Saturday, June 20, 2009

Two Short Takes on Historical Inevitability

Having posted recently on the inevitability of the Civil War (or lack thereof), I can't miss the opportunity to flag Dimitri's recent post sardonically noting an attempt by the Director of James Buchanan's Wheatland estate to revive Old Buck's reputation by asserting that nobody elected in 1856 could have averted the war. As I have suggested here and here, quite possibly the opposite is true.

All of which brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, by Merrill D. Peterson, concerning the February 28, 1844 explosion on board the USS Princeton, which killed (among others) John Tyler's Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur and resulted in the installation of John Caldwell Calhoun as his successor. The explosion, Peterson observed, was "one of those random events which in its consequences makes a mockery of every attempt to impose some grand law on the history of nations." I suppose the same characterization might apply to the fact that "His Accidency" became president in the first place.

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