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White House burning

On this day in 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops invade Washington, D.C. In the evening, they burn the executive mansion, now known as the White House.

White House burning

In June of 1812, Americans burned Canadian government buildings in York, Ontario, Canada. Seeking revenge, the British set fire to other buildings in Washington, D.C. These included the still uncompleted Capitol building, the House of Representatives, and the Library of Congress. Thankfully, perhaps providentially from “the invisible hand” “of the Great Disposer of Events,” a major storm, possibly a hurricane, put out the fires. The storm also spawned a couple tornados, and drove the British out of the capital city on damaged boats.

President James Madison and first lady Dolley were already safely in Maryland, though just barely.

Prior to the invasion, President Madison briefly took command of an American Battery at the Battle of Bladensburg. As a result, Madison is first and only president to exercise his authority as commander in chief in actual battle.

Washington Copy

Meanwhile, back at the White House, with British troops gathering in the distance, Dolley “had [a wagon] filled with the plate and most valuable portable articles belonging to the house.”
She also saved what she believed to be the original Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington.

She “ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvass taken out it is done, and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen of New York, for safe keeping.”

Ultimately, it turned out to be just a copy.

No people…

We think Our George Washington “Invisible Hand” shirt is worth saving. Click the link below to get your ‘copy.’

Interestingly, in Proclamation 20 – Recommending a Day of Public Thanksgiving for Peace on March 4, 1815, President Madison seemed inspired the George Washington quote on the shirt:
“No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events of the destiny of Nations than the people of the United States.”

Here is the Washington quote from his Inaugural Address on April 30, 1789:
“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.”

Even so, the sentiment is powerful and worth repurposing for posterity!

 

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev

On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan, long known for his sense of humor, makes a controversial joke while doing a sound check before his weekly Saturday radio address:

“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Reagan was riffing on the actual opening line of his speech, regarding religious freedom:

“I’m pleased to tell you that today I signed legislation that will allow student religious groups to begin enjoying a right they’ve too long been denied — the freedom to meet in public high schools during nonschool hours, just as other student groups are allowed to do. This has been given the shorthand label “equal-access legislation.”

In fact, it was just a couple weeks later on August 23rd that Reagan would deliver his famous line:
“If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” 

Sure, the bombing joke may have been embarrassing, and in poor taste. It even caused at temporary dip in the President’s approval rating. Even so, he went on to win a second term.

Furthermore, even though Reagan had referred to Russia as the “evil empire,” he established a close relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev starting in 1985. His sense of humor may have had something to do with that. They went on to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, the Cold War thawed, and the Berlin Wall eventually was torn down.

Our Lost Founding suggests that we, as “fellow Americans” lighten up. Most importantly, let’s heed President Reagan’s warning to not “forget that we’re one nation under God.”

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev

Richard Nixon Gerald Ford

On this day in 1968, Richard Nixon receives the Republican Party nomination for the presidency. In November, of course, he goes on to win the election.

Ironically, also on August 8th, in 1974, President Nixon announces his resignation “effective at noon tomorrow.”
Facing impeachment “because of the Watergate matter” he said he wanted to “put the interest of America first.”

As a result, Vice President Gerald Ford is sworn in as President shortly thereafter.

Richard Nixon was the first American president to resign. In his televised, evening address to the American people he quoted Theodore Roosevelt as he recounted his decades in public service during what he rightly deemed “the turbulent history of [that] era”:

“Sometimes I have succeeded and sometimes I have failed, but always I have taken heart from what Theodore Roosevelt once said about the man in the arena, “whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again because there is not effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievements and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

He closed his address:
“To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of kinship with each and every American. In leaving it, I do so with this prayer: May God’s grace be with you in all the days ahead.”

“Justice Without Mercy”

President Ford pardoned Nixon, and in doing so, reminded us: we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the help of God. And I have sought such guidance and searched my own conscience with special diligence to determine the right thing for me to do with respect to my predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and his loyal wife and family.
Theirs is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”

He added:
“I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.”

Richard Nixon Gerald Ford

 

President Calvin Coolidge

On this day in 1923, Calvin Coolidge is sworn in as the 30th President of the United States.

President Warren G. Harding was in the midst of his “Voyage of Understanding,” a cross-country speaking tour. However, on August 2nd, he died after an apparent heart attack or stroke at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Harding was the sixth of eight presidents to die in office. 

A few hours later, Vice President Calvin Coolidge received word of Harding’s death by messenger while at his family’s homestead in Vermont, which did not have electricity or a telephone.

His father, John Calvin Coolidge Sr. was a Vermont notary public and justice of the peace so administered the oath of office. At 2:47 a.m. Coolidge took the Presidential Oath by the light of a kerosene lamp with the family’s Bible. Then, he went back to bed.

‘Silent Cal’s” seeming reticence and his hands-off economic policy of limited government interference during the ‘Roaring 20s’ helped him win reelection in 1924.

No Earthly Empire

This is a portion of the final paragraph of his Inaugural Address, given March 4, 1925:

“Here stands our country, an example of tranquillity at home, a patron of tranquillity abroad. Here stands its Government, aware of its might but obedient to its conscience. Here it will continue to stand, seeking peace and prosperity, solicitous for the welfare of the wage earner, promoting enterprise, developing waterways and natural resources, attentive to the intuitive counsel of womanhood, encouraging education, desiring the advancement of religion, supporting the cause of justice and honor among the nations. America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force. No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions. The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.”

Despite ‘Coolidge Prosperity,’ he said “I do not choose to run for president in 1928.”

Calvin Coolidge

Martin Van Buren White House portrait

On this day in 1862, Martin Van Buren (1782-1862), who served as the nation’s eighth president between 1837 and 1841, slips into a coma.

Unlike the seven men who preceded him in the White House, Van Buren was the first president to be born a citizen of the United States. That is, he was not a British subject.

The diminutive Van Buren was blessed with sound political acumen, but despised for his constant political maneuvering. So, standing at just 5’6″, friends and foes alike regarded him as “the Little Magician.”

Van Buren, who developed asthma in 1860, had a history of heavy drinking. Later in life, he developed cardiac problems.

His history of drinking, plus his increasing obesity, led to a battle with gout.

Then, he developed asthma, his circulatory system began to fail, causing the coma. Three days later, he passed away. Some historians claim sleep apnea, caused by disruptive snoring, may have contributed to his declining health and eventual death.

“Bless Our Beloved Country”

Inaugural Address “Fellow Citizens”
March 4, 1837


“…for myself, conscious of but one desire, faithfully to serve my country, I throw myself without fear on its justice and its kindness. Beyond that I only look to the gracious protection of the Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all. May it be among the dispensations of His providence to bless our beloved country with honors and with length of days. May her ways be ways of pleasantness and all her paths be peace!”

Martin Van Buren White House portrait

 

Jimmy Carter Crisis of Confidence

On this day in 1979, President Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on live television regarding the energy crisis and accompanying recession in his “Crisis of Confidence” speech.

Jimmy Carter Crisis of Confidence

Here are a few excerpts, that when read without their historical context, seem to speak to us today:

“It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.
The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”
“We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.”

“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

“One of the visitors to Camp David last week put it this way: “We’ve got to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying. The strength we need will not come from the White House, but from every house in America.”

He closed with these words:

“I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God’s help and for the sake of our Nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.”

Official Presidential Portrait of Jimmy Carter

 

Gerald R. Ford University of Michigan Football Wolverines

On this day in 1913, Gerald Ford, the 38th President, is born in Omaha, Nebraska.

Gerald Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and played football at the University of Michigan, where was voted the team MVP in his senior year. In 1941, he obtained a law degree from Yale and was also a model. Next, in 1942, he joined the Navy and served in World War II until it ended in 1945.

Then, in 1973, President Richard Nixon chose Gerald Ford to be his vice president. As such, Ford became the first vice president to assume office after the resignation of a president when Nixon resigned in 1974.

Ford’s presidency began on the heels of the divisive Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. In addition, he narrowly avoided two assassination attempts.

“Justice Without Mercy”

Ford faced fierce criticism for his decision to pardon Richard Nixon upon becoming president, in an effort, as he saw it to “write the end” to “an American tragedy” that could “go on and on.” Here are some more of his remarks about the pardon:

“I have promised to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best that I can for America.

I have asked your help and your prayers, not only when I became President but many times since. The Constitution is the supreme law of our land and it governs our actions as citizens. Only the laws of God, which govern our consciences, are superior to it.

As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the help of God. And I have sought such guidance and searched my own conscience with special diligence to determine the right thing for me to do with respect to my predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and his loyal wife and family.

Theirs is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”

“I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no respecter of persons; but the law is a respecter of reality.”

“I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference. I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.”

Ford died the day after Christmas in 2006, at the age of 93.

Gerald R. Ford Wolverine

 

John Quincy Adams White House portrait

On this day in 1767, John Quincy Adams is born. He was the sixth U.S. president, and the son of the second U.S. president, John Adams.

As a boy, he went with his father on diplomatic missions, then entered the legal profession after his schooling. As a young man, he served as minister to the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, and England. John Quincy Adams became a Republican Senator, and helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812. He also served as secretary of state until the tie-breaking vote in the House elected him president over Andrew Jackson.

“Pursue the Practice”

Definitely his father’s son, who believed religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand,” John Quincy wrote this in a letter to his own “dear son”:

“for so great is my veneration for the Bible, and so strong my belief, that when duly read and meditated on, it is of all books in the world, that which contributes most to make men good, wise, and happy — that the earlier my children begin to read it, the more steadily they pursue the practice of reading it throughout their lives, the more lively and confident will be my hopes that they will prove useful citizens to their country, respectable members of society, and a real blessing to their parents.”

John Quincy Adams White House portrait

 

George Washington Invisible Hand t-shirt

On this day in 1789, George Washington is sworn in as the first American president. Washington delivers the first inaugural speech at Federal Hall in New York City.

He appeared holding a ceremonial army sword. Then, he took the oath of office, kissed the Bible, and delivered his inaugural address. Afterwards, Washington walked up Broadway with legislators and local leaders to pray at St. Paul’s Chapel.

People of the United States

In fact, a portion of this quote from his address inspired Our George Washington “Invisible Hand” t-shirt design:
“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. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”

Find yours HERE.

George Washington Invisible Hand t-shirt

Ronald Reagan Evil Empire

On this day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan publicly refers to the Soviet Union as “an evil empire.”

This excerpt is from about halfway through the still relevant speech:
Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference. They never intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself.

The evidence of this permeates our history and our government. The Declaration of Independence mentions the Supreme Being no less than four times. “In God We Trust” is engraved on our coinage. The Supreme Court opens its proceedings with a religious invocation. And the members of Congress open their sessions with a prayer. I just happen to believe the schoolchildren of the United States are entitled to the same privileges as Supreme Court Justices and Congressmen.”

Good and Evil Empire

Then, Reagan famously says “evil empire” in the final third of the speech:

“So, I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority. You know, I’ve always believed that old Screwtape reserved his best efforts for those of you in the church. So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride — the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil. 

I ask you to resist the attempts of those who would have you withhold your support for our efforts, this administration’s efforts, to keep America strong and free, while we negotiate real and verifiable reductions in the world’s nuclear arsenals and one day, with God’s help, their total elimination.”

Our Lost Founding would add that as (a) people this struggle will always plague us, both personally and nationally.

Ronald Reagan Evil Empire

Dwight D Eisenhower visits Korea 1952

On this day in 1952, president-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower makes good on his campaign promise to “go to Korea” to “learn how best to serve the American people in the cause of peace.”

While there, he met with the troops, their commanders, and South Korean leaders.

Previously, on October 25, in his “I Shall Go to Korea Speech” Eisenhower said he would “forego the diversions of politics and to concentrate on the job of ending the Korean war-until that job is honorably done.”

Then, he concluded that campaign speech with a kind of testimony:

“In this trial, my testimony, of a personal kind, is quite simple. A soldier all my life, I have enlisted in the greatest cause of my life — the cause of peace. I do not believe it a presumption for me to call the effort of all who have enlisted with me — a crusade.
I use that word only to signify two facts. First: We are united and devoted to a just cause of the purest meaning to all humankind. Second: We know that — for all the might of our effort — victory can come only with the gift of God’s help.
In this spirit — humble servants of a proud ideal — we do soberly say: This is a crusade.”

Eventually, seven months after his inauguration, the Korean Armistice Agreement ended the Korean War. Even so, the Korean Peninsula remains divided today.

 

Dwight D Eisenhower visits Korea 1952