Dear Friends and Relatives-------
My father always told me, " Son, always understand and remember where you come from, where you are going, and be fully aware of who you are travelling with !"
A dear, long time spiritual sister of mine, who is a Texas Trial Lawyer with an incredible 40 year legal career, sent me the following letter and article. Although, it is sure to evoke deep feelings, it is illuming and filled with insights and perspectives into US history that I certainly have been unaware about. What is, is ! What we do now and in the future is up to us. More of the same will result in more of the same.
Warm Love and Greetings,
PBS had a fascinating bio on Robert E. Lee—the famous General who has become “the marbleman” with statutes of him on his horse throughout the south. More about Lee in a minute.
The article below is about the dedication in Philadelphia of the “President’s House” which served as the home of President George Washington and his successor, John Adams, from 1790-1800. Washington owned slaves, Adams did not. The article is interesting on several fronts—the first being how Washington was served by nine “enslaved people” who were rotated every six months to avoid having to free them under Pennsylvania’s Gradual Abolition Act of 1780. This dichotomy between our first two Presidents is another example of one of the many issues that was left unresolved in the US Constitution.
Let’s remember who was enfranchised at that time and who was not: White male property and business owners were the only one’s who could vote and hold office—below them were many poor unpropertied white males, all women,and at the bottom, the “enslaved people” who built the country, toiled in the fields and maintained the estates of the elite.
Lincoln freed the slaves and the 14th amendment supposedly provided for their equal protection—but the issue was basically left unresolved until the 50 and 60’s and continues to divide the country today. Women’s suffrage had to wait for the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920—long after women had the right to vote in many other countries. For poor whites and working people in general—well that would be an essay unto itself—but the struggle for decent wages and working conditions has been a huge issue from before the first Gilded Age through World War 2 and continues today. We should remember all of this when people talkabout “original intent” and “originalism”.
On now to Lee briefly:His family was of the Virginia elite—his father had fought with Washington and other members of his family had been involved with establishing the Union. Although his father managed to squander the family wealth, Lee was able to enter West Point and came to be considered one of the finest soldiers in the US Army.
Lee married George Washington’s niece. Her family was Virginia royalty and owned thousands ofacres overlooking Washington DC as well as 200 slaves. The bio explores Lee’s desire to preserve this system of power and privilege—the ruleof the propertied elite.
Despite Lee’s history and the oath of loyalty to the Union Lee had taken at West Point, he joined the Confederate Army leading the Army of Northern Virginia to it’s utter destruction over the course of the war.
The battle field deaths of both the Union and Confederacy were horrific ultimately leading Lincoln to confiscate the property of Lee’s wife. Lincoln used much of the propertyto build a cemetery that is now Arlington Memorial Cemetery—even ordering that the graves of dead soldiers be placed completely surrounding thefamily home so that “Lee could see first hand what he had done.”
What is interesting to me is the degree to which these issues bedevil and divide the US population to this day. Watch the bio if you get the chance.
Note- It was not until 1924 that Native Americans were granted US Citizenship. Yet, for most Native Americans the right to vote did not come until years later. For instance it was not until 1948 that Arizona and New Mexico granted voting rights to Native Americans. This sad and pitiful legacy occurred ,despite the fact, that as a percentage of the US population, more Native Americans served in the US Military since 1914, by far, than, any other population of US citizens.