Friday, July 31, 2015

Princeton Seminar: Day 5

The Gilder-Lehrman "13 Colonies" Crew
The Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History Summer Seminar on the "13 Colonies" has come to a close.  It was a great week at Princeton University.

The morning began with a lecture on Native Americans.  I introduced the teachers to some of the metaphors used by historians to explain Indian life in the North America at the time of English colonization.  We discussed the "Middle Ground" (Richard White), "Facing East" (Dan Richter), and the "Indian's New World" (James Merrell).

The second lecture of the morning focused on the First Great Awakening in British America.  We spent some time discussing George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, the difference between Old Sides and New Sides, some basic interpretations of the Awakening, and the revival's impact on colonial education.

After lunch, and before I turned the class over to Nate McAlister, we talked about the Britishness of the colonies.  My goal was to try to get the teachers to see that the colonists were becoming more and more British (as opposed to "American") as the colonial period unfolded, culminating in the British nationalism that pervaded the colonies in the wake of the French and Indian War.  In the process we discussed the dangers of the "Whig" interpretation of history and the importance of teaching students--even K-8 students--how to think like historians.

Later in the afternoon the teachers presented the lesson plans that they had been working on all week.

I always leave these seminars energized.  Sometimes I prefer to hang around with teachers than with my fellow colleagues in the historical profession.  When academic historians gather together informally the meetings can sometimes devolve into posturing, gossip, and complaining about teaching loads, college administrators and colleagues.  When K-8 teachers get together they talk about the past, history, and teaching history.  It is refreshing.

This year we had a great group of teachers and it was fun getting to know them.  I hope that Jami, Dave, Teresa, Brittany, Courtney, Susan, Carol, Carol, Elisa, Jim, Mallory, Christine, Susan, and the fifteen other teachers who came to Princeton this week were able to take something home with them that will make them better educators.

And to Nate McAlister:  Let's do it again next year!

Most Popular Posts of the Last Week

Here are the most popular posts of the last week at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:m

1.  God and the Declaration of Independence
2.  The Author's Corner with Carla Mulford
3.  Sunday Night Odds and Ends--July 26, 2015
4.  Princeton Seminar: Day Two
5.  Princeton Seminar: Day One
6.  Princeton Bound for Gilder-Lehrman Summer Seminar on the "13 Colonies"
7.  Most Popular Posts of the Last Week--June 25, 2015
8.  The "Author's Corner" Takes a Vacation
9.  Princeton Seminar; Day Three
10.  The Author's Corner with Kathleen DuVal

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Princeton Seminar: Day Four

Nate McAlister leads a pedagogy session
It was a great day in Princeton with the teachers from the Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History "13 Colonies" seminar.  It has been a very hot and humid week and we have done a lot of walking (and sweating), but the teachers have yet to hit the proverbial "wall."  These K-8 educators are like a bunch of Energizer Bunnies!  Each day they seem to be more engaged than the day before.  Nate McAlister, their fearless leader, keeps them busy with all sorts of teaching resources, websites, and other tools. 

Tonight the teachers are working hard on their lesson plans and Nate is hanging out in a dorm lounge offering suggestions and help.  Needless to say, it has been a great week.  Here are a couple of highlights:
  • A teacher from Utah found her father's 1957 Princeton doctoral dissertation on the history of the New Jersey Constitution.  She had never seen the dissertation before because her father passed away shortly after he finished it.  I know it has been a very meaningful week for this teacher.
  • A teacher from Florida has been thinking deeply about how to lead her students into the past (the past is a "foreign country) and still make it relevant for the present.  It is so rewarding to watch her come to grips with the inherent tensions that come when one pursues historical thinking at a high level.  As I conversed with her today I was reminded that historical work is very tiring.  We historians and history teachers are constantly "on the road," traveling back and forth (with our students) between the past and the present.
I gave two lectures this morning.  I began with a lecture on the "provincial Enlightenment."  This is always my favorite lecture of the week.  I tried to explain the Enlightenment through the biography of two men: Philip Vickers Fithian and Benjamin Franklin.  My Fithian book works very well here in Princeton. As many of you know, Philip was a member of the class of 1772. 

My other lecture this morning was on slavery and rice culture in colonial South Carolina.  We talked about the connection between South Carolina and Barbados, the arrival of West African slaves, task and gang labor, the Stono Rebellion, and the emergence of a distinct African-American culture.

After Nate led the teachers through another great pedagogy session, we headed over to the Rare Book Library in Princeton's Firestone Library.  I asked Gabriel Swift, a member of the library staff, to pull about thirty books and documents from the collection.  I narrowed my choices to books mentioned in Alan Taylor's American Colonies, books we discussed in lectures, and books that Philip Vickers Fithian read at various points of his short life.  The teachers got to peruse these books, hold some of them, and take pictures.  Gabriel also showed the students the Fithian's diaries. 
Gabriel Swift, a Princeton Rare Books librarian, answers questions from teachers

Teachers reading the diary of Philip Vickers Fithian
 
After our visit to the Firestone Library we crossed Nassau Street (in the rain) and got some ice-cream at The Bent Spoon, a very popular Princeton establishment.  I highly recommend the bananas and cream!

Tonight, while the teachers worked on their lessons, I wandered around the Princeton campus.  I really hope that Princeton faculty appreciate the fact that they get to come to work every day on this campus.  As someone who has spent a lot of time studying the history of this institution, I am always finding something new and interesting about the college and the town in which it resides.

But tonight my self-guided walking tour focused on another one of my loves--sports.  I walked out onto the field of the new Princeton football stadium, tried (with Nate) to get into the Hobart-Baker Ice Arena, and then headed over to Jadwin Gym.  I went to Princeton basketball camp as a kid and became enamored with Pete Carril, the architect of the so-called "Princeton Offense."  I walked into Jadwin, stood on "Pete Carrill Court," and took some pictures. 



Pete Carril is a basketball genius
The Princeton Tiger in Jadwin Gym
Jadwin Gym

Pete Carril and Bill Bradley banners in background

 
One more day left.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Princeton Seminar: Day Three

Seminar participants in Welcome Park
Day Three of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History Summer Seminar on the "13 Colonies" at Princeton University is in the books 

It was another long day with some great K-8 teachers from around the country.  We have teachers here from New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Texas, California, Washington, Kansas, Florida, New York, among others.

We spent the day in Philadelphia.  I turned the seminar over to George Boudreau, the Director of the Public History Program at LaSalle University and a fixture in the Philadelphia early American community.  This was a real privilege for the teachers.  George knows more about colonial Philadelphia and the world of Benjamin Franklin than anyone else on the planet.  He is also a very entertaining tour guide.  Every time I take a tour with George I learn something new.  I highly recommend his Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia.  All of the teachers received a free copy of the book and George signed their copies.  Thanks to Nate McAlister for keeping us all on schedule.

We also learned today that George's National Endowment for Humanities teacher's seminar on Benjamin Franklin will be back in Summer 2016.  Three teachers in our seminar participated in George's Franklin seminar and recommended it to the other teachers.  You can learn more about it here.

George led us on a tour of the colonial city that included stops at Welcome Park, Benjamin Franklin's house and print shop, Carpenter's Hall, the site of Anthony Benezet's school for African children, the William White House, and the Powel House (George is the former director).  Along the way we learned about Penn's plan for the city, the cobblestone streets, Flemish bond brickwork, African-Americans, the Enlightenment, material culture, and Philadelphia's Catholics.  The tour was the highlight of the week.  I think the teachers would agree.

George Boudreau in his natural habitat: The Powel House

I took a "ride" in Ben Franklin's cart
 
George talks to us about the first home of the Philadelphia Library Company: Carpenter's Hall

George left us around 3:30 as we all headed off to the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) for a tour from the National Park Service.  Following the tour some of us made a quick run up Arch Street so we could see Franklin's grave, the Free Quaker Meetinghouse, the Arch Street Meetinghouse, the Betsy Ross House, Elfreth's Alley, and Christ Church.  At 5:00 we jumped on our bus and headed back to Princeton University.  We even made it home in time for dinner!

We squeezed into George Washington's pew at Christ Church for a group photo.

The teachers headed back to Scully Hall after dinner to rest and continue work on their lesson plans.

My feet, legs, and back are sore, but my mind is still in good shape and I am really looking forward to the last two days of the seminar.  Rare books tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Princeton Seminar: Day Two

We have made it through Day Two of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History Summer Seminar on the "13 Colonies" at Princeton University.  It was a long day, but the twenty-seven K-8 teachers here this week are still going strong.  This group has a lot of energy and they seem to be really engaged.

Today I gave a lecture on the founding of Massachusetts Bay colony, the role of women in colonial New England, and the founding of Pennsylvania.  In the afternoon Nate McAlister worked with the teachers as they developed their lesson plans.

Pennsylvania as a Quaker and liberal colony
After dinner we took a tour of colonial Princeton led by guides from the Historical Society of PrincetonRichard Moody led some of us on a wonderful tour of Princeton University.  Richard took us to Nassau Hall, Nassau Presbyterian Church, the university chapel, the president's house, and a host of other places on campus.  Richard knows how to end a tour.  The last stop was the Tap Room at the Nassau Inn.


Richard Moody telling us about the history of Princeton

Tomorrow we are heading to Philadelphia where we will be getting a tour from George Boudreau, author of Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Princeton Seminar: Day One

In the Nassau Presbyterian Church Cemetery
Day One of the Gilder-Lehrman Summer Seminar on the "13 Colonies" at Princeton University is in the books. 

Actually, we began on Sunday night with a great buffet dinner.  After the feast we wandered around the Princeton campus and got ourselves oriented. We paused for a moment at the John Witherspoon statue and then I spent a little time talking about the colonial and revolutionary history of Nassau Hall.  (The students are very familiar with 18th-century Princeton from reading my The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America). 

I was with the students for three sessions.  In my opening lecture I tried to challenge the students to think about colonial America on its own terms rather than as a precursor to the American Revolution.  We talked about some of the problems with "Whig" history. 

We also spent a lot of time in this session discussing historical thinking.

The second and third sessions focused on the colonial Chesapeake.  We discussed mercantilism, the "Jamestown deathtrap," tobacco, indentured servanthood, Bacon's Rebellion, and slavery.

My partner in crime this week is Nate McAlister, a middle school teacher in Kansas and the 2010 Gilder-Lehrman National Teacher of the Year.  Nate spent the afternoon with the teachers and helped them with their lessons plans.  (Each participant must produce a lesson plan based on a primary source and it is due at the end of the week).  I can't imagine doing this seminar without Nate.  He is an outstanding coordinator.

After dinner in a Princeton dining hall we headed to the Nassau Presbyterian Church Cemetery.  It was such a pleasure and honor to talk about Jonathan Edwards, Aaron Burr Sr., Aaron Burr Jr., Samuel Davies, Samuel Finley, and John Witherspoon as we all stood over their gravestones.  After a very short lecture at these gravestones the teachers all went their separate ways in the cemetery.  I wandered around a bit and found the gravestones of Grover Cleveland, B.B. Warfield, and Varnum Lansing Collins.

It was a long day that ended in the Tap Room at the Nassau Inn and a great conversation with Nate and a couple of teachers that covered everything from the Gettysburg Address to environmental history and the First Amendment to Good News for Modern Man.

It should be a fun week. Follow along on Twitter at @princetonseminr

The "Author's Corner" Takes a Vacation

One of our most popular features here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home is our twice-weekly "Author's Corner" posts.  I regularly receive e-mails and messages from graduate students, history buffs, and academic historians who have benefited from these short interviews with the authors of new and forthcoming books.

As you can imagine, the Author's Corner series takes a lot of time to produce.  We need to choose books, contact authors, edit responses, and format posts for the blog.

It is thus time for a brief vacation.

We will be back with more interviews in August.  Stay tuned!

And as long as we are at it, here is out schedule for the rest of the summer:

July 27-August 2:  The Way of Improvement Leads Home will be on the road in Princeton

August 3-10:  We will be closing down shop for the week.

August 11:  Back to blogging as usual.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Remembering Dallett Hemphill

A map of great road trips in American literature

The future of evangelicalism

A William F, Buckley revival?

Museums on Route 66

Burstein and Isenberg on the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

Andrew Shocket reviews Thomas Slaughter's Independence: The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution

The triumph of consumerism

David Hollinger reconsiders Perry Miller

Tim Lacy reflects on Hollinger's Postethnic America

Should you be a wife or a career woman?

SHEAR 2015 recap

The Search for Piety and Obedience blog closes up shop

A theology of the streets

A Northwestern professor of bioethics and medical humanities on the Planned Parenthood abortion video

Vote for a new look at The Pietist Schoolman

Forum on the future of evangelicalism

What did you accomplish this summer?

Heaven

Princeton Bound for Gilder-Lehrman Summer Seminar on the "13 Colonies"

Later today I am heading to Princeton University to once again lead a week-long Gilder-Lehrman Institute summer seminar on "The 13 Colonies."  This weekend K-8 teachers will be arriving at Princeton from across the country to experience colonial American history--mid-Atlantic style!  I also get the privilege to work again with Nate McAlister, the 2010 National Teacher of the Year!

I will lecture in the mornings and Nate will work with the teachers on lesson plans in the afternoon. We also have a few special things planned, including a tour of historic Princeton and Princeton University,  a day in colonial Philadelphia with George Boudreau, the director of the Public History M.A. Program at LaSalle University and the author of Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia, and an afternoon in the rare book room exploring some of the books that Philip Vickers Fithian read between 1765 and 1776,   We will be reading The Way of Improvement Leads Home (as might be expected) and Alan Taylor's American Colonies.

I hope to blog my way through the week. Nate and the rest of the participants will be tweeting: @princetonsemnr 


Click here for last year's posts.

Here are some picks from last year:


Teachers chosen to participate in Gilder-Lehrman summer seminars do their assigned reading!


George Boudreau signs a copy of his book Independence


In the rare book room with Nate McAlister (red shirt) and Stephen Johnson of the Princeton Library




Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Author's Corner with Kevin Schultz

Kevin Schultz is Associate Professor of History, Catholic Studies, and Religious Studies and Associate Chair of the Department of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago.  This interview is based on his latest book Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the 1960s (W.W. Norton, 2015). 

JF: What led you to write Buckley and Mailer?

KS: The 1960s have become this almost-mythologized time in American history, when American culture moved to the left, American politics to the right, and new roles were envisioned for men, women, African Americans, and, well, nearly everyone.  But there is so little out that that helps us understand it all.  Why did so much happen so quickly, and so violently?  With that question in mind, a few years ago I stumbled across some letters of the left-wing novelist Norman Mailer.  One was a beautiful back-and-forth between Mailer and the right-wing firebrand William F. Buckley, Jr.  The letters showed obvious intimacy, but also rivaling visions for how America should move forward in order to allow maximum freedom for the individual.  A light bulb went on in my head.  Through the friendship of Buckley the conservative and Mailer the radical, I could tell an important story about the 1960s, about how the right and the left both attacked the liberal center with their varying demands for increased freedom, and how that battle led to what Mailer called the violent "birthing pangs of a new order."  This book was my attempt to explain why the 1960s happened in the way that they did.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Buckley and Mailer?

KS: That the best way to understand the 1960s is by seeing it as a period when one set of assumptions that most American shared was replaced by another, and that this happened because both the left and the right were unhappy with the culture that developed in the aftermath of World War II, thinking it denied Americans too many freedoms.  With such colorful characters like Buckley and his demands for laissez faire economics and respect for Christian tradition, and Mailer with his demands for a less repressive culture, I get to tell the story of this profound change through dozens of raucous stories, which include boxing matches, public debates, antiwar rallies, and Truman Capote's Black and White Ball.

JF: Why do we need to read Buckley and Mailer?

KS: Not only to better understand why the 1960s unfolded the way they did, but also to learn how two guys with nearly opposite political outlooks became friends and enduring debating partners, something sorely missing today.  The secret was that they both emphasized their love of America and understood the other as doing the same (just, to their mind, completely incorrectly).  Finally, it's useful to recognize how today's politics have developed from the ashes of the 1960s, with Buckley's quest to honor "the great Western tradition" still a powerful demand of Republicans, and Mailer's yearnings for increased individual freedoms a calling of the left.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

KS: Some time in my middle teens I realized that the context in which we're raised and in which we live determines so much about how we look at the world.  I wanted to understand the ideas that dominated our thinking but which we barely knew were there, the water we swim in. The answer always led me to history.  The ideas that dominate our lives emerged out of older debates about which ideas should dominate our lives.  And this became the way I understood the world--in order to feel I understand something, I needed to know the context in which it became that way.  I think this kind of historical thinking is true for lots of people, I'm just lucky I get to make my living at it!

JF: What is your next project?

KS: Good question.  I have two books in mind, one that keeps me in the 1960s and one that moves me to the 1970s.  The 1960s book will likely be about another major figure, one who is a minor but important player in Buckley and Mailer but whose ideas captivated me the more I learned about them.  The 1970s book will be about the intellectual requirements of economic inequality, although I'm not sure how that book will develop.  Either way, they will be narratives, as I learned that I absolutely love to tell stories.

JF: Thanks, Kevin.  Look forward to reading it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Does Scott Walker Speak in Tongues?" Follow-Up

Some of you have been following this story every since I posted about it last week.  Since then Jud Lounsbury, the author of the two stories about Walker and tongues-speaking at The Progressive, has joined the discussion in the comments section of the post.  So has Dave, a former member of Elmbrook Church and someone whose theological sensibility on these matters I respect.  Dave has sniffed out some of the problems with the Lounsbury stories.  Here is his comment:

I'm kind of late to the conversation, but since I was a member of Elmbrook for several years, and have maintained several friendships despite moving away, I was very surprised by what I read here. Speaking in tongues was not a practice at Elmbrook, nor at any of its sister churches when we we there. I believe Mr. Lounsbury has some unfortunate wires crossed here. There are two Meadowbrook churches in Wisconsin, and they both have websites. The one in Wauwatosa (a suburb of Milwaukee) has a website that can be found at www.mbctosa.org. The website for the church in Green Bay can be found at www.themeadowbrookchurch.com. Mr. Lounsbury weaves back and forth in quoting the Milwaukee Journal article and the church website, so it's hard in this comment to isolate them, but all the doctrinal statements that are backed up by expired links in the article match quite well with the doctrinal statements on the website of the Green Bay church. If that is the church Governor Walker goes to, then Mr. Lounsbury has a point. But if Walker goes to the church in Wauwatosa, then I would say that the statements about that church's beliefs and practices are not accurate (specifically the roles of women, and speaking in tongues).

I should add here that Walker attends the Wauwatosa church.

Penn Station: 1910-1963

Some great pics are here.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #106

Cutting 50,000 words from a 203,000 word manuscript is not easy.  No author wants to leave roughly twenty-five percent of his or her book on the cutting room floor.  But this is what I have been doing over the course of the last two weeks. It is all my fault.  I delivered a manuscript to Oxford University Press that was way too long. My editor required cuts and I made them. Surprisingly enough, I think "The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society" will now be better book.  I am, however, going to miss some of the stories that did not make the final draft.  Maybe at some point I will post them here at the blog.

More later...

Monday, July 20, 2015

God and County Artifact of the Day

From the French Market in New Orleans:




The Author's Corner with Patrick Rael

Patrick Rael is Professor of History at Bowdoin College. This interview is based on his new book Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 (University of Georgia Press, 2015).

JF: What led you to write Eighty-Eight Years?

PR: Why did it takeslavery so long to die in the U.S.? When we think of ending slavery inthe U.S., we tend to focus on the Civil War, or perhaps the radical abolitionmovement which began in 1831. We seldom remember that slavery beganending here in 1777, when Vermont quietly wrote slavery out of its stateconstitution. For almost nine decades, the U.S. existed as a "housedivided against itself," as Abraham Lincoln put it in a famousspeech. This is all the more fascinating when we compare the end of slaveryin other Atlantic polities. Even when slavery ended in conflagration, asin St. Domingue (Haiti), it ended relatively quickly. In the U.S.,though, slavery took not only decades to end, but required a catastrophic war-- the only major conflict begun over slavery itself -- to complete the task.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Eighty-Eight Years?

PR: The book argues that,relative to the "slave powers" of other Atlantic societies, theplanters of the U.S. South were particularly potent. They enjoyed fullparticipation in a federal system of governance that --- unlike their colonialcounterparts in the Caribbean --- was fully vested in the system of nationalgovernance. (Indeed, with the benefit of the three-fifths clause of theConstitution, which permitted the slave states to consider 60% of their slavepopulations for representation in the House of Representatives and ElectoralCollege, they were empowered beyond their mere numbers.) Toppling thispowerful interest required a movement just as unique: a mass antislaverymovement that rivaled Great Britain's, and the only one to incorporate free andenslaved people of African descent in such numbers. I show how slaveresistance and antislavery ideology worked together to fracture the political systemand cause the war that required slavery's final destruction.

JF Why do we need to read Eighty-Eight Years?

PR: Eighty-Eight Years reframes popular understandings ofslavery and its ending. It reminds us that slavery was once a nationalinstitution, legal in all of the colonies that became states, and it shows thatthe so-called "free" states pioneered forms of racial bigotry that becamecommonplace in the South after the Civil War. Finally, the book placesthat experience in the context of other New World experiences of slavery andemancipation. If you read only one book about how slavery ended in theUnited States, I hope it will be this one. By placing familiar passagesfrom American history -- the ratification of the Constitution, theNullification Crisis of 1832, John Brown's 1859 raid on the federal armoryHarpers Ferry -- in broad temporal and geographic frames, it shows how they arelinked together into one coherent story of slavery's long death in the UnitedStates. Along the way, we even learn a thing or two about slavery and itsabolition elsewhere.

JF: When and why did you decide to become anAmerican historian?

PR: As a youngster Ialways loved history for its capacity to transport us into distant times andplaces, and illustrate how people just like us lived and thoughtdifferently. Good history is like good travel: it reminds us thatwe are both all connected in one huge experience, and yet all individual andspecific. As a student in college, I learned that African Americanhistory is particularly important. Anyone seeking a courageous andtruthful engagement with their country must come to grips with its limitationsas well as its promises. As the great novelist Richard Wright once saidof his fellow African Americans, "what we endure is what Americais." Learning about African American history challenges us tore-think everything we thought we know about the American past. I feelblessed to play some small part in that reconsideration.

JF: What is your next project?

PR: I have always beenfascinated with the period of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War. This has been the subject of much excellent recent work, but more remains to bedone. In particular, I want to understand more about the post-Civil Warorigins of the carceral state that America has become. Many recentdiscussions around the hyper-policing of black communities look back to the JimCrow era of the late 1800s for origins. But I believe that the roots ofthis national shame lie earlier, in the first years following freedom.

JF: Thanks, Patrick. Greatstuff!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Critical thinking

Some historical perspective on Donald Trump--here and here

John Wilsey responds to David Brooks responding to Ta-Nahesi Coates

Volunteer professors

An Englishmen observes the Confederate State of America, And here

Public humanities

Summer reading for oral exams

Heath Carter on Scott Walker, evangelicalism, and union-busting

Christian human rights

History is not heritage

Atticus Finch vs. Francis Simkins

Historiann on how to choose a publisher for your book.

What did Lincoln think of Thomas Jefferson?

One-sided memories of the Civil War

David Blight and Gregory Downs discuss CiviL War memory

Gay marriage and Christian colleges

Pope Francis on global capitalism

Morgan Lee on American Girl Dolls

D.G. Hart asks: When did Christian America end?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Most Popular Posts of the Last Week

Here are the most popular posts of the last week at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:


1.  The Author's Corner with Kathleen DuVal
2.  Sunday Night Odds and Ends--July 12, 2015
3.  "Letter to the Editor" of the Day
4.  Does Scott Walker Speak in Tongues?
5.  Have You Signed-Up Yet for the Gilder-Lehrman Fall 2015 On-Line Course on Colonial America?
6.  Amazon Review of the Day: "Buy at Your Own Risk" and "This Entire Book is Disgusting"
7.  Most Popular Posts of the Last Week--July 10, 2015
8.  The Author's Corner with Sarah Crabtree
9.  On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #10
10. The Author's Corner with Carla Mulford 

Why Have Progressives Been Silent on the Planned Parenthood Video?

Very few progressives seem to be speaking out against what a Planned Parenthood doctor is saying in this video:


The progressives on my Facebook and Twitter feeds have said almost nothing.  The only person of the religious left who has commented is Charles Marsh, a religion professor at the University of Virginia.  Here is what Marsh said yesterday on Facebook: "So far only the conservative and right-wing media are treating the Planned Parenthood story as an ethical crisis. A missed opportunity for Democrats and liberals to affirm the sacred character of created life."

(One exception is Arit John's piece at Bloomsburg Politics). 

Ed Stetzer, writing at Christianity Today, wonders why evangelical progressives have been so quiet. Here is a taste:

The Planned Parenthood video has received (and deserved) wide coverage. It should been seen by all who can handle watching it. Actually, if you care about justice, I think you should take the time to watch the whole video. The entire unedited version is available, despite many only referencing a “heavily edited” version.
Many have commented and that's encouraging. Yet, some have been conspicuously absent, when they've spoken up on so many other issues.
In my last post, I was very clear the video does not say quite what the "Center for Medical Progress" wants it to say. However, along the same lines, the video doesn't say what Planned Parenthood wants it to say either.
There are plenty of people pointing out the discrepancies in both statements, but the people who are strangely silent are the leaders of the Democratic Party and some progressive Christians who are often aligned with them.
To date, no high-ranking Democrat in the United States has commented on the video. That’s unfortunate, because progressives should be leading the fight against this grotesque act of selectively removing and preserving aborted fetuses’ organs for scientific use...
Deeply rooted in the foundation of our nation is the belief that every human being has dignity and the right to live in that dignity. As progressives, we further believe that the government plays a crucial role in protecting that dignity, especially among those who face adverse societal conditions: the poor, the unemployed, the uninsured, immigrants, the LGBT community — and yes — pregnant women and their unborn children.
And he is right. The silence has been deafening.
Stetzer continues:
Many others will debate the politics and the next steps, but I am wondering: where are the religious voices from the left on this issue?
Where are those bloggers, and speakers, and social justice organizations who have spoken up on so many injustices? (I will happily post those who've spoken up for the unborn child in this situation.)
Where are the mainline denominational leaders speaking up, while millions of people in their churches have heard the news or watched the video and wonder where their church stands?
And, most of all, where's the voice of some of those progressive evangelicals who once promised that, though they were broadening the pro-life agenda to include peace, the environment, and social justice, assured us they would not lose sight of the life of the unborn?
And one more time:
Sadly, the outrage over the contents of this video has mostly been found among conservative voices, mainline voices are largely absent, and progressive evangelical voices are few.
Many appear concerned about the source and the editing of the video. But let's not discount the tragedy because we don't like those who brought it to light. "The video is misleading and heavily edited!," you say, but is what's clear in the unedited version is not horrible enough for your to say something?
At the end of the day, we have a video over two hours long discussing what really takes place in the world of the abortion industry. And, that's a justice issue.
What do you think?  Is Stetzer onto something here?  
Is it possible to separate the obvious editing of the video and the fact that it was made with a hidden-camera under false pretenses, from the serious ethical problems with Dr. Nucatola's comments?  

I am with Christopher Hale on this one.
And speaking of hiding a camera and catching someone saying something inappropriate, no one seemed to let Mitt Romney off the hook when this video appeared in 2012.
I have not been able to find anything about this video at Sojourners or Slactivist, two progressive evangelical blogs that I read regularly and often find to be very useful and sometimes even "prophetic."
And now I will return to my usual fare of history-related posts....

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Amazon Review of The Day: "Buy At Your Own Risk" and "This Entire Book is Disgusting"

It comes from someone named "gwest" who has apparently figured out my conspiratorial intentions behind Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?  I have copied it exactly as it appeared on Amazon.com:


It seems Fea put this pathetic effort to make a deadline, due all the errors, lack of sources, misrepresentations, etc. Revisionism is throughout this embarrassment of a book.

If this book "is a historical primer for students" there should be a disclaimer that this garbage will mislead you by its betrayal of history.

The author says the framers "condoned slavery" yet the framers did the opposite by restricting voting rights to the south in order to eventually eliminate it. "Noll has refuted Christian America defenders?" Yet another reviewer wrote this book supported the Christian nation side. How did that happen?

The author is misleading about when our nation officially started, implying "1789?" Yet the author fails to document the framers told us specifically when the nation started by how they dated government documents. Moreover, the author shows his inferior knowledge of theology, claiming unitarians are christians.

The author's claim that "Christians enter the past with the preconceived purposes of trying to find the religious roots of the United States" is just as ridiculous as his knowledge of the founding.

Fea's ignorance is so alarming, he can't even get the correct meaning of the first sentence in chapter one correct. He misquotes the treaty of Tripoli like secularists always do, as well as distorting the document's punctuation, "the government of the United States is not in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

There is no period after "religion." In the original it's a semicolon, showing the context is after "religion" The correct context is we are not a Christian nation like ones from the past, waging war against you.

If Fea can't get his first sentence correct, the rest of this debacle has to be a disgrace, and it is.

Fea writes after 1789, the nation moved away from Calvinism, yet the 2nd great awakening was started by Calvinists, Timothy Dwight, and Jedidiah Morse, etc. Yet fea incorrectly claims "Baptists and Methodists the catalysts."

There are historical errors, blatant distortions of history on almost every page including his childish claim that Jefferson won the election of 1800 because the federalists attacked his religious beliefs. Yet the truth is if Washington and Rutledge hadn't died and Hamilton didn't split the party, adams would have easily won, not to mention the sedition law.

Fea links David Ramsay as an early historian who didn't describe the United States as a Christian nation, yet Ramsay was an evangelical who clearly believed we were a Christian nation.

His stupid statements have no foundation, like "many of the founders" were skeptics, without any sources or proof, is typical of the clueless secularists, promoting their drivel in schools. There are hardly any quotes from the founders about their faith.

Because his knowledge of history is so distorted, he makes outlandish claims like the colonies learned liberty from the British, yet the framers said they took it from the reformers, who in turn informed montesquieu, Locke, hooker, Blackstone, grotius, the glorious revolution of 1688, etc. The reformers understood liberty from the bible.

Fea boasts that the author of the Virginia resolves didn't mention God or the bible, yet Patrick Henry was a Calvinist.

The entire book is filled with false colorings and distortions of the truth.



The lies never end! He says political thought of the stamp act was from the enlightenment, yet Dickinson, adams, Henry, otis and almost everyone else said the king violated covenant theology with God, not to mention the clergy.

Chapter six is a farce, as he continues to claim the revolution was political espoused by whigs, yet "whig" is a Calvinist term. The whigs at that time were almost all Presbyterians, including the black robbed clergy and they rejected the enlightenment.

His knowledge of natural rights is laughable too. Natural rights do not come from being Englishmen. They come from God, espoused in the declaration of independence.

Chapter seven is just as chimerical as six. He says "few clergy offered deep theological reflection on the political climate." Lol! All of them mentioned romans 13 and old testament allusions throughout their sermons.

Fea even claims "nature's God" in the declaration of independence is not the God of the bible, yet James Madison said it was, and deist Ethan Allen took ft. Ticonderoga "in the name of Jehovah", as well as did the other Christians. Fea says that nature's God is from the deists, yet even Franklin wrote nature's God was Jehovah. Fea's claim that nature's God is generic Implys the same men that mentioned Jesus Christ in their state constitutions believed Jesus is a generic god.

Fea attempts to deceive, claiming George Washington was against the Virginia assessment bill, yet fails to say he was initially for the bill and only wanted the bill to die because of the uproar it caused. Fea is a blatant liar! He doesn't tell the truth either as to why Henry's bill didn't have a final vote. fea quotes "the holy author of our religion" from Jefferson in 1786, not admitting he's referring to Jesus Christ.

The entire book is disgusting! No wonder people dont know the truth about the founding. Buy at your own risk.

The Author's Corner with Sarah Crabtree

Sarah Crabtree is Assistant Professor of History at San Francisco State University. This interview is based on her new book, Holy Nation: The Transatlantic Quaker Ministry in an Age of Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2015)

JF: What led you to write Holy Nation?

SC: Initially, I had planned to write my dissertation on the influence of gender ideology on the Quaker ministry, but I changed my focus for two reasons.  First, as I combed through Public Friends’ private and public writing, the language of “holy nation” kept appearing and re-appearing as they attempted to sort through the radical changes in their spiritual and political lives.  It was clearly an important scriptural touchstone for these eighteenth-century ministers and I wanted to understand the concept and its political implications more fully.  At the same time, contemporary debates also shaped my analysis as conversations about religion and national identity and patriotism and dissent dominated the political landscape in the mid-aughts.  The deeper I got into my primary sources, the more I became convinced that the Friends’ holy nation – a transnational community of committed pacifists – provided a way of re-casting the foundations of the geopolitical nation-state, the people that governed them, and the obligations of citizenship.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Holy Nation?

SC: I argue that during the Age of Revolution and Reaction, the Religious Society of Friends forged a “holy nation”: a transnational community of like-minded believers committed first and foremost to divine law and each other. Quakers declared themselves citizens of this cosmopolitan nation to underscore the decidedly unholy nature of the nation-state, worldly governments, and profane laws and, as a result, campaigns of persecution against them escalated over this time period as those in power moved to declare them aliens in and traitors to their respective countries.

JF: Why do we need to read Holy Nation?

SC: I attempted to speak to several different audiences with Holy Nation.  First and foremost, I wanted to enter into dialogue with those political and religious historians who have examined how the ideologies of (as well as the adherents to) religion and nationalism co-existed with and even complemented one another during this time period. As I argued, however, there has been relatively little focus on the ways that religious people attempted to challenge both the exclusive nature of emerging definitions of citizenship and the increasingly narrow boundaries of community.  I therefore hope that Holy Nation will contribute to a growing conversation about alternative, more cosmopolitan visions of identity available to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century peoples as well as to the acknowledgement of a broader spectrum of political engagement in revolutionary politics than typically explored. 

Holy Nation is also an Atlantic study, as it follows over 110 itinerant ministers (almost evenly divided between men and women) across the Atlantic World.  When I first started researching this project, I had a map hanging on my wall with different colored pushpins and yarn to mark their journeys.  It quickly turned into a knotted mess, but it provided a visual analogy for my study.  I wanted to bring to life the interconnected nature of this religious society and to demonstrate the ways it existed outside of the somewhat artificial and arbitrary boundaries we sometimes impose on the past.  An Atlantic framework allows me to demonstrate the diasporic and cosmopolitan nature of their identity and community.

For those interested in nineteenth-century reform movements and/or network theory, Holy Nation argues that the Friends’ transatlantic community provided the ideological and logistical foundations for the anti-slavery movement as well as universal peace, public education, woman’s rights, and a host of other benevolent organizations and causes.  Quakers, I argue in the latter half of my book, provide a useful example of the potential for a small, marginalized, and diasporic community to effect significant political change. 

Finally, I really, really hope that Holy Nation will dispel the idea once and for all that eighteenth-century Quakers were passive and neutral (at best) or secret Anglophiles (at worst).  I argue against these mischaracterizations in my book, highlighting the ways that Society members continued to be very much engaged in worldly politics.  The image of the silent, drab, withdrawn Friend needs to be erased from history books (and oatmeal boxes)!

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

SC: I was an early convert (pun intended). I had the fortune to study with wonderful and smart teachers and professors at every level of my education who helped me understand the power of the past to interpret the present and to change the future.  I am impassioned by my work with students, and I try to help my students connect with all of the very ordinary people in the past who have set in motion very extraordinary change.

I also love primary source research, and I continue to be so energized and inspired by the enthusiasm of archivists and librarians at the places I work. 

JF: What is your next project?

SC: I am writing a graphic history tentatively titled Whaler, Traitor, Coward, Spy: William Rotch, the Quaker ethic, and the Spirit of Capitalism.  William Rotch, who I discuss only fleetingly in Holy Nation, was a wealthy and (in)famous whaler from Nantucket who was accused of treason by four different governments in three different countries in less than two decades.  It begins by highlighting my argument about Friends’ transnationalism – Rotch understood himself to be a citizen of the world and refused to recognize the authority of any of the wartime governments under which he lived – but it then also seeks to integrate this worldview with the new, globalized understanding of political economy that emerged alongside of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century wars for independence and empire.  I am particularly interested in whether Quakerism complemented or challenged the ideology of capitalism.  Did he reflect the era’s belief that the market economy would assure peace and equality as a way of integrating these logics?  Or was Rotch, essentially, an early transnational capitalist off-shoring his business empire to avoid paying tariffs? Or did he envision a more radical stance in which religion challenged the very logic of capital?

JF:  This sounds great.  Thanks for participating in The Author's Corner!