Arthur Schlesinger

Arthur Schlesinger

Arthur Schlesinger, die oudste van die twee seuns van Arthur Meier Schlesinger, 'n professor in Amerikaanse geskiedenis, en die voormalige Elizabeth Bancroft, is gebore in Columbus, Ohio, op 15 Oktober 1917. Toe hy sewe was, het sy pa die Universiteit van Iowa verlaat om sluit aan by Harvard Universiteit. Die gesin verhuis nou na Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Schlesinger is opgelei aan die eksklusiewe Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, voordat hy by Harvard aankom, waar hy op 20-jarige ouderdom sy eerste graad behaal het. Daarna skryf hy 'n boek oor Orestes A. Brownson, 'n 19de-eeuse joernalis, romanskrywer en teoloog . Dit is gepubliseer as Orestes A. Brownson: 'n Pelgrim se vordering (1938). Henry Steele Commager in Die New York Times Book Review, het gesê dat die boek ''n nuwe en vooraanstaande talent op die gebied van historiese portretkuns' bekendgestel het.

Schlesinger was 'n jaar aan die Peterhouse College van Cambridge University, en toe hy in 1939 in die Verenigde State aankom, skryf hy op kontroversiële wyse 'n artikel vir Die Boston Globe vra Amerika om sy isolationisme op te gee en onmiddellike diensplig in te stel. Hy het ook aangevoer dat president Franklin D. Roosevelt Brittanje en Frankryk moet aansluit in sy oorlog teen Nazi -Duitsland.

Nadat hy 'n studie van die Boston-historikus Richard Hildreth voltooi het, is die 23-jarige Schlesinger aangestel vir 'n driejarige genootskap aan die Harvard Universiteit. Volgens die aanhaling is hy gekies om die belofte van 'n noemenswaardige bydrae tot kennis en denke aan te toon. Hy het ook begin werk aan wat volgens baie sy belangrikste werk is, Die era van Jackson.

Nadat die Verenigde State die Tweede Wêreldoorlog betree het, dien Schlesinger by die Office of War Information (1942-43) en die Office of Strategic Services (1943-45), wat hom na Londen, Parys en Duitsland beset het. Hy onthou later: "Ek het meer insig in die geskiedenis gekry as ek in die oorlog was as uit al my akademiese opleiding."

Van Schlesinger Die era van Jackson is in 1945 gepubliseer en het hom die Pulitzer -prys vir geskiedenis gewen. Harold Jackson het daarop gewys: 'Die herondersoek van Schlesinger na die eerste Amerikaanse president wat deur volksverkiesing verkies is, en sy ontleding van Andrew Jackson se meedoënlose uitbreiding van uitvoerende mag en rol in die stigting van die Demokratiese Party het 'n groot invloed gehad op mede-historici en op hulle daaropvolgende behandeling van die tydperk. Dit het Schlesinger ook in 1947 tot 'n professor in Harvard gebring. "

Hy was 'n sterk voorstander van die Demokratiese Party en was die medestigter van Amerikaners vir Demokratiese Aksie (ADA). Dit is in 1947 gestig as 'n organisasie om die bevordering van liberale sake te ondersteun. Ander lede was Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Reuther, Hubert Humphrey, Asa Philip Randolph, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter F. White, Louise Bowen, Chester Bowles, Louis Carlo Fraina, Stewart Alsop, Reinhold Niebuhr, George Counts, David Dubinsky en Joseph P. Wimper. Schlesinger sê: “Probleme sal ons altyd pynig omdat alle belangrike probleme onoplosbaar is; daarom is dit belangrik. Die goeie kom uit die voortdurende stryd om dit te probeer oplos, nie uit die ydele hoop op hul oplossing nie. ”

In 1949 verskyn Schlesinger Die Vital Sentrum. Die joernalis, Mark Feeney, van Die Boston Globe, het daarop gewys: "Sy opstelbundel uit 1949, Die Vital Sentrum, het meer as enige ander enkele boek gedoen om die debat te definieer oor die vraag of liberalisme na die New Deal in ooreenstemming sou wees met diegene wat simpatiek was teenoor die Sowjet-kommunisme of met sy antagoniste. Hy het die Truman -administrasie gedien as konsultant van die Economic Cooperation Administration, wat toesig gehou het oor die Marshall -plan, en vir die Mutual Security Administration. "

Die ADA het in konflik gekom met 'n ander linkse groep, die Progressive Citizens of America (PCA). Die lede daarvan was Henry A. Wallace, Rexford Tugwell, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Arthur Miller, Dashiell Hammett, Hellen Keller, Thomas Mann, Aaron Copland, Claude Pepper, Eugene O'Neill, Glen H. Taylor, John Abt, Edna Ferber, Thornton Wilder, Carl Van Doren, Fredric March en Gene Kelly. ADA se grootste geskil met die PCA was dat hulle lede van die Amerikaanse Kommunistiese Party toegelaat het om aan te sluit: "Ons verwerp enige assosiasie met kommunisme of simpatiseerders met kommunisme in die Verenigde State so volledig as wat ons vereniging met fasciste of hul simpatiseerders verwerp."

In die presidensiële verkiesing van 1952 ondersteun Schlesinger die veldtog van Adlai Stevenson. Hy het dieselfde gedoen tydens die presidensiële verkiesing van 1956. Gedurende hierdie tydperk skryf hy 'n baie simpatieke geskiedenis van president Franklin D. Roosevelt en die New Deal. Die boek met drie volumes, Die era van Roosevelt, verskyn tussen 1957 en 1960.

Schlesinger ontmoet John F. Kennedy by die huis van die joernalis Joseph Alsop. Sy eerste indruk was dat 'Kennedy baie opreg en nie onintelligent lyk nie, maar 'n soort konserwatiewe kant. Hy ondersteun hom egter tydens die presidensiële verkiesing van 1960. Hy beskryf Kennedy as ''n man van aksie wat maklik na die koninkryk van idees kan oorgaan en intellektuele met vol vertroue konfronteer in sy vermoë om sy eie te hou.'

Harold Jackson het daarop gewys: "Toe Kennedy begin voorberei het vir die presidentsverkiesing van 1960, het Schlesinger nou betrokke geraak by sy veldtog. Hy het Kennedy gesien as die voorspelde held wat die nasie uit sy 16-jarige amp kan trek. In 'n poging om die Stevenson, nog steeds skepties oor die meriete van Kennedy, het 'n lofrede van 50 bladsye uitgehaal. In party terme was dit uiters suksesvol, alhoewel Kennedy se oorwinning met 114 000 stemme van 68 miljoen mense daarop dui dat die kiesers steeds skepties was (en dat die golfteorie van Schlesinger baie verskuldig was aan Chicago se eienaardige stemkultuur). " Kennedy het Schlesinger aangestel as sy spesiale assistent vir Latyns -Amerikaanse aangeleenthede.

Douglas Martin van New York Times het aangevoer: "As die president die intellektuele Isaiah Berlin of die komponis Gian Carlo Menotti wou ontmoet, het mnr. Schlesinger dit gereël. Die president geniet die skinderbek van mnr. Schlesinger tydens weeklikse middagetes, hoewel hy selde die geestelike seminare bygewoon het Robert Kennedy het Mnr. Schlesinger gevra om te organiseer. Mnr. Schlesinger het hom vroeg in die administrasie onderskei deur een van die min in die Withuis te wees wat die inval in Kuba wat deur die Eisenhower -administrasie beplan is, bevraagteken het. Die verhaal dat die Kubaanse ballinge wat by die varkbaai beland het, nie meer as 400 was nie, terwyl hulle in werklikheid 1 400 was.

Na die moord op president John F. Kennedy word hy Albert Schweitzer professor in geesteswetenskappe van die City University of New York en word hy aangestel as voorsitter van die Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Foundation. Sy boek oor Kennedy se presidentskap, Duisend dae: John F. Kennedy in die Withuis is in 1965 gepubliseer. Gore Vidal het aangevoer dat Schlesinger probleme ondervind om die geskiedenis van sentiment te skei en beskou die boek as 'n 'politieke roman'.

Schlesinger was steeds aktief betrokke by die politiek en ondersteun Robert Kennedy tydens die presidensiële verkiesing van 1968. Hy was 'n sterk teenstander van president Richard Nixon in 1973 tydens die Watergate -krisis en het sterk aangevoer dat hy deur die senaat verhoor moet word. In die 1980 -verkiesing ondersteun hy die poging van Edward Kennedy om president te wees. Hy het later verduidelik: "Ek is 'n berouvolle en nie -gerekonstrueerde liberalis en 'n nuwe handelaar. Dit beteken dat ek ten gunste is van die gebruik van die regering om geleenthede te verbeter en om vryhede vir gewone mense te vergroot."

Ander boeke deur Schlesinger sluit in Robert Kennedy & His Times (1979), Voorspel tot onafhanklikheid: die koerantoorlog oor Brittanje, 1764-1776 (1980), Die siklusse van die Amerikaanse geskiedenis (1986), Generaal MacArthur en president Truman: The Struggle for Control of American Foreign Policy (1992), The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society (1993), Almanak van Amerikaanse geskiedenis (1995), 'N Lewe in die 20ste eeu (2001), Keiserlike presidentskap (2004) en Oorlog en die Amerikaanse presidentskap (2005).

Arthur Meier Schlesinger Jr. is in Manhatten oorlede na 'n hartaanval op 28 Februarie 2007.

Gedurende die Tweede Wêreldoorlog het slegs een groot liberale organisasie, die Union for Democratic Action (UDA), kommuniste uit sy geledere verbied. By die Willard het lede van die UDA vergader om hul organisasie uit te brei en te hernoem. Die deelnemers, waaronder Reinhold Niebuhr, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Reuther en Eleanor Roosevelt, het 'n persverklaring uitgereik waarin die beginsels van die nuwe organisasie opgesom is. Met die aankondiging van die stigting van Amerikaners vir Demokratiese Aksie (ADA), verklaar die verklaring: "Omdat die belange van die Verenigde State oral die vrye manne se belange is, moet Amerika" demokratiese en vryheidsliefde mense regoor die wêreld ondersteun. " Dit beteken onophoudelike opposisie teen kommunisme, 'n ideologie wat 'vyandig is teenoor die beginsels van vryheid en demokrasie waarop die Republiek groot geword het'.

Destyds was die ADA's nog steeds 'n minderheidsopvatting onder Amerikaanse liberale. Twee van die invloedrykste tydskrifte van liberale mening, Die Nuwe Republiek en Die Nasie, verwerp albei militante anti-kommunisme. Voormalige vise -president Henry Wallace, 'n held vir baie liberale, het kommuniste as bondgenote beskou in die stryd om binnelandse en internasionale vooruitgang. Soos Steven M. Gillon opmerk in Politiek en visie, sy uitstekende geskiedenis van die ADA, was dit feitlik die enigste liberale organisasie wat president Harry S Truman se besluit van Maart 1947 ondersteun het om Griekeland en Turkye te help in hul stryd teen Sowjet -ondergang.

Maar in die volgende twee jaar, in bittere politieke gevegte oor die instellings van die Amerikaanse liberalisme, het anti-kommunisme krag gekry. Met die hulp van die ADA het Truman Wallace se uitdaging van derde partye verpletter op pad na herverkiesing. Die voorheen linkse kongres van nywerheidsorganisasies (CIO) het sy kommunistiese affiliasies verdryf en Die Nuwe Republiek het gebreek met Wallace, sy voormalige redakteur. Die American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) het kommunisme veroordeel, net soos die NAACP. Teen 1949, drie jaar nadat Winston Churchill gewaarsku het dat 'n 'ystergordyn' in Europa neergedaal het, kan Schlesinger skryf Die Vital Sentrum: "Ek dink die liberalisme in die middel van die twintigste eeu is dus fundamenteel hervorm ... deur die blootstelling van die Sowjetunie en deur die verdieping van ons kennis van die mens. Die gevolg van hierdie historiese heropvoeding was 'n onvoorwaardelike verwerping van totalitarisme. ”

Kennedy het baie twyfel oor die haalbaarheid van die Bay of Pigs -inval, het Schlesinger opgemerk. Maar hy was ook - net soos Dulles - bekommerd oor die 'wegdoeningsprobleem' as die operasie afgelas word voordat die Kubaanse ballinge, sonder bloed, teruggaan na Florida, waar hulle beslis hul verhaal van frustrasie en teleurstelling sou vertel joernalis wat hulle kon vind. Schlesinger het Kennedy aangehaal oor die Kubaanse ballingsbrigade: 'As ons van hierdie mans ontslae moet raak, is dit baie beter om hulle in Kuba as in die Verenigde State te gooi, veral as dit is waarheen hulle wil gaan. " Dit was 'n seldsame blik op Kennedy se instink vir selfbehoud. Hy het besef dat die politieke prys van die kansellasie van die inval baie groter sou wees as as dit sou voortgaan en in mislukking in duie stort. Deur te kanselleer, lyk hy swak en besluiteloos en gee hy die Republikeine die geleentheid om hom te beskuldig dat hy sag is teenoor kommunisme. Maar Schlesinger se verslag het Kennedy se dilemma in veel hoër terme uitgebeeld. As die president kanselleer, sou hy 'vir ewig agtervolg word deur die gevoel dat sy narigheid Castro aan bewind behou het'. In die toekoms, het die historikus bygevoeg, is Kennedy gemotiveer 'deur die toewyding van die Kubaanse patriotte' en 'was hy nie verplig om die Castro -regime teen demokratiese Kubane te beskerm nie'.

Sorensen en Schlesinger het blykbaar nie die kritiese waarhede oor Kuba geken nie. Hulle het nie geweet dat kandidaat Kennedy voor die verkiesing privaat deur CIA -amptenare en 'n paar deelnemers ingelig is dat die eiland binnekort binnegeval sou word deur die geheime ballingskap -inligting wat hy teen Richard Nixon gebruik het nie. En hulle was nie bewus van een van die belangrikste redes vir president Kennedy se ambivalensie op die laaste oomblik oor die operasie van die Bay of Pigs nie: Sam Giancana se handlangers in Kuba kon Castro in die dae onmiddellik voor die inval nie vermoor nie.

Een van sy naaste raadgewers, historikus Arthur Schlesinger, het geskryf: "Oor die hele Latyns -Amerika verloor die ou oligargieë - grondbesitters, die kerk en die weermag - hul greep. Daar is 'n gronde van onartikelbare massa -ontevredenheid by pioene, Indiërs, mynwerkers, plantasie -werkers, fabriekshande, klasse wat by alle uithouvermoë gehou is en nou 'n opstandstatus nader. "

Naby Recife het Schlesinger armoede geteisterde dorpe vol honger kinders gesien wat met skurke bedek was. Hy onthou dat Havana voor Castro se bewind niks meer was as 'n reuse -casino en 'n bordeel vir Amerikaanse sakelui vir 'n groot naweek nie. 'My mede-landgenote het deur die strate gerol, veertienjarige Kubaanse meisies opgetel en muntstukke gegooi om mans in die geut te laat skarrel', het hy geskryf.

Die beleid van die president en sy raadgewers het beslis ekonomiese gevolge. In April 1962, 'n jaar na die inhuldiging van die Alliance for Progress, verskyn Latyns -Amerika in die oë van die konserwatiewes op pad na chaos. In Argentinië is president Frondizi pas omvergewerp deur 'n militêre staatsgreep, en oproer het in Guatemala en Ecuador uitgebreek. Daar was geen land in die suide wat as polities en ekonomies stabiel beskou kan word nie. Kapitaal vloei terug na die Verenigde State, bang vir die spook van die Castroistiese rewolusie.

Maar die uitwerking op die Amerikaanse ekonomie dreig om nog erger te wees. Die sakelui kon nie konsepte soos dié van Schlesinger aanvaar nie, wat verklaar het dat Nixon nie noodwendig die kosmetiese industrie stimuleer nie, maar om hospitale te bou en te belê in sektore wat die sterkte van die land en die welsyn beïnvloed. van die mense.

Die CIA herleef die sluipmoorde op die oomblik toe president Kennedy die moontlikheid oorweeg om die verhouding met Kuba te normaliseer - 'n buitengewone optrede. As dit nie totale onbevoegdheid was nie - wat in die geval van die CIA nie uitgesluit kan word nie - was dit 'n bestudeerde poging om die nasionale beleid te ondermyn .... ek dink die CIA moes van hierdie inisiatief geweet het. Hulle moes sekerlik besef het dat Bill Attwood en die Kubaanse verteenwoordiger by die VN meer doen as om daiquiri -resepte uit te ruil ... Hulle het al die drade by die Kubaanse afvaardiging na die Verenigde Nasies laat tik…. was presies die soort ding wat 'n ontploffing van fanatiese geweld veroorsaak het. Dit lyk my 'n moontlikheid om nie uitgesluit te word nie.

Kennedy het gedurende Oktober 1963 daarop aangedring dat duisend Amerikaanse troepe in Viëtnam, eufemisties na verwys as adviseurs, destyds herroep word. Kenneth O'Donnell het verklaar dat Kennedy beplan het om alle Amerikaners ná die verkiesing van 1964 uit Vietnam te onttrek (O'Donnell and Powers, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye). Arthur Schlesinger, jr., Het ook gesê dat Kennedy die avontuur van die Verenigde State in Viëtnam sou beëindig: "Hy was 'n verstandige uitvoerende gesag, nie geneig tot groot beleggings in verlore sake nie. Sy hele presidentskap word gekenmerk deur sy vermoë om eskalasie te weier. soos in Laos, die varkbaai, die Berlynse muur, die missielkrisis. "

Alhoewel Schlesinger 'n reputasie het as 'n gerespekteerde historikus en O'Donnell as 'n betroubare politieke figuur, was beide mans adviseurs vir Kennedy. Gevolglik moet hul retrospektiewe analise van hoe die president wat hulle bewonder het, opgetree het, in die lig van die meer onlangse konvensionele wysheid wat die avontuur in Viëtnam as 'n groot ramp bepaal, deeglik ondersoek en met 'n mate van omsigtigheid aanvaar. , ondersteun hul evaluering. Kolonel Prouty het berig dat Kennedy besluit het om alle personeel uit Viëtnam te onttrek. 'IFK sou van die kwessie van vrede 'n belangrike veldtogkwessie tydens die 1964 -verkiesing maak,' het hy aan my gesê. Volgens Prouty het Kennedy vir generaal -majoor Victor H. Krulak gesê om na Vietnam te gaan, "op datum te bly" en te bepaal "aan wie ons dit moet oorhandig wanneer ons vertrek." Krulak se antwoord, na aanleiding van sy ondersoek, was dat generaal Duong Van Minh, in die volksmond bekend as Big Minh, die antwoord was.

Arthur M Schlesinger jr., Een van Amerika se mees vooraanstaande en omstrede historici, is oorlede na 'n hartaanval in die ouderdom van 89 jaar. Daaropvolgende onthullings van die president se skaduryke politieke en persoonlike rekord het nie die sterk partydige siening van Schlesinger verander nie.

In die latere lewe het hy toenemend ontnugter geraak oor die sosiale rigting van sy land. In 1991 het sy boek The Disuniting of America sy kommer uitgespreek oor die toename in etniese bewussyn en die konflik wat dit veroorsaak het. Met die opmerking dat "historici altyd moet streef na die onbereikbare ideaal van objektiwiteit", erken hy dat "as ons reageer op hedendaagse dringendhede, soms die verlede uitbuit vir nie-historiese doeleindes, uit die verlede neem of daarop projekteer wat pas by ons eie samelewing of ideologie ".

Alhoewel dit bedoel was as 'n aanval op die neiging tot kersies in die etniese geskiedenis, bied hierdie gedeelte ook 'n soort gekodeerde verskoning. Schlesinger het begin as 'n merkwaardige jong geleerde wat aansienlike akademiese eerbewyse opgedoen het vir sy baanbrekende studies oor Amerikaanse politieke ontwikkeling. Van daar af het hy baie minder losgemaak geraak en meer en meer verdiep in die verbygaande politieke gevegte van sy tyd ...

Toe Kennedy begin voorberei vir die presidentsverkiesing van 1960, het Schlesinger nou betrokke geraak by sy veldtog. In party-terme was dit uiters suksesvol, hoewel Kennedy se oorwinning met 114 000 stemme van 68 miljoen mense daarop dui dat die kiesers steeds skepties was (en dat die golfteorie van Schlesinger die Chicago se eienaardige stemkultuur baie verskuldig was).

Op 9 Januarie 1961, 'n grys, koue middag, het die uitverkore president Kennedy by mnr. Schlesinger se huis in Irvingstraat in Cambridge ingeloop. Hy het die professor gevra om 'n spesiale assistent in die Withuis te wees. Schlesinger het geantwoord: 'As u dink dat ek kan help, wil ek graag kom.'

In Johnny, ons het jou amper geweet (1972) Kenneth P. O'Donnell en David F. Powers stel voor dat die nuwe president 'n politieke risiko inhou om so 'n onbeskaamde liberaal aan te stel. Hy het besluit om die afspraak stil te hou totdat 'n ander liberaal, Chester Bowles, as staatsekretaris bevestig is.

Die skrywers, albei Kennedy -hulpverleners, het gesê dat hulle die heer Kennedy gevra het of hy die heer Schlesinger sou neem om die amptelike geskiedenis van die administrasie te skryf. Kennedy het gesê dat hy dit self sou skryf.

'Maar Arthur sal waarskynlik sy eie skryf', het die president gesê, 'en dit sal vir ons beter wees as hy in die Withuis is en kyk wat aangaan, in plaas daarvan om daaroor te lees Die New York Times en Tydskrif.

Tyd beskryf later die rol van mnr. Schlesinger in die Kennedy-administrasie as 'n brug na die intelligentsia sowel as na die Adlai Stevenson-Eleanor Roosevelt-vleuel van die Demokratiese Party. As die president die intellektuele Isaiah Berlin of die komponis Gian Carlo Menotti wou ontmoet, sou mnr. Schlesinger organiseer.

Mnr. Maar hy het toe 'n lojale soldaat geword en aan verslaggewers 'n misleidende verhaal vertel dat die ballinge van Kuba wat by die Varkbaai beland nie meer as 400 was nie, maar in werklikheid 1400 getel het.

In 1947 het dr. Schlesinger gehelp om Amerikaners te stig vir Demokratiese Aksie, wat nog lank die voortreflike liberale politieke organisasie sou bly. Sy opstelversameling uit 1949, Die Vital Sentrum, het meer as enige ander enkele boek gedoen om die debat te definieer oor die vraag of liberalisme na die New Deal in ooreenstemming sou wees met diegene wat simpatiek was teenoor die Sowjet-kommunisme of met sy antagoniste. Hy het die Truman -administrasie gedien as konsultant van die Economic Cooperation Administration, wat toesig gehou het oor die Marshall -plan, en vir die Mutual Security Administration.

Dr Schlesinger het toesprake vir die Demokratiese presidentskandidaat, Adlai Stevenson, in 1952 en 1956 geskryf. Soos baie liberale demokrate, het hy aan die begin van 1960 lojaliteite verdeel: "nostalgies vir Stevenson, ideologies vir [Hubert H.] Humphrey en realisties vir Kennedy." Realisme het gewen, en dr. Schlesinger het 'n belangrike ondersteuner van Kennedy geword.

Sy pogings is beloon met 'n pos op die personeel van die Withuis as spesiale presidensiële assistent. "Dit was 'n uitnodiging wat geen historikus kon weerstaan ​​nie," het dr. Schlesinger in 1997 verduidelik, "om te sien hoe besluite geneem word."

Sy pligte was vaag omskryf en uiteenlopend. Hy was die sendeling van die Withuis aan intellektuele en liberale groepe en as 'n skakeling met Stevenson, Kennedy se ambassadeur by die Verenigde Nasies. Hy het ook kundigheid verskaf oor kulturele aangeleenthede en was as adviseur oor Latyns -Amerika een van die min wat die inval van die Baai van Varke teenstaan. Hy was ook, in die dankbare beskrywing van die spesiale advokaat van die Withuis Theodore Sorensen, "'n weerligstraal om Republikeinse aanvalle van die res van ons af te lok."

'Vir hom was die opwindendste ervaring', het dr. Schlesinger in 1997 gesê om Kennedy te bedien. Die opgewondenheid het baie vorme aangeneem. Soos die rubriekskrywer Mary McGrory in 1964 geskryf het, "Hy het met groot genot deelgeneem aan die lewe van die New Frontier." Dr Schlesinger was met sy onstuimige glimlag en strikdas 'n besondere professor: hy het films vir die tydskrif Show (en later Vogue, Saturday Review en American Heritage) nagegaan, terwyl hy bekend gestap was in die swembad by Attorney Generaal Robert F. Kennedy se Hickory Hill-landgoed, wat selfs met hom deelneem aan 'n self-beskryfde "skynkompetisie" om die aandag van Marilyn Monroe tydens 'n verjaardagviering vir die president.


Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: FDR in Yalta

[Dit is 'n geredigeerde weergawe van Arthur Schlesinger, Jr & rsquos se voorwoord tot My Dear Mr Stalin: The complete correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph V. Stalin, edited by Susan Butler, to be published by Yale University Press in December.]

Roosevelt en Stalin ontmoet slegs twee keer in Teheran in November 1943 en in Jalta in Februarie 1945. Hulle ontmoet telkens die derde van die drie groot, Winston Churchill. Teen die tyd dat hulle mekaar by Jalta ontmoet het, was hulle al drie oud en moeg. Churchill, wat die 1930's in konstante frustrasie deurgebring het, was een-en-sewentig. Stalin, op ses-en-sestig, het sy land sewentien jare lank regeer. Roosevelt, wat die week voor die Jalta-vergadering drie en sestig geword het, het sy land deur die ergste ekonomiese depressie en die ergste buitelandse oorlog in sy geskiedenis gelei. Nou was hulle saam om die grondslag te lê vir die vrede wat kom. Roosevelt en Stalin was ooreenstemmend sedert Hitler se aanval op die Sowjetunie in 1941, 'n uitruil van meer as 300 letters. Dit is 'n nuuskierigheid van geleerdheid dat die volledige korrespondensie nooit tydens die Koue Oorlog gepubliseer is nie.

Was FDR te siek in Jalta om 'n sterk saak vir die Verenigde State aan te bied? Sy gesondheid was swak en sy energievlak was laag, maar ek kon nie uit gesprekke met persone wat by hom by Jalta was, uitvind dat sy verdediging af is nie. Charles E. Bohlen, 'n Sowjetkenner van die staatsdepartement wat as Roosevelt -tolk by Stalin gedien het, het die algemene getuienis saamgevat: Hoewel sy fisiese toestand beslis nie normaal was nie, is sy geestelike en sielkundige toestand beslis nie geraak nie. Hy was traag, maar toe belangrike oomblikke opduik, was hy geestelik skerp. Ons leier was siek in Jalta. . . maar hy was effektief & rdquo. Ek het 'n onderhoud gevoer met sir Frank Roberts, later die Britse ambassadeur in Moskou. Die hand van die dood was op hom, en Roberts het gesê, en dit het sy rol by Jalta nie belemmer nie. Hy was in beheer en het alles bereik wat hy kom doen het. Geen probleem by Jalta wat afkomstig is van die siekte van Roosevelt en rsquos. & Rdquo Wat die Sowjet -kant betref, het ek vir Valentin Berezhkov, tolk van Stalin en rsquos, gevra wat in 'n brief aan my geantwoord het dat Roosevelt en rsquos gesondheid en ldquow beslis erger was as in Teheran, maar almal wat hom dopgehou het, het dit ondanks gesê van sy swakheid was sy verstandelike potensiaal hoog. Voordat hy moeg word, was hy wakker, met vinnige reaksies en kragtige argumente.

& ldquoStalin het Roosevelt met groot agting behandel, en Berezhkov het bygevoeg, en ldquo en sover ek weet, geen kommentaar gelewer op die toestand van FDR en rsquos nie. Hy sou beslis privaat met sy naaste kollegas kon hê, maar nie een van hulle het dit ooit genoem nie. & Rdquo Roberts het gedink dat Roosevelt en Churchill vatbaar was vir Stalin omdat hy nie by die diktator -stereotipe van die tyd pas nie. Hy was nie 'n demagoog nie; hy het nie in flambojante uniforms gestut nie. Hy was saggeaard, goed georganiseerd, nie sonder humor nie, ken sy briefie en 'n aangename façade wat onbekende gruwels verberg.

Roosevelt het geen illusies gehad oor Stalin en Rusland Rusland nie. Die Sowjetunie, soos almal weet wat die moed het om die feit die hoof te bied, & rdquo het hy in Februarie 1940 aan die Amerikaanse jeugkongres gesê, en ldquois bestuur deur 'n diktatuur so absoluut as enige ander diktatuur in die wêreld. & rdquo Maar FDR, en Churchill ook, het geweet hoeveel die demokrasieë die Rooi Leër skuld vir die voornemende nederlaag van Adolf Hitler. D-Day sou nooit daarin geslaag het as Stalin nie die grootste deel van die Nazi-leër aan die Oosfront in Duitsland aangehou het nie. Teen die tyd dat die Groot Drie by Jalta vergader het, was die Rooi Leër vier en veertig myl van Berlyn af.

Daar is baie gewag gemaak van Roosevelt en rsquos, na bewering naïwiteit oor die Sowjetunie en sy beweerde oortuiging dat hy Stalin in die naoorlogse harmonie kan bekoor. FDR het beslis geen deskundige begrip gehad van die Leninistiese ideologie of van die verskriklike interne aard van die Stalinistiese samelewing nie. Hy het geantwoord op wat hy van die Sowjet -gedrag in die wêreld gesien het, en hy het nooit ver in die Sowjetunie gesien nie. Hy was altyd 'n optimis en het gehoop dat die oorlogsverbond die ideologiese kloof sou oorbrug en 'n nuwe werklikheid vir die vrede sou skep. Selfs met die voordeel van agterna, lyk dit steeds as 'n hoop om te toets. Dit moes in elk geval getoets word voordat die mense van die demokrasieë oortuig kon word dat hulle lewensbelangrike bondgenote in werklikheid dodelike vyande was.

Het Roosevelt werklik geglo dat hy Stalin uit die boom kan bekoor? Soos Walter Lippmann voorgestel het, was hy te sinies daarvoor: & ldquoHy wantrou almal. Wat hy gedink het hy kon doen, was om Stalin uit te oorlê, wat 'n heel ander ding is. Miskien was die Amerikaanse president tog nie so hopeloos naïef nie. Want Stalin was nie die hulpelose gevangene van die Leninistiese ideologie nie. Die Sowjet -diktator het homself minder as die dissipel van Marx en Lenin beskou as hul mede -profeet. Roosevelt het sekerlik reg geag dat Stalin die enigste hefboom was wat die demokrasieë beskikbaar het teen die rigiditeite van Leninisme. Slegs Stalin het die mag gehad om die kommunistiese leer te herskryf, aangesien hy reeds die Russiese geskiedenis en Russiese wetenskap herskryf het. Roosevelt en rsquos se vasberadenheid aan die hof van Stalin,
om aan en deur Stalin te werk, was, glo ek, gebaseer op die skerp reflekse van 'n meester -politikus. Die verandering van Stalin en rsquos se gedagtes was die enigste kans wat die Weste gehad het om die vrede te behou. .


Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Dit lyk asof die geskiedenis nie net in die feite is nie, maar ook in die gene. Of so het Arthur Schlesinger, jr., Onlangs laggend toegegee. 'Ek het grootgeword in 'n huis vol geskiedenis. Nie net my pa nie, maar ook my ma was 'n historikus. Haar nooiensvan was Bancroft en sy was verwant aan George Bancroft, 'n groot Amerikaanse historikus van die negentiende eeu. Schlesinger het die familietradisie voortgesit en op die ouderdom van twee en twintig 'n gepubliseerde historikus geword. Dit is toe sy Harvard senior tesis sy eerste boek geword het, Orestes Brownson: 'n pelgrim se vordering. Sedertdien voer hy die familietradisie voort.

Schlesinger is die skrywer van sestien boeke wat oor die ses dekades daarna gepubliseer is Orestes Brownson verskyn in 1939. Die boek is gevolg deur Die era van Jackson in 1945, 'n gevierde geskiedenis wat die manier waarop die Jacksoniaanse era voorheen deur historici geïnterpreteer is, uitdaag. Schlesinger het aangevoer dat die Jacksoniaanse demokrasie 'n dramatiese verandering ten goede is, omdat dit die idee voorstel dat individue deur 'n sterk sentrale regering teen sakebelange beskerm moet word. Die era van Jackson was 'n topverkoper en het die Pulitzer-prys ontvang, wat Schlesinger 'n aanstelling as medeprofessor aan Harvard gegee het, ondanks die feit dat hy nog nooit 'n Ph.D.

Terwyl hy in die veertiger- en vyftigerjare aan Harvard klasgegee het, het Schlesinger voortgegaan om belangrike geskiedeniswerke te lewer, waaronder drie volumes in 'n reeks oor die presidentskap van Franklin Roosevelt. Hy was ook gedurende die jare aktief in die nasionale politiek van die Demokratiese Party en het afskeid geneem van Harvard om in 1952, 1956 en 1960 raad te gee aan die Demokratiese presidentskandidate. geleentheid waarvoor Schlesinger sy professor in Harvard bedank het. Sy verslag oor sy jare in die Withuis het moontlik sy bekendste boek tot gevolg gehad, Duisend dae: John F. Kennedy in die Withuis, wat Schlesinger weer 'n Pulitzer -prys besorg het.

Gedurende sy loopbaan as historikus was Schlesinger toegewyd aan die idee dat Amerikaners hul geskiedenis moet verstaan ​​om die voortgesette sukses van die Amerikaanse eksperiment te verseker. "Geskiedenis is vir die land net soos die geheue vir die individu," sê Schlesinger. 'Die persoon wat sy geheue verloor, weet nie waar hy vandaan kom of waarheen hy gaan nie, en hy word ontwrig en gedisoriënteerd. Net so is 'n nasie wat sy geskiedenis vergeet, gestrem in die hantering van die hede en die toekoms. ” In sy mees onlangse boek, Die ontbinding van Amerika, Beweer Schlesinger dat Amerikaners moet fokus op wat hulle bymekaar bring. Hy waarsku teen die 'kultus van etnisiteit', wat die potensiaal het om die nasie uitmekaar te skeur, net soos in ander probleme in die wêreld. "Wat ons bymekaar hou, is 'n algemene verbintenis tot die prosesse wat in die Grondwet neergelê word," sê hy. '' N Deel van die wysheid van die Grondwet is die belofte van gelyke regte vir almal, sodat selfs mense wat hul volle grondwetlike regte ontneem word, voorsien word van die middele waarmee hulle hierdie regte kan opeis.

After his years in the Kennedy White House, Schlesinger became the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at the City University of New York. He taught in New York for the next three decades, retiring two years ago. He hopes to return to his series of books on FDR, picking up where he left off when the third volume appeared in 1960. “I only got up through 1936, the end of FDR’s first term,” Schlesinger points out. “I’ve got a good ways to go.”

Writing about Roosevelt’s additional three terms should manage to keep Schlesinger busy. Hopefully, it will also make him feel content with his contribution to our understanding of twentieth-century American political history. “I feel that I should have accomplished much more in these eighty years than I’ve done, there are more books I should have written,” Schlesinger notes ruefully. “The working title of my memoirs is Unfinished Business,” Schlesinger continues, with a laugh. At the age of eighty-one, Schlesinger has finally been persuaded to write his memoirs, a process he considers “a lot of fun.” “I only hope it’s as fascinating to other people as it is to me,” he says.

Though Schlesinger is characteristically self-deprecating about his career, historian Alan Brinkley wrote that Arthur Schlesinger is one of the most important voices in the historical profession, “not simply because he possesses a literary grace that few American scholars can match,” but also because “he is willing to argue that the search for an understanding of the past is not simply an aesthetic exercise but a path to the understanding of our own time.”

About the National Humanities Medal

The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens' engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects. Up to 12 medals can be awarded each year.

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Photo, Print, Drawing Arthur Schlesinger, historian-biographer [in his office, NYC]

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Arthur Schlesinger - History

The Great Depression experience of the American people from 1929 through 1941 is, in my opinion, one of the most important periods in the long saga of this country. The economic disaster and the efforts of the nation to deal with the despair and suffering it produced shaped and molded the attitudes of an entire generation of American citizens. Just as importantly, it produced governmental changes which continue to effect each and every one of us three-quarters of a century later. The Depression, however, cannot be adequately understood without reference to the broader sweep of American history with all its currents and eddies. Therefore, a brief overview is necessary.

Henry Adams' Pendulum Model

Historians have long talked about a seemingly cyclical nature to our countrys history - that trends, attitudes, and events tend to repeat themselves with marked regularity and that Americans tend to move back and forth between two different and competing impulses or motivations. One of the first to note this phenomenon was the nineteenth century historian Henry Adams. Writing shortly after the nation's inception, Adams postulated that the country seemed to swing back and forth like a pendulum between periods of centralization and diffusion of national energy every twelve years or so. According to Adams, Americans are motivated primarily by their fear of centralized power in periods of diffusion. At times such as these, they attempt to limit the national government in a variety of ways and tend to focus their attention on their individual area or state's needs. At other times, citizens recognize the need to have centralized direction of the nation that there are needs which transcend state boundaries that only the national government can address. Americans tend to go in one direction for a period of years before becoming convinced they have gone too far and begin to swing back in the other direction.

Adams contends that there was a diffusion of national energy and power between the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the creation of a stronger federal government under the Constitution in 1788. We rebelled against Great Britain in large part because we felt that government under King George III and the British Parliament was too powerful, too arbitrary, and too far away. Once the decision to wage a war of national liberation was taken, Americans created an extremely weak government under the Articles of Confederation. The national government existed in name only power was overwhelmingly reserved to the individual states which behaved almost as if they were independent nations. This produced near disaster. Americans began to understand that without a stronger national government looking out for the needs of all Americans, the new country might lose the independence it had just won on the battlefield. They, therefore, began moving in the opposite direction.

Between 1788 and the end of the century, power and swung to the national government under Presidents George Washington and John Adams. Their administrations launched a national currency and a national banking system. Steps were taken to guarantee the supremacy of federal law. The central government removed trade barriers between the various states and directed the nation's trading relationship with the rest of the world. However, Americans began to fear that they had gone too far in this direction as the century drew to a close.

Diffusion once again became the predominant mood between 1800 and 1812. Thomas Jefferson was elected president because the majority of Americans agreed with the Virginian that federal power had gotten out of hand and must be curtailed. The rights of individual states had to be protected and power returned to the local level. Adams argued that this trend continued through 1812.

Declaration of Independence to the Ratification of the Constitution

Launching the New Federal Government to Jefferson's Election

Jeffersonian Republicanism to the War of 1812

Arthur Schlesinger, Sr.'s Spiral Model

Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., a prominent twentieth century American historian, presented a rather different model of cyclicality in the late 1940s work entitled Paths to the Present. According to Schlesinger, Sr., the United States cycles back and forth between periods of liberalism and periods of conservatism with an average cycle length of sixteen and one-half years.

In this model a "liberal" period is one in which the national objective is to "increase democracy" while in a "conservative" period the objective is to "contain democracy." Schlesinger, Sr.'s use of the term "democracy" should be understood as being social and economic as well as political. A review of the periods he identifies as "liberal" shows them to be eras in which the nation moved to improve the status quo politically, socially, and economically. The effort is undertaken to include ever greater numbers of citizens in the mainstream of American life. "Conservative" periods, according to this model, are characterized by a defense and maintenance of the status quo in all three areas.

Schlesinger, Sr. also rejected the visual image of a pendulum "because it implied oscillation between two fixed points." The cycle, he pointed out, did not return the nation to the status quo ante. While retrenchments occurred in conservative periods, most of the reforms of the preceding liberal period survived. Therefore, the pendulum didn't swing back to the same fixed point. A more appropriate image, he maintained, was "the spiral, in which the alternation preceded at successfully higher levels and allowed the cumulation of change."

Notice in the graphic which follows the variable number of years in each cycle sixteen and one-half years is only the average. The most glaring deviation from the sixteen and one-half year average is between 1861 and 1901. The liberal period which began with the onset of the Civil War lasted for only eight years until 1869. The conservative reaction which began in 1869, according to Schlesinger, Sr., lasted for thirty-two years until 1900, twice the sixteen year average. Why such a pronounced deviation from the normal cycle length?

The author's explanation was that the depth of change in the Civil War and early years of Reconstruction was so great that it couldn't last for the normal sixteen and one-half years. Further, the degree of democratization was so great in this brief period that the next conservative cycle would last much longer than normal. ". the prolongation of the counter movement in the next period was a form of compensation to restore the rhythm."


No, argues historian Schlesinger. It is like the human appendix, a vestigial organ on the body politic. John Nance Garner called the office a lot of things, some of them not as polite as "a spare tire on the automobile of government."

As a steady stream of disturbing revelations surfaced in the Watergate investigation, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.—a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and a former adviser to President Kennedy—argued that under Richard Nixon's insidious influence, the power of the presidency had spiraled out of control.


Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1917-2007)

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., one of the most renowned and influential historians and intellectuals of the 20th century, died February 28, 2007, after a heart attack suffered in a Manhattan restaurant where he was dining with members of his family.

He was born October 15, 1917, in Columbus, Ohio. His father, Arthur M. Schlesinger, was himself a distinguished historian who inspired his admiring young son, originally named Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger, to change his name to Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. The senior Schlesinger, having taught at Ohio State University and the University of Iowa, accepted a position at Harvard University in 1924, and Arthur Jr. spent much of the next 37 years in Cambridge, Massachusetts, eventually attending Harvard College. His undergraduate thesis became his first published book, Orestes A. Brownson: A Pilgrim's Progress. In the fall of 1939, after a year studying at the University of Cambridge, he joined Harvard's Society of Fellows, where he wrote one of his most influential books, The Age of Jackson, published in 1944 and the winner of the first of Schlesinger's two Pulitzer Prizes. The Age of Jackson, which challenged the tradition of interpreting the era through the prism of Frederick Jackson Turner's "frontier thesis" and identified the origins of popular democracy as a product of northeastern cities and workers, established him as one of the leading historians of his time.

Schlesinger spent most of World War II in London working for the Office of Strategic Services and then spent several years in Washington, where he began what would become a lifelong role as a prolific writer of essays and articles for newspapers and magazines and as a constant friend and colleague of influential people in many walks of life and many areas of the world. In the fall of 1947, he moved back to Cambridge to accept a position on the Harvard faculty, where he remained for 14 years&mdashnow married to Marian Cannon Schlesinger, with whom he had four children. He soon moved out of the shadow of his well-known father and became an important and highly visible person himself&mdashknown for his trademark bow ties, his warm and generous personality, his brilliant conversation, and his extraordinary energy. He was a successful and popular teacher at Harvard and an influential figure within the faculty. John Kenneth Galbraith, whom he had met in Washington, also joined the Harvard faculty shortly after the war, became Schlesinger's neighbor in Cambridge, and remained his lifelong friend&mdashand his companion in combining an academic career with an active and unceasing engagement with politics (something Schlesinger shared with his own father as well).

Deeply committed to the future of liberalism, he (along with his father) became one of the founders of Americans for Democratic Action. He was a political ally of Adlai Stevenson and worked on both of his presidential campaigns. He struggled throughout the postwar years to define a path for American liberalism between what he considered the "doughface" progressivism of the socialist left and the reactionary alternatives of the right. His 1949 book, The Vital Center, written in the early stages of what later became known as "McCarthyism," offered a prescription for a dynamic liberalism&mdasha liberalism worth fighting for, he argued&mdashthat would move between what he considered these two bankrupt ideologies and would retain ties to liberalism's pragmatic, non-ideological heritage.

During these same years, Schlesinger&mdasha disciplined and indefatigable researcher and writer&mdashworked on what became his enormously influential three-volume study, The Age of Roosevelt. He did not attempt to hide his great admiration for Roosevelt and his belief in his relevance to the politics of the postwar era. At the same time, he offered one of the earliest serious interpretations of the New Deal, identifying it simultaneously as a product of the progressive tradition and as a significant break with the past. He was among the first scholars to argue that there was both a "first" and a "second" New Deal, and he offered a panoramic vision of the turbulent political world of the 1930s and its impact on Roosevelt's political decisions. The first volume of the series, The Crisis of the Old Order, was awarded the Bancroft Prize.

The presidential election of 1960 was a major turning point in Schlesinger's life. He became an early supporter of John F. Kennedy (his Harvard contemporary), worked actively on his campaign, and after the election accepted Kennedy's invitation to serve as a special assistant in the White House, where&mdashalong with Theodore Sorensen, John Kenneth Galbraith, Richard Goodwin, and others&mdashhe became part of an influential group of liberals within the administration who attempted to steer Kennedy away from the more conservative views of the many committed Cold Warriors in the government of the early 1960s. After the president's death in 1963, Schlesinger served briefly under Lyndon Johnson and then left the government to write an extraordinarily successful account of the Kennedy Years, A Thousand Days, for which he won his second Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. Duisend dae was a frankly personal work&mdashpartly a memoir, partly a history, partly an effort to establish Kennedy's legacy as an agent of progressive change both at home and in the world. In these same years, he divorced his first wife, married Alexandra Emmet (with whom he had another son and gained a stepson), moved to New York, and joined the faculty of the City University of New York Graduate School.

Schlesinger continued to play an active role in liberal politics and became a close ally of Robert F. Kennedy, in whose presidential campaign he worked in 1968. After Kennedy's assassination that June, Schlesinger was for a time uncharacteristically discouraged and even bitter. But eventually, he found himself drawn again to writing about a fallen leader whom he had known and admired. Robert F. Kennedy and His Times, published in 1978 and the winner of the National Book Award, was a more conventional biography than Duisend dae, based on extensive research, and it examined the entirety of Robert Kennedy's life. Although not wholly uncritical, it reflected Schlesinger's view of Kennedy as someone who had developed the potential to become a great leader and who, like his brother, had died before he could fulfill his destiny. While Schlesinger never again served in government or allied himself with an administration or campaign, he remained in almost constant communication with other people of power and influence in many parts of the world, and he appeared frequently in both print and broadcast media as a commentator on public issues. He led an active academic and social life as well.

At the same time, he continued writing and publishing prolifically. "Having perhaps the soul of a hack," he once wrote, "I have never been bothered with writer's block, nor am I unduly distracted by noise. . . . I did not mind the clamor of children and never closed my study door to the life of the household." A bitter opponent of the Vietnam War and of Richard Nixon, he wrote strenuously about both&mdashincluding a harsh appraisal of the Vietnam War (The Bitter Heritage, 1967) and a strong repudiation of what he considered the dangerous overreaching of the Nixon White House (The Imperial Presidency, 1973). A 1991 essay, published as The Disuniting of America, was a controversial lament about the dangers of "multiculturalism." His last book, War and the American Presidency, published in 2005, was a harsh attack on the Iraq War that continued his long argument against unnecessary and excessive use of American military force.

Schlesinger was a lifelong diarist, and his journals helped him compose a memoir, A Life in the Twentieth Century (2000), the first of a planned but uncompleted two volumes. (An edited version of his diaries is scheduled for publication in fall 2007.) Although the memoir covered only the years to 1950, it conveyed clearly and eloquently the multiple commitments that shaped almost the entirety of his life&mdasha belief in the value of history, a belief in its power to shape ideas and events, and a belief in his obligation to use his knowledge of the past to affect the present. In his last years, he confirmed his continued allegiance to the ideas he had embraced more than a half century earlier and to the value of fighting for them. "So long as society stays free," he wrote in his memoir, "so long will it continue in a state of tension, breeding contradiction, breeding strife. But conflict is also the guarantee of freedom it is the instrument of change. . . . I am somewhat embarrassed to confess that I have not radically altered my general outlook in the more than half century since the The Vital Center's publication. . . . I have not been born again, and there it is."


Arthur Schlesinger’s Missing Vital Center

Ms. Spark, an independent scholar, is the author of Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival.

In sy Commentary essay, reprinted in HNN, Norman Podhoretz regrets that Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. had, in his unrelenting negative depiction of the Republican party, abandoned the liberalism he espoused in his famous book The Vital Center. The obituary in the Guardian also references the “vital centre,” defining this conception as “a vital centre of accepted societal values” that, combined with “a periodic need for heroic leadership” was linked to Schlesinger Senior’s theory that U.S. history followed “a wave pattern of 11 alternating periods of liberal and conservative dominance.” The question should follow: what did Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. mean by “the vital center?” I have evidence that the late historian vacillated between two incompatible definitions of that term, but that his thought, taken as a whole, is pessimistic, aristocratic, subjectivist, and hence finally antidemocratic, notwithstanding his apparent concern for urban workers and their contribution to American democratic institutions. In this article, I tackle “the vital centre” along with another theme that permeates many of the Schlesinger obituaries: that historians cannot ever attain objectivity, a claim frequently advanced by postmodernists and other radical historicists/radical subjectivists.

While researching the papers of prominent academic intellectuals during the period of the twentieth-century Melville revival, and its promotion of Moby-Dick, I came across a letter from Schlesinger to Columbia English professor and New Critic Richard Chase, January 24, 1949, written while The Vital Center was in composition, and excerpted in my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival. Schlesinger wrote: “I was reading with my usual interest your article on THE CONFIDENCE MAN in the current issue of KENYON REVIEW when I came upon your pleasant reference to me. I was particularly interested by the article because I have just been putting together my thoughts on modern liberalism in a volume which Houghton Mifflin will bring out in the next few months and in the course of argument I am urging a return to those earlier and profounder representatives of our democratic tradition, such as Hawthorne and Melville…[who] certainly stand up superbly when read in the interesting light of the 20th century.”

Given the favorable reference to Hawthorne and Melville as exemplary democrats, I gathered that “the vital center” was taken from Ishmael’s Epilogue, with that poetic image meant to symbolize Ishmael’s survival of the wreck of the Pequod, primarily because moderate Ishmael had distanced himself from the fanatical Captain Ahab (fanatical as perceived by the character Ishmael in the chapter “The Try-Works”). I received a surprising response from Schlesinger in his letter to me of March 4, 2000, giving me permission to quote him: “I had totally forgotten that Melville wrote about ‘that vital centre’ in the Epilogue! Maybe it lodged in my unconscious, but I think I had Yeats more in mind (‘the centre cannot hold’).” Consider now the remarkable implications of this statement. Yeats’s oft-quoted mystical poem of 1921, “The Second Coming,” warning of the new anarchy brought about by the disintegrating “center,” contains these lines: “the best lack all conviction, while the worst/ are full of passionate intensity.”

It is hard to imagine a “pragmatic” new model liberal as possessed of any fixed moral conviction, for indeed it was these same “progressives” who had embraced the cultural and moral relativism necessary to their ideology of cultural or ethnopluralism, a policy that can be traced back to the thought of the German theologian Herder in the late eighteenth century, and then revived by such progressives as Randolph Bourne and Horace Kallen in the early twentieth century as an offensive against the rival conception of proletarian internationalism and its allied beliefs in ethical universalism and species-unity--conceptions promoted by Herman Melville throughout his more radical oeuvre. Of course, the assumption of the ethnopluralists was that social cohesion, not militant cultural nationalism, would be advanced by their upper-class directed policy of mutual appreciation and toleration, and when “multiculturalism” got out of hand (as it did in the rise of the Black Power movement and Afrocentrism), Schlesinger rang the tocsin in his The Disuniting of America, but without examining his own first principles, which were arguably counter-Enlightenment in their utter rejection of objectivity as an achievable goal.

Other ironies should be noted here. It is a stretch to imagine Nathaniel Hawthorne as an inspiring democrat, to be emulated by the new liberals indeed he mocked Melville’s democratic tendencies in The Blithedale Romance. Moreover, Melville vacillated between aristocratic and democratic impulses, often within the same paragraph.

Heed it well, ye social democrats. Is it not more historically accurate to trace the genealogy of the New Deal to Herder, Burke, Bismarck, and to other conservative reformers, looking to heroic leaders to rescue the masses from themselves?

Melville, who taunted “the moderate men” whenever his radical mood took over, was probably not referring to politics when he described the “vital centre” in connection with Ishmael’s survival. “Vital” is a recurring word in Melville’s writing, and it most likely refers to the Promethean element of his psyche that (following Goethe and Schiller) could bring to life believable representations of humans and the full range of their earthly activities and emotions: such Prometheanism could scare him into organic conservatism of the kind later espoused by the reactionary and protofascist William Butler Yeats. Similarly, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was a vocal representative of the pseudo-liberal generation that had co-opted science and enlightenment, demonizing Prometheus and Faustian “individualism,” hence subtly circumscribing the range of human possibility and amelioration, never more overtly than in the mechanical notion of cycles between liberalism and conservatism, presumably stabilized by common values that are not defined. Such vagueness cannot be found in the democratic tradition as it evolved since the sixteenth century, flowering most notably in the eighteenth-century scientific thought of those liberals who founded the American republic, but the very abstractness of terms such as “progressivism,” “liberalism,” “moderation,” “centrism” and other cant words useful to demagogues renders these emotion-laden categories susceptible to whatever desirable meaning otherwise incompatible social actors wish to project. Indeed, the center cannot hold when constituencies remain divided and at odds, and where intellectuals have failed to specify the irrefragable sources of individual and social conflict.


Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Schlesinger was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1917. His birth name was Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger, but he later took his father's full name. Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Sr., was a prominent historian of the United States. His son also became an American historian. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. graduated from Harvard University in 1938.

Schlesinger published his first book, his Harvard University honors thesis, in 1939. During World War II he serving in the Office of War Information from 1942 to 1943 and in the Office of Strategic Services from 1943 to 1945. He continued to research and write while serving his country. In 1945, he published The Age of Jackson. The book won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1946, Schlesinger became a professor at Harvard University. He held the position until 1961.

Schlesinger's liberal political and social views heavily influenced his books and articles. He emerged as one of the most respected and influential historians of the twentieth century. He also played an active role in politics. During the administration of President John F. Kennedy he served as a campaign advisor and later became Kennedy's Special Assistant for Latin American Affairs.

With President Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, Schlesinger returned to academic life.. He wrote a study of Kennedy's administration called Duisend dae. It won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1965. Schlesinger became a professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center in 1966. He concluded his teaching career in 1994. After retiring, Schlesinger continued to write books..


The Disuniting of America

The Disuniting of America, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., W. W. Norton & Co, 160 pp.

Arthur Schlesinger is a distinguished historian best known for A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House. He is an unabashed liberal, and has seen much of what he hoped for come to pass: civil rights laws, affirmative action, non-white immigration, and “inclusion” of all kinds. But Professor Schlesinger is a thoughtful liberal, and he is genuinely worried. He sees that non-whites are repudiating the majority culture as never before, and he fears that if the current ethnic upsurge continues it could tear the nation apart.

The Disuniting of America may be a more important book than Prof. Schlesinger realizes, for it can be read as the first line of an epitaph — an epitaph to the disastrous policies that destroyed the United States of 40 years ago and that threaten the nation’s European character. Prof. Schlesinger still claims to believe in the magical capacity of the United States to transform Guatemalan refugees and Haitian boat people into admirers of Thomas Jefferson, but the scales are beginning to fall from his eyes. “[T]he mixing of peoples [will be] a major problem for the century that lies darkly ahead,” he warns. Even liberals are beginning to notice that something has gone seriously wrong with the great American experiment in multi-racialism.

Because Prof. Schlesinger is a historian, it is natural that his book should be about the ways in which non-whites, especially blacks, are using invented histories as a way to carve out separatist identities. He fully recognizes the extent to which history is the basis of a nation’s understanding of itself, and quotes the Marxist historian Eric Foner: “A new future requires a new past.” Every non-white group in the country is peddling its own version of American history and hopes to use it as a weapon against the white man.

Blacks have taken the lead in this game, and Prof. Schlesinger neatly lays bare the lunacies and contradictions in what they say. The ostensible reason for Afrocentric history is that “Eurocentric” history is a pack of lies that insults and demeans blacks. Sermons about a glorious African past will transform ghetto punks into noble black men. Prof. Schlesinger despises this attempt to turn history into therapy.

In any case, there is no evidence that America’s admiration for ancient Greece ever gave Greek immigrants any intellectual or moral advantages. Jews and Asians have done very well in America without public schools to tell them how wonderful their ancestors were. Nor is there any evidence that “Eurocentric” education did any damage to W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, or Martin King. Prof. Schlesinger suspects that Afrocentrists are driven as much by hatred of Western Civilization as by any real hope that new history books will keep young blacks from drugging themselves and shooting each other.

And yet, much as they claim to despise European culture, one of the Afrocentrists’ main aims is to prove that their ancestors created it. Black Egyptians are supposed to have invented everything from geometry to airplanes, only to have this wonderful knowledge stolen form them by Greeks. As Prof. Schlesinger points out, knowledge cannot be completely removed from its owner the way an object can yet the Afrocentrist view requires us to believe that whatever the Greeks learned, the Egyptians thereupon ceased to know.

Ultimately, however, as even many blacks realize, it is folly to think that a knowledge of hieroglyphics or Egyptian cleansing rituals will do an American child the slightest good if he can’t read English. This doesn’t worry the Afrocentrists they are educating Africans-in-exile, not Americans.

Another trend that Prof. Schlesinger laments is bilingual education. As he correctly points out, its effect — and perhaps its purpose — is not to teach immigrant children English but to keep them immersed in their mother tongues for as long as possible. The new waves of Hispanics are no more enchanted with the idea of adopting Anglo culture than are blacks. Prof. Schlesinger quotes one Hispanic who puts it this way: “The era that began with the dream of integration ended up with scorn for assimilation.”

What Will Hold the Center?

Prof. Schlesinger seems genuinely wounded that non-whites are turning up their noses at his culture just when he has been at such pains to make it “inclusive.” He also sees it as a betrayal of one of America’s most central doctrines: “the unifying vision of individuals from all nations melted into a new race.” He concludes with the uncertain hope that by reasserting Western values, an increasingly disparate America can be forged, once more, into a new unity.

Prof. Schlesinger’s disappointment and confusion stem from his own version of an invented American past, in which multi-racialism was, somehow, always the ultimate goal. Although it is perfectly clear that the Constitution was written for whites and not for blacks or Indians or anyone else, Prof. Schlesinger shares the near-universal view that multi-racialism was a predestined consequence of American democracy. To point out that this was nothing of the sort is to point out the obvious racial equality, integration, and non-white immigration were radical departures from everything that Washington, Lincoln and even Wilson believed in. The “tolerance” and “inclusion” that are supposed always to have characterized America are entirely new doctrines.

Prof. Schlesinger sees the present as no different from the past just as European ethnics blended together to become a new people, so will the new non-white immigrants. He concedes that race is a greater barrier to blending than was European nationality, but says he believes that “the historic forces driving toward ‘one people’ have not lost their power.” Of course, there have never been any historic forces driving blacks, whites, Indians, and Hispanics toward “one people.” They may have lived within the same national boundaries, but they have always remained distinct.

An obvious first step to counter the ethnic divisiveness that Prof. Schlesinger fears, would be to stop immigration, or to limit it to the European stocks that did become “one people.” This idea must be rejected, we are told, because it “offends something in the American soul.” Even if this were true — repeated polls show that Americans think the country has enough immigrants — Prof. Schlesinger surely understands that the forces of divisiveness could extinguish America’s soul.

Prof. Schlesinger is still a prisoner of the view that America is uniquely exempted from the lessons of history. Although he writes fearfully of renewed ethnic conflicts abroad, he believes that America can dispense with the ancient ingredients of nationhood: common religion, common tongue, common heritage, common ancestry. What, then, makes Americans American?

Democracy to the Rescue

Prof. Schlesinger, like so many others, falls back upon a national identity so threadbare, so improbable, that only the most credulous could believe in it. The “American democratic faith,” he says, is “what binds all Americans together.” Ours is a democracy in which most citizens cannot name their congressmen, in which not one in 500 can name his state legislator, in which Presidents are elected with the votes of less than a quarter of the electorate. Ours is a democracy in which voters despise politicians one in which men of wisdom and integrity do not even enter, much less win, elections. Democracy will bind us together?

There are European countries in which democracy actually presents voters with real choices, where a far higher number of citizens vote, where men of some stature are voted into office. But no, democracy is America’s unique gift and treasure.

And are we to assume that Mexican peasant-women have their babies in American hospitals so that their children will benefit from the Bill of Rights and the separation of powers? Will democracy bind Cambodian tribesmen to the bosom of America any more successfully than it has Hopis and Navajos? Non-whites come to this country because they want jobs, money, and welfare, not because they want to join the PTA and become registered Democrats.

Not even the people who invented American democracy feel about it as Prof. Schlesinger thinks complete strangers will. It was not an appeal to representational government that sent Pickett’s men up the rise at Gettysburg, but the cry, “For Virginia for your wives and sweethearts!” The marines didn’t land on the beaches of Guadalcanal, full of devotion to the Constitution, but of hatred for the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.

The unifying power of democracy is nothing compared to that of blood and soil. Non-whites will not give up their racial birthright in exchange for the ballot. For blacks and Hispanics, democracy is a racial head-count, a chance to push out the white man and replace him with one of their own. Increasingly, in America, the very democracy that Prof. Schlesinger thinks will bind us is numerical proof of how divided we are.

On the last page of his book, Prof. Schlesinger writes: “Our task is to combine due appreciation of the splendid diversity of the nation with due emphasis on the great unifying Western ideas of individual freedom, political democracy, and human rights.” What does this fine-sounding sentence even mean? It is precisely in the name of freedom and human rights that non-whites insist on going their own ways.

Nor will history save Prof. Schlesinger’s “splendidly diverse” America. As he writes on the next-to-last page, “People with a different history will have differing values. But we believe that our own are better for us. They work for us and for that reason, we live and die by them.” This is the very thing an Afrocentrist might say! These are the very words on which Prof. Schlesinger’s unity in diversity will founder.