History

History, History Column

To ‘Heed’ or Not to ‘Heed’…

History by ©2021 Sarah Becker   To ‘Heed’ or Not to ‘Heed’…   “There are errors in our National Government which call for correction,” George Washington wrote on May 18, 1786. “Ignorance & design are difficult to combat. Out of these proceed illiberality, improper jealousies, and a trail of evils…[T]o be so fallen!—so lost! is really mortifying.” The American Heritage dictionary defines illiberality as “obedience to one’s opinions or prejudices; narrow-mindedness, lacking tolerance or breadth of view.” Today’s dilemma: after two years of medical suffering—of living with the COVID-19 pandemic—many Americans still refuse to get vaccinated, to pay heed to vaccine need. Economists define a public good as a good that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous; where no one can be excluded from its use and where the use by one does not diminish the availability of the good to others. Classic examples include clean air, clean water, and national security. Nobel prize-winning author Paul Samuelson confirmed such in 1954. The common good is that which benefits society as a whole; something—like mass vaccinations—that can only be achieved through a mix of political procedures and the collective of citizen participation. John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society suggests that public goods are things that “must be provided for everyone if they are to be provided for anyone, and they must be paid for collectively or they cannot be had at all.” Health, generally, is not considered a public good. Public health however is “inextricably linked to government action and the provision of public goods.” Public health, as illustrated by herd immunity [Smallpox, Tuberculosis, and COVID-19] represents a collective benefit from which no one is excluded. Yet in September, 2021, Representative Jim Jordan [R-OH] called “vaccine mandates un-American;” implying founding father George Washington opposed compulsory vaccinations. I would have thought a winning wrestler…

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History, History Column

America’s First National Museum: The Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building

by Sarah Becker Copyright ©2021 Sarah Becker America’s First National Museum: The Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building   In 1879 greenbacks reached a face value with gold; Congress granted female lawyers the right to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the California maxim “the Chinese must go” was popular. Thomas A. Edison discovered that “a thread of carbonized cotton in one-millionth of an atmosphere would burn for 45 hours without overheating,” and Congress passed a bill “allowing a sum…sufficient to erect a fire-proof edifice…commensurate with the size and value of the [Smithsonian’s] many specimens.” America’s first National Museum: the Smithsonian’s Arts & Industries Building [AIB] opened to the public in 1881. Designed by architect Adolf Cluss, the building—“far ahead of its time: sustainable, efficient, and stunningly elegant”—temporarily reopens this month. A severe 2004 snowstorm raised concerns about the stability of the structure and forced the museum to close. The Smithsonian’s second oldest building—the Castle is the first—the AIB is described as “more than a museum.” It was “an incubator; a hall of invention, and the mother of museums.”  The opening celebration was grand. Crowds poured in to see Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone; the first cast of a blue whale, “remarkable treasures that…showcased geology, metallurgy, zoology, medicine, anthropology, art, history and technologies.” “It is not generally known that the functions of the National Museum and the Smithsonian are entirely different,” The New York Times wrote in 1879. “The object of the former is the establishment of a collection of specimens, natural and artistic, which shall exhibit the resources of the country, or present at a glance the materials essential to a condition of high civilization which exists in the different States of the Union; to show the various processes of manufacture which have been adopted by us, as well as…

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History, History Column

Ratification ERA – 2021

by ©2021 Sarah Becker Ratification ERA – 2021 Sometimes fate has a way of writing a new chapter. In truth, the ongoing fight for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment [ERA] has left me fatigued. But now—with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation—for reason of sexual misconduct—the arrival of New York State’s first female Governor, the AFL-CIO’s first female President—the political worm has turned. On March 17, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives again passed the Equal Rights Amendment. My only question: By what date will Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin [D-IL], Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer [D-NY] deliver an affirmative vote? The American Heritage dictionary defines chauvinism as the “prejudiced belief in the superiority of one’s own group.” The Oxford American Dictionary defines chauvinism as “excessive or prejudiced support or loyalty;” a male chauvinist as a “man showing excessive loyalty to men and prejudice against women.” The New Jersey constitution “granted the right to vote to ‘all free inhabitants’ thus enfranchising women until 1807: when a new state constitution restricted suffrage to males.” The U.S. Census Bureau defined the term free inhabitant in 1790. “Assistant marshals listed the name of each head of household, and asked the following questions: The number of free White males aged under 16 years, of 16 years and upward; Number of free White females; Number of other free persons, and Number of slaves. Free inhabitants were not listed individually until 1850. In one of the colonial era’s few examples of women’s suffrage, Lady Deborah Moody was permitted to vote in a Long Island town meeting in 1655. Of greater interest—to me at least—was the women’s literacy measure. “The determination was made on the basis of women’s ability to sign their names to documents with either an ‘X’ or a written signature. Massachusetts’ illiteracy…

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September 11, 2001 – Twenty Years Later

History by ©2021 Sarah Becker September 11, 2001 – Twenty Years Later In October 2001—twenty years ago in this column—I wrote: “On September 11 a group of hateful terrorists turned commercial airplanes into weapons and bombed The Pentagon and the World Trade Center.  More than six thousand Americans are missing and the death toll continues to rise.  The FBI has code named the egregious episode PENTBOM. Alexandrians are well aware of the disaster.  Phone service was interrupted.  F16s fly overhead, and the Coast Guard defends the Potomac River.  The Capitol is vulnerable and so are we!” Although the day’s events are behind us still we remember those who died: at the Pentagon, in New York City, and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  I watched the Pentagon burn; from my front stoop.  The smoke, the airborne particles darkened an otherwise blue sky. “The Arab perpetrators did not act on behalf of nation-states,” my 2001 column continued.  “They are self-determined hijackers who belonged in terrorist cells in as many as 50 countries.  Retaliation is inevitable and as Americans we must now ask ourselves, at what cost does good overcome evil?” On September 11, 2001, America seemed unassailable.  The Soviet Union had fallen and the millennial mood was optimistic.  President George W. Bush [R-TX] was settling into office.  His arrival was controversial, his focus mostly domestic.  Bush considered treaties “as counter to U.S. self-interest.” “The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom,” President Bush forewarned in his January 20, 2001, Inaugural Address.  “We will defend…our interests.  We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve.” When President Bush first heard news of the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy his advisors assumed the crash…

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The Art of a Nation

by ©2021 Sarah Becker The Art of a Nation “The art of a nation is one of its most refining influences, and is the highest expression of its civilization and culture,” The New York Times wrote in 1918.  “Artistic endeavor must be preserved, for the history of a nation cannot be written without due regard to its artistic attainments: in many cases the art of a nation is the only thing that has come down to us.” August is Art Appreciation month and however cultural antiquities are defined—as art and or architecture—drawing, printmaking, painting, sculpture—monuments and or buildings—destruction is often associated with belligerent behavior.  American history offers several examples of cultural destruction, including the British burning of Washington in 1814. Whether the loss is associated with the War of 1812, World Wars I&II, China’s Cultural Revolution, ISIS, or the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol the resulting devastation is undeniable. “Damage to the interior of the U.S. Capitol building was largely limited to shattered glass and broken furniture; the U.S. Capitol Rotunda doors; blue paint tracked through the hallways and graffiti,” The New York Times reported.  “Statues including Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson, murals, and historic benches were damaged, as were several paintings.  Chemical residue was found on two presidents portraits.” The events of January 6, 2021, were “difficult for the American people and extremely hard for all of us on campus to witness,” Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton then said.  Fortunately, “the eight monumental paintings in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, including The Baptism of Pocahontas, were assessed by a professional conservator following the assault and no significant damage was found.” Alexandria-born artist John Gadsby Chapman’s 12’ by 18’ oil on canvas—The Baptism of Pocahontas—was installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on November 30, 1840, and remains on…

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World War I Memorial & President Woodrow Wilson

Written by ©Sarah Becker World War I Memorial & President Woodrow Wilson                 Washington, D.C.’s newest war memorial, the National World War I Memorial opened to the public on April 21, 2021.  The NPS Memorial, located in the District’s 1.76 acre John J. Pershing Park, tells the story of America’s involvement in The Great War [1917-1918], The War to End All Wars.  General Pershing—WWI commander of the U.S. forces in Europe; architect of the modern American Army—was promoted to the rank of General of the Armies in 1919.  A rank he shares only with George Washington.                  On August 1, 1914 Germany declared war on Russia; on France two days later.  President Woodrow Wilson (D-VA)—elected in 1912 on an anti-war platform—responded by ordering wireless telegraph stations to remain neutral. Neutrality was policy with a presidential pedigree.                   “The United States must be neutral in fact, as well as in name, during these days that are to try men’s souls,” Wilson explained on August 19, 1914.  Europe’s 1914 conflict was “a quarrel…between nation and nation, culture and culture.”  President Wilson’s 1917 World War was about competing ideologies, competing visions of the European and international orders.                 “Woodrow Wilson may well have witnessed more dramatic changes in national and global affairs than any other president since [George] Washington,” Carter Smith wrote. “He entered Presidential office [on March 4, 1913] a highly regarded reformer.”  Wilson’s foreign policy was not nearly as aggressive as his domestic.  Then talk of war in Europe divided America.                   “We know our task to be no mere task of politics but a task which shall search us through and through,” Wilson said in his 1913 Inaugural Address.  “This is not a day of triumph, but it is a day of dedication.  Here muster, not the forces of…

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History, History Column

  Juneteenth

by ©2021 Sarah Becker                                                                         Juneteenth             On June 19th, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of the Civil War, the belated end of southern slavery.  General Order No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a [January 1, 1863] proclamation from the Executive of the United States [President Abraham Lincoln], all slaves are free.  This involves an absolute equalityof personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor.  The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages.  They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” Texans celebrated Juneteenth beginning in 1866.  It was revived in 1979 and became an official state holiday in 1980.  The Commonwealth of Virginia first acknowledged the June 19th jubilee in 2007—the 44th state to do so.             Why so late to the table?  Virginia—for more than 150 years—has championed southern history: Confederate Generals, Lee-Jackson Day, and the Lost Cause. “The lessons that negroes make a bad use of liberty is taught daily in the police court of this and all other cities in which they are numerous,” the Alexandria Gazette wrote on August 1, 1895.  “Nearly all the cases before such courts are those of negroes, the parties to which are either sent to jail or the work house, put on the chain gang, or impoverished by fines.  Before the Negroes were freed it was a rarity for one of them to be arrested…their money spent in the payment of fines.” “Between the idea of equality enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the…

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Marijuana – It’s Legal!

History by ©Sarah Becker Marijuana – It’s Legal! In 1792, Quaker Edward Stabler borrowed 100 pounds to buy stock for his Alexandria Apothecary Shop.  Now a National Historic Landmark, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop’s history dates from 1792 to 1933.  Medicinal cannabis was first introduced in the 1850s; on the Leadbeater families’ corporate watch.  “Records do not tell us what feelings of uncertainty Edward Stabler may have harbored in relation to his venture,” Eleanor Leadbeater wrote in 1934, “but they do show that his business prospered to such an extent that he was able to return the loan and double his stock of goods during the first year.”                 Hemp: Cannabis sativa, an industrial crop; a highly profitable fiber crop used in the production of rope and such.  The Commonwealth’s latest Industrial Hemp Law was enacted in 2015.   Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines Cannabis as “the dried flowering tops of hemp plants which contain the euphoric principles ^1-3,4-trans and ^6-3,4 trans-tetrahydrocannabinol.  It is classified as a hallucinogenic and prepared as bhang, ganja, hashish, and marijuana.”  Cannabism: “a morbid state produced by the misuse of cannabis.”  Marijuana: “a crude preparation of the leaves and flowering tops of [male and female] hemp plants.”  “Two recent articles in Blackwood’s Magazine, on the ‘Narcotics we indulge in,’ have attracted more than ordinary attention: tobacco, hops, opium, hemp, &c.,” The New York Daily Times wrote in 1854.  “Smokers, the intellectual class of them, especially, think, speak, and write better under its influence; and the mere fact, that they are inferior to themselves without it, is a good reason for supposing that it creates an abnormal condition….” On February 27, 2021, Virginia became the 4th state to legalize marijuana by way of the legislature–in this instance for adult recreation use.  The Virginia House of Delegates passed the…

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Climate Change – It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas….

History Written by ©2021 Sarah Becker                                                             Climate Change – It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas…. “Climate change threatens all weather patterns,” John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate said on February 19,2021.  “The planet is warming in large part because of greenhouse gas emissions that are pumped into the sky from power plants, cars, planes and industry.  America is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases [and] we have only a few years left to avoid a climate catastrophe.”  Merriam Webster defines greenhouse gases as “any of the various gaseous components (such as carbon dioxide CO2 or methane CH2) that absorb radiation; trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect.” “Scientists told us three years ago we had 12 years to avert the worst consequences of climate crisis,” Kerry detailed.  “We are now three years gone, so we have nine years left.”  Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (76%), methane (16%), nitrous oxide (6%) and fluorinated gases (2%).  The most abundant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is the product of burning fossil fuels. “The time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils shall have been still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation,” President Theodore Roosevelt [R-NY] told State Governors in 1908—113 years ago. “Conservation of our natural resources, though the gravest problem of today, is yet but part of another and greater problem to which this Nation is not yet awake, but to which it will awake in time, and with which it must hereafter grapple if it is to live,” Roosevelt continued.  Carbon dioxide molecules, once emitted, remain in the atmosphere for almost a century. “One distinguishing…

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Celebrating Women’s History Month

by Sarah Becker Copyright ©2021 Sarah Becker   Celebrating Women’s History Month “I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the people on the wrong side in our nation—the extreme rightists of our nation, have often used time more effectively than the people of good will,” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in 1967 in The Future of Integration .  “And it may well be that this generation has to repent, not merely for the vitriolic words and violent action of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say ‘wait on time.’” After more than 110 years, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue has been removed from the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol.  If Virginia’s Lost Cause advocates are riled others are quietly rejoicing.  March is Women’s History Month and the Commonwealth has chosen to honor sixteen year-old, black student activist Barbara Rose Johns (1935-1991) instead. “It was time that Negroes were treated equally with whites, time that they had a decent school, time for students themselves to do something about it,” Johns explained.  “There wasn’t any fear.  I just thought—this is your moment.  Seize it!” Barbara Johns 1951 “plan was daring, even risky: Convince the entire all-black student body to walk out of [Farmville, Virginia’s, Robert Russa Moton High School] and not return until the government gave them a bigger, better building—one like the white students had,” The New York Times noted in 2019.  “The case Johns would join, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, would not only have the largest group of plaintiffs; it would also be the only one that was led by students.” The Davis case was one of five consolidated cases known as Brown…

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