American Education is so Poor only 7% in Survey can Name the First Four Presidents in Order

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 13th, 2014

Week in Review

All you hear from Democrats is that we need to spend more on education.  They call it investing in our future.  Which is a lie.  For ‘investing in our future’ is code for shoring up teachers’ pensions.  And keeping higher education doing what those in control of higher education want it to do.  Produce Democrat voters.  Which actually starts in our public schools.  Where they teach our kids to come home and tell their parents that they are ashamed of them.  For all the global warming they’ve caused.  And bringing them into the world in the evil, rotten United States.

These are the things our kids seem to know about.  Global warming.  Slavery.  Stealing land from the Native Americans.  American imperialism.  But ask them to name the first four presidents of the United States?  Four of the greatest Americans ever to live?  Those in control of our public education don’t think knowing anything about them is important.  Apparently (see Rolling Stone, Groupon Show The Viral Benefits of Historical Inaccuracy by Nathan Raab posted 4/11/2014 on Forbes).

In 2007, a US Mint poll showed that only 7 percent of those surveyed could name the first four Presidents in order. A later poll by Marist was not more encouraging.

George Washington (#1) kept the Continental Army together for 8 years under circumstances few could imagine today.  Near the end of the Revolutionary War his character alone put down a mutiny in the officer corps.  He turned down the offer to make him king.  An unprecedented act at the time.  King George of Britain had said if he turned down absolute power “he will be the greatest man in the world.”  And Washington did.  Twice.  His presence was the only thing that got the states to ratify the Constitution.  And his two terms in office was the only thing that gave the United States of America a chance of succeeding.  This is why there is only one man we call the Father of his Country.  And only one man we call the Indispensible Man.  George Washington.

John Adams (#2) was a driving force for American independence.  So much so that King George could not forgive him.  Had they reconciled with the mother country the king would have pardoned many patriots.  But not Adams.  He would hang.  Adams nominated George Washington to command the Continental Army.  He chose Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence.  He worked with Benjamin Franklin to negotiate the peace treaty that ended the Revolutionary War.  And negotiated America’s first loan from Amsterdam bankers.  The first nation to recognize and do business with the new nation (other than France).  And he averted war with France following the French Revolution.  Giving the fledgling nation a chance to survive.

Thomas Jefferson (#3) was the author of Declaration of Independence.  The author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.  And the Father of the University of Virginia.  The three things Jefferson was most proud of and appear on his tombstone.  As president his administration bought the Louisiana Territory from the French.  More than doubling the size of the United States.  And sent out Lewis and Clark to explore these vast new territories.  And he slashed government spending wherever he could.  A true believer in limited government.

James Madison (#4) is the Father of the Constitution.  He wrote the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to encourage ratification of the Constitution.  The Federalist Papers are still referenced today in Constitutional law.  He also helped the effort to ratify the Constitution in Virginia where he battled the great patriot Patrick Henry.  Who feared a large central government.  Madison served in the first Congress.  Where he championed the Bill of Rights.  And, later, supervised the Louisiana Purchase as President Jefferson’s Secretary of State.

It is indeed a sad commentary on our educational system that only 7% of those questioned could identify these great Americans.  And it’s not a lack of money causing this.  It’s a lacking in the curriculum.  Choosing global warming, slavery, stealing land from the Native Americans, American imperialism, etc.  Instead of teaching our kids why the United States is the greatest country in the world.  Because of men like these.  Who put the individual before the state.  Who made freedom and liberty things we take for granted.  Instead of things people can only dream of.  Which is the case in much of the world today.  And has been the norm throughout history.

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John Adams, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 21st, 2014

History 101

The Inauguration Date was originally in March to allow for Long Travel Times

It was difficult to be a career politician at the federal/national level at the Founding.  Thanks to the horse.  The primary means of transportation over great distances.  Either on horseback.  Or pulled in a buggy.  Neither of which provided for a comfortable ride.  With that discomfort compounded by the fact you were leaving family and friends behind.  People you wouldn’t see again for a very long time.

When John Adams served in the Continental Congress he rode for some two weeks through brutal winter weather on hard, frozen ground.  Ground so hard and dangerous that they let the horses only walk.  Whether it was traveling to Cambridge to meet with the newly appointed General Washington facing off with the British in Boston.  Or riding on to the federal capital in Philadelphia.  The ride was long, brutal and cold.  As well as lonely.  For Adams missed his wife and family when away serving his country.  Which he did often.  And longed to return home.

James Madison was a Virginian.  And hated traveling up to the federal capital in Philadelphia.  And then later in New York.  For he hated being away from his wife.  And he hated those long rides on hard, bumpy roads.  As Madison suffered from some digestive disorders.  Leaving him with chronic discomfort in his abdomen.  And lower.  For he probably suffered from hemorrhoids, too.  Making those long, bumpy rides unbearable.  This is why the inauguration date was originally in March instead of January like it is today.  They had to allow for long travel times and bad weather for the new office holders to get to their offices.  Unlike today where you can fly from anywhere in the United States to Washington D.C. in one day.

James Reynolds had his Wife seduce and sleep with Alexander Hamilton so he could Blackmail Him

George Washington was president when the nation’s capital was in New York City.  Which was a long way from Mount Vernon.  Washington’s Virginian home.  Other Virginians were the first Secretary of State.  Thomas Jefferson.  The first Attorney General.  Edmund Randolph.  And the first Speaker of the House.  James Madison.  While the first Vice President, John Adams, and the first Secretary of War, Henry Knox, came from Massachusetts.  The first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand, was a New Yorker.  Living in New York City.  Close to the capital.

Ironically, the man closest to his wife was the one to have an extramarital affair.  Alexander Hamilton.  Who was targeted by a couple of con people.  Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds.  That’s right, Mr. Reynolds used his wife, Maria, to seduce Alexander Hamilton.  Including actually having sexual relations with him.  Just so he, James Reynolds, could blackmail Hamilton for money.  Threatening to tell Hamilton’s wife.  And ruining his good reputation as a gentleman if he didn’t pay. He paid.  For awhile.  And with his own money.  Reynolds was later arrested for counterfeiting.  And told the opposition party of Hamilton’s affair.  Thomas Jefferson.  And his fellow Republicans (the forerunner to the Democrat party, not the Republican Party of today whose first president was Abraham Lincoln).

Thomas Jefferson loved his wife and hated being apart from her.  The last place he wanted to be in 1775/1776 was at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.  A lonely year spent a very long way from his wife.  Who was sickly.  And died in 1782.  Jefferson was at her bedside when she passed.  And he was devastated.  He had promised her he would never remarry.  And he never did.  He later accepted the post as United States Minister to France.  A much greater distance from Virginia.  Which is probably the first time he wanted to be far away from his beloved Monticello.  To escape the desolation of life without his wife.

The Founding Fathers served Reluctantly and didn’t leave Office Richer than when they entered Office

Hamilton and Jefferson hated each other.  They vehemently disagreed with each other’s vision for the United States.  When Jefferson got wind of the Hamilton affair he pounced on it.  Well, not so much him.  But the Republican Party which he was the de facto head of.  And a guy by the name of James Callender.  A pamphleteer and journalist.  And all around scandalmonger.  He made the Hamilton affair public for the Jefferson Republicans.  Who, being men of the Enlightenment, would not sink to such a low level.  But Callender would.  And did.  Who Jefferson helped with some financial support.  But Callender ended up in jail for sedition.  And when he got out he wanted Jefferson to make him post master general of Virginia in return for services rendered.  Jefferson refused.  Then Callender turned on Jefferson.  Revealing that it was him that was bankrolling his journalistic scandal mongering.  And that he fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings.

George Washington was the commanding general of the Continental Army from 1775 until 1783.  And he spent most of that time with his army in the field.  Away from his beloved Mount Vernon.  Just after he returned to civilian life came the Philadelphia Convention.  And a new nation.  The first president of that new nation?  Much to his displeasure it was him.  George Washington.  Who was the only one people were willing to give the powers of the new federal government to.  And after sacrificing so much he did not want to see it all be for nothing.  So he served one term as president.  Then another.  In New York.  A long way from Virginia.  And pretty much hated every minute of it.  Especially the bickering between his ‘children’.  Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.  He was never happier than when he left office in 1797.  Sadly, he lived just shy of three years in retirement.

The Founding Fathers hated being in office.  They hated being away from home.  And the long travel time to and from home.  Which meant when they were serving in office they did not see their family and friends.  Unlike today.  Where modern transportation allows career politicians to enjoy the graft in Washington.  While breaking it up with numerous vacations back home.  Without having to endure two weeks of bouncy rides with hemorrhoids.  Or riding horseback in blowing snow.  Being a career politician today is like being part of an aristocracy.  Where you travel first class.  And live first class.  Unlike the Spartan loneliness at the Founding.  And the animus.  Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Madison’s and Hamilton’s lives all got worse from serving.  Washington was cheated out of a long retirement he more than earned.  Jefferson suffered bitter loneliness after losing his wife and probably did turn to the comfort of a slave.  (Sally Hemings had accompanied him to Paris to care for his daughter.  And later was a house servant.  Though he didn’t legally free her and her children from slavery they did live their lives out as free people after he died.  Which was probably a compromise by Jefferson to reconcile his feelings for her while protecting his historical legacy).  Something that blemishes his reputation to this day.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson went from practically best friends to bitter enemies before they left Washington (though they rekindled their friendship later in retirement).  James Madison was the father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Believed in a strong federal government and wrote the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton to help ratify the Constitution.  Then he switch sides.  And sided with Thomas Jefferson and fought for limited government.  Then he was president during the War of 1812 and believed in a strong federal government again after struggling through that war with a weak government.  Madison spent his later years rewriting letters and correspondence.  Making large revisions to his historical legacy.  While Alexander Hamilton’s stand on principle ultimately led to his death in a duel with Aaron Burr.

Washington, Jefferson and Madison all returned home after serving as president poorer than when they left for Washington.  That just doesn’t happen today.  Today once you get elected to a federal office in Washington you return home a millionaire.  Because being a professional politician today pays very well.  Which is why there is less standing on principle in Washington and more doing what it takes to remain in power.  Such as lying to the American people.  “If you like your health insurance and your doctor you can keep your health insurance and doctor.”  The Founding Fathers served reluctantly.  And their lives were worse for serving.  But the country was far better off because they did.  And that’s something else that just doesn’t happen today.

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2012 Endorsements: John Adams

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 24th, 2012

2012 Election

John Adams was descended from the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock

John Adams was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Founding Fathers.  He got no respect.  However deserving he was of respect.  The man was brilliant.  Well read.  Honest.  Virtuous.  But irascible.  And vain.  He knew he was right when he was right.  And was more than eager to argue with anyone that was wrong.  Which was most of the time.  Tending to make most people not love him.  A lot.  Earning him monikers like His Rotundity.  Because he was portly.  Irascible.  And not really loved.  Which bothered Adams.  For he was one of the greatest of the Founding Fathers.  But others got all the love.  Such as Thomas Jefferson.  The junior Congressman they delegated the writing of the Declaration of Independence to after Adams did all the heavy lifting in Congressional debate to lead the nation to declare their independence.  While Jefferson sat through all those heated debates silently.  For, unlike Adams, Jefferson did not like public confrontations.  He preferred stabbing people in the back through surrogates.  Or in the press.  As Adams would learn firsthand during the 1800 presidential election.

Adams was a very religious man.  His family descended from the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock.  Who stressed filling your day with hard work and going to church.  And if you had any time left in the day you might get a little eating or sleeping in.  Adams was a farmer.  And had the hands of a working man.  But he was also a lawyer.  A very good lawyer.  Who had as much reverence for the law as he did for his religion.  So much so that he represented the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.  After the Stamp Act (1765) things were getting a little heated in Boston.  Adams then wrote the Braintree Instructions in response to the Stamp Act.  Stating that there should be no taxation without representation.  Calling for trial by jury.  And an independent judiciary.  Things the British denied the good people in the American colonies.  But things Adams insisted that the Americans shouldn’t deny to the British soldiers who shot those Americans in Boston.  So he represented the British on trial when no one else would take the case.  And he got a jury of Bostonians to acquit all but two who they found guilty of manslaughter.

Just about every Bostonian wanted the British soldiers found guilty of murder and hung.  Bu the rule of law prevailed.  As Adams convinced  the jury that the British did not just open fire on innocent bystanders.  There was a mob harassing the British.  Throwing snowballs and chunks of ice.  And other projectiles.  Someone knocked a British soldier to the ground.  While the mob grew in size.  And in intensity.  Provoking the British to discharge their weapons.  As much as the British killing these Americans bothered Adams so did an unruly mob.  His religious teachings emphasized hard work and prayer.  Not drunkenness and mob violence.  However, Boston had always had drunken, unruly mobs.  But they didn’t always get shot by British redcoats.  So why did they this time?  Because British redcoats were quartered within the city of Boston.  This was the kindling that led to the mob action.  Which was yet another British violation of the good people of Boston.

A Strong enough Naval Force acts like an Impregnable Fortress Wall to any Hostile Power

When the British marched to Lexington and Concord to seize some weapons in 1775 and exchanged shots with the Americans a state of war existed.  The Revolutionary War had started even though their declaration of independence was another year away.  Up to this time most of the trouble with the British was in Massachusetts.  And some states wanted to leave it in Massachusetts.  Which was a problem for Massachusetts.  For they couldn’t take on the British Empire by themselves.  But if the states united together they had a chance.  Adams understood this.  So when it came time to choose a commander for the Continental Army he looked to a Virginian.  George Washington.  After they voted to declare their independence he looked at another Virginian to write the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson.  Understanding that they had to make this an American Revolution.  Not just a Massachusetts one.  For only a union of their several states could withstand the mightiest military power on the planet.  But not just any union.  One that would release all the latent energies of the several states.  A republican union.

After declaring their independence the first order of business for the states was to replace the British governing structure.  And that started with the writing of new constitutions.  To make those new state governments.  That could join in a republican union.  Something Adams had given much thought and study to.  He believed in the separation of powers between the executive, the judicial and the legislative branches.  To provide checks and balances.  And a bicameral legislature.  A lower house to represent the common people.  And an upper house to represent the rich people.  With an executive to represent the state.  Such that the interests of the many, the few and the one were all represented.  Similar to Great Britain’s two houses of Parliament (House of Commons and House of Lords) and the king.  Though, of course, having versions of these that weren’t corrupt.  Thus not allowing one group of people (or person) to dictate policy to the other group of people (or person).  Thereby avoiding a pure democracy and mob rule.  A characteristic of a single-house legislature.  As France would demonstrate during their French Revolution.

After delegating the busy work of writing the Declaration of Independence to the junior member from Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Adams dove into the work of building a navy.  What he liked to call ‘wooden walls’.  For a strong enough naval force acted like an impregnable fortress wall to any hostile power.  The British Empire ruled the world because the Royal Navy was the most powerful navy in the world.  She could protect her coasts.  Prevent the landing of armies.  Keep foreign warships out of canon range of her cities.  And even protect her trade routes.  In a day of competing mercantile empires dependent on their shipping lanes having a navy to protect those shipping lanes made the difference between empire and former empire.  As few picked fights with the nations with the big navies.  Adams understood this.  And he believed in it.  Peace through strength.  For a strong navy was a deterrent to aggressive nations.

If John Adams were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

But Adams was no warmonger.  During his presidency Napoleon came to power in France and was waging war across Europe.  And against American shipping.  Once again Adams fought to build up the navy.  To erect those wooden walls.  To be able to protect American shipping on the open seas as France and Great Britain returned to war.  President Washington maintained a policy of neutrality in their latest war.  Adams continued that policy.  Which infuriated the French.  And the American people.  As the French had helped the Americans win their revolution the French and the American people believed the Americans should help the French win theirs.  So the French seized American shipping.  And demanded tribute from the American ambassadors in France before beginning any peace discussions.  When news of this leaked out to the American people (known as the XYZ Affair) the public sentiment on France changed.  And soon everyone was demanding a declaration of war on France.  Adams tried one more peace commission while at the same time the growing American navy fought back against French naval aggression in an undeclared war.  The Quasi-War.  Eventually peace came.  Through strength.

Adams was pretty much everywhere in the making of the American nation.  From the Braintree Instructions to supporting George Washington to winning the debate for independence to the writing of states’ constitutions to building a republican union.  He helped build American naval power.  And he avoided war with France when just about everybody wanted war with France.  But one place he was not was in Philadelphia in 1787.  Even though his constitution writing skills were second to none he did not help draft the U.S. Constitution.  For he was busy in Holland.  Getting the first foreign power (the Netherlands) to recognize the United States following their victory in the Revolutionary War.  He negotiated a Dutch loan.  Negotiated a treaty of amity and commerce with the Dutch.  And established the first American-owned embassy on foreign soil.

If Adams were alive today he probably would not be a fan of the Democrat Party.  And their constant use of class warfare.  Especially when the top 10% of earners pay about 70% of all federal income taxes.  While about 50% of the population pays no federal income taxes.  This does not represent the interests of the many, the few and the one.  The few pay the majority of tax revenue and have the least say in how that money is spent.  Taking the nation closer to a pure democracy.  And mob rule.  While at the same time the Democrats use the courts to write unpopular legislation they want but can’t pass in Congress.  Where a few judges can write law through court opinions.  A great offense to a pure jurist like Adams.  And transforming ‘the one’ into a leviathan of special interests and cronyism.  Knowing how hard it was to secure loans to pay the nation’s war debt in his day he would be appalled at the size of the annual deficits and the accumulated debt today.  And the constant refrain that the rich need to pay their fair share even though about 10% of all Americans are already paying approximately 70% of the tax bill.  The character assassination of Mitt Romney by the Obama Campaign would be too reminiscent of the abuse he suffered through in the 1800 election.  And as a firm believer in the policy of peace through strength he would not like the massive cuts in defense spending.  Which will only encourage more attacks like the one on the American embassy in Benghazi.  An obvious sign that our enemies don’t fear us.  And are not deterred by our strength.  No, if John Adams were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

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2012 Endorsements: Thomas Jefferson

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 17th, 2012

2012 Election

When the Radicals attacked Parliament and the King’s Ministers Jefferson’s Summary View attacked King George

When Thomas Jefferson entered politics he was still a quiet and shy awkward young man.  He was not the public speaker Patrick Henry was.  And did not enjoy being in the spotlight.  That said he was incredibly book smart.  When he was in college he spent up to 15 hours a day reading.  And another 3 hours practicing his violin.  Which probably explained why he was quiet and shy.  And not a real lady’s man.  His first love was and always remained his books.  And it was this insatiable thirst to read and learn that made him one of the greatest writers of the Revolutionary era.  It was also where he was most comfortable.  For it was something a quiet and shy young man could do best in his solitude.

After earning a law degree he went into law.  Then he won a seat in the Virginian House of Burgesses.  And joined the opposition against the taxing efforts of British Parliament.  As well as their regulation of trade.  Going so far as to join a boycott of British imports.  Unless it was something really nice that he really, really wanted.  For he was a bit of a dandy who enjoyed the finest fashions, furnishings, wines, pretty much anything French, etc.  If it was fashionable in high society Jefferson probably had it.  But you wouldn’t believe he was a dandy by his writing.  For he wrote some powerful stuff while still in the House of Burgesses.  Especially his A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774).  Published at a time when there was a lot of friction between the colonies and the mother country.  As furious debate raged about Parliament’s right to tax and regulate trade in the colonies.  To summarize his Summary View Jefferson stated, “The British Parliament has no right to exercise authority over us.”  Like many of the Revolutionary generation, Jefferson did not like some distant central power imposing their will on them.  But Summary View went even farther.

At the time most British Americans still wanted to be subjects of Great Britain.  They just wanted the same rights subjects living in England had.  Namely, representation in Parliament.  Denied that they attacked the dictatorial powers of Parliament.  And the king’s ministers.  But they didn’t attack King George.  Jefferson did.  When the other radicals attacked Parliament and the king’s ministers Summary View attacked King George.  While the other radicals wanted fair and equal treatment as subjects of the British Crown Jefferson was already moving beyond that.  He was ready for independence from the British Crown.  For he had no love of monarchy.

The States drafting their own Constitutions was a de facto Declaration of Independence

Much of the trouble in the colonies began with the Stamp Act of 1765.  But in Summary View Jefferson said their problems went further back.  To 1066.  To the Norman Conquest of England.  A time when, according to the Whig interpretation of history that Jefferson had read, things changed.  All land belonged to kings after 1066.  Not to the people.  But before the Norman Conquest there was the Saxony model of government.  Tracing its lineage back to Saxony Germania.  Along the North Sea.  Where once upon a time in a mystical place the good people of Saxony enjoyed representative government.  A beautiful system of government under which people lived in harmony and bliss.  Until feudalism came along.  And kings arose.  Who snuffed out these old ways.  So Jefferson hated all monarchies.  The nobility class.  And birthrights.  He didn’t believe in the divine rights of kings.  To him they were just a bunch of bullies who came along and changed the rules of the game by force for personal gain.  And King George III was no different.

When Peyton Randolph left the Continental Congress Jefferson replaced him.  At the time he was a very minor player in Virginian politics.  But his Summary View created a reputation that preceded his arrival.  And he was warmly welcomed.  Especially by the more radical elements.  The Americans had not yet declared their independence but they were already at war with Great Britain.  Blood was spilled at Lexington and Concord.  And General Washington was now in command of the Continental Army then laying siege to the British in Boston.  More importantly, some states were already drafting their own constitutions.  To form new governments to replace the royal government.  Which to many (including Jefferson) was the most pressing business.  As it was a de facto declaration of independence.  Which was even more important than the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.  Something the more senior members delegated to the junior member from Virginia.  Because they had more important things to do.

In May and June of 1776 Jefferson’s mind was back in Virginia.  And he wrote three drafts of a new constitution for Virginia.  His constitution was similar to the future U.S. Constitution.  It included a separation of powers.  A 2-house (i.e., bicameral) legislature.  An independent judiciary.  And, most importantly of all, a WEAK executive.  Leaving political power in the hands of the people via their representatives in the legislature.  There would be no royal governors or kings in the new state government.  Just pure self-government.  Just like in that mystical place where the Saxons lived in harmony and bliss.  And so it would be in Virginia.  There would be democracy.  At least for the people who owned property and paid taxes, that is.  For if you wanted to tell government what they could do you had to have skin in the game.  And pay taxes.  But after taking care of this Virginian business he got around to writing the Declaration of Independence.  And that thing that no one wanted to waste their time doing?  It became the seminal document of the United States.  Making Jefferson a superstar among the Founding Fathers.  In posterity John Adams regretted that he didn’t waste his valuable time to write it.

If Jefferson were Alive Today he would likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

After the Americans won their independence Jefferson accepted a diplomatic post in France where he accomplished little.  Jefferson championed open markets and free trade.  And he worked tirelessly with the French to adopt a free trade agreement.  So cheap raw materials (like Virginian tobacco) could flow to France.  And cheap manufactured goods could flow to the United States.  But the political reality in France stymied him.  The French refused to lower tariffs so they could protect their domestic markets.  Not to mention that those high custom duties allowed corrupt officials to pocket more for themselves.  His only success in France was a Dutch loan John Adams secured while Jefferson was tagging along.  Adams understood the complex world of international finance.  Jefferson did not.  Other than large sums of money tended to corrupt people.  Custom agents.  And governments.  So it was a wise thing to keep the centers of finance apart from the center of government.  Which is why the federal capital is in Washington DC and not in New York City.

Jefferson was in France during Shay’s Rebellion.  An armed protest against new taxes imposed by Boston.  Those in the fledgling government worried about suppressing this uprising (the Continental Congress had few resources other than to ask states for contributions) to prevent the collapse of the new nation.  While Jefferson said, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive…I like a little rebellion now and then.”  And, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.  It is its natural manure.”  Later, serving as Secretary of State in the Washington administration, he battled with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton over the size of government and the meaning of the Constitution.  Hamilton wanted to expand the power of the federal government to help jumpstart America into becoming a mighty empire like the British Empire.  With the government partnering with the private sector.  Pooling great amounts of capital together to build incredible things.  While Jefferson wanted all Americans to be yeoman farmers physically working their own land.  With as small a federal government as possible.  And one that spent as little money as possible and remained debt-free.  In fact, when he was president he slashed spending so much that the nation could barely afford the navy to protect its shipping from the Barbary pirates.

So it is pretty clear that Thomas Jefferson hated big government.  He spent his entire political life trying to limit the power and scope of government.  To make government as impotent as possible.  To the point where he even supported a little rebellion every now and then to keep government in its place.  What would he think of the federal government today?  It would probably make him physically ill.  The spending?  The debt?  The federal register?  These would make him long for the responsible governing of King George.  And his pro-American policies.  If he were able to vote today he would vote for the lesser of two evils.  And that would be the party of limited government.  To stop the out of control growth of the federal government.  And hopefully reduce its size.  If Jefferson were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for president and vice president.

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Federalists, Anti- Federalists, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson, French Revolution and Hamilton’s Three Reports

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 9th, 2012

Politics 101

Washington looked upon Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson as the Sons he Never Had

With the new Constitution ratified it was time to put the grand experiment into action.  Beginning with America’s first presidential election.  And the system we now call the Electoral College.  Each state chose their electors.  These electors then voted for the president.  Even this first act of the new federal government was a safeguard to keep its power limited.  (And independent of the Congress.)  By keeping the new republican government from becoming a democracy.  The mob-rule that was the ruin of republics.  By putting intermediaries between the people and the most powerful person in America.  The president.  To prevent anyone rising to power simply by promising to shower riches on the people from the federal treasury.

George Washington did something no one has done since.  He received 100% of the vote.  Every elector voted for him for president.  Unanimously.  John Adams came in second.  Each elector had two votes.  One to cast for president.  The other to cast for vice president.  The one with the greatest number of votes was president.  The one with the next most votes became vice president.  As this was a time before party politics.  There were no political parties yet.  But there would be.  And that would change the way we voted for president.

Both Washington and Adams were Federalists.  They both supported the Constitution.  And the federal government.  As did the other Federalists.  Including Alexander Hamilton.  Who Washington selected as secretary of the treasury.  And would be a major player in the Federalist camp.  His fellow Federalist, James Madison, who coauthored the Federalist Papers with Hamilton (and John Jay) won election to the House of Representative.  Where he introduced and fought for passage of the Bill of Rights.  Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, was in Europe during the Philadelphia Convention and the ratification process of the Constitution.  But he supported it as long as it included a bill of rights.  Washington selected Jefferson for his secretary of state.  Washington looked upon Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson as the sons he never had.  And loved them as sons.  But that would change.

Born out of Wedlock Hamilton was Never Accepted by those ‘Better’ than Him

Washington being the first president everything he did set a precedent.  And he was very conscious of that.  As well as his place in history.  For he wanted to be remembered as America’s first president of many to come.  Not the man who was at the helm when this experiment in self-government failed.  This is why he created a cabinet quickly.  Even though the Constitution included nothing about a cabinet.  After commanding the Continental Army for 8 years he knew how to give orders and delegate authority.  And after battling Congress during those same years he became a good administrator who understood how to compromise.  He hated politics.  But he understood politics.  And knew it meant compromise on the little things.  And standing resolute on the bigger things.

Hamilton was Washington’s aide-de-camp during the war.  He was smart and understood commerce.  During the war he wrote to Congress about the ruinous inflation crippling the economy.  And starving the army.  Proposing a national bank back then.  Washington trusted and respected Hamilton.  And valued his counsel.  Which is why he made him his secretary of treasury.  The country was in a mess.  In debt.  And it needed a plan to raise revenue.  To pay for government.  And to service that debt.  Even just to understand the debt.  For money was owed at every level of government.  Which was what prompted the Philadelphia Convention in the first place.  To put the nation on a sound footing to move forward.  And there wasn’t a better person available than Hamilton.  Who remains even today America’s greatest treasury secretary.

Hamilton was brilliant.  And he had grand plans for the United States.  He saw the potential in the new nation.  And he wanted to use the power of government to hurry it along.  He was also aggressive.  And combative.  Born out of wedlock he was never accepted by those ‘better’ than him.  So he spent a lifetime fighting this social stigma.  Acquiring a competitive nature.  Making him unpopular.  And obstinate.  He fought long and hard for what he wanted.  Knowing that he was right.  And others were wrong.  Even though this may have been true at times it tended to be off-putting.  So Hamilton would spend his political career making political enemies.  And it started in the Washington administration.

After Hamilton’s Three Reports James Madison parted ways with Hamilton and became an Anti-Federalist

While the Americans were setting up their first national government France was well along the way to the French Revolution.  And Thomas Jefferson was there.  Returning to the United States the same year of the Tennis Court Oath and the Storming of the Bastille (1789).  The French had a taste of liberty from helping the Americans.  And now they wanted it, too.  France was drowning in debt.  A bad growing season caused some famine.  The people were restless.  Poor.  Angry.  And sick of the monarchy.  Jefferson felt the spirit of ’76 again.  He joined the conversations in the clubs where the radicals met.  Enjoying their company.  Sharing their hate of monarchy.  Despite the French Monarchy having financed most of the American Revolution.  And provided much of the material to wage war.  Didn’t matter.  The people’s spirit inflamed him, too.  And he brought that spirit home with him.  Upon arrival Washington asked him to join his cabinet.  He accepted.  And the head butting began.

It started with Hamilton’s three reports.  The Report on Public Credit (January 1790).  The Report on a National Bank (December 1790).  And the Report on Manufactures (December 1791).  Taken together they kind of looked like a plan to turn the United States into another Great Britain.  At least to Jefferson, Madison and anti-Federalists everywhere.  What they saw was a nation with lots of debt, where the rich get a little too cozy with the politicians and the financiers reach deep into the halls of government.  That wasn’t Hamilton’s intent.  Other than wanting to accelerate the Industrial Revolution in American to the level it was in Britain.  The subject of his third report.  Which was a bit mercantilist in nature like Britain.  But the other two were about establishing good credit.  To gain the trust of the credit markets.  For a country in debt had to be able to borrow money to service that debt.  As well as pay for government.  Putting the nation on that sound footing to move forward.  Which he did.  He lowered the per capita debt.  And the nation would go on to enjoy a decade of peace and prosperity thanks to his economic policies.

After Hamilton’s three reports came the great schism.  James Madison parted ways with Hamilton.  Becoming an anti-Federalist.  Along with Thomas Jefferson.  While still a member of the Federalist administration of George Washington (though he didn’t label himself a Federalist or join in any partisan action).  Cabinet meetings became insufferable.  As Hamilton and Jefferson just hated each other.  Who could only behave in the presence of their ‘father’.  George Washington.  But the partisan attacks took to the newspapers.  Lies and slander flew with regularity.  From both directions.  Even attacking Washington.  Jefferson eventually left the administration but continued his attacks through his surrogate James Madison.  The attacks on Washington got so ugly that he never spoke to Jefferson again.   Who turned into a radical partisan.  Washington was never happier when his second term ended.  The new president was John Adams.  Federalist.  His vice president was Thomas Jefferson.  Leader of the anti-Federalists.   Who became the new Democrat-Republicans.  Which is why they had to change the election process for president.  So the president and the vice president belonged to the same political party.  So they worked together instead of leading the attack against each other and their party.

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Yorktown, North, Rockingham, Shelburne, Franco-Spanish Alliance, Vergennes, Adams, Franklin, Jay and the Treaty of Paris

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 5th, 2012

Politics 101

For the British to Maintain the Balance of Power in Europe an Independent America actually Helped Them

The war wasn’t over with Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.  But his surrender changed everything.  The continuing war was becoming more and more unpopular in Britain.  And costly.  Britain was fighting four wars.   One with the Americans.  One with the French.  One with the Spanish.  And one with the Dutch.  The debt was growing so great that there were discussions about suspending some interest payments.  The British wanted out of these wars.  The opposition blamed Lord North for the latest debacle at Yorktown.  The Prime Minister resigned.  His government fell.  And the opposition took power.

The new Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham, had favored American independence.  His foreign secretary, Charles James Fox, had favored American independence.  In fact, those who had favored American independence filled all cabinet positions.  Except for one.  The Secretary of Colonial Affairs.  Lord Shelburne.  Fox and Shelburne did not much care for each other.  They quarreled.  Each having their own idea of how they should conduct the peace.  Fox sent Thomas Green to France to begin negotiations with the French.  Shelburne sent Richard Oswald to France to begin negotiations with the Americans (Benjamin Franklin was in Paris).

The French had a debt problem of their own.  And they, too, were anxious for the war to end.  But on favorable terms.  They were looking to change the balance of power with their eternal enemy.  The British.  And therefore wanted to negotiate the peace for the Americans.  Get back some of their lost North American territories.  And elsewhere.  Meanwhile the Spanish were laying siege to the British in Gibraltar.  Anxious to retrieve that from the British.  They were greatly interested in blocking American westward expansion.  And they also wanted to keep them off the Mississippi River.  Which flowed to the Gulf of Mexico through their Louisiana Territory.  So the politics were quite complex in negotiating the peace.  For the British to maintain the balance of power they enjoyed an independent America actually helped them.  While an independent America actually harmed the French and the Spanish.

Shelburne negotiated Directly with the Americans to use them to gain Favorable Terms with their European Enemies

The original peace commission in Paris was just John Adams.  Few could be found that were more adamant on American independence than he.  And this was a problem for the French foreign minister.  Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes.  He didn’t like Adams.  Who was not willing to compromise.  Vergennes wanted to end the war.  And stop the financial hemorrhaging.   And he was willing to compromise with the British to make that happen.  Willing to compromise away American independence.  American navigation of the Mississippi River.  American territorial ambitions beyond the Appalachians (leaving Maine, New York City, portions of the Northwest territories, Charleston and Savannah British).  And the American fishing rights off Newfoundland.  He was willing to give all that up to end the war with Britain.  He had only one problem.  John Adams.  Who refused to give up what the Americans were actually fighting for in the first place.

Vergennes instructed the French minister in America, the Chevalier de la Luzerne, to lobby the Continental Congress.  To have them order Adams to be less belligerent.  To be more willing to compromise.  And to accept the wise counsel of the King of France.  The most generous sovereign who made it possible for the Americans to bring the British to the negotiating table.  Luzerne was successful.  Perhaps with a little bribery.  The Congress sent Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens to join Adams.  With the instructions to follow the advice of the French in the peace negotiations. 

Fox still favored granting American independence.  And he wanted to do it quickly.  To split the allies apart.  And make separate peace treaties to limit the damage.  For the French, Spanish and Dutch could hold out for a grander bargain.  Especially if the fortunes of war turned their way.  As the Spanish were hoping would soon happen at Gibraltar.  So the British warned that their allies could force the Americans to continue the war not for their own interests but that of these Europeans.  He told Green to tell Franklin that Britain was prepared to recognize American independence.  And that it was in America’s best interests to negotiate a separate peace.  Franklin suggested early that Britain may want to throw Canada into the deal.  To help pay for all the damage the British did to American property.  Shelburne wasn’t about to negotiate away Canada.  His answer was to bring up the debt owed to British creditors.  And reimbursing the Loyalists who lost their property in America.  Things that weren’t high on the American list of demands.  Then Rockingham died.  Shelburne became prime minister.  And Fox quit.  Pro-American independence ministers no longer filled the government.  Still, Shelburne continued to negotiate directly with the Americans.  So he could use them to gain favorable terms with their European enemies.

The American Negotiators were being Played by the Best of European Intrigue

In Franklin’s talks with Oswald he made it clear that independence was a prerequisite for peace.  Officially that was a problem for Oswald.  For his original commission from Shelburne directed him to negotiate with a commissioner from the colonies or plantations.  Not a commissioner from the United States of America.  Which, of course, would recognize American independence.  Vergennes urged Franklin and Jay to proceed anyway.  That official recognition could follow in the final peace treaty.  Jay suspected that the French were stalling.  He knew of the siege of Gibraltar.  And didn’t trust the Franco-Spanish alliance.  So he ignored Congress’ order.  And did not listen to the wise French counsel.  Joining Franklin and Adams in stating that independence was a prerequisite for peace.

The American commission had good reason to not trust their European allies.  The French wanted the British to agree to keep the Americans out of the fisheries along Newfoundland.  So they could fish these waters.  A bitter pill for a New Englander like Adams to swallow.  The French were also opposed to the Americans annexing Canada.  What they once called New France.  Before it became British.  While the Spanish were working hard behind the scenes to keep the Mississippi River away from the Americans.  Had they gotten their way the Mississippi south of the Ohio River would have been in Spanish hands.  As well as the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Louisiana. 

The American negotiators were being played by the best of European intrigue.  But thanks to the principled men America sent to negotiate the peace the Americans bested the Europeans at their own game.  John Adams.  Benjamin Franklin.  And John Jay.  For the Americas got their independence.  Territory that stretched to the Mississippi River.  And navigation on the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  Even their fishing rights off of Newfoundland (though they would revisit that issue later).  It would be America’s greatest achievement in diplomacy.  The Treaty of Paris (1783).  And they made this treaty without consulting the French.  Who were miffed.  But thanks to Franklin America and France remained friends.  So the Americans won the Revolutionary War.  And the peace.  While avoiding any entangling alliances with the old European powers.  Not bad for a brand new nation on the world’s stage.

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Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Silas Deane, Arthur Lee, John Jay, Mississippi River and Dutch Treaty of Commerce and Friendship

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 17th, 2012

Politics 101

Franklin spent a Great Deal of Time in France during the Revolution enjoying Social Gatherings and Social Drinking

People are disgusted by politics today.  Negative campaigns.  Personal attacks.  Special interests.  People using their public office for personal gain.  Scandals.  Intrigue.  It’s enough to turn anyone off of politics.  Forever.  For it seems like no matter what the politicians say nothing ever changes.  And you know what?  They haven’t changed.  For even before there was a United States of America this stuff was going on.  Even threatening the success of the American Revolutionary War.

George Washington is criticized for many things.  For owning slaves (which he released and trained to enter the workforce as free men in his will).  That he wasn’t a great general.  For he did lose more battles than he won.  But even his critics have to give him this at least.  He was a man of honor.  With impeccable integrity.  His men respected him.  His officers respected him.  His enemies respected him.  One of Britain’s last attempts of treachery was to try and bribe Washington to defect to the British side.  Where he could live out his life very comfortably.  Knowing the Americans would give up without him.  But he did not waiver.  Resolute to the end.  The indispensable one.  The Father of our Country. 

Sadly, though, there weren’t many indispensable ones.  And few that matched Washington’s stature.  Perhaps the one coming closest was Benjamin Franklin.  Our most respected diplomat.  Who played a large part in gaining French support for the American cause.  Franklin spent a great deal of time in France during the Revolution.  The French loved him.  And he loved his time there.  Perhaps a little too much.  Staying up late.  Getting up late.  Enjoying social gatherings.  And social drinking.  Something that John Adams couldn’t stand.  Who was very religious.  And all-business.  About as different from Franklin as you could get.  But the French liked Franklin.  And did not like Adams.  Because he was all-business.  And a bit insufferable.

It didn’t take a Genius to know that the Americans Planned on Moving West to the Mississippi River and Beyond

France was America’s most important ally during the war.  And technically speaking their only ally.  There were many foreigners who sought a commission in the American army.  But that was more for glory and fame than support of the cause.  France, though, entered into treaty with the independent United States.  And supplied a large part of the war effort in both money and arms.  Granted this was more to get back at their archenemy, the British, than it was to help the Americans.  But the love and respect for Franklin was real.

Franklin was a self-made man living his third life.  He was a small business owner and writer.  He was a scientist.  And now he was a diplomat.  He had little to prove.  And needed no money.  All he wanted was to enjoy what life he had left.  And champion the American cause.  Not so with his co-emissary Arthur Lee.  Whose interests centered more on Arthur Lee than the American cause.  He didn’t like Franklin because the French liked and respected him more.  And he didn’t like America’s other emissary, Silas Deane, who was in France before Franklin and Lee joined him.  And who the French liked and respected, too.  Which really annoyed him because the French didn’t like him at all.  In fact they thought Lee liked England just a little too much.  For he had a brother in England.  Which didn’t go over well with the French.  Despite his having two brothers in the Continental Congress you just didn’t know where his allegiance lay.  Lee aggressively tried to disgrace both Deane and Franklin to make his star shine brighter.  Franklin’s character was impeccable, though.  No one believed anything he said about Franklin.  But, alas, they did about poor Deane.  At least enough to recall him to Congress.  The French, though, respected Deane enough to give him safe passage back on a French warship with the new French minister to America.  This whole episode did little to impress upon the French the professional stature of American diplomacy.   Nor did it impress the other European courts.  America just wasn’t being taken seriously in Europe.

Except, perhaps, in Spain.  John Jay went to Madrid to get Spanish recognition.  And Spanish aid.  Getting little of either.  Spain entered the conflict.  As an ally to France, though.  Because they, too, hated the British.  And they used this opportunity to get Gibraltar back from the British.  (They didn’t.)  Other than that they had little interest in helping the Americans.  For they didn’t trust the Americans.  France may have lost all of their North American possessions to the British but they hadn’t.  They still had the Louisiana Territory.  Western Florida.  The land from the Texas Gulf coast to California.  As well as the port of New Orleans.  And control of the lower Mississippi River.  Which the Americans wanted navigation rights on.  And god knows what else.  For it was no secret that the Americans wanted to expand west.  That’s why they wanted the Ohio country.  And the Ohio River flowed into the Mississippi River.  It didn’t take a genius to know what that meant.  The Americans planned on moving west to the Mississippi River.  And beyond.  Using the Mississippi to ship all of their goods from the interior of the country to the Port of New Orleans.  And on to the world.  All they needed to do was to remove one last obstacle.  The Spanish.  And the Spanish grew weary of John Jay.  Who only wanted two things.  To get Spain to recognize their independence.  And for Spain to give them money.  Suffice it to say the Spanish did not enter into an alliance with the United States.  And gave little money.

Catherine the Great’s League of Armed Neutrality isolated Britain and helped Adams in the Netherlands

Meanwhile John Adams, having annoyed the French, headed to the Netherlands.  And was more successful.  Not so much because they supported the American cause but because of their commerce.  The Dutch and the British had been bitter rivals.  The Dutch East (and West) India Company.  The English East India Company.  They both wanted what the other had.  Commerce.  They would actually go to war over this trade.  Some 4 times.  And now the British were interfering with their trade once again.  Interfering with their lucrative black market trade from the Dutch West Indies to the United States.  Through the British blockade.  Which may have broken a treaty they had with the British.  So Adams found commercial incentive for Dutch support.  But what he didn’t find was Dutch respect for the American cause.  And a general ignorance of the American cause.  There was just little information about the United States in the Netherlands.

They did see a rising commercial power in the U.S.  That would have a lot of food and materials to ship.  And being good businessmen they wanted a piece of that action.  And they certainly didn’t want to see the French and Spanish monopolize that trade.  Which could happen based on the treaty between France and America.  And the treaty between France and Spain.  Of course if they backed the wrong horse that could hurt them in post-war relations with Britain.  Should Britain win.  But neither was it in their best interests for Britain to win.  For that would only make their greatest rival stronger.  But what if the Americans won with the help of the Franco-Spanish alliance?  Would the Americans keep their independence?  Or would they get absorbed into France and/or Spain?  That wouldn’t be good.  For it wasn’t that long ago that they won their independence from Spain.  So making Spain stronger and/or richer wasn’t high in their to-do list. 

Catherine the Great of Russia finally helped push the issue.  Indirectly.  To keep the seas free and to protect neutral nations she organized a League of Armed Neutrality of which the Netherlands was signatory.  Neutral nations wanted no part of Britain’s war with America.  And they didn’t want it to interfere with their trade on the high seas.  Even if that trade favored the Americans somehow more than the British.  So if the British fired upon a neutral engaging in trade the British did not approve of these neutrals would fire back.  Thus isolating Britain.  And shortly thereafter Adams negotiated a couple of loans.  Got recognition as the minister representing the United States of America.  And as one of his first duties in that capacity he signed a treaty of commerce and friendship.  He may not have had the stature of a Washington or a Franklin but he had the same dedication to the cause.  And refused to quit.  He was successful.  But few other American diplomatic missions were.  And they probably caused more harm than good.  The antics of a few bringing ridicule to the new nation.  Franklin in fact did not approve of this ‘cold calling’ on countries for recognition and aid.  Perhaps explaining his laid back ways in France that so irritated Adams.  “A virgin state,” Franklin said, “should preserve its virgin character, and not go about suitoring for alliances, but wait with decent virgin dignity for the application of others.”  It seemed to do wonders for him.  And the nation.

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British, French, Quebec City, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Pierre Beaumarchais, Silas Deane, King Louis XVI and Entangling Alliances

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 29th, 2012

 Politics 101

When the American Colonists rebelled against their British Overlords it created a Complex Political Landscape

For about a hundred years the nations of Europe had been at war.  Over religion (Protestantism versus Catholicism).  Oversea colonies to build trade networks.  And the balance of power of the European nations.  Often tilted by the acquisitions of their overseas possessions.  These nations have been at war with each other off and on from the late 17th century to the late 18th century.  Alliances formed and shifted during this century of war.  But one thing was constant.  The Protestant British and the Catholic French were always on opposing sides.

The most recent war that ended in 1763 (the Seven Year’s War) was a particularly bitter pill for the French to swallow.  They lost pretty much all of New France in North America to Great Britain.  Including Quebec City.  Founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.  The British occupation defiled 155 years of French history.  This was the heart and soul of New France.   The French culture was so deep that they still speak French there today, having never accepted their British overlords.  And never have forgotten their French heritage.  For as Quebec’s official motto says today, “Je me souviens.”  Which translates to, “I remember.”  Remember what?  That they were French.  And remain French.

When the American colonists rebelled against their British overlords it created a complex political landscape.  In a drawn out war with Great Britain the Americans would more than likely need foreign assistance.  Meaning an alliance.  However, the reason why they declared their independence from Great Britain had a lot to do with all those European wars that Britain fought.  Which were expensive.  As was the following peace.  For they now had to defend their newly conquered lands.  Exhausted from all these wars the British taxpayers felt taxed out.  So Parliament turned to their British brethren in America.  And taxed them.  Which led, of course, to the Americans’ Declaration of Independence.  So the Americans were very wary of joining into any European alliances.  Fearful that the Europeans would pull them into a future European war.  And bankrupt them.  Before they even had a chance to become a country. 

The European Monarchs weren’t going to help the Americans Rebel against Monarchy out of the Goodness of their Hearts

So the Americans were wary of alliances.  But they were thinking about it.  Especially with the most likely candidate for an alliance.  In September of 1776 John Adams wrote, “our negotiations with France ought, however, to be conducted with great caution, and with all the foresight we could possibly attain; that we ought not to enter into any alliance with her which should entangle us in any future wars in Europe; that we ought to lay it down as a first principle and a maxim never to be forgotten, to maintain an entire neutrality in all future European wars; that it never could be in our interest to unite with France in the destruction of England, or in any measures to break her spirit or reduce her to a situation in which she could not support her independence.”  This from one of the most outspoken Founding Fathers for independence.  One of the few men Britain was not willing to forgive for the things he said and wrote.   A man the British condemned to death even if the Americans reconciled with the British.

At the time of the Revolution The Hague in the Netherlands had diplomats from all the courts of Europe.  One of these diplomats was a friend of Benjamin Franklin.  Charles William Dumas.  Franklin wrote to him to feel out the foreign powers.  In September of 1775 he wrote asking if there was any “state or power in Europe who would be willing to enter into an alliance with us for the benefit of our commerce, which amounted, before the war, to near seven millions sterling per annum…”  Like Adams, he wanted to avoid any alliance that could draw America into a future European war.  Feeling that American commerce would be reason enough to support the Americans.  As at that time all American trade went though Great Britain.  So treating directly with the Americans would cut out the middle man.  Making American goods less costly.  Surely a financial incentive for any nation.

Then again, these European powers they were feeling out were all monarchies.  Would these monarchies support a rebellion against royal authority?  France, their most likely alliance partner due to their history with Great Britain, was an absolute monarchy.  Would they support the Americans in their bid for independence with French taxes?  Would they take a chance that their oppressed masses wouldn’t rise up in defiance of those high taxes and/or royal authority (which they eventually did)?  Then there was a moral element as Robert Morrison noted in a letter to John Jay in September of 1776.  “Can this be morally right?”  Bringing war to the people of Europe in their bid for independence?  Their kings may not care about what they do to the innocents.  But a government of the people would.  Or should.  But if they got any support from these European monarchs the big question would be at what price?  For these monarchs weren’t going to help the Americans in their rebellion against monarchy out of the goodness of their hearts.  For, as monarchs, they kind of liked the institution of monarchy.  So any involvement on their part wasn’t going to be for any moral imperative.  It was for personal gain.  New territory.  Getting back lost territory.  Or changing the balance of power in Europe to their favor.

Despite all of their Misgivings the Americans entered into an Entangling Alliance with the French

Monarchies were getting a little nervous about the impoverished masses around this time.  For there were a lot more poor people than royals and nobles.  Revolution was in the air.  They made fun of the noble classes in some of the leading plays of the day.  In fact, one play was banned in Vienna.  For being less than respectful of the aristocracy.  But that didn’t stop a composer from using it to write a new opera from it.  That play?  The Marriage of Figaro.  The composer was, of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Who based his new opera on the play written by a Frenchman.  Pierre Beaumarchais.  Who plays a prominent role in America’s Revolutionary War.

Beaumarchais had written a play making fun of the aristocracy.  And the American rebellion against aristocracy piqued his interest.  So he decided to aid the Americans in their cause.  He strongly encouraged Louis XVI to support the Americans in their cause.  For if they did not they would not only lose in the balance power to Great Britain.  But likely the very valuable sugar trade coming from the French West Indies.  He also set up a private company to ship war material to America in exchange for tobacco.  Silas Deane arrived from America in Paris in July 1776.  He, too, worked on obtaining the materials of war as well as skilled officers.  America’s greatest diplomat and propagandist was also in Paris.  Benjamin Franklin.  Who the French adored.  For his scientific experiments.  And his plain American airs.  They really got a kick out of the coonskin hat he wore.  Which he wore only for them.  Never having worn one back in America.

So the Americans were really working their mojo behind the scenes to get French support for the cause.  As well as French money and arms.  Which they were getting.  And after the American win at the Battle of Saratoga, they got a whole lot more.  Formal recognition of the United States.  And despite all of their misgivings, an alliance.  On January 7, 1778 they entered into a treaty of amity and commerce.  Followed by (on February 6) the treaty of alliance.  And these treaties were rather entangling.  But so dictated the necessities of war.  And what did the Americans agree to?  In exchange for French military support against the British in North America the Americans would support the French militarily in the French West Indies.  In any future French war where the Americans were neutral the French and their warships would have access to American ports.  While the French adversary would not.  Also, the French could bring in any captured ships into American ports to refit and re-provision them.  And then leave freely.  Which came back to haunt the Washington administration during the next war between the French and the British.  Following the French Revolution.  A war in which America not only remained neutral.  But her neutrality ‘favored’ the British.  As the vast majority of her trade was with the British.  Causing a lot of animosity in America.  For we had a treaty with the French.  Who helped win them their independence from the nation they were now currently fighting.  Again.  A treaty some of the Americans noted, though, that they made with King Louis XVI.  Who the French recently executed.  Brought about, in part, by the incredible French debt incurred financing the American Revolution.  Providing the tinder for the French Revolution.

A complex political landscape indeed.  Of course the Americans didn’t know what was awaiting them in the future.  All they knew is that when General Washington left winter quarters at Valley Forge they were no longer alone in their struggle.  After their win at Saratoga and their new ally things were looking up.  Little did they know that there would still be 5 more years of war.

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Declaration of Independence, George Mason, John Adams, State Constitutions, Constitutional Convention, Thomas Jefferson and Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 15th, 2012

Politics 101

The Declaration of Independence declared that Government should be By the People, Of the People and For the People 

Tearing down the old order is one thing.  Building a new one is something completely different.  For there’s been a lot of tearing down throughout history.  And rarely does peace and prosperity spontaneously follow.    Which is something that no doubt weighed heavily on the minds of those who voted on July 2, 1776, to declare formerly their independence from Great Britain.  What, exactly, were they to do next?  The most powerful navy and army in the world no longer protected them.  Instead, they were now the enemy of the most powerful navy and army in the world.  Which meant they couldn’t protect themselves.  Their international trade on the high seas.  Or even protect their own people from each other.  For if the British constitutional protections no longer applied to them, what did?  Anything?  Or would anarchy rule?

The Americans declared independence because they were not getting equal treatment under British law.  Much of which they liked.  The execution of it is what they had a problem with.  That and the built-in privileges for some.  And, of course, the established state religion.  Which made many of them come to the colonies to escape in the first place.  So there was a lot in British law they could use.  And some that could do with a little tweaking.  Which is something they could do now that they were starting from scratch.

They had just renounced the royal authority in their states.  Which left these states without a formal framework of law.  And the opportunity to make new law.  Based on the principles in the Declaration of Independence.  That government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.  So when the Continental Congress adjourned after committing their high treason (declaring their independence) the delegates went home.  Back to their states.  To begin the building process of the new order.

The Vehicle for Peaceful Change of Government was and is the Constitutional Convention

Virginia was first.  George Mason drafted their new constitution.  And included a Bill of Rights.  George Mason was a leading mind of the day.  And produced a document that served as a template for other states.  As well as other countries.  It did away with privilege.  And the state established Anglican religion.  Among other reforms.  In Massachusetts the process was a little different.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.  He voted for independence.  And supported the violent revolution that followed.  For he believed when a government harms the people that these people have a right and a duty to abolish that government.  But that didn’t mean a violent revolution whenever the people disagreed with government policy.  Because that would lead to anarchy.  And this was an issue that weighed heavily on the brilliant mind of John Adams.  Who created the procedure of overthrowing a government without suffering through a period of anarchy.  The vehicle for this peaceful change of government was the constitutional convention.  Which provided the framework for the states to develop their constitutions. 

The Massachusetts House appointed a committee to draft their constitution.  When they finished their draft they submitted it to a constitutional convention made up of elected state delegates.  Who approved it and sent it to the towns for approval.  They rejected it.  For it lacked a bill of rights.  Among other required features.  So they started the process again.  They called another constitution convention.  This one included John Adams.  Who had just returned from France.  He took an active part of the deliberations.  And the drafting of the second constitution.  They then submitted this constitution to the towns for approval.  The towns approved it.  And the state of Massachusetts had a new government.  New Hampshire followed this process.  As did the other states.  But it just wasn’t in the American states.  Nations throughout the world have adopted this process ever since.

The Founding Fathers gave their People Great Power and hoped their Religious Institutions would help them act with Great responsibility

Most colonies disestablished the Anglican Church.  Including the taxes that supported it.  And the oaths of Anglican faith required for public office.  But that didn’t mean the states wouldn’t establish their own religions.  Or force the support of it through taxation.  Which is what Massachusetts did.  Either for the preferred Congregational Church.  Or any other Christian religion.  As long as everyone attended church.  For as the Massachusetts Bill of Rights states, “the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality…”

Of course the Quakers and Baptists in Massachusetts objected to paying taxes for what they saw as a violation of conscience.  In Virginia the Anglican Church of England was still supported by the state.  Supported by taxation.  And the state penalized dissenters.  Particularly the Baptists (something James Madison remembered well when later working for the passage of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution).  In direct violation of their own Virginian Bill of Rights.  The Virginian Assembly would subsequently pass an act exempting all dissenters from taxation and abuse.  Thomas Jefferson would take this a step farther with his Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom in 1786.  A piece of legislation that he was particularly proud of.  Even included it on his gravestone.

With great power comes great responsibility.  The Founding Fathers gave their people great power.  Representative government.  And a means to overthrow that government.  The constitutional convention.  That they hoped their religious institutions would protect.  And help their people act with great responsibility.

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Suffolk Resolves, Galloway Plan of Union, Olive Branch Petition, Proclamation of Rebellion, Prohibitory Act, Common Sense and Declaration of Independence

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2012

Politics 101

In Response to the Declaration of Rights and Grievances George III condemned Massachusetts and the Suffolk Resolves

The Boston Tea Party (1773) and the subsequent passing of the Intolerable/Coercive Acts (1774) brought the several states together in Congress.  John Adams, Samuel Adams, Joseph Galloway, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington and other delegates from every state (except Georgia) convened the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in September of 1774.  It sat for two months.  And began with a vote to endorse the Suffolk Resolves.  The Suffolk Resolves opposed the British oppression entailed in the Intolerable/Coercive Acts.  In Massachusetts.  (Other colonies passed similar resolves.)  The resolves included a boycott of British goods.  Demanded the resignation of the Crown’s representatives that displaced the elected colonial government.   They supported a new colonial government free from the Crown.  Refused to pay any further taxes until this happened.  And urged for the several states to raise militias.  But they did not talk of independence.  The Resolves even declared their loyalty to the British Crown.  Still, after learning of this action King George III said, “The die is cast.”

Joseph Galloway introduced the Galloway Plan of Union.  Calling for a federal union of the several states.  Where the king would appoint a president general.  Advised by a grand council.  With a representative from each state.  Chosen by each state’s legislative body.  A system of self-government.  But one still loyal to the Crown.  A move that made the British colonies more independent of the British Crown.  But not independent from the British Crown.  The Americans were to remain British Americans.  Subjects of the greatest country in the world.  The present trouble in Boston notwithstanding.  For Great Britain was the only constitutional monarchy at the time.  And the bastion of individual liberty.  Which the Americans were looking forward to enjoying once the present misunderstandings passed.  After a lengthy debate, the Galloway Plan of Union failed to pass.  But it wouldn’t be the last talk of union.

They then adopted a Declaration of Rights and Grievances.  Full of a lot of language the English used years earlier to redress previous issues with the Crown.  And some of the same words of the Enlightenment thinkers they used.  From Thomas Hobbes they wrote of their ‘right to life’.  From John Locke the ‘right to liberty and property’ and ‘ruling by the consent of those governed’.  From Baron Charles de Montesquieu the ‘separation of powers’ that eventually found its way into our Constitution.  They sent off their declarations and petitions to London.  Adjourned Congress.  Agreed to reconvene the following May if necessary.  And waited for King George to reply.  He gave it in Parliament in November.  In a speech to Parliament.  Where he condemned Massachusetts.  And the Suffolk Resolves.  Not the answer they were hoping for.  No.  Their king was not going to save the Americans from the hostile acts of Parliament.  Instead he was going to present a unified British opposition (King and Parliament) against these British subjects.  The once loyal British Americans were running out of reasons to remain loyal to the British Crown.  All they needed was one more push.

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense provided the Final Push towards Independence

The following April the battles of Lexington and Concord took place.  There was a shooting war, now.  With the Americans following the British back to Boston and laying siege.  The patriotic spirit was high.  And such was the spirit when the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in May of 1775.  Independence was in the air.  John Adams wanted it.  But kept quiet.  They prepared for war.  Choosing George Washington to lead them in war.  But this was plan ‘B’.  Plan ‘A’ was still reconciliation.  And to remain British.  Which is what many wanted.  Even Washington wasn’t all that keen on independence.  He detested the acts of Parliament.  But he and his officers were still toasting the health of the King at this time. 

John Dickinson led the reconciliation group in Congress.  And they drafted (with the help of Thomas Jefferson) the Olive Branch Petition.  Addressed to the King.  Expressing their desire to remain loyal to His Majesty.  All that they wanted was to redress these tax and trade issues.  That’s all.  Dickinson had hoped with the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord and a little bit of groveling the King would at least meet them halfway.  Open up the channels of dialog.  Settle their differences without additional bloodshed.  Which just exasperated John Adams.  He thought it was a waste of time.  That  independence was inevitable.  And he vented these feelings in a private letter.  That the British got hold of.  Arriving in London about the same time as did the Olive Branch Petition.  And after reading Adams’ letter George III refused to even read the petition.  His response was the Proclamation of Rebellion.  Issued in August.  Declaring that some of the British American colonies were in a state of ‘open and avowed rebellion’.  And followed that up with the Prohibitory Act in December.  Which placed a naval blockade against all American ports.  And declared all American shipping enemies of the British Crown.  An act of war.  To which the Americans responded by issuing letters of marque to privateers, authorizing them by an act of Congress to capture British ships.  John Adams declared that King George had declared what the Americans had not yet declared.  That the American colonies were independent.  Putting the Americans ever closer to declaring their independence.

Then came that final push.  In the form of a pamphlet.  Very popular reading during the time.  It was because of these pamphlets that most Americans knew of the ideas of Hobbes, Locke and Montesquieu.  Where their ideas were presented in the language of the common man.  Then came along an author who wrote from the get-go in the language of the common man.  Thomas Paine.  Who wrote Common Sense.  Published in January 1776.  Which tore into the King.  And the whole system of hereditary monarchy.  Blamed George III for all the wrongs done to the Americans.  Making a strong and impassioned case for independence.  Without further delay.  That fired up Patriots everywhere.  Providing that final push.

The Several States united in Treason and became the United States of America

During the spring of 1776 states began discussing independence.  Some authorized their delegates in the Continental Congress to vote for independence.  Others need more prodding.  On June 11, 1776 the Continental Congress appointed John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Roger Sherman of Connecticut to draft a declaration of independence.  The Committee of Five.  The committee (including Jefferson) wanted Adams to write it.  Adams wanted Jefferson to write it.  Because he was a Virginian.  Someone more distant from the passions in Massachusetts.  And was rather likeable.  Unlike Adams.  And Jefferson was pretty good with the quill.  Eloquent.  And had a flair for words.

John Dickinson still argued for reconciliation.  Adams argued for independence.  The debate heated up. The New York legislation had to flee from the British advance in New York.  So they could not authorize their delegates to vote for independence.  Dickinson couldn’t agree to let Pennsylvanian vote for independence.  But he agreed to abstain.  It came down to a tie.  Until Caesar Rodney rushed in from Delaware just in time to vote for independence.  And on July 2, 1776, they committed the final act of treason.  And voted the American colonies independent of the British Crown.  Then put their name to the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.  Or some of them.  The others adding their names some time thereafter.

The several states became united.  In treason.  A confederacy of independent states joined in union.  Not quite along the lines of the Galloway plan.  But in union nonetheless.  Now locked in mortal combat with the world’s greatest superpower.  To escape their oppression.  In order to win the same liberty and freedom enjoyed by the subjects of that very same superpower.  For in the end that’s all the Americans wanted.  And had King George redressed their grievances instead of choosing to punish them everyone would have lived happily ever after as British subjects.  But he didn’t.  And we now remember him as the British king that lost America.

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