Territory

Discovering Equality

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery By Eric Foner (W.W. Norton, 426 pp., $29.95) I. As we begin a raft of sesquicentennials that will carry us through at least the next half-decade—the secession of Southern states, the formation of the Confederacy, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox, and so on—I confess to feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation. These are all signal events in our history, the roadblocks and thoroughfares in the making of modern America, and at a time of general crisis they are especially important to revisit.

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  Ted Stevens predates the State of Alaska. In 1953, he drove to Alaska Territory in a Buick, and--like a modern Al Swearingen--he built himself into a local luminary, successfully lobbied Congress to make Alaska a state, and then used his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to transform himself into a patronage-distributing warlord. As one local journalist put it: "In Alaska, the presence of so-called Stevens money is as prevalent as the winter snow. Everywhere you look, Stevens has left his mark. ...

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The fault is in the speakers, and in the hearers, too.

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