By George C. Daughan

This book tells of sea and lake battles and other activities of the United States Navy through 1815. The best chapters are of navel efforts during the American Revolutionary War. The author mentions but lacks detail about the ships and the weaponry: American ships were better constructed, why? They carried more cannons, and had better cannons than the British, French or Spanish. He also mentioned that the American sailor was well treated, although that policy did not last. (See Two Years Before the Mast)

The book is woefully short when it enters the fields of finance and politics. The author’s reading of sources after 1789 is painfully incomplete. The United States had a huge debt which all the country wanted to pay or remove; Hamilton’s initial effort to make all debt obligations of the federal govcrnment – like what happened after 2008 – failed. The Great Compromise of 1790 is partially relayed.

The author overlooks Hamilton’s close relationship with a British espionage agent, Colonel Beckwith. He laments that Madison and Jefferson (Republicans) wanted to set and follow Constitutional rules and procedures. In 1795 Hamilton arranged for John Jay to negotiate the Jay Treaty (about trade) with Britain, yet Hamilton later called Jay “an old woman” for delivering such a lame treaty. The author also seems to approve of the Alien and Sedition Acts, despite the direct conflict with the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Much of what John Adams did as President is approved, although he was away from the seat of government for two years. Adams began building frigates, yet when war came 15 years later, those ships were bottled up in harbors or defeated on the seas, just as the Republicans said would happen during any war with the British. Adams did successfully negotiate a peace treaty with the French (1800).

In the meanwhile throughout Adam’s administration, Hamilton was a war monger. He wanted to lead American forces to remove French and Spanish rule from North America with British backing. No American wanted that: Too much debt; too much military and war; too British – no American wanted the British close to American borders. Americans did not want to resume a political relationship with the British. Hamilton failed in his military ventures by 1800, and later that year he accused Adams of incompetence. [ Note that Aaron Burr took the plans of his good friend, Hamilton, and tried to make them work. He was accused of treason and put on trial, 1807.]

The Republicans willingness to favor peace and not increase the Navy or to finance campaigns left the waters calm. Diplomacy worked during the peace. The United States seemed a pacific nation. Napolean likely believed he would sell Louisiana to America and in the future reconquer it. For the price of the military budget for less than 20 years, the Republicans bought Louisiana and doubled the size of the country. The author of If By Sea pooh-poohs this second greatest accomplishment by American diplomats. Even Hamilton approved, and American finances did withstand the increase of debt.

The author is entirely correct that the Embargo of 1807 was ineffective and likely the wrong policy. As happens embargos were used and threatened (1794), and they were widely and popularly supported before and during the American Revolution. (see histories by T.H. Breen) There is no mention of this historical context in If By Sea, and the applicability of the policy, earlier, and other effects later.

A primary fact which allowed Americans to prevail on America’s lakes during the War of 1812 was the British blockade. American shipping was at a standstill; no ships in, or out. Sailors went to the lakes. On the other hand the British were far from the ocean up a river frozen for half the year. They did not their Navy ships and sailors trapped, so the British were using trappers, farmers and fur traders as sailors. If the war had lasted into 1815, the British would have had a difficult time on the lakes.


Shared experience is a common idea flowing through American history. People came together originally first as a military force, next as a political force, followed by economic forces and understanding and tolerating social forces, all reflected during events of the eighteenth century. Before the French Indian War, 1754-1763; social/economic and political protests until 1775; the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783; and the Constitutional period, 1783-1789.

[Rather than] assume the existence of political collectives, {this book] asks
how such a diverse population generated a sense of trust sufficient to sustain
colonial rebellion. It explores how a very large number of ordinary
Americans came to the striking conclusion that it was preferable to risk
their lives and property against a powerful British armed force than to
endure further political opposition.
Mobilization on this level did not come easy. Neither luck nor providence
had much to do with the story. Over a decade of continuous experimentation,
American colonists discovered a means to communicate aspirations and
grievances to each other through a language of shared experience.
(p. Xlll, T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution, New York, Oxford, 2004)

It came to pass that during the Sixties provided a language of shared experience. Many youth and some older Americans understood the vocabulary. Shared experience and the language were the primary strengths of the time; the political opposition was weak or inept.

But unlike 200 years earlier there was no discipline; there was no overbearing common enemy or foe; there was no trust especially among the educated students and hangers-on. Issues such as diet – brown rice or purely vegan – separated individuals. Music became very segregated – not just Motown but Heavy Metal, rock and roll and women’s music. Economic Boycotts: Coca-Cola and God knows what else. No one could trust anyone who did not believe exactly in the perfect filtered life. People could do their own thing; they just could not do anything that wasn’t sanctioned or approved. 
And each so-called leader was a “miraculous character…the sort of brilliant leader not seen for a very long time.” (Ibid, p. 9)

The primary difference between general revolutionary circumstances 200 years earlier, and the 1960s were individual Americans were economically secure in the Twentieth Century. Name recognition mean commercial opportunities – speaking fees, books, lectures, panels, TV appearances, advisory positions e.g. Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin. Most of those people began their commercial roll while trying to motivate Americans to revolution: Tom Hayden wrote two or three books during the 1960s; David Horowitz kept apace with his writing plus magazine work. No one in the 1760s or 1770s were participating to make a name or money.

Neither man was capable of writing anything authoritative or definitive. Each would have to be honest. They were street leaders, plotters, protest-arrangers and in some cases drug suppliers. In essence they filled the sorts of role that Samuel Adams had 200 years earlier. But after Independence and a successful war, Sam Adams was neglected. Other people wrote books, pamphlets and newspaper articles.

At the demise of the Sixties not many people could write about the decade: There were too many insights and sights, too many odd people, too many influences intense or disturbing, and as the decade lengthened many events crashed into the younger generation. The so-called leaders lost control. No one could capture it all for one city, for a region, or a decade.

Americans are left with TH Breen’s The Marketplace of the Revolution, an excellent book about the political staging of the colonists before the American Revolutionary War. It seems natural that the war did not solve political problems between and among the thirteen states. After the War Americans acted appropriately and properly.

But the language of the shared experience from the Sixties, left Americans with people purportedly writing memoirs, and most of those are not pretty. No one tells much truth in an memoir or in an autobiography. But don’t mind the liar. Don’t mind the whiner. Don’t mind the writer aggrandizing himself: I was a hero at this event. I spoke last. I turned the tide against the pigs during that riot. It’s all entertainment. Hope you enjoyed it, because I was able to propagate the myths and make the buck.


This is not an easy book to write. In its telling this book suffers from sets of styles (different voices) imposed by the text. There is biography (A. Lincoln, John Hay, John Nicolay, Robert Lincoln).

Next comes autobiography. Maintaining the voice of Hay and Nicolay in the third person, the text becomes a memoir. What was it for each of them to write a biography? How do either of them write? How did either of them write differently? In short texts most writers ignore these personal voices when writing or they incorporate them into the text, and no one knows better. However, the author here tried at the beginning to keep everything separated.

There is a shift from biography when writers put together the story of the documents, events, people involved and other biographers. It becomes more so evident when the text becomes historical. In a short passage Our Ideal Hero Chapter, Zeitz efficiently tells of literary and social efforts to return the South to the United States. He adroitly puts together many of the same facts Mark Twain viewed before writing Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi.

Keeping everything distinguishable, clear and fluid was a challenge for this author. I read hoping everything would be in place. Other than for money I do not know why Nicolay and Hay wrote the Lincoln biography. The writing process for both Hay and Nicolay (the autobiography) was shortchanged.

Why write a ten volume biography of Lincoln? Trying to establish the image of Abraham Lincoln for posterity – was a public relations campaign needed? It might be argued that Lincoln could never be buried. The future of the man was set in stone when he was assassinated: Leader – President who took us through the War – Counseled moderation and a warm embrace to the South without slavery. And next, survivors and posterity discovered speeches to chisel into stone, incredible words. The Gettysburg Address may be the best speech of the century, unless it is superseded by an Inaugural Address.

Without the ten volume biography what might Lincoln’s image have become? Frivolous, goofball and irrelevant as some writers treat it today: Lincoln was a quiet lady’s man, manic-depressive, cold and some say, gay. It is likely that Americans will let these quacks polish their views as much as they can. But Lincoln tells Americans more about themselves, to a human being, than any one has communicated to the country and its people since his death.


Another participant on WordPress, Dan Altorre, has wondered and ask why Walking Dead has any audience at all. His blog was posted. I read it, and wrote. Rather than comment on his short blog and the shorter comments, I’ve decided to post my comments.

I can’t believe there is any attraction of zombies who are bipedal and sometimes kill people (kill because that’s what zombies do). Amongst those people zombie hunters want to live a norm life of a 1950s sit-com, perfect if the zombies weren’t around. It is pure dualism, us versus them, the most elementary of messages.

Perhaps, but unlikely normal viewers, can rid the world of all the dead and bad people, like Wyatt Earp did. Do everything that can’t be done. Shoot them; knife them; toss them off cliffs. Essentially Walking Dead scripts are easy to understand, written to soap opera standards. Toss in cliches to bring emotion for the fore. If you got caught up watching the Soaps as a kid, you’re ready to join the Walking Dead audience. This is real formula: On page 30 of the script is a “turning point.” On page 38 there is a crisis of character.” Sadly the whole world knows what is going on, except ME.

Other than the soap opera aspects, death in Walking Dead is carved into our brains just like it’s part of the TV news. Killing Zombies relieves us of shock value as statistics of real killings of human beings mount. Zombie may take the place of the boogie-man like Don Trump. The whole world is watching. Human traits of empathy and grief become less meaningful and in the end are a waste of time.

These mind sets are detrimental to the rainbow society everyone likes to advertise. In history, countries, societies and cultures have lived through eras of death. In the last century pre-World War Two Japan was such a place. Life and human existence became cheap; Japanese generals sacrificed soldiers and sailors and civilians. That trait of the Japanese is no longer part of that vibrant country and its people.

I do not understand the lure of Walking Dead. It is not supported by any of the world’s major religions. It is neither penetrating and deep, psychologically or philosophically. Its substance can be mastered in an afternoon’s reading to learn all the nuances of zombies, the undead, vampires and other violent imaginary characters. It is probably this last point which makes Walking Dead a primary attraction.

P.S. This explains why audience members have learned Klingon but don’t know a speck of Spanish. Why people use Friends to support lifestyle choices, but are always running out of money. Why living on a desert island is a drag because there is no professor and no Internet.









This is a very readable book about diverse subjects who have very little substance. I wanted to learn about pirates who have been characterized in history, by Walt Disney, in cartoons and in art. I read this book, and I learned what happened to them and what happened to the people who put an end to them.

Pirate society, however, is not a republic.. It is similar to a mafia or an organized crime syndicate: get money by anyway possible, generally release the victims so they will go off and work to get more money and property, drink to incapacity every day, rape and otherwise be included in a society of men seeking spontaneity, caprice and ease. Sociologically, pirate society was similar to cults; it has elements of male dominated philosophies and societies which appeared in twentieth century countries where mass-murder was accepted (Germany, Cambodia and Rwanda).

A full analysis of the sociology is likely impossible. There are too few historical sources; projecting modern theories into the Seventieth Century seems impossible.

Despite these shortcomings this book is enjoyably informative. One thing it tells the modern reader is the world of the past was not settled and peaceful. There were murderers, rapists and robbers then. But there were also unusually modern situations which may never be found in any university history. The footnote on page 98 would enliven any book, although I don’t know what it has to do with pirates:

Young Sarah Walker (1700-1731) would eventually marry William Fairfax, for
whom Fairfax County, Virginia is named. Her daughter, Anne, was George
Washington’s mistress, a particularly awkward situation as she was married to
his brother, Lawrence Washington. Anne’s own brother, George Fairfax, apparently
had some African features; he suffered humiliation during a childhood visit to
England when his paternal relatives began speculating aloud as to whether his skin
would turn black at puberty.


GOD’S ENGLISHMAN, Christopher Hill

Normally, I would not review or comment about this excellent biography. Oliver Cromwell is nearly four centuries old. He was an excellent general who would rather use diplomacy. He had complete power less than a decade, 1649-1658). While involved in affairs of state, he contended with religions, factions of Protestantism, left and right; Catholics who he always declaimed but left alone; Jews whom he allowed to return to Britain.

Much happened while Cromwell was in power. England had no king; the government was less corrupt. Commerce expanded. Wars against the Dutch (after diplomacy failed) were commercially motivated. The court system was limited and became more independent. Universities were founded and supported. Within a decade after Cromwell’s death Isaac Newton published. The English people had a better sense of nationhood. England was respected by all nations in diplomacy and commercially.

Cromwell was unable to remove tithes; he could not expand the franchise. From the beginning of his rule, members of his army, Levelers (wanting to iron out inequities in Britain, NOW!), pressed Cromwell with their agenda which no one else supported. Knowing that the Levelers could not succeed, Cromwell promised and let time pass. England finally enlarged the franchise 170 years later, and gave the vote to all men in 1908; all women in 1928.

Cromwell had opinions about the Levelers:

“‘The expressions …are very plausible,…if we could leap out of one condition into another. But how do we know, whilst we are disputing these things, another company men shall gather together, and they shall put out a paper as plausible perhaps as this.’ What Cromwell wanted was not a perfect theoretical scheme but that that, as before the Lord, I am persuaded in my heart tends to uniting us in one to that that God will manifest to us to be the thing that he would have us prosecute. ‘It is not enough for us to propose good things, but it behooves honest men and Christians only to make proposals that they think will work. Professions of confidence were not enough. We are very apt all of us to call that faith that perhaps may be but carnal imagination and carnal reasonings.'” (p. 95, Chapter 4)

“‘I do not condemn your reasonings. I doubt them. It is easy to object to the glorified actings of God, if we look too much on instruments… How hard a thing is it to reason ourselves up to the Lord’s service, though it be so honorable, how easy to put ourselves out of it, when the flesh has so many advantages….’ [C]onfidence in the Cuase enabled [Cromwell] to transcend mere human reasonings. Such reasonings, where God is concerned, may miss the main point.”(page 245, Chapter 9)

A politician trying to meet religious criteria while deciding problems and handling persons is distracted. Religion sometimes becomes a crutch, a diversion, an excuse not to know and understand a problem and reason through it but to avoid responsibility. Seventeenth century Britons were mired in religion. Twenty-first century Americans should reject it.


This excellent book recounts anti-War and anti-establishment activities at the University of Wisconsin (`1965-1971), including the bombing of the Army-Math building on campus causing one death and five severe injuries. They used a fertilizer bomb costing less than $100.00 packed into an Econoline Van. It was a smaller version of the Oklahoma City bomb in 1995. Divisions of various academic subjects were destroyed including decades of work in physics, mathematics and in other disciplines unrelated to Army Math. Army Math which dealt with a bunch of transitory subjects was inconvenienced.

An amazing fact was the location of Army Math in a building on campus. There had been protests and riots, some close to the building. Yet, there was no security, except a guard with a time clock. The building was a convenient open target.

The individuals made unrelated events the basis for the bombing in August 1970. The individuals and friends were moronic; no one broke any IQ records. Within 24 hours of the bombing law enforcement had the names and identities of the four suspect. The FBI’s arrogant attitude screwed up immediate arrests which led to manhunts which brought three bombers to trial. It is postulated the fourth bomber was a police informant who either did or did not alert anyone about the bombing. Either decision he made plus the bombing of the building was a death sentence for the fourth bomber.

The three remaining bombers were pleasant, not threatening, socially capable and able to light a joint, take a suitable toke and graciously pass on the remainder before it became a roach. That may have been their most admirable social quality. Intellectually, they knew Castro was in Cuba, Che was bleeding somewhere, Ho had something to do with Vietnam, and Mao was good on Sandwiches. These sorts of persons were par for the course in leftist, youth, culture and riots. No one else in their right mind would suck in that much tear gas and pepper fog emissions.

For good reason the book lacks discussion of a theoretical basis for the bombing. Instead it presents a robotic quality of the trio. These people did not read, ponder, conceptualize, intellectualize theory and discuss it. They heard a cliché and but it into action. These bombers were incapable of doing otherwise. Many Leftists like to supply the theoretical basis which never existed. No one could ever explain why it was reasonable to get the little people, ants, greasers, women and stooges to act.

On a personal note the book returned me to attitudes I once had. Exchange glances with someone, and have a gut reaction: Do I trust that person? NO. I would not trust any of this trio, and certainly none of the leaders who preached hatred, violence and death.

There are reactions to facts in the book. Page 101, “police provocateurs” in Chicago were dressed in “Al Capone suits.” Page 239, meal of “vegetables and brown rice.” In Berkeley add bean sprouts and wonder why more of the boomer generation did not die of arsenic poisoning (the rice) and salmonella poisoning (bean sprouts). Page 220, First Earth Day in Berkeley was set [and upset] on April 22(23?) 1970, not April 18, 1970.

Page 138, Fred Hampton, Black Panther killed in Chicago, December 1969, “denounced the Weathermen as ‘anti-people.'” Hampton agreed with SI Hiwakawa who said, “I can talk to the Black militants; they want to get something done.” It was the white radicals were wanted to destroy everything.

Page 131. “Affinity groups.” In a riot five to seven people would move and act as a unit; they would care and look out for one another. Later in Rads the cops began using “anti-affinity” groups.

My first year at Berkeley I was surrounded by 30 days of street rioting. Occasionally I participated, but usually I was just passing through – going to and from class or appointments. I saw friends and acquaintances in the action. Carrying a book meant I was a non-participant. I have never heard of an “affinity group” until reading Rads.

Page 407. “The visitors reminded [Tom] Hayden of his previous support for Karl [one of the bombers], and for a moment he weakened. “Don’t worry, in public I’ll back Karl to the hilt. I can’t let Jane say anything though.” The “Hanoi Jane” label had become a drag on them both.”

This realization was known to Jane Fonda in the autumn of 1973. Six months before, [Spring 1973] she was in her pride and glory, being quoted about North Vietnamese treatment of American prisoners of war: “Walking through the streets of Hanoi with their heads bowed in front of a woman with a bayonet might be torture.” Daily Californian, April 12, 1973, p. 1; Berkeley Barb, April 10, 1973 for more Jane Fonda statements on the torture of American POWs. See also Holzer, Henry, Mark and Erica, Aid and Comfort: Jane Fonda in North Vietnam, McFarland & Co; Hayden, Reunion, p. 455, “Either Tom Hayden or Jane Fonda said about the time of the 1973 Peace Treaty, ‘the POWS were liars, hypocrites and pawns in Nixon’s efforts to rewrite history.'”
Continue reading


Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution

This it not a book to read all at once. Of the first 75 pages there are passages of brilliance, but discussing the nits, grits and specificities of Russian politics before World War One and during that war, Trotsky is vague, general and cliched. They are revolutionary cliches:

“The semi-annulment of serfdom and the introduction of universal military service had modernized the army only as far it is had the country – that is, it introduced into the army all the contradictions proper to a nature which still had its bourgeois revolution to accomplish.”(p. 17)

That sentence, so full of promise, is meaningless. It is followed by general omissions found in many armies – from the officer’s corp to supply to training. It should be observed the Soviet armies were as ill-equipped and misled at the beginning of World War Two as the Tsar’s armies in World War One. Trotsky’s gross generalization lacks any foundation in history, except it states the obvious: Armies are usually under supplied whether the country has had a bourgeois revolution or not.

This cliche is mean to tell readers, familiar with Trotsky, exactly what Trotsky means, but apparently no one else. Those understanding readers will accept his historical fallacies because Trotsky can always say, “I was in a real revolution.”

Such cliches aside, Trotsky has used words and derived terms which should go into the language today. Cosmopolitan Adultery referred to pre-World War One royalty and nobility, their relations and activities, not always undercover. TODAY, there are numerous individuals in entertainment, elsewhere and wherever in America and around the world to whom this term may be applied. Use it!

Meanwhile, I’ll read further in this history, but not all at once.

CAMPUS WARS – Kenneth J. Heineman

This excellent history tells of students protests, anti-war activities and divisive politics from 1963-1972 at four large public universities: Michigan State, Kent State, State University of New York at Buffalo and Penn State. The story of each institution during the Sixties is told effectively and efficiently. The book could be longer; it could be much longer. The stories at those Universities become mingled with references to events at other universities as issues become national. (Kent State killings. What was said to the family of Allison Krause after her death was as deplorable then as it is today.)

The author, Heineman, dismisses the image that anti-war protests and riots in Berkeley and on the East Coast were the most significant demonstrations against the Vietnam War. The big-named University palaces were safeguarded against the very violent tendencies and emotions at Mid-West universities, the cauldron for anti-war protests. Heineman points out further that Kent State had and resolved an issue of Free Speech in 1963 in discussions with an enlightened university administration which had read the Constitution. That was a year before Berkeley’s Free Speech movement confronted an entrenched, implacable adminstration. Heineman points out also that Kent State held the first Vietnam war symposium (teach-in) in 1964, again a year before one was held in Berkeley.

Heineman notes efforts of the FBI to get a handle on the anti-war, draft resisting protests. There was no informer, no grand conspirator and no agent provocateur leading students at the Universities onto violent paths. Instead, law enforcement would supply drugs and next arrest the possessor with drug possession. Law enforcement would interfere with banking and would make sure telephone bills were paid on time: Late: no telephone service. Late in the Sixties and early Seventies, the FBI purportedly put agents in the field posing as students. And who knew: Bill Ayers was treated carefully because his family was very wealthy.


This is the best and most complete biography of Theodore Roosevelt (TR) 1858-1886. It is a life and times book, the times include New York politics in the early 1880s (who knew they could be interesting), academic life at Harvard and the life of a mid-continent (Bad Lands) rancher. In the end TR’s energy seems inexhaustible. He has written three non-fiction books; he has been in the New York legislature fighting for reform and immersing himself in local and state politics; he has begun friendships with prominent men in other states. He is no bully himself, but he takes no gruff from anyone, fellow legislators, other ranchers and outlaws.

None of these activities are told in isolation. The book is chronological and detailed, much more so than later-published prize-winning TR biographies. Take one activity – hunting. He would travel 500-1000 miles, and each step seems conveyed to the reader in the grind of stalking and chase. TR always had an experienced man with him who was a dead shot; he himself always carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Tales of TR and Man of Experience (written 40 years later) make for informative, comparative reading. It is easy to imagine TR being a poor shot, shooting and missing, chasing and reloading and repaying the process while the experienced man accompanies. They go after grizzlies. TR presents his stories; the experienced man others. The biographer favors TR, but there is enough in the biography to judge the experienced man is correct.

[It turns out that hunting stories are like fishing stories, especially the size of the fish and the fight involved.]

Through out the activities, TR marries. He is in the New York legislature getting multiple pieces of legislation passed. He succeeds on most, but TR’s work is interrupted by a telegraph. He rushes from Albany to New York City. His wife has just given birth to his daughter but is in bad shape. Hs mother is also ill. TR arrives home, sees his wife but must rush to his mother who dies in his presence.  He returns to his wife who dies in his presence the next day. The short chapter of seven pages telling of the trip from Albany, of the deaths and of the funerals is the finest piece of fiction or non-fiction on this subject I have read: Emotions, grief, loss, despair, absence emerge forcefully.

In the 1880s Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, publicly supported a candidate. Roosevelt went after both the candidate and Davis, who took offense. Davis was an old man ready to die. He had never regretted anything he had done: Slaveholder, promoter and defender of slavery, being part of the Southern Civil War leadership, The biographer explains and jumps in taking the side of Jefferson Davis. Davis had no qualities except hate, bigotry and resentment.

In the end the biographer took those traits from Davis. The book was published in 1958 near the beginning of the well-known Civil Rights Movement activities. The biographer was a founder-executive of Delta Airlines in Atlanta. He sided with the country club set, Southern Ladies and Gentlemen trying to preserve Anglo-Saxon society. That society had already been polluted and degraded mostly by Irish and Scots-Irish, all born enemies of the Anglo-Saxons. But blacks were anathema to whites in the South. The author spoke against the Civil Rights movement.

There was no market for a volume two of TR’s biography from this author. Every word he wrote on matters of race had to gag him. [Black Jack Pershing either did or did not lead black troops during the Spanish-American War; they fought well.] The author could not accept TR’s primary position – former slaves and their decedents should advance economically.

These circumstances are unfortunate because this book reveals a talented artist who slid to the dark side and by accepting hate, bigotry and resentment, he lost the ability to be original and creative.