After posting yesterday’s blog on Charles Shield’s webpage, I began to wonder if Harper Lee had been toppled from a perch of some kind. Was The South now without a Southern Masterpiece, a quintessential writer who wrote from the bosom of Beulieu Land? Then Erksine Caldwell popped in my mind. I had used his Tobacco Road to write a scathing review of Thomas Pynchon’s movie ‘Inherent Vice’. I almost didn’t publish it figuring it spelled doom for my career as an author. But, I had been unfriended by Shields and Boris Kackha for being…..an out of control Hippie Wannabe – on acid?
Once again my powerful muse was on target, and Tom may have realized what a genius I am by figuring out Caldwell is his hero – and his books have inspired his writing! Wow! Why not? I highly suspect my grandfather was inspired by Caldwell. Tobacco Road is one of the longest running plays on Broadway. New York swells loved to look at misshapen clodhoppers who are as dumb as a box of hammers. Their struggles, became their struggle during the Depression. Consider the Dukes of Hazard, HeeHaw, the Real McCoys, Al Capp, the Beverly Hillbillies, and The Smother Brother’s Show. Let’s not leave out The Grand Old Opera and Rock and Roll Hippies!
Inherent Vice is about a bunch of Odd Balls who come onto the stage….one at a time! There are supposed to be laugh and gags here, but, only one scene got a chuckle, I did take note I am kin to Reese Witherspoon, who is in the Preston Breckenridge tree. My Rosamond ancestors are from South Carolina and may have fought alongside the Witherspoon in the War of Independence. I thought it was high time to google ‘God’s Little Acre’. So I did. And I – gasped! Before my eyes was my mother’s maiden name, in one of its spellings.
Rosamond is the daughter of Ty Ty Walden. She is the wife of William Thompson. Royal Rosamond’s father is..
WILLIAM THOMAS ROSAMOND
Then I struck gold in my long genealogical tale which half of this blog is. Caldwell’s mother was born a Preston. We are kin. General William Preston is the cousin of Jessie Benton Fremont, whose mother – was the South – which has risen again with the help of the President of the United States!
For two years now, millions of facebook users are wondering where all these Dumb-ass HeeHaw Clodhopper Folks have come from, and what do they have t do with the Swank Republican Party cofounded by my kin. John Fremont. Black Radicals have threatened to close down ‘Hamilton’. I got a replacement if they do. In may of 2013 I posted on the Manifest Destiny of John Astor and his attorney, Thomas Hart Benton. I will have to do a count of how many folks kin to the Preston’s had their statues torn down.
What I see is a musical based upon my kin, Erskine Caldwell, who defends these statues in a revolutionary tribunal. His sidekick is Washington Irving who Astor hired to author a book on Manifest Destiny. I am in like Flint. I will now consider writing Caldwell’s biography, the first an arrested for obscenity’ and pornography in America. Did Lenny Bruce dig Erskine? I recall Rosemary bidding her kids to come watch God’s Little Acre that was on T.V. thanks to Channel 2 in Oakland. I was thirteen and did not get why my mother was so excited. Now I do.
I now suspect I am the embodiment of Erskine Caldwell who is buried in Ashland Oregon. I will do my famous Mad Chicken Dance at his strange monument – and Caldwell will be reborn!
Consider Rena, my Country Muse. We got to call a truce. Mary Ann and I have got to make peace – too! This is it…………THE FINAL CURTAIN!
Caldwell was born on December 17, 1903, in the small town of White Oak, Coweta County, Georgia. He was the only child of Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church minister Ira Sylvester Caldwell and his wife Caroline Preston (née Bell) Caldwell, a schoolteacher. Rev. Caldwell’s ministry required moving the family often, to places including Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. When he was 15 years old, his family settled in Wrens, Georgia. His mother Caroline was from Virginia. Her ancestry included English nobility which held large land grants in eastern Virginia. Both her English ancestors and Scots-Irish ancestors fought in the American Revolution. Ira Caldwell’s ancestors were Scots-Irish and had also been in America since before the revolution and had fought in it.
Caldwell attended but did not graduate from Erskine College, a Presbyterian school in nearby South Carolina. His political sympathies were with the working classes, and he used his experiences with farmers and common workers to write stories portraying their lives and struggles. Later in life he presented public seminars on the typical conditions of tenant-sharecroppers in the South.
Thursday, I took the train to Portland, the ‘Rose City’. Heading to the art museum, I saw a building with a mural on the side of it. There were covered wagons, and I assumed this had something to do with John Fremont ‘The Pathfinder’. Being kin to John, his wife, Jessie Benton, and the late muralist, Garth Benton, I wondered how much family history I could discover in Rose Town.
Lucky for me the research room was open, and taking a seat a small book was put before me by the Oregon History Librarian, titled ‘A Year of American Travel’ written by Jessie Benton who came West following her husband’s footsteps. When I read the following paragraph, I saw the light;
“At the Astor House where we were staying, we found a party favorite relatives, my cousin, General William Preston, and his family assembled to welcome back from Europe a member who had been away for years.”
Odd that this person is not named. Is there a reason? In studying the Fremont history I am struck by how sparse and scattered it is. There are gaping holes in their story that begs one to read between the lines. I have contended the history of John and Jessie has been disappeared, their true motive for their explorations, made vague and elusive. With the mention of the Astor House, I may have found the key to reading the Fremont Rosetta Stone.
John Jacob Astor was considered one of the richest men in the world. His fortune came from beaver pelts. When he sold the Oregon Territory to the British, he may have made the biggest bad business deal of his life – that he was determined to reverse. To this end, he may have employed his attorney, Thomas Hart Benton, the father of Jessie, and perhaps John’s right-hand man. Senator Benton was a promoter of ‘Manifest Destiny’.
What does this have to do with the price of rice in China?
This morning, I read a news article that the new Attorney General of the United States confronted the Chinese Army about their attack in our cyberspace. The Benton-Preston genealogy is Who’s Who in American History. In the paper he authored, Senator Benton suggests Americans should rule the West and Asia that lie across the Pacific. In response to the accusation China is invading our space, a female major defended this attack from the Chinese Manifest Destiny;
“His comments triggered a wry response from Maj. Gen. Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center for China-America Defense Relations, at the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Science, who challenged him to better explain America’s intentions in its building up of the military across the region.”
“General Yao Yunzhu is suggesting ‘The Pathfinder’ has beat a path to China’s door, and thus it is permitted for the Red Army to invade our cyberspace. One can conclude that ‘The Manifest War of Cyberspace’ is on. I know how the United States can win this war, because I saw it coming in my novel ‘The Gideon Computer’. The cyberspace battle I depicted in 1986, was fought between the homeless hippie, Berkeley Bill Bolagard, and Thomas Gideon, the wealthiest man on earth. It is alleged the hippies invented cyberspace. If true, then only a real hippie can defend this space.
China became a capitalist nation in order to defeat its foes. John Astor would be worth 200 billion dollars by todays standards. When the librarian put a letter Jessie wrote, before me, I feasted on The Truth. In this historic document Jessie Benton defends the accusation folks are making that her father is pro-slavery. At the same time she suggests his manifest destiny is still alive, and the “temperate zones” are there for the taking. These zones appear to include Mexico and all of South America.
What this letter suggests, is that Jessie is assuring Britain slavery will not go West, and take root in the Oregon Territory. This letter, may have convinced the abolitionists in Britain it was moral to sell back the land – this space that once belonged to John Jacob Astor, back to American business men who were overcoming the Western hemisphere.
Outside the OHS, is a life-size equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, a rose name. Stay tuned folks, for her come the ‘Last Hippie on Earth’ to save the day. With joy he is aching to tell the head of the Center for China-America Defense Relations, where to go……for he is all INCLUSIVE! On some days, he thinks he is God. In America this hippie is entitled to his opinion, and can vent his spleen on any given day. Not so in China! Indeed Gen. Yao Yunzhu’s words have gone though committee. She can not just go online to give her opinions. Not too many Chinese leaders own such a privilege, and, not too many Chinese citizens. What I am saying is, there may be more Chinses people in the world, but, very few of them dwell in cyberspace. We the People of the Unite States – got them outnumbered!
Get out! Get out of our cyberspace – and stay out!
Speaking Saturday at a security conference in Singapore that he helped to form more than a decade ago, Hagel said: “The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military.” While he is not the first U.S. official to publicly blame China for computer-based attacks that steal data from U.S. government and corporate networks, he delivered the rebuke in China’s backyard, with members of Beijing’s government in the audience.
In 1810, John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company sent the Astor Expedition that founded Fort Astoria as its primary fur-trading post in the Northwest, and in fact the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast. It was an extremely important post for American exploration of the continent and was influential in establishing American claims to the land. Fort Astoria was constructed in 1811.
Senator Thomas Hart Benton on Manifest Destiny (1846)
It would seem that the White race alone received the divine command, to subdue and replenish the earth: for it is the only race that has obeyed it-the only race that hunts out new and distant lands, and even a New World, to subdue and replenish . . . .
The Red race has disappeared from the Atlantic coast; the tribes that resisted civilization met extinction. This is a cause of lamentation with many. For my part, I cannot murmur at what seems to be the effect of divine law. I cannot repine that is this Capitol has replace the wigwam-this Christian people, replaced the savages-white matrons, the red squaws . . . . Civilization, or extinction, has been the fate of all people who have found themselves in the trace of the advancing Whites, and civilization, always the preference of the Whites, has been pressed as an object, while extinction has followed as a consequence of its resistance . . . .
The van of the Caucasian race now top the Rocky Mountains, and spread down on the shores of the Pacific. In a few years a great population will grow up there, luminous with the accumulated lights of the European and American civilization. There presence in such a position cannot be without it influence upon eastern Asia. . . .
The Mongolian, or Yellow race is there, four hundred millions in number spreading almost to Europe; a race once the foremost of the human family in the arts of civilization, but torpid and stationary for thousands of years. It is a race far above the Ethiopian, or Black-above the Malay, or Brown, (if we admit five races)-and above the American Indian or Red; it is a race far above all these, but still far below the White and like all the rest, must receive an impression from the superior race whenever they come in contact . . . .
The sun of civilization must shine across the sea; socially and commercially the van of the Caucasians, and the rear of the Mongolians, must intermix. They must talk together, and trade together, and marry together. . . . Moral and intellectual superiority will do the rest; the White race will take the ascendant, elevating what is susceptible of improvement-wearing out what is not. . . . And thus the youngest people, and the newest land, will become the reviver and the regenerator of the oldest . . . .
It is in this point of view, and as acting upon the social, political, and religious condition of Asia, and giving a new point of departure to her ancient civilization, that I look upon the settlement of the Columbia river by the van of the Caucasian race as the most momentous human event in the history of man since his dispersion over the face of the earth.
Congressional Globe, 29:1 (1846), 917-18.
John L. O’Sullivan on Manifest Destiny, 1839
Excerpted from “The Great Nation of Futurity,” The United States Democratic Review, Volume 6, Issue 23, pp. 426-430. The complete article can be found in The Making of America Series at Cornell University
The American people having derived their origin from many other nations, and the Declaration of National Independence being entirely based on the great principle of human equality, these facts demonstrate at once our disconnected position as regards any other nation; that we have, in reality, but little connection with the past history of any of them, and still less with all antiquity, its glories, or its crimes. On the contrary, our national birth was the beginning of a new history, the formation and progress of an untried political system, which separates us from the past and connects us with the future only; and so far as regards the entire development of the natural rights of man, in moral, political, and national life, we may confidently assume that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity.
It is so destined, because the principle upon which a nation is organized fixes its destiny, and that of equality is perfect, is universal. It presides in all the operations of the physical world, and it is also the conscious law of the soul — the self-evident dictates of morality, which accurately defines the duty of man to man, and consequently man’s rights as man. Besides, the truthful annals of any nation furnish abundant evidence, that its happiness, its greatness, its duration, were always proportionate to the democratic equality in its system of government. . . .
What friend of human liberty, civilization, and refinement, can cast his view over the past history of the monarchies and aristocracies of antiquity, and not deplore that they ever existed? What philanthropist can contemplate the oppressions, the cruelties, and injustice inflicted by them on the masses of mankind, and not turn with moral horror from the retrospect?
America is destined for better deeds. It is our unparalleled glory that we have no reminiscences of battle fields, but in defence of humanity, of the oppressed of all nations, of the rights of conscience, the rights of personal enfranchisement. Our annals describe no scenes of horrid carnage, where men were led on by hundreds of thousands to slay one another, dupes and victims to emperors, kings, nobles, demons in the human form called heroes. We have had patriots to defend our homes, our liberties, but no aspirants to crowns or thrones; nor have the American people ever suffered themselves to be led on by wicked ambition to depopulate the land, to spread desolation far and wide, that a human being might be placed on a seat of supremacy.
We have no interest in the scenes of antiquity, only as lessons of avoidance of nearly all their examples. The expansive future is our arena, and for our history. We are entering on its untrodden space, with the truths of God in our minds, beneficent objects in our hearts, and with a clear conscience unsullied by the past. We are the nation of human progress, and who will, what can, set limits to our onward march? Providence is with us, and no earthly power can. We point to the everlasting truth on the first page of our national declaration, and we proclaim to the millions of other lands, that “the gates of hell” — the powers of aristocracy and monarchy — “shall not prevail against it.”
The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High — the Sacred and the True. Its floor shall be a hemisphere — its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens, and its congregation an Union of many Republics, comprising hundreds of happy millions, calling, owning no man master, but governed by God’s natural and moral law of equality, the law of brotherhood — of “peace and good will amongst men.”. . .
Yes, we are the nation of progress, of individual freedom, of universal enfranchisement. Equality of rights is the cynosure of our union of States, the grand exemplar of the correlative equality of individuals; and while truth sheds its effulgence, we cannot retrograde, without dissolving the one and subverting the other. We must onward to the fulfilment of our mission — to the entire development of the principle of our organization — freedom of conscience, freedom of person, freedom of trade and business pursuits, universality of freedom and equality. This is our high destiny, and in nature’s eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it. All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man — the immutable truth and beneficence of God. For this blessed mission to the nations of the world, which are shut out from the life-giving light of truth, has America been chosen; and her high example shall smite unto death the tyranny of kings, hierarchs, and oligarchs, and carry the glad tidings of peace and good will where myriads now endure an existence scarcely more enviable than that of beasts of the field. Who, then, can doubt that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity?
God’s Little Acre is a 1933 novel by Erskine Caldwell about a dysfunctional farming family in Georgia obsessed with sex and wealth. The novel’s sexual themes were so controversial that the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice asked a New York state court to censor it. Although controversial, the novel became an international best seller with over 10 million copies sold, and was published as an Armed Services Edition during WWII. God’s Little Acre is Caldwell’s most popular novel, although his reputation is often tied to his 1932 novel Tobacco Road, which was listed in the Modern Library 100 Best Novels. God’s Little Acre was later adapted as a 1958 film starring Robert Ryan.
The novel, told from a third-person perspective, is set in the early 1930s. Ty Ty Walden is a widower who owns a small farm in Georgia, just across the border from South Carolina. His daughter, Rosamund, is married to Will Thompson, a worker in a cotton textile mill. Another daughter, whom everyone in the novel refers to as Darling Jill, is unmarried. His son, Buck Walden, is married to the beautiful Griselda. Buck and Griselda live on the farm with Ty Ty and Ty Ty’s other (unmarried) son, Shaw. Pluto Swint, an obese and lazy local farmer, sexually desires and wants to marry Darling Jill, who constantly humiliates him.
Ty Ty is obsessed with finding gold on his land, and he, Buck, and Shaw spend most of their time digging holes on the farm. Ty Ty has promised to donate any profits generated by a 1-acre (4,000 m2) parcel of the farm to the church, but, terrified that gold will be found on “God’s acre”, he keeps moving the acre marker around. Only two African American hired hands, Uncle Felix and Black Sam, do any farming on the property, and the Waldens largely live off loans and what little income Felix and Sam generate. The local union of mill workers was locked out by management 18 months earlier after they protested against a wage cut. Extensive poverty now afflicts the towns of Scottsville and Clark’s Mill, and the Horse Creek Valley (where the Waldens live). Will fantasizes about entering the mill and turning on the power again to bring employment back to the townspeople.
The novel opens with Pluto Swint arriving at the Walden farm to announce that he is running for county sheriff. Pluto mentions that an albino will be able to dowse for gold and tells Ty Ty that an albino was spotted in the southern part of the county. Ty Ty, Buck, and Shaw drive off to kidnap the albino.
Pluto and Darling Jill drive to the Thompson house in Scottsville, and spend the night there. The next morning, Will makes love to Darling Jill while Rosamund is out buying hairpins; when Rosamund returns she discovers the two naked in bed together and beats Darling Jill with a hair brush. She fires a gun twice at Will but misses, and he flees the house “naked as a jay-bird” though an open window. Rosamund and Darling Jill reconcile through tears, “as though suffering a common bereavement.”
Later that day Will returns wearing just a pair of borrowed shorts. After he gets dressed Pluto drives Rosamund, Will and Darling Jill back to Ty Ty’s house. On the way, they talk about Jim Leslie, another son of Ty Ty’s, who started as a mill worker and married a rich man’s daughter. Jim has become a wealthy cotton broker who now snubs mill workers as “lint-heads.”
Ty Ty, Buck, and Shaw return with the albino, a boy in his late teens named Dave Dawson. Ty Ty speaks at length about Darling Jill’s beauty. After supper, Dave takes Darling Jill into the woods and has intercourse with her. Ty Ty and Buck search for them, and then watch them make love, although Ty Ty declares that he only thought they were hugging each other, since he couldn’t see a thing in the pale light. (There are undercurrents of incest throughout the novel.)
The second day, Will arrives at the Walden farm. Shaw and Buck (who suspects that Will is intending to seduce Griselda) engage in a fist-fight with him, but Ty Ty breaks it up. Will talks to Dave, who says he does not want to return to his poverty-stricken home in the southern swamps.
That night, the family drives into town so Ty Ty can ask his estranged son Jim Leslie for a loan. Ty Ty, Darling Jill, and Griselda meet with Jim, who reluctantly gives Ty Ty $300., warning him not to ask for any more money and advising him to farm the land instead of looking for gold. Before the family drives back home, Jim tells Griselda that he wants her even if he has to go to the farm and drag her back. He puts his arm around her and attempts to kiss her, but the car takes off and he only succeeds in tearing her dress.
Later that night at the Walden farm, Ty Ty is still worried that the albino Dave wants to run away, but his fears are allayed when he and Buck discover Dave and Uncle Felix sleeping peacefully in the barn. A short time later, Ty Ty watches his daughter-in-law Griselda undress, and catches a good glimpse of her bare skin as she slips on her nightgown.
The morning of the third day, Pluto drives Will, Rosamund, Darling Jill, and Griselda back to the Thompson house in South Carolina. Will goes out on mill business, and returns highly agitated and determined to open the mill the next morning. After a while he calmly looks at Griselda and tells her that the time has come, and nothing in God’s world can stop him now, and in an insane burst of flying fingers and throbbing muscles he tears off her clothes like a madman as she watches unresistingly, until she stands before him, waiting and trembling. She does not try to escape from him, but backs away until he catches her and drags her to another part of the house. Through the open doors they are seen and heard by Rosamund and Darling Jill and Pluto. Never before had Darling Jill felt so completely aroused. No one but Pluto got much sleep that night, and the next morning Will’s three paramours — his wife Rosamund, and his sisters-in-law Darling Jill and Griselda — hurriedly, easily and lovingly fix his breakfast.
During the fourth day, Will learns that the mill owners have brought in out-of-state security guards to keep the plant closed. He and some other men break into the plant and turn the machinery on. The guards shoot Will in the back, killing him, leaving the three women in shock and despair. That night, Darling Jill takes Pluto by the hand and leads him to the bed, where they fall asleep holding one another.
On the morning of the fifth day, Will is buried. That afternoon, Pluto drives Darling Jill, Rosamund, and Griselda to the Walden farm. Ty Ty, Buck, and Shaw learn of Will’s death. Buck suspects that Griselda has been unfaithful with Will. The family argues ferociously during dinner, and Buck runs out of the house and does not return. Pluto also leaves that night.
On the morning of the sixth day, Jim Leslie arrives at the farm, telling his father “I know what I want, and I came after it.” He storms in the house looking for Griselda, but Buck and Shaw follow right in after him. Buck grabs a shotgun off the wall and Jim Leslie runs out the front door with Buck close behind. Jim Leslie stops running and turns to face his brother, shaking his fist. Buck says “I reckon you’ll leave her alone now” and shoots twice, killing Jim Leslie.
Ty Ty is in shock that he could not prevent blood being spilled on his land — the blood of one of his children. And although he was completely exhausted, and knew that he would soon be too old to dig anymore, he returned to the hole to dig some more. He also willed that God’s little acre would now follow Buck, stopping where Buck stopped so that his son would be upon it no matter where he went. In the final paragraphs, it is implied that Buck commits suicide with the same shotgun he used to kill his brother.
Published by Viking Press in 1933, God’s Little Acre was in part influenced by textile mill strikes in Gastonia, North Carolina. The novel is “proletarian“, focusing on the “plight of workers deprived of union protection.” Similarly, the novel deals with the misuse and abuse of land in the South.
God’s Little Acre contained scenes considered sexually explicit, leading the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice to take Caldwell and Viking Press to court for disseminating pornography. Over 60 literary figures supported the book, placing pressure on the New York State Magistrates’ Court, which ruled in favor of Caldwell’s rights to freedom of expression. Caldwell counter-sued the literary society for false arrest and malicious prosecution.
In 1950, the book was banned in Boston upon the recommendation of the Watch and Ward Society, one of that society’s final activities of censorship. (Boston continued censoring works into the 1960s.)