Wednesday, October 31, 2007 10/31/07-The Great Pumpkin

In today's excerpt--Charles Schulz and the Great Pumpkin. Though often identified with the evangelical church, Charlie Brown's creator struggles with organized religion, stating that "[Peanuts is] not an evangelistic strip. In fact, it's anti-evangelistic." Linus's obsession with the Great Pumpkin is one way Schulz manifests his views:

"The theme of questioning and faith, which was central to his life, had emerged in the strip's Great Pumpkin sequences, where Linus, smart but simple, had gotten ahead of himself in holidays and begun to believe that an omnipotent pumpkin would appear on Halloween to serve good little children as Santa Claus did on Christmas. But, of course, the Great Pumpkin does not come to lavish toys on all good little children. Linus performs a mitzvah every Halloween in going to the pumpkin patch to do what he must to be betrayed again. The reader does not discern any radiance of certainty; the worshipper is not alight with enduring faith--he's hopelessly hyped up: his enthusiasm is a more modulated and cheering emotion. Linus is keyed to the highest pitch as he marches out with his placard: WELCOME GREAT PUMPKIN! His willed mania demonstrates that some people would rather live drunk on false belief than sober on nothing at all, at whatever cost in ridicule. Schulz is saying: be careful what you believe. ...

"[Schulz] received few serious complaints--no more than a dozen over the course of Peanuts' first fifteen years. One, in 1965, had come from a woman who asserted that the Great Pumpkin was sacrilegious. Schulz wrote back saying that he was 'basically on her side, that the real sacrilege is Santa Claus, and that [he had been] trying to show this in the Great Pumpkin strips."

David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts, Harper Collins, Copyright 2007 by David Michaelis, pp. 353, 354, 371.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 10/30/07-Jamestown and Mosquitos

In today's excerpt--Jamestown, malaria, and the course of American history:

"Much of what we learned in grade school about the New World encountered by the colonists at Jamestown turns out to be wrong. ... The idea that the English were 'settlers' of land that was unsettled before they arrived is complete nonsense. In fact, three English ships landed in the middle of a small but rapidly expanding Indian empire called Tsenacomoco. ... By the time the foreigners came from overseas, Tsenacomoco's paramount chief, Powhatan, had tripled its size to about 8,000 square miles and more than 14,000 people. ...

"Not wanting to antagonize Powhatan, the newcomers looked for uninhabited ground. Because native villages occupied all the good land upriver, the colonists ended up picking a site about 35 miles from the mouth of the James. ... Alas, there was a reason no Indians lived at Jamestown: It was not a good place to live. Their chosen site was marshy, mosquito-ridden, and without fresh water. ... By the end of September, nearly half of the original 104 colonists had died. ... [Most of the] colonists were killed by 'typhoid, dysentery, and perhaps salt poisoning.' All are associated with contaminated water. ... By the beginning of 1610, the settlers at Jamestown were dining on 'dogs, cats, rats, and mice,' [Jamestown president George] Percy wrote, as well as the starch for their Elizabeth ruffs, which could be cooked into kind of a porridge. With famine 'ghastly and pale in every face,' some colonists stirred themselves to 'dig up dead corpses out of graves and to eat them.' One man murdered his pregnant wife and salted her for food.' ...

"The central mystery of Jamestown is why the badly led, often starving colonists were eventually able to prevail over the bigger, better-organized forces of the Powhatan empire. ... [Part of the answer is the malaria that the colonists brought with them] which spread throughout the East Coast, eventually playing a major part in the pageant of U.S. history. Without malaria, slaves would have been less desirable to southern planters: Most people from tropical Africa are resistant to [malaria]. The disease ... crippled the army of British Gen. Charles Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War. England by that time had drained its marshes and largely been freed of malaria. Meanwhile, the colonists had become seasoned. ... "Cornwallis's army was simply melting away [from malaria],' says J.R. McNeill, an environmental historian at Georgetown University ... with a critical role played by 'revolutionary mosquitos.' "

Charles C. Mann, "America, Found & Lost," National Geographic, May 2007, pp. 37-53.

Monday, October 29, 2007 10/29/07-Radio and Apartheid

In today's excerpt--Elvis Presley, the radio, and social revolution:

"[Radio] made Elvis an agent provocateur. ... Radio helped Elvis develop his interest in and affection for the music of black culture. In that pre-rock'n'roll era, America was an apartheid nation and in much of the country, black and white didn't mix. ... Segregation was relatively easy to enforce. It was the law. ...

"But radio did not respect Jim Crow. Radio traveled through the air, and the air did not recognize arbitrary lines drawn by men. ... At night, during that magic time when the ionization layers shifted ... white kids tuned the dial and found WDIA in Memphis ('Mother Station of the Negro' was its slogan) or maybe WLAC out of Nashville. 'You'd never even seen a black person--there weren't any in your town. But suddenly, you found this music, and it was like nothing you'd ever heard before.'

"The Presleys were poor, but they did have a radio, and that was the music that ignited Elvis. The music also rose from his religious beliefs--a bond forged in poverty and not by race--that led his family to tent-show revivals where he heard gospel music sung as no white person had sung it. (Years later, during his Vegas period, Elvis ended up after-hours singing gospel music through the night with James Brown. Brown said Elvis was the only man he knew, white or black, who knew more gospel songs than he did.)

"What became rock'n'roll in the 1950s arose from the twin subcultures of poverty in white and black America. ... And though there is some truth to the claim that rock'n'roll is just black folks' music played by white guys, the road did go both ways. ... Up in St. Louis, a black kid named Chuck Berry learned to write narrative songs by listening to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night.

"It took a while, but radio sparked a musical revolution that led to a social revolution. Elvis was the visible embodiment of the musical revolution. ... 'Hearing him the first time was like busting out of jail,' Bob Dylan recalled. 'I just knew I wasn't going to work for anybody; nobody was going to be my boss.' ... Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones--they all said they did what they did because of Elvis. Keith Richards said he'd likely be an accountant today ... if he hadn't heard rock'n'roll."

William McKeen, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Elvis," American History, August 2007, pp. 24-25.

Friday, October 26, 2007 10/26/07-Strange Fruit

In today's excerpt--Billie Holiday (1915-1959), considered by some the greatest female jazz vocalist, introduces "Strange Fruit," a song about lynching, into a world of songs about love and romance:

"A few years back, Q, a British music publication, named 'Strange Fruit' one of 'the ten songs that actually changed the world.' Like any revolutionary act, the song initially encountered great resistance. Holiday and the black folksinger Josh White, who began performing it a few years after Holiday first did [in 1939], were abused, sometimes physically, by irate nightclub patrons--'crackers' as Holiday called them. Columbia Records, Holiday's label in the late 1930s, refused to record it. 'Strange Fruit' marked a watershed, praised by some, lamented by others, in Holiday's evolution from exuberant jazz singer to chanteuse of lovelorn pain and loneliness. Once Holiday added it to her repertoire, some of its sadness seemed to cling to her; as she deteriorated physically, the song took on new poignancy and immediacy. ...

"Lynchings--during which blacks were murdered with unspeakable brutality, often in a carnival-like atmosphere, and then, with the acquiescence if not the complicity of local authorities, hung from trees for all to see--were rampant in the South following the Civil War and for many years thereafter. According to figures kept by the Tuskegee Institute--conservative figures--between 1889 and 1940, 3,833 people were lynched; ninety percent of them were murdered in the South, and four-fifths of them were black. Lynchings tended to occur in poor, small towns--often taking the place, the famed newspaper columnist H.L. Mencken once said, 'of the merry-go-round, the theater, the symphony orchestra.' ... And they were meted out for a host of alleged offenses--not just for murder, theft, and rape, but for insulting a white person, boasting, swearing, or buying a car. In some instances, it was no infraction at all; it was just time to remind 'uppity' blacks to stay in their place. ...

"The night that she first sang 'Strange Fruit' [at Cafe Society in New York] 'there wasn't even a patter of applause when I finished,' she later wrote in her autobiography. 'Then a lone person began to clap nervously. Then suddenly everybody was clapping.' The applause grew louder and a bit less tentative as 'Strange Fruit' became a nightly ritual for Holiday, then one of her most successful records, then one of her signature songs, at least in those places where it was safe to perform."


Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

David Margolick, Strange Fruit, Harper Collins, Copyright 2001 by David Margolick, pp. 8, 19-20, 3-4.

Thursday, October 25, 2007 10/25/07-Philippe and the Knights Templar

In today's encore excerpt--Philippe le Bel (1268-1314), king from 1285 until his death, was one of France's most disastrous kings. He used a king's most onerous methods to deal with the large debt he had incurred to the Knights Templar: he brought trumped up legal charges against them and had them executed:

"Under [Philippe] the cost of running France was six times as much as it had been under Philippe Auguste less than a century earlier, even allowing for inflation. ... All of this led to appalling and recurrent financial difficulties, ... [so Philippe] invented new taxes ... cancelled the Crown's debts, and ruthlessly confiscated personal treasures and fortunes. ...

"[I]n Paris, the Knights Templar ... lived in a splendor rivaling that of the Palais Royal. Their wealth was legendary. The order had been founded after [their service in] the First Crusade ... They were fanatically brave in battle ... Recognized all over Europe by their robes of white with a red cross on the front, in 1128 the Templars had acquired a rule of dedicated austerity as monk-soldiers. But over the course of the intervening two centuries, loot derived from the Crusades enabled the Templars to amass immense riches--and therefore power, making them almost a sovereign state unto themselves.

"Inevitably corruption had set in, and with it the venal envy of the outside world. Over the thirteenth century, the Templars had become de facto bankers to the Crown, rivals to the Lombards and the Jews as money-lenders. ... The Templars' reputation for greed was widespread; so were rumors of some of their vices of the flesh. ... Exploiting their unpopularity, in 1307 Philippe declared war on the Templars, leveling trumped-up charges of heresy, necromancy and sodomy against them. ... The Templars were accused, inter alia, of 'sacrificing to idols,' of 'infecting the purity of the air' and of 'torturing Christ a second time.'

"In a remarkably well-orchestrated raid, all the Templars were arrested one night and their property declared forfeit. One after the other they appeared before inquisitors ... the tortures were so appalling that one Templar saw twenty-five freres die 'under the question.' ... In one of the most deplorable episodes ever to be witnessed in Paris, 138 Templars were burned at the stake ... Proceedings against the Templars went on until the climax was reached in 1314 [when] The Grand Master of the order himself, Jacques de Molay, who refused to answer charges, [was] tortured and [then sentenced to] prison for seven years ... [but then abruptly] immolated. As the flames licked around him, Jacques de Molay is reputed to have uttered a terrible curse: 'Pope Clement, iniquitous judge and cruel executioner, I adjure you to appear in forty days' time before God's tribunal.' ... Within forty days, Pope Clement V had fallen ill of an agonizingly painful disease and died."

Alistair Horne, Seven Ages of Paris, Pan Books, 2003, pp. 54-58.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 10/24/07-A Second Earth

In today's excerpt--the discovery of another Earth:

"Scientists have discovered a warm and rocky 'second Earth' circling a star, a find they believe dramatically boosts the prospects that we are not alone.

"The planet is the most Earth-like ever spotted and is thought to have perfect conditions for water, an essential ingredient for life. Researchers detected the planet orbiting one of Earth's nearest stars, a cool red dwarf called Gliese 581, 20 light years away in the constellation of Libra.

"Measurements of the planet's celestial path suggest it is 1½ times the size of our home planet, and orbits close to its sun, with a year of just 13 days. The planet's orbit brings it 14 times closer to its star than Earth is to the sun. But Gliese 581 burns at only 3,000 degrees centigrade, half the temperature of our own sun, making conditions on the planet comfortable for life, with average ground temperatures estimated at 0 to 40 degrees centigrade. Researchers claim the planet is likely to have an atmosphere. The discovery follows a three-year search for habitable planets by the European Southern Observatory at La Silla in Chile.

" 'We wouldn't be surprised if there is life on this planet,' said Stephane Udry, an astronomer on the project at the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland.

"Two years ago, the same team discovered a giant Neptune-sized planet orbiting Gliese 581. A closer look revealed the latest planetary discovery, along with a third, larger planet that orbits the star every 84 days. The planets have been named after their star, with the most earthlike called Gliese 581c."

Ian Sample, " 'Second Earth' found, 20 light years away," The Guardian, Science Section, April 25, 2007.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 10/23/07-Schulz and Peanuts

In today's excerpt--Charles Schulz, creator, author and illustrator for nearly fifty years of the cartoon strip Peanuts, which at its peak was read by over 300 million people:

"When called on to discuss his life, Charles 'Sparky' Schulz never began at the beginning, never with his birth, on November 26, 1922, or his early years, but always with his mother's death on March 1, 1943, his own departure for the war, and the merciless speed of it all: in that week, Dena Halverson Shulz had died on a Monday, she was buried Friday, and by Saturday the army had taken him away. ...

"As early as his sophomore year in high school, Sparky had come home to a bedridden mother. Some evenings she had been too ill to put food on the table; some nights he had been awakened by her cries of pain. But no one spoke directly about the affliction; only Sparky's father and his mother's trusted sister Marion knew its source, they would not identify it as cancer in Sparky's presence until after it had reached its fourth and final stage--in November 1942, the same month he was drafted.

"On February 28, 1943, with a day pass from Fort Snelling, Sparky returned from his army barracks to his mother's bedside. ... She was turned away from him in her bed against the wall, opposite the windows that overlooked the street. [Late that evening] he said he guessed it was time to go.

" 'Yes,' she said, 'I suppose we should say good-bye.'

"She turned her gaze as best she could. 'Well,' she said, 'good-bye, Sparky. We'll probably never see each other again.'

"Later he said, 'I'll never get over that scene as long as I live,' and indeed he could not, down to his own dying day. It was certainly the worst night of his life, the night of 'my greatest tragedy'--which he repeatedly put into the terms of his passionate sense of unfulfillment that his mother 'never had the opportunity to see me get anything published.' "

David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts, HarperCollins, Copyright 2007 by David Michaelis, pp. 4-5, xii.

Monday, October 22, 2007 10/22/07-"I want to know nothing"

In today's excerpt--the propaganda of Joseph Goebbels after the Nazis ascend to power in 1933. The German people, far from being compliant masses under the sway of Goebbels' propaganda, are instead discontent--and the Nazi party must eliminate elections and move increasingly to force to carry out its agenda:

"The simplistic cliche, which sees the Germans as having been won over to Hitler's regime by the triumphs of work creation, is simply not borne out by the evidence. ... There were still millions of unemployed, many of whom had known nothing other than poverty for years. ... The apparent inability of the [Nazi] regime to guarantee either stable prices or a regular supply of daily necessities, including food and clothing, was deeply disconcerting. According to Gestapo reports, the popular mood in the autumn of 1934 was apathetic and gloomy. ... As one report commented: 'The housewives in the markets still hold their tongues. But if one of them protests--which happens quite often--nobody contradicts her.' ... Even if the Nazi recovery did bring some jobs and relief from dire poverty, it was still some way from the return to 'normality' for which the Germans really yearned. ...

"By the end of 1934, Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Propaganda, who is commonly credited with an almost magical degree of control over the German population, was deeply frustrated by the public mood. The national campaign against 'critics and rubbishers,' which he had launched with his anti-Semitic tirade of 1934, had not gone well. In many parts of the country, meetings were so ill-attended that the whole programme had to be quietly shelved. In other areas, local government complained that Goebbels' super-heated rhetoric actually served to agitate the population, alerting them to the full extent of the currency crisis. ... In the first of a series of Reich Press Days on 18 November 1934, Goebbels gave a remarkably frank assessment of his strategy in response to this new mood of apathy and depression. The Minister was clearly fed up with the never-ending obsession with the petty inconveniences of everyday life. What was needed was not grumbling, but a resolute focus on the higher ambitions of the regime. It was the task of the regime to cast the mundane difficulties of everyday life in the golden glow of the higher ideal. Goebbels himself wanted no more reports on the gloomy state of public opinion. 'I want to hear nothing, I want to see nothing, I want to know nothing. ... I know what is going on, but you don't need to tell me about it. Don't ruin my nerves. I need my confidence to be able to work.' "

Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction, Viking, Copyright 2006 by Adam Tooze, pp. 96-98.

Friday, October 19, 2007 10/19/07-Just Not Commercial

In today's excerpt--a guy named Brian Jones forms a band called the Rolling Stones:

"Brian Jones formed a band he called "The Rolling Stones," or as they were sometimes billed, "The Rollin' Stones," that performed publicly for the first time at London's Marquee club in July 1962. Brian, who was calling himself Elmo Lewis at the time, along with Mick [Jagger], Keith [Richards], Ian Stewart, Dick Taylor--later of The Pretty Things--and Mick Avory, who played with The Kinks. ... Back then they were a Blues band that received most of their press coverage in the jazz magazines. ... Enter Bill [Wyman] with his quality amps, and love of Rock and Roll rather than the Blues, who played his first gig with the band in mid-December 1962. ...

"[A] recording session in early March ... produced a demo record that Giorgio [Gomelsky, their manager] used in an attempt to get the band a deal. After trying at least half a dozen labels there was no deal--'they are just not commercial' was the general consensus. ...

"Two weeks after The Beatles had been to see the Stones at the Richmond Club, managers Andrew Loog Oldham and Eric Easton turned up, '48 hours ahead of the rest of the industry,' as Andrew recalled ... and Giorgio was out of the frame. Two weeks later Dick Rowe at Decca Records, the man who had turned down The Beatles--and he wasn't going to be wrong twice--had signed the band, and a month later, on 7 June, the band's first single, a cover of Chuck Berry's Come On, was released. ...

By September they had secured a spot on the Everly Brothers' package tour and played twice a night in cinemas and theaters the length and breadth of Britain--sometimes even wearing matching outfits. Mid-way through the tour they recorded John Lennon and Paul McCartney's I Wanna Be Your Man, and two days before they finished with the Everlys it was released and managed to make No. 12 on the UK charts."

Bent Rej, The Rolling Stones in the beginning, Firefly, 2006, pp. 22-23.

Thursday, October 18, 2007 10/18/07-Spartans

In today's encore excerpt, the rigors and rituals of Spartans, the fiercest warriors of the ancient world, circa 560 B.C.:

"Even the newest-born baby was subjected to the proddings of old men. Should an infant be judged too sickly or deformed to make a future contribution to the city, then the elders would order its immediate termination. ... A cleft beside the road which wound over the mountains to Messenia, the Apothetae, or 'Dumping Ground,' provided the setting for the infanticide. There, where they might no longer shame the city that had bred them, the weak and deformed would be slung into the depths of the chasm ...

"[I]t was the goal of instructors not merely to crush a boy's individuality, but to push him to startling extremes of endurance, discipline and impassivity, so that he might prove himself, supremely, as a being reforged of iron. ... Denied adequate rations, the young Spartan would be encouraged to forage from the farms of neighboring Lacedaemonians, stalking and stealing like a fox, refining his talent for stealth. Whether in the heat of summer or in the cold of winter, he would wear only one style of tunic, identical to that worn by his fellows, and nothing else, not even shoes. ...

"[A]t the age of twelve, he became legal game for cruising. Pederasty was widely practised elsewhere in Greece, but only in Sparta was it institutionalized-- even, it is said, with fines for boys who refused to take a lover.

"Just as boys were trained for warfare, so girls had to be reared for their future as breeders. The result--to foreign eyes, at any rate--was an inversion of just about every accepted norm. In Sparta, girls were fed at the expense of their brothers. To the bemusement of other Greeks, they were also taught to read, and to express themselves not modestly, as was becoming for women, but in an aggressively sententious manner, so that they might better instruct their own children in what it meant to be a Spartan. They exercised in public: running, throwing the javelin, even wrestling."

Tom Holland, Persian Fire, Abacus, 2005, pp. 81-85.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10/17/07-Toledo

In today's excerpt--Toledo, great city of Spain whose Muslim scholars helped bring the wisdom of the Greeks to Europe, and thus planted the seeds of the Renaissance. It was there that Christian, Jew and Muslim lived in harmony--more often than not--until Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered the lands and brought with them the Inquisition:

"Toledo, navel of Spain, founded by Hercules, Roman city, imperial capital of the Visigoths, was the most important city of the Iberian peninsula. ... City of Three Cultures, in Toledo all of past Spanish religious history was compressed. The Visigoths had lost it to the invading Moors in AD 712 after the rough king, Rodrigo, had seen an Arab beauty named Florinda bathing naked in the Tagus and raped her. This outrage brought the African hordes north across the Strait of Gibraltar in a fury of vengeance. The Jews of the city, who had long suffered persecution under the Goths, had opened the city's gates for the invaders and were rewarded for their heroics by the Moors. After his defeat, a woebegone Rodrigo had lamented, in self-pity and self-absolution, that 'I've given away my kingdom for a [whore]' ...

"In the nearly four hundred years that the Moors ruled the city, Toledo became a haven and a lure for persecuted Jews across the wide expanse of Mediterranean lands. The Jewish population of the city was among the largest in the peninsula. ... Toledo's reputation for openness, as a haven of tolerance, and as a center for learning, especially of translation, spread far and wide. ... Thus dawned the golden age of Spanish Jewry, often dated to the years 900-1300. In this period, brilliant figures emerge. They included ... the great Maimonides (1135-1204), also known as Moses ben Maimon, who was born in Cordoba, whose book of Jewish law was a monumental achievement, and whose works in religion, philosophy, and medicine earned him an everlasting reputation for range and brilliance. ... Alongside these great Jewish scholars were other notable figures who flocked to Toledo for its vibrant intellectual atmosphere and for this cross-fertilization of civilizations. These include Averroes, who ... became famous for his integration of Islamic thought with Greek classics, especially Aristotle and Plato. And there was Adelard of Bath, who ... translated Euclid's Elements from Arabic into Latin. ...

"Like Rome, the city rested upon seven hills. The Tagus River curled around the city's Alcazar, affording an approach by land on only one side. Within its warren of narrow streets and lanes, Jews and Christians and Arabs had lived side by side alternating in rancor and in harmony, over the centuries. The flowering of cultural splendor and religious tolerance had come in the thirteenth century, during the reign of Alfonso X the Learned. During his splendid reign, from 1252-1284, the three religions coexisted peacefully in harmony."

James Reston, Jr., The Dogs of God, First Anchor, Copyright 2005 by James Reston, Jr., pp. 62-64.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007 10/16/07-Immigrants!

In today's excerpt--Scottish, German, and Irish immigrants. Philadelphia, populated almost exclusively by Englishmen--Quaker and otherwise--since its inception in the late 1600s, is rudely awakened in 1717 by the arrival of unwanted immigrants. These immigrants brought the change, disruption and increase in crime that is the lamentably typical result of large population shifts and the juxtaposition of different ethnic groups. Seen from the distance of three centuries, almost none would protest this inclusion of the Scots, Irish or Germans in the U.S. population, but at the time, xenophobia ran high:

"In the summer of 1717, the mayor of Philadelphia, Jonathan Dickinson, was surprised at the number of immigrants arriving at the city--more than he had ever seen before. ... We are being 'invaded,' James Logan sighed, by 'shoals of foreigners come and set down.' ... [He] wondered why English administrators had not forewarned them that these voyagers, some of whom could not speak English, would be deposited on their doorstep. ...

"After the surprising appearance of immigrants in 1717 and 1718, there was a lull in the traffic of the early 1720s, after which it surged, beginning in 1727: one thousand in 1727, three thousand in 1728, and as many as six thousand in 1729. These were only the arrivals from Ulster--the men and women whom Americans labeled the Scotch- or Scots-Irish. Almost three thousand German-speaking immigrants arrived in the same three years. ... In 1730 Philadelphia was a city of only 7,000 people and it is little wonder that its residents were variously shocked, dismayed and unhappy. ...

"Nervous, xenophobic assemblymen tried to staunch the disorder. In the fall of 1728 they passed a bill to restrict immigration by levying a duty on foreigners, 'Irish' (Scots-Irish) servants, and Negroes. ... Even before the [immigrant] riots of 1726 and 1728, Logan complained, 'The Quaker Countrey, as this is called abroad, is become a scene of the vilest, most extravagant Licentiousness.' ... The alien behaviors that the [Quakers] referred to included singing, fiddling and dancing, gambling, drinking and reveling, celebrating St. Patrick's Day, and shooting off guns on New Year's Eve."

Jack D. Marietta and G.S. Rowe, Troubled Experiment, Copyright 2006 by the University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 63-66.

Monday, October 15, 2007 10/15/07-Dale Carnegie

In today's excerpt--Dale Carnegie, using Abraham Lincoln as his inspiration, writes the 1936 best-seller How to Win Friends and Influence People:

"As a boy, Carnegie chafed at the dull rural life to which, he feared, his oafish, ill-educated father had doomed him. He struck off on his own as early as he could--first as a salesman in the Midwest, then as an actor in New York, then as a salesman again, all over the place. He sold Armour bacon, animal feed, shoes, tins of lard. As his own biographer later told the story, the innocent Dale fell into the clutches of a wellborn, cosmopolitan femme fatale--a European countess, no less--who wiled him into marriage and, before too long, revealed herself as a howling shrew. She might have ruined his life. Instead, he managed a divorce and escaped to London, where he made a living as a public speaker, giving lectures on 'public speaking.'

"One morning over breakfast, Carnegie came across a newspaper article on Lincoln's life. He was stunned. Lincoln's story, he discovered to his astonishment, was that of a talented, ambitious young lad from the Midwest, stultified by an oafish, ill-educated father, who chafed under the idiocy of rural life and broke free at last, only to be tricked into marriage by a cosmopolitan femme fatale who soon enough revealed herself as a howling shrew. She might have ruined his life. Fortunately, Lincoln transformed the torment she inflicted into the fuel of his own advancement and eventual greatness. This, Carnegie realized at once, was 'one of the most fascinating tales in all the annals of mankind.'

"For Carnegie, Lincoln was not only an inspiration but also a teaching aid, an illustration of how a self-made man gets made. His biography, Lincoln the Unknown, was Carnegie's first commercially produced book. It was hugely successful and became the best-selling biography of his generation. As a work of history it is almost useless. Aside from its denigration of Tom Lincoln and its exaggeration of Mary Lincoln's howling shrewishness, the book is littered with errors of fact. But there was a method to Carnegie's exaggerations and inaccuracies. Carnegie intensified Lincoln's hardships-instigated by Tom and Mary, mostly-to make the final triumph all the more inspiring. ...

"The great success of Lincoln the Unknown inspired Carnegie's next book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Published in 1936, it has sold more than 15 million copies, making it the biggest-selling book in history that doesn't have God as a main character. It sealed Carnegie's international fame and made his name a byword. In How to Win Friends you find the wellspring of two great streams of American popular culture: the self-help movement and the business book. Protestant America had always taken it as axiomatic that good character would be rewarded with worldly success and, on the flipside, that worldly success was reliable evidence of good character. In How to Win Friends Carnegie used Lincoln to show how one led to the other. Though never wildly rich himself, Lincoln was 'the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.' As president, of course, he didn't have the chance to exploit his talent commercially, being preoccupied with Union-saving and slave-freeing. But you, too, Carnegie promised the reader, can be a ruler of men. You, too, can be like Abe--minus the war and the wife."

Andrew Ferguson, Land of Lincoln, Atlantic Monthly Press, Copyright 2007 by Andrew Ferguson, pp. 175-178.

Friday, October 12, 2007 10/12/07-A Depression Dilemma

In today's excerpt--in the 1930s, people are starving, but food prices are falling, so farmers have little incentive to farm. With hindsight , the problem is seen to have been deflationary actions, but FDR's solution at the time--even as millions starved--was to destroy food and pay farmers to stop growing:

"Roosevelt and the brain trusters also created a twin for the National Recovery Administration: the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, to sort out farming. ... In the spring of 1933 agricultural prices stood at 40 percent of their 1926 level; farmers threatened a general strike. Henry Wallace and others told Roosevelt that this must mean there was too much supply and too little demand. They suggested correcting supply. If farmers sold less, their prices would go up. ...The man named to lead the AAA was George Peek of Moline, Illinois. ...

"The AAA began paying farmers to produce less. The government also encouraged farmers to sell less by offering them favorable loans in exchange for restraint. ... Legislators and southern agricultural commissioners were already busy quantifying the amount of acreage to retire--10 million acres of cotton fields, for example. Farmers began receiving their payments. Peek would be able to announce that checks to a million farmers to pay $110 million on their contracts to take more than 4 million bales of hay out of production had already been sent. To many, this seemed odd, outrageous even. The $110 million that went to farmers more than offset the $100 million in savings the government had gained by [the massive recent cut in] its employee's salaries. In a year of hunger--the year that [for example a couple] had starved in a cabin on a New York lake--food production was cutting back, and additional food was being withheld. ...

"The AAA got its first serious negative publicity after Americans learned that a total of six million young pigs were killed before reaching full size over the course of September. 'It just makes me sick all over,' one citizen would write, 'when I think of how the government has killed millions and millions of little pigs, and how that has raised pork prices until today we poor people cannot have a piece of bacon.' The move did drive pork prices up--a bit--but ... in October 1933 the commodity reports that Warren and Roosevelt watched so closely edged down or stayed flat."

Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man, Harper Collins, Copyright 2007 by Amity Shlaes, pp. 153-168. .

Thursday, October 11, 2007 10/11/07-Explanations and Emotions

In today's encore excerpt--explanations rob events of their emotional impact:

"Explanations allow us to make full use of our experiences, but they also change the nature of those experiences. As we have seen, when experiences are unpleasant, we quickly move to explain them in ways that make us feel better, and indeed, studies show that the mere act of explaining an unpleasant event can help defang it. ... But just as explanations ameliorate the impact of unpleasant events, so too do they ameliorate the impact of pleasant events. ...

"For example, college students volunteered for a study in which they believed they were interacting in an online chat room with students from other universities. In fact, they were actually interacting with a sophisticated computer program that simulated the presence of other students. After the simulated students had provided the real students with information about themselves, the researcher pretended to ask the simulated students to decide which of the people in the chat room they liked most ... in just a few minutes, something remarkable happened: Each real student received e-mail messages from every one of the simulated students indicating they liked that student best!

"Now, here's the catch: Some real students (informed group) received e-mail that allowed them to know which simulated student wrote each of the messages, and other real students (uninformed group) received e- mail messages that had been stripped of that identifying information. ... Hence, real students in the informed group were able to generate explanations for their good fortune ('Eva appreciates my values because we're both involved in Habitat for Humanity') ... whereas real students in the uninformed group were not (Someone appreciates my values, I wonder who?) ... Although real students in both groups were initially delighted to have been chosen as everyone's best friend, only the real students in the uninformed group remained delighted fifteen minutes later. If you've ever had a secret admirer, then you understand why ...

"The reason why unexplained events have a disproportionate emotional impact is that we are especially likely to keep thinking about them. People spontaneously try to explain events, and studies show that when people do not complete the things they set out to do, they are especially likely to think about and remember their unfinished business. Once we explain an event, we can fold it up like fresh laundry, put it away in memory's drawer, and move on to the next one; but if an event defies explanation, it becomes a mystery ... and refuses to stay in the back of our minds. ... Explanation robs events of their emotional impact because it makes them seem likely and allows us to stop thinking about them."

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness, Knopf, 2006, pp. 186-189. .

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007 10/10/07-Washington Surrounded

In today's excerpt--in the waning days of his presidency, George Washington's humility and courage avoids a second war with England. Yet the cost is the many concessions by America to England in the highly unpopular Jay treaty, and he is vilified by the American public, with countless demonstrations--including having his house surrounded for days by chanting protesters:

"When the president dined alone with John Adams to enlist his support [for the Jay treaty], his vice president worried, 'I see nothing but a dissolution of government and immediate war.' ... The press denounced Jay, criticized the treaty, derided the Senate, and in a constant drumbeat, reserved some of its most trenchant words for Washington himself. One Virginia editor actually suggested a toast for a 'speedy death to General Washington.' Meanwhile, when the press wasn't sticking its finger in Washington's eye, popular meetings were. Across the country--in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and countless other cities--they screeched until their voices were hoarse for Washington to reject the treaty, while in Manhattan, seven thousand Republicans, stretching from Broad Street to Wall Street, noisily marched against it. And day after day letters poured in condemning the pact as a deal with the British 'Satan.'

"Then the opposition truly got ugly. Jay's treaty, and his effigy, were burned up and down the entire Eastern Seaboard. Rioters in Philadelphia, clogging the avenues, broke windows in the houses of the British ambassador and a Federalist senator. In New York, Alexander Hamilton was pelted with stones. And John Adams was stunned to see the presidential mansion surrounded from morning to evening by protesters repeating the same stinging calls, a deafening refrain chanted over and over again in an ever-escalating crescendo, demanding war with England, cursing Washington (a 'horrid blasphemer'), and calling for the success of the French patriots; marchers even impaled the treaty on a pole and carried it to the home of the French ambassador. The vitriol was unrelenting: A pale and utterly depleted Washington was [even] compared unfavorably to King Louis XVI."

Jay Winik, The Great Upheaval, Harper Collins, Copyright 2007 by Jay Winik, p. 495.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007 10/09/07-Slaves and Criminals

In today's excerpt--the preponderance of European immigrants to America in colonial times are indentured servants, and a significant number of these are convicted criminals:

"The scale of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century migration from the British Isles was astonishing and unmatched by any other country. From England alone, total net emigration between 1601 and 1701 exceeded 700,000. ...

"As we have seen, the first British emigrants to America had been drawn by the prospect of freedom of conscience and cheap land. But the attractions of emigration were rather different to those with only their labour to sell. For them, it had little to do with liberty. On the contrary, it meant consciously giving up their liberty. Few such migrants crossed the ocean using their own resources. Most travelled under a system of temporary servitude, known as 'indenture,' which was designed to alleviate the chronic labour shortage. In return for the price of their voyage out, they would enter a contract pledging their labour for a set number of years, usually four or five. In effect they became slaves, but slaves on fixed-term contracts. This they may not have realized on leaving England. ...

"[As Daniel Dafoe wrote,] 'they were of two sorts, either (1) such as were brought over by Masters of Ships to be sold as Servants, such as we call them ... but they are more properly call'd slaves. Or (2) Such as are Transported from Newgate and other Prisons, after having been found guilty of Felony and other Crimes punishable with Death. When they come here ... we make no difference: the Planters buy them, and they work together in the Field til their time is out.' ...

"Between a half and two-thirds of all Europeans who migrated to North America between 1650 and 1780 did so under contracts of indentured servitude; for English emigrants to the Chesapeake the proportion was closer to seven out of ten. ... Like slaves, indentured servants were advertised for sale in the local newspaper, ... 'Just arrived ... 139 men, women, and boys. Smiths, bricklayers, plasterers, shoemakers, a glazier, a tailor, a printer, a book binder, several seamstresses ...' "

Niall Ferguson, Empire, Basic, Copyright 2002 by Niall Ferguson, pp. 58-59.

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Monday, October 08, 2007 10/08/07-Stress and Colds

In today's excerpt--the effect of stress on sickness and disease:

"Under stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol, one of the hormones the body mobilizes in an emergency. ... If our cortisol levels remain too high for prolonged periods, the body pays a price in ill health. The chronic secretion of cortisol (and related hormones) are at play in cardiovascular disease and impaired immune function, exacerbating diabetes and hypertension, and even destroying neurons in the hippocampus, harming memory. ...

"Enter Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University who has intentionally given colds to hundreds of people. Not that Cohen has a malicious streak--it's all in the interest of science. Under meticulously controlled conditions, he systematically exposes volunteers to a rhinovirus that causes the common cold. About a third of people exposed to the virus develop the full panoply of symptoms, while the rest walk away with nary a sniffle. The controlled conditions allow him to determine why. His methods are exacting. ...

"We know that low levels of vitamin C, smoking, and sleeping poorly all increase the likelihood of infection. The question is, can a stressful relationship be added to that list? Cohen's answer: definitely. Cohen assigns precise numerical values to the factors that make one person come down with a cold while another stays healthy. Those with an ongoing personal conflict were 2.5 times as likely as the others to get a cold, putting rocky relationships in the same causal range as vitamin C deficiency and poor sleep. (Smoking, the most damaging unhealthy habit, made people three times more likely to succumb.) Conflicts that lasted a month or longer boosted susceptibility, but an occasional argument presented no health hazard. ...

"While perpetual arguments are bad for our health, isolating ourselves is worse. Compared to those with a rich web of social connections, those with the fewest close relationships were 4.2 times more likely to come down with a cold, making loneliness riskier than smoking. The more we socialize, the less susceptible to colds we become. This idea seems counterintuitive: don't we increase the likelihood of being exposed to a cold virus the more people we interact with? Sure. But vibrant social connections boost our good moods and limit our negative ones, suppressing cortisol and enhancing immune function under stress. Relationships themselves seem to protect us from risk of exposure to the very cold virus they pose."

Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence, Bantam, Copyright 2006 by Daniel Goleman, pp. 225- 230.

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Friday, October 05, 2007 10/05/07-New Toys for the Wealthy

In today's excerpt--electricity for Vanderbilt and Morgan. In 1882, as residents of Manhattan were waiting for electricity to be deployed to their homes from Thomas Edison's central power plant, the wealthiest residents decided they could not wait and paid to have their own "miniplants" installed:

"As engines of publicity, the miniplants potentially could help most when they became highly sought after by the wealthy for use in their own homes. ... William Vanderbilt was the first to place an order for his own personal power plant and lighting system for installation at his house under construction on upper Fifth Avenue. ... Edison was present on the evening that the system was turned on for the first time. The test went well, and Vanderbilt, his wife, and his daughters joined Edison in the main parlor, admiring the light. Almost immediately, however, signs appeared of a smoldering fire within the wallpaper, which apparently had a fine metallic thread in its weave. Edison ordered the system shut down and was pleased that no flames had appeared. Mrs. Vanderbilt, however, 'became hysterical,' according to Edison. ... On her orders, the entire system was removed.

"The unhappy ending to this first installation swiftly became public knowledge, and the gas utilities were glad to help spread the news. ... When asked whether it was true that Vanderbilt had ordered Edison's electric lights to be removed from his new house because they did not work well--and had set fire to the woodwork--Edison declared, 'It is false.' ...

"Undeterred by Vanderbilt's unhappy experience, J.P. Morgan wanted Edison to build a system of lights and self-contained power plant for his house, too, at 219 Madison Avenue. ... The power plant was staffed with its own full-time engineer ... [who] completed his shift at 11 p.m., a fact members of the Morgan household sometimes forgot when the house was plunged into darkness in the middle of a late-evening card game. ...

"Morgan prized being ahead of everyone else ... [however] on the first evening when the lights were turned on, there was a flash, followed by a fire that quickly engulfed his desk and spread across the rug before being put out. ... [The staff] expected that when Morgan appeared, he would angrily denounce that the services of Edison Electric were no longer needed. ... [However,] the eager purchaser of first-generation technology handled setbacks with equanimity. 'I hope that the Edison Company appreciates the value of my house as an experimental station,' he would later say. A new installation with second-generation equipment worked well, and Morgan held a reception for four hundred guests to show off his electric lights. The event led some guests to place their own orders for similar installations."

Randall Stross, The Wizard of Menlo Park, Crown, Copyright 2007 by Randall Stross, pp. 129- 132. 10/05/07-New Toys for the Wealthy

Thursday, October 04, 2007 10/04/07-Larry David

In today's encore excerpt, Larry David, who later achieved spectacular success as co-creator of Seinfeld and creator and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm, lasts only one year as a writer on Saturday Night Live:

"Andy Breckman: I was there when Larry David wrote for Saturday Night Live. He was there for one season and he did not get one sketch on the air. Not one. And then he went on to do Seinfeld and be Mr. NBC. It was a Dick Ebersol year, and I'm sure that Larry has nothing good to say about Dick Ebersol, but of the sketches that Larry David didn't get on, some of them ... became the seeds of Seinfeld episodes. ... One sketch was about a guy who left a message on his girlfriend's answering machine that he regretted leaving, and he broke into his girlfriend's house to retrieve the answering machine tape. ...

"Elliot Wald: Larry would write pieces that, you know, we would just be falling on the floor over. Some of those became great Seinfeld episodes. The one about trying to get someone's apartment at a wake? Elaine did that in Seinfeld, but Larry wrote it first as a sketch. And we were falling down laughing. And Dick would say, 'That's not going on the air; that's not funny.' ...

"Larry David: It was the day before read-through around seven o'clock ... and I had been there maybe three weeks ... I had already written written maybe two or three sketches and maybe two news pieces for the update thing. So I was all set.

"So I'm waiting for the elevator to go home, and I remember Dick came out of the elevator, and I said, 'Good night,' and he said, 'What are you doing?!?' I said, 'Oh, I'm going home.' And he looked at me like I was out of my mind. He said, 'What do you mean, going home?' I said, 'Well, I've written three sketches and two news pieces and that's it, you know.' And he goes, 'But we stay up all night.' I go, 'What for?' He says, 'To write the show. That's when we write the show.' I said, 'But I've already written three pieces.' And he goes, 'Well, we stay here all night.' I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. And I said, 'I'm not staying up all night. For what? What am I going to do--just walk around? I'm all done.' So we kind of looked at each other and I said, you know, 'Good luck,' and I got on the elevator and left. I think that was the beginning of the end for me.' "

Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller, Live from New York, Little, Brown, 2002, pp. 269-272.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007 10/03/07-Income Tax

In today's excerpt--faced with the unprecedented cost of the Civil War, the U.S. implements an income tax:

"With steady news of the Union's defeats in 1861, public confidence fell sharply. ... Adding to [Abraham] Lincoln's concerns, the Treasury secretary [Salmon Chase] reported that he had underestimated the cost of the war for 1861-62. Rather than $318 million, Chase now put the figure at $532 million. And only $55 million in taxes was expected. ...

"The Union army's defeat at Bull Run in July 1861 cooled the desire of banks to lend to the government. Chase and congressional Republicans decided they must raise taxes aggressively to produce more revenues to reassure investors. They first considered a property tax, a method last used in the War of 1812 ... [but] the suggestion evoked a sharp reaction from populist and agrarian interests ... [and] intense congressional opposition led to a search for a tax that would be considered fairer by rural constituencies. Legislators were aware of the various features of the British income tax, which had first been proposed by William Pitt the Younger in 1798 to pay for weapons and supplies in preparation for the Napoleonic Wars with France. Implemented in 1799, the tax featured graduated payment rates, with the lowest set below 1 percent and the highest at 10 percent. ...

"The idea of a federal income tax was widely regarded as radical and nearly inconceivable. Those suspicious of any increase in federal financial power considered it another attempt by the federal government to undermine the power of the states. Wealthy Americans deplored it as an unjust and heavy-handed federal intrusion. ... [However,] in need of revenues and anxious to offset grumblings that low-income farmers and workers were bearing the brunt of the war's cost due to high tariffs, the [Congress] passed legislation levying ... a 'flat' 3 percent on incomes above $800 signed into law by President Lincoln on August 5, 1861. Most Americans made far less than $800--the average annual income that year was $150--so the vast majority did not have to pay the tax. ... Interest on mortgages was made deductible ... Congress attempted to increase tax fairness further, as well as obtain additional revenues, by including in the bill an inheritance tax--the first in U.S. history--on estates in excess of $1,000. ...

"To improve tax collection, Congress adopted another practice from Britain called 'collection of revenues at the source.' ... It required federal agencies to withhold taxes from the pay of civilian and military employees and railroad and financial institutions to withhold taxes before distributing dividend and interest payments to investors."

Robert D. Hormats, The Price of Liberty, Times Books, Copyright 2007 by Robert D. Hormats, pp. 63-69.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007 10/02/07-Ruth and Reporting

In today's excerpt--Babe Ruth benefits from a different standard of reporting in the 1920s:

"The writers of the time ... reported much less than future generations would. Especially about the Babe. ... Was it news that he was drunk again late at night? Was it news that he had been with one, two, three women who were not his wife? ...

"An example: [New York Times reporter Richards] Vidmer [and other players] would often play bridge in the Babe's hotel room on the long barnstorming trips back from spring training. ... The phone would always ring. Vidmer would always answer.

" 'Is Babe Ruth there?' a woman's voice would ask.

" 'No, he's not here right now,' Vidmer would reply. 'This is his secretary. Can I tell him who called?'

" 'This is Mildred. Tell him Mildred called.'

" 'Mildred ...'

"Vidmer would look at the Babe. The Babe would shake his head no, not here, not for Mildred.

" 'I'm sorry,' Vidmer would say. 'He's not here right now, but I'll tell him you called ...'

"Invariably, the Babe would have instant second thoughts. Invariably, he would sprint across the room and grab the phone.

" 'Hello, babe. Come on up.'

" 'And she'd come up and interrupt the bridge game for ten minutes or so,' Vidmer said. 'They'd go in the other room. Pretty soon, they'd come out and the girl would leave. Babe would say, 'So long, kid,' or something like that. Then he'd sit down and we'd continue our bridge game. That's all. That was it. While he was absent, we'd sit and talk, wait for him.' ...

"Fred Lieb always told the story about the woman chasing Ruth with a knife through the Pullman car in Shreveport during spring training in 1921 as the train was almost ready to leave for New Orleans. Ruth was running as fast as he could, and the dark-haired, dark-eyed woman, said to be the wife of a Louisiana legislator, was five feet behind him. Ruth pounded through the car, jumped off the train, then jumped back on as it was leaving, the woman back on the platform.

"Eleven writers, playing cards, watched the whole thing. None of them wrote a word. 'Well,' Bill Slocum of the Morning American said as the card game continued, 'if she had carved up the Babe, we really would have had a hell of a story.' "

Leigh Montville, The Big Bam, Broadway Books, Copyright 2006 by Leigh Montville, pp. 162-164.

Monday, October 01, 2007 10/01/07-Thanks, Catherine

In today's excerpt--Catherine the Great, Tsarina of Russia. King George III seeks Catherine and Russia's help in suppressing the American rebellion, but is rebuffed. Further, Britain's dominance of the seas is diminished when Catherine forms a naval alliance from which it is excluded. Her concern in both cases is not for the American rebels, but instead for the European balance of power. These two developments, when combined, significantly limit Britain's ability to sustain the war:

"Confronted with the increasing frenzy of 'His Majesty's unhappy and deluded people' on the other side of the Atlantic, George III's ministers approached Empress Catherine the Great for Russian assistance. Britain had the best fleet in the world but a negligible army, traditionally resorting to hired mercenaries. By contrast, the Russians had a homogeneous force hardened by war, toughened by the elements, and thoroughly brutal. ... King George requested 20,000 disciplined infantry, 'completely equipped and ready to embark' as soon as the Baltic navigation was possible in the spring; he also sought to hire Russian naval ships to bolster his own navy. It was a tempting offer, but Catherine refused. ... Publicly she wrote to George III, wishing him 'good luck,' but privately she was far more smug, convinced that George had badly bungled his handling of the rebels and 'should be taught a lesson.' ... Britain was forced to resort to its second choice ... the German House of Hesse. ...

"[Catherine] was equally unwilling to acknowledge the existence of the American rabble. ... But as fate would have it, the tsarina was also supremely fickle. Edgy and ambitious, she distrusted republics and despised insurgents, but even more than that, she craved power on the grand European stage. This would lead to one of history's most curious moves. The consequences would be far-reaching. ...

"Under the guise of protecting 'freedom of the seas' and 'international law,' Catherine brazenly proposed the ... 'League of Armed Neutrality.' The ostensible goal was to halt brash attacks on the high seas by British, Spanish, and American navies and privateers. The reality was quite different. While crisis abounded, Catherine grasped her own opportunity to spearhead an alliance that would include the other great powers in Europe--Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and eventually Prussia, Austria, Portugal, and the Ottoman Turks--against the belligerents, which, in effect, meant England. Notably, the French and Spanish also rallied to the cause. ... John Adams and Francis Dana now lauded Catherine's 'idealism' and hailed the empress as 'our friend.' George Washington referred to her as the 'great Potentate of the North.' ...

"In one bold stroke, [Catherine's] Doctrine of Armed Neutrality redressed the balance of global sea power. More than that, the tsarina had isolated Britain diplomatically--the first time that had happened in the eighteenth century--and had curtailed Britain's vaunted maritime fleet while aiding France's. In so doing, she helped bolster the hopes of the beleaguered American rebels fighting for their lives and, in effect, almost inadvertently helped midwife America to independence."

Jay Winik, The Great Upheaval, Harper Collins, Copyright 2007 by Jay Winik, pp. 37- 40.