#OnThisDay: Presidential Succession Act of 1947

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

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

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.

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash (I couldn’t help but notice there’s not a woman or a person of color in the entire photo. It’s an image that epitomizes government in the US in the early 1960s.)

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.)

The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison

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.

Photo by Rux Centea on Unsplash

Value each day you have.

Janet

9 Little-Known Facts about the Declaration of Independence

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.

Photo credit: Tim Mossholder on unsplash.com

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!

Photo credit: Jim Strasma on unsplash.com

Janet

P.S.   Remember the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde, Texas.

Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, 1775

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.

A recreation 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.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

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: 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

What do you know about the 17th Amendment?

There’s probably a limited audience to be reeled in by the title of today’s blog post, but I couldn’t think of a more creative way that might trick some unsuspecting readers to dive in.

If US Constitutional History is not your cup of tea, please visit my blog again next week. I’m not sure what the topic will be, but I’ll try to avoid the US Constitution.

You might recall that I mentioned the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in my May 31, 2021 blog post because I’d read that it was ratified on May 31, 1913. After discovering that it was actually ratified on April 8, 1913, I had to come up with another topic for May 31. I’ll explain the confusion somewhere below.

Here we go…

Thank goodness for the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America!

Even though I majored in political science in college, if asked out of the blue what the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was about, I’d be hard-pressed to give you the correct answer.

Photo credit: Anthony Garand on unsplash.com

The 17th Amendment, in a nutshell

The 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States mandates that the two Senators from each state “shall be” elected by the people of each respective state. It also states that U.S. Senators shall serve six-year terms and each Senator shall have one vote.

What about before the 17th Amendment?

The 17th Amendment was passed by Congress on May 13, 1912. Prior to the amendment’s ratification on April 8, 1913, each state’s U.S. Senators were chosen by the state legislatures. Whoa! Let that sink in for a minute! I shudder to think about the possibilities.

Living in the state of North Carolina, I tremble to think about who the NC General Assembly would have chosen for the US Senate, especially over the last decade or more. Granted, the general populous has rarely elected the people I would have preferred for these offices since Senator Sam Ervin died, but at least a fair and open election gives the citizens some measure of confidence in the people we send to Washington, DC. What they do after they get there is a whole other story. But I digress.

The reasoning behind the way it was before 1913

The framers of the United States Constitution weren’t sure the average citizen was smart enough to vote. They formed our government as a democracy, yet the white men who were in charge in our country’s infancy didn’t completely trust the general populous to elect the right people.

Come to think of it, the white men in charge in Washington, DC and in many state legislatures today don’t trust us to “vote right” either. It seems like we would’ve made more progress than this in more than 200 years, but I digress again.

The framers of the Constitution wanted the United States Senate to be a check on the masses. James Madison assured the attendees of the Constitutional Convention that cooler heads would prevail in the Senate than in the House of Representatives where representatives were elected by popular vote of the people. (Well, not really “the people,” for you could only vote then if you were a white male who owned some real estate. The Electoral College was also instituted as a buffer between the people and the US President. But that’s a topic for another day.)

The reasoning behind having the state legislatures elect US Senators was that the senators would be insulated from public opinion. To borrow a question from Dr. Phil McGraw, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

An examination of Senatorial elections, 1871-1913

The political scientist in me found a study online of how the system worked from 1871 until 1913. Written by Wendy J. Schiller, Charles Stewart III, and Benjamin Xiong for The University of Chicago Press Journals, their article, “U.S. Senate Elections before the 17th Amendment: Political Party Cohesion and Conflict, 1871-1913,” can be found at U.S. Senate Elections before the 17th Amendment: Political Party Cohesion and Conflict 1871–1913 | The Journal of Politics: Vol 75, No 3 (uchicago.edu). (If this link doesn’t work, please do a search for the article.)

I was eager to see what their study found. My hunch was that the election of US Senators was viciously fought over in the state legislatures and the said elections, no doubt, took up weeks and weeks of the legislatures’ time.

Unfortunately, it would have cost me $15 to gain access to the study, so I’ll just give you this quote from the article’s abstract: “We find significant evidence that under the indirect electoral mechanism, Senate elections were contentious, and winning majority control of the state legislature did not always ensure an easy electoral process. Specifically, the breakdown of caucus nominating processes, the size of majority coalitions, and whether the incumbent senator was running for reelection each exerted an effect on the probability of conflict in the indirect election process.”

Point of confusion

In my opening remarks, I promised to explain the confusion over the date of the 17th Amendment’s ratification. It was ratified on April 8, 1913, when the Connecticut legislature approved it. With Connecticut’s vote, three-fourths of the state legislatures had approved it. That met the requirement for an amendment’s ratification. It was not until May 31, 1913, that Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan officially announced the ratification in writing. Some sources have picked up that date as the date of ratification.

More than a century later, that’s probably all we need to know. This blog post probably already falls into the category of “too much information” for many of you, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Since my last blog post

I’ve been busy working on my novel. The working title is still either The Spanish Coin or The Doubloon. Unless I self-publish it, I won’t get to choose the title. The manuscript stands at just over 91,000 words. That number fluctuates from day-to-day as I make changes.

I’m re-reading World of Toil and Strife: Community Transformation in Backcountry South Carolina, 1750-1805, by Peter N. Moore. As more of it “soaks in,” I’m making some changes in my novel manuscript – changes that should result in a richer story and an additional layer of setting authenticity.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash. I’m trying to finish reading it by tomorrow night, so I can write about it in my blog post next Monday.

I’m also still making my way through The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan. It’s not a book one can rush through. At least, I can’t.

Note: Get Ready! December is Read a New Book Month!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

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

Myths and Legends Day

Myths and Legends Day is an internationally-celebrated day on October 11 every year. Who knew? I’d never heard of it until this year.

I found it on a list of days.

This week seems to have more than its share of such days. Tomorrow wins the special day contest. It’s Cookbook Launch Day, Free Thought Day, and Old Farmers Day. My favorite thing to celebrate tomorrow, though, is International Moment of Frustration Scream Day.

International Moment of Frustration Scream Day

I think most of us could really get into International Moment of Frustration Scream Day during this pandemic. If I were a betting person, I’d bet money that there are some healthcare workers and teachers who could show us how to do it.

I wanted to scream when I learned that the local legend in Lancaster County, South Carolina around which I had written the first draft of a novel was just that. A legend. It makes for a wonderful story, but as with many yarns spun for 250 years, it’s just not true. At least, it’s not provable.

Nevertheless, I took a bit or that legend and something I saw years ago on a segment of the PBS TV series, “History Detectives,” and I’ve spun my own unique story. The working title is The Doubloon or The Spanish Coin and, if you and I live long enough, we’ll get to see it in print. Authors use the abbreviation WIP for Work in Progress. My novel is definitely a WIP.

Back to Myths and Legends Day

That brings me back to Myths and Legends Day. Look online and you can hardly find anything about it. Several websites actually use the same photograph to illustrate the day: children dressed as their favorite characters such as Superman, Robinhood, and several I can’t identify. It does sound like something fun for elementary students to celebrate and might even encourage some of them to read.

Paul Revere

One legend that came to my attention recently is the famous “midnight ride of Paul Revere.” It’s a wonderful story, and it’s true. The problem is, it’s not the whole story.

On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode horseback through the northern Boston area to warn the Americans about the movement of British troops. I hate to burst your bubble, but he did not ride through the countryside shouting, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” I know. That’s what I’ve thought all my life, too.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride” has been memorized by many a school student. Paul Revere took on a superhuman aura. He did make that ride, and I don’t mean to take anything away from him; however, he’s not the only person to make such a dangerous journey.

William Dawes

William Dawes was also sent to ride that night to Lexington, Massachusetts to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that they were soon to be arrested. Also, his task was to alert the Minutemen that the British troops were on the move. Revere got to Lexington a half hour before Dawes. It’s thought that Revere had the faster horse. Also, Dawes was thrown by his horse as he and Revere headed on to Concord, Massachusetts, his horse escaped, and Dawes had to walk back to Lexington.

Samuel Prescott

Paul Revere recruited Samuel Prescott of Concord to meet him along the way since he was more familiar with the Concord area. He supposedly guided Revere through the darkness. When Revere, Dawes, and Prescott were met by British officers on the way to Concord, they split up and Prescott was the only one that made it all the way to Concord. Revere was captured.

Israel Bissell

Then, there was Israel Bissell. He rode 345 miles on the Old Post Road from Watertown, Massachusetts to Philadelphia to warn militia companies of British troop movements. He covered that amazing feat in four days and six hours. The horse he started out with died near Worchester, Massachusetts.

You think all that’s astounding and possibly news to you? Just wait.

What about Sybil Ludington?

I wish I’d been told about Sybil Ludington when I was in school! Her journey was more than two years after that of the above four men, but she rode 40 miles (twice as far as Paul Revere) to alert the residents of Danbury, Connecticut that the British were approaching. She was all of 16 years old.

She made her roundtrip journey between 9:00 p.m. on April 26, 1777 and dawn the next morning. Unfortunately, the British had already torched Danbury. That doesn’t take anything away from her efforts, though. She was later commended by George Washington and this statue of her atop her horse is in Carmel, New York.

Statue of Sybil Ludington in Carmel, New York

“Remember the ladies” ~ Abigail Adams

I’m reminded of Abigail Adams’ often quoted excerpt from her March 31, 1776 letter to her husband, John Adams, as he was away at a meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia helping to work out the details of the American Revolution:

 “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

Yes, indeed. Remember the ladies!

Since my last blog post

My reading list so far this month might raise some eyebrows and get me some attention from the police. In conjunction with the novel I’m writing, this month I’ve read a variety of forensics books.

Until my next blog post

Note: I drew heavily in my post today from the following website: https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-declaration-of-independence/the-five-riders/. That’s where I also found the photo of the Sybil Ludington statue.

Don’t forget to celebrate International Moment of Frustration Scream Day tomorrow!

Janet

Remembering 9/11 Twenty Years Later

Two days ago, we marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 major terrorist attacks on the United States.

Photo credit: Jack Cohen on unsplash.com

It was on September 11, 2001 that we Americans lost our innocence. It was the day we learned that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans could not protect us. We learned that we were naïve and vulnerable. Our lives changed forever.

There have been numerous shows on TV over the last week in remembrance of 9/11 as it is called in the U.S. It has been gut-wrenching to watch the sights and sounds of that day in New York City, the countryside in Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon in Washington, DC over and over again. Every photograph puts me right back in that day.

The days just before 9/11

We’d had a busy and beautiful weekend. We celebrated the 250th anniversary of the founding of our church with a play and Dinner in the Grove. Descendants of all our former pastors had been invited for the weekend of festivities and had come from several states. I had written the play that was performed on Saturday afternoon.

Our oldest living former pastor, who was in his 90s, came from Virginia to preach the sermon on Sunday morning. Several hundred people enjoyed Dinner in the Grove after the Sunday morning worship service.

Before leaving with his grandson that afternoon, that old pastor insisted on making the trek to the spring between the church and the manse to take one last drink of cool water from the spring he’d last visited more than 60 years before. I held my breath as his grandson held him by his belt as the old man bent down double to get his mouth to the water flowing out of the pipe coming from the springhouse.

It was a glorious weekend!

Our brother and sister-in-law were here from Georgia for the festivities and were staying for a few days. I was tired on Sunday night, so I didn’t set the alarm to get up at any certain time for the morning of 9/11. I planned to sleep until I woke up – whatever the time. I had no plans for that day.

9/11

I was sound asleep when my sister woke me up saying, “The World Trade Center is on fire!” I struggled out of bed and went to the family room where she and my brother and sister-in-law were watching the ABC TV network.

My brother and I stood in the middle of the room, watching in horror as the fire consumed the top floors of one of the twin towers when an airliner came out of nowhere and plunged into the other tower. My brother and I looked at each other, and I said, “That was no accident.”

I knew instantly that life had just changed forever, but I didn’t really know the depths of those changes for a long time.

Within a few minutes, we knew another plane had been hijacked and forced to crash in Pennsylvania. Yet another hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon.

My immediate reactions were digestive problems all that day. My stomach was in knots. What was going to happen next?

The aftermath

All air traffic over the United States was grounded as quickly as possible. Planes were ordered to land at the nearest airport. People ended up not where they had intended to go. Some of the people who had traveled more than 1,000 miles to participate in the celebration at our church had to rent cars and drive home because they didn’t know when they’d be able to get on a plane to fly home. Did they even want to get on another plane with such uncertainty about how and why the hijackings on 9/11 had taken place? I wouldn’t have wanted to.

It was reported on TV that 25,000 body bags had been ordered to recover the bodies of the people killed at the World Trade Center. It was a number I couldn’t get my head around. But what was even more difficult to comprehend as the day went by was that there weren’t going to be many bodies. Nothing remained except dust.

People posted photographs of their loved ones who had been in one of the towers that morning. We saw the pictures on TV. People frantically hoped their relatives and friends had escaped the buildings. Maybe they were injured and had amnesia. Maybe they were unconscious and unidentified in a hospital. People held out hope against all odds. But most of them had to accept that the person they loved so much had not survived.

The remains are still being analyzed 20 years later. In fact, the remains of one of the victims was identified just last week through DNA testing. Many families are still waiting for that official report.

I didn’t personally know anyone who was in the World Trade Center that day, but in the days and weeks after the tragedy we were told the stories of the special lives the victims had led. We learned of their small or unborn children who suddenly became orphans that morning. We learned of the young widows and widowers whose hearts had been torn out with the death of their spouses. Lives that held so much promise. So much intellect and talent wiped out in the blink of an eye.

For weeks after 9/11, we watched on TV as the rubble was removed. One thing I remember is that there was nothing to laugh about for months. The late-night TV talk shows that had depended on making fun of politicians or events in the news no longer had anything to poke fun at. And if they had dared, their disrespect would not have been gladly received by their audiences. It just didn’t seem appropriate to laugh about anything for months following 9/11. That made a lasting impression on me.

Peter Jennings stayed on the air for hours and what turned out to be days on end to inform us about what was happening.

For a long time after that, we knew if regular programming was interrupted for a special report, it probably wasn’t going to be good news. It was something that affected everyone, and it made me hold my breath in anticipation. It was before “breaking news” became something said on cable news every 15 minutes that usually turns out to be something you heard yesterday. And it wasn’t a high-speed chase 3,000 miles away involving a sports celebrity.

There were countless stories of heroism. Not just the first responders, but everyday people. For instance, the people on the plane headed for the White House or US Capitol. Passengers overtook the hijackers and forced the plane down in a field in Pennsylvania to save further devastation and death in Washington, DC. I was prompted to wonder what I would do in such a situation. Would I cower in fear or demonstrate bravery?

It seems quaint now, but in the months and possibly several years following 9/11, all Americans pulled together. All our little differences were forgotten. We were one country. We all rallied under our beautiful flag. We were kind to one another. The exception was that Americans of the Muslim faith were all suspect. They were vilified by some people. That was a sad result of the attack and it has persisted for 20 years.

The entire world came to our aid with moral support and tears. In our “hour of need,” other countries put their arms around us and held us up.

It was a time like no other I experienced before or since.

The mere mention of 9/11 brings to my mind images of those burning buildings, collapsed buildings, dazed survivors running for their lives, first responders rushing toward and into the towers, smoke settling over and shrouding Manhattan, the hole in the ground in Pennsylvania, the ugly hole gouged out of the Pentagon, employees fleeing the White House which was possibly the intended target of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. I can’t erase those images. Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to forget. I should never forget those who died that day – the sacrifices they made and the sacrifices their families made.

I now understand why my parents forever remembered Pearl Harbor on December 7 and why my great-grandfather always noted the anniversary of the Battle of Richmond in his daybooks.

Janet

Things I Learned from How the Word is Passed – Part II

Last week’s blog post, Things I Learned from How the Word is Passed – Part I  covered some of the things I learned about Monticello Plantation and the Whitney Plantation from How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, by Clint Smith. Today I share with you some of the things I learned about Angola Prison, Blandford Cemetery, and New York City from the book.

There was just too much information in this book to give it appropriate time in one or two blog posts, so I’ll wrap this up next Monday. Needless to say, I highly recommend the book. I’m just hitting the high points in my blog posts.


Angola Prison

The Louisiana State Penitentiary is known by many as Angola Prison. The author was accompanied to the prison by a Black man, Norris, who spent almost 30 years imprisoned there for a crime he didn’t commit. He wants to show people the connection between Whitney Plantation and Angola Prison.

Norris said if we want to end mass incarceration, we must get at the history of it, the reason it still exists, and what that looks like.

Photo credit: Karsten Winegeart on unsplash.com

After the Civil War there was a change in policy in Louisiana not to require unanimous jury convictions. It was meant to funnel Blacks into the convict leasing system. Convict leasing partly replaced the labor force lost when slavery ended. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows involuntary servitude as a punishment for crimes committed. Under the convict leasing program, prisoners (mostly Black) could be rented out to individuals and companies. Railroads, plantations, and businesses took advantage of the program. Due to the program, most Angola inmates leased out lived no more than six years because the leasing assignments were often gruesome.

The book goes into more detail about how the laws governing juries changed over the decades, not always to the good.

The author (and I) found it interesting that the tour of Angola Prison begins in the gift shop. A gift shop at a state penitentiary. Such things as shot glasses, sunglasses, and T-shirts with the name of the prison on them are sold.

There is no mention in the prison museum that the place used to be a plantation.

I visited the prison’s website last week and was struck by how it is presented as a tourist destination. I don’t know about you, but when I go on a vacation it never occurs to me to work an operational prison tour or prison rodeo – I’m not making that up! – into my agenda.


Blandford Cemetery

Blandford Cemetery is in Petersburg, Virginia. It started as the cemetery for Blandford Anglican Church. It was deconsecrated in 1806 when the congregation decided to move to a more central location. After the Civil War a group of southern women were distressed over how their dead soldiers weren’t being honored like the Union soldiers. There was a 15-year effort to dig up Confederate dead and send them home for reburial, but 30,000 of the 32,200 could not be identified and they remain at Blandford.

Historical marker at Blandford Church and Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia

The City of Petersburg gave the Ladies Memorial Association the abandoned church as a focal point for the cemetery. They commissioned Tiffany Studios to design stained-glass windows but couldn’t afford the usual $1,700 per window price. They couldn’t afford the $300 per window discounted price, so they went to the Confederate and border states and told them to raise the money. Saints are depicted in 11 of the 13 windows. There are state seals and inscriptions tying the Confederate dead to such things as “the Army of Heaven” in the case of South Carolina.

Before leaving Blandford, the author had an opportunity to talk to the woman in charge there. She seemed uncomfortable fielding his questions and appeared to be uncomfortable that a stack of flyers advertising a Memorial Day event hosted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans that was easily visible on the counter.

This chapter also included some facts and theories about Robert E. Lee.

The author closes the chapter by wondering if we’re all “just patchworks of the stories we’ve been told. What would it take – what does it take – for you to confront a false history even if it means shattering the stories you have been told throughout your life? Even if it means having to fundamentally reexamine who you are and who your family has been? Just because something is difficult to accept doesn’t mean you should refuse to accept it. Just because someone tells you a story doesn’t make that story true.”

To me, that is the unspoken theme of the book.


New York City

Like me, you might have wondered why there is a chapter about New York City in How the Word is Passed.

This chapter is a real eye-opener! As with all the other chapters, I learned more from this chapter than I can possibly include in this blog post.

The author went to the National Museum of the American Indian for a walking tour about slavery and the Underground Railroad. The guide began by telling participants that many things she was going to tell them would make them uncomfortable but that would be all right. We learn by having our beliefs and our misinformation questioned. (I loved this woman already and I wasn’t even there!)

The tour included lots of general facts about slavery. The guide explained that slavery in the United States was different from slavery throughout world history. Historically, people were enslaved after taken prisoners of war or in payment of a debt. These enslavements were usually for a limited time and rarely involved the descendants of the enslaved. Slavery in the U.S. was based on racism and the widely-held belief in Europe that Africans were genetically inferior or subhuman. Skin pigmentation was the defining factor

Owning land and things was a European concept. The Dutch brought the first African slaves to the U.S. (present-day New York City). Eventually, some of the slaves were freed and given land. They weren’t gifted land due to the benevolence of the Dutch, though. The Dutch wanted Blacks to serve as a buffer between them and the Indians.

The British took over New York City in 1664. “According to historian David Brion Davis, around 40 percent of households in British Manhattan owned enslaved people. The practice of keeping female slaves in town to care for homes and white children and sending male slaves outside the city for agricultural work resulted in the slaves not having many children. In turn, this made the transatlantic slave trade more necessary for economic purposes.

In 1712, there was a slave uprising in New York. In it, 25 to 50 slaves killed nine white people. The result? “More than seventy Black people were arrested, forty-three brought to trial, and twenty-three executed – some hanged and others burned at the stake.”

Just before the American Revolution, there were 3,000 slaves in New York City and another 20,000 within 50 miles of Manhattan.

The second largest slave market in the United States was on present-day Wall Street between Pearl and Water Streets in Manhattan, New York City. Did you know that? I certainly didn’t! (The largest slave market in the country was at Charleston, South Carolina.)

Photo credit: https://readtheplaque.com/plaque/new-york-s-municipal-slave-market

Thinking about the banks he could see from the site of the slave market, Mr. Smith delved a little deeper. He discovered the predecessors of several of the largest banks in the United States had accepted slaves as collateral for debts.

The author’s tour guide said, “ʻOne of the biggest lies we are still telling in this century – and I know because I’m trying to combat it – [is that] during the Civil War we were the good guys, right? New York City was good. Everybody else in the South, they were bad.’”

I think that’s a good place for me to stop sharing what Mr. Smith had to say about New York City, although I could go on about such things as the Underground Railroad, a huge slave and free Black cemetery that’s been built over, and the predominately Black village that was destroyed so Central Park could be built.


Since my last blog post

I continue to work on biographical sketches of the characters in my novel. I’ve taken a couple of days off from my writing project this week. I tend to get too serious about my self-inflicted to-do lists. I’m trying to lighten up on myself.

Friday night I worked on genealogy, one of my favorite hobbies. I found lots of interesting information on Ancestry.com. Now, all (Ha ha!) I have to do is make sure I can duplicate the research these other people have done before I add it to my family tree. The problem with genealogy is with every new generation you discover, you want to add another one. This hobby is never finished.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

My blog post next Monday with be about Galveston Island, Goree Island, and the Epilogue in How the Word is Passed, by Clint Smith.

Janet