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.