Author Archives: dsheridan

The Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)

On This Day, August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act prohibiting voting discrimination against minorities.

Amendment 15 of the U.S. Constitution, ratified February 3, 1870, reads:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

“The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Even though the Constitution provides for equal voting rights many were still denied those rights 95 years after the Amendment became part of the Constitution. Thus LBJ signed the “Voting Rights Act” deemed “appropriate legislation” to “enforce” the Fifteenth Amendment.

President Johnson wanted to create what he called, “The Great Society.” A society where the promise of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” applies to everyone.

LBJ believed he was fulfilling that promise with the following measures: Voting Rights Act, Medicaid, Federal Aid for Education, Environmental Protection laws, Food Stamps, Head Start, NPR, The Arts and Humanities Act, The Public Broadcasting System, Consumer Protection Laws, and The Civil Rights Act. These measures, created during the LBJ years, are still with us today.

When LBJ signed The Civil Rights Act he said,

“There goes the south for a generation.”

The Genius of America’s Institutions, the Principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the Tendencies of the Age!

The Genius of America’s Institutions, the Principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the Tendencies of the Age! –By Daniel W. Sheridan

Subtitle – How Chicago went from a hand drawn map to a world center for expressing the freedom principles as set forth in our founding documents.

On this day, August 4, 1830, James Thompson created Chicago’s first map with plot layouts. The map shows 80 foot wide streets with 18 foot wide alleys.

By the late 1800s Chicago grew into an enormous city and the growth of the state’s other cities, counties and townships were a political marvel. People who witnessed Illinois’ rapid expansion exclaimed, “Illinois is a miracle!”

—Frederick Douglass Nominated For President In Chicago

Chicago played a huge role in the struggle for Civil Rights. It was in Chicago where Frederick Douglass became the first African American to be nominated for President at the 1888 Republican National Convention held in the Auditorium Building. The nomination went to Benjamin Harrison.

Frederick expressed this hope in the 1840s:

Frederick Douglas

“The arm of the Lord is not shortened, and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.”

Surely being considered for the Presidency was proof that his hopes were being confirmed and the “tendencies of the age” were moving toward freedom and justice for all.

—- President Barack Obama

Then, on this day, August 4, 1961, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. He moved to Chicago in the 1980s and the rest is history! He was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996 then became a United States Senator in 2005. Obama loves his city and cheers on his favorite Chicago team, the White Sox, whose field once drew thousands of African Americans to watch the segregated Negro League teams and greats like Satchel Paige. Then, on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama became the first African American elected to the Presidency with 365 electoral votes. He gave his victory speech from Chicago’s Grant Park.

—-The Tendencies of the Age

August 4 saw the beginnings of Chicago, victories in the struggle for civil rights, and the birthday of the man who would become the first African American President.

So let us draw encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, the genius of American Institutions, and let our spirits be cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.


Harding and Coolidge: The Fateful August Day of 1923

The Death of President Harding, A Quick Constitutional Study, And The Swearing-In Ceremony of Calvin Coolidge By The Light Of A Kerosene Lamp – By Daniel W Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)

Warren G. Harding was elected President on November 2, 1920. This was the first Presidential election in which women voted and it was the first election where the results were broadcasted over radio.

In the summer of 1923 President Harding went on a trip to Alaska which took a toll on him physically. From Alaska he went to California where he became sick and died suddenly on this day, August 2, 1923.

Vice President Calvin Coolidge was at his father’s Vermont farmhouse when a telegram arrived around 2:30 A.M delivering the sad news. Calvin Coolidge wrote about that night:

“On the night of August 2, 1923, I was awakened by my father coming up the stairs, calling my name. I noticed that his voice trembled. As the only times I had ever observed that before were when death had visited our family, I knew that something of the gravest nature had occurred. He placed in my hands an official report and told me that President Harding had just passed away. My wife and I at once dressed. Before leaving the room I knelt down and…asked God to bless the American people and give me power to serve them.

My first thought was to express my sympathy for those who had been bereaved and after that was done to attempt to reassure the country with the knowledge that I proposed no sweeping displacement of the men then in office and that there were to be no violent changes in the administration of affairs. As soon as I had dispatched a telegram to Mrs. Harding, I therefore issued a short public statement declaratory of that purpose.

Meantime I had been examining the Constitution to determine what might be necessary for qualifying by taking the oath of office. It is not clear that any additional oath is required beyond what is taken by the vice president when he is sworn into office. It is the same form as that taken by the president.

Having found this form in the Constitution, I had it set up on the typewriter, and the oath was administered by my father in his capacity as a notary public… The oath was taken in what we always called the sitting room, by the light of the kerosene lamp, which was the most modern form of lighting that had then reached the neighborhood. The Bible which had belonged to my mother lay on the table at my hand.”

Those were the words of Calvin Coolidge. Do you know what he did after he was sworn in? He went back to bed! He wasn’t called silent and cool Cal for nothing.

Let’s close with one funny story about President Coolidge. He was at a dinner party where the woman sitting next to him told the President that she had made a bet with a friend that she could get him to say more than two words that evening. President Coolidge, Silent Cal, replied,

“You lose.”

Two words! That’s all he said the rest of the night. She lost the bet.

“I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.” Calvin Coolidge

“No man ever listened himself out of a job.” Calvin Coolidge







The Birthday of America’s Free Institutions

The Birthday of America’s Free Institutions – By Daniel Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)

July 30th, 1619, is a day that should be remembered and celebrated by every American. To understand why let’s travel back in time to the Virginia colony, years 1612 through 1619, and examine the economic and political problems they were facing.

The Economic Situation before 1619

The colonists were suffering economically and wanted to improve their condition. Men like John Rolfe, the guy who married Pocahontas, started growing tobacco to sell at market, others followed his example. The Governor of the colony, Governor Dale, a tyrant, put a stop to the profitable trade just as they started making a profit. A few years later a more lenient governor, Governor Yeardley, lifted the restrictions and the trade started to prosper again.

There was another problem. All the goods in the colony were kept in a common storehouse and distributed equally among the people. Some called it communism, but it was more like corporatism. That means everything belonged to the company and the company provided for the settlers. There was no private ownership of property or in the fruits of one’s labor.

The system was a flop! One eye-witness said:

“When our people were fed out of the common store and labored jointly in the manuring of the ground and planting corn…the most honest of them…would not take so much faithful and true pains in a week as…he will do in a day on his own crop.”

People were given a living no matter how hard or little they worked, as a result, many slacked off. Why work hard if you’re going to be fed anyway? This system didn’t benefit anyone. Just the opposite, it brought everyone down to the same level of poverty – including those who worked hard.

The Political Situation

Captain Argall was governor of the colony in 1616. He was a cruel, tyrannical, and greedy man. Argall ruled the colony with an iron fist for three miserable years. He proclaimed martial law in a time of peace and enforced his unjust laws with bayonet.

The colonists complained to the company and the company responded by appointing George Yeardley as captain-general to investigate the situation and right any wrongs.

Economically and politically the colony was a mess.

The Fix

Yeardley arrived in Jamestown in April of 1619. After investigating the situation he sided with the colonists and abolished the oppressive laws of Argall. The colonists breathed a sigh of relief. To help prevent further abuses the company put a new government in place with a system of checks and balances.

First, they limited the power of the Governor by a counsel. This was to prevent another Argall from ruling.

Second, they established a colonial Assembly so that the people could take part in the administration of public matters through elected representatives.

Then the company called on the people to elect representatives to the legislature. This Assembly, convened at the order of Governor George Yeardley, met for the first time on July 30, 1619. The assembly was called the House of Burgesses.

This was the first legislative body ever assembled in this country in which the people through their elected representatives made laws for their own governing. This meeting is the birthday of American free institutions.

The common system was also abandoned. Settlers were allowed to govern themselves, own land, and provide for themselves, and as a result, the colony started to prosper.

The next year, 1620, about ninety women of good character arrived in the colony; sixty more the next year. The farmers recognizing their worth married them and raised families. Domestic ties were now established in the New World, and, as a result, the colonists considered Virginia home and abandoned any thoughts of returning to England. The colony was now permanent.

Political and economic oppression is the background. Liberty was the cure. Prosperity followed.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

July 30, 1619, should be celebrated by every American. It was on that day American free institutions were born. Institutions that are meant to secure the rights of the people – the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors.

For an audio lesson of this story, click here:

For further information on the Story of America’s Free Institutions, click here:


America’s Story Lesson 65: Stepping Stones

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