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This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
Historians have often cited the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, as the turning point of the Civil War. Historians and history buffs remain perplexed by this question: What if Gen. Robert E. Lee's chief scout, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, and his 4,500 cavalrymen had arrived on time for the first day of battle, rather than tired and on the afternoon of the second day? Would Stuart's presence have assured a Confederate victory?
The story behind his tardy arrival begins at the Fauquier County village of Rector's Crossroads (now Atoka) on June 22, 1863, and ends at the Loudoun County ford across the Potomac River called Rowser's (or Rowzie's) on June 27.
On June 22, Stuart received a directive from Lee, whose more than 80,000 troops were trekking north in the Shenandoah Valley or had already crossed the Potomac River. Lee told Stuart to send three of his five cavalry brigades across the Potomac to guard the right (east) flank of Lee's army. Lee did not suggest a crossing point.
As Union forces were about to traverse the Potomac in central and western Loudoun, Stuart was faced with two options: to cross the river west of the Blue Ridge, a two-day march from Salem (now Marshall), where most of Stuart's cavalrymen rested, or to cross in eastern Loudoun or western Fairfax County.
The latter route was longer and meant that Stuart's forces would risk encountering Union forces that were massing for their Potomac crossings nearly everywhere in Loudoun, northern Prince William County and western Fairfax.
Stuart could not afford a major engagement with them. His forces were far outnumbered, and his horsemen had just fought a four-day cavalry battle from Aldie to Upperville. That had given Lee's forces time to move northward in the Shenandoah Valley without being harassed by Union forces.
On June 23, Lee sent Stuart a second order that was ambiguous. One paragraph stated,"I think you had better withdraw this side [in the Shenandoah Valley] of the mountain [Blue Ridge] to-morrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown," meaning Frederick, Md.
But the last paragraph stated,"You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains."
Stuart was sleeping under a tree in the pouring rain at Rector's Crossroads, protected by a slicker, when his adjutant, Maj. Henry B. McClellan, woke him and read Lee's second order. In his 1885 book,"I Rode With Jeb Stuart: The Life and Campaigns of Major General J.E.B. Stuart," McClellan wrote:"The order was committed to my charge for the night and Stuart was soon asleep."
Such inaction on Stuart's part was unlike his take-charge attitude earlier in the war. But during the Aldie-to-Upperville actions, McClellan wrote that Stuart"personally participated in it but little, remaining, however, in close observation of the field. I asked the reason for this unusual proceeding, and he replied that he had given all necessary instructions to his brigade commanders, and he wished them to feel the responsibility resting upon them, and to gain whatever honor the field might bring...."
Facing an estimated 800 sexual-abuse lawsuits in California, Roman Catholic officials have argued that the church learned only in recent years that it had a widespread problem with priests molesting children.
A report in February by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for example, said Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and other bishops didn't realize until 1985 that sexual abuse by clergy was"more than a matter of tragic but isolated incidents."
But a North Carolina priest and two former monks who live in Southern California say they have scoured ancient Vatican records and forgotten Latin texts to show just the opposite: that the church has recognized the problem of abuse by priests for at least 1,700 years and has failed to address it successfully.
"The contention that the present scandal is isolated to this era is completely debunked by the Roman Catholic Church's own documents," concluded Father Thomas P. Doyle and former monks Richard Sipe and Patrick Wall in their 375-page report,"Canonical History of Clerical Sexual Abuse." The authors finished the report last month and are looking for a publisher.
Doyle, now a retired military chaplain, co-wrote a seminal report to U.S. bishops in 1985, warning of problems with abusive priests. Sipe counseled hundreds of abusive priests before he left the clergy. Wall, who heard molestation cases against priests when he served on the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis tribunal council, now works for a plaintiff's attorney.
Church defenders, pointing out that the three authors are allied with or paid by lawyers representing molestation plaintiffs, charge that the report is a ploy to strengthen their hand in court.
"Follow the money," said Peter Michael Callahan, an attorney representing the Diocese of Orange."What's their motivation? They are professional witnesses who have a position to sell. It's not exactly impartial scholarship."
But the three men say the documents prove that the Catholic Church has known for centuries about molesters in its ranks and has no excuse for failing to take the danger to children seriously until scandal engulfed the church in 2002.
For example, in the 4th century, St. Basil of Caesarea set up a detailed system of punishment to deal with clerics at his monastery who molested boys. Perpetrators were to be flogged and put in chains for six months; they were never again allowed unsupervised interaction with minors.
In the 13th century, Pope Gregory IX added to church law a declaration that sexual abuse demanded expulsion from the priesthood and that perpetrators would be turned over to secular authorities.
"Canonical History" lists 58 high-level documents dealing with sexual misconduct of the clergy -- from books by saints to papal decrees to declarations by church councils -- as evidence....
Love and lust, friendship and betrayal, action and romance, heroes and villains, right and might -- all are parts of the legend of King Arthur.
And the History Channel adds the element of mystery as it tries to determine the truth behind the legend in"Quest for King Arthur." The special debuts on Sunday at 9 p.m. and is narrated by Patrick Stewart.
Was the legend ever true? Were the heroes ever real? These are just two of the many questions investigated by the two-hour program, which was filmed in England and uses reenactments of battles and other events to delve into what's history and what's myth.
In its sleuthing, the documentary also uses maps, art, historic writings, and interviews with experts who discuss archaeology and medieval warfare as well as history and literature.
"Quest for King Arthur" began about two years ago in a brainstorming session, said Beth Dietrich Segarra, vice president of historical programming for the channel and executive producer of the program.
"We were trying to think of topics that are known by a lot of the population -- but maybe they don't know the whole story," she said.
"One topic that came up was King Arthur. There are schools that believe he was a real person, but did Arthur really exist? Was there a king who united England? There were a number of men who kind of fit a profile that could give little bits and pieces of the legend."
Christopher A. Snyder, chair of the history and politics department at Marymount University in Arlington and a consultant for"Quest," said he thinks a strength of the documentary is that it begins by telling the story of Arthur and Camelot.
"It gives respect to the literature and looks at how history influenced that literature," said Snyder, who also has authored"The World of King Arthur" and"The Britons."
Snyder said he got interested in the topic"not in any highbrow way" but by playing"Dungeons and Dragons" in his youth.
"It was a creative way to put yourself in another world," he said....
Spiro T. Agnew's monkey skin cape haunts its keepers.
A gift to the vice president of the United States from the president of Kenya in 1971, the cape now rests folded in a long yellow box at the University of Maryland archives, along with an unusual assortment of other objects from Agnew's political life.
There's a painting of Agnew that archivists refer to as"beaver teeth," because of the woody hue the artist chose for his subject's incisors. It hangs next to another portrait of the former vice president made entirely of tiny bird feathers -- a gift from Suharto, the former president of Indonesia. Then there's the painting of Agnew as a circus clown with orange hair and a cocked top hat.
An inflatable Agnew punching bag, a set of"S-T-A" branding irons and a plaque from the 1972"Salute to Ted Agnew Night," featuring special guest Frank Sinatra and master of ceremonies Bob Hope, are also entombed in the 10-by-17-foot storage room at the university's Hornbake Library in College Park. More generic, though equally curious, are the Asian folding screen that lights up when plugged in, a miniature Apollo rocket and a bronze Buddha statute.
Less explicable are the ornate wooden structures that archivists suspect might be African birthing chairs and a small wooden box that is covered with some sort of animal pelt and contains a single golf ball.
Jennie Levine, who oversees this area of the archives, says she prefers wading through the diaries of 19th-century women. But she and others entrusted with the Agnew collection have a special relationship with the memorabilia of the former Maryland governor and disgraced vice president. Few outside the staff have ever seen it. Rumor has it that earlier archivists would wear the cape while going about their work cataloguing and organizing other items in their care.
"A conservationist who came in suspected it was treated with DDT," said Levine."So we don't put it on."
Over the course of his political career, Agnew amassed closets full of mementos, gifts, and commemorative items. What value he might have imagined they'd have for future generations is anyone's guess.
But high-level public officials can be spared such decisions as what to keep and what to pitch. Just leave it for someone else to sort though. That is just what Agnew did.
His items landed at the archives in 1974 and in several other shipments before he died in 1996. The objects arrived in boxes along with his papers, which are now one of the archives' most important collections.
Researchers dig through the documents for insight into Richard M. Nixon's vice president, who resigned in 1973 after pleading no contest to tax evasion charges stemming from bribes he allegedly took while governor of Maryland. But so far, no one has mined any of the other memorabilia that might offer a different kind of portrait of the man....
In the summer of 2002, an elderly woman named Gladys Watt walked into the Historical Society in Greenwich, Conn., with a weathered leather-bound notebook. The notebook had belonged to her neighbor, Lydia Turnage Connolly, who died in 1984 at the age of 99. When Mrs. Connolly moved into a nursing home in the early 1980's, she asked her friend to keep her things.
Mrs. Watt had known her neighbor for years, but had not known that Mrs. Connolly was black, the daughter of a former Alabama slave, Wallace Turnage, who at some point in the late 19th century wrote an account of his years in slavery and his escape. (Mrs. Connolly never told her neighbors that she was black, instead describing herself as"Portugee.")
Her father's notebook, along with another recently surfaced narrative by a former Virginia slave, John Washington, is being studied by a Yale historian, David W. Blight, who plans to publish both in the next few years. Professor Blight says that there are only a half-dozen or so narratives by former slaves recounting their self-emancipation in such detail, and that these two provide an unusually vivid and emotionally powerful account of life under slavery and the road to freedom. Excerpts follow. •
Mr. Turnage begins his account in the third person, in an almost classical tone that suggests it was intended to be read by future historians.
Wallace Turnage's apology for his book. My book is a sketch of my life or adventures and persecutions which I went through from 1860 to 1865. I do not mean to speak disparagingly of those who sold me, nor of those who bought me. Though I seen a hard time, it had an attendency to make a man of me.
It is not all of the details of my hard ships, but merely a sketch of that which I think would be most interesting to those who shall approve my book. I could say more of the South and of its fertile soil, but I don't think it is necessary.
I will also beg my reader to excuse my ungrammatical and desultory biography because my kind reader can see that I have been deprived of an education, and what knowledge I have to present this biography to you, I learnt during that time and since I escapted the clutches of those who held me in slavery.
Mr. Turnage describes the first of several times he was sold, probably at the age of 14. The buyer, Hector Davis, is listed as a slave trader in an 1852 directory in Richmond, Va. From the narrative and genealogical research, it appears that Mr. Turnage's father was Sylvester Brown Turnage, whose family had owned his mother. Morehead City is on the North Carolina coast.
In the year of 1860, I was carried to Richmond, V.A. and sold to a man by the name of Hector Davis. Now I could not rightly be sold until all of the people's children I belonged to were of age, so the oldest one got married, so she was allowed to draw her part, though after she had drawned me she was not to sell me out of the family, for her Brother was my father. For all of that she and her Husband made a plot with one Mr. Reuben Wallace to take me to Richmond and sell me. So they told me that they was going to take me to More head City to nurse and I could come to see my Mother when I wanted to. so I thought that was very nice and I consented to go, thinking all of the while, that I was going to More Head City to nurse. but I was greatly mistaken. So instead of going to Morehead city, I was carried to Richmond and was sold to Mr. Hector Davis. He gave nine hundred and fifty dollars for me. I was kept then as his auction and office boy. so I lived in Richmond some time, taking people from the jail to the dressing room and from the dressing room to the auction room.
John Washington tells of learning to read and of seeing slaves being sold to plantations in states south of Virginia, where he spent all of his years in slavery.
At about 4 years of age Mother learned me the alphabet from the"New York Primer" I was kept at my lessons an hour or Two each night by my mother: My first Great Sorrow was caused by seeing one morning, a number of"Plantation Hands," formed into lone line, with little Bundles straped to their backs, Men Women, and children. and all marched off to be Sold South away from all that was near and dear to them. Parents, wives husbands and children; all separated one from another perhaps never to meet again on earth. I shall never forget the weeping that morning amoung those that were left behind each one Expecting to go next....
RONALD REAGAN'S legacy as a party builder has gotten short shrift. The Republicans were able to win a majority in the House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years, and then keep that majority in 1996 for the first time since 1928, because we were close students of Reagan. When House Republicans stood on the Capitol steps in 1994 and announced our Contract With America, we were standing on President Reagan's shoulders. This is not merely a nice phrase. It was true in the issues highlighted, in voter appeal, and in the actual staging of the event.
The issues in the Contract With America were almost entirely derived from Ronald Reagan's speeches dating back into the 1960s. Welfare reform--look at Governor Reagan in 1970 at the National Governors' Conference as the start of a 26-year effort that culminated when President Clinton (having vetoed welfare reform twice) finally signed the welfare reform bill in 1996. Balanced budgets--a thousand Reagan speeches said they were desirable. Tax cuts--they had been the centerpiece of Reagan's economic policies. Stronger defense--again, a key goal of the 1980 Reagan campaign.
The possibility of a Republican majority was a direct result of Reagan's success. In 1974 only 18 percent of the country identified themselves as Republicans. Some people actually talked about the danger of the party's disappearing. Six short years later, Ronald Reagan not only won the election by a surprising margin but also carried the Republicans into control of the Senate and helped them pick up 33 seats in the House. Thanks to the rise of Reagan Democrats and their conversion into Republicans, by 1994 we had enough candidates and enough potential voters to be competitive for the first time since the Great Depression.
And the Capitol steps event itself was modeled on a similar Reagan event. In 1980, Guy VanderJagt, Bill Brock, and I approached Governor Reagan and his campaign about hosting an event in which every federal candidate in the Republican party would be given an opportunity to stand with him on key issues. The result was that in late September every House and Senate candidate stood with Reagan in a national event and made news back home explaining how they agreed with the Reagan platform and disagreed with the liberal platform. The result was a stunning upset as six new Republican senators were elected by a combined margin of less than 75,000 votes. The 1994 Contract ceremony on the Capitol steps was drawn directly from that 1980 experience....
Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, who was buried last week, had an often-adversarial relationship with higher education, both as president and as governor of California.
To achieve one of his major goals as president -- the reduction of federal spending -- Mr. Reagan proposed numerous cutbacks in funds for colleges, although most of his proposals were rejected by Congress, and he abandoned the effort late in his presidency.
The Reagan era also saw the publication of a major federal report that criticized the state of American education; the first significant efforts to crack down on abuses in student-aid programs, especially at for-profit colleges; conflicts between government secrecy during the cold war and the free exchange of scientific ideas; a foreign invasion conducted in part to rescue American medical students; and the beginning of the culture wars that would roil many college campuses for years to come.
"Reagan saw his role as a preacher, but not necessarily as a policy leader or implementer," says Dick M. Carpenter II, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, who has studied Mr. Reagan's impact on education."Reagan was not as disastrous or as significant as people think he was."
Mr. Carpenter does credit Mr. Reagan with prompting governors to play a more active role in education."He believed in pushing education issues back down to the states."
As governor of California, Mr. Reagan played a very active role, battling both student radicals and the state's higher-education establishment.
During his gubernatorial campaign in 1966, Mr. Reagan criticized the University of California's handling of student protests of the Vietnam War. Upon taking office, he cut the university's budget by 10 percent. Three weeks later, the university's Board of Regents voted to remove the system's president, Clark Kerr, who had refused to crack down on the protests at Berkeley.
When one meeting of the regents was disrupted by protesters, the governor, an exofficio regent, was overheard telling his fellow members of the board:"The regents must take over this university. Our asses are to the wall."
He later posted National Guard troops on the Berkeley campus after a demonstration in which one person died in clashes with police officers....
ANCHORS: STEVE INSKEEP
REPORTERS: JUAN WILLIAMS
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Here in the United States, former President Bill Clinton releases his memoirs next week after years of anticipation and a carefully controlled publicity campaign. Publisher Alfred A. Knopf has kept the book away from reviewers and controlled the release of advance information--all part of an effort to build up anticipation for the book itself. Here's NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams.
JUAN WILLIAMS reporting:
The book is titled"My Life," but anyone who remembers the years 1992 to 2000 knows that President Clinton's life set the beat for much of the nation's political and cultural arguments. The former president has written his version of those years and his political upbringing in a 957-page tome that will be released as the clock strikes 12:01 AM Tuesday.
Unidentified Man: Please join me in welcoming President William Jefferson Clinton.
WILLIAMS: Clinton, who was paid a $10 million advance, began doing publicity for the book at the National Booksellers Convention in Chicago.
Former President BILL CLINTON (United States): Wow! You have to be careful treating me that way. You'll have me thinking I'm president again.
WILLIAMS: At the convention, Clinton said the book is not meant to be a history text, but a personal intimate recounting.
Mr. CLINTON: I want people to understand what it is like to be president, and I've tried to describe that in ways so that you'll at least see how it looked to me. You know, a lot of presidential memoirs, they say, are dull and self-serving. I hope mine is interesting and self-serving.
WILLIAMS: The orchestrated media blitz begins today with the first of five audio excerpts carefully selected by the publisher that will air on radio stations owned by Infinity Broadcasting. President Clinton has already taped an interview for Sunday night on CBS'"60 Minutes." Clinton said he regards his impeachment as a, quote,"badge of honor" because it was, quote,"illegitimate," end quote. And the former president lambasts congressional Republicans and independent prosecutor Ken Star for a, quote,"abuse of power." Clinton said his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was, quote,"morally indefensible" and led to a year of intense family counseling before his wife agreed to stay in the marriage. Clinton has also done an interview with Time magazine that will be on newsstands Monday. That night stores will stay open to sell the book at midnight in a strategy reminiscent of the drama leading up to the release of the"Harry Potter" books. And he'll also appear on"The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Mr. PAUL BOGARDS (Executive Director of Publicity, Alfred A. Knopf): There isn't really a model. We've clearly entered a new paradigm here.
WILLIAMS: Paul Bogards is executive director of publicity for Alfred A. Knopf, the company publishing the president's book. Bogards says the first printing of the book is a record for Knopf of 1.5 million books, and plans are already under way for a second printing. Bogards says he doesn't think the book's price will deter buyers.
Mr. BOGARDS: David McCullough's book on John Adams was a 35-dollar price point book. There have been a lot of big best-sellers that carried that price point. What people are concerned with is content and the strength of a work. That's what we're selling. We're selling a very good book, a memoir of a life and a presidency.
WILLIAMS: Stephen Hess, a presidential historian at The Brookings Institution, says there's some question about the historical value of the memoir.
Mr. STEPHEN HESS (The Brookings Institution): People are going to learn some things. Will they be disappointed? I'd bet my mortgage on that. Or in--the Nixon book sure didn't help us understand Watergate, and I'm betting that we're going to have the same experience again....
Michael McGough, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (June 14, 2004):
...Reagan was raised in his mother's Protestant faith rather than in the Catholicism of his father. What, one wonders, would his mother have thought about a funeral for her son at which an Irish tenor sang "Ave Maria" as well as "Amazing Grace"?
Of course, it would be too much to credit Ronald Reagan with a convergence in forms of worship that began even before the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. As the church historian Owen Chadwick points out in "The Christian Church in the Cold War," after World War II both Protestants and Catholics "altered their way of worship, radically and almost simultaneously, and the result was to make Protestants feel more at home in Catholic worship and Catholics feel more at home in Protestant worship."
Reagan may or may not have won the Cold War, but he had nothing to do with the innovation of the folk Mass or the willingness of Protestant ministers (including the pastor who presided at Reagan's sunset burial) to wear vestments once disdained by Reformers as the "rags of popery."
But Reagan was connected to one interesting (and to liberal Catholics ominous) offshoot of the ecumenical movement: an alliance between conservative Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants. The original point of connection was the anti-abortion movement, which Reagan championed. When pro-life Catholics found common cause with pro-life evangelical Protestants in the 1970s and 1980s, they didn't ask: "What are we doing here among these psalm singers?" They knew what they were doing -- closing ranks against the "culture of death."
In 1994 this arguably tactical alliance produced a manifesto titled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." The authors and original endorsers included psalm singers and papists alike. On the evangelical side were the Rev. Pat Robertson, Charles Colson and Dr. Bill Bright of the Campus Crusade for Christ; Catholic signers included George Weigel and two future cardinals, Bishop Francis George and the Jesuit theologian Avery Dulles.
For the signatories, this aggregation was necessitated not just by a common faith in basic Christian beliefs but also by a need to oppose "relativism, anti-intellectualism and nihilism" and the erosion of the "privileged and foundational" role of religion in America's legal order.
If that language sounds familiar, it is because it could come from the speeches of George W. Bush, an Episcopalian-turned-evangelical- Methodist who, of course, delivered the climactic eulogy at Reagan's funeral. ...
Michael Ollove, in the Balt Sun (June 13, 2004):
Alger Hiss won't go away.
No matter that his conviction was more than half a century in the past. That the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union have vanished. That Hiss himself -- traitor or martyr -- is nearly eight years dead. Somehow, some way, Alger Hiss manages to slip back into the public conversation.
So here he is again, this time as sideshow in the debate over the Bush administration's nomination of Allen Weinstein as the new national archivist, the executive who oversees preservation and access to historic government records.
The fight involves issues far removed from whether Hiss, the debonair, Baltimore-born diplomat and New Dealer, was really a spy in the employ of the Soviets, as Weinstein has written. But it nonetheless has brought out old Hiss antagonists, including Weinstein and The Nation magazine, the publication most steadfast in defense of Hiss.
"In the Hiss case, emotions still do run high," said John Earl Haynes, a historian at the Library of Congress who is convinced that Hiss was a Soviet spy.
The nomination of Weinstein, a historian of Soviet espionage, has aroused critics who say his practice of withholding access to his own research materials violates the norms of scholarship. Many of them suspect the Bush administration has championed Weinstein as the next archivist because he will reliably keep certain government records closed....
Steve Rubenzer, in the Boston Globe (June 13, 2004):
Harry Truman said that being dumb was just about the worst thing for a president. Was he right? Or are there other personality traits that can predict the success of the occupant of the White House?
We recently examined the personalities of all 43 presidents; we asked 120 authors of presidential biographies to complete personality assessments of the men they studied. These ratings were correlated with assessments of presidential greatness by historians. Using our data, University of Minnesota professor Deniz Ones, an expert on the relationship of personality to job performance, identified nine personal qualities that can be counted on to determine presidential success.
* Rated intelligence. We asked our raters how bright they perceived the various presidents to be. Those who received high ratings, like Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson performed better than those rated as less gifted, like Warren G. Harding. There are exceptions: Andrew Jackson was the greatest president of his age, yet he ranked low on intellectual giftedness. So, ironically, did Harry Truman, who was rated in the lower third.
* Assertiveness, or the capacity to influence through one's presence and ideas, is the most important indicator of presidential success. Presidents are an assertive group, and on average, they score higher than eight of 10 typical Americans. Better presidents like the Roosevelts, Wilson, and Jackson score higher than average chief executives. Truman is the only successful president who was less assertive than his peers. Low scorers include Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, and Calvin Coolidge.
* Positive emotions. A president's optimism and enthusiasm are important indicators for job performance. They're also important for getting elected. High spirited presidents like the Roosevelts, Bill Clinton, and John F. Kennedy are typically more successful. The more reserved presidents, like John Quincy Adams, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon, had less successful presidencies. But here, again, there are exceptions: George Washington was the only truly successful chief executive who scored low on this scale.....
For the most part, the same traits that make good presidents also tend to make successful CEOs, but there are two exceptions. Low straightforwardness has not been identified as a desirable quality in business leaders, nor has tender-mindedness. It may be that the job of president differs from other executive roles because of the diversity of the constituency and the scale of the stage.
Philip Dray, an historian and co-producer, with Hank Linhart, the chairperson of media arts at Pratt Institutue, of "Fearful Visitation: New York's Great Steamboat Fire of 1904"; in Newsday (June 15, 2004):
A city still determining how best to memorialize the terror attacks of 9/11 may find special meaning in today's 100th anniversary observance of the worst previous disaster in New York City's history: the burning of the steamboat General Slocum in the East River on June 15, 1904, which killed 1,021 people.
The Slocum tragedy challenged the city's ability to adequately respond to an emergency, decimated the Lower East Side's German-American community, and brought an outpouring of public grief and several official inquiries. Yet by the end of the 20th century the incident had been almost entirely forgotten.
Examining why the Slocum has faded from consciousness forces us to ponder the way history works - the reasons we remember some things, but not others. Proportionate to the city's population, the tragedy was actually of greater magnitude than the attack on the World Trade Center. Almost all the victims on the General Slocum came from one tightly knit ethnic neighborhood, Kleindeutschland; those who died at the World Trade Center hailed from all over the region, indeed from all over the world. So the pain of the Slocum fire and its aftermath was felt far more locally.
Nonetheless, notes historian Kenneth Jackson, "Just as the people at the World Trade Center were innocent victims who took a hit for us all, I think in some ways so did the passengers on the General Slocum."
The steamboat, carrying mostly women and children on a Sunday school picnic, had none of the glamor or hubris of the Titanic, the "unsinkable" ship that sank in April 1912. It also lacked the kind of social and political context that has made memorable New York's other great catastrophic fire, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 1911. Like the Slocum, the Triangle fire was blamed on corporate negligence and callousness, and the dead, similarly, were mostly young immigrant women. But the Triangle fire, where far fewer perished than aboard the Slocum, is remembered for stirring public outrage over unsafe factory conditions.
Certainly another cause of the Slocum's slippage from memory was the anti-German sentiment that swept New York at the time of the First World War. When, as Slocum historian Edward O'Donnell has said, Germans became "unsympathetic characters," many German Americans acted to hasten their assimilation into American society. The surnames adorning shop awnings along Avenue A - once known as "Deutsch Broadway" - were quickly anglicized. This bias would of course only deepen with the coming of the Second World War.
The size and density of New York City, and the competitive nature of life here, has often kept residents focused on the future, not the past. And because the Slocum tragedy was so devastating to one specific community, it may have simply been too painful to call to mind. Many of the residents of Kleindeutschland moved away. Although a survivors' association carried on for several decades, its numbers gradually dwindled until, by the late 1970s, the only monument to the victims in Manhattan, a small obelisk in Tompkins Square Park, was filthy with neglect and almost indecipherable....
Ahron Bregman, the author of Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947, in Newsday (June 16, 2004):
...Mixing facts and fiction and rewriting the history of the Holy Land is part of the Palestinians' struggle against Israel and part of their negotiating tactics. In fact, quite recently, during the July 2000 Camp David summit, Arafat, who during the summit failed to put on the table a single constructive plan for peace, did come up with an interesting suggestion. U.S. envoy Dennis Ross, who was present when Arafat spoke, explained that Arafat "did offer one new idea, which was that the Temple didn't stand in Jerusalem but in Nablus."
But Arab and Palestinian propaganda does not stop there, for it goes on to challenge not only Jewish and Israeli rights to the ancient parts of Palestine but also to the more modern parts of it. Thus, in school textbooks and other publications it is often claimed that the land of modern Israel was in fact "stolen" from the Arabs and that the Palestinians were effectively "robbed" by the Jews. This, of course, is nonsense. In my book " Israel's War: A History Since 1947," I put it this way: "The Jews did not...'rob' the Arabs or 'steal' their land, but rather they bought it from them. As for the Arab aristocracy of landowners who had sold the land to the Jews, they did so voluntarily and with open eyes."
Although Palestinians have legitimate grievances, there is absolutely no historical basis to their claims - some of which are utterly ridiculous - that Palestine is exclusively theirs and that the Jews "stole" their land. For the truth is that Jews have always lived in Palestine - as indeed did my family - and Jewish settlers did not, as it is often claimed by Arabs, seize land, but rather they bought it. Critics and foes of Israel should recollect that the state of Israel was established by the Jews on Jewish and legitimately purchased land. And it was blessed by the United Nations and recognized by nations of the world, most notably the United States....
Bill Adair, in the St. Petersburg Times (June 14, 2004):
After a week of tributes and eulogies to President Ronald Reagan, his admirers plan to move quickly with a proposal to put his face on coins or currency.
Putting Reagan on the $10 or $20 bill has the strongest backing right now. But that could prompt an unusual battle pitting Reaganites against supporters of Andrew Jackson, the populist president on the $20, or against the fans of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father on the $10 who has had a resurgence in popularity.
On Capitol Hill last week, there were discussions of dollar-bill musical chairs: Reagan to the $10, Hamilton to the $50, while Ulysses Grant, the face on the $50, would be eliminated. That approach is based on the belief that Grant doesn't have as much lobbying clout in the nation's capital as Jackson or Hamilton.
Others would like Reagan on a coin.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, introduced a bill to put him on the half-dollar, although Reagan would displace John F. Kennedy, a move that might prompt an outcry from Democrats.
And then there's a compromise approach: put Reagan on half the dimes, leaving Franklin Roosevelt on the other half.
No matter what strategy congressional leaders choose, it's likely they will move quickly to take advantage of the warm feelings about Reagan prompted by last week's funerals and televised tributes.
"There's a lot of momentum to do something like this," said Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Melbourne, a co-sponsor of one of the dime proposals.
Supporters say Reagan deserves the honor because of his accomplishments battling communism and keeping peace in the world.
Miller said Reagan "won the Cold War without (firing) a shot" and "was truly the original compassionate conservative."
Grover Norquist, the chairman of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, which promotes tributes and memorials to Reagan, calls him "the greatest president of the 20th century."
But some people balk at the idea of honoring him so quickly and say there already are many buildings and roads honoring him.
"I think it's premature, this rush to put his face on everything," said historian Robert Dallek. "I think you really need to allow 25 or 50 or even 100 years go by."...
"Ronald Reagan 'tortured' blacks."
One Sunday morning, as I drove to my local tennis court to play a match, I heard a black radio commentator give that assessment of the now late, great 40th president. Imagine my conflict. After all, here I am, about to selfishly work on my backhand, while having allowed Reagan to busy himself by "torturing" members of my race.
The Reagan-hated-blacks routine resurfaced during the week of his memorial services and tributes. This indictment includes the following charges: he cut social spending; he showed his latent racism by supporting Bob Jones University; he gave a states' rights speech in Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were killed; he "insulted" the lone black member of his Cabinet; he opposed race-based preferences; he again demonstrated racial insensitivity by pursuing a policy of "constructive engagement" with the apartheid regime of South Africa; he attempted to fire the black female chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Myth: Reagan cut social spending
Not according to the Congressional Research Service. Federal spending for social programs increased from $344.3 billion in 1981 to $412 billion in 1989, a 19.7 percent increase using 1982 dollars. As a percentage of Gross National Product, social spending during Reagan's two terms averaged 1.73 percent. By contrast, during the Carter years, social spending, as a percentage of GNP, averaged 1.65 percent.
Myth: Reagan showed his racism by supporting Bob Jones University.
The Reagan administration initially argued that, despite Bob Jones University's policy against interracial dating, the university still deserved its tax-exempt status. Reagan promptly reversed his position, and asked Congress to pass a bill prohibiting tax-exempt status for segregated schools.
Myth: Reagan signaled his racism by giving a campaign speech in Philadelphia, Miss.
Does it matter that when Reagan left Philadelphia, Miss., he traveled to New York to give a speech before the Urban League, a major civil rights organization? Some did, indeed, interpret Reagan's speech in Philadelphia, Miss., as a signal to anti-black Southerners. According to Lou Cannon, author of "Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio," the "states' rights speech" so bothered Nancy Reagan that she pushed for a shakeup in Reagan's campaign to avoid any other such missteps. Not exactly segregation then, segregation today, segregation tomorrow.
Myth: Reagan insulted a black member of his Cabinet.
At a meeting of black mayors, Reagan did, indeed, fail to recognize his own HUD secretary, mistakenly referring to him as "Mr. Mayor." Well, send in the bigot patrol.
Myth: Reagan opposed race-based preferences.
Yes, and so do most Republicans. And, for what it's worth, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam opposes race-based preferences. Back in 1963, Whitney Young, former head of the Urban League, proposed a sort of Marshall Plan for blacks. But a member of his board objected to what he called "the heart of it -- the business of employing Negroes (because they are Negroes)."
Myth: Reagan supported the apartheid regime of South Africa.
Reagan pursued a policy of "constructive engagement." According to the Journal of Modern African Studies, Great Britain, "This policy held that quiet diplomacy, contact with oppositionist bodies, application of fair employment practices under the Sullivan Principles by American companies operating in South Africa, assistance programs to train Africans, and public statements endorsing reform would do more to undermine apartheid than would confrontational measures, including sanctions and disinvestment."
Myth: Reagan attempted to fire the black female head of the Civil Rights Commission.
Reagan did, indeed, attempt to fire Mary Frances Berry. And why not? She supports race-based preferences, set-asides and so-called "disparate impact laws," all of which Reagan opposed. Berry successfully sued to keep her job, and she remains head of the Civil Rights Commission today. (By the way, when President George W. Bush attempted to appoint a black man to the commission, Peter Kirsanow, Mary Frances Berry filed suit to prevent Kirsanow from joining the commission. She unsuccessfully argued that the current occupant on the board still had several years left in her term.)
So, how did blacks fare under Ronald Reagan?
From the end of 1982 to 1989, black unemployment dropped 9 percentage points (from 20.4 percent to 11.4 percent), while white unemployment dropped by only 4 percentage points. Black household income went up 84 percent from 1980 to 1990, versus a white household income increase of 68 percent. The number of black-owned businesses increased from 308,000 in 1982 to 424,000 in 1987, a 38 percent rise versus a 14 percent increase in the total number of firms in the United States. Receipts by black-owned firms more than doubled, from $9.6 billion to $19.8 billion.
If this is "torture," more, please -- and a side of fries.
... While [Lynne V.] Cheney’s professional record has covered a broad range of social and cultural issues, it is her work in the area of history education that has earned her a reputation for speaking her mind. That work has won her some measure of admiration, even among those who do not subscribe to her views. But it has also drawn the most criticism.
"Her emphasis on history/social studies education has clearly left its mark," said Jesus Garcia, the president-elect of the National Council for the Social Studies, an organization that has clashed with Mrs. Cheney over the group’s advocacy of an integrated, thematic approach to teaching the subject."Unfortunately, she has a more conservative agenda … that doesn’t allow other perspectives. She’s been extremely divisive."
She began to make that mark with a monograph in 1987, written while she was at the helm of the NEH, that pointed to a lack of historical knowledge among the nation’s high school students, which she blamed on schools and teachers.
A few years later, Mrs. Cheney, who has a doctorate in 19th-century British literature, announced plans to develop voluntary national history standards.
A month before the standards were to be unveiled in late 1994, Mrs. Cheney, who had left her NEH post with the change to a Democratic administration the year before, wrote a scathing critique of the document on The Wall Street Journal’s opinion page under the headline"The End of History."
The piece led to independent reviews of the document. Supporters of the standards effort, however, charged that Mrs. Cheney’s appraisal was misleading, and that critical content she had accused the writers of ignoring, such as references to George Washington and the U.S. Constitution, were indeed featured throughout the three volumes.
The standards committee made some minor revisions before releasing the document nationally, although none of Mrs. Cheney’s complaints had significant influence on the final product, according to Gary B. Nash, who headed the standards effort with his colleague at the National Center for History in the Schools, Charlotte Crabtree. Mr. Nash said the charges in Mrs. Cheney’s opinion piece came as a surprise, given her involvement in various stages of the standards-writing process.
"Lynne Cheney and I never disagreed on the importance of history," Mr. Nash said."But she certainly touched off a firestorm about the standards. … Now, 10 years later, I can say that the standards accomplished the goal" of providing a sound framework for history education nationwide.
The overall standards effort is ultimately credited with having a broad influence on history and social studies education. It has served as a model for many state standards documents.
Nearly a decade later, Mrs. Cheney is still embroiled in the history debate. She and other scholars have called for an end to the social studies movement, which they argue undermines the teaching of history.
President Bush’s"We the People" initiative to strengthen history education has helped further that effort, Mrs. Cheney said in a response by e-mail to questions from Education Week. She declined to be interviewed in person.
But some critics ask how Mrs. Cheney can tout so enthusiastically the No Child Left Behind law when her passion, history, is being pushed aside in the curriculum, they say. As schools focus more on math and reading, the subjects that the law requires students to be tested in, many teachers are finding less time for other subjects. ("Troubled High School Narrows Courses," this issue.)
"The stress on reading and math is at the expense of teaching children their country’s heritage," said Mr. Garcia, a social studies education professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas."Today, as opposed to 10 years ago, we don’t have more history in the curriculum because overall it’s being squeezed out."
Mrs. Cheney has not answered those concerns directly. But in an e-mailed response to a question on that point, she wrote:"I think we often overlook the fact that reading is a skill that can be practiced and perfected on all kinds of content.
"There are," she continued,"terrific books about history being written for even the littlest kids and that time students spend with them can benefit both reading skills and historical knowledge."
Even the most buoyant Reagan booster must have watched last week's revisionism in disbelief.
While conservatives have long listed President Reagan among the near great presidents, for restoring the country's faith itself while pushing Communism into the ash heap of history, suddenly former foes, like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, could be heard praising Reagan for his optimism and breaking the Soviet's stranglehold on Eastern Europe.
History will be the final judge, and, as it has for so many of out chief executives, you can expect more revisionism. Look no further than James Taranto and Leonard Leo's new book"Presidential Leadership" (Free Press/Wall Street Journal Books)
Released, coincidently, just days before Reagan's death, this collection of essays examines our chief executives through new, usual prisms.
Conservative Judge Robert Bork questions the economic effectiveness of liberal icon Franklin Roosevelt, while Teddy Roosevelt's audacity is celebrated by (who else?) brash U.S. Sen. John McCain.
Humorist Chris Buckley confirms the ineptitude of James Buchanan:"It's probably just as well that James Buchanan was our only bachelor president. There are no descendants bracing every morning on opening the papers to find another headline announcing 'Buchanan Once Again Rated Worst President in History.'"
John F. Kennedy: Though JFK is rightfully praised as a Cold Warrior, notes speechwriter Peggy Noonan, she believes he was motivated by the fear that he and the nation would be perceived as weak.
"But what did he think of Communism?" she writers."What did he think of capitalism?" On these questions he lacked a bold vision. Kennedy, she argues, represented the hedonistic side the Greatest Generation. He used heavy drugs to cope with debilitating pain and illnesses, and was a sexual libertine, making him closer to the boomers than his contemporaries. In short, he was as much a Rat Packer as his cronies Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford.
Warren Harding: Harding and Buchanan often spar for the title of Worst President. Harding is blamed for not predicting the coming depression and he's blasted for Interior Secretary Albert Fall illegally selling favors, a scandal that did not implicate Harding. Jeremy Rabkin, a professor of government at Cornell University, urges a more balanced view. Harding cut taxes and spending to below pre-war levels, and ignited an economic boom. And after assuming the presidency, he freed the socialists and labor leaders imprisoned under Woodrow Wilson during the 1919 Red Scare....
NELSON ROCKEFELLER is alleged to have described the artwork of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, famously difficult classics painted shortly after the Second World War, as"free-enterprise painting." And there, in microcosm, we find the conundrum that has bedeviled certain conservative intellectuals for several generations: What should one think about modernism--particularly high modernism, the works of people like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and James Joyce, from the first half of the twentieth century? There remains about them an air of the bizarre they seemed to have when they first appeared, and besides, American conservatives tend to be philistine in their judgment of literature and art.
The curious thing is that a great many modernist artists and writers were never political leftists at all. D.H. Lawrence, for example, believed in many peculiar things, but none of them look like radical egalitarianism. And several other modernists who started out as political radicals broke with the Left, particularly in Eastern Europe, where the phenomenon of anti-Communist modernism became markedly visible. In fact, the Communist regimes hated high modernism, precisely because they agreed with Rockefeller in seeing it as an expression of free enterprise in the arts (or"decadence," as they preferred to call it). Karl B. Radek--a Polish Bolshevik who, if he weren't real, only James Joyce could have invented--once having surrendered to Stalinist aesthetics, derided Joyce's Ulysses as"a camera focused through a microscope on a worm-infested dunghill."
It didn't do Radek much good, as Stalin had him murdered anyway. But the natural alliance of business entrepreneurship and cultural experiment becomes obvious when we consider the centennial of Bloomsday--the hundredth anniversary of June 16, 1904, the single day in which the action of Joyce's Ulysses takes place.
Ulysses recounts twenty-four hours in the life of Dublin, with each chapter paralleling an episode in the Odyssey. It begins just outside the city, in a Martello tower, where Stephen Dedalus, the autobiographical hero of Joyce's earlier Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, begins the day with his co-tenants:"Stately, plump Buck Mulligan" and an English Celtophile named Haines. Dedalus proceeds to the village of Dalkey, near Dublin, where he serves as an English instructor in a boys' school. There he is subjected to a tirade against the Jews, which anticipates a major thread in the book: his companionship with Leopold Bloom.
Stephen then wanders along a beach, contemplating the psychic difficulties of his life. Meanwhile, Bloom cooks breakfast for his wife Molly, before proceeding to a butcher shop where he buys a pork kidney and reads, in a newspaper, a plea for support for Zionist colonies in Palestine. Bloom continues across Dublin, meditating on the spectacle before him. After attending the funeral of an acquaintance, Paddy Dignam, Bloom at last meets Dedalus, in the office of the Freeman's Journal....
Patrick Buchanan, in his column (June 16, 2004):
With the passing of President Reagan, historians, scholars and journalists have again taken to rating our presidents.
Invariably, greatness is ascribed to only three: Washington, Lincoln and FDR. Which reveals as much about American historians, scholars and journalists as it does about American presidents.
Certainly, Washington is our greatest president, the father of our country and the captain who set our course. But Lincoln is great only if one believes that preventing South Carolina, Georgia and the Gulf states from peacefully seceding justified the suspension of the Constitution, a dictatorship, 600,000 dead and a resort to a total war that ravaged the South for generations.
As for FDR, he was the greatest politician of the 20th century. But why call a president great whose government was honeycombed with spies and traitors, and whose war diplomacy lead to the loss of 10 Christian countries of Eastern Europe to a Muscovite despot whose terrorist regime was the greatest enemy of human freedom in modern history?
FDR restored the nation`s confidence in his first term and won a 46-state landslide to a second. But by 1937, the Depression was back and we were rescued only by the vast expenditures of World War II into which, even admirers now admit, FDR lied his country. The man talked peace as he plotted war.
None of the historians, scholars or journalists rate Reagan a great president. Yet his leadership led to the peaceful liberation of a hundred million children and grandchildren of the people FDR sold down the river at Teheran and Yalta, as well as of the 300 million people of the Soviet Union.
And why are Wilson and Truman always listed among the "near great" presidents?
While our entry into World War I ensured Allied victory, Wilson brought home from Versailles a vindictive peace that betrayed his principles, his 14 Points and his solemn word to the German government when it agreed to an armistice. That treaty tore Germany apart and led directly to Hitler and a horrific war of revenge 20 years later. Moreover, Wilson`s stubborn refusal to accept any compromise language to protect U.S. sovereignty led to Senate rejection of both his treaty and the League of Nations. Why, then, is this obdurate man "near great"?
As for Truman, he dropped two atom bombs on defenseless cities, sent back 2 million Russian dissidents and POWs to his "Uncle Joe," death and the Gulag, offered to send the USS Missouri to Russia to bring Stalin over to give him equal time to answer Churchill`s "Iron Curtain" speech, lost China to communism, fired Gen. MacArthur for demanding victory in Korea, presided over a corrupt administration, left us mired down in a "no-win war" and left office with 23 percent approval.
What is near great about that? Why is Eisenhower, who ended the Korean War in six months, restored America`s military might and presided over eight years of secure peace not the greater man?...
Mark Perry, a vice president of Jefferson Waterman International, a Washington lobbying firm, and author of Grant and Twain: The Story of a Friendship That Changed America; in the Alameda Times-Star (June 15, 2004):
James Buchanan, the first president to write his memoirs, could have used a ghostwriter. Published in 1866, the book is as forgettable as his presidency. It sold poorly, although the case could be made that in the months after the Civil War ended, Americans were intent on forgetting the crises of the past. But"Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion" didn't help itself -- it is ponderous, defensive and, worst of all, apologetic. Buchanan's poor reputation -- as an indecisive leader at a time when the country was headed for a split -- has been recently rehabilitated by historians, who argue that he was simply trying to steer the nation clear of conflict. But the public of Buchanan's day was unforgiving.
HERBERT HOOVER had a similar problem. Though he was a man of enormous goodwill, the 31st president was blamed for the Great Depression -- or, at least, for not doing enough to ameliorate its consequences. His post-presidential career did not enhance his reputation: He opposed the New Deal and argued against American intervention in World War II. The result was predictable: When"The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover" appeared in 1951, few seemed to care. The work was an off-putting three volumes, the last of which contained charts and numbers and offered a detailed analysis of the failures of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration -- which had, of course, lifted the nation out of the Depression. The book sank like a stone.
Buchanan and Hoover were typical of so many presidents in the first 150 years of the republic who decided to write memoirs. For the most part, failed ones needed to explain their actions; successful ones didn't. George Washington retired to Mount Vernon and kept silent; Thomas Jefferson returned to Monticello and wrote letters; and Andrew Jackson went home to the Hermitage, where he struggled to pay his son's debts. The one exception to this early rule was Teddy Roosevelt. An explorer, naturalist, politician, soldier and writer, Roosevelt was a strong president and an unforgettable man. But he, too, wrote a forgettable memoir.
"Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography" lacks the man's vibrancy and reads like a series of predictable moralisms devoid of the biting insights that characterized his public pronouncements. It didn't do well and failed to impress the critics.
But it wasn't until Harry Truman that the idea that only failed presidents needed to write memoirs, to explain their failures, was fully laid to rest. Truman, surely a successful president, was intent on providing some judicious insights into his own time. (He also needed the money.) Nevertheless, the resulting two volumes of"Memoirs of Harry S. Truman: Years of Trial and Hope," lack the toughness Truman brought to his presidency.
The same can be said of Lyndon Johnson's"The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969." The man whom historian Doris Kearns Goodwin called"perhaps the greatest storyteller of his age" simply could not reach out to an audience through the written word. It showed in his memoirs, which are dull, labored and superficial.
No one disappointed more than Richard Nixon, whose"RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon" was viewed as his last chance to tell the truth about Watergate. It was not that Nixon failed to be Nixon: It was that he succeeded."RN," first published in 1978, is a dissembling work, in which the president attempted to deflect criticism from himself by blaming others for Watergate and fumed endlessly over his loss in 1960, which was apparently still eating at him. And the book was a major publishing letdown: It sold 262,000 copies, when the publisher had hoped it would sell millions.
Gerald Ford (helped along by ghostwriters) and Jimmy Carter (who avows that he wrote his book himself) likewise penned ultimately unsatisfying accounts of their presidencies. The prose of"A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford" flows effortlessly along, but the book is nothing more than a laundry list of events and Ford's reactions to them. Jimmy Carter's personal beliefs, on the other hand, come through clearly in"Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President," though the last pages of the book, describing the all-important final days of his presidency (the Iran hostage crisis and his loss to Reagan) seem hurried.
We shouldn't be too disappointed by these judgments: Presidents are politicians, after all, not memoirists. Even so, there is one notable exception amid the field of mediocrities -- the most popular and widely read memoir by a president, written by Ulysses S. Grant.
When he published Grant's"Memoirs" in 1885, Mark Twain, who was astonished at the sophistication of the writing, compared it to Caesar's"Commentaries." Grant's book is a stunning piece of literature, made all the better by the fact that he wisely focused his attention on the Civil War and not on his presidency. Written in 13 months, the work is entirely Grant's own. And Grant did not write either to retrieve his reputation or to gain public office, but, like Truman, to stave off bankruptcy. But where Truman failed, Grant succeeded. With Twain urging him on, he struggled through the pain and exhaustion of his battle with throat cancer to finish the work just days before his death.