Wednesday, February 17, 2016

7 Questions with Stephen Knott, Co-Author of Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America

Dr.  Stephen Knott is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the United States Naval War  
College.  Prior to accepting his position at the Naval War College, Dr. Knott was Co-Chair of the Presidential Oral History Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. His books include The Reagan YearsAlexander Hamilton and the Persistence of MythSecret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American PresidencyAt Reagan’s Side: Insiders’ Recollections from Sacramento to the White House; Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics, and Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America (2015). 

1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I got hooked at quite a young age. My father loved history, and I remember him reading to me out of children’s history books when I was a child. He would also take me to historic sites such as Gettysburg, Fort Ticonderoga, and to a number of sites throughout New England. I grew up in Massachusetts, so I happened to be born in a state with a rich history, especially from the revolutionary war-era. Lexington-Concord were not all that far removed, as was the Freedom Trail in Boston. So in a sense I was born into a ready-made historical environment.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
My father was older than most dad’s when I was born, and he had a great-uncle who had fought in the American Civil War (for the South, ironically). He also remembered having his hair cut by a Civil War veteran when he was a child. The personal connection my father had with the Civil War had quite an impact on me.

Our love of history was a deeply shared bond between the two of us. My Dad was a skilled painter, so I would occasionally find a photo or a painting in a book that I liked and I would asked him to do a copy for me. He would, and the walls of my bedroom were lined with these paintings of battles from the American Revolution or the Civil War. I still have many of them, and they are treasured heirlooms.

3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
When it came time to enter college it was an extremely close call whether I would major in history or political science. I ended up majoring in the latter, but only because some advisor told me that political science would be more “marketable.” So my doctorate is in political science, but American history has always been my first love.  My books tend to focus on the American presidency, but with an historical focus. In fact, the way I teach American government, and the entirety of my research efforts, are all conducted through the lens of history. I tell my fellow political scientists that I am a “closet historian.”

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
It’s a cliché, but there really is nothing new under the sun. Our toys and our trappings may change, but human nature is fixed in my view. Therefore, I believe we can learn a lot from the actions and actors of the past. That said, I am sometimes shocked at the lack of historical knowledge on the part of political scientists; it strikes me as next to impossible to be a good teacher of American politics or international relations without having a deep understanding of history.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
American history, 1776-2015. OK, that was a weak attempt at humor. But I do love the entirety of American history, although I am probably the weakest on the Gilded Age and somewhat on the progressive era. My favorite period would be the founding era and the early American republic, the Civil War, and the 20th century from World War II to the present. My love of history comes naturally to me; I honestly don’t understand people who seem to care less about it. That is very alien to me….  

6. What was the basis of the bond between Washington and Hamilton?
Theirs was an unlikely bond, for Washington and Hamilton could not have been more different. Washington was a gentleman-farmer from the patrician colony of Virginia and the owner of a great estate enriched by the labor of African slavery.  Hamilton, on the other hand, was as John Adams brusquely put it, the “bastard brat of a Scotch peddler” and an immigrant from the West Indies.  A self-made man, he made his way to America on his own and earned his positions in the army and in the government.  Despite their differences, Washington and Hamilton shared a lot of common ground. Unlike many of their great contemporaries, Washington and Hamilton saw war up close and personal; they were brothers in arms in a sense, and as any combat veteran will attest to, combat is a bonding experience like no other. As a result of their wartime experience, they concluded that the collection of states that fought the American Revolution needed to take the next step and begin, in Hamilton’s words, to “think continentally.” They wanted Americans to think of themselves as Americans, not as Virginians or New Yorkers. They were both guided by a sense of American nationalism and worked closely together to assist in winning the American Revolution, adopting the Constitution, and creating the institutions necessary to secure liberty at home and respect abroad.

7. How would the U.S. have been different if Hamilton didn’t exist?
Hamilton’s economic vision was contrary to that of Jefferson’s, and as such the United States might not have moved (or at least not moved as quickly) in the direction of becoming a manufacturing nation. I would also argue that Hamilton’s economic policies (a national bank, tariffs to protect American manufacturing, and the stabilization of the nation’s finances which enabled the nation to establish a good credit rating) all contributed to the overall rise of the United States as an economic superpower. It is also possible that the Union might have disintegrated more rapidly than it did had there been no Washington and Hamilton. Their vision of an America where its citizens thought “continentally” was accomplished in part by creating institutions which would bind the people to the national government, not their respective states. For example: the aforementioned national bank; or the assumption by the national government of the state debts from the Revolutionary War; or Washington’s proposal for a national university (which did not come to pass). All of these steps contributed to a sense of American “nationhood.”

Additionally, Hamilton laid the theoretical blueprint in The Federalist Papers for an “energetic executive” – a blueprint followed closely by the first president. From the beginning to the end of this most important first presidency, Washington followed Hamilton’s advice, much to Thomas Jefferson’s distress. Remove Hamilton from Washington’s cabinet, and you would have set a number of very different precedents. Interestingly, Washington understood how vital Hamilton was to his presidency, supporting Hamilton through the embarrassing revelation of his extra-marital affair, while at the same time cutting off all contact with Jefferson, who had deceived him on multiple occasions.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

7 Questions With Mo Aguiari, Commemorative Air Force

Moreno “Mo” Aguiari was born in Italy and moved to the U.S. in 1999 – becoming a U.S. citizen in 2007.  He is a pilot and in charge of Marketing for the CAF. He is also the co-chairman of the annual Atlanta Warbird Weekend, a showcase for World War II planes and re-enactors. When not flying or marketing for the CAF, he enjoys time with his wife, three kids and two dogs.  The CAF Dixie Wing’s website is .

1.      How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I was born in Italy therefore I was born with history around me. Since a young child i was fascinated with history and aviation, therefore working with warbirds was a natural thing to do. 

2.      What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
If you know History you can understand the present and very likely expect things to happen in the future.

3.      How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
I am the Director of Digital Marketing for the CAF, so it became part of my career. 

4.      Why is studying/knowing history important?
As mentioned if you know History you can understand the present, the people, different cultures and gain knowledge which would allow you to have a more fulfilled life.

5.      What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
Probably the Roman Empire since it set the basis for the modern western society with its political settings, democratic principles and architectural achievement. The first part of the 1900th century it also one of my favorite due to the many technological innovation. The airplane is one of them, simply fascinating.

6.       What is the mission of the Commemorative Air Force?
The Commemorative Air Force was founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans.

More than just a collection of airworthy warplanes from the past, the CAF's fleet of historic aircraft, known as the CAF Ghost Squadron, recreate, remind and reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history.

7.      What projects are upcoming for the CAF?
We always have something cooking. The most exciting project we just completed can be seen here: