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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 96

[ 9 ] June 26, 2017 |

This is the grave of Voltiarine de Cleyre.

Born in 1866 in Leslie, Michigan and named after Voltaire, her father placed her in a convent at the age of 12 so she could get the best education possible. It turned her into an atheist. That was not the intent of her family, but they were very political to begin with, with connections with abolitionists before the war. The family was very poor and this also contributed to her radicalization. She moved to Grand Rapids as a young adult and became part of the freethinking movement. After the murder of the Haymarket martyrs in 1887, de Cleyre committed to anarchism because she lost her last remaining faith in the government. She moved to Philadelphia where she became of the nation’s most articulate advocates of anarchism. In doing so, she maintained an ecumenical approach to the subject, refusing to commit to a particularly brand of the ideology; I wish we had more of this on the left, past and present. All of this made her uncomfortable with a more class-consciousness vision of anarchism and she did not much get along with Emma Goldman because of the latter’s enthusiasm for the destruction of property. She mothered a child in 1890 out of wedlock with another free-thinker after agreeing he would have nothing to do with his upbringing. She gave the influential 1895 lecture “Sex and Slavery,” which argued that the legal ability of husbands to rape their wives was a form of slavery. The North Carolina legislature should be locked in a room and forced to read it.

She had a lot of health issues, particularly crippling depression. She died of meningitis in 1912, only 45 years old.

Voltairine de Cleyre is buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.


Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 95

[ 63 ] June 25, 2017 |

This is the grave of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Born in 1803 in Boston at the site of the Macy’s downtown (there’s a little plaque on the building), Emerson was the most important of the transcendentalists, a literary movement which is honestly kind of intolerable to read. Maybe I am not much of a romantic (oh, hey Happy Anniversary to my wife. Too bad I am in Seattle at a conference and doing research in fishing industry publications while you are packing up my apartment), but the flowery language and ideology of Emerson never appealed to me. Part of this is also his emphasis on American individualism, which I see as a plague that seriously gets in the way of class consciousness or collective solutions to any problem. Not that Emerson was a bad guy. He certainly had good politics and the right people hated him, although he was not a real public person and did not speak out much about slavery even though he despised it. I know I should have more to say about Emerson, but I don’t have the patience or time right now to revisit his essays, which I found tiresome the first time I read them 15 years ago or so. Call me a heathen, if you will. In any case, no one can question his importance to American letters or American philosophy (and I certainly do appreciate his call for an American style of letters). He died in 1882.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 94

[ 75 ] June 24, 2017 |

This is the grave of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

I suppose I should have something to say about such a famous figure. I do not. She existed in a world with a first husband who cheated on her left and right while plunging her into the international spotlight. Bad marriages was something she knew well from her parents. Then he died with his blood on her dress. Then she continued to be a global superstar, a role that she embraced to some extent, but never fully. She married the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis soon after Bobby Kennedy’s death, which affected her greatly and made her fear for her children’s lives, more because he provided her security than anything else. Then he died within a few years himself. She moved back to the U.S., where she faced the endless pressures of the paparazzi, a level of human scum never before seen on the planet. She died of cancer in 1994, at the age of 64. I don’t usually feel too bad for the 1 percent, and she was an elite’s elite, but I do kind of feel bad for her.

On top of it, she spent a lifetime being subjected to the adoration of Baby Boomers and their endless nostalgia for the simpler days of growing up. So have it at commenters, engage your Baby Boomer nostalgia to the fullest extent.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, on the confiscated plantation of the Traitor Lee, Arlington, Virginia.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 93

[ 102 ] June 23, 2017 |

This is the grave of Gerald and Betty Ford.

Gerald Ford was a conservative Midwestern Christian. This defined him and it defined his politics. We don’t really remember Ford as a strong conservative these days. That’s for a few reasons–Reagan ran to his right in 1980, he was a pretty genial guy, and Chevy Chase’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live. But make no mistake, Ford is a critical figure in the national shift to the right.

He was first elected to Congress in 1948. He served there until 1973. He basically did nothing of note in terms of policy. He never wrote a major piece of legislation. But he was good at the internal politics of the Republican Party. No one really disliked him. He was honest. Because of these personal qualities, he was named to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy. After the landslide election of 1964, which left Republicans trailing Democrats 295-140 in the House, the increasingly small group of House Republicans convinced Ford to become Minority Leader. Lyndon Johnson had little respect for him, telling reporters “Jerry Ford is so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.” But Johnson’s own disastrous policy in Vietnam undermined him and his party and Republicans won the presidency in 1968. Ford became a key player in Congress in promoting Nixon’s agenda. But in the end, his achievement as a long-term Congresscritter was pretty modest.

When Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice-President in 1973, Nixon turned to Congress for help selecting a new VP. Congressional Republicans pushed for Ford very hard. First, he was honest and inoffensive, which Nixon needed. Second, he was at the end of his political career and really wasn’t a threat to anyone’s ambitions. It would be a nice cap to a nice career.

And then Nixon resigned.

Ford became a president at a time when white backlash combined with cynicism toward government due to Vietnam and Watergate to create a climate that was largely favorable to the Republican Party. Sure, Watergate was a huge weight on Republicans during Ford’s years. But Congress was moving to the right. The economics profession had already shifted far to the right, so policy experts were increasingly critical of Keynesian economic programs and they were influencing both Republicans and Democrats. The electorate had turned on 60s liberalism with ferocity and the white South was transitioning quickly to the Republicans. Ford contributed to this. In his heart, Gerald Ford was a small-town Midwestern politician with small-town Midwestern values. He distrusted government, disliked taxes, and while the climate of the times meant that creating a society of inequality and division such as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are presently undertaking did not seem possible, he would use his power to turn the government back to what he thought its proper role.

Basically, Ford vetoed everything he could. In his short tenure, Ford vetoed 66 bills. That’s not much compared to FDR’s 635 vetoes(!!), but he had a very short tenure. It’s also more than the last 4 presidents combined, including the Cheeto we have in the Oval Office now. 11 of those were overridden. Most of these vetoes concerned spending measures and expanding the welfare state. For instance, he vetoed the 1975 amendment to the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Act, which strengthened that law. I guess school lunch was offensive to Ford’s small government ways. That one was overridden. Basically, anything Ford thought would add to the size of government or not combat inflation was tossed. This was an important moment because Nixon, grumbling the whole time, signed these laws. But Ford did not. The rising conservative movement was making its presence felt, with very real national policy implications, as conservatives are currently smashing the poor’s face into the sidewalk with their extremist health bill.

And of course, he was the greatest friend New York City ever had.

On social issues, he was pretty liberal, supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and being pro-choice, even though he hedged his bets on abortion while in politics. Betty deserves a lot of credit for this.

On foreign policy, he basically did whatever Kissinger wanted, which of course implicated him in all sorts of horrible actions. The ridiculous response to the Mayaguez Incident of course did not hurt him at all because Americans always like a president who kills some brown people in a nation they know nothing about. Ford’s approval jumped 11 points after this. Ford basically funded Suharto’s genocidal attacks on East Timor, which became a nation during the Ford administration. Probably 90 percent of the weapons the Indonesian military had during this invasion came from the U.S., mostly since Ford took over. Ford and Kissinger personally gave Suharto their blessing for this. I guess the East Timorese were a communist threat or something. But hey, only up to 300,000 people died because of this. Of course, Ford continued the American support of Kissinger’s good buddy Augusto Pinochet, not to mention the other South American dictatorships. He did continue the detente policy with the USSR and China that Nixon began, which was largely positive.

He did do something that would be almost unthinkable today: suspend new arms agreements to Israel because of that nation’s continued intransigence in bargaining with its neighbors. Despite Congressional outrage over this, he held his ground until Yitzhak Rabin signed SINAI II.

Of course what I have not mentioned yet is Ford’s pardon of Nixon. This probably cost him the presidency. It was a fantastically stupid move for anyone harboring political ambitions. Yet it had no long-term implications for the Republican Party. He also won himself in 1976 and then of course Reagan wiped the floor with Carter in 1980. He was under consideration to be Reagan’s VP in 1980 but he demanded unprecedented power that included naming Kissinger Secretary of State. Reagan went with George Bush instead. Ford retired to elder statesman and golf status before dying in 2006.

As for Betty Ford, she had the fate of too many women married to politicians–a husband who was never at home. She always took a back seat to his political career. Even in the Ford Presidential Museum, Betty is portrayed as someone who really suffered because of her husband’s ambitions. She had to raise the four kids basically by herself. This drove her to drinking, for which she became famous when she finally quit and then used her resources to found a center where at least rich people could receive high treatment for addiction. She was also a social liberal and quite outspoken for a First Lady, commenting on many social issues from breast cancer (which she survived) to abortion to gun control. She talked openly about sex with her husband and understood why people smoked marijuana. Conservatives hated her. She died in 2011.

All in all, Ford was a pretty mediocre president, which makes me about 1 million times better than the last two Republicans.

Gerald and Betty Ford are buried at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, you can see two great objects. First, Squeaky Fromme’s gun. Second, the staircase that led from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon to the last helicopter leaving. Unfortunately, you can’t climb it.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 92

[ 66 ] June 22, 2017 |

This is the grave of John Galen Locke.

There is only one thing worth knowing about this asshole. He was the Grand Dragon of the Colorado Ku Klux Klan. Locke made Colorado one of the strongest KKK strongholds in the nation in the 1920s, along with Indiana, Oregon, and Texas. The second Klan was reasonably analogous to Trump voters and their values, in that they were anti-black but also anti-changing culture and anything that might make them uncomfortable as middle-class white Protestants, whether Jews or Italians or women voting or alcohol or whatever. Because these people voted, it made local KKK leaders a powerful political block. Locke basically controlled Colorado politics in the 1920s, being the political boss of both the governor and the mayor of Denver. He was also a total hypocrite, having been divorced from a Catholic and employing two Catholic secretaries and even paying their pew fees, all while railing against Catholics in public. In private, he seems to have donated to black and Jewish charities as well. Basically, he saw the KKK as a political machine he could use for his own ends. His bought state legislators introduced legislation to ban public universities from hiring Catholic and Jewish professors and ban sacramental wine from communion ceremonies. Most of it did not pass, as there were enough Democrats and anti-KKK Republicans to narrowly prevent it. They burned a cross in front of the home of the president of the Denver chapter of the NAACP, etc.

Then there is this bizarre 1925 newspaper article about he and others being arrested for kidnapping a guy and forcing him to marry a woman in the KKK offices. Further research suggests it was the son of a hotel worker who got a woman pregnant and wouldn’t marry her. She complained to the KKK. They kidnapped him. Locke put out his surgeon’s tools and said he could marry her or he would castrate the guy. His parents, as you can imagine, complained. The IRS also went after him for not paying income tax. Shocking that a right-wing nutjob wouldn’t pay taxes. He said he lost his books. He was fined $1500 and sentenced to jail for 10 days. As his legal troubles continued, the national KKK forced him to resign as Colorado Grand Dragon and turn over all the KKK property, which was a lot since the Klan’s leadership was corrupt as all hell and looking to get rich. Locke tried starting his own hate organization called the Minute Men (a tried and true name for right wing assholes), but it went nowhere and he died in obscurity in 1935.

Anyway, fuck this guy.

John Galen Locke is buried in Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 91

[ 42 ] June 21, 2017 |

This is the grave of George Hoar.

Born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1826 to a politically prominent family, Hoar graduated from Harvard in 1846, moved to Worcester, and started a law practice. He quickly became involved in politics, first joining the Free Soil Party and then the Republicans. He was elected to the Massachusetts House in 1852 and then the state senate in 1857. He was elected to Congress in 1869 and the Senate in 1877. He aligned himself against the corruption of the Gilded Age and in favor of treating Native Americans like human beings. He opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act and argued in favor of women’s suffrage. He was an anti-imperialist and met with native Hawaiians resisting annexation in 1898. He did not support the Spanish-American War, resisting the media-driven jingoism of the time (Judy Miller would have been a hell of a yellow journalist). He strongly opposed the U.S. war on imperial conquest against the Philippines, where acts of rape, torture, and mass murder by American soldiers were a daily occurrence as we brought them “liberation.” In his opposition to imperialism, he could not have disagreed more with his fellow Republican senator from the Bay State, Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1902, he said this in a Senate speech:

You have sacrificed nearly ten thousand American lives—the flower of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted thousands of the people you desire to benefit. You have established reconcentration camps. Your generals are coming home from their harvest bringing sheaves with them, in the shape of other thousands of sick and wounded and insane to drag out miserable lives, wrecked in body and mind. You make the American flag in the eyes of a numerous people the emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture. Your practical statesmanship which disdains to take George Washington and Abraham Lincoln or the soldiers of the Revolution or of the Civil War as models, has looked in some cases to Spain for your example. I believe—nay, I know—that in general our officers and soldiers are humane. But in some cases they have carried on your warfare with a mixture of American ingenuity and Castilian cruelty. Your practical statesmanship has succeeded in converting a people who three years ago were ready to kiss the hem of the garment of the American and to welcome him as a liberator, who thronged after your men when they landed on those islands with benediction and gratitude, into sullen and irreconcilable enemies, possessed of a hatred which centuries can not eradicate.

He did have one bad position–he did not believe the Portuguese or Italian immigrants starting to enter the nation were fit for citizenship. He was also pretty naive, having been massively played by Senator J.Z. George of Mississippi in a debate over Mississippi’s literacy test, when the southerner got Hoar to admit that if his state applied a literacy test, it would be OK if it applied to both races. Hoar thought that was a great argument since he didn’t think that Mississippi would ever apply it to whites, when of course they would with pleasure when it suited them and would simply use it as an excuse to let illiterate whites vote and literate blacks not vote based upon the decision of the person applying the test and the mob violence behind him.

Hoar was a major player in establishing the historical profession, serving as president of the American Historical Association in 1895, as well as the American Antiquarian Society. He died in 1904 in Worcester.

Hoar also had excellent Gilded Age beard action.

George Hoar is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 90

[ 18 ] June 20, 2017 |

This is the grave of Charles McNary.

Born on a farm north of Salem, Oregon in 1874, Charles McNary grew up relatively poor after his father died when he was 9, but he moved up quickly in Oregon society due to an older brother who had gained some prosperity, plus getting to know Herbert Hoover, the only president to have spent significant time in Oregon. McNary took some courses as Willamette University and then went to Stanford in 1896, making him a relatively old student for the time. He only stayed there for a year before returning home and deciding to make a career in the law. He passed the bar in 1898 and along with his brothers, became part of the leading law firm in the state’s capital. He taught law at Willamette and then became dean.

McNary entered Oregon politics in the 1890s, becoming Marion County’s deputy recorder from 1892-96. He rose after returning to Oregon, becoming a relative Progressive who stayed within the Republican Party. He supported most of Oregon’s Progressive Era reforms around political campaigns and issues, including the initiative, referendum, recall, and direct election of senators. For this and being a loyal Republican in a time of reform, he was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in 1913, at the age of 38. But this was an elected office and he lost his campaign in 1914. He became chairman of the state Republican Party. After the death of Harry Lane, McNary was selected to fill his term in the Senate in 1917. He remained there until his death in 1944.

In the Senate, McNary quickly proved his mettle and became a protege of Henry Cabot Lodge. This gained him favorable committee assignments and soon he became arguably the most powerful politician in Oregon history (a low bar at this time, to be sure). Warren Harding asked him to take over as Secretary of the Interior after the Albert Fall scandal at Teapot Dome, but not being an idiot, McNary refused. He was selected as Minority Leader in 1933, where he actually supported a good bit of the New Deal and especially Roosevelt’s preparations for World War II. He also became a major proponent of government investment in hydroelectric dams, which would eventually help develop eastern Oregon by damming the Columbia River. McNary Dam on the Columbia is named for him. His name was on the Clarke-McNary Act, one of the most important bills in the history of forestry, which provided federal aid for fire protection, among many other things. He also pushed through the McNary-Haugen Farm Relief Bill, which while vetoed by the vile Calvin Coolidge, was also an important precedent for the Agricultural Adjustment Act by wanting to set price floors for farm products.

McNary became the Republican candidate for Vice-President in 1940, despite having little in common with presidential nominee Wendell Willkie. Of course, FDR wiped the floor with them. He remained in the Senate but was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1943 and died the next year. With Willkie dying shortly after, this is the only time in U.S. history that both members of a party ticket died during the period in which they would have served.

Charles McNary is buried in Belcrest Memorial Park, Salem, Oregon.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 89

[ 48 ] June 19, 2017 |

This is the grave of Alexander Hamilton.

I see little reason to rehash Hamilton’s biography, which is well known. So let me just make a few points.

1) Hamilton was a visionary when it came to developing capitalism and was obviously much more influential than Jefferson in the creation of the American economy, even if Jefferson was more influential in developing its mythology.

2) Hamilton became a horrible authoritarian and was one of the scariest people in American history by the mid-1790s. His fear of the people is to be shunned and damned. Down this path lies very bad things.

3) The Hamilton play was very good in terms of the music and production. It is nowhere close to the truth of Hamilton. Moreover, it is part of a desire to reclaim the Founders from conservatives, but creates more myth instead of a clear-headed understanding of the past. Ron Chernow is very much responsible for this, for his book is deeply flawed and he is not a real historian.

4) Hamilton was not nearly as anti-slavery as the play suggests and married into a slaveholding family, showing little regret over that. He’s hardly John C. Calhoun of course, but the idea of Hamilton as some sort of antislavery icon simply is ridiculous. He never did a damn thing about slavery.

5) There is no Leftist Hamilton we should hang our hat on.

6) Hamilton died at the right time. His anti-democratic impulses were rejected more by the year. Had he lived another 30 years, he would be seen today as a right-wing crank.

7) If you are going into a duel, shoot to kill.

Alexander Hamilton is buried in Trinity Church Cemetery, Manhattan New York.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 88

[ 70 ] June 18, 2017 |

This is the grave of Roscoe Conkling.

Born in 1829 in Albany, New York, Roscoe Conkling became the prototypical politician of the Gilded Age. He was born into an elite political family. His father was in the House and was a federal judge and his mother was a cousin of British Lord Chief Justice Alexander Cockburn. He knew Martin Van Buren and John Quincy Adams as a child. He skipped college and went straight into the law and also became involved in Whig politics. He worked locally in Utica for the election of Winfield Scott in 1852 and John C. Frémont in 1856, switching easily from the Whigs to the Republicans by that time. He was elected mayor of Utica in 1858 and to Congress that fall. He served two terms, losing in 1862. He then worked for the War Department for two years before regaining his seat in the 1864 elections. In 1867, he was elected to the Senate.

As a senator he became a leading ally of Ulysses S. Grant. He also became a notorious purveyor of patronage politics, with all the corruption that involved. He was pretty good on Reconstruction issues and shepherded the Civil Rights Act of 1875 through the Senate. Grant offered Conkling a position of the Supreme Court, but he refused, believing his powers more important in the Senate. He hated the reform element of the party that led to the Liberal Republican movement of 1872 and their alliance with the Democrats to run Horace Greeley (of all people, what a ridiculous nominee not that any living American knows anything about that) against Grant in 1872. Those Republican reformists were both anti-corruption and wanted the Republican Party to stop caring about black people. Conkling didn’t really like them for the latter reason, but it was his love of patronage that really made him hate them. When the Hayes Administration tried to clean up some of the grotesque corruption of the Gilded Age, Conkling turned on it. When Hayes tried to dump Chester Arthur, a close Conkling ally, from his position as collector of the New York Customs House, a massive source of patronage power, Conkling held up the replacement nominees for 2 years and it wasn’t until 1879 that new people were confirmed, over Conkling’s objections even then.

In 1880, Conkling fought for a third term for Grant and hated the other two possible nominees, James Blaine and John Sherman. When that was impossible, he was unhappy with James Garfield, who was a compromise candidate settled upon by the Blaine and Sherman factions to defeat the Grant faction. His good friend Chester Arthur was named VP, basically at Conkling’s choosing for losing the presidential slot. Garfield then sought to isolate Conkling, naming his enemies to many slots, including the New York patronage positions. Furious at being denied the “right” for senators to control patronage in their own states, he resigned from the Senate in 1882, sure he would be reinstated by the New York Senate. Whoops, didn’t happen. This was all part of a break between Conkling and Arthur over civil service reform, which Arthur supported to Conkling’s outrage. Arthur actually then nominated Conkling to the Supreme Court later that year. He was confirmed by the Senate and then decided he wouldn’t do it. So he went home to New York and practice law.

Conkling also loved him the ladies. He was married to utter scumbag 1868 Democratic presidential nominee Horatio Seymour’s sister but carried on several affairs fairly openly, most notably with the daughter of Salmon Chase, causing her divorce. Supposedly her husband chased Conkling around their Rhode Island estate with a shotgun. He was pretty famous and many relatively famous people of the next generation were named after him. Supposedly, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was one of them but his father hated Conkling and named him that because he didn’t think the child was his and as Conkling was a known philanderer, it was a shot at Fatty’s mother. This sounds too pat a story of a comedian’s birth origins to be true, but who knows.

Unlike most wealthy Gilded Age men, Conkling was very into physical fitness and an aggressive masculinity that would later be picked up on by a new generation of men such as Theodore Roosevelt. This had its downside though. When the Great Blizzard of 1888 struck New York, Conkling was downtown. He tried to take a coach home but it got stuck in the snow. So Conkling, impatient and wanting to prove himself, decided he would walk home in the blizzard. He made it as far as Union Square. He collapsed, got pneumonia, and died a month later.

Roscoe Conkling is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Utica, New York.

This post begins Graveapaoolza. In other words, I have such an enormous backlog of these things that I am going to do a grave a day over the next week in order to chip into this before I myself die and have like a thousand grave posts sadly unwritten.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 87

[ 66 ] June 11, 2017 |

This is the grave of Henry Ford.

Born in 1863 in Greenfield Township, Michigan, Henry Ford is one of the strangest and most conflicted characters in American history. With the exception of Thomas Edison, probably no single individual did more to bring the United States into the modern age. And yet, unlike Edison who completely embraced the new world, Ford hated almost everything about it except for the money he made. This turned him into a bitter old racist, romanticizing his rural youth and trying schemes to combine modern production with 19th century values, not only in the United States, but in Brazil.

Ford became a tinkerer at a young age, got a job working in the Edison machine, and rose quickly to Chief Engineer of the Edison Illuminating Company in 1893. By this time, Ford was working with the new machines that were becoming automobiles. Encouraged by Edison himself, Ford resigned from the company in 1899 to start his automobile company. The first one didn’t work and was dissolved; his second company, although initially named after himself, became Cadillac after he left. The modern Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903. Ford’s ideal of a mass-produced inexpensive car came to fruition in 1908 with the introduction of the Model T. He undercut the entire auto market with this car, lowering the price every year. It became the car of the American working class and the car of the American farmer. Other autos had to fight for the high-end market where fashion and style mattered, a market Ford left open because he did not care about those things. Ford did not create the assembly line, but he did effectively introduce it into his plants, turning skilled labor into mind-numbing industrial labor.

In order to make this work, Ford introduced his legendary $5 day in 1914. He gets far too much credit for being a progressive employer today for this. Yes, he vastly raised the wages for poor workers. And for him, this made a lot of sense, as the brutal labor led Ford to have a 370 percent turnover rate in 1913. But he also took more than his share of their blood for that. They had to submit to his whims completely. Their home lives would be under constant investigation from his Sociological Department and only if they passed his personal moral standards would they receive that $5. Workers could not drink and certainly could not be Jewish. Given the number of eastern and southern European immigrants in these factories, the idea of banishing drinking was outrageous. And what it led to was a lot of bribery of Ford’s Sociological Department agents. There would also be no personal satisfaction in the job. He killed the already dying 19th century standards of skilled labor. Moreover, Ford was obsessed with the idea of the $5 day so as time went on, he refused to raise the wage over that $5. It meant less and less over time.

Ford’s obsessions meant he lost his market by the mid-1920s. Plummeting Model T sales combined with growing sales of inexpensive vehicles from the other automakers to force him to introduce the Model A in 1926. It probably saved the company but Ford would remain a laggard in introducing new models or adjusting to the consumer capitalism that Ford himself played such a large role in making.

Ford also truly despised unions. This doesn’t per se make him so different than most capitalists of the era. But he certainly despised them. He hired an ex-boxer named Harry Bennett to put together a private security force that would beat up unionists. Bennett was involved in many of the 1930s worst labor moments,including personally opening fire on the crowd of unemployment marchers at the River Rouge in 1932 and the Battle of the Overpass in 1937, where Bennett and his thugs beat up Walter Reuther and other United Auto Workers organize to intimidate them from organizing the company. When the UAW finally organized Ford in 1941 through a sit-down strike, Ford threatened to dissolve the company rather than acquiesce and it took his wife telling him she would leave him if he destroyed the business for him to back down.

His fear of the modern world led to his longing for the 19th century rural values he himself had done so much to destroy. The recreation of his home of Greenfield Village helped to promote nostalgia for a lost lifestyle. Even more weird was his project to create a rubber plantation in Brazil. The idea itself wasn’t so strange although it did not work because diseases make it impossible to grow rubber in plantation agriculture in South America, even though it is native to the region, which is why southeast Asia became the world’s leading rubber producing region. But the village of Fordlandia he created to go with the plantation was his effort to try to replicate industrial production with 19th century American rural Protestant values. The whole project was a complete disaster and an utterly predictable one. After all, this was just another form of utopian imperialism tied to an industrial capitalism that the utopian both hated and profited from. He started Fordlandia in 1928 and hoped that 10,000 people would labor there for his company, but it failed by 1934. The same rules of the Sociological Department. Not only was alcohol banned but so were tobacco, women, and even the playing of football. Workers again had to open their homes for inspection. The workers got around this by establishing a vice town just outside of the settlement. Ford even forced them to eat American-style food he personally approved of and to work on strict schedules of hours that made sense inside Ford’s factory but made no sense working outside in the mid-day Brazilian sun.

Then of course there’s Ford’s anti-Semitism. Originally something of an internationalist who supported the League of Nations and who Woodrow Wilson personally recruited to run for the Senate in 1918 so the League could be ratified, he turned toward conspiracy theories as the modern world he hated began to affect him. He began his Dearborn Independent in 1920. The most prominent anti-Semitic publication in the country, it ran until 1927 and every Ford dealer was required to carry it. Adolf Hitler admired Ford and discussed him favorably in Mein Kampf. He finally began to publicly retract some of this by the late 1920s as it was affecting his business. But he blamed both World War I and World War II on Jewish financiers. Supposedly, when he was finally confronted with images from the Holocaust after World War II, he had the stroke that eventually killed him, but this sounds awfully apocryphal to me. In any case, he died in 1947 at the age of 83.

Henry Ford is buried in Ford Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan, which was once associated with his family’s church of Saint Martha’s Episcopal, but is now occupied by another church who keeps up the little graveyard.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 86

[ 125 ] June 4, 2017 |

This is the grave of Emma Goldman.

Born in 1869 in what is today Lithuania, Goldman was rebellious from a small child, both in terms of her family and standing up for injustice. While a schoolgirl, after the family moved to Prussia, she got a teacher fired after she fought back when he tried to molest her. She rejected her father’s arranged marriage for her while she was teaching herself radical thought at the age of 15. She was probably raped by one of her suitors, which affected her relationships with men for the rest of her life. She immigrated with one of her sisters to the United States in 1885. The rest of the family came a year later to avoid the growing anti-Semitism in Russia, including in St. Petersburg, where the family currently resided. They moved to Rochester and Goldman got work as a seamstress. She married a carpenter named Jacob Kershner, but it collapsed quickly, particularly because she discovered on her wedding night that he was impotent.

Goldman moved to New York City in 1887 and immediately dove into the anarchist scene. I mean that literally–the first day she was there she met both the anarchist theorist Johann Most, whose propaganda of the deed theory (that violent action and the state repression that followed was worth the dead innocents because it would spark revolutionary tendencies in the greater population) was behind the Haymarket bombing of the year before, and Alexander Berkman, soon to become her lover and political partner. She very quickly became a major anarchist speaker, soon breaking with Most because she wouldn’t follow his line and determined to be an independent thinker and activist. She and Berkman moved to Illinois and then to Worcester, Massachusetts, where they opened an ice cream shop.

That only stayed open briefly because she and Berkman decided to murder Henry Clay Frick, the vile capitalist and mass murderer behind the Homestead strike. Frick, a man who had once personally evicted a strikebreaker from company housing by picking him up and throwing him in a creek, had called in the Pinkertons to break the strike at Carnegie Steel, while his preening fraud boss whose careful self-image promotion has convinced people even today that he wasn’t such a bad guy vacationed in Scotland so he wouldn’t have to take personal responsibility. Berkman walked into Frick’s office with a knife and a gun. Being an anarchist, of course he completely failed in everything except receiving a 22-year prison sentence (he served 14) for his lame attempt; Frick was back at work the next week. Goldman actually attempted to fund all of this by turning herself out as a prostitute. But the first trick who picked her up bought her a beer, gave her $10, and told her she was completely unsuited for this kind of work. The police tried to bust Goldman after Berkman’s attack, but they found no evidence.

The next year she was arrested after giving an inflammatory speech protesting during the Panic of 1893 and was thrown in prison for a year. There she became a well-known political prison, committed herself to a heavy course of reading, and started learning medicine. She was particularly interested in midwifery and massage and spent much of the rest of the 1890s traveling in Europe to learn these practices, meet with various radicals, and study. By 1901, she was back in the U.S. permanently. An unhinged anarchist named Leon Czolgosz who Goldman and others thought was a police infiltrator into their groups, so odd was he, assassinated William McKinley, claiming her inspiration. She had nothing to do with it. She also refused to denounce the act. This both divided her from many anarchists and also made her nationally famous as the media tried to pin it on her. See below.

She was so alienated from other anarchists after the McKinley assassination that she largely disappeared from public activism for the next five years. In 1906, she started Mother Earth, her radical newspaper. She gave the editorship to the recently released Alexander Berkman while she toured the country to raise funds for it. She had a good time with this. By 1908, she was in a relationship with Ben Reitman, who was cheating on her at pretty much every stop on their tour, but as a believer in free love she had to live with it. Meanwhile, she wrote letters about how much she enjoyed the cheap, potent California wine she could have on the West Coast. She spent about a decade pretty constantly touring and speaking. She wrote her book Anarchism and Other Essays and became close with the young birth control activist Margaret Sanger. Although Sanger was no anarchist, their shared feminism and demands for women’s autonomy over their own bodies made them close allies. Both were arrested for violating the Comstock Laws.

During World War I, she came out against the draft and, as is well known, was caught up in the Red Scare. Like other radicals, she was imprisoned and like other immigrant radicals, deported in 1920. She and Berkman were sent to the newly established Soviet Union. She initially approved of the experimental revolutionary state, but soon turned on it as Lenin’s authoritarianism became clear; there would be no room for anarchism under Bolshevik power. After the Kronstadt Rebellion in 1921, Goldman and Berkman left the Soviet Union for Latvia and then to Stockholm. Finally, they both settled in Berlin for much of the 1920s, where Goldman wrote books opposing the Soviet Union. But they struggled in the new world of European radicalism. The rise of the Soviet Union really put the knife in anarchism worldwide, not so much because of state repression except internally, but because the first successful radical state made Bolshevism the only acceptable revolutionary politics for most of the left. They were largely shunned in Berlin for their opposition to the USSR. She had to get out; moreover, she feared German deportation. So she entered a sham marriage to a British radical that gave her a British passport and thus the ability to travel to not only Britain but also Canada. She moved to Canada in 1927 and lived there the rest of her life. She was allowed to give speeches in New York in 1934 so long as she avoided talking about current politics. She spent a little time in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, where she wrote perceptively about the battles between the anarchists and communists for control of the resistance to Franco, knowing very well what Stalin would do to ideological opponents.

Goldman died in 1940 of the effects of a stroke in Toronto.

Emma Goldman is buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Home, Illinois. Probably because anarchists can’t do anything right, her death date is wrong on her own grave.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 85

[ 125 ] May 28, 2017 |

This is the grave of Warren Harding.

Warren Harding was an obscurity who stumbled his way into the Oval Office. Born in 1865 in Blooming Grove, Ohio to a middle class family, Harding went to a couple of small Ohio colleges and then became a newspaperman in Marion, Ohio. He was a Republican hack from the time he entered the political world in the mid-1880s, putting party over ideas every time. He won office to be a state senator in 1899. He had a strong skill of no one hating him very much and slowly rose in prominence within state by being able to talk to both sides of the factional divide that split the party in the state. Harding ran for the Senate in 1914 and won a fairly easy election in a good Republican year. In Washington, he was a meaningless junior senator. He really wanted to be president though. Again, he managed to rise because no one hated him. He was young and fashionable. With the U.S. coming out of World War I and Progressivism suddenly in decline, a genial country club Republican seemed appealing. Republicans were sick of strong presidents. They wanted someone who reminded them more of Benjamin Harrison than Theodore Roosevelt so that Congress could rule the roost. Warren Harding was perfect. Given that Democrats ran an equally obscure James Cox against him, welcome to the Oval Office President Harding. On the campaign, his pointless, meaningless word salad speeches inspired H.L. Mencken to write, reminds me of a string of wet sponges, it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a kind of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm … of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of tosh. It is rumble and bumble. It is balder and dash.

The Harding presidency was a complete disaster. He was stupid and disinterested. A few years ago, there was a sudden progressive reappraisal of Harding. This was based on a couple of things he said about civil rights, even though he didn’t really do anything about the issue. This also came on the back of the progressive Grant reassessment, taking him from shockingly underrated to absurdly overrated in the span of about 12 months. At least Grant actually did care, to some extent, about racial injustice, although he that is highly overrated, with him telling his Cabinet by the end of his second term that he wished the 15th Amendment had never happened and his refusal to send in the military to deal with continued white violence by his second term. Harding doesn’t have any of this.

In response to this ridiculous reassessment of Harding, the historian Kevin Kruse launched a pretty epic tweetstorm letting everyone know just how awful Harding was. I’m going to steal a bunch from this, plus using some other stuff. Like a certain president today, Harding’s response to the election was to disappear for a golf vacation. When he returned, he named one of the most hackish, awful Cabinets in American history. Andrew Mellon, the capitalist’s capitalist, was named Secretary of the Treasury. Will Hays was not corrupt as Postmaster General, but he left to issue the Hays Code on the motion picture industry, purifying the movies for the good people of the United States. Given that this cheap morality was combined with Harding sleeping with any woman who crossed his path, it summed up the moral hypocrisy at the heart of the Republican Party, then and now. Even worse was Senator Albert Fall at Interior, who used his position to engage in one of the biggest scandals of American history and Harry Daugherty at Attorney General. Daughtery’s qualifications consisted of him being friends with Harding. Which, to be fair, makes him more qualified than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. But Daugherty then proceeded to basically run a criminal operation from his office. For the head of the Federal Reserve, Harding named a friend of his from Marion who had run a small town bank for a few months. The head of the Veterans’ Bureau was literally a guy Harding had met on vacation. There’s no real evidence that Harding himself was personally corrupt. He just didn’t care about what was happening in his own administration and saw politics as a way to reward buddies.

In case you weren’t clear yet on the parallels between Harding and Trump, this campaign image should make them clear.

Harding was completely unprepared for the presidency. He had no real knowledge about policy, domestic or foreign. And he didn’t really care either. He was disinterested and preferred playing golf and going on bike rides than governing. When a reporter asked him about some issues in Europe, Harding responded “I don’t know anything about this European stuff.” His secretary handled those matters. When talking about economic matters, he said, “I listen to one side and they seem right, and then, God!, I talk to the other side and they seem just as right! I know somewhere there is a book that would give me the truth, but hell! I couldn’t read the book.” Warren Harding, my friends. Even in the one speech he gave that supposedly talked about civil rights, he promoted eugenics. He didn’t care about racial injustice anymore than he did any other issue. What good that did come out of his administration came from Charles Evans Hughes in the State Department and Herbert Hoover at Commerce, the two decent Cabinet members that commanded respect throughout the government.

There’s long been rumors that Harding’s wife killed him because of all the affairs, including in a closet in the White House. That almost certainly didn’t happen. A bad heart combined with pneumonia took him out on August 2, 1923, at the age of 57. His wife died a year later.

It’s not as if Harding’s death didn’t upset some people. This is from the Eatonville (WA) Dispatch. I ran across this once while researching. The terrible writing and misspellings are in the original.

The death of President Harding is a personal loss. He loved people. That is why he was loved. Even with the reams of ‘copy’ that have been written on him, one realizes the barrenness of adjectives to describe this man.

A person will follow the even tenor of his way until confronted by an emergency. It is then that the test comes. Warren G. Harding’s elevation to the highest office in the gift of man brought out the where all could see the true character he possessed.

There was a beauty about his life which won every heart. In temperament, he was mild, conciliatory, and candid; and yet remarkable for an uncompromising firmness. His life was an open sesame to the hearts of others. He followed in the footsteps of his Master by letting the sunshine of human sympathy and happiness into the dark places of life.

It is impossible to think of him in death’s cold shroud of sororw and despair, but rather smiling on us from the sunset halo that marks God’s farewell to the day–smiling with all the well remembered grace of his manhood, love and devotion, and saying to us:

“The sunset speaks but feebly of the glories of another day. All is well.”

Sure, why not.

Warren Harding is buried at the Harding Tomb, Marion, Ohio.

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