Daylight Savings

An interesting fact about Daylight Savings, the U.S. goes off Daylight Savings on November 5 whereas the U.K. goes off Daylight Savings on October 29.

For lots more information about Daylights Savings see this detailed history that someone else has already written up

The bones of Saint Nicholas

There is an interesting story in the Denver Post. I was worried the this story was about some Zombie Santa “Christmas movie” that was coming out. It is is not. It is about the grudge match that Turkey and Italy have over who has the bones of St. Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was buried in Turkey and in the 11th century some enterprising fellows stole him and took him to Bari, Italy and setup a pilgrimage site there. Turkey says they got the wrong bones…(I’m sure Turkey has made this claim before)

Obviously the author of this story has never read L. Frank Baum’s “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”.  That story gives Santa a backstory separate from Saint Nicholas.

Constitutional Convention ended on this day in 1787

Sunday the 17th is the 230rd anniversary of the end of the Constitutional Convention. This convention met in the summer of 1787 with the purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation, the document that had governed the United States since 1781 when all states had ratified it. The convention moved quickly from amending to creating a new governing document – the Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation protected states’ rights. The Articles can be viewed as creating a league of friendship between the states. (In fact Article III describes it as a “league of firm friendship”). Cooperation was required. The central government was very weak, lacking the power of taxation. States had to voluntarily contribute money and no state ever gave the full amount asked of it. The Articles did not provide for executive or judicial branches. The Articles required 9 out of 13 states approval to pass legislation or for Congress to otherwise act.

Generally the Constitution (plus the Bill of Rights) has worked well to address the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution gave the federal government greater control over key economic issues such as currency and regulating trade. It is easier to pass legislation (although far from automatic). The Bill of Rights has strengthened the protections of customary individual freedoms from stronger government.

Mexican Independence Day

It has been a long summer break.  Back to work.

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day:

Mexico celebrates Independence Day on September 16. On September 16, 1810, a priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo gave a speech to the villagers in the village of Dolores calling for independence. Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821. Independence did not free Mexico from the class struggles that had occurred under Spanish rule and during the next one hundred years Mexico was marked by repeated religious, political and social upheavals.

-From the international section of my book “Thomas Jefferson’s Independence Day Trivia Challenge”

Declaration of Independence

On June 7th, 1776, Richard Henry Lee made a motion in the Second Continental Congress to declare independence.

Congress felt that if the motion was approved, a proper document justifying independence was needed.

So a committee was created…

The Committee for the Declaration of Independence was also known as the Committee of Five.  Its members included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, John Adams, and Robert Livingstone.

Thomas Jefferson did most of the writing, the other members of the Committee did some editing to his work.

After the Declaration was prepared, Congress actually voted on the motion

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s June 7th motion to declare independence.  Richard Henry Lee was a cousin of the American soldier Henry Lee (a cavalry commander).  Future U.S. president John Adams wrote to his wife predicting that the second of July would be celebrated as Independence Day.

The vote for independence on July 2 is considered to have been unanimous with 12 states voting for independence and one state (New York) abstaining.  Several days later New York voted for independence.

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted in favor of the document known as the Declaration of Independence.  The Fourth of July is celebrated as Independence Day.

The Liberty Bell was rung for the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776.  This bell-ringing celebrated the first public reading of the Declaration.

A quote from Leviticus 25:10b is inscribed on the Liberty Bell.  “…and proclaim liberty throughout the land and to its inhabitants”.  The passage is about the Hebrew practice of a jubilee.  Jubilees occur once every 50 years.

Most members of the Continental Congress signed on August 2, 1776.  They signed a formal version that had been drawn up on parchment.  Broadsides (posters) of the Declaration were printed and distributed right away after the Declaration was approved on July 4th.  24 of these broadsides are known to still exist.

Since signing such a document greatly increased the chances that the signer would face capital punishment if arrested by the British, president of the Congress, John Hancock, signed his name in a defiantly large font size.

No signers were killed as a direct result of signing but the British did attempt to capture signers as well as target the homes, businesses, and property of signers.  About one third of the signers were reduced to poverty as the result of such depredations during the Revolutionary War.

The Declaration of Independence occurred after the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill.  Somewhat ironically the battle of Bunker Hill was the deadliest battle for the British during the war and the war hadn’t even properly started yet.  (Bunker Hill was fought in June of 1775).

The Battle of Long Island (August-September 1776) was the first major battle to be fought after the Declaration of Independence.

Father’s Day

Since 1972 Father’s Day has been highlighted by the president at the request of Congress. From 1972 through 1998 the request was made by a joint resolution. In 1998 the request was stuck into the United States Code.
36 USC 109 says
The third Sunday in June is Father’s Day.
(b)Proclamation.—The President is requested to issue a proclamation—
(1) calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on Father’s Day;
(2) inviting State and local governments and the people of the United States to observe Father’s Day with appropriate ceremonies; and
(3) urging the people of the United States to offer public and private expressions of Father’s Day to the abiding love and gratitude they have for their fathers.”
Prior to the federal government stepping in, there was no Father’s Day. Just kidding.
At a YMCA in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910, Sonora Smart Dodd gave a speech requesting that the ministers in the city give a sermon honoring fathers. Within a few decades June Father’s Day celebrations were common nationwide. Despite attempts right away and in the intervening decades, there was resistance at the federal level to making it an official holiday and it did not become an official holiday until 1972. This delay is in stark contrast to Mother’s Day which received Congressional recognition in 1914.
Happy Father’s Day!

Magna Carta and the Due Process Clause

Three chapters of the Magna Carta are still valid law today. They include the chapter on religious freedom (1), the chapter protecting the rights of towns (9), and the most famous chapter of the Magna Carta, the one protecting due process rights (29). The chapter numbers refer to the 1225 text because that text was used when the Magna Carta was enrolled as a statute in 1297.

Magna Carta represented a significant step forward in legal protection from arbitrary laws.

Magna Carta Chapter 29
“No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or deprived of his freehold or of his liberties or free customs, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, nor shall we go upon him, nor shall we send upon him, except by a legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land”

The U.S Constitution Amendments 5, 14
“nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”
“nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”

The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights Article 9
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile”

Flag Day

Today is Flag Day. Congress approved of the first U.S. Flag on June 14, 1777. The blue stands for justice. The white stands for liberty. The red stands for apple pie. Strike that. The red stands for bravery. The 13 stripes represented the 13 states. In 1794 two more stripes and stars were added for Vermont and Kentucky. In 1818 it was decided that adding stripes for each new state was not going to work and so the flag returned to its original 13 stripe design with only a star for each new state. What does the circle of stars represent on the original flag?

Constitutional Convention

The Constitutional Convention convened on May 25, 1787.  The Convention was supposed to convene earlier in the month but due to slow travel did not have enough members present for a quorum to begin.


A tax on paper (The Stamp Act) pushed the colonies closer to independence.


Which presidential power listed in the Constitution has never been used?

A. Commander-in-chief leading an army in the field

B. Legislative adjournment

C. Line item veto

Rum ration

For breakfast the typical ration for a Continental soldier included a half gill of rum. On days when battle was expected this ration was often raised to a full gill. A gill is about a teacup-full.
The battle ration was the equivalent of at least 4.5 alcoholic drinks. It is more than is recommended be consumed in a day (nowadays).
The typical soldier on drinking the battle ration would probably have a BAC of at least .08 if not .11 or higher by the time the battle rolled around.
While 4.5 drinks for breakfast sounds like a lot of alcohol, and it is, it has been estimated that the average adult American male drank 12 gills of rum per week during the Revolutionary War era.
Rum is made from molasses and molasses is made from sugar. A tax on sugar was one of the triggers that pushed the colonies towards independence. The sugar crop used slave labor and the ongoing dispute over slavery ultimately led to the Civil War. (Although most sugar was grown outside of the U.S. in the Caribbean, and by the time of the Civil War, whiskey was a more popular drink than rum)
The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826 and soon had over 1 million members. (U.S. population around 13 million in 1830).
Rhode Island was the last state of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution.
The taxation of what product (after the sugar tax) led to widespread protests and further pushed the colonies towards independence?
A. Indigo
B. Paper
C. Wheat

Another anniversary this year

Another anniversary this year is the 230th anniversary of the drafting of the U.S. Constitution which took place over the summer of 1787, with business concluding on September 17th, 1787. (It took almost a year after that for enough states to ratify the Constitution so it would take effect).

The much-maligned Articles of Confederation had been drafted 10 years prior (another anniversary this year! November 15th!) and ratified by all the states by early 1781.

(Sorry for the technical difficulties.  I think I have those fixed now).


Patrick Ferguson invented a breech-loading musket that fired considerably faster than a conventional musket.  Only a few hundred models were made.  Ferguson was killed at Saratoga and that was a setback on the development of breech-loading weapons.


Which state was the last state to ratify the Constitution?

A. Delaware

B. New Hampshire

C. Rhode Island

2017 is the 240th anniversary of Saratoga

2017 marks the 240th anniversary of the Revolutionary War battle of Saratoga. Saratoga ranks as one of the most pivotal battles of the war. (Arguments could also be made for the battles of Long Island, and Trenton in terms of “the most pivotal”)

When the British drew up the battle plan for the campaign that ultimately culminated in Saratoga, the plan was to have three armies converge on Albany and thereby end the war by dividing and conquering New England.

One by one the British armies were defeated. When the third army suffered a staggering defeat in the thick pine forests 30 miles north of Albany, France declared war on Britain and joined the war on the American side. (A war that became much easier to win with French aid). Rather than hasten the end of the war, the campaign had the exact opposite effect. It greatly raised American morale and brought France into the war.

The Saratoga campaign ended in mid-October 1777 with the surrender of the third British army led by Gen. John Burgoyne.


Brown Bess muskets might be nicknamed for Queen Elizabeth I.  She is the best answer to the question.


Which British officer invented a breech loading musket?

A. Fergus Robertson

B. Patrick Ferguson

C. Robert Ferguson

Friendly fire

As Flag Day and Independence Day draw closer, there will be a greater frequency of posts relevant in some way, close or tangential, to those holidays.

Friendly-fire has long been an issue in wars. During the Revolutionary War, the Pennsylvania Militia discovered that the red and blue color scheme on their uniforms was similar to that of the Hessians. Similarly, a British artillery unit modified its hats to be more distinct at a distance because both British and American gunners wore blue coats.

One of the most famous friendly-fire casualties of all-time occurred during the Civil War when Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson was accidentally shot by a nervous picket when Jackson was returning to camp.

Civil War General Robert E. Lee’s father, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, was a cavalry officer with the the Virginia Dragoons during the Revolutionary War. Cavalry were mostly used for raiding and scouting during the Revolutionary War because both sides had a terrible time accumulating enough horses and fodder for large scale cavalry actions. In 1779 Light Horse Harry led 300 troops (a mix of cavalry and infantry) on a successful raid on a fort at Paulus Hook, New Jersey, that led to the capture of 159 British troops with the loss of only 2 Americans.


False.  Cinco de Mayo is not the equivalent of Independence Day in Mexico.  Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th.


A popular musket during the Revolutionary War was named for which monarch?

A. Charles I

B. Elizabeth I

C. James I