Disharmony on the Hudson

Cannon Fire at Fort Lee“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” – The American Crisis by Thomas Paine 1776

During those disheartening days of the colonial’s cause for independence, Thomas Paine would begin to pen his inspirational patriotic plea for staying the course in the midst of a full and hasty retreat from an enemy army that was determined to put an end to this fledgling insurrection. On November 20, 1776, in the wake of having taken control of both Long island and New York City, superior British forces, under the command of General Charles Cornwallis, began their advance on the newly established American fortification on the heights overlooking  the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Realizing the need to preserve what was left of his beleaguered army, George Washington issued orders to abandon Fort Lee. The inevitable capture of this recently renamed redoubt (in honor of General Charles Lee, the army’s third-in-command who was credited with the successful defense of Charleston, South Carolina a few months earlier) would unfortunately yield an abundant amount of ammunition, artillery and stores to the English.

As for the fort’s namesake, Washington’s somewhat suspect and scheming subordinate, who had often complained to Congress about his commander’s capacity to lead,  would fall victim to his own lust for libations and the ladies. On the morning  of December 15, 1776, Charles Lee would pay dearly for the previous evening’s pleasures at the Widow White’s Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He would awake to the sound of the approaching horsemen of the 16th Queen’s Light Dragoons with his former comrade, and now sworn adversary, Benastre Tarleton in the lead. This once celebrated soldier, who preferred to diddle while the rest of the Continental Army was attempting to avoid annihilation, would be led back to New York in his night-clothes. For the next seventeen months, General Lee would spend a fairly comfortable detainment in the care of his former employer.  

In May of 1778, Lee was released as part of a prisoner exchange. He returned to active service, but after questionable field decisions at the Battle of Monmouth, and continued conflicts with command; he was suspended from the army at the end of that same year, and permanently dismissed in 1780. Charles Lee died in a tavern in Philadelphia on October 2, 1782–and so ends this tale of eighteenth century disloyalty and treachery in the Garden State.

For better or for worse, the overall nature of man, and the behavior of those charged with the care of the republic has not changed all that much since we decided to make our  break from the British brand of tyranny. However, there may have been at least some lessening in the lengths at which one is willing to go in order to punish their rivals. Instead of stalling aid to those trying to allude their captors while taking flight across the well-trodden pathways of New Jersey–someone is content to simply lengthen the commute home by closing down a few lanes on the George Washington Bridge. Let us just hope that we are sparred the spectacle of that particular scoundrel being spirited away in nothing more than his night-clothes. 

Thomas Paine Portrait“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.” – Thomas Paine

Click here for some further insights from the Garden State.

Click here to enjoy our favorite tribute song to Thomas Paine from singer-songwriter Dick Gaughan.

Posted by Chris Poh

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Chasing the Green Dragon

Paul Revere's Ride

Other than my regional attachment and loyalty to those gentlemen from the South Bronx that don the pinstripes, I’ve always held the city of Boston and its feisty spirited citizens in the highest regard. The town that is the very embodiment of our founding cause also played an important role in my own personal quest for identity and independence. During my formative years, the ultimate extension of the boundaries of that restless suburban teenage rebel was a road trip to Beantown. Once I got over the elation of having put over two-hundred miles between myself and my parents point of view about proper public behavior, I would on most occasions give into that more circumspect side of my personality.

So following a few much appreciated pints of Watney’s Red Barrel at the now defunct Pooh’s Pub over on Kenmore Square, I would let my legs carry me across town and down those same cobble stoned streets and alleyways that wore away the  boot heels of British Regulars, local militia and Continental soldiers alike. After enduring some rather chilling blows off the Charles River in the course of my fall and winter perambulations, I was grateful that Henry Knox’s  artillery perched on the Dorchester Heights had not permanently removed all traces of English culture from the city after the strategic departure of William Howe’s troops in March of 1776. Nearly 200 years after the end of the siege of Boston, and long before there was a Harpoon IPA or a Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig, at a time when most future New England craft brewers were still pilfering an occasional Narragansett from their father’s basement reserves, it was an English ale that fortified my constitution as I chased history’s ghosts down the path of partisans and patriots.

During my last visit to Boston, myself and David McBride, a fellow student of America’s falling out with King George the Third, decided to indulge our love of colonial history by taking some pre-Christmas cheer at the Green Dragon Tavern. What could provide a more authentic setting to ponder the merits of  rebellion than an old brick pub with a sign outside the door that read, “Headquarters of the Revolution 1773 – 1776.” Unfortunately, this was not the same public house where the likes of Hancock, Adams, Warren, Revere and other prominent Bostonian Freemasons and the Sons of Liberty conspired against the Crown. That particular tavern, located on another site, ceased to provide comfort and safe haven to its enlightened clientele in 1854. And while the current Green Dragon is an absolutely eye-catching pub that always offers its patrons a  friendly and inviting atmosphere, it was not quite the eighteenth century touchstone that we had envisioned, so we instead focused our journalistic attentions on the Warren Tavern in nearby Charlestown. That particular trip was over two years ago, but the current tragedy and needless bloodshed that has befallen the people of Boston as a result of the Marathon Bombings led me to reconsider some our own past cause oriented actions.

When we think about the American Revolution, we tend not to recount the carnage and immense suffering of those who fought, and those who were the unintended victims of the conflict. The telling of that glorified story has always tended to skip over the gruesome and less than honorable aspects of our nation’s founding. And until the advent of modern photography, no one other than the direct participants and witnesses could fully grasp the realities of war. That is why an Alexander Gardner photograph from Antietam is much more likely to present an honest unsanitized accounting of events as opposed to artist John Trumbull’s depiction of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The camera seldom lies–but the artist’s brush is always subject to a desired effect or particular point of view.

Then there are of course the points of view of those on either side of the struggle  to consider. British authorities and loyalists referred to the Sons of liberty as  the “Sons of Iniquity.” Even Benjamin Franklin was uncomfortable with  the more extreme behaviors of  some of his compatriots. Throughout human history, the cruel and sadistic  have justified their atrocities by echoing the words of some greater cause–God, freedom, liberty and justice. And while I suspect that I would have been among those plotting the uprising at the Green Dragon had my soul’s time and space been eighteenth century Boston, I would have stood in forceful opposition against any individual that tortured and murdered those whose loyalties simply remained rooted on the other side of the Atlantic. All too often, one man’s celebrated dissident has become another man’s terrorist.

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon - Artist Unknown

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon – Artist Unknown

Thankfully, on American soil, the vast majority of  our  insurrectionists and iconoclasts have exercised a fair degree of restraint when voicing their displeasure with the status quo. For the most part, the rule of law, ethical standards, and our governing principles have prevailed, thus sparing the general population from the terror and senseless loss of life that is all too common on so many parts of the globe. But there have been those periods throughout our own history when some of our more self-serving malcontents have inflicted undue amounts of harm and hardships on our fellow citizens. Among those singled out in these campaigns of targeted terror were women, Blacks, Native Americans and homosexuals. And all too often, these extremists and assassins operated with impunity because the institutions of government, law enforcement and religion turned a blind eye–in effect providing cause and cover to this brutal criminality. It was only after those institutions were pressured to assert their legal and moral authority to prosecute and marginalize those guilty of such heinous illegality, that these waves of domestic terrorism finally subsided.

While we may never fully understand the motives of  Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,  it is important that those that may have influenced their ideology clearly stand in condemnation or be held accountable for their culpability. For it is only the unified voices of moral clarity that will make possible the peaceful pursuit of life, liberty and happiness as envisioned by those that raised their tankards and consciousness at that ever elusive Green Dragon.

Sign at the Green Dragon Tavern - Boston,MA

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

Takin it to the Streets

THE CONFRONTATION - ENOCH ROBERTS' TAVERN IN QUAKERTOWN - MARCH 6, 1799 - A PAINTING DEPICTING THE FRIES REBELLION BY JAMES MANN

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds..”–Samuel Adams

As a dedicated student of the American Revolution and one who came of age during the 1960s, I certainly hold in my heart a place of fondness for those amongst the populace that engage in public protest when the conditions and circumstances call for it. But even as I watched my classmates and contemporaries take to the streets to rally against the real and perceived injustices of that turbulent decade, my youthful fervor was tempered by a certain cautious scrutiny of those forces that stirred the masses to action. And as I consider the activities of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, I am left with some of the same unease and distrust that I felt for the Tea Party advocates. Having spent as much time as I have in taverns, I know that once we take our differences and quarrels with each other outside there is little chance of achieving a reasonable or peaceful resolution. And even though our history is replete with those instances when a bit of outdoor insurrection made a measurable difference, much like Benjamin Franklin’s old Philadelphia Junto Society, I prefer to inspire and encourage change from inside the agreeable surroundings of a good pub.

Hopefully, there will come a day when we only need to see one man’s poverty to know that too many people are poor—one man’s hunger to know that too many people are starving—and one man’s hardship to know that too many people are hurting. And that the transformation of our society will come about not because of the anger and anxiety of the masses, but because of the conduct and concern of dedicated individuals. 

Posted by: Chris Poh

A Nation Rising

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler ChristyBy the spring of 1787, less than four years after the signing of “The Treaty of Paris” which formally ended British hostilities in America, the new nation was already facing an internal crisis of such proportions that the demise of democracy in the New World seemed imminent. In response those that had crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation agreed to hold a convention at the Philadelphia State House. Their goal was to strengthen the articles of governance so that the intense differences between the states might be resolved.

Through most of that summer the delegates argued, cajoled and deliberated over several state and individual initiatives designed to stabilize the American government. The harvest of their cultivation and compromise would be our Constitution. Benjamin Franklin made this astute observation about the document.

“There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. … I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. … It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies…”

 The ultimate success of that convention may be attributed to the hand that guided those proceedings. For three months George Washington presided over what was at many times an extremely contentious affair. And when an accord was finally achieved and it was time to ink the deal, once more it was the words of Benjamin Franklin that defined the moment. As he stood waiting to attach his signature to the final draft, he made this comment about the half sun carved onto the backrest of the mahogany armchair that Washington had occupied while overseeing the Convention.The Rising Sun Chair

“I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun.”

As American Public House Review begins its third year of publication we thought it would be fitting to spend an extended amount of time in the city where our forefathers conceived and constructed our democracy. During our two-year sojourn to America’s historic taverns we have been witness to many of the same attitudes and conditions that threatened the wellbeing of this nation in 1787. But like those men that came to Philadelphia during that long sweltering summer over two hundred years ago, we believe that when good-natured rational people gather to address their concerns and disputes – democracy shall prevail.

Following the signing of the Constitution on September 17th, many of the delegates repaired to the City Tavern for a hearty meal and ample celebratory refreshments. According to George Washington, they “dined together and took cordial leave of each other.”

in that same spirit our staff will spend some quality time in some great chairs throughout this fine city. Because like Doctor Franklin we are of the same opinion that America is not in her decline – but we are in fact a “Nation Rising.” Just don’t ask us to rise before last call.  

Check out these featured locations in the current issue of American Public House Review:                            

Posted by: Chris Poh

Liberty through Libation…Redemption through Rum

The City Tavern - Philadelphia

The City Tavern - Philadelphia

Doctor Franklin adhered to this simple prescription for the better part of his life, Liberty through libation.Certainly this was evident during the founding of the “Junto” in 1727, at the public house of Nicholas Scull and again in his later years while providing counsel to his fellow rebels at Philadelphia’s City Tavern.

In between  laying down the groundwork for a new city and a new nation, Benjamin Franklin helped to protect Pennsylvania’s western frontier as a colonel in command of the Philadelphia militia during the French and Indian War. The following excerpt from Franklin’s autobiography comes by way of Kathleen Zingaro Clark, the author of  Buck’s County Inns and Taverns and a contributing editor to American Public House Review.

“We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, Mr. Beatty, who complained to me that the men did not generally attend his prayers and exhortations. When they enlisted, they were promised, besides pay and provisions, a gill of rum a day, which was punctually serv’d out to them, half in the morning, and the other half in the evening; and I observ’d they were as punctual in attending to receive it; upon which I said to Mr. Beatty, “It is, perhaps, below the dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum, but if you were to deal it out and only just after prayers, you would have them all about you.”

He liked the tho’t, undertook the office, and, with the help of a few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction, and never were prayers more generally and more punctually attended…”

Doctor Franklin

Posted by: Chris Poh

Possibly the Best Civil War Ballad Ever Written

During the month of July American Public House Review has focused on locations and articles germane to colonial America and the struggle for independence. The entire staff, including our one citizen of the realm –Dunmore Throop, agree that a good revolution needs to be celebrated for more than just one day. So one might ask, “Why the Civil War Ballad?’

The Civil War is in many ways an extension of the American Revolution. Those compromises made at Philadelphia in 1776, over the issues of slavery and state’s rights, in order to gain a unanimous vote for sovereignty and self-rule planted the seeds for the inevitable civil crisis.

On July 4th, 1863 Vicksburg surrendered to Grant, and in the north the cannons at Gettysburg fell silent by midday. While armed conflict would continue for almost two more years, the war was essentially over. The union of states founded on the 4th of July 1776, would be saved on this particular anniversary of our nation’s independence.

Please take a few minutes to listen to The 111th Pennsylvane by Jack Hardy from the release Civil Wars. Our staff collectively believes that this may be one of the best historical ballads ever written. Enjoy!

Posted by: Chris Poh, Publisher

A Patriotic stop along the coast of Maine

Last month I wrote about a great tavern in Rockland, Maine called the Waterworks.  If you should happen to get there, especially during the month of July, and you are feeling a bit patriotic, there is an absolutely terrific place to stop not far from town.  Just outside Rockland, in the town of Thomaston, is the home of one of America’s great founders and warrior-patriots, Henry Knox.

Knox is one of the earliest and best examples of what we now call the “American Dream”.  He was born into poverty, but soon his hard work and intellect paid off.  At the age of 21 he opened his own bookstore and took a keen interest in artillery strategy.  When the American Revolution broke out, Knox joined the patriot cause and his knowledge and ability soon caught the eye of General George Washington.  With no formal training whatsoever, just self-taught know-how, Knox was appointed the Chief of Artillery for the Continental Army.

Montpelier, the Henry Knox Museum

Henry Knox served as a trusted aide to Washington for nearly the entire war.  He was with the Commander-in-Chief as they pulled off the storied victories at Trenton and Princeton, suffered the cold of winter in Valley Forge and Morristown, and fought gallantly at the battles of Monmouth, Brandywine, and Germantown.  When the Continental and French armies pinned Cornwallis at Yorktown, it was Henry Knox who placed and commanded the guns.

After the war Knox distinguished himself again when he served as the nation’s first Secretary of War.  He held that post for ten years and then decided to retire.  This incredibly accomplished man, who began life with little, moved his family to a gorgeous mansion in Maine called “Montpelier”, where he lived the rest of his life.

You can tour this incredible home and learn more about this inspirational founding father.  It is a terrific museum and a fun learning experience.  Check out the museum’s website for more details.

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Posted by: David McBride

The Dim Light of Truth

 

In a recent episode of the HBO series,”John Adams,” Laura Linney in the role of Abigail Adams displays a deftness for diplomacy as she dines with Admiral d’Estaing, just after the French Royal Navy puts into Boston after their unsuccessful campaigns against the British Fleet at New York and Rhode Island. Meanwhile, her husband John is doing a less than admirable job of courting French favor in Paris. This brilliant production explores the powerful political and personal partnership of America’s first couple. It also presents an accurate accounting of the faults and frailties of the architects of this republic. Had these men been subject to today’s standards of  behavior and decorum we would still be paying too much for tea.

But alas, history tends to expunge the misdeeds and misgivings of great men. By most accounts even the French fare well in the telling of the American Revolution.  

White Horse Tavern in Newport as seen in American Public House Review

 In the November issue of American Public House Review this author, after a few single malts at the famed White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, expounds on the virtues of The Comte de Rochambeau and other assorted Frenchmen that aided America’s cause for independence. Hopefully this recounting holds up to the light of historic truth, or at the very least – the light of a dimly lit tavern.

White Horse Tavern at night as seen in American Public House Review

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