Montpelier VA Hist0281

 

 

 

Montpelier is the home of James Madison, 4th President of the United States of America.   John Madison was the first member of the Madison family to arrive in the New World, immigrated to Virginia in 1653.  Ambrose Madison, John Madison’s grandson, was very successful in colonial Virginia; Ambrose held several elected offices and owned thousands of acres in the Tidewater area. In 1723 Ambrose Madison acquired a 5,000-acre tract land grant, along with his brother-in-law Thomas Chew.  Ambrose Madison’s portion of the land encompassed much of what is today know as Montpelier.  As a condition of the land grant, Ambrose Madison had three years to make certain improvements to the property, including erecting a house and clearing the land.  After an inspection and certification by neighbors, Ambrose Madison was granted a full title to the land in 1726.

 

Montpelier was not the first home on the site.  Ambrose Madison built a home on the site known as Mount Pleasant and moved his family there in 1732.  Ambrose Madison died approximately six months after the move, apparently poisoned by three of his slaves.   His wife, Frances Taylor Madison, ran the plantation until her eldest son, James Madison, Sr., inherited the plantation on his eighteenth birthday in 1741.  In 1749 James Madison, Sr. married Nellie Conway. In 1751 Nellie Conway Madison gave birth to the first of her 12 children, James Madison, Jr., the man who would come to play a pivotal role in the founding of the United States of America.

 

Around 1760, for reasons that are not clear, James Madison Sr. began construction of another house on the property, a house we know today as Montpelier.  By this time the Madisons had four children, including nine-year-old James Jr.  It would be fair to assume that additional space was a motivating factor in the construction of Montpelier.  The precise date is unknown, but in his memoirs, James recalled helping to move in smaller pieces of furniture when he was nine.  This new house would form the basis for the home known as Montpelier.  The two-story brick house featured a central hallway flanked on either side by rooms in the front and rear of the home on each floor.

phase2_house

The house remained essentially unchanged until about 1797 when Madison Jr. returned to Montpelier.  He had recently retired from Congress and brought with him his wife, Dolley Madison, her son William Payne Todd and her younger sister Anna.  As was the case in the construction of the original mansion, the reasons for adding on to the house are not explicitly stated in the available records.  Most likely Mr. Madison needed additional space for his new family.  The elder Mr. Madison and his family were still living in the original portion of the house.  The younger Madison added thirty feet to the northern end of the home.  At this point, the home functioned much like a modern duplex.  Current research reveals no indication of a connecting hallway or doorway between the new and old portions of the home.  In order to bring an architectural focus to the structure, Mr. Madison added a two-story Classical portico.  According to Bryan Clark Green and Ann Miller, authors of Building a President’s House (The Montpelier Foundation, 2007), “Montpelier may possess one of the earliest known two-story porticos in Virginia.  It appears that only three two-story porticos pre-date Montpelier’s ca. 1797-1800 portico.  Of these buildings, Montpelier’s portico seems to be the earliest built example with relatively correct Classical proportions.” (Building a President’s House, Montpelier Foundation, p.6)

Montpelier as it is believed to have appeared from 1797-1808. (Montpelier Foundation and PartSense Inc.)

phase2_house

Renovations to Montpelier slowed after 1801.  By this time James Madison Jr. had inherited the property from his father Colonel Madison.  From 1801 to 1809 James Madison served as Secretary of State for Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States.  James Madison then served two terms as President of the United States.  It was during Mr. Madison’s second term that the third phase of renovations began at Montpelier.  A constant stream of visitors was a part of daily life on the plantation.  Madison’s status as President and the Madisons reputation for hospitality was sure to attract more guests than the home could comfortably accommodate.   Wings were added to each side of the house to serve as space for the visitors.   The Madisons lived at Montpelier after James retired from public service in 1817.  The Madisons lived at Montpelier until Mr. Madison died on June 28, 1836.

Montpelier as it is believed to have appeared from 1809-1812. (Montpelier Foundation and PartSense Inc.)

phase3_house

 

 

A series of crop failures and several instances in which Mr. Madison was forced to pay off his stepson’s ‘indiscretions’ and gambling debts left his estate in dire financial straits.  Dolley Madison eventually sold the Montpelier estate in 1844 and moved back to Washington DC.  After the sale, Montpelier passed through seven different owners.  Each owner made changes to the home, some more drastic than others.

 

The most notable of the subsequent owners was William DuPont.  Mr. DuPont purchased the estate in 1901.  He made several changes to the original house and greatly increased the size of the home.  When the DuPonts purchased the home, it consisted of 22 rooms.  After the changes made by the DuPonts Montpelier had 55 rooms and 12 bathrooms.  William, his wife Annie and their two children, Willie and Marion, made Montpelier their primary residence.  After the death of her parents in the late 1920’s, Marion du Pont made Montpelier her lifelong home.  Marion loved horses and steeplechase racing.  She established a horse breeding and training center at Montpelier.  Two horses owned by Marion DuPont and sired by the famous thoroughbred Man O’ War, Annapolis, and Battleship, are buried on the estate close to the mansion.  In 1928 Marion held the first Montpelier Hunt Races, an annual event held on the first Saturday in November.

 

One of the more unique rooms at Montpelier is the “Red Room”. The Red Room was originally part of the expansion to provide a wing exclusively for James Madison’s mother Nellie.   It is also unique in that it is the only room Marion DuPont changed after she inherited the estate from her parents.  The name of the room comes from the bright red upholstery covering the furniture in the room.  Legend has it that the original material for the upholstery came from Henry Ford, of Ford Motor Company fame.  Reportedly Marion expressed her love of the bright red upholstery in her new Ford automobile and secured a bolt of the material for her furniture.  The room also features a mirrored wall, chrome trim accent pieces, a glass block fireplace and many pictures reflecting Marion’s love of horses and horseracing.  The room has been preserved just as she left it in the William DuPont Gallery located next to the Montpelier Visitor’s Center.

 

Red Room                                   Photo by Crystal Thompson

“In her final years, Marion determined that Montpelier should be preserved and opened to the public as a monument to James Madison. In her will, she made arrangements that transferred the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and in 1984, a little more than one year after her death, the National Trust assumed ownership.” (Montpelier Foundation, 2007)  She further specified that the mansion be restored “in such a manner as to conform as nearly as possible with the architectural pattern which existed when said property was owned and occupied by President Madison.” (Montpelier Foundation, 2007).  Honoring this request began in 2003 after an eighteen-month interior investigation completed.

Montpelier Du Pont 001

 

Restoring Montpelier

 

Following the transfer of ownership to the National Trust a series of investigations both archeological and documentary in nature, began in 1987.  The search was twofold in nature: to discover just how much of James Madison’s Montpelier had survived, and second to determine if a restoration to Mr. Madison’s version of Montpelier was possible and practical.  What struck me most about this process was the exhaustive nature.  Investigators conducted five separate probes inside the mansion to determine how much original material was left.  Investigators found 37 of the 52 Madison-era doors scattered throughout the house. Mantels and pieces of chair rails were recycled by the DuPonts or stored carefully in the basement area.   “In carrying out the inquiry, the research team opened some 300 beneath-the-surface study units in the mansion, cutting probes in walls, lifting floorboards, and chiseling through stucco and plaster inside and outside the mansion, all in pursuit of information the surviving fabric could reveal.” (Green and Miller, Building a President’s House The Montpelier Foundation, 2007).  The reconstruction of Montpelier resembles a giant high-tech, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, with researchers matching chair rails and door frames based on nail holes and paint samples gleaned from painstakingly scraping away layers of paint and wallpaper.  Archeological finds such as a wallpaper swatch taken from a mouse nest have provided much-needed glimpses into Montpelier’s past.

 

The search also involved pouring over surviving documents over the course on Montpelier’s existence.  As the search went on, drawings and correspondences were uncovered, adding to the current understanding of Montpelier’s early days.  An 1802 watercolor painted by a friend of the Madisons, Dr. William Thornton, shows the home following the 1797-1800 addition, but prior to the third stage of additions.  Details such as unstuccoed brick and the two-story portico helped researchers determine what was constructed and in what order.  The Thornton drawing is thought to be a ‘concept’ drawing, as it depicts some details such as the temple built over the icehouse and the lunette window at the top of the portico which was part of the later renovations.   A 1799 Mutual Assurance Society policy provided documentation that the portico was in place by that date at the latest.  Ensuing policies provided additional background.  A drawing for a policy in 1808 shows the house before the two wings were added.  The Mutual Assurance policy dated in 1813 shows the two brick wings and provides measurements that greatly assisted modern researchers in their archeological efforts inside the house.

 

One of the most prized documents was a drawing found in 1999 by the Virginia Historical Society.  The Society obtained a collection of drawings done and collected by Thomas R Blackburn.  Thomas Jefferson employed Blackburn during the construction of the University of Virginia.  Mr. Blackburn did not participate in the construction of Montpelier; he acquired the drawing through unknown means.  The drawing is undated, but research based on letters exchanged between Jefferson and Madison dated the drawing to some time during 1808.  “The drawing, probably made by Jefferson’s master builder, James Dinsmore, guided the expansion of Montpelier into the house in which James and Dolley Madison reached the apogee of their power and fame.  It reveals many important facts about the development of the plan and elevation of Madison’s house, confirms the important role Madison played in its design, and further affirms Jefferson’s influential role as an advisor on the project” (Green and Miller, Building a President’s House The Montpelier Foundation, 2007).

 

Another striking detail about the document search is the amount of correspondence between James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.    The detail Madison put into the construction of Montpelier was stunning to me.  I was accustomed to seeing letters exchanged between intellectual giants such as these three.  Usually, such letters referred to things such as the limits of federal power or the rights of man.  Some of the research conducted by Montpelier reveals an exchange between Madison and Jefferson.  Madison asked if Jefferson had knowledge of “’any composition for encrusting brick which will effectually stand the weather; and particularly what is thought of common plaister(sic) thickly painted with white lead and overspread with sand.  I wish to give some such dressing to the columns of my Portico, & to lessen as much as possible the risk of the experiment.’  A month later Jefferson replied that although he had made inquiries, he had only been able to find that ‘common [interior] plaister would not do.’   Whitewashing of brick was common, he continued, however ‘most of the columns of those fine buildings erected by Palladio are of brick covered with stucco, & stand perfectly.’” (Green and Miller, Building a President’s House The Montpelier Foundation, 2007).

 

 

Perhaps the most memorable thing for me about Montpelier was the fact that the restoration was still in progress.  Usually, when visiting a historical home the restoration is already complete, or the walls and infrastructure are just stabilized in place and not restored to original condition.  At Montpelier, you can see the rooms in various states of restoration.  Currently, the walls are being re-plastered.  As was the case with the doors, door trim, and mantels, much of the original wooden lath remains from Madison’s home.  The original nails, likely made at Monticello, still remain in some places.

Nails                 Photo by Ed Thompson

 

In the formal dining room, the original mantel used during James Madison’s time was located in the basement.  Additionally, interior research discovered that the room was originally a bright yellow.  This yellow was a favorite color of Dolley Madison.  Both the original mantle and the unique yellow can be seen in the photo on the next page.  Current plans call for the room to be painted to match the original color.

 

Room

Photo by Crystal Thompson

 

 

In conclusion, I have lived no more than twenty-five minutes from Montpelier for all but eight years of my life.  This was my first trip inside the mansion.  More often than not, I can be found on the grounds of Montpelier on the first Saturday in November attending the Montpelier Hunt Races and taking in the pageantry of the events of the day.  One can appreciate the scenery, the awe-inspiring mountain views, and the rolling Piedmont countryside just by walking around during the Races.  Reading The Federalist Papers or other works detailing Mr. Madison’s accomplishments can provide an appreciation of the intellect of James Madison.  Only a tour of the Montpelier mansion and grounds can provide a full picture of the man.  One can read descriptions detailing James Madison’s love of books, but viewing the room used as his library provides a level of understanding you can only appreciate by viewing in person.

 

The orientation of the house is another revealing detail about James Madison.  The house faces the Blue Ridge Mountains that lay to the west.  This is where he believed America’s destiny lay, where any man might be able to claim some land and determine his own destiny.  The Madison Temple, used as the symbol of Montpelier by the Montpelier Foundation, provides a first-hand glimpse into the duality of James Madison.  The Doric-style temple was intended as a study for James Madison.  The design pays tribute to classic Italian design.  Below the Temple lies the practical aspect of the structure: the Madison Temple covers the 24-foot deep ice house.  The ice house stored ice harvested from the various ponds around the estate.  The structure is both decorative and functional.  As is the case with so many things at Montpelier, there is much to discover once we explore beyond what we see on the surface.

 

At first, the unfinished setting of the house was disconcerting.  Not bad, just unusual.  As I toured the house, I found myself appreciating the craftsmanship that went into this structure.  A home such as this built in our time would be impressive in its own right.  In 1760 there was no Lowe’s Home Center or Home Depot to run out to get the lumber or the lath for the plaster walls or even the plaster itself.  Everything was made on the site.  The only exceptions to this were the metal for the roof and the glass for the windows.   It is a testament to the laborers as much as James Madison himself that these items are today an integral part of the house instead of in a display case in the James Madison Visitor Center nearby.

 

My only regret after visiting Montpelier is that I waited so long to go inside.  Montpelier is a tribute to the vision of James Madison.  Like his good friend, Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Madison was an active participant in all aspects of the project.  It reflects all aspects that made James Madison a truly great man: artistic vision; practicality; commitment to realizing our full potential.  It is equally a testament to the workers, paid, indentured and slave laborers who contributed their talents during the initial construction and the series of additions.  The DuPont family should also be credited for preserving so much of the original portions of the house.  They appreciated its historic significance and worked to preserve a portion of our heritage in an age when people did not value historic preservation.  Montpelier is a special place, not just because of any one reason.  It is special because of the many and varied talents of the ensemble that brought it together and, just as importantly, kept it together.

 

 

Sources

WEBSITES:

 

Montpelier Foundation Home Page:

http://www.montpelier.org/explore/index.php

 

Madison’s Montpelier

http://www.montpelier.org/explore/estate/madisons_montpelier.php

 

The DuPonts

http://www.montpelier.org/explore/estate/dupont_montpelier.php

 

The Madisons

http://www.montpelier.org/explore/community/madisons.php

 

The Madison Temple

http://www.montpelier.org/explore/gardens/madison_temple.php

 

Building a President’s House: The Construction of James Madison’s Montpelier

Green, Bryan C; Miller, Ann L; and Hunt, Conover, Orange, Virginia:  The Montpelier Foundation, 2007

 

 

 

 

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Yankees Prospect Wows Scouts In GVLL Minors Debut

Yankees Prospect Wows Scouts In GVLL Minors Debut

 

There’s an exciting new prospect making waves in the Gordonsville Little League 2004 season. Kendall Thompson, an outfield prospect making her minor league debut is 4 for 10 on the young season with 3 runs scored, a double, a triple and a walk and 5 runs batted in. Kendall recorded her first career RBI courtesy of the bases-loaded walk she coaxed out of the A’s bullpen during the opening weekend. This past weekend Thompson displayed her “Triple speed” racing around the bases to score from first on an inside-the-park-homerun. More importantly, she has drawn the attention of several scouts attending the game.

“She knows all kind of stuff about baseball,” said Tommy of Cub Scout Troop 3405.

“Kendall was telling me about this guy named Jackie Robinson. I guess he was famous or something” commented Billy, from Wolf Scout Troop 641.

Joey Tribianni, Cub Scout Troop 748 said “She was telling me all about the strike zone and how it would really help me if I would read Moneyball. I told her I already knew about the stupid strike zone.”

Did you really, Joey?

“No, but I’m not about to tell that to a dumb, old girl”, whined Joey

 

 

 

What Do We Do Now?

This not an attempt to take sides.  It was inspired by a question I was asked by a friend in November after Election Day.  The question is deceptively simple on its face.  The answer is equally simple.  It is the application of that answer that will prove difficult.  It’s hard to love your neighbor when they do so much to make themselves unlovable. It’s the parable of “The Unforgiving Servant” come to life: “21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

 

Nowhere in there does it say “And Jesus said ‘it would be easy, nothing to it.’ “ Sure, it’s hard, and a lot of people we will come across are going to make it hard, but that does not excuse us from doing so.

 

The ability of “man” to demonstrate cruelty towards his fellow man never ceases to amaze me.  We read constantly about this deranged person, or that extremist group committing acts of terror upon their fellow man.

Since Election Day, there have been protests, occasionally violent protests, against Donald Trump.  Losing is never easy, as many of us can attest.  Accepting that loss can be difficult, but accepting the loss is a part of the grieving process.

This is not a question of who is right or wrong.  For me, it’s a question of how do we move forward.  When we suffer a personal loss, or a game doesn’t go “the right way”, it can be devastating.  At the same time, the world doesn’t stop.  Work still needs to be done, bills still need to be paid, children fed, and countless other tasks that do not care who is President of the United States.

A lot of cruel, nasty things have been said and done over the course of the campaign.   The mother in Houston who told her son to “get out”.  His crime, allegedly he voted for Donald Trump in a mock election at school “It was a joke”.  A West Virginia mayor resigned after her comments about First Lady Michelle Obama being “An ape in high heels”  on Facebook went viral.  Cruel comments do nothing but bring about hard feelings.  We are called to love our neighbor, not think of new ways to demonstrate our ability to “get even”.

The cruelty isn’t always so obvious.  Sometimes it skulks in during the night, like the KKK material left in my driveway one night, or like the vandalism done to a 19th century African American schoolhouse in Ashburn “White Power”.

On a more personal level, it can be as cowardly as one of Kendall’s classmates from OCHS.  He told another classmate, one he’d known since elementary school, to “go back to Mexico”.  Sometimes it’s unintentional – at least I hope it is.  During his campaign, Trump held rallies across the country.  Frequently a chant of “BUILD THAT WALL!  BUILD THAT WALL!” would arise.  Where is the harm in that?  None, at least in an imminent sense.  But then we fast-forward to last week at a volleyball tournament in Texas.  Archer City students chanted “BUILD THAT WALL!  BUILD THAT WALL!” at students from the opposing school, Fort Hancock.  Archer City has 384 students, not far off from the size of Madison County High School, 83 percent of whom are white.  Fort Hancock has 434.  Again, about the size of Madison.  Now the necessary apologies have been made and accepted.  But the damage has already been done.  To illustrate the point, take a piece of paper and write someone’s name on it.  The say something really mean to it and ball it up.  Now unwrap it and tell it you’re sorry.  You can say you’re sorry until Doomsday, but you can’t un-wrinkle that piece of paper.  The scars remain because you can’t take the words back.  There is not ‘putting the toothpaste back in the tube’.  The most disappointing thing for me was that no one did anything.  No school officials, no parents, no match officials did anything.  They stood back and said nothing, did nothing.  Proverbs 31:9 tells us: “Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.” Silence is compliance.

 

You might hear, What’s the use?  People won’t or can’t change.  I don’t accept that.  People can change, I’ve seen it.  My Gramma Thompson would use “the N-word” in conversation and think nothing of it. Gramma was not a cross-burning racist, but she had some racist ideas.  My brothers and I were mortified.  Gramma was a caring, loving person, a real force at Oak Grove.  Bill and I realized that we could not just yell and scream at Gramma and expect her to change her ways.  Firstly, it was not our place to yell at an adult.  Secondly, Gramma was not likely to “respond well” to that approach.  We began to calmly, gently and firmly say things such as “Gramma, you can’t say that word anymore” or “Gramma, they don’t like it when you say that”.  At first, she was defensive.  “We always called them that, and nobody had a problem with it”.  Our response was usually something like “Well, Gramma, doctors used to use leeches to bleed their patients, but they don’t anymore.  The world changed, and we have to change with it”.  I would love to tell you we only had to do that once, but habits take time to develop – good and bad.

 

So back to the original question: What are we as Christians supposed to do? The easy, snarky answer is “the same thing we were supposed to on Monday, November 7th”:  Love our neighbor.  Notice we’re not supposed to “Love everything they say, or everything they do, or participate in everything they do.  But snarky, cynical supplies are exactly what has gotten us to this point.  People who voted for Trump are seen by some as racist, bigoted, uneducated homophobes.  People who voted for Hillary are whiny, sore-loser, spoiled millennials who expect a trophy just for showing up, “snowflakes”.  As with most sweeping generalizations, both sides are wrong.  When either side says something mean, or cruel to the other side the injured party responds with something equally cruel.  A quote, attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, says “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”  It eventually breaks down into the schoolyard argument of “You’re stupid! / You’re stupider!”  Everybody winds up mad, each playing right into the stereotype, and nothing changes.  There is a scene in the movie “Road House” in which Patrick Swayze, playing the head bouncer in a bar, tells his employees to “Be nice” when someone acts up in the club.  No matter what happens, “be nice” is the rule of the day.   That’s not the first Great Commandment, but it does sound similar to the Second -” Love thy neighbor as thyself”.

 

What does it mean to “Love thy neighbor”?  It means we accept people where they are, and exactly where they are at the time.  We don’t try to force them into anything, but we don’t have to compromise our own beliefs either.

Jesus met with people from all walks of life: prostitutes, tax collectors, Roman soldiers, He never wavered from his teachings, but he didn’t yell at these people or call them names.  He didn’t yell the rich, young man but he doesn’t back from the standard either.  “Be nice.” or “Love thy neighbor” if you prefer.  As I said, the verse is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” not “You shall love your neighbor as yourself – it’s going to be a piece of cake”.  It’s going to be hard, REALLY hard at times.  That does not excuse us from trying.
Will we fail at times?  Most likely, but we must keep trying.  Luke 6:27-28 (ESV) “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  Who knows, maybe someone will be watching and will see the example you provide by being “nice” instead of the angry rant they just “knew” was coming. Love is patient.  We didn’t get to this point overnight, we’re not getting out of it by being nice once or twice.  We need to be patient with ourselves and with others.  We need to lean into it and keep reminding ourselves who we are and, more importantly, WHOSE we are. AMEN.

Erasing History

I like to consider myself a reasonable person.  My family taught me to, as Gramps put it, “Treat everybody the same, whether they like it or not”.  Growing up in NOVA until the tender age of 8, I had no idea about Brown v Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas.  I got to Madison, and someone mentioned “the colored school”.  I looked around, all the schools looked to be made of the same red brick.  I did not understand which school they were talking about.  Never occurred to me to sort people by their color.  Matchbox cars?  Sure, but not people.  In 1979 a hush fell over our little neighborhood in the thriving metropolis of Aroda.  One of the neighbors came to me and said, “Did you hear the horrible news?  (African-Americans – Sorry, I can’t say it) are moving in next door!”  I resisted the urge to put the house up for sale, mainly because I was almost 14 and not the legal owner.  I didn’t know these people, so why should I hate/fear someone I hadn’t even met.  James and Brenda turned out to be the best neighbors anybody could expect.  James was kind and patient.  We weren’t the white kids from next door, we were just the kids from next door.  The really unathletic kids from next door, but James never laughed at us.  Brenda never griped about the goofy kids from next door monopolizing James’ time.  They were just good PEOPLE who took us as we were, where we were.

 

“They’re trying to erase history”, or “maybe if we tear all those monuments down, it will be like it all never happened.  THEN maybe they’ll be happy” Settle down.  You don’t need a newspaper to teach about the First Amendment, and you don’t NEED a monument to talk about history.  Statues are erected to honor people who exemplify those qualities. I think it’s fair to question if our communities want to honor someone who committed treason.  You don’t “erase” history.  It happened.  There’s no getting around it. Or over it.  There is no putting the toothpaste back in the tube.  You can ignore it (at your own peril).  You can deny it (Holocaust).   You can misinterpret it.  But there is not “erase” option on History.  Future generations will judge us, just as we judge previous generations.  FDR did not want to be judged by Executive Order # 9066.  Does this mean FDR was racist, or just scared like everybody else at the time?  FDR also issued Executive order 8022 the first step in prohibiting discrimination in the defense industry.  What does this mean about FDR: Was he a racist or a Civil Rights trailblazer?  The answer isn’t a simple one, much as we might prefer.  History is “messy”, not too many clear answers

 

Erase history?  Not a chance, you don’t get away that easy.  I want to fill in some of the blanks.  I think we need a few more statues.  One for Nat Turner.  Let’s have that discussion.  A dark period of history that wasn’t talked about much in my Virginia History classes.  How about a Doug Wilder statue on Monument Avenue.?  Maybe a Sally Hemmings statue in Emancipation Park.  We’ve had that discussion ad nauseum, but then again, I doubt a lot of folks know that Sally was Martha Jefferson’s half-sister.  Guess which half?  Go ahead, guess.  I’ll wait….  We could talk about how benevolent slave owners – boy there’s an oxymoron – abused the PEOPLE they owned.  The again, maybe Sally and her mother were just drawn to rich, powerful white men who could snuff them out without so much as a fare thee well.  But I digress…

 

Let’s talk about the Civil War itself.  Here are some of my other faves:

 

  1. “It’s about heritage, not hate” – A heritage in which slavery was ingrained in every facet of society. From the Planter Elite trading in and profiting from slavery to the “yeoman farmer” who did not want to compete with freed slaves in the labor pool.  Slave owner or not, your life was impacted by slavery.  Life in the South was riddled with the effects of the “Peculiar Institution.”  It’s impossible to separate one from the other.  The fight was to preserve their way of life, their place in life, a life with slavery at its rotten core.
  2. It’s about states’ rights – From the Virginia Act of Secession April 17, 1861: and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States.  You can argue about fight for their own slaves, but it seems clear they were willing to fight for the other seceding states’ slaves.

 

  1. I do not see any legitimate way to justify continuing a way of life focused on holding a race of people against their will, forcing them to work without any compensation, and not sharing in the profits. It’s just wrong.  Advancing an argument that seeks to excuse or rationalize that institution is equally wrong.

 

  1. Listening to these clowns whine about how they were being oppressed made me (sick). Did they have to pass a literacy test to exercise a Constitutional right?  Ever paid a poll tax to exercise that right?  How about being lynched for acting “uppity”.  Heard the phrase “strange fruit” used to describe a friend?  Sadly, there is a LONG history of white people treating minorities with extreme cruelty.  David Duke can stop wrapping himself up in the flag and spare me the crocodile tears.  People like Richard and Mildred Loving, Wendell Scott, Barbara Johns, knew what real oppression was all about.

 

 

It’s not about “erasing history”.  Far from it.  We need to acknowledge history, warts, and all.  It’s about acknowledging, not confessing.  My dad has the parole papers for my great-great grandfather from the Union P.O.W. camp.  A unique piece of history, but not something I can take pride in because it means a relative of mine fought well and fought bravely for a cause that is/was wrong.  Re-enacting those battles is one thing, it can even give you an improved perspective on the history.  Somewhere in that improved understanding should be a recognition of how wrong that cause was and how it continues to plague us today.  Attempts to excuse or rationalize it just make things worse.  Denial is not the way out of this situation.  We need to man and woman up, acknowledge the wrongs, and start loving our neighbor as Jesus commanded us to do.  He never said it would be easy, but the longer we put it off the harder gets.

 

Hello world!

Nowhere in any of the various iterations of my resume will you find the words “copywriter”, “technical writer”, “editor”.  I’ve never done any of those things, specifically.  I’ve benefitted from my high school and college education.  During those years I was fortunate enough to have gifted instructors who taught me how to write “well”, not “good” and to know the difference.  This blog is an attempt to tangibly demonstrate that which I have not done professionally: that I can communicate ideas, using words carefully selected to convey a thought, an idea, or even a series of ideas.