A Blip in History

On this day in history, March 3 in 1791, the United States created its first federal tax. My upcoming novel relates to the backlash that started because of that decision to tax whiskey sales. I call this novel In the Shadow of the Mill Pond and as yet, it is still sitting in my computer archives waiting for me to take it from first draft to finished book. It is a mystery based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when it was little more than a hub on the Ohio River. The story occurs during the event known as “the whiskey rebellion”.

Whiskey RebellionI have done some research on the subject and in the process, I have come to understand why the whiskey rebellion occurred. These western farmers were many of the same Americans had recently fought a war which they believed was against taxation and here the government started taxing them. No wonder these former revolutionary war soldiers were angry enough to come to arms. Tensions rose as the realization that anger like that could easily spread across the countryside infuriating patriot after patriot until full blown civil war broke out ending the infant nation. George Washington was wise to send troops to quell the uprising when he did. By his quick actions, what could have been the first civil war in the United States ended up becoming simply a blip in history.

Sending troops to western Pennsylvania ended the Whiskey rebellion, and the whiskey tax continues to this day. The only time the tax was not in effect was during prohibition when selling whiskey was illegal. The reason we have income tax today was because plans had been in the works to prohibit whiskey sales. The dilemma that created was the fact that the federal government needed some form of revenue because whiskey tax was the only tax the government required prior to prohibition. Of course, when prohibition ended, the whiskey tax resumed. Resuming the whiskey tax did not end income tax, however. Now our government has the legal privilege to tax us with both.

With Editing, Cliches Become Blips In History

avoiding veryAlthough In the Shadow of the Mill Pond is currently in mothballs, that does not mean that I am not currently working on fiction. Currently I am working on editing my third novel in The Locket Saga called A Coward’s Solace. Editing takes as much work, if not more work than writing the book in the first place.

Just as the rules changed after the Revolutionary War from no taxation by the national government to taxation of the federal government, so rules change when a writer goes from utilizing the creative work of the muse to the diligent work of the internal editor. Certain words or phrases known as “cliches” need to be replaced by more descriptive, words that “show rather than tell” the story. One word that writers often have to get rid of is the word “very” above is  simple chart showing different words that a writer can use as a substitute for “very”.  This, of course, is one word of many cliches that each writer uses as a go to word or phrase. I have been learning mine and have done to prohibit using those words in the final draft. It is all part of my growth as a writer. Soon, any struggle I have with these cliches will become blips in my own writing history.

Happy President’s Day

On February 17, 1776, the first volume of Gibbon’s “Decline & Fall of Roman Empire” was published. A few months later on July 4, 1776, a new empire was born which was to become known as the United States. This new empire didn’t seem to have a mother, but it did have fathers. Founding fathers, that is. Among these founding fathers were five men who eventually became the first five presidents of the United States.

George Washington-The First President of the United States

George Washington-The First President of the United States

Back in the 1880s, when the birthday of Washington—commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution as well as the first American Preside—was first celebrated as a national holiday. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved several national holidays to Mondays. This change was designed to schedule certain holidays which enabled the labor force to have more long weekends throughout the year, but it has been opposed by those who believe that those holidays should be celebrated on the dates they commemorated. During Congressional debate, someone proposed that Washington’s Birthday be renamed Presidents’ Day in honor of all presidents.

At first, Congress rejected the name change, but when the bill went into effect in 1971, Presidents’ Day had became the commonly accepted name. Retailers had picked up on the name and it stuck.  This holiday on the third Monday of February is marked by public ceremonies throughout the country.

John Adams-The Second President of the United States

John Adams-The Second President of the United States

The second President of the United States was John Adams. Although he rose in popularity due to his opposition to the Stamp Act of  1765, he didn’t believe in violence and against popular opinion he had defended in court the soldiers tried for their participation in what we Americans now call the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770.

He became one of the men assigned to help draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776. In 1785 he became the first US minister to England. He became the first US Vice President and served from 1789-1796. He became the second President of the United States and served from 1796-1800. Thomas Jefferson

Another founding father became the third president of the United States was Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, a plantation owner from Virginia was the author of the Declaration of Independent.  After writing the Declaration of Independence, served from 1776-1779 in the  Virginia House of Delegates.After which he was elected Virginia’s second governor. After the death of his wife in 1785, he became the second US minister to France. He returned to America in 1789 and became the first US Secretary of State under the new Constitution. In 1797 he became the Vice President under John Adams and in 1800 he was elected President of the United States. In 1803 his most significant accomplishment as president was the Louisiana Purchase which nearly doubled the size of the country. After his presidency ended in 1809, he returned to his plantation where he died on July 4, 1826, (the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence)  just a few hours after John Adams died.

The fourth president of the United States was James Madison. He wrote the first drafts of the US Constitution, in 1787,  co-wrote the Federalist Papers in 1788 and sponsored the Bill of Rights in 1789. In 1800 he helped President Thomas Jefferson establish the Democrat-Republican Party. He became the fourth President of the United States in 1808. James Madison

James Madison wrote the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution, co-wrote the Federalist Papers and sponsored the Bill of Rights. He established the Democrat-Republican Party with President Thomas Jefferson, and became president himself in 1808. Madison initiated the War of 1812, because US merchant ships where preyed upon by pirates and England and France were seizing US ships and crew. This first US declared war ended in 1815 after the Battle of New Orleans commanded by Andrew Jackson. After Madison’s second term ended, he retired from politics to his Montpelier estate in Virginia where he died on June 28, 1836.

The fifth President of the United States, James Monroe was the last of President who was a founding father. He fought in the American Revolution where he was wounded during the Battle of Trenton. James MonroeHe studied under Thomas Jefferson from 1780-1783 and served as a delegate in the Continental Congress. He was an anti-federalist delegate to the Virginia convention assigned to consider the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1790 and helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. He was the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War during the War of 1812. He became President of the United States in 1816. He drew a line in the sand against European intervention against the independent countries in the Americans with his Monroe Doctrine in 1823. He died was the third one to die on Independence day. He died on July 4, 1831 in New York.

Springfield Writers Guild, Aux Arcs, and Benjamin Franklin in Paris

I Attended my First Springfield Writer’s Guild meeting on

Saturday, January 25,2014

This past week I joined the Springfield Writer’s Guild at the Heritage Cafeteria here in Springfield, MO. I probably should have gone to the mentor hour that they had, but instead I just went to listen to this month’s speaker and to get a feel for the organization. I met one woman who doesn’t live very far from where I do. I hope to see her again next month. This month’s speaker was Joyce Ragland, Ed.D., her latest book Dread the FRED. She talked about how she used creative nonfiction to write this book and how she gathered the information that she needed to write the book.

After the speaker, they conducted the business meeting and then there was a drawing where various authors gave books as door prizes. I was one of the winners and I received a book Aux Arc Black and White of Photography of the Ozarks by Carl James. Beautiful photo book that I will cherish for many years to come. Though the photos are black and white, I can see how I will be able to use many of the pictures as writing prompts.

I was surprised how organized the guild is and how many people attended the meeting. I look forward to coming back next month and continuing to network with others who have like passions. I look forward to next month’s meeting.

This Day In History as it Relates to the American Revolution

While George Washington and his men were held up at Valley Forge, it is possible that 70-year-old Benjamin Franklin attended the premiere of Piccinni’s opera “Roland” in Paris on this date in 1778.

piccinni roland operaBut Franklin had not gone to Paris as a social outing. He had gone on a life or death mission. His own life and the life of the other patriots hinged on convincing the French to side with the Americans against the British. The French greeted him, the American celebrity with open arms and wondered what had brought this world famous scientist to their shores. What had brought him was the fact that the newly declared citizens of America had little ammunition, no money, no credit, and no common cause and that he knew that because the French were enemies with Great Britain, perhaps they would be happy to recognize and become friends with the newly self-proclaimed independent county.

Fortunately for Franklin, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been waiting for such an opportunity. They had been poised for an American revolt longer than the colonies had even considered one. If the American could convince them that the Americans were worthy English foes, they were willing to give the fledgling country a chance.

Franklin danced around the facts as well as with  French debutantes. He was able to convince the French that the British would need a 200 thousand man army to subdue the Americans. He made it sound as though the American Continental Army was not the rag tag army that it was. That it had repositioned itself to fight on indefinitely and by spring would become a strong force of 89 thousand expertly trained men. He alluded that as the British pushed into the continent, the more the countryside would push back.

The truth was, gunpowder had to be severely rationed and Washington commanded only 14 thousand barely clad, poorly fed men. If Franklin did not succeed on his mission, British would have won and the Patriot cause would have been dead along with its leadership. The diplomatic expertise that Franklin demonstrated went beyond the desperation of the circumstances, it was sheer brilliance.