The American Revolution


02 Oct 2011 11:38 am

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Our Banner in the Sky, painted by Frederick Church during the Civil War.

The Aurora Borealis shone down upon both the armies of the North and South at the Battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War, a very rare occurrence in the latitude of Virginia. On Sunday, Dec. 14, 1862, a bitterly cold night, the Union Army had just suffered one of its worst defeats.

Shelby Foote, in his Civil War Trilogy, wrote of the spectacle:

“A mysterious refulgence, shot with fanwise shafts of varicolored light, predominantly reds and blues—first a glimmer, then a spreading glow, as if all the countryside between Fredericksburg and Washington were afire—filled a wide arc of the horizon beyond the Federal right…to one Southerner it seemed ‘that the heavens were hanging out banners and streamers and setting off fireworks in honor of our great victory.’”

In 1905 Elizabeth Lyle Saxon wrote in A Southern Woman’s War Time Reminiscenses ” It was near this time that the wonderful spectacle of the Aurora Borealis was seen in the Gulf States. The whole sky was a ruddy glow as if from an enormous conflagration, but marked by the darting rays peculiar to the Northern light. It caused much surprise, and aroused the fears even of those far from superstitious. I remember an intelligent old Scotch lady said to me, “Oh, child, it is a terrible omen; such lights never burn, save for kings’ and heroes’ deaths.”

It was not to be a victory for the South but a great tragedy for our nation in the loss of life; nearly 620,000 lives and over a million casualties. But out of the death and destruction came freedom for the slaves, and a victory for human worth and dignity. There would be, in time, a great reunification of all of the states but, no longer, would people consider their own state, as General Robert E. Lee once did, “their country.”

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God’s Windows had opened for a time on the night of December 14th, 1862 and human beings, being creatures of emotion, misinterpreted the meaning. The metaphysical meanderings of time have always intertwined great human events with cosmic and natural eruptions. Great men and women have emerged in dark times, when all of civilization seemed lost.

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Abraham Lincoln would have seemed an unlikely choice as the leader of the strife filled United States of America had he emerged in the days of Hollywood casting. He was born poor, had very little education and was from what we now call flyover country and yet he was elected President of the United States in 1860. Abraham Lincoln guided our country through the most devastating experience in its history. He was never to see the flowering of the spring of the reunion of the states; the conciliatory plans he had in mind for reconciliation with the South were cast away just six days after the surrender by Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Boothe in Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

Throughout Lincoln’s presidency there was little peace to be found inside or outside of the White House. There was the death of his son, Willie, the anguish of his wife, Mary, the constant attacks of friends and foes and the failures of his generals.

Throughout his life he also believed in dreams and other enigmatic signs and portents. As he grew older, and especially after he became president and faced the soul-troubling responsibilities of the Civil War, he developed a profound religious sense, and he increasingly personified necessity as God. He came to look upon himself quite humbly as an “instrument of Providence” and to view all history as God’s enterprise. “In the present civil war,” he wrote in 1862, “it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.”

Lincoln seemed to understand his place in the great stream of time. Just days before his death he spoke of foreboding dreams. Abraham Lincoln never graduated from high school, college, Harvard or Yale, (although those colleges did exist during his lifetime) but he is considered by most historians to be the greatest of all American Presidents.

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and in eternity.”
–Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

This exceptional nation produced exceptional men - and women who walked through hard and bitter times, not stopping when events seemed to present no victory, no solution, no relief. Abraham Lincoln, and the Founders before him saw the glorious light through the darkness that John Adams described in a letter to his wife, Abigail:

“The day is passed. The Fourth of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch n the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this declaration and support and defend these States; yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.’’

In this present time of darkness and gloom in which the American people are steeping like a teabag too long in a cup of now tepid water, the economy and culture rests on the edge of a cliff and the 2012 Presidential Election approaches, like a distant candle seen through a fog. There are now nine Republican candidates competing for the GOP nomination, and some Eastern Elite nervous Nelly Establishment types are urging one more Republican politician to enter the race to unseat Barack Obama.

Since 2009 we have watched our Liberty rapidly decline due to the passage of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. The EPA and the NLRB have declared war on business, spending is out of control and Obama has hinted that he is tempted to bypass Congress altogether.

Enemies, foreign and domestic, are working day and night to weaken our nation while Obama prances about the country blaming its very citizens for its problems. He claims that America has lost its greatness because America is soft.

Soft?

It will take a Republican with incredible courage and backbone to unite the party and the independents behind him (or her) and withstand the barrage of attacks Obama and the media will gleefully inflict upon him. (or her) There will never be another Ronald Reagan but there are candidates who may possibly possess the remarkable personality traits and conservative principles that Reagan will forever be known for. Our Republican nominee will also need to understand (and become an expert on) the times of Abraham Lincoln. We are at a great divide in our nation. Lincoln more than understood that fact in his time and he counted the cost and led the Union without the assistance of pollsters. The United States of America is now on the line. We may never know it again as it once existed if it continues to be led by Barack Obama.

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Will God’s Windows open again? Will they be misinterpreted? Time is short. If we keep gazing up at the stars we could easily go to sleep. We are so close to the edge of the cliff if we begin to dream we might fall off. How far is the fall? Have we already fallen?

04 Jul 2011 02:49 pm

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It is America’s 235th Birthday. She deserves more than a cake, a gift and a card.

A parade, fireworks and a barbecue could be meaningful of course but if we go away and forget what this day means tomorrow, shame on us.

Matthew Spalding at The Heritage Foundation explains why we celebrate the 4th of July. Here is just one excerpt:

The ringing phrases of the Declaration of Independence speak to all those who strive for liberty and seek to vindicate the principles of self-government. But it was an aged John Adams who, when he was asked to prepare a statement on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, delivered two words that still convey our great hope every Fourth of July: “Independence Forever.”

04 Jul 2010 01:40 pm

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Sorry, Elena. The Young Are Learning about The Declaration of Independence.

Earlier this year I tasked one of my sixth grade art classes to write, in long hand, the Declaration of Independence. Some of the students took to the task with enthusiasm, others groaned but in the end it was a useful and educational effort. I know that on September 17th Constitution Day is observed and our public schools here in Arkansas are encouraged to celebrate it. I don’t know if there is a day in the American school calendar in which to celebrate the masterful Declaration of Independence, especially since most students are not in school on the 4th of July.

I was inspired to have the students write the Declaration in long hand from this post by Bill Whittle, which I learned about from the wonderful Sissy Willis.

The Declaration of Independence – the foundational “why” of why we are here – is faded, irreparably faded, and lost to us forever. And the sight of it filled me with despair. Not only for the lost document. I became overwhelmed with despair because the loss of the words on the parchment beneath the glass at my fingers felt a perfect analogy for the fading of those words and ideals from the pages of society. Like the ghost signatures on this pale surface, so many of these ideals are faded and worn — almost invisible, today.

And the instant I had that thought I had another. This document, this piece of parchment, is unreadable. So I resolved to make a copy: just for me.

I wrote it out, by hand, using a four-dollar fountain pen I got at the drug store and copied onto regular printer paper. I could have typed it – heck, I could have texted it – but wanted to write it out by hand. I wanted it to hurt a little.

And I would urge you now – I would urge each of you listening to this today, especially those of you with children – to help me recover this document. We can’t get that ink back on that paper. But we can do something better.

I was inspired by Sissy’s Bill Whittle link and post to write the following on sisu

Bill Whittle has given me a new idea for an art project for my sixth graders. I just ordered new calligraphy pens and paper.

OBJECTIVE: The students will recover, evaluate, analyze and create an artwork by writing in longhand, with calligraphy pens, the Declaration of Independence.

I have a large copy of the Declaration hanging in a place of honor in my art room.

As always, when I click on sisu, there is something that brings tears of joy or posts that inspire me to think.

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If we don’t teach them, American children will not learn about the most stirring and eloquent document ever written.

As the eloquent Bill Whittle wrote back in March, Many of us talk a lot about the Constitution these days, but I don’t want to talk about the Constitution – I want to talk about the Declaration. The Constitution is the “how” of America, but the declaration is the “why.”

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Now that we know that Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan thinks little of our natural rights as espoused in the Declaration of Independence, we need to teach our children that now, more than ever, the phrase, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are unalienable rights”, that is, our Founding Fathers believed that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are not to be “separated, given away, or taken away.”

At the Supreme Court confirmation hearings Kagan dismissed the importance of the Declaration of Independence out of hand.

Kagan responded, “To be honest with you, I don’t have a view of what are natural rights independent of the Constitution.”

“So,” Coburn asked, “you wouldn’t embrace what the Declaration says, that we have certain God-given rights” and that among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”

Kagan answered, “I believe that the Constitution is an extraordinary document, and I am not saying that I do not believe there are not rights preexisting the Constitution and the laws, but my job as a justice is to enforce the Constitution and the laws.”

The Obama administration has worked from Day One to separate, give away or take away our American rights.

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On this day of days in our American world my hope is that the students I taught about the Declaration of Independence will remember and consider the profound truths that Thomas Jefferson revealed to the world.

Somehow, through all the noise and megabytes of video games, ipods, iphones and all the other static that seeks to confuse and distract the young from the knowledge and understanding of our great history we have to keep persevering to teach them.

There is reason to hope as Suzanne Fields writes in The Washington Times.

Happy Birthday to America, the land that I love.

06 Feb 2010 03:19 pm

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I love studying the Founders.

To me, it is amazing that these men, representing 13 diverse colonies, had the guts to join together, match wits, discuss ideas and take what they knew about the history of the world to form such a brilliant structure for government: a representative government responsible to the will of the people, a Republic, not a direct Democracy, not a king, and not an oligarchy, but a Republic, whereby, cool heads could, at a distance from a direct majority, (which could quickly overwhelm a minority of citizens) render sound governance.

The three branches of government, separate but equal, and then, blessedly, the Bill of Rights.

But first, there was the Declaration, which read the riot act to King George.

In the above video, Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration there is subtle history interwoven throughout. King George eats grapes, which at the time was considered a fruit only for the rich.

There are glimpses of the bucolic American land, with Thomas Jefferson playing his violin up in the rafters of his barn, he was a farmer after all. There is the revolving silver tea service, foreshadowing a revolution with tea as its tipping point.

Then, of course, there is the musket held in the hands of the soldier. Not subtle, but it embodies the military force led by George Washington which fought against one of the best armies in the world and beat it.

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The title, “Too Late to Apologize” which is a parady of “Apologize” by OneRepublic, a remix by Timbaland, has more than one meaning. The founders knew that by writing the Declaration that they had crossed the rubicon, that there was no going back, and they had to “hang together or hang separately.”

In the 21st century most Americans believe that there should be no going back to the days of taxation without representation and with the growth of the Tea Party movement, Democrats and Republicans who signed the stimulus and voted for big government are beginning to understand that it is, indeed, too late for them to apologize.

At the website of TJ and the Revo: Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration, there is an explanation of the goals of the video.

The following video is an anachronistic daydream asking the question, “If pop producer Timbaland had sought to build consensus around declaring independence, what might he have produced?”

They have succeeded.

Sissy Willis writes...

A must view. Rousing music, sublime production values and compelling performances blend 18th- and 21st-century perspectives into the perfect historically-aware antidote to the “ideas” of clueless North Carolina education “leaders” who are proposing to revamp the state’s 11th-grade curriculum by skipping the Revolution and Civil War and covering U.S. history “only from 1877 onward”:

There’s more.

Sissy responds in her comments to a cranky old man….

Music is surely a matter of taste, but your resistance may have caused you to overlook the rich mix of historical references, both musical and visual, in “Too Late to Apologize.”

A couple of examples: The music interweaves instruments and instrumentations of the two eras. You may have missed strains of the musical language used in the soundtrack of the HBO “John Adams” series.

Visually speaking, you may have missed the candlelit dining room’s dark green curtains, period molding and other direct references to Independence Hall as depicted in Howard Chandler Christy’s painting of the Signing.

Or how about that image (second one down in blogpost) of the fiddling Thomas Jefferson on a high cliff overlooking a picturesque American landscape in the manner of the Hudson River School, directly referencing Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits?

Is it time for a new American revolution? One wonders. But a reminder of the glory of the first is definitely required.