Publick Occurrences 2.0

November 15, 2011

The Flight from Downtown Manhattan

Filed under: Ben Carp's Posts,Historians,Media,Military,Revolution — Benjamin Carp @ 3:40 pm

From the US Army's American Military History, volume 1


Noreen Malone of New York magazine had the interesting idea to interview Early American historians to see if George Washington’s flight from the southern tip of Manhattan in 1776 might hold any lessons for the Occupy Wall Street movement, which was evicted from Zuccotti Park this morning.


August 4, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg and the Flushing of Religious Intolerance

Filed under: Founders,Historic sites,Religion — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 1:03 pm

As a non-New Yorker, I do not have a very well-formed opinion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but his recent speech defending the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” contains one of least impeachable arguments I have seen a public figure make in favor of church-state separation under the U.S. Constitution. Rather than positing a general founding secularism that is just inaccurate enough to give Christianists a foothold for their mythologizing, Bloomberg grounded the mosque’ s right to exist firmly on individual rights, especially private property rights:

The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

It is hard to see how anyone with real conservative principles could take much issue with that private property argument. Not that I assume most of the criticism has come from principle — fear and fear-mongering are easier on the brain, and get a lot more attention.

Of course, Bloomberg’s speech was not free of historical mythology, especially about New York as the birthplace of religious toleration. (His cited basis for this claim is the locally semi-famous “Flushing Remonstrance” of 1657, in which officials in the titular Queens village begged Director General Peter Stuyvesant to permit a Quaker meeting. In response, Stuyvesant jailed the officials and abolished the town government, so it was not really a big win for religious freedom.) This site’s esteemed co-founder painted early New York as something completely other than an island of peaceful pluralism, and even Bloomberg himself covers the fact that New York did not in fact have religious toleration until after the Revolution: the Catholic Church was not allowed to open its doors until the 1780s.

All of which points up the problem with most claims that the United States was “founded on” any particular modern idea we might choose to advocate. There were multiple moments of founding, and all of those were the product of political processes that participants could and did ascribe many different meanings to. One does not have spend much time reading the founding generation’s constitutional debates and newspaper essays to realize that they never fully agreed themselves what the nation they were founding was being “founded on.”

As a for instance: the principle Bloomberg cites is certainly present in Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786) and Madison’s first amendment to the Constitution, but many of the Founders (especially those who identified with the Federalist party) continued to believe that government needed to embrace and employ Protestant Christianity. It also seems safe to say that at least some founding lids would have flipped if someone had tried to open a mosque next door to Federal Hall in 1789.  On the other hand, some might not have. The early presidents were all aware that the U.S. would be contact with cultures around the globe, and took occasion to single out Muslims as a group that Americans were not set against, at least in theory. Either way, it is not clear that the Founders and their colonial forebears really have much guidance to offer us. We in this century have to make these decisions for ourselves.


May 16, 2009

Housing Fits

Filed under: Ben Carp's Posts,Black history,Economy,Urban history — Benjamin Carp @ 8:41 am
Mapping Foreclosures in the New York Region, Matthew Bloch and Janet Roberts, New York Times

Two articles in the NYT are worthy of attention as the impact of the economic crisis spreads.

First, Michael Powell and Janet Roberts, in “Minorities Hit Hardest by Foreclosures in New York,” do a great job describing the foreclosure crisis in the NYC metropolitan area.  They also nicely situate their story in the social and economic developments of the last 30-60 years or so.

If all this economic pain still seems rather abstract to you, then turn to the first-person account by Edmund L. Andrews, “My Personal Credit Crisis,” in this weekend’s magazine section.  Sure, it’s an in-house book promotion, but it also nicely captures the psychological effects of this kind of financial pain.  Take the emotions from Andrews and map them onto the larger-scale developments in the Powell/Roberts article, and it really brings home the power and viciousness of the recession.


April 27, 2009

More Visiting Team Tea Party Commentary

Filed under: Ben Carp's Posts,Conservatives,Revolution — Benjamin Carp @ 12:26 pm

Last week I did some more Tea Party commentary elsewhere:

…it’s true that many (though not all) of the conservative protesters were invoking the “tea party” mostly as empty symbolism and not as an explicit historical parallel. But such unthinking (not to say cheap) symbolism can be potentially dangerous. After all, the actual perpetrators of the Boston Tea Party destroyed over £9000 worth of goods (the equivalent of between $1 and $2 million dollars in today’s money), and this was after weeks of threatening the British tea agents at their homes and places of business. Perhaps we might agree today that the colonists were forced to resort to violence and destruction because they suffered under a “tyrannical” empire that ignored their arguments—but in a representative government, we have other alternatives. Despite the signs calling for “tarring and feathering,” in New York City, the strong police presence probably discouraged any real thoughts of violence. But will those protesters who were calling for “rebellion” be content with civil disobedience in the future?

Check out OUPblog for the rest.


April 17, 2009

Ink-Stained Wretch

Filed under: Conservatives,Newspapers,Revolution — Benjamin Carp @ 10:26 pm

Here’s why I was holding back my experiences at the NYC tea party from earlier this week:

The night turned chilly as dusk settled into darkness, and a dampness hung in the air from the rain that had fallen earlier in the day. In a sea of citizens who said they were fighting for freedom, I saw young men dressed as American Indians. I saw tea being brandished in protest. And I heard plenty of anger about taxes and tyranny.

This wasn’t Boston on Dec. 16, 1773. I was in New York City on April 15, 2009.

Read the rest in the Washington Post Outlook section.


April 16, 2009

Steeped in Tea Party Links

Filed under: Conservatives,Historians,Media,Political culture,Revolution — Benjamin Carp @ 11:32 am

Last night I went to one of the tax day “tea parties”–this one in lower Manhattan, by City Hall Park.  I have a lot to say about my experience there, but I want to hold off for a little while.  In the meantime, I wanted to provide readers with some of the most interesting links I’ve perused over the last few days.

Our regular readers will have already seen my previous thoughts, plus smart observations from Andrew Shankman.  The website for the NYC event I attended is here.  Wikipedia does an informative rundown of the 2009 history; see also the talk page.  I found good advance coverage by David Weigel of the Washington Independent, who followed up by reporting on the Washington DC tea party here.  Lawrence Downes was caustic about an earlier tea party event in the NYT; more interesting was this rundown of previous tax revolts in US history.

Samuel Adams biographer Ira Stoll graciously linked to this site in this Forbes piece: “Time for a Tea Party?“  So did John Fea of Messiah College, who records his observations of the Harrisburg, PA, tea party, and Jared Elosta of bottom up change, who began reporting what he saw in Boston.

Thom Hartmann offers historical perspective from the left in “The Real Boston Tea Party was an Anti-Corporate Revolt,” at (hat tip to PJT).

Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee offers a sympathetic discussion of the movement’s political mobilization in the Wall Street Journal, and Jack Balkin of Yale Law School does a great follow-up to the Reynolds article.

From the right, Ross Kaminsky combats some left-wing stereotypes about the Tea Party in “Lunatic Left Wrong About Tea Parties,” in Human Events; Angry White Dude offers his thoughts.  Supporters of the tea parties give a rundown of the day’s events at and

Skeptics have included Paul Krugman, Andrew Sullivan (also here), Amanda Marcotte, the folks at and (see Ann Davidow), the Huffington Post, Robert Reich, and Rand Simberg (though he’s also somewhat of a supporter).

Anyone have other links to add?  I’m not particularly interested in television coverage; if people have links to standard press coverage (or other opinions from any part of the political spectrum) then I’m more interested, particularly since I’ve found very little on the NYC protest I attended.


More links: Ross Douthat from the right, and Kos, Ezra Klein (with newer thoughts here), James Wolcott and Whiskey Fire from the left.  Also, Jared Elosta (an Obama supporter) continues his Boston coverage.

Gordon Belt of the Posterity Project linked here with his own linky post (with some videos too).

And Jon Stewart is funny, but John Oliver is even funnier.


Copyright © Common-place The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Inc., all rights reserved
Powered by WordPress