Friday, October 19, 2007

The Beauty of Google Books

Digitalizing the world's knowledge -- in effect creating an online version of the Library at Alexandria -- is an amazing process precisely because the damnedest things become new again during the reformatting.

Case in point: an incident during the Civil War when Gen. Ulysses Grant tried to expel Jews from several Confederate states:

In a remarkable episode from the Civil War that is not as widely known as it might be, General Ulysses S. Grant issued Order No. 11 on December 17, 1862 expelling all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, where his forces had taken the field.

Equally remarkable, President Lincoln did not say he would "stand by" his generals or that "we must give the military the tools it needs" to accomplish its mission. Instead, he rescinded the Order.

A century-old account of General Grant's short-lived ban on Jews has recently been published online.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln repeatedly suspended habeas corpus and authorized other serious infringements on civil liberties. But there are some things that are not done in America, it appears, even when the survival of the nation is at stake. This was one of them.

I flipped through the first few pages of the e-book and it's all engrossing material.

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