American history

American history January 31, 2012

Here’s a reminder that America is still a young country: Politico interviews President John Tyler’s grandson.

President Tyler, who was born in 1790 and became the 10th president in 1841, has two grandchildren still alive today. His grandson, Harrison Ruffin Tyler, currently maintains the Tyler presidential home, Sherwood Forest Plantation Foundation in Charles City, Va.

Don M. Burrows on “The Manufactured ‘JudoJudeo-Christian Tradition’

In short, the “Judeo-Christian tradition” is a manufactured tradition from the 1950s. It was at the time, and remains today, a right-wing political term, not at all a descriptor of any real, singular tradition, much less one that stretches back through the founding of the American republic and into the first century.

Kevin M. Kruse: “For God So Loved the 1 Percent …

The Rev. James W. Fifield, pastor of the elite First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, led the way in championing a new union of faith and free enterprise. “The blessings of capitalism come from God,” he wrote. “A system that provides so much for the common good and happiness must flourish under the favor of the Almighty.”

Christianity, in Mr. Fifield’s interpretation, closely resembled capitalism, as both were systems in which individuals rose or fell on their own. The welfare state, meanwhile, violated most of the Ten Commandments. It made a “false idol” of the federal government, encouraged Americans to covet their neighbors’ possessions, stole from the wealthy and, ultimately, bore false witness by promising what it could never deliver.

Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Mr. Fifield and his allies advanced a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Mr. Fifield distilled his ideology into a simple but powerful phrase — “freedom under God.” With ample support from corporate patrons and business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce, his gospel of godly capitalism soon spread across the country through personal lectures, weekly radio broadcasts and a monthly magazine.

Erik Loomis calls for “A WPA for History“:

Jesse Lemisch has a particular idea in mind that the AHA and other academic institutions like the Modern Language Association should promote – a WPA for academics. How do you put thousands of unemployed historians and others to work? You create work for them, a la the New Deal. Lemisch provides concrete examples of creating digital archives, bringing obscure primary sources to public light, compiling important demographic information from public records, writing biographies, and any number of other interesting projects.

If the AHA needs to seek additional non-government funding for such a project, may I suggest turning to the various screenwriters guilds? Screenwriters rely heavily on the notion that every piece of archival anything is already digitally archived and accessible online. A WPA for the AHA could help make that more of a reality, so it would be in the screenwriters’ interest to support such an effort.


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