I have on my desk here a large stack of paper, the first set of printed page proofs for Stanton. I am reading and marking them, in some cases finding small typos, in other cases making small improvements. I am nearly done, which is good, because I owe these pages back to the publisher on Monday. I am going to hand-carry them to New York City, see the editors and my agent there.
My biography of Edwin Stanton is coming, on August 8, 2017. With the new year I am turning away from writing and revising the book (although there is still some of that work ahead) and towards promoting the book. I have one book event set, for Jackson, Mississippi, on August 17, 2017. I expect to be setting up many more events, perhaps not quite so many as Seward, starting in August and running through December. If you would really like me to come to your bookstore, or your library, get in touch with me, through the contact section of this website, or with Elizabeth Gay at Simon & Schuster.
I have just returned from Washington, from the Library of Congress, where I found many interesting and useful sources. What is sad is that, in most cases, I will be able to quote only a few words from these sources, not whole paragraphs. In an effort to right that wrong, I attach here my rough transcript of a document entitled “To the Public” in the papers of Jeremiah Black. Black was Stanton’s friend and colleague in the Buchanan cabinet. Not long after Stanton’s death, articles appeared talking about Stanton as an “anti-Buchanan” man, saying that he had argued with Buchanan, threatened to resign, to force Buchanan to defend the South Carolina forts. Black was drafting a response to those articles, in early 1870, but for some reason never published it, perhaps because it was “overtaken by events” when Henry Wilson published an article about Stanton in February 1870, an article to which Black responded at length.
I am making progress on Stanton. I now have 176,372 words written in 18 chapters. The book is supposed to be 200,000 words long, so that would suggest that I only have another 24,000 words to write.
The reality is that I have more to do than that. This morning, for example, I am rewriting several chapters to emphasize the relations between Secretary Stanton and General William Tecumseh Sherman. This will be important in two chapters I have left to write, the chapter on early 1865, when Stanton meets with Sherman to discuss his policy towards blacks, and the chapter on the summer of 1865, when Stanton overrules Sherman’s truce with Johnston. I need to “go back” a bit so the reader understands that there were tensions between Stanton and Sherman even before early 1865, mainly tensions about Sherman’s refusal to recognize blacks as soldiers.
My parents, John Stahr and Elizabeth Dempster, were married sixty years ago today at Stanford Chapel. The minister was my mother’s uncle Milen Dempster.
Milen was a remarkable man: educated in divinity at Harvard, briefly serving as a Unitarian minister, but then running for governor in 1932 as a Socialist, and working thereafter as a community organizer. A quick search reveals that he was the project manager for the construction of Marin City during World War II. “Like other ‘right thinking people,’ New Deal liberals, and leftists, Dempster saw war housing as an opportunity to create a sense of community among disparate Americans. Dempster [said] that Marin City would house all shipyard workers without regard to ‘religion, race, color, or position in the shipyards.’ When whites protested, Dempster appealed to their patriotism, saying ‘These men are Americans. They are needed just as you are–to build ships.'” Donald Albrecht, ed., World War II and the American Dream: How Wartime Building Changed a Nation, p. 129.
I am doing some Stanton reading today, and as often happens, I find something about Seward to report.
I am reading The Impeachment and Trial of President Andrew Johnson, by David Miller DeWitt, published in 1903. DeWitt was a New York Democrat, sympathetic to Johnson, hostile towards Stevens, Sumner and the other Radicals. Since almost all modern accounts are hostile to Johnson, DeWitt is welcome balance. And although DeWitt was much younger than Seward and Stanton, born in 1837, he knew these men. I think there is a fair chance, for example, that he was in New York City Hall in August 1866, when President Johnson spoke and Secretary Seward listened.
The Washington lawyer recently had an article by Joseph Goulden about Washington lawyers who have become historians. There are a few errors–it is the Seward papers not the Stanton papers that run to 200 reels of film–but in general it is a careful and thoughtful article. Link below:
Yesterday, in New York City, my wife daughter and I were at the funeral mass for my dear friend John Palenberg. It was a beautiful service, filled with people from around the world, complete with eccentric music choices (Dancing Cheek to Cheek and Ave Maria, among others). There were five speakers, including my friend Susan Stabile (see her remarks on Creo en Dios) and John’s daughter Sophia Palenberg. I was honored, and a little terrified, to be asked to speak about John. Here is roughly what I said:
My good friend John Palenberg died in New York City today.
I met John when we both arrived at Harvard Law School in the fall of 1978. We were the same age, in the same section, the group of 140 students that was together for all our classes that first year. John, as I recall him then, was quiet, but with a sense of humor. He formed the “North Dakota Harvard Law Association.” The Association had only one member, John, but it had a activities, or at least announced activities.
Yesterday I attended the memorial service for my history teacher and mentor, Donald Barnard Cole. It was a wonderful service, filled with music and laughter, stories and tears. I learned a great deal about Mr. Cole, and thought I would share here some of my own memories of him.