Saturday, September 26, 2015

Book Review: Becoming Madison - The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father

James Madison was the last surviving Founding Father, dying nearly 60 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He was undoubtedly the Father of the Constitution and - one could reasonably argue - the United States government would bear no resemblance whatsoever to what it has been these last 226 years since George Washington's first inauguration without James Madison.  And yet, as author Michael Signer points out, it was not until 1857 that James Madison finally got a monument placed on his grave site.  And even that was an ordeal: when the monument arrived, it was too heavy.  So, they needed to dig the grave far under the coffin to re-stabilize the foundation.  There, grave workers found that the boards of Madison's casket had rotted and the lid was askew. When they resettled the lid they saw the Madison's remains - bones, teeth, shreds of cloth. As Signer puts it, "A more or less random group of strangers peering at the marooned remains was a perfect symbol for the peculiar legacy just beginning for Madison."

Signer's Becoming Madison The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father is a story of Madison's life up to the ratification of the Constitution. It weaves a wonderful tale of how this diminutive, often sickly, brilliant man from Virginia made the unlikely ascent into the pantheon of American leaders.

A key factor in the Madison story as told these last 200+ years is his "poor health". Signer points out that scholars have studied what was "wrong" with Madison for as long as they've been writing about him. Ralph Ketcham unearthed research that indicated that Madison's parents ordered drugs for "an Epilepsy" on October 11, 1753. Lynne Cheney further noted that these medications included two laxatives. Cheney concluded that the drugs had to be for toddler James. But Signer casts doubt about the theory that Madison suffered from epilepsy.  For instance, he points out that the medications could have been for another member of the family with unrecorded symptoms of epilepsy. So, while Cheney concluded Madison had epilepsy, Signer says these symptoms could also have been psychosomatic. Indeed, Signer writes, "this is what the evidence suggests: that Madison suffered from severe anxiety-driven panic attacks that made him ill. In other words, his illness was a bodily condition driven by mental problems.... He did not, in other words suffer from classic epilepsy - he suffered from crippling anxiety."

To come to the conclusion that Madison suffered from lifelong anxiety attacks, Signer turned to the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-5]. Madison regularly experienced more of the symptoms than necessary to be classified as suffering from anxiety attacks. Signer says today Madison would be diagnosed as suffering from "psychogenic non-epileptic seizures."  Signer notes, "...a patient's anxiety takes physical form by tensing the smooth muscles that line the intestines and the stomach (leading to cramping and upset stomach) and the blood vessels (creating high blood pressure and headaches." While Signer backtracks a bit with the caveat, "We cannot, of course, know the truth. On sick questions, the historian is like an archaeologist assembling a window from shards of glass...", the argument is well-made that Madison was not epileptic but, in fact, suffered from lifelong, often debilitating, mental anxiety that manifested itself in physical symptoms.

Madison's career in government began in April 1776, when he was elected to serve as one of two delegates from his county to the Virginia Convention assembling to form a new state government. Madison joined that government in October 1776, where one of his early biographers, William Rives, believed he first met Jefferson.  His ascent continued in 1778, when he was elected to the position of Counselor to the State, serving in the Administrations of Governor Patrick Henry and then Governor Thomas Jefferson.  In late 1779, Madison was elected as one of four new representatives to serve Virginia in Congress in Philadelphia.

All the while, Madison studied government. Signer writes often about Madison's "Method", which he developed over these years of study.  According to Signer, the "Method" consisted of nine parts: 1) Find passion in your conscience; 2) Focus on the idea, not the man; 3) Develop multiple and independent lines of attack; 4) Embrace impatience; 5) Establish a competitive advantage through preparation; 6) Conquer bad ideas by dividing them; 7) Master your opponent as you master yourself; 8)  Push the state to the highest version of itself; and 9) Govern the passions.

It was clear to Madison [and others] that the Articles of Confederation were simply unworkable as designed.  After much study, Madison decided that what was needed was the power of coercion by the federal government over the states.  Indeed, in the early 1780s Madison proposed an amendment to the Articles of Confederation that would do just that: if any of the states, "shall refuse or neglect to abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, Congress would be fully authorized to employ the force of the United States to compel each state or states to fulfill their federal engagements". The amendment went nowhere. Madison tried again in January 1783, with a bill calling for a forced contribution from the states, having them pay taxes to the federal government - not for any specific purpose but for revenue in general.  Congress took Madison's bill and watered it down to nothing. Signer says that, at this point, Madison realized, "he could not simply send a fragile idea into the jungle of public opinion and hope it would survive. More militant measures were required."

By mid-decade, others were ready to consider those measures as well.  On June 22, 1786, Madison left for the Annapolis Convention. Congress had called the gathering together to resolve the catastrophe in commercial disputes among the states.  But Annapolis itself was a disaster: although the meeting was taking place in Maryland, that state's delegates - believing the convention was transgressing the powers of Congress - boycotted the event.  Connecticut also refused to attend; while South Carolina's and Georgia's delegates argued that the event would be redundant and pointless because prior agreements had also failed, so they did not come either.  Then the eastern states' delegates left the gathering abruptly, destroying the required quorum. The only positive was - before adjourning - the group called a follow-up convention, to meet in Philadelphia starting May 2, 1787.

On August 29, 1786 - just before the Annapolis Convention had been scheduled to begin - Shays' Rebellion reconfirmed for Madison and others that something had to be done about the Articles of Confederation. Daniel Shays, a war veteran, led 1,500 men to a courthouse in western Massachusetts to protest judges who were meeting to imprison debtors.  Shays delivered a petition demanding the judges shut down the proceedings. The judges shut their doors and Massachusetts soldiers were summoned. They repulsed Shays' protesters, who then regrouped and marched 30 miles to Petersham for another rally. This time, they were overtaken by a small state army and 150 were arrested [although Shays himself escaped].

The issue of Shays' Rebellion was the first - but by no means the last - time that Madison and Jefferson disagreed.  Madison thought the rebels should be harshly dealt with; while Jefferson believed they should all be pardoned. Of course Jefferson was in Paris at the time and not observing what Madison was seeing in the country.  Singer writes, "The clash between Madison and Jefferson on Shays' Rebellion, though muted by long distances and the passage of time, was revealing. Madison, the control freak, saw disaster in rebellion. Jefferson, the free spirit, saw raw potential instead....that tension has never been resolved in American democracy."

In October 1786, on his way back from Annapolis, Madison stayed with Washington at Mount Vernon for two nights and began a long campaign to get the "Father of His Country" to both publicly support and then attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia the following spring. Madison would visit Washington at Mount Vernon in late January 1787, this time using his aforementioned arguments about need for federal coercion of the states in a new constitution.

Madison was worried.  He feared that Shays' Rebellion had done irreparable damage to the republican character, perhaps even creating a propensity towards monarchy.  He thought long and deeply on the subject and believed he'd hit on something. As Signer writes, "The answer [Madison] said was to expand the republic. The enlargement of the sphere would dissipate individual passions there by controlling the 'Daniel Shays' of the country through modification of sovereignty.  The broad new nation, ever-expanding toward the frontier, would have no choice but neutrality between factions preventing majorities from dominating minorities and factions from undermining the nation itself."

Madison now had his main argument in favor of a federal republic.

The Convention began with small planning meetings on May 14, 1787, with groups of delegates meeting in the taverns and guesthouses of Philadelphia to plot strategy. It was during off-hours that Madison worked with Edmund Randolph and George Mason to refine what became known as the "Virginia Plan". The plan included a bicameral legislature, three branches of government, a national judiciary, and the guarantee of a republican government by the United States to each state.
While Randolph and Mason agreed with almost everything Madison proposed, there was a key dissension.  So, on May 29 when Randolph stood on the floor of the Convention to read out the 15 elements of the Virginia Plan, Madison was chagrined that Mason and Randolph had both refused to accept Madison's proposal that Congress have total power over the states in all cases whatsoever. Indeed, Signer notes that Madison listened unhappily as Randolph announced the compromise between Randolph and Mason: Congress would have only the power, "to negative all laws passed by several states contravening in the opinion of the national legislature the articles of the union." Madison was furious. Finally on May 31, he rose on the floor and openly confessed his concerns about the dilution of federal power.

For Madison the most significant episode of the Convention occurred when William Paterson rose to deliver what became known as the "New Jersey Plan". The plan rejected almost every aspect of Madison's political philosophy. Instead of a bicameral legislature with the popularly elected House and the statesmanlike Senate, the plan provided for only one Congress with one vote per state. It allowed Congress to collect taxes, but only upon the states' repeated consent. Congress - not the people - would elect the President, and the plan allowed the president to be recalled by a majority of governors. Madison successfully defeated the plan. Then, Hamilton proposed a plan with an interminable six-hour speech, where he proposed scrapping both the Virginia and New Jersey plans for one modeled on the British king and Parliament and courts. He proposed a lifelong Senate chosen by electors, a House of Representatives serving three-year terms, a 12-member Supreme Court with lifelong appointments, and - most significantly - an elective monarch. Madison defeated that as well.

Because of Madison, the Virginia Plan prevailed.  Yet, even in triumph with the signing of the Constitution, Madison was troubled by his failure to achieve a clearly coercive power for the new federal government. His pessimism deepened over the coming weeks as he came to realize that the new Constitution would face blistering opposition around the country. He was particularly distressed by the prospects for ratification in Virginia under the attack of an opposition led by Patrick Henry.

Madison, along with Hamilton and John Jay, set out to make the case for the Constitution through published essays which became known as The Federalist Papers.  Signer says that there was a familiar refrain in The Federalist Papers: regardless of the topic, at heart each essay was, "an injunction for citizens to defy the passions, to diffuse demagogues, and to join their nation at the frontier of reason and restraint." The first essay, written by Hamilton, was published on October 27, 1787.

It was in Federalist No. #10 [published November 22] that Madison declared his vision for the nation: a larger rather than smaller republic, he declared, would make it more difficult for "unworthy candidates" to be successful in the "vicious arts by which elections are too often carried." The country, Madison argued, should be larger and more federal in order to become more just and more stable. As Signer notes, "extend this through the sphere of the republic, [Madison] told his readers, and you take on a greater variety of parties and interests that would deprive the majority of their common motive to invade the rights of other citizens."

Madison touched on this again in Federalist No. #51 [February 6, 1788]. The idea, Madison write, was to create a society with, "so many separate descriptions of citizens that it would tender an unjust combination of the whole very improbable if not impractical." The extended Republic of America would be, "broken into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens, so many rolling shifting passions, that there would be little danger from interested combinations of the majority."

It had been determined that the Constitution would be considered approved once nine states had ratified it. Delaware was the first state to do so, on December 7, 1787. Pennsylvania followed on December 11.  New Jersey ratified it on December 18. Georgia ratified the Constitution on January 2, 1788, and Connecticut followed suit on January 9.  Soon, Massachusetts became the sixth state to do so.  Maryland [April 28] and South Carolina [May 3] became the seventh and eighth states. Leaving just one more necessary.

The election of delegates for the Virginia ratifying Convention was set for early-March 1788 [it would actually convene three months later]. Madison was urged by friends and family alike to go to Richmond to secure a seat as a delegate at the convention - some even warned his presence was needed to save the Constitution itself. Although he remained in New York longer than his colleagues wished [he insisted on finishing all of The Federalist Papers essays before returning to Virginia], Madison was eventually elected as a delegate to the Convention.

Madison arrived in Richmond for the Convention on June 1, 1788. Shortly after a successful opening salvo against Patrick Henry [in which Madison pointed out that George Washington himself was in support of the document], Madison became ill. At the most inopportune time [and, indeed, the fact that it was such an inopportune time no doubt contributed to it happening in the first place], Madison was struck down by a vicious anxiety attack that left him physically devastated.

In Madison's absence, the debate between Henry and pro-federalist Edmund Randolph grew so heated that the two men scheduled a duel.  Fortunately, a reconciliation was negotiated and no shots were fired. But Henry was gaining the argument in Madison's absence. And then James Monroe - a Madison friend but an anti-federalist - made a brilliant, convincing and enlightened argument against the Constitution.  When he heard about Monroe's eloquence and the positive reception it received from the other delegates, Madison decided he had to return to the arena.

After more than three weeks of heated debate, a final vote was taken on June 25, 1788: Virginia ratified the Constitution, 89-79.

Although the Constitution concludes the bulk of Signer's text, he does address aspects of Madison's post-Constitution career to highlight changes in his philosophy. Within ten years, in fact, things would change. Not Madison's commitment to the government established in the Constitution. But a change in nuance as to what that government's relationship should be with the states and its citizens. In 1798, Madison wrote the "Virginia Resolutions", in which he argued that the Alien and Sedition Acts violated the, "general principles of free government, as well as the particular organization and positive provisions of the federal Constitution." He asked other states to join Virginia in declaring the acts unconstitutional. Signer points out that Madison's arguments were more nuanced than Jefferson's "Kentucky Resolutions". According to Signer, Madison's resolutions merely threatened while Jefferson's declared rebellion.

Madison lived a long life. Long enough to see the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions used by John C. Calhoun to argue that a state could nullify a federal law it didn't agree with.  Madison was appalled by Calhoun's plans.  As Signer writes, "Although Madison had supported Virginia's right to repudiate the Alien and Sedition Acts, he saw John Calhoun nullification action in 1828 in a far different light and with real alarm."  According to Signer, "The Virginia Resolution was about [President] John Adams' unconstitutional abrogation of freedom of speech; [while Calhoun's] nullification laid bare the fundamentally unresolved tension in the constitution about coercion itself regarding the whole range of self interested pursuits and passions of the states." Madison argued that, contrary to what Calhoun was saying, the Constitution was not just a compact between separately acting states.

Signer argues that Madison's support of "nullification" in 1798, "had been valid because the Alien and Sedition Acts were plainly unconstitutional and because Virginia - in opposing them - had explained precisely that basis… In attempting to nullify federal tariffs, South Carolina - on the other hand - was just as plainly arguing from self interest."

Madison died suddenly on June 28, 1836 at the age of 85. He was the last founding father to die  It says much about his life that Signer could write a 320-page book and cover - for the most part - only the years 1776-1788. That he was able to overcome what appears to our 21st-century diagnosticians to be a debilitating anxiety/physical condition and emerge as one of the Founding Fathers is a testimonial to the power of his mind and his physical and emotional courage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Yogi Berra died last night.  When you call someone a true American 'hero', it should mean something.  With Yogi, it most certainly did.  He was not only one of the greatest ballplayers to ever live; not only one of the most astute observers of the human condition; but also was a war hero before his 20th birthday.  Indeed, two years before he hit his first home run, Berra distinguished himself on a field of battle that saw countless other pre-20-year olds lose their lives.  All that Berra achieved after D-Day would never have happened, obviously, had he perished that day.  Had he died at Normandy, though, he'd be no less an American hero today - even without ten World Series rings, three MVP awards, 71 World Series hits or any of the other long list of on-field accomplishments.

Yogi grew up in a section of St. Louis known as 'The Hill'.  His best friend and confidant growing up was Joe Garagiola, who would also go on to a career in baseball as a player and announcer.  Berra had another nickname before 'Yogi'.  "We called him 'Lawdie'," Garagiola remembered in a documentary on Yogi's life for the YES Network's Yankeeography Series. "He was called 'Lawdie' because his mother [an Italian immigrant] couldn't say 'Lawrence or 'Larry''."

His more famous nickname came about one day on the baseball 'fields' on The Hill. While playing in American Legion baseball with his friends, Berra sat on the field with his arms and legs crossed waiting to bat. "He looks like one of them 'yogis'" said one of his friends - and thus 'Yogi' Berra was born.

In 1941, Yogi and Joe Garagiola responded to a newspaper ad and attended a tryout for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Branch Rickey ran the tryout and - after observing both young men - offered Garagiola a $500 contract to play for the Cardinals.  Garagiola wasn't the player Rickey wanted, however. Rickey knew that he would be leaving the Cardinals to take over the presidency of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  And Rickey wanted Yogi Berra for the Dodgers, not the Cardinals.  So, Rickey offered Berra a contract but no bonus, guessing [correctly] that Berra wouldn't sign without a bonus.  Sure enough, Rickey left the Cardinals for the Dodgers and contacted Berra with a $500 offer.  Rickey was too late. In the interim, the New York Yankees had scouted Berra, offered him the $500, and Yogi Berra was neither a Cardinal nor a Dodger - but a Yankee.

Baseball would have to wait, though. At the age of 18, Berra enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943. Shortly after completing basic training, Berra volunteered for a mission that would change the world. Berra served on a rocket boat at the Battle of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  The job that Berra had volunteered for put him on a 6-man, 36-foot LCSS Boat [Landing Craft Support, Small; Berra later would say the letters really stood for 'Landing Craft Suicide Squad'].  Berra and the others were part of the initial wave to land on the beach, and their mission was to fire rockets at German gun targets to protect Allied troops attempting to storm the beach.  Of the six men in Berra's craft, three were killed.

Berra was one of 35 baseball Hall of Famers to serve in World War II. Of his ordeal, Berra would later say, “It was like Fourth of July to see all those planes and ships on Normandy, my gosh. You couldn’t see anything,” Berra said in 2010. “I stood up on the deck of our boat, looked up and my officer tells me, ‘You better get your head down here before it gets blown off.’ I said, ‘I like it up here.’ He said, ‘You better get down here [or] you won’t have it. You won’t look at anything.’ Being a kid, ‘What the heck,’ I said. ‘Nothing can kill me.’ I found out later on.”

Having somehow survived D-Day, Berra returned to the Yankees' minor league system after the war and was called up to the big club at the end of the 1946 season, hitting a home run in his very first at bat. The Yankees went to the World Series in his first full season, 1947.  Berra had a strong offensive series but was miserable defensively behind the plate. In the series versus the Brooklyn Dodgers, Berra hit the first pinch-hit home run in World Series history.  But Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers ran roughshod over him, at one point stealing five bases in one game.  Although the Yankees won the series four games to three, Berra was embarrassed by his inability to shine behind the plate the way he had in front of it.

That changed in 1949 when Casey Stengel became manager of the Yankees.  Stengel saw Berra as a star - with tremendous potential as a catcher.  He tapped Yankee Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey to come to spring training to work with Berra exclusively on his defense.  By the time Dickey was finished tutoring Berra, the latter was a defensive stalwart behind the plate.   Indeed, as Mel Ott would say, "[Berra] stopped everything behind the plate and hit everything in front of it." Even during his final days as a catcher [he would play the outfield for the last four seasons of his career] Berra compiled a remarkable streak of 148 straight games - 950 chances - without an error from 1957-1959.

The Yankees would go on to win five straight World Series from 1949-1953. Berra was voted the American League Most Valuable Player in 1951. He would win it two more times - in 1954 and 1955. By the time he was done, he'd won ten World Series and been in four others.  At a time when the Yankees fielded Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, it was Berra who led the Yankees in RBIs for seven consecutive seasons [1949-1955]. Perhaps one of the most amazing statistics, however, is that in 7,555 at-bats, he struck out only 414 times.  For many of today's major leaguers, that's only two years' worth of strikeouts.

Perhaps Berra was best described by his lifelong friend, Garagiola.  "If I had to use one word to describe him," Garagiola said of Berra, "it would be 'underestimated'. His entire life, everybody - except those of us who knew him - underestimated him."

No one underestimates Yogi Berra now.  We may just underestimate how much we're going to miss him.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Book Review: Dark Invasion - 1915, Germany's Secret War, and the Hunt For the First Terrorist Cell in America by Howard Blum

Howard Blum's exciting story of the German terrorist cell that operated in the United States in the aftermath of the start of World War I in Europe was inspired by an article Blum read in the CIA's in-house publication, Studies in Intelligence. The article, written by a CIA staff historian one year after 9/11, was subtitled "Protecting the Homeland The First Tome Around".

The story reads like fiction and is well-told by Blum. The hero of the piece is New York City Police Captain Thomas J. Tunney. A series of bombings in and around New York City in the first decade-and-a-half of the 20th century led New York City Police Commissioner Arthur Hale Woods to name Tunney commander of a newly formed bomb squad in 1913.  Tunney had made his bones by solving the case of the Brescia Circle crime syndicate that had attempted to blow up St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Tunney's work in preventing that tragedy was the start of a whirlwind period in the mid-teens when Tunney and his officers would prevent countless other deaths as well.

While the Brescia Circle had been a domestic syndicate [albeit made up largely of recent Italian immigrants] it was a foreign threat that led to Tunney's heroics. 

Even before the start of the fighting in World War I in 1914, Germany knew it was going to war. It also knew that it wanted to keep the U.S. out of the fight.  That desire, however, had to be balanced with the need to make sure that America did not become what Franklin Roosevelt would call 25 years later - prior to the next World War - "the arsenal of democracy."  The Kaiser and his secret intelligence service, Abteilung IIIB, planned to make sure that Britain and France were not aided by supplies sent from America.

To do this, it was decided to set up a spy network in the United States to sabotage - as much as possible - attempts to aid the Allies at Germany's expense.  The Kaiser decided that the German Foreign Service in the U.S. would be the best cover for the operation.  Along those lines, in July 1914 Germany's Ambassador to the United States, Count Johann Heinrich Andreas Hermann Albrecht von Bernstorff was recalled to Berlin by the Supreme Commander of Abteilung IIIB, Walter Nicolai, for a full briefing on the plan.  When Nicolai met von Bernstorff  in Berlin, his instructions were simple: establish a network of intelligence agents in America. This network's mission would be twofold: keep the U.S. out of the war; and prevent arms and other goods from leaving U.S. docks for Europe.

While working out of the German Embassy in Washington, von Bernstorff decided to locate the headquarters of the spy network in New York City - a more German-friendly area and one less likely to raise suspicions. For staffing, Heinrich Albert, the Embassy's commercial attaché, served as paymaster for the cell. Indeed, in that first year alone, he distributed $30 million to spies and saboteurs in the network. Other key players included Karl Boy-Ed, a German diplomatic expert on the U.S. Navy and it's fleet, as well as Franz von Papen, who set up a War Intelligence Center to recruit and direct spies and saboteurs to where they were most needed.

It is important to note, as Blum reminds us, that at this time over 8,000,000 people - one tenth of the U.S. population - had been born in Germany or had a German parent. Another key audience from which to cull spies was the large number of German military reservists (about 500,000) who had suddenly found themselves stranded in America when the war broke out. President Woodrow Wilson's neutrality policy kept these German soldiers on U.S. land because he stated that any ship docked in the United States at the outbreak of the war would not be allowed to leave the U.S. to join the hostilities. Because of this, East Coast ports were filled with German vessels and idle sailors for the duration of the war. A captive audience from which to recruit spies, indeed.

The network was made up of more than just Germans, though.  There were also 4,500,000 Irish-Americans in the U.S., and the strains of Irish nationalism ran deep for the common enemy - Great Britain. So here, too, was a population likely to help the Germans.

One of the final leaders put in place was Paul Koenig, a man Blum describes as, "a thug and a bully and he enjoyed hurting people." He was hired to carry out covert assignments for the Abteilung IIIB. Because he worked security for the Hamburg-American Shipping Line, he was familiar with all of the best criminals on the New York City docks. Koenig rounded up his best thugs and formed a "secret service division". They planted and detonated bombs on ships carrying materiel to the Allies throughout 1914-15. In most cases, the bombs went off at sea and appeared as "fires" rather than intentional explosions.

By the spring of 1915, Tunney had formulated a theory that these fires were not the result of poor safety practices by sailors but were instead related to German sabotage. Tunney went to Commissioner Woods with his theory after more than 70 fires/explosions, 38 deaths, and $22 million in damages had occurred.

At almost exactly the same time, the British Secret Service cracked the German code. To continue to make that a useful tool, however, they obviously did not want the Germans to know of their success.  Britain, therefore, would not share with the United States that the code had been broken.  They would, however, share with them the knowledge of the German sabotage cells, gleaned from being able to read the dispatches between Berlin and Washington. Guy Gaunt, head of Section V, the British Secret Service New York station - let Franklin Polk, his liaison in the Wilson Administration, know that the German Secret Service was directing a campaign of sabotage against the United States.  President Wilson had placed Polk in charge of U.S. security operations at the start of the European war. Polk had grave doubts, however, that there was anyone in Washington who could handle such a case. He knew about what Woods and Tunney had done with the Brescia Circle case in New York City, and he tapped them with the job of investigating the bombings.  Tunney's group thus became the awkwardly-titled Bomb and Neutrality Squad.

At this time - spring 1915 - two new actors appeared. Franz Dagobert Johannes von Rintelen was sent by Nicolai to the U.S. to take over the German sabotage campaign in April 1915. While von Bernstorff would remain in charge of the entire operation as Ambassador to the U.S., Nicolai realized that there needed to be a physical presence in New York City overseeing day-to-day operations, something von Bernstorff could not do from Washington.

The second actor was Dr. Walter Scheele. Scheele invented a bomb that evaporated in the explosion itself - thus it was untraceable and allowed the user to create fuses that would not detonate for up to two weeks after they were planted - when ships were well at sea. These "cigar" bombs were smuggled aboard ships heading for Europe. They'd be in international waters by the time they ignited and therefore there would never be a clue as to what caused the fire. Unless, of course, Tunney could find a cigar bomb that - for some reason - didn't explode.

To manufacture these bombs in sufficient quantities, space was needed. Charles von Kleist - a longtime German captain stranded in New York City - suggested to von Rintelen that he use the steamship Friedrich der Grosse and it was transformed into a factory. It took one week to fabricate about 100 lead cigars. Von Rintelen used Irish stevedores to smuggle them onto the ships. The first ship targeted was the British ship Phoebus carrying American-made bullets and shells. It worked.

Not every bomb exploded, of course, When French police found unexploded bombs on the steamship Kirkoswald when it docked in Marseille from New York City. the French sent the bombs to the U.S. State Department who sent them onto Tunney and his team.  After studying the design, Tunney figured out how the bombs worked, but not why this particular bomb hadn't.  Tunney knew "by their design that they were the work of a skilled and artful professional with a sophisticated knowledge of chemistry and design."

While most know the story of Germany's attempt to recruit Mexico against the United States just prior to U.S. entry in the war, Blum discovered that it was not the first time Germany had tried this. In mid-1915, von Rintelen met with ousted Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta [who was trying to regain his seat of power in Mexico]. Von Rintelen proposed that German U-Boats would deliver covert shipments of weapons along the Mexican coast; Germany would provide large sums of money to outfit Huerta with a Mexican rebel army; in return, once Huerta regained power, his troops would attack the United States. Unbeknownst to either man, the whole meeting had been recorded by British Intelligence [they had bugged Huerta's hotel room, where the meeting had been held].

The plan started when 8,000,000 rounds of ammunition were purchased and awaited shipment to Huerta; another 3,000,000 rounds were on order; $800,000 was deposited into Huerta's personal bank account; another $95,000 went into a Mexican bank account also in Huerto's name; and Franz von Papen, from the aforementioned War Intelligence Center, started drafting plans to attack the American army barracks in Brownsville, El Paso and San Antonio.

That's as far as this plot got. The British tipped off the Americans - again, not explaining how or exactly what was learned - and Huerta was arrested on charges of sedition. As Blum writes, this is where the story of what really happened must go untold. We know that Huerta was first incarcerated in El Paso, and then released on bail.  He was invited mysteriously to a dinner at Fort Bliss. It was there that Blum surmises that Huerta was more than likely poisoned. He died before ever returning to Mexico.

As incredible as the story of sabotage is, many of these acts were occurring in international waters. What the Germans next proposed would be on U.S. soil.  In the spring of 1915, the Germans sent Erich von Steinmetz to the United States to launch germ warfare. The target wasn't humans - although there was a grave risk of human contraction of deadly disease - the primary targets were horses. In the war in Europe, horses, "we're suddenly as valuable as oil." The idea was to poison the American horses before they could be shipped to serve in Europe.  The fact that Americans would die too was irrelevant. . Von Steinmetz came to the United States with vials of bacteria for glanders, anthrax, and meningitis. He went to Van Cortlandt Park, where hundreds of the soon-to-be shipped horses were held. He inserted a stick covered with glanders bacteria into a nostril of every third horse. Then he waited. And waited. Nothing happened.  After a week the horses were still healthy. It turned out that the germs he'd brought with him were too old. After a month they lost their potency and these were at least four months old. For now, at least, germ warfare was put on hold.

One of the great financiers of the Allies was J.P. Morgan. As such, he was the target of much wrath from Germany. In early June 1915, a new figure [one with an incredible backstory detailed marvelously throughout the book by Blum] presented himself on stage. He name was Frank Holt and he was going to "convince" Morgan that he shouldn't aid the allies. Holt also wanted to send a message to Congress that their protests over the sinking of the Lusitania were "misguided".

Holt's plot unfolded quickly.  On July 2, 1915, Holt toured the U.S. Capitol and planted a bomb under a canvas covering the switchboard near the Vice President's office. He then sent a letter to five recipients - President Wilson and the four principal Washington newspapers.The bomb went off at 11:23 pm.

By that point, Holt was en route to see Morgan.  On July 3rd, Holt managed to gain entry to Morgan's summer home on Long Island by pulling a gun on the butler.  Holt then rounded up the two youngest Morgan children as protection should Morgan be armed. Seeing his children, without thinking, Morgan threw himself at Holt, who shot Morgan in the abdomen and left thigh. Though shot, Morgan fell on Holt and managed to wrestle the gun from his hands while the butler knocked Holt unconscious.

Once he regained consciousness, Holt gave a statement that read similarly to the language used in the letters dealing with the U.S. Capitol bombing.  Tunney quickly linked Holt to both events.  Tunney took over the case and was hopeful that Holt would be the linchpin that would help him bring the others down.  This was particularly true because, after only a short conversation with Holt, Tunney realized that he had no idea how to make a bomb himself, meaning he must have had accomplices.

Then another of those unknowable mysteries arose: Holt died in his holding cell.  There were conflicting stories that Holt had gotten hold of a gun and shot himself; that German agents had somehow gotten access to him and shot him; that there was no gunshot at all and Holt managed to commit suicide by jumping head-first from the top of the window in his cell onto the concrete floor below. Blum expanded on each theory but concludes that Holt's death is one of those things that will never be solved. Indeed, back when Commissioner Woods had given Tunney "command of his special task force, the commissioner had warned that some secrets might never be revealed. The circumstances surrounding Holt's death, he now suspected, were among them."

A break in the case of the overall spy network came on July 24, 1915, when German paymaster Heinrich Albert accidentally left a briefcase full of incriminating documents on an elevated train, just as he was being watched by one of Tunney's agents, who confiscated the briefcase.  The documents in it were a treasure trove of detail.  The contents took a circuitous route to President Wilson: Tunney forwarded them onto Secret Service Chief William Flynn, who brought them to Secretary of the Treasury William McAdoo, who briefed Wilson.  McAdoo told Wilson that the briefcase contained details on the German sabotage network including plans to set up a phony company to buy up as much American munitions as possible to exhaust the supplies of those receiving orders from Europe. The documents also disclosed plans to buy up liquid chloride (used for poison gas). [As an aside, Blum notes that by that point the United States was selling 52 tons of liquid chloride a month to the Allies].

It was an incredible find. But Secretary of State Robert Lansing pointed out the elephant in the room: the documents couldn't be used in a court of law  - a federal agent had essentially stolen them.  Wilson agreed but his close aide, Colonel Edward House, had seen about enough of his friend's tortured 'neutrality' policies. These documents were too much for House to allow.  If they couldn't be used in court, they could be used in the press.  House subsequently leaked the documents to Frank Cobb, editor at the New York World. They were front page news on August 15, 1915.

House was not alone in being exasperated by Wilson.  Blum - for most of the book - is extremely critical of Wilson's unwillingness to act on the intelligence Tunney and others were giving him.  Blum said, "...Wilson's patience was inexhaustible." The patience of his friends was not.  House in particular became more and more critical of Wilson. In language that risked his friendship with his boss, House said that by refusing to speak out against Germany's covert operations in the United States, Wilson was endangering the nation. As Blum reports, "The president was unmoved."

A second attempt at germ warfare came in the person of Anton Dilger in early October 1915.  Dilger was sent by Abteilung IIIB to carry out von Steinmetz's aborted mission. Dilger set up his headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just six miles from the White House. He set up what he called "Tony's Lab" in the basement and went to work on breeding anthrax and glanders.

At the same time, though, the organization itself was beginning to unravel. And the key was an old standby - money.  A German operative in Hoboken, New Jersey, Charles von Kleist, was angry.  He had performed work for Walter Scheele - inventor of the cigar bomb - but felt he had not been paid properly. Von Kleist was furious and wanted his money.  He'd tried to get it by going up the chain of command but he had gotten nowhere.  Just at that moment, Tunney had decided to send agents into heavily German Hoboken to try to infiltrate a cell.  One of the agents posing as a German spy, Henry Barth, found von Kleist and was all too eager to tell the German that he could make sure that Scheele paid him his money.  Soon, von Kleist thoroughly trusted Barth and told him everything he knew, which was quite a bit - including the location of a bomb-making factory in Hoboken.  The final straw was when he brought Barth to his home and dug up a cigar bomb to show him what they'd used.  Barth immediately arrested him.

With von Kleist talking, others were rounded up and arrested. Actually, most of the conspirators were talking. One of those Tunney interviewed was named Bonford Boniface, who had first-hand knowledge of von Steinmetz's attempts at germ warfare.  According to Bonfiace, a second attempt at germ warfare was supposedly in motion but he didn't know any details.

Tunney was stunned.  As he shared this plot up the chain, Franklin Polk - also tired of Wilson's lack of backbone - didn't even bother to bring the news to House, "...he had no faith that the president would listen to the news and then act decisively."

Meanwhile, things in "Tony's Lab" were about ready.  Frederick Hinsch, one of the German operatives, was tasked with taking the germs from Dilger. He took anthrax and glanders, which were to be given to horses to start a plague.

But the Germans were running out of time. Another pillar fell out from under them when John Archibald, an American reporter sympathetic to Germany, agreed to deliver papers from German Ambassador von Bernstorff to Germany. Amazingly, a waiter at the table where von Bernstorff and Archibald were dining tipped off the Secret Service.  When he arrived in England [en route to Germany], Archibald was arrested with 110 documents outlining German plans to foment labor strikes in the U.S.; cancelled checks to saboteurs and dozens of other incriminating documents. By this point, the British had joined the legions of those wary of Wilson. Rather than forward the information onto Washington, the British simply leaked the contents of the files to the American press.

Meanwhile, unlike von Steinmetz's samples, Dilger's germs worked.  It is believed that the first human to die was a handler of the horses on one of the ships. The cause of death was glanders and it was assumed the man had contracted it from a sick horse.  Indeed, it would not be until 1924 - when lawyers seeking reparations for Germany's sabotage activities in the U.S. conducted their investigations - that the existence of "Tony's Lab" was discovered.  While this man was the first known human fatality in the contagion caused by Germany's germ warfare attack, Blum says we will never know how many deaths went undiagnosed.

Blum adequately covers the build-up to U.S. entry in World War I. By the time the Germans declared unrestricted submarine warfare [February 1, 1917], much of the German spy network was either in jail or back safely in Berlin. By that time, the German spy network - in just three years - had destroyed $150 million in property and caused over 100 deaths.

It could have been much, much worse if not for Thomas Tunney.  As Blum writes, "In the end, it had been left to Tom and his small group of men to protect the homeland."