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“I Shall Distrust The Power Of The Press And Of Truth”

July 26, 2019

This July 4th I veered a bit in a selection of a book regarding the formative years of our country.  I usually enjoy a Joseph Ellis type author to read as the nation observes another birthday.  But this year I moved to the next generation of movers and shakers who continued on from where Jefferson, Adams, and my favorite, Hamilton had left off.  (Please note I was fond of Hamilton decades prior to Broadway’s interpretation.)

In fact, the title of the book said it all as to where I was headed.  Heirs Of The Founders by H. W.  Brands showcases the political giants who battled over a national bank, sectionalism, and the tariff.  I have heard Brands lecture on C-SPAN, and can state his writing style matches the pacing and energy he exhibited in front of an audience.    Union-minded Henry Clay, orator- extraordinaire Daniel Webster, and dark-hearted John Calhoun jump off the pages and start talking, allowing readers to have insight into how they arrived at their perspectives.  And, of course, how those thoughts and actions  impacted a nation.

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I would highly recommend the book.  It is roughly 400 pages, but engaging in that while the history is known from our classes or other readings, it is the depth of the characters as they develop, chapter by chapter, that is so intriguing.  And in Calhoun’s case most troubling.

What drives these men to make their case, even when at times, their health is waning makes for a powerful climax to the story.

I was once again into the life and times of Henry Clay, which is not hard to fathom, as he has made it to this blog over a dozen times.  He was a prime example of experience, intellect, and skills that were never allowed to shine as president.  I have stated that history will place Clay alongside Hillary Clinton as the two most qualified individuals who came so close, and then missed having their mark on White House history.  

With the conclusion of Brands’ book, but still wishing to reside a while longer in those decades, I got a small ladder and selected from a top shelf  in the den Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America by Walter Borneman.   It is there that we now get to the headline for this post.

It is 1844 and a presidential election is in full steam towards an outcome that has much potential for the fate of Texas and the Union.

James Polk was the Democratic candidate and while being always in line with tariffs for revenue also had stated he wanted as low a tarriff as possible.  He did not like the use of tariffs for protecting certain businesses.  Clay, meanwhile, had been a full-throated advocate of tarriff policy.  But when Polk writes to a friend, the contents of the letter which lands in the press, it makes it appear that he is close to the tarriff position as Clay.

Which then allows for a response from Clay that made for a laugh while reading outside last evening.

Nothing has surprised me so much  as the attempt now making in Pennsylvania to represent M. Polk as the friend and myself as the foe of protection.  If it should succeed I shall distrust the power of the press and of truth.

I spend some time each day with a book about history.  There is always so much to learn, and as with the case of Polk, reason to smile as too often we see events repeating themselves.  Lets see who made the latest such statements akin to that from Polk…….

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