OTD in history… July 16, 1964, Conservative Barry Goldwater accepts Republican presidential nomination

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in history… July 16, 1964, Conservative Barry Goldwater accepts Republican presidential nomination

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Getty Images

On this day in history July 16, 1964, the Republican Party nominates Conservative Barry Goldwater, a Senator from Arizona for president; Goldwater ushered in the Republican Party’s longtime association with conservatism. The primaries pit Goldwater against moderate Nelson Rockefeller of New York, with Goldwater emerging with enough support for the nomination, however, throughout the campaign the two factions of the party remained fractured. In his acceptance speech, Goldwater claimed, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” The Democrats led by incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson portrayed Goldwater as an extremist, notably depicting that to the public with their Daisy commercial, claiming Goldwater would start a nuclear war.

Johnson would go on to win the election with a landslide and the largest share of the popular vote in modern American history. Despite his loss, Goldwater’s nomination realigned the Republican Party geographically, with the Sunbelt and the South turning Republican red after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The real star of the Republican presidential campaign in 1964 was former actor Ronald Reagan, who delivered his televised Time for Choosing speech in October, launching his political career. Goldwater’s nomination started the Republican Party’s alignment with the modern conservative movement, leading to Reagan’s election in 1980 and has remained a driving force in Republican politics.

READ MORE

Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. New York: Nation Books, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Goldwater’s 1964 Acceptance Speech

 

Source: WaPo

Provided by the Arizona Historical Foundation

To my good friend and great Republican, Dick Nixon, and your charming wife, Pat; my running mate and that wonderful Republican who has served us well for so long, Bill Miller and his wife, Stephanie; to Thurston Morton who has done such a commendable job in chairmaning this Convention; to Mr. Herbert Hoover, who I hope is watching; and to that great American and his wife, General and Mrs. Eisenhower; to my own wife, my family, and to all of my fellow Republicans here assembled, and Americans across this great Nation.

From this moment, united and determined, we will go forward together, dedicated to the ultimate and undeniable greatness of the whole man. Together we will win.

I accept your nomination with a deep sense of humility. I accept, too, the responsibility that goes with it, and I seek your continued help and your continued guidance. My fellow Republicans, our cause is too great for any man to feel worthy of it. Our task would be too great for any man, did he not have with him the heart and the hands of this great Republican Party, and I promise you tonight that every fiber of my being is consecrated to our cause; that nothing shall be lacking from the struggle that can be brought to it by enthusiasm, by devotion, and plain hard work. In this world no person, no party can guarantee anything, but what we can do and what we shall do is to deserve victory, and victory will be ours.

The good Lord raised this mighty Republic to be a home for the brave and to flourish as the land of the free-not to stagnate in the swampland of collectivism, not to cringe before the bully of communism.

Now, my fellow Americans, the tide has been running against freedom. Our people have followed false prophets. We must, and we shall, return to proven ways– not because they are old, but because they are true. We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom – freedom made orderly for this nation by our constitutional government; freedom under a government limited by laws of nature and of nature’s God; freedom – balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the license of the mob and of the jungle.

Now, we Americans understand freedom. We have earned it, we have lived for it, and we have died for it. This Nation and its people are freedom’s model in a searching world. We can be freedom’s missionaries in a doubting world. But, ladies and gentlemen, first we must renew freedom’s mission in our own hearts and in our own homes.

During four futile years, the administration which we shall replace has distorted and lost that faith. It has talked and talked and talked and talked the words of freedom. Now, failures cement the wall of shame in Berlin. Failures blot the sands of shame at the Bay of Pigs. Failures mark the slow death of freedom in Laos. Failures infest the jungles of Vietnam. And failures haunt the houses of our once great alliances and undermine the greatest bulwark ever erected by free nations – the NATO community. Failures proclaim lost leadership, obscure purpose, weakening wills, and the risk of inciting our sworn enemies to new aggressions and to new excesses. Because of this administration we are tonight a world divided – we are a Nation becalmed. We have lost the brisk pace of diversity and the genius of individual creativity. We are plodding at a pace set by centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibility, and regimentation without recourse.

Rather than useful jobs in our country, people have been offered bureaucratic “make work,” rather than moral leadership, they have been given bread and circuses, spectacles, and, yes, they have even been given scandals. Tonight there is violence in our streets, corruption in our highest offices, aimlessness among our youth, anxiety among our elders and there is a virtual despair among the many who look beyond material success for the inner meaning of their lives. Where examples of morality should be set, the opposite is seen. Small men, seeking great wealth or power, have too often and too long turned even the highest levels of public service into mere personal opportunity.

Now, certainly, simple honesty is not too much to demand of men in government. We find it in most. Republicans demand it from everyone. They demand it from everyone no matter how exalted or protected his position might be. The growing menace in our country tonight, to personal safety, to life, to limb and property, in homes, in churches, on the playgrounds, and places of business, particularly in our great cities, is the mounting concern, or should be, of every thoughtful citizen in the United States.

Security from domestic violence, no less than from foreign aggression, is the most elementary and fundamental purpose of any government, and a government that cannot fulfill that purpose is one that cannot long command the loyalty of its citizens. History shows us – demonstrates that nothing – nothing prepares the way for tyranny more than the failure of public officials to keep the streets from bullies and marauders.

Now, we Republicans see all this as more, much more, than the rest: of mere political differences or mere political mistakes. We see this as the result of a fundamentally and absolutely wrong view of man, his nature and his destiny. Those who seek to live your lives for you, to take your liberties in return for relieving you of yours, those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for divine will, and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.

Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.

Fellow Republicans, it is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism. It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people. And, so help us God, that is exactly what a Republican president will do with the help of a Republican Congress.

It is further the cause of Republicanism to restore a clear understanding of the tyranny of man over man in the world at large. It is our cause to dispel the foggy thinking which avoids hard decisions in the illusion that a world of conflict will somehow mysteriously resolve itself into a world of harmony, if we just don’t rock the boat or irritate the forces of aggression – and this is hogwash.

It is further the cause of Republicanism to remind ourselves, and the world, that only the strong can remain free, that only the strong can keep the peace.

Now, I needn’t remind you, or my fellow Americans regardless of party, that Republicans have shouldered this hard responsibility and marched in this cause before. It was Republican leadership under Dwight Eisenhower that kept the peace, and passed along to this administration the mightiest arsenal for defense the world has ever known. And I needn’t remind you that it was the strength and the unbelievable will of the Eisenhower years that kept the peace by using our strength, by using it in the Formosa Straits and in Lebanon and by showing it courageously at all times.

It was during those Republican years that the thrust of Communist imperialism was blunted. It was during those years of Republican leadership that this world moved closer, not to war, but closer to peace, than at any other time in the three decades just passed.

And I needn’t remind you – but I will – that it’s been during Democratic years that our strength to deter war has stood still, and even gone into a planned decline. It has been during Democratic years that we have weakly stumbled into conflict, timidly refusing to draw our own lines against aggression, deceitfully refusing to tell even our people of our full participation, and tragically, letting our finest men die on battlefields (unmarked by purpose, unmarked by pride or the prospect of victory).

Yesterday it was Korea. Tonight it is Vietnam. Make no bones of this. Don’t try to sweep this under the rug. We are at war in Vietnam. And yet the President, who is Commander-in-Chief of our forces, refuses to say – refuses to say, mind you, whether or not the objective over there is victory. And his Secretary of Defense continues to mislead and misinform the American people, and enough of it has gone by.

And I needn’t remind you, but I will; it has been during Democratic years that a billion persons were cast into Communist captivity and their fate cynically sealed.

Today in our beloved country we have an administration which seems eager to deal with communism in every coin known – from gold to wheat, from consulates to confidence, and even human freedom itself.

The Republican cause demands that we brand communism as a principal disturber of peace in the world today. Indeed, we should brand it as the only significant disturber of the peace, and we must make clear that until its goals of conquest are absolutely renounced and its rejections with all nations tempered, communism and the governments it now controls are enemies of every man on earth who is or wants to be free.

We here in America can keep the peace only if we remain vigilant and only if we remain strong. Only if we keep our eyes open and keep our guard up can we prevent war. And I want to make this abundantly clear – I don’t intend to let peace or freedom be torn from our grasp because of lack of strength or lack of will – and that I promise you Americans.

I believe that we must look beyond the defense of freedom today to its extension tomorrow. I believe that the communism which boasts it will bury us will, instead, give way to the forces of freedom. And I can see in the distant and yet recognizable future the outlines of a world worthy our dedication, our every risk, our every effort, our every sacrifice along the way. Yes, a world that will redeem the suffering of those who will be liberated from tyranny. I can see and I suggest that all thoughtful men must contemplate the flowering of an Atlantic civilization, the whole world of Europe unified and free, trading openly across its borders, communicating openly across the world. This is a goal far, far more meaningful than a moon shot.

It’s a truly inspiring goal for all free men to set for themselves during the latter half of the twentieth century. I can also see – and all free men must thrill to – the events of this Atlantic civilization joined by its great ocean highway to the United States. What a destiny, what a destiny can be ours to stand as a great central pillar linking Europe, the Americans and the venerable and vital peoples and cultures of the Pacific. I can see a day when all the Americas, North and South, will be linked in a mighty system, a system in which the errors and misunderstandings of the past will be submerged one by one in a rising tide of prosperity and interdependence. We know that the misunderstandings of centuries are not to be wiped away in a day or wiped away in an hour. But we pledge – we pledge that human sympathy – what our neighbors to the South call that attitude of “simpatico” – no less than enlightened self’-interest will be our guide.

I can see this Atlantic civilization galvanizing and guiding emergent nations everywhere.

I know this freedom is not the fruit of every soil. I know that our own freedom was achieved through centuries, by unremitting efforts by brave and wise men. I know that the road to freedom is a long and a challenging road. I know also that some men may walk away from it, that some men resist challenge, accepting the false security of governmental paternalism.

And I pledge that the America I envision in the years ahead will extend its hand in health, in teaching and in cultivation, so that all new nations will be at least encouraged to go our way, so that they will not wander down the dark alleys of tyranny or to the dead-end streets of collectivism. My fellow Republicans, we do no man a service by hiding freedom’s light under a bushel of mistaken humility.

I seek an American proud of its past, proud of its ways, proud of its dreams, and determined actively to proclaim them. But our example to the world must, like charity, begin at home.

In our vision of a good and decent future, free and peaceful, there must be room for deliberation of the energy and talent of the individual – otherwise our vision is blind at the outset.

We must assure a society here which, while never abandoning the needy or forsaking the helpless, nurtures incentives and opportunity for the creative and the productive. We must know the whole good is the product of many single contributions.

I cherish a day when our children once again will restore as heroes the sort of men and women who – unafraid and undaunted – pursue the truth, strive to cure disease, subdue and make fruitful our natural environment and produce the inventive engines of production, science, and technology.

This Nation, whose creative people have enhanced this entire span of history, should again thrive upon the greatness of all those things which we, as individual citizens, can and should do. During Republican years, this again will be a nation of men and women, of families proud of their role, jealous of their responsibilities, unlimited in their aspirations – a Nation where all who can will be self-reliant.

We Republicans see in our constitutional form of government the great framework which assures the orderly but dynamic fulfillment of the whole man, and we see the whole man as the great reason for instituting orderly government in the first place.

We see, in private property and in economy based upon and fostering private property, the one way to make government a durable ally of the whole man, rather than his determined enemy. We see in the sanctity of private property the only durable foundation for constitutional government in a free society. And beyond that, we see, in cherished diversity of ways, diversity of thoughts, of motives and accomplishments. We do not seek to lead anyone’s life for him – we seek only to secure his rights and to guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.

We Republicans seek a government that attends to its inherent responsibilities of maintaining a stable monetary and fiscal climate, encouraging a free and a competitive economy and enforcing law and order. Thus do we seek inventiveness, diversity, and creativity within a stable order, for we Republicans define government’s role where needed at many, many levels, preferably through the one closest to the people involved.

Our towns and our cities, then our counties, then our states, then our regional contacts – and only then, the national government. That, let me remind you, is the ladder of liberty, built by decentralized power. On it also we must have balance between the branches of government at every level.

Balance, diversity, creativity – these are the elements of Republican equation. Republicans agree, Republicans agree heartily to disagree on many, many of their applications, but we have never disagreed on the basic fundamental issues of why you and I are Republicans.

This is a party, this Republican Party, a Party for free men, not for blind followers, and not for conformists.

Back in 1858 Abraham Lincoln said this of the Republican party – and I quote him, because he probably could have said it during the last week or so: “It was composed of strained, discordant, and even hostile elements” in 1858. Yet all of these elements agreed on one paramount objective: To arrest the progress of slavery, and place it in the course of ultimate extinction.

Today, as then, but more urgently and more broadly than then, the task of preserving and enlarging freedom at home and safeguarding it from the forces of tyranny abroad is great enough to challenge all our resources and to require all our strength. Anyone who joins us in all sincerity, we welcome. Those who do not care for our cause, we don’t expect to enter our ranks in any case. And let our Republicanism, so focused and so dedicated, not be made fuzzy and futile by unthinking and stupid labels.

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

The beauty of the very system we Republicans are pledged to restore and revitalize, the beauty of this Federal system of ours is in its reconciliation of diversity with unity. We must not see malice in honest differences of opinion, and no matter how great, so long as they are not inconsistent with the pledges we have given to each other in and through our Constitution. Our Republican cause is not to level out the world or make its people conform in computer regimented sameness. Our Republican cause is to free our people and light the way for liberty throughout the world.

Ours is a very human cause for very humane goals.

This Party, its good people, and its unquestionable devotion to freedom, will not fulfill the purposes of this campaign which we launch here now until our cause has won the day, inspired the world, and shown the way to a tomorrow worthy of all our yesteryears.

I repeat, I accept your nomination with humbleness, with pride, and you and I are going to fight for the goodness of our land. Thank you.

Advertisements

OTD in History… July 15, 1960, John F. Kennedy accepts the Democratic presidential nomination

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

Address of Senator John F. Kennedy Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States – Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

July 15, 1960

Governor Stevenson, Senator Johnson, Mr. Butler, Senator Symington, Senator Humphrey, Speaker Rayburn, Fellow Democrats, I want to express my thanks to Governor Stevenson for his generous and heart-warming introduction.

It was my great honor to place his name in nomination at the 1956 Democratic Convention, and I am delighted to have his support and his counsel and his advice in the coming months ahead.

With a deep sense of duty and high resolve, I accept your nomination.

I accept it with a full and grateful heart–without reservation–and with only one obligation–the obligation to devote every effort of body, mind and spirit to lead our Party back to victory and our Nation back to greatness.

I am grateful, too, that you have provided me with such an eloquent statement of our Party’s platform. Pledges which are made so eloquently are made to be kept. “The Rights of Man”–the civil and economic rights essential to the human dignity of all men–are indeed our goal and our first principles. This is a Platform on which I can run with enthusiasm and conviction.

And I am grateful, finally, that I can rely in the coming months on so many others–on a distinguished running-mate who brings unity to our ticket and strength to our Platform, Lyndon Johnson–on one of the most articulate statesmen of our time, Adlai Stevenson–on a great spokesman for our needs as a Nation and a people, Stuart Symington–and on that fighting campaigner whose support I welcome, President Harry S. Truman– on my traveling companion in Wisconsin and West Virginia, Senator Hubert Humphrey. On Paul Butler, our devoted and courageous Chairman.

I feel a lot safer now that they are on my side again. And I am proud of the contrast with our Republican competitors. For their ranks are apparently so thin that not one challenger has come forth with both the competence and the courage to make theirs an open convention.

I am fully aware of the fact that the Democratic Party, by nominating someone of my faith, has taken on what many regard as a new and hazardous risk–new, at least since 1928. But I look at it this way: the Democratic Party has once again placed its confidence in the American people, and in their ability to render a free, fair judgment. And you have, at the same time, placed your confidence in me, and in my ability to render a free, fair judgment–to uphold the Constitution and my oath of office–and to reject any kind of religious pressure or obligation that might directly or indirectly interfere with my conduct of the Presidency in the national interest. My record of fourteen years supporting public education–supporting complete separation of church and state–and resisting pressure from any source on any issue should be clear by now to everyone.

I hope that no American, considering the really critical issues facing this country, will waste his franchise by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant. I want to stress, what some other political or religious leader may have said on this subject. It is not relevant what abuses may have existed in other countries or in other times. It is not relevant what pressures, if any, might conceivably be brought to bear on me. I am telling you now what you are entitled to know: that my decisions on any public policy will be my own–as an American, a Democrat and a free man.

Under any circumstances, however, the victory we seek in November will not be easy. We all know that in our hearts. We recognize the power of the forces that will be aligned against us. We know they will invoke the name of Abraham Lincoln on behalf of their candidate–despite the fact that the political career of their candidate has often seemed to show charity toward none and malice for all.

We know that it will not be easy to campaign against a man who has spoken or voted on every known side of every known issue. Mr. Nixon may feel it is his turn now, after the New Deal and the Fair Deal–but before he deals, someone had better cut the cards.

That “someone” may be the millions of Americans who voted for President Eisenhower but balk at his would be, self-appointed successor. For just as historians tell us that Richard I was not fit to fill the shoes of bold Henry II–and that Richard Cromwell was not fit to wear the mantle of his uncle–they might add in future years that Richard Nixon did not measure to the footsteps of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Perhaps he could carry on the party policies–the policies of Nixon, Benson, Dirksen and Goldwater. But this Nation cannot afford such a luxury. Perhaps we could better afford a Coolidge following Harding. And perhaps we could afford a Pierce following Fillmore. But after Buchanan this nation needed a Lincoln–after Taft we needed a Wilson–after Hoover we needed Franklin Roosevelt. . . . And after eight years of drugged and fitful sleep, this nation needs strong, creative Democratic leadership in the White House.

But we are not merely running against Mr. Nixon. Our task is not merely one of itemizing Republican failures. Nor is that wholly necessary. For the families forced from the farm will know how to vote without our telling them. The unemployed miners and textile workers will know how to vote. The old people without medical care–the families without a decent home–the parents of children without adequate food or schools–they all know that it’s time for a change.

But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high–to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.

Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.

Abroad, the balance of power is shifting. There are new and more terrible weapons–new and uncertain nations–new pressures of population and deprivation. One-third of the world, it has been said, may be free–but one-third is the victim of cruel repression–and the other one- third is rocked by the pangs of poverty, hunger and envy. More energy is released by the awakening of these new nations than by the fission of the atom itself.

Meanwhile, Communist influence has penetrated further into Asia, stood astride the Middle East and now festers some ninety miles off the coast of Florida. Friends have slipped into neutrality–and neutrals into hostility. As our keynoter reminded us, the President who began his career by going to Korea ends it by staying away from Japan.

The world has been close to war before–but now man, who has survived all previous threats to his existence, has taken into his mortal hands the power to exterminate the entire species some seven times over.

Here at home, the changing face of the future is equally revolutionary. The New Deal and the Fair Deal were bold measures for their generations–but this is a new generation.

A technological revolution on the farm has led to an output explosion–but we have not yet learned to harness that explosion usefully, while protecting our farmers’ right to full parity income.

An urban population explosion has overcrowded our schools, cluttered up our suburbs, and increased the squalor of our slums.

A peaceful revolution for human rights–demanding an end to racial discrimination in all parts of our community life–has strained at the leashes imposed by timid executive leadership.

A medical revolution has extended the life of our elder citizens without providing the dignity and security those later years deserve. And a revolution of automation finds machines replacing men in the mines and mills of America, without replacing their incomes or their training or their needs to pay the family doctor, grocer and landlord.

There has also been a change–a slippage–in our intellectual and moral strength. Seven lean years of drouth and famine have withered a field of ideas. Blight has descended on our regulatory agencies–and a dry rot, beginning in Washington, is seeping into every corner of America–in the payola mentality, the expense account way of life, the confusion between what is legal and what is right. Too many Americans have lost their way, their will and their sense of historic purpose.

It is a time, in short, for a new generation of leadership–new men to cope with new problems and new opportunities.

All over the world, particularly in the newer nations, young men are coming to power–men who are not bound by the traditions of the past–men who are not blinded by the old fears and hates and rivalries–young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.

The Republican nominee-to-be, of course, is also a young man. But his approach is as old as McKinley. His party is the party of the past. His speeches are generalities from Poor Richard’s Almanac. Their platform, made up of left-over Democratic planks, has the courage of our old convictions. Their pledge is a pledge to the status quo–and today there can be no status quo.

For I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, the prisoners of their own price tags. Their motto was not “every man for himself” –but “all for the common cause.” They were determined to make that new world strong and free, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from without and within.

Today some would say that those struggles are all over–that all the horizons have been explored–that all the battles have been won– that there is no longer an American frontier.

But I trust that no one in this vast assemblage will agree with those sentiments. For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won–and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier–the frontier of the 1960’s–a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils– a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.

Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom promised our nation a new political and economic framework. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal promised security and succor to those in need. But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises–it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook–it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.

But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric–and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party.

But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age–to all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.”

For courage–not complacency–is our need today–leadership–not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously. A tired nation, said David Lloyd George, is a Tory nation–and the United States today cannot afford to be either tired or Tory.

There may be those who wish to hear more–more promises to this group or that–more harsh rhetoric about the men in the Kremlin–more assurances of a golden future, where taxes are always low and subsidies ever high. But my promises are in the platform you have adopted–our ends will not be won by rhetoric and we can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves.

For the harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning-point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation–or any nation so conceived–can long endure–whether our society–with its freedom of choice, its breadth of opportunity, its range of alternatives–can compete with the single-minded advance of the Communist system.

Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction–but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men’s minds?

Are we up to the task–are we equal to the challenge? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future–or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present?

That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make–a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort–between national greatness and national decline–between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy”–between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity.

All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.

It has been a long road from that first snowy day in New Hampshire to this crowded convention city. Now begins another long journey, taking me into your cities and homes all over America. Give me your help, your hand, your voice, your vote. Recall with me the words of Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary.”

As we face the coming challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that he renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. And then we shall prevail.

Thank you.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: “Address of Senator John F. Kennedy Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States – Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles,” July 15, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25966.

OTD in History… July 12, 1984, Democrat Mondale chooses Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential running mate

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 12, 1984, Democrat Mondale chooses Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential running mate

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Getty Images

On this day in history July 12, 1984, Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale announces he chose Queens, New York Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro, 48 as his vice presidential running mate, the first time a woman was a nominee on a major party ticket. Mondale announced his running mate at the State Capitol in Saint Paul in his home state of Minnesota. Mondale lagging in the polls hoped that adding a woman to the ticket would boost his standing; he was considering both Ferraro and then San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

In his announcement, Mondale expressed, “I looked for the best Vice President and I found her in Gerry Ferraro…. This is an exciting choice.” Mondale emphasized his historic decision, saying, ‘’History speaks to us today. Our founders said in the Constitution, ‘We the people’ — not just the rich, or men, or white, but all of us. Our message is that America is for everyone who works hard and contributes to our blessed country.’’

Ferraro also noted the historical element of her nomination, stating, ‘’When Fritz Mondale asked me to be his running mate he sent a powerful signal about the direction he wants to lead our country. American history is about doors being open, doors of opportunity for everyone no matter who you are, as long as you ‘re willing to earn it. There’s an electricity in the air, an excitement, a sense of new possibilities and of pride.’’

The former vice president under Jimmy Carter faced a tough opponent in Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan and his running mate Vice President George H. W. Bush. Reagan rehabilitation of the economy from the recession and tough stance on Communism gained him favor with American voters as he could proudly say it was “It’s Morning Again in America.” The Mondale-Ferraro ticket would lose in the 1984 election to incumbent Reagan and Bush, where the Republican ticket won in the biggest landslide in American history, with Mondale only winning Minnesota.

It would take another 24 years for a woman to appear on a major party ticket when in 2008 Republican John McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain and Palin would lose to the Democratic ticket of Illinois Senator Barack Obama and Delaware Senator Joe Biden, where Obama became the first African American nominee and president in American history. In 2016, women would get closer, with the Democratic Party choosing former First Lady and 2008 candidate Hillary Clinton as their nominee for president, the glass ceiling broke more, but not enough, Clinton would win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College vote to Republican Donald Trump.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 11–12, 1804, Aaron Burr kills founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 11–12, 1804, Aaron Burr kills founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history July 11, 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr kills founding father and political rival Alexander Hamilton in a sunrise duel in Weehawken, New Jersey, Hamilton would die the next day on July 12. The political rivalry was both political and personal, representing the worst in partisanship between the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Historian Joanne B. Freeman called it in her article, “Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr-Hamilton Duel,” “the most famous duel in American history.” The duel or “affair of honor,” also represented an extreme example of partisanship in the nation’s history. While the political rhetoric between Democrats and Republicans appears the most polarizing with the presidency of Donald Trump, in the era of the first emergence of the two-party system, political rivalries took on a more dangerous tone then a Twitterstorm with the soon fading art of the duel.

Hamilton was born in the West Indies, orphaned as an adolescent, and sent to the colonies for his education, later graduating from King’s College. Then he joined the Continental Army under General George Washington, eventually becoming his aid. Hamilton rose to prominence as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention, where he argued for a strong centralized federal government. Washington appointed him as the first Secretary of the Treasury and his monetary policy including the creation of the first national bank was essential to the new nation keeping economically afloat. In contrast, Burr was born to a rich New Jersey family, where he graduated the College of New Jersey, before entering the Continental Army, where he gained prominence during the attack on Quebec. After the Revolutionary War, Burr ran for New York’s State Assembly and in 1790 was appointed to the Senate.

Burr and Hamilton’s rivalry began in 1791, when Burr won a Senate seat away from Hamilton’s father-in-law Philip Schuyler, a Federalist. Hamilton kept exacting revenge on Burr. Hamilton’s attacks go back to 1796, when Burr ran for the Vice Presidency against Thomas Jefferson, claiming, “I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.” In 1800, when running mates Jefferson and Burr tied in the Electoral College, Hamilton swayed Federalist Congressman the House of Representatives to break the tie and back Jefferson with a blank vote as opposed to Burr, who wanted now wanted the presidency and refused to step aside.

In 1804, Aaron Burr was not renominated as Vice President on Jefferson’s ticket and decided to pursue the governorship of New York since Governor George Clinton, was chosen as the Democratic-Republican Vice Presidential nominee. Again Hamilton intervened, Federalists were divided between Alexander Hamilton supported candidate Morgan Lewis and Burr, Hamilton support for Lewis again lost Burr a nomination he coveted.

Hamilton’s intervention in the New York gubernatorial nomination and the subsequent correspondence with Burr led him down the path to a certain duel. On April 24, 1804, the Albany Register published a letter between Charles D. Cooper to Hamilton’s father-in-law Schuyler. The letter quoted some of Hamilton’s negative remarks about Burr. The letter read, “General Hamilton and Judge Kent have declared in substance that they looked upon Mr. Burr to be a dangerous man, and one who ought not be trusted with the reins of government.” Copper also said there is “a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr.”

Burr responded to Hamilton in a letter “delivered by William P. Van Ness,” where he took most offense with the phrase “more despicable.” Burr wanted “a prompt and unqualified acknowledgment or denial of the use of any expression which would warrant the assertion of Dr. Cooper.” In a letter dated June 20, 1804, Hamilton refused to take responsibility for Cooper’s characterization, but he would “abide the consequences.” The next day, Burr responded, “political opposition can never absolve gentlemen from the necessity of a rigid adherence to the laws of honor and the rules of decorum.” Hamilton again responded on June 22, writing “no other answer to give than that which has already been given.”

Burr, however, did not receive the letter until June 25, Nathaniel Pendleton, who was to deliver it withheld it, while Pendleton and Van Ness conferred the following note:

“General Hamilton says he cannot imagine what Dr. Cooper may have alluded, unless it were to a conversation at Mr. Taylor’s, in Albany, last winter (at which he and General Hamilton were present). General Hamilton cannot recollect distinctly the particulars of that conversation, so as to undertake to repeat them, without running the risk of varying or omitting what might be deemed important circumstances. The expressions are entirely forgotten, and the specific ideas imperfectly remembered; but to the best of his recollection it consisted of comments on the political principles and views of Colonel Burr, and the results that might be expected from them in the event of his election as Governor, without reference to any particular instance of past conduct or private character.”

Burr’s final response was to challenge Hamilton to a duel, Hamilton, who had been involved in ten previous shotless duels, agreed. Most duels, were resolved peacefully before any shots are fired, however, Burr wanted his honor restored and Hamilton refused to recant his slanderous attacks against Burr. Burr felt needed to fight a gentleman and prominent politician as Hamilton to restore his reputation. Duels were illegal in both New York and New Jersey, but New Jersey was lenient and Weehawken across the Hudson was a popular ground for duels.

When the Burr and Hamilton met at 7 a.m. on July 11, there are conflicting recounts as to what occurred from Burr and Hamilton’s second’s Van Ness and Pendleton, respectively. The seconds had their backs facing the duelers both claim the shots were “within a few seconds of each other.” Hamilton chose his position as the one challenged, and supposedly fired a shot in the air above Burr’s head, shots to the ground ended duels; Hamilton sent a conflicting message to Burr. Burr responded shooting Hamilton in the abdomen near his hip, the bullet ricocheted and lodged in Hamilton’s spine, he collapsed immediately, and Burr was ushered away behind an umbrella.

Historian Joseph Ellis pieced together what might have happened in his book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. Ellis believes both second’s versions of what occurred were motivated to spare either Hamilton’s honor or Burr’s future. Ellis writes, “Hamilton did fire his weapon intentionally, and he fired first. But he aimed to miss Burr, sending his ball into the tree above and behind Burr’s location. In so doing, he did not withhold his shot, but he did waste it, thereby honoring his pre-duel pledge. Meanwhile, Burr, who did not know about the pledge, did know that a projectile from Hamilton’s gun had whizzed past him and crashed into the tree to his rear. According to the principles of the code duello, Burr was perfectly justified in taking deadly aim at Hamilton and firing to kill.” (Ellis, 30) Historian Roger G. Kennedy concurs in his book Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character, writing, “Hamilton performed a series of deliberately provocative actions to ensure a lethal outcome. As they were taking their places, he asked that the proceedings stop, adjusted his spectacles, and slowly, repeatedly, sighted along his pistol to test his aim.” (Kennedy, 83)

Hamilton died the next afternoon at his physician’s home in New York. The outrage led to New York charging Burr for murder and dueling and his seconds for accessories to murder in August. In October, New Jersey charged Burr for murder as well. A number of Congressmen requested that New Jersey Governor Joseph Bloomfield have the charge dropped, which he did, New York eventually did the same. Burr was able to escape immediate prosecution because he was still the sitting Vice President, and he finished his term in Washington. Still, the court found Burr guilty of the misdemeanor dueling charge, which barred him from voting and holding political office for twenty years.

Despite their roles in the early founding of the nation, neither Burr nor Hamilton were honorable politically. After completing his term as Vice President, where he presided over Samuel Chase’s impeachment, Burr figured out another way to continue his political aspirations. In 1805, Burr with Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army General James Wilkinson planned to take over part of the Louisiana Purchase territory, and form a new country with Burr as the leader, Burr also considered “seizing” some of Spanish America for his new empire. Burr put in his plans in motion in the fall of 1806, gathering “armed colonists” and going towards New Orleans. General Wilkinson fearing the ramifications, told on Burr to Jefferson. In February 1807, Jefferson had Burr arrested in Louisiana, and he was tried in Virginia for treason, however he was acquitted. The treason and dueling charges destroyed his political reputation.

Historian Thomas Fleming author of Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America does not have any more confidence that Hamilton would have been much better than Burr if he lived. In the CNN article entitled, “What if Aaron Burr had missed Alexander Hamilton?” Fleming described Hamilton as authoritarian leader who would have changed the course of American history and going against the Constitution, he was a part of creating. Fleming claimed Hamilton would have won the presidency in 1808, captured Canada in the War of 1812 creating the United States of North America. He would have broken apart the state of Virginia to smaller states, invade Spanish America to acquire Florida and Texas, and install a “puppet government” in Mexico. Hamilton would have industrialized America quickly, and abolish slavery.

Fleming noted, “The last letter Hamilton wrote before the duel called democracy a ‘disease’ that endangered the republic.” Hamilton would have “eliminated dissent,” instituted libel laws that would have “tamed newspapers” prevent them from ever criticizing is actions, and appointed every federal judge. Additionally, Hamilton would have created the “Christian Constitutional Society” making Christianity the official religion. Fleming notes, “At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Hamilton had given a three-hour speech recommending a president should serve for life,” Hamilton would have put this theory into reality. Soon the Congress and Senate would have been filled with patrons and family members, making an “American royal family.”

Fleming concluded, “A handful of historians would begin debating an even more taboo topic. Astounding as President Hamilton’s achievements had been, they would begin asking each other whether it was a good thing that Aaron Burr had missed on July 11, 1804.” With the Presidency of Donald Trump journalists and historians find his behavior either unprecedented in American history or desperately try to compare to him to previous presidents, but many of his words and actions resemble Hamilton’s worst excesses; views of the journalists, presidency for life, and sabotaging and fights with opponents. For all the recent reverence for founding father Alexander Hamilton, President Trump represents what a President Hamilton might have been.

READ MORE

Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Fleming, Thomas. Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America. New York: Basic Books, 1999.

Freeman, Joanne B. “Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr-Hamilton Duel.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 53, №2 (Apr., 1996), pp. 289–318.

Kennedy, Roger G. Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 10, 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial begins against teaching evolution

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 10, 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial begins against teaching evolution

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On this day in history July 10, 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial begins pitting fundamentalist versus evolutionary theories of creation and whether Charles Darwin’s evolution theory should be taught in schools, the trial was one of the most famous in history but did not put the topic to rest. The eight-day trial called The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes was more show than reality. Earlier that year, Tennessee farmer John W. Butler urged the state legislature to pass a law preventing the teaching of evolution in schools. The legislature passed the law, called the Butler Act on March 25, making it a high misdemeanor crime punishable by fine for anyone to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”

The American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend anyone willing to violate the Butler Act.

Local Dayton businessman George Rappleyea conspired with the superintendent of schools to challenge the law, they chose high school substitute teacher John T. Scopes to test the law. Scopes substituted for a biology teacher where he supposedly taught out of a required textbook, that includes a chapter on evolution. The plan included the students testifying that he taught the theory, and on March 25, the grand jury indicted Scopes. The prosecution called upon “lawyer, three-time Democratic presidential nominee, former United States Secretary of State, and lifelong Presbyterian William Jennings Bryan” to serve as a special prosecutor. To counter the defense convinced Clarence Darrow to take the case as part of the defense team.

With Bryan and Darrow at the helms on either side, the case would attract national attention, and make a circus. Reporters from all over the country and world covered the trial, and the radio broadcasted the proceedings. H. L. Mencken of the Baltimore Sun orchestrated the hype, and he was helping to pay for the defense, while preachers countered by setting up revival tents, vendors sold Bibles and chimpanzees in suits entertained the masses around the Rhea County Courthouse.

Judge John T. Raulston presided, he was widely viewed as biased against the defense and in favor of the prosecution, going as far as quoting from the Bible during the trial, claiming the law was not on trial but Scopes, and in doing so denied the defense their expert witnesses. ACLU attorney Dudley Field Malone for the defense gave the most stirring speech of the trial on July 15. Malone concluded to cheers:

There is never a duel with the truth. The truth always wins and we are not afraid of it. The truth is no coward. The truth does not need the law. The truth does not need the forces of government. The truth does not need Mr. Bryan. the truth is imperishable, eternal, and immortal and needs no human agency to support it. We are ready, to tell the truth as we understand it and we do not fear all the truth that they can present as facts. We are ready. We are ready. We feel we stand with progress. We feel we stand with science. we feel we stand with intelligence. We feel we stand with fundamental freedom in America We are not afraid. Where is the fear? We meet it! Where is the fear? We defy it! We ask your honor to admit the evidence as a matter of correct law, as a matter of sound procedure and as a matter of justice to the defense in this case.

On the seventh day, when the defense ran out of witness they called Bryan as a Bible expert although he was not. With the heat, Judge Raulston moved the trial outside, increasing the audience for the climax of the case. Darrow conducted the questioning on Bryan focusing on Adam and Eve, where he ridiculed Bryan telling him, “You insult every man of science and learning in the world because he does not believe in your fool religion.” Bryan responded, “The reason I am answering is not for the benefit of the superior court. It is to keep these gentlemen from saying I was afraid to meet them and let them question me, and I want the Christian world to know that any atheist, agnostic, unbeliever, can question me anytime as to my belief in God, and I will answer him.” The judge stopped the questioning within two hours and ordered the exchanged expunged from the record, which prevented Bryan from cross-examining.

In the closing statement, Darrow spoke to the jury:

We came down here to offer evidence in this case and the court has held under the law that the evidence we had is not admissible, so all we can do is to take an exception and carry it to a higher court to see whether the evidence is admissible or not…we cannot even explain to you that we think you should return a verdict of not guilty. We do not see how you could. We do not ask it.

Both sides were denied a closing argument; Bryan, who had been preparing it for weeks, distributed his to the press:

Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm-tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endanger its cargo. In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before. Man used to be content to slaughter his fellowmen on a single plane, the earth’s surface. Science has taught him to go down into the water and shoot up from below and to go up into the clouds and shoot down from above, thus making the battlefield three times as bloody as it was before; but science does not teach brotherly love. Science has made war so hellish that civilization was about to commit suicide; and now we are told that newly discovered instruments of destruction will make the cruelties of the late war seem trivial in comparison with the cruelties of wars that may come in the future. If civilization is to be saved from the wreckage threatened by intelligence not consecrated by love, it must be saved by the moral code of the meek and lowly Nazarene. His teachings, and His teachings alone, can solve the problems that vex the heart and perplex the world.

After eight days, and biggest legal spectacle in history, the jury would come back in eight minutes with a guilty verdict; Judge Raulston imposed the minimum fine of $100 without the jury rendering the sentence or allowing Scopes to give a statement. Judge Raulston related where Scopes expressed, “Your honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom — that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution, of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust.”

Bryan won the case but humiliated publicly on a widespread scale, which he could not overcome, he died five days later on July 26. In 1927, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the conviction not based on the appeals argument but because Judge Raulston handed down the sentence when it was the jury’s responsibility. Pulitzer Prize winning historian Edward J. Larson notes in Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, “As a result of the Scopes trial, evolution largely disappeared in public school science classrooms [until the late 1950s].” Only in 1968, did the Supreme Court strike down the law deeming it an infringement on Freedom of Speech.

READ MORE

Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. New York: BasicBooks, 2006.

Mencken, Henry L. A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter’s Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial. Brooklyn, N.Y: Melville House Publ, 2006.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 9, 1896, William Jennings Bryan delivers his Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic National Convention

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 9, 1896, William Jennings Bryan delivers his Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic National Convention

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

 

On this day in history, July 9, 1896, William Jennings Bryan delivers his stirring Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic National Convention supporting bimetallism, which capitulated him to the Democratic Presidential nomination. Bryan’s was a leader in the free silver movement revered by the Populists and free silver Democrats, with his oratory skills he delivered one of the greatest speeches in American history at the convention as he advocated for free silver to be part of the Democratic platform. Bryan preached, “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” Until Bryan delivered his speech, he was not considered the frontrunner, but a dark horse for the nomination. Bryan won the nomination but lost the election to Republican William McKinley and the Battle of Standards. Bryan was ahead of his time, introducing widespread stumping to presidential campaigning with his rousing oratory, the Democratic Party would go back to Bryan as their nominee in 1900, and in 1908.

The Battle of the Standards, the gold standard or bimetallism using both silver and gold backing the currency was the major issue of 1896 campaign. After the Panic of 1893, the depression hit which bankrupted thousands of businesses and hundreds of banks. Republicans supported the Gold Standard while Democrats mostly supported the “coinage of silver.” Eastern Republicans supported high tariffs and protectionism as the primary way back to an economic recovery. While Agrarian populists in the South and West believed increasing the money in circulation would solve the country’s economic woes. Bryan was elected to Congress in Nebraska in 1890 as part of the Populist Party wave. Bryan’s oratory led him to become the leader of the Silver Democrats in Congress and convinced Nebraska Democrats to support the Populist Party in the 1894 midterm elections.

The Battle of standards became the primary issue of the 1896 presidential campaign. The battle also splintered the Democratic and Republican Parties, both of whom walked out of their respective conventions to form other parties. Silver Republicans formed the National Silver Party, and Gold Democrats formed under the National Democratic banner. At the Republican National Convention on June 16, in St. Louis, Missouri, the party declared in their platform “the existing gold standard must be preserved.” The Republicans nominated McKinley, a “Goldbug” convert, who staunchly supported the gold standard and called himself a “Tariff man.”

At the Democratic National Convention from July 7 to 11, in Chicago, Illinois, Bryan served as a delegate was determined that a silver plank is included in the party’s platform. Bryan delivered the electrifying “Cross of Gold” speech as part the debate, which is considered the most memorable address at a political convention.

Bryan rousing conclusion is remembered most:

“We have petitioned, and our petitions have been scorned; we have entreated, and our entreaties have been disregarded; we have begged, and they have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy them . . . ! No, my friends, that will never be the verdict of our people. Therefore, we care not upon what lines the battle is fought. If they say bimetallism is good, but that we cannot have it until other nations help us, we reply that, instead of having a gold standard because England has, we will restore bimetallism, and then let England have bimetallism because the United States has it. If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we will fight them to the uttermost. Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!”

The delegates could not stop cheering for an hour after Bryan’s speech and raising impromptu banners that read, “NO CROWN OF THORNS! NO CROSS OF GOLD!” The speech helped Bryan secure the nomination, and he was nominated on the fifth ballot, becoming at 36-years-old the youngest Presidential nominee in American history. Bryan refused to choose a Vice Presidential running mate, and let the delegates make the decision. Sixteen candidates vied for the position on the first ballot, eventually, Arthur Sewell of Maine won the Vice Presidential nomination the fifth ballot. The Populist Party decided to support Bryan’s nomination, endorsed the Democratic ticket, and fused with the Democratic Party.

Bryan took to the stump replicating his oratory skills, according to Paul F. Boller in his book Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush, “Before the campaign was over Bryan had traveled 18,000 miles by train, made more than 600 speeches (sometimes ten or twenty a day), addressed five million people.” (Boller, 170) Bryan’s speeches resembled his Cross of Gold, with their “religious imagery and evangelical fervor.” Republicans backed by banks and industry took Bryan’s supposed lack of dignity in campaigning and attacked him personally and threatened farmers and workers of foreclosures and closed plants. McKinley with Mark Hanna’s direction mounted a vigorous front-porch campaign, where he delivered short speeches, while emissaries did the stumping.

Bryan’s Democrats surged in August only to fall by October with an economic rebound. A record number, 14 million Americans went out to the polls on November 5, giving 7,111,607 or 50.88 percent of the vote to McKinley and to 6,509,052 or 46.77 percent to Bryan, the difference in electoral votes was more glaring and decisive 271 to 176. There were geographical and economic differences in voter support. The Republicans garnered the “industrial North and Middle West as well as several states in the Far West,” “urban middle and upper middle classes,” and “urban laborers and the most prosperous farmers.” Bryan had the support of the “Solid South and the Plains and Mountain states,” “mostly poverty-stricken farmers” but also progressive minded reformers. (Boller, 170) McKinley would declare gold the monetary standard in 1900 but Bryan won with his new progressive vision of the Democratic Party using government to help the people, a vision that remains central to the Democrats’ core philosophy.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

Glad, Paul W. Mckinley, Bryan, and the People. Chicago: I.R. Dee, Publisher, 1991.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” Speech:

 

I would be presumptuous, indeed, to present myself against the distinguished gentlemen to whom you have listened if this were but a measuring of ability; but this is not a contest among persons. The humblest citizen in all the land when clad in the armor of a righteous cause is stronger than all the whole hosts of error that they can bring. I come to speak to you in defense of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity. When this debate is concluded, a motion will be made to lay upon the table the resolution offered in commendation of the administration and also the resolution in condemnation of the administration. I shall object to bringing this question down to a level of persons. The individual is but an atom; he is born, he acts, he dies; but principles are eternal; and this has been a contest of principle.

Never before in the history of this country has there been witnessed such a contest as that through which we have passed. Never before in the history of American politics has a great issue been fought out as this issue has been by the voters themselves.

On the 4th of March, 1895, a few Democrats, most of them members of Congress, issued an address to the Democrats of the nation asserting that the money question was the paramount issue of the hour; asserting also the right of a majority of the Democratic Party to control the position of the party on this paramount issue; concluding with the request that all believers in free coinage of silver in the Democratic Party should organize and take charge of and control the policy of the Democratic Party. Three months later, at Memphis, an organization was perfected, and the silver Democrats went forth openly and boldly and courageously proclaiming their belief and declaring that if successful they would crystallize in a platform the declaration which they had made; and then began the conflict with a zeal approaching the zeal which inspired the crusaders who followed Peter the Hermit. Our silver Democrats went forth from victory unto victory, until they are assembled now, not to discuss, not to debate, but to enter up the judgment rendered by the plain people of this country.

But in this contest, brother has been arrayed against brother, and father against son. The warmest ties of love and acquaintance and association have been disregarded. Old leaders have been cast aside when they refused to give expression to the sentiments of those whom they would lead, and new leaders have sprung up to give direction to this cause of freedom. Thus has the contest been waged, and we have assembled here under as binding and solemn instructions as were ever fastened upon the representatives of a people.

We do not come as individuals. Why, as individuals we might have been glad to compliment the gentleman from New York [Senator Hill], but we knew that the people for whom we speak would never be willing to put him in a position where he could thwart the will of the Democratic Party. I say it was not a question of persons; it was a question of principle; and it is not with gladness, my friends, that we find ourselves brought into conflict with those who are now arrayed on the other side. The gentleman who just preceded me [Governor Russell] spoke of the old state of Massachusetts. Let me assure him that not one person in all this convention entertains the least hostility to the people of the state of Massachusetts.

But we stand here representing people who are the equals before the law of the largest cities in the state of Massachusetts. When you come before us and tell us that we shall disturb your business interests, we reply that you have disturbed our business interests by your action. We say to you that you have made too limited in its application the definition of a businessman. The man who is employed for wages is as much a businessman as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a businessman as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the crossroads store is as much a businessman as the merchant of New York. The farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, begins in the spring and toils all summer, and by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of this country creates wealth, is as much a businessman as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners who go 1,000 feet into the earth or climb 2,000 feet upon the cliffs and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured in the channels of trade are as much businessmen as the few financial magnates who in a backroom corner the money of the world.

We come to speak for this broader class of businessmen. Ah. my friends, we say not one word against those who live upon the Atlantic Coast; but those hardy pioneers who braved all the dangers of the wilderness, who have made the desert to blossom as the rose—those pioneers away out there, rearing their children near to nature’s heart, where they can mingle their voices with the voices of the birds—out there where they have erected schoolhouses for the education of their children and churches where they praise their Creator, and the cemeteries where sleep the ashes of their dead—are as deserving of the consideration of this party as any people in this country.

It is for these that we speak. We do not come as aggressors. Our war is not a war of conquest. We are fighting in the defense of our homes, our families, and posterity. We have petitioned, and our petitions have been scorned. We have entreated, and our entreaties have been disregarded. We have begged, and they have mocked when our calamity came.

We beg no longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy them!

The gentleman from Wisconsin has said he fears a Robespierre. My friend, in this land of the free you need fear no tyrant who will spring up from among the people. What we need is an Andrew Jackson to stand as Jackson stood, against the encroachments of aggregated wealth.

They tell us that this platform was made to catch votes. We reply to them that changing conditions make new issues; that the principles upon which rest Democracy are as everlasting as the hills; but that they must be applied to new conditions as they arise. Conditions have arisen and we are attempting to meet those conditions. They tell us that the income tax ought not to be brought in here; that is not a new idea. They criticize us for our criticism of the Supreme Court of the United States. My friends, we have made no criticism. We have simply called attention to what you know. If you want criticisms, read the dissenting opinions of the Court. That will give you criticisms.

They say we passed an unconstitutional law. I deny it. The income tax was not unconstitutional when it was passed. It was not unconstitutional when it went before the Supreme Court for the first time. It did not become unconstitutional until one judge changed his mind; and we cannot be expected to know when a judge will change his mind.

The income tax is a just law. It simply intends to put the burdens of government justly upon the backs of the people. I am in favor of an income tax. When I find a man who is not willing to pay his share of the burden of the government which protects him, I find a man who is unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like ours.

He says that we are opposing the national bank currency. It is true. If you will read what Thomas Benton said, you will find that he said that in searching history he could find but one parallel to Andrew Jackson. That was Cicero, who destroyed the conspiracies of Cataline and saved Rome. He did for Rome what Jackson did when he destroyed the bank conspiracy and saved America.

We say in our platform that we believe that the right to coin money and issue money is a function of government. We believe it. We believe it is a part of sovereignty and can no more with safety be delegated to private individuals than can the power to make penal statutes or levy laws for taxation.

Mr. Jefferson, who was once regarded as good Democratic authority, seems to have a different opinion from the gentleman who has addressed us on the part of the minority. Those who are opposed to this proposition tell us that the issue of paper money is a function of the bank and that the government ought to go out of the banking business. I stand with Jefferson rather than with them, and tell them, as he did, that the issue of money is a function of the government and that the banks should go out of the governing business.

They complain about the plank which declares against the life tenure in office. They have tried to strain it to mean that which it does not mean. What we oppose in that plank is the life tenure that is being built up in Washington which establishes an office-holding class and excludes from participation in the benefits the humbler members of our society. . . .

Let me call attention to two or three great things. The gentleman from New York says that he will propose an amendment providing that this change in our law shall not affect contracts which, according to the present laws, are made payable in gold. But if he means to say that we cannot change our monetary system without protecting those who have loaned money before the change was made, I want to ask him where, in law or in morals, he can find authority for not protecting the debtors when the act of 1873 was passed when he now insists that we must protect the creditor. He says he also wants to amend this platform so as to provide that if we fail to maintain the parity within a year that we will then suspend the coinage of silver. We reply that when we advocate a thing which we believe will be successful we are not compelled to raise a doubt as to our own sincerity by trying to show what we will do if we are wrong.

I ask him, if he will apply his logic to us, why he does not apply it to himself. He says that he wants this country to try to secure an international agreement. Why doesn’t he tell us what he is going to do if they fail to secure an international agreement. There is more reason for him to do that than for us to expect to fail to maintain the parity. They have tried for thirty years—thirty years—to secure an international agreement, and those are waiting for it most patiently who don’t want it at all.

Now, my friends, let me come to the great paramount issue. If they ask us here why it is we say more on the money question than we say upon the tariff question, I reply that if protection has slain its thousands the gold standard has slain its tens of thousands. If they ask us why we did not embody all these things in our platform which we believe, we reply to them that when we have restored the money of the Constitution, all other necessary reforms will be possible, and that until that is done there is no reform that can be accomplished.

Why is it that within three months such a change has come over the sentiments of the country? Three months ago, when it was confidently asserted that those who believed in the gold standard would frame our platforms and nominate our candidates, even the advocates of the gold standard did not think that we could elect a President; but they had good reasons for the suspicion, because there is scarcely a state here today asking for the gold standard that is not within the absolute control of the Republican Party.

But note the change. Mr. McKinley was nominated at St. Louis upon a platform that declared for the maintenance of the gold standard until it should be changed into bimetallism by an international agreement. Mr. McKinley was the most popular man among the Republicans ; and everybody three months ago in the Republican Party prophesied his election. How is it today? Why, that man who used to boast that he looked like Napoleon, that man shudders today when he thinks that he was nominated on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Not only that, but as he listens he can hear with ever increasing distinctness the sound of the waves as they beat upon the lonely shores of St. Helena.

Why this change? Ah, my friends. is not the change evident to anyone who will look at the matter? It is because no private character, however pure, no personal popularity, however great, can protect from the avenging wrath of an indignant people the man who will either declare that he is in favor of fastening the gold standard upon this people, or who is willing to surrender the right of self-government and place legislative control in the hands of foreign potentates and powers. . . .

We go forth confident that we shall win. Why? Because upon the paramount issue in this campaign there is not a spot of ground upon which the enemy will dare to challenge battle. Why, if they tell us that the gold standard is a good thing, we point to their platform and tell them that their platform pledges the party to get rid of a gold standard and substitute bimetallism. If the gold standard is a good thing, why try to get rid of it? If the gold standard, and I might call your attention to the fact that some of the very people who are in this convention today and who tell you that we ought to declare in favor of international bimetallism and thereby declare that the gold standard is wrong and that the principles of bimetallism are better—these very people four months ago were open and avowed advocates of the gold standard and telling us that we could not legislate two metals together even with all the world.

I want to suggest this truth, that if the gold standard is a good thing we ought to declare in favor of its retention and not in favor of abandoning it; and if the gold standard is a bad thing, why should we wait until some other nations are willing to help us to let it go?

Here is the line of battle. We care not upon which issue they force the fight. We are prepared to meet them on either issue or on both. If they tell us that the gold standard is the standard of civilization, we reply to them that this, the most enlightened of all nations of the earth, has never declared for a gold standard, and both the parties this year are declaring against it. If the gold standard is the standard of civilization, why, my friends, should we not have it? So if they come to meet us on that, we can present the history of our nation. More than that, we can tell them this, that they will search the pages of history in vain to find a single instance in which the common people of any land ever declared themselves in favor of a gold standard. They can find where the holders of fixed investments have.

Mr. Carlisle said in 1878 that this was a struggle between the idle holders of idle capital and the struggling masses who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country; and my friends, it is simply a question that we shall decide upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight. Upon the side of the idle holders of idle capital, or upon the side of the struggling masses? That is the question that the party must answer first; and then it must be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies of the Democratic Party, as described by the platform, are on the side of the struggling masses, who have ever been the foundation of the Democratic Party.

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard. I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.

My friends, we shall declare that this nation is able to legislate for its own people on every question without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth, and upon that issue we expect to carry every single state in the Union.

I shall not slander the fair state of Massachusetts nor the state of New York by saying that when citizens are confronted with the proposition, “Is this nation able to attend to its own business?”—I will not slander either one by saying that the people of those states will declare our helpless impotency as a nation to attend to our own business. It is the issue of 1776 over again. Our ancestors, when but 3 million, had the courage to declare their political independence of every other nation upon earth. Shall we, their descendants, when we have grown to 70 million, declare that we are less independent than our forefathers? No, my friends, it will never be the judgment of this people. Therefore, we care not upon what lines the battle is fought. If they say bimetallism is good but we cannot have it till some nation helps us, we reply that, instead of having a gold standard because England has, we shall restore bimetallism, and then let England have bimetallism because the United States have.

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Source: Official Proceedings of the Democratic National Convention Held in Chicago, Illinois, July 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11, 1896, (Logansport, Indiana, 1896), 226–234. Reprinted in The Annals of America, Vol. 12, 1895–1904: Populism, Imperialism, and Reform (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1968), 100–105.

OTD in History… July 7, 1981, President Reagan nominates Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman justice to the Supreme Court

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 7, 1981, President Reagan nominates Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman justice to the Supreme Court

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On this day in history July 7, 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominates Sandra Day O’Connor then 51, to the Supreme Court, fulfilling a campaign promise to appoint a woman to the bench as soon as he could. Reagan chose O’Connor after Justice Potter Stewart (1915–85) appointed by another Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, announced his retirement. The major issue surrounding her nomination was Republican concern she would not overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that made abortion legal. Thirty-six-years later President Donald Trump is also faced with nominating a justice, which during the campaign he promised would do what O’Connor never rule abortion illegal, causing the Democrats to make the issue part of their Midterm election strategy.

Since 1979, O’Connor was serving as a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals and had previously superior court judge in Maricopa County. She also had political experience serving as assistant attorney general for Arizona and then appointed the Arizona State Senate, and upon re-election, she became the first woman to hold the position of state Senate Majority Leader. Born in Texas in 1930, O’Connor attended Stanford University and their law school graduating near the top of her class.

Reagan first pledged to put a woman on the Supreme Court late in the 1980 presidential campaign, when it seemed he trailed Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in the polls. Reagan made the announcement at an October 14, press conference in Los Angeles, pledging to name a woman as “one of the first Supreme Court vacancies in my administration.” When there were rumblings in February 1981, Stewart would retire at the end of the term, Regan decided to fulfill his promise telling White House Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, “find a woman who was qualified and come back and discuss it if that wasn’t possible.” O’Connor’s name appeared on a short list of four for Reagan to choose, and she was the only one Reagan interviewed for the post.

A day before announcing that O’Connor would be his nominee, Reagan wrote about his concern that Republicans would oppose her. Reagan recounted, “Called Judge O’Connor and told her she was my nominee for Supreme Court. Already the flak is starting and from my own supporters. Right to Life people say she is pro-abortion. She declares abortion is personally repugnant to her. I think she’ll make a good justice.” Some Republican senators voiced their opposition to her nomination, the same with Conservative and pro-life activists.

On July 7, Reagan expressed in his announcement, “I made a commitment that one of my first appointments to the Supreme Court vacancy would be the most qualified woman that I could possibly find. Now, this is not to say that I would appoint a woman merely to do so. That would not be fair to women nor to future generations of all Americans whose lives are so deeply affected by decisions of the court. Rather, I pledged to appoint a woman who meets the very high standards that I demand of all court appointees. I have identified such a person.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee held O’Connor’s confirmation hearing from September 9 to 12; it was the first time the public was able to preview the confirmation process, as it was the first televised hearings for a nominated Supreme Court justice. Most of the questions related to O’Connor’s position on about abortion, which she never clarified. Still, on September 21, the Senate unanimously with a vote of 99–0 confirmed her as an associate justice, and on September 25, O’Connor was sworn–in.

As a justice, O’Connor mostly voted with the conservative bloc, however, in her later years served as a swing vote, and never touching Roe v. Wade. On July 1, 2006, she announced her retirement, officially retiring on January 31, 2006. Republican President George W. Bush replaced O’Connor with conservative Judge Samuel Alito. Reagan started a trend by making the move and adding the first woman to the Supreme Court. Subsequently, three more women were appointed and now serve on the court all nominated by Democrats, Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993 by Bill Clinton, and Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010 both by Barack Obama. Now will President Trump has the opportunity bolster the female Supreme Court justices by becoming the second Republican to add a female Conservative justice.

SOURCES

Cannon, Lou. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Remarks Announcing the Intention To Nominate Sandra Day O’Connor To Be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

July 7, 1981

The President. Ladies and gentlemen, I have a statement to make. And then following that statement, if there are any questions you might have, I shall refer you to the Attorney General.

As President of the United States, I have the honor and the privilege to pick thousands of appointees for positions in Federal Government. Each is important and deserves a great deal of care for each individual called upon to make his or her contribution, often at personal sacrifice, to shaping the policy of the Nation. Thus each has an obligation to you, in varying degrees, has an impact on your life.

In addition, as President, I have the privilege to make a certain number of nominations which have a more lasting influence on our lives, for they are the lifetime appointments of those men and women called upon to serve in the judiciary in our Federal district courts and courts of appeals. These individuals dispense justice and provide for us these most cherished guarantees of protections of our criminal and civil laws. But, without doubt, the most awesome appointment is a guarantee to us of so many things, because it is a President—as a President, I can make an appointment to the United States Supreme Court.

Those who sit in the Supreme Court interpret the laws of our land and truly do leave their footprints on the sands of time. Long after the policies of Presidents and Senators and Congressmen of any given era may have passed from public memory, they’ll be remembered.

After very careful review and consideration, I have made the decision as to my nominee to fill the vacancy on the United States Supreme Court created by the resignation of Justice Stewart. Since I am aware of the great amount of speculation about this appointment, I want to share this very important decision with you as soon as possible.

Needless to say, most of the speculation has centered on the question of whether I would consider a woman to fill this first vacancy. As the press has accurately pointed out, during my campaign for the Presidency I made a commitment that one of my first appointments to the Supreme Court vacancy would be the most qualified woman that I could possibly find.

Now, this is not to say that I would appoint a woman merely to do so. That would not be fair to women nor to future generations of all Americans whose lives are so deeply affected by decisions of the Court. Rather, I pledged to appoint a woman who meets the very high standards that I demand of all court appointees. I have identified such a person.

So today, I’m pleased to announce that upon completion of all the necessary checks by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I will send to the Senate the nomination of Judge Sandra Day O’Connor of Arizona Court of Appeals for confirmation as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

She is truly a person for all seasons, possessing those unique qualities of temperament, fairness, intellectual capacity, and devotion to the public good which have characterized the 101 brethren who have preceded her. I commend her to you, and I urge the Senate’s swift bipartisan confirmation so that as soon as possible she may take her seat on the Court and her place in history.

Reporter. Do you agree with her position on abortion, Mr. President?

The President. I said that I was going to turn over all questions to the Attorney General here and let him answer the questions.

Q. But the right-to-life people object, and we just wonder if—

The President. All those questions the Attorney General is prepared to answer.

Q. But, Mr. President, you have such a firm position on that. Can you give us your feelings about her position on that?
The President. I am completely satisfied.

Q. On her right-to-life position?
The President. Yes.

Q. And did you interview her personally?
The President. Yes.

Note: The President spoke at 10:46 a.m. to reporters assembled in the Briefing Room at the White House. His remarks were broadcast live on radio and television.

The Office of the Press Secretary also released a transcript of Attorney General William French Smith’s question-and-answer session with the reporters.

Later in the day, Deputy Press Secretary Larry M. Speakes announced that the President and Judge O’Connor had met in the Oval Office on July 1. Also attending the meeting were the Attorney General and members of the White House staff.

OTD in History… July 6, 1775, Second Continental Congress issues the Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 6, 1775, Second Continental Congress issues the Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history July 6, 1775, The Second Continental Congress issues the Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms a day after adopting the Olive Branch Petition declaring fidelity to Great Britain King George III and a last appeal to avoid all-out war. The Congress, however, was leaning towards Revolutionary War, three days earlier on July 3, George Washington assumed command of the Continental Army. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia wrote the declaration and delegate John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, the author of the Olive Branch petition revised it. When the King would ignore the Olive Branch Petition and proclaim the colonies in rebellion, the colonies and Congress would set a course to independence just barely a year later.

In the declaration, Congress set “forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms.” Congress utilized the same plan as the Olive Branch; they blamed the British Parliament but not the King. They wrote, “The large strides of late taken by the legislature of Great Britain toward establishing over these colonies their absolute rule…” The Congress also blamed Britain’s minister, writing, the “new ministry finding all the foes of Britain subdued” and that they had “the unfortunate idea of subduing her friends also.” They avoid blaming the king instead, stating “parliament then for the first time assumed a power of unbounded legislation over the colonies of America.” The Congress blamed Parliament for the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and most presumably the most recent one the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The declaration’s draft committee gave the task of writing the declaration to a new delegate to the Second Continental Congress; Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. At that point, Jefferson was not well known, and only proved his writing with one pamphlet “Summary View of the Rights of British America,” which argued Parliament has no rights over the colonies. Congress deemed Jefferson’s draft too radical and accusatory, and John Dickinson took over revising the draft to the final form. Instead, of Jefferson accusing Parliament “seeking” to “erect a despotism of unlimited extent” over the colonies, Dickinson wrote, “We mean not to dissolve the union” and “We have not raised Armies with ambitions of separating from Great Britain.” There was a question if Dickinson really subdued Jefferson’s language or just modified it. The declaration still included bold statements such as “Our cause is just. Our union is perfect,” while concluding the colonies “resolved to die Freemen rather than to live Slaves.” Historian John Ferling writing in his book A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic noted, “Nevertheless, even this toned down version, which Congress adopted, was a bold, confrontational document.”

The King gave his response proving to the colonies, Parliament did not act alone. On August 23, 1775, King George III issued “A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition” saying the colonies were in an “open and avowed rebellion” after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Then to force conciliation Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act at the end of 1775, prohibiting trade or else American ships would be seized.

It was the last straw; the time was ripe for the independence movement led by John Adams of Massachusetts. Thomas Paine would publish in January his pamphlet Common Sense arguing in favor of the colonies declaring independence and listing the grievances against both Parliament and the King. Historian Peter D. G. Thomas states, “The crisis of 1774 became the war of 1775 and the revolution of 1776” (p. 297). Just a day shy of a year later, on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress would adopt the Declaration of Independence permanently severing ties with Great Britain and forming the new democracy, the United States of America.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Ferling, John E. A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Thomas, Peter D. G. Tea Party to Independence: The Third Phase of the American Revolution, 1773–1776. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in history… July 5, 1775, Second Continental Congress adopts Olive Branch Petition last appeal to King George III

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in history… July 5, 1775, Second Continental Congress adopts Olive Branch Petition last appeal to King George III

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Getty Images

On this day in history July 5, 1775, The Second Continental Congress adopts the Olive Branch Petition the thirteen colonies’ last appeal to avoid a full war with Great Britain. Delegate John Dickinson of Pennsylvania authored the petition, which as Historians Frank W. Thackeray and John E. Findling in their book Events that changed the world in the eighteenth century explain; “proclaimed loyalty to the king and asked that he repudiate his ministers’ actions.” The Congress made it seem their discontent was with Parliament, not the Monarchy. Even Congress knew the conciliation document was fruitless, and the next day, July 6, they adopted a Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms written by Thomas Jefferson, while just on July 3 George Washington assumed command of the Continental Army. Congress was at the tip of a real break with Great Britain King George’s refusal even to read the petition pushed them over into full-on Revolutionary War.

With the Olive Branch Petition, Congress acted under the assumption Britain’s King George III was unaware of the restrictive Coercive Acts the British Parliament imposed on the colonies. Congress decision came just after the first significant battle between the colonies and the British in the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Bunker Hill in Massachusetts on June 17. Although the colonies lost to Britain, they had inflicted significant casualties, after the King began preparing for a larger battle and commenced their plans including sending troops and warships.

Dickinson was also a delegate of the first Continental Congress and authored in 1774 the Petition to the King, in addition to the Olive Branch petition he revised Jefferson’s Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. Dickinson was the primary leader in seeking reconciliation, a move that John Adams of Massachusetts and the independence faction useless but hoped a failure would help the cause for independence. Dickinson had the help of Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, John Rutledge and Thomas Johnson, who “served on the draft committee.” The Besides an attempt and at conciliation and pledging fidelity to the King, Dickinson requested the repeal of the Coercive and that the King mediates between the colonies and Parliament.

The introductory paragraph mentioned only 12 of the colonies, excluding Georgia, and they were the only ones that signed the petition as well as John Hancock, the president of the Congress. The petition read, “Your Majesty’s Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defence, and have engaged us in a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful Colonists, that when we consider whom we must oppose in this contest and if it continues, what may be the consequences, our own particular misfortunes are accounted by us only as parts of our distress…. That your Majesty may enjoy long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honour to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.”

The colonies soon discovered King George III agreed with the Parliament’s actions toward them. Richard Penn and Arthur Lee delivered the petition leaving for London on July 8, 1775. On August 21, they handed the petition over the Colonial Secretary Lord Dartmouth and on September 2, they received their response, “We were told that as his Majesty did not receive it on the throne, no answer would be given.” The King refused to read the petition, and instead, on August 23, 1775, issued “A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition” saying the colonies were in an “open and avowed rebellion” after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Then to force conciliation Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act at the end of 1775, prohibiting trade or else American ships would be seized.

It was the last straw; the time was ripe for the independence movement led by John Adams. Thomas Paine would publish in January his pamphlet Common Sense arguing in favor of the colonies declaring independence and listing the grievances against both Parliament and the King. Historian Peter D. G. Thomas states, “The crisis of 1774 became the war of 1775 and the revolution of 1776” (p. 297). Just a day shy of a year later, on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress would adopt the Declaration of Independence permanently severing ties with Great Britain and forming the new democracy, the United States of America.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Revolutions and New Ideologies, 1760–1815. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2007.

Thackeray, Frank W. Events That Changed the World in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Thomas, Peter D. G. Tea Party to Independence: The Third Phase of the American Revolution, 1773–1776. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 4, 1863, the Union breaks the Confederacy in half with victory at the Siege of Vicksburg

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 4, 1863, the Union breaks the Confederacy in half with victory at the Siege of Vicksburg

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On this day in history July 4, 1863, the Union breaks the Confederacy in half with victory at the Siege of Vicksburg during the Civil War. The Vicksburg Campaign lasted between May 18 and July 4, 1863. Union Major Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee aimed to take the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi from Confederate General Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton and his Confederate Army of the Mississippi. First, on May 16, Grant won the Battle of Champion Hill against Pemberton. Then Grant attempted two major assaults on the Confederate strategic stronghold Vicksburg on the Mississippi River, on May 19 and 22 forcing Pemberton to retreat back to Vicksburg. In the three weeks in May, Grant won five battles with the Confederates and took 6,000 prisoners. For forty days, from May 25, Grant and his 70,000 troops surrounded the city, when supplies ran out Pemberton and his 25,000 soldiers finally surrendered on July 4.

The Battle of Gettysburg and the Siege of Vicksburg are considered major turning points in the Civil War. Once Vicksburg was captured, the Confederacy lost the Mississippi and contact with their Western states, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The lost made it impossible for the Confederacy to win the war ever. As Civil War historian, James McPherson recounts in his book Battle Cry of Freedom, “The Fourth of July 1863 was the most memorable Independence Day in American history since that first one four score and seven years earlier. Far away in Pennsylvania, the high tide of the Confederacy receded from Gettysburg. Here in Mississippi, white flags sprouted above rebel trenches, the emaciated troops marched out and stacked arms, and a Union division moved into Vicksburg to raise the stars and stripes over the courthouse.” (McPherson, 636)

The city’s residents were not as upset to see Yankees as would be presumed. The Union soldiers broke into speculators’ stores and allowed the residents to take what needed. Still, the ridicule would prevent Vicksburg from celebrating the Fourth of July for 81 years. The siege broke the city and the Confederacy giving the North an even more decisive victory than in Gettysburg, preventing the South from even employing a successful defensive war against the Union. McPherson concludes, “The capture of Vicksburg was the most important northern strategic victory of the war, perhaps meriting Grant’s later assertion that ‘the fate of the Confederacy was sealed when Vicksburg fell.’” (McPherson, 637) Although the war would last less than two more years, it was more a Northern assault on the South, punishing them for their rebellion than anything else; the Union could not lose the war.

READ MORE

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

OTD in History… July 3, 1863, Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ends

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 3, 1863, Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ends

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Library of Congress

On this day in history July 3, 1863, the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ends after three days of fighting; it was the largest battle on American soil. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia with 75,000 soldiers met new Union General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac with 83,000 soldiers on July 1 and engaged in an unplanned battle. Lee was coming off a decisive victory at Battle of Chancellorsville in May and was making his second attempt to invade the North. It would prove a costly mistake for the Confederacy and the crucial victory the North needed.

On the first day, the Confederates were able to push the Union back but over the next two days, the outnumbered Confederates were never again able to break the Union’s lines. On the third day, Lee made his last attempt to break the Union center on Cemetery Ridge, where General George Pickett led 15,000 Confederate troops in Pickett’s Charge against 10,000 Union soldiers, suffering a striking blow within a couple of minutes with 7,000 troops killed or wounded. By the end of July 3, 28,000 Confederates and 23,000 Union soldiers were killed in the battle. Lee retreated to the Potomac and Virginia and never attempted to invade the North again.

The battle was a turning point in the war, from which the Confederates would never recover. As Civil War historian James McPherson indicates in his book Battle Cry of Freedom, “Lee and his men would go on to earn further laurels. But they never again possessed the power and reputation they carried into Pennsylvania those palmy midsummer days of 1863. Though the war was destined to continue for almost two more bloody years, Gettysburg and Vicksburg proved to have been its crucial turning point.” The blood-soaked battleground would become a cemetery and on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the battlefield burial ground giving his Gettysburg Address. Lee would surrender in April 1865 ending the war.

READ MORE

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress declares American Independence from Great Britain

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress declares American Independence from Great Britain

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, July 2, 1776, the second Continental Congress meeting in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia voted to sever ties with Great Britain’s monarchy and declare the 13 colonies independent. The movement towards independence began in earnest in late 1775, when reconciliation with Britain seemed impossible with a banning of trade with the colonies. Benjamin Franklin started hinting of independence to France in December 1775. Independence talk reached a fever pitch when Thomas Paine published his pamphlet Common Sense in April 1776 arguing for independence. By June, the Continental Congress first brought a vote for independence finally doing so at the start of July. Although independence leader John Adams of Massachusetts originally thought the day Congress voted for independence would be celebrated writing, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” the day Congress adopted the Declaration, July 4, remains the official day celebrated for the past 242 years.

Virginian Richard Henry Lee introduced the resolution which 12 of colonies voted in favor to “dissolved the connection” with Britain, with only New York abstaining. (McCullough, 150) Lee first introduced the resolution on June 7, but New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina were not willing to break with Britain at that point. On June 11, Congress appointed a five-member committee to draft a declaration of independence and causes for separating from Britain, consisting of “John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia,” with Jefferson designated to write the document.

Jefferson decided the document needed to convince the colonists of the need for independence and fighting in the revolution. He stated that government is a social contract with its citizens to protect their rights, “the natural rights of life, liberty, and property, for populist reasons Jefferson replaced to the “pursuit of happiness.” He derived the natural rights argument from political philosopher John Locke, who used in 1668, during Britain’s Glorious Revolution. Jefferson indicated when the government fails to fulfill the contract; it is “self-evident” that the people can break from the government.

The preamble’s most famous line was “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Most of the document, however, was a list of grievances to King George III justifying independence and the Revolutionary War. Historians Frank W. Thackeray and John E. Findling in their book Events that changed the world in the eighteenth century noted, “The Declaration of Independence is deservedly famous in American history. One would hardly expect to find in it an unbiased resume of grievances; it was meant as propaganda aimed at the undecided both in America and abroad, especially the French.” (Thackeray and Findling 98)

Congress reviewed the document’s final draft on June 28, and on July 1, the Congress took up the vote for independence again, however, they needed a unanimous vote, and waited for the next day, July 2, to vote. Jefferson submitted his revision to what was the Declaration of Independence, and the Congress ratified and published it on July 4 as a Dunlap Broadside officially severing ties with Britain and declaring independence. On July 19, the Congress ordered the Declaration engrossed, inscribed by all members of the Continental Congress, most signed the copy on August 2.

Adams wrote to his wife Abigail of the vote on July 3, “Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, which ever was decided in America, and a greater question perhaps, never was or will be decided among men.” Adams also predicted Americans would continue celebrating the date, “I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” However, the date Adams referred to was July 2.

The declaration of Independence’s purpose was practical but its impact far greater not only to the then newly formed United States of America but for other nations looking for a Democratic ideal. Historian Joseph J. Ellis in his book American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic identified the significance of Jefferson’s first sentence. Ellis analyzed, “We can say with considerable confidence that these were destined to become the most potent and consequential words in American history, perhaps in modern history. They became the political fountainhead for all the liberal reforms that would seep out and over the nation, and eventually much of the world.” (Ellis, 56)

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Ellis, Joseph J. American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. New York: Vintage Books, 2008.

McCullough, David. 1776. London: Allen Lane/Penguin Books, 2006.

Thackeray, Frank W. Events That Changed the World in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998.

 

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Georgia

Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton

 

North Carolina

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

 

South Carolina

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton

 

Massachusetts

John Hancock

Maryland

Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton

 

Virginia

George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

 

Pennsylvania

Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross

Delaware

Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean

 

New York

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

 

New Jersey

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark

 

New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple

 

Massachusetts

Samuel Adams

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

 

Rhode Island

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery

 

Connecticut

Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

 

New Hampshire

Matthew Thornton

Back to Main Declaration Page

OTD in History… June 30, 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the old South Gone with the Wind published

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 30, 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the old South Gone with the Wind published

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 30, 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s epic Southern Civil War drama Gone with the Wind is first published, the best-selling book earns first-time author Mitchell a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937, and 80 years later has $30 million in sales and is second only to the Bible. Mitchell, a reporter at the Atlanta Journal, started writing the book while she was recovering from a leg injury in 1926. In secrecy, Mitchell drew on stories she heard of the old south from her childhood, combined with meticulous research to write her over 1,000-page drama spanning the antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Almost immediately after publication, Hollywood film producer David O. Selznick paid Mitchell, a then-record $50,000 for the film rights, setting his sights on making the biggest blockbuster ever made in Hollywood.

Three years later on July 1, 1939, and after five months, filming wrapped up on the movie version of Gone with the Wind. The making of the movie was a production almost as long as the book. Selznick would wait two years to secure Clark Gable from MGM, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, who would distribute the film. Selznick would also go through multiple screenwriters, scripts, cinematographers, and directors before filming was complete. Principal photography began on January 26, and post-production ended November 11, 1939.

The race to fill the role of Scarlett would capture the media and public’s attention, the 1938s version of a reality show “Search for Scarlett,” with over 1,400 women including every high profile actress in Hollywood vying for the role until, British film actress Vivien Leigh, tested for it in December 1938. Selznick called Leigh his “Scarlett dark horse,” making it easier to choose her was his brother Myron Selznick was Leigh’s agent. Selznick would finally choose 25-year-old Leigh for the role.

Rounding out the other major roles were Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Scarlett’s third husband, Leslie Howard as Scarlett’s unrequited love, Ashley Wilkes, and Olivia DeHavilland as his cousin and wife and Scarlett’s sister-in-law and best friend. The film’s cost went out of a control, and it was the most expensive ever made to that point. An early rough preview screening in September 1939, left the “audience cheering,” as David Thomson observed in biography Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick for Selznick it was “was the greatest moment of his life, the greatest victory, and redemption of all his failings.”

In December 1939, Gone with the Wind had a star-studded opening in Atlanta, Georgia at the Loews Grand Theatre, where 300,000 attended, topping off a three-day event celebrating the film and the Confederacy. The four-hour film would go on to win then a record ten Academy Awards out of 13 nominations, two of which were honorary. Among its wins includes Best Picture, Best Director (Victor Fleming), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Best actress went to Vivien Leigh playing Mitchell’s heroine Scarlett O’Hara and supporting actress to Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of Scarlett’s beloved Mammy, a slave.

The book was controversial at the time for its romanticizing of the Antebellum and Confederate South, its language describing slaves, inclusion of the racist Ku Klux Klan, it’s sexualized depictions of marital rape and childbirth, and its most famous phrase “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” uttered by Rhett Butler to Scarlett. Selznick toned down most of the racist language but the stereotypes remained. The movie is the biggest money-making film of all time when inflation is factored in and considered one of the best films ever made. It was re-released several times including on June 26, 1998, when it was remastered in its original format. Even up to the book and movie’s 75th anniversary, commentators acknowledged its racism but put it into context.

Now as the movie is approaching its 80th anniversary, Gone with the Wind is again controversial. With the Confederate monument removal movement after the 2015 Charleston church shooting and the violence at Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, many are questioning Gone with the Wind’s portrayal of the secessionist south and slavery as a racist ode to the Confederacy. So far, 110 Confederate monuments have been removed, and there are calls to remove Gone with the Wind as well. Last August 2017, the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee, that played the movie each year for the past 34 years, declined to do so because of the film’s racial “insensitivity.” The move caused an outcry on social media for the beloved book and movie.

The cancellation of the screening made journalists question should the book and movie be part of the movement? The results were divided between those they believe it should be retired versus those who understand the film in its context and that it was not a political position on the South but about the individual characters and Scarlett O’Hara’s journey. The problem is many do not see Gone with the Wind as a work of fiction, not history. In 2008, preeminent reconstruction historian Eric Foner noted in a Washington Post book review, “The work of historians, however, has largely failed to penetrate popular consciousness. Partly because of the persistence of old misconceptions, Reconstruction remains widely misunderstood. Popular views still owe more to such films as “Birth of a Nation” (which glorified the Klan as the savior of white civilization) and “Gone With the Wind” (which romanticized slavery and the Confederacy) than to modern scholarship.”

African American writer Angelica Jade Bastien writing in Vulture called Gone with the Wind a “Cinematic Monument to the Confederacy” but concludes, the characters’ “great capacity for racism exists in tandem with their own admirable qualities, making them frustratingly human and trickier to demonize.” While Harvard Professor Cass R. Sunstein writes in the Atlantic, “Finding Humanity in Gone With the Wind The classic novel shows that individual lives cannot be reduced to competing sets of political convictions.” Sunstein does not see Gone with the Wind as political like the Confederate flag, and concludes, “It would be a mistake to disparage the sad magic of half-forgotten songs. Americans have good reason to remember the sweetness, and the deaths, of the countless real-world Tartletons — and never to dishonor those who grieve for them.”

On the opposite side, New York Post opinion writer Lou Lumenick in his article from 2015 believes “Gone with the Wind’ should go the way of the Confederate flag,” and argues it should be retired to museums. Lumenick finds “The more subtle racism of “Gone with the Wind’’ is in some ways more insidious, going to great lengths to enshrine the myth that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery — an institution the film unabashedly romanticizes.” While Ed Kilgore writing in 2017 concurs, declaring, “Yes, Gone with the Wind Is Another Neo-Confederate Monument.” In his New York Magazine article, where he argues that Gone with the Wind is “a neo-Confederate political symbol” not “an innocent piece of brilliant cinema and anachronistic history that’s under attack by the forces of political correctness,” as film critic Kyle Smith described it.

The debate over Gone with the Wind and its canceled screening is part of a greater trend where political correctness is going overboard on movies and books that depict a time where there were racial insensitivities. This includes a Biloxi, Mississippi public school district removing To Kill a Mockingbird from its reading list, and most recently the American Library Association removing author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a children’s book award. Classic books and movies with racial insensitivities are opportunities to be taught critically and in the context of the times, but we cannot selectively erase offensive history, if we do, we will be left with nothing to read or learn from our past.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… June 29, 1940, Roosevelt signs into law the Alien Registration Smith Act monitoring immigrants

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 29, 1940, Roosevelt signs into law the Alien Registration Smith Act monitoring immigrants

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: FDR Presidential Library

On this day in history June 29, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Alien Registration Act known as the Smith Act making it illegal to plan to overthrow the United States Government and requiring all non-citizen immigrants to register with the government. With American involvement in World War II imminent, Congress decided to pass a series of laws restricting basic freedoms starting in the 1930s meant to protect the government citing national security. The law targeted communists, anarchists, fascists, racists and labor unions, most of which were immigrants. The Act was also used as a basis to intern Japanese Americans in camps during the war.

The US government has a long history of being wary of immigrants especially during times of war. The first laws were passed under President John Adams the unpopular Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Again in World War I, Congress a series of laws that hindered free speech and targeted immigrants including the Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918, which made it criminal to use any “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about US “government, its flag, or its armed forces” and applied “when the United States is in war.”

In the late 1930s, Congress again attempted to revive anti-alien and anti-sedition laws, particularly aimed at deporting Austrian born union leader Harry Bridges. Rep. Howard W. Smith of Virginia, an anti-labor Democrat and Chairman of the Rules Committee authored the Alien Registration Act, a softer version than the 100 other anti-immigrant bills under consideration. The bill passed the House 382 to 4, with 45 abstaining on July 29, 1939.

The Act made it illegal “to knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing any government in the United States by for or violence.” There were few dissenting voices in Congress, Rep. John A. Martin of Colorado called it “an invention of intolerance contrary to every principle of democracy and abhorrent to the spirit of Christianity,” while Rep. Lee E. Geyer of California called it a “Hitler measure.” (Martelle, 6) Roosevelt signed the bill the same day France fell to Germany and signed an armistice with Nazi Germany.

In addition, the Roosevelt administration distrust of immigrants was so high he had the Immigration and Naturalization Service transferred and operated under the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The New York Times writing about the bill stated, the “normally distasteful, appeared inevitable, the Administration sponsored the legislation.” In total 215 individuals were indicted, only after the Supreme Court deemed some of the convictions unconstitutional did the prosecutions stop.

The American government overreached with the Alien Restriction Act. As Scott Martelle writing in his book The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial analyzed, The Smith Act would resonate in ways unimagined at the time it was enacted. The law would be used to ruin lives, destroy friendships, and kill careers; it would become a tool of court-sanctioned political repression; it would feed the “hysteria,” as President Harry S, Truman called it, that Senator Joseph McCarthy would harness with such devastating results. In the end, it would give license to the U.S. Government to send American citizens to prison for what they believed, rather than for what they had done.” (Martelle, 7)

Seventy-seven years later the US under President Donald Trump is again reviving anti-immigrant laws with his America First agenda, first with travel ban mostly from Muslim countries upheld by the Supreme Court, his calls for building a wall at the Mexican-American border, and his zero-tolerance policy arresting immigrants illegally crossing the border and separating them from their children. Although reports make it seem that anti-immigrant policies in the US are new under Trump, they have a history as almost as old as the nation, and unfortunately will continue to occur as long as there are immigration and fear of the unfamiliar.

READ MORE

Martelle, Scott. The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

THE SMITH ACT OF 1940,
54 Stat. 670, 671, title I, §§2–3 (June 28, 1940), current version at 18 U.S.C. §2385
SEC. 2. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person—
(1) to knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach the duty, necessity, desirability, or
propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence,
or by the assassination of any officer of any such government;
(2) with the intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any government in the United States,
to print, publish, edit, issue, circulate, sell, distribute, or publicly display any written or printed
matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing
or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence;
(3) to organize or help to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate,
or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any government in the United States by force
or violence; or to be or become a member of, or affiliate with, any such society, group, or assembly
of persons, knowing the purposes thereof.
(b) For the purposes of this section, the term “government in the United States” means the Government
of the United States, the government of any State, Territory, or possession of the United
States, the government of the District of Columbia, or the government of any political subdivision
of any of them.
SEC. 3. It shall be unlawful for any person to attempt to commit, or to conspire to commit, any of
the acts prohibited by the provisions of this title.
18 U.S.C. §2385 (as of Jan. 2, 2001)
TITLE 18 – CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
PART I – CRIMES
CHAPTER 115 – TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES
Sec. 238 5. Advocating overthrow of Government
Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability,
or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the
government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political
subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such
government; or Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government,
prints , publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written
or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of
overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts
to do so; or Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly
of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government
by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society,
group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible
for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five
years next following his conviction.
If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined
under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment
by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following
his conviction.
As used in this section, the terms “organizes” and “organize”, with respect to any society, group,
or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the
regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly
of persons.

OTD in History… June 27, 1950, President Truman orders American troops to fight in the Korean War

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 27, 1950, President Truman orders American troops to fight in the Korean War

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Communities Digital News

On this day in history, June 27, 1950, President Harry S. Truman gives a statement and orders the United States air and naval military troops to Democratic South Korea to defend them as part of a United Nations military effort after Communist North Korea invaded it two days prior on June 25, 1950, Korean time. After World War II Korea had been divided between North and South by the 38th parallel. Truman sent American troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who would be Commander of the U.N. forces, 15 nations fighting against North Korea. Truman’s decision came after United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s invasion with a 9–0 vote on June 26 and supported the Democratic Republic of Korea. On June 28, the UN voted to use force against North Korea and June 30, Truman committed ground troops to the conflict. Congress did not pass a war resolution but did extend the draft and allowed the president to call up reservists.

Truman’s decision was the first time the American history a president would send troops to a foreign conflict without Congress passing a declaration of war. Truman noted he did not need to because speaking of Congress he said, “They are all with me.” As historian Larry Blomstedt indicates in his book, Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America’s First Undeclared War, explains the Koran War is “historically crucial. Korea began a trend of American presidents deploying significant numbers of troops overseas without obtaining a declaration of war from Congress.” The conflict increased the power of the president.

Sending troops was also part of the post-World War II strategy of “Containment” containing the spread of Communism in the world, and part of the 1947 Truman Doctrine of foreign policy having the US intervening in foreign conflicts that do not directly involve the country. As Truman stated to the public on June 27, “Communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war.” The front line of fighting Communism shifted from Europe to Asia. Truman declared that the spread of Communism in the strategic Korean peninsula was a threat to national security. The Korean War would last three years and for most veterans considered as the “forgotten war.” It was the first American conflict with no clear-cut victory or peace, only an armistice signed July 27, 1953, with 36,516 American troops killed in the war. The boundary line altered slightly with both sides gaining territory but a continued military presence was necessary.

Recently, nuclear tensions between North Korea and the US increased under President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. A result of the escalation and Trump’s bully diplomacy, North and Korea had a rapprochement and signed an agreement with the intention to make finally a peace agreement, 65 years after the armistice was signed. The US and North Korea are also making historic headway, with Trump becoming the first American president to meet with a North Korean leader. At their Singapore summit on June 12, the two leaders signed an agreement to denuclearize North Korea, a giant step towards finally ending the Korean War.

READ MORE

Blomstedt, Larry. Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America’s First Undeclared War. Lexington, Kentucky The University Press of Kentucky, 2016.

Brands, H W. The General Vs. the President: Macarthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War. New York : Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.

Wainstock, Dennis. Truman, Macarthur, and the Korean War. New York, NY: Enigma Books, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Statement by the President on the Situation in Korea
June 27, 1950

IN KOREA the Government forces, which were armed to prevent border raids and to preserve internal security, were attacked by invading forces from North Korea. The Security Council of the United Nations called upon the invading troops to cease hostilities and to withdraw to the 38th parallel. This they have not done, but on the contrary have pressed the attack. The Security Council called upon all members of the United Nations to render every assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution. In these circumstances I have ordered United States air and sea forces to give the Korean Government troops cover and support.

The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war. It has defied the orders of the Security Council of the United Nations issued to preserve international peace and security. In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area.

Accordingly I have ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa. As a corollary of this action I am calling upon the Chinese Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. The 7th Fleet will see that this is done. The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.

I have also directed that United States Forces in the Philippines be strengthened and that military assistance to the Philippine Government be accelerated.

I have similarly directed acceleration in the furnishing of military assistance to the forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina and the dispatch of a military mission to provide dose working relations with those forces.

I know that all members of the United Nations will consider carefully the consequences of this latest aggression in Korea in defiance of the Charter of the United Nations. A return to the rule of force in international affairs would have far-reaching effects. The United States will continue to uphold the rule of law.

I have instructed Ambassador Austin, as the representative of the United States to the Security Council, to report these steps to the Council.

OTD in History… June 26, 1963, President Kennedy delivers his Berlin Speech declares solidarity “Ich bin ein Berliner”

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 26, 1963, President Kennedy delivers his Berlin Speech declares solidarity “Ich bin ein Berliner”

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivers his Berlin Speech, where he expressed solidarity and hope with the citizens of West Berlin declaring “Ich bin ein Berliner” I am a Berliner, in what is considered Kennedy’s best speech and one of the best speeches in American history. Kennedy delivered his speech in front of the Berlin Wall on the steps of the Rathaus Schöneberg, the city hall, in front of an audience of 450,000 filling Rudolph Wilde Platz; the speech was the climax of Kennedy’s four-day trip to Germany. The Soviet Union built the wall barely two years earlier to separate the eastern Communist bloc with the western democratic half of the city and prevent their citizens from escaping to freedom. The citizens of West Berlin were an island of democracy surrounded by the Communist regime, Kennedy’s anti-Communist speech aimed at showing American and western support for the city. Three other presidents after Kennedy aimed at making history at the wall, only twenty-four years later Ronald Reagan made an impact asking Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall.”

The people of West Berlin and West Germany needed Kennedy’s assurances of support from the west as they sat in the middle of Soviet-controlled East Germany. After World War II, Berlin was divided into four blocs, the east controlled by the Soviets, and the western part of the city controlled by the American, British, and French. In June 1948, the Soviets blocked land access to West Berlin, in response President Harry Truman and the Allied Military Air Transport Service airlifted food, energy, medical supplies into the western part of the city, the blockade would last until May 1949, and the US delivered 2.3 million tons of supplies. On August 13, 1961, the East German government started the wall between the east and west, first built with barbwire and then a more permanent with cement blocks, the Berlin Wall, called the antifaschistischer Schutzwall.

Kennedy faced the continuing aggressive threats from the Soviet Union. Kennedy first met Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in a June 1961 summit, where Kennedy was warned it was “…up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace” and if not “Force will be met by force.” Tensions remain high throughout Kennedy’s term. Kennedy delivered another speech before his Berlin one about the Cold War and nuclear two weeks earlier on June 10 at American University in Washington, which was conciliatory to the Soviets where the president talked of “improving relations with the Soviet Union”, while in Berlin Kennedy took a hard-line approach. Kennedy arrived in West Germany on June 23 for his four-day trip.

The most famous phrase of Kennedy’s speech was a late add-on by the president. Kennedy was revising his speech up even during his trip and his “Ich bin ein Berliner” was not of the typed cards of the speech written by speechwriter Ted Sorensen, but scribbled by Kennedy phonetically among some German phrases he was considering. Kennedy would use the phrase twice at the beginning and conclusion of his address.

Kennedy started his speech declaring, “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’” Historian Andreas W. Daum writing his book Kennedy in Berlin believes after President Kennedy saw the Berlin Wall he was inspired and “fell back on the most memorable passage of his New Orleans speech given the year before, changing pride in being an American in being a Berliner.” (Daum, 153)

Kennedy harshly criticized the Soviets and communism and praised the citizens of West Berlin in his nine-minute speech. Kennedy condemned Communism, saying, “There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.”

To contrast with Communism and refer to the wall, Kennedy pointed out, “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in.” In conclusion, Kennedy again uttered his soon to be famous line, “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!’” The cheering from crowds lasted long after Kennedy completed his speech, he later said, “We’ll never have another day like this one, as long as we live.”

After his speech, Kennedy’s National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy took the president aside and warned him, telling him, “Mr. President, I believe you have gone too far,” concerned

he was risking negotiations for the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty they would sign with the Soviets later that year. Later that afternoon, Kennedy would give a toned down version of the speech at the Freie Universität Berlin before concluding the trip in Germany and moving on to Ireland.

Kennedy had not gone too far, the public and historians remember the speech as Kennedy’s best and one of the defining moments in the Cold War. Historian Alan Brinkley writing in his book John F. Kennedy: The 35th President, 1961–1963 indicates the Berlin “speech was a rhetorical triumph and a contrast to his tempered call for peace two weeks earlier at American University. There were few hints of conciliation in his words in Berlin as Kennedy rolled out the failures of the East and the triumphs of the West.” (Brinkley, 131) While Daum states, “It is one of the most successful trips of Kennedy’s presidency. This success can be attributed above all to the enormous demonstration of enthusiasm Kennedy experienced in Berlin, which will remain in the memory of generations thanks to his own declaration ‘“Ich bin ein Berliner.’” (Daum, 163)

During the Cold War, two other presidents would speak in Berlin near the wall, President Jimmy Carter and more famously Ronald Reagan in June 1987, where he challenged Soviet leader Gorbachev in front of the Brandenburg Gate to “tear down this wall.” Two years later in October 1989, the people of Berlin would tear down the wall with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nearing the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech President Barack Obama would invoke Kennedy in his speech on June 19, 2013, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, expressing “His words are timeless because they call upon us to care more about things than just our own self-comfort.” Obama was right, as journalist and Kennedy biographer Andrew Cohen writes, “Fifty years later, Mr. Kennedy in Berlin remains one of the spectacles of the Cold War. Here was an exquisite meeting of man, moment and momentum, creating a dazzling piece of theatre. Presidents have come to Berlin since to declaim and decry, but none like this.”

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Brinkley, Alan. John F. Kennedy: The 35th President, 1961–1963. New York: Times Books, 2012.

Daum, Andreas W. Kennedy in Berlin. Washington, D.C: German Historical Institute, 2008.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Remarks at the Rudolph Wilde Platz, Berlin

 

I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum.” Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany–real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

OTD in History… June 24, 1795, the Senate ratifies Jay’s Treaty establishing trade between America and Great Britain

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 24, 1795, the Senate ratifies Jay’s Treaty establishing trade between America and Great Britain

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this in history June 24, 1795, the Senate ratified Jay’s Treaty, negotiated by Chief Justice of the United States John Jay for President George Washington to resolve the outstanding issues between the United States and Great Britain after the Revolutionary War. The treaty avoided war and established preferential trade with Britain, alienating France, America’s ally in their war for independence. Although residue issues were resolved with Britain, it contributed to tensions over trade between the US, Britain and France that would contribute to the War of 1812. Additionally, the treaty was divisive between the two emerging political parties, the Federalists, who supported the treaty and Democratic-Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, who distrusted the British and supported loyalties to France.

The Senate passed “The Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America” with a vote of 20–10, the two-thirds majority necessary to pass. In 1794, President Washington sent Chief Justice Jay to London to negotiate the outstanding issues from the Revolutionary War that were continually causing tensions between the two nations. The issues involved tariff and trade restriction on American exports, the British refusing to vacate their Northwestern forts although it was party of the 1783 Paris Peace Treaty, which Americans believed were contributing to attacks by natives on American settlers, and the impressments of American ships, sailors and naval supplies, although America was considered neutral on trade.

The issues were putting the two nations at the “brink of war,” and President Washington listened to his Secretary of the Treasury and Federalist Alexander Hamilton about resolving the problems with Britain. Washington sent the pro-British Chief Justice to negotiate. Jay had negotiated on America’s part in 1783. Hamilton advised Jay to use a threat to bargain with Britain, that the US would join the Scandinavians, the Danish and Swedish and would fight against impressments. Hamilton, however, betrayed Jay and told the British that America would not use military force or form the alliance. Jay was left without any advantages in his negotiations. Virginia Senator James Monroe later joined the mission to watch over the Democratic-Republican interests.

Among Washington’s demands, he wanted the British to vacate their army from forts in the Northwest Territories, compensate slaveholders for slaves abducted and ship owners, whose ships were confiscated. Washington also wanted free trade with the British West Indies.

The British were refusing to comply because the US was breaking two articles of the 1783 Paris Peace Treaty, refusing to pay debts to British creditors and keeping loyalists’ confiscated properties from the war.

The agreement Jay negotiated with British Foreign Secretary Lord Grenville in the fall of 1794, hardly favored the US but it would avoid war. In the agreement, Britain would vacate the Northwestern forts, and grant the US “most favored nation” status with trade but severely restrict trade in the British West Indies. The remainder would be resolved by arbitration including the “Canadian-Maine boundary, compensation for pre-revolutionary debts, and British seizures of American ships.” In return, the US would grant Britain preferential trade rights including trade access with the British West Indies, and the US would adhere to Britain’s “anti-French maritime policies” including allowing the British to seize American goods to be traded with France with pay and French goods without pay. The US would also ensure that private British war debts were all repaid. Britain’s King George III signed the treaty on November 19, 1794.

Britain favored Hamilton and the Federalists and that was the reason they negotiated at all with the US. Historian John C. Miller writing in his 1964 biography, Alexander Hamilton and the Growth of the New Nation noted, “The fact that the British were willing to make a treaty with the United States in 1794 was partly owing to their recognition that the strengthening of the ‘well-intentioned Party in America’ led by Hamilton was Great Britain’s best hope of stemming the tide of Jacobinism in the United States and upholding neutrality against the ‘French faction’ headed by Jefferson and Madison.” (Miller, 421)

Jay’s Treaty might have prevented war but it was a failure in American diplomacy, an observation made at the time and by historians. Historian Raymond Walters Jr. in his 1957 biography Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat writes, “The treaty Jay sent home represented a complete triumph for British diplomacy. The United States won modest concessions at a humiliating price.” More recently, historian Richard Norton Smith remarked, “Indeed, a first reading of the twenty-eight articles suggested that Washington’s experiment in secret diplomacy had blown up in his face. Instructed to secure American rights and open British markets; the chief justice did neither. Although agreeing to evacuate the northwestern posts no later than June 1, 1796, the British retained a share of the lucrative fur trade on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian boundary. In exchange for this concession, no more than a belated promise to carry out the terms of the old peace treaty, Jay had bargained away his country’s wartime rights as a neutral power.”

Historians, however, noted that Jay’s Treaty accomplished what it was supposed to in avoiding war with Britain. Historian Richard Brookhiser in his 1996 book, Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington observed, “In the day time, your path through the woods is ambushed; the darkness of midnight … The ratification of Jay’s Treaty also assured that the country would not be tugged by sympathies with France into a showdown with Britain it could not afford.” (Brookhiser, 100) While historian Joseph J. Ellis concurred in his 2004 book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, Jay’s Treaty “bet, in effect, on England rather than France as the hegemonic European power of the future, which proved prophetic. It recognized the massive dependence of the American economy on trade with England [and] it linked American security and economic development to the British fleet, which provided a protective shield of incalculable value throughout the nineteenth century.” (Ellis, 136)

The treaty divided the nation, with Hamilton’s Federalists supporting the pro-British deal and the Democratic-Republicans led by Jefferson and James Madison in opposition. Jefferson and Madison found that is favored Britain and put America’s trade interests at risk. With former Secretary of State Jefferson between posts, Madison as a Virginia Congressman was the official voice in opposition. After Washington signed the treaty, Jefferson wrote to Monroe on September 6, 1795, about the public opposition, “So general a burst of dissatisfaction never before appeared against any transaction. Those who understand the particular articles of it, condemn these articles. Those who do not understand them minutely, condemn it generally as wearing a hostile face to France.”

Neither was Washington satisfied with the treaty but he thought it was the country’s best chance to avoid another war with Britain, and opened up trade with Britain. Congress also opposed the treaty, and it was uncertain it would be ratified but the Senate passed it on June 24, and Washington signed it into law on August 18, 1795. Over the next year, Congress would remain divided as they worked on the appropriations bills to fulfill the treaty, and on April 30, 1796, the House passed with a vote of 51–48 the appropriations bills to fund the treaty.

In addition to keeping the nation out of war and increasing trade, it helped form the party-system in American politics. Historians Samuel Eliot Morison, Henry Steele Commager and William E. Leuchtenburg in The Growth of the American Republic, concluded, “The fight over appropriations for the Jay Treaty in the House marked the crystallization of the party system.” (Morison, Commager and Leuchtenburg, 308) Jay’s treaty staved off war as Washington hoped but was not a solution as Jefferson and Madison foresaw. The agreement threatened America’s trade neutrality, with Britain consumed in the Napoleonic Wars; America was caught in the middle. British impressments and blockades would only increase when Jefferson assumed the presidency and again put the country on the brink of war. Finally, Madison would take a stronger nation to war in 1812, to resolve finally British continual trade blockade and impressments.

Over 220 years later, the US is again confronted and divided by party over trade. Republican President Donald Trump’s protectionist and anti-trade America First policies, have his administration renegotiating or pulling out of the country’s free-trade agreements with its allies. Recently, Trump has taken his trade wars further imposing tariffs on trade partners unless they negotiate fair deals with the US. His policies contrast with the Democrats pro-free-trade ideology. Although the Democrats and the news media are treating Trump’s approach to trade as an abbreviation in American history, Jay’s Treaty and the uproar and opposition it caused proves trade agreements have always been controversial for the nation.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Brookhiser, Richard. Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington. New York: Free Press, 1996.

Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Miller, John C. Alexander Hamilton and the Growth of the New Nation. New York: Harper and Row, 1964.

Walters, Raymond. Albert Gallatin, Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1969.

Wood, Gordon S. Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815. New York [etc.: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

British-American Diplomacy
Jay Treaty : Senate Resolution June 24, 1795

Resolved, (two-thirds of the Senate concurring therein,) That they do consent to, and advise the President of the United States, to ratify the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation, between his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, concluded at London, the 19th day of November, 1794, on condition that there be added to the said treaty an article, whereby it shall be agreed to suspend the operation of so much of the 12th article, as respects the trade which his said Majesty thereby consents may be carried on, between the United States and his islands in the West Indies, in the manner, and on the terms and conditions therein specified.

And the Senate recommend to the President to proceed, without delay, to further friendly negotiations with his Majesty, on the subject of the said trade, and of the terms and conditions in question.

Source:
Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America.
Edited by Hunter Miller
Volume 2
Documents 1-40 : 1776-1818
Washington : Government Printing Office, 1931.

OTD in History June 22, 1807, The Chesapeake-Leopold Affair one of the key events leading to the War of 1812

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History June 22, 1807, The Chesapeake-Leopold Affair one of the key events leading to the War of 1812

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 22, 1807, the British ship the HMS Leopold attacked the American frigate the USS Chesapeake on the Chesapeake Bay of the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, as part of British semi-warfare and impressments against American ships during the Napoleonic Wars. The engagement was a key event leading to the War of 1812, the final war between the two countries, but Presidents Thomas Jefferson and successor James Madison were able to stave off declaring war for another five years.

In earnest since 1803, Great Britain engaged in impressments; taking British naval deserters back into the Royal Navy. Most of the men were taken from American ships, many even had American citizenship or papers, but as Frank W Thackeray and John E Findling write in their book Events that changed the world in the nineteenth century, the British policy was “once an Englishman, always an Englishman.” (Thackeray and Findling, 20)

The war between the two countries almost started earlier than in 1812 because of the Chesapeake affair in June 1807. Near the Chesapeake Bay, the British ship the Leopard under Captain Salusbury Pryce Humphreys pursued and then stopped the American warship. Humphreys insisted they come on board to retrieve a deserter. When the Chesapeake’s captain James Baron refused the British ship opened fire, killing three and wounding 18 including the captain, the Chesapeake was only able to get one shot fired in retaliation, after Barron surrendered.

Humphreys still came on board taking four men, three of which were American with citizenship but had served on British ships. The Americans were Daniel Martin, John Strachan, and William Ware, all from HMS Melampus, two were African-Americans. Jenkin Ratford was the only British born on the ship and used to part of the crew of HMS Halifax. The three Americans were sentenced to 500 lashings but they were commuted because Britain later returned the three to the Americans. Ratford, however, was sentenced to death by hanging on the Halifax. Chesapeake’s captain, Barron was court-martialed and suspended from duty for five years. Britain eventually offered to pay for the damages to the Chesapeake.

The incident caused an uproar in America because of the disrespect Britain gave America and humiliation to the nation’s honor. Many wanted the government to respond with force, even Federalists and Democratic-Republicans agreed on the matter. President Jefferson remarked the war fervor for war was more than for the battle that touched off the Revolutionary War. The President expressed, “Never since the Battle of Lexington have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present, and even that did not produce such unanimity.” Madison was Secretary of State under Jefferson, and future President James Monroe was just a foreign minister.

Monroe notified Britain of America’s demands, which included “British disavowal of the deed, the restoration of the four seamen, the recall of Admiral Berkeley, the exclusion of British warships from U.S. territorial waters, and the abolition of impressments from vessels under the United States flag.” Britain would not budge on the impressments. The nation, however, was not prepared for another war. Instead, President Jefferson responded on July 2, with a policy of “peaceful coercion,” which stopped sea trade to Britain and France.

Congress proceeded to pass in December 1807 the highly divisive and unsuccessful Embargo Act of 1807. The incident heightened tensions between the two countries, America demanded respect and would not get it from Britain. Britain’s actions the next five years would cause economic hardships for Americans the humiliation would be enough for America to stand up and declare in what was considered the second war for independence.

READ MORE

OTD in History… June 18, 1812, President Madison signs declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada

Thackeray, Frank W, and John E. Findling. Events That Changed the World in the Nineteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Tucker, Spencer, and Frank T. Reuter. Injured Honor: The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, June 22, 1807. Annapolis, Md: Naval Inst. Press, 1996.

 

 

OTD in history… June 21, 1788, the United States Constitution is ratified becomes law

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in history… June 21, 1788, the United States Constitution is ratified becomes law

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, June 21, 1788, the United States Constitution is ratified after New Hampshire became the ninth out of thirteen states to ratify it, making the Constitution “the law of the land.” After the Revolutionary War, the loose Articles of Confederation did not give the government enough power to govern the new nation. Congress agreed they needed to be revised to create a new constitution. The Constitutional Convention met beginning on May 25, 1787, at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia now known as Independence Hall. Three months later on September 17, 1787, the Congress completed their task of creating a Constitution, which dictated the new federal government with checks and balances, and three branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial. The document created and ratified only 10 months later is still 231 years later up for interpretation and has grown with 27 additional amendments to fit the country’s changing needs.

The Articles of Confederation gave the unicameral Congress with one representative from each state very little power, for anything to get accomplished nine states had to vote in favor. As Frank W. Thackeray and John E. Findling write in their book “Events that changed the world in the eighteenth century,” “Congress was given authority to control foreign affairs, declare war and make peace, coin money, borrow money, requisition states for money, settle interstate disputes, govern the western territory and admit new states, run the postal service, and handle Indian affairs.” (Thackeray and Findling, 133) However, the major problems facing Congress was that they not “authorized to levy taxes or regulate interstate commerce,” and they had “no powers of enforcement.” In 1786, George Washington remarked, “I predict the worst consequences from a half-starved limping government, always moving upon crutches and tottering at every step,” and in 1787, Alexander Hamilton declared the country had “almost the last stage of national humiliation.” (Thackeray and Findling 134)

When the 55 delegates with George Washington as the president met for the Constitutional Convention, they thought they would mostly being amending the Articles of Confederation; however, most wanted a new document. The main points they had to resolve were “representation in Congress, separation of powers, and division of power between the states and the national government.” (Thackeray and Findling, 134) They created two houses a lower House of Representatives, based on population taking into account slaves voted by the people, and an “equally represented” upper house, the Senate was chosen by the state legislatures. Three branches of government were created, legislative, executive and judicial, with “an elaborate set of checks and balances,” which included, “a presidential veto, Congressional authority over money matters, and lifetime tenure for judges.” As for the division of powers, the central government would be able “to levy taxes, regulate foreign and interstate commerce, and pass laws” to implement their powers. (Thackeray and Findling, 135)

In total, there were seven articles to the Constitution. The Constitution began with “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

In September 1787, at the conclusion of the convention 38 out of the 41 delegates signed the new Constitution. To become law, Article VII stipulated nine out of the thirteen states had to ratify it. The Constitution became a subject of much debate, which those supporting called Federalists and those that opposed called anti-Federalists, the factions ended up led by the philosophies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson respectively. The main concerns were the lack of guarantees for “fundamental liberties” and the issue of states’ rights stemming from the fear of “authoritarian central government.” (Thackeray and Findling, 136)

Each state held a ratification convention. Right off, the smaller states starting on December 7, which included “Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut” ratified the Constitution quickly in December and January. Massachusetts, however, put up a fight concerned about the lack of guarantees for “basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press.” In February 1888, the state promised that a Bill of Rights would be amended to the Constitution and then the state narrowly ratified it. Then in April and May Maryland and South Carolina ratified the constitution, however, it failed to pass in Rhode Island in March. On June 21, New Hampshire ratified the Constitution passing it into law.

The two largest states Virginia and New York were on the fence, and although nine states ratified the Constitution, it was necessary for the two states to pass it as well for governing. In Virginia, Washington used his “influence” to ensure ratification in June. In New York it was more complicated the two factions Federalists led by Hamilton and anti-Federalists by Governor George Clinton were dueling it out at the convention, Clinton popularity was preventing ratification. To sway the delegates, Hamilton joined James Madison and John Jay where they wrote a series of commentary in favor of the Constitution called the Federalist Papers. The 85 essays were able to persuade the delegates to ratify the Constitution in July.

Elections were set for December 15, 1788, to Saturday, January 10, 1789, and the government would convene on March 4, 1789, with George Washington elected the first president and John Adams as Vice President. Six months later on September 25, 1789, Congress with Madison added 12 amendments known as the Bill of Rights, which were then sent to the states to ratify. In November 1789, North Carolina ratified the Constitution. All that was left was holder over Rhode Island, who found fault with the federal government controlling the currency and slavery, when the government “threatened” to cut “commercial ties,” Rhode Island narrowly ratified the Constitution on May 29, 1890, becoming the 13th state to do so. It took over a year later on December 15, 1791, for all the states to ratify the Bill of Rights.

The United States Constitution is the oldest working and most successful in history. The Founding Fathers created a document that had the forethought to grow and expand as the nation, its territories did and times changed. Historian Pauline Maier in her book Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787–1788 concludes, “The Constitution they gave us proved more successful than its most devoted advocated imagined: It has guided the United States as its boundaries expanded from the Mississippi to the Pacific and its influence spread over the world… Without the Constitution’s critics determined opposition, however, the first ten amendments would not have become a part of the Constitution for later generations to transform into a powerful instrument for the defense of American freedom.” (Maier, 467, 468) Whatever crisis the country has faced or will and whoever becomes the president and whether they abuse their power or not, the Constitution is a living document that protects the nation and its people and their future guaranteeing freedom and the continuation of the oldest and most successful democratic experiment.

SOURCES & READ MORE

Klarman, Michael J. The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution. New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2016.

Maier, Pauline. Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787–1788. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… June 20, 1963, President Kennedy establishes direct hotline to the Soviet Union

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 20, 1963, President Kennedy establishes direct hotline to the Soviet Union

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, June 20, 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed an agreement creating a direct hotline between the two countries, which President John F. Kennedy had negotiated after the slow exchange of messages during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis put the countries at the precipice of nuclear war. The hotline still exists between the United States and Russia; however, the technology has been updated three times since the agreement was signed in 1963.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis the previous October 16–28, 1962, the US and Soviet Union had a confrontation over each other’s nuclear weapons. The Americans had weapons stored in Italy and Turkey and the Soviets were planning to transport nuclear weapons to Cuba, in order to deter another American invasion like the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. After a U-2 spy plane discovered the missile facilities in Cuba, President Kennedy ordered a blockade to deter any further ballistic missiles reaching Cuba and demanding the Soviets dismantle those already in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union. The negotiations between the two nations were long and tense. It took 12 hours for the Kennedy Administration to “receive and decode” Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev’s 3,000-word settlement. The administration drafted a reply and in the interim, the Soviets sent another message demanding the US to remove their missiles in Turkey.

Quicker communications between the US and Russia might have resolved the crisis more swiftly and with less threat of a nuclear war. The nations decided to establish a “hotline” for faster and direct communications to avert further crises. In June 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed hotline agreement formally called the “Memorandum of Understanding Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Regarding the Establishment of a Direct Communications Link.” The agreement outlined, “For use in time of emergency the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have agreed to establish as soon as technically feasible a direct communications link between the two Governments.”

On June 20, President Kennedy released a statement about the hotline, saying, “This age of fast-moving events requires quick, dependable communications for use in time of emergency…. both Governments have taken a first step to help reduce the risk of war occurring by accident or miscalculation. This agreement on a communications link is a limited but practical step forward in arms control and disarmament.” August 30, 1963, was the first time the system was used. The phrase the US sent was “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890,” because it utilized the entire alphabet and numerals.

The hotline was not a “red telephone” but encrypted messages sent through telegraph wires and using teletype machines. The system consisted of “two terminal points with teletype equipment, a full-time duplex wire telegraph circuit and a full-time radiotelegraph circuit.” Kennedy would send a telephone message to the Pentagon, where they would encrypt the message and then send it through a transmitter. The US first used the hotline to notify the Soviet of Kennedy’s assassination. President Lyndon Johnson, however, was the first president to use the hotline. In 1967, he responded then-Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin during the Six Day War in the Middle East. Johnson warned the Soviet leader who was supporting the Arab nations that he was considering sending the Air Force to aid Israel.

In 1984, the hotline changed over to fax machines, while since 2008 it has been through secure emails on a computer network. The system has worked, and never has the two countries ever been at the precipice of nuclear war as they had been in 1962. In 2010, President Barack Obama joked that social media was replacing the hotline, “We may be able to finally throw away those red phones that have been sitting around for so long.” Recently American relations with Russia have turned frosty under Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the US should not consider retiring those phones just yet.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Convention nominates John C Frémont for president

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Convention nominates John C Frémont for president

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Party convention convenes at the Musical Fund Hall, Philadelphia nominating John C. Frémont (California) for president and William L. Dayton (New Jersey) for vice-president on the second ballot. The Republican Party emerged after the Whig Party crumbled over the issue of expanding slavery in the new territories in 1854 creating an anti-slavery platform. At the 1856 convention, Abraham Lincoln unsuccessfully sought the vice-presidential nomination only to lose the ballot.

The 1856 campaign had a backdrop of the violence not seen in a peacetime, with Bleeding Kansas and Bleeding Sumner, the canning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner after his “harlot slavery” speech by Congressman Preston S. Brooks on the Senate floor. Frémont would go to battle in the election against Democrats and eventual victors James Buchanan and John Breckenridge, and former President Millard Fillmore with Andrew Donelson on the Whig- American Party tickets. Four years, later Lincoln would be the Republican Party’s nominee for presidency succeeding to take them to the White House, however, keeping their promise the Southern states seceded from the Union, leading to the Civil War.

In 1854, Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and President Franklin Pierce devised the Kansas-Nebraska Act to open up the territories for settlement. The act, however, repealed the Missouri compromise of 1820, which created boundaries for the entry of slave and free states from the Louisiana Purchase Territory along the Mason Dixon line, keeping a balance of one slave and one free entering the union at a time. The Compromise of 1850 moved closer opening New Mexico and Utah territories to slavery.

With the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the territories would decide if they want to enter the union as free or slave states advocating the right of popular sovereignty. The act said, “When admitted as a state or states, the said territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union, with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission.” The Whig Party could not coalesce on the issue, with the Southern Whigs supporting the act and the Northern Whigs opposing the act.

In response, anti-slavery Whigs had a number of meetings in the mid-western states to protest the Kansas-Nebraska Act. On February 28, 1854, they decided to organize a new political party, which would unite in opposing the expansion of slavery. On March 20, 1854, the alliance of Conscience Whigs, Free-Soilers, and Anti-Slavery Democrats met in Ripon, Wisconsin, met and formed the Republican Party. On July 6, at a meeting Jackson, Michigan, the Republican Party formally launched. In February 1855, the Baltimore Republicans met resolving, “There should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for the punishment of crime, in any of the Territories of the United States.”

The chairmen opened the first Republican nominating convention telling the delegates, “You are here today to give a direction to a movement which is to decide whether the people of the United States are to be hereafter and forever chained to the present national policy of the extension of slavery.” The first Republican convention featured 600 delegates primarily representing the Northern and Border States (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and District of Columbia). The convention treated the Kansas territory as a full state with full voting privileges.

When Salmon P. Chase of Ohio and William H. Seward of New York withdrew their names prior to the vote, explorer and former California Senator John C. Frémont became the front-runner for the presidential nomination, securing it on the second ballot. Lincoln tried for the Vice Presidential candidacy against William L. Dayton, a former senator from New Jersey, who opposed the Compromise of 1850, who ended up capturing the nomination; Lincoln was second place in the voting.

Bleeding Kansas, the violence between free soil and slave supporting settlers in Kansas was a major campaign issue. The Republican’s first party platform advocated “Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy and Slavery.” They wanted to repeal of Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Act, and abolish slavery in the District of Columbia

The party demanded the immediate admission of Kansas into the Union as a free state, opposed the extension of slavery into the territories. The Republicans used the campaign slogans, “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, and Frémont,” and “Fremont and Freedom, Principles NOT Party.”

Republicans faced a disadvantage with donations and only appearing on the ballot of four border-states and not at all in the deep Southern slave states. Democrats charged them as “Black Republicans,” and threatened to secede from the Union if they are elected. Robert Toombs expressed, “The election of Fremont would be the end of the Union, and ought to be.” Governor Henry Wise of Virginia declared privately, “If Frémont is elected there will be a revolution,” and publicly prepared the militia. (McPherson, 159)

Historian James M. McPherson in his epic on the Civil War “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” wrote, “The campaign generated a fervor unprecedented in American politics…. The turnout of eligible voters in the North was an extraordinary 83 percent… While this passion mobilized a large Republican vote, it deepened the foreboding that drove many ex-Whigs to vote for Buchanan or Fillmore.” (McPherson, 159–161) Fremont would win 11 out of the 16 Northern states in the November election.

Fremont’s trailblazing campaign in the middle of an increasingly divided nation would set the stage for Lincoln’s successful Republican run in 1860. As John Bicknell in his book “Lincoln’s Pathfinder: John C. Frémont and the Violent Election of 1856” argues, “But in 1856, the Pathfinder who had made his fame following in the footsteps of others would, after all, blaze a trail. His campaign unique in the annals of politics to that time showed the way to victory for another candidate, a man less reticent personally and more prepared temperamentally for the rigorous challenge of a national crisis. Where John C. Frémont led, Abraham Lincoln would follow.” In 1860, however, all the Democrats threats about secession with a Republican president would come to fruition. In no time, Southern state by state seceded, forming the Confederate States of America and launching the country to a Civil War that for once and for all solved the slavery question.

SOURCES & READ MORE

Bicknell, John. Lincoln’s Pathfinder: John C. Fremont and the Violent Election of 1856. Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2017.

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852–1856. New York [etc.: Oxford University Press, 1987.

McPherson, James M, and David M. Kennedy. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Fred L. Israel, and Gil Troy. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008, 3-Volume Set. New York: Infobase Pub, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in history… June 18, 1812, President Madison signs declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in history… June 18, 1812, President Madison signs declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, June 18, 1812, the War of 1812 begins after President James Madison signs the Congressionally passed declaration into law, beginning what is often considered the second war for independence. Since 1807, during President Thomas Jefferson’s administration, Great Britain had been engaging in a blockade against America because they were trading with France, their enemy in the Napoleonic Wars. Britain also practiced impressments, taking American seamen and forcing them to join the British Royal Navy. On the land front, Britain had been agitating Native Indians to attack American communities. Two and a half years later America was triumphant putting to rest any more wars with Great Britain as they began diplomatic and trade relations that continue, while America would no longer threaten Canada as they moved towards nationhood.

After over 200 years, the good relations between the three countries seem to be eroding under President Donald Trump again over trade and tariffs. After imposing steel tariffs on Canada claiming national security, Trump recently remarked in a conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” when trying to justify the national security reasons. Trump claimed to have been joking but the issue brought up the War of 1812 and the old wounds of the conflict where America unsuccessfully attempted to conquer Canada and the only war where Canada was legitimately an enemy and threat to America in their fight on the side of the British.

Since America won the Revolutionary War, they had been engaging in trade with France, an American ally without any interference from Great Britain shipping from the French West Indies to the US and then to France. With the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Britain started to make it difficult for America to trade with France. The 1805 Essex case in Britain determined Americans could only trade with France if they paid a tariff and proved the items were not originally meant to go to France. American ships were neutral and usually traded with both countries. French leader Napoleon Bonaparte issued the Berlin and Milan decrees in December 1806 and 1807, which created a blockade around Britain. Britain countered with the Order-in-Council. Both empires essentially ordered that ships trading with either empire would have their goods confiscated, American bore the brunt of the decrees. Until the war, the British captured 1,400 American ships.

In earnest since 1803, Britain also engaged in impressments; taking British naval deserters back into the Navy. Most of the men were taken from American ships, many even had American citizenship or papers, but as Frank W Thackeray and John E Findling write in their book Events that changed the world in the nineteenth century, the British policy was “once an Englishman, always an Englishman.” (Thackeray and Findling, 20) The war between the two countries almost started earlier because of the Chesapeake affair in June 1807. Near the Chesapeake Bay, the British ship the Leopard stopped the American warship and insisted they come on board to retrieve a deserter, when the captain refused the British ship opened fire-killing 21, the British captain still came on board taking a total of four men, three which were American citizenship. President Jefferson responded in December 1807 with a policy of “peaceful coercion,” which stopped sea trade to Britain and France. Congress proceeded to pass the Embargo Act of 1807.

The embargo affected the American economy hitting the Northeast that relied on shipping trade the hardest. As Thackeray and Findling write, the embargo was a “politically divisive issue” in the Presidential election of 1808 between Democratic-Republican James Madison, and Federalist, C. C. Pinckney. Madison won the election. Before Jefferson left office he repealed the Embargo Act, and in its stead, Congress passed the Non-Intercourse Act, which allowed trade with all other countries except Britain and France, unless they “removed their decrees.” Economic conditions did not improve and in May 1810, Congress passed Macon’s Bill №2 resuming trade with the two countries “but if either revoked their decrees, the United States would reinstitute nonintercourse against the other.” (Thackeray and Findling, 31) In November, Napoleon revoked his decrees but still harassed American ships. At the same time, America ceased to trade with Britain and diplomatic relations virtually ended.

On land, the US was facing difficulties with the Indians in the territories. As American removed the Indians further West for settlement, great Shawnee chief Tecumseh decided to fight back by forming an alliance with Southern tribes and attacking settlers. Indiana territorial governor William Henry Harrison instead, attacked the Shawnee when Tecumseh was not there in what became the Battle of Tippecanoe fought in north-central Indiana. Congress widely believed that Britain was behind Tecumseh’s actions, supplying them from their Northern Canadian colonies. Congressmen in the west wanted war declared to capture Canada and end their aid to the Indians.

When Congress met in November 1811, under new Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky, they passed a number of war preparedness bills, for an army and enlarging the navy. A small battle where the American ship the President beat the British Little Belt pushed the country to war. On June 18, Madison signed the declaration of war. Just two days earlier, on June 16, “Britain’s House of Commons had repealed the Orders-in-Council.” (Thackeray and Findling, 22) Britain thought Madison would revoke the declaration; instead, he made it about the 10,000 American sailors impressed by Britain.

At first, the war was a stalemate, Britain was occupied with the war in Europe until 1814, and America failed to raise the funds and increase enlistment to enlarge to army and navy to capture Canada. In the first six months of the war, America was victorious in six sea battles, while privateers “captured over 150 British merchant ships worth $2 million.” Britain did better in the land war; with Tecumseh, they reacquired the Michigan territory, while in November 1812, America’s attempted unsuccessfully to invade Upper Canada. By April 27, 1813, with Canada not reinforced with supplies, America captured and burned Upper Canada’s capital York now Toronto. In October, Canada lost Tecumseh as a defense, who was killed. Britain successfully applied a blockade by sea to New York and Philadelphia and blocked the Chesapeake and Delaware.

In 1814, when Napoleon abdicated, Britain turned its attention to the Americans assaulting the country by land and by sea. At the Battle of Lundy’s Lane in July 25, 1814, near Niagara Falls at the New York-Canada border, America lost its last chance to invade Canada. On August 24, Britain captured under Maj.-Gen. Robert Ross from Rostrevor, County Down, Ireland captured the capital Washington, DC burning down the Capital, Library of Congress, Treasury and the White House in retaliation for an attack on York, which forced President Madison to flee to Virginia. Britain thought these defeats would prompt America to fold but Madison would not. Francis Scott Key would be inspired to write the poem the Star Spangled Banner when he saw the American flag still flew above Fort McHenry outside Baltimore Harbor on September 14. On September 11, the US had a resounding victory pushing back Britain at Lake Champlain near the border. America had its most decisive victory after the ceasefire with the Andrew Jackson leading the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

The war officially ended with a ceasefire on December 24, 1814, when both parties signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium. The war officially ended on February 16, 1815, Madison signed the ratified peace treaty. America had staved off the mighty British forces, and although Britain had hoped for American concessions, they could not acquire them. Prime Minister Lord Liverpool concluded, “We might certainly land in different parts of their coast, and destroy some of their towns, or put them under contribution; but in the present state of the public mind in America it would be in vain to expect any permanent good effects from operations of this nature.”

Historians popularly view the War of 1812 as the second war for independence cementing America’s status as a nation. Britain was pleased they were able to contain America. Canada might have been the big victors, British historian Amanda Foreman writes, “For Canadians, the war was, and remains, the cornerstone of nationhood, brought about by unbridled U.S. aggression.” Johns Hopkins University professor and historian Eliot Cohen writing in his book Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War believes Canada benefited the most, “ultimately, Canada and Canadians won the War of 1812… Americans at the time, and, by and large, since did not see matters that way.” Cohen speaking of Canada’s gains in the war explains, “Not only did the colony remain intact: It had acquired heroes, British and French, and a narrative of plucky defense against foreign invasion, that helped carry it to nationhood.”

Historian Sally E. Hadden claims the War of 1812 often called “forgotten conflict” had far-ranging effects for America. Hadden explains, “Surprisingly, the war had a tremendous long-term impact on international law of the sea, American foreign and domestic policies, and America’s plans for expansion to the south and west, which altered American-Indian relations for the rest of the century. The war elevated men like Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun to power in American politics; all would affect momentous decisions in the years before the American Civil War.” Historian Alan Taylor in his book The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies concludes, “The ultimate legacy of the war was that the empire and the republic would share the continent along a more clearly defined border more generous to the Americans and more confining to the British — but most ominous to the Indians.” (Taylor, 439)

The issues that brought upon the war would be resolved years later with the 1817 Rush-Bagot Agreement, which demilitarized the Great Lakes.” The Convention of 1818 determined the Canada US border; the border would be along the forty-ninth parallel until the Rocky Mountains, while both would share the Oregon Territory for 10 years, and the US secured fishing rights off Newfoundland. Politically, the war destroyed the Federalist Party, when they supported the Hartford Convention’s plan for the Northeastern states to secede if Congress did not give them more influence. In contrast, it saw the rise of influence of the South and West, with two war heroes Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison later elected president.

SOURCES

Cohen, Eliot A. Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War. New York, NY: Free Press, 2011.

Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.

Thackeray, Frank W, and John E. Findling. Events That Changed the World in the Nineteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… June 17, 1972, Five men break into DNC at Watergate launching a crisis and the fall of President Nixon

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 17, 1972, Five men break into DNC at Watergate launching a crisis and the fall of President Nixon

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history… June 17, 1973, five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. At 2:30 a.m. on that day, the country and the fate of Richard Nixon would forever change. The burglars were members of the White House covert unit the plumbers, former CIA agent James McCord led the four burglars on their mission. From the start, the White House began their cover-up initially calling it a “third-rate burglary.” The burglary and then its elaborate cover-up by the Nixon’s White House would plunge the country into a Constitutional crisis and be the “beginning of the end” for Nixon.

The Watergate break-in had its originals in the publication of Pentagon Papers. Michael Genovese in his book The Watergate Crisis noted, Special Assistant to the President “Charles Colson has called the events surrounding the Pentagon Papers issue “the beginning of the end.” (Genovese, 15) The Pentagon Papers were a 47-volume history of the Vietnam conflict covering the last four administrations. Disgruntled Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who opposed the Vietnam War, stole the “top-secret” documents and then distributed the papers to the New York Times, and the Washington Post. The Nixon administration opposed their publication and sought to stop their publication, the issue quickly moved up to the Supreme Court.

A year earlier on July 17, 1971, days after the New York Times broke the Pentagon Papers story, Nixon met in the Oval Office with Chief-of-Staff H.R. Haldeman, Nixon counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discussed the need to discredit Ellsberg, who Kissinger deemed a “threat to national security.” They decided the White House needed to take matters into their hands, and started would be the plumbers, a covert intelligence gathering operation. They chose David Young, a former NSC associate, and Egil “Bud” Krogh, Domestic Council staff lawyer. Young and Krough would recruit CIA & FBI agents E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate masterminds.

A year later, in the early hours of June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, the Watergate security guard uncovered a piece tape on the lock of a door, he removed it, but when he returned and found the tape a second time, he called the police. Wills told ABC News in 1973 about the tape, “The tape, at first, didn’t seem to be anything unusual… At that time, I became a little suspicious.” McCord placed the tape on the lock in the basement and eighth and sixth floors. The remaining men, who took part in the break-in were Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez and Frank Sturgis. As part of Operation Gemstone, the Plumbers were gathering “intelligence” on “Nixon opponents.” The five were supposed to bug the DNC offices and take photographs of sensitive and key documents. Two weeks earlier, bugs were installed but did not work, and that night they were replacing them.

Two plain-clothes D.C. Metro police officers John Barrett and Paul Leeper showed up. The Police discovered the five men on the sixth floor of the building in the DNC offices. Had the police officers been in uniform and arrive in a police car, the situation might have been different. Lookout Alfred Baldwin might have noticed and alerted the burglars earlier allowing for their escape. Instead, he waited too long and radioed Liddy too late. The police discovered them after one had hit their arm against a glass partition making a noise.

The burglars were wearing suits and ties. Officer Leeper recounted to ABC News, “McCord said to me twice, ‘Are you the police?’ And I thought, ‘Why is he asking such a silly question? Of course, we’re the police.’ I don’t think I’ve ever locked up another burglar that was dressed in a suit and tie and was in middle age.” According to Genovese They “were wearing rubber gloves, carrying walkie-talkies, electronic eavesdropping equipment, cameras and other tools.” Officer Barrett also indicated they had “bugging devices … tear gas pens, many, many rolls of film … locksmith tools … thousands of dollars in hundred dollar bills consecutively ordered.” None of the burglars gave the police their real names or ages when they were arrested, they had been using aliases to rent their two Watergate hotel rooms. Standing guard at the Howard Johnson Hotel across from the Watergate were Hunt and Liddy. The police arrested them as well.

There were connections to the White House. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein determined the connections to the President, and that McCord was the security director for the Committee to Reelect the President CREEP. The FBI’s investigation determined Hunt had a closer connection to the White House. Their 1974 report found, “On June 17, 1972 [the date of the break-in], Hunt’s probable involvement in the Watergate incident came to the WFO’s [Washington Field Office] attention because of his country club bill found in the Watergate Hotel and because of information contained in [the address book of Bernard] Barker [another of the burglars]. WFO, about 6:00–7:00 pm, June 17, 1972, contacted [Alexander] Butterfield of the White House and learned that Hunt had previously worked as a consultant at the White House. Butterfield was told Hunt may be involved in the DNCH [Democratic National Committee Headquarters] burglary. On June 18, 1972, Butterfield recontacted WFO and advised that Hunt had worked for Charles Colson, Special Counsel to the President.” The White House denied the connections, but the suspects had White House documents.

Preeminent Watergate historian Stanley I. Kutler in his book The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon argued that Nixon was “at the center of Watergate,” and “The wars of Watergate are rooted in the lifelong personality of Richard Nixon. Kutler noted the break-in “clearly was a political operation,” with Attorney General John Mitchell working on a cover-up just “several hours after the news of the burglars’ arrest broke.” Kutler viewed the break-in and subsequent cover-up, as “its planning, its flawed execution, even its motives-ultimately must be seen as part of a behavior pattern characterizing the president and his aides that stretched back to the beginning of the Nixon Administration.” (Kutler, 208, 216, 209)

On Jan. 15, 1973, Barker, Sturgis, Gonzale, Martinez and pleaded guilty to conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping charges and served over a year in prison, while Hunt served 33 months. Liddy and McCord took their chances with a trial both were convicted on Jan. 30, 1973, Liddy served 52 months in prison, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter “commuted his sentence.” McCord served the least time, four months. Federal Judge John J. Sirica shortened his sentence after he claimed there was a “cover-up” that involved senior White House officials.

Many historians see Watergate as the nation’s worse political scandal while clearly placing the blame on Nixon for the downfall of his presidency. Kutler concludes, The Watergate scandal “consumed and convulsed the nation and tested the constitutional and political system as it had not been tested since the Civil War.” (Kutler, 616) London Times Washington Bureau Chief Fred Emery in his book Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon called Watergate “a self-destruct tragedy for Richard Nixon.” Emery determines that Watergate “was a pattern of malfeasance by him and his men that led to the damning — and bipartisan — vote in Congress.” (Emery, xii)

Historian Joan Hoff in her revisionist history, Nixon Reconsidered, viewed Nixon’s presidency as “more than Watergate,” and “Watergate more than Nixon.” Hoff believes the scandal was a product of the times, concluding, “Watergate was a disaster waiting to happen, given the decline in political ethics and practices during the Cold War.” (Hoff, 341) While historian Allan Lichtman notes Watergate “was a widespread conspiracy. Several dozen people went to jail, including other very high officials of the [Nixon] campaign and of the Nixon administration. So a lot of people who should have known much better got sucked into this terrible scandal and it is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions because in many ways Richard Nixon did a lot for the country.”

Three days later, on June 20, Nixon was speaking with Colson in the Oval Office and both agreed, “This is going to be forgotten.” In the short time, the break-in was forgotten, Nixon won reelection with a landslide. The investigative reporting by Washington Post reports, Woodward and Bernstein, whose story would be recounted in their book and then the movie “All The President’s Men” would soon unravel the massive cover-up leading back to the Nixon White House.

The Watergate scandal would consume the nation, and Nixon’s presidency taking down most of the administration’s high ranking officials and sending them to prison. After the revelation of Nixon’s elaborate taping system, and fight over handing over the tapes, the president would lose support from his party. Just over two years later, Nixon facing sure impeachment chose instead, to become the first president to resign from the office. Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford declared upon taking office, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” A month later, Ford pardoned Nixon, and in time, Nixon’s image rehabilitated but the stain of Watergate remained on the nation and Nixon.

SOURCES & READ MORE

Emery, Fred. Watergate: The Corruption and Fall of Richard Nixon. London: Pimlico, 1995.

Genovese, Michael A. The Watergate Crisis. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Hoff, Joan. Nixon Reconsidered. New York: BasicBooks, 1998.

Kutler, Stanley I. The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon. New York: Norton, 1992.

Kutler, Stanley I. Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes. London: Touchstone, 1999.

Small, Melvin. A Companion to Richard M. Nixon. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech on slavery

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech on slavery

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln accepted the Illinois state Republican nomination for Senator, where he delivered his “House Divided” speech, about the future of slavery in which he declared, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln would be facing off against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in the election. Lincoln worked on the speech for weeks, memorized it, and delivered his half-hour message to the Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln used the gospels “a house divided” theme to emphasize the breaking point that slavery was sending the country.

Lincoln believed that Douglas’ 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing the territories to decide whether they would be slave or free and the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision protecting Southern slave owners bringing their slaves in Free states, as pushing that slavery would be accepted throughout the nation. Lincoln would lose against Douglas in round one but would go on to win the presidency in 1860. His House Divided speech’s doomsday view did not foreshadow, however, that in two years slavery would not expand but the slave states succeed pushing the nation to Civil War, with the Union on the line.

Lincoln faced a tough battle to win, at that point the state legislature voted for Senators, and the public only voted for their legislators. Republicans were also grateful to Douglas, while Republican journalist Horace Greeley advocated in his New York Tribune that Republicans vote for Douglas rather than Lincoln. The Republican platform at their convention “rebuffed” Douglas as historian Eric Foner noted in his book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery; instead, “It called for barring slavery from all the territories and denounced the Dred Scott decision and the entire idea of the ‘extra-territorial operation’ of slave law.” (Foner, 99)

The “House Divided” speech is considered one of Lincoln’s best and most historically memorable along with the Gettysburg and his second inaugural addresses. He was warning the Republicans against compliance regarding the expansion of slavery, arguing the status quo could not “stand,” and that the government had the power to end slavery. Lincoln’s most notable part of his speech quoted the biblical “house divided,” notably in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. Lincoln, however, was not the first American politician to use the line to describe the danger slavery posed to the Union, Texas Senator Sam Houston used a similar line “A nation divided against itself cannot stand,” when debating the Compromise of 1850 regarding slavery in the newly acquired territories during the Mexican-American War.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new — North as well as South. Have we no tendency to the latter condition? Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision.”

Lincoln divided his speech into three parts. The first was the “House Divided” introduction on the meaning of Republicanism in opposition to slavery and its expansion. The second section was the proslavery conspiracy facilitated by the courts and government but mostly his opponent Douglas. The third and last section was the “living dog” one, where Lincoln refuted that Douglas was an antislavery leader because he opposed and voted with Republicans against the Lecompton Constitution that would have made Kansas a slave state.

Lincoln argued that all three branches of government were pushing back the divisions between slave and free states that have been instituted since the American Revolution and that the compromises that have kept the country balanced were destroyed by Douglas’ act. While the Supreme Court was invading in the Free State’s laws outlawing slavery, Lincoln believed that popular sovereignty and the Dred Scott decision would allow slavery to expand. As historian Don E. Fehrenbacher indicated in his book, Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850’s, Lincoln regarded the territorial problem as just the point of contact in a larger and more fundamental mental struggle.” (Fehrenbacher, 78) The larger picture was not just how slavery was dealt with in new territories and states, but as Lincoln later said in a March 1, 1859 speech, “this whole matter of right or wrong of slavery in the Union.” (Fehrenbacher, 78)

In the second section, Lincoln looked at the two events, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision as a conspiracy to expand slavery; although they did not come to fruition in the spring of 1858, they seemed a possibility. Lincoln blamed Douglas, Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney as conspiring together. While historian David H. Donald indicates in his book Lincoln, the second section was “designed to show that Douglas was part of a dangerous plot to nationalize slavery.” (Donald, 207)

As Fehrenbacher analyzes Lincoln was “exercising the politician’s privilege of overstating his case.” Fehrenbacher believes that Lincoln agreed his assertion could not be proved; however, “popular sovereignty” made the “nationalization of slavery” a possibility. Donald, however, argues, “Lincoln probably genuinely believed in this alleged proslavery conspiracy among Northern Democratic leaders because he so totally distrusted Douglas…. But his charge of conspiracy was not based on fact.” (Donald, 208) Foner indicated that the conspiracy “had become standard fare among Republican circles.” (Foner, 101) To Fehrenbacher there is a distinct connection between the house divided passage and the conspiracy in Lincoln’s address, “Just as the first step towards the ultimate extinction of slavery was the thwarting of efforts to extend it, so the first step towards nationalization of slavery was the blunting the moral opposition to it.” (81)

Lincoln argued that the country could go either way, but a vote for Douglas because of his advocacy of popular sovereignty would push the country towards morally accepting slavery. As Lincoln pointed out, “Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mould public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, to not care whether slavery is voted down or voted up.” Lincoln would continue to use the image as Douglas complicit in the “proslavery conspiracy” as he ran for president against him in 1859 and 1860.

In the third section of his speech, where he claimed, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Lincoln warned Republicans against viewing Douglas as an anti-Slavery leader, telling them, “Clearly, he is not now with us — he does not pretend to be — he does not promise to ever be. Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work — who do care for the result.”

Fehrenbacher argues the “immediate purpose” of the “House Divided” Speech was “A matter of practical politics it was an attempt to minimize the significance and impact of Douglas’s anti-Lecompton heroics and to demonstrate the folly of diluting Republican convictions with the watery futility of popular sovereignty-in short to vindicate the nomination of the Republican candidate for the Senate in Illinois.” (Fehrenbacher, 83) Donald seemed to have concurred that Douglas was the enemy, concluding, “Thus the three sections of Lincoln’s house-divided speech had the inevitability of a syllogism: the tendency to nationalize slavery had to be defeated, Stephen A. Douglas powerfully contributed to that tendency. Therefore, Stephen A. Douglas had to be defeated.” (Donald, 209) Foner agreed but focuses just on slavery, writing, “Lincoln’s point in the House Divided Speech was not the imminence of civil war but that Illinois voters, and all Americans, must choose between supporting and opposing slavery.” (Foner, 100)

The speech made Lincoln appear as a “radical,” to both his party and to Douglas, who used it against Lincoln, accusing him of being a fanatic that would advocate racial equality. The two candidates would go on to debate three times during the campaign known as Lincoln-Douglas Debates. In the end, the Democratic majority in the state legislature worked in Douglas’s favor garnering him 54 to 46 votes, however, Lincoln would use his speech and campaign to launch himself on the national stage. In 1860, he would beat Douglas this time in the presidential campaign. Lincoln’s foreshadowing would come to fruition, just not as he argued it would. The nation, the “house divided against itself cannot stand,” and did not as the Southern slave states seceded from the Union upon Lincoln’s election, launching the country into a civil war that finally put an end to the slavery question, with the country entirely free of slavery.

SOURCES

Donald, David H. Lincoln. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Fehrenbacher, Don E. Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850’s. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1962.

Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012.

Lincoln, Abraham, Henry L. Gates, and Donald Yacovone. Lincoln on Race & Slavery. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

House Divided Speech

Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858


Even Lincoln’s friends regarded the speech as too radical for the occasion. His law partner, William H. Herndon, considered Lincoln as morally courageous but politically incorrect. Lincoln read the speech to him before delivering it, referring to the “house divided” language this way: “The proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”
On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. At 5:00 p.m. they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. At 8:00 p.m. Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives. The title reflects part of the speech’s introduction, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” a concept familiar to Lincoln’s audience as a statement by Jesus recorded in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

The speech created many repercussions, giving Lincoln’s political opponent fresh ammunition. Herndon remarked, “when I saw Senator Douglas making such headway against Mr. Lincoln’s house divided speech I was nettled & irritable, and said to Mr. Lincoln one day this — ‘Mr. Lincoln — why in the world do you not say to Mr. Douglas, when he is making capitol out of your speech, — ‘Douglas why whine and complain to me because of that speech. I am not the author of it. God is. Go and whine and complain to Him for its revelation, and utterance.’ Mr. Lincoln looked at me one short quizzical moment, and replied ‘I can’t.'”

Reflecting on it several years later, Herndon said the speech did awaken the people, and despite Lincoln’s defeat, he thought the speech made him President. “Through logic inductively seen,” he said, “Lincoln as a statesman, and political philosopher, announced an eternal truth — not only as broad as America, but covers the world.”

Another colleague, Leonard Swett, said the speech defeated Lincoln in the Senate campaign. In 1866 he wrote to Herndon complaining, “Nothing could have been more unfortunate or inappropriate; it was saying first the wrong thing, yet he saw it was an abstract truth, but standing by the speech would ultimately find him in the right place.”

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and howto do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machineryso to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only whatwork the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted; but also, let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidence of design and concert of action, among its chief architects, from the beginning.

But, so far, Congress only, had acted; and an indorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable, to save the point already gained, and give chance for more.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the States by State Constitutions, and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition.

Four days later, commenced the struggle, which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition.

This opened all the national territory to slavery, and was the first point gained.

This necessity had not been overlooked; but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter sovereignty,” otherwise called “sacred right of self government,” which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man, choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.

That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska bill itself, in the language which follows: “It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or state, not to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.”

Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of “Squatter Sovereignty,” and “Sacred right of self-government.”

“But,” said opposition members, “let us be more specific — let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the territory may exclude slavery.” “Not we,” said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through congress, a law case involving the question of a negroe’s freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free state and then a territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave, for a long time in each, was passing through the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both Nebraska bill and law suit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negroe’s name was “Dred Scott,” which name now designates the decision finally made in the case.

Before the then next Presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requests the leading advocate of the Nebraska bill to state his opinionwhether the people of a territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: “That is a question for the Supreme Court.”

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly four hundred thousand votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory.

The outgoing President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible, echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the indorsement.

The Supreme Court met again; did not announce their decision, but ordered a re-argument.

The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever might be.

Then, in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital indorsing the Dred Scott Decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it.

The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained.

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton constitution was or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of Kansas; and in that squabble the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered much, and is ready to suffer to the end.

And well may he cling to that principle. If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle, is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine. Under the Dred Scott decision, “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding — like the mould at the foundry served through one blast and fell back into loose sand — helped to carry an election, and then was kicked to the winds. His late jointstruggle with the Republicans, against the Lecompton Constitution, involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point, the right of a people to make their own constitution, upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas’ “care-not” policy, constitute the piece of machinery, in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained.

\ The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave can ever be a citizen of any State, in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States.

This point is made in order to deprive the negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of this provision of the United States Constitution, which declares that–

“The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.”

Secondly, that “subject to the Constitution of the United States,” neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislaturecan exclude slavery from any United States Territory.

This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus to enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Thirdly, that whether the holding a negro in actual slavery in a free State, makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave State the negro may be forced into by the master.

This point is made, not to be pressed immediately; but, if acquiesced in for a while, and apparently indorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free State of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free State.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mould public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, to not care whether slavery is voted down or voted up.

This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter, to go back, and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left “perfectly free” “subject only to the Constitution.” What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough now, it was an exactly fitted niche, for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in, and declare the perfect freedom of the people, to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment, expressly declaring the right of the people to exclude slavery, voted down? Plainly enough now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision.

Why was the court decision held up? Why even a Senator’s individual opinion withheld, till after the presidential election? Plainly enough now, the speaking out then would have damaged the “perfectly free” argument upon which the election was to be carried.

Why the outgoing President’s felicitation on the indorsement? Why the delay of a reargument? Why the incoming President’s advance exhortation in favor of the decision?

These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse, preparatory to mounting him, when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall.

And why the hasty after indorsements of the decision by the President and others?

We can not absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few — not omitting even scaffolding — or, if a single piece be lacking, we can see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.

It should not be overlooked that, by the Nebraska Bill, the people of a State, as well as Territory, were to be left “perfectly free” “subject only to the Constitution.

Why mention a State? They were legislating for territories, and not for or about States. Certainly the people of a State are and ought to be subject to the Constitution of the United States; but why is mention of this lugged into this merely territorial law? Why are the people of a territory and the people of a state therein lumped together, and their relation to the Constitution therein treated as being precisely the same?

While the opinion of the Court, by Chief Justice Taney, in the Dred Scott case, and the separate opinions of all the concurring Judges, expressly declare that the Constitution of the United States neither permits Congress nor a Territorial legislature to exclude slavery from any United States territory, they all omit to declare whether or not the same Constitution permits a state, or the people of a State, to exclude it.

Possibly, this is a mere omission; but who can be quite sure, if McLean or Curtis had sought to get into the opinion a declaration of unlimited power in the people of a state to exclude slavery from their limits, just as Chase and Macy sought to get such declaration, in behalf of the people of a territory, into the Nebraska bill — I ask, who can be quite sure that it would not have been voted down, in the one case, as it had been in the other.

The nearest approach to the point of declaring the power of a State over slavery, is made by Judge Nelson. He approaches it more than once, using the precise idea, and almost the language too, of the Nebraska act. On one occasion his exact language is, “except in cases where the power is restrained by the Constitution of the United States, the law of the State is supreme over the subject of slavery within its jurisdiction.”

In what cases the power of the states is so restrained by the U.S. Constitution, is left an open question, precisely as the same question, as to the restraint on the power of the territories was left open in the Nebraska act. Put thatand that together, and we have another nice little niche, which we may, ere long, see filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a state to exclude slavery from its limits.

And this may especially be expected if the doctrine of “care not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise that such a decision an be maintained when made.

Such a decision is all that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all the States.

Welcome, or unwelcome, such decision is probably coming, and will soon be upon us, unless the power of the present political dynasty shall be met and overthrown.

We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State.

To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty, is the work now before all those who would prevent that consummation.

This is what we have to do.

But how can we best do it?

There are those who denounce us openly to their own friends, and yet whisper us softly, that Senator Douglas is the aptest instrument there is, with which to effect that object. They wish us to infer all, from the facts, that he now has a little quarrel with the present head of the dynasty; and that he has regularly voted with us, on a single point, upon which, he and we, have never differed.

They remind us that he is a great man, and that the largest of us are very small ones. Let this be granted. But “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Judge Douglas, if not a dead lion for this work, is at least a caged and toothless one. How can he oppose the advances of slavery? He don’t care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the “public heart” to care nothing about it.

A leading Douglas Democratic newspaper thinks Douglas’ superior talent will be needed to resist the revival of the African slave trade.

Does Douglas believe an effort to revive that trade is approaching? He has not said so. Does he really think so? But if it is, how can he resist it? For years he has labored to prove it a sacred right of white men to take negro slaves into the new territories. Can he possibly show that it is less a sacred right to buy them where they can be bought cheapest? And, unquestionably they can be bought cheaper in Africa than in Virginia.

He has done all in his power to reduce the whole question of slavery to one of a mere right of property; and as such, how can he oppose the foreign slave trade — how can he refuse that trade in that “property” shall be “perfectly free” — unless he does it as a protection to the home production? And as the home producers will probably not ask the protection, he will be wholly without a ground of opposition.

Senator Douglas holds, we know, that a man may rightfully be wiser to-day than he was yesterday — that he may rightfully change when he finds himself wrong.

But can we, for that reason, run ahead, and infer that he will make any particular change, of which he, himself, has given no intimation? Can we safely base our action upon any such vague inference?

Now, as ever, I wish not to misrepresent Judge Douglas’ position, question his motives, or do ought that can be personally offensive to him.

Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle so that our great cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious obstacle.

But clearly, he is not now with us — he does not pretend to be — he does not promise to ever be.

Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work — who do care for the result.

Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong.

We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us.

Of strange, discordant, and even, hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.

Did we brave all then to falter now? — now — when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent?

The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.

Wise councils may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later the victory is sure to come.

OTD in History… June 15, 1775, the Continental Congress votes George Washington Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 15, 1775, the Continental Congress votes George Washington Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in History June 15, 1775, the Second Continental Congress unanimously votes George Washington Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution. The Congress chose Virginia delegate Washington because in 1754 he served as “Colonel of the Virginia Regiment and Commander in Chief of all forces now raised in the defense of His Majesty’s Colony” for the British army during the French and Indian War. Washington would accept this central post in America’s fight for independence from Great Britain. Thirteen years later in 1789, again the country would unanimously vote Washington the first President of the United States.

Washington served in the first Continental Congress in the fall of 1774, and in March 1775, was again chosen by Virginia as one of their delegates. This time the colonies were inching closer to war. As Virginia delegate, Patrick Henry declared, “We must fight! Give me liberty or give me death!” War and eventually independence would be on the Second Continental Congress’ agenda when they reconvened on May 10, 1775.

At this point, only militia forces were fighting the British, but they needed a leader after victories against the British with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19. Besides a leader, the militias were lacking “guns, ammunition, and training.” On June 14, the Continental Congress formed the Continental Army, and Samuel and John Adams nominated Washington as commander. New England’s delegates wanted a leader from their area, while others thought having a commander from the South would make the army a “Continental” one representative of the all 13 of the American colonies.

With Washington from Virginia, he became the consensus candidate. The army needed rich and populous Virginia’s involvement. Washington had the military experience, and at 43-years-old was young enough for the rigors of the war, and he was dedicated to the colonies’ patriotic cause. One New England delegate observed, “He seems discrete and virtuous, no harum-scarum, ranting swearing fellow, but sober, steady, and calm.” After his nomination, Washington recused himself from the voting and the Congress unanimously chose him.

On June 16, Washington delivered an acceptance speech, telling the Congress, “I am truly sensible of the high Honor done me in this Appointment… lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every Gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the Command I am honoured with.” Unlike the soldiers, Washington refused to take a salary; instead, he asked to be for having his expenses paid at the war’s end.

John Adams wrote his wife Abigail about the Congress choosing Washington on June 17, saying, “I can now inform you that the Congress have made Choice of the modest and virtuous, the amiable, generous and brave George Washington Esqr., to be the General of the American Army and that he is to repair as soon as possible to the Camp before Boston.”

The next day, Washington wrote a letter to his wife Martha informing her of his new post. Washington expressed, “It has been determined in Congress, that the whole army raised for the defense of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the Command of it. You may believe me my dear Patsy, when I assure you in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it.” Washington admitted, he had no choice to accept the command, writing, “It was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment without exposing my Character to such censures as would have reflected dishonour upon myself, and given pain to my friends.”

The Congress drafted Washington’s commission on June 17; they officially commissioned Washington as commander on June 19, and he assumed command on June 3, two weeks after the army floundered at the Battle of Bunker Hill outside of Boston, Massachusetts on June 17. Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms also on July 3, explaining the reasons behind the colonies military actions and Revolutionary War against Britain.

As historian James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn in their biography, George Washington noted, “From now on, he promised, he would devote himself solely to ‘American Union and Patriotism.’ All smaller and partial considerations would ‘give way to the great and general Interest.’” Washington would serve as the commander leading the newly formed United States to independence and victory against the British, resigning on December 23, 1783. Five years later in 1789, Washington would lead the new nation again, when he was elected the first President of the United States. His two-term presidency would be the model followed throughout American history.

SOURCES

Burns, James M. G, and Susan Dunn. George Washington. New York: Times Books, 2004.

Findling, John E, and Frank W. Thackeray. Events That Changed America in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn Greenwood Press Birmingham, AL, USA EBSCO Industries, Inc., 1998.

READ MORE

Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin, 2010.

Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency George Washington. New York: Knopf, 2004.

Lengel, Edward G. General George Washington: A Military Life. New York: Random House, 2005.

%d bloggers like this: