Civility in Politics?
Posted on December 7, 2011 by Eric Beck | Categories: exhibits | |
In an era where people claim we have lost all civility in politics, we look back at an era where civility in politics had a whole different meaning. Specifically, we can look at three specific elections in Virginia in 1817 and 1818.
In the first one, the congressional race for the 8th district in 1817 (back then, Virginia held their Congressional elections in odd years), we see a close defeat of Armistead T. Mason. This, in and of itself, doesn’t mean much without context.
Then, in 1818, we have two different elections. In the first, we have the election for the House of Delegates in Loudoun County. In this election, John M. McCarty is elected to the House of Delegates. But, in December of that same year, we have a special election to replace McCarty in the House of Delegates. What was it that lead to McCarty being unseated in the House of Delegates? It turns out, from looking at the Genius of Liberty from December 22, 1818 as listed in the notes of Philip Lampi, the lead researcher on the New Nation Votes project, McCarty refused to sign the oath against dueling that was required at the time. He was unseated and a new election was held to replace McCarty, the aforementioned special election.
So how does this relate to the congressional election from the year before? Well, as is documented at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, McCarty and Mason were brothers-in-law. And that refusal to sign the oath against dueling? Well, just two months later, on February 6, 1819, McCarty killed Mason in a duel that arose from the bitterness over Mason’s failed congressional run.
So, the next time you watch the candidates yelling at each other, just be glad they’re not shooting at each other.
On September 11 2001, about 400 students and staff gathered at Tufts’ Hillel to grieve, to spend the day together, or to talk about possible actions in the face of the attacks. Within a couple of hours students decided to create a Patches for Peace Quilt to provide a creative outlet and set a message of hope, peace and community. Hillel provided logistical and infrastructure support, and members of the Hillel student board approached many of the approximately 160 student organizations and groups for their participation in the project. Eventually 88 student organizations — ranging from the Association of Latin American Students to the Arab Student Association, from the Chamber Singers to the Inter Greek Council, and from the No Homers Club to the Women’s Soccer Team — each produced a patch.
See the quilt at the online Patches for Peace quilt exhibit, or see the actual quilt on temporary display at the Tufts Campus Center from September 11 to October 11, 2011.
Stop by the DCA display cases in Tisch Library (near the entrance to the Tower Café) and check out our recently-unveiled fall exhibits: Selections from the Atomic Veterans Collection and Whimsy in the Stacks: A glimpse into the mind of Myron J. Files. The exhibits highlight materials from two very different collections, giving viewers an idea of the diversity of documents available for consultation in the reading room at Tufts DCA.
Selections from the Atomic Veterans Collection contains correspondence, publications, and photographs from the Atomic Veterans Collection, donated to Tufts by Sandra Kane Marlow, an activist affiliated with the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV) and a founder of the Center for Atomic Radiation Studies in Boston. Sandra Marlow, a librarian from New Bedford, fought for government acknowledgement and compensation of United States veterans that participated in atmospheric and underwater nuclear weapons tests and nuclear cleanup from 1945 until the Nuclear Test Ban in 1962. The exhibit is intended to highlight the research potential of this thought-provoking collection.
On the lighter side, Whimsy in the Stacks: A glimpse into the mind of Myron J. Files, provides a peek into one of DCA’s more humorous collections. Myron Files (1892-1984), a faculty member in the English Department at Tufts from 1914 to 1954, left the Archives two small boxes of his late correspondence and annotated sketches. His collection, rife with fantasy and philosophical musings, introduces a cast of personal friends and familiar Tufts characters. We hope that Files, the ever-unassuming comedian, will compel you to chuckle, or at least crack a smile.
These exhibits will be on display until January 2012. Please feel free to visit Tufts DCA on Level G in Tisch Library for more information on the featured collections!
It was my privilege to attend SHEAR (Society for the Historians of the Early American Republic) last month in Philadelphia. I gave a short presentation on the New Nation Votes project in conjunction with two papers that have made good use of our data.
The first was from David Houpt, a graduate student at the Graduate Center at City University New York. His paper, “Critical Masses: Celebratory Politics and Political Mobilization in the Congressional Election of 1794″ discussed the rather surprising win of a Republican candidate in, what until then, had been the Federalist stronghold of Philadelphia. His paper made use of these election results, with special detail on the ward level results.
The other paper was from Daniel Peart. Entitled “An ‘Era of No Feelings’? Rethinking the Periodization of Early U.S. Politics”, it made use of a variety of elections throughout the Era of Good Feelings (1815 – 1824), measuring voter turnout in all of the existing states and refuting the notion that voter turnout declined as the Republican party gained a stronghold and Federalist competition declined, instead showing that the areas with the highest turnout were the areas with the least amount of Federalist competition. Daniel recently completed his PhD at University College London and will start this month as a lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London. He was inspired to pursue this idea when he heard a presentation at the 14th Annual Conference of The Association of British American 19th Century Historians given by Phil and the previous coordinator, Krista Ferrante.
I added a bit of context about the site and showed off one particularly interesting election – the 1824 North Carolina Presidential Election which contravenes the long-held notion that Andrew Jackson was the clear winner of the 1824 election.
Overall, it was a great opportunity to connect with the scholars who are making use of this project and to get some valuable feedback as well. One result: a new feature on the home page that notes what the most recently updated data is.
So far, the New Nation Votes project has added name_id’s to 23,869 candidates. This is the tip of the iceberg, as we have 17,685 candidates who do not yet have id’s and some 20,000 pages of elections to enter yet. But, we can find some interesting information from what we have.
- John is by far the most common name. We have 3446 different candidates with the first name John.
- William is the second – also by a long way. There are 2234 different candidates with the first name of William. And if your first initial is W, odds are your first name is William – 88.90% of all the candidates with the first initial W are named William.
- Combined, nearly a quarter of all the candidates have the first name John or William.
- J is by far the most common first initial. Aside from all the John’s, James comes in third place (1570), then we have Jacob (487), Jonathan (196), Joshua (135) and Jesse (105). Nearly a third of all the candidates have a first name that begins with J – more than 3 times as many as any other letter.
- The most common last initials, in order, are S, B, M and H. While no set of initials that doesn’t begin with J has more than 250 candidates, there are 654 JH’s, 728 JB’s, 758 JM’s (most notably, James Madison) and a whopping 817 different candidates with the initials JS.
- There no candidates with the initial of X, first or last, at least so far.
- As could be expected, the lowest totals of last initials are Q, U and Z. With the first initials, it is Q, U, Y and, curiously, K. There are only 25 candidates so far with the first initial of K and there isn’t a single Kevin. It turns out Kevin, while a popular name now, didn’t really arrive in the States from Ireland until the early 20th Century.
- While only 45 candidates have a first name that starts with V (15 of them being Valentine), there are almost 300 candidates with last names that start with V. And while New York only accounts for 6% of all the elections, it accounts for nearly 40% of the candidates with the last name of V. This is because of the Dutch settlements in New York – most of the V names in New York begin with Van, including 9 different members of the Van Rensselaer family.
- The Top 10 first names of candidates so far: John, William, James, Thomas (which accounts for 86% of all the names that begin with T), Robert, Henry, Jacob, David, Benjamin and Daniel.
- And lastly – what do the names Abraham, Francis and Elisha / Elijah all have in common? Well, while none of them are particularly prevalent in the States today, there are more instances so far in our candidate database of each of those names than there are of the name Michael. And Michael only beats Moses by one and Ebenezer by 3. Names were different back in 1787-1825.
In looking at an old election today in Alabama (this election for State Representative in Dallas County in 1820), I was trying to decide whether or not the listed polling places were towns or just polling places. Selma was easy. If you’ve never heard of Selma, Alabama then you desperately need to brush up on your 20th Century American History. But then I got to Cahawba. In looking for some more information, I went to everybody’s favorite dubious source: Wikipedia. It’s terrible for objective information, but for basic knowledge on towns in the United States, it’s got more than enough information; it had this lovely start that fascinated me: “Cahaba, also spelled Cahawba, was the first permanent state capital of Alabama from 1820 to 1825. It is now a ghost town and state historic site.”
Wow, I thought. A ghost town. Completely empty of modern day inhabitants. Yet, it once was a thriving town. It was even the capital for several years right after Alabama became a state. But then, during Reconstruction, the county seat moved to Selma and the businesses and people followed and by the the turn of the century there was very little left. You can visit it today – it’s only a few miles down the river from Selma. But look at it on satellite pictures and all you see are dirt roads and trees. Just the outline of a town.
It’s not the only election where we have results from an Alabama ghost town. Look here, and you will find results from Clairborne, in Monroe County. In 1820, it was by far the biggest town in the county and it eventually grew to a peak of 5000 people but which now contains just one building and three 19th century cemeteries.
Then there is Blakely. It had a fort during the Civil War (it is right where the Tensaw River flows into Mobile Bay) and today is a state park. But that park used to be a town – possibly the biggest town in Baldwin County in 1824, judging from the Presidential Election Returns.
Just like those towns in Massachusetts that are now under the Quabbin, these were once towns that thrived and there are no people left there to remember. But we have the election records – we know that those people did live, that they lived and they voted.
You may be familiar with the famous glass flower collection housed at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Those glass flower models were created by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, who were once better known for making glass marine invertebrates. In a time before modern technologies made it possible to preserve the creatures for laboratory study, these incredibly detailed glass models made classroom study possible. Take a look at this gorgeous and frighteningly smart cuttlefish:
Tufts’ set of these marine models, once presumed partially destroyed in the Barnum Hall fire, has been restored to the Tufts Archives. A subset of them are on display in the Tisch Library until March 11.
Read more about the history of these fascinating models in the Tufts Journal article, “The Creatures in the Closet“.
Check out the new exhibit, on display in the Tisch Library, highlighting Tufts Theater History, 1910s-1960s. The exhibit includes production photos, scripts, programs, and artifacts, as well as special features on Pen, Paint and Pretzels and on the Arena Theater.
The Tufts Arena Theater building was originally the Jackson College Gymnasium, constructed in 1909. Athletics and dramatics shared the space until 1948, when the Athletics Department vacated the Jackson College Gym upon completion of the Henry Clay Jackson Gymnasium.
The building was given to the Drama Department and became known as the Tufts Arena Theater. A condemned stage forced the department to use an innovative staging format where plays were performed on a raised oval in the middle of the gym floor. This setup was the first appearance of performances “in the round” in New England and was pioneered by Marston Balch, Professor of Dramatics at Tufts for thirty-seven years.
The Tufts Arena Theater was used until 1991, when it was demolished upon completion of the Aidekman Arts Center. Included in the plans for Aidekman was a new space for the Drama Department, the Balch Arena Theater, named for Professor Marston Balch.
For more information on Drama at Tufts, stop by the DCA on the Ground Floor of Tisch library and ask to see some of the great pictures and artifacts we have available. Information is also available on the Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History.
Special thanks to Laura Cutter and Lauren Miller for their work on this exhibit and their contributions to the text of this blog entry.