Rarely, will I recommend a book with revisionist appeals. Claudio Saunt’s work, West of the Revolution, is such a book. As the title indicates, Saunt explores North American events contemporaneous to, but removed from, the American Revolution. Despite an appeal to modern revisionist belief, it is an enjoyable and informative read of 211 pages.
“Light on the Literary Life”
It is a dose of personal choice, and a quirk of history, that ushered a highly successful American novelist of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries into near obscurity. Winston Churchill authored several best-sellers by 1904, but later chose to pursue other interests. Churchill entered politics, took up painting, and eventually left the public eye. His name provided the quirk of history. His withdraw coincided with a different Winston Churchill’s rise to prominence. Our memory of the British politician turned author is so large that our memory of the American author turned politician is now faint.
The following story features Winston Churchill, the American author. It is one story featured in the book, Capital Stories About Famous Americans.
With his election as Mayor of New York City in 1903, George B. McClellan, Jr. engaged the inevitable hordes of office-seekers, district leaders, and political donors that customarily assailed newly elected officials. Upon gaining an audience with the mayor, each petitioner retold all they had done to ensure McClellan’s election. Often prideful, and always with great expectation, these wheels of Democrat political machinery demanded their grease.
After browsing around for quite some time, a particularly obstinate patron at Ben Franklin’s book store refused to accept the price offered by a store clerk. Certain that speaking to the owner would obtain him a better price, the man demanded the clerk summon the proprietor. Franklin’s newspaper operation was located in the bookstore’s backroom, and the patron’s summons dragged Franklin from working at the press. Upon Franklin’s arrival the man asked “What is the lowest price you can take for this book, sir?” In an effort to teach the man to value the time of others, Ben Franklin entered the bargaining session.
Brews and Peruse: Examination of a historical document while drinking a craft beer. For a more full description, see Brews & Peruse page. Consists of three essential components:
1) The Document: The Clintonian Platform*– Why? It will be fun… trust me. (Indented)
*The Federalist Party Platform of 1812 ( Federalists did not actually nominate their own presidential candidate in 1812, they supported the candidacy of the Federalist leaning DeWitt Clinton. That is why the document is known as the Clintonian Platform.)
2) The Beer: Sam’l Smith Organic, Handcrafted, Raspberry Fruit Ale: Why? You will see. Each sip and my reaction to it are noted in [BRACKETS-].
3) My commentary: A tongue in cheek look at an American political event. My thoughts, no citations. (Italicized)
There are places where history is so evident that its presence is near dimensional. Like height, width, and depth its existence is both natural and conspicuous. These places do not invoke a sense of nostalgia, the living have no direct involvement with events there. They, instead, invoke a sense of relevance. They stand as witness to peoples and events of significant bearing, and a special few hold relevance across multiple eras. Shepherdstown, WV occupies the center of such a place.
Many of America’s second generation of political/ military leaders experienced the American Revolution as children. Some incubated in the new nation’s political environment through their connection to family members who served as leaders during the Revolutionary period, the Confederation era, or during the early days of the Republic. Such was the case for Robert Barraud Taylor, of Norfolk, Virginia. Taylor’s services to his nation include stints as a military commander, a jurist, and as a politician. He was accomplished at each.
Although cliché, it is certainly true that history is the story of intersecting paths. History’s best stories are those whose various character paths originate at points most divergent from each other. One such story occurred in Austria during the final days of World War II. In his book The Last Battle, Stephen Harding successfully informs not only to the historical significance of the point of intersect (the battle); he also relates the backstories (the paths), of the participating characters.
As I read Here Lies Hugh Glass, by Jon T. Coleman, I was reminded of the brilliant but underachieving genius who turned 20 pages of original material into a two hundred-page book. Somehow, he made it entertaining. So, what do you do when you have one primary source? What do you do with multiple, but unreliable, secondary sources? Coleman provides the answer.