#OnThisDay: Miranda v Arizona, 1966

It was just a month ago that I blogged about the 1954 US Supreme Court landmark decision, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka. I referred to the fact that our legal framework is under attack by the current sitting US Supreme Court. I fear the overturning of Roe v Wade will be just the tip of the iceberg. Time will tell.

Americans now know that we cannot take any of our freedoms for granted. The Trump-inspired insurrectionists’ attack on the US Capitol on June 6, 2021 surely taught most of us that, if nothing else.

“Miranda Rights”

One of the assurances we have in the United States stems from a landmark decision issued by the US Supreme Court on this date in 1966: Miranda v Arizona. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Miranda Rights” if you watch any police procedural television series set in the United States.  

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Since the Miranda v Arizona decision, “you have the right to remain silent…” when being arrested. I’ve never been arrested, and I hope I never will be. You never know, though, when something like that might happen. Many people are falsely accused and arrested due to that or by cases of mistaken identity or are falsely singled out due to the color of their skin or for having the same name as someone for whom there is an arrest warrant. That last one can happen to anyone.

If you’re ever arrested in the United States of America – rightly or wrongly – you’ll be glad that on June 13, 1966, the US Supreme Court proclaimed that you must be informed of your rights by the arresting police officer. You have the right to remain silent. If you relinquish that right, anything you say can be held against you in a court of law. You have a right to legal counsel – either a lawyer you hire or one appointed for you by the court if you cannot afford to hire one yourself.

Miranda v Arizona was decided by a 6 to 3 majority of the US Supreme Court. The majority ruled based on the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution. Dissenting justices argued that the law wasn’t necessary and that police officers inclined to conduct questionable interrogations would just ignore the decision.

I think most Americans know enough about the law now that they are aware that they “have the right to remain silent” and that they “have a right to legal counsel.” An informed citizenry will help keep police officers with questionable motives and tactics in check. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. My black friends can attest to that.

The original Miranda Case

In a nutshell, Ernesto Miranda was convicted after confessing under police interrogation that he was guilty of kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery. The conviction was overturned by the Miranda v Arizona US Supreme Court decision. Mr. Miranda was tried again, convicted, and sentenced to 20-30 years in prison.

Seeing Miranda v Arizona in action

I served on a jury in my county’s Superior Court in the 1970s. The case before us was a child neglect matter due to a mother keeping her children out of school based on a religious belief that the world was going to come to an end on a specific date in the near future.

The mother’s reasoning was that her children didn’t need an education, since the world was going to end in a few months. It appeared to be an open-and-shut case until the woman’s attorney informed the judge that his client hadn’t been read her Miranda Rights. The case was immediately dismissed.

Since my last blog post

I had the privilege of watching and listening to four free webinars offered by Chad R. Allen. He offered lots of useful information about book publishing and, specifically, how to write a successful book proposal.

I also watched and listened to a free webinar by Geoff Affleck about how to advertise on Amazon.

Until my next blog post

Keep reading! I hope you have a good book to read this week.

Make time to enjoy a hobby.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, 1954

The recent “leak” that the United States Supreme Court is on track to abolish the 1973 landmark decision Roe v Wade should stand as a wake-up call to all Americans.

Even a 49-year-old Supreme Court decision that has stood the test of time and numerous challenges, can be undone by five Supreme Court Associate Justices who claimed under oath before Congress that they had no intention of voting to undo that 1973 Court decision.

This begs the question, “What comes next? What other US Supreme Court decisions will be wiped away by this Court which was “stacked” by our former president and the radical “right” in Congress?

If I just “stepped on your toes,” so be it.

Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, 1954

This brings me to the topic of today’s blog post, which I chose months ago because it is the anniversary of another landmark US Supreme Court decision, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka. It was 68 years ago today that the Court published its unanimous decision on that case, which made it illegal to have separate public school systems based on race.

Photo credit: CDC on unspash.com

Until Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, it was legal for states to have “separate but equal” school systems for the different races. Everyone knew there was nothing equal about them, but they were legal in the eyes of the law.

The Brown v Board of Education of Topeka decision overturned the 1896 US Supreme Court case, Plessy v Ferguson. Plessy v Ferguson is proof that the US Supreme Court can make terrible mistakes. That decision ruled that having “separate but equal” school systems for each racial group was all right, and now it was deemed legal under the U.S. Constitution.

I grew up in the racially-segregated South. Before you get too puffed up about being from one of the other sections of the United States, though, take a moment to consider your childhood. Segregation might not have been mandated where you lived, but were your community and schools racially-integrated prior to the 1960s?

In a recent conversation with a friend from the Midwest, I said that our public schools here in Cabarrus County, NC were integrated when I was in the seventh grade. That was 1965. The person I was talking to made an interesting remark: “I lived in a non-segregated state, but I didn’t go to school with black students until high school. I lived in a farming community and there just weren’t any black people.”

Since I also grew up in a farming community, I found it strange that there weren’t a mix of white people and black people where she grew up. It was interesting to hear her perspective on the issue.

To our more-enlightened 21st century minds, it seems ridiculous that prior to Brown v Board of Education of Topeka it was legal to have racially-segregated public school systems. Since I was born in 1953, 1954 doesn’t seem very long ago. (Please stop rolling your eyes. If you don’t already understand, you will someday.)

The dual school systems didn’t disappear overnight – not by long shot. They continued here in Cabarrus County until the beginning of the 1966-67 school year. The previous school year, students had the option of attending the school not designated for their race. Few students chose to do that. For instance, in the previously all-white school of 1,000 students that I attended, only three black students chose to enroll in 1965. Looking back on it, I can’t imagine the courage it took for them to do so.

The following school year, the previously all-black schools in the county were closed. The buildings weren’t even used! I believe that’s proof in and of itself that the school board members knew that previously all-black schools weren’t on par with the previously all-white schools. Or, perhaps they knew that most white parents wouldn’t want their children assigned to those previously all-black schools. They carried a stigma which was based on racial bias and a deep-seated prejudice.

What a luxury the school board had then to let school buildings sit empty. It was just a couple of years before the county’s population started growing so fast that the school board was never again able to build schools fast enough to keep up.

The mid-1960s were volatile years as school desegregation took place. Southern states were held up by the national media as a backward place where white people resented black people and wanted their schools kept separate. That’s what we were told and we didn’t know any better until race riots broke out in Boston in September 1974 when the public schools there were ordered to desegregate.

In conclusion

In light of this history and what I read last week in Viola Davis’ memoir, Finding Me, I’m left to conclude that people everywhere are prejudiced against people who don’t look like they do.

We see racial profiling and discrimination all over the United States. Housing redlining takes place every day as mortgage lenders find ways to disguise such practices which limits where people of color can purchase homes. Every time I think this no longer takes place, investigative reporters uncover proof that I’m wrong.

I’ve come to realize that the desegregation of public schools didn’t always translate into equal opportunity. Students of all races and economic backgrounds experience different levels of support and nurture at home. Those of us who grew up in happy homes were blissfully unaware that some of our fellow students were subjected to abuse and neglect in their homes. Teachers — knowingly or unknowingly — bring their own prejudices into the classroom. So do students. It’s human nature, and it’s something we all need to be aware of as we interact with one another in our daily lives. You don’t know what the other person might be going through in his or her personal life.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have one or more good books to read this week.

Take time for a hobby, family, and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

#OnThisDay: 251st Anniversary of 1771 Gunpowder Plot

When the first week of May rolls around every year, I’m reminded of a bold, dangerous, and exciting event in our local history in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. It dates back to the early days of the American Revolution. In fact, it predates the American Declaration of Independence by five years. Most Americans have never heard of it.

Gunpowder Shipment

As the Regulator Movement reached the boiling point in Alamance County, North Carolina in April 1771, word came to the Rocky River Community in present-day Cabarrus County (but then part of Mecklenburg County) that a shipment of gunpowder was on its way from Charleston, South Carolina to General Waddell in Salisbury (in Rowan County.)

Knowing that the gunpowder was destined to be used to put down the Regulator Movement in counties north of Mecklenburg, eight or nine youths and young men from the Rocky River Presbyterian congregation put their heads together and designed a plan to make sure the gunpowder never reached General Waddell.

While making plans in secret to intercept the gunpowder shipment, the young men took cover from a late April 1771 thunderstorm in the springhouse on the Andrew Logan farm near where Reedy Creek now passes under Lower Rocky River Road.

Photo credit: Jonas Kaiser on unsplash.com

Not all sources agree on the names or even the number of conspirators, but it is believed they were as follows, based on the sworn testimony of James Ashmore: James White, Jr.; John White, Jr.; William White; Robert (Bob) Caruthers (who was married to a sister of James White, Jr.); Robert Davis; Benjamin Cochran; William White (cousin of the other Whites and son of the “Widow White”); James Ashmore; and Joshua Hadley, a half-brother of James Ashmore.

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One source credits Joshua Hadley with producing a New Testament on which each one swore that if anyone should ever divulge their plot that a ball might be shot through his heart and his soul sent to the lowest hell. Furthermore, they swore that if one of them ever revealed the names of the participants, he might die where no one should see him and that he should be denied a Christian burial.

Meanwhile…

Three munitions wagons from Charleston arrived in Charlotte but, upon learning that the gunpowder was destined to be used to put down the Regulators in Alamance and Rowan counties, the teamsters refused to take the munitions any further. It is said that Militia Colonel Moses Alexander had difficulty securing volunteers to take the wagons on to Salisbury.

An informant took word to the conspirators at Rocky River that the wagons were in Charlotte and they would stop for the night at the muster grounds near the present-day intersection of US-29 and Poplar Tent Road in Concord. (Since US-29 essentially follows the route of The Great Wagon Road, that’s the route the wagons would have taken to Salisbury.)

Thursday, May 2, 1771

The conspirators met at the home of James White, Sr. They blackened their faces to disguise themselves and set out for the muster grounds. They cut across the county and sometime on the night of May 2, 1771, converged on Phifer’s old muster grounds.

Can’t you just image those teenage boys and young men nervously waiting from a vantage point near the muster grounds? Can’t you imagine their hearts pounding as they ran down the hill and approached the wagons?

It is thought that James White, Jr. was the ringleader. The signal was given! The band of patriots surprised the guards! One of the teamsters was James Caruthers. He recognized his brother, Bob, as one of the attackers. In a low voice he said, “You’ll rue this, Bob.”

“Hold your tongue, Jim,” came his brother’s reply.

The conspirators moved the guards and teamsters to safety. They emptied the wagons and put the gunpowder and blankets in a pile. A train of powder was laid. James White, Jr., fired his pistol into the train.

Photo credit: Cee on unsplash.com

The resulting explosion was heard nine miles away in the vicinity of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. Some people thought it was thunder, while others mistook it for an earthquake.

Photo credit: Andy Watkins on unsplash.com

It is said that James White, Jr. carried a scar for the rest of his life where a flying stave from one of the gunpowder barrels hit him above his eye and cut to the bone before he could run from the explosion.

Photo credit: Christopher Burns on unsplash.com

The conspirators got home the best way they could in the wee hours of Friday, May 3, cleaned themselves up, and said nothing of their overnight adventure.

The Consequences

The Battle of Alamance took place on May 16, 1771, and the Regulator Movement in North Carolina was effectively put down by the royal government. Gov. William Tryon proclaimed on May 17 that he would pardon the rebels if they would turn themselves in by May 21. Bad weather and other circumstances prompted Tryon to postpone the deadline.

Some of the Regulators were put on trial on May 30. The trial was expected to last three weeks. No doubt, news of all this was moving up and down the Great Wagon Road and the conspirators from Rocky River were anxiously awaiting the outcome.

Photo credit: Jon Toney on unsplash.com

Giving in to exhaustion, at one point some of the gunpowder conspirators set out for Hillsborough to take the governor up on his offer of pardon. Before they reached their destination, they were warned that it was a trick and were told the Governor Tryon intended to hang them. Some returned to the canebrakes of Reedy Creek, while others fled to Georgia and Virginia.

June 11, 1771

Governor Tryon proclaimed that he knew some of the rebels in the colony wanted to turn themselves in, so he extended the deadline by which they could do so to July 10, except for “all the Outlaws, the Prisoners, all those concerned in blowing up General Waddell’s Ammunition in Mecklenburg County” and sixteen named Regulators.

The Governor sensed that he was losing control of North Carolina. He wanted the young men who destroyed his gunpowder brought to justice, but he didn’t know who they were.

In mid- to late-June, the Regulators’ trial came to a close. Twelve Regulators were tried and found guilty of high treason. Six were hanged while the other six waited for the King to decide their fate.

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Perhaps word of the Regulator trial results reached Rocky River, or maybe James Ashmore and Joshua Hadley simply feared that one of the other conspirators would disclose their identities. For whatever reason, Ashmore and Hadley went independently to tell Colonel Moses Alexander (who lived on a plantation at the present-day site of Charlotte Motor Speedway) what they knew.

Imagine their surprise when they ran into each other on Colonel Alexander’s front porch!

The two half-brothers jockeyed for position. James Ashmore eventually pushed his way into the house and told Col. Alexander that he was ready to talk.

June 22, 1771

James Ashmore was taken to Charlotte, where he gave a sworn deposition before Thomas Polk, a Mecklenburg County Justice of the Peace. That’s when things went from bad to worse for the conspirators.

Photo credit: Alessio Fiorentino

In his deposition, Ashmore told Polk how the conspirators had met at Andrew Logan’s old plantation after James McCaul advertised a sale or something to be held there. It was there that James White, Jr. asked Ashmore if he would be interested in helping to blow up the gunpowder shipment.

Ashmore said in his deposition that he was asked in the planning stages if he thought there was any harm in blowing up the gunpowder. He said he didn’t see any harm in it. He said the next morning between ten and eleven o’clock he stopped working on his plantation and went three-quarters of a mile to look for his horses.

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Ashmore claimed it was there that he met six men on the road “who in appearance resembled Indians.” One was either recognized or identified himself as James White, Jr. White persuaded Ashmore to come back and join them after taking his horses home and recruiting his half-brother, Joshua Hadley.

They joined the men later about a half-mile from the Ashmore home. It was at that point in the deposition that Ashmore named six men with whom he and Hadley assembled.

Ashmore’s deposition goes on to describe the attack on the munitions wagons and how the conspirators had been sworn to secrecy.

In hiding

Once the names were revealed, the search for the men began in earnest. As stated earlier, some escaped to Georgia and Virginia. Others hid the canebrakes of Reedy Creek in the vicinity of the bridge on present-day Lower Rocky River Road where the women of Rocky River Presbyterian Church took them food and clothing.

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When in need of something, one of the young men would pop up in a ravine and whistle. Nearby resident of around 40 years of age, William Spears, would acknowledge the fugitive by removing his hat. He would then walk off in the opposite direction so he would not be seen as aiding the conspirators.

Agnes Spears, William’s wife, would then take them food. For nearly one year the women of Rocky River Presbyterian Church fed and concealed the young men who took refuge along the banks of Reedy Creek. The authorities would never think to question the women because they couldn’t imagine that the women of the community had anything to do with the plot or its aftermath.

Photo credit:

The Rev. Hezekiah James Balch openly prayed for the safety of the young men from the pulpit of Rocky River Presbyterian Church.

The participants in the gunpowder plot were fugitives until independence was declared. After the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was issued on May 20, 1775, all Mecklenburg County citizens were considered to be in rebellion. After the Declaration, the conspirators were finally able to move about as freely as anyone else and prepare to fight in the coming Revolutionary War.

When May 2 and July 4 roll around every year, think about those brave young men from Rocky River who risked their lives to help gain our freedom in America.

Since my last blog post

Is it me, or are the weeks just flying by? I’m hard-pressed to remember what I’ve done since last Monday. I just know I’ve been busy. I visited a bookstore in downtown Concord, North Carolina on Friday. More on that in next week’s blog post. I’ve done some reading and quite a bit of brainstorming over the plot of my novel-in-progress. I work out many of the plot twists and some of the dialog while on my daily walks.

Yesterday we celebrated “May Meeting” at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. The tradition started as early as 1757. On the first Sunday in May, present members of the congregation, others associated with the church throughout its history, and other visitors from the community gather for worship, the Lord’s Supper, and Dinner in the Grove. It’s been a mainstay in my life since 1953.

We had perfect weather for Dinner in the Grove. Everyone brings food and spreads it out on a long four-foot-wide wire “table” that’s put up just for such occasions. It’s fun to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Some people bring special dishes they’re known for. There’s always good food and fellowship as we all eat together. After having an abbreviated version during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was exciting this year to get back to the way it used to be.

Until my next blog post

My blog post next Monday will be about some of the books I read in April.

I hope you have at least one good book to read and a hobby to enjoy.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

#OnThisDay: San Francisco Earthquake, 1906

Before daylight on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, the northern coast of California, including the city of San Francisco, was rocked by an earthquake of historic proportions. In retrospect, it was estimated to have been on the magnitude of 7.9.

The earthquake and its resulting fires destroyed 500 city blocks – approximately 28,000 buildings. The fires burned for three days and intensified the citizens’ fears and anxiety.

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Some 200,000 people – half of the city’s population at the time – were left homeless. Although usually referred to as “the Great San Francisco Earthquake,” it also resulted in widespread damage in northern California, including San Jose and Oakland.

Cooking food inside standing houses was outlawed immediately after the earthquake in the government’s efforts to minimize additional fires. “Bread lines” were established to distribute food to the homeless and whatever food preparation that was possible was done in the streets.

According to the United States Geological Survey website, (https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/events/1906calif/18april/) 296 miles (477 kilometers) of the San Andreas fault ruptured. The quake was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and as far east as central Nevada. Much was learned from this earthquake, but it would be a half-century later before plate tectonics as a field of study would shed more light on exactly what processes were at play to produce the event.

The USGS website contains a drop-down menu through which you can access many more details about this earthquake, including comparisons with the October 17, 1989 quake that struck the San Francisco area just 26 minutes before Game 3 of the World Series was set to begin at Candlestick Park. It was measured at 6.9 on the Richter Scale.

Earth tremors and earthquakes of low magnitude are a daily occurrence in San Francisco. That is something I can’t imagine, since I’ve only felt two earthquakes in my life.

While doing the research for today’s blog post, I remembered reading The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner in April 2021. It’s a novel based on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. You might like to read what I had to say about that book in my May 3, 2021 blog post, 5 Historical Novels I Read in April 2021.

Since my last blog post

Jennie Nash’s book, Blueprint for a Book: Build You Novel from the Inside Out, is helping me outline The Heirloom. Ms. Nash’s “inside outline” helps me remember there must be a reaction to every event and internal reactions are what pull readers into a story.

I continue not to be at my best physically, but I’m constantly thinking about the plotline for The Heirloom and how I can make it better.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Three Mile Island, 1979

I’ve had two relatively close encounters with Three Mile Island. Both were unexpected.

While on vacation in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the early 1980s, my sister and I sought out a unique restaurant, Alfred’s Victorian Restaurant, for dinner one night in Middletown. It was only upon arriving that we realized that Middletown was actually the location of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant. We joked about glowing in the dark later that evening, but I know it’s really not a laughing matter.

On a later trip to work on our family’s genealogy, my sister and I flew into the airport in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. On our approach, the plane banked so close to the cooling towers of the power plant, I swear I could have reached out and touched them if the windows had been open!

In retrospect, it’s astounding that a commercial jet was allowed to fly so close to a nuclear power plant, but that was well before 9/11. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to do that.


What happened at Three Mile Island?

Can it be 43 years since this happened? I’m feeling older by the day!

A pressure valve in the Unit-2 nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Middletown, Pennsylvania failed to close at 4:00 a.m., March 28, 1979. The result was the worst nuclear power generating facility disaster up until that time.

This cooling malfunction caused part of the core of Unit-2 to melt. The reactor was destroyed, but there were no injuries. A small amount of radioactive gas was released two days after the accident, but it wasn’t enough to cause any adverse health problems.

Personnel operating the facility were unable to tell where the malfunction was in the beginning, which contributed to the emergency. As a result of what happened at Three Mile Island, a raft of changes were made in operating procedures, training, emergency response planning, and other aspects of nuclear power production required by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

According to the NRC, “A combination of equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors led to the TMI-2’s partial meltdown and very small off-site releases of radioactivity.”

If you’re too young to remember this accident or desire to know more about it, here’s the link to an NRC report: https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML0402/ML040280573.pdf?msclkid=551c40f7a7cd11ec8bde7e38f7758305.


What’s the status of Three Mile Island?

The other nuclear reactor, Unit 1, was shut down on September 20, 2019. The dismantling of the facility and clean-up is estimated to take 60 years and cost more than $1 billion.


The good news?

Many problems were identified due to the accident at Three Mile Island. The resulting regulatory changes have made nuclear power production in the United States and other countries much safer.


Since my last blog post

I continued to work on that old cemetery project I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent blog posts. It’s troubling how much damage the elements have done to some of the grave stones since I took photographs of them in 2006. I continue to try to decipher some of the inscriptions.

I’ve started working my way through Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash as I continue to work out the plot for The Heirloom.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading parts of several.

Watch and listen to the news and read news articles from reputable sources. Stay informed about current events.

Thank you for spending some time reading my blog.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Explosion Aboard Steamship, 1844

Sometimes it angers me that the history classes I sat through as a child and teen didn’t include little bits of information like I’m sharing with you today. Instead of memorizing names of general and battles and dates, how much more interesting class would have been if we’d been told stories like this one.

Knowing this story could have served as an example to students of how history can turn on a dime. I’d like to think students learned that last week when Russia invaded Ukraine without provocation.

The incident I write about today brings to mind the following for each of us to think about: If not for ___(you fill in the blank)____, then ___(you fill in the blank)____ wouldn’t have happened OR would have happened.

The 1840s USS Princeton

I don’t recall ever hearing about the USS Princeton until recently, and I wouldn’t have heard of it then if I hadn’t been looking for a topic for #OnThisDay for my blog.

There have been a series of US Naval vessels christened with the name USS Princeton. The one I write about today, as you can see from my blog post title, was the one built in the early 1840s. It was a state-of-the-art warship powered by coal-produced steam. It was built in Philadelphia and was best-known for its two 12-inch cannons/carronades, called “The Oregon” and “The Peacemaker.”

“The Oregon” was of revolutionary design, made of wrought iron, and manufactured in England. It was designed by John Ericsson, a Swede who later designed the Monitor of American Civil War fame.

“The Peacemaker” was manufactured in New York under the partial supervision of Captain Robert Stockton, a political supporter of US President John Tyler. It’s thought that it was believed and claimed to be comparable to “The Oregon,” but there were design differences and short cuts were taken in The Peacemaker’s testing. This was a recipe for disaster, and that’s what happened on the Potomac River on February 28, 1844.

Let’s set the stage

The state of politics in the United States in 1844 contributed to the inevitable disaster. William Henry Harrison was elected US President in 1840, but he died in 1841 only a month after his inauguration. John Tyler being the US Vice President, assumed the office of President. It was the first time in American history that a president died in office and was replaced by the vice president. Tyler had been a Democrat, but he was elected as a Whig. Soon after he assumed office, he openly disagreed with the Whig Party over economic policy, and the Whigs kicked him out of the party. The Democrats didn’t want him back, so he became a US President without a political party.

Tyler wanted to be reelected President in the 1844 election. He thought by running on a promise to annex the Republic of Texas into the United States would win him the election. Mexico and Great Britain opposed the idea.

To ward off foreign opposition to that annexation, Tyler ordered the construction of the USS Princeton. Most warships in the world at that time were sailing ships or steamships with fuel limitations. The USS Princeton was designed with a collapsible smokestack, allowing it to also navigate as a sailing ship. A hybrid in the 1840s! It’s engine and propeller system were below the water line, making it less vulnerable to enemy attack than ships propelled by paddlewheel.

Back on the scene to partially supervised the construction of the warship, Captain Stockton bragged about the ship’s prowess, calling it “invincible.” He thought by bringing the ship to Washington, DC and entertaining politicians, he’d get the money to build more ships.

What happened on February 28, 1844

An afternoon excursion from Washington, DC on the Potomac River was planned for February 28, 1844. President Tyler (who had no Vice-President), members of Congress along with their wives, and some Cabinet members were wined and dined on the ship and were scheduled to witness the fire power of the ship during three demonstrations.

It was Stockton’s decision to fire “The Peacemaker” for all three demonstrations. After two successful firings, a third was launched in honor of George Washington. On that third firing, “The Peacemaker” exploded, sending its parts – some weighing in excess of a ton – flying across the deck. Eight people were killed and more than two dozen were injured.

Secretary of State Abel Upshur and Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer were killed. If President Tyler had not been unexpectedly detained on the stairs below deck, he undoubtedly would have been standing with them.

The hole in the US Constitution

What happened in US Presidential succession in the 1840s should have been remedied posthaste. It was the first time a Vice President had to step up and into the Presidency due to the death of a President; however, we know from history it was not the last time.

It would be 1967, four years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, before the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution would provide a process through which a Vice President would be replaced in the event of the vacancy of that office.

If President Tyler had been killed in the explosion on the Princeton, the president pro tem of the US Senate, Willie Mangum – a North Carolinian who had been one of the founders of the Whig Party – would have become US President. Among other things, Mangum was an avowed opponent of the annexation of the Republic of Texas.

This fact alone brings us back to the fill-in-the-blanks line from the third paragraph of this blog post: If not for ___(you fill in the blank)____, then ___(you fill in the blank)____ wouldn’t have happened OR would have happened.

If you’d like to learn more

If you want to learn more about the USS Princeton of 1844, I recommend https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/181834, by Stan Haynes, published on November 21, 2021. Also, https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/USS_Princeton_(1843). I drew information from both of these online resources which include more detail than I shared in my post today. In addition, I understand that Stan Haynes has written a historical novel, And Tyler No More, which includes this tragic incident.

Since my last blog post

Our world has changed forever. NATO is being tested like no other time since its inception. No one knows what the future holds for Ukraine, Europe, and the rest of the world. I believe in His perfect wisdom, God doesn’t allow us to know the future.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and time for a creative outlet.

It’s been an unsettling week in our world since last Monday, to say the least. No one knows what this week holds. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine who are suffering so. May the world continue to condemn Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Janet

#OnThisDay (Tomorrow): Robert Burns’ Birthday

Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759 in Ayrshire, Scotland.

A friend of mine from Campbeltown, Scotland, asked me if I liked to read the poems of Robert Burns. I had to admit that I couldn’t understand most of them.

Although written in English, and I’m an English speaker, the English Robert Burns used in the second half of the eighteenth century in Scotland was a far cry from the English I use and speak as an American in 2022.

I love to hear the soft, lilting tongue of Lowland Scots spoken. It’s lovely. It’s, no doubt, the way my Morrison ancestors spoke, for they were lowlanders and not Gaelic-speaking highlanders.

It’s lovely to hear a Scottish accent, whether highlander or lowlander; however, the heavier the accent, the harder it is to understand some words. In addition to that, the Scots have words for things that we don’t use in America.

When it comes to reading something written in Scots, some words just don’t translate well to my ears. That brings me back to Robert Burns.


Photo credit: Gary Ellis on unsplash.com

“Auld Lang Syne”

The most famous poem associated with by Robert Burns is, no doubt, the one that’s sung on New Year’s Eve. The words of “Auld Lang Syne.” The Scottish pronunciation is ‘o:l(d) lan’ səin. I must admit, this doesn’t help me at all. My source was quick to point out that we should note that Syne is pronounced like an s and not like a z. The rough translation is Long, long ago; or old long time; or good old time.

It seems that it’s an ancient song and in 1788 Robert Burns was the first person to write down the words. That was when he submitted the words to the Scots Musical Museum.

Did you know the song has four verses? Here they are in Scots, followed in more understandable English, thanks for the Scotland.org website The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne | Scotland.org.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne.

Chorus

For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

Chorus

We twa hae run about the braes

And pu’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot

Sin auld lang syne

Chorus

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,

Frae mornin’ sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin auld lang syne.

Chorus

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught

For auld lang syne.

Chorus


Scottish Lamb. Photo credit: Gibbon Fitzgibbon on unsplash.com

A modern translation of “Auld Lang Syne”:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And long, long ago.

Chorus

And for long, long ago, my dear

For long, long ago,

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

For long, long ago.

And surely you’ll buy your pint-jug!

And surely I’ll buy mine!

And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

For long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have run about the hills

And pulled the daisies fine;

But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot

Since long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have paddled in the stream,

From morning sun till dine;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since long, long ago.

Chorus

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!

And give us a hand of yours!

And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will

For long, long ago.

Chorus


Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

Photo credit: Serafima Lazarenko

“Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” is my favorite Robert Burns poem – partly because it’s more understandable than most of his – and because the sentiment is beautiful. Here are the words:

O my Luve is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

I will love thee still my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!

And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my luve,

Though it were ten thousand mile.

You can find it sung by various artists on YouTube.


Happy 263rd Birthday, Robert Burns

Scottish Bagpiper. Photo credit: Lynda Hinton on unsplash.com

It’s a tradition that many Scottish organizations, such as the Robert Burns Society, celebrate the bard’s birthday with a fancy dinner. This involves a bagpiper “piping in” the traditional Scottish dish, haggis. I’ve never been to one of those dinners.

When I visited Scotland, I was determined to have as many Scottish experiences as possible. I ate haggis. Now I can say, “I’m a haggis eater,” which you’re supposed to say with a deep voice and much gusto.

I’ve eaten haggis. I don’t have to do that again, if you get my drift.

Thistle. Photo credit: Elisa Stone on unsplash.com

Since my last blog post

A blogger friend of mine, Francisco Bravo Cabrera, is a man of many talents. He paints, he writes poetry, he makes music, he puts together extraordinary art history videos, and he shares his talents on his blog. Here’s the link to one of his recent posts: https://paintinginvalencia.wordpress.com/2022/01/16/jazzart-phase-iii/

Since I blogged last Monday, I learned that he has launched a new endeavor by joining Fine Art America. Here’s a link to Francis’ Fine Art America page where you can view and purchase examples of his digital art on a vast variety of items ranging from wall canvas to notecards:  Francisco Bravo Cabrera Art | Fine Art America. Best of luck with this new opportunity, Francis!

I started writing the scenic plot outline for what I want to be “Book One” in my planned novel series. The scene-by-scene “outline” now stands at more than 3,700 words. I’m considering the working title, The Heirloom. The manuscript I’ve been blogging about for years with the working title of either The Doubloon or The Spanish Coin will be “Book Two.”

My blog post last week was “liked” and commented on by an honest-to-gosh published novelist, D. Wallace Peach. Her comment made my day and encouraged me that I’m on the right track with novel structure. Thank you, Diana!

My decluttering project at home continues. I went through bags, drawers, and boxes of old craft supplies. It felt good to discard dried-up fabric paint, craft glue, and sundry supplies I know I’ll never use. Usable items I’m no longer interested in or motivated to use will be donated to several people and a re-sell organization. The process freed up a drawer in a chest of drawers, making room for more things I probably should throw away or donate.

I worked on my next three blog posts.

I also did some reading. I gave When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash, another chance and loved it. More on that in my February 7, 2022 blog post.

Oh – and I actually got to spend some time on genealogy, one of my most rewarding hobbies.

In spite of some health concerns within my family, the Covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and the threat of war in eastern Europe, I had a good week. For me, 2022 is getting off to a productive start.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and a hobby to enjoy.

Stay safe and well, and let me know what you’ve been doing.

Janet

Highland “Coo.” Photo credit: James Toose on unsplash.com

#OnThisDay: President Kennedy was Assassinated, 1963

For those of us who were alive at the time, it just doesn’t seem possible that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 58 years ago today. If you were at least six or seven years old on that day, it’s probably a day you’ll never forget.

US President John F. Kennedy; Photo credit: history in hd on unsplash.com

It was one of those life experiences like September 11, 2001. I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news of that attack. My parents’ generation always remembered where they were and what they were doing when the news came over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed on December 7, 1941.

I was in the fifth grade when President Kennedy was assassinated. It was a normal day at school. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving, so I’m sure I was counting the days until that holiday because it would mean a four-day weekend. I was a good student, but it’s no secret that I didn’t like school.

Shortly after one o’clock that Wednesday afternoon, the principal came to the door and motioned for my teacher, Miss Judy Ford. The school building was built in the mid-1920s and there was no intercom. There was no way for a general announcement to be made to all the classes, so the principal went from room-to-room to tell each teacher that President Kennedy had been shot and skilled and school would be dismissed a few minutes later.

At the time, I thought Miss Ford was old. We all did. She broke her foot playing basketball that year, and we all were aghast! She was 24 years old. What was she doing playing basketball?

Now, when I think back on that day, I wonder what had prepared that young, second- or third-year teacher to come back into the classroom and tell a bunch of 10-year-olds that the president of the United States had been killed. Nothing like this had happened in our lifetime. Nothing like this had happened in her lifetime.

As I recall, silent tears ran down her cheeks and she calmly told us the bare facts. We got our personal things together, and in a few minutes the bell rang signaling that school was dismissed. I rode the school bus home.

As I recall, some students seemed happy. They were probably just happy to get to go home early, but some of the children were possibly happy because they’d heard their parents said unsupportive things about the president. I think most of us were confused. We didn’t understand the gravity of what had happened, and we weren’t sure how we were supposed to react. Having seen my teacher in tears, though, had indicated to me that this was pretty serious.

My mother had the TV on when I got home from school. Our family watched the coverage that evening. Since Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson was from Texas, he and his wife had accompanied the President and First Lady to Dallas. As Jacqueline Kennedy stoically stood by, Johnson was sworn in as President on Air Force One.

Even on our black and white TV we could tell that Mrs. Kennedy’s suit (described as being pink) was stained with her husband’s blood. We watched TV the following days as Walter Cronkite kept us informed, but I still didn’t grasp what had happened.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder. Then, on Sunday afternoon, Jack Ruby shot Oswald at close range and killed him. It was a bizarre sequence of events that was witnessed live on black and white TV.

President Kennedy’s funeral procession was like nothing I’d seen before. His coffin was carried in a wagon pulled by horses. His young wife and children even younger than I stood as it passed and little “John-John” saluted. He was far too young to understand what had happened.

Somehow, it was through the black-and-white TV coverage of President Kennedy’s inauguration and funeral that impressed on my mind the importance, sacredness, and fragility of our government. I still remember seeing out-going President Dwight Eisenhower and in-coming President Kennedy dressed in their top hats for JFK’s inauguration in 1961 and the solemn pageantry of his funeral in 1963.

Since my last blog post

I’ve had a productive writing week. I’ve concentrated on deep point-of-view in my novel manuscript. I did some historical research about legal procedures in South Carolina in 1769, and I revisited the location in which most of my novel is set in Lancaster County, South Carolina.

I needed to get a feel for the common trees and their state of autumn color in mid-November. Even though the setting is only an hour from where I live, I found a couple of interesting differences between my location and the area around Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. Four books I had been on the waitlist for at the public library all came in this week. I’d rather spend my time writing this week, but I must make time for some reading.

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. I wish my American readers a nice holiday. It’s a good time to stop and count our blessings.

I have everything I need. I hope you do, too.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Articles of Confederation, 1777

It’s been four weeks since my last #OnThisDay blog post. Today’s might not be the most exciting topic for you, but I think it’s important for Americans to be reminded about the early days of our democracy. The historian in me just can’t help myself.

The Articles of Confederation document was the forerunner of the U.S. Constitution.

Photo credit: Anthony Garand on unsplash.com (Preamble of the US Constitution)

On November 15, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation. It was that document that established the name of our country as the United States of America. It served as the defacto constitution of the nation throughout the Revolutionary War.

I reread the Articles of Confederation last week. It had been quite a while since I’d read the document.

Still stinging from oppressive British rule, the frames of the Articles of Confederation were hesitant to create a strong federal government. Much power was retained by the individual states. States’ rights have been a bone of contention throughout the history of the U.S. and still is today. It seems like every week the legislature of at least one state in the union is testing the waters and “pushing the envelope” to see just how far they can go without being reined in by the U.S. Supreme Court. The major issues today that fall in that category are abortion rights, gun rights, and Covid-19 vaccination mandates.

There were weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation. The document did not give the U.S. the authority to issue a national currency. Hence, the various states printed their own money. It makes my head spin to think what our country would be like today if that hadn’t been corrected.

Another weakness in the document was the absence of authority of the national government to levy taxes. Some people probably think things should have stayed that way, but just think how many things we would not have today if not for federal taxes. The “common treasury” was to be supported by the states, with each state contributing an amount based on the value of the land in that state.

Of all the language in the document, the wording in Article III stood out for me. Specifically, the words, “firm league of friendship.” That phrase sounds quaint to our 21st century ears.

Article III states the following: “The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defence [sic], the security of their Liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence [sic] whatever.”

Article IV went on to state that citizens of any state had the freedom to travel to and from any other state. Of course, slaves were not considered citizens, so they were not afforded that right.

Just as details of how a democratic government operates today takes a long time and much gnashing of teeth, so it was with the Articles of Confederation. The debate leading up to the adoption of the document lasted 16 months.

The Articles of Confederation served the United States of America until March 4, 1789, when it was replaced by the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is a living, breathing document. It is continually up for interpretation and has been amended 27 times. No doubt, it will be amended many more times.


Since my last blog post

We had spectacular autumn weather last week in North Carolina! Wednesday was a crystal clear, unseasonably warm day. I took a break from raking dead, brown leaves to walk around our yard with my cell. I couldn’t stop taking pictures as I happened on one gorgeous tree after another.

I concluded that I live in paradise. I started with one of my favorite trees. It’s a maple that my father and I found as a sprout in our woods in the fall of 1965. It wasn’t much taller than I was, but it was decked out in beautiful orange leaves. The maples in our yard were yellow in the fall, and I wanted an orange one.

Daddy marked the location of the sprout and returned later to dig it up. We planted it in front of our house, and there it proudly stands today, much taller than the house. This fall, it’s orange at top and the rest of it is yellow.

Maple Tree

I’m blessed to once again live in that house. We’re blessed with a wonderful variety of trees, including pine, cedar, maple, hickory, several varieties of oak, holly, mulberry, poplar, ash, dogwood, sweet gum, persimmon, and black walnut.

Hickory Tree
Dogwood Tree
Cedar Tree
Oak Leaves
Sweet Gum Tree Leaves trying to decide whether to turn red or yellow

Dealing with the leaves in the fall after the red, yellows, golds, and oranges have faded and the spent leaves have dropped to the ground is quite a chore. I tend to dread autumn because of the multitude of leaves that must be raked, blown, carried off, or mulched with the tractor, but this year I’ve chosen to enjoy the riot of color in our yard every day. It won’t last much longer.

This tree is pretty, but I don’t know what it is! Can anyone help me?

When not outside, I worked on my novel. I’m putting into practice some of the things I recently learned in the online writing course I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts. It feels good to be revising, editing, and improving my novel.

Don’t give up on me, y’all!


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

I hope you have everything you need.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Russia Transferred Alaska to US, 1867

The thought of Russia selling Alaska to the United States in 1867 – or any other time – makes my head spin. My first thought was, I bet the Russians are still kicking themselves over this! That led to me look up the origins of the idiom to kick oneself.

According to my handy reference book, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, by Christine Ammer, this idiom, which means to berate or reproach oneself, dates back to the late 1800s. One wonders if the expression was coined by the Russians after selling Alaska to the United States, but I guess not.

Back to Russia Selling Alaska to the US

Back to the topic of today’s blog post… I remember reading about something called “Seward’s Folly” in a lower grades’ history book, but if given only seconds to come up with the answer I’d be hard pressed to recall that it refers to U.S. Secretary of State William Seward negotiating the transaction.

Many Americans thought it foolish to purchase Alaska for the exorbitant price of $7.2 million, or around two cents per acre. That converts to a mere $120 million or so in 2021.

Photo credit: Hari Nandakumar on unsplash.com

Putting the event in historical context, though, it makes sense that people were up in arms over the federal government spending $7.2 million for a place a world away. It was a place virtually no one in the nation expected to visit. To a great extent, that still holds true today.

A four-year civil war had taken a terrible toll on the nation. The Confederate states were being brought back into the fold of the United States, although there were deep-seated hatreds on both sides of that conflict – so deeply ingrained that remnants of those feelings still exist 160 years later.

In 1867, just two years after the end of that war, the federal government pays more than $7 million for a vast wilderness at the top of the world. No wonder it seemed like folly to the average American.

Photo credit: Deon Van Zyl on unsplash.com

All that taken into account, today Alaska seems like a bargain any way you look at it. It’s one of the places I’d like to visit, but that’s highly unlikely now. The photographs of the landscape and the wildlife are breathtaking.

Just think: 663,267 square miles. Denali and other National Parks. National forests. Wildlife refuges. Fishing. Glaciers. Whales. It’s one-fifth the size of the rest of the United States put together.

Alaskan Salmon, for crying out loud! It’s delicious and so nutritious.

Photo credit: Peter Hansen on unsplash.com

Alaska became a US territory on May 11, 1912 and was admitted as the 49th state in the Union on January 3, 1959.

Fifteen percent of Alaska’s population is indigenous. Nearly two dozen native languages are spoken in Alaska. No other US state is so rich in natural beauty, wildlife, natural resources, and human history.

Thank you, William Seward!

Since my last blog post

I continue with the eight-week online writing course. A couple more weeks to go.

We had beautiful days in the mid- and high-80s last week. It was probably summer’s last gasp. I’ll miss the warm weather. The weather last week was perfect for taking care of some yardwork. It’s time to get the yard ready for the coming winter.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. My reading for pleasure lately has been almost nil.

I look forward to getting my Covid-19 Moderna booster shot soon.

Janet