In the last few months, an increasing number of politicians have made arguments that start with “The Founders never intended…”. While Americans have been appealing to the founding generation to bolster their positions since the founding generation, there seems to be an uptick of this rhetoric in political dialogue. I’ve spent over a decade deeply immersed in the founding generation and let me tell you, almost any argument that starts with those dreaded words is usually made in bad faith.
There are two instances in which it’s acceptable and appropriate to consider the founders’ intentions. First, you can ask what…
A few weeks ago, the James A. Garfield National Park Service Twitter account shared a remarkable letter James wrote to his wife, Lucretia, on July 8, 1869. Garfield was on a tour north with David Wells (a commissioner of revenue) to investigate issues for an upcoming census bill in Congress. They stopped in New York and Connecticut, before arriving Massachusetts. While in Boston, he stayed at the Tremont Hotel, which was the first hotel to boast indoor plumbing, toilets, and baths. It was also known for its free soap. The height of luxury!
How one historian tries to be transparent about biases
On May 28, Pulitzer Prize-winner Gordon Wood reviewed Pulitzer Prize-winner Alan Taylor’s new book, American Republics. The reviewed caused quite the Twitter brouhaha among historians, journalists, and readers. The line that stuck out the most for me is this one: “It is startling to witness just how much the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor at Jefferson’s own university dislikes its patron, Thomas Jefferson.”
For starters, it’s not a job requirement that we like the people that started the organizations or universities where we are employed. Cassie Good commented that this isn’t part…
You’ve published a book or you have a specific area of expertise and you’d like to go on podcasts as a guest to talk about? Good for you, you’ve taken the first step! Podcasts are a wonderful way to reach new audiences and promote your work. Just recognizing their value is an excellent starting place. As they say, you have to recognize you have a problem before you can fix it.
This week I read an article in TIME titled “The Split in How Americans Think About Our Collective Past is Real — But There’s a Way Out of the ‘History Wars’.” The article explores how the culture wars have extended to history curriculum, causing people of different religions, races, political orientations, and gender to respond to history in different ways. This war is fought in many arenas, not least of which is the battle over monuments and statues.
TIME suggests that the way out of these “history wars” is by emphasizing an inquiry-based approach rather than a facts-based curriculum. Basically…
At the beginning of the month, Senate candidate J.D. Vance decried “childless cat ladies” as lesser Americans. In particular, he pointed to people like Vice President Kamala Harris, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. It’s easy to roll your eyes and dismiss this statement as ridiculous campaign rhetoric, especially because they aren’t particularly accurate statements (Harris has two step-children, Buttigieg just adopted a child, and they have dogs!). But it’s actually dangerous language designed to categorize certain people as lesser than others.
In the last few weeks, an increasing number of businesses have announced vaccine mandates, states announced mandates for schools and teachers, and President Biden announced a mandate for federal employees and active duty soldiers. Although there is a lot of debate about these mandates, there is actually a long history of vaccine requirements, going all the way back to George Washington.
Political biographies often get a bad rap, and perhaps rightfully so. There are a lot of bad bios out there. But when done right, they are such an important part of history and political culture.
For my monthly Governing column, I wrote about why political biographies matter, what makes a good bio, and offered my recommendations. Here’s a quick intro to the post:
We have to know our history to understand our current moment. That sounds trite, but it’s true, and there is still so much to learn. The recent anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre revealed that many well-educated…
On January 9, 1776, Thomas Paine published a pamphlet arguing against the British king and monarchy in general. Common Sense changed the course of history by speaking to the average man, appealing to his common sense, and presenting irrefutable arguments that sparked a surge of support for independence. Paine sold over 150,000 copies, the equivalent of 12 million copies based on today’s population. But many more Americans learned of his prose at coffee houses, taverns, and family homes, as newspapers and pamphlets were regularly read aloud.
President Biden is wrapping up his first international visit and it’s clear that the mission of the trip is to restore relationships with our allies and defend democracy on the global stage.
I wrote more about the ideals and goals behind Biden’s trip in a recent piece for The Bulwark, and how they compare to the first presidential trip abroad.