Biography: D. Laurence Rogers
"I have been lucky to be on hand just at the right time to cover stories that have changed the nation, and in some cases affected world history," says Rogers in reflecting on a long career in Journalism and, recently, in History.
Covering the Watergate scandal, a ship collision and sinking in Lake Huron, the notorious "Payless Paydays" in Michigan and oil well fires, a tanker explosion and the foibles and fumbles of politicians and bureaucrats across the spectrum have been grist for the journalistic mill of Dave Rogers during a long career in Journalism.
From his first expose of a Michigan State University health director who refused to treat women's problems, two weeks into his sophomore year of 1957, Rogers has focused on government and political reporting and investigations as well as analysis and commentary. (The boozy health director was booted and the system reformed.)
Sent to Washington to fill in for two weeks at the Capital Bureau of Booth Newspapers, Rogers first day on the job marked the start of the House Judiciary Committee hearings on Watergate. "Knock yourself out if you want to cover it, but nothing is going to happen," the Bureau Chief told him, parroting the party line. Rogers joined several hundred reporters from all over the world in documenting the greatest political crisis in a century.
After retirement from Journalism and Education, Rogers discovered the political roots of the Civil War -- right in his hometown of Bay City, Michigan, home of abolitionist James G. Birney 1842-1856. Rogers' book "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War," seeks to correct injustice to the political legacy of Birney and examines Birney's courageous leadership in the nation's interminable struggle over slavery.
Unless Kentucky lawyer James G. Birney had persisted in his crusade to build the abolitionist movement into a political dynamo, the wave of chattel slavery of Africans and their descendants that had been rolling uncontrolled for two and a half centuries was never going to be derailed.
Rogers is the first writer to draw a direct line from Birney to Abraham Lincoln, who embraced his philosophy of equality, as the abolitionist movement morphed into the Republican Party.
One of the main themes of the book is that northern working men were finally galvanized to fight when they realized the perils of class warfare that threatened their well-being.
It is now quite clear Northern men did not fight to free the Negroes; they fought to control the South which had ruled the nation since the founding of the Republic by exploiting the Negroes. It was the system of slavery, counting slaves as three-fifths of a man in allocating members of Congress, enshrined in the Constitution, that was the controlling factor in American politics for 75 years. Once that inequity was realized, the North was ready to fight to end it, and the South willing to fight to perpetuate it.
If Negroes could be subjugated, so could the white working class, they finally realized. Most workingmen flocked to enroll as Republicans, personified by the members of Philadelphia fire companies who made up a large share of the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry headed by David Bell Birney.
Co-inciding with the centenary of World War I, his latest book is "The G-34 Paradox: Inside the Army's Secret Mustard Gas Project at Dow Chemical in World War I." The book reveals how the "Catch 22" or paradoxical aspects of chemical weapons have imperiled the world for a century.
A native of Chicago, Mr. Rogers grew up in Bay City, Michigan, and began reporting on the Michigan Legislature and state government as a student at Michigan State University in the late 1950s. Early reporting included student health issues and legislative gridlock leading to a "payless paydays" shutdown of the Michigan government.
He was a night copydesk editor at the Lansing (MI) State Journal and statewide radio-tv correspondent at the state capital while still a student at MSU. He was an intern in the office of a Member of Congress during the John F. Kennedy administration. Reporting for The Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press, he covered state and national figures and political campaigns. He covered former President Dwight Eisenhower and campaigns of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. He was investigative reporter, city editor and chief editorial writer for The Bay City (MI) Times. He won a "distinguished reporting of public affairs" award from the American Political Science Association for a series of articles that helped foil the annexation of a power plant by a small city. United Press International honored him for investigations revealing abuses of patients in nursing homes and the AP gave him and his staff the "breaking news" top award for coverage of a hotel fire that killed 11 persons. Among temporary assignments, he was lead reporter for AP international coverage of a Great Lakes ship collision that claimed a dozen lives and he reported from the White House on Carter Administration frustration over hostages in Iran. Mr. Rogers also covered the initial hearings of the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon during Watergate and reported on United Nations deliberations.
He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Journalism from MSU and has been an instructor at several Michigan universities and colleges. He recently was a stringer for Reuters News Agency and is a free-lance writer and columnist on politics, business and history for MyTri-CityNews.com, a mid-Michigan regional on-line news service.
For the past two decades he has conducted historical tours of Bay City and on various vessels on the Saginaw River and bay and has made presentations on local and Civil War history to many groups. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 989-686-5544.
The G-34 Paradox: Inside the Army's Secret Mustard Gas Project at Dow Chemical in World War I
This book, based on original government and company source materials from the Chemical Heritage Foundation, tells why the U.S. Army cancelled the only viable U.S. project producing critically-needed mustard gas at the height of World War I. It unveils the root causes of proliferation of chemical weapons despite efforts for a century to ban them, dumping chemical weapons in the oceans and testing on military personnel who now are suing the government.
It describes incompetence and misbehavior by officers and physicians, injuries and deaths of soldiers, and misplaced anti-German hysteria as well as breaches of security that threatened national defense.
It tells how this project, headed by a professor from Cleveland's Case Institute of Technology, was successful despite government red tape and inadequate support in transportation and manpower, below zero temperatures in an unheated factory, a flu epidemic, inexperienced staff, an incompetent Army doctor and interloping university physicians more intent on researching effects of mustard gas on humans for a book than caring for injured soldiers, two of whom died.
Military malfeasance, use of humans guinea pigs, policy considering gas more humane than explosives leading to continued stockpiling chemical weapons and dumping poison gas containers in oceans - all are described in this book.
This book reveals for the first time how chemical firm founder Herbert H. Dow and a fiery red-haired nurse were mistakenly investigated for subversive activities in the tumultuous environment of the Great War.
It concludes with the previously obscure facts of a laudatory postwar visit by top officials of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service to Dow Chemical's headquarters in the small mid-Michigan town of Midland as they campaigned for Congressional approval for perpetuation of that branch of the military.
HOW DID A TWICE FAILED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE CHANGE AMERICAN HISTORY?
The book "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War," describes the largely unrecognized importance of James Gillespie Birney, a former Kentucky and Alabama slaveholder who became the first anti-slavery Presidential candidate, and his role as the ideological prophet of Abraham Lincoln.
The exploits of his sons, generals David Bell Birney and William Birney, as well as grandson Lt. James G. Birney IV, also are addressed in the book. William Birney and his men trapped Robert E. Lee and the remnants of his Army of Northern Virginia and perhaps would have ended the war a day sooner had he not been held back, and cashiered, by a Union commander.
Among provocative insights and interpretations of the Civil War addressed in the book:
1-The North profited most from the slave trade;
2-Both Abraham Lincoln and James G. Birney were influenced by the same Emancipation Baptist preachers;
3-The aristocratic Southern culture of dueling caused opposition to compromise with the North and states' rights undermined Confederate collaboration;
4-Jefferson Davis may have doomed rebel hopes in the war when he rejected Confederate soldiers' support for enlisting blacks; Lincoln's advocacy for black troops gave the Union a key advantage;
5-The Civil War was prolonged briefly when Maj. Gen. William Birney and black troops were prevented from attacking Robert E. Lee's army and Birney was stripped of command on the battlefield (a little-known aspect of the war);
6-Republicans seeking votes in the South after Reconstruction blacklisted Birney's contributions to freedom and equality for all even though he had organized Michigan abolitionists in the 1840s and 1850s leading to formation of the party;
7-Duke Law School scholars recently have identified Birney as an important pioneer of abolition through defense of Native Americans in Alabama and Georgia in the late 1820s and his precursory role in shaping the 14th Amendment.
Republican Party efforts to minimize ties to abolition in the aftermath of Reconstruction also are addressed in this study of the nation's greatest political and philosophical stalemate.
"Apostles" surveys the political, social and philosophical aspects of Birney's contributions to the abolition movement leading to the Civil War, and amplifies the activities of several military Birneys (his sons and grandson) who recruited black troops in Maryland and led them in subduing Florida and in several key battles in Virginia in the war.
TIME FOR REPUBLICANS TO ADMIT THEIR FOUNDING PRINCIPLES: EQUALITY AND SUPPORT FOR WORKING PEOPLE AFTER DECADES OF POLITICAL POSTURING, AUTHOR SAYS IN NEW BOOK
The original aims of the Republican Party of racial equality and uplifting the common man often have been denied for political purposes, this author recalls in a new book: "Apostles of Equality: the Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War."
"After the Civil War white supremacists and the newly-formed Ku Klux Klan conducted a reign of terror against blacks, and Republicans, in retribution for their views and an oppressive Reconstruction," says the author, D. Laurence Rogers. "It is not news to most historians that politically-motivated killings spread across the South, targeting Republicans, but conventional wisdom of history is often the reverse of reality.
Republicans desperate to gain favor among Southern voters assumed the role formerly taken by Democrats and the Klan -- in effect totally reversing their political stand on race. A corrupt bargain in the 1876 election gave the Presidency to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden in exchange for pullout of troops who were enforcing voting rights of blacks in the South; this has been documented admirably by historians like Richard H. Sewell, Eric Foner, Ari Hoogenboom and others.
"Most amazing was Theodore Roosevelt's claim that Republicans 'would never have meddled with slavery,' blaming the war on 'unscrupulous, treacherous ambitions' of Jefferson Davis and John B. Floyd.
"These facts seem largely unrecognized by neo-conservatives of today who usually align with the Republican Party. Even progressive commentators like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC recently expressed disbelief over the egalitarian views of Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans in the early days.
"What these ideological miscalculations tell us is that much of Civil War historiography has been propaganda, at least in the assignment of blame and denial of credit for the nation's legacy of equality."
Among the radical abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison was an anarchist and John Brown a terrorist. Reformed slaveholder James G. Birney, a Kentucky and Alabama lawyer, offered a reasonable solution to the intersectional conflict. His philanthropic positions, aimed at changing the status quo on behalf of four million slaves, were soundly rejected by Northern voters in two runs for the Presidency on the Liberty Party ticket. However, his organizing in Michigan laid the foundation for the Free Soil and Republican parties leading to Civil War.
H-Net Reviewer Carl Creason of Murray State University (KY) explains how Birney, son of an aristocratic plantation owner, was sent North and ended up a leader of the abolitionists: "Interestingly, Birney's experience in the North served as a stark contrast to the experiences of other Southern men. As highlighted in Lorri Glover's article "'Let Us Manufacture Men': Educating Elite Boys in the Early National South," many young Southerners returned home from Northern universities with hardened attitudes towards abolitionists and Yankees--a development that contributed to the hostility that climaxed in the Civil War.Unlike these men, however, Birney chose to surrender a future of wealth and family tradition for the prospect of social equality."
The author explains that Republicans through history have denied their abolitionist roots in order to become a national party. Abolitionist political organizer James G. Birney who laid the groundwork for the Republicans was vilified by Theodore Roosevelt and other political spinmeisters. But now Birney is rising from the ashes in this book.
This book shows the progression of conflicts over slavery dating to the American Revolution and contends the war started because the abolitionists controlled the Republican Party, striking fear into hearts of slaveholders who revolted once Abraham Lincoln was elected.
Why should Birney be recognized as the outstanding Apostle of Equality? Because he not only divested his fortune by freeing his slaves but also visited every state capital, South and North, in his self-appointed crusade to "save the nation from destruction."
WHY IS JAMES G. BIRNEY CONSIDERED "LINCOLN'S PROPHET"?
Both were influenced by emancipation Baptist and anti-slavery preachers in their youth;
*Both were from Kentucky and were distantly related through marriage;
*Both were anti-slavery Whigs in early careers;
*Both campaigned in the 1840 Presidential race, Birney futilely for himself, Lincoln for Harrison;
*Lincoln welcomed Birney's son, Gen. David Bell Birney, to the White House during the Civil War and corresponded with Gen. William Birney about recruitment of black troops;
*Salmon Chase, Birney's legal defender against pro-slavery forces in Cincinnati in the 1830s later was a member of the celebrated "team of rivals" in Lincoln's cabinet;
*Some of Lincoln's philosophical concepts about slavery were adopted from Birney's earlier work.
HOW DID THE REPUBLICAN PARTY START OUT LIBERAL AND END UP CONSERVATIVE?
You can find out by reading a new book, "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War."
Even political junkies may be amazed at the 180 degree turn-around. A political reporter from a Midwest newspaper, after hearing the story recently, said: "I can't wait to tell my conservative friends that the liberals formed the Republican Party. They are going to be shocked and amazed."
The story of the twist in philosophy is not a new one, of course, but years have a way of obscuring what really happened, says D. Laurence Rogers, author, former newsman and onetime press aide to a Republican Member of Congress.
"Republicans and Democrats have in effect switched places in the philosophical scheme, especially concerning race, by a series of events triggered by an oppressive Reconstruction," says Rogers. "Look at an electoral college map in the present contest and the former Confederate states, onetime "Solid South" bastions of the Democrats, now are all bright red. Doesn't that make you wonder how that has happened?"
The Republicans under Abraham Lincoln also were the party of the working man and supported labor unions, a position directly in opposition to today's GOP dogma. "Republicans used the threat of white slavery, as reportedly posed by Senator Henry Clay in the 1820s, to whip up support among workers in industrial areas of the North," said Rogers. "Clay was quoted by several fellow legislators as saying "if we cannot have black slaves we must have white ones."
The Republican Party's roots can be traced to the abolitionist Liberty Party that twice (1840-1844) ran James G. Birney, reformed Kentucky slaveholder, for President.
During Reconstruction, as former Union officers ruled the South to enforce black voting rights, Republicans white and black were subjected to mass murder by Democrats and the newly formed Ku Klux Klan. That all ended in 1876 when after a contested election Democrats agreed to give up the Presidency in exchange for a deal to pull troops out of the South.
THE CIVIL WAR LASTED ONE DAY LONGER THAN NECESSARY, CAUSING 600 MORE CASUALTIES; WHY FOR 146 YEARS HAS GEN. WILLIAM BIRNEY'S NEAR CAPTURE OF LEE BEEN IGNORED?
If pro-slavery Gen. E.O.C. Ord had not stopped Gen. William Birney and his U.S. Colored Troops, the Civil War would probably have ended on April 8, 1865 instead of the following day.
With Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant absent from the field that day, Gen. Ord took it on himself to pull back Birney and his troops who had marched 96 miles in three and a half days and had trapped Lee and the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Thus Lee was free to attack the following day, April 9, until forced to bow "to overwhelming numbers and resources," as he put it. But that last needless day of battle caused a total of 600 casualties on both sides, Union and Confederate.
Not only were the black Union soldiers denied the glory of ending the war, they were banned from the Grand Parade in Washington, D.C., and most units were quickly shunted to Texas to fight Indians.
NEW BOOK DESCRIBES JAMES G. BIRNEY, FORGOTTEN, MALIGNED HERO OF AMERICAN HERITAGE OF FREEDOM, AND CIVIL WAR EXPLOITS OF HIS SONS WILLIAM AND DAVID
THE CIVIL WAR STARTED IN DETROIT IN 1808, AUTHOR OF ABOLITION HISTORY CONTENDS
This author reports that armed clashes in the mid-1840s between raiding Kentucky slaveholders and white abolitionists defending escaped slaves in Michigan's Cass County ignited a political conflict that escalated to Civil War.
Actually, the earliest dispute over escaped slaves from Kentucky occurred in 1808 in Detroit, according to a new book, "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War," published by Michigan State University Press. When slaveholders tried to reclaim their bondsmen from Canada, freedom-loving white Michiganians threatened to tar and feather the judge who considered allowing their return.
Thus, the seeds of an egalitarian vs. aristocratic conflict that erupted in Civil War were planted more than half a century before guns roared at Fort Sumter.
Among the rabid abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison was an anarchist and John Brown a terrorist. Reformed slaveholder James G. Birney, a Kentucky and Alabama lawyer, offered a reasonable solution to the intersectional conflict. His philanthropic positions, aimed at changing the status quo on behalf of four million slaves, were soundly rejected by by Northern voters in two runs for the Presidency on the Liberty Party ticket. However, his organizing in Michigan laid the foundation for the Free Soil and Republican parties.
Read other provocative insights and interpretations of the Civil War:
Did the fact that Jefferson Davis barred enlistment of black troops doom the Confederacy?
This new book contends that when the Confederate president rejected a general's idea to beef up decimated rebel forces, and Abe Lincoln approved black troops, the fate of the war was determined.
In 1864 the Irish volunteer Gen. Patrick Cleburne was roundly criticized, and denied promotion by Davis and other leading rebels, for his plan to enlist blacks and give them freedom.
The Union, on the other hand, welcomed about 180,000 blacks into the army -- about 10 percent of the entire force -- a factor believed by some observers to have tipped the balance in the conflict.