The earliest occurrence of what church historians call a jeremiad happened before there was a United States. In 1670, only 50 years after the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Reverend Samuel Danforth offered a harsh assessment of the colonists’ “errand into the wilderness.”
What I knew about Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, was pretty much confined to the popular image of him: he was the hero of the battle of New Orleans and a “man of the people.” After reading Jon Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, I have new appreciation for Jackson and a new understanding of how critical his presidency was.
Americans who have been living under a large, soundproof rock for the past year or so may be forgiven for not knowing that February marked the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The rest of us have no excuse, and the nation’s publishers have certainly done their part to ensure that no aspect of the 16th president’s life is overlooked.
During the third debate of the 2000 presidential election, then–vice president Al Gore stepped away from his podium and wandered over to George W. Bush’s side of the stage while Bush was answering a question. Observers were perplexed. Was Gore attempting to establish an alpha-male persona?
Illinois claims Abraham Lincoln as a native son, because even though he was not born in the state, he settled in Springfield, which is where he practiced law, entered politics, married and raised his children. We Presbyterians like to claim him too, though he never formally joined a church and his parents were Separate Baptists.
In September 1862, Union troops were soundly defeated by Confederate forces led by Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee at Manassas Junction, Virginia. The North called it the Second Battle of Bull Run.
Allen Guelzo’s book leads us into contested territory. For more than a generation after the Civil War, Francis B. Carpenter’s painting “The Emancipation Proclamation,” portraying Lincoln as the great emancipator, occupied an honored place in many American—including African American—homes.
My brother was the first to call. We chatted about Barry Bonds: What justice is there in his going four for 27 in the 1991 play-offs as a Pittsburgh Pirate (our favorite team as young fans), and then, as a San Francisco Giant, hitting 73 home runs, four of them in his last six times at bat? Suddenly my brother let me have it. “Are you sure it was the Second Inaugural?” he asked.