July 4 In 1826

As Adams and Jefferson died, America came of age

The approach of the fiftieth birthday of the United States, in 1826, naturally animated the minds of Americans with thoughts of the nation’s past, the heritage they had received from those who had asserted and won independence, and the dwindling number of Revolutionary leaders who survived.

 
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The Letter That Bought An Empire

Written in haste, on an April midnight in 1803, the unedited text of the message that led to the Louisiana Purchase is printed for the first time.

AMERICAN HERITAGE herewith publishes one of the most .significant letters in American history—the letter which led to the great Louisiana Purchase. It was written to Secretary of State ,James Madison, in the spring of 1803, by Robert R. Livingston, the American minister to France; of it came the vast continental expansion.Read more »

Mutiny At West Point

In 1817, “Old Pewt’s” rebellious cadets met their master in Sylvanus Thayer

It was June 15, 1817, and up at West Point newly elected President James Monroe, staunch friend of the Military Academy, was in a towering rage. The place was in poor shape, its curriculum had unraveled, examinations were unknown, and discipline was non-existent. The acting superintendent, Captain Alden Partridge, Corps of Engineers, seemed to be running a “Dotheboys Hall” of sorts, where favoritism governed and cadets were being graduated without reference either to academic standing or military ability.Read more »

America: Experiment or Destiny?

Nearly two centuries after Crèvecoeur propounded his notorious question—“What then is the American, this new man?”—Vine Deloria, Jr., an American Indian writing in the Bicentennial year on the subject “The North Americans” for Crisis , a magazine directed to American blacks, concluded: “No one really knows at the present time what America really is.” Surely few observers were more entitled to wonder at the continuing mystery than those who could accurately claim the designation Original American.Read more »

"Consensus Politics,” 1800–1805

The idea goes back to the very beginnings of our national history. Then as now, it was built upon human relationships, and these—as Mr. Jefferson found to his sorrow—make a fragile foundation.

We hear a great deal these days, during an intensely political Presidency, about “consensus politics,” but it is no novelty of modern times. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Thomas Jefferson was its inventor and master practitioner. Time has all but canonized this Founding Father, so that few associate him with either guile, ruthlessness, or skill in political maneuver. Yet he had all three, and he knew how to use them.

Victory At New Orleans

On August 24 and 25, 1814, British forces were in full possession of Washington; from August 29 to 31 other forces held Alexandria. From September 11 to 14 they were feeling out the defenses of Baltimore. Then the greater part of them vanished out of sight; once the British ships were over the horizon there was almost no means of knowing where they were and far smaller means of knowing what they intended, for by this time the blockade of the Atlantic Coast was highly effective, and there were few ships to bring in news even of the outside world, certainly not of the movements of the British lleet. No one could even be sure that any further offensive movement was meditated, but it was the duty of the American government to act on the hypothesis that the enemy would attempt to do all the harm possible —and that implied that British movements must be foreseen and guarded against.

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