Tag Archives: American Revolution

ITPL Ep 025 title card image

Episode 025 Who Was Thomas Jefferson?


subscribe-buttonIn this episode, we take a close look at another Founding Father – Thomas Jefferson (Episode 23 focused on Alexander Hamilton). And why not? Jefferson was born in the month of April – April 13th to be precise – and he’s Thomas Jefferson, maybe the most multi-talented of the Founders. He was part businessman, philosopher, writer, naturalist, theologian, statesman, architect, and inventor — among other things. To help us understand Jefferson and why he still matters – despite all the Hamilton mania these days – this episode has two parts:

Gordon-Reed book cover1) First, I provide a brief overview of the life of Thomas Jefferson. In so doing, I’ll raise some of the many key questions about the 3rd President, most especially: how could the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence also own 600 slaves? And have children with one of them (Sally Hemings)?

2) Then, I’ll sit down with award-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed, co-author of the most recent major book on Jefferson, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination. It’s just been released in paperback. It’s a deep and compelling examination of this most important and most enigmatic of Founders.

 About Annette Gordon-Reed website

Further Reading

Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (WW Norton)

Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2009)

Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (University Press of Virginia, 1997)

Peter S. Onuf, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (University of Virginia Press, 2007)
Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)

Ason Shaw, “Acoustic Meditation” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer: Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Wash-Ham

Episode 023 Alexander Hamilton: The Man, The Myth, and, Yes, The Musical!

subscribe-buttonIn this episode of ITPL, we focus on Alexander Hamilton. You may have noticed that Hamilton has become the hottest Founder in recent years – and it’s all due to the smash Broadway hit, “Hamilton: The Musical.”
So here’s the lineup:
1. First, I provide a brief backgrounder on the remarkable life of Alexander Hamilton. 2. Second, I sit down with historian Stephen F. Knott to discuss his book, Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America (Sourcebooks, 2015). He and his co-author Tony Williams argue that the relationship between Washington and Hamilton had a major impact on the outcome of the American Revolution and the subsequent creation of the American republic.
3. Finally, I drop by the one permanent site in Manhattan that’s dedicated to the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. It’s the Hamilton Grange in Harlem. I speak with National Park Service ranger Liam Strain about the site’s history and how “Hamilton: The Musical” has dramatically increased visitor traffic at the site. You can find show notes for this episode and more information about the podcast at www.InThePastLane.com
In The Past Lane is a production of Snoring Beagle International, Ltd.

About Stephen F. Knottwebsite

About the Hamilton Grangewebsite

Further Reading

ITPL Ep 023 Knott book coverStephen F. Knott and Tony Williams, Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America (Sourcebooks, 2015)

Ronald Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (Penguin, 2004)

Joseph J. Ellis, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 (2015)

Thomas Fleming, The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation (2015)

Joanne B. Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (2005)

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution (2016)

John Sedgwick, War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel that Stunned the Nation (2015)

The historic home of Alexander Hamilton, "The Grange," in Harlem, NYC.

The historic home of Alexander Hamilton, “The Grange,” in Harlem, NYC.

Jim Beckerman, “Hamilton Tourist Sites in New Jersey Ride the Wave of the Hit Musical,” Associated Press, Jun 12, 2016

Linda Flanagan, “How Teachers Are Using ‘Hamilton’ the Musical in the Classroom,” KQED.org

Valerie Strauss, “The unusual way Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’ is teaching U.S. history to kids,” Washington Post, June 28, 2016

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Doctor Turtle, “Often Outmumbled Never Outpunned” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, “Going Home” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, ”On The Street,” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer, Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Hercules mulligan title card

Hercules Mulligan, Patriot Mentor and Spymaster

Who wITPL - Check Out ITPL Podcast image (for blog)as Hercules Mulligan? Well, he certainly was a man with one of the great names in American history. Hercules Mulligan – you can’t make up a name like that. But beyond that great name, Hercules Mulligan has existed as a mere footnote for the last 200+ years of American history. That is, until about a year ago when, “Hamilton, The Musical,” opened on Broadway. The show, which has gone on to become one of the biggest hits in recent Broadway history, chronicles the life of the founding father Alexander Hamilton. It features well-known figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, but also people lost to history like Hercules Mulligan. He played a key role in the life of Hamilton, and served as one of Washington’s most important spies during the American Revolution.

Mulligan was born in County Antrim, in northern Ireland in 1740. Six years later, he emigrated with his family to colonial New York City. His father was a wealthy merchant, so Hercules enjoyed a comfortable life and received a very good education. By the mid 1760s, he was himself a prosperous businessman, operating a shop that sold cloth and custom tailored suits.

By the mid 1760s, Hercules Mulligan had also joined the Sons of Liberty. This early Patriot group had formed in 1765 to resist the Stamp Act—you know, the whole, “No taxation without representation” thing. The year 1765 was just the beginning of a decade of turmoil over British policies and Mulligan remained active member of the Sons of Liberty.

In 1773, the same year as the Bostonhamilton logo Tea Party, Mulligan met a 16-year-old orphan from the British West Indies. His name was Alexander Hamilton. Mulligan offered to rent him a room while he studied at Kings College (the forerunner to Columbia University). When Hamilton wasn’t studying, he hung around Mulligan’s store and listened to him talk with his friends, many of them fellow Sons of Liberty, about British abuses and the need to resist them. Not surprisingly, Hamilton soon joined the Sons of Liberty.

In 1775 Hamilton penned a widely read article highly critical of Great Britain’s increasingly harsh treatment of the colonies. Two months later, the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord. Sixteen months after that, the British invaded New York with a massive army and armada of 300 ships. In the ensuing Battle of Long Island in August 1776, George Washington and his Continental Army barely escaped capture and destruction. From that point until the end of the war, New York City remained under British occupation and it became a key center of military planning for the British.

As the war progressed, George Washington recognized the importance of establishing an intelligence network in New York to acquire information on British military plans. Accordingly, he put in place a network of spies that came to be known as the Culper Ring. And one of its most important members was Hercules Mulligan. In all likelihood, it was Hamilton—now an officer in Washington’s army—who recommended him.

Now, it’s important to point out that spying was dangerous business. In September 1776, the British caught Nathan Hale spying in the New York area and hanged him in Manhattan, not far from Mulligan’s home. So Mulligan and the other Culper Ring spies had to be very careful.

Fortunately for Hercules Mulligan, his business put him in an ideal position to gather information without arousing suspicion. His shop had to become very popular among colonial elites before the war, and during the military occupation it proved equally popular among British officers who were convinced that Mulligan was a Loyalist. In those days, tailoring shops were kind of like barbershops or coffee shops where customers hung out and talked freely about news and gossip. So while Mulligan went about his business of selling cloth and measuring, tailoring, and fitting British officers into their new suits, he listened for loose talk of military plans. Whenever he obtained important information about troop movements or changes in overall strategy, he passed it on to George Washington.

Hercules mulligan in hamilton copy

Hercules Mulligan (second from left) in “Hamilton, The Musical”

As Hercules Mulligan in “Hamilton” puts it:

A tailor spyin’ on the British government!
I take their measurements, information and then I smuggle it…
To my brother’s revolutionary covenant
I’m runnin’ with the Sons of Liberty and I am lovin’ it!
See, that’s what happens when you up against the ruffians
We in the shit now, somebody gotta shovel it!
Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction
When you knock me down I get the fuck back up again!

In one crucial instance, Mulligan heard of a British plot to capture George Washington. He passed on the information, allowing Washington to change his plans and foil the plot. Needless to say, had Washington been captured, the Patriot cause would have been doomed.

Mulligan played his role of tailor/spy perfectly for the whole war. But as the conflict came to an end, he had a big problem. He had performed so convincingly as a Loyalist, that most New Yorkers were convinced that he WAS a Loyalist. This was not a good position in which to be in the early 1780s. Loyalists were being driven from the colonies by angry Patriots. Some were tarred and feathered and a few were even killed.

General George Washington arrives with Governor Clinton and troops in New York on November 26, 1783 as the defeated British evacuated the city.

General George Washington arrives with Governor Clinton and troops in New York on November 26, 1783 as the defeated British evacuated the city.

Fortunately for Mulligan, none other than George Washington came to his aid. On November 26, 1783, General Washington triumphantly processed into New York City as the last British ships departed. As he reached Lower Manhattan, he stopped at the home of Hercules Mulligan. The two enjoyed a breakfast together after which Washington publicly praised Mulligan as, “A true friend of liberty.” No one threatened Hercules Mulligan again after that!

Mulligan, unlike the ill-fated Hamilton, went on to enjoy a long and prosperous life in the years that followed. He died in New York in 1825 at the age of 85. Then he faded into historical obscurity—but not permanently.

Ron Chernow's biography of Hamilton helped rescue Hercules Mulligan from historical obscurity.

Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton helped rescue Hercules Mulligan from historical obscurity.

In 2004, Ron Chernow published a best-selling biography of Alexander Hamilton. In it, he related the role Mulligan played in Hamilton’s early life and his role as a spy in the Revolutionary War. And this is the book Lin-Manuel Miranda read that inspired him to create, “Hamilton, the Musical.” Miranda has said in interviews that he was drawn to Mulligan both for his unique name and for the important role he played in Hamilton’s life.

So there you have it. The incredible story of the great Irish spy helped win the American Revolution. Who knew?

 

 

 

Further reading:

Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (2004)

Michael O’Brien, Hercules Mulligan: Confidential Correspondent of General Washington (1937)

 

declaration-of-independence crop

The Declaration of Independence Was Originally No Big Deal?

No document in U.S. history, except perhaps the Constitution, is more revered than the Declaration of Independence.  Indeed, most Americans can recite (if not word for word) its prosaic lines, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Ignored at first, the Declaration of Independence became a sacred text in American political culture.

Ignored at first, the Declaration of Independence became a sacred text in American political culture.

But today’s reverence for the Declaration obscures two important and fascinating details regarding the document’s early history:

1. Few, if any, Americans in 1776 cared about the beautiful and uplifting words from the Declaration quoted above. They understood the document for what it was: a practical DECLARATION OF WAR and not a lofty proclamation universal equality and human rights

2. It took years—decades, actually—for the Declaration of Independence to be considered a sacred text of the Founding era.

So let’s examine these two points in some detail. Why didn’t most Americans in 1776 care about the beautiful opening section to the Declaration of Independence that modern Americans hold so dear? The answer is simple. They saw it as a flowery introduction and were far more concerned with what followed: the list of grievances against King George III that justified independence. This section took up about two-thirds of the Declaration and included more than two dozen complaints directed specifically against George III.

The Declaration of Independence targeted George III and his violation of American liberties as the cause of the American Revolution.

Here are a few representative examples:

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

So, to Americans in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was inspirational only in so far as it made the case to the world for breaking with the Mother Country and defending that decision with arms. Later generations of Americans, long after the Revolutionary War’s successful conclusion, would care far less about this indictment of George III and far more about the Declaration’s vivid articulation of the ideals of universal equality and human rights.

So when did this happen? Certainly not right away. Indeed, for the first few decades after July 4, 1776 few Americans considered the Declaration a great document.  When they celebrate the Fourth of July, they celebrated the act of declaring, not the document itself

Originally, few people knew that Thomas Jefferson had penned the Declaration. Only when its significance grew did Jefferson and his supporters proclaim this fact.

So when did Americans come to revere the Declaration as one of the nations most sacred texts? It began in the 1790s. That decade was dominated by Federalists (Adams, Hamilton, etc) who downplayed the significance of the Declaration because they disliked its anti-British tone and found alarming the similarity of its language with Revolutionary France’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.” In contrast, their emerging political opposition, the Jeffersonian Republicans, came to see themselves as defending the “Spirit of 1776” and the Revolution against Federalists whom they viewed as not only pro-British but also pro-monarchy.  As a result, Republicans in the 1790s began reading Declaration of Independence at July 4th celebrations and quoting it in speeches. They also took to celebrating the Declaration’s author, Thomas Jefferson. In so doing, they emphasized the Declaration as a Founding document that condemned monarchy and privilege, and celebrated liberty and equality.  So when the Jefferson and the Republicans came to power in 1801, they saw to it that the Declaration of Independence became firmly enshrined as the nation’s great founding document. With each passing year, the reputation of and reverence for the Declaration grew.

By the1820s Jefferson himself came to realize that the Declaration was the centerpiece of his legacy.  So when he arranged for the inscription on his tombstone, he decided it would read: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom and Father of the University of Virginia.”

Then, just in case anyone doubted the importance of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on its 50th anniversary: July 4, 1826. And for good measure, Pres. James Monroe died five years later on July 4, 1831. You can’t make this stuff up!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments and presented it to the first women’s rights convention, held at Seneca Falls in 1848.

But, the evolution of the Declaration’s meaning and significance continued long after Jefferson’s death. Women’s Rights activists at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, for example, created the “Declaration of Sentiments” which said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights …”

Similarly, abolitionists, labor activists, and other reformers invoked the Declaration to justify their demands.

President Abraham Lincoln played a key role in the transformation of the Declaration into a sacred document.  In his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 he invoked the Declaration: “Four score and seven years ago [1776] our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Rev. Martin Luther Kin invoked the Declaration of Independence in making his claim for equality for all Americans regardless of race.

A century later, in his stirring call for civil rights in his “I Have A Dream” speech in August 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ … And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice…”

Although it was not his primary intention back in July 1776, Jefferson gave voice to the radical idea that we all have rights.  Since that time it’s been left it to succeeding generations, and the democratic process, to define, secure, and protect them.

Sources and Suggested Reading:

Benson Bobrick, Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution (1995)

Philip S. Foner, ed., We, the Other People: Alternative Declarations of Independence by Labor Groups, Farmers, Woman’s Rights Advocates, Socialists, and Blacks, 1829-1975

Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (1997)

Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (1992)

Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991).