November 24, 2012

American Experience

Public Broadcasting Service

Douglas Brinkley (1960) [Historian]:
It was in stark contrast to kind of the so called greed decade of the 80s to see somebody not looking to make big speaking fees, not looking to sit on corporate boards.
[There's] just something about an ex-president … in blue jeans, with a hammer, sleeping in cots and building houses for the poor.
It's an image seared on our imaginations.
(Adriana Bosch, Jimmy Carter, 2002)

Ulysses Grant (1822 – 85):
The fact is, I think I am a verb rather than a personal pronoun.
A verb is anything that signifies 'to be', 'to do' or 'to suffer'.
I signify all three.
(July 1885)

David Bradley (1950) [Writer]:
[Grant] was a very honourable man.
He was a principled human being.
He was a reasonable man in any unreasonable time.
(Elizabeth Deanne, Ulysses S Grant: The President, 2002)

James McPherson (1936):
[Grant was a] slouchy and unsoldier-like in appearance, of undistinguished family, a West Point graduate from the lower half of his class who had resigned from the army in disgrace for drunkenness in 1854 and had failed in several civilian occupations before volunteering his services to the Union in 1861. …
A man of no reputation and little apparent promise, Grant would rise to the rank of lieutenant general commanding all the Union armies and become the president of the United States.
(Battle Cry of Freedom, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 235)

[As] a Civil War General … he did more to shape the future of America than anyone else except Abraham Lincoln.
He earned a secure place as one of the great captains of history, and "unheroic" hero, in John Keegan's apt description.
(Drawn With The Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, Oxford University Press, 1996, pp 172-3)

(Mohammed Naqvi & Hemal Trivedi, Among the Believers, 2015)

Dreaming of Star Wars

In October 1986 Reagan met Gorbachev [at a summit in] Reykjavik, Iceland [and was offered a chance to] realize his dream of reducing the nuclear threat.

Gorbachev offered Reagan everything he had wanted: they would both destroy half their long range bombers and missiles.
Eliminate all the missiles threatening Europe.
And he made a major concession on human rights.
[In return, he asked that SDI research be confined] to the laboratory. …
Alexander Bessmertnykh (1933) [Foreign Ministry, USSR]:
Reagan responded with the idea of having the complete elimination of strategic ballistic missiles.
And Gorbachev said,
How about eliminating all the nuclear weapons instead of just going part by part?
They … actually moved each other to the direction of the discussion of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. …

Richard Perle (1941) [Assistant Secretary of Defense]:
When asked, I expressed the categorical view that there was no way you could see the program through to a successful conclusion if we accepted the constraints that Gorbachev had in mind.
Upon hearing that, he turned to Don Regan and said,
If we agree to this, won't we be doing that simply so we can leave here with an agreement?
And it was a rhetorical question, of course, and you knew the moment he put it that he'd made his decision.
And within seconds, it was over.
Presidents grasp at treaties because they convey an image of Presidents as statesmen and peacemakers, and they're sometimes not bothered about the details.
It took tremendous discipline for Ronald Reagan to leave that little room without an agreement. …

Donald T Regan [Chief of Staff]:
[Reagan] said,
Don we were that close …
[Holding up his left hand, just finger and thumb.]
We were that close to getting rid of all missiles …
[But Gorbachev] kept insisting that we had to do away with SDI and I couldn't do that. …
I promised the American people I would not give in on that.
I cannot do it. …
(Adriana Bosch & Austin Hoyt, Reagan, 1998)

Earth Days

Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964):
[We,] in this generation, must come to terms with Nature.
[We're] challenged — as Mankind has never been challenged before — to prove our maturity and our mastery.
Not of nature — but of ourselves.

Jimmy Carter (1924):
The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us.
But it will — if we do not act quickly.
It's a problem that we will not be able to solve in the next few years.
And is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.
We must not be selfish or timid, if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grand-children.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources.
By acting now, we can control our future, rather than letting the future control us.

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004):
They tell us we must learn to live with less.
And teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been.
That the America of the coming years, will be a place — because of our past excesses — it will be impossible to dream and make those dreams come true.
I don't believe that. …

I cannot, and will not, stand by and see this great country destroy itself.
Our leaders attempt to blame their failures on circumstances beyond their control.
On false estimates by unknown, unidentifiable experts who re-write modern history in an attempt to convince us our standard of living — a result of thrift and hard work — is somehow selfish extravagance which we must renounce as we join in sharing scarcity. …

We must and will be sensitive to the delicate balance of our ecosystems, the preservation of endangered species, and the protection of our wilderness lands. …

Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.

(Robert Stone, Earth Days, 2010)

John Adams (1735 – 1826)

Robert Bartlett:
You men of "learning", you lawyers will take control of this federal government.
Ordinary people with good sense will never be able to get elected.
And after you grab all the power and the money, you'll swallow up all us little folk.
This will be a government run by and for a tyrannical aristocracy.

Alexander Hamilton (c1756 – 1804):
And whom would you have representing us in government?
Not the rich, not the wise, not the learned?
Would you go to some ditch by the highway and pick up the thieves, the poor, and the lame to lead us?
Yes, we need an aristocracy to be running our government — an aristocracy of intelligence, integrity and experience.
(Muffie Meyer, Alexander Hamilton, 2007)

John Adams (1735 – 1826):
The decree is gone forth, and cannot be recalled, that a more equal liberty, than has prevailed in other parts of the earth must be established in America. …
May heaven prosper the newborn republic and make it more glorious than any former republic has been.

Abigail Adams (1744 – 1818):
[In] the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors have been.
Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.
Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.
(Peter Jones, John and Abigail Adams, 2006)

Peter Jones

The power Adams feared most was that of an American aristocracy.
John Ferling [Historian]:
[In the constitution of Massachusetts, he] was attempting to devise a structure of government that would prevent the wealthiest, the most elite in American society, from gaining control. …

Thomas Jefferson, the vice president of the United States, had concealed from Adams the fact that his own cabinet had repeatedly betrayed him, dangerously weakening his presidency. …
David McCullough [Historian]:
Jefferson was paying a professional scandal monger named Callender to attack Adams. …

[In 1798] John had sent a peace mission to France but urged building up the military as a precaution. He was attacked from all sides.
Many in his own Federalist party wanted a declaration of war and called Adams a traitor. …
The French had coldly rebuffed his offer of peace, and the pressure to go to war was relentless.
On February 18 1799, John Adams … dispatched a courier with a message for the Senate announcing he would send a second peace mission to France.
Joseph Ellis [Historian]:
Adams is essentially and self-consciously committing political suicide. …
The newspapers boiled with venomous attacks. …
Had he declared war on France, his popularity would likely have skyrocketed; his election to a second term would have been all but assured. …

John had confidential reports that the new talks in France were going well, but he felt he could say nothing until a treaty was signed.
If official word of peace came in time, his critics would be silenced.

News from Paris took months to reach America.
A treaty had been signed weeks before, but no one on the other side of the Atlantic knew it.

In the most venomous election in American history, the winner was Thomas Jefferson.
Voters had gone to the polls unaware that Adams had succeeded in his bold quest for peace.
Joanne Freeman [Historian]:
He was the person who stood up under enormous pressure to go to war, and said no, and it cost him a second term.

(John & Abigail Adams, 2006)

Drug Wars

Richard Nixon (1913-1994):
Homosexuality, dope, immorality in general — these are the enemies of strong societies.
That's why the communists and the left wingers are pushing this stuff.
They're trying to destroy us.
Every one of the bastards that're out there for legalizing marihuana is Jewish.
What the Christ is the matter with the Jews? …
What is the matter with them?

Nancy Reagan (1921 – 2016):
For the sake of our children, I implore each of you to be unyielding and inflexible in your opposition to drugs.
Say "yes" to your life.
When it comes to drugs, just say "no".
(White House Special Address, 1986)

Harry Anslinger (1892 – 1975) [Drug Czar]:
There are 100,000 marijuana smokers in the US.
Most are negroes, hispanics, filipinos and entertainers.
Their satanic music (jazz and swing) result from marihuana use.
It causes white women to seek sexual relations with negroes, entertainers and others.

Carlton Turners [Drug Czar, Reagan Administration]:
Marihuana leads to homosexuality and therefore to AIDS.
(Matthew Cooke, How To Make Money Selling Drugs, 2012)

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004):
[The Contras] are the moral equal of our founding fathers.

Peter Watt

Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, University of Sheffield

When Ronald Reagan becomes President of the United States he announces this accelerated drug war.
The drug war is already in place by that time and has been imposed by President Nixon and the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration, but Reagan takes it to a whole new level. …
[He] starts this crack-down in Florida and in the Caribbean against Colombian traffickers.
And so the Colombian traffickers realise that they need to move their routes westward, and of course the obvious place via which to traffic their goods is through Mexico. …

In 1979 … there is a revolution in Nicaragua, and the regime of Somoza is overthrown by the Sandinista revolution.
Nicaragua becomes the new enemy of the United States, and [this] provides the pretext for a proxy war in Nicaragua.
And so the US government funds the Contra army.

But when the US Congress finds out what the Contras are actually doing in Nicaragua there's quite a scandal because of the human rights abuses that the Contras have been committing.
So the US Congress reduces the funds.
[To circumvent these restrictions, the executive used] Mexican drug cartels to ship arms and funds to the Contras, who are mostly based in Honduras …

In return for those services, the CIA and the US government essentially tell cartels, like the Guadalajara cartel …
[We] won't bother you when you ship crack cocaine into cities in the US south-west, so long as you do your part of the bargain.
All of that has the effect of [transforming] what were, in the 1970s … incipient organisations into … the biggest trafficking organisations in Latin America.

(Mexico — failed state, narco-state or merely a weak state?, Rear Vision, ABN Radio National, 7 December 2014)

Slavery is Freedom

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Julia Howe (1819 – 1910), Battle Hymn of the Republic, November 1861.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

— Thirteenth Amendment, Section 1, US Constitution, 18 December 1865.

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 65):
Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.
Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword; as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said:
The judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.
(Psalms 19:9)
  • With malice toward none;
  • with charity for all;
  • with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right;
let us strive on:
  • to finish the work we are in;
  • to bind up the nation's wounds;
  • to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan;
  • to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
(Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865)

Stephen Prothero [Professor of Religion, Boston University]:
God's righteous anger was called down upon the country.
God sent this horrible conflagration to punish us for the sin of slavery.
We deserve more punishment than we got, but Lincoln, like Christ, took the sin of slavery onto his own body and onto his own person.

Frederick Douglass (1818 – 95):
It may be the blood of our beloved martyred President will be the salvation of our country.
Though Abraham Lincoln dies, the Republic lives.
(Sarah Colt, A Nation Reborn, God in America, Episode, 3, 2010)

(Sarah Colt, A Nation Reborn, God in America, Episode 3, American Experience & Frontline, 2010)

Frederick Douglass (1818 – 95) [Eulogy to William Garrison, 1805 – 79]:
Now, the brightest and steadiest of all the shining hosts of our moral sky has silently and peacefully descended below the distant horizon.
He moved not with the tide, but against it.
He rose not by the power of the Church or the State, but in bold, inflexible and defiant opposition to the mighty power of both.
It was the glory of this man that he could stand alone with the truth, and calmly await the result.
Now that this man has filled up the measure of his years.
Now that the leaf has fallen to the ground — as all leaves must fall — let us guard his memory.
Let us try to imitate his virtues, and endeavor, as he did, to leave the world freer, nobler, and better than we found it.
(Rob Rapley, Before Brother Fought Brother, The Abolitionists, Part 3, 2013)

Hugh Auld [Frederick's owner]:
A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master …
[If] you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him.
It would forever unfit him to be a slave.
(Carl Sagan, Demon Haunted World, 1997, p 334)

James McPherson (1936):
[In May 1861, when several slaves] escaped to [General] Butler's lines at Fortress Monroe, Virginia [he labelled them] "contraband of war" and put them to work in his camp.
Northern newspapers picked up the "contraband of war" phrase, and thereafter the slaves who came into Union lines were known as contrabands. …
Many slaves not only confiscated themselves by coming into Union lines; they also confiscated mules and wagons and thereby "liberated" those items as well from slaveowners …
(Battle Cry of Freedom, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003, pp 292 & 294)

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970):
The institution of private property brings with it the subjection of women and, usually, the creation of a slave class.
(A History of Western Philosophy, 2nd Edition, 1961, p 35)

Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE):
It is clear, then, that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right. …
[It] is better for them, as for all inferiors, that they should be under the rule of a master. …
Indeed the use made of slaves and of tame animals is not very different. …
Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior, and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.

Robert Hunter (1809 – 87) [Senator for Virginia]:
[There] is not a respectable system of civilization known to history whose foundations were not laid in the institution of domestic slavery.
(p 48)

Alexander Stephens (1812 – 83) [Vice-president, Confederate States of America]:
Our new government is founded upon … the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery … is his natural and normal condition.
(p 192)

Charles Carroll [Author, The Negro a Beast, American Book and Bible House]:
[The] Bible and Divine Revelation, as well as reason, all teach that the Negro is not human.
(Carl Sagan, Demon-Haunted World, 1997, p 343)

James McPherson (1936):
Slaveowners encouraged large families among their slaves, especially in upper-South states like Virginia, because slave children were a capital asset that could be realized when they grew up.
(Battle Cry of Freedom, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 32)

Rob Rapley:
In the late 1820s there were two million men, women, and children living in bondage in the United States.

David Blight (1949) [Historian]:
Slaves were the single largest financial asset in the entire American economy: worth more than all manufacturing, all railroad, steamship lines, and other transportation systems, put together.

Angelina Grimké (1805 Р79):
I stand before you as a Southerner, exiled from the land of my birth by the sound of the lash, and the piteous cry of the slave.
I stand before you as a repentant slaveholder.
I feel that I owe it to the suffering slave, and the deluded master, to do all that I can to overturn a system built up upon the bodies of my countrymen, and cemented by the blood and sweat and tears of my sisters in bonds.
(From Courage to Freedom, The Abolitionists, Part 1, 2013)

James McPherson (1936):
[Only] a tiny minority [of Americans] owned as many [slaves (600) as Thomas Jefferson.]
[Fortunes like these,] based on slavery, were among the most concentrated of all.
Before 1865 the United States, land of liberty, was the largest slaveholding country in the world.
(Drawn With The Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, Oxford University Press, 1996, p 63)

Cotton from the American South grown mostly by slave labor furnished three-fourths of the world's supply.
Southern staples provided three-fifths of all American exports, earning foreign exchange that played an important part in American economic growth.
(p 33)

Robert Lee (1807 – 70) [General, Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, January 1865]:
[Slavery is] the best [relation] that can exist between the white and black races while intermingled as at present in this country.
(Alan Nolan, Lee Considered, Chapel, 1991, pp 10-21)

John Mill (1806 – 1873):
[Confederate success] would be a victory for the powers of evil which would give courage to the enemies of progress and damp the spirits of its friends all over the civilized world. …
[The American war] is destined to be a turning point, for good and evil, of the course of human affairs.
(p 219)

Union Officer [New England, 1861):
I know … how great a debt we owe to to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. …
I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.
(James McPhersen, Battle Cry of Freedom, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 249)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826):
We hold these truths to be self-evident,
  • that all [white] men are created equal,
  • that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,
  • that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness; [and]
  • that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
(United States Declaration of Independence, 1776)

(Ken Burns, The Cause, The Civil War, Episode 1, 1990)

Roger Taney (1777 – 1864)

Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (1836 – 64)

In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument. …

They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior,
  • that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and
  • that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.
He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it.
This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. …

[The framers of the Declaration, and later the Constitution,] knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race, which, by common consent, had been excluded from civilized Governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery. …

The unhappy black race were separated from the white by indelible marks, and laws long before established, and were never thought of or spoken of except as property, and when the claims of the owner or the profit of the trader were supposed to need protection. …
No one of that race had ever migrated to the United States voluntarily; all of them had been brought here as articles of merchandise.
The number that had been emancipated at that time were but few in comparison with those held in slavery; and they were identified in the public mind with the race to which they belonged, and regarded as a part of the slave population rather than the free. …

[It is, therefore,] impossible to believe that these [constitutional] rights and privileges were intended to be extended to them.

(Dred Scott v Sandford, 60 US 393, 1857)

Sullivan Ballou (1829 – 61)

[Dear] Sarah,

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days — perhaps tomorrow.
[And lest] I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I [am] no more. …

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.
I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution.
And I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt. …

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me … with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence [can] break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly … with all [those] chains to the battlefield.

The [memory of all] the blissful moments I have [enjoyed] with you come [crowding] over me, and I feel most [deeply grateful] to God, and … you, that I have enjoyed them so long.
And [how] hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years; when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and [see] our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. …
If I do not [return,] my dear Sarah, never forget how much I [loved] you, [nor that] when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you.
How thoughtless, [how] foolish I have [sometimes] been! …
But, O Sarah!
If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they [love,] I shall always be [with] you in the brightest day and … the darkest night … always, always.
[And when the] soft breeze [fans] your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air … your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

(14 July 1861)

James McPherson (1936)

The institutions and ideology of a plantation society and a caste system that had dominated half of the country before 1861 and sought to dominate more went down with a great crash in 1865 and were replaced by the institutions and ideology of free-labor entrepreneurial capitalism.
For better or for worse, the flames of Civil War forged the framework of modern America.
(p 64)

So even if the veneer of romance and myth [surrounding the Civil War] were stripped away, leaving only the trauma of violence and suffering, [it] would remain the most dramatic and crucial experience in American history.
(p 65)

Whether or not they owned productive property, all Southern whites owned the most important property of all — a white skin.
This enabled them to stand above the mudsill of black slavery and prevented them from sinking into the morass of inequality, as did wage workers and poor men in the North.
John C Calhoun expressed it well:
With us … the two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.
(US Senate, 1848)
Because the slave system was "of all others the best adapted to the freedom and equality of the whites," a South Carolina newspaper editor said, the election of Lincoln presented a mortal threat to the liberty of Southern yeomen.
If slaves are freed, whites will become menials," an up-country politician added:
We will lose every right and every liberty which belongs to the name of freemen.
Indeed, the Baptist clergyman James Furman warned after Lincoln's election,
If you are tame enough to submit, Abolition preachers will be at hand to consummate the marriage of your daughters to black husbands.

Little wonder, then, that "the common people" of South Carolina, as a contemporary observer put it, were "the most resolute" opponents of "Northern aggression."
With the slogan "Freedom is not possible without slavery" ringing in their cars, they went to war against the Yankees alongside their slave-owning neighbors to "perpetuate and diffuse the very liberty for which Washington bled, and which the heroes of the Revolution achieved."
(p 50)

George Orwell need not have created the fictional world of 1984 to describe Newspeak.
He could have found it in the South Carolina of 1861.
(p 51)

Fully one-quarter of the white men of military age in the Confederacy lost their lives. …
Altogether nearly 4% of the Southern people, black and white, civilians and soldiers, died as a consequence of the war.
This percentage exceeded the human cost of any country in World War I and was outstripped only by the region between the Rhine and the Volga in World War II.
The amount of property and resources destroyed in the Confederate States … has been estimated at two-thirds of all assessed wealth, including the market value of slaves.
(p 66)

With complete sincerity the South fought to preserve its version of the republic of the Founding Fathers — a government of limited powers that protected the rights of property, including slave property, and whose constituency comprised an independent gentry and yeomanry of the white race undisturbed by:
  • large cities,
  • heartless factories,
  • restless free workers, and
  • class conflict.
The accession to power of the Republican party, with its ideology of competitive, egalitarian, free-labor capitalism, was a signal to the South that the Northern majority had turned irrevocably toward this frightening future.
(p 22)

The fear that slavery was being hemmed in and threatened with destruction contributed to the defensive-aggressive style of [antebellum] Southern political behavior. …
Southern whites were more likely to carry weapons and to use them against other human beings than Northerners were.
The homicide rate was higher in the South.
The phenomenon of dueling persisted longer there.
Bertram Wyatt-Brown attributes this to the Southern code of honor based on traditional patriarchal values of courtesy, status, courage, family, and the symbiosis of shame and pride.
The enforcement of order through the threat and practice of violence also resulted from the felt need to control a large slave population.

Martial values and practices were more pervasive in the South than in the North.
(p 16)

[The quasi-military] slave patrol … gave tens of thousands of Southern whites a more practical form of military experience than the often ceremonial functions of volunteer drill companies [in the North] could do. …
(p 17)

A study of the occupations of antebellum men chronicled in the Dictionary of American Biography found that the military profession claimed twice the percentage of Southerners as of Northerners, while this ratio was reversed for men distinguished in literature, art, medicine, and education.
In business the per capita proportion of Yankees was three times as great, and among engineers and inventors it was six times as large.
When Southerners labeled themselves a nation of warriors and Yankees a nation of shopkeepers … they were not just whistling Dixie.
(p 18)

The proportion of illiterate white people was three times greater in the South than in the North. …
In the free states [there was] a commitment to education as an instrument of social mobility, economic prosperity, progress, and freedom.
While this ["ideology of literacy"] also existed in the South … it was much weaker there and made slow headway against the inertia of a rural folk culture.
(p 19)

The ideology of literacy in the North was part of a larger ferment which produced an astonishing number of reform movements that aroused both contempt and fear in the South.
Southern whites viewed the most dynamic of these movements — abolitionism — as a threat to their very existence.
Southerners came to distrust the whole concept of "progress" as it seemed to be understood in the North. …
A Richmond newspaper warned in 1855 that Southerners must stop reading Northern newspapers and books and stop sending their sons to colleges in the North, where: …
[Our unwary youth are] exposed to the danger of imbibing doctrines subversive of all old institutions.
[They should instead be educated in the South] where their training would be moral, religious, and conservative, and they would never learn, or read a word in school or out of school, inconsistent with orthodox Christianity, pure morality, the right of property, and sacredness of marriage.

Texas Republican Party Platform:
[We oppose] the teaching of … critical thinking skills and similar programs that … have the purpose of challenging student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
(Scientific American, November, 2012, p 57)
(p 20)

(Drawn With The Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, Oxford University Press, 1996)

Thomas Piketty (1971)

[By 1860, there were] 4 million slaves and 6 million whites for a total [Southern] population of 10 million. …
[The] southern slave owners … controlled more wealth than the landlords of old Europe.
Their farmland was not worth very much, but since they had the bright idea of owning not just the land but also the labor force needed to work that land, their total capital was even greater.
[It] is the mark of a civilization in which some people were treated as chattel rather than as individuals endowed with rights …
(p 159)

Attributing a monetary value to the stock of human capital makes sense only in societies where it is actually possible to own other individuals fully and entirely …
(p 163)

[The] New World combined two diametrically opposed realities.
  • In the North we find a relatively egalitarian society in which capital was indeed not worth very much, because land was so abundant that anyone could became a landowner relatively cheaply …
  • In the South we find a world where inequalities of ownership took the most extreme and violent form possible, since one half of the population owned the other half: here, slave capital largely supplanted and surpassed landed capital. …

This complex and contradictory relation to inequality largely persists in the United States to this day:
  • on the one hand — [it] is a country of egalitarian promise, a land of opportunity for millions of immigrants of modest background; [and]
  • on the other [—] it is a land of extremely brutal inequality, especially in relation to race, whose effects are still quite visible. …
This no doubt accounts for [the many shortcomings of the US social state.]
(p 160)

[Income] support programs in the United States have always been reserved for people with children.
For childless individuals, the carceral state sometimes does the job of the welfare state (especially for young black males).
About 1% of the adult US population was behind bars in 2013.
This is the highest rate of incarceration in the world (slightly ahead of Russia and far ahead of China).
The incarceration rate is more than 5% for adult black males (of all ages).
(p 630, Note 17)

(Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Arthur Goldhammer, Translator, Harvard University Press, 2014)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 59)

[The Anglo-Americans] conceive an overweening opinion of their superiority, and they not very remote from believing themselves to belong to a distinct race of mankind.
(p 457)

[Of the] widely differing families of men [to be found in the American Union,] the first which attracts attention, the superior in intelligence, in power and in enjoyment, is the white or European, the man preeminent; and in subordinate grades, the Negro and the Indian. …
[We] should almost say that the European is to the other races of mankind what man is to the lower animals;— he makes them subservient to his use; and when he cannot subdue, he destroys them.
(p 385)

… I reserve my execration for those who, after a thousand years of freedom, brought back slavery into the world once more.
(p 441)

In 1830 there were in the United state 2,010,327 slaves and 319,439 free blacks, in all 2,329,755 negroes: which formed about one-fifth of the total population of the United states at that time.
(p 438)

[The situation of the emancipated negroes] with regard to the Europeans is not unlike that of the aborigines of America …
[They] remain half civilized and deprived of their rights in the midst of a population which is far superior to them in wealth and in knowledge, where they are exposed to the tyranny of the laws and the intolerance of the people. …
There is a very great difference between the mortality of blacks and of the whites in the States in which slavery is abolished …
[From] 1829 to 1831 only one out of forty-two individuals of the white population died in Philadelphia: but one negro out of twenty-one of the black population died in the same space of time.
The mortality is by no means so great amongst the negroes who are still slaves.
(p 426)

The negro makes a thousand fruitless efforts to insinuate himself amongst men who repulse him; he conforms to the tastes of his oppressors, adopts their opinions, and hopes by imitating them to form a part of their community.
Having been told from infancy that his race is naturally inferior to that of the whites, he assents to the proposition and is ashamed of his own nature.
(p 387)

I do not imagine that the white and black races will ever live in any country upon an equal footing.
(p 432)

Slavery … introduces idleness into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress.
It enervates the powers of the mind, and benumbs the activity of man.
The influence of slavery … explains the manners and social condition of the Southern States [of the Union.]
(p 33)

The inhabitants of the South … are induced to support the Union in order to avail themselves of its protection against the blacks …
(p 455)

(Democracy in America, 1835)


Slavery is Freedom

Drug Wars

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Victory in the Pacific

My Lai

The Presidents
God in America

PBS American Experience: The Presidents

Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911 – 2004)

40th President of the United States (1981-9).

  • Reagan, 1998.
    Adriana Bosch and Austin Hoyt.
    Richard Norton Smith [Former Director, Reagan Library]:
    Reagan believed the evil empire was evil [and] that the United States was put here by God to combat the evil empire and to prevail. …

    Richard Allen [National Security Adviser]:
    [Everyone] knew that the Soviets had this fundamental sense of insecurity, so we shouldn't exacerbate that sense of insecurity.
    That's exactly what Reagan wanted to do, was to exacerbate the feeling of insecurity.
    It was very simple. …

    Sergei Tarasenko [Foreign Ministry USSR]:
    First Deputy Foreign Minister Kornienko … showed me a Politburo paper informing us that the United States [had plans] in place for first strike against the Soviet Union with first priority to destroying all command center and structures of the country. …
    When Reagan read intelligence reports indicating the Soviets had feared a first strike, he turned to his National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane and said,
    Do you suppose they really believe that?
    I don't see how they would believe that. …
    Later that day he worried about Armageddon. …
    Peter Kuznick:
    [Vice President Henry Wallace was] the leading spokesperson [in the late 1940s] for understanding how the world looks to the Soviet Union …
    Most leaders are incapable of understanding how their actions look to their adversaries.
    … Wallace had that unique ability …
    [But his position was] defeated by the right wingers in the [Truman] administration. …
    (Untold history of the United States, Late Night Live, ABC Radio National, 1 July 2013)

    In early 1987, the White House grappled with how to extricate Reagan from the worst crisis of his presidency. …
    Nancy's astrologer feared:
    [The] malevolent movements of Uranus and Saturn.
    The alignment of the planets, it seemed, raised the danger of impeachment and assassination. …
    Joan Quigley [Astrologer]:
    Nancy was very concerned with the President's safety after the assassination attempt.
    … I am a very modern scientific astrologer.
    … I have at my command all the technical resources of the space age really in computers that I use.
    … I do very technical work.

James Earl Carter (1924)

39th President of the United States (1977-1981).

  • Carter, 2002.
    Adriana Bosch.

    Roger Wilkins [Journalist]:
    Reagan was the very formidable fellow.
    The combination of his beliefs, [while] not numerous … were clear, and his acting skills … made people sit up and say
    [This] guy means and believes what he's saying.
    Walter Mondale [Vice-President]:
    He wanted to get these hostages home on his watch. …
    … Khomeini released them the minute after Reagan was president. …

    Chip Carter [Son]:
    Dad had a woodworking shop and spent quite a lot of hours out there, working with a piece of lumber.
    He can make a piece of lumber sing.
    And a lot of it's just because of the meticulous care that he puts into everything he's done. …

    Andrew Young [UN Ambassador]:
    Jimmy Carter was told that it would be impossible for him to get into the Naval Academy.
    He was told that it would be impossible for him to get elected governor.
    And when he announced for the presidency, even the Atlanta Constitution had a headline saying,
    Jimmy is running for what?
    So all of his life, he had done the impossible.
    [The Carter Center] was just another challenge. …

    Ronald Reagan:
    So it is when we dedicate this center, Mr President, we dedicate an institution that testifies as does your life itself to the goodness of God and to the blessings he bestows upon those who do their best to walk with him. …
    His prestige restored, he returned to the role that had given meaning to his presidency: Peacemaker. …
    In his travels throughout the world, Carter has championed the cause of the poor and disenfranchised. …
    Bert Lance [Former Advisor]:
    He never lied to the American people.
    He kept the peace.
    He brought the hostages home without loss of life.
    All the things he said he was going to do. …

    Douglas Brinkley:
    What was Carter? …
    He had no interest in either the new deal tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, or the New Frontier tradition of John Kennedy, or the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson.
    He never crystallized a great agenda of what he wanted to do.
    He simply tackled issues as they confronted him one by one by one.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)

34th President of the United States (1953-1961).

  • Eisenhower, 1993.
    Adriana Bosch.

    The war in France ended when the Allies encircled the Nazis at Falaise, capturing 40,000, killing 10,000.
    Dwight Eisenhower [Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force]:
    Falaise was one of the greatest killing grounds of the war.
    Roads, highways and fields were so choked with dead men and animals that passage through the area was extremely difficult.
    I encountered scenes that could be described only by Dante.
    It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh. …

    Dwight Eisenhower [Republican Presidential Candidate]:
    Today staggering federal expenditures for civil and military purposes have soared to totals beyond the comprehension of ordinary individuals.
    In a world threatened by war, a great portion of these is inescapable, but because necessary expenditures are so great, our entire arms program must be under constant scrutiny that not one dollar be spent without full value received.
    Armament, of its nature, is sterile.
    Heedless expense is investment in bankruptcy. …
    Among McCarthy's 'traitors' was Eisenhower's mentor, General George C Marshall.
    As Army chief of staff when the war began, Marshall had vaulted Eisenhower to prominence.
    In 1946, Marshall had tried to mediate a civil war in China, which Mao's Communists won.
    For this, McCarthy charged him with
    [A] conspiracy so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.
    General George Catlett Marshall — there was no man whom Eisenhower owed more or respected more, and McCarthy had called him a traitor. …

    {After one of McCarthy's aides, David Schine, was drafted, McCarthy tried to use his influence to get Schein cushy assignments.
    The Army kept records of these attempts for preferential treatment and Eisenhower's staff gave them to all members of McCarthy's committee. …
    McCarthy fought back, probing for details of the meeting where Eisenhower aides decided to investigate him.
    Herbert Brownell [Attorney General]:
    The President then issued an executive order which instructed everyone in the executive branch not to answer McCarthy's subpoenas.
    He cut off the fodder … for the day-to-day examination by McCarthy of employees in the executive branch …
    [It] was very effective in bringing the McCarthy era to an end. …
    With the exposure of the hearings, televised for eight weeks to 20 million Americans, McCarthy's credibility plummeted. …
    After the hearings ended, McCarthy was censored by his Senate colleagues. …}

    Republican hard-liners hoped he would roll back Communism in Korea and all over the world.
    Instead, Eisenhower settled for [Truman's policy of containment. …]
    But containing aggression with ground forces was costly in men and treasure.
    Early in his term, Eisenhower spoke with eloquence of the cost of war.
    Dwight Eisenhower [President, United States of America]:
    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies … a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those [who] are cold and are not clothed.
    The cost of one modern heavy bomber is … a modern brick school in [each of] more than 30 cities. …
    The cost of one modern destroyer is [five] fully-equipped hospitals …
    In six months, he ended the war in Korea and brought the troops home. …
    Eisenhower kept the defense budget down by relying on nuclear weapons.
    They were cheap.
    He would contain Communist expansion by threatening massive nuclear retaliation.
    Covert action was also cheap.
    It had served Eisenhower well in the war against Hitler. …
    To protect [British oil interests in Iran] from Soviet meddling, the CIA [helped return] the Shah to [power. …]
    … US President Dwight D Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax.
    [The democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad] Mosaddegh was arrested on 19 August 1953.
    The coup was the first time the US had openly overthrown an elected, civilian government of another sovereign state.
    (21 February 2013)
    He avoided another war in Asia when he refused to send [nuclear armed bombers] to help France fight the Communists in Vietnam.
    His commitment to a non-Communist South Vietnam seemed harmless enough at the time. …

    Eisenhower wanted the world to believe that the US could fight and survive a nuclear war.
    In private, he had no such hopes. …

    [He] was the first American president to meet with other world leaders in peacetime to try to avoid war.
    Dwight Eisenhower:
    The only way to save the world is through diplomacy. …
    (Geneva, 1955)
    [He proposed to the Soviets that] each country [allow] the other to conduct aerial photography of its military installations.
    This would lessen the fear of a surprise attack …
    [This] proposal became known as 'Open Skies.'
    [Khrushchev declined. …]
    Dwight Eisenhower:
    If you tell a commander [he'll get] an extra star if he cuts his budget, there'll be such a rush to cut costs, you'll have to get out of the way.
    God help the nation when it has a president who doesn't know as much about the military as I do.
    Four months after Sputnik, the US launched its first satellite.
    Five months after the Soviets launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, the US launched its first ICBM.
    Eisenhower never feared a missile gap; he feared a missile race that threatened what he called 'an age of terror'.
    But [he came] under political attack and the military, chafing under his tight budgets, saw its chance for more.
    These officers were part of what Eisenhower later warned against: a military-industrial complex.
    They fed the perception that Americans could no longer trust the old general to defend them. …

    For Eisenhower, the promise of Paris was the promise of peace.
    The [1960] summit would cap the career of a soldier who knew the cost of war, of a president who saw the mission of eight years as waging peace. …

    Democratic hopefuls began attacking him on the missile gap. …

    Eisenhower did not believe the Soviets were ahead in missile development, but he could negotiate with more confidence in Paris if he knew for certain. …
    With Eisenhower's approval, a U-2 took off on April 9th and headed for rocket installations in the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. …
    It [initially] failed to photograph a site in the Arctic town of Plesetsk that the CIA thought was crucial. …
    The CIA pleaded for another chance.
    Eisenhower weighed the diplomatic risk of a provocative act so close to the summit.
    Reluctantly he approved one more flight …
    On May 1st … a U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers took off from Peshawar, Pakistan. …

    Had the U-2 flight been a success, Eisenhower might have returned from Paris with peace talks under way, secure in the knowledge that there was no missile gap.
    The ill-fated flight would have revealed only four Soviet ICBM's and only at Psetsk.
    The US had six. …

    [Eisenhower] had wanted to end the arms race, to prevent an age of terror and thought he had failed.
    Dwight Eisenhower:
    As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war, as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years, I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight. …
    [Nevertheless, for] eight dangerous years, he avoided war and fostered prosperity.
    It was a rare presidential achievement.

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