OTD in History… August 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress delegates sign the Declaration of Independence

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OTD in History… August 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress delegates sign the Declaration of Independence

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 2, 1776, the delegates of the second Continental Congress sign a printed copy of the Declaration of Independence ratified on July 4. On this day, the majority of the 56 Congressional delegates signed their names to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence. For order, they signed by geographic area from the Northern states down to the South. President of the Congress, John Hancock’s signature was in the middle followed underneath by the five rows of signatures, which according to the History Channel, “began with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia.” As the Constitution Center indicates, “August 2, 1776, is one of the most important but least celebrated days in American history.”

Fewer delegates were present at the Congress on August 2 than the July 4 ratification 45 to 49 respectively, Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry were absent on that day and could not sign. While, not all the delegates were excited to sign the document, “John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign, New York was the most reluctant state to endorse independence, they were among seven delegates present at the ratification, who did not sign the declaration. Although, “Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina,” opposed the Declaration of independence but signed the document “to give the impression of a unanimous Congress.” Among the delegates who signed the declaration after August 2, were Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean, Matthew Thornton, and the seven additional delegates added to the convention after July 4.

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. On July 2, 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; they ratified their vote on July 4, the day the nation celebrates American Independence each year.

In June 1776, 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 an 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. The Congress had printer John Dunlap make 200 copies of the Declaration. On July 8, Colonel John Nixon of Philadelphia read the document “to the public for the first time in Independence Square.” On July 19, the Congress ordered the Declaration engrossed and inscribed by all members of the Continental Congress, and most signed the copy on August 2.

Although independence leader John Adams of Massachusetts originally thought July 2, 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. Adams wrote to his wife Abigail of the vote on July 3, “Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, whichever 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) On January 18, 1777, printer Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore printed out the final official copy of the signed Declaration of Independence was printed, it was the first time the delegates names who signed were made public.

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.

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 14, 1798, Congress passes the Sedition Act an assault on the first amendment

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OTD in History… July 14, 1798, Congress passes the Sedition Act an assault on the first amendment

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history July 14, 1798, President John Adams signed into law, the immensely unpopular Sedition Act. It was the fourth of the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts meant to protect the fledgling nation plunged into a Quasi-War naval war with France but at the same time curtailed the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution ratified just seven years before. As the History Channel put it, the act was “one of the most egregious breaches of the U.S. Constitution in history,” “endangering liberty in the fragile new nation.” The laws furthered emphasized the divide between the newly formed political parties, President Adams’ the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans head by Vice President Thomas Jefferson. The Federalists supported closer relations with Great Britain, while the Republicans sided with old Revolutionary War ally France.

During the Quasi-War in 1798–99, France seized over 300 American ships because they were trading with Great Britain under Jay’s Treaty of 1795. France also refused “to accept the credentials of Charles Coatesworth Pinckney, the new American minister to France,” threatening to arrest him. Pickney along with John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry went to France to negotiate a deal to retrieve the “confiscated ships.” (Thackeray and Findling, 152) Three agents of French Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand demanded from the American commissioners $ 250,000 and a $10 million loan. When Pickney, Marshall, and Eldridge notified Adams he sent Congress that, he was denouncing the treatment and wanted Congress to prepare for a possible War. Republicans demanded proof, Adams sent Congress the Commissioners report, the incident became known as the XYZ Affair, for the letters referenced to Tallyrand’s agents.

The moment was a great triumph for Adams as anti-French sentiment swept the new nation, Congress expanded the Army and Navy, with former President General George Washington agreeing to come out of retirement and lead the army with Alexander Hamilton as his second. Congress also cut trade with France but Adams would not agree to Hamilton’s demands for a formal declaration of war. Hamiltonian Federalists in Congress decided on the next best solution to maintaining Federalist control, the Alien and Sedition Acts. Publicly the acts were for national security protecting the country from France; privately Federalists aimed the laws at French supporting Republicans and their partisan press.

The fifth Congress passed four bills in 1798 compromising the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Nationalization Act increased the residency requirement for citizenship to fourteen from five years. The Alien Act allowed the president to deport any immigrant deemed dangerous. The Alien Enemies Act could imprison immigrants whose country declare or threaten war with America. Finally, the Sedition Act, the only one of the four acts enforced. The law punished by fine or imprisonment anyone who made “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the government of the United States. The law clearly violated the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech and punished the Republican press, the Federalists greatest detractors. Ten Republican newspaper editors were prosecuted including Vermont Congressman Matthew Lyon, who received a four-month prison sentence and a $1000 fine.

Republicans Jefferson and James Madison wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, passed in their respective state legislatures declaring the laws a violation of the First and Tenth Amendments. Their remedies called for a “states’ rights interpretation of the Constitution,” Madison called for states’ conventions to curtail federal power, while Jefferson suggested a state could nullify a law should they find it violated the Constitution. The resolutions were political, aimed at electing Jefferson president in 1800. Faced with a backlash Adams committed political suicide by breaking with Hamiltonian Federalists, resuming diplomatic negotiations with France, firing Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, and sending three new commissioners to France who negotiated a “forgive-and-forget agreement,” the Convention of 1800 with France’s new leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Alien Seditions Acts and breaking with Hamilton secured Jefferson ascendency to the presidency and Adams’ defeat. Three of the Acts expired right before or early in Jefferson’s term, with the Alien Enemies Act the lone holdover used during the World Wars in the 20th century. Nearly, two hundred and twenty years later Republican President Donald Trump is preaching and enacting similar anti-immigrant laws in the name of national security with his travel ban, upheld by the Supreme Court and his attacks on the press, continually referring to them as fake news. Trump’s Hamiltonian rhetoric and actions have a precedence neither the press nor the public refuse to acknowledge; throughout American history the Constitution has been threatened by those in the highest offices pledging oaths to protect it.

SOURCES

Findling, John E, and Frank W. Thackeray. Events That Changed America in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998.

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

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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 6, 1775, Second Continental Congress issues the Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

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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

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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 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress declares American Independence from Great Britain

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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 24, 1795, the Senate ratifies Jay’s Treaty establishing trade between America and Great Britain

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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

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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.

 

 

Full Text Obama Presidency February 10, 2014: President Barack Obama and France’s President Francois Hollande’s Remarks After Touring Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama and President Hollande Visit Monticello

Source: WH, 2-10-14

President Barack Obama and President François Hollande of France tour Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Va.President Barack Obama and President François Hollande of France tour Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Va., with Leslie Bowman, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Feb. 10, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This afternoon, President Obama and French President François Hollande visited Monticello, the home of former President Thomas Jefferson, just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, was a noted Francophile, and served as the U.S. Minister to France from 1785 to 1789….READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama and President Hollande of France After Touring Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Source: WH, 2-10-14

Watch the Video

President Obama and President Hollande Visit Monticello
February 10, 2014 9:26 PM

President Obama and President Hollande Visit Monticello

Monticello
Charlottesville, Virginia

5:32 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, this has been a wonderful visit.  And I want to thank François for joining us here today.  I thought this was an appropriate way to start the state visit because what it signifies is the incredible history between the United States and France.

As one of our Founding Fathers, the person who drafted our Declaration of Independence, somebody who not only was an extraordinary political leader but also one of our great scientific and cultural leaders, Thomas Jefferson represents what’s best in America.  But as we see as we travel through his home, what he also represents is the incredible bond and the incredible gifts that France gave to the United States, because he was a Francophile through and through.

He drew inspiration from the Enlightenment ideas that had been developed in France and throughout Europe, but he also drew from the arts, from the architecture, from the writings, from the culture and from the cuisine of France.  And so, in this sense, this home represents the bonds that helped lead to the American Revolution, helped to influence the French Revolution, figures like Lafayette, who played such a central role in our own independence — all this is signified here at Monticello.

And our hope in starting our visit this way is that, just as we can extend back through generations to see the links between the United States and France, tomorrow we’ll have an opportunity to talk about not only our current bonds and alliance but also ways that we can strengthen our cooperation in the future.

And of course, this house also represents the complicated history of the United States.  We just visited downstairs where we know the slaves helped to build this magnificent structure, and the complex relations that Jefferson, the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, had to slavery.  And it’s a reminder for both of us that we are going to continue to fight on behalf of the rights of all peoples — something that I know France has always been committed to, and we are committed to as well.

And I’m looking forward to talking about issues of human dignity and human rights not just in our own countries, but around the world as well.

So, Mr. President, welcome to Monticello, and we look forward to continuing our conversation tomorrow.

PRESIDENT HOLLANDE:  (As interpreted.)  I would like to thank especially President Obama for having invited me to this house.  This is Thomas Jefferson’s house, which means that this was a man who understood — met the secretary of Enlightenment, and he wanted to represent this life throughout this house.  You can see life everywhere.  You can see it the objects, in the refinement of the objects, and its architecture.

Why is this house a symbol?  Because here Lafayette was welcomed.  Together, Lafayette and Jefferson imagined something that seemed impossible — mainly American independence and the rights of — human rights and the rights of the citizen.  Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, and Lafayette was also involved in drafting the Rights of the Citizen, and they met together in this house.

There is something quite unique about Jefferson in the fact that he been ambassador of the United States to France before becoming U.S. President.  I do believe that is the only American President that had that experience.  And he was U.S. ambassador to France at the time of the French Revolution, and he departed from France in August of 1789, which means after the 14th of July with the taking of the Bastille.  He thought he had seen enough and that he could go back home.  And then of course, he was involved in the governance of the United States before becoming President.  And then Jefferson purchased Louisiana from Napoleon. And today we are not demanding anything.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  It was a good bargain, though.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT HOLLANDE:  (As interpreted.)  I also wish to confirm that this bond that unites us with Jefferson, that these bonds are sustained over time, because he represents values and principles.  Freedom, human dignity, rights — these are the values to which we are continuing to fight around the world, the United States and France.  We were allies in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette.  We are still allies today.  We were friends in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette, and we will remain friends forever.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much.

END
5:41 P.M. EST

History Buzz February 17, 2012: George Washington still tops as most favorable President in Presidents’ Day Public Policy Polling survey

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Poll: George Washington still tops

This undated file photo of a 1796 Gilbert Stuart oil on canvas painting portrays George Washington, founding father and first president of the United States. | AP Photo

Eighty-nine percent of Americans say they see George Washington favorably. | AP Photo

Source: Politico, 2-17-12

George Washington still ranks as Americans’ number one president, according to a new poll out Friday.

A whopping 89 percent of Americans say they see the United States’ first president favorably, according to a Public Policy Polling survey. The nation’s most other popular presidents offer few surprises, with Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, John Adams, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, John Quincy Adams and Franklin D. Roosevelt rounding out the top ten.

Lincoln, with 85 percent favorability, just missed taking the top stop from Washington. Only two other presidents have a favorability rating over 70 percent — Jefferson at 74 percent and Kennedy at 70 percent.

Richard Nixon is by far the least popular, with 59 percent saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the scandal-ridden former commander in chief. Just 27 percent say they see Nixon positively. Ten other former presidents hit negative numbers in the poll: Lyndon B. Johnson, Warren Harding, Millard Fillmore, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Barack Obama, Chester Arthur, Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan and George W. Bush.

Obama comes in with 46 percent saying they see him favorably and 49 percent unfavorably. His predecessor, George W. Bush, gets similar support, with 45 percent positive and 46 percent negative ratings. Americans see other recent presidents in a more positive light — Ronald Reagan is the 14th most popular president, Gerald Ford the 16th and Bill Clinton ranks 17th….READ MORE

Simon Schama: The Founding Fathers, Unzipped

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

The Constitution’s framers were flawed like today’s politicians, so it’s high time we stop embalming them in infallibility.

Source: Newsweek, 7-26-11

founding-fathers-schama-wide
From left: Francis G. Meyer / Corbis; Bettmann-Corbis; CorbisFrom Left: Paintings of Alexander Hamilton, Paul Revere, and Thomas Jefferson.

He may have written the Declaration of Independence, but were he around today Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have a prayer of winning the Republican nomination, much less the presidency. It wouldn’t be his liaison with the teenage daughter of one of his slaves nor the love children she bore him that would be the stumbling block. Nor would it be Jefferson’s suspicious possession of an English translation of the Quran that might doom him to fail the Newt Gingrich loyalty test. No, it would be the Jesus problem that would do him in. For Thomas Jefferson denied that Jesus was the son of God. Worse, he refused to believe that Jesus ever made any claim that he was. While he was at it, Jefferson also rejected as self-evidently absurd the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection.

Jefferson was not, as his enemies in the election of 1800 claimed, an atheist. He believed in the Creator whom he invoked in the Declaration of Independence and whom he thought had brought the natural universe into being. By his own lights he thought himself a true Christian, an admirer of the moral teachings of the Nazarene. It had been, he argued, generations of the clergy who had perverted the simple humanity of Jesus the reformer, turned him into a messiah, and invented the myth that he had died to redeem mankind’s sins.

All of which would surely mean that, notwithstanding his passion for minimal government, the Sage of Monticello would have no chance at all beside True Believers like Michele Bachmann. But Jefferson’s rationalist deism is not the idle makeover of liberal wishful thinking. It is incontrovertible historical fact, as is his absolute determination never to admit religion into any institutions of the public realm.

So the philosopher-president whose aversion to overbearing government makes him a Tea Party patriarch was also a man who thought the Immaculate Conception a fable. But then real history is like that—full of knotty contradictions, its cast list of heroes, especially American heroes, majestic in their complicated imperfections….READ MORE

Adam Rothman: Historian: Thomas Jefferson supported ‘government run health care’

Source: WaPo, 1-21-11

Rick Ungar’s post argues that John Adams supported a 1798 measure similar to health reform’s individual mandate…. It turns out Thomas Jefferson also supported the same measure, meaning it had more support than you might have thought among the founders. Jefferson, of course, is the founder most often cited by the Obamacare-despising Tea Partyers as their intellectual and political forefather.

Rick Ungar pointed out that in July of 1798, Congress passed “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seaman” –which was signed by President Adams — authorizing the creation of a government operated system of marine hospitals and mandating that laboring merchant marine sailors pay a tax to support it. A historian I spoke to yesterday said this showed that “the post-revolutionary generation clearly thought that the national government had a role” in subsidizing “government run health care.”

Well, Jefferson did support this plan, the historian, Adam Rothman a Georgetown University history professor who specializes in the early republic, tells me. Rothman emails:

Alexander Hamilton supported the establishment of Marine Hospitals in a 1792 Report, and it was a Federalist congress that passed the law in 1798. But Jefferson (Hamilton’s strict constructionist nemesis) also supported federal marine hospitals, and along with his own Treasury Secretary, Albert Gallatin, took steps to improve them during his presidency. So I guess you could say it had bipartisan support.

….READ MORE

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