Ben: An American Dad, 1921-1986, Part I: Introduction: “The only father we had”

[Note:  Between 2017 and 2019, I published here a series of posts based on the writings of my late mother, Elsie Elizabeth (Betts) Lamplugh (1923-2013).  Betts’ writings included a brief history of her Dobson-Knighton family and, more importantly, a memoir she whimsically titled “Slub of Slife,” covering her–and the Lamplugh family’s–life through 1964.  As several of you have reminded me, this kind of personal information from a parent is unusual.

But, as they say, “it takes two to tango,” and the other dancer in our family story was Betts’ husband, and our father, Benjamin (Ben) Leroy Lamplugh (1921-1986). Almost as soon as I started putting up the “Betts” posts, I realized that I should do something similar for Ben, but I also understood that creating a companion series would be more difficult.

These “Ben” posts will not be as detailed about their subject as those in the earlier series were about Betts. Ben left neither a family history nor a personal memoir that I could cannibalize and edit, as I did for Betts.  I had waited too long to talk with him, and, for that matter, with his siblings and other relatives.  Some of the information I  have about Ben comes from Betts’ memoir.  To supplement it, there are a few primary documents available (e.g., birth, marriage, and death certificates; sketchy military records; a few letters), as well as some photographs.  

More than was the case with Betts’ story, then, this account of Ben’s life, especially his years as a husband and father, will be an exercise in what historians call “oral history,” drawing upon memories my siblings and I have of him in his role as our dad.  We’ve been dredging these up, sharing our reflections, and compiling them in a series of “mini-reunions” (masquerading as “vacations”) over the past few years. (Judy, Rick, and I have enjoyed the process of “researching” our father, but our spouses understandably have not been as excited.)]

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Ben Lamplugh (c. 1960)

Here is a quick sketch of Ben Lamplugh, with details to follow, in later posts.  He was stocky, red-headed, usually quiet, and skilled with his hands.  He might, or might not, have graduated from high school. One of us remembers hearing that he was a “lapsed Catholic,” but the others are not so sure.  Ben was a member of “The Greatest Generation,” who did his duty during World II but never saw combat, though not for lack of trying.  In sum, after all these years, his children still have questions about him.

After the war, Ben took advantage of the G.I. Bill, apprenticing as a carpenter at a boat-building firm near Baltimore, Maryland, the first step in what became a long career as a blue collar laborer. His upbringing had not prepared him well for fatherhood, but he did the best he could to keep his growing family fed, clothed, and housed, trying to fulfill the one role in life he seemed sure of, that the husband was the “head of the house,” and, thus, by definition, the “breadwinner.”  Ben pursued a series of full- and part-time jobs, but money was always an issue in the Lamplugh household.  

Ben was not, at first, prepared gracefully to accept his wife Betts’ desire to return to the workforce once their three children were in school.  Because of the demands of his various jobs, Ben was a distant father.  He’d arrive home late for dinner many nights, then fall into his recliner, with a beer and a cigarette, and nod off before the television set.  

The family owned one car, which Ben always needed when his part-time jobs required him to work on the weekends. Family vacations were few, but Ben occasionally could be persuaded to drive the family somewhere (anywhere!), to visit our grandparents in Delaware, for example, or to have a picnic along a Maryland highway.  

Ben loved his family as much as he was able, and he worked hard to fulfill the role of father in the 1950s.  Still, Ozzie Nelson (of “Ozzie and Harriet” fame) or Jim Anderson (“Father Knows Best”) Ben was not.  He also didn’t relish the role of disciplinarian that Betts sometimes required of him when her efforts to bring order to the household fell short of success.  In frustration, Betts would warn the kids, “Just wait until your father comes home!”  When Ben arrived, Betts dumped the disciplinary issue de jour into his lap and left him to settle it.  We kids could tell just by looking at him that Ben would rather be anywhere else at that moment! 

As those of you who’ve read the “Betts” series know, our parents’ marriage hit the skids in the summer of 1964, and divorce soon followed.  Ben spent the next twenty-two years as a single man, though he did not always live alone.  His relationships with his children were a mixed bag, to say the least.  He died a few weeks short of his sixty-sixth birthday.

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So, Ben Lamplugh did the best he could with what he had.  If his upbringing had unsuited him to be the stereotypical warm, fuzzy father figure who ruled television sitcoms in the 1950s, Ben surely wasn’t alone in that failure.  His view of Betts’ role in the family was the traditional one, when American society had begun to move in a different direction.  He struggled to come to terms with those and other socio-economic changes, only to see his marriage and his family dissolve before his eyes. And we doubt that he ever quite understood why.

My sister Judy summarized her view of our father this way: “He wanted a certain kind of life but had no earthly idea how to go about getting it.  He just dealt with what presented itself to him and then moved on to wait for the next shoe to fall.  I think that’s why he drank, because it was easier than trying to do something.”

My brother Rick put it this way:  Ben “might not always have been the father we wanted, but he was the only father we had.”

And I believe that Rick’s description might well serve as the theme for the rest of this series.

End of Part I

Copyright 2019 George Lamplugh

[Next:  Part 2: The Wedding Photograph]

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)


Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in American History, Delaware, family history, genealogy, Historical Reflection, History, memoir, Popular Culture, Research, Retirement, Uncategorized, WP Long Read | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The “Lost Cause,” and Frederick Douglass’s Response: Teaching Civil Rights, 13

[Note: Here we are near the end of the second decade of the twentieth-first century, and we as a nation are still arguing about statues to Confederate leaders, generic marble remembrances of the “Confederate Soldier,” and other public efforts to recognize the losing side in the American Civil War, the central cause of which was slavery.  One current effort to place such things into context involves trying to explain to modern-day Americans what the “Lost Cause” was, a successful endeavor by Southern apologists to “prettify” the history of slavery and the Confederacy and, at the same time, implicitly to denigrate the history of the Union side in the Civil War. Or, as I used to tell my Advanced Placement United States History students, “The South lost the war but won the peace.”

Currently, I’m reading David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, and I just came across a couple of passages near the end of the volume that explain what the “Lost Cause” entailed, and, more importantly in my view, how the most prominent African American of the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras, Frederick Douglass, responded to this effort to obscure the importance of slavery in bringing on the war and  obfuscate what was behind the whole “Lost Cause” business.]

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Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, by David W. Blight (NPR.org)

Over the last two decades or so, the study of the Civil War and its significance for the American story has undergone a sea change. No longer do most historians hammer away at what they see as an obvious fact, one not worth debating: slavery was the primary cause of the War. Instead, historians have struggled to explain why that, to them, incontrovertible fact has still not swept all before it.

The obvious answer to their question is that social, political, economic, and cultural factors coalesced over the last quarter of the nineteenth century to undercut the primacy of the slavery question as the key factor in bringing on the conflict. Once more, we are immersed in trying to separate facts from interpretations.

A significant response to this controversy has been the rise of what’s known as the study of “Civil War Memory.” Historians of “Civil War Memory” set aside the “who shot John?” aspects of the war and concentrate instead on explaining what Northerners and Southerners remember about the conflict and, more significantly, why they remember it that way.

The study of “historical memory” is a subset of what’s termed “intellectual history.” Rather than stressing abstract ideas, as intellectual history does, though, “historical memory” focuses on context: what made Southerners understand the causes of the Civil War one way and Northerners another, and how did those understandings shape their approaches to the subject in subsequent historical periods? Both camps begin with the same set of facts, yet, in trying to make sense of the past, each side selects certain facts to use and emphasize while ignoring or discarding others that don’t fit their preconceptions.

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A master of the “Civil War Memory” school of interpretation is David W. Blight of Yale University. Over the past two decades, Blight has contributed at least three substantial volumes that advance our knowledge about why we (whoever “we” are) probably think of the Civil War as we do:

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001), carries the story from the end of the War through the early twentieth century.

American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (2011), a wonderful meditation on how, during the 1960s, writers such as Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin established the historical context within which Americans living during the decade of the “Civil War Centennial” (including the present author) understood the causes, course, and consequences of the War.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018), the subject of today’s post. This substantial biography of the best-known African American in the nineteenth century offers a wealth of information to readers interested in slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Post-Reconstruction Era (AKA, the “Age of Jim Crow”), and, especially, what both Blight and Douglass considered a battle for the historical memory of that significant period in the American story. And it is from this volume that I’m drawing material regarding both the components of the “Lost Cause” ideology and the response of Frederick Douglass to that doctrine.

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By the early 1870s, Frederick Douglass was editing a paper in Washington, D.C., the New National Era, and hammering away at the “Lost Cause” thesis. Here is how Blight summarizes what Douglass was saying (it’s the best concise, clear, and comprehensive explanation of what proponents of the “Lost Cause” mythology were trying to achieve that I’ve seen):

[Douglass] realized the power of the “Lost Cause” as both a historical argument and a racial ideology. The Lost Cause was in these early years essentially an explanation of defeat and a set of beliefs in search of a history—ex-Confederates’ contentions that they had never been defeated on battlefields but by the Northern leviathan of industrial might; that they had never fought for slavery but for state sovereignty and homeland; that the South’s racially ordered civilization had been tragically crushed by Yankee invasion; and that “just” causes can lose militarily but with time regain the moral and political high ground. . . . (Douglass, 530)

Frederick Douglass was a great defender of the presidency of Ulysses Grant, and, in supporting Grant for re-election in 1872, he was quite willing to look to the past as a way to frame Grant’s candidacy in the best possible light. Douglass’s response to the “Lost Cause” ideology in this context, as summarized by Blight, is particularly good:

He [Douglass] was fond of reviving the passions of the war, putting them to the ends of justice. In 1870, he provided in his paper a list of “great truths” that the nation should never forget: that the “Copperhead Democracy” had started the war “for the purpose of extending and rendering perpetual the foul curse of slavery”; that in the war “these rebel Democrats slaughtered a quarter of a million brave loyal men”; that “they wounded and disabled a quarter of a million more”; that “they made full a million of widows or orphans”; and that “these same rebel Democrats” now demanded that they be restored to power. By invoking these stark images, Douglass demonstrated that for him the bloody shirt appealed for more than votes; it meant that he was ready to play the role of grand master of Northern and national memory, offering an explicit refutation of the Confederate Lost Cause tradition. Democrats, Douglass warned with characteristic harshness, “are the apostles of forgetfulness. . . and no wonder, for their pathway has been strewn with the whitened bones of their countrymen.” (Douglass, 533)

Things were looking even bleaker for African Americans a decade later, now that the third branch of the American government had entered the fray:

The Supreme Court had just eviscerated [in the Civil Rights Cases (1883)] one of the greatest achievements of Reconstruction [the Fourteenth Amendment].  From the Slaughter-House Cases of 1873, to United States v. Cruikshank in 1876, and on down to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence consistently embraced a states’ rights interpretation of equal protection of the law.  A conservative conception of federalism, a reluctance to sanction federal enforcement of civil and political rights, much less intervention, in the states gave racial equality a tenuous and ultimately disastrous trajectory in American courts.  . . . The Republicans who wrote the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments tragically retreated from their own creation with a stultified constitutional imagination.  (Douglass, 646-647)

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David Blight is a felicitous writer who has spent nearly twenty years trying to understand Frederick Douglass, and the importance  of  “historical memory.”  I very much like Blight’s summary of “Lost Cause” ideology.  Douglass’ take on that set of ideas is perhaps open for criticism, given that he gradually became a Republican Party functionary whose facility in “waving the bloody shirt” made him a key member in each presidential campaign through 1892. You certainly don’t have to agree with me, but I encourage you to read Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass for yourself.  In fact, any and all of Professor Blight’s books are worth a look.

David W. Blight (simonandschuster.com)

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in ""state rights", Age of Jim Crow, American History, Books, Civil Rights Movement, Current Events, Education, Historical Reflection, History, Popular Culture, Research, Retirement, Southern History, Uncategorized, WP Long Read | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

State Rights, Nullification, and Indian Removal in Georgia, Part 2 (In Pursuit of Dead Georgians, 31)

[Note:  In Part 1 of this post, we looked at the development of the political philosophy of “state rights” in Georgia.  Originally a product of–what else?–the Yazoo Land Fraud, the concept of “state rights” subsequently was developed by Georgia Congressman–and, later, Governor–George M. Troup.  Troup used “state rights” to justify opposition to the Yazoo Land Fraud, while he was a member of Congress in the 1790s.  When he became Governor of Georgia in the 1820s, however, Troup stretched “state rights” to buttress the state’s long-running effort to oust the Creeks.  But, of course, the Creeks were one of two Native American tribes with land claims in Georgia, the other being the Cherokees.

John C. Calhoun (Wikipedia)

Moreover, according to John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, the idea of a “protective tariff” also violated “state rights,” which led him to concoct a more detailed approach to defending “southern rights” against an overreaching national government, Nullification.  Relations between the states of Georgia and South Carolina and the government in Washington were about to get very “interesting,” especially once Calhoun became Vice-President under the newly-elected President–and ardent nationalist–Andrew Jackson.]

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Governor John Forsyth (Wikipedia)

When it became clear that Georgia had won the tussle over Creek lands by 1827, the editor of a Milledgeville newspaper crowed that the Cherokees’ turn had come. Although they  had made several land cessions to the federal government since 1802, the Cherokees still retained about five million acres in 1819 and refused to cede additional territory. Georgia authorities called upon the federal government to remove the tribe by force, in accordance with the terms of the “Compact of 1802.”  Georgia’s new governor, John Forsyth, even predicted to Democratic heavyweight Martin van Buren in February 1828 that “our State affairs with the General Government as far as it regards Indian lands will be arranged satisfactorily to us.”

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Editor Elias Boudinot, “Cherokee Phoenix”

Meanwhile, the Cherokee Nation was becoming “civilized,” as the whites understood that term.  The tribe abandoned hunting for farming; some began to produce crops for market, and the largest Cherokee planters even owned slaves.  In the early 1820s, the Cherokees adopted an alphabet, laying the basis for a written language, written laws, and, in 1828, a tribal newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, edited by Elias Boudinot, a Cherokee.

Moreover, in 1827, the Cherokees also adopted a written republican constitution modeled on that of the United States.  This outraged white Georgians, who charged that it was intended to create a state within a state, and, thus, was an unacceptable attack on Georgia’s sovereignty.  Georgia continued to insist that the federal government must fulfill the Compact of 1802 by securing Cherokee lands, or the state would be forced to act unilaterally, as it had against the Creeks.

In 1828, the discovery of gold in the Cherokee Nation and the election to the presidency of Andrew Jackson, who supported Georgia’s Indian policy, brought the question of Cherokee removal into the open.

In 1829, the Cherokee National Council made any cessions of tribal land without Council permission a capital offense.  In December, Georgia reasserted sovereignty over Cherokee territory, annexing and extending Georgia laws over it; prohibiting their Tribal Council from meeting in Georgia (except to cede lands); forbidding Indian mining of gold found on Cherokee lands; and requiring an oath of allegiance to Georgia from all whites living in the Cherokee Nation, to weaken the influence of Christian missionaries there.  These provisions were to go into effect in June 1830.

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By mid-1829, thanks largely to news and editorials originally published in the Cherokee Phoenix, public opinion outside the South was harshly critical of Georgia’s heavy-handed Indian policy and of President Jackson’s support of it.  Once Congress, at Jackson’s urging, passed the Indian Removal Act in May 1830, aligning the executive and legislative branches of the national government with Georgia and against the Cherokees, the tribe’s last chance lay with the federal judiciary.

In February 1830, a Georgia newspaper explicitly linked Indian removal to state rights in a long editorial.  If the federal government decided that Georgia had no power over the Cherokees, the editor wrote, then the “rights and sovereignty of the States are destroyed, and the federal government becomes omnipotent by swallowing up all the powers which the States regained when they confederated [during the era of the American Revolution–through the Articles of Confederation, the nation’s ‘first constitution,’ which of course was eventually replaced by the more famous ‘Constitution of the United States,’ thanks to  the Philadelphia Convention in the summer of 1787].”

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Governor George R. Gilmer

A few months later, when the Cherokees’ legal counsel asked Georgia Governor George Gilmer to support the tribe’s effort to have the Supreme Court determine their status under the Constitution, Gilmer was furious, thundering that for him to do so could only “be considered disrespectful to the Government of the State.”

Governor Wilson Lumpkin (Wikepedia)

When the Marshall court finally came down on the side of the Cherokees in the case of Worcester v. Georgia (1832), President Jackson refused to enforce its ruling.  Georgia had a new governor by then, Wilson Lumpkin.  Upon taking office in November 1831, Lumpkin had written Jackson, suggesting that the proper approach to the Cherokees “must partake largely of a military character, and consequently be more absolute and despotic than would be admissible, or necessary” in a more civilized area. (So much for the Cherokee effort to adopt white standards of “civilization” as their own!)  The President responded to Lumpkin after the Worcester ruling, repeating what he’d already told members of the state’s congressional delegation:  Georgia must do nothing to give the federal courts an opening to intervene on behalf of the Cherokees.

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At a time when South Carolina threatened to nullify the tariff on state rights grounds, and Georgia rejected the Supreme Court’s pro-Cherokee Worcester decision for the same reason, critics concluded that there really was no difference between the Palmetto State’s “Nullification” and Georgia’s “State Rights.”  A writer in a pro-Jackson Milledgeville paper responded that Georgians could distinguish between “nullifying a general law of Congress [South Carolina] and declining obedience to an extra judicial act of the Supreme Court [Georgia].”  (Perhaps, but could anyone outside of Georgia?)

Still, until Andrew Jackson met John C. Calhoun’s challenge, it was possible, at least in Georgia, simultaneously to oppose Nullification and defend State Rights.

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President Andrew Jackson (Wikipedia)

President Jackson adopted a “carrot and stick” approach to South Carolina’s actions.  First, in December 1832, he issued the Proclamation to the People of South Carolina, declaring nullification unconstitutional and secession, its logical outcome, treason. Congress also passed a “Force Bill,” empowering the President to use the army and navy to collect the tariff if necessary.  At the same time, President Jackson offered conciliation, asking Congress to reduce tariff rates further.

The South Carolina legislature charged Jackson with acting out of personal hostility towards the state (and their senior statesman Calhoun) and challenged him to use force to collect the tariff.  The Palmetto State legislature also accused the President of inconsistency towards assertions of state rights:  although rejecting Carolina’s Nullification of the tariff, the President condoned Georgia’s  “state rights” defiance of the Supreme Court’s 1832 Worcester decision.

Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky reworked Jackson’s tariff bill into the Compromise Tariff of 1833, which was passed by Congress a few days before the introduction of the Force Bill.  It would gradually lower tariff rates until, by 1842, the maximum levy would be 20%. These measures ended the crisis.  South Carolina accepted the Compromise Tariff and rescinded its nullification ordinance.

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Jackson’s Proclamation to the People of South Carolina rang like a thunderclap across the South, and revolutionized state politics in Georgia.  The Troup and Clark parties, each of which included some members attracted to Calhoun’s Nullification scheme and others opposed to it, dissolved; two new parties formed: the Union Party, pro-Jackson and anti-Nullification; and the State Rights Party, pro-Nullification and anti-Jackson.

A Milledgeville newspaper claimed that, once a copy of the President’s South Carolina proclamation arrived in Georgia, a state representative suggested that Union Party Governor Wilson Lumpkin should pardon Cherokee missionaries imprisoned for refusing to sign a loyalty oath to Georgia; otherwise, he argued, Old Hickory might regard their continued incarceration as “treason” and use the Force Act against the state.  A few weeks later, Governor Lumpkin did pardon the missionaries, a decision his opponents attacked as “a most extraordinary act of Executive prerogative” that aided “those who have dug the grave of State Rights.”

Yet, when Governor Lumpkin, like his gubernatorial predecessors, John Forsyth and George Gilmer, refused to allow Georgia even to be represented by counsel before the Supreme Court in yet another case involving the Cherokees, his political opponents sneeringly accused him of “nullifying” the Worcester decision, while supporting President Jackson’s hard-line response to South Carolina’s effort to nullify the tariff.

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John Ridge

By that time also, John Ridge, a member of the Cherokee delegation lobbying in Washington, had heard from Cherokee supporters, and read in formerly pro-Cherokee newspapers, that the tribe had no hope of staving off emigration. President Jackson himself had told Ridge that, although the Cherokees could certainly try to remain in the East, the national government would do nothing to aid them.

As a result, John Ridge concluded that removal to the West was inevitable, and that the Cherokees must conclude a treaty on the best possible terms. He, his father Major Ridge, and his cousin, Cherokee Phoenix editor Elias Boudinot, soon organized the “Treaty Party,” to arrange that pact.

In December 1835, the Treaty Party signed the Treaty of New Echota, exchanging Cherokee lands in Georgia for territory west of the Mississippi.  Although the Treaty Party represented only a minority of the Cherokees, both President Jackson and the state of Georgia, for what I trust are obvious reasons, accepted the agreement as legitimate.

The end of the Indian removal crisis came in the winter of 1838-1839, when most remaining eastern Cherokees moved across the Mississippi along the infamous “Trail of Tears,” during which an estimated 4000 to 5000 died, all, in a sense, victims of “state rights.”  As a bloody epilogue to removal, in June 1839 several groups of Cherokees executed Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot for their part in arranging the Treaty of New Echota.

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Assessing the role of “state rights” and “Nullification” in the removal of the Creeks and the Cherokees from Georgia is a complicated undertaking.

The story opened with the Yazoo land fraud in the mid-1790s and Congressman George Troup’s state rights-based response to it; considered Yazoo’s impact on Georgia’s relations with the Creeks in the 1820s, and how Governor George Troup revised his state rights theory to include Creek removal; shifted to the South’s concern over the protective tariff in the late 1820s and early 1830s, and, especially, South Carolinian John C. Calhoun’s elaborate theory of Nullification in answer to it; and, finally, looked at how the furor over Nullification affected Georgia’s political parties and the state’s relations with the Cherokees in the 1830s.

It is a sordid story, but one that lies at the root of the development of Georgia, the South, and the nation in the decades before the Civil War.

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in American History, Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Removal, Chief John Ross (Cherokees), Creek Indians, Education, Elias Boudinot, George M. Troup, George R. Gilmer, Georgia History, Historical Reflection, History, History Teaching, John Clark, Nullification, Research, Southern History, Uncategorized, Wilson Lumpkin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Post for the Fourth of July in Georgia, 2019

Those of you who follow this blog know that I have a fondness for “annual” posts.  One of my favorite holidays is Independence Day, because it gives me a chance to assess how the nation’s seminal holiday has been celebrated in the state of Georgia since the end of the American Revolution.  As you’ll see, Georgians in the late eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries commemorated the nation’s founding in at least some ways that remain familiar to modern Americans.

Yet, in today’s unfortunately “Trump-Centric” universe, it looks like we’re on our way to celebrating the nation’s “independence” by aping the methods of the old Soviet Union,  where, on May Day, military units and the latest military weapons were paraded before the [government-] assembled masses.  During those celebrations, Soviet media outlets offered comments already approved by the government; non-Russian observers merely speculated on what the “lineup” of Soviet government officials suggested about who was “in” and who was “out.”

But, let’s take a collective deep breath and return to the state of Georgia two centuries or so ago, when the country was new, and look at how the notion of national independence was celebrated, over several decades:

https://georgelamplugh.com/2015/07/01/in-pursuit-of-dead-georgians-18-a-scrappy-fourth-of-july/

I trust that you and yours will enjoy the Fourth, in whatever way you choose to celebrate it.  That seems to me to be the essence of “Independence Day” in the twenty first-century United States–and long may it wave! (Although it probably goes without saying that those of you with small children should studiously avoid replicating most of the activities highlighted in this post!)

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in 4th of July, American History, Current Events, History, Popular Culture, Retirement, Southern (Georgia) History, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

State Rights, Nullification, and Indian Removal in Georgia, Part 1 (In Pursuit of Dead Georgians, 31)

[Note:  A friend of mine, Dr. Joseph Kitchens, retired Director of the Funk Heritage Center at Georgia’s Reinhardt University, has a knack for asking provocative questions.  A couple of years ago, for instance, we were discussing possible topics for a lecture on antebellum Georgia politics for the Funk Center’s annual celebration of the state’s history.  In the course of our discussion, Joe asked, “What were the links among state rights, nullification, and Indian removal in Georgia in the 1820s and 1830s?”   I realized that I didn’t have an answer, at least not yet, so I agreed to look into the topic.  That search eventually produced a lecture.  What follows is the first of two posts answering Dr. Kitchens’ question, or trying to; this one’s for you, Joe!]

Dr. Joseph Kitchens (Reinhardt University)

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The American Constitution is a federal one, based on one national government and subordinate state governments.  The Constitution specifies the powers delegated to the national government and those prohibited to the states; and the Tenth Amendment states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States [government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Yet, almost from the ratification of the new Constitution, questions arose about the division of authority between the national and state governments.

A major bone of contention concerned the power to determine the constitutionality of congressional laws.  This would gradually be lodged in the nation’s court system, but, until various legal precedents were acknowledged and accepted, there was much confusion over the specific rights of states in disputes with the national government. A good example of this issue is the complicated story of the relationship between the governments of Georgia and the United States from the mid-1790s through the late 1830s.  During this antebellum “cold war,” Georgia’s most versatile weapon was the concept of state rights.

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The Yazoo Lands (New Georgia Encyclopedia)

Our tale begins with the Yazoo Land Fraud of 1794-1795.  Greased by bribes from companies of land speculators, the Georgia legislature sold the state’s western territory, essentially the present-day states of Alabama and Mississippi, for $500,000.  Within a few months time, Congressman James Jackson returned to Georgia and led a determined campaign that, in 1796, rescinded the Yazoo sale.

James Jackson (UGa)

By then, however, the Yazoo companies had sold their lands to other speculators, many from New England.  Once the legislature passed the 1796 Rescinding Act, the supposedly “innocent” northern recipients of Yazoo land grants were in a fix:  they had purchased documents that apparently transferred lands to them, but the Georgia legislature voided the sale and destroyed records associated with it.

Georgia sold the “Yazoo Lands” to the federal government in the “Compact of 1802,” for $1.25 million.  More importantly to the state, the national government promised it would extinguish as quickly as possible all remaining Creek and Cherokee land claims within Georgia, when that could be done “peaceably” and “on reasonable terms.”

* * * * *

George M. Troup

With the signing of the Compact of 1802, the “innocent purchasers” of Yazoo lands turned to Congress, where Georgia Representative George M. Troup waged a “state rights” defense of Georgia’s repeal of the Yazoo sale.  Troup argued that the Yazoo Act had only passed the legislature because of corruption and had then been rescinded by outraged Georgians anxious to recover their landed heritage from a pack of crooked speculators, as it was their right to do.  Thus, Troup insisted, Congress, if it rewarded the allegedly “innocent” purchasers, would be supporting the Yazoo fraud used to steal Georgia’s western territory from its citizens, and ignoring state rights in the process.

The frustrated northern claimants finally sued through the courts for redress, and, in the case of Fletcher v. Peck (1810), Chief Justice John Marshall and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, regardless of the corruption accompanying the Yazoo sale, the 1796 Rescinding Act had been an unconstitutional violation of the right of contract.  Rejecting this ruling, Georgia’s congressmen and their allies managed to delay settlement with the Yazoo claimants until 1814, when Congress finally provided $5,000,000 from proceeds of land sales in Mississippi Territory to be shared by the Yazoo claimants.

Though George Troup ultimately was unable to prevent Congress from settling the Yazoo claims, he did block it for more than a decade.  In the 1820s, Troup would further refine his state rights argument, while Governor of Georgia, and apply it to the question of removing the Creeks from the state.

* * * * *

As cotton culture spread across Georgia early in the nineteenth century, federal officials proved either unwilling or unable to extinguish, quickly enough for white Georgians, Native American claims to lands within the state.  Angered by this delay in fulfilling the “Compact of 1802,” Georgia’s political leaders prodded Congress to complete the process of Indian removal, in one of the ugliest campaigns in the nation’s history.

In 1814, the Creeks surrendered 22 million acres, including a large swath, though not all, of their claims in Georgia.  Despite increasing pressure to cede additional lands, the Creeks refused.  The Compact of 1802 was irrelevant, the Creek National Council contended in 1824.  Its provision that the United States could acquire Indian lands only “peacefully and on reasonable terms,” the Council argued, “amounted to federal recognition of their rights to the land and to refuse to sell it.”  Therefore, the Creeks insisted, “we must positively decline the proposal of a removal beyond the Mississippi, or the sale of any more of our territory.”

Chief William McIntosh (New Georgia Encyclopedia)

Nevertheless, in 1825, Georgia concluded a flagrantly corrupt treaty at Indian Springs with a Creek faction led by Chief William McIntosh, who was also Governor George Troup’s cousin.  This pact transferred remaining Creek lands in Georgia to the state, and eventually cost Chief McIntosh his life for violating the National Council’s 1824 ruling.

Although the Senate ratified the treaty, when the new President, John Quincy Adams, learned of the corruption involved in the negotiations, he disavowed it.  In defending the treaty against the President’s objections, Governor George Troup angrily insisted that the Indian Springs pact was valid, on state rights grounds.  He warned that, if challenged by President Adams, Georgia would meet force with force.

Governor Troup claimed that, if Georgia did not stand firm against federal obstruction of her right to be secure in her borders, there would be no recourse if the national administration later turned its eyes towards other explosive issues, like slavery or the protective tariff.  As one pro-Troup writer put it in 1825, the Governor’s vehement response showed that he was trying to “maintain, at all hazards, the unalienable rights you possess to your slaves, and to your Indian territory.”

Governor Troup’s threat of civil war blew over, but only after the Adams Administration negotiated new treaties with the Creeks in 1826 and 1827 that finally procured the last Creek lands in the state. Yet, when President Adams refused to allow Georgia to begin surveying the newly-acquired territory before the time specified in those treaties, Governor Troup sent a blistering reply to the secretary of war, warning that, “From the first decisive Act of hostilities [between Georgia and the national government] you will be considered and treated as public enemies . . . because you . . . are yourselves the invaders and . . . the unblushing allies of the Savages whose cause you have adopted.”  Fortunately, this threat was not carried out.

Governor Troup’s assertion of state rights in the dispute over Creek lands apparently  carried the day.  This presumed “triumph” led many white southerners to conclude that Troup’s doctrine might also be effective when applied to other disputes over the respective powers of the federal and state governments.

* * * * *

John C. Calhoun (georgiainfo.galileo)

By the late 1820s, however, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina’s theory of Nullification, not Troup’s idea of state rights, occupied center stage.  Southern planters, who sold their crops in an unprotected world market, were irate that they then had to purchase imported manufactured goods in a protected market, making those goods more expensive.

In 1828, Congress enacted a new protective tariff, raising the maximum rate on imported goods to 41%.  Angry southerners derisively labeled the new tax the “Tariff of Abominations.”  In response to this latest outrage, John C. Calhoun, who would shortly be elected Andrew Jackson’s Vice-President, anonymously issued the S.C. Exposition and Protest, laying out his theory of Nullification, an effort to prevent an aggressive national government from imposing its will on an unhappy southern minority, and thus, perhaps preserve the Union.

According to Calhoun’s complex theory, once a state convention had nullified a federal law, that law could only take effect if a constitutional amendment permitting it were ratified by conventions in three-quarters of the states.  Failing that, however, a still unsatisfied state would, according to Calhoun, be within its rights to secede from the Union.  (Note, however, that Calhoun’s theory presupposed that the President of the United States who was confronted by Nullification would play by Calhoun’s rules.)

* * * * *

In Georgia, meanwhile, the controversy over the protective tariff seemed to create opportunities to wield George Troup’s state rights philosophy in a new arena.  To some Georgians, Nullification resonated with the state rights ideas honed by Troup during the dispute with the Adams administration over the Creeks.  (These ideas subsequently would be employed by Governors John Forsyth and George Gilmer to put pressure on the Cherokees, but Troup’s political opponents remained leery of his doctrine, fearing that, like Nullification, it might threaten the Union.)

By 1830, Georgia teetered on the brink, waiting to see how President Andrew Jackson would react to Nullification’s challenge to federal supremacy. Georgia’s two political parties had already begun to splinter in the face of the appeal of Calhoun’s doctrine to some of their members.

* * * * *

In 1831, Calhoun, no longer vice-president, published the “Fort Hill Letter” over his own name, reiterating the arguments set forth anonymously in the 1828 S.C. Exposition and Protest.  In 1832, Congress enacted a new tariff, lowering maximum rates from 41% to 33%, but this reduction did not satisfy Calhoun and the Nullifiers.

In November 1832, a South Carolina convention voted to “nullify” the tariffs of 1828 and 1832, and the legislature appropriated funds to purchase arms and authorized the enlistment of volunteers to defend the state.  In other words, Calhoun’s concept of Nullification was about to move from theory to reality, and the question suddenly became, “How will the President respond?”

End of Part I

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in ""state rights", American History, Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Removal, Chief John Ross (Cherokees), Chief Justice John Marshall, Creek Indians, Elias Boudinot, George M. Troup, George R. Gilmer, Georgia History, Historical Reflection, History, Nullification, Southern (Georgia) History, Southern History, Teaching, Uncategorized, Wilson Lumpkin | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Year of Hubris: “Retired But Not Shy” at Nine

 

[NOTE: Essentially, this post is a mea culpa for the penultimate paragraph in last year’s “birthday post,” “Confessions of a Historical Pack Rat: ‘Retired But Not Shy’ at Eight”:

Finally, as RBNS approached its eighth birthday, it reached a milestone:  In November 2017, this blog received more than one thousand visits, nearly a third more than were recorded for the entirety of Year One (June 2010-May 2011); subsequent months in Year Eight have come close to four figures, but none has reached it.

Ah, yes, I felt as if I was on top of the blogging world a year ago, but now—not so much. . .]

* * * * *

conniejjasperson.com

Or, as you’ll soon see, one might add another synonym, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”

* * * * *

When I launched “Retired But Not Shy” almost nine years ago, I began with the bare bones format available from Word Press for free. The next step, which involved an annual fee, was to “upgrade” to a template that allowed me to improve the appearance of the blog, an approach I continue to use (and pay for) to this day.

Until about six months ago, though, this blog’s URL was nestled under the main Word Press site. After eight and a half years with this arrangement, I was making real progress with “hits.”  One month, I got over 1000, and just under that in another.  And then, I let hubris, or  something else, get to me: in response to a persistent Word Press ad, I finally agreed to register my very own “domain name,” for an annual fee that was about to be increased; but, if I hurried, I could still get it at the current price.  Such a deal, right?  So, I finally said, sure, why not. . . .  And I proceeded to find out “why not?”

In addition to hubris, I decided to upgrade because I’d been publishing a blog for so long that I no longer felt like an “amateur”; surely I’d been growing RBNS long enough to consider myself a “professional”! Perhaps, then, stepping out under my own name made a certain sense (and I could afford the fee for the upgrade).

* * * * *

What I hadn’t counted on was that, when the change was made from my old URL to the new one, that apparently meant that everyone who had visited–and bookmarked–my blog at its former address, would  be unaware of the change.  So, the next time they clicked on that familiar URL, they would be told that the address no longer existed.

I drew this conclusion because, in the weeks following the adoption of the new web address, the “hits” on my blog dropped dramatically, including some days on which the blog received no “hits,” something that hadn’t happened since Year One.  Could those (I hoped!) disappointed followers of “Retired But Not Shy” easily learn that I had changed the blog’s address?  Sure, by doing a Google search, using either my name or the blog’s title, they might be able to find it, but would they bother?  That was another question entirely.

So, what could I do to recapture my (perhaps) lost readership as a result of the blog’s new address?  Eventually I filed a sort of digital “change of address card,” using three sites where I’d been publicizing the blog—Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn–as well as reaching out to those on what I called my “subscription list,” folks who had agreed, in all innocence many years ago, to “follow” the blog.  I posted a message at each site announcing that “Retired But Not Shy” had a new URL and urging readers to find—and bookmark—it, and I sent along a similar warning to those who “followed” the blog via my “subscription list.”

That worked, after a fashion, but, like the original growth of the blog from June 1, 2010, on, recovery has been gradual, although not as slow as the original blog site’s growth pace had been.  Nearly a year after the arrival of georgelamplugh.com, I’m back to about half the blog’s “pre-hubris” strength, and it’s continuing to grow, but still gradually.

* * * * *

Perhaps the lesson to be learned by neophyte bloggers from my experience over the past year is that, if you want your name featured more prominently on your blog—and can afford to pay for it—the time to do this is during the first year or so of your blog. By the end of that year, if you feel that your blog is well and truly established (and you may not), then consider upgrading to a format that features “your name.com” as the URL, and then, by all means, be sure to advise your “followers” on Facebook and other social media sites of the change.

* * * * *

This sort of kerfluffle, then, is what could happen if you do as I did and give in to your desire to see your name in digital lights at the top of your homepage, but, unfortunately, do so after you’ve been in business long enough to begin to attract a large following. In my case anyway, that change seriously damaged RBNS after it had “taken off.”

Put another way, starting with the free blog format, at Word Press or elsewhere, remains a good idea.  It’ll give you a chance to see if you enjoy blogging and can produce interesting posts on a more or less regular basis; but if, as many folks do, you discover that it’s not really your cup of tea, then you can drop it without having put very much money into the venture.

Finally, as noted above, it might be wise, if you’ve enjoyed blogging, to upgrade your blog to one that bears your name (plus “.com”), but do it at the end of the first year or so–and, of course, make sure that your loyal readers are made aware of the change in time, so that “visits” to your site don’t drop precipitously, as mine did.

* * * * *

And now for some “best of” lists that reflect in miniature the history of “Retired But Not Shy” since June of 2010:

Most Popular New Posts in Year Nine (June 1, 2018-May 31, 2019)

What follows is a list of the most popular of my new posts during year nine:

“The Gathering, 1999” (September 15, 2018)

“Midterm Elections, 1866, 2018” (August 15, 2018)

“Teaching Prep School with a PhD, IV” (October 15, 2018)

“Georgia’s Yazoo Land Fraud and the American Constitution” (March 1, 2019)

“MLK Day, 2019” (January 17, 2019)

“Polishing the ‘Marble Man’” (April 1, 2019)

“Confessions of a Historical Packrat” (June 15, 2018)

“Betts, IX” (February 1, 2019)

“Betts, VIII” (July 16, 2018)

“Second Reconstruction, Part I” (November 25, 2018)

Most Popular of All Posts, during Year Nine (June 1, 2018-May 31, 2019)

What follows is a list of the most popular posts, old as well as new, during year nine:

“Teaching Prep School with a PhD, I” (November 6, 2012)

“Georgia’s Notorious Yazoo Land Fraud, I” (December 1, 2017)

“Teaching History ‘Backwards'” (October 15, 2013)

“Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin” (August 1, 2011)

“Blues Theology, Part I” (April 1, 2014)

“American Republicanism, Part I” (April 1, 2015)

“Son House” (October 1, 2013)

“The Chitlin’ Circuit” (March 1, 2014)

“Bobby Blue Bland” (February 1, 2014)

“Georgia and the American Revolution, V” (December 1, 2014)

Top Posts All Time (June 1, 2010-May 31, 2019)

[NOTE:  Six of the ten most popular posts since “Retired But Not Shy” was launched are on the Blues!  (Who’d a thunk it!)  Two are from the “Dead Georgians” series, the others from “Prep School” and “Teaching History.”]

“Teaching Prep School with a PhD, I” (November 6, 2012)

“Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin” (August 1, 2011)

“Teaching History ‘Backwards’” (October 15, 2013)

“Son House” (October 1, 2013)

“The Chitlin’ Circuit” (March 1, 2014)

“Bobby Blue Bland” (February 1, 2014)

“Mississippi John Hurt” (November 1, 2013)

“Georgia Governor George R. Gilmer and the Cherokees” (September 1, 2011)

“Blues Theology, Part I” (April 1, 2014)

“Electric Mud” (July 1, 2013)

As always, thank you for visiting “Retired But Not Shy.”  I hope you come back!

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)


Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in American History, Education, Historical Reflection, History, Interdisciplinary Work, memoir, Research, Retirement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

My Brother the Writer, Act 3: The Prequel

A Review of

Rick Lamplugh, The Wilds of Aging: A Journey of Heart and Mind (2018). Available at amazon.com in both paperback and e-book formats.

[NOTE: On two previous occasions (see here and here), I have reviewed books written by my brother Rick, who, over the past few years, has gone from being a retiree to an advocate for Yellowstone National Park and its wildlife. And now Rick is back, with a book he terms a “prequel” to his earlier works, In the Temple of Wolves and Deep into Yellowstone. Since the publication of those books, Rick frequently has been asked how he and his wife Mary became interested in Yellowstone and its environs. This is the story he tells in The Wilds of Aging.

Though the park and its wildlife certainly figure throughout this work, the “wilds of aging” Rick focuses on here grow out of his life before he and Mary moved to the Yellowstone area. And that “adventure” is largely an internal one.]

The Wilds of Aging: A Journey of Heart and Mind

amazon.com

* * * **

For more than twenty years, Rick had been very active physically, especially on what he  termed “adventures.” For much of that time, his routine (plan for “adventure”; experience “adventure”; write about “adventure”; and think about next “adventure”) had been automatic, almost painless. Then, as he entered his sixties, Rick felt his strength and conditioning beginning to wane.

As if this were not bad enough, during those same years Rick and Mary helped friends and family members, dealing with serious illnesses, to come to terms with what turned out to be their final journeys. In other words, Rick began to “feel old” at the same time people close to him were coping with fatal illnesses.

Like all of us of a certain age, Rick wondered what the future held for him. This question led, first, to an obsession with death, and then to a fixation on the question of what happens after death. His search for answers eventually took him and Mary from Corvallis, Oregon, to a new home just outside the gates of Yellowstone, in Gardiner, Montana, but that journey was neither simple nor straightforward.

* * * * *

First, Rick decided that he must come to terms with his past, especially memories of his father, Ben, who died in 1986, and his mother, Betts, who was slipping into the netherworld of dementia. When his work began to slacken in the months before his scheduled retirement, Rick spent time in his backyard garden in Corvallis, all the while pondering mortality and keeping a journal, the basis for The Wilds of Aging. 

To Rick, his late father became “Dead Old Dad,” a spectral figure who visited him in the garden and elsewhere, offering scathing criticisms—but little helpful advice.  And the powerful stories Rick relates about Ben at first seem to portray him as a dysfunctional parent.  Yet, he finally concluded that “given his upbringing, Dad did the best he could raising me.”  (140)  The chapters dealing with the fraught relationship between Rick and his father are the most poignant in the book.  One chapter, “Ben-isms,” reviews some of Ben’s “wit and wisdom”; in another, “Unlike Dad,” Rick explains that lessons he learned from Ben were frequently negative; that is, he remembered what his dad had done in a certain situation–then did the opposite.

When his parents split up in the summer of 1964, Rick, who was still in high school, chose to remain with his father. So, it was up to him to keep Ben’s creditors at bay and try to cope with his father’s accelerating descent into alcoholism. Rick, at sixteen, soldiered on, doing the best he could during a desperate time, but the experience permanently affected him.  The stories he relates of this period are both painful and powerful.  Readers hoping for closure, or redemption, will find something close to it in “Finally Spoken,” a moving account of how Rick and a clearly dying Ben finally came to terms with each other.

Rick’s mother, Betts, was a different story. When her struggle with dementia entered its final stages, Rick and Mary traveled back east from Oregon each year to visit Mary’s family in Baltimore and Betts in southern Delaware, where, after living for a while with her daughter and son-in-law, she was moved to a local “rest home” and, finally, to a “personal care” facility. Hoping that Betts benefited from his visits, Rick eventually realized that she no longer recognized him. Betts died in December 2013, just short of her ninety-first birthday.

* * * * *

Reflecting on friends and relatives who had passed away, Rick detected a seemingly insurmountable gulf between the views they held of dying, views generated by the “heart” or by the “mind” (note the subtitle of the book).  For his mother-in-law, for example, death seemingly held no terrors.  Her heart convinced her that she would see her husband again–as well as God.  On the other hand, one of Rick and Mary’s friends, Daniel, flatly dismissed the idea of life after death; his mind told him that dying was simply a matter of “Light switch on/light switch off.” (56)

This stark difference in views of death held by people who were facing it, ultimately led Rick to review literature on death and the afterlife.  This process climaxed when he attended a debate at Oregon State University in Corvallis between a conservative Christian and a former Christian who had become an atheist.  At the core of the debate, Rick believed, was faith; the conservative had it, the atheist did not.

In evaluating their arguments, Rick could not escape lessons taught by his career counselling people who had experienced job loss and were trying to re-enter the work force.  Rick’s approach had rested on his ability to convince  clients to take a “leap of faith,” to believe that “there is life after loss.” (165)  Suddenly finding himself in the same position as his former clients, Rick realized that, despite his time in the garden, he could not make that leap. (166)

It was this realization that helped persuade Rick and Mary to visit Yellowstone and, eventually, to move just outside the park and devote their time and energy to the struggle to preserve its animals and environment from threats both internal and external.  This was a new “adventure,” one that might be more meaningful than earlier ones, and for which Rick now felt better prepared.

* * * * *

The Wilds of Aging resembles its predecessors in several ways.  First, Yellowstone National Park plays a role, though, in this case, it’s the endpoint of Rick’s autobiographical “back story,” rather than the central focus.  Rick’s writing style remains engaging.  As in his earlier books, incidents in his “present,” this time his work in his backyard garden in Corvallis, spark reflections on the past, some personal (“Dead Old Dad” again), and others about his and Mary’s growing affection for the nation’s first national park.

If you’ve enjoyed Rick’s earlier books, you’ll like The Wilds of Aging.  If this is your first encounter with the author, this book should whet your appetite to read the earlier volumes, which, while less explicitly autobiographical, offer a moving, lyrical view of life in Yellowstone.

amazon.com

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)


Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in "In The Temple of Wolves", Books, Delaware, family history, memoir, Popular Culture, Retirement, Rick Lamplugh, Uncategorized, Wolves, WP Long Form, Yellowstone National Park | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Polishing the “Marble Man”: Reflections on Douglas Southall Freeman’s “R.E. Lee” (4 vols., 1934-1935)

[NOTE:  I never intended to read Douglas Southall Freeman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning four-volume biography of Robert E. Lee.  After all, in grad school one of my professors dismissed Freeman’s effort out of hand, remarking that Freeman’s Lee would have been a much better book if the author hadn’t spent so much time genuflecting before the altar to the General in his home!

Then, a couple of years ago, a friend, downsizing in preparation for an out-of-town move, offered me the “Pulitzer Prize Edition” (1935) of Freeman’s R.E. Lee, which included lots of extra pictures in each volume, and I took him up on the offer. I’m glad I did, because, as had been the case with Gone With The Wind and Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy, I enjoyed reading Freeman’s magnum opus and learned a lot.

According to historian Thomas L. Connelly, the Lee described by Freeman was “The Marble Man,” not a real figure but a prettified creation, shined up enough to fit the “Lost Cause” school of Civil War scholarship (late nineteenth-early twentieth centuries), which treated Lee and other Confederate generals “as men of principles unimpeachable, of valor indescribable.” (Encyclopedia Virginia)

This picture of Lee as the “Marble Man” was not confined to the 1930s. I have a vague recollection of hearing a talk by a historian at a local college several decades ago who was planning to write a “tell-all” biography debunking at least some of the claims made by Lee’s acolytes.  Comments at that meeting were harsh, and, so far as I know, the historian abandoned his project.]

Freeman’s Lee, Pulitzer Prize Edition (amazon.com)

* * * * *

Freeman was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1886, in the Shenandoah valley, just down the road from one of Lee’s lieutenants—and a major figure in the creation of the “Lost Cause” interpretation of Confederate history—General Jubal Early.  Freeman’s father also had served under Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia.  When the Freeman family moved to Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, in 1892, the white South was caught up in a public celebration of the “nobility” of the Confederate cause and the valor of the Confederate Army, erecting statues of its leaders, as well as generic marble portrayals of Confederate soldiers in town squares throughout the region, monuments to Southern white manhood that are still in the news in 2019.

In addition to the influence of genealogy and geography, surely some of Freeman’s pro-Confederate bias is attributable to his education.  In Richmond, he attended a school run by a former Confederate naval officer and staffed mostly by Confederate veterans.  The curriculum at the McGuire University School for Boys “emphasized Christian and Southern values and identity, while using figures like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee as examples of, ‘fortitude, industry, temperance, honor, and common sense.’”  (“Freeman Digitally Remastered”)

Freeman attended Richmond College (now the University of Richmond), studying under Samuel C. Mitchell, a prominent Civil War historian who also idolized Lee. While working on his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Freeman came across a cache of wartime correspondence between Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Lee. In 1915, Freeman published Lee’s Dispatches, based on those documents, after which he began work on his now famous biography of Lee.

Unable to secure a college teaching post, Freeman opted for journalism upon the completion of his PhD, signing on first with the Richmond Times Dispatch in 1909, and, in 1914, moving to the Richmond News Leader, where, within a year, he became the editor.  (“Encyclopedia Virginia”)

By 1915, Freeman had begun to balance two careers, newspaper editor and biographer of Robert E. Lee, which required a mind-numbing work schedule. He headed for the newspaper at three each morning; in addition to writing 60,000 editorial words each year, Freeman broadcast the news from a nearby radio studio twice a day; drove home for a short nap and lunch; then worked another five or six hours on the Lee project. (Wikipedia; “Freeman Digitally Remastered.”)

* * * * *

Robert E. Lee (en.wikipedia.org)

Freeman’s famous (and famously biased) biography of Robert E. Lee certainly reads well, and there are few surprises.  Freeman was “all Lee, all the time.” I was most interested in volumes 1 and 4, which dealt with the beginning and the end of Lee’s life, years I knew little about.  For example, I was surprised to learn that Lee, a graduate of West Point, was an engineer by training and spent most of his early career in staff jobs in the U.S. Army.

In treating the war years, Freeman adopts a “fog of war” approach:  at any given time, the reader knows only what Lee knows (as best Freeman can reconstruct it). This means that a lot of the exploits of the Army of Northern Virginia and its leaders occur “offstage,” with Lee learning the details through after-action reports from his generals.

Lee’s approach to leadership was to devise the strategy, explain to his generals what needed to be done, and then trust that they would accomplish his aims.  Early in the war, with talented subordinates like “Stonewall” Jackson, Jeb Stuart, and his “Old Warhorse,” General James Longstreet, Lee’s enjoyed considerable success, but later, not so much. . . .

Freeman’s most interesting accounts of the war years, to me anyway, spanned the last eighteen months or so, from the Wilderness campaign through Appomattox.  By that time, Jackson and Stuart were dead, Longstreet had developed a chronic case of “the slows,” and those chosen, by Lee, to replace his fallen commanders mostly proved unequal to the task. Consequently, Lee fought a series of bloody battles over unforgiving terrain, trying to keep his incredibly shrinking army between General Grant and Richmond, ultimately to no avail.

Freeman frequently explains Lee’s battlefield miscues by attributing them to his subordinate commanders, whom Lee, of course, had selected.  Another favorite fall guy for Freeman is the Confederate Commissary Department, notoriously inept at supplying even the basics for troops in the field as the conflict lengthened.

If an army travels (and fights) on its stomach, can it achieve much if kept on starvation rations?  Can the cavalry perform its crucial duties if there is a shortage of horses?  Even if this approach to Lee’s lackluster achievements as the war wound down is persuasive, what do Freeman’s rationalizations tell us about Lee, a leader who subjected his men to tremendous hardships even though he realized that, given the logistical realities, the end must be near?

* * * * *

Freeman’s approach to the postwar period works better, given Lee’s association during the last five years of his life with Washington College, in Lexington, Virginia (the future Washington & Lee University).  He served as President of the school, and the details Freeman serves up about Lee’s activities in that role are fascinating.

The high regard for Lee held throughout the South, and in parts of the North, during the early years of Reconstruction comes through strongly in Freeman’s final volume.  He seems to have unearthed every anecdote about how, when Lee encountered former soldiers in his command, they promptly vowed that they’d fight for him again.

Freeman’s treatment of Reconstruction comes straight out of the “Dunning School” of historiography, again no surprise given where and when Freeman was educated and where he researched and wrote the biography: the Reconstruction governments were oozing corruption, thanks to Radical Republicans, slimy Carpetbaggers, and ignorant Freedmen who kept their feet upon the neck of the Suffering South until they were driven out by the region’s “Better [White] People.”

* * * * *

The key to Freeman’s interpretation of Lee during Reconstruction lies in the General’s relative “moderation,” no matter how harshly he was criticized by those who doubted his loyalty to the Union or his “nobility.”  Lee urged those who had served with him, from general officers to enlisted men, to pick up their lives and get back to work, for the sake of their families, their states, and the South.  Yet, even this “moderate” Lee was critical of the actions of the Republicans during “Radical Reconstruction,” when Washington prohibited former high-ranking Confederate civil and military officers (including Lee himself) from voting or running for office.  And “Negro Rule”?  Perish the thought, because, in Lee’s mind, the freedmen were too ignorant to hold office and wield power over the prostrate South. (And one is forced to ask, “I wonder why those freedmen were so unlearned?”)

Freeman’s final chapter is a summary of Lee’s character, which he traces through Lee’s ancestors and their “good blood” (or at least absence of “bad blood”).  Freeman’s treatment of Lee emphasizes his sterling character and his greatness, while admitting (reluctantly) a few actual mistakes or misjudgments.  One is tempted to say that, in Freeman’s eyes, Lee was not just a remarkable man, but also a veritable candidate for sainthood. Freeman stresses Lee’s undying admiration for George Washington, the Father of His Country, a relative on his mother’s side, and for his father, Light Horse Harry Lee, a Revolutionary hero whose end was not nearly as noble as his beginning.

Yet, none of this really explains why Lee chose to follow his “country” (Virginia, harking back to a late eighteenth-century usage of the word “country”), rather than accept command of the Union forces offered to him by General Winfield Scott during the secession crisis.  (Perhaps we are to assume that, to Lee, Abraham Lincoln was a “modern” version of King George III, but, if so, I don’t buy it.)

Even less persuasive, because written in 1866 and later, while Lee was navigating the era of Reconstruction, are his letters explaining his views in 1861. (Vol. 4, 302-306)  There, Lee even insisted that the Constitution of 1787 was ordained by God, and that it was this version of the nation’s founding principles, written and approved by the demi-god Founding Fathers, that he had always cherished, not the one in force in 1860-1861, which threatened “consolidated government.”

* * * * *

According to Freeman, Lee did not leave much of a record about his feelings on slavery. He evidently owned, in his own name, one slave family, and in his 1846 will he directed that those slaves should be “liberated as soon as it can be done to their advantage and that of others.” (Vol. 1, 371n) But, even if Lee owned few slaves himself, his wife Mary inherited 63 slaves upon her father’s death. Robert took leave from the army and returned to the family’s Arlington plantation to try to bring some order to Mary Lee’s estate.

Dealing with those slaves proved especially troublesome. He finally hired out “a few of them by the year in order to supplement the income from the property.” (Vol. 1, 390) Some of the slaves were not happy with this, at least in part because, according to two letters in the New York Tribune, Lee’s father-in-law had provided for emancipating his slaves upon his death, a provision the Tribune claimed had been obfuscated by his heirs. (Vol. 1, 390-392)

Freeman labels the Tribune items “false stories,” especially because they accused Lee of having whipped some of the Arlington slaves who had escaped and been recaptured. In a letter to his son Custis on July 2, 1859, Lee dismissed those charges in two sentences, which of course Freeman accepts as gospel truth: “The N.Y. Tribune has attacked me for my treatment of your grandfather’s slaves, but I shall not reply. He has left me an unpleasant legacy.” (Vol. 1, 392)

* * * * *

Freeman writes well, in a clear, journalistic style.  He is certainly biased, but his pro-Lee, pro-Confederate, pro-South slant is obvious from the first page, and, unless your tear ducts flood at the mention of Lee or the Confederacy, you can slog through the treacly parts. This edition of the Lee biography has numerous photographs to supplement those in the original edition, and the maps are numerous and extremely helpful.  The series index at the end of Volume 4, is quite serviceable.

In short, Freeman’s Lee, “marble man” and all, sometimes does not seem real.  Obviously, Robert E. Lee is not a man for our time; perhaps less obviously, neither is his biographer.  In short, Freeman’s R.E. Lee remains the starting point for understanding a central figure in the history of the Civil War, but one that must be used with extreme care.

* * * * *

Douglas Southall Freeman (en.wikipedia.org)

ADDITIONAL SOURCES

Encyclopedia Virginia:  Biographical article on Lee by David Johnson, Deputy Attorney General of Virginia and author of Douglas Southall Freeman (2002). Accessed 2/12-13/19. https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Freeman_Douglas_Southall_1886-1953

“Freeman Digitally Remastered,” Natalia Chaney, Maddy Dunbar, and Canyon Teague. Part of the “Race and Racism at the University of Richmond” series. (https://memory.richmond.edu/freeman)  Accessed, 2/13/19.

Wikipedia: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas Southall Freeman)

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)


Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Age of Jim Crow, Books, Civil War, Current Events, Historical Reflection, History, History Teaching, Research, Retirement, Shelby Foote, Southern (Georgia) History, Southern History, Uncategorized, WP Long Read | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Georgia’s Yazoo Land Fraud and the American Constitution (In Pursuit of Dead Georgians, 30)

A Review of

Charles F. Hobson, The Great Yazoo Land Sale: The Case of Fletcher v. Peck.  Lawrence, Kansas:  University Press of Kansas, 2016.

[NOTE:  I’ve been studying the history of Georgia for more than half a century, trying to understand the peculiar evolution of the state’s political parties from the American Revolution through the decades leading up to the Civil War.  The Yazoo Land Fraud (1795-1796), it turns out, was a central development in this process.

The original Yazoo purchasers, who had greased the skids for the sale of Georgia’s western territory with offers of shares in the purchase to members of the state legislature, moved quickly to dispose of their holdings.  Meanwhile, they also distributed sub-shares in the purchase to important upcountry politicos—militia leaders, editors, justices of the peace—in an effort to frustrate anti-Yazoo legislators and other political leaders trying to block the sale.

This campaign, as sleazy as it was, kept the sale’s foes at bay until the original purchasers disposed of their lands to out-of-state speculators, many of whom resided in New England.  (In author Charles F. Hobson’s view, the quick turnover of the lands from the original purchasers to the supposedly “innocent” purchasers in New England belied the high-toned rhetoric of the Yazoo companies and revealed the “land-jobbing” nature of the transactions. [56])

After tracing Yazoo through the so-called “Compromise of 1802” in my initial foray into Georgia’s political history, I was content to let it go.  Some years later, though, I decided to write a sequel, tracing political party development in Georgia after 1806.  For much of that latter period, I discovered, the Yazoo claims issue was far from settled. As I traced the ramifications of Yazoo through Georgia, congressional, and national history over four more decades, I probably did less than I might have on the fraud’s encounter with the American Constitution.  But I needn’t have worried: Professor Hobson had that topic covered.

Disclosure:  Charles Hobson was a couple of years ahead of me at My Old Graduate School (MOGS), and we had the same dissertation director.  I have followed Hobson’s later career with interest—he was the only one of my grad school colleagues who, after earning his doctorate, chose to pursue a career in documentary editing.  Among his editorial stops  were the Papers of James Madison; the Papers of John Marshall, for which he served as editor; and St. George Tucker’s Law Reports and Selected Papers.  Hobson also published a well-received one-volume biography of Marshall in 1996.]

(amazon.com)

* * * * *

The post-1802 phase of the Yazoo business was incredibly complex.  Congress passed a law in 1803 reserving five million acres of land in Mississippi Territory to compensate the Yazoo purchasers, but this proved premature, because Congress had not indicated which Yazoo purchasers would be eligible.  Hobson notes the irony that, if Congress had been able to compensate the Yazoo purchasers quickly, the events that led to Fletcher need not have happened, but determined opposition, led by John Randolph of Virginia and George Troup of Georgia, coalesced to block the process.

Consequently, angry congressional debates over Yazoo became a constant feature for the next dozen years.  Disappointed New England speculators tried to convince the national government to compensate them for their losses, but determined Georgia congressmen and their (mostly) southern allies fought a determined rear-guard action that frustrated pro-Yazoo lobbyists and their (mostly) northern backers.

Meanwhile, the forces of speculation also took aim at the Supreme Court, seeking financial satisfaction through the courts that was being denied them both by the Georgia legislature and by Congress.  It was at this point that Chief Justice John Marshall became a key figure.  And the picture Professor Hobson paints of Marshall and his judicial colleagues is  masterful.

* * * * *

Chief Justice John Marshall (wikipedia)

The resulting case, Fletcher v. Peck (1810), was significant for two reasons:  It was the first time the Supreme Court declared a state law unconstitutional; and Hobson argues that, regardless of the famous decision in Marbury v. Madison (1803), declaring a portion of a federal law unconstitutional, “the practice of what came to be known as ‘judicial review’ had its true beginnings with the exposition of the contract clause in Fletcher.” (1)  Moreover, in Fletcher the Court applied for the first time the clause in the Constitution prohibiting states from impairing the “Obligation of Contracts.” (1)

The case, wherein Robert Fletcher sued John Peck in 1803 for failing to honor a contract for the purchase of Yazoo lands, became part of a determined effort by the so-called “innocent” New England speculators to use the judicial system to secure compensation they had been unable to obtain from Georgia and Congress. To the modern, cynical reader, Fletcher v. Peck might seem to be merely a “feigned case,” a collusive effort to deceive the Supreme Court, but Hobson demurs.  He argues instead that “the lawyers who contrived the suit between Fletcher and Peck in 1803 could reasonably believe that such a case fell within the acceptable boundaries of legal practice and that in pursuing this means of vindicating their clients’ rights they were doing their professional duty.” (86)

This “victory” for the speculators in 1810 proved hollow:  Marshall’s Court, though ruling that Georgia’s action in annulling the Yazoo sale had been unconstitutional, regardless of the corruption involved (because the state legislature had had the right to sell the lands), could not order Georgia to pay the speculators (because the Rescinding Act had annulled the sale in 1796,  fourteen years earlier); thus, any financial satisfaction would have to come from Congress, which opened yet another avenue for lobbyists and their supposedly “innocent” clients to continue to press for payment.  And the anti-Yazoo forces were determined not to give way, court decision or no court decision.

The result: four more years of angry, vociferous congressional debates, which gradually wore down the anti-Yazoo forces.  This also was the period when Congress grappled with the War of 1812, and when younger, more pragmatic, Republican congressmen were elected.  Rather than continue clinging to Jefferson, Madison, Randolph, and Troup’s doctrine of “state rights,” these less ideological Republican “War Hawks” preferred to look to the future, but they could not well do that while the Yazoo business occupied Congress.

Finally, in 1814, the national legislature produced a Mississippi compensation bill aimed at banishing “Yazoo” from its halls once and for all.  This measure set aside $5,000,000 from the proceeds of land sales in Mississippi Territory, to be shared by those “innocent” New England purchasers. (Mississippi, along with Alabama, had been carved out of the Yazoo lands.)

The compensation process was far from smooth, and Professor Hobson clearly charts its rocky course.  The umbrella group for Yazoo claimants in the Northeast, the New England Mississippi Land Company, remained unhappy with its share of the Yazoo booty, and, between 1822 and 1854, submitted to Congress at least seventeen petitions seeking further compensation.  All these petitions failed, and, in desperation, the company turned to the U.S. Court of Claims, which finally denied their demands in 1864!

* * * * *

Charles F. Hobson’s The Great Yazoo Land Sale:  The Case of Fletcher v. Peck, is, considering the complexity of the topic, a surprisingly concise monograph.  For example, in less than fifty pages, the first two chapters place the Yazoo sale and the Rescinding Act (1795-1796), in the context of Georgia’s history as a land speculator’s paradise, beginning in the colonial period. Chapter three lucidly explains how a group of New England speculators became Yazoo claimants, and the following three chapters trace the tortuous judicial route of Fletcher’s suit against Peck, culminating in Marshall’s 1810 ruling, and the indemnification process. The final chapter, of interest mainly to legal historians, considers what happened to the Constitution’s contract clause after Fletcher v. Peck, as far as the Supreme Court was concerned.

Hobson also includes a detailed chronology outlining post-Revolutionary land speculation in Georgia from 1785 through the Yazoo sale and the Rescinding Act (1795-1796), and tracing the sale’s ramifications to the final rejection, in 1864, of the speculators’ demands by the U.S. Court of Claims. The work includes a thirteen-page bibliographical essay and a serviceable index.

Hobson’s volume provides only a single map, but it’s a dandy, showing the Yazoo land grants of 1795.  Given the stellar legal talent enlisted on both sides of the case, a few pictures of the luminaries involved in the case, like Marshall himself, John Quincy Adams, Joseph Story, Luther Martin, and Robert Goodloe Harper, might have been helpful, but–hey!–there’s always “Google Images.”

Overall, then, Hobson’s treatment of the case of Fletcher v. Peck is first-rate.  Not only will those interested in the case itself, and in Chief Justice Marshall’s role in shaping the Supreme Court of the United States, find it compelling; but it also should appeal to readers interested in Georgia history after the American Revolution, and to teachers looking for a different approach to the story of party development following the War of 1812.

Charles F. Hobson

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

Posted in American History, Books, Chief Justice John Marshall, Dr. Charles F. Hobson, George M. Troup, Georgia History, Historical Reflection, History, History graduate school, History Teaching, Research, Retirement, Southern (Georgia) History, Southern History, Teaching, Uncategorized, WP Long Read, Yazoo Land Fraud | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Betts, A Mother’s Memoir, 1923-1964, Part IX: Grandmother Remembers

Judith Levy and Judy Pelikan, Grandmother Remembers:  A Written Heirloom for My Grandchild (New York, 1983).

[Note:  Somehow this volume wound up in my basement, along with a lot of other stuff from my mother, Elsie Elizabeth (Betts) Lamplugh, that I had accumulated over many years.  I must have brought it upstairs when I retrieved documents I used in the “Betts” series of posts. For some reason, I didn’t pay much attention to this book, merely stashing it on a study bookshelf—until recently, when I took the volume down and read through it.  I’m glad I did, because, although Betts did not finish filling in all the stuff that was to make up this grandmotherly “heirloom” to our boys, what she did complete provided at least some information my siblings and I hadn’t known.  I’m posting these excerpts from Grandmother Remembers, along with a few links and photos, another chapter in the saga of “Betts:  A Mother’s Memoir, 1923-1964.”]

My Grandparents [See Part II]

My Mother’s Family:

Grandfather’s name:  George Thomas Dobson.

George T. Dobson

Grandmother’s name:  Reba Murray.

Settled in:  Newark, Delaware.

Grandfather earned his living: Working at Curtis Paper Company in Newark as far as I can remember.

My mother was born:  May 15, 1904.

My Father’s Family:

Grandfather’s name:  William Henry Knighton.

William H. Knighton

Grandmother’s name:  Jemima Lydia Gallagher.

Jemima Knighton

Grandparents settled in:  Philadelphia, Pa.

My father was born:  February 22, 1898.

My Parents

Father’s name:  Isaac Livezy Knighton.

Isaac L. Knighton

Mother’s name:  Gertrude Isabelle Dobson.

Isabelle Knighton

My parents met: 

How:  At the home of Mr. & Mrs. William Dean (Mrs. Dean was Dad’s cousin).

When:  Sept. 1919.

Where:  Newark, Delaware.

They were married: 

            Date:  Sept. 20, 1920.

Place:  Old Swede’s Episcopal Church, Wilmington, Del.

My father earned his living:  Several jobs, but the one I remember was Continental Diamond Fiber Co., Newark, Delaware.

I Was Born

I was born:  January 8, 1923.

Where:  Lewes, Delaware.

Named:  Elsie Elizabeth Lamplugh.

That name was chosen because:  My mother had an aunt Elsie and an aunt Elizabeth (known as Aunt “Lizzie”).  Cute, huh?

I weighed:  average weight—probably 6 pounds.

I was told I resembled:  My grandmother Knighton as I grew up.

Brothers’ and Sisters’ names:  Gertrude, Anna Margaret, George William, Mary Katherine, & Robert Arthur.

As a Young Girl [See Part III]

My family lived:  Newark, Delaware most of my life—moved there in 1934.

I went to school:  Newark, Delaware from age 10.

As a student:  I was average.  No honor student—had to study.

My ambition was:  to be a medical secretary, but I was not able to attend college after I graduated from high school.

At home I was expected to:  help in the kitchen, clean up the house, do laundry, & iron my own clothes.

My parents were very strict about:  my choice of friends, dating, had to be home at a certain time—or else!!

My father taught me to value:  friends, money—and how to follow directions—and do as I was told.

My mother taught me to value:  friends.

What I loved most about my father:  his patience with a large family in a small house.  He was a wonderful, understanding Dad.

What I loved most about my mother:  her ability to get along with people—and the pride she had in her family.

My teenage years were:  great.  My parents were warm & understanding, and we all respected their wishes.

As a Girl “My Favorite. . .”

Song: “Begin the Beguine”

Movie: “Mrs. Miniver”

Actor:  Walter Pidgeon

Actress:  Greer Garson

Book:  How to Win Friends and Influence People

Radio Program: “Sammy Kaye’s Orchestra”

Season:  Summer

Vacation spot:  Beach

Holiday:  Christmas

Flower:  Roses & Lilacs

Color:  Red

Sport:  Roller skating

Food:  Roast beef

Subject in school:  Typing & shorthand

Friend:  Betty Geesman & Doris Grundy

As a Young Woman [See Part IV]

Betts in 1942

I graduated from:  Newark High School, June 12, 1940.

I worked at:  at the Continental Diamond Fiber Co. for a couple of years & then worked for the Pennsylvania R.R.

On weekends, I: went to dances or roller skating.

I started to date at the age of:  17.

I met your grandfather at:  his brother’s home.  I worked with his sister-in-law at the fiber mill.

His full name:  Benjamin Leroy Lamplugh.

His birthday:  January 20, 1921.

Our first date was:  to the movies.  

His age when we met: 20.

He lived:  was in the U.S. Army—at Ft. Meade, Md.

I lived:  in Newark.

He earned his living:  as a soldier during World War II and after that he became a carpenter.

I liked him because:  he was a gentleman, very quiet—much like my father.

Grandfather said he liked me because:  I was quiet—little did he know how much I would change.

When we dated we liked to go:  to the movies—or just out walking—we had very little money.

My Engagement

Ben and Betts

[Note:  Betts omitted answers to how long the “courtship” lasted; when they became engaged; and what Ben said when he proposed.  What follows is the only question she chose to answer. For more on her omissions, go here in the “Betts” series.]

When I told my parents [about the engagement] they:  thought we should wait till the war was over and we knew each other better.

My Wedding Day

Wedding Photo (January 12, 1943)

Grandfather and I were married:  January 12, 1943, at 7 P.M., in the home of Minister C. Nadal Jones, in Wilmington, Delaware.

I wore:  a blue wool 2-piece dress.

We celebrated our wedding by:  having dinner with my mother, sister-in-law Ethel and her fiancé, who were at our wedding.

[Note:  Betts skipped the next two questions—“most memorable wedding gift” and “most vivid memory of my wedding day” but did answer the final question.]

After we were married we traveled to:  could not go anywhere because Ben had to go back to his army post in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

My First Year of Marriage [See Part V]

When Grandfather and I were first married: I lived at home with my parents, since Ben was in the Army.  Spent time with him at Fort Bragg.

We lived there for:  about two months—then he went overseas.

My fondest memory of our first home is:  It was in an Army town—Fayetteville, N.C.—an apartment.  It was a small town—but lively.  We had Army friends.

Grandfather’s job was:  in the 82nd Airborne paratroops.

After we married:  I tried to be a good wife—though we had very little time together the first couple of years [because Ben was in the Army, overseas, for much of that time].

As a wife, I tried to be:  understanding of the kind of marriage we had—wartime marriages are difficult—need a lot of love & trust from both people. [For some indication of the difficulties in this particular wartime marriage, go here.]

End of Part IX

Copyright 2019 George Lamplugh

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)


Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

 

 

Posted in American History, Books, Delaware, family history, genealogy, Historical Reflection, History, memoir, Research, Retirement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments