Ben, An American Dad, 1921-1986: Part V: Memories of Ben, as “Dad” (2019)

 

[NOTE: It’s not normal for me to wax retrospective on Father’s Day, but every so often I do. 2019 was one of those years. I had begun work on this blog series about my father, Ben Lamplugh, and I asked my siblings for help, emailing my thoughts on Ben as “Dad” for them to read and comment on.  This post is the result of that interchange.  (For previous installments, see Part I; Part II; Part III; and Part IV.)]

* * * * *

When they married, on January 12, 1943, Ben Lamplugh was 22, Betts Knighton, 20. When they’d first met, Ben was in the Maryland National Guard, stationed at Fort Meade, in Baltimore, Maryland. By the time they wed, he was about to leave for Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for paratrooper training.

Ben and Trixie (Knighton family dog), c. 1943

Ben didn’t have much experience with a stable family. [Go here.]  He was the third child born to Leroy and Mary Lamplugh, who divorced shortly after Ben’s birth. Because she could not afford to raise her children by herself, Mary placed her two oldest, Bill and Ethel, with relatives, and kept baby “Bennie” with her. Eventually, Mary remarried, to a Harrington, Delaware, farmer, Noble Cahall, a widower with several children of his own. My sister Judy remembers Ben saying he loved his stepfather, yet Ben seems to have moved as a teenager north from Harrington to Newark, Delaware, where he lived with his brother Bill and his sister-in-law Maxine on a farm on the outskirts of town.

* * * * *

Ben was not afraid of hard work. His post-World War II employment history featured a long series of manual labor jobs, with the fulltime ones coupled with one or more part-time positions. Ben believed, according to Betts, that a husband should be the family breadwinner, so he was not pleased when, in the early 1950s, with their three kids in school, Betts decided to re-enter the workforce. Betts’ income must have been welcomed, but even combined with what Ben brought home, the family’s financial position remained shaky.

Rus, Rick, S. Claus, Judy (Christmas, 1951)

Ben took pride in his work and was something of a perfectionist, which didn’t always endear him to co-workers. He built some furniture for our house, not fancy, but sturdy. One of the few times I remember seeing him angry came after we kids were horsing around on a bed he’d built, and it collapsed. When he came home and saw the broken bed, Ben asked us how it had happened, and we tried to convince him that the bed “just broke.” Wrong answer, and our behinds felt Ben’s anger.

On another occasion, a neighboring family lived with us for a while, and Ben built two sets of bunk beds for their bedroom. When the neighbors moved back into their own house, Ben had to cut each set of bunks into two single beds to get them out of the room.

* * * * *

Ben was not much of a disciplinarian. He expected Betts to handle that aspect of parenting, as well as other “wifely duties,” despite her fulltime job. Betts did her best, but sometimes we children misbehaved more than she found acceptable. On those occasions, she warned direly, “Just wait until your father gets home!” And, when Ben arrived, at the end of a long day of manual labor, the last thing he wanted to do was hand out punishment.

Still, Betts insisted that he do something, and Ben did, sort of. He’d take the offender(s) into the bedroom, shut the door, and launch into a series of stern, quite audible admonishments, to which the miscreant(s) would of course promise never to do “it” again. Ben realized that merely yelling would not be enough, so he’d then enact a pantomime of physical punishment (with the bedroom door closed and Betts not in the room), usually “spanking” the bed, the bathtub, or his own body, while the guilty one(s) did their best to cry on cue.

Then there were Ben’s efforts to shape me into a “big brother” of whom Judy and Rick (not to mention Ben himself) could be proud.  Judy remembers that, on one occasion, she came home from the playground and complained that some boys had pushed her around, so Ben dispatched Judy and me to the playground to settle things with those bullies.  It turned out, though, that Judy had started the trouble herself, because the boys wouldn’t let her play ball with them.  Upset that Ben expected me to fight Judy’s battles, especially when the trouble had begun with her, I dragged Judy home and told her that she had better tell Ben I had taken care of business!

* * * * *

Our family didn’t have much money, but we weren’t exactly “poor.” We always enjoyed Christmas, for instance. Betts made clothing for us, usually shirts for Rick and me and blouses for Judy. Ben chipped in, building furniture we needed but couldn’t really afford to buy.  Annually, we also risked making ourselves sick if we ate too much of the candy in our Easter baskets, and Betts waited with doses of “cod liver oil” if we got carried away.

Ben and Betts did not stint on reading matter. We had a full set of Childcraft books and a collection of Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, which Betts read from in the evenings when we were too little to do so ourselves. Our parents also purchased a set of encyclopedias, one volume at a time, from a local grocery chain. The family even subscribed to The Saturday Evening Post, as well as a daily newspaper. Ben sometimes brought comic books home for us, usually when he returned from a work-related out-of-town trip.

Medical care for the Lamplughs was handled on a priority basis. In emergencies, we’d be taken to a doctor or to a hospital. Required school checkups were handled as well.  Betts’ first postwar fulltime job was with our family doctor, Marvin Rombro, so we got a break on those bills. Later, Betts worked for eye doctors, which meant that we received regular eye care.  (Dental care, not so much!)

* * * * *

“Family vacations” also were victims of the Lamplugh financial straits. We seldom had them. The best we could do was for Betts to convince Ben that we needed to take a day trip somewhere. Most such jaunts usually were on Sunday, to Newark, Delaware, an hour or so north of Baltimore. Ben seldom enjoyed these excursions, because he didn’t get along with his mother-in-law, Isabelle Knighton, and the feeling was mutual; but Betts insisted that we keep in touch with her family.  Often on those same Sundays, though, Ben also tried to ensure that his family visited his adored older brother Bill, in nearby Wilmington, obviously trying to match the time we spent with our maternal grandparents in Newark.

Occasionally we’d go on a Sunday “road trip” to a more “exotic” locale, and, desperate as we were to “get the heck out of Dodge,” it didn’t matter where Ben elected to take us. The trips I remember were into western Maryland, where we’d stop at a picnic area and share our lunch with the ants.

1954 Ford Courier Sedan Delivery (tenwheel.com)

And then there were the work trips, when one or all of us would accompany Ben on a service call, usually somewhere in the upper Midwest, for Ottie Gow’s Atlantic Trailer company.  Once, Ben took me along with him to Cleveland or some other midwestern garden spot, traveling in the “Courier,” a small, almost windowless Ford commercial truck that we slept in at least one night. Another time, Ben took the entire family on a long-distance service call in the Courier, Ben and Betts in the front seat, we kids in the back, amid the toilets Ben was transporting. We spent that night in a motel room, with Betts and Ben in one bed and the three of us trying to coexist in the other one.

1956 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon (barrett-jackson.com)

My favorite memory of these “vacations” came one hot summer night. We had no air conditioning at home and the weather was sweltering. A sudden thunderstorm blew through Baltimore, and the night suddenly became cooler. Before the rain ceased completely, Ben and Betts packed us into the rear of our Ford Country Squire station wagon, windows open and a gloriously refreshing (if slightly damp) breeze caressing us as he drove us, in our pajamas, through downtown Baltimore.

Ben also occasionally took us to one of the “beaches” in the Middle River area, usually  heavily shaded by trees, because his fair skin burned quickly in full sun. Yet, the shade must have made it difficult for parents to watch their youngsters, because Judy and I both remember near-drowning experiences in those locations, and Rick believes that he’s still uncomfortable in the water because of them.

Hydroplane power boat racing (1959)

A variation of this sort of day trip occurred when Ben worked for Jim Fyle at Gibraltar Trailers. Fyle loved to race hydroplane power boats, and one of Ben’s part-time jobs was to tow Fyle’s boat to the race venue. If the site was local, Ben might take us along. (Betts didn’t think power boat racing was safe, but a day trip was a day trip.)  The races were incredibly noisy, yet at least two of us kids remembered them fondly.

* * * * *

There’s a sense in which Ben was “in,” but not “of,” our family circle.  He seldom arrived home on weeknights until after the rest of us had eaten.  He’d eat dinner with Betts in the kitchen while we watched television in the living room.  Ben eventually joined us, beer in hand, sat in his favorite chair, lit a cigarette, and was shortly out like a light.  He seldom finished that cigarette, which, if we were lucky, burned out in the ashtray; or that beer, which became flat and warm.

Ben also could be convinced to take his family to a local tavern on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, a time-honored family activity in Baltimore.  Our parents joined neighbors to sip beer, talk, perhaps watch television.  The kids played shuffleboard, drank cokes, ate chips or popcorn, and tried their luck with the “claw machine,” which contained cheap “prizes” and was lots was fun to play!

And then there were “crab feasts” we attended, again with neighbors, and the venue was a bit of a drive.  Picture it: an open-sided, covered spot; tables with attached benches; newspaper on the tabletops; and, finally, crabs.  The adults loved this (maybe it was the beer that accompanied the crabs), and I’ll bet many of the kids did, too. Extracting crab meat from the shell seemed more trouble than it was worth to me, though I liked the taste of crab well enough once it had been extracted.

* * * * *

On a few occasions, Ben showed up at an evening event featuring one of his children.  Once, he and Betts came to a winter-themed school show featuring Rus as an “ice skater,” in a rousing production of the “Skater’s Waltz.” Ben also managed to get home in time to observe one of my hapless attempts to play organized baseball.

As a youngster, I was overweight and klutzy, with an aversion to physical exercise. One thing I struggled with was doing push-ups in Physical Education class, and I asked Ben for help. Several times he gave me push-up “lessons,” but to little avail. What made this worse was that Rick, four years younger, saw Ben trying to help me, walked through the room, and stopped, dropped, and did ten push-ups without breaking a sweat!

Then there were the “donkey baseball games” we attended while living on Philadelphia Road in Baltimore.  On another occasion, we watched an amazing softball pitcher, Eddie Feigner, and his “King and His Court” team, trounce a local squad.  I also recall attending at least one Baltimore Orioles game with Ben.  (The Orioles had arrived in Baltimore, from St. Louis, in 1954.  They were a terrible team in those early years, but they were our terrible team!)

During this same period, Judy remembers that Ben used to stop at a bar after work on Friday; go again to a bar with a neighbor on Saturday night; and, on Sunday mornings, visit the same neighbor’s house to eat raw oysters as a hangover cure.

* * * * *

Betts also thought her children should attend church, but that presented a problem:  We had only one car, Ben frequently worked part-time on Sundays, and Betts never learned to drive, which meant that we could only attend a church within walking distance.  There were some, usually Methodist, churches in the area, but those presented a problem, too, because Betts preferred the Episcopal church.   We did occasionally attend an Episcopal church, long enough for me to be trained as an acolyte, though I seldom got to church on Sundays when assigned to serve.  I do remember, though, at least one Easter service when our entire family showed up, dressed in our “Easter finery.”  (This is the only memory I have of Ben at church.)

Ben’s Family (Fall 1962)

End of Part V

Copyright 2019 George Lamplugh

[Next:  Part VI:  A Dad Alone, 1964-1986]

* * * * * *

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, Cold War, Delaware, Education, Episcopal Church, family history, genealogy, Historical Reflection, History, memoir, Popular Culture, Research, Retirement, Rick Lamplugh, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ben, an American Dad, 1921-1986, Part IV: Postwar America, 1946-1964

[NOTE:   When Ben Lamplugh returned home early in 1946, he found himself in a house full of women:  Betts and her son Rus were living with her sister Gertie, Gertie’s daughter Lynn, and two boarders, the England sisters, in an apartment in Middle River, Maryland, near Baltimore.  Upon Ben’s arrival, the women moved elsewhere, and Betts and Ben kept the apartment. Later that year, Ben, Betts, and son Rus move to Helicopter Drive in Victory Villa, a wartime development that was jerrybuilt, not intended for long-term residence, where their second child, Judy, was born in October 1946.  (For earlier chapters in Ben’s life see here, here, and here.)]

* * * * *

Rus and Ben (1946)

Ben, Judy, Rus (c. 1947)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben was interested in learning carpentry: in 1946, under the GI Bill, he began an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker with the Owens Yacht Company in Baltimore. In addition to his job there, Ben secured a part-time position doing maintenance work for Richter Trailer Sales on Pulaski Highway, not far from Victory Villa.  According to Betts, during these years Ben was a good worker who kept busy trying to support his family. He wasn’t home much, but, after the war, everyone was expected to work hard to make ends meet; for a while, things went along smoothly for the Lamplugh family.

27 Helicopter Drive, Aero Acres, Middle River, Maryland (recent photo), 1946-55

Rick, ca. 1949

Shortly after his second son, Rick, was born, on November 11, 1948, Ben, left Owens Yacht Company and joined the maintenance department of Cities Service Oil Company, while keeping his part-time job at Richter Trailer Sales.

Around 1950, Ben went to work for Gibraltar Trailer Company, building house trailers in the plant and making service calls for the company.  Jim Fyle, who owned Gibraltar, enjoyed hydroplane boat racing.  (Hydroplanes are racing boats that move very fast while just skimming across the water. )  Whenever he traveled to a hydroplane race, Mr. Fyle asked Ben to go along with him to pull his boat trailer.  On those rare occasions when a race was held locally, our family might accompany him.

Hydroplane power boat racing (1959)

In 1952, still living in Victory Villa, our family watched Hurricane Hazel wreak havoc outside our windows, although, in the end, damage in our neighborhood was minimal.

Two years later, Ben changed jobs again, joining Ottie Gowl at Atlantic Trailer Company, which manufactured office trailers.  Ben was a supervisor and a maintenance man at Atlantic; this meant that he traveled for the company to take care of maintenance problems once its trailers had been sold.  According to Betts, Mr. Gowl had a lot of faith in Ben’s ability and considered him a good, reliable worker.

* * * * *

In 1954, Betts rejoined the workforce as a receptionist for the family’s physician, Dr. Marvin Rombro, whose office was in Victory Villa, only a few blocks from her home on Helicopter Drive in Aero Acres. Ben didn’t like Betts working outside the home, because this lessened her dependence on him and made him less able to support his family as the “bread winner,” at least in his mind. To Betts, though, the job enabled her to gain skills and earn money to supplement her family’s income.

Rick, Rus, Judy (Aug. 1954)

My sister Judy recalls that our family had great friends in the Victory Villa community. However, there were some aspects of being a kid there that were problematic, to put it mildly. For instance, a neighboring family had a couple of very athletic boys, and, with their father’s encouragement, every boychild in the neighborhood was urged to play football and other sports in the common backyard area between our houses.  I, for one, was having none of it, something Ben never really understood, nor could I have explained my attitude if asked.

* * * * *

In January 1949, Ben and Betts purchased their first television set, a black and white one that, like every other set in the U.S. at the time, received only three channels.  Still, the Lamplughs were among the first in Aero Acres to have a TV; consequently, they often had company in the evenings, when neighbors came over to watch popular programs like the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater.”

Financially, our family occasionally teetered on the brink of disaster. We lived in a rental house and Ben drove a used car, at least until 1953, when he purchased a new Pontiac, only to lose it within a year because he could not keep up the payments.

Ben and the 1953 Pontiac, the only new car we ever owned

In 1955, we move to Endsleigh Avenue, in a new development of what would today be called “town homes,” but in the 1950s were labeled, less glamorously, “row houses.” Whatever the new place was called, it was the first—and, as it turned out, only—home our parents ever bought (for $9500, with only $100 down–the GI Bill again), but we didn’t keep it for very long.

312 Endsleigh Ave., Ballard Gardens, Middle River, Md. (recent photo), 1955-59

In late 1959, Ben and Betts sold the Endsleigh Avenue house, and we moved to 37 North Chapel Street in Newark, Delaware. Was this because they couldn’t make house payments and so lost it, the same way that Ben gave up the Pontiac? Or, was this another example of Ben finding himself in financial trouble and turning to his older brother Bill, who lived in Wilmington, near Newark?  Your guess is as good as mine.

37 North Chapel St., Newark, Del. (left-hand side of duplex; recent photo), 1959-1962

Another issue, but one that we kids didn’t understand until later, was that this move, while putting Ben closer to his brother Bill, also put Betts nearer to her mother, Isabelle Knighton, who did not like Ben very much, and to Betts’ former fiancé, J.B., who had survived the war, returned to Maryland, and married a Catholic girl, a match his father encouraged after J.B.’s engagement to Betts went south.  But as it turned out,  J.B. and Betts had not forgotten that earlier relationship.

* * * * *

Ben had never been comfortable with his mother-in-law. When we lived near Baltimore, he drove the family to Newark only when he couldn’t get out of it.  After we moved to Delaware, Ben preferred to spend time with his father-in-law in Ike’s dank basement workshop rather than sit in the living room and chat with Isabelle. Perhaps Ben suspected that his mother-in-law was attempting to poison the well of his marriage by reminding Betts of how she’d abandoned J.B., the “better man,” during the war.

When we lived on North Chapel Street, Ben worked part-time at his brother Bill’s gas station in Wilmington, while holding a full-time maintenance job at Deemer Steel in New Castle, Delaware.  Meanwhile, Betts worked briefly at the University of Delaware in Newark, then moved to the office of ophthalmologist Perry L. Munday in September 1960.

Rick was in middle school during these years, and Judy and I were at Newark High School.  While it seemed at first that our family had entered a period of stability, Ben soon became discontented with his job at Deemer Steel and decided that he wanted to return to Baltimore.  Betts was unhappy with this decision, because Rus was to graduate from Newark High in June 1962 and had already been accepted at the University of Delaware in Newark.

Nevertheless, Ben, Betts, Judy, and Rick moved back to Baltimore in January 1962, while Rus remained in Newark, living with his grandparents so that he could graduate from Newark High and enter the University of Delaware in the fall of 1962.  Thus, at age seventeen, Rus was more or less “on his own.”  In view of what was to happen two years after his high school graduation, this opportunity to develop a measure of self-reliance could not have come at a better time.

9100 Philadelphia Rd., Rossville, Md. (recent photo), 1962-65

Ben returned to work for Jim Fyle at Gibraltar Manufacturing Company, and the family lived at 9100 Philadelphia Road, in Rossville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore.  Why did Ben want to go back to Baltimore?  His brother Bill lived in Delaware, yet much of Ben’s work history since the end of the war had been centered in the Maryland city. Then too, from Ben’s point of view, the family’s return to Baltimore got Betts farther away from her mother, Isabelle Knighton, and from her former fiancé, J.B., as well.

* * * * *

Rus and Ben, Fall 1962 (Ben wearing Rus’s University of Delaware “freshman beanie”)

The decision to send Rus to college could only have been reached after considerable soul-searching, given the family’s shaky financial position.  Somehow, Ben and Betts arranged to borrow tuition money from a bank in Philadelphia, and Betts’s parents agreed that Rus could live with them to help keep other college expenses to a minimum.  His “spending money” came primarily from summer jobs at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, arranged by Betts, who worked there.

* * * * *

The Lamplugh children’s adolescence ended suddenly in the summer of 1964, following my sophomore year in college, when our parents’ twenty-year marriage disintegrated before our eyes. None of us could have predicted either the incident that triggered the separation or the emotionally debilitating series of events that followed.

Betts and Ben had argued the night before Betts left, according to Judy. The next morning, Betts told Rus that she was going to Newark by bus and asked if he would like to come. Though puzzled, he agreed, and a few hours later the family’s metaphorical roof caved in.

Ben came home that night, after work and a stop at his favorite tavern, to find his wife and oldest child absent. Learning from Judy and Rick where Betts and Rus had gone, Ben called the Knighton residence and asked to speak to his wife. Things went downhill from there.  Ben demanded that Betts return, but she refused.

The Lamplugh children “audited” this course in marital collapse, Rick and Judy in Rossville, and Rus in Newark. As best we could determine, our parents had reached a breaking point, but none of us understood why.

On the weekend following Betts’s departure, Ben drove to Newark and again demanded to speak to his wife.  Rus attempted mediation, but Betts was unwilling even to speak to her husband. For all intents and purposes, their marriage seemed at an end.  [Betts later admitted that she had hoped to delay leaving Ben until all of her kids had finished school, but the bus ride to Newark had escalated things to a crisis point.]

* * * * *

Ben’s habit of holding two jobs and Betts’s responsibilities at work and in the home had for a long time led the kids to see their parents as separate entities who seldom spent much time together. Yet, if they were not demonstrative in their affection for each other, Ben and Betts had lavished as much love and attention on their children as they could.

Once it became clear that their parents would not get back together, Judy, Rick, and Rus were forced to choose sides, a choice none wanted to make and one that proved painful for each of them. But it had to be done.

End of Part IV

Copyright 2019 George Lamplugh

Next: Part V:  Memories of Ben as “Dad” (2019)

 

* * * * * *

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, Cold War, Delaware, family history, Historical Reflection, History, Interdisciplinary Work, memoir, Popular Culture, Research, Retirement, Rick Lamplugh, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ben: An American Dad, 1921-1986, Part III, World War II

[NOTE:  This installment in a series about my father’s life and his role as an “American Dad” takes him, his wife, and, eventually, their first child, through the end of the Second World War (For earlier posts, go here and here.)

Ben Lamplugh’s National Guard service dated from early 1941, according to fragmentary military records acquired by his wife Betts.  (As happened to thousands of other Americans who served in World War II, Ben’s official records were destroyed in a fire in St. Louis.)  Yet, Betts said that she first met Ben in the summer of 1940, when he was already a member of the Maryland National Guard, stationed at Fort Meade, in Baltimore.]

* * * * *

In the Spring of 1940, Betts graduated from Newark High School and wanted to work as a medical secretary, but there was no affordable school nearby. Instead, she went to work at the Continental Diamond Fiber plant in Newark, Delaware. Ben Lamplugh’s brother Bill’s wife, Maxine, worked there, and that’s how Betts and Ben were introduced (i.e., Bill and Maxine “set” Betts and Ben up on a date at their home outside of Newark). Around that same time, though, Betts met J.B., a native of Iowa who, after graduating from high school there, headed east to join his father in Maryland.

Betts said that Ben and his buddy Joe Lofthouse (who lived in Elkton, Maryland, a short drive from Newark) were in the Maryland National Guard “around 1939-1940.”  She also claimed that their Guard unit was “taken into the regular army” [i.e., federalized] shortly after the declaration of war against Japan on December 8, 1941.  Yet, fragmentary records indicate that Ben’s “National Guard of the United States” military service actually began on February 3, 1941, which probably means that he was in the Maryland National Guard, stationed at Fort Meade, before it was federalized, and tried to visit his brother and sister-in-law in Newark (about an hour or so north of Fort Meade), whenever he could.

If this is true, then Ben certainly could have met Betts after she graduated from Newark High School in June 1940, around the time she also met J.B.  If Ben had been in the Maryland National Guard since sometime in 1940, as seems likely, then he probably was able to use leave time to travel from Ft. Meade in Baltimore, to nearby Newark, Delaware, to visit his brother Bill and Bill’s wife Maxine, and, if he was lucky, to snag a date with the vivacious Betts Knighton.

Still, by late 1941, Ben also must have known that Betts was engaged to J.B.  Then came the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941, and the American declaration of war on Japan, Germany, and Italy, on December 8.  Like lots of young American men, J.B. decided to enlist in the service, joining the U.S. Marines several days after Pearl Harbor, at eighteen years of age.

Shortly thereafter, the twenty year-old Ben learned that his Maryland National Guard unit had been “federalized,” which meant that he would soon find himself in the U.S. Army.

* * * * *

In early February 1942, J.B. was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina, for Marine basic training.  By May, he had completed that training and shipped out for service overseas. He and Betts were engaged by late 1941, and had hoped to marry in 1942, but they decided to put their wedding plans on hold once J.B. joined the Marines.  J.B. soon found himself in Guadalcanal, and by mid-November he had been transferred to Australia.  And then came the long-distance argument that led Betts to break off her engagement.

Ben and Trixie (Knighton Family dog, c. 1943)

According to my sister Judy, Betts claimed that she never loved Ben as much as he had loved her. In fact, it’s likely that she had loved J.B. from the summer of 1940, when she was 17.  After her breakup with J.B., though, Betts turned to Ben, perhaps to spite J.B. Betts and Ben only dated for a matter of months before they wed.

Marriage License, January 12, 1943

They were married at 7:00 pm, January 12, 1943, by the Rev. C.N. Jones, in Wilmington, Delaware. Ben was twenty-one years old and would be twenty-two in eight days; Betts had turned twenty years of age four days earlier.  (Betts later told Judy that, on the day they were married, Ben was absent without leave from Fort Meade.)

* * * * *

Ben and Betts (c. 1943)

Somewhere around that time, Ben and his buddy Joe Lofthouse volunteered to undergo Airborne training.  They were sent to Ft. Benning, near Columbus, Georgia, for basic Infantry training, then on to Fort Bragg, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where the newly created 82nd Airborne Division had been relocated from Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.

Ben was injured on his fifth training jump.  During his recovery from those injuries, Betts visited Ben at Fort Bragg and met Joe Lofthouse and his wife Aggie, probably in late summer/early fall of 1943.  During this visit, Betts heard lots of stories about Joe and Ben’s time in the National Guard and in the regular Army.  (About nine months later, on May 20, 1944, Ben and Betts’ first child, a son, George, nicknamed “Rusty” because his parents anticipated he would have his father’s red hair, was born.  He had black hair.)

Following his time with Betts, Ben learned that his injury disqualified him from completing Airborne training. Instead, he was transferred to a Field Artillery unit at Camp Rucker, Alabama.  After several months there, Ben’s unit was sent to Hawaii, where they transported ammunition throughout the islands.  According to Betts, during his time in Hawaii Ben even had a few opportunities to play golf, something I have never credited, because he did not mention—or, to my knowledge, participate in—golf again.

More significantly, Ben’s Artillery unit eventually was ticketed for the invasion of Japan as the war wound down.  Because of President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 1945), however, the war ended before a seaborn invasion of Japan was necessary. Consequently, Ben avoided combat on Japanese beaches and served in Japan only briefly, as part of the American occupying force. He received an honorable discharge from the Army on December 2, 1945.

[Note:  This is why, in almost forty years of teaching about Truman’s “decision to drop the bombs,” I used to tell my students that I was of two minds about it—yes, the damage done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was terrible, but, because of it, my father survived the war. The pre-bomb estimates of American deaths during an invasion of the Japanese home islands had been horrific.  Ben Lamplugh returned home at war’s end and was able to plunge into his role as a husband and father.]

End of Part III

Copyright 2019 George Lamplugh

Next:  Ben:  An American Dad, 1921-1986, Part IV, Postwar America, 1946-1964.

* * * * * *

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, Education, family history, genealogy, Historical Reflection, History, Interdisciplinary Work, memoir, Research, Retirement, Teaching, Uncategorized, WP Long Read | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ben: An American Dad, 1921-1986, Part II: The Wedding Photograph

[Note:  When we three Lamplugh siblings gathered at Judy’s home to remember our late mother, Elsie Elizabeth (“Betts”) Lamplugh, a couple of years ago, Judy had a surprise for us:  She had retrieved, and then had reproduced, a wedding picture of Betts and her new husband, Benjamin (“Ben”) Leroy Lamplugh, who were married in Wilmington, Delaware, on January 12, 1943.  That photograph quickly earned a permanent spot on the nightstand next to my side of the bed in our home.

Recently, as I began thinking about a blog series on my father (for Part I, go here), I couldn’t get that photo out of my mind.  First, Betts didn’t look like the version of herself I was familiar with after my research for the posts covering her life from her birth in 1923 through her marriage twenty years later.  Her hairstyle, even her facial features, didn’t seem familiar.  And yet, this was her wedding picture, so of course she wished to create a memorable impression–and, obviously, she did!

And then there was Ben.  He was almost twenty-two when he married, but didn’t look it. Nattily turned out in his U.S. Army uniform, with paratrooper badge attached below his lapel, Ben apparently was trying to project the strength of character and determination required of an American soldier training for the 82nd Airborne, but he seems very young.  Moreover, looking at the portrait more than seventy-five years later, there may be more to see.]

* * * * *

Sources about Betts are more plentiful than those about Ben.  Consequently, I’ve wondered what I could say about him to balance the more detailed treatment his bride received in this blog.  What I plan to offer is a reflection on these two young Americans, who married despite the fact that Ben was already launched on his military training; the United States had been at war with Japan and Germany for a year; and, as of January 1943, the future of that conflict, and Ben’s future for that matter, was cloudy at best, bleak at worst.  (Of course, Betts and Ben were certainly not the only people in their generation who decided to marry during wartime, but they were the ones who counted, at least as far as my siblings and I were concerned!)

Here’s where it gets tricky:  I hope to present Ben, Betts, and their lives together, fairly. This means that, in view of the wealth of material Betts left behind, and the paucity of information Ben bequeathed us, the emphasis will be on offering an even-handed view of the couple.  I’ll insert links to some of the “Betts” posts to supplement my generalizations about her, and I’ll present as much specific information about Ben as I can, especially for his early years, without links to sources, except for Betts’ memoirs—because there are few.

* * * * *

The first thing I noticed in the photograph was their eyes.  Betts projects a certain serenity, a conviction that things have worked out so far and will continue to do so.  Ben, on the other hand, without quite flashing a “deer in the headlights” stare, doesn’t seem as sure of the future as his bride.  Betts manages a confident smile, but Ben, not so much.  It’s not that he looks alarmed; rather, he doesn’t project certainty about the future—or contentment with the past–that Betts does.  And there are reasons that might explain the differences.

First, Betts’ apparent serenity.  She had grown up amid a large, relatively stable family, in a house at 50 Choate Street, in the small northern Delaware town of Newark.  Born on January 8, 1923, Betts was the second of six children of Isabelle and Isaac L. (“Ike”) Knighton. A child of the Great Depression era, Betts always knew that her father had a series of steady jobs and helpful relatives, and that even if family finances were tough, the Knighton children received what they needed.

Moreover, as a youngster, Betts suffered a bout of rheumatic fever that led to heart problems and nearly a dozen years when her physical activities were closely monitored by her family physician and by her parents.  Consequently, her girlhood was far from typical.  While her friends were encouraged to participate in various activities, from sports to dancing (not to mention dating!), Betts was not.  Then, in 1940, after she graduated from Newark High School, Betts was on her own.  She got a job and was determined to catch up with her girlfriends; although she was not interested in sports, Betts was interested in dating and dancing.

* * * * *

Mary Dutton Lamplugh

Ben Lamplugh was born on January 20, 1921, to Samuel Leroy Lamplugh, a truck driver, and Mary Dutton Lamplugh.  Although his birth certificate records Ben as the couple’s fifth child, only two older siblings were alive at his birth, a brother, Bill, and a sister, Ethel. His father Leroy left his family when Ben was an infant.  Ben’s mother realized that she could not support three children by herself, so she farmed out Bill and Ethel to relatives, keeping the infant Ben (or Bennie) with her.

Samuel Leroy Lamplugh

Ben grew up not knowing his own father, which was hard for him.  Betts said that, soon after she and Ben married, they were on Market Street in Wilmington, Delaware, and came abreast of people standing in line outside a movie theater.  Ben asked Betts to wait for him, then began to talk to a man in the line.  When he returned, Ben told Betts that he had thought the man might have been his father Leroy, but he’d been mistaken.  Eventually, though, Ben must have found his father, because Betts said Leroy visited a couple of times after the war, when the Lamplughs lived in Middle River, Maryland.

Mary Lamplugh eventually married Noble Cahall, a farmer in downstate Harrington, Delaware, who brought a passel of his own kids to the marriage—I remember at least three, and Ben himself later recalled five or six step-siblings. My sister Judy thinks that Ben really liked his stepdad; my brother Rick, on the other hand, believes that Ben left home at about the age of 15 and moved in with his brother Bill and Bill’s wife Maxine, on a farm in the Newark area.  If that is true, then it might have been tough for Ben living with all those Cahalls, or perhaps Ben simply missed his big brother.  (Note:  I believe that Ben’s stepfather, Noble Cahall, eventually visited us at least once when we lived in Middle River.)

* * * * *

Once Betts set out to reclaim her childhood and teen years after graduating from high school, the world of Newark was her oyster.  She worked at the Continental Diamond Fiber Company, where her father also was employed; among her co-workers was Maxine Lamplugh, Bill Lamplugh’s wife.

Meanwhile, Betts met a boy, J.B., newly arrived from Iowa to join his father in Delaware, and she also occasionally dated young men from the University of Delaware, located in her hometown of Newark. Betts agreed to visit Bill and Maxine’s home near Newark, where she met Bill’s redheaded brother Ben, who evidently was smitten with her free spirit.

When he got leave from the Maryland National Guard, Ben traveled to Newark, making sure to try to arrange a date with Betts, but he was not always successful. After all, Betts had a fulltime job at the fiber mill and she also enjoyed dating, which meant that she was not always “available” when Ben came calling. In fact, it soon became clear to Betts, and probably to Ben and some University of Delaware students, that J.B. from Iowa had won her heart.

By late 1941, Betts and J.B. had decided to marry early in 1942.  Then, on December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  Like lots of young American males, J.B. decided to enlist, joining the Marines in February 1942, which meant that his marriage to Betts was put on indefinite hold.

* * * * *

We are still not certain if Ben Lamplugh graduated from high school. I grew up thinking that he was a high school dropout, while my brother Rick believes that Ben might have graduated from high school around 1938. Then there’s the family story of the couple who offered to pay for Ben to go with their son to the Virginia Military Institute, in Lexington,  which suggests that he was a high school graduate, but Ben declined the offer.

If Ben had graduated from high school, his unwillingness to accept the opportunity to attend VMI might have meant that he didn’t think he was “college material,” or that he did not like the idea of attending a military school.  Yet, if the offer had been made to Ben earlier, perhaps during his junior year in high school, and he turned it down and subsequently decided to drop out of school, then the anecdote at least suggests that his friend’s parents believed Ben was bright enough to do college work.

Ben apparently left the Cahall farm in lower Delaware in his teens, and moved north.  By the time Betts met Ben at his brother Bill’s home in the summer of 1940, Ben was in the Maryland National Guard, stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland.  After perhaps a few dates with Betts that summer, Ben learned that she was enamored of J.B.  So, Ben presumably turned elsewhere for female companionship, at least for a while.

* * * * *

Another explanation for the serene expression Betts projects in her wedding photo is that this was “not her first rodeo” as a bride-to-be:  she had been engaged to J.B., but his decision to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor frustrated her desire to become his wife, at least temporarily. Then, however, fate stepped in.

Betts and J.B. carried on a long-distance argument over reports he’d heard that Betts had been dating young men in Newark after she had become engaged to him.  To J.B., those rumors suggested that Betts was “cheating” on him while he was fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific.  To Betts, J.B.’s response to the rumors suggested that J.B. didn’t trust her.  Consequently, Betts, who had a temper, broke off the engagement, sending J.B.’s ring, and other wartime memorabilia, back to his mother in Iowa.

* * * * *

Once Betts broke off her engagement to J.B., she turned to those young men she had dated before she and J.B. had become an item.  Over the next few months, she was increasingly drawn to Ben Lamplugh.  (In filling out a questionnaire for her grandchildren decades later, Betts made two revealing statements:  she regarded Ben as a gentleman, very quiet, much like her father, Ike Knighton; and Ben had told her that he liked her because she was quiet, though she added, “little did he know how much I would change.”  Both those descriptions would  prove true in the years ahead.) 

Ben knew he had not been Betts’s first choice for a husband, but she had agreed to marry him, which obviously overruled any hesitation on his part.  By late 1942, Ben and Betts were engaged.  They were married in Wilmington, on January 12, 1943, a date they chose because it fell between their respective January birthdays.  Yet, they both still had a war in front of them. . . .

End of Part II

Copyright 2019 George Lamplugh

Next: Ben: An American Dad, 1921-1986, Part III, World War II

  * * * * * *

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 Delaware, family history, genealogy, Historical Reflection, History, Interdisciplinary Work, memoir, Research, Retirement, Rick Lamplugh, Uncategorized, WP Long Read | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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.)]

* * * * * 

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.

* * * * *

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]

* * * * * *

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 , , , , | 6 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.]

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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)

* * * * *

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)

* * * * * *

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.]

* * * * *

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.”

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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].”

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * * *

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!)

* * * * * *

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)

* * * * * 

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.

* * * * *

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