Spring/Summer 2008 | Volume 58, Issue 4
50 Years Ago
Davy Crockett on How to Win an Election
When the day of election approaches, visit your constituents far and wide. Treat liberally, and drink freely, in order to rise in their estimation, though you fall in your own. True, you may be called a drunken dog by some of the clean shirt and silk stocking gentry, but the real rough necks will style you a jovial fellow, their votes are certain, and frequently count double… Promise all that is asked, and more if you can think of anything. Offer to build a bridge or a church, to divide a county, create a batch of new offices, make a
turnpike, or anything they like.
Promises cost nothing…
—Davy Crockett quoted in “How to
Win an Election,” August 1958
Books “That No Self-Respecting Congressman Would Read”
When, on the night of August 24-25, 1814, General Robert Ross burned Washington, most, though not all, of the infant congressional library went up in flames. News of the destruction of the library shocked Thomas Jefferson, then in retirement at Monticello. He might with some justice regard the library as his special concern: it had been organized under his auspices, and he had found time, while President, to prepare for it a catalogue of desirable book—carefully leaving out those “for entertainment only.” So on September 21 Jefferson wrote his old friend Samuel Harrison Smith offering his library to Congress on whatever terms the Congress might think proper.
Die-hard Federalists—they were still another decade a-dying—would doubtless have fought anything bearing Jefferson’s name, but this proposal seemed to them particularly offensive, for it combined in a single package a collection of iniquitous ingredients: a library of belles-lettres and classics which no self-respected congressmen would read; an arsenal of Jacobinism, infidelity, and immorality; and a lavish financial subsidy to ex-President Jefferson himself… Perhaps the spectacle
of nine books of cookery, most of them doubtless in fearsome French, was itself enough to determine New England opposition!
—Henry Steele Commager,“Jefferson and the Book-Burners,” August 1958
25 Years Ago
Kissinger Being Diplomatic
When I was Security Adviser I frequently bypassed the State Department because I was afraid that its cumbersome machinery and its tendency to leak would thwart the negotiations in which I was engaged. On the other hand, when I became Secretary of State, it became rather clearer to me that one could not in the long run bypass the Department of State. You have fifty thousand people with assignments that they will carry out—either in ignorance or after being adequately briefed. Still, I do believe that the State Department will ultimately have to be transformed into a more policy-oriented apparatus.
— Henry A. Kissinger in “Explaining What You Are After Is the Secret of
Diplomacy,” August/September 1983
10 Years Ago
Deal of the Century
When J. P. Morgan formed U.S. Steel, the first billion-dollar corporation, in 1901, it marked not only his signature deal but the apogee of banker power in America. The negotiations would feature Morgan in his most famously histrionic mode: knocking heads together, barking out prices for properties, and forcing titans to truckle to his will. In the end he fused together a trust that controlled 60 percent of the steel industry and employed 168,000 workers. This colossus encompassed everything from Andrew Carnegie’s massive steelworks to John D. Rockefeller’s iron ore and shipping interests in Minnesota.
As the deal’s impresario, Morgan forever altered the balance of power between American industrialists and New York’s financiers.
—Ron Chernow in “The Deal Of The Century,” July/August 1998