Category: The History Files

Why Presidents?

Mount Rushmore

The History Files 2.21.22

It has been so since February of 1789, when George Washington was elected the very first President of the United States of America. Elected on February 4, and sworn in on April 30, he had been elected as prescribed by the newly fashioned Constitution.

Washington’s inaguration in NY

This Constitution, which was the upgrade to the previous Articles of Confederation that “governed” this baby nation, established three separate, but equal branches of government, which would oversee our nation- the Judical, the Legislative, and the Executive branch, that would be headed by one, “Executive, a President”.

George Washington, born February 22, 1732, was elected in the first free election of any democratic nation. Having served first as a British subject in the army that stood within this fledgling nation, then after disenchantment with Britian, as the leader of the Continental Army in the ensuing American Revolution.

He had proved a strong and fearless leader during the French and Indian War, where it is reported that he dodged bullets and had horses shot out from under him. Having a reputation for coolness under fire and self discipline, his men loved and respected him and willing followed him. He was even taken prisoner by the French at one time. And although in his wartime efforts he led nearly as many loosing battles as he won, he stood out as an exemplary officer.

It is of no wonder then, that when the electors voted for president in 1789, he was the overwhelming selection.

He was very aware, as the first president of setting precedents for future presidents. He tried to unify the politicians and expressed hatred for the political parties of the day. He often argued with others about what image the president should maintain, but held to his firm conviction that he should display dignity and humility.

He served our country for two terms (8 years) and then retired to his beloved Mount Vernon, VA, where he once again enjoyed rural life and even started a whisky distillery. It was there that he died on December 14, 1799.

His home, Mount Vernon
His bedroom at Mount Vernon, where he died

It was the Sixth Congress that commissioned a eulogy to remember him as –

“First in war. First in peace. First in the hearts of his countrymen.”

George Washingtion’s eulogy

In 1800, celebrating Washington’s birthday each year was a way to remember him and by 1879 it had become law, but only in D.C. Then, in 1885 it expanded to the whole country. Washington’s birthday was added to Christmas, New Year’s Day, July 4 and Thanksgiving as federal holidays. But it was the first to honor the life of an individual.

Then along came the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act” which was passed in 1968. This act of Congress shifted Washington’s birthday to President’s Day and more Monday holidays. The act sought to encourage workers and reduce absenteeism while boosting retail sales.

It added Lincoln’s 2/12 birthday to the Monday remembrance, and both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays were remembered the third Monday in February. It then became President’s Day.

That act also shifted Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Verterans Day to Monday’s. Veterans day took lots of criticism in the move and was eventually moved back to 11.11 for it’s celebration of our veterans.

Here’s why honoring President’s Day should matter to you.

Whether or not you hang a flag, or celebrate in some patriotic way is not the point. (to me, anyway) There are times when citizens of our great nation must show their respect for the nation and the ones who have paved the way for our greatness by their foresight, through their sacrifices, commitment, and courage. It is the duty of we, the people.

We cannot only take from this nation, it is our responsibility to give back, honor, respect, gratitude, and show patriotism. Whether or not we agree with all of it’s issues, as American’s we choose to salute the flag and those that gave of their sacred honor to defend it. Those like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

May ALL of our presidents receive the honor, dignity and esteem they deserve, simply by virture of the office they hold (or held). They are not just citizens, they are presidents of these United States.

Engage in partiotism,

Debbie

Dr. King’s Battles are Ours, too

The History Files 1.17.22 – The History of Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday

Why do we celebrate this man, Martin Luther King Jr., alongside of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington with a federal holiday? Let’s lean in and see…

Most of us will have to image living in the days of segregation – when blacks (including other non whites) and whites were, by force and law segregated.

“Segregation = the enforced separation of different racial groups in a country, community, or establishment.”

Oxford dictionary

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. King

But such were the days in America, with tensions peaking in the 1950’s.

In 1954, The Supreme Court of the US ruled in the famous Brown vrs. Board of Education of Topeka, KS, that establishing segragated schools was unconstitutional. This decision therefore called for the desegregation of all schools throughout America. But this desegration decree would take time, not only in schools but in the nation.

Meanwhile, at Boston University, the 25 year old, exceptional, intelect and fervent Bible scholar, Martin King was working on his Ph.D in Theology, having received his undergraduate degree in Sociology in 1948 from Morehouse College, and having also become valedictorian of his Seminary class in 1951.

During this time King met and married Coretta Scott and they eventually had 4 children together. He became Pastor of Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

It was also during this time, in 1955, that a 42 year old woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give over her bus seat (which was in the front row of the “colored” section) to white men who were standing. She was arrested and booked for violating the Montgomery City Code. In a 30-minute hearing, they called her trial, she was found guilty, fined $10. along with the $4. court fee.

Rosa Parks

It was then, (1955) that the NAACP (National Accosication for the Advancement of Colored People) chose Martin Luther King to lead a boycott of the transit system in Montgomery. Which he did, and within a short time, 60 other ministers joined him and formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which coordinated nonviolent protests of all kinds, and giving the civil rights movement a voice.

Despite threats to his life and his home being bombed (no one was hurt), King pleaded for nonviolent solutions to the nations racial tensions. His earliest Washington DC speech at the Lincoln Memorial called for equal voting rights and a Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He met with US Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Prime Ministers Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nehru of India and other notable figures. He also appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

King served jail sentences, false charges, (and true charges) and in April of 1963 he wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Here’s an portion:

from MLK’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

He led peaceful, protest marches in Selma and avoided conflict with the state troopers, in Birmington, Alabama where he marched to end segregation at lunch counters. It was his march and rally in Washington DC, where he gave his famous ” I Have a Dream” speech in 1968, that was attended by over 200,000 peaceful people.

Selma
lunch counter sit in

But it was in July of 1964 that noticable progress was evidenced, when President LB Johnson signed into law the “CIvil Rights Acts of 1964. In it, it outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Not a bad year so far, but it was capped by receiving the Nobel Peach Prize in Oslo, on December 10, 1964. In addition, that year he was named “Man of the Year.

signing the Voting Rights Act

During the later part of 1964, King became critical of the FBI’s faiure to support civil right workers, and was denounced by the FBI Director (J. Edgar Hoover) as “the most notorious liar in the country”. Subsequently, Hoover called the SCLC a Communist group.

In his final year of life, 1968, he led another march in support of sanitation workers in Memphis. This became violent and Dr. King had to be escorted away. The next month, on April 3, 1968, King delivers his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”.

On April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his Memphis Motel, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed.

What resulted was an outbreak of violence and a manhunt for the shooter. James Earl Ray was tracked down in London, (his fingerprints as evidence found on the rifle used) while seeking a flight to Belgium. He was extradited to the US, where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

It was President Ronald Reagan, in 1983, that signed into law, that the third Monday of January be set aside to honor Baptist minister, Civil Rights leader, and Activist – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Dr. King
Dr. King’s monument in Washington DC

May we have the courage, and resolve of this man to speak up for injustices and act on them peacefully, nonviolently and in mass. May we not allow anyone’s well intentions to again divide us, separate us and segregate us from our one human family with the inalienable rights of life, and liberty for all.

May we live out his dream and not cease to battle his battles.

Cheers to you,

Debbie

Sources:

NationalDaycalendar.com/MartinLutherKing/holiday

thekingcenter.com/about Dr. Martin Luther King

Britannica.com/MartinLutherKing

History.com/The interesting history of Dr. Martin Luther King

Usatoday.com/TImeline: The Life of Martin Luther King

A Brief History of Christmas in America

The History Files

Today, as I write this, it is December 21, the day the Earth is most tilted away from the sun, limiting our sunlight to 9 hours and 5 minutes, the least of any day all year. It is the Winter Solstice.

For centuries, the winter solstice has been a time of celebration – celebrating the light and birth in the darkest days. The end of December feasting always featured slaughtered cattle along with enjoyment of the fermented wine and beer that was now ready for drinking.

It was during this time that pagan gods were celebrated and honored. For example, in Germany, the pagan god Oden was honored during the mid-winter holiday. The Germans believed he made night flights throught the sky to observe people and decide who would prosper or perish. (Sound like anyone you know… he see you when you’re sleeping.)

These ideas are the setting for the traditions of Christmas and its celebrations.

Early Christians didn’t celebrate the birth of the Christ child, mainly because the date is not stated in scripture and is uncertain. But during Christ’s time, the Romans celebrated feasts and festivals in the winter solstice. They too were honoring their gods, like the god of agriculture, Saturn in the festival of Saturnalia.

It was in the second century, that Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian historian proclaimed December 25 as Christ’s birthday. Then during the fourth century, church officials instutituted an official holiday for the birth of Christ. Pope Julius I chose December 25 to dethrone the pagan gods and place the Christ child in the seat of worship. This was first called “The Feast of the Nativity” and spread to Egypt in 432, and reached England during the sixth century where it was renamed Christmas.

Unfortunately, these English Christmas celebrations involved church attendance that was followed by drunkenness, wanton sex, carnival atmosphere in the streets, and mobs terrified the people.

In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans took over England with religious reformations. The Puritans not only cancelled Christmas celebrations but made it illegal to celebrate.

“Anyone who observed the sacreligious and satanical holiday by exchanging gifts, dressing in fine clothes or feasting would be fined 5 shillings.”

1645 AD

During the preRevolutionary War era in America, the early settlers brought the debate about Christmas with them. Many thought it should be celebrated minus the immoral activities. However, not all agreed. Therefore each state made it’s own laws and observing Christmas was taboo in some states and illegal in others until 1870.

Thanks in large part to the American novelist, Washington Irving, and the fictional characters and settings he created in his book, “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent” in 1819, American’s views on Christmas began to change. Irving’s admirer, Charles Dickens followed with his own book, “A Christmas Carol”, in 1843, and now American’s were rethinking and reimagining Christmas as a family time of hope, of gift giving, benevolence and cheer.

It was in 1870 that President Grant, proclaimed Christmas as a national holiday. It seemed his main desire was to bring the nation together in the aftermath of the Civil War, and to remind American’s of their common faith in Christ – The Prince of Peace. By the late 1800’s Christmas was celebrated much like it is today. Trees lit in homes and parks, cards shared, stockings hung, gifts and meals shared, and Santa Clause visiting.

Our American Christmas traditions come from many parts of the world, just as our people do.

We can thank the Germans for the trees and wreaths. The yule log and 12 days of Christmas come to us from Norway. Queen Elizabeth I brought us gingerbread houses and cookies. And Saint Nicholas, the parton saint of children comes to us from Turkey. (In 1774, when the Dutch families in New York gathered to honor his death that Sinter Klaas -Dutch for St. Nick was born. By 1804, St. Nick with his familiar look became popular.) The Catholics brought us the tradition of keeping a small nativity scene in our home.

Christmas is both a secular and a sacred holiday in America, as well as a world wide phenomenon.

Christians world wide celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. The account of his birth is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. They tell of a miracle child, born of virgin birth, being promised and being born in a lowly stable in Bethlehem. This child was the Son of God, Emmanuel, Jesus, savior of the world. He came to bring life, light, hope and peace to all mankind.

This is the world wide phenomenon – Jesus.

As you join with family and friends to feast and share good cheer, or as you attend a church service, I pray your Christmas history also include the celebration of Jesus’ birth, as you celebrate Christmas in America.

Merry Christmas,

Debbie

A Thanksgiving Primer

The History Files 11.22.21

” Primer – an elementary textbook that serves as an introduction to a subject…”

Oxford Dictionary

Chances are, if I asked you when the first Thanksgiving was, you would refer in some way to the Pilgrims and their guests in the Fall of 1621, when they shared their first harvest in the new world. This is not really the truth, tho’.

That celebration, although they were thankful for their harvest, was not declared to be “Thanksgiving”, or even afterwards set apart as a regular festival for them to celebrate. It was more of a one and done event. Over a hundred and fifty years later, during the colonial revolution, the colonial legislatures often set aside days of prayer to recognize military victories. After Burgoyne’s surrender to the American’s at Saratoga, NY in October of 1777, the Continental Congress suggested a national day to be set aside to recognize the victory.

General George Washing agreed, proclaiming December 18, 1777 the first national thanksgiving day. In the years that followed, other national thanksgiving proclamations were made as well.

Then, on October 3, 1798, now President Washington, set the precedent for America’s National Day of Thanksgiving with His Thanksgiving Proclamation.

1798 Thanksgiving Proclamation

(I can hear Nicolas Cage, from National Treasure saying, “Phew…people just don’t write like this anymore.”)

Washington, the newly elected President of the newly formed United States of America was careful to abide by the newly ratified Constitution of the United Stated and therefore passed this proclamation on to the states, asking them to announce it and observe it. Newspapers published it and thanksgiving celebrations were held.

Washington celebrated that first Thanksgiving by attending a service at St. Paul’s Chapel in NYC and by donating food and beer to imprisoned debtors in the city.

In the years that followed, Presidents John Adams and James Madison also declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.

But it was not until October 3, 1863, during the height of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation decreeing the last Thursday in November as America’s National Day of Thanksgiving. Congress folowed suit in 1870 by establishing it.

Harper’s Weekly carried it, and on October 5, printed an art piece by the famous Thomas Nast that illustrated “scenes of a grateful nation.”

Thomas Nast’s art

In many of our modern thanksgiving celebrations and family gatherings, lost are the deepest expressions of humble dependence and gratitude for God’s care, provision, blessings and protection, as found in Washington and Lincoln’s proclamations. Lost is the public humility and utter desperation for The Almighty’s divine providence by our elected officials. Lost is the recognition of our dire hoplessness without God’s intervention in our affairs. Gone is the humble submission to the Creator of the Universe, Giver of Life and it’s many benefits.

In his proclamation, President Washington said,

It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly to implore his protection and favor.

1798 Thanksgiving Proclamation

It IS our duty, as individuals and as a nation. Not just to be thankful for family, friends, jobs, homes and health; but to give thanks to “our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Where would we be without His blessings? Care? Guidence? Help? Strength? Protection? Provision? Life? Redemption? Love?

Where?

These are the elementary tenets of America’s Day of Thanksgiving. May we return to the most basic tenent of expressing our thanks to the Almighty for all He has done for us.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Debbie

Celebrating Veterans Day

The History Files

Why do we celebrate Veterans Day?

Veterans Day is a Federal holiday that is celebrated on November 11 of each year.

We say celebrated, but is it really, by most Americans, or do we just gladly accept it as another day off work or school (for some), with little concern as to why?

As of the time of this writing, it is estimated that there are 19 million living American Veterans. This encompasses those who have served in our military forces from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and The War of Terrorism. Of them, 9% are women, 325,574 are veterans of WWII, 2,500 veterans of D Day, fewer than 300,00 veterans are from Pearl Harbor, 500,000 represent the Korean War and 610,000 served in Vietnam on land, with 164,000 at sea.

WWI
WWII

Veterans Day honors them all. Veterans Day honors all American Veterans living or dead – thanking them all for their honorable service to our country. Memorial Day is the day when we pay special tribute to those who lost their lives in service to our country.

But why November 11?

In 1918, on the 11th month, the 11th day, at the 11th hour, a temporary cease fire was signed between the Allied forces and Germany during WWI. This became known as Armistice Day in 1919, the day the armistice was signed. Even though, the Treaty of Versailles marked the official end of WWI, Armistice Day remained in the public’s mind as the end of WWI.

After WWII and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a day dedicated to American veterans of all wars. It was officially changed in 1954, when President Eisenhower signed it into law. In Great Britian, Canada, France and Austrilia it is called Remberance Day and is celebrated around November 11.

Korean
Vietnam
Gulf War

It is important to note that it is Veterans Day, without an apostrophe in veterans. That is because it is not a day belongs to veterans, it is a day for honoring veterans. (Remember, an apostrophe denotes possession 🙂 )

These veterans are dying. We are loosing them and their stories. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us, the living, who know these vets, to firstly honor them, and not just on November 11. And when possible, to take the time to hear as much of their story as they are willing and able to share. When we visit memorials and monuments let’s be respectful and share their value and stories with those in our sphere of influence.

We are still a great nation and much of that is owed to the brave men and women of our armed forces who willingly served to promote our democracy and freedom. They chose to.

It seems like a no brainer for us to choose to honor them and yes, celebrate our veterans.

Thank you Veterans.

Cheers to you,

Debbie

Patriot’s Day

The History Files

Twenty years ago, America was a different nation, not just because George Bush was president or Tony Blair UK’s Prime Minister. We traveled freely without security checks, walked people to their gates at airports as they departed, and greeted them at their gates as they arrived. Tickets and photo ID’s weren’t required for entry to the gates, laptops weren’t checked, liquids weren’t restricted nor metal dectors used to screen passengers.

We did not live in a surveillance state, calls were’t hacked nor written communications filtered. There was no such thing as the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or The Patriot Act. There was no war in Afghanistan or heated tensions in the Middle East. Things were different in America.

What changed things so drastically? September 11, 2001 did.

On that beautiful, clear, and sunny Tuesday, the unthinkable was about to happen to America.

September 11, 2001 was the day that nineteen terrorists of Al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and used them as guided missles in their plot against America. Two airplanes were flown into the Twin Towers in NYC, one into the Pentagon in Washington DC, and one crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania.

At 8:45 AM EST, a Boeing 767, with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel, crashed into the North tower at the 80th floor, creating a hole to the 110th floor.

Most watched in horror as they considered this unbelievable accident that must have just happened, for a plane to veer off course and mistakenly hit this tall landmark in Manhattan.

Eighteen minutes later, the South tower was hit at the 60th floor. It was now clear, that this was NOT an accident.

America was under attack.

WTC site after collapse

At 9:45 AM EST, the Pentagon was hit on the West side. While this was burning, fifteen minutes later the South tower of World Trade Center collapsed due to the heat of the jet fuel.

The Pentagon attack

At 10:30 AM, the North tower fell. Only six in the towers at the time of their collapse lived.

In flight at this time was the fourth plane, which was hijacked after leaving New Jersey bound for San Francisco. Because of it’s later take off delays, passengers aboard Flight 93 were receiving calls and texts from loved ones telling them what was going on. Although on board, they were told that their flight had turned around and was returning to the airport, passengers knew differently.

So they planned to overthrow the hijackers. It is believed they stormed the cockpit in an effort to abort the evil attack that had been planned for this guided missle. As they did, the plane flipped and sped to the ground at a speed of 500 mph. It crashed in the fileds of Shanksville, PA at 10:10 AM. Fourty-four on board will killed. It is believed the intended target was the White House, or the Capital.

Shanksville, PA

In NYC, the casualities were enormous. 2,763 died at the WTC, including 343 Firefighters and Paramedics, 23 NY police officers, and 37 Port Authority Police Officers. Citizens of seventy-eight countries were employees of the Towers and lost their lives that day.

At the Pentagon, 189 were killed. 125 were killed on the ground and 64 on the plane.

Nearly 3,000 innocent’s died that day.

Flag of Honor, I fly, listing the names of all those lost.

President Bush led America’s response by initiating Operation Enduring Freedom, a US led coalition to oust the Taliban and destroy Osama Bin Laden’s network, on October 7, 2001. Two months later, the Taliban was removed from operational power in Afgahnistan.

Osama Bin Laden, the money and brain behind the attacks was tracked down and killed on May 2, 2011.

Additionally, The Department of Homeland Security was formed as a Cabinet post, the TSA was formed and the Patriot Act was passed, allowing for surveillance of citizens and others.

The impact of that day was far reaching.

The “Pile” of rubble that remained in NYC took 9 months to remove. From its burning fumes and toxic particles, the first responders and people working and living in Manhattan were exposed to cancer causing elements. By 2018, 10,000 people were diagnosed with 911 related cancers.

The “pile” & workers

A 911 Victim’s Compensation Fund was formed and funds set to stop in 2092.

In December, 2001, Congress approved a bill calling for September 11 as Patriot’s Day.

Since that horrific day, memorials have been built at each site. They are each well worth visiting.

Pentagon Memorial
Firefighters wall of memorial

At The World Trade Center site, two reflecting pools were built with 152 engraved, bronze panels, surrounding the pools with the names of those lost that day. It is called, “Reflecting Absence”.

Reflecting Pool with names

On September 11, 2011, the museum opened up, taking you a level below ground to view the violent distruction that tore our hearts that day. It’s power rivals only that of the Holocaust Museum. It is heartwrenching.

Scenes from inside WTC museum

In November of 2014, The Freedom Tower, at One World Trade opened, standing proudly at 1,776 feet tall!

Freedom Tower

THIS day in American history, September 11, was MY Pearl Harbor!

Some of those brave patriots lost on 911

In Honolulu, on December 7, 1941, they lost 2,403.

Both have changed America and the world forever.

It is my sincere hope, that we will never forget September 11, 2001, not out of vindictiveness, but out of a call for remembering truth and the patriots who gave themselves in that pursuit. Most of them unknowingly that day.

Pins given to me by NYC firefighters

We know and we must never forget. THAT is the duty and privilege of a partiot.

Cheers,

Debbie

Why Do We Have Labor Day?

The History Files

On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed into law and act that made Labor Day a legal, federal holiday. Why? What’s the story behind it?

During the 1800’s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the US, the average American worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week to eke out a basic living. Kids as young as 5 worked in mills, mines and factories across the country, earing a fraction of what the adults were making, yet still, working to help support their family.

Conditions for these work places were unsafe, there was no fresh air, sanitary facilities or even breaks allowed. As manufacturing replaced agriculture, the labor unions increased, seeking to provide better conditions for the American worker.

Strikes were organized, rallies and protests promoted and the workers stirred to speak up for better hours, waged and conditions.

Riots broke out in various places, such as the Haymarket Riot of 1886, in CHicago, where several police officers and workers were killed. (Some things never change in Chicago..)

Or the protest of 10,000 workers in NY who marched for their rights.

But it was on May 11, 19894, that the Pullman Palace Car strike changed things. After the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of this RR, (June 26) traffic was crippled nationwide and riots broke out. Federal troops were dispatched and there were more than a dozen deaths.

On June 28, 1894, President Cleveland signed the act of having a “working holiday” into law. It has since been called Labor Day.

None of us can appreciate the unbelievable sacrifices, long hours, unhealthful, and even brutal conditions of these early workers. There was no such thing as working 9-5, with required 15 minute breaks, PTO, benefits, and a break room with food and drink.

Today, we have the US Department of Labor, which was formed on March 3, 1913 and (grudgingly) signed off by President William Taft to protect our rights and privilidges as an American worker or employer. Formed to help workers, job seekers and retirees by creating standards for occupational safety, wage, hours and benefits, we all have benefitted from it’s oversight.

But it wasn’t always so. Like most things we enjoy today, someone else, before us, paved the way for us. They have paid a price and sacrificed. They lived a harder life and we have learned and grown and improved from their experiences.

So, the first Monday of September, we celebrate Labor Day. A day when we remember the American worker and their progress, advancement and hard work. We take “a working holiday” and say good bye to summer as we may BBQ, and enjoy the privilege of working in America.

Cheers to working America.

Debbie

Happy 245th Birthday, America!

The History Files

On July 4, 1776, it was an unusually mild, mid-summer day in Philadelphia. Thanks to Thomas Jefferson’s detailed weather journals we know that the temperature was a pleasant 76 degrees at 1:00 PM, a normally hot and humid time of the year.

What seemed to be a pleasant day was far from it. This summer was raging with a full scale war that began at Lexington and Concord, MA, with “the shot heard around the world”. In April of 1775, when the British marched to Concord to seize arms, Paul Revere and others rode to sound the alarm, but with that shot The Revolutionary War had begun.

The Brits, over spent securing new territories in the new world for the Crown, and in particular, The French and Indian War of 1754-1763. This war, between France and Great Britian in North America was for control of the colonial territory. Great Britian having “won” the war, now looked to recoup their finincial losses by taxing their 13 colonies.

The Stamp Act, Townsend Act, Tea Act, (to name a few) were met with colonial protest, due to lack of representation in Parliament (in England). In responses to the grievences, George Washington, John and Sam Adams, Patrick Henry, John Jay along with others met in Philadelphia in September of 1774 to give voice to their grievences and denounce the taxation and quartering of troops without consent. They issued a declaration that included the statement that the rights due to every citizen include life, liberty, property, assembly and trial by jury. They voted to meet again in May of 1775.

Battles were fought, lives were lost, properties were seized and taxes continued through the ensuing months.

In May of 1775, when this body met again, The Second Continental Congress, they voted to form a Continental Army and appointed George Washington Commander. Included in this second meeting were the notable Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

The month following Washington’s appointment, the Congress issued “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms”. Congress sent this along with an olive branch to King George III asking him for help in resolving their differences. Needless to say, the request was ignored.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first major battle for the colonial forces, and they inflicted heavy losses on the Brits. Although it ended in a British victory, it encouraged the cause for revolt. The colonists were being stirred by writers too, like Thomas Paine, who were writing pamphlets like “Common Sense”. In it reasons are listed for the need to separate from Britian – it was only common sense! From this, the population developed a convincing arguement for independence.

In the spring of 1776 requests were being made of congress to draft a declaration of independence. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee complied. Congress postponed the final vote until July 1 and appointed a 5 man committee to draft the final document. It consisted of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams but the document was mainly the work of Thomas Jefferson.

In it he included the natural rights of all people and charged the Parliament and the King of depriving the Americans of these God given rights. He also included an article on the institution of slavery, which was later removed.

On July 2,1776, Congress voted in favor of independence, and 2 days later, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. Congress then ordered it to be sent to the printer where 200 copies were made. Today, 26 copies remain.

John Hancock was the first and largest signer, he said, he wanted the King to be able to read his name clearly. (Amazing, because he was committing treason). Following John Hancock, another 55 brave men signed their treasnous document of independence.

The Declaration was sent to various battle fronts, where it was read to the troops. Additionally it was read in large cities and hamlets throughout the colonies. When George Washington read it to the troops in New York, a riot broke out, tearing down a statue of George II. The statue didn’t go to waste tho’, it was melted down and made into 42,000 musket balls.

This is where we, in this modern day stop thinking. Independence! Yay! We’re free. Not so fast, tho’.

This day, marked a line in the sand for the colonists. They were now at war with the most powerful empire of the day! Their lives, homes, possessions, families, reputations, and yes, their sacred honor were at stake.

Consider just the signers of that declaration:

  • 5 were captured, tortured as traitors before they died
  • 12 had their homes ransaked and burned
  • 2 lost their sons in the war fight
  • 2 others had their sons captured
  • 9 of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war

These were ordinary men living in an extraordinary time demonstrating unbelievable courage and passion for what they believed in. OUR FREEDOM!

They were lawyers, merchants, farmers, plantation owners and men of means and education, but they signed the Declaration knowing full well their lives were on the line. They had security, but they valued liberty more.

The Revolutionary War waged on through ebb and flow, losses and gains, setbacks, traitors, and British occupation until Great Britian formally surrendered on September 3, 1783, in what is known as The Treaty of Paris.

American Battlefield Trust estimates that during The Revolutionary War 6,800 Americans were killed in action, 6,100 wounded and more that 20,000 taken prisoner. Add to those the deaths due to disease, or who died while prisoners of war another 8,000-12,000.

On June 14, 1777, during this war, Congress approved the design of the national flag. It’s red, white and blue forever speak of those who fought for it, even before it came into existence. Those who in purity stood up for independence with bravery and courage, paying unmentionable valor and spilling immeasurable blood, those who united as 13 independent colonies with a cause against tyranny, injustice and freedom for all.

Don’t allow anyone to tarnish or dampen the cost and value of that freedom, or to shame you for your patriotism.

This is the history of The United States of America and we can stand tall, proud and very partiotic.

Happy 245th birthday, America.

Debbie

What is Juneteenth?

The History Files

You’ve probably seen it appear on your calendar, heard about it on the news and now seen it signed into law as a national holiday. So, just what exactly is Juneteenth?

Short for “June 19”, it basically memorializes the end of slavery in the United States.

June 19, 1865 marks the day when federal troops showed up in Galveston, Texas to seize control of the state (Texas was a southern, Confederate state in the Civil War that had just ended two months earlier) and see to it that the enslaved people were indeed freed.

The Civil War had raged from 1961-1865, until Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia, in April of 1865.

During that time, President Abraham Lincoln had signed The Emancipation Proclamation that freed all enslaved peoples in the Confederate south. (They were already free in the Northern states, that was a big reason for the Civil War.) This freedom was not enacted however, due to obvious disagreements.

When the war ended, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved peoples were still relatively unaffected. It was then, that General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas and read General Orders No. 3:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

General Orders No. 3

From that day, Texas’ 250,000 enslaved peoples were free. In some places celebrations broke out immediately, in others, even that news was withheld until after the harvest. Nonetheless, Juneteenth had been born.

Early Juneteenth celebrations

It was in December of 1865 that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted that formally and forever abolished slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth, also called Jubilee Day, is celebrated with barbques, parades, prayers, music and other activities.

Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday and today, President Joe Biden signed it into law marking Juneteenth a national holiday.

Cheers to you.

Debbie

The Red, White and Blue

Why we celebrate Flag Day, June 14
The History Files

It was first carried into battle at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, and first saluted by foreign naval vessels February 14, 1778 when John Paul Jones arrived in the French port.

Brandywine Flag

Since then, it has sailed around the world, gone to the moon and Mars, flown on fields of battle and marked resting places.

Our Old Glory is the most recognized and respected flag in the world.

In June of 1775 the Continental Congress had gathered together to form a unifying continental army and needed a unifying symbol, because our fight for liberty began with each colony fighting under their own flag. That led to the creation of the first American flag, “The Continental Colors”. With it’s 13 red and white altering stripes and Union Jack, it was too similar to the British flag, and George Washington realized it was not good.

George Washington did not approve

On June 14, 1777 a resolution was passed stating that the US flag would be one of 13 red and white stripes, with the union being a blue field with 13 white stars.

Although Betsey Ross has traditionally been credited with making our first flag, there is lack of evidence to support it.

Flag Day recognizes and celebrates the adoption of our flag by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.

There have been 27 versions of the flag, but the colors have remained, red, white, and blue. The colors selected by our founding fathers were chosen to not just be visually nice but meaningful.

  • Red- hardiness, valor (not blood)
  • White- purity, innocence
  • Blue- vigilance, perseverance, & justice

It was a Wisconsin school teacher, Bernard Cigrand that originated the flag day celebrations at his school in 1885. He also was the first to petition Congress to call for national celebration of flag day.

President Wilson, in 1916 along with President Coolidge in 1927 issued proclamations asking for June 14 to be observed as National Flag Day. It was not until August 3, 1949 however, when Congress, under President Truman signed it into law.

Since that time, Congress has passed The Flag Protection Act of 1968 which states that it is illegal to burn or deface the flag. Additionally, there is a Flag Code which spells out rules for proper handling and displaying of the US flag. The overwhelming context presents that “the American flag shall be shown no disrespect and should not be dipped.” (Lowered)

America is one of 195 countries on the planet, each with their own flag, history and traditions. But this is the story of my flag, our American banner of freedom, honor, courage, pride, and patriotism.

Long may she wave, long may we see her proudly standing through the rockets red glare. Long may her beauty and freedom inspire generations toward patriotism, unity and service.

Long may our Red, White, and Blue stand “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Cheers to you.

Debbie