Late last fall my plane touched down at National Airport in Washington, I turned on my phone and there was an interview request from a rep...
Triumph and tragedy in Maine's Indian country
Staff Writer Colin Woodard spent more than a year researching “Unsettled,” logging thousands of miles and more than 250 hours of interviews with some 70 sources, including past governors of Maine and the reservations, tribal elders, councilors and activists, as well as attorneys, state officials, police officers and academic experts.
I spent a fair part of 2019 working on my sixth book and, to close out the year, am pleased to be able to share its cover art, preliminary...
Union tells the story of how the myth of our national origins, identity, and purpose was intentionally created in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A small group of individuals--historians, political leaders, and novelists--fashioned a history that attempted to erase the fundamental differences and profound tensions between the nation's regional cultures, the motive for the Confederacy's secession (protecting a slave system), and even the reasons that drove the colonies to secede from Britain. These men were creating the idea of an American nation instead of a union of disparate states, and a specific, ethnically defined "American people" instead of just a republican citizenry.
Their emerging nationalist story was immediately and powerfully contested by another set of intellectuals and firebrands who argued that the United States was instead an ethno-state, the homeland of the allegedly superior "Anglo-Saxon" race, upon whom Divine and Darwinian favor shined. Their vision helped create a new federation--the Confederacy--prompting the bloody Civil War. While defeated on the battlefield, their vision later managed to win the war of ideas in the late nineteenth century, capturing the White House in the early twentieth century, and offering the first consensus, pan-regional vision of U.S. nationhood by the close of the first World War. This narrower, more exclusive vision of America would be overthrown in mid-century, but as early twenty-first-century Americans discovered, it was never fully vanquished. Woodard tells the story of the genesis and epic confrontations between these visions of our nation's path and purpose through the lives of the key figures who created them, a cast of characters whose personal quirks and virtues, gifts and demons shaped the destiny of millions.
The struggle between individual rights and the good of the community as a whole has been the basis of nearly every major disagreement in our history, from the debates at the Constitutional Convention and in the run up to the Civil War to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, the New Dealers, the civil rights movement, and the Tea Party. In American Character, Colin Woodard traces these two key strands in American politics through the four centuries of the nation’s existence, from the first colonies through the Gilded Age, Great Depression and the present day, and he explores how different regions of the country have successfully or disastrously accommodated them. The independent streak found its most pernicious form in the antebellum South but was balanced in the Gilded Age by communitarian reform efforts; the New Deal was an example of a successful coalition between communitarian-minded Eastern elites and Southerners.
Woodard argues that maintaining a liberal democracy, a society where mass human freedom is possible, requires finding a balance between protecting individual liberty and nurturing a free society. Going to either libertarian or collectivist extremes results in tyranny. But where does the “sweet spot” lie in the United States, a federation of disparate regional cultures that have always strongly disagreed on these issues? Woodard leads readers on a riveting and revealing journey through four centuries of struggle, experimentation, successes and failures to provide an answer. His historically informed and pragmatic suggestions on how to achieve this balance and break the nation’s political deadlock will be of interest to anyone who cares about the current American predicament—political, ideological, and sociological.
In the early eighteenth century, the Pirate Republic was home to some of the great pirate captains, including Blackbeard, "Black Sam" Bellamy, and Charles Vane. Along with their fellow pirates—former sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves—this "Flying Gang" established a crude but distinctive democracy in the Bahamas, carving out their own zone of freedom in which servants were free, blacks could be equal citizens, and leaders were chosen or deposed by a vote. They cut off trade routes, sacked slave ships, and severed Europe from its New World empires, and for a brief, glorious period the Republic was a success.
I am an award-winning journalist and author of American Nations, American Character, Ocean's End, The Lobster Coast, and The Republic of Pirates. I'm a staffer at the Portland Press Herald, where I won a 2012 George Polk Award for my investigative reporting and was named a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist.