Exodusters–Voting with one’s feet

                  One of the greatest rights any person can hold is the “right to exit,” that is, the right and ability to depart a bad situation in search of a better one.  With the failure and end of post-Civil War Reconstruction in 1877, numerous ex-slaves voted with their feet, leaving the South for the American West.  The 1870s and 1880s witnessed the beginning of the plains settlement boom, and blacks migrated in significant numbers to western Kansas, western Nebraska, and Oklahoma.  Known as Exodusters, these blacks shook the dust of southern prejudice off their feet.  The Homestead Act of 1862, one of the most liberal and republican of all American laws, did not discriminate on basis of race, and any black males or single black females were welcome to take up a government-provided homestead.  Though records were poorly kept, almost 40,000 blacks migrated to the new communities.  Like many or the original European-derived Great Plains communities, few of these black Gilded Age settlements remain at the beginning of the twenty-first century.  The most prominent of those still extant is Nicodemus in Graham County, Kansas.  It had been the earliest of the Exoduster communities, founded in 1877.

                  The two most prominent individuals in the great exodus from the South were Louisianan Henry Adams, a former slave, and Benjamin “Pap” Singleton.  Both men mixed self-help philosophy and God-given drive with entrepreneurial boosterism to promote the black settlements.  “What’s going to be a hundred years from now ain’t much account to us,” Singleton said, and the “whites has the lands and the sense, an’ the blacks has nothin’ but their freedom, an’ it’s jest like a dream to them.” The promoters sent advertising circulars to black churches, mostly located in the border states and upper South.  Most of the Exodusters came from Tennessee.

                  The enterprise faced many obstacles.  First, many southern whites feared the loss of exploitable, cheap labor.  Armed throughout river ports in the South, whites physically prevented innumerable blacks from migrating.  Second, unlike the many European immigrants to the high plains who had first lived in the steppes of Russia, the blacks from the South had no experience with dry farming.  Continental weather patterns and very little rain hindered black agricultural efforts at first.

                  Still, the new settlers overcame these difficulties and created thriving communities.  “When I landed on the soil I looked on the ground and I says this is free ground,” one black settler said. “Then I looked on the heavens and I says them is free and beautiful heavens. Then I looked within my heart and I says to myself, I wonder why I was never free before?”  A Great Bend, Kansas, newspaper editorialized: “We have been so long aiding white people coming here that certainly no one would think of refusing the freedom of the state to a few hundred colored people seeking liberty and a home.  Treat the colored people exactly the same as if they were white people in like circumstances.”  By 1890, blacks owned roughly 20,000 acres in Kansas.  Inspired by the philosophy of Booker T. Washington, another 50,000 blacks settled in Indian Territory in the 1890s.  The leader of the Oklahoma migrations, Edward McCabe, desired the creation of an independent black state.

                  Blacks participated in more western activities than just farming.  A goodly percentage worked as cowboys or on railroads.  Most famous among western blacks were the so-called “Buffalo Soldiers,” who fought in several important Indian battles between the Civil War and 1890.  Stripped down to peacetime size after the Civil War, the frontier army relied heavily–sometimes exclusively–on black soldiers.  Buffalo soldiers served in campaigns against the Sioux, the Cheyenne, the Comanche, the Kiowa, the Ute, and the Apache.  Black troops also protected the United States border against Mexican bandits.  Congress awarded fourteen medals of honor to black soldiers between 1870 and 1890.

–Brad Birzer


Gaining a Nation, Losing the Republic: 

Reconstruction, 1863-1877

Bradley J. Birzer, Hillsdale College

For Sheldon Richman/The FREEMAN, January 2011

A dead president, carpetbaggers, scalawags, burning crosses, white hoods, an occupied South, Boss Tweed, Thomas Nast cartoons, the New York Democratic machine, and an imprisoned Jefferson Davis give us vivid images of the dozen years following the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s forces at Appomattox in April, 1865.  As every historian knows, often to his chagrin, these twelve years were tumultuous, confusing, and chaotic, especially in hindsight.  The time period, is also, of course, a let down after the tragedies and nobilities of the Civil War years.  Whereas men had clear purpose—no matter what side the person chose—during the war, political compromises and plunder defined Reconstruction.

A period of governmental corruption, monetary instability, gross expansion of political power, the solidification of public schooling, Anglo-Saxon racialist beliefs, manifest destiny, Indian Wars, and extreme violence, Reconstruction witnessed a giant leap toward a cohesive nation-state and far away from the founding vision of a decentralized federal republic.  

Plunder, Not Peace

A mere two months before John Wilkes Booth assassinated him, President Abraham Lincoln met with his two top generals, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, on the steamship, The River Queen, just outside of Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Though Lincoln would call for “malice toward none” and “charity for all” in his second inaugural, delivered early March of the same year, he offered his fullest plan and desires for what a reconstructed union might look like in a private conversation with Grant and Sherman.  Lincoln, he assured them, wanted nothing more than 

to get the deluded men of the rebel armies disarmed and back to their homes. . . Let them once surrender and reach their homes, [and] they won’t take up arms again. . . . Let them all go, officers and all, I want submission and no more bloodshed. . . I want no one punished; treat them liberally all around.  We want those people to return to their allegiance to the Union and submit to the laws.[1]

While Lincoln had waged a terribly hard and total war, he also desired the softest peace possible.  Indeed, if one takes Lincoln’s words on The River Queen at face value, the United States of 1865 would look very much like the United States of 1860, with one exception: returning states would need to accept the emancipation of all slaves through the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  His architects of total war, Grant and Sherman, agreed completely with the president.  Neither of Lincoln’s generals knew how much longer the war would last, they explained to him, but they believed the war was rapidly approaching its an end with possibly only one or two major battles left.  They had reached endgame.

            When Booth cut down Lincoln at Ford’s Theater on Good Friday, two months later, he changed the entire course of American history.  Had Lincoln presided over the peace following the war, one has no reason to doubt, he would have reconciled constitutional relations with, among, and between the former Confederate states, officers, and citizens as quickly as politically possible.  The war, after all, had been viewed by almost all sides as a noble tragedy for the common good of the republic and the vision (no matter how varied) of the American founding fathers.  Men, for the most part, had chosen to fight, and they had chosen to fight, again and again.  Though a draft existed in the North, for example, after the summer of 1863, ninety-four percent of all Union soldiers had volunteered.  As General Joshua Chamberlain, the classicist from Maine’s Bowdoin College, had astutely observed of the surrender ceremonies in April, 1865:

Honor answering honor. . . . [as men] of near blood born, made nearer by blood shed. . . . On our part not a sound or a trumpet more, nor roll of drum; nor a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glory, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding.[2]

Just outside of Appomattox Courthouse, Robert E. Lee’s former Confederate forces, what remained of the Army of Northern Virginia, walked through two lines of Union soldiers.  The Union soldiers saluted the defeated for hours on end that day. “Reluctantly, with agony of expression,” Chamberlain recorded, the Confederate soldiers

tenderly fold their flags, battle-worn and torn, blood-stained, heart holding colors, and lay them down; some frenziedly rushing from the ranks, kneeling over them, clinging to them, pressing them to their lips with burning tears.[3]

Such a scene, of course, is a far cry from the militarization and politicization, the martial law and the intrusion of Leviathan that one normally associates with Reconstruction as it actually happened.  Though President Jefferson Davis’s final executive order called for all CSA troops to divide into terrorist cells and launch attacks against civilians and urban areas, Robert E. Lee countermanded the order through deed and word, telling the men to “be good citizens as they had been soldiers.”[4]

            With Lincoln’s death, though, the war became personal in a way that it had not been during the mass bloodshed of the previous four years.  To many in the country, especially in the North, Lincoln’s death transformed him into a full-fledged American martyr, and his reputation exploded.  Those who took most advantage of this loss and manipulated it to their advantage were the Radicals within the Republican party—Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, and Representative George Julian of Indiana, to name a few–men who had despised and resented Lincoln as a spineless moderate, lacking a proper nationalist and vindictive streak.  

The Radicals had attempted nothing less than a Congressional coup against Lincoln in December, 1862, had openly desired a military dictatorship throughout much of the war, and had proposed their own version of Reconstruction as early as 1863.  Their vision of post-war America involved remaking the entirety of the South in their own image, with extensive punishment for all involved.  Just as they had wanted Lincoln to wage an ever increasingly hard war, they wanted a peace imposed by the sword.  Lincoln’s death provided them with a symbol around which to rally Northerners against their southern brethren.  “Within eight hours of his murder Republican Congressmen in secret caucus agreed,” as Lincoln biographer, David Donald explained, “that ‘his death is a godsend to our cause.’”  As the leader of the Radicals, the Ohio Senator Ben Wade, stated, “there will be no more trouble running the government.”[5]  

Wade and his fellow Radicals would have no small part in nationalizing the United States over the next dozen years. “The New England reformers thought they had struck down evil incarnate when they crushed the Sable Genius of the South; and their horror at the corruption and chaos of the Gilded Age was intensified proportionately as they discovered the extent of their own previous naiveté,” the cultural critic and historian, Russell Kirk wrote.  “They had dreaded an era of Jefferson Davis; but now they were in an era” of the radicals and “of worse.”  The true reformers “awoke to find their fellow-Republicans, the oligarchs of their party, intent upon concrete plunder.”[6]

And, Leviathan Expands Again

            Not surprisingly, the size of government grew dramatically during the four years of the Civil War.  The Union printed greenbacks, founded the U.S. Secret Service (the second federal police force, the first having been set up after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850) to protect the green fiat money, taxed incomes, promoted university education, built war factories and railroads, raised tariffs, declared—in some places—martial law and suspended freedoms of speech and habeas corpus, used troops to break labor strikes, and encouraged mobs to do what it believed it could not do openly.  In the South, President Jefferson Davis nullified the Confederate constitution almost from day one.  Davis often ignored Congress and his own Vice President, and he used the full power of his office to harass any political opposition.  Most notably, through fraud, Davis shut down the one opposition to develop, the classical liberal “Conservative Party” of North Carolina.  The CSA taxed incomes, excess profits, and licenses, and raised tariffs on imports as well as exports.  Because currency flowed only intermittently throughout the South, the CSA printed an outrageous amount of paper currency and established—to the horror of average southerners—the Tax-In-Kind men, empowered by the government to take whatever livestock, produce, and materiel they deemed necessary for the war effort.  Unlike the North, the South conscripted throughout much of the war, set prices, and enforced loyalty oaths.  The CSA, contrary to popular memory, also rigorously enforced its own laws against the several states making up the Confederacy.

            In terms of institutional history, very few of these laws continued into the period of Reconstruction.  With the collapse of the Confederate government, no confederate laws continued, of course.  With the end of the war, the Union repealed many, if not most, of its war measures.  The legacy and symbolism of such martial laws, however, remained into the Progressive period and beyond.  If Lincoln could centralize the Union and defeat the Confederacy and Slavery, could we not also use the federal government to wage war against poor standards, poverty, immigrants, or whatever thing the individual Progressive might resent?  In this, the memory and influence of Civil War legacy is a powerful one.  Perhaps no figure better represents this than John Wesley Powell, a Union officer who lost his arm in the 1862 Battle of Shiloh, and is often regarded as the father of American progressives.  Tellingly, through the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Ethnography, Powell crafted and promoted plans to remake the West (sometimes, physically) through the powers of the federal government.

            Believing the federal government under Lincoln had never gone far enough, the Radicals of Reconstruction expanded the scope and reach of the federal government as quickly as possible.   Not only did the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution nationalize the Bill of Rights, but it also repositioned virtually all federal law as superior to all state and local laws, thus attenuating even further the already difficult balance of federalism.  Most Reconstruction laws began in the Radical-controlled congressional Joint Committee on Reconstruction, dominated by Ben Wade.  Most importantly, through the impetus of the Joint Committee, Congress passed a series of haphazard laws establishing martial law over various districts of the South.  The rule of law, such that it was, was enforced through military rather than civilian courts.  Through a series of laws, Congress provided extensive funding for public schooling, welfare (direct aid) for freed slaves, and, sometimes, enforced the property rights of blacks.  None of this should suggest that somehow the Radicals were, as a whole, pro-black.  As the Pulitzer-prize winning historian T.H. Williams once noted, the Radicals “loved the Negro less for himself than as an instrument with which they might fasten Republican political and economic control upon the South.”[7]  In reality, the Radicals were little better in their promotion of rights, dignity, and liberties blacks than had been the plantation owners of the previous generations.  Each—white men of the North and South—desired to manipulate the black population for their own aggrandizement and profit.  As Robert Higgs has definitively shown in his path-breaking work, Competition and Coercion, American freedmen did exceedingly well in terms of culture, economics, and literacy in the fifty years after emancipation.  But, as Higgs persuasively argues, they did so through their own efforts and despite significant government and societal obstacles. 

Free from competitive counterpressures and strongly equipped to enforce compliance, public officials could discriminate pretty much as their pleasure or caprice might dictate.  Under these circumstances it was a definite blessing for the blacks that the governments of the post-bellum South were still quite limited in the range of functions to which they attended.  Such salvation as the black man found, he found in the private sector.[8]

By 1910, Higgs shows, one in four blacks owned his own land, two-parent stable families accounted for all black families, and 70% of all blacks were literate.  By any measure, these are impressive gains considering the overwhelming majority of American blacks had never had a choice over any one of these things before the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Not surprisingly, given the abusive attitudes white Radicals held toward American blacks, corruption proved endemic to the entire Reconstruction effort. So much money flowed from Congress into the reconstructed South that manipulators and opportunists profited wherever and whenever possible, which was more often than not.  The Reconstruction governments simply had no manpower or will to prevent the corruption.  More often than not, they participated directly in the corruption, using it for political gain.  The famous nineteenth-century Scottish observer of America, James Bryce, recorded his own thoughts on the time period.  “Such a Saturnalia of robbery and jobbery has seldom been seen in any civilized country, and certainly never before under the forms of a free self-government,” he wrote in his The American Commonwealth, comparing the American officials of Reconstruction to Roman provincial governors in the last days of the Republic.  

Greed was unchecked and roguery unabashed. The methods of plunder were numerous. Every branch of administration became wasteful. Public contracts were jobbed, and the profits shared. Extravagant salaries were paid to legislators; extravagant charges allowed for all sorts of work done at the public cost. But perhaps the commonest form of robbery, and that conducted on the largest scale, was for the legislature to direct the issue of bonds in aid of a railroad or other public work, these bonds being then delivered to contractors who sold them, shared the proceeds with the governing ring, and omitted to execute the work. Much money was however taken in an even more direct fashion from the state treasury or from that of the local authority; and as not only the guardians of the public funds, but even, in many cases, the courts of law, were under the control of the thieves, discovery was difficult and redress unattainable. In this way the industrious and property-holding classes saw the burdens of the state increase, with no power of arresting the process.[9]

While almost all white leftist historians have downplayed or ignored this corruption since the 1960s, they do so at great peril to the dictates of honesty and truth.[10]

As they had failed to do with Abraham Lincoln in the attempted Congressional coup of December 1862, the Radicals tried to gain control of President Andrew Johnson’s cabinet.  When Johnson violated this law in February of 1868, the House of Representatives impeached the president on a vote of 126-47, following strict party lines.  The failure of the Senate to support the House’s impeachment somewhat attenuated the strength and confidence of the Radicals.  Indeed, though Radical regimes remained in power until 1876, the Radicals never again wielded the same kind of power as they had in the second half of the 1860s.[11]

The Lingering Agony of Nationalism

            In part, the Radicals also failed because the eighteenth president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, never accepted the fanatical premises upon which Radicalism had developed.[12]  A moderate Republican at best, Grant resented the post-war bloodthirstiness of the Radicals, few of whom had ever seen battle.  Despite this, Grant was a determined nationalist and, when he was not dealing with the corruption in his own administration, he was promoting “Americanness” wherever possible.  This became most clear in his policy toward the American Indians.  

U.S. Government relations the Indians had never been consistent.  It had gravitated between vicious brutality toward the Indians (as had been the case under Andrew Jackson) to respect and protection of Indian property (such as had been the case under Franklin Pierce).  After the Civil War, under the Johnson and Grant administrations, the U.S. Government waged a fierce war against the American Indians, confiscating their best property, relegating what remained of the tribe to the worst land.  The greatest atrocity committed by the federal government against American Indians came just at the very end of the Reconstruction period.  After a tragic misunderstanding, the military decided to round up, forcibly remove, and detain a sizeable minority of the Nez Perce Indians, a tribe faithfully allied to America since 1805.  When the Nez Perce understandably resisted, the government spared neither time nor expense to defeat them.  As the periodical, The Nation, reported:

How far the Indian insurrection on the Pacific Slope is for the present suppressed is not decided, but it were well, while its lesson is fresh, to realize that the Nez-Perces are not to blame for the expensive and sanguinary campaign, unless being goaded into a brief madness by the direct and endless oppression of our Federal authorities be blameworthy. . . . the neglect and bad faith of the general Government, continued for a quarter of a century, are apparent in the records of Congress.  There was swindling, not in petty matters and by individuals, requiring detection and proof, but on a grand scale by the United States itself.[13]

 It would be difficult to find a more telling example of government corruption and abuse of power during this period than its directing of the military against a peaceful, allied people, farmers and ranchers who had been occupying the same land—the Palouse and Camas Prairies of the Pacific Northwest—for nearly five hundred years.

Nation-building always and everywhere demands conformity and destruction of local and individual differences.  To overcome such divisions, the nation must create a religious type of myth and fundamental symbols to rally the population, and defend itself with unrelenting force.  The Reconstruction government did all of this without apology, and immigrants (especially Roman Catholics), blacks, and Indians suffered intensely.  “Nationalism in the sense of national greed has supplanted Liberalism,” one of the great classical liberals of the day, E.L. Godkin, noted in hindsight in 1900. “We hear no more of natural rights, but of inferior races, whose part it is to submit to the government of those whom God has made their superiors.”  Americans, Godkin argued, had forsaken the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution.  Further, he wrote, “The great party which boasted that it had secured for the negro the rights of humanity and of citizenship now listens in silence to proclamations of White Supremacy.”[14]

Men who had fought valiantly on the battlefields of the Civil War must have asked themselves what it all had meant, if anything?

Bradley J. Birzer is the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies and Professor of History, Hillsdale College, Michigan.  He is the author of several books, including his most recent about the American founding, American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (ISI Books, 2010).  He dedicates this article—for his friendship and inspiration for over twenty years—to Larry Reed.

[1] Lincoln’s conversation quoted in Jay Winik, April 1865: The Month That Saved America (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 68.

[2] Chamberlain quoted in Nesbitt, ed., Through Blood and Fire: Selected Civil War Papers of Major Joshua Chamberlain (Stackpole Books, 1996), 175.

[3] Chamberlain quoted in Mark Nesbitt, ed., Through Blood and Fire, 176.

[4] Jeffrey Hummel, Emancipating Slaves: Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996), 282; and Robert E. Lee quoted in Bruce Catton, The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, 570.

[5] David Donald, Lincoln Reconsidered: Essays on the Civil War Era, 2nd ed., enlarged (New York: Vintage, 1956), 4.

[6] Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind, 1st ed., (Chicago, IL: Regnery, 1953), pg. 295.

[7] T.H. Williams quoted in Donald, Lincoln Reconsidered, 105.  The obvious exception to this is Thaddeus Stevens.

[8] Robert Higgs, Competition and Coercion: Blacks in the American Economy, 1865-1914 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 133.

[9] James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995). Vol. 2: 335-336.

[10] Whether one should emphasize the corruption of the Reconstruction period is an issue hotly debated by historians over the previous century.  While few historians outright dismiss the extent of the corruption, most historians since the 1960s have chosen to see Reconstruction as a failed noble attempt, branding those who focus on the corruption as somehow lacking in idealism.  See especially Kenneth Stampp, “The Tragic Legend of Reconstruction,” the first chapter of his The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), 3-23.  Unfortunately, Stampp’s view has become orthodoxy among professional historians.

[11] James McPherson, Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction 3d ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2001), 572-581.

[12] The best biography of Grant is Josiah Bunting III, Ulysses S. Grant: The 18th President, 1869-1877 (Times Books, 2004).

[13] The Nation (August 2, 1877).

[14] E.L. Godkin, “The Eclipse of Liberalism,” The Nation (August 9, 1900), 105. 

Real Life is Meeting by John Galgano (Bandcamp)

IZZ just released Real Life is Meeting by John Galgano, check it out here

“Doone Records is pleased to release, for the first time digitally, John Galgano’s solo album, Real Life is Meeting.

John Galgano is a founding member of art-rock group, IZZ, and has been one of the band’s primary songwriters and bass player since the band’s inception. Originally released in 2012, Real Life is Meeting presents nine tracks varying in styles and instrumentation, from the catchy, art-pop flavor of “Bigger on the Inside,” to the experimental, synth-based “The Only Thing,” to the bass-driven “Look Around” to the 19-minute piece “1000,” all the while taking the listener in unexpected directions.

Real Life is Meeting showcases Galgano’s humor, his introspective and confessional lyrics, and his surprising song structures. The result is a fluid and naked collection of philosophical musings set to music – meditations on what it means to be human in the 21st century.

Featuring IZZ mates Laura Meade, Brian Coralian, Greg DiMiceli & Paul Bremner. Produced & mixed by Shawn Bishop.”

To order, go here: https://izzmusic.bandcamp.com/album/real-life-is-meeting?from=fanpub_fb

Avkrvst, The Approbation

Norwegian progressive rock group AVKRVST reveal details for debut album
‘The Approbation’.

New video for the first single “The Pale Moon” out now.Photo by Kristian RangnesNorwegian progressive rock group AVKRVST are pleased to reveal details on their debut album titled ‘The Approbation’, set to be released on June 16th, 2023.  The album cover and tracklisting can be seen below.
The band are also pleased to share the new video for the album’s first single “The Pale Moon” which you can see here:

 “The Pale Moon” is also available on all digital platforms here:
https://avkrvst.lnk.to/ThePaleMoon-SingleThe band had this to say about the video: “The video for «The Pale Moon» is portraying a lonesome soul and his daily chores on a cabin far away from civilization – on his journey towards the end of life. All faith and hope is gone and the character is starting to lose his mind. Is he alone? Is there someone else present? Or is it just his mind playing games?

The video was directed by AVKRVST and co-directed, shot and edited by Simen Skari.The cover artwork for ‘The Approbation’ was created by Berlin-based artist and illustrator Eliran Kantor, who is well-known for his intriguing cover creations for metal bands.

1.Østerdalen 0:26
2.The Pale Moon 6:15
3.Isolation 5:41
4.The Great White River 6:30
5.Arcane Clouds 6:05
6.Anodyne 10:15
7.The Approbation 13:37Earlier this year the band shared a teaser video of them working in the studio which you can see here:

At the young age of 7 years old, Martin Utby and Simon Bergseth made a pact that they would form a band when they got older. Now, 22 years later they’ve done just that. An album is ready – 55 minutes of music inspired by everything they grew up listening to – everything from Mew, Anekdoten and Porcupine Tree to Opeth, Neal Morse and King Crimson.

All the music has been written at a small cabin, deep into the Norwegian forests (Alvdal, Nor- way). Simon (composer, guitars, bass and vocals) and Martin (composer, drummer and synths) have later been joined by Øystein Aadland on bass/keys, Edvard Seim on guitars and Auver Gaaren on keys.

 More to come.AVKRVST Online:

English should be America’s national and official language.   


By Richard K. Munro, MA

Ilan Stavans wrote in a recent WSJ article “How We the People Built American English (March 3, 2023) that Theodore Roosevelt was on his deathbed when he “announced there was only one language for Americans and that was the English language.”  Stavans  gives the impression that TR was an “English-only” monoglot when in fact TR though an American nationalist was a multilingual cosmopolitan thinker.   TR was fluent in German and French and could get by in Portuguese and Spanish.  But TR was aware of the dangers of a chaotic polyglot society and for that reason, he felt English should be America’s national and official language.     In his book, The People’s Tongue on which his essay was based Stavans asserts that Proposition 227 was passed in 1998 “eliminating the teaching of students in any language other than English.”   This assertion, which has been made many times by opponents of Official English is false.  Prop 227 had no effect on the teaching of Foreign Languages (a requirement in California high schools) or Dual Immersion k-6 schools with parental permission.  A well-known example is the Sherman Academy in San Diego.     Official English is not English-only and allows for flexibility on the federal, state and local level.

TR was aware of the constitutional implications of a romantic bilingualism or multilingualism that could lead to separatism, inter-ethnic violence even civil war.   E. D. Hirsch has noted “multilingualism enormously increases cultural fragmentation, civil antagonism, illiteracy, and economic-technological ineffectualness.”    Some bilingual societies have been successful or reasonably successful. We have the example of the Roman Empire, the Vatican,  Finland and the Aland Islands,   Switzerland , Canada,  Belgium, Malta, Philippines, India, South Africa and Spain. The European Union has 24 official languages.   English remains an official EU language despite the fact the UK has left the EU.   The EU embraces official multilingualism and therefore has no one official language for its laws or constitution.   This is a critical problem for  EU because there is no  universal agreement on translations and interpretations. The Vatican has Italian and Latin as official languages but the Church produces liturgical texts in Latin, which provide a single clear point of reference for translations into all other languages.  Less successful bilingual/multilingual states over time include the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sri Lanka, Ruanda, Lebanon, Cyprus,  Kenya and the Ukraine. 

Diane Ravitch wrote of America as “a society that is racially diverse requires…a conscious effort to build shared values and ideals among its citizenry.”  This should include the recognition that English is and should be our official national language.    These shared values of America’s Union will be forged by our public and quasi-public institutions, which include our military, our sports, our houses of God, our press and media, voluntary organizations. our jury box and courthouse as well as our schools. The language of the rule books, Federal courts and juries must be in English (though of course interpreters can be used when necessary).  In addition, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, contracts, official documents, our laws and constitutions must be in English (though translations can be provided).    

So “official English” does not mean “English only.”  States may use other languages or translations for public safety.   States, even states with official English, may offer DMV tests in multiple languages if they choose.  The states and federal government can allow and encourage dual immersion schools and the teaching of foreign languages.   Denny’s can offer (voluntarily) menus in as many languages as it likes so as to welcome tourists and others.  

However, we as a society must be aware of the costs of official bilingualism/multilingualism both monetary and political. We dare not take our freedom, our prosperity, and our national unity for granted. America’s democratic pluralist experiment continues but it may yet be defeated if we do not exercise care.   Even Stavans says  “to create a nation, you need a language. “ The USA is an English-speaking nation and we should enshrine this fact nationwide in law.     This is why Pro English supports making English our official national language.

Richard K. Munro, MA

Teacher of  Spanish, English and history

Member of the Board of Pro English.


20 F Street NW 7th Floor

Washington, DC 20001


By RIchard K. Munro

More Notes on Latins, culture, and Language

I never grew up with Mexican jokes; growing up in the New York metropolitan area there were , then, very few Mexicans and Mexican Americans.   I remember Tio Pepe was one of the few well-known restaurants which served any Mexican fare at all.   Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Italian, and Cuban (Criollo) restaurants were much more common. I only made it through college by .99 cent and 1.99 cent plates of Arroz a la Cubana.   There was a strong Latin presence which included French-Canadians, Haitians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Brazilians, and Central and South Americans.  And of course these groups were mixed with Greeks (born in Panama) Portuguese (Born in Africa), Irish (born in South Africa), Jews born everywhere. I knew many Spanish-speaking Jews in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Some were from Argentina,, some from Cuba, some from Costa Rica. Some were of Greek/Jewish/Ladino origin. I knew a teacher born in Cuba whose family had been Ladino-speaking Jews in Salonika and Constantinople prior to 1914. Can anyone deny the world is one big bubbling melting pot?

There was still a fashion of ethnic jokes however and I noted many anti-Catholic stories in which the Irish priests were always drunk and turning up with choir boys in their beds who had been frogs. I noted that the Cubans and Brazilians were really the only fully integrated groups; almost all the African American friends and acquaintances I had were Latin (Latino). In New York, in the 1970s there was almost no nativist feeling and the concept of what was “Latin” was broader.  It’s possible that there was some anti-Gay feeling but I have no memory of that because no one ever talked about it. We were normal young people. The boys liked shapely young girls and vice-versa. Living in Greenwich Village one had some contact with the Gay Community. I had some friends who might have been Gay but they never talked about it or acted out in any way. I considered that to be someone’s personal business.

Many Spanish-speaking persons of color considered themselves Latinos and not Black. Among the common people, the terms used by people were Boricua, or Latin or in Spanish “Hispano o Latino”. Spanish-speaking people did not naturally use the term “Hispanic” however and of course, no one had ever heard of LATINX (sic)

It seems to me Cubans and Puerto Ricans were much more likely to call themselves “Hispano” . Cubans and Puerto Ricans usually have much closer ties to Spain being officially Spanish as recently as 1898. ‘

Hispanic is a relatively modern word -I only heard “Spanish” as a youth- is still rare beyond government and census documents.

Hispanic is still an artificial government term essentially invented circa 1970. . Spanish-speaking people did not naturally use the term “Hispanic” however and of course, no one had ever heard of LATINX (sic)

People, it seems to me, prefer to call themselves by their name of national origin which is natural.

It doesn’t bother me if people call me Irish (I am part Irish) but my people were Islanders and considered themselves Gaels or called themselves by their tribal or clan name. Clans were legally independent kingdoms or regions until 1746. There was much loyal to the Chief and a strong remembrance of the Stewarts.

My people did not consider themselves Europeans or British either. Europe was “Roinn-Eorpa” the mainland. British people to them were Welsh people and of course the Saxon was English. 

Anglo was never a word that meant anything to me but English and sometimes protestant as in the term Anglo-Irish. Anglo-American meant a person of English descent.

I must admit even to this day I prefer “English-speaking” to Anglo because I am not an Anglo-Saxon. But I am proudly an Anglophile as I am Hispanófilo.  My children are Latins or Hispanic Americans but I have never claimed to be what I am not.  The Anglo-Saxons were the traditional enemy of the Gael. Calling a Gael an Anglo-Saxon is like calling a Pole a Russian or an Alsatian a German. The Irish word for Irishman or Highlander is “Gael”(Gaidheal in “Erse”). 

 Even most “Germans” did not originate in “Germany” but other places such as Russia, Romania, Poland, Switzerland and Austria. 

But even Mexican Americans are a divided people. They are severely divided by class.  Mexico itself is as divided by class as England  or Spain today, perhaps more so as England is more egalitarian today.   

I see discrimination against those Mexicans who are, obviously, of African origin. I see discrimination against Mixtecos who do not speak Spanish well (they speak an indigenous language of Mexico). I see discrimination against Latins who do not Speak Spanish well.  

I remember a young girl in my class -a huerita (fair-skinned girl) who was 100% of Mexican ancestry was taunted at not being Mexican by MEXICAN BORN students because she spoke so little Spanish (her parents and grandparents speak Spanish, but she and her brothers and sisters so far removed from Mexico did not speak Spanish.) They called her “pocha.” “Pocha” is somewhat derogatory for someone who is a “faded” Mexican that is someone very Americanized (anglicized).

But her skin color had nothing to do with her language: I know many darker Hispanics who don’t speak a single word of Spanish and have completely distanced themselves from their Catholic heritage believing it is not an important part of their heritage.  

Once again, as a Gael, I find this strange because my identification as a Christian is the single most important and ancient part of my heritage.  My surname, like many Gaelic surnames, is a Christian surname with a specific meaning and is a direct allusion to the early days of the Saints and Scholars of my people.  

I could not imagine being a Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition without acknowledging my debt to the martyrs and saints who preserved and protected Western Civilization and the word itself.  So for me, my Catholic heritage is something indestructible and essential even more so than my national origin, citizenship or “race”.   As a young man I dated young women of many races and backgrounds but most were Christian and most were Roman Catholic. I never found the Catholic church to be segreated place quite the contrary. “Here come the Catholics” said Joyce , “here comes everybody.

I still have difficulty with the American idea that race is a color and not a culture or nationality.  Exactly what do you call the grandchildren of a woman of Spanish, American and Filipino origin whose grandchildren are -brace yourselves- of Mexican, Irish, German,  Polish, and Lithuanian origin?  

It should of no surprise to anyone that this woman is multilingual -she grew up in the Philippines and is a native Spanish speaker as well as a Tagalog (Filipino) speaker that none of her grandchildren speak anything but English.  

What do you call them except Americans?  

When my grandfather spoke of the French race or the English race or the German race or the Turkish race or the Spanish race -I am quite sure he never used the word “Latin” or “Hispanic” his entire life he was speaking of cultures, languages and nationalities not what Americans call “race.”  

I still laugh when I recall him speaking of the “Gallachers” as a “treacherous race.”  By that, he meant they were not “leal n’ true men” from the North but a people apart -urban deracinated Irishmen who no longer had the traditional Gaelic values.

To a “Teuchter” like him they were “soupers” or “pochos.”  Similarly, ladies who were highly anglicized were “South o’ the Dyke” Lassies in other words more English than the English themselves.  The men were “toffs” Every community has its terms to identify “the other”. Every community has it words of self-identification. And at different times people try to pass into one culture or another. Cultural diffusion and assimilation happen over time and over the generation.

CASABLANCA movie notes by MR MUNRO


classroom teacher of history, Spanish, English and ESL from 1987-2021



CASABLANCA…MOVIE NOTES for Mr. Munro’s Seniors










Humphrey Bogart

Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman AS ILSA LUND

Paul Henreid


Claude Rains


1)    Casablanca appeals to such a wide audience because it is a skilled mix of many genres:

a)     It is a romantic film (one of the great romantic films of all time)

b)    It is a war film that clearly highlights “why we fight” (the Allied Cause vs. Axis)

c)     It is a drama of intrigue and spies involving terror, murder and flight.

d)    It is a drama of D.P’s (Displaced Persons or immigrants) trying to get visas

e)     It is a character study centering on Rick Blaine (Bogart)

f)    It is about seduction

and sexual abuse: characters are

coerced into sexual activity they don’t want to do.

g)    It is also a musical journey into popular and national music of the time making the film almost a musical.

h)     It is full of ironic lines and comedy relief (the pickpocket; the elderly couple trying to speak “perfect English” like an American; Captain Renault undecided how Urgarte died).

What part of Casablanca appeals to YOU the most?


2)    Diegetic sound is the sound that you might logically expect to hear in a film scene such as the dialogue, the singing, the clinking of glasses, the sound of a gunshot.  Non-diegetic sound is clearly dubbed or added artificially to a film –the characters can’t hear it. This includes the music score. The leitmotif

[1] of “As Time Goes By” is very powerful. So is the scene with the dueling nationalistic songs the Die Wacht Am Rhein [2](Nazi song) and the Marseilles (song of the French Revolution).  Consider the role of music within the film (diegetic and non-diegetic).

What effect does music have on our understanding of key scenes?  




a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation. “As Time Goes By” is a leitmotif in



Dear fatherland {VATERLAND}, put your mind at rest,–dear fatherland, put your mind at rest,–Firm stands, and true, the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!––Firm stands, and true, the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!

Much, as your waters without end, Have we our heroes’ blood to spend…

…the German youth, pious, and strong


the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

 Everyone is in need of redemption. Our natural condition was characterized by guilt: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23

). See also

Psalm 130:7-8

Luke 2:38

; and

Acts 20:28


  Catharsis: release, liberation , purification

3) One of the things that make Casablanca great is that it speaks to that place in each of us that seeks some kind of inspiration or redemption

[3]. On some level, every character in the story receives the same kind of catharsis[4]

and their lives are irrevocably changed. Rick’s change is the most obvious in that he learns to live again, instead of hiding from a lost love. He is reminded that there are things in the world more noble and important than he (such as freedom; the Allied cause) and he wants to do his part.  Symbolically he represents isolationist America which is turning like FDR (after the Atlantic Charter) to Britain, Churchill, De Gaulle and the Allied Cause.

a)     . Louis (Captain Renault), the womanizer and opportunistic scoundrel gets his redemption by seeing the sacrifice Rick makes and is inspired to choose a side, where he had maintained careful neutrality so as to save his own skin (and profit from the situation).

b)     The stoic  Resistance leader Victor Lazlo gets his redemption by being shown that while thousands may need him to be a hero, there is someone he can rely upon when he needs inspiration in the form of his wife, who was ready to sacrifice her happiness for the chance that he might survive the Nazi terror.

c)      Ferrari, the local organized crime leader gets a measure of redemption by pointing Ilsa and Lazlo to Rick as a source of escape even though there is nothing in it, materially, for him.  We cannot but think that his heart is touched by the beauty and tender love of Ilsa.

d)     Ilsa herself has a bad conscience; she has kept her sin (her adultery, her temptation) from her husband and realizes she can overcome this if she accepts her husband’s forgiveness. Rick may be sexier than the older Lazlo but Lazlo has fame and money and will probably offer a better life than Rick.  She won’t stay 26 forever!

e)     Then there is the beautiful young Bulgarian refugee; she is considering cheating on her husband with Captain Renault to get the exit VISA. We have to think she is also offering herself to Rick as well.  Rick is so moved by her suffering that he lets her husband win at roulette (this may be symbolic of American generosity in Lend Lease for the Allies).

Is redemption important for young people?  Can a former Nazi find redemption? (Think Schlindler)  Can the bad student today or the drug abuser of today or the greedy businessman (think Scrooge) really change their lives?  What about you?



Casablanca shows a number of competing motivations through Character positions. Think about what motivates each character (money, power, sex, friendship, patriotism)and how some of them are actively repressing desires and the costs and benefits(opportunity costs) of these courses of action. How do the characters give a modern audience a deeper insight as to the suffering of the DP’s (Displaced Persons or Refugees without papers) and what it must have been like during WWII?


In Concert: The Maria Schneider Orchestra Looks Up – and Soars

The Maria Schneider Orchestra presented by The Gilmore Festival, Chenery Auditorium, Kalamazoo, Michigan, March 12, 2023.

On the final date of a tour celebrating both a Pulitzer-Prize nominated album (2020’s masterful Data Lords) and 30 years together, composer Maria Schneider and her 18-piece jazz orchestra got down to business with aplomb and obvious delight. Launching “Look Up” (featuring supple, soaring trombone from Marshall Gilkes and Gary Versace’s lyrical piano), the MSO quickly gathered itself and swung hard, from a hushed opening through yearning, full-bodied ensemble passages into the charming reggae-tinged coda. It proved an inspired invitation into Data Lords’ contrasting aural portraits of disc 1’s grim “The Digital World” and disc 2’s expansive “Our Natural World”, and the Gilmore Festival audience, at this outlying event from an organization usually devoted to keyboard music of all genres, ate it up.

Pivoting to the dark side with the sardonic, Google-themed “Don’t Be Evil” (“and they can’t even live up to that low bar,” Schneider commented) bassist Jay Anderson set up the mocking tango pulse, Ben Monder spun out a fiercely rocking web of guitar, trombonist Ryan Keberle peeled off growl after growl, and Versace took the mood from pensive meditation to harried protest as the orchestra built menacing riffs behind them all. In the title role of “Sputnik,” baritone saxophonist Scott Robinson ran through an astonishing gamut of melodies, textures and sounds, feeling his way into orbit through the barbed obstacle course of his bandmates’ hypnotic, obsessively repeated laments. Throughout the afternoon, Schneider’s compositions proved gripping and brilliantly tailored to her players, while her conducting brought the music’s sure-footed rhythms and the group’s precision-tooled backgrounds into pin-sharp focus.

Flipping back to the natural world, soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson conversed with Johnathan Blake’s percussion (including wood-fired pottery?!?) and Julien Labro’s accordion on the pointillist “Stone Song”, with Schneider cueing gleefully off-kilter orchestral hits. Halfway between the two domains, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin (best known, along with Monder, for his playing on David Bowie’s Blackstar) attempted contact in the tense, Morse code-based “CQ CQ Is Anybody There?” — only to be answered by the dissonant howls of Greg Gisbert’s distorted trumpet, wickedly role-playing as artificial intelligence. During these works, the orchestra and Schneider listened hard to each soloist, visibly reacting to particularly special moments of improvisation, and shaping their support to match the fleeting moods.

Release followed tension quickly, via the throwback chart “Gumba Blue” from the MSO’s debut album Evanescence (with features from Gisbert, tenor saxophonist Rich Perry and Versace). Then the highlight of the afternoon: Schneider’s setting of the Ted Kooser poem The Sun Waited for Me” (originally written for soprano Dawn Upshaw and classical orchestra) translated stunningly into the big band idiom, with Gilkes and Labro “singing” the now-wordless melody while McCaslin pirouetted above, below and around lush ensemble backings that mutated from classical chorale to gospel groove. A ravishing experience!

But then, Schneider took the mike: “Can you handle this? This is about the annihilation of humanity at the hands of artificial intelligence . . . Sometimes it feels good just to face these things head on!” Cue the jittery, pulsating title track of Data Lords, with trumpeter Mike Rodriguez and alto saxophonist Dave Pietro raging against the dying of the light, and Schneider stoking the Orchestra’s encroaching singularity to a fever pitch in a shuddering apocalypse of a climax! Good thing we wanted an encore; Schneider decided to leave us with “something peaceful”: “Sanzenin”, a final vista from the natural world, with Labro fluttering over the Orchestra’s muted portrayal of a Japanese garden.

In sum, the overall impact of the MSO was overwhelming. Schneider’s thoughtfully crafted tone poems, her intense focus and leadership, her orchestra’s breathtaking ensemble playing and consistently creative, exciting solo work made for a musical experience that was visceral, invigorating, moving and beautiful in the highest sense of that word. Only the Bach Collegium Japan’s 2003 Saint Matthew Passion and King Crimson in Chicago in 2017 have been more powerful live shows for me. If you want to experience this one for yourself, I heartily encourage you to pay what you want and livestream the concert between now and April 12th!

— Rick Krueger

Music, Books, Poetry, Film

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