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Journal of History and Social Science
Democracy in the 17th Century:
Progression and Regression
Controversial Presidential
Secrecy and National Security—
Feared Yet Necessary
Providing for the Common
Defence: Executive War Powers
in History and the Modern Age
Reaping the Seeds of Conflict:
The Dawes Act of 1887
Racial Complications of the 1936
Berlin Olympics
Selling Society: Propaganda,
Advertising, and the Culture
of the 1920s
The Second Amendment:
A Collective Protective Right
Journal of History and Social Science
Department of History and Social Science
The Loomis Chaffee School
Fall 2013
Eric LaForest and Lori Caligiuri, editors
Table of Contents
Editorial Note and Synopses
Pages 3-4
Alex Cohen ’16, “Democracy in the 17th Century: Progression and Regression?
Carling Prize winner
Pages 6-14
Victoria Smith ’14, “Controversial Presidential Secrecy and National Security—Feared Yet
WALKS Finalist and Runner-up
Pages 15-25
Cameron Nelson ’14, “Providing for the Common Defence: Executive War Powers in
History and the Modern Age”
WALKS Finalist
Pages 26-38
James Dion ’14, “Reaping the Seeds of Conflict: The Dawes Act of 1887”
Pages 39-55
Carolyn Gershman ’14, “Racial Complications of the 1936 Berlin Olympics”
Pages 56-76
Jack Kelly ’14, “Selling Society: Propaganda, Advertising, and the Culture of the 1920s”
Pages 77-98
Sarah Regan ’14, “The Second Amendment: A Collective Protective Right”
Pages 99-113
Editorial Note
A season after the reelection of Barack Obama in the fall of 2012, the seven students whose
work is featured here chose to focus on American political history and its many applications
and consequences. It is no surprise that their findings run the gamut; the origins of
democracy, the meanings of the Constitution, the power of the printed word, and domestic
and foreign entanglements are all carefully examined and originally interpreted in this issue.
When read together these essays open new vistas for viewing the layered past and uncertain
future of American politics. Their thoughtful use of diverse primary and secondary sources
problematizes our assumptions about the distribution of and access to political power in this
country’s history. It is our sincere hope that you are engaged and enlightened by the best of
what our department has to offer. –The Editors
Alex Cohen ’16
“Democracy in the 17th Century: Progression and Regression?
This Carling Prize-winning essay traces the uneven development of the democratic
impulse in the early modern world. Its use of a wide range of historical contexts
complements its argument that the reaction against autocracy could not be uniformly
Victoria Smith ’14
“Controversial Presidential Secrecy and National Security—Feared Yet Necessary
This essay, the runner-up in last year’s WALKS essay competition, deftly interprets
the Constitution and claims that its application over the course of American history
supports the executive branch’s reliance on initial secrecy surrounding national
security issues. Its balanced use of evidence—from the Roosevelt Corollary to the
Mexican-American War to the War Powers Resolution—serves to reinforce this
timely, sophisticated argument.
Cameron Nelson ’14
“Providing for the Common Defence: Executive War Powers in History and the Modern
A WALKS finalist, Cameron Nelson here presents an urgent, complex defense of
the continued expansion of presidential war powers. The essay’s careful organization,
elegant prose, and expert treatment of the historiography of the Constitution provide
the reader with ample reason to read on and to be persuaded.
James Dion ’14
“Reaping the Seeds of Conflict: The Dawes Act of 1887”
Historical accounts of the 1887 Dawes Act have largely neglected the perspectives of
Native Americans. This historiographically significant essay serves to correct that
oversight and shed new light on a key moment in late-nineteenth-century Western
Carolyn Gershman ’14
“Racial Complications of the 1936 Berlin Olympics”
An ambitious and detailed evaluation of the 1936 Olympics, this essay blends
narrative and analytical approaches to explore the historical significance of
international sports culture and the role of the media in shaping Americans’
perceptions and judgments.
Jack Kelly ’14
“Selling Society: Propaganda, Advertising, and the Culture of the 1920s”
Drawing on examples from both political and cultural history, this essay examines
the means by which American advertising could gain traction so quickly in the
American Jazz Age economy. The twin contexts of military propaganda and
technological change—and the markets for both—figure into this wide-ranging and
stimulating work.
Sarah Regan ’14
“The Second Amendment: A Collective Protective Right”
This work, seeking to define the controversial Second Amendment in collective
terms, provides the reader with a thorough analysis of precedents from the English
political tradition and of historical shifts in the meaning of the Amendment over the
course of American history.
Alex Cohen ’16
“Democracy in the 17th Century: Progression and Regression?
The evolution of “democracy” within the context of world history, and the Early
Modern World, 1630-1700 (“Early Modern World”), in particular, is not a straight-line,
seamless progression towards an absolute “democratic” common good. During this period,
the development of “democracy” is best characterized as a seeming contradiction between
much forward progress in the evolution of certain democratic ideas and governance and the
concurrent growth of patently undemocratic institutions, such as slavery, and the
accumulation of power and wealth by monarchies through military conquest. Democratic
ideas and institutions in the Early Modern World evolved as a reaction against autocratic
systems of government and abuse of power by the ruling classes. Democracy was not
prevalent by any means during this period. The noteworthy point, however, is that
undemocratic impulses of autocratic rulers were increasingly challenged and resisted by
common people who demanded greater participation in their own government.
From the perspective of 300 years later, the elements of “democracy” as they
evolved during the Early Modern World were imperfect first steps, “the perfect being the
enemy of the good”.1 Today, we accept generally that democracy includes, among other
things: the availability of equality of opportunity, broader participation of the citizenry in
decision-making, the ability of citizens to select and elect their leaders, acceptance of
majority rule and the rule of law, the guarantee of civil rights, such freedom of religion and
expression, and an assumption that there must be limits on the powers of government vis-àvis the individual citizen. The democratic values and ideas were not the monopoly of the
peoples and cultures defined by the European Enlightenment or the less stratified society
Attributed to Voltaire
and representative government in English North America, but rather were concepts shared
and developed by many different people and cultures in the Early Modern World. By the
same token, the rise in the use of military conquest accompanied by political and systematic
economic exploitation, including slavery and land grabs, was not solely the domain of
Europeans, but was also prevalent in other cultures of the period, particularly in Africa.
It is indisputable that some of the most important developments towards democracy
occurred in 17th century England. The religious and political turmoil of this period were, in
hindsight, the result of forces directed toward the elimination of autocratic rule. The desire
for religious freedom resulted, after the beheading of King Charles I, in Oliver Cromwell’s
theological-based dictatorship.2 Nevertheless, an impetus for the English Civil War was the
desire to reduce the power of the entrenched Anglican nobility over political and religious
dissenters. While Cromwell’s harsh and intolerant rule resulted, after his death, in the
restoration of the monarchy, it also resulted in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that
increased the power of the Parliament at the expense of the monarchy.3 Although the
Parliament of this period was not democratically elected, as we understand the modern
Parliament (or American Congress) today, it nevertheless represented a significant expansion
of the political base that had previously ruled the country. Moreover, the Glorious
Revolution of 1688, and its underlying political philosophy as expressed in the writings of
John Locke that might be considered “democratic,” 3 were a major influence a century later
on the politics of English North America, culminating in the 1776 Declaration of
Independence, and the 1789 Constitution of the United States.
While the founders of New England had no intention in the first instance of creating
a “democracy,” but rather sought a social order based on godliness, the unintended
English Civil War
Glorious Revolution
consequences of their experiment in self-rule led to the evolution of institutions and
practices that we recognize today as basic building blocks of democracy. Thomas Hooker, a
renowned Puritan minister, expressed the “godliness” component best: we are joined
together in this commonwealth; to make sure that the gospel is freed up and purified and
that’s why were making this government, along with rules and laws.
The General Courts of Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay granted authority for
local government collectively to the people who established the town. In Connecticut, for
example, John Wareham and Thomas Hooker put forth the Fundamental Orders of
Connecticut (1650), which included certain elements of democratic government.4 They
provided for, among other things, representative assemblies, on which rule by the people
and the rule of law were based, and recognized some religious and civil freedoms. Colony
members were to meet together to run their community.4 They could also discuss and vote
upon important issues, such the selection and election of officers to lead them, the
establishment of tax rates, and how “common land” would be divided. The Code of Laws
expanded upon the Fundamental Orders, and provided for many fundamental democratic
ideas: “Forasmuch as the free fruition of such Liberties, Immunities, Privileges, as Humanity,
Civility and Christianity, call for, as due to every man in his place and proportion, without
Impeachmt and infringement,” was the Commonwealth created.4 It stated, among other
things, that no man could be arrested without good reason, and, if so arrested, had the right
to be tried in a court by his peers; and no man could have his property taken away by
government. The introduction of some “democratic” practices did not, however, extend to
freedom to worship another religion (punishable by death), or the right not to vote (in which
case, one was whipped) or to remain “idle” (whereupon one was punished by as much pain
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
as possible as determined by a court).4 This same Code of Laws provided that Native
Indians had to produce, and grant custody of, goods for consumption solely by the English
colonizers, the penalty of not doing so being death. Clearly, the benefits of New England
“democracy” were limited to the colonizers alone.
The movement towards democracy in English North America was also uneven in
the Chesapeake Region colonies. They strayed from the initial “democratic” ideas, such as
religious freedom and equality that led to their founding, in part because of economic
success. The Virginia Colony began growing significant amounts of tobacco at the
beginning of the 17th century.5 Later, the farmers began to use African and Indian slaves, as
well as English indentured servants, to farm tobacco. By the 1630’s, the Virginia Colony
became very rich as a result of the tobacco crop and its use of slavery, a clearly undemocratic
development in the New World.5 Though the tobacco economy began to suffer in the 1660’s
because of a prolonged economic depression, the English monarchy, as represented by
Governor William Berkeley, continued to tax settlers/planters at pre-depression rates. The
settlers agitated and, in 1676, a group of settlers led by Nathaniel Bacon, a relative of
Governor Berkeley, took out their anger on peaceful local Native American tribes that stood
in the way of their efforts to clear more land for tobacco cultivation.5 When Berkeley tried to
rein in the settlers for what he considered their excessive Native American killings, Bacon
and his followers rebelled and burned down Jamestown. Importantly, Bacon and his group
sent a list of their grievances to Berkeley. Their principal grievances were unjust taxation,
failure to protect the colony from Native Indian attacks, and the promotion of incompetent
favorites in powerful positions.
In defending himself against these grievances, Berkeley foreshadowed the return of
Chesapeake Region
more autocratic rule: "A king has long arms either to reward or punish", signaling to the
rebels that even if they removed him from office, the English monarchy, though separated
by an ocean, would still have the power to retaliate and punish the Virginia Colony.5 Bacon
died, and, ultimately, the rebellion against Berkeley, the monarchic symbol, failed.
Nevertheless, the precedent had been set for aggrieved citizens to demand fairness,
specifically in terms of taxation, and government responsiveness to the needs of the people
it governed.
The evolution of ideas we consider “democratic” today were not the monopoly of
European peoples and cultures alone. During the same period, there were some tenuous
first steps in this regard in China.6 The backdrop against which these ideas began to be
discussed was a period of economic upheaval in China that followed some initial prosperity
from the development of trade relationships with the Europeans. China’s economic stability
was jeopardized due to the decrease in arable land caused by flooding.6 This resulted in
widespread famine. The Ming dynasty’s government did little to address the need for flood
control; its inefficiency in this regard was compounded by the lack of revenue from its
agricultural economy. Yet, Chinese farmers were still forced to pay taxes though their land
was no longer arable.
Out of this period of economic upheaval percolated the first “democratic” ideas in
China.6 In 1644, Li Zicheng and Zheng Xionzhong led a peasant rebellion against the Mingruling dynasty. Li Zicheng’s ideas, around which rebelling peasants coalesced, included his
belief in equality for all people in China. In addition, Li Zicheng advocated the equal
division of land and the abolishment of the grain tax payment system.6 Li Zicheng’s march
resulted in the eventual collapse of the Ming dynasty under Emperor Chongzhen. The
emperor hung himself, and the three hundred year reign of the Ming Dynasty ended. The
rebels’ success, however, was short lived. The Manchus emerged and forced the rebels out
of the city.6 By 1647, Li and Zheng were both captured and executed by the Manchus. With
their death, the first discussion of more “democratic” government in China also ended, and
there was a regression into autocracy.
The seeds of democratic ideas also took root with non-Europeans as a reaction
against European domination and enslavement. On a modest scale, an example of such a
reaction was the creation of Quilombos in current day Brazil during the 1670’s.7 The growth
in the demand for human labor and the African slave trade was most significant in the New
World Portuguese colony of Brazil. The Portuguese were ruthless in their slave raiding and
their exploitation of the captive slave population.7 To escape the reach of the Portuguese,
runaway slaves created remote safe haven communities in Brazil known as Quilombos.
These slaves, mostly African, created a system of elected governance similar to early New
England commonwealths; they elected their “kings” based on their qualities of wisdom and
During the 1630-1700 period, however, the majority of countries and cultures
worldwide did not evolve or move toward creating a democratic environment. The citizenry
had no say in how to run their country, nor did they have liberty, equality or civil rights. A
case on point is the European Expansion in Central and South America. Both the Spanish
and the Portuguese relentlessly and ruthlessly used the New World as a means to an end, the
end being the aggrandizement of their own power and wealth through military conquest and
economic exploitation.
Prior to the Spanish conquest of South and Central America, many of the native
cultures had achieved a relative agricultural and social equilibrium and stability. The Spanish
did not seek to make peace or compromise with the native tribes.8 The Spanish had no
intention of creating a “democratic” order in their colonies; instead they created a rigid social
order and caste system, where they were designated the ruling class and the natives and
slaves were relegated to the lowest status. They deliberately sought to dominate the local
cultures, socially, religiously and militarily, and appropriate their wealth, in whatever form,
whether gold, silver or spices. By so doing, the Spanish destroyed the fabric of Native
American cultures. The Spanish forced Native Americans into slavery, and were also the first
Europeans to introduce the use of African slaves into the New World.8
The Spanish further exercised their dominance over Native Americans by unilaterally
imposing taxes on their belongings, impoverishing them as a result. These taxes were
intended to enrich the Spanish conquerors, not to provide for the good of the native people
from whom they were collected.8 As a result, the natives started a revolt led by Poe-pay. In
1680, he led a rebellion against the Spanish capital in Santa Fe and succeeded in killing over
400 Spaniards.8 Autocratic government and the resulting injustices bred revolt, as they were
to do a century later, first in British North America, then subsequently in the early 19th
century in the liberation of the Spanish colonies themselves.
As noted earlier, during the Early Modern World, the rise of military conquest,
accompanied by political and economic exploitation, particularly slavery, and the
accumulation of massively disproportionate wealth through land seizures was not solely the
domain of Europeans. An example of this is the rise of the Ndongo and Matamba
Kingdoms, and their leader Queen Nzinga, in 17th century Africa.9
Spanish America
The Portuguese expansion into Africa in aggressive pursuit of slave labor, threatened
the economic power and territorial control of Central African coastal states. One African
leader, Queen Nzinga, who ruled Ndongo in the 1620’s and later Matamba during the
1640’s, proved to be an extremely adroit survivor in the face of successive Portuguese
incursions.9 The key to her political survival and power was the commercial success
resulting from her domination of the Central African slave trade. Through military conquest
of, and slave raiding into, neighboring African states and strategic alliances with the
Portuguese who initially aided her in that regard, she positioned her kingdom as the critical
“middleman” in the slave trade – the gatekeeper of the source of slaves.9 When her alliance
with the Portuguese fell apart, she re-grouped and founded Matamba, a new state further
west; she forged a new alliance with the Dutch and attempted to reclaim Ndongo. While
unsuccessful in reclaiming Ndongo, from 1640 through her death in 1661, she was
successful in making Matamba a powerful commercial state based on her ruthless
exploitation of fellow indigenous Africans.9 Matamba was on a par with, and not subservient
to, the European states.
In summary, while there was not a seamless progression in the development of
democratic ideas during the 17th century, the evolution of democratic ideas and institutions
throughout the world at this time had a common impetus – a reaction against autocratic
systems of government and abuse of power by the ruling classes. For example, the founders
of New England expanded upon Locke’s theories of representative government, and
religious tolerance, but only so far. They recognized the exercise of freedom, but only the
one recognized by each colony. At the same time, clear across the world, in China, the ideas
of Li Zicheng regarding equality for all people, equitable division of land and taxation were
so powerful that people were willing to fight for them and a 300-year dynasty was crushed as
a result. These ideas were considered so dangerous, however, that the Manchus stepped in
and prevented them from becoming permanent. Despite the forward progress in the
evolution of democratic ideas and institutions in some parts of the Early Modern World,
elsewhere patently undemocratic institutions, such as slavery, also expanded. Through their
superior military technology, buttressed by a belief in their inherent superiority over “less
civilized” peoples, and using their religion as justification, Europeans successfully conquered,
enslaved, and economically exploited many native peoples. Nonetheless, the seeds of
democracy were successfully sown from time to time in the Early Modern World. The
willingness of people to fight for democratic ideas and more participation in their own
government, proved to be a lasting 17th century contribution to the evolution of democracy
in our own time.
Victoria Smith ’14
“Controversial Presidential Secrecy and National Security—Feared Yet Necessary”
"There must be a privilege for secrets of State, i.e. matters whose disclosure would endanger [sic] the Nation's
governmental requirements or its relations of friendship and profit with other nations."- American Jurist John Henry
Wigmore, Evidence in Trials at Common Law
Delegates at the Constitutional Convention (1787) in Philadelphia sought to create an
egalitarian society with a government that checked and balanced itself, ensuring that no one branch
could attain an inordinate amount of power to overthrow the other two equal branches. In an effort
to protect liberty and remove themselves from the tyrannical reign of the monarchy, the “Framers
of the Constitution” divided the war powers between Congress and the president. For the past two
hundred plus years, the tension between the public’s right to know what the American government
is doing and the president’s right to secrecy in order to protect the national security of the United
States has provoked heated debate. The legislative branch’s constitutional right to declare war and
set limits to the president’s actions deeply contradicts the president’s ability to justify secrecy in the
name of national security. If the president remains covert in his military intentions and actions,
Congress may be unintentionally stripped of its constitutionally entrusted job. However,
technological advances in modern warfare have dramatically increased the likelihood of a sudden
threat to national security in America, fostering strengthened safety measures and precautions, but
also calling into question the danger of public knowledge of military actions and plans. Although the
“Framers of the Constitution” worked to limit the powers of the president by separating war powers
between the executive and legislative branches, the Constitution allows room for initial secrecy in
times of national security crisis when the release of information about actions and strategies could be
detrimental to the lives of Americans and dangerous in the hands of a foreign enemy. Henceforth,
the evolution of the United States Constitution and scholarly interpretation of the Constitution
support the justification of initial secrecy through national security concerns.
As delegates at the Constitutional Convention crafted the Constitution, they considered the
relationship between the president, the country, and the inevitable wars America would face. In The
Federalist No. 4, John Jay, under the pseudonym Publius, expressed his sentiments about the
allocation of war powers shared by celebrated scholars of the era: he believed that
"absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get
nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as a
thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private
compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans.
These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the
sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the
voice and interests of the people."
John Jay highlighted the Founding Fathers’ fear of unilateral presidential power in times of war and
in decisions to go to war.
In their rejection of the British monarchy and their creation of a new republican
government, the Founding Fathers moved away from the traditional concentration of war power in
a single man’s hands. They believed that a collective group and a collaborative military decision
would best keep the country safe from unwarranted and unnecessary wars. The delegates to the first
Constitutional Convention believed that with a large group to debate and argue the issue of war,
America would go to war far less often than if an executive, driven by avarice and ambition like any
other man, were to solely possess the power. This separation of power is often referred to as the
“separation of the power of the sword from the power of the purse,” meaning that while the
president acts as Commander in Chief with the ability to direct military forces, only Congress retains
the right to levy taxes in order to raise funds and forces to make war possible. Ultimately, the men
who wrote the Constitution attempted to create safeguards to prevent excessive wars and protect the
lives of Americans. Although these Framers created safeguards, language in some clauses of the
Constitution and historical opinions indicate that there is some flexibility for secrecy to protect the
common good.
In Article I, Section VIII, Congress retains the right to many of the divided war powers. The
most important war powers include Congress’ right to the following: “ [8] to declare War, grant
Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning the Captures on Land and Water; [14]
to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces.”1 The president, on
the other hand, has few and limited war powers. Article II, Section II gives the remaining very few
and limited war powers to the president, granting the president Commander in Chief. The powers
delegated to the president seem to be “managerial and defensive” authority, while Congress possess
true power that can lead to action.2
"The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress; therefore no offensive
expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated upon the
subject, and authorized such a measure." - George Washington
Presidents in the decade following the ratification of the Constitution largely respected the
war powers of Congress outlined in the Constitution. George Washington abided by Congress’ right
to declare war. Washington’s Secretary of War, General Henry Knox also affirmed Congress’ sole
right to the declaration of war, saying, “If such measures are to be pursued they must result from
the decisions of Congress who solely are vested with the powers of War."3 Although Washington
and his Secretary of War acknowledged Congress’ right to the declaration and authorization of war,
they did believe in the president’s discretion about sensitive military and strategic plans. The first
authorization of war by Congress after the ratification of the Constitution was on September 29,
1789, when Congress passed legislation “for the purpose of protecting the inhabitants of the
frontiers of the United States from the hostile incursions of the Indians.”4 In the following years
The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8(8, 14)
Healy, Gene. The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power. Washington, DC: Cato
Institute, 2008, “Our Magistrate and His Powers,” Page 31
3 Fisher, Louis. Presidential War Power. 2nd ed. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 2004.
4 1 Stat. 96, sec. 5 (1789)
Congress passed more statutes to protect the citizens of the Western Frontier.5 President
Washington ordered Governor Arthur St. Clair to execute the legislature passed by Congress, but St.
Clair’s forces suffered a great defeat by the Indians which spurred the first congressional
investigation. Congress authorized a committee to investigate the failure of St. Clair’s forces and the
committee asked Washington for papers to aid in their investigation. The Cabinet met privately and
decided that the House of Representatives “was an inquest, and therefore might institute inquiries...
[and] might call for papers generally.”6 This statement seems to imply that the president must release
all relevant military papers and records in order for Congress to complete its investigation; however,
George Washington’s Cabinet further specified their opinion contrary to the above assumption. The
Cabinet decided that the president "ought to communicate such paper as the public good would
permit, and ought to refuse those, the disclosure of which would injure the public: consequently
were to exercise a discretion."7 This statement permits the president to use secrecy, even when
presenting information to Congress, if the truth or planned actions would endanger the public.
George Washington’s Cabinet agreed that the president had the right to initial secrecy, even with
Congress, when national security and the safety of the public were concerns. This early precedent,
set by George Washington’s Cabinet, reflects the discretion that President Polk and many late
twentieth century presidents have used throughout their administrations.
The Mexican War has always sparked discussion about controversial wartime decisions. In
early May of 1846, President Polk commanded that General Zachary Taylor station his troops on
the Texan-Mexican border, believing in “the possibility of a collision between the American &
Mexican forces.”8 Despite the report of alleged hostilities by Mexican forces by President Polk,
1 Stat.121 sec. 16 (1790); 1 Stat. 222 (1791)
1 The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 303-5 (Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. 1903)
7 1 The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 303-5 (Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. 1903)
8 Id. at 379
Congress and much of the country believed that Polk waged the Mexican war for land gains, namely
for the lands of present day California, Oregon and Washington. Abraham Lincoln was especially
skeptical of Polk’s actions, believing he stepped beyond his presidential war powers and began the
Mexican war for land gain and power. Lincoln, who voted to censure Polk in Congress’ debate,
reaffirmed the Framers’ desire of divided and limited war powers with his later statement:
“Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem
it necessary to repel invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may
choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose-- you allow him to make
war at pleasure... This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive
of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that
no one man should hold the power of bringing the oppression upon us."9
Lincoln summarized the sentiments of many members of the House when they evaluated Polk’s
controversial actions during the beginning of the Mexican War, believing it to be "unnecessarily and
unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States."10 Congress also wanted to
investigate Polk’s expenditures related to foreign affairs and his interactions with other nations from
May of 1841 to May of 1843. Polk refused to share the records with Congress with the justification
that the president could use discretion about his spending, using the precedent set by George
Washington’s Cabinet about executive discretion and the law that the president could release records
of expenditures that "as in his judgement may be made public, and also for the amount of such
expenditures as he may think it advisable not to specify.”11 Congress accepted Polk’s justification
and failed to receive the full report of his foreign spending.
The emergence of confidential executive spending in early America reinforces the theory
that the Constitution allows for some initial secrecy. Although the instances of clandestine
expenditures in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were small and infrequent, these early
1 The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln 451-52 (Roy Basler, ed. 1953) (emphasis in original.)
Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 1st Sess. 95 (1848)
11 Fisher, Louis. Presidential War Power. 2nd ed. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 2004.
examples paved the way for the dramatic increase in executive spending in the twentieth century.
The first instance of secret spending was in 1790 when President Washington was awarded $40,000
"for the support of such persons as he shall commission to serve the United States in foreign
parts."12 The “such persons” that will serve in “foreign parts” leaves much ambiguity and allows for
secrecy about specific actions and plans abroad. President Madison also kept some of his foreign
expenditures initially secret to the public. In 1811, Congress voted in a secret session for the
temporary possession of the territory south of Georgia and Madison was given $100,000 to buy the
land so it would not be taken by a European power. The American public did not find out about his
purchase until the official statute was published in 1818. Madison’s initial secrecy allowed for the
temporary purchase of the land. If the general public had been aware of the purchase, the foreign
power could have been notified and could have obtained the territory with a higher offer.
Covert spending continued into the twentieth century with the following early instances:
1) $25,000 travel fund for the president in 1906; 2) $50,000 for the Secretary of the Navy in 1916 to
obtain information from abroad; 3) $20,000 for the Federal Bureau of Investigation "to meet
unforeseen emergencies."13 During the Progressive Era, presidents exerted more executive power
because they believed that their actions were justified by the Constitution. An example of this
perceived expanded power is President Theodore Roosevelt’s addition of the “Roosevelt Corollary”
to the Monroe Doctrine, the predominant philosophy of foreign relations and public policy for
nineteenth century America. This Corollary included the idea that the United States could become
involved as a last resort "only if it became evident that [a foreign nations’] inability or unwillingness
1. Stat. 128-29 (1790)
Fisher, Louis. Presidential War Power. 2nd ed. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 2004.
to do justice at home and abroad had violated the rights of the United States or had invited foreign
aggression to the detriment of the entire body of American nations." 14
Presidents of the twentieth and twenty first centuries drastically increased the amount of
secret spending in allocating funds for special committees and intelligence agencies and in
performing various military actions. Presidents of the twentieth century have been castigated for
their secrecy and their disregard for the war powers of Congress. The War Powers Resolution of
1973 restated and redefined the war powers of the president. By virtue of the fact that the
Resolution was necessary, many presidents have viewed Congress as passive and lenient in their
usage of their war powers and defense of their war powers. The War Powers Resolution states in
Section 4, that in the absence of a congressional declaration of war, whenever United States Armed
Forces are introduced into hostilities or into situations from which hostilities are likely to arise, the
president must submit a written report to the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore
of the Senate outlining the following: (A) the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United
States Armed Forces; (B) the constitutional and legislative authority under which such introduction
took place; and (C) the estimated scope and duration of the hostilities and involvement.15 Since the
president has a period of 48 hours to notify the leaders of Congress about U.S. Armed Forces
involvement in hostilities, the War Powers Resolution leaves room for initial presidential secrecy,
allowing the president to set up his troops and plan strategies before a large amount of people gain
knowledge of the actions and rationale behind them. Additionally, in Section 5(b) of the War Powers
Resolution, the language indicates that the executive branch must remove troops from hostilities if
Congress has not granted the president a declaration or authorization of war within sixty days of the
introduction of U.S. military forces. In the words of Harold Hongju Koh “Hence, presidents have
Fisher, Louis. Presidential War Power. 2nd ed. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 2004.
War Powers Resolution, H.R.J. Res. (H. J. Res 542) (1973).
interpreted the War Powers Resolution as granting implicit permission to engage in covert
operations or conduct military operations that can be completed within the resolution’s sixty-day
limitation.”16 The War Powers Resolution stands as yet another example of implied secrecy that
presidents have used to their military advantage.
For years, historians and constitutional scholars have studied the war powers outlined in the
Constitution and examined presidents’ actions through an extremely critical lense. Although some
notable historians that support a strict interpretation of the Constitution reject executive secrecy,
many others delve deeper into the language of the Constitution and explore the intentions as well as
the words of the creators of the Constitution. These historians believe initial presidential secrecy can
be used in order to protect America and its people. John Hart Ely, the premier constitutional scholar
of his generation, argues that "presidents can constitutionally fight unauthorized secret wars,
sometimes, but not for more than a couple of days."17 This analysis is supported by the opinions of
George Washington’s Cabinet and the statute about presidential discretion. Presidents are
constitutionally allowed to repel sudden attacks and fight wars with initial secrecy and without
congressional authorization. Senator Moynihan agreed with John Hart Ely stating his approval of
initially covert presidential wars, "My first comment about so-called secret wars must be that there is
no such thing. The preparations for war can be kept secret, but once the war commences, whatever
its avowed nature, it becomes a public event..."18 Both John Hart Ely and Senator Moynihan agree
that military actions can be kept secret and are usually most successful when kept secret; however,
the president must seek congressional authorization after the few days of secrecy. Initial secrecy
about military actions, particularly rescue missions and high stake strategies can be kept secret, but
Harold Hongju Koh, The National Security Constitution: Sharing Power after the Iran-Contra Affair (1990), 39-40
Ely, John Hart. War and Responsibility: Constitutional Lessons of Vietnam and Its Aftermath. Princeton, N.J.:
Princeton University Press, 1993.
18 Forum, "Should the U.S. Fight Secret Wars?" Harper's Mag., Sept. 1984, at 33, 35 (Daniel Patrick Moynihan). Accord,
id. (William Colby); id. at 41 (Ray S Cline).
when information is known, the president must give full reports and records to Congress. The
following statements perfectly summarize the opinions of scholars who approved of presidential
secrecy: "The only legitimate basis for the delegation in the first place was the need for tactical
secrecy in conducting military operations. Thus, it follows that when secrecy fails or is no longer
necessary to the success of an operation, such action must be presented to the full Congress and
may not continue without formal legislative authorization. When the United States is controlling the
war-making activities of private forces, which are no secret to the enemy, there is no legitimate
reason not to get congressional authorization for the executive's action."19
In the twenty first century, the internet, social media and increased global connections
between people have made military knowledge even more potentially dangerous in the hands of
citizens. Information about upcoming military actions can easily be shared in a matter of seconds,
even if done so unintentionally. Because of the new age of technology in communication and
military advancements, a foreign nations’ knowledge of America’s military actions can mean the
difference between success and failure; therefore, initial presidential secrecy about military actions
and rationale, although not necessary explicitly condoned by the Constitution, should be allowed in
order to protect the lives and security of the American people.
Recently, there has been much controversy concerning the true nature of and the motives
behind the horrific attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. It
was announced as a planned terrorist attack, a violent response to an American made Anti-Muslim
video, and a spontaneous reaction to recent strife in the area. Many Americans were appalled and
frustrated that they did not know the full truth about the incidents in Benghazi; they believed that
they had the right to know what happened to the brave Americans working at the consulate in
Ely, John Hart. War and Responsibility: Constitutional Lessons of Vietnam and Its Aftermath. Princeton, N.J.:
Princeton University Press, 1993.
Libya. Further analysis and research about presidential war powers illustrates that public knowledge
and outrage could have adversely affected America’s response to the attack and future actions. The
presidential discretion, even with Congress, that George Washington’s Cabinet condoned remains
validated by the safety and security of the American people. In addition, the secrecy about executive
spending makes sense, because knowledge of expenditures could reveal military plans and greatly
lessen the success of the forces or hurt the goals of the mission. If the United States had a specific
rescue mission, it would be very dangerous for knowledge of the plans to be released. For this
reason, for the protection of Americans, initial presidential secrecy is justified when national security
and the lives of Americans are at stake.
In conclusion, national security concerns rightly justify not absolute but rather initial
presidential secrecy about military actions and the rationale behind them. Although the “Framers of
the Constitution” were concerned about an omnipotent, power-hungry executive and sought to limit
the president's power, their primary concern was the safety and security of the American people.
Therefore, initial presidential secrecy, as long as it was detailed to Congress and authorized as soon
as it was safe to do so, would have been justified by national security concerns. The evolution of
executive powers from the original intentions of the delegates at the first Constitutional Convention,
the expansion of presidential power and acceptance of this power by Congress and the public,
further supports the justification of secrecy in modern, technologically-savvy America. Scholars have
examined this evolution and added their own views to the debate about presidential secrecy, further
supporting the executive’s military discretion. Given the ability of people around the world to
connect instantaneously through technology, presidential secrecy remains not only acceptable but
also necessary.
Ely, John Hart. War and Responsibility: Constitutional Lessons of Vietnam and
Its Aftermath. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993.
Fisher, Louis. In the Name of National Security: Unchecked Presidential Power
and the Reynolds Case. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006.
Fisher, Louis. Presidential War Power. 2nd ed. Lawrence, Kan.:
University Press of Kansas, 2004.
Goldsmith, Jack L. The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment inside the Bush
Administration. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2009.
Healy, Gene. The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to
Executive Power. Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2008.
Cameron Nelson ’14
“Providing for the Common Defence: Executive War Powers in History and the Modern Age”
War poses as great a menace to the United States today as it has for more than two centuries;
however, its evolutions in technology and tactics have rewrought the system of governmental
oversight, threatening to disrupt some of the Constitution’s most fundamental safeguards. At center
stage, the executive-legislative dynamic teeters perilously as the presidency assumes ever-greater
license to initiate and interpret the nature of international conflicts. Since the Cold War, mounting
constrictions of Congress’ constitutional duties have incurred critical scrutiny, even legal
intervention in the form of the monumental and controversial War Powers Resolution of 1973. Yet,
the exercise of Congress’ right via the elastic clause to enact legislation protecting its constitutional
powers has likewise come under questioning, such that all that remains between these extremes of
power is an ambiguous question of balance.1 Nor do Congress and the president constitute the sole
focus of this debate; the nature of intelligence and war technology has rendered high-casualty,
ground-based offensives all but obsolete, and a public informed by highly active media has become
integral to federal policy. Militarily, there exist certain practical arguments for the redefinition of war
and its accompanying procedures. And the will of the people, brought to bear on the actions of their
representatives with unprecedented immediacy, may establish a heretofore illusory accountability in
the politics of war. In effect, over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the
expansion of presidential war powers has essentially been justified, as the shifting demands of
federal government with respect to law, the military, and the public have produced appropriate
permissions and restraints to warrant continued deference to the executive’s discretion.
U.S. Const. art. I, § 8.
Law and Practice
In any inquiry of this nature, a review of the Constitution may provide a foundation for
ensuing examinations: firstly, Article I, section 8, which permits Congress "To declare War, grant
Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water."2 This
element of the War Powers Clause is commonly thought of as preceding the president’s power to
mobilize armed forces. It is, in fact, a lesser power than was described in the Articles of
Confederation; originally, it fell also to Congress to make war, not merely to declare it.3 Clearly, the
Framers resolved by this limitation that war was not the domain of the legislature. Secondly, Article
II, section 2, comprises the executive equivalent of the congressional War Powers Clause. It
provides that "The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United
States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United
States;” the intention of the Framers was to bring the military under the control of a single elected
representative. During the North Carolina Ratifying Convention of 1788, James Iredell attested to
the necessity of this clause, contending, "From the nature of the thing, the command of armies
ought to be delegated to one person only. The secrecy, despatch, and decision, which are necessary
in military operations, can only be expected from one person.”4 The majority of circumstances that
have brought Congress and the president into disagreement have involved some overextension of
Article I, section 8, that threatens the practice of Article II, section 2. It will be shown that this
pattern of encroachments by Congress is generally motivated by partisan, inconsistent, or otherwise
dubious interests.
U.S. Const. art. I, § 8.
Robert F. Turner, Repealing the War Powers Resolution (Mclean, Virginia: Brassey’s (US), Inc., 1991), 80.
4 Jonathan Elliot, ed., The Founders' Constitution, 2nd ed., vol. 4, The Debates in the Several State Conventions... (New
York, NY: Burt Franklin, 1888).
The power to declare war has since the birth of the nation adopted a necessary flexibility.
The so-called Quasi-War with France, conducted under the administration of John Adams from
1798 to 1800, serves as a model for wars waged with the implicit, but not explicit, authorization of
Congress. While there was no formal declaration of war, Congress appropriated significant military
funding and terminated the 1778 treaty of amity and commerce with France.5 It was generally
accepted that these were actions consistent with an informal authorization of the conflict.6 The
Supreme Court would legitimize this assumption when in Talbot v. Seeman it was surmised "that
congress may authorize general hostilities, in which case the general laws of war apply to our
situation; or partial hostilities, in which case the laws of war... must be noticed.”7 The Barbary Wars
would once again test the adolescent language of the War Powers Clause when in May of 1801 the
Pasha of Tripoli declared war against the United States. President Jefferson, according to his strict
constructionism, was helpless to command effectively, having only been given authority to defend
American ships in the Mediterranean. Not until 1804 would Congress explicitly authorize warlike
actions against Tripoli.8 Alexander Hamilton, rightfully critical of this stringent adherence to
constitutional semantics, perceived the threat to the nation that this stagnancy created. His objection
is duly noted: “It belongs to Congress only, to go to War. But when a foreign nation declares, or
openly and avowedly makes war upon the United States, they are then by the very fact already at
Louis Fisher, Presidential War Power (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1995), 25.
Similar conditions would arise two centuries later during the Kosovar crisis. Although no formal authorization was
given, Congress’ response to Clinton’s initial report was to forgo a declaration of war while also voting against requiring
the president to discontinue U.S. involvement in NATO operations. It was even decided that $11.8 billion in funding
should be appropriated to sustain U.S. activities in Bosnia. By neglecting to fully authorize hostilities, Congress’ purpose
was not to truncate the operation, but rather it was to eschew political risk; the allocation of funding represented the
minimum possible involvement of the legislature, relinquishing to the president both command and accountability.
6see John Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11 (Chicago, Illinois: The University
of Chicago Press, 2005), 158-59.
7 Talbot v. Seeman, 5 U.S. 1 (1801).
7see also Bas v. Tingy, 4 U.S. 37 (1800).
8 Fisher, Presidential War Power, 34.
war.”9 This is no political ruse to ascertain greater powers; it is, rather, demanded by legitimate and
urgent concerns for the nation’s security and effective self-defense.
To fully understand the efforts of Congress to subdue the president’s powers, an
investigation of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 is required. During and after the Vietnam War,
amidst dismal levels of public approval, Congress sought to distance itself from the conflict.
President Johnson’s response to initial aggression, however, was exemplary. Following an attack on
the U.S.S. Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, in which the president’s rapid response ensured that no
American lives were lost, he announced in a public report his intention to request Congress “to pass
a resolution making it clear that our Government is united... in defense of peace in southeast Asia.”10
And Congress was not unwilling to oblige the president. Shortly after Johnson’s Report on the Gulf
of Tonkin Incident, his approval rating rose thirty points to 72%, and Congress acted on his request
with even greater unanimity: the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed by votes of 88 to 2 in the
Senate and 416 to 0 in the House.11 The reversal of these polling figures and enormous political
pressure led Congress to pass the War Powers Resolution in the aftermath of Vietnam and the
Nixon administration. Congress would claim that the resolution was "designed to insure that we will
never again be involved in a situation... in which a President alone can conduct a protracted conflict
without specific authorization from the Congress” -- a clearly fraudulent accusation, given Johnson’s
unobjectionable compliance with the practice of consulting the legislature.12 By scapegoating the
president, Congress could feign exclusion from the process of approval despite having been directly
involved. The War Powers Resolution was, effectively, a corruption of legislative integrity by poll
results, political popularity, and an avoidance of accountability.
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, 745-47, quoted in Fisher, Presidential War Power, 35.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, "Report on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident" (speech transcript, August 4, 1964).
11 Turner, Repealing the War Powers Resolution, 17.
12 Congressional Record, 93d Cong., 1st sess.,1973, p. 119, pt. 2, p. 36217, quoted in Turner, Repealing the War Powers
Resolution, 34.
Judicial review of the War Powers Resolution would indicate several egregious defects, of
which more than one imply unconstitutionality. Perhaps the most flagrant is the creation of a the
legislative veto in U.S.C. § 1544(c), which states:
Notwithstanding subsection (b) of this section, at any time that United States Armed Forces
are engaged in hostilities outside the territory of the United States, its possessions and
territories without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall
be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.13
The ruling on the case of INS v. Chadha, in which it was determined that Congress could not
overrule the Attorney General’s decision to suspend the deportation of an alien, clearly denounced §
244(c)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act as establishing congressional power in violation of
Article I, section 7 of the Constitution.14 Section 1544(c) establishes a comparably untenable
authority. James Madison pointed out that the legislative veto was unacceptable in that it created
"an Imperium in imperio; or of two powers both of them supreme, yet each of them liable to be
superseded by the other.”15 Indeed, the Framers strictly intended that every legal decision requiring
the concurrence of the House and the Senate be submitted to the president.16 Furthermore, U.S.C. §
1543 also presents an unacceptable requirement: unconditional consultation. It is rightfully
mandatory that the Congress be informed before entry into offensive war; however, the War Powers
Resolution generalizes to all situations in which "involvement in hostilities” is implied, a requirement
that threatens the Framers’ provisions for the secrecy of the president’s strategic deliberations.
Ultimately, the War Powers Resolution was a political mechanism driven initially by protest of an
War Powers Resolution, Pub. L. 93–148, § 5, Nov. 7, 1973, 87 Stat. 556.
INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983).
15 James Madison, Speech on Jay’s Treaty (Mar. 10, 1796), in 16 Madison Papers, 257, quoted in Yoo, The Powers of War
and Peace, 226.
16 A concurrent resolution must be either approved or vetoed by the president. Only in the latter case could Congress
bypass the president by overturning the executive veto. Otherwise, it does not fall to Congress to countermand the
President’s authority.
unpopular war. Now, in the absence of political consensus, the integrity and effectiveness of the
document’s legal implications are doubtful in the extreme. From the nation’s earliest conflicts to the
War Powers Resolution, history has affirmed that the interference of Congress in the sensitive affairs
of the Commander-in-Chief is neither justified nor conducive to the preservation of national
Necessities of a Modern Military
The nature of modern military engagements justifies an extension of presidential privilege
even before Congress’ erosion of that privilege is considered. No longer are all wars unambiguous
conflicts pitting one nation against another. The threat of isolated aggressions has grown, while
weapons of mass destruction and transnational terrorism demand ever-greater vigilance of the
Armed Forces and intelligence agencies. One concept that has faced great resistance is that of
preemptive war. It is not so much a matter of debate that to effectively address modern threats
requires advance action; however, many in Congress are reluctant to concede this point.
The case of Dellums v. Bush identifies but one of continual clashes between Congress and the
president over this perceived excess of power. Fifty-four members of the House and one senator
brought an injunction against President George Bush, Sr., when he amassed troops in the Middle
East in response to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.17 Their assertion, that this represented a
breach of Article I, section 8, of the Constitution, was dismissed as not yet warranting judicial
attention. To understand the cause of this, it is necessary to examine the case’s citation of Baker v.
Carr, which established as judicial precedent that non-justiciable claims should be dismissed. The
Court in Dellums v. Bush, as in Baker v. Carr, could not give redress to the congressmen due to their
Dellums v. Bush, 752 F. Supp. 1141 (1990).
"failure to state a justiciable cause of action.”18 From a judicial standpoint, the question was still
merely political, and a ruling on the constitutionality of the president’s actions would be premature.19
Secrecy, in the denotative sense, is of incalculable value to modern national security,
especially given the proportion of combat consisting of precise strikes as opposed to broad
offensives. Technology has reversed the Weinberger and Powell doctrines, enabling victory "not
through using a maximum number of troops and firepower to overwhelm the enemy, but through a
quick operation using special operations forces, airpower, and local militia.”20 Whereas secrecy
before 9/11 implied merely executive discretion, today it has taken on a more literal meaning as an
ideological war is waged on the necessary restriction of information.
On numerous occasions the premature release of classified information has jeopardized
operations and indeed lives. To evaluate an early example, the catastrophic end to the Bay of Pigs
Invasion of 1961 was directly related to a breach of intelligence. The executive branch had employed
the CIA to train and equip Cuban exiles for a surprise offensive, but a few days before their
mobilization a story printed in the New York Times reported on highly delicate details of the project,
even mentioning an impending invasion.21 President Kennedy was forced for political reasons to
deny involvement, and Cuba acted immediately on the advantage of this early warning.
Consequently, the government was helpless to provide tangible support to the rebels as they went to
Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, (1962).
The second reason for the dismissal concerned the context of the alleged offense. The plaintiffs argued that Bush’s
passage of U.N. Resolution 678 authorizing military action to repel the Iraqi invasion represented a preparation for
impending war. However, the resolution would not come into effect until the next year. Moreover, at the time the
injunction was brought against the president, the arrangement of a meeting between Bush and Iraqi Foreign Minister
Tariq Aziz, as well as one between Secretary of State James Baker and Saddam Hussein, had already been publicly
announced. The Court’s ruling reflected the dubiety of cries that those gathered troops would be used in an actual,
immediate offensive.
19see Dellums v. Bush, 752 F. Supp. 1141 (1990).
20 Julian E. Zelizer, Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security -- from World War II to the War on Terrorism (New
York, NY: Basic Books, 2010), 443-44.
21 Fisher, Presidential War Powers, 248-49.
their deaths.22 Returning to the statement of James Iredell regarding the importance of isolating the
Commander-in-Chief powers, it is clear that modern military maneuvers necessitate more "secrecy,
despatch, and decision” than ever before to ensure the safety of American operatives. The secrecy
and efficiency of military activity are of the utmost importance as war evolves beyond a model of
high-casualty, protracted commitments, and the cost is a just respect for the authorities of the
executive branch in the midst of crisis.
The Role of the Public
The primary dissent on this subject issues from the public, whose role must be fully
considered despite the problems it presents. A leader beholden to the people is vital to political
progress and righteousness.23 As a product of this dynamic, the inevitable publicization of
presidential records exercises an equitable restraint on the president. Still, the reactions and demands
of the populace may easily be dilated by sensationalist media, thus requiring careful inspection
before their merits can be determined.
Congress and the president alike may be informed by the presentment of news and its effect
on the public, as in the case of President Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in October of 1983.
Operation Urgent Fury, as it was codenamed, also aimed to rescue American medical students taken
captive in the wake of a military coup. Congress, fearing negative publicity, denounced it as an
instance of American imperialism and a violation of the War Powers Resolution, even calling for a
legal investigation. The aftermath would prove contrary to their expectations when news programs
began covering images of the rescued students and of celebratory demonstrations in a successfully
This event has repeatedly been misconstrued as a failure on the part of the president; on the contrary, any chance of
success was forfeited by reporters crafting a sensational news story from improperly leaked information.
23 As political scientist Richard Neustadt pointed out in Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership, any president desirous
of maintaining leadership is realistically bound to act in the interests of the general public. Such was the purpose of the
Framers in emphasizing the nation’s democratic foundations.
23see Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company,
restabilized Grenada. Polling conducted by ABC and CBS News indicated approval ratings in excess
of 90%.24 The legal investigation was promptly discontinued. Congress’ reversal of its position was
quick and shameless, and the convenience of its regression did not go unnoticed. A U.S. News &
World Report article discerned lucidly "What finally persuaded... Congress to switch and back Reagan
on the invasion... wasn’t what lawmakers found on their visit to the island, insiders report, but an
avalanche of mail from voters back home heartily endorsing the President’s action. Veteran
politicians had no trouble following that weathervane.”25 Thus the public can effectively hold
Congress accountable for its politically opportunistic antagonism.
Citizens collectively are perhaps the strongest defenders of their civil rights, and in the
interest of deterring an overbearing government it is easy for public opinion to be turned against
policies presented out of context. Appropriately, concern for the right to privacy generates
considerable paranoia. In December of 2005, the New York Times leaked information regarding the
president’s direction that the National Security Agency monitor the extranational communications
of suspected enemies under the statutory military authority granted by Congress in the wake of
9/11.26 Reparations to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, in the 2008 FISA
Amendments Act, or FAA, further outlined presidential liberties in the context of the threat of alQa’ida.27 The response was one of great resistance as multitudinous domestic organizations, fearing
they would be targeted, submitted an injunction in protest. Their allegation that this constituted an
explicit incursion on their private affairs indicates clearly that they were misinformed; FISA deals
specifically with foreign intelligence, requiring that one party in a targeted communication be a nonU.S. citizen. Even when Americans are involved in such a communication, they cannot be
Turner, Repealing the War Powers Resolution, 124.
"Washington Whispers,” U.S. News & World Report, November 14, 1983, 23, quoted in Turner, Repealing the War Powers
Resolution, 124.
26 Andrew C. McCarthy, "Congress Cannot Limit a President’s Constitutional Powers," in Domestic Wiretapping, ed. Sylvia
Engdahl, Current Controversies (Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2008), 99.
27 Amnesty Intern. USA et al. v. Clapper, 638 F.3d 118, (2d Cir. 2011).
specifically targeted.28 The authority is also statutorily constrained, which in 2010 meant that only
persons determined to be connected to al-Qa’ida were eligible targets. The court dismissed the case,
entitled Amnesty et al. v. Clapper, on the grounds that no indication could be given that these
organizations would be subjected to this highly specialized power. Fear of being spied upon has
inspired fervent denouncements of government operations for decades. It is easy to overlook the
regular review of these operations -- the National Security Agency’s activities are inspected every
forty-five days, approximately -- to find only fault with a function of government justified by both
congressional and judicial consent.29
Nevertheless, presidential war powers require review just as any authority of the nation’s
elected leader. The private media industry, feeding as it does upon the public’s dependency, tends to
report selectively, and not always in a manner that serves the critical responsibilities of an informed
population. In fact, the media’s concern for profit can restrict public access to data, as in the 1980s
when proposals to privatize government records led to the marketing of information formerly free
or inexpensive. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, provided financial records
through a private contractor at no less than full market value.30 The United States Department of
Agriculture likewise distributed its data through the Martin Marietta Corporation, providing it to
consumers at a cost of hundreds of dollars.31 President Bush, Sr., would eventually terminate the
policy, allowing the public into the debate and review of government publications once again.32
Freedom of information is integral to communicating popular will; this basic tenet of democracy
Schmidt, "Presidents Can Order Wiretapping for Foreign Intelligence Purposes," in Domestic Wiretapping, ed.
Sylvia Engdahl, Current Controversies (Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2008), 89-90.
29 U.S. Department of Justice, "Claims Made by Opponents of the NSA Wiretapping Program Are Untrue," in Domestic
Wiretapping, ed. Sylvia Engdahl, Current Controversies (Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2008), 95.
30 Anne Wells Branscomb, Who Owns Information?: from Privacy to Public Access (N.p.: Basic Books, 1994), 171.
31 Branscomb, Who Owns Information?, 170-71.
32 Branscomb, Who Owns Information?, 171.
might be better served, however, if the public can directly handle information that the government
willingly supplies.
The delicate accord between Congress, the president, and the Constitution has shifted in
time to accommodate the peril and promise of modernity. Ultimately, evaluation of constitutional
provisions in the context of current threats lists distinctly toward the preservation of executive
discretion. Throughout American history this principle has gained the support of the judicial branch
and of the population, even enlisting the support of Congress when clear necessity supersedes
political concerns. The opinion of the courts has upheld the distinction between isolated hostilities
or noncommittal “partial” wars and the rarer “general” war, which rightly demands the consent of
Congress and the concordance of all the nation’s assets. Congress, despite the measures it has taken
against presidential privilege, is at least responsive to situational details, if only for the sake of
political reputation. And a vital factor in balancing this equation is the American public, whose direct
access to information will bring its influence to bear in the coming century with undreamed-of
efficiency. Citizens’ freedom to be informed sustains the accountability of both Congress and the
president, obliging each to exercise its allotted powers for naught but the sake of the people. If this
model is appropriately observed, Congress shall be consulted exactly as far as security allows, and
likewise the duties of the president shall not suffer the interference of Congress when they abide by
this realistic interpretation of the Constitution. The power to declare war is bold and momentous;
but the defense of the nation, and accordingly the authority to repel its enemies and to secure its
interests whenever the need arises, is resoundingly placed in the confidence of the Commander-inChief.
Amnesty Intern. USA et al. v. Clapper, 638 F.3d 118 (2d Cir. 2011).
Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962).
Bas v. Tingy, 4 U.S. 37 (1800).
Branscomb, Anne Wells. Who Owns Information? : from Privacy to Public Access. N.p.: Basic Books, 1994.
Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Founders’ Constitution. 2nd ed. Vol. 4 of The Debates in the Several State
Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at
Philadelphia in 1787. New York, NY: Burt Franklin, 1888.
Engdahl, Sylvia, ed. Domestic Wiretapping. Current Controversies. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press,
Fisher, Louis. Presidential War Powers. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1995.
Johnson, Lyndon Baines. “Report on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.” Speech transcript, August 4,
Neustadt, Richard. Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing
Company, 1960.
Turner, Robert F. Repealing the War Powers Resolution. McLean, Virginia: Brassey’s (US), Inc., 1991.
The War Powers Resolution, H.R.J. Res. 93-148 (1973).
Wormuth, Francis, and Edwin Firmage, with Francis Butler. To Chain the Dog of War: The War Powers
of Congress in History and Law. Dallas, Texas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1987.
Yoo, John. The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11. Chicago, Illinois:
The University of Chicago Press, 2005.
Zelizer, Julian E. Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security -- from World War II to the War on
Terrorism. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2010.
James Dion ’14
“Reaping the Seeds of Conflict: The Dawes Act of 1887”
In 1916, Carlos Montezuma responded critically to the Dawes Act’s policy of allotment
when he published his newsletter, Wassaja. Meaning in the Apache language, “Let my people go,”
Wassaja reflected Montezuma’s belief that the act stifled Native self-determination. But what is
most shocking is that he opposed the Dawes Act some thirty years after it became law. Although
the act clearly repressed the Natives, it did not silence them completely. Through manifest destiny,
whites’ greed for and sense of entitlement to western lands met with Native resistance. While unrest
was prevalent throughout the nineteenth century, whites began to view western turmoil as
particularly problematic at the Civil War’s conclusion in 1865. After several unsuccessful attempts at
resolving the tensions between whites and Natives in the west, the Dawes Act appeared to benefit
both sides. Unfortunately however, the act concerned the interests of western whites above all else.
Assimilation, by which tribal cultures and Native identities gradually eroded, failed to fulfill the
promise it made to the Natives, and they were denied many of the rights of whites. Via the process
of land allotment, the Dawes Act stripped Natives of most of their tribal lands and herded them
onto cramped reservations, thus allowing whites to pour in and expand their control. Enhancing
white freedom and limiting the presence of the Native American identities in society, the Dawes Act
addressed the continued tension in the west by fundamentally altering society. Through profound
social change, Natives witnessed whites rise to the top of the western social hierarchy, while the
Natives faded from view. But was the Dawes Act successful? The profound social change appears
to indicate this, as it empowered whites and mitigated outward conflict. But this assumption just
begins to scratch at the surface of the Dawes Act. In order to dig deeper, we need to consult
Natives such as Montezuma, those individuals who experienced firsthand the injustices of the
Dawes Act.
A Background on Westward Expansion and the Rise of Western Tension
After the Civil War’s conclusion in 1865, America was able to shift its focus back to the
west. With construction on a transcontinental railroad having commenced in 1863, the prominence
of the railroad out west assured the influx of more white settlers. As whites poured into the west,
they began to establish their own societies, in which mechanized agriculture played a key role.
However, this push west helped to eliminate the buffer zone that had been established via the
western relocation of the Natives. Coming face to face with the whites, the Natives were
particularly disturbed by the whites’ careless destruction of western land via mechanized agriculture.
Both needing the land to survive and resentful of their forced western relocation, Natives were
unwilling to meet white demands for land a second time.
As historian Henry E. Fritz has described, “The inevitable consequence was that enmity
grew between the original inhabitants and the white people who came to take their patrimony.”1
Clearly, this blossoming tension would need to be resolved if whites were to continue expanding
westward. In an effort to restore order, the U.S. government recognized that some sort of federal
Indian policy would be essential in the upcoming future. But with its decision to intervene in the
crisis came two potentially groundbreaking questions. Would the government favor a particular
group, and if it did, how would this impact the group that went unsupported?
While government intervention seemed capable of calming tensions, early federal policy
regarding the west had little effect. By 1887, the federal government had experimented with various
policies, but none proved useful to western whites who wanted to subdue the Natives with as little
Henry E. Fritz, The Movement for Indian Assimilation: 1860-1890 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963),
risk to themselves as possible. Finding military force and peace unsuitable in dealing with the
Natives, for both carried the risk of white casualties, the federal government searched for a policy
that would open up western lands without threatening whites. In essence, the Dawes Act would
focus entirely on mitigating the strength of the Natives, leaving white power unchecked. Proving to
be one of the most controversial pieces of legislation concerning Natives in the west, the Dawes Act
would shape not only western society, but also historiography. That is, the Dawes Act would inspire
a generation of later historians to ruminate upon its social purpose and consequences.
When Historiography Does Not Tell the Entire Story
Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, several commendable historians,
including Leonard A. Carlson, D.S. Otis, Francis Paul Prucha, and Henry E. Fritz, have all
attempted to explain the purpose of the Dawes Act and its impact upon whites and Natives. Otis
and Prucha have presented a relatively compelling argument that has demonstrated the perceived
shift in the Dawes Act from pro-Native to pro-white. They have argued that the act attempted to
promote white land interests in the west.2 Carlson has echoed Prucha and Otis, but has deepened
his argument by detailing the hierarchy and atmosphere of white superiority that the act
precipitated.3 Lastly, Fritz briefly explained the act’s betterment of whites and marginalization of the
Natives. But he has also ruminated upon the failure of the Dawes Act. The act, in his opinion,
ended up attaining goals quite different from those it started out with.4 All fall short of providing a
2 Kenneth R. Philp, review of Indians, Bureaucrats, and Land: The Dawes Act and the Decline of Indian Farming, by Leonard A.
Carlson, American Indian Quarterly 6, no. 3 (1982), 385-387.
Donald J. Berthrong, review of Indians, Bureaucrats, and Land: The Dawes Act and the Decline of Indian Farming, by Leonard A.
Carlson, Agricultural History 56, no. 3 (1982), 600-603.
3 Kenneth R. Philp, review of The Dawes Act and the Allotment of Indian Lands, by D.S. Otis and Francis Paul Prucha, The
Journal of American History 61, no. 2 (1974), 529-530.
Henry E. Fritz, review of The Dawes Act and the Allotment of Indian Lands, by D.S. Otis and Francis Paul Prucha, Pacific
Historical Review 43, no. 4 (1974), 606-608.
4 Herman J. Viola, review of The Movement for Indian Assimilation, 1860-1890, by Henry E. Fritz, The Journal of American
History 52, no. 3 (1965), 641.
reasonably comprehensive understanding of what the Dawes Act truly was, and how it changed the
face of America. Not one piece of historiography has attempted to dwell on Native responses to the
Dawes Act, much less appreciate the complexity of the Natives’ predicament. Any study of the
Dawes Act is incomplete without the perspectives of the Natives. My paper seeks to resolve this
issue by drawing attention to and providing these Native outlooks with the credit they should have
always had. Such an approach, as we have seen in the research of other prominent historians, is
quite unconventional, but necessary in my opinion. For, if we are truly to understand the extent to
which the Dawes Act erased the Native identity and rendered them powerless, we must look at the
act through the Natives’ eyes.
Assimilation: A Nefarious Machination
The process of assimilation enables us to analyze the complexity of the Dawes Act that lay
beneath its facade. Through assimilation white culture was strengthened, while the identity of
different tribes significantly waned over time. Although assimilation appeared to reach out to the
Natives with the chance for acceptance in American society, it is important to note that this privilege
could only be obtained through the Natives’ renunciation of their own identity. Those Natives who
underwent the process of assimilation ceased to be Natives, and their conformity to white norms
allowed white culture to grow rampant at the expense of fading tribal cultures. Thus, the Dawes Act
approached the struggle in the west in terms of identity, as it clearly targeted the Native identity.
Despite this clear purpose, another insidious intention was at play. The act reflected the ethnic
intolerance that pervaded white society and attempted to bolster white superiority in society. If
tribal identities declined and white culture soared, then society would slowly become more and more
Henry G. Waltmann, review of The Movement for Indian Assimilation, 1860-1890, by Henry E. Fritz, Ethnohistory 11, no. 1
(1964), 75-76.
uniform until only white beliefs remained. Assimilation therefore served a dual purpose. Not only
did it erode tribalism and gradually diminish the Native opposition to whites, but also did it do so in
a subtle way. Thus, this process disillusioned Natives and tricked them into giving up their old ways
without endangering the lives of whites via military force. Although nefarious, assimilation appeared
an ingenious and effective process.
Assimilation instilled within the Natives a sense of false hope as it promised a considerable
deal, but took much more than it gave. Reflecting the white prejudices of the time, assimilation
repressed Native identities as the Dawes Act provided few material gains for Natives. Leonard
Carlson has claimed, “Reformers were not concerned with what Indians wanted. An Indian who
resisted assimilation was wrong.”5 The manifest contempt for Native identities at the very
foundation of social reform presaged that the Dawes Act would likely not focus on aiding the
Natives in any way. Henry Fritz also demonstrated the malevolent intentions of assimilation. He
wrote, “Brigadier General Alfred Sully wrote that the easiest way to exterminate a wild Indian was to
civilize him.”6 Assimilation bore the undertones of eradication, and threatened rather than uplifted
the Natives. Fritz later mentioned, “This frontiersman was now on the side of the Indians. ‘If there
was any integrity left in the white race,’ he wrote, ‘the treaty should be kept. Did not the Indians
require a place to exist?’”7 Apparently, whites were not unanimous in repressing the Native identity;
however, the singularity of this dissenting voice suggested the continued future of assimilation and
Native suffering. Focusing in on the Native-government dynamic, Stephen Cornell proclaimed, “In
earlier treaties, the Natives granted certain sovereign powers to the United States and accepted some
Leonard A. Carlson, Indians, Bureaucrats, and Land: The Dawes Act and the Decline of Indian Farming (Westport: Greenwood
Press, 1981), 79.
6 Fritz, 45.
7 Fritz, 111-112.
limits on their activities, but maintained a substantial degree of freedom in their internal affairs.”8
Before the Dawes Act, Natives displayed a relationship with the government in which they
compromised and remained sovereign.
It is evident that the Natives viewed assimilation through this same lens of compromise, and
felt that, while they would be stripped of their identity, their personal autonomy would not be
hindered. Of course, the Native response to the government was much more complex. Richard
White has explained, “Carlos Montezuma felt that the Natives’ salvation would come if they adopted
the culture of the larger society. But Montezuma coupled his disdain for Indian cultures with a deep
belief in Indian abilities.”9 Montezuma symbolized the Natives’ struggle to determine whether
identity or salvation from persecution at the hands of whites was more important. This difficult
choice helps to explain why some Natives adopted a practice that clearly did not favor their own
The inherent racism toward Native culture, supported by assimilation’s assault on identity,
helped to form a growing sense of white superiority in society. Fritz has declared, “At best Indians
were regarded as members of a primitive race and as a hindrance to progress. Generation would
succeed generation before many westerners would admit than an injustice had been done the red
man.”10 Not only did he illustrate the ethnic strife between Natives and whites, but also did he
underscore western whites’ selfish refusal to address the blatant wrongs done the Natives. Richard
White added to the sense of white domination of the Natives via immense power when he stated,
“Where the federal government did not control relations between whites and Natives, conditions
8 Stephen Cornell, The Return of the Native: American Indian Political Resurgence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988),
9 Richard White, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own.” A New History of the American West (Norman: University of
Oklahoma Press, 1991), 439.
10 Fritz, 119.
became a nightmare. Whites could occasionally put genocide into practice.”11 Whites were
vehemently opposed to accepting the Natives, but also, the possibility of genocide affirms that
western society allowed whites to do as they pleased. The abuse of white power would not bode
well for the Natives. Section Ten of the Dawes Act explicitly detailed, “That nothing in this act
contained shall be so construed to affect the right and power of Congress to grant the right of way
through any lands granted to an Indian, or a tribe of Indians.”12 In this sense, the Dawes Act came
increasingly to confine the Natives, while it secured autonomy to the whites. This idea that whites
should have the power of control suggests that whites did not accept, and were not comfortable
with, Natives’ self-autonomy. Thus white control became, unjustly, the option that many whites
demanded. As ethnic intolerance and the Dawes Act led to unprecedented white privileges, Natives
paid a considerable price as their freedoms, particularly with respect to their self-determination,
In this paragraph, we will explore and come to understand the Dawes Act in ways that
should have been, but have yet to be, utilized. That is, we shall take what we already know and add
another layer of complexity to it via the Natives’ responses and reactions to the concept of
assimilation. It would appear that the Natives were initially disillusioned by assimilation, as many
came to comment on its failure to live up to expectations. However, while many Natives had high
hopes for assimilation, they also seemed to have a strategy behind accepting this process. Having
proclaimed that the Natives were dying off in expectation of things, and that the whites would go
home without trying to fulfill what they had promised the Natives,13 Sitting Bull, suffered a grand
injustice as he personally witnessed western white soldiers massacre his people at Wounded Knee in
1890 over a tribal ritual known as the Ghost Dance. He manifested the sense of false hope that
White, 340.
U.S. Senate, General Allotment Act, 1887 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1887), 10.
13 Sitting Bull as quoted in Virgil J. Vogel, This Country Was Ours (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1972),
assimilation instilled within Natives, as well as the subsequent Native disaffection with whites. But
Sitting Bull added complexity to the Native view of assimilation when he remarked, “You are shown
how the white men work and make things. You are living in a new path. We need you to help us
understand what the white men are up to.”14 In this, we see that certain Natives distrusted the
promises of whites, but viewed assimilation as a way for them to protect themselves from the covert
machinations of whites. But as Many Horses, who accompanied Sitting Bull on that fateful day in
1890, pointed out, “I will ask him, the white man, to help me understand his ways, then I will
prepare the way for my children. There are but two ways. One leads to hunger and death, and the
other leads to where the poor white man lives.”15 Thus, some Natives utilized assimilation as a lastditch effort to better their lives. They realized that assimilation would not provide them with much,
but this little opportunity was better than the fairly certain reality of nothing. Above all, assimilation
placed Natives in an uncomfortable position, for they would not gain much, regardless of their
decision. And most importantly, even those Natives that did opt for assimilation revealed that they
would continue to be at odds with whites. Therefore, assimilation failed to resolve the crucial issue
of the tension between Natives and whites. And this powerful conclusion is available to us in large
part because we decided to consider the credible perspectives of Natives, with regards to life after
the Dawes Act.
Allotment: Outward Repression and Internal Resentment
Through land allotment, Natives were herded onto cramped reservations, but were not
forced to give up their tribal heritage, as they were obliged to do through assimilation. Those
Natives that did not assimilate were expected to accept the policy of land allotment. Restricting the
Sitting Bull as quoted in W.C. Vanderwerth, Indian Oratory (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), 233234.
15 Many Horses as quoted in Virginia I. Armstrong, I Have Spoken (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1971), 130.
Native Americans, land allotment developed the social hierarchy of white dominance, but unlike
assimilation, appeared to escalate the Native-white conflict. Not all Natives were so inclined to trust
in or follow the process of assimilation, and certain Native Americans refused to abandon the
principles by which they had lived for so long. And if certain Natives retained their identity and
continued to move freely in the west, then they would continue to be an obstacle as westward
expansion pushed onward. Whites may have overpowered the Natives, but the notion of continued
aggression and occasional white casualties seemed a source of continual discontent to many whites.
Through land allotment, Natives were able to retain their identity, but were stripped of their lands
and forced onto small, cramped reservations. In the meantime, the west was further opened to
white settlement. Though the Native identity persisted, they lost the freedom of movement, and
reservations represented a type of containment by which whites could control and keep an eye on
the Natives. And while this significantly decreased the power of the Natives and placated whites
who were worried about Native resistance, allotment merely intensified the Native grudge with
whites, for Natives brooded for years to come upon this injustice of white control.
Through land allotment, the Dawes Act came to weaken the social presence of the Native.
Similar to a state of slavery, land allotment eliminated many of the freedoms central to Native
society. Carlson has explained the policy of allotment, “The Dawes Act was compulsory. An
individual could not refuse to accept an allotment.”16 We can thus witness that allotment was foisted
upon the Natives. Since they were forced to make a decision, allotment portended the Natives’ loss
of group and individual autonomy. Vine Deloria Jr. addressed this deprivation of self-determination
when he declared, “Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts embraced the proposition that if every
Indian family had its own piece of land, the natural greed in man would assume control of the
Carlson, 10.
individual Indian so that he would become a silent farmer.”17 Deloria highlighted the subtle
machinations of land allotment. That is, Dawes envisioned his act as a means of stripping the
Natives of their power, and rendering them incapable of opposition. Lastly, Carlson has
substantiated the theory of the repressive nature of land allotment. He noted, “Indians living on
allotted lands failed to benefit from the Dawes Act. “The administration of the Dawes Act was an
open-ended federal policy shaped by outside economic interests.”18 From Carlson’s research, it is
evident that the policy of allotment not only failed to address and resolve Native concerns, but also
was corrupted by the notion of white superiority. Thus, allotment came to hinder Natives, as the
government acted in a way that would better the lives of whites, and hurt or even ignore prospects
for Native relief.
Cognizant of the repressions of allotment, Natives opposed this policy much more
immediately and enthusiastically than they opposed assimilation. Richard White revealed,
“Montezuma scorned reservations, which he regarded as prisons, and despised the Bureau of Indian
Affairs, which he viewed as an un-American tyranny.”19 Utilizing Montezuma as an example of
Native opposition, White helped to underscore Natives’ resentment of the Dawes Act, as they
perceived its denying them the freedom of movement. Deloria presented another incidence of
Native response to the restrictions of land allotment when he wrote, “The Bureau of Indian Affairs
misinterpreted the Dawes Act and began to threaten the tribes unless they agreed to allotment. A
threat against the Kiowas frightened the western tribes, and they appealed to the Five Civilized
Tribes for assistance in meeting the threat.”20 He thus illustrated the Natives’ desire to avoid land
allotment, particularly as some tribes discerned its compulsory nature. In this sense, the Natives
Vine Deloria Jr., Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence (New York: Delacorte Press,
1974), 5.
18 Carlson, 167.
19 White, 439-440.
20 Vine Deloria Jr., Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence (New York: Delacorte Press,
1974), 6-7.
seemed inclined to resist anything they viewed as a potential threat to their individual sense of
freedom. Unfortunately however, Stephen Cornell demonstrated that the restriction of Natives as a
result of the Dawes Act prevented their opposition from having its desired effect. Cornell claimed,
“Indian opposition was widespread and ignored. Non-Indian opposition was faint against the
chorus of support.”21 Although shared by many Natives, opposition failed to combat the repression
they faced. Additionally, the failure of Native opposition to counteract white support indicated that
the balance of power was clearly tipped in favor of the whites, allowing allotment to remain in place.
Native opposition to allotment demonstrated much more than their desire to retain certain
freedoms. Rather, their awareness of the restrictions of life under the Dawes Act, and the selfish
interests of whites, gave new momentum to the Native-white conflict as Natives became resentful of
the act’s blatant injustices.
And yet, white historians can hint at and suggest what they want about what the Natives
thought and felt. The truth of the matter is that, without Native evidence to substantiate their
claims, we can’t know for certain about the Native perspective. I will seek to fix this problem and
give credibility to the claims of white historians in this paragraph by including some Native
thoughts. Though allotment did not threaten their cultural identity, Natives found that allotment
certainly restricted their self-determination. Unlike assimilation, allotment presented absolutely no
opportunity for Natives to better their lives or to counteract white secrecy. The confinement of the
reservations, while holding the Natives in check physically, did nothing to limit the internal
discontent of the Natives. Wovoka, who clung desperately to the hope that the white culture he
deemed so corruptive and compulsive would one day disappear and leave the Natives with cultural
freedom, was a popular figure among the Plains Indians. He promulgated, “The white man came.
He fought you and beat you, and put you in barren places where a horned toad would die. He said
Cornell, 44.
you must stay there.”22 In this, Wovoka revealed the cruel reality of Native life on reservations.
Worse than their confinement was the fact that the land was not suitable for life. And thus, Wovoka
seemed resentful of the policy of allotment. Chief Joseph admirably endured white cruelty in
pacifically accepting the forced relocation of his people, the Nez Percé. He revealed, “It is still our
land. It may never again be our home, but my father sleeps there, and I love it.”23 In this quotation,
he underscored the blatant injustice that was allotment. Evidently not even allowed to decide
whether or not to relinquish their land, Natives were forced off of their land. Yet, some Natives,
like Joseph, maintained close ties to the land, and became bitter when it was taken away. Finally,
Joseph further discussed the harsh policy of allotment when he announced that, on many occasions,
the government would just come in and demand the Natives’ land, even though the government had
not legally purchased it.24 This blatant exploitation did not go unnoticed, and while the Natives
could not openly refuse the whites without fear of injury or death, they certainly were not pleased.
Thus, allotment helped to further discomfit the Natives. Convinced that whites would never treat
them fairly, the Natives began to harbor a strong aversion to whites. And we can claim this with
assertion, thanks to Joseph and Wovoka, two truthful eyewitnesses to the whites’ abuse of power.
The Carelessness of the Dawes Act: The Birth of a Schism
The Dawes Act failed to address conflict out west effectively. While it helped increase the
power of whites, it failed to aid the Natives, and ensured that Native discontent would fester.
Attacking the freedoms and identity of the Natives, and strengthening those of whites, the Dawes
Act planted the seeds for additional Native resentment. Also, though many Natives assimilated,
they were still scorned by white society, causing a prolonged disdain for whites. The Dawes Act
Wovoka as quoted in Armstrong, 129.
Chief Joseph as quoted in Vanderwerth, 273.
24 Chief Joseph as quoted in Vine Deloria Jr., and Jennings C. Wise, The Red Man in the New World Drama (New York:
Collier-Macmillan, 1971), 270.
ensured that tensions would continue, but on a significantly smaller scale. And while the act may
have drastically shifted the balance of power in favor of whites, it did so only temporarily. That is,
as opposed to eliminating the Native identity and ensuring a society completely dominated by whites
out west, Native cultures continued feebly to endure. Several provisions of the Dawes Act, including
allotment and assimilation, promised to enhance the Natives’ quality of living, but in reality cast
Natives aside. Largely ignoring the Natives, the Dawes Act ensured that the Native presence faded
even further from social concern.
Rather than addressing the plight of the Natives out west, as a federal Indian policy would
be expected to do, the Dawes Act did not seem to care much about the Natives, so long as whites
remained in control. Thus, the Natives became a marginalized and ignored group. When Lawrence
C. Kelly poignantly noted, “Sometime in the early 20th Century, the federal government would at last
be out of the Indian business,”25 he illustrated the complete indifference of the government towards
the Natives. The Natives seemed a burden that many white politicians would just as soon cast aside,
rather than go through the trouble to ease. Kelly also mentioned, “Indian children often suffered at
school. They were ridiculed by classmates and teachers alike.”26 In this case, he pointed out a major
contradiction of the Dawes Act, as assimilation clearly did not lead to acceptance. Therefore, the
government’s decision to let this injustice persist revealed the federal tendency to ignore the plight
of the Natives, and even to welcome it if it enabled white control. Richard White accurately
depicted this federal refusal to uplift Natives when he revealed, “Legal claims of other nations, let
alone the unmentioned claims of Indians, were mere ‘cobweb tissues.’”27 The government, in
White’s opinion, not only cast legitimate Native concerns aside, but also viewed them as pesky
nuisances that would be better to get rid of. This evident inclination to move away from Native
Lawrence C. Kelly, Federal Indian Policy (New York: Chelsea House, 1990), 72.
Kelly, 80.
27 White, 73.
concerns prevented Natives from escaping their plight in the west. And consequently, without
federal assistance the Natives would be incapable of overcoming white repression in society. The
inevitable conclusion then was that Natives would continue to remain a lesser group that suffered
unnecessary injustices, injustices that would often be hidden from eastern society.
Laden with hypocrisies, the Dawes Act fueled a prolonged Native grudge as the act made
lofty promises that it failed to uphold. As a result, Native disdain for whites endured long after the
act’s passage. From its beginning, the Dawes Act appeared inclined to aid the troubled Natives.
Section One explicitly stated, “An act to extend the protection of the laws of the United States over
the Indians, and for other purposes.”28 Ostensibly, the Dawes Act seemed obligated to bring a
degree of security and liberty to the Natives; however, the repressive reality created by allotment and
assimilation clashed with this promise. But the Dawes Act stood as legal justification that Natives
could use to demand that the government help to better their plight. Vine Deloria further revealed
the hypocrisy of the act when he wrote, “Indians became a detached third-party observer to the
process of policy formulation in every area except claims. Claims were designed to quiet Indian
resentment.”29 From his perspective, claims implied lawmakers’ recognition that the act inherently
provided for tension. He also announced, “Indians became an attachment to their lands as opposed
to owners.”30 This abrupt reversal of course on the account of government can be seen, from the
Native perspective, as a failure to live up to the standards it had promised. And consequently, the
Natives had every right to feel bitter toward whites. Exploited and abandoned in their time of need,
the Natives hardened themselves against whites. Distancing themselves from whites, the Natives
managed to endure into the nineteenth century, and would use their discontent caused by the Dawes
Act in future struggles against whites.
U.S. Senate, General Allotment Act, 1887 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1887), 1.
Vine Deloria Jr., American Indian Policy in the Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 248.
30 Deloria, 248.
Let us once again focus in on Native comments regarding life after the Dawes Act to further
grasp their bitterness and their feud with the whites. The Dawes Act’s inability to fulfill the many
promises it made to Natives helped to make compromise between whites and Natives unattainable.
Sitting Bull remarked, “It is not what the Indians want, but what the commissioners want.
Sometimes the commissioners say they compromise, but they never change the document.”31 His
sarcastic tone near the end of the quotation illuminated his outrage at white exploitation of the
Natives. Also, he revealed the futility of compromise, and suggested that Natives avoid negotiations
with whites. He would go on to announce, “Let the soldiers come and take me away and kill me,
wherever they like. I am not afraid. I was born a warrior.”32 In this rare instance of open defiance,
Sitting Bull revealed his unwillingness to tolerate white injustice any longer. In so doing, he
demonstrated that the Dawes Act was driving the two groups apart. Chief Joseph proclaimed,
“Some of you (whites) think an Indian is like a wild animal. This is a great mistake. I believe much
blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more.”33 Perhaps more powerful than Sitting Bull’s,
Joseph’s comment highlights the great problem of the Dawes Act: its inability to treat Natives as
human beings. And unnecessary tension thus arose. Whether or not the Dawes Act intended to
provide for Natives, its blatant disregard of the promises it explicitly made would lead to a bitter
schism between Natives and whites. The Native perspectives, while poignant, provide a clear
snapshot of the late Nineteenth Century west, and allow us additionally to understand why matters
in the following years would logically lead to the failure of the Dawes Act.
Vogel, 181.
Vogel, 182-183.
33 Vanderwerth, 260.
Final Thoughts on the Dawes Act: Conflict Still Persists
The failure of the Dawes Act lay not so much in its enabling the Native American identity to
survive. Rather, the Dawes Act fell short of white expectations because it fueled the fire of Native
resentment. Instead of merely opposed to whites, the Natives were now severely embittered, and in
this sense the Dawes Act ironically accelerated tension. Designed to reduce the source for conflict
so as to limit the threat to whites out west, the Dawes Act merely reduced Natives’ outward
opposition. But it did nothing to quiet the rage that burned within their hearts. As Stephen Cornell
mentioned, “As long as Indian communities of some sort survive, there will be Indian cultures as
well, whether in old or new forms. ‘We are the Native people. What we do is the Native culture.’”34
Outwardly, the Dawes Act enacted profound social change via allotment. But its attempt to
extinguish internal Native beliefs via assimilation did not succeed. While whites came to dominate
western society, the Dawes Act failed to impose uniformity of culture, and thus whites continued to
worry about keeping the Natives in check. Thus, the act failed to resolve the issue it sought to
address, as future whites would continue to struggle with the same question: how to deal with the
Natives and their tensions? If we are truly students of history, we must seek the answers by
continuing to pay attention to Natives and their views. Only then will we more deeply and clearly
understand the Dawes Act and its consequences.
Cornell, 212.
U.S. Senate. 49th Congress, 2nd Session. 24 Stat. 388, Ch.119, 25USCA 331, The General
Allotment Act (or Dawes Act). Washington, Government Printing Office, 1887.
Armstrong, Virginia I. I Have Spoken. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1971.
Carlson, Leonard A. Indians, Bureaucrats, and Land: The Dawes Act and the Decline of Indian
Farming. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1981.
Cornell, Stephen. The Return of the Native: American Indian Political Resurgence. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1988.
Deloria Jr., Vine. Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence. New York:
Delacorte Press, 1974.
Deloria Jr., Vine. American Indian Policy in the Twentieth Century. Norman: University of
Oklahoma Press, 1985.
Deloria Jr., Vine and Wise, Jennings C. The Red Man in the New World Drama. New York: CollierMacmillan, 1971.
Fritz, Henry E. The Movement for Indian Assimilation: 1860-1890. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1963.
Kelly, Lawrence C. Federal Indian Policy. New York: Chelsea House, 1990.
Otis, D.S. and Prucha, Francis Paul. The Dawes Act and the Allotment of Indian Lands. Norman, OK:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1973.
Vanderwerth, W.C.. Indian Oratory. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.
Vogel, Virgil J. This Country Was Ours. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1972.
White, Richard. “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own.” A New History of the American West.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.
Carolyn Gershman ’14
“Racial Complications of the 1936 Berlin Olympics”
In the years leading up to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, increasing public knowledge of antiSemitism, racism, and intolerance in Nazi Germany, notwithstanding Nazi propaganda, caused many
Americans to question whether the Olympics, which symbolize international respect, coexistence,
and brotherhood, should be held there under such circumstances. Preparations for the games started
eight years prior to the Berlin Games’ inception; Berlin was a top contender, and the world grew
excited, as always, for the start of another record-breaking Olympics. The press flocked to Germany
to gain insight into the arrangements of the Games, but their findings revealed that Germany’s
leader, Adolf Hitler, and his Nazi followers, had significantly different ideals and uses for the Games
than that which the Olympic Games actually represented. International collaboration, pride, and
honor champion the longstanding traditional Olympic Games, and this is what the press expected to
find, yet released statements and newspaper articles painted a very different picture.1 As the public
grew aware of the contrasting goals, talks of boycotts arose across America and Europe threatening
the success of the Games and fostering immediate action from the International Olympic
Committee (IOC), American Olympic Committee (AOC), and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
Privately dealing with the newfound political crisis, while reassuring the public that the Games’
moral component remained intact, proved confusing: different officials had different opinions and
ethical values and their positions wavered. In the end the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games were
generally successful, but the question that begs to be answered is how could the values and aims of
the Olympics, the ideologies of the United States, and the harsh realities of Nazism coexist, and why
Articles published by the following: The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, The Hartford
Current, Chicago Daily Tribune, and NPR (All mentioned and cited later).
did not the American (and European) boycotts and protests of the Olympic Games succeed in
having the Games relocated out of Berlin?
The prize of hosting the Olympic Games proved to be something for which Germany was
willing to fight. The meeting to nominate countries as the host for the 1936 Olympic Games was
held in Monte Carlo, Monaco on April 23, 1927. At this meeting, delegates from each nominated
city (Rio de Janeiro, Alexandria, Helsinki, Budapest, Lausanne, Berlin, Rome, and Barcelona) came
to argue their merits, but at the time it was widely known that Berlin, Rome, and Barcelona had the
best chances. Germany appointed President Otto Lewald [sic] to present Germany’s case; at this
point it was important for Germany to highlight its financial stability, as it had been of concern to
the IOC previously. While Rome presented a strong case that it was the only ancient city among the
frontrunners, and that as the City of Seven Hills, it should have the honor of holding the games, and
when Barcelona delegates claimed, “Spain was the mother country of South America…it would be
gratifying to South American sportsmen if they were held in Barcelona,” it was Germany that
presented the best case.2 Germany’s delegates pointed out that the games were supposed to be in
Berlin in 1916, but because of the impending First World War, the games were forced to be
cancelled. In addition, Germany wanted the chance to show the world that it had healed the wounds
from its brutal defeat in that war. Four years later, after copious research on the various cities, a
secret meeting was held in Barcelona, Spain on April 26, 1931. No official announcements were
made, although it was verified that the votes were cast. It was said the voting was scattered, but that
Berlin took the lead, with Barcelona following closely behind. No less than ten days later Berlin,
Germany was announced as the city bestowed with the honor of hosting the 1936 Games. Germany
took the news with widespread enthusiasm, and took it upon itself to produce the most aweinspiring, impressive Games yet. Because Germany already had a stadium with holding capacity
“Eight Cities Out for the 1936 Olympics: Berlin, Rome and Barcelona to the Fore in Quest of the Games” The
Christian Science Monitor (April 28, 1927).
totaling 50,000 which had been built for the 1916 Olympics, Germany was especially secure
financially. With this extra money it expanded the stadium to seat 90,000 people, and built or
restored tennis courts, multiple swimming pools, six soccer fields, a boxing hall, a dance hall, polo
grounds, spaces for wrestling and fencing, a track, and much more. It set up the rowing regattas to
be held at Long Lake where many previously built boathouses were available. At this time
Germany’s enthused preparations foretold exciting and remarkable Games that embodied the very
spirit of the Olympics.
The Olympic Games represent much more than a sporting competition; they epitomize
honor, glory, and international camaraderie. The Olympic Games are derived from the Ancient
Greek original Olympiad. People came from all over Greece for the opportunity to compete and
return to their city-states as heroes. But the noble competition did more than just deem one a hero;
it required the combination of body, mind and will. The Olympic movement was created to link
sports and education; contribute to building a friendlier, more peaceful, and more respectful world
through sport, and to provide a satisfaction that only hard work and training can offer.3
The growth of Nazism in the 1930s brought values and ideologies that conflicted with those
represented by the Olympic Games. The incompatible views were brought to the forefront
beginning with the Games’ initial planning, preparations, and the opening ceremonies in 1936.
During this time the Nazi Party slowly but surely gained a more significant upper hand in the
government until it had so much power that it controlled most everything in Germany. There were
many key elements of the Nazi system of governing, some more heinous than others, yet all of these
ideologies: Racism, Herrenrasse (meaning: Master Race), Lebensraumpolitik (meaning: The creation of
more living space for Germans), Führerprinzip (meaning: Belief in the leader—Hitler), Social
Darwinism, Anti-Semitism, and Autarky (meaning: Germany needed to be economically
The Olympic Museum, “The Modern Olympic Games,” Evolution of the Olympic Games, 2007, [Page 3], digital file.
independent), were in place or would be in place in the years to come. Hitler’s views were widely
known as he had, in 1923, attempted to seize the power in Munich with a group from the
Nationalist Socialist Party. He was then imprisoned for his political crimes, and, while in prison,
wrote his most famous book, Mein Kampf, which translates to “my struggle.” His “struggle,”
however, was due to his delusional belief in the aspiration of Jews to gain world domination. Hitler
wrote, “Here he stops at nothing, and in his vileness he becomes so gigantic that no one need be
surprised if among our people the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the
living shape of the Jew,” which clearly exemplifies Hitler’s strong views against Jews.4 Although
sickening and repulsive in manner, these views did not become a problem regarding the location of
the Games until about three years prior to the Games’ inception.
Throughout the process of preparing for the Games, Germany’s consistent manipulation of
the IOC, AOC, and AAU, in order to maintain the honor of being host city while essentially doing
whatever it wanted, caused chaos and lead to eventual boycotts of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
While at first Germany put on a good show by demonstrating its peace efforts and having troops
patrol national games in the regular season, it quickly became evident that there was much going on
beneath the surface. Nazi ideologies began interfering with the standards of the Games.5 It was
highly suspected that Jews were not being given the appropriate use of training facilities or being
invited to training sessions.6 In addition there was much maltreatment of Jews in Germany on a
regular basis, although these could not be taken into account as reason to move the games. Even so,
on these rumors alone, The American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee, as well as
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Boston: Houghton Mifflin company, 1943), 394.
Arthur J. Daley, “Berlin Faces Loss of Olympic Games.” New York Times (April 18, 1933).
Arthur J. Daley, “A.A.U. Boycotts 1936 Olympics because of the Nazi Ban on Jews” New York Times, (November 21,
Wireless to Chicago Daily Tribune "Nazi Sport Head Reaffirms Ban on German Jews.” Chicago Daily Tribune
(Nov 23, 1933).
6 “Wireless to Chicago Daily Tribune "Nazi Sport Head Reaffirms Ban on German Jews.” Chicago Daily Tribune
(Nov 23, 1933).
the non-sectarian Anti-Nazi League all responded to these discoveries, shortly followed by the AOC,
IOC and AAU. Talk about boycotting, protesting, and moving the Games initiated all across the
United States and Europe.
Germany’s disregard of various committees’ reactions was palpably expressed on April 1,
1933 when the Nazis boycotted Jewish businesses across Germany, books were burned, and intermarriage banned.7 The issue the IOC faced was that regardless of what Germany’s government did
to its own people, if it was unrelated to the Games, it could not affect the IOC’s decision to move or
not to move the Games. Additional investigations took place into the Anti-Semitic attitude of
Hitler’s government. Newspaper articles released alluded to the chance of the Games being shifted
to either Rome or Tokyo, two other cities that would have gladly taken over the Games.8 Olympic
protocol markedly stated that “there shall be no restriction of competition because of class, color, or
creed,” therefore, because there was no official bar on Jews, regardless of the number of rallies by
the AOC, AAU and American Jewish organizations, technically, the IOC did not have valid
reasoning to approve moving the Games.9 But, if any type of Anti-Semitic ban affecting the Games
appeared, it would give the IOC more than enough evidence for the Games’ location to be changed.
Cancellation would occur on the off chance that a ban was placed so close to the Games’ initiation
that there would not be any time to switch cities. In mid-April more conclusive indication of
mistreated Jewish athletes proved evident; Margaret Bergmann-Lambert, a German champion in
high-jumping received a letter from her club telling her she could no longer train there because she
was Jewish. This was the end of her career.10 Lambert was one of the many Jewish athletes planning
to participate in the Games that were told they could no longer train in the German facilities. While
Howard Berkes, “Nazi Olympics Tangled Politics and Sport.” NPR. Podcast audio. June 7, 2008.
Accessed March 4, 2013.
8 Arthur J. Daley, “Berlin Faces Loss of Olympic Games.” New York Times (April 18, 1933).
9 David Clay Large, Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936. (New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007),71.
10 Howard Berkes, "Nazi Olympics Tangled Politics and Sport.” NPR. Podcast audio. June 7, 2008.
Accessed March 4, 2013.
athletes like Lambert could train in Jewish clubs, compared to the well-subsidized German clubs, the
Jewish clubs were inadequate.11
Not only were there extensive threats of boycotts and protests in the United States, but
across Europe as well. Furthermore, a massive rally, called the “Fair Play” campaign, which
protested the Games’ location, swept across Southern and Western Europe.12 Boycotts threatened to
break out in Sweden, and there were even planned protests in Palestine.13 One of the greatest
adversaries of these boycotts was a man by the name of J. Sigfrid Edström, a Swedish IOC member.
He epitomized one who was influenced by Germany’s manipulation as a member of the IOC. In
1933, he fully supported the Games taking place in Germany, and the Nazis’ ruling, and he spent the
majority of 1934 writing letters convincing AOC members and German Jewish athletes that Jews
would be treated fairly, but, eventually, a year before the Games, Edström came to his senses,
realizing the Nazi beliefs were affecting athletes, and he began corresponding with German Officials
seeking peace of mind. He was relieved by the responses he received, but like many other officials,
unknown to him, he was fed false information for the sole reason of appeasing the uproar of
Edström was not alone in his fickle mindset and manipulated views, Avery Brundage, the
president of the AOC, another official who often changed his mind, had the belief that politics and
sports were separate issues, and did not like the fact that they were so interconnected at this point.
Later, however, he became one of the greatest advocates for upholding the values and honor of the
Olympic Games. Henri Baillet-Latour, the former president of the IOC, obdurately believed that the
IOC could not take a political stance, and that taking a stance should be prevented at all costs. He
Susan D. Bachrach, The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936, comp. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (London,
England: Little. Brown and Company, 2000), 41.
12 Lief Yttetgren. “The Questions of propriety: J. Sigfrid Edström, anti-Semitic and the 1936 Berlin Olympics.”
AcedemicOneFile (Accessed March 4, 2013).
13 Lief Yttetgren. “The Questions of propriety: J. Sigfrid Edström, anti-Semitic and the 1936 Berlin Olympics.”
AcedemicOneFile (Accessed March 4, 2013).
even went so far as to say that he respected the Nazis because as everything else was falling apart,
they had a plan.14 While he did not particularly like the Nazi Anti-Semitic views, he firmly believed
that if the Anti-Semitic behavior was confined to Germany alone, than the IOC had no right to
interfere. Other officials, by contrast, could not have disagreed more. William May Garland, Charles
Sherill, and Ernest Jahncke, all on the IOC, faced a major impasse; they knew that American Jewish
organizations would continue fighting for their beliefs, they knew the IOC would prefer to keep the
Games in Berlin, and they knew the right thing to do would be to move the Games, but they feared
that they would cause an international incident that would cause further problems and further AntiSemitism. As time passed many opinions changed, but most importantly Baillet-Latour’s opinions
changed as he began to see sense. Baillet-Latour sent a letter to Hitler affirming that the Games
would be held to the standards of the Olympic Committee, expecting Hitler to respond favorably, as
Hitler previously had promised that he would be abiding by Olympic guidelines but, instead, Hitler
was outraged. The officials’ response was to try to keep Hitler out of the loop on the planning, but
this immediately failed.15 Regardless, further talks of boycotts and cancellation continued.
The IOC official meeting to discuss the issue of Anti-Semitism was to occur in June, 1933.
The world avidly read the papers, eagerly awaiting the meeting’s outcome, as many countries were
threatening not to participate and more than twenty champions had already decided not to compete
in the Nazi Games.16 The IOC kept this all in mind going into the meeting, but overall it was
Germany’s consistent manipulation of making Anti-Semitic rules, remarks, ideals, and then
retracting, opposing or denying them that kept Berlin in the running as the host city. On June 7,
1933, in Vienna, the International Olympic Committee voted to keep the 1936 Olympic Games in
Berlin, putting to rest the worldwide debate. At the meeting, the German delegation promised that
David Clay Large, Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936. (New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), 71.
David Clay Large, Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936. (New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), 70.
The Associated Press, “Toscanini Refuses To Go To Baireuth,” [sic] New York Times (June 6, 1933).
Jewish athletes could play for the teams if successful; “successful” referring to their performance in
the training sessions, in which Jews were often unfairly judged and excluded. This compromise was
at the prodding of Brig. Gen. Charles H. Sherrill, who forced the Germans to include a section
specifically pertaining to Jews. Ironically, it was Dr. Theodore Leward, a man rumored to have been
personally asked to step down by Hitler because of the Jewish blood in his family, who made the
announcement. The statement, which put the majority of the IOC at ease, was printed in the New
York Times on June, 8, 1933:
The German Olympic Committee has delegated the mandate that has been entrusted to it to
a special organizing committee composed of Dr. Lewald, president; the Duke of MecklenburgSchwerin, Dr. Ritter von Halt Captain von Tschammer-Osten, president of the German
Olympic Committee; Dr. Sahm, the Mayor of Berlin and Herr Diehm, secretary of German
Olympic Committee
2. All the laws regulating the Olympic Games shall be observed.
3. As a principle, German Jews shall not be excluded from the German teams at the games of the
eleventh Olympiad.17
It was decided with this promise of equality, despite the Anti-Semitic conduct that Germany had
demonstrated, that the Games would still be held in “the Olympic Spirit,” and that Germany had
not technically breached any Olympic codes.
One of the fundamental reasons why the Hitler’s misdeeds were tolerated for so long before
signs of protest or dissent from the Americans was due to America’s longstanding and deep-seated
faith in democracy. The United States of America was founded upon this principle, and time after
time reaped the benefits of its successes. In no way was it accurate to assume Americans would not
continue to count on the system of democracy’s success in Germany. An editorial in The New York
Times on January 31, 1933 palpably relays America’s faith, confirming; “President Hindenburg will
retain supreme command, prepared to unmake Hitler as quickly as he has made him.”18 Because of
John MacCormac, “Reich Keeps Games, Giving way on Jews”
New York Times (Jun 8, 1933).
18 "Germany Ventures," The New York Times (New York City, NY), January 31, 1933, [Page 16], accessed October 20,
the system of checks and balances that democracy brings—although Germany’s was different in
certain aspects then the United States’—it was expected that because Hitler was Chancellor, he
would be controlled by President Hindenburg, the constitution, and that the system of democracy
that would prevail to self-correct Hitler’s misguided ways. Furthermore, in President Roosevelt’s
inauguration speech, he announced, “We do not distrust the future of essential democracy,” which,
in a sense, relieved American citizen’s feelings of guilt over not taking a stand one way or another on
The Games. 19 Instead Roosevelt allowed the faith and belief to override the sense of impending
complications. These assurances led the American public to believe that, “There is thus no warrant
for immediate alarm,” and allow a false sense of security to settle for a short time. 20
However, some of the American public, the AOC, and the AAU were far from satisfied;
they saw right through Germany’s guise, and when Germany’s actions did not improve, but in fact
worsened, the situation escalated. Just because the IOC had stood by its decision, that did not mean
the AOC, AAU and Jewish organizations would back down. On November 20, 1933, the New York
Times released and article which stated; “The Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, the
largest sports-governing body in the world, voted almost unanimously today to boycott the 1936
Olympic Games at Berlin unless there is a change in the attitude of Hitler government toward Jews
in sport.”21 The reasoning was blunt; Germany’s Anti-Semitic attitude was unacceptable and would
not be tolerated by a country like the United States of America. The Resolution, which was
presented to the AOC and AAU by their president, Gustavus Town Kirby, found in the Chicago
Daily Tribune on November 23, 1933, concluded:
Thomas L. Stokes, Chip Off My Shoulder (Princeton University Press, 1940), 310, in Margot Stern Strom, "The
Democrat and the Dictator," Facing History and Ourselves Resource Book: Holocaust and Human Behavior (Facing History and
Ourselves National Foundation, Inc: 1994), 158.
20 “Germany Ventures,” The New York Times (New York City, NY), January 31, 1933, [Page 16], accessed October 20,
21 Arthur J. Daley, “A.A.U. Boycotts 1936 Olympics Because of the Nazi Ban on Jews” New York Times (November 20,
Whereas sport is the greatest if not the only true democracy in America, all therein being
equal irrespective of race, color, religion, or social or financial conditions; and Whereas both
the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States of America and the American Olympic
Association were founded and exist upon these basic principles; and Whereas the Olympic
Games of 1936 were awarded to the city of Berlin by the International Olympic Committee;
and Whereas it is our understanding and belief that, at the time of such award, the German
Olympic committee, representing itself and also the organizing committee of the 1936 Berlin
Olympic Games, accepted the games upon the basic principles of sports competition as
herein referred to and reiterated its continued adherence to said principles as late as June of
1933; and Whereas it is believed and is common and universal knowledge that the German
Olympic Committee and the Berlin organizing committee, under and by reason of the
decrees and directions of the government of Germany, have violated the code of the
Olympic Games and the fundamental ideals of sports competition in that they have deprived
Germans of Jewish descent or belief from the rights of the Olympic competition, if not by
direct restriction, certainly indirectly by the withdrawal from them of the rights of German
citizenship and of a reasonable opportunity to train, prepare for and take part in sports
competition in general and in the Olympic Games in particular…22
The Resolution clearly spells out three very important factors: 1) Because the United States of
America, the AOC and the AAU all believed that equality is of the utmost importance, Germany’s
values and actions were intolerable; 2) Germany was well aware of the rules and standards it was
meant to keep as the host country for the 1936 Games; and 3) Germany obviously and publicly
violated the code of the Olympic Games.
Only two days after the resolution was publicized, on November 23, 1933, The Nazi Party
blatantly defied the Resolution by having Hans von Schammer und Osten, head of the Reich Sports
Office, release an order that said:
1—all persons elected to offices or boards of German athletic organizations must be in a
position to meet the conditions of the government decree for the “restoration of
professional civil service” which bars all Jews except front contestants. If the person to
be chosen is a woman her father, brother, or husband must like-wise meet these
This was enforced heavily, and although approval of non-Aryan members to athletic clubs was left
up to the leaders of the clubs, all of the clubs were coordinated under Nazi rule, so it was
Arthur J Daley. “A.A.U. Boycotts 1936 Olympics because of the Nazi Ban on Jews.” New York Times (Nov 21, 1933)
Wireless to Chicago Daily Tribune “Nazi Sport Head Reaffirms Ban on German Jews.” Chicago Daily Tribune (Nov 23,
automatically put into effect for everyone.24 A consequence of the order was that two of Germany’s
boxing champions, Eric Seelig and Johann Trollman, were banned from the sport for “racial
reasons.” It was rules like these—rules that manipulated the system and appeared as one thing but
meant another—that caused the most issues for the various Olympic Committees, that saw only
what Germany wanted them to see. Comparatively manipulative was the announcement made by
Dr. Karl Diem, secretary of the German Athletic Federation, in the April 19, 1933 New York Times
asserting; “The German committee stands squarely on the ground of the Olympic Idea. There can
be no question of any attempt at discrimination. On the contrary, all athletes coming to Germany in
1936 to participate in the games can count on being received with open arms and treated with the
heartiest hospitality irrespective of nationality or race.”25 Diem’s statement is flagrantly misguided;
aforementioned clear and factually accurate situations in which Jewish athletes have been kicked out
of clubs or asked not to compete directly contradict his statement, but one of the tactics used here,
and commonly used throughout the preparations of the Games is repetition. The consistent
manipulative statements, promises, and speeches, although obviously falsified, were repeated so
often, and from so many people, that people were bound to end up believing some of what they
It was Germany’s shameless disregard for Olympic values that caused not only the threat of
boycotts of the Games, but also the actual boycotts of German products to continue to break out.
Publicly, Germany was seemingly ignoring or denying that Anti-Semitic acts were occurring as well
as threats of the Games cancellation. This is illustrated in a response to a letter written by Avery
Brundage to Hitler, asking for assurance of fair treatment, and forewarning movement of the Games
Wireless to Chicago Daily Tribune “Nazi Sport Head Reaffirms Ban on German Jews.” Chicago Daily Tribune (Nov 23,
25 Wireless to the New York Times, “Germany Pledges no Discrimination” The New York Times (April19, 1933).
or cancellation. The response, written by Hans von Tschammer und Osten, was the first official
response the AAU had gotten to its protests, and it went as follows:
1. Neither the Reich Government nor I have as yet
issued any statement regarding the barring of
Jewish athletes from Turn and Sport organizations.
2. Neither the Reich Government nor I have prohibited
the open participation of Jewish athletic organizations
in athletic exercises.
3. The participation of Jews in athletic events has not
been prohibited by proclamations issued either by
the Reich Government or by myself.
4. If I should be notified that individual athletic bodies
have in any way issued proclamations in opposition
to the statements issued above, I shall make it my
business to follow up each individual case and see
to it that such actions be retracted.26
The letter was somewhat reassuring, and showed in the AAU’s voting to participate in the games:
58.25 to 55.7527 in favor of participating, but only three more AAU committee votes would have
halted participation in the Games. So far, all of the voting from the various committees had been in
Germany’s favor, and Germany had worked exceedingly hard to achieve this feat. Over the course
of the next year, German officials continued releasing statements in attempts to appease the public.
They were repeatedly bombarded with accusations of bars on Jewish participation, and although
nothing was official, the earlier resignation of Jewish athletes only hurt their case. So on May 9, 1934
Dr. Lewald released another denial of any bar on Jewish participants:
I want to say first that Germany has kept and will continue to keep that promise. Secondly,
that there are and will be no qualifications or restrictions of any kind upon the admission of
Jewish athletes to the German Olympic Team. Thirdly, Germany in the person of Hans von
Tschammer und Osten….and Chancellor Hitler, is doing more than he promised.28
Wireless to the New York Times, “Call to Athletes Issued by Hitler,” New York Times (Dec 15, 1933).
Jeremy Chaap, “An Olympic Boycott that Almost Worked,”,
(August 13, 2009).
28 Herbert L. Matthews, “Reich Keeping Faith on Olympics, Says Official, Denying Bar to Jews,” New York Times (May
9, 1934).
In this statement, not only did Dr. Lewald maintain that Germany was following protocol, but he
went on to say that it was doing more than necessary, by providing them with every training facility
and encouraging participation. Contradicting these promises was the multitude of rumors dictating
the exact opposite. With only two years until the opening ceremonies, and dozens of countries and
athletes saying they would not compete, Hitler, out of fear of losing his Games, welcomed Avery
Brundage, who took a trip to Berlin in September of 1934 to investigate.
In the weeks leading up to Brundage’s trip, articles were released saying that Margaret
Bergmann-Lambert, the high jumper who had been asked to leave, was being invited back onto the
team.29 Upon arrival Brundage was personally taken to training facilities and allowed to talk to many
Jewish athletes, and by the time his trip was over, he had nothing negative to report. In fact, he had
only glowing excitement for what he had seen during his trip and he relayed this to the Olympic
Committee Meeting, in effect ensuring the United States of America’s participation.
Debate over the United States’ participation continued right up to the start of the Games. The
announcements and newspaper articles indicate that the general public, throughout the entire
Olympic process, had been fully aware of all predicaments and occurrences. They were more than
just “aware”; however, as Americans had been closely following the stories of what was happening
in Berlin, and according to a Washington Post article released on September 8, 1935, the opinion on
U.S participation was split.
In addition to American citizens’ keen observation and obsessive monitoring of the
situation, America itself had adopted a somewhat Anti-Semitic attitude, which was heavily
influenced by prominent American figures at the time, so it was no surprise that Anti-Semitic views
were circulating. Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, a well-respected, popular American
industrialist publicly advocated his personal Anti-Semitic mindset. His newspaper, The Dearborn
Howard Berkes, “Nazi Olympics Tangled Politics and Sport” NPR. (June 7, 2008).
Independent, published ninety two editions which specifically targeted Jews.30 These editions were later
compiled in a book called The International Jew, which was translated and distributed internationally in
the 1920s. The main point these editions made was of the conspiracy theory that claimed that the
goal of the Jewish people was to take control of the world. When confronted about the severity of
these editions, Ford’s response was merely, “They have fitted the situation up to this time. They fit
now.”31 Later, his personal secretary, Ernest Liebold was recorded threatening, “When we get
through with the Jews, there won’t be one of them who will dare raise his head in public.”32 In 1927,
Ford publically apologized for his publications, but the damage was already done. Regardless of
Ford’s apology, his ideologies had wormed its way into the minds of the American people through
The Dearborn Independent, discussions of controversy, articles about the publications, and more.
Whether or not they agreed with Ford’s views was irrelevant; he had planted a seed that alluded to
the duplicity, inferiority, and disingenuous nature of Jews across The United States and in effect
shifted attitudes, however slight, toward supporting The “Nazi” Games. Ford and Liebold were not
the only ones affecting attitudes of rational Americans with radical views; Charles E. Coughlin, a
widely popular priest, began using his reach to spread his Anti-Semitic outlook. He too believed that
Jews were seeking world power and additionally blamed Jewish bankers for the Russian
Revolution.33 Coughlin disseminated these views daily with 3.5 million listeners of his radio show.
He most famously blamed the economic crisis on Jews in the early 1930s with the assertion that,
“We have lived to see the day that modern Shylocks have grown fat and wealthy, praised and defied,
because they have perpetuated the ancient crime of usury under the modern racket of
Jewish Virtual Library. Henry Ford Creates A Jewish Conspiracy Theory. Copyright 2013 The American-Israeli Cooperative
31 “The International Jew: Anti-Semitism from the Roaring Twenties Revived on the Web,” ADL: Anti-Defamation
League, last modified July 1999,
32 “The International Jew: Anti-Semitism from the Roaring Twenties Revived on the Web,” ADL: Anti-Defamation
League, last modified July 1999,
33 “Anti-Semitism,” Father Coughlin,
statesmanship.”34 It was estimated that approximately twenty five percent of Coughlin’s listeners
actually agreed with his opinions; but again, it was not those who agreed who he would have swayed
anyway, it is those who unknowingly internalize bits of what he said and unknowingly change their
attitudes over so slightly. Consequently, there was much Anti-Semitism present in America in the
time leading up to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, yet there were also the American citizens who
stayed true to intrinsic American values of equality and prosperity.
Catholic and Protestant organizations were among those citizens, and they began joining the
“stay home” movement, which spread across the United States. Jeremiah T. Mahoney, the new head
of the AAU, requested that the American people put their energy toward demanding cancellation of
the trip, but tourists coming home from summer trips in Germany claimed that there were
absolutely no signs of Anti-Semitism.35 The fact that the tourists were saying this meant that Hitler
had been successful in his attempts of hushing the matter up. On September 22, 1935 a newspaper
article, by Rev. Dr. S. McC. Cavert, revealed just how wrong those tourists were:
On the surface everything seemed serene. The lovely Bavarian villages were full of lighthearted peasants. The music festival was entrancing…A new national pride was in the
air…the superficial tourist would go home and tell his neighbors that life is normal in
Germany. But how much there is beneath the surface that the casual tourist never sees! The
average tourist does not read such publications of Julius Streicher. Julius Streicher is no
ordinary citizen; he is the leader of the Nazi party in Franconia and an intimate friend of
Adolf Hitler. The display window of his publication house was filled with papers and books
either viciously Anti-Semitic in character or setting forth the pseudo-science of racialism as
the foundation of the new German State. The average tourist does not talk with German
exiles from their Fatherland-men and women who ardently love Germany but have had to
leave it in order to save their lives or avoid the living death of concentration camps….The
average tourist does not see the way in which a deliberate policy of segregation is being
forced upon the Jews. They are being excluded from public baths and summer resorts. They
are forbidden to go to the regular public schools…36
“Charles E. Coughlin,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, last modified May 11, 2012,
35 Ben Dulaney, “ Berlin Builds Giant Olympic Stadium While Athletes Toss Hot Words,” The Washington Post
(September 8, 1935)
36 Ben Dulaney, “ Berlin Builds Giant Olympic Stadium While Athletes Toss Hot Words,” The Washington Post
(September 8, 1935)
As Rev. Dr. S. McC. Cavert’s article confirms, in the end, it was Germany’s skillful and consistent
acts of duplicity and manipulation that ensured them the honor as host city. While they did issue
bans, they were careful to retract them and any Anti-Semitic statements if the talks of boycotts and
cancellation became too concrete. They put on shows for the officials who visited to investigate;
mainly, they strong-armed a huge win by persuading Avery Brundage, president of the AOC. Certain
officials and many American Jewish and Catholic organizations saw right through Germany’s guise,
but the IOC was mostly convinced. After all, Hitler constantly assured them of Germany’s integrity.
“Rest assured that I shall stoutly maintain the American principle that all citizens are equal under
law,”37 Hitler firmly promised, but the fact of the matter was that German Anti-Semitism was severe
and continuing to increase. Hitler and the Nazis outmaneuvered all of the Olympic Committees,
Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant organizations, and the 1936 Olympic Games were held in Berlin,
Hitler himself opened the Games, the walls of the stadiums were covered in Swastikas, and
Hitler famously saluted the crowd. Throughout the Games, The Reich Press Chamber was
stringently censoring any radio, press, or publications, and the Ministry of Propaganda released many
guidelines to maintain their camouflaged racist policies. On August 3, 1936 Joseph Goebbels, head
of Ministry of Propaganda, announced: “The racial point of view should not be used in any way in
reporting sports results; above all Negroes should not be insensitively reported. . . . Negroes are
American citizens and must be treated with respect as Americans.”38 This was not widely known,
and, in addition, the week before the Games Hitler issued a “clean up,” which ensued arresting all
Gypsies, and removing all signs and posters which banned Jews from entering various places.
David Clay Large, Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936. (New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), 73
Jewish Virtual Library. The Nazi Olympics. Copyright 2013 The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.
The boycotts, protests, and rallies all failed due to Hitler’s careful, manipulative planning. In
the end it was the Nazis’ Olympics; they succeeded in deceiving every committee far enough to
achieve their goal. Very few Jews competed in the Games, as the Maccabee League of Jewish
athletes had withdrawn all of its contestants six months before the Games, and other Jewish
Athletes were either too fearful to participate or had been previously banned. 39 Germany painted a
picture of tolerance and peaceful bliss to the outside world while Anti-Semitic violent, heinous
crimes actually took place. The Games should have been moved to a different location, for the
ideologies of the Olympics clashed remarkably with the Nazi ideologies. The United States of
America should not have sent athletes; as a nation founded on principles of equality for all; it had
abundant evidence of the Nazi’s odious philosophies. The Games became a tool in the Nazi
regime’s rise to power, a chance to display its power to the world, to gain supporters, and to put up a
peaceful front. The ideals of the Olympic Games were not held in their usual sanctity due to the
Nazi regime, and therefore they should not have been held in Berlin, Germany. The 1936 Berlin
Olympics truly became “The Nazi Games” rather than a competition in accordance with the
Olympic Oath, which was taken by athletes in the 1920s to “take part in these Olympic Games,
respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the
glory of the sport and the honour of our teams.”40
39 Herbert L. Matthews. “Diplomats exempt in Nuremberg Laws: Foreigners Enjoying Privileges Will Not Be Affected
by Paragraph 3, Hitler Rules.” The New York Times. (December 1, 1935)
40 “FAQ: What is the Olympic Oath?” Official Website of the Olympic Movement. Last modified September 12, 2011.
Accessed March 5, 2013.
The, Associated Press. "Hitler's Support Expected for Olympics of 1936 in Berlin; Preparations
Under Way." New York Times (1923-Current File), Mar 15, 1933.
Adelman, Melvin L. "The Nazi Olympics." JSTOR. Accessed January 24, 2013. .
ADL: Anti-Defamation League. "The International Jew: Anti-Semitism from the Roaring Twenties
Revived on the Web." ADL: Anti-Defamation League. Last modified July 1999. Accessed
May 6, 2013.
American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. "The Nazi Olympics." Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed
March 4, 2013.
American-Israeli Coopertive Enterprise. "The International Jew." Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed
May 6, 2013.
The Associated Press. "Will make Effort to Shift Olympics." New York Times (1923-Current File), Nov
17, 1933.
The Associated Press. "Toscanini Refuses to Go to Baireuth." New York Times (1923-Current File),
Jun 06, 1933.
Bachrach, Susan D. The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936. Compiled by United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum. London, England: Little. Brown and Company, 2000.
"Berlin Will Stage the 1936 Olympics." The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File), Jun 07, 1933.
"The Democrat and the Dictator," Facing History and Ourselves Resource Book: Holocaust and Human
Behavior (Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, Inc: 1994), 157.
Dulaney, Ben. "Berlin Builds Giant Olympic Stadium while Athletes Toss Hot Words." The
Washington Post (1923-1954), Sep 08, 1935.
"Eight Cities Out for 1936 Olympics." The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File), Apr 28, 1927.
"FAQ: What is the Olympic Oath?" Official Website of the Olympic Movemeny. Last modified
September 12, 2011. Accessed March 5, 2013.
"Germany is Preparing for Olympics Well in Advance." The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current
File), May 03, 1927.
Germany Seeks 1936 Olympics for Berlin; Government Funds Aiding 1928 Campaign." New York
Times (1923-Current File), Feb 16, 1927.
"Germany to make Bid for Olympics." The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File), Feb 16, 1927.
Hilton, Christopher. "Hitler's Olympics: The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games." JSTOR. Accessed
February 2013.
Hitler, Adolf, and Ralph Manheim. Mein Kampf,. Boston: Houghton Mifflin company, 1943.
"Hitler Spikes Drive Against 1936 Olympics." The Hartford Courant (1923-1987), Jun 25, 1933.
J. Daley, Arthur "Berlin Faces Loss of Olympic Games." New York Times (1923-Current File), Apr 18,
J. Arthur, Daley. Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. "A.A.U. Boycotts 1936 Olympics because
of the Nazi Ban on Jews." New York Times (1923-Current File), Nov 21, 1933.
L. Mathews, Herbert. Wireless to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. "Reich Keeping Faith on Olympics,
Says Official, Denying Bar to Jews." New York Times (1923-Current File), May 09, 1934.
Large, David Clay. Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936. New York & London: W.W. Norton &
Company, 2007.
MacCormac, John. Wireless to TheNew York Times. By, John MacCormac. "Reich Keeps Games,
Giving Way on Jews." New York Times (1923-Current File), Jun 08, 1933.
MacDonogh, Giles. 1938 Hitler’s Games. New York, NY, United States: Basic Books, 2009.
Mandell, Richard D. The Nazi Olympics. New York, New York, United States: The Macmillan
Company, 1971.
Murray, John. "Berlin Games: How Hitler Stole the Olympic Dream." JSTOR.
"Nazi Olympics Tangled Politics and Sport." NPR. Podcast audio. June 7, 2008. Accessed March 4,
"Nazi Sport Head Reaffirms Ban on German Jews." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Nov 23, 1933.
The New York Times (New York City, NY). "Germany Ventures." January 31, 1933, 16. Accessed
October 20, 2013.
The Olympic Museum. "The Modern Olympic Games." Evolution of the Olympic Games, 2007, 3.
Digital file.
Orlow, Dietrich. The History of The Nazi Party: 1919-1933. N.p.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1969.
"The Nazi Olympics." JSTOR. Accessed January 24, 2013. .
Pitblado, Michael. "Berlin Games: How the Nazis Stole the Olynpic Dream." JSTOR.
"Power Rests with A.A.U." New York Times (1923-Current File), Dec 08, 1934.
"Public Men Urge Olympic Boycott." New York Times (1923-Current File), Sep 12, 1935.
Special Cable to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. "Berlin Maps Plans for 1936 Olympic Games;
Selection of City Stirs Wide Enthusiasm." New York Times (1923-Current File), May 16, 1931.
"Start Vote to Pick 1936 Olympic City." New York Times (1923-Current File), Apr 27, 1931.
2013 Old Time Radio. "Anti-Semitism." Father Coughlin. Accessed May 6, 2013.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Charles E. Coughlin." United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum. Last modified May 11, 2012. Accessed May 6, 2013.
"Nazi Olympics, Berlin 1936." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Last modified May 11,
2012. Accessed March 4, 2013.
UR J. "Berlin Faces Loss of Olympic Games." New York Times (1923-Current File), Apr 18, 1933.
Whaley, Joachim. "The Nazi Olympics. Sport, Politics and Appeasement in the 1930s." Academic
OneFile. Last modified January 17, 2013.
Wireless to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. "Diplomats Exempt in Nuremberg Laws." New York Times
(1923-Current File), Dec 01, 1935.
Wireless to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. "Yielding by Nazis on Olympics Likely." New York Times
(1923-Current File), Jun 07, 1933.
Wireless to The New York Times. "Germany Pledges No Discrimination." New York Times (1923Current File), Apr 19, 1933
Yttergren, Lief. "The Questions of propriety: J. Sigfrid Edstrom, anti-semitic and the 1936 Berlin
Olympics." Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies. Accessed March 4, 2013.
Jack Kelly ’14, “Selling Society: Propaganda, Advertising, and the Culture of the 1920s”
Advertising is ubiquitous in modern society. Look around: billboards line the
nation’s highways and dot its buildings; short advertisements interrupt radio and television
broadcasts; advertisements of all sizes are plastered across newspapers, magazines, and
websites; logos stand prominently in both movies and homes. For better or for worse,
advertising has become an integral part of American culture. Advertising has existed as long
as human civilization, the product of the world’s first business seeking to gain an edge in the
world’s first cities.1 But only relatively recently did advertising become what it is today, the
massive cultural presence that inundates everyday American life. Before the nineteenth
century, there was little opportunity for mass-market advertising in American society; there
were newspapers, but they were low in circulation and carried few advertisements.2 The
Market Revolution, the expansion of the markets in the early nineteenth century, created the
opportunity for national brands, and with the advent of the Penny Press came the
opportunity for national advertising.3 But it would take decades before businesses would
fully realize the potential of branding and advertising on a national scale. Although
advertising visionaries such as Thomas J. Barratt, the creator of the first modern
advertisement, would experiment and begin to find success in the later half of the nineteenth
century,4 it was not until the 1920s, with a combination of both progressive ideas and
commercial growth, that advertising begin to thrive as both an industry and an increasingly
formative influence of American culture.
1 Encyclopedia of World Trade From Ancient Times to the Present, s.v.
"ADVERTISING," accessed May 27, 2013,
2 Encyclopedia of American Studies, s.v. "Advertising," accessed May 27, 2013, .
3 Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century, s.v. "ADVERTISING,"
accessed June 02, 2013,
4 Matt Haig, Brand Failures: The Truth about the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time, 2nd ed.
(London: Kogan Page, 2011), 204.
Following a tumultuous decade of global warfare and civil unrest, the 1920s began
with a return to what Warren G. Harding referred to as, “normalcy,” a nondescript notion of
life before World War I.5 But the world had changed irrevocably since the start of the
century, and World War I had forever transformed politics both nationally and
internationally; in many respects, there was no “normalcy” to which America could return.
While a wave of conservatism spread across America, the remnants of the dying progressive
movement did not disappear. The industrial modernization brought about by influential
business thinkers such as Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor continued to mature and spread.6
The feminist movement, having gained suffrage with the Nineteenth Amendment, continued
to have a presence despite weakening from lack of unified vision.7 Advertising was reborn
with the emergence of new ideas and theories, spreading new attitudes toward consumption
and consumerism among the American public. With both the return of conservative politics
and the perseverance of liberal social mores, the culture of the 1920s reflected an odd
mixture of the traditional and the contemporary. Indeed, the 1920s were a decade perhaps
unlike any other in American history, as ideas old and new coalesced into a unique culture of
carefree prosperity, both real and superficial.
The culture of the 1920s existed in a relatively rigidly defined period, beginning with
the end of World War I and Harding‘s election, and ending with the stock market crash of
1929. The period’s origins, however, have a less definite chronology. A strong case can be
made that the period was the product of discontent and disillusionment with World War I,
and this argument has certain merit; Harding’s return to “normalcy” was ultimately a
The Crystal Reference Encyclopedia, s.v. "Harding, Warren G(amaliel) (2 Nov 1865
– 2 Aug 1923)," accessed June 02, 2013,
6 Encyclopedia of American Studies, s.v. "Ford, Henry," accessed June 02, 2013,
7 The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History, s.v. "Feminism and Feminisms,"
accessed June 02, 2013,
powerful catalyst in the genesis of the 1920s.8 But an attribution of the 1920s culture to any
one event, however significant, would be fallaciously narrow in its scope. The 1920s were
influenced by not only the First World War, but also the frustrations and triumphs of the
progressive period. Advertising, enjoying a resurgence marked by the new techniques and
philosophies of the Progressive Era, was one of such influential factors. To a certain extent,
the effects of advertising on the 1920s are hard to discern; while advertising helped shape the
culture of the 1920s, so too did the culture of the 1920s shape advertising. Historians have
debated the extent to which one affected the other; some argue that advertising was a leading
factor in the evolution of 1920s culture, while others contend it was more a product of the
culture than its cause. Regardless, the importance of advertising in the shaping of the 1920s
is undeniable. Despite not always being the primary agent of societal change, the rise of
advertising and propaganda in the early twentieth century played a distinct and significant
role in the development of 1920s society, altering the prevailing attitudes toward nativism,
consumerism, mass-entertainment, and feminism.
The influence of advertising in the 1920s began not with the post-war corporate
boom but rather with the American entry into World War I. On April 6, 1917, in response to
the growing threat of German naval warfare, the United States formally declared war on
Germany. A week later, on April 13, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson issued Executive
Order 2594, establishing the Committee on Public Information, or CPI.9 The CPI was a
government organization that effectively served as a propaganda machine for the United
States during World War I, attempting to generate public support and enthusiasm for the
8 AFrederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920's. (New
York, NY: Harper and Row, 1931), 108-109.
9 Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present,
s.v. "CPI (Committee on Public Information)," accessed June 02, 2013,
American war effort. The CPI was not the first effort of the American government to
control public opinion; Espionage and Sedition Acts under John Adams had long ago
established the practice. But the CPI was revolutionary in that it was the first effort to apply
the scientific mindset of the Progressive Era to the field of public manipulation; it was
America’s first producer of modern propaganda.10
In 1900, Sigmund Freud published his seminal work, The Interpretation of Dreams,
which established the field of modern psychoanalysis. While many of his ideas would later be
determined false, the core principle of his works remained true; people’s actions and
emotions are guided by unconscious desires. Edward Bernays, both Freud’s nephew and a
high-ranking member of the CPI, took his uncle’s theories and applied them to
propaganda.11 With the work of Bernays and fellow pioneer Carl R. Byoir, the CPI tried to
appeal to people’s underlying desires, hoping to influence not only their rational thought but
also their emotions. The resulting propaganda campaigns proved tremendously successful,
and the public’s cautious support of the war effort soon exploded into nationalistic fervor.12
In effect, the Commission on Public Information was the nation’s first modern
advertising agency; instead of selling consumer goods, it sold the idea of America itself. The
campaigns of the CPI were tremendously influential on both the public and later advertising.
Throughout the war, it released thousands of posters aimed at generating powerful
emotional responses, each one appealing to different aspects of their viewers’ characters
such as patriotism, morality, dreams, or even sexuality13 Some were dire and dramatic; one
such poster reads, “Must children die and mothers plead in vain? Buy more liberty
Encyclopedia of Intelligence & Counterintelligence, s.v. "Journalism and
Propaganda," accessed June 02, 2013,
12 Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History, 42.
13 Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING,"
bonds.”(Fig. 1) Others were authoritarian and nationalistic, such as James Montgomery
Flagg’s famous depiction of Uncle Sam forcefully proclaiming, “I want you for US Army”
(Fig. 2). But all were effective in eliciting the desired response, fervent patriotism. The CPI’s
other campaigns were also successful. To put a personal touch on the government’s
message, the CPI recruited 75,000 volunteers to work as “Four-Minute Men,” speakers who
would deliver short but poignant speeches that rallied public support.14 The aggressive sale
of War Bonds both financed the war and gave the American people a personal stake in its
success. The CPI spread its messages through every medium available, ensuring the country
was blanketed with as much pro-American propaganda as possible by producing articles,
movies, cartoons, pamphlets, and billboards.15
The Committee on Public Information did more than just raise public support for
the war. Like the public relations industry that it would later inspire, the CPI was entrusted
with the protection of the United States’ image, both at home and abroad. While George
Creel, the leader of the committee, emphasized the importance of a positive message, one
that focused on the greatness of America rather than the ills of its enemies,16 propaganda
inevitably depicted Germany in an unfavorable light. Recruitment advertisements often
portrayed the Germans as animals or savages who had the potential to destroy civilization;
one such poster commands, “Destroy This Mad Brute,” over an image of a club-wielding
German ape (Fig. 3). America had a large immigrant population, many whom hailed from
Germany, and as the war continued, many feared they lacked patriotism or were even spying
14 Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present, s.v. "Creel,
George," accessed June 02, 2013,
15 Germany and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History, s.v. "Committee on
Public Information," accessed June 02, 2013,
16 George Creel, How We Advertised America: The First Telling of the Amazing Story of the Committee on Public
Information that Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe (London, England: Harper & Brothers,
1920), 4.
for their countries of origin. Germans bore the brunt of this fear, but it extended to most
immigrants, especially those from countries under the rule of the Central Powers. To address
this, the CPI printed ads in foreign languages and created the Friends of German
Democracy, an organization aimed to secure the support of German immigrants for the
American war effort.17 Yet these actions did little to offset the rising nativism that their
propaganda oft encouraged, and in preemptive fear of the German propaganda machine, the
CPI expanded their efforts to establish the cultural superiority of America both nationally
and domestically as the war drew on.18
By the end of the war, the American public had become increasingly zealous in its
nationalistic and nativist views. While the CPI was not the only source of nativist sentiment,
the organization’s prominence no doubt served to exacerbate it. Nativism and nationalism
proved intrinsic to the cultural development of the early 1920s, as the wave of conservatism
brought by the end of the war took these sentiments in new directions. Some reactions were
direct; the passage of anti-immigration legislation such as the National Origins Act was a
direct response to people’s fears that America would be compromised by immigrants
refusing to integrate.19 Fears of German brewers had given rise to resurgence in the
Temperance Movement, and mounting distrust of immigrants during the war served to
augment the movement’s power; the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment and the
passage of the Volstead Act became inevitable. While the CPI had campaigned in favor of
America’s labor system, the nationalistic pride and nativism the CPI had created brought
about its downfall; fearing the influence of Communism after the success of the Russian
Germany and the Americas, "Committee on Public Information,"
Claude E. Fike, "The Influence of the Creel Committee and the American Red Cross on RussianAmerican Relations, 1917-1919," The Journal of Modern History 31, no. 2 (1959): 93-105.
19 The Reader's Companion to American History, s.v. "NATIVISM," accessed June 02, 2013,
revolution, the American public repudiated it, and the government quickly dismantled and
destroyed the labor movement and its power. But in a much broader sense, the nationalism
created by the CPI contributed to the general conservative mindset of the 1920s, and
however unintentionally, the CPI helped set the tone for the rest of the decade.
On August 21, 1919, Woodrow Wilson formally abolished the Committee of Public
Information with issuance of Executive Order 3154.20 While some members of the
committee went into politics, many more, such as Edward Bernays and Carl R. Byoir, were
drawn to the emerging post-war business world that would dominate the 1920s, seeking to
apply the techniques of the CPI to businesses trying to sell their products.21 By this time,
advertising agencies were already a stalwart in the American business environment, having
first developed in the 1840s in response to the Market Revolution.22 The first advertising
agencies, however, were much different than those of today; they functioned primarily as
middlemen who found advertisers for the newspapers they represented. But when those
roles began to switch toward the end of the nineteenth century, and advertisement agencies
became the clients of the businesses, advertising agencies began to control the
advertisements themselves. But despite these developments, the growth of the advertisement
industry was relatively stagnant, expanding with the economy but continuing to occupy a
subdued role in business. With end of the World War I however, advertising exploded in
both significance and creativity; advertising spending doubled from $1.5 billion in 1918 to $3
billion in 1920 as the practices developed in the CPI spread.23
Combined with the economic boom that followed World War I, new advertising
techniques were instrumental in the creation of a new consumer culture. During the 1920s,
Propaganda and Mass Persuasion s.v. "CPI (Committee on Public Information).”
Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING."
22 Ibid.
23 Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING."
two schools of advertising battled for dominance, “reason why” advertising and “image”
advertising. “Reason why” advertisements represented the more traditional school of
advertising thought pioneered by Progressive Era adman, Albert D. Lasker. The goal of
these advertisements was to convince viewers of a product’s quality by providing a reason
the consumer should buy it.24 “Image” advertising, however, focused not on the product but
rather its appearance to customer. Much like the propaganda of the CPI, these
advertisements attempted to win over customers by appealing to their emotions on a
subconscious level; creating a desirable image became more important than the product
itself.25 While the two techniques coexisted in the 1920s, image advertising quickly became
the most prominent, as Theodore F. MacManus and other proponents of the technique used
it to create many successful campaigns that made Madison Avenue a burgeoning hub of the
American advertising world.26 While “reason why” advertisements became secondary, they
were still used to great effect in the 1920s, as later advertisers combined both Lasker’s and
MacManus’s ideas in creative and effective campaigns.27
With the transition to image advertising, companies essentially began to sell ideas to
their customers in place of the products themselves. While CPI ads had mainly appealed to
patriotism and morality, the advertising of the 1920s largely targeted the dreams of its
audience for happiness and fulfillment in life.28 Coca-Cola, for example, had earlier
campaigned on the health benefits of the beverage in a manner typical of reason why
advertising (Fig. 4), but in the 1920s, the company began to market “satisfaction” instead of
health, changing its slogan to “Delicious and Refreshing” (Fig. 5). In a similar shift, cigarette
Encyclopedia of American Studies, s.v. "Advertising."
26 Ibid.
27 Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING."
28 Encyclopedia of American Studies, s.v. "Advertising,"
brands stopped emphasizing the quality of their tobacco (Fig. 6) and instead began to
emphasize the idea that smoking made life more comfortable and less strenuous;
advertisements began to feature abstract qualities such as “mildness” that made cigarettes
seem more appealing.29 Other advertisements made little mention of the product at all, only
mentioning the brand and the emotions associated with it; one advertisement from the era
claims, “the happiest words in the world” are “have a Camel” (Fig. 7). For the businesses,
the effect of these new techniques was immediate; Coca-Cola cemented itself as a national
icon, while the tobacco industry enjoyed great expansion. But such campaigns also had great
effect on society as a whole. As these new advertising techniques spread, advertising
increasingly convinced the public’s subconscious minds that the ills of their lives could be
quelled through the consumption of mass manufactured goods; as the 1920s progressed,
consumerism played an increasingly prominent role in American society.30
Consumerism was not new to America; the first glimpse of the nation’s later habits
of consumption could be seen as early as the mass manufacturing of the Market Revolution.
As the century progressed and manufacturing developed, consumerism increasingly became
a tenet of American culture. But it was not until the 1920s that consumerism truly became
intrinsic to American society. The rise of Madison Avenue played no small part in this
change, as advertising promising happiness and prosperity successfully appealed to its
viewer’s emotions, creating a market of eager consumers. Advertising alone was not enough
for the rise of consumerism to occur, but the social climate of 1920s provided the perfect
opportunity. Businessmen such as Henry Ford pioneered “welfare capitalism” and
“Fordism,” movements for greater worker benefits predicated not on morality but rather the
idea that higher purchasing power would allow greater consumption of manufactured
Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING."
Encyclopedia of American Studies, s.v. "Advertising,"
goods.31 When combined with the booming speculative economy, advertising and welfare
capitalism led to an increase consumer spending that cemented consumerism as fundamental
component of American society in the culmination of decades of market growth.
While the main medium for advertising before 1920s was print, the 1920s saw the
explosion of radio as a means of advertising. The Radio Broadcasting Corporation, RCA,
was formed in 1918, but the first licensed commercial radio station was not created until
October 1920, when KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was formed to cover the election
between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox.32 The radio industry saw exponential
growth during the 1920s; by the end of the decade, public spending on radio had increased
tenfold, and countless radio stations had developed under the ownership of large
corporations like RCA.33 It was not long before advertisers began to exploit the opportunity
with which they were presented. In 1923, the few radio advertisements consisted of the
occasional product description. But by 1924, radio had become Madison Avenue’s domain;
advertisers produced almost all of the content, attempting to influence public perception of
brands through association with popular programming.34 For example, Pepsodent, a
toothpaste brand, sponsored The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show, while other programming such as The
Fleischmann Yeast Hour made the connection between the content and business even more
explicit. Traditional, explicit advertising grew more popular as the decade progressed, but
most advertising agencies feared a negative response to such invasive advertisements could
Encyclopedia of American Studies, s.v. "Ford, Henry," accessed June 02,
32 Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History, 67.
33 Key Concepts in Radio Studies, s.v. "Commercialism," accessed June 02, 2013,
34 Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING."
impede radio’s growth.35 Ultimately, the plans of the agencies were successful; by the end of
the decade, radio content and advertisements brought $3.4 billion in revenues a year.36
In addition to expanding advertising’s influence on 1920’s society, radio itself had a
profound impact on national culture. While initially consisting of news and political efforts,
radio stations quickly became the nation’s most prominent source of entertainment, as
stations began broadcasting music and radio shows that were instantly accessible.37
Advertising did not cause the rise of radio alone; with many Americans enjoying the decade’s
prosperity, an increasing need developed for leisure and entertainment. But as advertisers
increasingly fed the appetites of the American public for radio content, a mass culture began
to develop in American society,38 a direct forebear of the “pop culture” of today. Other
forms of mass entertainment developed during the 1920s that further extended the
burgeoning nationwide culture, products of both radio’s success and the decade’s apparent
prosperity. Sports such as baseball, now with a pervasive broadcast medium, developed into
national obsessions,39 while advances in movie technology allowed the rise of “talkies,”
movies with synchronized sound.40 Soon, a celebrity culture followed, as Americans
clamored to follow the latest actions of their favorite sports players and movie stars.41 By the
end of the decade, the nation engaged with entertainment in a completely different manner
Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING."
37 Key Concepts in Radio Studies, s.v. "Advertising," accessed June 02, 2013,
38 Key Concepts in Radio Studies, s.v. "Imagined Community," accessed June 02,
39 Key Concepts in Radio Studies, s.v. "Sport," accessed June 02, 2013,
40 The Reader's Companion to American History, s.v. "MOVIES," accessed June 02,
41 Encyclopedia of American Studies, s.v. "Celebrity," accessed June 02, 2013,
than it had just decades earlier, a change in no small way influenced by the concurrent and
mutually beneficial rises of radio and advertising.
Radio was not the only means through which advertising had significant influence on
1920’s culture. In the 1920s, advertising helped to both shape and keep alive feminist
attitudes in American society. While many women in the 1920s sought to further establish
their equality with men, the feminist movement began to flounder politically after the
ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment; without a universal goal, there was less unity
among feminist organizations and groups.42 Socially however, feminist attitudes thrived in
the 1920s, in no small part because of advertising. In response to the increasing demand
among young women for independence and equality, advertisers began to appeal to those
qualities in their advertisements. In their ads, advertisers combined the values of
consumerism with feminism, selling a vision of freedom for women based on consumption
of manufactured goods and entertainment.43 One such advertisement addresses itself to
“Career Girls,” claiming its cosmetic product would help women get ahead in the business
world (Fig. 8). Edward Bernays, for example, now a veteran of Madison Avenue, launched
the “Torches of Freedom” campaign, encouraging women to smoke to establish their
independence and equality.44 The ideas imparted by these campaigns helped lead to the
emergence of the “flappers,” defiant young women in the nation’s cities who repudiated the
restrictive social tradition of previous generations.45 While much of the flapper culture was
one of rebellion, such as establishing greater equality in dress through more masculine
42 The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History, s.v. "Feminism and Feminisms,"
accessed June 02, 2013,
43 The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History, s.v. "Consumerism and
Consumption," accessed June 02, 2013,
44 Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications, s.v. "Public Relations,"
accessed June 02, 2013,
45 Encyclopedia of American Studies, s.v. "Flappers," accessed June 02, 2013,
clothing, the prevailing philosophy of the flappers mirrored that of Madison Avenue. In this
way, the culture of partying and copious consumption driven by the flappers and other
1920s youth was in part, a result of advertising’s profound influence on American society.
Advertising’s immense influence on American society did not last forever, and as the
culture of the 1920s began to perish, so too did advertising’s influence founder. On October
29, 1929, the American stock market crashed, bringing with it many of America’s industries.
As consumer spending rapidly dropped and businesses struggled to stay afloat, advertising
spending saw significant decline. Soon, the industry was in free-fall; total billings plunged
from $3.4 billion in 1929 to $1.4 billion just two years later.46 While the industry eventually
recovered, it never occupied the same formative role that it did in the 1920s.47 Amidst the
widespread poverty of the Great Depression, the American public grew weary of the dreams
promised by advertising, and a general sense of cynicism began to spread regarding it, a
sentiment that would never fully disappear. Americans were disillusioned by advertisements
and their promises, and even in the industry’s later heights in the 1950s, public perception
would never be as complacent as it was in the 1920s.48 For this reason, a sizable contingent
of historians consider the 1920s to be the golden age of advertising; while the industry would
later grow larger, never again would it possess so much direct influence on American culture.
While the full extent of propaganda and advertising’s effect on the 1920s continues to be the
subject of historical debate, it remains clear that advertising was a fundamental component
of 1920s culture. Advertising was an essential part of the decade’s character; while not always
a driving force of action, it was omnipresent, frequently influencing the American people.
Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING."
Daniel Pope, "Review of The Mirror Makers, by Stephen Fox," The Business History Review 60, no. 1
(1986): 147; Stephen Fox, The Mirror Makers: A History of American Advertising and Its Creators (New York, NY:
University of Illinois Press, 1984),
48 Encyclopedia of World Trade, s.v. "ADVERTISING."
The 1920s provided the ideal environment for advertising’s rise; the thriving corporate world
was a perfect vessel for the industry’s rebirth. In many ways, the story of advertising tells the
story of the 1920s; from the CPI to the rise of Madison Avenue, advertising evolved in
unison with the culture of the 1920s. Advertising did not create the institutions of the 1920s,
but it did amplify their presence and significance, as seen through the rise of nativism,
consumerism, mass- entertainment, and feminism. While sometimes direct and other times
less so, the cultural significance of advertising to the 1920s is undeniable. Advertising and the
1920s were codependent; one could not have existed in its entirety without the other. While
the events of World War I and the 1920s were essential to the rise of advertising, so too was
the rise of advertising essential to the decade’s culture and society. The 1920s represented
the pinnacle of the relationship between advertising and American society, the only time in
history where they existed truly symbiotically, each developing and influencing the other
Figure 1
CPI Poster for Liberty Bonds49
Figure 2
James Montgomery Flagg’s renowned WWI recruitment poster50
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Anti-German CPI poster51
Figure 4
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52 Coca Cola, A Beverage for Men and Ladies, image, 1905, Coca-Cola Magazine Ads, 1905,,
accessed October 12, 2013,
1920s Coca-Cola Advertisement53
Figure 6
1890s Poet Cigars Advertisement54
Figure 7
In Every Glass There's Satisfaction; Drink Coca-Cola, image, Coca Cola Ads of the 1920s, Vintage Ad
Browser, accessed October 12, 2013,
54 Poet Cigars, Highest Grade, image, D0254, Emergence of Advertising in America, Duke University,
Durham, NC, accessed October 12, 2013,
1920s Camel Cigarettes Advertisement55
Figure 8
1920s Cosmetics Advertisement56
Have A Camel Cigarette, The Happiest Words in World, image, 1927, Ads of the 1920s, Vintage Ad
Browser, accessed October 12, 2013,
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on Public Information that Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe.
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Sarah Regan ’14
“The Second Amendment: A Collective Protective Right”
When the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, America had just emerged from
the grasping hands of Great Britain’s monarchial rule. Whether laws were modeled after
British laws, or modeled in opposition to British laws, there is no doubt that British
influence still permeated many aspects of American life. From the experience of living under
British rule, the colonists knew which legislation they wanted to adopt into the new
government, and which pieces they wanted to abandon. The Second Amendment was a
mixture of the two: first of all, the kings’ early abuses led them to believe they needed a
defense from an oppressive government. Secondly, elements such as restrictions on who
could bear arms and for what reasons appealed to the colonists. The Second Amendment
states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of
the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”1 Due to the fact that the militia is
obsolete and has been replaced by the National Guard, this paper argues that a part of the
Second Amendment has become null and void. If we look back at the original intentions of
the Founding Fathers for the Second Amendment, we can see that they did not intend for
this right to be an unrestricted right to bear arms for personal use. The framers believed the
Second Amendment was a collective right to be exercised only under specific situations as a
protection from an oppressive government, within a militia. This paper will explore the
historical context in which the Second Amendment was written and consider political theory
of the time.
When the English colonists came to North America, they were guaranteed the same
exact rights here as they were in England, including rights involving arms. Although there
It was written during a time when the available weapons were very different from those available to us today.
were some exceptions, until the American Revolution, the government in the colonies was
basically a replica or mini model of the government in England. So, if we look at the history
of gun laws in America, we must look first at the gun laws in Britain from which they
originated. It is only through close examination of laws and circumstances in Britain that we
may successfully deduce the purpose of the founding fathers when they wrote, “A well
regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to
keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The militia first became popular during “The
long war with the Hapsburg Empire…[which] contributed to an upsurge of national
sentiment. Faith in English militia was vindicated as free men held their own
against…professional standing armies of the Spanish King. English men came to believe that
the militia was the best security for their country and their liberties.”2 For more historical
context, it must be understood that “[the] militia might keep and bear arms in accordance
with their militia duties for the defense of the realm.”3 In other words, the militia acted as
the police force because at the time, citizens did not have the luxury of police officers or
government-funded protection. Their responsibility to defend themselves was in their hands.
However, the difference between the police and the militia is this: the police protect citizens
on behalf of the government, but a militia is intended to protect people against their
government. This was during a time of dictatorial rulers who overstepped their boundaries
and crushed the rights of their people. The militia was a legal way to fight oppression of the
government because the people were unable to express their opinions through the ballot
box, due to the structure of a monarchy. Like the United States, Britain had its own bill of
rights; as Saul Cornell has claimed, “the English Bill of Rights…the king could
Robert J. Cottrol, ed., Gun Control and the Constitution: Sources and Explorations on the Second Amendment (New
York, NY: Garland Publishing, 1994), 190.
3 Cottrol, Gun Control and the Constitution, 197.
not…dismantle and disarm the militia.”4 In a sense, this was the British government’s form
of checks and balances on power.
The English Bill of Rights succeeds more thoroughly in outlining how this right to
bear arms is to be used than Second Amendment does with its vague and confusing
language. It clearly favors the collective rights view. In the contemporary debate over guns,
there are two major viewpoints: the collective right view, and the individual right view. The
collective right view says that the right to bear arms is only protected if it is a group of
people bearing arms, as in a militia. The individual right view says that it is the right of each
individual person alone to bear a gun. The English Bill of Rights stated, “There was no
individual right to bear arms; the rights of subject could be protected only by the political
process and fundamental laws of the land.”5 William Blackstone, a prominent English
politician, judge, and political commentator, highlighted the need to regulate any sort of
arms allowed when he said, “[bearing arms] is indeed a public allowance, and under due
restrictions, of the natural right of resistance…when sanctions of society are found
insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”6 Blackstone made two important points:
one, that the bearing arms is a “public allowance” not an intrinsic right, and therefore it is
subject to regulation. Secondly, Blackstone also notes that arms are solely to be used when
there is oppression of the government. This right is one of resistance against injustices.
Going back to Locke’s idea of the social contract: when the government breaks their part of
the deal to serve and represent the people of the United States, it is the right of the people to
break out of this contract. The right to bear arms is a key element in that process.
Saul Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in Early America (New
York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006), 198.
5 Ibid.
6 Earl R. Kruschke, The Right to Keep and Bear Arms: A Continuing American Dilemma (New York, NY: Charles C
Thomas, 1985), 9.
Now that we have established that the roots of our government and particularly our
Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is a part, it is important to make the
connection that, since the collective rights theory was the predominant theory in Britain at
the time, and since our government and many of its important documents were based off of
English law, the collective rights theory is the one that the founding fathers intended to
uphold when this amendment was written and ratified. In short, the Second Amendment
came from laws already in place in England, and since those laws did not protect the
individuals right to a gun, the Bill of Rights did not protect the individual right. “None of the
rights found in the Bill of Rights is granted or created by that document,”7 hence the right
that it protected was the preexisting right of a collective group to bear arms in defiance of
the government. A key phrase when discussing the role of guns in colonial society is “civic
duty” or “civic purpose:” “The right to have arms was linked to a particular civic purpose. It
was analogous to the right to petition, another political safeguard protecting English liberty
against arbitrary power.”8 This thought reinforces the idea of the militia and coming together
to protect freedoms from oppression. Going back to Blackstone’s fifth auxiliary right which
states that, “in civil society, one gave up right to self-defense,”9 it is easily seen that through
civic duty, militia, and the social contract that one makes with the government upon entering
civil society, the right to bear arms was intended not for self defense or other self serving
purposes, but solely for defense of the liberty of the people as a whole. Furthermore, since
in the United States we have a police force, and almost the entire country is considered
“civilized” society, the right to own a gun is no longer one that we are entitled to. In theory,
with the protection of the police, it should not be necessary.
Kruschke, The Right to Keep, 7.
Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding, 15.
9 Ibid.
In the days of the frontier, where many citizens had no protection on behalf of the
government, owning a gun was almost necessary to defend against rebellions and other
threats. But now, with government protection, we have entered the civil society and forfeited
our right to own a gun for individual protection. Perhaps we can better understand the
colonists’ fear of a domineering government by looking at how the militia had been
manipulated in England in the past. King Henry II issued the Assize of Arms in 1181, which
stated that, the “clear purpose [of the military] was to strengthen and maintain the King’s
authority.”10 Clearly, to those seeking democracy, this was a perversion of power that
mutated the militia into a pawn that served the Kings’ whims. The colonists were extremely
opposed to this idea, and did not want archaic ideas such as these to permeate their utopia.
Therefore, the militia was created as an antithesis to unbridled power of the government,
and the idea of the militia being a safeguard from oppression emerged. So, when the Second
Amendment was written, it was clearly intended to protect the people from political
oppression; the colonists were allowed to bear arms therefore, but not without restriction.
Since many of our country’s ideals were formed either in opposition to England, or based
off of pieces of the government that they found useful, we can see that when “in 1328
Parliament passed the…Statute of Northampton” which restricted the use of arms11, this
was one of pieces of legislation that the colonists approved of since they modeled laws in
America off of it. This was one of the earliest pieces of legislation restricting gun use. A fine
line existed between a right to defend liberty and anarchy, and restriction of arms was an
effective way to balance power and assure that that line was not crossed. Later we will see
further evidence of why and how the founding fathers supported restriction of arms, but for
Cottrol, Gun Control and the Constitution, 188.
Ibid 189.
now we must make another connection between our government and laws and those of
England; it is important to know that the idea was engendered in English law.
Analysis and careful consideration of quotes from the time when the Second
Amendment was being drafted are also helpful in decoding its complexities. James Madison
was the author of the Second Amendment. His views on gun rights can be interpreted
through looking at pieces of his legislation: “In a ‘bill for the preservation of deer,’ Madison
proposed a stiff penalty for individuals who hunted out of season…this law penalized
person who ‘shall bear a gun out of his enclosed ground unless whilst performing military
duty.”12 Madison’s word choice serves as an insightful view into Madison’s distinction
between “bearing a gun for personal use and for common defense.”13 Clearly Madison, the
author of the Second Amendment, saw the difference between the individualist view and the
collective view. It can be inferred, as proven in his legislation, that he opposed the idea of
owning a gun for personal use. Therefore, if we are trying to decipher the original meaning
of the framers, it is clear that the Second Amendment was intended to be a collective right.
The people also held similar views: as stated before, they did not want anarchy and
regulation was not seen as “antithetical to liberty.” Americans did not strive for unregulated
liberty, but rather well regulated liberty14. Therefore, “outside of a well-regulated society
governed by the rule of law, liberty was nothing more than anarchy”15 which the colonists
clearly opposed. This quote demonstrates the importance of regulation. In accordance with
their beliefs, all able-bodied citizens were required to purchase a military-style assault weapon
and take shooting lessons.16 While the government did not simply hand out arms, they did
Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding, 29.
14 Ibid 3.
15 Ibid 27.
16 Ibid 2.
want the people to be armed to defend liberty, particularly before the American Revolution
when many of the rights of the colonists were being breached. However, requiring that
weapons be owned should not be misinterpreted as the government encouraging violence or
promoting individuals to take matters into their own hands: it was a precautionary measure
during a turbulent time that eventually erupted into the American Revolution.
Madison’s proposed bill mustn’t be over interpreted, however, requiring gun lessons
speaks volumes, and goes back to the Statute of Northampton. The requirement of training
supports the idea that the government did not intend for individuals to have unlimited
freedom to use their guns as they wanted. Colonists were trained to combat, not to shoot
invaders in their houses. They were trained for a purpose: to defend and promote
democracy. Another restriction that was contemplated during the time was who could carry
a gun. James Madison was not alone in his support of restricted gun use; “Samuel Adams
stressed that only peaceable citizens should be protected in their right of keeping their own
arms.”17 This accounts for our current laws restricting the gun usage of criminals or anyone
who has been in jail. This recognition that not all people are fit to be gun owners supports
the notion that owning a gun is not an intrinsic right as pro-gun organizations such as the
NRA would like to believe. Returning to the origin of the right to bear arms, the idea came
from the debate between Federalists and Anti-federalists as an issue of states rights versus
federal rights.18 Anti-federalists believed that, when the Second Amendment was added to
the Constitution as a precursor for it to be ratified, it would be the “ultimate check on
federal power”19 if the federal government grew to be oppressive and abused their power:
the state regulated militias would always be there to step in and defend their rights.
Cottrol, Gun Control and the Constitution, 649.
Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding, 5
19 Ibid.
The Second Amendment can also be analyzed through its diction. When examining
the Second Amendment, it is important to know the definitions of the words in context of
the time period. One of the most important and perhaps most argued words in the
amendment is “militia.” According the George Mason, “Who are the Militia? They now
consist of the whole people.”20 All white, male, able-bodied citizens between an average
minimum and maximum age were considered part of the militia.21 Professor Cress, author of
An Armed Community: The Origins and Meaning of the Right to Bear arms, makes the point that
state constitutions “regularly used the words ‘man’ or ‘person’ in regard to individual
rights…” however in the Second Amendment, the word phrase “the people” is used instead.
This choice to use “the people” over “person” is a deliberate one intended to mean that this
right is, once again, a collective right. Professor Cress continues, saying, “’the people’ in
regard to a right to bear arms is intended to refer to the ‘sovereign society’ collectively
organized.”22 The diction and context both heavily support the idea that the right to bear
arms was intended to be a collective right. The diction separates it from other rights such as
freedom of conscience that are seen and inviolable intrinsic rights. Samuel Adams agreed,
quoting William Blackstone, “Having arms for their defense he [Blackstone] tells us is ‘a
public allowance, under due restrictions…when the sanctions of society and laws are found
insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”23 Similar to Britain, under the Assize of
Arms, Samuel Adams and his colleagues believed owning a gun was closely intertwined with
legal responsibilities of service to the state. The states relied on the militia as their power to
enforce their rights, and so they exercised that right as much as possible by requiring those
eligible to own a gun. In the eighteenth century, without the militia, the right to own a gun
Cottrol, Gun Control and the Constitution, 647.
Kruschke, The Right to Keep, 10.
22 Cottrol, Gun Control and the Constitution, 645-647
23 Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding, 13-15
would have been null and void: “Citizens had both a right and an obligation to arm
themselves so that they might participate in the militia,”24 meaning that, once again, the
individualist view point is not a viable or supportable stance when looked at throughout
history. Furthermore, we may see this right as neither purely collective nor individual, but as
an issue of states’ rights. In the modern era, we no longer have a real militia, so it can hardly
be considered a collective right under the original meaning, which protected the right to bear
arms within a militia.
The issue of gun rights has always been complex and controversial. When the 14th
Amendment was undergoing construction, Republicans intended for it to grant the federal
government “the power to incorporate the fundamental liberties protected by the Bill of
Rights,” which meant Congress and courts would have the power to protect certain rights
such as the right to bear arms. However, Democrats in favor of states’ rights argued that the
Second Amendment was intended to give power to the states. If the federal government was
given control over protecting Second Amendment, it would zap power from the states that
was originally given to them in a compromise over the Constitution. The courts agreed and
adopted the “Democratic states’ rights theory of the Second Amendment.” 25 The closer it is
examined, the easier it is to see that the amendment was intended to be anything but a
personal right. It was intended to give the states power to defend themselves from the
federal government, and the people as a whole the right to defend themselves against their
government when it was oppressive. The well regulated militia that the Amendment refers to
is a weapon of the states that they wanted to hone and make as sharp as possible, which
Ibid 17.
Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding, 6.
explains the requirement of all white men of a certain age being required to own a gun and
serve in the militia.
The state’s rights theory eventually morphed into the very different, modern,
collective rights theory in the early 1900s. The impetus for this change was the steadily
climbing rate of organized crime, especially in cities. 26 The extreme injustices such as a lack
of voting rights triggered the violence that lead to legislators crying for laws that would
hopefully lower crime rates. As a result, the Congress threw away the state militias in favor
of the National Guard so that ordinary citizens could not and would not claim that having a
gun was part of their duty to the militia; thus, the tie between civic duty and bearing arms
was severed.27 In contrast with colonial times when, “The Supreme Court…defined the
militia to mean all citizens…capable of bearing arms,” and “ these men were expected to
appear bearing arms… of the common use at the time,” now the militia is limited to
members of the modern day National Guard.28 However, the National Guard, while it does
defend states, does not defend citizens from an oppressive government because the National
Guard is a government organization. Slowly, the right of individuals to carry guns has been
sapped away, but not in favor of the original collective viewpoint of the founding fathers and
those who ratified the amendment. Antithetical to the original purpose, the Second
Amendment now further serves the government, not the people. While the militia does serve
the state governments, it still serves the national government. So, while it is a collective right
in the sense that it is the whole state’s militia, it is not individual enough to protect the
people themselves from an oppressive state government. The individual viewpoint was born
from the opposition of those trying to restrict the usage of guns; defenders of this viewpoint
Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding, 6.
28 Kruschke, The Right to Keep, 10-11.
automatically looked at the Second Amendment pointing at only the second part of the
amendment which states, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be
infringed,” but completely ignored the important preamble which sets out the purpose of the
amendment, and the context from which the amendment came29
When we look at early colonial law, we see that the preliminary states’ bills of rights
during the pre-revolutionary era restricted the power of government, not rights of the
citizens.30 If the individual right to own a gun was never established, and there is no evidence
that it was, then the Second Amendment was not restricting the usage of guns by individual
for personal purposes. In that sense, defenders of the individual right are correct in saying
that there is no amendment restricting the use of individual guns, however, that concept was
not existing and therefore could not be upheld or shot down. Another interesting fact that
stands out when early state constitutions are analyzed is that the state could force an
individual to defend the state, but not himself. No early state constitutions protected the
individual’s right to bear arms for self-defense. The right to self-defense, a complicated issue,
was excluded from constitutional law. To an English subject, self-defense was not as heavily
touted as it is today: “Flight, not armed confrontation, was the legal obligation of English
subjects when faced with a threat of personal safety.”31 That is, English citizens were
expected to run the other way if attacked, not fight back. Violence was used sparingly and
was more of a last resort rather than a first defense mechanism for English subjects. Gun
violence then was certainly not the issue it is today in our modern society. Also, further
restricting gun usage in colonial times, were not only regulations on who could own a gun
and the required lessons, but also other precautions that the government took. Reinstating
Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding, 6.
Cottrol, Gun Control and the Constitution, 202-203
31 Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding, 16.
the gun laws that regulated minutemen during the Revolutionary days “would certainly
involve more intrusive gun regulation, not less…mandatory gun registration…government
officials in their homes [inspecting] privately owned weapons,”32 measures that pro-gun
rights organizations would certainly balk at.
The history of the amendment can be understood more thoroughly through a
judicial lens. Due to the controversial nature of the Second Amendment, courts, particularly
the Supreme Court, tend to shy away from cases that deal with the Second Amendment and
from defining what the amendment explicitly means for the citizens of the United States.
One of the earliest Supreme Court cases daring to deal with the Second Amendment was
City of Salina v. Blaksley, 1905. James Blaksley was charged with carrying a revolver in the city
while under the influence of liquor. The Court ruled that the militia is the military of the
people, and their purpose is defense during times of peace during which standing armies are
prohibited. They declared that “the manner of bearing [arms]…is clearly indicated to be as a
member of a well-regulated militia….and was therefore not within the provision of the Bill
of Rights and was not protected by its terms.”33 In 1911, the case Strickland v. State was
brought before the Supreme Court of Georgia. This case involved whether or not it was
constitutional to demand that anyone who carries a gun must have a license. Gun rights
supporters argued that requiring a license was an infringement on the Second Amendment
right to bear arms because in order to obtain a license, you must pay a certain amount of
money. They argued that this disenfranchised people who could not afford a license to carry
a weapon. However, the court ruled that it was within their power to regulate the right to
bear arms. Hence, it was declared that the Second Amendment did not guarantee unlimited
Ibid, 2.
Kruschke, The Right to Keep, 48.
use of guns to everyone; states were allowed to utilize restrictions and requirements. In the
official ruling, the judges stipulated that, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall
not be infringed, but the general assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in
which arms may be born.”34 In another Supreme Court case of 1938, United States v. Miller,
the court clearly ruled, “that the constitution does not guarantee a right to be armed for
private purposes unrelated to organized state militia, whether they be hunting, recreation, or
even self-protection.” The court recognized that the man who possessed the gun in question
did not “have a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated
militia.” In other words, since he was not serving in a militia, he had no right to carry his
gun.35 In both cases, the Supreme Court confirmed that bearing arms is linked to militia
The founders intended for arms to be beared only by militias rebelling against an
oppressive government. Even the Supreme Court has affirmed this view, putting the highest
court of the land behind it. Whether this is the best interpretation of the Second
Amendment for the modern day United States is another question; however it can be safely
deduced that James Madison’s intent when he drafted the amendment was not to protect the
individual’s right to defend his house or himself using a gun. We must also take into account
that in the 1700s, the framers could not have possibly imagined the weapons of mass
destruction we have available to us today. The laws that sufficed 200 years ago may not still
be the most effective today. Through careful examination of works by respected politicians
such as William Blackstone and Samuel Adams and many of their contemporaries, we can
see that the individualist viewpoint did not emerge until well after the amendment had been
established. The key to this amendment lies in the preface, which specifically states the
purpose. In law, intent is a very important word. When a criminal is tried for murder, if it is
proven there was no intent, they can be absolved of murder. In the case of the Second
Amendment, the purpose for bearing a gun that makes it legal is very clear: to protect the
people. This piece, the intent, is the difference between legally bearing a gun and illegally
possessing one.
Cornell, Saul. A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in
Early America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Cottrol, Robert J., ed. Gun Control and the Constitution: Sources and Explorations on the Second
Amendment. New York, NY: Garland Publishing, 1994.
Gun Cite.
Kruschke, Earl R. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms: A Continuing American Dilemma. New York,
NY: Charles C Thomas, 1985.
Monk, Linda R. "The Second Amendment." In The Bill of Rights: A User's Guide, 86-97. 3rd
ed. N.p.: Close Up Foundation, 2000.