Who took more scalps, Native Americans or European colonists?

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

For over a century, relations between Britain, France, and Indians in the region of Acadia included many recorded instances of scalping. British governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which included Maine, established bounties for Native American scalps.

In 1749, Edward Cornwallis planned a military base to expand Halifax on the southern coast of Nova Scotia.  Some tribes in the Wabanaki Confederacy objected that his plan violated earlier treaty agreements. They argued Britain should be content with its existing garrison at Annapolis Royal, on the northern coast of Nova Scotia. Facing such opposition, Cornwallis offered payment to New England rangers for Indian scalps.

GovernorCharleLawrence iSeven years later, Cornwallis’s successor, Governor Charles Lawrence, issued what is known as the British Scalp Proclamation. It provided a bounty for captive Indian men, women and children, with a slightly lower bounty paid for scalps in the case of men.  (This proclamation is still on the Canadian books, but accompanied now by assurances from the government that it won’t be enforced.)


During this time, French colonists reportedly paid Indians for British scalps. They could of course point to history going back at least to scalping by Scythians as recorded by Herodotus.


The Phips Proclamation.

For Americans today, the nadir of colonial violence authorized against Indians is found in a document called the Phips Proclamation. The long-time lieutenant governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, Spencer Phips, claimed ownership of property in coastal Maine by the Penobscot River, and he wanted the area cleared for settlement by English colonists. This work would require not picks and shovels but bayonets and chains.

Penobscot nation logo image copyPhips issued his proclamation in November of 1755, while the colony’s governor, William Shirley, was away on military business. Phips’s proclamation focused on just one tribe in the Wabanaki Confederacy—the Penobscot Indians. They occupied the land Phips wanted for settlement, and he dismissed their long-standing effort to be neutral in conflicts between Britain and France.  His proclamation merely labeled them “perfidious” in justifying what followed:


“I do hereby require his Majesty’s subjects of this province to embrace all Opportunities of pursuing, captivating, killing, and destroying all and every of the aforesaid Indians.”


Phips went farther even than the British Scalp Proclamation, which was promulgated several months later.  Phips offered a bounty from the provincial public treasury for scalps of not just men, but for the scalp of every Penobscot man, woman and child.

Phips Proclamation image copy














Results by (a) hair

I think it’s likely that European colonists in the region of Acadia during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) were responsible for more scalping than were their Indian neighbors.

Postscript:  Hannah Dustin

Puritan Hannah Dustin and her infant daughter were abducted from their home near the Merrimack River in Massachusetts in 1697. Abenaki Indians from farther north captured them during one of several colonial wars between New France and New England. Hannah and two other captives managed to kill most of the Abenaki family taking them north. They also scalped the dead Indians, and Hannah collected the lion’s share of a bounty provided by the Massachusetts General Court. She was nearly forgotten for over a hundred years but then venerated in the Nineteenth Century as a virtuous woman defending herself against savages, part of a larger narrative flourishing before America’s natives were recognized as Native Americans.

America’s political foundation is best described as a Covenant

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

The American Covenant originated in the covenant made on the Mayflower on November 11, 1620, in which the makers “solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves into a civill body politick.”


Two-fold liberty.

Puritan leader John Winthrop in 1645 described a two-fold liberty.  One part is common to men and beasts, for which liberty is simply freedom from restraint even by a most just authority.  The second part is what Winthrop called “civil or federal” liberty, meaning both moral between man and God and “politic covenants and constitutions between men themselves.  This liberty is the proper end and object of authority and cannot subsist without it.”


Expanding the covenant idea.

New England Puritans were articulate about covenants.  Others also made contributions, including Scotch-Irish and Dutch immigrants, Presbyterians generally, and to a lesser degree Quakers and Huguenots.  By 1776, a majority of America’s church organizations were founded on covenant ideas.

Additional perspectives on covenants came from writers like Locke and Montesquieu, who influenced the Founding Fathers.


Development of the American Covenant.

America’s covenant thus had its origins before the American Revolution.  But it began building its lasting foundation in the Declaration of Independence, some Federalist Papers, ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of rights, and key decisions like Marbury v. Madison.  The young covenant relied mainly on its laurels during America’s period of territorial expansion prior to the Civil War, but it was called up for extraordinary duty when Lincoln proclaimed at Gettysburg “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

The covenant matured during the years when America preserved its union, received massive waves of immigrants, and built great corporations.  By then, if not before, the word covenant is apt to fill a vacancy in American political discourse that is inadequately addressed as American’s “traditions,” “founding ideas,” or “political identity.”


Further reading.

Fitch_UnitedByCovennt_Ebook_132x200Fitchen_Republic in Triumph_Cover_132x200

The story of America’s covenant can be explored conveniently in two of my books available via Amazon Books:  United by Covenant and Republic in Triumph.  Further information about them is also available at www.richardfitchen.com.





What is a reasonable basis for income tax reform?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Disputes about income tax rates are so overhung by partisan commentators and sector-expert analysts that a reasonable non-partisan perspective can be valuable.


A glance at history. 

IRS marginal tax rates went as high ninety-one percent through the nineteen-fifties, enabling the American government to expand social services and infrastructure (especially Eisenhower’s monumental National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956).  On the other hand, critics recall that high rates drove businesses to create losses and find tax shelters, possibly shifting their impetus for creativity to government projects like NASA (launched in 1958).

US-Income-Tax-Marginal-Rates copy

Taxes had gone up during and after WWI and WWII, and they remained high until well after the Korean War.  During and after Vietnam, the highest rates were double today’s highest rates (1965-1981= 70%).  However, high-end rates went down sharply before the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they dropped still more during those conflicts.  Thus, during most of the nineteen-nineties, the highest rate averaged about thirty-nine percent, and for the past dozen years it’s been about thirty-five percent.


 A values approach.

So taxes were down and went lower during the recent wars—reversing historical experience.  My American Saga series shows how contemporary events converge to shape America’s history, and historical precedents (such as earlier tax rates) play a minor role. Change is constant, and American values gain increasing legitimacy by adapting to change.

Americans thrive on ingenuity and innovation, so tax policies that discourage entrepreneurs, businessmen, and investors are counterproductive.  Americans favor capitalism combined with regulation, but tax policies that make innovators and investors move their business abroad inflict self-damage.


Recent events.

America chose war in Iraq and Afghanistan with the same incomplete planning it applied earlier in Vietnam. Goals and outcomes were not well defined.  The cost of war affected tax policy in terms like “we’ll figure out how to pay for it later.”

The breakup of the Soviet Union around nineteen-ninety gave America a new primacy in the world, a primacy that could be compared to America’s position after WWII.  Yet nothing about that comparison leads to nostalgia for marginal tax rates as high as ninety-plus percent in the forties and fifties.


An ecology of taxes.

America finally legitimized income taxes with the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913.  From the beginning, tax rates were “progressive,” that is higher rates for wealthier people.  A standard rate equal for everyone would be “regressive” if applied to income taxes, by increasing the disparity in wealth.  (Property taxes typically use standard rates.)  Controversy over income tax reform today is mainly about how much the wealthy should pay in relation to everybody else.

Unfortunately, parties in this controversy typically obscure the most important facts.  Republicans attack Democrats’ tax-and-spend mindset, and Democrats attack Republicans for protecting their wealthy benefactors.  Hidden in this partisan debate is responsibility on both sides for “make war now and pay later” policies that increase the need for tax revenue.  If taxes go up, business and innovation suffer.  If taxes are not increased, revenue is siphoned from social services or the national debt increases (or both). None of these outcomes is desirable.

As a basis for income tax reform, I suggest America’s values point not to “who gets the most” but rather to “making sure everyone has enough.”  And meanwhile rein in that impulse for war!

Why were socialism and communism so thoroughly rejected by America?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

If America is as pragmatic as my blog post titled Why weren’t socialism and communism more successful in America? says it is, wouldn’t Americans try out socialIWWism and communism to see what might be learned from them?  Right.  That’s in fact what happened.  Since America protects freedom of speech, the revolutionaries receiveAFLd a fair
hearing in the early twentieth century.  The International Workers of the World went up against the American Federation of Labor and lost convincingly.  The American Socialist Party, like socialists in Europe, splintered intoSocialists contrary factions and won a few state elections, but they never outpolled Progressives nationally.   The communists bought into Lenin’s International, making themselves openly subversive and anathema.


Did America learn anything from the radicals?

Sure.  In the opening decades of the twentieth century, the radicals added urgency to America’s reform movement led by Social Gospel preachers, groups like the NAACP, and independent writers.  Those socialists who stopped talking about world revolution and focused on services like sanitation, endured name-calling as “sewer socialists.”  Walter LippmannOthers, like Walter Lippmann, applied socialist ideas from a lofty position in respectable mass media. He claimed public opinion was inept, but John Dewey corrected him.   By the end of World War II, many former socialists and communists in America had moved into the mainstream and could agree with confessions of ex-communists in a popular book called The God that Failed (1949).

John Dewey







International relations became dangerously bipolar.   

The huge unfortunate mess of international relations that produced two world wars left America opposed to Soviet Marxism, while the Soviet Union spread disinformation about the United States.  The two sides butted heads, while academicians calculated the instability of two superpowers in bipolar international system.  America under President Truman created the national security structure still in place today.


Has the international system gained stability since the Soviet Union imploded?

Yes.  The keynote today is negotiation, in contrast to the Cold War’s confrontations.  American leaders think less about communism in countries like Cuba or China and more about trade and overriding prospects for collective security.  The Soviet Union’s demise ended a dangerous bipolar phase of international relations.


What do you think? 

Do you think America has a global monopoly of power or influence?  Should it want that?  Some recent articles in magazines like The Atlantic and Foreign Affairs claim to see internal decline or decay in America’s political culture.  What do you think is the worst problem America faces today?

Why weren’t socialism and communism more successful in America?

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

After the Civil War, America experienced massive immigration and rapid growth of corporations and trusts. Radical reformers decided the capitalist system of wages and unemployment was transforming America from a unique place of independent farmers and artisans into a class structure akin to the countries of Europe. These radicals insisted that revolutionary ideas flourishing there should now apply to America. Socialists and communists flattered themselves that their revolutionary “worldview” overrode differences between European and American political cultures.

Workers Unite Poster

Woolsey, President of Yale America’s universities were changing. The traditional authority of religion was being replaced by science. Scientific knowledge was more useful than religious dogma, and science could prevail without having to question God’s existence. Theodore Woolsey was president of Yale for twenty-five years up to 1871, during which time he launched Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School.  His book titles show how science included politics: Religion of the Present and Future, Communism and Socialism, Political Science, and International Law. Yale’s next president, Noah Porter, began his career as an ordained minister but moved on to the science of psychology. His books include The Human Intellect and Elements of Intellectual Science.

Socialism and communism do not fit in.

Hans KelsenSocialists and communists addressed politics and psychology not with science but by recasting religion in another form of dogma. Hans Kelsen’s essay Natural Law Doctrine Before the Tribunal of Science probes European political thought and concludes that socialism and communism are rooted in natural law doctrine, which as he shows ties them to God and makes them worthless for any pursuit of scientific truth. Their only importance to political culture, Kelsen notes, is that they can provide governments with “useful lies.”

America dislikes those lies.

William JamesO. W. Holmes, Jr. By the beginning of the twentieth century, America’s political culture was absorbing pragmatism in psychology and law especially through William James and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Still, radical reformers were convinced America’s race to surpass Europe economically made it vulnerable to the same revolutionary forces transforming European political cultures. The American Socialist Eugene Debs ran five times for president.  Debs speakingBut while science could plausibly show how humans are alike around the globe, the revolutionaries could not prove the same thing about governments. The world revolution prophesied by socialists and communists stalled in America. Pragmatism overruled dogmatism.


Will the revolutionary tide sweep over America anyway?

Tune in next week for the concluding blog on socialism and communism in America. Also please visit other parts of this website to learn about the American Saga series. The formation of America’s alternative to socialism and communism is dramatized in my United by Covenant, Ben’s America. Comments are appreciated.

When you think of the Cherokee Nation, do you remember an American four-star admiral?

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Adm Clark w Pres Syngman Rhee copySixty years after his part-Indian mother walked the Trail of Tears, a cowboy schooled at the Cherokee Indian Orphan Asylum held his newborn son and named him Joseph James Clark.  Joe Clark sprang from landlocked agrarian Indian Territory to command America’s Seventh Fleet during the Korean War.



J. J. (Jocko) Clark leaves home but keeps an identity.

Admiral Clark on dutyJoe had grown up doing farm chores and hunting quail with his father before he enrolled at a regional college and then became interested in a military career.  Their congressman persuaded him to choose the navy rather than the army.  Joe thought he must be the greenest plebe that ever went to Annapolis, but he soon learned to leverage his small fraction of Cherokee roots and his upbringing in what would become Cherokee County.  Classmates at the Naval Academy and later at “Annapolis of the Air” (Pensacola) acknowledged his warrior personality and combativeness, and later he inflicted “Cherokee Strikes” on enemy forces in the Pacific.

USS ClarkJoe’s autobiography, Carrier Admiral (1967), highlights his many remarkable achievements during the Second World War.  He was posthumously inducted into the Cherokee Hall of Fame in Tahlequah.  The USS Clark is named for him and upholds its motto as “Determined Warrior.”  Much earlier, as a navy flier in 1927, Joe took Will Rogers in his plane so the famous entertainer could experience being catapulted off a battleship.  Rogers was also part Cherokee and practically a neighbor of Joe’s family.  When he discovered who would fly the plane being catapulted, he deadpanned, “I don’t think Oklahoma can afford to lose two good men at once!”


What would you say is the most remarkable aspect of Joe Clark’s life?

Was President Harding’s naval conference in Washington DC a failure?

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

President HardingWarren Harding’s greatest effort in foreign policy, the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-1922, was orchestrated to increase the administration’s approval at home, but it allowed domestic pacifism to produce folly in foreign relations.

Washington conferenceThe conference was convened for nations that had interests in the Pacific Ocean and the Far East, but Russia was not invited.  The main participants were the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, while China, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal were invited to join discussions about the Far East.  The functioning League of Nations was excluded because it was unpopular in America.

The United States agreed to scrap seventeen battleships and discontinue thirteen other major ships already in construction.  Harding won some praise for this self-inflicted American loss, but the wrongness of it was demonstrated when other countries increased their war-making potential outside the framework of treaties produced by the conference.

Cartoon of men in boat viewing sub


What did other countries do after Harding’s naval conference?

Junkers airplaneJapan strengthened its control of strategic Pacific islands, and having already annexed Korea it proceeded to annex Manchuria on the Chinese mainland.  France and Belgium occupied the industry-rich Ruhr region of Germany, angering the Germans and swinging world opinion more favorably toward them.  Major German arms producers like Krupp and Junkers moved to Russia to produce advanced armaments and airplanes they were forbidden from making in Germany.  Equipment and technical knowhow improved in Russia.


What did America do?

America elected a “return to normalcy” in the bywords of Harding’s campaign, which looked backward nostalgically to life before Woodrow Wilson and the Great War.  Wilson’s election four years earlier based on “he kept us out of war,” followed by his “war to end all wars,” and capped by his failure to lead America into the League of Nations, made it easy for Harding to avoid the League and exploit domestic hope for disarmament.   Harding was president for thirty months before he died and was succeeded by his taciturn vice president, Calvin Coolidge.  Coolidge increased tariffs and allowed credit abuse until 1929.  (Fortunately he chose not to run again, realizing he was out of steam).


What was learned about disarmament?

Less than two decades after Harding clipped America’s navy, President Franklin Roosevelt pushed through a record high naval procurement bill called the Two-Ocean Navy Act in July 1940.  This reversal suggests something was wrong with Harding’s initiative.  Either he should have left the navy intact, or else he should have embraced disarmament on a broader scale—but he was allergic to the League of Nations.

Cartoon on League of Nations

Harding’s disarmament was geared for popular approval (for show), even though he and his Republican Party had already won the presidency by a landslide.  America’s influence in international relations was squandered by a flawed approach to collective security, an approach that picked low-hanging fruit but ignored disease in the tree.


Is the world doing better with nuclear disarmament? 


How much did diplomacy profit from the Cuban teachers’ visit to America?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014


Men aboard Crook 1900 copyAs we saw in last week’s blog, more than thirteen hundred Cuban teachers were en route to Harvard for summer classes in 1900.

Upon arrival in Boston, the teachers proceeded to Cambridge and their summer lodgings—the men grouped in Harvard dorms and the women distributed in private homes. Their curriculum included English lessons, lectures in Spanish on America’s schools and culture, and local excursions. Their recreation included frequent dances in a large gymnasium.


Veiled romance.

A E Frye ca1900

Alexis Frye, 1900

Teresa Arruebarreba ca1899 copy 2

María Teresa Arruebarrena, 1899

The man responsible for the teachers’ wellbeing and activities was Alexis E. Frye, a Harvard Law alum and American educator who donated his time to serve as superintendent of the schools in Cuba. He attended many of the dances at Harvard and danced often (but not exclusively) with the young woman he had set his eye on the moment they met while she was boarding ship with other teachers from Cuba. Cambridge and Boston newspapers featured stories about the Cuban visitors, and one of the female teachers became a veritable correspondent for American reporters. Through it all, Frye and the woman he wanted to marry, María Teresa Arruebarrena, parried questions and upheld propriety. They continued with no problem after summer classes ended and Frye led the thirteen-hundred-plus teachers on visits to New York, Philadelphia, and Washington—including a reception with President McKinley.

Misunderstanding breaks a relationship.

A different kind of problem arose during that summer. The military governor in Cuba, General Leonard Wood, accused Frye of falsely inflating the number of new schools he had established. But Frye easily cleared his name by showing Wood had misinterpreted a Spanish word (aula) as denoting school rather than classroom. Meanwhile, however, Wood had put a junior officer in charge of Cuban schools and relegated Frye to a superfluous position. Frye was popular in Cuba and he brought the teachers home safely to a chorus of approval. But behind the scenes, he was increasingly at odds with General Wood—especially because he advocated early independence for Cuba, which conflicted with a longer timeframe envisioned by American imperialists and annexationists.


Romance lives.

Meanwhile, back in her hometown of Cárdenas, Senorita Arruebarrena resumed teaching but received no word from Frye for weeks. She considered he could have become so discouraged about being sidelined by Wood that he might leave Cuba. So she was filled with nervous excitement when a letter from Frye finally arrived. She opened the letter and read a thrilling proposal: “I would like to annex a small part of Cuba. Will you marry me?” Joyfully she replied, “I cannot be annexed, but I would gladly accept a protectorate. Yes, I will marry you!”

Wedding invitation 1900 copy 2

More than a thousand teachers and friends attended their wedding in a fashionable suburb of Havana on January 1, 1901. General Wood provided a military band and attended the wedding. But the general and the educator found little common ground. Within a few days, Frye handed Wood his resignation and took his new bride to America.


Could Cuba have been better served?

For a moment, education contributed importantly to America’s diplomacy toward Cuba. Reports carried home by Cuban teachers highlighted kindness and good principles they found in America. People like Frye who acquainted themselves with Cubans, learned to love what they saw.

The moment passed, followed by more misunderstandings. Wood became a controller in Cuba, abetted by Theodore Roosevelt’s aggressive debut in national leadership. Cubans naturally embraced sentiments that had been expressed a decade earlier by José Martí in Our America: “It is imperative that our neighbor [the U.S.] know us, and soon, so that it will not scorn us.” He insisted Cuba’s government must originate in Cuba.


How could education improve American diplomacy toward Cuba, then or later?

Will a plan for Cuban teachers to attend Harvard in 1900 be a diplomatic triumph?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

America was beset by anti-imperialists opposed to expansionists and annexationists following the War of 1898, which ended centuries of Spanish control over Cuba.  Benevolent impulses to help Cubans rebuild were often hampered by imperious declarations that Cuba was not ready for self-government.


Cuban schools and Alexis E. Frye.

Jose Lanuza Major General John Brooke served as military governor to alleviate wartime devastation and restore order.  He focused on gut issues like hunger, illness, and unemployment.  As part of his new administration, he established a department combining justice with public instruction.  He put a young Cuban attorney named José Antonio González Lanuza in charge of it. Lanuza reported there were not nearly enough schools, and most children received no formal education at all.

Alexis FryeAmerica’s emerging colonial policy favored Americanization of school curricula in Cuba, promising that better education would prepare Cubans to govern themselves.  Coincidentally, Alexis Frye arrived in Secretary of War Elihu Root’s office carrying letters of recommendation from Harvard President Charles Eliot and Massachusetts Governor Roger Wolcott.  Frye was a teacher, former school superintendent, colleague of progressive-education leader Colonel Theodore Parker, and the author by age forty of widely used school textbooks in geography.  He held a law degree from Harvard, was clearly energetic and personable, and wanted no salary for working in Cuba or the Philippines.

Frye wins Cuban hearts and minds.

General Brooke received a school reform plan from Lanuza in October of 1899, just when Frye reached Brooke’s office in Havana.  Preferring an American-style approach, Brooke startled Frye by directing him to write a new school law for Cuba within twenty-four hours.  Writing all night, Frye handed Brooke a new law the next day and was promptly appointed Superintendent for all the island’s schools.

Brig Gen Leonard WoodSecretary Root appointed Brigadier General Leonard Wood to replace General Brooke as military governor in late December 1899.  Wood discovered Frye had increased the island’s classrooms from around 600 to over 3000, recruited thousands of new teachers, and written a well-received teacher’s manual.  Enrollments shot up.  Wood’s reaction turned negative when education rose to 12% of his budget, and also because he felt threatened by Frye’s growing popularity and open support for Cuban independence.  Without consulting Superintendent Frye, Wood ordered Cuba’s provinces to stop opening new schools.

Over 1300 Cuban teachers to attend Harvard summer school in 1900.

Women aboard Sedgwick 1900Frye turned his energy in another direction.  He championed a proposal for hundreds of Cuban teachers to attend summer classes at Harvard.  The teachers’ response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  There would be some chaperones and a Cuban doctor, but the plan depended particularly on Frye’s ability to preserve respectability for many unmarried female teachers.

Secretary Root supplied four military troop ships to transport more than thirteen hundred teachers up to Massachusetts.  Frye was aboard the Sedgwick, reserved for women teachers, when it arrived at the port of Cárdenas.


Teresa Arruebarreba ca1899

He and a Cuban assistant named Teresa Menocal greeted each of the passengers as they boarded.  At one point, Frye prolonged his greeting with an attractive female teacher who was about half his age.  She introduced herself as María Teresa Arruebarrena, and Frye recalled her father was a civic leader and former mayor of Cárdenas.

What happened next surprised Frye as much as it did Señora Menocal, according to later accounts that confirmed love at first sight and celebrated its subsequent outcome:  Before Frye greeted the next teacher, he turned to Menocal and confided privately about Señorita Arruebarrena:  “That is the woman I am going to marry!”



What do you imagine Alexis Frye’s reputation will be by summer’s end?


Read the conclusion next week.




Should President Wilson be blamed for fumbling the League of Nations?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Woodrow Wilson photoWoodrow Wilson won the White House even though he was a career academic with little experience in foreign affairs. His predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, had settled international disputes and won the Nobel Peace Prize as president. Wilson needed good advisers, particularly since he had a grand vision for world peace.

Henry Cabot Lodge photoHe convened a study group called The Inquiry, consisting mainly of academics like himself. He didn’t always listen to their advice, and anyway he chose ill-advised steps to bring America into his signature international project—the League of Nations. He toured the country showing his moral conviction but projecting little charisma. He refused to compromise with Henry Cabot Lodge, chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, and this deadlock between two prominent holders of the PhD degree in political science doomed the League. The Senate handed Wilson a defeat that drained his political capital and caused the next Democratic ticket to suffer an overwhelming Republican victory.


League of Nations versus the United Nations

The League enjoyed some success in Europe during its first decade by resolving international disputes, fostering reconciliation between France and Germany, admitting Germany as a member in 1926, and eventually hearing early plans for a European union. It is also developed conventions between member states regarding health, transportation, and finance. But it failed increasingly in the 1930s. It did not prevent Japan from invading and annexing the Chinese territory of Manchuria, and it did not prevent Italy from annexing Ethiopia. By 1938, its imminent demise was foreshadowed by Hitler’s annexation of Austria. For America, the League remained dead-on-arrival.

Cordell Hull photoFDR photoPlanning for the United Nations started well before the end of WWII. President Franklin Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull consulted Congress in drafting a proposed UN charter, and Congress passed resolutions favoring US membership. Representatives from around the globe convened at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC to plan the UN. Fifty nations approved the UN charter by required two-thirds votes in San Francisco, and the American Senate quickly ratified it with a nearly unanimous vote. President Harry Truman’s signature made America the first nation to complete ratification of the UN.


The difference is the people in charge

Wilson blew an opportunity. It is clear that America felt different about joining a world organization in 1945, just twenty-five years after it rejected the League. The difference is that America’s leaders took a more effective approach the second time around. At both times, the country was weary of war and faced prospects that defeated countries might renew war under demagogues on the right or the left. The era of prosperity arriving with peace after WWI emphasized good times on the home front and limited plans to alleviate postwar disruption abroad, but prosperity after WWII embraced reconstruction of war torn countries and international relations much more profoundly. In addition, America’s leaders took much better care of returning servicemen in the 1940s than they did after 1918. President Wilson’s successor pushed disarmament after WWI, but FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, created a military and defense establishment after WWII that remains in place almost seventy years later.



There are just two phases of political communication that define democratic government. One is recruitment and the other is accountability. Recruitment puts individuals in power with authority over others. Accountability evaluates leaders’ performance and may include their removal.


Please comment

To what extent do you think Woodrow Wilson is accountable for America’s rejection of the League of Nations or for its eventual failure?



Why isn’t Alfred Sloan more revered than Henry Ford in America?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Ford photoHenry Ford chose gasoline rather than steam or electricity to power his cars, and his dominance in the market insured gasoline would remain the standard. His Model T was sturdy, reliable, cheap, and well advertised. It brought Ford sixty percent of the American market before 1920.

At the same time, William Durant drove General Motors to buy up other companies (though he failed to get Ford) and he diverged from Ford’s one-size-fits-all approach. He produced a range of cars from cheap to expensive. Durant had founded GM, but by the end of WWI his share of the American market was only a little over ten percent. Of course, that wasn’t exactly shameful in a field that included more than a thousand car-making entrepreneurs, but GM’s board decided to replace Durant with one of his VPs—Alfred Sloan.

Sloan kept the tiered range of cars concept, while Ford restrained his son from attempting the same. Sloan applied his MIT training to utilize statistics and other tools of scientific management to challenge Ford’s dominant sales in America. Meanwhile, Ford had no use even for accountants.


GM takes the lead under Sloan

Sloan photoA decade later, just before the Great Depression, GM commanded forty percent of the market. Ford had dropped to second place with thirty-five percent. Sloan’s management style was already paying off in sales. Soon it would also pay off in a bigger way, by helping to stabilize America in the depths of the Depression.

When the United Auto Workers union was founded in Detroit in 1935, some of its leaders included radicals prepared to overthrow the status quo by violence. The UAW struck General Motors as the largest automaker in the world. Led by the communist Wyndham Mortimer and the socialist Walter Reuther, the UAW seized control of GM plants at the end of 1936 by means of sit-in strikes.


Sloan’s constructive settlement

Alfred P. SloanSloan cooperated with Michigan’s governor and avoided a strike-breaking intervention by federal troops because he negotiated effectively with strike leaders and with John L. Lewis, who headed the United Mine Workers but had a larger vision for industrial unions like the UAW. Lewis had switched his support to President Franklin Roosevelt in the recent national elections, and FDR recognized an opportunity to support a friend rather than antagonize revolutionaries.

Henry FordSloan accepted the UAW as the workers’ representative and set a standard for reasoned mutual accommodation between labor and management. Chrysler Corporation soon followed in a similar negotiated settlement with the UAW. But Ford was a different story. He hired thugs to beat up strikers including even Reuther, and by now Ford’s friendship with the Nazis and his anti-Semitism were well known.



Fortunately for America, the standard set by GM prevailed, and would be amplified a decade later under another important GM president, Charles Wilson. He negotiated agreements with the UAW to extend benefits that workers had enjoyed in boom production during WWII but later lost under the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Wilson accommodated the workers by establishing pensions, medical insurance, and wage rates adjusted to cost of living increases.


Is Sloan a preferable icon for America?

Please post your opinion below.



Richard Fitchen‘s United by Covenant: Ben’s Story is free on Amazon on Wednesday, December 3. Download and enjoy the first book published in An American Saga series.