Lee’s Last Ride

General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveller - 1866

General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveller – 1866

“I am a Southerner by birth and a Rebel by choice. As I read and study, I pull for Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet. As I live, I thank Grant, Lincoln, and Democracy.” Richard”Shotgun” Weeks – Master Sergeant U.S. Air Force Vietnam Veteran/ Civil War historian

“The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.” Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – commander 20th Maine at Gettysburg

For my part, I can barely fathom those forces that drive a human being to accept or even consider the possibility that they are by way of their race, creed, or national origin somehow superior to their fellowman. But then my own personal journey has caused me to reject any behavior predicated on any theory of innate supremacy or an overly zealous sense of nationalism.  Having virtually no knowledge as to the circumstance of my own birth or bloodline, I have become quite comfortable in the belief that a good portion of our individual lives is determined merely by genetic and geographic potluck without the hand of God trying to stack the deck in any particular group’s favor.

As for those among us that are prone to think otherwise, it is probably a combination of fear and a personal sense of inferiority that is the seed from which that invasive strangling vine of their own self-aggrandizing superiority complex sprouts.

As to the recent tragic events in Charlottesville and the somewhat troubling  response and mixed-messages offered up by our president, I think we need to be honest with ourselves as to who the man is and who he is not. Donald Trump achieved the office by relying heavily on those wedge issues of religion, race, and immigration that have been polarizing this country not only in recent years, but throughout our nation’s history. And while this political tactic is nothing new, it has never been so blatantly utilized by a presidential candidate. And although I can not state with any certainty as to what is truly in the man’s heart–it is safe to say that neither Citizen Trump nor President Trump has ever exhibited the capacity to construct much beyond a hotel, golf course, or casino. The building of consensus and bridges does not appear to be part of the plan. And while I do not totally rule out the possibility of an epiphany, in order for that to occur one must first be willing to admit to and address their own failures and shortcomings.

As for the president’s equivocation of the violence on both sides in Charlottesville, he seems to forget that our system of justice does in fact define by degree the nature of most crimes. And the level of intent and premeditation displayed by those involved in any criminal act normally dictates the assigning of responsibility and the resulting punishment. There is clearly a distinct and undeniable difference between planned intimidation and violence and the reflexive actions of those that are the targets and victims of such attacks. The end result may yield an equal number of causalities, but in American Jurisprudence shared pain does not equate with shared guilt!

Then there is the issue as to what may have actually sparked the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville. Since I was old enough to turn on a television set, I’ve watched scenes of  human beings beating each over the head either in defense of some cherished symbol or in response to some other group’s use of a symbol that was deemed to be offensive. Any blood shed over the veneration or demonization of some man-made expression of our affiliations or points of view  is blood that is shed for nothing. No book, no image,  no work in bronze or stone, and no piece of cloth hoisted up a pole can be reason enough to justify violence or the taking of life.

As for the fates of those monuments and memorials to the Confederacy,  I personally take no offense at their presence. But at the same time, I understand why others would opt for their elimination. I certainly would not expect the children of the Lakota Sioux to attend a  school named in honor of George Armstrong Custer, anymore than I would expect an African American family to comfortably picnic under the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest. We need to be sensitive to those people and communities that endured great hardships and countless indignities at the hands of those who would attempt to rewrite history by way of some public square glorification of a past that was often cruel and seldom heroic.

Travellor-Grave-PlaqueLastly, there is the matter of the ever haunting ghost of that Virginia gentleman who has once again taken  center stage in yet another civil conflict. While it seems somewhat ludicrous  to suggest that the removal of  a statue of Robert E. Lee might lead some to consider the possible purge of the likenesses of Washington and Jefferson–who can predict how the lens into our past will be adjusted by those in the future in order to be in line with their view of the present? But for now, the question may be worthy of some small measure of reflection. After all, Washington, Jefferson, and Lee were all thought to be treasonous, rebellious scoundrels by a large number of their fellow countrymen. And all of these men by current standards of thought could be tarnished by their apparent contradictions in character.

In the case of Robert E. Lee, while his religious convictions made him keenly aware of the inherent evils of slavery, he was of the opinion that the inevitable demise of that institution would only come about in accordance with God’s timetable. And though he viewed secession as being unconstitutional and an outright betrayal to the founding principles of the United States, his decision to lend his superior military skills to the state of Virginia would nearly bring about the destruction of the Union.

Shortly before his death in 1870, Lee spoke out against the idea of erecting monuments to the war. He believed those efforts would only hamper the process of national reconciliation. So perhaps now is the time for Lee’s last ride. But no matter what we as a people decide to tear down, we as a nation will be judged by what we chose to raise up.

At this moment in time, I will raise a glass to the people of Charlottesville and to all who stand their ground against discrimination, intolerance, inequality, and racism!

Please take the time to listen to this profound song of healing performed by Joe Jencks.

40 Mile IPAIf by chance you find yourself paying a visit to the city of Charlottesville, while there might I suggest raising a glass of  40 Mile IPA from Three Notch’d Brewing Company. This outstanding brew celebrates the ride of another famous gentlemen from Virginia Jack Jouett whose daring on horseback on the night of June 1, 1781, saved Thomas Jefferson and the state legislature from capture by British cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Dealing from the Absolute Bottom of Another Trumped-up Deck

A rigged poker game. Photo by: Chris Poh

“They didn’t ask us what our immigration status was, they just said that they needed help and a lot of it…”  Mauricio Avila – a volunteer from Ecuador who assisted with rescue efforts immediately after the 9/11 attack

In the days following the attack on New York’s World Trade Center, private contractors were brought in to assist with the initial rescue and recovery, and then ultimately the cleanup of the site. This almost overwhelming task required a tremendous amount of additional manual labor. As usual, many of those who would swell those ranks were  undocumented immigrants. And as usual, a good number of those private contractors would not be inquiring as to their legal status–taking advantage once again of those who so often give more than a good day’s work for less than a good day’s wage.

Operating under the assumption that the air around “Ground Zero” was safe to breathe, as alleged by government officials, many of the illegal immigrants that worked the pile would eventually face those same life threatening health issues that were affecting their properly documented counterparts. A deadly mix of lead, cadmium, mercury, benzene, and the fine particulate from the millions of pounds of pulverized building materials would eventually hasten or cause a host of medical conditions–some of which that would prove to be fatal. But for those workers and volunteers living outside of those laws that define what constitutes an appropriate presence within our borders recompense and recognition was seldom granted.

It is ironic that most of those who carried out the attacks on September 11th had their paperwork in order, while the names of the undocumented victims of that crime will not appear on any memorial.

Fourteen years and four presidential election cycles later with virtually nothing resolved concerning comprehensive immigration reform,  a man who is still questioning the legitimate citizenship of the current President of the United States has managed to be at the forefront of the topic. While in my heart, I would like nothing more than to viciously attack and condemn Mr. Trump for his comments about Mexico and her citizens, I will refrain from doing so other than to point out that simple truth that whenever political candidates have nothing to offer–they offer up fear.

Tragically though, that particular tactic of focusing the anger and frustration of potential supporters against another group of people has in many instances led to some of mankind’s darkest days. We need not look back any further than 9/11 or the Second World War to see the results of intolerance and race-baiting. But perhaps Mr. Trump’s venomous diatribes  will serve some useful purpose. It might just cause those worthy candidates from both sides of the political spectrum to seriously address the issue of immigration.

As for my own point of view, I’ve tried to maintain a fairly welcoming disposition. But I also understand that our current immigration policies put undue burdens on the government and social services being provided by a small number of states. Overall, there seems to be some solid economic evidence that more liberal reforms would in the long run provide a substantial net economic gain for both the private and government sectors. But of course those people who favor closing our borders completely can point to their own set of statistics. As usual, any debate based solely on statistical analysis yields suspect results. There are though a few provable facts that should be clearly stated when dealing with those voices that would champion the rhetoric of Donald Trump.

  • The country of Mexico during any given business quarter ranks second or third in terms of trade with the United States. For the most part, both economies enjoy strong benefits from this relationship.
  • Many more American jobs will be lost to technology than as the result of additional immigration. There may be more to fear from Silicon Valley than from the Mexicali Valley.
  • There is no evidence to support the notion that immigrants, legal or otherwise, commit more crimes than the general U.S. population.
  • While the drug cartels have brought their own people into the United States in order to establish distribution networks, American citizens are the number 1 consumers of illegal drugs on planet earth. The solution is quite simple. If you want the bad guys to stay home or go elsewhere, stop purchasing their poison.
  • In the course of the Mexican Drug War it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people have been killed, many of them innocent civilians at the hands of  the cartel’s enforcers and foot soldiers. Those same cartels purchase a large percentage of their firearms from American gun shops.

Perhaps we should be viewing those sneaking through our southern borders more as refugees from tyranny and war and not just as criminals trying to skirt the law. Their plight in many instances is solely about safety and survival.

Then there is that Karma thing. While I do not believe that we necessarily need to apologize for the misdeeds done by those that have gone before us, we would do well to remember just how we established some of those borders that we don’t want others to cross. On more than one occasion, we violated treaties and territorial sovereignty in order to acquire land and resources. And once we had completed that sea to shining sea acquisition we had no difficulty building out that immense piece of real estate with the sweat, toil and suffering of immigrant labor.

Today, whenever I peek into the kitchen of a restaurant, walk through the corridor of a nursing home, or head down to breakfast after a comfortable night’s sleep at a hotel I see the faces of immigrants. And interestingly enough, I do not encounter anyone that looks like me on the outside of those buildings clamoring to fill those particular positions.

For the sake of all Americans and for all those who still aspire to that American dream, it is time to enact reforms that are fair, just and in keeping with our founding principles!

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges…”
George Washington

“Citizenship to me is more than a piece of paper. Citizenship is also about character. I am an American. We’re just waiting for our country to recognize it.”
Jose Antonio Vargas

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

One Door Closes, and Maybe, Just Maybe–Another One Opens

City Tavern - Philadelphia

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”  Thomas Jefferson

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  Thomas Jefferson

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”  Thomas Jefferson

Of all those doors that were shuttered as a result of the recent government shutdown, the turn of the latch that most resonated with my personal being was the one on the entrance to the City Tavern in Philadelphia. As someone who has spent many of my days and evenings on both sides of the bar, I know firsthand the plight of those that pull the pints and tend the tables. And there is no act of Congress that will replace the lost revenue of those who depend so heavily on the generosity of those from the general public that can actually get through the front door.

But beyond the fiscal concerns and hardships brought on by the current state of political paralysis in Washington, there was the irony of having to close those places that are meant to honor our past and  to further our faith in the future function of our  government. 

City Tavern SignOne does not padlock the pulpit just because there is conflict within the congregation.

While the majority of  Americans have bolstered their own patriotic passions by visiting some memorial or battlefield, I have decided that I  much prefer the reconstructed confines of that colonial era establishment to rouse my own feelings of national fervor. There are a couple of reasons for my fondness of the City Tavern. One, you can actually toast our liberties with something a bit more in keeping with what the Founders would have put in their cups. And two, other than those that succumbed to the slow poisoning brought on by an over indulgence of Blackstrap, mutton chops, and Flip, there is not the usual senseless loss of life attached to this consecrated piece of ground–truly a place where giants once roamed.      

Among those extraordinarily gifted gentlemen that attended to some portion of their corporal needs at this outstanding American public house were  Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. And it is in their words and insights that we can find the potential source and possible solution to our current political debacle. Like many of the nation’s founders, both men had some healthy concerns about  the future course of the new government.

In a letter to the  American people published prior to his retirement from the presidency in 1796, George Washington warned against the possible damage political parties might bring upon the republic. Having already been witness to the extreme acrimony and partisanship between Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party and  Alexander Hamilton’s  Federalists, Washington was leery of political parties operating within a popularly elected government.  He feared that the competing political organizations would attempt to silence and punish legitimate opposition, promote regionalism and create undue fears and suspicions among the population.

Unfortunately, American’s have on far too many occasions throughout our history been the sorry victims of our first president’s prognostications. And like most organized groups and institution, the lofty well-intentioned principles of both Republicans and Democrats have all too often become secondary to the self-interests and survival of the party. So it should come as no surprise that a substantial segment of the nascent Congressional class has seized upon the writings of Thomas Jefferson as a source for their inspiration and rationalization for the defunding and dismantling of government. But before they consider closing some doors again, they should also consider these words from Mr. Jefferson.  

 “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”

On September 17, 1787, one of the longest, and perhaps most contentious political debates  in our nation’s history came to an end with the signing of the United States Constitution. With the closing of the doors of the Pennsylvania State House after 114 days of  secret meetings, George Washington and a good number of the beleaguered and exhausted delegates found their way to the City Tavern. There they were able to put aside personal political differences, and rise above the rancor by raising a glass to the common welfare of all Americans.

Front Interior City Tavern - PhiladelphiaPerhaps, it is not so much the words of the Founders, but rather the behavior of those individuals that we should attempt to incorporate into our politics. But in order to open that door to a place where men of reason and benevolence gather for the greater good of the people, we will first have to open our minds and our hearts to that greater possibility!

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

Terms of Engagement

Cowboys at the Rusty Spur in Scottsdale, AZ

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending a bit of time with the latest book to make it to the top of my perpetual must read pile before my somewhat languid brain loses its ability to even process the written word. In this particular instance, I’ve actually given an author’s efforts something of an in-depth dabble as opposed to my usual cursory perusal. Certainly this amounts to the highest of praise for John Fabian Witt’s Lincoln’s Code. This excellent narrative examines America’s role in defining the rules of government sanctioned armed conflict, with an emphasis on Abraham Lincoln’s input on the matter of trying to bring  fair play, dignity, and perchance even a touch of charity to the bloodied fields of combat. While I do not discount the sincere intent of those who throughout history have endeavored to bring a modicum of humanity to the battlefield, there is that ever skeptical side of me that questions their underlying motives–whether it be the likes of Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington or any other supposedly enlightened and regarded individual. 

I’ve always suspected that the call for order and civility in the midst of organized carnage is as much about justice as it is about those that started the fight trying to avoid retribution and the hangman’s noose when the fog of war finally lifts. And then of course there is the political practicality of having something left above ground to exploit and govern after the fallen have been properly placed below ground. Perhaps the only thing that might appear to be somewhat more disingenuous or hypocritical than our attempts to codify the institution of war is our attempts to codify the institution of marriage. But at some point during the current session of the Supreme Court, those erudite legal minds seated in chambers across the street from the U.S. Capitol will consider doing just that.

While I understand the level of discomfort expressed by those who argue against gay marriage on moral and religious grounds, I have come to my own conclusions based on personal experience. During my time behind the bar, I have established close friendships with a number of long-term committed gay couples. In all instances, these loving people have fostered  positive changes in environments that normally would have been less than accepting of any homosexual individual prior to them quietly working their way toward establishing regular’s status. In fact, their  presence helped to bring about a greater degree of acceptance, patience, tolerance and kindness toward all clientele, no matter what their gender, political persuasion or sexual orientation might be.

In the text of his Second inaugural Address, Lincoln reminded us to act in accordance with the words of Matthew 7:1, “let us judge not that we be not judged.” It is time to award all who choose the bonds of steadfast love an equal place at the bar–in hopes that we all may be granted an equal place at that eternal table.

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

The Second Crossing

Washington Crossing The Delaware by Peter Fiore

Washington Crossing The Delaware by Peter Fiore

I watched the President’s  stirring  inaugural address from the quiet of a quaint Italian cafe in my hometown of  Frenchtown, New Jersey. Myself, a local artist and the owner watched the historic proceedings huddled around a small rather conventional television set. Outside the streets were mostly devoid of human and vehicular traffic, due to the day’s events and the constant chilling wind that swept up from the icy waters of the Delaware River.

I was pleased that amongst the President’s profound rhetoric was a reference  to George Washington and the words that  he spoke prior to his fateful crossing of the Delaware to attack the Hessian position at Trenton.

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive … that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

The entire staff of American Public House Review hold our first Commander-in-Chief in the highest regard, hence the abundance of references to His Excellency in past articles:

There is also a past post, “Setting Sail With The Obamas” which equated his potential presidency with those events that transpired on the shores of the Delaware on Christmas Day of 1776. 

Normally I tend to cringe when our elected officials hitch their political fortunes to those that founded, nutured and secured this Republic; but in this case I trust that this man’s intent and inspiration are true! So as we embark on this journey to renew the spirit and promise of 76, we at American Public House Review raise our glasses to our President, his family and the people of this great nation! 

Period Dinner at The White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI

Period Dinner at The White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI

Posted by: Chris Poh, Editor-in-Chief 

 

 

Maine brewpub Gritty McDuff’s delights

This week, I reported on the American Public House Review from one of the best brewpubs I have ever been in, Gritty McDuff’s in Portland, Maine.  It sits in the historic Old Port section of this seaside city and is practically a landmark in itself.  It is also the perfect place in town to sip some terrific, fresh beer and really get a feel for what this part of New England is all about.

grittys-int5

While writing the article, I had the pleasure of interviewing author James L. Nelson who wrought the book George Washington’s Secret Navy.
It is a gripping account of Washington’s foray into the world of the fighting sail, and even tells the tale of how Portland itself played an instrumental role in galvanizing the thirteen colonies behind the concept and cause of independence.  Take a look at the article, An Historic Pint in the Old Port, to learn more.

Portland's Harbor

Portland's harbor

Last year while I was on vacation in Maine, I passed the time by reading one of Mr. Nelson’s other great books.  This one, called Benedict Arnold’s Navy, is also a must read for any history buff.  It tells the tale of how Benedict Arnold, and officer in the Continental Army, literally built a navy out of the trees of New York and used his makeshift flotilla and his command of landlubbers to drive the British back into Canada and bought the colonies a few more months so that the cause of independence could go on. 


Benedict Arnold's Navy by James L. Nelson

Benedict Arnolds Navy by James L. Nelson

 

In the book this complex man, who is now known to us as a traitor, comes to life.  But here, years before he famously turned coat, we get to see why he was so popular among Americans and why his treason was so painful for so many who were loyal to him.  Here is what Mr. Nelson has to say about Benedict Arnold’s Navy:

I have always been fascinated by the Battle of Valcour Island. There is nothing really like it in history, a battle in which both sides had to build their fleet right on the spot before they could fight, and do so in a virtual wilderness with none of the usual resources they could count on. Adding to the story is the fact that the hero, from the American perspective, is Benedict Arnold, the man who would go on to be one of the most despised in our history. Researching this book, it became even more incredible to me, and even more tragic, that Arnold did what he ultimately did. I can never be excused, but at least I, and I hope my readers, can come to better understanding of why the once national hero made such a terrible choice.

Benedict Arnold’s Navy is the first book-length treatment to look exclusively at the build-up to the battle, the fight on Lake Champlain, and the amazing fallout from that fight on a wilderness lake.

So when you’re done with George Washington’s Secret Navy, give Benedict Arnold’s Navy a try.  Even a non-history enthusiast will find these stories compelling.

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Posted by: David McBride

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.

Blue Tag

Posted by: David McBride

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