Mount Vernon painting 

George and Martha Washington loved to entertain hundreds of guests each year at their beautiful Mount Vernon estate.  But I doubt that our First President and Lady ever guessed that, over two hundred years later, their home would have housed tens of millions of visitors!  However, the General probably wouldn’t mind, according to what he wrote in a 1794 letter: “I have no objection to any sober or orderly person’s gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, Gardens, &ca. about Mount Vernon.

The beautiful home of our nation’s First President has been a popular tourist destination for decades, and now even Americans who don’t have the chance to see it in person can experience Mount Vernon right at home with the Mount Vernon Virtual Mansion Tour.  With panoramic views of the beautiful rooms in George Washington’s three-story home and opportunities to explore many of the mansion’s most treasured heirlooms and curiosities, it’s a simple way to learn about one of the greatest families in American history.

I was surprised to see how beautiful the home was, and to learn how involved President Washington was in designing his home; from selecting the vibrant green paint color in the small dining room, to ordering a little stove for the third-story bedroom to keep his guests warm.  The brightly-painted walls are sprinkled with cherished prints of the Washington’s friends and family members, and one can imagine the grandeous formal dining room filled with important guests and statesmen.  Many of the beautiful paintings were purchased by General Washington from American painters, as he sought to encourage unique art in the new nation.  Martha Washington’s influence is easy to see, too, from the embroidered seat cushions in the music room, to her famous (infamous?) recipe for Great Cake also available on the website (40 eggs…4 pounds of butter…a pint of wine!).  It’s easy to picture our first President in his beautiful south-wing study, surrounded by his vast collection of nearly 900 books.  It was here where many of the ideas which helped to shape our nation were born.  Or see the couple’s personal bedroom, with its serene, simplistic decorations, where Lady Washington ran her household and enjoyed her daily hour of Bible study.  Finally, climb up to the cupola for a gorgeous view of the estate and river surrounding.

Also, be sure to visit “Discover the Mansion House Farm: A Virtual Tour“, to see the extensive, 8,000 acre grounds of the estate, from the stables to the kitchen, to Washington’s own beloved greenhouse and gardens.

Mount Vernon is America’s most beloved and visited historical home.  Experience it for yourself online, and learn a little more about the man who was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

“These are the times that try men’s souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

 -Thomas Paine

In January of 1776, Thomas Paine published his 50-page pamphlet, Common Sense, urging American independence.  This booklet sold over 120,000 copies in ninety days and changed the outlook of many Americans.  Sixth months later, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously adopted by the thirteen colonies.

This passage from Paine’s book applied during the bloody days of the Revolution, and it applies today.  It is simple to believe in the cause of liberty and freedom when times are easy.  When our rights are threatened and our nation is struggling, then our convictions are truly challenged.  What will you do?

God bless America.

Statue of Nathan HaleDuring the summer of 1755, a patriot was born in Coventry, Connecticut. His name was Nathan Hale, and he was the sixth of twelve children born to Richard Hale, a prosperous farmer, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Strong). Nathan was raised in the Christian faith by his Puritan parents, and studied under the village minister until he was fourteen.  In 1769 he before enrolled in Yale University with his older brother Enoch. He played sports and joined a literary fraternity, and was among the thirteen highest-ranking scholars in his class. After his graduation at age eighteen, Hale became a schoolmaster at East Haddam and later in New London, probably intending to become a Christian minister at some point.  But the Revolutionary War interrupted his plans.

On April 19, 1775, Nathan’s five brothers fought at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  Risking his career and reputation for what he believed, Nathan himself joined the 7th Connecticut Regiment as a first lieutenant in July of that same year.  He worked hard in his position as an officer.  Once, when his men were despairing, Nathan offered them his own slender salary if they would just stay on another month.  When General Washington reorganized the army, Nathan was placed in the 19th Connecticut Regiment as a Captain.  Several men asked to be put under his command.

By the spring of 1776, General Washington moved the army to New York to guard it against an impending British invasion.  Nathan was stationed at Bayard’s Mount, erecting fortifications and breastworks, but he saw no combat.  The British slowly forced the American army to retreat farther and farther back.

September of 1776 arrived, and General Washington desperately needed to know where the British intended to invade Manhattan Island.  Espionage was considered highly dishonorable, but it was the only thing to be done.  General Washington called for volunteers.  Hale stepped forward.

He went behind enemy lines on September 12th, disguised as a Dutch schoolteacher looking for work.  He was glad to finally be doing something valuable for the cause he believed in, and worked hard to gather the information the patriots needed.

Nine days later, on September 21st, he was returning to American lines when he was stopped by the British on Long Island.  Because of the incriminating maps and information he carried, Hale was taken to General William Howe, commander of the British forces.  He readily stated his name, rank, and object in crossing the British lines.  The General sentenced him to death on charges of espionage.  His execution was to take place the next day, on the morning of September 22nd.

Placed in the custody of the cruel Provost Marshall, he spent the night alone.  He asked for a minister and then for a Bible; both requests were refused.  Finally, he asked for paper, pen, and ink.  Provost Marshall refused this, too, but another British officer had compassion on the young man and brought him the writing materials.  Captain Hale wrote two letters, which were never delivered and probably destroyed.

The next morning at 11 a.m. Captain Nathan Hale was hung for a spy.  His reported last words, a paraphrased quote from Joseph Addison’s play Cato, will forever be remembered in American history.  “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  Hale was 21 years old.

His body was left hanging for several days as a warning and example.  Then it was taken down and lain in an unmarked grave.  Captain John Montresor of the British army crossed the American lines under a white flag to report Hale’s capture and execution.  He and other British soldiers had noticed the young man’s composure and bravery even in the face of death.

Captain Nathan Hale, America’s first spy, was a man of firm convictions, strong moral character, and deep faith.  He was willing to pay the ultimate price for “his country”…even though his country was in poor shape during that September of 1776.  This was the lowest point of the American Revolution.  Countless battles were being lost and many soldiers were deserting.  But Nathan Hale still believed in the young nation.  Before his executors, he announced that he considered the United States of America worth dying for.  He probably believed that no one would know his fate, and if they did, would be ashamed of his dishonorable death.  But he gave his all anyway.  Now, over two hundred years after his death, the country Nathan Hale fought to free remembers him as one of its greatest fathers and greatest patriots.

 

Resources:

  1. “Nathan Hale”, Trey F., The Blue Darter’s Guide to the American Revolution, http://darter.ocps.net/classroom/revolution
  2. “Patriot Nathan Hale was Hanged -September 22, 1776”, America’s Library, http://www.americaslibrary.gov
  3. “The Execution of Nathan Hale, 1776”, Eyewitness to History,  www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2000)
  4. “Nathan Hale”, Wikipedia, www.en.wikipedia.org
  5. “The State Hero: Nathan Hale, 1755-1776”, State of Connecticut, www.ct.gov (2002)
  6. “Captain Nathan Hale (1755-1776)”, by Rev. Edward Everett Hale, The Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, www.connecticutsar.org
  7. “Captain Nathan Hale (1755-1776)”, (c) Mary J. Ortner, Ph.D, The Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, www.connecticutsar.org (2001)
  8. “Nathan Hale -Wars and Battles, 1755-1776”, U-S-History, www.u-s-history.com
  9. “Nathan Hale Revisited: A Tory’s Account of the Arrest of the First American Spy”, by James Hutson, published in the Library of Congress Information Bulletin, July/August 2003 – Vol. 62, No. 7, ww.loc.gov
  10. “Nathan Hale”, The American Revolution Home Page, Ronald W. McGranahan, http://americanrevwar.homestead.com (2004)
  11. “The Last Days and Valiant Death of Nathan Hale”, American Heritage Magazine, American Heritage Publishing, www.americanheritage.com ( 2008 )
Artist's conception of Crispus Attucks

Artist's conception of Crispus Attucks

George Washington. Samuel Adams. Paul Revere. These names are part of the story and legacy of our nation. But the name of Crispus Attucks may not be recognized by many. In fact, he was a man we know very little about, although he has been called “the first to defy, the first to die” and “the first to pour out his blood as a precious libation on the altar of a people’s rights”. To this day, his life remains shrouded in mystery.

On October 2, 1750, an advertisement was printed in the Boston Gazette.

 

“Ran away from his Master, William Brown of Framingham, on the 30th of Sept. last: a mulatto Fellow, about 27 years of age, named Crispus, 6 Feet and 2 inches high, short curl’d Hair, his Knees near together than common; and had on a light colour’d Beaverskin Coat, plain new buckskin breeches, blue yarn stockings and a checked woolen shirt.”

The piece went on to promise a reward to anyone who would find and return the runaway slave. The advertisement was printed again on November 13th and November 20th.

No one knows for sure who this slave was, but many scholars speculate that it could have been one Crispus Attucks, who, in March of 1770, was a dockworker and sailor in the ports of Boston. He was of African, and perhaps Wampanoag Indian, heritage. Very little is known of this man, but he was probably born into a family of slaves. His father may have been a man named Prince Yonger, who was brought to America on a slave ship from Africa and married a Native American woman named Nancy Attucks.

Many historians believe that Crispus, yearning for freedom at a young age, escaped to Nantucket in Massachusetts and found work as a harpoonist on a whaling ship. Following his dream of liberty, Crispus worked for 20 years as a merchant seaman before that fateful March of 1770, which found him in Boston, possibly awaiting passage to the Carolinas.

Tensions between the colonies and the motherland across the sea had been mounting ever since the French and Indian War. Many of the American colonists vehemently believed that certain acts passed by King George III and the heavy taxation without colonial representation he had enacted were violations of their rights as Englishmen. After the American complaints reached London, the king ordered some of his troops to encamp in Boston. These soldiers made life difficult for the Bostonians with their drunken brawls and rowdy, spiteful ways. They often terrorized the streets at night or disrupted church services with their riotous singing. At last, Samuel Adams called for the sailors and dockworkers of Boston to demonstrate against the British troops planted by the king. Crispus Attucks, well knowing the value of freedom, was quick to answer this call.

On March 5, 1770, about 40 to 50 colonists, armed with sticks, clubs, and snowballs, were gathered at King Street. Tensions had finally reached a boiling point. Scattered fights and rumors of beatings had flown throughout the city that day until a small crowd had begun taunting the British sentry on duty at the Customs House. When the sentry called for backup, the mob refused to be daunted. The townspeople gathered snowballs from the thick drifts at their feet, and tossed them angrily at the British troops. Suddenly, a British musket fired and three men lay dead in the snow. Others were wounded; two were wounded fatally. Crispus Attucks was the first to fall.  This tragedy became known as the Boston Massacre, and it was one of the biggest sparks to light the fire of the impending Revolution.

Boston honored these men as martyrs for the cause of liberty. Crispus’s body lay in honor at Faneuil Hall, awaiting burial. On the day of the funeral, much of the city closed. Bells were rung, and thousands of people joined the solemn march to the Old Granary Burial Ground, where the bodies were lain in a common grave. This was one of the oldest cemeteries in Boston and other notables such as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere were later buried here.

Crispus Attucks has been remembered throughout American history in a number of ways. He was a hero and a martyr during the Revolutionary War. The abolitionists of the mid-nineteenth century lauded him as a great African-American hero and patriot, and declared a “Crispus Attucks” day on March 5. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote of him as an example of moral courage. A monument on Boston Commons bears his name and the names of the other four men who died. Poet John Boyle O’Reilly wrote a poem for the unveiling of this monument, calling Crispus “the leader and voice that day.” The United States Treasury minted a special commemorative coin in 1998 called “The Black Revolutionary War Patriots Silver Dollar”, which bears the image of Crispus Attucks on one side and a family of African-American patriots on the other. James Neyland wrote this of Attucks:

 

“He is one of the most important figures in African-American history, not for what he did for his own race but for what he did for all oppressed people everywhere. He is a reminder that the African-American heritage is not only African but American and it is a heritage that begins with the beginning of America.”

As long as history is told, the first fallen fighter in America’s struggle for independence will be remembered. His story is all the more remarkable because Crispus Attucks began life as a slave. His African and Wampanoag heritage make him a hero to Americans whose skin is not white; reminding them that they, too, have a birthright in this nation. But in truth, he is a hero to all of us. Without letting bitterness towards the country that had enslaved him overrule his convictions, Crispus Attucks gave his life for the cause of freedom. And in doing so, he gave the freedom he loved to a nation. His was the first sacrifice for liberty, and after it was made, there would be no looking back.

Resources:

  1. “Crispus Attucks” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crispus_Attucks
  2. Crispus Attucks Association: “About Crispus Attucks” by Robin N. http://www.crispusattucks.org/Crispus_Attucks.html
  3. Africans in America: “Crispus Attucks c. 1723-1770” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p24.html
  4. “Crispus Attucks” http://www.africawithin.com/bios/crispus_attucks.htm
  5. “Crispus Attucks: American Revolution Hero” http://www.bridgew.edu/hoba/attucks.htm
  6. “The Murder of Crispus Attucks” American Treasures of the Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trr046.html
  7. “All American History” Student Reader by Celeste W. Rakes, Bright Ideas Press, © 2006, Chapter 19, p. 226-227 “The Boston Massacre (1770) – Seventh Step to War”

How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on Earth enjoy!  -Thomas Jefferson

America is a blessed nation.  Like no other place on earth, we are fantastically wealthy.

90% of American teenagers own a computer and a cell phone.  Our public high schools offer free and equal education to all, giving every single girl or boy with the vision to take it a huge head start in life.  We have enough to eat…very few Americans are forced to skip meals.  Millions of African children are starving and malnourished…millions of Americans are overweight.  We can walk into any grocery store and see more food in seconds then many third world countries will see in a year.

Any time we are in trouble or danger, we can pick up a phone, dial 911, and receive free assistance from state emergency workers who are diligently trained to save lives and fight crime.  If your house is on fire, local firefighters will be there within seconds to protect the home that you hold dear.  If your life is being threatened, policemen and women will be there to help you.  If you are sick, state emergency workers will be there to take care of you, whether you are a multi-millionaire or a homeless person living on the streets.  And if you even just want to send a letter to your mom or dad, your brother or sister, your grandparent or your best friend, you can stick a $0.42 stamp on the upper right-hand corner of a paper envelope and drop it in a mail slot.  Without paying any kind of subscription fee, your loved one will be reading your words within days.  We are incredibly blessed.

Whenever we want, we can travel from New York to Los Angeles without paying a toll to pass through each state.  Every year, we have a say in who our officials will be.  We do not have to pay a cent in order to cast the votes that will help determine the future of our children and our children’s children.  How quickly we forget what a blessing this is.  How quickly we forget the thousands of men and women who have died in defense of this right.

Americans complain about President Bush and the War in Iraq.  Have we forgotten?  Every single deployed soldier is a volunteer.  We are fighting with 100% volunteer troops.  Praise God, President Bush has protected the nation from a general draft.  Citizens derail, mock, scorn, threaten, and hate the leader of our nation.  Have we forgotten that Tuesday morning in 2001 when millions of Americans were in terror for the future?  No more attacks have occurred on our soil in the years since September 11th.  President Bush has done a fine job of protecting the spoiled Americans who hate him, and so have the excellent men and women who are putting their lives on the line by putting on a soldier’s uniform and fighting to protect the ungrateful families “back home”.  Theirs is a thankless job, and it is often worse than thankless.  One of my best friends is now training in Marine boot camp.  He has been mocked and called a “baby killer” while in uniform.  He is risking his own life, his own bright future, for American families.  My friend is fighting to protect the right of Americans to mock him.  He is fighting to protect the rights, free speech included, of those who hate him.  I am thankful for our volunteer armies, and I praise God for them.

We are a spoiled, pampered people.  We are richly blessed and sickeningly ungrateful.  We have more than any other nation on this earth.  Americans need a wake-up call.  September 11th may have been that wake-up call, but we have forgotten it.  We need to get outside of ourselves and our selfish worlds and complaints.  Even with a struggling economy, we are still richer and fatter than any other people group alive.  Even with gas prices rising and falling like the 757’s that transport us from “sea to shining sea”, we are still spending time with our loved ones at every holiday.

Chose today to give yourself a reality check.  Open your eyes and look around you.  Stop being blinded by complaints and woes and worries.  Remember what Jesus said, “Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? …Tomorrow will take care of itself.”  Stop reading alarmist articles by ungrateful journalists and pundits.  And start being thankful.  Look around you at this beautiful country.  There is so much diversity here…deserts and beaches, mountains and plains, lush farm lands and advanced cities, golden prairies and rolling hills, canyons and vistas, snow-capped mountaintops and balmy oceansides.  In any city at any time, we can hear dozens of different languages being spoken.  That’s because millions of people all across the world have heard of the opportunities offered in America and have left everything they knew to come here.  They have literally risked their lives in just the hope of receiving the benefits and liberties we enjoy every day without even thinking about it.  This truly is the land of opportunity.  How many of your ancestors made the journey here in hope of better things for themselves and their children.  You are one of those children.  When was the last time you thanked God for the sacrifices they made to ensure your happiness?

Thank God for what you have.  Make a decision to stop being ungrateful, and to start thanking Him for everything you have.  Make a decision to change.  And then start working to change the things you don’t like.

After all, you can do that. 

Because this is America.

Where annual elections end, there slavery begins. -John Quincy Adams

Did you vote?  Voting is one of the most important duties an American can render.  When you put your voice in the ballot box, then you let your country know what you want.  You are part of change.  You are helping to determine the future of your children.  You are changing the lives of a generation as yet unborn.

There can no longer be anyone too poor to vote. -Lyndon B. Johnson

Our elections are free -it’s in the results where eventually we pay. -Bill Stern

We all pay in the results of our elections.  Even those who don’t vote have to obey the laws of the land.  There are no exceptions.  If you don’t vote, you are paying the price for something you didn’t purchase.

Does the government fear us? Or do we fear the government? When the people fear the government, tyranny has found victory. The federal government is our servant, not our master! -Thomas Jefferson

We, the people of America, are the bosses.  We decide who to put in the government.  We pay their salaries.  We listen to them debate and interview and give us their pitch, and then we decide.  If we like the way our elected officials from past years have performed, we re-elect them.  If we don’t…we fire them. 

Your every voter, as surely as your chief magistrate, exercises a public trust.  -Grover Cleveland

Stay informed and vote.  You will pay the salaries of these men and women whether you know what they are doing to your country or not.  Read, listen, watch, pay attention.  Know what’s going on in your house.  Keep an eye on what your elected officials are doing.  Vote to have a say in who gets hired.

Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it. -John Adams

Our Founding Fathers fought for it.  They risked their lives for it.  Many men and women have died for it.  For what?  For your freedom.  For your liberty.  For your opportunity to have a say in the futures of your children.  I believe in freedom.  I am grateful to the generations before me for preserving it.  They have passed the torch to us…what will we do with it?  Don’t let it burn out.  Keep the lamp of freedom lit.  Cling to your rights.  Know what the Constitution says.  Work to put officials in office who will enforce the Constitution and our freedoms.  Be an enlightened citizen.

The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.  -Dwight D. Eisenhower

America has selected a new President.  Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States of America when his inauguration occurs in just a few short months.

Whether or not you voted for President-Elect Obama, remember that he deserves our respect.  He will be our new President, and whether or not we agree with his policies and beliefs, we must respect our elected leaders.

Political products and cartoons will probably never die.  I remember as a little girl wondering what my Grandfather’s watch meant…the one which showed Bill Clinton’s profile on its face, his nose growing longer and longer with every ticking of the minute hand!

It seemed funny then, because no one in my family voted for Mr. Clinton and we weren’t big fans.  But when George W. Bush became President, and the hatred because vitrolic, I saw a darker side to the popular disrespect of elected officials.  My hypocrisy was obvious…I didn’t like Bush’s criticsm because I liked him as a President.  But if disrespect to one President is wrong then it is always wrong.  Even in boxing, there are rules.  Politics can get messy, but we shouldn’t check our common courtesy at the door.  As our government official, we should agree to honor and obey our President.  Should we feign agreement over policies we believe are wrong?  Of course not.  Voice your disagreements loudly, clearly, and often.  Vote for the officials you agree with.  But, win or lose, we must remain honorable and respectful.  Not only because it is right to do so, but because when we become attacking or petty, we distract attention from what we believe in and focus it on our foul words or bad attitudes.  Give the opposing side no excuse for ignoring what you say.

I am as opinionated as the next person, but I intend to respect Mr. Obama for his accomplishments and position, even as I am opposed to much of what he believes.

When both Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, learn to be courteous and respectful of one another and their beliefs, then they will go a long way toward uniting the nation they love.