Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Complaints About the Local Bookstore

We went to the bookstore yesterday afternoon - my wife, my two youngest kids, and myself - and spent over an hour browsing. Well, we bought, too, but I very much enjoyed seeing what was out there - this is a two-floor bookstore, mind you. I love shopping on for the prices, but I truly enjoy holding a book and eyeing it first-hand and flipping through the pages before purchasing. Usually I'll write the title down then go home and purchase it much cheaper on line. Fortunately, today my wife had a 40% off coupon so we were able to buy books at the store. I chose "L. Lincoln: A Biography" by Ronald C. White Jr., supposedly the latest, greatest biography of the 16th president available. I just began reading it, but it's a rather thick book, so I'll let you know how it is when I'm finished. It may take a while...
Anyhow, the book store we were at has a very large history selection - one of the largest I have seen. That's where I spent most of my time, just so you know.
Now, before I go any further, please allow me to place a quote here from Henry Ford that I know you have read before in previous blogs of mine. But, it has had quite an impact on me and my outlook and studies of history:
"History as it is taught in the schools deals largely with...wars, major political controversies, territorial extensions and the like. When I went to our American history books to learn how our forefathers harrowed the land, I discovered that the historians knew nothing about harrows. Yet our country depended more on harrows than on guns or great speeches. I thought a history which excluded harrows and all the rest of daily life is bunk and I think so yet."
Back at the bookstore I was taking my time to look at virtually every title to find anything on social American history. I found, out of literally hundred's of history titles, no more than five books dealing with everyday life in history. I already have plenty in my collection, but I am always on the look out for books that can expand on what I already have. So, I went to the help desk and asked where they would have their everyday life in history section.
"No, I'm sorry," the clerk said, "we don't have anything like that." In fact, they didn't have the means of looking up information by subject! "We need a title or an author."

Mr. Ford was right, one can have a difficult time learning about harrowing the land and other social history.
Unless they have the internet.

So, why are these books not available at such a large bookstore? Please don't say that they won't sell - they will sell if presented in the right context. Proof of this is everyday life books do very well on Amazon and other on-line stores.
I know. I know. In the great game of life, this complaint of mine is not even on the board. But, if there ever comes a time when I do not have access to the internet for any long length of time, I'm screwed.
Maybe the bookstores should get rid of the pedicure kits and kids toys (no fooling! They had 'em there!) and concentrate on their product.
Plus, rows of books on Obama is overkill, don't you think?

And that's the way it is, on March 29, 2009.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stop Historical Revisionists By Showing Them The Truth

Over the last 15 years or so I have found that there are people who just love to tear down our history. They simply relish in the thought of taking everything we hold dear and rip it to shreds, be it our Founding Fathers, our Christian heritage, or anyone that they might consider to have been deified.
A good example is, even with all the proof of our Christian heritage in this country, there are those who refuse to accept it and will even refute the facts presented. Comments like, "All those guys (our forefathers) were either deists, agnostics, or atheists" are presented as truths by so-called acclaimed historians (that historical hack Howard Zinn comes to mind here). But when one does their research, they will find nothing is further from the truth. I am not saying that all of our founding fathers were Christian, but the greater majority - especially the average citizen of the time - certainly were. To state otherwise is either just fooling yourself or being a typical 21st century follower of the oh-so-hip politically correct crowd.
The case for our country being truly a Christian/religious nation is one of my favorite subjects and I love to discuss and even debate it (friendly of course) with those who only like to give opinions rather than fact. I find one of the biggest problems with revisionists is there are too many who place their 21st century principals and conduct upon our pre-20th century brethren and feel our ancestors and fore-fathers from the distant past "should have known better." There is so much documentation - and social history books, many of which includes actual journals and diaries - against this sort of thinking without basis, and yet they keep pushing their revisionist thinking as fact.
Here are my own blogs on this subject.
The Myth of 'Separation of Church and State'
Thanksgiving Message

- - - (see below for more actual facts on religion in America's past) - - -

Then there is the case of Thomas Jefferson and his supposed affair with slave Sally Hemmings. When one does the research they will find that this story was brought into existence by none other than a man from the press. As the Monticello site explains:

In September 1802, political journalist James T. Callender, a disappointed office-seeker who had once been an ally of Jefferson, wrote in a Richmond newspaper that Jefferson had for many years "kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves." "Her name is Sally," Callender continued, adding that Jefferson had "several children" by her.
Although there had been rumors of a sexual relationship between Jefferson and a slave before 1802, Callender's article spread the story widely. It was taken up by Jefferson's Federalist opponents and was published in many newspapers during the remainder of Jefferson's presidency.
Jefferson's policy was to offer no public response to personal attacks, and he apparently made no explicit public or private comment on this question (although a private letter of 1805 has been interpreted by some individuals as a denial of the story). Sally Hemings left no known accounts.
Jefferson's daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph privately denied the published reports. Two of her children, Ellen Randolph Coolidge and Thomas Jefferson Randolph, maintained many years later that such a liaison was not possible, on both moral and practical grounds. They also stated that Jefferson's nephews Peter and Samuel Carr were the fathers of the light-skinned Monticello slaves some thought to be Jefferson's children because of their resemblance to him.
And yet, the descendants of Miss Hemmings insist they are also descended from Jefferson and have been accepted as such, even with the little proof shown.
I don't know about you, but as a genealogist I have been taught that suppositions are rarely taken as fact. And one this big certainly should not be.

Because of all the shake 'em up control of the media (controversy sells, doncha know) and schools (especially college), our county's history is being bastardized into untruths or half-truths that are being taught as absolute.
Lest you feel I am one-sided on this situation, I do believe the faults that our nation has done should also be taught, but in the context of their era, and not with hindsight. Our past is not perfect, but it is not as God-awful (can I say that?) as the revisionists would have you believe.
Nor has it ever truly been secular.

Now, below I have copied and pasted a rather long, but very informative, article from the Library of Congress website. It shows the truth about religion in America.
It is one of the best I have read yet on the subject (and it's on an official government-sponsored web site to boot!):

Faith of Our Forefathers
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

(This article) focuses on religion and government's relation during the founding period, and does not cover in depth such subjects as the religion of Native Americans or religion in Spanish and French North America.

America as a Religious Refuge: The 17th Century

The Hanging of Absalom
The Hanging of Absalom, a needlework with painted details, was created soon after the Boston Massacre and is an excellent example of the way in which Colonists understood political events in terms of familiar biblical stories. In this tableau, Absalom is seen as a patriot, King David as George III (playing his harp and oblivious to the suffering of his "children") and the murderer Joab is dressed as a British redcoat.
Many of the British North American Colonies that joined in 1776 to form the United States of America were settled in the 17th century for religious purposes by men and women who, in the face of European persecution, refused to compromise passionately held religious convictions and risked the perilous crossing of the Atlantic to practice their religion as they believed the Scriptures commanded.
The New England Colonies and New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland were conceived and established "as plantations of religion." Some who arrived in these areas came, of course, for secular motives -- "to catch fish" as one New Englander put it -- but the great majority of settlers left Europe to worship God as they wished and enthusiastically supported the efforts of their leaders to turn individual Colonies into "a city on a hill" or a "holy experiment," whose success would prove to European enemies that God's plan for his churches could be successfully realized in the American wilderness.
Even Colonies such as Virginia, which were planned as commercial ventures, were led by entrepreneurs who considered themselves "militant Protestants" and who worked diligently to promote the prosperity of the church. The faith in which the Colonies were founded gave them a religious orientation that remained strong when the government of the United States was created in the years after 1776. Boosted by the "golden age" of evangelicalism, religion thrived in 19th century America. Its impact remained so conspicuous in the early decades of this century that in 1922 a British observer called the United States "a nation with the soul of a church."

European Persecution

The religious persecution in Europe that filled the British North American Colonies with settlers was motivated by the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that a uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in their jurisdictions in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as "inforced uniformity of religion," meant that in 17th century Europe (and in New England and Virginia as well) majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst.

Crossing the Ocean to Keep the Faith: The Puritans

Puritans were English Protestants who wished to reform -- to purify -- the Church of England of what they considered to be unacceptable residues of Roman Catholicism. In the 1620s leaders of the English state and church grew increasingly unsympathetic to Puritan demands and insisted that they conform to religious practices that they abhorred, removing their ministers from office and threatening them with "extirpation from the earth" if they did not fall in line. Zealous Puritan laymen received savage punishments; one, for example, in 1630 was sentenced to life imprisonment, had his property confiscated, his nose slit, an ear cut off and his forehead branded "S.S." (sower of sedition).
Beginning in 1630, as many as 20,000 Puritans emigrated to America from England to gain religious freedom. Most settled in New England but some went as far as the West Indies. Theologically, the Puritans were "non-separating Congregationalists." Unlike the Pilgrims, who came to Massachusetts from Holland in 1620, the Puritans believed that the Church of England was a true church, though in need of major reforms. Every New England Congregational church was considered an independent entity, beholden to no hierarchy. The membership was composed, at least initially, of men and women who had undergone a conversion experience and could prove it to other members. Puritan leaders hoped (futilely, as it turned out) that, once their experiment was successful, England would imitate it by instituting a church order modeled after the New England Way.

Persecution, American Style

Although victims of religious persecution in Europe, the Puritans supported the Old World theory that sanctioned it, that of the necessity of a uniformity of religion in the state. The Puritan procedure was to expel dissenters from their colonies, a fate that in 1636 befell Roger Williams and in 1638 Anne Hutchinson, America's first major female religious leader. Those who defied the Puritans by persistently returning to their jurisdictions risked capital punishment, a penalty imposed on four Quakers between 1659 and 1661. Reflecting on the 17th century's intolerance, Thomas Jefferson was unwilling to concede to Virginians any moral superiority to the Puritans.

Jews Find a Refuge in 17th Century America

The first Jews who settled in British North America were fleeing a possible pogrom in Brazil. For some decades, Jews had flourished in Dutch-held areas of Brazil, but a Portuguese conquest of the area in 1654 confronted them with the prospect of the introduction of the Inquisition, which had recently burned a Brazilian Jew at the stake (1647). A shipload of 23 Jewish refugees from Dutch Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (soon to become New York) in 1654 and by the next year had established religious services in the city. By the time of the Declaration of Independence, they had established several thriving synagogues.

The Quakers

The Quakers (or Religious Society of Friends) coalesced in England in 1652 around a charismatic leader, George Fox (1624-1691). Many scholars today consider Quakers as radical Puritans because they carried to extremes many Puritan convictions. Theologically, they expanded the Puritan concept of a church of individuals regenerated by the Holy Spirit to the idea of the indwelling of the Spirit or the "Light of Christ" in every person.
Such teaching struck many of the Quakers' contemporaries as the most dangerous sort of heresy and they were cruelly persecuted in England. By 1680, 10,000 Quakers had been imprisoned in England and 243 had died from torture and mistreatment in the king's jails. This reign of terror impelled Friends to seek refuge in New Jersey in the 1670s, where they soon became well entrenched. By 1685, as many as 8,000 Quakers had come to live in Pennsylvania. Although the Quakers may have resembled the Puritans in some religious beliefs and practices, they differed with them over the necessity of compelling religious uniformity in society. The Quakers, as represented by their great leader William Penn, believed in religious liberty.

Roman Catholics in Maryland

Although the Stuart kings of England were not haters of the Church of Rome, many of their subjects were, with the result that Catholics were harassed and persecuted in England throughout the 17th century. Driven by "the sacred duty of finding a refuge for his Roman Catholic brethren," George Calvert (1580-1632), a principal lieutenant of James I until his religion cost him his job, obtained a charter from Charles I in 1632 for the territory between Pennsylvania and Virginia. The Maryland charter offered no guidelines on religion, although it was assumed that Catholics would not be molested in the new Colony.
Catholic fortunes fluctuated in Maryland during the rest of the 17th century, as they became an increasingly smaller minority of the population. After the Glorious Revolution of 1689 in England, the Church of England was legally established in the Colony and English penal laws that deprived Catholics of the right to vote, hold office or worship publicly were enforced. Until the American Revolution, Catholics in Maryland were dissenters in their own country, living at times under a state of siege, but keeping loyal to their convictions, a faithful remnant, awaiting better times.

Religion in 18th Century America

Recently, scholars have changed their opinion about the condition of religion in 18th century America. Against what had become a prevailing view that 18th century Americans had not perpetuated the first settlers' passionate commitment to their faith, scholars now stress the high level of religious energy in the Colonies after 1700. According to one expert, religion was in the "ascension rather than the declension"; another sees a "rising vitality in religious life" from 1700 onward; a third finds religion in many parts of the Colonies in the 18th century in a state of "feverish growth."
Figures on church attendance and church formation support these opinions. It is estimated that between 1700 and 1740, 75 percent to 80 percent of the population attended churches, which were being built at a headlong pace. Anglican churches increased from 111 in 1700 to 406 in 1780; Baptist from 33 to 457; Congregationalist from 146 to 749; German and Dutch Reformed from 26 to 327; Lutheran from 7 to 240; and Presbyterian from 28 to 475.
Deism made its appearance in the 18th century. It was a religious movement, promoted by certain English and continental thinkers, that attracted a following in Europe toward the end of the 17th century and gained a small but influential number of adherents in America in the late 18th century. Deism rejected the orthodox Christian view of Christ, often viewing him as nothing more that a "sublime" teacher of morality.
Deism and some strains of "liberal religion," which stressed morality and questioned the divinity of Christ, found advocates among upper class Americans, conspicuous among whom were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin, but supporters of these views were never more than "a minority within a minority" and were submerged by evangelicalism in the 19th century.

The Great Awakening (ca. 1735-1745): The Emergence of American Evangelicalism

Toward mid-century the country's first major religious revival, the Great Awakening, occurred. The Awakening swept the English-speaking world, as religious energy vibrated between England, Wales, Scotland and the American Colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. The Awakening, which signaled the advent of an encompassing evangelicalism in American life, invigorated even as it divided churches. The supporters of the Awakening and its evangelical thrust -- Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists -- became the largest American Protestant denominations by the first decades of the 19th century; opponents of the Awakening or those split by it -- Anglicans, Quakers and Congregationalists -- were left behind.
Evangelicalism is difficult to date and define. In 1531, at the beginning of the Reformation, Sir Thomas More referred to religious adversaries as "Evaungelicalles." Scholars have argued that, as a self-conscious movement, evangelicalism did not arise until the mid-17th century, perhaps not until the Great Awakening itself. According to experts, the fundamental aspect of evangelicalism is the conversion of individuals from a state of sin to the "new birth" by the preaching of the Word. The first generation of New England Puritans required that church members undergo a conversion experience that they could describe publicly. Their successors were not as successful in reaping harvests of redeemed souls. During the first decades of the 18th century, a series of local "awakenings" began in the Connecticut River Valley that broadened by the 1730s into what was interpreted as a general outpouring of the Spirit that bathed the American Colonies, England, Wales and Scotland and produced mass open-air revivals in which powerful preachers like George Whitefield brought thousands of souls to the new birth. The Great Awakening, which spent its force in New England by the mid-1740s, continued in subsequent decades in the South.

Religion and the American Revolution

A debate about the role of religion in the American Revolution began while the war between Britain and the Colonies still raged. Opponents of the Revolution, the Tories, claimed that "republican sectaries," specifically, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, had caused the conflict. In the 1960s, a scholar argued that evangelical Christians, converted during the Great Awakening, were responsible for the war. Although neither of these views has been widely accepted, there can be no doubt that religion played a major role in the Revolution by offering, through the sermons, pamphlets and actions of the American clergy, a moral sanction for opposition to the British, an assurance to the average American that opposition to the mother country was justified in the sight of God.

Religion and the Congress of the Confederation, 1774-1789

The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that also exercised executive power, governed the United States from 1774 to 1789 and left an impressive list of accomplishments, not the least of which was winning the war with Great Britain, the greatest military power of the age. Congress, as it was always called, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men, some of whom -- John Dickinson, Elias Boudinot and Charles Thomson, for example -- retired from public life to write religious tracts and commentaries and publish new translations of the Bible.
The amount of energy that Congress invested in encouraging the practice of religion throughout the new nation exceeded that expended by any subsequent American national government.
Congress appointed chaplains to minister to itself and to the armed forces; it sponsored the publication of a Bible; it imposed Christian morality on the armed forces; and it granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians. Most conspicuous were the national days of thanksgiving and of "humiliation, fasting and prayer" that Congress proclaimed at least twice a year throughout the war. These proclamations were always accompanied by sermonettes in which Congress urged the American populace to confess and repent its sins as a way of moving God to grant national prosperity.
Scholars have recognized that Congress was guided by "covenant theology," a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God had bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people, stipulating that they "should be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears." Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered afflictions, as divine punishments for sin, from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation. Year in and year out, therefore, Congress urged its fellow citizens to repent "of their manifold sins" and strive that "pure undefiled religion, may universally prevail."
The Continental-Confederation Congress, the first national government of the United States, was convinced that the "public prosperity" of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a "spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens," Congress declared to the American people on March 19, 1782, would "make us a holy, that so we may be a happy, people."

Religion and the State Governments

That religion was necessary for "public prosperity" was an opinion that found expression not only in Congress but in the state legislatures of the new American republic as well. The connection between religion and the public welfare seemed so obvious to the public at large that it was articulated by its representatives at every level of government.

The Church-State Debate in Massachusetts

After independence the American Colonies, now states, were obliged to write constitutions, spelling out how they would be governed. In no place was constitution- making more difficult than in Massachusetts. That state's Constitutional Convention included in the draft constitution submitted to the voters the famous Article Three, which authorized the levying of a general religious tax to be directed to the church of a taxpayers' choice. Despite substantial doubt that Article Three had been approved by the required two-thirds of the voters, in 1780 state authorities declared it and the rest of the Constitution to have been duly adopted.

The Church-State Debate in Virginia

The debate in Virginia over the relation of government to religion produced an outcome very much at odds with the results in the New England states and in Maryland and Georgia, challenging the frequently made assumption that Virginia set the pattern for church-state relations in the Revolutionary period.
In 1776 the Virginia Assembly moved toward the disestablishment of the Church of England, taking the decisive step in 1779 by depriving the Church's ministers of tax support. Church-state relations were not settled, however, as an attempt in 1779 to pass a general religious tax demonstrated. Patrick Henry, the great orator of the American revolution, revived and pressed for a general religious assessment in 1784 and appeared to be on the verge of securing its passage, when his opponents neutralized his political influence by electing him governor. As a result, legislative consideration of Henry's bill was postponed until the fall of 1785, giving its adversaries an opportunity to mobilize public opposition to it.
James Madison, the leading adversary of government-supported religion, rallied opponents in his celebrated Memorial and Remonstrance and in the fall of 1785 marshaled sufficient legislative support to administer a decisive defeat to the effort to lay religious taxes. In place of Henry's bill, Madison and his allies passed in January 1786 Thomas Jefferson's famous Act for Establishing Religious Freedom which brought the debate in Virginia to a close by severing, once and for all, the links between government and religion.

Religion and the Federal Government

The Dunking of David Barrow and Edward Mintz in the Nansemond River
The Dunking of David Barrow and Edward Mintz in the Nansemond River, Sidney E. King, 1778. Barrow was the pastor of the Mill Swamp Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va. Baptists opposed Patrick Henry's general assessment bill and suffered physical persecution from supporters of the Church of England.
In response to widespread sentiment that, to survive, the United States needed a stronger federal government, a convention met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and on Sept. 17, 1787, adopted the Constitution of the United States. Aside from Article VI, which prohibited religious tests for federal office holders, the Constitution said little about religion. Its reserve troubled those Americans who wanted the new instrument of government to give faith a larger role and those who feared that it would do so. This latter group, worried that the Constitution did not prohibit the kind of state-supported religion that had flourished in some Colonies, exerted so much pressure on the members of the First Federal Congress that they adopted in September 1789 the First Amendment to the Constitution, which, when ratified by the required number of states in December 1791, forbade Congress to make any law "respecting an establishment of religion."
The first two Presidents of the United States were patrons of religion -- Washington was an Episcopal vestryman and Adams described himself as "a church going animal." Both offered strong rhetorical support for religion. In his Farewell Address (September 1796) Washington called religion, as the source of morality, "a necessary spring of popular government," while Adams claimed that statesmen "may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the third and fourth presidents, are generally considered less hospitable to religion than their predecessors, but evidence shows that, while in office, both offered religion powerful symbolic support. During his two administrations (1801-1809), Jefferson was a "most regular attendant" at church services in the House of Representatives at which, surviving records show, evangelical Christianity was forcefully preached. Madison followed Jefferson's example, although unlike Jefferson, who road on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Jefferson permitted church services to be conducted by various denominations in government buildings, such as the Treasury and the War Department. During his administration, the Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers. It is, in fact, accurate to say that on Sundays in Washington during the Jefferson and Madison administrations the state became the church.
Recently, scholars have contended that Jefferson adopted a more positive view of Christianity in the 1790s as a result of reading Joseph Priestly's arguments that many of the miraculous features of Christianity to which Jefferson objected were not authentic, having been added at a later time by a self-interested priesthood. Whatever the reason, after becoming president in 1801, Jefferson began making statements about the social value of Christianity.

Religion and the Constitution

When the Constitution was submitted to the American public, "many pious people" complained that the document had slighted God, for it contained "no recognition of his mercies to us ... or even of his existence." The Constitution was reticent about religion for two reasons: many delegates were committed federalists who believed that the power to legislate on religion, if it existed at all, lay within the domain of the state, not the national, governments. Second, the delegates believed that it would be a tactical mistake to insert such a politically controversial issue as religion in the Constitution. The only "religious clause" in the document -- the proscription of religious tests as qualifications for federal office in Article Six -- was, in fact, intended to defuse controversy by disarming potential critics who might claim religious discrimination in eligibility for public office.

Religion and the Bill of Rights

Although there were proposals for making the ratification of the Constitution contingent on the prior adoption of a bill of rights, supporters of a bill of rights acquiesced with the understanding that the first Congress under the new government would attempt to add to it a bill of rights.
James Madison took the lead in steering a bill of rights through the First Federal Congress, which convened in the spring of 1789. The Virginia Ratifying Convention and Madison's constituents, among whom there were large numbers of Baptists who wanted freedom of religion secured, expected him to push for a bill of rights. There was considerable opposition in Congress to a bill of rights of any sort on the grounds that it was "unnecessary and dangerous." The persistence of Madison and his allies nevertheless carried the day and on Sept. 28, 1789, both houses of Congress voted to send 12 amendments to the states. Those ratified by the requisite three fourths of the states became in December 1791 the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
Religion was addressed in the First Amendment in the following familiar words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." In notes for his speech, June 8, 1789, introducing the bill of rights, Madison indicated that a "national" religion was what he wanted to prevent and it is clear that most Americans joined him in considering that the major goal was to forestall any possibility that the federal government could act as several Colonies had done by choosing one religion and making it an official "national" religion that enjoyed exclusive financial and legal support. The establishment clause of the First Amendment meant at least this: that no one religion would be officially preferred above its competitors. What ever else it may -- or may not -- have meant is obscured by a lack of documentary evidence and is still a matter of dispute.
Jacob Duché Offering the First Prayer in Congress, Sept. 7, 1774
Jacob Duché Offering the First Prayer in Congress, Sept. 7, 1774, bottom pane of the Liberty Window, Christ Church, Philadelphia, after a painting by Harrison Tompkins Matteson, c. 1848

Washington's Farewell Address

Washington's Farewell Address is one of the most important documents in American history because the recommendations made in it by the first president, particularly in the field of foreign affairs, have exerted a strong and continuing influence on American statesmen and politicians. The Farewell Address, in which Washington informed the American people that he would not seek a third term and offered advice on the country's future policies, was published in David Claypoole's Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser on Sept. 19, 1796, and was immediately reprinted in newspapers and as a pamphlet throughout the United States. The Address was drafted in July 1796 by Alexander Hamilton (Washington also had at his disposal an earlier draft by James Madison) and was revised for publication by the president himself.
The "religion section" of the Farewell Address was for many years as familiar to the American people as Washington's warning that the United States should avoid entangling alliances with foreign nations. The first president advised his fellow citizens that "Religion and morality" were the "great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens." "National morality," he added, could not exist "in exclusion of religious principle." "Virtue or morality," he concluded, as the products of religion, were "a necessary spring of popular government."

Evangelicalism and the Emergence of the African American Church

Mrs. Juliann Jane Tillman, Preacher of the AME Church
Mrs. Juliann Jane Tillman, Preacher of the AME Church, P.S. Duval, 1844. Black churches were graced by eloquent female preachers from their earliest days, although there was, as in white churches, resistance in many quarters to the idea of women preaching the Gospel.
Scholars disagree about the extent of the native African content of black Christianity as it emerged in 18th century America, but there is no dispute that the Christianity of the black population was grounded in evangelicalism. The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, has been called the "central and defining event in the development of Afro-Christianity." During these revivals Baptists and Methodists converted large numbers of blacks; according to a contemporary estimate, there were by 1815 40,000 black Methodists and an equal number of black Baptists. Many African Americans were, nevertheless, disappointed at the treatment they received from their fellow believers, especially at the backsliding in the commitment to abolish slavery that inspired many white Baptists and Methodists immediately after the American Revolution. Blacks responded by trying to establish as much autonomy as possible within the Baptist and Methodist denominational frameworks.
When discontent could not be contained, forceful black leaders followed what was becoming an American habit of forming new denominations. In 1816, for example, Richard Allen (1760-1831) and his colleagues in Philadelphia broke away from the Methodist Church and founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which, along with independent black Baptist congregations, flourished as the century progressed. By 1846, the A.M.E. Church, which began with eight clergy and five churches, had grown to 176 clergy, 296 churches and 17,375 members.

The Mormons

Another distinctive religious group, the Mormons, arose in the 1820s during the "Golden Day of Democratic Evangelism." The founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), and many of his earliest followers grew up in an area of western New York called the "Burned Over District," because it had been scorched by so many revivals. Yet the Mormon Church cannot be considered as the product of revivalism or as a splintering off from an existing Protestant denomination. It was sui generis, inspired by what Smith described as revelations on a series of gold plates, which he translated and published as the Book of Mormon in 1830. The new church conceived itself to be a restoration of primitive Christianity, which other existing churches were considered to have deserted. The Mormons subscribe to many orthodox Christian beliefs but profess distinctive doctrines based on post-biblical revelation.
Persecuted from its inception, the Mormon Church moved from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois, where it put down strong roots at Nauvoo. In 1844 the Nauvoo settlement was devastated by its neighbors, Smith and his brother being murdered in the havoc. This attack prompted the Mormons, under the leadership of Brigham Young, to migrate to Utah, where the first parties arrived in July 1847. The church has thrived since the removal to Utah and today is a flourishing, worldwide denomination.

Benevolent Societies

Benevolent societies were a new and conspicuous feature of the American landscape during the first half of the 19th century. Voluntary, ecumenical organizations devoted originally to the salvation of souls, but in due course to the eradication of every kind of social ill, the benevolent societies were formed by the pooling of resources of evangelicalism's legions. The benevolent societies were the direct result of the extraordinary energies generated by the evangelical movement, specifically, by the "activism" resulting from conversion. "The evidence of God's grace," the Presbyterian evangelist, Charles G. Finney insisted, "was a person's benevolence toward others."
The earliest and most important of the benevolent societies focused their efforts on the conversion of sinners to the new birth or to the creation of conditions (sobriety sought by temperance societies) in which conversions could occur. The six largest societies in 1826-27 (based on their operating budgets) were all directly concerned with conversion: the American Education Society, the American Board of Foreign Missions, the American Bible Society, the American Sunday-School Union, the American Tract Society and the American Home Missionary Society.
Three of these groups subsidized evangelical ministers, one specialized in evangelical education and two supplied evangelical literature that the other four used. In seeking to convert the American people, the benevolent societies were consciously trying to create, simultaneously, a moral and virtuous citizenry on which republican government was thought to depend. They proudly asserted that they were "doing the work of patriotism no less than Christianity."

I have been accused of continuously perpetuating the Euro-centric history as has been taught for who knows how long. If you read my writings you will see I speak of every day life in history and try to show the differences from then to now. Do I write mainly of the white settlers (colonists, etc.)? Absolutely, for that is where my interest is. Am I aware of the atrocities the European settlers committed against the American Indian? Absolutely. I prefer, however, to write of the strengths of our ancestors instead of the weaknesses. I prefer the positive over the negative.
I prefer the whole truth.
Is there anything wrong with that?
Too much negative, as is being perpetrated today, can only do harm, and then we raise a generation of children without pride.

If you teach your children about history, let them know of the amazingly wonderful things our fore-fathers and fore-mothers did.

Let them also become aware of the atrocities of the time.
Tell them the whole story. But, if you are going to make vicious "politically correct" comments about people from the past, please make sure you know your history and of the times in which you pertain to speak of instead looking like a following fool. You cannot place your 2011 principles upon those from another time and expect "them" to have lived in that manner.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This and That About Reenacting

It's great when a younger person gets excited about reenacting.
It's even better when they say they want to "do it right!"
Over the last few months I have spoken with a few folks in their late teens and early twenties who have not only expressed an interest in Civil War reenacting, but are as excited as kids at Christmas at the prospect of doing so. And then to have them tell me they want to do it "right" from the get-go makes it even better.

I don't know about you, but I have been into history since my age was a single digit (please click And How Long Have YOU Been Into History?) and, as a teen, I would have given my eye teeth to be able to participate in living history. Unfortunately, Civil War reenacting - heck, any reenactments - were almost nil in the 1970's, at least around here. Oh, they were around here and there, but one had to search far and wide to find one. So, for a young person today to be able to live out a dream and live in the past on weekends is a great opportunity for them to experience history in a way that most of us never could at their age.
One of the Civil War units I belong to is pretty much half military and half civilian, and I have been elected as the Civilian Coordinator for this group. No, I'm not in charge of the civilians, I just oversee the civilian contingency and do my best to ensure authenticity in our member's presentations.
It's a job that can be both exasperating and exhilarating. Exasperating because there are times when this position can be very trying due to numerous circumstances, such as trying to make sure everyone is accurate in their presentations at events, especially in their clothing. Exhilarating because I love studying social history and including what I've learned in my monthly articles in our newsletter and in our civilian meetings. And, it's at these meetings I insist that those who attend come in period clothing. This helps to keep everyone on task and in the right frame of mind. Since these gatherings usually take place in the evenings, we conduct them by the light of candles and oil lamps. This, again, helps us to stay focused. We discuss 1st person, our impressions, clothing, scenarios, and, of course, we try and help our newcomers and make them feel welcome. It's a joint operation - as I said, I'm not in charge of the civilians, I just oversee them. We all have a say. And we all pool our historical knowledge into one to improve and authenticate our reenacting experience.

With each passing year, I see improvement. And because of this, I like to think that we are heading toward 'progressive' reenacting. By progressive, I mean to give ourselves a more realistic experience, by doing our best to be "there" - seeing the elephant. Oh, I realize and accept that not everyone wants to participate in this way. And, of course, I would never try to force them. But, a good many of us are making the attempt - and succeeding more and more - and that can only improve our standing with the public when they come to an event.
And it can give us deep satisfaction as reenactors/living historians.
I will be having a civilian meeting this coming weekend, and I am excited because our newest member will be wearing her period clothing out in public for her very first time, and I'm sure she's a bit nervous. But, we all know that once you are around others with the same like-mindedness your nerves ease up quickly, and soon you become a "reenactor."
And there's nothing like it!
And the excitement continues to grow - - -
This afternoon, a young prospective new member phoned me for the very first time - a friend of my high school senior son - and was very interested in joining our unit. After we spoke for a few minutes, she became every bit as excited as anyone can be on the prospect of wearing accurate period clothing and living the life of an 1860's ancestor. And, the more I spoke about living history to her, the more thrilled she became at the idea of becoming a living historian!
The torch is being passed to the next generation, and it's they who will keep this reenacting passion alive for generations to come. Let's teach them to be authentic. Let's teach them to be accurate.
And let's make sure they are not revisionists. As my favorite quote goes: "I do not believe that anyone should rewrite the past just to please someone in the present."
I'm excited!

The above photos were taken by me at Crossroads Village, a very accurately portrayed 19th century open-air museum located in Flint, Michigan. Unfortunately, they do not have a Civil War reenactment anymore, but they are open for having civilian living history events.
The images here were taken at the last Civil War event held there in 2006.
A great place for living history!


Monday, March 16, 2009

If Human Time Travel Were Possible...

...I don't believe it would happen the way the scientists say it would happen; wormholes, cosmic strings, traveling faster than the speed of light, etc.
Nope. I believe that were time travel to ever be a possibility, it would be selective.
You see, a scientist would "experiment" while 'back there' if he or she were able to find their way into the past. They would attempt numerous procedures - chemically or on a human - which could really turn the future into chaos.
Which is why I do not believe that a scientist would be able to travel through time.
I personally believe should time travel ever happen, then it would be by a selective process, allowing one who would appreciate and understand the occurrence as well as understanding the importance of their experience the opportunity to travel into the past.
Does that make sense?
In a very real sense, there are those who, I feel, have time traveled. No, I don't mean when reenactors dress up in period clothing and live out of tents in some field somewhere with others pretending it's another era.
I mean...well...have you ever stepped into an old home/structure - especially while wearing period clothing - and, for an instant, you 'see' the past? You can feel, even smell, another era from the house you happen to be in? Maybe even - in a flash - literally see another time?
I believe that, for that split second, somehow that feeling is real - absolute.
No, not reincarnation. I don't believe in reincarnation. (see History, Genes, Reenacting, and Time Travel )
But a literal sense of 'being there.'
Or is it wishful thinking?
Maybe, but I don't think so. It goes beyond 'wishful thinking.' Whatever it is, however, it comes and goes faster than an eye can blink.
The thing is, I've heard others - and of others - expressing the same experience that I myself have had. Not those that say, "Oh, yeah, that happens to me all the time," and do not even give it a second thought. That, I believe, is wishful thinking on their part. I can tell who it truly happens to and who just think it does. They are nonchalant, even when trying not to be. And it's not an occurrence that happens often.
It's totally unexpected.
And it's selective.
Without getting into too much detail, I have been interviewed by one who not only experienced what I am talking about themselves, but found others that have as well. This person is doing a special report on it - when and if it will ever be printed or available awaits to be seen. Anyhow, during the course of this interview I was told that for the greater majority of the others spoken to, my 'feelings' matched up to a "T" with theirs...including the interviewer's - and none of us knew or even had met each other! Needless to say, it was a very interesting conversation - and an exhilarating one at that! ---I'm not the only nut case out there!!--- No, hypnosis was not involved in any form, and each person that was interviewed was spoken to individually at different times and places throughout the midwest region.
For me personally, this whole perception has been happening since I was a child.
And it continues in adulthood.
Maybe it's the 'memory gene' that I have written about.
And it makes me wonder...


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

As You Begin the 2009 Reenacting Season, A Few Words From Ken

Before I became a living historian, I visited many reenactments and, I must be honest, looking back now they were pretty unimpressive to me. I mean, yeah, the battles were cool and all, but very few of the reenactors actually reached out to talk to me. Most seem to stick in their own little circles. Oh, they might've looked up as I walked by their tents, some even shouting a 'howdy' from the side of their tent as I stared at their set up, but that was about it. Then, once in a great while, one of the participants would actually walk up to me and greet me, making me feel welcome. They would tell me about their impression; if civilian they would speak of their 19th century lives, their clothing, or maybe how and what they were cooking over an open fire. The military was actually even less cordial while we walked past their camps. But, again, every-so-often a soldier in blue (and, believe it or not, especially in gray) would reach out to speak to us; show us their muskets, uniform, and tell us about the life of a typical Civil War soldier. Those are the people I remember most.

Many times you may find musicians performing period music that will ask patrons to sing along

And it wasn't just me. Hardly any patrons were made to feel welcome. Sometimes (I would hope unintentionally), some of the reenactors even made us feel like we were intruders!
One of our newest members that just this year joined our unit told me that she thought reenacting was an exclusive club.
Is this the impression a reenactor should give the patrons?

Now that I am a living historian/reenactor (in my 6th season), I try to be the type who does reach out to the patron, to entice them over to my campsite so I can hopefully answer any questions they might have. And to give them a sense that they are very important and that I'm mighty glad they came, especially the kids. Of course, I can't call everyone over, but I do try to speak so all can feel welcome. And I have found most visitors enjoy speaking with reenactors and even feel somewhat 'honored' when we speak to them.

To me that's backwards. It is I who feel honored when they come to my camp of their own free will. And I am even more honored when I am able hold them there through my presentation and my words.

As a living historian, I am always searching through my large (and growing larger) library of social history books for anything to improve my impression. I take great pleasure in studying the everyday lives of our ancestors, from mundane tasks to the more familiar chores and entertainment that were done around a typical Victorian home. I enjoy finding new information that to most people may mean nothing at all but to me is like gold. I like to use this information during reenactments. A good example of this is the Blue-Backed Speller vs the McGuffey Reader. If I were the age in 1863 that I am now, I would have been born in the year 1815. This means that chances are, when I went to school during the 1820's, I would have studied from Noah Webster's Speller, while my children, born in the 1840's and early 1850's (going by their current ages) more than likely would have learned from the McGuffey Reader.
I can use this bit of info when having a conversation with the patrons. They remember this sort of thing. I know this to be true because I've had customers tell me so at later reenactments!

And when speaking to the public, I bounce back and forth between 1st person and 3rd person, which allows me to be most effective in my delivery. Now, I must admit, I love doing 1st person, and I practice it as often as I can. But, I do not want to be anal about it either. By presenting myself in a 1st person/3rd person combination, it allows the visitor to be able to ask questions freely all the while still giving the impression that they have stepped into the past. I believe this creates a most memorable presentation for all involved.
But, I do like to have fun while in 1st person as well. A personal favorite tease I like to use is when a woman will come to my camp dressed in her very modern (21st century modern) clothing - shorts and tank top - and I will say to her, "Madam, is it your habit to present yourself in public wearing only your undergarments?"
These women literally turn beet red! Of course, they know I'm having fun with them, but I bet it makes them think twice about what they're wearing!

An example I'd like to give on giving the customer their 'money's worth' happened just last year, where a number of us learned about and took part in the social etiquette of 19th century mourning for both men and women.

First stage mourning - can you not feel her grief?

This has been a great experience for me, personally and historically, and it truly made 2008 a very memorable reenacting season. (please see my blog on mourning
here Mourning
and here

For this coming reenacting season I will be participating in a couple of presentations of home remedies of the 19th century with the same fine group of living historians as the mourning scenarios. We will be showing how to care for someone who was ill during the mid 19th century and will be learning about the types of medicines that most every household had and for what different types of sicknesses in which they were used.

Also, at a few of the upcoming events, as I have for the past three years, I will be the 'local' postmaster, presenting period replica stationary and having my helper write and read letters to any patron that cares to listen. Studying the occupation of a postmaster - something most (including myself) would figure to be a cure for insomnia - turned out to be a fascinating subject, so much so that my presentation has grown quite a bit, and this year I will expand my impression even more; military members of a number of different reenacting units (besides the one I am in) have asked if I would allow their groups to participate in the letter writing campaign. How could I say no?

Reading a letter from home

And that expansion is growing in ways I didn't think would ever happen: this coming Memorial Weekend it looks like I may even be allowed to perform my 'post master-ing' from an actual historic post office! If this does happen (and the prospect looks mighty good) it will be in this one right here - Phoenixville Post Office. To be able to do my 19th century postmaster impression from a real historic post office built around 1825 - how cool is that?

But, there is more to reenacting than presentations.

Last year, the president of our unit, Mike Gillett, spent time at the entrance gate during a reenactment at Greenfield Village. He was the first reenactor the folks saw upon walking through the gates, and so many of them stopped to speak with him and to have their photograph taken with him. That set a tone for many visitors and built on their excitement.
That same day, Mike, who is a chaplain as a reenactor as well as in real life, also "read" letters (delivered to the unit by yours truly) to the soldiers who 'could not read.' As for the few that could read, they sat right down and read their 'letters from home,' leaning against a tree, sitting on their camp stool, even crawling in their 'A' frame tent - wherever they could go to get some privacy to read the all-important news from home.
For the patron, this was a true scene out of the past.

A couple years earlier, at a reenactment up in Port Hope, Michigan (tip of the thumb!), our 1st Sgt. JEB, stopped to speak with a few kids after the battle. He posed for pictures with them and even let them hold his musket. Do not think those kids will ever forget that moment - they won't.

A reenactors thrills kids just by speaking to them

Let's go back a few more years, at a living history event in Wyandotte, Michigan. Our military members put on a scenario where they marched deserters around the park for all to see and thenlined them up, read them their last rites, and "shot" them for said crime of desertion.
The public loved it!

The good Chaplain praying over the bodies of the deserters

This is what Civil War reenacting is all about. Not just sitting on your behind being bored, waiting for the five o'clock hour so you can go home or change into your modern clothing, but to actively participate in portraying life as it was during the early 1860's. Whether you have a military or a civilian impression, to get the most out of this...ahem...hobby is to get up, move around, speak to the patrons, put on scenarios, and, like I try to do, show them life as once lived.

This is what makes history come to life.
This is what the public will remember.
This is what is needed more often in all aspects of reenacting.
This is what I hope that reenactors and living historians from all over can strive to make a part of each event they participate in.
And it's FUN!

It just doesn't get any better!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Last Mourner for Lincoln

I have a true reenacting tale I'd like to share. It's about my daughter and President Lincoln.
My daughter, Rosalia, at her current age of 8 (as of this year of 2009), has been involved in living history most of her life. She doesn't remember not reenacting. And she realizes that reenacting is when we pretend to be living in the old days, without electricity, cars, or TV's. This she knows and understands well.
Anyhow, it was at the Jackson, Michigan event, Michigan's largest Civil War event, when Rosalia was just 5 years old, and she and her little friend, Elizabeth, were watching the contra dancing at the ball. In fact, as young as they were, they even gave it a try themselves. They were lucky enough to dance a bit with none other than President Lincoln himself (portrayed by living historian Fred Priebe), of which my daughter later told me, "President Lincoln told me and Elizabeth that we were the prettiest girls at the ball!"
That made her night!
Mr. Lincoln was present at numerous other events that we participated in before the end of that year's season, so my daughter was able to visit with him a few more times before winter hit.
Jumping ahead a couple months and she was now in school - half day kindergarten. She went to school in the morning and was home with me in the afternoon (I didn't begin work until 2:30, and that gave she and I wonderful daddy-daughter time).
So here we were, doing what any father and daughter would be doing....watching the History Channel to hopefully find real history to watch, and it just so happened that a show about President Lincoln was on. Well, it explained how Booth sneaked up behind the 16th President on the fateful night in April and, well, changed history.
As we were watching this, I glanced at Rosalia and noticed a tear running down her cheek. I asked her what was wrong, and in her tiny 5 year old voice, she cried, "I didn't know Mr. Lincoln died!" And burst into tears!
And then it hit me - she never differentiated the reenactor Lincoln with the real president Lincoln! To her, they were one and the same!

Fred Priebe as President Lincoln

I gave her a hug and explained that the Lincoln she knew was just pretending, just like we pretended to live during the Civil War and that the actual President Lincoln died 140 years earlier - "way before even grandma was born!" I told her that the Lincoln she knew was very much alive and that she would see him at the next reenactment.
It took a few moments for it too sink in, but once it did she was as happy, but still not 100% convinced.
Believe me when I say that at the very next reenactment, she made sure Mr. Priebe - I mean, Mr Lincoln! - was there!
Of course, Fred was touched when I told him this story, and it has become a favorite of ours to tell at gatherings.

How neat that my little girl truly felt the pain of losing President Lincoln here in the 21st century like none of us will ever experience!


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Another Fine Blog For You To Read!

Blogging is a great past time, but so is finding other bloggers who share many of the same passions as you do.
One such blog is Pastoral Symphony Farm written by Mrs. G. (no, not my Mrs. G! Another who shares the same 1st letter of the last name).
Just in time for Spring, her latest is an excellent chapter on maple syrup-ing - here is a couple lines to entice you to read the rest of her latest blog: Today marks the official beginning of Spring for our family, a day that has been eagerly awaited and much anticipated throughout the chill of Winter. Spring might not be here for you, but it begins for us when we tap the Maple trees...

And here's her link:

It's great to find that the traditional life still lives!