Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thomas Fleming's "The Great Divide"

Thomas Fleming is a distinguished historian and the author of more than fifty books. A frequent guest on PBS, C-SPAN, and the History Channel, Fleming has contributed articles to American Heritage, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, and many other magazines. He lives in New York City.

His new book is The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation.

Here Fleming highlights an episode from American history ripe for adaptation to the big screen:
I never visualized a movie that would encompass this whole book. But I saw a good movie in one part of the story. The Whiskey Rebellion would dramatize the first attempt by Americans to secede from the Union. “Democratic Societies” modeled on the radical Jacobin Clubs of Paris have been denouncing President Washington’s administration for months. With Thomas Jefferson’s encouragement, newspapers have been echoing this attempt to launch a French style revolution -- a war against the rich. The Societies encouraged the 70,000 pioneers in western Pennsylvania to attack federal tax collectors and persuade westerners in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina to join them in forming a separate country. A rabble-rouser named David Bradford has great potential as a central character. Wearing the uniform of a major general, he tells a huge crowd outside Pittsburgh that the British in Canada are eager to give them money and guns. As for “Old Man Washington,” he was too comfortable in his mansion in Philadelphia to do anything about it.

President Washington’s response makes the Old Man Washington epithet the misnomer of the decade.... He summons 13,000 men from nearby states and asks them – and the rest of the country – to join him in smashing this threat to the American Union. He personally leads the army in its march west. The response is overwhelming. The proto-rebellion collapses in a few days. Bradford and the men around him flee west. At his mansion in Virginia, an unhappy ex-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson sneers that the president went to all this trouble to discover a revolt but “never found one.”
Visit Thomas Fleming's website.

Writers Read: Thomas Fleming.

The Page 99 Test: The Great Divide.

--Marshal Zeringue