The New July Crisis

July 23, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

If I were the superstitious type, a European diplomatic/military crisis 100 years to the month after the July Crisis that lead World War I would have me worried. I’m not superstitious, but Russia’s indecent, aggressive, and barbaric policy toward Ukraine and the West still has me worried. Recommended reading.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

This summer is the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, the “great seminal catastrophe” of the last century, in the memorable phrase of the diplomatist-scholar George Kennan. As a historian who has spent much of his life studying the events of 1914, I had long looked forward to this centenary, and the necessary reexamination of the July Crisis of that fateful summer that the anniversary would bring. I did not expect it to include a second July Crisis.

Exactly one hundred years ago today, Vienna presented its fateful ultimatum to Belgrade, demanding that Serbia clarify its role in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo some three weeks before. Vienna expected their demands would be rebuffed, getting Austro-Hungarian generals the war against “Dog Serbia” that they had long craved, and so they did. That did not work out quite as planned, but then again…

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Happy Fourth of July!

July 4, 2014

independence day patriots

It’s Independence Day here in the US, in which we celebrate our break with the British Empire. We’re 238 years old and, despite what some sanctimonious Lefty scolds might think, I think we’ve done pretty darned good. We’re not without our problems or faults, some of them serious, but I continue to believe America is exceptional among the nations of the world and that we are indeed a force for good. If you’re looking for some good Independence Day reading, there’s always the Declaration of Independence itself. Think of it as a short ideological summation of who and why we are.

Then there’s the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which function as a citizen’s “owner’s manual.” And yes, to those of you in other countries raising an eyebrow about now, we do tend to place those documents on a pedestal. You have to admit, however, they’ve worked well for over two centuries. How many republics and constitutions has France had in that time?

Gosh, it’s become quiet…. Winking

By the way, at The Federalist, John Daniel Davidson asks us to consider how the Declaration’s list of King George’s offenses against the (then English) constitutional order and the rights of the American people might well also apply to President Obama.

A lot’s been written around the Web about today on the meaning of Independence day, so I’ll spare you my musings. Instead, I want to leave you with the thoughts of historian Victor Davis Hanson (1) who, writing in National Review in 2008 (2) at a time of growing national discord, wanted to remind us that things often had been much worse and that, on that 4th of July six years ago, we could use a little perspective:

On this troubled Fourth we still should remember this is not 1776 when
New York was in British hands and Americans in retreat across the
state. It is not 1814 when the British burned Washington and the entire
system of national credit collapsed — or July 4, 1863 when Americans
awoke to news that 8,000 Americans had just been killed at Gettysburg.


We are not in 1932 when unemployment was still over 20 percent of the
work force, and industrial production was less than half of what it had
been just three years earlier, or July, 1942, when tens of thousands of
American were dying in convoys and B-17s, and on islands of the Pacific
in an existential war against Germany, Japan, and Italy.

Thank
God it is not mid-summer 1950, when Seoul was overrun and arriving
American troops were overwhelmed by Communist forces as they rushed in
to save a crumbling South Korea. We are not in 1968 when the country
was torn apart by the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin
Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the riots at the Democratic
convention in Chicago. And we are not even in the waning days of 1979,
a year in which the American embassy was seized in Tehran and hostages
taken, the Soviets were invading Afghanistan, thousands were still
being murdered in Cambodia, Communism was on the march in Central
America, and our president was blaming our near 6-percent unemployment,
8-percent inflation, 15-percent interest rates, and weakening
international profile on our own collective “malaise.”

We
live in the most prosperous and most free years of a wonderful
republic, and can easily rectify our present crises that are largely of
our own making and a result of the stupefying effects of our
unprecedented wealth and leisure. Instead of endless recriminations and
self-pity — of anger that our past was merely good rather than perfect
as we now demand — we need to give thanks this Fourth of July to our
ancestors who created our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and suffered
miseries beyond our comprehension as they bequeathed to us most of the
present wealth, leisure, and freedom we take for granted.

Still holds true, I think.

Happy 4th of July, folks. Enjoy the hot dogs and fireworks.  smiley us flag

RELATED: Also from 2008, a love-letter to America. I mentioned yesterday a point of view that sees the American Revolution as a second English Civil War. It’s an opinion with some merit, I think, given that the Patriots saw themselves as defenders of rights granted under the Bill of Rights of 1689. Continuing that theme at National Review, Daniel Hannan, a British MEP who’s more of a Patriot than many Americans I know these days, writes about the meaning of the forgotten flag of the American Revolution. Also at NR, British emigrant to America Charles Cooke considers the civil war of 1776. Cooke’s articles should be on your must-reading list. On American exceptionalism, Jonah Goldberg looks at how progressives really resent it. Finally, Salena Zito takes us to where independence began.

Footnotes:
(1) aka, my spiritual leader
(2) Sorry, the old link is broken, and National Review can’t be bothered to provide a searchable archive. Bad show, NR, bad show. Update: Found a re-posting. Do read it all.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Bookshelf update — Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War

July 3, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Thomas Allen’s “Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War.”

 

book cover Tories

 

 

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but “Tories” is an entertaining and thought-provoking history of what happened to the losers in the American Revolution: those Colonials who remained loyal to King George III and Parliament. It’s a salutary reminder that this was also a civil war, one that tore apart friends, families, and whole societies. Just as Patriots saw themselves as fighting for American freedom, the Loyalists believed they had justice on their side as they lost all defending the Rule of Law and rights of property, things we still value. I dislike moral relativism, but this may be one case in which it’s good to remember that both sides had their heroes and both their villains. Anyway, “Tories” is available in both Kindle (1) and paperback formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) Sadly I’ve found about one error per page in the Kindle version, in which two words will be smashed together with no space between. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


28 June 1914: Uncovering the Sarajevo Assassination

June 30, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

I’d let the centenary of the assassination in Sarajevo of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the incident that sparked World War I, pass without mention this weekend. Inexcusable of me, but, in penance, here’s a link to a very interesting post by John Schindler on some of the mysteries still surrounding that event.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

One hundred years ago, the most consequential assassination in modern times occurred. It was the most famous too, since the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo set off a chain of events that led, a month later, to the start of the Great War, a catastrophe that took ten million lives and pretty much destroyed European civilization. The effects of that live on today, in many places: in Iraq, jihadists right now are tearing up the borders of their country that were drawn up by the victors of the Great War, from the corpse of the Ottoman Empire, which suffered its final defeat in 1918.

Despite its infamy, the Sarajevo assassination remains shrouded in some mystery, and that’s what I seek to cut through today. But first, the personal tragedy. It is easy to forget that, behind all the conspiracy and resulting diplomacy and war-making…

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D-day: storming the castle

June 6, 2014

(Note: This is a re-posting and slight editing of a post I put up every D-Day.)

Seventy years ago today, American, British, Canadian, French, and Polish soldiers charged the gates of Hell — and won:

Black Five put up an excellent roundup of D-Day posts from many blogs a few years ago. It’s still worth reviewing. And have a look at this entry for a photo essay on D-Day.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson reflects on D-Day at 70:

Seventy years ago this June 6, the Americans, British, and Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious invasion of Europe since the Persian king Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 b.c.

About 160,000 troops landed on five Normandy beaches and linked up with airborne troops in a masterly display of planning and courage. Within a month, almost a million Allied troops had landed in France and were heading eastward toward the German border. Within eleven months the war with Germany was over.

(…)

D-Day ushered in the end of the Third Reich. It was the most brilliantly conducted invasion in military history, and probably no one but a unique generation of British, Canadians, and Americans could have pulled it off.

Read the rest. While giving the Russians their due, he puts their contribution in perspective.

RELATED: The Daily Mail tells the story of one Medal of Honor winner who still wonders how he survived Normandy.

UPDATE: In today’s newsletter, Real Clear Politics quotes the prayer FDR read when announcing the invasion to the nation:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity,” the president said while the outcome of the battle was still in doubt.

“They will need Thy blessings,” FDR continued. “Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph…”

Imagine a president saying something like that nowadays; the Left would have a fit.

But, forget them. Today’s a day to remember genuine heroes and thank Divine Providence we had such men on our side.

UPDATE 06/06/2013: This is a real president commemorating D-Day:

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Frances refuses to fly US WWII vets to Normandy for D-Day anniversary

May 18, 2014
"Dear France, you're welcome."

“Dear France, you’re welcome.”

It’s the 70th anniversary, and the men who carried out the landings are in their 80s and 90s, now. You would think, given France’s miserable performance during the war, they could show a little respect and gratitude to those who risked their lives to kick the Nazis out of their country (1). But, no. They’re French, after all.

Ingrates:

Seven decades after ­Allied troops stormed Normandy’s beaches and saved France from the Nazis, the surrender-happy nation is turning its back on hundreds of US veterans who want to return next month to mark the invasion’s 70th anniversary.

France has broken its promise to pay for the vets to fly to this year’s commemoration, according to Rep. Michael Grimm.
“Our chief-of-staff heard it from the French Embassy in DC — that they would be flown out to France [for free],” said Nick Iacono, a spokesman for the Staten Island congressman.

But when The Post contacted the embassy Friday, the French turned up their noses as if smelling rotten Camembert.

“The French government never offered to pay for the plane tickets of the veterans traveling to France for the 70th commemoration of D-Day,” said Dana Purcarescu, a spokeswoman for the French ­Embassy in Washington.

Let’s hope this is the result of some sort of miscommunication, and not the slap in the face it appears to be.

But, I doubt it. This is France we’re talking about. They’ve made condescension and insult into an art form.

Footnote:
(1) And, for the record, I think the French government owes the same respect  and honor to the surviving members of the British, Canadian, and Polish armies that also risked everything on D-Day.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Guardian tries to claim global warming sank the Titanic – research says the exact opposite

April 28, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

The Guardian author should have been embarrassed to put her name to this piece of Green propaganda.

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

A purported photo of the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

The photo of the iceberg that sank purportedly the Titanic. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office

Kate Ravilious makes this nutty claim at The Guardian:

But in fact the catastrophe may have been set in motion by a warm, wet year over Greenland in 1908, resulting in greater snow accumulation. Writing in the journal Weather, Grant Bigg and David Wilton of Sheffield University explain how the snow soaked through cracks in the ice sheet, encouraging excess iceberg calving over the following few years. Soberingly, global warming has increased iceberg hazard greatly in recent decades, making years like 1912 more the norm than the exception.

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2014/apr/27/weatherwatch-icebergs-greenland-titanic

Yeah, but have a look at what this research actually says and you’ll understand why The Guardian is nothing more than agitprop.

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“Progressive Racism: The Hidden Motive Driving Modern Politics”

March 11, 2014

That’s the the bomb-throwing title of a take-no-prisoners article at PJ Media by “Zombie,” an anonymous San Francisco-area blogger who often skewers the Left in his/her neck of the woods. In the article, Zombie examines several common progressive policies. For each, he or she (1) first presents the position neutrally, in a flat statement. Then Zombie gives the progressive public reason for the policy, the conservative misunderstanding of it, and finally the real, racist motive at its heart.

Zombie writes:

What conservatives don’t (yet) know is that under the surface, most progressive positions are motivated by racist attitudes and assumptions felt by white progressives, usually against African-Americans. Progressive positions often seem inexplicable to outsiders because the proposals emanating from them usually manifest as colossal social engineering experiments, which the progressives have only devised as a distraction from the shameful racist motivations at the core.

This essay will likely be eye-opening for conservatives, and infuriating for progressives, who often don’t know their own history and never contemplated the origins of their own belief system. But it’s time to finally bring the uncomfortable truth out in the open.

He/she then gives eight examples. Below is one; I urge you to read the rest:

THE WELFARE STATE (2)

Progressive position:
“Maximize benefits and ease qualifications for all entitlement and social welfare programs; ultimately institute a “guaranteed income” for all U.S. residents.”

False public rationale offered by progressives to justify their position:
“No one should starve or go homeless in a wealthy nation such as ours; we should always give a helping hand to those in need.”

Conservatives’ inaccurate theory of progressives’ real intent:
The ever-escalating magnitude of unnecessary government handouts is just a backdoor route to socialism by confiscating more and more wealth from the productive class and “redistributing” it to the unproductive.

The actual racist origins of the progressive stance:
The true goal of progressive-style cradle-to-grave welfare is to enslave blacks in a culture of dependency and thereby keep them mollified and also a dependable Democratic voting bloc.

The toxic addictive effect of an ongoing welfare system has been debated for centuries; as far back as the 1700s in England it was pointed out that giving free food to the lower classes both removed their motivation to work and also increased their numbers; abusing these sociological trends for cynical political advantage dates back even further, when Roman emperors handed out free bread to curry favor with the masses. In modern America, African-Americans disproportionally comprise the lower class, so progressives have devised a racist strategy of lifelong government dependency to not only permanently keep blacks at the bottom of the economic scale but also corrode their sense of self-sufficiency so that they always return to the Democratic Party just as the addict always returns to the pusher.

According to Ronald Kessler’s book Inside the White House, President Johnson explained the rationale behind his “Great Society” welfare programs thus: “I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.” As there is no audio recording of this quote (which was reported second-hand), progressives have spent years trying to cast doubt on its existence, because it confirms the worst assumptions behind the justification for welfare. However, there are other audio recordings from the same era of Johnson obsessing over maximizing black votes and referring to them as “niggers” — for example, listen to this tape of Johnson complaining that he can’t prove black voters are being suppressed because “More niggers vote than white folks.” While this doesn’t conclusively prove he also said the disputed “200 years” quote, it does prove that he spoke in those terms, referred to blacks insultingly, and schemed about ways to maximize the black vote for the Democratic Party — all of which lend credence to the disputed quote’s likely veracity.

What can’t be disputed is that since the institutionalization of welfare, Johnson’s cynical racist vision has come true: generation after generation of inner-city African-Americans have indeed become completely dependent upon welfare, and consequently reliably vote Democratic because the Democrats vow to keep the handouts flowing.

While the motivations for progressivism are more complex than simply “racism” –including for many a genuine, if misguided, desire to help people because society is too difficult for the average person to manage on their own–there’s no doubting that a perception of non-White inferiority underlies a lot of progressive politics, including the cynical use of public money to turn Blacks into dependent voters. Something they’re now trying to do to all through Obamacare and the push to expand dependency on food stamps.

Be sure to read the whole thing. It’s controversial and inflammatory, no doubt, but perhaps also illuminating.

And, besides, it’s fun to throw the Left’s own tactics in their face for once.

Footnotes:
(1) I really wish English had a third-person, gender neutral personal pronoun. “He/She” is so clunky.
(2) For a good short booklet on this topic, check out Kevin Williamson’s “The Dependency Agenda.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Lessons of World War I. @BarackObama, take note

February 23, 2014

World War I montage

There’s an excellent (1) article by Victor Davis Hanson (2) on the lessons to be drawn from World War I, or, as I sometimes call it, the 19th century’s collective act of mass suicide (3). As this is the centennial year of the war’s start, we’re naturally seeing and will see all sort of books, articles, and programs about how it happened, whose fault it was, and what we can learn from it.

Hanson’s article deals with the last. After reviewing the standard analyses regarding secret treaties, rigid mobilization plans, and a too-harsh peace, all of which have their flaws, he keys on one that has bearing for our increasingly dangerous world, today — misjudgment:

One of the lessons of the outbreak of World War I is the importance of perceptions. At some point in 1914 the German military and diplomatic community concluded that the country not only could pull off a successful lightning strike against France, but could do so without starting a world war — given various events over the prior decades.

Such flawed thinking is a good reminder that appearances often matter as much as reality in provoking wars. Hitler certainly was suicidal in attacking his de facto partner, the Soviet Union, in June 1941. But for all his crazy ranting about his grievances, Untermenschen, and grand strategy, it was the false perception that the Soviet Union would quickly collapse — given its recent dismal performance in Poland and Finland, and the prior purging of its officer corps, contrasted with the recently successful Blitzkrieg in Poland and Western Europe — that persuaded Hitler to try something so fatally dangerous.

And yet, at the end of both wars, Germany was defeated –crushed, in the latter case– by the nations her leaders has mistakenly deemed weak. War had assumed its role as the final arbiter of the realities of power, at the price of wholesale destruction and millions dead.

For which Hanson sees a rough parallel and lesson for today:

China, like the Westernized Japan of the 1930s, wants influence and power commensurate with its economic clout, and perhaps believes its growing military can obtain both at the expense of its democratic neighbors without starting a wider war. North Korea is not convinced that demanding concessions from South Korea — or simply humiliating it and the U.S. — by threats of war would not work. Iran trusts that the age of the U.S. mare nostrum in the Mediterranean is over, that the Sunni Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms are spent, that once-unquestioned Western guarantees to Israel are now negotiable, that nuclear acquisition is an agreed wink-and-nod obtainable enterprise, and that terrorist appendages can achieve political objectives in the Middle East just as effectively as carrier groups.

Putin dreams that the Russian imperial world of the 1950s can live again, through coercion, Machiavellian diplomacy, and the combined lethargy of the EU and the U.S. — and he often is willing to take some risks to refashion current realities. Failed socialist and Communist states in Latin America nonetheless believe that a distracted or uninterested U.S. no longer cares to make the argument that transparent democratic capitalism is the region’s only hope for the future. The miseries of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are apparently no reason for them to feel that they should not extend them to other countries.

And then ties it to our current leadership:

Amid all that, a minor bow and apology here, or an inadvertent pink line and empty deadline there, matters. Gratuitous talk of “reset” and “lead from behind,” coupled with serial scapegoating of past U.S. policies and presidents, massive new debt and vast cuts in defense, also sends a message to our rivals and enemies that occasional gambles and aggressive moves that would usually be seen as stupid and suicidal may not be any more.

World War I became “World War I” when Germany believed that Britain would not fight to support France or honor an ancient treaty with little Belgium. They were wrong, but part of the reason they were wrong was due to the diffident mixed signals being sent by London. The world now has to hope that the diffidence emanating from Washington doesn’t lead to similar misjudgments in Moscow, Beijing, or Tehran.

Footnote:
(1) Kind of a needless adjective, when talking about anything written by VDH.
(2) Why isn’t this man in the Senate, instead of the blithering idiot Boxer? I demand satisfaction!
(3) Update: I should have made this clear, I guess, but, no, I do not believe the First World War was fought in the 19th century. As I explained to a commenter, WWI and the “suicide of the 19th century” refers to the civilization of the “long 19th century,” a term some historians use for political, diplomatic, and cultural themes that were dominant from roughly 1789 to 1914. The chronological 19th century ended at midnight, December 31st, 1900. The world of the 19th century came to an end in August, 1914.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Seventy-two years ago today

December 8, 2013
"FDR asks for a declaration of war"

“FDR asks for a declaration of war”

On the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt delivered this speech to a joint session of Congress:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

You can listen to FDR giving the speech here. (Real media file.)

Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the US. Four years later, Mussolini had been executed by his own people, Hitler had committed suicide, and Germany, Italy, and Japan were under occupation.

Today’s lesson: It’s not a good idea to make us angry.

(Reposting of an old post, somewhat edited.)

#CommonCore: turning History into anti-American propaganda

December 4, 2013
x

Necessary

I honestly haven’t followed the controversy over the proposed Common Core national educational standards all that closely (1), though I’m somewhat familiar with the questions of lowered standards, loss of local control, and the constitutional issue over a national curriculum. But I do not claim to be an expert.

If, however, this is representative of how American History is to be taught, I’ll be reaching for my pitchfork and torch. The textbook in question is Prentice-Hall’s “The American Experience,” and its chapter on the Second World War, as well as the accompanying teacher’s manual, takes a, shall we say, “slanted” view of the war:

The opening page of the slim chapter devoted to World War II called “War Shock” features a photograph of a woman inspecting a large stockpile of thousand-pound bomb castings. The notes in the margins of the Teacher’s Edition set the tone:

“In this section, nonfiction prose and a single stark poem etch into a reader’s mind the dehumanizing horror of world war. . . .”

The editors of the textbook script the question teachers are supposed to ask students in light of the photograph as well as provide the answer:

Ask: What dominant impression do you take away from this photograph?

Possible response: Students may say that the piled rows of giant munitions give a strong impression of America’s power of mass production and the bombs’ potential for mass destruction.”

Translation: Americans made lots of big bombs that killed lots of people.

The principal selection of the chapter is taken from John Hersey’s Hiroshima. It is a description of ordinary men and women in Hiroshima living out their lives the day the bomb was dropped. A couple of lines reveal the spirit of the document:

“The Reverend Mr. Tanimoto got up at five o’clock that morning. He was alone in the parsonage, because for some time his wife had been commuting with their year-old baby to spend nights with a friend in Ushida, a suburb to the north.”

Further prompts from the margins of the Teacher’s Edition indicate how the selection is to be read and taught:

“World War II has been called a popular war in which the issues that spurred the conflict were clearly defined. . . . Nevertheless, technological advances . . . [and the media] brought home the horrors of war in a new way. Although a serious antiwar movement in the United States did not become a reality until the 1960s, these works by Hersey and by Jarrell take their place in the ranks of early antiwar literature.

Have students think about and record in writing their personal feelings about war. Encourage students to list images of war that they recall vividly. [Conveniently, there is a photograph of the devastation in Hiroshima next to this prompt].

Tell students they will revisit their feelings about war after they have read these selections.”

The entire section is littered with questions and prompts in this vein and plenty of photos that show the destruction of Hiroshima. In case the students would be inclined to take the American side in this conflict, the editors see to it that teachers will remind the students repeatedly that there are two sides in every war:

“Think Aloud: Model the Skill
Say to students:
When I was reading the history textbook, I noticed that the writer included profiles of three war heroes, all of whom fought for the Allies. The writer did not include similar profiles for fighters on the other side. I realize that this choice reflects a political assumption: that readers want to read about only their side’s heroes.

. . . Mr. Tanimoto is on the side of “the enemy.” Explain that to vilify is to make malicious statements about someone. During wartime, it is common to vilify people on the other side, or “the enemy.””

After a dozen pages of Hersey’s Hiroshima (the same number given to Benjamin Franklin in volume one of The American Experience), students encounter the anti-war, anti-heroic poem by Randall Jarell, “The Death of the Ball Turrett Gunner.” The last line in this short poem sums up the sentiment: “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” The textbook editors zero in for the kill:

“Take a position: Jarrell based his poem on observations of World War II, a war that has been called “the good war.” Is there such a thing as a “good war”? Explain.

Possible response: [In the Teacher’s Edition] Students may concede that some wars, such as World War II, are more justified than others, but may still feel that “good” is not an appropriate adjective for any war.”

This is not a history lesson. It is anti-war propaganda masquerading as history. This is garbage designed to at best place America and Imperial Japan on an ambiguously equal moral ground, and at worst to make us out to be a villain or aggressor in the conflict. To focus on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without presenting the reasons for the attack is intellectually bankrupt. The Truman administration dropped the bombs because of the experience of fanatical Japanese resistance along a whole string of islands, where again and again Imperial Japanese Army units fought until nearly wiped out. Imagine that occurring on the Japanese Home Islands themselves, in the event of invasion; bear in mind that the Japanese government was not of a mind to surrender and indeed was talking about “70 million dead” (essentially, fighting to the last man, woman, and child), and then look at the casualty estimates for just the American invasion forces, for which figures of 500,000 killed and wounded were common. And, should the invasion have been delayed until 1946 or the islands simply besieged, there was a very real risk of famine and the  mass starvation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, because transportation networks had been destroyed. And that doesn’t even begin to account for hundreds of millions suffering under Japanese rule and who needed the war to end as swiftly as possible.

Beyond the question of military necessity and the lesser of two evils, Common Core “standards” engage in moral relativism. While quoting Hersey’s “Hiroshima” (actually, a good book) and Jarrell’s poem, students are apparently left in the dark about Japan’s aggressive intentions and regular atrocities from the 1930s through the end. No mention of the invasion of Manchuria, the war on China, the Rape of Nanking, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Unit 731, or the horrors suffered by prisoners of war and civilians living under Japanese rule.

But we do get pictures of American bombs, vivid descriptions of the wreck of Hiroshima, and the lasting impression that we were the ones committing evil, not doing what was necessary to end it.

Let me be blunt: Imperial Japan was evil and had subjected Asia and the Pacific to a horrific nightmare, all to satisfy a national ideology that dehumanized everyone else. Once the war had started, it had to be crushed; the Truman administration was right drop the atomic bombs to force Japan’s surrender (2). It would have been a greater evil to let the war drag on. And while innocent people died in the fight against Japan, to teach any sort of moral equivalence between the two nations is insulting and obscene.

And yet these are the new standards? This isn’t education, it’s pedagogical malpractice.

Footnote:
(1) On the other hand, Michelle Malkin has been an avenging angel on the topic.
(2) A superb book on the end of the war and the decision to use atomic weapons is Frank’s “Downfall: the End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Perspective: Building the #Obamacare web site vs winning WWII

November 9, 2013
D-day history

And yet Obama can’t build a working web site.

Via Twitchy, FOX’s Bret Baier read an email from a viewer on his show and then posted it to his web site. Obama and his fans liked to compare him to FDR. I wonder how they’ll like it now:

“Putting things in perspective: March 21st 2010 to October 1 2013 is 3 years, 6 months, 10 days.  December 7, 1941 to May 8, 1945 is 3 years, 5 months, 1 day.  What this means is that in the time we were attacked at Pearl Harbor to the day Germany surrendered is not enough time for this progressive federal government to build a working webpage.  Mobilization of millions, building tens of thousands of tanks,  planes, jeeps, subs, cruisers, destroyers, torpedoes, millions upon millions of guns, bombs, ammo, etc. Turning the tide in North Africa,  Invading Italy, D-Day,  Battle of the Bulge, Race to Berlin – all while we were also fighting the Japanese in the Pacific!!  And in that amount of time – this administration can’t build a working webpage.”

Boom.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


. @DanHannanMEP for president in 2016?

September 25, 2013
Signing of Magna Carata

Signing of Magna Carta, A.D. 1215

Look, if they could forge a birth certificate for Obama… (I kid! I kid!!!)

Seriously, Conservative Member of the European Parliament and right-wing  rock star Daniel Hannan once again shows he “gets it” when it comes to what makes the Anglo-American civilization exceptional. This video is from a brief address Hannan gave to the Freedom Association at Runnymede during a gathering to honor Magna Carta, the great charter that is the ancestor of our own Constitution and one of the foundations for our idea of the Rule of Law.

Take a few minutes and enjoy; it’s an inspirational lecture on what Hannan calls “a secular miracle:”

You know, if this whole EU parliament thing just doesn’t work out, I’d be happy to offer Dan one of California’s seats in the US Senate.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Syria (Video) Why we went to war in Iraq

September 10, 2013

While the world waits to see if Obama will get his war …no…  warning shot across the bow …er… targeted, limited attack …umm… Wait! I got it!… “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort,” or if Vladimir Putin (!!) will save him from being mocked, comparisons inevitably come up to our invasion and liberation of Iraq from another bloodthirsty Baathist dictator, Saddam Hussein. “If we were willing to go to war over WMDs then (1),” proponents of striking Syria might ask, “why not now?”

Because the two don’t compare at all, as you’ll see in this Praeger University video hosted by historian Andrew Roberts:

There were a lot of reasons, strategic and moral, justifying war against Saddam Hussein. And while there are some good arguments for intervening militarily in Syria (2), there are many more convincing ones for finding another way.

via Jared Sichel

Footnotes:
(1) And before someone thrusts a fist in the air and starts shouting “Bush lied! People died!” over Iraqi WMDs, please do us all a favor and read the final report of the Iraq Survey Group.
(2) None of them involving President Obama’s self-esteem and credibility, or sending messages to Tehran. The Iranians have already received that message, loud and clear.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Anniversary of a crucial, yet almost forgotten battle that saved the West

August 15, 2013

Siege of Constantinople, from the Constantine Manasses Chronicle.

Today marks the 1,295th anniversary of the lifting of the Muslim siege of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire and fortress guarding the West against the East.

Raymond Ibrahim recounts the the events of the siege, including the serial atrocities of the vast Islamic army that marched out from Syria and the cleverness of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo III, in finally defeating them. Read the whole article –it’s a watershed moment in Western History that should be remembered along with the sieges of Vienna– but here’s an excerpt where Ibrahim discusses its profound consequences:

It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of this battle. That Constantinople was able to repulse the caliphate’s hordes is one of Western history’s most decisive moments: Had it fallen, “Dark Age” Europe — chaotic and leaderless — would have been exposed to the Muslim invaders. And, if history is any indicator, the last time a large expanse of territory was left open before the sword of Islam, thousands of miles were conquered and consolidated in mere decades, resulting in what is known today as Dar al-Islam, or the “Islamic world.”

Indeed, this victory is far more significant than its more famous Western counterpart, the Frankish victory over the Muslims at the Battle of Tours, led by Charles Martel (the “Hammer”) in 732. Unlike the latter, which, from a Muslim point of view, was first and foremost a campaign dedicated to rapine and plunder, not conquest — evinced by the fact that, after the initial battle, the Muslims fled — the siege of Constantinople was devoted to a longtime goal, had the full backing of the caliphate, and consisted of far greater manpower. Had the Muslims won, and since Constantinople was the bulwark of Europe’s eastern flank, there would have been nothing to prevent them from turning the whole of Europe into the northwestern appendage of Dar al-Islam.

Nor should the architect of this great victory be forgotten. The Byzantine historian Vasiliev concludes that “by his successful resistance Leo saved not only the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Christian world, but also all of Western civilization.”

The West’s war with Islam, a jihad begun and fought against us as a religious obligation, didn’t begin on September 11th, 2001, nor even in 1979, when Khomeini took over Iran. It’s been fought off and on for over 1,400 years, and now is in an active phase. The genius and determination of Leo III in desperate battle bought Western Europe the time it needed until it could stand on its own.

I think tonight I’ll raise a toast to the Emperor and his people; perhaps somewhere they’ll know their valor is still honored.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Proclaimed in Philadelphia, July 4th, 1776

July 4, 2013

history  Trumbull signing declaration independence

It’s a fact often forgotten by many, after 237 years, but the United States is a truly revolutionary nation — one of the few in the world, in fact, because we declared that all Mankind is equal, that government derives its power from the people, alone, and that the people have the right to change that government when they see fit. The band of men who made that declaration in Philadelphia had no idea how their gamble would turn out –some thought hanging at the end of a rope was as likely as winning– but I think it’s safe to say it’s succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and in ways they couldn’t imagine. The revolutionary ideal contained in the Declaration of Independence first compelled the nation to purge itself of the evils of slavery, refounding itself in the process, and then to bring the light of liberty to other peoples around the world, sometimes with great success, sometimes not, but always with a firm belief in the power of liberty and human liberation.

So now we’re going through one of our periodic crises of national confidence. Times are tough: the economy stinks, the world seems to grow more dangerous, and many of those in our government seem to want to turn us from free citizens into dependent children. At times like these –and on this day, especially– I think it’s a good idea to re-read our national “vision statement,” both to remind ourselves of who we are and why we exist,  and to stiffen our spines to tell the new King Georges “NO!!”

Declaration of Independence

(Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776)

The Unanimous Declaration
of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776

via Early America

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


White House shows its ignorance of US History and culture to the entire world

June 13, 2013

Right there on the White House web site as of 18:15 PST — the papers of the “Founding Founders?”

"Dude?"

“Dude?”

As opposed to “Unfounding Founders?” You guys slept through every American History class, didn’t you? I mean, come on. Even a Warner Brothers cartoon would have gotten that right.

Or was the editor sequestered?

Yeesh.

via Moe Lane


D-day: storming the castle — Updated

June 6, 2013

(Note: This is a re-posting and slight editing of a post I put up every D-Day.)

Sixty-nine years ago today, American, British, Canadian, French, and Polish soldiers charged the gates of Hell — and won:

Black Five put up an excellent roundup of D-Day posts from many blogs a few years ago. It’s still worth reviewing. And have a look at this entry for a photo essay on D-Day.

Photo courtesy of Confederate Yankee.

RELATED: The Daily Mail tells the story of one Medal of Honor winner who still wonders how he survived Normandy.

UPDATE: In today’s newsletter, Real Clear Politics quotes the prayer FDR read when announcing the invasion to the nation:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity,” the president said while the outcome of the battle was still in doubt.

“They will need Thy blessings,” FDR continued. “Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph…”

Imagine a president saying something like that nowadays; the Left would have a fit.

But, forget them. Today’s a day to remember genuine heroes and thank Divine Providence we had such men on our side.

UPDATE 06/06/2012: Obama’s apologists like to compare him to significant presidents of the past, including FDR. Well, here’s another comparison for you: check the President’s schedule for today. See any mention of any commemoration of D-Day — or anything at all to do with one of the most significant moments in our nation’s history? Neither do I. Must be an oversight.

UPDATE 06/06/2013: This is a real president commemorating D-Day:

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


[Jihad] Memorial Day weekend and the anniversary of a great defeat

May 29, 2013

(Note: this is a reposting of something I first wrote a couple of years ago. Though the Memorial Day weekend is now past, I still think it fitting.)

Memorial Day is a holiday set aside for Americans to honor our servicemen past and present and to remember, if even for a moment, those who gave what Lincoln called that “last full measure of devotion.” But this weekend also reminds us of another war, one far older than the United States, and yet hasn’t ended.

Some people call our current struggle with jihadist Islam “The Long War,” meaning that this fight is expected to go on for years, if not generations.

But it’s a long war in another sense, too, because we of the West been fighting it, through periods active and quiet, since Muhammad first declared as Allah’s command:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

Today marks an anniversary in that nearly 1400-years long struggle, the Fall of Constantinople and the end of the last remnant of the Roman Empire:

“Siege of Constantinople,”Jean Chartier c.1475

From Constantinople, the Turks, who had taken the Arabs’ place as leaders of the jihad, would march on into Central Europe, conquering the Balkans and twice besieging magnificent Vienna. This last great surge was stopped at the gates of the city in 1683; after that, Islam went into a long period of quiet that gradually ended in the final decades of the 20th century, until the jihad resumed amidst fire and terror on September 11th, 2001. Where once stood Franks and Greeks and Austrians and Spaniards and Italians, now there stands… us.

Is there a grand lesson in all this? I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that people who think this “long war” will end quickly and easily, even by simply declaring it over, are only fooling themselves. As long as there remains in Islam a compulsion to fight everyone else until they submit:

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.

…this war will go on.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Sunday Book Review: The Founders’ Second Amendment

March 24, 2013

book cover founders second amendment

The right to carry a weapon and the efforts to restrict that right, the latter euphemistically called “gun control,” have been much in the news lately. In the wake of horrific mass-killings at an elementary school and a movie theater, the liberal left in America (and other people genuinely appalled at what happened) have called for new restrictions on the kinds of firearms people are allowed to have. Strenuous efforts were made in the federal Senate to reinstate a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” while the states of Colorado and New York have recently passed highly restrictive new firearms laws.

Central to this debate (more of a screaming argument, really) has been the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Since the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are documents meant to limit the power of government, a central question has been “What does the amendment mean, and what does it allow the government to do?”

One would think the question would be an easy one, the phrase “shall not be infringed” being quite clear, but things are no longer so simple. Advocates of strict gun control have variously argued that the Second Amendment refers to a group right, not one held by individuals; that it refers to the right to bear arms solely while serving in a militia, not to have them in one’s home; that the right is limited only to hunting and other sporting uses, thus allowing the government to regulate firearms “not necessary” to that; that the frontier no longer exists, so there’s no need for militia-style defense; and that the progress of technology has made weapons too dangerous for individual use, thus rendering the amendment obsolete and non-operative.

Defenders of the right to bear arms, on the other hand, not only point to the plain text of the amendment, but argue that one must look to the experiences of the founding generation at the time of the amendment’s writing and how they understood the precise words they used in it and other areas of our core documents. In other words, one must consider their original intent.

Stephen A. Halbrook’s “The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms” (hereafter “TFSA”) provides an invaluable contribution to the “originalist” argument in defense of the right to keep and bear arms. Halbrook explains his intention thus:

This work seeks to present the views of the Founders who actually created the Second Amendment. It is based on their own words as found in newspapers, correspondence, debates, and resolutions. Generous quotations from the Founders are used to allow them to speak for themselves, thereby avoiding the appearance of re-characterization of their views.

The “Founders” were the generation of Americans in the eighteenth century who suffered in the final stages of British colonialism, fought the Revolution and won independence, debated and adopted the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and established the republic. The members of that generation passed away by the early nineteenth century, but their constitutional legacy is, if not immortal, a singular triumph in the history of human freedom. (Kindle edition, beginning at location 175)

Halbrook covers the roughly 60 years from 1768 (the British military occupation of Boston) to 1826 (when Adams and Jefferson died) and the Founders thinking on the right to keep and bear arms in great detail, from the colonists’ original assertion of their rights as Englishmen through the writing of the first post-independence state constitutions, the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and the debate over the Bill of Rights. He cites not only the opinions and arguments of the first-tier, well-remembered Founders (Adams, Jefferson, Madison, &c.), but also of nearly forgotten but influential men such as Tench Coxe and St. George Tucker. Quotations come from both those who supported the ratification of the Constitution (“Federalists”) and those who opposed it (“Anti-Federalists”), as well as those who would support it only with a Bill of Rights, with the right to bear arms being primary among their concerns. To make sure we understand the meanings of the amendment’s words as the Founders’ did, he frequently cites from Noah Webster’s “Compendious Dictionary of the English Language” (1806).

On reading TFSA, several things become clear:

  • That, as the Founders understood it, “rights” vest in individual people and cannot be taken from them, only suppressed through tyranny.
  • That governments have no rights, only powers, and these powers can be restricted by the People.
  • That the keeping (as in “possession of property”) and bearing (“carrying”) of arms covered everything from hunting to self-defense to defense against oppressive government, and that this was a private right of the citizen, not something granted by the State or to be used only when the government permitted it. Indeed, the bearing of arms was considered the hallmark of a free citizen and necessary to the defense of his other rights, while the banning or restriction of arms in Europe was seen as prima facie evidence of oppression.

In no case, Halbrook avers, did anyone among the Founders acknowledge a government “right” to restrict, ban, or confiscate the arms of law-abiding citizens.

TFSA also spends a great deal of time on the question of a “militia” versus a “standing army,” which was a topic of overriding importance at the time, given the Americans’ experience of tyranny and violence at the hands of British regulars. Halbrook argues, to my mind convincingly, that the militia clause of the Second Amendment, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,…” is a statement of purpose, not proscription limiting the right to bear arms to militia service. It is an assertion that the People’s right to keep and bear arms cannot be denied because a militia, composed of the body of the People, is essential to enforce the laws, suppress rebellion, defend against invasion, and as a last resort against tyrannical government, that last being something the Founders had very personal experience of in their own lives.

Regarding style, Halbrook’s writing is straightforward and easy to follow. If the book sometimes seems tedious, it is because the author is making a strong effort to be thorough and to bring home the point that early American opinions on the right to bear arms were remarkably consistent. In this case, this thoroughness is a virtue, not a flaw. However, the Kindle version, on which this review is based, is plagued with frequent typographical errors that look to be the result of scanning from the original without a subsequent editing. While very annoying, this does not detract from the book’s immense value in the current debate.

“The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms,” by Stephen Halbrook, is available in both paperback and Kindle format. (Fair disclosure: Buying a copy nets me a few pennies.)

Highly recommended.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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