Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day

This is an important day in the history of these United States.  Read why that is, in this excerpt from a book by Matthew Spalding called “We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future” (ISI).


"Of the many influences that shaped the American concept of liberty, the first and most formative was faith. More than anything else, religion formed the backbone of colonial culture and defined its moral horizon.

"This religious character was largely a product of the fact that many came to the New World in search of religious liberty—to freely practice and spread their faith.

"As a whole, America’s Founders were strongly religious. Thanksgiving proclamations, as official statements of the American president, underscore the Founders’ faith. Some were more traditional, such as John Jay and John Witherspoon. Some were more skeptical of religious institutions and doctrines, such as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson.

"But the vast majority of the Founders were firmly in the mainstream of religious belief. They understood God as having created man with an immortal soul, as actively involved in human affairs and as “the Supreme Judge of the world”—in the words of the Declaration of Independence.

"The day after approving the First Amendment to the Constitution and its protections of religious liberty, Congress called upon the president to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

"President George Washington responded by proclaiming Nov. 26, 1789 the first official Thanksgiving. He noted:

'It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly implore his protection and favor.'
"Even the deists among the Founders—and it is by no means the case that they were mostly deists, as some have claimed—held that God created the world and determined the rules of human action.
Wrote Paine:
'It is a fool only, and not the philosopher, nor even the prudent man, that will live as if there were no God.'
"In 1620, more than 150 years before Washington’s first Thanksgiving proclamation, a small group of pilgrims granted land by King James arrived in what is now New England. They wrote out the Mayflower Compact creating their own political community “for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country.” This was, in essence, a social contract to form a body politic for the sake of survival.

"The Puritans came to America believing “their errand was not a mere scouting expedition: it was an essential maneuver in the drama of Christendom,” writes Perry Miller, pre-eminent historian of the subject. “These Puritans did not flee to America; they went in order to work out that complete reformation which was not yet accomplished in England and Europe.”

"The British colonists were overwhelmingly Christian and overwhelmingly Protestant. Congregationalists dominated New England. New York had more Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed churches, along with the Church of England in lower counties. The South was largely Anglican, with some Presbyterian, Quaker and Baptist populations. The Baptists took a much more visible role, particularly in the Carolinas, in the mid-1700s.

"During the early decades of the 18th century, the main churches grew at a rapid and astonishing rate, according to research by James Hutson of the Library of Congress. This growth was fueled in large part by the Great Awakening, the religious revival of the 1730s and 1740s, but it continued. Throughout the 1770s, some 70 percent to 80 percent of the population attended church on a regular basis.

"One can speculate about the details of each Founder’s faith. But we know the Founders as a whole took religious beliefs seriously and understood religion, Christianity in particular, was a necessary component of republican government.

"That there are laws of God that exist prior to, outside of and above the laws of the state necessarily means the laws of the state are limited and controlled by a higher or transpolitical authority. Take the injunction in the Bible to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). In other words, although man has responsibilities to legitimate government authority, the state must not negate or replace man’s responsibilities to God.

"The distinction demanded a space for other institutions—church and religious communities, families and tribes—to exist and flourish. The idea of human dignity, that we are created in the image of God, forms the theological underpinning of human nature and human equality—core principles of liberty.

"The belief that all men are sinners is the theological equivalent of the commonsense observation that human beings are drawn to their passions and prone to be selfish. It also informs the political idea that no one is to be trusted with absolute power. At the same time, the idea that all are redeemable—that there is a divine spark in each person, as a young George Washington wrote in his childhood copybook—grounds the belief that all can govern themselves and are capable of justice and benevolence.

"These concepts in turn became crucial to the beginnings of liberty in America and creation of conditions favoring a yearning not only for self-government but for limited constitutional government. And for all of this we can give thanks."

[photo from Heritage Foundation website]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finally, a View From the Top of South Carolina

A while back, I wrote about the highest point in South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain.  It is not far from home and the road is an easy, if bumpy, ride to the top.

The only problem has been that there was no place to look off this 3564-foot peak into the distance at the surrounding mountains and valleys.  The trees prevented it.  More than once, I have ridden up there, dismounted, and walked as far as my riding boots would let me, but found none of the breathtaking views I had hoped for.

Well, that has changed.  They have cleared a few trees and other vegetation, and now there is a small platform from which you can see for miles. 

You will note that they also put up a discrete little sign to let visitors know that there is now a place to look over.  Actually, on a clear day, I might be able to read the sign from home if it weren't for the trees! 

Here is the overall map with the twelve-mile route to the top (Pushpin "B") from the Holly Springs Country Store at the intersection of US-178 and SC-11 (Pushpin "A"): 

View Larger Map

Here are some pictures from the top, looking approximately south,

then southwest,  

then west.

That shiny place to the right center of the first picture is Lake Keowee.  The shiny place to the right-center of the third picture is Lake Jocassee.  I have mentioned Lake Keowee before, as well as Lake Jocassee, from an off-paved-road adventure of mine. 

Here is a panorama -- my first effort -- created from four individual photographs using PixMaker Pro

I think you will agree that the top of South Carolina is now a very much more enjoyable place to see God's creation. 

If you go:

  • The road to the top of Sassafras Mountain starts at Rocky Bottom on F. Van Clayton Highway, at the sign to the Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind.  The road is paved, but is narrow and bumpy in many places.  Most of the potholes have been repaired.  There is only one hairpin turn, and the road is readily accessible on almost any type of motorcycle.  The parking lot is gravel.  The highest point is actually a short walk beyond a locked gate. The North Carolina state line is a short walk on a trail at the opposite end of the parking lot from the overlook. 
  • A website about Sassafras Mountain is here

Edit: find an update on Sassafras Mountain here.   


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veterans Day

History of Veterans Day  
(from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France.
Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."
President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts 

On that same day, President Eisenhower sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.
In 1958, the White House advised VA's General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee's chairman.

The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

If you see a veteran, take a minute to thank him for his service, and for his helping preserve our freedom.