WHERE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION DID NOT QUITE HAPPEN
Award-winning historian Kathleen DuVal came up from the University of North Carolina to rivet Round Tablers with the story of her book, INDEPENDENCE LOST. The subtitle tells us even more: Lives on the edge of the American Revolution. She gave us a fascinating gallery of people living on Florida’s Gulf Coast, all of whom were touched by the American Revolution. Petit Jean, a Mobile slave, organized fellow blacks to fight the British at sea. Half- Scottish Alexander McGillivray the Creek Indian leader, struggled to protect his tribe’s lands from white greed. Amand Broussard was an Acadian, deported along with his family in Britain’s first experiment in ethnic cleansing, which scattered 15,000 French men and women children from what is now the province of New Brunswick. It is hardly surprising that his hatred of the British was profound. New Orleans merchant Oliver Pollock and his wife Margaret risked their own wealth to raise funds and arouse Spanish support for the Americans. Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, enthusiastically fought the British when Spain declared war in 1779. Not all their stories had happy endings. The Pollocks spent most of the postwar decades struggling to persuade the United States and the state of Virginia to help them pay the debts the couple incurred to enable the Revolution to succeed. Galvez, who hoped to bring more equality and freedom to the Spanish Empire, died under mysterious circumstances in Mexico. Petit Jean and his wife won their freedom and lived happily after the war. So did Amand Broussard, who became a wealthy slaveholder and eventually an American citizen thanks to the Louisiana Purchase. He fought the British one more time in the War of 1812. Roundtablers enthusiastically applauded Ms DuVal’s vivid narrative. They went home with a new appreciation of the Revolution’s reach and meaning beyond its immediate borders.
BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS
Our secretary-treasurer, Jon Carriel, gave us his take on a new book, An Empire On The Edge -- How Britain Came To Fight America by Nick Bunker. Jon quoted the author’s description of the book as “a sympathetic study of failure from the standpoint of British politicians and the British public.” Jon said he wished he had more time to summarize the wealth of insider insights Bunker brought to his book. For instance, the British never had an empire in America -- London never dominated the American continent as it did Ireland, the Caribbean and later India. Yet the King and his people were emotionally attached to the notion that they did so. The author does a superb job of describing the incredible ignorance of America that was shared by George III, his cabinet, other politicians and newspapers. It explained how the hardliners came to dominate Parliament. The opposition Whigs (liberals) were split into factions and the hardliners were able to argue that the repression had worked to pacify Scotland and Ireland and would work equally well in America. Well into 1775 the King’s cabinet still believed that all their difficulties were the product of a few malcontents in Boston. This led directly to the “fatal dispatch” which ordered General Gage to send his troops to Concord to destroy an ammunition depot there. Bunker gives the last word to the pro-American Duke of Richmond whose protest in the Lords concluded “you cannot force a form of government upon a people.” Jon remarked this was his 13th review. He has never felt greater enthusiasm for a book.
AN ANTI-BOOK REVIEW
One of our members recently recommended a new book, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates to several Round Table friends. Emails began flying. A lot of people had doubts about the book. Into the ring stepped our book review editor, Lynne Saginaw. She urged us all to remember that the author of this tome is Brian Kilmeade, a former sports announcer and television personality with no background in history. He is a co-host of the morning show, Fox and Friends. Lynne said that Kilmeade believes the American Revolution was religiously motivated. “I didn’t know the Revolution was a Christian uprising,” Lynne wryly remarked. “Bet you didn’t either.” Brian (or rather his history staff and his ghost writer Don Yeager) was the author of the disastrous George Washington’s Secret Six, a book about the Culper Ring that was so devoid of content and context that Wikipedia described it as a novel. According to one pro-Kilmeade review, the new book answers the question: “What do Pirates, Thomas Jefferson and radical Islam have in common?” Apparently the book is meant to contrast Jefferson’s “toughness” with Obama’s “weakness” in opposing Moslems. “It’s a huge reach to state that Barbary piracy was conducted in support of an Islamist agenda,” Lynne writes. “My reading on the topic has convinced me that these Moslems were mainly involved with money and the control of trade – – in other words extortion.“ She approvingly notes that one reader concluded: “Brian, you ain’t no historian, man.” Maybe we should add: “Atta girl Lynne – – you’re a real historian.”
AN UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS CARD
The Broadside recently heard from Willard Sterne Randall, a frequent speaker in our recent past, and author of a superb biography of Ethan Allen. He told of giving a talk on Allen to the annual dinner of the headquarters company of the 172nd Mountain Infantry Battalion of the Army National Guard and their families. “They are the descendents of the original Green Mountain Boys. In 2010 some of those in the room had been deployed to Kandahar Province in Afghanistan as part of Task Force Avalanche. They are the spiritual and historical descendants of the 10th Mountain Division who climbed cliffs at night to attack the Germans in the Dolomites in World War II and took part in the hinge at Gettysburg They have fought in every American war since their founder led them in capturing Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, providing Washington with the cannon that drove the British from Boston. It was a first, having an historian discuss their heritage and they gave me a beautiful unit medallion and plaque. They also made me glad I didn’t flunk a student in 1987 in my Revolutionary War class at the University of Vermont. All these years later when he was given the task of organizing this program, he invited me! Quite a few of the men in the room had read my biography of their founding father, good old Ethan.”
Board member Polly Guerin is good at keeping us up-to-date on the latest expression of interest in our favorite topic. She recently informed us that the National Museum of American Jewish history has a fascinating exhibit on our revolutionary roots. Featured is the story of the Andrews family which goes back 300 years and 11 generations and includes one of the most well-known Jewish participants in the American Revolution, Haym Salomon. The Polish-born Salomon embraced the cause of liberty upon his arrival on our shores in 1775. Escaping British occupied New York City, Salomon relocated to Philadelphia and served as a broker to Robert Morris’s Office of Finance, securing loans to sustain the eight year war for liberty. His patriotic services earned him respect in his own time and he has been remembered with pride and admiration by generations of Americans. He is not the only patriot on the Andrews family tree. His contemporary – Major Benjamin Nones – served on George Washington’s staff and received a citation for bravery in the battle of Charleston. Salomon’s grandson married Nones’s granddaughter and later generations spread out across the country.
The Daily Beast recently featured Daniel Frederick Bakeman, a New York farmer who was the American Revolution’s last surviving veteran. He also had the longest marriage in US history. Even after he turned 100, Bakeman fired his wartime musket 13 times on every July 4. Then he shouted “Hurrah for Washington, Gates, Putnam and Lee and all their brave men who fought for liberty.” His fellow villagers in Freedom, New York, were so charmed that they persuaded Congress to give him a long-delayed Revolutionary war pension. Two years before he died in 1869, Congress voted him $500 a year. He remain married to his wife, Susan, for 91 years, the longest matrimonial union on record/ She bore him eight children between 1782 and 1804 and died on September 10, 1863 at 105, 6 years before her younger husband. People remembered the elderly Bakemans crisscrossing New York to visit relatives in their own horse and buggy. Bakeman voted in every election from George Washington’s in 1789 to U.S. Grant’s in 1868. No one seems to know whether he was a Democrat or a Republican.
BAD NEWS FROM THE PRINCETON BATTLEFIELD
Round Table members have sent money and encouragement to the Princeton Battlefield Society to help them preserve the site of an historic Washington victory. For more than a year, the Institute for Advanced Study has insisted they have the right to build apartments on the part of the battlefield where Washington led a famous charge that changed the history of the war. The PBA has fought the Institute in court and in the media and seemed to be winning the fight. They persuaded the Civil War Trust to join them. Together they stopped one attempt to begin construction last September. Early in December, members of the PBA heard news that sent them rushing to the battlefield. They gazed at a horrible sight – – bulldozers were again at work churning up the sacred soil, laying foundations for the apartments that the double domes of the Institute insist cannot be built anywhere else on their numerous acres. Call the Institute at 609-734-8202 and tell them to stop destroying our American heritage .
THE DESECRATION AT PRINCETON GOES NATIONAL
Ten minutes after the editors wrote the story you just read, we got a message from a contact at the Princeton Battlefield Society. We were to click on a link and we would get a surprise. We obeyed and stared in amazement. On the AT&T building at 43rd St. and Seventh Avenue a huge screen displayed a painting of General Washington leading a famous charge at the battle of Princeton. Above it were words: “GEORGE WASHINGTON’S LEGACY UNDER SIEGE BY BULLDOZERS.” Below the picture was another line: “IMMINENT THREAT TO PRINCETON BATTLEFIELD.” Tom Fleming put on his historical investigator’s hat and was soon talking to a company called PR Newswire. They told him the client who paid for this sensational revelation was The Civil War Trust. Now will any member of the Round Table NOT call that telephone number and give the Institute for Advanced Study a piece of his or her angry mind?
SOME NEWS ABOUT OUR VENERABLE HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Most Roundtablers have a general idea that the Coffee House Club, where we meet five times a year, has a long history. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal told us a lot about the club that we didn’t know. Early in December, 100 members celebrated the club’s centennial. Among the noted members of early years were ex-President Herbert Hoover, journalist Edward R. Murrow, author John Steinbeck and director-producer George Abbott. At least as important were editor of the New Yorker Harold Ross and his favorite humorist, Robert Benchley. Coffee House ties to the magazine run deep. The New Yorker’s offices used to be near the club’s current location. At the dinner composer Ben Yarmolinsky, whose Coffee House roots go back generations, sang a tribute that he wrote.
There was a good deal of discussion about the club’s origin as a rebellion against the traditional private clubs of a century ago, particularly the Knickerbocker, where the emphasis was on wealth, social status and making business connections. The Coffee House was formed to be a place where talk of ideas replaced talk of money. Members declared themselves “foes of finance.” That should make everyone in The Round Table feel at home. We too are proponents of a rebellion.
HAMILTON IN MORRISTOWN
By now everyone has heard that the musical Hamilton is the hottest show on Broadway. There are no tickets available for six months or more. But Broadway isn’t the only place where Hamilton is suddenly popular. Pat Santfer, curator of the Schuyler-Hamilton House, where the three Schuyler sisters lived in Morristown when they visited their father, General Philip Schuyler, has told the Roundtable that the number of visitors to the house has quintupled since the play hit Broadway. In a previous life Pat was very active in the theater. She knows the actress who is playing Angelica Schuyler in the musical. She visited her backstage and the result was the three women playing the Schuyler sisters came to visit the house. Pat, who sometimes performs as Martha Washington, dressed as the first lady and met them at the door. The result was a sensational article in the New York Times. You can read it on Pat’s Facebook page.
HAMILTON IN PATERSON
2015 was a landmark year for Paterson, NJ,the town founded as America’s first industrial park by Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury. With the Park Service in charge, the site continues to grow. Park Rangers now lead tours and staff the interim welcome center and gift shop seven days a week. Thanks to the hit Broadway musical, attendance has soared. A recent NPR story about Hamilton’s economic legacy began not in New York City but at Paterson’s Great Falls. Earlier in the year, they hosted a brunch with Lin-Manuel Miranda and several other Hamilton cast members. The friends of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park have never been happier.
A CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Tom Fleming got an unexpected surprise in the mail a few weeks ago. One of the doormen in his apartment handed him a formidable wooden box filled with delicious Florida oranges and grapefruit. With it was a letter from Joe Rubinfine, dean of America’s autograph dealers, explaining the present. Tom had written an article for History News Network about an 1825 letter that Jefferson wrote to a diplomat friend who had recently returned from many years abroad. “You left us in a state of political division and in the same state you find us… The essence of these differences is whether to strengthen the executive or the popular branch of our government.” Jefferson used these words as a springboard for a disquisition on how George Washington and the Federalists had been dangerous proponents of too much executive power. Tom’s title for the article was “Thomas Jefferson’s Weird Fear of George Washington.” He had found the text of the letter in the latest issue of Joe Rubinfine’s American Historical Autographs. It was selling for $60,000. Thanks to the publicity Tom gave it, the buyer of the letter was eager to pay the asking price. Best of all, he was a new customer. The delicious fruit was Joe’s way of saying thank you.
THE SPEAKER FOR FEBRUARY: JOHN STEELE GORDONTHE SUBJECT: HIS GROUNDBREAKING NEW BOOK ON THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT
John Steele Gordon is one of America’s leading historians in the realm of business and financial history. His book, Hamilton’s Blessing, the Life and Times of Our National Debt, is considered a masterpiece.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING
Our mini-legislature met before our October dinner. Secretary-treasurer Jon Carriel reported a satisfying surplus in the treasury. He also informed us that our numbers continue to grow. We now have almost 100 dues paying members. Dave Jacobs was nominated and promptly elected for another term as chairman. Jon won similar approval for his fine work on the money and membership side of things.
THE WORD FROM OUR REELECTED CHAIRMAN
We will launch the Round Table’s 58th year on Tuesday, February 2, 2016, at 6 pm at the Coffee House Club, at 20 West 44th Street, on the sixth floor. As usual, we would like everyone’s reservation in advance. Reservations made 30 hours in advance are very much appreciated, and pre-payments will save time upon arrival. Reservations can be made via Treasurer Jon Carriel's NEW e-mail address, JonCarriel@protonmail.com, or by phone at 212-874-5121. If you have concerns about the menu, Jon will gladly connect you to Irene, the very accommodating Coffee House chef.
Your most obdt svt,
David W. Jacobs