American History

Representative government in America began this week — 399 years ago

If you were at Jamestown—the tiny English settlement on the banks of the James River in Virginia—399 years ago this week, you probably would have been aware that something unusual was happening. Over in the rough-hewn, thatch-roofed church building, 22 duly elected settlers, six councilors, and their newly arrived governor, all white males, were braving the intense summer heat to attend the first meeting of the “general Assemblie.” A new English charter a year earlier had authorized formation of this first representative assembly in the dozen-year-old colony, and the new governor, Sir George Yeardley, had seen to the charter’s implementation. It was the beginning of representative democracy in America, the forerunner of our Congress, state legislatures, and other representative bodies. Planted in Virginia a year before the Mayflower arrived from England, representative government would take root firmly, blossom in 13 largely self-governing colonies, and after independence grow into the great tree of American liberty, inspiring similar plantings in much of the world. It hardly seemed like a monumental event at the time. The burgesses met for less than a week, dealt with practical concerns like setting a tobacco price floor, relations with the Indians, and some criminal cases, and then departed one man down. Mr. Shelley of Smyths Hundred grew ill and passed way from the heat. Governor Yeardley and others also fell sick but survived. Representative government is frustrating today, but at least the survival rate has improved. Next year will mark the 400th anniversary of this hugely important, if rudimentary and tragedy-laced, beginning. It will present an opportunity to reflect on how far representative democracy has come and how far it still has to go. In addition to ceremonial events, the 2019 “American Evolution” Commemoration will feature highly substantive dialogues on the challenges confronting representative democracies today.

To learn more, click on the text above.

Inside JFK’s door-to-door search for a French call girl — and why she had to look like Jackie

In May 1961, an elderly woman in Paris heard a knock at the door of her six-story walk-up apartment. It was only the most powerful man in the world. The president of the United States was going door-to-door hoping to find the call girl he had discreetly arranged to meet. John F. Kennedy, it turned out, used a fake excuse about a doctor’s visit to attend a long-arranged dalliance while in Paris for a crucial summit, only to wind up in the wrong building, knocking on the doors of random Parisians who were left with the surprise of their lives. The tale of this ill-advised but ultimately, er, successful liaison is recounted in “Madame Claude: Her Secret World of Pleasure, Privilege, & Power,” by William Stadiem (St. Martin’s Press). Madame Claude, born Fernande Grudet on July 6, 1923, in Angers, France, was one of the world’s most successful madams. Starting in 1957, she ran an exclusive, high-class prostitution ring that offered a very specific type of woman — tall, supermodel-gorgeous, classy and upscale (or at least trained to appear so) — to the world’s richest and most powerful men. The young women who worked for her were known as Claude girls, which became a well-known and powerful brand. She scouted them carefully, paid for plastic surgery if needed, and ultimately hoped to marry them off to aristocracy. “A date with a ‘Claude girl’ was one of those pinnacle Paris experiences,” writes Stadiem, “like staying at the Ritz or dinner at Maxim’s or wearing a Lanvin suit . . . an apotheosis of luxury that the French do better than any other nationality.” According to Stadiem, Madame Claude’s client list included the world’s most successful men of the time: Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Sammy Davis Jr., former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, three generations of Gettys, the Shah of Iran, Marlon Brando, Darryl Zanuck, Groucho Marx. If you were rich, famous and male in the 20th century, chances are Madame Claude knew what you liked in bed, and provided exactly that. For Kennedy, his desired liaison required almost as much detailed preparation as an actual political summit. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco in April 1961, Kennedy thought a meeting in Europe with French and Soviet leaders Charles de Gaulle and Nikita Khrushchev, respectively, could serve as a reset for his presidency. He decided that he and first lady Jackie Kennedy would embark on their first official European tour. This would be the trip where Jackie so entranced the French that Kennedy famously introduced himself as “the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.” But while Jackie was thrilled at the prospect of meeting novelist and newly appointed French Culture Minister Andre Malraux, one of her literary idols, her husband looked to fulfill a different sort of fantasy. “If JFK had a type, it was the wholesome, snooty, proper, preppy girl whose flaunted untouchability he could violate . . . girls like Jacqueline Bouvier,” writes Stadiem, who notes that Kennedy learned about Madame Claude from Sinatra. “Here was a madam who specialized in exactly what JFK was after.” The liaison, Stadiem writes, was arranged directly between Madame Claude and Pierre Salinger, Kennedy’s press secretary. When Salinger first proposed the arrangement, Claude turned him down, fearing the many things that could go wrong if the president’s visit to a prostitute went haywire. But Salinger, the brains behind many of Kennedy’s most impactful speeches, convinced Claude that any problems could work in her favor — that a scandal would make her a legend to the sex-comfortable French, and that a successful dalliance would bring her to the attention of the world’s most powerful men. “‘Rise to the occasion,’ Salinger exhorted Claude. ‘Do it for your career. Do it for your country,’ he riffed, paraphrasing JFK’s inaugural address. ‘Think big!’ ” Stadiem writes. “Weighing risks and rewards like the shrewd banker she might have otherwise been, Claude decided to go for it.” On the trip, Kennedy hoped to hook up with French actress and Jackie Kennedy-lookalike Anouk Aimée, who had just appeared in the Federico Fellini hit “La Dolce Vita.” The president, Stadiem writes, had been “obsessed about her.” “What does he want her for? He’s already got her,” Claude, referring to Aimée’s resemblance to the president’s wife, asked Salinger. “The explanation was that JFK liked the package more than the contents,” Stadiem writes. “He was drawn to Jackie’s looks but wanted a more seductive, sexual version.” Aimée, however, was horrified at the suggestion, rejecting it outright — not for any reticence about a paid encounter, but because she considered Kennedy a “puerile warmonger.” Claude told Salinger only that she was away on business and, therefore, unavailable. While Claude searched for a suitable replacement, Kennedy and Salinger spent much of their time in the month before the summit determining how they would fit this diversion, for which they had a maximum of one hour, into the two-day trip without anyone finding out. They even had a code, speaking about “buying Jackie a gift saddle at Hermès” whenever they needed to discuss the side excursion. “If the world had any idea how much of his time was focused not on NATO or Algeria or Vietnam, but on a hot date from Madame Claude, the perception of history would have been dubious, to say the least,” Stadiem writes. Claude found Kennedy’s dream date in a 23-year-old Sorbonne graduate who worked as a fitting model for Givenchy. That last detail added an intriguing element to the liaison. Kennedy and the first lady fought incessantly about the trip, as the president wanted the former Ms. Bouvier to dial down her natural “Frenchness” and reflect a more American image. On this front, Jackie thought her husband should stuff it. Salinger and Claude, aware of this, both thought that a Jackie lookalike adorned in a dress from the most French of designers would be like “waving a red cape at a bull; the bull was sure to charge, as was the president.” For secrecy’s sake, it was determined that the dalliance would take place at the young woman’s apartment.

JFK was a well-known womanizer and cheat.  And yet, the liberal media just gave him a pass and fawned over him….referring to his presidency as “Camelot.”   Why?  Because he was a liberal Democrat and a Kennedy.  He could do no wrong.  The liberal media still fawns over him.  Ridiculous..   Anyway, to read more of this story, click on the text above…

George Washington’s Church Says Plaque Honoring First President Must Come Down

Leaders at the church that George Washington attended decided that a plaque honoring the first president of the United States must be removed. Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia will take down a memorial marking the pew where Washington sat with his family, saying it is not acceptable to all worshipers. “The plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome,” leaders said, a reference to the fact that Washington was a slaveholder. “Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques.” “Many in our congregation feel a strong need for the church to stand clearly on the side of ‘all are welcome- no exceptions,'” they concluded. A memorial to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will also come down. The decision comes in the wake of renewed controversy over whether statues honoring Civil War figures should be no longer honored. The debate broke out again over the summer after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia killed one and injured others. President Trump expressed concern that the censoring of Confederate generals would lead to dishonoring Thomas Jefferson and George Washington as well.

Clearly he was right…  This erasing (or revising) of our American history is very dangerous stuff.  George Washington DID own slaves.  That’s true.  The perpetually offended should get the hell over it.  That was just something that happened back then.  We don’t excuse or condone it.  We simply acknowledge it as a fact.  Washington also was our nation’s first President (a title he never wanted), and lead our country’s war for independence against the British.  He held our country together when it almost fell apart. Instead of erasing our heritage, we need to celebrate these contributions by our founding fathers.  Shame on this church for caving to the whining of a few tourists, who probably wouldn’t go back anyway, and denying the rest of us the opportunity to be awed by this piece of American history.  Unreal..

Opinion: The Nuclear Option: Why Columbus Deserves His Day

Happy Columbus Day! In this era of Making America Great Again, it is true and wonderful to celebrate this great and glorious holiday and sing high praises for the good and daring adventurer who discovered America. In fourteen-hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The story of Christopher Columbus inspires American pride for his unquenchable curiosity, his desire to see new lands and meet new people, and his relentless drive for industry. He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain. He sailed by night; he sailed by day; he used the stars to find his way. One person who appreciates Spain’s great explorer is President Donald Trump. “Five hundred and twenty-five years ago, Christopher Columbus completed an ambitious and daring voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas,” said Mr. Trump, sounding like a man who appreciates risk and accomplishment. Kind of like building great skyscrapers in great cities of the world. “The voyage was a remarkable and then-unparallelled feat that helped launch the age of exploration and discovery,” Mr. Trump proclaimed from the White House. “The permanent arrival of Europeans to the Americas was the transformative event that undeniably and fundamentally changed the course of human history and set the stage for the development of our great nation.” This, of course, would ultimately spark the greatest revolution in human history. Imagine just how radical was the notion that man’s rights derive from God and not a king or government. This fierce and bloody demand for self-governance would give birth to the greatest country on earth and became the blueprint for ending the savage global institution of slavery. Mr. Trump also honors Columbus as a “skilled navigator and man of faith.” He thanked both Spain and Italy for their contributions to discovering America. As thrilling as it is to dance back and forth across the lines of Mr. Trump’s simple Columbus Day proclamation, this is also a time of sober reflection over the past eight years with a president who viewed Columbus in a drastically different light. Americans must, President Barack Obama lectured a year ago, “acknowledge the pain and suffering reflected in the stories of Native Americans who had long resided on this land prior to the arrival of European newcomers.” Just as Mr. Trump’s statement sounds like that of a master builder who creates what he dreams, Mr. Obama’s statement sounds like a dreamless street organizer hell bent on whipping up discontent and sewing racial discord. Anyway, isn’t it incredibly xenophobic and — according to Democrats — outright racist to say that Native Americans should be protected from outside invaders just because they had “long resided on this land prior to the arrival” of others? In other words, it’s just fine for Mr. Obama to refer to Columbus as an illegal alien. But it is completely racist for Mr. Trump to talk about illegal aliens who come into our country and rape or murder our citizens. “America First” is racist. But “Native America First” is totally fine. And you wonder why the barbarians in Iran, theocratic thugs in Syria and crazy little Rocket Man in North Korea have been laughing contemptuously at us for the past eight years as they plotted the annihilation of civilized people? The only statue that should be torn down today is the one in the fictitious town of Springfield on “The Simpsons.” It is a statue of former failed President Jimmy Carter. When it was unveiled, the townspeople shrieked and declared the preachy huckster “History’s Monster!” In Springfield, the statue of Jimmy Carter should be torn down and replaced with a statue of Barack Obama, “History’s True Monster.”

Agreed!!  And well said, Charlie.  Columnist Charles Hurt is the author of that outstanding, and timely, op/ed.  Happy Columbus Day!!

George Washington’s ‘rediscovered’ Revolutionary War sash on display

The storied blue sash worn by George Washington during the Revolutionary War has gone on display at Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution. The sash, on loan from Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, was rediscovered several years ago by Dr. Philip Mead, chief historian and director of curatorial affairs at the Museum of the American Revolution. Mead found the artifact at the Peabody Museum, where it had essentially been hidden in plain sight for decades. Although the sash was suspected to have belonged to Washington, it had never been confirmed, according to the Museum of the American Revolution. “I was amazed. I thought, could this really be the sash that Washington wore on the early battlefields of the Revolutionary War?” Mead told Fox News, via email. “Where has it been all these years? The truth was even more exciting than I dared to hope.” Mead spent years studying the sash before concluding that it was indeed the one worn by Washington. The sash, which is on display until Oct. 9, is featured with a 1776 portrait of Washington by Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale, which depicts him wearing the sash. The portrait is on loan from the Brooklyn Museum. The Museum of the American Revolution notes that when Washington first took command of the Continental Army in 1775 there was no standard uniform or insignia for officers. The new Commander-in-Chief needed something to distinguish himself from his fellow officers so he chose a blue silk sash, or ribbon, that he wore across his chest. In a statement, Mead noted that very few uniforms from the American Revolutionary War have survived, let alone pieces of Washington’s own military clothing. “Being in the presence of this sash that Washington wore during the heavy fighting of 1775-1779 is astounding,” he added. The expert said that the sash literally disappears from later paintings of Washington after the general decided that it too closely resembled monarchical symbols of power. Notably, in Peale’s painting ‘George Washington at the battle of Princeton,’ which is in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, the outline of the painted-out sash can clearly be seen. The 1781 painting is one of a number of replicas produced by Peale of a portrait he painted of Washington in 1779 to commemorate the Continental Army’s victories in Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey. After the sash is removed from the Museum of the American Revolution’s display in October, it will be replaced with a sword that belonged to Washington, on loan from a private lender. The sword, which was made in Philadelphia and used during the early years of the Revolutionary War, will go on display Oct. 10 alongside a 1778 hand-painted copy of the portrait currently on display at the museum. The discovery of Revolutionary War era artifacts offers a fascinating glimpse into the events that shaped America. A storied Revolutionary War musket ball that was melted from a famously toppled statue of King George III, for example, recently went on display at the Museum of the American Revolution. Earlier this month, a Revolutionary War-era knife was unearthed during an archaeological dig at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, Michigan, the latest in a series of amazing finds at the site.

Fascinating!!

Gettysburg Stands Firm: Battlefield Says All Monuments Staying Put

Officials at the Gettysburg National Military Park said Wednesday that the monuments at the expansive Pennsylvania battlefield will stay despite unrest over Confederate memorials. “These memorials, erected predominantly in the early and mid-20th Century, are an important part of the cultural landscape,” battlefield spokeswoman Katie Lawhon told the Hanover Evening Sun. Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, from July 1-3, 1863. There are more than 1,300 memorials at the park- ranging in size from tiny stone markers for smaller regiments’ positions, to the massive Pennsylvania State Monument that includes a cupola for visitors. The park also has several streets named after soldiers on both sides, including the Union’s Daniel Sickles and Winfield Scott Hancock, and the Confederacy’s Ambrose Wright. The National Park Service’s policy on battlefield monuments states that the feds are “committed to safeguarding these unique and site-specific memorials in perpetuity, while simultaneously interpreting holistically and objectively the actions… they commemorate.” Farther south in Richmond, Va., gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam (D-Accomac) said he will press for several Confederate statues along the city’s Monument Avenue to be taken down. However, Northam said he would “defer to the city” on how to proceed in doing so, according to the Richmond Post-Dispatch. Democratic Mayor Levar Stoney said a commission established to “add context” next to the monuments is preferable to taking them down, the paper said.

Glad to see the National Park Service and the Dept of the Interior aren’t jumping on this frightening band wagon of sanitizing our country of our history.

The Civil War General from Illinois Who Gave Us Memorial Day

Only three years after the Civil War, as our nation started upon its long road toward reconciliation, rebuilding, and healing, the wife of a union general noticed a touching scene of devotion in the South. She saw Confederate mothers, widows, and children coming together each year to place flowers and little flags at the graves of their loved ones who had fallen in battle. This general’s wife thought it was an edifying experience the whole country could emulate. Moved by the devotion she witnessed, Mary Simmerson Logan urged her husband, Illinois General John A. “Blackjack” Logan, to look into creating what was to become Memorial Day. So, at the urging of his wife, Logan became instrumental in creating Decoration Day, the celebration of the nation’s war dead that eventually became Memorial Day. Today, thanks to that gracious and energetic lady, America takes time each year to remember those who served and died for our country, and it is fitting that the holiday was born of both a re-united South and North after our bloodiest war. The man at the heart of the commemoration was a leader in his day but is now largely forgotten. General Logan was a Senator from Illinois and eventually became the candidate for Vice President on the 1884 Republican ticket, losing to Grover Cleveland and another Illinoisan, Vice President Adlai Stevenson. Perhaps no other Federal Army general was as suited as Logan to be the one to launch Decoration Day. Certainly, Logan was a state politician, a political general who successfully transitioned to federal service and continued to hold rank after the war, and also his party’s vice presidential nominee. What many don’t know is that “Blackjack” Logan was aiming to be a Confederate general when the war first started. Thus his sympathies for both sides make him a particularly good fit for the father of Decoration Day. Logan was born in February of 1826 in Murphysboro, Illinois, an area rich with émigrés from Kentucky. His home was near the river bottoms once called “Little Egypt.” The area was a hotbed of Southern sympathy during the early days of the civil war. The genus of the region’s nickname is not entirely known, but what is known is that a company of nearly 40 Illinois men from Williamson and Jackson Counties gathered together in 1861, crossed over into Kentucky, and joined the Confederate Army of Tennessee, becoming Company G of the 15th Tennessee Infantry. Heading up that company was one Captain Hilbert A. Cunningham. He led his men across the river to the Confederacy and served in the C.S. Army for nearly two years. Co. G has the distinction of being the only company of men from a northern state to fight as a group for the Confederacy. A small number of them fought throughout the war for the rebel forces. Captain Cunningham, though, was not one of those stalwarts, for in May of 1863 he quietly went AWOL from the Confederate army and ended up a captain on General John Logan’s staff. This sudden turn may not be so surprising, as Capt. Cunningham was Gen. Logan’s brother-in-law. What may be more surprising is that Logan himself was initially supposed to lead Co. G across the river and into the waiting arms of the Confederacy. Rumors from his family were that the Illinois politician had accepted a Colonel’s commission from the Southerons and intended to make his military mark under the banner of the Southern Cross. But ambition was greater than ideology, at least that early in the war, because Logan was casting a wide net for his officer’s commission and was able to cajole his way into General U.S. Grant’s favor. Logan was soon commissioned as Colonel of the 31st Illinois Infantry shortly after the Battle of Bull Run and so wore the blue for the whole of the war. Many in the 15th Tennessee held a grudge against Logan for the rest of their lives, feeling that he betrayed them for his personal ambitions.

Fascinating!!  While Memorial Day was yesterday, it doesn’t hurt to post such relevant, historical articles.  To read the general order that Logan issued in 1868, click on the text above.