Free Speech on Trial: Eugene Debs at Canton, Ohio, in 1918

“My fate is in your hands. I am prepared for the verdict.” Introduction On a sultry afternoon in 1918, the tall, lanky Hoosier walked up the bandstand’s steps and surveyed the growing crowd gathered in Nimisilla Park in Canton, Ohio, on Sunday, June 16. They had come to hear the keynote speech at the Buckeye[…]

A Founding Father in Dissent: How Elbridge Gerry Gave Us the Bill of Rights

Gerry the proposed original constitution threatened the liberties of the people and the rights of the states. During his second term as governor of Massachusetts, in 1811, Elbridge Gerry, upset with the Federalist Party’s outspoken opposition to President James Madison’s foreign policy, approved a controversial redistricting plan designed to give the Republican Party an advantage[…]

The ‘Old Right’ from the Early to Mid-20th Century

The Old Right were unified by opposition to what they saw as the danger of domestic dictatorship by President Franklin Roosevelt. Introduction The Old Right was an informal designation used for a branch of American conservatism that was most prominent circa 1910 to the mid 1950s but never became an organized movement. Most members were[…]

Rolling the Dice on Theodore Roosevelt in American Memory

The resilience of memories of Roosevelt as a hero, champion, and friend is indicative of durable qualities in Americans’ self-image. Abstract Following scholarship that suggests that societies crave continuity in their collective memories, this article identifies recurring themes in American memories of Theodore Roosevelt as an intensely masculine leader, a champion of social justice, and[…]

We the People: The Legacy of the Constitution of the United States of America

Our Founders left a document open to change with the ability to adapt to new times and circumstances. “Ours is a Constitution intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, 1819 Widespread Interest in the Founding Documents Since[…]

Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton’s 17th-Century American Subversions

Exploring the early colony’s brief existence and the alternate vision of America it represents. This article, Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton’s American Subversions, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ When we think of early New England, we tend to picture[…]

The People, Voyage, and Arrival of the Mayflower

The pilgrims in the Atlantic crossing on the Mayflower were religious separatists inspired by the Protestant Reformation. Introduction The Mayflower is the name of the cargo ship that brought the Puritan separatists (known as pilgrims) to North America in 1620 CE. It was a type of sailing ship known as a carrack with three masts[…]

Jefferson and Hamilton, Political Rivals in Washington’s Cabinet

Washington had to deal with the personal nature of the differences between two of his cabinet members – Jefferson and Hamilton. Originally published as “Jefferson and Hamilton, Political Rivals in Washington’s Cabinet”, by Dr. Joanne Freeman, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, republished for educational, non-commercial purposes. Differences of opinion didn’t concern President Washington. They could[…]

The Presidential Cabinet: An Invention of America’s First President

How George Washington shaped the group of advisors as an institution to meet his own needs. The President’s cabinet, the heads of the executive branch departments, is one of the most constant and durable parts of the United States government. From George Washington to Donald Trump, the chief executive has used the institution to collect[…]

How to Lose: A Brief History of the Presidential Concession Speech

Over the past 120 years, there have been 32 concession speeches. By Joe Richman and Nellie Gilles Presidential campaigns are essentially dramas, and for the past century, the moment of closure has come in the form of one simple act: the public concession. There is no legal or constitutional requirement that the loser of a[…]

John Adams, America’s Second President and First One-Term President

Adams’s legacy is one of reason, virtuous leadership, compassion, and a cautious but vigorous foreign policy. Life in Brief Overview Before becoming President in 1797, John Adams built his reputation as a blunt-speaking man of independent mind. A fervent patriot and brilliant intellectual, Adams served as a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress between[…]

America Comes of Age, 1876–1900

The United States solidified its place as an industrial and agricultural power in the late nineteenth century. In the three decades following the Civil War, a nation once predominantly agricultural became the world’s preeminent economic power. Between 1869 and 1899, the nation’s population nearly tripled, farm production more than doubled, and the value of manufacturing[…]

The Foundations of American Government

The Enlightenment of 17th-century Europe had the most immediate impact on the framers of the United States Constitution. Introduction Democracy was not created in a heartbeat. In a world where people were ruled by monarchs from above, the idea of self-government is entirely alien. Democracy takes practice and wisdom from experience. The American colonies began[…]

A Modern Republic: The Ideals of the Founders

Like the Greeks and Romans of antiquity, Americans believed that government must concern itself with the character of its citizenry. By Dr. Stephen M. KlugewiczHistorian As Benjamin Franklin left Philadelphia’s Convention Hall in September 1787, upon the completion of the work of the Framers of the Constitution, a woman approached him and asked the old[…]

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[…]