Author Archives: 1776history


Twelve seconds that changed the world – The Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17, 1903

“It is a fact that man can’t fly” – Washington Post 

“the flying machine crank” with advancing age gets increasingly foolish to the point of “imbacility” – San Francisco Chronicle

“What useful purpose could it [flight] serve?” – Professor at Johns Hopkins University

Freedom brings with it with the opportunity for any individual to create wonder.  This is why so many of the worlds’ inventions were created in America.  By the late nineteenth century, the idea of flying was one that had only seen success in gliders, not piloted, engine driver aircraft.  Two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright, changed this.  Through dogmatic resolve, ingenuity, and intelligence, the two men brought the world into a new age.

In 1892, the  Wright brothers opened a shop in response to the growing popularity of the bicycle in American society.  However, even as they grew their business, the brothers had another form of transportation on their minds – flight.  Wilbur, four years older than his brother Orville, was particularly curious.  He wrote a letter to the Smithsonian in 1899 asking for any information the institution had on flight.  Wilbur studied birds and how they moved.  Both brothers tried to rebuild a toy helicopter powered by a rubber band they received as children on a larger scale.  Orville said it didn’t work very well.  Armed with this knowledge, the brothers set out to work on a “flying machine.”

After constructing the first version of their aircraft, the brothers needed someplace to test it.  They reached out to the United States Weather Bureau to gather information about wind velocities across the United States.  They determined the best place to develop their flying machine was an isolated stretch of land on the coast of North Carolina called Kitty Hawk.  The brothers packed up all their equipment and research and headed there.  It was a difficult journey.  Once there, the brothers encountered few local residents but mosquitoes so bad as Orville stated in his journal they “almost darkened the sun.”  Along with the mosquitoes, Kitty Hawk presented the brothers with intense heat and sometimes frigid cold.

Between 1900 and 1903, the brothers worked on a variety of issues and traveled back and forth from Kitty Hawk to Dayton.  They conducted multiple test flights with gliders, performed tests in a wind tunnel they created and learned lessons from the setbacks they endured.  One problem they encountered was trying to find an engine for their machine.  They wrote letters to various car makers of the time.  Only one responded but that engine prove inadequate.  The brothers built their own engine with the help of an assistant, Charlie Taylor.

On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright took control of the flying machine, the result of a coin toss three days earlier.  The two brothers shook hands.  At 10:35 am, the brothers used a launching mechanism to get the plane into the air.  Once launched, the aircraft known as Flyer I flew approximately 120 feet in the air for twelve seconds.  Orville said of the flight it was “extremely erratic” and “there wasn’t time to be scared.”  John T. Daniels, an eyewitness, credited the Wright brothers as the “workingest boys” he ever saw.  The brothers could not have anticipated how significant those twelve seconds were.  Their concern at the time was to move forward and improve their aircraft.

The Wright brothers plane as displayed at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The brothers story did not stop at Kitty Hawk.  They continued to produce new and better versions of their original Flyer.  Their subsequent aircraft went further and continued to set the standard for flight in the era.  The brothers themselves became sensations.  Wilbur took an overseas trip to Europe that made him a celebrity.  Europeans, especially the French, turned out in high numbers to see flight displays by Wilbur Wright.  Orville displayed the Flyer around Washington, D.C.  to astonished crowds.  The entire world took notice.

The Wright brothers took many risks to get an engine powered aircraft up in the air.  In all, Wilbur crashed twice and Orville four times.  Orville was badly injured and his passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge of the U.S. Army, was killed during a flight demonstration.  Lt. Selfridge became the first person to die in an airplane crash.  Through their many flights, the brothers gained an understanding of how to pilot their aircraft.  They were able to takeoff, fly, and return to their initial location.

Wilbur Wright pilots his aircraft during a demonstration in New York on September 29, 1909

The Wright brothers success set off airplane building all over the world.  The French began to build their own aircraft and other countries followed.  The brothers spent a great deal of their time in lawsuits to defend their patents.  Their company, the Wright Company, produced multiple versions of their original Flyer.  Each version better than the last.

Wilbur Wright died on May 30, 1912 of typhoid fever at his home in Dayton.  Orville Wright gave up flying in 1918 in large part because of the injuries he suffered in his earlier crashes.  He sold the Wright Company and dedicated his time to scientific research at the Wright Aeronautical Laboratory he created.  He died of a heart attack at the age of seventy-seven on January 30, 1948.  He lived through both World War I and World War II, seeing the airplane used as an instrument of war.  Orville said he wished the airplane was an instrument of peace but did not regret its creation.

In 1928, the Regents of the Smithsonian passed the following resolution:  “to the Wrights belongs the credit of making the first successful flight with a power-propelled heavier-than-air machine carrying a man.”  The Wright brothers received their proper place in history.  For all their fame, the humble brothers remained as one writer put it, “the imperturbable men from home.”  The two brothers, neither college educated nor possessing any formal technical training, made the impossible possible.

Sixty-six years after Kitty Hawk, American Neil Armstrong carried with him a small swatch of the muslin from the wing of the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer.  He became the first man to step on the moon.

Recommended Reading:

The Wright Brothers by David McCollough


Turning the World Upside Down

The British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia changed the course of history

Americans celebrate no military victories as national holidays.  If the country did choose a battle to celebrate, the last major battle of the Revolutionary War would be at the top of the list.  On October 19, 1881, British soldiers under the command of General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to a combined army of American and French troops at Yorktown, Virginia.  The result of this day cannot be understated in its importance.  After years of fighting and numerous instances of the Continental Army perched on the brink of destruction, the Americans had persevered.  America would be its own country, free of British rule.

By the summer of 1781, the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington had been at war with the greatest military power on Earth, the British Army, for six long years.  Constantly underfunded and under equipped, the Continental Army continued its fight for freedom.  After an American victory in October of 1777 at Saratoga, New York, the Americans received a welcomed ally in France, the longtime enemy of the British.  It was in 1781 at Yorktown where French assistance played a vital role.

The British were fighting on two fronts in the colonies.  One front was centered around New York City while a second front was active in the southern colonies.  George Washington was preparing to attack New York, joined by French troops under the command of General Comte de Rochambeau.  He was waiting for the arrival of the French fleet before beginning the fight.  However, history changed when the French fleet diverted to Virginia with 3,000 French infantry to attack a British army of about 8,300 men entrenched at Yorktown.  George Washington would lead his army south to join in the attack but not before giving the British commander in New York, General George Clinton, the appearance that he was going to stay.  Washington had his men build army camps and brick ovens so he could give Clinton the illusion that the American Army was in New York.  In reality, he only left a token force behind and proceeded towards Yorktown with the bulk of his army.

On September 5, 1781, two foreign fleets clashed off the Chesapeake Bay in an engagement that would turn the tide of the war.  Known as the Battle of the Capes, the British naval commander Thomas Graves was battered by French ships in a two and a half hour clash.  After two more days, the British fleet abandoned the Virginia coast and headed towards New York.  This meant that the French fleet controlled the sea and the British could not use their own fleet in the impending battle to retreat.

By the end of September, approximately 17,600 American and French troops were at Williamsburg, Virginia thirteen miles west of Yorktown.  General Cornwallis saw the danger of his position and asked General Clinton in New York to send reinforcements.  Clinton responded by sending 5,000 additional British soldiers, however these men would never make it to Cornwallis.  The British fleet faced crucial delays and did not start towards Yorktown until October 17, too late to stop Cornwallis’ surrender.

On October 9, 1781, American and French troops began their assault against the British positions at Yorktown.  Cornwallis had his men build defensive positions but did not have the heavy guns needed to withstand the French ships offshore or the soldiers on the ground.  By October 16, Cornwallis’ outnumbered soldiers attacked the allied center without success.  Later that night he attempted to evacuate his army across the York River.  But as it did many times throughout the Revolutionary War, fate would intervene.  A large windstorm made the evacuation impossible and the British would stay put were they were.  In an untenable position.

On October 17, Cornwallis sent word through the lines that he wanted to discuss terms of surrender.  The formal surrender occurred two days later on October 19, 1781.  The men of the British Army were marched between lines of American soldiers on one side and French soldiers on the other.  The Americans played “Yankee Doodle” while the British played a song entitled “The World Turned Upside Down.”  The world certainly was.

As the greatest power on Earth, the British king and government were horrified by the defeat at Yorktown.  Although they had the resources to continue fighting, British resolve waned.  The British had other engagements to fight around the world.  In 1782, the British Parliament passed a resolution stating their intention not to continue the fight in the American colonies.  On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed acknowledging the colonies as free and independent.  The war was over.  The United States of America took its place among the  nations of the world.

Point of Surrender at the Yorktown Battlefield

A 36th Round Knockout

Americans may not realize how close Aaron Burr (Left) came to becoming America’s third president instead of Thomas Jefferson (Right)

Presidential elections are important events in America.  This is as true today as it was at the beginning of the country.  At the time of the fourth presidential election under the Constitution, the future of the young republic was still in question.  In 1800, the incumbent president of the United States, John Adams, ran for reelection against Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr and Charles Pinckney.  The close vote led to a high stakes decision by the House of Representatives between Jefferson and Burr as to who would win.  After some backroom dealing and lobbying by both candidates, the House elected Thomas Jefferson as the third president of the United States after thirty-six rounds of voting.  Some historians believe the country was headed for violence and possible separation if the election lasted much longer or Burr had won.

It’s important to understand events leading to the election of 1800.  Our country’s founding generation was not above sometimes bitter political and personal quarrels.  After the Constitution’s ratification in 1789, the country’s political class moved into two distinct factions, the Federalists and the Republicans, also referred to as Democratic-Republicans. Not unlike the political parties of today, these parties differed on the proper role of the federal government’s relationship with the states, with Federalists generally believing in a stronger role for the federal government than Republicans.

John Adams was a Federalist and Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, was his vice-president.  In early elections under the Constitution, the second place finisher automatically became the vice-president despite any differences with the president.  Adams and Jefferson, two very prominent members of the founding father generation became political adversaries.

Because the second place finisher automatically became vice-president, the two parties elected two candidates with the expectation that one would become president while the other would become vice-president.  This is why Charles Pickney of South Carolina and Aaron Burr of New York were on the ballot.  In the early days, the Constitution left the method of selecting members of the electoral college to the states.  Eleven of the sixteen states at the time choose electors through their state legislature.  The five remaining states had some form of a popular vote of electors.

As was the custom in early American elections, the candidates themselves did not campaign, leaving that to surrogates.  However, what may be surprising to many Americans is that early elections also had elements of today’s politics.  Candidates were called names and their adversaries tried to define them in the worst terms to the public.  For instance, Thomas Jefferson was portrayed as cowardly for events that occurred during the Revolutionary War while he was governor of Virginia.  As the sitting president, John Adams was labeled as a man with a temper, jealous, and even senile by his political enemies.  For his part, Aaron Burr was viewed as a man who would do whatever he had to do to get power.  The election of 1800 also was the first American election to have a prominent role by another institution – the media. Newspapers of the time did their part to provide sympathetic coverage for their chosen candidate.

After the campaigning was over, the electors in the crucial states of New York and South Carolina cast their ballots for the Republican candidates of Jefferson and Burr.  These two men each received seventy-three electoral votes and that meant that under the Constitution, the House of Representatives would decide the election between them.  After one term as president, John Adams was defeated for reelection.

Each of the sixteen states had one vote each to cast for president.  Nine votes were needed to win.  The rival Federalists controlled six states while the Republicans held eight and the states of Maryland and Vermont were split.  The Republicans backed Jefferson and it appeared so did the public at large.

With the election deadlocked in the House of Representatives, what followed were some tense moments for America.  At first, Burr appeared to be satisfied in accepting the role of vice-president.  In December of 1800, Jefferson wrote to Burr and offered him a greater role in his administration.  Burr appeared receptive to such overtures.  However, Burr was first and foremost a politician. The Federalists had a majority in the House of Representatives and wanted to leverage their power.  The Federalists offered Jefferson their support in exchange for policy concessions if he became president.  Jefferson refused.  After this, the Federalists backed Burr.

Voting in the House began on Wednesday, February 11, 1801.  The result of the first vote was eight states for Jefferson, six for Burr and two states uncommitted because their electors were split.  Jefferson failed to get the ninth state he needed to become president.  At the end of the first day, nineteen votes were taken and all had the same outcome.  By Saturday of the same week, thirty-three votes were completed.  Still no movement.

By this time, an uneasiness hung over the entire country.  Although not having reached a point of crisis, talk of violence began to appear.  John Adams feared “a civil war was expected.”  There was discussion that Virginia, Jefferson’s home state and the most populous state in the Union, was going to secede if Jefferson was not elected.  Calls for a new constitutional convention were being made.  Rumors spread that militias were arming themselves to drive the Federalists from power.  At this early period of American history, the very existence of the country was in peril.

Enter one those obscure figures who had a largely unknown but important role in American history.  The state of Delaware had one representative in the House of Representatives and thus controlled the entire vote of Delaware.  Thirty-two year old James Bayard was that representative.  A Federalist who had pledged his support for Burr, pressure began to grow on him to change his vote.  Possibly fearing that his home state of Delaware would be taken over by another state if the Union dissolved, Bayard reached out to Jefferson.  He wanted to determine if Jefferson would agree to the earlier concessions sought by the Federalists, principally the acceptance of the Federalist economic positions and keeping Federalists in positions of power in the government.  Although Jefferson later denied any deal, Bayard appeared satisfied that Jefferson would agree to these Federalist demands.

Before dropping his support for Burr, the Federalists urged Bayard to make the same demands to Burr he had made earlier to Jefferson.  He did just that.  Although unclear to historians how Burr responded, it apparently was not enough to appease Bayard and the Federalists.  On February 17, 1801, on ballot number thirty-six, Bayard abstained from voting on behalf of Delaware.  This meant only fifteen states remained.  With eight of those states, Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States and Aaron Burr became the third vice-president of the United States.

In 1804, while vice-president of the United States, Burr cemented his legacy by killing founding father Alexander Hamilton in their infamous duel in New Jersey.  Although he was acquitted, he later went on trial for treason for attempting to foster a rebellion against the United States.

After the election of 1800, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution changed the voting process for president.  No longer would the office of the vice-president be given to the individual who finished second on the ballot for president.  President and vice-president would be on separate ballots.

Recommended Reading:, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr and the Election of 1800 by John Ferling

War Leads to Revolution

George Washington during the French and Indian War (1756-1763)

America’s independence from Great Britain can be traced to an earlier conflict many Americans may not be familiar with.  In the 1750’s, Britain and France had been at war with each other for centuries all over the world, including North America.  An area of land in the upper Ohio River Valley proved the spark for another dispute between the two powers and led to what became the French and Indian War as it was known in the American colonies, also called the Seven Years’ War.  The war was significant for two reasons.  First, it introduced the colonies to a young soldier named George Washington.  Secondly, as a result of the outcome of the war, a chain of events was set in motion that ultimately led to the American Revolution.

Many wars have been started by a dispute over land.  The French and Indian War was no exception.   Competing claims were being made by Britain and France over land west of the colonies and extending towards Canada whose ownership was not well defined.  In order to strengthen their claim, France began building fortifications, triggering a response from the British.  Both sides tried to ally with the Native Indian populations in order to achieve a military advantage and to gain important trade partners.

The war started poorly for the British, however after a new commitment of resources, events turned in their favor.  The British were victorious in several important battles.  The end result of the years of fighting proved disastrous for the French and their ally in the war, Spain.  At the peace conference in 1763, Great Britain received all French territory east of the Mississippi River, including control of Canada, as well as Spanish controlled Florida.  The map of North America was changed forever.  France did not forget its defeat at the hands of the British and became an important American ally during the Revolutionary War.

The map of North America before and after the French and Indian War

One of the colonists who played an important role for the British was George Washington. Before he led the Continental army through many perilous times during the Revolution and became the first President of the United States, Washington was a young soldier in the Virginia militia.  In 1753, three years before war was formally declared, Washington was named a British emissary to bring a message from Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie to the French telling them to leave the disputed territory.  The French elected to stay.

Washington was tasked with re-capturing a former British fort the French had captured and renamed Fort Duquesne, near what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Washington built a new fort named Fort Necessity about 40 miles from the French.  Initially, Washington was successful in defeating a detachment of about 30 French soldiers.  However, a full force of French soldiers reacted and attacked Fort Necessity.  Washington was forced to surrender the fort but was allowed to march back to Virginia.

After a brief period when George Washington had resigned his post, he rejoined the fight to become the an aid to British General Edward Braddock who had come to Virginia with a British army.  Washington was part of a British force that attacked Fort Duquesne.  The campaign ended with a British defeat and the death of General Braddock.

In August 1755, Washington was appointed the commander of all Virginia forces.  In 1758, as British fortunes improved, he participated in another attack against Fort Duquesne with a Virginia regiment.  This time, the French abandoned the fort before British and American forces arrived.  The fort was renamed Fort Pitt.

George Washington resigned his commission with the honorary rank of brigadier general, as colonial officers were not considered part of the British army.  He fought bravely and learned lessons of war that would help him in his later roles.  When the time came in 1776 to appoint a commander of the Continental army, Washington was the choice.

The British spent large sums of money to fight the war in North America.  It was their belief that the American colonists needed to contribute.  The British proceeded to issue a series of unpopular taxes on the colonies.  As British subjects, colonists of pre-revolutionary America enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the world at the time.  What was also true is that colonists had also developed an independent spirit and their own culture separate from their mother country.  The idea of having taxes imposed on them from overseas by a parliament in which no colonists were members brought much consternation in the colonies.  This is where the phrase, “no taxation without representation” has its origin.

The Boston Massacre, the publishing of Common Sense by Thomas Paine, as well as punitive measures taken by the British in response to growing unrest also played important roles on the road to revolution.  However, Americans need to know that British and American actions in response to the French and Indian War started America towards independence.

Live, Work, Die: A Snapshot of Communism – Part II

Communism spreads in Europe after World War II

After World War II, the world and the continent of Europe were changed forever.  Gone was the savagery of Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime.  For the western part of the continent, the difficult rebuilding process began.  For the eastern and central parts of the continent, instead of having the opportunity to heal, another form of tyranny descended upon the people – communism.

The Soviet Union’s march to Berlin during the war meant its armies controlled several Eastern European countries, including Romania.  To ensure allegiance, the Soviet’s installed communist governments in these nations.  With this, tens of millions of people were forced to live under the communist system.

This was the beginning of what would become known as the Cold War with the United States.  By 1946, then former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill understood the danger of communist occupation.  He declared in a famous speech delivered in Fulton, Missouri on March 5 of that year, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

One Man’s Story

What was it really like to live under communism for the average person?  Like most Americans who have lived their entire lives under the freedom of the United States Constitution, I must look to others for their stories.  One such story is written by John Muntean, who lived in Romania from his birth in 1938 until he was able to get he and his family to American in 1981.  He chronicles this period of his life in his book Willing to Die.

The specifics of Mr. Muntean’s book must be read to be appreciated.  After an early boyhood under Nazi occupation, he chronicles his life surviving Romanian Communism.  After what he experienced and saw around him in Romania, Mr. Muntean risked his life in a hunger strike to get his family out.

Mr. Muntean’s book goes into detail about many aspects of life under communism.  The Communist Party controlled everything and the only way to advance in the Communist Party was to advance its ideology.  Economically, there was no private property and land was forcibly taken by the government when ordered under policies of “collectivization.” Everything, including getting a house or a job, to ones’ salary, had to be approved by various levels of Communist bureaucracy.

Although Romania was known as the “Breadbasket of Europe” before the Communists, people starved as food was held for Communist Party members and sold to other countries. Access to food was used as a way to control the people.

Communism also meant a police state.  Citizens would disappear without explanation, never to be heard from again at the hands of the secret police.  One could never trust anyone, even their own neighbors for fear they might be informants.  As John Muntean describes it, everyone lived under some level of fear.  Bribes would have to be paid to party officials in order to avoid trouble or get special privileges.  Having local connections in the Communist Party structure was important to navigate the multitude of government requirements.

Basic freedoms such as freedom of movement and freedom of information did not exist. Passports were strictly controlled by the government and only Communist controlled media was allowed.  Some Romanians, as in other Eastern European countries listened to Radio Free Europe to receive information outside of Communist control.  Getting caught doing so meant imprisonment.  Voting was mandatory, as was voting for the one Communist candidate.

For communists, religion and God represent a competing value system.  This is not tolerated. In Romania, the only religion that was allowed was the Orthodox Church and this was controlled by the Communists.  Every other religion was controlled by the government’s “Ministry of Cults.”

As a Pentecostal Christian, Mr. Muntean and his family endured extra scrutiny.  His children faced ridicule in school from other children as well as teachers for being Christian.  Mr. Muntean details how he was able to live his faith under communism’s watchful eye and also describes communism’s cruel and inhumane treatment of Christians, including imprisonment, torture, and death.

Mr. Muntean explains communism this way:  “A major teaching of the Marxist Communist doctrine is there is no God, so man is nothing, but matter, to live, work for the party, die, and return to nothing more than a pile of dust.  Everything is done for the party and furtherance of its ideology and power.”

Post World War II Romania was led first by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej until 1965 and then by the brutal Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu pictured above.  The Ceausescu’s met their death by firing squad in 1989.

Under Marxist Communism, the family is not important.  All children were indoctrinated at an early age in communist propaganda.  Children in grades five through seven were required to do manual labor for the state.  Children would rise up in education by how faithful their parents were to the Communist Party.  Because John Muntean’s father had resisted collectivization, his formal education stopped at age 15.

Nicolae Ceausescu wanted to raise the birthrate in Romania, so in 1967 he issued a decree stating every women in Romania under 45 was to have five or more babies, married or not. Woman were required to report for monthly government pregnancy testing.  If a baby was born under three and a half pounds, it was given no medical care.  For the Communist elite, life and death did not matter as long as the agenda was advanced.  If your baby survived and had any sort of disability, the government gave itself the right to take him or her.

As Americans, it is important to recognize that many of our fellow citizens risked their lives to come here.  By gaining a better understanding of communist tyranny, Americans should gain a better understanding of their own country and a greater appreciation of it.

Recommended Reading:

Willing to Die by John Muntean

The Naked Communist by W. Cleon Skousen

Please Visit:

Live, Work, Die: A Snapshot of Communism – Part I

The Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C.  It is modeled after the “Goddess of Democracy” papier mache that was erected during the protest against the Communist government of China in 1989 at Tiananmen Square.

Many Americans, especially younger ones, do not fully understand the history of communism, one of the world’s great evils.  Communism and its influence over much of the world during the 20th century led to the death or enslavement of hundreds of millions of human beings.  It is important that Americans gain an understanding of communism in all its gruesome details.  By doing so, It will give us all a better understanding and appreciation of American history and more respect for American values.  Communism is a stark reminder that evil starts when the individual human life stops being respected.

Communism’s Origins

Communism was the theory of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), both of German decent.  In 1848, they wrote their beliefs for how societies should be governed in their work The Communist Manifesto (Marx is credited with the final version).  In basic terms, this was a philosophy that all of human history was really one long class struggle between the bourgeois or upper class and the proletariat or working class. The working class would rise up in a world wide revolution and eliminate the upper classes, creating a utopian society where “each will produce according to his ability and each will receive according to his need.”  By eliminating class struggles, there would be no further need for God, family, or private property.  According to Marx, a “dictatorship of the proletariat” would bring the world fairness and equality.

The Communist Manifesto has ten basis planks outlined below:

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
  3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance
  4. Centralization of the property of all emigrants and rebels
  5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly
  6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvements of the soil generally in accordance with a common play
  8. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, but a more equable distribution of the population over the country
  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factories labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

Although some of the above tenants may sound appealing for some, the reality of their application was something very different.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx was born to Jewish parents in Trier, Prussia in 1818, although his father converted to Lutheranism in 1816 due to anti-Jewish laws that existed at the time.  Marx was baptized in the Lutheran Church but would later become an atheist.

He began his life studying law but after his father’s death, he turned his attention to philosophy and the construction of a new social order he hoped would start a revolution.  He studied at multiple universities and moved to different European countries throughout his life, including France, Belgium, and England.

Although married with children, Marx’s family life was often tumultuous.  He typically spent his nights at the library working on his theories without much concern for earning a living. As a result, his family suffered through poverty and difficult living conditions.  His one true friend, Friedrich Engels, often sent him money to survive.  Tragically, of the seven children he fathered with his wife Jenny, only three would survive into adulthood.  Two of those children would eventually commit suicide.

Marx was able to get the attention of European socialists during his life.  He joined various communist organizations including one called the Communist League.  In 1847, the Communist League asked Marx and Engels to write a manifesto.  The Communist Manifesto was published a year later in 1848.

Karl Marx appeared to have a difficult time working with and relating to other people which limited his ability to make his communist philosophy a reality.  He spent his life immersed in his writings at the expense of his family and all those around him.  Before his death in 1883, he published other works, most notably Das Kapital, an anti-capitalist work that promoted the virtues of the communist system.

Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin

Marx and The Communist Manifesto appeared destined to be nothing more than a curiosity until a series of events led to the rise of Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Communist Party in 1917.  A revolutionary who had been exiled by the Russian Tsar Nicholas II, Lenin returned to Russia in 1917 with the help of German agents who hoped his return would lead to the withdraw of Russia from World War I.  While this German goal was achieved, history took a dark turn.

Lenin was successful in overthrowing the tsar and ultimately gained power after a bloody civil war.  Lenin gave communism a home with the creation of the Soviet Union at the end of 1922 (a “soviet” is a word for a workers’ council).  He and his government seized private property, seized and collectivized farms, many that had been in families for generations, took control of Russian industries, stopped paying workers wages, assigned jobs for the good of the state, forced the lower classes to work the land, and restricted the selling of retail goods to the state. The Russian economy quickly collapsed.  Being a good communist, Lenin responded by attacking the people.  Lenin ruthlessly suppressed and killed his enemies or those that opposed him with the assistance of the Cheka or secret police.   From the spring of 1921 through 1922, Russia was in a famine and an estimated 5 million people starved to death.

Fearing a loss of power, Lenin had little choice but to ease some of his policies.  He initiated a “New Economic Program” that began to increase private ownership, reestablished pay to workers, and allowed the selling of grain on the open market.  These capitalist principles put Russia on a better economic course.  Soon after this period, Lenin suffered a series of strokes.  He died in January 1924.

Communism continues…

The death of Lenin was another opportunity for communism to die a slow death to irrelevancy.  This is not what happened.  Instead, some of history’s greatest monsters used communism to spread death, imprisonment, police states, and the suppression of the human spirit.

After Lenin, Joseph Stalin took control of Russia.  Like all good totalitarian dictators, he quickly used whatever propaganda tools were available to him to portray himself as a champion of the Russian people.  Ordinary Russians, especially children, were indoctrinated to treat Stalin as an iconic figure who Russia could not live without.  In fact, Stalin’s legacy is nothing more than mass murder, imprisonment, and despair.

To consolidate his power, Stalin first targeted his political adversaries, then the Russian people themselves.  The figures on his reign of terror will never be truly known but Stalin is responsible for at least 20 million deaths, including the starvation of up to 5 million Ukrainians.  The starvation was in response to a Ukrainian uprising after one of Stalin’s plans to collectivize their farms and seize their property.  In response, Stalin starved them to death.  Another estimated 18 million Russians were sent to forced labor camps known as gulags where millions more died. These figures do not count the estimated 20 million Soviet civilian and military deaths during World War II.  Stalin eventually ordered his own soldiers killed during battle if they retreated.

It is difficult to know the true number of deaths ordered by Stalin.  Acclaimed Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who wrote extensively on the Soviet gulag system, believes the true number of victims might be closer to 60 million.  What is clear is that Stalin had no regard for human life.  He had approximately 20 luxurious houses spread throughout Russia while his people suffered.  He would give out his orders to his henchmen while spending time in his one of his many gardens.  A quote attributed to Stalin summarizes the man.  “One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic.”

Communism spreads throughout the world…

Despite killing tens of millions of his fellow Chinese, a portrait of Mao Zedong hangs in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China

In China today, the portrait of Communist leader Mao Zedong hangs above Tiananmen square in Beijing.  During his reign, up to 43 million Chinese died of starvation during Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” another communist attempt to collectivize agriculture.  The victims were poor and working-class Chinese, the very people communism is purported to help. Mao’s policies of collectivization led to the worst man-made famine in world history.

Mao did not stop at starving his people.  Like Stalin, he set up prison camps known as the laogai throughout China for innocent political prisoners.  Approximately 20 million Chinese died in these camps.  He initiated the “Cultural Revolution” where indoctrinated young men and women, usually between the ages of 14 to 21, known as Red Guards were unleashed upon anyone Mao considered an enemy of the state.  Their chief targets included monks, educated Chinese and especially teachers.  Approximately 1 million Chinese died during this period.  Many who survived were subjected to public humiliation.  All of this to instill fear and keep Mao in power.

Mao Zedong stated, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”  Historians seem to agree that of all the 20th century killers that include Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler, it is Mao that is responsible for the most deaths.

In 1975, Communist leader Pol Pot and his regime known as the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia.  French educated Pol Pot had a vision to transform the country into one consisting of only a peasant class.  Everyone else had to be eliminated.  To accomplish this, Pol Pot turned to genocide.  An estimated one quarter of the entire population of the country or somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million people were murdered between 1975 and 1979. They were put in mass graves known as “the killing fields.”

In Vietnam, North Korea, Eastern Europe, Cuba, parts of Central and South America and other places around the world, millions more died in the name of communism.  All of these countries deserve their own stories be told but they are too long to give them their proper respect here. Their stories are similar.  One leader or a small group of leaders took power with all the privileges that entailed while innocent men and women were sent to prison camps, starved to death or killed.  Citizens who were not in the Communist Party elite did the best they could to make a living for their families while under the watchful eye and control of a police state.

A Father’s Message

December 17th, 1944

My dear little boys:

I am writing to you today, just a week before Christmas eve, in the hope that you will get this little note at Christmas time. All of this coming week will be holidays, and I can just imagine the fun you will be having, especially when you know that it is just a few days before Santa Claus will be coming. If it were possible, I would like to come down the chimney myself and crawl right in to your stocking, wouldn’t that be a surprise? I would enjoy it even more than you, but since your Dad is far away and Santa Claus has the only reindeers that will fly through the air, I’m afraid we will have to let Santa Claus use them. After all he has so many places to go in such a short time.

I won’t be able to give you a Christmas present personally this year, but I do want you to know that I think of you all the time and feel very proud of the way you have been helping your Mother while I am gone. I know that it is only natural for young, healthy and strong boys like you are to want to play and have fun all of the time; but I do want you to think about helping Mummie, because it is hard for her to do everything while I am gone. I know that you would like to give me a Xmas present too, so I will tell you what you can do, and this will be your Xmas present to me. Everyday ask Mummie if there are any errands that you can do for her, and when there are errands to run, say, “sure Mummie” and give her a big smile; then during the day go up to your room and look around, if there are toys scattered all around, or you left some of your clothes on the floor, pick them up; also, when Mummie is busy trying to clean up the house, don’t leave her by herself, but ask Mummie if you can help take care of baby sister. If you do those things for me, that will be the finest Xmas present that you could give me. Oh yes, and CC, are you eating your meals like a real man now?

Well my boys, I guess you often wonder why people fight and have wars, and why lots of daddies have to be away at Xmas time fighting, when it would be so much nicer to be at home. That’s a hard question to answer. But, you see, some countries like Japan and Germany, have people living in them, just like some people you and I know. Those people want to tell everybody what they can do and what they can’t do. No one likes to be told how to live their life. I know that you wouldn’t like it if one of the boys in the neighborhood tried to tell you what church you should go to, what school you should go to and particularly if that boy would always be trying to “beat up” some smaller or weaker boy. You wouldn’t like it, would you? And, unfortunately the only way to make a person like that stop these sort of things, or a country like Japan or Germany, is to fight them and beat them… and teach them that being a bully (because after all, that’s what they are) is not the way to live and that we won’t put up with it. What does all of this mean to you? Just simply this, my boys, Dad doesn’t want you to ever be a bully, I want you to always fight against anyone who tries to be one; I want you to always help the smaller fellow, or the little boy who may not be as strong as you; I want you to always share what you have with the other fellow; and above all, my boys have courage, have courage to do the things that you think are right. Never be afraid to fight for what you think is right. To do those things, you need a strong body and a brave heart; never run away from someone you may be afraid of; if you do, you will always feel ashamed of yourself and before long you will find it so easy to run away from the things that you should stand up and fight against. If you and lots of other boys try to do the things that Dad has been talking about in this letter, it may be that people will not have to fight wars in the years to come and then all of the Daddies in this world will be home for Christmas and that is where they belong. Perhaps, some of the things that I have been talking about,… you don’t quite understand, if you don’t, Mummie will explain them to you, as she knows……

A Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year… God Bless you,

This letter was written by Marine 1st Lt. Leonard Isacks of New Orleans, Louisiana to his two young sons.  Lt. Isacks died on February 21, 1945 during the Battle of Iwo Jima.  He left behind his wife, two sons and a daughter.  He was 34 years old.


Marine 1st Lt. Leonard Isacks and his two sons


Forever Thankful


Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, 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 and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these 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 His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; 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, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Growing America


The Northwest Territory included the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and a part of Minnesota.

On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed by representatives of the United States and Great Britain formally ending the Revolutionary War.  The occasion brought the transformation of 13 colonies into the 13 United States.  The Treaty also gave the new United States new territory along the Great Lakes called the Northwest Territory.

This region would go on to become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and a part of Minnesota but not without difficult choices being made.  What to do with this land? Could an existing state make a claim for the land and make it a colony of that state? Would new territory be able to become a state or would such land become subordinate to the central U.S. government?

The answers came on July 13, 1787 when the Second Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance into law.  Likely the greatest accomplishment of pre-Constitutional America, the ordinance became the model for how new states joined the Union.

The first step to creating new states started in 1781 when existing states such as Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut began to cede back land they had claimed to the central U.S. government.  The Northwest Ordinance divided territories into townships of 6 square miles further subdivided into 36 sections of 640 acres each.  One of these sections was donated for the purpose of public education.  Once these territories reached 60,000 inhabitants, they could apply for statehood as full and equal members of the United States.


The Northwest Territory

The ordinance is important because it shows the values of early America.  First, Congress made it clear that new territories were not going to become subordinate to other states.  For instance, Virginia was the largest landholder of early America but it could not claim a portion of Ohio for itself and proclaim Ohio a part of Virginia.  What if Virginia and Pennsylvania had a dispute over new land?  Would they go to war with each other? Thankfully for Americans the answer was no. Thus, America peacefully incorporation new territory without bloodshed, something not common in history.

The Northwest Ordinance placed a great deal of emphasis on education as well as religious freedom.  “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”  It goes on, “No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory.”

The ordinance goes on to establish other principles that found their way into the still to be written Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Mainly, the individual rights to a jury trial, no cruel and unusual punishments, the right to enter into private contracts, the right to be compensated if the government took your land for a public purpose as well as habeas corpus (the right to review the legality of ones’ imprisonment or detention).

Most importantly, the ordinance banned slavery in the Northwest Territories.  Although the issue of admission of states as free or slave became a major issue for America through the Civil War, this ordinance made it clear that the institution of slavery was not going to be permitted to spread in the new United States with impunity.

A transcript of the Northwest Ordinance can be found below:

Northwest Ordinance

A Day of Remembrance


Three New York City firefighters raise the American flag at the World Trade Center on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 in this photo taken by Thomas E. Franklin.


Islamic terrorists from the Osama bin Laden group al-Qaeda hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 and flew the planes into both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  2,753 people were killed including 343 New York City firefighters, 23 New York City police officers and 37 officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

There were numerous individual stories of bravery.  One such story is of Father Mychal Judge.  A Roman Catholic priest and a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, Father Mychal rushed to the World Trade Center that morning to provide spiritual counseling, as well as to administer last rites to those of the Catholic faith.

While in the North Tower with other firefighters and emergency personnel, the South Tower collapsed and sent debris into the North Tower where Father Mychal was located.  He was fatally injured.  A group of emergency personnel carried Father Mychal’s body out of the tower.  All those men survived the events of the day.  Had they remained in the North Tower where they had been, they likely would have been killed during its collapse a short time later.


The following prayer was found in the pocket of Father Mychal Judge the morning of September 11, 2001:

Lord, take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of your way.

Bill Cosgrove, a police lieutenant, was one of the men who carried Father Mychal out of the tower.  “He’s always been on my mind ever since then, because it’s my firm belief that the only reason I’m here today is because of him.”


The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. the morning of September 11, 2001.  184 people were killed after American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and crashed into the building.

At the Pentagon, Army Lt. Col. Ted Anderson carried two woman away from the burning and smoke-filled building who had been thrown out of a second story window.  Anderson would re-entered the building multiple times to save others before firefighters wouldn’t allow him to go back again.  His story was typical.

“You don’t leave your comrades on the battlefield,” said Anderson, a field artillery officer who worked in the Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison. “To me, this was the battlefield.”


United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  40 passengers and crew members died trying to retake the plane from the terrorist hijackers.  It is widely believed the terrorists were attempting to fly the plane to a target in Washington, D.C., likely the White House or Capitol building.

Before passengers rushed from the back of the plane to the cockpit to retake control, one of them, Todd Beamer, would say, “Are you guys ready?  Let’s roll!”  The catchphrase “Let’s roll” would become a rallying cry for the nation.


Ground Zero in New York

The events of September 11 remain a stark reminder that evil exists in the world.  We face an enemy willing to kill themselves in order to kill others.  Individual Americans are willing to risk their own lives to save others.  Today, Americans remain in many places around the world in defense of liberty.  We remember them and all those we lost on September 11, 2001.

September 11 has been designated as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance by Congress and the president.  Americans are asked to observe a moment of silence to remember the innocent victims of the worst terror attack in United States history.