A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.
New & Noteworthy Archive
The Thomas Jefferson Hour is a weekly radio broadcast on Public Radio featuring conversations with Thomas Jefferson,
as portrayed by the award-winning humanities scholar and author, Clay Jenkinson.Typically, half of the hour-long program is Jefferson responding to the topic at hand; in the second half Mr. Jenkinson expands upon, corrects, or disputes what Jefferson previously said.
Past shows, going back to 2006, are available on iTunes.
- Since movies about the American Revolution are infrequently made — the last significant one was John Adams (2008) on HBO — it is of special interest to see a new series about the War that is just now beginning. Based on the book Washington’s Spies (2007) by Alexander Rose, AMC’s Turn (premiering 6-Apr-2014) focuses on the spy ring that provided George Washington with crucial enemy intelligence. TV critic Alessandra Stanley calls it
ambitious and beautifully filmed(The New York Times, 4-Apr-2014). Based on the first episode — of ten — it does look realistic and dramatically compelling. To be seen ...
- There is a startling image of James Madison wearing Google Glass in the Sunday New York Times (19-Jan-2014). In an opinion piece titled Madison’s Privacy Blind Spot, the 1816 portrait of Madison by John Vanderlyn is updated to show him sporting the futuristic monocle. Jeffery Rosen, the current president of the National Constitution Center, states that Madison — the Father of the Constitution and champion of the Bill of Rights — was
more concerned with abuses of legislative and executive power than of unregulated commercial power.Rosen scans Mandison’s views towards abuses of power and concludes that the Constitution may need to be amended to protect the people from both corporate and government surveillance.
- The first book printed in English in North America just fetched over $14 million. Known as the Bay Psalm Book (The New York Times, 26-Nov-2013), it is, right now, also the most expensive book ever sold at auction. Printed in Massachussets and published in 1640, it is an original translation of the psalms from the Hebrew, used by Puritans in church and at home. One of only 11 known copies, it has historical significance not only because it is so rare, but also because its printing demonstrates acquisition of skill that was previously unknown in the colonies.
- During the Battles of Saratoga (1777) the Continental Army had no cannon, while the British Regulars, led by General John Burgoyne, had 18. After the American victory the cannons were seized and used by Washington’s Army for the remainder of the War. Today there are only three of these
six-poundersremaining. Read how one of them (The New York Times, 10-Nov-2013) has been on a strange odyssey since 1961, but now is back at the Saratoga National Historical Park where it belongs.
- The tradition of creating a presidential library did not begin until 1939 when Franklin Roosevelt donated his papers to the Federal Government. So it is not surprising that George Washington is getting his library only now. Located at the Mount Vernon Estate, the $45 million Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington is, however, long overdue. Washington’s stature, once collectively acknowledged by Americans, is now somewhat diminished. The library, research center, scholars in residence, and rotating exhibits will, with time, be a corrective. And if he is not again
first in the hearts of his countrymen,then certainly he should be second. See Edward Rothstein’s review on Washington as a reader of books (The New York Times, 27-Sep-2013).
- It’s not just the Civil War that has passionate participants performing in famous battle reenactments, there are localized instances of reenactments from the American Revolution as well. Probably the best known is the recreation played out every year on Lexington Battle Green (starting at 5:30 am) as part of Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts state holiday. To better understand the attraction of these reenactments for the participants, read this charming piece — Where the Past is Never Left Behind — about how one mother was finally seduced into enjoying with her family
the setting, the view, and eventually the history and its fake battlesat Fort Ticonderoga on Lake George, New York (The New York Times, 12-Sep-2013).
- There is an interesting Op-Ed piece in The New York Times (7-Aug-2013), by James Traub, that compares the modern Tea Party and its crusade to prevent illegal immigrants from gaining a path to citizenship with the Federalist Party of the nascent U.S. Because the Federalists culturally identified with New England and the mid-Atlantic, the Louisiana Purchase (1803) — which more than doubled the size of the country — threatened to marginalize them.
Every Federalist in Congress save John Quincy Adams voted against the Louisiana Purchase,says Traub. In addition, fearing that immigrants would vote for the Republican Party of Jefferson and Madison, they also sought to restrict newcomers from holding office.
Of course the Federalist Party collapsed because it could not — or would not — adapt to demographic realities. And the Tea Party?
- Despite John Smith’s heroic accounts, the 1607 English settlement at Jamestown (VA) was just hard and not at well planned. Food? Scarce for many reasons, but on starving, cannibalism became a option. (See The New York Times, 2-May-2013.) Not surprising really, since humans in extremity will resort to survival by any means. The same happened more recently in the 19th century during the Donner Party expedition.
More interesting is James Horn’s perspective in a followup NY Times Op-Ed article (4-May-2013), which suggests that while the English settlers feared cannibalism by the American Natives, in fact, they projected it, and ironically they themselves were forced to practice it.
- Just as other areas of the government are being hit by the enforced spending cuts called sequestration, the Library of Congress is also suffering. The New York Times (3-May-2013) reports that it is falling behind in processing the 2,000 some copyrights that are submitted each day, and its digitization budget for this year is halved. Read the full article to appreciate the mission of the Library of Congress and the budgetary impact that could take years to repair.
- The Yale University Art Gallery completed a ten-year renovation and reopened to the public December 2012. Founded by John Trumbull, who donated many of his own works in exchange for an annuity of $1000, the renovation links together three architecturally diverse buildings that, once inside, seem very much a whole. There is a wonderful collection of American art — one of the best in the country — including a room devoted to paintings by Trumbull (69 miniatures and iconic historical paintings are on view), as well as paintings by his contemporaries.
- Even more on Henry Wiencek (see below), whose book, Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, is now available. The New York Times (26-Nov-2012) gives background to the Wiencek book, which is not only a disagreement on attribution and facts, but also an ongoing conflict between university scholars and independent scholars.
- More on Henry Wiencek, whose book, Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, is now available. Annette Gordon-Reed (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello) comes to Jefferson’s defense. She writes that Wiencek misunderstands a great deal and what he thinks is new, is not. Basically she says the book cannot be trusted. See Slate,
Jefferson Was Not a Monster(19-Oct-2012).