America’s Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation

Kenneth C. Davis, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller Don’t Know Much About History, presents a collection of extraordinary stories, each detailing an overlooked episode that shaped the nation’s destiny and character. Davis’s dramatic narratives set the record straight, busting myths and bringing to light little-known but fascinating facts from a time when the nation’s fate hung in the balance.

Spanning a period from the Spanish arrival in America to George Washington’s inauguration in 1789, America’s Hidden History details these episodes, among others:

  • The story of the first real Pilgrims in America, who were wine-making French Huguenots, not dour English Separatists
  • The coming-of-age story of Queen Isabella, who suggested that Columbus pack the moving mess hall of pigs that may have spread disease to many Native Americans
  • The long, bloody relationship between the Pilgrims and Indians that runs counter to the idyllic scene of the Thanksgiving feast
  • The little-known story of George Washington as a headstrong young soldier who committed a war crime, signed a confession, and started a war!

Full of color, intrigue, and human interest, America’s Hidden History is an iconoclastic look at America’s past, connecting some of the dots between history and today’s headlines, proving why Davis is truly America’s Teacher.

Revolutionaries

In the early 1770s, the men who invented America were living quiet, provincial lives in the rustic backwaters of the New World, devoted primarily to family, craft, and the private pursuit of wealth and happiness. None set out to become “revolutionary” by ambition, but when events in Boston escalated, they found themselves thrust into a crisis that moved, in a matter of months, from protest to war.

In this remarkable book, the historian Jack Rakove shows how the private lives of these men were suddenly transformed into public careers–how Washington became a strategist, Franklin a pioneering cultural diplomat, Madison a sophisticated constitutional thinker, and Hamilton a brilliant policymaker. Rakove shakes off accepted notions of these men as godlike visionaries, focusing instead on the evolution of their ideas and the crystallizing of their purpose. In Revolutionaries, we see the founders before they were fully formed leaders, as individuals whose lives were radically altered by the explosive events of the mid-1770s. They were ordinary men who became extraordinary–a transformation that finally has the literary treatment it deserves.

Spanning the two crucial decades of the country’s birth, from 1773 to 1792, Revolutionaries uses little-known stories of these famous (and not so famous) men to capture–in a way no single biography ever could–the intensely creative period of the republic’s founding. From the Boston Tea Party to the First Continental Congress, from Trenton to Valley Forge, from the ratification of the Constitution to the disputes that led to our two-party system, Rakove explores the competing views of politics, war, diplomacy, and society that shaped our nation.

Thoughtful, clear-minded, and persuasive, Revolutionaries is a majestic blend of narrative and intellectual history, one of those rare books that makes us think afresh about how the country came to be, and why the idea of America endures.

John Adams on the Real American Revolution

I first visited America in the July of 2004.

I went alone, flying from Heathrow airport to Boston’s Logan Airport, picked up the car I had rented at Alamo’s a bus ride away and found my way to the YMCA on Huntington Avenue, where I had already booked a room for three nights weeks earlier over the internet. I had hoped to get to bed early so as to avoid as much as possible the effects of jet lag (it was three o’clock in the morning according to my body clock), but I was hungry, and looked for somewhere to eat and have a beer and eventually found my way to the Irish pub just across the road.

The following morning, I awoke early (EST) and as I looked out of my bedroom window across the rooves towards Cambridge, the light had that quality which reminded me so much of the light in Italy, seen from a train window early one morning many years earlier, and it was not difficult to believe that Boston is on the same latitude as southern Portugal.

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After a full breakfast, I walked all the way to the Common, explored Beacon Hill with its strangely familiar Federalist architecture not unlike the Regency architecture back home, walked the Freedom Trail, visiting Park Street Congregationalist Church, a beacon of orthodoxy at a time when many of Boston’s Congregationalist and Episcopalian churches were going over to the Unitarian and Universalist heresy, the Old South Meeting House, venue of seditious meetings in the run-up to the Revolution, the Old State House, and Faneuil Hall, known as the “cradle of liberty”, stopped in the Food Hall of Quincy Market to buy a hot dog and, thus fortified, walked on to Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church.

In the afternoon, I went on the harbor tour, stopping off at the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned ship afloat and visiting the museum, where I was buttonholed by a young researcher who told me the fascinating story of a young midshipman who sailed aboard the Constitution and who saw the Philadelphia burn in America’s first foreign adventure.

In the evenings I watched Boston Red Sox play on the telly in the Irish pub, the lights of Fenway Park visible from my room in the YMCA.

I spent three days in Boston, which, for me, new to this country, constituted the sum total of my first hand experience of America at that time and indeed was America.

It was one of those experiences that you knew you would look back on and treasure for the rest of your life and you were in the process of living it!

What stands out the most?

The opening paragraphs of the declaration of Independence in an original Dunlap Broadside under glass on a wall inside the Old State House and being moved by those ringing words in a way I had never been before, and which, for me, formed kind of epiphany?

The Freedom Trail?

The intriguing Italo-American accents of Boston’s North End?

The hot-dogs and pizza (the best I had ever eaten), washed down with root ale (another discovery), in the Food Hall of Quincy Market?

The harbor tour?

The Harpoon IPA? (And I always thought American beer was crap!)

The besuited “heavies” standing outside John Kerry’s residence in Louisburg Square?

Shakespeare on the Common?

The girl with cascading, curling golden tresses, who could have been anything from 14 to 24 who triumphantly held aloft a ball in the stalls above the Green Monster after a flurry to retrieve it after Kevin Youkilis had scored a home run?

The white sails of the yachts joyously plying to and fro on the Charles River?

What stands out the most are the following words of John Adams, America’s second president, which I read, displayed under Perspex on an information plaque, on Boston Common, and which hit me between the eyes:

What do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations…This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.”

During that that winter which Washington and his fledgling army spent at Valley Forge, the American Revolution faced its darkest hour.

Speaking of the condition of his troops at that time, Washington said: “ . . . you might have tracked the army from White Marsh to Valley Forge by the blood of their feet.”

The Revolution was supported by such friends as Lafayette and Rochambeau from France, von Steuben from Prussia, and Kosciuszko from Poland and, although we Brits were ostensibly at war with the Colonies, it had its Friends in this country, too.

The Duke of Richmond, a great grandson of Charles II, said in the House of Lords that under no code should the fighting Americans be considered traitors. What they did was “perfectly justifiable in every possible political and moral sense.”

All the world knows that Chatham and Burke and Fox urged the conciliation of America and hundreds took the same stand.

Burke said of General Conway, a man of position, that when he secured a majority in the House of Commons against the Stamp Act his face shone as the face of an angel.

Since the bishops almost to a man voted with the King, Conway attacked them as in this untrue to their high office.

Sir George Savile, whose benevolence, supported by great wealth, made him widely respected and loved, said that the Americans were right in appealing to arms.

Coke of Norfolk, a fellow farmer who corresponded with Washington, said: “…every night during the American War did I drink the health of General Washington as the greatest man on earth.” The war, he said, was the King’s war, ministers were his tools, the press was bought. Those who paid taxes, he said, should control those who governed. America was not getting fair play.

Both Coke and Fox, and no doubt many others, wore waistcoats of blue and buff because these were the colors of the uniforms of Washington’s army.”

IMG_0342I spent a total of fifteen days in America, visiting Boston, Cambridge, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Newport, Mystic, New Haven, New York (and yes, New Yorkers really do call it Noo Yoik!), Washington, the Watergate and Georgetown during a summer storm, the Skyline Drive, the house that Jefferson built at Monticello, Hooper’s Island on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake, and back to Washington to visit Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress, the National Gallery, and Georgetown again, returning from Washington’s Dulles Airport.

And, despite the evil deeds done in America’s (and Britain’s) name in foreign lands, the Revolution still has its Friends in this country today. Oh, BTW, I found the tea in Boston a little salty!

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‘Kafka Comes to America’

By Marie Cocco | TruthDig | Posted on Jul 16, 2008

It is sadly amusing, that small part of Steven Wax’s book that brings us back to the bizarre color-coded system of homeland security alerts; the breathlessness with which the media would announce each day’s threat level and the way the Bush administration enlisted local police—untrained and almost certainly unaware of what they were supposed to do if they stumbled over a terrorist—in the early years of the so-called war on terror.

Wax, the federal public defender for the district of Oregon, recalls driving over a Willamette River bridge with his young son, who wondered what police cruisers were doing on each end of the span. The boy asked questions an innocent would ask: “Was there a real danger? If so, why were we driving over the bridge?”

I chuckled out loud at that paragraph in Wax’s “Kafka Comes to America,” but that is its only humor.

The book provides an insider’s view of some of the most hideous practices our country has allowed since the 9/11 attacks. And that’s without giving accounts of torture and abuse of detainees. Rather, it recounts an abuse of power and the twisting of American legal norms until they have been distorted beyond recognition—a disregard for the law that has swept up American citizens and foreigners alike.

Wax and his colleagues were lawyers for Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon man who was erroneously jailed for alleged complicity in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. He was picked up as a “material witness” by the Justice Department, which based its suspicion of him—and countless media leaks that portrayed Mayfield, an American citizen who is Muslim, as a possible international terrorist—on what turned out to have been a faulty reading of a fingerprint by the FBI.

When Wax first was retained to defend Mayfield, he did not immediately know that the FBI and Spanish investigators had differed from the start on the fingerprint identification, the sole piece of “evidence” the U.S. government came up with before it swooped down on Mayfield and his family, searching his home through “sneak and peek” tactics authorized under the Patriot Act; leaving his wife and children with the terrifying thought that Mayfield might disappear or be charged with a crime that carried the death penalty.

At the time, the White House was claiming it had the power to detain American citizens without charge or trial, and to incarcerate them in military brigs. Having read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” and taken a law school course that described the Soviet legal system, Wax shuddered. “Now I was sitting in the county jail in Portland, Oregon, actually telling a client that he might disappear and we were even planning for the possibility,” he writes.

In the end, the fingerprint identification was determined to be wrong, Mayfield was released and won a $2-million settlement from the government because of its misconduct. Still, Wax says, the secret search of Mayfield’s home could be conducted under the latest version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows such searches without probable cause, without evidence that the targeted individual has committed a crime. “Nothing’s changed,” Wax told me in an interview.

Wax continues to be part of the legal team that works to get hearings for the Guantanamo detainees who have never had a day in court. The book flips back and forth between Wax’s efforts to get to the bottom of the Mayfield detention and his bid to free Adel Hamad, a Sudanese hospital administrator who was picked up by Pakistani security forces in his Peshawar apartment and shipped to Guantanamo.

Though Hamad was returned to Sudan—after five years, four months and 25 days in captivity—under a deal with the Sudanese government, Wax is still battling to get this client a hearing in federal court. The reason? He’s never been able to present the evidence he’s developed that Hamad’s detention was a gross error; that he had nothing whatever to do with terrorist activity. The U.S. government, meanwhile, will “neither confirm nor deny that they ever talked to the Sudanese and reached an agreement” to free Hamad, Wax says.

This would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening. The country has moved on to other worries as memories of 9/11 have faded. Yet the decisions made in the aftermath of that attack haunt us today, and they will be recorded as a blight on our history.

Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)washpost.com.

© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

The Essential Chomsky

In a single volume, the seminal writings of the world’s leading philosopher, linguist, and critic, published to coincide with his eightieth birthday.

For the past forty years Noam Chomsky’s writings on politics and language have established him as a preeminent public intellectual and as one of the most original and wide-ranging political and social critics of our time. Among the seminal figures in linguistic theory over the past century, since the 1960s Chomsky has also secured a place as perhaps the leading dissident voice in the United States.

Chomsky’s many bestselling works—including Manufacturing Consent, Hegemony or Survival, Understanding Power, and Failed States—have served as essential touchstones for dissidents, activists, scholars, and concerned citizens on subjects ranging from the media to human rights to intellectual freedom. In particular, Chomsky’s scathing critiques of the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Central America, and the Middle East have furnished a widely accepted intellectual inspiration for antiwar movements over nearly four decades.

The Essential Chomsky assembles the core of his most important writings, including excerpts from his most influential texts over the past forty years. Here is an unprecedented, comprehensive overview of Chomsky’s thought.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT and the author of numerous books including Chomsky vs. Foucault: A Debate on Human Nature, On Language, Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship, and Towards a New Cold War (all published by The New Press). He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Chomsky: Bush & Cheney Always Saw Iraq as a Sweetheart Oil Deal

By Noam Chomsky, Khaleej Times Online. Posted July 12, 2008.

U.S. war planners want an obedient client state that will house major U.S. military bases, right at the heart of the world’s major energy reserves.

The deal just taking shape between Iraq’s Oil Ministry and four Western oil companies raises critical questions about the nature of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq — questions that should certainly be addressed by presidential candidates and seriously discussed in the United States, and of course in occupied Iraq, where it appears that the population has little if any role in determining the future of its country.

Negotiations are under way for Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners decades ago in the Iraq Petroleum Company, now joined by Chevron and other smaller oil companies — to renew the oil concession they lost to nationalization during the years when the oil producers took over their own resources. The no-bid contracts, apparently written by the oil corporations with the help of U.S. officials, prevailed over offers from more than 40 other companies, including companies in China, India and Russia.

“There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract,” Andrew E. Kramer wrote in the New York Times.

Kramer’s reference to “suspicion” is an understatement. Furthermore, it is highly likely that the military occupation has taken the initiative in restoring the hated Iraq Petroleum Company, which, as Seamus Milne writes in the U.K. Guardian, was imposed under British rule to “dine off Iraq’s wealth in a famously exploitative deal.”

Later reports speak of delays in the bidding. Much is happening in secrecy, and it would be no surprise if new scandals emerge.

The demand could hardly be more intense. Iraq contains perhaps the second-largest oil reserves in the world, which are, furthermore, very cheap to extract: no permafrost or tar sands or deep-sea drilling. For U.S. planners, it is imperative that Iraq remain under U.S. control, to the extent possible, as an obedient client state that will also house major U.S. military bases, right at the heart of the world’s major energy reserves.

That these were the primary goals of the invasion was always clear enough through the haze of successive pretexts: weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein’s links with al Qaeda, democracy promotion and the war against terrorism, which, as predicted, sharply increased as a result of the invasion.

Last November, the guiding concerns were made explicit when President Bush and Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, signed a “Declaration of Principles,” ignoring the U.S. Congress, the Iraqi parliament and the populations of the two countries.

The declaration left open the possibility of an indefinite long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq that would presumably include the huge air bases now being built around the country, and the “embassy” in Baghdad, a city within a city, unlike any embassy in the world. These are not being constructed to be abandoned.

The declaration also had a remarkably brazen statement about exploiting the resources of Iraq. It said that the economy of Iraq — which means its oil resources — must be open to foreign investment, “especially American investments.” That comes close to a pronouncement that we invaded you so that we can control your country and have privileged access to your resources.

The seriousness of this commitment was underscored in January, when Bush issued a “signing statement” declaring that he would reject any congressional legislation that restricted funding “to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq” or “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

Extensive resort to “signing statements” to expand executive power is yet another Bush innovation, condemned by the American Bar Association as “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.” To no avail.

Not surprisingly, the declaration aroused immediate objections in Iraq, among others from Iraqi unions, which survive even under the harsh anti-labor laws that Hussein instituted and the occupation preserves.

In Washington propaganda, the spoiler to U.S. domination in Iraq is Iran. U.S. problems in Iraq are blamed on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sees a simple solution: “Foreign forces” and “foreign arms” should be withdrawn from Iraq — Iran’s, not ours.

The confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program heightens the tensions. The Bush administration’s “regime change” policy toward Iran comes with ominous threats of force (there Bush is joined by both U.S. presidential candidates). The policy also is reported to include terrorism within Iran — again legitimate, for the world rulers. A majority of the American people favor diplomacy and oppose the use of force. But public opinion is largely irrelevant to policy formation, not just in this case.

An irony is that Iraq is turning into a U.S.-Iranian condominium. The Maliki government is the sector of Iraqi society most supported by Iran. The so-called Iraqi army — just another militia — is largely based on the Badr brigade, which was trained in Iran and fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq War.

Nir Rosen, one of the most astute and knowledgeable correspondents in the region, observes that the main target of the U.S.-Maliki military operations, Moktada al-Sadr, is disliked by Iran as well: He’s independent and has popular support, and is therefore dangerous.

Iran “clearly supported Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi government against what they described as ‘illegal armed groups’ (of Moktada’s Mahdi army) in the recent conflict in Basra,” Rosen writes, “which is not surprising given that their main proxy in Iraq, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, dominates the Iraqi state and is Maliki’s main backer.”

“There is no proxy war in Iraq,” Rosen concludes, “because the U.S. and Iran share the same proxy.”

Tehran is presumably pleased to see the United States institute and sustain a government in Iraq that’s receptive to its influence. For the Iraqi people, however, that government continues to be a disaster, very likely with worse to come.

In Foreign Affairs, Steven Simon points out that current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy is “stoking the three forces that have traditionally threatened the stability of Middle Eastern states: tribalism, warlordism and sectarianism.” The outcome might be “a strong, centralized state ruled by a military junta that would resemble” Saddam Hussein’s regime.

If Washington achieves its goals, then its actions are justified. Reactions are quite different when Vladimir Putin succeeds in pacifying Chechnya, to an extent well beyond what Gen. David Petraeus has achieved in Iraq. But that is them, and this is the United States. Criteria are therefore entirely different.

In the United States, the Democrats are silenced now because of the supposed success of the U.S. military surge in Iraq. Their silence reflects the fact that there are no principled criticisms of the war. In this way of regarding the world, if you’re achieving your goals, the war and occupation are justified. The sweetheart oil deals come with the territory.

In fact, the whole invasion is a war crime — indeed the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows, in the terms of the Nuremberg judgment. This is among the topics that can’t be discussed, in the presidential campaign or elsewhere. Why are we in Iraq? What do we owe Iraqis for destroying their country? The majority of the American people favor U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Do their voices matter?

Noam Chomsky’s writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press. Chomsky is an emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

© 2008 Khaleej Times Online All rights reserved.

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Adams in Patriotic Mode

“What do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations…This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” John Adams

The Declaration of Independence

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