The following is a paper I discovered amongst keepsakes of my parents. It was written for a middle school assignment 35 years ago, in the Albemarle County School System. I was given an A+++ at the time. Given the recent Kid Pan Alley “99%” controversy at Albemarle County’s Woodbrook Elementary School, I can not help but wonder, in today’s scholastic environment, what grade my paper would receive. Once upon a time, before the Department of Education, we knew how to teach history and instill patriotism. Sadly, as today’s headlines too numerously display, we’ve dropped the baton of truth from previous generations to the present one.
The Magnificent History of the The United States
by Hank Martin
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” –Abraham Lincoln
Upon that proposition, this great land of liberty was founded, and to this day, the persecuted and the weary, look upon our shores with eyes of hope. Let us tell then, the story of this great land, the story of America.
In the beginning, when the freedom of man was but a vision in the hearts of a few, the Pilgrims came to our shores, that they might find a land where God could be worshipped according to a man’s own conscience. Where a man might govern himself, and live in peace and understanding with his fellow man. After they had prayed, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. The building of America had begun. By the year 1630, thousands of immigrants had followed the paths of freedom, to land in Boston Harbor, in Massachusetts. Yes, the colonies were growing. It seemed a fit and proper time to give thanks to Almighty God. The colonists raised their voices in jubilation.
The new settlements prospered, it appeared that everything was going to be all right, until, the hard won personal rights were pierced with a proclamation. Taxes! Taxes! Taxes without representation! A despised and hated tyranny of the old world, reaching out to the new. Protests! Protests! The answer came swiftly. Soldiers of the king, thundered through the streets in the night. They sought after those considered enemies of the crown. But in a meeting at St. Johns Church, Patrick Henry exclaimed, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” His speech lighted the torch of liberty. Soon, the angry colonists were burning the very goods upon which the unjust taxes had been levied. Disguised as Indians, they threw bales of tea into Boston Harbor. The die had been cast. The continental congress met in grave session. The result of that meeting?
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.
One of the greatest of human documents was forged in the fire of patriotic fervor. It proclaimed these truths as self-evident. That all men were created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In those ringing notes of liberty, as rang out by the liberty bell, a new flag was formed, when Betsy Ross made a new banner of red, white and blue, with thirteen stars, each star a state, and the great battles began. Under Captain John Paul Jones, the American navy fought on. At Valley Forge, the great strength of George Washington held the army together. The years of the war were long dark days in the history of our country. Then Washington joined the forces of Lafayette at Yorktown, and a decisive battle was fought. With sudden finality, the war was over. Again the Liberty bell rang out the news. By the grace of God, we had won. We were a nation!
It was decided that this new nation should have laws by which to govern itself. The constitution of the United States was written. The states agreed. And to certify that these new laws would work for the people, there was added to it, the Bill of Rights. Freedom of worship. Freeedom of speech, of the press. The right of assembly. James Madison put it this way:
“In approving this Bill of Rights, we have executed the will of the people.”
A mighty lot had been accomplished up to now; we had our freedom, our nation, and our first president, George Washington. In the years that followed, the great era of exploration began. Virginia’s own Thomas Jefferson regarded the maps of the day, and he had an idea about all of that land west of the Mississippi. The French agreed to sell the Louisiana territory to the United States for approximately four cents per acre. With fitting and proper ceremony, the Stars and Stripes were hoisted over the vast and fertile land.
The war of 1812 burst upon our shores with brisk and sudden fury. A test by fire for so young a nation. But Andrew Jackson was there, with his homespun men of the backwoods. In Baltimore Harbor, the guns of Ft. McHenry blazed defiantly. It was here, that Francis Scott Key, watching the battle through the night, wrote a song which he called, “The Star Spangled Banner.” In two years, the war came to an end, and Francis Scott key was a good prophet, our flag was still there. We still had our nation, and now we had a song for our people to sing. Our national anthem.
It then seemed expedient to consider all those people who lived with us as our good neighbors in this hemisphere. And to give warning to foreign powers and foreign aggressors, for that time, and ever after. James Monroe read the text to John Quincy Adams:
We owe it, therefore, to candor, and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers, to declare, that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere, as dangerous to our peace and safety.
The Monroe Doctrine was a bulwark to further protect the principles upon which this country was founded. Thus ensued the great era of expansion.
In the Mexican campaign, Texas was won. Then we acquired the vast territories of California and Oregon. From California, the cry of GOLD! Was heard around the world. From every way the wind blows, adventurers raced to the prosperous bonanza. But again, storm clouds were gathering over our republic, as the northern and southern states of our union, took issue with the direction our government was heading. Cries of Secession were heralded, as unjust northern tariffs were placed southern businesses, and other attempts to subvert individual states rights were promoted. The union was no longer united. Southern forces were manipulated into firing upon Ft. Sumter. This was no war of foreign aggression. Both Northern and Southern Forces believed their cause to be just. Ultimately, the N
Northern forces would win, but there was little celebration by either side, just a sigh of relief that the struggle had come to an end.
Now began the great era of reconstruction and development. Lumbering prairie schooners rolled over the plains. Lusty bustling western towns sprang up in hundreds of places. A huffing puffing symbol of technological progress marked a new trail with timbers and black smoke. Long, spike settled rails now spanned the continent. The iron horse had now brought together, the east and the west. The conquest of the mountains, and the deserts and the prairies was concluded. But the age of hatreds of the old world were again reaching out, to embroil us in conflict.
The U.S.S. Maine was sunk in a Cuban Harbor. Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders charged up San Juan Hill. In one of the shortest wars in American history, Teddy said goodbye to his men and, fulfilling his destiny, became President of the United States. He never ceased fighting for what he believed to be right.
The twentieth century was growing up when Woodrow Wilson became president, but his years in office were overshadowed by that great human sacrifice known as World War One. Soon after his second term commenced, the policy of “hands off” could no longer be tolerated. The war message was read in congress on April 2, 1917. Two million American men crossed the ocean, to invade the invader. Many battlefields and many townsfolk knew of their courage. And finally, when the strange hush of peace sprouted forth, they went home. Some were laid forever in Flanders Field. And we believed that war was a war to end war.
So we started to build. Bigger than ever before. AMERICA! Rising in miraculous monuments of stone and steel. The tallest buildings in the world. Bridges expanding to cross whatever body of water we anted to cross. Mighty dams bringing new life to arid waste lands, and electric power to the rural countryside. Millions of miles of roads and highways. Oil derricks crowning the arteries of black flowing gold. Farmers plowing with tractors. Cities a symphony of automobiles. Yet, in all of our prosperity, we failed to heed the venomous voice that was slithering across Europe. We watched again, as Hitler and Tojo ignited another conflagration amongst the nations of the old world. Thus we had conscription, a peace time draft. But no one really believed it would happen again. That belief was rudely shattered on a Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor. Under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s admimistration, the minds and hearts were quickly united against the tyrannical forces of the axis powers, and to work together as one, until that moment when the despots of tyranny were destroyed.
Such industry as the world has never seen sprang to life. Shoulder to shoulder, the workers of America banned together on the home front. Twenty four hours everyday, the factories filled the sky with the smoke and fire of defiance. Ringing steel and grinding wheels. Hammers and anvils, welding machines, made up the war time sounds of freedom at home.
Over vast areas of far away waters, our armed forces challenged the enemy. One by one, we moved through the islands of the pacific. The pace was heartbreaking. Never before had a series of invasions been made so far from home. As landing craft chugged forth to deposit their cargos of brave and determined men, our planes blasted the enemy from their secret hideouts, and shot their planes from the sky. The great battles at sea held a proud and honored place in our history. Admiral Nimitz was there, with his ships and men. It was an all American team, made up of the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the Marines.
In distant Africa, our men were fighting side by side with the British and the French. In Italy, we were battling the hated hordes of Mussolini. In Germany, the spirits of the captive Jew’s in the concentration camps heard the ever increasing roars of our bombers. The war was coming back to the enemy now. Hitler had said “No Bomb will ever drop on German soil!” But they were falling like rain and like thunder. Then, one early morning on the English Channel, a great secret was made know to all. Invasion. The landing on Omaha beach was a masterpiece of coordination and precision, taking us into fortress Europe on that stretch of sand.
In the months that followed, the irresistible might of our armed forces grew more evident each day. They swept across France, driving the enemy before them. Our planes, like avenging eagles, blasted the Luftwaffe out of the sky, or shattered enemy planes on the airfields, far within the German border. Everything within the evil Reich that moved was halted. Day by day, the land forces drove steadily to the Rhine. General Patton reached the river with his Third Army, and moved on. Our great military leaders, Marshall, Arnold, Eisenhower, pushed our troops forward to the final phase of the conflict. In a narrow corner of West Berlin, what was left of a once arrogant German army was put to rout. When we entered Berlin, it was a shambles of broken walls. More than eighty percent of the once great city lay in ruins. A monument to the egotistical ravings of a madman.
With the surrender of Germany, we turned our unified attention and might to the pacific, where the lines of battle were now close to the shores of Japan. Not long after, the B-29 bomber “Enola Gay” took off from the sands of Okinawa, carrying within it a bomb, the likes of which, man had never before conceived. As the widening circle of death extended out over Hiroshima, the atomic age was written into the history books of man. A second atomic bomb was dropped, and within a week, the Japanese surrendered. General Douglas MacArthur accepted the surrender from the Japanese emissaries, on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri, in Tokyo Bay. And so ended the Second World War. As before, the soldiers and sailors came home, or slept forever in a foreign land.
The question now, what should be done, what could be done, to protect ourselves from man’s inhumanity to man? The United Nations charter was signed in San Francisco. But in the months and years to follow, we came to understand the meaning of a new kind of war. The cold war. We were forced to recognize that in some parts of the world, hate and oppression are still malignant. Therefore, the Atlantic pact was signed by President Truman. And the representatives of twelve nations. A pledge of mutual defense against any aggressor who would break the peace.
Today in America, we still hold to the principles upon which our nation was founded. We have numerous altars of all religions. We are still governed by the same constitution our founding fathers created for us. The Bill of Rights is still working for the people. We think, we speak, we act, freely. However, we are ever mindful that our rights must never be misused as a mask for treason. We are a bigger, a stronger, a greater America, than ever before. We have been victorious in six bitter wars in defense of our birthright. Let those who would destroy us, read our history well and take warning. It is written in the blood of our heroes that freedom shall not perish from the earth.