It’s July, and the birds are singing – although they do that most of the year anyway (or all, depending on where you live), so it’s blatantly obvious that I just couldn’t think of a better introduction to this installment’s category, IT’S A BIRD. So let’s take a flight through some avian knowledge, unless you’re an ostrich or penguin or one of those other dumb flightless things.
Jeopardy! category: IT’S A BIRD (14-07-2014)
$200 clue: Bellicose 19th century southerners like Henry Clay were called war these
The gist: Unfortunately, bellicose people are not a feature unique to the 19th century American south, and the term is alive and well today as well. But the “original” war hawks were a faction of politicians in the Democratic-Republican party who agitated for war against the British in response to interference by the Royal Navy with American shipping lines, including impressing American sailors into service on British ships. President James Madison, himself a Democratic-Republican, believed that the young United States wasn’t prepared to wage war against the British. The war hawks were a major headache for Madison. On rumours that the British were inciting Native groups to attack American settlements they managed to convince Congress to declare war, beginning the War of 1812 and the attempted expulsion of the British from North America by invading Canada. The unflattering term “war hawk,” coined by one of their political foes, is understandably murky as to who exactly was a member of the group and who wasn’t. But the nominal leaders of the pro-war contingent were senator, congressman, and orator Henry Clay, who was Speaker of the House at the time, and secessionist and anti-abolitionist congressman John C. Calhoun.
Since then, many other pro-war agitators have been termed “hawks,” often placed in opposition to the “doves” who tend to favour diplomatic resolutions to conflict. Nixon, as Vice President under President Dwight Eisenhower, was referred to as a hawk with regards to Vietnam, although Eisenhower was wary of getting involved in a land war in Asia.* The Iraq War saw the popularization of the term “liberal hawks,” to describe pundits and politicians on the political left who agreed with the Bush Administration that military intervention in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was justified.
When talking ornithologically, “hawk” refers to members of the subfamily Accipitrinae if one wants to refer to “true hawks,” but can also refer to other medium-sized birds of prey in general speech, notably the birds known as buzzards outside of the U.S.
The clue: I like this clue, particularly for the $200 spot. It’s really just a question about a fairly common term – which bird means warlike politician? – but they’ve couched it within an interesting historical fact. Even though I was unaware of the specific 19th century American origin of the phrase, I knew the correct response, and now I know both, which is a good thing.
In Jeopardy!: Since “hawk” is so common outside of just being a bird (The Jeopardy! writers are fond of Stephen Hawking), we’ll need to try another search. “War hawk” still returns mostly less-than-relevant results: Edward Hopper’s famous painting Nighthawks; film director Howard Hawks; Sauk native Chief Black Hawk, who had an 1832 war named after him (for which a young Abraham Lincoln enlisted but never fought); and 2001 Ridley Scott war film Black Hawk Down. Still, there are some useful things to glean from the J!Archive. John. C Calhoun appears alongside his war hawks in two clues, and Henry Clay in three. Aside from that, though, the other clues are just facsimiles of this one – a bird that means aggressive.
*A little Easter Egg buried in the Wikipedia article for the Vietnam War.