Frederick Douglass on Slavery and the Constitution

I have often been awakened . . . by the most heartrending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his […]

Is the Electoral College Anti-Democratic?

“Uniquely and blatantly anti-democratic.” “Two of the last five presidents were elected despite losing the popular vote.” “How can a democracy be sustained when the will of a majority of voters is simply ignored?” “More than two centuries after it was designed to empower southern white voters, the system continues to do just that.” “It’s […]

A New Nation, Conceived in . . . Slavery?

By David Harmer July 1, 1863: Emboldened by Confederate victories, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia has ventured well above the Mason-Dixon line. Approaching Harrisburg, it threatens the Union’s industrial heartland and imperils Washington, D.C., from the north. Frustrated by the underperformance of the Army of the Potomac, President Lincoln has given command to […]

What, to him, was the American flag?

By David Harmer Born and raised in the United States, he was American through and through. He’d been a newspaper delivery boy, a Boy Scout, in Junior ROTC. Now the nation—his nation—was at war. So he volunteered for military service—and was rejected. The government deemed him ineligible for one reason: his ancestry. His parents loved […]

Founding Mother

By David Harmer “It was a courageous show on the part of a woman who had already buried a husband and three children,” writes Ron Chernow, “the last of whom had died little more than a year before.”[1] When they were alive, even brief separation from her children triggered overwhelming apprehension. Every bark of a […]

Ukraine, Autocracy, and America

By David Harmer Propped up in her hospital bed, her wounded head bandaged, her face pockmarked and lacerated, 27-year-old Olga cradles her infant daughter, Victoria—alive only because Olga had used her own body as a shield. Not all mothers were able. Attempting escape with her six-year-old, Sofiya, her five-week-old, Vanyushka, and her parents, Irina was […]

Roots of Presidential Greatness

By David Harmer Four American presidents were born in February. One is notable only for the brevity of his tenure: William Henry Harrison died a month after taking office. The other three were George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan. In recognition of President Reagan’s 111th birthday, the Union League of Philadelphia asked me to speak […]

Confessing Other People’s Sins

By David Harmer Few of life’s pleasures compare with that of confessing someone else’s sins—and that’s a pleasure at which we Americans, across the political spectrum, have become woefully proficient. Pick an issue of public policy—the 2020 election and January 6; ballot access and ballot security; COVID-19, its origin, and public health authorities’ responses; Black […]