Posts Tagged ‘AMERICAN HISTORY’

America went through a tumultuous time in its’ history during the 1960s. Civil rights went to the forefront of America’s interests and was right there with Viet Nam, the Kennedy assassinations and landing a man on the moon. It was a hard struggle and within Louisiana’s political landscape the ability for minority voting was enhanced with the abolition of the poll tax. Unlikely politicians such as Earl Long promoted minority voting and helped to open the doors for those that had never been given the constitutional right to vote.
Segregated water fountains and bathrooms disappeared as did segregated schools a minorities appeared at a quick pace on television and in movies. America had transitioned to an integrated society where African Americans no longer discriminated against in the deep south just and American Indians were integrated into a white man’s world in the West. America had grown up; at least in many quarters.
Many of us had fathers and grandfathers that went to war to fight a diabolical philosophy, an enemy that was committed to purify the earth from innocent men, women and children in a horrid social engineering experiment. The Nazi viewpoint was taken to an extreme and six million Jews were murdered simply because to their linage. Blacks were slated to be on the extermination list as were others deemed to be inferior and sub-standard humans. This was a sad time in the history of the world and a young black man by the name of Jesse Owens disproved this ideal race concept when he destroyed the track competition at the Olympics held in Berlin, Germany with Adolf Hitler looking on.
Many good men and women from the Allied nations never returned from World War II but their sacrifices insured that much of the hatred in the world would be eliminated and we could live in peace without fear of repercussion due to race, creed or religion. This ideal took a long time to be adopted and then understood by the masses. It took a long time after the war to fully espouse the concepts of Americanism; but America has come a long way. Is total equality with us today? The answer is “no” but it is so much better than a decade ago and it will be better in the future decades.
Last week a protest in Virginia ended in tragedy and death as a protest turned deadly. White supremist spit venom into a lovely southern community that is an echo from a time in Germany that saw the goose stepping Nazis terrorize a country and spread its’ hatred across Europe. Actions like this are not a part of our great nation and there is no place in America for this behavior just as marches espousing the killing of police followed by police assassinations are likewise divisive and filled with hatred.
It is imperative that we realize that a few protesters spewing a sick rhetoric in front of a news camera hungry for television ratings does not reflect the majority of any one group. We must look beyond these bumps in the road and look at the greater requirement ; the continued growth of our nation. We must continue to strive to place prejudice behind us from all quarters and place God and country at the forefront.

 

We all know the common names of the authors and signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Names such as Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington and of course Hancock are all synonymous with this historic document.  Not only did they craft the document that would announce to England that America was declaring independence but it meant that the signers committed treason. They were all subjects of Great Britain and they now declared to be independent and would no longer obey the laws of their home land.  In essence, they signed their own death warrants.

While some of the signers of the Declaration are etched in American history and later went on to create the Constitution of the United States, the majority of the fifty-six Declaration signers have been lost in history.  Each was unique but each had one commonality, they felt that a new nation was possible where men lived free and they would be allowed to pursue their dreams unencumbered by class standing.

One of the little known signers was John Witherspoon.  Witherspoon was a Scottish born Presbyterian minister.  He sailed to America to become president of the College of New Jersey; now Princeton.  He was influential in American education and was famous for intimidating both students and peers.

He was one of the early member of the Continental Congress and was a staunch supporter for independence.  When an individual stated that America was not yet ripe for independence, Witherspoon commented,  “In my judgment, sir, we are not only ripe, but rotting.”  During the Highlander uprising in Scotland he was captured and imprisoned thus his fervor for freedom from England was embellished in his psyche.  When the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place he was the only clergyman to ink the document.

Once war broke out Witherspoon experienced the horrors of treason and the sad reality of being a patriot.  His oldest son joined the continental army,  rose to major and was killed in the battle of Germantown.  Later that year his home was burned to the ground by the British soldiers. 

He continued to serve his new country following the end of the Revolutionary War.  Princeton had been badly damaged during the battle there.  He spent two years to help repair the damage.  Witherspoon also became a member of the New Jersey convention that was convened to ratify the constitution.

Several years after the end of the war in 1789 Witherspoon’s wife died.  She was the mother of ten Witherspoon children.  Witherspoon was then 66 years old.  Two years later at 68 Witherspoon married a 24-year old widow.  He died in 1794 but not before fathering two more children.

This is only one of the fifty-six signers of our Declaration of Independence and characterizes the character of the individuals that forged our country.

 

 

 

 

Two hundred and forty-one years ago America was conceived by a handful of courageous men in an assembly hall in Philadelphia. Something so bold, so grand as the building of a nation in a new style takes time and massaging accompanied with changes, restarts and sometimes failure. What was born in Philadelphia on July 4th 1776 is the exception. The Constitution of the United States, the hallmark of our great Nation, the document that was originally signed on that fateful day by the brave men of the Constitutional Congress remains the Constitution of our nation with few changes. There have been over eleven thousand attempts to change or amend the Constitution; however, there have only been twenty-seven amendments added. Ten of these were added soon after ratification of the Constitution and is known as the Bill of Rights. The men who gave birth to the American Constitution got it right and the document stands as the cornerstone of our country.
America is made of varied and unique individuals. This uniqueness is what has grown our country to where we are today but it is time to act like one country and pull for the betterment of our great nation. John Kennedy, the Democratic President that was taken from us way too early, knew what our nation needed to do to confront the communist threat and move our nation forward. Let us not forget his iconic message, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”.
Very few of us are native to America. Even the “Native Americans” migrated to the United States over the land bridge that connected North America with Asia during an ice age thousands of years ago. It doesn’t matter if we trekked across the frozen north or were stuffed in a suffocating barbaric hold of a slave ship or endured a perilous crossing that killed many passengers only to starve in a new world or fled political oppression or gas chambers or even walked across a perilous desert for a new life or came in many other methods and for many reasons; we are here and we are here together.
It doesn’t matter what religion brought us to the country. We are a melting pot of religion. The Hebrew fleeing genocide, or the Pilgrim fleeing religious persecution, or the Muslim seeking a better life, or the Buddhist who came to America to build the railroads in the West, or the Catholic who came to spread the word of the religion when the Spanish explored the West and deep south. All of these religions are in America and living next to each other in a country that guarantees that there will be no government mandated religion and allows each person to worship or not worship as a person desires.
We are all products of our nation and the nation is a product of us. It is time that we look inward and instead of seeing what give away the nation has for us we need to see how we can give back to our country. America is full of volunteers. Our young men and women put their lives on hold to ensure that our country remains safe. Our first responders continually ”serve and protect”. Volunteers across the nation take time from their own lives to help make the country a better place for the citizens or our nation. These are the individuals we all need to mimic. Those that feel that they are entitled to a free ride need to look inward and become retrospect at what they receive and what they can give back. Put on your big boy pants and quit whining about what America is not handing out in freebees. Let’s live by the creed from the Declaration of Independence that guarantees the right to provide “the pursuit of happiness”. There is no guarantee that the government provides “happiness” only the freedom for the citizen to be able to freely pursue happiness.

While researching one of my books I discovered a letter that was addressed to a lady in Wyoming.  The letter was dated 1928; a time that women were supposed to be in the kitchen and taking care of babies.  They were not to be in a leadership role and were certainly not to be involved in politics.  Women had been given the right to vote via the 19th Amendment of the Constitution only eight years earlier in 1920.

There were several aspects to the correspondence that I found interesting.  The letter addressed, among other things, a discussion around prohibition and implementation of the Amendment that banned the sale of alcohol for human consumption.  The tone of the letter was discussion between two adults on an equal plane with no regard to gender.  Another aspect of the letter that caused me to take note was the letterhead that identified the lady as vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The woman in the correspondence began her career as a kindergarten teacher.  In 1900 she married a Tennessee lawyer.  Together they moved West and settled in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Eventually her husband ran for public office and was elected Governor of Wyoming in 1922.  Two years later he died in office and his wife was elected to replace him as Governor for the remainder of his term.  This made her the first female governor in the United States.  Ironically she refused to campaign for her initial election but despite this her supporters took the initiative to help her and she was elected.  She continued her husband’s policies which included reduced taxes, aid to farmers, child labor laws and strengthening prohibition laws.

She continued her refusal to campaign for herself and in 1926 she lost her re-election bid by a narrow vote.  Her refusal to campaign for herself and her prohibition policies were identified as two reasons for her defeat.  She remained active in politics and in 1928 she spoke to the National Democratic Convention where she seconded the nomination of Al Smith for President.  Quite an accomplishment for a female at the time.

The lady remained very active in the Democratic party and in 1933 she was appointed as Director of the U.S. Mint.  This appointment was another first for the female gender.  She served as director of the U.S. Mint until 1956 serving under Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower.  She never remarried and spent her life in service to the country and raising her four children.  The woman did not just reach gender imposed glass ceilings but busted through them.

The ladies name was Nellie Tayloe Ross.  Mrs Ross died in Washington, D.C. in 1977 at the age of 101.  One of the many unknown individuals that helped to build our country.

 

When growing up I had understood that there was one man one vote.  This is what made America special when electing the Local, State and  Federal Officials to include the President and the Vice President.  It is said that Samuel Colt made all men equal.  It is also the vote that likewise made man equal.

As I grew up I began to hear about something called the Electoral College and then began hearing how this organization is what elected the president.  How could one man, one vote be a part of something so archaic as this college thing.  Then recently we had an election where the popular vote did not elect the president but instead the majority of electoral college votes chose the winner.  Suddenly an epiphany hit me after so many years of questioning the wisdom of electoral votes.  I was raised hearing about states’ rights and the sovereignty of a state and how the unique laws, customs, norms and traditions of each state must be preserved.  It is a desire that states have a fair voice in the person that will lead the country and the electoral college is the method adopted by our founding fathers when authoring the constitution of the United States.  Actually the term electoral college was never a part of the writings of the constitution.  The representatives that would determine the President of the United States were referred to as electorals.  It was not until years after the adoption of the method to select the president and the vice president that the term electoral college entered the vernacular of our nation’s political landscape.

When the constitution was being written the founding fathers had to develop a way to elect the country’s national officials.  There was no road map for this.  America would be the first to elect the leader of the nation.  The Constitutional Convention originally planned to use the Virginia Method to select the President of the United States.  This method would have the United States Congress select the President.  The proposal went to a committee to work out the details.  The committee changed the recommendation and came up with a different way to select the president and the vice president of the United States.  The states would vote for the president and elect electorals who would  then vote for the president.  The number of electoral votes accorded an individual state is based on the number of congressmen and senators in a given state.  This method was adopted by the Constitutional Convention.

In a effort to convince the citizens of America that they need to adopt the Constitution as the Law of the Land, several leaders of our founding fathers wrote a series of papers to help the populace understand the historic document.

In the Federalist Paper # 49 James Madison argued  “the Constitution was designed to be a mixture of state-based and population-based government. Congress would have two houses: the state-based Senate and the population-based House of Representatives. Meanwhile, the president would be elected by a mixture of the two modes.”

In the Federalist Paper #68 Alexander Hamilton identified the advantages to the Electoral College. “The electors come directly from the people and them alone for that purpose only, and for that time only. This avoided a party-run legislature, or a permanent body that could be influenced by foreign interests before each election.” Hamilton explained how the election was to be held by the states.  This would insure that corruption in any one state would not taint “the great body of the people” in their selection.

So how does a person with less popular votes win the presidential election.  All states except Nebraska and Maine adopted a winner take all method.  If a candidate wins five states by only 500 votes in each state, the candidate gets all the electoral college votes.  Then if the other candidate destroys the first candidate in another state, the second candidate gets a lot more popular votes but only electoral college votes from one state.  The first candidate wins with a majority of electoral college votes but with less popular votes from the individual voters.

The last election was not the first election where the president was elected with the majority of electoral votes but with a minority of the popular vote.  It happened in 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016.

This will appear in the Farmerville Gazette, Farmerville, LA the week of 1/2/2017

On August 2nd of this year, 241 years ago, fifty-six men sat down and signed the Declaration of Independence. While we celebrate July 4th as the signing of the document, it was adopted on that date.  The actual signing took place a month later.  The question that really needs to be asked is why did these men even sign the document.

All were well placed in society. They weren’t inclined to roam the back streets, drinking and brawling.  The life provided to them was comfortable and it was under British rule that they enjoyed this relaxed lifestyle.  These men that carved out one of the greatest documents in the history of the world were well educated.  President of the conference, John Hancock was a very wealthy businessman while Ben Franklin was not only a famous inventor but a writer and an influential foreign diplomat. In all, twenty-four were lawyers, eleven were merchants and nine were farmers; men with plantations.  They all were all well placed and there was no question in anyone’s mind that they were committing treason when they signed the Declaration of Independence. In essence, they had signed their own death warrants and what happened to these brave brothers of freedom; the sons of anarchy that were the first American patriots that forged the direction for our country.

The British captured five of the founding fathers and tortured them before they died. Two had sons killed and two sons were captured.  Nine of the signers gave the ultimate sacrifice and died of either wounds in battle or hardship.  Carter Braxton of Virginia had his ships sieved. He had to sell his plantation to pay his debt and died broke.  Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton had their homes vandalized and ransacked. Francis Lewis had his property destroyed and his wife was thrown in jail where she died a few months later.  John Hart fled from his dying wife’s bedside.  He lived in the forest and in caves for a year. Upon his return he discovered his wife had died and his thirteen children had disappeared.  He died two weeks later.

So why had these men done this incredible act for our fledgling nation. They had all taken a pledge that they lived by.  “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”  In actuality they were men of honor and they stood by what they had vowed.

Today, we have a new leadership in Washington. The cabinet has a different look than cabinets in the past.  Many of the members that are now just being nominated are successful businessmen who have acquired vast amounts of wealth and have known great power.  Many have never been politicians and many have a different skill set than those of previous cabinet members. Some are wealthy, so wealthy that they can live a life of luxury in their later years that few could only dream of.  Most have talents that would allow them jobs throughout the world that could provide some sort of a self-required power injection.  But for some reason the men and women nominated for the Trump cabinet are in it for another reason.

General John Kelly is a forty-five year combat Marine. He was head of Southern Command, the same command that General Norman Schwarzkopf headed when he lead the coalition forces during Desert Storm.  In addition to his leadership abilities he has a personal tragedy that emphasizes his  commitment to public service.  He recently stated about his son, “He had decided somewhere between the day he was born and 07:19, 9 November 2010, that it was worth it to him to risk everything — even his life — in the service of his country.”  General Kelly’s son was killed in Afghanistan yet with a comfortable life ahead and the loss of a son behind him he has accepted to be the head of Homeland Security.

This is only one of a large number of citizens that have taken the call for public service. The CEO of Chevron is among these; the leader of one of the largest companies in the world. Men and women taking cuts in pay and even more pressure than they have ever experienced are saying yes to serving our country and yet many Americans are asking why are these people doing this; why do we want all these self-made rich people deciding what is best for our country.  Ask the founding fathers, they can explain what patriotism is all about.

 

Growing up in rural America in the 50s and 60s, a young boy was exposed to the wonderment of the Boy Scouts of America.  Scouting in Union Parish was a way of life for many of the young men and helped to mold them into good citizens for the future building of our great nation.  As a young man we had two scout troops in the parish.  One was in Bernice and one was in Farmerville and each year the troops would go to summer camp at camp KiRoLi in Monroe.  Named for the three civic organizations that built and supported it, Kiwanis Club, Rotarian Club and the Lions Club, the camp helped the scouts hone their outdoor skills.  This camp was closed in the mid-1970s and moved to property donated by the T.L. James Company and this new camp bears that name.

Scouting originated in England by Lord Baden Powel in 1907.  A couple of scouting type programs in the United States had been started at the same time that Powel had launched the Boy Scout program.  In 1909 a Chicago publisher, was visiting London.  He became lost on a foggy night.  From out of the fog came a young British Boy Scout and provided guidance to help the publisher find his way in the foreign city.  This scout is referred to as the “unknown scout”.  When the American publisher offered the boy a tip the boy denied, explained that he was a Boy Scout and he was doing his daily good turn.  The publisher was so impressed that he met with the English Boy Scout staff.

In 1910 the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated and was later turned over to the YMCA for development.  One of the early ardent supporters of the Boy Scouts was Theodore Roosevelt.  He had been vocal about the decline in the manhood of the American male and saw the Boy Scouts as a means to ensure that manliness would stop its’ decline.

Anyone possessing very old Farmerville High School yearbooks, the Pine Knot, will see pictures of boy scouts in their uniforms.  It was a way of life for the boys of our area.  Farmerville had Troop 16.  Several years ago it was noted that this troop was the longest active chartered Boy Scout troop in Louisiana.  At one time the scouts met in a very unique cedar logged scout hut on the edge of Farmerville. This was built by the citizens of Farmerville after World War II.   Located in the woods, people visiting the hut were greeted with two large totem poles.  A connected garage housed the crown jewel of any troop in the state, a trailer that carried six aluminum Grumman canoes, the only set in the area.  After a half century these canoes are still in use.

As dynamic as Troop 16 was with its material holdings, the true gem of the troop rested in its’ leadership, its’ scoutmaster and the person considered to be one of the best in the country was Larce Holder.  Affectionately referred to as ‘The Big L”, Mr Holder instilled a love of the outdoors, respect for nature and our fellow man while reinforcing the tenants of the Boy Scouts.

Troop 16 was very organized and those that went into the military had an advantage over the other recruits.  Self-discipline and dedication to cause had been instilled into the psyche of these young men. Camping trips were planned a year in advance and each one had a theme.  Canoe trips were a yearly event.  As a child I remember watching on KNOE TV, news footage of f Troop 16 landing their canoes in Monroe after paddling from Farmerville to the Ouachita and on to Monroe.

Many a good citizen came from Troop 16.  Soldiers, sailors and airmen were forged in the hearth of Troop 16.  Bank executives, doctors, lawyers, engineers and even a Federal Judge had their roots with Troop 16.  Good citizens from across the state were members of Mr Holder’s troop.

When I arrived in Saudi Arabia, it was quit gratifying to watch the yearly Halloween parade in Dhahran.  Leading the parade were four Boy Scouts and being carried by one was the flag of the United States of America; the only place the American flag would fly in public outside of American government installations.