Bastille Day 2016; Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

July 14, 2016

Eiffel Tower in the French national colors, backlit by fireworks, on Bastille Day 2014. IBTimes photo

Eiffel Tower in the French national colors, backlit by fireworks, on Bastille Day 2014. IBTimes photo

Bastille Day, more properly called The 14th of July or National Day, celebrates the day in 1789 that Parisian peasants and non-nobles seized the iconic prison in an old fort known as the Bastille, an action that gave form to the French Revolution.

It is expected that those who love liberty will drink Champagne, listen to French music and toast good friends on Bastille Day. No, not sparkling wine from California or Spain or Australia — real, French Champagne.

Much more can be said about Bastille Day, including that it is generally overlooked in Texas high school history courses. We can put that off until later.

In the meantime, here’s a video from IBTimes of the 2014 fireworks display in Paris, said by many to be among the best ever. I’m off to find some Champagne.

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April 30, 1789: George Washington’s first inauguration as President of the U.S.

April 30, 2014

Mural by Allyn Cox in the U.S. Capitol depicts George Washington taking the oath of office in 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. Architect of the Capitol photograph

Mural by Allyn Cox in the U.S. Capitol depicts George Washington taking the oath of office in 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. Architect of the Capitol photograph

Not on March 4, as the Constitution specified, because Congress had not been able to organize itself to count the ballots of the electoral college, but on April 30, 1789, George Washington met with the U.S. Senate on the second floor of a building now called Federal Hall; then to the balcony, where Robert Livingston, Chancellor of the State of New York, administered the oath of office to Washington.  Washington put his left hand on a Bible borrowed from St. John’s Masonic Hall — there were no Bibles to be found in Federal hall where the First Congress was meeting.

That’s how it started.

The Library of Congress Today in History feature links to a wealth of resources for scholars and teachers:

Father of Our Country

George Washington

Detail from Gilbert Stuart’s unfinished portrait of George Washington, from the collections of the Library of Congress.

George Washington [detail],
Gilbert Stuart, artist.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

On April 30, 1789, George Washington delivered his first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress, assembled in Federal Hall in the nation’s new capital, New York City. The newly-elected president delivered the speech in a deep, low voice that betrayed what one observer called “manifest embarrassment.” Washington had not sought the office of president and was humbled by the request to serve.

Aside from recommending constitutional amendments to satisfy citizens demanding a Bill of Rights, Washington confined his address to generalities. He closed by asking for a “divine blessing” on the American people and their elected representatives. In delivering his address, Washington went beyond the constitutional requirement to take an oath of office and thus established a precedent that has been followed since by every elected president.

Two weeks before his inauguration, Washington had made an emotional speech to the citizens of his hometown, Alexandria, Virginia. He expressed regret at leaving his Mount Vernon estate where he had retired, and stated: “no earthly consideration, short of a conviction of duty, could have prevailed upon me to depart from my resolution,’never more to take any share in transactions of a public nature.'” The reluctant leader served two terms in office.

To learn more about George Washington, explore the following American Memory resources:

More:


May 7: Anniversary of the 27th Amendment to the Constitution

May 8, 2011

Oops.  I forgot this anniversary yesterday.

September 25, 1789, Congress had approved and enrolled the proposals, and sent twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution to the states for ratification.  Ten of the twelve amendments were approved, rather quickly, and by 1791 the were attached to the Constitution.  These ten we now call the Bill of Rights.

James Madison before he was president

James Madison proposed the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, and the 27th Amendment; the 203 years it took to ratify the 27th Amendment is the longest legislative process in the history of the U.S., and probably the world.

The two proposals that failed to earn the required approval of three-fourths of the 13 states fell into a special limbo for Constitutional amendments that became clear only in the late 1970s when Congress discussed how long to wait for states to approve the Equal Rights Amendment (this is a much-simplified explanation, I know).  Congress put deadlines on the ratification process in the late 20th century, but the first twelve proposals had no deadlines, nor did any other proposal before the Equal Rights Amendment proposal.  In the 1980s, Congress passed a law that said any amendments floating around, unapproved, would be considered dead after a date certain.  There were six amendments in that category.

Before that date certain passed, more states took a look at one of James Madison’s 1789 proposals.  They liked it, and they ratified it — 34 states total.

That amendment became the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, on May 7, 1992, 203 years after it was proposed:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

This is the longest legislative procedure in U.S. history, perhaps the longest ever — it lasted much longer than many nations.  By that ratification in 1992, James Madison became the person who proposed both the first, and last amendments to the Constitution.

Madison’s reaching out from the grave 156 years after his death — he died on June 28, 1836 — is one of the greatest legislative coups in history, too.


Bugs Bunny on the Constitution

August 30, 2010

Was this from 1989, the Constitution’s Bicentennial?  I dimly remember these PSAs.

This one isn’t brilliant — n.b., the Constitution can be amended — but it is Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

I just stumbled into it on YouTube.  Is there a good collection somewhere?  Are the others better?


Imaging the French Revolution

March 4, 2009

How can you tell I’m behind the scope and sequence?

I was just reminded today of how neat this site is:  Imaging the French Revolution. Good stuff comes out of George Mason University from time to time.  This site is part of that stuff.

Place Vendome, in the French Revolution (George Mason U image)

11. Le plus Grand, des Despotes, Renversé par la Liberté (Place Vendôme). [Place Vendôme, The Greatest of Despots Overthrown by Freedom] Source: Museum of the French Revolution 88.170 Medium: Etching and colored wash Dimensions: 17.2 x 24.4 cm Commentary (numbers refer to pages in essays): General analysis – Day-Hickman, 5 Reasonable crowd – Day-Hickman, 2

Oh, also:  Take a look at this site:  Some guy named Frank Smitha has assembled a history of the world, claiming to be trying to avoid bias.  The French Revolution page is a pretty good run down, much more thorough than the average textbook.

Beheading of Louis XVI, via Frank Smitha

The beheading of King Louis XVI, an execution opposed by Thomas Paine, who favored Louis’ exile to the United States – Image from Frank E. Smitha’s Macrohistory and World Report, The French Revolution


Encore Post: Constitution Day!

September 17, 2008

Are you ready for it, teachers?

Howard Chandler Christy's painting of the Scene at the Signing of the Constitution

2008: I wasn’t ready to blog about it today.  Texas requires one day of instruction on the Constitution in every social studies class.  In government today, it happened to fit.  We discussed the Constitution earlier in world history, and we will return to it at various points through the year.



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