Monday, January 18, 2016

Mort Kunstler Honors Lewis & Clark

Today (January 18) in 1803, Thomas Jefferson requested funds from the U.S. Congress to finance the Lewis and Clark expedition in the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Congress authorized $2,500 but the actual cost exceeded $40,000. To commemorate this date, Mort Kunstler, one of my favorite artists, displayed this piece on his Facebook page today...



Find more art from Mort Kunstler at his official site http://www.mortkunstler.com/.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Treaty of Ghent Ends War of 1812 (sort of) 201 Years Ago Today

On this day (December 24) 201 years ago, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, setting the stage for the conclusion of the War of 1812 (a war which began in 1812 but lasted longer than the one year for which it was named). News would not reach North America in time to stop the British attack on New Orleans, which would be the last major battle of the war. This is truly an event that showcases the significance of modern communications technology.

Read more about this "forgotten war" at...

Monday, December 14, 2015

George Washington Dies December 14, 1799

Sixteen years ago, I stood at Mount Vernon and watched the funeral procession of George Washington. For a moment, it felt like the real funeral of George Washington - a brief moment made difficult by all the spectators (like me) with cameras and in modern clothing lining both sides of the procession and a moment completely shattered when I saw one of the early American soldiers sporting sunglasses!

I attended the 1999 bicentennial reenactment of Washington's funeral, because I recognized the significance of the man being honored. With the passing of George Washington in December 14, 1799, the United States of America lost its greatest leader - then and since.

To be sure, our nation has been blessed with wonderful leaders, including several of Washington's contemporaries (the men we know as "the Founding Fathers") and many of our Presidents, military leaders, civil rights activists, and religious figures throughout history. But Washington tops them all given the sheer breadth of his experience (political, business, and military) as well as the indispensable nature of his contributions. Without Washington, there would almost certainly be no United States of America today.

While an imperfect man (Washington, after all, was a slave owner - though a progressive one whose conscience led him eventually to manumission), George Washington embodied the highest ideals of character and service. Faced with the temptation of becoming dictator (or perhaps king) after the American Revolution, Washington instead chose retirement. Then the nation's leaders begged him out of retirement to supervise the Constitutional Convention and to accept the presidency under the new Constitution. Washington faithfully served two terms and, once again, turned over the reins of power and headed home to Mount Vernon.

In this time of political and social division, those of us who love America can only hope that the vast majority of Americans will agree that whatever greatness our nation has achieved in its short history is due in no small measure to the foundation laid by the men and women of the founding generation. And, when one looks at the founding, the figure of George Washington looms the largest.

In the end, Abraham Lincoln summed up Washington's legacy the best: "To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked, deathless splendor, leave it shining on."


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Christopher Columbus Conundrum

The Columbus Day holiday presents our American society with a revealing conundrum. An increasing number of people regard Christopher Columbus to be more villain than hero, and are saying he should NOT be celebrated with a holiday. If this is so, on what basis do we judge him to be a villain?

That Columbus did and said some troubling things is pretty much beyond dispute. When Columbus landed in the Indies, he was met by a party of Arawaks, the native inhabitants of the land he claimed for Spain. In his journal, Columbus wrote of the Arawaks: "They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

Indeed, Columbus did subjugate many of the Arawak, and he didn't stop there. His treatment of the native inhabitants of North America set a pattern that would in many ways define European colonization and exploitation of the Americas. Bartolom√© de las Casas, a Catholic priest and contemporary critic of Columbus, wrote: “While I was in Cuba, 7000 children died in three months...Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation ... in this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk.”

Understandably, many today find Christopher Columbus a deplorable figure and consider the Columbus Day holiday to be highly objectionable. Still, such moral assessments of Columbus beg a question that is too often ignored in our society: What is the basis of any such moral judgment?

American culture today is feverishly resistant to any kind of "imposed" moral system, especially if such a system has any religious roots to it. Consider the debate over abortion. Most of those who defend abortion rights do so on the grounds of emphasizing the importance of personal autonomy and a rejection of any attempt to impose a religious-based morality on the rest of society. The irony is that those same themes were echoed in the defense of slavery in pre-Civil War America as well as many episodes or situations where Native Americans were mistreated. If religion is to be cast aside as a source for morality -- if indeed we are to set aside any objective system of morality - and we are to instead celebrate individual autonomy, then it's difficult for me to understand how anyone can rationally judge the actions or beliefs of another person, such as Columbus.

If morality is determined by each individual, then it was completely understandable for Columbus to ignore critics such as las Casas. What's more, why should he let a native's cry for mercy or freedom dissuade him from his quest for profit? Sure, the native inhabitant had a life and had goals and desires, but if each person can ultimately determine his or her own moral code, then it comes down to an issue of power, not ethics. If Columbus had the desire and the power to enslave people for his own purposes, then why should he not do so? Why must he yield to someone else's morality? After all, he did what he thought was right. If you're someone who supports individual-based morality, you have NO sensible or judicious grounds upon which to judge Christopher Columbus.

On the other hand, if morality is determined by community or culture, then how do we rationally decide WHICH community or society gets the final say? Why should, say, the Arawaks get to decide what's right or wrong? If individuals determine morality, then (as we saw above) it comes down to power, not ethics. The same would logically be true for communities, would it not? If one community has the desire and the ability to subjugate another, so be it.

Some may counter that, in the case of conflicting societal values, size matters. They may say that a large number of people who believe a certain way should enlighten others who feel differently. But how does that follow? Are moral questions determined by a vote or by public opinion polls?

There's also the issue of time. Since Columbus' level of public approval has fluctuated throughout the last few centuries, does that mean a person's status of hero or villain should be based on what year it is and what generation happens to be living at that time?  So, if the Spanish in 1492 believed slavery was appropriate, but today believe slavery is wrong, does that mean slavery was okay in 1492 but wrong today? Is the morality of slavery dependent on the times?

Whether we're talking about the treatment of Native Americans, the sanctity of human life, sexual ethics, the definition of the family, or any other moral question, it makes NO RATIONAL SENSE to say, on the one hand, that ethical principles are based entirely on individuals and/or communities -- and to then turn around and pronounce moral judgments on the actions or beliefs of others. It's intellectually incoherent to make ANY kind of moral judgment on anyone or anything if morality itself is based on individual choice or public opinion. And thus...

Without an objective, external, moral referent, no one can make any kind of rational assessment of Christopher Columbus. Period. 

I don't write this to defend Columbus. On the contrary, I believe much of what Columbus did was reprehensible. But my moral compass isn't set to public opinion or individual preference. When you have an objective standard (as I do), it's simpler (not always easy, but simpler) to come to a moral conclusion. And that is certainly the case with Columbus. Enslaving people against their will is wrong today and it was wrong in 1492. That's an objective moral standard which Christopher Columbus violated, and thus his actions were immoral. But if you remove objective morality from the equation, then no such judgment can be rendered. And, in that case, we may as well celebrate a Columbus Day holiday, because no one can dispute that his actions were monumentally consequential.

So, the next time you're tempted to make a judgment about Christopher Columbus or anyone else, ask yourself what is the BASIS of that judgment. Such an intellectual and philosophical exercise, on your part, will make Columbus Day worthwhile.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Is America Great?

Is the United States of America a truly "great" nation? Dinesh D'Souza, author of America (and director of the documentary of the same name) says so. Check out this article and make any comments below...


God bless the USA!



Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy July 4 Everyone!

On this day in 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, an instrument that made public what had taken place two days prior: a vote to separate from Great Britain. To my fellow Americans....Happy Independence Day!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Happy 800th Birthday to the Magna Carta

Happy 800th Birthday to the Magna Carta (aka "Great Charter"). If you like the idea of the government being UNDER the law, then you should not let this anniversary go by without at least a moment of gratitude. To read more about its importance, check out this article....

"The Field Where Liberty Was Sown" by Mark Steyn


Friday, March 20, 2015

Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen Bring George Washington's Revolution to Life

Whatever you think of Newt Gingrich as a politician, you must give him props as a brilliant thinker and accomplished author. An example of Gingrich's impressive talent with a pen (or personal computer keyboard) is his foray into historical fiction. Gingrich has co-written several marvelous historical novels (some of them in the alternate history category) with William R. Forstchen. Among those terrific novels is an inspiring trilogy set in the Revolutionary War - a trilogy that begins with To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom. 



To Try Men's Souls tells the true-life story of George Washington saving the American Revolution by pulling off an audacious and brilliant defeat of the dreaded Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, New Jersey. It's a captivating read -- made all the more special by the fact that the events described are real (even though much of the dialogue and the details of the story are fleshed out by the authors' imaginations). If you haven't read To Try Men's Souls, I encourage you to pick up a copy today at the link below.

***

Order your copy of To Try Men's Souls now at Amazon.com. And don't forget the sequels Valley Forge and Victory at Yorktown






Friday, March 13, 2015

5 Amazing Inventions by Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was many things, including printer, businessman, postmaster, philosopher, diplomat, and statesman. He was also a scientist and inventor. As a scientist, Franklin helped drive the American Enlightenment, charted the Atlantic Gulf Stream, and contributed greatly to the study of physics and electricity. As an inventor, Franklin is probably best known for the bifocals and the Franklin Stove. In this video from The Discovery Lists, we see five of Franklin's most amazing inventions.



Do you agree with the video? Let us know in the comments.

***

For more on Ben Franklin, check out The First American by H.W. Brands.