Friday, February 29, 2008

Abigail Adams on Early America

Abigail Adams talks about Federalism, Anti-Federalism, and the presidency in early America. Well, okay, it's not REALLY Abigail Adams, but use your imagination -- a little bit. :-)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reynolds Museum and Center at Mount Vernon

Learn about the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center at Mount Vernon. If you haven't been to George Washington's estate in the last couple of years and seen the Reynolds Center, you're missing out!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Walter Isaacson on Ben Franklin

Historic Sites in Northern Virginia for Student Travel Tours to Washington DC

Often when student travel groups decide upon Washington D.C. as their destination, the tour leaders have specific sites in mind for a visit. Many of the sites that student travel groups request the most are just outside Washington D.C., in Northern Virginia. In order to include these historic sites in a student travel tour, advanced planning is required. Usually, I advise educational travel groups to plan one year ahead for trips to the Washington D.C. area. Depending upon the site visited, special advance procedures to clear student visitors may be required.

An educational travel company needs to be retained to plan and execute an effective itinerary for Washington D.C. If popular historic or governmental sites in Northern Virginia are requested, the itinerary will accommodate these sites on one special day, or combine them effectively with other destinations on the student tour.

Here is an overview of some of the popular Northern Virginia sites for educational travel groups:

Pentagon Tour
The Pentagon is located just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. in Arlington, Virginia. Many student travel groups are eager to see the headquarters for high-ranking officers of the U.S. Military and their aides. Because the Pentagon was attacked on September 11th, and it houses critical military personnel, it is a sensitive site. Despite the challenges to security, the U.S. government still provides student travel tours led by a uniformed and trained member of the U.S. Military. This tour has been provided to the public since 1976, when it was first initiated in celebration of our nation’s 200th anniversary. With proper advance notification, an educational travel group may schedule a one-hour tour of the Pentagon that includes about one and one half miles of walking through Pentagon corridors and grounds and a view of the highlights.

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is another historic site that fascinates and intrigues educational tour groups. Arlington National Cemetery was dedicated as a military cemetery on June 15th 1854. Veterans from all of the wars, both foreign and domestic, are buried here and the gravesites number around 300,000. The National Park Service administers Arlington House and its immediate grounds. The U.S. Army oversees Arlington National Cemetery and Soldier’s Home National Cemetery. Educational travel groups touring Arlington National Cemetery may have the opportunity to attend a Wreath Laying Ceremony or take a Tram tour, with advance planning.

Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens
Mount Vernon, the historic estate of George Washington lies just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. a mere 16 miles distance from the nation’s capital. Mount Vernon is exquisitely preserved. Educational travel groups will be greeted at a brand new building, the Ford Orientation Center, and will tour The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center which houses 25 new theaters and galleries that narrate the entire story of George Washington's life. The Reynolds museum displays 500 original artifacts, and offers 11 videos and Immersion Theater as a way of learning about our founding father.

Student travel groups can experience living history by observing a working 18th Century farm and gristmill, as well as other educational programs. Student travel groups may tour the mansion, gardens, working farm, and more.

Educational travel to Washington D.C. is greatly enhanced by trips to Northern Virginia historical points of interest. Places like the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, and Mount Vernon should not be ignored on a student travel tour of the Washington D.C. area. For more information on specific points of interest in the Washington D.C. area for student travel groups, visit


Howard Clemens founded Educational Travel Consultants in 1984. Over the last 24 years, Mr. Clemens has organized student travel tours for thousands of high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. His company also specializes in performance tours to Washington D.C., New York City, and Orlando, Florida. Email him at or visit

Friday, February 22, 2008

George Washington, Father of the CIA?

George Washington as America's first spymaster...

Richard Norton Smith on the Adamses

This is the first part of a lecture on the Adams family, given by historian Richard Norton Smith. This first part deals mainly with the first President Adams. An interesting lecture.

John Adams $1 Coin Launched

Interesting video from when the John Adams $1 coin was launched.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lewis & Clark Expedition -- DVD Preview

Here's a short excerpt from a DVD on the Lewis & Clark expedition. The DVD is produced by Learning Media of America and this excerpt (as well as others) can be found over at YouTube....

Scalia v. the ACLU

Should U.S. judges consult international law and international court rulings when rendering opinions or judgments on U.S. constitutional or legal matters?

Is the Constitution open-ended, giving each generation the freedom to reinterpret its meaning? Or is it fixed?

Great issues. A solid debate....

Eric Foner on Liberty and Security

Benjamin Franklin once remarked famously: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

It's a delicate balance. How much liberty should we give up in order to maintain a degree of public security? At what point do we cross Ben Franklin's line in the sand - and "deserve neither"?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Causes of the War of 1812

There are some who believe that the United States was in the wrong to declare war on Great Britain in 1812 - and then proceed to invade Canada. This video I did for YouTube tries to set the record straight, with respect to the American perspective.

For more on this topic, I'd invite you to follow this link to an article I did over at the American history section of

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

Was America Founded on Christian Principles?

This is the first part of a 90-minute lecture by Rick Green on the nature of America's founding. If you want to watch the entire lecture, you can do so on YouTube. This is a controversial topic, and this lecture represents one side of that debate.

Even if you disagree with Mr. Green, you gotta love the Woodrow Wilson quote at the beginning of his talk.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Art Imitating Life: Battle of Brandywine

Interesting short film I saw over at YouTube...

Religious Attendance Good for Society?

According to a domestic policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, a Washington, DC-based think-tank, those who attend religious services are more likely to positively contribute to society than those who don't.

Is this perhaps one of the things that George Washington had in mind, when he said: "Religion and morality are indispensable supports to political prosperity"?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

PBS: The Supreme Court

An excerpt from the PBS special on the Supreme Court. This excerpt talks about President Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice John Marshall.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Political Dynasties: An American Tradition?

If Hillary Clinton is inaugurated as our next President of the United States on January 20, 2009, she will establish the Clinton name along with the Bush name as a new political dynasty in American politics. The last four names on presidential lists will read Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. Is that a problem?

According to an article in The Seattle Times, political dynasties are a part of America's history - going back to the founding era. George Washington did not have any heirs, but his successor, John Adams, did. And the Adams dynasty became an early fixture in American politics - a dynasty that reached into the American Civil War, with Charles Francis Adams playing a key role in keeping Britain neutral during the War Between the States.

But the Adams family (and that's the Adams - one 'd' - family, not those other Addamses) isn't the only dynasty from early U.S. history.

Follow this link to read the article.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is definitely at the outer boundary of what might be considered the "founding era," but he nevertheless is worthy of mention on this day - his birthday.

For your reading pleasure, you may follow this link to read Mr. Lincoln's famous "Cooper Union Address," in which he speaks at length of the Founding Fathers and their views on slavery (especially with respect to the territories). It's a brilliant speech.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln!

Eric Foner: Freedom & American Identity

This is a thought-provoking excerpt from a lecture given by historian Eric Foner on the meaning and application of the concept "Freedom" in American history. While I do not always agree with Mr. Foner (our interpretive perspectives on history are different), I nevertheless recommend this excerpt. It is thought-provoking.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Defending David McCullough

In recent years, historian David McCullough has come under various attack. The outcome has been that, while McCullough remains a bestselling author and popular storyteller, he is not highly regarded in some scholarship circles.

A sampling of anti-McCullough criticisms include:

"Historians Under Fire" -- a 2002 news analysis from CBS News

"The David McCullough Nobody Knows" by Philip Nobile

These are just a couple of examples. There are many others that don't necessarily directly mention McCullough, but their critiques definitely pertain to him.

While it's true that David McCullough is human (as if this should even need to be said) and that he has mistakes (again, should this point even need to be made?), it is wrong to dismiss or demean David McCullough.

David McCullough has been indispensable in encouraging a mainstream love and appreciation of American history. Few historians have been able to connect with average Americans in a way that McCullough has. And it's perhaps this achievement (specifically the way he's achieved it) which has rankled many of his colleagues.

You see, David McCullough loves America! It's clear in reading McCullough's history books that the man loves this country and that he has a genuine appreciation for and respect for the principal players in the drama each of his books are telling. To many historians (and, for that matter, everyday cynics), this is just not acceptable.

For many, the measure of a fair-minded, balanced historian is one who finds as much fault with the United States of America as possible. And, of course, any historian who dares to admire the Founding Fathers - those "racist, sexist pigs" (some say) - is unworthy of any respect or esteem.

Well, listen up, people! For all their faults and flaws, the Founding Fathers are WORTH admiring. That's right! They are worth celebrating. It is to McCullough's credit that he paints them in a positive light. For I would contend that a POSITIVE light is an ACCURATE light. In fact, that's McCullough's contention - and he does a pretty good job making it.

As for America, why can't we love our country? It angers me that cynicism has made such deep inroads in America's psyche. It's like we don't deserve to love our country, but should hide in shame and guilt over all the past sins (many of which have been horribly exaggerated) of our nation. I'm frankly tired of the America-bashing and those who have bought into it by wallowing in national self-pity. It all makes me want to grab an American flag and wave it even more proudly!

So, I'm thankful for a historian who isn't afraid to love his country and tell great (and true) stories to encourage others to ALSO fall in love with their country.

Bravo, David McCullough! Keep up the good work. There are at least some of us in America who appreciate what you are doing.

Revolutionary Era Shooting & Dancing

George Washington did WHAT????

I try not to get "political" and I don't want this site to be a Bush-bashing (or, in this case, Gonzalez-bashing) affair, but...

I was surprised to learn that George Washington engaged in electronic surveillance. Learn something every day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Washington's Plan at Trenton

I'm not sure what movie or documentary this is taken from, but I found it on the Internet. And I thought I'd share it with you. Follow this link to watch this rather interesting video.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Short Films from Early America

Follow this link for a selection of short films, courtesy of the folks at Archiving Early America.

The movies include biographies of Ben Franklin and George Washington as well as documentaries on Benedict Arnold's treason and the "Shot Heard Round the World." Check them out. They are worth your time.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Say NO to Presidents' Day

February is upon us - and that means "Presidents' Day" is coming. Let me make something abundantly clear for everyone. I hate and despise "Presidents' Day." That's right. I hate it. Why, you ask?

Well, don't get me wrong. I love holidays. And I don't hate the American presidency. In fact, having a day each year in which we encourage people to learn more about our Presidents is a good thing.

***To test your knowledge on U.S. Presidents, try this quiz.

What I hate about "Presidents' Day" is the way in which this worthless holiday has evolved - and, most importantly, I hate how the original purpose of the day has been diminished and forgotten.

Officially, there is no "Presidents' Day." The holiday does not exist -- officially. According to US federal law, the day we commonly refer to as "Presidents' Day" is "George Washington's Birthday Observed."

You see, the U.S. Congress voted to make George Washington's birthday a federal holiday. With the Monday Holidays Act, we no longer celebrate on Washington's birthday itself, but rather on what is usually the nearest Monday to it.

Well, over time, people stopped calling the holiday "George Washington Day" or "George Washington's Birthday" - and instead began calling it "Presidents' Day." There are several reasons for this - not the least of which is that some believe we should honor Abraham Lincoln as well.

While I agree that Lincoln deserves a holiday, let's not give him one at the expense of the father of our country. Either create a separate holiday for Lincoln, or leave the February holiday for George Washington. Don't diminish Washington in order to honor Lincoln. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Besides, we don't call the holiday "Washington-Lincoln Day," so Lincoln isn't being honored anyway.

There is only one solution to this problem. Remove George Washington's birthday from the Monday Holidays Act. Congress already did this with Veteran's Day. Let's do it with George Washington's birthday as well.

If Washington's birthday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, THEN you can observe the holiday on a Monday. Otherwise, observe the holiday on the actual day of his birth (according to the modern calendar, of course).

If you want to keep a "Presidents' Day" (because it sounds nice), then Congress can designate January 20 (Inauguration Day) as "Presidents' Day" - and make it a day to honor ALL our nation's Presidents.

But let's restore Washington's birthday now. By putting the February holiday actually on Washington's birthday, it will force people to recognize that it's a day to honor George Washington specifically. The father of our country deserves that.

***Interested in visiting Mount Vernon, check out this article.

Revolutionary War Cannon

revolutionary war canon fired from kezzart on Vimeo.

Monday, February 04, 2008

American History in Black and White

Great first part to David Barton's series on African American contributions to American history. This first part has some great stuff on early US history...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Causes of the War of 1812

The War of 1812 is one of the most controversial wars in United States history - at least for those who pay attention to history. From the Canadian perspective, the War of 1812 represented Yankee greed and expansionism. Come to think of it - that's pretty much what most critics of the United States believe, including - of course - historians like Howard Zinn. In this view, the United States got greedy (a common theme of anti-American criticism) and tried to take Canada. The Americans were (according to this refrain) turned back and the War of 1812 ended in a stalemate (generously agreed to by Britain, notwithstanding that embarrassing, post-war loss at New Orleans).

Well...there's a little more to the War of 1812 than that. While westward expansionism played a significant part in American motives, the United States was NOT the aggressor nation.

For more on the causes of the War of 1812, check out this article over at Suite101.