The Good and the Bad James Boys: Frank, Jesse, Henry, & William

John T Jones, Ph.D.

Visitors: 543

Two sets of brothers, the James boys, have left their imprint on our culture.

Frank and Jesse were influenced by an angry, tragic, civil war. Frank and Jesse were poor and had no source of income at the end of the Civil War. They became outlaws. They left us nothing but the story of their often fictionalized lives.

Henry and William were influenced by wealthy educated parents. The Civil War had little influence on their lives. They could have lived their lives at ease but their father’s interest in philosophy and literature and his loving care influenced the boys for good. They were scholars and lived long fruitful lives. They left us with a treasure of psychology, philosophy, and literature.

The Civil War raged from 1862 until 1865. Here are some fascinating data (that means the data means little):

Civil War Year and Age of the James Boys

1862: William 20, Frank and Henry 19, Jesse 15

1865: William 23, Frank and Henry 22, Jesse 18

Frank and Jesse served in the war. Henry and William sat the war out.

Here is more of the same kind of data:

Age at Death

Henry 73, Frank 72, William 68, Jesse 35

Jesse James was only 15 years old at the beginning of the Civil War. At this age, any boy can be influenced for good or evil.

If he picks an evil role model, he will become evil.

That is what happened to Jesse James. Right up there with Adolph Hitler, Genghis Khan, and Joseph Stalin (Man of Steel), he and Frank picked William Quantrill.

William Quantrill

William Quantrill was born in 1837. At the beginning of the Civil War he was 25 years old. Quantrill’s Confederate band operated outside the influence of Southern leadership. They raided farms and towns indiscriminately and without mercy.

On August 21, 1863, they burned much of Lawrence, Kansas, killing about 150 innocent civilians. He died from mortal wounds in Kentucky during the last year of the Civil War.

Fighting with Quantrill, Frank and Jesse became callous to killing. I’ve looked at most of the pictures available of Frank and Jesse James. They are not smiling.

Frank and Jesse James

Although Jesse was younger than Frank, Jesse is the dominant one in history. Despite his crimes, Frank was eventually pardoned and eventually lived a law-abiding peaceful life. Jesse was shot in the back by gang member Bob Ford.

Ford’s act seems to have “washed away” all of Jesse’s sins and, rather than the killer he was, he remains a folk hero in history to this day.

Read about Frank and Jesse and their gangs at:

There you will be able to join the gang!

What fun!

With that, let’s get to the other two James boys, Henry and William.

William James

At we read:

William James was raised in a highly intellectual household: his father Henry, Sr. was a … theologian, his sister Alice wrote lengthy literary diaries, and his brother Henry, Jr.became a renowned novelist. William himself studied art and geology before receiving a professional medical degree from Harvard University, where he taught for thirty-five years…

Work in psychology with Hugo Munsterburg at Harvard resulted in publication of James's “Principles of Psychology" (1890)… (He published) “In Pragmatism: A New Name for some Old Ways of Thinking” in 1907… “Essays in Radical Empiricism” in 1912… “The Will to Believe" in 1897… and “The Varieties of Religious Experience” in 1902…

A frequent commentator on public affairs, James proposed a system of national voluntary service in “The Moral Equivalent of War" (1906).

Henry James

From http://www.kirjasto. sci. fi/hjames.htm we extract:

Henry James was gifted with talents in literature, psychology, and philosophy. James wrote 20 novels, 112 stories, 12 plays and a number of literary criticisms. His models were Dickens, Balzac, and Hawthorne…He said that he learned more of the craft of writing from Balzac “than from anyone else".

His father, Henry James Sr. , was one of the best-known intellectuals in mid-nineteenth-century America, whose friends included Thoreau, Emerson and Hawthorne.

James made little money from his novels…In his youth James traveled … between Europe and America. He studied with tutors in Geneva, London, Paris, Bologna and Bonn

At the age of nineteen he briefly attended Harvard Law School, but was more interested in literature than studying law.

James published his first short story, “A Tragedy of Errors" two years later, and then devoted himself to literature. In 1866-69 and 1871-72 he was contributor to “The Nation” and “Atlantic Monthly. ”

After living in Paris, where James was contributor to the “New York Tribune, " he moved to England, living first in London and then in Rye, Sussex…During his first years in Europe, James wrote novels that portrayed Americans living abroad. In 1905 James visited America for the first time in twenty-five year, and wrote “Jolly Corner"…

Between 1906 and 1910 James revised many of his tales and novels for the so-called New York Edition of his complete works. It was published by Charles Scribner's Sons…

Characteristic for James novels are understanding and sensitively drawn lady portraits…

Although James is best-known for his novels, his essays are now attracting audience outside scholarly connoisseurs. In his early critics James considered British and American novels dull and formless and French fiction ‘intolerably unclean'…

James's most famous tales include “The Turn of the Screw", which was first published serially in “Collier's Weekly"… Although James had rejected in the beginning of his career “spirit-rappings and ghost-raising", in the 1880s he become interested in the unconscious and the supernatural…

Conclusion to All This

Frank and Jesse James and Henry and William James were products of their environments. Frank and Jesse were raised by a poor widowed mother. While they were young (especially Jesse), they fought during the Civil War with the vicious unprincipled man, William Quantrill.

After the Civil War they found themselves broke and harassed. They rebelled into a life of crime eventually causing Jesse’s death at age 35.

Henry and William James were wealthy. Their father was an educated man who associated with the great people of his time. While neither of his sons ever needed to lift a finger, they instead devoted themselves to hard work in literature, philosophy, and psychology. It appears that the Civil War hardly influenced them.

Here are some questions for you young readers.

How will you raise your kids?

Will you give them an intellectual advantage by exposing them to great ideas?

Will you expose them to art, music, literature, science, etc. , so that they develop their full potential?

You may not be a great intellectual yourself but you can lead them in the right way if you put your mind to it. What you don’t know, someone else does.

Environment and heredity are both important to our development, but the environment is what changes our life the most (unless we are severely handicapped by heredity).

An Apology

I’m sorry this is such a boring article. I was just trying to help!

The End

Copyright©John T. Jones, Ph. D. 2005

John T. Jones, Ph. D. ( a retired R&D engineer and VP of a Fortune 500 company. He is author of detective & western novels, nonfiction (business, scientific, engineering), poetry, etc. Former editor of international trade magazine. Jones is Executive Representative of International Wealth Success.

More info:

Business web site: (IWS wealth-success books and kits and business newsletters / TopFlight flagpoles)


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