George Washington: No military junta, no king; an example we can all follow

December 23, 2016

This is a mostly encore post, emphasizing George Washington’s astounding ability to draw from history just exactly the right lesson, and then set the example that makes history.

Washington, though having never attended college, was an inveterate reader, and a sharp student of history.  Early he read the story of the great Roman, Cincinnatus, who made the Roman Republic great with his refusal to lust for power.  Cincinnatus twice was named Dictator, and both times resigned the commission rather than personally profit as others did — after saving Rome both times, of course.

In his own life, Washington also twice cast off the mantle of top leader, once when he resigned his commission as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army when so many assumed he would just keep on, and add the title of “King of America;” and the second time when, as president, he stepped aside and retired, leaving the leadership of the nation up to the Constitutional processes that had never before been tried successfully in any nation.

Washington’s resignation from the army command came on December 23, 1783 — such an important anniversary usually gets lost in preparations for Christmas, so I’ll post it a bit early.  In your holiday toasts, lift a glass to George Washington, who gave us civilian rule, an end to monarchy, and an example of responsible leadership making way for peaceful succession.

In 2007, I wrote:

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 Cincinnatus. (See especially this site, the Society of the Cincinnati)

 

John Trumbull painting of Washington resigning his commission

John Trumbull’s painting of Washington resigning his commission; one of eight great paintings hanging in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol

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.

From the Library of Congress American Memory site, “Today in History”:

George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783, in the senate chamber of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where the Continental Congress was then meeting.

Although the British had recognized American independence with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, British troops did not evacuate New York until December 4. After the last British ships left the harbor, Washington bid an emotional farewell to his officers and set out for Annapolis. On the journey south he was met with throngs of well-wishers paying him tribute for his role in the nation’s military victory over Great Britain.

Washington left Annapolis at dawn on December 24 and set out for Mount Vernon, his plantation on the Potomac River in Virginia. He arrived home before nightfall on Christmas Eve, a private citizen for the first time in almost nine years.

The Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis.

The Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis.

Maryland State House, Annapolis, Maryland
William Henry Jackson, photographer, circa 1892.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America, 1880-1920

When Washington visited The Maryland State House in 1783, the structure was incomplete and suffered from a leaking roof. By 1786, when representatives from Maryland and Virginia meeting at the State House rallied support for the movement to remedy defects in the Articles of Confederation, construction of a new dome had begun. Today, the building begun in 1772 is the oldest state house still in legislative use.

Located at the mouth of the Severn River on the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis was settled in 1649 by Puritans who moved there from Virginia. The town was known in the seventeenth century as Town of Proctor’s, Town at the Severn, and Anne Arundel Town before it was named for Queen Anne in 1695. It is home to the U.S. Naval Academy and to St. John’s College, founded in 1696.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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History in cartoons: Joseph Keppler on the need for the 17th Amendment

September 26, 2016

From the Historian of the U.S. Senate, a Joseph Keppler cartoon from Puck Magazine,

From the Historian of the U.S. Senate, a Joseph Keppler cartoon from Puck Magazine, “The Making of a Senator.” Print by J. Ottmann Lith. Co. after Joseph Keppler, Jr., Puck. Lithograph, colored, 1905-11-15. Image with text measurement Height: 18.50 inches (46.99 cm) Width: 11.50 inches (29.21 cm) Cat. no. 38.00624.001

This is a lithograph after a cartoon by Joseph Keppler in Puck Magazine, November 15, 1905. Keppler’s cartoons kept on the heat for some legislative solution to continuing corruption in state legislatures and the U.S. Senate, driven by the ability of large corporations and trusts to essentially purchase entire states’ legislatures, and tell legislators who to pick for the U.S. Senate.

Described by the Historian of the U.S. Senate:

The “people” were at the bottom of the pile when it came to electing U.S. senators, when Joseph Keppler, Jr.’s cartoon, “The Making of a Senator, ” appeared in Puck on November 15, 1905. Voters elected the state legislatures, which in turn elected senators. Keppler depicted two more tiers between state legislatures and senators: political bosses and corporate interests. Most notably, he drew John D. Rockefeller, Sr., head of the Standard Oil Corporation, perched on moneybags, on the left side of the “big interests. ”

This cartoon appeared while muckraking magazine writers such as Ida Tarbell and David Graham Phillips were accusing business of having corrupted American politics. The muckrakers charged senators with being financially beholden to the special interests. Reformers wanted the people to throw off the tiers between them and directly elect their senators–which was finally achieved with ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913.

Recent scuttlebutt about repealing the 17th Amendment seems to me wholly unconnected from the history. The 17th Amendment targeted corruption in the Senate and states. It largely worked, breaking the course of money falling from rich people and large corporations into the hands of everyone but the people, and breaking the practice of corporate minions getting Senate seats, to do the bidding of corporations and trusts.

Anti-corruption work was part of the larger Progressive Agenda, which included making laws that benefited people, such as clean milk and food, pure drugs, and banking and railroad regulation so small farmers and businessmen could make a good living. Probably the single best symbol of the Progressive movement was “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, Congressman, Governor and U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. LaFollette was a great supporter of the 17th Amendment

Again from the Senate Historian:

Nicknamed “Fighting Bob,” La Follette continued to champion Progressive causes during a Senate career extending from 1906 until his death in 1925. He strongly supported the 17th Amendment, which provided for the direct election of senators, as well as domestic measures advocated by President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, including federal railroad regulation and laws protecting workers rights. La Follette worked to generate wider public accountability for the Senate. He advocated more frequent and better publicized roll call votes and the publication of information about campaign expenditures.

Criticism of the 17th Amendment runs aground when it analyzes the amendment by itself, without reference to the democracy- and transparency-increasing components from the rest of the Progressive movements’ legislative actions from 1890 to 1930.

No one favors corruption and damaging secrecy in politics. By pulling the 17th out of context, critics hope to persuade Americans to turn back the clock to more corrupt times.

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456 days of stonewall; Trump’s not a good neighbor

September 16, 2016

Couldn't believe the Germans were so upset about Trump not releasing his taxes for 456 days! Oh, Bundesstraße 456. Wikipedia image

Couldn’t believe the Germans were so upset about Trump not releasing his taxes for 456 days! Oh, Bundesstraße 456. Wikipedia image

Today September 15 is the 456th day since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, having promised to release his tax returns so American voters could discern and judge his openness, that Trump failed to deliver on that promise.

Word out of the Trump campaign today is Trump doesn’t want to release his taxes because he’s afraid people will look at them.

Sadly, that is not made up.

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By Scott5114 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3518260

Don’t give us that garbage, Don! New Mexico Highway 456. Wikimedia Commons photo; By Scott5114 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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455 with a rocket: Trump stonewalls American voters on taxes for 455 days

September 14, 2016

Rocket 455, an obscure band whose record cover reminds American voters Donald Trump failed to release his taxes for a world record 455th day. Did his dog eat them? (Image from Amoeba Records)

Rocket 455, an obscure band whose record cover reminds American voters Donald Trump failed to release his taxes for a world record 455th day. Did his dog eat them? (If only Trump were “safe, harmless.”) (Image from Amoeba Records)

Today is the 455th day since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, having promised to release his tax returns so American voters could discern and judge his openness, that Trump failed to deliver on that promise.

We may have clear indications of why Trump does not want Americans to see his taxes. Newsweek today published a story detailing Trump’s business dealings with crooked Russian oligarchs and other shady people, foreign interests which would probably scare away honest American voters, and quite a few in his handbasket of deplorable supporters as well. Trump’s foreign  businesses pose threats to U.S. national security.

Trump makes the

Trump makes the “cover” of electronic Newsweek, but he’s not happy. See the blurb, lower right, saying Trump’s business dealings threaten U.S. national security. BoingBoing image

So, American voters, you know now WHY Trump doesn’t want to release his taxes, and why it’s more important than ever to get him to release them. A man who wishes to follow the footsteps of FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan and Obama, needs to be transparent in dealings with foreign powers.

In contrast with Rocket 455, Trump is a complete cipher. Rocket 455 are better qualified to be president than Donald Trump, from their tax returns.

Poster for a concert by Rocket 455 and others; they lay out their souls in public. Trump should at least release his taxes. (His soul might darken the day; let's not go there.) Chris*Kro image

Poster for a concert by Rocket 455 and others; they lay out their souls in public. Trump should at least release his taxes. (His soul might darken the day; let’s not go there.) Chris*Kro image

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Signs of life: Be not like the snail, but vote for a clean environment

June 7, 2015

From a Tweet by @Tom_Peters:

Uncaptioned photo from the Twitter feed of business excellence chronicler Tom Peters, @Tom_Peters

Uncaptioned photo from the Twitter feed of business excellence chronicler Tom Peters, @Tom_Peters

Sign on a litter receptacle:

Resemble not the slimy snail, who with his filth proclaims his trail.

Post your vote here for a cleaner England.

It’s not particularly flattering to the snail, and probably a bit off on the actual biology of snail trails.  I particularly like the emphasis on “voting” with action.  Reality is that we change the planet, for the better or for worse, with many small, individual acts every day, each one a vote on the future.

Anyone know where this can is? Are there many like it in England?


This guy is really lit! So are his bagpipes!

September 18, 2014

From the voting festivities in Scotland today, a very graphic demonstration of why one should never, never, never drink and play bagpipes.

From Twitter, Wall Street Journal's account:  Photos: Scotland votes in independence referendum | http://on.wsj.com/1ubZMTH

From Twitter, Wall Street Journal’s account: Photos: Scotland votes in independence referendum | http://on.wsj.com/1ubZMTH

In every other way, this vote should be closely watched.  Two nations pushed together by force of arms hundreds of years ago, discussing whether and how to split up.  No guns.  No tanks.  Lots of discussion, lots of fun, lots of ballots.  97% of eligible voters registered to vote, and indications are at least 90% of them turned out.

Can you imagine what would happen in U.S. elections if 90% of registered voters showed up at the polls, instead of 40%, or 30%?  Can you imagine if 97% of U.S. eligible voters bothered to register, instead of the less-than-50% we have now?

You bagpipes would flame, too.


Photo of the moment: India brilliantly demonstrating the error of Mao Zedong

May 12, 2014

You remember the quote, don’t you?

Every Communist must grasp the truth; “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Mao Zedong, “Problems of War and Strategy” (November 6, 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 224.

Here is the 21st century response from India:

A man shows off his finger, marked with ink, to show he's voted in India's elections, 2014.   WSJ image

A man shows off his finger, marked with ink, to show he’s voted in India’s elections, 2014. WSJ Tweet: India’s weeks-long federal elections come to a close. Photos from the polling place: http://trib.al/SekkQd2 (EPA)

In a democratic regime, political power grows from the finger that rings the doorbell or dials the phone to invite a neighbor to vote, and to that same finger marking the ballot in the voting place.  In the 21st century, democratic revolutions are slower, cause less bloodshed, but are more deeply rooted in the will of the people, and last longer in the deep reforms they bring to a nation.

The finger is mightier than the gun.

Mao is dead.  Even his nation turns towards capitalism, and eventually, to personal political freedom.

O, Tempora! O, Mores!

To which I would add (hoping I get the grammar correct!):  Novae viae veteres malis eius conterendos.  Spes et patientia superare tyrannidis.  (New ways crush the old bad habits. Hope and determination overcome tyranny.)

Afterthought:   When Malcolm X preached “The Ballot or the Bullet,” he advocated the ballot. He knew.


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