Friday, December 28, 2012

Historical Look at Mass Shootings

The history of death and the historical examination of murder is not something I typically like to write about or even research and with the events that recently occurred in Newtown, Connecticut it is a delicate subject . At the time of this writing I have a beautiful 15 month old boy and I truly can not fathom the idea of losing him. The pain that those people in Connecticut are going through at this time; all I can say is that my thoughts and prayers have been with them since this tragedy had occurred. Senseless violence like this has no place in this world and I pray that no one will experience it in the future, but history and the nature of man seems to tell us a different story. A debate has been sparked over what caused this violence, what could have been done to prevent it, and most importantly what can we do now to stop it in the future. An interesting article by Discovery News lays out the various mass killings that have occurred not only here in America but around the world, as far back as the 18th-century. It really begins to open ones perspective as to cause and if we can ever truly see an end such atrocities or not.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Boston Tea Party... Was It An Act of Terrorism?

Recent reports have come out that Texas schools are teaching students that the Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism equivalent to that of something Al-Qaeda would perform. The students are read a “news report” and then they are asked to determine if it meets the definition of “terrorism.” It reads as follows:
"A local militia, believed to be a terrorist organization, attacked the property of private citizens today at our nation’s busiest port. Although no one was injured in the attack, a large quantity of merchandise, considered to be valuable to its owners and loathsome to the perpetrators, was destroyed. The terrorists, dressed in disguise and apparently intoxicated, were able to escape into the night with the help of local citizens who harbor these fugitives and conceal their identities from the authorities. It is believed that the terrorist attack was a response to the policies enacted by the occupying country’s government. Even stronger policies are anticipated by the local citizens."
There are a number of conflicting statements in this “news report” that make it difficult to evenly dissect and determine a straightforward answer. Since the students are required to break down this report and determine its meaning, I will do the same.
First we need to define what terrorism even is before we can determine if the Boston Tea Party should be considered that. Webster’s definition of terrorism states, “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” The key word in this definition we need to examine is ‘systematic.’ We need to see if these men had a systematic approach to violence and terror or were more in line with a protest organization. Since the Sons of Liberty are being highlighted in this report let us examine briefly their history. The Sons of Liberty were a group of colonist whose interests mainly involved protecting the rights of colonists. Although it is unknown how and when they were founded, it is believed they started to loosely organize around 1765 as a result of the Stamp Act. By 1766 the Sons of Liberty were in all the colonies and “served as headquarters for the patriot leaders.” (Miller, Origins of the American Revolution, p. 130) There are times between 1765 and 1773 that the Sons of Liberty were known for violent acts (i.e. terrorizing stamp masters as a protest against the Stamp Act) however their involvement in the destruction of personal property was minimal and more important they rarely involved violence or death of individuals. The Sons of Liberty were mainly a protest organization whose purpose was meant to raise the British crowns awareness of how their liberties were being violated and enact change. Sadly some of these protests turned violent however it was only as a last resort when frustrations of the situation were at an all-time high and although not an excuse it is something we have seen here at home and around the world.
In 1773 tensions had been growing for weeks in Boston over the Dartmouth and her load of tea to be delivered. The citizens of Boston led those very same Sons of Liberty had no desire to see the tea offloaded and taxes paid on it because it violated the very principles they had fought for back during the Stamp Act in 1765. “The idea of destroying the East India Company’s tea had probably been a last resort in the mind of many patriots.” (Labaree, The Boston Tea Party, p.141) The Dartmouth originally came to port on November 28th, more than two weeks from when the Boston Tea Party occurred. During that entire time some local citizens who were angry at the tax on tea were trying to find some means to have the tea returned to England. The Townsend Act caused problems for everyone as the Governor of Boston could not simply send the vessel back once it entered a part of the port. Plus there was no way Governor Hutchinson was going to give in to the people’s demands. The tax had to be levied once it entered port and the tea offloaded. Local citizens, led by the Sons of Liberty, refused to let that happen and placed men near the ship threatening to cause harm if the tea were unloaded. By mid-December thousands of Bostonians flooded into Old South in Boston. Their overwhelming presence convinced the captain to demand clearance to leave the port of Boston immediately. The ships representative, accompanied by Samuel Adams and nine other men, went to the home of Richard Harrison. His decision on December 15th was to deny their request; he stated that his hands were tied. This angered the mob that had been growing and it was apparent that action needed to be taken.  On December 16th the duties either had to be paid and the tea taken ashore or drastic measures by the people of Boston had to be taken. It seemed that with their backs to the wall they went to their last resort, the dumping of the tea. It is hard to say when the detailed planning for the dumping of the tea occurred but it seems obvious that it started before the 16th of December. After this lengthy process of demanding the ship be returned to London and working through the proper channels but to no avail; can one really say that their last resort was an act of terrorism? I believe no. First the destruction of the tea was not the first choice of the committee that original met on this matter in November and even when the idea was presented it was immediately dismissed. Acts of terrorism by terrorist groups are well thought out decision to cause chaos and fear and little effort is made before that to reach a compromise or peaceful means. Secondly more people were there than simply the Sons of Liberty, “many members of the Boston committee also belonged to other groups – the North End Caucus, the Long Room Club, and the Grand Lodge of Masons” (Labaree, p. 143). All these groups participated in the dumping of the tea which means to state that it was a “terrorist organization” would be inaccurate as there were other groups involved in the event and according to some accounts a handful showed up to the area unaware of any plan in the works but participated nonetheless.
There are interesting aspects of the way in which the news report is worded that create an inaccurate perspective and therefore distort the way in which students will analyze it. If this news report is referring to the Boston Tea Party which occurred in 1773 then why does it reference America as “our nation’s busiest port?” Now just reading this without any other context might make one believe the individual writing this is English and is referring to America as our nation. However later in the report it states that this was all a result of policies enacted by the “occupying country’s government.” Since America has not declared independence there is only one of two ways to look at this; either the perspective of the writer is a patriot and sees the colonies as independent already, which would mean they would support the dumping of the tea, or this is written historically incorrect. Either way it highlights a major flaw in the writing and makes it difficult to identify the intent behind what is actually going on.
Words can also be a tricky thing when steering one’s mind to a particular conclusion. This “news account” seems to be a form of propaganda. What if the article read this way?:
A group of men attacked the property of private citizens today at our nation’s busiest port. Although no one was injured in the attack, a large quantity of merchandise was destroyed. Dressed in disguise and apparently intoxicated, they were able to escape into the night with the help of local citizens. It is believed that the event was in response to the policies enacted by the occupying country’s government.
If students were to read the account in that manner that it’s possible you might come to the conclusion that a group of drunken idiots were angry toward the government and went out and did something stupid. More importantly one’s first thought would not necessarily be that it was premeditated attack. Bias, or propaganda, within a news account is something every student needs to be taught more than anything. In fact what would you think of the “news account” if it had started with “A group of local patriots…?” How would you feeling about what they did then?

Once the dust settles on a situation and emotions subside, you tend to get a better understanding of how people felt. These reactions to the dumping of the tea will help us put into perspective the mindset of many American colonists at this time and more importantly show how few would see this as an act of terrorism but rather praise it as an act of patriotism. The following is a report from the Boston Gazette which reflects the sentiments of many Bostonians:
On Tuesday last the body of the people of this and all the adjacent towns, and others from the distance of twenty miles, assembled at the old south meeting-house, to inquire the reason of the delay in sending the ship Dartmouth, with the East-India Tea back to London; and having found that the owner had not taken the necessary steps for that purpose, they enjoin'd him at his peril to demand of the collector of the customs a clearance for the ship, and appointed a committee of ten to see it perform'd; after which they adjourn'd to the Thursday following ten o'clock. They then met and being inform'd by Mr. Rotch, that a clearance was refus'd him, they enjoye'd him immediately to enter a protest and apply to the governor for a pass port by the castle, and adjourn'd again till three o'clock for the same day. At which time they again met and after waiting till near sunset Mr. Rotch came in and inform'd them that he had accordingly enter'd his protest and waited on the governor for a pass, but his excellency told him he could not consistent with his duty grant it until his vessel was qualified. The people finding all their efforts to preserve the property of the East India company and return it safely to London, frustrated by the sea consignees, the collector of the customs and the governor of the province, DISSOLVED their meeting.--But, BEHOLD what followed! A number of brave & resolute men, determined to do all in their power to save their country from the ruin which their enemies had plotted, in less than four hours, emptied every chest of tea on board the three ships commanded by the captains Hall, Bruce, and Coffin, amounting to 342 chests, into the sea!! without the least damage done to the ships or any other property. The matters and owners are well pleas'd that their ships are thus clear'd; and the people are almost universally congratulating each other on this happy event. – December 20, 1773
It doesn’t seem the dumping of the tea cause fear in the hearts of the people which is a clear indicator of a terrorist attack. This account was even reprinted in the London Evening Post the following month which means that even those in England read it as an act of patriotism, rather than an act of terrorism or treason as domestic terrorism could so easily be seen as. John Adams, who defended the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre and verbally spoke out against mob violence, stated “there is a dignity, a majesty, a sublimity, in this last effort of the patriots that I greatly admire.” There was even a song sung by colonists about the Boston Tea Party, it was a rallying cry for their fight against the British crown, “Rally Mohawks! Bring out your axes, And tell King George we’ll pay no taxes On his foreign tea.”  

Common American historical context looks at this event as an act of patriotism and sense we earlier defined terrorism we should do the same for patriotism. Patriotism is a “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country.” You cannot say that these men were patriots for England, they clearly were not defending England’s best interest; instead they were defending the rights of those in the colonies. If you are a colonist in America in 1773 then you might be able to see how they were defending you and your rights, you might actually call them a patriots. So it seems that this argument is based on a matter of perspective more than anything. Gerald Seymour actually said it best in his book Harry’s Game, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” As Americans we see these men as patriots, freedom fighters. They were not murders, plunderers, or men seeking to destroy of lives of others, as a matter of fact the patriots were very careful to avoid damaging the ships that the tea were on and any other personal property on board. These patriots risked their personal freedom and reputations to stand up for what they believed in; they stood up for liberty. Many outside this country do not fully appreciate our history and the sacrifices that were taken to reach independence and create a government for the people and by the people. It is not something we should apologize for or see as evil; it is what made us the greatest nation on earth and it’s those ideals that continue to sustain us as citizens of this nation.
Terrorism, especially in our day and age, is a dangerous word to throw around. One hundred years ago or even during colonial times it did not have the same connotation as it does today. These men of Boston do not even remotely compare to the terrorists of today that kill dozens of people with a bomb attached to themselves or thousands of people by driving a plane into a building. I question the motives behind something like this being introduced to the students of today. Is it meant to weaken our founding fathers, our revolution, and our history? Is it meant to undermine the Tea Party Movement and associate their cause with terrorism? Or is it simply an exercise to get student to think more abstractly? Frankly I am nervous that they are not being taught of the heroism and courage of our founding fathers and how they had to stand up against tyranny and oppression by the British government and therefore fight for independence. On this anniversary of the Boston Tea Party I stand up and salute those individuals, those patriots; who protested against taxation without representation, who protested unfair treatment, and who saw a chance to make a stand for liberty and freedom in the American colonies.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Turkey, mashed potatoes, casserole (the kind depends on the family and region), stuffing, cranberry, and rolls are just a few of the Thanksgiving Day foods that we have come to know and love. Along with visiting family, watching movies, playing games, and hunting we have numerous traditions that we take part in and for many watching or attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a part of their Thanksgiving Day festivities.
In the 1920s Macy’s Department Store in New York was mostly employed by first generation emigrants who loved America but were accustomed to big celebrations and parades in Europe and wanted to put together such a celebration parade for the holiday season. In 1924 Macy’s and its employees fashioned together three floats (The Old Lady in the Shoe, Miss Muffet, and Red Riding Hood), invited four marching bands, and walked with animals from the Central Park Zoo and the employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, and knights to entertain the crowd. It was unknown how popular the Macy’s Parade would be, originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, however to everyone’s surprise nearly 250,000 people lined the streets from Harlem to the Macy’s Department Store off 34th street in Manhattan. Due to its popularity that first year the parade has been held every year since except for 1942-1944 due to World War 2.
The parade itself has been a fluid event ever since 1924; for instance the iconic large balloons that are synonymous with the parade were not introduced until 1927. Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Akron, Ohio helped replace the live animals with large animal-shaped balloons starting with Felix the Cat. After the 1928 parade the balloons were released into the sky with a tag on the balloons indicating that for anyone that returns the balloon to Macy’s they will receive a prize. This stunt did not work out like they had hoped when out of the five balloons that were released in 1931 three landed in Long Island with one being torn to pieces by neighbors fighting for the prize, one landed in the East River and another floated out to sea. Then in 1932 one of the balloons nearly killed a pilot when it caught on his wing and sent him into a tailspin. After this the balloons were no longer released into the air at the end of the parade. By this time nearly 1 million people were lining the streets of New York to watch the parade and something new was needed to entertain people, so in 1934 celebrities started to become an integral element of the show to entertain the crowd. Now every year the hottest singers and Broadway shows perform for the crowd along with celebrities who appear on floats throughout the parade.
Understanding history is about understanding the impact something has on something else. I am always fascinated to discover how something becomes a part of a culture. Although it may not be completely true today Denny’s has been viewed by many as the All-American diner and synonymous for American restaurants. The question I ask is how that happened (something I answered in a previous blog)? The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was clearly growing in popularity throughout the 20s and 30s and the lull of World War 2 showed further how much it was missed when upon its return in 1945 the crowd reached over 2 million enthusiastic New Yorkers. However, why didn’t parades in Philadelphia, Detroit, or elsewhere reach the same level of cultural significance that the Macy’s Parade has reached? We can actually thank George Seaton for that. In 1947 Seaton wrote and directed the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” and in that movie the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was highlighted and even showed actual footage from the previous year’s parade, couple the popularity of that movie with NBC’s first television broadcast of the parade in 1948 and you have a cultural icon being born.
I have to be honest I do not watch the Macy’s Parade every single year however it is not difficult to know how culturally significant the parade has been over the last 85+ years. Every year this time we know one thing is certain and that is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on and if we watch the excitement will slowly build as the parade ends and Santa Claus says hello to everyone and rings in the Christmas season. To everyone out there I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas.       

Friday, November 16, 2012

History of Denny's Restaurant

There are few restaurants national that can be considered American staples, restaurants in which everyone knows about and everyone has visited at least once in their lives. Denny's is one of those All-American restaurants. Recently they have been in the news because a major Denny's franchise owner in Florida stated he will be forced to increase his prices due to ObamaCare legislation that will go into effect January of 2014 (dailymail). How did this restaurant become such an icon in American history to the point that you consistently see them in movies and TV shows as a place where everyday Joe's eat?

After moving from Buffalo, New York, Harold Butler started a simple donut shop in 1953 with the idea of providing good coffee and donuts 24 hours a day. Originally called "Danny's Donuts" the location did very well very quickly and Harold started to open additional locations in 1954 under the revised name of "Danny's Coffee Shop." As the business grew so did his customers' desire for expanded menu options which is why Butler started including sandwiches and various entrees beyond just the donuts. In 1959 they had expanded to five locations however there was a growing confusion among customers between their coffee shops and a "Coffee Dan's" in the same area. It was decided that a change was needed so that same year Butler changed the name to "Denny's Restaurant" and the donuts, the foundation of Butler's original location, were removed from the menu. Their focus was on simple American food and coffee offered 24 hours a day. The question still remains, how did this small chain restaurant in California spread around the country in popularity and become that national icon it is today? The answer is the national highway system.

As the automobiles popularity grew in the twentieth century the idea of roads that stretched across the country grew with it. Although a few interstate highways were created such as the Lincoln Highway, there was nothing that truly connected the country. President Eisenhower saw the value of a national highway after being in Germany during World War 2 and utilizing the autobahn. Not only would it help the country grow and connect but Eisenhower saw the benefit of easily transporting military supplies and men across the country in the event of war. In 1956 the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act passed which funded projects all over the country to build the massive interstate system that we know today. Butler was one of the first to see the potential of using these new interstate highways and created a  business model of building his restaurant along these roads, catering to travelers 24 hours a day. It is rare to find major chain restaurants today that are not built along or near a major interstate highway. Denny's pioneered the national chain restaurant by placing their locations along these interstate highways (Retail Merchandiser). 

With the famous Grand-Slam breakfast, free meals on your birthday (which eventually ended in 1993), All-American meals, their great locations and low prices by 1981 Denny's grew to over 1000 locations and  solidified their place as an American institution.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day Speech: President Ronald Reagan

My words will never be good enough to convey the honor and gratitude I have for the veterans of the United States of America. All I can do is hand that responsibility over to others who have better talents than I do, and there is no one better than President Ronald Reagan...

"A few moments ago I placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and as I stepped back and stood during the moment of silence that followed, I said a small prayer. And it occurred to me that each of my predecessors has had a similar moment, and I wondered if our prayers weren't very much the same, if not identical.
We celebrate Veterans Day on the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, the armistice that began on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. And I wonder, in fact, if all Americans' prayers aren't the same as those I mentioned a moment ago. The timing of this holiday is quite deliberate in terms of historical fact but somehow it always seems quite fitting to me that this day comes deep in autumn when the colors are muted and the days seem to invite contemplation.
We are gathered at the National Cemetery, which provides a final resting place for the heroes who have defended our country since the Civil War. This amphitheater, this place for speeches, is more central to this cemetery than it first might seem apparent, for all we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did -- and memories are transmitted through words.
Sometime back I received in the name of our country the bodies of four marines who had died while on active duty. I said then that there is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman, for we're never quite good enough to them-not really; we can't be, because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman dies, it's a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember.
It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember.
There's always someone who is remembering for us. No matter what time of year it is or what time of day, there are always people who come to this cemetery, leave a flag or a flower or a little rock on a headstone. And they stop and bow their heads and communicate what they wished to communicate. They say, "Hello, Johnny," or "Hello, Bob. We still think of you. You're still with us. We never got over you, and we pray for you still, and we'll see you again. We'll all meet again." In a way, they represent us, these relatives and friends, and they speak for us as they walk among the headstones and remember. It's not so hard to summon memory, but it's hard to recapture meaning.
And the living have a responsibility to remember the conditions that led to the wars in which our heroes died. Perhaps we can start by remembering this: that all of those who died for us and our country were, in one way or another, victims of a peace process that failed; victims of a decision to forget certain things; to forget, for instance, that the surest way to keep a peace going is to stay strong. Weakness, after all, is a temptation -- it tempts the pugnacious to assert themselves -- but strength is a declaration that cannot be misunderstood. Strength is a condition that declares actions have consequences. Strength is a prudent warning to the belligerent that aggression need not go unanswered.Peace fails when we forget what we stand for. It fails when we forget that our Republic is based on firm principles, principles that have real meaning, that with them, we are the last, best hope of man on Earth; without them, we're little more than the crust of a continent. Peace also fails when we forget to bring to the bargaining table God’s first intellectual gift to man: common sense. Common sense gives us a realistic knowledge of human beings and how they think, how they live in the world, what motivates them. Common sense tells us that man has magic in him, but also clay. Common sense can tell the difference between right and wrong. Common sense forgives error, but it always recognizes it to be error first.
We endanger the peace and confuse all issues when we obscure the truth; when we refuse to name an act for what it is; when we refuse to see the obvious and seek safety in Almighty. Peace is only maintained and won by those who have clear eyes and brave minds. Peace is imperiled when we forget to try for agreements and settlements and treaties; when we forget to hold out our hands and strive; when we forget that God gave us talents to use in securing the ends He desires. Peace fails when we forget that agreements, once made, cannot be broken without a price.
Each new day carries within it the potential for breakthroughs, for progress. Each new day bursts with possibilities. And so, hope is realistic and despair a pointless little sin. And peace fails when we forget to pray to the source of all peace and life and happiness. I think sometimes of General Matthew Ridgeway, who, the night before D-day, tossed sleepless on his cot and talked to the Lord and listened for the promise that God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”We're surrounded today by the dead of our wars. We owe them a debt we can never repay. All we can do is remember them and what they did and why they had to be brave for us. All we can do is try to see that other young men never have to join them. Today, as never before, we must pledge to remember the things that will continue the peace. Today, as never before, we must pray for God's help in broadening and deepening the peace we enjoy. Let us pray for freedom and justice and a more stable world. And let us make a compact today with the dead, a promise in the words for which General Ridgeway listened, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
In memory of those who gave the last full measure of devotion, may our efforts to achieve lasting peace gain strength. And through whatever coincidence or accident of timing, I tell you that a week from now when I am some thousands of miles away, believe me, the memory and the importance of this day will be in the forefront of my mind and in my heart.
Thank you. God bless you all, and God bless America."

Veterans Day National CeremonyArlington National Cemetery
November 11, 1985

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Today in History: U.S. Marine Corp founded

As November 1775 began, the colonies of America were in rebellion. Although the organization was a little scattered and independence was not yet declared one thing was apparent, we were at war against our mother country England. With the Continental Army commanded by George Washington it was clear that we were going to have to take the battle to the high seas as well. On November 9, 1775 the Second Continental Congress convened with the Naval Committee about the idea of sending an amphibious expedition to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The intent was to take control of British military posts in Canada and thereby weakening their position in North America as well as seek out military supplies for the Continental Army. In order to accomplish this task the Congress agreed, on November 10, 1775, to commission two marine battalions in aiding in this expedition. It was from these two battalions of Continental Marines that the US Marine Corp was founded.   

Today we commemorate the greatness that is the United States Marines. Typically the first in and last out these men and women have been the backbone of the United States military and pivotal to military victories over the last 237 years. With Veterans Day tomorrow, I just want to say THANK YOU to every Marine who is serving or has served their country proudly and honorably. You are the front line for the defense of liberty and freedom in this country and we are all forever in your debt. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Our Nation Divided: Lincoln Relieves McClellan

Over the last year and a half we have been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. As reenactors and festivals take place all over the east coast we should be reminded of the impatience that many were feeling in the mid-nineteenth century with the toll the war had taken up till that point. Many in the country, including prominent leaders, assumed this conflict between the states would end only in a matter of months. This frustration was apparent with President Lincoln and his aggravation with General George McClellan.

As a West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican-American War, McClellan was a nature choice to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Union army after Robert E Lee declined. As the war started he worked diligently at training a very green army into a well trained and organized military unit. However his greatest skill turned into his greatest weakness as it seemed all McClellan wanted to do was train his men. When it came to meeting the Confederacy on the field of battle he was always hesitant, reserved because he always felt he lacked the proper intelligence. In reality there were numerous moments in which the Union army had an advantage and held back, resulting in losing the battle. Since the majority of the public had expected this conflict to end in a matter of months the fact that it was now nearly 17 months it meant everyone, including Lincoln, was growing impatient.

McClellan did not show a lot of respect for Lincoln and his authority as President, in fact he felt it was his place to make decisions that were outside his authority. In a letter to Lincoln, McClellan wrote:
“This rebellion has assumed the character of a War: as such it should be regarded; and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known to Christian Civilization. It should not be a War looking to the subjugation of the people of any state, in any event. It should not be, at all, a War upon population; but against armed forces and political organizations. Neither confiscation of property, political executions of persons, territorial organization of states or forcible abolition of slavery should be contemplated for a moment. In prosecuting the War, all private property and unarmed persons should be strictly protected; subject only to the necessities of military operations. All private property taken for military use should be paid for or receipted for; pillage and waste should be treated as high crimes; all unnecessary trespass sternly prohibited; and offensive demeanor by the military towards citizens promptly rebuked. Military arrests should not be tolerated, except in places where active hostilities exist; and oaths not required by enactments -- Constitutionally made -- should be neither demanded nor received. Military government should be confined to the preservation of public order and the protection of political rights.” – July 7, 1862
McClellan is making decisions that are the responsibility of the President's, with the opinions of a politician, instead of as a general who is meant to be taking orders and concerned with winning a war. Things could have changed in September 1862 when Lee and his forces went on the offensive and attacked Union territory. The two forces met at Antietam in Maryland where McClellan had the superior numbers and eventually drove Lee out of Union territory. The problem is yet again McClellan failed to close the deal and utilize those superior numbers he consistently had over Lee. By most accounts McClellan had the opportunity to destroy Lee’s army and possibly end the conflict but failed to put his reserves into action which allowed Lee and his men to escape back into the South and fight another day. So despite McClellan keeping Lee out of the North he showed his reservations in making the tough decision that could have possibly won the war. Although this “victory” gave Lincoln the ability to write the Emancipation Proclamation it further added to the idea that McClellan did not have the stomach to finish this war out like it needed to be.  

As predicted the Union army fell silent after Antietam and Lincoln did not hesitate to show his anger. 
“Yours of yesterday received. Most certainly I intend no injustice to any; and if I have done any, I deeply regret it. To be told after more than five weeks total inaction of the Army, and during which period we have sent to that Army every fresh horse we possibly could, amounting in the whole to Seven thousand nine hundred and eighteen, that the cavalry were too much fatigued to move, presented a very cheerless, almost hopeless prospect for the future; and it may have forced something of impatience into my dispatch. If not recruited and rested then, when could they ever be? I suppose the river is rising, and I am glad to believe you are crossing."  - Oct 26, 1862
 Even Mary Todd Lincoln chimed in on this issue in a letter to her husband stating, “Your name is on every lip and many prayers and good wishes are hourly sent up, for your welfare -- and McClellan & his slowness are as vehemently discussed. Allowing this beautiful weather, to pass away, is disheartening (Nov 2, 1862).” Although I would doubt his wife’s influence had any bearing on Lincoln’s final decision to remove McClellan he nevertheless pulled the trigger and relieved him of his command on November 5, 1862.

The public, as well as the White House’s frustration that the war had not ended at this point seemed to be focused upon McClellan. His lack of execution and inability to defeat the Confederacy, despite having superior forces at every turn, was reason many in the country were fed up and Lincoln realized he needed a change if this rebellion was going to be defeated. This act by Lincoln was a major turning point in the Civil War because without his removal of McClellan there is a good chance that Lee would have continued to have his way with the Union army. It’s even possible to consider that the Confederacy would have been victorious in the end through a war of attrition which ironically is how the Union army ended up winning in the end. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wordle: JFK Inaugural Address

With the presidential election only about a month away I wanted to show you the latest 'Wordle' to help us determine what we should be looking for in a great American President. This one is based on John F. Kennedy's inaugural address which is considered one of the great speeches in American history. Kennedy focused on freedom, liberty, peace, and what we as a society can do to achieve this together.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

YouTube History: Drunk History


If you are a fan of history and humor and well tragic things then you have to check out "Drunk History" on YouTube. Produced by Funny or Die the premise involves individuals getting incredibly drunk and discussing a historical event on camera. Created by Derek Waters the initial concept is pretty funny, however what makes it even better is the fact that famous actors and actresses such as Michael Cera, Will Ferrell, Don Cheadle, John C Reilly, and Jack Black reenact the narrators story exactly how it is said. These videos are must sees however I do caution that parental guidance is suggested as the drunkenness and cursing is a bit excessive.

The Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr... Starring Michael Cera

Benjamin Franklin and the Discovery of Electricity... Starring Jack Black and Clark Duke

Oney Judge and the Washington Family... starring Danny McBride

President William Henry Harrison and his Inaugural Address... starring Paul Schneider

The Friendship of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass... starring Will Ferrell, Don Cheadle, and Zooey Deschanel

The story of Nikola Tesla... starring John C Reilly and Crispin Glover

Although I do not condone the drunkenness, vulgar speech, and sketchy historical narrative, I have to admit that this is pretty hilarious. All these videos are on YouTube and therefore accessible by anyone. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Today in History: 50th Anniversary of James Bond

A group of my friends were sitting around talking the other day and discussing movies that defined our generation. Since we are all on the back side of Generation X or the front side of Generation Y movies such as “Tommy Boy”, “Dumb and Dumber”, and “Billy Madison” came to mind. Teenagers and young adults may think immediately of “Harry Potter” or movies with Will Ferrell. Even back in the 80's you had generational defining movies such as “Back to the Future” and “The Breakfast Club” that connected peoples’ memories to a time period of their lives. Yet there is no movie franchise that crosses every generation over the last 50 years like those that star the one and only Bond, James Bond.

The mastermind behind this character, Ian Fleming, actually developed his characters name from the ornithologist James Bond whose book “Birds of the West Indies” was a favorite of Fleming’s. Fleming developed the idea of a British spy from various people he came across as a member of the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. From the perspective of a post-world war, pre-Cold War era, Fleming finished his first Bond book in 1953 titled “Casino Royale.” The popularity of his books slowly grew and the appeal of a movie adaptation was apparent. Then on October 5, 1962 “Dr. No” was released in Britain, the first in a long standing continual series about the British secret agent James Bond.

But the real question we need to ask ourselves is what historical influence has James Bond had on society. You first have to see the importance James Bond played on the British people. He was a hero, a hero during a time in which the British Empire was waning. Bond helped make Britain a major player during the Cold War era in a fictional world when Great Britain was far from it now in the real world. James Chapman, a professor of the history of art and film, is a leading expert on James Bond. His book “License to Thrill” highlights the importance of Bond on the British people especially during the Cold War. To go beyond that idea is the notion of America’s role in the series. The United States seemed to always be involved in some way but as the second hand or the fool to the superior British MI6 agent but it never seemed to matter to American audiences. The widespread popularity of the films is thanks in no part to the American audience that runs to go see the newest Bond films that emerge. This is why the Bond series is second only to the Harry Potter series in gross international sales. Does anyone else find it interesting that the top two films series of all-time are both of British origin?

Chapman also explored in his book the changing tied in society, especially when it comes to women. This affected the way in which Bond interacted with the opposite sex. Just look at how women were portrayed in the Sean Connery and the Roger Moore movies, compared to that of the women in the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig films. Instead of sexual objects the Bond girls become more as Bond’s equal. Other more obvious changes occurred in the films such as technology and the problems in which Bond encountered. We see Sean Connery dealing directly with Cold War era problems and then we see Pierce Brosnan’s first movie, “GoldenEye”, directly addressing the idea that the Cold War is over and his old-fashion way of doing things might not work in this modern era, how wrong ‘M’ was. However one thing Chapman points out is that the basic formula of the Bond films is something that has not changed and does not seem to need fixed in any way. The popularity of James Bond is still high around the world. The BBC did an excellent story on the influence and significance of James Bond over the last 50 years. I highly recommend watching it.

I have been watching James Bond films since I was very young. I once owned them all on VHS and probably seen each of them at least five times if not more and the appeal for me has always been the way in which Bond carries himself in every situation. It’s probably why I love John Wayne movies as well. There is a sense of watching what it means to be a real man, handling everything that comes his way with poise and class. Allowing nothing to get in his way no matter the obstacle and every time he comes out ahead. Bond is a man’s man, every man wants to be him and every woman wants to be with him. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The American Citizens Handbook: Part 2

As we examined in Part 1 of the The American Citizens Handbook we saw the purpose behind writing the handbook as a means to learn how to "pass on the torch of democracy and to make the nation better and stronger." In Part 2, we will begin to look at how the publishers of this handbook, National Council for the Social Studies, want teachers to commute to students on how to be a good citizen and can make this "nation better and stronger."

Good citizenry requires a set of established values that an individual follows in their everyday life. When asked what makes a good citizen the National Council of Social Studies sought the advice of the top leaders in the United States and asked them this very same question. From that survey they developed a 24-point list of what it takes to be a good citizen. Although the pronoun "his" is exclusively used it is referring to both genders and we remind ourselves this was written in a time when the man was seen as the primary engine for change within the country. 
  1. Believes in equality of opportunity for all people.
  2. Values, respects, and defends basic human rights and privileges guaranteed by the US Constitution.
  3. Respects and upholds the law and its agencies. 
  4. Understands and accepts the following democratic principles as guides in evaluating his own behavior and the policies and practices of other persons and groups, and judges his own behavior and the behavior of others by them: a) each individual possesses dignity and worth as a person. b) that governments exist by the consent of the governed. c) civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution. d) that government is by law, not by men. e) in a large diverse nation compromise is frequently necessary. f) people are intelligent enough to govern themselves
  5. Understands that, in the long run, people will govern themselves better than any self-appointed group would govern them.
  6. Puts the general welfare above his own whenever a choice between them is necessary.
  7. Feels that he has inherited an unfinished experiment in self-government which it is his duty and privilege to carry on. 
  8. Exercises his right to vote.
  9. Accepts civic responsibilities and discharges them to the best of his ability.
  10. Knows technics of social action and can cooperate with others in achieving such action. 
  11. Accepts the basic idea that in a democracy the majority has the right to make decisions under the Constitution. 
  12. Assumes a personal responsibility to contribute toward a well-informed climate of opinion on current social, economic, and political problems or issues. 
  13. Realizes the necessary connection of education with democracy.
  14. Respects property rights, meets his obligations in contracts, and obeys regulations governing the use of property.
  15. Supports fair business practices and fair relations between employers and employees.
  16. Assumes a personal responsibility for the wise use of natural resources. 
  17. Accepts responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of a competitive economic system assisted and regulated when necessary by governmental action. 
  18. Knows in general how other economic systems operate, including their political and social consequences. 
  19. Knows about, critically evaluates, and supports promising efforts to prevent war, but stands ready to defend his country against tyranny and aggression. 
  20. Is deeply aware of the independence of people and realizes that a good life can be attained only by the organized cooperation of millions of people all over the world. 
  21. Understands cultures and ways of life other than his own.
  22. Cultivates qualities of character and personality that have a high value in his culture. 
  23. Is a responsible family member and assumes his full responsibility for maintaining the civic standards of his neighborhood and community. 
  24. Recognizes taxes as payment for community services and pays them promptly.
This can be a pretty overwhelming list for today's American but in the 1940s and 1950s this would be a fairly common place idea. These virtues of what make a great American citizen can probably be seen as old-fashioned today. So the question would be why would many Americans see it that way? I believe it has to do with our view of truth. In our modern society we see truth as gray. Truth can be determined by the individual and their perspective which is gained through experience and background. The American of the 21st century will define the values of being a good citizen in their own individual way and we as a society are to honor that perspective. From the mid-20th century all the way back to early America society viewed values as very black and white. That's more than likely why the NEA (National Education Association) rejected this book by the 1970s as something they were wanting to produce. With the books focus on an old-fashioned narrow minded view of patriotism and Christian faith as a foundation for a good democracy (which we'll examine in Part 5), it is not surprise that this book was rejected by the progressive NEA that we see today. I wanted to examine this book because it is important to see how and what are students were being taught. It seems like a drastic change from what we teach our children today but the basic ideas of equality to all people, loyalty to America, and a basic knowledge of our history and current political system would be something that every student should aspire to learn. I would love to get peoples' reactions to these 24-points of being a good citizen. Tell me what you think?

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: A List of Values
Part 3: The Hall of Fame of Great Americans
Part 4: Documents
Part 5: Conclusion

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    The 113th History Carnival is Now Open...

    Step right up, step right up and welcome to greatest show on the world wide web that features some of the great history bloggers on the internet. Over the last month we have been gathering and reading history blogs from around the world and brought them together in this one location. The History Tavern thanks you for coming and we hope you enjoy this months carnival. Let the show begin!!!:

    Title: "It was a dark and stormy night..."
    Blog: the many-headed monster
    Author: Brodie Waddell 
    As I sit here at my old oak desk reading through history blogs I contemplate how to introduce each and every blog to the visitors of the History Carnival. All I needed to do was read this blog by the Hindlites of the “many-headed monster”. Find out what I’m talking about.

    Title: "Abraham Lincoln and the Embalmer"
    Blog: Providentia 
    Author: Romeo Vitelli @rvitelli
    Embalming is never a subject people think about or consider researching but who would have thought that Lincoln's death helped advanced the science of embalming. Check out who Dr Thomas Holmes is and why he is consider the "father of American embalming." I love learning about these short fun types of history stories. 

    Title: "Podcast: Eglantyne Jebb, 1876-1928"

    Blog: Voluntary Action History
    Author:  Clare Mulley @claremulley
    Who is Eglantyne Jebb? Surprisingly she had a significant part role in helping children around the world.

    Title: "Facing up to the Face of Battle"
    Blog: Sulking in Holes and Corners 
    Author: Jamel Ostwald
    John Keegan was a writer, researcher, and historian who's death leaves a massive void in the world of military history. Ostwald takes an in-depth look at his most important works and why all historians as well as the casual history lover must read them.

    Title: "Fun with Hansard"

    Blog: Life, the Universe, and Everything
    Author: Mike Cosgrave @mikecosgrave
    There are more than a few references with this blog that go beyond my Americanized knowledge of Great Britain. For those of you who are experts in that field, or live there. Please consider commenting here and helping me understand some portions. 

    Title: "The Fifth Street Women's Building: A Feminist Urban Action Jan 1971"
    Blog: Dyke, a Quarterly
    Author: Lisa Cowan
    She is revisiting her paper written in 1992 about a feminist protest in New York City.

    Title: "British Propaganda: the Napoleon Myth"
    Blog: Georgian Gentleman
    Author: Mike Rendell @georgiangent
    I put a lot of emphasis on propaganda when I taught world history to students. I believe it can tell a lot about the events going on, the minds of the people, and emotions that were being felt. This blog briefly examines a piece of cartoon propaganda highlighting Napoleon. Did I also mention I love political cartoons… awesome.

    Title: "How to Read Like a Renaissance Reader"
    Blog: Anchora
    Author: Adam Hooks @adamghooks
    Do you ever consider yourself an active reader? People of the renaissance were poised and ready with pen in hand to read. Associate Professor at the University of Iowa shows us how to be a reader of the Renaissance. It’s a great lesson plan for those teachers out there.

    Title: "The Kangaroo's Tale"
    Blog: Wonders and Marvels
    Author: Jack El-Hai @jack_elhai
    What does a Kangaroo, Minneapolis, and an elevator have in common? Find out with this blog. This blog is along the same lines as the one with Abraham Lincoln and embalming, it’s just fun to read and learn this stuff.

    Title: "A Short History of Enclosure in Britain"
    Blog: The Land Magazine
    Author: Simon Fairlie
    Framed by an online magazine on the debate over land rights this article identifies an issue that cuts to the heart of a cause that the writer advocates. Before reading this article I encourage you to click the link above in the blog marked “about” and maybe even the one marked “manifesto” in order to get a grasp on their perspective.

    Title: "An Abbreviated History of New Orleans Levees and Flood Control Projects"
    Blog: Discover Historic Travel
    Author: Jennifer Pinkley
    This is a great blog on the New Orleans flood control measures. It seems there have been problems with the flood control system from the beginning. You almost wonder why they just do not move New Orleans. 

    Title: "Wharton Letters: 26 August 1642"
    Blog: Investigations of a Dog
    Author: Gavin Robinson @cavalrycorps
    I love reading old letters and evaluating the historical significance found within them. Robinson here looks at a series of letters by a soldier in the English Civil War. If you don’t know much about the English Civil War or you are a huge buff, either way you need to check out this letter and see what you discover.

    Title: "Losing One's Head"
    Blog: The chirurgeon's apprentice
    Author: Lindsey Fitzharris @chirurgeonsappr
    This girl freely admits that she loves to talk about death and I have to say it kinda scares me. Truthfully though she wrote a fantastic and in-depth blog on the guillotine. I was especially disturbed on the findings of what happens to decapitated individuals. I’m not going to spoil the fun but needless to say I will never forget Henri Languille.

    Title: "5 Disappointing Historical Sites Around the World"
    Blog: Trip Base Blog
    Author: Jo Fitzsimons @tripbase
    The writer is attempting to simply highlight the let down you might get with these 5 significant historical sites. I will say that I visited one of the sites on her list and kind of understand what she is saying. I was so excited to go and take pictures and be in the presence of such significant history and then once I was standing in front of it and took a couple pictures… I was ready to move on. It is still an interesting blog to read and consider the disappointment you might get when visiting those sites on your bucket list.

    Title: "Why are Some Founders Forgotten?"
    Blog: Boston 1775
    Author: J.L. Bell @boston1775
    Who is Roger Sherman? Well he was one of only two men to sign the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. Why is it we forget about or lose the memory of certain founding fathers? J.L. Bell, who could be nominated every month for the History Carnival, explores the recipe for why we forget our founding fathers.
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