A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Friday, November 30, 2012

1855...when 791 + 5,427=2,905 ...only in Kansas!

We have moved on to Bleeding Kansas and I get to show one of my favorite primary sources!

Absttract-Kansas Voting Ledger 1855 (National Archives)

This ledger is the Abstract of Census and Returns of Election for the first territorial election in Kansas. The territorial governor had already been appointed by Pesident Peirce so the election is for the teritorial delegate to Congress. Look at the bottom of the ledger. According to the abstract, there were 5,427 votes for the pro-slavery candidate and 791 votes for the Free State (anti-slavery candidate).

5427+791=6218, right? Well, according to the census prior to the vote, there were only 2,905 elegible voters in the territory but more than 6,000 actual voters.

I love that there is a column in the ledger for illegal votes. Look at Leavenworth (#16). The number of illegal votes is more than double the number votes even possible. Leavenworth was a solidly proslavery town but it even happened the bastion of the Free State movement, Lawrence (#1)! There are 269 elegible voters and it is logical that more than 250 of the votes were for the Free State candidate. Then there are the almost 500 voters who cast a pro-slavery vote in Lawrence.

The answer is one of the reasons for the Border War between KU and Mizzou. At election time thousands, of Missouri residents cross the border to vote in the election. All they had to do was state they were intending to take residency and they were allowed to vote.

Letter to E. Thayer by Charles Robinson, 1855 (Source: Kansas Historical Society)
Future governor of Kansas, Charles Robinson wrote to a friend back east:
For E. Thayer
This is sent to Mr Rice to avoid opening & [xxx] [xxx].
Lawrence April 2 1855
Dear Sir
Another election in Kansas Territory has passed & like the first was controlled entirely by Missourians. A few days before the election I was travelling in the Southern & eastern part of the territory & met hundreds of people from Missouri on their way to the different voting precincts in the Territory. Encampments were formed in the vicinity of the polls varying in size according to the number of voters required in the several districts to secure their end - The grand rendevous was at Lawrence where they had reinforcements stationed for all parts –
At Tecumseh two of the judges of election refused to take the oath prescribed by the Governor & the third refused to proceed when the mob, after snapping pistols at the antislavery judge & threatening to destroy all the judges if they did not leave, proceeded to choose judges of their own & go on with the election - The free state men accordingly abandoned the polls & did not vote - At Douglas the judges attempted to conform to the law & instructions of the Gov. when they were mobbed & driven off. No antislavery voting was consequently done at that place

It will take two concurrent state legislature (one Free State and one "Bogus"), John Brown's Potawotomi Massacre, the sacking of Lawrence, four state constitutions, and a Civil War to get Kansas in the union. Kansas was a mess. Some things never change! ;)

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Agitate, Agitate, Agitate!"

Painting of  Frederick Douglas which hangs at Cedar Hill (Source: NPS)

Today, we talked about Frederick Douglass. The kids will tell you I loves me my Frederick Douglass! He is, for me, an epitome of an what I think of as quintessentially American. I love Madison for his ability to craft a government and Lincoln for his ability to steer that government  to reunion, but I love Douglass for his fearless reminder of the great good and great harm government can do for and to its people.

I had the chance to spend a couple days at Cedar Hill, his Victorian home just north of DC this summer and took a video of an actor re-enacting a portion of one of Douglass' speech. The actor, Kevin McIlvaine, has a YouTube site with better quality versions of his work here. I asked for his permission to post this last summer and he graciously said yes. The video above was supposed to be a portion of the Douglass' What to a Slave is the Fourth of July, unfortunately technology is not playing nicely in my sandbox so, for now, here is a video of Mr. McIlvaine's recitation of Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Below are two sites, one for Cedar Hill and one a transcript of the excerpted speech you'll eventually hear on the video. Imagine hearing this speech in 1852 by a former slave on the day after our nation's 76th anniversary.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

What to a Slave is the Fourth of July

BTW-If you don't know the reference to the title, google it! For me, that story is the essence of Frederick Douglas.

Cane given to Frederick Douglass by Mary Todd Lincoln. It was one of the president's. (Source: NPS)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kicking a can with a wolf by the ear and other mixed metaphors


The Branded Hand, from the Anti-Slavery Bugle, circa 1845
Someone caught ferrying runaway slaves could be branded with SS for "Slave Stealer" on their right hand as a visible warning to others of their 'crime'. (Source: LOC)
My class is exploring slavery prior to the Civil War and I have had some interesting observations...

The irony of ship names:
The White Lion is the ship which brings the first African slaves to Jamestown in 1619.
The first slave ship crafted and launched in the colonies is named the Destiny in 1636. (BTW-it will transport Native Americans from the Pequot War into enslavement in the West Indies as well.)

Diagram of 'stowage' conditions of a slave ship circa 1780s (Source: LOC)
The Americans have as much success controlling the movement into the Ohio Territory as the British did two decades earlier. That would be almost no succes for either the Royal Proclamation of 1763 or the Nothwest Ordinance (1787).

By the 1770s, the colonies no longer needed the international slave trade. Virginia has enough of a surplus of enslaved people that they could provide to the Deep South for generations.

Kids are fascinated by the slave revolts, work stoppages, work 'slowages' and the Underground Railroad. The idea that slaves were a passive group who accepted their lot is not correct and its fun to see my students make that connection.

Published account of the slave revolt by Nat Turner while awaiting trial (Source: University of North Carolina)
While slavery can't easilt be dealt with, crusaders will begin to change the public attitude on the mentally ill, education, prisons, alcoholism and women's rights in the first half of the 19th Century. Some of the same crusaders will have important roles in the anti-slavery movement.

Abraham Lincoln did not identify himself as an abolitionist. My students always assume he was one and are suprised to hear his thoughts on the cause.

TJ's 'wolf by the ear' letter (LOC)
We also wrestled with Thomas Jefferson's 'wolf by the ear' letter from 1820. The letter was a response to correspondence from John Holmes in April 1820 where TJ says that the control the U.S. has on slavery is akin to holding a "wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other." We talk about the founding generation 'kicking the can (slavery)" down the road to the next generation and the Missouri Compromise is that next gen's attempt at 'kick the can'. By 1860, the can can no longer be kicked and ...

...Tomorrow is Fredrick Douglas!!! I can't wait to 'agitate, agtitate, agitate.'

Sunday, November 25, 2012

1863--Pardon a Turkey or deliver the Address?

Souce: National Archives
On November 26, 1863, America celebrated its first thanksgiving as a nation.
Granted, Thanksgivings were commemorated for nearly 250 years before that and on that Thursday in '63 we were still emmeshed in a Civil War. But ... Lincoln's Proclamation on October 3, 1863 set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the Heavens". Prior to that, each state set when to observe the holiday. An editor from Godey's Lady Book had been lobbying presidents for almost 20 years for a national holiday and it was Lincoln who complied.
FDR would formally move the holiday up one week in 1939 in a attempt to spur Christmas sales. 1939 would end up with two Thanksgiving days as a result. If Lincoln would have set that day, Thanksgiving would have fallen on the Thursday he delivered the Gettysburg Address! Just thought that was interesting to note.
Above is the first page of Lincoln's proclamation, below, the final two pages. It is commonly accepted that Secretary of State Seward penned the proclamation for Lincoln's signature.

Note: the title is a little deceptive since the proclamation was issued on October 3 and Lincoln's invitation to speak at Gettysburg probably came later (the first Lincoln mentions his plans to attend the event at Gettysburg is October 30). Take it as a writer's perogotive...but it got you to read the blog, didn't it?


Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Zombie Apocolypse Thanksgiving?

Normal Rockwell, Feeedom From Want (LOC)

Happy Thanksgiving ya'll.
I use this Rockwell poster in class when we get to civics. We talk about FDR's Four Freedoms Speech. Delivered in January of 1941, the US hadn't thrown their hat in the ring in Europe and Japan wouldn't attack Pearl Harbor for 11 months. However, FDR, in his annual address to Congress suggested that were certain rights (TJ would have suggested unalienable ones) which were held by mankind and required all of mankind to protect. FDR's four were: freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom from want. Norman Rockwell took these themes and created four paintings, the one above is Freedom from Want. He uses something so wholey American, Thanksgving, to suggest this ideal isn't tied to one culture but all. Kinda brilliant if you ask me.
Of course, you can't create an iconic image without homages. I'm only posting a few of them and I pulled them all of the intrawebthingy so I apologize for my lack of sourcing but its a holiday and I'm gonna go back to hanging out with the fam. (BTWs-most of the images came from a blog titled Toner Mishap--I don't know where they got them, but again, MLA Takes a Holiday)
BTW-If you want to see the Modern Family epidode the picture is based on, its called Tableau Vivant and is a riot.
Again, Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Freedom from Want ... Modern Family style
Reckneck Thanksgiving

Justice Society of America


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

eel ... its what's for Thanksgiving dinner!


The link above is an interview with Kenneth C. Davis (I Don't Know Much About ... series) on the CBS morning show yesterday. Morning show interviews tend to suck the life out of a subject but this one is okay (ignore Gail King and pretend its just Davis and Charlie Rose and it gets better). We start our school year talking about the Mayflower Compact, The truth about Plimoth Rock, the difference betweeen The Separatist Pilgrims and the Puritans as well as the complexities of the English-Native American relationships so we don't really spend any time on Thanksgiving at Thanksgiving, to be honest. But thought Davis' take was interesting.

The link below is Plimoth Plantation, the living history site devoted to the Pilgrims and Puritans. It has Bradford's journal entry on the event.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The 149th Anniversary of Near Perfection

Lincoln at Gettysburg National Cemetery (Source: National Archives)

The Gettysburg Address

The sesquicentennial minus one of the Gettysburg Address is today. This blog was originally meant to process thoughts from my travels with the Presidential Academy a couple of years ago. One of the weeks was spent in Gettysburg and it had a profound effect on me. You can't wander the battlefield and remain unmoved. You can't wander the cemetery without feeling two emotions seemingly at odds with themselves: pround sadness and profound hope. The Gettysburg Address beutifully captures both in a way I don't think any other speech does.

This blog now serves as a gateway to my thoughts on oratory and so this post fits.

But I've also been waxing eloquent on Thanksgiving and I think it fits as a post to that as well. Lincoln hits the nail on the head when he reminds us that we can't consecrate what has already been consecrated. Our job is to pick up the plow and continue the work. Veteran's Day last Monday and Thanksgiving this Thursday are great bookends for that sense of gratitude and expectation Lincoln suggests. Gratitude at the work done for us. Expectation at our work ahead.

The link above is to Ken Burn's take on the Gettysburg Address.

The link below is my take on the national cemetery at Gettysburg.

Declaration Address and Dream-July 21, 2011

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"If the Oscars were like that, I'd watch..."

Ok, day two of Thanksgivingpalooza. This clip is from The West Wing and an episode titled, "Shibboleth" and is an excellent example why The West Wing is possible the best television show ever made. Allison Janney is pitch perfect in this; as are Eric and Troy--the turkeys. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A message from President Washington

This week I thought I would offer primary documents and  art connected to Thanksgiving. (Yes, that means all my grading is done but I'm not interested in tackling the "to do list" either at home or in the classroom during my week holiday.)

In October 1789, Washington issued this proclamation. Enjoy.

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Go: Washington

Friday, November 9, 2012

Teaching in 'Baby Steps' ....

The Ford's Theater team met last night and I was asked a question about how I felt I might be challenged by the National Oratory Fellowship. The facilitators referenced the Zone of Proximal Development and I have been thinking about off and on all day.

This video explains  the concept pretty well:

My takeaway from this is that my job is to capitalize on those moments when a student can 'nearly do it' and mentor them to success and away from quiting in frustration. I best serve my students when I earnestly fill my role as both a coach and a cheerleader.

I love it when a student tells me that they don't think they can master a skill (writing a thesis, explaining a historic event, reading a difficult text) but trusts the process and works through the frustration and now can.

I quote the  movie, What about Bob? and its Baby Steps Philosophy all the time. At the end of each year its fun to chart all the skills they'll have conquered and how ready they are for the next challenge (Upper School).

Its Friday and I have movies on my mind so here is something from What About Bob?

Give a guy a video camera and wind up toys ...

The Ford's Theater folks asked us to create a video telling them a little about our school. This is what we submitted. Because of time constraints, I did most of it, so the kids are working on a 2.0 version. I wanted to put it out there in the meantime though.