Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
Research in congressional archives has two significant drawbacks. First, papers tend to be scattered all over the country. With a few exceptions (the Albert Center in Oklahoma; the Southern History Collection at UNC; the University of Missouri's Special Collections Department; and Cal's Bancroft Library), most libraries house only one or a handful of House and Senate collections. Contrast that to presidential libraries, where researchers can get one-site access not only to presidential papers but often to collections of most of the president's key aides.
Second, even those collections that do exist tend to be processed incompletely--making research difficult.
The theme of the Albany conference was occasioned by the Library's acquisition of a major collection--that of recently retired upstate congressmen Sherwood Boehlert. The 500-box collection chronicles the career of a figure who chaired the House Science Committee and was active on intelligence issues as well.
Boehlert is hardly the only big-name House member to have deposited his papers in Albany. The collection also holds the papers of James Delaney, a Queens Democrat who was a major player on the Rules Committee in the 1960s and 1970s (and who was succeeded in the House by Geraldine Ferraro); Major Owens, who served 20 years as a Brooklyn Democrat; and John Goodchild Dow, one of the quirkiest members of the Cold War Congress. Dow was elected in a major upset in 1964 from a heavily Republican district, was re-elected in 1966, lost in 1968, but came back to win a final term in 1970 after the law-and-order GOP incumbent was investigated for tax evasion. In the process, he refused to bow to district opinion, and emerged as one of the few strongly liberal voices in the 1960s House on foreign policy questions.
Other collections housed in Albany include those of Leonard Farbstein (best known as the House member unseated by Bella Abzug in 1970); Seymour Halpern (a major player in 1960s liberal Republican circles); Normman Lent (who ousted Allard Lowenstein in 1970 and was a key GOP voice on defense issues in the 1980s); and Gerald Solomon (a leader in the caucus of upstate Republicans during the 1980s).
In a bonus for researchers, the Library is easily accessible--less than 15 minutes from the Albany airport, scarcely more from the Albany Amtrak station.
Given the breadth and depth of collections, it's definitely a congressional history resource worth increased usage.
Janet Maslin,"A Scramble for Power and Treasure in South Africa," NYT, 29 November, reviews Martin Meredith's Diamonds, Gold and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa.
Paul Merkley,"‘Hanging Gardens and Shimmering Oases'," Books and Culture, November/December, reviews Amy Dockser's Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Michael B. Oren's Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, and Michael Makovsky's Churchill's Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft.
Lawrence Velvel,"Read ‘Em And Weep For Harvard," OpEdNews.com, 29 November, reprints Jacob Hale Russell's"A Million Little Writers," 01238, November/ December. In its new glossy magazine for alumni, the University showcases elite faculty members' dependence on ghost-writing grad students who serve up plagiarized work for professors to publish. Hat tip to Margaret Soltan.
Michiko Kakutani,"The Timing, Luck and Lust Behind the Forming of That More Perfect Union," NYT, 27 November, reviews Joseph Ellis's American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic.
Art Winslow,"More Than Just a Legend," Chicago Tribune, 24 November, reviews Robert Morgan's biography of Daniel Boone.
Joanna Bourke reviews James Vernon's Hunger: A Modern History for the London Times, 23 November.
The Council on Foreign Relations has a"Live Webcast: Symposium on Evangelicals and U.S. Foreign Policy," 30 November. Among others, it features William Martin of Rice University, Andrew Preston of Clare College, Cambridge University, and Leo Ribuffo of George Washington University. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.
Finally, four of us at Cliopatria endorsed"Historians for Obama." Its announcement was covered by both the CHE and IHE. Our contributing editor, Sean Wilentz, announced his support for Hillary Clinton at Stumper on 16 November and the CHE finally noticed that yesterday.
This may sound rather odd, but my principal complaint about Schlesinger's Journals, 1952-2000 is that they are much too short at 858 pages. His editors--two of his sons--explain that they culled them from about 6000 pages, and I suspect I would have been delighted to read every one of them. Bowing presumably to the brass at Penguin, they have also slanted the editing heavily to appeal to younger readers. There are only 60 pages on the 1950s, 260 on the 1960s, and 160 on the 1970s, while the 1980s and 1990s get 265 and 180. Forty years ago such a book (like the British Harold Nicolson's diaries, which have some important similarities to these ) would have come out in several volumes. Given that the author was a historian who frequently discusses the need to preserve sources (he was appalled to learn that a member of the Truman family had managed to destroy Harry's weekly epistles to his mother and sister), I am confident that his heirs have made arrangements to deposit the full text in an appropriate archive--perhaps the JFK library--where they will be opened at a suitable moment. [HNN Editor Update: Reuters reported on Nov. 26, 2007 that the New York Public Library has acquired the rights to Schlesinger's papers.]
Schlesinger was born in 1917, making him an exact contemporary of John F. Kennedy, although he was Harvard '38 and JFK was Harvard '40. He made an early splash as an American historian with The Age of Jackson and in the 1950s became one of two Harvard historians to begin grand-scale biographies of Franklin Roosevelt (Frank Friedel was the other.) Neither of them ever got close to a conclusion, but Schlesinger's three volumes (The Crisis of the Old Order, The Coming of the New Deal, and The Politics of Upheaval), appearing in the late fifties, became Book-of-the-Month Club selections and best sellers and inspired the new generation of Democrats of which he was a part. His real love, however, as he freely admits, was politics. He regarded teaching as a painful necessity (I suspect, actually, that he was somewhat better at it than he lets on), wrote prolifically (but more effectively, in my opinion, about the present than about the more distant past), and hated academic environments per se. Like Henry Adams--with whom I feel even more in common--he inevitably gravitated to Washington under Kennedy, and thence to New York, where he lived out his last forty years in the midst of literati, glitterati, and politerati. It seems rather fitting, as well as enviable, that he died of a heart attack at a New York restaurant last fall just before reaching the age of 90. (The last entry published is from 2000, and I was very sad not to see any post-9/11 comments on the Bush Administration--it is not clear whether any were written or not.)
Interesting from many points of view, the journals struck me above all as a generational portrait, chronicling the progress of the moderate left wing of the GI generation. The 1950s section poses a mystery that I have often pondered--the extraordinary adulation that a whole generation of liberals bestowed upon Adlai Stevenson, who invariably seems even in their own accounts to have done so little to deserve it. Yes, Stevenson was very charming (Schlesinger's friend John Kenneth Galbraith wrote that few men possessed in equal measure the talent of making one feel that there was no one to whom he would rather be speaking at this moment than one's self), clever with words, urbane, and eminently successful on foreign policy issues. Yet he was not much of a liberal domestically, especially on civil rights (as Schlesinger amply documents), and his tendency to deny his own ambition was the despair of his supporters as well as the ruin of some of his own hopes. In 1952, 1956, and 1960 he declared again and again that he did not want his Presidential nomination, forcing his party practically to get on its knees and beg (as it did, twice, with disastrous results.) Had he simply bowed out and endorsed JFK in 1960 he might well have become Secretary of State--where he and Kennedy might actually have worked very well together--but instead, his coyness made the Kennedys so angry as to rule that out. As late as the spring of 1960, even Schlesinger, who already knew Kennedy and who retrospectively has been viewed as the Kennedys' court historian, endorsed JFK only with public regret that Stevenson was not running. Schlesinger had a moment of which he was particularly proud in the fall of 1960, when both Kennedy and Stevenson asked him to write their speeches for the same event, the Liberal Party dinner in New York. "I could not resist the thought of doing both, so I did," he wrote, "a fact I have carefully kept secret from everybody (especially the two principals). . .[Stevenson's] speech was a great success in the evening, but so was Kennedy's."
Schlesinger had written speeches for Stevenson, and speechwriting remained his principal political role--literally, it turns out, until at least 2000. Kennedy brought him into the White House as a special assistant both to write speeches and offer political advice and to help on some policy matters, especially with respect to Latin America. He was one of a few major figures to oppose the Bay of Pigs, but that didn't increase his influence very much. As I discovered writing American Tragedy, he was rarely if ever involved in policy towards Southeast Asia, and he was not part of the Excom during the Cuban missile crisis. Thus he seems to have been genuinely unaware that the Administration had covertly promised to withdraw American missiles from Turkey to settle the crisis. Kennedy evidently regarded him as his contact with liberal intellectuals, about whose attacks he frequently complained. Schlesinger, not unreasonably, replied that such attacks should give the President more flexibility, since they tended to portray him as a centrist.
Although Schlesinger periodically demonstrates some capacity for hatred--Richard Nixon was, understandably, his favorite target, leading to amusing complications in the 1980s when Nixon bought the house behind his own on the upper East Side--he generally remains rather calm and unemotional. At one point, he muses perceptively about the difference between the New Deal and the New Frontier. "The New Dealers were always great talkers and philosophizers. . .Moreover, the New Deal had its distinctive rhetoric. [New Dealers] could talk about 'the people,' about their ultimate wisdom, and about the importance of doing things for them in a way quite alien to the New Frontier. The heart was worn much more on the sleeve then. The New Frontier has a deep mistrust of what it regards as the pat liberal sentimentalities and cliches of the thirties. . . .The difference in rhetoric does probably signify a deeper difference in commitment--a change, in a way, from evangelists who want to do something because it is just and right, to technocrats who want to do something because it is rational and necessary. The New Frontier lacks the evangelical impulse--in part no doubt because there is no audience for it." Thanks to Strauss and Howe, I immediately recognized that as perfect characterization of the difference between a Prophet generation (like Roosevelt's Missionaries, born from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, or the Boomers) and a Hero generation like the Republicans (Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison and company) and Schlesinger's own GIs.
Yet Schlesinger was overcome by his emotions after the death of JFK--and in a most unfortunate way. Like Robert Kennedy, to whom he immediately became closer, he simply could not in his heart accept the idea that Lyndon Johnson was now President and that there was nothing they could do about it. (The contrast in this respect between him and figures like Galbraith, Bundy, and McNamara is noteworthy.) Although Schlesinger did not deny LBJ's legislative achievements he clearly never saw the man as Presidential timber, and more importantly, he encouraged RFK's belief that Johnson might be pressured into making RFK the Vice-Presidential nominee-which, of course, he could not be. Sadly, Schlesinger's resentment of Johnson even corrupted his work as a historian. In A Thousand Days, he propagated the myth that Kennedy had not really meant to select Johnson as Vice President--that he had half-offered him the job as a courtesy, only to be amazed when Johnson jumped at it. There is nothing in his contemporary journal entry (p. 76) to support that--only confirmation that, after JFK had decided on the selection (for, as it turned out, excellent political reasons), RFK tried to talk Johnson into backing out--the beginning a long and bitter hatred into which Schlesinger allowed himself to be drawn after November 22, 1963.
Schlesinger's most endearing quality, for me, is his consistently sensible attitude about foreign policy. He is skeptical about foreign intervention throughout, and was an early opponent of escalation in Vietnam. (As excerpts in the New York Review of Books showed, Robert McNamara began telling him as early as 1966 that he opposed escalation and wanted a negotiated settlement--something which would have come as quite a surprise to McNamara's fellow Administration heavyweights at that time, since he expressed no such sentiments to them for more than another year. He reports long conversations with George Kennan in 1961-2, when Kennan was Ambassador to Yugoslavia, about the danger of the Berlin crisis spilling into war. (By the time of Kennedy's death, Kennan had become a great admirer of the President's foreign policy.) During the Nixon Administration Schlesinger allowed Henry Kissinger, who had apparently been a protégé of his when a grad student (albeit in another department), initially to persuade him that Kissinger wanted a more rapid winding down of the war, even telling Schlesinger after the Cambodian invasion that he had wanted to resign over it but could not do so yet. Gradually, however, he acknowledges that Henry is obviously telling him what he wants to hear.
Schlesinger returned to the political wars, of course, in 1968 on Robert Kennedy's behalf, and was even more devastated by his assassination than by his brother's. The denouement of that year's campaign was surely a shock. In an extraordinarily ironic entry written in November 1962, Schlesinger recounted both Nixon's California defeat and apparently permanent eclipse ("you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore"), and the funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt, which Hoover, Eisenhower, Truman and Kennedy all attended. "As we drove from the church to the grave," he wrote, "I reflected that, if anyone had said in 1940 that the next three Presidents of the United States would be Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, it would have provoked total incredulity. . . .I swore not to hazard any predictions about the man who will be inaugurated in January 1969." He certainly would not have had Nixon on his list. In his last entry for 1969 he referred to the sixties ad "the worst and saddest decade of one's life, that 'slum of a decade,' as John Updike has called it, the decade of the murder of hope." Once again, generation is everything. From his perspective that reaction was perfectly understandable and I knew many of his contemporaries who felt the same way; but I although he and I would have agreed on most things about politics (and he gave American Tragedy a nice blurb in 2000), for me and my contemporaries the 1960s will always be the decade in which we discovered ourselves, our feelings, and what made life worth living. (Actually I enjoyed the 1970s even more.) But he is right--American politics have gone downhill ever since.
During the next three decades Schlesinger was consulted again and again by various candidates, including George McGovern (for whom we share a very high regard), Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, and even, to my astonishment, Al Gore in 2000. (Apparently Democratic Boomer politicians, at least, had some conception of how much they could have used their elders' counsel.) In 1988, in the last week of his disastrous campaign, Dukakis finally declared himself a liberal in the tradition of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy--something Schlesinger had called upon him to do privately on September 1 of that year and publicly on October 21.) It was much too late. Clinton often asked for his advice but rarely followed it. His conversations with Gore are among the most humorous of the book. In a private meeting right after his vice-presidential selection in 1992, Gore talked about "values." "Our duty is not just to what helps us as individuals but to what is good beyond ourselves. . .People living unto themselves feel that their lives have no meaning. We must work to reestablish the balance of nature, and we must work to reestablish the balance of society. . ." "All this had become urgently clear to him," Schlesinger continues,” as a result of his son's accident. When the little boy was struck by an automobile and nearly killed, 'it forced me to think again about life and to focus on what is really important and vital.' He went on about regaining authenticity in living by getting back in touch with nature, his discourse had a holistic, even mystical fervor. I began to wonder what this sort of talk reminded me of. Suddenly the name swam into my consciousness: Henry Wallace." Wallace FDR's visionary Vice President from 1941 to 1945, whose Progressive Party candidacy in 1948 fronted for the Communists and cost Truman the state of New York. Schlesinger's biggest arguments with my generation were culinary rather than political. As the decades wear on he increasingly bemoans the proliferation of political and social occasions where no hard liquor is served. While I have never drunk as much as he did, generally confining myself to pre-dinner and eschewing pre-lunch, I agree with him on that one.
Meanwhile Schlesinger's continuing contacts with Kissinger remained valuable historically if not politically. Nixon, Kissinger told him in 1975, "was both more evil and better than people supposed. He was at his best when he was under pressure and cornered. That brought all his faculties into play. . ..It was a great myth that he was a hard worker. He was one of the laziest men I have ever seen. I don't think he ever read the Vietnam armistice agreement, for example, or the SALT agreement, or the preliminary papers on China. He worked in spurts of energy, as at the time of Cambodia or Laos or the mining of the North Vietnamese harbors. Then he would collapse into a condition of lassitude that would go on for weeks. His work habits were very much like Hitler's as described by Speer." (In the same conversation Kissinger admitted that he had favored both the Cambodian invasion and the mining of Haiphong.) And on June 14, 1948, Schlesinger had a rather extraordinary conversation with Julie Nixon Eisenhower, who favored "the complete abolition of the CIA on the ground that it has become a dangerous source of secret power in our democracy. She also said that the ovation for Goldwater at the last Republican convention almost made her change her registration from Republican to Democratic--though this may be a reflection less of liberal views than of the fact that Goldwater has described her father, to whom she is devoted, as the most dishonest individual he has ever met. She is easy to talk to, and her friendliness suggests that she has never read anything I have written about Daddy."
Schlesinger was appalled by the renewal of the Cold War under Reagan and enjoyed confronting his Harvard classmate Cap Weinberger about it. (Weinberger insisted that the Soviets were bent upon world conquest.) He amply documents something that has been almost completely forgotten: how conservatives young and old (including Richard Nixon) insisted as late as 1989 that Gorbachev only sought to make the Soviet Union a more dangerous adversary. And one of his best entries is from October 1983. "On Tuesday, the 25th, Reagan invaded Grenada. An enormous triumph for the republic--a nation of 230 million launching a surprise attack on a small island of 110 thousand. Fortunately we won. This will certainly make the Russians think twice." But he quickly adds that when he conveyed these thoughts to "a group of IBM executives and customers," the talk went down with a "dull thud. It is obvious that the Grenadan victory fills many Americans with enormous pleasure and pride. The polls report intense approval."
One Democrat did not consult Schlesinger: Jimmy Carter. And the New Yorker returned the snub with interest, refusing to vote for him either in 1976 or in 1980--the first time, he claimed, because Carter had declared his belief in the literal truth of Genesis. (He did not vote for President in 1976 and voted for John Anderson in 1980.) In retrospect that looks to me like a relatively rare lapse in judgment. But it also encapsulates the tragedy of Schlesinger and the whole bicoastal liberal movement of which he was such a part.
To those born from 1905 or so until 1925 or so, the New Deal and the Second World War had proven the validity of liberal Democratic values, grounded in a mixture of identification with the common man and rational policy analysis. Their mistake--parallel to the mistake of the Midwestern Republicans who had fought and won the civil war eighty years earlier--was to believe that those triumphs had established the truth of their beliefs for all time. In fact the United States would never have had anything like a New Deal (and the subsequent GI Bill, progressive tax structure, and cheap credit) without a catastrophic depression and a huge war. Moreover, both Southern whites and Republicans always resented what Roosevelt and Truman had done, and passed their resentment on to later generations. By 1968 the New Deal coalition had been reduced to less than 45% of the vote. In my opinion Schlesinger was wrong not to vote for Carter in 1976 because Carter, who carried the South, was the only Democrat who could have won that year, and wrong again in 1980 because Carter was indeed better than Reagan. (Ironically, I must admit that the world might have been better off had Ford, not Carter, won in 1976; but that wasn't Schlesinger's view.)
Like the Republicans who never stopped frothing at the mouth over the New Deal, Democrats of my age or older who will die longing for the good old days are arguing with history. Certainly events of the 1960s--notably the Kennedy assassination and Vietnam--accelerated the collapse of liberalism, but I now believe the backlash was inevitable. The baseball theorist Bill James once defined the law of competitive balance. Winners and losers, he argued, pursue different strategies for the future, the net effect of which is to benefit losers. For the last forty years Republicans have aggressively sought new votes where they could find them while Democrats have tried to live off the past--even while one of their most important constituencies, organized labor, has withered away. Republicans have held the White House for 28 out of those forty years. (Their "victory" in 2000 was largely the result of a more determined attitude and an obsession with winning at all costs.) The question now is whether liberalism can revive during the next ten years, or whether generations as yet unborn will revive it after several decades of Republican ascendancy. I hope that I can eventually reconcile myself to either outcome.
Cliopatria is unlikely to follow the example of either Liberty & Power or The Volokh Conspiracy for two reasons: first, we are a history group blog, devoted primarily to understanding the past; and, second, we are and have been, from the beginning, intellectually and politically diverse. The Cliopatricians are unlikely to agree among ourselves on a single candidate or, even, a single political party. Having said that, I have announced my choice of a candidate and have turned to other Cliopatricians to make our choice known.
Early last week, I contacted Michael Kazin, a contributing editor at Cliopatria, about the possibility of organizing a group of Historians for Obama. Michael agreed that it was a good idea and agreed to write a preliminary draft of a statement of support for Barak Obama's candidacy. Michael spent much of the Thanksgiving holiday drafting a statement and I spent much of the rest of it recruiting other historians to join us. One of the first people I contacted was our colleague, KC Johnson, who had already announced his support for Obama.
Beyond that, however, I was sending invitations to historians whose politics I knew little about. The result of Michael's writing skill and my solicitations,"Historians for Obama," is posted this week on HNN's mainpage. We learned that it's harder to get two dozen historians to agree on 500 words than it is to get them to agree on a single candidate. But we're delighted with the group of historians who have joined in this endorsement:
Joyce Appleby, David Blight, Edward J. Blum, Clayborne Carson, Dennis C. Dickerson, W. Marvin Dulaney, James Grossman, Nancy A. Hewitt, Jonathan Holloway, Randal Jelks, Robert KC Johnson, Michael Kazin, Steven Lawson, James Livingston, Ralph E. Luker, James McPherson, Albert J. Raboteau, Edward B. Rugemer, Nick Salvatore, Daniel J. Singal, Harvard Sitkoff, Daniel Soyer, Paul Spickard, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Craig Steven Wilder, David W. Wills
Since its publication yesterday on HNN's mainpage, another half dozen historians have signed this endorsement of Senator Obama. Because we expect to publish it subsequently elsewhere, we're inviting more professional historians to join us. You can do so by contacting Michael at mk8*at*georgetown*dot*edu and me at ralphluker*at*mindspring*dot*com.
See also: Scott Jaschik,"Historians Team Up to Back Obama," Inside Higher Ed, 27 November.
Lott’s decision to resign is significant in three respects. First, it brings to a close an era of Southern politics. Lott was essentially the last of the first generation of Southern Republican officeholders—people who started in politics either working for segregationist Democrats or in opposing the 1960s Southern Democratic Party from the right.
Lott’s first campaign came when segregationist congressman John Bell Williams ran for Mississippi governor in 1967. (Williams had actively supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign, causing the Democratic caucus to strip him of his seniority.) Lott then went on to work for longtime Representative William Colmer, Judge Smith’s right-hand man in House Rules Committee efforts to obstruct civil rights legislation. When Colmer retired in 1972, Lott ran on his predecessor’s platform but not his party.
Second, the Lott resignation will put to the test whether a Democrat has any chance of winning a Senate race in Mississippi. No Democrat has done so since 1982, when John Stennis captured his final term—besting a then up-and-comer in Mississippi politics, current governor Haley Barbour. Since 1982, however, the only Democrat to run even a mildly competitive Senate race was former congressman Wayne Dowdy, who opposed Lott in an open-seat race when Stennis retired in 1988. Dowdy ran a close-to-perfect campaign and still attracted only 45 percent of the vote.
For the special election to secure Lott’s seat, the Democrats likely will nominate former Attorney General Mike Moore—a pioneer in the state lawsuits against the tobacco industry and the strongest candidate the party possibly could offer. If Moore can’t win (and I suspect he can’t), then no Democrat can win at the Senate level.
Finally, though Lott is denying it, there seems to be little doubt as to the peculiar timing of his resignation. The Times: “James A. Thurber, director of the Center for Presidential and Congressional Studies at American University, said there was no question in his mind that Mr. Lott’s decision had been influenced by the new ethics and lobbying rules. Senators who retire this year have to wait only one year before lobbying their former colleagues, instead of the two years that go into effect in 2008.” The Post article makes a similar point.
Shouldn’t it generate outrage that a sitting senator, just reelected in 2006, would resign a seat in the world’s greatest deliberative body to pursue a lobbying career—much less time his resignation to allow him to make money more quickly?
William Grimes,"Gleefully Upsetting the Artistic Applecart," NYT, 21 November, reviews Peter Gay's Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond.
A. S. Byatt,"The Wild Ones," Guardian, 24 November, reviews"The Age of Enchantment: Beardsley, Dulac and their Contemporaries 1890-1930," an exhibit from the"golden age" of the illustrated book at London's Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Michael Dirda,"The third volume of Picasso's biography is wickedly, even sinfully, entertaining," Washington Post, 25 November, reviews John Richardson's and Marilyn McCully's A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932.
Joshua Rubenstein,"Stalin's Children," NYT, 25 November, reviews Orlando Figes's The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia.
Tom Paulin,"Enterpreneurship," LRB, 29 November, reviews Christopher Reid's edition of the Letters of Ted Hughes.
Shortly after David Kaiser published his thoughtful review of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s Journals, 1952-2000 here at Cliopatria, the New York Public Library announced that it has purchased 400 boxes of the Schlesinger Papers, including 5,000 unpublished pages of the historian's journals, for an undisclosed price. Kaiser's point that, in an earlier time, more of Schlesinger's journals would have been published in several volumes is surely correct.
Quite right -- and yet not something I had room to unpack, since the word count assigned for the piece was strict. The final version comes to exactly one page of the New York Times Book Review, and is accompanied by a rather striking little piece of artwork:
I might have to write about Gray again. His understanding of Marx and Marxism is feeble indeed, which is probably a function of knowing it at second or third hand, via Sir Isaiah.
There are some real howlers in the book, such as when Gray quotes Lenin saying, "The combination of the Russian revolutionary sweep with American efficiency is the essence of Leninism." Nobody with any real background in the history would fall for the idea of Lenin talking about "Leninism." That alone is a dead giveaway that the quotation is inaccurate.
But it's really just the tip of the iceberg. Treating Marx as a figure of the Counter-Enlightenment and opposed to individualism and trade? Having him be deeply influenced by the Saint-Simonians? Sheesh. Credible to the credulous but not to anybody who knows the texts.
Again, something I had to bracket, for reasons of space -- and in any case a matter deserving of its own essay. I got a lot out of Gray's book Enlightenment's Wake; and have quite a bit to say about Straw Dogs that would require a real detour to explore.
For his own sake, though, I hope Gray never writes about Marx again -- or at least not until he's read some better cribs than he's been relying on. George Lichtheim or Leszek Kolakowski would probably have saved him some embarrassment.
Alan Finder,"Decline of the Tenure Track Raises Concern," NYT, 20 November, is a shocking report on faculty-staffing in our non-elite institutions. Margaret Soltan cites this stunning example from the article:
The psychology department at Florida International University in Miami has 2,400 undergraduate majors but only 19 tenured or tenure-track professors who teach, according to a department self-assessment. It is possible for a psychology major to graduate without taking a course with a full-time faculty member.
"But at least they have an enormously expensive football team with the nation's current biggest loss record," Soltan says.
Victor Davis Hanson,"Iran – and the Final Bateman Reply," Works and Days, 16 November replies to LTC Robert Bateman,"Carnage, Culture and Crapola, Part IV," Blog Them Out of the Stone Age, 15 November.
Our colleague, KC Johnson, who is on a Fulbright at the University of Haifa, has been guest-blogging this week at Shmuel Rosner's Domain at Haaretz.com.
Finally, please take the time during Thanksgiving holidays to nominate your favorite candidates for The Cliopatria Awards. Thanks to all of the history bloggers who have helped to spread the word: Martin Rundkvist's Aardvarchaeology, AHA Today, Brent tenPas's American Religious History, Ancarett's Ancarett's Abode, Another Damned Medievalist's Blogenspiel, Manan Ahmed's Chapati Mystery, Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory, Sharon Howard's Early Modern Notes, Devonte Mann at hgecom, Rebecca Goetz's Historianess, Tim Lacy & Co's History and Education, Jonathan Dresner at History Carnivals Aggregator, Mary Dudziak's Legal History Blog, Miriam Burstein's Little Professor, Moyen Age, Jeremy Young & Co's Progressive Historians, Lisa's Real History Blog, Brandon Watson's Siris, Marc Comtois's Spinning Clio and Miland Brown's World History Blog.
Jonathan Yardley,"Reexamining a neglected era of invention and expansion," Washington Post, 25 November, reviews Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.
Peter Williams,"What's Late about Late Brahms?" TLS, 7 November, reviews Margaret Notley's Lateness and Brahms: Music and Culture in the Twilight of Viennese Liberalism, Inge van Rij's Brahms's Song Collection, and Barbara Owen's The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms.
Robert L. Fleegler's"Theodore G. Bilbo and the Decline of Public Racism, 1938-1947," Journal of Mississippi History, Spring 2006, catches the eye of Matt Yglesias and John Holbo. It's good to see some of the excellent work in state historical journals getting attention.
John Simon,"Sir Noël's Epistles," NYT, 25 November, reviews Barry Day's edition of The Letters Of Noël Coward.
Here's the historian and retired Army officer James Ripley Jacobs, in his 1947 book The Beginning of the U.S. Army, 1783-1812, explaining that the central government paid little attention to the development of an American army under either the Articles of Confederation or the new Constitution:
"The neglect of the army arose partly because the new federal government, still uncertain and experimental, was centering its attention on problems that it considered of greater importance."
Because the army was ignored, it stayed small:"It numbered only eighty officers and men when Henry Knox was 'Secretary at War' in 1784; not until 1809 did it reach its maximum strength for this period, a total of 6,954."
Ignored as unimportant, then, the army only grew by 8,500 percent in twenty-five years, while the U.S. was moving toward war but yet not openly at war with any other state power.
The picture becomes a little more interesting when we compare populations and army size.
Rounding up very slightly, take an army of 7,000 soldiers in 1809; according to the U.S. census, the population of the country in 1810 was a little over seven million. The current population of the United States is about 300 million. So let's multiply by 43 (300/7) to get a sense of the army in 1809 in proportion to today's U.S. Army: 301,000.
So: Today's U.S. Army, at war in at least three countries, has just over 500,000 soldiers on active duty, while the peacetime army of 1809 had the equivalent, by proportion, of 300,000.
Is the peacetime U.S. Army of 1809 small for its time and place? And what are the implications if we agree that it wasn't?
As a suggestion that points toward my answer, I'll briefly note the narrative acrobatics that that occur in Geoffrey Perret's book A Country Made by War. Perret describes a hopelessly small and inept army that was unable to effectively police the boundaries of white settlement, allowing violence to occur between Indians and settlers; the settlers"launched their own punitive raids, without waiting for the army to do it," while the Confederation Congress"looked on helplessly." The anti-standing-army ideology was a trap that confined the army, and weakness resulted.
On the very next page, then, Perret describes the aggressive response of the Confederation Congress to Shay’s Rebellion, which led to a tripling of the standing army:"Its hostility to military forces vanished literally overnight. It found the troops. It found the will. It found the money."
Deeply held ideological beliefs do not vanish literally overnight; Perret, like others, is unable to see choices where choices are being made, and so instead writes a narrative in which major elements of a nation’s political heritage instantly and unaccountably evaporate like magic.
More to follow, but here's where I'm headed: The development of the military power of the United States has never been restrained by a political resistance to standing armies.
Should be fun to discuss, yeah?
Michael Pye,"Paint, Passion, and Paradox," Scotsman, 17 November, reviews John Richardson's and Marilyn McCully's A Life of Picasso, Volume III, The Triumphant Years 1917-1932.
Greg Grandin,"Sucking Up to P," LRB, 29 November, reviews Robert Dallek's Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power and Jeremi Suri's Henry Kissinger and the American Century. Hat tip.
Update: See Professor Grandin's correction in comments here at Cliopatria.
Daniel Larison's"Term Limits," The American Conservative, 19 November, explains how Christopher Hitchens' and David Horowitz's use of the term"Islamofascism" bankrupts language and makes reasonable discussion impossible.
For Thanksgiving at Tenured Radical, Claire Potter recognized the year's"Top Ten Turkeys." Fortunately, she remembered to honor one of the Cliopatricians. Gobble, gobble, Claire!
Finally, congratulations to new officers elected by the AHA and to Dan Cohen, who has been named to succeed the late Roy Rosenzweig as director of George Mason University's Center for History and New Media. Hat tip.
Hat tip and to the Neuroscience Education Institute's Stephen M. Stahl, an adjunct professor of psychiatry at UC, San Diego, and the author of Essential Psychopharmacology.
... if everything goes right and if the US continues to"hit the lottery" with the spread of local ceasefires and none of a dozen different spoilers happens, then a patchwork of local ceasefires between heavily armed, mistrustful communities could possibly hold if and only if the US keeps 80,000-100,000 troops in Iraq for the next twenty to thirty years.
If that's what it takes, why not just declare Iraq a colony of the United States and end all pretense? After all, it was counted a British colony under the League of Nations mandate and British troops only occupied Iraq for thirty years.
James Wood,"How War and Peace Works," New Yorker, 26 November, reviews Richard Pevear's and Larissa Volokhonsky's new translation of Tolstoy's major novel.
Drawing on recent work on the history of photographs, Louis Masur's"How the Truth gets Framed by the Camera," CHE, 23 November, argues that they require interpretation.
Gregg Herken,"Arms and the Men," Boston Globe, 18 November, reviews Richard Rhodes's Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race.
Nicholas Guyatt,"Blackberry Apocalypse," LRB, 15 November, reviews Chris Hedges's American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. Andrew Romano,"Making the Case for Hillary Clinton," Stumper, 16 November, interviews Cliopatria's contributing editor, Sean Wilentz. In"Too Good for Politics," Slate, 16 November, David Greenberg draws a more direct analogy between Adlai Stevenson's"mugwump" politics and Barak Obama's. Matt Yglesias,"Do We Want the next JFK?" 18 November; and Scott Lemieux,"Defending Clinton through JFK Worship," 19 November, reject the analogy.
Lance Morrow,"How to Rule the World," NYT, 18 November, reviews Amy Chua's Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance – and Why They Fall.
Juliet Eilperin,"Fast Food," Washington Post, 18 November, reviews Ann Vileisis's Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need to Get It back and Sarah Murray's Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, The Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat.
Fred Siegel,"Electoral Landscaping," NYT, 18 November, reviews Morton Keller's America's Three Regimes: A New Political History.
Pauline Maier,"The Framers' Real Motives," Washington Post, 18 November, reviews Woody Holton's Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution.
John Wilson reviews Garry Wills's Head and Heart: American Christianities for the Chicago Tribune, 17 November.
Jonathan Yardley,"Who Really Freed America's Slaves?" Washington Post, 18 November, reviews David Blight's A Slave No More.
Thomas Mallon,"Washingtonienne," NYT, 18 November, reviews Stacy Cordery's Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, From White House Princess to Washington Power Broker.
Caroline Weber,"Academy Award," BookForum, Sept/Nov, reviews Gerd Gemünden, ed., Dietrich Icon, an anthology of essays about Marlene Dietrich.
David Oshinsky,"The Killing Cure," Washington Post, 18 November, reviews Devra Davis's The Secret History of the War on Cancer.
Amy Alexander,"A Tale of Horror in Black and White," Washington Post, 13 November, reviews Susan Burch's and Hannah Joyner's Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson.
Alex Roland,"He Aimed at the Stars, But Hit London," NYT, reviews Michael J. Neufeld's Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War.
Blake Gopnik,"Edward Hopper and the Rising Tide of War," Washington Post, 18 November, sketches the re-interpretation of Edward Hopper's paintings by Yale's Alexander Nemerov.
Peter Schrag reviews Bill Boyarski's Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh and the Art of Power Politics for the LA Times, 18 November.
Michael Kimmage,"Protocons," NYT, 18 November, reviews Donald T. Critchlow's The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History.
A number of other reviews from the past several months, several on popular books of historical interest, are also available, listed on the homepage. Among them is my longish essay marking the twentieth anniversary of Russell Jacoby's The Last Intellectuals.
As just noted at Quick Study, it is also available in translation in the second issue of La Revue internationale des livres et des idées, a new magazine sometimes described as"The Paris Review of Books." My Francophile mother-in-law is going to be seriously impressed. My family back in Texas, maybe not so much.
Our colleague, Manan Ahmed, has done yeoman service at Chapati Mystery and Informed Comment: Global Affairs in keeping us abreast of the crisis in Pakistan. You can hear him interviewed on Chicago Public Radio's"Worldview" and ABC Radio National's"The Media Report".
Michael Kimmelman,"Hokum that Stands the Test of Time," NYT, 15 November, reviews"Extraordinary Exhibitions," an exhibit at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Eighty 17th-19th broadsheets, that are also featured in Ricky Jay's book, Extraordinary Exhibitions, promote"a mix of ‘sensational, scientific, satisfying, silly, and startling attractions' ranging from an armless dulcimer player and a singing mouse, to an equestrian bee-keeper and a mermaid."
Dartmouth's Hany Farid is an expert in digital tampering with photography. His"Digital Tampering in the Media, Politics and Law" features digitally altered photographs from the age of Calhoun and Lincoln through Stalin, Hitler and Mao to our own time. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.
Finally, if you have lingering doubt about whether water-boarding is illegal torture of prisoners, consider the Mississippi Supreme Court's decision in Fisher v. State, 110 So. 361, 362 (Miss. 1926). It's unlikely that Mississippi Supreme Court in 1926 was particularly soft-hearted or soft-headed about the case of an African American who confessed to murder under duress.
LTC Robert Bateman concludes his critique of Victor Davis Hanson's Carnage and Culture with Part IV. Part III is here and Hanson replied to it here (scroll down). Apparently, President Bush will award a National Humanities Medal to Hanson today.
The humanities accolades are going to scholars Stephen H. Balch, Ruth R. Wisse and Henry Leonard Snyder; authors Russell Freedman, Cynthia Ozick and Richard Pipes; military historian Victor Davis Hanson; and curator Pauline L. Schultz. Also cited are philanthropist Roger Hertog and the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, a group dedicated to the memory of the men and women who saved art treasures during World War II.
With the Medal awards to Balch, Hanson, Pipes, and Wisse, NEH has apparently given up all pretense that the medals are anything other than political action.
Scott McLemee,"Talking to Himself," IHE, 14 November, finds lacunae in Studs Terkel's conversations with and about himself.
Bruce Kuklick,"Restive Youths in Middle Age: Why is there social theory in the United States?" Books & Culture, reviews Alan Sica and Stephen Turner, eds., The Disobedient Generation: Social Theorists in the Sixties. Does anyone blister narcissistic, self-deluded social theorists so thoroughly as Kuklick?
Finally, congratulations to New York Times reporter Tim Weiner, who has won the National Book Award in Nonfiction for his Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. He is interviewed here. Other finalists for the Award included the University of Richmond's Woody Holton for Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution and Stanford's Arnold Rampersad for Ralph Ellison: A Biography.