Archive for the ‘Second Continental Congress’ Tag

Portraits: Thomas Jefferson   1 comment

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, portrait by Mather Brown. London,1786. Painted with a statue of Liberty over his shoulder, and commissioned by Jefferson for $25. Now in the National Portrait Gallery.

The 3rd President of the United States, 1801 – 1809

AKA: The Sage of Monticello, The Man of the People, The Apostle of Democracy, The Negro President

From: Virginia

College: The College of William & Mary

Married to: Martha Wayles

Children: Martha, Jane, Mary, Lucy, Lucy Elizabeth

Party: Democratic-Republican

Previous Jobs: Lawyer, Delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress, Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Governor of Virginia, Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation, US Minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President

In His Words: “We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

“The most fortunate of us, in our journey through life, frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which may greatly afflict us; and, to fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes, should be one of the principal studies and endeavours of our lives.”

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”

“The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”

“Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. — We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“It is an axiom in my mind, that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This it is the business of the State to effect, and on a general plan.”

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.”

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

“No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free no one ever will.”

“The greatest good we can do our country is to heal it’s party divisions & make them one people. I do not speak of their leaders who are incurable, but of the honest and well-intentioned body of the people.”

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”

“No government can be maintained without the principle of fear as well as of duty. Good men will obey the last, but bad ones the former only.”

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

“That one hundred and fifty lawyers should do business together ought not to be expected.”

“Good wine is a necessity of life for me.”

Not true: Jefferson was the greatest writer from America’s Founding Fathers, and it’s inevitable that modern society has created many phrases that support their beliefs, and attributed them to Jefferson. It’s just not true. Don’t believe all of those graphics you read on Facebook. Jefferson did NOT SAY THESE THINGS:

NO – Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

NO – Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.

NO – My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

NO – The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.

NO – The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.

True: Jefferson was appointed to write the first draft of what became the Declaration of Independence. Others at the Continental Congress contributed to the effort.  For example, Jefferson had written, “We hold these truths to be sacred and un-deniable…” Franklin changed it to, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Months before Jefferson actually assumed the role as Minister to France he arrived in Paris on August 6, 1784 and four days later rode to greet his old friend Benjamin Franklin. When the French foreign minister, the Count de Vergennes, commented to Jefferson, “You replace Monsieur Franklin, I hear,” Jefferson replied, “I succeed him. No man can replace him.”

Thomas Jefferson was the first to be inaugurated in Washington DC. Jefferson also was the only one to walk to and from his inauguration.

Jefferson was vehemently against the corrupting influence of banks and monied interests. He joined with Madison, and actively worked against Hamilton. Washington nearly dismissed Jefferson from his cabinet over this, and Jefferson did leave the cabinet voluntarily.  Washington, however, never forgave and never spoke to him again.

Jefferson sought to purge from government the Federalists appointed to government jobs during the previous administration … a practice common today, but greeted with howls of protest in the early 1800s.

Ohio became a state during Jefferson’s Presidency.

The Louisiana Purchase was completed during Jefferson’s Presidency. Historians disagree with how that happened, exactly. Did Napoleon Bonaparte initiate the transaction? Does Jefferson deserve credit?  Madison? Monroe? The price was $15 million, and it was a bargain. Jefferson gets credit for completing the deal, in spite of the lack of constitutional authority to do so (which Federalists criticized him for).

Historians have long disagreed about Jefferson’s commitment to the anti-slavery cause. Many believe he was the father of one or more children by Sally Hemings, a slave that he owned. It is true that in 1807, he signed a law that banned the importation of slaves into the United States.

Jefferson believed that all (white, landowning) men were created equal and should be treated the same.  His home was open to all citizens.  In 1803, England’s foreign minister came to call on him at the Presidential Mansion … wearing full diplomatic regalia.  Secretary of State Madison couldn’t find Jefferson … but when he finally was found, Jefferson came to the meeting wearing slippers.

Lewis & Clark gave him two grizzly bears, which he kept on the White House lawn for some time.

Jefferson’s original tombstone is on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia, my alma mater. His epitaph, which Jefferson wrote, does not mention that he was the 3rd President of the United States!


The Official Portrait: Rembrandt Peale painted the Official White House Portrait of Thomas Jefferson in 1800.

Thomas Jefferson, Official White House Portrait

Thomas Jefferson Signature


Big Mo – Bad Quotes

US Flag: The Snake Flags   10 comments

I hate snakes.  Hate’em.

The rattlesnake, a reptile found only in the Americas, was the first animal used to symbolize the colonies prior to the creation of the USA.

When the colonies began to chafe under English rule, it was observed that England was sending convicts to America.  Benjamin Franklin suggested that we return the favor by sending them rattlesnakes.  His thoughts were published in the Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1751:

“In the Spring of the Year, when they first creep out of their Holes, they are feeble, heavy, slow, and easily taken; and if a small Bounty were allow’d per Head, some Thousands might be collected annually, and transported to Britain. There I would propose to have them carefully distributed in St. James’s Park, in the Spring-Gardens and other Places of Pleasure about London; in the Gardens of all the Nobility and Gentry throughout the Nation; but particularly in the Gardens of the Prime Ministers, the Lords of Trade and Members of Parliament; for to them we are most particularly obliged…I would only add, That this Exporting of Felons to the Colonies, may be consider’d as a Trade, as well as in the Light of a Favour. Now all Commerce implies Returns: Justice requires them: There can be no Trade without them. And Rattle-Snakes seem the most suitable Returns for the Human Serpents sent us by our Mother Country. In this, however, as in every other Branch of Trade, she will have the Advantage of us. She will reap equal Benefits without equal Risque of the Inconveniencies and Dangers. For the RattleSnake gives Warning before he attempts his Mischief; which the Convict does not.”

I like Ben Franklin.  And if his plan would have rid the country of snakes, I’m sad it was never implemented.

Known for their fierce response when disturbed, the rattlesnake became a prominent feature on early battle flags in the Revolutionary War. Rattlesnakes were native throughout the original 13 colonies.

A rattlesnake on a flag was first used as a symbol for US Marines attached to the seven ship United States Navy.  General George Washington established the navy to make raids on English shipping, and the Second Continental Congress approved the creation of five companies of Marines to accompany the Navy on the first mission.  Those Marines, enlisted in Philadelphia, carried drums painted yellow with a 13-rattle rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread On Me.”

Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden presented what has become known as the Gadsden flag to Commodore Esek Hopkins to serve as the personal standard of his flagship.

For a time, it was thought that the First Navy Jack was used in the Revolutionary War by the Navy, but those accounts were apparently in error.  A striped jack was used in the war, but there’s no evidence that it had a snake on it.  That tradition took hold, however, and the symbol is now used in today’s US Navy.

Said to be the first political cartoon, Benjamin Franklin's "Join or Die" illustration was first published in the Pennsylvania Gazette,  May 9, 1754.

Said to be the first political cartoon, Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” illustration was first published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, May 9, 1754. It indicated N.E. for New England at the head, and then identified the colonies in order going south down the coast.

200 men from the Virginia colony fought under this flag in 1775.

200 men from the Virginia colony fought under this flag in 1775.

Various versions of the flag had an apostrophe (or not), a grass base for the snake (or not), and the snake facing left or right.

Various versions of the Gadsden Flag had an apostrophe (or not), a grass field for the snake to spring from (or not), and the snake facing left or right.

The First Navy Jack is now flown on the oldest navy ship in service: currently the aircraft carrier USS Constitution.

The First Navy Jack is now flown on the oldest navy ship in service: currently the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

Today, sailors fighting in the war on terror wear First Navy Jack patches on their camouflage uniforms. Other U.S. military personnel, particularly special operations personnel, have worn First Navy Jack embroidered patches as well.


Benjamin Franklin, AKA “An American Guesser” on the rattle-snake

Department of the Navy on the First Union Jack


US Flag: The First

US Flag: The Second