Thursday, April 29, 2010

A late Inauguration

As the semester winds down and the days get longer, I find that I’m not as motivated to do the end of the year projects I have due for school. This also translates into not writing my blog, and after saying I’ll catch up from my missed week three weeks ago, I now find I’m behind even more. So, for the sake of school, I will put these two off until this summer, and will make up for them then.

So, with that being said, I will continue on for this week. As I was scanning my possibilities I found several from the Civil War (West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1861 and six years later Louisiana was the last Southern country to complete Reconstruction), but since I did that subject for my last post I think I need to do something from a different time period.

There are also the possibilities from WWI and WWII, but I’m not feeling that either. I think I wanted something from the Middle Ages, but I guess those didn’t appeal to me either. Thus, I’ve decided on something from early American history.

On April 30, 1789 George Washington was inaugurated as the first American President. Washington not only served as the first U.S. President, but also as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

In 1781 when the British surrendered the United States was created under the Articles of Confederation, the first U.S. government. The Articles of Confederation did not last long because of several weaknesses associated with it, mainly a weak federal government without the power to tax or print money, and 13 separate state governments acting like 13 individual countries. In addition for any laws to pass nine of the 13 states needed to pass the law, which proved to be very difficult.

The problems with the Articles of Confederation did not go away, and eventually the Founding Fathers decided a new government was necessary, one with a strong central government.

In 1787 Washington met with other state delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. At the convention the Constitution was drafted and signed, forming the government that is still in place in the U.S.

Washington was voted president unanimously by the Electoral College and served two terms as president, setting the informal president for presidents through Franklin D. Roosevelt who served four terms.

April 30 seems to be a late date to inaugurate a president, and it was. March 4 was the inauguration date of Washington’s second term, and March 4 remained the inauguration date until F.D. Roosevelt’s second term in 1937. The two exceptions were the inaugurations of James Monroe (March 5 because March 4 fell on a Sunday) and Rutheford B. Hays (March 3 because March 4 was again on Sunday).

However in 1937 the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution was passed, changing the inauguration date to January 20. In the early years of the nation the four-month waiting period was justified because of the communication lag and difficult transportation. However, as technology advanced the lengthy “lame Duck” period was not as necessary, so the Twentieth Amendment changed the inauguration date to January 20.

So, there is a bit of history about inauguration in the U.S. and the early political landscape. And now, I fear I must return to those end of the year papers. Only two weeks until summer! Happy history all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Beginning

On Friday I saw the 9 of April is the anniversary of the peace agreement between General Lee and General Grant. This peace settlement ended the Civil War in 1865 after five years of fighting.

I noticed this too late, and decided instead of producing a thrown together post, I would prefer to post one good post, and try to fit in two this week making up for my missed week. So, instead of doing more reading tonight I was researching what would be happening this week so I could begin to select my post topic for this week.

I hit the jackpot this week. April 12, 1861 Confederate troops began firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston South Carolina, beginning the Civil War. Within four days we have the beginning and end of the Civil War. I took a class last semester about the Civil War, so I will reference my notes for this subject; if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity I’d be crazy. So lets set the stage for the event.

Abraham Lincoln was voted President in 1860, causing many in the South to become alarmed. During his campaign Lincoln said repeatedly he wanted to contain slavery to the states that already had it, preventing future spread. Many Southern states thought by limiting slavery Lincoln would trample on the states rights. Actually, there were a lot of factors leading into the war, but states rights and slavery were the two main reasons.

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the country on December 20, 1860. By February of 1861 Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas had seceded. The secessionists met in Montgomery to establish the Confederate States of America, created a provisional government and asked the slave states to join it. They appointed leaders of the government from the states, and sent delegates to the Border States to try to persuade them to join the CSA.

By March the CSA was in trouble because there was no unity, no money and not a lot of man power if war was to come. In the mean time, Lincoln was sworn into office (because at this time the President did not resume office until March) and tried to ease tensions by promising he would not attack any of the southern states.

The costal forts became very important. Most were in the south because of the fear of an attack from Mexico, and the union controlled the forts. These forts were a symbol of Union presence, since the federal government of the U.S.A. still had possession of these forts. However the South believed these forts were their territory.

Fort Sumter was one of the forts, located in the Charleston Bay. After time the fort needed supplies, and Lincoln sent a ship with supplies to the Union troops stationed there. He also sent a warning to the Confederate States telling them he was only sending supplies, not troops. Lincoln did not want to anger the boarder states, which had yet to secede. Despite the warning, the Confederate Government decided to fire on the ship.

Once this happened a war started between Fort Sumter and the rest of the Charleston Bay. Eventually, the soldiers stationed at the fort did surrender. Lincoln responded by asking for volunteers to help put down the rebellion in the South, and in response Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas secede.

Almost four years later three days shy of the four year anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter General Lee would surrender to General Grant ending the Confederate States of America.

I was fortunate enough to visit Fort Sumter while I was visiting the South. It is one of the best tours I’ve taken and I definitely learned a lot about Fort Sumter and the beginning of the war. With that I say happy history for now, and hopefully I can get another post up this week!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I realize that I did not post last week. There really is no excuse, but in my slight defense it was Passover and I was crazy busy with that. So, I am going to try and catch up by doing two blogs this week. Whether that will actually happen or not is the true question, one which time and my motivation levels later this week will determine. But for now, it is a good goal; one I have every intension on fulfilling.

With that being said I would like to say both Happy Passover and Happy Easter for this week. There is an interesting situation in my house because my mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic (made easier since we are not religious). I try to give both an equal weight, and participated in Lent, and also attempted to give up bread for the week for Passover.

This being said, today is Easter and I’m munching on a chocolate bunny which I got for my Easter basket. This made me wonder how a chocolate rabbit became synonymous for Easter, and even more broadly what the history is of chocolate. It has long been revered as one of the greatest pleasures in life. Perhaps I hold this opinion because I am a girl and we live off the stuff. Regardless, I think I’ll turn my attention to chocolate for my first blog this week.

Chocolate originated in the Amazon about 4,000 years ago. The Aztec took the beans from the trees to process into a drink called “xocoatl” or “chocoati.” This basically means foam water, and the chocolate was consumed only in the liquid form, which was usually highly spiced. The Aztecs believed chocolate was consumed by the Gods and the cocoa seed was brought to earth as a blessing from the God of Air.

Once the Spanish visited (or rather invaded) the area they carried these seeds back to Spain to expand the use from only a drink to a more solid form. Chocolate remained a secret in Spain for the next hundred years; only monks were allowed to process the beans into chocolate in hopes of keeping the process a secret. With the decline of Spain’s power the secret leaked out to other European nations.

A fun fact to store away for later: apparently the Quakers participated in making chocolate, in hopes the poor would give up drinking alcohol for a healthier drink made of chocolate. One famous Quaker was Milton Hershey who later became one of the most important chocolate manufacturers.

But how did chocolate take the form of a rabbit for Easter? Rabbits have been considered the symbol of fertility because of how prolific they are in the reproductive area. In fact, the name Easter derived from the Goddess of Fertility, Eostre. Thus, the association of fertility is important to the holiday because it marks the beginning of spring, and this has translated to candy in the shape of rabbits.

The synchronism of many old pagan holidays and ideas is beneath the surface of many holidays, and Easter is simply one example.

So, that is a brief history of chocolate, and the chocolate rabbit for Easter. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday (which ever you celebrate) and as always happy history!

I welcome comments, so if you have suggestions post them below!