In the course of one hundred years, starting on that fateful sunny day in 1862, our country has changed from that of a provincial, proslavery dominated, isolationist country into the mightiest world power on the planet.
“I look with encouragement for guidance and support,
This small “vessel” (nation) that President Jefferson referred to so eloquently has now grown beyond his wildest imagination into a mighty ship bristling with sophisticated technology and high tech. armament, its engines (our economy) the most powerful in the world.
America's constantly changing crew and passengers have grown tremendously over the years, people anxiously jumping on board from all over the world. Although it is still pretty well set on a proper course, sailing through these troubled seas, it has made some major changes (and progress) from its original direction.
The following four dates, I feel, were the most crucial dates since the Civil War began. The actions that took place on these pivotal dates caused major changes in the direction of Jefferson’s “vessel”.
On September 17, 1862, the battle of Antietam Creek took place, it was the bloodiest day of the Civil War. It was the day that the Union troops stopped General Lee’s advancing Army of Virginia. The Confederates were not soundly defeated but they were stopped. Until this battle took place it was doubtful that the Federal Army could stop General Lee’s northward advance.
A lot had happened in the eight stormy years since the Republican Party had been formed in 1854 to halt the spread of slavery, it had nominated President Lincoln as their leader and the people had elected Lincoln as their President to carry out their wishes. But now, if the Federal troops were defeated in this battle, President Lincoln may have been forced to sue for peace, (England was interested in seeing the war end and may have interceded if the Confederates had won the day) the war would be over and the Confederate States would have become a sovereign nation dedicated to upholding the right to own slaves. The slave owners were determined to press their slave territories westward.
This did not happen however, General Lee was forced retreat back to Virginia. He would make another attempt in 1863 at Gettysburg but was again turned back. There would be many more terrible battles, thousands of young men would suffer and die before this issue would be finally decided.
Antietam was the most crucial battle of the war for three major reasons: First - it gave President Lincoln the chance to declare the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the rebel states. (He couldn't move to fast, fearing the border slave states would also revolt - tipping the balance of power in the south's favor.) Second - the outcome of this battle convinced the British to remain neutral. Third - most of all, it showed that the Federal troops could stand up against General Lee’s Army.
On this date, because of the outcome of the battle, the dominant power of the nation began to shift from the proslavery powers to the antislavery powers. Ever since the formation of our country the proslavery forces had been the dominant power in the US. Many of the leading founders of our country had been been slave holders. Without them our country probably could not have been created and its wonderful ideals set forth. We owed a great deal to these citizens, but now the country was ready for the next step in its revolution which began in 1776.
The result of this titanic struggle was that the slaves were not only set free but also given the right to vote much to the chagrin of the Democrats who held off to the last minute before finally accepting the Amendment. The long debate on slavery was over. Over a million brave men, casualties on both sides, had endured terrible suffering and death to settle this question once and for all. It is mind boggling, the price America was willing to pay to determine the fate of our nation and of slavery. This terrible slaughter finally eradicated a festering cancer that had been plaguing our nation ever since its inception and paved the way for America’s entrance into the twentieth century. Jefferson’s “vessel” had set a new course into the future.
February 25, 1913 - The next crucial date did not occur until we were well into the twentieth century. On this date the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted giving the government the right to tax the income of its citizens. Henceforth our government had claim to a portion the income earned by its citizens. They had the right to tax what ever amount the Congress and the President decided upon.
Our income was no longer ours to keep but its share would be doled out by the government to whom ever it wished, by whoever was in power at the time. This was a tremendous change, in the economic and social power, for the country. The government now had the power to delve into its citizens inner most secrets through IRS audits. If descrepencies were found it could now confiscate their property and sell it to the highest bidder or charge high usury interest and penalties. Even put them in jail.
It could now take what ever it wanted from the haves and dole it out to the have nots, use it to buy vast amounts of weapons for the armed forces. Create a tremendous infrastructure of roads, waterways and whatever else that was needed. Establish tremendous bureaucracies. It now had the economic power to do all sorts of research and development, enter the space age, and even land on the moon. This new power made our government tremendously wealthy only because, the imaginative entrepreneurial capitalists continually created vast new wealth producing industries that the government could now tax.
(Even with all this tremendous wealth coming into the government’s coffers, the politicians managed to spend even more, preferring to place the burden on our non voting, future generations.) With this amendment a major shift in power from the capitalistic wealth makers to the government took place. Its citizens had lost a great chunk of their freedom and the government now had more power to control the the country’s economic wealth. America had set another major change in its course into the future.
On August 26, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment became the law of the land. It gave women the right to vote on a national basis (some states had already allowed women the right to vote on a state wide basis). It was another major shift in power, for our country. Another powerful group of people could now decide on, which course the nation would follow. The men who had created and governed the country since its inception had now lost much of their power. They became the minority voting power.
From now on the women would also have a major voice in determining which course the nation would take. On this date Jefferson’s “vessel” had made yet another major change in its course. One example, that is a result of this power shift is, men are no longer able prevent women from having an abortion if they want one.
By exerting their power to elect more liberal politicians women have turned the nation into a more compassionate country in many ways. We must now wear seat belts when we drive an automobile, helmets when we drive a motorcycle. Women were instrumental in the passage of the social security and medicare laws, and many other social programs.
Women are also, now creating havoc in the armed forces by allowing young females to integrate into the midst of “hormone laden” formerly all male ranks. The young men now have to deal with sexual stress in their ranks that they never had before.
Women are now well integrated into the nation’s work force. They are now using their creative imagination as entrepreneurs, artists, politicians etc. For better or worse, (I think for the much better) henceforth, women’s priorities will prevail in this land of ours. I wonder what Jefferson would have thought.
On December 7, 1941 our country was attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Navy. We suffered a devastating defeat on that day. It brought us into the middle of World War II. During this war we began to build a tremendous military/industrial complex that culminated in the development of nuclear energy and the atomic bomb era.
Our planet had become a much more dangerous place on which to live. I feel its only a matter of time that some madman will unleash this devastating power. I hope I am wrong about this. This military/industrial complex continued to expand and grow more powerful as we went from the hot war to the cold war.
Another outgrowth of this vast development and growth was that the Space Age and Computer/Internet age came into being. The out come of this tremendous increase in knowledge and innovation was that America had again taken another major change in its course from that of a prewar isolationist country into the premiere world power on the planet.
In the course of one hundred years, starting on that fateful sunny day, September 17th, 1862, at the bloody battle at Antietam Creek, our country has changed from that of a provincial, proslavery dominated, isolationist country into the mightiest world power on the planet with all the major groups of its citizens now having a voice in determining the priorities of the nation. The young men who suffered and died in this battle and all the subsequent battles of this pivotal war did not die in vain. I wonder what major changes in the course of Jefferson’s “vessel” will be, in the next hundred years, and how rough the troubled times. Can we survive and prosper for another hundred years??
Mankind's Incredible Power!
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