Eyes of a Soldier

The mythology surrounding Lexington and Concord often obscure the history… of the events of April 19, 1775.  General Thomas Gage tried to put the day’s events into perspective for his anxious superiors across the Atlantic.  Gage knew too well that this was not going to be a suppression of “farmers with pitchforks.”

every hill, fence, and house

“…a continual skirmish for the space of 15 miles, receiving fire from every hill, fence, house, barn, etc.. the whole country was assembled in arms with surprising expedition, and several thousand are now assembled about this town threatening to attack…and we are very busy making preparations to oppose them.”   Gage to Earl of Dartmouth, April 1775

 

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Be the Man

Teddy Roosevelt was America… no one better defined what it meant to be an American.   Roosevelt brought Parisians to their feet on April 23, 1910 clearly stating what it took to be a republican (not a member of the party.)  His words have lived on influencing everyone from Richard Nixon to Nelson Mandela.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Larger than Life

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Looking to the Future

Lincoln gave his last public address on April 11, 1865… and reconstruction was on his mind.  He was just back from Richmond, the front, and high level meetings with Grant.  But, he was ready to bring his nation back together- to “heal the wounds” as he stated in the Second Inaugural.

Final days

Final days

By these recent successes the re-inauguration of the national authority — reconstruction — which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of a war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with. No one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with, and mold from, disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of reconstruction.”

 

There was difficult work ahead and Lincoln anticipated a new battle… with members of the opposition and his own party.  Three days later, Boothe’s treachery had far reaching effects no one could have foreseen.

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Study Computers in College!

History majors face a difficult job market… according to a new study.  Only architecture majors fared worse statistically.  History majors face an unemployment rate of over 15% with little hope of improvement.  Because of stringent teaching requirements in most states, a history degree cannot lead to a career in education.  A history degree seems to condemn the recipient to more schooling and more debt.

A history degree ??

The remedy is a simple one… avoid history classes in college.  Studying engineering and computers will provide the most opportunities after college.  It appears as if the national drive to strengthen science and math education has paid off handsomely.  Dot.com executives dominate the Fortune 500 and even entry level technology work pays handsomely when compared to what is available in the liberal arts.  There’s nothing cooler than hip, young tech industry executives soaking up everything gentrified neighborhoods have to offer.  But has all this effort come at a price?  Will our education system continue to turn its back on the liberal arts?

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On Friendship

Friendship was not just a social convention to Jefferson… but he considered it essential to the human condition- a bedrock of civil society.  Acquaintances come and go, but true friends grow, mature, and age with you.  Jefferson realized that later in life, friendships would be therapeutic.

Oh really.....do tell.

Oh really…..do tell.

 

“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.”

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Throwing Stones Through Conception Windows

At the center of the Jefferson/Hemings controversy... is the contention that Thomas Jefferson was in residence at Monticello 9 months prior to the births of Sally Hemings’s  four surviving children.  These ‘conception windows’ now serve as one of the three legs of the case for Jefferson’s paternity(along with the inconclusive DNA and inconsistent oral history.)

Behind closed doors?

Behind closed doors?

Fraser Neiman’s 2000 analysis... published in William and Mary Quarterly seemed to be just the type of evidence the paternity advocates wanted, the proverbial smoking gun.  Jefferson was at Monticello when Hemings conceived her children– case closed.  This is just the kind of scholarship that sells books, but at the same time,  assails history.  When it comes to the Jefferson/Hemings controversy, minds were made up before the DNA results, Annette Gordon-Reed’s revisionism, and Neiman’s loosely connected dots…whatever circumstantial evidence produced is now seen as definitive– scholarship be damned.

Be true, keep it real

Be true, keep it real

  • Neiman bases his assumptions solely on recorded birth dates in Jefferson’s Farm Book.  Jefferson was not present for all the births and there is no way of knowing when he recorded the events.
  • The conception windows are established by Neiman counting backward 267 days- a full term pregnancy.  There is no proof Sally Hemings carried all her children to term. It seems unlikely that a woman in the 19th century would have six full term pregnancies.
  • Jefferson was present at Monticello for  long stretches where Hemings did not give birth.  Neiman implies throughout his study that Jefferson’s visits consisted of sexual liaisons. Jefferson was at Monticello for nearly two years before the birth of Harriet Hemings(there were two Harriets)  in January 1795.   There are three year gaps between two of her births- Jefferson’s visits to Monticello did not result in a Hemings pregnancy.
  • Beverly Hemings’s conception date was set prior to July 8, 1797- yet Jefferson doesn’t arrive at Monticello until July 11.  Neiman cleverly fudges the numbers in this case.
  • Hemings’s next birth was not discovered in the Farm Book, but in a letter to Jefferson’s son-in-law, John Wayles Eppes.  Jefferson relates the birth  to “Maria’s maid.”  Maria was not living at Monticello during this time (Spring of 1799.)  Sally Hemings’s residence at Monticello is never firmly established.
  • Harriet Hemings was born in May of 1801, shortly after Jefferson became President.  Evidence suggests he was in the Charlottesville area during the conception window, but also reveals he was rarely at Monticello during the crucial period of August-September 1800.
  • Madison Hemings(one of the original sources in the oral history) was conceived during April of 1804.  Neiman wants us to believe that Jefferson did this during the final days of his daughter Maria’s life(she died April 17) and her funeral–with large number of extended family present.
  • There is evidence Sally Hemings worked outside the Monticello community.  When Martha Jefferson Randolph  informed her father of Harriet Hemings’s death, she wrote the letter from her home at Bellmont.  Jefferson referred to “Polly’s maid” giving birth in 1799.  If Sally was Martha’s maid at this time- they were not living at Monticello.
  • Sally Hemings conceived her last child, Eston, when Jefferson was 64 years old.  Jefferson took up permanent residence at Monticello in 1809- Sally Hemings stopped having children.  She was 35 at that time.  Wouldn’t Jefferson’s presence mean more births?

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Jefferson in Love….Sort of…

Jefferson struggled with his love for Maria Cosway…. going as far as to illustrate his emotional agony to her in a letter- the letter detailed the tug-of-war between Jefferson’s head and his aching heart.  Jefferson was perfectly content to remain within his head, buried in his books and letters.  But, as seen in the previous post, Jefferson was a man who cared and loved deeply.  Maria Cosway was a special woman, he knew he would never find another like her:

Dear Friend

Head: In fine, my friend, you must mend your manners. This is not a world to live at random in as you do. To avoid these eternal distresses, to which you are for ever exposing us, you must learn to look forward before you take a step which may interest our peace. Everything in this world is matter of calculation. Advance then with caution, the balance in your hand. Put into one scale the pleasures which any object may offer; but put fairly into the other the pains which are to follow, and see which preponderates…The most effectual means of being secure against pain is to retire within ourselves, and to suffice for our own happiness. Those, which depend on ourselves, are the only pleasures a wise man will count on: for nothing is ours which another may deprive us of. Hence the inestimable value of intellectual pleasures. 

Heart: This world abounds indeed with misery: to lighten it’s burthen we must divide it with one another. But let us now try the virtues of your mathematical balance, and as you have put into one scale the burthens of friendship, let me put it’s comforts into the other….In a life where we are perpetually exposed to want and accident, yours is a wonderful proposition, to insulate ourselves, to retire from all aid, and to wrap ourselves in the mantle of self-sufficiency! For assuredly nobody will care for him who cares for nobody.

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