Enlisted US Army Retired '11, University of Maryland University College (Adelphi) -BA History '12, Norwich University-MAH American History '14. Historian, Researcher, Writer, Customer Service Associate, Volunteer.
In the 1730’s Benjamin Franklin did not consider African or Native Americans as equals. He did not put thought into them at all when thinking of how to improve the quality of life for all Americans. He saw them as unable to be capable of equality because he felt they lacked intellectual intelligence.
He owned slaves. He viewed them as an “investment.”
In 1751, he changed his mind on slavery after visiting a school and watching African-American children. He noticed that they did indeed have the same intellectual intelligence and learning abilities as that of White American children. He saw that their possible contributions to humanity significant and because of this he turned against slavery, publicly condemning it as a “detestable commerce.”
He got involved in abolition and became the president of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery.
He questioned everything.
He was tolerant of people’s religions.
He was commander of a militia that took down the Paxton Boys.
He was his family’s historian. (1)
I have a biography of Benjamin Franklin to read in my personal library. I am very curious about Benjamin Franklin and did not know much about him other than the general knowledge such as his discovery of static lightning. So, I picked up an old college textbook in the free book section of my local library, and when I came to a short essay about him, I found some things that stood out to me as being not only interesting but also important. Benjamin Franklin is a fascinating man because he seems so curious about his world and he devotes his whole life to learning and to the service of others. He never really has a clear path of what he wants.
Benjamin Franklin takes advantage of the opportunities that arise and they direct him to success and achievement. He is not motivated by agendas or thought out plans but uses his experiences to either better himself or others. I find I can relate to him in many ways. I think Benjamin Franklin can teach us a lot about what it means to be a little independent and be able to accomplish things without a roadmap of how to do it. He shows us that we can change our mind over time about issues that are controversial. He shows us the power that knowledge has and how it can lead to opportunities in our lives we could never have dreamed possible.
(1) Meet Dr. Franklin, Richard B. Morris in Portrait of America by Stephen B. Oates, 1999.
I hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas holiday in whatever way shape or form is possible. I like this time of year because I can spend quality time with family and friends. I enjoy the old traditions and look forward to making new ones.
This year I came across an American Civil War Christmas poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ( 1807-1882 ). I thought it would be fun to share. I can relate to it because of the many Christmas holidays I spent away from my family and only doom and gloom surrounded me. Those were difficult times to get through. Still, through it all, I managed to enjoy some of those holidays. Here is the poem. Enjoy!
I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.” (1)
Reference for poem and additional information can be found at http://www.potw.org/archive/potw118.html.
On June 19, 1879, E. Mudge & L.E. Kendall published volume one, issue one of the Belding Home News newspaper. The proprietors/editors of the paper stated on the front page that the paper aimed to provide a one-stop source of information for Belding and the surrounding towns and counties. This information was meant to enrich the lives of all of these residents. They also explained that they created the paper without affiliation with any political party or religion. Newspapers up until this time were commonly owned and published by political party or their affiliates. With just 600 early subscribers as an investment, the editors dreamed that even though the paper started out small with any luck, it would grow larger and more prosperous.
The first business printed in the press was the meeting “held at the school-house” to plan a 4th of July celebration. On the committee sat folks from Belding, Orleans, Otisco, Grattan, Eureka, and Smyrna. Ladies present at the meeting provided refreshments. They discussed a charity dinner also to be held during the celebration to benefit the Belding Cornet Band. The food was to be provided by folks attending (1).
The paper published various types of announcements in the local section of the newspaper. These included basic things such as the status of R. M. Wilson who had been, “suffering from fever,” a new church erected at Palmer station, as well as the return of DR. G. Conner from Pennsylvania. Another was the mention of Mrs. L. E. Knedall who had “been sick for several weeks with pleurisy” and Dr. C. of Greenville the attending physician. This information was useful to know if you needed a doctor who could treat lung illnesses in the late 19th century. Another mention was the concern Belding residents had over the recent competition in “wool-buying” that had been economically successful in the nearby town of Ionia. The city of Belding wanted in on the action (2).
Ashley Grove held a Strawberry Festival and the proceeds paid for a new church organ. A familiar name in the local section was that of Levi Broas who built a new addition to his farmhouse at the head of Broas street and that “those who know Mr. Broas’ way of doing things will anticipate a fine thing in style and finish.” News of a recent tragedy announced that a young man named Miller whose parents hailed from Fallasbourg, ” was accidentally shot a few days since” and that his internment had been “the Sunday past.” He had been working away from home when the accident occurred (3).
Some more positive news states that Belding had a Literary Club and well-known Elocutionist (a literary reader) Miss Georgia Gates performed some classical readings for a small party of guests who were impressed and well entertained. Also, an announcement mentioned was the successful Strawberry and Ice Cream Festival run by the Ladies Mite Society of The Christian Church that included such festivities as Croquet. Guests had been encouraged “to stay as long as they please.” They had invited everyone to attend (4).
Two gentlemen by the names of Professor J.H. Pixley and S. M. Grannis who were known all over the state to be excellent musicians entertained the “Beldingites.” On the farm of H.H. Belding and maintained by Mr. S. Case the paper announced, that the from the cattle raised there farmers produced cream in the “Cooley Creamer”, and then directly shipped the cream to Chicago at the price of twenty cents per pound. This was a good business exchange for the town and worth noting (5).
Advertisements in the paper show that the city provided transportation in town by way of a horse-car. This car connected folks with the D.L. & N.R.R. and brought mail to and from the town (6).
The first new newspaper in Belding shows the attitudes folks had about their town and how they felt about community. Sharing good and bad news surely brightened folks’ days when they read the information presented there. Even though there is no newspaper today for the city of Belding, the town still shares information through social networks online and by word of mouth. They continue to show support for their fellow citizens and ensuring everyone is included in the town activities which are created to enrich lives and bring prosperity.
1. E. Mudge and L.E.Kendall, eds. Belding Home News, (Belding, 1879), 1.
“Christopher Columbus, Discoverer of the New World, was foremost a sailor.” Being a discoverer of the New World has stirred controversy and debate. It even questions historical accuracy about him. What is correct about Christopher Columbus is that he was an explorer. Exploring was his passion. From a small child to an adult, Christopher Columbus imagined and dreamed of discovering new maritime pathways in vast oceans near where he lived (1).
In the country of Genoa where Christopher was born sometime in 1451, statistical authorities did not keep historical records of exact birth dates, so his is unknown. He was born to Catholic parents who were staunchly religious. He grew up learning the art of sailing on his Dad’s fishing boat. From there he and his brother pursued a career in map charting not just any map but ocean map charting.
As Christopher studied maps day and night, he consulted his Bible, particularly the books and verses of the Old Testament to guide him into new discoveries of oceanic routes. His ultimate goal was to find a more efficient course to the West Indies, which was located in East Asia. Because the continent of Africa created a long diversion, Christopher sensed he could find a shorter route by bypassing Africa altogether. The problem for him was his calculations along with previously traveled passages did not tell him exactly where to begin his journey of discovery. He had a hunch though and became obsessed with finding his route.
Poverty was a way of life for Christopher in his youth. Due to this, he had a hard time getting sponsors to back his quest financially. Families that were wealthy had prestige and were noticed and respected by the Royal family. Christopher knew a shorter route would buy him wealth and a successful mission would bring prestige he needed to get the recognition for future explorations. After many failed attempts by Christopher to win the favor of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Christopher began to give up on receiving funding for his explorations. In a twist of fate, the Royal family accountant encouraged his superiors to accept Christopher’s offer of a commissioned bonus that he would share with Ferdinand and Isabella. All parties agreed with the proposal and soon Christopher was well on his way in new voyages of exploration.
Along the discovery of a quicker route to the West Indies Jews looked to hop aboard and travel as well in search of new continents to settle. However, Christopher refused to do so but wished them goodwill. Ferdinand and Isabella expelled Jews from the country of Spain previously. Naturally, this created conflict with Christopher and those who backed him financially. Everyone aboard the ship was required to practice religion. Usually a morning prayer and song was conducted by an individual each day.
Once Christopher arrived ashore, he thought he had landed at the West Indies and so when Christopher met the native inhabitants he called them, “Indians.” Europe quickly caught onto the term to identify similar native inhabitants they could not identify. Christopher wanted to enslave the locals for labor and to convert them to Christianity. He felt God sent these peoples to “aid” Europeans in colonizing new land. Miscommunications about a bountiful supply of gold and bejeweled decorations further cemented divine justification of colonization. Natives in future explorations of the island brought Christopher Columbus in contact with tobacco. These things he could bring back to show evidence of a successful mission (2).
After sending a letter back to the Spain updating the crown of his missions, Christopher awaited a response to his report. He got it. He also obtained his coveted title (count) which gave him prestige and clout with the Royals. This promotion elevated him from commoner to respected voyager and explorer. It also opened up state funding of another voyage supported by the Royals. Since Christopher was also a trader, it was natural to him to come up with a plan colonize Hispaniola. Because this would be a major stop along the route to the West Indies, it could impact the trade routes in many economical ways Christopher knew would benefit the Royals as well as himself. Also natural was to hire priests to convert and control natives who might protest the colonization (3).
Christopher brought some residents back to Spain with him to show the Ferdinand and Isabella of the people who inhabited the island. The Royals had the natives baptized, but once they arrived they were introduced to European diseases. When Christopher returned to Hispaniola, some of his crew became exposed to syphilis there. The native people who had grown up there for thousands of years were either immune or could fend off the disease. Europeans had no natural immunity to disease of the New World. Most of the labor population was wiped out shortly after Christopher’s expedition due to intermixing of natives and Europeans (4).
Christopher Columbus did not discover America, but he did discover lands unfamilar to the Spanish crown. His explorations are fascinating to understand in the development of the New World, colonization and how people viewed each other in this curious time.
” There may be able children of degenerate sires. But whether such instances are not proof of the rule depends upon the question, whether, from some earlier intermingling, better blood may have not have been taken from the lower class.”-Benjamin F. Butler
A View on Racial Equality
In continuing with my reading of Benjamin F. Butler’s autobiography, I get a sense that he writes in a way to give insight as to how he views the world around him and how this view influenced his decision making though out his life and career. One thing that stands out is his view on racial equality. He does not agree with the elite intellectual thought theorized during the 19th century that inherited genes of the first born child are the strongest genes, and that subsequent offspring will receive a watered down version. Because of this, parents with mixed races were thought to be incapable of passing down good genes. Butler disagreed with this. He argued that parents of mixed races passed down stronger genes because by banding together the genes mutated more favorably due to populations being in constant state of war and survival in early New England. The information Butler provides in his memoir points to his view that mixing society with different races other than “white” did, in fact, produce individuals capable of acquiring equality. Mainstream society was against this idea throughout Butler’s entire life. To step out of that norm and stand up for what he believed and felt was right and opposite of what society thought was courageous (1).
Butler was proud of his military heritage. His grandfather Zephania participated in the Revolutionary war and his father John in the war of 1812. John was commissioned captain of “light dragoons” and served the Northern frontier until he broke his leg. After that, he continued to serve in the war by becoming a privateer. Due to his success at this and his aid to the American cause, he was re-commissioned and sent to New Orleans to work under the direct command of General Jackson. From there he ended up working logistically for ships going back and forth to South America. On one of these voyages, John caught Yellow Fever and died Soon after. The suffering Butler’s father endured bothered Butler so much he vowed to “investigate the scourage” and blamed the viral devastation as a major influence in decisions later in his life (2).
Raised in Religious Household
The way Butler’s writes of his mother shows how much of a close of a relationship they had and how much respect he had for her. His mother was a Calvinist, and he notes this again and again in his book I think this is to show how this religious upbringing shaped his entire life. His mother envisioned him to grow up and become a minister however due to circumstances at the time this was not the best option for him. During Butler’s childhood children went to college at 12 and one of the students he grew up with attended Harvard University. He was awestruck by this, and it seems Butler also surrounded himself with very smart and intellectual people even at a pre-teen age (3).
To prepare for religious college Masters would administer a test in which Butler excelled by exceeding the standards of his peers. His high score propelled him to a college prep school where he learned Latin and Greek. To him, language was not an art but merely memorizing, and he used this to strengthen his analytic skills of paragraphs, of which he was good at and made him feel proud. To him, it was a way to use his talents to do something good for people in his public service. During prep school, he attended a Unitarian church because he felt the school’s religious rules conflicted with thier belief in one God vs. his belief in the Trinity (4).
Somehow (he does not explain how) he ends up moving to Lowell Massachusetts. Lowell became a city as a result of a manufacturing boom between 1822 and 1836. There he acquired a part-time job to help with his living expenses. It is not clear if Butler lived alone, with his mother or with a roommate. He enjoyed living in the city (5).
During Butler’s college years he mentions a couple of people whom he finds inspirational. One of these was the Reverand Theodore Edson, rector of ST. Anne’s church and who worked tirelessly to establish the Lowell High School. Butler mused that “When he perceived the right thing to do, he did it, regardless of personal consideration or of danger to himself.” Edson was instrumental in establishing more schools in the town so that future generations of women, children and freemen could obtain an education and therefore be eligible for equal opportunity. Butler considered Edson’s passion and his perseverance to see his vision through against the opposition of ex-English Calvary officer, Kirk Boot who wanted to capitalize financially on grounds owned by the manufacturing companies, very courageous (6).
Equality was important to Butler from early in his life. Growing up and being surrounded by friends and family influenced him and his thoughts on poverty, education and equal opportunity for all people not just the White elite or upper class. He was obviously very smart and read books that were hard for him to read. He liked to challenge himself to do better and when he accomplished he yearned for ways to help others with his talents.
1. Benjamin F. Butler, Butler’s Book: Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major General Benj F. Butler : A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career (Boston: A.M. Thayer & Co., 1892), 36.
During the Civil War and in the summer of 1863 the fighting between the Northern and Southern parts of the United States was closing in on a climax of death and destruction. At the time President Lincoln faced two particular problems with the situation. First, how to end slavery and second how to keep the ranks of the Union Army from becoming depleted. After considerable thought, he chose a solution for both problems: an emancipation proclamation and a wartime draft.
The proclamation itself focused solely on ending slavery by making it illegal in the United States. It did not give enslaved Blacks the full freedom that White Americans enjoyed. One reason for this is that Lincoln favored buying time for the South to come to terms with the new law, and to gradually allow Black slaves an opportunity to choose a life for themselves once freed. Both Northern and Southern Americans had conflicting views on slavery as a whole, but the majority of all cared little for slaves once free and even disliked their assimilation into American society even more. Perhaps Lincoln felt by allowing a slow progression of this adaptation, a change that might prove easier to adapt to for all.
The wartime draft allowed an unlimited supply of able-bodied men, either age between 25 and 35 or between ages of 35 and 45 depending on their marital status, to serve in the Union Army by way of a lottery system. The lottery system was a recruitment tool used to draft individuals and not just sweep any and all men that qualified. It was meant to be a fair system. However, if you were wealthy you could get out of the draft by paying a bit of cash. This was hardly fair to those of lower income classes who never stood one chance to dodge the draft. Many folks in New York also perceived this solution as particularly federally intrusive to their lives. It increased focus on slavery politically as three groups vied for their attention on the national stage: the New York Democrats which included Irish migrant workers, Republicans who remained neutral on the topic of slavery and Abolitionists who vigorously rallied the public support for the end of slavery with marches and speeches. Finally, it incited anger with the White male working population who felt the law was tipped unfairly toward them by favoring Blacks and immigrants to whom the draft law did not even apply.
These groups clashed in July with deadly consequences. On the 13th, the day of the draft lottery, violence erupted, as tempers grew out of control. Working class men began attacking the very people they felt the federal government aimed to support in the draft. They attacked Irish immigrant workers naive of the American justice system. They attacked Blacks: women, children and elderly. These victims were easy targets and could not defend themselves because they did not have the same right within the law as White Americans. Another reason rioters targeted African Americans was because of their progression toward upward mobility. For example, they destroyed a black-owned orphanage, a business created for the sole purpose of Blacks helping Blacks. These institutions’ did not interfere with White society, so why was this threatening? Perhaps the upward mobility by free or freed Blacks was a threat politically to Democrats and a reason for them to publicly protest the Republicans and the government itself.
Lincolns two solutions did affect the United States significantly, but it did not unify the nation, as he had desired. To quell the riot and fighting federal troops were ordered in to control crowds, establish curfew and authority and, bring order to the city. The draft stayed, and the anger and rage lingered on for years to come. Tensions increased between ethnic groups and whites. Now the country was not only divided by north and south but between race and ethnicity as well.
Some White citizens did support African Americans and came to their defense to try and fight back against or protect them from violence. However, there were too few of these groups to make a difference. No one directed their attention to the political systems in place that seems to incite further racial problems between different ethnicity in New York at the time.
The Draft Riots remains a spot of contention within the history of the United States as a nation. What has yet to be determined is why the nation focused more on the government to end the war and bring peace and less focus on ending racial tensions and bringing the nation together racially and ethnically.
The New York City Draft Riots of 1863 http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/317749.html.
Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) defied Jim Crow laws and racism towards Blacks early in the 20th century by becoming the first African-American female aviator. Despite the fact that she grew up poor, she sought out the opportunity to make her dreams come true. With the help of a mentor and the inspiration of her brothers, she ventured overseas to France to obtain flight training. France at the time did not discriminate against Blacks but welcomed them into its society and schools. There Bessie not only completed her training but gained fame and prestige as a fully qualified and talented airplane pilot, who performed stunts at air shows. This recognition influenced other African American women to realize they too could defy oppression by White society and seek opportunities previously closed to women of their race. Bessie’s success and others contributed not only to the Women’s Movement and but also to the Equal Rights Movement for years to come because of her belief in optimism and perseverance.
Unfortunately, Bessie would not live to see the changes inspired by her contributions of African-American firsts. She died on April 30, 1926, at her final air show. Her legacy continues to this day through the recognition and adoration by modern female African American aviators.
Sir Francis Drake lived and worked during a time when Spain was at war with its bordering nations. He was born sometime in the years between 1540 and 1541(birth records did not exist at this time). Although this lack of record keeping might seem a bit unusual in our time such a record for them was insignificant. Francis hailed from Devonshire, England and was raised by a farmer. On those days, farming could sustain a family but it could not often bring riches alone and it did not bring prestige and respect of the royal family, but success at high seas did. Drake may have dreamed his future of owning and captaining a ship as a young boy. In his spare time, he tagged along with relatives on their ships. Whenever they sailed, the crew learned the art of piracy as they targeted merchant ships traveling the sea trade routes. Francis Drake became famous as a world renown ocean navigator and land explorer but before all that he was a real pirate.
At the completion of his apprenticeship, young Francis commanded his first ship called the Judith. He hired a cousin to assist in the mission to the continent of Africa to participate in the slave trade. After acquiring slaves, they sailed for New Spain with the goal of acquiring funds by selling captives to settlers there. The slave trade was Illegal in Spain at the time and Francis along with some of his crew were soon arrested and held for those crimes. Drake vowed revenge upon the Spanish crown from that point on.
After returning to England, he received a notice from Queen Elizabeth I to take his piracy to a new level. She permitted him to obtain a privateer license. This license enabled him to use his piracy to raid, plunder and steal property that belonged to Spain. It was an unofficial war on King Phillip whom Queen Elizabeth I despised. Soon after Drake embarked upon his fist mission to Nombre De Dios, a stop in Panama for Spanish ships full of silver and gold returning from Peru. Unfortunately, Francis did not acquire much success as the Spaniards battled hard against Drake, his fleet, and ships. To compensate for this instead of high seas piracy Drake and his men raided Spanish settlements and robbed them of their precious metals instead.
For the remainder of Francis Drake’s life, he remained a pirate. Although he is known popularly for his success at being the first to circumvent the globe and as a successful maritime and land explorer he should also be remembered as a pirate and as someone who participated in the slave trade. Piracy at the time was a normal way of life and considered a divine right. Even though today we understand the piracy of the 16th century to be criminal, the expeditions conducted and led by Francis remind us how folks in his time viewed the world and the people around them.
Below are three pics of some of my summer finds at rummage sales or antique stores. Although I’ve been a military miniature collector (and painter) for most of my life I never branched out into collectible war toys that were manufactured for most of the last century but are increasingly rare today.
The models below carry the brand name Midgetoys. I confess that growing up I never heard of Midgetoys but probably saw them in the various “dimestores” that were popular in the 1960s like Woolworths or Ben Franklin.