Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr., born Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger (October 15 1917 – February 28 2007), was a Pulitzer Prize recipient and American historian and social critic whose work explored the liberalism of American political leaders including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. He served as special assistant and "court historian to the President in John F. Kennedy's administration. He wrote a detailed account of the Kennedy administration, titled A Thousand Days.
During the deliberations of the United States decision to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, with President Kennedy and his closest advisers, he was one of two persons who opposed the strike (the other being William Fulbright); however, he sat silent, except writing a private memorandum to President, not wanting to undermine the President's desire for a unanimous decision. Following the overt failure of the invasion, Schlesinger later lamented "In the months after the Bay of Pigs, I bitterly reproached myself for having kept so silent during those crucial discussions in the cabinet room . . . I can only explain my failure to do more than raise a few timid questions by reporting that one's impulse to blow the whistle on this nonsense was simply undone by the circumstances of the discussion.
Schlesinger was a prolific contributor to liberal theory and was a passionate and articulate voice for Kennedy-style liberalism. He was admired for his wit, scholarship, and devotion to delineating the history and nature of liberalism. Since 1990 he had been a critic of multiculturalism.
He popularized the term "imperial presidency" during the Nixon administration by writing the book The Imperial Presidency.
Schlesinger was born in Columbus, Ohio
, the son of Arthur M. Schlesinger
(1888 – 1965), who was an influential social historian at Ohio State University
and Harvard University
. His son, Stephen Schlesinger
, is a social scientist, former director of the World Policy Institute
at The New School University
in New York City and contributor to the Huffington Post; son Robert Schlesinger
and stepson Peter Allan also blogged on Huffington Post, as did Arthur Schlesinger himself.
Schlesinger's name at birth was Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger; his mother was Elizabeth Bancroft and the family has long assumed (without hard evidence) that there is a blood connection to America's first great historian George Bancroft. Since his mid-teens, he had instead used the signature Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (Schlesinger 2000, pp. 6-7 and 57)
He had five children, four from his first marriage, to author Marian Cannon, and a son and stepson from his second, to Alexandra Emmet.
During World War II, Schlesinger served in a spy ring operated by the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA;
In Garry Wills's 1970 book, "Nixon Agonistes", he mentions Schlesinger's background in the OSS.
Dr. Schlesinger's full involvement was very openly and publicly discussed in the media in 2008, along with other well known personalities such as chef Julia Child.
World War II service
Mr. Schlesinger died on February 28, 2007, at the age of 89. According to The New York Times
he experienced cardiac arrest while dining out with family members in Manhattan. The newspapers have dubbed him a "historian of power."
His 1949 book The Vital Center
made a case for the New Deal
policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt
, while harshly critical of both unregulated capitalism
and of those liberals such as Henry A. Wallace
who advocated coexistence with communism
He won a Pulitzer Prize in history for his 1945 book The Age of Jackson, and another in 1966 for A Thousand Days.
His 1986 book The Cycles of American History was an early work on cycles in politics in the United States; it was influenced by his father's work on cycles.
He became a leading opponent of multiculturalism in the 1980s and articulated his position on it The Disuniting of America (1991).
Published posthumously in 2007, Journals 1952-2000 is the 894-page distillation of 6,000 pages of Schlesinger diaries on a wide variety of subjects, edited by Andrew and Stephen Schlesinger.
This is a list of his published works:
- 1939 Orestes A. Brownson: A Pilgrim's Progress
- 1945 The Age of Jackson
- 1949 The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom
- 1950 What About Communism?
- 1951 The General and the President, and the Future of American Foreign Policy
- 1957 The Crisis of the Old Order: 1919-1933 (The Age of Roosevelt, Vol. I)
- 1958 The Coming of the New Deal: 1933-1935 (The Age of Roosevelt, Vol. II)
- 1960 The Politics of Upheaval: 1935-1936 (The Age of Roosevelt, Vol. III)
- 1960 Kennedy or Nixon: Does It Make Any Difference?
- 1963 The Politics of Hope
- 1963 Paths of American Thought (ed. with Morton White)
- 1965 A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House
- 1965 The MacArthur Controversy and American Foreign Policy
- 1967 Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American Democracy, 1941-1966
- 1967 Congress and the Presidency: Their Role in Modern Times
- 1968 Violence: America in the Sixties
- 1969 The Crisis of Confidence: Ideas, Power, and Violence in America
- 1970 The Origins of the Cold War
- 1973 The Imperial Presidency — reissued in 1989 (with epilogue) & 2004
- 1978 Robert Kennedy and His Times
- 1983 Creativity in Statecraft
- 1986 Cycles of American History
- 1988 JFK Remembered
- 1988 War and the Constitution: Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt
- 1990 Is the Cold War Over?
- 1991 The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society
- 2000 A Life in the 20th Century, Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950
- 2004 War and the American Presidency
- 2007 Journals 1952-2000
Schlesinger's papers will be available at the New York Public Library.
- Diggins, John Patrick and Lind, Michael. The Liberal Persuasion: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and the Challenge of the American Past, Princeton University Press, 1997.
- Daniel Feller, "Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.," in Robert Allen Rutland, ed. Clio's Favorites: Leading Historians of the United States, 1945-2000 U of Missouri Press. (2000) pp 156-169.
- Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.; A Life in the Twentieth Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917–1950 (2000), autobiography, vol 1.
- Washington Post obituary
- Reference to Bay of Pigs objection
- New York Times obituary
- Wills, Garry, Nixon Agonistes, Houghton Mifflin, 1970. There is significant mention of Dr. Schlesinger.