ThursDAY, JULY 19TH, 1787 - History

ThursDAY, JULY 19TH, 1787 - History


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

In Convention, —On re-consideration of the vote rendering the Executive re-eligible a second time, Mr. MARTIN moved to re-instate the words, "to be ineligible a second time."

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. It is necessary to take into one view all that relates to the establishment of the Executive; on the due formation of which must depend the efficacy and utility of the union among the present and future States. It has been a maxim in political science, that republican government is not adapted to a large extent of counny, because the energy of the executive magistracy cannot reach the extreme parts of it. Our country is an extensive one. We must either then renounce the blessings of the Union, or provide an Executive with sufficient vigor to pervade every part of it. This subject was of so much importance that he hoped to be indulged in an extensive view of it. One great object of the Executive is, to control the Legislature. The Legislature will continually seek to aggrandize and perpetuate themselves; and will seize those critical moments produced by war, invasion, or convulsion, for that purpose. It is necessary, then, that the Executive magistrate should be the guardian of the people, even of the lower classes, against legislative tyranny; against the great and the wealthy, who in the course of things will necessarily compose the legislative body. Wealth tends to corrupt the mind; —to nourish its love of power; and to stimulate it to oppression. History proves this to be the spirit of the opulent. The check provided in the second branch was not meant as a check on legislative usurpations of power, but on the abuse of lawful powers, on the propensity of the first branch to legislate too much, to run into projects of paper money, and similar expedients. It is no check on legislative tyranny. On the contrary it may favor it; and if the first branch can be seduced, may find the means of success. The Executive, therefore, ought to be so constituted, as to be the great protector of the mass of the people. It is the duty of the Executive to appoint the officers, and to command the forces; of the Republic; to appoint, first, ministerial officers for the administration of public affairs; secondly, officers for the dispensation of justice. Who will be the best judges whether these appointments be well made? The poeple at large, who will know, will see, will feel, the effects.. of them. Again, who can judge so well of the discharge of military duties for the protection and security of the people, as the people themselves, who are to be protected and secured? He finds, too, that the Executive is not to be re eligible. What effect will this have? In the first place, it will destroy the great incitement to merit, public esteem, by taking away the hope of being rewarded with a re-appointment. It may give a dangerous turn to one of the strongest passions in the human breast. The love of fame is the great spring to noble and illustrious actions. Shut the civil road to glory, and he may be compelled to seek it by the sword. In the second place, it will tempt him to make the most of the short space of time allotted him, to accumulate wealth and provide for his friends. In the third place, it will produce violations of the very Constitution it is meant to secure. In moments of pressing danger, the tried abilities and established character of a favorite magistrate will prevail over respect for the forms of the Constitution. The Executive is also to be impeachable. This is a dangerous part of the plan. It will hold him in such dependence, that he will be no check on the Legislature, will not be a firm guardian of the people and of the public interest. He will be the tool of a faction, of some leading demagogue in the Legislature. These then, are the faults of the Executive establishment, as now proposed. Can no better establishment be devised? If he is to be the guardian of the people, let him be appointed by the people. If he is to be a check on the Legislature, let him not be impeachable. Let him be of short duration, that he may with propriety be re-eligible. It has been said that the candidates for this office will not be known to the people. - If they be known to the Legislature, they must have such a notoriety and eminence of character, that they cannot possibly be unknown to the people at large. It cannot be possible that a man shall have sufficiently distinguished himself to merit this high trust, without having his character proclaimed by fame throughout the Empire. As to the danger from an unimpeachable magistrate, he could not regard it as formidable. There must be certain great offlcers of state, a minister of finance, of war, of foreign affairs, &c. These, he presumes, will exercise their functions in subordination to the Executive, and will be amenable, by impeachment, to the public justice. Without these ministers, the Executive can do nothing of consequence. He suggested a biennial election of the Executive, at the time of electing the first branch; and the Executive to hold over, so as to prevent any interregnum in the administration. An election by the people at large, throughout so great an extent of country, could not be influenced by those little combinations and those momentary lies, which often decide popular elections within a narrow sphere. It will probably be objected, that the election will be induenced by the members of the Legislature, particularly of the first branch; and that it will be nearly the same thing with an election by the Legislature itself. It could not be denied that such an influence would exist. But it might bei answered, that as the Legislature or the candidates forit, would be divided the enmity of one part would counteract the friendship of another; that if the administration of the Executive were good, it would be unpopular to oppose his re-election; if bad, it ought to be opposed, and a re-appointrnent prevented; and lastly, that in every view this indirect dependence on the favor of the Legislature could not be so mischievous ae a direct dependence for his appointment. He saw no alternative for making the Executive independent of the Legislature, but either to give him his office for life, or make him eligible by the people. Again, it might be objected, that two years would be too short a duration. But he believes that as long as he should behave himself well he would be continued in his place. The extent of the country would secure his re-election against the factions and discontents of particular States. It deserved consideration, also, that such an ingredient in the plan would render it extremely palatable to the people. These were the general ideas which occurred to him on the subject, and which led him to wish and move that the whole constitution of the Executive might undergo re-consideration.

Mr. RANDOLPH urged the motion of Mr. L. MARTIN for restoring the words making the Executive ineligible a second time. If he ought to be independent, he should not be left under a temptation to court a re-appointment. If he should be re-appointable by the Legislature, he will be no check on it. His revisionary power will be of no avail. He had always thought and contended, as he still did, that the danger apprehended by the little States was chimerical; but those who thought otherwise ought to be peculiarly anxious for the motion. If the Executive be appointed, as has been determined, by the Legislature, he will probably be appointed, either by joint ballot of both houses, or be nominated by the first and appointed by tho second branch. In either case the large States will preponderate. If he is to court the same influence for his re-appointment, will he not make his revisionary power, and all the other functions of his administration, subservient to the views of the large States? Besides, is there not great reason to apprehend, that, in case he should be re-eligible, a false complaisance in the Legislature might lead them to continue an unfit man in office, in preference to a fit one? It has been said, that a constitutional bar to re-appointment, will inspire unconstitutional endeavours to perpetuate himself. It may be answered, that his endeavours can have no effect unless the people be corrupt to such a degree as to render all precautions hopeless; to which may be added, that this argument supposes him to be more powerful and dangerous, than other arguments which have been used admit, and consequently calls for stronger fetters on his authority. He thought an election by the Legislature, with an incapacity to be elected a second time, would be more acceptable to the people than the plan suggested by Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.

Mr: KING did not like the ineligibility. He thought there was great force in the remarks of Mr. SHERMAN, that he who has proved himself most fit for an office, ought not to be excluded by the Constitution from holding it. He would therefore prefer any other reasonable plan that could be substituted. He was much disposed to think, that in such cases the people at large would choose wisely. There was indeed some difficulty arising from the improbability of a general concurrence of the people in favor of any one man. On the whole, he was of opinion that an appointment by electors chosen by the people for the purpose would be liable to fewest objections.

Mr. PATTERSON'S ideas nearly coincided; he said, with those of Mr. KING. He proposed that the Executive should be appointed by electors, to be chosen by the States in a ratio that would allow one eleotor to the smallest, and three to the largest, States.

Mr. WILSON. It seems to be the unanimous sense that the Executive should not be appointed by the Legislature, unless he be rendered ineligible a second time: be perceived with pleasure that the idea was gaining ground of an election, mediately or immediately, by the people.

Mr. MADISON If it be a fundamental principle of free government that the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary powers should be separately exercised, it is equally so that they be tade indepently exercised. There is the same, and perhaps greater, reason why the Executive should be independent of the Legislature, than why the Judiciary should. A coalition of the two former powers, would be more immediately and certainly dangerous to public liberty. It is essential, then, that the appointment of the Executive should either be drawn from some source or held by some tenure, that will give him a free agency with regard to the Legislature. This could not be, if he was to be appointable' from time to time, by the Legislature. It was not clear that an appointment in the first instance, even with an ineligibility afterwards, would not establish an improper connection between the two Departments. Certain it was, that the appointment would be attended with intrigues and contentions, that ought not to be unnecessarily admitted. He was disposed, for these reasons, to refer the appointment to some other source. The people at large was, in his opinion, the fittest in itself. It would be as likely as any that could be devised, to produce an Executive Magistrate of distinguished character. The people generally could only know and vote for some citizen whose merits had rendered him an object of general attention and esteem. There was one difficulty, however, of a serious nature, attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election, on the score of the negroes. The substitution of Electors obviated this difficulty, and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.

Mr. GERRY. If the Executive is to be elected by tbe Legislature, he certainly ought not to be re eligible. This would make him absolutely dependent. He was against a popular election. The people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men. He urged the expediency of an appointment of the Executive? by Electors to be chosen by the State Executives. The people of the States will then choose the first branch; the Legislatures of the States, the second branch of the National Legislature; and the Executives of the States, the National Executive. This he thought would form a strong attachment in the States to tbe National system. The popular mode of electing the Chief Magistrate would certainly be the worst of all. If he should be so elected, and should do his duty, he will be turned out for it, like Governor Bowdoin in Massachusetts, and President Sullivan in New Hampshire.

On the question on Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS'S motion to reconsider generally the constitution of the Executive —Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and all the others, aye.

Mr. ELLSWORTH moved to strike out the appointment by the National Legislature, and to insert, " to be chosen by Electors, appointed by the Legislatures of the States in the following ratio; to wit: one for each State not exceeding two hundred thousand inhabitants; two for each above that number and not exceeding three hundred thousand; and three for each State exceeding three hundred thousand."

Mr. BROOM seconded the motion.

Mr. RUTLEDGE was opposed to all the modes, except the appointment by the National Legislature. He will be sufficiently independent, if he be not re-eligible.

Mr. GERRY preferred the motion of Mr. ELLSWORTH to an appointment by the National Legislature, or by the people; though not to an appointment by the State Executives. He moved that the Electors proposed by Mr. ELLSWORTH should be twenty-five in number, and allotted in the following proportion: to New Hampshire, one; to Massachusetts, three; to Rhode Island, one; to Connecticut, two; to New York, two; to New Jersey, two; to Pennsylvania, three; to Delaware, one; to Maryland, two; to Virginia, three; to North Carolina, two; to South Carolina two; to Georgia, one.

The question, ai moved by Mr. ELLSWORTH, being divided, on the first part " Shall the National Executive be appointed by Electors ? "—Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, aye—6; North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no—3; Massachusetts, divided.

On the second part, " Shall the Electors be chosen by the State Legislatures?"—Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, aye—8; Virginia, South Carolina no-2

The part relating to the ratio in which the States should choose Electors was postponed, nem. con.

Mr. MARTIN moved that the Executive be ineligible a second time.

Mr. WILLIAMSON seconds the motion. He had no great confidence in electors to be chosen for the special purpose. They would not be the most respectable citizens; but persons not occupied in the high offices of government. They would be liable to undue induence, which might the more readily be practiced, as some of them will probably be in appointment six or eight months before the object of it comes on.

Mr. ELLSWORTH supposed any persons might be appointed Electors, except, solely, members of the National Legislature.

On the question, "Shall he be ineligible a second time?"—North Carolina, South Carolina, aye—- 2; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, no—8.

On the question, " Shall the Executive continue for seven years ?" It passed in the negative, — Connecticut, South Carolina, Georgia, aye—3; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, no—5; Massachusetts, North Carolina, divided.

Mr. KING was afraid we should shorten the term too much.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS was for a short term, in order to avoid impeachments, which would be otherwise necessary.

Mr. BUTLER was against the frequency of the elections. Georgia and South Carolina were too distant to send electors often.

Mr. ELLSWORTH was for six years. If the elections be too frequent, the Executive will not be firm enough. There must be duties which will make him unpopular for the moment. There will be outs as well as ins. His administration, therefore, will be attacked and misrepresented.

Mr. WILLIAMSON was for six years. The expense will be considerable, and ought not to be unnecessarily repeated. If the elections are too frequent, the best men will not undertake the service, and those of an inferior character will be liable to be corrupted.

• On the question of six years, —Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye—9; Delaware, no.

Adjourned


On This Day in History, 19 июль

Maurice Garin became the first person to win the debut of the now annual bike race.

1900 Paris Metro opens

One of the densest metros in the world and the second largest metro in Europe, the first line of the Paris Metro opened during the World's Fair.

1870 Franco-Prussian War starts

The war involving France, under Napoleon and the Kingdom of Prussia began with French declaration of war. The war lasted for 9 months and ended with a German victory.

1848 Seneca Falls Convention begins

One of the first women's rights convention to be held in American history, the two-day convention attracted 300 women and men who protested the social, economic, and political discrimination American women faced.

1553 Mary I replaces Lady Jane Grey as Queen of England

Also known as Bloody Mary due to her brutal persecution of Protestants, Mary I was the only child of Catherine of Aragon and Henry III.

Births On This Day &ndash 19 июль

1922 George McGovern

American politician, historian, author

1921 Harold Camping

American broadcaster, author

1834 Edgar Degas

1827 Mangal Pandey

1814 Samuel Colt

American inventor, industrialist, founded the Colt's Manufacturing Company


ThursDAY, JULY 19TH, 1787 - History

Throughout the platform round icons are events relating to individuals and their right to have an opinion in particular debates:

Person joining a committee

Person leaving a committee

Person elected to a position

Parchment-coloured, square icons relate to the creation and amending of documents:

Create a new document that is a line-by-line revision of another document (noted by the pen icon in the corner)

Document amendment proposed

Document taken from another committee (note arrow in corner)

Amendment taken from another committee

Documents that have an explicit subtype can be displayed with a slightly different icon:

A message to be sent elsewhere

A petition to be considered

Rules and Orders of Business

Diamond-shaped, purple icons relate to decisions taken:

Refer a proposal to another committee

Other vote (continue debate)

Blue, hexagon-shaped icons relate to 'procedural' proposals that do not directly alter text but affect how a committee does its work (and are usually used only for transient things, such as a point of order.)

Procedural motion with sub-decisions

Debate on a procedural motion

Explain Page

This page lets you explore the way that a document is negotiated.

Along the top of this page are the events that occurred in this committee session.

If you select an event here, the display underneath will provide the following information:

On the left are lists of the current documents under consideration by the committee at this moment
and all of the amendments to these documents that have been suggested. Clicking on these will bring up
the draft text of that amendment or document, if it can be calculated, as it exists in the context of this
moment.

In the centre of the screen you can see the proposed effect of a particular
amendment or the affect of a particular vote. The tabs let you select either the agreed text of the
base document (the 'agreed text'), the text of any intermediate amendments (the 'intermediate text')
that are the parents of this one (these may or may not have been agreed) and the text suggested by the
selected proposal.

The 'Markup' display shows the difference between the intermediate text and the proposed text by showing deletions
in red highlighting with a strike-through and additions as blue highlights with underlining.

On the right, various tools let you explore the significance of this moment. The document complexity displays
show you a representation of all of the proposals and votes that have led to the document having this particular
text. You can click on them to navigate to those moments.

Resources and Commentaries allow you to explore any additional materials stored about this moment in more depth.


History of Prayer in America

Days of Prayer have a long history in America. Colonists declared Days of Prayer during droughts, Indian attacks and threats from other nations. Edward Winslow’s record of the Pilgrims’ experiences, reprinted in Alexander Young’s Chronicles of the Pilgrims (Boston, 1841), stated: “Drought and the like considerations moved not only every good man privately to enter into examination with his own estate between God and his conscience, and so to humiliation before Him, but also to humble ourselves together before the Lord by Fasting and Prayer.”

In colonial Connecticut, settlers proclaimed by legal authority a day in early spring for Fasting and Prayer. The governor customarily selected Good Friday as the annual spring fast. In 1668, the Virginia House of Burgesses in Jamestown passed an ordinance stating: “The 27th of August appointed for a Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, to implore God’s mercy”

A notable Day of Prayer was in 1746, when French Admiral d’Anville sailed for New England, commanding the most powerful fleet of the time – 70 ships with 13,000 troops. He intended to recapture Louisburg, Nova Scotia, and destroy from Boston to New York, all the way to Georgia. Massachusetts Governor William Shirley declared a Day of Prayer and Fasting, October 16, 1746, to pray for deliverance.

In Boston’s Old South Meeting House, Rev. Thomas Prince prayed “Send Thy tempest, Lord, upon the water. scatter the ships of our tormentors!” Historian Catherine Drinker Bowen related that as he finished praying, the sky darkened, winds shrieked and church bells rang “a wild, uneven sound. though no man was in the steeple.”

A hurricane subsequently sank and scattered the entire French fleet. With 4,000 sick and 2,000 dead, including Admiral d’Anville, French Vice-Admiral d’Estournelle threw himself on his sword. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his Ballad of the French Fleet:
“Admiral d’Anville had sworn by cross and crown, to ravage with fire and steel our helpless Boston Town. From mouth to mouth spread tidings of dismay, I stood in the Old South saying humbly: ‘Let us pray!’. Like a potter’s vessel broke, the great ships of the line, were carried away as smoke or sank in the brine.”

As raids from France and Spain increased, Ben Franklin proposed a General Fast, which was approved by Pennsylvania’s President and Council, and published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1747:

“We have. thought fit. to appoint. a Day of Fasting & Prayer, exhorting all, both Ministers & People. to join with one accord in the most humble & fervent supplications that Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the rage of war among the nations & put a stop to the effusion of Christian blood.”

On May 24, 1774, Thomas Jefferson drafted a Resolution for a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer to be observed as the British blockaded Boston’s Harbor. Robert Carter Nicholas, Treasurer, introduced the Resolution in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and, with support of Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and George Mason, it passed unanimously: “This House, being deeply impressed with apprehension of the great dangers, to be derived to British America, from the hostile invasion of the City of Boston, in our sister Colony of Massachusetts. deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the members of this House as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights. Ordered, therefore that the Members of this House do attend. with the Speaker, and the Mace, to the Church in this City, for the purposes aforesaid and that the Reverend Mr. Price be appointed to read prayers, and the Reverend Mr. Gwatkin, to preach a sermon.”

George Washington wrote in his diary, June 1, 1774: “Went to church, fasted all day.”

Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, interpreted this Resolution as a veiled protest against King George III, and dissolved the House of Burgesses, resulting in legislators meeting in Raleigh Tavern where they conspired to form the first Continental Congress.

On April 15, 1775, just four days before the Battle of Lexington, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, led by John Hancock, declared: “In circumstances dark as these, it becomes us, as men and Christians, to reflect that, whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgments. the 11th of May next be set apart as a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer. to confess the sins. to implore the Forgiveness of all our Transgression.”

On April 19, 1775, in a Proclamation of a Day of Fasting and Prayer, Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull beseeched that: “God would graciously pour out His Holy Spirit on us to bring us to a thorough repentance and effectual reformation that our iniquities may not be our ruin that He would restore, preserve and secure the liberties of this and all the other British American colonies, and make the land a mountain of Holiness, and habitation of righteousness forever.”

On June 12, 1775, less than two months after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where was fired “the shot heard ‘round the world,” the Continental Congress, under President John Hancock, declared: “Congress. considering the present critical, alarming and calamitous state. do earnestly recommend, that Thursday, the 12th of July next, be observed by the inhabitants of all the English Colonies on this Continent, as a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, that we may with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins and offer up our joint supplications to the All-wise, Omnipotent and merciful Disposer of all Events, humbly beseeching Him to forgive our iniquities. It is recommended to Christians of all denominations to assemble for public worship and to abstain from servile labor and recreations of said day.”

On July 5, 1775, the Georgia Provincial Congress passed: “A motion. that this Congress apply to his Excellency the Governor. requesting him to appoint a Day of Fasting and Prayer throughout this Province, on account of the disputes subsisting between America and the Parent State.”

On July 7, 1775, Georgia’s Provincial Governor replied: “Gentlemen: I have taken the. request made by. a Provincial Congress, and must premise, that I cannot consider that meeting as constitutional but as the request is expressed in such loyal and dutiful terms, and the ends proposed being such as every good man must most ardently wish for, I will certainly appoint a Day of Fasting and Prayer to be observed throughout this Province. Jas. Wright.”

On July 12, 1775, in a letter to his wife explaining the Continental Congress’ decision to declare a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, John Adams wrote: “We have appointed a Continental fast. Millions will be upon their knees at once before their great Creator, imploring His forgiveness and blessing His smiles on American Council and arms.”

On July 19, 1775, the Continental Congress’ Journals recorded: “Agreed, The Congress meet here to morrow morning, at half after 9 o’clock, in order to attend divine service at Mr. Duche’s’ Church and that in the afternoon they meet here to go from this place and attend divine service at Doctor Allison’s church.” In his Cambridge headquarters, Washington ordered, March 6, 1776: “Thursday, the 7th. being set apart. as a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, ‘to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness, and that it would please Him to bless the Continental army with His divine favor and protection,’ all officers and soldiers are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverence and attention on that day to the sacred duties to the Lord of hosts for His mercies already received, and for those blessings which our holiness and uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through His mercy obtain.”

On March 16, 1776, the Continental Congress passed without dissent a resolution presented by General William Livingston declaring: “Congress. desirous. to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely. on his aid and direction. do earnestly recommend Friday, the 17th day of May be observed by the colonies as a Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease God’s righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain this pardon and forgiveness.”

On May 15, 1776, General George Washington ordered: “The Continental Congress having ordered Friday the 17th instant to be observed as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, humbly to supplicate the mercy of Almighty God, that it would please Him to pardon all our manifold sins and transgressions, and to prosper the arms of the United Colonies, and finally establish the peace and freedom of America upon a solid and lasting foundation the General commands all officers and soldiers to pay strict obedience to the orders of the Continental Congress that, by their unfeigned and pious observance of their religious duties, they may incline the Lord and Giver of victory to prosper our arms.”

On April 12, 1778, at Valley Forge, General Washington ordered: “The Honorable Congress having thought proper to recommend to the United States of America to set apart Wednesday, the 22nd inst., to be observed as a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, that at one time, and with one voice, the righteous dispensations of Providence may be acknowledged, and His goodness and mercy towards our arms supplicated and implored: The General directs that the day shall be most religiously observed in the Army that no work shall be done thereon, and that the several chaplains do prepare discourses.”

On November 11, 1779, Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson signed a Proclamation of Prayer, which stated: “Congress. hath thought proper. to recommend to the several States. a day of publick and solemn Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for his mercies, and of Prayer, for the continuance of his favour. That He would go forth with our hosts and crown our arms with victory that He would grant to His church, the plentiful effusions of Divine Grace, and pour out His Holy Spirit on all Ministers of the Gospel that He would bless and prosper the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth. ”

On April 6, 1780, at Morristown, General Washington ordered: “Congress having been pleased by their Proclamation of the 11th of last month to appoint Wednesday the 22nd instant to be set apart and observed as a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer. there should be no labor or recreations on that day.”

On October 11, 1782, the Congress of the Confederation passed: “It being the indispensable duty of all nations. to offer up their supplications to Almighty God. the United States in Congress assembled. do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these states in general, to observe. the last Thursday, in the 28th day of November next, as a Day of Solemn Thanksgiving to God for all his mercies.”

On November 8, 1783, at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Massachusetts Governor John Hancock issued: “The Citizens of these United States have every Reason for Praise and Gratitude to the God of their salvation. I do. appoint. the 11th day of December next (the day recommended by the Congress to all the States) to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, that all the people may then assemble to celebrate. that he hath been pleased to continue to us the Light of the Blessed Gospel. That we also offer up fervent supplications. to cause pure Religion and Virtue to flourish. and to fill the world with his glory."

On February 21, 1786, New Hampshire Governor John Langdon proclaimed: a Day of Public Fasting and Prayer: “It having been the laudable practice of this State, at the opening of the Spring, to set apart a day. to. penitently confess their manifold sins and transgressions, and fervently implore the divine benediction, that a true spirit of repentance and humiliation may be poured out upon all. that he would be pleased to bless the great Council of the United States of America and direct their deliberations. that he would rain down righteousness upon the earth, revive religion, and spread abroad the knowledge of the true God, the Saviour of man, throughout the world. And all servile labor and recreations are forbidden on said day.”

At the Constitutional Convention, 1787, Ben Franklin stated: “In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection.”

Proclaiming a Day of Prayer, Ronald Reagan said January 27, 1983: “In 1775, the Continental Congress proclaimed the first National Day of Prayer. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the long, weary Revolutionary War during which a National Day of Prayer had been proclaimed every spring for eight years.”

On October 31, 1785, James Madison introduced a bill in the Virginia Legislature titled, “For Appointing Days of Public Fasting and Thanksgiving,” which included: “Forfeiting fifty pounds for every failure, not having a reasonable excuse.” Yale College had as its requirement, 1787: “All the scholars are obliged to attend Divine worship in the College Chapel on the Lord’s Day and on Days of Fasting and Thanksgiving appointed by public authority.”

The same week Congress passed the Bill of Rights, President George Washington declared, October 3, 1789: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will. and humbly to implore His protection and favor and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness’. "

“I do recommend. the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks. for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed. Humbly offering our prayers. to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”

After the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, President Washington proclaimed a Day of Prayer, January 1, 1796: “All persons within the United States, to. render sincere and hearty thanks to the great Ruler of nations. particularly for the possession of constitutions of government. and fervently beseech the kind Author of these blessings. to establish habits of sobriety, order, and morality and piety.”

During a threatened war with France, President John Adams declared a Day of Fasting, March 23, 1798, then again on March 6, 1799: “As. the people of the United States are still held in jeopardy by. insidious acts of a foreign nation, as well as by the dissemination among them of those principles subversive to the foundations of all religious, moral, and social obligations. I hereby recommend. a Day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer That the citizens. call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions. ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a reproach to any people.’”

James Madison, known as the “Chief Architect of the Constitution,” wrote many of the Federalist Papers, convincing the States to ratify the Constitution, and introduced the First Amendment in the first session of Congress. During the War of 1812, President James Madison proclaimed a Day of Prayer, July 9, 1812, stating:

“I do therefore recommend. rendering the Sovereign of the Universe. public homage. acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke His divine displeasure. seeking His merciful forgiveness. and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion, to do to others as they would require that others should do to them.”

On July 23, 1813, Madison issued another Day of Prayer, referring to: “religion, that gift of Heaven for the good of man.” When the British marched on Washington, D.C., citizens evacuated, along with President and Dolly Madison. The British burned the White House, Capitol and public buildings on August 25, 1814. Suddenly dark clouds rolled in and a tornado touched down sending debris flying, blowing off roofs and knocking down chimneys on British troops. Two cannons were lifted off the ground and dropped yards away. A British historian wrote: “More British soldiers were killed by this stroke of nature than from all the firearms the American troops had mustered.” British forces then fled and rains extinguished the fires.

James Madison responded by proclaiming, November 16, 1814: “In the present time of public calamity and war a day may be. observed by the people of the United States as a Day of Public Humiliation and Fasting and of Prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States. of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance. that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offenses.”

In 1832, as an Asiatic Cholera outbreak gripped New York, Henry Clay asked for a Joint Resolution of Congress to request the President set: “A Day of Public Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity.”

On April 13, 1841, when 9th President William Harrison died, President John Tyler issued a Day of Prayer and Fasting: “When a Christian people feel themselves to be overtaken by a great public calamity, it becomes them to humble themselves under the dispensation of Divine Providence.”

On July 3, 1849, during a cholera epidemic, President Zachary Taylor proclaimed: “The providence of God has manifested itself in the visitation of a fearful pestilence which is spreading itself throughout the land, it is fitting that a people whose reliance has ever been in His protection should humble themselves before His throne. acknowledging past transgressions, ask a continuance of the Divine mercy. It is earnestly recommended that the first Friday in August be observed throughout the United States as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer.”

On December 14, 1860, President James Buchanan issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer: “In this the hour of our calamity and peril to whom shall we resort for relief but to the God of our fathers? His omnipotent arm only can save us from the awful effects of our own crimes and follies. Let us. unite in humbling ourselves before the Most High, in confessing our individual and national sins. Let me invoke every individual, in whatever sphere of life he may be placed, to feel a personal responsibility to God and his country for keeping this day holy.”

On August 12, 1861, after the Union lost the Battle of Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed: “It is fit. to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God to bow in humble submission to His chastisement to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Therefore I, Abraham Lincoln. do appoint the last Thursday in September next as a Day of Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting for all the people of the nation.”

On March 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer: “The awful calamity of civil war. may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people. We have forgotten God. We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become. too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins.”

After Lincoln was shot, President Johnson issued, April 29, 1865: “The 25th day of next month was recommended as a Day for Special Humiliation and Prayer in consequence of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. but Whereas my attention has since been called to the fact that the day aforesaid is sacred to large numbers of Christians as one of rejoicing for the ascension of the Savior: Now. I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do suggest that the religious services recommended as aforesaid should be postponed until. the 1st day of June.”

During World War I, President Wilson proclaimed May 11, 1918: “‘It being the duty peculiarly incumbent in a time of war humbly and devoutly to acknowledge our dependence on Almighty God and to implore His aid and protection. I, Woodrow Wilson. proclaim. a Day of Public Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting, and do exhort my fellow-citizens. to pray Almighty God that He may forgive our sins.”

During World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944: “Almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our Religion and our Civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.”

When WWII ended, President Truman declared in a Day of Prayer, August 16, 1945: “The warlords of Japan. have surrendered unconditionally. This is the end of the. schemes of dictators to enslave the peoples of the world. Our global victory. has come with the help of God. Let us. dedicate ourselves to follow in His ways.”

In 1952, President Truman made the National Day of Prayer an annual observance, stating: “In times of national crisis when we are striving to strengthen the foundations of peace. we stand in special need of Divine support.”

In April of 1970, President Richard Nixon had the nation observe a Day of Prayer for Apollo 13 astronauts. On May 5, 1988, President Reagan made the National Day of Prayer the first Thursday in May, saying: “Americans in every generation have turned to their Maker in prayer. We have acknowledged. our dependence on Almighty God.”

President George W. Bush declared Days of Prayer after the Islamic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and after Hurricane Katrina.

As America faces challenges in the economy, from terrorism and natural disasters, one can gain inspiring faith from leaders of the past.


Pharmacotherapy of mental illness--a historical analysis

The history of pharmacotherapy of mental illness can be divided into three periods. Introduction of morphine, potassium bromide, chloral hydrate, hyoscine, paraldehyde, etc., during the second half of the 19th century (first period), led to the replacement of physical restraint by pharmacological means in behavior control. Introduction of nicotinic acid, penicillin, thiamine, etc., during the first half of the 20th century (second period), led to significant changes in the diagnostic distribution of psychiatric patients psychoses due to cerebral pellagra, and dementia due to syphilitic general paralysis virtually disappeared from psychiatric hospitals, and the prevalence of dysmnesias markedly decreased. Treatment with therapeutically effective drugs of mania, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, Alzheimer's disease, etc., during the second half of the 20th century (third period), brought to attention the heterogeneity of the populations within the diagnostic categories of schizophrenia and depression. Introduction of the first set of psychotropics and the spectrophotofluorimeter during the 1950s triggered the development of neuropsychopharmacology. Introduction of genetic technology for the separation of receptor subtypes in the 1980s opened the path for the "tailoring" of psychotropic drugs by the dawn of the 21st century, to receptor affinities.


Electoral College is ‘vestige’ of slavery, say some Constitutional scholars

When the founders of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 considered whether America should let the people elect their president through a popular vote, James Madison said that “Negroes” in the South presented a “difficulty … of a serious nature.”

During that same speech on Thursday, July 19, Madison instead proposed a prototype for the same Electoral College system the country uses today. Each state has a number of electoral votes roughly proportioned to population and the candidate who wins the majority of votes wins the election.

Since then, the Electoral College system has cost four candidates the race after they received the popular vote — most recently in 2000, when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush. Such anomalies and other criticisms have pushed 10 Democratic states to enroll in a popular vote system. And while there are many grievances about the Electoral College, one that’s rarely addressed is one dug up by an academic of the Constitution: that it was created to protect slavery, planting the roots of a system that’s still oppressive today.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Paul Finkelman, visiting law professor at University of Saskatchewan in Canada. “I think if most Americans knew what the origins of the Electoral College is, they would be disgusted.”

Madison, now known as the “Father of the Constitution,” was a slave-owner in Virginia, which at the time was the most populous of the 13 states if the count included slaves, who comprised about 40 percent of its population.

During that key speech at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Madison said that with a popular vote, the Southern states, “could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.”

Madison knew that the North would outnumber the South, despite there being more than half a million slaves in the South who were their economic vitality, but could not vote. His proposition for the Electoral College included the “three-fifths compromise,” where black people could be counted as three-fifths of a person, instead of a whole. This clause garnered the state 12 out of 91 electoral votes, more than a quarter of what a president needed to win.

“None of this is about slaves voting,” said Finkelman, who wrote a paper on the origins of the Electoral College for a symposium after Gore lost. “The debates are in part about political power and also the fundamental immorality of counting slaves for the purpose of giving political power to the master class.”

He said the Electoral College’s three-fifths clause enabled Thomas Jefferson, who owned more than a hundred slaves, to beat out in 1800 John Adams, who was opposed to slavery, since the South had a stronghold.

While slavery was abolished, and the Civil War led to citizenship and voting rights for black people, the Electoral College remained intact. Another law professor, who has also written that the Constitution is pro-slavery, argues that it gave states the autonomy to introduce discriminatory voting laws, despite the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was built to prevent it.

In 2013, the Supreme Court freed nine states, mostly in the South, from the stipulation in the Voting Rights Act that said they could only change voter laws with the approval of the federal government.

“A more conservative Supreme Court has been unwinding what the [other] court did,” said Juan Perea, a law Professor of Loyola University Chicago. “State by state, that lack of supervision and lack of uniformity operates to preserve a lot of inequality.”

In July, a federal appeals court struck down a voter ID law in Texas, ruling that it discriminated against black and Latino voters by making it harder for them to access ballots. Two weeks later, another federal appeals court ruled that North Carolina, a key swing state, had imposed voting provisions that “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

And for this presidential election, 15 states will have new voting restrictions, such as ones that require government-issued photo identification at the polls or reduce the number of hours the polls are open.

“The ability of states to make voting more difficult is directly tied to the legacy of slavery,” Perea said. “And that ability to make voting more difficult is usually used to disenfranchise people of color.”

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has gained traction, but for reasons more related to the anomaly of the Gore-Bush election. Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz championed legislation in New York that brought the state into the compact and was asked by the NewsHour Weekend why the movement is important.

“We are the greatest democracy on the planet, and it seems to me that in the greatest democracy, the person who gets the most votes should win the election,” said Dinowitz. “We’re one country, North, South, East and West. One country. The votes of every single person in the country should be equal. And right now, the votes are not equal. Some states your vote is more important than in other states.”

New York overwhelmingly agreed on his bill in 2014, joining nine other states and Washington, D.C. Together, they have 165 electoral votes. If they gain a total of 270 — the majority needed to elect a president — the nation will move to a popular vote.

Not all academics agree that slavery was the driving force behind the Electoral College, though most agree there’s a connection. And both Perea and Finkelman say they know it is not the most prominent argument for the push toward a popular vote.

“But it is a vestige that has never been addressed,” Perea said.

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Jefferson won the presidency in 1800.

Left: The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Photo by Library of Congress


As we all should know by now, Madison and the founding fathers were not fans of democracy. Please read James Madison’s Ideas on Protecting the Opulent Minority Against the Tyranny of the Majority

Let us now briefly discuss the Electoral College and its relationship to slavery.

On Thursday July 19, 1787, at the Philadelphia Constitutional convention, the visionary Pennsylvanian James Wilson proposed direct national election of the president. But the savvy Virginian James Madison responded that such a system would prove unacceptable to the South:

Mr. MADISON. If it be a fundamental principle of free Govt. that the Legislative, Executive & Judiciary powers should be separately exercised, it is equally so that they be independently exercised. There is the same & perhaps greater reason why the Executive shd. be independent of the Legislature, than why the Judiciary should: A coalition of the two former powers would be more immediately & certainly dangerous to public liberty. It is essential then that the appointment of the Executive should either be drawn from some source, or held by some tenure, that will give him a free agency with regard to the Legislature. This could not be if he was to be appointable from time to time by the Legislature. It was not clear that an appointment in the 1st. instance even with an eligibility afterwards would not establish an improper connection between the two departments. Certain it was that the appointment would be attended with intrigues and contentions that ought not to be unnecessarily admitted. He was disposed for these reasons to refer the appointment to some other source. The people at large was in his opinion the fittest in itself. It would be as likely as any that could be devised to produce an Executive Magistrate of distinguished Character. The people generally could only know & vote for some Citizen whose merits had rendered him an object of general attention & esteem. There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.

In other words, in a direct election system, the North would outnumber the South, whose many slaves (more than half a million in all) of course could not vote. But the Electoral College would instead let each southern state count its slaves, albeit with a two-fifths discount, in computing its share of the overall count.

The wealthy merchant, Elbridge Gerry – famous for “Gerrymandering” – responded in support:

Mr. GERRY. If the Executive is to be elected by the Legislature he certainly ought not to be re-eligible. This would make him absolutely dependent. He was agst. a popular election. The people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men. He urged the expediency of an appointment of the Executive by Electors to be chosen by the State Executives.

So, besides the usual reference to the stupidity of the masses, the southern states of the newly formed union were not as populated as the northern states, thus they feared that a popular vote for a Presidential candidate would always favor the northern states.

In order to protect themselves and combat the size of the voting population of the Northern states, Madison and his supporters removed the idea of a popular vote for the Presidency. Instead, the Presidency would be decided by “Electors”.

So how did the States get their Electors? The answer is always slavery!

One of the contentious issues at the 1787 Constitutional Convention was whether slaves would be counted as part of the population in determining representation of the states in the Congress or would instead be considered property and, as such, not be considered for purposes of representation. Delegates from states with a large population of slaves argued that slaves should be considered persons in determining representation, but as property if the new government were to levy taxes on the states on the basis of population. Delegates from states where slavery had become rare argued that slaves should be included in taxation, but not in determining representation.

The three-fifths figure was the outgrowth of a debate that had taken place within the Continental Congress in 1783. The Articles of Confederation had apportioned taxes not according to population but according to land values. The states consistently undervalued their land in order to reduce their tax burden. To rectify this situation, a special committee recommended apportioning taxes by population. The Continental Congress debated the ratio of slaves to free persons at great length. Northerners favored a 4-to-3 ratio, while southerners favored a 2-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio. Finally, James Madison suggested a compromise: a 5-to-3 ratio. All but two states–New Hampshire and Rhode Island–approved this recommendation. But because the Articles of Confederation required unanimous agreement, the proposal was defeated. When the Constitutional Convention met in 1787, it adopted Madison’s earlier suggestion and became known as the Three-Fifths Compromise.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The Three-Fifths Compromise gave a disproportionate representation of slave states in the House of Representatives relative to the voters in free states until the American Civil War. As a result, Southern states had disproportionate influence on the presidency, the speakership of the House, and the Supreme Court in the period prior to the Civil War.

In the first half of the 19th century, the largest single industry in the United States, measured in terms of both market capital and employment, was the enslavement (and the breeding for enslavement) of human beings.

Over the course of this period, the industry became concentrated to the point where fewer than 4,000 families (roughly 0.1 percent of the households in the nation) owned about a quarter of the enslaved people. Another 390,000 (call it the 9.9 percent) owned all of the rest.

The great political mystery is that these families convinced 5 million non-slave-holding southerners and 20 million non-slave-holding northerners to aid and abet them in this repugnant enterprise.

620,000 killed, 476,000 wounded, and 400,000 captured/missing. We are talking about 1.5 million persons severely affected due to the practices of a few thousand elite families. Just so you’re aware, the population of the U.S. during the Civil War was 31 million (including

This slave-holding elite dominated not only the government of the nation, but also its media, culture, and religion. Their votaries in the pulpits and the news networks were so successful in demonstrating the sanctity and beneficence of the slave system that millions of impoverished white people with no enslaved people to call their own conceived of it as an honor to lay down their life in the system’s defense.

The Southern states constituted a powerful voting bloc in Congress until the 1960s. Their representatives which were re-elected repeatedly controlled numerous chairmanships of important committees in both houses on the basis of seniority, giving them control over rules, budgets and important patronage projects, among other issues. Their power allowed them to defeat federal legislation against racial violence and abuses in the South which continue till this day.

So…Yes. The Electoral College is nothing more than a power move by the slave-owning families of the newly-formed nation. And it worked.

It’s safe to assume that the Electoral College will be with us for a very long time. Ask yourself: Would you give up the tools which helps keep you in power?


Learn More

  • View A Guide to the War of 1812 to access digital materials related to the War of 1812, including manuscripts, broadsides, pictures, and government documents. links to the text of the treaty and related digital collections.
  • Search across the collections of Photos & Prints on War of 1812 to find images of some of the battles of this conflict. For example, a drawing by George Munger, circa 1814, depicts the U.S. Capitol after its burning by the British.
  • Search on war in the James Madison Papers, 1723 to 1859 to see letters and other documents related to the War of 1812.
  • Search the Andrew Jackson Papers to find manuscripts from Jackson’s service in the War of 1812. Highlights include Jackson’s account of the Battle of New Orleans and a letter from President James Monroe congratulating Jackson on his victory at the Battle of New Orleans.
  • Search A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875, to find congressional material related to the War of 1812, including debates, laws, journals, documents, and reports. and Volume 16 of the series Collections and Researches Made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society can be found in the digital collection Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820 to 1910. These two volumes contain correspondence between British officers regarding strategy, Native American affairs, and treaties during the war. These volumes also include some diplomatic correspondence between the British and the Americans.

ThursDAY, JULY 19TH, 1787 - History

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who are born in the U.S.
or by naturalization, have become citizens.

George Washington
was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and served as the first President of the United States of America. Read More

Benjamin Franklin
was a noted polymath, leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. Read More

Alexander Hamilton
was the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, a Founding Father, economist, political philosopher and led calls for the Philadelphia Convention. Read More


September 17, 2021


On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created. We encourage all Americans to observe this important day in our nation's history by attending local events in your area. Celebrate Constitution Day through activities, learning, parades and demonstrations of our Love for the United State of America and the Blessings of Freedom Our Founding Fathers secured for us.


What Actually Happened on the Original Bastille Day

T he French national holiday of Bastille Day&mdashcelebrated each year on July 14, or le quatorze juillet&mdashmay spell fireworks and and a large military parade for some, but for most, it still marks the anniversary of the storming of a grand fortress that was infamous for holding political prisoners, during the first moments of the French Revolution in Paris in 1789.

But the meaning behind that action isn’t quite as poetic as the motto of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” sounds, says Dan Edelstein, chair of the Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages at Stanford and an expert on 18th century France.

Back in July of 1789, France had already experienced a rough summer that included food shortages, high taxes (as a solution to King Louis XVI&rsquos debts) and the militarization of Paris. Sensing distress, the king called upon the Estates-General&mdashan assembly that hadn’t met in more than a century&mdashto deliver a new tax plan. That resulted in the Third Estate, the non-noble/non-clergy portion of the assembly, breaking from the clergy and nobility, and demanding a written constitution from France. Their proclamation would form the National Assembly in late June. Weeks later, after the king removed a finance minister, Jacques Necker, of whom the estate approved, fears that Louis XVI was attempting to quash any political revolution began to boil.

That fear culminated on July 14 in a march to the Hôtel des Invalides to loot firearms and cannons, and a resulting (and far more famous) trip to the Bastille for proper ammunition. That hunt for gunpowder&mdashnot the hope of freeing prisoners&mdashwas the main reason for the storming of the Bastille.

The events that followed&mdashthe freeing of the few prisoners that remained at the Bastille, but also a deadly battle and the brutal beheading of the prison governor and his officers&mdashwere more of a side effect of chaotic uprising, rather than its intent.

It didn’t take long, however, for the symbolism of the Bastille to change.

&ldquoWhen news breaks in Versailles that people had stormed the Bastille, [the royalty] thought that this was a disaster and that people were out of control,&rdquo Edelstein says. &ldquoWithin the space of about two weeks, they sort of had to revise their narrative.&rdquo

Somewhat famously, Louis XVI asked a French duke that evening if the storming of Bastille was a revolt, with the duke replying “No, sire, a revolution.” At first, the royal response was an attempt to compromise with this new situation. The king arrived in Paris days later, Edelstein says, to declare his support of the revolution and don the tricolor cockade. That event bolstered the revolution’s political meaning and the idea of the storming of the Bastille as a demonstration against political tyranny, rather than a violent event. Feudalism was abolished that August.

A year later, France would host the Fête de la Fédération on July 14 to celebrate the France’s constitutional monarchy and to honor France’s newfound unity. That unity, students of the French Revolution will know, didn’t last long&mdashand the revolution eventually devolved into the Reign of Terror.

July 14 wouldn’t be seen as an official holiday until almost a century later.

“If there was ever a shot heard ’round the world,” Edelstein says, “it was when Parisians brought down the Bastille.”


Watch the video: Thursday, July 19th, Segment 2