tv The Presidency James K. Polk on the Environment Land Religion CSPAN August 13, 2019 2:36pm-4:05pm EDT
public policy, ven events from washington, d.c. and around the country so you can make up your own mind. created by cable in 1979 c-span is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. >> american history tv continues now with the discussion on james polk's views on federal mine, land policy, the environment and religion. this talk was part of a conference parking the com mreegco complettion, and held at university of tennessee. this is an hour and a half. >> ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our session entitled land, sovereignty and religion.
i'm dan howe, and i was delighted to be invited to chair this session with its great diversity of content. you should know at the outset mason recently informed me that he will not be here and making a presentation and therefore, you should expect to hear three presentations instead of four. you trust that there will be enough time for audience questions and participation at the end which is a minor benefit from not getting to hear from
fess professor mason's presentation. so we will still try to use our 90 minutes effectively. all of the presenters have had to cut their presentations in order to fit our session. all of the presentations represent work in progress which is exciting. you on speakers will present in the order in which they appear on your program beginning with michael gunther. professor michael guktnther hai from new york and he earned his ph.d from lehigh university in 2010 and he is currently assistant professor at georgia gwinnett college, a four-year
public institution in the suburbs of atlanta and dr. gunther recently published a journal article on the border of quebec in the 1960s in essays in history and he was one of the small, but growing number of scholars who studied the environmental impacts of warfare in american history. >> ralph waldo emerson's dose of arsenic and the civil disobedience and his calls for
park across the united states, george perkins marsh concerns about deforestation and soil erosion, these are some of the topics that have excited environmentalist historians going bake 30 or 40 years. there doesn't seem to be much attention to the actual presidents and politicians and politics in the antibell up years. so i was interested in exploring that with you today. on august 10, 1846, at the end of the first session of the 29th congress president polk signed into law a bill creating the smithsonian institution. this fulfilled the quest of englishman james smithson who left a substantial amount of money quote to find washington for the diffusion of knowledge, end quote. there was some opposition in g congress as well as the protracted debate. they would include scientific research and publications and
the collection of curiosities and natural history specimens from throughout the nation. explorers would continue to fulfill the same. on the same day nearly 2,000 miles to the west and emory, and the chief engineer to the west made observations of latitude and altitude along the cimarron river and the army had entered mexican territory. on this day mexican spies and an american traitor brought news into carney's camp about new mexico governor activities to resist american invasion. emory fell asleep that night between mountains covered by cedar and pin combrion trees an borderlanded on the precipice of dramatic change. back east, president polk fumed as his attempt to obtain from congress $2 million to restart diplomatic negotiations with mexico failed due to the
introduction of the proviso. the west including new mexico would play a central role in the capital of the american empire of liberty. could reason and science aid in achieving military victories and perhaps in ameliorating policy sanks a sanctions and it is to me, alluring. jefferson davis of mississippi claimed, quote, knowledge was the common cement that was to unite the heterogenous materials of his union into one mass. this may be surprising to hear coming from the future president of the confederacy, before davis left to fight in the mexican war the house select committee on the smithsonian with davis, john quincy adams and george perkins march among others and strange bedfellows. i've come across these names and events many times when teaching
american teaching american history and environmental history. my research in the 18th century focuses on the environmental dim emdim dimensions of warfare program i implore the term of the impact of the environment on officers and soldiers involved in operational planning, logistical support and tactics and also in turn the impact of the warfare on the environment. so that is my larger project. i'm talking about the smithsonian and the department of the interior today. i'm excited to get feedback and to see if people here think it's a worthwhile project. in revolutionary and antebellum america and journals and the involvement of emory and others in describing and mapping western lands long pre-dates the mexican war and we think of
lewis and clark, for example, they prompted efforts to obtain useful knowledge about terrain, mineral, flora and fauna, and of course, native americans. the u.s. military academy emphasized engineering in its curriculum and helped toward this end. in 1838 the army topographical core was enlarged and created as an entity separate from the core of engineers. the democratic secretary of war recommended this when polk was house speaker in the 1830s because, quote, we are still lamentably ignorant of the country. after elevating the top ogs, points that aided in the funding for the promotion of science that would shape the smithsonian in the future and it would create a makeshift repository for inventions and natural history specimens. despite their party's commitment
which is surprising and more disquieting is his vetoing improvement bills which can be retraced back to his assistance in the road veto in 1830. polk vett polk vetoed rivers in 1847 and was prepared in the last day of his precedensidency in 1849. like madison, monroe and jackson, polk did not reject the internal improvements per se, and while those local in scope would need to be funded at the state level in the absence of the constitutional amendment conferring that power on congress and his warnings and veto messages be jealousies increased taxation and a national debt never to be extinguished, end quote, suggests he might not have well sxhd such an amendment.
however in the longview of history, the issue of or jens and legacy. my research considers the role of polk and other partes pants and democrats and wigs in congress and scientists and military officers in the expansion of the footprint. at the outset when covering the half serve rae between jefferson and lincoln historians tend not to focus the presidents, this paper paper charts a trail during the polk years. both the smithsonian institution and the interior department would evolve into significant custodians and shapers of national landscapes. in one of the veto messages to which i referred president polk cited a proposal in the constitution convention for a secretary of domestic affairs. as polk icily summarized it refers to a committee and that appears to be the end of it. in one of his last moments of president, while carrying his
pre-veto message for the internal bill that never came into be he signed into law creating the department of the interior. his diary entry will be reflecting on his action in weeks later in retirement records, quote, objections on the ground of expediency, but not on constitutionality. he did, quote, fear its consolidating tendency. he was already declining, i think, and he wanted posterity to know his doubts. his views on land management remain complicated and thus the reference in my paper title to a later robert sherwood quote about franklin d. roosevelt's thickly forested interior. whether polk could foresee a future with the federal government would engage in massive water conservation projects like hoover dam or in preserving vast territories like grand canyon national park from the free market is thus a murky, but not a moot question. if he had paid attention to the
final debate in the senate on march 3, 1949 on the act to establish the home department he would have read senator john c. calhoun's prediction that, quote, everything upon the face of god's earth will go into the home department. this thing ought not to be. this is a monstrous bill. it is ominous and one of the greatest steps that have ever been made to absorb the remaining powers of the state. end quote. he said this in direct response to jefferson davis who supported the bill. looking back, one would expect the smithsonian bills to be wig measures because of their incipient nationalizing tendency, but prominent democrats either defended or in polk's class signed the legislation in question. i had a powerpoint today. i had some interesting images i wanted to show you for the next point, but that's fine. i'll tray to describe it. one explanation for this that could be inferred in my view, but not proven involves evidence of personal relationships. in the 1840s there emerged small
networks of influential men, and scientists with the national institution and later the smithsonian and typographical engineers in the army who had access to wig and democratic politicians and democratic politicians and who could through publications and maps reach a wider public. through some of the men and wives and daughters, there were intimate ties of party and friendship that crossed party lines. for example, an engineer from 1843 the superintendent of the u.s. coast survey was the great-grandson of benjamin franklin. his sister mary married mississippi democrat robert walker, polk's secretary treasure. another sister, matilda, married william emory. another sister married the father of the chief of the topographical engineers, thus emery's boss. bates was a long-time correspondent of joseph henry,
first secretary of the smithsonian. another correspondents included vermont wig george perkins marsh, the proto environmentalist i mentioned at the outset, as well as aging jeffersonian politician albert gallerton. marsh was a leading advocate for the smithsonian bill who influenced henry's choice of spencer baird as the first curator. another similar note of influence that might be more familiar to you is the one that centered on thomas hart benton, the missouri democrat and champion of manifest destiny. his daughter jessie married topographical engineer john fremont who played an important role in california in the u.s./mexican war. benton provided critical support for the western survey that were a model for emory and later engineers. he also supported polk in 1844, but he then broke with the administration over polk's handling of fremont's court martial in 1847. notwithstanding some emerging
war time animosities, i think all of these men broadly supported westward expansion and scientific discovery and publication of the natural history of the newly-obtained land. the success of topographical engineers like fremont and emory in the u.s./mexican war can be measured both in aiding military campaigns and popularizing the west in the american mind. emory's notes of a military reconnaissance was published in 1848 with i believe 100 copies made immediately by congress but then distributed to the public where publishers could then make their own additions. and add in a new orleans newspaper in april 18th, '49 shows how quickly the reports of both emory and fremont were made available to readers for sale. the smithsonian became a venue for primary sources emanating from the explorations.
namely, an exhibit of john stanley paintings that opened in early 1852. stanley had traveled in the army of the west, accompanying emory and helping with drawings. that being said, increased interest in the west alone cannot explain the creation of the interior department. polk's last annual message in december of 1848 amid the california gold rush may offer a clue. he reported the explorations already made warrant the belief that the supply of gold is very large and found at various places in an extensive district. this in and of itself, of course, sparked increased immigration. he was taking a post-war victory lap, if you will, but he did have some constructive suggestions for congress to take up, territorial governments should be organized, a branch mint, surveyor's general's office should be established. continued expenditures on topographical and coastal surveys.
more surprisingly polk added, measures should be adopted to preserve the mineral land, especially such as contain the precious metals for the use of the nate or if brought into market to separate them from the farming land and dispose of them in such a manner as to security a large return of money. this is, pardon the pun, a gold nugget for an environmental historian. i was previously unaware of his usage of the word "preserve" there. perhaps not all of the new lands would in polk's mind be sold as private property. polk also called congress's attention to the need to iron out more details, namely salaries, for those individuals who would be tasked with surveying the boundary with mexico as per the treaty. this would later include emory and other engineers under the aegis of the new interior
department. the other detail in the origin story of interior was the fact that polk's treasury secretary robert walker proposed it. he anticipated the growth of land applications in the wake of the u.s./mexican war and believed keeping the land office in the treasury department increased the likelihood of corruption. earlier presidents and politicians proposed departmental reorganization and some even suggested a department dedicated solely to internal business. the patent office, for example. seems to have nothing to do with the regular diplomatic business of the state department where it had always been housed. as well, administrative overwork plagued cabinet secretaries especially during times of war. by most accounts, and effective treasury secretary, walker's words carry weight. they may have convinced polk to sign the bill, though we can't prove that. he did accompany polk on his southern tour homeward at the end of his term if that's a vote
of confidence. i don't know. it is still amazing that the bill passed in the contentious 30th congress, dominated by debates over slavery and the west. discussion of the bill was infrequent and in the senate delayed until the very end of the session, making it easy to imagine further postponement and death. in expanding the bureaucracy it looked like a wig bill, and because a wig, zachary taylor, won the election of 1848, patronage from a new department would only seem to help wigs. all of the arguments for and against the bill would have been available to polk and the public, and he was, as stated, prepared to veto other laws at that time. it was first reported in the house by ohio wig samuel venton, february 12, 1849. the house committee on agriculture supported it. new york wig hugh white those it could help administering a more useful and informative census in 1850 and beyond. it passed on the last day of the session. in the senate it was neither a sectional nor a party line vote. in the senate the final vote was
35-21, 10 democrats and 20 wigs voted yes. 24 democrats and one wig voted no. 16 senators from northern states, nine from southern states and six from border states voted yes, while 12 senators from northern states, 11 from southern states and two from border states voted no. by the late winter of 1849 when polk signed the interior bill into law, smithsonian secretary joseph henry had already been working for over two years. president polk had himself assisted the board of regents in selecting a site for the principle building. you're all familiar with the castle. on may 1, 1847, we see polk at the ceremonial cornerstone laying as a mason with grand master of the district of columbia, benjamin brown french, who is the star of joanne freeman's new book, "the field of blood," which i find interesting. henry was concerned about construction cost but braced himself the with notion of, quote, the integrity of the states is thought to be connected with a large building
at washington. henry visited or dined with cabinet secretaries, congressman john quincy adams, john clayton, john crittendon. he attended a white house levy in 1847 where he met polk, quote, the great man who encouraged future visits. once assured of funds and a permanent place to exhibit natural history specimens, he went on to high an assistant and curator, spencer fullerton baird, who played a crucial role in the early decades of the organization. henry hired baird in 1850, but their correspondence began in early 1847. henry informed his wife that month, april of 1847, that the commissioner of the land office will also instruct those engaged in surveying the lands of the government to make observations on the variation of the compass so that without expending but little of the funds of the smithsonian i find i can do a
good deal for the cause of american science. he persuaded the u.s. army to cooperate with the smithsonian in reporting meteorological observations. as henry was a strong proponent that the smith sownon should patronize original research, he allowed henry schoolcraft to continue his observations on native american customs. schoolcraft published a massive six-volume study in the 1850s. henry also made the smithsonian a center for lectures and scholarly publications. he solicited feedback, peer review if albert galleton, george perkins marsh and other members of the society before publishing a study, "ancient monuments of the mississippi valley" by squire and davis. in the first volume of smithsonian contributions to knowledge. what i always find interesting, george perkins marsh's later lecture in the mid 1850s on the idea of introducing camels into
the american west, which caught the attention of then-secretary of war jefferson davis. i could go on and on. this is, as dr. howe said, a work in progress. i am fascinated by the work on the u.s./mexican boundary commission established in 1848 but quickly transferred to interior in 1849 when it was created. i look forward to your comments and feedback. thank you very much. dr. patrick pospisek teaches at grand valley state university, a public liberal arts university, in allendale, michigan, outside of grand
rapids. he earned his ph.d. at perdue studying under john larson . his research interests focus on the antebellum old northwest territory, and his current project is a manuscript on federal mining policy in 19th century america. he is an active participant in efforts to revive, as he puts it, the study of midwestern history. he is currently serving as the treasurer of the midwestern history association. >> thank you. let's see if i can get this to work. in 1845 in its first annual address, president james k. polk encouraged congress to end a practice dating back to 1807. that practice, the reservation and leasing of mineral-rich public lands, had proven itself radically defective to polk and
needed to be brought in line with the government's viewing standard practice of land being conveyed to market for private ownership. polk's reasons were practical. in recent years the practice of leasing yielded to the nation but one-fourth of its cost. the war department then tasked the management was the wrong agency to supervise such a program and the system produced, quote, irritation and excitement in the mineral regions, end quote. >> excuse me. can everybody in back -- >> am i -- >> -- hear? you're okay. sorry. >> that's okay. months later polk hayesened the system's demise when he noticed the law under which the policy operated was specific to mineral lands offering salt or lead, not the copper being brought to the surface on michigan's lake superior shore. polk ordered an immediate stop
to the issuing of leases and congress followed suit by authorizing the remaining mineral lands sale. largely forgotten today, this mining policy bears larger consequences than polk's actions imply. this paper aims to make three points. first, there was a federal mining policy in first half of the 19th century, many to view the 19th century as an era of lassaiz faire. itself, an embodiment of the energetic government envisioned by the early 1790s or advocates of internal improvement supported birth notions of the federal government's particularly inadequacy to manage the nation's resources, thus making way for the practices of the late 19th century. finally, opposition to federal mining policy gave birth to a flawed but persistent interpretation of the u.s. constitution requiring public lands to be privatized or turned over to the states. this story starts around 1807. that year congress authorized
the president to release all salient or lead mines to lease. four years earlier it was called for the leasing of salt springs for the benefit of western settlers. these reasons combined with the needs of national security likely remained in the minds of congress. leasing's authority was initially delegated to territorial officials. governor william henry harrison granted salient leases near the river, while fredrick bates issued the first lead leases to lands in present-day missouri. the success of these early effort was decidedly mixed. on one hand the salt business was good. by 1818 the lessees turned over more than 158,000 bushels of salt, implying the production of nearly 1.6 million bushels in a 15-year period. with illinois's admission to the union, however, the sa saline reservations and existing leases were turned over to the state.
the u.s. government largely left the salt business. management of lead mines in present-day missouri on the other hand presented a significant challenge. upon completing the louisiana purchase in 1803 the united states inherited a quagmire of legal -- land claims made by french and spanish governments as well as the longstanding traditions of people far removed from centers of power. secretary bates among others were tasked with sorting through various land claims for legitimacy as well as overseeing the leasing of mineral lands. the presence of preexisting land claims complicated the leasing system by allowing some to mine legally on their own land without paying any rent while others, potentially on neighboring tracts, were
required to acquire leases. the process of validating land claims dragged on for decades, complicated by a lack of formal documents and grants made illegally after the purchase. in the interim, bates was unable to keep fraudulent claimants from mining and suffered the willful flouting of his authority. unsurprisingly by 1816 he could only report two active leases and sarcastically mused he might be fined and imprisoned by the mine's interlopers. mineral leasing saw little success until the reserve mineral lands were transferred to the authority of the war department's ordinance bureau. within days of the transfer the bureau received applications to open mining operations on the river in the present of illinois. that's what this image shows. this is a period image from 1829 of essentially the northwest corner of illinois, and with it wisconsin and iowa. here the war department followed
the lead of earlier territorial officials by granting leases for large tracts of land for rates of 10% payable in smelted lead. although the lands differed from those in missouri by not being blanketed with preexisting private claims, the initial transition of the leasing system to the upper mississippi was not entirely successful either. after a season commanding a mining company in 1822, james johnson, the bureau's first lessee and brother of then-senator richard m. johnson, coincidentally the guy who claimed to have killed tecmseh. he implied it was done in the interest of national interest and at risk to himself. regardless of the rhetoric, personal gain trumped the national interest. that being said the transfer of mineral lands to the authority of the ordinance bureau eventually lead to the leasing systems period of greatest
success. beginning in 1823 the bureau dispatched a series of army officers to act as agents of the leasing system on the ground in missouri and the upper mississippi. in response to issues like johnson's refusal to pay taxes and the complicated process of issuing leases, these officers with washington's approval began licensing smelters and issuing permits to individual diggers. individual miners were required to sell their mineral to a licensed smelter but would not need to hold their own lease. in exchange for the guaranteed supply of customers, smelters would be responsible for paying the collected tax lead. shifting the focus from lessees to smelters made the collection of government lead easier and freed up the mineral country for general laborers. by the summer of 1825 individual miners agreed to abide by a set of regulations. smelters were required to
deposit surety bonds with the war department, and lessees continued to operate freed from the requirement to do their own smelting. smelters and lessees were allowed 320-acre parcels, namely for timber, while diggers could claim small plots of a few hundred square feet. in 1825 before the new regulations took effect, the federal government issued some 40 leases. only 17 of which had begun operations. together these 17 lessees raised some 1.2 million pounds of lead. by 1827, 1,600 miners in the upper mines produced more than 5 million pound of lead, and in 1829, the date from which this map -- or the period from which this map emerges, an estimated 10,000 residents produced more than 13 million pound of refined lead. in comparison, the public mines of missouri produced only 900,000 pounds of refined lead during 1827. with the success of the upper mississippi mines, the
government effectively admitted defeat in missouri and congress authorized the sale of the southern reservations in 1829. success was short lived. by 1832, the growing community of miners in the north -- northern lead district raised the issue of reserving mineral lands at all. miners and non-miners alike argued that maintaining the leasing system was effectively unamerican and lobbied for public land sales. wisconsin's non-mineral bearing lands opened to sale in 1834, but through a combination of ignorance, fraud and outright malfeasance, considerable amounts of mineral land transferred to private ownership. the simple fact mirrored the earlier patchwork of public and private ownership in missouri and made the direction of government rents difficult at best. the tension reached i.t. zenith in the fall of 1834 when two prominent smelters refused to pay the rent to the government.
by the summer of 1835, the reese fewal to pay throughout the country and the government sued the original non-payers. upon being sued by the united states, rather than plead innocence, it was argued that the 1807 law authorizing the federal leasing was itself unconstitutional, questioning the legality of allowing the president to lease land. when the case reached the u.s. supreme court in 1840, the court firmly proclaimed the 1807 law constitutional, concluding, quote, power over public land is vested in congress by the constitution without limitation, therefore congress was within its power to defer the ability to lease to the president. it was a pirate victory however as the upper mississippi mineral agency effectively closed shop. from that point we move a little further north into michigan, specifically the peninsula. while various attempts would be
made to revive the system in the upper mississippi, especially after the united states v.gratchett, leasing story moved to lake superior in the 1840s. the copper deposits on the peninsula entered into u.s. ownership in 1842. given the issues in the upper mississippi however the ordinance bureau changed tactics in an attempt to establish and maintain control over the copper region. among the office's first decisions was to issue permits and leases for much larger areas, initially nine square miles, in an effort to keep the number of lessees manageable. they also named an experienced civilian agent to super of -- superintendent the opening of the mines, walter cunning ham, an employee of the revised upper mississippi agency. most importantly, the war department concluded to counter potential squatters and unlicensed miners with a permanent military force.
during the summer of 1844 two companies of the u.s. army's fifth infantry began construction of fort wilkins at copper harbor. that's what you see here. so the image at the top is that of fort wilkins. this is an aerial view of copper harbor, and that is showing you exactly where it is located. this is an incredibly, let's say, beautiful, yet inhospitable portion of lake superior. in a blow to the interest of common miners, the mineral agency on lake superior in 1846 permitted lessees to transport raw material out of the mineral country and departed from the longstanding policy rent was always to be paid and smelted in refined metal. the arrangement allowed lessees to skip the smelting process and without the growth of local processors or growth of local market to sell, individual miners were left with little choice but to become employees rather than independent
operators. the 1844 election of james k. polk to the presidency ended the leasing system. in his first annual address to congress, polk labeled the system radically defective and called upon the legislature to oprey serve mineral land for sale. in 1846 pool can concluded that the 1807 law authorizing the reservations was limited to lands promising salt or lead, not copper, and ordered the secretary of war to cease issuing leases. within weeks congress authorized the sale of any remaining lead reservations and fort wilkins' troops were transferred to the war with mexico. polk reminded congress about the copper reservations in his second annual address and the legislature at last authorized the sale of those lands in 1847. dismantling the leasing system left the government as a loss for effective policy when gold was discovered in california the following year. in the ensuing chaos combined
with extreme distance from washington left miners to their own devices and local officials reluctant to attempt any sort of management, that is despite the effort of polk and others to try to replicate a similar system. by the 1850s miners established their own rules regarding mineral claims and the millard fillmore administration concluded to leave it open to the enterprise and industry of all of our citizens, end quote, at least temporarily. subsequent laws in 1866, 1870, culminating in a policy, declaring public land free and open to exploration and purchase. it was a reaction to government intervention rather than the default position of an inherently small government. in closing, if i may venture outside the life and times of james k. polk, the arguments made about the relative pro prity continued to have suggest any cans in our own time, even
when the courts or history have proven them wrong. most obviously, despite the turn embodied in the general mining act of 1872, the u.s. government returned to a leasing system in 1920 via the mineral leasing act. that being said, it is perhaps the voices of leasing's owe opponents who continue to have the largest voices. in the 1990s, three dozen western counties passed ordinances claiming local control over federal land. in more recent years, a nevada rancher by the name of bundy claimed national attention for refusing to acknowledge the oversight of the government for grazing land. while the polite of the bundys is being decided in the nation's court and the court of public attention, attention to the efforts of a county in nevada is warranted. as one of the western counties to take matters into their hand in 1993, they found themselves on the receiving end of federal
prosecution. among the cases cited to support the plaintiff's argument was one u.s. v. gratchett, the 1840 supreme court decision establishing congress's unlimited power over public lands. while the original leasing system died in the era of james k polk, heirs to the system remain a minority. thank you. gotten lazy that this gift of their founding and our constitutions just being passed on, but it turns out you've got to keep fighting for the principles of democracy in a world filled with dictators and autocrats. [ applause ] >> i agree with that. it's an interesting time because as you said, this is not just an american phenomenon.
newly elected governor, a mob assembled in the public square with an effigy of the governor and painted schultz against the people. they consigned the whole thing to the flames with shouting approval of the crowds. an unnamed jackson man from pittsburgh, noting the burning, confessing the letter, put a mark upon cane. the pittsburgh mercury found such appropriations of religion blasphemous. according to a baptist minister,
their nightly or gies were scens of profane revelry. the last ceremony consisted of raking hot coals. if only to reinforce this negative image of the jacksonians, newspapers reported scandalous scenes during the election of 1844 of new recruits for the democratic party being baptized with whiskey in the name of andrew jackson the father, james k. polk the son and texas, the holy ghost. it is little wonder why george bancroft complained bemoaning sermons were preached and the community was made to believe that there was a danger, the
baseba bible would be taken out of their hands. democracy, it was said, was the branch of atheism. >> this point is easily demonstrated when we look at the makeup of the coalition. typically speaking, democrats were methodists, baptists and catholics. while both native born and european immigrant jews were divided politically, it seems that the majority of them leaned democratic. more maormons did prefer to vot
democrat. case in point when joseph smith is assassinated when he runs for president, the mormons vote for polk. universists and deists also aligned themselves with the democrats. the indiana washington sun in biblical fashion proclaimed in the name of andrew jackson, your altars will crumble as the guard of the philistines before the tabernacle of the eternal. there is still a small voice gathered among the people which says a time of trial is coming which points to the savior of the south and says the man is a man of the people. his cause is the cause of the people. like whigs, democrats as early as 1822 met in churches to show
my emphasis as a scholar of religion is to emphasize the religious identifier as corrective. ecclesiastical rituals are almost completely ignored by many historians in general. simply focusing on the institutional confines of voting blocs is only half the story, as scholars have pointed out. their idealogical differences ne need to be taken. most irish catholic immigrants were jacksonian democrats. we should investigate how these irish catholic immigrants believed, how they practiced their faith in order to better understand their place as jacksonian democrats.
if william dunn mosley saw the hand of god in the election of james k. polk, i'm sure other democrats did as well. thank you. [ applause ] >> well, i shall address each of these papers, very interesting papers separately and in the sequence in which they were delivered. michael guenther was able to present today only a fraction of the written work he sent to me ahead of time. his project is truly wonderful with a lot of original research. his linking of military history with environmental history is creative and original,
synthesizing two important historical disciplines each with its own traditions. president polk has been studied mostly in relation to warfare as compared with environmentalism. i've been involved with that myself and most recently writing a chapter for a volume called "america and the just war tradition," which is just now coming out. it's edited by mark david hall and j. daryl charles and published by notre dame university press. forgive my little advert there. but professor guenther in his
work on president polk's environmental history has called attention to a side of polk that at first glance seems astonishing. his support for both the new smithsonian institution and the creation of the department of the interior. guenther correctly points out that these seem more like whig measures than jacksonian democratic ones. it was worthwhile to see the extent to which support for creating the interior department crossed sectional and party lines. i must confess, however, that his arrhythmia -- a rit ma tick.
mining policy. in the written version of today's presentation, he avows that he is working in the tradition of two of my own favorite historians, john larson and max edling. but his knowledge of the subject goes way beyond secondary sources, however meritorious. he demonstrates an impressive command of the primary documents. i commend his pointing out to us that the issues confronted in president's polk's day aboday o instead of selling land are by no means resolved even in our own day. thanks, patrick. good luck on your deserving projec
project. his avowed purpose is to demonstrate the place of religion in the minds of jacksonian democrats. he is right that historians have had much more to say about the place of religion in the political culture of the whigs. he even spends a lot of his own time on the religion of the whigs and on their accusations that the democrats were anti-religious. he correctly points out that quite a number of religious denominations in fact sported
the democrats much of the time, including methodists, baptists, lutherans, catholics, especially the irish immigrants, of course, mormons, jews and universalists. yes, that's all true. a little odd in this case, though, that he doesn't say anything about presbyterians since president polk was a presbyteri presbyterian. the presbyterian seemed to be divided. the scotch irish presbyterians do seem to be more democratic, but other presbyterians are often whigs. so mr. golata calls upon us to investigate the beliefs of these diverse groups to see whether that can help explain their affinity for the democratic party. clearly he has not yet
undertaken this venture into intellectual history. his is a legitimately preliminary inquiry. i can't help, however, noticing the subtitle of his presentation. james k. polk and jacksonian religion as enlightened, rational r rational christianity. regarding president polk, i would certainly recommend that he investigate the first lady, a devout presbyterian who banned dancing and card playing in the white house but not alcohol. if mr. golata can show that the roman catholic theology of 19th
century irish immigrants saw itself as an enlightenment version of christianity, i shall be much surprised. the religious sect that avowedly undertook to make itself an enlightened rational version of christianity was one that mr. golata never mentions, unitarianism. unitarian voters were whigs virtually to a man. very few of the transce transcendentallis transcendentalists embraced the democratic
so now at last we have the chance to entertain questions and comments from the audience. and i will be happy to call on people who put their hand up. yes, sir. yes, please come to a microphone. >> my question's for daniel. if you consider civil religion to be a religion, how would we relate polk to that? that's the one religion neither
of you mentioned. >> i don't consider civil religion religion. this might get too down to religious studies but i have particular definitions of religion which has to do with human relationships with super human powers and things like that. speaking in more general terms, my problem with that is civil religion can be made so expansive that you can include anybody and everybody in it. so in that sense it has this totalizing effect and it gets harder to differentiate between how do whigs feel about this, how do democrats feel about that. so in that sense, i think, i don't know if civil religion is a helpful term. that's my short answer. >> this is for patrick. in terms of polk and mining
policies, i've had in my upper seminars where i do presidential politics and comparison, more than one discussion on how polk helps us understand ronald reagan. is there anything about the mining policies that you know about with reagan that might further how you concluded what you did? >> well, i want to be very careful in that obviously. >> everyone's careful with reagan. >> i want to be more specific and say my training is very much in the history of the early republic. it's only since i've started teaching 20th century history that i've had to grapple with more of these ideas. but i would say, i mean, in relation to what i said in the paper, generally speaking, reagan is seen as an ally of the sage brush rebels. >> right. >> be sure you can be heard all the way back. >> so in that case, yeah, i
think there's a clear continuum at play there. reagan's secretary of the interior whose name escapes me right now fits into that context as well. from my perspective it's been this more recent fiasco involving the bundy family that really jumps out at me, because while in the long run i don't think the sage brush rebels were terribly successful, although they pushed their agenda and managed to get some concessions, it's this rebirth of this idea even before the age of trump now that we're seeing a lot of this anti-federal language come up, which having spent all of this time with this early 19th century literature sounds really, really familiar. >> i would urge you to think about that familiarity, especially if in your larger work you're thinking about its applicability to today. i am endlessly charmed by how
students respond to that. i don't know if it means anything. >> thank you. >> yes, sir. come up to the microphone. wonderful. >> wayne cutler with the polk project, retired. i want to address the question of polk's religion briefly. with all due respect to sarah, his wife, and so his mother jane, polk went to church with them wherever he was in their home faithfully every sunday. but james's religion is from his father and grandfather, who were devout, if the term is adequate, to the more secular world and
indeed his grandfather led a somewhat notorious war in the last four or five years that he remained in the county. it was called the deist war . and grandfather was prompted to this war in favor of his grandson, who had been presented to the presbyterian church for baptism. and when the minister asked samuel, the father, and ezekiel, the grandfather, if they would rededicate their life to jesus and they both said no, they were devout deists. so the minister said, then i can't baptize your baby, and the future president was ushered out
of the church without the blessing of christianity. he did not receive that at any time in his conscious life and the last day of his life in very, very heavy weather he was in the last stages of cholera. a methodist and a presbyterian minister came to the home and baptized him, of course without his consent. but that was for the mother and the wife. james went to the university of north carolina in three years study. he majored -- i don't think they had majors then but he was first in his class in mathematics and
latin. his father was a surveyor sometimes in cahoots with andrew jackson and that was the tie of the family to the jacksonian wa 50th birthday about his faith in god and he did not denounce his leanings toward a more secular view. so i'm not surprised at that, but -- but what i would say about these different religious groups that came to america and are yet in the immigrant stages, the catholics in louisiana, or be it new york, or wherever, these people came for land and land is their religion. this is their hope. when they spoke of being free,
it meant they would not have a master. we did not change the title of our labor laws until the 19 -- i'm sorry, the 1880s. they had always been known as master and servant laws. so one of the overriding spiritual things about immigration at that time and the minds i think of the people who came to this country for freedom, it meant land. and the jacksonians meant land. they were not interested in banks. not all jacksonoians were free f the bank. you know, polk abolished the national bank and he created a subdivision, banks in various states around the union. it became later in 2012
established in law as our banking system as we know it today. so he is the -- he's a remarkable in that light. ut i but i'd like to say, go forward on your religious search, but don't forget the land. that's the belief that controls their lives. their destiny. their survival. so, thank you very much for come. all the papers are good. thank you, sir, for your guidance. >> i'd like to echo dr. kutler's sentiments by thanking you all for coming and presenting today. i'm afraid, i'm going to be continuing the theme about religious discussion with another question for daniel. i am fascinated by your interest in how religion shapes politics
and how religion is expressed in politics. i'm wondering if you can comment to what degree the inverse takes place with the -- so many growing religious options through the second great awakeni awakening. to what degree do you see politics shaping religious discourse or people converting or changing denominations because of political ideology and so forth? >> yeah, that's a great question. my first comment would be i'd be hesitant to really do what we typically do is, like, which we do with the fact that we have religion departments and history departments. these things are so intertwined, like, think -- the way i like to think about it with my undergrads is it's like the ways a rope is bound together. you cut it open, it all frails. politics and religion, religion and politics. a lot of this is infused when
they're sitting in church on a sunday, when they're going to the ballot box. so the fact that andrew jackson rides on the sabbath, you know, that's like, what does that mean, can i -- you know, is that a square -- what's the word, peg -- whatever the phrase is, they have to think about that type of stuff. and my issue, would i be scared, is that some historians have taken a more cynical approach where it's, like, well, this is just to advance their political agenda. it's just to advance their economic interests. it's just to advance their racial standing as free white men. but i would argue that these people do take the bible seriously. they take the -- they take their devotion quite seriously. and the fact that they like someone like jackson, polk, van buren, and there might be some unsettling things about them, when you've only got a few people to vote for, how do you express your political will?
so, you know, that's an un -- that's a question i'm interested. in terms of the political party, we definitely see it if the whigs are to be believed, the mock baptisms of whiskey is an interesting showing of that. people like nathan hatch has looked at how the religious makeup and democratic makeup have sort of had a symbiotic relationship, that many church organizations and hierarchty start to resemble the makeup of the political parties as well. the very same technology that's used to broadcast, you know, war with mexico is used to broadcast, you know, revivals. so this whole relationship is mutually self-assuring in many ways. hope that answers somewhat of your question. >> yes, sir.
>> religion seems to be the prime topic of interest here, and i enjoyed your talk. >> thank you. >> very much. it's very fascinating. looking at the polk family, itself, which i've done personal research in, it's fascinating to see the development of their religion as you go from one generation to the next. th when they arrived over here, they were like all the other scots arichelle thirish that ar here. they were ardent presbyterians. they were highly trained, would go to the university of glasgow. it took a long time to become a presbyterian minister, had to learn a lot and prove themselves. unfortunately, it took so much training that there weren't very many of them being produced. so they started losing out on the frontiers to the other religion, specifically the
baptists and the methodists and i know ezekiel poke hlk had a distrust of all these people, he called them camp whalers, big meetings in camp tents and things like that and wouldn't have anything to do with them. that's when this movement, the dais, wayne was talking about, a lot of them started going with that rather than going with the religious folk level of religion to the others. you see that progression in the polk family, particularly i think of colonel william polk we heard talked about who was very influential in north carolina politics after the war. he didn't seem to have much of any religion at all. his son, leonodis polk, is a fascinatie ining character in t regard. his father said, well, you're going to be a soldier. he went to west point.
graduated from west point. you probably all knknow all thi. he never took up a mission. instead, he found jesus at west point. that was the first person to be baptized in -- he was not baptized as a young person, he was baptized in the chapel at west point and he started a whole movement of other cadets that it had profound influence, you know, buts that was all with the e ppiscopal church. look throughout the south, all the churches in louisiana, alabama, tennessee, were all going back to him. and there was a huge upset by his father, colonel william polk, leonodis decided this is the way he wants to go. >> right. >> he's a fascinating man. he was the man who founded the university of the south and the image of wanting to have an oxford over here which never quite worked out because the civil war. so just following the individuals -- >> right. >> -- in the family, you see all this, you know, change, you
know, very dynamic change with the generation -- >> since you're sort of demonstrating one of the things i'm trying to push back against, that while i agree with you, this guy is a great -- he's an easy example and a good one because he becomes enthusiast i ic. he gets baptized. my point is because you don't do that stuff doesn't mean you don't have religion. that's like my line in the sand. it's very easy to look at the whigs and all the revivals and the evangelicalism and feeling -- like, and they are the religion party and the democrats aren't. my point is it's different. it's a different kind of religion. a lot of them are still kind of engaged in the same theological musings nape co musings. they come to different conclusions and think about it differently, but to james k. polk, one of the things that fascinates with me, his relationship with masonry. relationship with masonry and
its complicated theology to the architect and all that type of stuff. we may see today, dare i say enlightenment, enlightenment branch of christianity or enlightenment religiosty. it is religiousty. that's the point i'm trying to make. i appreciate the comments. >> yes. i can tell you in the polk family, many of them were masons. >> yes, yes. >> for many generations. you'll see that in various ways. so, yes. >> he's had a great party with lafayette when lafayette comes to town in mason hall. >> i take it, then, that there is no one else seeking to ask a question or make a point.
so i will thank all of you very much for coming and sharing in our enlightening discussion. thank you, all. >> well done. all week, we're featuring "american history tv" programs as a preview on what's available every weekend on c-span 3. "lectures in history." "american artifacts." "reel america." "the civil war." "o rrks ar "oral histories." "the presidency." and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy "american history tv" now and every weekend on c-span3. weeknights this month, we're featuring "american history tv" programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on
c-span3. tonight, the life and career of general dwight d. eisenhower who became america's 34th president in 1953. we begin with historian david mills on how the world war ii partnership between u.s. army chief of staff george marshall and general eisenhower helped win the war. mr. mills is a military history professor with the u.s. army command and general staff college. watch "american history tv" tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span3. sunday at 9:00 a.m. eastern, a "washington journal" and "american history tv" live special call-in program looking back at woodstock, the 1969 cultural and musical phenomenon. historian david farber, author of the book, "the age of great dreams: america in the 1960s," joins us to take your calls. >> drugs matter, but who takes
those drugs and why the drugs have the effect they did in the '60s and early '70s is something we're still wrestling with as scholars to understand. the technology of drugs, we got david courtright in here, other people who have fought long and hard about this, is imperative as an understanding i think not just of the '60s but of the production of history, what drugs we use at a given period and place have an incredible ability to change the direction of a given society. >> call in to talk with david farber about the social movements of the '60s leading up to woodstock and its legacy. "woodstock 50 years" sunday at 9:00 a.m. eastern on c-span's "washington journal," also live on "american history tv" on c-span3. watch "book tv" for live coverage of the national book festival saturday august 31st starting at 10:00 a.m. eastern. our coverage includes author interviews with justice ruth
bader ginsburg on her book "my own words." david troyier, his book is "the heartbeat of wounded knee." sharon robinson talks about her book, "child of the dream." rick atkinson, author of "the british are coming." and thomas malone, founding director of the m.i.t. center for collective intelligence discusses his book, "superminds." the national book festival live saturday august 31st at 10:00 a.m. eastern on "book tv" on c-span2. "american history tv" continues our feature on the politics and times of president james polk right now with a look at his relationship with previous president martin van buren and his role as a wartime chief executive. this panel was part of a conference at the university of tennessee that marked the completion of a 60-year project to assemble and edit president polk's papers. this is an hour and a half.