Osceola Fights to Save the Seminole

In Florida during the 1830s a young Indian warrior led a bold and bloody campaign against the government's plan to relocate his people west of the Mississippi River

The story of Osceola and the Great Seminole War in Florida seems so fantastic at times that it is hard to believe it is all true. One warrior with courage, cunning, and audacity unsurpassed by any Native American leader masterminded battle tactics that frustrated and embarrassed a succession of U.S. Army generals. Read more »

American Politics at Ten Paces

Strict codes of conduct marked the relationships of early American Politicians, often leading to duels, brawls, and other—sometimes fatal—violence

Numerous books codified the rules of dueling or "code duello," including the 1829 All the Stages of a Quarrel, above, which mapped the position of the duelers' assistants, or seconds, on a dueling ground. Read more »

A Country Of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, The Mexican War And The Conquest Of The American Continent, By Robert W. Merry

James K. Polk appears doomed to remain one of our least appreciated presidents, despite Robert W. Merry’s valiant attempt to drag him from the shadows in A Country of Vast Designs. The problem lies with Polk himself, a man even Merry concedes was “drab of temperament,” with “limited imagination” and lacking in “natural leadership ability.” He was affectless, narrow-minded, and difficult, but so are many great national leaders. Read more »

Second-term Blues

Why Have Our Presidents Almost Always Stumbled After Their First Four Years?

Pity poor George W. Bush, stuck in the morass of those second-term blues! As of this writing, Mr. Bush’s poll numbers—those now ubiquitous barometers of presidential popularity—are barely creeping up after hitting record lows earlier this year.

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Till Divorce Do Us Part

It has been with us since Plymouth Colony. But that’s not why it’s an American institution.

On September evening in 1918, while unpacking an overseas bag for her husband, who had returned from a fact-finding tour of war-torn Europe with double pneumonia, Eleanor Roosevelt came upon a cache of love letters from her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Later Eleanor would write that the bottom fell out of her world. She did what any high-minded wife would have done at the time: She offered her husband his freedom. Guilty, grief-stricken, but besotted by the lovely Miss Mercer, Franklin accepted his wife’s offer.Read more »

The Temper Thing

How bad is it when Presidents get really sore?

The rumor first began to spread around Washington last year: Sen. John McCain had a skeleton in his closet. Was it something to do with his past as a war hero in Vietnam? His voting record in the Senate? The role he had played as one of the Keating Five in the savings and loan scandal? Read more »

The Bank War

With his usual furious vigor, Andrew Jackson posed a question that continues to trouble us to this day

The alarm bells are ringing for Social Security again. That’s not exactly news— predictions of the exhaustion of its trust fund have been made before. Earlier this year some members of yet another panel of experts proposed a new remedy: to wit, the investment of a part of those reserved billions in private securities instead of lesser-yielding but safer government bonds. That, of course, would make the United States of America a direct player in the market.Read more »

The Federal Debt

And how it grew, and grew, and grew…

The federal government was still in the process of establishing itself in 1792 and did not have a good year financially. Total income was only $3,670,000, or 88 cents per capita. Outlays were $5,080,000. The budget deficit therefore amounted to fully 38 percent of revenues. The next year, however, the government sharply reduced expenses while enjoying increased tax receipts and showed its first budget surplus.Read more »

Who’s Who?

A historian of American portraits tells how he determines whether a picture is authentic—and why that authenticity matters

More than any other features, our faces are what mark us as unique individuals. Superficially our faces are who we are. Together with names they identify us with the lives we have lived; they are our perpetual calling cards. Our interest in and curiosity about faces is a natural phenomenon, and if we are to feel a kinship with our national heritage, it matters that we recognize the faces of our American icons. Read more »

Presidents On Presidents

They’ve all had things to say about their fellow Executives. Once in a great while one was even flattering.

John Adams said Thomas Jefferson’s mind was “eaten to a honeycomb with ambition, yet weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant.” Ulysses S. Grant said James Garfield did not have “the backbone of an angleworm.” Theodore Roosevelt called Woodrow Wilson “a Byzantine logothete.” Wilson called Chester Arthur “a nonentity with sidewhiskers.” Harry Truman summed up Lyndon Johnson with a curt “No guts!” Read more »