Vol. 2 Issue 4
May 2004


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In This Issue
  • Patriotic Holidays for May
  • Trivia Question for May
  • Patrick Henry -- The Forgotten Patriot

Patriotic Holidays for May
May 8 -- President Harry S. Truman's Birthday (33rd President)
May 14 -- Lewis and Clark Expedition 200th Anniversary
May 20 -- Dolley Madison's Birthday (First Lady)
May 29 -- President John F. Kennedy's Birthday (35th President of the US)
May 29 -- Patrick Henry's Birthday (U.S. Patriot)
May 31 -- Memorial Day (observed)

Trivia Question for May
Who saved the orgininal Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, James Madison's notes of the Constitutional Convention, and the Landsdowne Portrait of George Washington from burning with the White House in 1814?

Trivia Question Answer

Answer: Dolley Madison

The War of 1812 is one of the forgotten wars of the United States. The war lasted for over two years. In August of 1814, President Madison received notice that the British had landed in Maryland and were advancing toward the American Capitol at Washington, D.C. The U.S. militia were fighting valiantly, but he feared that the British would break through their lines. President Madison felt it necessary to go to the soldiers and encourage them in their weakened state.

He told Dolley to act as if everything were fine and to continue with her preparations for the evening’s dinner party, planned for 40 guests. He promised that if all were well, he would return by dinnertime, and if he didn’t return, then she should flee to the countryside. He warned her to carefully watch and be ready in the event that the British should enter the city, cautioning her that the British must not capture the nation’s documents. Just before galloping away, he told her that these documents were in the Great Room. His only hesitation in leaving her was his concern for her safety.

Dolley stayed in the White House, and even though she feared for the President’s safety, she continued her preparations for the dinner party. When she heard the sound of cannons in the distance, she realized that it was time to act quickly to save the documents. She picked up the Declaration of Independence and gently wrapped it, placing it in one of her trunks. She resolved that the British would not set their hands to that precious paper. Her eyes filled with tears as she remembered the great sacrifice the signers had made in the name of freedom.

The cannon and muskets grew louder, and Dolley was urged by the servants to flee. She returned to the Great Room and rescued boxes of James’ original notes about the Constitutional Convention, some books, a small clock, and some velvet curtains. She headed for the already heavily loaded carriage and then thought of the portrait of George Washington. She could not abide the thought of the British burning his effigy like so much garbage. She ran back into the house and, with the help of two servants, broke the frame which had been bolted to the wall. She carefully cut the portrait from the wall and removed the “Landsdowne Portrait of George Washington,” by Gilbert Stuart. She rolled it up and took it with her as she evacuated the White House. She did not return for her jewelry or any other personal items. She was able to escape at the last moment by using a back road.

(Read more about James and Dolley Madison in "Founding Fathers -- Uncommon Heores" by Steven W. Allen pages 185-212. Ordering information in the sidebar on the right.)

Patrick Henry -- The Forgotten Patriot

May marks the birthday of Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736). Perhaps a fitting tribute for this amazing man is the one paid to him by his grandson who described Henry as always setting “a good example of honesty, benevolence, hospitality, and every social virtue. He assisted in the education of his . . . children and especially devoted much time to earnest efforts to establish true Christianity in our country.” And one could list many other noble virtues and accomplishments of “America’s first patriot.” It was Patrick Henry who first proposed the resolution that we make a complete declaration of independence from Great Britain. It was his initiative, his fire for independence, his skillful oratory, his undeniable inspiration in the cause for freedom that first awoke our nation to its magnificent destiny. It was Patrick Henry who ignited within Jefferson the spark of patriotism, literally breathing the zeal for independence into Jefferson’s soul with his “Brutus Speech,” while inadvertently guiding Jefferson to the path that would seal Jefferson’s own immortal fame. It was Patrick Henry who sent critically needed supplies to Washington’s army at Valley Forge, supplies that literally kept the army alive . . . that probably kept the nation alive. It was Patrick Henry who stirred a young country to attempt the virtually impossible: to challenge the greatest, most powerful nation on the face of the earth.

An intricate web was carefully woven in the bringing forth of our great nation. Like pieces of a puzzle painstakingly fitted together to form the perfect picture, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and many other Founding Fathers all had their critical role to play. Patrick Henry was an important piece of that inspired design. For it was his words that lit the match to the Revolutionary fires . . . his inspired, deathless words:

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

(Read more about Patrick Henry in "Founding Fathers -- Uncommon Heores" by Steven W. Allen pages 1117-144. Ordering information in the sidebar on the right.)

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