Monthly Archives: September 2017

John Langdon dies

John Langdon dies


On this day in history, September 18, 1819, John Langdon dies. Langdon was a leader of the American Revolution from New Hampshire. He would be a member of the Continental Congress, a governor of New Hampshire and the first President pro tempore of the United States Senate.


John Langdon was born to a wealthy farmer in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. John and his older brother, Woodbury, both became sailors as young men, sailing out of Portsmouth, one of New England’s primary ports. By the age of 22, Langdon owned his first ship and began sailing to the West Indies and London. Over time, both brothers had their own fleets of ships and became some of Portsmouth’s most wealthy citizens.


As the American Revolution neared, Langdon’s business was particularly affected by British policies since he was involved in shipping and trade. This made Langdon a strong supporter of American rights and independence. He became involved in New Hampshire’s Committee of Correspondence and with enforcing the boycott on British goods. In 1774, he participated in the capture of ammunition and weapons from Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth to prevent the British from using them.


In 1775, Langdon was elected to the Continental Congress. He resigned in 1776 and returned to New Hampshire to oversee the building of several ships for Congress. He also became involved in importing weapons for the army and began serving in the New Hampshire congress, where he became Speaker of the House. In 1777, Langdon was personally involved in the Battle of Bennington, the Battles of Saratoga and, in 1778, the Rhode Island Campaign to take back Newport.


After the war, Langdon continued in the New Hampshire legislature and served a few terms as governor. In 1787, Langdon was elected to attend the Constitutional Convention where he supported the new Constitution. He was a leader of the effort to ratify the Constitution in New Hampshire and served at the ratification convention. When New Hampshire became the 9th state to vote to accept the Constitution on June 21, 1788, the Constitution became the law of the land and the United States was officially created.


Langdon was elected one of New Hampshire’s first two senators to the United States Congress. He served in this position for two terms, from 1789 to 1801. During the first and second Congresses, Langdon was elected the first President pro tempore of the Senate, meaning he presided over the Senate’s sessions in the absence of the President of the Senate, who was also the Vice-President of the United States.


Langdon was involved in an interesting affair with a slave of George Washington’s in the late 1790s. Oney Judge, as she was called, had escaped Washington’s custody in Philadelphia and sailed to Portsmouth where she made a home for herself. When Burwell Bassett, Washington’s nephew, came to Portsmouth to bring her home, she refused. Bassett told Langdon over dinner that he was going to kidnap her. Langdon secretly sent word to Oney that she should go into hiding, which she did and avoided capture.


In 1801, Langdon began serving in the New Hampshire house again and spent several years as governor. He finally retired in 1812. He turned down an appointment by President Thomas Jefferson to serve as Secretary of the Navy in 1801, and again turned down an offer to run for vice-president with Jefferson in 1812. Langdon passed away on September 18, 1819 and was buried in North Cemetery in Portsmouth.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of the rulers are concealed from them."

Patrick Henry, 1788

US Constitution is Adopted

US Constitution is adopted


On this day in history, September 17, 1787, the US Constitution is adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The Constitution was made to replace the failed Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document. Today, the US Constitution is the oldest functioning constitution of any state in the world.


During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress created the Articles of Confederation as the first governing document of the unified colonies. Over time, the Articles proved to be too weak for the government to function. The Articles gave Congress authority over trade, foreign relations and war, but it did not give Congress sufficient power to compel the states to comply.


Representatives from several states met at Annapolis, Maryland in 1786 to discuss some of the failed aspects of the Articles. They wrote a letter to Congress and the states requesting that a new convention be held to revise the Articles so the government would be strong enough to function.


Delegates converged on the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, in May of 1787. This was the same place Congress had met during the Revolution and created the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. The delegates, including such people as Roger Sherman, Elbridge Gerry, Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin, James Madison and Gouverneur Morris, chose George Washington to serve as President of the Convention.


Right from the start, the Philadelphia Convention did away with the idea of reforming the Articles of Confederation, instead choosing to write an altogether new constitution. The delegates debated the plan for four months, dealing with such questions as states’ rights vs. federal power, slavery, foreign affairs, the scope of presidential powers and the balance between the interests of small states and large states. 


In the end, a single executive, the President, was chosen to enforce the laws of Congress, which would be made up of a lower house, the House of Representatives, with delegates apportioned by population, and an upper house, the Senate, where each state was represented equally. A Supreme Court and federal judiciary would judge all matters of controversy.


On September 17, 1787, the Congress adopted its final version of the new Constitution and 39 delegates signed the document. Over the next two years, each state held its own ratification convention and debated the merits and weaknesses of the Constitution. The Constitution required that 9 of the 13 states ratify it in order for it to become law. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify and the Constitution became the law of the land.


The first Congress and the new government began meeting on March 4, 1789. George Washington would be inaugurated President in April. By the fall of that year, a bill of rights containing protections for many basic rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the right to bear arms, and many others, was proposed for addition to the Constitution. The first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were added to the Constitution and became law on December 15, 1791.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”
James Madison

Samuel Adams is born

Samuel Adams is born


On this day in history, September 16, 1722, Samuel Adams is born. He would be a pre-eminent leader of the Boston revolutionaries, sign the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation and be called the "Firebrand of the American Revolution."


Samuel Adams was born into a wealthy Puritan Boston family. He was educated at Harvard and went into business after graduating. After several attempts at business failed, Adams found his real success in politics. In 1747, he was elected to his first political office as a clerk for Boston Market. He later served as a tax collector for the Boston Town Meeting. The town meeting asked him to write their instructions to their members of the House of Representatives in 1764. This writing proved to be the first instance of a public body claiming that Parliament had no authority to tax the colonies.


In the decade leading up to the Revolution, Adams was a member of the House of Representatives and served as that body’s clerk, giving him a great deal of influence. Adams became one of the leading voices against Parliamentary overreach in Boston and was closely associated with other patriotic figures such as James Otis, John Hancock and his second-cousin, John Adams.


Adams wrote the "Massachusetts Circular Letter" in response to the Townshend Acts, which placed taxes on various items, in 1768. The letter was sent by the House of Representatives to the other colonies, asking them to join in challenging the Townshend Acts. The British responded by dissolving the legislatures of Massachusetts and any other colonies that supported the letter.


Bostonians resisted the taxes of the Townshend Acts and Parliament occupied the city with soldiers, leading to the Boston Massacre. Adams published numerous letters and articles denouncing British policies and called for the mass meeting of citizens that led to the Boston Tea Party. Adams helped organize the boycott of British goods and helped create the Committees of Correspondence which kept the colonies in contact with one another.


In 1774, Adams was sent to the Continental Congress, where he served continually for the next 7 years. While in Congress, Adams was a leading advocate of American independence from early on. He served on numerous committees, especially those dealing with military matters. He signed the Declaration of Independence and served on the committee that wrote the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document.


In 1779, Adams helped write the Massachusetts Constitution with John Adams and James Bowdoin. He returned to Massachusetts politics for good in 1781 and served often as the moderator of the Boston Town Meeting. He served in the state Senate and helped promote public schools in Boston, even for girls. Adams was originally against the US Constitution, thinking it gave too much power to the federal government, but he supported it after the promise was made to include a bill of rights. He voted to support the Constitution at the Massachusetts ratifying convention in 1788.


Adams was elected lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts in 1789 and served in this position until the death of Governor John Hancock in 1793. Adams was then elected to the governorship annually for the next 4 years, after which he retired from public life. Samuel Adams died on October 2, 1803 and was buried in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States, or of some one or more of them; or to prevent the people from petitioning, in a peaceable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers or possessions.

Samuel Adams, Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788

The British Landing at Kip’s Bay

The British landing at Kip’s Bay


On this day in history, September 15, 1776, the British landing at Kip’s Bay opens the way for the British capture of New York City unopposed during the American Revolution. After the lost Battle of Long Island on August 29, the Continental Army escaped during the night to Manhattan, which was then called York Island.


George Washington was placed in the dilemma of having to choose what to do with New York City. Should he spend tons of blood and treasure defending the city, or should he abandon it? Most of Washington’s generals believed the city was strategically unimportant. Washington did not, however, want to abandon the city to the British, who could make the city a base of operations. For this reason, Washington considered burning the city to the ground.


Until he heard from Congress, Washington resolved to defend the island. Washington split his 19,000 troops into three groups, the first, under General Israel Putnam, to defend New York City, the second, under General Nathanael Greene, stretched across the middle of Manhattan and the third, under General William Heath, to defend Harlem Heights and the King’s Bridge, the only escape by land available to the Continental Army, at the north end of the island.


Kip’s Bay was a cove that sat roughly where E. 32nd Street to E. 38th Street in New York City lie today. It has since been filled in so is not visible today. The cove was a good place for a naval landing because it had deep water close to the shore. 500 Connecticut militia under Colonel William Douglas were stationed at Kip’s Bay and had built a flimsy breastwork there from which to fire. 


On September 7, Washington received a letter from John Hancock stating that Congress did not wish New York City to be burned, but that Washington was not required to defend it either. British General William Howe was slow to invade Manhattan, however, waiting until a meeting on September 11th with Ben Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge, which he hoped would produce some kind of peace. When the meeting failed, Howe set about his invasion plans.


On the morning of September 15th, 5 British warships sailed up the East River, firing their guns as they went. When they arrived at Kip’s Bay, they began bombarding the shore and the weak defenses. 80 cannons fired on the green militia, most of whom were armed with pikes made from scythes. The militia quickly scattered, while a flotilla of flat-boats began landing 4,000 British troops on the shore.


Washington came from Harlem Heights as soon as he heard the bombardment begin and watched from a nearby hill. He was horrified as he watched the militia retreat, riding onto the field himself in hopes of rallying them. As the soldiers continued to stream past him, he became angry and began cursing and striking the men with the flat of his sword, in one of the few instances he was known to have lost his temper. Washington came within 80 yards of the British soldiers before his aides were able to pull him off the battlefield.


As Howe’s men marched after the retreating soldiers, General Putnam scrambled to get his soldiers in New York City north of the British line before they trapped him in the south of the island. Fortunately, Howe ordered his troops to stop and wait for reinforcements, allowing the rest of the Continentals to escape to Harlem and regroup. This left New York City abandoned by the patriots and the British walked into the city unopposed.


The Battle of Kip’s Bay was a clear British victory. About 50 Americans were killed and 320 captured, while only a dozen British soldiers were killed or wounded. George Washington was ashamed and angry at the cowardly behavior of the troops. The following day, however, Washington would be encouraged when his troops won the Battle of Harlem Heights, even though they were outnumbered nearly 3 to 1, in Washington’s first battlefield victory of the war.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

Benjamin Franklin

Mercy Otis Warren is Born

Mercy Otis Warren is born


On this day in history, September 14, 1728, Mercy Otis Warren is born. Mercy would be an important writer during the Revolution and an adviser to numerous political leaders of the time. She would also be the first woman to publish in the United States and would write one of the early histories of the American Revolution.


Mercy Otis was born in West Barnstable, Massachusetts in 1728, the third child in a family of 12 children. Her father, James Otis, Sr. was an influential lawyer and attorney general of Massachusetts. Otis, Sr. was a staunch anti-British patriot from early on and Mercy learned many of her political views from him as a child. Even though she had no formal education, Mercy was tutored by a local minister with her older brother James (who would become a leader of the patriot movement). She became extremely well read and knowledgeable about politics for a woman of her time.


Mercy married James Warren in 1754 and went to live with his family in Plymouth. James would eventually be elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he would become the Speaker of the House. After the Revolution began, James was elected the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and served as a paymaster to the Continental Army.


Having a father who was a formal attorney general, a brother (James) who earned the nickname “Father of the American Revolution,” and a husband at the head of the rebel congress, Mercy was immersed in the politics of the day. She was close friends with and a writing correspondent with such people as Sam Adams, John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Hancock, George Washington, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. James and Mercy often hosted meetings of the rebel political leaders in their home. The Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence, which Samuel Adams said was the most important thing that took place to get the colonies working together, was formed in the Warren’s living room.


Mercy used her extensive knowledge of history and politics to become an influential writer in her own right. She published several plays before and during the war that satirized and criticized British rule and policies, although never under her own name, which would have been unusual for a woman of the time. In 1788, she published Observations on the New Constitution, which was critical of the new constitution and called for a bill of rights. Some believe this writing was instrumental in the creation and adoption of the Bill of Rights into the Constitution.


In 1790, Mercy published her first work to be published in her own name, Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous, which contained 18 poems and 2 plays designed to educate about the virtues necessary for the new nation to succeed. In 1805, she published her most substantial work, the 3 volume History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, one of the first histories of the Revolution to be published and the only one of that era to be published by a woman. Mercy Otis Warren passed away on October 19, 1814 at 86 and is buried at Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government.” 

Thomas Jefferson, 1781- Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIII

Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born

Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born


On this day in history, September 13, 1739, Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born. Pickens was one of the great military leaders of the South during the American Revolution, who would also be elected to Congress and be famed as a negotiator with southern Indian tribes.


Andrew Pickens was born in Pennsylvania, the son of French Huguenots who had immigrated from France to Scotland to Ireland and finally to America. Pickens traveled south along the Great Wagon Road that took many Scots-Irish families south to the Carolinas and settled in the Waxhaws region of South Carolina, later moving near the Georgia border.


Pickens became a successful farmer and trader with local Indians. He gained military experience in the Cherokee Wars of the early 1760s, but was especially known for personally having good relations with the Indians.


When the American Revolution began, Pickens became a captain in the patriot militia. He served in numerous battles, such as the Siege of Ninety-Six, the Snow Campaign against Loyalist organizers, the Williamson Campaign against the Cherokee and the Battle of Kettle Creek.


Pickens surrendered after the Battle of Charleston that captured the city and agreed not to fight the British any more in order to be paroled, as many South Carolinians did. The parole did not last, however. Pickens joined the fight again after his home was wrecked by Loyalists and his family threatened. Pickens earned a ceremonial sword from Congress and a promotion to brigadier general for his role in the Battle of Cowpens. Pickens then took place in the siege that took back Augusta from the British and the last major battle in the south, the Battle of Eutaw Springs.


After the Revolution, Pickens built a home on the Keowee River called Hopewell Plantation where he lived for many years. Pickens’ reputation as a friend of the Indians only increased in the decades after the Revolution, as he was called upon time and time again to negotiate with the Chickasaws, Creeks, Cherokees, Chickamaugas and Choctaws. Pickens was so well regarded by the Indians that he earned the nickname “Skyagunsta,” or “Wizard Owl.” This was the name of a great Cherokee chief who died shortly before the Revolution began, who was known for being a great warrior, but also for making peace with the British.


Pickens served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1781-1794 and again from 1800-1812. He served at the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1790 and was elected to Congress for one term in 1793.


In his later years, Pickens built a home near the site of a Cherokee village called Tamassee, near the location of a famous battle Pickens won early in the Revolution, called the “Ring Fight.” Pickens won the fight by ordering his men, who were outnumbered 7 to 1, to stand in a circle and fire their guns outward at any attackers. Pickens lived at Tamassee in his “Red House,” until his death in 1718.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


“Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.”

James Madison

Congress authorizes the first printing of the Bible

Congress authorizes the first printing of the Bible


On this day in history, September 12, 1782, Congress authorizes the first printing of the Bible in North America by Philadelphia publisher, Robert Aitken. This Bible has been called the "Bible of the Revolution." But why would Congress "authorize" the publishing of a Bible?


In Europe, it was traditional for the Christian governments to authorize or license Bible publishers for accuracy. It was believed that if any old person could publish the Bible, inaccuracies could creep into the text, creating confusion amongst the populace about what was proper Christian doctrine.


After the boycotts of British goods began during the Revolution, there was a shortage of Bibles in the American colonies because Bibles were previously imported from Britain. As early as 1777, Congress discussed importing Bibles from Scotland or Holland, but these plans were never completed.


On January 21, 1781, Robert Aitken addressed a letter to Congress requesting them to review and authorize a printing of the Bible he was currently working on. Aitken stated that he knew Congress would "not neglect spiritual security, while they are virtuously contending for temporal blessings." He also said the Bible would be used in schools and requests that Congress review it for accuracy. He asks them to appoint and authorize him to print as many as were necessary to meet the needs of the American people.


Congress obliged Aitken’s request by appointing a committee for the review, consisting of James Duane, Thomas McKean and the Rev. John Witherspoon. The committee referred the Aitken Bible to Congress’ two congressional chaplains, the Rev. William White of Christ Church, Philadelphia, and the Rev. George Duffield of the Third Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.


On September 1, the chaplains reported back that they believed Aitken’s printing was indeed accurate and indicated it would provide them great personal joy that a new supply of Bibles would finally be available in America once again.


On September 12, Congress took up the recommendation based on the chaplains’ review and passed the following resolution, which was printed in the front of the Aitken Bible: "RESOLVED, THAT the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize him to publish this Recommendation in the manner he shall think proper."


Aitken printed 10,000 copies of his Bible, only 30-40 of which still exist today. Ironically, Aitken’s sister, Jane, later became the first woman to print a Bible in world history, also on September 12, when she printed a Bible containing Charles Thomson’s translation of the New Testament in 1808. Thomson was the long time Secretary of Congress and an accomplished theologian. His translation of the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament, was the first translation of the New Testament directly from the Greek into English ever written. All previous English New Testaments were translated from the Latin.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


"We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it." George Washington (1785)