For a Kinder, Gentler Society
The Making of the American Dream
An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 (2 volumes)
  • Lewis E. Kaplan
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The Making of the American Dream . An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 (2 volumes)
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Vol. II: The Beginning of the End of the Republic

An unconventional history is one that challenges some of the myths scholars have employed to explain our past. In these two volumes Kaplan shows that every war in US history was waged either over the issue of land or for its acquisition. This work, which covers America's first 300 years, differs from others in seeking to debunk numerous flattering and conventionally accepted myths. (This is Volume II; Volume I is released separately.)

Reading between the lines of what we've all been taught as US history, the author probes a little deeper into what perhaps was never denied — but was never spelled out, either. Some inconvenient questions emerge. Was lust for land the driving force behind every war in US history?

In a lively narrative, Kaplan demonstrates that in many ways Lincoln was our worst wartime president (save Madison), and that Reconstruction was doomed from the start.

The War Between the States and the rapid industrialization of the North was made possible by tapping the vast resources which lay underneath the land. Oil, coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, and other minerals made the US the richest and most powerful nation in the world by the end of the nineteenth century, when this book concludes.

The book also chronicles the fledgling Labor movement in the 19th century, handily discredited through equation with “anarchists,” and explores the cynicism with which McKinley embarked on a new imperialist expansionism.

Volume II assesses the Civil War and Reconstruction, shifts in the balance of power between the three branches of government, corruption under the Grant and Hayes Administrations, the Railroad Age, the plight of the Negro, the farmer, and labor in general, economic panics, and the Spanish-American War.

The basic thrust of this 2-volume work is neither to expose America’s blemishes nor to eulogize its virtues.  Rather, the author focuses on US history from a different perspective than is usually accepted. Readers may disagree with his interpretations but will find his arguments intriguing.


About the Author

Lewis E. Kaplan’s 40 years of publishing and business experience have provided him with first-hand knowledge of the impact of currency exchange fluctuations on the domestic market, and the role of the U.S. dollar in the global economy. His first book was God Bless You, Joe Stalin: — The Man Who Saved Capitalism (Algora 2006).This is followed by The Making of the American Dream - An Unconventional History, a work in two volumes. A lifelong student of history, he attended Cornell University and completed his studies at the University of Aix-en-Provence. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Force in the Pacific. Kaplan was founder of RetailWeek, an award-winning business publication, vice-president of marketing for GENESCO Europa, and president of PLADS, a division of Kellwood Company. He served as a consultant to Fortune 500 corporations.

About the Book

Any history that touts itself as unconventional is bound to raise some hackles. The author challenges traditional interpretations of our nation’s past. Yet history is continually under revision.

What is America, after all? Author Lew...

Any history that touts itself as unconventional is bound to raise some hackles. The author challenges traditional interpretations of our nation’s past. Yet history is continually under revision.

What is America, after all? Author Lew Kaplan observes, "While this country is no longer the republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers, neither can it be construed to be a pure democracy since the checks and balances still remain in place. The federal government, which has encroached on the rights and obligations formerly delegated to the states with seeming impunity, is still restrained by the Constitution. The President needs the support of Congress for appointments to the Supreme Court. And even the Supreme Court can be overruled through a Constitutional amendment." In each chapter of his new work, Kaplan narrates major episodes of US history and shows how the three branches of government have worked with (and against) each other to achieve various national, Party, and personal goals.

Challenging some of the myths scholars have employed to explain our past, not a criticism of their intelligence or capability, but of the methodology they used in arriving at the conclusions they wished to promote. In order to validate their theses, they refer to documents of well-established scholars who came before them. Notes citing these “court historians” and authorities become the standard by which a new historical work is judged.

In this book the author has not relied on the conclusions offered by other writers. Instead, he views the established facts of United States history from the standpoint of commonsense to decipher instances of oversight, obfuscation and obvious (but masked or denied) interest. These are some of the distortions he highlights:

(1)  The early settlers may have come to America in search of religious freedom, but the early colonies were marked by religious intolerance, and soon the pursuit of freedom became synonymous with the pursuit of wealth.
(2)  The greatest blight on our past is the conscious and willful elimination of three million Amerindians in order to seize their lands.
(3)  The Constitution was composed exclusively by and for men of means, and its fundamental goal was to maintain the status quo. Legitimizing slavery was simply one of numerous compromises made by local competing factions to ensure ratification.
(4)  The conflict between the North and South was never over slavery; rather, it was over control of the Senate, the only legislative body appointed by the establishment.
(5)  The major blunder committed by Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government was to actively solicit the military support of the Border States, which opened the door to a land invasion from the North — impossible if they had remained within the Union.
(6)  Lincoln was the worst wartime president in our history, in that his strategy was responsible for 600,000 deaths on the battlefield.
(7)  The Emancipation Proclamation was designed to bring the Southern states back into the Union.
(8)  Reconstruction was designed by the congressional leaders of the Republican Party to prevent the South from forming a solid electoral bloc around the Democratic Party, which would have enabled the Democrats to take over the presidency and the Congress.
(9)  Economic depression is not a twentieth century construct, but occurred cyclically throughout the nineteenth century, brought on by incautious speculative investment in land and stocks committed by businessmen and banks, bought on unsupportable margin.
(10)  What makes this nation unique is that it had to establish its own traditions and create its own mythology in short order, quickly weaving a narrative that would inspire and unify the citizenry.


Excerpt

Giving a glimpse of what can go wrong in the "democratic" process, Kaplan describes the Tammany Hall politics and Grover Cleveland's experience in 1884 and 1888.

"Any political machine, whether Republican or Democratic, exists and prospers depending upon the patronage it can offer to its supporters. Kelly’s machine, which had turned out the overwhelming majority of Cleveland’s plurality, quite naturally expected a fitting largesse for his efforts. To Cleveland, on the other...

Giving a glimpse of what can go wrong in the "democratic" process, Kaplan describes the Tammany Hall politics and Grover Cleveland's experience in 1884 and 1888.

"Any political machine, whether Republican or Democratic, exists and prospers depending upon the patronage it can offer to its supporters. Kelly’s machine, which had turned out the overwhelming majority of Cleveland’s plurality, quite naturally expected a fitting largesse for his efforts. To Cleveland, on the other hand, public office was a public trust. The idea of aiding and abetting a corrupt political machine was anathema to him. He believed that he had been elected by the people, not the bosses. When Kelly discovered, to his amazement, that the political plums would not be forthcoming from the newly-elected governor, that Cleveland did not understand the value and purpose of a political machine, and that Manning’s promises were nothing but hot air, he retaliated with the only weapon in his arsenal. When Cleveland ran for the presidency, the downstate majority would not be there. Kelly would prove his point more succinctly when Cleveland ran for reelection in 1888 and lost New York to Benjamin Harrison, the Republican candidate.

"The greatest fear of the Founding Fathers had been realized. Under a democracy, the unwashed masses, controlled by a demagogue, would determine the political direction of the nation. Tammany Hall was only the most blatant example. Political machines had sprung up in other large cities. The basic concern of the average voter was who would pander to his needs. Even more frightening was that one city, in one state, could decide who would enter the White House."

 



Pages 234
Year: 2009
LC Classification: E178.K17
Dewey code: 973--dc22
BISAC: HIS036000 HISTORY / United States / General
BISAC: HIS036050 HISTORY / United States / Civil War Period
Volume I, Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-693-2
Price: USD 23.95
Volume I, Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-694-9
Price: USD 33.95
Volume I, Ebook
ISBN: 978-0-87586-695-6
Price: USD 33.95
Volume II, Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-696-3
Price: USD 23.95
Volume II, Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-697-0
Price: USD 33.95
Volume II, Ebook
ISBN: 978-0-87586-698-7
Price: USD 33.95
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