History is constantly evolving and changing…. so is this list.
Presidential reputations change rapidly.
George W. Bush ^ : Loathed by modern “progressives,” any historian worth his/her salt should have suggested patience. Presidents must not be judged immediately following their terms, nor soon after elections. Many of Bush’s policies are now being viewed as successful- see the Surge, and TARP. Despite the vitriol still spewed by his critics, W’s historical stock is rising.
LBJ v : Recent release of Oval Office recordings revealed Lyndon Johnson at his worst. Modern depictions of him in films like “Selma” have also cast doubt on his civil rights legacy. No other President has experienced this sort of roller coaster ranking, and this year appears to be a straight drop for “Landslide Lyndon.”
Dwight Eisenhower ^ : Soon to be memorialized on the National Mall, Ike is liked once again. Historians are beginning to appreciate his cool demeanor and bipartisan political record. The current Republican party should do some soul searching when viewing its current obsession with ideological purity.
v : The recent uproar at Princeton over the racist legacy of its most famous history professor has everyone reconsidering our view of the Progressive champion. Proper scrutiny is now being leveled against Wilson’s policies- many of them created as a result of his distrust of the Constitution and disregard for the Declaration of Independence.
Words James Madison never uttered…. but when considering the US Senate as it exists today, the naive can almost hear the Father of the Constitution proclaim the following lunacy with pride:
So let’s describe the US Senate as it exists today…
The United States Senate will be chosen by popularity contest in each state. There will be no prerequisites to holding membership, citizens seeking their very first public office are preferred candidates. Legislative inexperience is desired to gain popular support from the well-educated masses. Citizens from different states should establish residence in select states and seek the office of US Senator there. Unfamiliarity with the constituencies in the new states must not deter ambitious office seekers. Key political alliances and endorsements will sway the voting public when these insignificant issues arise. Once is session, the Senate will thrive due to all the untested legislative acumen and uninformed opinions.
Recent discussion about the Supreme Court prompted… some thoughts about the greatest men to sit on our nation’s highest bench. Four faces that best exemplify jurisprudence in American history. Here goes….
John Marshall: Chief Justice 1801-1835– The George Washington of justices, the first and possibly the greatest. Marshall established all future Court behavior in Marbury v. Madison – later he helped define Federalism with the McCulloch v. Maryland decision.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: Associate Justice 1902-1932– A man of action on the battlefield (wounded twice in the Civil War) and in the courtroom. Holmes is one of the most cited Justices and helped establish that free speech must be responsible speech in Schenck v. United States.
John Marshall Harlan: Associate Justice 1877-1911– A former slave owner who became the voice of reason on a Court determined to protect segregation. Harlan’s lone dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson became the foundation of all future Civil Rights cases.
Earl Warren: Chief Justice 1953-1969– Much ink has been spilled over Warren’s legacy, but it is an essential one. Warren’s decisions ended public school segregation, reaffirmed “one man-one vote,” and expanded due-process protections. He is largely responsible for the role the Court plays in modern American politics.
The irony that on the Ides of March… where the original western tyrant was dispatched, the world’s greatest republican (notice the small ‘r’) proved beyond any doubt his fidelity to that cause. George Washington addressed the Newburgh conspirators on March 15, 1783. At a pivotal moment, when our vulnerable government dangled by string following the unlikely victory in the Revolution, Washington shined brightest.
Officers in the Continental army furious over not being paid… during years of fighting the Revolution were threatening mutiny and possibly a coup d’etat. Officers loyal to Horatio Gates planned a meeting to formalize their mutinous intention of replacing Washington with the dastardly Gates. Washington requested to attend the meeting, then surprised Gates (who had opened the meeting) by requesting to speak. The tiny building was dimly lit, smoky, and crowded as Washington took the floor; the faces of his men were expressionless. Washington fumbled with his prepared address, starting, stopping, tripping on his words in the dim candlelight. After a few attempts at beginning, he paused, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”
The impassioned speech that followed… was really unnecessary. Washington’s sincere request reminded every officer in that room how selfish they had all been. No amount of money, treasure, or property could replace what they had won, together. Eventually, Congress granted the officers some of the pay owed them, but the Revolution had been saved by a true leader that night in a tiny cabin in Newburgh, New York.
John Basilone died on Iwo Jima in 1945… Awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery on Guadalcanal, Basilone suffered through two years of desk and recruitment duty following his decoration. The Navy saw him as a valuable propaganda asset, but Basilone was a Marine.
After tirelessly lobbying the War Department for combat duty… Basilone got his wish- he was headed for Iwo Jima. While rallying his platoon under severe artillery fire, he and his men were all killed by a bursting shell. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for heroism under fire at Iwo Jima… the Citation reads-
For extraordinary heroism while serving as a leader of a Machine-Gun Section of Company C, First Battalion, Twenty-Seventh Marines, Fifth Marine Division, in Action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945.
Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation shortly after landing when his company’s advance was held up by the concentrated fire of heavily fortified Japanese blockhouse, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone boldly defied the smashing bombardment of heavy caliber fire to work his way around the flank and up to a position directly on top of the blockhouse and then, attacking with grenades and demolitions, single-highhandedly destroyed the entire hostile strong point and its defending garrison.
Consistently daring and aggressive as he fought his way over the battle-torn beach and up the sloping, gun-studded terraces toward Airfield Number One, he repeatedly exposed himself to the blasting fury of exploding shells and later in the day coolly proceeded to the aid of a friendly tank which had been trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery Barrages, skillfully guiding the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite the overwhelming volume of hostile fire.
In the forefront of the assault at all times, he pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly by a bursting mortar shell.
Stout-hearted and indomitable, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone by his intrepid initiative, outstanding professional skill and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of fanatic opposition, contributed materially to the advance of his company during the early critical period of the assault, and his unwavering devotion to duty throughout the bitter conflict was an inspiration to his comrades and reflects the highest credit upon Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and the United States Naval Service.
He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
Since you all know I love history and historical fiction, I thought I’d share some lists of my favorite books by topic that I used when writing THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES. I hope research geeks will use these posts as a good place to start on the subjects I will feature and that readers of my fiction who have had their appetites whetted for the time period will enjoy the lists as well.Yes, I will put my own books on the lists — 😉
Happy reading and make sure to add your favorites on the subject in the comments below!