All posts by Christian Cherau

Optional Assignment – Christian Cherau


I used to do research into my Mom’s side of the family, given that I know they have been in the Americas for many generations. My father’s father side of the family came over from France in early 1900s, and my father’s mother from Sweden about the same time. From my mother’s side, I know her father’s family has a long history in the Fairfield County, Connecticut area, however I found difficulty coming up with linked census records there. I know most about my mother’s mother’s family, which I managed to trace back many generations. My grandmother was born in 1936 in Madawaska, ME. I knew from her that her family had been established potatoes farmers in the Madawaska area for generations. Using census records, I actually managed to trace her line back to France. The family was living in Madawaska as of 1800, with prior generations living outside of Quebec City, Quebec. Prior to that, the family births/deaths can be traced to the Arcadia region of Nova Scotia. My quest ended with Etienne Hebert, who was born in the Lorraine Region of France in 1625, and died in about 1670 in Arcadia, Nova Scotia. It was very, very cool for me to realize that I can trace my family back 350 years on the American continent.

For this assignment, I have decided to zero in on the 1912 election and my great great grandfather, Fortuna Hebert. Fortuna was born in 1878, in Madawaska Maine at the family farm. The 1910 Census records shows Fortuna at 32, married to wife Marie, and with 4 children, ages ranging from newborn to 3. My great-grandfather was born in 1912, therefore was a newborn during that election.

For the election, I am fairly confident that Fortuna Hebert would have voted for Theodore Roosevelt. I based this inference off of several factors: (1) Aroostook County, ME, where Madawaska is located, is a largely agrarian county. With very little industrial penetration to the very northernmost reaches of Maine, the economy was (and still is) based on farming and lumbering. Much of that farming was for subsistence. (2) I know from my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s stories that the Heberts were, and some still are, potato farmers. My grandmother continually attributes her bad knees to many childhood years spent digging potatoes. (3) Election results show the state of Maine casting their electoral votes for Wilson, with Wilson winning the more populated and urban Southern counties of Maine, including the cities of Portland, Lewiston, and Augusta. The Northern Counties are noted as voting for Roosevelt in electoral maps, and as a whole the state of Maine voted 39% for Wilson and 37% for Roosevelt. Taft garnered 20% of the vote. Roosevelt was the candidate who took on the populist and farmer’s platform in the 1912 election, while Wilson ultimately appealed to more urban sentiments. Therefore, this dispersion of votes in Maine makes remarkable sense, with the north end of the state, including Madawaska, historically being agricultural while Portland, Auburn, and Lewiston especially making the southern part of the state much more industrialized.

Christian Cherau Response to Berle and Hoover

I found it interesting how Hoover harkened to the virtue of freedom so extensively in his brief rebuttal to the ideas of the New Deal, however Berle does indeed acknowledge the need to preserve an idea of freedom in his opines on the New Deal and its potential. Berle’s ideal New Deal would see government taking a much increased role in the operations of the nation’s economy and industries, with that increased involvement wrapping up the American citizens as well. Berle references the chef who could potentially be forced to cook for others in order to get his hypothetic “food card” and support himself, even if he thoroughly dislikes being a servant for others. Berle admits that this nearly communist system would be “substantially the same as imposing sentence of death” if the worker does not enjoy his job. Most importantly, Berle admits that under his system of heavy government involvement, “a great deal of the grace of life and human values which we all of us hold dear, might very easily go out.” Berle basically concedes that while on paper, a plan that involves government involvement in every industry would be wonderful, in all reality government involvement in business has been observed to not exactly be a profitable venture, see the Berle referenced US Post Office or the ever in the red Amtrak.

These concerns are largely shared by Herbert Hoover in his rebuttal to the New Deal, who voices his concerns over the “economic planning” used to “regiment and coerce the farmer,” with the repeated concern that many New Deal programs would “shackle free men.” However, Hoover may be taking things to the opposite extreme, losing his point through too much use of metaphor at the conclusion. Man-made, or governmental, machines may not be the sole solution, as Hoover understands, however Hoover needs to acknowledge that some sort of government machinery is necessary by the government in order for the economy to be pulled back from palling into further recession. Total liberty and laissez-faire policies, as Hoover is desperate to return to, may not be the best policy as history should have taught him, however Berle himself admits that the high level of government intervention he champions may break down when confronted with human nature.

Radio Response – Christian Cherau

I listened to two episodes of the Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue, which was a 15 minute syndicated program that aired on the radio from 1933 to 1935. The show was branded as a comedy on the archive.

Commenting on the content of the show itself, the broadcast did an excellent job of telling a quick story complete with all the descriptions necessary for it to make sense to the listener. The first episode set up the back-story of the duo, as inept grocery warehouse workers who get their start investigating when inventory numbers reveal that some sort of burglary is occurring. They discover the night-watchman is helping thieves make off with bags of Domino sugar, and the episode ends with Blue knocking over a can and the two being found by the night watchman. This twist is not resolved in the next episode. The next episode available ended with Blue falling through 5 floors of skylights in a comedic fashion, however given that the series continued for a long period afterwards, it suggests that the series focused more on the slapstick comedy than on continuity.

In terms of messages relayed by the show itself, there were two avenues of messages being presented to the listener: advertising and common sense. The advertising was fairly blatant: the program was proudly sponsored by Folgers Coffee, and product placement of Domino Sugar was prominent through the first episode. More interestingly, however, was the drops of seemingly common sense advice being offered in between the plot and comedy in the conversation between the characters. At one point, Black offers Blue investment advice, urging him to put his money into savings accounts that earn interest rather than his typical investment in pyramid schemes

On the whole, I enjoyed immersing myself in the early radio world. To my modern ears, it was almost akin to listening to a book on tape, where my mind can wander and build the fictional world as I listen.

Roosevelt’s The New Nationalism Speech – Christian Cherau

I found it interesting that Theodore Roosevelt brings concern to many areas of government versus corporate culture that are still contested today, be it labor versus capital, definition of corporations, or capital gains.

Roosevelt harkens to the words of Abraham Lincoln to build his case of the importance of labor over capital, specifically with Lincoln’s statement that “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed” (Pg 3). With the United States still adjusting to the massive changes going on with the shift from an agricultural nation to an industrial one, and the profits being made off this radical and rapid transformation, Roosevelt’s warnings could have had higher yield had he made them 20 years before this 1910 speech. However, in that short period of time, capital had cemented itself over all else in American life, especially after the impact it had in shaping the 1896 election courtesy of the footwork by John Hannah. Hannah’s labor, in this case labor to win the election for McKinley, was indeed second fiddle to the sheer volume of capital he drummed up and spent. The implications of the increasing focus of American life on capital means that Roosevelt was already fighting a losing battle to maintain or perhaps, even by 1910, re-instill that idea that labor should be of more importance to Americans than capital.

Roosevelt also brings up a conflict that has re-appeared after recent elections, and that is the identification of a corporation. Recent elections and Supreme Court decisions have contested whether or not a corporation is a “person,” often for the sake of campaign contributions. Roosevelt also argues over the identity of corporations, insisting that they have no impact on the political process, be it financially or influentially. Roosevelt affirms that corporations are a special interest, however “not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office” (Pg 5). Given that corporations are a relatively new form of business organization in 1910, it is interesting to note how Roosevelt was very aware and wary of their increasing influence in politics as the influence of the traditional party boss dissipated.

I want to close with concern over Roosevelt’s idea of capital gains, insofar as he says “We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community” (Pg 6). Roosevelt cites the importance of protecting property several times at the start of his speech, but then comes out with this statement. To me, risking money on the stock market and coming up big is risk that, should it prove successful, be indicatory of major life achievement and the American way of life. Those earnings are still fair earnings, and while they may not directly help Roosevelt’s community in any way, I do not see how they are harming it. Roosevelt essentially is acting as the “A & B” of William Graham Sumner’s essay, telling the rich that if they have money, it much go to helping the community.

Bellamy and Garlin Response – Christian Cherau

Garlin and Bellamy illustrate two very contrasting images of the current and potential future of American life as it was in the 1890s, with wealth becoming increasingly distributed and opposition to capitalism as it existed, in the form of socialism and radical leftist ideals, firmly coming into existence.

Using Garlin’s Under the Lion’s Paw, capitalism is displayed in an interesting crossover of agriculture and business. At a time when fears of big businessmen such as Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, and JP Morgan, and their powers through their wealth, gripped the nation, Garlin tells the story of capitalism on a smaller, and to a casual reader, a more palatable and understandable scale. Interestingly, however, the reader must engage in careful analysis of the situation the desperate farmers, the Haskins, find themselves in throughout the story. At the conclusion the reader, myself included, felt a great deal of anger towards the land owner, Mr. Butler, for doubling the Haskins rent and their cost to buy out the land from him. It must be noted, however, that Butler played the risk on the land just as much as the Haskins did, Butler has just “won” the land speculation game more times and knew what he was getting into. Anyone can find success in land speculation as Butler did. He started off as just a simple store owner, a “land poor” western man who was up all night and day toiling to keep his store running. He just had the cunning to make decisions to get ahead and practice smart business. The Haskins find success as well, however their financial burden increased as a result of it. They lost in the end, however this was due to a large misstep in the beginning that capitalists are very keen about. In the all-important negotiating process, the desperate Haskins did not think to plan ahead for the financial future of the land they were renting. Butler, the western capitalist, knew how to speculate and find success. Simply, Haskins’ new rent at the conclusion was his own fault, and it was not worth murdering the capitalist who has fairly won the right to charge more for the land.

As mentioned, Bellamy writes in fear of this potential of capitalism, marked by men known “to view their natural prey in their fellow men, and find their gain in the loss of others;” instead he envisions for the future a utopia marked by government control of every economic and business decision within the nation. Bellamy’s romanticizing of politicians and their power, especially in saying “We should have thought that no arrangement could be worse than to entrust the politicians with control of the wealth-producing machinery of the country,” comes in stark contrast to the earlier capitalist-centric writings of Andrew Carnegie and especially William Graham Sumner, who had a distinct distrust of politicians, philanthropists, and humanitarians deciding what to do with the capital of the wealthy to help the working classes. Bellamy fails to consider that those who have earned the capital are those who probably know how to best administer it, especially given the free nature of the United States. Bellamy’s idealist future is nice and perfect, but he fails to consider the steps and the people who need to take those steps in order to achieve that perfection.

Turner Response – Christian Cherau

I found myself quite appreciating the claims made in Frederick Jackson Turner’s “The  significance of the Frontier in American History.” Turner equates the development of the American culture to always being on “the meeting point between savagery and civilization,” insofar as the fact that “American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier,” as opposed to developing within its own already civilized spheres as European culture had been doing for many centuries beforehand. Turner essentially defines this new way for a culture to develop, with the American melding of rugged Western individualism and perseverance to Eastern piety and education.

The idea that the development of a truly unique American culture came with and was fortified by the conquering of every frontier was a new way of looking at American culture for me, especially when Turner calls studying the frontier “the really American part of our history.” Turner attributes much of the conquering of the traveling American frontier to the conquering and conversion of Buffalo trails to Indian Trails to turnpikes to, at the time of writing, railroads, along with the conversion of Indian trading outposts to cities. The critical difference in the creation and development of American culture from European culture is that Americans were settling and starting population centers from much more “savage” backgrounds. Unlike European population centers that had been settled for many centuries and been the nexus for many a culture, Americans were working essentially from scratch in fulfilling their manifest destiny.

The interesting contrast Turner brings up is the almost disparaging difference between New England and essentially the rest of the country. Being a native New Englander this section was of additional interest to me, as Turner calls it out for standing for the English Puritanism movement in the nineteenth century. Turner’s interesting claim here is that “Even the New Englander, who was shut out from the frontier by the Middle region, tarrying in New York or Pennsylvania on his westward march, lost the acuteness of his sectionalism on the way.” Even today, over a century from the writings of this text, New England retains a certain degree of sectionalism from the rest of the country, which, quite simply to a native New Englander, has a different feeling about it when looking outward.

This difference however, along with the formation of a similar American culture across all lands that were once frontier lands, makes sense in the context of how Turner closes his text: “the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.” This means that the country no longer is looking outwards to develop itself and its culture, but is now looking inwards for development. This development, to me, means that certain vestiges of American culture from this point become more locked into the national schema, and more certain to persist into the future.

Carnegie/Sumner Distribution of Wealth

With regard to the writings on wealth by Andrew Carnegie and William Sumner, I found myself very much agreeing with the concerns of both regarding  how wealth should be distributed to society. However, in Carnegie’s first section on the Administration of Wealth, I found myself having concern in Carnegie’s insistence over the matter of  the amount of wealth redistribution.

A common point harped upon by both authors is their concern with the proper and responsible distribution of wealth to the poor and those who need it. Carnegie himself acknowledges several times the fact that nine hundred and fifty of every thousand dollars spent on charity is unwisely spent several times, calling many recipients of charity the “the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy” (pg 26). Sumner essentially addresses these people as the “weak” ones of society; they are those that “neutralize and destroy the finest efforts of the wise and industrious” (pg 19). Given these shared concerns in the wealth distribution philosophy, which I completely agree with, I enjoyed reading through Carnegie’s seven ways to provide for the less-well off while being productive in doing so and not encouraging bad behavior. Simply put, the temptation of cash in the hands of the poor is too great to use it poorly, but give them things great sums of money can provide like libraries and parks, and they all will benefit.

My greatest concern with Carnegie’s thoughts comes with his insistence that excess wealth be redistributed. Anyone who does not purge their wealth from their name by the end of their life, through philanthropy, is a lesser person and “cannot held in graceful remembrance” (pg 21). Granted, Carnegie does not say how much wealth is proper for a wealthy individual to return to society, but it could be argued he believes all of a man’s accumulated wealth should be returned. One of many, sometimes conflicting, definitions of success is of what you leave behind for family and loved ones, and if they are left with no wealth because it has all been donated away, would they hold their philanthropist ancestor with spite? I agree that philanthropy while a wealthy man is living is a boon for society, but a balance of wealth distribution and maintaining personal wealth for those who will be carrying on the family name is quite necessary.