Category Archives: America

My posts on Thomas Paine on the Bauman Rare Books blog

I’ve started a new series of posts on Thomas Paine on the Bauman Rare Books blog. You can read my earlier Forgotten Founders posts on George Mason (Parts 1 and 2) and John Dickinson (Parts 1, 2, and 3) here.

I’ll add links as each post goes live:

Paine-220x300“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
–Thomas Paine, Common Sense

My posts on Forgotten Founders on the Bauman Rare Books blog

I’ve started a new series of Americana posts on the writings of the “Forgotten Founders” for the Bauman Rare Books blog. My first two posts are on George Mason of Virginia, who Jefferson called “the wisest man of his generation.” Mason was the principle author of the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Constitution, which had an extraordinary influence on the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

I’ll add links as each post goes live:

My posts on American Ephemera on the Bauman Rare Books blog

I wrote a series of posts on late 18th-century American ephemera– pamphlets, broadsides, and newspapers of the American Revolution– for the new Bauman Rare Books blog.

My first post, American Ephemera: History as it Happened, is now up. Here’s a preview:

The United States of America was the first nation created though revolutionary acts of writing. Many of our most significant and influential founding works—Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers—were first printed not in book form, but as ephemera, printed material not meant to be preserved.

There are many types of ephemera, but in this series I’ll be discussing late 18th-century American pamphlets, broadsides, and newspapers. They were usually printed for a particular time-sensitive purpose and then discarded, so relatively little from this period has survived.

Ephemera captured history as it happened and quickly spread it on both sides of the Atlantic—breaking news, public reaction to current events, government declarations and documents, speeches, letters, sermons, essays, and furious debates about the political, economic, and philosophical issues of the day. These invaluable primary sources are like time travel, allowing us to witness key events, gain insight into everyday life, and understand how Americans evolved from loyalty to rebellion to self-government….

The other posts in the series will appear every other week. I’ll add links to the titles below as they are posted on the BRB blog.

If you’re interested in rare books, you should check out the rest of the blog, which includes posts on Rare Books 101, Stories About Books, Modern American Literature, Legends of Photography, The Best Illustrated Books You’ve Never Heard Of, and Sex, Drugs & Books.

Today, July 2nd, is the 235th anniversary of American independence

If you are new to my blog and are puzzled by the title of this post, see my previous July 2nd posts for detailed information about the dates and events of American independence:

Why July 2nd is really Independence Day

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America”

Or, to make a long story short:  July 2nd is the anniversary of the Continental Congress’ vote for independence from Great Britain, and July 4th is the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Now go outside and play!

Even the National Security Agency has a style manual

I’ve previously blogged about a number of different style manuals, but this is a rather unusual one. BoingBoing has published online the style manual of the National Security Agency, received through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in April 2010.

The NSA has a style guide—a Strunk and White for spooks—which we’re delighted to publish here for the first time.

Most of the document is an alphabetized compendium of ambiguous, easily-misused or otherwise troublesome words. As style guides go, it’s standard fare: more interesting than the grammar tips are clarifications on obscure intelligence terms and the usage examples, which often lean toward military operations, geopolitics, killings and diplomacy.

Go to the BoingBoing post to read the embedded document or download it as a PDF or TXT file.

Below I’ve copied an assortment of entries that caught my eye as I browsed:

about, approximately …
About is preferred in general and informal contexts. Approximately is common in technical and reference works. Do not use either term (or estimated or nearly) if precise figures are given. POOR: During the attack, about 304 were killed. GOOD: During the attack, 304 were killed. If you are not sure of the number, round it off: During the attack, about 300 were killed.

aircraft …
Do not abbreviate the generic types of aircraft in serialized reports. Use fighter, not “fir”; bomber, not “bmbr”. In keeping with modern journalistic style, capitalize only the first letter of aircraft nicknames: F-15 (Eagle).

bomb …
Do not use the terms A-bomb or H-bomb. Spell out the words. Do not capitalize atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb, etc.

bureaucratese …
Bureaucratese is a pejorative, non-technical term for the language style commonly associated with bureaucrats.

Avoid bureaucratic style whenever possible. It is the mark of the timid writer. What is bureaucratic style? Robert Claiborne identified the four main principles of bureaucratic style as:
• never use a short word where a long one will do;
• never use one word where you can use three;
• use abstract and general terms rather than concrete and specific ones; and
• avoid flat statements by hedging and qualifying.

Bureaucratese speaks in passive voice and buzzwords, and it carefully avoids assigning responsibility for any action or decision. It will bore or put to sleep most readers. Don’t use it unless you have no other way to communicate.

casualties …
In military terms, casualties means the total number of dead, wounded, missing, and captured. Do not use casualties when referring to only one of these categories.

communism, communist. ..
Use lowercase for the word communism.

Capitalize communist when referring to the political party or to individuals who are members of it: Communist Party. He is a Communist.

Use lowercase for communist in all other situations: a communist government; he has communist leanings.

email…
Shortened term for electronic mail. The spelling without the hyphen is becoming more common and is preferred, but the alternative form e-mail is also correct.

foreign phrases and words …
Keep the use of foreign words and phrases to a minimum. Few of our readers are linguists.

Where the capability exists…, italicize any foreign word or phrase that may not be known to the average reader. Commonly recognized terms that need not be italicized include, but are not limited to:
• ad hoc
• attache
• blitzkrieg
• bona fide
• charge d’affaires
• communique
• coup d’etat
• de facto
• demarche
• detente
• fait accompli
• junta
• laissez faire
• per se
• persona non grata
• rapprochement
• versus
• vis-a-vis

FOXTROT …
Phonetic spelling of the letter “f.”

gender …
When talking about a specific person, use a term appropriate to that person: chairman Jones, chairwoman Doe.

Use neutral terms when talking about mixed groups or persons whose identity has not been established: members of the Assembly, rather than Assemblymen; a member of Congress rather than a Congressman.

Do not change an official title to a neutral term. If the official title is “Party Chairman,” use that term; don’t say “Party Chairperson.”

For pronouns, the problem is different. Modern English does not have gender-neutral pronouns for people.

When a pronoun must be used and the gender of its antecedent is not known or can refer to persons of either sex, there are four three choices the writer can make, all of which are acceptable in SIGINT serialized reports.

1. Use the plural pronoun: Everyone hopes they will win the contest.
2. Place the whole sentence in the plural: All people hope they will win the contest.
3. Rewrite the sentence and eliminate the personal pronoun: Everyone hopes to win the contest.

government…
Government, as a political term, refers to an established system of political administration. In American usage, it takes a singular verb; in British usage, it takes a plural verb.

guerrilla …
Preferred spelling. The alternate spelling is guerilla.

jihad …
Preferred transliteration of the Arabic word for “holy war.”

missile …
A missile is an unmanned, self-propelled weapon whose flight path or trajectory can be controlled. A missile may be aerodynamic or ballistic. Distinguish it from a “rocket, which is a self-propelled vehicle whose trajectory or flight path cannot be controlled.

reconnaissance…
Two n’s and s’s. Avoid abbreviating it as “Recon” except as part of a unit designator in a listing or in a narrative report where it occurs repeatedly. Also avoid the abbreviation “recce,” which is chiefly British. The verb form of reconnaissance is reconnoiter.

revolt, revolution …
A revolt is widespread opposition to current standards. Politically, it refers to an armed attempt to change authority.

A revolution is a radical alteration in a system or in social conditions. In the political sense, it is the overthrow by open and organized armed force of an established government and its replacement by another.

security control markings …
Words or phrases added to restrict the dissemination of a serialized report. At this time there are five such markings:
• ORCON – Dissemination and Extraction of Information Controlled by Originator
• NOFORN – Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals
• PROPIN- Proprietary Information Involved
• REL – Releasable to (name of the countries)
• EYES ONLY – (used only on electrical reports in place of REL due to existing software limitations)

title after a name …
Capitalize only national-level titles (Cabinet-level or above) that appear after a name: Jane Doe, Minister of Defense. Lowercase and set off with commas most other titles that appear after a name: John Doe, the deputy assistant minister of culture, arrived yesterday.

title before a name …
Capitalize a formal title appearing before a name: President Jane Doe, Assistant Secretary John Jones. Do not capitalize a title that serves primarily as an occupational designator: astronaut John Doe…. See the entries for courtesy tjtles, military rank, and religious titles.

totalitarian …
Avoid. See the entry for authoritarian.

The document also contains an appendix on abbreviations and acroynyms.

So, what’s your favorite entry?

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America”

Today, July 2nd, is the 234th anniversary of American independence. July 4th is the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. For the whole story, see my post from last year, “Why July 2nd is really Independence Day.”

The document above is the original resolution on Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 2nd, 1776, in the hand of Charles Thompson, secretary of the Congress:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them, and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

It is from the Papers of the Continental Congress and is housed at the National Archives.

The document above is the first page (of four) of Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence, written in June 1776, including all the changes made later by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, other members of the committee, and the Continental Congress. It is housed at the Library of Congress, and you can view it in their online exhibit “Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents”. You can compare side-by-side the text of various drafts with the final version here.

Library of Congress World War I posters now online

The Library of Congress has photographed and made available online 1,900 World War I posters created between 1914 and 1920.  The majority of the posters are from the United States, but the collection also includes posters from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia. Here’s some background from the introduction to the collection:

During World War I, the impact of the poster as a means of communication was greater than at any other time during history. The ability of posters to inspire, inform, and persuade combined with vibrant design trends in many of the participating countries to produce thousands of interesting visual works. As a valuable historical research resource, the posters provide multiple points of view for understanding this global conflict. As artistic works, the posters range in style from graphically vibrant works by well-known designers to anonymous broadsides (predominantly text).

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division has extensive holdings of World War I era posters. Available online are approximately 1,900 posters created between 1914 and 1920. Most relate directly to the war, but some German posters date from the post-war period and illustrate events such as the rise of Bolshevism and Communism, the 1919 General Assembly election and various plebiscites….

The poster was a major tool for broad dissemination of information during the war. Countries on both sides of the conflict distributed posters widely to garner support, urge action, and boost morale… Even with its late entry into the war, the United States produced more posters than any other country….

All of these posters are in the public domain the United States, and you can download free digital files directly from the Library of Congress website or purchase photographic copies. Here are two of the posters:

Patriotic Canadians

it's up to you

There’s lots of other great stuff in the LOC’s Prints and Photographs Division–historic photographs (including Mathew Brady’s Civil War photographs, Ansel Adams’s Manzanar War Relocation Center photographs, and many newspaper and magazine archives), fine prints and posters, baseball cards, cartoons, and so on. Here are links to the online catalogue and the collection and subject overview, so go browse. (An important note: some of this material is still under copyright. See the LOC’s rights and restrictions information for details and the copyright status of specific collections.)

Historic documents and hard drives missing from the National Archives

Many historic documents and objects the National Archives once possessed are missing. There’s a list of missing items on the National Archives website, and this AP article by Larry Margasak describes some of the items and includes comments from the Archives’ inspector general. Here’s an excerpt:

National Archives visitors know they’ll find the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the main building’s magnificent rotunda in Washington. But they won’t find the patent file for the Wright Brothers’ Flying Machine or the maps for the first atomic bomb missions anywhere in the Archives inventory.

Many historical items the Archives once possessed are missing, including:

–Civil War telegrams from Abraham Lincoln…

–Presidential portraits of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

–NASA photographs from space and on the moon.

–Presidential pardons.

Some were stolen by researchers or Archives employees. Others simply disappeared without a trace.

And there’s more gone from the nation’s record keeper.

The Archives’ inspector general, Paul Brachfeld, is conducting a criminal investigation into a missing external hard drive with copies of sensitive records from the Clinton administration… Because the equipment also may include classified information, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, calls it a a major national security breach.

Brachfeld has documented thousands of electronic storage devices, including computers and servers, that have gone missing over the past decade from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Grassley, who has demanded an accounting of all missing items, said the loss of historical documents “robs our nation of its history and is completely unacceptable.”

…Some records have been missing for decades from the Archives’ 44 facilities in 20 states and the capital, including 13 presidential libraries.

“When I came here nine years ago, there was no acknowledgment that we had a problem,” Brachfeld said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Since then, he has started a recovery team that attends trade shows and Civil War re-enactments, and enlists the help of dealers and researchers to recover historical items that belong to the government.

The agency has two missions that sometimes are in conflict: preserving documents and making them available to the public in monitored research rooms with surveillance cameras.

“We do not have item-by-item control,” said Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper. “We can’t. We have 9 billion documents. We don’t know exactly what’s in each of those boxes. There’s no point in preserving materials that cannot be used.”

Not mentioned in the AP article but included in the National Archives list of missing items are valuable objects given to presidents, including five swords and daggers (some decorated in gold and jewels) given to Harry S. Truman and a silver proof Remington bronco statue given to George H. W. Bush.

The National Archives is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of the missing Clinton administration hard drive, though apparently there are no rewards for the return of the historic documents or artifacts.

Losses and thefts are disturbingly common at institutions, archives, museums, and libraries throughout the world but are rarely disclosed. If more institutions were willing to publicize their missing items, it would increase the chances that some could eventually be recovered.

Why July 2nd is really Independence Day

On July 2, 1776, the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain when the Continental Congress finally approved (with twelve colonies voting yes and New York abstaining) this resolution:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them, and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That evening, the Pennsylvania Evening Post printed this notice: “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.”

John Adams, in his July 3, 1776 letter to his wife, Abigail, wrote:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival… It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

So what happened on July 4, 1776? On that date, the Continental Congress approved and formally adopted the final revised draft of the Declaration of Independence. (Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence between June 11 and June 28, the document was read to Congress on June 28, and over the next few days it was debated and many changes were made.)

The earliest printed versions of the Declaration of Independence begin: “IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. A DECLARATION BY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” The first was a broadside printed on July 5th by John Dunlap. On July 6, the Pennyslvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to publish the text of the Declaration. On July 19th, the Congress ordered that the Declaration be “fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile of ‘The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America,’ and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.” On August 2, this large engrossed vellum copy of the Declaration of Independence, dated at the top July 4, 1776, was signed by many (but not all) of the delegates. This is the copy that resides at the National Archives.

Here are a few additional links for your reading pleasure:

So join me in celebrating both momentous days– July 2nd (the anniversary of American independence) and July 4th (the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence).

Update: Want more? https://lisagoldresearch.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/the-second-day-of-july-1776-will-be-the-most-memorable-epocha-in-the-history-of-america/

“These things are old. These things are true.”

From Barack Obama’s inaugural address:

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.

They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom…

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America…

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake…

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends – hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship…

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

By the way, it was Thomas Paine’s December 1776  first American Crisis essay that George Washington ordered read to his troops at Valley Forge before Battle of Trenton. It famously begins: “These are the times that try men’s souls….”

Nicely done, Mr. President.

As we count down to Inauguration Day…

I offer this quote from Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address, March 4, 1801:

About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration… Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations…; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts…; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.