Saturday, August 11, 2012
A few ramblings over scotch and history on a Saturday night. Just a few little random bits on history for fun.
I am sitting here over a nice glass of scotch and have decided to just ramble a little on history. There are so many great topics and ideals that one can never cover them all. If I just limit myself to American history I will, however, I may jump here and there as I chatter here. The United States is a most unique country. It really was not founded as we like to say. It was not a great leap for democracy, it was a republic for the well to do and those of property.
George Washington of course from the time he was a teenager was interested in gaining land and so be bought and acquired through various means property in which to build an empire. I am always reminded by Gore Vidal who wrote in an essay on Washington that he was America's first millionaire, but also invented a plow that was to heavy to be pulled by an Ox. Jefferson his close living founding father and Washington strongly disliked each other. In time they would refuse to even accept each others existence. George had told his wife Martha, that he never wanted that man on his property. Oh how Washington hated Jefferson and the feeling was mutual.
While those founding fathers stood glaring at each other we had many others. The Lee's were quite powerful in Virginia. It is also very important to mention that it was Richard Henry Lee's proposition that truly lead to the Declaration of Independence of which he rarely gets the credit. So many many are in a rush to congratulate Thomas Jefferson for basically making the entire document, they forget to remember he was part of the system and not one of the more powerful ones either. Lee's document is what got the ball rolling!
As we think of founding fathers lets remember a totally forgotten one. Can you think of one of the spark plugs of the beginnings of the revolution that died right at the beginning? Can you think of who this is? Considered one of the most leaders of the revolution. Dr. Joesph Warren....I know you are saying ..who? But he was truly one of the early great leaders of the American Revolution. He was also a doctor so he felt he could also be a medic. However he never got the chance. He died at the battle of Bunker Hill (Breeds Hill) and died there. I was surprised to see a lovely portrait of Warren over the main mantelpiece at the Adams homestead in Quincy Mass. He was in a way one of the few of the founders and starters of the rebellion who not only fought politically and also on the field.
It is time he honor this great man. For history has not! It honors cowards and backstabbers like Jefferson who was of little use after the Declaration of Independence. In fact when the British came, he was running.
Dr Joseph Warren one of the greats. Remember him, have one of your kids or grandchildren do a report on him. He deserves it. He was of course a very good friend of the Atlas of American Independence, John Adams. Who was also so important.
But lets leave these people and remember the war was fought and won by men. Men who were black and white, Who could read or not, had a dream of which none of them could live, But they gave their lives and sacred fortunes far more than any man in Independence Hall.
Sometimes when I walk through Philadelphia I walk through Washington Park. Few really know it but Washington Park is a graveyard filled to the brim with those who fought and died for that dream called independence. There is the tomb of the unknown soldier, and another statue of Washington. To be honest everyone buried in that square is an unknown soldier. These men and women I am sure died for something that as non land owners, they would not have enjoyed had they lived. But here is where they rest after dying on the field of battle, of disease, or from being held in jail by the British.
It sometimes also reminds me of Boston. I know several things started in the Boston area, but few people realize that the largest battle by the Continental Army and the British took place in New York City! The largest convoy of ships till D-Day was brought onto that small island city. So while Boston is nice and important it was not where a lot happened. It took place south of Boston. But very much like Valley Forge they have advertised it very well.
Independence Hall is rarely talked about when it was under British control. It was a hospital/jail/headquarters. It was filled with many of the dead and wounded and those dying.
All of the effects of the Congress were burned to keep the building warm. That is why there is nothing that exists from the time of the Declaration of Independence. It was all destroyed, burned, or thrown out. The only existing thing from that time in Independence Hall is the ink stand. That is it. The chair that is there and mentioned it was used by Washington is from the time of the Constitutional convention.But outside of that pretty much everything save for a chair or two was destroyed.
The building was pretty messed up too. Before leaving this building and this period of time it is important to mention that the big signing of the Declaration that is seen in many paintings never took place and that the tower that is such a part of the building was not in place till the 1820's, it was not there in 1776. Much is not as it appears. Just about everything in the signing room is restored or redone. There is very little left of anything there. But it is where it happened. But if you never know you would think it all original and it is not even the windows are new. In fact the oldest glass in Philadelphia in one of these early buildings is in Carpenters Hall. Independence Hall is made of the original brick but the interior is just a guess as to how it looked.
I often think of history and what it has become when I see the Morristown, New Jersey historic site. This is where Washington's men suffered the worst winter of the war, not Valley Forge. So many died there. But all I hear is Valley Forge. Washington's troops were there but it was not that bad a winter. But man they have advertised the place ever since and if you left it to their interpretation it was practically the worse winter in history. It was not and of course as I have written where George Washington prayed. That did not happen and was made up by Parson Weems. Of course if you wish to believe that story you should believe the other one he made up....the cherry tree.
The American revolution gets a lot of press when it comes to war and battles. But we really do not hear too much about the War of 1812. Well one reason is that we do talk about it much is we did not win it. We will hear all the great things about the war except we really get kind of foggy when we start talking about its end. We just don't for very obvious reasons. Also the White House and Capital were burned down by the British. But why did they do it? Cause we had gone to Canada and burned down their government buildings!
Perhaps few of us really think of the largest riots in our history. In this day and age we may think that it took place in the 1960's or even more recently. But not so, the largest riots and the most deadly riots in American history took place in New York City. The Draft Riots of 1863 were the most bloody and the most violent. It was an Irish riot and it was quelled by the New York 69th Division, which incidentally was an Irish division. There was some major issues with that whole scene and close to a thousand people were killed.
The USS Maine of gets talked about a little or at all when we talk about the Spanish American War but we never mention how it sank and why? It seems it was an internal explosion due to faulty design. The Maine was raised in early 1912 and sunk in deep water. Hopefully never to be seen again. However it was rediscovered in the late 1990's on sonar. But remember William Randolph Hearst pushed for and got his war. His paper said it was sunk due to an underwater mine put there by the Spanish. Well this was parroted by Theodore Roosevelt who was owned by the Hearst Newspaper and war was declared and we got Cuba. It is very interesting that Hearst built a massive monument in New York City to the memory of the USS Maine...Maybe he felt a little guilty.
I often wonder about the wisdom and sanity of Woodrow Wilson. I have some real issues with him and his desire to get us into the war in Europe. He was an elitist and a historian. One who was really problematic in his views. He was quite racist, he was quite unable to be warm and interesting to anyone outside of his family. He was a quiet scotch drinker, however sometimes he drank a touch more than needed.
He was in pretty bad physical shape. He had weakness in the limbs, had suffered some really bad nervous collapses in his younger days. He was not one to compromise with, there was one way, his!
He had suffered from several problems leading up to the famous peace conference in 1919. He became the prophet of peace, in an atmosphere where he was not wanted or listened to. He had several small strokes while there and got weirder by the day. Would require his room to be completely re modeled as in its furniture every few days. He had his 14 points in which had ended the war but were not to be a major part of the treaty. His naive nature led him to be led down a path of complete foolishness. He would leave the conference a broken man.
He would return to America and was completely out of touch with what was happening in Washington nor would he compromise. So he fought, had a massive stroke, sat and fumed in the White House at cars that drove too fast and the world was set to fight again in just 20 years. We had no reason to go into that war in Europe. It was a fool hearty scheme. But Wilson's idealism led us to war were we need not have been. The war to end all wars started hundreds!
Lastly as I ramble here a little more before closing. I wanted to say I really am concerned with how we are dealing with the Constitution and its upkeep. We have slowly created so many laws and made that document something akin to Swiss Cheese. There seems to be a crisis every year now on this or that and also the definition of many of its laws bring back a statement made by Bill Clinton..."It depends on what the definition of is, is" I am waiting and I am sure there there will be several new crisis on the horizon. I can see a battle over the Constitution and what it says in the not too distant future. I can promise that this battle will be colorful and most interesting. Well back to my scotch, good night.