Category Archives: USA

1864 elections went on during the Civil War – even though Lincoln thought it would be a disaster for himself and the Republican Party



Soldiers and African American workers standing near caskets and dead bodies covered with cloths during Grant’s Overland Campaign.
Matthew Brady/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Calvin Schermerhorn, Arizona State University

The outlook was not promising in 1864 for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans had been killed, wounded or displaced in a civil war with no end in sight. Lincoln was unpopular. Radical Republicans in his own party doubted his commitment to Black civil rights and condemned his friendliness to ex-rebels.

Momentum was building to replace him on the ballot with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. A pamphlet went viral arguing that “Lincoln cannot be re-elected to the Presidency,” warning that “The people have lost all confidence in his ability to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union.” An embarrassed Chase offered Lincoln his resignation, which the president declined.

The fact remained that no president had won a second term since Andrew Jackson, 32 years and nine presidents earlier. And no country had held elections in the midst of civil war.

A Lincoln-Johnson campaign ticket
A Lincoln-Johnson campaign ticket.
King & Beird, Printers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1864/Library of Congress

Arguments for postponing

Some urged that the June Republican convention be postponed until September to give the Union one more shot at military victory. Other Republicans went further, arguing that the country should “postpone … a Presidential election for four years more … (until) the rebellion will not only be subdued, but the country will be tranquillized and restored to its normal condition.”

Holding the election during civil war would render “the vote … fraudulent,” argued the New York Sunday Mercury, in a widely reprinted article. The nation would “flame up in revolution, and the streets of our cities would run with blood.”

But Lincoln’s party renominated him. He was a canny political strategist who calculated that nominating Democratic Unionist and military Governor of Tennessee Andrew Johnson for vice president would attract disaffected Democrats and speed national reunification.

Johnson proved to be a disastrous choice for Black civil rights, but in 1864 his candidacy shrewdly balanced the ticket.

Yet a military victory that could also help Lincoln’s standing and prospects was elusive. General Ulysses S. Grant led the Overland Campaign against Confederates, led by General Robert E. Lee, across much of eastern Virginia that spring. After 55,000 Union casualties – about 45% of Grant’s army – Grant laid siege to Petersburg.

By the time Democrats met in August to nominate General George B. McClellan, there was still no end in sight to the war. Lincoln had removed McLellan from command of the Union Army of the Potomac in 1862, but the general was still a commissioned officer. Yet McClellan’s party was in disarray. He opposed a peace settlement with the Confederacy while the Democratic Party platform committed him to it.

Lincoln having a nightmare about being defeated.
The artist portrays a president tormented by nightmares of defeat in the election of 1864. The print probably appeared late in the campaign.
Currier & Ives/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Defeat ‘seems exceedingly probable’

Without scientific polling, Lincoln and his advisers predicted defeat.

At the end of August, Lincoln wrote to his Cabinet, “it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.”

Abraham Lincoln understood that the war for the Union was about the integrity of a constitutional republic, not the president or the party. It was about “a new birth of freedom” and not about him. And that meant his victory in the election was less important to him than the fate of the entire country.

Yet Lincoln also made contingency plans in the event he lost, asking Frederick Douglass to help free enslaved people in rebel-held areas.

Soldiers vote absentee

It was a bitter campaign. Lincoln’s opponents tarred him with racist and bestial characterizations. Republicans fought back, charging Democrats with being treasonous.

But no slogan discrediting the opposition was as effective in building support for Lincoln as the September Union military victories at Mobile Bay and Atlanta.

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General Grant made sure soldiers voting absentee sent their mail-in ballots. He furloughed others to go home to vote in person.

Even on the eve of the election, there were still calls to delay or cancel the vote.

Lincoln, who would go on to win, assured those critics, “We cannot have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.”The Conversation

Calvin Schermerhorn, Professor of History, Arizona State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Nagasaki: The Second Bomb



Why is the Confederate flag so offensive?


Clare Corbould, Deakin University

Most Australians — aside from a few groups dedicated to reenacting American Civil War battles and history buffs including Bob Carr and Kim Beazley — were not familiar until recently with the charged history of the flag of the Confederate States of America.

Now the flag is in the Australian news with reports SAS military in Afghanistan in 2012 used the bold red, blue and white flag to guide in a US helicopter. Two SAS personnel also posed for a photograph with the flag.

Why do these images of Australian soldiers posing with a flag from another country’s long-ago war provoke such strong reactions? Because the flag has long symbolised defiance, rebellion, an ideal of whiteness and the social and political exclusion of non-white people — in a word, racism.

The Confederacy defeated, but not punished

The flag represents the Confederate States of America (CSA or Confederacy), created in 1861 when 11 states seceded from the 85-year-old nation. This rebellion was prompted by the election of Abraham Lincoln as president. Lincoln argued slavery should not be extended to new territories the United States was annexing in the west. Southern enslavers feared slavery in their established states would be Lincoln’s next target.

The ensuing four-year Civil War between the CSA and US was resolved in 1865 with the defeat of the Confederacy and the near-abolition of enslavement.

In the aftermath of the war, a longer battle began: how to interpret the war. For 155 years, this struggle has turned largely on the contradiction that although the US fought to end slavery, most white Americans, including in the North, had little commitment to ending racism.




Read more:
The Confederate battleflag comes in waves, with a history that is still unfurling


After a decade of military occupation of the South, known as the period of Reconstruction, the US military withdrew its forces. White Southerners, who had retained their land, implemented unjust legal and labour systems, underpinned by violence and racist ideas about black people’s inferiority.

Memorials of war

The reembrace of white Southerners into the nation showed a desire to “heal” the nation by downplaying the horrors of enslavement and the struggle to end it.

New narratives depicted the war as a righteous, though tragic, struggle over “states’ rights”. By avoiding a conversation as to what those rights were about — that is, enslavement — by the 1890s, they remade the meaning of the war.




Read more:
From Louisiana to Queensland: how American slave owners started again in Australia


Confederate flags were a powerful symbol in reinterpreting the War of the Rebellion. In the 1915 box-office hit feature film, The Birth of a Nation, for example, the central battle scene involves a key character, Ben Cameron of South Carolina, ramming the pole of a Confederate flag down a United States army cannon.

In the very next shot, however, the injured Cameron is rescued from the no-man’s land between trenches by his longtime family friend, Northerner and US Army commander, Phil Stoneman.

The movie’s second half cemented the theme of reconciling white Southerners and white Northerners. As it stated in an intertitle, “The former enemies of North and South are united again in common defense of their Aryan birthright”. It even became a tool to recruit new members to the Ku Klux Klan.

The war, in this telling, was a struggle between white and Black Americans, not between the US and the rebel Confederacy.

Old film footage of Civil war film.
Jamming the flag in the famous war film The Birth of a Nation.
YouTube

Blowing in the wind

The Confederate flag featured prominently in Gone with the Wind (1939), another immensely popular film that again glorified the way of life of white Southerners during and immediately after slavery. In this case, however, Hollywood used the more visually striking Confederate Battle Flag, which General Robert E. Lee had flown during the war, rather than any of the CSA’s national flags.

As Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) arrives at a makeshift hospital, the camera pans back to a field of hundreds of wounded and dead soldiers. The scene shifts only once those soldiers are framed by a Confederate flag, blowing majestically in the breeze.

Confederate flag flies over the battlefield in Gone with the Wind.
The battlefield in Gone with the Wind (1939).
IMDB

These two films buttressed a political economy that relied on a cheap labour force of disenfranchised Black Americans. But as African Americans began to make headway in the fight for civil rights, starting during World War II, symbols such as the Confederate flag became even more important to those who felt affronted by their gains.




Read more:
I am not your nice ‘Mammy’: How racist stereotypes still impact women


Enter the ‘Dixiecrats’

In the late 1940s, a new political party of Southerners opposed Harry S. Truman and the Democratic Party’s relatively sympathetic stance on civil rights.

These “Dixiecrats” adopted the Confederate battle flag as their party’s emblem. From that point, the flag was clearly associated with racist opposition to civil rights and with umbrage at perceived government intrusion into the lives of individuals.

When civil rights activism was at its most visible, in the 1950s and 1960s, many white Southerners became firmly attached to the flag.

The state of Georgia, where resistance to desegregation was fierce, adopted a new state flag that incorporated the Confederate flag.

A few years later, in 1961, neighbouring state South Carolina began flying the Confederate flag above its state Capitol.

Banning the flag

In 2000, after years of protest, South Carolina legislators moved the Confederate flag to the State House’s grounds. Then, after white supremacist Dylann Roof endorsed the Confederate flag and murdered nine black churchgoers in 2015, activist Bree Newsome shimmied up the pole and removed it in a galvanising act of civil disobedience.

Two weeks later, the flag in South Carolina’s house of government was finally removed for good. In the years since, hundreds of Confederate flags, statues and memorials have disappeared, including in the national Capitol.

In 2016, recognising the flag’s toxic history, major retailers announced they would no longer sell the flag.

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the removal of Confederate symbols has accelerated. In recent months, Southern company Nascar has banned the flag and the Department of Defense has effectively done so, too.

In a polarised political and media environment, many white Southerners continue to defend their allegiance to the Confederate flag.

They claim the battle flag represents their Southern heritage, as if that heritage comprises an innocent history of mint juleps and church-going. The problem with that claim, as the history of the use of the flag demonstrates, is that the heritage it symbolises is also that of enslavement, inequality, violence and gross injustice. The Conversation

Clare Corbould, Associate Professor, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


This is what happened the morning the first atomic bomb created a new world



The gadget in the Trinity Test Site tower. Unless otherwise indicated, this information has been authored by an employee or employees of the Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), operator of the Los Alamos National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC52-06NA25396 with the U.S. Department of Energy. The U.S. Government has rights to use, reproduce, and distribute this information. The public may copy and use this information without charge, provided that this Notice and any statement of authorship are reproduced on all copies. Neither the Government nor LANS makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any liability or responsibility for the use of this information.

Daniel Cordle, Nottingham Trent University

Fifteen seconds before 5.30am on July 16 1945, above an area of New Mexico desert so unforgivingly dry that earlier travellers christened it the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of the Dead Man), a new sun flashed into existence and rose rapidly into the sky. It was a little before dawn.

This strange, early daybreak was the Trinity Test: humanity’s first encounter with the atomic bomb. Within a month two bombs were dropped on Japan: the first, “Little Boy”, a uranium weapon, at Hiroshima; the second, “Fat Man”, a plutonium weapon of the implosion design tested at Trinity, on Nagasaki. Casualty estimates vary widely, but perhaps as many as 150-250,000 people died as a direct result of these two events. The following half century was one of intense nuclear testing, the residue of which might be the signature for the proposed new epoch of the Anthropocene.

The extraordinary story of the Manhattan Project, which led to this point, has been told many times. It begins with the realisation that atomic weapons, releasing vast amounts of energy via a nuclear chain reaction, were possible. It includes a 1939 letter, signed by Albert Einstein, alerting President Roosevelt to the dangers of a German atomic bomb programme, and tells how, following the United States’ entry into the second world war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the programme accelerated rapidly under the control of General Leslie Groves.

The Manhattan Project absorbed the British and Canadian “Tube Alloys” atomic programme, and drew on a dazzling array of scientific talent. More than a purely scientific endeavour, it was an engineering and industrial enterprise on a massive scale, employing about 130,000 people at its peak, and perhaps half a million cumulatively.


This article is part of Conversation Insights

The Insights team generates long-form journalism derived from interdisciplinary research. The team is working with academics from different backgrounds who have been engaged in projects aimed at tackling societal and scientific challenges.


Site Y was a town built from scratch to build the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Here, under the scientific directorship of J Robert Oppenheimer – a complex, charismatic figure (so famous after the war that he was instantly recognisable by his porkpie hat) – scientists, including many who’d fled Nazi persecution in Europe and were acutely aware of what a Nazi bomb might mean, built the “gadget” tested at Trinity.

By then, though, circumstances had changed. In late 1944, as Allied forces advanced across Europe, it became apparent that the German bomb programme had stalled years before. After Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April 1945 and Germany’s defeat in May, the Trinity Test was prioritised so Harry Truman, the new president, would have news of it when he met Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill at the Potsdam conference.

Winston Churchill, Harry S Truman and Josef Stalin at the Potsdam conference, Germany 1945.
© National Archives and Records Administration

Trinity is a striking moment. Scientists, military personnel and observers gathered in observation bunkers 10,000 yards from ground zero, at a base camp ten miles away, and at Compañia Hill, 20 miles away. Overnight, thunder, lightning and rain swept across the area, imperilling the test.

Don Hornig, the last man to “babysit” the bomb in its metal shack at the top of a 100ft tower, recalls passing the time by reading an anthology of humorous writing, Desert Island Decameron, by the light of a 60-watt bulb. He hoped the wet tower would act as a lightning rod if there were any lightning strikes. The alternative was sobering, but he appears to have been philosophical: “It would set the bomb off. And in that case, I’d never know about it! So I read my book.”

At a 2am conference, Groves threatened hard-pressed project meteorologist, Jack Hubbard, insisting he sign his forecast predicting conditions would clear by dawn and promising to “hang” him if they didn’t. Groves then roused New Mexico’s governor by phone, warning him he might have to declare martial law if things went wrong. By 4am the skies were clearing.

As 5.30 approached, people readied themselves with welder’s glass to view the test. At Compañia Hill, the physicist, Edward Teller, passed around sun cream. At S-10000, the main control bunker, an exhausted Oppenheimer leaned against a post to steady himself as the final seconds ticked away, and was heard to mutter: “Lord, these affairs are hard on the heart.”

The story of the Manhattan Project often ends with the controversial use of the bomb on Japan, or goes on to tell about the leaking of atomic secrets by Klaus Fuchs and the first Soviet atomic test in 1949. It might add that Oppenheimer, frequently portrayed as a tragic figure, had his security clearance revoked amid the anti-communist hysteria of the early 1950s.

A new world

Now, 75 years on, it’s worth isolating Trinity from this complex history to ask what that early morning moment in the remote desert meant. It was here, after all, that humans first encountered phenomena that were to haunt the cold war imagination, and still shape how many imagine potential nuclear futures: the atomic flash, the mushroom cloud and radioactive fallout.

Although this was a new human experience (Norris Bradbury, who succeeded Oppenheimer as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, noted that “the atom bomb did not fit into any preconceptions possessed by anybody”), it was processed through cultural traditions with long histories. It’s become an origin story in nuclear mythologies.

Norris Bradbury, group leader for bomb assembly, stands next to the partially assembled Gadget atop the test tower.
© U.S. Department of Energy

Writers return repeatedly to Trinity as a moment pregnant with meaning. In the 21st century alone, it’s featured in novels by, among others, Lydia Millet, Ellen Klages, Nora Gallagher, TaraShea Nesbit, Elizabeth J Church and Louisa Hall, and there are notable earlier examples, including those by Pearl Buck, Leslie Marmon Silko and Joseph Kanon. It’s been depicted by poets from William E Stafford to John Canaday and Hannah Cooper-Smithson, and on stage by Tom Morton-Smith. It features in music in genres ranging from rock to opera.

This fascination with Trinity shows how it’s not only an important historical moment, but a critical cultural one too. As the old sun crept above the horizon a few minutes after the test, many present were in little doubt it was rising on a new world.

The brightest light

In both eyewitness accounts and in fiction, Trinity is described as a moment of rupture and rapture: rupture because it marks the transition from a pre-nuclear to a nuclear age; rapture because the encounter with dazzling light and a power overwhelming the senses has the quality of religious experience.

Of course, there can be distortion in such accounts. The popular tendency to see the atomic bomb as the definitive nuclear technology marginalises fields like nuclear medicine and ignores the intellectual richness of the nuclear sciences.

And there are other candidates for the beginning of the nuclear age: Hiroshima, for sure, but also perhaps the creation of the first self-sustaining chain reaction by Enrico Fermi’s team in Chicago in 1942, Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch’s description of fission in 1939, James Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron in 1932, and Ernest Rutherford’s “splitting” (depending how one defines this) of the atom in 1917. The very notion of a singular beginning to the nuclear age is a fiction: each moment exists only in the context of others.




Read more:
Hiroshima’s literary legacy: the ‘blinding flash’ that changed the world forever


Yet, Trinity was experienced as a new dawn. This is particularly apparent in the recurring metaphor of the explosion as a sun. For William Laurence of the New York Times, observing the test from 20 miles away at Compañia Hill, it was:

Sunrise such as the world has never seen, a great green super-sun climbing in a fraction of a second to a height of more than 8,000 feet, rising ever higher until it touched the clouds, lighting up earth and sky all around with a dazzling intensity.

Ernest Lawrence, inventor of the cyclotron, a type of particle accelerator, noted the transition “from darkness to brilliant sunshine, in an instant”.

Perhaps the description by Isidor Rabi, discoverer of nuclear magnetic resonance (used in MRI scans), is the most compelling:

The brightest light I have ever seen or that I think anyone has ever seen. It blasted; it pounced; it bored its way right through you. It was a vision that was seen with more than the eye.

The experience is corporeal here: the light has heft and is felt by the body. Its revelatory characteristics are picked up in literature of the Trinity Test. In Lydia Millet’s novel, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, the flash is a “sear of lightness”. In Joseph Kanon’s thriller, Los Alamos, the protagonist “closed his eyes for a second, but it was there anyway, this amazing light, as if it didn’t need sight to exist”. In John Canaday’s poem, Victor Weisskopf, “a sun erupted”.

Laurence, whose reporting on the bomb won a Pulitzer, saw Trinity as crystallising a new relation with the universe. There, he wrote, “an elemental force [was] freed from its bonds after being chained for billions of years” as, for the first time, humans used an energy source that “does not have its origin in the sun”. “All seemed to feel”, wrote Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, General Groves’s deputy, “that they had been present at the birth of a new age – the Age of Atomic Energy”.

Fire from the gods

Stories of human acquisition of knowledge and power have deep roots in western culture. In Greek myth, Prometheus steals fire from the gods and is punished by being chained to a rock, his liver torn out daily by an eagle, only to grow back that he might be tormented again. One of the most substantial biographies of Oppenheimer names him, in its title, The American Prometheus.

In 1946, reflecting on the moment of the Trinity Test, Oppenheimer himself saw the analogy: “We thought of the legend of Prometheus, of that deep sense of guilt in man’s new powers, that reflects his recognition of evil, and his long knowledge of it.”

Oppenheimer and Groves at Ground Zero, Trinity Test.
© U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The most famous of Oppenheimer’s words to describe Trinity, the lines from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” – first appearing in print in 1948 but frequently repeated subsequently – reinforce this sense of an encounter with divine forces. They are, for instance, the final words in Tom Morton-Smith’s play, Oppenheimer. They are invoked, too, though not actually spoken or sung, when the chorus sings lines from the Gita in John Adams’ opera, Doctor Atomic.

So much part of the mythology are these words, that it’s sometimes erroneously assumed Oppenheimer actually said them at Trinity. His brother Frank’s recollection was that he simply said: “It worked”. It’s important, too, to be wary of where the mythmaking might take us. As the nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein points out, the words from the Gita are unlikely to be the hubristic statement of Oppenheimer’s triumph they might seem. They are often contrasted with the rather blunter assessment of Kenneth Bainbridge, in charge of the test, who commented to Oppenheimer, “Now we are all sons of bitches”.

The phrase’s attraction is, I think, its ambiguity. It’s portentous, but open to interpretation, gesturing toward something important in humanity’s encounter with greater powers (perhaps a Faustian bargain struck between the purity of physics and the real-world horror of military technology) without quite stating it. A similar suggestiveness surely accounts, too, for the proliferation of the famous (but possibly erroneous) story that Trinity was named by Oppenheimer for a metaphysical poem by John Donne:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

It opens up interesting creative possibilities. In her novel Trinity, Louisa Hall imagines Donne’s poem to be one admired by Jean Tatlock, with whom Oppenheimer had an intense relationship, but who died in 1944. In Doctor Atomic, the poem’s words comprise the lyrics of the moving aria closing the first act.

Unsurprisingly, Christian traditions of the acquisition of knowledge, and of the relation with God, are also invoked at Trinity. Oppenheimer famously stated in a lecture in 1947 that “the physicists have known sin”, a statement controversial among his colleagues.

There is, then, a furious mythmaking around both Trinity and Oppenheimer. It transforms Oppenheimer from an actual person into a compelling tragic figure. It transforms the atomic bomb into a technology that symbolises broader anxieties about the relations between ourselves, our technologies and the Earth.

Beauty and terror

Stories about the atomic explosion also conjure up the aesthetic tradition of the sublime, perhaps the dominant means through which encounters with nature have been processed in western societies since the Romantic period. In the art of the sublime, extremity of experience – the wildness and grandeur of nature one might encounter in a storm at sea, for instance – is emphasised.

The sublime evokes both beauty and terror. For Farrell, Groves’s deputy, the explosion was “magnificent, beautiful” and “terrifying”. In Ellen Klages’ young adult novel, The Green Glass Sea, a witness describes Trinity, saying “It was beautiful. It was terrifying”. These are experiences of awe in the sense defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “a feeling of fear or dread, mixed with profound reverence, typically as inspired by God or the divine”.

Indeed, Edwin McMillan, one of the physicists, described “the immediate reaction of the watchers as one of awe” and Frisch, Farrell, Bainbridge and Robert Wilson all use the word “awesome” to describe their own responses.

Farrell said of the test that it appeared as “that beauty that great poets dream about but describe most poorly and inadequately”. He is, in fact, remarkably eloquent, as this description of the desert landscape, lit by Trinity, shows:

The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, violet, grey and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined.

Pearl Buck’s novel about the Manhattan Project, Command the Morning (1959), seems to draw on this description. Stephen Coast, a (fictional) project scientist, sees:

The sky burst into blinding light. Miles away the mountains were black and then glittered into brilliant relief in the searing light. Colour splashed over the landscape, yellow, purple, crimson, grey. Every fold in the mountain sprang into bold lines, every valley was revealed, every peak stood stark.

The proliferation of adjectives chase after the experience as if they can’t keep up with the boiling profusion of colours. Characteristically, here, the sublime exceeds language’s capacity to capture it.

Trinitite and transmutation

Of course, what’s important about eyewitness and literary descriptions is not merely that they fit Trinity into established aesthetic traditions, but that the fit is uncomfortable. There are religious connotations to the dazzling light and overwhelming power of the explosion, but the forces encountered aren’t divine. Feelings aroused by the sublime are displaced uncannily when the source is technology, not nature.

In an essay on the atomic sublime, the scholar, Peter Hales, shows how the threat of the mushroom cloud was eventually somewhat tamed by being mediated through the aesthetics of the sublime. Trinity, though, provides a compelling origin story in nuclear mythologies precisely because in 1945 it was too new to be contained by that tradition. Even the familiar term, “mushroom cloud”, wasn’t yet readily available to name what rose into the sky (Frisch thought it both “a bit like a strawberry … slowly rising into the sky from the ground, with which it remained connected by a lengthening stem of whirling dust”, and “a red-hot elephant standing balanced on its trunk”).

Trinity test site.
© United States Army

Trinity is unsettling. The experience evoked intimations of the world’s end that were later frequently associated with nuclear weapons. George Kistiakowsky, who led the group building explosive lenses for the gadget, said Trinity was “the nearest thing to doomsday that one could possibly imagine”.

As the mushroom cloud boiled upwards, one military official, perhaps spooked by Enrico Fermi’s mischievous taking of bets on whether the explosion would ignite the atmosphere and, if so, whether it would destroy the whole world or just New Mexico (a possibility actually discussed, but ruled out well in advance of the test), apparently lost faith in the “long-hairs”, as the scientists were sometimes referred to by the soldiers at Los Alamos. “My God,” he’s said to have exclaimed, “the long-hairs have lost control!”.

Trinity presaged an era when the absurdity of extinction replaced a divinely ordained judgement day as the dominant vision of the end of the world: Dr Strangelove instead of the Book of Revelation.




Read more:
The end of the world: a history of how a silent cosmos led humans to fear the worst


Frequently, then, Trinity is a story about entering an unsettling new era. The Green Glass Sea captures this beautifully. The desert sand was melted by the test into a glassy substance, dubbed trinitite or Alamogordo glass. The novel’s young protagonist traverses this beautiful, alien world, that came into being 75 years ago:

The ground sloped gently downward into a huge green sea. Dewey took a few more steps and saw that it wasn’t water. It was glass. Translucent jade-green glass, everywhere, colouring the bare, empty desert as far ahead as she could see.


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Daniel Cordle, Associate Professor in English and American Literature, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


From Louisiana to Queensland: how American slave owners started again in Australia



Lorne sugar plantation in Mackay, 1874.
State Library Queensland

Paige Gleeson, University of Tasmania

Scott Morrison says “we shouldn’t be importing” the Black Lives Matter movement. But in the 1800s, Australia imported plantation owners from the American South.

Prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, the American south produced almost all of the world’s cotton. As war threatened, plantation owners returned to England and English cotton mills ground to a halt.

Emigration to Queensland, ‘the new cotton field of England’ was actively encouraged.
Trove

A new source of cotton was required, and Queensland would be widely promoted as a cotton growing colony and the “future cotton field of England”. The colony government invited mill and plantation owners and workers to re-migrate and re-establish their industry in Queensland.

Under 1861’s “Cotton Regulations”, individuals and companies could lease land and receive the freehold title within two years if one-tenth of the land was used for growing cotton.

As early as June of that year – barely two months after the civil war officially began – the Muir brothers, Robert, Matthew and David, established the Queensland Manchester Cotton Company and initiated plans to send an agent to Queensland to begin the process of establishing plantations.

Believed to be Robert Muir, photographed at Benowa Sugar Plantation at Pimpama, ca. 1875.
State Library Queensland

The brothers owned cotton plantations in Louisiana before returning to Manchester and then on to Queensland. The manager of the company, Thomas William Morton, also migrated from Louisiana to Queensland via England. His son Alexander went on to become the prominent curator of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

After an agreement was made between the government and shipping companies in 1863, thousands of “cotton immigrants” travelled to Queensland, and profits of American slavery were reinvested in Queensland’s new tropical plantation economy.

A colony for cotton

Disruption of the American slave trade didn’t only lead to the search for new fertile soil. Plantation owners also wanted cheap labour for the burgeoning Australian cotton industry.

The free labour of enslaved African Americans had generated immense profits, and Australian plantation owners were unable to induce sufficient numbers of white men to labour in the tropics on low wages.

(Popular medical theories also posited the physical unsuitably of white men for work in the tropics, conveniently maintaining racial hierarchy.)

Plantation owners turned to the Pacific Islands to ensure a steady supply of indentured labour.




Read more:
Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate


Under the indenture system, workers were bound to an employer for a specified length of time. These contracts were governed by Masters and Servants Acts with conditions set steeply in favour of plantation owners.

Australian South Sea Islanders at Otmoor sugar plantation in Upper Coomera, Queensland, ca. 1889.
State Library of Queensland

The work was physically demanding, and rates of death and injury were high. During a Pacific Islander’s first year of indenture, the death rate was 81 per 1,000 – especially startling given labourers were in their physical prime, usually between 16 and 35 years of age.

Most cotton plantations failed by 1866 due to flooding and crop disease. Owners reinvested in sugar and the labour trade grew to meet demand.

Between 1863-1902, 62,000 Islanders migrated to Australia.

An ongoing legacy

The Queensland colonial government established a tropical plantation economy which benefited from capital, workers and working conditions imported from the American south to the sugar fields of Queensland.

Labourers’ obligations to their employers were almost unlimited, and their rights were limited to the payment of wages.

The legal conditions of indenture made a worker’s refusal to comply with duties demanded by his or her master a prosecutable offence, no matter how small (or unreasonable) the task. Planters could bring charges in local courts against workers for absconding, “malingering”, or “shirking” (deliberately working slowly) – actions sometimes employed by Islanders as forms of resistance.

The Islander workers fought for increased rights, resisting Australian colonial society at times, while at other times adapting to it. The workers would be granted increased protections from “blackbirding” (recruiting labour via kidnapping, coercion or exploitation) under the Polynesian Labourers Act 1968, and later fought for their rights against deportation under the White Australia Policy.

South Sea Islander woman planting sugar cane in a field, 1897.
State Library of Queensland

Despite the harsh conditions, many South Sea Islanders returned to Queensland on multiple contracts, entering a pattern of “circular migration” from the islands of the Pacific to Queensland and back again. Others stayed on after their contracts had expired, became knowledgeable about the labour market and the value of their skills, and engaged in short term contracts on their own terms.

Many Islanders laid down permanent roots in Queensland, marrying Aboriginal and white Queenslanders, starting families and establishing homes.

These people are the ancestors of the contemporary Australia South Sea Islander community, who went on to have important roles in Australian society and advocate for recognition of their communities.

Australia doesn’t need to “import” protests against racism now: this importation happened centuries ago.The Conversation

Paige Gleeson, PhD Candidate, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


From Louisiana to Queensland: how American slave owners started again in Australia



Lorne sugar plantation in Mackay, 1874.
State Library Queensland

Paige Gleeson, University of Tasmania

Scott Morrison says “we shouldn’t be importing” the Black Lives Matter movement. But in the 1800s, Australia imported plantation owners from the American South.

Prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, the American south produced almost all of the world’s cotton. As war threatened, plantation owners returned to England and English cotton mills ground to a halt.

Emigration to Queensland, ‘the new cotton field of England’ was actively encouraged.
Trove

A new source of cotton was required, and Queensland would be widely promoted as a cotton growing colony and the “future cotton field of England”. The colony government invited mill and plantation owners and workers to re-migrate and re-establish their industry in Queensland.

Under 1861’s “Cotton Regulations”, individuals and companies could lease land and receive the freehold title within two years if one-tenth of the land was used for growing cotton.

As early as June of that year – barely two months after the civil war officially began – the Muir brothers, Robert, Matthew and David, established the Queensland Manchester Cotton Company and initiated plans to send an agent to Queensland to begin the process of establishing plantations.

Believed to be Robert Muir, photographed at Benowa Sugar Plantation at Pimpama, ca. 1875.
State Library Queensland

The brothers owned cotton plantations in Louisiana before returning to Manchester and then on to Queensland. The manager of the company, Thomas William Morton, also migrated from Louisiana to Queensland via England. His son Alexander went on to become the prominent curator of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

After an agreement was made between the government and shipping companies in 1863, thousands of “cotton immigrants” travelled to Queensland, and profits of American slavery were reinvested in Queensland’s new tropical plantation economy.

A colony for cotton

Disruption of the American slave trade didn’t only lead to the search for new fertile soil. Plantation owners also wanted cheap labour for the burgeoning Australian cotton industry.

The free labour of enslaved African Americans had generated immense profits, and Australian plantation owners were unable to induce sufficient numbers of white men to labour in the tropics on low wages.

(Popular medical theories also posited the physical unsuitably of white men for work in the tropics, conveniently maintaining racial hierarchy.)

Plantation owners turned to the Pacific Islands to ensure a steady supply of indentured labour.




Read more:
Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate


Under the indenture system, workers were bound to an employer for a specified length of time. These contracts were governed by Masters and Servants Acts with conditions set steeply in favour of plantation owners.

Australian South Sea Islanders at Otmoor sugar plantation in Upper Coomera, Queensland, ca. 1889.
State Library of Queensland

The work was physically demanding, and rates of death and injury were high. During a Pacific Islander’s first year of indenture, the death rate was 81 per 1,000 – especially startling given labourers were in their physical prime, usually between 16 and 35 years of age.

Most cotton plantations failed by 1866 due to flooding and crop disease. Owners reinvested in sugar and the labour trade grew to meet demand.

Between 1863-1902, 62,000 Islanders migrated to Australia.

An ongoing legacy

The Queensland colonial government established a tropical plantation economy which benefited from capital, workers and working conditions imported from the American south to the sugar fields of Queensland.

Labourers’ obligations to their employers were almost unlimited, and their rights were limited to the payment of wages.

The legal conditions of indenture made a worker’s refusal to comply with duties demanded by his or her master a prosecutable offence, no matter how small (or unreasonable) the task. Planters could bring charges in local courts against workers for absconding, “malingering”, or “shirking” (deliberately working slowly) – actions sometimes employed by Islanders as forms of resistance.

The Islander workers fought for increased rights, resisting Australian colonial society at times, while at other times adapting to it. The workers would be granted increased protections from “blackbirding” (recruiting labour via kidnapping, coercion or exploitation) under the Polynesian Labourers Act 1968, and later fought for their rights against deportation under the White Australia Policy.

South Sea Islander woman planting sugar cane in a field, 1897.
State Library of Queensland

Despite the harsh conditions, many South Sea Islanders returned to Queensland on multiple contracts, entering a pattern of “circular migration” from the islands of the Pacific to Queensland and back again. Others stayed on after their contracts had expired, became knowledgeable about the labour market and the value of their skills, and engaged in short term contracts on their own terms.

Many Islanders laid down permanent roots in Queensland, marrying Aboriginal and white Queenslanders, starting families and establishing homes.

These people are the ancestors of the contemporary Australia South Sea Islander community, who went on to have important roles in Australian society and advocate for recognition of their communities.

Australia doesn’t need to “import” protests against racism now: this importation happened centuries ago.The Conversation

Paige Gleeson, PhD Candidate, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Australia and Skylab



The Inuit/Eskimos



The Battle of Midway



Forgotten diaspora: remembering the pregnant Irish women who fled to America in 19th century



Irish immigrants, 1874 in Harper’s Weekly.
Library of Congress

Elaine Farrell, Queen’s University Belfast and Leanne McCormick, Ulster University

For the first time in Northern Ireland, women will be able to access abortions without having to travel to Great Britain as of April 1. This is the culmination of years of fighting for access to reproductive healthcare and follows similar changes in Ireland, where abortion became legally accessible in January 2019.

As heated debate raged across both Northern Ireland and Ireland in the lead up to these changes, the stories of women, who for various reasons, took the “abortion trail” across the Irish Sea became more widely shared. These are personal and often harrowing stories of being forced to travel to Great Britain to terminate a pregnancy.

New York, 1882, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.
Library of Congress

Indeed, while it may not be widely known, women who did not want to be mothers in Ireland are also a consistent feature of Irish migration throughout the 19th century. Some took the short journey across the Irish Sea to Great Britain. Others, however, took their chances further afield responding to the promises of a fresh start in America.

We have been researching these stories for our “Bad Bridget” project, a three-year study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council named after the fact that Bridget was commonly used in 19th-century North America to refer to Irish women. From looking at criminal and deviant Irish women in Boston, New York and Toronto, we have uncovered many who made the extreme decision to emigrate while pregnant and often alone.

It is clear from our research that the stigma and shame attached to illegitimacy in Ireland, in both protestant and catholic communities, led girls and women to make this journey to the “new world” rather than be condemned and possibly ostracised at home. In 1877, for instance, Maggie Tate, an Irish Protestant, migrated to New York to “cover her shame”. She hoped that the father of her child would join her in the US to fulfil his promise to marry her.

Kate Sullivan, who was 18 when she travelled to New York, was “betrayed” by the son of a farmer for whom she worked in Ireland. He had allegedly “shipped her over [to New York], promising to follow on the next steamer”. He didn’t and she gave birth to their twins there.

Other women in similar situations gave up their children for adoption. While some relatives and friends would likely have been complicit in decisions to hide pregnancies by migrating across the Atlantic, others likely remained entirely ignorant. Unfortunately, many Irish women found that when they arrived in America, attitudes towards single mothers were no more positive than at home. For some women the experience of migrating while pregnant ended in tragedy.

Catherine O’Donnell ended up in court in Boston in 1889 for the suspected manslaughter of her baby, having allegedly “sought the shore of America to give birth to an illegitimate child, her lover [in Ireland] deserting her”. Her case reveals the issues experienced by many single mothers, both in the past and today, of having to support a child alone. Catherine initially paid for her baby’s board, but her financial difficulties were exacerbated when money from home ceased. She was refused assistance at charitable and religious institutions and, after wandering around for two days in a storm, seems to have left her infant on the shoreline at low water where the baby drowned.

Abroad and alone

Our research on Bad Bridget has also shown that many Irish female migrants became pregnant after their arrival to North America. This is undoubtedly related to the fact that many Irish women emigrated alone and at a young age, some as young as eight or nine. This was unlike their counterparts from continental Europe, who tended to travel in family groups.

Two Irish mothers on the cover of Puck, 1901.
Library of Congress

But if many Irish migrants in large cities experienced a new found sexual freedom outside of parental and family control, this lack of supervision also meant a lack of support and assistance. The experience of Rosie Quinn who became pregnant while in New York in 1903 reveals the tragic consequences that could follow. Rosie was found guilty of throwing her nine-day-old daughter into a reservoir in Central Park and sentenced to life in prison. Her case generated considerable public support, with one woman writing to the governor of New York:

my heart is so burdened for that poor Irish girl (alone in a strange country deserted by family and friends) that I cannot rest.

Like Catherine O’Donnell, Rosie explained during her trial that she had sought and been refused charitable assistance. She had gone to Central Park intending to drown herself and the baby, she claimed, but while contemplating suicide the baby had slipped from her arms. She recalled that she “got scared and ran away”. Servants at the hotel where Rosie had worked on Fifth Avenue appealed to patrons to help appeal her case and she was pardoned in December 1904.

These examples are only some of the wide variety of stories and experiences of unmarried Irish mothers in North America. In many situations, pregnancies outside marriage will have turned out well; women will have managed on their own, married or used support networks. But for others, experiences of emigration ended badly. Historical discussion of emigration often ignores the female experience.

Understanding the myriad migration stories in the past will give greater insight and understanding into the pressures and demands of migration today, especially relating to women migrants. Such stories also complicate rose-tinted views about economically, socially and politically successful Irish migrants who contributed to their new home countries. An awareness of the variety of pressures and stresses that led to a decision to emigrate, and an understanding that not all migrant experiences in the past were positive, can encourage a more empathetic consideration of migrants and migration today.The Conversation

Elaine Farrell, Senior Lecturer in Irish Social History, Queen’s University Belfast and Leanne McCormick, Senior Lecturer in Modern Irish Social History, Ulster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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