November 12, 2013, 2:25 pm
(Guest post! David Fitzpatrick is back, with more words of wisdom)
I am a military historian by training though my graduate coursework at the University of Michigan included a heavy dose of American history. Because I teach at a community college, however, my teaching load is heavy on the “bread and butter” U.S. history surveys while, occasionally, I teach a military history course.
The Crittenden Compromise
As almost all military historians know, it can be VERY tempting to see parallels and from them to draw prescriptive conclusions from military history (e.g., the generals in the First World War ought to have learned from the American Civil War that frontal assaults were doomed to failure). Such conclusions are, almost always, fatally flawed due to the simplicity of their analysis and for finding parallels when the contexts of those “parallel” events were wildly different.
July 1, 2013, 6:32 pm
George Will is making his usual hash of American history, this time in the service of honoring the Battle of Gettysburg. He wants to argue that Gettysburg is the most important battle in American history, a fair enough point, but the way he eliminates other candidates sometimes borders on the farcical. Saratoga, which brought the French in on the American side during the Revolution? Less important than it might seem because:
But the Revolution would have succeeded without French assistance: No distant island could govern this continent.
This completely elides the critical difference the French actually made, which was to neutralize the overwhelming British naval superiority (something that made Yorktown possible) and also to threaten the British Isles themselves. The British could survive losing naval control of the Chesapeake Bay. The English Channel? Not so much. But it also…
January 5, 2013, 1:06 am
(It’s the month for guest posts! I haven’t seen either movie, so Patrick Rael, Associate Professor of History at Bowdoin College, weighs in about Django Unchained and Lincoln).
It’s hard to imagine two films set around the Civil War that differ more than Steven Spielberg’s historical biopic Lincoln and Quentin Tarantino’s blaxploitation western Django Unchained. In the broadest sense, of course, both concern the fight against the institution of American slavery. Django Unchained personalizes the struggle through a revenge-soaked bloodfest, in which an evil slaveowner receives his just comeuppance at the hands of an exceptional former slave seeking to reunite with his bound wife. In Lincoln, resistance to slavery occurs at the highest levels of government, as a great president struggles to secure slavery’s final end before his inevitable martyrdom.
February 13, 2012, 9:37 am
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter:
December 26, 2011, 4:46 pm
Partly for fun, partly to make a point, I’m writing this post without referring to any texts, either online or on paper. Which should explain, if not excuse, any paraphrases or errors. The point may or may not become clear by the end of the post. This is not going to be an “FDR is better than Lincoln” post; you have been warned.
November 12, 2011, 3:34 pm
…but it’s spelled Douglas, with one “s”. Which is to say, this is filled with wrong:
Gingrich has been selling GOP primary voters on the value of Lincon-Douglass style debates for a long while now. On Saturday as other days he also promised to pick up Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 tactic of following Stephen Douglass around and speaking the day after him until, Gingrich explained, Douglass agreed to debate him. (Lincoln went on to lose the Senate election against Douglass, but it’s assumed Gingrich expects a different outcome if he’s the GOP nominee and chases Obama across the country.)
Frederick Douglass had the spare “s”. Senator Stephen Douglas, the guy who debated America’s greatest president, had only the one. Anyway, like I said, I know I’m being obnoxious. But in a case like this, I really can’t help myself. Sorry.
Also, probably nobody cares, but Stephen Douglas…
November 9, 2011, 12:38 pm
Herman Cain, among his many insane ramblings over the past few days, apparently suggested that his face should be on Mt. Rushmore. Well, fair enough. (Though, having visited the monument last summer, I have to admit that I found it more affecting than I expected. I mean, it’s very big. And by the way, Lincoln but no FDR, amiright? No, seriously, there was something about the scale of the president’s faces, the setting in which they’re carved, and the history of dispossession surrounding the place that left me feeling a bit overwhelmed by the power of the state to shape the landscape of American memory.)
Anyway, Michelle Bachmann picked up the ball and ran with it. To her credit, she didn’t suggest that she should join Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt (Teddy — aka, “The Real Man’s Roosevelt”), and Lincoln. Her pick? James Garfield. Wait, what? Garfield? My colleague, Kathy…
October 28, 2011, 6:29 pm
I know Wordles are so last week, but I just decided to Wordleize Lincoln’s First and Second Inaugurals. I’d like to say the results are stunning or at least interesting. They aren’t. Still, if you’d care to see for yourself, you can peek below the fold.
February 23, 2010, 6:45 pm
The older boy’s second grade class is apparently doing a unit on Lincoln this week. So, after finishing his homework, which I have to say is pretty onerous, the boy just explained to me that if he becomes president when he grows up, he’ll “emulate [emulate?] Lincoln in some ways but not in others.” “Oh, in what ways will you emulate him?” I asked. He answered that “if there are slaves then I’ll emancipate [emancipate?] them.” “Good idea,” I said. “But in what ways won’t you emulate our greatest president [it's never too soon to begin indoctrinating them].” He paused as he thought about it and then replied, “I won’t go to any plays.” Fair enough.
April 20, 2009, 11:12 am
No matter how hard I try, I always struggle to get a clear sense of Abe Lincoln’s views on race, which often appear inconsistent, to say the least. So it was with great pleasure that I read Jim Oakes’s chapter in this book. Oakes’s essay offers by far the best summary I’ve read of the issue. Here’s the key paragraph:
Lincoln believed that race relations were regulated at three different levels. At the highest level, the natural rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Lincoln consistently favored the equality of blacks and whites. Below natural rights were the privileges and immunities of citizenship, sometimes called citizenship rights, and at this level Lincoln was cautiously egalitarian during the 1850s and unambiguously so during his presidency. Finally, there were aspects of race relations that fell solely within the purview of the states – laws regulating marriage, voting, and …