Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 94, April 30

While the United States had established permanent African-American military units in 1866, these did not participate in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) a peacetime role as frontier police and cavalry experts was gradually devolving into labor duties.   Some of these "Buffalo Soldiers," as they were nicknamed, did participate in a border skirmish with Mexican troops accompanied by German military advisors..

By contrast, Freddie Stowers was part of a new division that, by the end of the war, included a commissioned African-American officer, and saw substantial combat. Due to compromises with the racism of the day, this combat did not take place under American command: Although his unit arrived in France as part of the AEF, Stowers' regiment, like the others in the division, was seconded to the 157th French Army "Red Hand Division," badly in need of reinforcement, under the command of the General Mariano Goybet.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Day 93, April 29

African-Americans (of course there was no such politically correct term at this time) served in large numbers during World War I, though racism within the armed forces meant that blacks were eligible to serve only in segregated units.

At the peak of its strength the AEF included some 350,000 African-Americans, most of whom were relegated to support units. African-
American soldiers of the 92nd and 93rd infantry divisions saw combat on the Western Front in 1918, mostly under French command.

Several units of these divisions served with great distinction, including the 369th Infantry (formerly the 15th New York Infantry), known as the "Harlem Hell Fighters", and the 371st Infantry whose ranks included Corporal Freddie Stowers – the only African-American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War I.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 92, April 28

The troops of the AEF were made up of a comparatively small number of regular soldiers and Marines, large numbers of National Guard soldiers, and an even greater number of Americans drafted into the armed forces.

 By the fall of 1918, the AEF numbered 43 infantry divisions in France. At the time of the Armistice, a total of 8 Regular Army, 17 National Guard, and 18 National Army divisions had arrived in France. Americans of the AEF would fight in France with much of their heavy equipment – artillery, tanks and aircraft – furnished by the France and Britain.

As the AEF built up its strength through the first months of 1918, American troops in France went into the front lines in "quiet" sectors to gain combat experience. Some troops fought under British and French command, though General John "Blackjack" Pershing, Commander of the AEF, was determined that American troops in France would fight as a homogenous army.

 By the spring of 1918, the AEF began to take part in heavy fighting on the Western Front. Major battles fought by American Doughboys in France included Cantigny, Belleau Wood, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 91, April 27

American soldiers of World War I were referred to as "Yanks" or sometimes "Sammies" (from 'Uncle Sam'). By far, however, "Doughboys" became the most popular and enduring nickname for troops of the AEF.

There are several theories behind the origin of the term "Doughboy" though it seems likely that it came from American military operations on the Mexican border in 1916, where marching foot soldiers, covered in white adobe dust, were called "adobes" by mounted troops.

Whatever its origins, the name "Doughboy" became indelibly tied to Americans who went "Over There" in World War I.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 90, April 26

W'e're going to jump back a few years to World War I.  (Don't you love being a time traveler?)

The United States entered World War I on April 4, 1917 following a Declaration of War on Imperial Germany by Congress. In June 1917 the first American troops arrived in France – these were some 13,000 US Army regulars destined to form the 1st Infantry Division, and a battalion from the 5th Marine Regiment (during World War I, US Army troops and US Marines fought together in the US 2nd Infantry Division).

From this small beginning, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) eventually grew to number over 2 million men in Europe by November 1918.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 89, April 25

Over the past 80 plus years, critics have frequently confused Hoover's policies with those of Coolidge and complain that Coolidge did nothing to prevent the Great Depression. 

A dispassionate review of history refutes this.  The Great Depression was as long as it was in duration because the government under both Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, unlike that under Coolidge, chose to "play God," manipulating prices, setting up "make work" policies, and taking other artificial measures. 

Coolidge, Silent Cal, deserves credit for his courage and integrity.

I have, perhaps, belabored this portion of American history.  This is due, in part, to my own lack of knowledge about Calvin Coolidge, which I was glad to remedy, and in acknowledgment of his efforts to put America on the right track.  That we have strayed so far from his dedication to fiscal responsibility is an indictment of today's leaders and their policies.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 88, April 24

Though he remained unpopular with Washington's lawmakers, Coolidge proved immensely popular with voters.

The Progressive Party, in 1924, ran on a platform of government ownership of public power and a return to government ownership of railroads.  Many feared the Progressive Party might split the Repulbican vote, as it had in 1912, giving the presidency to the Democrats.

Robert LaFollette, the Progressive candidate, claimed more than 16 percent of the vote.  Still, Coolidge won with an absolute majority, gaining more votes than the Democrat and Progessive candidates combined.

In 1928, when Coolidge decided not to run for reelection, despite the urging of party leaders, Herbert Hoover successfully ran on a pledge to continue Coolidge's policies.  Unfortnately, Hoover did not live up to his promise. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 87, April 23

Though he greatly favored tax cuts, Coolidge refused to put them above budget reduction.  He insisted on marrying the two goals.  To empahsize this, the twin lion cubs presented to Coolidge by the mayor of Johannesburg were named "Budget Bureau" and "Tax Reduction."

Coolidge didn't champpion tax cuts as a means to increase revenue or to buy off Democrats.  He championed them because they took government, which he saw as the people's servant, out of the way of the people.  (Such a contrast to today's thinking.)  This sense of government as a servant to the people extended to his own office. 

His views made Coolidge few friends in Washington, a fact underscored by notes kept by White House usher Ike Hoover.  These notes record the excuses given by lawmakers for not attending breakfasts hosted by Coolidge at the White House.

"Senator Heflin:  Regrets, sick.  Senator Norris:  Unable to Locate.  Senator PIttman:  Regrets, sick."  And so on.  It was a slap in the face to the President.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 86, April 22

In December of 1923 President Coolidge and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon worked to lower the top tax rates from the fifties to the twenties.  Mellon convinced Coolidge that these cuts might result in additional revenue.  (Could leaders today learn something from this?)

This practice was referred to as "scientific taxation," an early formula of the Laffer Curve.  "Experience does not show that the higher rate produces the larger revenue.  Experience is all the other way," Coolidge said in 1924.  "When the surtax on incomes of $300,000 and over was but ten percent, the revenue was about the same as it was at 65 percent."

Unfortunately, the Secretary and the President did not win all they sought.  The top rate of the final law was in the forites.  Even this reduction, though, yielded results:  more money flowed into the Treasury.  This suggested that "scientific taxation" worked.  By 1926, Coolidge was able to sign legislation that brought the top marginal rate down to 25 percent, even doing it retroactively.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 85, April 21

Senator Thaddeus Caraway of Arkansas expressed his resentment:  "I venture to say that if a similar disaster had affected New England the President would have had no hesitation in calling an extra session.  Unfortunately he was unable to visiualize the situation."

Senator Caraway was proven wrong when floods tore through Vermont, the state where Coolidge had spent his childhood.  Calls for him to visit grew in intensity, and still the President did not visit. 

One Vermonter put it this way:  "He can't do for his own, you see, more than he did for the others."

New England and the South had to recover on their own, without federal intervention, without Coolidge stepping in with presidential privilege.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 84, April 20

"It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones," Coolidge had once told his father.

While Harding had vetoed only six bills, Coolidge vetoed 50, including sacred farm subsidies, even though he came from farm country. Coolidge favored the pocket veto, a way for the president to reject a bill without a veto message and without affording Congress a chance to override a veto. Though this type of veto had been used by past presidents, including Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge's use of it gained the attention of the New York Times, which referred to it as "disapproval by inaction."

Coolidge carried his money-saving ways into daily life at the White House and once chastized his housekeeper for serving "an awful lot of ham" at a state dinner.

The Missippi River flood of 1927 (the Hurricane Katrina of the day) wiped out many areas of the South, yet Coolidge chose not to visit the devastated places, sending Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover instead. He (Coolidge) believed that a presidential visit would encourage the idea of federal spending on disaster relief, a concept which was already gaining advocates in Congress.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 83, April 19

Within a day of arriving in Washington after Harding's death, Coolidge met with his own budget director, Herbert Lord.  Together, they started a new policy of cutting budget items, including spenidng on the District of Columbia's public works.  In a public statement, Coolidge said, "We must have no carelessness in our dealings with public property or the expenditure of public money.  Such a condition is charcteristic of undeveloped people, or of a decadent generation."

"A Two Percent Club" for executive branch staffers who managed to save two percent in their budgets was the first announcement.  That was closely followed b a "One Percent Club," for those who had achieved two or more already.  Finally, a "Woodpecker Club," for department heads who kept chipping away, was instituted. 

Coolidge even looked at the use of pencils in the government.  "I don't know if I ever indicated in the conference that the cost of lead pencils in the government per year is about $125,000," he told the press in 1926.  "I am for economy, and after that I am for more economy."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 82, April 18

Some of Harding's appointees fell victim to bribery, and his administration became riddled with scandal.  In the summer of 1923, during a trip west to get away from the scandals, Harding suddenly died.

Coolidge stepped up and took over. Alice Roosevelt Longworth said of Coolidge's face, " ... looked as though he had been weaned on a pickle."  However, political leaders, including Supreme Court Justice and former president William Howard Taft came to respect the new president. 

Charles Evan Hughes, Secretary of State, after visiting the White House, noted that while Harding favored group discussions, Coolidge made decisions himself.  An even greater distinction was though that Harding's favorite word was "yes,"  Coolidge's favorite word was "no."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 81, April 17

The Repulcian Party's response in the election of 1920 was to campaign for smaller goernment.  The presidential candidate, Warren Harding, had "a return to normalcy" as his campaign motto, a controlling of government interference in the economy.

Calvin Coolidge, a Massachusetts governor, had gained recognition in facing down a Boston police strike.  "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time," he had declared.   His conservative stance earned him a spot on the ticket as vice-president.

Following the Republican victory, Harding's inagural address set an entirely different tone from that of the Wilson administration (and ceretaily from the administration of today).

Harding pushed through Congree the Budget and Accounting Act of 1923.  Under this act, the president gained authority for the budget, to the point of being able to impound money after it was budgeted.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 80, April 16

Following the First World War, the federal debt was ten times higher than before the war.  It was accepted that the debt burden would become unbearable if interest rates rose.  (Does this sound familiar?)

The top income tax rate was over 70 percent, veterans were having difficulty finding work, prices had skyrocketed, while wages lagged, and disgruntled workers were talking revolution.  (Once again, familiar.)

The Wilson administration had nationalized the railroads at the end of the war and had encouraged stock exchanges to shut down for a time.  Progressives were pushing for state and federal control of water power and electricity.  (At the risk of repeating myself, familiar again.)

The outlook for businesses was grim, with one of the biggest underlying problems being the lack of a sensible budgeting process.   Congress brought proposals to the White House, and they were usually approved.  (At last, something different from our own times.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 79, April 15

I never knew much about President Calvin Coolidge.  Somehow he gets lost admidst more flamboyant and showy presidents.  He was not immortalized by a national monument.  His accomplishments are rarely mentioned in text books.  Yet he did more for the advancement of America and Americans than many much more lauded presidents.

Coolidge served as president from 1923 to 1929.  During that time, he sustained a budget surplus and left office with a smaller budget than the one he inherited. (For that alone, he stands out.) 

 Over that same period, the Untied States experienced tremendous job growth, an increase in the standard of living, higher wages, and three to four percent annual economic growth.  The twenties really were roaring.

Coolidge was the first to "Just say no" and earned the title of the "The Great Refrainer."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Day 78, April 14

The Roaring Twenties, the 1920s,  was a  decade of  distinct cultural style.  Cities such as  New York, Paris, Berlin, London, and others delighted in a  period of sustained economic prosperity. French speakers called it the "annĂ©es folles" ("CrazyYears"), emphasizing the era's social, artistic, and cultural dynamism.

"Normalcy" returned to politics in the wake of hyper-emotional patriotism during World War I, jazz music blossomed, the flapper redefined womanhood, and Art Deco peaked.

The media focused on celebrities, especially sports heroes and movie stars, as cities rooted for their home team and filled the new palatial cinema and gigantic stadiums. In most major countries women were given the right to vote for the first time. By the middle of the decade, prosperity was widespread, with the second half of the decade later becoming known as the "Golden Twenties".  It was a time of excess and continual celebration

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 77, April 13

The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift from the preceding hundred years. The League lacked its own armed force and depended on the Great Powers to enforce its resolutions, keep to its economic sanctions, or provide an army when needed. However, the Great Powers were often reluctant to do so. Sanctions could hurt League members, so they were reluctant to comply with them.

When, during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, the League accused Italian soldiers of targeting Red Cross medical tents, Benito Mussolini\ responded that "the League is very well when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out."

After a number of notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis power in the 1930s. Germany withdrew from the League, as did Japan, Italy, Spain and others.
The onset of World War II showed that the League had failed its primary purpose, which was to prevent any future world war. The League lasted for 27 years.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 76, April 12

The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the World War I.   It was the first international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace.     As stated in its Covenant,  its primary goals included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes throgh negotiation and arbitration. 

Other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe.  At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members.

Though President Woodrow Wilson was instrumental in its inception, the League of Nations never gained the support of the United States of America.

The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift from the preceding hundred years. The League lacked its own armed force and depended on the Great Powers to enforce its resolutions, keep to its economic sanctions, or provide an army when needed. However, the Great Powers were often reluctant to do so. Sanctions could hurt League members, so they were reluctant to comply with them. When, during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, the League accused Italian soldiers of targeting Red Cross medical tents, Benito Mussolini responded that "the League is very well when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out."[4]
After a number of notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis powers in the 1930s. Germany withdrew from the League, as did Japan, Italy, Spain and others. The onset of World War II showed that the League had failed its primary purpose, which was to prevent any future world war. The League lasted for 27 years. The United Nations (UN) replaced it after the end of the war

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 75, April 11

Child labor peaked in the early years of the 20th century.   Factories owners often preferred children as workers, because they were viewed as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. Growing opposition to child labor in the North caused many factories to move to the South.  Children were frequently treated little (or no) better than slaves.

By 1900, states varied immensely in how they enforced child labor laws, if, indeed, any existed at all.   By then, American children worked in large numbers in mines, glass factories, textiles, agriculture, canneries, home industries, and as newsboys, messengers, bootblacks, and peddlers.

In 1904, a federal child labor law was put into effect.  Still, unsafe working conditions persisted. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 74, April 10

During the Industrial Revolution, children as young as four were employed in production factories with appalling, and often fatal working conditions.  Up until this time, children worked alongside their parents on the farm.  Though this was far from easy work, the children had the protection of their parents.

The managers of factories had no compunction about having the child-laborers work twelve to fifteen hours a day.  Unsafe machinery, sooty air, and little or no food were only a few of the conditions that these children faced every day.  There were no days off, no lunch hours, no breaks.

It would take decades for labor reform to make conditions safer for children, and, for that matter, adult workers.  Reform came slowly, with advocates for it battling business owners and managers.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 73, April 9

As more people moved west, the need for settling the large expanses of land, making it profitable, grew.  Cyrus McCormick's reaper paved the way for the Midwest.  Before McCormick's invention, a farmer would have to work for four days, with the help of two farmhands, driving six miles.  With the reaper, he could harvest as many as ten acres per hour.

Another invention, one that saw to the needs of  farm wives, came about at the same time.  The sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe, transformed how women fashioned their clothing.  This invention was complemented by the rise of industrialization in eastern cities, as cloth was manufactured more quickly and expediently.

Why include such inventions in a blog devoted to history and patriotism?  Both these machines, and others, contributed to a different kind of culture and society.  While they eased much of the manual labor, the effects of industrialization brought with it a host of other problems.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 72, April 8

When the Civil Ward ended, the west was still largely a region of great untamed wilderness, earning it the nickname, "The Great Plains."  However forbidding it was, the West was gradually being settled.  The federal government  had acquired various terrirotires like Utah. 

In 1889, the government opened up the Oklahoma territory, which resulted in the famous Oklahoma land rush.  Pioneers raced each other to claim choice parcels of land.   Though some settlers made good lives for themselves, others turned back upon confronting the challenges, including Indians, severe weather, and isolation.

In an expansion further north, Secretary of State Seward purchased Alaska for 7 million dollars in 1867. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 71, April 7

Following the Civil War came Reconstruction.  During this period, the South was transformed, through a series of congressional acts, from a totally segregated region where former slaves had no rights became a totally segregated region where these same slavs were supposed to have rights but did not.

Much of this dubious progress occurred during the admnistration of President Ulysses S. Grant.  In 1868, Grant defeated a man named Horatio Seymour.

Grant had his work cut out for him, healing a nation which, for the most part, did not want to be healed.  Feelings ran high, both in the North and the South.  The common ground that the two parts of the same nation supposedly possessed was proving elusive.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 70, April 6

Despite that it was formed on the day of President Lincoln's assassination, the Secret Service has only been working at presidential inaugurations since 1885. Early on, their role was to help local police stop small crimes along the parade route and to keep people from “annoying” the president, while military and police officers were responsible for guarding the president. It was not until 1902 that the Secret Service provided full-time protection for the president of the United States.

In the first years of this new assignemnt,  only the president received Secret Service protection. In 1913, this was expanded to include the president-elect. The president’s immediate family was added to the list of those protected by the Secret Service in 1917, and the vice president was added in 1951.

As a result of Robert Kennedy’s assassination during the 1968 presidential election campaign, major presidential and vice presidential candidates and nominees also joined that list.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Day 69, April 5

Since 1901, every President from Theodore Roosevelt on has been protected by the Secret Service. In 1917, threats against the President became a felony. The current Service is made up of two primary divisions -- the Uniformed Division and the Special Agent Division. The primary role of the Uniformed Division is protection of the White House and its immediate surroundings, as well as the residence of the Vice President, and over 170 foreign embassies located in Washington, D.C. Originally named the White House Police, the Uniformed Division was established by an Act of Congress on July 1, 1922, during President Warren G. Harding's Administration (1921-1923). The Special Agent Division is charged with two missions: protection and investigation.  The  investigative responsibilities include counterfeiting, forgery, and financial crimes. In addition to protecting the President, the Vice President, and their immediate families, agents also provide protection for foreign heads of state and heads of government visiting the United States.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 68, April 4

Because of its role in investigating counterfeiters, the new Secret Service was created under the United States Department of the Treasury. The Service began in earnest, and by 1866 agents had already shut down some 200 counterfeiting operations working in the United States.

So successful were they, in fact, that in 1867 their authority was expanded. Counterfeiters were no longer their only target; they were authorized to investigate any persons committing fraud against the government.

Besides the Secret Service, the only other real federal police force at this time were the U.S. Marshals.  The Secret Service soon began taking over many of the functions in enforcing federal law that the Marshals did not have the manpower to handle on their own.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day 67, April 3

During the evening of the same day President Lincoln established the Secret Service, he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., by John Wilkes Booth. The country mourned as news spread that the President had been shot.

It was the first time in our nation's history that a president had been assassinated. As Americans cried out for justice for their president, Congress began to think about adding presidential protection to the list of duties performed by the Secret Service.

However, it would take another 36 years and the assassination of two more Presidents, James A. Garfield (March 4, 1881-September 10, 1881) and William McKinley (1897-1901), before the Congress added protection of the president to the list of duties performed by the Secret Service.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Day 66, April 2

When the United States Secret Service (USSS) was established,in 1865, its main duty was to prevent the illegal production, or counterfeiting, of money. In the 1800s, America's monetary system was very disorganized. Bills and coins were issued by each state through individual banks, which generated many types of legal currency.

The Secret Service officially went to work on July 5, 1865. William Wood, widely known for his heroism during the Civil War, served as its first chief.  Wood was very successful in his first year, closing more than 200 counterfeiting plants. This success helped prove the value of the Secret Service, and in 1866 the National Headquarters was established in the Department of the Treasury building in Washington, D.C.  With so many different kinds of bills in circulation, it was easy for people to counterfeit money.

During President Lincoln's Administration, more than a third of the nation's money was counterfeit. On the advice of Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch, President Lincoln established a commission to stop this rapidly growing problem that was destroying the nation's economy, and on April 14, 1865, he created the United States Secret Service to carry out the commission's recommendations.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Day 65, April 1

Members of the Mormon Battalion served their country, answering a call from President Polk.  Even more, however, they served the Lord, answering a call from Him, issued by the Prophet Brigham Young.

The hardships they survived are unimaginable, including an attack by wild cattle, heat exhaustion, sickness, and insufficient food.  That several women accompanied the march is even more remarkable.

Personal gain was never a motive for the men, as their salaries were sent to their families and the Church as a whole to help with the Mormon exodus to the Salt Lake Valley.  Sacrifice was their watchword.