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DiscussãoAmerican Revolution & Founding Fathers History

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11petrus
Jul 2, 2012, 6:25pm

Anyone still-life interested in this group?

2steve.clason
Jul 2, 2012, 6:31pm

I'm still interested in the topic, but have been reading other stuff for a while.

3Mr.Durick
Jul 2, 2012, 7:29pm

I have not cancelled watching it.

Robert

4torrey23
Jul 2, 2012, 8:09pm

I am willing to talk about things here.

5HaroldTitus
Jul 2, 2012, 9:58pm

Having written a novel about Lexington and Concord, yes, I'd be interested in discussing books written about the Revolution.

6elenchus
Jul 2, 2012, 10:25pm

Another interested lurker here.

7JimThomson
Jul 25, 2012, 6:29pm

Have just come home from the library with 'GEORGE WASHINGTON'S MILITARY GENIUS' (2012). I'll get back to you with a review later.

8TLCrawford
Jul 26, 2012, 7:49am

I just started looking at Essays, literary, moral and philosophical, a collection of essays by Benjamin Rush. So far he has advocated that schools for immigrants be taught in their native language and that religion be taught in schools, although he says he would rather see the "opinions of Confucius or Mohamed inoculated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles." I see why he has been pushed aside in many circles.

9tiriash
Jul 26, 2012, 4:12pm

I have a couple of relevant books sitting on my shelf at home, I just haven't gotten to them yet.

10purdylm
Jul 31, 2012, 1:43pm

Just joined LT. I am reading quite a bit of material on the American Revolution...

11lawecon
Jan 18, 2013, 2:28pm

Sad, isn't it, that there is so little interest in this topic area among those Americans who consider themselves as educated and intellectual.

Yesterday, I was privileged to hear Pauline Maier address a Federal Bar Association meeting here in Phoenix. Most attendants stayed past the official end of the program and several of us stayed for about an extra hour. She was a delight.

Too bad that 99.9% of Americans wouldn't even recognize her name. But what can you expect from a society that has basically lost its grip.

12torrey23
Jan 19, 2013, 9:29am

That is a sad statement. We have begun to forget our history. Until recent changes were made, my state did not even have the War of 1812 mentioned in its' standards of learning. We overlook so much that is important to our society.

13TLCrawford
Jan 21, 2013, 8:02am

It is nonsense to consider lack of activity in one online group on one web site as evidence of a general decline in interest in a topic.

14southernbooklady
Jan 21, 2013, 9:22am

Especially since biographies of important figures and events of the American Revolution regularly make the bestseller lists. I just finished Jon Meacham's new biography of Jefferson: Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. On the whole I think it is well done. It's nice to have an attempt at a sober view of Jefferson, the politician. Meacham's is the first biography I've read of the man that really makes an honest attempt to look at what the man did, not just what he said. And Meacham is more concerned with the actual results of Jefferson's actions than with the apparent conflict between the man's idealism and his day to day actions.

As a result, the case he makes for Jefferson as a pragmatic and even savvy politician is a strong one. But it hangs on a couple premises--most notably that Jefferson had a distrust of the British that bordered on paranoia. So most of Jefferson's political decisions--especially the controversial ones--are viewed through this lens. The result is that sometimes, what Meacham attempts to present as an explanation (Jefferson's implacable enmity towards Hamilton, for example) ends up sounding more like an excuse.

Still, even with that kind of caveat in mind, I found the book a rewarding read. And I have a much better sense of Jefferson, the leader, than I have found in other books more centered on his philosophical and idealistic stances.

15wfupianoman
Fev 2, 2013, 11:55pm

I am also a stalker of this group and its topics. I am looking forward to reading Meacham's work, as I found his previous biography of Jackson to be highly engaging with prose worthy of its Pulitzer Prize. I am curious regarding Meacham's take on the Sally Hemings scandal, as he spent a great deal of time discussing the disrepute found in Jackson's White House.

16lawecon
Fev 3, 2013, 12:06am

~14

Thank you for the recommendation, I have added it to my Amazon wish list (which doesn't necessarily mean that when I get around to buying a copy it will be in Kindle format). If you enjoyed this volume, you might also enjoy The Ascent of George Washington.

I must say that as well written and insightful as such volumes may be, I am some what skeptical of their theme. The controversies of the day of the founding generation are mostly behind us (as unfortunate as that sometime is), so what certain figures from that era SAID is often, for us, more important than what they DID.

After all, it is nothing shocking, and it is a more or less consistent historical reality for politicians, that "Words are one thing, actions another." as V.I. Lenin was reported to have opined.

17southernbooklady
Fev 3, 2013, 9:14am

>16 lawecon: The controversies of the day of the founding generation are mostly behind us (as unfortunate as that sometime is), so what certain figures from that era SAID is often, for us, more important than what they DID.

I suppose that depends on whether you see history as something to be used as a political tool, or as a mirror that might or might not reflect back the image you were expecting to see. History has its uses in both cases--certainly the individual motives of the delegates to the 1787 Continental Congress are far less important to us than the fact of the Constitution itself.

Nevertheless, it isn't really pointless to attempt to understand the motives and drives of an era. Specific issues may be long dead and irrelevant, but the way we deal with political conflict, for example, is a thing we will always have to face no matter what age it is. And really, the fact that this country weathered the election of 1800 when it was only a quarter century old does give a girl a nice sense of perspective about the absolutely ridiculous circus that passes for American politics today.

>15 wfupianoman: I am curious regarding Meacham's take on the Sally Hemings scandal, as he spent a great deal of time discussing the disrepute found in Jackson's White House.

Meacham doesn't spend much time on Hemings, but when he does what he has to say is not groundbreaking. He concentrates on their relationship only within the context of his private family structure--where of course he was the absolute patriarch. But he does say that the relationship was probably one of genuine affection, that it was an open secret among his immediate family, who honored his wishes regarding Sally Hemings and all her (and his) children. His ultimate take, I think, is that in so far as we are tempted to regard Jefferson's liaison with Hemings as a symbol of his position on slavery and race relations, we should exercise care. It's tempting but facile to use the relationship to make a hypocrite of Jefferson, but Meacham seems to have regarded it as an example of a rare failure, or even abdication, of his political genius.

He suggests that Jefferson was only able to imagine a "mixed race society" in a microcosm--such as a family setting where he exercised absolute control (for a man often in the thick of controversy he seems to have been allergic to face-to-face conflict). On a larger scale it seemed untenable. Jefferson was a savvy politician and more pragmatic than most people give him credit for. But he was more idealistic than creative, and ultimately failed to envision a solution to slavery that did not involve shipping all the black people in the country somewhere else. Also, financial untenable. So he stepped aside, and left the legacy to later generations to deal with. And the only thing he did on his own was to free Sally Hemings' children in his will--something he apparently promised to do as a condition to get her to return to Virginia with him from Paris, where she might have stayed and sued for her freedom.

18lawecon
Fev 3, 2013, 9:47am

I guess I don't see much difference between a "political tool" and a "mirror that reflects back something different than you were expecting to see." In each case you are imposing on a buzz of facts a prior interpretation. Sometimes the facts you happen to knowi fit the interpretation, sometimes they have to be forced into the box by ignoring or discounting some and emphasizing others.

And from that perspective your second paragraph seems to contradict your first. If we can't really tell in any "objective" way what was TRULY going on, still less can we read the minds of the actors to determine their "motives and drives" (or the motives and drives of our contemporaries). All we can do is work in each instance is work with the fragmentary facts we have and tell a story. You may like your story and dislike mine, but they are both just stories (just like the myths we tell about "good guys" and "bad guys" today are mostly just stories - particularly for the more ideological among us).

19southernbooklady
Fev 3, 2013, 11:26am

Any good historian will tell you objectivity is a goal that can never be truly achieved but should always be reached for. I like what the Ann Wroe said about fact versus fiction in her excellent little account, A Fool and His Money:

We are dealing in fact, not fiction; so there is much we can never reconstruct, including what the characters looked like, precisely how they dressed, how most of them talked, the rooms they lived in, their private thoughts. All this must remain unknown. Yet it is no offense to historical truth to describe such things as the blossoming of a pear tree, the stench of rotting meat, the heft of a building stone or the breathlessness of a running man, if these things (as they do) come into the evidence. And they can transport us very quickly.


To some extent all history is engaged in the creation of story--of mythology, if you will. And it is educational to look at, for example, the kinds of biographies written about Jefferson against the times in which they were written. Just as it is educational to read histories of the American Revolution against the times in which they came out: Such accounts often veer wildly between poles: between, say, emphasizing the ideological motivations for the war and emphasizing the economic motivations.

But as these conflicting or competing views are overlaid one on top of the other, we do build up a kind of composite picture that has complexity, depth, and may approach "what really happened."

20dyarington
Fev 3, 2013, 12:09pm

Amen!

21lawecon
Fev 3, 2013, 5:49pm

~19

The problem is that this is the same argument pattern that Christians like johnthefiireman regularly engages in. "We know we can't be perfect, but we should try to be perfect, and maybe if we try really hard we'll become perfect." (Just like "We know that we can't flap our arms hard enough and fast enough to fly, but maybe if we tried really really hard.) 'As opposed to "We know we can't be perfect, so maybe we should try to be acceptable."

Historians, like news reporters and other assorted sorts that want to tell us "what really happened" simply aren't being honest. You can "overlay" as many different sorts of perspectives and competing hypotheses as you want on top of each other, but, ultimately, you either have to choose one of those or some other one. The gathering of evidence and the elaboration of coherent arguments may be worthwhile, but if you think that the objective is to find The Objective Truth, then you just don't understand the enterprise and what it is and is not capable of yielding.

22southernbooklady
Fev 3, 2013, 7:36pm

The problem is that this is the same argument pattern that Christians like johnthefiireman regularly engages in.

You seem to be on a mission to argue with the Christians about religion on the LT forum, but it is off topic on this thread. On this thread we have been talking about the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers. Please see the topic title.

You can "overlay" as many different sorts of perspectives and competing hypotheses as you want on top of each other, but, ultimately, you either have to choose one of those or some other one.

No you don't. Like most things in life, you gather evidence, pick and choose which evidence seems best to you, and if you are honest with yourself you also try to take into account your own motives. It is hardly a worthless or futile pursuit. (I also don't understand why you placed the word overlay in quotes. It's a perfectly applicable metaphor.)

The gathering of evidence and the elaboration of coherent arguments may be worthwhile, but if you think that the objective is to find The Objective Truth, then you just don't understand the enterprise and what it is and is not capable of yielding.

I think the objective -- the goal, desire, ambition -- is to is to discover truth; but I'm not the kind of person who insists there must be only one, and that it must therefore be capitalized. If you have been such a person and have found yourself disappointed that it continually eludes you I can sympathize with your frustration.

23lawecon
Editado: Fev 3, 2013, 7:49pm

"You seem to be on a mission to argue with the Christians about religion on the LT forum, but it is off topic on this thread. On this thread we have been talking about the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers. Please see the topic title."

I am sorry that you can't make out how analogies sometimes reveal parallels in defective reasoning, but whatever. I have noticed that your blindness on such matters often appears strategic, but perhaps that is unconscious.

"No you don't. Like most things in life, you gather evidence, pick and choose which evidence seems best to you, and if you are honest with yourself you also try to take into account your own motives. It is hardly a worthless or futile pursuit. (I also don't understand why you placed the word overlay in quotes. It's a perfectly applicable metaphor.)"

So your sort of historical study never reaches the stage of formulating hypotheses. It is just facts and perspectives piled on facts and perspectives. It would, after all, be dishonest to reveal the basis on which you are selecting facts.

"I think the objective -- the goal, desire, ambition -- is to is to discover truth; but I'm not the kind of person who insists there must be only one, and that it must therefore be capitalized. If you have been such a person and have found yourself disappointed that it continually eludes you I can sympathize with your frustration."

How, ah, how very Jewish (although Jews usually just do this on religious topics). You can have truth p and truth ~p and so long as neither are capitalized, well then, they are both true. Most Westerners don't understand that, well, there was Hegel, but most would describe that as muddled thinking and a contradiction.

24Betelgeuse
Fev 3, 2013, 9:05pm

This must be why people don't post to this group. Where is the civility? Why does everyone have to be so snarky? This a forum about books, for Pete's Sake. Must we always go for the jugular? Adams and Jefferson, whom posters to this forum should admire, had terrible disagreements but they managed to correspond with grace and humility. Can't we have more of that, and less of the "gotcha" arguing?

25southernbooklady
Fev 3, 2013, 9:11pm

>24 Betelgeuse: Adams and Jefferson, whom posters to this forum should admire, had terrible disagreements but they managed to correspond with grace and humility.

I think a fair amount of the vitriol between the Adams party and the Jefferson party actually occurred on the pages of other people's newspapers. Perhaps LT needs such a rag-- we could fight it out in the form of advertisements that insult the character of our enemies and accuse them of wild opinions based on little but speculation while the LT talk threads are left in peace to discuss the latest biographies of the important figures of the American Revolution. Or whatever. :-)

26Bretzky1
Fev 3, 2013, 9:17pm

I also think Adams and Jefferson intentionally toned down their letters to each other because they knew that the possibility existed that their letters would "leak out" to the public and because each knew that he was writing not just for the other, but likely for history as well. One of the last things that two prima donnas like Adams and Jefferson wanted to seem to be was lacking in grace.

27Betelgeuse
Fev 3, 2013, 9:36pm

>26 Bretzky1:, I agree in part. But there is something to be said about maintaining a civil discourse, whatever the motivation. It can sometimes persuade, while more direct arguments often fail to do anything except make both parties more defensive.

28Diane-bpcb
Editado: Fev 4, 2013, 3:05am

I'm copying from another of my entries:

About George Washington as a young man - from Washington, A Life by Ron Chernow - the definitive bio in my opinion.

"Long before he achieved great fame or renown, something about Washington's bearing and presence bedazzled people...Much of the power of Washington's presence derived from his fluid gait, the antithesis of the stiff, wooden image Gilbert Stuart grafted on the American imagination...The sculptor William Rush recalled...'I have been in battle immediately under his command. I have viewed him walking, standing, sitting.' ...In all these activities he exhibited 'the most manly and graceful attitudes I ever saw.' Washington was, quite simply, a sight to behold. 'So tall, so straight!' one servant remembered. 'And with such an air! Ah, sire, he was like no one else!'...

Jefferson extolled Washington as 'the best horseman of his age and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback' "

A friend was talking about this today and was asking, "Why do we have an image of Washington so old and obviously beyond his prime on the dollar bill?" When he was so dashing in his earlier years?

I've read other GW biographies, including an abridged version of: Washington: The Indispensable Man by J.T. Flexner . Washington, in fact, is a hero of mine because he won the Revolutionary War largely owing to his not giving up when his army almost deserted him. {Yes, I know that France "technically" won the Revolution for us--but the War would have been long over and "lost" by us if GW hadn't held his diminished forces together for so many years.}

29Betelgeuse
Fev 4, 2013, 5:36am

>28 Diane-bpcb:, GW is one of my heroes as well. He was a remarkable man, and I believe our greatest President. The Houdon bust of Washington would be a more magnificent image for the dollar bill than the Gilbert Stuart portrait, but maybe it was deemed too regal for a man who refused to be king.

30lawecon
Fev 4, 2013, 6:43am

~24-26

As I recall, and please correct me if I am wrong, the Adams/Jefferson correspondence occurred when they were both old retired men, long from the days of campaigns and public office. While they still didn't like each other very much, very little was a stake - either for themselves or their country - at that point.

31lawecon
Fev 4, 2013, 6:45am

~27

It amazes me that people, particularly educated people, find strongly argued positions to be uncivil. Apparently none of you have ever been either in academia or in the courtroom.

32Betelgeuse
Fev 4, 2013, 7:11am

>30 lawecon: Your recollection is certainly correct. I would merely point out that this forum is not a campaign for public office, either. As with the retired Jefferson and Adams, there should be very little at stake in LT discussions. It is a place to discuss books, after all, not a Continental Congress in which we pledge our lives and fortunes. And I wouldn't equate strongly argued positions with incivility. I would hope that we can have strongly argued points that are civil, whether it be on LT or in a political campaign. I am more optimistic about the former, however! :)

33southernbooklady
Fev 4, 2013, 8:24am

>27 Betelgeuse: I also think Adams and Jefferson intentionally toned down their letters to each other because they knew that the possibility existed that their letters would "leak out" to the public and because each knew that he was writing not just for the other, but likely for history as well.

In a way, this speaks to lawecon's comment that what matters is what was said. Certainly what was said was what they wanted to be remembered for. They all had their shot at trying to control the way they would be regarded by future generations.

>28 Diane-bpcb: About George Washington as a young man - from Washington, A Life by Ron Chernow - the definitive bio in my opinion.

It certainly is a very engaging one. I remember the summer I read it I was bugged about it for weeks, and when a book has me arguing with its author in my head for extended periods, that's usually a good sign. It means there is a lot to consider and to challenge. Here's my review, which I'll just link to because it is long:

http://www.bibliobuffet.com/a-reading-life-columns-193/1569-the-man-behind-the-m...

But the upshot is that yes, Washington deserves so much of the hero worship he inspired and still inspires. Although his own care to preserve his personal papers and letters also, like with Adams and Jefferson, sometimes ends up dogding the questions we ask of history, rather than answering them.

34StormRaven
Fev 4, 2013, 8:29am

Too bad that 99.9% of Americans wouldn't even recognize her name. But what can you expect from a society that has basically lost its grip.

What a childlike view. At what point in U.S. history (or really, all history) would more than 0.1% of the population have heard of a particular historian? Are you imagining that in 1905 they were talking about the doings of Harvard faculty members in the bars of Chicago?

35Bretzky1
Fev 4, 2013, 9:15am

#28,

I have Chernow's biography of Washington, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but I have heard good things about it, so maybe I should start on it (although my stack of unread books is already approaching embarrassing proportions).

I've read a few Washington biographies and my favorite has been Douglas Southall Freeman's George Washington: A Biography. It's a multivolume biography (seven volumes in all), but well worth the read.

The other two books about Washington that I've read are not full biographies, but do provide good insight into him:

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
Realistic Visionary by Peter Henriques

36Bretzky1
Fev 4, 2013, 9:24am

#30,

As I recall, and please correct me if I am wrong, the Adams/Jefferson correspondence occurred when they were both old retired men, long from the days of campaigns and public office. While they still didn't like each other very much, very little was a stake - either for themselves or their country - at that point.

While it's true that both had effectively retired from the political arena, Jefferson still had substantial influence as an elder statesman. Adams's influence had long since waned, even among the political factions that generally supported his side of the argument in the major political quarrels of the day.

That loss of influence is, I think, probably what led Adams to lament his place in history. He felt that he would likely be portrayed as being only a moderately important figure during the period, and that Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson would get the majority of the laurels. If he was largely ignored in his own time, what chance would he have with future generations?

37lawecon
Editado: Fev 4, 2013, 9:27pm

~36

Again, perhaps I'm wrong, but I believe that Adams WAS generally forgotten or had the status of a skeleton in the attic until very recently. The interest in Jefferson, Madison and Washington never waned. (One of the best multi volume biographies of the mid 20th Century was, for instance on Madison, to say nothing of the parallel but later ones on Jefferson and Washington.) Even secondary figures like Hamilton had their admirers and defenders. But Adams was about as popular and admired as Bush II.

Then, for some reason that I doubt will occur to most of the posters here, all that changed. We had major biographies, television specials, etc. Adams was reborn, but of course it was mainly the Adams up through the revolution, not Adams the President. But reputation is reputation and that of Adams seems to have all at once been taken out of the attic, given a good polish and put up for admiration - sort of like Jeremy Bentham before someone (no one knows who, of course) stole his skull.

And, Storm, you should tell us more about the bars of Chicago. Is that why you're here and feel at home? (In any case, another interesting analogy.)

38Diane-bpcb
Fev 6, 2013, 9:30pm

>33 southernbooklady:

I liked your review of Washington, A Life , but a minor quibble.

You start with a list of things most people don't know about George Washington, but I would add, to use Chernow's words:

"In addition to his better-known title of Father of His Country, Washington is also revered in certain circles as The Father of the American Mule." An example of his "pioneering farm work."

I was quite surprised to read about this.

39southernbooklady
Fev 6, 2013, 10:11pm

He was also a great brewer of whiskey.

40lawecon
Fev 6, 2013, 10:49pm

And quite a land thief. The Whiskey Rebellion

41Diane-bpcb
Editado: Fev 27, 2013, 8:19pm

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

42Diane-bpcb
Fev 27, 2013, 8:26pm

Does anyone else like the documentary from PBS, Liberty! The American Revolution? It was made in 1997, and is now on DVD. (It's the documentary, not the book, I'm talking about.)