Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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Tonight on CBS, David McCullough sizes up presidential elections

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Over the transom from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History:

David McCullough on 60 Minutes 11/4/12, 7:30 EST

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough joined the Gilder Lehrman Institute board in 2012 because he feels strongly about the Institute’s focus on improving the level of historical literacy in our country.

On Sunday night, Nov. 4, in the first of a two-part interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” program, he discusses the history of presidential elections.

Recounting how Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in 1800, McCullough says Jefferson paid a journalist to write that his opponent was “a mentally unbalanced hermaphrodite.” Adams spread the word that a Jefferson victory would mean murder, rape and robbery in the streets, McCullough says.

Check your local TV listings. Two possibilities: TV StarTVGuide and Yahoo! TV

The Gilder Lehman Institute’s quarterly online journal, History Now, has some great content on the race for the White House over the decades. It features five leading scholars on five significant and unusual presidential races, plus a piece on the electoral college–which may prove crucial in 2012′s race–and an interactive timeline on elections through the years.

The journal’s editor, Carol Berkin, writes:  “If the campaigns have changed, the capacity of a presidential election to shape and reshape our national history has not. And this is why they are so important to us as history teachers and historians. Some, like FDR’s election to a fourth term, set critical precedents, leading to amendments to the constitution. Others, like the 1824 election, brought changes in the nomination process. And, in others, like the election of Abraham Lincoln, the very course of our national history was determined. In our own lifetimes, presidential campaigns have signaled major changes in our cultural norms and values.”