Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Colonial Halloween!

Did the citizens of colonial America celebrate Halloween? The answer is yes, but not in the way you may think. An historian with Colonial Williamsburg points out just how different Halloween was for our colonial ancestors:

With the arrival of European immigrants to the United States of America, came the varied Halloween customs indigenous to their former homelands. However, due to the rigid Protestant beliefs which characterized early New England, celebration of Halloween in colonial times was extremely limited in that particular area of the country. Halloween festivities were much more common in Maryland and the colonies located in the South. As the customs practiced by these varied European ethnic groups meshed with traditions employed by the native American Indians, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge.

The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest. At these gatherings, neighbors would share stories of the dead, predict each others' fortunes, sing and make merry with dancing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and general mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the 19th Century, annual Autumn festivals were quite common, but Halloween was still not yet celebrated throughout the entire country.

During the second half of the 19th Century, America became flooded with a new wave of immigrants. These new arrivals...especially the millions of Irish nationals who were fleeing from the Potato Famine of 1846...helped greatly in popularizing the celebration of Halloween on a country-wide level. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to don costumes and journey from house-to-house asking for food or money (the probable forerunners of today's "trick-or-treaters"). Young women held the belief that they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by performing tricks with yarn, apple peelings or mirrors.

happy halloween kat Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Prefer Christians for their Rulers"

John Jay: The Quintessential Christian
Nation Advocate of the 18th Century
by Brad Hart

Not all of our founding fathers were "theistic rationalists." In fact, some were quite orthodox in their views. Though I still maintain my belief that the majority of the founders held to a more unitarian faith in divinity, I cannot deny that some believed quite passionately in their orthodox faith.

Take for instance John Jay, co-author of the Federalist Papers, President of the American Bible Society, and our nation's first Supreme Court justice. Jay, who was very much a devout Episcopalian, kept most of his religious beliefs private during the course of his life. However, when Jay did speak out about religion it was very easy to know where he stood. For example, Jay was so insistent on keeping with the traditional orthodoxy of the Anglican/Episcopal faith that he was among the minority who sought for the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury when it came to the ordination of new Episcopal bishops.

I am surprised that more Christian nation apologists do not invoke the legacy of John Jay. In my brief readings of Jay's letters, etc. I have found him to be a powerful supporter of Christian orthodoxy and of the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation. And though I disagree with Jay's conclusions, the fact remains that he was a powerfully influential founding father who stuck to his guns on this issue.

I guess it comes as no surprise to me that Wallbuilders has jumped all over the records of John Jay, and who can blame them. Jay is arguably one of the more appealing founders for the Christian nation crowd. Just take for example the infamous quote Jay made on the subject of voting:

"Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privledge and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."
In addition, Jay's words on America's providential destiny to precede the second coming of Jesus Christ is sure to excite Christian Nation advocates everywhere:

There is certainly reason to suspect, that as great providential events have usually been proceded and introduced by the intervention of providential means to prepare the way for them, so the great event in question will be preceded and introduced in like manner. It is, I think, more than probable, that the unexpected and singular co-operation, and the extraordinary zeal and efforts of almost all Christian nations to extend the light and knowledge of the gospel, and to inculcate its doctrines, are among those preparatory means. It is the duty of Christians to promote the prevalence and success of such means, and look forward with faith and hope to the result of them.
And while speaking of the differences between Europe and America, Jay wrote:

I sometimes flatter myself that Providence, in compassion to the afflicted of these countries, will continue to leave America in a proper state to be an asylum to them.
And finally:

To what events this country may in future be instrumental, is indeed uncertain, but I cannot persuade myself that Providence has created such a nation, in such a country, to remain like dust in the balance of others.
So while I agree that the majority of our founders were more unitarian and less orthodox in their faith than Jay, it would be a mistake to categorize ALL the founders as such. For in Jay, the Christian Nation crowd has a powerful advocate.

Benjamin Franklin: A Jesus-centered Deist

In light of the recent discussion on the religious creed of Benjamin Franklin, and the recent book reviews by guest blogger Robert Cornwall, I thought I would add my 10 cents to the discussion by creating this post. As Jon Rowe has already mentioned in his previous post, Franklin, for the most part, considered himself to be a "rational Christian." Yet, throughout the course of his life, Franklin was repeatedly labeled as a "heretic," "Deist," "agnostic," etc.

Certainly the impact of Enlightenment philosophy led Franklin down diverse paths in the development of his own personal religions creed. Yet the impact of Enlightenment philosophy only tells part of the story when it comes to Franklin’s religious beliefs. After all, Franklin was raised in a very religious family, where his father, Josiah, – upon immigrating to the British colonies in America – rose to the status of a “watchman” within the Puritan community of Boston, where he enforced the strict rules of morality and piety of the colony. Josiah even planned to have Benjamin enrolled in the Boston Latin School, where he hoped his son would begin his preparations for the Congregationalist ministry (Founding Faith, 53). Benjamin, however, had different plans. As Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson points out, “Franklin’s ‘skeptical, punkish and irreverent’ behavior made him a terrible fit for the clergy” (Benjamin Franklin, 19). Later during his teenage years – while pretending to be a widowed woman named Silence Dogood – Franklin would expound upon his “rebellious” sentiments towards religion. In Silence Dogood #9, Franklin states:
'Tis not inconsistent with Charity to distrust a Religious Man in Power, tho' he may be a good Man; he has many Temptations "to propagate publick Destruction for Personal Advantages and Security": And if his Natural Temper be covetous, and his Actions often contradict his pious Discourse, we may with great Reason conclude, that he has some other Design in his Religion besides barely getting to Heaven. But the most dangerous Hypocrite in a Common-Wealth, is one who <>A Man compounded of Law and Gospel, is able to cheat a whole Country with his Religion, and then destroy them under Colour of Law: And here the Clergy are in great Danger of being deceiv'd, and the People of being deceiv'd by the Clergy, until the Monster arrives to such Power and Wealth, that he is out of the reach of both, and can oppress the People without their own blind Assistance. And it is a sad Observation, that when the People too late see their Error, yet the Clergy still persist in their Encomiums on the Hypocrite; and when he happens to die for the Good of his Country, without leaving behind him the Memory of one good Action, he shall be sure to have his Funeral Sermon stuff'd with Pious Expressions which he dropt at such a Time, and at such a Place, and on such an Occasion; than which nothing can be more prejudicial to the Interest of Religion, nor indeed to the Memory of the Person deceas'd. The Reason of this Blindness in the Clergy is, because they are honourably supported (as they ought to be) by their People, and see nor feel nothing of the Oppression which is obvious and burdensome to every one else.
Upon revealing the true identity of Silence Dogood, Franklin was quickly branded a dangerous and rebellious heretic. Those within Boston’s religious community – including Franklin’s friend, Cotton Mather – distanced themselves from the young man who dared to question the religious status quo. As Franklin put it, “My indiscreet Disputations about Religion began to make me pointed at with Horror by good People, as an Infidel or Atheist” (Franklin, Autobiography, 71).
After moving away from Boston and establishing himself as a successful printer in Philadelphia, Franklin continued his attack on pious religious leaders, who used their faith to control their flock. As Franklin states in one edition of his popular series, Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is hurtful…Nor is duty beneficial because it is commanded, but it is commanded because it is beneficial.” In another edition Franklin wrote, "Serving God is doing good to man, but praying is thought easier service and therefore is more generally chosen."

With such an early assortment of controversial statements on religion, it is understandable why some people have considered Franklin to be an agnostic or even possibly an atheist. Such a conclusion, however, obscures much of Franklin’s passionate belief in virtue and divinity. For example, though Franklin questioned the authority of the pious ministers of his day, he never doubted the importance of living a virtuous life. Instead of devoting himself to a particular brand of orthodoxy, Franklin chose to invoke the “laws of nature” – a typical Deist principle of his day – which became the backbone of his views on divinity. Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues are a perfect example of how Franklin merged Christian principles with his Deistic philosophy:
1. Temperance. Eat not to Dulness. Drink not to Elevation.
2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling Conversation.
3. Order. Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.
4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality. Make no Expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
6. Industry. Lose no Time. Be always employ'd in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary Actions.
7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful Deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice. Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.
9. Moderation. Avoid Extreams. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Cloaths or Habitation.
11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.
12. Chastity. Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dulness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or another's Peace or Reputation.
13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
In addition to this personal code of conduct, Franklin sought to “amend” a number of Christian creeds and beliefs. His version of the Lord’s Prayer is an excellent example of how Franklin stripped the miracles of Christianity from his personal liturgy.

Perhaps the most telling evidence of Franklin’s personal beliefs comes from his infamous letter to Ezra Stiles in 1790. In the letter, Franklin states:

You desire to know something of my Religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it: But I do not take your Curiosity amiss, and shall endeavour in a few Words to gratify it. Here is my Creed: I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render to him, is doing Good to his other Children. That the Soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental Principles of all sound Religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever Sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity: tho' it is a Question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble [my emphasis].
Franklin's Deistic leanings are augmented when we consider the fact that he not only questioned the divinity of Jesus Christ – as evidenced by the Ezra Stiles letter – but that he also questioned the infallibility of the Bible. The fact that he also rejected the ordinances of communion and confirmation, combined with his lack of regular church attendance serve as ample evidence that Franklin was far from an orthodox Christian. Franklin’s own admission that he was “a thorough Deist” virtually ends the dispute over his religious leanings (Franklin, Autobiography, 114).

Such an admission, however, does not suggest that Franklin was a pure Deist. After all, Franklin did believe that God regularly intervened in the affairs of mankind (Holmes, Founding Faith, 55). Franklin also maintained an appreciation for the teachings of Christianity, though he detested how it was being practiced:

I wish it were more productive of good works than I have generally seen. I mean real good works; works of kindness, charity, mercy, and public spirit; not holiday-keeping, sermon-reading or hearing; performing church ceremonies, or making long prayers...[Jesus] preferred the doers of the word, to the mere hearers...Serving God is doing good to man...Morality or Virtue is the End, Faith only a Means to obtain that End: And if the End be obtained, it is no matter by what Means" (Quoted in Waldman, Founding Faith, 20-21).
So where should we classify Franklin? From the evidence noted, it is clear that he does not fall anywhere near orthodox Christianity, yet he also falls short of embracing pure Deism. Clearly Franklin is closer to Deism than he is Christianity, so it would be fair to categorize his religious beliefs as being those of a "liberal Deist," or as I choose to define him, a "Jesus-centered Deist."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Scare Tactics: Nothing New to Politics

If you are like me, you probably feel like every single election both the Democrats and the Republicans act as though the literal fate of the planet hangs on that year's particular election. We've heard this rhetoric so many times that it isn't a surprise why some actually feel that the world could end if their candidate is not elected on November 4th. Conservative media outlets have been screaming from the housetops that an Obama victory would signal the end of responsible government and free market capitalism, while the Democrats have been countering with their spin that a McCain win would ensure for America another four years of failed Bush policies, all of which would allegedly destroy the very fabric of our nation.

But is this type of "scare tactic" rhetoric new? Of course not. Just check out the "scare tactic" rhetoric of this 1800 campaign ad:


At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is: “Shall I continue in allegiance to


Or impiously declare for


And here is a funny (but somewhat accurate) Youtube "campaign" video on the election of 1800:

Yes, even our Founding Fathers believed that an impending doom was sure to destroy the nation if their chosen candidate failed to win the election.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Richard Brookhiser on the Religion of the Founders

Here is a short clip of historian Richard Brookhiser on the religion of the founders. Brookhiser argues that the founders never intended to set up a Christian nation, but they did intend for the United States to be a religious nation:

I believe that Brookhiser's assertion that America was intended to be a religious nation fits nicely with Franklin's idea of a public religion, and Jefferson's notion of natural religion. For all of their arguments against religion in government -- and there are many -- you would be hard-pressed to find many arguments against America being a religious nation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is "Spreading the Wealth" anti-Capitalist?

In one of his recent posts, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan points out an interesting quote from Adam Smith -- the so-called "father" of capitalism. The quote comes from Smith's extremely popular and influential book, Wealth of Nations. Smith states:

The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor...The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess...It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion. [my emphasis].
As everyone that follows politics knows, Barack Obama's "spreading the wealth" comment has caused conservatives to go on the attack, labeling Obama as a socialist. Keeping Adam Smith's comment above in mind, could we argue that Obama is actually MORE of a capitalist "purist" than McCain?

In a letter to Benjamin Vaughn, Benjamin Franklin pointed out his distrust of the elite having too much money and power in their hands. Using an analogy to prove his point, Franklin writes:

When by virtue of the first Laws Part of the Society accumulated Wealth and grew Powerful, they enacted others more severe, and would protect their Property at the Expence of Humanity. This was abusing their Powers, and commencing a Tyranny. If a Savage before he enter’d into Society had been told, Your Neighbour by this Means may become Owner of 100 Deer, but if your Brother, or your Son, or yourself, having no Deer of your own, and being hungry should kill one of them, an infamous Death must be the Consequence; he would probably have prefer’d his Liberty, and his common Right of killing any Deer, to all the Advantages of Society that might be propos’d to him.
So, is true capitalism that which prevents any form of redistributing wealth? Or can capitalism encourage AT LEAST some equality between the wealthy and the middle class?

American Lion Hot off the Presses

Jon Meacham, Editor for Newsweek Magazine and author of the book, American Gospel has officially finished his third work of history. In his newest book, Meacham tackles the presidency of the ever-controversial Andrew Jackson, whom Meachan describes as "still the most polarizing President in American history." Meacham's book, American Lion, is scheduled to be released to the public on November 11 and is expected to debut as an immediate success. Here are a few comments on Meacham's book from Random House Publishing:

Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. To tell the saga of Jackson’s presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama–the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers–that shaped Jackson’s private world through years of storm and victory.

One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will–or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House–from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman–have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.

Jackson was the most contradictory of men. The architect of the removal of Indians from their native lands, he was warmly sentimental and risked everything to give more power to ordinary citizens. He was, in short, a lot like his country: alternately kind and vicious, brilliant and blind; and a man who fought a lifelong war to keep the republic safe–no matter what it took.

Jon Meacham in American Lion has delivered the definitive human portrait of a pivotal president who forever changed the American presidency–and America itself.
Here is a link to the book at

Long Live King Washington???

But the United States doesn't have a royal family...right? Well, we could have.

As the rumor states, a group of frustrated American colonists, fed up with the lack of productivity in the Continental Congress, actually considered a coup d' etat of the national government and the establishment of a monarchy, with George Washington as its king. A 1782 letter to Washington from Colonel Lewis Nichola is a perfect illustration of just how frustrated some colonists were beginning to feel with the infant American government. Colonel Nichola writes:

This war must have shewn to all, but to military men in particular the weakness of republicks, and the exertions the army has been able to make by being under a proper head...Some people have so connected the ideas of tyranny and monarchy as to find it very difficult to seperate them, it may therefore be requisite to give the head of such a constitution as I propose, some title apparently more moderate, but if all other things are once adjusted I believe strong arguments might he produced for admitting the title of king, which I conceive would be attended with some material advantage. …Republican bigots will certainly consider my opinions as heterdox, and the maintainer thereof as meriting fire and fagots, I have therefore hitherto kept them within my own breast [my emphasis].
Washington, however, despised such suggestions, dismissing them as virtual heresies. In response to Colonel Nichola's letter, Washington wrote:

I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable; at the same time in justice to my own feelings I must add, that no Man possesses a more sincere wish to see ample justice done to the Army than I do, and as far as my powers and influence, in a constitutional way extend, they shall be employed to the utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any occasion. Let me conjure you then, if you have any regard for your Country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your Mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or any one else, a sentiment of the like Nature. [my emphasis].
In his typically stern, yet gentlemanly style, Washington made it abundantly clear that he stood opposed to an American monarchy.

But what if he had embraced the idea of being King?

In a recent Newsweek web article, Kurt Soller discusses how genealogy buffs, for the past century, have been toying over the notion of a Washington monarchy and what it would have meant for America today.

Genealogists have been pondering the possibilities had President Washington been a bit more power-hungry. As early as 1908, newspapers published accounts of history buffs who worked their way through the Washington family tree using rules of succession to determine the rightful heir to the theoretical American throne. But without the Internet, branches of the Washington tree would be lost in Ohio, say, or forgotten by lineage sleuths who couldn't quite decipher a family tree made complicated because Washington himself didn't have any children.

But while brainstorming ideas for their election-themed coverage, turned to their Chief Family Historian, Megan Smolenyak, for an answer to the historical mystery. Smolenyak first turned to Google where she figured out that, because kinship rules vary by country and because Washington was childless, there were four possible kings (or queens) among the nearly 8,000 descendants of Washington who are alive today.
So, who would be "King" of America today had Washington accepted such a position?

Eighty-two-year-old Paul Emery Washington of San Antonio, Texas, a relatively average American who spent his life climbing the corporate ladder of a building supply company would be your king. And what does Mr. Washington think of such a distinction? Well, the offer is flattering but not all that appealing. He states:

"I doubt if I'd be a very good king. We've done so well as a country without a king, so I think George made the best decision. He fought for eight years to do away with the monarchy, and I think he made the right decision. The idea of one individual having supreme power over all others is an antiquated idea -- to say the least."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A 269-269 Tie???

It's at Least a Possibility...Thanks to Our Founders

As the election approaches its final climax we are beginning to see the polls tighten up in the various battleground states that are still in play. As a result, the likelihood of a 269-269 tie in the electoral college is becoming more likely with each passing day. Though odds-makers claim that a 269-269 tie is relatively low, the fact remains that this outcome is still within the realm of possibility.

So what happens if the election ends in an electoral college tie? Most people think that the popular vote would then come into play. WRONG! The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution spells out what will happen in the event of a 269-269 tie.

If we have a tie on November 4th, the House of Representatives will convene on January 6th to vote for the next president of the United States. Now, most Republicans fear this outcome because of the fact that the Democrats are favored to pick up a few seats in the house. However, the voting is NOT based on a MAJORITY in the House. Instead, the 12th Amendment stipulates that EACH STATE gets one vote. This means that a heavily populated state like California will be on the EXACT SAME playing field as Wyoming and other small states. So, what will happen is each state delegation will meet and cast their vote for the next president. If the state has a Republican majority then the state will likely vote for McCain. Here is an example:

Arkansas (which has 4 representatives in the House) is split with 3 Democrats and 1 Republican. In the event of a 269-269 tie, these four representatives would meet and (most likely) cast their vote for Obama, being that the Democrats have the majority in that state's delegation. HOWEVER, keep in mind that Arkansas is heavily favored to go for McCain on November 4. So if these delegates voted for Obama they would be essentially voting AGAINST the will of their constituents. This scenario is evident in at least 15 other states as well.

In addition, if a state has an equal number of Democrat and Republican representatives and their vote results in a tie, that state will ABSTAIN from a vote on the president.

So what does all this mean? In all likelihood it means that Barack Obama would probably emerge as the president in the event of a 269-269 tie, but it is FAR from certain. There are still a number of scenarios in which John McCain could be declared the winner. In reality it is anyone's guess.

Another important component to keep in mind in the event of a 269-269 tie is that the SENATE will vote for the V.P. Being that the Democrats are favored to pick up a couple of seats in the Senate it is likely that they would vote for Biden, however, this is far from a guarantee. Keep in mind that senators may end up voting with the masses they represent, so as not to upset their constituents. Also, Joe Lieberman (an Independent) is likely to go with the Republicans on this one. In the event of a tie in the Senate, we must remember that the current V.P. (Dick Cheney) would cast the tie-breaking vote, which would in all likelihood go Republican.

Again, what does this mean? It means that there is a possibility of having a MIXED presidential ticket in the event of a 269-269 tie. We could end up seeing an Obama/Palin or a McCain/Biden White House.

One more wrench to throw into the equation: if the vote in the House of Representatives for president ends in a tie (or gridlock) the 12th Amendment stipulates that the Senate would then elect an INTERIM PRESIDENT from their V.P. selection, who would then serve for two years until the next HOR convened in the following election (2010). This means that if the HOR ends in a tie or gridlock, we could have Joe Biden or Sarah Palin end up serving a two-year term as President of the United States.

Think this is all a bit crazy or that maybe I am making it up? It is ALL in the 12th Amendment.

So how did we end up like this in the first place? It all goes back to the 1800 presidential election between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Back then there was no such thing as a presidential "ticket," which meant that the candidate with the second most electoral votes became the V.P. In 1800, Jefferson was the clear winner over presidential incumbent, John Adams. However, the electors (who had 2 votes instead of one) also accidentally gave Aaron Burr (who was intended to be Jefferson's V.P.) the same amount of votes. As a result, the election went to the House, where delegates loyal to Adams tried to get Burr placed in the White House over Jefferson. In the end, Jefferson won out, but only after months of controversy. As a result, the 12th Amendment was created, which was supposed to clean up the mess. Only time will tell if the 12th Amendment ends up CREATING a new mess in the 21st Century!!!

Here is an interesting Youtube video that helps explain this mess:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Should We Celebrate Columbus Day?

I realize that Columbus Day is more than a week in the past, but I thought it might be a good way to kick things off anew here at the American Revolution Blog.

516 years ago, on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) made landfall on a small island in the present-day Bahamas, which he later named San Salvador. Upon his arrival, Columbus proudly declared to the native people of the island -- the Taino -- that the land was forever more the domain of Spain and the Catholic Church.

As we all know, Columbus was certainly not the first person to "discover" America. Instead, Columbus came along at the perfect time. As historian Alan Taylor points out in his book, American Colonies:

Thanks to the newly invented printing press, word of Columbus’s voyage and discovery spread rapidly and widely through Europe. Eagerly read, his published report ran through nine editions in 1493 and twenty by 1500. Publication in multiplying print helped to ensure that Columbus's voyages would lead to an accelerating spiral of further voyages meant to discern the bounds and exploit the peoples of the new lands (Taylor, 35).
Thanks to the dramatic discovery, coupled with the even more dramatic tales of his journey, Columbus has been catapulted to the status of a national hero in American popular culture. In many religious circles he is seen as a pious man of God who never flinched in his quest for a New World. The following video helps to demonstrate the pop-culture interpretation of Columbus and his journey:

However exciting it may be for us to remember Columbus as a pure-hearted explorer, the historical record cannot be ignored. As a result, it is plainly clear that Columbus was not the benevolent explorer we often consider him to be in American popular culture. Instead, Columbus was very much a tyrant who used religion to justify his acts of violence towards the native people of the "New World." Again, Alan Taylor points out what Columbus' real intentions were when it came to the native people of the "New World:"

Columbus hoped to convert the Indians to Christianity and to recruit their bodies and their wealth to assist Europeans in a final crusade to crush Islam and reclaim Jerusalem. Such a victory would then invite Christ’s return to earth to reign over a millennium of perfect justice and harmony (Taylor, 33).
Columbus took his newfound religious quest to another extreme when he chose to rename himself by adopting the first name of "Christoferens," or "Christ-bearer." Under the banner of a Christ-bearer, Columbus began his work of death throughout the Americas. Alan Taylor captures just how horrible these atrocities were when he writes:

Columbus distributed Indian captives among the colonists to work on their plantations and to serve as sex slaves. By 1496, Hispanola's surviving "free" natives had been rendered tributary -- obliged to bring in a quota of gold for every person over the age of fourteen.

Columbus's slaughter and enslavement of Indians troubled the pious Spanish monarchs, who declared in 1500 that the Indians were free and not subject to servitude...

...In addition to killing and enslaving the Taino, Columbus antagonized most of the colonists, who bristled at his domineering manner and hot temper. As a result, violent mutinies and more violent reprisals by Columbus induced the monarchs to revoke his executive authority in 1500.
(Taylor, 37).
With such a horrible record of enslavement, brutality and death, I again pose to you all the following question: should we celebrate Columbus Day? The historian in me says yes, since I believe all historical events -- both good and evil -- should be remembered. However, does this mean that Columbus deserves his own national holiday? With a historical record that is replete with examples of tyranny, enslavement and murder another side of me says absolutely not.

Your thoughts...

Happy Birthday American Revolution Blog!

Well, I guess this is the ultimate in irony! The very day we decide to "resurrect" the American Revolution Blog also happens to be the blog's 1st birthday!

The blog has certainly seen its share of ups and downs. However, we are still standing, which must be a good thing. For myself, I have greatly missed the simplicity, excitement and enjoyment that this blog has brought me. It is for this reason that I am happy to announce that the American Revolution Blog is back in business! We look forward to hearing from you all in the future!!!