Booknotes VI (May '13)
19 hours ago
Bancroft talked at length about the [secession] crisis but seemed unable to come to any conclusions; while believing that "the republic, though in danger, was the most stable and beneficial form of government in the world," he was insistent that "as a Government it had no power to coerce the people of the South or save itself from danger."
An attack may have rallied a united South and forced a divided North reluctantly to acknowledge South Carolina's independence, or it may have alienated the other Southern states, rallied the North, and led to a quick campaign that would have settled the issue of secession for good but left underlying sectional issues -- read: slavery -- unaffected. Or, as would happen several months later, an attack may have rallied both sides and sparked a long and horrific civil war . . ..
LEGENDARY Nessie hunter Robert Rines is giving up his search for the monster after 37 years.
The 85-year-old American will make one last trip in a bid to find the elusive beast.
After almost four decades of fruitless expeditions, he admitted: "Unfortunately, I'm running out of age."
World War II veteran Robert has devoted almost half his life to scouring Loch Ness.
He started in 1971. The following year, he watched a 25ft-long hump with the texture of elephant skin gliding through the water.
His original trip was to help another monster hunter with sonar equipment and quickly identified large moving targets.
He was smitten and returned the next year, which is when, he says: "I had the misfortune of seeing one of these things with my own eyes."
Since then, he has been obsessed with tracking down the creature with a staggering array of hi-tech equipment. It was this gear that took the famous "flipper" picture that year which created a stir around the world.
Despite having hundreds of sonar contacts over the years, the trail has since gone cold and Rines believes that Nessie may be dead, a victim of global warming.
[T]he best thing that could now be done for the Country would be to Send down to Washington a delegation of Old Women, armed with Six pieces of . . . diaper to clout Mr. Buchannan, double and triplicate and to pin them on his posteriors with a wooden skure [skewer?] instead of a diaper pin for he has evidently got the bowel complaint.
[T]he presidential campaign of 1828 was probably the dirtiest in American history. It seems only fair to observe that while hostile stories about Adams were largely false, those about Jackson were largely true. An exception was the charge appearing in an Adams paper that Jackson’s mother had been a prostitute.
The amendments to [the Constitution] are, of course, part of the essential intrinsic context of such a document. The Constitution following an amendment is, in many ways, a substantially different document than it was just prior to amendment, and the internal context even for provisions not expressly altered by the amendment nonetheless changes, and changes the interpretation of such provisions. Cf. United States v. La Franca, 282 U.S. 568, 576 (1931) (Statutes after amendment “are to be read, as to all subsequent occurrences, as if they had originally been in the amended form”). And insofar as an amendment was made with reference to earlier provisions, the amendment will control over such earlier provisions . . ..
No president has ever played his cards closer to his chest [than James Polk]. Even in his diary Polk did not let his guard down. He confided the objectives of his presidency to only one person besides his wife: George Bancroft, the New England intellectual who shared his vision of America's imperial destiny and whom he was about to name secretary of the navy. The new president slapped his thigh and avowed, "There are to be four great measures of my administration," Bancroft recalled:
The settlement of the Oregon question with Great Britain.
The acquisition of California and a large district on the coast.
The reduction of the Tariff to a revenue basis.
The complete and permanent establishment of the Constitutional Treasury, as he loved to call it, but as others called it, "Independent Treasury."
Judged by these objectives, Polk is probably the most successful president the United States ever had.
The consequences of the election of 1844 went far beyond Texas annexation, important as that was [in other words, Clay clearly would not have annexed Texas]. If Henry Clay had won the White House, almost surely there would have been no Mexican War, no Wilmot Proviso, and therefore less reason for the status of slavery in the territories to have inflamed sectional passions. . . . President Clay would probably have strengthened the Whig Party . . .. In the South, he would have encouraged moderation on the slavery issue, including the acceptance of an alternative future characterized by economic diversification and, in the long run, the gradual compensated emancipation which he advocated all his life. There might have been no reason for the Whig Party to disappear or a new Republican Party to emerge in the 1850s.
We too readily assume the inevitability of everything that has happened. The decisions that electorates and politicians make have real consequences.
The requirements of supply, maneuverability, logistics, finance and command and control would have made it impossible for Xerxes to have led an army even a quarter of the size of the one that Herodotus has given him.
How can we arrive at a more realistic figure? One very simple solution has been suggested. It is to suppose that the Greeks consistently misinterpreted a Persian chiliad (a unit of 1,000 men) as a myriad (a unit of 10,000 men), and thus one should divide Persian numbers by ten. That would given an original invasion force of 170,000 infantry. But even that is too large an army, given the inevitable problems of logistics, supply, and command. Other solutions must be sought.
New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.
How would have the political situation had developed by 1860 with a two-term Clay Administration rather than the a Jackson one, or even more intriguing a Whig dominated two-term Clay Administration in the 40's?
Boy, that's a tough "what if." Since it's vaguely relevant, I'll begin by noting that Clay's best chance of winning the presidency probably came in 1840 -- the year he wasn't nominated. The Whigs held their convention in December 1839 and nominated Harrison. There was a brief economic recovery in 1839, and the perception at the time was that Harrison was more electable. In 1840, the economy collapsed again. If the Whigs had held their convention in mid-1840, the Whigs' concerns about electability would have been less, Clay would likely have been nominated and would likely have won. . ..
As a Whig presidential victory came to seem inevitable [as the economy continued to worsen during 1840], the significance of the early date of the Whig convention became apparent. Some Whig politicians, particularly in the North, had supported Harrison for prudential reasons but would actually have preferred Henry Clay as the true embodiment of the party's principals. Now it seemed clear that Clay too would have won the election -- and that he would have gained the nomination had the convention been held later when the full impact of the Panic of 1849 had been felt. Clay himself complained bitterly that he had been "always run by my friends when sure to be defeated, and now betrayed for a nomination when I, or any one, would be sure of an election."