Archive for February, 2010

ABNA 2010

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

I made the initial cut to 1000 for the 2010 contest.  Check out my latest data at


Monday, February 15th, 2010

I opened The Times this morning and noticed on the editorial page a section dedicated to “Presidents Day,” where three little darlings from a local first-grade displayed letters to Mr. Obama.  Their smiling faces accented their prose of acclamations for his awesomeness.  The editor’s note explained how in recognition of President’s Day, the little children were assessing the current occupant of the White House.  It’s a testament to the sad state of the education our nation’s children get from our tax-payer funded schools and of the press when there’s no such thing as a Presidents Day or a President’s Day, either in the official Federal or the Louisiana holidays.

Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes the following public holidays for Federal employees.

Louisiana Revised Statute 1:55 declares days of public rest and legal holidays for State employees.

The Louisiana and the Federal holiday observed on Feb 15, was Washington’s Birthday.  Though it shouldn’t be, it’s all a little confusing even for those of us not at the mercy of first-grade teachers.

The father of our country was born on 11 February 1732 of the once-used Julian calendar, but when England and her colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, George Washington birthday became the equivalent date of 22 February.

Later, George Washington led a small group of farmers, trappers, fishermen, and merchants to defeat the most powerful military on the planet at the time, which made it possible for the founder fathers to write the Constitution.  Then without seeking office, he became our first President.  Without George Washington, there would never have been an Abraham Lincoln, a Roosevelt, a Ronald Reagan, and certainly no Barrack Hussein Obama living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Washington was the greatest American, and excepting for a certain deity, arguably the greatest person that ever lived.

Certainly our great republic would desire honor such a life as his.  On 22 February 1832,  Congress adjourned in respect of his memory and in commemoration of his birth.   Thirty years later, the mayor of Philadelphia read aloud Washington’s Farewell Address to a group of citizens.  Eventually, it became a tradition in many places across America to read it aloud every year.

Every year since 1896, the Senate has observed Washington’s Birthday by selecting one of its members, alternating parties, to read the 7,641-word statement in legislative session.  Delivery generally takes about 45 minutes.  The extremes range from 39 minutes to  68 minutes.  In 1956, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey wrote that every American should study this memorable message.  “It gives one a renewed sense of pride in our republic.  It arouses the wholesome and creative emotions of patriotism and love of country.”

Back in 1880, Washington’s Birthday was first a holiday for government offices in the District of Columbia, then expanded to all federal offices in 1885 as the first federal holiday to honor an American.  Back then they used his actual birthday, February 22.  In 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, moved it to the third Monday in February.

Then in 1971 a newspaper spoof reported President Richard Nixon proclaimed one federal holiday, President’s Day, to honor all past presidents.  Past presidents–interesting how in 1971 we were not so presumptuous as to suggest, even in jest, that we should have a day to honor our sitting president–that was something Americans avoided.  Thought it was common, even mandatory in places like the USSR, China, North Korea, and a hodgepodge of dictatorships around the lesser-developed nations of the world–it was not the America way, not even from Nixon. Nevertheless, some legislators have occasionally attempted to support federal law to make the changes, which were once attributed to Nixon, but none of it has ever managed to clear subcommittee.

I thought I’d provide a link to Washington’s memorable message, but then I reconsidered.  The chances of you going to another site to read a document for 45 minutes, are pretty slim.  And since it’s a document that is part of your heritage as an American, you should be offered the most easy access to it as possible.  I’ve posted it below my tag-line.  Feel free to read as much of it as you’d like, you won’t even have to click the mouse again.

If I’m on target maybe a first-grader will read it and learn what they should have learned in our tax-payer funded schools, or possibly even an editor from The Times, or else-where, might read this and then not make the same embarrassing error in future years.

But even if they don’t, at least you’ll get a chance to read the 7,641 words the father of our nation prayed would sustain us, as he was about to leave public office, 214 years ago.

It just makes sense.



Friends and Fellow-Citizens: The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you at the same time to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country—and that, in withdrawing the tender of service which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that in the present circumstances of our country you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself, and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me, still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise and as an instructive example in our annals that, under circumstances in which the passions agitated in every direction were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these states, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger natural to that solicitude, urge me on an occasion like the present to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no in- considerable observation, and which appear to me all important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.  Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together. The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts—of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South in the same intercourse, benefitting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort—and what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While then every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value! they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same government, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which under any form of government are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations—northern and southern—Atlantic and western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations. They tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head. They have seen in the negotiation by the executive—and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate—of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the general government and in the Atlantic states unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi. They have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute. They must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay by the adoption of a Constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations under whatever plausible character with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction; to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils and modified by mutual interests. However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to be- come potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect in the forms of the Constitution alterations which will impair the energy of the system and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, re- member that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions, that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country, that facility in changes upon the credit of mere hypotheses and opinion exposes to perpetual change from the endless variety of hypotheses and opinion; and re- member, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests in a country so ex- tensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is in- dispensable; liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is indeed little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits pre- scribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually in- cline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true— and in governments of a monarchical cast patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest instead of warming it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.    The    precedent    must    always    greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the sup- position that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less in- convenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties) ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all; religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that in the course of time and things the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded and that in place of them just and amicable feelings to- wards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and in- jury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody con- tests. The nation, prompted by ill will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the for- mer into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions, by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of re- publican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence therefore it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest guided by justice shall counsel.

Why forgo the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rival- ship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world—so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it, for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing in- fidelity to existing engagements (I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy)—I repeat it therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectably defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed—in order to give to trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them—conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another—that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character—that by such acceptance it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish—that they will control the usual current of the passions or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good, that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism—this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the 22d of April 1793 is the index to my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take—and was bound in duty and interest to take—a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it with moderation, perseverence, and firmness.

The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be con- signed to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize without alloy the sweet enjoyment of partaking in the midst of my fellow citizens the benign influence of good laws under a free government—the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors and dangers.

19th September 1796

February’s Blog

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Ya, I know I’m a bit late…we survived the the BIG storm here is the Bossier City, LA…hope you guys back east are doing well inspite of the snow.

Well Jim Melvin and I went down to the Corpus Christi area to hunt ducks had a blast!  Both our sons couldn’t make it whether being sick or having to work.  We stayed in a cabin on our guide’s property plus food and WOW…the spread was great!  First night; ribs, duck, sausage and brisket – all smoked!  Yepper, a regular Texas size barbeque!   Second night we had duck & sausage gumbo with all the trimmings. 

As for the hunt; first morning; get out early, set the decoys and setup on this island of maingros.   We didn’t have to wait long a large flock of redheads circled the island and tried to drop in on our decoys.  So we light them up, Jim dropped one while I dropped two.  Yep, two shots two ducks.  So afterwards Jim bagged another and we were done…two redheads per person is the limit.

Next morning, they take us to another area to try and get buffleheads or pintails.  We were dropped off at the bind out in the middle of the bay…2 to 3 miles to land on either side of the bind.  The water was only 2-3 feet deep which made it good to walk around, set-p decoys and retrieve ducks.  Well when the ducks started flying, the redheads stayed up high and literally split up and went around our blind!  We never got a shot off on any redheads.  Meanwhile the buffleheads stayed low and actually dropped in on our decoys.  Jim bags a nice drake while I shot a hen.  Since we were after buffleheads, Jim held off shooting until a bagged a drake.  So the next one in I shot turned out to be another hen…Kevin, our taxidermist, kept calling me the hen killer!  About another hour or so, I finally bagged a drake bufflehead.

Then some pintails circled and were trying to land on our decoys.  After so long moments, calling on our duck calls, they dropped in close enough to shoot.  All three of us down one.  But the one I shot was not hurt bad enough, because when I start to get him he starts paddling away.  I must have chased him for miles but never gained any ground on him…sad but he managed to live another day.

Anyway here’s some pic from the hunt…next year it’s a goose hunt!

Redhead ducks  Group Pic

Also check out the website…one of my wood duck pictures was published on the Delta Waterfowl site…

 Unitl Next time,



Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I remember Ponch had a lot of data on this subject.  Something more than just hooking up another altimeter on the B-52 to get it compliant–if I remember right, we’d have to replace everything except the turn and slip indicator to fix the BUFF.  Anybody remember any of the stuff cold?  Just wondering.

11 Feb 2010 Ponch’s side of the story

Thursday, February 11th, 2010


 We got our snow tuesday, although it was mixed with wet sloopy rain, and alot of it.  Global warming has broken out all over the SoCal area with record low temps and large amounts of rain.   The water was running in all the streets and gutters along with a few houses transported by copious amounts of mud.  The mountains are packed with snow right down to the valley floor…very beutiful.  I would enjoy it allot more by skiing however I tried to recapture my youth and do allot of running when I was up at Beale.  The running tracks up there were so buetiful and inviting and the weather was perfect, unitl my knee got screwed up trying to run faster then an old man should 🙁  Damn the old age…. 

Now for more fun and interesting news.  We are pretty well along into the great 1 meter telescope production.  We accomplished a huge milstone about two weeks ago by accomplishing first light.  The first light through a scope is a big event as what was once all theory, design, sparks and sawdust becomes reality.  You hope that the optics will function and the weight and balance works ect ect.  It was a big celebration as all worked as advertised. Tomorrow I am scheduled to take the scope down to Inca Corp. A Dr. George Roberts fomerly of NASA, wants to see what we have done so far.  His company is building the lower transport cradle and rocker box out of aluminum.  What we have designed and built is the “mock-up” for the actual scope, however the good Dr. Genet plans to utilize the wooden mock-up as a functioning telecope as soon as we get another mirror.  We will then network the two scopes together for some very interesting science.  Dr. Roberts is one of the founding fathers of the JPL in Pasedena and was personaly involved with the U.S. moon effort from Mecury to Apollo.  It was his research that determined the calcium bone loss due to weightlessness in space.  He is good friends with most of the current and former astronauts.  How I know this is because my buddy Dr. Genet introduced me to Dr Roberts as an Edwards test pilot were upon both of them began to tell pilot jokes and personel experiences with such guys as Chuck yeager and the like.  I had to quicky qualify my meager existance as a Global Hawk tester.  No record breaking space flights for me …yet.    



Feb 11, 2010

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The date doesn’t look real to me.  How has so much time passed?  Sorry I took a break for a while there, guys.  I think I’m back now.  At least for now.

I changed companies.  The new company really likes me, at least that what the paycheck tells me.  In addition, I’m helping usher in the new Global Strike Command.  Even dealing bomber issues.  I’m liking this stuff a lot, the only thing better would be having my books published on a regular basis, putting in 40 hours a week or so on the keyboard.  That’d be nice.

You probably remember the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest I’ve entered the last two years.  I’m back in for round three.  While my writing is better than previous years, I’d imagine the world is getting better at the same time.  Here’s my opening paragraph:

Pain, gnawing emptiness, hunger so loud it dominated all thoughts, not mine–even though I could feel it–it came from them.  To them, two girls in a chariot must have seemed like easy prey.  I prayed they were wrong.

The essential question is, “Would you read the next paragraph or put the book down and look for something else?”

Here’s the schedule for the contest:

January 25, 2010 Submission period begins; up to 10,000 Entries will be accepted
February 7, 2010 Submission period ends
February 25, 2010 2,000 entries moving to Second Round announced at
March 23, 2010 Top 500 (Quarterfinalists) announced at Weekly reviewing Quarterfinalists full manuscript

Amazon customers can download, rate, and review excerpts on, providing feedback to Penguin Editors about submissions.

April 27, 2010 Top 100 (Semifinalists) announced at Editors reading Semifinalists manuscripts to pick the 6 finalists

Amazon customers continue to download, rate, and review excerpts, and read Publisher’s Weekly reviews of Semifinalists’ full manuscripts

May 25, 2010 6 Finalists announcedAmazon customers vote to pick the winners
June 14, 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winners announced

While my first novel is locked into this contest until they cull me from the herd, so I’ve started work on book number two.

But enough of that.

Anybody getting snow?  Probably not Ponch.  Rumor has it we’re going to get 4 to 6 inches of global warming tomorrow evening in crawdad town.  That’s just cool.

I could bore you, or depress you with woes of things less than perfect, but all things considered, it could be much worse.  I’m a lucky man.

I pray this 11th finds the lion’s share of you warm, fed, in good company, as free of pain as a bunch of old warriors can hope to be and with a jingle in your pocket.

Until the next time, stay strong my brothers.

The Chuck

Military Aviation, the Beginning

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

American military aviation began almost 149 years ago, in the early days of the Civil War, when the Army for the first time employed balloons for military purposes. The French Army had used balloons for reconnaissance as early as 1794 and American balloonists primarily utilized them for the same purpose.


In April 1861, two members of Rhode Island’s 1st Regiment answered Lincoln’s call for troops–James Allen, a balloonist, and Dr. William H. Helme, a dentist, carried two of Allen’s balloons from Providence, RI to Washington DC. Then on 9 June, they made the Army’s first captive balloon ascent. It was stealthy for it’s day, as no one reported being able to see it on radar–no, not a one.


On 12 June 1861, John Wise of PA offered to build a balloon for the Union Army for $300. Maj. Hartman Bathe, chief of the Topographic Engineers, later told Wise to increase the size to 20,000 cubic-feet, and to use silk. Wise agreed but the cost skyrocketed to $850. This established the two great traditions of military aviation: late design modifications and production costs overruns.


21 July, Wise’s balloon tasked for observation duty in the Battle of Manassas. A ground crew walked the inflated balloon to Fairfax Rd, where Major A. J. Myer, Chief Signal Officer, fastened it to a wagon, and against the advice of Wise, made haste, snagging the balloon on roadside trees, tearing great holes in the bag. Thus, airpower’s first hasty decision by a non-Airmen, who ignored Wise advice.


Wise repaired the damaged balloon. Five days later, while being towed to Ball’s Crossroads, it was blown against telegraph wires, cutting the towropes, and the balloon floated away toward the Confederate lines. To prevent its capture by the enemy, Union troops shot it down near the Lee mansion at Arlington. Was this the first AAA fire (a.k.a. Arlington’s Anti-Aviation fire)?


Neither the Allen nor the Wise balloons were satisfactory, mainly because each needed to be filled with coal gas, from the city mains, and towed inflated to the area of operations. Wise designed a portable hydrogen generator to permit inflation in the field and widen the area of operations.  While he urged the army to construct a unit, leadership was more content to blame him for the disasters and he was fired.


So what happened to Wise? He returned to his home in Lancaster, raised a cavalry troop, and rejoined the army, but after several months of service his health failed and he was compelled to retire from active duty. Seems like a sad ending, but at least he pressed toward his dreams for as long as his health would allow him, which is probably the best any of us can do.


In May 1861 another aeronaut, John La Mountain, twice offered his services, two balloons, and a portable gas generator to the Union Army. The War Department ignored his letters, but on 5 June Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, with headquarters at Ft. Monroe, offered La Mountain a job as an aerial observer. John La Mountain was persistence, wasn’t he? Did you know persistence is one of the tenets of airpower?


I’ll talk more about the tenets of airpower in a later article, but for now let’s go back to the aeronauts of the Civil War.


La Mountain became the Army’s only free-lance balloonist. During his first military captive ascent in the Atlantic a stiff wind prevented him from reaching the altitude necessary for observation. But six days later (31 July 1861) he rose to 1,400 feet to observe a radius of 30 miles around Hampton and reported the Confederate forces were much weaker than previously reported by land reconnaissance.


On 3 August 1861, La Mountain’s balloon was moored to the transport ship Funny, which towed it into the Potomac River where it made the first ascension from a boat. This was not the birth of Naval aeronautics, as the Army owned and operated the Funny. Army boats? Why yes, during World War II the U.S. Army operated over 127,790 ships and watercraft.


La Mountain and the Union Army failed to keep General Magruder’s Confederate forces from burning Hampton, but La Mountain did escape, along with many thousands of Union troops.  La Mountain and his large balloon Saratoga transferred to the Army of the Potomac where La Mountain tried to build support for his services by giving General officers rides. Nothing like that is done today.


In October of 1861, La Mountain made free ascensions, via prevailing east wind to fly over Confederate forces, and a west wind at higher altitudes, to return. After observations, he jettisoned ballast, the balloon rose to the eastbound current of air, carrying him back to his own lines; then he’d release gas to land. Using maneuver, a principle of war, he increased the balloon’s effectiveness.


La Mountain had little control during landings. On 18 October, after returning to the Union lines, he descended in the area of operations controlled by Brigadier General Louis Blenker’s German Brigade, and was welcomed with a volley of shots, riddling the lower part of the balloon, foreshadowing the German AAA of WWII, or maybe not.


On 16 November La Mountain’s Saratoga was blown from its moorings and lost over the Confederate lines, leaving him with only the less capable Atlantic.  After failing to beg, borrow, or buy a replacement balloon, on 19 February 1862, General George B. McClellan dismissed La Mountain from the service.


John La Mountain was one of the first to make significant aerial observations for the Union Army. As a result of his observations, Confederate General Beauregard ordered his division commander, General Longstreet, to employee camouflage, since the deception of dummy guns could not be assured under the eyes of the federal balloons. There’s an idea that caught on.


Thaddeus S. C. Lowe had planned a transatlantic balloon flight, but changed his focus after a 20 April 1861 flight in his Enterprise from Cincinnati to Unionville, SC. The war posed difficulties, but eventually he was permitted to return by way of Columbia, SC, and Louisville, Kentucky. Convinced the war would be long, he decided to organize a balloon corps and offer his services to the Union.


With a little help from editor Murat Halstead, Lowe met with Lincoln on 11 June. 7 days later, Lowe sent the first telegraphic message ever from a balloon, using a wired key in his balloon via a line to the Alexandria telegraph office to the White House. Others messages were sent to the War Department.  Lowe leveraged technology for operational advantage, a hallmark of airpower ever since.


On 26 June 1861, Lowe was asked to submit a report on his proposed operations and an estimate of the cost of constructing another balloon at $500. Soon afterwards, however, the order for a government balloon was given to Wise, who underbid Lowe by almost $200. Remember him? Cost overruns pushed the actual cost to $850, after the Army modified the design.


Though Wise beat him on the bid, Lowe continued to give demonstrations near the Smithsonian Institution. Meanwhile, General McDowell, preparing to advance into Virginia, expected Wise and his balloon but when on July 17 he had not reported, Captain Whipple ordered Lowe to join McDowell’s Army.  As Lowe inflated his balloon, Wise arrived and his balloon was sent forward instead.  Imagine Lowe’s frustration.


When Lowe learned Wise’s balloon was out of commission, he took the initiative to go to the front with his own balloon.  Before he could get there, Gen McDowell had been defeated and on that afternoon of 21 July, Lowe met the retreating Union Army and returned with it to Arlington. Aerospace power can’t save an Army if it’s not used.


On the 24th, Lowe flew from Fort Corcoran to investigate rumors of a march on Washington by the victorious Confederate Army. His report calmed fears at the Capital–no force was approaching. Having defeated the Union soldiers, many Confederates had thought the war was over and they could go home. Little did they know, it had only just begun.


So there we have the first two months of military aviation, interesting how aerospace power has progressed so far in the last 149 years, but can still relate to those fledgling years. 


You might have noticed, I haven’t been writing much lately.  I needed to write something, and the beginning of military aviation history was a great place to start.


It just makes sense.