Monthly Archives: January 2018

Alexander Hamilton is born

Alexander Hamilton is born

 

On this day in history, January 11, 1755, Alexander Hamilton is born in the British West Indies. Hamilton was orphaned as a young boy and later attended King’s College in New York (now Columbia). Hamilton joined the New York militia when the Revolution began and raised a company of artillery soldiers which took part in the Battle of White Plains and the Battle of Trenton.

 

Hamilton’s intellect brought him to the attention of George Washington who made him his chief aide for four years. In this position, Hamilton dealt with the highest ranking generals, governors and members of Congress and often negotiated on Washington’s behalf. Toward the end of the Revolution, Hamilton led a battalion of men that took Redoubt No. 10 at Yorktown, one of the crucial actions that forced Cornwallis to surrender his army and bring the war to a close.

 

Hamilton was then elected to Congress from New York and became a strong advocate of a new Constitution with a stronger central government. He served as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention and was the only signer of the document from New York. During the ratification process, he authored 51 of the 85 essays now known as the Federalist Papers, co-authored with John Jay and James Madison. The Federalist Papers, even today, are the most frequently cited texts dealing with understanding the proper interpretation of the Constitution.

 

Hamilton became George Washington’s first Secretary of the Treasury and largely shaped Washington’s policies. Under his leadership, the federal government assumed all state debts incurred during the war, established a national bank, the US Mint, the US Coast Guard and America’s first taxes.

 

During this time, he also became the leader of the Federalist Party. His leadership helped prevent John Adams from winning a second term, nearly caused a war with France, passed the Alien and Sedition Acts and broke the deadlocked vote that gave Thomas Jefferson the presidency instead of Aaron Burr.

 

In 1804, Burr ran for governor of New York and Hamilton used his influence to help get him defeated. During the process, ugly words were spoken by both sides. Burr felt that his honor had been offended and challenged Hamilton to a duel. On July 11, 1804, the two met at Weehauken, New Jersey, in the same spot Hamilton’s oldest son had been killed in a duel 3 years earlier. As the two fired, Burr’s shot went through Hamilton’s abdomen, doing a great deal of damage. He died the next morning at the age of 49.

 

Some historians consider Alexander Hamilton to be one of the most important Founding Fathers for his role in shaping the American government. His interpretation of the "Necessary and Proper Clause" forms the basis for much of our modern legal system and he is considered to be the architect of our modern capitalist financial system.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism."

Alexander Hamilton (1775)

John Paul Jones takes command of the Bonhomme Richard

John Paul Jones takes command of the Bonhomme Richard

 

On this day in history, January 10, 1779, John Paul Jones takes command of the Bonhomme Richard. John Paul Jones was born in Scotland and became a sailor at the age of thirteen. He eventually moved to Virginia and volunteered his services to the Continental Congress in the fall of 1775.

 

After a series of successful missions in American waters, Jones sailed for France on the USS Ranger to meet with America’s diplomats there, Ben Franklin, John Adams and Arthur Lee. Jones shared with them his plan to harass British ships in British waters and they gave him permission to proceed. The Ranger made some attacks on the British coast and captured a British warship, having an enormous psychological impact on the British people, making the people realize they were not safe even in their homeland.

 

After returning to France, Jones was given command of the Duc de Duras, a French merchant ship given to the Americans by King Louis XVI. Jones renamed it the Bonhomme Richard in honor of Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack character, Richard Saunders (the French version was called Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard). Jones had the ship outfitted for war and left at the head of a 5 ship convoy in August for another raid along the east side of Britain, spreading fear up and down the British coast.

 

On September 23, the fleet met a convoy of 41 merchant ships off Flamborough Head, escorted by the 50 gun HMS Serapis. An engagement began in which the Bonhomme Richard was severely damaged. Jones knew he could not compete against the greater firepower of the Serapis and succeeded in maneuvering close enough to tie the two vessels together. Both crews tried to board the other ship unsuccessfully and nearly half the crews of each died in the battle. When another ship in Jones’ convoy finally came to the Bonhomme Richard’s aid, the captain of the Serapis knew he could not win against both ships and finally surrendered.

 

Jones’ crew took over the Serapis and tried in vain to repair the Bonhomme Richard, which by this time had gaping holes through her body so large that you could see all the way through the ship. She was badly leaking water and sunk about 36 hours later. Jones took command of the Serapis and sailed her to the Netherlands where the British attempted to get him charged as a pirate. The attempt failed however when a flag, allegedly designed by Ben Franklin from a description he just received of the newly approved American flag, was raised over the vessel. This flag made the vessel a vessel of war and not a pirate ship and Jones escaped further trouble. The flag became known as the Serapis Flag, but is sometimes called the John Paul Jones flag as well.

 

After the war Jones served in the Russian Navy for a time, but retired to Paris where he died in 1792. He is considered America’s first naval hero for his actions in the war. His body was moved from France to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1906 and the burial service was presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

John Paul Jones

Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense

Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense

 

On this day in 1776, writer Thomas Paine publishes his pamphlet “Common Sense,” setting forth his arguments in favor of American independence.  Although little used today, pamphlets were an important medium for the spread of ideas in the 16th through 19th centuries.

 

Originally published anonymously, “Common Sense” advocated independence for the American colonies from Britain and is considered one of the most influential pamphlets in American history.  Credited with uniting average citizens and political leaders behind the idea of independence, “Common Sense” played a remarkable role in transforming a colonial squabble into the American Revolution.

 

At the time Paine wrote “Common Sense,” most colonists considered themselves to be aggrieved Britons.  Paine fundamentally changed the tenor of colonists’ argument with the crown when he wrote the following:  “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.  This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.  Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”

 

Paine was born in England in 1737 and worked as a corset maker in his teens and, later, as a sailor and schoolteacher before becoming a prominent pamphleteer. In 1774, Paine arrived in Philadelphia and soon came to support American independence.  Two years later, his 47-page pamphlet sold some 500,000 copies, powerfully influencing American opinion. Paine went on to serve in the U.S. Army and to work for the Committee of Foreign Affairs before returning to Europe in 1787.  Back in England, he continued writing pamphlets in support of revolution. He released “The Rights of Man,” supporting the French Revolution in 1791-92, in answer to Edmund Burke’s famous “Reflections on the Revolution in France” (1790). His sentiments were highly unpopular with the still-monarchal British government, so he fled to France, where he was later arrested for his political opinions.  He returned to the United States in 1802 and died in New York in 1809.

 

http://www.history.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled…"

Thomas Paine (1776)

General John Burgoyne’s play The Blockade of Boston is interrupted

General John Burgoyne’s play The Blockade of Boston is interrupted

 

On this day in history, January 8, 1776, General John Burgoyne’s play The Blockade of Boston is interrupted when colonists attack Charlestown. Unbeknownst to most, General John Burgoyne, the famous British General who surrendered his army at Saratoga, changing the course of the American Revolution, was also a mildly successful playwright.

 

Burgoyne published his first play, The Maid of the Oaks, in 1774. It was well received and soon opened at the Drury Lane Theater for a run of several nights to both good and bad reviews, but Burgoyne had established his name as a playwright. When Burgoyne was sent to Boston in May, 1775, he used his influence to have Faneuil Hall converted into a theater. One way bored British soldiers trapped in Boston spent their time was in producing plays twice a week on the upper level of Faneuil Hall, to the complete consternation of Boston’s Puritan population, which had outlawed theater performances since 1750, believing them to be instigators of "immorality, impiety and contempt of religion.

 

While in Boston, Burgoyne wrote The Blockade of Boston, a satirical play making fun of the colonists. No complete copy of the play has survived, but one diary account says George Washington was portrayed as an "uncouth countryman; dressed shabbily, with a large wig and long rusty sword." One line from an American character in the play reveals how the Americans were portrayed: "Ye tarbarrell’d Lawgivers, yankified Prigs, Who are Tyrants in Custom, yet call yourselves Whigs; In return for the Favours you’ve lavish’d on me, May I see you all hang’d upon Liberty Tree."

 

The Blockade of Boston was set to be performed at 9pm on January 8, 1776. Burgoyne was not even in town anymore, having left for London in December. Just as the play was about to begin, a group of 100 colonists under the command of Major Thomas Knowlton staged a raid on the British outpost in Charlestown, across the water from Boston. Several homes were burned and five soldiers were captured in the raid.

 

As shots rang out from the Fort on Bunker Hill, the soldiers back in Boston heard the commotion. One soldier, dressed in a costume and about to perform, rushed onto the stage and yelled out that the rebels were attacking. The audience of mostly soldiers believed the outburst was part of the performance and stayed in their seats. After some more pleading by the officer/actor, the crowd realized they were truly under attack and began to scramble to their posts.

 

Eyewitness accounts have the soldiers tripping over each other, jumping over the orchestra pit, stomping on violins, rushing to change from their costumes and wipe the makeup off their faces in order to get to their posts. The Americans had quite a laugh at the scene when it was reported in newspapers a few days later.

 

John Burgoyne would go on to publish 3 more successful plays in London, but would never become a well-known playwright. He is most remembered for his surrender at the Battle of Saratoga in October, 1777, the event that encouraged France to join the war on the side of the Americans.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontentment

The first Electoral College is chosen

The first Electoral College is chosen

 

On this day in history, January 7, 1789, the first Electoral College is chosen. They would cast their votes for President on February 4 and would unanimously choose George Washington as the first President of the United States.

 

The election of 1789 was a unique one in American history. Only ten of the original thirteen colonies would vote in the election. North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet even ratified the Constitution, so were not yet part of the United States. New York had ratified the Constitution, but a deadlock in the legislature prevented them from appointing their electors by the appointed date of January 7, meaning there were no electors to vote for president on February 4th from New York. At the time, each state was allowed to decide its own method of choosing electors who would then vote for President. Each state was given a number of electors equal to its number of senators and representatives in Congress.

 

Electors were chosen by the legislature in 5 states – Connecticut, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina. Virginia and Delaware divided the state into districts and one elector was chosen by each district. Maryland and Pennsylvania chose electors by popular vote. In Massachusetts, two electors were appointed by the legislature, while the remaining electors were chosen by the legislature from a list of the top two vote receivers in each congressional district. In New Hampshire, a statewide vote was held with the legislature making the decision in case of a tie.

 

In the election of 1789, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Massachusetts had 10 votes each; Connecticut and South Carolina had 7; New Jersey and Maryland had 6; New Hampshire and Georgia had 5; and Delaware had 3, for a total of 69 votes. Maryland could have had 2 more votes, but two electors failed to vote in February. Virginia also could have had two more votes, but the election returns in one district did not come in in time and one elector failed to attend the vote in February.

 

Each elector was able to cast 2 votes for President and one of the votes had to be for someone outside of his own home state. There was no question that George Washington would be the first President, even before the electors were chosen. The country was unanimous in its choice. The only question that really remained was who would be Vice-President. At the time, Presidents and Vice-Presidents did not run together on a ticket as they do today. Instead, all of them were presidential contenders with the highest vote getter becoming President and the runner up becoming Vice-President.

 

In 1789, all 69 electors cast 1 vote for George Washington (the only President to win a unanimous electoral college vote, both in 1789 and in 1792).The remaining votes were split between John Adams, John Jay, John Rutledge, John Hancock and some others, with John Adams receiving the most, 34, making him Washington’s Vice-President.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." George Washington (1795)

Washington sets up winter quarters in Morristown

Washington sets up winter quarters in Morristown

 

After two significant victories over the British in Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey, General George Washington marches north to Morristown, New Jersey, where he set up winter headquarters for himself and the men of the Continental Army on January 5, 1777. The hills surrounding the camp offered Washington a perfect vantage point from which to keep an eye on the British army, which was headquartered across the Hudson River in New York City. Morristown’s position also allowed Washington to protect the roads leading from the British strongholds in New Jersey to New England and the roads leading to Philadelphia, where the leaders of the American Revolution were headquartered.

 

In addition to tracking the British, Washington used much of his time in Morristown to reorganize the Continental Army, which had begun to shrink following the victories in Trenton and Princeton. Some soldiers chose desertion over another cold winter without adequate supplies; others refused to reenlist, returning home when their enlistments expired.

 

Fortunately for the Americans, Washington’s leadership on the battlefield and his growing popularity throughout the country helped attract new recruits, and Washington orchestrated changes to hold on to the new troops and make them more effective soldiers. In an effort to instill discipline, maximum punishment for soldiers rose from 39 to 100 lashes. To make committing to the army more attractive, the Continental Army promised any man enlisting for three years a cash bonus. Those enlisting for the duration of the war could look forward to a land bounty. These promises would come back to haunt the army later, but in the early months of 1777, they allowed Washington to train and then maintain a seasoned force. By the time fighting resumed, Washington’s immediate command numbered 11,000 men, including militia. In New York, an additional 17,000 Patriots agreed to fight for the cause.

 

http://www.history.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree."

James Madison (1787)

Benedict Arnold captures and destroys Richmond, Virginia

Benedict Arnold captures and destroys Richmond, Virginia

 

On this day in history, January 5, 1781, Benedict Arnold captures and burns Richmond, Virginia. Arnold began the Revolution with several distinguished victories on the American side, including his services at Fort Ticonderoga, Fort St. Jean, the attack on Quebec, the Battle of Valcour Island and the Battle of Saratoga. He was given command of Rhode Island during the British invasion there and was given command of Philadelphia after the British abandoned the city.

 

All of this makes it seem as if Arnold was quite the hero, but in reality, he was in constant conflict with his fellow officers, who took him to be an opportunist, seeking whatever type of glory, money and promotion he could at whatever cost. After moving to Philadelphia, he began consorting with Loyalists and married the daughter of a prominent Loyalist. Shortly after their marriage, Arnold began secret talks with the British about switching sides.

 

He was transferred to West Point, New York on the Hudson River and planned to surrender the post to the British for £20,000, but the plot was exposed when British Major John Andre was captured with papers containing details of the plot. Arnold escaped to New York City and was given a Brigadier General’s commission in the British army. He began to raise his own Loyalist troops and was sent to Virginia with 1600 men to aid General Cornwallis in his attempt to take over the Southern States.

 

Thomas Jefferson was governor of Virginia at the time and had moved the capital from Williamsburg, on the coast, further inland to Richmond. Arnold’s fleet arrived in early January and proceeded up the James River. They were spotted, but they were overlooked by Jefferson, who was not expecting an attack so far inland. When it became apparent that the capital was in danger, Jefferson scrambled to get military supplies out of the city and called out the militia, while the government retreated to Charlottesville.

 

On January 5th, Arnold entered Richmond without a fight. The few hundred militia that had assembled fled before him. Arnold sent word to Jefferson that he would not destroy the city if he was allowed to take away local tobacco stores unaccosted, but Jefferson refused. Arnold then proceeded to destroy public buildings and private homes, causing great damage. Following the destruction of the city, Arnold’s men proceeded to Portsmouth where they set up a base and continued raids in the countryside.

 

General Cornwallis arrived in May and took over the operations and Arnold returned to New York where he was given command of an expedition which captured Fort Griswold and burned New London, Connecticut. When Cornwallis surrendered his army to George Washington in October, Arnold fled to London where he tried incessantly to get another military appointment, but was always rebuffed. He died a pauper in London in 1801 and was buried without a military service.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men."

John Adams (1775)