Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Liberty is based upon Timeless Principles

"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto the inhabitants thereof."
[Inscription on the Liberty Bell; Leviticus 25:10] 

Liberty! The very word evokes hope and stirs the inner soul of man. Throughout the course of time, individuals and nations oppressed by the yoke of tyranny or bondage have cried out for liberty's reprise and have sought for the comfort of its soothing rays. Revolution and war have oft been its price. Few nations have ever obtained it, let alone maintained it. Why so rare this prize for which so much blood and so many tears have been shed? Is its definition misunderstood? What is liberty and how is it secured, or more portentous, how is it lost? 

First, we must understand that liberty is based upon fundamental principles and not philosophies or policies. Principles, which are based on truth, are constant and timeless; philosophies and policies are variable and changing and are based upon theories, circumstances and opinion. Second, we must recognize that liberty is not free. It must be both earned and guarded. Lastly, we must realize that liberty requires public morality or virtue. George Washington said: “Virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government,” and “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.” See: "No Liberty without Virtue."

The greatest, and probably most generally unrecognized, threat to our liberty today results from the gradual erosion of virtue. This decay has resulted from negligence and apathy on the part of many and from calculated attacks on the part of a few. The invasive roots of its opposing influences have crept deeper into the soil of our communities while we have slept, and in some cases, while we have been thwarted in our efforts to eradicate their causes. James Madison stated: "I believe that there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." When the policies and practices of the nation favor rights in exclusion of responsibility, and sanction vice at the expense of virtue, calamity is imminent. The impending consequences of the ruin of public virtue, which already cast a dark shadow across our nation, now loom on the horizon as a force destructive to our society, our government and our very peace and happiness. 

Unless we become vigilant in understanding and upholding liberty's principles, we shall lose all which is attached to it: our national unity, our security, our peace and our prosperity. No person who loves liberty, can, in the face of the danger of its loss, stand idly by when life itself and the pursuit of happiness, hang so precipitously in the balance. A modern statesman, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., said: "We stand in danger of losing our liberties, and . . . once lost, only blood will bring them back . . ." In order to preserve liberty we must not only pledge allegiance, but prove loyal in deed to the standards upon which it is founded. Our Founding Fathers mutually pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause of liberty. May we commit anything less and stand worthy of its benefaction? 

"[T]he preservation of the sacred fire of liberty . . . [is] finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People." --George Washington

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The First Martyr to the Cause of American Liberty

The first martyr to the cause of American liberty was Major General Joseph Warren (June 11, 1741 – June 17, 1775). The son of Joseph Warren and Mary Stevens, his father was a respected farmer. He enrolled in Harvard College, graduating in 1759, and then taught for about a year at Roxbury Latin. He then studied medicine and married 18-year-old heiress Elizabeth Hooten on September 6, 1764. She died in 1773, leaving him with four children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, and Richard. Before his death in 1775, he was engaged to Mercy Scollay. Warren played a leading role in Patriot organizations in Boston during the early days of the American Revolution, eventually serving as President of the revolutionary Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Warren enlisted Paul Revere and William Dawes on April 18, 1775, to leave Boston and spread the alarm that the British garrison in Boston was setting out to raid the town of Concord and arrest rebel leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Warren participated in the Battles of Lexington and Concord the following day – the opening engagements of the American Revolutionary War. 

After the meeting of the Provincial congress at Concord in October 1774, Dr. Warren acted as chairman of the committee of safety, charged with the duty of organizing the militia and collecting military stores. As the 5th of March, 1775, drew near, several British officers were heard to declare that anyone who should dare to address the people in the Old South church on this occasion would surely lose his life. As soon as he heard of these threats, Dr. Warren solicited for himself the dangerous honor, and at the usual hour delivered a stirring oration upon "the baleful influence of standing armies in time of peace." The concourse in the church was so great that, when the orator arrived, every approach to the pulpit was "blocked up" and rather than elbow his way through the crowd, which might lead to some disturbance, he procured a ladder and climbed in through a large window at the back of the pulpit. About forty British officers were present, some of whom sat on the pulpit-steps, and sought to annoy the speaker with groans and hisses, but everything passed off quietly. 

On Tuesday evening, the 18th April, 1775, observing the movements of the British troops, Dr. Warren dispatched William Dawes, by way of Roxbury, and Paul Revere, by way of Charlestown, to give the alarm to the people dwelling on the roads toward Concord. Next morning, on hearing the news of the firing at Lexington, he left his patients in charge of his pupil and assistant, William Eustis, and rode off to the scene of action. He seems to have attended a meeting of the committee of safety that morning at the Black Horse tavern in Menotomy (now Arlington), and there to have consulted with Gen. William Heath. By the time Lord Percy reached Menotomy on his retreat, Gen. Heath had assumed command of the militia, and the fighting there was perhaps the severest of the day. Dr. Warren kept his place near Heath, and a pin was struck from his head by a musket-ball. During the next six weeks he was indefatigable in urging on the military preparations of the New England colonies. At the meeting of the Provincial congress at Watertown, the 31st of May, he was unanimously chosen its president, and thus became chief executive officer of Massachusetts under this provisional government. 

Warren was commissioned as a major general by the Provincial Congress on June 14, 1775. Several days later, in the moments before the Battle of Bunker Hill, Warren arrived where the militia was forming and asked where the heaviest fighting would be; General Israel Putnam pointed to Breed's Hill. Warren volunteered to join the fighting as a private against the wishes of General Putnam and Colonel William Prescott, both of whom requested that he serve as their commander. Warren declined the command in the belief that Putnam and Prescott were more experienced with war. He was among those inspiring the men to hold rank against superior numbers. Warren was known to have repeatedly declared of the British: "These fellows say we won't fight! By Heaven, I hope I shall die up to my knees in blood!" He fought in the redoubt until out of ammunition and remained until the British made their third and final assault on the hill to give time for the militia to escape. He was killed instantly by a musket or pistol ball in the head by a British officer.  The enemy stripped his body of clothing and he was bayoneted until unrecognizable, and then shoved into a shallow ditch and buried. His body was exhumed ten months after his death by his brothers and Paul Revere, who identified the remains by the artificial tooth he had placed in the jaw. His body was placed in the Granary Burying Ground and later (in 1825) in St. Paul's Church before finally being moved in 1855 to his family's vault in Forest Hills Cemetery. 

General Gage reportedly said Warren's death was equal to the death of 500 men. It encouraged the revolutionary cause because it was viewed by many Americans as an act of martyrdom. His death, immortalized in John Trumbull's painting, “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775,” (see image below) galvanized the rebel forces. 

At the time of Warren's death, his children were staying with his fiancée, Mercy Scollay, in Worcester as refugees from the Siege of Boston. She continued to look after them, gathering support for their education from John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Benedict Arnold, and even the Continental Congress. He has been memorialized in the naming of many towns, counties, streets, and other locations in the United States, by statues, and in numerous other ways.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Poems of Thomas Jefferson

“Thomas Jefferson did not write many poems, although he had a great appreciation for poetry.[1] He read and quoted widely from poets such as Homer, Virgil, John Dryden, and John Milton. Ossian was a special source of pleasure. In 1786, Jefferson's pleasure reading briefly turned more scholarly when he wrote "Thoughts on English Prosody," an essay in which he debated whether the principal characteristic of English poetry was accent or quantity (he settled on accent). 

From the age of fifteen until he turned thirty, he kept a Literary Commonplace Book[2] in which he pasted newspaper clippings of favorite poems and prose. Beginning in 1801, he began the first of two poetry scrapbooks dedicated exclusively to poetry clippings.[3] Jefferson also helped his granddaughters create their own poetry scrapbooks. One of them, Virginia Randolph Trist, recalled that "whenever an opportunity occurred, he sent us books; and he never saw a little story or piece of poetry in a newspaper, suited to our ages and tastes, that he did not preserve and send it to us."[4] 

A number of scholars have attributed to Jefferson an unfinished poem, "To Ellen," indicating that it may have been intended for his granddaughter Ellen Wayles Coolidge.[5] 

“To Ellen” 

Tis hope supports each noble flame, 
'Tis hope inspires poetic lays, 
Our heroes fight in hopes of fame, 
And poets write in hopes of praise. 

She sings sweet songs of future years, 
And dries the tears of present sorrow, 
Bids doubting mortals cease their fears, 
And tells them of a bright to-morrow. 

And where true love a visit pays, 
The minstrel hope is allways there, 
To soothe young Cupid with her lays, 
And keep the lover from despair. 

Why fades the rose upon thy cheek; 
Why droop the lilies at the view? 
Thy cause of sorrow, Ellen speak, 
Why alter'd thus thy sprightly hue? 

Each day, alas! with breaking heart, 
I see they beautous form decline; 
 Yet fear my anguish to impart, 
Lest it should add a pang to thine... 

Jefferson may have composed some light verse during periods of his later life, but the only surviving poem of definite authorship by Jefferson was written in 1826, at the approach of his death. Confined to bed by illness, Jefferson wrote "A death-bed Adieu" for his daughter, Martha [“Patsy”] Randolph[6]. On July 2nd, two days before he died, Jefferson told Martha that he'd composed a farewell in her honor; following his instructions, she found the verse in a small box after his death. ['Two Seraphs' refers to Jefferson's wife, Martha, and to their daughter Maria Jefferson Eppes, born August 1, 1778; died April 17, 1804].” 

“A death-bed Adieu” -- TJ to MR 

Life's visions are vanished, it's dreams are no more. 
Dear friends of my bosom, why bathed in tears? 
I go to my fathers; I welcome the shore, 
which crowns all my hopes, or which buries my cares. 
Then farewell my dear, my lov'd daughter, Adieu! 
The last pang in life is in parting from you. 
Two Seraphs await me, long shrouded in death; 
I will bear them your love on my last parting breath. 

1. Until recently, most scholars thought that Jefferson's interest in poetry waned significantly in his later years. To learn why this may not have been the case, see Jonathan Gross's "When Jefferson Dined Alone" (http://hnn.us/articles/20061.html, History News Network, February 12, 2006). 
2. See Jefferson's Literary Commonplace Book, ed. Douglas L. Wilson (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989) for a critical edition. 
3. The contents of Jefferson's poetry scrapbooks can be found in Jonathan Gross's Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbook's: Poems of Nation, Family & Romantic Love Collected by America's Third President (Sterforth Press: Hanover, New Hampshire, 2006). 
4. B. L. Rayner, Sketches of the Life, Writings, and Opinions of Thomas Jefferson. With Selections of the Most Valuable Portions of His Voluminous and Unrivaled Private Correspondence (New York: A. Francis and W. Boardman, 1832.): 346-47. 
5. Ellen (Eleonora) Wayles Randolph (1796–1876), the fourth child of Thomas Mann Randolph and TJ’s daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph, shared her name with an elder sister who died in 1794. Born at Monticello, Randolph returned with her family to live there following her grandfather’s retirement from the presidency. She became one of TJ’s favorite grandchildren, often accompanying him on trips to Poplar Forest and Natural Bridge. In 1816, with his financial assistance, she visited Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, winning renown as an intelligent conversationalist. On May 27, 1825 in the Monticello drawing room, she married Joseph Coolidge, a Bostonian who had first visited TJ a year earlier. When the newlyweds settled in Boston, the separation proved difficult for both TJ and his granddaughter. Ellen Coolidge corresponded regularly with those who remained at Monticello but did not return until just after TJ’s death. 
 6. The poem first appeared in its entirety in Sarah Randolph's The Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson (1871). A facsimile of the original manuscript is available at Virginia's James Monroe Museum.

Monday, December 13, 2021

The Civil War and Christmas

“As the Civil War’s first Christmas neared, a pair of young lovers, Nathaniel Dawson and Elodie Todd, a Confederate soldier and his eventual bride, wrote to one another with increasing melancholy. They were separated by hundreds of miles, and their communication was often interrupted by delays in the mail and the desperation of the Civil War. 

“I wish I could be with you at Christmas, the festal season, where age is rejuvenated and lives again in the merry carols of youth,” Dawson wrote to Todd (sister of Mary Todd Lincoln) on December 22, 1861... Dawson and Todd’s lives changed dramatically during the war, as the Confederacy crumbled and their personal lives stretched to their limits. But they weren’t alone in wishing they could celebrate Christmas together. As the fractured United States fought, the holiday [grew in significance in both the South and the North]...

Before the Civil War, Christmas was not an official holiday in the United States. Nor was it celebrated uniformly across the country. In early New England, Christmas was looked down upon by Puritans and Calvinists, who felt the day should be observed for strict fasts and rituals, if it was observed at all. During the 17th century, Massachusetts imposed a fine on colonists who celebrated the holiday, and after it became a state, its businesses and schools did not observe the holiday at all. 

Elsewhere, Christmas was celebrated in a variety of ways, most depending on the country of origin of the immigrants who celebrated it. But by the mid-19th century, the holiday’s importance—and distance from religious tradition—was already starting to grow. Songs and carols like “Jingle Bells” (1857) and poems like “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (1823) set the stage for a fun, secular holiday that revolved around gift-giving and celebration with food and drink. 

In the antebellum South, plantation owners used the holiday as a way to show off their paternalism toward the people they enslaved, write historians Shauna Bigham and Robert E. May. During lengthy Christmas celebrations, they gave enslaved people passes to marry, provided food and alcohol, and gave gifts.”[1] 

“During the Civil War, proclaiming religious holidays was one of [Abraham] Lincoln’s main cultural means of encouraging the spirit of “unionism” that the poet Walt Whitman identified as the “hard-pan of his character.” To this end, Lincoln issued nine religious proclamations—far more than any other U.S. president... 

Lincoln thought that holidays had the capacity to unite people—in his words, “they bring us together, and thereby make us better acquainted, and better friends than we otherwise would be … They make more pleasant, and more strong, and more durable, the bond of social and political union among us...” 

During Lincoln’s presidency... Christmas took on new meaning. Chiefly responsible for its transformation was the famous German American illustrator Thomas Nast, who created the modern Santa Claus—the jovially pipe-smoking, white-bearded, red-suited night flyer we know so well—and made him distinctly pro-northern and antislavery. Nast, a Lincoln devotee, put his Santa in politically charged scenarios. One of his first distinctive illustrations, on the cover of Harper’s Magazine in January 1863—the month Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation—showed Santa delivering presents to Union soldiers in an army camp. Nast’s Santa, quite literally, embodies the North: He is clad in stars and stripes, surrounded by cheering Union soldiers, and holds in his hand a toy puppet of Jefferson Davis being hanged by the neck—a reminder of the improvised line in “The John Brown Song,” “We’ll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree.” 

Lincoln recognized the political significance of such illustrations. “Thomas Nast has been our best recruiting sergeant,” he said. “His emblematic cartoons have never failed to arouse enthusiasm and patriotism, and have always seemed to come just when these articles were getting scarce.” General Ulysses S. Grant, when asked who was “the foremost figure in civil life” during the war years, replied, “I think, Thomas Nast.” 

During the second half of the Civil War, the North became more associated with Christmas. An 1863 political cartoon, “Santa Claus Visits Uncle Sam!,” showed Lincoln in a Santa outfit stuffing Union victories—Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and others—into the nation’s Christmas stocking.”[2] 

“By the end of the war in 1865, Christmas had gone from a relatively unimportant holiday to the opposite—a day rooted in an idealized vision of home. The way Americans observed the holiday changed too, setting the stage for the more modern Christmas holiday we know today.”[3] 
[1] Erin Blakemore, “How the Civil War Changed Christmas,” History Online, January 15, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/civil-war-christmas) 
[2] David S. Reynolds, “How Lincoln Turned Regional Holidays Into National Celebrations,” The Atlantic, November 24, 2021 (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/11/how-lincoln-redefined-thanksgiving-and-christmas/620800/) 
[3] Blakemore, “How the Civil War Changed Christmas.”

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Declaration of Independence Teacher Workshop

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

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute is pleased to announce its next teacher education workshop on the topic of “The Declaration of Independence: Axioms of a Free Society.” The program will include three x 1 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 -- “Natural Law and Popular Sovereignty in the Declaration of Independence.” Presentation by Tony Williams followed by discussion and Q&A.

10:15–11:15 a.m. Second Classroom Session -- “All Men are Created Equal: America's Defining Creed." Presentation by J. David Gowdy followed by discussion and Q&A.

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Third Classroom Session -- “The Declaration's Role in American History."  Presentation by Tony Williams followed by discussion and Q&A.

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

The workshop is designed for public and private Virginia secondary school teachers and home 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 29th, 2021 to be held at Prospect Hill Plantation Inn. The Seminar qualifies for four Virginia recertification points or 4 hours. 

Prospect Hill Plantation Inn, Louisa, Virginia

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

“How great a debt we owe to those who went before us”

This letter was written near the beginning of the American Civil War from Sullivan Ballou, a 32-year-old officer in the Union Army, to his 24-year-old wife, Sarah. He was a lawyer and politician from Rhode Island and married Sarah Hart Shumway on October 15, 1855. They had two sons. 

“July 14, 1861 Camp Clark, Washington 

My very dear Sarah: 

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days-perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . . 

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing-perfectly willing-to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . . 

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field. The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me-perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . . 

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .” 

A week later Sullivan was mortally wounded in the First Battle of Bull Run and died on July 29, 1861.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Quotes from the Founders on Religious Liberty

“Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and the first among rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights[1]. It is the right to think, express and act upon what you deeply believe, according to the dictates of conscience. Freedom of conscience is critical to the health of a diverse society. It allows different faiths and beliefs to flourish. Religious freedom protects the rights of all groups and individuals, including the most vulnerable, whether religious or not.”[2] The Founders were firm in their support of this important principle that serves as the cornerstone of liberty in all nations. Following are a few quotes from James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and George Washington:

“In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.” –James Madison, Federalist 51 

“Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” –James Madison, Essay on Property, March 29, 1792 

“One of the amendments to the Constitution... expressly declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,' thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.” –Thomas Jefferson, Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798 

“The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.” –Thomas Jefferson, Minutes of the Board of Visitors, University of Virginia, 1819 

“Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies.” –John Adams, Letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776 

“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.” –John Adams, To the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia Of Massachusetts, October 11, 1798 

“Remember civil and religious liberty always go together: if the foundation of the one be sapped, the other will fall of course.” –Alexander Hamilton, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, December 15, 1774 

“[A]s far as lies in your power, you are to protect and support the free exercise of religion of the country, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the rights of conscience in religious matters, with your utmost influence and authority.” –George Washington, Letter to Benedict Arnold, September 14, 1775 

“[N]o one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution—For you, doubtless, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.” –George Washington, Letter to George Mason, October 3, 1785
Photo: Religious Liberty (1876). The country’s largest monument to religious liberty stands in front of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The towering 24-foot, 13-ton statue was commissioned by the Jewish fraternal organization Independent Order of B’nai B’rith (Sons of the Covenant) and dedicated "to the people of the United States" as an expression of support for the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. It was executed in marble by sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel (1844-1917).