Memorial Day

According to the Library of Congress:

In 1868, Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

The first national celebration of the holiday took place May 30, 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery … Originally known as Decoration Day, at the turn of the century it was designated as Memorial Day. In many American towns, the day is celebrated with a parade. …

In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended it to honor all soldiers who died in American wars. A few states continue to celebrate Memorial Day on May 30.

Jill thanked her grandfather for his service in the U.S. Navy when we visited the World War II Memorial 10 years ago. He said it was the first time anyone had ever thanked him — in 60 years.

Remember all who served — and today particularly those who gave their life.

Benjamin Franklin

… died in Philadelphia on April 17th in 1790. He was 84.

In his twenties Franklin had written an epitaph for himself:

The body of
B. Franklin, Printer;
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents worn out,
and stripped of its lettering and gilding)
Lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be lost:
For it will, (as he believed) appear once more,
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected
By the Author.

By the age of 84 he wished for something simpler. The marble over his grave simply reads: Benjamin and Deborah Franklin.

Information from Walter Isaacson’s superb biography of Franklin.

Farewell to Springfield

Farewell to Springfield

Abraham Lincoln made these remarks in Springfield before boarding the train for Washington 155 years ago today. He transcribed them on the train — it’s Lincoln’s handwriting at first, then his secretary John Nicolay’s. The movement of the train is seen in the scrawl. Click image for a larger version. The text is below.

No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now [2] leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, [3] let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell

Lincoln never saw Springfield again.

Information and idea from Farewell to Springfield.

Oyez Oyez Oyez

On this date in 1803 Marbury v. Madison was argued before the Supreme Court.

Marbury was the case that established the Supreme Court’s standing as the arbiter of The Constitution.

On this date in 1856 Dred Scott v. Sandford was argued before the Supreme Court.

Scott was the case where the Supreme Court ruled that persons of African descent could never be citizens of the United States whether free or slave and that the federal government had no constitutional authority to limit slavery in the territories.

The Franco-American Alliance

On this date in 1778, the United States and France signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. France recognized America as an independent nation and offered trade concessions. The two nations also signed a Treaty of Alliance, which stipulated that if France entered the war, neither country would lay down its arms until America won its independence, that neither would conclude peace with Britain without the consent of the other, and that each guaranteed the other’s possessions in America. This was the only bilateral defense treaty signed by the United States until 1949 (NATO).

El Tratado de La Mesilla

… was signed in Mexico City on this date in 1853. The treaty settled the dispute over the exact location of the international border west of Texas and gave the U.S. approximately 29,000 square miles of land — in brief, Arizona and New Mexico south of the Gila River — for the price of $10 million. In the U.S. it’s known as the Gadsden Purchase Treaty.


The Mexican Republic agrees to designate the following as her true limits with the United States for the future: retaining the same dividing line between the two Californias as already defined and established, according to the 5th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the limits between the two republics shall be as follows: Beginning in the Gulf of Mexico, three leagues from land, opposite the mouth of the Rio Grande, as provided in the 5th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; thence, as defined in the said article, up the middle of that river to the point where the parallel of 31° 47′ north latitude crosses the same; thence due west one hundred miles; thence south to the parallel of 31° 20′ north latitude; thence along the said parallel of 31° 20′ to the 111th meridian of longitude west of Greenwich; thence in a straight line to a point on the Colorado River twenty English miles below the junction of the Gila and Colorado rivers; thence up the middle of the said river Colorado until it intersects the present line between the United States and Mexico.

Read the entire Gadsden Purchase Treaty.


The French colors were lowered and the American flag raised in New Orleans on this date in 1803, signifying the transfer of sovereignty of Louisiana from France to the United States. Arguably the transfer was one of the two or three most defining moments in American history.

As ultimately defined, Louisiana Territory included most of the U.S. west of the Mississippi River, east of the Rocky Mountains, except for Texas and New Mexico; that is, parts or all of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.