country and put everyone on notice that a "new beginning" had arrived. 
"The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom. In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price."

You would almost assume that listening to his perspective on government his plan was to do away with the federal government altogether however it was completely the opposite. "It's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work - work with us, not over us; to stand by our side; not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it." Reagan  believed that since the days of the New Deal the federal government was taking on too much responsibility to solve the problems in society and it resulted in the economic crisis they were in. Reagan inspired a country who had not been inspired much since Kennedy. 

All these Presidents had one thing in common that sets them above the rest, charisma. This trait allowed them to speak to the heart of the American people all during an important epoch in our nations history. However these speeches were only the first step, they then had to execute. All these men saw their daunting task ahead of them and immortalized their legacy not in these great inaugural speeches but the actions they took while in office. Fancy speeches come and go but the deeds by which you are judge will last from here to eternity. We should thank God for having been provided these men at the right time in history to lead us into a new stage or a new era of our country that in the wrong hands could have led us to ruin. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

John Adams' Note on the Gaspee Affair

I've mentioned this before but John Adams is in my top five favorite Presidents so anytime I see him in the news it peaks my interest. Thanks to Boston 1775 I found John Adams is making the news with a recently discovered letter of his dated December 26, 1772 which is being auctioned today. The note reads:

“Boston Dec 26 1772 We are all in a fury here about the Dependency of the governor and the Dependency of the Judges, the Commission for trying the Rhode Islanders for Burning the Gaspee. I wonder how your Colony happens to sleep so securely in a whole skin, when her sisters are so worried and tormented!I am with much respect your old Friend& humble servant
JOHN ADAMSWM ELLIOT+ The Fools call it the Independency of the Gov[erno]r, Judges etc”
Adams is referring to a significant event in our path to revolution and independence that often gets overlooked. The HMS Gaspee had been patroling off the coast of Rhode Island for some time boarding vessels and confiscating cargo without recourse or reason. Anger throughout the Rhode Island area was growing so when the ship ran aground on June 9, 1772, as a result of a local vessel baiting the ship into shallow water, the people had their chance for revenge. As news spread quickly to Providence a plot was hatched to loot and burn the ship. Fifty-five men led by John Brown arrived at the HMS Gaspee, came aboard and captured the crew and captain; leaving them on shore to watch as the ship was looted and burned. In the article by John Howell from the Warwick Beacon local historian Henry Brown explained the nature of the letter. "“I believe this note from John Adams to William Elliot was in response and in part to the announcement to appoint a commission... to inquire into the destruction of the Gaspee.” Adams was obviously not a big fan of this commission being formed to possibly try the men who burned the Gaspee. In reality the local courts showed no favor toward the Royal Navy and especially the captain for his previous actions and no member of the attack was ever convicted.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

History in Film: The Conspirator

Since getting Netflix last month I have had the opportunity of watching tons of movies I have not seen. This has afforded me the opportunity again to starting reviewing historically focused films. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Robert Redford "The Conspirator" was a compelling movie about the trial of Mary Surratt who in real life was convicted for conspiring to assassinate President Lincoln. The movie focuses on Frederick Aiken the attorney who was assigned to defend her in front of a military court.

Frederick Aiken was a Union soldier and lawyer who was pushed by U.S. Senator from Maryland Reverdy Johnson to represent Mary Surratt. Despite his protests Aiken continued with the trial and although he originally felt contempt for Mary Surratt, he soon had compassion for her and although he was never sure of her innocent he believed she deserved a fair trial. The movie seemed to assume that Mary Surratt was being falsely accused and was clearly innocent. As I watch these types of movies I always have to remind myself that they are trying to make money off this film, a villain has be created to fight the hero. Watching the trial frustrates you at times because of how they seem to have predetermined her fate without hearing any real evidence. You end up actually hating the military commission who is in charge of the trial. You especially begin to hate Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, played by Kevin Kline. Kline is easily one of my favorite actors and he shows why in this film. His portrayal of Stanton captured what many in the North where thinking and feeling about any even closely associated with the assassination of Lincoln. Through some various research I believe this film did a great job at historical accuracy about the story of Surratt's trial. The film also did a wonderful job at placing you in the time period, making you believe you were in the nineteenth century.

This is actually the first major film completed by the American Film Company whose goal is to create appealing films that hold on to historical accuracy at the same time. This can be a difficult task in today's film watching public but "The Conspirator" actually does a great job at doing both. I look forward to more of their films in the future. I encourage you to read a review written in HNN (History News Network). It highlights AHA (American Historical Association) members who screened the film and gave their thoughts on its entertainment factor and historical accuracy. One thing that is brought up that I adamantly disagree with is there argument that the film lacked accuracy when it failed to mention slavery anywhere within the film. What they seem to be missing is that this is a small story within a much greater context that is the Civil War. Slavery was a major factor in the conflict however telling this story the way they did does no take away from big picture. It does not make people simply forget about slavery and the horrors it comes with. Just because I tell someone a funny story about something that happened to me does not mean I have to mention my one-year old son randomly in the conversation. He is one of the most important things in my life but I do not have to insert him in every topic I bring up to prove that. His importance in my life is not diminished, even slightly. Overall I it's a great article that highlights the historical accuracy of the film and how pleased most of the members were with its outcome.

Entertainment Value - 3.5 out of 5
Historical Accuracy - 4.5 out of 5

Friday, January 11, 2013

Worst Flu Outbreaks in World History

It seems to happen every year in the fall and winter months here in the United States, sickness. The realization that the common cold effects everyone this time of year is obvious, and we do everything humanly possible to prevent our cold from getting worse. The flu seems to break itself open at some point every year and no matter how affordable or easily accessible the flu vaccine is the outbreak still seems to occur. Typical years we hear very little about the flu outside our local school systems and neighbors commenting on how it's "getting around." Then, every once in a while the news reports on a major outbreak spreading throughout the country; the death toll in young children and the elderly climbing, and doctors offices and hospitals inundated with visits for medication and treatment. National Flu Outbreak 2013

These pandemics historically occur three to five times every century since around the sixteenth century with some of them fairly mild and others far more severe. Many people claim the first ever flu epidemic was recorded by Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C. "According to Chamseru however, a French physician in the eighteenth century, the 'Cough of Perinthus', as Hippocrates called it, could have encompassed several diseases." (Martin and Martin-Grenel, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol 12, No 6, June 2006, p 978) Which means that it probably was not an influenza breakout but rather multiple types of diseases spreading through the region. The next recorded instance of influenza, or simply called the flu, occurred in 212 B.C. by the historian Livy, who claimed an infectious disease spread through the Roman Army. A famous sixteenth century doctor known as John Keys was the first to create a detailed description of flu, which he called 'Sweating Sickness.' (Avian Birds Flu, As the definition of influenza and its known symptoms become public knowledge we can begin to examine our first ever truly recorded pandemic of the flu. This list was compiled based on a full list of flu pandemics that have occurred in history. Based on various lists that were found from various sources I narrowed it down to simply 7 of the Worst Flu Outbreaks in History.

1) The First Recorded Flu Epidemic of 1580 - The word Influenza comes the Italian phrase "influenze del freddo" or "Influence of the Cold" in English. This phrase was first developed during the outbreak that occurred in 1580. There is not a lot of reliable information available on this flu epidemic other than to say that is started somewhere in Asia Minor and spread to Africa, Europe and eventually the New World. The spread of the virus however can possibly be attributed to Spanish troops sent by Philip II to fight the Dutch. (Pyle, The Diffusion of Influenza, p. 24). It is believed that only about one twentieth of the population avoided infection.

2) The Westward Moving Flu of 1781-1782 - The emergence of Russia in European affairs thanks to Peter I is believed to have been one of the leading reasons why this flu spread so quickly in the eighteenth century. It is believed the flu originated there or possibly in Far East Asia around early 1781, however because of Peter I efforts to expand relations, communication, and transportation to Europe the flu found a quick route to the rest of the world. It is believed that nearly three fourths of Europe was infected within the first eight months of 1782. Some historians believe that although the sickness was minor those with respiratory problems had greater difficultly and the death toll is therefore possibly in the hundreds of thousands. (Hays, Epidemics and Pandemics, p. 171) 

3) The Russian Flu of 1889 - As the transportation revolution spread throughout the world and railroads stretch across continents the speed by which influenza spread grew faster as well. In the spring of 1889 a new influenza virus began around central Asia or Ruusia. By the fall and winter of 1889-1890 it moved quickly through Russia, into Germany and the rest of Europe and the first reported cases of influenza hit the United States in December 1889. The virus continued to circle the globe reaching South America by early 1890 and Australia by mid 1890. In all it is estimated that nearly 1 million people died and with the origin yet again coming from the Far East it added to the misnomer that foreigners, specially those from that region, are filthy people in need of being civilized. 

4) The Spanish Flu of 1918 - "1918 has gone: a year momentous as the termination of the most cruel war in the annals of the human race; a year which marked, the end at least for a time, of man's destruction of man; unfortunately a year in which developed a most fatal infectious disease causing the death of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Medical science for four and one-half years devoted itself to putting men on the firing line and keeping them there. Now it must turn with its whole might to combating the greatest enemy of all--infectious disease." (Journal of American Medical Association, Dec 1918) Soldiers from around the world were returning home at the end of 1918 after going through the deadliest war in human history. Nearly 16 million lives were lost as a result of this four year conflict and everyone, on both sides, was overwhelmed with too much death. Sadly as they returned home hoping for peace all they were to find was more death, in fact more than the entire Great War ever produced. A modern day British team of researchers believed they have nailed down the source of the virus to a military hospital in Etaples, France in 1917. From there the virus easily spread through the ranks of different military groups from around the world who transported the virus back to their home countries when returning from war. Since newspapers in Europe and the United States had been reporting death and destruction for years they were hesitant to report the initial death tolls of the flu. However in Spain the papers freely published how the flu was effecting their people which gave way to the pandemic being deemed the "Spanish Flu." The first cases of the virus in the United States have been traced back to Haskell County, Kansas in January 1918, within only a matter of months the virus had made it to New York City. The virus affected the United States so badly that the life expectancy of the average individual dropped by nearly 10 years. What made this influenza pandemic unique to all others before and since was who was affected by it. Typically the first and only casualties during flu epidemics were children and the elderly, those with weaker immune systems, however the Spanish Flu did the opposite. The greatest amount of deaths were seen by those between the ages of 20-40, healthier individuals. To this day no one completely understands why this occurred. There is so much history and so many books dedicated to this flu pandemic that killed nearly 50 million people, close to 3% of the worlds population. I encourage you, if your interest in this pandemic is peaked, to check out and check out their twitter account @1918FluArchive. 

5) The Asian Flu of 1957 - As this flu outbreak began many recognized that a pandemic was possible because of how devastating it was to those over the age of 65. Based on the name alone it's clear that the virus found its origins in Asia. Overlooked by many in the government and the medical profession Dr. Maurice Hilleman, a microbiologist at Walter Reed Hospital, played a crucial role in preventing the Asian Flu from doing extensive damage here in the United States. Watch this clip on the History of Vaccines website and hear Dr Hilleman explain how he discovered that a pandemic was coming. Although the vaccine was only available in limited supply by the end of 1957, his quick action probably saved hundreds if not thousands of lives. As Hilleman predicted the virus found its path in the United States when children returned to school. It spread so rapidly that health officials saw little need to quarantine individuals. Although the effect of this virus was no where close to that of 1918 outbreak it infected close to 25% of the U.S. population and killed nearly 2 million globally.   

6) The Hong Kong Flu of 1968 - Little improvement had been in made since 1957 in handling influenza epidemics. In mid-July of 1968 the first signs of the flu were spotted in Hong Kong. By the end of the month the virus popped up in Vietnam and Singapore. Over the next two months it spread to India, Australia, Europe, and the shores of California. Unlike other fast moving flu pandemics this virus had a low mortality rate. Overlooked by many around the world, the first source to break the possibility of an influenza pandemic was The Times in Great Britain. Similar to the virus seen in the 1957 outbreak where it mostly effected the elderly, it was a milder version, The death toll however still reached nearly 1 million people. Another reason many attribute a reduction in mortality rates from this pandemic than we saw in previous ones, is the vast improvements in medical care and antibiotics. 

7) The Swine Flu of 2009 - As medicine and medical treatment improved over the next 40 years the expectation that one would die from a flu virus diminished dramatically. Localized epidemics had always been reported in the media every so often however a true pandemic of influenza had thought to be impossible in this day and age. I remember this year well when the term "swine flu" spread throughout the country. The government quickly tried to get health officials to term it an H1N1 virus to prevent pork prices from bottoming out but the term stuck, if you were sick you had the swine flu. I even remember that year my mother-in-law getting very ill for a couple days and whether she officially had it or not we all kept saying that's what she had. The first flu case was reported in April of 2009. Within days the CDC was working on a vaccine and by the end of April the U.S. government declared it a public health emergency. A total of 74 countries reported being affected by the virus and the vaccine at first was in limited supply available only to those at high risk, however because of modern medical advances and the quick response of government officials the mortality rate was very low. It is estimated between 43 and 89 million people were infected globally but only around 250-500 thousand died.   

Many more influenza outbreaks occurred throughout world history and some could have arguably been added to this list yet I limited it to Simply 7. I found it interesting while looking through the various flu pandemics that the virus typically found its way from Asia in the spring time and worked its way around the world throughout the summer but the real danger began during those fall and winter months. I'm sure every few years, similar in some ways to this year, we will hear about how the flu is spreading quickly and is a danger to the public. All we can do however is pray that we never seen one like the Spanish Flu of 1918 that wiped out tens of millions of people.  
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