The Lee Resolution – and You Can’t Pick Your Family

Today in History, June 7, 1776:

The Lee Resolution.

“Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”

Continental Congress member Richard Henry Lee, reperesentative from the Virginia Colony, proposes independence from Great Britain after receiving orders to do so from the Virginia Convention. It would take until July, after efforts by John Adams, Sam Adams, and Lee, to gather enough votes to pass the resolution as the Declaration of Independence.

The Lee family would fight in the revolution for Union and Independence. All families are complicated. I would love to know what Richard would have to say about his great-nephew Robert E. Lee fighting so hard to dissolve the Union Richard and his family fought so hard to create.

The US Camel Corps – In New Mexico – The USS Supply – A Bizarre Adventure

Today in History, June 4, 1855:

US Army Major Henry C. Wayne sails aboard the USS Supply (commanded by US Navy Lt. David Dixon Porter) for the Middle East to purchase camels that would become part of the US Camel Corps. Either he or Gen. Edward Beale had convinced US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis that the animals would be perfect for transportation in the American Southwest.

70 camels would eventually be part of the Corps, and they WERE perfect for transporting supplies long distances…but they were also cranky and difficult to manage, and scared the Army’s horses. When the US Civil War began, the project was largely forgotten as the new Union Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, didn’t support it. Feral camels were seen roaming the Southwestern United States as late as 1941 as a result.

You may have noticed some other interesting names mentioned. David Dixon Porter was part of an already famous naval family…Farragut. David would serve with distinction in the Civil War.

The USS Supply. If her planks could have talked. The Mexican-American War….she was instrumental. Through her life she make numerous trips to the Levant…served in South Africa, South America, Brazil…she was part of two Expeditions Commodore Mathew C. Perry made to Japan, sailing into Odo Harbor on the Historic dates.

Then Supply returned and became part of the swashbuckling adventures during the Civil War Blockading Squadrons.

“This damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.” – Sen. Stephen Douglas

Today in History, May 22, 1856:

Years before the Civil War. On May 20, 1856 US Senator Charles Sumner, a free soil Democrat and later Republican from Massachussetts, had given a firey speech entitled “Crime Against Kansas” about the violence in that state over slavery.

A devout abolitionist, he excoriated the south, in particular Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, who he likened to a pimp abusing a prostitute (slavery).

This enraged Butler’s nephew, Senator Preston Brooks. When Sen. Stephen Douglas heard the speech, he commented, “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.”

On the 22nd, Brooks entered the Senate chamber with two other Southern Senators, found Sumner at his desk writing and proceeded to bludgeon him nearly to death with his heavy metal tipped cane while Sumner was trapped within his desk, defenseless.

Southerners hailed Brooks a hero.

Northerners called him a coward. One of these, Republican Representative Anson Burlingame called him such on the House floor.

Brooks challenged Burlingame to a duel. When Burlingame actually accepted and showed up, Brooks did not.

Sumner would suffer debilitating pain for the rest of his life from his injuries, but would recover to become a key proponent of abolitionist policies during reconstruction, living until 1872.

Brooks on the other hand died in January 1857, less than a year after the attack, of the croup.

Going West…The Homestead Act

Today in History, May 20, 1862:

President Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, which would give 160 acres of western lands to anyone that would farm it successfully for 5 years and build a residence upon it (often a sod building).

The Act would encourage vastly expanded settlement of the west; bad news for Native Americans, good news for those newer Americans wanting to improve their lot in life.

Congress had attempted to pass similar acts in 1852, 1854, and 1859, but each time the attempts were shot down by Southern Democrats who were afraid that if the west were populated it would result in more “free” states, which would result in more votes against slavery.

Once the Republican Lincoln was elected, and the Civil War began, the Southern Democrats were no longer part of the equation in Congress. The Republicans soon passed the Homestead Act and the settlement of the west began in earnest. By the end of the war 15,000 settlers (some of which were merely pawns for land speculators) had accepted their lands. Eventually 80 Million acres would be settled.

Congress Censures Jackson

Today in History, March 28, 1834:

For the first time, Congress censures an American President, Andrew Jackson.

Jackson wanted to dismantle the 2nd “Bank of the United States”. With nearly all of the country’s finances controlled by a central bank, the ultra wealthy that controlled the bank had an inordinate amount of power. With this power they controlled economic and political events, more so than the government or the people.

Jackson (man of the people), angered by many of their actions, vetoed a Congressional act to renew the bank’s charter. He then had the treasury divide the funds formerly controlled by the Bank of the United States amongst numerous state banks, who were more willing to give loans to common citizens and to invest in western interests.

History.com’s report indicates that Democrat Jackson had more personal reasons, and that the dispute was to a large extent between him and Senator Henry Clay, who History.com identifies as a Whig, then in parenthesis indicates a Whig is the same as a Republican.

After listening to a biography of Jackson, I found that Jackson’s motives were more pure…he was the first President to come up from a hardscrabble life and resented the bank’s refusal to help lower income Americans.

Some of my other reading has taught me that Whig does not equal Republican. In 1854 (20 years after these events) several Whig politicians (including Abraham Lincoln) broke away from the Whig party and created the Republican party because they were abolitionists and felt the Whig party was not living up to their ideals. I don’t know whether the History Channel misreported these subjects intentionally, or out of simple error. Either way, don’t assume something is accurate simply because it made it into print. Study it for yourself, whether its history or politics. Which often are intertwined.

Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death!

Today in History, March 23: 1775 – “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!” Patrick Henry implores his fellow legislators at the Virginia Convention for separation from England. Henry, the son of Scottish immigrant, had failed at business twice before becoming a successful lawyer. He became part of the Virginia legislature and soon became a talented politician. Considered one of the Founding Fathers, he risked his life to see America free. After freedom was won, he was an ardent opponent to the federalist system, believing any affront to states rights would destroy individual rights.

Veto Override

Today in History, March 3: 1845 – Congress overrides a Presidential Veto for the first time. Representative Jabez Huntington of Connecticut had authored a bill restricting the President from authorizing the building of ships for the Revenue Marine Service (precursor to the Coast Guard) unless the Congress had approved the funds first. President John Tyler, in an attempt to protect current contracts and Presidential prerogative, promptly vetoed the bill. On March 3rd, the last day of the 28th Congressional session, the Senate voted to override the veto unanimously, and the House voted 126-31 after midnight to override. Presidents have vetoed over 2,500 bills, with Congress overriding less than 5% of them.