Browsing "Future Political Conundrums"

Men of the Republican Political Machine

Congressman Roscoe Conkling of New York controlled patronage positions in the New York customhouse after the war, and selected friend and future vice president and president Chester Arthur to the top position of collector in 1871. Seen as a loyal Republican Party hack, Arthur was accused by reformers of taking “illegal kickbacks, overstaffing, insidious accounting and lax administration.” Ironically, Arthur’s custom house corruption investigation was initiated during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, himself known as “His Fraudulency” and elected by Republican Party vote-fraud in the occupied South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Men of the Republican Political Machine

“The Radical Republicanism that defined the immediate years after the Civil War was an attempt by Congress to reengineer the former slave States. The Radicals narrowly failed to remove President Andrew Johnson . . . [was followed] by the election of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant had been a crusty, drunken, charismatic commander, but his presidency marked the end of the politics of passion and the beginning of a long period when personalities determined factions, and when competent, loyal (and at times corrupt) insiders thrived.

Grant’s defenders described him as an icon of pragmatism . . . his detractors assaulted his administration as a descent into a world where the highest bidder was rewarded. By the late 1860s, a new generation of Republicans and [Northern] Democrats jelled into a political class that shared a desire for order and control.

In place of stirring orators debating high principles . . . the Senate was occupied by a class of politicos who believed in “women, wine, whiskey, and war,” as Senator John McDougall of California remarked. They reveled in the martial cult of the Civil War and eagerly supported America’s military expansion against the Native Americans of the Plains. But they reveled more in the political machine and its benefits.

[Grant’s Vice-President Roscoe] Conkling defended the machine as necessary and even constructive force in American political life, thundering, “We are told that the Republican Party is a machine. Yes. A government is a machine, the common-school system of the State of New York is a machine, a political party is a machine . . .”

For him, as for Chester Arthur and even James Blaine, the party was a church to which absolute fealty was expected and demanded, and in emotional moments these men of the machine could wax about its virtues with the romantic zeal of a lover serenading his loved one.

In 1871, Arthur was offered one of the plum positions in the federal bureaucracy, the collector of New York Customhouse. The position of collector had opened up when the former occupant, Arthur’s friend Tom Murphy, was forced to step down in the face of corruption allegations.

The port of New York was the primary gateway for goods from abroad, and smuggling was a constant. As an incentive, officials who snared illegal, unregistered or undertaxed shipments were entitled to a percentage of the goods seized or the fines levied. This “moiety” process made it possible for even a low-level official to double or triple his income . . . [while] it struck reformers . . . as unsavory.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry Holt and Company, 2004, excerpts, pp. 18-20; 22)

Postwar Whiskey, Beer and Dollar Bills

In 1880, the shooting war had been over for 15 years though a conflict raged for political control of the South until 1877. James Garfield and Chester Arthur eked out a slim victory in 1880, and the New York Times wryly observed that so many [Republican] factions were convinced that they had been promised cabinet positions that “if all reports are true, President Garfield’s Cabinet will contain about one hundred and twenty-five persons.” The elimination of Southern conservative influence in Congress led to the corruption of the Gilded Age.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Postwar Whiskey, Beer and Dollar Bills

“The [presidential] campaign of 1880 is notable mostly for what it lacked. It was a contest of organization and will, not a battle over the future direction of the country. The Republican factions in Chicago were divided by personalities, not by beliefs, and the [Northern] Democrats did not offer a dramatically different vision.

But the main attraction had all the ideology of a horse race. That fact did not escape the disgusted intellectuals who sat on the sidelines wondering what had happened to the once noble republic of Washington [and] Jefferson . . . [and] . . . What was the election about, really, other than who would win?

[Republicans and Democrats] voted because of party loyalty or because some local organizer sweetened the pot. They voted because a Republican precinct boss in New York Boston or Buffalo or St. Louis or Nashville invited them to a picnic on a fine Sunday on September, trucked out a few respected and/or dynamic speakers, and handed out whiskey, beer and dollar bills.

Yet if you had collared [James] Garfield and Arthur or [Winfield Scott] Hancock . . . and asked them if they stood for anything, they would of course had said yes. They would have said they stood for good government, for the hopes and dreams of the common man, for the expansion of trade, for orderly cities and prosperous farms, well-managed railroads, solvent banks, stable currency, and the settlement of the West.

Having served the Union during the Civil War, they felt the North’s victory had closed the last great fissure that had threatened a country founded on principles of liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It wasn’t that they eschewed ideology . . . They believed, simply, that everyone would be best served by a government led by their faction. Political appointments and party discipline helped ensure order nationally, and if party leaders stood to gain from electoral success, all the better.

Most politicians of the era saw no inherent conflict between government service and personal gain. They would have looked at later generations of Americans, at the reformers of the twentieth-century who created one box for public service and a separate one for private advancement, and scoffed at the naivete. Most politicians of the 1870s and 1880s looked a government as a vehicle for both.

Accusations that they were feeding at the public trough made minimal sense to them. Government was an institution for the public good that was meant to reward those who entered it.

[To win] the pivotal State of Indiana, Arthur delegated Stephen Dorsey, the former carpetbag Arkansas senator. Dorsey was the ablest fund-raiser the [Republican] Stalwarts had, though it was understood that he was a political operator not afraid to push beyond the limits of law and propriety. He was the type of operative who gives politics a bad name. Dorsey went to the land of the Hoosiers, got some votes legally, and paid for others.

In 1880, not a single State south of the Mason-Dixon Line went Republican, and not a single State from the North went Democratic. A banquet was held by the Union League Club at Delmonico’s to honor Stephen Dorsey for delivering Indiana to the Republicans.

Reform-minded editors like E.L. Godkin sighed that the episode confirmed the venality of politics . . . Dorsey had already been the target of a congressional investigation into the “Star Route” scandals, a scheme that had made a number of Republican loyalists rich from postal route concessions at the federal government’s expense.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry Holt and Company, 2004, excerpts, pp. 45-47; 50, 54)

Scotch Presbyterian Conscience versus Piles of Gold

Woodrow Wilson’s offer of mediation between Britain, France and Germany came some 45 years after Britain and France offered to mediate the conflict between America’s North and South. Lincoln threatened war should they intervene. Lincoln also came to realize the vast money power he had unleashed with war as business interests colluded with government, which led to the postwar Gilded Age. Wilson was elected to stay out of the European war but succumbed to the money power Lincoln had unleashed, and more dark forces drew him into war though a negotiated peace was fully possible. Sadly, with American intervention and Allied victory came the rise of a German national socialist party and many more American dead.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Scotch Presbyterian Conscience versus Piles of Gold

“Woodrow Wilson returned to Washington after the 1916 [presidential] campaign convinced that his mandate from the nation demanded the immediate formulation of peace terms which must somehow be forced on the warring powers.

Physically he was worn out. His sick headaches continued to worry [wife] Edith and Dr. Grayson. His head still spun with the clamor of political oratory.

He felt that British and French dependence on American supplies and American credit might give him a whip hand over the Allies if he could only find how to apply it. One third the world’s gold supply was already piled up in the vaults of American banks. “We can determine to a large extent who is to be financed and who is not to be financed,” he had told an audience gathered at Shady Lawn during the campaign.

He summoned the confidential colonel [Edward M. House] to the White House to resume his last winter’s intrigue for mediation. For once House balked. He was convinced the United States should already have intervened on the side of the Allies. Peace now could only be to Germany’s advantage: “I argued again and again that we should no pull Germany’s chestnuts out of the fire.” They broke up late. Neither man would budge from his position.

House’s point was that the German’s now wanted mediation and were holding the threat of a renewed submarine campaign over the world’s head to obtain a victorious peace. “In my opinion,” House noted . . . “the President’s desire for peace is partially due to his Scotch Presbyterian conscience and not to personal fear, for I believe he has both moral and physical courage.”

Like any oldtime Covenanter Wilson believed in the efficacy of the word. By the right word men could be brought to see the light. The war was making the position of neutrals intolerable.

[He wrote] that the warring nations were all fighting, so they claimed, “to be free of aggression and of peril to the free and independent development of their people’s lives and fortunes . . . must the contest be settled by slow attrition and ultimate exhaustion?” he asked. “An irreparable damage to civilization cannot promote peace and the secure happiness of the world.”

(Mr. Wilson’s War, From the Assassination of McKinley to America’s Rejection of the League of Nations, John Dos Passos, Hamish Hamilton, 1963, pp. 189-190)

 

Wilson’s Ideals Shattered by Bolshevism

Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a new world order to end all war was shattered by the scramble for territory, industrial machinery and reparations from a Germany defeated by American troops Wilson had promised voters he would not send into a European war. Within his idealism lay a benevolent collectivist view of the world, not much different than socialist Eugene Debs who he had imprisoned under the Espionage Act.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Wilson’s Ideals Shattered by Bolshevism

“Woodrow Wilson’s first wife’s brother Stockton Axson, then serving as Secretary of the American Red Cross, was a frequent visitor [in the summer of 1918]. Dr. Axson remembered a conversation they had one Sunday afternoon in late June of that year . . . When Axson and the Wilson’s were alone after the meal, Wilson suddenly asked him whom he would name for the next President.

Axson suggested William McAdoo. [Wilson] said Newton D. Baker was the best man but he could never be nominated. “The next President will have to be able to think in terms of the whole world,” he went on. “He must be internationally minded . . . the only real internationally minded people” – Wilson was thinking aloud –“are the labor people. They are in touch with world movements.”

After the war the world would change radically. Governments would have to do things now done by individuals and corporations. Waterpower, coalmines, oilfields would have to be government owned. “If I should say that outside,” he exclaimed, “people would call me a socialist. And it is because I’m not a socialist that I believe these things.”

He added that he believed this was the only way communism could be prevented – Dr. Axson told Ray Baker he wasn’t sure Wilson used the word communism, which wasn’t yet in circulation, perhaps he said Bolshevism – “the next President must be a man who is not only able to do things, but after having taken counsel and made a full survey, be able to retire alone, behind his own closed door, and think through the processes, step by step.

At home, now freshly stimulated by Bolshevik propaganda against capitalism and war, there was than “baneful seething among the working class and the foreign born that never ceased to worry him. There was the troublesome agitation for the pardon of the syndicalist Tom Mooney convicted of bombing a [war] preparedness parade in San Francisco . . . Strikes kept interrupting war production.

From Americans in Russia came conflicting reports. Some saw in the Bolshevik government merely a final phase of the revolutionary upheaval destined to pass away in a few months like the Jacobin terror that ended the French Revolution. Others saw in it the foundation of a new social order. Ever since the Bolshevik seizure of power had shattered his dream of a democratic Russia he had been allowing the news from that revolution-torn empire to pile up against some closed door in his mind.”

(Mr. Wilson’s War, From the Assassination of McKinley to America’s Rejection of the League of Nations, John Dos Passos, Hamish Hamilton, 1963, pp. 373-375)

Churchill Embroils the United States in War

England’s 1914 guarantee of Belgian sovereignty resulted in a death struggle with Germany that only US intervention and 53,000 American dead could rescue it from . England took the same path in 1939 when it guaranteed the sovereignty of Poland, which it could do nothing to secure (Poland’s sovereignty was lost to the Soviets in 1945). The action of 1914 lost England it naval preeminence; the 1939 action lost England’s empire, bankrupted the country, and cost the US over 292,000 battle deaths by 1945.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Churchill Embroils the United States in War

“Although the war had begun in Europe the scattered empires of friend and enemy were drawn ineluctably into the struggle. “Neutralization-plans,” said Sir Eyre Crowe, “are a futile absurdity. What is wanted is to strike hard with all our might in all the four corners of the world.” [The] Foreign Secretary told Colonel House, President Woodrow Wilson’s personal emissary, in February 1915, England would continue the war indefinitely. Publicly, the government was committed to the Prime Minister’s pledge given at the Guildhall on November 9:

“We shall never sheath the sword which we have not lightly drawn until Belgium recovers in full measure all . . . and until the military domination of Prussia is wholly and finally destroyed.”

In pursuit of victory, the cabinet explored many schemes. A naval blockade would hasten the process by cutting off vital shipments of war material and food. Sensitive consciences – not yet anaesthetized by casualty lists from Flanders – were disturbed by the stringency of the blockade policy.

[Board of Trade President] Walter Runciman was warned by his erstwhile colleague Charles Trevelyan:

“I feel great uneasiness about the trend in action of the Government towards trying to exclude German food-supplies passing through neutral countries . . . I do implore you to take care what you are doing. It would be bad enough to alienate Dutch opinion. But it would be infinitely worse if you alienate the USA. Remember that under very analogous circumstances the USA went to war with us against its will.”

Trevelyan feared that the government would act precipitately, especially if Winston Churchill’s influence were not checked. But the Foreign Office was alive to the danger of antagonizing the Americans. As Professor Link has written in the third volume of his biography of Woodrow Wilson: “Conciliation of America was perhaps the Foreign Office’s chief concern at this early juncture.”

The War Lords,” wrote Walter Runciman on 6 January 1915, “are sad in their stalemate, & Winston in particular sees no success for the Navy (& himself) anywhere” [and it seemed that] sturdy endurance as a method of waging war had a limited appeal. The [British] war council and the cabinet weighed great strategic alternatives and investigated the promise of mechanical contrivance in tipping the balance against Germany and Austria. On 25 February 1915, the minutes of the war council record:

“Hankey proposed (a) igniting German crops and (b) distributing a “blight” over the crops. Mr. Lloyd George approved the idea: Mr. Churchill saw no objection to burning the crops, but drew the line at sowing a blight, which was analogous to poisoning food. Mr. Lloyd George did not agree. A blight did not poison but merely deteriorated the crop.”

Churchill’s finely calibrated conscience gave him no trouble when he dealt with the desirability of entangling the United States in the war on the allied side. Walter Runciman, while trying to decide on new rates of insurance for neutral shipping [coming to England], was assailed by the First Lord [Churchill] who wrote three letters in five days urging that the rates should not go up.

“My Dear Walter,” began the first entreaty:

“It is most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hope of embroiling the U.S. with Germany. For our part, we want the traffic – the more the better; & if some of it gets into trouble, better still. The more that come, the greater our safety & the German embarrassment.”

(Politicians at War, July 1914 to May 1915, A Prologue to the Triumph of Lloyd George, Cameron Hazlehurst, Alfred A. Knopf, 1971, excerpts, pp. 185-189)

Union Saved for Republican Party Hegemony

With the South out of Congress since 1861 and no Southern leadership to provide a conservative and responsible voice in US government, the predictable occurred. As a soldier Grant was a butcher who sent wave after wave of new recruits to wear down the thin Southern brigades; as a politician, Orville H. Browning of Illinois described Grant as “weak, vain, ignorant, mercenary, selfish and malignant”; that he was surrounded by corrupt and unprincipled men and that his reelection would be a great calamity to the country.” Grant’s election in 1868 was achieved with a few hundred thousand freedmen votes, they herded to the polls by the Republican’s terrorist Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Union Saved for Corrupt Republican Party Hegemony

“The eight years of Grant’s administration rocked with one scandal after another. Citizens defrauded the government in the acquisition of land and in claims for [Northern veteran] pensions; contractors supplying the army and navy were often venal; and unscrupulous lawyers levied toll on ignorant and defenseless Indians.

Members of Congress were bribed and disgraced. Cabinet officers were investigated and impeached. Subordinate officials and employees were revealed in outright betrayal of public trust. Never had the Republic sunk to so low an estate of official morality.

During the 1870s there was both incompetence and dishonesty in the large customhouses; discipline and integrity among the navy-yard labor forces were at a low ebb; the Indian service had been roundly condemned by [James] Garfield; land agents connived at irregularities, and surveyors made fraudulent claims for work not performed.

The tone of the eight years of Grant’s administration was . . . set by a small number of weak and unreliable persons holding seats in Congress and in high executive office. It was during these years that the most resounding scandals occurred, not only in Washington but in many States and cities. When the mighty wandered far from the paths of rectitude, it was not surprising that some of the lesser ranks followed their example.

To a few of the scandals we turn . . . The Credit Mobilier . . . originally organized to finance railroad construction, [it] fell into the control of a group of adventurers, including a member of Congress, Oakes Ames. The corporation was awarded a lucrative but fraudulent contract for the . . . [Union Pacific Railroad and disgraced Grant’s] Vice Presidents Colfax and Wilson.

Laxness or corruption in the award of Indian trading posts had been suspected for some time under General [William] Belknap’s administration of the War Department. [Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson levied] percentages on . . . contractors’ engagements with the navy, [and] Robeson grew rich. [Secretary of the Treasury John D. Sanborn, a protégé of Benjamin Butler, siphoned money destined for the Internal Revenue Service].

The most dramatic and perhaps the most damaging evidence of corruption during the Grant administration involved the evasion of internal revenue taxes on distilleries. Fraud had long been suspected [and persons involved] included General John A. McDonald, collector of internal revenue in St. Louis . . . other collectors, the chief clerk of the internal revenue division of the Treasury Department in Washington [and] General Orville Babcock, President Grant’s private secretary, who was subsequently indicted but who escaped conviction.”

(The Republican Era, 1869-1901, A Study in Administrative History, Leonard D. White, Macmillan Company, 1958, excerpts pp. 366-373)

Death’s Head at the Banquet

The 1876 United States Centennial observance brought forth embarrassing realities to Americans, both North and South. Southerners could hardly celebrate independence after being bludgeoned by war into second-class citizens under Reconstruction governments.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Death’s Head at the Banquet

“The . . . celebration of the birth of the American nation — was held in Philadelphia in 1876. An occasion so completely engaging the attention of the country and participated in so widely drew forth much discussion in the South.

Some Southern leaders opposed their section taking part; they still felt that the country was not theirs and that it might be less than dignified in themselves, and lacking in respect for their heroic Revolutionary ancestors, to go to Philadelphia and be treated as less than equals in a union which those ancestors had done a major part to found.

Former [South Carolina] Governor Benjamin F. Perry saw in the Centennial an effective way to drive home to the country the similarity of principles of the rebellion that became the Revolution, and the rebellion that became the “Lost Cause.”

[He wrote:] “This Centennial celebration of the rebels of ’76 cannot fail to teach the Northern mind to look with more leniency on Confederate rebels who only attempted to do in the late civil war what the ancestors of the Northern people did do in the American revolution . . . It shows a want of sense as well as a want of principle, and a want of truth, to call the rebels of 1776 patriots and heroes, and the rebels of 1861, “traitors.”

Only one contingency would induce a Virginian not to take part. The Grand Army must not be represented: “It would be the death’s head on the board; the skeleton in the banquet hall.”

(The History of the South, Volume VIII, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947)

 

Applauding the Death of Our Young Men

The Battle of the Somme was fought from July, 1916 to November 1916. This was the murderous cauldron young American men were sent to their deaths by Woodrow Wilson, the man who campaigned on a promise not to allow Americans to die in a European war. Had Wilson not intervened, Germany, France and England would have fallen exhausted into an armistice and a negotiated treaty among themselves; the German Kaiser would have remained and precluded the rise to power of a corporal named Hitler.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Applauding the Death of Our Young Men

“At 7:28 A.M. on July 1 [1916] . . . The French and the British infantry climbed up from their trenches and jumped off into the exploding unknown. Like many British commanders a sedulous diarist, Sir Douglas Haig just thirty-two minutes later was making this entry:

“Reports . . . [are] most satisfactory. Our troops had everywhere crossed the enemy’s front trenches.”

All along the line his soldiers were falling in windrows to zeroed-in enemy machine gun and artillery fire. It was a catastrophe. By day’s end more than 60,000 soldiers of the British Empire were corpses littering the field, dying men trapped in the beaten zone, burdens for the stretcher-bearers, or walking wounded.

But not one pivotal plot of ground had been won. Here and there, sections of the German forward defense zone had been shallowly penetrated, and that was all.

Haig should have called off the Somme that night and cut his losses. But having failed, he was too bulldoggish to quit. In consequence, this hideous turmoil must be recorded as the most soulless battle in British annals. The Somme deteriorated into a bloody purge rivaling Verdun. It was a battle not so much of attrition as of mutual destruction, and it continued until November 18.

[Marshal Joseph] Joffre wanted it that way. He kept prodding Haig, insisting that the offensive be continued. At the same time, noting by the numbers (infantry were but digits to him) that his own army was fading away from the effects of Verdun and the Somme. Joffre was pressuring the War Ministry to call up the class of 1917 for training, though 1916 campaigning was hardly begun. If at this time his strategic reasoning had any end in view, it could only be that the side that could scrape up the last 100,000 men would win.

The [United States] of more than seventy million had fewer than 200,000 men in its army. Its armament from top to bottom was obsolete; the cannon and automatic weapons were hopelessly antiquated, cumbersome and scarce. None would do for Europe.

[In April 1917 and after American ships were sunk supplying England with war materiel, the] President said: “There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of making; we will not choose the path of submission.”

The President continued to a more meaningful expression of purpose: “We must make the world safe for democracy. Its peace must be founded upon the trusted foundations of political liberty.” For the sake of [the] nation, he asked the Congress for a joint resolution declaring war against Germany.

On leaving the rostrum, Wilson got the greatest ovation of his life. Later, at the White House, he said to his secretary, Joseph Tumulty: “Think of what it was they were applauding. My message of today was a message of death for our young men. How strange it seems to applaud that.”

(World War One, S.L.A. Marshall, Houghton-Mifflin, 1964, pp. 258-260; 280-281)

The US Country-Splitting Business

The Truman administration is considered responsible for the unnecessary postwar intervention in Korea, and the subsequent Korean conflict which was greatly instigated by the Rhee puppet regime. As the internal Korean civil war began in the late 1940s, Truman only called in the United Nations “to add the weight of what was considered to be “world opinion” in support of America’s policy.” The initial American commander, General John R. Hodge, presciently commented that it would be better to “leave Korea to its own devices and an inevitable internal upheaval for its own self-purification.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The US Country-Splitting Business

“Senator Symington. “We go into this country splitting business . . . First we split Germany. Then we split China. We stay with billions and billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of people. Then we split Korea, and stay there with billions of dollars and tens of thousands of military, all at heavy cost to the American taxpayer. Then we split Vietnam . . . Now we split Laos . . . Do you know of any other country we plan to split soon?”

Mr. Porter [US ambassador to South Korea]: “No sir.”

Senator Symington: “This has been quite an interesting policy hasn’t it, over the years? . . . Our allies don’t do [this], not do our possible enemies. We do it all over the world . . .”

(William Porter Testimony, US Security Agreements and Committees Abroad, Republic of Korea, Hearings before the Subcommittee on US Security Commitments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate, Ninety-first Congress, Second Session, 1970, pp. 1579-82. Without Parallel, The American-Korean Relationship Since 1945, Frank Baldwin, editor, Pantheon Books, 197, pg. 109)

The Atomic Jolt Forward for City Planners

The US armed the Soviet Union to the teeth as an ally against Germany, in the process creating a postwar enemy it has spent trillions combatting. The atomic age also spurred city planners into central planning action to disperse city inhabitants which triggered urban blight and suburban sprawl. Jefferson wrote: “I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man”; and noted that “the inhabitants of the commercial cities are as different in sentiment and character from the country people as any two distinct nations, and are as clamorous against the order of things [republicanism] established by the agricultural interest.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Atomic Jolt Forward for City Planners

“In the atomic age, [a] report concluded, it was the nation’s newspapers that would “set the pattern and pace” of the public’s scientific knowledge and hence determine its ability to make informed decisions on life-and-death issues.”

City planner Tracy B. Augur told the American Institute of Planners in 1946 that the planning profession had a crucial role to play in guiding the urban dispersal being widely advocated as a civil defense measure. If properly conducted, he said, such a project would involve not just piecemeal resettlement [of Americans outside cities], but a whole new urban planning approach.

The starting point, he went on, was for experts to define “the qualities of social life that are worth having” and then to “plan the kind of urban structure that will make them more fully possible.” Demonstrating the readiness of his profession to rise to this challenge, Augur presented a series of charts showing how a “typical city of half a million could be rearranged from a concentrated to a dispersed form without weakening its capacity to function as a single metropolitan unit.”

Such a systematic attack on the problems of the city, Augur insisted, was in any case overdue. “Long before the threat of the atomic bomb,” he said, urban planners had warned of the need for comprehensive programs to save the American city from “the blight . . . gnawing at its innards” and to convey to the larger society their dream of a totally-planned urban environment. Now suddenly Hiroshima and Nagasaki had propelled the question of the urban future to the top of the public’s agenda.

In the realm of city planning, Augur concluded hopefully, “the threat of atomic bombing may prove a useful spur to jolt us forward!”

At long last, city planners would assume the central social role they had long sought. Having lost the public ear after their heyday in the Progressive Era, city planners, under the spur of the atomic threat, would finally take charge of urban development and guide it along rational lines.

In a 1947 address to the National Recreation Association, a longtime activist in the park and playground movement painted the familiar grim picture of mass leisure in the atomic age, but hastened to offer a solution: “The answer to all this is, of course, Education and Recreation.”

The government must take the lead, he said, in expanding the nation’s recreational resources, including “parks and playgrounds, game reserves, public theaters, opera houses, orchestras, [and] hobby centers.”

Echoing Tracy Augur’s message to the city planners, this speaker assured the recreation specialists that their profession would be crucial to society’s survival in the era of atomic energy. “Unless ability to make wise use of leisure increases,” he insisted, “there is no doubt that our civilization is doomed.”

However implausible and even comic such views seem in retrospect, they were advanced in all earnestness in the perfervid post-Hiroshima cultural climate.”

(By the Bomb’s Early Light, American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age, Paul Boyer, UNC Press, 1994, pp. 152-153)