January 17, 2015

200 Years Ago

The winter of 1814-15 had been the darkest for America since the grim season of Valley Forge. As during that earlier crisis, the very existence of the republic was in danger. Federalists in Hartford plotted against the administration and perhaps against the Union, while a powerful British land and sea force prepared to invade the American South and slice the nation from bottom to top. Easterners and especially visitors to Washington, where the blackened ruins of the Capitol and the White House stood starkly amid a heavy December snowfall, couldn't imagine that the British might fail to defeat the motley regiments of a general who had bested Indians but never confronted a real army....

The Boston Gazette made no secret where its seditious hopes lay.  "Is there a Federalist, a patriot in America, who conceives his duty to shed blood for Bonaparte, for Madison and Jefferson and that host of ruffians in Congress who have set their faces against us for years, and spirited up the brutal part of the populace to destroy us? Not one. Shall we, then, any longer be held in slavery and driven to desperate poverty by such a graceless faction?"

... And then, across the frozen fields and barren hopes of February, a blessed zephyr blew in from the South. Andrew Jackson had stood before New Orleans and defeated Wellington's invincibles. The South was secure, and with it the West. And New England also, for the defeatism that fed the secessionist dreams of the radical Federalists evaporated in the sudden glow of Jackson's triumph. Never had the mood of the nation changed so quickly, from despair to confidence. The republic survived. The Union was saved.

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times, by H.W. Brands, pp. 284-285

One can hardly read any portion of this book without being caught up in the similarities of our nation two hundred years ago, and our nation - indeed our world - today.  People and their fault-finding against those in leadership; the bloody fights for control, power, and human rights; and differences made by a few persons of influence are all here in this book as they are in world today.