AN AFFRONT TO ENGLISH

The “Russian” Civil Wars 1916-1926, Jonathan D. Smele, presents a fascinating subject. But it seems written in a language that has endings for specific congregations for its verbs and with many declensions for its nouns – languages like Russian, German or Latin.

The strength of English prose is verbs, actions directing nouns. Most well-written books and articles recognize this rule. Verbs are close to subjects; no one ever loses sight of that combination, or the purpose for which noun-verb was used. If a writer likes to discourse in a sentence, go on and on for 70 – 100 -120 words, an English sentence better have parallel structures. Logic dictates it. (It’s not the logic of the language, but logic – premise, minor premise, conclusion)

In Mein Kampf the translator observes,  

…mixed metaphors are just as mixed in one language as in the other

other. A lapse of grammatical logic can occur in any language. An

English language Title might be just a redundant as the German one;…

No non-German would write such labyrinthine sentences…I have

cut down the sentences only when the length made them unintelligible

in English…

The substantives are a different matter. Here it has been necessary

to make greater changes, because in many cases the use of verbal nouns

is singly incompatible with the English language…Hitler’s piling up of

substances is bad German, but the fact remains that numerous German

writers do the same thing, while this failing is almost non-existence in

English.

…much German prose, some not of thee worst quality, around in…

useless little words: wohl, ja, denn, schon, noch, eigentlich, etc. Hitler’s

sentences are …clogged with particles, not to mention such private

favorites as besonders and damals which he strews about…needlessly.

His particles have a certain political significance, for in the petit

bourgeois mind they are, like carved furniture, an embodiment of the

home-grown German virtues, while their avoidance is viewed with

suspicion as foreign and modernistic.

[Translator’s note, Mein Kampf, Boston, Mariner Books, 1999, p. xi-xii.]

Parenthetical words and terms at the beginning of an English sentence, or at the end, or sometimes the middle indicated by the use of parentheses indicate a lack of writing skills.

Let’s observe one demonstration: 

On the contrary, the events that took place in the period from

around  1989 to 1991 and their volcanic reverberations across

the former Soviet space have very greatly enriched, necessitated

and energized historical investigations, as they have made it

unchallengeably clear that any approach to the “Russian” Civil

War that places the Red and White struggle within the matrix too

starkly in its foreground is missing the point.

[Smele, The “Russian” Civil War 1916-1926, N.Y. Oxford, 2017, p. 6]

There’s a lot to chew on in that one sentence. The following sentences present a lot of gristle and fat, also. I noted this sentence was in the INTRODUCTION, and believed getting to Chapter One would break up and provide good sailing.

Alas, the first sentence of Chapter One reads, 

Despite what has already been noted above, the is also a very

strong case for the dating of outbreak of the “Russian” Civil War

on the extensive anti-Russian uprising in Central Asia during the

summer of 1916, as a large number of the tsar’s Muslim subjects,

in a rebellion that anticipated the Basmachi movement, resisted

the forced mobilization into labor battalions to serve the Russian

army and the armaments industry (although this was the most

overt assault on local sensibilities that had been repeatedly

affronted by the waves of non-Muslim settlers that had been moving

into the region for a half century.)

[IBID, p. 17.]

Note the hesitancy to tell anything in the text which is further emphasized by the third sentence of that same paragraph beginning with Moreover and goes on for 100 words or so; the last sentence begins with Thus. Blue pencil it all! Also note, the book defines the Busmachi movement as a term for Muslim bandits during Soviet times. This sentence attempts to expand and explain incidences in the nineteenth century as well as those occurring, perhaps at late as 1980.

The usual manner of writing history or even fiction is for a non-writer to write chronologically. This writer decides to put a flashback into parentheses while using Soviet terms indicating more recent events. The outcome is a whole series of unexplained events of one hundred fifty years.

I wanted to learn of the “Russian” Civil War, its battles, the philosophy, its politics, and how its effects might survive today. But reading such diversion makes the story overly complicated, suggests portions of that war arose from local circumstances, and demonstrates the historian does not have a the big picture in his head clearly. He could not communicate much. The writing reminded me of translator’s note from Mein Kampf.  

P.S. One way Hermann Boell was taught to write was editing Mein Kampf, editing to a third of its length. The text was readable. I believe The “Russian” Civil War could benefit from the same treatment and be vastly improved.

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THE SPANISH-AMERICAN FRONTIER; THE MISSISSIPPI QUESTION, 1783-1803

By Arthur Preston Whitaker

The historian, Arthur Whitaker, was an eminent fellow who wrote diplomatic and foreign relations history simply and well. He researched in Spain before the Spanish Civil War and next published these two volumes 80-90 years ago.

What are the stories? Governments of Spain, the United States, France and Britain all tried to exert influence and control west of the Appalachians. The targets were native Americans, who didn’t like any of the Europeans, and emigrants from the eastern States coming into the Ohio and the Tennessee Valleys. They wanted to use the Mississippi River to the sea. Movers and shakers were land spectators, commercial sharks and politicians, somewhat represented by John Wilkerson, US Army Brigadier General who negotiated with the Spanish to bring Kentucky under Spanish rule, had a Spanish pension (mostly unpaid), and had other intrigues with Spanish authorities in New Orleans. Wilkerson, of course, had been a friend of Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War.

Having no rules and less law and order west of the Appalachians between 1783-1803 was a boon to many, one being William Clark, brother of George Rogers Clark, Revolutionary War hero. Clark intrigued, tried to push the Spanish out, had a military unit, fought Native Americans in private wars, speculated in land and complained to the Spanish that the natives were restless. After the Louisiana Purchase (1803) he went west with Meriwether Lewis and came back to become governor of the Missouri Territory. Later he was Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Incidentally, having connived and intrigued for 20 years James Wilkerson survived the 1807 Treason Trial of Aaron Burr; with a few wrinkles he kept offices and rank.

The story begun in these books tell of New York interests, involving Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. They were good friends, having vibrant conversations, dining together and partying. Hamilton’s fingerprints are all over plans and intrigues involving British-American plots to diminish Spanish contacts and push Spain from North America. Hamilton and Burr likely talked much about west of the Appalachian intrigues and filibustering. After 1804 Burr continued those activities but not enough to constitute treason. Note, at some time Aaron Burr moved his personal papers to North Carolina, a staging area for a move west. Americans now know of these papers because Burr has few: They were lost at sea along with the ship and Burr’s daughter.

Whatever happened west of the Appalachians involving Burr and Hamilton, was further obscured by The Louisiana Purchase, Burr killing Hamilton in a dual (1804) and the Burr Treason Trial judged by John Marshall(1807).

More history needs researching, but these two volumes provide a solid foundation on which to begin. 

NEW MARTHA MITCHELL

Remember the old Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell? She not related to Margaret or to Andrea. She was nicknamed, Mouth of the South, and forcibly sedated by a shrink. While intoxicated on something himself, Nixon said she had a drinking problem. 

The new Martha Mitchell is Ginni Thomas, wife of Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court. 

Ginni believes she can scold persons who she disagrees with using Twitter-like words. It is Twitter when the writer writes “u” rather than “you,” and uses words that comprise incomplete sentences.

Ginni wrote: “To all the kids that walked out of school to protest guns. Those are the shoes of Jews that gave up their firearms to Hitler. They were led into gas chambers, murdered and buried in mass graves. Pick up a history book and you’ll realize what happens when u give up freedoms and why we have them.” (From The Hill website.)

Also from The Hill website Ginni rants, “I want the old regular America back,…MINUS left’s awful tactics.”

First Issue: Is this how Clarence Thomas wants to be represented? It detracts from the dignity and the serenity of the Supreme Court. It suggests on any Second Amendment issue, Clarence Thomas has already made up his mind and is forcibly influenced by an intimate voice. He should disqualify himself from those deliberations and any Court opinion. It supports the inference that if Clarence Thomas does not recuse himself, he has not fulfilled his oath of office: He is not servicing “in good behavior.”

Second Issue: Americans can expect anyone writing about Constitutional issues and politics to discuss the issues using rational means, unlike an angry Don Trump tweet. Perhaps Ginni Thomas knows her audience and apparently like herself, she knows the full extent of the attention span: State what is needed in 25 words or less. Framers of the Constitution, except Luther Martin, had longer attention spans than 25 words. No one arguing about the Bill of Rights in Congress in August, 1789, would listen to Ginni. 

Third Issue: Ginni urges gun protestors to read and learn history. That is commendable. But what of her history?

Ginni is ignorant. No one in Europe except the Swiss, had customs and statutory policies [not Constitutional Rules],  about owning and using firearms. Neither Jews nor anyone else had access to firearms. No one gave up firearms and next were marched into concentration camps. Where most of the Jewish victims of the camps came from – Central and Eastern Europe – there were no rights to bear arms.

Would the Holocaust have happened in a state where everyone could obtain firearms is a consideration which is off-point. It the German “left” had arms, would they have begun a Civil War to stave off Hitler? That’s a “what if” question. Note in Iraq Saddam Hussein let Iraqis bear arms, yet they lived under a “brutal” dictatorship.

What is the history in the old regular America of the 1960s. Eldridge Cleaver called for responses from “armed mad N—–s.” I don’t know how Ginni balances things because Cleaver was on the “left,” but he favored using firearms.

Also in the history of the old regular America were the right to bear arms and using them to kill political persons, “the left.” For instance within the life of Clarence Thomas, the Civil Rights Movement lost two notable figures Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King along with others trying to gain rights under the United States Constitution.   

Is is unfair to infer that the rant from Ginni Thomas suggests, Guys with guns have a right to kill everyone on “the left?” 

It is unlikely Ginni Thomas wants to leave that impression, but who knows? Her powers of communication must amplify beyond the 25 words-or-less audience.

Go back to Jim Crow days, does the old regular America include the times when some African Americans used guns to threaten whites and the KKK? Books have been written, but apparently unread and not considered.

“I want the old regular America back…MINUS the left’s awful tactics.” Does that support the America favored by Roy Moore, who believed everything in America was good and fine, when America had slavery, before the Thirteenth Amendment?

Fourth Issue: There is vehemence and hate in Ginni Thomas’s statements. During Bob Dole’s concession speech after the 1996 election results became public, he was interrupted by someone in the audience calling Bill Clinton “an enemy.” Dole corrected that voice: Bill Clinton was my opponent, not my enemy. Curiously, one can write derogatorily and humorously about an opponent, but that writing is very difficult against an enemy.

I grew up in a Conservative community and most of the people were ignorant and dull. I next went to Berkeley where the students and residents were ignorant, excitable and drugged. I learned along the way the all Americans must learn how to express themselves and support social and political positions beyond slogans, advertising or otherwise. (See Mein Kampf for political usefulness of slogans.) Americans are beyond Hitler and beyond the old regular America, unless they resort to homilies, slogans, chants, cheers, bromides, mottos and shibboleths. 

As Americans we must do better. Don’t wait for your opponents to steal a base or get a leg up. Do better now!   

EMPIRE OF LIBERTY

By Gordon Wood

The chapters and passages in Empire of Liberty about unpolitical, business affairs, social events and participating individuals are the strongest: Education, the arts, society, sociologies and cultural anthropologies of business, and the general thinking of Americans and their temper and mood. On that score the book is invaluable.

Exposition about the government, politics and the men is flawed. I observe in one Amazon criticism, the commentator states the book is episodic. To describe business and social activities, arrangements and the men by episode can make an accurate presentation. The actions and the individuals are usually isolated from one another.

Telling of national politics and the men in episodes tells nothing, no story and little about the men and the issues that were changing. This approach weakens Empire. These men – Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington and others – knew one another well. They acted and reacted, playing games against strengths and weaknesses of the others. Madison excelled at the game playing. He set things up, stepped back and watched.

He may have been the Father of the Constitution, and the Father of American Politics and the Father of the Bill of Rights, but for eight years 1815-1823, there was little or no political opposition in the United States. That was Madison.

All historians, political scientists and others rely on Madison’s Notes of the Constitutional Convention, 1787. Yet in 1789 and after when Madison was in Congress guiding Revenue Bills though, establishing Cabinet offices, advancing the Bill of Rights, setting the Capital site, working on the debt, Empire inaccurately describes the proceedings and a culminating result in the Grand Compromise of 1790. No one believes or relies on Madison. Empire is remiss in this omission.

Consider corporations [Charters of Incorporation], an issue of 1791. The American colonial experience was the king’s granting charters, thereby setting up monopolies. The East India Company of Tea Party fame was one such entity. Americans disfavored corporations. When Madison proposed during the Constitutional Convention to give Congress the power to grant charters(1787), it was rejected.

Empire presents the impression that charters of incorporation were well know and working in America. Its view is anachronistic, using law and facts of the 1880s. Two excellent attorneys/justices of the early Republic, James Wilson and John Marshall, dismissed the business form in the 1790s. A real go at incorporation was made by John Jacob Astor in 1807; it does not resemble anything presented in Empire. (See David Lavender, Fist In The Wilderness) [Note Abraham Lincoln studying law in Illinois during the 1830s found the corporate form new and interesting,
(David Herbert Donald, Lincoln)]

Note in Empire the text relies on the Dartmouth case (1819), 30 years after the first Congress. Chief Justice Marshall wrote the opinion but did not discuss the power to incorporate, or who had it. He interpreted the law, documents and contracts, and the Constitution.

Other errors in Empire suggest the author did not research and write the text, or he was exceedingly careless.
Page 446. George Mason, according to Madison’s Notes of the Constitutional Convention, 1787, said almost nothing during debates. He did not favor the Council of Revision; James Wilson and James Madison vociferously supported this issue and suffered repeated defeats. George Mason wanted a Council of the Executive like the one existing in Virginia, to control the Governor. Mason had written the Virginia Constitution. At the national level such a Council would control the President.
After William Haller’s books about Puritanism, no historian should ever call anyone in New England a Calvinist, a European term. In Empire the text does. However, the text reveals Presbyterians and Independents (Cromwell’s sect) in the Dartmouth case. (Pilgrims were separatists.) Almost everyone else in the settling of New England was an Independent, to become known in the eighteenth century as Congregationalists.
Misquotes misrepresent Jefferson and Madison’s opinions of the Constitution. Empire uses early quotes. Both men evolved in their thinking, leaving earlier opinions, like Hamilton’s statements, historical additives and eccentricities. Indeed both Jefferson and Madison were willing to use precedent to sidestep Constitutional rigors. During the legislation and ratification of the Louisiana Purchase (1803), Rufus King wondered how they could change governmental power defined by the Constitution by using the Treaty Power. Jefferson and Madison merely used the same processes employed by the Federalists when they passed the Jay Treaty(1796). The same procedures were used at the end of the Mexican-American war (1848).
John Taylor of Caroline County (Virginia) is misrepresented. He is hardly the philosopher of the Republican Party. He had a father figure who lived close by, Edmund Pendleton, perhaps the best judge of the eighteenth century English world. Pendleton was known, respected and loved by everyone – Henry, Washington, Jefferson, Marshall. He was a confident of Madison’s. How prominent was Pendleton, other than being on Virginia’s highest court? In 1765 after it was discovered that John Robinson, Speaker of the House of Burgesses, had embezzled public funds, mostly giving the money to prominent Virginians, Pendleton undertook the task of getting the money back. By 1803 the job was not complete; he died. He left the work to John Marshall. In 1798 Pendleton published in newspapers a letter critical of President Adams, his administration and the Federalists. No one came down the lane to arrest Pendleton for violation of the Sedition Act. This is all to say that at best, John Taylor was a puppet for the men (Pendleton and Madison) pulling the strings in the backroom.
It is anachronistic as Empire does to view “null and void” as Southerners did in 1830-1865. Jefferson’s draft of the Kentucky Resolutions, originally intended for North Carolina, was greatly changed by Wilson Cary Nicholas and the Kentucky Legislature. Jefferson proposed Committees of Correspondence in each state to communicate and to react to the Alien and Sedition Acts. (1798) What did Jefferson mean by “null and void?” He likely relied on the same definition used by that infamous radical/revolutionary, James Otis of Massachusetts (1764): “As the Acts of Parliament, An Act against the Constitution is void: An Act against natural Equity, it should be void; and if the Act of Parliament be made, in the very words of the Petition, it should be void.” The word, null, has no legal impact without its mate void.
P. 184. Empire praises Hamilton’s Pacificus essays, but they are difficult to defend. Facts deleted from Empire manifest Madison’s response (Helvidius Essays) destroyed Hamilton’s essays by citing The Federalist Papers, written by Hamilton, against assertions Pacificus.

Other issues of error and misrepresentation appear in Empire. One chapter is a mundane discussion of points of Judicial Review, a power given the Courts by the sovereign. In the 1780s Massachusetts abolished slavery within the state by Judicial Review (opinion and judgment). In Virginia the Court of Blair, Wythe, and Pendleton accepted the power; it was taught in law courses. John Marshall grew up knowing it, read the Constitution and participated in the Virginia Convention (1788). He further discussed all legal issues with Madison and Pendleton and others and was influenced long before the opinions of Marbury vs. Madison and other cases.

Err in Empire of Liberty distorts the politics and the economics, and a complete view of the 1789-1815 period; each wrong has not been set forth. In Empire men of the Early Republic are unknown to one another. Legislation and proposals are isolated and presented as surprises, oddities and ineffective efforts to accomplish their purposes. No man was correct all the time, but the sense that Hamilton is correct, is wrong. e.g. He was instrumental in his party’s loss in the election of 1800, once again those facts being omitted from Empire.

A PILE OF BOOKS

Having a neglected pile of books to read, I wondered how to get through them. Each appeared interesting. They came cheaply, purchased one at a time but most all at once. Libraries have shelves of donated books they want to pass on. Likewise there were grocery bags of books costing one dollar at the bag sales at library book sales – the first time in history books were cheaper than the shopping bags they were carried away in.

So how did each book of the pile read? Perhaps I was correct in stacking the books:

John LeCarre, A Small Town in Germany. At the beginning he insists on long descriptions of the town. How does the scenery advance the espionage story?

2. John Dos Passos, Big Money. The author tried to tell how people made their way in careers in an advancing economy while presenting the worst dialogue – non-directional, cumbersome and unrelated to the story. I give it 170 pages.

3. Anson’s Voyage Around the World 1740-1744. The Introduction was of interest, filled with appalling facts: Ships left England with mostly old men who were sick. About 950 mens set off from England and by the South Atlantic 370 men were left. Not all of the 370 were fit for duty aboard the ships. However, the diary is written in an eighteenth century fashion by more than one author, each writing formally and stiltedly.
I’ve read of similar journeys. I don’t have to struggle through Anson’s. I passed on the diary.

4. Thurber and White, Is Sex Necessary? This text was likely enlivening in 1929. Now it is dated.

5. George Kennen, The Decline of Bismarck’s European Order and The Fateful Alliance. Each book appeared unread when purchased. I’ve read about each subject in excellent academic produced histories. How did old George do? He is pompous and verbose. His English is truly bloated. Sentences are unnecessarily long and convoluted.

6. Norman Thrower, Maps and Civilization. This is another academic book written in the vernacular of its subject matter. Small print. It appeared involved and complicated, requiring looking up words in dictionaries. Disclosures about maps and civilization shall remain hidden.

7. H.G. Wells, Journalism and Prophecy, is disappointing. I am not fan of the author’s science fiction work. I do not hold him in awe. Meetings with Hitler, Stalin and Lenin reveal H.G. Wells was completely uninformed and ignorant. In articles that should be written as essays, H.G. writes in the narrative. It is the best illustration about the folly and fallaciousness in the use of the pronoun, I – except for the Tweeting I abilities of Don Trump.

8. Chapelle, The American Sailing Navy, describes sailing ships used in eighteenth century wars and commerce. There is much about ship and sail design and the history of ships. There is little about the functional fighting qualities of each ship. I gave the book about 320 pages. From the number of American ships captured or sunk, i am surprised there was any early Navy at all!
Unless one is intensely interested in sailing ships and their design and builders – minute and large changes – this is not a book for the average reader.

9. Tate, Stonewall Jackson. This appears one of the lovingly biographies written by a Southerner during the 1920s. It is about a revered Southern Civil War general. Every word is a compliment. I recognized it as such and passed.

10. Leonard Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, a small print book telling of the establishment of the Mormon Church in and around Utah. It looked unopened and unread when I picked it up. Perhaps I am lazy, wanting nothing physically challenging to read. The small print covering the pages was daunting. I put it down.

PRETTY FLOWER, BAD BOOK

TULIPMANIA

Mark Dash

At best this is a book of anecdotes involving tulips, where they came from, prized possessions in the early Ottoman Empire, becoming known in Western Europe, etc. The last 120 pages deal with Holland. Chapter 14, Goddess of Whores, tells about the cultural effects in Holland of the flower. Separating that chapter, the book reveals it is arranged as a subject history of the years 1620-1640, while the tulip boom and bust occurred. Yet there is no mention of the Thirty Years War raging in Middle Europe, a war involving the Dutch and ended with them getting their independence in 1648.

It is never fully explained why tulips only had the boom and bust in Holland – not in Germany, not in France, not in England, not in the regions we know as Luxembourg and Belgium. Found in the middle of the book is text stating that the rules of order and regulation, then existing in Dutch markets, did not govern; most of the tulip traders were amateurs. Yet many of the people were wealthy or well-off. How was trading? Many deals were barter. There is no description of the barter economy in seventeenth century Holland. Where there advantages of bartering rather than using cash? E.g. there were no notifications, no license fees, no property exchange fees, no taxes. No one knows because the text is thin and supercilious.

Also undeveloped is the idea that tulip trading was not done by persons educated and trained in markets. There are suggestions about how the ignorant set up markets, but there is no market analysis. In Holland what were the social effects of someone winning with tulips? Was he or his family accepted as rich. A reviewer noted the book tells about greed, but only in a societal sense: Everyone was greedy – not this person was greedy. The mere fact that an individual speculates does not mean he is greedy. Finally, there is no satisfactory, coherent telling of the effect of tulip mania in Holland.

IF BY SEA

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.

POLITICAL GAINS

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.

THE LINCOLN BOYS – JOSHUA ZEITZ

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.

WRITING DEAD

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.