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Author Topic: American History  (Read 29444 times)
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Bob
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« Reply #1275 on: October 13, 2007, 08:16:15 PM »

Earlier in the discussion we were tallking about the GIlded Age and when it ended. Today I was reading HEAD AND HEART by Gary Wills and, typical of Wills, one of his asides answered the question in a very general, but interesting way:

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Eras in history have soft edges. They are retrospective constructs.People living through the Middle Ages did not know they were doing so, and they could have no sense when the Late Antiquity faded out and when the Renaissance began to dawn. Nonetheless, looking back, we can tell that one time  was in large ways different from another, and we try to give labels that will indicate that difference...there is no one click that shifts us out of one period into another. (Wills, 87)
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Bob
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« Reply #1276 on: October 13, 2007, 08:23:12 PM »

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at the time the country was begun, it was land that had the most value [/quote]

On the contrary, land was dirt cheap when the country began. While I agree with most of your post, I want to point out that I found the beginning of the book most interesting in that he dispellsthe myth that the early settlers seized the Indian lands and disregarded their rights of ownership and possession. He quite accurately points out that the governing authorities insisted that the lands be purchased, not seized. It was only after the Revolution or thereabouts that this was forgotten and the tragedies really began.
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Bob
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« Reply #1277 on: October 13, 2007, 08:29:35 PM »

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''Electricity and modern science have made it possible for us to do this thing''

It seems to me that this is one of the more important statements in this section of the book. Progress always requires a convergence of sorts in order to occur. In this case there was no use in constructing tunnels unless there was a feasible way of solving the smoke problem (and of stopping a train mid-tunnel)--thus two things had to occur prior to the construction of  long tunnels---air brakes, a la Westinghouse and electricity to solve the smoke dillema.

You couldn't have brakemen running along the cars in a tunnel in case of an emergency in the tunnel--it was impractical along with being super-dangerous.
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weezo
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« Reply #1278 on: October 13, 2007, 11:16:36 PM »

Bob,

If you have received and read the Jamestown Narratives yet, you may have noticed that at no time did the Jamestown community ever buy land from the Powhatans. The took the land by force, provoked by the Native's choice to "just say no", to buying what they were not willing to sell. In the Massachusetts colony, there was also a lot of land that was acquired by murdering the Natives, often women and children, and taking over the fields.

Yes, it did get worse after the colonies became a nation, but I would not go so far as to excuse the behavior of even the earliest colonists. Considering material in Alan Taylor's American Colonies and another book on the Pennsylvania negotiators (one you recommended), I have to conclude that the best behavior was by the Pennsylvania colony over either Virginia or Massachusetts.

You are correct that land was cheap, but it was what the colonists valued most, and was the reason they took the long trip to the New World. By the actions of squatters and other settlers who allowed their animals to despoil the forests from being a good game preserve, they devalued the land in the eyes of the Natives, as surely as someone who burns down your house, devalues your property and induces you to sell it for what it was worth before it was despoiled and made of less value to you. The same happens if someone/s continually toss their trash and refuse on your property and you despair of ever being able to keep it clean. In the absence of a strong government action to keep such activities from despoiling your property, you will abandon it or sell it for less than it is worth.

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thanatopsy
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« Reply #1279 on: October 14, 2007, 12:00:43 AM »

Progress always requires a convergence of sorts in order to occur.


Interesting comment.

I wondered why trolleys were not used and came across an article entitled ''Will Try Underground Trolleys'' in the NY Times archives: 

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E02E5D61F39E033A25752C1A9609C94659ED7CF


You'll find it on PDF which I can't use as it locks my PC. If you can convert it to html or some other accessible mode, please do so.

The article shows that the technology was available and, it would seem, cheaper than railroads.  Luckily, the French developed the tech that enabled the PRR to use electrified trains.
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« Reply #1280 on: October 14, 2007, 01:34:01 PM »

Weezo:

With regard to Jamestown, see Banner's exception noted on pages 31 and 32. He acknowledges the problem of Jamestown and the very earliest settlements. I am not defending the wrongs done by the settler, but merely, like Banner, trying to point out the errors made by people in assessing the reality of what went on between, say, 1650 and 1750. That's a hundred year period during which, for the most part--not totally, but for the most part, Indian property rights were acknowledged and respected. Many exceptions this can be brought up, but the generality that the colonists totally disregarded the property rights of the American Indian is wrong and I give Banner credit for pointing that out.

Also keep in mind that the American Indian despoiled the countryside also. The proposition that they were some sort of environmental saints is an iullusion. Indians didn't confine their sales to despoiled lands, but rather sold huge tracts of perfectly good acreage. Part of what was wrong in some of the sales was that individual Indians were selling lands they had no authority to sell. There were wrongs on both sides.
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Bob
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« Reply #1281 on: October 14, 2007, 01:59:07 PM »

thanatopsy:

Convergence merely means that certain discoveries or inventions had to be made before the next step could occur...there has to be a convergence of the idea and the technology necessary to effectuate it. Both have to come together to produce a practical result.

DaVinci's helicopter like device was impossible because the technology was absent in his day.

I tried six ways to Sunday to get a copy of the UNDERGROUND TROLLEY article onto a format where I could put on in this response. It won't come of PDF for anything.  Anyway, it describes how the Broadway Traction Company  planned to build a underground trolley system using what we would call today a third rail system. Of course we know now it does work. The system name is Siemens-Halske. (Let me look that up). The article is only  about 200 words or so and says in part taat if that system doesn't work the Traction Company will opt for a cable substitute.

Thearticle concludes on an interesting note: "The system of electric traction which is to be used is practically the same which was so minutely described in the New York Times some time ago. The offer of the Broadway Traction Company of a reward of $50,000 for a successful underground system has been withdrawn."

The article was published on June 11, 1894.
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Bob
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« Reply #1282 on: October 14, 2007, 02:14:39 PM »

Siemens-Halskie was a German electrical engineering corporation which was highly successful at what they did....by the way, there's a follow up  on the underground trolley system--an article  which gives the testimony of the President of the corporation....I have to go out now, but I'll post on it later.
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Bob
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« Reply #1283 on: October 14, 2007, 04:49:42 PM »

The  President and General Manager of the Traction Company testified the following year that the system was not only working, but doing quite well. Changes were necessary but would be implimented during the next year (1896). It reported men worked 9 1/4 hours and that it has 650 horse cars and employed 2,800 operatives. The dispute of the year was a demand that the company provide a seat for each passenger, to which the company responded it would be impossible and that as of now there would be 200,000 passengers stranded at their station of origin (nothing changed in 100 years, has it?) Income was  $6,000,000, taxes paid were $439,000. The company paid a $3 dividend to its stockholders. The president pointed out that most of the cost of the new system wasn't its installation, but the cost of moving the various electrical, gas and water lines which were in the way of the new system.No injuries were reported by electricution (they used the word "electrolysis"--which now has a different meaning)...There was mention of George J Gould being called before committee, but his status in the company is unclear. He is called its president, but in other sections Albert J. Ellis is mentioned as President as is H.H. Vreeeland

Badly written article--dated December 4, 1895
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madupont
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« Reply #1284 on: October 14, 2007, 05:30:31 PM »


Bob,

If you have received and read the Jamestown Narratives yet, you may have noticed that at no time did the Jamestown community ever buy land from the Powhatans. The took the land by force, provoked by the Native's choice to "just say no", to buying what they were not willing to sell. In the Massachusetts colony, there was also a lot of land that was acquired by murdering the Natives, often women and children, and taking over the fields.

Yes, it did get worse after the colonies became a nation, but I would not go so far as to excuse the behavior of even the earliest colonists. Considering material in Alan Taylor's American Colonies and another book on the Pennsylvania negotiators (one you recommended), I have to conclude that the best behavior was by the Pennsylvania colony over either Virginia or Massachusetts.

You are correct that land was cheap, but it was what the colonists valued most, and was the reason they took the long trip to the New World. By the actions of squatters and other settlers who allowed their animals to despoil the forests from being a good game preserve, they devalued the land in the eyes of the Natives, as surely as someone who burns down your house, devalues your property and induces you to sell it for what it was worth before it was despoiled and made of less value to you. The same happens if someone/s continually toss their trash and refuse on your property and you despair of ever being able to keep it clean. In the absence of a strong government action to keep such activities from despoiling your property, you will abandon it or sell it for less than it is worth.




Weezo, do you remember the title of the Merrill book that you were recently reading? If so post for me, I recall we used one  previously by Merrill when we were at nytimes.com but I can't find my slip with the rest of the details.

Thanks in advance!
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weezo
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« Reply #1285 on: October 14, 2007, 06:56:42 PM »

Maddie,

Have it right here - "Into The American Woods - Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier" by James H. Merrell.

This book, and Alan Taylors, combined with the "How The Indians Lost Their Land" gives me a perception that the Pennsylvania colony was a bit better than either Massachusetts or Virginia in how they acquired the lands of the Indians. Rhode Island also purchased the land they colonized, and at a fair price.

I disagree with Bob that the fact that Indians were induced by alcohol and cash to sign away land that wasn't theirs, made it OK for the settlers to dispossess the Indians of their lands. If the courts had been functioning fairly, they would have negated those illegal sales. The Natives should have been given the idea that if they were dispossessed unfairly, the courts would make it right.

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Bob
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« Reply #1286 on: October 14, 2007, 08:41:20 PM »

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I disagree with Bob that the fact that Indians were induced by alcohol and cash to sign away land that wasn't theirs, made it OK for the settlers to dispossess the Indians of their lands. If the courts had been functioning fairly, they would have negated those illegal sales. The Natives should have been given the idea that if they were dispossessed unfairly, the courts would make it right.

Weezo: Please be  very careful not to read anything into what I post. I never said  "Indians were induced by alcohol and cash to sign away land that wasn't theirs, made it OK for the settlers to dispossess the Indians of their lands." I said that Indians sold lands which weren't theirs. The exact quote is as follows: "Part of what was wrong in some of the sales was that individual Indians were selling lands they had no authority to sell. There were wrongs on both sides"  That is all I said.

See page 68 et seq.  in Banner  on the problem of individual Indians selling lands they had no right to sell.


 
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madupont
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« Reply #1287 on: October 14, 2007, 09:34:58 PM »

weezo, thank you but...

Whoops! don't kid yourself,"gives me a perception that the Pennsylvania colony was a bit better than either Massachusetts or Virginia in how they acquired the lands of the Indians."

I once asked Bob about something that had to do with when I lived down the road from the "Buchanan church", and I wanted to know the exact location of where the baptized Indians were massacred  after they were dragged out of protective custody at what is now the Fulton Theater in downtown Lancaster.  He pointed out to me that it is approximately in the vicinity of the Millersville Theater or just beyond. Where I no longer go to the movies although I do believe that I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 there. The last occasion that I was there, I could feel the vibration of the structure as the audience exited that particular theater when they descended the bleacher formation that is the current design of movie theaters. Not that this has anything to do with the group of Indians who immediately were martyred directly to sainthood by comparison to their attackers.   As years went by Millersville University was built further along as a school of "religion".

In the last few years, I have heard more or read more on this "incident" from a newspaper account I found glassed and framed hanging in the hallway of an old tobacco building located just past the intersection of Route 23 and Route 322 when I went to the Mennonite seamstress to have a dress shortened.  There was a display of antiquities set around the hall and this frame which I'd never seen before and as I began to read out of curiosity, I said outloud,"I know what this is about..." I probably should go back and read it again so that I do not incorrectly quote the further details of that unfortunate story.

It apparently seemed justified in the texts as an explanation  for how Native Americans reacted to whitemen coming west but frankly this part of Pennsylvania is not that distant from the coast.  The notion that hostile Indians were "dry gulching white settlers venturing into these parts" is somewhat strange as a justification for finding some handy Native-Americans to make an example of or with which to set an example of what would happen if raids upon white men continued. I realize that "Englishmen"  had not been here in quite the numbers by the time of the killing of baptized Indians, compared to the few in the time when William Penn was himself here to survey directly across from the Buchanan church considered the first on the frontier. It later became an Episcopal church, St. John of Compass; Buchanan had only served as a layman exhorting the congregation from the pulpit because they had no available clergyman.

Years later, the hills beyond to the Northwest became the hiding place of runaway slaves on Welsh Mountain, a fact I did not know until about a year ago. Three who were vouched for as local servants are buried off in the brush at the edge of the cemetery according to old custom that they be buried separate from whites.  But this region was rife with racial incidents, very similar to the incident of the "baptized Indians", if you go about 20 minutes south from Compass to Christiana, another nothing happening off the side road, you learn about the freemen who were dragged back across the Maryland line beyond Rising Sun by the paddyrollers,while the neighbours watched and  the black farmer's farm was burned. You can not find a stone of it indicating where it stood.  I merely happened to walk into the library on a day during what is called Black History month, and there was a display, emblazoned with a headline from The New York Times to the effect that Philadelphia Abolitionists are  "perturbed" by incident at Christiana. I think that we talked about this more recently in terms of theatricals in New York and US generally in regard to the "diva of the day", the actress who went South after she had married a man whom she seemed not to understand was a slave-owner until she got there. They met at a performance in Philadelphia when she was on tour from England.  She ended up having to manage his plantation  for him as he was "a nare-do-well" as many planters have been. Stranger things have happened.
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thanatopsy
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« Reply #1288 on: October 15, 2007, 06:10:50 PM »

Jonnes does a great job of portraying Cassatt as a man of integrity who pledged to ''make our fight aboveboard''. Mayor Seth Low, like William Baldwin, would not stand for bribery unlike the Democratic Tammany boss Richard Croker {his line, ''I'm looking out for my pocket'' is a classic!} or his Republican rival Senator Platt.

But it seems like the author is making a commercial for PRR by overselling the idea of its niceness on pp 101-103.

Big Wig August Belmont remained unenthused about the tunnel project as he feared it would cut into his subway revenues.  And the news media (largely led by Randolph Hearst) objected as they feared ''boodle'' or  unclean monies being exchanged in the name of favoritism. After intense lobbying and negotiations a permanent franchise was awarded to PRR as the majority of the City's alderman approved Cassatt's plan.

''We are not making a mistake'' despite fears of engineering difficulties in the tunnels and in the terminal area.  After an intense search, the architectural firm of Mckim, Mean, & White is enlisted for the design of that terminal. A complication arose as Tammany's McClellan is newly elected as mayor. But the plan proceeds.


Chs 13-15
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« Reply #1289 on: October 15, 2007, 08:02:58 PM »

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But it seems like the author is making a commercial for PRR by overselling the idea of its niceness on pp 101-103.

I think you are on the mark there. That's part of the reason I brought up the subject of Tom Scott---no hero was he to me....the PRR was at that point the world's largest corporation and was hardly a candidate for corporate sainthood. Don't forget it spawned Andrew Carnegie and Scott taught his much of what he knew.  Anyhow, regardless  of that I  think the book is rally good.
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