Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and
bewildering crap culled from area basements, thrift stores, estate
sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
Story of the United States
Publishing Company, Boston
County Library book sale
Cover Promises: George
Washington lotto scratch-off!
appeared, also, by lakeside, river and seashore a naked, low-browed,
uncouth race of savages, chipping the flint-stones of the Trenton
gravel banks into knives and spear-heads and disputing with the great
birds and beasts whose trails and tracks they crossed for the very
caves and holes in which they lived. These were the first Americans."
French settlement of Canada does not properly fall within our plan of
this story any more than does the Spanish settlement of Mexico, for
neither Canada nor Mexico have yet become parts of the United
States." (page 54)
you might expect, the history of America, as written for school kids
in 1891, is a parade of great deeds and grand figures, a feast of
heroism (and maize) that opens and closes with toasts to
Christopher Columbus and "the greatness of his achievement, the
virtue of his marvelous perseverance, the strength and nobility of
between comes ass-kicking colonists, presidents as nuanced as action
figures and gorgeous illustrations like this, the only know sketch of
George Washington making a cannon purr:
might also expect racism and xenophobia, which of course spills from
Story of the United States.
like corn-seed from Squanto's hand:
other words, the red-men of North America were but as little children
who have not yet learned and cannot, therefore, understand the daily
happenings that make up life."
Stranger still, there's this, evidence
that the "Red Scare" lasted a lot longer than we realize:
were all what we know as communists - that is, they held their
land, their homes and their property in common."
History here is a cartoon. But a good one: a pirate-fighting, British-bashing,
New World-birthing blast from the patriotic gut.
Even Ohio seems glorious:
Story of the United States
is full of surprises. For all his talk of "heathens" and
"savages," Brooks is surprisingly sympathetic to Native
Americans, even at the expense of the founders he reveres:
were the pale-faced visitors who had come in such a startling way
from across the sea? Not for years would the red Americans into whose
lands they came understand who they were or why they had visited
them, although they learned, all too soon, that there was little
about the new comers that was godlike or heavenly."
Take away his condescension, and
he could be writing for Democracy Now:
pale-faced strangers deceived and ill-treated the simple natives from
the first and for four hundred years the red-men of America have
known little but bad faith and ill-treatment at the hands of the
Right up through the Revolution, Brooks bemoans the colonists' tendency toward "Bigotry and persecution, jealousy and selfishness."
After a lively retelling of the witch hunts in Salem, he concludes:
all this you can see that people in those old days were not as
high-minded, as open-hearted, as liberal or as 'kindly-affectioned
one to another' - as the Bible has it - as are people today.
Education, freedom and union have made us brothers at last. And, when
people are bigoted and narrow-minded, they are apt to be
superstitious and cruel."
Shocking Detail: Brooks
demonstrates great pride in his American past but also a willingness
to acknowledge its blemishes. (At least, the ones he could see. He's
never particularly exercised about slavery.)
today, this kind of nuanced, grown-up stance is difficult for some
historians, especially authors like Larry Shweikart, whose recent
Liberal Lies About American History blows
a whole chapter assailing the "lie" that "The early
colonies were intolerant and racist." Or Michael Medved, who
counts "America Was Founded on Genocide Against Native
Americans" as one of The
10 Big Lies About America.
Medved argues that the white man's treatment
of Native Americans does not fit the legal definition of
"genocide" -- a word that wasn't even coined until after
the second World War -- he resembles those Clinton administration
officials who argued that Rwanda suffered "acts
of genocide" instead of genocide itself. These are patriots so weak-kneed they deny the horrors of history for political expedience.
and Medved! You're more naive about American history than the racist
textbooks of 1891!
Bonus Shocking Detail!
History is awesome!
Brooks acknowledges (and himself demonstrates), the past is
imperfect. Still, that doesn't mean we shouldn't hope for the future.
In his concluding chapter, "Growing into Greatness," Brooks looks
ahead to the America to come. In this remarkable speculation about
life in 2091, he offers words to hearten us even today:
hundred years from now, when all the conflicting elements of these
days of emigration will have been lost in the mingling and mixing
they must undergo, the United States will know neither German nor
Irishman, Italian nor Chinaman, Swede nor Hungarian, 'Barbarian,
Scythian, bond or free,' for there will be but one imperial citizen
-- the American."
Scythian, bond or free" goes back to Colossians,
but current events in 1891 would have given that 'bond or free' fresh
relevance. Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation just
twenty-eight years before Brooks looked to the future.
that future came.
year after the publication of The
Story of the United States,
Ellis Island opened America to the world. 116 years later, a land
once disfigured by 'bigotry and persecution' elected Barack Obama
year ago, your Crap Archivist would have scoffed at Brooks'
just 82 years from 2091, I'm penciling it in on my calendar.