Monday, June 29, 2015

Wyatt Earp Meets Doc Holliday: History in the Making

Sometimes an individual plays such a pivotal role in history that he quickly passes into myth and legend, and the basic data of his life are almost lost among the fables and tales told about him. Not only is this true of historical figures who lived many centuries ago, but it can happen in the case of a man who lived quite recently.

Wyatt Earp was born in 1848 in Monmouth, Illinois. He had five brothers, Morgan, Newton, Virgil, Warren, and James. He had two sisters named Adelia and Mariah Ann. In 1849/1850, the family moved to Pella, Iowa. Here the parents, Nicholas and Virginia, lived with their children for around a decade.

The Earp family was strongly attached to the Republican Party, and so the older sons fought for the North during the Civil War: Virgil, James, and Newton. Wyatt was too young to join the army, although he tried repeatedly.

By 1869, Wyatt had reached adulthood, become a lawman in Missouri, and married his wife Urilla. But Urilla died in 1870, leaving him broken-hearted.

For the next few years, Wyatt Earp had no steady home. He roamed through Arkansas, Kansas, South Dakota, and the “Indian Territory” (later known as ‘Oklahoma’). He prospected for gold, worked as a ‘bouncer’ or private security man, and eventually returned to working for law enforcement agencies. His career began to stabilize itself somewhat when he became a marshal in Dodge City, Kansas.

Interrupted by a stint of gold prospecting in South Dakota, Wyatt was marshal in Dodge City in 1876/1877 and in 1878/1879.

Contrary to the images of tough guy heroes in western movies, Wyatt habitually avoided alcohol.

While in his capacity as one of Dodge City’s marshals, Wyatt followed a criminal to a small town located near the army’s Fort Griffin, Texas. He knew a barkeeper in that town named John Shanssey. John introduced Wyatt to Doc Holliday. Wyatt and Doc would become friends and coworkers. Historian David Fisher writes:

John Shanssey also introduced Doc Holliday to deputy US marshall Wyatt Earp. Shanssey and Earp had met several years earlier, when the future lawman had refereed one of the future saloon man’s bouts. This time, Earp had come to “the Flats,” as the town near Fort Griffin was called, hunting a train robber named “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh. Perhaps at Shanssey’s request, Doc told Earp what he knew: While playing cards with Rudabaugh a few days earlier, he’d heard the man say something about going back to Dodge City. Earp sent that information by telegraph to Dodge City’s assistant deputy, Bat Masterson, who eventually made the arrest. But that encounter marked the beginning of the more important relationship of Doc Holliday’s life.

Wyatt Earp’s life seemed to go from steady to haywire after the death of his wife. He moved from town to town, and from job to job.

Doc Holliday’s life was similarly unraveled by a diagnosis of tuberculosis. ‘Consumption,’ as TB was then often called, was almost a death sentence. Many patients died soon after diagnosis. Holliday was himself a medical practitioner, and understood well his prognosis. Like Wyatt, he began a nomadic life, and became known as a formidable gunfighter. The knowledge that he was likely to die soon from tuberculosis erased any fears he might have had in shootouts. His behavior in confronting criminals was courageous bordering on reckless.

Both Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday would outlive their gunfighting days and die of other causes.

But when they met and teamed up, they both were engaged in dangerous attempts to enforce justice.

Wyatt Earp was himself an ornery character. He’d been a boxer and a gambler; he’d worked on the railroads, as a constable, and as a horse thief. There were a lot men like him in the Old West, people who just flowed with the opportunities life presented to them. For the previous few years, he’d been working mostly as a strongman, keeping the peace in brothels. He’d moved to Wichita in ‘74 to keep the peace in his brother Virgil’s house of ill repute, while also working as a part-time peace officer for the city. When Earp first crossed paths with Doc Holliday in ‘77, he had recently been named Dodge City’s chief deputy marshall.

After Holliday met Earp at “the Flats,” Holliday and his girlfriend Kate followed Earp back to Dodge City.

Presumably, Earp welcomed the Doc and Kate, who found lodgings at Deacon Cox’s boarding house when they arrived in Dodge. If it wasn’t the roughest town in the West, it definitely was high on the list. As a letter that appeared in the Washington Evening Star complained, “Dodge City is a wicked little town. Its character is so clearly and egregiously bad that one might conclude … that it was marked for special Providential punishment.”

This was the beginning of a collegial relationship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Their most important, and most famous, work lie several years ahead of them, in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881, in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

After Reconstruction: Civil Rights Violated (Civil Rights Setback)

After the end of the war in 1865, an era of flourishing civil rights began for the newly-freed African-Americans. Ex-slaves began voting, owning property, and even running for office; more than a few of them were elected.

Within fifty years, however, most of this progress would be undone.

How did this happen? How did a civil rights triumph turn into a civil rights debacle? Historian Wyatt Wells notes that the threat to Black liberty began with the Compromise of 1877. The electoral college contained some ambiguous ballots after the presidential election of 1876.

In this compromise, which was never written or reliably documented, Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes obtained the presidency, but the Democrats demanded that the Republicans withdraw federal officers from the South - officers who’d been stationed there to ensure civil rights for the African-Americans. Historian Wyatt Wells writes:

Although the Compromise of 1877 terminated Reconstruction, it did not settle the questions of what race relations and politics would look like in the postwar South.

After a decade of Republican influence, “many northern Republicans expected” that the Democrats would allow Blacks to continue voting and holding elected office. Because of the alleged Compromise, the Republicans expected the

Democrats to respect the rights of African Americans, and at least a few of the latter promised to do so. African Americans often voted and, in some areas, held public office. In most southern states, the Republican Party still functioned, electing local officials, state legislators, and the occasional U.S. Representative. In the 1880s a coalition of Republicans and dissident Democrats won state elections in Virginia, and in the 1890s alliances between Republicans and Populists did the same in North Carolina and Louisiana.

For a decade or two after the Compromise of 1877, the Republicans were able to generate some civil rights for the African-Americans. “Nevertheless, during these years,” the security of those rights was beginning to unravel:

Democrats often used fraud and intimidation to eject Republicans from office, and southern states enacted the first Jim Crow statutes. In 1890 a petition from blacks in Oklahoma to President Benjamin Harrison lamented that “[t]he passage of unfair laws affecting elections, labor and the landlord and tenant system, by the legislatures of southern states, has caused widespread unrest and discontent” and “produced a feeling of profound discouragement and utter dismay among Africo-American [sic] voters in the entire country.”

By the turn of the century, Black civil rights would be in full retreat as the Democrats increased their domination of the South. Kentucky, led by Democrat governor J.C.W. Beckham, passed its infamous “Day Law” in 1904, which prohibited students of different races from attending the same schools. Woodrow Wilson’s administration began to segregate federal agencies which had been desegregated and integrated during the 1870s.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rewriting the Cold War’s History

For decades, a small but well-organized group of writers sought to downplay the dangers of the Cold War. They worked to deny that the United States faced a serious threat from a coordinated espionage network of operatives placed within various agencies of the U.S. government.

They also sought to direct suspicion away from American Communist Party (CPUSA). This group was not merely interested in articulating a point of view, but was rather dedicated to a “violent” revolution inside the United States, and to obtaining classified military information and forwarding it to Moscow.

The CPUSA’s insistence on violence - its printed internal documents used the word ‘violent’ as defining characteristic of its anticipated revolution - brought it to the attention of law enforcement agencies like the FBI. Its coordination with the KGB, NKVD, and MGB meant that it was stealing U.S. government secrets and giving them a hostile enemy power.

One example of an effort to deny or downplay the dangers which faced the United States during the Cold War is a 1978 book by David Caute titled The Great Fear. The thesis presented by Caute and others is that concerns about threats of a Soviet espionage network inside the United States were baseless and irrational.

In 1995, the ‘Venona’ project was declassified and some of the information which U.S. intelligence agencies had intercepted and decoded became public. These were encrypted cables between various members of the Soviet intelligence establishment.

These post-Cold-War revelations refuted claims made by Caute and others that the CPUSA was not operating a spy network inside the United States. An editor for the University of Michigan’s Michigan Law Review wrote:

Contrary to Caute’s preposterous claim that Communists were innocent idealists, the American Communist Party was linked to Stalin like an al-Qaeda training camp to Osama bin Laden. As John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr wrote in their book Venona, the American Communist Party was “a fifth column working inside and against the United States in the Cold War.” The cables “expose beyond cavil the American Communist party as an auxiliary of the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union.” They said, “While not every American Communist was a spy, hundreds were.” It was a striking admission coming from Haynes and Klehr. In their earlier book on American Communism, they had stated matter-of-factly that “few American Communists were spies.” The disgorging of decrypted Soviet cables forced the professors to revise that assessment.

The Cold War is often defined as lasting from the mid-1940s to the fall of the Soviet Union around 1991. An argument can be made for a starting point a decade or two earlier, inasmuch as the USSR was operating an active spy network inside the United States in 1930s. The Soviets had also been involved with a general strike in Seattle in 1919; an alleged labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was actually communist front and took the residents of the city hostage for several days.

In addition to infiltrating the United States government, the communists also operated a variety of such ‘front’ organizations: cultural clubs, academic foundations, artistic groups, and political and labor committees. These seemingly innocent groups, apparently promoting noble humanistic causes, were facades behind which communist agents carried out their work. Historians Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write:

Communist covert actions against the United States and other target nations were relentless and effective, far more than most historians have imagined. The Kremlin used such tactics in systematic fashion, made them key elements of state policy, and devoted enormous resources to them. The data also show the manner in which the West fought back against this challenge, though in most cases we were on the defensive, playing catch-up, and far less practiced in secret warfare. We thus for many years experienced more defeats than triumphs, though with some victories to our credit.

Since the end of the Cold War, evidence has been released which details the scope, breadth, and depth of the espionage network operated by the Soviet Union inside the United States. It is clear that during the Cold War, few Americans understood the size of communist spy system, and the gravity of danger it posed.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cold War Overview

As a topic, the Cold War has many different dimensions. Although most famous for the years between the 1950s and the 1970s, it began as early as 1919, when the IWW held the city of Seattle hostage for five days in a general strike.

Allegedly a labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was actually a Soviet front organization. Over the next few decades, the USSR would establish a number of such ‘front’ organizations: groups with ostensibly benign or salutary purposes, but which in fact functioned as intelligence-gathering, propaganda-spreading, or policy-influencing organs of the Soviet Union.

Such front organizations might be cultural or historical societies, labor unions, professional associations, academic groups, political committees, or any other seemingly harmless assembly. Some members of a front would be key leaders, aware of the group’s true purpose. Others might have no idea that their efforts or donations were going to support an enemy government.

In the early years of the Cold War, the Communist Party (CPUSA) was a center for networking many Soviet agents. The CPUSA was not merely expounding a political view, but rather stated in writing that it sought a “violent” revolution in the United States.

Then as now, most Americans wanted to preserve freedom of speech and freedom of the press for all citizens. But the CPUSA was not interested in ideas: is deliberately used the word ‘violent’ in its publications. It wanted to cause the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Later in the Cold War era, the CPUSA had been largely discredited, and Soviet agents used other, more secretive, ways of networking. Historians Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write:

Considering only its larger aspects, the Cold War story is of course well-known and doesn’t need much elaboration. With the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, conflict between the new Soviet rulers of Russia and the non-Communist nations was foreordained and, despite numerous tactical zigzags, would persist for generations. The hostility stemmed in part from conditions on the ground in Europe during World War I, but mainly from the belief of Soviet commissars Lenin and Trotsky that their victory would be the precursor to Red revolution elsewhere, and that the new Communist state would lead the way in making this happen. Soviet methods of secret warfare were developed to advance this revolutionary vision.

The United States faced a greater threat than many citizens realized at the time. Only after the end of the Cold War could previously classified reports be released, both by U.S. intelligence agencies, and from the files of what had been the Soviet government.

As the details became more widely known, the American public learned that the danger had been much greater than previously imagined. In 1995, details about the “Venona Project” became declassified. This project was carried out by the intelligence community in the United States, and managed to intercept and decrypt a small percentage of messages sent and received by Soviet agents in the U.S.

Although the KGB may be the most famous Soviet intelligence agency, it was organized in 1954. Several other agencies operated prior to it, including the NKVD and the MGB, going back to 1934.

The Soviet espionage network inside the United States was well developed. An editor of the University of Michigan's Michigan Law Review wrote:

The scale of the conspiracy was unprecedented. Hundreds of Soviet spies honeycombed the U.S. government throughout the forties and fifties. America had been invaded by a civilian army loyal to a hostile power. There was no room for denying it. Soviet operatives were stealing technical information from atomic, military, radar, aerospace, and rocket programs. The cables revealed the code names of the spies, their technical espionage, and the secret transmission of highly sensitive diplomatic and strategic policies.

While the direct members of the international communist conspiracy were willing and knowing agents, other “dupes” unwittingly aided the Soviet effort by supporting what seemed to be innocent and benevolent humanitarian organizations - organizations which were actually fronts.

American counterintelligence efforts proceeded with great caution. Much of what it learn about the Soviet espionage network was not revealed, even to other branches of the government, because the information would become useless if the Soviet learned what the Americans knew.

Different offices within the State Department, and in the Department of Treasury, were staffed by agents from the USSR. Paid Soviet spies held positions in the U.S. government and ranked high enough that some of them, like Alger Hiss, had face-to-face meetings with President Roosevelt.

Other agents gained access to the most detailed information about atomic weapons. Through the work of spies like Klaus Fuchs, Julius Rosenberg, and Ethel Rosenberg, the USSR gained the technology to build its own atomic bomb.

In hindsight, the international communist conspiracy held an incredible position inside the United States government, and almost succeeded in its desire to kill Americans and bring an end to political liberty.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Amana Colonies

The United States has hosted a variety of religious communities over the centuries. Some, like the Amish and Mennonites, have endured over the years; other, like the Shakers, no longer exist.

In Iowa County, Iowa, the Amana Colonies represent a type of communities which not only had a religious nature, but also an interest in economic systems. The Amana Colonies are neither Amish, nor Mennonite, nor Shaker.

Like many religious communities, the Amana Colonies have their roots in Europe and are the result of immigration. Officially titled the ‘Community of True Inspiration,’ they trace their founding to northwestern Germany, when, in the year 1714, the preaching of Friedrich Camisard was organized by two leaders, Jhann Rock and Eberhard Gruber, into a series of congregations.

In 1817, a second wave of leaders - Michael Krausert, Barbara Heinemann, and Christian Metz - gave new momentum to the movement, especially in the regions of Alsace, Hesse, and the Palatinate. The followers developed a separatist lifestyle, refusing to send their children to government schools, swear allegiance to the government, or engage in military activity.

Tired of government oppression, the group began to emigrate in 1842, settling near Buffalo, New York, and organizing themselves under the name ‘Ebenezer Society’ in 1843. In 1855, they relocated to Iowa, purchasing 26,000 acres of land and developing what would eventually become the seven villages known as Amana Colonies. Historian Leon D. Adams writes:

The Amanas and their wines are something out of another world. The colonies are seven Old World villages on the banks of the Iowa River ten miles north of Interstate 80, eighteen miles southwest of Cedar Rapids. An eighteenth-century German communistic and religious sect called The Community of the True Inspiration came here in 1854 from Ebenezer, New York, purchased 25,000 acres of virgin prairie, and built a utopia named Amana, a biblical word meaning “remain true.” Three more colonies, Middle, West, and South Amana, were built two miles apart, an hour’s travel by ox team. High and Upper South Amana were added in between, and the small town of Homestead was purchased outright.

When historians describe the Amana Colonies as ‘communist,’ the reader must understand that this was long before the times of Lenin and Stalin. The word ‘communism’ had not yet taken on the connotations of the oppressive and militant atheism which figured so prominently in the twentieth century.

Instead, the Amanas instituted a pacifistic and spiritual communism, modeled in part after the earliest followers of Jesus. They officially incorporated their organization in Iowa as the ‘Amana Society’ in 1859. Leon D. Adams continues:

Communism survived here for almost three generations. Everything was owned by the Amana Society; the members worked without pay in the mills, shops, and and fields and had their meals together in communal kitchens. But in 1932 the Depression threatened them with bankruptcy, and communism was forsaken for capitalism. The colonists became stockholders of a corporation which paid them wages, and capitalism worked: one of the colonies’ several industries, Amana Refrigeration, has become the biggest maker of home freezers in the world.

The change in economic system did not change the spiritual beliefs and practices of the colonies. They do not baptize in any way, and regard sacraments as purely symbolic.

They have adapted well to modern economic patterns. Their location on a major east-west highway is well suited for the tourism industry.

The five tiny Amana wineries make Piestengel and grape wines in the basements of the owners’ homes. Piestengel is rhubarb wine; the word means pie stalk in German. It comes both dry and sweet, white and pink, and usually doesn’t taste of rhubarb; it has a flavor of its own. Nine tenths of Amana wine is sold to tourists, who taste and buy it in the cellars and drink it in the local restaurants.

In 1973, when Leon D. Adams wrote his account of the Amana Colonies, wine production in Iowa was low, prices for wine were low, and the state government intensely regulated the sale of wine. At that time, Adams wrote:

The tourists are happy to pay six dollars a gallon for the Amana product - double the price of many standard wines - because, in the rest of Iowa, wine to take home can only be bought in the state monopoly liquor stores. A special section of the Iowa law, adopted when Prohibition was repealed, allows the native wineries to sell their homemade wines to anyone, but they are not sold in the state stores. Most Amana wines are labeled “other than standard wine” because to reach their usual 16 percent alcoholic content more sugar must be added than Federal wine regulations allow.

Starting in the mid-1940s, two herbicides or weedkillers known as “2,4-D” and “2,3,5-T” came into use. One sad side effect of these two agents was that they killed a number of types of grapevines, including some of those used to make wine.

In the old days each Amana colony had its communal winery, which provided each family with a daily allowance of wine. Workers in the fields received an extra portion at three each afternoon. “Our village winery was under our church,” recalls Friedrich Ackerman, who owns the South Amana Winery. “But our elders ordered all the barrels emptied when Prohibition became the law in 1920, and the wine ran in ditches for hours.” The vineyards were abandoned during the 1920s, and when the wineries reopened at Repeal, they got their grapes from a vineyard near Fort Madison on the Mississippi. Then the Fort Madison vineyard was ruined by 2,4-D, and most of the grapes since have come from Fred Baxter’s vineyard across the river at Nauvoo.

While the grape sources are important for Amana’s wines, the colonies also produce fruit and rhubarb wines.

One Amana winery has its own vineyard because Ramon and Bette Goerler, who own the Old Wine Cellar Winery, believe they should grow their own grapes as their forebears did. Goerler, a Navy veteran and a graduate of the University of Iowa, planted the vineyard in 1966, six acres of Fredonia, Concord, and Beta grapes a mile north of town.

Writing as he did in 1973, Adams reported the production levels at that time:

In 1880, when the national census of winegrowing was taken, Iowa produced 334,970 gallons of wine, thirteen times as much as the 26,000 the state produces today.

Happily, things have improved in Iowa since then. In 2008, the state produced 186,700 gallons of wine; in 2009 it produced 212,891 gallons; and it 2012 it produced between 243,571 and 296,900 gallons.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scott, a Solid Man; Mexico, a Fragmented Society

The war between Mexico and the United States, fought from 1846 to 1848, while ostensibly a border dispute, reveals characteristics of the two nations and of the men who led them.

The personalities shaped the war from the U.S. side: President James Polk, General Zachary Taylor, and General Winfield Scott. Both generals had political potentials, ambitions, and aspirations - to varying degrees. Polk was anxious to minimize the amount of direction competition which the two general could pose for him, and to influence the outcome of their political competition with each other.

Winfield Scott already had a long and distinguished military career behind him when the war started. In 1810, as an officer in the U.S. Army, he had been falsely accused of dishonorable conduct. Historian Brion McClanahan writes:

Scott was forced out of the army for a year. He continued his studies, immersing himself in military strategy. The knowledge he acquired at this time would serve him well during his sixty-three-year career, forty-seven of which years he served as general. When the War of 1812 began, Scott was in New Orleans. He immediately left for Washington, was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and was transferred to Philadelphia and then to New York to take part in the defense of that state and possibly an invasion of Canada.

While Winfield Scott had an integrated personality and a psychological resilience which allowed him to endure setbacks, the nation of Mexico was, during the first half of the nineteenth century, internally fractured. The country had claimed its independence from Spain in 1821. In the decades before and after that war of independence, historian Irving Levinson informs us, Mexico was divided into a collection of demographic groupings:

Florescano, the preeminent modern historian of this period, characterized the colony as “a disintegrated mosaic of contrasting peoples, ethnic groups, languages, and cultures, disseminated in an extensive territory with poor communication.”

The attainment of independence did not create a sense of national unity. The Mexicans used the term criollo to designate an individual of Spanish ancestry who was born in Mexico. Not only were the criollos one separate group among many, but they were not internally united.

Mexico’s War of Independence did not change this situation. That conflict ended in 1821 with the criollos firmly in control of the newly independent state. This minority divided into two factions.

The questions splitting the criollos were about suffrage, religion, and the power of the government. What degree of freedom would the Mexicans receive? One segment of the criollos

favored the preservation of the colonial social structure, a state religion, very limited suffrage, and a centralized federal regime dominated by the landed and the wealthy.

At stake was whether the Mexicans would merely exchange the oppression of the Spanish crown for a local tyranny, or whether individual political liberty would triumph. If the Mexican government could be structured so that it did not interfere in the markets, and did not burden the people with taxes, then Mexico would have a chance at those benefits which are bundled together under the title of the “New World.”

The other segment of the criollos, Irving Levinson tells us,

opposed all of these objectives and, to varying degrees, sought a more open and egalitarian society. For much of the period from 1821 to 1846, the traditionalists remained in control and emphatically rejected such contemporary Spanish concepts as universal male suffrage. During the 1820s, less than 1 percent of Mexico City’s estimated population of 200,000 owned the property necessary to qualify as voters.

This internally divided nation declared war on the United States in April 1846. By May of that year, the United States had declared war on Mexico. The question at hand was the exact boundary line between Texas and Mexico, and about the ownership of lands which would eventually be parts of Arizona, California, and New Mexico.

Into the mix of personalities on U.S. side entered William Wallace Smith Bliss, a man of exceptional intellect. A brilliant professor of mathematics, he was also gifted in linguistics, and had learned to speak several different Native American (“Indian”) languages. On the political side, he would also eventually marry Zachary Taylor’s daughter after the war, and after Taylor had become president.

Bliss’s intelligence and his political familial connections seemed to destine him for greatness or fame, but he died in 1853 of yellow fever at the age of 37.

Two factors seem to ensure that Zachary Taylor made a reasonable showing in the war: William Bliss, and Taylor’s horse, Old Whitey. Historians Allan Millett and Peter Maslowski write:

Although Polk had no military experience, he acted not only as commander in chief but also as coordinator in chief for the war effort. In the country’s first example of prewar strategic planning, after consulting with his cabinet Polk had contingency war plans drafted more than six month before Arista’s cavalry attacked Taylor’s dragoons north of the Rio Grande. Once the war began he exercised tight control over every aspect of it, setting precedents that subsequent presidents built upon to make the White House, not the Capitol, the center of wartime authority. No problem perplexed Polk as much as the senior Army commanders, Scott and Taylor, who were as different as their nicknames implied. “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor rarely wore a uniform and had limited strategic or tactical ability. His interest in military intelligence and planning for campaigns was deficient that Scott assigned Captain William W.S. Bliss as his chief staff officer. Considered the Army’s brightest intellect, “Perfect” Bliss would compensate for Taylor’s own conception of warfare, which rarely went beyond marching, firing, and charging. Taylor’s strength was his battlefield imperturbability. Sitting atop Old Whitey, one leg crossed over the pommel, and chewing on a straw, he never panicked. “Old Fuss and Feathers” Scott, who became the commanding general in 1841, loved fancy uniforms and had considerable strategic and tactical abilities. Although not a West Pointers, he had a keen interest in military affairs, read widely on the subject, and wrote tactical manuals. A meticulous planner, he insisted upon a thorough military reconnaissance before maneuvering or fighting.

Observers typically report that General Winfield Scott was the more gifted military leader of the two, although Taylor was not without some merit. Scott more than Taylor brought about Mexico’s defeat.

On the Mexican side, the leadership had been desperate enough allow General Santa Anna, who’d been exiled, to return in hopes that he’d lead the Mexican military to a victory over the United States. To the Mexicans he promised that he’d abandoned the political ambitions which had led to his exile; to the United States he secretly promised that he’d betray Mexico and cede the disputed lands to the U.S. once he’d taken control of the Mexican government.

Once back in Mexico, he violated his promise not to seek power and declared himself president. He also violated his promise to the United States and led the Mexican military against it.

The strategy developed for the U.S. forces was that Taylor would have an army on the northeastern border of Mexico, maintaining a presence there to keep some percentage of the Mexican military occupied. Scott would take another army, on ships, south across the Gulf of Mexico, and make an amphibious landing on the southern end of Mexico’s east coast, fighting inland toward Mexico City.

A few smaller units of the U.S. Army would be active along Mexico’s northwestern border.

Taylor, however, was not content to be merely a presence or a diversion. He insisted on advancing his army further into Mexican territory. Historian Russell Weigley writes:

Plunging into Mexico to Monterrey and beyond for strategically dubious purposes, General Taylor mismanaged his logistics so that his troops were too often sick and supply too often uncertain, allowed a relatively lax discipline in regard to plundering the inhabitants, fought battles unsubtly and expensively to clear the Mexican army from his path, and after he became angered by the detachment of 4,000 men including nearly all his Regulars for Scott’s campaign, disobeyed Scott’s orders to retreat to a strong defensive line around Monterrey. Instead Taylor placed his remaining troops in a position difficult to defend and dangling on a precarious supply line, eighteen miles south of Saltillo at the hacienda of Agua Nueva. His excuses for this last decision were that he understood Scott’s orders only as advice, and that the Mexican army could not cross the 200 miles of barren country between San Luis Potosi and his position anyway. When General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna surprised him by marching 20,000 Mexican soldiers across the barren country to attack him, Taylor, now reduced to 5,000 troops, retreated three miles to slightly better position at the hacienda Buena Vista. There he displayed his best and redeeming qualities, by so inspiring his mostly inexperienced army and so skillfully maneuvering its units from one threatened place to another, that he repulsed the Mexicans with 1,500 to 2,000 casualties to about 750 casualties of his own. Buena Vista is a deservedly famous tactical triumph of American arms; but in strategic conception and conduct, Zachary Taylor’s campaign in Mexico was a throwback to the amateurishness of the War of 1812.

It seems, then, that the main threat to Taylor was his own bad judgment and lack of military skill. Yet both Scott and Taylor would emerge as military heroes in popular accounts of the war.

Taylor was nominated by the Whig Party in 1848 and became president. Winfield Scott was nominated by the same party in 1852, but lost the national election.

Zachary Taylor owned numerous slaves, and saw slavery as a political problem to be solved through negotiation. Polk was also a slaveowner. Winfield Scott was a fierce abolitionist, and saw the elimination of slavery as the only possible or acceptable resolution.

One question raised by the war with Mexico was whether this newly acquired land in the United States would be “free” territory or “slave” territory. Although the U.S. won the war with Mexico, it may have fueled, by doing so, the debate which would eventually erupt into the Civil War.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Complex Cast of Characters: Cold War Spy Narratives

In the deadly triangle defined by Beijing, Moscow, and Washington, the espionage network maintained by the international communist conspiracy during the 1930s and 1940s was densely populated by many Soviet agents, working undercover inside various offices in the United States government.

Lauchlin Currie was an advisor to FDR 1939 to 1945) and later an officer in the World Bank (1949 to 1953); when it was discovered that he working for a Soviet intelligence agency, he defected to Columbia.

John Service was a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) sent by the State Department to China; from there, he sent reports back to Washington which were supposed to inform policymakers about the domestic situation in country, but which in fact were pro-Mao pieces designed to nudge the United States away from supporting Chiang Kai-shek. He was in China during the 1930s and 1940s. He also sent useful information, both about China and about America’s policy toward China, to Moscow by means of agents like Max and Grace Granich.

Owen Lattimore was more likely an unwitting dupe than an employed Soviet agent. His affectionate statements about Stalin have been richly documented. Lattimore was employed by the Institute for Pacific Relations (IPR) as an editor for its periodical Pacific Affairs. The IPR was infiltrated by communist spies. Lattimore also worked as an advisor to Chiang Kai-shek, whom Lattimore secretly betrayed. Until 1963, he taught at Johns Hopkins University, and until 1970 at the University of Leeds in England.

John Vincent was, like John Service, an FSO in China, who similarly worked to undermine American support for Chiang Kai-shek.

Harry Dexter White's extensive work for the Soviet intelligence community has been thoroughly documented. He worked for the Treasury Department, influencing U.S. economic policy.

Solomon Adler was a link between the operatives in different agencies, because he was a Treasury Department representative in China. Adler formed a bridge between the Soviet moles in the State Department and those in the Treasury Department. Like John Service and John Vincent, his reports from China were essentially Maoist propaganda pieces.

Henry Morgenthau was Secretary of the Treasury for FDR. He was most likely neither a communist nor a Soviet agent, but he was manipulated into doing Stalin’s work. Harry Dexter White was in a position to ensure that Morgenthau received reports from John Service and Solomon Adler, and White also ensured that Morgenthau would not receive other, more reliable, reports about what was happening on the ground in China. Thus programmed, Morgenthau would brief President Roosevelt. Unsurprisingly, Morgenthau’s presentations about Mao were enthusiastic.

A point of connection for this wide-ranging cast of characters was the autumn of 1944 in Washington, D.C., when Service, after several years of work in China, returned to America. Historian Stan Evans reports about a series of meetings at that time:

Currie of course had plenty of reason to talk with Service, as China was Currie’s portfolio in the White House, there was ongoing contact between them, and Service would perform, as he later put it, as Currie’s “designated leaker.” The two also had many influential friends in common, most notably Owen Lattimore and John Vincent. The White contact seems more puzzling at first glance, but makes sense when Service’s ties to Adler are considered. White was Adler’s boss and received regular updates from his minion in the field, relayed to Morgenthau and others. White also obtained through Adler various reports of Service. There thus would have been no shortage of things for White to check out with the returning FSO.

One more character enters the drama in the person of Harry Hopkins, who’d worked for FDR in the 1930s, designing the WPA (Works Progress Administration). By the 1940s, he was still working for President Roosevelt, as an diplomatic and economic advisor. The evidence is inconclusive as to whether Hopkins was employed as a Soviet agent, or was merely manipulated as an unwitting dupe.

When questioned about his meetings in Washington in late 1944, John Service was quite defensive, as Stan Evans reports:

Yet another intriguing Service link to White occurred in connection with this visit. Shortly after he got back to the United States, Service was asked to give an off-the-record briefing to the Washington branch of the IPR, and did so. In testifying about this talk, Service would somewhat oddly stress that he had official clearance to give it, saying: “I got approval. I talked to Mr. Hopkins, Mr. White, and various other people.” Why Service needed approval from White to give this or any other talk was not explained, nor did anyone at the State Department hearing where he said this bother to ask this obvious question.

Although this list of characters may seem complex, it is in fact merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The number of Soviet agents, and the various government agencies into which they had insinuated themselves as moles, is long indeed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Voting Rights: the “Force Bill”

During the years of Reconstruction, after the Civil War, newly-freed Blacks in the South exercised their civil rights. They began voting in significant numbers, running for office, and winning seats in Congress.

But after the first few postwar decades, the Democratic Party began to reassert itself. By the end of the nineteenth century, African-Americans saw their civil rights shrink.

Political liberty for Blacks in South reached its peak sometime between the end of the Civil War and the end of the century. By 1900, fewer Blacks were voting - scared away from the polls by intimidation tactics - and fewer were being elected to office.

The Republicans wanted to open more opportunities for African-Americans to vote. The GOP proposed the ‘Force Bill,’ as historian Wyatt Wells explains:

Many Republicans sympathized with the plight of southern blacks. They valued the GOP’s history as the party of freedom and recognized that the Democrats’ lock on the South made it much harder for their party to win national elections. Unfortunately, the Democrats controlled the U.S. House of Representatives for most of the 1880s, allowing them to block civil rights legislation. In 1888, however, the GOP won control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, and Republicans came to Washington with an ambitious agenda that included a voting rights bill. Senator George Hoar (R-MA) and Representative Henry Cabot Lodge (R-MA) took charge of what its opponents soon dubbed the “Force Bill.” This measure provided for the appointment of federal election inspectors in any congressional district where a certain number of voters requested it. These inspectors would keep track of voting practices and election returns, and ideally, their very presence would discourage chicanery. If, however, inspectors disagreed with local or state authorities about the outcome of an election, the federal courts would decide the winner. Although less sweeping than the voting rights measures of Reconstruction or the Civil Rights era — among other things, it only applied to elections to federal office — the Force Bill would have acted as a brake on the pervasive fraud and intimidation that characterized elections in the South and might have set a precedent for further action. It enjoyed strong support among rank-and-file Republicans. As a party operative in Indiana wrote, “Our people are just as anxious for the passage of new elections laws as they were for the pension bill [for veterans of the Civil War]” — a strong statement considering the central role of veterans in the GOP.

Sadly, the Democratic Party had control of most of the state, county, and city governments in South. The Republicans were able to hold on to local offices only as long as the Blacks were voting.

Once the African-Americans had been scared away from the polls, the Democrats quickly took control of local government in the South. The ability of the federal government to correct the situation was limited.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Spies Determine China’s Future

In late 1944, John Service, a foreign service office (FSO) for the State Department returned from China, where he’d worked for several years, to Washington. His task in China had been to write reports about the domestic situation there; these reports were used to determine U.S. policy toward China and eastern Asia generally.

The situation in China was complex: a civil war, started in 1927, was halted by a temporary ceasefire so that both sides could offer resistance to the invading Japanese army. By 1944, it was clear that the Japanese would be defeated, and the two belligerents in the civil war - the communists led by Mao and the nationalists led by Chiang - were preparing to resume hostilities.

The USSR was supporting Mao, and the United States was somewhat supporting Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists. The degree of enthusiasm with which the U.S. would support Chiang was in question.

In general, American was disposed to back Chiang, because, while not perfect, he represented the best chance for China to enjoy some amount of liberty. Americans were wary of Mao and his Soviet backers.

But inside the Roosevelt administration, there were officials planting seeds of doubt. They argued that Mao was likely to win the civil war, and that Chiang was corrupt.

FSO John Service was such a sower of doubt. His reports from China were not neutral evaluations of the situation in country, but rather enthusiastic propaganda pieces for Mao. John Service was not only a FSO for the State Department, but he was also secretly working for the USSR and for Mao’s communists.

Not only John Service, but an extensive network of Soviet operatives inside the State Department worked to undermine American support for a free China.

While Service and his fellow Soviet agents had their secrets, what they did not know was that the FBI was becoming aware of their spy network. When he returned from China in late 1944, the FBI learned that two other Soviet operatives, Max and Grace Granich, had been alerted to contact Service and get information about China from him.

Max and Grace were known communists, as was Max’s brother, Itzok Isaac Granich. Itzok went by the name “Mike Gold,” and all three had connections to the USSR. During the Cold War years, being a communist didn’t simply mean that one held a set of political beliefs, but rather it meant that one was dedicated to “violent” overthrow of the governments of western democracies.

The American Communist Party (CPUSA) insisted on seeking a “violent” revolution and on using that word in its printed materials.

A meeting between John Service and a member of Granich network was significant, and finding out about such a meeting in advance was an espionage coup. Historian Stan Evans writes:

Though omitted from the usual histories, this eye-catching bit of intel — gleaned from a mail intercept by Hoover’s agents — would be of keen interest to the Bureau and security sleuths in Congress. Max and Grace Granich were well known to the FBI, appearing in numerous other updates on subversion. They were also well known in China, where in 1936 and ’37 they ran a Moscow-funded news sheet called The Voice of China. Their activities in the United States were of like nature, including involvement with the pro-Red journal China Today, part of a tangled web of groups and periodicals that agitated the China issue.

Not only did John Service make contact with Grace Granich, but also with three other Soviet operatives: Harry Dexter White, Lauchlin Currie, and Harry Hopkins. Information was flowing in two directions: intelligence about the situation on the ground in China, and about the thinking of U.S. policymakers in Washington, was moved by Service, Granich, and the others to Moscow; and misinformation, designed to influence U.S. policy, was fed from Soviets to State Department officials via John Service’s reports.

Harry White and Lauchlin Currie were Soviet agents, as confirmed by the Venona project in which U.S. intelligence agencies decrypted Soviet communications about espionage activity. Harry Hopkins is somewhat more ambiguous: he may have been a Soviet agent, or he may simply have been a “dupe” who was tricked into shaping policy in ways favorable to the USSR.

Two former Soviet agents, Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley, after defecting, also confirmed that Currie and White were employed by Soviet intelligence agencies. Stan Evans reports:

Whether the Service-Granich hookup occurred would be a topic pursued off and on by security forces — the results being inconclusive, but indicating Service probably met with Grace, though apparently not with Max. In the meantime, we know for certain he met with others who shared the Granich mission and stance on China, as he would himself reveal this. As he told it in a State Department hearing, two of his main contacts on this trip were Lauchlin Currie and Harry White (a third being Harry Hopkins). This was an intriguing pair of names to mention, as neither Currie nor White was an official of the agency where Service worked. Both were, however, pro-Soviet moles, according to the testimony of Bentley-Chambers and disclosures of Venona.

While in China, John Service had developed working relationships with several high-ranking communist officials, one of whom was Tung Pi-Wu (Dong Biwu), with whom Service would later meet in Washington. Service had also met with Mao. Gradually it became clear that instead of reporting about these leaders, he was speaking for them.

Granich’s decision to plead the fifth amendment when asked about John Service is significant. Stan Evans notes:

The doings of Max and Grace Granich, their connections in the United States and China, and their linkage to John Service would be explored in hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities early in 1952. When asked if he knew Service, Max said he didn’t, but Grace, when asked the identical question, took the Fifth Amendment. The House Committee was apparently in possession of information, obtained by the FBI, that Service had met with Grace, Tung Pi-Wu, and other Chinese Communists at a later date in Washington, D.C.

The presence of Soviet spies inside the State Department and other government agencies (White was in the Treasury Department and Currie worked as an economic advisor to FDR) explains, at least in part, the lukewarm support which the United States gave to Chiang, and the eventual fall of Chiang’s government to Mao.

Sadly, this is not merely an interesting story about spies. In the decades after Mao’s 1949 seizure of power, millions of Chinese were executed by the communist government.

While responsible historians do not speculate about events that never happened, it is tempting to wonder if these deaths could have been prevented if the State Department had not been infiltrated by agents like these.