Cuba Announces Defensive Military Exercises

On November 9 (the day after Donald Trump’s presidential election) Cuba announced it would conduct defensive military exercise later this month.[1]

The announcement came in Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba when the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces said that on November 16-18 it would conduct this exercise as part of its “continuous efforts to maintain the country’s defense preparedness” and as a “a fundamental element of the implementation of the doctrine of War by the Entire People.”

The objectives of this exercise “include the training of leadership bodies and command staff in different entities responsible for the nation’s defense; and the organization of work to keep the population and troops prepared to respond to different enemy actions.” The “maneuvers and tactical exercises will take place with the participation of Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) units, the Ministry of the Interior, and other components of the defense system, including the movement of troops, material, aviation, and explosives in the cases where this may be required.” (Emphasis added.)

Although the official announcement of this exercise did not link it to the election of Donald Trump the previous day, Michael Wasserstein of the Associated Press did so. He pointed out that it is the seventh such exercise, often held in response to points of high tension with the U.S. The first was in 1980 after the election of Ronald Reagan as U.S. president, and during this year’s campaign Trump said he would reverse President Obama’s measures to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba.

William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University and a noted U.S. expert on U.S.-Cuba relations, commented, “With both the White House and Congress in Republican hands, there is nothing to stop Trump from keeping his pledge to resurrect the Cold War-era policy of hostility, despite opinion polls showing broad public support for engagement.”

The Cuban announcement strongly suggests that the Cuban government had contingency plans to do so in case Trump won the election.

The same day (November 9), however, Cuba’s President Raúl Castro sent this brief message to Donald Trump: “On the occasion of your election as President of the United States of America, I send you congratulations.”

The news of this message in Granma emphasized these Trump comments in his victory speech: “Let’s get along with all other nations who are willing to get along with us. We’ll have a fabulous relationship. . . . I want to tell the international community that while the interests of America will always be a priority, we will deal fairly with everyone. To all people and all nations. Let’s find common ground, no hostilities. Associations, not conflict.”[2]

Conclusion

As a strong advocate for U.S.-Cuba normalization and the ending of many U.S. policies that contradict such efforts, I have been troubled by Donald Trump’s statements about Cuba during the campaign and now worry about what as president he will do about Cuba. I now hope that the previously quoted comments from his victory statement on the morning of November 9 will be the guiding light with respect to Cuba.

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[1] Strategic Exercise “Bastión 2016” Scheduled November 16-18, Granma (Nov. 9, 2016); Weissenstein, Cuba announces nationwide military exercises to confront ‘enemy actions,’ Wash. Post (Nov. 9, 2016); Reuters, Cuba Announces Military Exercises After Trump Elected U.S. President, N.Y. Times (Nov. 9, 2016).

[2] Raúl sends message of congratulations to President-elect Trump, Granma (Nov. 10, 2016); Cuban Leader Castro Congratulates Trump on Victory in US Presidential Election, Sputnik News (Nov. 10, 2016). The original English version of Trump’s comments said this: “[W]e will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us. . . . We will have great relationships. We expect to have great, great relationships. . . . I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone. All people and all other nations. We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” Full text of Trump’s victory speech, StarTribune (Nov. 9, 2016).

Recommended Obama Administrative Actions To Promote U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation         

On August 29, a U.S. coalition made important recommendations for the Obama Administration to promote further U.S.-Cuba reconciliation by taking administrative actions that did not need congressional authorization.[1] Here is a summary of these recommendations:

  1. Facilitate Greater Financial Engagement and Expand Commercial Transactions.”

These recommendations included (a) authorizing, “by general license, or a general policy of approval, participation by U.S. investors in business arrangements in Cuba, including with state-owned firms, cooperatives, or private sector firms, when the goods or services produced benefit the Cuban people;” and (b) authorizing “by a general policy of approval, the import and sale in the United States of Cuban agricultural products made by the private and cooperative sectors, including transactions that pass through Cuban state export agencies.”

  1. Expand Health-Related Engagement.”

These recommendations included (a) eliminating “barriers which deny U.S. citizens access to clinically proven Cuban-developed drugs; (b) authorizing “U.S. pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies to include Cuban hospitals and health centers in their clinical trials;” and (c) authorizing “U.S. entities (universities, research centers, and private firms) by general license to collaborate in medical and health-related research and development projects in Cuba, including commercial projects.”

  1. Strengthen Security Cooperation where there are U.S. Interests at Stake.”

These recommendations included (a) deepening and extending “counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics cooperation;” and (b) building “gradually on military–to-military contacts.”

  1. Eliminate or Suspend Programs that Fail to . . . Promote Democratic Opening.”

These recommendations were (a) suspending or redirecting “the ‘democracy promotion’ programs now funded through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), and USAID, while conducting a review of existing programs to ensure they are consistent with the President’s policies of normalization of relations with Cuba;” and (b) ensuring that “any program or policy that is carried out under this rubric should be conducted openly, transparently, and with the goal of expanding contacts between the people of the US and Cuba without interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs.”

Amen! This blog repeatedly has called for just such action. (See posts listed in “U.S. Democracy Promotion in Cuba” in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: Cuba.)

  1. Normalize Migration.”

These recommendations were (a) increasing “the number of visas [the U.S.] issues for Cubans to obtain legal residence;” (b) ending “preferential treatment for Cuban migrants arriving at U.S. borders;” and (c) ending “the Cuban Medical Professionals Parole Program, which offers incentives to Cuban doctors working abroad to leave their country and immigrate to the [U.S.].”

Amen again! This blog repeatedly has called for just such action. (See posts listed in “Cuban Medical Personnel & U.S.” and “Cuban Migration to U.S., 2015-2016” in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: Cuba.)

Conclusion

The coalition’s letter also supported Congress’ enacting measures to end the U.S. embargo of Cuba; to give U.S. farmers better access to the Cuban market, by permitting private financing for U.S. agricultural sales; to provide full staffing for the U.S. Embassy in Havana to protect American citizens and provide visas to qualified Cuban applicants; to better manage irregular migration from Cuba; and to take steps to level the playing field for U.S. businesses interested in the Cuban market, relative to foreign competitors.

The coalition consisted of Geoff Thale (Program Director, Washington Office on Latin America); Ted Piccone (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution); William LeoGrande (Professor, American University); Fulton Armstrong (Senior Faculty Fellow, American University); Alana Tummino (Senior Director of Policy, Americas Society/Council of the Americas); Sarah Stephens (Executive Director, Center for Democracy in the Americas); Mavis Anderson (Senior Associate, Latin America Working Group); Tomas Bilbao (Managing Director, Avila Strategies); Mario Bronfman (Private consultant); and James Williams (President, Engage Cuba).

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[1] Letter, Coalition to President Obama (Aug. 29, 2016). This blogger assumes that the coalition independently researched and concluded that the Obama Administration has the legal authority to take such administrative actions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reforming U.S. “Democracy Promotion” Programs in Cuba

One of the major irritants to normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations has been the U.S. conducting so-called “democracy promotion” programs on the island. In reality they have been misguided programs aimed at regime change in Cuba. Prominent examples have been the “discreet” or “covert” programs sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide communications equipment to Jewish congregations and to promote social media systems in Cuba.[1]

Reforms of such programs have been proposed by Fulton Armstrong, a Research Fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies.[2] Here are his suggestions:

  1. Collaborate with Cuba on the programs. ”U.S. runs programs to support democracy and good governance in many countries, [including] allies like Mexico and Colombia, under the authority of other laws and with a more collegial tone. “
  2. “Restore and expand what worked in the past. The distribution of books and clippings; support for exchange visits; promotion of academic and cultural events; and other nonpolitical activities that include people with government affiliation should resume. They are inexpensive and, by welcoming people to better understand us rather than trying to drive political change, they are more likely to succeed. [The] U.S. Embassy in Havana could sponsor vehicles offering non-political, non-coercive access to online information.”
  3. “Decontaminate democracy programs. The organizations that have already spent the $200 million dollars trying unsuccessfully to drive regime change should be bypassed to [have] . . . [legitimate] U.S. civil society organizations forging ties with Cuban counterparts. . . . For example, American librarians can ask their Cuban counterparts for lists of needed books and, with a U.S. grant, buy them so that Cuban youths get the information they need. Doctors eager to provide pro bono medical care should have access to funds to purchase and ship medications and equipment based on appraisals developed with on-the-ground contacts. U.S. and Cuban universities could use money to sponsor two-way exchanges of students whom they choose . . . . ”
  4. “Acknowledge that Cuba is changing. [Abandon U.S. bans on collaboration with entities connected with the Cuban government affiliated with the Cuban government.]”
  5. Abandon discreet or covert programs.

I concur in these suggestions.

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[1] Prior posts have criticized such programs: U.S. Secret Cuba Social Media Program Raises Questions about the Validity of Criticisms of Cuba by the U.S. commission on International Religious Freedom (April 4, 2014); U.S. Senate Hearing Discusses USAID’s Social Media Program for Cuba (April 9, 2014); What Is Wrong with the White House’s Plan for Democracy in Cuba? (April 9, 2014); Yet Another USAID Effort To Promote Regime Change in Cuba (Aug. 12, 2014); Another USAID Effort To Promote Regime Change in Cuba: U.S. Government’s Reactions (Aug. 13, 2014); Another USAID Effort To Promote Regime Change in Cuba: Other Reactions (Aug. 14, 2014); New York Times Criticizes USAID’s Efforts To Promote Regime Change in Cuba (Nov. 10, 2014); Email to President Obama Objecting to Covert or “Discreet” U.S. Government Programs Purportedly Promoting Democracy and Human Rights In Cuba (Jan. 7, 2015).

[2] Armstrong, U.S.-Cuba: Must “Democracy Promotion” Obstruct Normalization? (circa Sept. 2015).

 

Gratitude I

It is so easy to credit all of your successes to your own talents and hard work. I know that I too often do that.

Lately, however, I am pausing to acknowledge the many blessings in my life.

My mother and father, Marian Frances Brown and Ward Glenn Krohnke, were directly responsible for endowing me with good genes. They also were loving and nurturing, especially in my early years, and supporting my many activities through college and beyond. Although of modest financial circumstances, my parents were able to afford many of the creature comforts of American middle class life as I was growing up. I did not have to work to provide financial support for the family although in junior and senior high school I had part-time jobs to earn spending money and saving for college. My parents and I were in good health as I grew up with no major illnesses or accidents. I am grateful.

The public schools in my small Iowa home town of Perry did not provide many of the curricular and extra-curricular activities of private schools or large, prosperous suburban school districts in the rest of the country. Yet I had many excellent teachers who did not let me coast through school. The teacher I remember most fondly for this nurturing and challenging was Emma Hepker, who taught speech and English Literature. I also participated in speech contests, football, baseball, track and concert and marching band playing the e-flat alto saxophone. I often focused on the limitations of growing up in this small town far away from where things were really happening. But I can now see that there were benefits from this protective environment. I am grateful.

Grinnell College, the next stop on my educational journey, was challenging and enriching. My major was history with a lot of political science and economics. The professors were excellent, especially Joe Wall, Alan Jones, Samuel Barron, Richard Westfall and George Drake in history, Harold Fletcher in political science and Philip Thomas and John Dawson in economics. As a student at a small college I had the opportunity to participate in many activities, including intercollegiate baseball and football and student government. I am grateful.

In the midst of my Grinnell experience, I had one semester at American University on the Washington Semester Program. The focus was seminars and meetings with politicians, government officials and others as we learned about American government in our nation’s capitol. Professor Louis Loeb was the excellent leader of our group. Each of us also did independent research for a paper. My topic was the participation of political interest groups in the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of contempt of Congress cases, mostly coming from the House Un-American Activities Committee, which I thought itself was un-American. I spent a lot of time in the Supreme Court Library reading briefs of the parties and of amici curiae (friends of the court), usually the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Professors, and then comparing their arguments with the Court’s decisions. This was also the first time I had lived in a major city, and I thoroughly enjoyed its many cultural attraction. I am grateful.

After Grinnell, I had the tremendous privilege and honor of being a student for two years at the University of Oxford. There I studied or, as they say, “read” Philosophy, Politics and Economics. During the three eight-week terms of the academic year, each week I read suggested readings on two topics or issues and prepared essays for two tutorials, usually by myself, but sometimes with one other student. The tutors, especially John Sargent and Roger Opie in economics and Michael Hinton in philosophy, were warm and encouraging while pressing me onward. During the terms you could also attend university-wide lectures in the subjects while over the vacations or “vacs” you were expected to continue your readings in the three fields. At the end of my two years, I had university-wide examinations or “Schools” as they were given in a building called “The Examination Schools.” There were six required examinations (two each in the three disciplines) plus two optional subjects (mine were public finance and currency and credit). Each examination was three hours long, and you had to answer four questions from a printed list of about 12 questions. Your answers were then read and graded by a university-wide committee, and your overall grade or results were posted on the Oxford bulletin boards and published in the London Times. I am grateful.

I then returned to the U.S. for three years at the University of Chicago Law School. Whereas there was great student independence at Oxford, Chicago like most law schools had large classes with daily assignments, usually with professors grilling the students with questions about the cases or statutes we were studying. At the end of the semester there was the familiar practice of the course’s professor giving the final examinations. There were great professors at Chicago: Harry Kalven, Walter Blum, Francis Allen, David Currie, Philip Kurland, Phil Neal, Bernard Meltzer, Soia Mentschikoff and Kenneth Dam to name a few. I am grateful.

In 1966 I commenced practicing law with the Wall Street firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, probably the preeminent law firm in New York City. In my four years there as a junior associate, I worked on many interesting cases, usually with the “grunt” work. The senior lawyers for whom I worked helped me to “learn the ropes” of practicing law. Jack Hupper and Tom Barr were the most significant in that regard. I am grateful.

In 1970 my family and I moved to Minneapolis where I commenced what turned out to be a 31-year career with the law firm of Faegre & Benson (now Faegre Baker Daniels). Here too I worked with excellent lawyers who helped me develop my legal skills. I think especially of John French, Norman Carpenter, Larry Brown and Jim Loken; Jim is now a Judge of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. I am grateful.

After my retirement from Faegre in 2001, Professor David Weissbrodt at the University of Minnesota Law School asked me to help teach the international human rights course. I accepted the offer and did so for nine years (2002-10). I learned much more about this field of law and met many interesting students and faculty. I am grateful.

For all of these blessings, I give thanks to God and to those named and unnamed individuals who helped me along the way.

The Washington Semester


U.S. Capitol

In the Fall of 1959 (the first semester of my junior year), I attended American University in Washington, D.C. Thirty-one other students from all across the U.S. and I were in a unit of AU’s Washington Semester Seminar led by Professor Louis Loeb.

The objective of the Semester was to give us insight into our national government in action. We did this in various ways.

The Seminar was the heart of the Semester. We had meetings with officials who worked in or with the national government, assigned readings and interpretation sessions with Professor Loeb while we also maintained a journal of our activities and took examinations.  All of this was arranged around the following subjects: (a) Congress and its staff agencies; (b) political parties, pressure groups and opinion; (c) the President and the executive agencies; (d) international relations; and (e) the judiciary.

The second major part of the Semester was conducting an independent research project and writing a report on the results. Mine was “A Study and Analyses of Political Interest Group Participation in House Un-American Activities Committee’s Contempt of Congress Cases, 1945-1956.” I chose this topic because I detested that Committee, on the one hand, and endorsed the philosophy of one of its major opponents in such cases, the American Civil Liberties Union, on the other hand. In addition to doing a lot of general reading regarding the Committee and the theory and practice of political interest groups, I spent a lot of time in the Supreme Court Library reading the records in such contempt cases that reached the Court. I compared the briefs of the parties with those of the amici curiae (friends of the court) and the Court’s decisions.

In three of the four contempt of Congress cases that reached the Supreme Court in this period, the decisions were favorable to the views expressed by these interest groups even though the actual points in the amici briefs did not make it into the Court’s opinions. It was impossible to determine what effects, if any, their briefs had on the thinking of the justices or the results in the cases. The decisions in these cases did have some effect on the Committee’s giving notice to witnesses of the relevance of the Committee’s questions and its rejection of the witnesses’ objections. It was possible, at least in theory, to see how such participation might affect the interest groups themselves, but specific evidence of such effects could not be found.

In order to obtain additional hours of credit that semester, we had to take courses at night at AU’s downtown campus, just west of the White House. I took three such courses: American history, early political theory and the economics of public finance.

This semester was the first time I had ever lived in a major city. I thoroughly enjoyed going to museums, concerts and plays and seeing the beautiful and historic buildings of the city. I became acquainted with the general counsel of the Atomic Energy Commission, who was a musical composer in his spare time. I vividly recall going to a vocal recital in the living room of the old mansion that became the Phillips Gallery for performance of my friend’s songs with lyrics from the poetry of e. e. cummings.

At the end of the semester AU awarded me a scholarship for summer school at Harvard University. I, however, declined the offer in order to be the assistant to the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Iowa under Grinnell College’s Program in Practical Politics.[1]


[1] See Post: Encounters with Candidates JFK and LBJ (April 16, 2011).

Adventures of a History Detective

Ever since my high school days in the 1950’s, U.S. politics, law and history have fascinated me. From the start, I was passionate about civil liberties, especially freedom of speech.

Joe Welch & Joe McCarthy

This interest was sparked by watching the Army-McCarthy hearings on my parents’ new TV set in the spring of 1954. The hearings were high drama, and the lawyer for the Army, Joe Welch, was a charming Bostonian, so I thought. I was appalled by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s attacks on civil liberties and free speech and thrilled by Welch’s courageous defense against McCarthyism.

Three years later, in the fall of 1957, my freshman year at Grinnell College, I discovered that Welch in fact was from an even smaller Iowa town (Primghar) than mine (Perry) and that he was a Grinnell graduate, Class of 1914. I learned this when I heard Welch speak at the College’s Convocation “American Culture at Mid-Century.” But I was too timid as a first-semester freshman to speak to Welch directly.

Burling Library Grinnell College
Edward B. Burling

In 1959, the College’s new library was being built and was named “the Burling Library.” A substantial amount of the funds for the building was donated by another Grinnell graduate and lawyer from another small Iowa town (Eldora), Edward Burling (Class of 1890). While attending American University that Fall on the Washington Semester Program, I met Mr. Burling at his office to thank him for the new library. After an interesting conversation, he invited me to a Sunday afternoon at his cabin on the Potomac River. Little did I know at the time that such a Sunday afternoon had become a famous Washington institution. I do not recall our conversation that day, but I do remember how Burling, then 89 years old in a wool plaid shirt, vigorously chopped wood on a beautiful fall afternoon.

As I continued my education and started my own career as a lawyer, I had no time to do anything about my interest in these two men. But in the spring of 1982 I took a sabbatical leave from my law firm to teach a course about law at the College. In my spare time I examined materials about Welch and Burling in the College Archives. (See Post: A Sabbatical Leave from Lawyering (May 26, 2011).)

Somehow I learned that the Boston Public Library had a collection of Welch papers, and while on a business trip to Boston in 1985 I had spare time to examine those papers. This was my first digging into original historical documents, and I was thrilled to be touching and reading such documents and attempting to make sense of them. (This was more fun, I thought, than my more common project of reviewing documents produced by an adversary in a civil lawsuit by “A” against “B” to recover a substantial sum of money.) Among the interesting documents in the Welch collection were letters between Welch and Burling after the conclusion of the Army-McCarthy hearings that were discussed in my paper about Burling, which was excerpted in The Grinnell Magazine (Edward Burnham Burling: Grinnell’s Quiet Benefactor (Summer 2009)).

I returned to Boston in the summer of 1986 to attend the Harvard Law School’s Summer Program for Lawyers. While there, I visited the Boston offices of Hale and Dorr, Welch’s former law firm, and interviewed Fred Fisher, the lawyer who had been attacked by Senator McCarthy, and James St. Clair, the lawyer who assisted Welch in the Army-McCarthy hearings and who later represented President Nixon in the litigation over the White House tapes. I also searched the Harvard Law School Library and found references to Welch in some of its collections of papers regarding the Sacco-Vanzetti case, which was discussed in my paper about Welch, which also was excerpted in The Grinnell Magazine (Good Night, and Good Luck: The Movie’s Offstage Hero, Joseph Welch (Summer 2006)).

I also discovered in Harvard’s collection of the papers of Learned Hand, an eminent federal judge and one of my legal heroes, that he and Burling had been law school contemporaries and life-long friends. This spurred my interest in Burling as I read the extensive correspondence between them, another topic of my paper about Burling.

While in the Boston-area that summer I also visited the Kennedy Presidential Library, but failed to find any documents about Welch in the papers of Robert Kennedy, who had been a lawyer for the McCarthy committee in 1954. The time at the Library, however, was not wasted when I found oral history interview transcripts of two men that I knew.

  • Donald “Duke” Norberg had been the Chairman of Iowa’s Democratic Central Committee, for whom I had worked in the summer of 1960 on a Grinnell Program in Practical Politics grant. I fondly recall seeing then Senators John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in Des Moines to woo the Iowa delegates before the Los Angeles Democratic Party’s presidential nominating convention.
  • Frank Coffin had been a Democratic Congressman from Maine who was defeated in his run for Governor of Maine in 1960 because of the anti-Catholic vote prompted by JFK’s being the presidential candidate. Coffin recalled President Kennedy’s introducing him to Jackie Kennedy at an inaugural ball as the man whom Kennedy had pulled down to defeat. In the Kennedy Administration Coffin was in charge of the U.S. Agency for International Development and later was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. (I had met Coffin in the early 1980’s when we both were on the University of Chicago Law School’s Visiting Committee, and in 1984 Judge Coffin participated in a liberal arts seminar for lawyers that I organized at the College.)

When I returned those transcripts to the library desk, I noticed a transcript of an interview of Princess Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly), and a brief glance revealed an account of her fatalistic view of history.

This research prompted a request to a law school classmate and friend at Covington & Burling, the Washington, D.C. law firm started by Mr. Burling, for additional information about him, and my friend sent me a copy of the firm’s history. I also have been assisted in my research by another Grinnellian, James Burling (Class of 1972), who is not related to “my” Burling, but who is a partner in Welch’s law firm, Hale and Dorr.When I retired from the active practice of law in the summer of 2001, one of my future projects was to review all of the information that I had gathered and write articles about the two gentlemen, and I mentioned this project in an essay about retirement that was posted on the Internet by another law school friend as part of materials for a lawyers’ seminar.

In 2005 I was inspired to finish these papers when I received a totally unexpected call from Professor Roger Newman, the biographer of Hugo Black and a member of the faculty of Columbia University. Newman said that he was the editor of the forthcoming Yale Biographic Dictionary of American Law and asked if I would be interested in writing short biographies of Welch and Burling for that book. Newman said he had discovered my interest in these men from the just mentioned essay on the Internet. I said that I would be glad to do so and retrieved my materials, did additional research and wrote the two 500-word biographies. (This Biographic Dictionary, which was published in 2009 by Yale University Press, was the first single-volume containing concise biographies of the most eminent men and women in the history of American law who have devised, replenished, expounded, and explained law. See Yale University Press, The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law (ISBN 978-0-300-11300-6), http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300113006.)

These sketches, however, barely scratched the surface of what I wanted to say about Welch and Burling. As a result, I did additional research, including examination of several collections of original papers at the Library of Congress. While I was spooling through microfilm of the papers of Felix Frankfurter, I came across his file of correspondence with Albert Einstein. I paused and saw Einstein letters auf Deutsch in small, precise handwriting.

Two other subjects of my history detective adventures are more personal. My maternal great-great grandfather, Charles Edwin Brown, was a Baptist missionary to the Iowa Territory and then the State of Iowa from 1842 until the late 1800’s. One of his sons and my great-uncle, William Carlos or “W.C.” Brown, started working on the railroad as a section hand at age 16 and worked his way up the corporate ladders to become president of the New York Central Railroad in the early 20th century. I have done some research on their lives and written essays about them.

I have not been in a position to even attempt to research all the original and secondary sources and to write complete biographies of these men, but my work on much shorter articles made me realize and appreciate the work that has to be done to produce a major biography of a historical figure such as the one of Andrew Carnegie by my Grinnell History Professor, Joe Wall.

Although I was a history major at the College, I did not do any independent historical research or paper and instead obtained a good background in European and American history. Because I did not do any independent paper, I did not learn historical research methodology at the College, a lacuna I now regret.

Instead, I learned such techniques from being a litigation lawyer. Defining the problem or issue was the first task. You then develop an ever evolving plan to gather relevant evidence or original sources. You start with the documents and interviews of your client. They suggest other possible sources. Library (and now Internet) research provides more information and leads. They are pursued with other research and interviews using publicly available information plus information available through the formal discovery process under the rules of civil procedure. The lawyer also has the right and opportunity to compel witnesses to be examined under oath for further information. (Historians do not have this advantage.) All of the resulting information has to be evaluated for admissibility into evidence and to be synthesized into a hopefully persuasive story as to why your client should win the case.

I enjoy this investigative process, whether as a lawyer or as a history detective. There is the thrill of  the hunt for original papers about my subjects and being so easily diverted by coming across things like the Frankfurter-Einstein correspondence and the Grace Kelly oral history interview. I also enjoy the challenge of putting all of the pieces of research into a good story and writing it all down on paper. Through all of this lies an interest in finding out what happened.

My work as a lawyer and as a history detective has made me somewhat nostalgic for one “road not taken:” continuing my work as a history major into graduate school and becoming a historian.