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Naming Names in 1812

I have to question the use of the term “Republican” to describe the U.S. congressional majority party of 1812, more commonly called the Democratic-Republicans [in Stephen Budiansky’s “Giant Killer,” Spring 2009]. While it is true that some members referred to themselves as Republicans, there is also documentation that they referred to themselves as Democrats.

In these highly partisan times, I would think it advantageous for a history periodical to avoid using current labels for political affiliation when there are other, more widely used terms associated with the era in question.

Robert Dalton

Chicago, Ill.

Stephen Budiansky responds: While it is correct that one faction of the party founded by Jefferson and Madison would later give rise to the modern Democratic Party, “Republican” was what they most often called themselves during the period I was describing. “Democratic Republican” and “Democrat” were terms almost exclusively used by their Federalist Party opponents, who meant it as disparagement—“democrat” carrying the connotation of “mob rule.”

Modern Pirate Lessons

Colin Woodard’s “Quelling a Pirate Revolt” [Spring 2009] taught me a great deal about how the English defeated the Caribbean pirates. The article had even more lessons and meaning for me, as I am currently a U.S. Navy sailor serving in and around the Horn of Africa region, trying to stop the sudden growth in pirate attacks. It has made me think a great deal about our current endeavors out here and ways that we could succeed or fail.

Stephen Harlan

USN, Djibouti, Africa

Cuban Missiles, a Crisis?

Michael Dobbs’s book on the Cuban missile crisis, One Minute to Midnight [reviewed Winter 2009], conveys the almost universally held belief that the United States and the USSR were extremely close to a worldwide war during that confrontation between President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Given the strong imperatives upon the top leadership of both the United States and the USSR not to go to war over Cuba, and their intense determination not to let control slip from their grasps, it seems to me that the situation was actually much less precarious than is widely believed.

Joseph Forbes

Pittsburgh, Pa.

On the Web

Our Spring cover story, “Lashing Back,” on the 1947–1948 Palestine civil war, drew a firestorm of comment (see HistoryNet. com). The majority praised Benny Morris’s article: “excellent, unbiased,” “required reading,” “a fascinating historical account.” But a few suggested it was “ridiculously one-sided” or, as Luc Hansen began his lengthy critique, “A hugely distorted view, unworthy of a serious scholar.”

The discourse touches on everything from Hitler and pogroms to American Indians and, our favorite, the culinary predilections of Aryans. “If you ‘lose’ you are dog meat and the victor gets to eat you and your family and your children—and the U.S. will give you $5bn a year to buy the knives and forks and charcoal to cook the ‘meat’ at the barbecue.”


Originally published in the Summer 2009 issue of Military History Quarterly. To subscribe, click here.