Thursday, June 18, 2020

History of Juneteenth

“Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or none of these versions could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question. Whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer." 

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territories. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self-improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.

Certain foods became popular and subsequently synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations such as strawberry soda-pop. More traditional and just as popular was the barbecuing, through which Juneteenth participants could share in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors - the newly emancipated African Americans, would have experienced during their ceremonies. Hence, the barbecue pit is often established as the center of attention at Juneteenth celebrations...

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.”
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See: https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Pox and the Covenant

"Tony Williams tells a rollicking good story about the contagious crisis experienced by Colonial America. The Pox and the Covenant is a superbly nuanced and well-written account of the interactions of human disease and events." -- Howard Markel, MD, PhD, George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine, the University of Michigan, author of When Germs Travel.

"For one hundred years, God had held to his promise, and the colonists had as well. When the first Puritans sailed into Massachusetts in the seventeenth century, weak from the ocean journey, they formed a covenant with each other and with God to establish a city on a hill-a commitment to live uncorrupted lives together or all suffer divine wrath for their collective sin. But now, a century later, the arrival of one doomed ship would put this covenant to its greatest test.

After several days of skirting the North American coast, on April 22, 1721, the HMS Seahorse arrived in Boston from the West Indies, carrying goods, cargo, and, unbeknownst to its crew, a deadly virus...

Boston, the largest city in the colonies, had a population of roughly eleven thousand souls. With such a large number of people, Boston rivaled the cities of mother England, save only for London. Boston was moreover one of the great hubs of the Atlantic trade network. It gathered goods from the farms of the New England hinterland and from smaller cities and ports along the American coast. These commodities were shipped all over the Atlantic while other goods were imported into the city and sent elsewhere. For a virus, a better place to contaminate could hardly be found....

After docking in Boston harbor, a skeleton crew was left on board the Seahorse while the rest of the crew and officers went ashore. At least one of the crew carried an infectious disease, one that would send a city into chaos, and put to its greatest test the covenant between the Puritans and their God. 

Soon, a smallpox epidemic had broken out in Boston, causing hundreds of deaths and panic across the city. The clergy, including the famed Cotton Mather, turned to their standard form of defense against disease: fasting and prayer. But a new theory was also being offered to the public by the scientific world: inoculation. The fierce debate over the right way to combat the tragedy would become a battle between faith and reason, one that would set the city aflame with rage and riot.

The Pox and the Covenant by Tony Williams is a story of well-known figures such as Cotton Mather, James Franklin, and a young Benjamin Franklin struggling to fight for their cause among death and debate-although not always for the side one would expect. In the end, the incredible results of the epidemic and battle would reshape the colonists' view of their destiny, setting for America a new course, a new covenant, and the first drumbeats of the Revolution."

See: https://www.amazon.com/Pox-Covenant-Franklin-Epidemic-Americas/dp/1402260938

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Impeachment and the U.S. Constitution

What does the U.S. Constitution say about Impeachment? 

Article One, Section Two: “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”

Article One, Section Three: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present. Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

Article Two, Section Four: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

What are “high Crimes and Misdemeanors”?

One relevant source of the meaning of this phrase may be found in John Comyns’ Digest of the Laws of England (published in the late 1700's) which enumerated a series of “high crimes and misdemeanors” under the English Common Law. The first consisted of violations of criminal law (i.e., “high crimes”), such as encouraging piracy and bribery. The non-criminal violations described therein were all fiduciary breaches by a magistrate including:

• acting outside authority, as by ratifying a peace not approved by the parties, using the Great Seal without permission, and issuing unlawful and irregular orders;

• self-dealing, such as purchasing royal lands for less than true value, purchasing and holding a plurality of offices, and acting for one’s “own profit only;”

• other sorts of disloyalty such as recommending a prejudicial peace, or endangering the army or navy, etc.

(John Comyns, A Digest of the Laws of England, 4:368-69 (1780). This digest was available in America during the founding era).

What was said concerning Impeachment during the Debates in the Constitutional Convention?

In the debates of the Constitution Convention during the summer of 1787, three Virginia delegates, George Mason, James Madison, and Edmund Randolph “all spoke up to defend impeachment on July 20th, after Charles Pinckney of South Carolina and Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania moved to strike it. “[If the president] should be re-elected, that will be sufficient proof of his innocence,” Morris argued. “[Impeachment] will render the Executive dependent on those who are to impeach.”

“Shall any man be above justice?” Mason asked. “Shall that man be above it who can commit the most extensive injustice?” A presidential candidate might bribe the electors to gain the presidency, Mason suggested. “Shall the man who has practiced corruption, and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?”

“Madison argued that the Constitution needed a provision “for defending the community against the incapacity, negligence, or perfidy of the Chief Magistrate.” Waiting to vote him out of office in a general election wasn’t good enough. “He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation”— embezzlement—“or oppression,” Madison warned. “He might betray his trust to foreign powers.”

Randolph agreed on both these fronts. “The Executive will have great opportunities of abusing his power,” he warned, “particularly in time of war, when the military force, and in some respects the public money, will be in his hands.” The delegates voted, 8 states to 2, to make the executive removable by impeachment.”

(See: “Inside the Founding Fathers’ Debate Over What Constituted an Impeachable Offense,” by: Erick Trickey, The Smithsonian, October 2, 2017. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/inside-founding-fathers-debate-over-what-constituted-impeachable-offense-180965083/)

What do the Federalist Papers say about impeachment?

Federalist Papers No. 65 (Alexander Hamilton):

“A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

“The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”

“The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.”

“Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE, HIS ACCUSERS?”
(caps in original).

Federalist Papers No. 66 (Alexander Hamilton):

“So far as might concern the misbehavior of the Executive in perverting the instructions or contravening the views of the Senate, we need not be apprehensive of the want of a disposition in that body to punish the abuse of their confidence or to vindicate their own authority. We may thus far count upon their pride, if not upon their virtue. And so far even as might concern the corruption of leading members, by whose arts and influence the majority may have been inveigled into measures odious to the community, if the proofs of that corruption should be satisfactory, the usual propensity of human nature will warrant us in concluding that there would be commonly no defect of inclination in the body to divert the public resentment from themselves by a ready sacrifice of the authors of their mismanagement and disgrace.”


Friday, November 22, 2019

Quotes from John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy (born May 29, 1917) was the 35th President of the United States (1961-1963), and at age 43, the youngest man ever elected to the office. On November 22, 1963, when he was hardly past his first thousand days in office, JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, becoming also the youngest President to die…

During his presidency, “responding to ever more urgent demands, he took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling for new civil rights legislation. His vision of America extended to the quality of the national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society. He wished America to resume its old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights.” (From Biography at Whitehouse.gov). “Through his actions and rhetoric Kennedy captured the hearts and minds of an entire generation of young people, urging them to participate in public life, engage with the world, and fight for equality.”*  This collection of favorite quotes reminds us of what it means to be an American, and of the national ideals that should still guide us in our political discourse and daily walk.

“Every time that we try to lift a problem from our own shoulders, and shift that problem to the hands of the government, to the same extent we are sacrificing the liberties of our people.” – Remarks at the Italian-American Charitable Society Dinner, Boston, April 22, 1950.

“[The goal of education] is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.” -- Speech at Harvard University, June 14, 1956.

“It seems to me that the time has come for intellectuals and politicians alike to put aside those horrible weapons of modern internecine warfare, the barbed thrust, the acid pen, and, most sinister of all, the rhetorical blast. Let us not emphasize all on which we differ but all we have in common. Let us consider not what we fear separately but what we share together.” -- Id.

 “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” -- Inaugural Address," January 20, 1961.

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” – Id.

“With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.” -- Id.

“Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.” -- Roosevelt Day Commemoration, January 29, 1961.

“Our Constitution wisely assigns both joint and separate roles to each branch of the government; and a President and a Congress who hold each other in mutual respect will neither permit nor attempt any trespass.” – First State of the Union Address, January 30, 1961.

“For I can assure you that we love our country, not for what it was, though it has always been great -- not for what it is, though of this we are deeply proud -- but for what it someday can, and, through the efforts of us all, someday will be.” --"Address to the National Industrial Conference Board," February 13, 1961.

“The President of a great democracy such as ours, and the editors of great newspapers such as yours, owe a common obligation to the people: an obligation to present the facts, to present them with candor, and to present them in perspective.” – Address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, D.C., April 20, 1961.

“Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.” –quoting an old adage after the defeat at the Bay of Pigs, April 21, 1961.

“Freedom is not merely a word or an abstract theory, but the most effective instrument for advancing the welfare of man.” -- Message to the Inter-American Economic and Social Conference at Punta del Este, Uruguay, August 5, 1961.

“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” -- Remarks at a White House Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere," April 29, 1962.

“The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds.” -- Speech at Rice University, Houston, Texas, September 12, 1962.

“This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.” -- Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union, January 14, 1963.

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.” -- Remarks Recorded for the Opening of a USIA Transmitter at Greenville, North Carolina," February 8, 1963.

“Liberty without learning is always in peril, and learning without liberty is always in vain.” – Speech at Vanderbilt University at the 90th Anniversary Convocation, May 18, 1963.

“Only an educated and informed people will be a free people.” – Id.

“In a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics.” -- Civil Rights Address from the Oval Office, June 11, 1963.

“This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” – Id.

“There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.” --Speech at the Free University of Berlin, June 26, 1963

“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’” – Id.

“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” -- Remarks at Amherst College, October 26, 1963.

“Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers—for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” – Thanksgiving Proclamation, November 4, 1963 (He was assassinated just six days before Thanksgiving Day which was on the 28th).
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*Editorial (2008, November 11). John F. Kennedy. Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.shmoop.com/john-f-kennedy/


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Color of Jefferson's World

By: Norlene M. Gowdy

Much has been written about Thomas Jefferson’s mountain-top home of Monticello, the timeless showcase of Jefferson’s architectural brilliance. It is here where we see how he incorporates classical Greek and Roman design with his own innovative features of the alcove bed, triple sash windows, and octagonal shaped rooms. But what about his use of color, one of the most important elements of design? Even a quick study of Jefferson will show that little in his life was left to chance. So, if that is the case, one could argue that the colors he chose were intentional. What can his paint colors tell us about him, if anything?

A Monticello guide told us that Jefferson “loved a good dinner party and the latest fashion” which was colorfully confirmed as we entered the dining room. Not so long ago, the walls of this room were colonial Williamsburg blue, but after 20 years of analysis by Welsh Color and Conservation, Inc. the room has been restored to the color that Jefferson painted it in 1815. Monticello curator, Susan R. Stein described the chrome-yellow paint color “as the color of an egg yolk from a chicken that dined on marigold petals” (Tackett). At the time Jefferson painted this room he was 72 years old. His service as President of the United States had ended six years earlier, and he had just sold his books to Congress. Is it possible that any of these events influence his decision to splurge on a color that “cost $5.00 per pound, twice as expensive as Blue Prussian and 33 times as expensive as white lead” (Monticello)? Or, was it innately just Jefferson, the man who was a dichotomy for all time … classical yet contemporary, methodical yet excessive, private yet bon vivant?

Monticello Dining Room: https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/monticello-dining-room

Jefferson’s dining room choice intentionally moved beyond what has been identified as classic English Georgian, colors of burgundy, sage green, Wedgewood blue and dusky pink – to bold colors that declare contemporary, fashionable, and expensive. Besides showing his preference for French design this choice also indicates that Jefferson was continually drawn to new ideas, developments, and thoughts, as the new yellow hue had been recently invented. His grand-daughter, Ellen Randolph Coolidge described Monticello as a “feast of reason and a flow of soul” (Monticello), and with the dining room being the center of both entertainment and enlightenment, Jefferson would have purposely designed this space for both beauty and the flow of modern ideas. Jefferson’s innovative use of colors continued in the two-tiered, grey-blue and yellow, wainscot of the entrance hall.

Monticello Entrance Hall: https://www.monticello.org/house-gardens/the-house/room-furnishings/entrance-hall/

While the portion above the chair-rail is whitewashed, allowing emphasis to the artifacts, maps, and pictures, the bottom portion was given to joining the wall to the painted green pine floor, a color Jefferson called grass, which had been personally suggested to him by portraitist Charles Wilson Peale. Quite likely, Jefferson appreciated both the aesthetics and the practicality of a painted floor. He continued to push the limits of innovation and style with his colors.

More painted walls can be found in Martha’s sitting room and in Jefferson’s private space. Both rooms are shades of blue.

Jefferson's Bed Chamber: https://www.monticello.org/house-gardens/the-house/room-furnishings/bed-chamber/

The dome room upstairs, which can only be seen in pictures, was restored to its original brilliant yellow hue. Welsh, in his Monticello project paper states that “documentary evidence indicates that Jefferson was intimately involved in the selection of paint finishes, colors and wallpapers.” We can assume then that just as he had picked the yellow color of the dining room, he also picked these colors with a purpose, whether it was for light, tranquility, interest, fashion, or a success statement.

And yet, there are rooms in the mansion which have been left with unpainted white plaster. Welsh informs us that through paint archeology and analyses Jefferson embraced white as his primary color on both the wood trim and the plaster which he contrasted with “stunning colors, such as yellow and green, and imitative, and varnished mahogany … [and] colorful patterned and plain French wallpapers.” The visible use of color and lack of throughout the rooms of Monticello according to Welsh are “distinctly individual” and remain as evidence of the underlying principles of aesthetic Jefferson used in his design.

Monticello Parlor: https://classroom.monticello.org/media-item/monticellos-parlor/

Observation and a simple study of Jefferson’s paint colors allows visitors of Monticello to draw a few conclusions. The chrome-yellow color was by far his most bold choice, and as stated earlier, was incorporated into the design of Monticello late in his life. Possibly he chose the brilliant yellow to signify not only his fondness for “all that is French” (Tackett), but also because he was truly happy to be back home at his beloved Monticello with his family. I propose that his unpainted plaster walls are symbolic of the simple life he sought -- time to read, to write, to reflect, all essential components to his well-being, but sometimes overshadowed by his own unrelenting interest in the world around him which would not allow him to be silent. I suggest that the blue walls in his private quarters exemplify the tranquility he sought out of the public eye, which contrast the main entrance’s dazzling green floors that welcomed people into his world. In conclusion, I would submit that Jefferson used colors in his home, like he used words on the page, to emphasize what was most important to him … home, family, friendships, knowledge, education, country, beauty, or in his own words, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
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Photo: Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Works Cited:
“Monticello’s Dining Room – Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.” Thomas Jefferson – Monticello. www.Monticello.org. Accessed on 12 October 2019.
Tackett, John J. “Historic Paint Color at Monticello.” www.tdclassiscist.blogspot.com. Accessed on 12 October 2019.
Welsh, Frank S. “Restoring the Colors of Thomas Jefferson: Beyond the Colors of Independence.” www.welshcolor.com. Accessed on 19 October 2019.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Puritan Ethic and the American Revolution

Edmund S. Morgan, Ph.D. (1916-2013), Sterling Professor of American History Emeritus at Yale University, was “an award-winning historian who illuminated the intellectual world of the Puritans, explored the paradox of freedom and slavery in colonial Virginia …found his richest material in the religious thought of Puritan New England and endless fascination in the theological debates and spiritual struggles of men like John Winthrop, Roger Williams and Ezra Stiles. “I think that any group of people who have a system of belief that covers practically everything, and who act upon it, are bound to be interesting to any scholar,” he said in a 1987 interview with The William and Mary Quarterly. His elegantly written, succinct biographies and studies of early New England, respected by specialists but accessible to undergraduates, became required reading for several generations of college students… “As a historian of colonial and revolutionary America, he was one of the giants of his generation, and a writer who could well have commanded a larger nonacademic audience than I suspect he received,” said Pauline Maier, a professor of American history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “He characteristically took on big issues and had a knack for conveying complex, sophisticated truths in a way that made them seem, if not simple, at least easily understandable.”[1]

Morgan’s book, “The Challenge of the American Revolution,” published in the bicentennial year of American Independence (1976), includes an important essay titled “The Puritan Ethic and the American Revolution.”[2]  As the cover states, “this volume presents an eminent historian’s progress over thirty years in trying to understand the American Revolution.” This essay in particular conveys what Morgan believes to be the primary ideals that guided the Revolution “in all of its phases.” A selection of quotes from this compelling essay on the Puritan Ethic follow:

“Without pretending to explain the whole exciting variety of the revolution, I would like to suggest that the movement in all its phases, from the resistance to Parliamentary taxation in the 1760’s to the establishment of a national government and national policies in the 1790’s was affected, not to say guided, by a set of values inherited from the age of Puritanism [not to imply that the American Revolutionists were all Puritans].” (89)

“These values or ideas, which I will call collectively the Puritan Ethic, were not unconscious or subconscious, but were deliberately and openly expressed by men of the time. The men who expressed them were not Puritans, and a few of the ideas included in the Puritan Ethic were actually new. Many of them had existed in other intellectual contexts before Puritanism was heard of, and many of them continue to exist today, as they did in the Revolutionary period, without the support of Puritanism. But Puritanism wove them together in a single rational pattern, and Puritans planted the pattern in America.” (89-90)

“The Ethic conveyed the idea of each man’s and woman’s “calling” in life. “The emphasis of [work or labor] was on productivity for the benefit of society. In addition to working diligently at productive tasks, a man was supposed to be thrifty and frugal. It was good to produce but bad to consume any more than necessity required. A man was but a steward of the possessions he accumulated. If he indulged himself in luxurious living, he would have that much less with which to support church and society. If he needlessly consumed his substance, either from carelessness or from sensuality, he failed to honor the God who furnished him with it.” (91)

The Puritans “knew that they must be thankful for prosperity, that like everything good in the world it came from God. But they also knew that God could [allow] it as a temptation, that it could lead to idleness, sloth and extravagance… Adversity, on the other hand, though a sign of God’s temporary displeasure, and therefore a cause for worry, was also God’s means of recalling a people to him.” (92)

“Whether they derived their ideas from history thus interpreted or from Puritan tradition or elsewhere, Americans in the Revolutionary period in every colony and state paid tribute to the Puritan Ethic and its injunctions. Although it was probably strongest among Presbyterians and Congregationalists like Benjamin Rush and Samuel Adams, it is evident among Anglicans like Henry Laurens and Richard Henry Lee and even among deists like Franklin and Jefferson. Jefferson’s letters to his daughters sometimes sound as though they had been written by Cotton Mather [popular American Congregational minister and author 1663-1728]: “It is your future happiness which interests me, and nothing can contribute more to it (moral rectitude always excepted) than the contracting a habit of industry and activity.” (94)

 “…the major developments, the resistance to Great Britain, independence, the divisions among the successful revolutionists, and the formulation of policies for the new nation, were all discussed and understood by men of the time in terms derived from the Puritan Ethic. And the way men understood and defined the issues before them frequently influenced their decisions.” (95)

“And so it proved in the years that followed [the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act, the Townshend Acts and Coercive Acts]: as their Puritan forefathers had met providential disasters with a renewal of virtue that would restore god’s favor, the Revolutionary generation met taxation with self-denial and industry that they hoped would restore their accustomed freedom and enable them to identify with their virtuous ancestors.” (96)

On December 13, 1773, the Newport Mercury (Rhode Island) stated, “The Americans have plentifully enjoyed the delights and comforts, as well as the necessities of life, and it is well known that an increase of wealth and affluence paves the way to an increase of luxury, immorality and profaneness, and here kind providence interposes; as it were, obliges them to forsake the use of their delights, to preserve their liberty.” (97)

“In these appeals for self-denial, the Puritan Ethic acquired a value that had only been loosely associated with it hitherto: it became an essential condition of political liberty. Americans like Englishmen had long associated liberty with property. They now concluded that both rested on virtue.” (97)

The Boston Evening Post, November 16, 1767, asserted that, “by consuming less of what we are not really in want of, and by industriously cultivating and improving the natural advantages of our own country, we might save our substance, even our lands, from becoming the property of others, and we might eventually preserve our virtue and our liberty, to the latest posterity.” (98)

To tax a man without his consent, Samuel Adams wrote in the Boston Gazette (December 19, 1768), was “against the plain and obvious rule of equity, whereby the industrious man is entitled to the fruits of his industry.” (102)

“Students of the American Revolution have often found it difficult to believe that the colonists were willing to fight about an abstract principle and have sometimes dismissed the constitutional arguments of the time as mere rhetoric. But the constitutional principle on which the colonists rested their case was not the product either of abstract political philosophy or the needs of the moment. In the colonists’ view, the principle of no taxation without representation was a means, hallowed in history, of protecting property and of maintaining those virtues, associated with property, without which no people could be free.” (102-03).

 “The calling of a ruler, as the colonists and their Puritan forebearers saw it, was like any other calling: it must serve the common good; it must be useful, productive; and it must be assiduously pursued.” (103)

 “A principal means of corruption had been the multiplication of officeholders who served no useful purpose but fattened on the labors of those who did the country’s work. Even before the dispute over taxation began, few colonists who undertook trips to England failed to make unflattering comparisons between the simplicity, frugality, and industry that prevailed in the colonies and the extravagance, luxury, idleness, drunkenness, poverty, and crime that they saw in the mother country.” (103)

 “By the time the First Continental Congress came together in 1774, large numbers of leading Americans had come to identify Great Britain with vice and America with virtue, yet with the fearful recognition that virtue stands in perennial danger from the onslaughts of vice.” (105-06)

As John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3rd 1776 – the day following the vote of the Continental Congress to adopt Richard Henry Lee’s resolution of Independence – many of the themes of the Puritan Ethic highlighted by Morgan are clearly manifest:

“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was de­bated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony ‘that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.’ You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impelled Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days.

“When I look back to the Year 1761, and recollect the Argument concerning Writs of Assistance, in the Superior Court, which I have hitherto considered as the Commencement of the Controversy, between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole Period from that Time to this, and recollect the series of political Events, the Chain of Causes and Effects, I am surprised at the Suddenness, as well as Greatness of this Revolution. Britain has been filled with Folly, and America with Wisdom, at least this is my Judgment.—Time must determine. It is the Will of Heaven, that the two Countries should be sundered forever. It may be the Will of Heaven that America shall suffer Calamities still more wasting and Distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the Case, it will have this good Effect, at least: it will inspire Us with many Virtues, which We have not, and correct many Errors, Follies, and Vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy Us.—The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming, in every Part, will require a Purification from our Vices, and an Augmentation of our Virtues or they will be no Blessings. The People will have unbounded Power. And the People are extremely addicted to Corruption and Venality, as well as the Great.—I am not without Apprehensions from this Quarter. But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.” (spelling modernized). 

We as Americans would do well to study, ponder and reflect on the principles of faith in God - the Hand of Providence, prayer, work, thrift, frugality, stewardship, self-denial, humility, sacrifice, morality and virtue that guided our Revolutionary forefathers and mothers in establishing this land of liberty.
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[1]  Williams Grimes, New York Times, July 9, 2013.
[2] (Edmund S. Morgan, The Challenge of the American Revolution (W.W. Norton & Co, New York, 1976), pp. 88-138. See also, William and Mary Quarterly, XXIV (Jan., 1967), 3-43). 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Alexander Hamilton & the American Republic

“I consider civil liberty, in a genuine unadulterated sense, as the greatest of terrestrial blessings. I am convinced, that the whole human race is entitled to it; and, that it can be wrested from no part of them, without the blackest and most aggravated guilt.” –Alexander Hamilton, “The Farmer Refuted,” February 23, 1775.

“The Sacred Rights of Mankind are not to be Rummaged for Among Old Parchments or Musty Records. They are Written, as with a Sunbeam, in the Whole Volume of Human Nature, by the Hand of The Divinity Itself, and Can Never Be Erased or Obscured by Mortal Power.” –Alexander Hamilton, “The Farmer Refuted.”

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute is pleased to announce its next teacher education workshop on the topic of “Alexander Hamilton & the American Republic.” The program will include 3 x 1.0 hour class sessions. Along with presentations, the format will include a “roundtable” discussion with participation by all. The outline of the sessions and agenda are as follows:

8:30–9:00 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00–10:00 a.m. First Classroom Session -- “Alexander Hamilton and George Washington — the Revolutionary War and their Political Alliance.” Presentation by Tony Williams (30-40 minutes), followed by Q&A and discussion (20-30 minutes).

10:15–11:15 a.m. Second Classroom Session -- Alexander Hamilton and Washington’s Farewell Address.” Presentation by Dr. Jeffry Morrison, Ph.D. (30-40 minutes), followed by Q&A and discussion (20-30 minutes).

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Third Classroom Session -- “Alexander Hamilton, the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist Papers. Presentation by J. David Gowdy (20 minutes), followed by Roundtable Discussion (40 minutes).

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Luncheon

WJMI welcomes Dr. Jeffry H. Morrison, Ph.D., author, Director of Academics at the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and Professor in Leadership and American Studies at Christopher Newport University, and Tony Williams, author and Senior Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute as presenters and discussion leaders.

The workshop is designed primarily for public and private Virginia secondary school teachers who teach Social Studies, U.S. Government, Virginia Government, or U. S. History. Teachers from other states are also welcome. The workshop, meals and class materials all complimentary (no cost) to teachers.

The event will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, October 25th, 2019 at to be held at Prospect Hill Plantation Inn. The Seminar qualifies for four Virginia recertification points or 4 hours. Seating is limited. Teachers wishing to attend should pre-register. All registrations are requested by October 21st.

Prospect Hill Plantation Inn, Louisa, Virginia