James Monroe was the country’s fifth president and the last of the American Founding Fathers. A man of great integrity, he had very little party feeling and was extremely popular. He called himself a Republican. He dressed traditionally and was the last president to wear his hair in a ponytail. (When was the last time you thought a man in a ponytail was sporting a traditional, conservative style?!) Monroe favored a weak presidency and was a strict constructionist. This meant he thought the federal government had power to do only what was explicitly written in the Constitution. One of the last men who had fought against Great Britain in the American Revolution, Monroe worked to keep government small. In 1820, he was reelected without any opposing candidate.
James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758 and lived until the age of 73, passing in 1831. Monroe was home schooled by his mother until the age of 11. After this he attended college for four years. A Virginian, just like four of the first five presidents, Monroe dropped out of college to fight the British in the American Revolution as an officer. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Trenton (Washington’s crossing of the Delaware), later trained soldiers at Valley Forge, and fought at the Battle of Monmouth. During and after the war, Monroe trained to be an attorney under Thomas Jefferson. Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright when he was 28 and they lived 44 years together as husband and wife. They had three children, though one died at the age of sixteen months. Their daughter Maria was the first child of a President to be married in the White House.
Like other founding fathers, James Monroe’s relationship with slavery was complicated. He owned slaves and a plantation and slaves served him in Virginia and later in the White House. But he was morally opposed to slavery, tried making the international slave trade illegal, and worked to establish a country in Africa, later called Liberia with Monrovia as its capital, to resettle all African-Americans. As Governor of Virginia in 1800, he helped crush a slave rebellion and participated in the arrest of over 70 and execution of 10. As President, he resided over the Compromise of 1820, which added new states to the Union and maintained an equal number of slave states to free states. Monroe and the Founding Fathers feared that slavery would one day end the American republic, but they never resolved this issue and left it as a cancerous sore.
James Monroe served as a representative, a senator, the governor of Virginia, a minister to France where he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase under President Jefferson, and was Secretary of State and then Secretary of War under James Madison during the War of 1812. His long political history and major accomplishments earned him the trust of the Presidential electors who voted him in two terms as President, from 1817-1825.
Throughout his tenure, there was no opposing political party, and historians have called this time the “Era of Good Feelings.” Monroe’s actions as President exemplify the founder’s ideal of a republic with a limited government. Monroe favored public works, but only if they were related to national defense. The federal government created and improved coastal forts. However, Monroe opposed the government spending money on roads, canals or other projects if they were not strictly related to defense, because the Constitution does not give the federal government this power. In 1822, Monroe vetoed a bill that would have authorized federal funds to improve the Cumberland Road. Monroe claimed, “it is with deep regret, approving as I do the policy, that I am compelled to object to its passage and to return the bill to the House of Representatives, in which it originated, under a conviction that Congress does not possess the power under the Constitution to pass such a law.”
James Monroe achieved great success in the area of foreign policy. He settled the U.S.-Canadian border dispute through a treaty with Great Britain. In Georgia, his administration ordered General Andrew Jackson to defeat the Seminole Indians, who had been raiding settlers and then escaping into Spanish Florida. Jackson illegally invaded Florida, conquered the Indians, and found two British agents, then tried, convicted, and hung them as spies. Spain was thus forced to sell Florida to the U.S. for $5 million in the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. However, Monroe is best known for the Monroe Doctrine.
The Monroe Doctrine of 1820 forbids any European power from meddling in the affairs of North and South American countries in return for America staying out of European affairs. In the early 1800s, Spanish colonial power in the Americas was weakening, and France appeared to want to take Spain’s possessions. The United States wanted to make sure no European power would ever again colonize the Americas, and Great Britain was eager to create a “special relationship” with their former colonies. Great Britain secretly assured America it would use its navy to defend the Americas.
James Monroe was the last American Founding Father to serve as President, and as such he continued the great fortune and blessings that were bestowed on the first republic of modern times. Though imperfect and unable to resolve slavery, Monroe helped establish the United States of America as one of the strongest and freest countries on earth. His sacrifice in the American Revolution, his service in various offices in Virginia, and his Presidency were all in the aim of building a country founded in individual liberty and constitutionalism.
Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) is the first Native American to be canonized a Catholic saint. She was born in 1656 in what is today the state of New York. Her tribe was the mighty Mohawk, her father was Chief Kenneronka, and her mother was an Algonquian who had been assimilated into the Mohawks. Her Mohawks name “Tekakwitha” means “one who bumps into things.” Kateri had a tough childhood and was faced with many moral challenges throughout her life. Immediately after her death at the age of 24, witnesses claim a miracle occurred. As a young girl of four, she survived smallpox but for the rest of her life bore ugly facial scars. Witnesses claim that after her death all of her scars completely disappeared. A church was built in her honor, and numerous miracles have been attributed to her.
From a young age, Kateri suffered hardship. At the age of four, her parents and her younger brother died of smallpox. She survived but her face was badly scarred, she suffered poor eyesight and poor health the rest of her life. Her aunt adopted her. At the age of 10, Kateri’s village was attacked by the French, and to end the fighting her Mohawk tribe agreed to live in French territory with the Jesuit missionaries, who wanted to convert the Indians. Kateri’s uncle forbade her to speak to the missionaries, but she disobeyed him.
A Mohawk girl in the 1600s was supposed to grow up within the tribe, marry one of the Mohawk men, have babies, cook, weave mats and baskets, and work on the farm. Kateri chose at an early age to do something completely opposite. While with the Jesuits, her tribe was attacked by the Mahican, and she helped the missionaries care for the sick and wounded. After this experience, she told her aunt she never wanted to marry.
In 1674, at the age of 18, Kateri decided to become a Catholic Christian and receive training form the French priests. Most in her tribe were disappointed and angry. She was ridiculed, called a witch, and ostracized. Two years later, she was baptized and moved to the Jesuit settlement of Kahnawake. It was then she took the Christian name of Kateri, after Saint Catherine of Sienna.
At Kahnawake were other Indian converts to Christianity. Kateri was no longer bullied but instead was encouraged to follow her heart’s wishes. There, she met her mother’s best friend who had also converted and other Christian women. Kateri attempted to strive to live a Christian life in how she treated others, in fasting, and even in acts of self-mortification. Throughout the medieval Christian world, many believed that if you harmed yourself physically in honor of God you gained blessings for yourself and others. Kateri wanted to tie her physical pain to the sufferings of Christ.
In 1680, Kateri Tekakwitha died at the Jesuit community of Kahnawake. Witnesses swore that within minutes of her death her facial scars healed and she became radiantly beautiful. Christians built a church in her honor, and pilgrims arrived to pray at her burial site. Some reported miracles that occurred because of Kateri’s intercessions. The Catholic Church proclaimed her a saint in 2012, the first Native American saint.
Some believe Kateri’s story is joyful while others see it as a terrible tale of colonization. Catholics and other Christians point to her to show that Christianity gave Indian women the freedom to do what they want to do and to live in a loving community. Others say that her story shows how European colonization destroyed the Native American way of life and that the missionaries were wrong to convert her.
Geronimo (1829-1909) is one of the most-recognizable of American Indians who resisted the American government in the 1800s and 1900s. A leader of the Chiricahua tribe of the Apache, Geronimo fought Mexico, the United States of America, and other Native American Indians until he surrendered to the United States in 1886 and died a prisoner of war. Married nine times and father to many children, Geronimo brought fear into the hearts and minds of Mexicans and Americans.
Geronimo was born in Mexico in 1829, in present-day Arizona, and he was raised in the Apache war culture. The Apaches raided Mexican and other Indian villages as a way of life. During these raids, Apache would steal cattle and horses, kill men, and steal women as slaves. In response, Mexico tried to kill all Apache, offering $25 for every Apache scalp. As a young man, Geronimo married and had three children with his wife, Alope. On one outing while he was away on a trading trip, Mexican soldiers came into his camp and murdered women and children, including his mom, his young wife, and his three boys. He vowed to seek revenge the rest of his life against the Mexicans.
In 1848, the land Geronimo’s Apaches lived on changed hands from the Mexicans to the Americans, and the Apaches were now enemies of not only the Mexicans but the Americans, as well. For the next 38 years, Geronimo and the Apaches successfully waged war against Mexico and the United States of America. His band of soldiers, and women and children, would travel as far as 70 miles a day to avert capture. At the same time, they waged guerilla war against settlers. 5,000 United States soldiers, 3,000 Mexicans, and hundreds of Indian scouts hounded Geronimo’s Apaches throughout the Southwest.
Finally, Geronimo surrendered and he and his Apache tribe were taken prisoner to Oklahoma. Three years before Geronimo died, he converted to Christianity. In his autobiography, he said,
“Since my life as a prisoner has begun I have heard the teachings of the white man's religion, and in many respects believe it to be better than the religion of my fathers. However, I have always prayed, and I believe that the Almighty has always protected me. Believing that in a wise way it is good to go to church, and that associating with Christians would improve my character, I have adopted the Christian religion. I believe that the church has helped me much during the short time I have been a member.”
However, on his deathbed, it has been reported that he said he was no longer a Christian. This truth of this incident is uncertain, though, and he was buried in a Christian cemetery.
Many Americans did not believe his conversion was real. Stories of his brutal tactics and successes would not allow them to think this Indian leader had accepted Christ. The New York Times noted when he died that Geronimo “was the worst type of aboriginal American savage. Even his so-called religious conversion was not without cunning.” The Times journalists believed he had converted in order to persuade President Roosevelt to give the Apaches back their land in Arizona.
Geronimo was very fond of marriage. He married nine times and it appears he had many children. Some of his wives, like his first one, Alope, were murdered by soldiers. One witness claims he killed one of his wives when she would not escape from soldiers with him. He did have multiple wives at the same time, which was keeping in tradition with the Apache custom.
Toward the end of his life, Geronimo appeared in Wild West shows, at world’s fairs, and rode in President Roosevelt’s Inaugural Parade. On the reservation, he sold bows and arrows and posed for pictures. As there was little work available for Indians, it is a sign of resourcefulness that Geronimo stayed active through the age of 90. The night before he died, he went into town and got drunk. Riding home, he fell off his horse. Injured and unable to get back on, he stayed out all night long. He caught pneumonia and eventually died.
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) was one of the most influential American women of the 20th century. As a progressive and eugenicist, she believed that some humans were, by nature, inferior to others. Sanger was primarily driven to provide women complete control over their reproductive life and to make it impossible for the “unfit” to have children. Sanger wanted to create a master race. To achieve her ends, she sought to legalize and spread contraception and sterilization. Sanger was not a fan of abortion, but she wanted it legal and her work paved the way for the modern abortion industry. In 1921, she established The American Birth Control League, later to be named Planned Parenthood.
Eugenics, according to the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “the practice or advocacy of controlled selective breeding of human populations (as by sterilization) to improve the population's genetic composition.” Margaret Sanger believed in eugenics. Sanger wrote at the top of her birth control magazine publications, “More children from the fit and less from the unfit. That is the chief aim of birth control.” In a New York Times interview in 1922, she stated, “Superman is the aim of birth control.” In her book, The Pivot of Civilization, Sanger wrote, “Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class should be segregated during the reproductive period.” Sanger supported infanticide of disabled babies and wanted the legalization of abortion to achieve her eugenic goals.
Was Sanger a racist and did she want the elimination of ethnic minorities in America because of their race? That is hard to answer. But there is no doubt she believed she was able to decide who should live and who should not. Writing in 1931 “My Way to Peace, Sanger states she wants the government to :
. . . keep the doors of Immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feeble-minded, idiots, morons, insane, syphiletic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class . . . apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.
For Sanger, birth control was the primary method to promote a superior race, although she also wrote in favor of legalizing abortion. During the first half of her lifetime, birth control was illegal in the United States of America. Sanger worked to change society about contraception. In 1921, she formed the American Birth Control League to promote contraception. In 1929, she formed lobby group to push legislators to make contraception legal. In a 1936 court case, Sanger challenged and won the right for physicians to obtain contraceptives. That next year, the American Medical Association adopted contraception as a normal medical service.
The majority of Americans in the early 1900s believed that God should be in charge of determining when life begins, and that people should not use artificial means to influence pregnancy. Every major Christian religion opposed artificial contraception until 1930, when the Anglican Church approved it for married couples. Shortly after, other Protestant Christian Churches approved it. The Roman Catholic Church still teaches that artificial contraception is inherently evil.
Margaret Sanger sought to control the population, especially in low income, immigrant, and African-American communities. She wrote, “A License for Mothers to Have Babies” with the subtitle, “A code to stop the overproduction of children.” In this publication, she asserted that parenthood was not a right but a privilege that only the state could give. She championed the 1939 initiative “The Negro Project,” which sought to get rid of too many births among African Americans. She declared, “The mass of Negroes, particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes, even more than among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear children properly.”
Sanger visited the totalitarian countries of Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union in the 1930s. Her main reason was to investigate how these two totalitarian governments handled women’s rights, eugenics, and human reproductive matters. While not a NAZI, Sanger shared the stage with other NAZI eugenicists and did not denounce them. Sanger did not approve of Hitler’s barbarism, but she also did not change her views on forced sterilizations of the unfit or legalizing abortion. After visiting the Soviet Union in 1935, she wrote for the Birth Control Review, "Russia today is the country of the liberated woman. The attitude of Soviet Russia toward its women...would delight the heart of the staunchest feminist." She liked that the Soviets gave out free contraceptive devices to women, but she disliked the Soviet use of abortion as a means of mass population control. She didn’t object to legalizing abortion, but thought that Russians used abortion too frequently and women needed more access to contraceptives.
Margaret Sanger died in 1966. Her work changed American society and perhaps the world. For Progressive who think the government and certain “fit” women should decide who should live and who has the right to procreate, she is their hero. When Sanger was born, in 1879, birth control and abortion were illegal throughout the United States of America, and both were viewed as sinful by the great majority of Americans who were Christian. She worked to make every means of birth control and eugenics a reality in America. At her death, birth control was legal in most states, and, seven years after her death, abortion became legal, as well. The organization that she founded, Planned Parenthood, became the nation’s largest provider of abortion and today, promotes abortion and sterilization around the world. In 2020, Planned Parenthood accounted for 345,672 abortions and 2.6 million contraceptive services in the United States. Annually, there are over 1 million abortions in America, averaging 3,000 a day. Sanger’s views on population control, eugenics, and birth control and abortion have had a major influence in the country and in the world.
One of America’s greatest doctors and activists for the least protected in society was Mildred Fay Jefferson (1927-2010). Jefferson was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, the first woman to graduate in surgery from Harvard, and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society. She influenced a President of the United States of America to change his mind on abortion, and throughout her life, she was a voice for powerless in American society.
Mildred Jefferson was born in raised in segregated Texas and experienced first-hand racism and sexism. She grew up in a time where legally, black Americans experienced injustices because of their color. Her father was a Methodist minister and her mother a school teacher. Even though blacks had less opportunities than whites in the 1930s and 1940s, Jefferson never let her circumstances hold her back. As a young girl, she accompanied the town doctor on his house calls and told him that she would one day become a doctor. This was during a time that nearly all doctors were men and white. She succeeded in her dream.
Jefferson was an outstanding student and throughout her career she broke new ground for black Americans and for women. At the age of 15, she entered Texas College and earned her bachelor’s degree in three years. Normally it takes four years. She went on to earn a master’s degree in biology and then to Harvard and became a medical doctor in 1951. She was Harvard’s first black woman ever to graduate from medical school. She was the first female doctor at the Boston University Medical Center and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society.
Jefferson worked all her life to defend the innocent and society’s most vulnerable. She strongly believed in the preservation of life, and fought tirelessly to protect the unborn. Around 1970, she was one of the founders of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. She later was one of the founders of the National Right to Life Committee. She was President of this committee from 1975-1978. “Millie” was a persuasive speaker, and after one time listening to her speech, the future President Ronald Reagan became pro-life. He wrote to her, "You have made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life, I am grateful to you. " In a 1978 video, Jefferson explained:
“I became a physician in order to help save lives. I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live.” And, in another interview that same year, ““I would guess that the abortionists have done more to get rid of generations and cripple others than all of the years of slavery and lynchings.”
On October 15, 2020, at the age of 84, Mildred Fay Jefferson passed away in her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was a pioneer in medicine for American women and for black Americans and she tirelessly fought for the lives of those who could not speak for themselves.
One of America’s greatest authors of all time was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by his pen name Mark Twain (1835-1910). He was born in Missouri when it was considered the west, and continued moving west until he decided it was time to jump continents and live in Europe. Known for his wit, his analysis of human behavior, and at the end of his life his love for young people, Twain’s writings exemplify what it meant to be an American living in the 1800s. Change, moving west, honesty, independent-minded, funny, self-critical and struggle was the story of Mark Twain.
Twain is famous for his literature. His one-liners tell us a great deal about him.
“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often”
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
“I once fell into a California river and got all dusty.”
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”
“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
Throughout Twain’s writing life, he made Americans, and others around the world, laugh at themselves, laugh at others, and question if what they were doing was the right thing. Called the greatest American author that ever lived, Mark Twain’s life was all about moving, change, honesty and integrity.
Samuel Clemens was born in Missouri and raised in Hannibal, right next to the Mississippi River. He became Mark Twain when his writing career took off. That river became the focus point of two of his most famous novels about a boy growing up in 1800s America, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At various times throughout America’s history, these books have been forbidden by libraries because of their use of the “N Word,” even though Twain wrote in the vernacular and even though these books do not support racism. Three of Twain’s siblings died young, and his dad died when the boy was only 11. After his father’s death, Twain left school and became a printer’s apprentice, then a typesetter, then a printer, writing various humorous stories while working in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. He came back to the Mississippi River and trained for two years for his dream job, a steamboat pilot. He worked as a pilot until 1861, when the Civil War broke out. He joined the war as a Confederate soldier, and after two weeks, he quit and “lit out for the West.”
In the west, Clemens tried and failed as a miner and went back to writing. While writing articles for various newspapers, in Nevada and then in California, he also wrote short stories, such as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” He was hired to travel to Europe and the Middle East and write about it. On this trip, fellow passenger Charles Langdon showed him a picture of his sister. Mark Twain described the moment as falling in love with the woman at first sight. This girl in the picture later became his wife! She wasn’t even on the boat.
Samuel Clemens married Olivia Langdon in 1870 in New York and had three daughters and one son (who passed away at 19 months). Samuel and his wife were married for 34 years until Olivia’s death in 1904. Through his wife’s family, Samuel Clemens met Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and other important figures of the day. In the 1870s and 1880s the Clemens family lived in Connecticut, where Mark Twain wrote many of his famous novels.
While Mark Twain was a famous author, he made poor investments that caused his bankruptcy. Trying his hand with inventions and technology, Twain lost nearly all his financial worth. For much of the 1890s, the Clemens family lived in various countries of Europe, seeking help from their poor health, searching for less expensive places to live, and in between, Twain would come back to the states to try to resolve his financial problems. Even though Twain had declared bankruptcy and did not need to pay back his debtors, he went on a year-long arduous world lecture tour to make enough money to pay back all those who had ever loaned him money. Mark Twain was a sought-after speaker, performing humorous solo talks, similar to modern stand-up-comedy.
Mark Twain had believed America should spread the American way of life around the world. However, after supporting the Spanish-American War of 1898, he had a change of heart and became an anti-Imperialist. He saw how the USA fought the Philippines instead of allowing this people their independence immediately. Twain said, “I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
In the later years of Twain’s life, he lived in Manhattan. After his daughter died in 1896, his wife in 1904, and then another daughter in 1909, he understandably was depressed, at times. He still wrote, however, and, he even formed a club for girls who were interested in writing. Called the “Angel Fish and Aquarium Club” for a dozen girls between the ages of 10 and 16, Twain exchanged letters, took them to concerts and the theatre and played games with the kids. In 1908, Twain wrote that the club was his “life’s chief delight.”
Mark Twain predicted that he would die when Halley’s Comet came closest to Earth in 1910. He believed this because he was born two weeks after the Comet was closest to Earth in 1835. Twain said, “I came with Hally’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almight has said, no doubt: Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”
Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley’s Comet was closest to Earth. He lived a life of integrity, humor, and devotion, as well as being one of America’s greatest authors of all time. His writings continue to cause laughter and controversy today. He could have chosen to not pay back his debts, but he left his family for one year to pay his creditors. Towards the end of his life, when those closest to him had died, he supported and encouraged young girls in their writing and enjoyment of life. Ernest Hemingway wrote of Mark Twain, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”
In the United States of America, Christmas was established as a federal holiday on June 26, 1870. It is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the man Christians believe is the son of God and the savior of the world. It has its roots in ancient times and is celebrated around the world.
For the first few hundred years after Jesus Christ, his birthday was not celebrated. Instead, Epiphany, when the three kings from separate places of the world visited Christ, was the focus of Christians. The visit of the Magi symbolized that salvation was open to the whole world, not just one select nation. Later, early Church Fathers promoted the idea that the birth of Jesus Christ should be celebrated. December 25, 336, marks the first day Christians officially celebrated the first Christmas on Earth, and it was in the Roman Empire.
The date of Christmas and some American traditions have pagan roots. In the Roman Empire, December 25th was the day of “natalis solis invict” (the Roman birth of the unconquered sun), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness.” Saturnalia, a Roman festival that honored the sun, lasted from December 17th to December 23rd. The winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, also falls a few days before December 25th and had been celebrated by pagans. Early Christian Church leaders believed that days that had been set aside to honor pagan gods could be changed to honor Christianity. It was thought that people would more easily accept Christianity and move away from paganism by replacing pagan celebrations with Christian ones.
The festival of Saturnalia honored the Roman god Saturn. Romans had a public banquet, gifts were exchanged, there was much partying, and servants were served by their masters. Singers performed in streets, and baked cookies shaped like men. While some Christians dislike any association with pagan traditions, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) wrote, “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of him who made it."
In Great Britain and in the fledgling English colonies in America, the birth of Christ was remembered with joy and festivities until the Puritans, led by Oliver Cromwell, outlawed celebrating Christmas in 1645. Puritans believed that celebrating the birth of Christ was a sign of decadence and a disgrace to Christianity. In the English Colonies, the English separatists also believed in worshipping Jesus without ceremonies and made celebrating Christmas a crime. Few in the United States know or would understand how celebrating Christmas with parties, special meals and drinks, was a crime in most of the English colonies until the 18th century, but it was. Although it was no longer a crime, celebrating Christmas in the 1700s was primarily a quiet and solemn religious event, involving no frivolity.
In the 1800s, Americans' views on Christmas changed a great deal. One author, Washington Irving, wrote fictitious stories of how Christmas had been celebrated in England before the Puritans took over, and some of these stories caught on in American practices. German immigrants brought with them the practice of placing evergreen branches and trees in home during winter as a reminder of life during hard times. And, Catholic immigrants brought the tradition started by Saint Francis of keeping small nativity scenes in their homes. By the late 1800s, most Americans celebrated Christmas. In 1870, President Grant and Congress declared Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, savior of the world, a national holiday.
On Tuesday, November 3, the United States of America held the last day of its Presidential election between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden. As of November 10, it is still unclear who won. Due to various states’ decisions to extend dates to receive mail-in-ballots, the tight race in these same states, and various lawsuits that deal with fraud and equal treatment of voters, it is unclear how long it will be before Americans know who won the election. According to news networks such as CNN, AP, CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox, Joe Biden has won the Presidency. However, according to Real Clear Politics, News Max, Breitbart, and Epoch Times, no one has yet won the election. What does the Constitution say?
The Electoral Process According to the U.S. Constitution
Based on the U.S. Constitution, the legislature of each state determines how to choose electors that will vote for a President and Vice President. How many electors each state has is determined by the number of Representatives and Senators in each state. In the first few elections in America, the state legislatures chose the President and Vice President. Over time, however, each state moved to choose its electors based on the popular vote within each state. Still, the state legislatures must commission electors to vote for the President and Vice President, and this need not be based on the popular vote. A candidate must win state certified votes and 270 electors much choose a candidate at a meeting of electors. No state has so far certified any of their electors to either candidate. The electors are scheduled to vote on December 14 within their own state. At this time, who will be the U.S. President becomes official.
Coronavirus and Reaction to Coronavirus
Typically, there is one election day to vote for the President, who is voted for every four years. However, the coronavirus and reactions to the virus has dramatically changed how the 2020 election for President was held. Democrats throughout the country placed over 300 lawsuits desiring mail-in-ballots, extension of deadlines for states to receive ballots, and changing of voter verification requirements. In some states, Democrats won the lawsuits and through court order, states had to change how elections were conducted. Republicans claimed that this was unconstitutional, as state legislatures did not determine the electoral process but judges did. Now, President Trump is hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will decide.
Voting Irregularities in the Presidential Election
There are a variety of voting irregularities the 2020 Presidential election. Candidate Joe Biden, for example, received less votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012 in all of the states that went Democrat except the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Typically, a candidate’s successes improve nationally, not only in battleground states. Another anomaly is in Wisconsin, where over 89% of the registered voters voted. That is a 29% increase from the last record, which was set in 1984 in the Reagan/Mondale election. An 89% voting statistic sounds more like a piece of data from a third-world country led by a dictator. A third anomaly is the Republicans picked up seats in the House of Representatives, lost one in the Senate, and held all governorships and state legislatures, and picked up seats in some state legislatures. For the country to decide for Republicans but rejects the Party’s leader does not make sense. A fourth oddity is that in the battleground states, Biden won more votes than the Democrat candidates for the House and Senate. There were a large number of ballots with only Biden chosen.
Claims of Fraud in the Presidential Election
In a number of states, namely Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, Republicans have accused Democrats of fraud and have filed lawsuits to pursue their cause. In many of these states, Democrat poll workers decided to stop counting votes sometime around midnight on election day. This unprecedented action led President Trump to immediately claim fraud. After polling stations reopened in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 100,000 votes came in for Biden in Wisconsin, and then over 120,000 for Pennsylvania, with no votes coming in for Trump. This does not make sense because poll workers, or the election machines that count votes, do not separate ballots depending on who a person voted for. In Pennsylvania, over 50 Republican poll observers were denied access to observe vote counting at a time where over 600,000 votes were entered after the election day. Over 450,000 Biden votes in Pennsylvania were entered with no verification of identity or signature. Democrat poll workers acted illegally in denying Republicans access, and continued to deny access even after a court order. A Pennsylvania postal worker filed an affidavit claiming that his supervisors instructed all postal workers to stamp ballot received after election date (which would make them illegal) November 3rd. A software glitch in Georgia was found that correctly placed 6,000 votes that had been given to Biden back to Trump. This software was used in Georgia and Michigan, while Texas rejected using it because of its unreliability. In Nevada, over 3,000 votes were placed by dead people. In Michigan over 10,000 votes were placed by dead people. In Nevada, an observer saw Biden/Harris employees opening up mailing ballots, making one choice, and sealing ballots inside a van. When noticed, Dems surrounded the van so nobody could see inside. This same person saw individuals entering the polling station with multiple ballots in hand throughout the day. At a number of polling places in Arizona, poll workers gave voters Sharpie pens, when they were supposed to hand out ball point pens. When a Sharpie runs to the other side of a paper, the machine rejects the vote.
Donald Trump has filed a number of lawsuits, with video evidence and witness affidavits, in a number of the battleground states of Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Because of these legal proceedings, some news networks are not declaring Joe Biden the President-elect. Still, many news media are declaring Biden the winner. In 2000, Vice President Al Gore sued George W. Bush over the Florida election count. At that time, no news network declared Bush the President-elect until the lawsuit was settled 37 days after the election.
As the electors have a December 14th date to place their votes in each of their states, it appears that the 2020 Presidential election has to be resolved before then.
1. How does someone become President in the United States of America?
2. Why do some news networks claim Biden won and others claim we do not know who won?
3. Name two voting irregularities that occurred in the 2020 Presidential election.
4. Name two cases of potential fraud that occurred in the 2020 Presidential election.
5. By which date will the problems involving the Presidential election most likely be resolved? Why?
This week on Halloween, millions of American families will carve pumpkins, but unlike in the past, children might not don costumes and go from house to house asking for candy. The coronavirus, and reactions to the coronavirus, will seriously curtail typical Halloween festivities. Still, in some churches and communities, families will participate in solemn religious ceremonies, or they will stay up playing games. The history of Halloween has its roots with the early days of Christianity, and possibly before.
Under the Roman Empire, early Christians faced great persecution for believing in Christ and for not following the Roman religion. Romans tortured and murdered Christians throughout the first three centuries. Then, in A.D. 313, Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, and in 380, Emperor Theodosius I declared Catholic Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. The persecution in the Roman Empire stopped, but Christians throughout the world still faced danger and death because of their belief.
Early Christians honored those who died for their faith and considered these martyrs saints. Churches were dedicated to a particular saint, or saints, and that dedication day, or consecration day, was celebrated each year. The Pantheon had been a Roman temple to all the gods, but in 609 Pope Boniface IV dedicated it to the saints and made May 13th a yearly celebration. Pope Gregory III (731-741) dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to all the saints on November 1st. Later, in 835, Pope Gregory IV added this celebration of All Saints Day to the Church calendar on November 1st for all Christians to celebrate.
The word Halloween comes from the celebration of All Saints Day (November 1st). From the very beginning of celebrating All Saints Day, Christians attended Holy Mass beginning the evening before November 1st. Thus, the celebration of Christmas begins on Christmas Eve. “Hallow” means “Holy” in Old English. All Hallow’s Eve (or Even) refers to the day before All Holy Day, or All Saints Day. Masses occurred one day before All Saint’s Day, in the evening. A blending of these three words (All Hallow’s Eve in Old English) gives us the word Halloween.
Pagan Influences or Origins?
Celebrating or honoring the dead was common among pagan peoples of the world, as well as marking the transition from one season to another. Knowing what happened among pagan peoples however, is challenging, as many polytheistic peoples of Europe were also illiterate. There is a lack of primary sources.
Over 2,000 years ago, Celts lived in Central and Northwestern Europe. Celts were pagans, people who believed in many gods. They believed that they could communicate with good and evil spirits. The Celts celebrated a day in the fall as the New Year. The night before was remembered as the end of fall, the end of harvest, and the end of the season where there were more hours of sunshine than dark. Samhain was the night when Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, damaging farms, causing trouble and communicating with humans.
To honor the ghosts, Celts built huge bonfires, burned portions of their crops, and offered animal sacrifices. The Romans reported the Celts offered humans as sacrifices. The Druids were Celtic priests, in charge of the ceremonies. On the night of Samhain, Druids believed they could communicate with the dead, and told the fortunes of others. After the ceremony was finished, the Celts took fire from the bonfire and lit their hearth fires, believing their home would now be protected from evil spirits.
Also pagan, Romans celebrated the end of fall with a festival geared towards worshipping gods. The Roman Goddess of the harvest was Pomona, and her day was celebrated on November 1st. Pomona was also the goddess of love and fertility. It is believed that on November 1st, single Romans over a certain age were compelled to “marry” someone for a year. The Christian Church ended this practice of marriage for one year. Instead, on November 1st, Christian Romans would draw the names of saints to try to emulate or be inspired for the year.
Pope Gregory I and Converting Pagans
In early medieval times, Church leaders and missionaries accomplished the enormous task of evangelizing pagan peoples throughout Europe and parts of Asia. One issue in changing pagan practices was how to deal with shrines that had been dedicated to various gods, and how to end pagan ceremonies. Some Christians argued the need to destroy the shrines. Pope Gregory I, however, argued that these pagan shrines be consecrated as Christian places of worship. In a letter sent in 601 to the missionaries to the Angles, Pope Gregory I writes, “For those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of God.” Pope Gregory I also writes, “For there is no doubt that it is impossible to cut off every thing at once from their rude natures; because he who endeavors to ascent to the highest place rises by degrees or steps, not by leaps.”
It is evident that the early Christians used natives’ buildings and local customs for the purpose of conversion. Regarding Halloween, we do not have a document from Christian leaders explaining that October 31st was chosen as All Hallow’s Eve because of the Celtic celebration of Samhain or because of the Roman holiday of Pomona. However, it appears that there is at least some tie between the pagan celebrations and the Christian holiday, but, it may never be completely clear to what extent these are connected.
After the Reformation in some countries of Europe, the celebration of Halloween was seen as Catholic and was outlawed. However, in Protestant England, the English celebrated their victory over Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic who tried to blow up the Protestant-sympathetic Parliament in 1605. He was caught and executed. On Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th) every year, the Protestant English would reenact Fawkes’ punishment by parading a scarecrow, the Pope in effigy, and other unpopular political figures, through the streets. Boys would dress up in costume and beg for coal to burn the scarecrows. Then, the scarecrows would be set on fire. Also, boys would play tricks on their neighbors.
Halloween in America
In America, Halloween evolved over the last four hundred years and is still evolving. Originally, Halloween was outlawed in many Puritan colonies, but in these colonies many celebrated Guy Fawkes Day and became fascinated with witchcraft and evil spirits. In colonies with religious freedom, Catholics celebrated All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
The American Revolution brought forth a huge wave of religious toleration and civic participation, and Halloween started to evolve more into a secular community event instead of a religious one. Over the 18th and 19th centuries, Halloween became a time for parties, games for children, and matchmaking.
In the 1900s, American magazines promoted how to throw the best Halloween parties and large candy manufacturers promoted the idea of giving out candy to those who want to play tricks. As America became modernized and mass media reached all households, it appears that the current Halloween customs were strongly endorsed by candy makers as a way to make more money. Most recently, department stores create and promote Halloween decorations and Americans spend great amounts of time, energy, and resources decorating their homes.
Other Americans, however, still celebrate the Christian meaning of Halloween, by attending church, saying prayers, remembering the saints, and recalling the martyrs of the faith. These Christians are inspired to live as heroes for the Christian faith. Other church communities hold carnivals as a way to evangelize and to keep kids off the street from participating in Trick or Treating.
*Christian Origin of Halloween: http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=1116
*A copy of Pope Gregory I’s missionary letter regarding how to deal with pagan shrines:
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/bede/history.v.i.xxix.html : CHAP. XXX. A copy of the letter which Pope Gregory sent to the Abbot Mellitus, then going into Britain. [601 A.D.]
The following is taken from The Story of Liberty, a curriculum and video course on the story of America. To learn more about The Story of Liberty, Click Here.
The Beginning of the American Revolution – April 19, 1775
April 19th, 2021 is the 246th anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution. 246 years ago American farmers and militia fought the “British Regulars” (professional soldiers) at Concord and Lexington and chased the redcoats back to Boston. The fight is sometimes called a skirmish, because it was less than a battle. A little over a year after this fight, Americans declared their right to form a new country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first modern republic was born with the actions of regular citizens rejecting a government that ruled without its consent.
The skirmish at Lexington and Concord was fought because the British tried to stop the Americans from preparing for war. In 1774, American leaders at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia petitioned King George III and parliament to restore their rights. When the king and parliament refused and continued to hold the people of Boston under martial law, the Americans decided to mobilize for war. Colonists established illegal, revolutionary governments, collected taxes to fund militia and even funerals for soldiers, and established arsenals, which are warehouses for guns and ammunition. Americans were already well-armed, with each family owning several guns. However, men in villages now trained as soldiers. Some, called minutemen, were chosen and financially supported by town leaders to be prepared to fight within a minute’s notice.
General Gage, the commander of the British army in Boston, wanted to surprise the colonists. He ordered Major Pitcairn to march 1,000 soldiers 20 miles to Concord to destroy colonial ammunition and to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Gage did not want a fight, but wanted take weapons from Americans so they could not fight. However, Americans in Boston learned of this plan and destroyed the surprise. On the night of April 18th, 1775, a Bostonian set two lanterns in the belfry tower of the Old North Church, thus signaling three riders, Dr. Samuel Prescott, William Dawes and Paul Revere, that the British would go to Concord initially by a sea route.
The three riders set off from Boston to Concord, warning the colonists “The Regulars are coming! The Regulars are coming!” The “Regulars” were the professional British soldiers. The three successfully alerted the colonists to arm themselves and meet the British.
On the morning of April 19th, 1775, the American Revolution started. The British Regulars met American militia assembled in Lexington, a village along the road to Concord. When the Regulars met the Americans, it was dark. Major Pitcairn ordered the Americans to disperse. They just stood there. Then, inexplicably, a shot rang out and the fighting started. The British killed eight and the Americans scattered. The British continued their march to Concord. In Concord, the British found the weapons and destroyed them. However, the Americans managed to defeat a smaller group of the British at the Old North Bridge, and this victory energized the colonists.
The British were now twenty miles away from Boston, in the middle of hostile territory. For the rest of the day, the Regulars marched back to the city, drums beating, in formation, along a narrow road. During this march, Americans took aim at the soldiers, firing behind trees, stone walls, and fences, and then running away when any British soldier would chase them. By the end of the day, Americans had killed nearly 300 British and had lost 85 men. Though a small victory, it was seen as a great triumph of Americans over the strongest empire in the world.
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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