Civil War: Hodgson

The American press was as querulous about the government in 1861 as it is now, and the attitudes of editors did not always agree with that of the administration. Only five of New York City's 17 daily newspapers were firmly behind the Lincoln Administration's war effort. But perhaps the most important free press case of the Civil War played out, not in New York, but in the small town of West Chester, Pennsylvania. The town at the time had barely 4,000 citizens, but it was the seat of prosperous Chester County, which explains how it supported four weekly newspapers. Two were Republican -- the Village Record, an old, conservative Whig sheet and the most-read newspaper in Chester County; and the Chester County Times, which represented the more radical elements in the new Republican Party. The American Republican was the conservative Democratic newspaper, and the Jeffersonian was the blazing, unabashed standard-bearer of the Democratic Party of 1860. Its editor since 1843 was John Hodgson, a strikingly handsome man who inherited his mother's fine features and his father's slimness. Hodgson turned the Jeffersonian into the voice of the pro-southern and pro-slavery wing of the Democratic Party. When the northern Democratic Party began to warp and splinter in the 1850s under the stress of supporting slavery, Hodgson rivaled George W. Pearce, editor of the older American Republican, for control of the local organization. Whether measured by newspaper circulation or voter tallies, Hodgson buried Pearce. With his arrogant, beautiful head, he must have cut quite a figure in the uniforms he wore in the (largely ceremonial) state militia, an appointment that enabled him to claim the title “Major Hodgson.” Hodgson had been born in Yorkshire, and had come to America with his family as a child. Apprenticed to Charles Miner at the Village Record, he had finished his training at 17 and gone to work as a compositor, then had bought the old-fashioned Norristown Herald newspaper. But he couldn’t make any money with it and gave it up after a few years to open a dry-goods store on Market Street in Philadelphia. He hated mercantile life, however, and longed for the rough-and-tumble of political editorship. After his wife died and left him with five young children, he had returned to West Chester and got back into newspapering. His father had been a Methodist preacher and his brother Francis was a Methodist minister. John chose the paper, not the pulpit, but he went about his work for the Democratic Party with a missionary zeal, and he was an active leader in the West Chester Methodist Church. Hodgson doesn’t seem to have felt that politics sullied religion, and he was the ideal opposition editor during the years the Whigs held sway in West Chester, asking pointed questions about the conduct of the men they elected, whether on the West Chester borough council or the state Assembly. On national questions, he backed the party’s position unquestioningly, with a faith in its essential righteousness that was remarkable, even for a partisan newspaper editor. The Methodists in those years were the church of the American workers and a bastion of the Democratic Party. Methodists increasingly identified themselves with political causes, even more so than other faiths. As an active Odd Fellow, Hodgson would have opposed the Anti-Masonic strain in the Whig Party, and as an immigrant himself -- though he was only 9 when his family came to America, his enemies never let him forget his English birth -- he despised the anti-foreigner activities of the “Know-Nothing” Republicans in West Chester in the 1850s. But Hodgson carried on his politics more than anything else, as a Christian. He seems to have held a personal dislike for the philosophy and politics of the abolitionists. He was deeply alarmed by the atheist and freethinking tendencies of the religious liberals who made up much of the abolitionist societies, and when those men and women entered the political mainstream as the core of the local Republican party, Hodgson saw it as nothing short of satanic. He fought them with every weapon he could muster, in the name of saving America’s soul. He was a racist, but perhaps no more so than more moderate Democrats or even many Whigs. That he chose to express his racism in the bluntest terms was a political decision, not a personal one. His political rivals, who attacked him at every opportunity, never said he went too far in his anti-black rhetoric. They evidently felt no need to distance themselves from it. Hodgson was a Christian politician first, and his Jeffersonian embraced the racist justification of slavery with an ardent, yet purely political, passion. Many lifelong Democrats in West Chester joined the war for the Union, or lent it their support, with unfeigned enthusiasm; Harry Guss, who led the National Guards militia into the 97th Pa. Infantry, and Henry McIntire, who led the Brandywine Guards into the 1st Pa. Reserves, were both Democrats. However, some of the party’s older leaders -- Hodgson, Nimrod Strickland, Robert E. Monaghan, and John M. Brinton -- persisted in seeing the war as a partisan sham, an inevitable effect of electing a man like Lincoln to the White House, and a national tragedy caused by the abolitionists who had perverted the government and rabidly driven the South to desperate measures in its own defense and in defense of the intent of America’s founders. The South may have broken the compact of the Constitution, but these men felt the blame rested with Lincoln and the fanatical Northern abolitionists who ran the Republican Party. They said so in party meetings, on the streets of West Chester, and in the columns of the Jeffersonian. West Chester, panicked by fear, furious over the rending of the Union, and with a pent-up war lust that had been brewing for almost a decade, was in an intolerant mood. Under the headline “Traitors in West Chester,” the Chester County Times of April 27, 1861, carried this communication from an anonymous reader: “Every man who will not give his money to support the brave boys who have gone to the field to defend their country against the most diabolical and wicked attempt to overthrow the best government in the world is a traitor. There is some loud talk about certain men at home. IF THEY PREFER THE WAR SOUTH THAT IS WAGED BY THE CONSPIRATORS, THEY MUST BE MADE TO LEAVE FOR THAT CAMP. We cannot and will not have spies and enemies in our camp. The law of treason must strike down and put down all babbling traitors.” Three weeks later, the American Republican printed an inflammatory, rambling column by a correspondent signed “Wayne” (the name of the county's Revolutionary War hero), describing a public meeting at the Courthouse during which “Major! Hodgson was given to understand pretty plainly that his secession paper would not be endured much longer.” “Wayne” also thundered against the anti-war faction in West Chester in a column in the Chester County Times, threatening that a “day of retribution will come.” A private letter written the day after Fort Sumter surrendered put the matter more precisely: “Hodson [sic] & Monaghan & one or two others have been talking pretty strong here within a few days for Secession; Now as war has begun if they don’t come out for the Union or at least keep quiet they will be -- hung I was going to say -- mobbed I will. The Jeffersonian building will not stand long unless Jno. Hodson dries up.” From the distance of more than a century, the “traitors” of West Chester seem a harmless lot. Brinton was “a unique figure, big-headed, big-bodied, full of blood, iron and Democracy.” Muscular and eccentric, he kept boxing gloves in his law office, and when he felt he needed a workout, he pulled them on for sparring matches with his black janitor. He also had a habit of offering to duke it out with country farmers who refused to pay his fees. Monaghan, the moon-faced lawyer who headed the Democratic flock, was overly proud of his distant Irish ancestry. Strickland, with his crippled leg and pursed lips, squinted at the world through rectangular spectacles from under a broad-brimmed low-crowned hat. His squashed look was made the more ridiculous by tall collars and a billy goat beard under his chin. A proud member of the Odd Fellows society, he made his living by artfully dancing from one political appointment to another. If the Democrats had ever gone totally out of power on the state and national levels, he would have starved. A West Chester writer explained Strickland to Philadelphia readers by saying he had “acquired some little position as the former editor of the ‘Republican and Democrat’ at this place, but, as you very well know, is ever running after small offices.” At their annual party convention in Horticultural Hall on Aug. 13, 1861, the hard core of the local Democrats opposed the war and bid defiance to the government, but even as they affirmed their radicalism, the ranks of the hard-core shrank. Among the approved resolutions Strickland offered was: That the American democratic government is founded not upon the sword, but upon the intelligence and virtue of the people. Public measures are to be brought to the test of the Constitution and finally settled by the appropriate civil tribunals. To resort to armies is a fundamental error, and must result in establishing a military despotism. This meeting is opposed to war movements whether by popular assemblies, state legislatures, or Congress. The People are competent for self-government, and if a Convention of the States be called, under the Constitution, we feel assured that our difficulties can be peacefully and satisfactorily adjusted. Longtime Democrat Joseph Hemphill led the moderates, and he put forth a different preamble and a set of alternate resolutions. He blamed the war on “the disunionists of the Southern States,” sustained the administration, and called on the party “to maintain and perpetuate our union, Constitution and laws at all hazards of toil, treasure and blood.” Hemphill tried to bring these to a vote late in the meeting, but was hissed and defeated. The Jeffersonian supported the resolutions that had passed: “The resolutions of Mr. Hemphill ... express no condemnation of, but, by their silence and general tenor, would be construed to endorse, the unconstitutional and corrupt doings of Lincoln, Curtin, and the Legislature.” Hodgson found himself the brunt of most of the backlash. As editor of the Jeffersonian, his was the most public position among the anti-war Democrats. After the word "copperheads" came into vogue to describe them, Hodgson relished it (“There is an applicability about it which speaks out boldly and has a palpable meaning,” he wrote), but his life in the town became increasingly difficult. Not long after Fort Sumter he was chased from a local oyster cellar after an altercation with one besotted Unionist. The old nativist charges were flung against him again, with redoubled fury. The Chester County Times of May 15 printed a letter from a correspondent, scolding the Jeffersonian’s editor as “The Tory Hodgson true to his English tory instincts.” The Times still carried Know Nothing venom in its veins from its nativist days. Hodgson also occupied an awkward position as the enthusiastic head of the county militia. Hodgson, “although holding a military office in the militia, is sneaking about West Chester, grinning occasionally a ghastly smile over news he may hear unfavorable to the war for the Union!” the Times correspondent wrote. “If he has any soul or heart in favor of his adopted country that has fed and clothed him, why is he not found now where his holiday profession as a soldier should place him -- in the ranks?” Hodgson’s rivals did their part in whipping up popular furor. “There is an impudent boldness in the highwayman, who presents you the alternative, ‘your money or your life,’ which, at least, commands a kind of admiration for frankness;” the Chester County Times wrote of Hodgson, “but the Spanish stilletto, stabbing by masked traitors, the ‘masked batteries’ of cowardly tories, are as far beneath the bold bandit, as the vilest reptile that crawls on the earth is beneath the glories of the noonday sun.” A month later, the Times wrote, “The last number of the Tory organ in this place was filled with illy concealed treason. The leniency of the people has emboldened the traitor editor and the frequent meetings of the small coterie of Tories who almost daily meet for mutual sympathy and mutual plotting, keep him in countenance .... Let them be constantly exposed to public gaze, and when they have their secret conclave, for rejoicing over the defeat of national arms, let them be treated as enemies of the community.” Yet the Jeffersonian’s tone had been basically positive through the first three months of the conflict. Hodgson had printed some criticisms of the administrations and some poetry lamenting the destructiveness of war, but he also ran enthusiastic reports of the military work being done, and upbeat, patriotic letters from soldiers. The newspaper turned negative in July, however. On July 27 the entire front page was given over to the text of a speech by Clement Vallandingham, the copperhead congressman from Ohio. A week later Hodgson devoted the front page to a reprint of an address by John C. Breckenridge, the radical Democrat who had run against Lincoln in 1860. The full account of the Bull Run disaster appeared in his August 10 edition, while in the same issue on inside pages devoted to political news he ran strident anti-administration editorials with headlines like: “WAR! WAR! WAR! TAXATION AND POVERTY!” and letters bearing titles like “THE FOLLY OF THIS WAR.” The Hodgson editorial that most inflamed the loyal citizens of West Chester (or so they said later) appeared in his July 27 edition, and was titled “The Purpose of the War.” It claimed that “Abolition demagogues” had steered the country into war, “not to restore harmony and peace, and consequent union, between the two sections of the country, but to subjugate the South and ‘wipe out’ Slavery. In brief, ITS PURPOSE IS TO BENEFIT THE NEGRO AT THE EXPENSE OF THE WHITE MAN.” As proof of this, the Jeffersonian cited resolutions that had been introduced in the Senate calling for an emancipation of Southern slaves. “To effect this object -- or rather to attempt to effect it -- thousands, and tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Northern lives are to be destroyed, and millions of dollars of weighty and crushing debt, with its never-ending taxation, are to be fastened upon Northern citizens and Northern property.” Published immediately after the Northern military disaster at Bull Run, with the government menaced and the people expecting to hear any day of Washington in flames, the claim that the war was about slavery was just too much for people to swallow. “An editor who would coin as many lies as is embodied in that one short article, and published it with the criminal purpose of making his readers believe that the war was an abolition war, got up to benefit the nigger at the expense of the white man, was saying that our army deserved their defeat, and that he rejoiced over the victory of the rebels at Bull’s Run,” replied an American Republican correspondent who signed himself “Westtown” (the name of a nearby township). “The English scoundrel did, I have no doubt, rejoice. If the doctrine of his editorial is right, our army ought to be defeated.” Hodgson’s offensive predictions ultimately proved correct; it wasn’t yet a war about slavery, but it would have to become one before it could be won. In any case, Northern loyalists in 1861 still rejected the notion that the conflict had anything to do with slavery or blacks. The editorial had a more immediate consequence, however. The three-month troops had been discharged and were back in town, forming new regiments to go off for three years’ service. Before they did this, however, they showed their feelings against the Jeffersonian. By the moonlight at about 1 a.m. on the morning of August 20, a few hours before the Jeffersonian was to go to print again, a gang of men quietly and efficiently destroyed the office. The newspaper’s building on High Street was broken into, “and the newspaper press broken, the hand press pitched out of the window and the type knocked into pi and thrown into an adjoining sink,” the Village Record reported. “On Tuesday morning the office presented a desolate looking spectacle. Nothing but a few bundles of paper was to be seen in either the first or second stories of the office.” Henry S. Evans, the Record's editor, said he had no idea who had done this, but “it is believed they came from the country.” A historical account of the incident written in the 1930s by a professor from Philadelphia reported, “While no public revelations were ever made as to the personal identity of any of the members of the mob, the townspeople knew that the participants were connected with a newly formed secret Republican organization in West Chester.” This information he ascribed, in a footnote, to a “statement to the writer by Squire Paxson who lived in West Chester at the time,” and it has often been said that the inspiration for the vandalism was Congressman John Hickman. Hickman was a devotee of the theater, and a friend and fan of Edwin Forrest, the great American actor. There is something theatrical and appropriate in the image of Hickman as Henry II, discovering that his minions had taken him at his word in attacking the man who was his Becket. "Mobbing" of unpopular groups or institutions was a fact of life in American communities in the mid-19th century. Philadelphia, a mere 26 miles from West Chester, was notorious for it. In the 1830s and 1840s, Philadelphia's anarchic wards were ruled by vicious bosses and utterly corrupt police. Notorious street gangs like the Killers, the Rats, the Blood Tubs, and (unaccountably) the Dock Street Philosophers terrorized the city, killing citizens and destroying property. At the same time, the city was wracked by ethnic violence. Irish mobs sacked whole neighborhoods that were home to African-Americans. Protestant “nativists” attacked immigrant Irish Catholics and burned their churches. There were nine major mob attacks against blacks in Philadelphia between 1834 and 1849. During the Kensington and Southwark anti-Catholic riots in 1844, twenty people had been killed. It got so bad that newspapers like the Philadelphia Bulletin of May 3, 1847, contained the news item, “no rioting yesterday.” Generally it was a phenomenon of the big cities, but it could hit small towns like West Chester, too. The first big abolitionist meeting in the town, in 1837, was driven out of the courthouse by a mob attack, and thereafter the abolitionists had to meet in the open, or under the eaves of the market house, because no one would rent them space. The townsfolk were acutely aware of the dangers of mobs. The borough had no police, just a constable and a night watchman or two, and it would be helpless in the face of a major civil disorder. West Chester's Horticultural Hall was built in 1848 as a public meeting place. It was designed by the architect Thomas U. Walter, who was known for Greek Revival buildings. The Greek Revival style was more than just a fashion; it was an aesthetic that reflected the values that America’s founders wanted it to absorb: the qualities of civic responsibility, reason, and enlightened discourse represented by classical figures like Cicero. They tried to inculcate these values in the fledgling democracy. Walter was a Philadelphian, born and raised in the city. He would almost certainly have felt deeply discouraged by the breakdown of civic life in his hometown. Perhaps he had seen the smouldering ruin of Pennsylvania Hall, burned by the anti-abolitionist mob a decade before. In West Chester, his design for Horticultural Hall (right) harked back to the Dark Ages, the realm of brutality, barbarism, and the death of classical culture under waves of Viking marauders. Nothing bespeaks the concept of culture under siege more than the windowless building’s recessed doorway that (falsely) advertised the thickness of the walls. Horticultural Hall was not only Walter’s last commission in West Chester; it was the only one without a hint of Greek revival style. It is a statement about a fragile culture with classical aspirations under siege by “mobocracy.” In 1861, the Village Record, so far from being chilled by the image of a mob attack on a newspaper, expressed only the mildest disapproval, and was inclined to blame the Jeffersonian for its own troubles. “It is lamentable that the settled law of the land should be violated in a manner so calculated to produce violence -- or rather, that the imperfections of the law should be such that the offenses against society, or calculated to effect its very existence, should not be punished by due process of law.” At the American Republican, in the days after the attack, editor George Pearce took pains to point out that when people had asked him what should be done about the Jeffersonian, he had “counseled patience, and deprecated in the strongest language all resorts to violence.” He seemed to have forgotten that in his issue just before the attack, he had pointed out to the public that the Jeffersonian “only maintained its existence by the forbearance of those whose loyal opinions it outraged in every one of its pestiferous issues." In the wake of Bull Run, the mood across the North had changed. The big battle was over, the Confederacy had not crumbled, and Washington had not fallen. The giddy excitement of the first three months dissipated, as the seriousness of the conflict became apparent. It was time to take stock and prepare --militarily, politically, and psychologically -- for a war that was going to take a few more months at least. The defeat left the North more united, more grimly determined, and the critics of the war found themselves very much on the outside. The Jeffersonian was not alone in suffering for its Southern sympathies. On August 8 the office of the Concord, N.H., Democratic Standard had been mobbed by soldiers who didn’t like what had been written about them. The same day the Jeffersonian was sacked, a secessionist newspaper in Easton was mobbed, and a publisher in Haverhill, Massachusetts, was tarred and feathered by a mob. “Can we wonder,” Henry S. Evans wrote, “that a proud and patriotic people, jealous of their country’s honor, burning at the defeat of her armies, incensed at the vile conduct of traitors, and trembling for the safety, not only of their government but of their fire-sides, should chafe at an opposition in their midst which is calculated, however honest its motives, or whatever specious pretenses may veil it, to defeat all their efforts and sacrifices?” What happened next, however, was certainly attributable to John Hickman. Hodgson missed his Tuesday edition, but the attempt to shut him down only inspired him to greater effort, and he prepared to print up his next edition Friday evening, come hell or high water, to have it to readers as usual on Saturday. Hodgson was “busy during the week running up and down to Philadelphia,” where another pro-secession newspaper, the Christian Observer, had offered him the use of its presses. However, on Friday, Aug. 23, 1861, United States marshals seized the office of the Christian Observer, along with what was left of the Jeffersonian. “Two officers arrived by the train at 4:00 p.m., who proceeded at once to the establishment on High street, and took the secession concern out of the hands of its treasonable conductors.” John Jenkins and William Schuyler -- two assistant marshals sent by U.S. Marshal William Millward -- padlocked the office under a warrant from George A. Coffey, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District. They also seized Hodgson’s types, presses, and books. Hodgson and his son visited Coffey in Philadelphia on September 10, and again about a week later. “I told him that if he would agree not to oppose the war ... I certainly would not oppose the restoration of the paper,” Coffey recalled in later testimony. Hodgson’s reply was, “I would die rather than give my pledge to a paper of that kind in order to get my property back.” Hodgson was not alone in this, either. In August the federal government had begun to crack down on the opposition press. Court martials were authorized in the cases of newspapers that printed information considered to have aided the enemy. Telegraph wires out of Washington, which the major daily newspapers relied on for their news of the war and the government, were subject to State Department censorship. On August 16 charges of disloyalty for alleged pro-Southernism had been brought in United States Circuit Court against the New York Journal of Commerce, Daily News, Day Book, Freeman’s Journal, and the Brooklyn Eagle. On August 21 the federal government ordered that copies of the New York newspapers that had been suppressed should not be carried by the mails. Suppressions continued August 22 in New York, New York; Canton, Ohio; and Philadelphia. On September 18 the Louisville, Kentucky Courier was banned from the mails, and its offices were seized the next day by federal authorities. Among the newspapers suppressed by the government were the Philadelphia Evening Journal and the Chicago Times. Despite claims in the North of tit for tat, there were relatively few instances of press suppression by the South. Once again, Hodgson’s fellow editors rejoiced, this time at the sight of their government curbing a free press. “The suppression of this infamous paper gives great joy to all loyal men in our Borough, and we are sure this energetic movement on the part of the government will be hailed with the liveliest satisfaction elsewhere,” Pearce wrote. “Hodgson will realize the great truth, ‘that the way of the transgressor is hard.’ It will scarcely be a tall feather in the cap of his children, and children’s children, that their ancestor was a traitor, and that his newspaper was seized for promulgating sedition against a government that gave him ample and generous protection. There is no doubt that some men were very mad at this proceeding, but they will cool off and get in a good humor. Let the maddest of them beware, for there is a bolt in the cloud that might light on their heads before they are many days older.” Pearce was prepared to deflect some of the attention from the defeated Hodgson, but only to prepare West Chester for the next set of targets: Hodgson, every one in this community knew, was the merest cat’s paw of other men. Characterless as he is and always has been, we do not believe he would have wrapped himself in the cloak of infamy that now hangs upon him in enduring disgrace, but for the madness and desperation of the disappointed politicians who wrote his editorials and culled the treasonable articles that offended and insulted every good man in the community. Nimrod Strickland, John H. Brinton, and their supple tool, Monaghan, are the guilty parties in this case. ... When these men play the bully on our streets, and impudently try to fix the charge of violence on those who stand by the country and its old and honored flag, fling the truth in their faces, that they are the instigators and the authors of these infractions of law and order. The next week, the Chester County Times noted that the pugilistic John H. Brinton had been bound over on charge of assault and battery on the Times’ editor. “John’s wrath was all about the Jeffersonian,” he wrote. “He said the influence of the Times had caused its sudden suspension, and he wanted to get up a kind of wake over its dead carcass. We hope he is satisfied with his attempt. If Toryism had continued as rampart [sic] as it was a few weeks ago, we are not sure that other suspensions would not have taken place, more disagreeable and causing worse contortions than the newspaper’s demise.” The Philadelphia Bulletin, meanwhile, laid out the best possible case for why the Jeffersonian’s anti-government editorials were dangerous to the national safety: The principal circulation of the Jeffersonian was in the lower part of Chester County and along the Maryland line. Many of the people even upon this side of the line are touched with Secession sentiment. They take but one newspaper, frequently, and they are, of course, greatly influenced by its statements and opinions. The mischief that can be accomplished by a persistent enemy of the Government, under such circumstances, will be appreciated. If the press failed to appreciate the need to protect itself, the justice system did so in its behalf. The Jeffersonian matter became a test case for the government’s authority to shut down any newspaper it didn’t like. A congressional act of Aug. 6, 1861, had authorized the President to direct the seizure of anyone who was “aiding, or abetting, or promoting ... insurrection.” The Jeffersonian seizure failed to meet the terms of this act in its two essential qualities; Hodgson had printed no government secrets or committed any espionage for the Confederacy, and the President had never authorized the seizure of the paper. Lincoln had hesitated before signing the August 6 order, and he likely never meant it as an instrument to suppress unfriendly newspapers. Hodgson finally got a hearing on October 7, in Philadelphia, before an U.S. Circuit Court judge. The legal discussion centered on whether Coffey, the district attorney, had had the authority to issue the order he signed, dated Aug. 23, 1861, to Millward: “According to the provisions of the Act of 6th of August, 1861, I hereby request you to seize upon all copies of ‘The Jeffersonian’ newspaper, published in the borough of West Chester, Chester county, Pennsylvania, as well as all property of every kind whatsoever in and about the publication of said newspaper, that may be found in your bailiwick, for confiscation and condemnation, according to law -- I being authorized by the President of the United States.” It transpired that Wayne McVeagh, Chester County’s district attorney, had sent Coffey copies of the paper, asking if the government could put a stop to it, and the two men apparently had corresponded about it. Coffey admitted under cross-examination that before he had issued this warrant, he had sent telegraphs to the president and to the Secretary of War, requesting authority to seize the Christian Observer and the Jeffersonian. “I spoke of the Jeffersonian as publishing articles inflaming or disturbing the minds of the people.” He had gotten a reply only from the War Department, saying, as he recalled, “Your action is approved -- be temperate and firm.” But there was no warrant or affidavit from the government authorizing the seizure. Coffey had acted on his own, and his order to Millward was the first paperwork in the case. Coffey explained, rather lamely, that he had wanted to test whether the act applied to such cases. In the absence of the necessary authority, and with the failure to produce any specific charges against the Jeffersonian except printing opinions unfavorable to the government, Coffey eventually abandoned the case. The matter was formally dropped through a terse notice from Coffey to the court, dated Oct. 14, 1861. The Jeffersonian resumed publication with a notice to readers on October 17, but when Hodgson took his stacks of fliers to the West Chester post office for the Philadelphia mails, he was told they would not be handled. U.S. Postmaster General Blair had put him on the list of papers that the government would not move. Other Democratic newspapers around the state and in New York expressed sympathy and watched the case with interest. The mail privileges were restored, evidently without a word of explanation, on Jan. 18, 1862. Hodgson, meanwhile, pressed his point. In late October he filed a lawsuit against Millward and his assistants for lost profits. Hodgson was represented by two sympathetic Philadelphia attorneys, George W. Biddle and William B. Reed. (Reed distinguished himself after the war as the lawyer who represented Jefferson Davis at his trial.) On Feb. 3, 1863, case of Hodgson v. Millward et al was called for trial in U.S. Circuit Court, and the jury returned an award of $512. It was retried on a technicality on Oct. 29, 1864, and the jury reached the same verdict, though the reward this time was $504.33. In both cases, the judges made strong statements to the jury about the government’s lack of authority to clamp down on dissent in this way. In the second trial, Supreme Court Justice Robert C. Grier (right), who presided over the circuit, charged the jury that there was no justification for the seizure, and that the DA had no power to issue a writ ordering the seizure. The power to issue writs, he told them, belongs to the courts alone. None of the evidence submitted suggested that the President or a member of the cabinet had authorized the seizure, and it wouldn’t have made any difference had there been: No one can pretend that our law was changed by the mere fact of the rebellion. The very purpose of law is to set a rule that may remain fixed and immovable among the disturbances of society, and that shall be the standard of judging them. ... If it yielded to excitements it would be judged by them, instead of being their judge. When Chester County's emergency militias of 1862 passed through West Chester on their way to stem Lee's threatened invasion of the state (they arrived much too late), they smashed the windows of the county's most pro-administration newspaper, the Chester County Times. "There was a great time in W. Chester today," Southern sympathizer Jennie Sellers wrote in her diary for Sept. 7, 1862. "Before the soldiers left, they run most all the niggers out of W. Chester. ... The office of the Times was riddled last six day night by the soldiers. The editor of the Times wanted the soldiers to break up the office of the Jeffersonian, but instead of that they broke up his own."


EARTH DAY In the Florida Keys, a place I love, you appreciate the fragility of nature and the vulnerability of the world we know. The land there is practically flat, and if you turn left or right, you see open water. Any rise in sea level would swallow the whole chain. But if you stop and read the soil, you know you're standing on the fossil of a dead reef. Sometimes, as above, in a road cut in Key Largo, you can see whole huge coral skeletons still standing in place. Only 120,000 or so years ago, this was a thriving undersea oasis. Then the sea level dropped as the climate cooled and the ice advanced, and this precious ecosystem died a terrible, desiccating death. Everything in the middle Keys, from the restaurant parking lot gravel to the 1935 Hurricane memorial in Islamorada, is built from the rubble of an ecological catastrophe. The earth is delicate, but it endures. Nature is cruel, but man is part of nature. Man is not the only destructive force on the planet. I saw a photo like the one above on the AP news wire a couple years back (sorry; I can't find the original anymore), showing a glaciologist and a botanist "examining deposits of ancient alpaca moss recently exposed by the retreat of the Quelccaya ice cap in the Peruvian Andes." Rapidly melting glaciers in the Andes in Peru have uncovered moss and grasses that have been covered by ice since they first grew about 6,500 years ago, said the Ohio State researcher who has predicted global warming will erase mountain ice caps that are a valued water source for many communities around the world. That would be a catastrophe. And that prediction continues to twist the cranks of climate-change cassandras. But think about it (like the AP didn't). That hunk of moss was growing there 6,500 years ago. That's about 6,490 years before the first SUV. Climate then in that place was warmer than it is now (no moss grows there today). That doesn't mean we can stop thinking about the role of man-made factors in the Earth's shifting climate. It means we can start thinking about them. Without the passion and the politics. Yes, the world seems to be getting warmer in recent decades. What does that mean? Is human activity the only reason? What if it turns out that CO2 pollution from cars and lawnmowers is heating up the planet, but that, say, farming is heating it up ten times more? What if deep ocean currents are shifting for no man-made reason, and actually turning the northern hemisphere back to another ice age, but human pollution is counterbalancing that? [In the 1991 science fiction novel "Fallen Angels," environmentalists have taken over earth's governments and imposed luddite laws, which end global warming, only to unleash a new ice age, which had been held in check, we learn too late, by global warming caused by human pollution. Fiction, but at least within the realm of possibility.] Go ahead and monkey with the world's economies to reduce carbon emissions, but realize that a single major (unpredictable) volcanic eruption could crank back the global thermostat 5 degrees or more overnight. As happened in 1783 or 1816. Make it a more serious eruption -- like an acne rash of volcanoes, but within the realm of the possible -- and you literally could wipe out all life on earth. Long before climate change became a polemical pet of Al Gore, it was a matter of historical scholarship. Since I concentrated my college studies on northern Europe in the Middle Ages, I read years ago about droughts that drove the great horde migrations out of central Asia, the summer of rain that caused the famine of 1215 in England, and the punishing storms that re-drew the coastlines of Flanders, Holland and Friesland in the 13th century. All because of climate change. The coast of Holland and Friesland c. 500 C.E. (left) and 1555 C.E. (right) The North Sea incursions were catastrophic on a Hollywood scale: sea surges punched through the dunes (you can see the relics of the old coast in the line of islands off the west coast of Holland, Germany, and Denmark), killed perhaps 100,000 people, and turned vast agricultural districts into reed seas. In 1231, the sea flooded up river channels into the inland lake of Holland and by 1300 it had become a bay. In 1287, thirty villages in the lower Ems basin were drowned and the Dollart formed. In floods in 1240 and January 1362, sixty parishes in the diocese of Schleswig were overwhelmed, amounting to half the agricultural land of the realm, and perhaps 30,000 people died. The 1362 stormflood was the Grote Mandrenke, the "Great Drowning." The island of Heligoland was 60 kilometers across in C.E. 800; by 1325 it was only 25 kilometers in diameter at the widest, half the loss having come in a single storm in January of that year. Today it is only 1.5 kilometers at the widest. The English ports of Ravenspur and Dunwich drowned about the same time. Two 17th century maps of Schleswig, the one on the left showing the coast and lands as they were c.1240, compiled from parish records and reliable local information, the other showing the contemporary view and the outline of the drowned lands. Heligoland is the island at lower left in both maps. And all that was before the internal combustion engine, the Frigidaire, the Industrial Revolution. The Earth's climate changes over time. The change can be catastrophic. Some scientists and some historians always have been aware of this, but most people aren't, because the temperatures in the last 500 years have been remarkably stable. The Europeans of the Middle Ages saw the last dramatic phase of warming and cooling, but even that was a blip compared to what can happen. We still don't know what makes it change; probably a combination of processes including everything from volcanic eruptions to deep sea currents to, possibly, interstellar dust. What we know for sure is the Earth has been much warmer in its recent past, and much cooler. There's no guarantee on the climate you see around you. We ought to pay more attention to this. The discussion we ought to be having about climate change would take into account both human agency and other, potentially much more serious, forces. Even if we know for sure we're having an impact on the climate, that doesn't answer the question of how that impact flows into the ongoing changes that will occur with or without us. But instead, the debate has shrunk into a chirping contest between name-calling factions: "eco-freaks" and "tree-huggers" vs. "fossil fuelers" and "corporations." I wish the people who expect me to join this religion would take the time to make it palatable to common sense and to admit that intelligent people of good will might not be convinced by their doomsday movies. Explain, don't hector. And acknowledge for a change that the environment confronts us with complicated choices; we're hooked into an energy system that fuels a prosperity unrivaled in human history; that prosperity keeps poverty, disease, and starvation at bay. The seers of the 1960s predicted India and China would collapse into overpopulation chaos, and drag the world with them, but instead they have grown toward stability and even affluence, and their consumption of fossil fuel has grown dramatically at the same time. That's not a coincidence. Yet to Peter Matthiessen, to quote one environmental zealot, the current energy system is nothing but a plot by the "hardened apostles of material progress," and a shadowy cabal of "fossil fuelers." Ross Gelbspan decries“greenhouse skeptics” as “criminals against humanity.” Start the discussion by acknowledging that the Earth's climate fluctuates, and that's just nature's way. On the Alaskan North Slope, where Matthiessen frets about how much snow falls on the musk oxen, three-ton duck-billed dinosaurs once grazed in herds year-round on lush river-valley vegetation. Go thumb through a paleoclimatology textbook (or find something like one online). Look at the charts and graphs. Here's one that a climate-change alarmist will love. This is the average global temperature from 1860 to 2000. Runaway global warming for sure. Now take 100 steps back. Over on the left you can see the temperature rising up out of the depths of the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago. The "climate optimum" of about 4,000 to 8,000 years ago corresponds to the moss under the Quelccaya ice caps. The "Little Ice Age" happened in medieval times; it came on shortly after the series of storms that redrew the map of the Netherlands. The whole of the previous graph is contained in the pinhead of pixels at the far right edge of the graph. Here's a still longer view. The second graphic is squeezed into the pink bar and what's beyond it at the far right end of this one. Here you can see the whole of the last Ice Age. So it looks like we live in one of the warmest ages in global history, right? Now step all the way back. This very rough graph plots the likely temperature through geological time. Time flows the other way in this one (sorry; I couldn't find a graph that was consistent with the others). The present is way over on the left here. The distant past is on the right. And it's distant indeed: about the time life first was recorded on earth. Looks like we're in one of the chilliest epochs of world history. But it suits us. And any change in it -- toward the hot or the cold, by human agency or natural forces -- would be a disaster. Why were there Ice Ages after millions of years without them? Why were there dramatic warm spikes in the middle of them? Why has world climate been relatively stable for the past 4,000 years? Nobody knows. No good scientific model of world climate change yet has been constructed. That's a scary thought. No wonder it's so much easier to approach the topic as pure politics. Human beings right now have much invested in the stability of weather patterns and coastlines, and we ought to pay careful attention to what can cause catastrophic climate changes. Better to investigate and learn and adopt, rather than shut down discussion in advance because you don't like the people who want to hijack the issue and pour their personal manias into it. Environmentalists often share with creationists the unscientific view that at the creation a perfect world was set spinning. They presume a steady, stable world ecology humming along for millennia in perfect balance like a Swiss watch, until evil Anglo-American corporations come along and vandalize it. They write as though it all would continue in ecological harmony if only man would leave it alone. Like creationists, they view the human race as something non-natural, though in their case it seems to be sub-, not supra-, naturam, and its impact is entirely baleful. It's a common complaint of the secular left that their opponents put dogma above science. But the underlying fallacy of much of the climate-change alarmist rhetoric is that it is the left's equivalent of creationism. What we need now is serious scientific work, not a pseudo-religion.

Civil War: Secession2

"The compound government of the United States is without a model, and to be explained by itself, not by similitudes or analogies," James Madison said late in his life. For all the truth of that, the Founders had models and ideas in mind as they hashed things out in Philadelphia in 1787, and the notes taken that summer by Madison and others are full of them. The Founders were practical men, almost all of whom had had some experience in government. But they also were keen readers and alert to history, as it was known in their day. Among the models or theories they often brought up in debate or correspondence are the writings of John Locke and Charles Montesquieu; the works of Hume and other writers of the Scottish Enlightenment; British history; and the accounts then available of the confederacies, democracies and republics of ancient Greece and Rome and the Germanic tribes. All these sources tended toward common conclusions: 1. The laws should rule the government, not the other way around. 2. The government should be the servant of the people, not the other way around. 3. The best defense against danger of monarchial and democratic excesses was a "mixed government" of clearly prescribed spheres and balanced authorities. The Federalists built the notion of mixed government into the U.S. Constitution. In many details, they strove for a balance between the one president, the few Senators and the Representatives of the many. Something that is lost and forgotten today is the pivotal role of the States in all this. The conceptual breakthrough that allowed the United States to build a Constitution on the model of Britain's was the one that saw American states as the equivalent of hereditary baronies in the British system. That allowed the Senate -- whose members were appointed by the states under the original Constitution -- to form on the model of the British House of Lords. The power and independent authority of the states were essential elements in the mixed, balanced government formed in 1787. The respect for them extended even to non-coercion. In the Convention that framed the Constitution it was proposed to give the government power to call out the army to force a wayward state to fulfill its duty. Madison said: "The more he reflected on the use of force the more he doubted the practicability, the justice and efficacy of it when applied the people collectively and not individually. -- A union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment, and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound."[1] There is a misleading delicacy in the word "balance." The balance of powers in the original Constitution of the United States was like the balance of an engine made for hard, fast work. The essence of that Constitution was this: The laws rule the government, the constitution embodies those laws, and the people -- in part on their own agency, in part through the states -- tune and drive the Constitution. "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government," Washington said in his "Farewell Address." "But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all." And that includes the president who is elected under it and sworn to uphold it. It was built to stand the test of a crisis, and it did so; in 1814 the capital itself was burnt, American armies suffered defeat in the field and a populous section of the nation met to consider secession. Yet the Constitution still ruled. So far from envisioning powers of government beyond the Constitution, even in times of "necessity," Hamilton went so far as to say that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary, "For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?"[2] The presidency in particular, as the most "monarchical" aspect of the Constitution, was given extremely limited direct power. Where the "life, liberty or property" of a private citizen is concerned, the president's only power is that prescribed in the third section of the second article, which requires, "that he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed." "It is important, likewise," Washington wrote, "that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism." The Founders all knew war first-hand; war on American soil, with a full third of their own countrymen against them, often in arms alongside the enemy. They built into their work machinery to handle treason and rebellion. But they also knew that crisis and war were favorite tools of demagogues. Hamilton reminded his readers of "the celebrated Pericles," leader of Athens, motivated by fear and personal pique, who led his nation into a bloody and ruinous war to save his own political skin and to escape the economic damage he had helped visit upon the state.[3] Hamilton saw that a leader who took America into war could use the circumstance to rob her of cherished liberties: "The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free."[4] "If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong," Washington wrote, "let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield." In Washington's "Farewell Address," the connection between perpetual voluntary union, and obedience to the Constitution, is explicit. His prayer for the country, he said, was, "that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained." The cult of the union, as it evolved in the Civil War era, identified "liberty" and "union" as essentially identical. But to the Founders, "liberty" was tied to the balance of powers they had carefully woven into the Constitution: "Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian," Washington wrote. "It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property."[5]

Civil War: Canards

One of the oft-heard put-downs of the Old South was its lack of education, by which is usually meant free public education, which was well-established in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states by 1860 but had barely dented the South. Thus, it is said that the South was uneducated. Yet literacy among white Southerners before the war was more than 80 percent, slightly below that of Northerners but better than the rate in Britain or any European country except Sweden and Denmark. But this was a Massachusetts affair, and New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey tended to let parochial schools and private classical academies handle whatever education was wanted, while the Southern colonies relied on apprenticeships and pauper schools. Writers on early education in America tend to break it down into three regional solutions, not a straight North-South split. In the early 19th century, Massachusetts educators began the push to make free schools an American institution. The battle over tax-supported, publicly controlled, non-sectarian schools was waged between 1825 and 1850, and it was second only to the slavery debate in intensity and bitterness. The public school advocates waged their fight state by state, and they had a bitter battle in every one of them, usually settling for local option compromises (as in New York 1849-50; Pennsylvania 1834). Public schools were not truly free to all and "universal" until 1867 in New York, 1871 in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, and New Jersey; and 1873 in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was a typical case. Intellectuals and the working class generally supported the idea, along with people in the northern tier of the state who had roots in New England. But they were far outnumbered by the opponents, including the wealthy, who resented being taxed to pay for the education of the children of the poor; church people, who feared secular education; and the Pennsylvania Dutch, who fretted that public schools would erase their linguistic and cultural identity. The move for free schools was hampered in these states by the fact that the first ones set up were, frankly, not very good when compared to the old subscription schools. The editor of the leading newspaper in one town that had tried the free schools in the 1830s and rejected them wrote, "Many of our citizens imagine that the character of the schools deteriorate under the public school system -- the cognizance of the Directors being less efficient in holding teachers to a rigid accountability than when they are brought into direct connection with the parents. We do not believe the school system will be efficient until the directors receive a pecuniary compensation for their labors and teachers are better rewarded." And "free" hardly meant "universal." Attendance at these schools was not required. In Pennsylvania, right up until the few years before the Civil War, the children of the poor generally continued to stay home and work, while the children of the rich continued to attend private academies. Northern workers also probably found it hard to appreciate the virtues of free education when millions of their children were at work at dawn on the looms and carding machines of the textile factories by the age of 7 or 8. Children of poor factory workers may have theoretically had access to the common schools, but the children of blacks usually were shunted off to barely functioning backroom schools. The Irish immigrants whenever possible sent their children to parochial schools rather than to the free public ones, where the daily Bible lesson was from the (Protestant) King James Version, rather than the Douay translation. This was the spark that ignited the deadly Kensington riots in Philadelphia in 1844. Yet the free school system was slowly making its way from being a Massachusetts institution to being a national one. It was advancing out of New England and heading south and west. That it happened to have made few inroads into the Southern states at the time the war began does not mean it would not have ever done so, and the fact that the inroads it had made there were strongest in Maryland and Virginia suggest that the movement was heading that way. Certainly the Northern conquest didn't help matters for Southern education. Fifteen years after the war ended, white literacy showed no noticeable gain and 70 percent of Southern blacks still could not read. The slowness of the South to adopt free public schools after the war can be laid in part to the massive disruption wrought by the war itself as much as to any inborn feature in Southern culture. Moral effects of Slave-ownership A common argument among abolitionists, North and South, ran something like this: "Southern whites were corrupted and made lazy by being slave owners." But the logic is flawed. Cause and consequence are connected by a presumption: Slavery is immoral, therefore its effects must be baleful. People once thought the same of masturbation. True, the Southern aristocrats did not devote their hours to productive work. But then neither did the mill owners of Massachusetts. And the Southerner had to organize his plantation as a whole community, while the Northern capitalist at the end of the day simply turned out his girls, locked the gates, and left them to find food and shelter as they could. Yet the plantation-keeping could be delegated, and slave ownership would certainly allow a life of indulgence and ease. But it did not require it. The vigorous careers and astonishing accomplishments of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison (slaveowners all) speak against that assumption of universal laziness. The masterful skill of Confederate generals and cavalry (into which ranks the slaveowning minority was generally drawn) speaks against it being at all widespread. Periclean Athens, with its 172,000 citizens and 115,000 slaves, was hardly moribund. King Alfred's Anglo-Saxons, and the Vikings who founded settlements from Newfoundland to Russia, were hardly effete, decadent peoples. Yet both had slavery in the core of their culture and economy. Spartan slavery was even more comparable to the American model than that of Athens. No one would accuse the Spartans of being a bunch of soft layabouts. Rousseau, in his section on "Deputies or Representatives" in "The Social Contract," has a penetrating digression on slavery and democracy: Among the Greeks, all that the people had to do, it did itself; it was continuously assembled in the market place. The Greek people lived in a mild climate; it was not at all avaricious; slaves did the work; its chief concern was freedom. Without the same advantages, how can the same rights be preserved? Your harsher climates create more necessities; six months of the year the public places are uninhabitable; your muted tongues cannot make themselves heard in the open air; you care more for your profits than your freedom; and you fear slavery less than you fear poverty. What? Is freedom to be maintained only with the support of slavery? Perhaps. The two extremes meet. Everything outside nature has its disadvantages, civil society more than all the rest. There are some situations so unfortunate that one can preserve one's freedom only at the expense of the freedom of someone else; and the citizen can be perfectly free only if the slave is absolutely a slave. Such was the situation of Sparta. You peoples of the modern world, you have no slaves, but you are slaves yourselves; you pay for their liberty with your own. It is in vain that you boast of this preference; I see more cowardice than humanity in it. I do not mean by all this to suggest that slaves are necessary or that the right of slavery is legitimate, for I have proved the contrary. I simply state the reasons why peoples of the modern world, believing themselves to be free, have representatives, and why peoples of the ancient world did not. Railroad mileage The lack of railroad track mileage is another canard against the South. By mid-century, the comparison stood at 112 miles per state in the South and 442 miles per free state. Yet the South in 1860, when it set out to be an independent nation, would have been second in the world in railroad mileage per capita, behind only the North. The South had fewer railroads in part because it had less need of them. One-crop plantations generate less rail freight than more diverse Northern farms. And wide, navigable rivers penetrate deep into the South in almost all regions. In fact, those miles of Northern railroads, the much-vaunted framework of Yankee economic might, tended to be selfish, local, and often useless to all but a few rich men. Railroad schemes in populous areas were got up for investment purposes. Towns fearful of being bypassed by a technology that promised a vague prosperity would rush to subscribe public money to the railroads, and the resulting tracks often zig-zagged across the map, in search of municipal bonds. States joined in as well. From 1850 to 1857, American railroads got 25 million acres of public land for free, and millions in bonds -- loans -- from state legislatures. In Wisconsin in 1856, the LaCrosse and Milwaukee Railroad got 1 million acres for free by distributing about $900,000 in stock and bonds to 59 assemblymen, 13 senators, and the governor. Two years later the railroad was bankrupt and the bonds were worthless. The "Tapeworm Railroad" was a state-subsidized project in Pennsylvania, sponsored by Thaddeus Stevens when he was a state legislator. According to a government inquiry, the road "literally commences in the woods, where not a recognized track of man marks the origin of such stupendous folly," proceeds "through a wild and mountainous region ... uninhabitable by man," and terminates "in a diminutive village detached by at least 43 miles from any public work." But it happened to connect Stevens' ironworks with the Baltimore and Ohio line. When the North's railroad miles had any larger function, it often was the strangling of Southern ports. The North used public money -- federal money, when it could get it -- to build transportation systems to intercept the flow of western commodities down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, and divert it to Eastern coastal cities. Wheat and flour shipped east via the Erie Canal alone rose from the equivalent of 268,000 barrels of flour in 1835 to 1,000,000 in 1840. Shipments to New York exceeded those to New Orleans by 1838. The South was not nearly as poor and backwards as is often assumed: in 1860 it would have been fifth in the world in cotton textile production, behind Great Britain, the North, Switzerland, Belgium, and France. In per capita income, it would have tied with Switzerland for fourth place, behind Australia, the North, and Great Britain. The Southern states of 1860 would have formed the fourth-wealthiest nation in the world, with an inflation-adjusted per capita income not seen in some European nations till World War II. The per-capita-income growth of the South 1840-60 was 1.7 percent per annum -- 30 percent more rapid than the growth in the North. Modern statistical analysis of economic data for census years 1840-1860 began in the 1950s and is still ongoing. It shows that the 25 percent income gap between the regions reflects the tremendous wealth of one corner of the North, rather than the supposed poverty of the South. Only compared with the Northeast was the South (and the Midwest) "stagnant" in 1860. Compared to any other spot on the globe except England, it was a rich, thriving, diverse economy. Interestingly, much of the abolitionist critique of Southern economics, supposedly retarded by slavery, is lifted wholesale from DeBow and others who thought like him. They wrote jeremiads about Southern "backwardness" that were meant to scare readers and motivate change. They can hardly be taken as objective economic analysis, with no awareness of their source in internal Southern debates about economic policy. DeBow was banging that drum so hard and long to awaken the South to the hegemonistic designs of powerful forces in the North that were slowly reducing the South to the position of an economic vassal, via federal policies that gave an economic edge to the North. Dueling The South is damned for trying to develop or maintain a culture of personal honor that often led to violence. It reminds me of the "Iliad." But what's bad about an ethic that puts some stock in honor? Those same slave-owning hotheads in the "Iliad" in a few generations developed into the people who invented theater, physics, and democracy. It seems to me something good can be done along the lines of human accomplishment by people who strive for honor, as an ideal. It will get you farther along that line than, "what's in it fer me?" [Yankee trader]. A "what's in it fer me?" nation that can't think of anything better to do with its honor-possessed section than humiliate it and exterminate it is likely to find its collective legacy to humanity will be Supersize french fries, "Rocky I" through "Rocky V," and the Monopoly board game.

Civil War: Nusouth

I am among rebels! They are only overcome and not subdued. In Spirit, language, conduct, feeling, in all essential things they are rebels as truly today as when the Arch-traitor Jeff Davis was on the throne of their bogus Confederacy. Their names for all Northerners are "Northern Infidels," "Mercenary Vandals," "Scum of the earth," etc. etc. They are Bombastic, ignorant, lazy & defiant, and the women are the very personification of His Satanic Majesty .... -- Music teacher from Massachusetts at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., 1869. A recent "New York Times" book review section ran a review of T.R. Pearson's latest novelistic journey down South to take his readers "inside the otherwise lackluster skulls of hillbillies and white trash" [reviewer's description]. Along about a third of the way through this generally glowing write-up, the reviewer opens a paragraph by noting, "Rednecks may compose the last minority that is still fair game for insult from almost any quarter." But he doesn't pick up this thread, and instead returns to the book's praise. You can almost hear the pause, the glimmer of doubt, and the "but who cares?" before he plunges on. I have met many real Southern people, living in real places, dealing with the complex work of building up true multi-racial communities where no race feels excluded. I have seen them often and eloquently acknowledging the stain on their region's past, even as they assert their right to feel pride in that place, both past and present. And I have seen many non-Southerners who gloss right over the fact that slavery, racism, and segregation were national experiences. Nothing done outside the South really counts as racism to them since, well, it wasn't the South. A lot of Freedom-Rider wanna-bes who missed the bus in 1965 come looking for some redneck racists to bait, so they can go home and sit back in the easy chair in the comfortable suburban neighborhood up North where there's not a black face for 10 miles, and feel like heroes. I ask them, "What have you done in your community?" I have heard voices of a New South -- intelligent, articulate, involved in community, aware of the past but with faces turned toward the future. They were born since 1970. Civil Rights for them is history as much as Civil War. They've grown up in desegregated schools, fed from lunch counters where all were welcome, ridden buses with no preference except who gets there first and courtesy. Warriors fought so that such a generation could exist in this land. Those who fought the good fight from 1955 to 1965 -- and before, and beyond -- made this possible. The NAACP made this possible. And part of knowing how to fight is knowing when you've won. It's knowing when to stop. These are not children. They're adults, ready to take their turns at the tiller of their communities, states, and nation. They can be proud of what their home is without lying about what it was. In that, they are ahead of most of the rest of America. They will likely be here to see the 200th anniversary of our Civil War, and the 100th of our Civil Rights movement. Ignore them at your peril. They will write your epitaphs. I have lived most of my 40 years within an hour's easy bike ride of the Mason-Dixon Line. That mark on the map is so much the seam between the two cultures of America, in the popular mind, that it apparently gave a name to one of them -- Dixie. If the actual cleavage, when it came in 1861, was along a muddy river a few hundred miles south of this line, the credit goes to a crafty Maryland governor who called in a federal coup on his own state before his enthusiastic secessionist legislature could meet to join the rebellion. Still, Baltimore stoned the boys in blue when they marched through, and cut the telegraph wires to the capital and sent far more sons south into the gray regiments, where they fought far better under the stars and bars than those who enlisted under the stars and stripes. And Maryland was a slave state (delicately relabeled a "border state" in the rhetoric of the Civil War). Maryland is Dixie. But I've always lived on the Mason side of that line, among the spacious barns built by the Hicksite Quakers and the Pennsylvania Germans. I've lived and worked in Lancaster and Chester counties, and spent thousands of hours in their archives and historical societies and newspaper morgues, poring over the evidences of their past. I've written three books and numerous journal articles, and discovered a few facts about American history that were otherwise unknown. I've also talked to the people who live there now, and collected their stories, visited their villages and watched them grapple with challenges. I can claim to write with some authority on this little corner of the American experiment. I remember reading Mason's and Dixon's journals, the account left by the two London astronomers on their great camping jaunt into the wilderness to make a marvel: a line across the face of the earth longer and straighter than anything a human being had ever done. They carved it right through the forest, felling the trees and clearing the brush on either side and planting granite boundary stones every five miles, marked with the coat of arms of the Penns on one side and that of the Calverts on the other. When they passed close enough to some tall hill, they would scale it to delight in the view of that white straight gash in the green, stretching unbroken and unbending to the horizon. The markers, the few that haven't been stolen or buried, sit tangled in briers in the wood lots scattered among the farms that cover this territory now. Most are Amish farms now or rich folks' horse farms. And they look about the same on both sides of the line. Fair Hill could be Kemblesville. North East could be Oxford. A hamlet called Lewisville literally straddles the line. So does Sylmar, as its name suggests (PennSYLvania + MARyland). Not until I drive three hours down the Eastern Shore does the landscape start to feel different. And in the old antebellum censuses that I've studies, the big sheets from 1850 and 1860 with the names lettered in script in ink faded brown, the same family names occur on both sides of the line. People lament the lack of manners and of personal and social responsibility in America, but they tend to forget that those values went down with the old South, along with distinctive local cultures (except the ones that can be packaged and sold), because there's no progress or profit in any of those things. That's one reason why, in the 1880s and '90s, at the height of the Gilded Age, the entire nation was wrapped up in nostalgia for the Old South. How ironic that the reflexive desire for old values that had been thrown over made up an essential element -- from minstrel shows to Joel Chandler Harris to Aunt Jemima to "Gone With the Wind" (the movie, not the book) -- of the emerging mass consumer culture. Some people, otherwise sympathetic, object to ascribing "social responsibility" to the Old South. Yet it is there, as part of the aristocratic code that the South believed itself to be following. That is, it was part of a deliberately cultivated set of values among the ruling class. How well it was achieved varied from individual to individual. But on the whole it was a stronger vein in the regional culture of the South than of New England and the North. Personal and social responsibility don't spring naturally from hardscrabble farmers, industrial workers, or striving mercantile capitalists. A coal miner doesn't want to be a philanthropist. He wants to be a shopkeeper, because he thinks shopkeepers don't have to work. In our fixation with "democracy," we dismiss the ante-bellum Southern sense of noblesse oblige because it springs from that dirtiest of words, "aristocracy." Old South values are often written off with the sneering label "paternalism." Yet this was bound up in the aristocratic aspirations of the Southern gentry, and it was very deliberately cultivated among them. The founders never meant America to be a pure democracy; they would have been horrified by that idea. We were to be a mixed government, balancing regional economies, balancing central and local powers, balancing class interests. Men like Jefferson, Washington, and Madison felt deeply -- and personally -- the obligation of a wealthy landed gentry toward personal and social responsibility, both for the sake of the nation and as an example to others.

Civil War: Draft

The Conscription Act that passed Congress on March 3, 1863, is often cited as "the first draft in the North" or words to that effect. Drafting in the North, under this act, began more than a year after the Confederate conscription act, which was approved April 16, 1862. This has been cited as evidence of different abilities or enthusiasm on the two sides in the Civil War. But this ignores the fact that the drive to draft in the North began less than three months after the Confederate conscription act, that in at least five states in the North an extensive draft took place in the fall of 1862, and that all the Northern volunteers in that season signed up under threat of being drafted. The mistake by non-historians is easy to understand when popular reference books on the war contain misleading or mistaken passages like this one, from "The Civil War Dictionary" [N.Y., 1959, reprint 1988]: "DRAFT RIOTS - On Aug. '62 the President called on the states for 300,000 militia to serve nine months and ordered the governors to draft from the militia if the quota could not be filled by volunteers. This precipitated riots in Wis., Ind., and threats of riots in Pa. Stanton then postponed the draft."[1] Or this one, from "Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War" [1986]: "DRAFT RIOTS - Draft riots broke out in response to the Union's first national conscription act, passed 3 Mar. 1863. Prior to that law the North had obtained its troops from volunteers and state militia called into Federal service."[2] The Northern 1862 draft was an attempt to let the states handle their own conscriptions, based on the antiquated militia system. It taught the federal government much about drafting American men into the army, and it was in some ways a dress rehearsal for the large-scale draft of the following year, complete with organized resistance, lucrative bounties, and hired "substitutes" who were the bane of enlistment officers. Most importantly at the time, it was a spur to volunteerism in crucial months when enthusiasm in the North was at an ebb. And for tens of thousands of men who were drafted, and for their families, it was a life-changing event. The Northern government entered 1862 with a foolish expectation of impending victory. In December 1861, then-Secretary of War Simon Cameron had instructed the Northern governors not to send any more regiments unless they were called for. His successor, Edwin Stanton, sent out a telegraph on April 3, 1862, ordering the federal recruiting offices closed [General Order 33]. Historians have puzzled over the motive for this, sometimes crediting it to a desire to save money. Others feel it was only intended as a temporary measure, but the communication does not support this reading. It ordered recruiting officers to sell off their furniture and return to their regiments. The troops in the undermanned regiments in the field grumbled and newspapers criticized the confusion. It seems that Stanton, like many in Lincon's government, thought the war was about to be won, and the North would require only a few more men to finish it. On May 1, Stanton directed the army commanders to requisition troops through the states; and on May 19 he asked the governors to begin raising a few new infantry regiments.[3] On May 27, after some vacilation, he directed that only three-year men would be accepted, but indicated they would probably serve less time than that because the war would be over within a year. In the late spring of 1862, however, the leadership in Washington began to understand the gravity of the army's situation in Virginia. The closing of the recruiting offices was formally rescinded on June 6, and on June 18, Adjutant-Gen. Lorenzo Thomas wired all the state governors in the North: "We are in pressing need of troops. How many can you forward immediately?" The answer can't have been encouraging. New Hampshire's Gov. Nathaniel S. Berry replied June 19 that "our Ninth Regiment is now recruiting. The field, staff, and a portion of the line officers are appointed. Every exertion is made and inducement offered to forward enlistments; still, owing to the season of the year, recruiting progresses much slower than heretofore." Berry thought it would be another 30 or 40 days till this regiment could be sent. Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin wired back on June 18: "In view of the approaching harvest and the consequent difficulty attending the recruiting service, it has been considered better to confine our efforts to filling up the old than to attempt to recruit new regiments."[4] Vermont said it was recruiting one regiment, but it wasn't yet ready. Iowa said it had one in process, but would require another 40 days at least. Illinois replied it had a regiment on the way and might manage another one, in three months or so. Ohio's governor thought he could have three regiments ready by Aug. 1, and two more by Sept. 1. Connecticut said it could round up 2,000 or 3,000 men for three months. New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri said they had no troops available. Gov. O.P. Morton of Indiana wired the War Department an extensive reply on June 25: "The five regiments called for from this State for service during the war are progressing very slowly. I have just issued a special proclamation with reference to them and hope to succeed in getting them up during the summer, but the difficulties from the causes mentioned are greatly increased." Those "causes mentioned" included "newspapers of extremely doubtful loyalty" and "a secret political organization in Indiana, estimated and claimed to be 10,000 strong," which had as a leading objective, "to embarrass all efforts to recruit men for the military service of the United States." Lincoln and his cabinet had realized they would need more volunteers -- many more volunteers. The trick was to call them up and yet avoid the appearance of acknowledging defeat outside Richmond. Secretary of State William Seward provided the answer. He went home to New York, drew up an appeal to the President to call up fresh troops to finish the war, and sent it by telegraph to all the Northern governors, asking their permission to attach their names to it as petitioners. Most of them replied, more or less approving of the sentiments in the appeal, and Seward promptly attached their names to the appeal, back-dated it from June 30 to June 28, and presented it to the President. "The recent victories (real or fancied) were mentioned, and the men were asked for, not to retrieve disaster but to hasten to a speedy conclusion a victory already in immediate prospect."[5] The next day, Lincoln wrote to the governors, "Fully concurring in the wisdom of the views expressed to me in so patriotic a manner by you in the communication of the 28th day of June, I have decided to call into the service an additional force of 300,000 men. I suggest and recommend that the troops should be chiefly of infantry. The quota of your State would be ______." The formal call for fresh troops was made July 2. The quotas were sent out July 7. They can be seen, broken down by states, here. But the call to arms in the North was greeted with nothing like the enthusiasm of 1861. The governors, into whose laps this recruiting drive had fallen, knew they faced a steep road in getting men into the ranks for three years now that the public knew the realities of war. They urged Lincoln to call up troops for shorter terms, in keeping with Washington's "victory is imminent" tone. "Recruiting for three years is terribly hard," Gov. Israel Washburn of Maine telegraphed the White House in the wake of this announcement. "Shall be obliged to resort to drafting unless I can be authorized to take volunteers for three or six months." Gov. Samuel Kirkwood of Iowa, like all the loyal governors, thundered mightily in public to whip up enthusiasm and urge recruiting down to the last man: "Our old men and our boys, unfit for war, if need be, our women must help to gather harvests," and so forth. But privately he wrote to Lincoln and suggested three-month enlistments would be better; Gov. Curtin of Pennsylvania argued in favor of six months, while Adj.-Gen. John W. Finnell of Kentucky requested that he be allowed to raise a portion of his men for 12 months. The administration made one important concession to the governors, though it had to be strong-armed into it. On June 30, Seward wired Stanton from New York, "Will you authorize me to promise an advance to recruits of $25 of the $100 bounty? It is thought here and in Massachusetts that without such payment recruiting will be very difficult, and with it probably entirely successful." Massachusetts was the arm-twister in this case. In late May 1862, Gov. John Andrew had begun an effort to force a change in federal policy by allowing advance payment of bounties. Stanton rejected him, so Andrew turned to Henry Wilson, his junior senator, who was chair of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs and the Militia in the 37th and 38th Congresses. On June 21, Wilson secured congressional approval of the practice of advance payment of bounties. Andrew held out from the governors' call for troops until he got Stanton to approve what Congress had authorized: advance payment of $25 of the $100 federal bounty. This was the cause of Seward's frantic telegram. Stanton replied that this was a "judicious" plan, and that he would see to it that the necessary legal changes were made to allow this, which was done, and the advance was ordered on July 1. Andrew was responsible for other changes in government policy; on July 21, Stanton answered a request from Andrew, "you are authorized to say that new recruits for old regiments will be mustered [out] with the regiment." In other words, the "three year" volunteers might only end up serving two years. The offer was soon extended to the other states. Massachusetts, wealthy and well-organized, could affort to play the quota game. Other states could not. Morton, the Indiana governor, in a "confidential" July 9 letter to Lincoln (also signed by Indiana's state officers), strongly suggested the administration consider a draft. "The undersigned would urge upon you the vital importance of procuring the passage of a law by Congress by which men can be drafted into the Army. If Congress shall adjourn without doing this you will doubtless have to call them together for the purpose. We send you this as the result of our conclusions from what we know of the condition of the Northwest." On July 14, Gov. E.D. Morgan of New York also wrote to the administration, expressing the same sentiment. "Congress should not adjourn without providing by law, if it has the power to do it, for filling up the volunteer regiments in the field and those now organizing by a draft." "It was now recognized that the previous year's enlistment of 700,000 represented the full, hard core of patriotic citizenry," one historian has written.[6] This was recognized in the camp tents, as well as in the White House. The volunteers of '61 were jaded to army life and resentful of the incompetence of their generals. By the end of July, they could add to their list of gripes bitter feelings toward those still at home. Maj. Octavius Bull in the 53rd Pa. Infantry Regiment wrote home to his brother on Aug. 1, 1862. The letter is more eloquent and witty than most, but the sentiment is that of hundreds of letters and diaries from the Army of the Potomac in those months: "What has become of the much vaunted bravery and stubborn will of the 'Northern Freemen' which we were wont to hear during every political campaign? How is it that, beside the bounty of $100 given by the U.S., the state must add half as much more? And then how very rapidly recruiting progresses -- truly 'Northern Freemen' do love their country! Yes, so much that no inducement except positive force can get them over state lines! Oh, what patriotism. Ain't you proud of your birthright? "We can never conquer the South in this way, don't you begin to realize it? How now about the war being over in three months? But I'm sick of this subject. We've been here, begging for reinforcements from a population of twenty millions, and have received two brigades, the aggregate of which is probably three thousand men, not more."[7] Those close to the Northern war effort had awakened to reality by the start of summer. On July 8, Seward wrote privately that he feared a draft would be necessary, but he cautioned that "we ... first prove that it is so, by trying the old way." [8]


COLD WAR NIGHTMARES When World War II ended, Germans began to speak of 1945 as the Year Zero. Time began again. And all across Europe was a hell's carpet of burned cities, from Coventry to Kiev. Some Americans entered Nagasaki at night after the bombing, driving for miles, waiting to see the city, then realizing they had been in the city all along, and the silent crags and spars around them were not rocks and trees but the ruins of the place. The wound showed. But when the Cold War ended, we congratulated ourselves at having got through it without more than a few flare-ups and no major detonations. All the cities stood intact. Yet the wound, like a series of concussions, bloomed below the skin, in the bone. When I was 18, opinion surveys of my age group began to appear in print for the first time. There we were, a collective voice, a slice of a generation. It was enlightening to measure myself against my peers in some sort of objective way. And so I saved them, in a manila file, in a filing cabinet. [Nowadays, you'd just copy the file to your computer, of course, but this was circa 1979.] Last night, I went up to the attic and pulled this one down and dusted it off. I sat at my desk and read through the articles and reports in it, while my wife went up in the attic to rescue the cat, which I had accidently locked up there. I wanted to see if something I remembered was true. It was. In one 1982 poll of high school seniors, 30 percent said they "worried often" about the chance of nuclear war. That figure was the same across the board -- men and women, college-bound and non-college-bound. Some friends and I have discussed this before. Our memory of one thing is strong and plain: We grew up thinking there was a pretty good chance, maybe 50:50 or worse, that the whole world was going to go up in a nuclear holocaust some day in the near future, without any warning to any of us. The 30 percent figure appeared in the tables of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan's annual survey of 17,000 high school seniors in 130 schools nationwide. Yet it rated only a single sentence in the report's text. Probably the figure was so self-evident as to be uninteresting. Instead, the authors, like good academic children of the '60s, bemoaned my generation's lack of sit-ins. The title of the report was "Fewer Rebels, Fewer Causes." Forty-five percent of us agreed that there would essentially be a world war in the next ten years. Newsweek's "On Campus Poll" in 1982, conducted by Gallup, showed 21 percent of college students (I was one that year) "frequently think and worry about chances of nuclear war," and 49 percent said, "While concerned about the chances of nuclear war, I try to put it out of my mind." Only 29 percent said they thought the chance of nuclear war was remote. The same polls showed very few of us thought we could survive even an initially limited nuclear war. As recently as 1987, 62 percent of American adults "worried often" about the chance of all-out nuclear war. In the Michigan poll, 36 percent of high school seniors agreed nuclear or biological annihilation "will probably be the fate of all mankind within my lifetime." However bad the world is now, whatever fears haunt my children's nightmares, however necessary the Cold War was -- I am grateful to have outlived a time when more than one-third of the children go to bed at night expecting their parents to blow up the whole world and them in it. Up in the attic I also found a dream journal I kept when I was a teen-ager. More than a few of the nightmares I wrote in it involved the missiles coming down out of the clouds, the sun blooming on my street, the desperate sprint for some sort of shelter and the certainty that there really was nowhere to run. Like all dreams, perhaps, they were symbolic. But what better way to know a person's realities, his times, than by the metaphors the unconscious mind reaches for in dreams? People in every generation may have a notion of an impending end of the world. Religions with apocalyptic stories woven into their texts, Christianity or Norse god-worship, have them more prominently. But here, with us, the fear was clear, specific, and immediate. There was no rapture. It was an open question of debate among my friends and me, whether it would be luckier to die in the first flash or to manage to survive it and linger in the wasted world. And it would be an act not of god, but of us. This, I am sure, had its effects on us, on me. They may be different in different people. But perhaps they are too little appreciated now in considering the generation that grew up with fallout shelter placards on our school walls and that now rises to power in the world. The Cold War severely warped America, and our minds have not yet stopped flowing through the channels it carved in them. U.S. journalism's fixation with the present tense overlooks even recent historical influences. So the Cold War is often the obvious thing left out in discussions of modern America and its policies. I'll tell you one time I felt it affect me as an adult: When I was young, it seemed the whole point of American military might and the billions we poured into it was to be able to survive just long enough to bring down the hammer on the people of Russia, to kill all of them as they killed all of us. Submarines parked silently on the Arctic Sea floor, missiles hidden among grain fields in the Dakotas, army radar dishes scanning north from Maine. Trigger fingers in the ultimate Mexican standoff. To save the world by being forever one phone call away from obliterating it. The Cold War warped the rest of the world, too. The modern geopolitical landscape is a post-Cold War battlefield, littered with rusting artillery and unexploded mines. Saddam Hussein was a bit of both. During the Iraq War, and Afghanistan, and the Asian tsunami, when the U.S. military poured its might into setting people free, giving them a hand up, redeeming old wrongs, I felt it, in a small part, like a personal joy. The sense of re-waking from the Kissinger realist nightmare was exhilarating.


J.R.R. TOLKIEN Luke and I went to see "The Fellowship of the Ring" when it came out. I have to admit, I was dreading this. "Tolkien" and "Hollywood" are opposite poles to me. I'm not a hobbit-head or anything, but I've never read any modern book that was so luminously visual yet so utterly unready to become a film. And if you went back to my teen-age years and told me all the things I'd live to see, I think "Burger King 'Lord of the Rings' Happy Meal" is the one I never would have believed. But they did a good job (making the movie, I mean, not the Happy Meal). Every scene and most characters looked "right" -- looked as I always imagined they would. The film hewed closely to the book, and the only serious omission I noticed was Tom Bomabdil. I actually can't say whether the movie succeeds in communicating the back-story and shade of meaning required to understand why characters act as they do; I know that material from having read the books. Luke, who hadn't read the books, was lost for much of it, but he was enthusiastic about it afterwards, and he had me read the first few chapters of "The Two Towers" to him. Given the zealotry of Tolkien's fans, I suppose the fidelity to the mood of the books was the price of making the film. But the director and cast seemed genuine about it. And for the most part they managed to avoid the other trap, which would have been to allow the (to modern ears) artificial and heroic aspect of Tolkien's dialogue to clunk out like blocks of wood. The product, however, is grim. Even if you know what comes after this film ends -- that it all turns out more or less OK at the end -- the whole thing is pervaded with a mood of the passing away of old and beautiful and good things out of the world. One thing that puzzled me, afterwards, was to hear people at work talking about how "Christian" the movie was, and how conservative Christians have embraced the film. It took me a while to figure that out; now I think I get it. Tolkien was a man of faith, a devout Catholic. He meant "Lord of the Rings" to tell a story that was essentially Christian. It is most strongly so at the end, with the magical vanquishing of the evil that had seemed impossibly strong. Tolkien coins a word for it, in ancient Greek, in one of his essays: eucatastrophe. A good catastrophe, a "cascading of joy." But whatever his personal faith, as a scholar Tolkien was deeply immersed in the pessimistic, pagan world that he studied and taught every day. And his book, whatever his intention, is rooted in the world of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. After the eucatastrophe of "Return of the King," comes a slow, sad Gotterdammerung. Look at Middle Earth: there is good, but it is not sure as the strongest thing going. Its durance depends on heart and wit and luck. And there is evil, limned and solid and vastly strong. And it strives unceasing to seduce the good, through the weaknesses of desire -- even desire to further the best of causes. Is this not the world of so many modern American Protestant sects? The unblinking eye, the dark lord, the trap of power that seduces the wise and great most of all -- here is Satan, straight out of a Tim LaHaye book, and he is the star of Christianity for so many people. Middle Earth is not C.S. Lewis' Narnia; there's no gentle Jesus in Tolkien, no redemption by faith, no turning the other cheek. The don who taught "Beowulf" reached down into his racial past and evoked the old Teutonic warrior code, where the skilled man and the strength of his sword-arm and the force of his honor strode through the unloving world. What is "Lord of the Rings" other than an Anglo-Saxon epic brought into a modern idiom? It's full of words and themes and ideas out of Old English literature, even down to its "flaws" (absence of fully developed female characters, etc.) I hadn't re-read the books since I started learning Old English, about a decade ago, but recently I picked a few paragraphs at random from "Return of the King," and, as I suspected, Tolkien's writing is deeply indebted to Old English. There might have been two Latin-derived words in the 500 or so that I read. Instead, he wrote in the old, grim prose of Alfred the Great. And he uses the classic Anglo-Saxon devices of alliteration and repetition-with-variation to make his words strong. I'm thinking especially of the battle scene at the gates of Minas Tirith. The "Lord of the Rings" movies have brought J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy back into the public eye. Not that it's ever been out of print, or anything. But as time passes, appreciation grows. Recent polls in Britain consistently declare Tolkien "the most influential author of the century" and "The Lord of the Rings" "the book of the century." Critics are catching up with the public, seeing "LotR's" tapestry of themes and characters as one of the lasting literary accomplishments of the 20thcentury. All this for a book of pure fantasy, written in deliberately archaic diction. The trouble with Tolkien's legacy is it looks like a dead-end. You read "The Lord of the Rings." But then what? He also published a few delightful short stories, but only a few. There's a whole shelf of books published posthumously under his name, starting with "The Simarillion." But the art in them gets progressively thinner. His heirs emptied his filing cabinets and notebooks and passed off the results, much padded, as his fiction, which they manifestly are not. There is another alternative, if you can find it. "The Monsters and the Critics" is a collection of seven essays and lectures written or delivered by Tolkien between 1931 and 1959. Guy Davenport, the Appalachian man of letters, once published a remembrance of Tolkien the professor of Old English, who, "had a speech impediment, wandered in his remarks, and seemed to think that we, his baffled scholars, were well up in Gothic, Erse, and Welsh, the grammar of which he freely alluded to." Not until years later could I know that this vague and incomprehensible lecturer, having poked around on a page of the dread 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' for an hour, muttering place names and chuckling over variant readings, biked out to Sandfield Road in Headington and moved Frodo and Sam toward Mordor. Most of the rest of us, of course, make the reverse discovery. We know Tolkien as the teller of "LotR." In that case, "The Monsters and the Critics" is a good introduction to the "other" Tolkien. There are scarcely any direct references to "LotR" in these essays. But the essays will appeal to you if you have spent years immersed in the world of Middle Earth. They illuminate the mind behind the masterpiece. "On Fairy-Stories" is the essential piece here. Tolkien's vision of fantasy is as "sub-creation," but really all of literature is that; and you can read this essay alongside any major literary figure -- Italo Calvino, say -- and get fascinating cross-illuminations. His theories on the unconnectedness of drama and literature are also provocative and well-argued. In other essays, he makes an eloquent case for the essential connection between the study of language and that of literature. If you consider yourself a student of great writing, but have only read "Beowulf" in Seamus Heaney's "translation," Tolkien will politely shame you out of that complacency. About midway through these essays, I realized Tolkien's world seems to be intensely charged with a mental condition called synaesthesia. It's a cross-circuiting of the senses, the kind of thing Oliver Sacks writes about. Most people have a bit of it. We talk of "warm" and "cool" colors or sounds. Children have it more perfectly than adults. But some people have it intensely: To them, "Tuesday" is reddish-brown, "Saturday" is grass-green and the A below middle C has a taste like a briny pickle. Tolkien has this, too, though he seems utterly unaware that this quality, as it is developed in him, is rare. It is what makes him so fond of languages, which were his life's study. In his lecture on "English and Welsh" (delivered the day after "Return of the King" was published, though you'd never know it), he talks of being captivated, as a student, by strange languages. He talks of "the fluidity of Greek, punctuated by hardness, and with its surface glitter." Pure synaesthesia. His poetry was in the words, and how they fit together. "The contemplation of the vocabulary in 'A Primer of the Gothic Language' was ... a sensation at least as full of delight as first looking into Chapman's 'Homer.' Though I did not write a sonnet about it. I tried to invent Gothic words." Consider the strangeness of that. When the second edition of "Lord of the Rings" gave Tolkien a chance to alter the text, he went in and tinkered with the inflections in his invented Elvish language. His masterpiece was spun from his quirky love for the textures of words. His sound-sense is as brilliant as Dylan Thomas's or Dante's. If you don't believe me, read a few paragraphs of "LotR" aloud. Tolkien would chuckle at this, of course. He'd quietly remind us he's not a poet, merely an Oxford don, a dull lecturer (a reputation he cheerfully confesses to in his valedictory address), bumbling and pedantic, who never won many prizes in school. Thank the gods no one ever convinced him otherwise. Davenport's reminiscence was published years ago in the "New York Times," as part of a short essay called "Hobbitry." In it, Davenport later tells of "a delicious afternoon in Tolkien's rose garden talking with his son, and from this conversation there kept emerging a fond father who never quite noticed that his children had grown up, and who, as I gathered, came and went between the real world and a world of his own invention." Tolkien's close friend, H.V.G. ("Hugo") Dyson, tells Davenport: "Dear Ronald, writing all those silly books with three introductions and ten appendixes. His was not a true imagination, you know: He made it all up." A slippery and subtle observation. "The closest I have ever gotten to the secret and inner Tolkien," Davenport writes, "was in a casual conversation on a snowy day in Shelbyville, Kentucky." I forget how in the world we came to talk of Tolkien at all, but I began plying questions as soon as I knew that I was talking to a man who had been at Oxford as a classmate of Ronald Tolkien's. He was a history teacher, Allen Barnett. He had never read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, he was astonished and pleased to know that his friend of so many years ago had made a name for himself as a writer. "Imagine that! You know, he used to have the most extraordinary interest in the people here in Kentucky. He could never get enough of my tales of Kentucky folk. He used to make me repeat family names like Barefoot and Boffin and Baggins and good country names like that." And out the window I could see tobacco barns. The charming anachronism of the hobbits' pipes suddenly made sense in a new way. The Shire and its settled manners and shy hobbits have many antecedents in folklore and in reality .... Kentucky, it seems, contributed its share. Practically all the names of Tolkien's hobbits are listed in my Lexington phone book, and those that aren't can be found over in Shelbyville. Like as not, they grow and cure pipe-weed for a living. Talk with them, and their turns of phrase are pure hobbit: "I hear tell," "right agin," "so Mr. Frodo is his first and second cousin, once removed either way," "this very month as is." These are English locutions, of course, but ones that are heard oftener now in Kentucky than in England. I despaired of trying to tell Barnett what his talk of Kentucky folk became in Tolkien's imagination. I urged him to read The Lord of the Rings but as our paths have never crossed again, I don't know that he did. Nor if he knew that he created by an Oxford fire and in walks along the Cherwell and Isis the Bagginses, Boffins, Tooks, Brandybucks, Grubbs, Burrowses, Goodbodies, and Proudfoots (or Proudfeet, as a branch of the family will have it) who were, we are told, the special study of Gandalf the Grey, the only wizard who was interested in their bashful and countrified ways. [Davenport's observation is probably a lovely wrong guess, but then a great deal of 20th century literature consists of great wrong guesses. Indeed the whole history of the 20th century can be read as a long stagger of wrong answers, some more lovely than others. Davenport, I suspect, would not be dismayed. He wrote elsewhere ("The Critic as Artist") "Of a study I wrote of Eudora Welty, Miss Welty replied, with great kindness and friendliness, that she did not intend any of the symbolism I saw in her work. This is, let us say, daunting, but again I think Miss Welty, seeing her stories in her way, which is always perforce inside outwards, does not realize the extent she has kept the contours and symbols of Ovid's Metamorphoses (which is what I was writing about) that we can see from the outside looking in." That attitude itself might be a lovely wrong guess.] INDEX - AUTHOR


LONE RUNNER The Greeks host the Olympics again this year. Ancient athletes raced and fought naked; the modern ones gathered now in Athens wear clothes advertising the official sponsors. The ancient Greeks, we are told, would be scandalized. But athletic endorsements happen when athlete and clothing maker angle for a profit off each other. Each obeys the logic of economic individualism. And individualism is a Greek legacy -- an Athenian legacy -- to Western culture. Individualism defines the West, both to Western and non-Western eyes. In a sociological analysis from 1989, of 50 countries, the top 20 scores in the "individualism" index included all the Western states except Portugal plus Israel. Individualism is the dynamo that drives disparate expressions of Western culture, from eco-feminist performance art to plutocratic wealth-hoarding. Separation of church and state, the rule of law, social pluralism, representative government, all these hallmarks of Western civilization either define or protect the individual's autonomy from collective power. "Equal rights" is the most advanced expression of individualism. Not only do individuals have rights, the all have them alike, regardless of personal qualities. These are the gifts we come bearing, like a combative Santa Claus, to non-Western civilizations steeped in collective folkways for millenia. Individualism ranks high on the list of what is universalism to the West and imperialism to the rest. Islam is communal. To it, American-style individualism looks amoral and unethical. This is true in other world cultures as well (Confucianism, for instance), but Islam presents a particular challenge to America at the moment. Islam is based from beginning to end on the idea of Unity (tawhid), both of God and the Islamic community (ummah). In sermons, speeches, and publications, radical, mainstream, and even Western Muslims reject American-style individualism as extreme and dangerous, and contrast it unfavorably to Islamic communalism. "Islam's spirit dictates Muslim life in a way that Muslims are prepared even to die for others, rather to live selfishly for oneself. Here lies the root historic reason of Islam's lightning success of winning people's heart in its hey days. Self-centred nature and the concept of 'individualism' has very little to do in a caring and compassionate society. These are departures from basic human qualities and make a society avaricious and dangerously competitive. They are the features of materialistic societies where human beings vie with each other to endure and triumph." [from a British-based site,] There is no appropriate native word in Arabic or Persian to translate "individualism" (my Persian dictionary renders it with an awkward compound word that means literally "freedom of self"). An individualist need not be an egoist. The ancient Olympics lacked team sports. Athletes strove for personal glory. But that glory was wrapped up in communal identity. The physical prizes awarded were symbolic: the winner of each event at the Isthmian games, for instance, got a crown of dry celery. The real prize was in the adulation of his home state. During triumphant celebrations of their return home, victors at the games were showered with honors and privileges. Their cities voted them free meals for the rest of their lives, or set up statues in their honor. The whole concept of physical fitness, today such a vanity, was then a civic duty. Sparta was the extreme example, but even in Athens young men and old men spent a good deal of their waking hours at the gyms. His strength was the state's: Every Athenian man under 60 could be called up for military service at a moment's notice, as a hoplite or a marine or an oarsman. In ancient Greek culture the extended family was the basic unit of society and civic morality was tied to kinship. It was the genius of Athens eventually to break this in the name of individualism. "[T]he liberation of the individual from the bonds of clan and family is one of the major achievements of Greek rationalism, and one for which the credit must go to Athenian democracy." [E.R. Dodds]. Athens had its own recurring athletic festival -- the Panathenaea. No crown of celery for the winners at the Panathenaea games: lavish awards were handed out to the top five finishers in every contest. The winner of the boys' footrace, for instance, got jars containing 1,944 liters of olive oil -- a small fortune at the time. Even at the Olympics, Athenians injected an element of individualism that other Greeks found vulgar. In 416 B.C. Alcibiades, the brilliant and scheming Athenian aristocrat, personally entered seven chariots in the Olympics and took first, second and fourth prizes, "winning, as he claimed, glory for his city, but also popularity and prestige for himself." [Bernard Knox] The tension between individualism and communalism probably is as deep as human nature. Each culture finds its balance. In some -- medieval Europe and Islam -- the collective ethos prevails. In others -- ancient Athens, modern America -- individualism rules. The birth of modern individualism coincides almost exactly with the rediscovery of classical Greek (mainly Athenian) civilization in the Renaissance. Petrarch, in the 14th century, decided to climb a mountain for the sheer personal gratification of getting to the top -- "To-day I made the ascent of the highest mountain in this region, which is not improperly called Ventosum. My only motive was the wish to see what so great an elevation had to offer ...." -- and some people say that "humanism" began on that day (though men had climbed mountains before and it's not at all clear Petrarch was much of a humanist). Since then, Westerners have circled the globe, scouting out the highest mountains and getting to the top of them (or dying in the attempt). Locals in the Andes or the Himalayas could have done that. Perhaps some did, but they earned no immortal glory in their cultures for it. The drive to do something like that came from the individual Western mind's yen to be the first. Individualism is a general Western quality, but it is taken to its extreme in America. Some immigrants came over as groups, in communities, but by and large the United States is a nation of people who defined themselves as individualists by the very act of pulling up their roots and crossing the ocean to a new world. Hamilton and other founders in the 1780s fretted over this quality in the people. To these men, ancient Athens was an anti-model: reckless, mob-ruled, excessively democratic and perpetually at the mercy of the next Alcibiades. Their models were rather Sparta and the Roman republic. They sought to tutor young America in the classical public virtues: firmness, courage, endurance, industry, frugal living, strength, and unremitting devotion to the weal of the public's corporate self. Yet there never was a Golden Age of classical virtues in America, unpolluted by greed. A force was afoot in America -- Renaissance humanism, honed by Enlightenment rationalism -- and it steeled the new nation with naked materialism and acquisitive individualism. If the founders had not read Adam Smith and Bernard Mandeville directly, they were familiar with their ideas, filtered through popular writers and poets like Pope ("Essay on Man"). In this model, prosperity depended on free individuals acting freely in their self-interest. Greed is good. Self-interested individuals promote the interests of the whole society more effectively than they would if they really tried to promote it. Millions endeavouring to supplyEach other's Lust and Vanity ...Thus every Part was full of Vice,Yet the whole Mass a Paradise. [Mandeville, "The Fable of the Bees," 1705] Smith put it more scientifically, but not less clearly. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their own advantages. The individualist need not be an egoist -- but the egoist always is an individualist. De Tocqueville saw individualism as a peculiar vice of democracies. "Egoism sterilizes the seeds of every virtue; individualism at first only drains the springs of public virtues, but in the long run it attacks and destroys all the others too and finally merges into egoism." America's great wars in the past century have been against collectivist societies that formed in revulsion against Western individualism -- Prussian militarism, Nazi fascism, and Soviet communism. These were imperfect secular expressions of the socialist ideal. Now the United States faces a more permanent, functional collective power in Islam. Even where they seem to be alike, the two cultures differ. Both the United States and the Muslim ummah were slave-owning cultures, for instance. But under Islam, those who serve the faith, by scholarship or soldiering, enjoyed greater prestige than those who merely made money. Thus in Muslim lands there was no plantation system, no masses of agricultural slaves gathered for the sake of raising cash crops. Slaves in the ummah served as cooks, porters, concubines, soldiers. This hardly means Islam was kinder, of course: a slave is a slave, and being a eunuch in a harem or a family sex toy is hardly better than being a field hand. The tension between individual and collective priorities drives much of the debate between "conservatives" and "liberals" in modern America and spikes it with venom. The split is hardly absolute. Many liberals are solid individualists, and certain modern conservatives, notably in the Russell Kirk school, believe unbridled free market individualism can be a disaster, destructive of those institutions that must be conserved. But the identification of America's uniqueness in the world with its individualistic qualities made it easy for the anti-communists who battled collectivism in the Cold War to slip into battle with the extremists in the Islamic ummah when they attacked the U.S. Old foes with new faces. On the other side, the Lenins and the bin Ladens marked America as their enemy for the same reason. Bad enough, in the eyes of the Islamists, that we practice this decadence. Far worse that we export it into their holy space. The running battle over individualism allows people in the West to swallow a certain illogic in their positions. Liberals, perhaps reflexively opposing an anti-collectivist U.S., align themselves as allies or apologists for the utterly il-liberal Taliban. And social conservatives wave the flag for relentless war on Islamist clerics whose critique of America's decadence is almost identical to that of the social conservatives. Ultimately, though Bush is right, whether he knows it or not: rights, liberties, freedoms, are the things "they hate us for," because these things spring from the supremacy of the individual, above the collective or the communal, in American culture. INDEX - AUTHOR