Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg

On this day in 1789, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg is elected as the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, from 1789-1791.

Two years later, he was also the third Speaker of the House (1793-1795). In total, he served in the House from 1789 to 1797.

Then, he was a member of the Continental Congress in 1779 and 1780. He followed that by serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1780 to 1783.

Later, he presided over the Pennsylvania ratifying convention of 1787 for the U.S. Constitution.

Finally, he was the first signer of the Bill of Rights. The second was John Adams.

Before all of that, Frederick Muhlenberg was a Lutheran pastor.

Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg First Speaker of the House

 

Abigail Adams "Remember the Ladies"

Abigail Adams and John Adams are renowned for their prolific correspondence. In fact, they wrote each other thousands of letters.

So, to write something along the lines of “On this day in 1776, Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John Adams…” is almost a given.

However, in this particularly noteworthy letter, Abigail urges Mr. Adams and the Continental Congress to “Remember the Ladies” in the battle for independence:

“I long to hear that you have declared an independancy—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 favourable 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 perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

Beings

She goes on writing:

“Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in immitation of the Supreem [sic] Being make use of that power only for our happiness.”

Abigail Adams is one of only two women to have been both wives and mothers of American presidents.

Can you name the other?

Abigail Adams "Remember the Ladies"

Thomas Jefferson Summary View

On this day in 1775, Thomas Jefferson is elected to the second Continental Congress.

Jefferson originally established himself in the first Continental Congress with tract entitled “Summary View of the Rights of British America.”

Inkling of Independence

Here are two excerpts from his “Summary”:

“[P]ropose to the said congress that an humble and dutiful address be presented to his majesty, begging leave to lay before him, as chief magistrate of the British empire, the united complaints of his majesty’s subjects in America; complaints which are excited by many unwarrantable encroachments and usurpations, attempted to be made by the legislature of one part of the empire, upon those rights which God and the laws have given equally and independently to all.”

“The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them. This, sire, is our last, our determined resolution; and that you will be pleased to interpose with that efficacy which your earnest endeavours may ensure to procure redress of these our great grievances, to quiet the minds of your subjects in British America, against any apprehensions of future encroachment, to establish fraternal love and harmony through the whole empire, and that these may continue to the latest ages of time, is the fervent prayer of all British America!”

Rights Reverberate

Of course, in early June 1776, Congress appointed a committee consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson to draft what would become the Declaration of Independence. This esteemed committee chose Jefferson to compose the most important document in the history self-government. He drafted it in just a few days, at the age of 33.

As we (should) know, this is the basis of Our Declaration:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Jefferson seemed to suggest as much in his “Summary” two years prior. As seen above, he acknowledged “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.”

 

Thomas Jefferson Summary View

Patrick Henry Give me Liberty

On this day in 1775, in a speech to the second Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry, one of the Sons of Liberty, states emphatically:

“GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!”

“All that is left us…”

Some selected excerpts of that same speech:

“Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings… .”

“If we wish to be free…we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!”

“Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations.”

“Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? 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!”

Which course would you choose? In what modern day “fields” do we stand idle?

Patrick Henry "Give me liberty, or give me death!"

 

US Constitution

On this day in 1770, protesting colonists and occupying British soldiers clash in what we know as the Boston Massacre. This event is widely seen as the start of the American Revolution. It is also why we learn the name of African-American sailor Crispus Attucks, likely the first man to fall.

The British soldiers go on trial, though John Adams (born near Boston) and Josiah Quincy, Jr. (born in Boston) agree to defend them, demonstrating support for the colonial justice system. Then, upon conclusion of the trial in December 1770, the jury found just two of the eight British soldiers guilty of manslaughter.

In fact, the Algeron Sidney quote Adams used in closing his defense speech at the trial seems foundational to the Adams quote in second half of this post:
“The law, (says he,) no passion can disturb. Tis void of desire and fear, lust and anger. ‘Tis mens sine affectu; written reason; retaining some measure of the divine perfection.”

By Design

On March 4, 1789 government under the U.S. Constitution begins with the first session of Congress, held, at that time, in New York City.

Almost emblematic of the purpose Our Lost Founding, there is a connection here, despite the number of years between these events, but due to the consecutive dates:

John Adams, one of the aforementioned defense lawyers, Founding Father, the second president, etc., said this of Our Constitution in October of 1789 :

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (emphasis added)

So, the answer to the question in the title of this post is, frankly, quite a bit. Furthermore, that might explain a lot of the problems we experience in Our country today. Finally, it underscores the critical importance of rediscovering our lost founding.

Our Constitution

 

Richard Montgomery First National Memorial

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress authorizes the first national memorial of the Revolutionary War, in honor of Brigadier General Richard Montgomery. He was killed during in Quebec on December 31, 1775, where he was initially interred.

The monument, as seen below, is the first ever commissioned by the United States. Benjamin Franklin hired French sculptor Jean Jacques Caffieri to design and build the Montgomery memorial. Eventually, in 1787, it was installed in the front of St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan, where it remains today. Then, Montgomery’s remains were moved to St. Paul’s in 1818.

Interestingly, St. Paul’s was George Washington’s church during his time in New York as the United States’ first president in 1789.

The first memorial and the first president

So, the first memorial in the history of the United States was given a prominent place in a culturally and architecturally significant gathering place in New York City. Also, it’s where Our first president went to church.

Richard Montgomery First National Memorial

John Hancock signature

On January 12 (or maybe January 23), 1737, John Hancock is born in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts.

The British government viewed the prominent patriot as an agitator, much like his friend Samuel Adams.

Hancock was president of the Second Continental Congress, so he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence.

Of course, he is well-known for his prominent and stylish signature on the Declaration. In fact, the name ‘John Hancock’ is synonymous with the term ‘signature.’

In addition, he was first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and he died in office in 1793.

Grateful hearts, Gracious Benefactor

Finally, here are excerpts from one of his many Proclamations for a Day of Public Thanksgiving, from November 22, 1781:

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of Mercies, remarkably to assist and support the United States of America, in their important Struggle for Liberty against the long continued Efforts of a powerful Nation; it is the Duty of all Ranks of People to observe and thankfully acknowledge the Interpositions of his Providence in their behalf.

Through the whole of the Contest, from its first Rise to this Time, the Influence of Divine Providence may be clearly perceived in many signal Instances… .”

I do therefore, by and with the Advice of the Council, appoint, and do hereby appoint the Thirteenth Day of December next (the Day recommended by the Congress to all the States) to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer; that all the People may assemble on that Day, with grateful Hearts to celebrate the Praises of our gracious Benefactor; to confess our manifold Sins; to offer up our most fervent Supplications to the God of all Grace, that it may please Him to pardon our Offenses and incline our Hearts for the future to keep all his Laws…, and favor our united Exertions for the speedy Establishment of a safe, honorable, and lasting Peace; to bless all Seminaries of Learning, and cause the Knowledge of God to cover the Earth, as the Waters cover the Sea.

JOHN HANCOCK

GOD save the UNITED STATES of AMERICA.

John Hancock signature

George Washington first State of the Union address

On this day in 1790, President George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address. Washington delivered the speech to Congress at Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City.

As was fitting for the new nation, Washington’s brief address stands as the shortest State of the Union address ever. What follows are a few excerpts from  to his “Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives.”

Within our reach

“Still further to realize [your constituents’] expectations and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.

Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention that of providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined;”

Sure and secure

“Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. …To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways… by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights;… to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness – cherishing the first, avoiding the last… .

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the legislature.”

Today, as during our founding, may we again seek the blessings of Providence through “exertion of [our] patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.”

George Washington first State of the Union address

George Washington Invisible Hand t-shirt

On this day in 1789, George Washington wins America’s first presidential election and would be sworn in on April 30.

Of course, Our first president is known as the Father of Our Country. Furthermore, he is remembered as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.

First Official Act

In his April 30 Inaugural Address, Washington acknowledged his “anxieties” and “conflict of emotions.”
Then, he made his “first official Act” as President of the United States:

“Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves…”

A few sentences later came the quote that inspired Our George Washington “Invisible Hand” t-shirt:

“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the People of the United States.”

George Washington Invisible Hand t-shirt First Fervent Act

Emanuel Leutze George Washington Crossing the Delaware

On December 26, 1776, General George Washington and 2,400 soldiers successfully cross the icy Delaware River just before dawn.

Perhaps unrealistic, they appear rather heroic as depicted by Emanuel Leutze in his famous 1851 painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. Even so, the actual circumstances surrounding the iconic crossing further enhance their heroism.

Unfavorable Conditions

Christmas night, Washington’s army began preparations for a ‘surprise attack’ on the Hessian troops at their Trenton, New Jersey camp. His plan called for three separate divisions embarking on three different crossings of the river. The cold rain that accompanied them on their march to the launch points became a blustery snowstorm. As a result, only Washington’s division made it across. Worse yet, they were three hours behind schedule, endangering the entire mission.

Additionally, spies and deserters passed along advance warning to the Hessians, mitigating the crucial element of surprise. Thankfully, a Christmastime attack in a winter storm seemed unlikely.

Despite all of this, Washington remained “determined to push on at all Events.”
The pursuant victory provided a much needed morale boost for the soldiers and colonists alike.

Favorable Interpositions

Events such as these are indicative of the “signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war,” as President Washington wrote in his 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Clearly, he believed God was with them.

This belief is also evident in the following quote from his Inaugural Address, which inspired Our shirt, found HERE:
“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the People of the United States.”

Emanuel Leutze George Washington Crossing the Delaware

 

The Resignation of General George Washington December 23 1783

On this day in 1783, George Washington “claims the indulgence of retiring”  by resigning as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.

He delivered his Resignation Speech at the Maryland State House in Annapolis. Here are a few excerpts:

“Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States, of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence — a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.

The successful termination of the War has verified the most sanguine expectations- and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my Countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous Contest.

Last act?

“I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendance of them, to his holy keeping.”

The next morning, George Washington departed for Mount Vernon, his Virginia home. He became a private citizen on Christmas Eve.

Of course, his retirement “from the great theatre of action” lasted just a few years. In 1788, the people unanimously elect the Father of Our Country to be first President of the United States.

The Resignation of General George Washington December 23 1783