Christmas, Family Tradition, and the Annual Reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware River

During the holiday season, I traditionally return to my family home in historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania to celebrate with family and attend the annual reenactment of George Washington’s daring 1776 crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day. Washington and his men braved ice, sleet, and blinding snow to cross the river and achieve victory over the Hessian soldiers at Trenton. Washington’s bold victory reinvigorated the American people’s fight for independence.

The men and women who recreate Washington’s famous crossing take pains to preserve the integrity and accuracy of this famous military feat.  And, although, the actor interpreters do not always successfully cross the river (as rising tides and ice have prevented safe passage for many years), hundreds of patriotic citizens still gather to commemorate and relive a crucial moment in American history.

As we huddle together in the cold each year, I am reminded that there are many Americans who wish to meaningfully reconnect with and learn more about our nation’s history.

This is why I have devoted my career to connecting American citizens to our nation’s constitutional history. Learn more about my work at ConSource at http://www.ConSource.org.

You can watch a livestream of this year’s reenactment on noon ET on Christmas Day here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS2piSau56c

George Washington Voluntarily Resigns as Commander in Chief of Continental Army On This Day in 1783

In what is considered one of the greatest acts of statesmanship, on December 23, 1783, General George Washington voluntarily resigns as commander in chief of the Continental Army and retires to private life at his home at Mount Vernon. His resignation followed the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

By surrendering his military power to the civilian authority in the temporary national capital of Annapolis, MD, Washington set the course for American becoming a constitutional republic rather than a monarchy or, even, a military dictatorship.

Below is a transcript of Washington’s resignation speech –

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Images of Washington’s speech are below –

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Scholars James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn described Washington’s resignation in a way that reflects the the classical republican ideals that animated the founding generation: “The Virginian, like the victorious Roman soldier Cincinnatus, went home to plow.”

Washington’s retirement was short lived. A few years later, he was unanimously elected in 1788 as the nation’s first president under the federal Constitution of 1787.

 

First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen: George Washington Dies On This Day in 1799

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On December 14, 1799, at the age of 67, George Washington, our nation’s first commander in chief and first president of the United States, dies of acute laryngitis at his home Mount Vernon.

Following Washington’s death, Congress commissioned Washington’s close friend Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee to write a eulogy for the nation’s president. Lee wrote the eulogy in Philadelphia while staying at Franklin Court, the former home of Benjamin Franklin. The eulogy was presented to Congress on December 28, 1799.

Because it is relatively difficult to find a full transcription of the eulogy online, I have reproduced it in full here –

In obedience to your will, I rise, your humble organ, with the hope of executing a part of the system of public mourning which you have been pleased to adopt, commemorative of the death of the most illustrious and most beloved personage this country has ever produced; and which, while it transmits to posterity your sense of the awful event, faintly represents your knowledge of the consummate excellence you so cordially honor. Desperate indeed is any attempt on earth to meet correspondingly this dispensation of Heaven; for, while with pious resignation we submit to the will of an all-gracious Providence, we can never cease lamenting, in our ‘finite view of Omnipotent Wisdom, the heart-rending privation for which our nation weeps. When the civilized world shakes to its centre; when every moment gives birth to strange and momentous changes; when our peaceful quarter of the globe, exempt as it happily has been from any share in the slaughter of the human race, may yet be compelled to abandon her pacific policy, and to risk the doleful casualties of war: What limit is there to the extent of our loss?—None within the reach of my words to express; none which your feelings will not disavow. The founder of our federate republic—our bulwark in war, our guide in peace, is no more! Oh, that this were but questionable! Hope, the comforter of the wretched, would pour into our agonizing hearts its balmy dew. But, alas! there is no hope for us; our WASHINGTON is removed forever! Possessing the stoutest frame and purest mind, he had passed nearly to his sixty-eighth year, in the enjoyment of high health, when, habituated by his care of us to neglect himself, a slight cold, disregarded, became inconvenient on Friday, oppressive on Saturday, and, defying every medical interposition, before the morning of Sunday, put an end to the best of men. An end, did I say?—His fame survives! bounded only by the limits of the earth, and by the extent of the human mind. He survives in our hearts-in the growing knowledge of our children, in the affection of the good throughout the world; and when our monuments shall be done away; when nations now existing shall be no more; when even our young and farspreading empire shall have perished; still will our WASHINGTON’s glory unfaded shine, and die not, until love of virtue cease on earth, or earth itself sinks into chaos.

How, my fellow-citizens, shall I single to your grateful hearts his pre-eminent worth! Where shall I begin, in opening to your view a character throughout sublime? Shall I speak of his warlike achievements, all springing from obedience to his country’s will—all directed to his country’s good? Will you go with me to the Banks of the Monongahela, to see your youthful WASHINGTON supporting, in the dismal hour of Indian victory, the ill-fated Braddock, and saving, by his judgment and by his valor, the remains of a defeated army, pressed by the conquering savage foe? Or, when oppressed America, nobly resolving to risk her all in defense of her violated rights, he was elevated by the unanimous voice of Congress to the command of her armies: Will you follow him to the high grounds of Boston, where, to an undisciplined, courageous and virtuous yeomanry, his presence gave the stability of system, and infused the invincibility of love of country; or shall I carry you to the painful scenes of Long Island, York Island and New-Jersey, when, combating superior and gallant armies, aided by powerful fleets, and led by chiefs high in the roll of fame, he stood the bulwark of our safety; undismayed by disaster, unchanged by change of fortune. Or will you view him in the precarious fields of Trenton, where deep gloom, unnerving every arm, reigned triumphant through our thinned, worn down, unaided ranks; himself unmoved.—Dreadful was the night. It was about this time of winter—the storm raged—the Delaware, rolling furiously with floating ice, forbade the approach of man. WASHINGTON, self collected, viewed the tremendous scene—His country called; unappalled by surrounding dangers, he passed to the hostile shore; he fought; he conquered. The morning sun cheered the American world. Our country rose on the event; and her dauntless Chief pursuing his blow, completed in the lawns of Princeton, what his vast soul had conceived on the shores of Delaware. Thence to the strong grounds of Morristown he led his small but gallant band; and through an eventful winter, by the high efforts of his genius, whose matchless force was measurable only by the growth of difficulties, he held in check formidable hostile legions, conducted by a chief experienced in the art of war, and famed for his valor on the ever memorable heights of Abraham, where fell Wolfe, Montcalm, and since our much lamented Montgomery—all covered with glory. In this fortunate interval, produced by his masterly conduct, our fathers, ourselves, animated by his resistless example, rallied around our country’s standard, and continued to follow her beloved Chief through the various and trying scenes to which the destinies of our union led.

Who is there that has forgotten the vales of Brandywine—the fields of Germantown—or the plains of Monmouth? Everywhere present, wants of every kind obstructing, numerous and valiant armies encountering, himself a host, he assuaged our sufferings, limited our privations, and upheld our tottering Republic. Shall I display to you the spread of the fire of his soul, by rehearsing the praises of the hero of Saratoga, and his much lov’d compeer of the Carolinas? No; our WASHINGTON wears not borrowed glory. To Gates—to Greene, he gave without reserve the applause due to their eminent merit; and long may the Chiefs of Saratoga, and of Eutaws, receive the grateful respect of a grateful people. Moving in his own orbit, he imparted heat and light to his most distant satellites; and combining the physical and moral force of all within his sphere, with irresistible weight he took his course, commiserating folly, disdaining vice, dismaying treason, and invigorating despondency; until the auspicious hour arrived, when, united with the intrepid forces of a potent and magnanimous ally, he brought to submission the since conqueror of India; thus finishing his long career of military glory with a lustre corresponding to his great name, and in this his last act of war affixing the seal of fate to our nation’s birth. To the horrid din of battle sweet peace succeeded; and our virtuous Chief, mindful only of the common good, in a moment tempting personal aggrandizement, hushed the discontents of growing sedition; and, surrendering his power into the hands from which he had received it, converted his sword into a ploughshare; teaching an admiring world that to be truly great, you must be truly good. Was I to stop here, the picture would be incomplete, and the task imposed unfinished—Great as was our WASHINGTON in war, and as much as did that greatness contribute to produce the American Republic, it is not in war alone his pre-eminence stands conspicuous: His various talents, combining all the capacities of a statesman with those of a soldier, fitted him alike to guide the councils and the armies of our nation. Scarcely had he rested from his martial toils, while his invaluable parental advice was still sounding in our ears, when he who had been our shield and our sword, was called forth to act a less splendid but more important part. Possessing a clear and penetrating mind, a strong and sound judgment, calmness and temper for deliberation, with invincible firmness and perseverance in resolutions maturely formed, drawing information from all; acting from himself, with incorruptible integrity and unvarying patriotism: his own superiority and the public confidence alike marked him as the man designed by heaven to lead in the great political as well as military events which have distinguished the era of his life. The finger of an over-ruling Providence, pointing at WASHINGTON, was neither mistaken nor unobserved; when, to realize the vast hopes to which our revolution had given birth, a change of political system became indispensable.

How novel, how grand the spectacle! Independent States stretched over an immense territory, and known only by common difficulty, clinging to their union as the rock of their safety; deciding, by frank comparison of their relative condition, to rear on that rock, under the guidance of reason, a common government, through whose commanding protection, liberty and order, with their long train of blessings should be safe to themselves, and the sure inheritance of their posterity. This arduous task devolved on citizens selected by the people, from knowledge of their wisdom and confidence in their virtue. In this august assembly of sages and of patriots, WASHINGTON of course was found; and, as if acknowledged to be most wise, where all were wise, with one voice he was declared their Chief. How well he merited this rare distinction, how faithful were the labors of him-self and his compatriots, the work of their hands, and our union, strength and prosperity, the fruits of that work, best attest. But to have essentially aided in presenting to his country this consummation of our hopes, neither satisfied the claims of his fellow-citizens on his talents, nor those duties which the possession of those talents imposed. Heaven had not infused into his mind such an uncommon share of its ethereal spirit to remain unemployed, nor bestowed on him his genius unaccompanied with the corresponding duty of devoting it to the common good. To have framed a Constitution, was showing only, without realizing, the general happiness. This great work remained to be done; and America, steadfast in her preference, with one voice summoned her beloved WASHINGTON, unpracticed as he was in the duties of civil administration, to execute this last act in the completion of the national felicity. Obedient to her call, he assumed the high office with that self-distrust peculiar to his innate modesty, the constant attendant of pre-eminent virtue. What was the burst of joy through our anxious land on this exhilarating event is known to us all. The aged, the young, the brave, the fair, rivaled each other in demonstrations of their gratitude; and this high wrought, delightful scene was heightened in its effect by the singular contest between the zeal of the bestowers and the avoidance of the receiver of the honors bestowed. Commencing his administration, what heart is not charmed with the recollection of the pure and wise principles announced by himself, as the basis of his political life. He best understood the indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and individual felicity; watching with an equal and comprehensive eye over this great assemblage of communities and interests, he laid the foundations of our national policy in the unerring, immutable principles of morality, based on religion, exemplifying the pre-eminence of a free government, by all the attributes which win the affections of its citizens, or command the respect of the world. “O fortunatos nimium, sua fl bona norint !” Leading through the complicated difficulties produced by previous obligations and conflicting interests, seconded by succeeding Houses of Congress, enlightened and patriotic, he surmounted all original obstruction, and brightened the path of our national felicity. The Presidential term expiring, his solicitude to exchange exaltation for humility returned with a force increased with increase of age; and he had prepared his farewell address to his countrymen, proclaiming his intention, when the united interposition of all around him, enforced by the eventful prospects of the epoch, produced a further sacrifice of inclination to duty. The election of President followed; and WASHINGTON, by the unanimous vote of the nation, was called to resume the Chief Magistracy. What a wonderful fixture of confidence! Which attracts most our admiration, a people so correct, or a citizen combining an assemblage of talents forbidding rivalry, and stifling even envy itself? Such a nation ought to be happy; such a chief must be forever revered. War, long menaced by the Indian tribes, now broke out; and the terrible conflict, deluging Europe with blood, began to shed its baneful influence over our happy land. To the first, outstretching his invincible arm, under the orders of the gallant Wayne, the American eagle soared triumphant through distant forests.

Peace followed victory; and the melioration of the condition of the enemy, followed peace. Godlike virtue, which uplifts even the subdued savage. To the second he opposed himself. New and delicate was the conjuncture, and great was the stake. Soon did his penetrating mind discern and seize the only course, continuing to us all the felicity enjoyed. He issued his proclamation of neutrality. This index to his whole subsequent conduct, was sanctioned by the approbation of both Houses of Congress, and by the approving voice of the people. To this sublime policy he inviolably adhered, unmoved by foreign intrusion, unshaken by domestic turbulence.

“Justum et tenacem propositi virum,

“Non civium ardor prava jubentium,

“Non vultus instantis tyranni,

“Mente quatit solida.”

Maintaining his pacific system at the expense of no duty, America, faithful to herself, and unstained in her honor, continued to enjoy the delights of peace, while afflicted Europe mourns in every quarter under the accumulated miseries of an unexampled war; miseries in which our happy country must have shared, had not our pre-eminent WASHINGTON been as firm in council as he was brave in the field.

Pursuing steadfastly his course, he held safe the public happiness, preventing foreign war, and quelling internal discord, till the revolving period of a third election approached, when he executed his interrupted but inextinguishable desire of returning to the humble walks of private life. The promulgation of his fixed resolution, stopped the anxious wishes of an affectionate people, from adding a third unanimous testimonial of their unabated confidence in the man so long enthroned in their hearts. When before was affection like this exhibited on earth?—Turn over the records of ancient Greece—Review the annals of mighty Rome—Examine the volumes of modern Europe; you search in vain. America and her WASHINGTON only afford the dignified exemplification. The illustrious personage called by the national voice in succession to the arduous office of guiding a free people, had new difficulties to encounter: The amicable effort of settling our difficulties with France, begun by WASHINGTON, and pursued by his successor in virtue as in station, proving abortive, America took measures of self-defense. No sooner was the public mind roused by a prospect of danger, than every eye was turned to the friend of all, though secluded from public view, and gray in public service. The virtuous veteran, following his plough, received the unexpected summons with mingled emotions of indignation at the unmerited ill-treatment of his country, and of a determination once more to risk his all in her defense. The annunciation of these feelings, in his affecting letter to the President, accepting the command of the army, concludes his official conduct. First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life: Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting. To his equals he was condescending; to his inferiors kind; and to the dear object of his affections exemplarily tender: Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence, and virtue always felt his fostering hand; the purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues.

His last scene comported with the whole tenor of his life: Although in extreme pain, not a sigh, not a groan escaped him; and with undisturbed serenity he closed his well spent life. Such was the man America has lost! Such was the man for whom our nation mourns! Methinks I see his august image, and hear, falling from his venerable lips, these deep sinking words:

Cease, Sons of America, lamenting our separation: Go on, and confirm by your wisdom the fruits of our joint councils, joint efforts, and common dangers. Reverence religion; diffuse knowledge throughout your land; patronize the arts and sciences; let Liberty and Order be inseparable companions; control party spirit, the bane of free government; observe good faith to, and cultivate peace with all nations; shut up every avenue to foreign influence; contract rather than extend national connection; rely on yourselves only—Be American in thought and deed. Thus will you give immortality to that union, which was the constant object of my terrestrial labors: Thus will you preserve undisturbed to the latest posterity, the felicity of a people to me most dear; and thus will you supply (if my happiness is now aught to you) the only vacancy in the round of pure bliss high Heaven bestows.

 

George Washington on “the insidious wiles of foreign influence.”

With recent explosive reports that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) found that Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, I thought I’d call attention to something George Washington warned the nation about in his 1796 Farewell Address

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Further investigation is clearly required to determine the full extent to which Russia interfered with the 2016 election. What I will say, though, is that American citizens ought to continue to carefully follow this story and, in the words of Washington “be constantly awake” to “the insidious wiles of foreign influences.”

The First Constitution of the United States: The Articles of Confederation Were Adopted By the Continental Congress 239 Years Ago Today

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, introduced a resolution in the Second Continental Congress proposing independence for the American colonies. The resolution read:

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.

Four days later, the Continental Congress appointed three committees in response to the Lee Resolution. One of these committee was created to determine “a plan of confederation,” and was composed of one representative from each colony. John Dickinson of Delaware served as the principal drafter.

After 16 months of debate, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union on November 15, 1777. The Articles set out that

Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

And that

The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

The Articles did not go into effect until March 1, 1781, when the last of the 13 states – Maryland – ratified it.

The Articles provided for a loose federation of the states; a single legislative body, where each state had one vote, and a president who chaired the legislative assembly. The Confederation Congress had the following powers: to make war and peace; conduct foreign affairs; request men and money from the states; coin and borrow money; regulate Indian affairs; and settle disputes among the states. The following powers were reserved to the states: enforcing laws, regulating commerce, administering justice, and levying taxes.

No provision was made for an executive authority to enforce the laws or a judicial system to interpret them.

Within a short time, the weaknesses of the Confederation became apparent:

[The Continental Congress] could — theoretically — declare war and raise an army, but it could not force any state to meet its assigned quota for troops or for the arms and equipment needed to support them. It looked to the states for the income needed to finance its activities, but it could not punish a state for not contributing its share of the federal budget. Control of taxation and tariffs was left to the states, and each state could issue its own currency. In disputes between states — and there were many unsettled quarrels over state boundaries — Congress played the role of mediator and judge, but could not require the state to accept its decisions.

The result was virtual chaos. Without the power to collect taxes, the federal government plunged into debt. Seven of the 13 states printed large quantities of paper money — high in face value but low in real purchasing power — in order to pay veteran soldiers and a variety of creditors, and to settle debts between small farmers and large plantation owners.

. . . .

A weak central government, without the power to back its policies with military strength, was inevitably handicapped in foreign affairs as well. The British refused to withdraw their troops from the forts and trading posts in the new nation’s Northwest Territory, as they had agreed to do in the peace treaty of 1783. To make matters worse, British officers on the northern boundaries and Spanish officers to the south supplied arms to various Indian tribes and encouraged them to attack American settlers. The Spanish, who controlled Florida and Louisiana, as well as all territory west of the Mississippi River, also refused to allow Western farmers to use the port of New Orleans to ship their produce.

Although there were signs of returning prosperity in some areas of the fledgling nation, domestic and foreign problems continued to grow. It became increasingly clear that the Confederation’s central government was not strong enough to establish a sound financial system, to regulate trade, to enforce treaties or to exert military force against foreign antagonists when needed. Internal divisions between farmers and merchants, debtors and creditors, and among the states themselves were growing more severe. With Shay’s Rebellion of desperate farmers in 1786 vividly in mind and only recently crushed, George Washington warned: “There are combustibles in every state which a spark might set fire to.”

As a result, the new nation was on the brink of political and economic chaos. In 1785, George Washington wrote to Henry Knox saying “it does not appear to me, that we have wisdom, or national policy enough to avert the evils which are impending—How should we, when contracted ideas, local pursuits, and absurd jealousy are continually leading us from those great & fundamental principles which are characteristic of wise and powerful Nations; & without which, we are no more than a rope of Sand, and shall as easily be broken.” (Emphasis Added).

On July 21, 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution proposing “a joint meeting of the states to consider and recommend a plan for regulating commerce.”

That convention met in Annapolis, Maryland, on September 11, 1786. Only 12 delegates were present at the meeting, representing only the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia. On September 14, Alexander Hamilton introduced a resolution calling for a special convention of all the states to amend the Articles of Confederation.

This ultimately led to what we now call the Constitutional Convention of 1787. You can read James Madison’s notes of the Constitutional Convention here.

Our Nation’s First Presidential Cabinet

As president-elect Trump considers who he will choose to fill his cabinet, I thought it might be useful to look at the men who comprised our nation’s first presidential cabinet.

Today, the president’s cabinet includes includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments — the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General.

George Washington cabinet, by contrast, included just four original members: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Below I have included a brief biographical sketch of each cabinet secretary.

(1) Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson, after attending my alma mater the College of William & Mary, practiced law and served in local government as a magistrate, county lieutenant, and member of the House of Burgesses. He also served as a member of the Continental Congress and was chosen in 1776 to draft the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson left Congress in 1776 and served in the Virginia legislature. He was elected governor and served in the office from 1779 to 1781. Following his governorship, Jefferson wrote his famous Notes on the State of Virginia. In 1784, he returned to public service by serving first a trade commissioner in France and then as Benjamin Franklin’s successor as minister to France. After serving as Secretary of State during President Washington’s administration, Jefferson went on to serve as Vice President under John Adams and then President of the United States. He sold his collection of books to the government, which formed the nucleus of the collection of the Library of Congress. At the age of 75, he founded the University of Virginia.

(2) Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton

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Alexander Hamilton, born in Nevis, British West Indies, left school at King’s College (later renamed Columbia) in 1774 to begin a career in politics. That same year, he wrote “A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress,” defending the Continental Congress’ proposal to embargo trade with Great Britain. In 1776, after the Revolutionary War began, Hamilton was commissioned as a captain in the Continental Army. In 1777, he accepted a position on General George Washington’s staff. He served admirably throughout the war. After the war’s conclusion, Hamilton passed the New York bar and practiced law in New York City. In 1787, Hamilton served as a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention, where he advocated for the creation of a stronger central government. Along with James Madison and John Jay, Hamilton wrote “The Federalist,” a collection of 85 essays on the origins, purpose, and design of the United States Constitution. Hamilton wrote 51 of the essays. He served in New York’s ratifying convention and was instrumental in securing ratification of the new Constitution in the state. As the nation’s first Treasury secretary, Hamilton crafted a monetary policy that saved the nation from financial ruin. He was responsible for creating the First Bank of the United States, and his Report on Manufactures promoted commercial and industrial development in the new nation.

(3) Secretary of War Henry Knox

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Henry Knox began his life as a bookbinder. During the Revolutionary war he served as General Washington’s chief of artillery and eventually rose to the rank of Major General. During the war, his most notable accomplishments include leading the expedition to transfer captured British cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, directing Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River, and take charge of the placement of the artillery at Yorktown. He served as secretary of war under the Articles of Confederation before serving as Washington’s Secretary of War under the new Constitution.

(4) Attorney General Edmund Randolph

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Edmund Randolph studied at the College of William & Mary and studied law under his father’s tutelage. During the Revolutionary War, Randolph served as aide-de-camp to General Washington, and also attended the convention that adopted Virginia’s first state constitution in 1776 (he was the convention’s youngest member at the age of 23). He served as mayor of Williamsburg, Va, and Virginia’s attorney general. In 1779, he was elected to the Continental Congress, and in 1786 became the Governor of Virginia. He attended the Annapolis Convention in 1786, and was a delegate from Virginia during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He presented the Virginia Plan on behalf of the Virginia delegation. Despite his support of Virginia Plan, he ultimately declined to sign the Constitution. By the time of the Virginia ratifying Convention, Randolph supported the Constitution and worked to secure its ratification in his state. He stated his reason for his switch as “The accession of eight states reduced our deliberations to the single question of Union or no Union.” He served as attorney general under President Washington until Jefferson resigned as Secretary of States, at which point Randolph assumed the role of Secretary of State.

The Statue of Liberty Was Dedicated 130 Years Ago Today

President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, on October 28, 1886.

The statue was proposed by French historian Edouard de Laboulaye to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution. The statute, designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, was originally known as “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

Congress approved the use of New York Bedloe’s Island as the site for the statue. The statue was sent to the U.S. dismantled. Its copper sheets had to be reassembled in New York.

The pedestal of the statue is inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus. The poem reads:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Lazarus’s famous poem has always reminded me of a less well known quote from George Washington where he says : “I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”