American History

The Great Depression / The Dust Bowl (from "Have To" History)

Black Tuesday NewspaperOn October 29, 1929, the bottom fell out of the stock market. There’d been signs – the previous Thursday had almost been the day, but a handful of big money types shored up confidence by buying shares in major industries at well-above market value. It didn’t hold. “Black Tuesday” set off a domino effect of selling, panic, business failures, bank runs, and even a few suicides. It wasn't what you'd call a "good day" for America.

What Started the Civil War? (From "Have To" History)

Am I Not A Man...Even before declaring independence in 1776, slavery had been a controversial topic in the American colonies, but it was not a strictly North/South issue. Over time, the North became increasingly industrialized while the South grew more and more reliant on large-scale cash crops. Slavery ceased to make economic sense in the North, allowing ideological concerns to eventually prohibit it altogether.

As the cotton gin made the institution wildly profitable and seemingly essential to the South, slavery was increasingly promoted as a positive good for all involved – including the slaves themselves. 

Who Was Frederick Douglass? (From "Have To" History)

Frederick DouglassI'm trying something new – a section called "Have To" History, aimed at folks who feel like they should know stuff but don't otherwise have a natural interest. It could conceivably grow into a reference of sorts for students who've put themselves in a bad position and have limited time to try to claw their way out. We'll see.

Here's a sample post about a guy who we were recently told is doing very well for himself. I'm glad. He certainly paid his dues along the way.

Who Was Andrew Jackson? (From "Have To" History)

Andrew JacksonI'm trying something new – a section called "Have To" History, aimed at folks who feel like they should know stuff but don't otherwise have a natural interest. It could conceivably grow into a reference of sorts for students who've put themselves in a bad position and have limited time to try to claw their way out. We'll see.

Here's a sample post about a guy who couldn't possibly have prevented the Civil War because he was long-dead. (He did almost start it 30 years early, but the "Nullification Crisis" wasn't quite "Have To" enough to make the cut. Sorry, POTUS.)

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part Four (Maybe Radio...)

Tom Joad

The Great Depression and its sidekick, Dust Bowl, were game-changers for the nation and the world. Once taking on the role of helper and fixer, the federal government would never again be much limited by all that silly federalism stuff. Any number of programs and laws cobbled together in desperation would long outlive those they served, and economic theory would require several decades of refiguring and rewriting.

Something else was going on as well, though – an abrupt shift in land ownership and what it meant.

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part Three (Necessity Is A Mother)

We The White Male Landowners

If land ownership is essential to establish investment and credibility, and thus essential for the growth and smooth functioning of a presumed republic, then that republic must ensure that land is available on practical terms to anyone desiring to participate. Fortunately, this radically idealistic new nation just happened to have come into existence on the far eastern shore of a rather extensive continent – one uninhabited by anyone… “civilized.” Land wouldn’t be a problem for many, many centuries, surely. 

They were a bit off on that particular estimation.

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part Two (Infallible Maxims and Chosen People)

Jefferson GreenWe’ve looked last time at the role of land in relation to democracy, at least in the minds of the Founders. It turns out that while this new government was certainly trying to take “consent of the governed” way past anything tried before, there remained some concern about how, exactly, to decide who was and wasn’t qualified to “consent” on behalf of this baby nation. The general opinion seemed to be that land ownership was a good sign of minimal competence. If a man could make decent decisions and work hard enough to take care of himself and his immediate family, he clearly wasn’t a complete moron. 

They put it fancier than that, of course.

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part One (What Made This Particular Destiny So Manifest?)

American ProgressThe rallying cry had been “No taxation without representation!” The phrase has survived, but over the years we’ve lost sight of something rather obvious in these words, and inherent to our founding ideology. If paying taxes means you deserve to have a voice in your government, then it’s not unreasonable to suggest that having a voice in your government is contingent on your willingness and ability to pay taxes. In other words, you have to own something valuable enough to be taxed. Like, say… land.

The Gettysburg Address, Part Two (Dedicated To A Proposition)

Lincoln At Gettysburg (Blue)

Lincoln could have talked about the Constitution, but instead points to the year of the Declaration of Independence – the ‘birth’ of our nation and a written statement not only of rebellion, but of ideals. The Constitution has rules about running for the Senate and requiring the various states to play nicely together; the Declaration proclaims all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. The Constitution is functional, but birthed in compromise and politics. The Declaration is idealistic and uninterested in practicalities – it glows and pretty music plays whenever we close our eyes and call its name three times.