Are we erasing history? Every generation has its conflicts…wars…inequalities and disputes. One might even today believe that the United States of America is coming apart at the seams and will someday have to pick up the pieces of our history that are being destroyed or hidden away.
People who are part of history never have had unanimous beliefs. Headlines may read “The KKK and White Supremacists Fight a Race war in the U.S.” …or “Everyone Hates the Police…or “The President is an Evil Racist.” Wait a minute…perhaps we should get a handle on things! What exactly does our very short U.S. history tell us about dissent and civil unrest?
The news clips and internet videos show that the recent violence in Virginia appears to be made up of young people as do the worldwide clips of terrorism and unrest. What is this saying about our future generations and public property? Have they not learned anything from historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks or Mahatma Gandhi about a peaceful protest for change?
It is true that there has been recent disputes and bloodshed over the removal of Southern, historical statues. Most politicians and Americans condemn such violence. As much as I dislike many of the things our President says, I agree when he said, “Where does this stop?” Will we have to rename Washington, D.C., our Capitol, because George Washington was an owner of slaves? What will happen to Mt. Rushmore?
Some would say that the actions of removing monuments is to “sanitize history.” Yet, according to the writings of Chris Graham, there can not be any sanitizing or rewriting history. He is correct on that point. History is history and should remain a lesson from which we learn. It should not be a lesson that is erased.
As an example, what would one think if we went to Auschwitz and removed the evidence of one of the most heinous crimes in history? Would we think that the Germans of today, who were not part of the Nazi era, would be offended and therefore the suitcases, eyeglasses, gassing buildings, ovens and Nazi signs should all be taken down? I think we know the answer to that….No, of course not! Would out of sight also mean out of mind? The Jews, by the millions, suffered as well as Christians who spoke out, gypsies, and homosexuals. If we tried to sanitize that period of history, we could be opening up another generation to treat these same people to another Holocaust…because they had learned nothing from history? We are also told that “those who do not remember history, will live it over again.” This includes the generation that is not taught history. Thankfully, we have people like Stephen Spielberg who is recording the stories of the Holocaust survivors to preserve for all times.
Chris Graham says “…you can’t rewrite the history of the United States to the point of sanitizing our collective experiences to meet the demands of our 21st-century sensibilities. Slavery was literally written into our Constitution…” (See paragraph below on the 13th Amendment)
“Even the great Thomas Jefferson, as he penned the Declaration of Independence, not even arguably the most important written document in human history, owned slaves at the time he put the words to paper and did for the remaining 50 years of his life after. George Washington owned slaves. Abraham Lincoln demurred over the Emancipation Proclamation. Every president and Supreme Court justice and other statesmen of any significance between Washington and Jefferson and today acquiesced in the perpetuation of slavery, Jim Crow, massive resistance, housing and job discrimination, mass incarceration and disenfranchisement, dilution of voting power through political gerrymandering. We don’t have the capacity to produce enough bleach to cleanse the sins of our past, our present and the ones that we will continue to commit into the distant future.
But our collective history is more than our collective sins. Jefferson, a slaveholder, breathed life into the concept that all men are created equal. Washington led our armies to victory in our American Revolution. Lincoln did issue the Emancipation Proclamation and prosecuted the war against rebels intent on preserving the institution of slavery to the bitter end. Women waged a decades-old battle to win the right to vote that had been denied them. We persevered through a Depression and then immediately after defeated a literal axis of fascism, and the seeds of that victory jump-started a civil rights movement that de-codified Jim Crow and thrust our nation into the modern era…”
The Civil War was fought between April 12, 1861 and May 9, 1865. Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (Freeing the slaves) on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect.
13th Amendment to the Constitution (The Abolishment of Slavery)
“Before the Civil War ended, Congress passed and sent to the states for ratification, the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” and authorized Congress to enact “appropriate legislation” implementing the abolition. The Amendment was understood to also make blacks citizens of the United States (overruling Dred Scott on that point). The House vote to propose the Thirteenth Amendment followed the Senate vote and barely made the 2/3 majority requirement. When the vote was announced the galleries cheered, congressmen embraced and wept, and Capitol cannons boomed a 100-gun salute. Congressman George Julian of Indiana wrote in his diary, “I have felt, ever since the vote, as if I were in a new country.” Ratification by the states quickly followed, and Secretary of State Seward proclaimed the Amendment adopted on December 18, 1865.
Less than a year after ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress used its newly conferred power to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1866, giving black citizens “the same right in every state…to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, …to inherit, purchase, sell, and convey real and personal property; and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.” Supporters of the 1866 law argued that its guarantees constituted “appropriate” means of “enforcing” the right of blacks not to be held in bondage.
The Thirteenth Amendment, unlike most provisions in the Constitution, is self-executing, in that it directly reaches-even without action by Congress- conduct by private individuals (slave holders). Because of this fact, Congress’s power under the Thirteenth Amendment allows it to punish forms of private conduct when it might not be able to do so under an amendment such as the Fourteenth, which restricts the conduct of states (prohibiting states from denying equal protection of the laws or due process).”(Exploring Constitutional Conflicts)
What about the removal of Southern, historical monuments? Many of our artistic, beautiful bronze statues are headed for the warehouses…unless they are pulverized first. Should we take a lesson from a more recent history where ISIS, that is good at destroying antiquities and monuments with which they do not agree, bombed a 2,000-year-old temple in Syria?
Think of it. Will we someday have scientists and archeologists sifting through the ruins or warehouses to find the antiquities of our American past? The people of Syria are desperately trying to save every piece of their temple history, even at their own peril. They are collecting even the smallest pieces, photographing, and storing them in boxes to save for future generations. CNN VIDEO on Syria
Yes, many of our nation’s founders were slave holders. Today everyone is appalled with the history of slavery and the hate that it inspired. It took too long to right a wrong, but finally, our government leaders decided to do something about those in bondage and the terrible road they had traveled…literally, from far away shores that they called home.
Yet throughout our history, people of color rose above the discrimination and sadness they encountered. Below are a few examples of over 118 African Americans who chose to build and develop America by their inventions and expertise. The list of white inventors…or Asian or Hispanic would also be long. However, the color of the skin made no difference. In any case, the people who made America what it is today only tried to better it and not destroy it. So many of the videos that show the recent violence appear to be mainly young people. Let’s hope that they will learn about these people and our history that worked for us in building a great nation. Each of these people had a vision of their self-worth and acted upon it.
A few African Americans from previous history and modern history:
- George Washington Carver: Discovered hundreds of uses for previously useless vegetables and fruits, principally the peanut.
- Sarah Boone: Invented the ironing board, allowing sleeves of women’s garments to be ironed more easily
- Harold Amos: Microbiologist Harvard Medical School Department Chair
- George Alcorn Edward, Jr.: Physicist Invented a method of fabricating X-ray spectrometer
- Archie Alexander: Civil Engineer Responsible for construction of roads and bridges including the Tidal Basin Bridge and Baltimore- Washington Parkway
- Leonard Bailey: Inventor of the folding bed
- Alice Augusta Ball: chemist Extracted chaulmoogra oil for treatment of leprosy
- Benjamin Banneker: Mathematician, astronomer, surveyor of Washington, D.C.
- Janet Basher: First African-American woman to receive a patent for a web-based software invention, LinkLine, an Equal Employment Opportunity case management and tracking software
- David Crosthwait Jr.: Heating, ventilation, air conditioning patents ( 40 US patents) relating to the HVAC systems See the entire list of 118
Modern Day contributors to our American history:
All of us must decide to be a part of building a better America through cooperation, non-violent discussions, and protests needed for change. We should look to history from which to learn and from which to teach the lessons that are needed for a better tomorrow for all generations. If we continue to tear down, destroy, promote violence that leads to death and injury or disrespect the history of our country, we will be no better than other countries that are having to pick up the pieces of their violators. Americans…We must not be like ISIS…destroying and turning our backs on our past. We are a young country and our monuments and statues are not thousands of years old, but they are OUR HISTORY. Our future generations need to know about their ancestors…for good or for bad. Disagreement does not mean DESTRUCTION.
VIDEO: Take a look. Do we want to be like this? Remember, it all started with the destruction of the FIRST statue and monument. We must not be a part of erasing history.
In Honor and Memory of Khaled al-Asaad, Antiquities Director, murdered by ISIS for refusing to divulge the storage of historical antiquities. (Look for another blog to come on his amazing life.)
My writing has taken me into a new series called, The Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a collection of books that celebrate the life and work of the people who live in and around the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia and North Carolina. In researching my stories of the books, it has been my privilege to interview a number of people whose roots go back generations. Many small, family grave plots can be seen in the hills. Some have a small flag or stone that reads that the person was a Civil War member of the Confederacy dating back into the 1800’s. They are proud of their history and do not think of their confederate flag as a symbol of racism or bigotry, but of the bravery of the men who fought against those who had invaded their land and homes.
Hearing their stories has brought to mind how tied the people are to their mountains and their history. The “Yankee” troops that marched through these valleys and hills during the Civil War, marched on afterward to return to their northern states.
The people of the South pulled themselves up to endure rebuilding and hardship, becoming a strong part of “one nation under God”. Slavery was no more. The long road to equality began far after the ships arrived with its human cargo from Africa.
As an retired educator, I know the emphasis that I put on history in the classroom, but it has almost become, in recent years, politically incorrect to talk about slavery…even the Emancipation Proclamation which freed them. It appears that the climate of the country is to bury our heads about the past. Remembering it no more must be the road to the future. I think that this way of thinking is wrong for we should learn from our past. In all fairness, the nation must have believed that they had passed racial tensions and elected an African American President twice to follow in the footsteps of Presidents like Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. When we see violence in our streets and children who can’t walk to school in our large cities without the fear of being shot, one wonders if we have learned anything from the strife of the past.
We have a fabric in America that is woven from many different threads and backgrounds. Most school children today probably do not know that there are descendants of Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, who meet each year to celebrate who they are and to tell their stories. Many are highly educated because education was placed as a priority. (See video at end)
Who exactly was Thomas Jefferson? He certainly was a man of great contradictions. A graduate in law from the College of William and Mary, he at times defended slaves seeking freedom, but owned a large number of slaves himself. He represented Virginia in the Continental Congress…drafting the law for religious freedom…served as a governor and became the U.S. Minister to France…served as Secretary of State under President George Washington. He penned “all men are created equal.” and had a strong belief in states rights.
Jefferson also became the 3rd President of the United States. There were many issues to deal with, as there are today, for this nation. Jefferson’s were concerning trade and pirates. He doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase. Not only was there controversy with slavery, but he began the removal of Indian tribes to the newly organized Louisiana Territory….but signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. (Yes, a difficult, but talented man to understand in the midst of a growing, new nation. ) Jefferson’s talents were in mathematics, surveying, horticulture and mechanics.
He was a Christian well versed in linguistics and spoke several languages.”Baptized in his youth, Jefferson became a governing member of his local Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA. Influenced by Deist authors during his college years Jefferson abandoned “orthodox” Christianity. In 1803 he asserted, ‘I am Christian, in the only sense in which Jesus wished any one to be.’ Jefferson later defined being a Christian as one who followed the simple teachings of Jesus.”
He was the founder of the University of Virginia after leaving public office.
(Story behind picture of Lucy Cottrell was the daughter of Dorothea (Dolly) Cottrell, a house servant at Monticello who, after 1826, became the property of George Blaetterman, a professor at the University of Virginia. About 1850 Dolly and Lucy Cottrell went to Maysville, Kentucky, with the professor’s widow, who freed them five years later. In this daguerreotype Lucy Cottrell is holding Charlotte, daughter of Blaetterman’s foster son.)
Jefferson must have taken it literally that all of his hundreds of slaves belonged to him to do with as he liked. After the death of his wife in 1782, he had a relationship with Sally Hemings and fathered at least one of her children. This may have been the beginning of those who now have Jefferson as part of their heritage. Nevertheless, despite the events in his life that makes him controversial, he is consistently ranked as one of the countries “Greatest Presidents”. Presidents are often making decisions to foster their own legacy. History will play out whether the time in office points to greatness or the lack thereof.
Video. Turn on sound and enlarge for best viewing.
Does the average person understand or know anything about the document that lays out the very freedoms and rights that he or she enjoys? NOT LIKELY! When the average person on the street sometimes cannot tell us who the Vice President of the United States is or what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, we cannot expect much. The frightening thing is that so many may be our voters.
This blog is for all people who would like to learn more or those who slept through their civics courses in high school. It is also for the intelligent and educated who would like to remind yourselves how difficult it was to draft and ratify our Constitution. I do know that there are also those who will see this blog title and say to themselves..”No, I , don’t care and I don’t plan to be bored. There is no real action here! ” Therefore, we exclude those persons and hope that their freedoms are not gone when the Constitutional rights of all of us are ignored.
Maybe someone will pass this guide, The Constitution, and the book from which I share facts and ideas along to those trying to set up order and freedom in their countries and to those people left in the USA who care about this subject as much as they care about cell phones, emails, Facebook, Twitter and other conveniences of the day.
My information briefly provided here is taken primarily from a fine book, The Framing & The Fathers of the U.S. Constitution by Max Farrand with an introduction by Wayne LaPierre (Privately printed for the members of The Library of American Freedoms)
- WHO WAS THE AUTHOR, MAX FARRAND?
Max Farran lived from 1869-1945 and was a distinguished historian. He taught history at Yale, Wesleyan, and Stanford. Several of his books are known as classics. He tried to make history come to life by retelling in detail the exciting story of the Framers, Debaters, and rugged people who wrote and ratified the Constitution of the United States of America.
- WHAT IS SOME OF THE BACKGROUND LEADING UP TO THE RATIFICATION?
In 1781, the Revolutionary War was mostly over with the surrender of British General Cornwallis to General George Washington at Yorktown. The 13 original colonies, now states, no longer had any allegiance to England, but had their own political freedom. Now the challenge began to see if they were able to establish and maintain an effective government.
(From time to time, we will quote and highlight words from the Constitution even though we may be jumping ahead in a time-frame before it is actually written.) Some of these words referred to the challenge that lay ahead and what it would mean to those who had fought and struggled for this new independence. “…to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…”
- WHAT WERE SOME OF THE PROBLEMS FACING THE NEW STATES?
In many ways, each state was acting on its own…taxing each other…without concern for the another state. When problems arose, they even considered military action. Each tried to write out some laws to help in governing themselves. The Revolutionary Declarations, or Bill of Rights, were adopted between 1776-1780. The Bill of Rights was Ratified in 1791.
HAVE YOU EVER READ THE BILL OF RIGHTS? READ THESE ARTICLES CAREFULLY FOR THEY ARE YOUR LIBERTY AND PERSONAL RIGHTS!
(Some of these ARTICLES need to be emphasized here in the light of problems in our own government agencies today, and in other countries, especially in the Middle East, that are moving toward a theocracy and not a democracy even though they have taken to the streets and shed their blood to try achieve democracy. They simply do not have the leadership that is willing to look at a plan that worked and continues to work after hundreds of years. One lady who testified before Congress recently said, ” I am terrified that the rights I knew as a child are slipping away.” We pray our leaders will not let this happen. )
THE ARTICLES IN THE BILL OF RIGHTS:
- Government shall not establish a national religion. (We may worship or not worship in any way that we wish to do so.)
- Also in the light of recent possible stifling the press…“abridging the freedom of speech or the press…”
- The right to assemble (Where do we think we got the privilege without fear to have town hall meetings; go to church, synagogue, temples and mosques; demonstrate for a particular cause…political or non-political?)
- Search warrants and acquiring permission from the owner to enter a home or property
- Due process of law when accused and a speedy trial with witnesses
- No cruel or excessive punishment.…(We struggle with the issue of water-boarding and interrogation tactics of non-citizens enemies and terrorists since the USA was attacked as well as many other countries around the world. The recent movie, Zero Dark Thirty gives a graphic view of this disturbing problem. )
- States Rights. which is a separation from the Federal Government.
ALL of which are important to personal liberties that are spelled out in the Articles below. I did not repeat everything…so read it for yourself. Be informed. You may need it someday.
The Continental Congress was formed in 1774 (seven months before the Revolutionary War began) This had been established to protest the British in their “Intolerable Acts”.
- WHAT WERE THE RESULTS OF THE SECOND CONTINENTAL CONGRESS?
In May, 1775, the Second Continental Congress met and drafted the Declaration of Independence and The Articles of Confederation. Thomas Jefferson was the author and his purpose was not only to declare freedom but to reach further into the future with what we today would need to govern ourselves. He had great wisdom and fore-sight. It may be mentioned here also that these men were men of faith and prayers were led and said during this time of searching for the right form of government. They looked not to establish a religion but to acknowledge the God of the universe by Whom they believed they were being led. One might call the Constitution a guide-book or a map to keep us on the right path.
Two extremely important principles to the establishing of a democracy were laid out:
- Government exists for the well-being of the people and not to be their rulers. If a government becomes dictatorial, the people have a right to resist and overturn that government. (Today, we would say “vote them out” since we frown on anarchy.)
- All men are created equal. (Basically this says that “all members of society have full protection under the law and a right to participate in public affairs.” As we know, it was a long time for our nation to catch up to this true meaning… as we waited for the freedom of the slaves; civil rights; women to vote…and now we struggle with the morals of society and what rights people have under the Constitution in the areas of gay rights, gun owner’s rights (Article II of Bill of Rights), privacy rights and more.)
- WHY WAS THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION TROUBLESOME AND DEFICIENT?
The Articles of Confederation was a way for the thirteen colonies to establish what we know as the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Some difficulties were that it did not give Congress the power to collect taxes; make a military; enforce treaties or laws or regulate commerce.
A delegation came to Philadelphia in 1787 and it was not an easy job to design a government with regulations and rules that gave the freedom that they wished for after leaving an oppressive government in Great Britain.. They spent time in serious debate and compromise (unlike, it seems, that our government today is able to do) and they were successful in agreeing on the adoption of the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, which was formally signed and ratified by the required nine states on June 21, 1788.
When you hear someone say, “That is not Constitutional!”, you may now have some idea of what they are talking about from this brief introduction to the making of one of the world’s greatest documents….if not the greatest. Was it perfect? No, and the Founding Fathers knew that there would need to be changes as times changed. That is why they provided for AMENDMENTS.
THE NEXT WRITING WILL BE SOME DETAILS CONCERNING THE DRAFTING OF THE CONSTITUTION AND THE MEN WHO MADE IT HAPPEN.
In the mean time, you may want to look at some of these links. Pass them on to your families and especially urge your children and grandchildren to learn about their country’s liberties and stress that it will some day be in their hands….to protect and honor this great document and those who brought it into existence. Liberty was and is not free and it came at a great cost….in war and loss of life. The young people of today will keep it or lose it. In my title, I asked if most people even “give a flip”? I believe they do, but being vigilant is part of maintaining the freedoms we have. It will not be enough to vote with our emotions, but vote to be certain the ones who run our branches of the government are put there and appointed there with the dedication to preserving freedom and our Constitution.