Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas with James & Dolley Madison










"Today when we think of Christmas, we think of Christmas trees in houses and town squares, carolers in the snow, and houses decorated with lights and bows. The season of Christmas is a visual feast everywhere you look. At this time of year, visitors often ask our guides how Montpelier would have looked during the Christmas season two centuries ago. The answer is a bit surprising.

Christmas, both the day and the season, was celebrated differently in the Madisons’ time. Many of the Christmas customs we know today did not become popular until the end of the 19th century or beginning of the 20th; other Christmas traditions were introduced when the Madisons were in retirement. Santa Claus comes from German and Dutch traditions, and St. Nick made his first appearance on a wider stage in America in Washington Irving’s History of New York, published in 1809. The first record we have of a Christmas tree in Virginia isn’t until 1842, in a house in Williamsburg. What, then, was Christmas like for the Madisons? 

Christmas in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was a time for visiting family and friends, hosting or attending large parties, balls, and dinners. In early December 1834, Dolley wrote to her niece Mary with news about what the family members at Montpelier were doing: “Anna & her sisters have gone to a dancing part at Newman’s – they are to keep the Christmas from this time to New Years day.” [note: Dolley Payne Todd Madison to Mary Estelle Elizabeth Cutts, December 11, 1834, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.] Little more than a year later, a friend writing from Richmond told Dolley that everyone there was still “feasting, dancing & making merry,” despite the cholera epidemic in the city.1

Although no one sent Christmas cards, letters sent at that time of year between friends or family often contained the wishes of the season. Dolley wrote to her friend James Taylor “I offer you many good wishes my kind friend on this mild Christmas day.” 2 Sometimes they sent gifts as well, although these were generally foodstuffs. The 1834 letter from a friend in Richmond that describes the seasonal parties also explains that the author had meant to send a gift – two barrels of oysters – but the barrels arrived late and with the wrong contents – vegetables instead of shellfish! Apparently, some things don’t change all that much.

While Montpelier at Christmas would have lacked most of the current signs of Christmas- trees, bows and ribbons, shining ornaments – the attitudes of the people and their enjoyment of the season would, we hope, seem very familiar. As Dolley wrote to her nieces in 1836, we at Montpelier send our readers “a thousand wishes for your happiness and prosperity on every and many Christmas days to come!” 3  
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At Montpelier.org I found this great post on their blog, and trust that they won't mind if I share it with my readers.  It is quoted entirely from:  http://montpelier.org/blog/?p=2567#more-2567

1 Sarah Coles Stevenson to Dolley Payne Madison, December 24, 1834, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
2 Dolley Payne Madison to James Taylor, December 25, 1834, Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky.
3 Dolley Payne Todd Madison to Mary Estelle Elizabeth Cutts and Dolley Payne Madison Cutts, January 2, [1836], Library of Congress, Washington, DC, United States.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Betsy Ross and the Stars & Stripes


“Betsy Ross (Elizabeth Griscom) was born on January 1st, 1752 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   Betsy was brought up a Quaker and educated in Quaker schools. On her marriage to John Ross, an Episcopalian, in 1773, she was disowned by the Society of Friends.  Her husband was killed in 1776 in the Revolutionary War while serving in the militia, and Ross took over the upholstering business he had founded. According to her grandson, William Canby, in a paper presented before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870, Ross was visited in June 1776 by George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross, her late husband's uncle. The story is that they asked her to make a flag for the new nation that would declare its independence the following month. A rough sketch presented to her was redrawn by Washington incorporating her suggestions. Betsy Ross then fashioned the flag in her back parlor—again, according to the legend. She is supposed also to have suggested the use of the five-pointed star rather than the six-pointed one chosen by Washington. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the national flag of the United States.

It is known that Ross made flags for the navy of Pennsylvania, but there is no firm evidence in support of the popular story about the national flag. There is, however, no conflicting testimony or evidence, either, and the story is now indelibly a part of American legend. Ross married Joseph Ashburn in 1777, and, after his death in a British prison in 1782, she was married for a third time, in 1783, to John Claypoole.  She continued the upholstering business, which became very profitable, until 1827, when she turned it over to her daughter. The Philadelphia house in which Betsy Ross lived and from which she ran her upholstery business still stands; it has been restored and is open to the public.” (1)

“Samuel Wetherill was a good friend of Betsy Ross. In fact he and Ross were the last two members of the Free Quaker Meeting House and together shut its doors for the last time in 1834. The Wetherill family oral tradition holds that he visited Betsy shortly after her meeting with the Congressional Committee. She told him what had just transpired. Wetherill, recognizing the historic import of that meeting, asked if he could keep the 5-pointed star which Ross had cut for the committee. She gave it to him. In 1925, the Wetherill family safe was opened and inside was that 5-pointed star. Until recently, that star was exhibited at the Free Quaker Meeting House, a few blocks from the Betsy Ross House. It has since gone missing.” (2) 

In April 2009, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission officially recognized Betsy Ross's contributions with a historic marker in front of her house, stating, “Credited with making the first stars and stripes flag, Ross was a successful upholsterer. She produced flags for the government for over 50 years. As a skilled artisan, Ross represents the many women who supported their families during the Revolution and early Republic.”
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Founding Farmers

Thomas Jefferson considered himself a farmer by profession.  He was continually searching for more progressive ways to work his plantations at Monticello. Jefferson diligently recorded notes about the varieties of vegetables and fruits he experimented with and planted, sowing locations, harvest dates, and weather conditions.  He was always interested in new seed varieties, and soil conservation was a particular passion. Jefferson was zealous about the need for farmers to share innovative ideas, improved crops, and new machinery. He invented a more efficient plow but never patented his design so that other farmers could freely benefit from the idea. 

John Adams’ father was a modest but successful farmer.  When John was young his parents began to worry that he was wasting his gifted intellect. His father asked him at age ten, "What would you do, child?" John answered back, "Be a farmer." The next day John's father took the boy to fields and worked him as hard as any adult. The night after young John came back tired, sore, and covered in dirt, his father asked John, "Well, John, are you satisfied with being a farmer?" His father, hoping he had taught his son a valuable lesson, was surprised by the answer. "I like it very well, Sir."  Although he eventually went on to become a lawyer, John and his wife Abigail cultivated 40 acres of cropland and orchards at their own home and farm, Peacefield, near Boston.

George Washington grew wheat and corn at Mount Vernon, but struggled with the region’s thin topsoil.  He undertook crop rotation and also engaged in numerous experiments to find the best form of fertilizer. He subscribed to a publication titled The Practical Farmer, which advocated the wise use of agricultural by-products and adding organic matter to improve the soil.  After many trials with composting, Washington applied manure, river and creek mud, fish heads, and plaster of paris to his fields with some success.  His devotion to implementing the agricultural innovations of his day was more than just the natural desire of a farmer to improve his yields. He was acutely aware of the need for the new American nation to establish itself in the world, and farming was the first occupation of the country. His commitment to agriculture was expressed in a letter from April 1788:

"Every improvement in husbandry should be gratefully received and peculiarly fostered in this Country, not only as promoting the interest and lessening the labor of the farmer, but as advancing our respectability in a national point of view; for, in the present state of America, our welfare and prosperity depend upon the cultivation of our lands and turning the produce of them to the best advantage."

Today, agriculture continues as a major industry in the United States and the country is a net exporter of food. "As of the last census of agriculture in 2007, there were 2.2 million farms in America.  About 40 percent of the land in the United States is used for agriculture of some form, including livestock grazing. This includes 431.1 million acres of cropland, 396.9 million acres of pasture, and 71.5 million acres of forests. Progress in technology and crop yields has made the United States among the most productive agricultural producers in the world. The United States produces about half of the world's corn and 10 percent of its wheat. It also accounts for 20 percent of the globe's beef, pork, and lamb. With such progress in increasing output and the efficiency of agriculture, food prices for American consumers have had little increase over the past 20 years. Americans spend less on food, as a proportion of their income, than any other nation in the world." (1)

May we ever be grateful for the rich agricultural heritage and blessings we enjoy in this bounteous land.
                                                                    

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Equality of Women in America in 1838













Alexis de Tocqueville was an aristocratic Frenchman who came to the U.S. in 1831 (at age 25) and later wrote Democracy in America, a two-volume study of the American people and their political institutions.  In Chapter 12 he wrote his observations concerning American women:

“…in Europe …women [are] nevertheless deprived of some of the greatest attributes of the human species and considered as seductive but imperfect beings.”

“Americans …conduct to women always implies that they suppose them to be virtuous and refined; and such is the respect entertained for the moral freedom of the sex that in the presence of a woman the most guarded language is used lest her ear should be offended by an expression.”

“…the Americans can conceive nothing more precious than a woman's honor and nothing which ought so much to be respected as her independence, they hold that no punishment is too severe for the man who deprives her of them against her will.”

“Thus the Americans do not think that man and woman have either the duty or the right to perform the same offices, but they show an equal regard for both their respective parts; and though their lot is different, they consider both of them as beings of equal value.”

“…while they have allowed the social inferiority of woman to continue, they have done all they could to raise her morally and intellectually to the level of man; and in this respect they appear to me to have excellently understood the true principle of democratic improvement …I have nowhere seen woman occupying a loftier position…”
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Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1838), Chapter XII.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Rise of Political Parties

"The reign of party spirit in the United States began with the adoption of [the Constitution] by the Convention. Between this date and that of its ratification by the States the Federal and Anti-Federal parties struggled for supremacy, the former being in favor of a strong central government, the latter favoring the practical independence of the States. The ratification of the Constitution by the States ended this contest. The prominent Anti-Federalists announced their intention of supporting the Constitution, and for several years there was practically but one party in the country. George Washington was the first President elected, the electoral vote in his favor being unanimous. John Adams was chosen for Vice-President. Until about 1824-28, electors were generally chosen by the State legislatures, not by the direct vote of the people, as since that period. The two persons receiving the highest electoral vote became respectively President and Vice-President.

Opposition to the Federal party began in 1790, when Hamilton broached a project for the assumption of State debts by the central government. It grew stronger in 1791, when he proposed to establish a national bank. Jefferson, who had been the first Secretary of State, was now found at the head of a party in open opposition to the administration. This party, though adopting the name of Republicans, advocated the principles of the older Anti-Federalists, claiming that there was a scheme to subvert the State governments and establish a strong central government, and denouncing the Hamilton party as monarchists. Democratic clubs soon after arose, instigated by, and imitating many of the follies of, the Jacobin revolutionists of France. They had the one good effect of introducing political discussion among the masses of the people, and in a few years the Democrats coalesced with the Republicans as a single national party. The Federalists, however, continued in the majority, and in 1792 Washington and Adams were again elected President and Vice-President.

During this second term the power of the Republican party rapidly increased. The acts of the administration were fiercely attacked, and when, at the approach of a new election, Washington announced his intention to retire, a hot political contest arose, which nearly resulted in a Republican victory. Of the electoral votes Adams received seventy-one, and Jefferson sixty-eight, the latter receiving all but two of the Southern votes. The new administration was therefore organized with Adams for President and Jefferson for Vice-President.

The financial condition of the country had now greatly improved. A sound credit was established, funds were provided for the payment of the national debt, and treaties were concluded with the Indians and with several of the European powers, while a very rapid increase in population and in agricultural and commercial wealth had taken place. During the summer of 1800 the seat of government was removed from Philadelphia to Washington, as at that time the centre of the country. The Republican party continued to develop in strength, mainly on account of the passage of laws which tended to strengthen the central government, and which were unfavorably received by the people. The "Alien Law," which empowered the President to order from the country any foreigner whose presence he deemed dangerous to the public safety, and the "Sedition Law," which visited with fine and imprisonment "any false, scandalous, or malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President," were deemed tyrannical measures; while the effort to pass an act establishing a standing army added to the unpopularity of the Federalists. In the election of 1800, therefore, the Republicans were victorious. Jefferson became President, and Aaron Burr, who had prominent control of the Democratic party, was made Vice-President. Jefferson and Burr, indeed, received an equal number of votes, and Congress had to decide between them. With this election the power of the Federal party ceased, and for many years thereafter the "State Rights" Democratic-Republican party continued in the supremacy. The effort to strengthen the central government unduly at the expense of the power of the States had failed, and the Federalists, as a distinct party, gradually vanished from existence."

Hubert H. Bankcroft, ed., The Great Republic By the Master Historians, Vol. II (c. 1900)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vindicating the Founders

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute's next educational seminar will be on the subject of “Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America based upon the book by Thomas West (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).  The Seminar includes presentations by Tony Williams, Williamsburg Author and Teacher, and Steve Brown, Associate Professor at Auburn University, on the topics of “Slavery & Liberty” and “Property Rights and the Property Requirement for Voting,” respectively.  The seminar is primarily for Virginia middle and high school U.S. Government and U. S. History teachers, and will be held Friday morning, September 16th at Prospect Hill near Charlottesville (for an invitation contact jody@wjmi.org).  There is no cost for teachers to attend.  Following is an excerpt from a review of West's book:

“Thomas West, a political scientist at the University of Dallas, has risen to the challenge with Vindicating the Founders.  What looks like grown-up sophistication by the critics he shows to be childish petulance based on misrepresentation and misunderstanding.

Slavery is the foremost charge in the indictment. The Constitution failed to abolish slavery, indeed compromised with it; and some Founders were actually slave-holders. So how could they believe that all men are created equal? One eminent historian says the Declaration meant merely that "all white men are equal."

Mr. West is able to quote all the Founders strongly denouncing slavery for blacks. Then was their eloquence all for naught? The reductionist view reads their words in the light of progress today: We think slavery is wrong and abolished it. If they did not abolish it, they must not have thought it wrong.

"Naivete" is one excuse for such reasoning, envy for a generation far more accomplished than ours is another. Not only did it make no sense for the Founders to exclude the slave states, from the new union of 1787, which would have allowed a slave Confederacy an unopposed beginning on an equal footing with a free republic—but also, as Mr. West reminds us, the principle of equality was as subversive as it was foundational. While compromising with slavery, the Founders asserted a principle that undermined that very compromise—"condemning [slavery], confining it, and setting in motion the forces that would ultimately destroy it, " in the words of the historian Bernard Bailyn.

Nor was the compromise based on mere amoral calculation. Mr. West points out that the principle of equality itself has two parts that often conflict. One is equal rights; but among those rights is the right of consent to government. The trouble is that through prejudice people may not accord equal rights to others; yet the right of consent belongs just as much to people with prejudice as to the enlightened.

So the principle of equality requires an effort of persuasion, even if it may ultimately fail, as in the period leading up to our Civil War. It was precisely in accord with the principle of equality that the Founders—and later, Abraham Lincoln—made an effort to persuade those opposed to equality for blacks. In doing so they set an example of democratic behavior ignored by their facile critics, who suppose that what seems easy to us must have been easy for them.

Mr. West's book is not confined to the issue of slavery. He also discusses such topics as [property rights], women's rights, poverty and immigration...”  

From:
“Men of Principle”
by: Harvey C. Mansfield
The Wall Street Journal (Minneapolis, MN), November 26, 1997.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Liberty is Secured by the Constitution













There should be no dispute that government is required to secure the rights of life and liberty to the individual, to the community and to the nation.  The Declaration of Independence states that: "[T]o secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Thomas Jefferson said: "The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation for any government."  William Penn stated: "[G]overnments rather depend upon men than men upon government." John Jay, author of several of the Federalist Papers, and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, stated: "Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of Government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers."  These rights and powers, designed to uphold liberty and to protect person and property, are delegated to government by the people. Aristoltle wrote: "If liberty and equality, as it is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in a democracy, they will be best obtained when all persons share in the government to the utmost."  Abraham Lincoln described our democratic republic as: "a government of the people, by the people [and] for the people." Thus, "We the People" are the determinants of our government.

The continuing challenge of any people and government is to maintain a balance of power with adequate controls to ensure the safety and felicity of the people.  The entire treatise of the Federalist Papers serves as reference to the need to delegate and diffuse governmental powers in order to ensure our safety and felicity from potential internal and external harms.  James Madison stated:  "[T]he preservation of liberty requires, that the three great departments of power [executive, legislative and judiciary] should be separate and distinct." James Wilson wrote: "Liberty and happiness have a powerful enemy on each hand; on the one hand tyranny, on the other licentiousness [anarchy].  To guard against the latter, it is necessary to give the proper powers to government; and to guard against the former, it is necessary that those powers should be properly distributed."  Woodrow Wilson said: "The history of liberty is a history of the limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it."   

Both the limitation and balance of power lie at the heart of the U.S. Constitution.  It stands as the preeminent example of how a government may be structured with "checks and balances" to secure liberty "with equal justice for all."   Various governments may be traced throughout history; yet, the liberty that has existed in America since the establishment of its Constitutional government in 1787 is the most profound and enlightened in secular history.  It has served as the model for constitutions of many other nations.  Benjamin Franklin said of it: "It astonishes me to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does."  Gladstone called the Constitution: "The most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man."  The inspired Constitution of the United States of America truly serves as the cradle of liberty.

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." (Preamble)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quotes Concerning the Declaration of Independence


We hold these truths to be self‑evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

“This was the object of the Declaration of Independence.  Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take.  Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.  All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.”
--Thomas Jefferson 

“The Declaration of Independence... [is the] declaratory charter of our rights, and of the rights of man.”
--Thomas Jefferson

“Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants?”
--Benjamin Rush

“We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
--Benjamin Franklin

“[Independence Day] will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
--John Adams

“Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among men . . . . 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.”
--John Adams

“All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I begun, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration.  It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence, now, and Independence for ever!
--John Adams

"I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.” — Frederick Douglass

“I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.”
--Abraham Lincoln

“The expression of that principle [Liberty to all], in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government and consequent prosperity. The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word "fitly spoken" which has proven an "apple of gold" to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple -- not the apple for the picture.”
--Abraham Lincoln

“All honor to Jefferson--to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.” 
--Abraham Lincoln

“If [immigrants to America] seek to trace their connection with those days [of the Revolution] by blood, they find they have none, ...but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.” 
--Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Favorite Quotes from President Calvin Coolidge

"We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp... Man has a spiritual nature. Touch it, and it must respond as the magnet responds to the pole."

"I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom. Until we can reestablish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer a very severe and distinct curtailment of our liberty."

"It would be exceedingly difficult to overestimate the important part that teachers take in the development of the life of the nation. They exercise their art, not on the materials of this world which pass away, but upon the human soul, where it will remain through all eternity."

"Real reform does not begin with a law, it ends with a law. The attempt to dragoon the body when the need is to convince the soul will end only in revolt... It is time to supplement the appeal to law, which is limited, with an appeal to the spirit of the people, which is unlimited."

"The wise and correct course to follow in taxation is not to destroy those who have already secured success but to create conditions under which every one will have a better chance to be more successful."

"The fundamental characteristics of humanity are not going to be changed by substituting government action for private enterprise. The individual who manages the one, with all his imperfections and his selfishness, will have to be employed to manage the other."

"If the Government gets into business on any large scale, we soon find that the beneficiaries attempt to play a large part in the control. While in theory it is to serve the public, in practice it will be very largely serving private interests. It comes to be regarded as a species of government favor and those who are the most adroit get the larger part of it."

"Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought."

“If in a free republic a great government is the product of a great people, they will look to themselves rather than government for success. The destiny, the greatness of America lies around the hearthstone. If thrift and industry are taught there, and the example of self-sacrifice oft appears, if honor abide there, and high ideals, if there the building of fortune be subordinate to the building of character, America will live in security, rejoicing in an abundant prosperity and good government at home in peace, respect, and confidence abroad. If these virtues are absent, there is no power that can supply these blessings. Look well to the hearthstone, therein all hope for America lies.”

"We do not need more material development, we need more spiritual development. We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.  It is on that side of life that it is desirable to put the emphasis at the present time. If that side be strengthened, the other side will take care of itself."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The History Of Flag Day

"The Fourth of July was traditionally celebrated as America's birthday, but the idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) as 'Flag Birthday'. In numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses over the following years, Cigrand continued to enthusiastically advocate the observance of June 14 as 'Flag Birthday', or 'Flag Day'.

On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, planned appropriate ceremonies for the children of his school, and his idea of observing Flag Day was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.

Following the suggestion of Colonel J Granville Leach (at the time historian of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution), the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America on April 25, 1893 adopted a resolution requesting the mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority and all private citizens to display the Flag on June 14th. Leach went on to recommend that thereafter the day be known as 'Flag Day', and on that day, school children be assembled for appropriate exercises, with each child being given a small Flag.

Two weeks later on May 8th, the Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution unanimously endorsed the action of the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames. As a result of the resolution, Dr. Edward Brooks, then Superintendent of Public Schools of Philadelphia, directed that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14, 1893 in Independence Square. School children were assembled, each carrying a small Flag, and patriotic songs were sung and addresses delivered.

In 1894, the governor of New York directed that on June 14 the Flag be displayed on all public buildings. With BJ Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the moving spirits, the Illinois organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, was organized for the purpose of promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises. On June 14th, 1894, under the auspices of this association, the first general public school children's celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held in Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks, with more than 300,000 children participating.

Adults, too, participated in patriotic programs. Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, delivered a 1914 Flag Day address in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: "I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself."
Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day - the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 - was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day."
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http://www.usflag.org/history/flagday.html

Monday, June 6, 2011

President Roosevelt's D-Day Prayer: June 6, 1944













My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.
Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Perpetuating the Republic


Just outside of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia stands a statue of Thomas Jefferson, sculpted by Moses Ezekiel, and “presented to the people” on May 25, 1910.  When I first visited the University in May 2004, as I admired this great work of art, I noticed the inscription on the upper base of the statue which reads:  “TO PERPETUATE THE TEACHINGS AND EXAMPLES OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE REPUBLIC.” I was profoundly impressed with the spirit and significance of this statement.  I reflected upon it much, recorded it in my journal, and later decided that this testimonial should serve as basis for the Charter of The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute.  

As conveyed by the words of this inscription, it is incumbent upon each of us to study and ponder America’s Founding Documents and the writings and lives of our Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson said: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”[1] He also stated: “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome direction, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”[2] The diffusion of knowledge and an enlightened citizenry are essential elements required to maintain liberty.  

We may ask, have we studied and learned the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers? Are the Constitution and principles of liberty expounded by the Founding Fathers being taught in our schools? Has their history been diluted? Abraham Lincoln stated: “Let it [reverence for the laws and Constitution] be taught in schools, seminaries and in colleges; let it be written in primers, in spelling books and in almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, enforced in courts of justice. In short, let it become the political religion of the nation.”[3]

        In his Inaugural Address on April 30, 1789, as our nation’s first President under the newly adopted Constitution, George Washington said: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”[4]  Vigilance in learning and imparting liberty's knowledge is part of liberty's price. 


[1] Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384.
[2] Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820. ME 15:278.
[3] Abraham Lincoln, Speeches and Writings: 1832-1858, Don Fehrenbacher, ed. (Library of America, New York, 1989), pp. 32-33.
[4]  Saxe Commins, ed., Basic Writings of George Washington (Random House, New York, 1948), p. 560.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Basic Principles of the Declaration of Independence


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self‑evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

"The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" -- are the foundation of the political principles of American independence.  As set forth in the writings of Locke, Sidney, and others, it means that nature has inherent laws by which each individual has a conscience, accountability for one’s actions, and a duty to not harm others or their property.  It is not the “law of the jungle,” nor license, but a moral code that binds us together in families and communities, manifest in English common law, and in religion. It recognizes the innate ability of all people and their magistrates to use reason and faith to choose virtue, the common good and civility, over vice and corruption.  

"We hold these truths to be self‑evident” (Jefferson used the words in his first draft, “sacred and undeniable”) -- confirms that there are certain truths that all people are bound to acknowledge, such as the equality of the rights of man, including the right to govern his life and property. 

“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” A religious people rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776, and the vast majority of American colonists believed in God, the Bible, and in the creation of man.  Even for "deists" like Jefferson, there was an acknowledgement that God is the author of liberty and of the natural rights of each person.  He wrote in 1774: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”[1]  Jefferson recorded that, “Happiness is the aim of life.  Virtue is the foundation of happiness.”[2]  Our natural rights are divine gifts and not subject to human grants.  The term “unalienable” means incapable of being sold or transferred.  

“…the consent of the governed” -- Governments are properly the result of the choice of the governed.  As John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 2, “Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government; and it is equally undeniable that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers.”  The people are sovereign and they delegate to government the power to rule. 

“… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” Under the circumstances of “a long train of abuses” -- consisting of violations of individual and societal liberties and usurpations of power, there is a right and a duty to revolt against tyranny.


[1] Thomas Jefferson, Rights of British America, 1774 (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition) (ME) 1:211.
[2]  Thomas Jefferson to William Short, October 31, 1819, ME 15:223.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our Duty to Conscience


In England of old, under the common law, there developed two courts: courts of law and courts of conscience. A court of conscience -- or “court of equity” -- administered justice according to the system of equity, and according to the rules, principles and procedures of chancery; as distinguished from a court having jurisdiction in the common law.  In practice, these courts (with clerics as chancellors) approached cases in equity with the flexible application of broad moral principles to fact-specific situations for the sake of justice.  For them, as it should be for us, “equity” was defined as “a moral sense of fairness based on conscience.” Duty to conscience is the foundation of fairness and justice, and forms the basis of moral principle.  That is the test of every man in every generation...

Sir Thomas More was born in London in 1478 . . . entered Oxford to study law . . . then entered Parliament. He attracted the attention of Henry VIII who appointed him to a succession of high posts. However, he resigned in 1532 when Henry VIII persisted in holding his own opinions regarding marriage and the supremacy of the Pope. In 1534 he refused to take an oath and render allegiance to the King as Head of the Church of England. . . His lands and estate were taken from him.  Then he was arrested and was confined to the Tower of London. Thomas was tried and convicted of treason. He told the court that he could not go against his conscience . . . The king knew that many people admired More and what he was doing. Even the king did not really want to put him to death. As a final attempt to get More to change his mind, King Henry sent More’s wife and his daughter Meg to see him in prison. They urged him to take the oath to preserve his life. In the play, “A Man for All Seasons,” Meg reminded her father that he had always taught her that God regards the heart, not the words of the lips. Then she pleaded with him to “say the words of the oath and in your heart think otherwise.” More replied, “What is an oath but words we say to God?” Then cupping his hands he continued: “When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then—he needn’t hope to find himself again” (Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons [New York: Random House, 1960], p. 140). 

More was beheaded on July 6, 1535.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

No Liberty without Virtue












To our Founding Fathers it was obvious, or “self-evident,” that self-government, or a democratic republic, could only be perpetuated by the self-governed.  Reflecting these precepts, a contemporary German writer to the Founders, J. W. von Goethe, stated: "What is the best government? -- That which teaches us to govern ourselves."[1] And, a later, prominent 19th Century minister, Henry Ward Beecher, simply said: “There is no liberty to men who know not how to govern themselves.”[2] Self-governance consists of self-regulation of our behavior, ambitions and passions.  To this end, the Founders fundamentally believed that the ability to govern ourselves rests with our individual and collective virtue (or character).

John Adams stated it this way, Public virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private Virtue, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.”[3] In this regard, the revolutionary war was as much a battle against “the corruption of 18th century British high society,”[4] as it was against financial oppression.  While the Founders and American colonists were very concerned with their civil liberty and economic freedom, demanding “no taxation without representation,” they were equally concerned with their religious liberty, particularly in preserving their rights of individual conscience and public morality.[5]  With respect to the vital need for virtue in order to establish and maintain a republic, the Founders were in complete harmony:

George Washington said: “Virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government,”[6] and “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.”[7]

Benjamin Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” [8]

James Madison stated: “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical [imaginary] idea.”[9]

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “No government can continue good but under the control of the people; and … their minds are to be informed by education what is right and what wrong; to be encouraged in habits of virtue and to be deterred from those of vice … These are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the structure and order of government.”[10]

Samuel Adams said: “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.  He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue.”[11]

Patrick Henry stated that: “A vitiated [impure] state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.”[12]

John Adams stated: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[13]

Virtue ennobles individual character and lifts society as a whole. Virtuous principles eschew prejudice and discrimination, confirming that “all men are created equal.” Virtue encompasses characteristics of goodwill, patience, tolerance, kindness, respect, humility, gratitude, courage, honor, industry, honesty, chastity and fidelity. These precepts serve as the cornerstones for both individual and societal governance.


[1] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, translated by Bailey Saunders (MacMillan & Co., New York, 1906), Maxim No. 225.
[2] William Drysdale,ed., Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, Selected from the Writings and Sayings of Henry Ward Beecher (D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1887), p. 72.
[3] John Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, April 16, 1776. A. Koch and W. Peden, eds., The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams (Knopf, New York, 1946), p. 57.
[4] Marvin Olasky, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue (Regnery Publishing, Washinton D.C., 1996) p. 142.
[5] See, e.g., Id., Olasky, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue; Richard Vetterli and Gary Bryner, In Search of the Republic: Public Virtue and the Roots of American Government (Rowman & Littlefield, New Jersey, 1987).
[6] Victor Hugo Paltsits, Washington’s Farewell Address (The New York Public Library, 1935), p. 124.
[7] Washington to Marquis De Lafayette, February 7, 1788, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, (U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington D. C., 1939), 29:410.
[8] Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, (Tappan, Whittemore and Mason, Boston, 1840), 10:297.
[9] Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 20, 1788. Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1891) 3:536.
[10] Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1819. ME 15:234.
[11] William V. Wells, The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams (Little, Brown, & Co., Boston, 1865), 1:22.
[12] Tryon Edwards, D.D., The New Dictionary of Thoughts - A Cyclopedia of Quotations (Hanover House, Garden City, NY, 1852; revised and enlarged by C.H. Catrevas, Ralph Emerson Browns and Jonathan Edwards, 1891; The Standard Book Company, New York, 1955, 1963), p. 337.
[13] John Adams, October 11, 1798, letter to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts. Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, (Little, Brown, and Co., Boston, 1854), 9:229.