Letters from Readers – December 2008 American History

11/20/2008 • AH Issues, Ronald Reagan

No Thumping Allowed
I enjoyed reading Walt Harrington’s informative piece on James and Dolley Madison, “The Ghosts of Montpelier” (October 2008), but I take issue with his assertion that Madison “presided over the thumping of England in the War of 1812.” In spite of American victories in the Great Lakes, split decisions in many naval battles on the high seas and Andrew Jackson’s spectacular victory over a much larger British force at the Battle of New Orleans, the War of 1812 ended up pretty much a draw. The Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814, and the precipitating issues of impressments, blockades, fisheries and boundaries went unmentioned. Both sides claimed victory. Neither side was “thumped.”

Lee Brown
Long Beach, Calif.

Coolidge Radios Ahead
H.W. Brands (“15 Minutes That Saved America,” October 2008) writes in praise of Franklin Roosevelt’s use of the radio, but mistakenly asserts that his presidential predecessors had not “seriously explored radio’s technological potential.” Calvin Coolidge did. Recent Coolidge biographer David Greenberg writes that Coolidge used radio “more effectively than any of his contemporaries….After his 1923 State of the Union message, Coolidge began to give speeches regularly on the radio….Coolidge grasped radio’s novel benefits. Most obviously, he could command audiences that already numbered in the tens of millions….Coolidge knew his voice went over well on the new medium….‘I am very fortunate I came in with the radio,’ he reflected….‘I have a good radio voice and now I can get my messages across.’” Let’s give “Silent Cal” his due credit for the innovation.

Alex J. Pollock
Washington, D.C.

Law Office Lineage
I noticed the name Louis McLane Hamilton in your October article on the descendants of Alexander Hamilton (Bloodlines). I owned a home in Wilmington, Del., that once belonged to Sen. Louis McLane. It was my law office for 28 years. Can you confirm if Hamilton’s grandson was named after the senator?

Clifford B. Hearn Jr.
Middletown, Del.

The editors reply: Louis McLane Hamilton’s mother was Rebecca McLane Hamilton, the daughter of Delaware statesman Louis McLane. In addition to representing his home state in the U.S. House and Senate, McLane served President Andrew Jackson as ambassador to England, Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury, a post once held by Alexander Hamilton.

Splitting Hairs
Your interesting story on Buffalo Bill Cody (“How the West Was Spun,” October 2008) stated that Cody scalped the Cheyenne warrior Yellow Hair. The Cheyenne chief was actually Yellow Hand.

Michael J. Pepe
Stroudsburg, Pa.

The editors reply: Most Buffalo Bill historians believe that Cody’s victim was indeed Yellow Hair, the English translation of the Cheyenne’s given name, Hay-o-wei. It was incorrectly translated as Yellow Hand, and that was the name used in Cody’s reenactment of the event in his Wild West show. An account of Hay-o-wei’s death was later provided by his sister, Josie Tangle Yellowhair.

Midwestern Reaganomics
Ronald Reagan, his politics, policy and his legacy may be influential, but not in a positive way (“Ronald Reagan Redux,” Dialogue, October 2008). Reagan was anything but a great president. He and his cronies created what we in the Midwest call the Reagan Depression, the first artificially created depression in history that was specifically designed to benefit big business, corporations and the rich. I lived in Rock County, Wis., in the 1980s when the unemployment rate hit 43 percent, higher than during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Some of us have not recovered and never will.

Dave Searles
Brodhead, Wis.

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