Sunday, December 30, 2007

Slave Trade Banned 200 Years Ago on January 1

The New York Times has run an article that expresses a sobering and important point: In spite of our nation's fascination with anniversaries, "one significant milestone has gone strangely unnoticed: the 200th anniversary of Jan. 1, 1808, when the importation of slaves into the United States was prohibited."

During the Constitutional Convention, a tragic (but "necessary," some say) compromise was reached that allowed the slave states of the newly formed United States of America to continue dealing in the international slave trade.

The slave trade represented the worst of the slave system. Even some slaveowners recognized this, which led them to argue vociferously against it. Southern slave owners from James Madison to George Mason expressed disgust for the slave trade, which profited from the exploitation of African victims snatched away from their families due to war, misfortune, and/or outright kidnappings. These victims would then be shipped in dreadful conditions into the very bowels of the international slave industry. It was a reprehensible practice.

And yet...the slave states of the Deep South, particularly Georgia and South Carolina, depended on slavery - and, by extension, the slave trade.

The Upper South (slave-holding, but uncomfortable with the slave trade and the expansion of slavery) and the North (increasingly opposed to slavery) compromised with their Deep South counterparts on both the slave trade and also on representation in Congress (the North allowed the slave states to count 3/5 of their slaves for the purposes of congressional representation). The slave trade compromise left the slave trade in the hands of the individual states until 1808.

By 1807, all of the states, except South Carolina, had stopped dealing in the slave trade. Congress stepped in and (using its new constitutional authority) banned the trade -- a ban that would take effect New Year's Day, 1808.

The ban on the slave trade was the first major step taken by the United States government against the institution of slavery. And for that reason, it is an anniversary worth remembering.


A great film that depicts the horrors of the African slave trade is Steven Spielberg's masterpiece Amistad. If you haven't seen it, check it out!

Rare Copy of Declaration of Independence Found

According to an article from, a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, America's founding document, has been discovered in a side hallway of the US Supreme Court building.

This rare copy was one of only 200 early copies made of the original 1776 document, principally authored by Thomas Jefferson and then "mutilated" (Jefferson's word to describe the modifications done to it) by the Second Continental Congress.

The copy, dated to 1824, was found in 2003 and has been made available for viewing since 2006. It's quite a story. Follow this link to read all about it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Battles of Trenton and Princeton

As I write this blog entry, it's December 27, 2007. Two hundred and thirty-one years ago this week, George Washington and the Continental Army had just defeated the Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey -- a worthy Christmas present for the infant United States.

And Washington was now struggling to keep his army from disintegrating due to expired enlistments as well as inadequate pay and provisions.

General Washington was working to keep his army together, while eluding a determined counterattack by British General Lord Cornwallis. Washington would survive Cornwallis' pursuit and score another upset victory at Princeton.

The battles of Trenton and Princeton (and the maneuverings of December 1776 and January 1777) would prove to be the most important campaign of the American Revolution (barring perhaps Yorktown).

Anyone who doubts this should consult David Hackett Fisher's masterful Washington's Crossing...

...and for those wanting to know just how tenuous the War for Independence was going into the New Jersey campaign, pick up a copy of David McCullough's bestselling 1776.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Was George Washington a Christian?

Whether people say George Washington was a Deist, Christian, or somewhere in between has a LOT to do with the individual's political persuasion. Often, it has little to do with the facts.

Well, Peter Lillback decided that there are enough OPINIONS about George Washington's religious faith. Lillback decided to stick to the FACTS. And in his book, George Washington's Sacred Fire, there are LOTS of facts - hundreds of pages of facts.

I've read through this book - and, believe, me, that's saying something. Reading Lillback's George Washington's Sacred Fire is like wading through a small library!

I hesitate to cut to the bottom line of Lillback's conclusion, because doing so will likely cause some would-be readers to dismiss Lillback. This would be a serious mistake.

Get yourself a copy of Peter Lillback's George Washington's Sacred Fire - and learn the TRUTH about George Washington's religious faith.

Founders on Religion

Allow me to recommend an excellent review of Faiths of our Founding Fathers by David Holmes. The review is written by Brad Hart and can be found at the excellent American Revolution Blog site, which you should check out if you haven't already.

For a more conservative perspective on this subject, you may want to check out...

Why Study the Founding Fathers?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Patrick Henry: Voice of Thunder

According to legend, when Patrick Henry finished giving his "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech, a man in the audience leaped forward and demanded to be buried on that very spot upon his passing. Whether the legend is true, it does illustrate the reality of the hypnotic, mesmerizing effect Patrick Henry had on his audiences.

Patrick Henry was a backwater Virginia Burgess, a more or less failed businessman, and a mediocre attorney (at least in terms of depth and training) who used his oratorical prowess to vault himself to the front ranks of Virginia's political leadership in the Revolutionary era.

If only we had some video or audio recordings of Henry's speeches, wouldn't that be something?? But, alas, we can only measure his greatness as an orator by reading the words of his speeches and reading of the effect they had during that time. Of course, that information is enough for us to conclude that Henry deserves the title "Voice of Thunder" and was a leading influence in early American history.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Publishing the Founders' Papers

Efforts to annotate and publish the papers of our Founding Fathers continue - but not as fast as some historians and lobbyists would like.

According to an article in the online edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune, experts have been "laboring since the Truman administration to compile and annotate the letters, correspondence and documents of George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson" to the tune of "about $58 million" over the last three decades alone.

Yet, there's still much to do, particularly with the writings of John Adams and George Washington. The latter was our most prolific writer.

Follow this link to read more about it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Top Ten Gift Ideas for Civil War Buffs

Again, this isn't directly related to our topic area (although some do extend the "founding era" to the Civil War), but here's an article I wrote last year that might interest you.

"Top 10 Gift Ideas for Civil War Buffs"

I know....I know...I need to write "Top 10 Gift Ideas for American Revolution Buffs," but (sadly) there aren't as many. But...

I did write this article over at Suite101, which recommends some great books on early American history.

You can also check out the "Great Books on American History" and "Movies About History" blog sites for other gift ideas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Washington Medal Auctions for $5.3 Million

A medal that symbolized the bond between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette has sold at auction for $5.3 million. Follow this link to read all about it.

Civil War Era Blogs

This is a little bit beyond our topic range here, but....

Here are some blogs on the Civil War era that you should check out:

Civil Warriors

A. Lincoln Blog

Abraham Lincoln Blog

The Civil War by

Civil War History: The Blog Between the States

and finally....

TOCWOC -- The Order of Civil War Obsessively Compulsed - Informed Amateurs Blog the American Civil War

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Guide to Revolutionary War Movies

Sadly, there haven't been that many movies depicting events of the American Revolution. If, however, you have an American Revolution history buff on your Christmas list, follow this link for some suggested movies.


The Forgotten Declaration

Surf on over to Suite101 American History to check out an excellent article by Roger Saunders on that first Declaration from the Continental Congress - the one preceding the Declaration of Independence.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review: Duel by Thomas Fleming

Dueling - it's a concept that people have a hard time relating to these days. Yet it was a practice steeped in chivalric tradition - a tradition that still informed the Founding Fathers and their time.

Several years ago, historian Thomas J. Fleming plunged into this “affair of honor” custom - specifically, the one, which claimed the life of Alexander Hamilton. Fleming's book Duel gives the reader more than a study in the 18th century culture and ethics of dueling. In the words of Duel's dust jacket, Fleming examines the “post-revolutionary world of 1804, a chaotic and fragile time in the young country as well as a time of tremendous global instability.”

Follow this link for a review of Duel.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Washington the Warrior

This is an outstanding History Channel documentary on George Washington as military leader and "action hero." If you haven't seen it, order the

USA & France: Friends or Allies of Convenience?

The United States appears now to be reaffirming its friendship with France. Much of that is due to France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The history of America's relationship with France has been one ranging from deep affection and enthusiastic camaredie to simmering hostility. Kind of like a family relationship? :-)

In a column posted on the History News Network, author and historian Thomas Fleming argues that the United States and France should be seen as longtime friends and allies. As Fleming points out, the main reason for some of the hatred of President Washington was Washington's refusal to openly support France against Great Britain.


An interesting article from Wikipedia shows that relations between France and the United States have NOT always been as strong as Fleming implies.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Barry Bostwick on "American Treasury"

Does anyone remember these "American Treasury" spots?

Better yet...who remembers Barry Bostwick playing George Washington in the CBS television miniseries?

National Treasure - Get it on DVD

Before National Treasure: Book of Secrets comes out in December, be sure to see the FIRST one! It should be available at your local video store. While I can't say it is a fully accurate history lesson of our founding era :), I can say that it's a LOT of fun!

Here is the trailer...

Click on this link to see the trailer for Book of Secrets.

And then here's a review of the film I wrote some time ago. Have fun!

American Revolution Blog Nominated!

Ladies and gentlemen,

The American Revolution Blog has been nominated as the Best New History Blog for the History News Network. Congratulations to the founders and writers for that great blog. If you haven't visited the American Revolution Blog, you're missing out.

Of course, don't forget about this blog here. I'd like to think it's worthwhile too. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving from George Washington

Happy Thanksgiving from the Father of our Country! Take some time to read George Washington's original Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.

And, of course, don't forget to eat plenty of turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Is the United States a "Christian Nation"?

Republican presidential candidate John McCain recently caused stirs when he described the United States as a "Christian nation." McCain was quoted as saying that "that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

This was either a slip of the tongue, an example of reckless pandering, or an embarrassing mistake for a presidential candidate to make. Why? Because the word "Christian" appears nowhere in the United States Constitution. In fact, the Constitution very pointedly establishes the federal government as a secular institution.

Now, don't get me wrong! I actually agree with the rest of what Senator McCain had to say, especially the part about the United States of America being a "nation founded on Christian principles." On that point, McCain was absolutely correct.

That the United States was founded by men who largely identified themselves with Christianity is beyond dispute (though fellow blogger Jonathan Rowe disagrees). The overwhelming majority of the nation's founders expressed, to one degree or another, agreement with the basic teachings of Protestant Christianity.

Whether the men we know as the Founding Fathers were actually Christian comes down to what we mean by the term "Christian."

However one defines the term, it is fairly clear that most of the Founders thought of themselves as Christian.

Another assumption made about the founding era - typically from those left of center or libertarian in their political thinking - is that the Founders endorsed complete secularism in matters of morality and public policy. The truth is that the Founders preferred state and local governments to get involved in those matters, and wanted the federal government to assume a minimal role.

Court rulings, congressional legislation, and cultural changes over the decades have, however, shifted the focus of policy-making from the state and local level gradually up to the national level. It is therefore not a stretch to assume that, if the Founders had witnessed this shift, they would have expected the federal government to encourage public virtue and morality. In fact, one needn't even make this "stretch," since the national Congress (during and after the Revolution) had no problem issuing calls for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving as well as funding the printing of Bibles, the appointment of chaplains, and so forth.

The idea that the Founding Fathers wanted a purely secular society is simply wrong.

For more reading on the subject of religion, Christianity, and the Founders, I recommend the following articles...

"We Hold These Truths: The Founders' Rejection of Postmodern Relativism"

"The Role of Religion in US Politics"

Monday, November 05, 2007

Evaluating Thomas Paine

Roger Saunders has written a worthy piece on Thomas Paine, which can be found over at Suite101 Colonial America. Saunders makes the case that Paine, despite the controversy of his post-Revolution years, nevertheless played a critical role in the founding of the United States.

The controversies dogging Paine can basically be summed up as follows:

1. Thomas Paine was always better at tearing things apart, than he was at building things up. John Adams was known to have made this comment about Mr. Paine - and he was right.

2. Paine's association with the radical and bloody French Revolution

3. Paine turned against George Washington, and...

4. Paine attacked God (at least in the minds of many) when he blistered the Bible and wrote The Age of Reason

Think about it....Thomas Paine went after God AND George Washington. That takes either guts or stupidity. In Paine's case, it brought him intense notoriety that forever marred his legacy.

George Washington: Animated Hero Classics

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

First Invasion: The War of 1812

I posted the trailer of this History Channel program on YouTube - partly to promote THIS site. Enjoy.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Casting the American Revolution

If you were to film a movie or miniseries on the American Revolution AND you had a budget to get whoever you wanted for an all-star cast, who would you pick to direct and star in your epic?

Here we go....

Director - must be someone GOOD w/ action movies (need to keep the audience's attention after all)

George Washington - the star of the film

John Adams - the behind the scenes, noncombatant star (someone who could play a moody, yet very driven 'politician' type - and who would be convincing in romantic scenes with Abigail)

Martha Washington - the love interest for the main star (someone that is attractive in a calming, middle-aged way - not overweight, but heading in that direction)

Abigail Adams - need a strong actress for this role

Ben Franklin - the mentor type character, witty and wise

Lord Cornwallis - the main antagonist of the film (I think we let Tom Wilkinson who played Cornwallis in The Patriot reprise this role), but let's not make him villainous -- just determined and competent

Nathanael Greene - an underrated hero of the Revolution

Henry Knox - another underappreciated hero

Alexander Hamilton - need a young actor, preferably a heartthrob type

Joseph Plumb Martin - we need a guy in the trenches to give us the common soldier perspective in our film or miniseries; this actor needs to be a teenager

What do you think? Who am I missing?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

George Washington Movie Trailer

If only this were real...

Why, oh why, can't Hollywood make a movie about the father of our country!?

Monday, October 22, 2007

David McCullough Interview

David McCullough is one of the greatest historians of our time. Here, McCullough is interviewed by Charlie Rose about his book 1776 - one of the best modern books written on the American Revolution.

Sesame Street's Guide to the Revolution

Follow this link for a rather humorous look at the American Revolution - courtesy of the folks at Sesame Street.

Do I need to say that this isn't an entirely accurate portrait of the way things happened?

Great Blog on the American Revolution

I'm thrilled to introduce to my readers an excellent blog on the American Revolution.

I love the articles, the links, the book recommendations, the polls, the music, the graphics. Just an outstanding blog.

It's great to see more people contributing to our knowledge of this critical period of our history. The more blogs on this period, the better!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Great Awakening

The Great Awakening was one of the most influential movements or episodes in the history of North America. Not only did it significantly impact the culture of colonial America, but it laid the groundwork for many of the causes of the American Revolution.

The two most influential leaders of the Great Awakening were Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.

No American should be without knowledge of this critical period of our history.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Causes of the American Revolution

There are a lot of misconceptions about the American War for Independence. The biggest one is that it was all about taxes. The truth is that the American Revolution was caused by several events and issues. Certainly these issues included taxes, but the unifying or underlying theme wasn't taxes. It was self-government.

For more information, read my Suite101 article "Causes of the American Revolution."

Monday, October 08, 2007

For Liberty and Glory - New Book by James R Gaines

I'm currently reading For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette and their Revolutions. It's a very interesting and well-researched analysis of the two most important revolutions in western history - told with a focus on two men whose lives were deeply affected by BOTH events.

George Washington, of course, headed the American Revolution as the Continental Army Commander-in-Chief. But he was also impacted by the French Revolution while serving as President of the United States. Lafayette was an invaluable aide to Washington during the American Revolution, and became something like a son to the childless Washington. Lafayette would return to France as a hero and then himself be swept up in the revolution which gripped his own nation.

So far, I'm enjoying the book and can give it a solid recommendation. I will provide a more detailed review once I've completed it.

Today is Columbus Day

Though it precedes the American Revolution by close to 300 years, the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus is a critically significant event in the history of the United States.

Had Columbus not convinced his crew to continue their transatlantic voyage, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria would have turned back. Who knows when Columbus or any other European explorer would've made a similar attempt? The entire course of history would've been different.

Whether you consider Christopher Columbus a hero or a ruthless opportunist, no one can deny the significance of "Columbus Day."

For more information on Columbus and his discovery, visit The History Channel's special minisite.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The French & Indian War on the PC

I am currently playing "The French and Indian War," a PC game by John Tiller, published by HPS Simulations.

Since I've just started into it, I am not yet ready to write a full review. But the game is interesting. It's not for the Age of Empires RTS crowd. This is aimed at your rather hardcore armchair wargamers - the kind of people who read Armchair General magazine and have wargame parties at your local game and hobby store.

I will provide a more complete review later. In the meantime, I need to take a French fort!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Good Website on the Revolution

When you get a chance, here is a great website on the American Revolution. Lots of information. Pretty comprehensive. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Have You Tried "Birth of America"

I haven't tried this game yet, but it looks really neat. Follow the link above for information on how to order the game.

In the meantime, you can read more information on the game here, courtesy of Strategy First. And there are some reviews of the game here, courtesy of

Michael Medved on American Slavery

Very good article from nationally syndicated columnist Michael Medved on some of the misconceptions surrounding America's culpability with slavery. It's long, but definitely worth your time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

American Conquest: PC Game Review

Several years ago, I bought, played, and reviewed CDV's American Conquest, a PC game that spans the settlement and colonization of North America as well as the founding of the United States.

You can read my 2003 review of the game here.

Though the graphics are a bit dated, the game is still a lot of fun. American Conquest plays much like Microsoft's Age of Empires. You grow your own food, chop down trees, mine for raw materials (i.e., gold, stone), and produce peasants and soldiers.

You can group your forces into formations, so long as you have the requisite units, which at a minimum include an officer and usually a standard-bearer. In many cases, a drummer is also needed. In addition to formation, unit morale, positioning (i.e., flanking) and equipment play a role in how effective one force may be over another. You can even garrison your troops inside of buildings - and not just forts. Houses, storehouses, and blacksmith shops can provide some of your troops protection as they fire out through windows and doors at the approaching enemy.

I won't repeat everything that I wrote in the original review. Suffice it to say, the game is a blast. And now you should be able to find it in the bargain section of most software stores and even some major chain stores. I saw it recently at Wal-Mart for $9.99. At that price, don't hesitate. Get it and play it. If you like real-time strategy, you'll enjoy American Conquest.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Genocide in Early America

Michael Medved is right. There was absolutely no systematic policy on the part of British colonists and/or early US settlers that resembled genocide against the native inhabitants of the New World.

It's a shame that there's so much rage and emotion on matters regarding race relations that this point can't be made without resulting in savage rebukes from those offended. Yet the truth remains. There was no systematic genocide on the part of white settlers or colonists in early American history.

There WERE incidents of savage brutality, to be sure. Indeed, greed, corruption, tragedy, and violence are fair descriptions which can be associated with the settlement and growth of white populations in North America during the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. However, to use the term "genocide" is to overstate the case. What's more, it ignores atrocities committed by the native inhabitants against white settlers.

To read more on this issue, see Michael Medved's op-ed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's Constitution Day

Happy Constitution Day! On this day in 1787, the Constitutional Convention authorized and submitted to the states its handiwork - the document that would become the Constitution of the United States.

Here is an article I wrote about this last year.

You can also follow this link for information on this important anniversary from the National Constitution Center.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

John Adams Coming to HBO March 2008

Tom Hanks' Playtone production company is teaming with HBO to bring to the small screen an epic miniseries on the life of John Adams, the second President of the United States. The miniseries is inspired by and based on David McCullough's Pulitzer winning and bestselling John Adams biography.

I don't subscribe to HBO, but I may have to temporarily get a subscription to watch this miniseries.

Be sure to follow this link and click to watch the video trailer. Awesome! I can't wait.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Poll on the Founders and Christianity

According to a poll conducted by the First Amendment Center, sixty-five percent (65%) of Americans believe that the nation's founders intended the U.S. to be a "Christian nation." And fifty-five percent (55%) believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.

The U.S. Constitution of course does NOT establish the United States as a "Christian" nation. In fact, the Constitution and its amendments very clearly separate the institutions of Church and State.

Nevertheless, the poll respondents ARE correct that the Founding Fathers hoped and expected that the population of the US would remain predominantly Christian, thus fixing the cultural character of the nation.

Follow the link and read more about this interesting poll.

Monday, September 10, 2007

George Washington vs. Current Washington

Marvin Olasky has written a great op-ed on the differences between George Washington and secularists in modern-day Washington (the city that bears his name) over the issue of religion in public life.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Alan Axelrod Studies Washington's Trial by Fire

There's a book on the market (which I just bought) that takes a look at George Washington's "trial by fire" learning experience in the French and Indian War. Interestingly, the book focuses on Washington's life up until his humiliating defeat at Fort Necessity. It then only briefly mentions his redemptive heroism at Braddock's defeat.

While I've only skimmed the book, I can say that I'm looking forward to delving into it more deeply. This really was a pivotal time for George Washington. A great leader learns more from failure than success. And Washington's "blooding" at the "Great Meadows" certainly was a learning experience for him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Indentured Servants in Early America

Suite101 American History Feature Writer John Crandall has written an interesting article on indentured servants in early colonial America. Surf on over and check it out.

I'm back

After a long hiatus, I am returning to moderate and regularly post articles to this blog site. To whoever is out there reading these articles...Please accept my apologies for the long absence. I'm back.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It's NOT Presidents Day

I received an electronic card from a friend today, wishing me a "Happy Presidents Day." The card's subtitle read: "A day which we honor all Presidents."

No...No...NO! There is no Presidents' Day, except in informal, albeit PERVASIVE culture-speak. The actual holiday is (and has been from the beginning) George Washington's Birthday, observed. We officially, though NOT in reality, honor only ONE President the third Monday in February.

Am I one of the only people that cares about this? Are there others who care about honoring the Father of our Country?