Sea Power Confronts The Twenty-first Century

An Interview With Edward L. Beach
The captain who first took a submarine around the world underwater looks at the U.S. Navy past and present and tells us what we must learn from the Falklands war

Naval power … is the natural defense of the United States,” said John Adams, who more than any other man deserves to be called the father of the American Navy. For more than two centuries, this force—from the raggle-taggle Continental Navy to the missile submarines of today—has played a vital role in the defense of the nation’s freedom and independence. Ships and weapons, tactics and strategy, have undergone quantum changes over the years, but the mission of the U.S.Read more »

The Fragile Memory

What really happened when Thomas Jefferson met George III

On March 17,1786, Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, met his former sovereign. The occasion was George Ill’s levee, and it produced one of the most durable chestnuts in American history. The original, indeed the only source for what is supposed to have happened is Jefferson’s Autobiography , published thirty-five years after the event. Accepted as canon by successive generations of scholars, it has nonetheless received at intervals more than an ordinary number of embellishments.Read more »

Do We Care If Johnny Can Read?

Americans first learned to read to save their souls, then to govern themselves. Now the need is not so clear.

In 1765 John Adams wrote that “A native of America who cannot read or write is as rare an appearance as a Jacobite or a Roman Catholic, that is, as rare as a comet or an earthquake.” He went on to say that “all candid foreigners who have passed through this country and conversed freely with all sorts of people here will allow that they have never seen so much knowledge and civility among the common people in any part of the world.” It is a broad claim. The question is, was it true?Read more »

The U.S. vs. International Terrorists

A Chapter From Our Past

Terrorists hijack an airplane and hold the passengers for ransom. A merchant ship is seized by the forces of a small, disorganized state. The United States retaliates. The ship and crew are rescued, but many lives are lost.

The First Fourth

John Adams was certain the second of July would be celebrated “by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” Writing to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776, the day after the Continental Congress had voted momentously for independence from Great Britain, Adams said of July 2: Read more »

The American World Was Not Made For Me

The Unknown Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton’s contribution to welding the thirteen semi-independent states which had won the Revolution into a unified political entity was greater than that of any other Founding Father, with the possible exception of Washington. But this tells only half the story. The other half is that while Hamilton’s genius built national unity, his psychic wounds caused disunion which was also absorbed into the permanent structure of the United States. Read more »

Commitment To Posterity

WHERE DID IT GO?

As we commemorate the anniversary of the founding of our nation we are conscious of a paradox: we have almost miraculously maintained the continuity of those institutions which the Founding Fathers created, but in large measure we have betrayed the principles that animated them.Read more »

“a Representative Of America”

Vain, snobbish, distinctly upper-class in his libertine social habits, Gouverneur Morris nevertheless saw himself justifiably as

Of all the remarkable men who forgathered in Philadelphia in the spring of 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation, and perhaps to do even more, Gouverneur Morris was certainly the most talkative. Between May and September, when the delegates adjourned, he made a hundred and seventy-three speeches—twelve more than Madison, his nearest competitor.Read more »

Benjamin Franklin’s Years In London

“I … sigh in the midst of cheerful company”

It is difficult not to think of Benjamin Franklin in a purely American setting. After all, this Philadelphia printer who—with little formal schooling—became a remarkable scientist, inventor,writer, philosopher, politician, and statesman was quite as distinctively American as the turkey he proposed for our national symbol. D. H.Read more »

Men Of The Revolution: 14. John Hancock

Like Abou Ben Adhem, his name led all the rest. On the document proclaiming America’s independence it is inscribed boldly with flourishes, the mark of a confident, proud man; and the fact that it was written an inch longer than he customarily signed it gave rise to the legend that John Hancock had recorded his name large enough for George in to read without spectacles. Read more »