In 2005, entrepreneurs on the island of Shikoku created an independent professional minor league designed to appeal to local baseball fans. Shikoku is not home to any of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) teams. The two main sponsors of the initiative were JR Shikoku and Shikoku's Coca-Cola Bottling Company. (Japanese railway companies public and private have long been major sponsors of professional baseball teams.) Among the strategies for building a local fan base are uniquely localized names and the hiring of Shikoku natives for fill-in roles like designated hitters, pinch hitters, and such. Like NPB's Pacific League, the Shikoku Island League employs DHs. The team names are just as quirky and unique as those of North American minor league teams like the Albuquerque Isotopes, Lansing Lugnuts, Montgomery Biscuits, or Savannah Sand Gnats. All the team names are written in katakana but abbreviated in roman capital letters. The Island League (IL) logo and mascot is a blue and white Manta Ray, for its baseball-diamond shape.
Tokushima IndigoSocks (IS) - Tokushima Prefecture is famous for its indigo, so it's not surprising that the team color is blue. The mascot is a spider, who wears four pairs of socks. The IndigoSocks won the 2019 league championship, but lost to the Tochigi Golden Braves in the interleague championship.
Kagawa Olive Guyners (OG) - Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture is the league headquarters, and the Olive Guyners have won the most league championships so far. Kagawa is famous in Japan for its olives and olive oils, home games are played in Olive Stadium, and the team color is green. Guyners is an anglicized rendering of the local Sanuki dialect word gaina 'strong'.
Kochi Fighting Dogs (FD) - Kochi Prefecture (once known as Tosa Domain) is famous for its Tosa fighting dogs, Japanese mastiffs, so its team name and mascot were easy to choose. The team color is black and their gray mascot wears a yokozuna belt like that of sumo champions. The FD won the first league championship in 2005, but haven't done so well since then. In 2017 they hired Manny Ramirez but he left in mid-August with a knee injury.
Ehime Mandarin Pirates (MP) - Ehime Prefecture is famous for its mandarin oranges (mikan) and its seafaring heritage. Their basketball team is the Ehime Orange Vikings. The team color is orange in both cases.
In 2007, the league expanded to include two teams on Kyushu and changed its name to the Shikoku-Kyushu Island League. But the Nagasaki Saints (named for the prefecture's long Roman Catholic heritage) and Fukuoka Red Warblers (named for the color of ume and the Japanese bush warbler) didn't last long. Nor did the Three Arrows team from Mie (三重 'three weights') Prefecture, on Honshu across the Kii Channel from Tokushima. So now the official name of the league is Shikoku Island League plus, presumably to allow for other expansion attempts.
In 2014, two independent baseball leagues, Shikoku Island League plus and Route Inn Baseball Challenge League, formed the Japan Independent Baseball League Organization. The champions of each league play each other at the end of each season. Shikoku Island League plus has also sent all-star teams to play all-stars from the independent Can-Am League in North America.
27 December 2019
24 December 2019
From The Age of Fighting Sail: The Story of the Naval War of 1812, by C. S. Forester (Doubleday, 1952; eNet, 2012), Kindle Loc. 3497-3519:
The object of every war, or threat of war, is, in a final analysis, to bring about such a state of mind in the other party that he does not want to make war. The will of the enemy is the ultimate objective, as Hitler was never tired of preaching, and as Clausewitz understood in those moments when he was not engrossed in the means to the exclusion of the ends. By 1814 both England and America had reached that state of mind. Mr Madison’s conversion was the product of many factors: the failure of the invasion of Canada, the emptiness of the Treasury (resulting from the British blockade) and the fall of Bonaparte. It must be remembered that Mr Madison took the important step of waiving his demands regarding impressment in June 1814. Yet it would be hard to withstand the conclusion that the greatest factor was the presence of a British squadron in the Chesapeake; it was with those topsails almost in sight that Monroe sent off the crucial dispatch. Naval and military factors brought about the British change of heart, the defeat at Lake Champlain, and the repulse—almost bloodless though it was—at Baltimore, and the continued presence of American privateers in British home waters. Finally it was the threat of further military operations—the continuance of the blockade and the menace of Cochrane’s roving army—that kept the American commissioners amenable and facilitated the negotiations.
Once peace came to appear desirable every step was taken to hurry its coming. Debatable questions were ignored or postponed for future discussion. Two hundred written words, even with all the ‘whatsoevers’ and the legal redundancies, affirmed the peace; hardly more were necessary to settle the very difficult questions arising out of a definition of the war’s end in all parts of the world, and a hundred words decided the fate of the prisoners. By contrast it took some thousands of words to set up a future commission to clear up the debatable points left over from the Peace of Paris, now thirty years old. The question of the Indians was solved—or postponed—by specifically including them in the treaty of peace, in two brief paragraphs. One single article, of fifty words, made declaration of the intention of the United States to abolish the slave trade; its presence was an indication of the power and determination of the benevolent enthusiasts of Britain as compared with the more fitful influence of the war party.
The shelving of the debatable points was denounced by some intelligent people on both sides of the Atlantic, on the grounds that it would lead eventually to a renewal of the war. They were proved in the event to be wrong; the memory of the profitless damage done by the war persisted, and was as influential in the minds of those responsible for keeping the peace as the knowledge of it had been in the minds of those responsible for making the peace. The boundary questions were settled amicably, and from there it was an easy step to the neutralization of the American-Canadian border, an achievement in the cause of peace so beneficial, and so far ahead of its time, as almost to justify the bloodshed and misery of the tragic war.
23 December 2019
From The Age of Fighting Sail: The Story of the Naval War of 1812, by C. S. Forester (Doubleday, 1952; eNet, 2012), Kindle Loc. 1971-2013:
Cockburn acted with considerable energy. He sent his boats where his ships could not penetrate. One of Warren’s reports (dated from ‘Annapolis, Chesapeake’!) told of sending the boats of the fleet fifteen miles up the Rappahannock, where they boarded and captured four armed schooners—a privateer and three letters of marque—manned by heavy crews totalling over two hundred officers and men, the British loss being only thirteen; undoubtedly the Americans flinched, and undoubtedly the demoralization resulting from the arrival of the British in the Chesapeake was considerable. Cockburn pushed on northwards into the farthest extremity of the Chesapeake, striking at the communications between Baltimore and Philadelphia; today the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal runs close to the scene of his operations. He had no troops with him at present, save for a small detachment of artillerymen, but he had a rocket-boat, and several craft of small draught, mostly prizes he had previously captured, and with his marines and a detachment of seamen he could scrape together a force of some four hundred men. He made a feint at Baltimore, occasioning considerable alarm, and then struck at the other side. There was militia to oppose him, but badly led and quite uninspired, even though Washington was only a day’s ride away. The tiny landing-parties met with almost no resistance, the militia abandoning their positions the moment an attack was launched; in one battery a hundred and thirty stand of small-arms were picked up after having been thrown away by the men supposed to use them. Cockburn reached all the objectives (‘foundries, stores, and public works’) assigned to him by Warren’s orders. He destroyed a foundry (‘the Cecil or Principio Foundery, one of the most valuable works of the kind in America’) on the outskirts of Havre-de-Grace, along with Government depots of provisions and military equipment; he burned a dozen sail of coasters, and vast stores of flour, sending one party far up the Susquehanna, all this at a cost of less than a dozen wounded.
He had been faced, from the moment of his arrival, with the problem of dealing with civilian opposition. It was not only militiamen, and certainly not only militiamen in uniform, who fired on his landing-parties. It was not in human nature, and certainly not in American human nature, to refrain from taking a shot at red-coated marines landed on a mission of destruction in a country whose constitution declared that ‘the right of the people to bear and carry arms shall not be infringed’. The laws of war had not yet been codified. It was understood, however, that a man who fought without a uniform was liable to death if caught, his house was liable to destruction, and even the village or town from which he came; but the invading regular troops, on the other hand, were bound to respect civilian life and property. Moreover, there was an occasionally accepted ruling—later incorporated in the Geneva Convention—that a people might be permitted to take up arms in a spontaneous uprising; a year or two before Wellington had maintained this point in correspondence with Massena regarding the status of the un-uniformed Portuguese militia. In essence, therefore, the ultimate policy was decided by the commanding officer of the invading force. Cockburn deplored the ‘useless rancour’ of the inhabitants in opposing him, and burned houses and towns where such opposition was offered him. He congratulated himself, and felicitated Warren, on having achieved his object, for Charlestown submitted to him without opposition and he was assured that ‘all the places in the upper part of the Chesapeake’ had adopted the resolution that neither guns nor militiamen should be suffered there. On the surface the policy of reprisals had succeeded, but it is doubtful whether it had conduced towards the ultimate end of the invasion, which was to prevail on the American people to agree to peace.
In the prevailing state of sullen resentment Cockburn had to decide on another question of policy, closely allied to the matter of reprisals. Like every naval officer of the time he was faced by the chronic problem of the supply of drinking-water, and by the nearly as urgent problem of the supply of fresh provisions. He could hardly be expected to detach ships to his base hundreds of miles away to fill up with water, nor could he expect his men to live on salt meat when they could see cattle browsing on shore and hear cocks crowing. Yet the parties he landed to fill up his water-casks were always liable to have shots fired at them; his efforts to buy fresh provisions were not very successful. He maintained that it was inhuman to deprive his men of drinking water, and he was quite sincere in his protestations that he was offering genuine value for livestock. He did not make allowance for the irresistible temptation his landing-parties offered to the local man with a rifle who had heard nothing about the resolution of the towns to make no resistance, and who would have cared nothing whatever he heard. And Cockburn tried to buy cattle with bills on the British Treasury; he was an able and active officer, but he displayed complete ignorance of the people he was fighting if he expected a Maryland farmer to part with his herd in exchange for bills redeemable in London at some vague future date. Wellington was dealing with the similar problem in Spain and France by paying handsomely in gold and silver—even taking care to have supplies ready of the actual currency of the country in which he found himself—but Cockburn had no gold or silver to spare, partly because Wellington had all the available supply. Refusal to sell, in Cockburn’s eyes, was a hostile act. He was justified then in seizing provisions without payment, and that, even in the chaotic state of the laws of war, justified armed resistance; resistance justified reprisals, and the vicious circle was started again at the moment when he thought the country was pacified.
19 December 2019
From The Age of Fighting Sail: The Story of the Naval War of 1812, by C. S. Forester (Doubleday, 1952; eNet, 2012), Kindle Loc. 1237-1266:
American privateering had proved itself offensive beyond all expectation; it is possible that it might have been more offensive still. Certainly there were disadvantages regarding the system, of which the harassed British Government was not aware. It skimmed the cream of American seamen; Hull had no sooner taken up his new appointment in New York than he complained that such was the rush to enter into and to fit out privateers that he found it hard to find seamen for naval vessels or workmen for navy yards. It consumed stores and supplies of which the Navy felt the need. Competition between individual shipowners was liable to accentuate shortages and force up prices. But these serious disadvantages were only indicative of others, and any attempt to remedy all or any of them confronted the Administration with problems which it was peculiarly unfitted to solve.
Privateers sought profits; the national welfare was only incidental. Other privateers were business competitors, and only secondarily brothers-in-arms. It could easily happen that a successful owner would endeavour to preserve his trade secrets and to keep his knowledge of the enemy’s methods to himself. Undoubtedly he would seek prizes of commercial value; and the facile argument that the greater the commercial loss to the enemy the greater the effect on the war did not hold water. The capture of a homeward-bound East Indiaman would mean enormous prize money, and long faces in the City; but the capture of the coasting brig with Wellington’s twenty tons of shoes on board, although it would mean small prize money, would immobilize England’s one army in the moment of victory. There could be little doubt as to which capture would have the greater effect in inducing the British Government to consider peace on America’s terms; unfortunately there could be little doubt as to which capture a privateer captain would endeavour to make—unless he were both exceptionally patriotic and well informed, and prepared to ignore his owner’s demand for dividends and his crew’s clamour for prize money. Even in the Royal Navy there were continuous hints and complaints that captains and flag officers were tempted to neglect military duties in order to seek prizes, although the orders they received were backed by all the machinery of the Articles of War and with the death penalty looming in the background.
The question of discipline in privateers was always a serious one. The ship’s articles gave the captain considerable powers, and many captains were able to use those powers to the full, yet there were exceptions. Although there are accounts of desperate actions fought by privateers, there are plenty of accounts of only feeble resistance being offered, and sometimes none at all—more than one English captain reports coming alongside an American privateer to find the decks deserted, the whole crew having run below. The cynic may wonder at the strange quirks of human nature which lead men to give their lives for something as unsubstantial as the honour of their service while they are not prepared to risk them for solid cash, and yet, while wondering, the cynic must admit the existence and the power of those motives; the man who has struck a bargain to go privateering is likely, when faced by the imminent and unimagined danger of hard knocks, to plead misrepresentation and to regret and to go back on his purely commercial bargain.
The privateersman, even the veriest landsman, having entered in return for a share in the proceeds of a voyage, was likely to arrogate to himself the rights of a shareholder and to claim a voice in the management, especially with the tradition of the town meeting behind him; the tendency was almost inevitable and subversive of discipline, and it called for leadership on the part of the captain—and successes as well—to counteract it. The best of privateering captains had to make allowance for the possible restiveness of his crew in conditions of disillusioning hardship and disappointment.
Only the most radical measures on the part of the Administration could have minimized these disadvantages of the privateering system.
17 December 2019
From The Age of Fighting Sail: The Story of the Naval War of 1812, by C. S. Forester (Doubleday, 1952; eNet, 2012), Kindle Loc. 1091-1131:
It became apparent that provisions from America were necessary to maintain the British effort in the Peninsula, despite Wellington’s search for other sources of supply in Canada and Egypt and the Barbary States.
This was [Admiral] Warren’s opportunity to kill two birds, or three birds, with one stone. From Halifax and Bermuda he began to issue licences to American ships, giving them immunity from capture while they were engaged on voyages to and from Lisbon. During the periods of Non-intercourse and Embargo a wide connection had been built up with those merchants who were willing or anxious to evade the regulations of the United States Government; it was easy enough to make the new system known to them. The cargoes could be sold to the Portuguese Government, or to private merchants in Lisbon. They might feed the Portuguese army or the Portuguese civilian population; in either case it was a burden lifted from the shoulders of the British Government, which would have had to undertake the task—and could well have found it impossible—if it had not been performed by American private enterprise.
There was more than a possibility that some of the supplies might find their way into British Government hands and might feed British soldiers; some of the flour might be baked into biscuits to feed British sailors who might fight American ships; that possibility did not check the trade that was carried on. We find Wellington writing as early as September 1812, ‘I am very glad that Mr Forster has given licences to American ships to import corn to Lisbon.’ Wellington was a man of the strongest common sense and of a clear insight into human nature. We find him writing at the same time pressing that Portuguese ships should be licensed in a similar way to trade with American ports. That would render him less dependent on American shipping; also he warned that there was every chance that American ships, crossing the Atlantic protected by their licences, would be tempted to turn aside towards the end of their voyage and run the blockade into French ports. It would be well to assume that a man guilty of one knavery could be capable of another.
By the issue of licences Warren could not only keep Wellington’s army fed; he could retain the goodwill of the American mercantile community. He was sowing the seeds of discord—if any more needed to be planted—between that community and the American Government if the latter could ever nerve itself to cut off this profitable business. American ships sailing from American ports carried with them American newspapers and American news; for Warren they constituted an invaluable source of information regarding American public opinion, regarding the movements of American ships-of-war, and also regarding any attempts to maintain American trade along lines that the British Government did not approve of. The New England states were profiting by this system of licences, while the Southern states were suffering from the interference with their necessary seaboard communications. Later a proclaimed blockade of the Southern seaboard hampered those communications even worse. There was at least the chance that the sectional favour he was conferring would lead to sectional jealousies and from there to sectional strife.
Warren’s astute handling of the situation did not lead to all the advantages that he expected, and it led to some unexpected difficulties, of which the principal one arose from the necessity for payment for the American supplies. Portugal, devastated by war and with much of her manpower conscripted into her army, had little enough to export in return. A little could be done by sending British manufactured goods to Lisbon for sale by Portuguese merchants to Americans, but that did not bridge the gap. All the large balance had to be paid for in cash, in gold and silver. The problem had been exercising Wellington’s mind (Wellington fought a series of successful campaigns while acting as his own paymaster-general and economic adviser as well as his own chief-of-staff and commissary-general) even before the war began during the period of the Embargo: ‘The exporters of specie, to the great distress of the Army and the ruin of the country, are the American merchants . . . these merchants cannot venture to take in payment bills upon England . . . they must continue therefore to export specie from Portugal.’ Again: ‘When the Americans sell their corn in Lisbon they must receive payment in money.’ In the midst of commanding England’s Army in a desperate war he was writing such lines as ‘The merchants of England will, of course, send Colonial goods and merchandise where they can sell it with advantage,’ but even he had to set limits on his activities—‘I cannot enter into the detail of sending Colonial goods or merchandise to pay for corn.’
The final result was a constant drain of gold and silver from England to America at a time when the British Government was at its wits’ end to find any supply of the precious metals. England had to endure the troubles resulting from a paper currency, inflation, and a rising cost of living, while Wellington, who needed hard cash to pay his army’s way during its constant movements in the Peninsula, had to devote many anxious hours as to how to proportion his limited supplies between paying his long-enduring troops and his Spanish muleteers and buying the vital stores from America. It is hardly necessary to add that the American merchants did not suffer. The troops fell into six months’ arrears of pay, the muleteers and the Portuguese middlemen into as much as a year, but the Yankee captains sailed home with the gold and silver which, by the end of the war, gorged the New England banks and was to play an important part in American expansion and in the later development of American industry.
15 December 2019
From The Age of Fighting Sail: The Story of the Naval War of 1812, by C. S. Forester (Doubleday, 1952; eNet, 2012), Kindle Loc. 904-928:
OPINION in New England had been strongly against war. Just as during the days of Non-intercourse and Embargo some mercantile interests were prepared to evade the law and to continue commercial relations with Britain; at this very time the British forces in Canada were being fed on supplies sent up from America. There was intense dislike—hatred—of Mr Madison, his administration, and his principles. The political judgment of many in New England, shrewder in this case than Mr Madison’s, condemned Bonaparte for the unprincipled tyrant that he was; there were patriotic men who felt dismay at the prospect of aiding tyranny in a war against freedom. They knew a dilemma unknown to those who merely desired to make a profit; they were tempted to extricate themselves from it by secession from the Union. Political hatred, commercial interest, and distrust of Mr Madison’s judgment made a powerful combination; and this was in a country whose chief historical memory was one of successful rebellion against authority.
The beginning of the war had been gloomy. General Hull’s astonishing surrender at Detroit was a shattering blow to the hopes that had been entertained of an easy—even a bloodless—conquest of Canada. It was a moral disappointment as well as a military defeat, in that it proved that at least some elements in Canada were prepared to fight. It provided a further argument for those people who mistrusted Mr Madison’s judgment. The British Government, conducting a war for national existence, and aware of the existence of a potential separatist movement in New England, had no scruples in the matter. It was prepared to make use of any factor, a mere desire to make money or personal jealousy or local jealousy or actual treason, that would simplify its task. In the matter of blockade, in the matter of granting licences for American ships, and in the matter of trading with the enemy, its policy was not to rouse the antagonism of the mass of the people.
And the mass of the people might be swayed by an active and intelligent minority. There was a lack of the symbols and simplifications that could influence the unthinking; and the news from Detroit could implant the uneasy suspicion that they were on the losing side—and there was an absence of the inspiring leadership which could call forth the determination to see the matter through.
It was into this atmosphere that Hull returned with the news of his victory. He had two hundred prisoners to put ashore under guard. He had sent to the bottom of the sea the Guerrière, whose appearance, the cut of whose jib, had been familiar to so many in that seafaring community. He had in his power one of those lordly British captains whose bland—or not so bland—assumption of superiority had irked even an Anglophile society. He had scored a victory over the British Navy which had been victorious over every other nation on earth, and he had scored that victory by a bold and vigorous offensive in the face of peril. The news was exhilarating. There could hardly be a croaker to point out that this was no more than a pin-prick in the rhinoceros hide of British naval power. When even the well-informed could be carried away by enthusiasm the unlettered or unthinking masses were bound to be influenced yet more strongly. The quite serious danger of a pro-British (or anti-Washington) movement in New England began to decline from its peak, although it remained serious.
14 December 2019
From The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World, by A. J. Baime (HMH Books, 2017), Kindle pp. 248-250:
The brain trust of the American military gathered. Here sat General George Marshall, Fleet Admiral Ernest King, Lieutenant General I. C. Eaker of the army air forces (representing General Arnold, recovering from a heart attack), and the chief of the president’s staff, Fleet Admiral Leahy. Secretary of War Stimson was in the room, as were Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy and Secretary of the Navy Forrestal. The president wanted to know from each an opinion on the most efficient means of forcing Japan to surrender unconditionally, and to bring the war to an end.
General Marshall spoke first, reiterating arguments he had already posed but now with more detail. The situation in Japan was “practically identical” to the situation in Europe before the Normandy invasion, Marshall said. He believed that “the only course to pursue” with respect to Japan was the course that had brought the Nazis to their knees: a ground invasion. He had chosen the island of Kyushu at the southern end of Japan’s mainland for the landing, and he set D-day at November 1—four and a half months’ time.
Marshall listed the reasons for the timing: “Our estimates are that our air action will have smashed practically every industrial target worth hitting in Japan as well as destroying huge areas in Jap cities,” he said. “The Japanese Navy, if any still exists, will be completely powerless. Our sea action and air power will have cut Jap reinforcement capabilities from the mainland to negligible proportions.” Any delay past November 1 could force a further delay of up to six months due to winter weather, he explained.
The general then discussed what could be expected in casualties. The United States had suffered roughly 20,000 casualties (killed, wounded, missing) in the invasion of Iwo Jima, against an estimated 25,000 Japanese (killed and taken prisoner, for there was no way to even guess how many were wounded). In Okinawa—the fiercest fought ground battle of the Far East war, and one in which the U.S. forces were on the brink of declaring victory—the Americans had suffered 34,000 army and 7,700 navy casualties, against 81,000 Japanese (the latter number being “not a complete count,” according to the military statisticians). U.S. casualties in the first thirty days of the Normandy invasion had been 42,000. There was no way to estimate the number of casualties expected in the invasion of mainland Japan, but Marshall did say this: “It is a grim fact that there is not an easy, bloodless way to victory in war and it is the thankless task of the leaders to maintain their firm outward front which holds the resolution of their subordinates.”
Marshall was convinced that “every individual moving to the Pacific should be indoctrinated with a firm determination to see [the invasion] through.” He put the number of troops required for the operation at 766,700. The invasion plan was as follows: (1) to have the Russians attack the Japanese occupying Manchuria in China; (2) to “vitalize the Chinese” with air support and supplies so they could handle the Japanese occupying other parts of their country; and (3) all of which would allow the Americans—with British aid—to go after mainland Japan.
Truman went around the room and heard not a single dissent.
09 December 2019
From The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World, by A. J. Baime (HMH Books, 2017), Kindle pp. 140-142:
At 10:30 a.m., dozens filed into the Oval Office for Truman’s first press conference. Standing behind his desk, he greeted reporters as they pushed into the room, which quickly grew uncomfortably crowded. Regular presidential press conferences were a tradition going back to Woodrow Wilson, who on March 15, 1913, set a precedent of welcoming newspaper reporters into his office to answer questions. Roosevelt had held two a week and had elevated these meetings to high art. Wielding his cigarette holder as if conducting an orchestra, he would deliver soliloquies that would entrance his guests, while almost always failing on purpose to answer any question posed.
On April 17 the largest crowd ever assembled for a presidential press conference pushed into the Oval Office—348 men and women reporters—all aiming to size up the new chief executive. Some were forced to stand on the terrace outside the president’s office—lucky ones, because the room got exceedingly hot.
“Good morning,” Truman said, “good morning.”
“Good morning, Mr. President,” someone in the crowd said. “Will you take it sort of slow for us today, please, sir?”
“Surely, surely,” Truman said. “Anything I can do to accommodate you.”
No one in the room could help making comparisons to Roosevelt. For one thing, this president was standing up. “We all knew that Roosevelt had gone to Groton and then Harvard,” recalled White House correspondent Robert Nixon, who was getting his first crack at Truman that morning. “That [Roosevelt] came from a quite old, well-to-do family; that he moved in what is known as the best circles all of his life . . . Truman was a small town, Midwestern Missourian of farm origin . . . The contrast was in appearance, voice mannerisms, and even their attire. President Roosevelt, while a casual dresser, was very well tailored . . . Truman dressed like he had just come off of Main Street in Independence.”
The new president called for attention. “The first thing I want to do to you is to read the rules,” he said. After telling the reporters what they already knew—everything he said was background material, no direct quotes were allowed unless there was specific permission—he began by announcing that most of the Roosevelt staff would stay on, and that Matthew Connelly had been appointed his confidential secretary. Truman read a letter aloud from Mrs. Roosevelt, thanking everyone for their wishes, “which have brought great comfort and consolation to all of us.” Due to the wartime paper shortage, Mrs. Roosevelt would not be responding to all correspondence. Instead, she had asked Truman to read her thank-you letter to the press.
Truman then opened the floor. He answered questions about reciprocal trade, race relations, the wartime ban on horseracing, and the historic United Nations Conference set to open in eight days.
“Mr. President,” said one reporter in the crowd. “Will Mrs. Truman have a press conference?”
“I would rather not answer that question at this time.”
At numerous moments Truman delivered witticisms that sparked laughter in the room. The Missourian had a simple way of speaking that amused his counterparts in the press. He whittled his ideas down to the fewest words and handed them over. Unlike Roosevelt, Truman actually answered questions, and if he chose not to, he said just that.
“His first press conferences were wonderful,” noted press secretary Daniels. At the end of this first one, something happened that had never occurred in any of Roosevelt’s meetings with the press: the room erupted in spontaneous applause.
04 December 2019
From The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World, by A. J. Baime (HMH Books, 2017), Kindle pp. 49-50:
For years, John Anderson Truman had taken his family to Jackson County town picnics to hear local politicians speak. “Politics is all he ever advises me to neglect the farm for,” Harry wrote Bess. Harry had studied the lives of all the American presidents. His hero was Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States (1829–1837) and the founder of the Democratic Party, for whom Jackson County, Missouri, was named. Jackson’s adventures in war and politics made his life story read like an adventure novel. “I have been tossed upon the waves of fortune,” Jackson famously said. He was the first American president to come from the common people—people like the Trumans. “If Andrew Jackson can be President, anybody can!” was a common quip of Jackson’s day.
In the fall of 1912 the presidential election was the talk of the Truman dinner table for weeks. Not in Truman’s lifetime had an election been so bitterly fought. A schism tore apart the Republican Party. The incumbent president, William Howard Taft, had won the nomination, leading a humiliated Republican opponent, Theodore Roosevelt, to strike out independently. With his newly created Bull Moose Party, his magnanimity, and his wild oratory style, Theodore Roosevelt riveted Americans. The Democrat Woodrow Wilson had only two years of political experience, and none in national politics. Less than a month before the election, a would-be assassin fired a gunshot into Theodore Roosevelt’s chest, the bullet passing through the pages of a speech he was about to give. With the bullet lodged less than an inch from his heart, he delivered the speech, then went to the hospital and survived. Two weeks later Vice President James Sherman died, leaving the Republican Taft with no running mate.
“Nobody talks anything but election,” Harry wrote Bess on November 6, the day after the contest, which Wilson won, becoming the twenty-eighth president of the United States. The brutality of this election made Truman philosophical about his future and politics itself, especially when his father threw his hat in the ring, running and winning the local office of road overseer.
“Politics sure is the ruination of many a good man,” Harry wrote Bess. “Between hot air and graft he usually loses not only his head but his money and friends as well. Still, if I were rich I’d just as soon spend my money buying votes and offices as yachts and autos. Success seems to me to be merely a point of view anyway . . .
“To succeed financially,” Harry concluded, “a man can’t have any heart. To succeed politically he must be an egotist or a fool or a ward boss tool.”
02 December 2019
From The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World, by A. J. Baime (HMH Books, 2017), Kindle pp. 25-26:
In the Capitol, Truman headed through the long hallways, past the eight-foot statue of Benjamin Franklin, and down a marble staircase to Rayburn’s office, which was affectionately nicknamed “the Board of Education.” Truman arrived at about 5:05 p.m. There the Speaker of the House, “Mr. Sam,” was chatting with a couple of other guests. Here in this office, congressmen gathered to “strike a blow for liberty”—to drink whiskey. When asked why the room was called the Board of Education, Rayburn liked to say: “I guess some fellahs have been educated down there.”
Rayburn handed Truman his drink of choice—bourbon and water—then told him that a call had just come in for him, from Steve Early in the White House. Truman picked up the phone and dialed.
“This is the VP,” he said.
In a strained voice, Early ordered Truman to come to the White House “as quickly and quietly” as possible, and to use the main Pennsylvania Avenue entrance. Rayburn was watching Truman at this moment. “He is kind of a pale fellow . . . and he got a little paler,” Rayburn recalled.
Truman hung up. “Jesus Christ and General Jackson!” he said. He turned to Sam Rayburn. “Steve Early wants me at the White House immediately,” he said. He made for the door, and with his hand on the knob, he turned and said, “Boys, this is in this room. Something must have happened.”
The vice president walked out the door, then broke into a run. The Capitol hallways were nearly empty by this time, and Truman’s footsteps on the marble floor echoed through the corridors. He made it to his office in the Senate building quickly and out of breath. He grabbed his hat. “[I] told my office force that I’d been summoned to the White House and to say nothing about it,” he later wrote.
Outside it had begun to rain again. Truman found his chauffeur, Tom Harty, and off they went in the Mercury state car with no secret service detail. They arrived at the White House “in almost nothing flat,” Truman recalled, motoring through the Northwest Gate. Ushers greeted the vice president at the door, bowing and taking his hat. They led him upstairs via an elevator to the First Lady’s private study, where Truman found Mrs. Roosevelt, her daughter and son-in-law Anna and John Boettiger, and Stephen Early, sitting quietly. The First Lady approached Truman and put her arm around his shoulder.
“Harry,” she said, “the president is dead.”
Four words raced through Truman’s mind: The lightning has struck! “I was fighting off tears,” he later recalled. “It was the only time in my life I think that I ever felt like I’d had a real shock. I had hurried to the White House to see the president and when I arrived I found I was the president. No one in the history of our country ever had it happen to him just that way.”
He gathered himself. “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked the First Lady.
“Is there anything we can do for you,” Eleanor Roosevelt answered. “For you are the one in trouble now.”
01 December 2019
From Dawn Like Thunder (Annotated): The Barbary Wars and the Birth of the U.S. Navy, by Glenn Tucker (Corsair Books, 2019), Kindle Loc. c. 8150ff:
When the American fleet was released from the patrol off Tripoli by Lear’s peace treaty, [Commodore] Rodgers showed his power to Bey Hamouda Pacha at Tunis.
He dispatched the Congress and the Vixen and followed with the Constitution, Constellation, Essex, John Adams, Siren, Nautilus, Franklin, Enterprise, Hornet, and part of the flotilla of gunboats which were now arriving from the United States; sixteen sail in all....
They made an imposing sight when they rounded Cape Bon and stood into Tunis Bay on August 1, 1805.
Then Rodgers wrote a letter asking the Bey if he wanted peace or war and giving him the generous time of thirty-six hours in which to reply....
The Bey now refused to receive Decatur, whom Rodgers sent ashore, and the Captain started back to the ship. The Bey told Davis that Rodgers’ letter amounted to a declaration of war. But Bey Hamouda Pacha had no appetite for the big guns of the frigates anchored off his city, and on quick reflection he sent a messenger to Rodgers in such hot haste that he reached the waterfront ahead of Decatur and got a conciliatory reply to the Commodore before Decatur could report how he had been snubbed.
Lear eventually went ashore to assist Davis in the negotiations, but he could not have put any indemnities or weasel clauses into this arrangement even had he desired because Rodgers was watching. To the Bey’s complaint that the entire American fleet had descended on him, Rodgers gave assurance it was not so, because a frigate, a brig, eight gunboats, and two mortar boats had not yet arrived.
Davis wrote to Rodgers suggesting a suspension of any hostilities until a communication could be had with the President of the United States.
That was not Rodgers’ way of doing business. He replied that unless Bey Hamouda gave a guarantee of the maintenance of peace and signed it in the presence of the British and French consuls, he would seal the port so tight that nothing could get in or out. Then Rodgers sent a copy of the wording he wanted in the guarantee. Lear and the Bey went into a round of letter-writing during which Rodgers’ patience was wearing thin. In a letter of August 15 he declared that the Bey must give a guarantee of peace and then he could send an ambassador to Washington to treat if he desired.
Then Rodgers let loose to Lear an opinion about this petty tyrant: “His prevaricating with you in particular, induces me to believe, that he is now more than ever the Scoundrel, I had thought him before, and I have only to repeat, that if he does not do all that is necessary, & proper, that even at the risk of my Conducts being disapproved by my Country, he shall feel the Vengeance of the Squadron now in his Bay.”
In the face of such force and persistency Bey Hamouda capitulated. He gave notice that the United States would be placed on a most-favored-nation basis and that he would send an ambassador to the United States to deal with any complaints. Rodgers answered cordially, said he had a frigate returning, and asked to have the ambassador make ready at once.
The ambassador was Sidi Suliman Mellimelli, who sailed with Decatur on the Congress, and was to become a startling figure, during the winter of 1805-1806, in the American capital where he lived luxuriously at the expense of the American government and pressed a claim for tribute and indemnity.
Decatur carried a letter from Rodgers to Secretary Smith, saying of the Bey of Tunis that if his late hostility should be overlooked, “I can with almost certainty say that he will never again attempt to behave in a similar manner.”
Mellimelli took four beautiful Arabian stud horses with him as a gift to President Jefferson, one having been a gift to the Bey from the Dey of Algiers. The scrupulous Jefferson would not accept them for himself but the Treasury sold them as part payment of Mellimelli’s expenses. But first they were kept in the President’s stables and the stud fees went to the collector of revenues.
The ambassador was accompanied by a suite of eleven, including an Italian band. He was short on women, for whom he had a ravenous appetite. The prim little Secretary of State Madison had to have concubines supplied at public expense, and wrote about it later, saying: “Appropriations to foreign intercourse are terms of great latitude and may be drawn on by very urgent and unforeseen occurrences.”
Madison never lacked the ability of choice expression. Mellimelli did not know the tightness of the American farmer-congressman. He was unable to exact a single coin from Congress or Secretary Gallatin, but the more freehanded Lear did make an adjustment with the Bey two years later by paying $10,000.
After much difficulty and some revolts among his followers, Mellimelli, whose main argument for tribute appeared to be that he would likely be killed if he returned without it, was packed off home in a ship from Boston. The United States continued its payments of tribute to Algiers through the years, but learned what other powers had long known, that it was best to be in arrears.