Thursday, February 19, 2009

Studies in Crap Discovers What Your Great Great Grandfather Knew About American History: "The Story of the United States"

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 6:00 AM

Each

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.

click to enlarge cover.jpg

The

Story of the United States

Author:

Elbridge

S. Brooks

Publisher:

Lothrop

Publishing Company, Boston

Date:

1891

Discovered

at: Johnson

County Library book sale

The

Cover Promises: George

Washington lotto scratch-off!

Representative

Quotes:

"There

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."

(page 13)

"The

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)

As

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

his character."

In

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:

washington.jpg

You

might also expect racism and xenophobia, which of course spills from

The

Story of the United States.

like corn-seed from Squanto's hand:

"In

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:

"They

were all what we know as communists - that is, they held their

land, their homes and their property in common."


indiancountry.jpg

History here is a cartoon. But a good one: a pirate-fighting, British-bashing,

New World-birthing blast from the patriotic gut.

anthonywayne.jpg

Even Ohio seems glorious:

ohio.jpg

Still, The

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:

"Who

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:

"The

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

white."

red.jpg

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:

"From

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.)

Even

today, this kind of nuanced, grown-up stance is difficult for some

historians, especially authors like Larry Shweikart, whose recent

book 48

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.

When

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.

weakkneedpatriot.jpg

Congratulations, Shweikart

and Medved! You're more naive about American history than the racist

textbooks of 1891!

Bonus Shocking Detail! 

History is awesome!

birds.jpg

Highlight:

As

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:

"Two

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."

"Barbarian,

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.

Then

that future came.

One

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

president.

A

year ago, your Crap Archivist would have scoffed at Brooks'

prediction.

Now, with

just 82 years from 2091, I'm penciling it in on my calendar.

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