Due to necessary maintenance work, the Lions Quarter Store is down until further notice.
Also, LionsQuarter.com will be offline from the 22nd to the 26th.
Until then, have a happy holidays!
…is a mother.
Happy Mother’s Day!
I meant for this post to be a “listicle” on Presidential trivia, like how George Washington wasn’t really America’s first President, how badass Teddy Roosevelt was, how William Henry Harrison was America’s shortest-serving President, etc. But then my friend Tony got really into his research and found out some amazing stuff about America’s truly first Presidents.
It’s true that George Washington was the first President of the United States. But if we consider America’s “birthday” to be when the Declaration of Independence was adopted – July 4, 1776, then America actually had several Presidents before Washington.
Presidents before Independence
In fact America had Presidents even before the Declaration of Independence. In 1774 delegates from all the American colonies (except Georgia) met in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia to decide what response the American Colonies ought to take to the punitive acts – officially the Coercive Acts, but popularly called the “Intolerable Acts” – passed by the British Parliament against us as punishment for daring to protest unjust taxation (see the Boston Tea Party).
–And by the way, forget the “tea tax,” what got us ticked off then was the 1765 Stamp Act, essentially a tax on paper – everything that used paper, from legal documents to newspapers to playing cards and even dice. This put an extra tax on any sort of commerce – any transfer or exchange of money, public or private, even gambling – carried out in the Colonies; an extra cost that hurt American businesses in favor of British competitors!
The President of that First Continental Congress – and thus America’s First President – was Peyton Randolph, taking office on Sep. 5, 1774. When he had to take off the last few days of the session due to ill health, Henry Middleton became America’s second President – for all of 4 days (Oct. 22, 1774 – Oct 26, 1774)!
When the Second Continental Congress convened in May 1775 after it became clear that any legal appeals to the British Crown would be ignored, Randolph was the first President of that as well – making him the first and third American President. He would serve from May 10 to May 24, 1775, after which he resigned to preside over Virginia’s House of Burgesses (legislature).
The next President after Randolph would be John Hancock. That John Hancock. He would serve the longest – from May 24, 1775 to October 31, 1777 – and entire books have been written on what happened in America during his terms.
John Hancock would be followed by Henry Laurens (Nov. 1, 1777 – Dec. 9, 1778) and John Jay (Dec. 10, 1778 – Sep. 28, 1779). When John Jay left office to serve as Minister (ambassador) to Spain, Samuel Huntington was elected (Sep. 28, 1779). He was the last President to serve prior to America’s first official government under the Articles of Confederation. He would leave office due to ill health July 10, 1781.
Under the Articles of Confederation
Samuel Johnston was the first President elected under the newly ratified Articles of Confederation – July 9, 1781 – but turned down the office due to family matters. Instead, on July 10 Thomas McKean would become the first President to serve under the Articles of Confederation but he would serve only about four months, resigning from office on October 23, 1781 after getting the news of the British surrender at Yorktown. His successor, John Hanson was elected November 5 and would be the first President to serve a full term under the Articles – all of one year.
The next six Presidents under the Articles of Confederation would be:
- Elias Budinot (Nov. 4, 1782 – Nov, 3, 1783)
- Thomas Miffin (Nov. 3, 1783 – June 3, 1784)– in the seven months he served, his most important duty would be to accept General George Washington’s resignation of his commission;
- Richard Henry Lee (Nov. 30, 1784 – Nov. 4, 1785)
- John Hancock – returned to serve from November 23, 1875 to June 5, 1786, but due to health issues never attended a meeting of the Congress. When he finally resigned it would be months before enough Congressmen showed up to elect his successor;
- Nathaniel Gorham (Jun. 6, 1786 – Nov. 3, 1786) – after he left office there wouldn’t be another President for another four months – not enough members showed up to elect anybody.
- Gen. Arthur St. Clair (Feb. 2, 1787 – Nov. 4, 1787) – The most important thing that happened in his term was that Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance and elected St. Clair as the Northwest Territory’s first Governor.
- Cyrus Griffin – The last President under the Articles of Confederation, he was elected January 22, 1788 – and quit on November 15 when only 2 members of Congress showed up for work that day. Fortunately, by then the new United States Constitution had been ratified, and on April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the newly reconstituted government.
So you see, by the time George Washington took office, America had already had no less than fourteen Presidents. And there were some times America had no president at all—because at that time Presidents were elected by the Continental Congress, and if not enough people showed up – what is called a quorum – no President can be elected!
Tony got much of his research from Wikipedia; but we both recommend you use that only as a start to looking up further information on your own. There’s a lot of American history most people don’t learn much about in school – real history, not conspiracy theory stuff – and I think you’d be surprised and amazed by what you’ll find!
All that said, happy President’s Day!
Fifteen years into the War on Terror and I can say there have been some positive developments:
- Bin Laden, mastermind of 9/11, is dead.
- Saddam Hussein, one of the most brutal dictators of our age, is no more.
- Al-Qaeda has been taken apart.
- And despite our worst fears there have been no mass-casualty attacks of a similar scale in the United States.*
- Iran, whose national slogan seems to be “Death To America,” has been convinced to give up its nuclear program in exchange for being allowed to trade with the West.**
- We’re even finally making peace with Cuba!
That said, there can be said there have been victories for the other side, too. Part of bin Laden’s plan for 9/11 and similar attacks was to so enrage the United States that it would lash out blindly, causing death and destruction across the Middle East and Central Asia far in excess of what the U.S. suffered, bankrupting itself in terms of lives and treasure and bringing millions of hurt and angry survivors to bin Laden’s side.
To an extent, that is exactly what happened. It’s been estimated that the 9/11 attacks cost bin Laden a quarter-million dollars at most. Since then, America has spent at least a trillion dollars—and most likely closer to five trillion—to stamp out terror, with no final victory or “end game” in sight. And while we did put an end to bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the disruption we caused when we brought down the Taliban and Hussein’s regime—combined with local sectarian strife and the outrage caused by our drone bombings—created ideal conditions for the growth and spread of even more extreme, outrageous groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. ISIS has gone even further, publishing flatly that its goal is to support and encourage terrorist attacks until the West goes after all Muslims—not just the people plotting and carrying out attacks—and effectively drive the Muslim world into ISIS’ army.
At home, we’re quickly reaching the point where we’re starting to wonder whether this whole war was even necessary, or if we could have achieved our goals through better means. Aside from the massive cost—five trillion dollars?!—over 7000 of our people have been killed in combat, and more than 50,000 more came home wounded physically, psychologically, or both. Even today, 20 veterans commit suicide daily, unable to come to terms with what has happened, what is happening to them. Our use of drones to assassinate known and suspected terrorist leaders—often killing everyone around them, innocent and guilty alike—trouble consciences around the world; and people in this and other countries are worried about the ways our own societies are changing in this fight on terror: Do we have any right to privacy? Do we have to allow our governments to monitor and record all electronic communications? Do we have to have cameras everywhere we go? Could all this massive amount of information on all of us be misused? Would it even stop any future terrorist attacks, anyway?
…and recent terror attacks in San Bernardino, California, Orlando, Florida, and Nice, France have shown that you don’t need huge, complicated, expensive attacks to spread mass terror—a “lone wolf” going on a suicidal blitzkrieg can be horrifyingly effective. Nice showed a terrorist doesn’t even need a gun! Think of the past few days when airports have been evacuated due to reported gunshots—but there were no shooters, a false alarm. In one case an airport was evacuated for one guy just sitting there in a Zorro outfit waving a plastic sword!
And don’t get me started on the changes to airport security—In all my life I’ve never felt more like singing “Next time, take the train.” <g>
Ugh. I didn’t mean to be so depressing. These last 15 years have been a hell of a ride, though, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to stop anytime soon. For example, though hate crimes against Muslims skyrocketed in the years after 9/11, American Muslims fight alongside us against all kinds of terror, Muslim extremist or not. Americans elected—and re-elected—an African American to the Presidency, and it looks like we’re about to do the same for a woman! This has naturally made a very, very loud minority angry, but they are a minority, and they look to become an even smaller minority in the future!
But most of all, from what was once a scene of twisted metal, wreckage, and horror, a new, even prouder tower has risen above the New York skyline. The new One World Trade Center—94 floors, 1,776 feet tall—it is as much a monument to those who lost their lives on 9/11 (and the aftermath) as it is a functional, state-of-the-art office building. Most importantly, it was designed with lessons learned from the old World Trade Center buildings, with a super-strong reinforced concrete core—strong enough to resist truck bombs either at street level or in the below-ground parking structure (remember the 1993 attack?)—containing broad fire-protected stairwells big enough to allow the entire building to be quickly and safely evacuated at the same time fire crews are climbing up—if it gets hit by another airliner! I bet even Godzilla couldn’t knock this building down!
OK, I think I’ve gone on long enough. Tony and I are putting the final edits to a new version of my 9/11 Project play, with all but three songs removed to make it more practical for schools and community theater groups to put on. I hope to interest the college theater scene with this play.
It amazes even after all this time, there still isn’t any real aren’t any other projects—of which I’m aware—to bring the feelings and memories of 9/11 to the stage. I guess somebody has to be the pioneer—why not me?
*The closest attacks in terms of casualties outside the Middle East I can think of are the much smaller attacks in London, Spain and Mumbai (I remember it being called Bombay). There was a horrible attack in Norway but it was caused by a “homegrown” terrorist and not Islamic extremists. Bear in mind though—the vast majority of victims of terror attacks are other Muslims—Muslims belonging to groups other groups are at war with, or who don’t want anything to do with the extremists and their beliefs. Groups like ISIS and Boko Haram don’t really care about other Muslims except as either a money supply or potential “cannon fodder.”
** There are those who say we shouldn’t trust the Iranians—and we shouldn’t—but the only likely alternatives were either another ruinous invasion and war, or worse, a 3-way nuclear arms race between Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia!