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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: http://sheridanhistory.com/americas-story-lesson-55-the-birth-of-americas-free-institutions/

For further information on the Story of America’s Free Institutions, click here: http://sheridanhistory.com/law-and-government/

 

John Ericsson: Swedish American Inventor Who Changed World History, Twice!

John Ericsson: Swedish American Inventor Who Changed World History, Twice!

Swedish-American inventor, mechanical and Naval engineer, John Ericsson, was born on this day, July 31, 1803, in Sweden.

In 1836 Ericsson invented the screw propeller for steam vessels which was a huge improvement over the paddle wheel. However, it wasn’t until he moved to America a few years later that American shipbuilders began to realize the greatness of this invention.

By 1838 steamships were making regular trips across the Atlantic bringing back with them laborers from Europe, thus increasing our population and creative talent at the same time.

Ericsson’s inventions also helped change the course of Naval and World History during the Civil War. The Confederates were dominating the seas with their iron-clad ship. John Ericsson, in just 100 days, invented the crafty “Yankee cheese-box on a raft,” the famous Civil war iron-clad called, “The Monitor,” to neutralize the Confederate beast.

On March 8, 1862, the Monitor encountered the larger Confederate Virginia. “A multitude beheld the encounter…from the shores near and far. The superior size and armament of the Virginia were neutralized by her unwieldiness and depth of draught. The Monitor, more active, and passing everywhere over shoal or through channel, could elude or strike as she chose. Neither had much power to harm the other; each crew behind its shield maneuvered and fired for the most part uninjured…On the morning of that day both North and South believed that the Confederacy was about to control the sea. The anticipation, whether hope or fear, vanished in the smoke of that day’s battle. With it, too, passed away the traditional beauty and romance of the old sea-service: the oak-ribbed and white-winged navies, whose dominion had been so long and picturesque, at last and forever gave way to steel and steam.”

Ericsson has been described as one of the most influential engineers of all time, without doubt nineteenth century America’s greatest Naval engineer, and a genius with an “indomitable zeal.”

The History Making Constitutional Provision Of Impeachment

The History Making Constitutional Provision Of Impeachment – By Daniel Sheridan

On this day, July 27, 1974, the House of Representatives votes to recommend the first article of impeachment against President Nixon for obstruction of justice (You can see the full text of the impeachment here: http://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment).

Article 2, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitutions says,

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The power of impeachment of public officials was one of the many English practices that Americans perpetuated and improved. The House of Commons had impeached some of the King’s ministers; however, the King could pardon them. So the English improved that practice in the 1700s when a law was enacted declaring that impeached officials couldn’t receive a royal pardon. This assured the English people that the King’s ministers would be held accountable for their actions. The King, however, couldn’t be impeached.

James Iredell gives the background of this provision when speaking to the North Carolina Ratifying Convention on 28 July 1788:

“In that country, that is England, the executive authority is vested in a magistrate who holds it by birthright. He has great powers and prerogatives, and it is a constitutional maxim, that he can do no wrong. We have experienced that he can do wrong, yet no man can say so in his own country. There are no courts to try him for any high crimes; nor is there any constitutional method of depriving him of his throne. If he loses it, it must be by a general resistance of his people…Under our Constitution we are much happier. No man has an authority to injure another with impunity. No man is better than his fellow-citizens, nor can pretend to any superiority over the meanest man in the country. If the President does a single act by which the people are prejudiced, he is punishable himself… If he commits any misdemeanor in office, he is impeachable, removable from office, and incapacitated to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit. If he commits any crime, he is punishable by the laws of his country, and in capital cases may be deprived of his life.”

Throughout history when rulers misbehaved the only recourse for the people was violent overthrow or assassination. But the U.S. Constitution provides for a peaceful way of ousting corrupt public officials. Impeachment powers are granted to the House of Representatives. Article 1, Section 2 reads:

“The House of Representatives shall…have the sole power of impeachment.”

This assures the American people that the President, Vice President, and all civil officers are accountable to the House of Representatives, that is, to We The People. Instead of violent overthrow, We The People, through our reps, hold our leaders accountable for their actions.

The Senate, which in the original Constitution represented state governments, tries impeachment proceedings. Article 1, Section 3 reads,

“The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present.”

The two-thirds concurrence for conviction is required in order to protect the accused from a mere party motivated indictment. For instance, history seems to bear out that Andrew Johnson was impeached on solely party lines, and though most voted to convict, they were still one vote shy. The provision seems to have worked in that case.

If the accused is convicted, Article 2, Section 3 reads,

“Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States; but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to law.”

The President, Vice President, and all civil officers, if convicted, are removed from office and are forbidden from holding future office in the national Government. But that’s not all. The convicted person can still be tried and punished in a normal court of law.

America is a Government of laws, not of men. The American tradition teaches that nobody is above the law. Americans took from their English heritage and improved it. In England, they got as far as impeaching the King’s ministers, but, as William Blackstone confessed in his Commentaries, “That the king can do no wrong is a necessary and fundamental principle of the English constitution.” But in our Constitution it is a necessary and fundamental principle that any leader can do wrong and will be held accountable for it.

We can be proud of our American system of government which sets an example for the world – our leaders are accountable to the people and the transfer of power is a peaceful process.

 

The U.S. Post Office: “One of the most civilizing influences in history.”

The U.S. Post Office: “One of the most civilizing influences in history.” – By Daniel Sheridan

On this day, July 26, 1775, the Continental Congress appoints Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General. The Post Office has been called, “one of the most civilizing influences in history.” Let’s find out how.

In the late 1600’s, a New York Governor started a monthly postal service between New York and Boston. The Parliament extended the British post office to America in 1710 with its headquarters in New York. The route went as far north as Maine and as far south as Williamsburg, Virginia.

One historian describes how the process worked in the 1730’s.

“In ordinary weather a post-rider would receive the Philadelphia mail at the Susquehannah River on Saturday evening, be at Annapolis on Monday, reach the Potomac on Tuesday night, on Wednesday arrive at New Post, near Fredericksburg, and by Saturday evening at Williamsburg, whence, once a month, the mail went still farther south, to Edenton, N.C. Thus a letter was just a week in transit between Philadelphia and the capital of Virginia.”

One of the most famous Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, became Postmaster-General of the colonies. Franklin was a member of that famous “Senate of Sages” who gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to write our Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 of that document reads,

“The Congress shall have power to…To establish post offices and post roads… “

James Madison wrote about this provision in Federalist #42:

“The power of establishing post roads must, in every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious management, become productive of great public conveniency. Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.”

Madison was right! It certainly became a great public convenience and increased intercourse between the States. The post rider was a popular figure, sometimes even an eccentric. While riding he’d reach into his saddlebag and try to read the letters, or he’d be “knitting socks or whittling some article out of his stick.” The people began writing letters to their local newspapers, and, as a result, more newspapers sprung up all over the country making their way into every home. This made a huge impact on social culture.

In 1792 the postage rate was six cents for up to thirty miles; the rate gradually increased after that reaching to about twenty-five cents to anything beyond 450 miles.

During the first five years after our current Constitution went into effect (1789) the Congress made temporary provisions for the Post Office and Post Roads. But it was on this day, May 8, 1794, an act of Congress continued the Post Office indefinitely.

One nineteenth century writer praised this great provision saying,

“No one of the executive departments contributes more to the comfort and convenience of the people than that of the post office. With its network of postal routes binding together the entire country, its thousands of post offices, and its army of officials engaged in collecting and distributing letters, papers, and periodicals, it is indispensable to the business interests of the people, and a civilizing influence of inestimable value.”

On May 8, 1794, the U.S. Post Office is permanently established, becoming one of the most civilizing influences in history.

Presidential Pardons and Reprieves: The Conscience of the Nation

Presidential Pardons and Reprieves: The Conscience of the Nation – By Daniel Sheridan

There was a political T.V. show that aired in the early 2000s called, “The West Wing.” Actor Martin Sheen plays President Bartlett. One of the episodes dealt with the matter of pardons. As President Bartlett is contemplating pardons he says to his Chief of Staff Leo McGarry:

“The benign prerogative, that’s what Hamilton called them.”

McGarry replies: “Benign? It’s a bag of lit dynamite.”

That’s both funny and true. There’s always controversy when a President offers Pardons or Reprieves. Usually at the end of an administration tempers flare over the President’s use of this power. At the end of a recent administration the President used his pardoning power in a popular case, a move which inspired many partisan responses. Some praised the President saying,

“It’s about time!” “Justice is finally served.” “This is a good sign.”

Others lashed out in anger,

“He’s a traitor!” “Only a few more days and he’s gone.” “A travesty of justice.”

Sentiments like that are why the fictional Leo McGarry called this prerogative a “bag of lit dynamite.”

A good friend of mine expressed her frustration over this issue in a Facebook post:

“I never understood the reason that the president has the right to pardon or lessen the time served by criminals. Somebody please explain why this makes any sense. How can a judge who hears the entire case, a jury who convicts a criminal, and a law that is in place for penalty be overturned by somebody a week before their term ends? I really don’t get it.”

She’s frustrated. But she’s also asking questions. That’s where we need to start, asking the right questions. What is this Constitutional power all about? That’s where I want to offer my services. I’m not going to offer opinions on specific cases which certain Presidents have acted on. What I will do is explain what I understand to be the original intent of this Presidential power. First we must have a common understanding of the Constitutional provision as originally intended. Then, after acquiring such knowledge, it’s up to each individual citizen to make up his or her mind, after considering all the facts, regarding his or her opinion of a President’s action in a particular case. It’s ok if citizens disagree regarding a President’s pardon or reprieve of so-and so; but let’s at least agree on what the Presidential power is about. Plus, I think if we understand the historical circumstances which led to this Constitutional provision, our hearts will soften, we’ll tone down the viciousness of our criticisms, and it might even bring us closer together as a people.

Here we go.

First, the power is granted to the President to grant pardons and reprieves for Federal crimes alone. The Constitution reads,

“The President shall…have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

Reprieves are usually granted when new evidence or testimony is brought to light that was unknown during the defendant’s trial, information which could have affected the outcome. The President can grant a reprieve so this new evidence can be examined.

The pardon is a little different. It’s not about declaring a person innocent; it’s about the nature of the sentence in relation to the crime. The sentence might have been too harsh; the punishment didn’t fit the crime. Maybe there are certain circumstances that should be taken into consideration in relation to the crime.

The pardoning power is referred to as “the conscience of the nation.” The President, when offering reprieves or pardons, is acting in mercy on behalf of the American people when a true sense of justice calls for intervention.

The Constitutional clause wasn’t intended to weaken the sense of the rule of law; it actually strengthens it by avoiding the extremes of harsh and cruel punishments. The clause demonstrates that we are far from perfect knowledge in matters of justice. It requires that we learn from our mistakes and correct them. This provision is a confession that our laws aren’t perfect, they therefore at times need to be revised, unlike the laws of the ancient Medes and Persians which couldn’t be altered. Alexander Hamilton says this,

“Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel…” (Federalist #84)

In other words, criminal codes throughout history have been too harsh, therefore the pardon and reprieve powers are meant to eliminate cruelty and promote true justice. The Founders were acknowledging that even in their own day some of their judicial practices were barbaric and the people needed protection from them! What an honest confession!

This Constitutional provision also applies to cases where the accused suffers injustice because he or she didn’t have access to competent legal help. Incompetent or corrupt lawyers may merit the accused the Benign Prerogative.

It also applies to cases where an unpopular defendant has been convicted in the court of public opinion before the trial even begins. The public sentiment influences the outcome of the trial and the facts of the case are overruled by blind hatred. One of the sad features of human nature is that people will condemn a person they don’t like regardless of the facts and evidence. Personal animosity, which bends facts to its will, is enthroned as the highest law from which there is no appeal, facts and evidence are derided. The Benign Prerogative intervenes in such cases after tempers are cooled thus sparing the nation from making shipwreck of conscience.

The opposite of this can happen too. If the accused is popular, his or her fans will overlook or even justify the crimes of their hero. In either case, justice isn’t served.

James Iredell of North Carolina said,

“Another power that he has is to grant pardons, except in cases of impeachment. I believe it is the sense of a great part of America, that this power should be exercised by their governors…It is the genius of a republican government that the laws should be rigidly executed, without the influence of favor or ill-will–that, when a man commits a crime, however powerful he or his friends may be, yet he should be punished for it; and, on the other hand, though he should be universally hated by his country, his real guilt alone, as to the particular charge, is to operate against him. This strict and scrupulous observance of justice is proper in all governments; but it is particularly indispensable in a republican one, because, in such a government, the law is superior to every man, and no man is superior to another. But, though this general principle be unquestionable, surely there is no gentleman…who is not aware that there ought to be exceptions to it; because there may be many instances where, though a man offends against the letter of the law, yet peculiar circumstances in his case may entitle him to mercy…This power, however, only refers to offences against the United States, and not against particular states.”

That’s the “Benign Prerogative,” my fellow Americans. Mercy and truth meet together. It’s the “Conscience of the Nation,” which is based on mercy, humanity, even justice, and good policy.

Aren’t you proud that this beautiful principle is in our U.S. Constitution? The U.S. Constitution. Read it. Know it. Share it. Get your Pocket Constitutions at www.FreedomFactor.org.

Opinion Polls, An Electoral College Dispute, Accusations Of Corruption, And Ultimate Vindication

Opinion Polls, An Electoral College Dispute, Accusations Of Corruption, And Ultimate Vindication – By Daniel Sheridan

—Opinion Polls

On this day, July 24, 1824, what is believed to be the first-ever Presidential poll is conducted by a Pennsylvania newspaper.

The results of the poll showed Andrew Jackson with 365 votes to John Quincy Adams’s 169. During that election Jackson would live up to expectations by overwhelmingly taking the popular vote, however, Adams won the Electoral College.

—The First Electoral College Dispute

Over 355-thousand people voted in the election of 1824. In those days elections took weeks to complete. There were four candidates for President in 1824: Adams, Henry Clay of Kentucky, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, and William Henry Crawford of Georgia. None of these received a majority of the electoral votes so the decision fell to the House of Representatives (as provided in the Constitution https://freedomfactor.org/read-the-us-constitution/). They chose John Quincy Adams, on this day, February 9, 1825, as the 6th President of the United States.

The Electoral College was put in place by the Founders because they didn’t think the common person would know enough about a candidate to directly elect him, so they devised a system where the people’s choice would be filtered through certain men who had the confidence of the people. These men make up the Electoral College. However, if this system didn’t produce a winner, the Constitution mandates that the vote goes to the House of Representatives. As a result, the people would now be TWICE removed from the process.

—Accusations of Corruption

John Quincy Adams was elected in this manner. However, the whole thing looked fishy to many. It was said that the political elites in the House chose the President! Under the circumstances, only looking on the surface, one can understand how people came to the conclusion something dishonest was going on. Here’s why:

Henry Clay is the Speaker of the House. Clay hated Jackson because Jackson once accused Clay’s fellow Kentuckians of being cowardly during the battle of New Orleans. Now Clay, as Speaker, controls Jackson’s fate. Clay successfully swayed enough members of the House to cast their vote for Adams. After the election Adams chose Clay as Secretary of State. These moves enraged Jackson. He accused Adams and Clay of making a “corrupt bargain” and the Jackson men were angry. Adams had a tumultuous four years in office as a result of the manner in which he won the election.

— Ultimate Vindication

I think to properly judge John Quincy Adams we must consider his subsequent career. There’s no proof of a “corrupt bargain.” Partisan political insinuation isn’t proof.  However, an accused man’s subsequent behavior speaks volumes, as we shall see.

Adams had big plans as President. He wanted to explore the west and implement a type of “new deal.” Adams wanted the Federal Government to build new stone roads and canals to connect the states. During his administration, in 1825, the Erie Canal opened. The following year the first railroad of the United States was completed. President Adams also wanted to create a National University, a National Astronomical Observatory, and promote scientific advancements.

Congress, however, wouldn’t cooperate. They shot the President’s plans down saying they were unconstitutional. But it seems personal motives guided some Congressmen, not Constitutional principles. Adams was un-popular because of the circumstances surrounding his election and the Jacksonians despised him. Adams lost re-election.

Some think that once a person serves as President any other job is “beneath” him. John Quincy Adams didn’t think so. Two years later he returned to Congress where he remained for the next sixteen years. There John Quincy Adams took the lead in the fight against slavery and was outspoken against secret societies. Even in his advanced age he was so skillful and energetic in debate people started calling him, “the old man eloquent.” His fame as the champion of popular rights only increased with every year.

John Quincy Adams fought for these rights to his dying day, literally! He suffered a stroke while on the house floor and lingered in and out of consciousness for two more days. His last words were,

“This is the last of earth; I am content.”

Does this sound to you like a man who made corrupt bargains? Time has been on John Quincy’s side. Some of his contemporaries didn’t like him, mostly because of partisan politics. However, his character has been vindicated by his career; his ideas and plans, though shot down by his contemporaries, were promoted by future Americans and are lauded by many to this day.

“Roll, years of promise, rapidly roll round, till not a slave shall on this earth be found.” John Quincy Adams

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

 

Baseball’s First “All-Star” Game

Baseball’s First “All-Star” Game – By Daniel Sheridan

It’s our game . . . it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws . . .” – Walt Whitman

The game of baseball started taking shape in the 1840s when a volunteer firefighter and bank clerk named Alexander Joy Cartwright together with some of his buddies formed the New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club. Cartwright invented the rules which made the game what we know it to be today; the diamond shape field, foul lines, and other features.

On June 19th, 1846, the Knickerbockers played a group of Cricket Players for what is considered by many to be the first Baseball game in history. The Knickerbockers were clobbered 23-1. The game took off after this. Men from all sorts of trades formed teams.

The game became so popular that a December 1858 issue of The New York Mercury declared Baseball to be, “The National Past-Time.”

There were over 50 clubs in the New York area alone by 1858. Special trains took people to and from the games. A rivalry developed between the Brooklyn and New York teams. Leaders of Brooklyn teams challenged the New Yorkers to a game. Then each city chose their best players to play in what would become the first all-star game.

It took place on this day, July 20th, 1858. Over four thousand people attended. It was also the first game with a cover charge, 50-cents! New York won 22-18.

After the All-Star Game, Baseball only got bigger. Not even the Civil War could slow its progress as soldiers played it on battle fields between enemy engagements. After the war, peaceful parks throughout the country were scenes of great games.

The history of baseball mirrors the history and spirit of the United States in many ways:

“Baseball has the qualities and narratives America has: Competition, spirit, joking, intellectualism, labor unions, management, gimmicks, promotion, fools, heroes, segregation, de-segregation, crooks, pride, unity of town and country, etc… It’s America!”

“One of the most appealing things about Baseball is that it highlights the individual like no other game does. Each individual has his specific place on the field; each individual has his turn at bat. In other sports you can go continually to your best guy. Babe Ruth still only batted once every nine times. So it’s the individual within the context of the group. And the individual is highlighted, but in the end his performance means nothing outside the group, outside the community.” — Both quotes from the Documentary, Baseball, by Ken Burns.

Baseball is America!

 

 

Champollion and the Rosetta Stone

Champollion and the Rosetta Stone – By Daniel Sheridan

On this day, July 19, 1899, a discovery is made which helps a non-establishment scholar push the frontier of human knowledge further back in time thus opening to the human race a new field of study documenting the advancement of civilization.

The ancient Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphics, a script of pictures and symbols. They used two methods of writing. In one they carved their writings on stone monuments. The other method of writing was the common way, on papyrus, a paper from the papyrus plant. Egyptians used this paper to record business transactions and affairs of state as well as for personal writings. Papyrus is the origin of our word “paper.” Isn’t exciting to realize how connected we are with ancient history?

The common people were doing so much writing they simplified their hieroglyphics into a cursive or hieratic writing, similar to how we write today. Later, they developed an even simpler writing similar to our short-hand, called demotic. The Egyptians went from hieroglyphics, to hieratic, to demotic writing styles.

For many years the only thing scholars knew about Egypt was what they read in the Bible. Nobody could figure out how to read Egyptian inscriptions to find out more. The mystery was finally unlocked in the nineteenth century by an unlikely source. Here’s the story:

Napoleon came to Egypt in the 1790’s. The Great Pyramid in Giza, which was built thousands of years earlier, was the tallest building in the world. Then, on this day, July 19th 1799, Napoleon’s soldiers discovered what we know as the Rosetta Stone, in Rosetta, Egypt. This slab of rock contained parallel writings in Egyptian hieroglyphics, demotic, and Greek.

Scholars began working to uncover the meaning of the ancient hieroglyphics, however, they were frustrated in their task. While they were spinning their wheels, a young man was growing up in France who would give these proud establishment scholars a run for their money.

Let’s take an excursion here and give a little background on our hero which will help us better appreciate his accomplishments. Champollion was from a poor family who couldn’t afford providing him with a classy education. But Champollion had an exceptional mind; we might even call him a child prodigy. His brother, recognizing Champollion’s potential, encouraged him to develop his talents, which he did. By age thirteen he spoke six ancient languages! Thanks big bro! Now back to the story.

Champollion was fascinated with ancient Egypt and was obsessed with learning the meaning of the hieroglyphics. He worked tirelessly on the project. One day Champollion was granted access to a text that was carved on a recently discovered obelisk. The inscription was written in hieroglyphic style. At the base of the slab there was Greek writing saying the inscription was about Cleopatra and Ptolemy. Champollion logically concluded that those two names must therefore be found somewhere in the Egyptian text on the obelisk. So by carefully comparing the two languages he was able to decipher twelve letters in the Egyptian alphabet. But this text by itself couldn’t unlock the mystery of the ancient hieroglyphics. More comparison must be done.

At this time scholars weren’t too sure what Egyptian hieroglyphs actually were. Most thought they were silent symbols. Since symbols can’t be spoken the scholars concluded we’d never know the meaning of the Ancient Egyptian writings.

Champollion, however, disagreed. He believed the Egyptians developed a system of words and letters. The “smart guys” made fun of his suggestions insinuating that since the “recognized, qualified, scholars” disagreed with the young and inexperienced Champollion he should keep his mouth shut. Remember this very important fact: the scholars of the day mocked Champollion’s claim of an Egyptian alphabet. Sometimes the professionals can become stagnant. Though well meaning, they may be trapped in a status-quo loving system which is detrimental to progress in learning. But Champollion was of the conviction that the job of a Scientist is to question everything. Truth is the goal, not status-quo or tenure. Champollion was convinced the hieroglyphs made words, and if words, they must be spoken.

Operating under this working theory, Champollion studied the last known language spoken around the time the hieroglyphs were being used. This language was still spoken by Coptic Christians in Paris. Champollion reasoned that he might be able to match sounds of the Coptic to the hieroglyphs. He was relentless in the pursuit of the truth.

The discovery of the Rosetta Stone combined with his scientific research helped Champollion solve the mystery. After twenty years of labor he translated the Rosetta Stone and discovered the Egyptian alphabet. Champollion recovered a lost world!

 

Historian Will Durant sums it up beautifully,

“Never has any century been so interested in history as that which followed the voyage of young Champollion with young Napoleon to Egypt; Napoleon returned empty-handed, but Champollion came back with all Egypt, past and current, in his grasp. Every generation since has discovered new civilizations or cultures, and has pushed farther and farther back the frontier of man’s knowledge of his development. There are not many things finer in our murderous species than this noble curiosity, this restlessness and reckless passion to understand.”

Now Egyptian writings can be read thus opening to mankind a completely new field of historical study. This was made possible by the efforts of a non-establishment student who refused to submit to the arrogant pronouncements of the stagnant establishment.