Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 28

Learn Our History Today:  On February 28, 1844, President John Tyler, who was aboard the Navy ship USS Princeton, narrowly escaped death.  The ship sported a 12-inch, 27,000 lb cannon called the Peacemaker.  The Captain of the ship, Robert Stockton—who was also the co-designer of the cannon—was eager to show off the weapon, despite warnings that it hadn’t been sufficiently tested yet.  Stockton fired two successful shots and the 400 passengers on board went wild with applause. 

Below deck, 54-year old President Tyler toasted the Princeton, her commander and the Peacemaker cannon.  Then, the secretary of war requested a third firing in honor of George Washington.  The third firing proved deadly...the cannon exploded and killed several passengers, including David Gardiner, the father of 20-year old Julia Gardiner, whom Tyler was courting and had recently proposed.  The explosion also took the lives of two of Tyler’s cabinet members. Tyler was far enough away from the blast that he was spared, as was Julia, who was climbing up the ladder to the upper deck when the explosion occurred.  The story has a happy ending, however.  Julia and Tyler were married later that year.

And, on this day in 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev indicated that the Soviet Union was ready to sign a treaty that would eliminate U.S. and Soviet medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe.  The offer led to the eventual signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in December of that year.

And on February 28 in 1784, John Wesley charters the first Methodist Church in the United States.   The move was Wesley’s response to provide church structure for his followers during the American Revolution, after the Anglican Church abandoned its American patrons.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 27

Learn Our History Today: On today’s date in 1927, The Supreme Court approved the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when its eight members unanimously declared it constitutional, giving women the right to vote.  The 19th Amendment states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”  

Also on this day in history, 1,000 Patriots under the lead of Commander Richard Caswell scored the first American victory in the first organized campaign of the Revolutionary War during the Battle of Moores Creek, which they fought against 1,600 British loyalists.  The British, who were advancing toward the North Carolina shore expected to meet Patriots at Moores Creek but were expecting a much smaller assembly of troops!  As the loyalists crossed a bridge to attack the small gathering of troops they were expecting, they were largely taken out by a barrage of cannon fire and muskets and were forced to surrender.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 22. George Washington's Birthday

Learn Our History Today:  On this day in 1732, George Washingon was born in Virginia. and was the second son from the second marriage of a colonial plantation owner.
Although initially loyal to the British, serving as a lieutenant in the French and Indian War, Washington led the Continental Army as a general during the American Revolution.

In 1759, Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow who had two children from her previous marriage (Washington and Martha never had children of their own, and Washington went on to adopt Martha’s son and daughter).

In 1775, Washington took charge of the Continental Army after being unanimously chosen to do so by Congress.  A rare ‘born leader’, Washington is remembered for his calm demeanor and even temper in stressful situations.  In fact, during his service to the British in the French and Indian War, he faced a variety of stressful situations including being shot at, having his horse shot from beneath him and even being taken prisoner by the French!

Much of his success during the Revolutionary War is attributed to his tactics of guerrilla warfare in which he employed stealth ‘hit and run’ attacks on the British.  And although he suffered about as many losing battles as he won during the War, his leadership was recognized as top-notch by the Continental Congress, which elected Washington as the first American president.  As president, he set dozens of unwritten rules of conduct for future presidents and he was often at odds with his advisors over the image that a president should project.  He served two terms, resigning after being disillusioned with vicious partisan politics.

After his presidency, Washington embraced the rural life by returning to his home in Mount Vernon and starting a successful whiskey distillery.  During that time, he grew very uncomfortable with the idea of owning slaves and he publicly promoted a gradual abolition of slavery.  In fact, in his will, he requested that all his slaves be freed upon Martha’s death.  Speaking of his will, he simply and humbly identified himself in the document as “George Washington, a citizen of the United States.”

There are many funny and popular rumors about Washington.  Of course, there’s the famous chopping down of the cherry tree, which is just a myth.  Then, there’s the tale about Washington having wooden teeth, which is also bogus.  However, by the time he became president, he did only have one real tooth remaining, and he wore various dentures constructed of metal and cow or hippopotamus bone.  Interestingly, he lost several teeth by cracking the shells of Brazil nuts-one of his favorite foods-in his mouth.

While an extraordinary leader, Washington was also a very regular guy.  He liked the sports cricket and fox hunting, and strove to resist the vanities of public life. But he was also vindictive; when Thomas Jefferson admitted slandering Washington in an anonymously published newspaper article, Washington cut Jefferson out of his life.

You may recall from a previous post that George Washington died on December 14, 1799 of a severe respiratory ailment.

You can learn more about Washington and his contributions to the American Revolution in Learn Our History’s DVD, “Winning Our Future,” available at http://learnourhistory.com.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 12

Learn Our History Today:  On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States is born in Hodgenville, Kentucky.  It’s without question that Lincoln is one of our nation’s most admired presidents.  He is known as The Great Emancipator for his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, proclaiming the freedom of the 3.1 million slaves throughout the 10 states of the rebellion. 

Lincoln had a quirky, self-deprecating sense of humor, which is believed he used to mask bouts of depression.  He often made cracks about his looks; for example, when one of his opponents in the Senate race of 1858 called him “two-faced,” Lincoln responded, “If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?”  Standing 6’ 4”, he was the tallest president.

Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, which happened to be Good Friday.  John Wilkes Booth was a stage actor and a Confederate.  Lincoln’s assassination was planned as part of a larger conspiracy to help the Confederacy’s cause.  Booth’s co-conspirators, Lewis Powell and David Herold, were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, while a third co-consiprator named George Atzerodt was assigned to kill Lincoln’s VP, Andrew Johnson.  Their thinking was that, by eliminating the top three of the Federal government, they would cause chaos throughout the government, thereby giving an advantage to the Confederacy.  While Booth successfully killed Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., during the play, Our American Cousin, his co-conspirators failed.  Seward was wounded, but Atzerodt lost his nerve to kill Johnson and fled D.C.

Also on this day in 1789, Patriot Ethan Allen passed away as the result of a stroke.  He was 52 when he died.  You may recall from an earlier post that Ethan Allen is known for being the leader of the Green Mountain Boys, a group which took the British fort at Ticonderoga along with Benedict Arnold in May, 1775. 

While Benedict Arnold is probably the first name that comes to your mind when you hear the word “treason,” Allen, too, was charged with treason for attempting to negotiate terms with the British that would allow the territory of Vermont to rejoin the British empire in the early 1780s after New York rejected it as one of the United States.  

You can read more about Ethan Allen here: http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/army/p/EthanAllen.htm

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 9

Learn Our History Today:  On February 9, 1950, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy  made a speech in Wheeling, WV, claiming to have a list that included 200 members of the Department of the State who were “known communists.”

During his speech, McCarthy waived a piece of paper at his audience—The Ohio County Women’s Republican Club—and according to the only published account of his speech, McCarthy said, “I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”  Following his speech, McCarthy made several statements in which the number of the presumed communists fluctuated wildly, but he never did produce solid evidence to back his claim.  McCarthy’s hunt for communists became known as “McCarthyism.”  After failing to locate any communists, his credibility collapsed in 1954 after he claimed the Army was friendly to known communists.  His televised hearings and investigation into the Army showed Americans that he lacked credibility, and he lost support.   Shortly after, the Senate expressed their disapproval of McCarthy’s actions. McCarthy passed away in 1957.

Also on this day in 1773, William Henry Harrison was born. Harrison was the 9th president of the United States, and he holds the record for the shortest term ever served...just 32 days in 1841.  He came down with a cold on his inauguration day.  The cold lingered and eventually turned into pneumonia, which killed him on April 4, 1841.

And on this day in 1942, Congress imposed daylight saving time.  The concept was suggested by President Roosevelt as an effort to conserve fuel.  The idea is traced back to World War I when Congress imposed the 1918 Standard Time Act, designed to enable the US to better utilize resources, following a European model.  While the Act was only to be in effect for seven months of the year, some states continued to turn clocks ahead an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall.  Roosevelt’s World War II legislation imposted daylight saving time across the nation for the full year, but it was repealed on September 30, 1945 and individual states were allowed to set their own standard time.  In 1966, Congress set a standard time that superceded state habits.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 6

Learn Our History Today: On today’s date in 1911, President Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. 

Before becoming the nation’s 40th president in 1981, Reagan had several careers—he started out as a radio sports announcer in the Midwest, which served as a springboard to a Hollywood career during the 1930s.  He earned the nickname “The Gipper” from his role of George “The Gipper” Gipp in “Knute Rockne, All American.”

During World War II, Reagan served as a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, appearing in various propaganda films.  After the war, he served as the President of the Screen Actor’s Guild between 1947 and 1952.  During that same time, Reagan was a proponent of FDR’s New Deal.  In 1960, he made the switch to the Republican Party.

Reagan’s entered a life in politics in 1966, when he was nominated by California Republicans for Governor.  He was elected Governor and served two terms between 1967 and 1975. 

1976, he challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford to become the Republican Party’s candidate and established himself as a more conservative choice compared to Ford, who appeared more moderate. Ford prevailed, earning the nomination with 1,187 delegates compared to Reagan’s 1,070.  Of course, Ford lost the election of ’76 to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Reagan campaigned for the highest office in the United States again in 1980 and swept into office, carrying 44 states with 489 electoral votes (remember, 270 are needed to win the White House)!  He served two terms as president—and he managed to break his record when he was reelected in 1984; he received a record 525 electoral votes, winning 49 out of 50 states.

For the most part, Reagan’s presidency was marked by huge success—he influenced change both domestically and internationally.  During what would become known as the “Reagan Revolution,” Reagan reinvigorated American morale and reduced people’s reliance on government.  During his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, he said “In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem!” On that same day, Iran freed 52 U.S. hostages who had been detailed for 444 days during the Iran Hostage Crisis. 

Just 69 days into his presidency, an attempt was made on Reagan’s life when he was shot by John Hinkley, Jr. as he left a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel.  Reagan suffered a punctured lung, but recovered quickly.

During his tenure, Reagan resurrected a no-nonsense perception of America throughout the world.  He boosted military spending and took a bold stance against Communism, which, in part, led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Yet, because of his charisma, he was able to cultivate a successful diplomatic and personal relationship with the Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.

In 1986, many Americans became upset with his administration when evidence surfaced that it struck a deal to sell Iran arms, and used the money to finance anti-Communist guerrillas in Nicaragua.  Reagan, however, successfully plead plausible deniability and was dubbed the “Teflon President.”
Despite the scandal, to this day Ronald Reagan’s embodiment of a powerful leader who supported traditional American values has endured and he is recognized as one of the greatest presidents in American history.

You can help your children learn all about Reagan’s contribution by giving them Learn Our History’s very first DVD, “The Reagan Revolution” available at http://learnourhistory.com/go.cfm?do=Video.ShowOffer&sv=1

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 4

Learn Our History Today:  On February 4, 1789, George Washington became the first and the only president in our nation’s history to be unanimously elected by the Electoral College.  And if you think that in itself is an incredible feat, he did it again on the exact same day in 1792 when the Electoral College unanimously elected him for his second term!

But voting in America was peculiar in its infancy.  Even though Washington won the election unanimously, he had a runner up in John Adams. Adams ultimately served as Washington’s vice president, but the Electoral Collage actually named two choices for president.  Each elector cast two ballots without placing a priority on one candidate over another for president vs. vice president.  In Washington’s case, he was chosen by every elector which is why he is considered to have been unanimously elected, thereby earning the office of the president.  In Adam’s case, he had the second most number of votes, which earned him the vice presidency.

With the 12th Amendment in 1804, this original system of election was replaced by a system that stipulated separate votes be cast for president and vice president. Even though each election since 1804 has been conducted under the 12th Amendment, in modern elections, a presidential candidate selects a running mate to appeal to a wider voter pool.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 1

 On this day in 1861, after a vote of 166 to 8 in favor of seceding, and against the objections of Governor Sam Houston, the state of Texas became the seventh to secede from the Union.

An in 1968, Richard Nixon announced his candidacy for the presidency.  This marked the second time Nixon ran for president; In 1960, he ran against John F. Kennedy.  Nixon went on to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Rebublican National Convention in Miami Beach and chose Maryland governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate.  Of course, Nixon went on to win the election later that year against his democratic opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey with a majority of Electoral College votes.