Jackson’s Veto

 

 

Jackson’s veto of the rechartering of the Second Bank of the United States on July 10, 1832 was important well beyond the issue of the Bank.  Prior to Jackson’s term the veto had been used sparingly by presidents and usually because the president claimed that the proposed Act of Congress was unconstitutional.  During the Revolutionary Era, the Founding Fathers had good reason to be leery of executive authority, and they built a Federal system where they assumed that Congress would be the dominant branch.  Jackson upset this scheme of government  with his twelve vetoes, two more than all of his predecessors combined, and his explicit determination to veto bills on the ground that he believed them to be bad public policy.  The Jackson view of the president as having a role in shaping public policy is so engrained now, that few people are aware of what a revolution Old Hickory wrought.  Here is his veto message, interspersed with commentary by me: (more…)

Published in: on May 31, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Casablanca and Operation Torch

Something for the weekend.  Ah, the things you can find on YouTube!  An orchestral performance of the scene from Casablanca (1942) where a group of German officers are singing Die Wacht am Rhien, only to be ultimately drowned out by the French patrons in Rick’s Cafe singing La Marseillaise.  Go here for an excellent examination of this moving scene.  At the time the movie was made the Vichy regime had banned the song and it had become the anthem of de Gaulle’s Free French Movement.

The movie was rushed into release shortly after Allied, mostly American, troops had landed in North Africa in Operation Torch.  After some initial fighting, the French garrisons came over to the Allied side, so the film had a strong contemporary resonance for American audiences which was completely fortuitous.

Published in: on May 30, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Casablanca and Operation Torch  
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May 29, 1865: Amnesty Proclamation

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Eventually President Andrew Johnson and the Radical Republicans in Congress would come to bitter blows over the issue of amnesty for former Confederates.  However, for now they were in agreement, and the Presidential Proclamation of May 29, 1865 outlined the oath to be taken by former Confederates and the classes of individuals excluded from taking the oath:

Amnesty Proclamation

 

Whereas the President of the United States, on the 8th day of December, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-three, and on the 26 day of March, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-four, did, with the object to suppress the existing rebellion, to induce all persons to return to their loyalty, and to restore the authority of the United States, issue proclamations offering amnesty and pardon to certain persons who had directly or by implication participated in the said rebellion; and whereas many persons who had so engaged in said rebellion have, since the issuance of said proclamations, failed or neglected to take the benefits offered thereby; and whereas many persons who have been justly deprived of all claim to amnesty and pardon thereunder, by reason of their participation directly or by implication in said rebellion, and continued hostility to the government of the United States since the date of said proclamation, now desire to apply for and obtain amnesty and pardon:

To the end, therefore, that the authority of the government of the United States may be restored, and that peace, order, and freedom may be established, I, ANDREW JOHNSON, President of the United States, do proclaim and declare that I hereby grant to all persons who have, directly or indirectly, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, amnesty and pardon, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and except in cases where legal proceedings, under the laws of the United States providing for the confiscation of property of persons engaged in rebellion, have been instituted; but upon the condition, nevertheless, that every such person shall take and subscribe the following oath, (or affirmation,) and thenceforward keep and maintain said oath inviolate; and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation, and shall be of the tenor and effect following, to wit:

I, _______ _______, do solemnly swear, (or affirm,) in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by, and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God. (more…)

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Hiram Johnson

 

Hiram Johnson was a very successful politician.  In 1910 he was elected Governor of California as a Progressive Republican.  In 1912 he ran as Theodore Roosevelt’s Veep on the Bull Moose Party Platform, which, although the ticket ultimately was defeated gave him national renown.  Re-elected as Governor in 1914, he was elected to the Senate in 1916, a seat he would hold until his death in 1945.  In 1920 he was hopeful that he could carry the banner of Progressiveness as the Republican nominee for President. Progressivism was a waning force in the Republican party, but Johnson was willing to roll the dice.

Published in: on May 27, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hiram Johnson  
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May 26, 1865: Kirby Smith Surrenders

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The last major Confederate force to surrender, General Edmund Kirby Smith, the commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, signed the articles of surrender on May 26, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.  Consisting of Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, the Trans-Mississippi had been cut off from the rest of the Confederacy since the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson in mid 1863.  Smith then conducted the War in his sprawling Department on his own initiative, his command becoming known in the rest of the Confederacy as “Kirby Smithdom”. (more…)

Published in: on May 26, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Memorial Day: Why?

 

Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other-not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth–but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories, and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord.

 

So far as this last is concerned, to be sure, there is no trouble. The soldiers who were doing their best to kill one another felt less of personal hostility, I am very certain, than some who were not imperiled by their mutual endeavors. I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had had no such feeling. I know that I and those whom I knew best had not. We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win; we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluable; we, or many of us at least, also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that slavery had lasted long enough. But we equally believed that those who stood against us held just as sacred conviction that were the opposite of ours, and we respected them as every men with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief. The experience of battle soon taught its lesson even to those who came into the field more bitterly disposed. You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at least something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south–each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then , it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier’s death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side. (more…)

Published in: on May 25, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Memorial Day: Why?  
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May 24, 1830: Mary Had a Little Lamb Published

Mary Sawyer was born in 1806.  The daughter of a farmer who lived near Sterling, Massachusetts, in March of 1816 she became close to a lamb who had been rejected by her mother.  At age 83 she wrote about the incident.

I went out to the barn with father; and after the cows had been fed, we went to the sheep pen, and found two lambs which had been born in the night. One had been forsaken by its mother, and through neglect, cold and lack of food was nearly dead. I saw it had still a little life, and asked to take it into the house; but father said, No, it was almost dead, anyway, and at the best could live but a short time. But I couldn’t bear to see the poor little thing suffer, so I teased until I got it into the house. Then I worked upon mother’s sympathies. At first the little creature could not swallow, and the catnip tea mother made it could not take for a long time.

I got the lamb warm by wrapping it in an old garment and holding it in my arms beside the fireplace. All day long I nursed the lamb, and at night it could swallow just a little. Oh, how pleased I was! But even then I wasn’t sure it would live; so I sat up all night with it, fearing it wouldn’t be warm enough if there was not someone at hand to look out for its comfort. In the morning, much to my girlish delight, it could stand; and from that time it improved rapidly. It soon learned to drink milk; and from the time it would walk about, it would follow me anywhere if I only called it.

One day the lamb was following Mary as she and her brother walked to school:

The day the lamb went to school, I hadn’t seen her before starting off; and not wanting to go without seeing her, I called. She recognized my voice, and soon I heard a faint bleating far down the field. More and more distinctly I heard it, and I knew my pet was coming to greet me. My brother Nat said, “Let’s take the lamb to school with us.” (more…)

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Eternal Father

Something for the weekend.  Eternal Father (1861) seems very appropriate for a Memorial Day weekend, as we remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom we cherish.  Written in 1860 as a poem by William Whiting in England, the music to accompany the lyrics was composed by John B. Dykes in 1861.  The moving hymn has always been a favorite of those who serve in the military:

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, 

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep  

Its own appointed limits keep;  

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, 

For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard

And hushed their raging at Thy word,  

Who walkedst on the foaming deep,

And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood

Upon the chaos dark and rude,

And bid its angry tumult cease,

And give, for wild confusion, peace;  

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!

Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;

From rock and tempest, fire and foe, 

Protect them wheresoe’er they go;

  Thus evermore shall rise to Thee

Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

(more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Eternal Father  
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May 21, 1865: Jeremiah Clemens

Jeremiah Clemens

 

 

A second cousin of Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain, Jeremiah Clemens led a colorful life that came to an end on May 21, 1865. Born in 1814 in Alabama, he became a lawyer and served in the Alabama House before enlisting as a volunteer during the Mexican War, rising to the rank of Colonel.  After the War he served in the United States Senate from 1849-1853.  He achieved fame as a novelist, writing Bernard Lyle in 1853 and Mustang Grey in 1857, the novels set during the Texan War for Independence and the Mexican War.  In 1859 he published The Rivals, a novelization of the Hamilton-Burr feud.  (more…)

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Patriot Priest

Born in Montreal on April 7, 1737,  Pierre Gibault early in life decided that he wished to be a Jesuit missionary priest.  Ordained on March 18, 1768, he was appointed by the Archbishop of Quebec to be the Vicar General of the Illinois country.  Father Gibault arrived in Kaskaskia in Illinois on September 8, 1768.  His flock consisted of French settlers, Indian converts, and members of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment who were temporarily stationed there.

As Vicar General of Illinois, Father Gibault had responsibility for a huge expanse of territory making up modern day Illinois and Indiana, very sparsely populated and with vast distances between the main settlements of Kaskaskia, Vincennes, Cahokia, Peoria, Saint Genevieve, Quiatenon and Saint Joseph.  When he first arrived in Vincennes, the local inhabitants, desperate for a priest, greeted him with the cry, “Save us Father;  we are nearly in Hell!”  The territory was quite dangerous, and as Father Gibault rode the circuit, he always carried with him a musket and two pistols.

Father Gibault toiled away at his frontier outposts until history intervened in the form of George Rogers Clark who led a force of Virginians in 1778 to conquer the Illinois from the British during the American Revolution.  After Clark and his men arrived in Kaskaskia, Father Gibault had a meeting with Clark in which he said that he supported the American cause, but that he wanted assurances that the Catholic faith would be respected by Clark and his men.  Clark told the priest that freedom of religion was enshrined in Virginia law, and he also advised Father Gibault of the treaty between France and America. (more…)

Published in: on May 20, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Patriot Priest  
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