Journal of Democracy Celebrates 25 Years

By Janet Gilbert
Direct Response and Renewals Senior Coordinator

For 25 years, Journal of Democracy has documented and analyzed democratic movements around the globe. Its role as the leading academic chronicler of democratic change continues with the newly released Volume 25, Number 3, a timely, thought-provoking special focus on Ukraine. Eight scholarly essays cover topics ranging from Russia’s involvement and the impact of the media to the far-right element and Victor Yanukovych’s misrule.

In her essay “Finding Ukraine: The Maidan and Beyond,” Nadia Diuk, vice  president for programs on Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy, explores the inception of a new Ukrainian identity:

“There is a notion in political science that the political system established after a revolution tends to take on the characteristics of the opposition that overcame the old order. If there is any validity to this idea, then the system incubated on the Maidan promises to be very different and more conducive to democracy than any Ukraine has seen in the past two decades.”

Co-editor Marc F. Plattner recently sat down to discuss the journal’s mission and the meaning of reaching a 25th volume.

Plattner also penned the introductory essay for the recent issue, featuring words which resonate with the general state of democracy in the world:

“ . . . democracy suffers from being a difficult form of government to establish, to sustain, and to make function well. Because of these difficulties, it faces constant challenges in newly democratic countries. So even if there continue to be revolts against dictatorship, there are also likely to be failed transitions and cases of democratic backsliding. It is reasonable to expect that the coming years will see some countries crossing the line, in both directions, between weak democracy and weak authoritarianism.”

The special section on Ukraine demonstrates the timeliness of content in the Journal of Democracy, which has only grown in importance over the past 25 years and will provide important perspectives going forward. As Diuk writes, “What starts in Kyiv never seems to stay in Kyiv.”

Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he directs the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Marc F. Plattner is vice president for research and studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Plattner and Diamond are coeditors of the Journal of Democracy.

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The World War I Centennial: Why Should Americans Care?

Guest post by Marian Moser Jones

Why should Americans commemorate the centennial of World War I? Since visiting the Somme battlefields in France earlier this summer, I’ve been wrestling with this question.

At the Thiepval memorial, located on the site of a village that was entirely flattened during this so-called “Great War,” I walked through a monumental archway and gazed across rows upon rows of British Empire grave markers inscribed “A soldier of the Great War/ Known but to God.” Next to them lay French graves marked with crosses labeled, starkly, “inconnu” (unknown). Then I trudged along the side of the auto route for several miles, past acres of potato leaves, shimmering stalks of wheat, and cemeteries, to stand on the lip of the Lochnagar crater. This hole, the largest man-made crater in the world, was created in one push of a detonation switch by British soldiers who had earlier tunneled under German trenches and planted 60 thousand pounds of high explosives there. Now carpeted by lush grass, it has the look of a scarified wound in the earth. Rabbits hop out of holes along the perimeter and birds tweet in the nearby brush, but metal signs along the fence warn that the crater is still very dangerous. The soil in the entire surrounding region, in fact, continues to yield up grisly reminders of the century old conflict, from long-buried shells that explode in construction workers’ faces to skeletons that surface during re-paving of parking lots.

As a historian who has written about the Great War, I was glad to have made this pilgrimage. Yet even at sites where American involvement in the war was acknowledged, I couldn’t help feeling like an outsider. Everywhere I went, there were British school groups, British families spilling out of RVs, and French locals happy to have the tourist business. I was repeatedly mistaken for an English woman or an Australian. When I told a taxi driver I was an American, he responded with the French equivalent to “we don’t get too many of your kind ‘round here.”

And why should Americans go to these sites? It is easy to argue that the Great War wasn’t really our war. The U.S. only participated militarily during the final, if decisive, months of the conflict. Our casualty count of 116,000 dead and 204,000 wounded is far smaller than American casualty counts in the Civil War or World War II. In fact, many more Americans died in the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 than on the World War I battlefields. By contrast, Russia alone suffered 12 million casualties, Germany seven million, France six million, and the British Empire over three million during this war.

World War I nevertheless transformed American society in significant ways. The American Legion, the Gold Star Mothers Association, and the Veterans’ Administration are just a few of the institutions spawned by the war and its aftermath. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery was established to honor the unknown American dead of World War I, and its original inhabitant was buried in a coffin lined with French soil from the battlefields where he had fought.

This war is also significant for ushering in a new era in American humanitarianism. As I describe in my book, The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal, nearly 30 million Americans, including an “army” of eight million female volunteers, became involved with the Red Cross during the war, as it grew from a small disaster relief body into a sprawling behemoth with humanitarian activities in 25 countries. This activity amounted to what historian Julia Irwin has argued was a national “humanitarian awakening,” initiating an American tradition of global humanitarian engagement that continues to this day.

Moreover, the unprecedented level of women’s participation in the war, whether as Red Cross volunteers rolling bandages, or as professional nurses who served in the war zone, pushed women’s rights forward. It is no accident that the Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was finally ratified in 1920.

But the fact that this war changed American society is not sufficient to justify an American centennial commemoration. War commemorations are emotional events that meet needs buried deep in the national or human psyche; they are not academic exercises.

One of the most profound Great War commemorations happens every July 1st at the Lochnagar crater. On that morning, the anniversary of the crater’s creation, visitors gather in a circle at its edges and hold hands. The crater’s owner, a private British citizen, has sought to transform it into a symbol of “peace, reconciliation, and fellowship between all nations who fought on the Western Front.”

It was while standing at this crater that I finally realized why Americans need to be part of the World War I centennial. The crater was not created directly by Americans; it was created even before American soldiers entered the war. But Americans nevertheless played a big part in making this crater, and in transforming the surrounding area into a pocked-marked, corpse-strewn wasteland. Beginning in 1915, Americans were financing the Allied war effort. Wall Street financier Henry P. Davison convinced his partner, J.P. Morgan, to float half a billion dollars in war loans to the British and the French. When the Americans entered the war in the spring of 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Davison to head the American Red Cross War council, which ran the organization during the war and raised the then-unbelievable sum of $400 million for war refugees and medical aid to American soldiers. With one hand, American capital enabled unprecedented levels of explosives to flow to the Western Front, while with the other, it stanched the wounds caused by these explosives through unprecedented flows of humanitarian aid.

This simultaneous remoteness from war and central involvement in it has since become a recurrent theme in American military history, as has this close intertwining of military and humanitarian involvement. Both trends are complex and troubling. And this is why Americans — both scholars and laypersons — need to join hands with people from other countries, take a long look into that crater, and begin to ponder the lessons of the Great War.

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jonesMarian Moser Jones is an assistant professor of family science at the University of Maryland School of Public Health  and a former DeWitt Stetten Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, Office of History. Her book, The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal, is available from JHU Press.  To listen to NPR’s interview of Moser Jones, click here.


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Fisher v. UT and the Insider Baseball of College Admissions

Guest post by Michael A. Olivas, discussing the case of Fisher v. University of Texas.

In several important respects, Fisher v. University of Texas breaks no conceptual ground or doctrinal ground since the 1978 Bakke case or the 2003 Grutter case, both of which upheld the modest use of race in college admissions. These cases remain the law of the land in admissions, subject to state actions taken by voters to limit the use of race in admissions, a practice ratified in the recent Schuette case. In that case, the US Supreme Court held that voters could determine such admissions policies and practices by ballot measure—a regrettable turn of events that politicizes college practices all the more.

But Fisher, the case of a disgruntled white applicant who was not admissible or admitted to the Austin campus of the University of Texas, either by the automatic Percentage Plan or by the comprehensive and holistic review, is an unnecessary case that never should have been brought or allowed. Abigail Fisher did not directly challenge the Percentage Plan—rather, she challenged the use of race in the holistic review process when the Plan was already in use. In other words, she did not object to the race-neutral admissions pathway, but to the comprehensive review that is constitutional under Bakke and Grutter.

SCOTUS determined that the trial court and the Fifth Circuit had not examined the extent to which the UT holistic process was “narrowly-tailored,” the Constitutional requirement that affirmative action be used only in a focused way, when other alternatives did not provide the diversity that is sought—and sent it back for such a review. That remand led to the trial court and the Circuit panel re-affirming the UT process.

While we do not know if the entire Circuit will accept the new analysis, or if SCOTUS will accept the more careful language of the remand, there has been considerable confusion about the Percentage Plan and its effect upon UT and the holistic review. Here, JHU Press readers will have access to some admissions insider baseball, as I examine and tell the back story of how the Percentage Plan came to be, how it has been misrepresented by opponents of affirmative action, and how it was even misunderstood by Justice Ruth Ginsberg. Justice Ginsburg’s dissent spares no snark in describing the Plan:

Petitioner urges that Texas’ Top Ten Percent Law and race-blind holistic review of each application achieve significant diversity, so the University must be content with those alternatives. I have said before and reiterate here that only an ostrich could regard the supposedly neutral alternatives as race unconscious. As Justice Souter observed, the vaunted alternatives suffer from “the disadvantage of deliberate obfuscation.” Texas’ percentage plan was adopted with racially segregated neighborhoods and schools front and center stage.

Given the mistaken racial-paternity assumed even by Justice Ginsburg in her dissent in the Fisher remand, I take this opportunity to elaborate on and correct the Percentage Plan record.

After Hopwood began to frag its way through Texas, State Representative Irma Rangel (D-Kingsville), the chair of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, convened a small working group composed of Latino professors and attorneys from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) to advise her on a legislative response. Inasmuch as the decision had the effect of banning the use of race in admissions to the state’s public colleges, the group—which varied between six and ten members, and to which I belonged—met monthly in Austin to plot a completely race-neutral response. We began an intensive scholarly reading program, took note of legal and legislative developments in other states, particularly California, and undertook computer simulations to counter the immediate and detrimental effects of Hopwood.

After more than nine months of meetings, we settled on a refined version of the California Master Plan (“Master Plan”), a longstanding tiered model with open admission community colleges for freshman and sophomore classes, moderately selective junior-senior upper division institutions in the California State University System, and the more elite and selective University of California (“UC”) System, which drew from the top 12.5 percent of the state’s high schools under a complex UC-eligible formula that weighted grades and mandatory test scores. While the Master Plan was decades old and had been revised to accommodate the state’s growth and resources, UC campuses were still extremely competitive and bursting at the seams.

In contrast, Texas had a more decentralized plan, with over a dozen individual college systems, most with multiple campuses and no centralized admissions model. The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin), as the most selective and popular campus in that multiple-institution statewide system, faced a number of constraints; on the other hand, there were other campuses and systems that were under-capacity or could grow (unlike the more space-limited UC campuses, such as those in Berkeley and Los Angeles). There were symmetries, such as the very competitive nature of the flagship programs (particularly at the UT-Austin campus, which boasted one of the nation’s largest enrollments); limits on the number of full-time, first-time freshmen they could plausibly accept; competitive undergraduate majors such as Business and Engineering; and selective graduate and professional schools.

In our search to find a race-neutral alternative to Hopwood’s restrictions, we took note that the UT-Austin campus relied on a very small range of high schools that served as “feeder schools” to the campus. Some of these selected high schools sent almost twenty percent of their graduating class to the campus. We also found that a number of counties and high schools in the sprawling state were less-inclined to send their students to UT-Austin. We discovered more than two dozen counties that had not sent a successful applicant to UT-Austin in over a decade, particularly from the more remote eastern and western rural counties and schools. We did not take into account the racial character of those schools, although we certainly realized that a growing percentage of African American and Mexican American students were concentrated in the larger cities and, in the case of the Latino students, in the Rio Grande Valley, roughly along the state’s border with Mexico, in a swath from Laredo/Nuevo Leon East to Brownsville/Matamoros.

As a result of a MALDEF case, Texas had recently upgraded the border colleges and realigned them with either the UT or TAMU systems. However, the Texas Supreme Court subsequently overturned a lower court decision that had held that the State intentionally favored the more northern areas, harming Mexican-Americans who were concentrated along the border and in San Antonio. One authoritative case study of the LULAC v. Richards litigation characterized the unanimous Texas Supreme Court decision as “unsound” inasmuch as it ignored the “centrality of race and racism and the intersectionality of racism with other forms of oppression.” In a recent book chapter,  I found the combination of the successful upgrading of border colleges and the Richards defeat to be “the antonym of a pyrrhic victory—perhaps a victory notwithstanding the verdict.”

The computer runs were most promising for adding Mexican-Americans and, to a lesser extent, African-Americans (who had access to several private historically black institutions and two public ones) under one scenario: an automatic admissions policy that replaced the SAT or ACT requirement with the condition of graduating from a state high school in the top twenty percent. We feared that such a program, even if only a small number of the eligible students enrolled, would swamp three or four of the flagship schools—perhaps UT-Austin, TAMU-College Station, the University of Houston, and UT-Dallas—and that a larger percentage of graduates attending a given campus would prove problematic in its own way.

Ultimately, we settled on the Top Ten Percent Plan (“Plan”), which guaranteed admission to high school graduates who were in the highest decile of their graduating classes. We sold the plan on broad participatory grounds and stressed the widespread notion that doing well in school was a good indicator of quality, one often incorporated into choices of valedictorian, and that high rank-in-class was often used as a proxy for college readiness. We successfully sold it to legislators by stressing the simplified process, one to be fairly applied across all schools, and one likely to result in a signal to high school students, school counselors and advisors, and parents. I recall one white rural legislator’s surprise when he was informed that no one from his district’s largest high school had been admitted into UT-Austin for over a quarter century, and I recall a pleasant discussion with a lawyer, who had litigated Hopwood and gone on to become an education attorney-advisor to then-Governor George W. Bush. As it turned out, he was from a small rural district, and he immediately offered to pitch the plan to the governor. Given his politics and litigation experience, I am confident he would never have supported a racial plan, nor would Governor Bush, who signed the Plan into law.

In a state where whites are a declining proportion and total number of the public school population, the Plan was sure to spread out the applicants and enrollees. But it was not at all clear it would do so disproportionately for students of color, and it did not ultimately do so. The after-the-fact quarterbacking that now seems afoot is simply wrong. This plan was not race-specific; rather, it was crafted to survive the hostile post-Hopwood politics and potential legal challenges, and it was intended to reduce the effect of the standardized tests on the system. To describe it as race-neutral is particularly appropriate in its as-applied optics, as over half of all students admitted under the Plan (now reduced to less than ten percent for UT-Austin, after the campus received an exemption on the grounds that the enrollment under the original Plan had swamped them and left them with no room for discretionary admits) have been white. In Texas, whites constitute only slightly more than thirty percent of the total public school enrollment. If Latinos did not drop out of school at such an alarming rate, the percentage of white students would be even lower.

Residential segregation in Texas is so pervasive that there are single-race high schools, but that is no counter to the race-neutrality of the Top Ten Percent Plan. To assert otherwise requires a hermetically-sealed perfect world where every school would be composed of the ideal percentage of students by group in the state. In my most nationalistic or nihilist moment, I would never claim that every unfair result is traceable to nativism or racial discrimination, but to the Abigail Fishers of the world, every minority student—a term to be used advisedly in Texas—is sitting in their seat or keeping them out. Indeed, Fisher is a special racial pleading, even as Abigail Fisher did not directly challenge the Plan. The mere existence of the Plan, which did not admit her, is evidence that the University of Texas must be using racial means to keep her out, even as Grutter allows the institution to employ racial admissions considerations in a modest way.

I end on this note. No matter the ultimate result of Fisher itself, I am confident that minority-related cases will be brought with regularity when whites are more readily recognized as not constituting the majority.


olivasMichael A. Olivas is the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center and the author of  15 books, including Suing Alma Mater: Higher Education and the Courtspublished by Johns Hopkins. He hosts a weekly NPR radio show,  The Law of Rock and Roll.



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Metro Reaches Tysons Corner . . . Finally

Guest post by Zachary M. Schrag

Measure twice, cut once, is good advice for carpenters and tailors. It’s even better advice for transportation planners, whose decisions can shape metropolitan regions for generations. This Saturday, July 26, officials will inaugurate the first stations on the Silver Line, an addition to the Washington Metro rapid transit system. In doing so, they will help rectify the biggest mistake made by the system’s planners nearly half a century ago.

For the most part, Metro’s planners did a remarkably good job of measuring and cutting. The five lines they created collect commuters from parking lots, bus routes, and neighborhoods throughout Washington and suburban Maryland and Virginia and deliver them to such major employment centers as the Pentagon, Southwest D.C., and Farragut Square.

Metro has attracted investment to previously declining parts of the region, most notably Washington’s downtown east of 15th Street. Once home to vacant buildings and porn shops, the area is now the location of a new convention center and sports arena as well as thriving office buildings, shops, restaurants, and condominiums. Montgomery County, Maryland, and Arlington County, Virginia, also designed their zoning to encourage dense growth near Metro stations, so that parts of those counties have become models of transit-oriented development. In Arlington, automobile traffic on key roads has actually declined even as population and employment have soared.

Moreover, some of the most frustrating gaps in Metro coverage were beyond the power of transportation planners to address. In particular, National Park Service intransigence about Rock Creek Park helped doom plans to serve Adams-Morgan, now a lively district of restaurants and bars that could use better transit service.

But planners did make one great mistake in failing to route Metro to Tysons Corner, a district defined by the intersection of three major highways in Fairfax County, Virginia. To be sure, Tysons wasn’t much to look at in the mid-1960s, when planners pulled out their colored pencils. But by 1965, the county had rezoned the area to allow for a regional mall, while planning staff called Tysons the “gateway to Washington for the jet-age” and the “crossroads of the county,” with the potential for up to 85,000 jobs. It could have been an ideal place to build rapid transit, letting the boom town grow up around Metro.

Instead, county supervisors routed Metro’s Orange Line to serve the small but existing, communities of Vienna and Fairfax City, to the south of Tysons Corner. These mostly residential communities rejected plans for dense development, which went to Tysons instead. So rather than combining those complementary machines—the subway and the skyscraper—Fairfax essentially gave its residents a choice between driving to the Metro station near Vienna or driving to work or shop at Tysons.

That will change at noon on July 26, when the first Silver Line train rolls east from the Reston-Wiehle Station, making four stops in Tysons before joining the existing Metro system in Arlington. Now, developers will have incentives to build their office towers and apartment buildings within an easy walk of stations, and commuters to some of the 100,000 jobs in Tysons will have an alternative to the clogged roads of the district. Fairfax County is encouraging more people to live in Tysons, with Metro as part of the lure. One may even start to see people walking to work as both apartments and offices cluster near the new stations.

All of this will take time. Arlington’s Orange Line stations opened in 1979, yet some lots within walking distance of the line are only now being developed. If you really want to understand the significance of Saturday’s ribbon-cutting for Tysons Corner, check back in the year 2050.


Schrag_The Great Society SubwayZachary M. Schrag is a professor of history at George Mason University, and author of the book, The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro.

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The problem of undocumented immigrants is not new

Guest Post by Ronald H. Bayor

The nation is presently watching the Mexico–U.S. border and obsessing over the issue of illegal immigration. The topic of undocumented immigrants, however, is not a new one. With the passage of largely ineffective state laws in the nineteenth century excluding certain immigrants because of disease, criminal background, or other problems, America began to witness the appearance of those entering the country regardless of restrictions.

Official federal control of immigration began in 1875 with a Supreme Court ruling and then with the systematization of the process by the opening of Ellis Island in 1892. Neither stopped the many immigrants who entered unlawfully. Immigrants barred from entry managed to evade exclusion by bribing immigration officials or ship captains, arriving as ship stowaways, using false papers such as citizenship documents, hiding previous criminal behavior, forging medical records, or traveling as first-class passengers who were given only cursory examinations. The U.S. never had a foolproof system for capping entry.

Rather than Hispanics from Latin America, those illegally entering the U.S. were comprised of various European nationalities. Western hemisphere immigrants were exempt from any restrictions and entered as non-quota immigrants until the 1965 immigration act. Their labor was essential to American agriculture. Asians, however, faced early and severe restriction starting with the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. But that law and its successors failed to provide a barrier, as the Chinese used various techniques, including purchased citizenships (known as “Paper Sons”), to secure entry.

In the 1920s, when immigration legislation establishing quotas was introduced, the key issues concerned nationality and race. According to the pseudoscience of eugenics, some immigrants were of “better stock” than others and would add, not detract, from the nation’s biological health. Southern and Eastern Europeans and Asians were considered to be detrimental to the country. Assumptions based on stereotypes held that these immigrants would become charity cases, were not as mentally or physically fit, were prone to crime and disease, and represented the dregs of the world, “the wretched refuse” of other shores. With quotas came more attempts to enter the U.S. illegally.

Immigrants in 1902 in a detention pen on the roof of the main building. Detention meant that something was wrong and could lead to days or months in unsanitary and crowded quarters, as well as deportation.  Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-116223.

Immigrants in 1902 in a detention pen on the roof of the main building. Detention meant that something was wrong and could lead to days or months in unsanitary and crowded quarters, as well as deportation. Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-116223.

The system changed over the years due to the need for workers at various times, and in the post-World War II era, foreign policy pressures forced the end of unequal nationality quotas. America usually needed the skills and workforce that immigrants provided, and the immigrants longed to start a new life in the U.S. Eugenics became discredited after the Nazis used these false theories to create the horrors of the Holocaust. But stereotypes about immigration prevailed. Undocumented or illegal immigration concerns in present times became sharply refocused on Hispanics coming from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador rather than on the previously despised European groups. While many object to the illegal status of these immigrants, suggest building a wall or fence along the U.S./Mexican border, and want to deport those already here, the illegal issue has historically been complex. People’s personal preferences and racial attitudes influence their reaction to immigration more than the letter of the law. During the 1980s, white immigrants from Cuba found more acceptance as new arrivals than black immigrants from Haiti. If German, British, or Norwegian immigrants sat on our border yearning to enter, the storm of protest against illegals of these nationalities would hardly exist, especially if children were involved. In the 1990s, for example, Congress passed temporary legislation allowing larger numbers of Irish to arrive.

The issue then is not just illegal entry but who enters. Although the U.S. has an immigration system based on attracting people with particular skills and enabling family reunification, exceptions have always existed, including classification as non-quota refugees. And those children on the border now could easily fit the legal definition of refugees and enter as humanitarian cases.

The reasons for entry, legal or illegal, over the years have remained the same: immigrants come to this country fleeing wars, crime, a poor economy, class restrictions, and lack of opportunity. As one Colombian immigrant, who arrived undocumented in 1980, said, “We were just immigrants looking for freedom.” He found opportunity and success. While nobody supports open borders without any regulation, immigrants, even those who came illegally, have provided the U.S. with a constant flow of the skills and the ambition needed to create future growth and prosperity.

bayorRonald H. Bayor is a professor emeritus of history at Georgia Institute of Technology. His most recent publication is Encountering Ellis Island: How European Immigrants Entered Americapublished by Johns Hopkins.


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Shall we take the ferry to Nantucket to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library?

Guest post by Stephen H. Grant 

North and west facades of the Folger Shakespeare Library the year before it opened (Folger Shakespeare Library).

North and west facades of the Folger Shakespeare Library the year before it opened (Folger Shakespeare Library).

It was not a foregone conclusion that the Folger Shakespeare Library be built two blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Hidden away among Folger papers as I scoured in the library’s underground vault during the research phase of Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger, I found a small undated note with ten possible sites for the Folger in alphabetical order written in co-founder Henry Folger’s meticulous clerk’s hand.

Nantucket was included because the Massachusetts island off Cape Cod had been home to the Folger tribe since surveyor and court clerk Peter Foulger arrived from Norwich, England, in the 1660s. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville wrote of “Folgers and harpooners,” as Henry’s grandfather, master blacksmith Samuel, fashioned cutting-in spades for the whaling trade. Henry’s Uncle James, after leaving Nantucket to seek his fortune in California during the Gold Rush, founded Folgers Coffee. Ever the businessman, oilman Henry calculated that a plot of land on Nantucket would cost $25,000.

Brooklynite Henry Folger eyed the lavish home at 1015 Fifth Avenue, which was owned by Jay Gould’s granddaughter, as well as the one next door belonging to socialite Edith Clark. These Manhattan properties each required an outlay of $550,000, Folger figured. Exerting the most pressure was Stratford-upon-Avon; if successful, this faraway lobby would have meant repatriating to British soil the Shakespeare treasures acquired largely at auctions in England. Folger also declared, “I have been importuned by several Colleges and Universities to locate my library of Shakespeareana with them, but I have never felt disposed to consider the suggestions.”

Diagram in Henry Folger’s hand of four possible library sites on Capitol Hill (Folger Shakespeare Library).

Diagram in Henry Folger’s hand of four possible library sites on Capitol Hill (Folger Shakespeare Library).

“I finally concluded I would give it to Washington; for I am a patriot,” Folger affirmed. Before WWI, Washington was a sleepy southern town. Contributing to the literary and cultural enhancement of the political capital appealed to the Folgers. Perhaps without fully realizing the extent of their gift, the Folgers, in their quiet way, were responsible for an uptick in America’s reputation and prestige: the moment of arrival for the young country on the world scene as Europe’s equal, and, in some respects, superior.

Secrecy was a practice Folger applied to his real estate acquisitions as well as to his book buying. In 1918 he wrote to a land speculator known for his clandestine purchases asking him to “inquire very cautiously” about four locations on Capitol Hill. One, noted on city maps as “future gov’t building,” would become twenty years later the Supreme Court; that was a non-starter. A second became the Lutheran Church of the Reformation across 2nd Street NE from the Court on East Capitol Street. A third eventually became the Madison building of the Library of Congress. The Folgers decided on one of the most opulent blocks on the Hill: an assemblage of fourteen redbrick Italianate rowhouses known as Grant’s Row (no relation to the author). It cost Folger $317,000 and took him more than eight years to buy the properties on the 200 block of East Capitol Street SE. Henry Folger’s name appeared on no document related to the transaction: as a result, virtually no one knew he had become the owner.

In mid-January 1928, the Folgers read with horror a Washington Post article that a bill pending in Congress had identified Grant’s Row and the lot to the south for a Library of Congress annex. With trepidation, Henry wrote Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress, “Should I give up the thought of making Washington the choice for a location [of my Shakespeare library]?” Without hesitation, an elated Dr. Putnam agreed to have the bill modified so that the annex would spare the Folgers’ property but occupy the remaining portion of the two lots. A wise Congress recognized the numerous benefits of having a private specialized library across the street from a public general library.

Grant’s Row, the fourteen redbrick rowhouses built by Albert Grant and which were demolished (Library of Congress)

Grant’s Row, the fourteen redbrick rowhouses built by Albert Grant and which were demolished (Library of Congress).

The Folgers would endow the library, build a decorative façade on its north side, and “dedicate this remarkable collection to the culture of the American public.” Both House and Senate passed the modified legislation unanimously. President Coolidge signed the bill (Public Law 70-453) into law on May 21, 1928.

It is especially appropriate in 2014—the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday—to celebrate the world-class Folger Shakespeare Library and its founders, who eighty-two years ago defined the purpose of the research library: to “give generations to come a better working knowledge and understanding of the literary works of the seventeenth century.”

grant.collectingStephen H. Grant is the author of Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folgerpublished by Johns Hopkins. He is a senior fellow at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training and the author of Peter Strickland: New London Shipmaster, Boston Merchant, First Consul to Senegal.

Meet Steve at Washington’s Politics and Prose Bookstore during his book talk and signing on July 26 at 6:00 p.m.





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The Press Reads: Why Mars

lambrightOur summer Friday series on the blog, The Press Reads, features short excerpts from recent JHUP books to whet your appetite and inspire timely additions to your summer reading list. With a nod to the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, this week we offer a selection from W. Henry Lambright’s Why Mars: NASA and the Politics of Space Exploration. The author is a professor of public administration, international affairs, and political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. His books include Powering Apollo: James E. Webb of NASA and Space Policy in the Twenty-First Century, both published by Johns Hopkins.

Beginning with NASA’s establishment in 1958, the space agency looked to Mars as a compelling prize: the one place besides the Moon where robotic and human exploration could converge. Over the years, the human space venture to Mars remained a dream. It remained on NASA’s agenda, but always on a distant horizon. NASA’s Mars robotic program—the focus of this study—has now been actualized, marking one of NASA’s greatest achievements. What has been the nature of NASA’s Mars exploration program? How was it created and sustained? How has it adapted to scientific findings and shifting political winds? What have been the barriers to the program? How was opposition countered? Where is the program going? These and other questions have not been answered adequately in the existing literature. Most writing about Mars deals with specific missions and emphasizes the technical aspects of exploring the planet. The people, institutions, politics, and policy behind the technical exploits get relatively little attention. NASA’s role, although mentioned, is seldom addressed in depth. What is significant is that the missions form part of an ongoing government effort that has lasted over half a century and promises to extend indefinitely into the distant future. Mars is a federal program, but it is also a destination, a place and a magnet for the human imagination. For advocates of robotic and human Mars exploration—who seem often to disagree as much as they agree—it is a great quest, a difficult and noble journey into the unknown.

Mars exploration has evolved from the Mariner flybys of the 1960s, which provided the first blurred glimpses of the Red Planet, to orbiter and lander missions in the 1970s. Later, in the 1990s, NASA created machines capable of  not only landing but also roving the planet. The Clinton administration in 1996 set as a national goal that NASA embark on “a sustained program to support a robotic presence on the surface of Mars.”2 By the early  twenty-first century, NASA was building an intricate infrastructure on Mars, a technical system involving orbiters, landers, rovers, laboratories, and communications systems. NASA, moreover, had company on Mars, as  other nations sent their own devices. The names of the machines have become well known not only to scientists but also to the public over the years: Mariner, Viking, Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Spirit, Opportunity, Phoenix, MSL with its Curiosity rover, and others. With modern technology, citizens on Earth can participate in an epic adventure and explore Mars through robotic machines of incredible capacity. These machines extend human senses of sight, sound, and touch across millions of miles. They have taken NASA, America, and the world to a period that John Grotzinger, chief scientist of the MSL, called “the golden era of Mars exploration,” a time of “extended, overlapping, and increasingly coordinated missions.”

The evolution of the program has not been all positive. Nor is the future certain. There have been expensive failures amidst the successes. There have been ebbs and flows in scientific and public enthusiasm, heights of exultation, depths of despair. Between Viking in 1976 and Mars Observer’s launch in 1992, there was a long gap in exploratory missions; in addition, Mars Observer was dubbed a $1 billion failure. But NASA maintained the quest for Mars in the 1990s and into the new millennium. That it did so was not easy. It was a test of scientific, bureaucratic, and political resilience. The key issue in understanding the Mars exploration  program is one that is generic in American democracy: how to maintain a long-term, large-scale, high-risk, and expensive federal research and development program in the face of competing scientific, bureaucratic, and public priorities and ever-changing political winds.

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