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Visions of the Past, Thanks to Gutenberg (I)


I am presently on the beach in the Dominican Republic. Every now and then, often when on vacation, I start reading random things one can find on the Gutenberg Project, the great collection of old public domain texts. If only copyright law was updated so that material after 1923 that no one was making money on anymore could be included, it would be incredibly useful for my research, but as it is, at least it provides glimpses into past weirdness. Still, some post-1923 material does show up, as is seen below.

So I decided tonight, after my wife has gone to bed and I’ve had a few beers, to read Reau Folk’s The Battle of New Orleans Its Real Meaning: Exposure of Untruth Being Taught Young Americans, from 1932. That battle has a lot to answer for. First, it gave us a genocidal maniac as president. Second, it gave us one of the shittiest country hits in the genre’s history (see above). Third, it gave us whatever the hell this is. Basically, Folk’s argument, such as it is, is that Tennessee textbooks (those bastions of leftism during this period) were shortchanging Andrew Jackson and the importance of the Battle of New Orleans. For without said battle, evidently real America would have been split between the British control of the Mississippi River and the evils of New England. My god, the whole nation would be eating Dunkin’ instead of some holding onto Krispy Kreme as the best donut chain. And to give the South credit, this is absolutely correct and New England’s love for Dunkin’ basically absolves the British for the Intolerable Acts.

Anyway, as evidence, Folk points out all the writers who said it was unfortunate a bunch of people died during the battle even though the Treaty of Ghent was already signed. According to Folk, these deaths were necessary for the Americans to truly take control over this region. I mean, I know that I demand my nationalistic project be based on oceans of limey blood, no doubt smelling like Earl Grey from all the tea those people drank, unlike the good coffee-swilling (or even chicory coffee-swilling!) Americans! Folk begins the book with an utterly idiotic imagined conversation between the author and a student who is waiting on him at a restaurant, who it just so happens is part of a debate team at school that has argued that the Battle of New Orleans was unnecessary. Our brave author sure shows up this nonexistent fictional character! This may be the high point of the book.

Folk reliving impressment shows the need for the bloodshed, although it’s unclear why since the treaty ending the practice had just been signed, but, hey, aren’t we real Americans here! There’s a long, boring section on the negotiations at Ghent, intending to show that the homespun Americans outwitted those suave Englishmen, but sort of forgets the key issue, which is that the British didn’t actually care about America with Napoleon defeated. Rather, he claims that the British were negotiating in bad faith, hoping that they would take New Orleans before the U.S. had the chance to sign the treaty and thus making it moot. Then it goes on to quoting this and that person before getting to the real point: that the British are infecting our schools with their vile propaganda:

In all literature there cannot be found a more concrete, comprehensive line: “Great Britain coveted it in 1815 when Jackson saved it.” Pro-English historians may deftly turn and twist this and other facts to their purpose; but let me give a tocsin call: PRO-ENGLISH HISTORIANS SHOULD BE KEPT OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS, AND YOUNG AMERICA TAUGHT ONLY THE UNGARBLED, UNVARNISHED TRUTH.

I guess I was unaware of British fifth columnists infecting Tennessee schools in 1932 but who doesn’t believe that our good young Americans should only be taught THE UNGARBLED, UNVARNISHED TRUTH?

Not I comrade, not I.

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