Fear Of The City 1783 To 1983

The city has been a lure for millions, but most of the great American minds have been appalled by its excesses. Here an eminent observer, who knows firsthand the city’s threat, surveys the subject.

EVERY THURSDAY , when I leave my apartment in a vast housing complex on Columbus Avenue to conduct a university seminar on the American city, I reflect on a double life—mine. Most of the people I pass on my way to the subway look as imprisoned by the city as my parents and relatives used to look in the Brooklyn ghetto where I spent my first twenty years. Yet no matter where else I have traveled and taught, I always seem to return to streets and scenes like those on New York’s Upper West Side. Read more »

The Ten Best Secretaries Of State…

When the first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, took office in 1790, his entire staff consisted of just six people, including himself and a part-time translator. The current Secretary presides over almost fifteen thousand employees scattered around the globe. During the intervening years, of course, the challenges facing Jefferson’s successors have changed dramatically as the infant republic has grown into a world power. 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 »

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.

Carving The American Colossus

The granite was tough—but so was Gutzon Borglum

In late August, 1970, a band of Sioux Indians entered the sacred precincts of a National Memorial in South Dakota and bivouacked on a mountaintop there for several weeks. The precincts were sacred to the Sioux because they are in the heart of the Black Hills, long regarded by their tribe as the dwelling place of Indian gods and spirits. And, as signaled by the apprehensive behavior of park rangers who monitored the Indians closely during their stay, the precincts are also precious to the United States Department of the Interior.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 »

Pronounce It “callaradda,” Son

The year is 1859. Throughout the region popularly called Pikes Peak, a hoard of gold-hungry miners are swarming around the front range of the Rocky Mountains, spurred by discoveries of the rich mineral at Cherry Creek and Clear Creek and in the foothills that rise above the little supply town of Denver. Even as the hills are being turned from wilderness into mining camps, some settlers are already looking beyond the muddy streets and make-shift laws toward a goal: statehood. Read more »

Thomas Jefferson’s Unknown Grandchildren

A STUDY IN HISTORICAL SILENCES

Although he married only once, Thomas Jefferson had two families. The first was by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson; the second, after her death, was by her young half sister, Jefferson’s quadroon slave Sally Hemings. This was known and eagerly publicized by the anti-Jefferson press during his first term as President. Despite pleas of Republican editors to deny the liaison, Jefferson maintained then, and thereafter to his death, a tight-lipped silence. 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 »