Even though we can’t show you an original copy of this declaration, it is written on our hearts as the descendants of those who whole-heartedly supported it as they prepared for the inevitable war against King George III of Great Britain.
The Americans’ beef wasn’t with the people of Great Britain – many of them were their relatives and friends – their beef was with the King – and they knew their friends and relatives back in Scotland were secretly wishing them well for they were also under the thumb of the King.
The year was 1775. The date was May 20.
The people of Mecklenburg County in the backcountry of North Carolina had had all they could take of King George and the oppressive laws and taxes he and the British Parliament continued to impose on the American colonists. After all, the reason most of them had left Europe was to escape monarchs who had little or no regard for their subjects.
The years leading up to May 20, 1775 had been tense. On May 2, 1771 a group of Mecklenburg County residents had taken matters into their own hands and blown up a shipment of munitions King Charles had ordered to be transported from Charleston, South Carolina to Rowan and Orange counties in North Carolina to put down The Regulator Movement.
The perpetrators of that gunpowder plot had been declared traitors and were still being hunted down by the Royal Government authorities when the county militias sent representatives to a convention in Charlotte to debate political conditions. The result was the writing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence more than a year before the more famous one was written in Philadelphia.
The document set out the citizens’ grievances and declared themselves free and independent of Great Britain. Sadly, the original copy of the declaration was lost in a fire at the home of John McKnitt Alexander on April 6, 1800. The Declaration was reconstructed from the memories of those who had written it and signed it.
There are Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence doubters today, but I have no doubt that it existed. It was followed just 11 days later by the Mecklenburg Resolves, which was a similar document.
Captain Archibald McCurdy of the Rocky River Presbyterian Church area of old Mecklenburg County that is present-day Cabarrus County, stood at the Mecklenburg County log courthouse steps and heard the Declaration read. He went home and told his wife, Maggie, they needed to make a list of the people they knew they could trust. There were a few Loyalists in the area.
Whatever you’re doing this Saturday, May 20, take a moment to reflect on what the brave people of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina did 248 years ago. If you live in the United States of America, ponder the stand they took on that day. The King proclaimed them to be in a state of rebellion, and the men who signed the document risked their very lives by proclaiming they were free.
Since my last blog post
Spring is finally in full force here in North Carolina. All I have to do is put a hanging basket of pretty flowers on a hook on the side porch and I can count on “Mama Bird” – a Carolina Wren – to build a nest in it. She’s done is for decades.
Having bronchitis and no set schedule allowed me time to do some reading last week. I have some interesting books to tell you about in my May 22 and June 5 blog posts.
I continue to remind folks on Facebook to purchase my local history books. I’m trying not to be a nuisance.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read, including Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Books 1 and 2, as well as The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Don’t forget to visit my website (https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com) and subscribe to my newsletter. I have special plans for May 20 and I can’t wait to tell you all about them in my July newsletter!
Make time for family and friends.
Remember the people of Ukraine.
Happy Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence Day on Saturday!
Once in a while I come across a book that hits on so many points of importance that I decide to devote an entire blog post to it. The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens, by Richard Haass, falls into that category.
Dr. Haass is president of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. A diplomat and policymaker, he served in The Pentagon, State Department, and White House under four presidents – Democrats and Republicans.
Here’s a quote from the book jacket: “As Richard Haass says, ‘We get the government we deserve. Getting the one we need, however, is up to us.’ The Bill of Obligations gives citizens across the political spectrum a plan of action to achieve it.”
In the chapter titled “Rights and Their Limits,” Dr. Haass states that the aim of his book “… is to focus on another, often overlooked dimension of citizenship. I am speaking here of obligations, of what citizens owe one another and the country,” and not the rights of individuals. The book focuses on what citizens should do, not what they are required to do.
Dr. Haass draws a distinction between responsibilities and obligations. Responsibilities can be shirked. He says, “What makes obligations so important is that the ability of American democracy to endure and deliver what it can and should to its citizens depends on their being put into practice.”
He points out that, “Placing obligations at the core of citizenship is necessary because the protection and promotion of political and economic rights inevitably lead to disagreements.” He likens obligations fueling a democracy to the gasoline that fuels an engine.
Dr. Haass maintains that democracy in the US “has come to focus almost exclusively on perceived rights and is breaking down as a result.”
This book was being written during our time of transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration, and the “peaceful transition of Power” enjoyed by the US for more than 200 years was in question. He wrote, “What we don’t yet know is whether what happened in late 2020 and early 2021 was an aberration or a precedent.”
Although some Americans have predicted that we’re heading for a second civil war, Dr. Haass is of the opinion that the more likely scenario is something similar to “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland where paramilitary groups target public places frequented by those people they oppose. Unlike a civil war, such violence has no set beginning and no set end because no one is in charge.
Dr. Haass reminds us that democracy is difficult. It requires informed participation from its citizens. From its leaders “it asks for good faith and restraint, and a willingness to put the collective interest before politics, party, or personal gain.”
My take on that
In my opinion, we’ve lost all of that. Too many people refuse to watch the news on TV “because it’s all bad” and few people read a newspaper now or seek out alternative news sources such as National Public Radio. Too many people say they aren’t interested in politics. It’s too easy to just say all politicians and government employees are bad people or lazy.
I’ve worked in the business world and in the government. It was my experience that government employees were more dedicated and conscientious than the ones I worked with in the business world. Let’s just stop jumping on the bandwagon of throwing everyone and everything associated with our democracy “under the bus.”
Back to Dr. Haass’ book
Dr. Haass writes about how technology has changed politics in an important way. It happened without our even being aware. Whereas political parties used to have some control over who ran for office, now anyone with enough money and technical communications savvy can run for office.
Extremists can rally vocal followers and spread their views (and their lies) through social media in ways unheard of or imagined just a couple of decades ago. The person with the loudest voice gets the attention, even if that person holds narrow or extreme views.
The book talks about how, like me, the author grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. We were taught in school that America was “a melting pot.” More and more, though, Dr. Haass says instead of a melting pot, we’re “a loose collection of separate pots” now. We live in “Red” states or “Blue” states, and few live in “Purple” states. There are divisions on every turn.
He goes on to write about history, values, and obligations not being taught in school.
The second part of Dr. Haass’ book addresses what he calls The Bill of Obligations. He writes about what he means by each one, but I’ll just list them for you here:
Stay Open to Compromise
Promote the Common Good
Respect Government Service
Support the Teaching of Civics
Put Country First
Dr. Haass’ Conclusion
Quoting from the “Conclusion” chapter of the book: “The central argument of this book is that American democracy will endure only if obligations join rights at the core of a widely shared understanding of citizenship.” It won’t happen overnight, but the rewards will be reaped years from now.
Dr. Haass proposes that we turn our attention to making the ten obligations a priority because all the “hot button” issues vying for our attention will not be solved or resolved if they aren’t debated in a vibrant democracy.
In the end, Dr. Haass sounds the alarm: “The reality that January 6, and the subsequent revelations about efforts to impound voting machines and discount legally cast ballots, has failed to shock the body politic into its senses, has failed to stir us into action to protect and preserve this democracy, challenges the conventional wisdom that crises are automatic precursors of change. We get the government and the country we deserve. Getting the one we need, however, is up to us.”
Regardless of your political leanings, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to read The Bill of Obligations. There’s much food for thought in this small book. My hope is that reading it will prompt each of us in the US to be better citizens and more-informed about our democracy.
For the most part, I agree with Dr. Haass’ Bill of Obligations. I’m not as optimistic as he is, though. I recently said something to a university sophomore about January 6. She didn’t know what I was talking about!
Since my last blog post
I’ve been diagnosed as having bronchitis and asthma. Instead of sending out my newsletter on Monday, I finally got it together and emailed to my subscribers on Thursday. I’ve fallen woefully behind in reading the posts by the bloggers I follow.
My illness forced me to miss an author event by John Hart. I didn’t think Mr. Hart should have to compete with my hacking and coughing.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read.
Don’t take good health and supportive friends and family for granted.
The first documented gold discovery in the United States was here in present-day Cabarrus County, North Carolina in 1799. The discovery by a little boy playing in Little Meadow Creek led to gold fever in the area. Numerous gold mines were dug and mined to various levels of success.
In fact, there was enough gold found in the southern piedmont of North Carolina that a branch of the United States Mint was built in Charlotte in 1836 and 1837. It opened for the production of gold coins in 1837.
A trip to the National Archives at Atlanta (which is in the Atlanta suburb of Morrow, Georgia) a few years ago gave me the opportunity to look at ledger books from the Mint in Charlotte. Within those pages I recognized names from my community.
I’m blogging about some of that information today to give you an example of the type of documented local history I included in Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2. Although the book (and Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1) concentrate on Harrisburg, both books do include articles about other communities in Township One.
One of the communities rich in history in the township is Pioneer Mills. Little more than a quiet crossroads now, it was a center of activity in the mid-1800s after the discovery of gold and the opening of Pioneer Mills Gold Mine.
I recognized names such as John C. Barnhardt from the Pioneer Mills community as taking 123 ounces of amalgam to the Charlotte Mint on August 31, 1843, for which he was paid $2,340.33. That was no small sum of money in 1843!
Robert Harvey Morrison, on whose land the Pioneer Mills Gold Mine was located, was paid more than $4,000 for the gold bars and amalgam he took to the Mint from late in 1846 into early 1850.
Other names I recognized in the Mint ledgers included two other Barnhardts, Robert R. King, three men with the surname Treloar, and R.B. Northrop.
Comparing US Census records, Charlotte Mint records, and various years of Branson Business Directories helped me get a better idea of what the Pioneer Mills Community must have looked like 150 to 180 years ago. There was a general store, a dry goods store, a blacksmith, a school, and a post office, In 1869, Pioneer Mills Community had three physicians.
Gold mining brought people from Canada, Great Britain, and New York to Pioneer Mills. Gold mining, no doubt, brought some undesirable people into the community, which led the wife of the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian Church to say in the early 1870s that Pioneer Mills “is no place for a preacher’s son!”
If you’d like to read more about the history and people of Cabarrus County, North Carolina, you might enjoy Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Books 1 and 2. They are available in paperback at Second Look Books in Harrisburg and in paperback and for Kindle from Amazon.
By the way, you can visit the research room at the National Archives at Atlanta (in Morrow, Georgia) by appointment only. Visit the website for more information: https://www.archives.gov/atlanta.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read.
I hope you spend time with family and good friends.
And, as always, remember the people of Ukraine and count your blessings.
I majored in political science in college, but I’d be hard pressed off the top of my head to tell you what the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution is about. Its ratification was completed on January 23, 1964 when South Dakota became the 38th state to ratify it. The 59th anniversary of its ratification prompted me to blog about the amendment today.
What the 24th Amendment prohibits
It prohibits the United States Congress and any state in the union from basing a person’s right to vote for US President, US Vice President, US Senate, or US House of Representatives in a primary or other election based on the payment of any tax.
Why the 24th Amendment came about
In the late 1890s and until just after the turn of the 20th century, former Confederate States adopted so-called poll taxes. The laws varied from state to state, but they were created as a way to prevent many black people and poor white people from voting. This was a way the states circumvented the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits a person being prevented from voting based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The 15th Amendment said nothing about taxes.
The constitutionality of poll taxes was upheld by the US Supreme Court in Breedlove v. Suttles in 1937. In that case, Nolan Breedlove, a 28-year-old white man refused to pay the $1.00 per year poll tax in Georgia. By not paying the poll tax, Mr. Breedlove was not allowed to register to vote in any election in the state.
Mr. Breedlove filed a lawsuit against Mr. T. Earl Suttles, the Fulton County, Georgia Tax Collector, arguing that the poll tax was in violation of the 14th and 19th Amendments to the US Constitution. Hence, the name of the US Supreme Court case. The Breedlove v. Suttles decision was eventually overturned, but the case serves as an example of the US Supreme Court making wrong decisions sometimes
The Breedlove v. Suttles decision was unanimous! The Court concluded that the “privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state, and, save as restrained by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.”
It was a case, like we’ve seen in other cases as recently as 2022, where the US Supreme Court took the easy way out and clung to the “states’ rights” doctrine.
How the 24th Amendment became the law of the land
After decades of some politicians ignoring the issue of poll taxes and a few politicians pushing for the abolishment of such taxes, Congress finally proposed the 24th Amendment at the prompting of President John F. Kennedy. The amendment was submitted to the states on September 24, 1962 after a vote of 295 to 86 in the US House of Representatives and a vote of 77 to 16 in the US Senate.
Illinois was the first state to ratify the amendment in November 1962 and South Dakota was the 38th state to ratify it on January 23, 1964. That 38th vote was all that was needed.
The aftermath of ratification of the 24th Amendment
Some states were slow to ratify the amendment even after its national ratification was final in 1964. Some states were slow to amend their constitutions to be in compliance with the federal amendment. Always looking for ways to get around the law, some states continued to require racial minority citizens to pass senseless tests in order to earn the right to vote.
People who want to keep other US citizens from voting have turned to more subtle (and some not-so-subtle) forms of voter intimidation. They’ve felt emboldened over the last seven years and the pendulum is swinging toward bolder attempts to scare certain people away from the voting booth. This is an attack on our democracy.
Our democracy depends on each of us defending the right of all citizens to vote.
Since my last blog post
As my new website has transitioned from the design phase to the development phase, I continued to write new content for the site.
It seemed like I had to learn some new technology every day. There is still more I will have to learn. I hope this is good for my brain cells. It isn’t good for my emotional stability or my disposition.
It’s been gratifying to see how well received my local history book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 has been on Amazon and in the local bookstore, Second Look Books. Thank you to everyone who has purchased it! Don’t be shy about rating it or even leaving a short review of it on Amazon!
My sister and I took a much-needed break on Saturday afternoon and went to see the movie, “A Man Called Otto.” Tom Hanks was perfect in the role of Otto. The movie is based on the book, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. I read the book back in 2017 and I’ve remembered it ever since. Here’s the link my June 2, 2017 blog post in which I wrote about the book: You Need to Read These Books! I recommend the book and the movie.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. While you’re at it, please read one for me. I haven’t had much time to read lately.
The encampment of the Continental Army at Valley Forge began 245 years ago today. We’re all familiar with the image of George Washington leading his troops across the frigid Delaware River. We know that it was a bitterly cold winter, but there are some interesting facts I hope to surprise you with today.
1,700 to 2,000 soldiers died of disease at the six-month encampment.
Food for the troops was scarce. The Oneida delegation, allies of the Patriots, arrived in May 1778 with white corn. Polly Cooper of the delegation instructed them on how to safely prepare the corn for consumption and stayed after most of her fellow Oneidans had left. She received a shawl from Martha Washington in thanks for her assistance.
In December it went down to 6 degrees F., 12 degrees F. in January, 12 degrees F. in February, and 8 degrees F. in March.
It was the last time United States soldiers served in a racially-integrated army until the Korean War in the 1950s.
The volunteer drill master was Baron von Steubon, a Prussian military commander. The Prussian military drills and tactics he taught the troops were used by the United States military for the next 30 years.
It is thought that 250 to 400 women were in the encampment, serving as cooks, nurses, laundresses, and menders of clothing.
Mary Ludwig Hayes, a.k.a., Molly Pitcher, was at Valley Forge with her husband. She is remembered for jumping into service to help load a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse after her husband was wounded.
Hannah Till was an enslaved cook for George Washington at Valley Forge. She purchased her freedom a few years later and became a salaried cook.
We hear a lot about our “forefathers” but not enough about our “foremothers!”
Since my last blog post
Look who’s reading my book! He must have found it on Amazon or in Harrisburg, NC at Second Look Books or Gift Innovations! It’s in short supply in Harrisburg until I get my next shipment. If you prefer an e-book, remember it’s available for e-book and in paperback from Amazon.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas or whatever holidays you are celebrating.
I hope you enjoy time with family and friends.
Remember the suffering people of Ukraine.
I’ll see you again here at my blog on December 26 – the last Monday in 2022!
Today’s topic is somewhat obscure and isn’t given much thought by the average citizen until it comes into play. When it needs to be put into action, it is of monumental importance.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on July 18, 1947. To fully appreciate US Presidential Succession, however, we need to first look at the United States Constitution and the Presidential Succession Acts prior to 1947. Later in this post, we’ll learn about what has happened on this matter since 1947.
My post today is longer than usual, but please read on. You might learn something. I did!
US Constitution, Article II, Section I, Clause 6
The vice president is designated as the first in the presidential line of succession by Clause 6 in Section I, Article II of the US Constitution. That is all many Americans know, since we’ve never lost a sitting president and sitting vice president at the same time… or lost a president who has assumed the office due to the death or incapacity of his predecessor.
Clause 6 also gives Congress the authority to provide for the line of succession after the vice president.
US Presidential Succession Act of 1792
The Presidential Succession Act of 1792 designated the US Senate president pro tempore as next in line after the vice president, followed by the Speaker of the House.
US Senate Practice in the 1800s
During most of the 19th century, the US Senate assumed it could elect a president pro tempore only during the absence of a vice president. With Congress only being in session approximately half the year at that time, concerns were raised over the high mortality rate of the era. What if the president and vice president both died or became incapacitated during Congress’ adjournment?
The solution was for the vice president to voluntarily exit the Senate chamber before the current session of Congress ended. While the vice president was out of the room, the Senate would elect a president pro tempore.
That scheme sort of worked for decades, but then vice presidents from the minority political party started fearing that in their absence from the Senate chamber, someone not from their political party might be elected. To remedy that, some vice presidents refused to leave the chamber while the vote was taken.
Congressional Action in 1886
No deed goes unpunished, and it seems that Congressional members are always looking for something they can change and take credit for. In 1886, Congress changed the presidential succession order after the vice president cabinet secretaries in the order in which their federal departments had been created.
No Act of Congress goes uncriticized. Proponents of the 1886 Act maintained that the office Senate pro tempore is filled based on parliamentary skills and not on the person’s executive skills.
The Death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945
Vice President Harry Truman was in House Speaker Sam Rayburn’s office enjoying a glass of bourbon when they received word that President Roosevelt had died and Truman was to take the oath of office for the Presidency as quickly as possible.
Mr. Truman was friends with Sam Rayburn and had a somewhat strained relationship with Senate President Pro Tempore Kenneth McKellar. It came as no surprise then when President Truman started campaigning for a change in presidential succession.
Arguing that Sam Rayburn had been chosen by his Congressional peers to be their leader in the office of Speaker of the House, Truman pushed for a change in the law.
This was completely political. Although Truman, Rayburn, and McKellar were all Democrats, Truman preferred Rayburn over McKellar and saw his chance to reinstate two elected officials in the line of succession after the vice president and before cabinet members. Cabinet members, of course, are not elected. They are nominated by the sitting US President and reflect the governing philosophy or the President.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947
President Truman prevailed. The result was the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, which established the line of succession as the vice president, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President Pro Tempore, followed by the cabinet secretaries in the order in which their departments were created.
When House and Senate Leaders are in Opposition to the President
Of the 76 years since the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the Speaker of the House has not been from the President’s political party 44 years. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate has not been from the President’s political party for 36 of those 76 years.
As we have witnessed in recent years, these situations can create stalemates in Congress when it comes to a US President being able to get his legislative issues passed into law. It boils down to the balance of power between the three branches of the federal government and the system of checks and balances. Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s a bad thing. It all depends on which political party or philosophy you align yourself with and how quickly you want to see the laws of the land changed.
The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1967
Until the adoption of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1967, there was no way to replace a deceased, incapacitate, or resigned US vice president or one who had moved into the office of US president due to an unexpected vacancy in that office.
Prior to the 25th Amendment, therefore, the office of vice president remained vacant until the next presidential election. That meant the Speaker of the House was first in line if something happened to the president.
With the 25th Amendment in place when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned, President Richard M. Nixon had the authority to nominate Gerald R. Ford on October 12, 1973. Mr. Ford was confirmed by Congress on December 6, 1973. It is ironic, then, that Gerald Ford became the president when Richard Nixon was forced to resign. I was majoring in political science in college at the time. It was a great time to participate in political debates. There was never a dull moment in poli sci class!
When Presidential Succession becomes a concern, it suddenly becomes a big concern
When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1962, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became the President. Next in line for the office were 73-year-old Speaker of the House John W. McCormack and 86-year-old Senate President Pro Tempore Carl Hayden.
Our current US president is 79 years old. He might run for reelection in 2024. Regardless of one’s political leanings, age is an issue. That said, though, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that a 73-year-old and an 86-year-old in the year 1962 were definitely considered elderly. Seventy-three isn’t considered as old as it did in 1962 – and I’m not just saying that because I’m in my late 60s.
Spiro Agnew resigned as vice president in 1973. When that happened, Carl Albert was in line for the presidency. I’ve read that Mr. Albert had an alcohol problem and didn’t want to be president; however, when Gerald R. Ford became president less than a year later, Mr. Albert was still next in line. That was not a good situation for the country.
Think back to the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. “He who shall not be named” was the US president. He was hospitalized with Covid-19. What if he had died and Vice President Mike Pence had also succumbed to the virus? Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was next in line and from the other major political party. Even if you’re a Democrat, you must admit such a transition of power would have created political havoc in our country.
This possible scenario, along with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, raise the question of presidential succession anew. It has been suggested that the Secretary of Homeland Security should be elevated from last in the line of succession to a higher position in that line
What do you think?
Is it time for Congress to revisit the line of presidential succession?
I think it is, but members of Congress and the American public are too polarized in 2022 for anything of such importance to be considered. Everything today is decided along political party lines – even in the US Supreme Court and perhaps within the US Secret Service.
When the political pendulum swings back to a more moderate place of common sense and an adherence to the philosophy that all elected officials should only work for the common good, perhaps then the issue of Presidential Succession can be revisited.
Since my last blog post
My sister and I enjoyed an overnight trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. (By the way, I wrote a vintage postcard book by that name a few years ago and it’s still available on Amazon and from Arcadia Publishing. You just might like to read it and see the postcards which all date prior to 1970, with most being from the 1940s and 1950s. Pardon the shameless plug for my book. I must blow my own horn.)
It poured rain on us most of the way to Boone on Sunday, and then dense fog set in and blocked our views along the Blue Ridge Parkway most of the way to Asheville. Even so, it was good to get away if just for a couple of days.
Upon returning home, I took the plunge and purchased access to Atticus writing software. I’ve started my first book on the platform, which formats one’s writing ready for electronic and print publication. That first book is tentatively called The Aunts in the Kitchen: Tried and True Recipes from the Aunts in Our Family.
I read a book that’s been on my “To Be Read” (TBR) list for several years. One down, 300+ books to go.
It’s been a good week.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m listening to and reading books by some authors I’ve not read before.
Take time for family, friends, and a hobby.
Remember the four-year-old little girl in Ukraine who was pushing her baby stroller one minute and was killed by a Russian rocket the next; the surviving children in Uvalde and the parents who lost children in the domestic terrorist attack there; and the orphaned two-year-old boy, the partially-paralyzed little boy, and all the grieving and traumatized people in Highland Park. Unfortunately, the list could go on and on.
Since Independence Day in the United States falls on a Monday this year, I thought it only fitting to blog about it today. Next Monday, I’ll do my usual first-Monday-of-the-month blog about the books I read the previous month.
In an effort to take a slightly different approach to today’s topic, I decided to write about a few of the little-known facts about the Declaration of Independence.
1. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776. The Second Continental Congress voted on it on July 4, but it would be August 2 before most delegates signed it. One reason for the delay was that it took two weeks for the document to be written in a clear handwriting on a piece of parchment.
2. Five men – including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin — were given the task of overseeing the reproduction of the document. The copies were printed by John Dunlap in his Philadelphia print shop and distributed to each of the 13 American colonies. Of the perhaps hundreds of copies printed at that time, only 26 remain.
3. When a copy of the Declaration of Independence reach New York City, George Washington read it aloud from in front of City Hall. That was on July 9. Before the day was over, a riot of sorts broke out and resulted in the tearing down of a statue of King George III. (That 4,000-pound statue was sent up the East River before British troops in New York harbor could stop them. It was eventually melted down and turned into 42,000 musket balls for the Continental Army.)
4. Richard Stockton, one of the Declaration signers from New Jersey, was captured by the British on November 30, 1776. For months, he was mistreated and nearly starved until he broke down and recanted. He swore his allegiance to King George III and was subsequently released. (He took an oath of loyalty to New Jersey in December 1777.)
5. In 1989, a man in Philadelphia purchased a picture frame for $4.00 at a flea market. Much to his surprise, in the back of the frame was an original John Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence! It was sold to TV producer Norman Lear in 2000 for $8.1 million.
6. In 2009, an original John Dunlap copy of the Declaration was found in a box of papers the British captured from the Americans during the Revolutionary War. It has since found a home at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
7. Just two or three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were moved from the National Archives in Washington, DC to Fort Knox in Kentucky. The Declaration was encased in 150 pounds of protective material to ensure its transport by train from Washington to St. Louis. From St. Louis, it was taken by the 13th Armored Division of the U.S. Army to Fort Knox. Those documents were returned to the National Archives late in 1944.
8. Two signers of the Declaration of Independence were just 26 years old. They were Thomas Lynch, Jr. and Edward Rutledge, both of South Carolina.
9. The University of Virginia owns two rare copies of an early printing of the Declaration of Independence. One of those possibly belonged to George Washington. After Washington died in 1799, Tobias Lear (I wonder if he’s an ancestor of Norman Lear?) who was a personal secretary of Washington’s in his later years, is thought to have stolen some of Mr. Washington’s papers.
On this 4th of July, I wish all Americans at home and abroad a Happy Independence Day! On this 246th anniversary of the creation of the Declaration of Independence, this experiment in democracy is under attack from within the nation.
The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution held fast and survived the attempted coup on January 6, 2021, but there are those within our country’s borders who still believe “the big lie.” They proved on January 6, 2021 that they are willing to trample on the very ideals and human rights verbalized in those documents. Democracy is far more fragile than any of us realized until that infamous day.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence (and the women in their families!) were willing to risk their reputations, their earthly possessions, and their very lives. The least we can do 246 years later is to stand up against our country’s enemies – both foreign and domestic — by letting our voices be heard in the public arena and, most importantly, at the polls.
Be sure to vote in all elections. You owe it to future generations. Otherwise, they might not have the luxury of voting, and July 4 could just become an insignificant average day for them. Don’t let that happen.
Happy 4th of July!
P.S. Remember the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde, Texas.
In case you think I’m spending too much time this month blogging about our local history, just keep in mind that May is an important month of historical events in Cabarrus County, North Carolina.
My May 2, 2022 blog post, __#OnThisDay: 251st Anniversary of 1771 Gunpowder Plot__ was about patriots’ blowing up the king’s munitions just off the Great Wagon Road in present-day Cabarrus County.
Today, my blog is about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775 while present-day Cabarrus County was part of Mecklenburg County and its citizens played just as important a role in the declaration as anyone living in what is present-day Mecklenburg County.
Friday, May 20, 2022 was the 247th anniversary of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
But what about the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence?
I blogged about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 21, 2018. To refresh your memory, or to introduce you to the topic if you aren’t aware of it, the following nine paragraphs are reblogged from that post:
My immigrant ancestors were among the Scottish Presbyterian pioneers who settled old Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Years of discontent in the American colonies were piled on top of the anti-British Crown feelings they brought with them across the Atlantic.
Weary of unfair taxes imposed by the Crown and the discrimination they were subjected to as Presbyterians slowly brought the settlers to the boiling point. An example of the persecution these Presbyterians felt were the Vestry and Marriage Acts of 1769. Those acts fined Presbyterian ministers who dared to conduct marriage ceremonies. Only Anglican marriages were recognized by the government.
In May of 1771 a group of young men from the Rocky River Presbyterian Church congregation in the part of Mecklenburg County that later became Cabarrus County, disguised themselves by blackening their faces and under the cover of darkness ambushed a shipment of Royal munitions traveling north on the Great Wagon Road. The supplies were destined for Rowan County to put down the Regulator Movement.
Blowing up three wagons loaded with gunpowder and other supplies, the teens and young men who perpetrated the deed were declared outlaws by the Royal Governor and had to go into hiding until May 20, 1775 when all the citizens of Mecklenburg County were declared to be rebels against the British Crown.
On May 20, 1775, the citizens of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina declared themselves to be free and independent of the rule of Great Britain. It was a sober and sobering declaration not entered into lightly. Those American patriots meant business, and they knew the risks they were taking.
Archibald McCurdy, an Elder in Rocky River Presbyterian Church, heard the document read from the steps of the log courthouse in Charlotte. When he got home, he and his wife, Maggie, listed everyone they knew of who could be trusted in the coming fight for American independence.
No original copies of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence survive today. The local copy was lost in a house fire at the home of one of the signers. The copy taken to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia by Captain James Jack on horseback was also lost. Later, signers of the document recreated it from memory.
Nevertheless, those of us who were raised on stories of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the brave souls who risked their lives to sign it know that the document was real. The blood of the American patriots still flows in our veins and their spirit of freedom still beats in our hearts.
Don’t mess with our freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or our freedom of assembly!
Until my next blog post
I’m considering taking a week off from writing my blog, unless something interesting comes along and begs to be written. Next Monday, May 30, is Memorial Day in the United States of America. It is a day to remember all the men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the armed forces of the United States.
I hope you have a good book to read until I blog again on June 6.
Take time for a relaxing hobby and spend some time with friends and family.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.