Beginning of the American experiment in freedom

December 23, 2007

On December 23, 1783, Commander of the Continental Army, Gen. George Washington resigned his commission, to the Continental Congress sitting in Annapolis, Maryland. Washington modeled his actions on the life of Roman general and patriot Cincinnattus. (See especially this site, the Society of the Cincinnati)

John Trumbull painting of Washington resigning his commission

Washington had been thought to be in a position to take over the government and declare himself king, if he chose. Instead, at some cost to himself he personally put down a rebellion of the officers of the army who proposed a coup d’etat against the Continental Congress, angered that they had not been paid. Washington quietly asked that the men act honorably and not sully the great victory they had won against Britain. Then Washington reviewed the army, wrapped up affairs, journeyed to Annapolis to resign, and returned to his farm and holdings at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Because Washington could have turned into a tyrant, it is reported that King George III of England, upon hearing the news of Washington’s resignation, refused to believe it. If the report were true, George is reported to have said, Washington was the greatest man who ever lived.

Washington’s resignation set precedent: Civilian government controlled the military; Americans served, then went back to their private lives and private business; Americans would act nobly, sometimes when least expected.

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December 23, 1913: The Federal Reserve

December 23, 2007

Now, here’s an anniversary you won’t find many people celebrating — and that’s really a shame. The U.S. Federal Reserve System is a great idea, copied by most other free market nations, at least in part.

You almost get the idea Americans either don’t understand the Federal Reserve, or actually oppose it.

The Federal Reserve System

Federal Reserve Building
Federal Reserve Building, Washington, D.C.
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950.
Washington as It Was, 1923-1959

On December 23, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Owen-Glass Act, creating the Federal Reserve System.

Text from the Library of Congress’s “Today in History” site.

The Federal Reserve followed the Panic of 1908. Legislators hoped the Federal Reserve Board would be able to prevent future recessions. Clearly, considering the Stock Market Crash of 1929, and the Great Depression, it didn’t work as well as hoped.

Modifications in 1933 gave it even more power. The Federal Reserve today is regarded as a model for how a government’s central bank should be operated by many economists and most other nations.

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Texas Ed Commissioner responds to biologists

December 23, 2007

Oh, I got distracted: Robert Scott, Texas Commissioner of Education, responded to the letter signed by more than 100 biologist Ph.D.s in Texas, regarding their concern that the firing of Chris Comer indicates animosity to good science — that is, animosity to evolution theory — on the part of the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Full text below the fold, for the record, and to encourage distribution and reading.

Generally, the letter is lukewarm to science, at best. Notably, Scott misinterprets the bravery of the scientists as an indication that they, too, are lukewarm about the science, and don’t want to be too closely associated with evolution.

The letter is available at the Texas Citizens for Science site, and at Thoughts in a Haystack.

Dr. Bolnick, the originator of the biologists’ letter, has responded to Scott’s response — again, full text below the fold — I found it at Thoughts in a Haystack, at Texas Citizens for Science, and at Panda’s Thumb.

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