Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Importance of the Military by George Washington

In the harsh winter of 1777-78, the Continental Army camped at Valley Forge under the command of General George Washington.  During this period, Washington wrote of his increasing frustrations with Congress.  The following is an excerpt from a letter dated April 21, 1778, addressed to John Banister where Washington shares his sentiments about the army:

“I am pleased to find, that you expect the proposed establishment of the Army will succeed; though it is painful consideration, that matters of such pressing importance and obvious necessity meet with so much difficulty and delay.  Be assured the success of the measure is a matter of the most serious moment, and that it ought to be brought to a conclusion, as speedily as possible.”

Washington’s view of Peace talks:

“The necessity of putting the Army upon a respectable footing, both as to numbers and constitution, is now become more essential than ever.  The Enemy are beginning to play a Game more dangerous than their efforts by Arms, tho’ these will not be remitted in the smallest degree, and which threatens a fatal blow to American Independence, and to her liberties of course:  They are endeavouring to ensnare the people by specious allurements of Peace.  It is not improbable they have had such abundant cause to be tired of the War, that they may be sincere, in the terms they offer, which, though far short of our pretentions, will be extremely flattering to Minds that do not penetrate far into political consequences:  But, whether they are sincere or not, they may be equally destructive; for, to discerning Men, nothing can be more evident, than that a Peace on the principles of dependence, however limited, after what has happened, would be to the last degree dishonourable and ruinous.”

Washington’s view of the Army:

“It is our policy to be prejudiced against them in time of War….  in my Opinion….  We should all be considered, Congress, Army, &c. as one people, embarked in one Cause, in one interest; action on the same principle and to the same End.  The distinction, the Jealousies set up, or perhaps only incautiously let out, can answer not a single good purpose.  They are impolitic extreme.  Among Individuals, the most certain way to make a Man your Enemy, is to tell him, you esteem him such; so with public bodies; and the very jealousy, which the narrow politics of some may affect to entertain of the Army, in order to a due subordination to the supreme Civil Authority, is a likely mean to produce a contrary effect; to incline it to the pursuit of those measures which that may wish it to avoid.  It is unjust, because no Order of Men in the thirteen States have paid a more sanctimonious regard to their proceedings than the Army; and, indeed, it may be questioned, whether there has been that scrupulous adherence had to them by any other, for without arrogance, or the smallest deviation from tuth it may be said, that no history, now extant, can furnish an instance of an Army’s suffering such uncommon hardships as ours have done, and bearing them with the ssame patience and Fortitude.  To see Men without Cloathes to cover their nakedness, without Blankets to lay on, without Shoes, by which their Marches might be traced by the Blood from their feet, and almost as often without Provisions as with; Marching through frost and Snow, and at Christmas taking up their Winter Quarters within a day’s March of the enemy, without a House or Hutt to cover them till they could be built and submitting to it without a murmur, is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be parallel’d.”

Washington acknowledges the Army’s “complaints” but admonishes Congress for the useless delay in providing essentials for the military:

“There may have been some remonstrances or applications to Congress, in the stile of complaint from the Army and slaves indeed should we be, if this privilidge was denied, on Account of their proceedings in particular instances; but these will not Authorize nor even excuse a jealousy, that they are therefore aiming at unreasonable powers; or making strides, dangerous, or subversive of Civil Authority.  Things should not be viewed in that light, more especially, as Congress, in some cases, have relieved the injuries complained of, and which had flowed from their own Acts.

*My emphasis added.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Arbitrary Power and the Demise of Liberty by James Otis

Prior to the Revolution, James Otis worked as advocate-general in Boston for the King of England.  In 1760, the King’s revenue officers demanded Otis to supply search warrants that would give them the authority to enter and search anyone’s house for smuggled goods.  Otis refused to comply with the demand.  On February 24, 1761, Otis gave a speech that lasted five hours defending the natural law and rights of man stating, “A man’s house is his castle.”  The following excerpt comes from his speech that became the precursor to the Declaration of Independence in 1776:

“I will to my dying day oppose with all the powers and faculties God has given me all such instruments of slavery, on the one hand, and villainy, on the other, as this writ of assistance is.  It appears to me the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was founded in an English lawbook…”

Otis explains the difference between general and special warrants for search and seizures:

“Your honors will find in the old books concerning the office of justice of the peace precedents of general warrants to search suspected houses.  But in more modern books you will find only special warrants to search such and such houses, specially named, in which the complainant has before sworn that he suspects his goods are concealed; and will find it adjudged that special warrants only are legal.  In the same manner I rely on it that the writ prayed for in this petition, being general, is illegal.  It is a power that placed the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.

Here Otis describes how the use of power through the writ is an abuse of the individual’s liberty:

“In the first place, the writ is universal, being directed ‘to all and singular justices, sheriffs, constables, and all other officers and subjects’; so that, in short it is directed to every subject in the king’s dominions.  Everyone with this writ may be a tyrant’ if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may control, imprison, or murder anyone within the realm.  In the next place, it is perpetual; there is no return.  A man is accountable to no person for his doings.  Every man may reign secure in his petty tyranny, and spread terror and desolation around him, until the trump of the archangel shall excite different emotions in his soul.  In the third place, a person with this writ, in the daytime, may enter all houses, shops, etc., at will, and command all to assist him.  Fourthly, by this writ, not only deputies, etc., but even their menial servants, are all allowed to lord it over us.”

“…one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one’s house.  A man’s house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle.  This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege.  Customhouse officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry.  Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court, can inquireBare suspicion without oath is sufficient.”

Tragically, only part of Otis’s speech went recorded but what is available offers great insight to what he considered legal and illegal search based on natural law and the rights of man.  

*My emphasis added.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The People's Cry for Independence by John Adams

Far from being an idea conjured up by the ruling class, independence required the support of the People.  As a delegate from Massachusetts to the Second Continental Congress, John Adams was in the perfect position to observe and record the events of his day.  He shared his thoughts through his letters with his “dearest friend” and wife, Abigail Adams.  The collection of letters between John and Abigail were precious to them and are equally important to the study of the Revolutionary Era.  These letters offer us an insight into the world and experiences of the founding generation.  The following is an excerpt from a letter dated July 3, 1776 in which Adams discusses the monumental decision made by the Thirteen Colonies to separate from Great Britain and how the success of the resolution for independence depended on the People’s acceptance of the idea:

“…the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it. -- The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished. -- Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations,* so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act. -- This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.”

*My emphasis added.

**Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, "Had a Declaration..." [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vote for Your Favorite Painting from my American Soldier Series

Poll is now open until next Wednesday, April 16, 2014.  Make your selection on the right side >>>>
Results will be shared after 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Thanks for participating!

This poll is now closed.  It ended with a tie between Korea and The Last Chapter both voted as favorites.  Thank you for viewing and participating.

The Predecessor - Militia

American Revolution

War of 1812

Mexican War

Civil War

Spanish American War







The Last Chapter

*All Art is Copyright under Trehan's Treasures Studios/AK Fielding, 2014.  All rights reserved.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What is Good Government? Thomas Jefferson Explains

The 1800 presidential election was full of surprises.  The growing rift between the Federalists and the Republicans brought forth Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, knocking down John Adams from the equation.  Jefferson and Burr both received 73 electoral votes and the tie was only broken following a heavy debate in the House of Representatives (and with some help from Alexander Hamilton).  Jefferson finally emerged victorious as the third president of the United States and gave his inaugural address on March 4, 1801 where he famously stated, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”  Below is an excerpt from Jefferson’s speech where he discusses the best form of government:

“Still one thing more, fellow-citizens – a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.  This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”

Jefferson further explains the basic principles of good government-note for Jefferson republican principles and good government is interchangeable:

“Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious, or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the state governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the general government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people – a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principles of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press; and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected

Jefferson closes by adding that these republican principles of good government formed our nation and must guide us in the future because only through them can we sustain America’s greatness:

“These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation.  The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment.  They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.”

*My emphasis added.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Federalism Explained by Alexander Hamilton

One of the toughest fights for the Constitution during the ratification process took place in Alexander Hamilton’s home state of New York.  With a majority of anti-federalists in power, Hamilton worked diligently to convince many of them to consider the new Constitution.  Often noted by people today as a strong proponent of a massive centralized government, Hamilton favored a strong united nation against the European superpowers of the world but he recognized the importance of state(s) rights.  Here is an excerpt from Hamilton’s speech given in New York on June 1788 where he advances a federal (not national) government for the new nation:

“The state governments are essentially necessary to the form and spirit of the general system.  As long, therefore, as Congress has full conviction of this necessity, they must, even upon principles purely national, have as firm an attachment to the one as to the other.  This conviction can never leave them, unless they become madmen.  While the Constitution continues to be read and its principle known, the states must, by every rational man, be considered as essential, component parts of the Union; and therefore the idea of sacrificing the former to the latter is wholly inadmissible….”

Hamilton then notes that the power of the states and the liberties of Americans remain intertwined:

The states can never lose their powers till the whole people of America are robbed of their libertiesThese must go together; they must support each other, or meet one common fate.” 

Note how Hamilton explains the balance of powers between the individual states and the one United States; this according to Hamilton is federalism in its essence:

“The laws of the United States are supreme as to all their proper, constitutional objects; the laws of the states are supreme in the same way.  These supreme laws may act on different objects without clashing; or they may operate on different parts of the same common object with perfect harmony.”

Here Hamilton recognizes and emphasizes again the significance of individual liberty over any form of government:

“I have troubled the committee with these observations, to show that it cannot be the wish of any reasonable man to establish a government unfriendly to the liberties of the people.”

* My emphasis added.