The History Thread (Lizi's Trivia Thread)


The latest in my series on The War of Southern Aggression, we look at the moderation of the Unionist Republicans. You see, while the Civil War was fought in defense of slavery by the South, it was not until the final stages of the war that the Union took interest in the fates of the freedmen. Until January 1, 1863, the Lincoln administration offered to protect the institution of slavery in southern states if they would return to Union rule. Lincoln elevated Andrew Johnson of North Carolina, who Sec of State Seward said “permitted and excused slavery, if not endorsed it,” to the Vice Presidency in 1864. Radical Republicans like Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens were demonized, said to be as destructive to the Union as those who literally fought a war against it, as this excerpt from Pulitzer winner David Herbert Donald’s “Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man”

“On October 3 [1863] the hatchet faced Postmaster General [Montgomery Blair] warned a group of Unconditional Unionists meeting at Rockville, Maryland, that the country faced further grave dangers. Now that the Rebellion of the ‘nullifiers’ was near an end, freedom was ‘menaced by the ambition of the ultra-Abolitionists, which is equally despotic in its tendencies, and… alike fatal to republican institutions.’ The aims of the ‘Abolition party’ were ‘amalgamation, equality, and fraternity’; they ‘would make the manumission of the slaves the means of infusing their blood into our whole system.’”

Why do I write these instead of doing my actual history classwork?


Because classwork is boring


Every year around this time I feel like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas explaining to people the true meaning of Thanksgiving. So let me take the spotlight and recite some scripture. You see, the Thanksgiving myth of Pilgrims and Wampanoags is largely an invention of the early 20th century. Thanksgiving was not celebrated in the 18th century or first half of the 19th century. Indeed, Thanksgiving is an event created by Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, to remember to be grateful for what you have in times of great national crisis. Lincoln set aside numerous days for this purpose throughout the Civil War, but it was in 1863 that Secretary of State William Henry Seward wrote and issued this proclamation that set aside an annual Thanksgiving:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

Also, can an admin edit the title to say Lizzie’s Trivia Thread?


More Thanksgiving trivia. The famous Turkey Pardon has a colorful history. Arguably originating in 1863, it was first a Christmas turkey pardoned – not a formal pardon, but rather an Executive Order to the butcher not to kill and prepare the turkey (see below for details). The incident did not inspire a grand tradition of mercy towards our feathered friends, and for 12 years it was tradition for the First Family to buy a turkey, slaughter it, prepare it for dinner, and eat it for Thanksgiving (a new national holiday, as mentioned in my previous post). It was in 1873 when Rhode Island poultry magnate Horace Vose sent President Grant a turkey for Thanksgiving every year. Vose continued the tradition under Hayes, Garfield, and every other President up until his death in 1913. By then, it was outrageous that the President would have to buy his own turkey, and so different public organizations would gift turkeys to him to try to gain favor and display loyalty.

The modern history of the turkey pardon (I can’t believe I just wrote that) begins with Harry S Truman beginning a public display of the annual turkey gift. Truman had wanted to conserve agricultural resources for foreign aid programs like the Marshall plan. To encourage this, he instituted a campaign for “Meatless Tuesdays” and “Poultryless Thursdays” (the effectiveness of this campaign was not, to the best of my knowledge, ever determined). At any time this would have outraged the agricultural merchants, but 1947 was an exceptionally bad year to institute such propaganda, as three of the four biggest days in the poultry industry (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) fell on Thursdays. To make it up to the industry, Truman began a formal ceremony where he would receive a turkey with great fanfare from the National Poultry and Egg Board. Truman, not known for his mercy, did not display the restraint Abraham Lincoln so nobly had. But, so began the tradition of presenting a turkey to the President, and for some reason it just kept going.

Dwight D Eisenhower accepted a turkey annually for both terms, but after two years of eating turkeys John F Kennedy had had enough of this, and returned the Turkey on November 18, 1963, saying either “let’s keep this one going” or “let’s keep this one growing” depending on which newspaper you read. It baffled citizens then and it baffles historians now, as he was killed four days later, without ever elaborating on the turkey’s pardon (someone work THAT into their JFK conspiracy theory). Lyndon Johnson found the act of mercy noble like Lincoln’s and made it tradition, one continued by Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. It was at this time that the media dubbed the refusal the “turkey pardon,” a term which in 1987 Ronald Reagan embraced by issuing an official pardon for the turkey Charlie, and sent him to a petting zoo (which Reagan had done with previous turkeys granted to him, but without the official pardon). George HW Bush issued no formal pardons, and Bill Clinton only issued two (1997 and 2000), but his 2000 pardon was the first of an uninterrupted stream of Presidential turkey pardons, becoming an annual tradition during the George W Bush and Obama administrations.

Donald J Trump took the turkey pardon in a bold new direction. His turkeys were not sent to petting zoos or farms to live out the rest of their lives as was tradition, but rather are being sent to a non profit organization that brings food to underserved communities in Washington DC, Martha’s Table. Although this might sound unfair to the birds, these turkeys were bred to be eaten and don’t usually live much longer than a year after their pardon and suffer immense health issues, usually needing to be euthanized rather than dying a natural death. It may be better for our society to feed the needy than to prolong these birds lives.

Did I really just write four paragraphs about Presidents and poultry?



If the world is ever so awful that I am president of the US, then I will not pardon the turkey. It’s going straight to the White House kitchen.


A major reason I like John Brown’s philosophy over Vladimir Lenin’s is that John Brown didn’t think that the privileged had to lead the revolution that would emancipate the oppressed, but rather that the privileged could lead the revolution that would emancipate the oppressed. Events like The Amistad had taught him that the oppressed can rise up just fine without intervention from the privileged. It grants more equality to the oppressed and acknowledges them as human.

The whole killing my family thing is not even ranking on reasons I don’t like Lenin.


The fact that the big four Roman chariot teams remained somewhat consistent (Green, Blue, Red White) for 500+ years (Augustus to Justinian) is pretty nuts. Are there any modern sports teams with that sort of longevity?


Off the top of my head sorry no, the history isn’t really my area. That being said I think you’d be pretty hard pressed to find something similar to them.


I dunno, some cricket matches feel like they take about 600 years.


Just not drinking enough. Old 20/20 drinking games makes it go quick.


Some not very in depth research suggests the oldest professional sporting club still in existence is in fact an AFL team, the Melbourne Demons, who were founded in 1858.


Huh. Australia is not where I’d expect to find the oldest anything. Just hasn’t been settled very long. And that’s coming from an American.


Yeah, kinda threw me for a loop too, when it comes to old things in Australia, your options are almost always pre-european settlement, or from nature(trees, coral colonies, so on).

I had a bit of a look too, and of the three clubs I can find that are definitely older, two are non-professional university teams, and there were a number of years where Sheffield FC existed, but wern’t professional(or possibly even playing, for that matter).

I also found that the second-oldest is also an Australian team, the Geelong Football club(AKA, the Geelong Cats), who were formed shortly after the MFC/Demons, and that the MFC was originally formed to keep the MCC cricketers fit during the winter.


Yeah, if we include school sports, my alma mater, Boston Latin School, has a 350 year old rivalry with Boston English School.


Someone asked me to debunk a conspiracy theory video for them. It was about the National Bank and what caught my attention the most was its portrayal of Burr. It hailed him as a hero who served in Washington’s army, served as Jefferson’s VP, and killed Hamilton to stop big money from controlling the Union. Only Thomas Jefferson, hero of the people, could stop the Bank from corrupting the government by killing it as President Problems:

A) Burr was, in Lin Manuel’s words, “a captain under general Montgomery until he caught a bullet in the neck in Quebec and, well in summary” before serving under Washington’s command. By the time Burr met Washington, Alexander Hamilton had already become his AIde De Camp, so in the context of the duel it’s much more difficult to claim Burr’s ties to Washington than Hamilton’s.

B) Burr served as Jefferson’s VP, and Jefferson hated Burr so much that he and Madison passed a Constitution Amendment to keep demagogues like him out of the Vice Presidency. While Hamilton was, in Jefferson’s eyes, a danger to the Republic due to his hostility to the poor, Burr was an equal threat due to his alliance with them. It couldn’t have helped that Burr was a prominent member of the New York Manumission Society, making Jefferson fear for his “property.”

C) If Burr killed Hamilton to keep him out of office why did he think he was a viable candidate for anything? He had never won an election or been particularly popular. His power was in his kinship with Washington, who had died six years before the duel. With Jefferson in the White House and the Federalist party falling and Hamilton’s louder abolitionist views, what hope would he have of getting into office?

D) Setting aside that Jefferson did absolutely nothing to kill the bank except let Congress do its thing, if Jefferson was so opposed to the Bank, why did he let it be created in the first place? James Madison brought together Hamilton and Jefferson in 1790-something and offered to give Hamilton the Congressional votes for the financial plan including the Bank if Hamilton would cede opposition on placement of the nation’s capital. Jefferson agreed to the compromise making the Bank. Why? Because Jefferson was beholden to the Slave-ocracy. Philadelphia was the largest hub of abolitionist activity in the nation in the 18th century. Vermont had already abolished slavery (I’m pretty sure we’d admitted them as a State, they were only independent long enough to avoid the Articles of Confederation nonsense), and an abolitionist, John Jay, was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Jefferson wanted to put the Capital as deep into slavery territory as he could to protect his own interest in preserving the institution. So, Thomas Jefferson let Hamilton’s plan through – supposedly destroying the fiscal independence of the nation by allowing Rothschilds into our finance system (yeah no it was some crazy shit) – because he wanted to protect his own wealth, and he’s somehow the hero.

The video went on to talk about Jackson’s fight with the bank so I tweeted at Paul Kahan, author of the book “Bank War” and fan of my Twitter @GenAndyJackson, to get a definitive answer on whether any European financiers were involved in the Biddle operation (spoiler alert, there weren’t).


On this day in 1859 John Brown was hanged. On this day in 2017 I released a version of John Brown’s Body you should check out. Featuring a lengthy description of John Brown’s raid and the aftermath thereof on the page.


I almost got through a December 16 without getting pissed off about the Boston Tea Party but then a credible historian tweeted something ignorant so now here’s an Alan Taylor quote that unmasks the event…

"The tax on tea yielded scant revenue because most colonists consumed cheaper tea smuggled in from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). To undercut that smuggling and benefit, the East India Company, a politically powerful corporation, Parliament in May 1773 reduced the tax on tea shipped by that company to the American colonies. Thereafter, the East India Company could undersell smugglers in the colonial market. Seeking a bargain, consumers might accept taxed tea, establishing the precedent coveted by Parliament [Lizi’s note: and reduce the political power of the smugglers in the colonies]. Lord North doubted ‘that the Americans would be able to resist at being able to drink their tea at nine-pence in the pound cheaper.’
“But the Tea Act angered colonial merchants, who stood to lose their profitable business in smuggled tea. They denounced the act as a plot to seduce Americans to sell their liberty for the tea of a British monopoly. This line of attack revived opposition to any tea tax no matter how small, The Boston Gazette ominously warned that importers of taxed tea would ‘be considered and treated as Wretches unworthy to live, and [will] be made the first Victims of our just Resentment.’”

And you think our Starbucks Christmas cup drama is bad.


Happy 155th Anniversary to the Emancipation Proclamation. Although often criticized for only liberating rebels’ slaves who were already violently resisting Federal law and not liberating the slaves in the border states who could have been freed immediately, the Proclamation was a pivotal document because it would, by the war’s conclusion, free so many slaves as to make the Peculiar Institution impossible to maintain after it’s execution. It also allowed black soldiers to serve in the Union army, with every general but Sherman on board to treating them as equal in might and use as the enlisted whites (although Congressional meddling interfered with the war department’s vision for an egalitarian military). This is exceptionally notable as arming black slaves was the very policy that had forced previous Secretary of War Simon Cameron to step down in controversy. But it was completely necessary. As slaves were “confiscated” from rebel plantations, they were put in “contraband camps.” The War Department had volunteered to care for the liberated slaves, but had no way to put them to use. They sat in essentially concentration camps toiling in vain. The Emancipation Proclamation was able to then use these refugees in the military, either as combatants or in support roles for the black combatants. Now these people who had previously been trapped in destitution were able to earn a small pay for themselves in the military, giving them resources for post-war life.

The political aspect of the Proclamation is essential as well. It was an attempt to intimidate Rebels, who had feared black militants since African slavery had become a staple of the southern economy in the 17th century. It was an appeal to the abolitionists at home, who were ready to back a rival Republican in the primary for the 1864 Presidential Election if Lincoln did not use the opportunity to liberate the slaves that had been handed to him by the war. And it was described by Lincoln to Sumner as “a New Year’s present,” as Sumner had been laboring intensely to try to keep Britain and France from believing the Union and Confederacy were moral equals, a task hampered by Secretary of State Seward’s insistence that the war was NOT about slavery.

Seward may have been right that the North did not begin the war to eliminate the Peculiar Institution, but the Emancipation Proclamation made such a dramatic shift in policy that the continuation of it certainly was.

Sources: Now or Never by Ray Shepherd, Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary by Walter Stahr, and Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man by David Herbert Donald.


Reminder on Lincoln’s birthday that he was arguably the first crowd surfer, tho it wasn’t his idea.

“Lincoln came to the Decatur convention in May as a rising star. When Oglesby called his name from the stage of the wigwam, the delegates and onlookers broke into thunderous applause. A half-dozen men seized Lincoln and tried to push him to the front of the room. When that didn’t work – the room was too full — they lifted him up on their shoulders and passed him around, not unlike in a mosh pit today, over the mass of people to the stage. The crowd roared its approval.”

– Joshua Wolf Skenk, Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness


Fun fact: Robert E Lee’s father was a general of the Revolutionary War and commanded the Federal forces that squashed the Whiskey Rebellion. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee was able to win an insurrection and a US civil war, yet his son Robert fought one war that was both and failed. What a disappointment.

Source: The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hogeland