American History

National Anthem Day — 5 things that might surprise you about the Star-Spangled Banner

It’s rare that a song that is so ubiquitous and connected to American culture (and its corresponding patriotism) would be so steeped in both controversy and intrigue. Most of us are aware of the basic history behind the “Star-Spangled Banner” – our national anthem, which was codified into law on March 3, 1931. Trapped aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant during Great Britain’s attack on Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in September of 1814, Francis Scott Key witnessed the relentless overnight bombardment of the American garrison on September 13-14, 1814. He was so moved by the experience – and so relieved to see “through the night that our flag was still there,” that the struggling poet penned the song’s (originally titled, “Defense of Fort McHenry”) now immortal lyrics. But why did it take over a century to be canonized into law as our national anthem and how did it all happen? Like America’s history itself, the song’s triumphant rise was dependent on both providence and the persistence and talent of many people. Click here to learn five things that might surprise you about the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Even though the media is focusing on today being “Super Tuesday,” we’re proud to wish you a very Happy National Anthem Day!!  Thanks to Paul J. Batura for that outstanding piece!  Paul is a writer and the author of seven books, including, “GOOD DAY! The Paul Harvey Story.” He can be reached on Twitter @PaulBatura or by email at Paul@PaulBatura.com     🙂

Who was the first to live in the White House?

As the country gets set to commemorate Presidents Day, it’s time to reflect on the most famous address in the world: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington. That’s the White House — the president’s official residence in the nation’s capital. The first president, George Washington, chose the location in 1791, but never lived there. John Adams and his wife, Abigail, were the first occupants of the President’s House, moving into the unfinished structure in 1800. Fourteen years later, British troops burned it to the ground during the War of 1812. The original architect, Irish-born James Hoban, was appointed to rebuild the house, and President James Monroe and his wife, Elizabeth Kortright, took residence in 1817. The building’s South Portico was constructed during Monroe’s administration in 1824. The North Portico was built in 1829 under President Andrew Jackson. Construction of the Oval Office — the president’s work quarters — took place in 1909 when Howard Taft was president as part of a project to expand the executive wing. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Ellen, planted the outdoor White House Rose Garden, the backdrop for press conferences, bill signings and special ceremonies. The White House Residence comprises 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms, and has six levels. Additionally, there are 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases, and three elevators. Painters need 570 gallons of paint to cover the outside surfaces. President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901 on his presidential stationery. It remains the only private residence of a head of state open to public visitors without an admission charge.

And if you haven’t been, put it on your bucket list.  A tour of the White House, regardless of who the current occupant is, is definitely worth it.     🙂

Founding fathers never discussed wall of separation between church and state

School civics classes teach that the Constitution guarantees the right to remain silent, freedom of speech, equal protection under the law, and a wall of separation between church and state. Except the founding document never actually talks about a wall. “It’s something that the courts and anti-religious groups created to keep religion out of our public square,” says John Bursch, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom. Like so much of founding-era wisdom, the concept of separation of church and state sprung from the mind of Thomas Jefferson — though he was not part of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, nor was he in that first Congress that drew up the amendments that would become the Bill of Rights. The third of those 12 amendments sent by Congress to the states for ratification included the admonition that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Only 10 of the 12 amendments were ratified at the time — the first two didn’t earn enough states’ approval — which is how the third amendment became the First Amendment in late 1791. Enter Jefferson a decade later, in early 1802, now in the White House and being battered by his political enemies, the Federalists. Publicly pious and eager to show it, they promoted days of fasting and prayer and wanted Jefferson to follow John Adams’ lead and proclaim them from the newly opened White House. He fired off a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, in which he laid out his vision of “a wall of separation between church and state.” The Library of Congress in the 1990s decided to try to figure out more about what was behind Jefferson’s letter. They roped the FBI into helping out, and the bureau used its state-of-the-art lab facilities to recover the rest of Jefferson’s original draft. The draft reveals that Jefferson originally wrote of a “wall of eternal separation between church and state.” And the draft also reveals that Jefferson had no intention of it being “a statement of fundamental principles; it was meant to be a political manifesto, nothing more,” James Hutson wrote for the Library of Congress. Indeed, he says, two days after he wrote the letter, he attended a prayer service held in the chambers of the House of Representatives. Jefferson would attend similar services “constantly” throughout his presidency, Mr. Hutson wrote. Rob Natelson, a leading constitutional scholar who now heads the Independence Institute’s Constitutional Studies Center, said turning to Jefferson for wisdom about the Constitution would be like asking someone on the political fringe today. “If you want to understand the Constitution, you’re much better off looking at people like James Wilson,” he said. The letter to the Danbury Baptists was obscure for decades, only gaining new attention when Jefferson’s writings were published in 1853 and reprinted in 1868 and 1871, Mr. Hutson wrote. But some important people took notice. In 1879, the Supreme Court, in a case dealing with a Mormon who cited his religious duty as a defense against bigamy charges, cited Jefferson’s letter to the Baptists as the guiding light of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. “Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured,” wrote Chief Justice Morrison Waite for the unanimous court. “Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.” In 1947, the court for the first time would extend that separation to the states, ruling that the “wall must be kept high and impregnable” — yet also ruling that New Jersey could provide busing for Catholic school students and not run afoul. In the 1980s, then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist would complain that the court had bungled things by citing Jefferson as the expert, calling the wall language a “misleading metaphor.” And the high court has repeatedly struggled to figure out what the wall looks like and when its impregnability is threatened.

And that’s precisely because there is no so-called separation of church and state.  As this article properly points out, it is NOWHERE to be found in any of our founding docs; certainly not in our Constitution or our Bill of Rights.  It was a phrase coined by Jefferson in a letter to a group of Baptists in Connecticut.  That’s it!  Don’t believe me?  Then pick up a copy of “The Myth of Separation” by Dr. David Barton  (www.wallbuilders.com).

Newt Gingrich: George Washington experienced America’s first Christmas miracle – And it changed our history

As I gather with family and friends for the holiday, I like to think about the most important Christmas moments that we have shared together. This year, as I was thinking about it, I also thought about the most important Christmas moments in American history. My mind immediately went to the first – George Washington’s victory at the Battle of Trenton on Dec. 26, 1776. Indeed, this risky assault actually amounts to America’s first Christmas miracle, which I explain in this week’s episode of “Newt’s World.” In December 1776, Washington and the Continental Army were not in good shape. They were badly in need of a victory, having had a run of devastating defeats with no significant successes. Not only that, Trenton was being defended by Hessian mercenaries, who were highly trained and well-equipped. The odds in a straight-up fight were not good. So, Washington had to do something unexpected – attack the day after Christmas. However, on Christmas Day, the weather was horrible. Washington’s roughly 2,400 soldiers – many of whom did not have shoes – had to march through wet snow, sleet, and driving rain to the Delaware River, where they then crossed in the dead of night. Once they started crossing the river, the weather was made worse by a Nor’easter that had hit the East Coast. Journals from Washington’s men described the storm as “a perfect hurricane.” Further, once they were over the river, they knew they had to march for several more hours before they engaged in a battle. The weather and slow crossing had put them three hours behind schedule, and some officers were debating just calling off the attack. Soldiers reported their muskets weren’t operable in the weather, the temperature was in the high 20s, the rain kept coming. It was a disaster. Still, Washington was determined. He told the men to use their bayonets if their rifles wouldn’t fire, and they continued the march. Calling off the attack was not an option for him. For all these reasons, the Battle of Trenton should have been a complete failure, and likely the beginning of the end of America’s independence. Yet, miraculously, it was the exact opposite. The attack on Trenton lasted only an hour. Of the approximately 1,350 Hessians defending the city, 900 surrendered after Washington’s swiftly executed surprise attack. Not only did the Continental Army suffer few casualties – soldiers picked up a good deal of munitions and equipment that once belonged to the Hessians. It was genuinely a miracle for the Americans, and it shaped our country and our world for centuries to come. I hope you will listen to this week’s episode of “Newt’s World” and hear more about America’s Christmas Miracle. Just click here.

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dr. Newt Gingrich (R) is the host of the “Newt’s World” podcast and author of the New York Times bestsellers “Understanding Trump and Trump’s America.”      🙂

Books: ‘The Pioneers’ is a gentle reminder of the ideals and grit that made America

In a country preoccupied with presidential candidates preaching extreme liberalism and even unabashed socialism comes America’s greatest living historian, David McCullough, with a new and needed book. It’s called “The Pioneers” and the subtitle is its theme: “The heroic story of the settlers who brought the American ideal west.” Nowadays, while students at universities and public schools are learning a history often tainted by political correctness and revisionism, McCullough writes of a young country that might have been stillborn were it not for these pioneers. The founding fathers with whom most are familiar — Washington, Jefferson and Adams — play minor roles in McCullough’s book. Instead, we’re offered characters who are likely unfamiliar to most, such as Manasseh and Ephraim Cutler, Rufus Putnam and Samuel Hildreth. These and many others did the grunt work of nation building. The land on which McCullough mostly focuses was called The Northwest Territory, the initial boundaries of which included the Ohio and Muskinghum Rivers. Its inspiration was The Northwest Ordinance, passed by the Confederation Congress in 1787. The document contained this sentence in Article 3, long since abandoned to our detriment: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” McCullough details the enormous sacrifices of men, women and children, who cleared trees, endured harsh weather and conquered lands, expanding the boundaries of the new nation. Yes, Native Americans were displaced in ways that were disgraceful. McCullough notes all that remained were their tribal names, which were assigned to rivers and towns. Among the tribes were the Delaware, Miami, Ottawa, Shawnee and Wyandot. Among the rivers named for them were the Cuyahoga and Chippewa Creek — the creek being a tributary of the Cuyahoga River — as was the Tuscarawas River. It was small consolation to native people who believed land was sacred and not to be owned and who preceded white settlers. As with his other books, McCullough’s writing style makes one feel a part of it all. What astounds is how much New Englanders were willing to sacrifice to explore foreign and hostile land and expand America’s borders. Many died of disease, accidents, bad weather and war with Native American tribes. Living conditions were harsh compared to what they had known in New England, but they persisted. In summing up the contributions of these pioneers, McCullough writes: “(they) had finished their work, each in his or her own way, and no matter the adversities to be faced, propelled as they were by high, worthy purpose. They accomplished what they had set out to do not for money, not for possessions or fame, but to advance the quality and opportunities of life — to propel as best they could the American ideals.” What do we consider to be our American ideals in 2019? The pioneers would likely see them in conflict with their own. Many of our forebears had a strong faith in God and were motivated by what they believed was His will in establishing a nation in which religious freedom and education were paramount. Most believed the Bible was the foundation of a good education. These pioneers also believed America had a purpose, sanctioned by God, which the world might wish to emulate. Slavery was abolished in Ohio by the state’s original constitution (1802), owing much to the anti-slavery efforts of Manasseh and Ephraim Cutler. “The Pioneers” is a rebuke to the entitlement mentality of the 21st century. It should be mandatory reading for all seeking a better understanding of the way we were and how far we have departed from the ideals of those great and heroic men and women of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Definitely look forward to reading this new book!  I bought a copy last weekend.  Thanks to veteran columnist Cal Thomas for bringing this to our attention.  Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. His latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America“. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.      🙂

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez falsely claims Republicans amended Constitution to kick FDR out of office

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., might want to brush up on some history after asserting, incorrectly, that Republicans in Congress amended the Constitution to kick President Franklin Delano Roosevelt out of office. “They had to amend the Constitution of the United States to make sure Roosevelt did not get reelected,” Ocasio-Cortez said Friday during a night hall event with MSNBC with Chris Hayes. Ocasio-Cortez was referring to the 22nd Amendment of the Constitution which passed in 1947. The text of the amendment states, “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.” FDR died in 1945, meaning he was dead for a full two years before presidential term limits were implemented. This is not the first time Ocasio-Cortez has made factually dubious statements. For instance, in December of last year she claimed “Medicare for All” could be funded by $21 trillion in accounting errors by the Pentagon.

Wow…  You really can’t make this stuff up, folks.  And no, this is NOT The Onion.  AOC truly is a “glittering jewel of colossal ignorance.”  But, hey..  Her mouth is the gift that keeps on giving.  So, hopefully she continues to say spectacularly stupid things like this.    🙂

Chappaquiddick, Ted Kennedy scandal that left a young woman dead chronicled in new doc

Sen. Ted Kennedy’s political career was tarnished on July 18, 1969, when his car crashed off a bridge on the tiny Massachusetts island of Chappaquiddick, plunging into the dark waters of the tide-swept Poucha Pond and killing 28-year-old passenger Mary Jo Kopechne — a mystery that continues to haunt “America’s Royal Family.” The shocking events leading up to the political aide’s demise are the subject of Fox Nation’s new documentary titled “Scandalous: Chappaquiddick,” which aims to investigate how the youngest Kennedy narrowly escaped from drowning and returned back to his hotel room unharmed. The Fox Nation special features never-before-seen interviews and retellings of the events that night, cracking down on the truth, pieces of evidence and errors that were apparent. That fateful night, Kennedy offered Kopechne a ride from a party at Chappaquiddick — and less than 10 hours later her dead body was being pulled from the soaked vehicle. At the time of the accident, Kennedy told police he was “unfamiliar with the road,” and that he came up to a narrow bridge at which point the car “went off the side of the bridge.” According to a description from a 1969 New York Times article, the road approaching the bridge is “narrow” with “no warning side on the approach.” Kennedy also claimed he had “no recollection” of how he got out of the car but added he “came to the surface and repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car,” noting he was “unsuccessful in the attempt.” The accident was not reported by Kennedy, but rather by a mother of a little boy who saw the overturned car in the pond when he was fishing. Kennedy later described his failure to report the incident to police as “indefensible.” At the time members of the media swarmed Chappaquiddick, right off the east coast of Martha’s Vineyard, and unraveled Kennedy’s multiple mistakes during the evening — derailing Kennedy’s presidential ambitions for certain. Kennedy would go on to become one of the longest-serving U.S. senators, despite previously speaking of a “Kennedy curse” following the incident, questioning whether “some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys.” The circumstances surrounding Kopechne’s drowning remain muddled nearly 10 years after the senator’s death in 2009 at age 77.

How Ted ever got elected to the Senate, and was re-elected over and over, speaks to the mindset of the folks in MA during that time.  Had any one of us done the same thing, we would have been charged (and yes, convicted) of at least involuntary manslaughter and fleeing the scene of the crime.  But, he was a Kennedy.  So, he literally got away with murder, and became a U.S. Senator.  Typical..  For more on this story, click on the text above.