The Day the Universe Changed


The Day the Universe Changed is a 1985 BBC television series, which aired in the United States on PBS. Written and presented by James Burke, the series postulates a very simple; yet very powerful idea that when what a society knows changes, for them the universe changes. Thirty-five years on, the main theme and its presentation hold up. Burke walks through the advancement of Science and Technology throughout Western Civilization, starting with the Greeks and ending with what was then the present. Along the way, he highlights the main theme, and concludes that increasingly we live in a world in which change occurs quicker than our ability to understand it and is the only constant.

Burke’s argument is one of the main reasons I became a historian. Viewing the series on PBS when it originally aired in the United States, the argument and its presentation made it lasting impression, which is why it has importance today. Available for free at, the series has had the impact that James Burke intended.

Below are links to the programs in the series:

  1. The Way We Are
  2. In the Light of the Above
  3. Point of View
  4. A Matter of Fact
  5. Infinitely Reasonable
  6. Credit Where It’s Due
  7. What the Doctor Ordered
  8. Fit to Rule
  9. Making Waves
  10. Worlds Without End


Nixon Impeachment Coverage



Several months ago, I discovered that the House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Hearings were posted on the American Archive of Public Television website, out of sequence. After many months of work I have, I believe, placed them in the proper order. Additionally, the video does not work on iOS; nor is the link to the May 9, 1974, transcript available to the general public. The link given is to an academic archive which requires access to a university library.

The project started by linking the video with page numbers in the transcript, a link to which was provided on the website. Some segments were mislabeled and some segments were listed under the wrong date. For example, the video segments for July 25, 1974 were listed under July 30, 1974 on the website. The simplest way to deal with the problem was to construct viewing order tables putting each segment in the correct sequence under the right date. Unfortunately, the project took too long to complete and the Archive discovered and corrected the problem without any help from me. Nevertheless, the viewing order that follows is still useful because it references the beginning speaker and page number of the transcript for each segment, which the Archive website does not.

Viewing Order

Senate Watergate Video Now Available on iOS


John Dean testifying June 27, 1973

An earlier post discussed the monumental and important work done by the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB)—putting the Senate Watergate Hearings and the House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Hearings online. At that time, the collection had some issues:

There are some technical issues with the repository. None of the videos can be embedded into a website, and only the first week’s videos can be played on an iOS device. Hopefully, it is a minor glitch with a website or the operating system that AAPB and/or Apple will eventually fix. However, all the videos run well on Windows 10.
Watergate Hearings Online

Recently, the above problem has been solved. All of the Senate Watergate Hearings can be viewed on an iOS device. The Judiciary Committee Impeachment proceedings still can only be viewed on Windows 10. Hopefully, that will be fixed soon. In addition to the problem of the Impeachment videos being out of sequence. A corrected sequence will be posted here in the future.

Watergate Hearings Online


Post in Word Format microsoft-word-icon

Watergate is the most important political scandal of the twentieth century. Because of his actions and those of his staff Richard M. Nixon the Thirty-Seventh President of the United States resigned on August 8, 1974. Nixon chose to resign rather than face an impeachment vote in the House of Representatives and conviction in the Senate. Those actions ranged from breaking into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist,1 the use of the Internal Revenue Service to attack the President’s enemies; to the break-in and wiretapping of telephones at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972, and its cover up.

Such a criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice could not be kept from the public. Newspaper reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and others investigated the Watergate break-in as well as other questionable activities of the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP). One of the most unfortunate, yet descriptive acronyms in American History. The Justice Department indicted the Watergate Seven on September 15, 1972.2 By January 1973, all but two of the Watergate Seven plead guilty. James W. McCord and G. Gordon Liddy were tried and found guilty on January 30, 1973. On March 23, 1973, facing the possibility of severe sentence, James McCord wrote a letter to Judge John Sirica in which he stated pressure had been applied to the defendants to ensure silence. Perjury was committed in the courtroom. Sirica made the letter public and imposed harsh sentences, ranging from twenty to forty years, to force the defendants’ cooperation.3 By May 17, 1973, what would become known as the Senate Watergate Committee had completed its preparations and began fifty-one days of televised hearings on the Watergate break-in and other CREEP activities.

The public was mesmerized. Almost every TV in the country was tuned to the hearings. The major television networks ABC, NBC and CBS took turns televising the hearings during the day. Soap operas, game shows, and cartoons were preempted to show the Watergate Hearings. Additionally, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), still in its infancy, rebroadcasted gavel to gavel coverage of the hearings in prime time. For more than forty years this tremendous primary source material was virtually inaccessible to the public and most scholars. On November 3, 2017, the Library of Congress and WGBH, Boston announced that all fifty-one days of the hearings had been digitized and were available online:

The Library of Congress and Boston public broadcaster WGBH announced today that gavel-to-gavel television coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, donated to the Library by WETA Washington, D.C., has been digitally preserved and made available online. Produced by the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT), the hearings were taped during the day and rebroadcast every evening on public television for 51 days, from May 17 to Nov. 15. These broadcasts became one of the most popular series in public broadcasting history. 4

Additionally, the repository includes the House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Hearings. Until now, students of Watergate, too young to have seen the hearings live, have had to rely on transcripts of the hearings, and sound bites of testimony from John Dean, Alexander Butterfield, H. R. Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman among others. Thanks to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), scholars and the public can experience the testimony of all the witnesses before the Senate Watergate Committee in context the way Americans did at the time.

There are some technical issues with the repository. None of the videos can be embedded into a website, and only the first week’s videos can be played on an iOS device. Hopefully, it is a minor glitch with a website or the operating system that AAPB and/or Apple will eventually fix. However, all the videos run well on Windows 10. I have viewed testimony on both my Surface 3 and my laptop. Despite this minor inconvenience, the AAPB has done a tremendous work digitizing, cataloging, and preserving the Senate Watergate Hearings and the House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Hearings




1 Daniel Ellsberg, while a consultant for the RAND Corporation, a private think tank with close ties to the Defense Department, copied and then leaked to the New York Times The Pentagon Papers. See George C. Herring, ed., The Pentagon Papers: Abridged Edition. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993), xv.

2 The Watergate Seven: E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, Bernard L. Barker, Eugenio Martinez, Frank A. Sturgis, Virgilio R. Gonzales, and James W. McCord.

3 “James W. McCord Letter to Judge John Sirica March 23, 1973,” United States v. George Gordon Liddy, et al., C.R. 1827-72, United States District Court for the District of Columbia; Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; NARA, College Park, MD

4 “Library and WGBH Acquire Historic TV Coverage of Senate Watergate Hearings,” Library of Congress, last modified November 3, 2017,

The Mazzei Letter

Philip Mazzei

The Teaching Guide for the Equal Justice Under Law series stated that John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson disagreed over many issues including The Mazzei letter, in which Jefferson maligned George Washington.1 However, in the letter Jefferson did not attack Washington by name he attacked the Federalist party and the government; which under the United States Constitution was his right.2 The original letter was private, not meant for publication. The offending passage which was not even the full paragraph was published without his knowledge or consent.3 First in France and then in many newspapers in the United States. Even in the published version, printed in a New York newspaper, Washington is not mentioned by name.4

The commentary was only tangentially related to the passage and provides no insight into the meaning of the passage. Furthermore, the Executive Branch of the government is more than just the president. Jefferson more than likely was not referring to Washington with the phrases “all officers of the government…” and “all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty…”.5

Many words can be used to describe George Washington timid is not among them. Washington was not a Federalist. In fact, he was against political parties, or factions as he referred to them. That was why Alexander Hamilton was considered the leader of the Federalist party. Washington was held apart from his cabinet and the other officers in the Executive Branch. While Jefferson maligned Hamilton and other federalist cabinet members, he certainly would not have maligned Washington. Federalists commonly interpreted the letter as a thinly veiled attack against Washington, but they would, wouldn’t they. That’s what political parties do.6

It was clear that John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson had “deep-rooted philosophical differences,” and were “members of opposing political parties with often irreconcilable positions.7 But, John Marshall was far from a party ideologue. Marshall voted against the Federalist party on several occasions.8 Furthermore, his dislike of Jefferson did not cause Marshall to support Burr in the presidential election of 1800. In fact, he did not use his influence to support Jefferson either. Marshall took Alexander Hamilton at his word regarding Aaron Burr’s character. Marshall made clear while he could not support Jefferson, he was less dangerous than Burr. In that same letter to Alexander Hamilton, Marshall made only one reference to the Mazzei letter stating, “the morals of the Author of the letter to Mazzei cannot be pure.”9

That phrase comes at the end of a paragraph in which Marshall explains to Hamilton his opinion of Thomas Jefferson, which is negative. Nevertheless, if the letter was a major irreconcilable issue between them why doesn’t Marshall clearly name Jefferson as a person of impure morals, instead of the word author? In any case, Marshall and Jefferson’s adversarial relationship had been clearly established. Referring to the letter introduced an unnecessary and confusing item into an unrelated complex event. It should have been removed.


1Equal Justice Under Law Teaching Guide, (Judicial Conference of the United States, 1976): 20,
2 “Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei,” The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 29: 1 March 1796 to 31 December 1797 (Princeton University Press, 2002), 81-83,  accessed June 22, 2017,

3 “Jefferson’s Letter to Philip Mazzei,” Editorial Note The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 29: 1 March 1796 to 31 December 1797 (Princeton University Press, 2002), 73-88, accessed June 22, 2017,

4 “Extract and Commentary Printed in the New York Minerva,” The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 29: 1 March 1796 to 31 December 1797 (Princeton University Press, 2002), 86-87, accessed June 22, 2017,

5 “Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei”; “Extract and Commentary Printed in the New York Minerva.”

6 “Jefferson’s Letter to Philip Mazzei,” Editorial Note.

7Equal Justice Under Law Teaching Guide, 20.

8 Harold H. Burton, “John Marshall. The Man,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 104.1 (October 1955): 5.

9 “To Alexander Hamilton from John Marshall, 1 January 1801,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 25, July 1800 – April 1802, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977, pp. 290–292.]

Equal Justice Under Law

Equal Justice Under Law was a television series that first aired in 1976 and again in 1987, to mark the 200th anniversary of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. A production of the Judicial Conference of the United States and WQED Pittsburgh, The programs were intended “to inform the general public as well as educational and professional audience on the American constitutional heritage as exemplified in the major decisions of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall” (1).

I started the process of creating activities for the Equal Justice Under Law videos. I found the videos and teaching guide sometime ago. The videos I found on YouTube, and the teaching guide I found at I am working on United States v. Aaron Burr (The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr). Going through the background section of the teaching guide, I found a mistake. The guide states that Thomas Jefferson Vice President of the United States presided over the House of Representatives (2). That was not the case the United States Constitution Article 1 Section 3 Clause 4 states that the Vice President is President of the Senate.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

Finding such an error, I decided to research Aaron Burr because any author or group of authors that would make such a mistake may gloss over or simplify Aaron Burr’s background. As a historian and teacher, I understand the need to condense content at the high school level, but accuracy should not be a casualty of that exercise.

The most recent biography of Burr was published in 2007 by Nancy Isenberg. The next piece “The Real Treason of Aaron Burr” by Gordon S Wood was published in 1999 in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. There are a variety of other articles dating from 1951 to 1896. This information comes from a search of Jstor, search term Aaron Burr. This research may show that except for the one error teaching guide is accurate or it may reveal other flaws in the document.


(1) William F. Swindler, “Justice Under Law,” William and Mary Law School Scholarship Repository, Popular Media. Paper 264 (1977): 1099,

(2) Equal Justice Under Law Teaching Guide, (Judicial Conference of the United States, 1976): 19,

Citation Styles, Web Sources, and Responsive Design

I am an historian and educator. So, I have done; and continue to do a lot of writing. An important part of the process is the documentation of sources especially when creating online content. The Internet has made available a vast number of valuable primary and secondary sources through repositories such as JSTOR and the like. Citation styles whether Chicago, APA, or MLA have formats for scholarly journal articles, newspapers, personal correspondence, Federal and State court opinions, websites, and almost everything in between.

Most of the time, citing one of the above sources is straightforward. Follow the format given in a particular citation style, and even if the source was accessed via the Internet the URL is omitted. At least, that is what every professor I have ever had has told me, and the reason is a majority of readers will not be able to access the source through the URL provided. Additionally, any reader wanting to consult the source will go to a library, and librarians will not need the URL.

That holds true for every source above except websites. Obviously, URLs need to be cited. In the age of responsive design, that is, web content being consumed on smaller screens; increasingly longer URLs are an issue. They interfere with the presentation of content. Webpages of over a thousand words present another citation problem. The lack of page numbers makes it difficult for a reader to locate information cited from a specific source. Furthermore, webpages usually are not designed to be printed. Even when CSS media queries are used to make a webpage printable, it still may not have page numbers and it does not look quite right making the content difficult to read and understand.

Fortunately for the rest of this post, there are two solutions. Based on the premise that most written content that appears on a webpage is created in Microsoft Word, and then converted to HTML format by whatever process; one solution is to save or convert the content to a PDF file. Once the content is in PDF format a link to the file can be placed on the page displaying the HTML formatted content. There is, however, one drawback to the PDF format. It does not accurately reproduce the page layout of a Microsoft Word document. That is not to say that the PDF format is useless as will be seen later. But with the ability to view accurate renderings of Microsoft Word documents in a web browser that OneDrive and OneDrive for Business provide converting content to PDF format is an extra and unneeded step; which makes Microsoft’s cloud services the preferred solution. (Hereinafter, since both services have the identical capability, they will be referred to as OneDrive).

In an earlier post, I described the process of creating a public link for any documents stored in OneDrive. That process creates an extremely long URL that causes the problem described above. None of the citation styles have a way of dealing with these computer-generated or garbage URLs. In fact, a URL generated by OneDrive is so long that cannot easily be put into a footnote in a Microsoft Word document. Furthermore, reading in Microsoft Word document is difficult on any screen smaller than an iPad mini. So, a combination of a Microsoft Word document and a responsive design HTML document solve both problems for the self-publisher. The solution looks like this:

It consists of the URL of the responsive design webpage and the page number of the Microsoft Word document, which is linked to at the top of the webpage, and if the readers needs to print for any reason they can do so from the Microsoft Word document. OneDrive converts document into a, reasonably accurate PDF which is downloaded to readers’ computers.

The above solves the garbage URL problem for webpages that have links to the same content that has page numbers. That still leaves the problem of garbage URLs in a responsive design webpage. Most webpages do not have links to Microsoft Word versions of their contents. Many webpages have short enough URLs that their citation will not interfere with the presentation of the content. However, some blogs and webpages have garbage URLs. When citing a source that has a garbage URL, shorten the display text of the link, and note that the complete URL is available in the Microsoft Word document.
The note should appear at the beginning of the content.

The solutions described above make citing garbage URLs and the lack of page numbers in most webpages easier to handle. Citation, in whatever style, should be as important to online content as hyperlinks. It provides valuable information and credibility to any work.

The Writing Process…

Originally posted in October 2009, this post is about writing.

Does the writing process end? Is an author ever really satisfied with the end product of all his labor, or is that product just what could be produced in the time available? I started researching my masters thesis on the aftermath of Pearl Harbor in May 2008. I thought it would take no more than six months to research and write, but I just submitted my Committee draft eight days ago. So much for researching and writing in six months, and my thesis committee, which consists of three history professors from Millersville University, will most likely require that more editing be done before the final draft will be accepted by the University. When will it end?

I was told some time ago by one of my professors that the entire process would take a year or more. She was right, but I did not believe her. The research and initial writing took a total of about nine months on and off. At the end of August 2008, I had written a preliminary prospectus and put research aside to concentrate on classwork. By January 2009, I was eager to continue research, and in March, I was prepared to investigate primary sources available at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The trip to the National Archives was an exciting and unique experience, which has been one of the highlights of my research. I reluctantly submitted a short paper to the Phi Alpha Theta Conference in April. I was not happy with the paper or my presentation to the conference, but the paper did have some positive aspects, which formed the spine of my thesis.



My presentation was lackluster at best, so I did not receive the feedback I had hoped. However, I sent the paper to three of my friends and their constructive criticism was extremely helpful. By mid-July, I completed the first half of the rough draft of my thesis, and submitted a completed draft to my thesis advisor by mid-September. After incorporating his suggestions and some other editing, a draft was submitted to my thesis committee on October 1, 2009. The process sounds simple now, but each stage had its own unique difficulties.

The overarching difficulty was and is novelty; I have never attempted a project on such a scale before. Although I have written a previous article “United States, Japan, and Pearl Harbor”it did not undergo the level of editing and rewriting that my thesis has and will continue to undergo before I complete it. The constructive criticism I have received has improved the work, and I am indebted to my friends and my thesis advisor for their assistance. In addition to novelty, starting was also difficult. Not in the sense that I did not know where and how to begin, or I did not have a general direction, but I lacked a clear and interesting path connecting the topics I wanted to discuss. Hopefully, the Committee draft has solved that problem. I will know by next Friday night. I knew what I wanted to discussing in my thesis by the time I completed the conference paper, which was probably one of the reasons my thesis advisor suggested I participate in the conference.

The next difficulty was constructing an argument. Fortunately, the aftermath of Pearl Harbor provided ample historiography to analyze. At the center of the historiographical debate was whether the Navy and the United States government treated, the officer in command of the Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, unjustly. Seeking an answer to whether Kimmel was unjustly treated, historians have mined the testimony, exhibits, and conclusions of the nine official investigations into the attack, as well as other sources. Based on that analysis, there are those who assert that Kimmel as Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet could have done more with the resources available to him. Therefore, relief and retirement at the rank of Rear Admiral was fair. Furthermore, posthumous advancement on the retirement list is unwarranted. Conversely, there are others who maintain that Kimmel was made a scapegoat and unjustly punished. Therefore, to correct the injustice of the Roberts Commission charge of dereliction of duty; they argue that Kimmel should be advanced on the retirement list to the rank of Admiral under the Officer Personnel Act of 1947.

It seemed simple enough; all I had to do was determine what aspects of each argument failed to explain what happened in the in the aftermath of the attack and then offer an argument that was in between the two extremes. So, borrowing the main concept of Richard Godbeer’s Sexual Revolution in Early America that contemporary knowledge and belief must be set aside in order to understand historical events in their proper context, I found that the argument that Kimmel could have done more with the resources available to him relied on such contemporary knowledge. However, explaining that failing was extremely difficult and led to the construction of the most difficult paragraph to write. I hope the paragraph clearly explains the concept.



I am nearing the end of the process and the well is running dry. I do not know how much more rewriting I can do. I will find out how much rewriting I will have to do next Friday afternoon. My thesis is at the point where there is not much more I can do with it. I am certain it can be improved, but I am not sure how. Now every time I reread a paragraph or a section with the idea of making some changes, I leave it alone. Is it because once on the page is good, or am I just tired and running out of ideas? I do not know which is probably why there it is a thesis committee in the first place. Two sets of fresh eyes and one set that is familiar with the work (my thesis advisor) will help in its improvement.

I chose to write a thesis as part of my master’s degree program because I wanted to learn more about the process of writing history. It has taught me that there is a time in every writing project when the author simply runs of steam and that is when the writing process truly ends.