Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Alexander Hamilton on Voting

"A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law." -Alexander Hamilton

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lincoln Coming to the Big Screen...Will Washington be Next?

This November, Steven Spielberg brings the 16th President of the United States to the Big Screen with his epic Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Lincoln, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's bestselling Team of Rivals is already being talked about as an Oscar contender.

All Revolutionary War enthusiasts should go see this movie. Why? Not only to pay tribute to President Lincoln and enjoy a good movie by Spielberg, but also because Lincoln's box office success will increase the likelihood that our 1st President may finally make it to the Big Screen as well. Let's hope that Hollywood gives us a worthy and inspiring, big-budget Washington movie our nation's chief Founder deserves.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thomas Jefferson and Slavery

Thomas Jefferson stands in history as one of its most talented and influential figures as well as one of its most disappointing. Jefferson's soaring eloquence helped shape the ideals of the United States of America and laid the foundation for some of our nation's greatest achievements, including the eventual eradication of slavery. Yet Jefferson was a living paradox full of incredible complexity and contradiction, and it's this aspect of his character that leaves many historians scratching their heads and many Americans truly (and rightfully) disappointed. Most tragically, Jefferson's paradoxical character contributed to the continuation of slavery in the United States past the founding era, and planted some of the seeds of the American Civil War.

The National Museum of American History brings attention to this unfortunate aspect of Jefferson's legacy in an exhibition that began in January of this year and concludes next month. This exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty,” addresses head on the fundamental contradiction between Jefferson's ideals and Jefferson's life as a slave owner.

If there were simply a contradiction between words and deeds, we might understand this. After all, we all, at times, struggle with bringing our lives into conformity with our standards and beliefs. We are all, at times, living contradictions. But, in Jefferson's case, the contradiction is especially tragic, since slavery was not merely an academic subject, but an issue that affected the fate of millions of people. What's more, Jefferson seemed at first to embrace his unique place in history. He denounced slavery in many of his early writings, including his original draft of the Declaration of Independence and supported key restrictions on slavery in the territories.

In "The Little Known Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson," a highly informative article for the Smithsonian, historian Henry Wiencek explains: "The very existence of slavery in the era of the American Revolution presents a paradox, and we have largely been content to leave it at that, since a paradox can offer a comforting state of moral suspended animation. Jefferson animates the paradox."

In the 1770s and 1780s, Jefferson found himself in the vanguard of Upper South slave owners who were increasingly conscientious about their part in the abhorrent institution and determined to do something about it. Yet Jefferson declined to go the distance with this group of evolving abolitionists, instead turning back to accept (and arguably embrace and defend) a practice that he knew, deep down, was morally repugnant. George Washington would go the distance, completing his intellectual and spiritual journey on slavery, by coming out on the right side of history. Not so Jefferson. "Somewhere in a short span of years during the 1780s and into the early 1790s, a transformation came over Jefferson," writes Wiencek.

Politicians of course change their views all the time. We shouldn't be surprised at this, but the stakes are so much greater in this particular reversal. Not only that, but this isn't like someone shifting his stand on tariff policy. This is an issue that deals with the value and dignity of human life. It's a core issue that speaks to the very heart of the human race and the American experiment that Jefferson helped shape. A reversal on an issue of that magnitude is not easily justified or forgiven, especially since it arguably had such tragic ramifications for millions of people. Some may protest that Jefferson never truly went from being a budding abolitionist all the way back to pro-slavery activist. This may be true, but his public silence on the issue after the 1790s and his continued personal participation qualifies as acceptance and thus constitutes a significant reversal from the commendable ideological trajectory the Virginian had been on in the 1770s and 80s.

In his controversial (but largely accurate) book Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America, historian Thomas G. West documents the clear progression against slavery during the founding era. West shows that, far from institutionalizing or perpetuating slavery, the Founding Fathers of the United States should be credited with rolling back and, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, putting slavery on the "course of ultimate extinction." Unfortunately, the Founders' progress against slavery was checked (and, in the Deep South, reversed) by the introduction of Eli Whitney's cotton gin and the ideological reversal of figures like Thomas Jefferson. Had the anti-slavery momentum generated by the Founding Fathers in the early years of our Republic continued unabated, it's likely slavery would have ended long before it did and the American Civil War could have been avoided. Sadly, that was not the case and Thomas Jefferson is one of the leading reasons why. His legacy is thus forever tarnished because of it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises vs the French Revolution

The Dark Knight Rises, the third film in Christopher Nolan's much-celebrated Batman trilogy, is kicking butt at the box office. Those who see the film, particularly those with any sense of historical knowledge, will note how its story borrows heavily from class warfare themes as well as the events of the French Revolution. Accordingly, many analysts are suggesting The Dark Knight Rises may be the most conservative blockbuster of 2012. That is certainly what columnist and talk show host Jerry Bowyer argues in...

Whether this was the intent of Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer (the men behind The Dark Knight Rises story) is unclear, but it's certainly hard to argue with some of Bowyer's points. 

Have you seen The Dark Knight Rises? If so, what do you think?

Monday, July 16, 2012

George Washington vs. the Occupy Movement

Think the Occupy movement is an exclusively 21st century thing? Think again. George Washington tangled with his own "Occupiers" in his day. In Washington's case, the "Occupiers" were squatters who insisted on their right to stay on his land. Here his an article that covers this interesting episode in Washington's life...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Independence Day vs Bastille Day (or Why the American Revolution is Vastly Superior to the French Revolution)

July 14 is Bastille Day, a day many French celebrate as a symbol of their liberation from monarchy and the beginning of their journey toward a republic. Culturally, it is the French equivalent to America's Fourth of July. Objectively speaking, it is anything but. Bastille Day is to respectable national birthdays what an Asylum "mockbuster" is to a full-fledged Hollywood production. (For those unfamiliar with that inside reference, the Asylum is a low-budget independent film company that produces cheap B-movie knockoffs of Hollywood hit films). For that matter, this is probably an insult to Asylum, because real people aren't hurt in the production of their movies.

Real people were indeed hurt on July 14, 1789. The day's events began when angry protesters demanded the surrender of the Bastille, a medieval prison-fortress in Paris. The Bastille was notorious for its ties to royal authority and had become a symbol for the worst of monarchical oppression. It also contained arms and gunpowder. The governor of the fortress at first refused. And when the crowd pushed in, violence broke out. Close to a hundred protesters lost their lives in the confused melee, transforming what had been an angry crowd of belligerents into an enraged, homicidal mob. When the fortress commander saw that his situation was hopeless, he tried to negotiate a surrender, but the mob would have none of it. He capitulated unconditionally. While most of the garrison's lives were spared, a handful weren't so fortunate. They were savagely murdered, their corpses mutilated, and their heads placed on pikes.

The day Americans have chosen to celebrate for their birthday is not characterized by violence, not even by dumping tea into a harbor. It's, in fact, not even the day that the Continental Congress technically voted for independence. That would be July 2, which John Adams was sure would go down as America's birthday. The American people have chosen to celebrate the Fourth of July as their Independence Day because it was the day Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, a document that clearly lays out the reasons for their break with Britain and the principles and ideals of the newly formed United States of America.

Every nation deserves of course to celebrate its birthday. And while I do not begrudge anyone the right to celebrate the positive aspects of their nation's heritage (we Americans do this ourselves after all), I honestly do not see anything worthy of celebrating when it comes to Bastille Day. It would be more understandable (and more respectable) for the French to celebrate the famous Tennis Court Oath or the formation of the National Assembly or the signing of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen." These developments were far more consequential to the sustained acknowledgment of human rights in France or the achievement of a stable Republic than a brutal mob attack on a medieval fortress with seven inmates! 

If the mob's brutality on that first Bastille Day were an aberration, that would be one thing. But it wasn't. French mobs continued to terrorize the people of France for years to come. It was said that the streets of Paris ran with blood. Revolutionaries would turn on themselves before it was all over. While the symbol of the American Revolution might properly be the Liberty Bell or the "Minuteman" volunteer, few would deny that the symbol most associated with the French Revolution is the guillotine. And yet, knowing this, the French perpetuate the remembrance of the more gruesome aspects of their Revolution by continuing to celebrate July 14 as their La FĂȘte Nationale. It is truly unfortunate. 

No one is of course suggesting that there wasn't violence in the American Revolution or that there weren't mobs. Nor is anyone saying that all the colonists in America were temperate philosophers while all French revolutionaries were violent anarchists. But there was a greater degree of deliberation and restraint evident in the American Revolution than in the French Revolution, and I think the date that each respective nation has chosen as its national day of celebration tells a story as to why that is the case. 

I mean no disrespect to the people of France. On the contrary, I appreciate their nation's moving from monarchy to republic (just as America did). And I have no problem with French citizens today celebrating this transition. But the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 is not among their nation's finer moments. It was a tragic episode that helped usher in years of even more tragedy for the French people. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

George Washington's First Fourth of July

Prior to 1776, the Fourth of July was not a date for which George Washington was particularly fond. The third and fourth days of July in 1754 represented one of Washington's lowest points as a soldier. The following article, written by John Ransom, shines a spotlight on Washington's colorful, if not entirely flattering, role in triggering the French and Indian War and leading his troops into defeat. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Baltimore, MD Kicking Off War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebration

The first and only major invasion of the mainland United States took place during the War of 1812, and the city of Baltimore played a major part in that critical (and painful) chapter in U.S. history. To highlight the city's heritage and its role in the conflict, Baltimore is kicking off a Bicentennial Celebration of the War of 1812 this month. It all starts with a “Star-Spangled Sailabration” between June 13 and 19, 2012. To read more, click on the link below...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Yorktown Victory Center to Get a New Name

The Board of Trustees of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation approved a new name for the Yorktown Victory Center. Visitors to the Yorktown battle site will soon experience the "American Revolution Museum at Yorktown." The new name will go into effect upon completion of the physical transformation that Yorktown's museum and center are now undergoing.

According to a press release issued by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, construction will begin in the second half of 2012 and will entail "an 80,000-square-foot structure that will encompass expanded exhibition galleries, classrooms and support functions, and reorganization of the 22-acre site, located at Route 1020 and the Colonial Parkway in Yorktown." The total cost is estimated at $46 million and will be funded primarily by sale of Virginia Public Building Authority bonds. Private donations will fund gallery and outdoor exhibits.

“The new name highlights the core offering of the museum, American Revolution history,” said Frank B. Atkinson, who chaired the naming study task force comprised of 11 members of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc., boards, “and the inclusion of the word ‘Yorktown’ provides a geographical anchor.  We arrived at this choice through a methodical process that began with compiling an extensive list of potential names, engaging our Museums and Programs Advisory Council and Foundation staff.  Key elements to include in the name were identified, and research was undertaken on names currently in use.  Selected names were tested with Yorktown Victory Center visitors and reviewed by a trademark attorney and branding consultant.”

“This name ideally reflects what we aim to achieve with the new museum,” said Foundation Chairman H. Benson Dendy III.  “The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown will provide a renewed perspective on the meaning and impact of the Revolution and will have a nationally important role, along with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the National Park Service and other Historic Triangle partners, in interpreting events that transformed 13 British colonies into the United States of America.”

As the official press release noted, the Yorktown Victory Center has enjoyed "36 years of continuous operation" in which it has hosted "5.3 million visitors and has served more than 900,000 students with curriculum-based structured educational programs." In the early 1990s, the focus of the museum broadened to include the entire period, not just the events leading to Lord Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown.

The Yorktown Victory Center will remain in operation during construction.  The existing buildings will be demolished after the new building is complete, and new permanent gallery exhibits will be fabricated and installed after the new building is in use.  Upon completion of the entire project, with the new exhibition galleries ready for visitors, “American Revolution Museum at Yorktown” will be the museum’s name.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Washington Invokes God at First Inaugural

"[I]t 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 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." 
--George Washington paying homage to God in his First Inaugural Address, delivered in New York on April 30, 1789. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Would You Listen to a Free History Podcast?

Are you interested in a free podcast on the American Revolution? I am very seriously considering the possibility of launching a free history podcast centered on the American Revolutionary War. Episodes of this history podcast would be roughly 15-20 minutes in length, the right length I believe for today's busy consumers. The podcast would be ideal for people on the go. You can listen to the episodes on your iPod or mp3 player while you walk or exercise at the gym -- or while you drive to and from work.

The podcast episodes will be:

  • Book Reviews
  • Interviews with Experts, Authors, etc.
  • Short History Lessons (like "Three Shocking Secrets from the Battle of Yorktown," "The Real Reason the Colonies Declared Independence - It Wasn't About Taxes!" and so forth
This podcast series will cost me time and money, so I'm only going to do it if there's sufficient interest. Please vote in the survey that's off to the right hand side of this blog post, and feel free to comment on this blog post. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sorry for the Glitch

Hello Faithful Readers,

The American Revolution & Founding Era blog was down for several days, due to a glitch with Google Blogger. One of their automated systems triggered this blog as "spam" and shut it down. I appealed. They restored the blog. So, we're back in business. I want to thank Google Blogger for restoring the blog. They did answer my appeal in a very timely manner, and I appreciate that. 

To my readers, I apologize for the disruption and inconvenience. I am making some changes to the blog in the hopes that this won't happen again. 

God bless you!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Assassin's Creed III Takes on the American Revolution

The mega bestselling Assassin's Creed game franchise turns its attention to the American Revolution with Assassin's Creed III, set to be launched in October 2012. Set in 18th century North America, Assassin's Creed 3 places you in the role of a Native American assassin fighting to safeguard his people and his land. As a Native American assassin, your job is to hunt down British redcoats utilizing an array of weapons including bows, tomahawks, guns, and much more.

The Assassin's Creed franchise is known for its super-powerful gaming graphics, incredible animations, and immersive player experiences. The franchise is understandably not without its critics as many people are not too comfortable with a game that encourages you to play the part of an assassin. Speaking for myself, I find it difficult to argue with such critics. I have never played an Assassin's Creed game for that very reason. I mention it here in this blog simply to update my readers on the fact that the American Revolution will be the focus of a major video game. If Assassin's Creed 3 sparks renewed interest in the most important period of American history, then something worthwhile will have been accomplished.

Since Assassin's Creed III is months away from release, I cannot comment on how Ubisoft will handle the setting of the American Revolutionary War. In its promo material, the company says it will expose the "truth of the American Revolution." I find it difficult to believe that a video game will accomplish what eminent historians over the years have (according to Ubisoft's implication) "failed" to achieve. Anyone who would seriously look to a video game for an accurate depiction of history is in need of some major help. A video game is all about entertainment, and that's how consumers will ultimately judge the Assassin's Creed 3 game

Friday, March 02, 2012

EBook on George Washington is an Amazon Top 100 Bestseller!

For the last few weeks, my eBook on George Washington's Christian faith, Was George Washington a Christian?, has been an Amazon bestseller. As of March 2, 2012, it is a bestseller in the following categories:

#15 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Church & State
#26 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > People, A-Z > ( W ) > Washington, George
#59 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Church & State

I'm very excited about this and I want to thank all of you who have downloaded the eBook, either during its free promotion or for its regular price. As you can tell from the regular price, I didn't write it to get rich. :-)  I wrote it because I care deeply about the subject and want to do my part to set the record straight.

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding George Washington's faith. Some want to make him out to be a D.L. Moody type. Others say he was a "Roman Stoic" or "Deist." My eBook, while brief, is written to give you the facts. If you want a quick read that costs less than a medium-sized fountain soda, this is for you.

God bless you!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Was George Washington a Christian? Free eBook Available Feb 28 and 29

Was George Washington a Christian? Was George Washington a Deist? Did George Washington pray? How should we understand the faith of George Washington? These questions and more are addressed in an eBook I recently wrote, which examines the faith of George Washington, the man I believe to be the greatest of our Founding Fathers and the most important leader in American history. 

If you act today (February 28) or tomorrow (February 29), you can discover the facts by getting a free copy of my short eBook Was George Washington a Christian? In order to take advantage of this offer, you need to do the following three things:

  • Sign up for an Amazon account (if you don't already have one)
  • Download a free Kindle app. The free Kindle app can be used to read Amazon Kindle eBooks on your PC, tablet (like an iPad) or smart phone. You just need to go to the following link for information and instructions... Free Kindle Reading Apps
  • Once you have a Kindle reading app (or a physical Kindle), you just need to "purchase" my eBook for free and then download it to your PC or device.
Since the eBook is short, it is not available as a print book at this time. I may do an expanded version later, and make that available for print, but right now, it's only available as an eBook for the Amazon Kindle or an Amazon Kindle reading application.
Since you're getting this eBook for NO COST, I would like to ask the following of you...
Please leave a review on its Amazon sales page.
Your review can be as simple as 1 or 2 sentences. It doesn't have to be anything extensive. But leaving this review will really help other readers make an informed decision about whether to invest in this resource. And it will help me out. Even if your comments are negative, I can take those into account for updates and revisions. All I ask is that negative reviews be constructive.

Please note that this offer is available only for February 28 and 29, 2012. After that, the price returns to $1.76 (which is still quite a bargain).
I hope you enjoy the eBook. And, again, please leave a review. Thank you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Suzanne Fields on George Washington

On this Washington's Birthday holiday, I thought I'd share a great article about the father of our country. It's written by columnist Suzanne Fields and appears over at Townhall.com.

"Lessons from George Washington" 
by Suzanne Fields

Only Americans of a certain age remember what the holiday on the third Monday in February is all about. I asked a few high-school students the other day what it is, exactly, we celebrate with "Presidents Day." One young man suggested that it was about selling used cars, since there are so many newspaper advertisements and television commercials announcing "birthday sales."

So much for the original inspiration for the long winter weekend, and a holiday first meant to honor the father of our country on Feb. 22. It wasn't always so....

To continue reading, head over to "Lessons from George Washington" at Townhall.com.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Disappearance of the Prison Ship Pack Horse

The Disappearance of the Prison Ship Pack Horse
by G.G. Stokes, Jr.

A sultry day in August, 1782, Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The cargo of humanity chained and sweltering in the hold of the prison-ship, Pack Horse, stirs and sits erect on their mattresses of mildewed and filthy straw. They cast anxious glances at one another as the sounds of the anchor being weighed fills the air. Their eyes, questioning and wondering, roam across the planking overhead where the pounding of bare feet on wood can be heard as British crewmen scurry along the deck and up into the rigging to unfurl the dingy, long unused sails of the prison schooner Pack Horse. Muffled orders, shouted from the bridge by an unknown Captain, float on the oppressive air of the harbor. Suddenly, there is the unmistakable feel of movement as the ship gets under way. A sense of dread fills the hold. After more than a year, the Pack Horse is moving. Under the escort of a British frigate, and as a part of a convoy of merchant ships, the Pack Horse sails quietly across Charleston Harbor, slips over the bar, and scurries out to sea. The convoy is heading for New York.

Three days later, as night falls, the prison ship quietly blends into the darkness and disappears from history. Not until August 20, 1852 does it resurface in a report made to the Senate of the 32nd Congress by a Mr. James. The next year, 1853, it appears in articles in The New York Times and The Charleston Courier before it again slips away from the national consciousness. In 1860 the story resurfaces in a pamphlet entitled A Brief Memoir of the Life and Revolutionary Services of Major William Hazzard Wigg of South Carolina. The pamphlet is an effort by the grandson of one of the prisoners to obtain compensation for the Revolutionary War losses of his grandfather, Major William Hazzard Wigg. Some of those losses involve slaves. Quietly, as Civil War threatens the nation, the memory of the Pack Horse once again sinks from sight....

To read the rest of this article, go to "The Disappearance of the Prison Ship Pack Horse" over at GeorgiaWriter.com

Thursday, January 26, 2012

John Tyler's Grandchildren Still Alive

I realize John Tyler is a little beyond the founding era that this blog is focused around, but this article I read is too good to pass up. I'm sure some of my readers would be interested....

Former President John Tyler's Grandchildren Still Alive
by Eric Pfeiffer

Former President John Tyler, born 221 years ago, still has two living grandchildren. The one-term president isn't a well-known historical figure; he's probably best remembered for helping to push through the annexation of Texas in 1845, shortly before leaving office.
So, how is it possible that a former president who died 150 years ago would still have direct descendents alive today? As it turns out, the Tyler men were known for fathering children late in life. And that math is pretty outstanding when added up...
To continue reading this article, click here.