Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Six-Star General

The highest ranking general in the United States Army is.....dead. Only one person holds the rank, and he is no longer alive - and hasn't been for quite some time. But the rank is official. No one alive has ever held the rank at the time of his (or her) service. And this will probably never change. What am I talking about????

Well, the highest possible rank in the US Army is "General of the Armies of the United States," a rank considered in the 1950s for retired (but still living) five-star General Douglas MacArthur. Had the idea gone through, MacArthur would've received a sixth star! For various complications, MacArthur declined the promotion, and the proposal was scuttled.

But, in the 1970s, the proposal was revived - not for MacArthur (who died in the 1960s), but for a general who died at the close of the 1700s! You guessed it...

George Washington

During the American Revolution, Washington was titled "General and Commander in Chief" and held the equivalent rank of a Major General (who wears two stars). When the Quasi-War with France erupted, President John Adams named Washington as the commander of a newly formed American army - to protect the nation in case of a French invasion (which never came). Washington was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General (a three-star position).

Washington died in 1799, but no one outranked him, until World War I. In that conflict, John J. Pershing was given a fourth star. And in World War II, several leaders were given a fifth star - including Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and George Marshall.

In the 1970s, Congress appropriately moved to remedy this situation. No one, they reasoned (correctly - in my opinion) should ever outrank America's FIRST general. So, they created the position of "General of the Armies of the United States" - a six star general rank. And they posthumously promoted George Washington to the position.

To this day, George Washington is the only person in US history to ever hold this rank. And he, of course, only holds it in death.

Will we ever have a LIVING six-star general? Probably not. And if we do, will they give George Washington a seventh star? :-)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Alexander Hamilton's Anglo-American Vision

Alexander Hamilton and his Vision of an Anglo-American World

For most of the 20th century, the world looked the way Alexander Hamilton would have wanted it to look. The United States, supported effectively and solidly by Great Britain, led the free world. Indeed, the Anglo-American friendship of the United States and the British Empire (later Commonwealth) dominated much of western culture, policy, and trade from the mid-1800s through the end of the 20th century.

The collapse of the Soviet Empire in the late 1980s and early 90s, which ended the Cold War, set in motion a "New World Order" - a multilateral world, in which the rules of economy, warfare, and culture began to rapidly change. And in the midst of this "New World Order," Europe has increasingly reorganized itself as a cautious friend and indirect economic competitor with the United States.

What's more, Asia (particularly India and China) has emerged as a mammoth presence on the international scene, threatening to overwhelm the Anglo-American order Mr. Hamilton would have loved. This all, of course, doesn't even begin to address the fact that nations such as Russia have reasserted themselves into the mix.

Where does all this leave us? And what would Alexander Hamilton have thought? And what would he do about it, were he on the scene today?

Hamilton's America

Let there be no mistake. Thomas Jefferson fought Hamilton's economic policies, during President Washington's administration, but Hamilton won the war.

It's true that results were a little more clouded in the short term. Hamilton got the National Bank (later defeated by Jefferson admirer Andrew Jackson) and the assumption of state debts, but Jefferson won the hearts of the South and the West. Hamilton's immediate popularity and influence receded, while Jefferson's climbed -- all the way to two terms as the President.

Indeed, Alexander Hamilton thoroughly self-destructed in a series of ethical and egotistical missteps that cost him his prestige, split the Federalist Party, and helped defeat John Adams in the election of 1800. Not only that, but Hamilton's personal rivalries (especially with one Aaron Burr) would cost him his life.

In spite of Hamilton's political demise, he was indisputably successful in the long term. Like William Jennings Bryan, the three-time (and always unsuccessful) presidential candidate of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Hamilton's mark was made more in social and legislative change than in electoral success.

For example, Hamilton got his national bank, and though it was ended by President Jackson, it lives on - at least partially - in the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and so on. In addition, Hamilton wanted a flexible "construction" (i.e., interpretation) of the U.S. Constitution. He got it. Even Jefferson, the super strict constructionist, became a practical loose constructionist, when Napoleon sold him Lousiana. (Of course, not even Hamilton would be pleased with the extreme 'loose constructionism' we see today).

Hamilton had a vision, and it was straightforward. He wanted to make the United States an economic power-house. Hamilton understood the economic strength translates into military power, national security, and international influence. To that end, he set himself upon the task of rebuilding (really, building) America's economy after the Revolutionary War and reestablishing (really, establishing) America's international credit.

Lewis Lehrman of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History writes:

No one who has read carefully into the history of state and congressional legislative irresponsibility, and studied the catastrophic inflation of the era of the Articles of Confederation, can fail to be astonished by the economic prosperity set off by the Hamiltonian economic plan of the new republic.

But fashioning a strong American economy depended ultimately, Hamilton realized, on several key decisions. Among them was a commitment to free market capitalism and a strong trading relationship with Great Britain. Each of these policies rankled the Jeffersonians, especially the one about Britain. For the Jeffersonians, an economic friendship with Britain was tantamount to betraying the French and undermining what the American Revolution was about (namely independence from Great Britain).

But as Lehrman explains:

The first Secretary of the Treasury thought Anglo-American entente indispensable to protect our vital commercial interests, not to mention his respect for the centrality of the hegemonic British navy, which, after 1815, insulated the young nation from the threat of entanglements and dismemberment by the competing great powers of Europe.

The United States effectively pursued a policy of neutrality (which was, off and on, a default preference in trade for Britain) until the War of 1812. After the War of 1812, the U.S. and Britain each recognized that further violence was futile and counter-productive. In the decades ahead, they would forge a friendship that Hamilton would've welcomed.

The Anglo-American Modern World

During the 1800s, the Anglo-American alliance was loose, but effective where it needed to be. Britain and the U.S. both agreed that a Latin America, free of French and Spanish influence, was in their best interests. Thus, the Monroe Doctrine, articulated by the Americans, was enforced by the British navy.

In the 20th century, the Anglo-American friendship was much more formalized, with other nations, such as France, eventually joining in. By the mid-20th century, the United States and Britain led the western world (with the US assuming the primary leading influence).

Author Walter Russell Means explores the role of America and Britain in the 20th century with his book God and Gold: Britain and America and the Making of the Modern World.

You can read a Claremont Institute review of God and God by clicking here.

What about China, India, and the "Decline" of Anglo-American Dominance?

Asia is rapidly emerging, especially the nations of China and India. Would Alexander Hamilton be alarmed? Should we be?

Not according to commentator John Stossel. In a Townhall.com opinion piece, Stossel writes:

It is certainly true that China's economy is expanding dramatically -- 10 percent last year. The Chinese build factories like crazy to pump out the inexpensive exports we Americans love to buy. To do that, Chinese producers have to purchase oil, steel and lots of other commodities. The new demand drives prices up.

And as the Chinese and other people get richer, they improve their diets and eat more meat, putting pressure on world food prices.

So media handwringers suggest we should worry about the poor becoming rich.

Actually, we shouldn't. It would be a sad world if one person's economic success depended on another's failure?

Hamilton would probably agree with Stossel's economic idealism, but if we were to take a cold, Machiavellian look at the picture, we would be tempted to say: "Yeah, but this is Business." In other words, the United States (looking at it like Machiavelli would) is a "Business" - and it's a business losing ground to China and India. Right?

In fact, it's also losing ground to Britain. A report commissioned by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg shows that New York could be supplanted by London as the world's preferred financial center. This would not be good for the American economy, though it would certainly help the British. But this is a subject for a different article.

The truth is that a Hamiltonian America has little to fear from Indian and Chinese prosperity. Why? Because a Hamiltonian America is a capitalist America fully committed to commerce, industry, technology, and opportunity. And such an America sees a rising China and India as new opportunities -- not as threats.

It's a Jeffersonian America that sees China and India as a threat. Some of my conservative friends will be offended by this, pointing out that Jefferson favored smaller government, states' rights, and so forth. This is only partly true (though it's mythically popular). Again, too much for this article. Look for a future analysis of Jeffersonian ideals. For now, by "Jeffersonian America," I refer to those Americans frustrated with a changing social order and who are suspicious of Big Business and "greedy" investors.

First, liberal economic policies, which include minimum wage laws, onerous regulations, and high taxes are partly to blame for all this. These are among the reasons why so many jobs have been shipped overseas and why American manufacturing has lost its position of dominance. But....

All is not lost. The United States can still continue as a major force in technology, information, investment, and trade - if, that is, the politicians don't mess things up.

George Mason University economics professor Alexander Tabarrok explains: "As India, China and other countries become wealthier, companies will increase their worldwide R&D investments." Tabarrok cites "pharmaceuticals, new computer chips, software and chemicals" as examples of R&D expenditures.

"Most importantly," says Tabarrok, "as markets expand, companies and countries will put to work the greatest asset of all for the betterment of mankind: brain power."

Stossel concedes that, in the short term, "richer Chinese and Indians bid up the prices of things." But, he cautions, that's just "the beginning of the story," since "increased demand and higher prices create opportunities for entrepreneurs." That means, if we're ready, American entrepreneurs.

As Tabarrok and Stossel see it (and as Hamilton would certainly have seen it), a more prosperous Asia is good for America -- if (and it's a big 'if') the United States is allowed to take advantage of these expanding markets and opportunities.


The Hamilton image is courtesy of...

Founding Fathers information

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gays in the Military

Gays in the Military: What General Washington Had to Say

Conservative columnist Star Parker has written a provocative article asking what the nation's first general would think of allowing homosexuals in military service. In her article "Gays in the Military: What Would George Washington Think?", Parker laments that the values of our nation are being diminished. Citing the public's growing acceptance of gays in the military, Parker writes:

The culture war is like the recipe for boiling a frog. If you drop it in hot water, it jumps out. But if you drop it in cold water and slowly turn up the heat, you get frog soup.

Concession by concession, traditional values are being pushed, inexorably, to the margins of America.

It's a sign of this moral war of attrition that each battle is fought with less and less attention to what it means to the overall war.

Many, of course, see no problem with America's increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians (and their lifestyle). Parker wonders what General George Washington would think or say. Fortunately, the answer is available, for those willing to confront it.

First, let's set aside the ridiculous claims (by some) that George Washington was himself gay. There is no scholarly basis for these claims. They are (at best) attempts to associate a beloved figure with a controversial lifestyle in order to advance its acceptance. At worst, it is historical revisionism deserving of no more respect than graffiti on a bathroom wall. While there is strong, circumstancial evidence that George Washington was sterile, there is no evidence that he was anything but heterosexual.

What about gays in the Continental Army? What would General Washington have to say about that?

In March 1778, Lieut. Frederick Gotthold Enslin was courtmartialed and dismissed from the Continental Army for "attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier" and "for Perjury in swearing to false Accounts."

In a report dictated apparently by Washington and copied out by his staff, the general's feelings are made clear. "His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning..."

It is remotely possible that General Washington only "detested" Lieutenant Enslin's aggressiveness or breach of military protocol, but this is unlikely. It's more reasonable to assume that Washington's finding of Enslin's behavior as "detestable" was in keeping with mainstream opinion of that day. Virtually all the colonies and later states had laws on the books against sodomy until the mid-twentieth century, when they began to be phased out or challenged in court. Finally, in 2003, the US Supreme Court invalidated all remaining anti-homosexuality statutes.

Some historians have argued that the Baron de Von Steuben was gay. Would General Washington have forfeited the services of von Steuben if this were true and his homosexuality were known? It is hard to say, since the Prussian drillmaster was indispensable to the training and strengthening of the Continental Army.

It is reasonable, in my opinion, to assume that General Washington found homosexual conduct unnatural, distasteful, and immoral. But it's also possible that, given the right circumstances, he would be amenable to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on the books currently for our armed services.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Leadership Qualities of George Washington

Leadership Qualities of George Washington

Without question, George Washington stands in history as one of its greatest leaders. How many leaders could have pulled off what General George Washington did in the American Revolution? Under Washington's leadership, the ill-equipped and typically outnumbered Continental Army endured countless hardships and many disappointments and yet it came out on top! In addition, Washington helped navigate the infant United States through its most formative years, refusing opportunities for dictatorship, championing civilian authority over the armed forces, presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and serving as the nation's first President of the United States. There's never been an American leader quite like George Washington!

Washington's Military Leadership

Washington's record of military leadership began in the French and Indian War, a conflict he helped ignite. While his eagerness, ambition, and lack of experience got him into trouble (such as at Fort Necessity), other qualities emerged which would foreshadow George Washington's rise to greatness. These qualities included:

  • Toughness - Washington was, in every respect, a rugged frontiersman from an early age. He endured hardship on the frontier and survived several health challenges, including a major bout with dysentery. Washington was as hardy and downright "tough" as they came.   
  • Persistence - A lesser man would've resigned himself to failure and ignominy after the terrible debacle at Fort Necessity. Not Washington. He politically and painstakingly maneuvered his way back into the war as a member of General Braddock's staff, which gave him an opportunity at personal redemption and to showcase the next quality of his leadership....
  • Incredible bravery - Washington repeatedly exposed himself to danger, at one point even charging his horse between lines of his own men who were mistakenly firing volleys at one another! During Braddock's infamous march and defeat, Washington was among the only mounted officers to emerge unscathed. Four bullet holes in his uniform and two dead horses were ample testimony to his courage and providential protection.
  • Organization - Following Braddock's defeat, Washington was posted in western Virginia to protect citizens from Indian attack. Though these years were frustrating for him, Washington had to contend, on a regular basis, with matters of supply, morale, discipline, and communication. He developed critical experience in organizing and managing troops under his command. 

By the time of the American Revolution, George Washington was widely respected as a proven soldier, charismatic leader, and accomplished military expert. In spite of his actual record as a battlefield commander (which included one minor skirmish victory and one embarrassing loss), Washington was the perfect choice for command of the Continental Army.

In the course of the American Revolution, Washington's qualities of personal bravery, toughness, and organization shone through, as did his mixed record in actual battlefield command. He had a tendency to leave his flanks exposed and, at times, tragically failed to reconnoiter the ground. Nevertheless, he maintained a firm grasp on the overall strategic situation and ultimately achieved success.

Washington's generalship during the Revolutionary War has been scrutinized by pundits and scholars, who often regard him as a mediocre tactician. They point out that he lost more battles than he won. Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father and George Washington on Leadership, argues (correctly) that war is "not the World Series." Says Brookhiser: "It's not the best out of seven."

Brookhiser is right. Washington was an extraordinary leader, regardless of his battle record. Brookhiser is not the only one who has written on Washington's leadership. James Rees, the executive director of Mount Vernon, published a similar book recently. George Washington's Leadership Lessons is a good primer on leadersip and an excellent introduction to Washington's greatness as a leader.

Washington's Political Leadership

As the war entered its final years, Washington dealt with enormous fatigue in the ranks of his army. That his troops were underpaid (if at all) and poorly supplied took its toll in morale, creating dangerous situations of unrest. Washington's charismatic presence, moral strength, and political maneuvering kept the Continental Army from rebelling against the weak civilian government and the Revolution degenerating into civil unrest.

After the war, Washington was called upon to head the Constitutional Convention. His presence was indispensable to the document's ratification. And then as U.S. President, Washington navigated the nascent country through turbulent waters, positioning it to become eventually the world's leading superpower.

Washington's Moral Leadership

Washington's greatest leadership quality was probably his high moral character. In spite of the opportunity to seize dictatorial power during and at the end of the war, Washington refused. Even when it seemed that seizing full power would be the only way to keep the Continental Army from revolting, Washington forcefully declined and maintained his support for the official government of the United States. When the peace treaty with Britain was finally sealed, Washington resigned his commission in December 1783, formally handing control of the military to the United States Congress. It was one of the very few times in history that a person with such immense power voluntarily walked away from it.

Years later, Washington was of course called back to service as President of the United States. And yet again, Washington voluntarily gave up power by declining to seek a third term as President. Sadly, the years of service to his country took a toll on his health, and he died roughly a year and half after retiring to Mount Vernon.

The character of George Washington remains his greatest quality and it was fundamental to setting the United States on the right path.

Washington's Legacy

It's hard to picture the United States of America existing today, without George Washington being at the center of its birth. So many things in our founding period could've gone terribly wrong, but they didn't, because Washington was there to lead the nation in the right direction. Remove Washington from the picture, and the picture gets very dark indeed. George Washington was truly the indispensable man.

In your opinion, how great a leader was Washington? And what qualities made him so?

Editor's Note: This post was revised February 9, 2011, to incorporate new content. Originally, it was written simply to recommend some leadership books focusing on Washington, but in light of some feedback, I edited it to include more content. Additional information on Washington can be found by reading my blog post titled "Important Facts About General George Washington."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Colonial Music

Colonial Music

Music was a key part of colonial culture. Of course, that can be said about any period in history. Music inspires emotion, shapes moods, reflects values, and influences socio-political views. Consider the impact of jazz, Elvis Presley, "The Beatles."

In church life, you can often tell what kind of congregation you're dealing with, just by observing their choice in music for Sunday morning worship. If it's all hymns, you can bet you're dealing with a dyed-in-the-wool, traditional, conservative (often rural) congregation that's dominated by baby boomers and senior citizens. If the music is more contemporary and upbeat, then so is the congregation.

Not surprisingly then, music deeply influenced colonial American culture. The Colonial Music Institute explains:

Understanding the music that early Americans chose to sing and play gives us a better understanding of the colonists themselves. Their music included ballads, dance tunes, folk songs and parodies, comic opera arias, drum signals, psalms, minuets and sonatas. Such music came mostly from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France, and Africa, and it was played on whatever instruments were handy.

The most popular instruments in colonial America were the violin (the most popular) and the flute. The piano was rapidly coming on the scene. According to the Colonial Music Institute, there were actually quite a few other instruments available at the time, including "drums and trumpets, trombones and french horns, 'cellos, violas da gamba, clarinets, oboes and bassoons, glass 'armonicas, hammered dulcimers, [and] organs."

Dance was of course wildly popular. George Washington was an exceptional dancer, leaving more than a few ladies swooning. The YouTube video below features a dance set to a colonial theme...

For more on the music of early America, click here and check out the following resources on early American culture...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spying Methods in the American Revolution

Spying Methods in the American Revolution

The American Revolution was one of the most significant wars in modern history. The Revolutionary War wasn't simply significant for establishing the United States or for helping bankrupt and inspire the French Revolution. It was also pivotal in ushering in new technologies, innovations, and strategies in warfare. One of the most important innovations in warfare that the Revolution helped bring about was spying.

And...the man perhaps most responsible for this innovation was none other than General George Washington.

General Washington's espionage strategy is one of the factors that contributed to American victory over the British in the Revolutionary War. And it is an aspect of the war thoroughly examined by author Alexander Rose in George Washington's Spies.

In an article for American Heritage magazine, Thomas Fleming elaborates:

It is commonly understood that without the Commander in Chief’s quick mind and cool judgment the American Revolution would have almost certainly expired in 1776. It is less well known that his brilliance extended to overseeing, directly and indirectly, extensive and very sophisticated intelligence activities against the British.

Ruluff McIntyre puts it even more plainly in an article for Early America: "The misinformation machine created by George Washington was critical to the winning of the Revolutionary War."

At the beginning of the war, America's spying methods were rather "amateurish," writes John Reed for the Valley Forge Historical Society. By 1777, says Reed, spying gained greater finesse.

Are there lessons for America today? In my opinion....yes. One of the reasons the United States has struggled in its Middle Eastern policy generally and in Iraq specifically as been faulty or limited intelligence. The US has simply not done an adequate job in penetrating some of the world's cultures, and, in some cases, has badly mismanaged its intelligence gathering strategies.

General Washington understood how critical accurate intelligence was for his army and how important it was to provide faulty intelligence to the enemy. Yet another example of how learning lessons from the past can help us in the present and the future.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The 2nd Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms

The Second Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms:
Was the Supreme Court Right in its 5-4 Ruling to Guarantee Individual Gun Rights?

Recently, the US Supreme Court affirmed gun rights in a historic decision. In a narrow 5-4 decision, the High Court held that the Second Amendment "protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."

Gun control activists have been swift to condemn the Court decision as a return to the days of the Wild West. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley mocked what he saw as the Court's endorsement of everyone having a gun as a means of protection. If that's what they want, said Daley, "why don't we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West?"

Justice Stephen Breyer sharply criticized the majority decision, arguing that there is "no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."

Of course, can we ASSUME that gun control reduces violence?

Best question from the above video...."If someone breaks into your house, would you rather have a gun or a telephone?"

Roger Saunders, the Feature Writer-Editor for American History at Suite101, says that it's critical to ascertain the Framers' intent when it comes to the 2nd amendment. And he agrees with the Court's ruling. Says Saunders: "I believe the Framers were trying to say that the Militia could not be infringed by the Federal Government and that the individuals right to bear arms also had this protection."

According to Glenn Beck, the subject of the right to bear arms shouldn't even be up for debate. The debate was settled, argues Beck, at the founding of our nation.

What do you all think? Was the Court's decision in step with the Founders' intent? Does the Founders' intent matter?

Monday, July 07, 2008

More American Revolution Movies Coming?

Why aren't there more American Revolution movies? Sure, there's the occasional made-for-TV movie, like The Crossing (about George Washington's audacious attack on Trenton when the Revolution was at one of its lowest points). And of course, there's the recent HBO Films' miniseries John Adams, based on David McCullough's Pulitzer-winning bestseller. But...what about the Big Screen?

The Bad News

The reason there aren't more American Revolution movies (or history movies in general for that matter) is that the Big Screen is skewed toward younger viewers. As Shannon Dortch wrote a few years ago in American Demographics: "For the most part, the [movie] industry has placed its bets for 40 years on the people most likely to go to the show--teenagers and young adults."

Movie studios, by and large, know they can churn out Saw X or Alien v. Predator IV or Napoleon Dynamite or The Girl Next Door -- and make a ton of cash from the 15-24 demographic. (Oh, if there were only a way to turn the Titanic with Leonardo Decaprio into a sequel). But will these same viewers (who dominate the movie-going demographic) pay money to see Founding Fathers in wigs debate the Constitution? Unlikely.

That's bad news for history buffs, because...well...young people just aren't that interested in history - unless it's a love story with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DeCaprio on a sinking ship or Russell Crowe taking care of business as a gladiator in Ancient Rome.

This is why Hollywood doesn't produce more American Revolution films - at least not for the Big Screen. There just aren't enough movie-goers willing to pay money for them. Yeah, there's the rare exception, like Mel Gibson's The Patriot. But, come to think about it, that's about the ONLY exception. (Al Pacino's mid-1970s Revolution was a flop and doesn't count).

Good News....Maybe

The good news comes on two levels. First, there IS interest in American Revolution movies (as well as Civil War movies, World War II movies, etc.) in the living rooms of older Americans. What this means is....television. That's right, there's a market on TV for history films. Witness the success of HBO's John Adams as proof.

The good news doesn't stop there, however. The film industry is changing. Like everything else, it is become more niche-oriented, appealing to specific, targeted segments of the population.

And making movies is becoming more cost-effective, provided that studios don't have to bank on Big Name marquee stars. This is why you're seeing more low-budget, independent features achieving mainstream distribution.

Here's an example. Consider Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce's courageous fight against slavery. It appealed to African Americans, evangelical Christians, and history buffs. Niche appeal. And was made fairly cost-effectively. It wasn't a low-budget movie, but it was not a high-cost blockbuster either. We can probably expect more Amazing Grace type movies in the coming years, even on the Big Screen.

And who knows? Maybe....eventually...we'll see George Washington leading the Contintental Army to victory...while we sit in an air-conditioned theater, munching on popcorn. Hey, it's a dream! One can hope.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Justice Scalia on 60 Minutes

60 Minutes did a very interesting profile of controversial Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In part 1 (which you can watch below), Scalia defends his judicial philosophy of originalism. (You can watch the other parts at YouTube).

For my own part, I must heartily endorse Scalia's reasoning. If you allow for courts to redefine the meaning of the Constitution, then the document ceases to be a constitution. It becomes merely a platform for the judiciary to make policy for the nation.

Scalia has been a stalwart champion for keeping the judicial branch of government in its place - that of interpreting the law (within set boundaries of interpretation) - and deferring to the legislative branch of government the RIGHTFUL perogative of making and changing laws.

Constitution over International Law

According to Justice Antonin Scalia, the Constitution of the United States supercedes international law. Thus, if an international court ruling or international law conflicts with the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Constitution prevails - at least insofar as the United States is concerned.

There are many today who would disagree with Justice Scalia on this point, yet if the Founding Fathers could be resurrected, they would NOT be among them. The Founders would be 100% for national sovereignty.

What Happened to the Losers?

After Yorktown (1781), the Treaty of Paris (1783), and the evacuation of the British from New York (1783), the United States of America became a reality. The victors got themselves a new nation. But what about the losers? What happened to them?

"They went back to England," you say?? Well, not so fast. Many of the "losers" weren't from England. They were Americans.

MSNBC and the Today Show did a special on what these Loyalists did immediately after the war - and did so by profiling their descendants. It's a very interesting piece, and it features the great-great-great-grandson of the notorious (depending on your point of view) Benedict Arnold.

Click here to watch the piece and check out the accompanying article.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Price (Really) Paid by the Signers

Every year about this time, an email is circulated that is titled "The Price They Paid" (or usually something close to that). It eloquently reveals the painful sacrifices made by the signers of the Declaration of Independence. There have also been speeches made, sermons preached, and plaques produced based on these inspiring sacrifices. The only problem is...

It's not true.

Did many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence pay a price for their courage? Absolutely. In fact, all of them paid a price - to some degree or another.

But it is not necesary to exaggerate their sacrifices in order to herald them as heroes.

Here is a link to snopes.com, which cites and then debunks the essay in question.

Nancy Rubin Stuart on Mercy Otis Warren

When people think of influential women in the founding era, Abigail Adams immediately comes to mind (and rightly so). And then names like Martha Washington and Dolly Madison also emerge. But after that, the average American - well, the average American interested in history, I should say - begins to scratch his or her head.

Well, the truth is, there were several women who played an important role in shaping early American thought and culture. And historian Nancy Rubin Stuart is intent on helping us to remember and honor one of them.

Stuart is the author of The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation. The book is a biographical tribute to Mercy Otis Warren, an extraordinary woman in an extraordinary time.

Perhaps Warren's most noteworthy accomplishment was her three-volume History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution. (It was noteworthy as well for offending John Adams).

The Beacon Broadside has featured a piece from Nancy Rubin Stuart titled "Remembering a Founding Mother on July 4, 2008," which you can read here.

One may quibble with Stuart's politics, who (in her article for The Beacon Broadside) describes the Bush administration as one "that favors the wealthy over the ordinary man." Nevertheless, her insight on Warren is well worth your time.

Soon, the Bostonian Society will feature online a lecture by Stuart, that was recorded on June 17. The lecture features portrayals of Warren by actresses Barbara Delorey and Patrice Hatcher and a presentation by Stuart on her research.

Foreign Founding Fathers

Sure, you've heard of the Marquis de Lafayette and perhaps "Baron" Von Steuben, but did you know that there were several foreigners who came to the colonies during the American Revolution? And these foreigners, in some cases, played a pretty significant role in shaping early American history.

Roger Saunders, the Suite101 American History writer-editor, has written an excellent piece titled "America's Foreign Founding Fathers."

Follow the preceding link to read Roger's article and then check out Roger's blog on the American Revolution by clicking here.

Washington's Boyhood Home Found

George Washington's Boyhood Home Found -- From Time.com

(WASHINGTON) — The archaeologists were delighted to at last find the remains of George Washington's boyhood home but got stumped when they looked for evidence of the cherry tree and rusty hatchet.

"This was the setting for many important events in Washington's life," David Muraca, director of archaeology for The George Washington Foundation, announced Wednesday.

To continue reading the article, click here.