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!