RE: [tr-m] Michael Beschloss quote (Washington)
- I think you missed the most important thing Washington did in his entire
career: He voluntarily stepped completely away from power, not once but
twice. He could easily have assumed power as generalissimo after the
revolution, with hardly any objection from most of the people. He could also
have served as President for life. Instead, he stepped down both times, not
just in name but in fact as well; both times he went back to Mt. Vernon and
stayed out of politics; the first time, for at least three years, and the
second time, until his death.
This was astonishing at the time, and even more so in retrospect.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mary Beth Smith [mailto:marybeth_smith@...]
> Sent: Wednesday, February 28, 2001 9:10 AM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: [tr-m] Michael Beschloss quote on CSPAN
> George Washington:
> I'll answer my own question here. George Washington was a great
> man, brave,
> honest, physically and morally strong. By the time TR was
> president he had
> all of George Washington's great qualities.
> In Hero Tales, Henry Cabot Lodge wrote of Washington:
> He came into office with a paper constitution, the heir of a bankrupt,
> broken-down confederation. He left the United States, when he went out of
> office, an effective and vigorous government. When he was inaugurated, we
> had nothing but the clauses of the Constitution as agreed to by the
> Convention. When he laid down the presidency, we had an organized
> government, an established revenue, a funded debt, a high credit, an
> efficient system of banking, a strong judiciary, and an army. We had a
> vigorous and well-defined foreign policy; we had recovered the Western
> posts, which, in the hands of the British, had fettered our march to the
> West; and we had proved our power to maintain order at home, to repress
> insurrection, to collect national taxes, and to enforce the laws made by
> Congress. Thus Washington had shown that rare combination of the leader,
> who could first destroy by revolution, and who, having led his country
> through a civil war, was then able to build up a new and lasting
> fabric upon
> the ruins of a system which had been overthrown. At the close of his
> official service he returned again to Mount Vernon, and, after a few years
> of quiet retirement, died just as the century in which he had played so
> great a part was closing.
> Lodge adds that he was a man of unblemished character:
> Washington stands among the greatest men of human history, and
> those in the
> same rank with him are very few...Few men in all time have such a
> record of
> achievement. Still fewer can show at the end of a career so crowded with
> high deeds and memorable victories a life so free from spot, a
> character so
> unselfish and so pure, a frame so void of doubtful points demanding either
> defense or explanation.
> He was also a man of great strength:
> He was remarkably muscular and powerful. As a boy he was a leader in all
> outdoor sports...He feared no exposure or fatigue, and outdid the hardiest
> backwoodsman in following a winter trail and swimming icy streams. This
> habit of vigorous bodily exercise he carried through life.
> He was a great soldier:
> He was a great soldier of the type that the English race had
> producted, like
> Marlborough and Cromwell, Wellington, Grant, and Lee...a stubborn
> and often
> reckless fighter, a winner of battles...
> He was a great statesman:
> He was...a great constitutional statesman, able to lead a people along the
> paths of free government without undertaking himself to play the
> part of the
> strong man, the usurper, or the savior of society.
> He was quiet but passionate. He had enormous self control:
> But as a rule these fiery impuslses and strong passions were under the
> absolute control of an iron will
> He was compassionate:
> His pity always went out to the poor, the oppressed, or the
> unhappy, and he
> was all that was kind and gentle to those immediately about him.
> He was honest:
> He was, of course, the soul of truth and honor, but he was even more than
> that. He never deceived himself. He always looked facts squarely in the
> face and dealt with them as such...
> Mary Beth
> On Mon, 19 Feb 2001 08:01:17 -0800 (PST), email@example.com wrote:
> > George Washington was one of TR's heroes. In Gouverneur Morris, TR
> > Washington, alike statesman, soldier, and patriot, stands
> alone. He was
> > only the greatest American; he was also one of the greatest
> men the world
> > has ever known. Few centuries and few countries have ever
> seen his like.
> > Among the people of English stock there is none to compare with him,
> > perhaps Cromwell, utterly different though the latter was. Of
> > Lincoln alone is worthy to stand even second.
> > --------------
> > We don't appreciate George Washington enough today if the
> above statement
> > true. This caused me to buy two books on George Washington
> but I haven't
> > read them yet. George Washington, who had 3 horses shot dead
> beneath him
> > during the American Revolution, must have inspired TR's bravery during
> > Spanish American War. Can anybody sum up what George
> Washington meant to
> > the people of the 19th century?
> > Mary Beth
> > On Sun, 18 Feb 2001 19:20:59 -0600, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> > > I see Beschloss making two points in the quote:
> > > 1) Presidential reputations (in historians' opinions, I'm assuming)
> > > influenced by the era (political, economic, social, etc.) they live
> > > 2) Theodore Roosevelt was highly regarded in the 1930s and
> 1940s (and
> > > probably today) -- but not in the 1920s -- because the prevailing
> > political
> > > philosophy of those times were for and against TR's, respectively.
> > >
> > > For the first I'd say this is correct, to an extent. Historians who
> > > to sell books to the public and be popular need to cater to the
> > prevailing
> > > opinions of the era. However, as an example, I never got the
> > > that the Reagan Revolution won over the ivory towers of academia in
> > > 1980s. In general, every thinking person will have their
> own opinions
> > and
> > > beliefs and this can't help but to color their perceptions of the
> > > past. This is especially true if they lived through part of the
> > > that they are writing about.
> > >
> > > That gets me to the second issue. People/historians of the
> 1920s were
> > > commenting on TR as a person who lived at the same time they did.
> > > means that their impressions will tend to be overly influenced by
> > > last observations of him (this is termed "latency") -- the
> > > years in his life (those most anathema to the laissez-faire years of
> > > 1920s I think Mr. Beschloss is referring to). Later, in the 1930s,
> > 1940s,
> > > and today, historians and the public can more fully judge TR's
> > achievements
> > > and opinions from his entire career. Some of these
> achievements and
> > > opinions certainly are from his later years, but it also
> includes his
> > time
> > > in the NY legislature, in Washington in the 1890s, in the
> military, as
> > > President, and his post-Presidential years. Thus, while
> the political
> > era
> > > may have influenced the historians of the 1920s, not having
> a proper
> > > perspective on TR's entire career and having not realized
> the lasting
> > > influence he did have are also important factors.
> > >
> > > As for Mary Beth Smith's comment about TR being more idolized than
> > > Washington, I think that's a bit much, but I think she's on
> the right
> > > track. TR revered the frontiersmen (the books he wrote and
> the letter
> > from
> > > Colorado that was just discussed on this list are good examples).
> > > were the "real" Americans he grew up with and wished he
> could be like.
> > The
> > > life and bravery of a frontiersman was tangible enough to
> believe in,
> > > distant enough to romanticize. I think TR can fill the
> same role in
> > > present day. His conservationism, take-charge attitude in politics,
> > > indefatigable belief in America (among other traits which this group
> > knows
> > > well) makes him an inspiration to people today.
> > >
> > > Aaron
> > >
> > _______________________________________________________
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- Some time ago I sent the following quote to the list and asked what you
thought of it. Some discussion followed. I thought I would add my thoughts.
Michael Beschloss is, I believe, a well respected historian and therefore
we tend to take what he says as gospel, especially if it appears on
TV. Nonetheless, I think he is dead wrong about the historiography of
TR. In fact he has it backwards. TR was well respected in the 20's. The
biographies were all uncritical, even fawning. It was in 1931 with the
publication of Henry F. Pringle's Pulitzer Prize winning "debunking"
biography, *Theodore Roosevelt* that TR's reputation took a nose dive. It
began to be resurrected with the publication of William Henry Harbaugh's
*Power & Responsibility, The life and times of Theodore Roosevelt* in 1961,
and achieved it's current status with Edmund Morris's *The Rise of Theodore
Roosevelt* in 1979, also a Pulitzer Prize winner. Yes, Beschloss is right
that presidential reputations are influenced by contemporary attitudes, but
only to an extent. Perhaps what is much more important is who is writing
about a particular president and how the writer portray him.
>The following quote appeared on CSPAN2 on2/11/01 at 7:00 AM
>... And historians are
>human and I think that leads us to be fairly open minded about someone who
>does that. Another thing to remember is the presidential reputations are so
>influenced by changes in a political era. The priorities of the American
>people at a given time. Theodore Roosevelt is a wonderful example of this.
>We now think
>of Theodore Roosevelt as a pretty major important president, but that was not
>always the case. If we were talking about Theodore Roosevelt in the 1920's,
>some wag probably would have referred to him as a hyper thyroid case who got
>the government much too involved in the domestic economy and around the
>world. T. R.'s time was not the 1920's, a time when people were very
>allergic to the idea of being involved in the world and allergic to the
>idea of government
>intervention in the economy. But you get up to the 1930's, the 1940's, that
>was a time that was just tailor made for Theodore Roosevelt, his
>reputation began to
>Quote from Michael Beschloss, author of *American Heritage Illustarted
>History of the Presidents
>What do member of the group think of this idea?
You are quite right that TR's star shone bright in the
1920s. We must remember that when he died in January
of 1919 he was poised to take the Republican
nomination for the presidency and poised to win the
November election. He was seen at his death as the
wise giant of a statesman who, in the early years of
World War I before the US entered the fracas, had
warned a largely isolationist and unlistening country
to prepare for war in order to avoid hostilities. In
hindsight, the American public saw that he'd been
right all along on this -- as on so many other things
-- and he won back the respect and following he'd
somewhat lost in the wake of the 1912 election, the
splitting of the Republican vote, and the election of
Wilson. TR's reputation, as you point out, did not
start to decline until the publication of Pringle's
flawed biography. But as we know, water always
eventually seeks its own level and thus TR's decline
did not last. -- Ed Renehan
--- Tweed Roosevelt <tweedr@...> wrote:
> Some time ago I sent the following quote to the list=====
> and asked what you
> thought of it. Some discussion followed. I thought
> I would add my thoughts.
> Michael Beschloss is, I believe, a well respected
> historian and therefore
> we tend to take what he says as gospel, especially
> if it appears on
> TV. Nonetheless, I think he is dead wrong about the
> historiography of
> TR. In fact he has it backwards. TR was well
> respected in the 20's. The
> biographies were all uncritical, even fawning. It
> was in 1931 with the
> publication of Henry F. Pringle's Pulitzer Prize
> winning "debunking"
> biography, *Theodore Roosevelt* that TR's reputation
> took a nose dive. It
> began to be resurrected with the publication of
> William Henry Harbaugh's
> *Power & Responsibility, The life and times of
> Theodore Roosevelt* in 1961,
> and achieved it's current status with Edmund
> Morris's *The Rise of Theodore
> Roosevelt* in 1979, also a Pulitzer Prize winner.
> Yes, Beschloss is right
> that presidential reputations are influenced by
> contemporary attitudes, but
> only to an extent. Perhaps what is much more
> important is who is writing
> about a particular president and how the writer
> portray him.
> >The following quote appeared on CSPAN2 on2/11/01 at
> 7:00 AM
> >... And historians are
> >human and I think that leads us to be fairly open
> minded about someone who
> >does that. Another thing to remember is the
> presidential reputations are so
> >influenced by changes in a political era. The
> priorities of the American
> >people at a given time. Theodore Roosevelt is a
> wonderful example of this.
> >We now think
> >of Theodore Roosevelt as a pretty major important
> president, but that was not
> >always the case. If we were talking about Theodore
> Roosevelt in the 1920's,
> >some wag probably would have referred to him as a
> hyper thyroid case who got
> >the government much too involved in the domestic
> economy and around the
> >world. T. R.'s time was not the 1920's, a time
> when people were very
> >allergic to the idea of being involved in the world
> and allergic to the
> >idea of government
> >intervention in the economy. But you get up to the
> 1930's, the 1940's, that
> >was a time that was just tailor made for Theodore
> Roosevelt, his
> >reputation began to
> >rise. ...
> >Quote from Michael Beschloss, author of *American
> Heritage Illustarted
> >History of the Presidents
> >What do member of the group think of this idea?
> To Post a message, send it to: tr-m@...
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EDWARD J. RENEHAN JR.
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