The Washington Monument and The Pope’s Stone

Presidential History Blog

Our iconic Washington Monument

The Washington Monument took more than 40 years to build.

Planning the Monument

As one might expect, circa 1832 Congress planned to commemorate the man whose name became the nation’s capital. Dozens of ideas were proposed and debated. The arguments went on for weeks.

What our second and third generation of statesmen had in mind was a simple monument. Nothing to focus on a great general or a wise statesman. George Washington’s reputation was singular, and should stand alone.

Getting the monument started was easy enough. Finishing it took decades.

When the idea of a great obelisk was proposed, popularized by Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in the early part of the 19th Century, there was agreement. Plain, simple, imposing and towering over the city at 555 feet. 

Funding the Monument

Congress, of course, needs the means to pay for the items/programs it commissions. This is…

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The Unfortunate Allure of Howard Zinn

A People’s History of The United States  fails as a serious work of history because it lacks the basics of the scholarly discipline.

It is often presented at a “textbook” by those enthralled with Zinn’s provocations.

It also fails miserably as a text, for it lacks even the slightest pretense of objectivity.

Social media academics(Twitterstorians…seriously?)  pass allegiance to Zinn’s nonsense as the new sense of being “woke.”


The late, great Cornell historian, Michael Kammen summarized Zinn best in 1980:


Zinn’s gravest error of commission is to include too many tedious snippets as well as lengthy quotations from radical historians. Not only does the book read like a scissors-and-paste-pot job, but, even less attractive, so much attention to historians, historiography and historical polemic leaves precious little space for the substance of history….We do deserve a people’s history; but not a single-minded, simpleminded history, too often of fools, knaves and Robin Hoods. We need a judicious people’s history because the people are entitled to have their history whole; not just those parts that will anger or embarrass them.


Impeachment as Remedy

Has our country really recovered from the 1999… impeachment of President Bill Clinton?  The stifling partisanship tearing apart our republic can largely be traced to this event.  Would our political process be in better shape today had Clinton resigned rather than drag the process to a Senate trial?  Examples in our history have been ignored, due to the partisanship that still controls the interpretation of the events.  Democrats still crow about their “victory” over the sinister Richard Nixon.  Nixon’s resignation is commonly considered the last cowardly act of a beaten politician.  So says the popular breeze…

Photo- CSPAN Archive

The Watergate scandal shook our government… to its foundation, and there was no impeachment of the President.  One can only imagine the consternation and irreparable damage the Senate trial of Nixon would have caused during an already tumultuous decade.  Nixon’s resignation should be seen as the best resolution to the deep stain of the Watergate era.   The trouble with this interpretation is that it flies in the face of 40 years of conventional thought.  Aging politicos who still bear grudges are not ready to let Nixon fade away.   They will defend the equally dodgy Clinton regardless of the impact on discourse, but cannot bring themselves to reexamine Nixon’s painful, yet proper decision.

It’s time to learn…
Photo- Associated Press archive

Research and Conjecture- Jefferson Dilemma

Annette Gordon-Reed tries to explain… the suicide of James Hemings by excusing the biggest fault in her Pulitzer Prize winning book, lack of evidence.

“He(Hemings)  had his own private world…that we simply cannot retrieve.

She has no problem discounting this inherent weakness when explaining every sinister motive and lustful desire found in Thomas Jefferson.  Here, Gordon-Reed is an authority; she knows exactly what was going through Jefferson’s mind as he allegedly exploited his slave, Sally Hemings.  No corroboration from fellow scholars is offered when she speculates on their relationship, Gordon-Reed’s confidence is apparent…we dare not question the writer who according to the MacArthur Foundation, “has dramatically changed the course of Jeffersonian scholarship.”


History writers are taught to avoid… “squishy” words and phrases.  If you are not sure, or cannot prove it, leave it out.  Weak historical writing deals in speculation, unsubstantiated opinions, and baseless generalities.

  • Many, Most, average, conducive, highly, nearly, majority– imprecise words disguising a lack of statistical data
  • Common ground, conducive to, seems to indicate,  obvious deduction, tends to support, highly conducive–  masking generalities and unsubstantiated opinions of the writer, these phrases insinuate expertise where it is lacking.
  • There is no reason, no reasonable person, logic dictates, one can only conclude, it is reasonable to assume–   a subtle, yet effective way at dissuading dissent.  The writer is basically saying they are the only reasonable voice.

A study filled with generalities, opinion, and conjecture… wins every major non-fiction award in 2009?  The tide of “new” Jefferson scholarship is ceaseless and can even sweep away the Pulitzer Committee.  Somewhere, Dumas Malone is smiling, for we have most definitely blazed a crooked path since his Pulitzer victory for Jefferson scholarship in 1975.

Bearing Arms- Long Before the Second Amendment

Progressives continue to argue that the Second Amendment is misinterpreted and private gun ownership is a modern phenomena. 

These same “thinkers” insist that guarding against tyranny was never considered when the Bill of Rights was drafted.

Poor attempts at documenting their erroneous narrative can be seen in the foolish assertion by Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy; who claimed James Madison never documented the Second Amendment in his Constitutional Convention notes.   

Impossible considering the Bill of Rights was not discussed in Philadelphia in 1787. 


This fails in the most basic understanding of history


The Pennsylvania Constitution adopted in 1776 clearly states–  XIII. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up

  • Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York drafted similar language between 1770-1790.


Jefferson’s original draft of Virginia’s 1776 Constitution reads- “No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”


1619 Project, More Lies as History


So the New York Times seems to have started a new (but not really) front in the culture wars with its so-called 1619 Project. You’ll remember that we talked a bit about it here. As we said there, part of this is the outcome of allowing our history to be Zinnified, since that fraud simply lied. But there is some truth in it, like all good lies. Adam Bruno writes on History News Network that:

Jim Geraghty’s National Review article “What the 1619 Project Leaves Out” provides one of the best examples of right-leaning media’s conceptions of America’s past. Geraghty argues that the “1619 Project’s effort to ‘reframe American history’ requires cropping out some significant figures in African-American history,” such as war heroes, national leaders, etc. This response illustrates conservative media’s conceptions of the past as: determined by the actions of “great men,” defined by heroic and…

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John Quincy Adams and Anne Royall

Presidential History Blog

The curmudgeon and the public nuisance: an odd couple.

John Quincy Adams

When John Quincy Adams became President in 1825, there were few who could match his stellar credentials: A cosmopolitan European education, Harvard graduate, legislative appointments and a long career in foreign diplomacy, including eight years as Secretary of State.

Alas for JQ, his popularity as a foreign diplomat failed him completely in the “small-d” democratic US government. He was perceived to be cold, aloof, sardonic, unbending and a few other choice detrimental words. But he was no fool. He knew his shortcomings.

He also knew that his presidency, while filled with fine and far-sighted proposals, would be unpopular and disappointing.

Anne Royall, Journalist

During her long lifetime, Anne Royall (1769-1854) was considered by her contemporaries as a common scold, a termagant and other disparaging epithets. Modern historians, however, who love to nitpick and repaint history with glowing brushes…

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