Monthly Archives: February 2014

All politics are fluid

Thomas Jefferson was a member of the Democratic-Republican party which believed in states rights with little power for the Federal government and the Presidency. They were opposed by the Federalists who believed that Federal Power was necessary for the Union to remain one nation. It was therefore a curious situation when Jefferson decided that he could make the Louisiana Purchase. In fact he was not sure that he had the Constitutional right to make that purchase based on his belief concerning the role of the President but he decided to do it anyway. It is also curious that the Federalists who supported a strong President and central government said that did not have the power to make the purchase. Adding to the complication was the fact that although France (under Napoleon) had recently agreed to acquire the territory they had not actually taken possession and they had agreed to the stipulation that they would NOT sell the territory.

(Book – John Marshall – Jean Edward Smith)

Late Blooming Dinosaur

Dinosaurs flourished during the Jurassic Period (199.6-145.5 million years ago) but T-Rex did not exist during that Period. T-Rex did not evolve until the Cretaceous Period (145.5-65.5 million years ago).

(The Great Courses – A New History of Life)

South Carolina was the first to go

When Abraham Lincoln was elected President he said that he had no intention of eliminating slavery but he did intend on making sure that slavery did not spread to any new states. The southern states were worried that with all new states coming into the Union as free states that slavery would eventually be abolished due to the increase in representation in Congress from free states. Lincoln tried to appease the southern states in his Inaugural Address by offering to amend the constitution to allow states that currently had slavery to be able to keep it but they were not interested in compromise.

(The Great Courses – Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln)

Early US laws showing that we were built on individual liberty and freedom of religion.

In 1822 South Carolina passed a law that required ‘Free Negros’ employed on incoming ships to be seized and held in jail until their departure. Any failure to to do would allow the man to be sold into slavery. This law was held unconstitutional by Supreme Court Justice Johnson while he was on the Circuit court. Until 1826 Maryland had a law prohibiting Jews from holding office.

(Book – John Marshall – jean Edward Smith)

No ordinary Judges

Early in the 1800’s Congress decided that Supreme Court judges still had to be judges on the Circuit Court. That means that each judge was required to hold court for cases in states that they were assigned to judge. This meant that some judges were far away from Washington and sometimes did not make the trip back to Washington for the Supreme Court session. Chief Justice John Marshall had Virginia and North Carolina which were close to his home in Virginia. One of the most infamous cases he had to judge was Aaron Burr’s trial for treason. In the end Marshall ruled for Burr which infuriated President Jefferson. Jefferson thought that the verdict was because of the animosity between him and Marshall but he obviously forgot that Marshall was no friend of Burr who had killed Marshall’s friend and political ally Alexander Hamilton. Marshall had ruled strictly on the basis of the treason laws.

(Book – John Marshall – Jean Edward Smith)

Keeping a national identity while in exile

In the early 6th century BCE the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and Judah. Many of the Jewish inhabitants were exiled to Babylon in a time now called the Babylonian Exile. Most of those who were exiled were the literate upper class. It is in this time while in exile that the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament were written down in a form we know today. These books were a combination of stories about the history of the Jewish people and its laws. The laws were a combination of old and newer laws which were all ascribed to Moses to give them equal weight. The laws like the Sabbath and kosher laws were likely to have been written and enforced as a way for the people to retain a national identity while in exile. The stories of Moses bringing the Hebrews out of exile in Egypt and the many other stories of homeless peoples were meant to give hope to the exiles that they would also one day go back home. Editors note: I have listened to several courses on the Old Testament which describes many of these stories but this is the first course where I felt that the professor gave a reasonable explanation for the ‘why’ of the Torah. By placing the writing of the Torah in context with the situation of what was actually happening to these people at this time in history the professor gave a good theory which makes historical sense. She also gave other background material during the lecture which strengthened this argument. I felt this was one of those real AHA moments in my understanding the ‘why’ of one of the most influential books ever written.

(The Great Courses – The World of Biblical Israel)

A seemingly innocent recruiting incentive

The Christian Church initially started the practice of granting indulgences to Crusaders who took up the cross to free the Holy Land during the First Crusade. These indulgences were meant to wipe away the sins of those who received them. Over the next several hundred years the practice of granting indulgences eventually spread to the point where anyone could buy them for themselves and loved ones. Indulgences created a lot of money for the church and its many building projects. The practice of selling indulgences is also one of the main reasons that Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic Church in Rome. So the question is: If Pope Urban II had not created indulgences to recruit Crusaders in 1095 would the Protestant religions ever have formed?

(The Great Courses – How the Crusades Changed History)

At least if you paid someone for a vote you knew that you got what you paid for!

Early in American history there was not always the secret ballot. Example: In Virginia in 1799 the voter announced his choice to an election judge at the courtyard. It was also customary for both candidates to be sitting there and they would stand up and shake hands with someone who voted for them. There was also alcohol being offered by both sides at the voting place and there were crowds gathered to listen as the votes were cast.

(Book – John Marshall – Jean Edward Smith)