Daniel Webster

On this day in 1782, American statesman Daniel Webster is born in what is now Franklin, New Hampshire. Webster was an attorney, a member of the House of Representatives, and a Massachusetts Senator. In addition, he served as Secretary of State for three Presidents, including Millard Fillmore, John Tyler, and William Henry Harrison.

Daniel Webster is considered one of the greatest orators in American history. For example, his “Second Reply to Hayne” in 1830 is regarded as one of the greatest speeches in senate history. Then, his famous, controversial, three and a half hour “Seventh of March” speech in 1850 helped delay the Civil War.

So, here is a collection of a few other famous, brief, yet powerful quotes from Webster:

First, when asked “What is the most sobering thought that ever entered your mind?” Webster replied, “My personal accountability to God.”

Also, on December 22, 1820, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth Rock, Webster said:

“[O]ur ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits….Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens…

[L]et us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary.”

“His Word” and “his works”

“If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; If the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end.”

“If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”

Daniel Webster

 

Dwight Eisenhower farewell

On this day in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, looking forward to becoming a private citizen, gives his Farewell Address to the nation.

So, here are a couple excerpts from the opening and closing of his address:

“Three days from now, after a half century of service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

You and I – my fellow citizens – need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will (one day) reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nations’ great goals.

America’s Aspiration

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”

A timeless aspiration for all Americans.

Dwight D. Eisenhower farewell

Benjamin Franklin Epitaph

On this day in 1706, Benjamin Franklin, the renowned Founding Father and prolific printer, patriot, scientist, statesman, etc. is born in Boston. He was the fifteenth of seventeen children.

Franklin lived until the ripe old age of 84, and died in his adopted home of Philadelphia, where he is buried.

Even in his early twenties, his wit and wisdom was on full display. Of note, in 1728 he wrote his own epitaph, revising and sharing it with friends throughout his life. Here is one such version, with a copy below:

The Body
of
Ben Franklin Printer,

Like the Cover of an old Book
Its contents torn out
And stript of its Lettering & Gilding,
Lies here Food for the Worms,
yet the Work shall not be lost:
For it will, as he believed, appear once more
In a new & most beautiful Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By
the Author.

Benjamin Franklin Epitaph

“I have lived a long time…”

At age 81, as the elder statesman at the Constitution Convention in his adopted home, Franklin urged the Assembly toward morning “prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on [their] deliberations.” In so doing, he made this famous quote, which inspired Our Benjamin Franklin shirt:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial MLK

On January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist minister.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill designating a federal holiday to recognize Dr. King. We observe it on the third Monday in January so it falls close to his birthday.

Upon signing the bill, Reagan remarked:
“[M]ost important, there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched. Across the land, people had begun to treat each other not as blacks and whites, but as fellow Americans.

But traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us—if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King’s dream comes true, and in his words, “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.'”

The Guide to a Greater Purpose

In 1955, Dr. King offered sound guidance to protestors then, and now:

“Let conscience be your guide” … [O]ur actions must be guided by the deepest principles of our Christian faith. Love must be our regulating ideal. Once again we must hear the words of Jesus echoing across the centuries: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.”

King’s legacy as a leader endures because of Who he followed:

Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial MLK

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

Ronald Reagan Farewell Address

On this day in 1989, President Ronald Reagan gives his Farewell Address to the Nation. In doing so, he defined his vision of “the shining city upon a hill.”

“[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Reagan built on the phrase preached by Puritan pilgrim John Winthrop in perhaps the earliest example of the idea of American exceptionalism. In 1630, while still aboard a ship bound for Massachusetts Bay, Winthrop delivered his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.”

He said, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”

Of course, the origin of the phrase is found in Matthew 5: 14-16
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Therefore, this is the ultimate aim of American exceptionalism.

Earlier in his address, Reagan acknowledged “The Great Communicator” nickname.
“I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation—from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. …[F]or me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery… of our values and our common sense.”

Patriotism, Pilgrims, and Freedom

Then, he asked “are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?

He continued by outlining the fracture that continues to plague our nation:
“We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood… .Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture.”

Then, he charged us all with doing “a better job of getting across that America is freedom-freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

Bringing this post full circle, he added that “we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important – why the Pilgrims came here...”

Before concluding by saying “goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America” Regan offered “lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.”

Great Rediscovery

Of course, the purpose of Our Lost Founding is to help us rediscover “the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”

But why is that important? Ronald Reagan answered that question in his farewell address:
“[A]s long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours….”

Ronald Reagan Farewell Address

William Seward Secretary of State

On this day in 1861, former Governor and Senator William Seward becomes President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s pick for Secretary of State.

Seward joined the Republican Party in the 1850s and was a leading candidate for president in the 1860 election. Still, the Party believed Lincoln would have broader appeal, and chose him as their nominee.

William Seward is the only U.S. Secretary of State in history to face an assassination attempt. As Booth murdered President Lincoln at Ford’s theater, Seward was at home recuperating from a carriage accident. So, he was nearly helpless when Lewis Powell entered his home and stabbed him in the face and throat. His son Frederick came to his aid, but Powell seriously wounded him as well. They both recovered, and Seward continued to serve as Secretary of State.

Indicative of his enhanced foresight, one of his greatest, and final, accomplishments was the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. Even so, some criticized the purchase as “Seward’s folly” or “Seward’s icebox.”

Another example of his foresight is on full display in his first address to the Senate on March 11, 1850. In that address, he demanded the admission of California as a free state. Eventually, it became known as his “Higher Law Speech.”

Shadows of Civil War

Here’s why, in several profound excerpts:

“When God had created the earth, with its wonderful adaptations, He gave dominion over it to man, absolute human dominion. The title of that dominion, thus bestowed, would have been incomplete, if the lord of all terrestrial things could himself have been the property of his fellow-man.”

“Slavery is only a temporary, accidental, partial, and incongruous [institution]. Freedom on the contrary, is a perpetual, organic, universal one, in harmony with the Constitution of the United States.”

“[T]here is a higher law than the Constitution, which regulates our authority over the domain, and devotes it to the same noble purposes. The [California] territory is a part, no inconsiderable part, of the common heritage of mankind, bestowed upon them by the Creator of the universe. We are his stewards, and must so discharge our trust as to secure in the highest attainable degree their happiness… .”

“[O]ur forefathers… found slavery existing here, and they left it only because they could not remove it. There is not only no free state which would now establish it, but there is no slave state, which, if it had had the free alternative as we now have, would have founded slavery.”

“Sir, there is no Christian nation, thus free to choose as we are, which would establish slavery.”

“A happy conjuncture brought on an awakening of the conscience of mankind to the injustice of slavery, simultaneously with the independence of the colonies.”

“[T]he question of dissolving the Union is a complex question; that it embraces the fearful issue whether the Union shall stand, and slavery, under… steady, peaceful action… be removed by gradual voluntary effort… or whether the Union shall be dissolved, and civil wars ensue, bringing on violent but complete and immediate emancipation. We are now arrived at that stage of our national progress when that crisis can be foreseen, when we must foresee it. It is directly before us. Its shadow is upon us. It darkens the legislative halls, the temples of worship, and the home and the hearth.

“[O]ur statesmen say that “slavery has always existed, and, for aught they know or can do, it always must exist. God permitted it, and he alone can indicate the way to remove it.” As if the Supreme Creator, after giving us the instructions of his providence and revelation for the illumination of our minds and consciences, did not leave us in all human transactions, with due invocations of his Holy Spirit, to seek out his will and execute it for ourselves.”

 

William Seward Secretary of State

 

Seal of Connecticut

On this day in 1788, Connecticut, The Constitution State, ratifies the Constitution, and becomes the fifth state in the Union.

First, here is the Preamble of the Constitution the State of Connecticut:

The People of Connecticut acknowledging with gratitude, the good providence of God, in having permitted them to enjoy a free government; do, in order more effectually to define, secure, and perpetuate the liberties, rights and privileges which they have derived from their ancestors; hereby, after a careful consideration and revision, ordain and establish the following constitution and form of civil government.

Additionally, the Constitution also refers to God as the Supreme Being, the Great Creator and Preserver of the Universe.”

He Sustains

Next, the state motto on the Seal of the Republic of Connecticut is “Sustinet Qui Transtulit” which is Latin for “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains.”

According to Connecticut’s Official State Website, the likely inspiration for this motto comes from Psalm 80. It’s eighth and ninth verses are as follows: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.

The three vines likely represent the three colonies that merged to form the Colony: New Haven, Saybrook, and Hartford.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the vines are supported and are, thus, bearing fruit.

Seal of Connecticut

 

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

New Mexico State Seal

On this day in 1912, New Mexico becomes the 47th state admitted into the Union.

First, here is the Preamble of the Constitution of the State of New Mexico:

“We, the people of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, in order to secure the advantages of a state government, do ordain and establish this constitution.”

Then, Article II – Bill of Rights, Section 5. Rights under Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (the treaty by which New Mexico was ceded to the United States) preserved, states:
The rights, privileges and immunities, civil, political and religious guaranteed to the people of New Mexico by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo shall be preserved inviolate.

This, of course, is right in between Section 4. Inherent rights (you know, “the rights of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of seeking and obtaining safety and happiness”) and Section 6. Right to bear arms.

Author of Peace

Signed in 1848, the Treaty begins with these words: IN THE NAME OF ALMIGHTY GOD

Alas, it’s primary purpose was to end the Mexican–American War:
“The… United States… and the… Mexican Republic… have, under the protection of Almighty God, the author of peace, arranged, agreed upon, and signed the following: Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits, and Settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic.”

 

New Mexico State Seal

 

Harry Truman Fair Deal

On this day in 1949, President Harry S. Truman delivers the State of the Union address that became known as his Fair Deal speech.

“Every segment of our population and every individual has a right to expect from our Government a fair deal.”

Then, he recalled a Scripture reference from his first State of the Union address:

“In 1945, when I came down before the Congress for the first time on April 16, I quoted to you King Solomon’s prayer that he wanted wisdom and the ability to govern his people as they should be governed. I explained to you at that time that the task before me was one of the greatest in the history of the world, and that it was necessary to have the complete cooperation of the Congress and the people of the United States.”

“Our National Life”

Finally, Truman concludes his Fair Deal Speech with these powerful words:

“Now, I am confident that the Divine Power which has guided us to this time of fateful responsibility and glorious opportunity will not desert us now.

With that help from Almighty God which we have humbly acknowledged at every turning point in our national life, we shall be able to perform the great tasks which He now sets before us.”

Harry Truman Fair Deal