On May 28, 1913, the Michigan Historical Commission was created. The Michigan Historical Commission, which succeeded the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, was organized in Lansing. Its members, who were appointed by the Governor, were instructed under legislative mandate to produce "a magazine of Michigan history for Michigan people." Source: Michigan History magazine
Yours truly will soon mark eight years of service on the Commission. Among the activities these past eight has been the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Though the Sesqui is coming to an end with the end of the Civil War 150 years ago, much remains to be done. Commemorating the service and sacrifice of our forebears should not end.
The last post here appeared last month, as yours truly continues work on some projects and recreation that has taken up free time. Perhaps this was fortuitous, for today's Detroit News has a story by Louis Aguilar about Historic Fort Wayne that is, indeed, hopeful, as hoped for last month here. Some excerpts:
"A New York City firm specializing in finding ways to create massive urban projects has begun analyzing how to revive Historic Fort Wayne, a long underused 96-acre site on the banks of the Detroit River.
HR&A Advisors Inc. was hired in late January for $235,000 by the state's Michigan Economic Development Corp., according to state officials. Its goal is to come up with a realistic plan to keep the fort's historic nature while finding some other new use: housing, office or industrial.
'We hope a vision plan will be delivered by the end of the year, hopefully, well before the end of the year,' said Andrew Doctoroff, a special projects adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder. 'HR&A are not developers but land use experts. They visualize what is possible,' Doctoroff said.
The feasibility study shows the state of Michigan is taking a more active role in shaping the future of the city-owned Fort Wayne. Because the site is on the federal National Register of Historic Places, the state has some jurisdiction because the state plays a role in preserving Michigan landmarks."
"Members of the New York firm visited Fort Wayne for the first time last week."
"The New York firm HR&A specializes in coming up with strategies on how to turn around major public spaces. On its website it cites its role in forming the celebrated High Line in Manhattan, which is a greenway built on a former elevated rail line. It also played a role in London's 2012 Olympic Park, and helped developed a plan to overhaul a portion of downtown Cincinnati. HR&A didn't respond to interview requests.
The HR&A contract is the result of a request for proposals for the site issued by the state late last year. That request for proposal said any bid must 'contemplate maintaining the historic integrity of Fort Wayne,' according to the state document. It also states any possible redevelopment of the site could include traditional commercial real estate such as housing or retail, as well as 'cultural development' or 'logistics-related development.' That last description refers to warehouse and other transportation-oriented businesses that would benefit from Fort Wayne's close proximity to the U.S.-Canada border.
A 2003 study of Fort Wayne estimated that it would cost at least $58 million to restore the site."
The Snyder Administration is to be commended. As far as known here, no other State support has appeared for HFW in the past eight years, at least. Here's hoping for more ...
A fascinating article appeared last week in mlive.com by Fritz Klug under the headline "Actually, 'Michigander' was used before Abraham Lincoln's speech". You can find it here: MLive
The essence of the issue in this piece is whether Lincoln was the first to coin the term. The article lays out the historiography to show that "Michigander" was in use before Lincoln's use of it to cast some, well, let's say, humorous criticism upon Lewis Cass. The evidence is clear that he did not invent the term.
That isn't a point yours truly is or has been stuck on. The point is this: the 16th President used the term, used it in a classically Lincolnian way (notice, not "Lincolngander" way), and if one must choose which term (the other being the prosaic "Michiganian") to use as a matter of course, my vote is to tie ourselves to Lincoln and not to a term as commonplace and indistinct as "Floridian" or "Vermonter". Rather, we can associate our Great Lake State and the common term to use for its inhabitants with the greatest U.S. president (IMHO).
Much better to be a Michigander, to be immersed in history when we think of what to call ourselves -- and remember to pronounce it just as one pronounces the name of the State, with emphasis on the first syllable, not the third, and with "en" not "an". Much poorer to use a term that is already in use as the title of a publication or a word ending that fails to represent our unique nature.
Michigander -- that's what Lincoln called us, even though he didn't coin the term -- is altogether good enough for this space.
On Feb. 12, 1909, Michigan Chief Justice Charles A. Blair was renominated by the Michigan Republican State Convention to run on the April 5, 1909 ballot to retain his post on the state's high court. Blair, the son of former Gov. Austin Blair, won by a plurality of 136,837 votes.
The new edition of Michigan History magazine is out, and included is a piece by yours truly entitled "The Man With the Branded Hand" about Michigander and abolitionist Jonathan Walker of Muskegon. His son Lloyd Garrison Walker is featured in a sidebar, along with one on the National Abolition Hall of Fame (does anyone know of it?!). Incredibly, this is the first occasion for the story to be told in the fabled pages of the State's premier popular history periodical. Congrats! to the editorial staff for wanting such a story to be told.
So why a "branded hand"? You see, Walker was a virtuous man who wanted to help enslaved people escape their chains, and so he ... well, perhaps you should get a copy of the magazine and see the whole and fascinating account of his life and deeds.
Also is featured with an image on the cover and another typically well-done story by Le Roy Barnett: "The Hero Who Was a Horse" about "Winchester" also known as "Riezi", the horse made famous (or was it the other way around ... ?) by Philip A. Sheridan, the Civil War general who helped the Union gain the victory.
Hope folks will read the entire issue as it is full of interesting stories.
The Freep has a "This Week in Michigan History" item today about Secretary of State Lewis Cass resigning on this date in the year 1860. What, was he caught in some scandal?
No, he stepped down from his prestigious post, as the Freep recounts, "after disagreeing with President James Buchanan about Southern secession." He "felt Buchanan, a lame-duck president essentially biding his time" until Abe Lincoln got sworn in, "wasn't doing enough to prevent the South from splitting from the Union, such as reinforcing military forts in the South."
This line of thinking has not been much emphasized in the histories of the period. Cass was 78 years old then. His life dated back to the 18th century, and he came of adulthood when Thomas Jefferson was elected. Though a Democrat, he brooked no mention of splitting up the U.S. of A. He espoused popular sovereignty, and this misguided political doctrine got buried in the 1860 election, but he advocated that his party leader -- who still had nearly three months as the Chief Executive -- do something to forestall the South's taking a "mad" step in breaking up the country.
Cass was a giant in Michigan history. That he opposed the Jefferson Davis wing of his own Democratic Party ought never to be forgotten.
His resignation deserves recognition for an act of conscience and patriotism.
Michigan was the 6th State to ratify this amendment to the U.S. Constitution on March 8, 1869, just 10 days after Congress proposed it on February 26.
On this day, March 30, 1870, President Grant took the unusual step of not just forwarding the Secretary of State's notification of ratification. He accompanied it with the Special Message set out below, found at American Presidency Project. For those "Lost Cause" historians who already disparaged Grant's reputation as the greatest American military commander to that point in the nation's history, this statement must have galled them even further:
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
It is unusual to notify the two Houses of Congress by message of the promulgation, by proclamation of the Secretary of State, of the ratification of a constitutional amendment. In view, however, of the vast importance of the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution, this day declared a part of that revered instrument, I deem a departure from the usual custom justifiable. A measure which makes at once 4,000,000 people voters who were heretofore declared by the highest tribunal in the land not citizens of the United States, nor eligible to become so (with the assertion that "at the time of the Declaration of Independence the opinion was fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race, regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics, that black men had no rights which the white man was bound to respect"), is indeed a measure of grander importance than any other one act of the kind from the foundation of our free Government to the present day.
Institutions like ours, in which all power is derived directly from the people, must depend mainly upon their intelligence, patriotism, and industry. I call the attention, therefore, of the newly enfranchised race to the importance of their striving in every honorable manner to make themselves worthy of their new privilege. To the race more favored heretofore by our laws I would say, Withhold no legal privilege of advancement to the new citizen. The framers of our Constitution firmly believed that a republican government could not endure without intelligence and education generally diffused among the people. The Father of his Country, in his Farewell Address, uses this language:
Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
In his first annual message to Congress the same views are forcibly presented, and are again urged in his eighth message.
I repeat that the adoption of the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution completes the greatest civil change and constitutes the most important event that has occurred since the nation came into life. The change will be beneficial in proportion to the heed that is given to the urgent recommendations of Washington. If these recommendations were important then, with a population of but a few millions, how much more important now, with a population of 40,000,000, and increasing in a rapid ratio. I would therefore call upon Congress to take all the means within their constitutional powers to promote and encourage popular education throughout the country, and upon the people everywhere to see to it that all who possess and exercise political rights shall have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge which will make their share in the Government a blessing and not a danger. By such means only can the benefits contemplated by this amendment to the Constitution be secured.
Are there? Are there any Michigan teachers interested in the Civil War? If there are, they're hardy people who have devotion to teach this topic in an environment where the "STEM" curriculum seems to predominate. If there are, this is a good new resource: CWT Teachers Regiment. The Civil War Trust Teachers Regiment is a community of educators who are passionate about the American Civil War and its interpretation in the classroom. They share ideas and experiences with the goal of creating the next generation of preservationists and historians.
Having just finished the stocky paperback book by this title published by Signet, edited by John David Smith, full of original source documents about the Reconstruction Era, it bears repeating -- going to the primary sources, and not just relying on secondary materiel, is critical to fully comprehending one's area of study. I found fascinating and not-known-by-me documents.
I also note that it is the title of President Obama's 10 December 2009 Nobel speech. Reading the text of it online, I must have missed citation to the phrase having derived from his predecessor during the Civil War.