Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2019: Holiday Follies [UPDATED]

The end of Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863

Happy weird mid-week day before a holiday when almost nobody seems to be working…and remember Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863.

But ethics never takes a break…

1. Oops! Did we miss the real holiday? On this date in 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail that the day before, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress had voted to declare American independence from the British Empire. Adams predicted that July 2 would eventually be celebrated by every generation of Americans with parades, speeches, songs and fireworks, which Adams called  “illuminations.” Why did he turn out to be wrong? Oh, because history is messy, mistakes don’t get corrected, and tradition becomes more important than facts. (Once again, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” rule applies: “When legend becomes fact, print the legend!” )

What happened on July 4th? The unsigned but ratified Declaration was sent to the printer on that date, and the printer dutifully marked his prints with “July 4, 1776”. The delegates didn’t start signing the document until August 2, and all the signatures weren’t down on parchment until November. The dramatic depiction of the signing taking place on July 4 in the musical and movie  “1776” is fake history.  It’s not all Broadway’s and Hollywood’s fault: the iconic painting “Declaration of Independence,” by John Trumbull, a version of which hangs in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington and which the actors are staged to re-enact in “1776” is often captioned “July 4, 1776.”

Trumbull’s artwork actually shows the moment on June 28 when the Declaration drafting committee officially presented its work to  the chairman of Continental Congress. John Hancock, There never was a signing ceremony.

Nonetheless, July 4 has, for some reason, been an unusually felicitous and significant day in U.S. history. It would be difficult to pick another that carried so much history, even without being the chosen date to honor the nation’s founding. Three of the first five U.S. presidents died on July 4, with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson famously dying on that date within hours of each other in 1826, fifty years after….the Declaration was sent to the printer.

But July 4, 1803, was the day word arrived from Paris that the Louisiana Purchase was complete, having been signed by Napoleon.  Without it, the United States would have been a very different country, and a much weaker and poorer one.

July 4, 1863 also was the date Robert E. Lee acknowledged his defeat at Gettysburg after his desperate, risky, massed attack on the Union line across a fence-strewn field and up a grade into artillery fire failed. That defeat probably sealed the fate of the Confederacy, and meant that this unique nation would, despite a bloody close call,  have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

2. And the Left’s asinine and destructive airbushing history mania continues…Charlottesville, Virginia, will no longer celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on April 13 as an official city holiday. After all, all Tom did was put Charlottesville on the map, found the University of Virginia there, and leave his amazing home, Monticello, behind to entice tourists. He also had some other minor achievements, like authoring most of the Declaration of Independence and acquiring about half the continental U.S. for a song. Maybe the city doesn’t remember that. What matters most to them is not that Jefferson laid the foundation for the elimination of slavery with his definition of the mission of the new nation he helped to birth, but the fact that he engaged in the fully legal practice of slavery that dominated the culture of his home state, because his personal character didn’t match his public aspirations.

The city council voted this week that the city will observe a new holiday recognizing the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans.  Charlottesville will now mark Liberation and Freedom Day on March 3, the day U.S. Army forces arrived in the city in 1865.

If there was a single fair, courageous and intelligent member of the city counsel, he or she would have resigned on the spot.

3. Rep. Duncan Hunter(R-Cal.) When Ethics Alarms last visited Rep. Duncan Hunter, he was removing a piece of art championed by the Congressional Black Caucus that portrayed police officers as pigs. That was positive, but little else involving Hunter has been. Hunter and his wife were indicted in August on charges that they used more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses ranging from groceries to golf trips and family vacations, then lied about it in federal filings. Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty last month to one corruption count and agreed to testify against her husband.  Hunter’s defense/excuse/rationalization is that he made “mistakes,” that his wife was at fault because he entrusted to her  his personal and campaign  finances during his last five terms in office. Even though he had been indicted, his Republican district re-elected him anyway.

Now it looks like we will learn why his wife has flipped against him.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan  ruled this week that jurors in Duncan’s trial can hear evidence of  Hunter’s many extramarital affairs as they consider whether he  looted his campaign funds.  Prosecutors say that he also used campaign money to illegally finance a string of romantic relationships with lobbyists and congressional aides. Hunter’s attorney argued that any mention of extramarital affairs and “personal indiscretions” would be “extremely prejudicial” at the trial set for September.

At this point, a public servant with an atom of integrity and responsibility would resign.

22 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2019: Holiday Follies [UPDATED]

  1. #1 Thank goodness for Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his boys from Maine charging without ammunition to get the rebels to surrender or retreat. That is courage.

  2. I never understood this line: that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    On it’s face and in practice it doesn’t make sense. So the South breaks off into it’s own country…. is the North’s government somehow changed? Did the South have all the books on governmental law, regulation, and practice and by leaving the North wouldn’t know what to do? The more I look into the history of the civil war the more unethical the North’s methods look. It’s kind of a Roe V Wade analog, I like the result (right to abort in the interest of preventing gov intrusion | preservation of the union and abolishment of slavery) but I don’t think they got there the right way (a dubious interpretation of the consitution | a dubious interpretation of law and overtly tyrannical behavior by the executive branch).

    • Lincoln’s point was that if the South could secede, then South Carolina could secede from the South, Charleston from South Carolina, etc. He wouldn’t see anarchy as potentially productive of just government.

      • “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
        It was soldiers of the Confederacy who were fighting for self-determination. The North was fighting to force them to remain in a union of which they no longer chose to be a part. Instead of airbrushing history, Lincoln preferred the “pan and roller” approach. The Gettysburg Address was great oratory, but factually deficient.

    • I think secession is technically a constitutionally valid act, I think the Founders and much of the antebellum Republic agreed.

      But the argument of the civil war (which has multiple causes) was more “meta” than the Constitution. It was the very definition of “People”. This was an argument about the completion of the Declaration of Independence. And the South breaking away because it decided that “People” didn’t include humans with darker skin tones, did not constitute a valid act of Government *for*, *by* or *of* the PEOPLE, as long as People OUGHT to have included non-whites as well.

  3. Lots of interesting things have happened on July 4th.

    West Point was started.
    Bosie becomes a city
    France presents the US with the Statue of Liberty
    America the Beautiful is published
    First american bombing during WW2
    Philippines gains independence from US
    Our current flag was created on this day

    And more:

  4. 1. Real holiday

    You mean like how we celebrate the real Christmas?

    Honestly, any day that is within shouting distance is close enough. A month certainly qualifies, and the holiday is so much better approximately midway between Memorial and Labor day than close to one or the other of them.

    So yeah, long live Independence Day, July 4th — “real” or not. The printer did us a favor.

    2. Airbrushing

    I saw this and just shook my head. After the coming civil war, we’ll resurrect all these old pieces of history on the self-immolated skulls of the Left.

    Then, we’ll make a new holiday, and call it “Conan’s Day.”

    3. Rep. Duncan Hunter

    He doesn’t have a quark of integrity, let alone an atom.

  5. Let Rep. Hunter stand as an example for all: If you’re going to cheat on your spouse, don’t also throw her under the bus when you’re both accused of criminal acts. Pick one or the other, but the combination of the two is really asking for trouble.

  6. Re#3, all he has to do is switch parties.

    Then nobody will care about his lack of integrity – in fact, it would be considered a strength.

  7. 1) Isn’t that the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy?

    Given all the potential dates on the calendar, couldn’t we randomly pick one and find it to have many significant events in American history?

    • Of course it is.

      The point is that we are stuck with the Fourth even though it was less significant than the second in terms of the founding of the US, but the date retroactively justified itself for celebration or memorialization more than once afterwards. That’s just serendipity and moral luck.

      Similarly, Cooperstown is a lovely town in which to have a baseball Hall of Fame, even though we now know the spot had nothing to do with the history of baseball.

  8. #3 I think we need the Mark Hurd award for Duncan Hunter.
    Mark Hurd was the CEO of Hewlett Packard after the disastrous Carly Fiorina.
    HP hired “smart” fashion models to be salesladies for key accounts. They hired them and trained them to sell. Mark Hurd had an affair with one of these ladies. Apparently his wife monitored their finances so he used his corporate Amex and expensed a $20k trip to a resort. He didn’t have enough loyalty and was busted after being reported to the board. His affair cost him a $68 million a year job.
    Trying to hide an affair turned out far more expensive that just giving half his shit to his wife.

  9. Congress passed a resolution for independence on July 2nd, but it passed the Declaration on July 4th. The committee responsible for composing the Declaration was charged with supervising its printing, and the copy finally approved by Congress that day was sent to John Dunlap. (It’s probable, if not absolutely certain, that this copy was signed—by John Hancock as president of Congress, with secretary Charles Thomson attesting.) As an historical matter, then, I’d say Congress voted for independence on July 2nd, but formally declared independence to the world on July 4th. I don’t think, in this case, that it’s really a matter of mistakes going uncorrected or tradition becoming more important than facts.

    Regardless, I hope you’re enjoying Independence Day!

    • I don’t know where you got that, but John Ellis, a historian who has written extensively about the sequence of events, told the Washington Post in 2014…

      So what happened on July 4th, 1776?

      The Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, which was mostly written by Thomas Jefferson but subject to edits by the other members of the five-man team appointed to come up with the document (Ben Franklin, Robert Livingston, John Adams and Roger Sherman) as well as the full Continental Congress. Franklin had first right of refusal to draft the document, and he took it; Adams also said he did not want to, so the job fell to Jefferson. He finished the first draft during the third week of June, Ellis wrote.

      But Americans didn’t first celebrate independence until July 8, when Philadelphia threw a big party, including a parade and the firing of guns. The army under George Washington, then camped near New York City, heard the news July 9 and celebrated then. Georgia got the word August 10th. And the British in London found out on August 30th.

      Though both Jefferson and Adams later claimed the signing ceremony took place on July 4th, David McCullough wrotes in his biography of John Adams:

      “No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred at Philadelphia.”

      In fact, most delegates signed the document on August 2nd, when a clean copy was finally produced by Timothy Matlack, assistant to the secretary of Congress; some waited even later to sign, and the names on the document were made public only in January 1777.

      I see nothing about any vote on July 4.

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