Compromise - Finding A Way Forward

At five critical junctures in American history, major political compromises have proved that little of lasting consequence can occur without entrenched sides each making serious concessions

Compromise has become a bad word for many in the political sphere. Yet our history shows that it’s the way things get done and how the country moves forward. From our founders who cobbled together the Constitution to the genial dealmaking of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, the will to compromise has proven not only a virtue but our saving grace in times of crisis.

Of course, fierce political disagreement is nothing new in our nation’s capital.Read more »

Compromise 1: Philadelphia Story

Without major compromises by all involved and the agreement to avoid the contentious issue of slavery, the framers would never have written and ratified the Constitution

In September 1789, at the end of the Constitutional Convention, James Madison wrote in dismay to his old friend Thomas Jefferson, who was an ocean away in Paris. “I hazard an opinion,” he lamented, “that the plan should it be adopted will neither effectively answer the national object nor prevent the local mischiefs which everywhere excite disgust against the state governments.”Read more »

Is Lincoln Here?

A stereo view discovered in a California flea market may show the President-elect embarked on a momentous journey

It was, up to that point, the photo opportunity of the century.

Here was the nation’s President-elect, Abraham Lincoln, visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia en route to his inauguration—the defender of the Union seeking inspiration at the cradle of American independence. Adding resonance was the sacred day: Washington’s Birthday, February 22, 1861.

 

It was, up to that point, the photo opportunity of the century. Read more »

Making Sense Of The Fourth Of July

The DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE is not what Thomas Jefferson thought it was when he wrote it—and that is why we celebrate it

 

John Adams thought Americans would commemorate their Independence Day on the second of July. Future generations, he confidently predicted, would remember July 2, 1776, as “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America” and celebrate it as their “Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

 
 
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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 »

Mother’s House

DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE IN NAME AND FORM, an icon of postmodernism comes wrapped in centuries of architectural history

VANNA VENTURI USED TO SIT AT HER DINING ROOM TABLE AND TALK TO visitors about her house in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. “This facade will tell you a lot of stories, if you will listen to it,” she would say. Read more »

Thomas Jefferson Takes A Vacation

ON IT HE GAVE THE NEW nation a new industry, wrote a protoguide to New England inns and taverns, (probably) did some secret politicking, discovered a town that lived up to his hopes for a democratic society, scrutinized everything from rattlesnakes to rum manufacture—and, in the process, pretty much invented the summer vacation itself

BY THE END OF THE FIRST CONGRESS, IN THE SPRING OF 1791, Thomas Jefferson badly needed a vacation. The first Secretary of State disliked the noise, dirt, and crowds of the capital, Philadelphia, and the cramped routines of office work. He had suffered near-constant migraine headaches for fully six months; one cause of them may have been his growing struggle with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who had views opposite to Jefferson’s on almost every issue facing the new government.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 »

The Conway Cabal

The English writer G. K. Chesterton once observed that journalism largely consists of saying “Lord Jones is dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive. So perhaps does telling the story of the Conway Cabal, a military-political convulsion of 1777 that might have sent Gen. George Washington home to Mount Vernon prematurely. It ended up accomplishing nothing, and historians tend to label the affair a nonevent.Read more »

The Press

The American newspaper: beleaguered by television, hated both for its timidity and for its arrogance, biased, provincial, overweening—and still indispensable. A Hearst veteran tells how it got to where it is today, and where it may be headed.

By general consensus the first attempt to start a regularly published newspaper in America was Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick , issued in Boston on September 25, 1690. Its founder was a transplanted British printer, Benjamin Harris, who had been sent to the pillory in London for faking a story about a popish plot against the crown. First, he ran an exposé of the plot, and when it turned out there was none on at the moment, he took credit for breaking it up.Read more »