". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, February 27, 2014

An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson

"Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army and Agent 13 in the Spanish Secret Service."

In order to celebrate Dr. K's declaration that my broken elbow radial head bone has healed earlier this week upon examination of the x-rays and my real physical shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand -- I am celebrating!  I am also indulging myself as NYC soldier's through yet another polar vortex -- temperature down to 10 degrees tonight.  Yes, ten.

Celebration and indulgence mean curling up in bed with Scottish biographer Andro Linklater's 2009 work,

An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson. whose treachery to the U.S. makes Benedict Arnold look a proper piker.*  As well, General Arnold was a very good general in the field, and a good leader.

Wilkinson, on the other hand, was a complete failure as a general and fighting fellow -- one of the many land officers who failed entirely in the War of 1812. Nevertheless one of them suffered the full weight of official opprobrium, while the other lived a prosperous life of constant betrayal of all with whom he lived and worked.

A Marylander aristocrat, he was forced twice to resign his positions in the U.S. Army, rebounded to have T Jefferson name him the first governor of the Louisiana Territory, goaded Aaron Burr to actively declare rebellion and treason against Jefferson and the U.S., though Burr was always too wiley to do any such thing, on paper or vocally.

A true Flashman, Wilkinson's tale is long, colorful and, indeed, flashy.  This is going to be great reading.


*  Wilkinson, then Benedict Arnold's aide, was the one to blow the whistle about Arnold to his superiors.

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