Saturday, December 26, 2009

Washington's Army Celebrates Christmas Miracle

In colonial America, Christmas was not nearly as popular as it is today. Nevertheless, the Continental Congress and General George Washington's fragile Continental Army had much to celebrate the day after Christmas in 1776.

On Christmas Night 1776, Washington's Continentals crossed the icy Delaware River to attack the unsuspecting Hessian forces comfortably encamped at Trenton, New Jersey. This was no simple boat crossing. The conditions were grueling. It was a miracle that the operation was even successful, but....successful it was!

Washington's forces caught the Hessians by surprise and thoroughly drubbed them. The battle of Trenton literally saved the American Revolution and breathed new life into the American cause.

Without Trenton, it is unlikely the United States of America would exist today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mutiny in George Washington's Army Endorsed in History Channel Program

On Sunday, December 13, The History Channel will air "The People Speak," a program narrated by Howard Zinn and based on his seminal work A People's History of the United States.

The program features actors reading letters, accounts, etc. from actual people in American history. Zinn's focus is on "ordinary people," as opposed to the "Great Man" approach, which would focus on luminaries like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. And his focus is almost always on "ordinary" Americans suffering in the shadows.

In this clip from the forthcoming film, we see what amounts to an endorsement of the mutiny in George Washington's army...

"From 'The People Speak' -- Mutiny in George Washington's Army"

For my own part, having read of this incident in the American Revolution, General Washington had little choice but to clamp down hard on this mutiny. That he sympathized with the plight of his army is proven by all his letters and appeals to Congress, governors, and private businessmen for aid. But in order to keep his army together and win the war, Washington couldn't allow disorder and mutiny to go unpunished. He had to act.

And this perspective - Washington's perspective - gets short shrift from "historians" like Howard Zinn. That the spotlight of history should, at times, shine on everyday Americans is commendable. For that, Zinn has done some good. But to put the spotlight EXCLUSIVELY on the "ordinary Americans" who are often suffering, and then caricature their leaders as their enemies is only accurate in some occasions. To do so on a regular basis, as Zinn does, is frankly reprehensible.

To anyone who watches this program, which comes from one of the most anti-American "historians" on the stage today, I urge caution.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jefferson Letter Uncovered

Imagine you're a graduate student combing through the papers of a prominent colonial era Delaware family. Sure, it's interesting, but also a wee-bit tedious. After all, you're kind of doing the "grunt work" that your professors don't necessarily want to do. But, then, you find something....

Something big. Something connected to a famous name in American history and something that might even make a footnote in history for you.

Well, that's precisely what happened to Amanda Daddona, who is pursuing a master's in history with the University of Delaware.

Check out "Student finds letter 'a link to Jefferson'" for the details.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Been to Mount Vernon Lately?

If it's been several years since you've visited Mount Vernon, you need to make plans to go....

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Would the Founders Approve of an Empire?

Richard Brookhiser addresses the question of whether the American Founders would have approved of an "Empire"? This is a brief excerpt from an interview on "Uncommon Knowledge."

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Scalia Says Constitution is 'Dead'

In this interview excerpt, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rejects the notion of a "living" and evolving Constitution, and argues instead that the Constitution is "dead." What does he mean? And do you agree?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Treason of Benedict Arnold

On September 21, 1780, American General Benedict Arnold met with British Major John Andre to plot the transfer of West Point, a key strategic post in New York, to British control. The meeting was a culmination of months of secret negotiations between General Arnold and the British, and it marked perhaps the most famous act of treason ever committed by an American military officer.

Why Did Benedict Arnold Betray the American Cause?

Benedict Arnold was one of George Washington's favorite commanders. Brave, tenacious, and highly gifted as a military leader, Arnold had distinguished himself repeatedly in battle.

Yet the brilliant Arnold was also egotistical and self-interested. And had a tendency to rub many people the wrong way.

Passed over for promotion, denied credit for certain accomplishments, and faced with major financial challenges, an increasingly bitter Arnold hardened his heart against the American cause and offered his services -- for a price -- to the British.

Why did Benedict Arnold, one of America's most talented and courageous generals, conspire to betray the American cause?

***See "The Enigma of Benedict Arnold," courtesy of Early America Review

What if Arnold's Treason Had Succeeded?

At the time of Arnold's meeting with Andre, the American general commanded the fortress at West Point, a key strategic point that prevented the Royal Navy from accessing the Hudson River. This effectively limited the British presence in New York to the coastline, especially New York City.

Had British General Clinton captured West Point, the British would've gained control of the Hudson and quickly divided the American colonies, just as they had hoped to accomplish during their previous ill-fated campaign that ended ingloriously at Saratoga.

Arnold's plan almost worked. He had already weakened West Point's defenses and Clinton was preparing a major assault. Had it not been for Andre's capture, the stalemate in the Revolutionary War's theater would've been broken -- to the distinct advantage of the British.

At the very least, this would've meant that the Revolutionary War would've dragged on for many more years. At worst (at least from the American perspective), it would've meant defeat for the American cause.

Fortunately for the Americans, Andre was captured and the plot discovered. Benedict Arnold escaped arrest (and a sure hanging) and would finish the war in British uniform! But the consequences of his treachery were nowhere near what they could have been.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bombardment of Fort McHenry

One hundred and ninety-five years ago today, Fort McHenry was under intense bombardment from British ships off the coast of Maryland. The Royal Navy was hoping to reduce Ft McHenry as part of an overall land-sea invasion operation against Baltimore, which the British considered to be a "nest of pirates."

Detained by the British was an attorney named Francis Scott Key. Key, who had been negotiating with the British for the release of a friend, hopelessly watched the bombardment, fully understanding the stakes of the contest.

What if Fort McHenry Would've Fallen?

The British had already captured Washington, the nation's capital, and had burned its federal buildings to the ground. A devastating and humiliating blow to the Americans. Now, the British were following up their burning of Washington with an attack on Baltimore. Had they succeeded, it would've essentially gutted the eastern coast of the United States.

While it may be overstating things to suggest that the United States would've fallen back under British imperial control, it is certain that the loss of Baltimore (so close to the burning of Washington) would have all but guaranteed British victory in the War of 1812.

Had that occurred, several very unfortunate scenarios may have ensued, including the British refusal to return captured territory (which they eventually did under terms of the Treaty of Ghent), the possible secession of the New England states from the Union, and more. Th future of the United States would've been bleak.

The Climax

On the morning of September 14, Francis Scott Key peered through the smoke and haze - and saw, with delight, what the British saw, with great disappointment. The American flag still flew over Ft McHenry!

The Royal Navy soon abandoned its efforts to reduce Ft McHenry. What's more, British land forces lost their lead general, Robert Ross, to a sniper's bullet and their invasion was stalled against American forces led by Generals Samuel Smith and John Stricker.

The British eventually withdrew their forces and decided on a more southern strategy, an attempt to take New Orleans and gain control of the vital Mississippi River. There, that would meet devastating defeat at the hands of Andrew Jackson.

Key's sighting of the American flag, and the ultimate defeat of Britain's attack on Baltimore, inspired him to write "The Defence of Fort McHenry," a poem later put to the music "To Anacreon in Heaven," a popular men's drinking song. America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," was born.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Thomas Jefferson and Slavery

Thomas Jefferson was arguably the most articulate and eloquent of our nation's Founders, and made some of the most stirring condemnations of slavery in his writings. Yet, Jefferson himself was a slave owner and (at times) seemed to be beholden to the slave-holding South.

Was Thomas Jefferson for or against slavery? Was Jefferson beholden to the slave-holding South? And was the infamous 3/5ths compromise responsible for Jefferson defeating John Adams in the 1800 presidential election?

Watch this very interesting panel discussion on Jefferson's legacy as it pertains to the issue of slavery...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Early American History Paper Topics

Looking for history class paper topics, particularly American history paper topics? You've come to the right place, though we will focus on early American history, especially the founding era.

**If you prefer American history research paper topics beyond the founding era, check out "American History Paper Topics" by Naomi Rockler-Gladen (

Make sure you follow these steps in selecting the right topic...

1. Clarify Assignment Parameters

If your American history teacher has assigned you a paper to write, your first task is to familiarize yourself with the parameters of the assignment. Did your teacher specify a date range (i.e., 17th century, 18th century, etc.), a cultural/gender focus (Native American culture, women in early America), or a political angle (i.e, causes of the American Revolution, causes of the War of 1812, etc.)?

2. Brainstorm List of Topics

Once you've established the parameters of the assignment, it's time to brainstorm a list of about 10-15 topics that fit within those conditions.

Let's say, for example, that your teacher wants a paper on childhood in colonial America, you would then brainstorm all the possible angles to this core subject. A mind-mapping type exercise may be helpful.

Continuing with our example, your list might look something like...

*Infant mortality in the 1700s
*Childhood disease and medical treatment of the 1700s
*Children of Continental Army soldiers in the American Revolution
*Orphanages in Colonial America
*Early Textbooks in Colonial American Education

As you can see, there are a number of possibilities. help get you are a list of broad topics related to early American history that you can then brainstorm sub-topics from....

*The Great Awakening
*Jonathan Edwards
*George Whitefield
*Benjamin Franklin and Poor Richard's Almanack
*Scientific Discoveries and Inventions in the 1700s
*Commerce and Trade in Colonial America
*The French and Indian War
*Causes of the American Revolution
*The Siege at Yorktown
*The Franco-American Alliance of the American Revolution
*The Constitutional Convention
*The Federalist Papers
*The Anti-Federalist Papers
*The presidency of George Washington
*The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
*The Alien & Sedition Acts
*The Kentucky & Virginia Resolutions

Again, we could go on for quite some time. There are so many topics in early American history from which to choose. But the above list should get you started.

3. Conduct Initial Research

Once you've brainstormed about 10-15 topics, do some initial research on the Internet. See which topics strike you as the most interesting and for which you can find adequate information. Don't spend too much time on research yet. Your objective is to narrow your choices down to one or two.

4. Double-check Your Choice(s) with your Teacher

If you can, take the 1 or 2 topics you ultimately select (from the above step) to your teacher and confirm that you're headed in the right direction.

5. Deeper Research

Once you get the go-ahead from your teacher, it's time for more intense research. Look for statistics, quotes, and other information on the topic. Study all angles.

And then you're ready to start your outline and write your paper.

Good luck!


You may also want to check out...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Revolutionary War Facts

The war that gave the United States of America its independence is alternately known as the "American War for Independence" and the "Revolutionary War." If you're looking for basic Revolutionary War facts, this article should help. Here, we look at the essential facts of America's War for Independence, focusing on those things every person should know about the Revolutionary War.

Where Did The Revolutionary War Take Place?

The American Revolutionary War was, in many respects, a world war. It impacted four continents and touched the lives of millions of people around the globe. Yet most of the fighting, particularly in the early years of the conflict, took place in North America.

What Countries Fought in the Revolutionary War?

The principal players in the American Revolutionary War, of course, were Great Britain and the thirteen colonies who rebelled against King George III and the British Parliament. On July 4, 1776, those thirteen colonies proclaimed themselves the "United States of America."

Other nations drawn into the conflict included France and Spain as well as Canada (though, at the time, Canada was not a country, but was part of the British Empire).

When Did The Revolutionary War Start?

Tensions were mounting between Great Britain and its North American colonies since the French and Indian War. Rioting, street violence, and rural unrest were not uncommon in the 1760s and early 1770s. Shots were fired and blood was spilled in the streets of Boston in 1770. Some therefore maintain the war began with the "Boston Massacre." However, none of these incidents resulted in sustained warfare. Not until April of 1775.

The first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired in Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.

**For more on what started the Revolutionary War, read "Causes of the American Revolution."

Major Battles of the Revolutionary War

The Revolutionary War was a long and difficult war, but major battles (similar in scope and scale as what would be seen many years later in the American Civil War) were few. More soldiers died in camp than on the battlefield. Perhaps the most significant battles and campaigns include (but are not limited to):

*The Battle of Bunker Hill (1775)
*The (failed) American invasion of Canada (1775)
*The New York / Long Island Campaign (1776)
*The New Jersey Campaign, including the battles at Trenton and Princeton (1776-77)
*The Battles of Brandywine and Germantown (1777)
*The Battle of Monmouth (1778)
*The Battle of Camden (1780)
*The Battle of King's Mountain (1780)
*The Battle of Cowpens (1781)
*The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (1781)
*The Battle of Yorktown (1781)

When Did The Revolutionary War End?

The last major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought at Yorktown in Virginia in 1781. It ended when a besieged British army, commanded by General Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered (via proxy) to General George Washington.

The issues of the war, however, were not fully resolved until 1783, when the British granted American independence with the Treaty of Paris.

Who Won The Revolutionary War?

The American colonies achieved their independence with the Treaty of Paris (1783). Thus, it must be said that the Americans won and the British lost. However...

The British Empire, in some respects, emerged stronger from the Revolutionary War. Their most serious international rival, France, was bankrupted by the war, and its government would collapse in turmoil during the French Revolution.

Britain held onto its other global possessions, and its Royal Navy continued to "rule the waves" for many years to come.

What's more, the United States took a few years to get going. Britain was still able to make money off the United States via trade, and (for a time) even played some states off of others. With the U.S. Constitution and the War of 1812, the United States got its bearings and would eventually emerge as a stronger world player. But in the years immediately after the Revolutionary War, the British remained in a formidable position.

***For more on early American history (particularly with respect to its moral, cultural, and religious heritage), check out "Books on Early America" and visit American Creation.

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday, America! Enjoy your Fourth of July celebrations and time with family, but don't forget HOW we got here - and the sacrifices made by so many to sustain our freedom over the years and into today.

"The United States is the only country with a known birthday." ~James G. Blaine

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cryptologist Cracks 200-Year Old Code

A 200-year old code has finally been cracked! The recipient of the code was President Thomas Jefferson. The sender: Robert Patterson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Now, I'm no mathematician, so forget my trying to explain HOW it was cracked. I'm simply provide you with the following link to a Wall Street Journal article that lays it all out...

"Two Centuries On, a Cryptologist Cracks a Presidential Code"

Congress Declares American Independence on July 2, 1776

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, a delegate to the Continental Congress from Virginia, moved a resolution for independence.

For the year leading up to Lee's resolution, members of the Congress (and people throughout the colonies) were somewhat divided over whether to officially and formally separate from Great Britain. Britain's ruthless prosecution of the war against the colonial uprising (which included the hiring of mercenary troops) and the publication of Common Sense had resulted in a decisive sea change of popular opinion. More colonists were calling for independence -- a permanent break from Britain.

On July 2, Lee's motion for independence was approved. John Adams predicted that July 2 would be celebrated as America's Independence Day. was not to be.

Two days after voting for independence, the Continental Congress received a document that formally articulated the reasons for independence, including their grievances against Great Britain. This document, known as the "Declaration of Independence," was authored by Thomas Jefferson and was approved on July 4, 1776. And it was that day (July 4) that subsequent generations of Americans have chosen to remember as their nation's birthday.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Neat 4th of July Video

As we approach the Fourth of July, I thought I'd post this neat video I came across on YouTube...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Causes of the War of 1812

On this day (June 18) in 1812, President James Madison signed the war resolution passed by both houses of Congress, officially confirming a state of war with the British Empire.

For what reasons was the War of 1812 fought? Was it a war of American aggression or a second War for Independence? Was the United States justified to declare war on Britain and invade Canada?

For answers to these questions, watch this video...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why Was the Battle of Bunker Hill Fought?

Today marks the anniversary of the opening shots in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The battle, waged in June of 1775, was actually fought on Breed's Hill. Yet generations of Americans have known it as "the Battle of Bunker Hill."

The Battle of Bunker Hill is perhaps most famous for Colonel William Prescott's order: "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." But why was the battle fought in the first place?

Why Was The Battle of Bunker Hill Fought?

The Battle of Bunker Hill (or Breed's Hill) was a natural extension of the battles of Lexington and Concord, which were fought in April 1775.

With the "Intolerable Acts" (the British response to the Boston Tea Party) the British had occupied Boston and declared martial law throughout much of New England.

Concerned with growing unrest in the countryside, British General Thomas Gage, the military governor in Boston, dispatched troops in April 1775 to Concord to seize munitions being stockpiled by the colonial militia. While en route, British soldiers clashed with colonists at Lexington and then fought a pitched battle with even more colonial militia at Concord.

Following the battles of Lexington and Concord, the British withdrew (under heavy fire) to Boston. While in Boston, the British went through a command change (Gage was sacked), and contemplated their next move.

While in Boston, the British were sloppily (but still effectively) besieged by angry, armed colonists. When those colonists began fortifying Breed's Hill, on the Charlestown Peninsular, the British had to act.

The Battle of Bunker Hill

Believing that a decisive, straight-on show of force would break the spirit of rebellion, the British launched a frontal attack against the rebel militia entrenched on Breed's Hill.

The first two assaults were disastrous for the British, but the Americans ran out of powder and musket balls. Colonel Prescott ordered a retreat, as the British stormed the hill on their third assault.

From a battlefield standpoint, it was a British victory. At the end of the battle, the British held the ground. But it was a costly battle for the British. They suffered over a thousand casualties (226 dead and 828 wounded).

British General Clinton wrote in his diary: "A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America."

Interestingly enough, General Clinton's prediction was close to the truth. In the course of the American Revolution, the British would win most of the battles. But they would never break the resolve of the colonists. Ultimately, the Americans would have their independence.

For more on the Battle of Bunker Hill, read "The Decisive Day is Come," courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Are Our Leaders "Wise and Good"?

In Thoughts on Government (1776), John Adams wrote:

"As good government is an empire of laws, how shall your laws be made? In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good."

Would John Adams consider our leaders today "wise and good"? More to the point, HOW do we determine which candidates are "wise and good"? What criteria should voters bring to bear when selecting their leaders?

Let's talk about it in the comments.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Wisdom on Character from Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, one of the most influential writers in all of American history, gave one of the best quotes ever on character. On the subject of character, Paine declared:

"Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us."

Something to think about.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Robert Bork on Original Intent

President Barack Obama is about to nominate a new Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. He will likely appoint someone who abides by the "liberal" or "activist" model. According to Robert Bork, our justices and judges should not take it upon themselves to expand or evolve the Constitution or the law. Instead, judges should interpret the Constitution (or any law) according to its original understanding.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Alexander Hamilton: Founder of American Capitalism

Alexander Hamilton, whose economic ideals were shaped by European mercantilism, entrepreneurial industry, and personal ambition, stands as one of the most controversial and profoundly influential Founding Fathers.

In this video, Peter Robinson interviews Ron Chernow, the renowned Hamilton biographer.


To order Mr. Chernow's book, follow this link...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Has History Been Too Kind to the Founders?

David O. Stewart, author of The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution, says that history has been too kind to some of the Constitution's Framers....

Do you agree with Mr. Stewart?


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chief Justice Roberts Speaking at James Madison Home

Chief Justice John Roberts speaks at Montpelier in Virginia, the home of the late James Madison, widely regarded as the "Father of our Constitution." The speech commemorated Constitution Day 2008....

Friday, April 24, 2009

Should We Thank the Founders for Capitalism?

Has capitalism in the United States been beneficial to America and the world?

There's no question that the Founding Fathers believed in capitalist, free market principles, and that they enshrined those concepts into the nation's fabric. The Protestant work ethic, the right of private property ownership, and the security of wealth (primarily land in the founding era) were all deeply embedded in the Founders' psyche. As a result, modern capitalism defined the founding of the United States and powered its rise to become the leading super power of the world.

Capitalism, however, has its detractors. Quite a few, in fact. It's no coincidence that many of these detractors are also not very fond of the United States. These critics often argue that capitalism is dependent on greed, and that greed is bad.

Capitalism's defenders, however, point out that greed is common in the human condition, and is hardly unique to capitalism. Watch the late (and great) Milton Freidman school Phil Donahue on this point...

Dinesh D'Souza takes the point further, arguing that capitalism constructively channels and ultimately civilizes greed. D'Souza writes:

"The moral argument for capitalism is that it makes us better people by regulating the vices of greed and selfishness. Capitalism civilizes greed in much the same way that marriage civilizes lust. Greed, like lust, is part of our human nature; it would be futile to try to root it out. What capitalism does is to channel greed in such a way that it works to meet the wants and needs of society."

What do you think? Is capitalism good or bad? And should we thank the Founders for it -- or wish they'd started us off on a different footing?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

David McCullough on the Equality of Ideas

Bestselling author David McCullough talks about the "equality of ideas" that defined the founding of the United States....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

George Washington and His Army: Put Yourself in the Shoes of General Washington

Think you've got it rough? When General George Washington took command of the Continental Army in the summer of 1775, he faced the strongest and best trained army in the world. And he did so with one of the most ill-equipped, poorly trained, and disorganized "armies" ever put in the field!

Washington Builds a Continental Army

Among the challenges Washington had to face was the fact that many soldiers affixed their loyalty more to their states than to any united nation. This is hardly surprising, since there was no united nation in 1775. Nevertheless, in a July 4, 1775 General Order, Washington declared that the soldiers and those who enlist "are now Troops of the United Provinces of North America." He further called on "all Distinctions of Colonies" to be "laid aside" in favor of service to the "Great and common cause in which we are all engaged."

Washington also had to concern himself with basic provisions (including food), ammunition, sanitation, discipline, and chain of command. In short, he had to build an army from the ground up, before he could effectively command it against enemy forces.

What would YOU have done? Sometimes, when things get really tough, we feel like throwing in the towel. Washington did. For Washington, he felt like quitting, basically saying that had he known how bad things would be, no consideration would have moved him to accept command. But Washington soldiered on. In a phrase from today's Army, he "Rangered up" and, with help, built the Continental Army into a fighting force that would keep the Revolution alive and the British busy for eight long years!

General Washington's Legacy

Though General Washington lost more battles than he won, Washington's courage, leadership and persistence held the army together. As author Richard Brookhiser has said: "War is not the World Series. It's not the best out of seven." Brookhiser's right. You don't have to win all the battles. You just have to win the ones that count, especially the last one!

Edward Lengel, author of General George Washington: A Military Life, explains (in the video below) the strengths and qualities that Washington brought to the Continental cause in the Revolution:

Without General Washington at the helm of the American Continental Army, it's hard to fathom an American victory in the War for Independence. Not only is it unlikely a better leader could've been found, it's almost certain that no such leader could've been trusted with the power and popularity Washington would have at war's end.

It's no exaggeration to say that General George Washington was the indispensable man.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Could the British Have Won the American Revolution?

Is it possible that Great Britain could have won the American Revolution? Britain, after all, had most of the advantages. Why did they lose? And if Britain could have won, how? How should Britain have handled her rebellious American colonies?

Two recommended articles for you to read...

"England's Vietnam: The American Revolution" by Richard Ketchum (American Heritage, June 1971)

"Why Did the British Lose the American Revolution?" by yours truly (American Revolution Blog)

And check out...

The Onion Pokes Fun at British Redcoats

Confused British soldiers, still fighting the American Revolution, were found earlier this month in Massachusetts! So say the editors of The interesting publication if you've not yet read it.

To see what The Onion says about these lost and disoriented British redcoats, read "Redcoat Holdouts Still Fighting the American Revolution."

Friday, March 13, 2009

What Led to the American Revolution?

What led to the American Revolution? Why did the American Revolution happen? Pretty much every American knows there was an American Revolution that resulted in our independence, but few Americans understand the actual causes of the American Revolution.

What Led to the American Revolution?

The causes of the American Revolution can be traced most easily to the French and Indian War (otherwise known as the Seven Years War). That war, triggered in part by an eager and inexperienced George Washington, confirmed Britain's hold on North America and effectively ended French hopes to dominate the continent. It also put the British treasury in serious straits.

Faced with a fiscal crisis and the perceived need to maintain a troop presence in North America, Britain tightened its control over its North American colonies, and began to tax them directly for the first time. The most egregious of these direct taxes was the 1775 Stamp Act.

While it's fairly common for people to focus on the issue of taxation in studying the causes of the American Revolution, the real issue was control. The British Parliament believed that it had preeminent authority over the entire British Empire, including the colonies in North America. The American colonists, by contrast, believed they had the right to govern themselves, albeit under the protection and limited oversight of the British Crown.

Why Did the American Revolution Happen?

Tensions aside, what led to the actual shooting? After all, people have deep disagreements today regarding politics and government, taxation and control. What led the American colonists to actually take up arms and start shooting at British redcoats?

The touchstone event that made war inevitable was the Boston Tea Party of 1773. By that year, the British had rescinded all of the taxes on their North American colonies, save one....the tax on tea. The Tea Act of 1773, which helped fund the East India Company, was symbolic for both sides. From the British perspective, it showed that they had the authority (if they chose to exercise it) to levy any tax on the American colonists. Not surprisingly, this symbol wasn't lost on the American side. The colonists were deeply resentful of this power grab, and they took steps to show that resentment.

The Sons of Liberty, poorly disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded British trade vessels in Boston Harbor in December 1773, and dumped over 340 crates of tea into Boston Harbor.

**Read about the Boston Tea Party, courtesy of The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

Rather than offer a limited, political response to the Boston Tea Party, the British went ballistic! With passage of the Restraining Acts in 1774, (known popularly as the Coercive Acts or the "Intolerable Acts"), the British cleared colonial judges and elected officials out of their positions, ended town hall meetings, imposed martial law, and shut down Boston Harbor!

The colonies rallied together in response. In 1774, the First Continental Congress met to present a united front against Great Britain. And, in April 1775, blood was shed in Lexington and Concord. War was inevitable.

And in the summer of 1776, the American Revolution became a war for independence, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

**For more on the American Revolution, visit the American Revolution Blog, the American History section at, and (of course) surf through all the postings and links here at this blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chuck Norris on the Founders, Obama, and...Running for President of Texas

Chuck Norris may run for the presidency of Texas. Say what? That's right, Walker Texas Ranger may soon be Walker Texas President - or Norris Texas President. :-)

Well, probably not. But the martial arts master turned actor turned activist warns that the United States may face disunity if the Obama administration continues to thwart the wisdom and vision of America's Founders.

**Check out Chuck Norris' provocative article by visiting "I May Run for President of Texas." And then let us know what you think in the comments area below.**

Disclaimer: Before anyone "flames" me, I am in no way endorsing, advocating, or encouraging disunity or secession. I believe we should remain loyal Americans and lift up our government in prayer. But I think Norris' article provides good food for thought. There are signs that we have drifted much too far from the vision of our Founders, and if we continue to do so, we do so at our own peril.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Jonathan Mayhew Lays Theological Groundwork for American Revolution

In his famous A Discourse concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers: with Some Reflections on the resistance Made to King Charles I, the Reverend Jonathan Mayhew laid an important corner stone in the foundations of the American Revolution. Indeed, John Adams credited Mayhew's sermon as having "great influence in the commencement of the Revolution."

The Legacy of "The Divine Right of Kings"

The causes of the American Revolution are varied, and have been substantially discussed all over the Internet, including of course at this blog. The main theme undergirding all those causes was the issue of authority.

And for hundreds of years, Britain had rested its authority on a concept known to many as "the Divine Right of Kings." While the theory had been largely rejected in the "Glorious Revolution" of England (1688-89), it still heavily influenced the Church of England and gave many in the colonies pause as they considered their relationship with the Mother Country.

Significant to the "Divine Right of Kings" concept was the Apostle Paul's exhortation in his letter to the church at Rome that "every soul be subject unto the higher powers" and that the "powers that be are ordained of God" (see Romans 13:1-7).

Loyalists during the American Revolution often cited Romans 13 as reason to stand with King George III and Parliament. Indicative of this position was Loyalist minister Jonathan Boucher, who declared:

"Obedience to government is every man's duty, because it is every man's interest; but it is particularly incumbent on Christians, because (in addition to its moral fitness) it is enjoined by the positive commands of God; and, therefore, when Christians are disobedient to human ordinances, they are also disobedient to God. If the form of government under which the good providence of God has been pleased to place us be mild and free, it is our duty to enjoy it with gratitude and with thankfulness and, in particular, to be careful not to abuse it by licentiousness. If it be less indulgent and less liberal than in reason it ought to be, still it is our duty not to disturb and destroy the peace of the community by becoming refractory and rebellious subjects and resisting the ordinances of God. However humiliating such acquiescence may seem to men of warm and eager minds, the wisdom of God in having made it our duty is manifest. For, as it is the natural temper and bias of the human mind to be impatient under restraint, it was wise and merciful in the blessed Author of our religion not to add any new impulse to the natural force of this prevailing propensity but, with the whole weight of his authority, altogether to discountenance every tendency to disobedience."

Is the "Divine Right of Kings" Scriptural?

Medieval theologican John Calvin, one of the most influential biblical scholars in Christian history, certainly thought so. Calvin, known for his theological views on the sovereignty of God, argued that rebellion against God's ordained rulers was never justified.

**See John Calvin's "On Civil Government"**

The late Bible scholar William R. Newell, in his commentary Romans Verse-by-Verse, argues that Romans 13 is a clear, explicit stand against "lawlessness." And if the rulers are bad ones, that doesn't change a thing, says Newell. In Romans Verse-by-Verse, he writes:

"Never mind if they are bad ones, the word still stands, 'There is no power but of God.' Remember your Savior suffered under Pontius Pilate, one of the worst Roman governors Judea ever had; and Paul under Nero, the worst Roman Emperor. And neither our Lord nor His Apostle denied or reviled the 'authority!'"

Nineteenth century biblical scholar William Kelly echoed similar sentiments regarding Romans 13. Kelly declared:

"‘Authorities in power’ is an expression that embraces every form of governing power, monarchical, aristocratic, or republican. All cavil on this score is therefore foreclosed. The Spirit insists not merely on the Divine right of kings, but that ‘there is no authority except from God.’ Nor is there an excuse on this plea for change; yet if a revolution should overthrow one form and set up another, the Christian’s duty is plain: ‘those that exist are ordained by God.’ His interests are elsewhere, are heavenly, are in Christ; his responsibility is to acknowledge what is in power as a fact, trusting God as to the consequences, and in no case behaving as a partisan. Never is he warranted in setting himself up against the authority as such."

Clearly, there are strong exegetical arguments for the "Divine Right of Kings" - at least on the surface. That the theory has been so persistent is also beyond dispute. But was Paul really endorsing the "Divine Right of Kings"? Was he endorsing unlimited submission to any authority?

Jonathan Mayhew on the Apostle Paul and Romans 13

Jonathan Mayhew's position on Romans 13 was that Paul was calling for "submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner," not those who abuse their power. And that the apostle made this clear by describing the purpose of government. Mayhew writes:

"...upon a careful review of the apostle’s reasoning in this passage, it appears that his arguments to enforce submission, are of such a nature, as to conclude only in favour of submission to such rulers as he himself describes; i.e. such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants, and public oppressors, are not intitled [sic] to obedience from their subjects, by virtue of any thing here laid down by the inspired apostle."

If Mayhew's interpretation of Romans 13 is correct, then the "Divine Right of Kings" is better understood as the "Divine Right of Just Government."

Was the American Revolution Biblically Justified?

Blogger Gary Manning says no, at least not insofar as the Bible is concerned. In a "Just War" series he did for his readers last year, Manning wrote that, while Paul kept the door open for civil disobedience of "unjust laws," the apostle "did not allow armed revolt."

Libertarian commentator Jonathan Rowe also argues that the weight of Scripture was on the side of the Loyalists in colonial America. The Bible, writes Rowe, was "insufficient for establishing the principles upon which we declared independence and constructed the Constitution."

**Visit American Creation for a series of blog posts on biblical arguments, including Romans 13 and the American Revolution**

David Barton, a notable (and controversial) Christian commentator on the founding era, argues that the Revolutionary War was indeed justified. Answering the question "Was the American Revolution a Biblically Justified Act?," Barton writes that Romans 13 argues for a general ordination of government, not every single official who sits in a government position. Sounding much like Mayhew of old, Barton explains:

"God ordained government in lieu of anarchy – He opposes anarchy, He opposes rebelliousness and lawlessness, and He opposes wickedness. Yet, there are clearly have been governments in recent years that promote anarchy, rebellion, and wickedness (e.g. Ghadaffi in Libya, Hussein in Iraq, Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Idi Amin in Uganda, etc.). Has God endorsed those specific governments that promote that which He hates? If so, He has contradicted His nature and is commanding submission and support to the very things that He hates – such is not possible."

So....who is right? What's the answer?

Perhaps the answer is found in Psalm 75, written long ago by Asaph. In this psalm, Asaph writes that "exaltation comes neither from the east, nor from the west nor from the south," but that God "is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another" (Psalm 75:6-7).

From this passage (as well as others of course), we draw the principle that government is determined by God. He raises up government and He takes it down.

So, what happens when a government is in place that is contrary to the Bible's principles for government? What happens when an unjust ruler is in power?

The Bible counsels God's followers, in similar cases, to seek wisdom from God. We are to submit ourselves to God's direction and guidance and we are to "trust in the all our ways" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

And, in some cases, this may mean revolution. God led Moses to free the Hebrew people from Egyptian slavery. He called on Gideon to liberate Israel from Midianite oppression. Indeed, the Old Testament (especially the book of Judges) is full of God raising up leaders.

What about the American Revolution? Many of the Founders believed that God was raising them up to build a new nation. They believed they were doing God's work as well as their own in declaring independence from Great Britain and establishing the United States of America.

Whether this is true or not, it is true that the Founders beseeched God for guidance and wisdom in the months and years leading up to the Revolutionary War. The First Continental Congress (1774), for example, opened with a prayer by the Rev. Jacob Duche on behalf of the American colonists who "have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee."

And it was to the "Supreme Judge" that the Second Continental Congress appealed for "the rectitude of our intentions" when passing the Declaration of Independence.

Ultimately, only God can answer authoritatively whether the American Revolution was biblically justified. But the Founding Fathers believed that it was. And their appeals to Almighty God for His blessing and protection were not mere rhetorical devices, but sincere prayers for God's wisdom and provision. Our nation today could learn something from their example.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Empire: Total War is a Total Mess!

Empire: Total War, the newly-released real-time strategy (RTS) epic game from SEGA and Creative Assembly, shows great promise and boasts great potential, but falls short in the most important facet of gaming - the "Fun Factor."

Saying Empire: Total War falls short in the area of "fun" is actually an understatement. Playing Empire: Total War may be one of the most frustrating and maddening experiences you will ever have.

Let me be clear. I'm a huge fan of the Total War series. I've invested numerous hours of my life playing Medieval: Total War, Rome: Total War, and Medieval II: Total War. Great games - all of them!

And I have been salivating at the possibility of getting my hands on Empire: Total War. I mean, here at last, was a game dedicated to the era of the American Revolution! Not only does Empire: Total War come with a Revolutionary War campaign, but the "Special Forces" edition of Empire: Total War comes with The History Channel Revolution on DVD. To say that I've been excited about this game would be a colossal understatement.

But, troubles began as soon as I opened the case.

I went to Gamestop in Wilmington, Ohio, slapped down my card from Uncle Visa and paid $74 and some change for the "Special Forces" edition. I get back home, and lo and behold, Volume II of The Revolution is missing. That's right, the box only has Volume I of The History Channel series on the American Revolution! That program is the main reason I paid for the premium edition. (Turns out that all the "Special Forces" editions only ship with Volume I. So, buyer beware, the box cover makes it sound like you're getting the whole series of The Revolution. You're not. You're only getting Volume I, which has the first four episodes).

Then, I start the install process. Apparently, to cut down on piracy or to collect customer information or just to torture their customers, Creative Assembly and SEGA make you register with Steam (which is some kind of online game hosting company). This isn't optional. In order to play the game that you bought, you have to register and play through your new Steam account!

Several times, I got an "error" message that the game was unavailable and that I would have to try again later. Say what!? I paid $75 for the game. It's my game. I own it, and I expect to play it. The fact that I have to go through some online platform to play the game that I just bought is ludicrous.

After opening and closing Steam a few times, and talking to my computer a little (you know, some "encouragement"), I finally made it through that process - only to have the game keep jumping and jittering and freezing in the intro movie and the launch process.

I dialed down the graphics to "low" hoping that would work. Of course, by this time, I've invested over an hour just to get the blasted thing to work! I'm frustrated and frazzled. The word "fun" isn't even in my vocabulary, and isn't that why we play games to begin with!?

Okay, so I finally - and I mean "finally" - get to the game menu screen. I decide to go with the "War on Land" tutorial. I hit "play." Game freezes and locks up. I have to shut the whole computer down, reboot it, and try again. Now, I'm a pastor, so I don't make it a habit to curse, but I must confess that some of my old Army vocabulary came bubbling up into my mind at this point.

So, we're now at Take 2 - the second attempt. It's now been close to 90 minutes that I've invested just to get STARTED with this game. A game that's supposed to be fun. After selecting once again the "War on Land" tutorial, it slowly loads...slowly... slowly...slowly...and hangs there. Almost loaded, but not quite. That gold bar is about 90% full, but it refuses to budge the remaining 10%. It just hangs there.

Minutes pass. The bar doesn't budge. My Army vocabulary starts to come to my mind again, and then....I hear "Welcome to the battle tutorial...." The problem is that the screen isn't matching the words. The narrator is telling me how to fight battles and I hear the sound effects of my army setting up to battle, but the screen still shows that blasted gold bar at 90%. I haven't made it to the play screen yet. I'm still on the loading screen.

The narrator stops speaking. He's obviously waiting for me to do what he told me to do, but I can't. I'm still staring at a 90% complete gold load bar. Still haven't made it to the actual game yet. Once again, Army vocabulary comes into my mind.

It becomes apparent that this second attempt isn't going to fare much better than the first. I hit the windows button and the escape button. Nothing. So, I do the control-alt-delete. Nothing. Once again, I'm faced with shutting the computer down cold. And that's what I do.

I decide that maybe the third time's the charm. However, this time, I'll go back to the desktop. I loaded it on both my laptop and desktop. My laptop has Vista and more power, actually. But perhaps my desktop will fare better. Can't hurt to try.

So, here we go again...this time, I make it all the way to the game, but Empire: Total War runs rough from that point forward. At least, however, it runs.

Does the game show promise? Absolutely. Does it tease you with great potential? Definitely. Does it deliver? Unfortunately, no. Perhaps if you have a top-of-the-line computer system, you'll have fewer problems.

Either way, I have found Empire: Total War to be totally frustrating. Hopefully, SEGA and Creative Assembly will see the error of their ways, and do what needs to be done to make the game more playable and enjoyable.


Addendum (March 13, 2009): I have been able to get this game to work on my desktop at the lowest graphics settings. However, the game is still sluggish. The game's campaign videos will not play properly, and there are game play issues as well. Perhaps upgrading my desktop computer's RAM and graphics card will help, but I don't have the money for that right now.

Addendum (March 15, 2009): It's confirmed -- The special edition ships with only Volume ONE of The Revolution, the DVD series on the American Revolution. This is false advertising, in my opinion, as the box cover says NOTHING about Volume I. It indicates you'll get the full series. So, buyer beware!

Addendum (March 24, 2009): To be fair, while Empire: Total War demands a pretty high-performing computer and graphics card, the game is very fun, once you get into it. I've enjoyed several hours of the game, since my initial review post. I don't retract anything. Installing and getting used to the game was very frustrating, especially with the whole "install through Steam" arrangement. Why can't the game just play like Medieval II: Total War? Just install and go! Why do they need Steam? Aside from that, though, and the fact that the game will be sluggish and problematic on older computers (if it plays at all), it IS a fun game, once you get into it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

British Rifle Fire Demonstration

Revolutionary War era British firing demonstration at Fort Michimilimac in Mackinac, Michigan....

Monday, March 02, 2009

Real and Fictional Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

It's apparently curtains for NBC's series Crusoe, starring Philip Winchester and Tongayi Chirisa. The show, produced by London-based Power, was apparently envisioned as an ongoing television series. At least, that was the plan initially. The ratings were disappointing, however, especially considering the heavy promotion of the series. The series was soon redefined as a 13-episode "miniseries," which broadcast its final episode on January 31.

Crusoe is, at least in the opinion of this author, entertaining and family-friendly. The scenery is beautiful. The acting is fine, especially from Chirisa (who plays Friday) and recurring guest star (and veteran) Sam Neill.

Unfortunately, the ending of the miniseries is a huge disappointment. I can't say much more than that, without giving away something. But, let's just say, that I was not happy. It leaves you, frankly, with a sense of frustration - like you've been cheated. Maybe the producers and writers were hoping (or even counting) on the series getting picked up for another season. If so, that hope doesn't look promising.

To visit the official NBC site for the series, click here.

If you missed Crusoe, you can watch (as of this blog post) all the episodes for free at But be warned, you won't like the ending.

The Legend of Robinson Crusoe

The story of Robinson Crusoe was, of course, penned by author Daniel Defoe and published in 1719. Written as an autobiographical account of a man's 28 years on a remote tropical island, Robinson Crusoe is considered by many to be the first novel in England.

Beloved by generations, the story has been published numerous times and made into several films.

Even the Tom Hanks film Castaway was a modern spinoff of Defoe's classic. And, of course, don't forget Lost, which in its own way, takes some inspiration from Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Most recently with Crusoe, NBC hoped to profit from Defoe's brainchild, reimagining the classic as an adventure story wrapped in conspiracy, intrigue, betrayal, and romance. It is the second time TV brought Robinson Crusoe to life - the first effort being a 1960s series titled The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.

Why are we Talking About Robinson Crusoe at this Blog?

It's true that Robinson Crusoe has nothing really to do with the American Revolution or the founding of the United States. But, if you're like me, I appreciate any movie or TV series that explores the general time frame of the colonial era.

Given the literary heights achieved by writers like Defoe and some of his contemporaries and the heroic achievements by so many of that era, I'm surprised there aren't more movies and TV series set in the period that saw the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the dawn of the Modern Age.

Was there a "Real" Robinson Crusoe?

While the fictional Robinson Crusoe, imagined by Daniel Defoe in his classic 1719 novel, is a shipwrecked adventurer befriended by the noble "Man Friday," the real story behind the legend is much different. The original "Robinson Crusoe," who apparently inspired Defoe, was a hard-drinking pirate named Alexander Selkirk. And he wasn't shipwrecked. He was left on the island deliberately because the captain thought he was a pain in the proverbial backside.

Read "Scientists Research the Real Robinson Crusoe" to learn more about the man who inspired the legend.

Lessons from Robinson Crusoe

The real lesson of the whole Robinson Crusoe story, I suppose, is twofold:

1) It reminds us (or at least should remind us) of all the things we take for granted. Imagine if, one day, you were stripped of all meaningful possessions, separated from your loved ones, and relegated to living a lonely existence far apart from the notice or care of anyone. A story like Crusoe should make us all thankful for even the smallest pleasures in life.

2) When life does get tough (and it most certainly did for Crusoe), we need to make the best of it. Robinson Crusoe never surrendered to despair. He survived and held onto hope. (And, at least in the NBC miniseries, he made a really cool treehouse!)

It's up to us, of course, to take those lessons to heart.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Virginia Businessman to Keep Rare Copy of Declaration of Independence

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled against the state of Maine and in favor of a Virginia businessman in a legal dispute over ownership claims to a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Richard L. Adams Jr. of Oakton, Virginia purchased the printed copy of America's birth document from a London book dealer in 2002 for $475,000. However, the state of Maine argued that the copy, which was a broadside printed in the Town of Wiscasset, Maine, was an official document belonging to the people of Wiscasset.

The Virginia Supreme Court sided with Adams, awarding him ownership. Maine could appeal to the US Supreme Court, but it appears unlikely they will do so.

You can read The Washington Post story of the case by clicking here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

C-SPAN Historians Rank Lincoln Over Washington

A survey of historians, sponsored by cable channel C-SPAN, has ranked the Presidents of the United States from George Washington through George W. Bush.

To watch a C-SPAN video on the survey, click here.

To read the Yahoo! news article, click here.

For the second time in a row, the C-SPAN survey has ranked Lincoln above Washington, though Washington did a favorable swap with now-third place finisher Franklin D. Roosevelt.

While Abraham Lincoln was a great leader and strong President, it's a fact that our 16th President committed a few key missteps at the beginning of his presidency. This takes nothing away from the man. No one is perfect, and everyone has to learn. And Lincoln did.

Clearly, Lincoln deserves to be in the Top Five of our Presidents. In fact, I'd rank him at #2. But....Number One?????

Sorry, that prize goes to and must remain with George Washington. Our first President was truly the indispensable man. Without Washington, there would be no United States of America.

Significantly, President Washington had no frame of reference for his conduct as Head of State. Lincoln had fifteen predecessors to look to (for lessons both good and bad) and a fairly well-established Republic to govern. Sure, it split into a Civil War, but there had to be something there to split. In Washington's case, the nation was truly an infant - with no idea where to go or what to do.

Even though Washington may not be first in the minds of historians, he must always remain first in our hearts as Americans.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What is the Purpose of Presidents Day?

Want to know the purpose of Presidents' Day? Well, the generally understood purpose of Presidents Day (alternately spelled President's Day, Presidents' Day, or Presidents Day) is to celebrate the American presidency and remember all those who served as President of the United States. This, however, is not the official purpose of the holiday.

The Origin of Presidents Day

In 1885, Congress officially set aside February 22 as a national holiday to honor the birth of America's first President, George Washington. Thus, the holiday we know as "Presidents Day" began as a day to celebrate only one President. And, legally, it is still (at least at the federal level) a day exclusive to George Washington.

In the decades following Lincoln's assassination, there began a movement to honor the 16th President as well. Since Lincoln's birthday (February 12) fell so close to Washington's birthday (February 22 by the modern calendar), it became popular and fashionable to celebrate BOTH birthdays. (Those readers who have birthdays on or close to December 25 understand how this kind of thing happens). Some states began doing this.

In the 1960s, Congress considered officially re-naming Washington's holiday to "Presidents Day" to honor both men. That was shot down, but Congress did pass the Monday Holidays Act, taking Washington's birthday holiday away from the actual birthday and moving it to the third Monday in February.

By the late 1980s, thanks to several states and (most significantly) retail establishments advertising "Presidents Day" sales on TV, the name "Presidents' Day" stuck in popular culture.

Most businesses, calendars, and individuals now say "Presidents Day" rather than "George Washington's Birthday Observed" (even though the latter is the federally designated, official name for the February holiday).

The Legacy of Presidents Day

Though the original intent behind the "Presidents Day" concept was to honor both Lincoln and Washington, the day has lost much of its significance. It now stands as a weak celebration of the American presidency in general and all our Presidents.

And, most people pass by the holiday with little regard for its meaning anyway. They simply see it as a day off work. An extra day to travel, visit family, or shop.

The Monday Holidays Act may be good for the economy, but it's terrible for holiday celebrations. After all, the root concept behind "holiday" is "holy day" - a day to set aside as sacred and worthy of celebration.

Of course, I'm not saying that George Washington was holy. He was a flesh-and-blood human being -- one flawed in many areas. But the original dream (carried out in 1885 by federal law) to honor the Father of our Country with a day set aside for esteem and celebration has long vanished.

And, for that matter, those who wish to honor Abraham Lincoln by hijacking Washington's day have fared little better. Their man has also been lost in the ambiguous, meaningless "Presidents Day."

A Proposed Solution

At this point, the term "Presidents Day" is deeply entrenched in American culture and in popular lexicon. Eradicating it will be impossible, but....

What if we MOVED "Presidents' Day"?

What if Congress designated January 20 of each year as "Presidents' Day" - a day to celebrate the American presidency. And when "Presidents' Day" falls on an actual Inauguration Day, it will be a federal holiday.

Congress should then remove George Washington's birthday from the Monday Holidays Act and celebrate his birthday on his actual birthday. That's the only way to get people to say "Washington's birthday" again.

What about Lincoln?

There are two solutions: the cheap way or the expensive way. The expensive way (expensive in terms of cost to the federal government, but perhaps good for the economy) is to have two holidays in February. Give both Washington and Lincoln their own individual day, but (here's the catch)...

The holiday only counts when it falls on an actual day of the week. If it falls on Saturday or Sunday, you don't get Friday or Monday off. That will save the government some money.

The other way is to let GW have preeminence in February. His birthday is the one celebrated with a holiday, UNLESS it falls on a Saturday or Sunday. In THAT year, Lincoln's day is celebrated as a holiday.

Now, I'm not naive. I realize the chances of my proposal ever seeing the light of day are remote. Neither the White House nor Congress painstakingly follows this blog for policy recommendations :-), so this will probably never come to pass.

But, hopefully, some day, somebody will speak up for the Father of our Country and help right this wrong.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Total War: Empire Brings the Revolution to Life

There aren't that many Revolutionary War era games. Something that's long frustrated me. Well....that's about to change with Total War: Empire. And, let me tell you...

I can hardly contain myself! I need to warn my wife that I might go into hibernation for a while after I buy this. And, believe me, I WILL buy this - and play it, and play it some more, and some more, get the idea. Want to know WHY I'm downright giddy with excitement??? Check out the trailer, and what it says about George Washington and the "Road to Independence"....

...and here's another trailer....

Are you FEELING it yet???? I can't wait!!!

For more info on the game, visit the company's official site here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

George Liked Martha For More Than Just Her Money!

Many historians have long claimed that George Washington was primarily attracted to Martha Washington for her property and money, and that the two never really had a close, romantic relationship. This view is fully embraced by a script trapped in "Development Hell" about our first general and first President - one that I personally hope never sees the light of day. But I digress.

Anyway, it turns out that Martha Washington was not the plump, homely widow that Washington married simply for money. Scholars now say that she may very well have been...well...let me just turn it over to Brigid Schulte, writing for The Washington Post...

This just in: Martha Washington was hot. Or at least hotter than we thought.

Our image of the mother of our country, vague and insubstantial as it is, is drawn from portraits painted after her death showing a frumpy, dumpy, plump old lady, a fussy jumble of needlework in her lap, wearing what could pass for a shower cap with pink sponge rollers underneath.

But today, 250 years after Martha and George tied the knot, a handful of historians are seeking to revamp the former first lady’s fusty image, using the few surviving records of things she wrote, asking forensic anthropologists to do a computerized age-regression portrait of her in her mid-20s and, perhaps most importantly, displaying for the first time in decades the avant-garde deep purple silk high heels studded with silver sequins that she wore on her wedding day.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

It would appear that Martha Washington needn't have been that intimidated by neighbor Sally Fairfax.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

How to Trace Your Genealogy

Do you know your family tree? How far back have you traced your ancestry? Do you enjoy genealogy research?

Thanks to research done by some of my relatives, I have identified two of my Civil War era great-great grandfathers. My direct paternal, great-great grandfather (my paternal grandfather's paternal grandfather - know what I mean?) was John Tubbs, who fought in the Civil War with a volunteer Pennsylvania unit. He was at the First Battle of Manassas. And my granddad used to tell me stories about he sat on his grandfather's knee to hear stories about the Civil War. That kind of thing makes history incredible for me!

Want to know how to trace your family tree, Click Here!


Then there's L.E. Jones, another Civil War era great great grandfather, who rode with the 9th Virginia Cavalry, a unit that was reportedly involved in a plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. One of my prized possessions is the parole my g-g-grandfather Jones signed, allowing him to return home at the end of the war.

Watch this video titled "The Joy of Genealogy"...


While I know some information about those two great-great grandfathers, the rest of my family tree is still incomplete. I have, for instance, been able to trace George Tubbs, Sr. (John Tubbs' great grandfather) back to the Revolutionary War era. I don't know what side he fought on, though. :-) Hopefully, the right one - i.e., the American side. (Sorry to my English friends). :-)

Feel free to share some of your genealogy findings in the comments section of this post.

And if you're looking for a resource to help you begin or improve your genealogy research, consider this guide.

Take care and Happy Researching!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Foreigners Who Served in the American Revolution

The American Revolution wasn't all about white male British subjects lifting up arms against the British Crown. In addition to women and African Americans whose contributions were indispensable, many foreigners cast their lot with the Founding Fathers and the Continental Army.

Roger Saunders, the Feature Writer-Columnist for American History at, wrote an excellent article on "Ten Foreign Men Who Played a Part in the American Revolution."

You can read the article by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why the Controversy Over Religion at the Inaugural?

Why the Controversy Over Religion at the Inauguration?
An Interview on "Bob Burney Live," WRFD, 880 AM, Columbus, OH (January 20, 2009)

The controversy over religion at the inauguration continues. That controversy ranges from the inclusion of "so help me God" at the end of the presidential oath to whether there should be prayers offered at the inaugural event.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by guest host David Stokes (sitting in for Bob Burney, host of "Bob Burney Live," a Columbus, Ohio based talk show). David Stokes is the pastor of Fair Oaks Church in Fairfax, Virginia (and, as such, is my former pastor) and is also a radio talk show personality in his own right, serving as primary host for "David Stokes Live." You can read more about him at his website.

This was my very first radio interview, so it wasn't mistake-free on my part. At one point, I tried to say "high, thick wall of separation between God and government" and it came out -- well, it came out a mess. At another point, I asserted that Washington "requested" the Bible to be sworn in on at his inauguration. To be fair, I don't know that to be true. I meant to say that Washington "utilized" the Bible and jumbled it up with "a Bible was requested for Washington's inauguration."

Those errors (and a few jitters) aside, I thought the interview came out well. You can download it by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chief Justice Roberts and the Presidential Oath

You have to feel a little bad for Chief Justice John Roberts. The fumbling of the presidential oath between incoming President Barack Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts lies squarely on the shoulders of the Chief Justice.

Not only is it the Chief Justice's responsibility to lead the new President through the oath, but it's also his responsibility to correctly administer the oath.

And yet Chief Justice Roberts incorrectly prompted the new President. Things got off to an awkward start when the Chief Justice and the incoming President seemed to be talking at the same time, as the Chief Justice asked Obama if he was ready. And things didn't get any better after that.

The presidential oath includes the phrase "that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States," but Roberts stuck "faithfully" at the end of the sentence instead. It created an awkward moment for Obama and for the inaugural event itself.

Now, let's show a little grace here. Tens of millions of people were watching and it was the first inauguration for Roberts as Chief Justice. It was an unfortunate error, and it's one he probably feels terrible about.

I know I've made my share of mistakes. So far, though, none of them had tens of millions of people around the world watching. :-)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

So WHAT if GW Didn't Say "So Help Me God"?

In a just a few days, Barack Obama will follow in the foot steps of previous Presidents from George W. Bush to George Washington and take the oath of office to become President of the United States. Will Obama say "so help me God"? There are many who hope he doesn't. And these same people claim that he shouldn't because (so they say) neither did George Washington.

What???? George Washington didn't say "so help me God"!?? That's their claim, and many of them are downright obsessed about it.

In addition to my writings here, I am a contributor to the blog American Creation, a group effort at discussing and debating the religious dimension to the origins of the United States.

One of the ongoing debates at American Creation is whether George Washington said "So Help Me God." A few AC contributors have become quite taken with this subject, increasingly believing that George Washington did NOT add "so help me God" at the end of his presidential oath. You can read up on the debate here and here.

And now Peter Henriquez, a George Mason University history professor, has added his two cents to the debate with an article titled "'So Help Me God': A George Washington Myth That Should be Discarded."

***See USA Today article: "No proof Washington Said 'So Help me God' - Will Obama?"***

Now, I'm the first to say that we should be honest in our portrayals of history, but I must admit a great deal of frustration at the agenda-driven nit-picking that's going on here.

Was George Washington a Man of Faith & Prayer?

Let's first understand what's really going on here. There's absolutely no question that George Washington sincerely and unequivocally believed in God and prayer. Any historian that questions this no longer deserves to be called a historian.

What's more, it's obvious to anyone with the slightest shred of objectivity and the barest knowledge of early American history that George Washington repeatedly called on the American people to ALSO believe in God and practice prayer.

One only needs to read Washington's circular letter to the states (after his resignation as General-in-Chief in the American Revolution), his First Inaugural Address, his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, and his Farewell Address to see the man's sincere faith in Providence and prayer.

If Washington had been an atheist or agnostic and religiously-motivated people had crafted a "so help me God" myth to make him into something he wasn't, THEN I would be much more sympathetic to this new revisionist effort. But, this is not the case. What we're dealing with here is the proverbial equivalent of a dispute over whether a lion can run 50 or 55 mph.

So, these claims that Washington didn't say "so help me God" at the first presidential oath are NOT driven by any desire to 'set the record straight' concerning Washington's religious faith.

Did Washington Ask for God's Help?

The next angle these revisionists take is that having "so help me God" as an official part of the presidential oath violates the Constitution -- and saying Washington added the words undercuts the Constitution.

First of all....let's get the history straight here. George Washington not only asked God for help at his inauguration, but he also asked the American people to pray for the nation and turn toward God with obedient hearts! Don't believe me? Read Washington's First Inaugural Address for yourself.

Even if George Washington didn't formally add "so help me God" to the oath, he most certainly expressed that very sentiment in his Inaugural Address...

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

Hmmmmmmmm....sounds kind of like Washington was asking for God's help. At least, that's how it sounded to me. And that's how it would sound to just about anyone, unless the person doesn't WANT Washington to believe in God.

Oh, and did you catch that first sentence and its implication? In case, you didn't, read it again....slowly....

"Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe..."

Now, what does Washington mean by "first official act"? Is he JUST talking about his Inaugural Address? Or is he perhaps talking about the overall inaugural ceremony? Call it a stretch, but isn't the OATH of office at least PART of an incoming President's first official act?

And this leads me to my last point....

The Cynic's Guide to Oral Tradition

It's true that we have no DIRECT evidence (in terms of sworn eyewitness accounts and such) that George Washington actually said "so help me God" at the end of his oath. We DO have INDIRECT evidence of this -- not the least of which would be decades of generally accepted historical tradition.

Herein lies a concern....we have become so cynical in our review and examination of past events that we sometimes (especially in matters of religion, it would seem) DEMAND - that's right, DEMAND! - absolute, 100%, scientifically-verifiable PROOF of something, before we believe it.

If that's going to be our standard, what happens to history? In fact, what happens to oral history? I'll tell you what's gone!

Why apply this standard if it's not necessary? And, if you're GOING to apply it, then be consistent -- and apply it to every area and across the board! And watch what happens to the study of history as a result.

The bottom line here is that no one can 100% prove (one way or the other) whether George Washington said "so help me God" at the end of his presidential oath. But we DO know that there is a historical tradition (dating back to the 1800s) that says he did. And....we know that saying "so help me God" was customary in western traditions. And...most importantly...that the phrase characterizes Washington's attitude toward Providence and faith.

This isn't really about whether Washington said "so help me God." This is really about atheists, agnostics, and other like-minded activists bitterly wanting to drive God and any reference to God out of the public square. THAT is what this is about.

Thankfully, President-elect Barack Obama isn't playing ball with that agenda. He has put a stop to some of this foolishness for now, by formally asking the Supreme Court Chief Justice to add "so help me God" to the oath.