Category: The History Files

Constitution Review part 4

In this, our last review of the U.S. Constitution, we will address a couple more items: Amendmends 11-27 and a hot button issue, The Electoral College. If you care for more about our Constitution, please see my previous posts: Constitution Day, Constitution Review parts 1,2 and 3.

Remember, the first 10 amendments are called The Bill of Rights and were ratified as a package deal, as prescribed for amendments in Article V of the Constitution. Those first 10 were ratified in 1791. Each of the remaining 17 amendments have been added to the document from 1795 to present day.

Since the ratification of The Bill of RIghts, some 11,000 other amendments have been proposed through the years. Of the 27 amendments that are part of our Constituion, 25 of them are currently active. The 18th – having to do with prohibition and the 21st – dealing with it’s repeal are inactive.

Lastly, before we dive into those last amendments, let’s recall that as prescribed by the Constitution, it can only be changed (amended) in the following, complicated ways. Complicated because the Framers did not want this document to change with the shifting winds of society or the latest fads of the people. There are four ways prescribed but one of these two procedures were used for every amendment since the Bill of RIghts.

  • A proposal by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress or
  • Ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

So, let’s review Amendments 11-27, shall we?

Amendment XI – 1795 – bans lawsuits brought by citizens of one state against another state. This was introduced to overrule a Supreme Court decision in a Georgia case.

Amendment XII – 1804 – electing the President and Vice President, electors, tallying votes and certifying votes. Again, this one was introduced to deal with an issue in the previous election.

Amendment XIII – 1865 – abolished slavery. Proposed during the raging Civil War, it became the law of the land!

Amendment XIV – 1868 – Rights of citizenship, the states obligations and due process. Suffice it to say, this, one of the meatiest amendments, is also one of the most controversial. Included in this amendment are these issues – equal protection laws, state or federal citizenship, age discrimination, capital punishment, segregation, busing, affirmative action, and gerrymandering. The four sections in this amendment have been torn apart, redefined, scrutinized, and agrued over for over 150 years.

Amendment XV – 1870 – Bans racial discrimination in voting.

Negros gain the vote

Amendment XVI – 1913 – Congress is granted power to collect income tax

Amendment XVII – 1913 – Senators seats and their vacancies

Amendment XVIII – 1919 – Prohibition of intoxicating liquors

Prohibition days

Amendment XIX – 1920 – Women’s right to vote

Women gain the vote

Amendment XX – 1933 – New inaguration date for President and terms date for Congress

Amendment XXI – 1933 – Repeal of Prohibition – Amendment 18

Amendment XXII – 1951 – Limits President to 2 terms

Amendment XXIII – 1961 – The Disctict of Columbia, (Washington D.C.) is granted voting rights

Amendment XXIV – 1964 – Poll taxes are banned

Amendment XXV – 1967 – Vice President takes over for President in the event of death, removal, resignation or incapacity

Amendment XXVI – 1971 – Voting age is reduced to 18

Amendment XXVII – 1992 – Pay increases for Congress shall take effect after elections

It’s been thirty years since any new amendments have been ratified. Are we due? What issues do you think should be addressed by amendment to the standing rule of law for our federal government?

There are really too many controversial issues attached to portions of our governing document for me to address. But I have one that I chose to address. That is the issue of the Electoral College.

I know of many who still do not even understand what the electoral college is much less it’s purpose and why the framers included such a convention into our election process. Allow me, if you will to attempt explanation.

Each state has a specific number of electors

Understanding the Electoral College

  • The Framers took 60 ballots to settle the election process involving electors
  • The President and Vice President shall be chosen by the casting of ballots of the electors, not upon popular vote
  • The term electoral college is NOT in the constitution
  • “electors” are though, and refered to in Article II and in the 12th Amendment
  • these electors are appointed in each state according to the number of representatives and senators. example: CA 55 representatives and 2 senators = 57 electors
  • Electors cast their vote based upon the popular vote of their respective state. So, if the majority of CA voters voted for candidate A, that one would receive all 55 electoral votes for CA
  • This is based on the “winner take all system” which is used in all but 2 states.
  • Nebraska and Maine do not use this “winner take all” system
  • This is why is it possible for a candidate to have a lead in popular votes but not in electors (and vice versa)
  • 270 electoral votes are needed for a candidate to be elected President of the US. (regardless of if they received the most votes in the popular vote)
  • The Framers fought to make sure that each state had equal say in the election of the nation’s president. Not just the bigger, more populated states.

On a personal note here – Many are inclined to do away with The Electoral College believing that the popular vote should decide the presidental winner. They put forth the problem as The Electoral College itself. I DISAGREE. The problem is NOT with the electors and that process, it is with the winner take all distrubution of votes by the states.

Again, in the winner take all system, it does not matter whether the candidate wins by few or many votes. If he/she wins, then they are allotted ALL of the electors. THAT IS THE PROBLEM in my view.

I believe Nebraska and Maine, have it closer to right by allowing votes within each district to be tallied and the state’s electors split if needed, thereby dividing their electors between candidates based on the number of popular votes.

It’s no wonder that The Framers took so many ballots to try and get this right.

The bottom line to remember, when you vote (and I sure hope that you do), your vote is telling your state’s electors who to vote for. If you live in a winner take all state, then all of your electors will go to the candidate with the most popular votes.

If you don’t like the winner take all system, rally, write, and speak up in your state to change it.

I appreciate your support for these blogs and trust that your vote will be well informed and your patriotism renewed.

God bless America, the land that I love.

Debbie

Constitution Review part 3

Today’s review will focus on The Bill of Rights section of the US Constitution. Do you recall what The Bill of Rights includes? Can you name some of those rights?

Because I am a teacher of over 40 years, let’s take a little quiz, to review what we have studied so far. Skip ahead if your quizzing days are behind you for good.

  1. What are the major parts of the Constitution called?
  2. What do the first three Articles tell us about?
  3. Where do we find the phrase, “We The People”?
  4. What was the original intention of the Constitutional Convention?
  5. Why is The Constitution such an important document?

For the correct answers and your score, scroll to the end of this post. Good luck.

As mentioned in an earlier post, there were many to The Constitutional Convention who refused to sign the Constitution unless it contained rights for the individual. They were equally sure that the rights of the American individual must be upheld and enshrined as they were that the federal government be strengthened. Therefore, a Bill of Rights was drafted and included in Constitution soon after it was ratified.

THE BILL OF RIGHTS – was ratified on December 15, 1791 as a package deal. In the deal were the first 10 Amendments which were designed to stop Congress from taking away rights that already existed. The rights listed in these 10 amendments were not new rights granted by the Framers, but ones the Framers assumed already existed for everyone. They wanted them codified.

The First Amendment – The wording of the 1st Amendment begins like this –

Congress shall make no law…”

Amendment I – The US Constitution

This first amendment is clearly directed at the Congress and they are instructed that they shall make no laws regarding these personal rights:

  • establishing a religion (The US did NOT want to have a church sponsored religion like The Church of England had),
  • prohibiting the free exercise of religion (worship as you choose),
  • after religion, the next freedoms assumed were
  • free speech and expression
  • freedom of the press
  • freedom to assemble peacefully and
  • freedom to petition the government with grievances

Each of these rights, are listed in Amendment I of our Constitution and are the binding, supreme law of our land for all. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech and press, and freedom to peacefully protest against our government are guaranteed to American citizens in our Constitution.

Although, these statements seem pretty simple and straightforward, suffice it to say, that through Supreme Court rulings their interpretations have established new precedents for what these amendments may actually mean. Agree or disagree, these rulings have affected us today.

The Second Amendment – the right of the people to bear arms, or own firearms shall not be taken away.

Again this seems clear, you have a right to own a weapon and that right cannot be taken away. But the argument arises, is this amendment speaking to the colonial days when a militia was made up of farmers and common people who possessed their own guns, or to anyone today who chooses to own a weapon for recreational or any other purpose?

The Third Amendment – during times of peace no soldier can stay in your house without your permission. In times of war, soldiers can invade and stay in your home “only as prescribed by law”. Yippie.

The Fourth Amendment – your right against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and warrants may be granted only for probable cause and specific locations detailed within it.

This is the amendment that supposedly keeps the Feds off of your back and out of your house. But it also opens up issues like surveillance, court orders, excluding evidence, and police fishing expeditions for a vast array of information that is unspecified.

The Fifth Amendment – With five weighty issues herein, this amendment deals with these oft-times controversial issues:

  • the right against self-incrimination (I plead the 5th…don’t have to answere against myself)
  • the grand jury – a group of 16-23 people that form a bigger jury to determine if a person should be indicted or not. These people are involved in felonies and before a trial jury
  • double-jeapordy – you can’t be charged twice for the same crime; you can’t be convicted for a crime you’ve already been convicted of; and you can’t be given a second punishment for the same offense
  • due process – you are guaranteed a fair process in a trial or legal proceeding. (This is a fairly meaty concept with many more nuances, that I don’t care to go into here).
  • eminent domain – your private property, desired FOR PUBLIC USE by the government, cannot be taken from you without you being paid a fair price. (Think about the homes beside an expanding freeway. These are for public use and must be paid a fair price.)

The Sixth Amendment – guarantees you a fair “speedy” trail by jury and an attorney for your defense. It also adds the fact that you are considered innocent until proven guilty by the jury. There are a variety of other guarantees to you should you go to criminal trail.

The Seventh Amendment – you are guananteed the right to a trial by jury in civil cases as well.

The Eighth Amendment – excessive bail nor fines shall be imposed on you and no cruel and unusual punsihments shall be inflicted. Goodie.

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments – neither of these really deal with personal rights. Both are generalizations and often misunderstood, so I’ll give it my best.

Ninth Amendment – The 21 words comprising this amendment are given to help us interpret the Constitution and tells us that if something is not mentioned in the Constitution specifically, then that right belongs to the people. Within the Constitution are certain rights but those aren’t the only rigts an individual has. Before the Constitution even was, the people had rights, and the Constitution shall not deprive people of those always held rights.

Tenth Amendment – tells us that either the federal government, state government or the people have the power. Even though the power began with, We The People, we delegated some of it to the federal government, and what they didn’t receive was for the states. If a certain power wasn’t specified to either of those, then it still belongs to the people.

Our freedoms are not to be taken lightly by us or given up, yielded or snatched away by another. They are if you will, God given liberties. May we value them and hold firmly to them, not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren.

See you next time for our final review.

Debbie

Quiz Review answers

  1. Preamble, Articles, Amendments
  2. Our 3 branches of governmemt – Legeslative, Executive, & Judicial
  3. In the Preamble
  4. to improve The Articles of Confederation
  5. it is the supreme law of our land, above all others. It tells us how our government is structured and how it is run.

Grading – if you tried at all, you get an A for effort. Way to go! If you got them all right, then you get an A+, now go and share what you know and your love of country. 🙂

Constitution Review part 2

The framers knew that liberty is a fragile thing, and so should we.”

William J. Brennan

A primary object… should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing… than… communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?’

George Washington

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Ronald Reagan

So, here we are passing it on, communicating it, because it is our pressing duty to pass on the knowledge of America’s fragile freedom.

will you take the baton of freedom and run with it?

In this review we will look at the last four Articles of the US Constitution. (Previously we reviewed the first three, The Preamble, and The Constitutional Convention. You can read those for a full picture of our review.)

Remember, there are seven Articles to the Constituion. The first three deal with our structure of government – the Three Branches: Article I- Legisative, Article II- Executive and Article III- Judiciary.

Article IV contains four sections and deals with how states are to relate with one another. It contains the famous “Full Faith and Credit” Clause. This means that every state has to recognize the laws and court decisions of the other states. It is because of this clause that states can make differing laws which may be contradictory from other states. ie: same-sex marriage, abortion, etc.

Article V spells out four intentionally complicated ways in which the Constitution can be changed or ammended. The two most used ways are:

  • a proposal by 2/3 majority in both houses of Congress
  • ratification by 3/4 of the state legislatures

Since the ratification of the Constitution in 1791 there have been 5,000 amendments introduced. Only 33 have received 2/3 vote in Congress and only 27 made it all the way through to become part of the Constitution. Of those 27, the first 10, called The Bill of Rights were voted on together, as a set in 1791, which means that only 17 amendments to the Constitution have been made from 1791 to present day. That’s 231 years!! Amazing. It must be working then, to make a “more perfect Union”. Right?

Article VI gains it’s fame from it’s “Supremacy Clause” which states that the Constitution is the supreme law of our land. It also clarifies that federal law is above state law and international treaties are above state law. Additionally, herein lies the issue of national debt.

Article VII stipulates the ratification process for the Constitution. Of the 13 states, 9 shall approve the document to make it legally binding.

It is interesting to note, that all 13 states eventually ratified the document, but it was not without a long battle with Rhode Island. (Remember too, it was Rhode Island who failed to send a delegation to the Constitutional Convention. Hmmmm, I guess the “Hope” state was holding out hope???)

Following the 7th Article you will find the signature of George Washington – President (of the convention), deputy from Virginia.

Following his signature is a list of the states present, with their representatives names listed. Twelve states, 38 representatives are named in the document. Some of the names you may recognize:

  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Roger Sherman
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Robert Morris
  • James Madison

What these men created, a brand new form of representative government based on the will of the people is truely remarkable. To have the forethought and understanding of not only law, government but also people’s wishes for freedom and liberty surely must have come from a higher Source. Our Constitution is a gift for the generations.

Have you gotten your copy of the Constitution yet or gone online to check it out and make sure I am not telling you falsehoods? ha ha

Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
The Articles of the Constitution of the US

Next week we will address the first 10 Amendments- The Bill of Rights.

Let freedom ring!

Debbie

Constitution Review part 1

It’s no secret that there is a current emphasis on the Constitution in these days. For many are claiming one thing or another that the Constitution says and guarantees. So, it is vitally important to know the document itself, it’s pieces, principles, and powers. Our purpose in this 4-part review is to look at those pieces, principles and powers so that you can be refreshed in your understanding of our great document and equipped to support and defend it.

There are only 3 pieces to the Constitution.

The 1st piece is the Preamble. This is like an opening or introductary paragraph.

The 2nd piece is the Articles. There are 7 articles and each of them explicitly lays out the details of how our government is structured, who makes up each part, what their responsibilities are, and their qualifications. Additionally, these articles deal with how the nation does business and deals with other nations, and how the federal government and each state government work together.

The 3rd piece is the Amendments. These are now 27 amendments, or changes that have been made to the Constitution since it was ratified.

As far as guiding principles found in the Constitution, we would have to mention these:

Self-government – the framers were firm in their resolve that America NOT be like their former homeland, with a Monarch, and where the people had little voice. Therefore, they chose to create a government in which the people’s voice directed the shape and direction of the leaders in government and the nation.

Liberty – Giving the people as much individual freedom as possible was a priority of the framers. That is why, in the ratification process, there were states that refused to ratify the Constitution unless and until a Bill of Rights was added that would ennumerate the freedoms provided by and protected by this new government.

Federalism – This gives certain, clearly defined and limited powers to a strong, central government but also specifically reserves the other powers to the states.

Separation of Powers – Not wanting any one person or branch to have too much power, our framers set out a structure of government that keeps three branches separate but equal. Included here comes the responsibility of those separate powers to check on the other two branches.

Let’s look now more closely at The Preamble.

WE THE PEOPLE” is the best known phrase from the Constitution and is the first three words of the Preamble. Listed in this brief, introductory paragraph are the 6 purposes of the entire document. Perhaps you had a History or Social Studies teacher who taught you the Schoolhouse Rock song? (I was that teacher… ha ha)

The 6 purposes are:

  1. to form a more perfect union – we’re making what we had even better
  2. establish justice – justice for all
  3. insure domestic tranquility – insure peace and protections for the inhabitants of the nation
  4. provide for the common defense – defend all states and the nation
  5. promote the general welfare – tend to the welfare of its citizens
  6. secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity – make the nation strong not just for us, but for the generations to come

How would you say we are doing living up to this remarkable Preamble?

In our last section for today, we will look at the first three Articles.

Article I- Congress/Legislature is the longest article & tells us about the legislative branch called Congress, and it shall consist of the Senate, elected every six years, and the House of Representatives, elected every two years. The Senate shall have 2 elected representatives from every state and representation in The House is based on each state’s population. Totaling 435 members of Congress.

The Capitol in Washington D.C. houses Congress

It’s important to note here, that “The Great Compromise” that was reached when settling this Two House government came with huge debate. The larger states and the smaller states wanted equal representation in Congress and via this compromise they got both, equal representation (in the Senate) and propotional representation (in the House).

Congress in session. (working)

Each of the 10 sections in Article 1 clearly spell out qualifications, how they are elected, duties, responsibilities, how a bill becomea a law, how Congress is run, and limits on Congressional powers. There are actually 18 listed powers that the Congress has. (see Article 1, section 8) Funding, declarations of war, and states importing and exporting with Congressional approval are some highlighted responsibilities.

Article II – The Executive/President The chief executive of the U.S. is the President, who is elected every four years, along with the Vice President. How he/she is elected, their qualifications, duties and responsibilities are listed. Additionally, how she/he shall be removed from office, what happens when the office is vacated, and how he/she is sworn in , is clearly articulated in this second article.

The White House in Washington D.C. is both the home and office of the President.

Article III – Judicial power of the U.S. is invested in one Supreme Court, and many inferior Courts. Particulars regarding trials, cases, juries, and crimes are innumerated in the 3 sections of this article. Treason is spoken of in this article, what it is and how it should be judged.

The Supreme Court in Washington D.C. is where the Justices do their business

A very signifigant point to make regarding The Supreme Court involves the issue of “Judicial Review”. This, a main responsibility of The High Court is when a law is presented to them in a case, and their task is to determine if, in fact, that law is “Constitutional”. They must determine if that state or federal law violates the constitution. If it does, (as determined by a majority vote of the 9 Judges) then it is deemed unconstitutional and reversed.

Many believe that these Judges have “legislated from the bench” (thorugh the years), thereby changing laws and resulting in a changed national outcome from what elected representatives have passed. The phrases to watch for are :

  • Strict Constitutionalist – one who believes the text of the constitution is not open for or to interpretation, it’s words are literal.
  • Judicial Activist – one who believes the Constitution is a living document and should be interpreted based on present situation.

These three Articles define what we often refer to as the Three Branches of Government, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial; and they clearly tell us who they are, what they do, and what is allowed in our government.

This document, our Constitution is the supreme law of our land. All persons and politicians are bound by it and no one is above it. Therefore, we best know it. Not know of it, not believe everything we hear about it, but know it. Know the document itself.

You can easily find it online at https://constitution.congress.gov

My personal go to’s

Paperback copies of the Constitution can be purchased as well. If you visit Washington D.C. or your Senator’s local office, they often give them away as well.

Please, if you are a citizen of the United States, of if you care deeply about America, do your due diligence and be familiar with this document. It is our responsibility as citizens to vote, and uphold the laws of the land, so we should know them as outlined in the Constitution.

https://momsforamerica.us has posted a short little constitution quiz which may be fun for you to take.

Whatever you do, I hope you’ll check back next week, for part 2 of our Constitution Review.

God Bless America,

Debbie

Sources:

US Constitution for dummies, Dr. Michale Arnheim

The Constitution of the United States of America

Constitution Day

September 17, 1787

Here it was, four years after independence had been won by the colonies, (the Treaty of Paris was signed Sept. 3, 1783) when this pronouncement was made,

It appears to me then little short of a miracle that the delegates from so many different states… should unite in forming a system of national government…”

George Washington, delegate to the Convention in Philadelphia, September 1787

Fifty-five men, from twelve colonies, (Rhode Island did not send representatives) had just spent months of debate (May – September), in the Pennsylvania Statehouse, located in Philadelphia, during the heat of summer, to produce a federal system of government that included checks and balances. Their finished product was called the Constitution of the United States. This was the miracle to which George Washington referred.

PA Statehouse, Independence Hall
George Washington and the delegates

It was apparent in 1786, two years after the Revolutionary War ended that the Union would break apart without a fix to the standing national government called The Articles of Confederation. This document had been drafted during the War by the Continental Congress to help guide the colonies through war and provide some sort of central government. It was obvious now, something more needed to be done for the sake of the new, fledgling nation.

At the pleading of the Annapolis Convention, (5 states with Maryland) in 1786, a Convention was called for in Philadelphia, May, 1787. On May 25, 1787, what we call the Constitutional Convention met with those fifty-five delgates at the statehouse in Philadelphia. Their intended purpose was to amend The Articles of Confederation.

After some time, it was clear that amending the Articles was to be scrapped. Something new had to be created. In this closed meeting house, with windows and doors shut tight for privacy (and sweating in wool coats and vests), without AC, these partiots hammered out the structure, form, and substance of our federal government. They built consensus, offered compromise, all within secrecy and never even threw a punch! (now that’s a miracle!)

Alexander Hamiliton, one of the delegates writes,

Alexander Hamilton

For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God (Luke 11:20) never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”

Alexander Hamiliton, upon the signing of the Constitution

James Madison, another delegate, writes,

James Madison

It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution.”

James Madison, upon signing the Constitution

What these men came up with, our Constitution, is what governs our land now. It is what has inspired and modeled for other nations their constitution. The similiarities between ours and theirs is often identical in wording.

The U.S. Constitution

This document, the Constitution, was signed by thirty nine of the delegates on September 17, 1787, and as per the specification in the Constitution, later ratified by nine of the thirteen colonies to become effective. New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it on June 21, 1788. It was agreed upon that this new government would begin March 4, 1789. (Which is why Inaguration Day was in March for so many years. In 1981 it was changed to January 20.)

Our Constitution provides for:

  • 3 Branches of government
  • Legislative/Congress – make laws, checks on other branches
  • Executive/President – manages daily operations of the government, checks on other branches, enforces the laws
  • Judicial/Federal courts, Supreme Court – courts, judges, checks on the other branches, makes sure the laws are constitutional
  • Personal freedoms as stated in the Bill of Rights/first 10 amendments
  • Ways to amend or change the Constitution
  • Separation between the federal and state powers
  • all the qualifications for elections, candidates, how laws are made, where money comes from, treaties, citizenship, emprisonment, trails, searches and seizures, how a republic is run
  • and so much more
Outline of the contents of the Constitution

This document, our Constitution, has been and continues to be the “the law of the land”. All federal employees, military personal and so many other employees, upon entering their positions take an oath “to faithfully defend the Constitution”.

It is sacred, above all other ideologies, and worth every effort of patriots to defend. It is the law of our land, not immutable however, as provisions to change it are also addressed.

What the founding fathers and the framers created is a clearly laid out form and structure for our government. It has come under much scrutiny, debate and with much compromise and it still stands today, as Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration says, ” as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament were the effects of a Divine power.”

It behooves us then, We The People, to stand in the spirit of those patriots- who pledged their best hopes, strongest intellectual pursuits, and good faith in the creation of that Constitution, to do the same.

On this Constitution Day, 2022, 235 years after it’s signing, may we fully understand and promote, but also strongly defend The Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

In keeping with this challenge to understand, and leading up to the elections in 8 weeks, I will be presenting a 4 week follow-up refresher on The Constitution, walking us through the body of the Constitution, and examining the parts. They will be as follows:

  • Week 1 – The Preamble & Articles 1-3 Legislative, Executive & Judicial Branches
  • Week 2 – Articles 4-7 –
  • Week 3 – The Amendments, 1-10 The Bill of Rights
  • Week 4 – The Amendments, 11-27

You can see original copies of The Constitution, The Bill of Rights and The Declaration of Indepenence at The National Archives in Washington D.C.

National Archives, Documents on display

I hope you will sharpen your understanding and appreciation of this great document and our great nation and check back in to join us in that endeavor.

Debbie

God Bless America,

Sources

Britannica – The Constitutional Convention

History.com

Yahoonews.weather

National Archives – The Framers

BrainyQuotes.com

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 through the sky to observe people and decide who would prosper or perish. (Sound like anyone you know… he sees 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 that 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 Claus 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