James J. Kilpatrick has been on my mind lately — partly because he figures in Nancy MacLean’s excellent history of economist James M. Buchanan’s role in the long-game political project of Charles Koch and his fellow travelers on the radical right, and partly because he figures in my own education, an early influence in my long apprenticeship as a writer.
When I was in junior high and high school, our local newspaper carried Kilpatrick’s syndicated column, “The Writer’s Art.” I read this with great interest – it was one of the first places where I encountered the idea of writing as a craft, a skilled practice requiring the mastery of tools and techniques. That was a very different conception of writers and writing than I had absorbed or experienced to that point: the Romantic notion of writing as a matter of inspiration, as the spontaneous outpouring of some inner impulse to creative expression through words on the page. That was what I knew of writing, and that was how I approached it – or how it approached me.
Kilpatrick’s workmanlike vision did not eclipse my earlier conceptions of what a writer does and is. Alas, I still believed in the Muses and their gifts. Sometimes I still do. But thanks to Kilpatrick and some other influences – Zinsser’s On Writing Well, a much more salutary guide, in my view, than the tedious Strunk & White; John Irving’s novel The Hotel New Hampshire (it’s a long story — I’ll explain later/elsewhere); my brusque, demanding, slyly empowering sophomore English teacher — I came to recognize that, even if such gifts were necessary, they were not sufficient.
So what were some of the practical lessons I took away from Kilpatrick’s syndicated column on writing?
With the end of 1976 in view, William Safire flipped back to the Era of Good Feelings. In a New York Times op-ed charting how a president-elect might make foreign policy—with or without the Secretary of State’s input, and with or without the Soviet powers—Safire dredged up The Columbian Centinel’s best buzzwords of 1817 for foreign policy.
Meant “to describe the one-party euphoria of the James Monroe Administration,” Safire wrote, the era “turned out to be a time marked by petty factionalism and stagnation. Not until party partisanship reared its divisive head, under the banner of Andrew Jackson, did a vigorous two-party system get the nation moving again.” Safire’s read was a bit bent. Monroe, a popular president, had crossed party lines to secure his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, and seal other appointments. With Latin American revolutions alive, and American boundaries up for grabs, how “still” did things really feel from 1817 to 1825?
We continue our special roundtable on the Era of Good Feelings at 200 (catch up on Parts 1, 2, and 3). Today’s post is by Wendy Wong Schirmer, a historian of early America and U.S. foreign relations, who received her Ph.D. from Temple University. She is currently working on a book project that examines the relationship between print culture, neutrality in the early republic, and the politics of slavery.
Good feelings suggestively lend themselves to the study of emotion in nationalism and also foreign relations. “The Era of Good Feelings” derived its name from the Boston Columbian Sentinel’s July 12, 1817 account of the popular response to President James Monroe’s tour of Boston. In the aftermath of the War of 1812, Monroe undertook three tours of the United States—one of the North (1817), the Chesapeake Bay Area (1818), and of the South and West (1819). All of them were reported in the newspapers, among them the Washington National Intelligencer, although the last two tours were not as popular as the first. On the face of it, Monroe meant to inspect coastal fortifications and border areas. But his tours, which gave him opportunities to reach out to different sections of the union, were also designed to counter factionalism and unite the country around a nationalist vision that amounted to Republican one-party rule: as Monroe ventured into traditionally staunch Federalist territory with his first national tour in 1817, he meant for Republican-Party rule and the growing marginalization of the Federalists into political oblivion to develop into true nonpartisanship. (more…)
Continuing our roundtable exploring the bicentennial legacy of the Era of Good Feelings, today’s post is by Emily Conroy-Krutz, assistant professor of history at Michigan State University and the author of Christian Imperialism: Converting the World in the Early American Republic (Cornell, 2015). You can find out more about her work at her website, emilyconroykrutz.com.
At a Congregational Church in Bennington, Vermont, things were not going well for Rev. Edward Hooker. His Missionary Monthly Concert sermons were disappointing. No matter how hard he worked, the congregation did not seem to grasp his central message.
He decided to try something new. A large wooden board, painted white, with a ring at the top, by which it could be suspended. A jar of India Ink, into which he dipped a feather to trace out the bold, strong lines of continents and national borders. The completed map was raised up above the pulpit, ready for him to point to with a staff, showing his congregation the places to which he was referring, giving them food for the eyes and not just for the ears. A map, the pastor hoped, would make all the difference.
Continuing with our Era of Good Feelings bicentennial roundtable, I argue that the Era of Good Feelings is not quite as much of a misnomer as we usually make of it. If not exactly an “era of good feelings,” it was nonetheless an “era of nationalist feelings.”
One of the first things you will hear from historians about the so called “Era of Good Feelings” is that it is a misnomer. There might have been a three year stretch of relative “good feelings” from 1815-1818—especially if you were a white man—but by the panic of 1819, and with James Tallmadge’s famous amendment introduced that same year igniting the Missouri Controversy, there were many bad feelings to go around. And even between 1815 and 1818 you could find plenty of political intrigue and tension if you knew where to look for it (New York for example).
This week, we’re hosting a special roundtable highlighting the bicentennial legacy of the Era of Good Feelings (1817-1825), a key period that has shaped how we frame American foreign relations. First up: a look at the state of the field and what’s new to say about the era. Today’s post is by Dr. Thomas Balcerski, assistant professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University. His book manuscript, “Siamese Twins: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King,” explores the concept of personal and political friendship in nineteenth-century America.
The year 2017 marks the beginning of the bicentennial of the “Era of Good Feelings.” That by-gone era, officially begun with the inauguration of President James Monroe in 1817, completely collapsed with the inauguration of President Andrew Jackson twelve years later. Along the way, few good feelings were felt; the old two-party system of Federalists and Democratic-Republicans collapsed into a raucous one-party mass; and weighty issues surfaced pertaining to economic development, to territorial expansion, and, yes, to American foreign policy with foreign nations.[i] (more…)