Madison on Republics

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Remember the thoughts of Madison on Constitution Day:

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,–is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.Federalist 10

The complex nature of our Federal system is its strength. People crying out for more efficient or active government are missing his point. The interests of all people have a place in our society, even if they are at odds with the passions of the majority.

Civil War History Loses a Legend


Ed Bearss possessed a wealth of knowledge most Civil War scholars can only dream about. He’d forgotten more about the conflict than many of us will ever know. To add insult to an already injurious 2020, the Civil War history community lost one of its brightest stars. Ed Bearss has passed on.

The booming baritone, crackling with a gravely growl, transfixed many of us during his sold-out battlefield tours. The man could give a three hour lecture on Gettysburg’s East Cavalry Field without breaking a sweat. If you were lucky enough to gain a spot on one these riveting excursions, it was something to behold and to always treasure. He continued traveling and lecturing well into his 90’s; a toughness, no doubt stemming from his combat experience in the Marines. Bearss always wanted his audiences to understand the experience of the common soldiers. When it came to telling a good story, Bearss never quit. He retired as Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1995, focusing his energy on lectures, tours, and writing. Ken Burns’s Civil War series would have been benefited from more Bearss, less Shelby Foote.

We should never forget his scholarship. Bearss produced the definitive study of the Vicksburg campaign in 1986, a park where he first established himself in Civil War circles after discovering the wreck of the USS Cairo 30 years before. He also produced a two volume study of the Petersburg campaign. In 2006 he published Fields of Honor a concise summary of his personal connections to all the Civil War battlefields he tramped. It is extraordinary reading.

At a time when many are trying to revise or even rewrite Civil War history, Bearss is more relevant now than ever. Let us hope that his passing will expose a younger generation to his dedication and enthusiasm. There are stories to be told….

They are Ours!

Light winds on September 10, 1813… turned the battle of Lake Erie into a slug fest.  Neither commander could gain any true advantage in weather gauge- the two squadrons lay opposite one another, blasting away.  American Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship, Lawrence  was taking the brunt of British fire as the rest of his command struggled to follow his aggressive example.  Two British brigs pounded Perry’s ship until every gun was disabled and four-fifths of the crew was dead- Perry fled on a dingy, rowing a half-mile to the brig Niagara.  Novelist and historian CS Forester wryly noted, “…it was as fortunate for the Americans that the Lawrence still possessed a boat that would float, as it was that Perry was not hit.”

Don’t give up the ship

Perry brought the rest of the American squadron… into line and drove the Niagara directly through the British formation.  The two largest British ships collided and became entangled. Perry’s aggressiveness overwhelmed the slower British ships- nearly every man aboard the two largest was killed.  The surrender took place at approximately 3:00pm, just three hours after the first shot was fired.  Perry accepted the surrender aboard the recaptured Lawrence, so the British officers could see the carnage his command endured.  Perry cabled his counterpart on land, General William Henry Harrison;

Dear General:

We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.

Yours with great respect and esteem,
O.H. Perry

Review: Daughter of the Reich

Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History

Daughter of the Reich by Louise Fein

Cover: Daughter of the Reich1930s Germany. A daughter of an SS officer and a Jewish boy become entangled in an affair that alters their lives.  Walter Keller once saved Htty Heinrich’s life when she was a child.  He also used to be her brother’s best friend. But things changed when Hetty’s father became a high-ranking SS officer in charge of a newspaper, things are never again the same. Klas Heinrich immediately cuts ties with Walter. Hetty goes years without seeing Walter again until a chance encounter one day. Soon, they knowingly break laws and find ways to meet. What will happen to them?

Though there is a love story to this novel, the heart of it is in Hetty’s personal struggles. She first strives to be a dutiful daughter, both of her father and of the Reich. But Hetty is observant, so little by little she starts…

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American, John Birch, First Casualty of the Cold War

Pacific Paratrooper

John Birch in China

On August 25, 1945, John Birch, an American missionary to China before the war and a captain in the Army during the war, is killed by Chinese communists days after the surrender of Japan, for no apparent reason.

When 22-year-old Birch, graduate of Mercer University and a Baptist seminary in Macon, Georgia, arrived in Shanghai in Japanese-occupied China in 1940, he’d come to be a missionary to the Chinese people and began by learning the world’s most difficult language in record time—no surprise to his family back in Georgia who always saw Birch as the smartest guy in any room.

The Chinese recognized his charitable heart as he preached the love of Christ, a message many had never heard except from the lips of an interpreter. And preach he did, as he covered much of occupied and unoccupied China—dodging Japanese patrols, dressing in native clothes, eating…

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Best Biographies of Jefferson

There is excellent Jefferson scholarship… available to interested readers.  Current scholars seem bound by political correctness to debase the Jeffersonian legacy with tales of slave concubines and youthful indiscretions.  Look to the work of the established Jefferson scholars to find the elusive inroads to one of America’s greatest, but most enigmatic minds.

Jefferson and the New Nation by Merrill D. Peterson– At over 1,000 pages, there is no more detailed one volume biography of Jefferson.  Peterson was a history professor at the University of Virginia for over 30 years and specialized in analyzing Jefferson’s impact on the American character.  Peterson passed away in 2009, but his research remains vital in understanding Jefferson’s mind.

Thomas Jefferson; A Life by Willard Sterne Randall– The calm before the Sally storm, Randall’s biography focused primarily on Jefferson’s diplomatic career.  Largely lost in the deluge of revisionist biographies that emerged in the late 90′s, Randall’s volume provides new interpretations of Jefferson’s political life.

Jefferson and His Time; Vol. 1  Jefferson the Virginian by Dumas Malone– No history library is complete without the definitive Jefferson biography.  A massive undertaking of six volumes spanning Jefferson’s life, Malone is definitely the final word.  Volume 1 traces Jefferson’s youth, education, marriage, and the construction of Monticello.  A deeply personal look into Jefferson’s character, this book examines his life prior to his public career.  No Jefferson scholar is more maligned by the revisionists than Malone.  The vitriol used against Malone’s work is evidence of his influence.

Texas and Secession

Far from being a stronghold of secession in 1860, Texas gave substantial support to Constitutional Union Party candidate John C. Bell.

The Unionist spirit in Texas sprang from its First Citizen, the venerable Sam Houston.

Sam Houston…. had some emphatic words for the lunatics who took his proud state out of the Federal Union he fought so hard to join.   Houston’s words are forgotten now as like-minded simpletons again push Texas into the realm of irrelevance. 

“I beseech those whose piety will permit them reverently to petition, that they will pray for this union, and ask that He who buildeth up and pulleth down nations will, the mercy preserve and unite us. For a Nation divided against itself cannot stand.  I wish, if this Union must be dissolved, that its ruins may be the monument of my grave…”  Sam Houston 1860

Stone-throwing and gunfire: A riot at a political meeting in Northeastern Pennsylvania in 1860

Wynning History

In the late summer and autumn of 1860, the looming election sparked heated political rhetoric, marches in support of political causes, and whispered talk of a coming civil war.

These feelings manifest themselves in a violent skirmish between Republicans and Democrats on the streets of a Wayne County community on September 28, 1860. The fight in Hawley, which started with shouted chants and ended with stone throwing and pistol shots, pitted the proto-military “Wide Awakes” of Honesdale in support of Abraham Lincoln against canal boatmen on the Delaware and Hudson Canal who supported Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas.

A map of Hawley, Wayne County from 1860 showing the railroads and canal that made this community hum with activity and made it politically important in that crucial election year.

The Wide Awake movement blasted into existence during the 1860 election and featured mostly young men marching late at night with torches and in pseudo-military uniform. Across the Coal Region…

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Andrew Johnson: Military Governor of Tennessee

Presidential History Blog

So few nifty stories come up about Andrew Johnson that when they do, they are worth passing along!

Legislator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee

No President (and that includes Lincoln!) had more hardships in his impoverished childhood than Andy Johnson. His laborer father died when Andy was only two, his mother remarried a man even more impoverished, and by ten, Andy and his brother were apprenticed out to a local tailor in Raleigh, NC. Learning a trade was considered a kindness to the children – and it spared the parents the extra mouths to feed.

At seventeen, Andy fled both his apprenticeship and North Carolina and arrived in Tennessee with a price on his head – but apprenticeship laws did not apply in TN. He worked hard, learned to read, write and do sums, and became involved in local politics – all before he was 25.

Then he served Tennessee in…

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Honoring the Fallen

Appropriate remarks from former Presidents in regard to men who gave the last full measure of devotion to this country-

Lincoln- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract...The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

Wilson- They do not need our praise. They do not need that our admiration should sustain them. There is no immortality that is safer than theirs. We come not for their sakes but for our own, in order that we may drink at the same springs of inspiration from which they themselves selves drank.

Hoover- It was the transcendent fortitude and steadfastness of these men who in adversity and in suffering through the darkest hour of our history held faithful to an ideal. Here men endured that a nation might live. An ideal is an unselfish aspiration. Its purpose is the general welfare not only of this but of future generations.

George W. Bush- Looking across this field, we see the scale of heroism and sacrifice. All who are buried here understood their duty. All stood to protect America. And all carried with them memories of a family that they hoped to keep safe by their sacrifice.

Obama- They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor, who waged war so that we might know peace, who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity, who paid the ultimate price so that we might know freedom.

The current occupant of the White House has different views of service:

“I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.

“I like people who weren’t captured.”

“That guy is smart. Why did he join the military?”

Gage Skidmore