ft. sumterWars are seldom tidy, and often the unfinished business from one war provides the spark and tinder for the next. The forts that guarded Charleston Harbor in the latter half of the 19th century were part of a series of coastal defenses planned after the War of 1812 to protect all the principal seaports of the United States. Like most of the system, the forts in Charleston were still unfinished in 1861. Not long after the war with the British, America became preoccupied with battles within, as wars with Indian tribes continued through most of the century.

JP MorganJunius Morgan was, at best, a third-tier English banker in the 1850s, who was fortunate to have had a hand in a number of lucrative financings, mostly for industries seeking seasonal financing. His conservative nature was partly a cause of his lack of distinction. He’d inherited a substantial sum when his father died and was exceedingly careful when risking any part of it. One of the maxims Junius instilled into his son, John Pierpont Morgan (shown at left), was, “Never under any circumstances do an action which could be called into question if known to the world.”

It is a signal irony that, within days of the apocalyptic earthquake and tsunami that have brought Japan to her knees, archaeologists announced the possible discovery, after millenia of speculation, of the ruins of the legendary lost civilization of Atlantis, buried deep beneath the marshes of the Coto Doñana in southwestern Spain.

Timothy MatlackWhen Solomon observed that there’s nothing new under the sun, he might have been speaking of politicians: Most plagiarize from their predecessors. Wage and price controls, blaming the victims rather than the authors of government’s policies, banning pleasures and fun, encouraging “virtues” that advance the State and ridiculing or even outlawing those that don’t — these tactics and more are favorites not only of modern Republicans and Democrats but of certain “Patriots” who seized power during the American Revolution. Indeed, they nearly subverted it: As one critic charged, they “hate Tyranny, but … their meaning is they hate Tyranny when themselves are not the Tyrants.”

On this day 161 years ago, famed orator Daniel Webster delivered one of the most memorable speeches of his remarkable career.

Standing to address the Senate in support of the Compromise of 1850, the congressional effort led by Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas to resolve the issues propelling the United States toward a civil war, Daniel Webster delivered a three-and-a-half hour address wherein he described himself “not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man but as an American....”

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