History for the Rest of Us

Fatherly Advice From George Washington

Fatherly Advice From George Washington

Apr 25, 2013

The following relates to a letter written by George Washington to his adopted daughter, Nelly Custis, on the subject of love: When Nelly was about sixteen years of age she attended her first ball, at Georgetown, and wrote a description of it to her foster-father at the seat of government. His response presents the Father of his Country in the attitude of an essayist on the “Art of Love,” and in delightful epistolary undress – an attitude in which he was rarely seen. After alluding to some remarks of hers about her indifference to young men, and her “determination never to give herself a moment’s uneasiness on the account of any of them,” he warned her not to be too sure of her control of the passions. “In the composition of the human frame,” he wrote, “there is a good deal of inflammable matter, which, when the torch is put to it, may burst into a flame.” He continued: “Love is said to be an involuntary passion, and it is therefore contended that it cannot be resisted. This is true in part only, for like all things else, when nourished and supplied plentifully with aliment it is rapid in progress; but let these be withdrawn and it may be stifled in its birth or much stunted in its growth. For example: a woman (the same may be said of the other sex) all beautiful and accomplished, will, while her hand and heart are undisposed of, turn the heads and set the circle in which she moves on fire. Let her marry, and what is the consequence? The madness ceases and all is quiet again. Why? Not because there is any diminution in the charm of the lady, but because there (p. 251) is an end of hope. Hence it follows that love may, and therefore ought to be, under the guidance of reason, for although we cannot avoid first impressions, we may assuredly place them under guard; and my motives for treating on this subject are to show you, while you remain Eleanor Parke Custis, spinster, and retain the resolution to love with moderation, the propriety of adhering to the latter resolution, at least...

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

Mar 23, 2013

Patrick Henry’s ‘Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!’ speech was made to the Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775. Delivered at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, the speech is credited with swinging the balance in convincing the Virginia House of Burgesses to pass a resolution that would deliver Virginia Troops to the Revolutionary War. Attendees at the Convention included George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. March 23, 1775 by Patrick Henry No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the house. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the house is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at the truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the numbers of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost,...

USS Constitution

USS Constitution

Mar 13, 2013

The USS Constitution was one of the original six frigates of the United States Navy and is perhaps the most famous ship in US History. US President John Adams was in attendance when it first launched from Edmund Hartts shipyard in Boston Massachusetts on October 21, 1797. The ship was named in honor of the then-new US Constitution by President George Washington. The copper bolts and breasthooks of the ship were forged by Paul Revere. In Battle The Constitution captured the French merchant ship Niger during the Quasi-War and was involved in the defeat of the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War. During the War of 1812 the Constitution defeated four British warships: HMS Guerriere, HMS Java, HMS Cyane, and HMS Levant. She was given the nickname of ‘Old Ironsides’ after her encounter with the HMS Guerriere. To the astonishment of the crew, during the battle many of the shots from the Guerriere rebounded harmlessly off the hull of the Constitution’s hull. Reportedly, an American sailor shouted, “Huzzah! her sides are made of iron!”. Saved from being Scrapped On September 16, 1830, a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was published as a tribute to the USS Constitution. Two days earlier, an article had appeared in the Boston Advertiser claiming that the Navy intended to scrap the Constitution. Public indignation was ignited and efforts to save ‘Old Ironsides’ were successful. The poem written by Holmes is as follows: Aye tear her tattered ensign down long has it waved on high, And many an eye has danced to see That banner in the sky; Beneath it rung the battle shout, And burst the cannon’s roar;– The meteor of the ocean air Shall sweep the clouds no more. Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood, Where knelt the vanquished foe, When winds were hurrying o’er the flood, And waves were white below, No more shall feel the victor’s tread, Or know the conquered knee;– The harpies of the shore shall pluck The eagle of the sea! Oh, better that her shattered hulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to the mast her holy...

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Nov 22, 2012

During the reign of Henry VIII of England, radical Puritan reformers wished to move from a calendar filled with nearly 150 days when people were required to attend church, forego work, and in some cases pay for expensive celebrations, to a calendar that only consisted of special Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving. These days were to be selected based on events that demonstrated divine providence. For example, Days of Thanksgiving were held following the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. First Thanksgiving The tradition continued when the Puritans emigrated into New England in the 1620s and 1630s. Which of the various Days of Thanksgiving should be considered the official ‘First Thanksgiving’ is a matter of debate. Notably there were Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and one in Boston in 1631. The Spanish held a service of Thanksgiving on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine Florida, and a codified day of Thanksgiving was established in 1619 in Charles City County, Virginia. Date of Thanksgiving Originally, proclamations of ‘Thanksgiving’ were made primarily by church leaders, but eventually politicians began to influence the proclamations. November 26, 1789 became the first nationwide Thanksgiving celebration in the United States after a proclamation by George Washington for a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.” From the first nationwide Thanksgiving until the time of Abraham Lincoln, the date the holiday was observed varied by state. In an attempt to built unity in a divided nation, Lincoln, by means of a presidential proclamation in 1863 named the final Thursday of November as the official date for Thanksgiving. The Confederate States of America refused to recognize the authority of the proclamation, and a nationwide date wasn’t realized again until the 1870s. The current date, the fourth Thursday of November was determined by a joint resolution of Congress signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 26, 1941. The slight change was decided upon as a measure to give the country an economic boost by lengthening period between Thanksgiving and...

George Washington – State of the Union – December 7, 1796

George Washington – State of the Union – December 7, 1796

Oct 17, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: In recurring to the internal situation of our country since I had last the pleasure to address you, I find ample reason for a renewed expression of that gratitude to the Ruler of the Universe which a continued series of prosperity has so often and so justly called forth. The acts of the last session which required special arrangements have been as far as circumstances would admit carried into operation. Measures calculated to insure a continuance of the friendship of the Indians and to preserve peace along the extent of our interior frontier have been digested and adopted. In the framing of these care has been taken to guard on the one hand our advanced settlements from the predatory incursions of those unruly individuals who can not be restrained by their tribes, and on the other hand to protect the rights secured to the Indians by treaty—to draw them nearer to the civilized state and inspire them with correct conceptions of the power as well as justice of the Government. The meeting of the deputies from the Creek Nation at Colerain, in the State of Georgia, which had for a principal object the purchase of a parcel of their land by that State, broke up without its being accomplished, the nation having previous to their departure instructed them against making any sale. The occasion, however, has been improved to confirm by a new treaty with the Creeks their preexisting engagements with the United States, and to obtain their consent to the establishment of trading houses and military posts within their boundary, by means of which their friendship and the general peace may be more effectually secured. The period during the late session at which the appropriation was passed for carrying into effect the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation between the United States and His Brittanic Majesty necessarily procrastinated the reception of the posts stipulated to be delivered beyond the date assigned for that event. As soon, however, as the Governor-General of Canada could be addressed with propriety on the subject, arrangements were cordially and promptly concluded for their evacuation, and the United States took possession...