Quote of the moment: John Adams, celebrating the 2nd of July

July 1, 2011

“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

1776 filled the calendar with dates deserving of remembrance and even celebration.  John Adams, delegate from Massachusetts to the Second Continental Congress, wrote home to his wife Abigail that future generations would celebrate July 2, the date the Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from Britain for 13 of the British colonies in America.

Two days later, that same Congress approved the wording of the document Thomas Jefferson had drafted to announce Lee’s resolution to the world.

Today, we celebrate the date of the document Jefferson wrote, and Richard Henry Lee is often a reduced to a footnote, if not erased from history altogether.

Who can predict the future?

(You know, of course, that Adams and Jefferson both died 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1826.  In the 50 intervening years, Adams and Jefferson were comrades in arms and diplomacy in Europe, officers of the new government in America, opposing candidates for the presidency, President and Vice President, ex-President and President, bitter enemies, then long-distance friends writing almost daily about how to make a great new nation.  Read David McCullough‘s version of the story, if you can find it.)

Update, July 4, 2013: You may want to check the updated version of this post, with more links, and even more history.

2015 edition, with more links for teachers and historians, here.

U.S. Day

March 4, 2011

If March 2 is Texas Day, March 4 can be U.S. Day, right?

Can’t call it Constitution Day — there are a couple of those in the fall.

March 4 is the anniversary of the enactment of the Constitution, in 1789.  All the ratifying was done, Washington had been elected President, the first Congress was elected, and it was time to open for business.

In New York, neither house of Congress could get a quorum — too many members not in town yet.  So the new government adjourned for a week or so.

Bad precedent, if you ask me — though, to be fair, the Congress met for a total of 210 days.

Letter describing the first day of the First Congress, from Robert Morris to Gouverneur Morris

Letter from Robert Morris to Gouverneur Morris, describing the first day of the First Congress, March 4, 1789.

From Birth of a Nation:  The First Federal Congress, a site at George Washington University:

This letter, written on the day established for the first meeting of the Congress, sets the scene as the members began to gather in New York City. Morris’s concern that the “public expectation seems to be so highly wound up that I think disappointment must inevitably follow after a while, nothwithstanding that I believe there will be inclination and abilities in the two houses to do every thing that reasonable and sensible men can promise to themselves, but you know well how impossible it is for public measures to keep pace with the sanguine desires of the interested, the ignorant, and the inconsiderate parts of the Community.” eloquently expressed the challenge that faced the members of the new Congress.

Odd stuff:

  • New York City was bustling with 29,000 residents in 1789

June 17 in history: Watergate and Bunker Hill

June 17, 2010

I didn’t know the Associated Press shares its “This Day in History” feature on YouTube in video form.

Is there a really good way to use ‘today in history’ features in the classroom?

Paul Revere’s Ride, read by Longfellow

April 19, 2010


Least creepy of the animated YouTube versions I could find, and not a bad reading (though I wish some readers would pay more attention to the text and less attention to meter and rhyme).

What do you think?

So, early on the morning of April 19, Paul Revere finished his ride.  John Hancock and Samuel Adams had been alerted, and so had the Minutemen who had pledged and practiced to defend the arsenals laid in to defend colonists against British tyranny  . . .

Rap at the White House: Alexander Hamilton

November 22, 2009

An Obama guest, Lin-Manuel Miranda, pushes the envelope on gangsta rap, and history teaching:

You can’t use that in the classroom, teachers?  Why not?


Wikipedia notes of Miranda:

He is working on a hip-hop album based upon the life of Alexander Hamilton, entitled The Hamilton Mixtape.[5] He recently performed “The Hamilton Mixtape” at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009. Accompanied by Alex Lacamoire. [12]

Tip of the old scrub brush to Slashdot.

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Chess games of the rich and famous: Ben Franklin and Lady Howe

November 17, 2009

Ben Franklin plays chess with Lady Howe, 1867 painting by Edward Harrison May

"Lady Howe mates Ben Franklin," 1867 painting by Edward Harrison May - public domain


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