Saturday, December 18, 2010

These are the times that try men's souls.

At a time when the American war for Independence would be over before it started, an English gentleman by the name of Thomas Paine created his second most recognized pierce of writing. Over 230 years ago, on December 19, 1776, Thomas Paine's American Crisis #1 was published. 

By November 1776, what had seemed like a good idea in declaring independence, was falling apart. After nearly four months of military defeats the American colonist’s started having doubts about their cause. The loss of the City of New York, the loss of troops and supplies with the fall of Fort’s Washington and Lee, appeared to signal the death of the movement for independence.

With troops abandoning the State of New York and retreating through New Jersey, people started to realize that this war would not end quickly. After so much bad news, morale in the patriot cause of freedom was nearly gone. Citizen’s, who once praised the Declaration of Independence, were turning their backs on the cause.  

With morale dropping, Thomas Paine, writer of “Common Sense,” wrote the “American Crisis.” Published on Dec. 19, 1776, when George Washington's army was on the verge of disintegration, Paine’s address was a response to the mood of the country. Based upon Paine's simple religious beliefs, they showed the conflict as a stirring melodrama with the angelic colonists against the forces of evil.
Paine’s stirring words brought hope to many void of hope spurred Americans to fight on through the blackest years of the war. Between December 1776 and December 1783, Thomas Paine wrote 13 essays entitled The American Crisis. The first paragraph is essay number 1 of the most famous pieces of The American Crisis series. 

“THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God."

“The American Crisis,” has found its place in American history time after time. Days after the September 11, 2001 attacks, this paragraph was sent through the internet to support an American public in shock of the devastation. To read the entire American Crisis series click here for just The American Crisis #1 click here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Today in History....

 
December 17, 1944....


Sixty-six years ago today, German forces under the command of SS-Standartenf├╝hrer Joachim Peiper fired on unarmed American Prisoners of War at a small crossroads near the town of Malmedy, Belgium. What happened that day, spread like wildfire through the US Army.   

Elements of the American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion were captured and the American prisoners were taken to a field, joined by others captured by the SS earlier in the day. About 120 men were gathered in the field, when, for reasons that remain unclear today, the SS troops suddenly fired with machine guns killing over 80 of their prisoners.  Those few who were able to survive headed into the woods and later into the safety of American lines at Malmedy or found shelter in local Belgian farms.

The first American units to arrive in the area were with the 30th Infantry Division, a former National Guard unit. It was not until January 13, 1945 that American forces recovered the bodies. Some were not found until the snows melted.

The massacre, as well as others committed by the same unit on the same day and on following days, was the subject of a war crimes trial after the war. From May 12 to July 16, 1946, 73 German soldiers of Kampfgruppe Peiper were put on trial for the murder of the American prisoners shot at Baugnez.

The death sentence was ordered for 43 of the defendants while 22 received life imprisonment. But because of issues with the trial, such as torture and other forms of maltreatment, all were eventually paroled

For more information on check out these websites.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our English Heritage...

As we gain one more step closer to celebrating the Christmas holiday, it’s always good to observe the points in history that shift and today is one of those days.  On December 16, 1689, the English Parliament approved the English Bill of Rights. This document would be the cornerstone which our Founding Fathers would use to fight for Independence, ratification of the new Constitution, and for the first 10 of the 27 Amendments to our Constitution.

The key design of the English Bill of Rights was an attempt by Parliament to solidify the legal basis of the 1688 Glorious Revolution. During the 1680s, many English Protestants became concerned with King James II’s abuses of power and the fear of a true Catholic on the throne. William of Orange was asked to come to England to secure the liberty of the English people and Protestantism. When James fled to France, William was proclaimed King. Parliament quickly moved to gain further control over the government and to ensure checks upon the power of the monarchy. Overall, the English Bill of Rights was used to cement the idea that the representatives of the people control the government.  

Many of the key points covered by the English Bill of Rights were used in the American Bill of Rights of 1791. But the time the First Congress met in 1789, in New York, most of the 13 States had Bill’s of Rights as part of the state Constitutions.  Some of the corresponding points are:
  *No Standing Army quartered in private homes (Amendment 3)
  *Freedom to Petition the government (Amendment 1)
  *Freedom of Speech (Amendment 1)

But the Bill of Rights went further to explain just how King James was keeping his power. He “caus[ed] several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law.” The last one is very important because King James II decided to remove the firearms from the houses of his opponents. In some case he was giving those weapons to his supporters. This was a bold move by King James II to maintain his control on the population of Protestant England. Just as Machiavelli had discussed in The Prince, to control the population one must be able to wield a force to fight off ones opponents.

Which leads me to wonder, How far is the US government willing to go to attack American’s Second Amendment rights?  History has proven that governments, in order to maintain power have had no issue restricting the rights of individuals to own firearms. The original mission of the British troops on April 19, were to capture military stores (gunpowder, firelocks, and cannons) in Concord as well as arresting John Hancock and Sam Adams. A government in power will do what it needs to remain in power. Maybe the Second Amendment isn’t just about the right of the individual to own a gun, maybe it’s much deeper.  Maybe the Founding Fathers gave us the Second Amendment a yet another check on an abusive government. Maybe it’s the right of citizens to resist by force of arms in necessary. It’s something to think about these days.

For a copy of the 1689 English Bill of Rights click HERE.

Been a Long Time Commin'

It's been a long time since I posted anything here. Over a month. But over that time I have experienced both highs and lows.

Over the past few weeks I have found friends who continue to surprise me with their care and help. Form pointing out possible job leads to fixing my poor excuse of 18th century clothing. I have really felt blessed for what I have received. Even though some say it's "all about them."

But I must say, this evening was a pretty low feeling for me when I received notice that one of my former student's mother passed away this week. Both Mother and student were always smiling and bringing me and the other teacher's home baked goods. I still remember the banana nut bread, which was and is, my favorite.

In this time of hustling around shopping and thinking about times to come, I hope we do not forget those, who for one reason or another, will not have family to share Christmas and New Year's.