Tuesday, January 16, 2018


I'm between books right now, just having finished revising my latest manuscript, Six Capsules: The Carlyle Harris Murder Case. This has given me time to work on a few other projects, including the transcribing of the 4,000 pages of testimony from the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case. Here are links to my most recent transcriptions:





I'm coming up on a very important witness, John F. Condon (Witness 20), who served as the go-between for the delivery of the ransom from Lindbergh to "Cemetery John." Readers should find his testimony both interesting and entertaining. He was a real character.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Here are two recent reviews of my book Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln that were posted on Amazon:

George R. Dekle, Sr. relates all the stories about Lincoln's murder trials with the understanding of a seasoned attorney. HIs thirty years as an assistant state attorney of the Third Judicial Circuit of Florida gives him experience few can match. His research is thorough and his writing skills are top notch. He gives the reader the background quarrels that ended in tragedy and as much of the course of the trails as it is possible to know. An excellent book.

I've read a couple hundred Lincoln books, and this one deserves a space on the bookshelf of every Lincoln scholar. It is well written enough to be of interest to the casual history reader and detailed and documented for those of us who want the citations. Most refreshing is the range of views of the skills of Lincoln as a lawyer, from mediocre to hagiography, and the integration of Lincoln's law practice, especially capital cases, in his political development.


In my continuing effort to transcribe all the testimony of all the witnesses in the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, I am up to Witness # 14. Here's the transcript of the testimony of JOHN J. SWEENY. 

Here is an index to the testimony of all the currently transcribed witnesses: INDEX.

Friday, January 12, 2018


I got a call this morning from what looked like a private number. I missed it and tried to call back. I couldn't get through, but I got a call back from the private number. There was a young man on the phone wanting to know why I called him. I told him I was returning his call. The young man said he had never called me and didn't know how his number showed up on my caller ID. I had a suspicion which I shared with him.

Later in the day, I got another call which said it was from the same gentleman. I answered the call and got a pre-recorded message from somebody or other at "Account Services." The call assured me that I wasn't in trouble, but it was urgent that I stay on the line to learn how I could consolidate my credit card debt. I hung up. I don't have any credit card debt because I pay any charges off in full every month. I could be wrong, but I believe the name "Credit Card Services" is just as bogus as the camouflage phone number they used.

This little scenario has repeated itself several times recently when I received calls from "Account Services" but caller ID displayed a private number. Once or twice when I concluded that "Account Services" was using a fake number to trick me into answering the phone, I called the legitimate owner of the phone number to let them know that I believed a scammer had hijacked their number to use as a disguise. (I don't answer calls from 800 numbers. 90%+ of them are robocalls, and the legitimate callers leave messages which I promptly return).

A couple of times I have waited through "Account Services'" pre-recorded spiel and spoken to a live person. When I cut their sales pitch off and tell them that I want to be put on their DO NOT CALL list, the live person immediately hangs up. I don't think that they put my number on the DO NOT CALL list, because "Account Services" keeps on calling. There's no use reporting this to the authorities because they want to know who was calling and the number they called from. They can't go very far with a fake number and a fake identity. It's frustrating, especially when the calls are burning up my cellphone minutes.

President Trump recently made a scatological reference to countries from which he didn't want immigrants. Although I wouldn't dream of applying such a description to people trying to better their lives by moving to America, I think Trump's term perfectly fits the tactics of "Account Services." I certainly wish that the 5H17holes at "Account Services" would quit calling me.

CORRECTION: When I wrote this I was so angry about the recent call that I misremembered the name of the alleged scammer. It's "Account Services," not "Credit Card Services." I no sooner got through posting this blog than I got another call from "Account Services."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


The modern trend in writing the history of the United States is to look to the past for reasons to revile the present. It began after WWII and has grown to the point that the postmodern equivalent of patriotism is to be unpatriotic, finding fault with anything and everything about America’s heritage. The prototypical example of this phenomenon can be found on a YouTube clip entitled “The Most Honest Three Minutes on TV Ever,” in which an actor delivers a non sequitur-laden rant against anything and everything American. Why this piece could more properly be labeled “The Most Dishonest Short-Course in American History Ever”  has been demonstrated by any number of commentators. (See, for example: Walter Campbell’s Why the Most Honest 3 Minutes on TV Ever is a Lie and Steven Crowder’s Newsroom Rebuttal: America is not the Greatest Country in the World?)

I am a great believer in reading history critically, but for the purpose of learning from the past, not vilifying the present. I recall one episode from French history where men whose philosophy coincided with “The Most [dis]Honest Three Minutes” took over. They then began to dismantle every institution from the hated “Ancien Regime” and replace them with more “democratic” institutions. The results were Robespierre and the Reign of Terror and Napoleon Bonaparte’s devastation of France and most of Western Europe.

I think I see a lesson from the past which can help us avoid replicating France’s Reign of Terror. We begin by remembering that the Founding Fathers set up America as a republic modeled after the Roman Republic. An essential aspect of the Roman Republic which was not written into our Constitution was the Cursus Honorum, or “course of honor” which a Roman politician had to go through before reaching the highest levels of government. 

Here is a very abbreviated description of the Cursus Honorum: Anyone aspiring to public office in Rome had to travel the Cursus Honorum, which began with the office of Quaestor, and aspiring politicians were not qualified to serve as Quaestors until they had served ten years in the military. After serving as a Quaestor, the politician was then entitled to stand for election as a Tribune or Aedile. Once that step was completed, the next office was that of Praetor, an office which had extensive judicial and military powers. Praetors entered the Senate on the expiration of their terms in office, and became eligible to run for the highest executive office, Consul (roughly equivalent to President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces). There were age requirements for each office, and a man could not lawfully become a Consul until he was in his 40’s. By the time a man became Consul, he was well-schooled in how the government worked and eminently qualified to serve. It was a good system, and I have belonged to a number of civic and professional organizations which had their own version of the Cursus Honorum etched into their DNA.

Toward the end of the Republic, the Cursus Honorum began to break down, and that breakdown contributed to the fall of the Republic. Men who had not traveled the course assumed high office neither having gained the requisite experience nor displayed the requisite virtue. Things went from bad to worse through a series of crises and civil wars until finally Octavian emerged as the last man standing and became Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor.

The Founding Fathers possibly did not include a Cursus Honorum in the Constitution because it was unthinkable that anyone could become president without having extensive service in lesser governmental offices. For most of American’s existence, our Presidents have traveled an unofficial Cursus Honorum. Before becoming president, George Washington served as an officer in the French and Indian War, as a delegate to the  First and Second Continental Congresses, as General of the Continental Army during the Revolution, and as president of the Constitutional Convention.  You could trace a similar pathway for most of our early presidents.

In the latter half of the Twentieth Century the American Republic’s unofficial Cursus Honorum began to break down under the pervasive influence of two things the Founding Fathers could never have anticipatedmodern media and the cult of celebrity. We began to elect people to high office whose only qualifications seemed to be popularity as singers (e.g. Sonny Bono), actors (e.g. Jesse Ventura), or comedians (e.g. Al Franken). The exception which “proves” the rule is Ronald Reagan. (I didn't vote for him because I thought he was "just an actor"). Actually, however, Reagan had traveled a form of the Cursus Honorum—before becoming President, Reagan had served in the military, as President of the Screen Actor’s Guild, and as Governor of California.

Today we have a President whose qualifications for office seem to be a massive ego, reality TV stardom, and a tendency to shoot off his mouth before his brain is loaded; and we have the prospect of a future president who is on record as saying she is not qualified but is now considering a run. (Because if Trump can do it, why can't she?) If she did run, her qualifications would appear to be a massive ego, television celebrity, and the ability to deliver a stirring speech. But isn't that what actors are trained to do? Deliver stirring speeches without necessarily meaning or even understanding a word they say?

America needs a Constitutional amendment setting up a Cursus Honorum for the office of president. I suggest a three-step course for the American President. [1] Military service, [2] service in high office on the state level (e.g., Governor, Cabinet Member, or Legislator), and finally [3] service in high office on the National level (e.g., Cabinet Member, Representative, or Senator). If celebrities want to run for President, let them first walk the Cursus Honorum.