Thursday, June 1, 2017

Mt. Rushmore, Legends of the War of 1812, and the Silence of Our Founding Fathers

 "That the government, though not absolutely perfect, is one of the best in the world, I have little doubt."  -George Washington

"The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object."  -Thomas Jefferson

"The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted."  -James Madison

By 1814, Britain's war with France had ended.  The European power could now focus all of its attention on the United States.  Boatloads of troops landed on American shores and suddenly, American victory looked mighty dim.  In August, nearly 4,000 men landed in Maryland and burst into the city of Washington.  They burned the White House, the Capitol, the Treasury, and the War Office before setting flames to ships and boats in Alexandria and heading to Baltimore.  First Lady Dolly Madison had stayed behind, from the burning rooms of the White House, she gathered books, important documents, and historic papers.  She exited the burning building and directly into legend.
 "I am sure that the mass of citizens in these United States mean well, and I am sure they will always act well, whenever they can obtain a right understanding of matters."  -George Washington

"When the people fear their government there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."  -Thomas Jefferson

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary."  -James Madison

"Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases."  -John Adams

Unlike Washington, Baltimore, the third largest city in America, was ready for the British. Every white male between the ages of 16 and 50 was drafted for battle.  Citizens dug trenches and canons were prepared.  Mary Young Pickersgill and her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, stitched together a giant U.S. flag by candlelight in a brewery (yes!) which would fly high over Fort McHenry.  The British arrived September 12 and fierce fighting, rockets fired from ships, blazed in the sky.  An American lawyer, Francis Scott Key, was watching from the harbor that night.  He was in Baltimore to arrange the release of an American doctor taken prisoner by the British.  That night a thunderstorm of rockets and mortars raged over the fort, but in the morning, the flag over Fort McHenry still stood proudly.  Key took up a pen and wrote our National Anthem.
 "The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public life than all the property of all the rich men in the country."  -John Adams

"Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands.  Remember all men would be tyrants if they could."  -Abigail Adams

"Why has government been instituted at all?  Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint."  -Alexander Hamilton

"Americans are not a perfect people, but we are called to a perfect mission."  -Andrew Jackson

"Shall we wait for that moment or shall we die fighting?  Shall we give up our homes... and everything that is dear and sacred to us without a struggle?  I know you will cry with me: Never!  Never!  War or extermination is now our only choice.  Which do you choose?  I know your answer!"  -Tecumseh

By December of 1814, taxpayers, merchants, farmers, and soldiers of both Britain and American were worn out and agreed to a truce.  The Treaty of Ghent officially ended the war.  Although there was no mention of reasons for the war or atrocities toward American sailors and other policies at sea by the British, both sides returned land it had won, and each claimed victory over the other.  
"The power of the Constitution will always be in the people."  -George Washington

"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war."  -John Adams

"I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and of retiring with hands clean as they are empty."  -Thomas Jefferson

"The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing."  -John Adams

News of the treaty did not reach the United States until February of 1815 and not before one last fight, the Battle of New Orleans.  The American forces were led by Andrew Jackson.  Born into poverty in South Carolina and orphaned at the age of 14, Jackson rose to become a general in the Tennessee militia, organizing over 2,500 troops to fight in Canada.  He had gained incredible fame, marching his men 500 miles through wilderness to fight in various battles.  Supposedly, Jackson was 'tough as hickory' which earned him the nickname, Old Hickory.  When the British landed in New Orleans, Jackson and his soldiers were ready.  Unprepared for the swamp and bad weather, their big guns were bogged down and made easy work for American sharp shooters.  Nearly two thousand British soldiers were lost on one day with only 14 American casualties, the worst defeat of the War.  Andrew Jackson was hailed a hero and would ascend to a new... White House.  Later, his failed policies and  inhumane treatment of the American Indians, would shape our American landscape forever.  The War of 1812 silenced our Founding Fathers and ushered in a new America, but if you listen carefully, they still whisper to us from far away.  

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