The Real Birth of the American Republic

This week, nearly 225 years ago, the lofty ideals of the Constitution passed their first test. By Joseph Stromberg The dawn of American democracy didn’t come in 1776, with the Declaration of Independence. It didn’t come in 1788, when the Constitution was ratified by the states, or in 1789, when George Washington took office. According[…]

A Long History of Condescension and Apathy in the Presidency

Open arrogance and caring only about their own political pursuits became the name of the game. The fury over racial injustice that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s killing has forced Americans to confront their history. That’s unfamiliar territory for most Americans, whose historical knowledge amounts to a vague blend of fact and myth[…]

Running for President and the Political Machine since George Washington

The technical qualifications for candidates are the same, but how people seek the nation’s highest office has shifted over the centuries. Introduction The requirements have stayed the same – just about any natural-born citizen over the age of 35 can run for president. But who decides who runs has changed substantially. So has campaigning. Nowadays,[…]

The Development of the Two-Party System in Early America

Hamiltonians became known as Federalists and Jeffersonians became known as Democratic-Republicans. Hamiltonians vs. Jeffersonians After the new United States Congress completed its first task of creating a Bill of Rights, it turned its attention to the issue of financing the new government. President George Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton as the Treasury Secretary, and Hamilton took[…]

James Madison and the Origins of Partisanship in the United States

Critics argue that Congress has become the “broken branch” of government, marked by extreme partisanship and few achievements. They prescribe nostrums ranging from campaign finance regulation to redistricting reform to foster compromise rather than conflict on Capitol Hill. Yet the American founders, especially James Madison, believed “ambition must be made to counteract ambition” as a way[…]

Causes of the War of 1812

Relations, commerce, and territorial expansion were at the root of the conflict. Introduction As an important neutral trading nation, the United States became ensnarled in the broader European conflict that pitted Napoleonic France against Great Britain and her continental allies. France Bans Neutral Trade with Britain In 1806 France prohibited all neutral trade with Great[…]

A History of the Civil War, from the Preceding Crisis to the End of Reconstruction

Examining the initial fractures, course, and ultimate resolution of the Civil War that divided the nation. Decade of Crisis Slave Resistance During the 1850s, Americans witnessed a decade of sectional crises that threatened the very existence of the Union. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right in predicting that the Mexican Cession would reignite the explosive issue[…]

Key Personalities of the American Civil War

Taking a look at some of the key figures who played important roles during one of our nation’s most divisive times. Abraham Lincoln February 12 1809 – April 15 1865 Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and the first Republican elected to that office. Lincoln was president during the Civil War,[…]

Constitutional Textualism and Debate over the 14th Amendment, 1860-1870

“Equality before the law” under the Fourteenth Amendment means exactly what it says it means. Former Associate Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia, the halcyon of judicial conservatism and the patron saint of the Supreme Court’s dominant bloc, justified his rightwing jurisprudence claiming to be a textualist. According to Scalia, “If you are a textualist, you don’t care[…]

Ebenezer Mackintosh: Shoemaker, Gang Leader, Rioter, Founding Father

Mackintosh played a key role in riots and other events related to the protest and eventual repeal of the Stamp Act in March 1766. Where it is: The marker can be seen in North Haverhill, just east of Horse Meadows Cemetery. It’s on the west side of Route 10, about 1.7 miles south of the[…]

The Progressive Presidents: Teddy Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson

The ownership of corporations and the relationship between owners and laborers were the contentious topics of the period. Roosevelt’s Square Deal At the dawn of the twentieth century, America was at a crossroads. Presented with abundant opportunity, but also hindered by significant internal and external problems, the country was seeking leaders who could provide a[…]

Garfield, Harrison, McKinley, and the Legacy of the Front Porch Campaign

At the beginning of the 1880s, Democratic and Republicans candidates observed a tradition of reserve and silence during campaigns. Since gaining a decisive lead in the Democratic primaries, Joe Biden has faced a situation unique in contemporary politics: while preparations for the upcoming general campaign are underway, the candidate himself is locked up at home.[…]

Federalists versus Anti-Federalists in the Early American Republic

The public, expecting a revised version of the Articles of Confederation, was shocked by the Constitution that resulted. Ratification of the Constitution Leaders of the Philadelphia Convention had completed the Constitution for the United States of America, but many of the convention members had lingering doubts as to whether the states would approve it. According[…]

James Madison’s Last Stand

Madison was deeply concerned with tyranny. Recent events–from Black Lives Matter protests, to a show trial for an impeached president, to the mismanaged spread of COVID-19, to Stormtrooper-like tactics in American cities—demonstrate that liberal democracy is under siege. To better understand this unique moment in the history of this worldview, a brief look at its[…]

John Adams: A Lesson in Losing and Peacefully Leaving

Adams decided that losing an election, even one for the presidency, means what it says. Students of the Presidency honor George Washington for establishing that two terms as president were enough for any man. The precedent he set, the two-term tradition, bound his successors, even those who wanted more time in office, until Franklin D. Roosevelt[…]

Stamping an Identity on America: The Beginning of the United States Post Office

George Washington convinced Congress to support a sweeping expansion of postal routes with greater scope and reliability. Introduction Research for my recent book on the postal inspector Anthony Comstock introduced me to the prominent role the Postal Service played in enabling Americans to conceive of themselves as a singular nation. Sending a letter from Virginia[…]

Battles That Saved America: North Point and Baltimore, 1814

The young republic might have ceased to exist and may have become a mere footnote in the history of the world. By Command Sergeant Major James Clifford, USA-Ret.COCOM Exercise Logistics Planner for Air Force Reserve Command These few words—the opening line of the United States’ national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”—are some of the most[…]

The History of Military Ordnance in America

The American Revolution established the general outlines of the future Ordnance Department. By Karl RubisOrdnance Branch HistorianUnited States Army Introduction The Ordnance Branch is one of the oldest branches of the U.S. Army, founded on 14 May 1812. However, the duties and responsibilities of the profession date back to the colonial era. In 1629, the[…]

Systems at Work: A History of the Post Office in Pictures since 1808

In 1800, postal officials began using selected post offices as distribution centers. 1808 Overview When we reflect that the objects effected by the transportation of the mail are among the choicest comforts and enjoyments of social life, it is pleasing to observe that the dissemination of them to every corner of our country has outstripped[…]

The History of the United States Post Office since 1792

The Postal Service Act, signed by President George Washington on February 20, 1792, established the Post Office Department. Introduction The United States Post Office Department (USPOD; also known as the Post Office or U.S. Mail) was the predecessor of the United States Postal Service, in the form of a Cabinet department, officially from 1872 to[…]

Lincoln’s Profound and Benign Americanism, or Nationalism Without Malice

Lincoln was that rare bird, a man who dealt in moral ideas without falling into moralism and superior self-righteousness. Abraham Lincoln is the greatest of all interpreters of America’s moral meaning. He surpasses even Thomas Jefferson, though Lincoln himself might take exception to my claim. [1] Lincoln certainly gave Jefferson high praise, and he made[…]

‘Old-Fashioned’ Nationalism: Lincoln, Jefferson, and the Classical Tradition

Seeing Lincoln’s nationalism from an unlikely, and fresh, perspective: its connection, via the Enlightenment, to classical antiquity. In 1870 the former vice-president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, offered what has surely become the best-known characterization of Abraham Lincoln’s nationalism. In Lincoln, Stephens suggested, the sentiment of Union “rose to the sublimity of a religious[…]

A History of Tumultuous Transitions in the American Presidency

America has certainly had a lot of experience in difficulties in the change of governments in the last two centuries. Three months from now America will once again experience the tumult and stress of presidential transitions, if one believes the polls that show former Vice President Joe Biden thwarting President Trump’s attempt to win a[…]

Gun Control at the Beginning of the American Republic

The contemporary Second Amendment debate is founded on serious misunderstandings. Introduction The Second Amendment is one of the most frequently cited provisions in the American Constitution, but also one of the most poorly understood. The 27 words that constitute the Second Amendment seem to baffle modern Americans on both the left and right. Ironically, those[…]

A History of Militias in the United States since the Colonial Period

The early colonists of America considered the militia an important social institution, necessary to provide defense and public safety. Introduction The militia of the United States, as defined by the U.S. Congress, has changed over time.[1] During colonial America, all able-bodied white men of all ages were members of the militia, depending on the respective[…]

Rutherford B. Hayes: A President, Disputed Electoral College, and Racial Progress

One goal Hayes didn’t accomplish as president – invigorating black education – he worked for as an ex-president. More than 140 years ago, President Rutherford B. Hayes won the election of 1876 by committing to end Reconstruction. A highly controversial political compromise preceded by disputed electoral votes and involving questionable deals with Southern Democrats, it[…]

President Ulysses S. Grant and the Court Packing Controversy of 1870

Grant was accused with packing the court, the same charge later leveled against FDR in 1937. Introduction On April 10, 1869, Congress passed an act to amend the judicial system in part by increasing the number of Supreme Court justices to nine, to take effect the first Monday in December of that year. That act,[…]

The Washingtonians Who Fought to Keep Their City as the Nation’s Capital

Rivalries over its political symbolism, and damage from the War of 1812, nearly destroyed the city. As the national capital, Washington, D.C. always has carried special meaning—representing both the federal government and the United States as a whole. No matter how Americans might feel about the state of the nation at any given time, they[…]

The Unexpected Legacy of George Washington

It is as an entrepreneur that Washington serves best to inspire Americans in the twenty-first century. By Dr. Edward G. Lengel / 02.14.2016 Director of the Papers of George Washington University of Virginia Presidential candidates love to invoke George Washington. His example inspires politicians of all persuasions; even zealots profess to seek his guidance. The[…]