Saturday, November 20, 2010

Was Lincoln the Most Influential American in History?

According to a 2006 survey of ten historians, conducted and published by The Atlantic, Abraham Lincoln topped the list of the 100 most influential Americans in history. Several figures from the founding era (and before) made the list, including Jonathan Edwards (#90), Noah Webster (#71), John Quincy Adams (#55), John Adams (#25), Thomas Paine (#19), Andrew Jackson (#18), James Madison (#13), John Marshall (#7), Benjamin Franklin (#6), Alexander Hamilton (#5), Thomas Jefferson (#3), and George Washington (#2).

I'd like to see The Atlantic update this list by moving George Washington to the top spot where he belongs (without Washington, there wouldn't be a United States or a President Lincoln) and to move Jefferson down a few notches. He continues to be overrated in his influence. And Paine at #19? What's that about?

If you want to check out the list, visit The Atlantic's "100 Most Influential Figures in American History." And then let Brad and me know what you think in the comments section.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli"

Happy 235th Birthday to the
United States Marines!!!

On this day in 1775, the United States Marine Corps was born. Members of the Continental Congress, seeing that war with Britain was on the horizon, drafted a resolution calling for the establishment of "two battalions of Marines to be raised." The Continental Congress, gathered at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, ratified the resolution, which officially commissioned the Continental Marines "for the protection of the American colonies and to fight for independence at sea and shore." It was John Adams, the chief supporter of the bill, who pushed for the ratification of this resolution. As a result, it is Adams who should be given special recognition as being the "father" of the Marine Corps.

Here are some interesting tidbits of history on the Marines and their role in the Revolution from the History Channel's website:
Serving on land and at sea, the original U.S. Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations during the Revolutionary War. The first Marine landing on a hostile shore occurred when a force of Marines under Captain Samuel Nicholas captured New Province Island in the Bahamas from the British in March 1776. Nicholas was the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines and is celebrated as the first Marine commandant. After American independence was achieved in 1783, the Continental Navy was demobilized and its Marines disbanded.

In the next decade, however, increasing conflict at sea with Revolutionary France led the U.S. Congress to establish formally the U.S. Navy in May 1798. Two months later, on July 11, President John Adams signed the bill establishing the U.S. Marine Corps as a permanent military force under the jurisdiction of the Department of Navy. U.S. Marines saw action in the so-called Quasi-War with France and then fought against the Barbary pirates of North Africa during the first years of the 19th century. Since then, Marines have participated in all the wars of the United States and in most cases were the first soldiers to fight. In all, Marines have executed more than 300 landings on foreign shores.
For more information on the birthday of the U.S. Marines click here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jefferson's "Tree of Liberty" Quote in Context

This past week Americans witnessed the beautiful miracle that is a democratic election. And though many on the left are probably unhappy with the results, all Americans should be proud of the fact that in this nation we can have a safe transfer of power from one person to another without a single shot being fired or a single life being lost. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest blessing of living in America.

Over the past few months, however, we have witnessed a great disturbance in the collective political discourse of this nation. The fires of political partisanship has led to an inferno of overheated, hate-filled demonstrations of pretended patriotism aimed at "securing" America's "true" glory no matter the cost (some have even suggested revolution as a viable option). Now, it's not my intention to engage in a political debate here (that's one of the things I love best about this blog...very little politics), but I do think there are some historical matters to clear up here.

In the wake of this public discourse one infamous and stirring quote has made its way back onto the public stage: enter none other than Thomas Jefferson.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson -- who was then living in France -- wrote a letter to his friend William Smith. In the letter Jefferson wrote the following words, which have, from time-to-time, been quoted to affirm the rights of the people to rebel against one's government:
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.
Simple enough, right? Well, not quite. And while Jefferson's "tree of liberty" quote has become a favorite of many who oppose the current direction being taken by the Obama Administration, the quote has an important and often forgotten context.

As mentioned before, Jefferson was still living and working in France in 1787. At the time, Jefferson was deeply concerned about some of the proposals for the new United States Constitution -- particularly the role of the executive branch, which he saw as being far too powerful. In addition, Jefferson believed that the recent rebellion in Massachusetts -- which became known as Shays' Rebellion -- had heightened the fears of the American elite, causing them to throw their weight behind a stronger executive government. Shays' Rebellion was essentially an armed rebellion against taxes being levied at Massachusetts farmers. It's leader, Daniel Shays -- who had served as a soldier during the American Revolution -- used the legacy of the American Revolution to garner support for his cause. As a result, scores of patriotic Massachusetts men, most of whom were farmers themselves, resurrected the legacy of the "liberty tree" to fight the perceived injustices of the newly created government. As a result, America's governing class -- and yes, it was a class -- believed that a strong centralized government was the only surefire way to ensure America's future security.

For Jefferson, this was a textbook example of how partisan passions could cloud judgement, creating an atmosphere of panic and fear. As Jefferson states in his letter to William Smith:
Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms
Simply put, Jefferson understood Shays' Rebellion to be a common and important component of republican government. Without it, the people could not be effectively represented and the communal "lethargy" would eventually destroy the nation. On the flip side, however, Jefferson also notes that the people are rarely if ever well informed on all issues. It is this communal ignorance -- Jefferson emphasises ignorance and not wickedness -- that Jefferson believed the government must endeavor to remedy. He continues:
The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them.
The remedy is not suppression or rejection of public discontent, but rather persuasion and public discourse.

So would Jefferson support the current public dialogue? There's a good chance that he would. We can debate whether or not he would like the current rhetoric of the conservatives/liberals but I think it's hard to deny that Jefferson would be pleased to see the outpouring of public interest.

With that said, I doubt Jefferson would support actual blood being shed on the proverbial "Tree of Liberty." After all, enough blood has been lost thanks in part to this often misunderstood quote. It was Timothy McVeigh, the convicted Oklahoma City bomber, who was so very misguided by his poor understanding of Jefferson's words. On the day he chose to murder 168 of his fellow Americans, McVeigh was wearing a shirt that carried Jefferson's infamous words:
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.
May we ALWAYS remember to be cautious with the history we fail to understand!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remember, Remember the 5th of November...

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Probably few Americans are aware of the significance of November 5th or of Guy Fawkes Night: a celebration to commemorate the failed attempt made by Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators to blow up the English Parliament in 1605. As a devout Catholic, Guy Fawkes hoped that his actions would end the discrimination of Protestant England towards Catholics. From that day forward, the 5th of November was commemorated by British citizens with the burning in effigy of Guy Fawkes, along with a celebration of God's providence in protecting their Protestant King.

In colonial America, Guy Fawkes Night was celebrated as "Pope Day" (or "Pope Night"). Young men from New England would traditionally construct large wagons (with figures of the Pope, the Devil and other Catholic figures, along with unpopular British governing officials all to be burned in effigy), which were drawn throughout the public streets for all to see. The young men would even dress up and petition the affluent of the city for money which was used for getting drunk and having a "splendid supper." As Historian J.L. Bell (of Boston, 1775 fame) points out on his 5th of November website:
In the mid-1700s, the 5th of November was one of Boston’s most popular holidays. On that day, apprentices and young men paraded through town with giant effigies of the Devil, the Pope, and current political scapegoats, demanding coins from householders and passersby.

At nightfall, Boston’s North End and South End gangs met in the middle of town and brawled. The winners hauled away the other side’s paraphernalia and burned all the effigies in a festive bonfire. In 1764 the event became so violent that a young boy was killed, his head crushed by a wagon wheel.

In the decade that followed, the 5th of November processions became closely linked to the town’s protests against Parliamentary taxes. That political conflict led to the American Revolution. Ironically, the Revolutionary War ended up doing away with the 5th of November holiday in America.
In essence, "Pope Day" became yet another example of how Colonial American bred a culture of anti-authoritarianism. Pope Day evolved to become not only a day to mock Catholicism but a day to also express disgust with colonial (particularly British) government.

In addition, it is interesting to note how "Pope Day" gave birth to many of the traditional Halloween customs that are still in practice today. As Mr. Bell points out above (and throughout his website) the tradition of children running though the streets in costume asking for money, treats, etc. was most certainly a common practice on the 5th of November.

With that said, let us not forget the origins behind this anti-Catholic celebration. Guy Fawkes became, for many colonial Americans, the perfect scape goat for all their anti-Catholic rhetoric. The following poem helps to capture at least a portion of that popular anti-Catholicism:

A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A fagot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Washington Saves the Pope...Sort Of

Guy Fawkes Night (or "Pope Day" as it was called in colonial America) is coming up this Thursday. And as was commonly the case, Guy Fawkes Night was celebrated in colonial America with the ritual burning in effigy of the Catholic Pope, which most American Protestants embraced with glee.

That is, unless you were a member of George Washington's army. In his November 5, 1775 General Orders to the Continental Army, Washington strictly forbade the practice of burning the Pope in effigy or the mockery of Catholicism in general:
As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form'd for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope -- He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain'd, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hail Columbia: America's ORIGINAL National Anthem

And How it Illustrates the
Evolution of American Nationalism

I know I am going to catch a lot of crap for this but I'm going to say it anyway: I really don't like our national anthem that much. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty song that does invoke strong feelings of patriotism in the hearts of many. With that said, I simply dislike the fact that our nation's official anthem is nothing more than a poem commemorating a bombardment we barely survived, put to the tune of an old British drinking song. Hardly the inspiring anthem so many make it out to be! But hey, that's just me and I realize that many Americans love the song. So be it.

But whether you like "The Star-Spangled Banner" or not, everyone should recognize the fact that it doesn't have the patriotic history everyone assumes. In fact, the "original" national anthem of this fair land, which was in place from roughly the time of George Washington to FDR, was muscled out by Francis Scott Key's over-dramatic drinking song. That's right folks, the "Star-Spangled Banner" has a relatively recent history as America's national anthem; a history that illustrates the evolution of American nationalism.

Before Francis Francis Scott Key ever witnessed the "rockets' red glare" and the "bombs bursting in air" America (a name that you will see not everyone was sold on) marched to a different patriotic tune. It was "Hail Columbia" that initially served as America's unofficial but very popular anthem:

Hail Columbia, happy land!
Hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band,
Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
And when the storm of war was gone
Enjoy'd the peace your valor won.
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.

Immortal patriots, rise once more,
Defend your rights, defend your shore!
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Invade the shrine where sacred lies
Of toil and blood, the well-earned prize,
While off'ring peace, sincere and just,
In Heaven's we place a manly trust,
That truth and justice will prevail,
And every scheme of bondage fail.

Behold the chief who now commands,
Once more to serve his country stands.
The rock on which the storm will break,
The rock on which the storm will break,
But armed in virtue, firm, and true,
His hopes are fixed on Heav'n and you.
When hope was sinking in dismay,
When glooms obscured Columbia's day,
His steady mind, from changes free,
Resolved on death or liberty.

Sound, sound the trump of fame,
Let Washington's great fame
Ring through the world with loud applause,
Ring through the world with loud applause,
Let ev'ry clime to freedom dear,
Listen with a joyful ear,
With equal skill, with God-like pow'r
He governs in the fearful hour
Of horrid war, or guides with ease
The happier time of honest peace.

Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.
Now, it probably sounds strange to some when they discover that "Hail Columbia" was America's "original" anthem. After all, what does Columbia have to do with America?

Well, first off, we're not talking about the Columbia where all that lovely "mota" and cocaine come from. This Columbia is quite different. The Columbia of America's earliest generations was the female personification of her "discoverer," Christopher Columbus. Columbia's role as a symbol became obvious to all Americans. Whether she served as the title of a city, a river, a college or a monument, Columbia's role in American culture was ever-present. Much in the same way that Britannia became the female personification (and Roman goddess) of Britain, Columbia was the feminine guardian of the new American republic. In other words, she was sort of the Uncle Sam before Uncle Sam.

And Columbia's influence didn't stop with the founding. She can be seen throughout the course of America's history. From the very name of our capitol city (Washington, District of Columbia) to the very first space shuttle ever commissioned by NASA. She was present in American artwork like the one above depicting Columbia's divine protection to western settlers on their quest to secure the country's "Manifest Destiny," and she even graces the opening credits of several modern movies. Heck, many Americans have (incorrectly) suggested that she was even the inspiration for "Lady Liberty" herself. Bottom line, Columbia's role as a symbol in America's growth and development is as important (if not more so) as any other symbol of American nationalism.

Perhaps more importantly, Columbia illustrates just how complicated the concept of the American nation was for our founding generation. Contrary to what we are often let to believe, America's founding was far from a united effort where all parties saw eye-to-eye on the direction the country should go. In reality, it was a complicated mess of clashing ideas and beliefs. As historian Gordon Wood points out in his newest book Empire of Liberty, a book that should have won this year's Pulitzer Prize (on a side note, it's worth mentioning that the Pulitzer Prize is awarded by none other than COLUMBIA University. The irony is striking):
Despite the ratification of the Constitution, most Americans knew that they were not yet a nation, at least not in the European sense of the term. At the end of the Declaration of Independence the members of the Continental Congress had been able only to "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor." In 1776 there was nothing else but themselves that they could have dedicated themselves to -- no patria, no fatherland, no nation as yet.


The fact that most Americans were of British heritage and spoke the same language as the subjects of the former mother country created problems of national identity that troubled the new Republic over the next several decades. Indeed, almost to the movement of independence the colonists had continued to define themselves as British, and only reluctantly came to see themselves as a separate people called Americans. The colonists were well aware of the warning of John Dickinson, the most important pamphleteer in America before Thomas Paine, had given them on the eve of independence. "If we are separated from our mother country," he asked in 1768, "what new form of government shall we adopt, and where shall we find another Britain to supply our loss? Torn from the body, to which we are united by religion, liberty, laws, affection, relation, language and commerce we must bleed at every vein."

Could the colonists who had been British and who had celebrated their Britishness for generations become a truly independent people? How could one united people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, and professing the same Protestant religion differentiate themselves from the people of the mother country? These questions, perhaps more than any others, bedeviled the politics of the early decades of the new Republic's history.

If there were to be a single national people with a national character, Americans would have to invent themselves, and in some sense the whole of American history has been the story of that invention. At first, they struggled with a proper name for their country. On the tercentenary celebration of Columbus's discovery of America in 1792 one patriot suggested "The United States of Columbia" as a name for the new Republic. Poets, ranging from the female black slave Phillis Wheatley to the young Princeton graduate Phillip Freneau, saw the logic of the name and thus repeatedly referred to the nation as Columbia. With the same rhythm and number of syllables, Columbia could easily replace Britannia in new compositions set to the music of traditional English songs.
As illustrated above, early had a difficult time understanding what their new nation was supposed to look like. The pull of tradition from the Old World and the allure of new possibilities brought on by the Enlightenment, obscured America's sense of itself. This is the precise reason why Columbia became such a popular symbol. While so much was still up in the air, Columbia was, at the very least, the embodiment of what it truly meant to be American.

But alas, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. With the onset of nationalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, America's sense of itself began to change. And with that change, Columbia's presence in American culture began to fade. "Hail Columbia," which had never been made an official national anthem, found itself in a contest with other popular songs like, "My Country Tis of Thee," "America the Beautiful," and yes "The Star-Spangled Banner." Like most nations of this era, the creation of official anthems became an important component of surging nationalism, and in the United States, the "Star-Spangled Banner" was gaining ground. Thanks in large part to the attention given it at professional baseball games, the "Star-Spangled Banner" became a quasi-national tradition. Long story short, the song's popularity grew over the next thirty years, until finally in 1931 when President Hoover and Congress officially made "The Star-Spangled Banner" America's anthem.

But Columbia wasn't completely lost. Her presence, though very limited, is still around. All you have to do is look for her. And who knows, maybe she'll return one day! As for her song, "Hail Columbia", well, it went from being the unofficial anthem of a nation to nothing more than the entrance song for the Vice President. But that's not a terrible consolation prize. In a similar fashion as "Hail to the Chief" is for the President, "Hail Columbia" triumphantly announces the presence of our nation's second in command.

And just in case you were curious, it's not that I hate "The Star-Spangled Banner." Rather, I simply believe there are better songs out there. For my money, "America the Beautiful" is the song I would select as our official anthem. Perhaps it is a personal bias, being that the song was written in my back yard, but I don't care. It simply sounds more "American" (or Columbian) than the rest. And to help prove my point I give you the one and only Ray Charles. Take us home, Ray:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Election of 1800: A Model of Crazy, Dirty Campaigning

Today is election day! As we are all aware, every two years in this grand nation of ours citizens invoke their right to elect the candidates to office whom they feel best represent their views, hopes and goals for the future. It is a time-honored practice that we as a nation have enjoyed (to differing degrees of course) for more than two centuries.

And as is the case with these election cycles, negative ads have become a staple item on the menu of American political dialogue. Virtually every candidate for almost every office up for grabs in today's election has engaged in some form of "mud-slinging" towards his/her opponent. Whether it takes the form of automated phone calls, mailed letters, television commercials or radio sound bites, this election has, for the most part, been like those of recent history: a dog fight.

With that said, we still see candidates who either deny their personal participation in negative campaign tactics or who claim to soar above such trivial and hostile banter. They claim to be invoking the extinct heritage of long ago, when Americans could somehow set aside their partisan views and focus exclusively on the issues at hand. Oftentimes we see these same individuals calling upon the legacy of America's founding fathers as "evidence" of their innocence. These candidates state they (and their cause) are on the side of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, whose purity and grace transcended political division, giving rise to an era of cooperation and contentment that our generation's political circus is incapable (or unwilling) to rekindle.

And though I am not a fan of today's 24/7 political media blitz and the constant bombardment of campaign ilk every election cycle, I think there is a grave misunderstanding as to the nature and history of American politics. We seem to be under the delusion that this "dog-eat-dog" street brawl style of campaigning is something new. It's not...and not even our blessed, holy, infallible founders were exempt from it.

210 years ago, at the turn of the century, two of the biggest players in the American Revolution exchanged blows over some of the same issues that still occupy us to this day. John Adams, the incumbent who had taken the Federalist reigns from the great George Washington, squared off with his on-again, off-again, on-again Virginia friend, Thomas Jefferson. Contrary to what we are often led to believe, this contest was incredibly fierce and oftentimes took a very negative tone. For example, when the Adams camp learned of Jefferson's desire to thwart the Federalists they accused Jefferson of plotting to destroy the very fabric of society by eliminating god from American life. As one broadside stated:

The attacks didn't stop with mere broadsides. Having discovered some of Jefferson's personal religious declarations that could prove problematic to his campaign, the Adams camp went on the offensive. In his infamous letter to the Reverend William Linn in 1800, Jefferson stated, "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." Along with this declaration, Jefferson went on to state the following about Christianity:
Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
Needless to say, such comments proved to be extremely distasteful to the American populace, who actually believed that a Jefferson election might actually lead to:
Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest [being] openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood and the nation black with crimes.


Female chastity violated [with] children writing on a pike.
Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was "one of the most detestable of mankind and a threat to our way of life." (Gee, you NEVER hear that kind of stuff about our current leaders!).

To capitalize on these comments, the Adams campaign took swift action. Acting as if they had been handed a gift from the divine, Adams' men pounced Jefferson in the public arena, accusing him of being "an enemy to his country and his God." Steven Waldman, author of the book Founding Faith sites a poem that was used against Jefferson throughout the campaign:
I am the first of men in the ways of evil,
The truest, thriftiest servent of the Devil;
Born, educated, glory to engross
And shine confess'd the Devil's Man of Ross.
Here's three to one I beat even him in pride;
Two whores already in my chariot ride.
(Founding Faith, 170).
But the fight was far from one-sided. To counter the Adams onslaught Jefferson decided to take off the gloves. On one public occasion, Jefferson called Adams, "a hideous hermaphroditical character with neither the force and firmness of a man or the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." (David McCullough, John Adams, Pp. 500). But Jefferson didn't stop there. Taking advantage of President Adams' foolish Alien & Sedition Acts (a law that essentially tried to make it illegal for people to speak or publish anything negative about the president) Jefferson created the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, in which Jefferson claimed that:
The several States composing the US. Of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government…and one of the Amendments to the constitution having also declared, that the powers not delegated to the US. by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people, therefore the act of Congress…are altogether void and of no force.
As election day drew closer, President Adams found himself in a political mess that virtually consumed him. The Democratic-Republicans (Jefferson's clan) had effectively used the Alien & Sedition Acts to brand the President as a tyrant by calling them, "the most abominable and degrading Executive act that could fall from the lips of the first magistrate of an independent people." In an effort to demonstrate just how "tyrannical" the Adams Administration had become, Jefferson called on renowned pamphleteer James Callender, a long-time enemy to the Federalists who had attacked the likes of Alexander Hamilton by exposing his affair with Maria Reynolds to the public. This time, Callender was to turn his sights on the president himself. In his popular pamphlet, The Prospect Before Us, Callender pulled out all the punches by boldly proclaiming that John Adams had become a miniature version of King George III:
The reign of Mr. Adams has been one continued tempest of malignant passions. Indeed, the president has never opened his lips, or lifted his pen without threatening and scolding; the grand object of his administration has been to exasperate the rage of contending parties to culminate and destroy every man who differs from his opinions.
The Federalist response to Callender's "treason" was swift. Callender was quickly jailed in Richmond and sentenced by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase to five years in prison. In consequence, Callender quickly became a poster boy of sorts for the Jefferson campaign. Callender's imprisonment illustrated to the common man just how far Adams had gone. In essence, Callender became Jefferson's 19th century version of "Joe the Plumber."

In the end, the Alien & Sedition Acts helped to solidify the popular message of the Democratic-republicans, which in turn led to the election of their beloved Thomas Jefferson(even if he was an evil, godless man whose reign would surely lead to rape, murder, etc.). The popularity of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, combined with the "mud-slinging" efforts of James Callender and Jefferson himself, helped to ensure the demise of the Adams Administration. But the election was close...VERY close. See for yourself:

In the aftermath, Federalist supporters were devastated. Alexander Hamilton (one of Jefferson's biggest rivals) made the claim that a Jefferson presidency would surely usher in an era of violence unprecedented in American history, in which the guillotine of France would replace the civility of American republicanism (Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 429). Former First Lady Abigail Adams wrote to her husband stating, "'What an inconsistency,' said a lady to me today, 'the bells of Christ's Church ringing peals of rejoicing for an infidel president!'"

But somehow America survived. After all, here we are 210 years later. And while many things have changed over those two centuries, other things have stood the test of time...namely our tradition of crazy, over-hyped political partisanship. Yes, some may feel that an Obama presidency is a surefire catalyst for fascist, socialist, Marxist, Stalinist, Nazi, communist totalitarianism, while a Tea Party regime is sure to bring about racist, homophobic, idiotic, psychotic, leadership. But in the end all of this rhetoric is just that: rhetoric. Is there really any difference between the crap we hear today and the crap our beloved founders threw at one another? Not really. The only difference is that we're inundated with more of it today (thanks Fox News and MSNBC).

So the next time you drink the Chicken Little Kool-Aid and freak out over the possibility of the sky falling because the "other team" has won political power, remember that we've been down this propaganda road many times. If we can survive the "HORRIFIC" tyranny of John Adams and the "DISASTROUS" atheism of Thomas Jefferson, I'm pretty sure we'll be ok in the here and now. In conclusion, check out the following videos. They do a wonderful job of capturing some of the fear that surrounded the election of 1800: