Saturday, January 24, 2015

Alexander Hamilton and the Black Race

Alexander Hamilton

Perhaps no other founding father stands in the forefront of giving blacks the opportunity to serve in the military than Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton defied the odds and insisted that blacks possessed " good as ours."  He did not believe the traditional theory prevalent in 18th century America that blacks were "stupid."  Instead, he insisted that it was a want of "cultivation" that made their circumstances bleak.  Indeed, Hamilton felt that under the care of a "sensible officer," blacks would make "excellent soldiers."  

Hamilton considered the prejudice against blacks to be based on "neither reason nor experience."  If anything, he felt such arguments were based on "an unwillingness to part with property of so valuable a kind."  It should be noted, that Hamilton's vision for blacks reached further beyond the immediate need for America to have larger troops to fight against the British.  By insisting on the plan to enlist black soldiers in the Continental Army, Hamilton hoped to provide a way for their emancipation. 




“From Alexander Hamilton to John Jay, [14 March 1779],” Founders Online, National Archives ( [last update: 2014-12-01]). Retrieved January 24, 2015.  Source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 2, 1779–1781, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 17–19.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

John Hancock congratulates General George Washington

George Washington
 by Charles Wilson Peale
Perhaps no other individual embodies the spirit of America better than George Washington.  From his shaky military beginnings in the French and Indian War to his position as the first United States president, Washington's steely grit, resilience, personal sacrifice, and courage exemplify the true characteristics of American Exceptionalism.  In the following excerpt from a letter dated October 15, 1783, John Hancock recognizes Washington's patriotic contributions: 


"...when as a Public Man, warmly attach’d to the Interest of my Country, I consider the nature of those Services which you have rendered to that Country; when I recollect the Cares you have sustained, the Fatigues you have endured, & the Dangers you have confronted for the Public Safety; when I call to mind the many instances in which your Abilities, your Prudence, your Fortitude, & Patience have been superior to the severest Trials; & when I now see the great Object of all so completely obtained in the Establishment of the Independence & Peace of the United States; my Heart is too full to forbear to Congratulate Your Excellency in the most Respectful & Affectionate manner, upon an Issue so happy to them & so glorious to yourself.  To all your Services as Commander in Chief of an Army that has in a manner Astonishing to the whole World efficaciously supported the Freedom of America, you have constantly added, & particularly in your late Circular Letter to the States, the result of your uncommon Wisdom & Experience as a Statesman to Assist us in improving to the happiest purposes the Advantages gained by our Arms.  After such Services, which consecrate your Name to all Posterity, with what homefelt Satisfaction must your future Days be Blest? Heaven Crown them with every Favor! May you long Live, my dear General & long have the Joy to see the increasing Splendor & Prosperity of a rising Nation aided by your Councils & Defended by your Sworde."






“To George Washington from John Hancock, 15 October 1783,” Founders Online, National Archives ( [last update: 2014-12-01]).  Retrieved 1/11/15.  Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington. It is not an authoritative final version.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Abigail Adams on Self-Reliance

Abigail Adams

In all the letters I have read from the founding generation, no one person exemplifies self-reliance better than perhaps Abigail Adams.  After reading over 900 letters of Abigail to various personalities, particularly John Adams and Mercy Otis Warren, it became clear Mrs. Adams believed that God had blessed America and that Americans ought to consider fending for themselves.  In this excerpt from a letter to John Adams dated 21 September, 1777, she tackles the issue of remaining self-reliant:


"Your observation with regard to Luxery are very just, but trade and commerce will always support it.  The Necessity of times will be a temporary restraint upon it, and put us upon seeking Resources among ourselves."


She then asks:

 "We can live much better than we deserve within ourselves.  Why should we borrow foreign Luxuries.  Why should we wish to bring ruin upon ourselves."


Why indeed?



Read this letter and more here:

 Abigail Adams to John Adams, 21 September 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives ( [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 2, June 1776 – March 1778, ed. L. H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, pp. 346–349.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Abigail Adams on Human Nature

During the Revolutionary Era, not all were on board to fight the British.  Some were called "Loyalists" and rightfully so because they pledged their allegiance to the British Crown.  Yet, even some Patriots questioned the effectiveness of a new government without British control.  In her November 27, 1775 letter to husband and "dear friend" John Adams, Abigail Adams voiced her concerns:


"If a form of Government is to be established here what one will be assumed?  Will it be left to our assemblies to chuse one?  And will not many men have many minds?  And shall we not run into Dissentions among ourselves?"


Here she notes her sentiments about the nature of man.  (Note, it rings similar to James Madison's later pronouncement in The Federalist No. 51 that, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."):


"I am more and more convinced that Man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in man or a few is ever grasping, and like the grave cries, give, give.  The great fish swallow up the small, and he who is most strenuous for the Rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the perogatives of Government.  You tell me of degrees of perfection to which Human nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances."

Check out this letter and more:

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 27 November 1775,” Founders Online, National Archives ( [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 1, December 1761May 1776, ed. Lyman H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, pp. 328–331.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

18th Century Time Capsule

A time capsule buried by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams was discovered this week under a cornerstone in the Massachusetts State House in Boston.  Read the complete exciting story here: