JF Ptak Science Books [Expanding an earlier post from 2013]
There were 75 entries to this blog in June--see archive at left to access
- "The cheek of every American tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, dishwatery utterances of the man who has been pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States"--The Chicago Times, on the Gettysburg Address, 1863
We all know today what to expect when we hear something referenced as a Gettysburg Address--and we certainly know what something might be if it was referenced as not-the-Gettysburg-Address.
The address as it was when Lincoln gave it didn’t even have a title, named as it was post facto by the newspapers and periodicals covering the event (on the spot or remotely). The speech is considered as being among the greatest ever given by an American, though at the time it its reception was very mixed—in many cases it was seen as a failure and even as an embarrassment to the solemnity of the moment and place. There were many newspapers which panned the speech (as in the case above with the Chicago Times, which at the time was considered more of a Democrat paper than anything else), while others (like the New York Times gave the speech a warm reception. The speech’s presence in national memory was crafted over time (not unlike Mr. Leonardo), its perception formed into the polished gem that it is seen as being today.
The possibility of the implied actions of the titles of the pamphlets below were somewhat similar, though mostly in reverse. I’m not saying that some of them were always seen as quacky and the works of demented seers; their titles and possible content, though, were not seen as dismissible, and their concerns were real and a possibility. The concerns over “invasion” today depend on what invasion means. I don’t imagine that people are seriously considering the possibility of a land or air force attacking this country, though other sorts of invasions (biological, chemical, cyber, etc.) are a possibility.
The Battle for America/How We Can Avoid It (1939) was published by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (and headed by William Allen White, iconic middle America newspaper editor and editorialist) which attacked isolationism and advocated strong support of the European effort. The thinking here was that if America didn’t become involved now it would so later, with battle lines of a Nazi-illuminated truce drawn close to American borders. So it was a pay-now-or-pay-more-later position from a man who supported the New Deal but whop didn’t support FDR.
Much of this thinking looks a bit tenuous to me. For example the position excluded the use of an American expeditionary force in Europe (“for theatre for such a large force elsewhere”), though if nothing at all were done there would be a “certain” use of the AEF in South America combating Nazism. Also, if the U.S. backed the Allies with supplies and war materiel the “liability” to the US in the consequence of European defeat “would leave America's fate against attack and able to make stalemate peace”. So at the very least, doing a little bit of something would d at least allow us to make a truce with the German/Japanese alliance. Doing nothing at all in this area would infer “unlimited” liability, and “defeat of the United States could bring loss of independence”. (“Could”?)
The way aid ourselves in this war “(was) to aid Britain to hold out to defeat Nazi Germany….the chance for Britain to hold out and win is a good risk for America”.
Then there is Whither United States?, written fairly late in the war (1944) by T.H. Tetens, who was a journalist (born 1899) thrown into a concentration camp in 1933 and who subsequently escaped, making a career in the U.S. The provocative cover brings up a real issue inside, as Tetens questions how people are appointed to sensitive positions in the war-time. His major example is Hans M. Hoffmann, who was appointed to a critical post in the Office of War Information.though Tetens' investigation shows that Hoffmann was the editor of teh Staats Zeitung, which was pro-Germany and Hitler-supportive through Hoffmann's tenure there from 1933 to 1941. I don't know about Hoffmann--he doesn't show up in any of my references here and doesn't make an appearance in this capacity on the internet, but Tetens seems to make a very strong point. And hence, I guess, the large question mark.
The next pamphlet, Will America Be Invaded, was published by the Christian Fellowship Press in Akron, Ohio, in 1941, and leans mightily upon scripture to state assumptions about the coming menace to America being presaged in the Bible. That invasion also seems to be allowed by God (according to prophesies and such) in pursuit of murky results. The conditions which will prevail “when God permits invasion” (according to this person’s reading of the bible)) include the formation of monopolies, extensive wine and music, “unbelief in God’s judgments”, conceit, “wine and bribes in high places”, and “perverted moral stanfa5rds. All of this—it is claimed—can be remedied through one medium: prayer; and prayer through only one mediator, Jesus Christ, who would then take the communications to god’s ear.
The Attack on America, published by the Friendly Sons of St Patrick (of NYC), was a cautionary pamphlet published in 1920 warning against certain dispassionate evils of British propaganda in the United States. Freedom or Enslavement for United States of America (sic), published in 1939 for the Mothers of United States of America (sic) advocated a freedom policy that prohibited conscription in foreign wars and would present a state of permanent neutrality. It also made some pretty vicious anti-Roosevelt attacks, finding him the Socialist root of the coming empire of American evils with a wildly power-mad and legislative-grabbing presidency.
Quite a grouping of pamphleteers concerned with the potential overthrow of the United States, each seeing the unfortunate possibility of national death via divergent and disparate means: the fall of the country due to not being part of the Allies during the war and also for being in it; biblical ordination of invasion that is only combatable through prayer; British and European propaganda control of the national welfare; and of course the diabolical Socialist menace of Franklin Roosevelt and the imperial presidency as the ruination of the nation's future. All of this gently hidden by disturbing titles which really don't give you a hint about what wildly unexpected ways the end was approaching. And whatever they were, they were definitely not high-order thinking.
And then there is this:
To listen to the song, check out this link to the Library of Congress (male solo, orchestra), 1916.