About Me

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I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two young adult children who I love very much. I currently volunteer at Antietam and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. Since 2013 I have been conducting in depth research on the regular artillery companies of the Union Army and their leaders. I hope to turn this into a book on this subject in the future. My perspective comes from a 28-year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Impending Crisis

I am currently reading David Potter’s monumental work The Impending Crisis America Before the Civil War 1848-1861 (New York: Harper, 1976). 

In his chapter titled the Political Parties in Metamorphosis, I read this passage on political parties.  Potter is discussing the Whig and Democratic parties in the decades before the Civil War.  In view of repeated failures of our modern legislative branch to legislate, (the Super Committee being the latest example) I found Potter’s words on the characteristics of the American political parties very interesting.  I keep coming back to this paragraph on page 226. 

Relatively unencumbered by ideological mission, the two parties did not have enough intellectual focus to offer voters clear-cut alternatives.  Thus they failed in one of the classic functions theoretically ascribed to political parties. But if they defaulted in this way, they performed admirably another equally important if less orthodox function: the promoted consensus rather than divisiveness.  By encouraging men to seek a broad basis of popular support, they nourished cohesiveness within a community and avoided sharpening the cutting edge of disagreement to dangerous keenness.  Without ideological agreement as a basis for cohesiveness, the parties could still cultivate unity, based upon the practical need that diverse groups may have for one another’s support.

I rarely use this blog as a political forum.  However, I truly believe that we are at the other end of the pendulum these days.  There is to much intellectual focus.  The alternatives are clear-cut nowadays.  But what our leaders seem to posses in abundance in clarity of position, they forfeit in ability to promote consensus and fail to seek broad basis of popular support.  The American people clearly recognize the problems.  But our leaders seem incapable of working together to make decisions. Now this very divisiveness that is so well promoted in the 21st century could very well mean our decline.  Nothing is getting done.  We cant stand further putting off of the key decisions that need to be made right now. Henry Clay, John Q. Adams, Daniel Webster, Stephen Douglas, and John Calhoun have been replaced by Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Nancy Pelosi, prisoners of their own special interest keepers.  There are many times to hold firm to our ideological standards but surrendering any idea of compromise or bipartisanship all the time is unacceptable. 

Impending Crisis then or now?  But that’s just me. 

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