I’ve read Paul Johnson’s, “A History of the American People,” and I enjoyed it. I consider Paul Johnson to be an entertaining, informative, and thorough writer of history. Below are the most interesting items I learned from this book.
- America has been a world economic power since its beginning. In fact, it was a superpower before 1900. Even before America became a country, Benjamin Franklin misled England about the colonies’ prosperity to avoid further regulation by the king.
- Certain events in American history were inevitable. America’s economic prosperity and Britain’s waning interest in managing their empire made America’s independence inevitable, given time. The war just hastened it. Slavery: Given the North’s economic superiority and the economic un-sustainability of slavery, slavery would’ve ended in the United States, given time. And the movement west was inevitable, given America’s rapid growth, and despite all Government attempts to slow or control that movement.
- Speaking of the Civil War, it started when democrats refused to recognize the 1860 election of Lincoln as president. Imagine that.
- While World War I was a watershed in world history, the Great Depression is a dividing line in United States history. It is remarkable how little Government interference and influence in business, and the lives of ordinary Americans, there was in the early 20th century and before. Paul Johnson shared a comment by Thomas Sowell that the United States has replaced progress with justice as its overarching goal, and that this has led not to justice or progress, but only to conflicts of rights. What an interesting commentary on modern America!
- Alexander Hamilton was a great driving force behind America’s rise. He made it possible for America to repay its war debts and achieve the prosperity we have today.
- Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were surprisingly ineffective presidents. The former’s actions led to the War of 1812.
- True modern politics began with the campaign and election of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Machine of Martin Van Buren.
- Harry Truman was a democrat that I admire, and Joseph McCarthy was a Republican that I don’t.
- Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was largely based on Herbert Hoover’s progressive and socialist policies. Roosevelt’s popularity, and the recovery from the depression, was a mostly due to luck which has plagued presidents from time to time. Another stroke of luck was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the apparent victory achieved by John F. Kennedy. This really cemented his popularity and legacy.
- John F. Kennedy’s dad was very influential in his election as president, bribing media members to write favorable stories about Kennedy (or to refrain from publishing favorable stories about his opponent), altering and rewriting history to give Kennedy a legacy, etc… His dad chose Jackie for him. There was evidence of large-scale voter fraud, especially in Chicago and the Daley machine. It was one of the closest elections in history. Imagine that.
- Kennedy was also a womanizer, even bringing prostitutes to the White House. Lyndon Johnson was everything Kennedy was, and also a crook. In fact, Daniel Inyoue helped to cover up Johnson’s criminality in one case.
- Richard Nixon was a very effective president. His achievements included befriending China and resupplying Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were ineffective, but mostly due to an imperial Congress, encouraged by its apparent victory in Watergate.
I’ve learned a lot of surprising history, and I’ve also reinforced previous knowledge. I think I’ll read more.