September 2008

The Virginia Convention on the ratification of the Constitution was just getting started on June 4, 1788, when George Nicholas stood up to speak. This beloved soldier and patriot was said to have been the first man to fire a shot against the British as they invaded Philadelphia. Those on the floor were concerned that the newborn Constitution would prove too weak to prevent future tyranny and so would bring about the abolition of the freedom these young colonies had so recently fought to win.

“An enlightened people,” said Nicholas, “Will never suffer what was established for their security to be perverted to an act of tyranny.”

This statement was simple, but it made all the difference. The Convention members understood his meaning. An enlightened citizenship would never allow power-hungry men to twist the original meaning of the Constitution into something which would suppress their freedom. The founding fathers had installed enough safeguards to ensure this. All it required was that the people of America remain enlightened.

We must ask ourselves this question: are we an enlightened people? Are we protecting ourselves against tyrants who would take away our liberties? Or have we become lazy and ignorant, not educating ourselves as to the Constitution and the decisions being made in our courts today?

Dr. Michael Farris writes, “If we are honest about our situation, we have to conclude that George Nicholas’s optimism has not been fulfilled. The Constitution was intended for our liberty. The Supreme Court was especially intended to protect our liberties. Instead, the Court has twisted the Constitution and made it an instrument of tyranny.”

We the people must once again educate ourselves. We must once again prove ourselves enlightened. By reading Supreme Court cases, studying Constitutional law, making informed voter choices, letting our elected officials hear our voices, and paying attention to the decisions they make, we will be enlightened, we will have freedom and we will not be tyrannized. I believe that if many people studied the recent Supreme Court cases they would be absolutely shocked at how our freedoms are being usurped. The founding fathers would be dismayed and outraged. We, the people of America, have a responsibility to ourselves, to our children, to our forefathers, and to this great land itself.

Let us be enlightened.



“But the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” Daniel 11:32

“All of us who acknowledge a belief in our Judeo-Christian heritage must reaffirm that belief and join forces to reclaim those great principles.” -Ronald Reagan

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote…that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his Country.” -Samuel Adams

“It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptues and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.” -Abraham Lincoln

“Our Constitution was made only for a moal and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” -John Adams

“We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus.” -John Adams and John Hancock

“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” -Patrick Henry

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” -George Washington

“If we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injuctions of moality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” -Daniel Webster

“The time has come to turn back to God and reassert our trust in Him for the healing of America.” -Ronald Reagan

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our destruction if it come at all, will be from…the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence.” -Daniel Webster

“I urge you, by all that is dear, by all that is honorable, by all that is sacred, not only that ye pray but that ye act!” -John Hancock

“If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made not for the public good so much as for the selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded.” -Noah Webster

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.” -John Adams

“Action by the citizen in person…constitutes the essence of a Republic.” -Thomas Jefferson

“Let not your childen have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you.” -Rev. Matthias Burnet

March 23, 1775 dawned in Richmond.  The nip of a fading winter was still in the air; the ladies and gentlemen had not yet abandoned their warmer clothing.  But within St. John’s Church, a debate was raging hot.

Proceedings in Philadelphia had reached a fever pitch.  The colonies would fight for their liberty, and Virginia was smugly sure that Britain would bend.  Aye, America would win her freedom with hardly a fight…the redcoats would be gone with the next ship.  The Revolution could be won peacefully.

The Virginia Assembly was now listening to a man who was not so sure.  This young lawyer from Hanover County saw the danger of approaching British troops and urged Virginians to take arms.  The Revolutionary Convention prepared itself to hear his unpopular position.  What could this Patrick Henry say to change their minds?

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided,” he was saying, “and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House.”

Assemblymen shifted uncomfortably.  Had not they themselves seen the great ships in their own harbors?  The marching armies drilling in the squares?

This fearless lawyer spoke upon that knowledge.  “Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging.”

His voice was rising, his speech impassioned.  “If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!”

His voice rose above the clamor.  “Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. ”

And now his voice grew louder still, speaking each word with the fervor of one who believed it with all his soul. 

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

The Virginia Revoluntionary Convention was on its feet, shouting.  The mood had turned, the tempest swelled.  Moments later, when a vote was called, Patrick Henry’s position won by a mere half dozen votes.  Virginia was called to arms…called to protect itself bravely against the British.  Virginia had entered the Revolution.

Who was this man?  During his life, Patrick Henry was many things.  First a shopkeeper, opening a store with his elder brother William, which quickly failed.  Then a farmer, working to till the land of his young bride, Sarah Shelton.  But when fire destroyed this place, called Pine Slash, Patrick Henry once again tried his hand at storekeeping.  This, too, failed, and so he worked at Hanover Tavern, owned by his father-in-law, and studied books of law.  In 1760, this young self-taught jack-of-all-trades convinced the panel of Virginia attorneys to admit him to the bar, despite his lack of education and knowledge.  He quickly made good in the courts of Hanover and nearby counties, and soon found fame in winning the famous Parsons’ Cause case at Hanover Courthouse, in which he argued against a law which would diminish the pay of ministers in the colonies, on behalf of one Reverend James Maury.  His speech defied the authority of Britain and earned him fame in the colonies.

Soon, this radical lawyer became as one with the fight for independence.  He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1765 and the Second Continental Congress in 1775.  He argued on behalf of persecuted Baptist ministers and against the Stamp Act (nearly committing treason in the process).  His eloquence gained him recognition as the most celebrated orator of early America.  His firey words and rebellious beliefs gained him popularity as well as enemies in this turbulent time, and to the crown, he was the face of insubordination in Virginia (an edict was issued against him by Governor Dunmore in 1775).  For a brief time he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Virginian forces, despite his inexperience, but it was soon apparent that the military was not his calling.  George Washington said, “I think my countrymen made a capital mistake when they took Henry out of the senate to place him in the field.”  Although his men were fiercely loyal to him and threatened to desert if he resigned, Henry refused to allow his pride to hurt the cause he believed in, and urged his men to respect their new commanders.

Patrick Henry went on to serve five terms as governor of Virginia (1776-1786).  He declined a sixth and continued with his law practice.  He declined a position in the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787, but was elected to the Virginia Convention a year later.  He strongly opposed the Constitution at first because it did not contain a Bill of Rights, but his opposition helped cause one to be written in 1791.

In the years 1794-1796 Patrick Henry declined the offices of governor of Virginia, U.S. Senator, Chief Justice, Secretary of State, and ambassador to Spain and France.  His health was failing.  He retired to Red Hill with his second wife, Dorethea Dandridge (his first wife having died in 1775), where he eventually died on June 6, 1799, shortly after his election to the state legislature.  He was 63 years old.  The Virginia Gazette reported the death of this great man, writing, “As long as our rivers flow, or mountains stand, Virginia . . . will say to rising generations, imitate my Henry.”

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Patrick Henry never served in high office or sought political power for himself.  His convictions were radical and deeply held.  He made the Revolution understandable and important to the common American men and women with his passionate, honest speaking, and was “”the man who gave the first impulse to the ball of revolution.”  As Thomas Jefferson said, ““It is not now easy to say what we should have done without Patrick Henry.  He was before us all in maintaining the spirit of the Revolution.”

Even in his death, Patrick Henry worked to build up the young nation he loved.  In a letter written to be opened after his passing, he said that whether or not the independence of America “will prove a Blessing or a Curse will depend on the Use our people make of the Blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary Character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a Nation. Reader! whoever thou art, remember this, and in thy Sphere, practice Virtue thyself, and encourage it in others. P. HENRY”



  1. “Patrick Henry Speech -Liberty or Death”
  2. “Patrick Henry”
  3. “Henry’s Early Life and Times (and other life events)”
  4. “Biography of Patrick Henry”
  5. “Patrick Henry (Featured in Revolutionary City)”
  6. “Patrick Henry”
  7. “Patrick Henry -Virginia House of Burgesses”
  8. “Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” (transcript of March 23, 1775 speech)

On pages 26 and 27 of the USA passport, there is a quote by a woman named Anna Julia Cooper. It says,

“The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.” – Anna Julia Cooper

If anyone understood a passion for freedom, it was this woman, an African-American child of slavery. 

Born August 10, 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina, her mother was a slave woman named Hannah Stanley Haywood and her father was her white master, George Washington Haywood. Set free by Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Anna enrolled in St. Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute for free blacks at the age of nine. In 1877 she married a fellow St. Augustine graduate and instructor named George Cooper, who died only two short years later, leaving the young bride a widow. Receiving a full scholarship to Oberlin College, Anna worked to receive a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, and finally began her work as a teacher for Washington DC’s only black high school, M Street School, in 1887.

In 1892, Anna wrote the first of the several books she would write throughout her lifetime. A Voice From the South urged the country to protect the future of the young black girls who lived in the Southern states. She knew that the African-American community would be greatly benefited by the progress and education of its women. She also saw the peculiar and overwhelming challenges facing the young black women in her day, and she understood them as being so very similar to those she had experienced as she struggled to make a future for herself in post-slavery America. Throughout her time at St. Augustine’s, Anna had been frustrated by the discouragement she faced against taking higher-level classes. “The Ladies’ Course” was the scholastic track reserved for women, and female students were hindered from pursuing a four-year university education. She had to fight in order to attend classes typically reserved for men, such as Greek.

“I would beg, however, with the Doctor’s permission, to add my plea for the Colored Girls of the South:–that large, bright, promising fatally beautiful class that stand shivering like a delicate plantlet before the fury of tempestuous elements, so full of promise and possibilities, yet so sure of destruction; often without a father to whom they dare apply the loving term, often without a stronger brother to espouse their cause and defend their honor with his life’s blood; in the midst of pitfalls and snares, waylaid by the lower classes of white men, with no shelter, no protection nearer than the great blue vault above, which half conceals and half reveals the one Care-Taker they know so little of. Oh, save them, help them, shield, train, develop, teach, inspire them! Snatch them, in God’s name, as brands from the burning! There is material in them well worth your while, the hope in germ of a staunch, helpful, regenerating womanhood on which, primarily, rests the foundation stones of our future as a race.”  -“A Voice From the South: By A Woman from the South”, 1892

The year 1915 found Anna working on receiving her doctorate from Cambodia College, when her half-brother passed away and his five orphaned grandchildren were left homeless. Anna ended her studies in order to adopt them. But ten years later, in 1925, Anna at last received her Ph. D in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. She was the fourth African-American woman in history to receive a doctorate.

All throughout Anna’s life, she fought for freedom, for equality, for opportunity for all. Her insatiable love of learning proved to a racism-encrusted nation that black women were intelligent and capable of higher education. Her writings gave a voice to those who had no voice. She was a true lady, with a gentle but earnest heart. She listed as her greatest passion: “education for the underprivileged”.

Most of all, Anna Julia Cooper had a passion for freedom. Her words, enshrined in our American passport, came from a woman who knew the true value of liberty. Born at the dusk of slavery in 1858, she lived to see the dawn of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. and others who carried the torch she and other freed slaves from the late 19th century had lighted. She died in 1964, one hundred and five years old, leaving behind a legacy of freedom for those who suffered most in this “land of the free”. She was born a slave, and died a free woman. More than anyone else, she knew how priceless liberty truly was, and she wanted that liberty and privilege for everyone, not only in America, but all throughout the world. She was a child of independence who desired only for the whole world to become aware of its true birthright…”the birthright of humanity”. 


  1. “Anna Julia Cooper”
  2. “Women’s Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society: Anna Julia Cooper”
  3. “(1893) Anna Julia Cooper, ‘Women’s Cause is One and Universal’”
  4. “Anna J. Cooper”
  5. “Anna Julia Cooper Quotes”

It was a beautiful day in early February. The sun shone outside onto Abigail’s desk, illuminating the blank sheet of paper in front of her. Twirling the pen gently in her hands, she stared outside at the rolling fields and orchards of her farm. She remembered the many months that she and her five children had tended it alone…her fine, porcelain-white arms turning brown in the sun, her back growing strong. She remembered her mother, teaching her to be a lady and a fine keeper of her future home. Could she have ever foreseen this life for her daughter? The wife of a circuit lawyer, an ambitious, opinionated, outspoken young Harvard graduate. Then he was a delegate to the first Continental Congress, battling for the freedom of the colonies from the grip of England.

All those years, for days and weeks and months at a time, Abigail had been alone. Alone to raise and educate little Nabby, Johnny, Susanna, Charles and Thomas. She had been thankful then, for her father’s library. She remembered sprawling across the floor with a pile of books at her side…English and French literature, books of history, poetry, philosophy, essays. Yes, her youthful hunger to learn had served her well in the education of her five young children.

Most of all, Abigail had been grateful for her study of the Bible. The daughter of a Congregationalist minister, she had been raised in the church. But as she grew older, her faith truly became her own; her understanding that the Father alone was the Supreme God, that Jesus Christ derived His Being and all his powers and honors from the Father, that the three were one, the one three.1 That true religion came from the heart and was between a man and his Creator; not the imposition of man or creeds or texts.2 Her trust in the Lord of Heaven and earth was the rock upon which she depended during those long days and nights without her beloved John.

She wrote to him nearly every day during those lonely months, closing her letters with reminders of her love and her constant prayers for him. “Good night. With thoughts of thee I close my eyes. Angels guard and protect thee.”

The children had missed him too. How well Abigail could remember little Nabby lulling her brother to sleep with the song, “Come, papa, come home to brother Johnny.”3 Her sweet voice had brought tears to her mother’s eyes, echoing as her words did, the cry of Abigail’s own heart.

But she had worked hard to be strong. She believed in her husband’s work, and wanted him to know that she loved him and supported him every step of the journey. How worried he was for them, listening to the bickering members of Congress in Philadelphia, sleeping alone in a boardinghouse, longing for his wife and little ones. No, she would not add to his fears. Despite all the deprivations and terrors of living through a war along, she would be brave.

Abigail remembered her husband urging her to fly to the woods in case of real danger. She wrote back quickly. “Courage I know we have in abundance, conduct I hope we shall not want, but gunpowder –where shall we get a sufficient supply?”

Then, early on the morning of June 17, 1775, Abigail awoke to the sound of rumbling cannon fire. She thought of the children…her own brood and also the five young ones of Dr. Joseph Warren, President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, whom she was caring for at the time. Quickly, she dressed by the light of a single candle.

Little Johnny awoke to the sound also. They held hands and went quickly to the top of a nearby hill. They could see the smoke above Breed’s Hill, they could hear the sounds of battle.

Dr. Joseph Warren died that day, along with 440 other killed, captured and wounded brave American soldiers and 1,073 of the British soldiers. The fight became known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. At the time, the war seemed as though it would never end.

But at last, it had. The American colonies had won their independence, and John Adams was an important political figure in the new nation. He served as the Vice President of George Washington from 1789 until 1797. And always, Abigail was his closest friend and confidant, and most trusted advisor. Her political views on the abolition of slavery, the rights of women, and the necessity for education of both boys and girls, influenced John and therefore the nation as a whole. She believed in equality and freedom, and in helping those less fortunate then herself.

Abigail refused to have black slaves, but rather hired free Africans to help with her household. Indeed, she stated in a March 1776 letter that she doubted her fellow Virginians true “passion for Liberty” seeing as they “deprive their fellow Creatures” of freedom. In 1791, she enrolled a young African man in a local school when he expressed a desire to write. When her neighbor protested, she said that he was “a Freeman as much as any of the young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? … I have not thought it any disgrace to my self to take him into my parlor and teach him both to read and write.”

She also believed in female equality and rights. “Remember the ladies,” she urged John in a March 1776 letter, “and be more generous and favourable to them then your ancestors.”

And now it was 1797, and John was to be the 2nd President of this young country. Abigail sat at her desk, still smiling into the sunlight over the many memories. How proud she was of her dear John! How hard he had worked and how tirelessly he had fought. And now, finally, here he was, about to be inaugurated to the highest office of the land he had helped to conceive.  She smiled, and at last, she wrote.

Abigail could not know that in 1825 her son John Quincy Adams also would become the 6th President of the United States of America. But it was her own strength and patriotism, her own love and kindness and intelligence, that taught her young son.

” ‘ The sun is dressed in brightest beams, To give thy honors to the day.’

 And may it prove an auspicious prelude to each ensuing season. You have this day to declare yourself head of a nation. ” And now, O Lord, my God, thou hast made thy servant ruler over the people. Give unto him an understanding heart, that he may know how to go out and come in before this great people ; that he may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge this thy so great a people ? ‘were the words of a royal sovereign ; and not less applicable to him who is invested with the chief masistracy of a nation, though he wear not a crown, nor the robes of royalty…

 My thoughts and my meditations are with you, though personally absent ; and my petitions to Heaven are, that ” the things which make for peace may not be hidden from your eyes.” … That you may be enabled to discharge them with honor to yourself, with justice and impartiality to your country, and with satisfaction to this great people, shall be the daily prayer of your

A. A.”

Abigail could not know that in 1825 her son John Quincy Adams also would become the 6th President of the United States of America. But it was her own strength and patriotism, her own love and kindness and intelligence, that taught her young son.

For it was women like Abigail Adams who helped to shape the young United States of America into a land of freedom and equality for all.


  1. From a letter to John Quincy Adams, May 5, 1816
  2. From a letter to Louisa Adams, January 3, 1818
  3. From a letter to John Adams, September 14, 1767
  • “The Children’s Book of America” by William J. Bennet, “The Bravery of Abigail Adams, p. 28-33, Simon & Schuster, © 1998 
  • “Abigail Adams”
  • “Abigail Adams letters for the years 1761 thru 1816”
  • “Abigail Adams”
  • “Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March 1776, ‘Remember the Ladies’”
  • “My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams”, Harvard University Press
  • Why are we ashamed to be Americans?


    Most of my great-grandparents were immigrants. Some came from Ireland, others from the Azore Islands. I have German, Irish, French, Dutch, and Portuguese blood in me. My grandmother came from Canada. Her parents were German refugees living in Russia and fleeing persecution during World War I. My great-great-great-grandmother on my mother’s side was a Southern belle living in Richmond during the Civil War. She married a Yankee soldier (they lived in peace, apparently, although they argued a lot over whether Lee or Grant was the better general!). My great-great grandfather was an attorney working for President Franklin Roosevelt and battling for Irish rights. On my father’s side, my Portuguese ancestors risked everything and left the St. George and Terceira islands of the Azores to come to California. They worked hard, cowboying and working on dairy ranches to provide for their families. Up until recently, my great-grandfather’s ranch in the Central Valley of California was still in our family. His old white barn and the beautiful ranch house where my grandfather was born still stand today.


    Every path to America is different. To some, it is a place of refuge. To others, it is a promised land. Some come to America for safety. Others come to find a better life for those they love. Every single story is different. What are the stories in your family?

    A study called the Bradley Project recently discovered something very saddening about our nation. Rather than focusing on the good in our nation, many public schools cast a decidedly distasteful light on America. Here’s what the Project had to say:

     “…schools should not slight their civic mission by giving students the impression that America’s failures are more noteworthy than America’s achievements. They should begin with the study of America’s great ideas, heroes, and achievements, so that its struggles can be put in perspective. A broad-minded, balanced approach to the American story best prepares young people for informed democratic participation.”

    ~The Bradley Project

    That’s what inspired me to begin this journal. I have learned about and met many brave, heroic, self-sacrificial Americans who make this nation a beautiful place to live. I feel blessed to live here and to learn from their legacy, and I feel that no life lived generously and well should be forgotten or dismissed. This journal is a study in what makes America beautiful.I don’t believe we need to be ashamed of America. No nation…no nation…is perfect, and so as well the USA is flawed. The pages of American history books are marred by sinners and scandals, just as every history book is because human nature does not change. But America’s pages have also been touched by the hand of a gracious God, as proven by countless men and women in this great land. And each life that helped to make this country a place of freedom and refuge deserves to be remembered.

    That is the purpose of this project. I hope you will be inspired to love America a little bit more, even as you learn from its mistakes. After all, America is not great because of its ideals or its principles or its rulings.

    America is great because of its people.