Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The American President: #4 James Madison

Please feel free to add anything you want about James Madison

- 4th President of the USA; Born March 16, 1751 in Port conway, VA; Died June 28, 1836 at Montpelier in Virginia

- Two-term President (March 4, 1809 - March 4, 1817)
- Vice Presidents: (George Clinton (1809-1812 - died in office; Elbridge Gerry 1813-1814 - died in office)

- Nickname: Father of the Constitution
- Religion: Episcopalian
- Higher education: College of New Jersey (now Princeton) 1772
- Profession: Politician
- Military service: Colonel, Virginia militia 1775-1776 (not in active service)
-Secretary of State 1801-1809

- Election of 1808 electoral vote: Madison 122; Charles C Pinckney 47; no popular vote
- Election of 1812 electoral vote: Madison 128; DeWitt Clinton 89; no popular vote
-Little known fact about currency and James Madison:

"As of 2009, there are four coins that portray our Fourth President of the United States, James Madison. The coins are 1993 James Madison "Bill of Rights" Half Dollar, Dollar, and Half Eagle, and the 2008 James Madison Presidential Dollar. The 1993 James Madison Half Dollar carry the mint marks of "W" for West Point, and "S" for San Francisco. The 1993 James Madison Dollar carry the mint marks of "D" for Denver, and "S" for San Francisco. The 1993 James Madison Half Eagle carries the "W" mint mark for West Point. The 2008 James Madison Presidential Dollar carries the mint marks of "P" for Philadelphia, "D" for Denver, and "S" for San Francisco."
Even though Thomas Jefferson was a fascinating President during a wonderful and exciting period of history, I found the story of James Madison to be even more intriguing.

Always a sickly person, Madison endured the nation's first foreign invasion and did so with strong conviction.

Madison is well known as one of the authors of the Federalists Papers, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, in which they argued, under the pseudonym Publius, in favor of the newly written Constitution and it is believed that these papers had a strong influence on the founding of our country.

Madison was in government during the 'great compromise' which created both a senate and a house of representatives, a system that survives today. A great site exisits with many of Madison's hand written notes:


When Madison took office in the house of representatives in 1789 he put his efforts into his true passion - the creation of a Bill of Rights. The first ten ammendments were ratified in 1791. These essential rights are the basis of our personal freedoms today, and I suggest you take a moment to read them:

Please note that #1 was never ratified, and #2 only in 1992:


Begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday, the
Fourth of March, One Thousand Seven Hundred Eighty-nine.

The Conventions of a Number of the States having at the Time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a Desire, in Order to prevent Misconstruction or Abuse of its Powers, that further declaratory and restrictive Clauses should be added: And as extending the Ground of public Confidence in the Government will best insure the beneficent Ends of its Institution,
RESOLVED, by the Senate, and House of Representatives, of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, Two Thirds of both Houses concurring, That the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States as Amendments to the Constitution of the United States: All, or any of, which Articles, when ratified by Three-Fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all Intents and Purposes as Part of the said Constitution, viz.

ARTICLES in Addition to, and Amendment of, the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the Fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Article the first [Not Ratified]
After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

Article the second [27th Amendment - Ratified 1992]
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Article the third [1st Amendment]
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Article the fourth [2nd Amendment]
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Article the fifth [3rd Amendment]
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Article the sixth [4th Amendment]
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Article the seventh [5th Amendment]
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Article the eighth [6th Amendment]
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Article the ninth [7th Amendment]
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Article the tenth [8th Amendment]
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Article the eleventh [9th Amendment]
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article the twelfth [10th Amendment]
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


Madison will probably always be known as the President in charge when foreign enemies invaded and burned to the ground much of Washington DC.
The war of 1812 was primarily a war against the British - with a long back story, the best summary is to say many in America wanted to take some revenge to show strength. The US tried to take Canada for a brief period, only toi find the venture completely implausible. They turned their focus to the Britsh who now were invading.

Known as "Mr. Madison's War" the war of 1812 ended in 1814 with with the Treaty of Ghent, which essentially proposed that nothing would change between the two nations and all would revert back to pre-war conditions.

Of course the Presidential home and Congress had been torched during this time. Madison is said to have been very calm and collected during this time, offering his support to the troops and giving great rallying speeches. It appears Madison was able to take this 'defeat' and look towards how it could benefit the country as it rebuilt.

One last note: Started by Thomas Jefferson but never completed, Madison was able to finally pass laws which would be the basis of our separation of church and state, a matter both men felt very strongly about, and something which still plays a large part of our daily lives.

Forgot one important note:

During his Presidency the Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key (1814) - Most people are not familiar with the full verse

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Thoughts on his inaugural addresses:

March 4th, 1809

I will sum up this first address with a direct quote I feel brings together his speech:

"Indulging no passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations, it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace by observing justice, and to entitle themselves to the respect of the nations at war by fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most scrupulous impartiality. If there be candor in the world, the truth of these assertions will not be questioned; posterity at least will do justice to them."

March 4th, 1813

As expected much of this address involves the War of 1812. Madison states "On the issue of the war are staked our national sovereignty on the high seas and the security of an important class of citizens whose occupations give the proper value to those of every other class. Not to contend for such a stake is to surrender our equality with other powers on the element common to all and to violate the sacred title which every member of the society has to its protection."

Madison rips into the British for several paragraphs as to their handling of war in general. My interpretation of this second address is that Madison gives a speech that rallies the country, that gives them the feelign that they will prevail int he war, but even more importantly, that the war will notbe a long one. I imagine wild cheers from people who heard this or read this.

The American President: #3 Thomas Jefferson

Please feel free to add anything you want about Thomas Jefferson

I have to note here that there is so much that could be discussed during this time period in our history that I wouldn't know where to start, so I am just picking out a few random things... This really is an amazing time in our history.

3rd President of the USA; Born April 13, 1743 at Shadwell in Virginia; Died July 4th, 1826 at Montincello in Virginia

- Two-term President: March 4, 1801 - March 4, 1809
- First term Vice-President (Aaron Burr); Second term Vice-President (George Clinton)
- Vice-President ot John Adams (1797-1801)
- Secretary of State 1790-1793

- Nicknames: Father of the Declaration of Independence; Man of the People
- Military experience: Colonel, Virginia Militia 1770-1779 (not in active service)
- Religion: Deist
- Profession: Lawyer; Farmer
- Higher Education: College of William and Mary; 1762
- Democratic-Republican

- Jefferson is on the nickel and the $2 bill

- Election of 1800: Electoral vote tied at 73 with Aaron Burr - after dozens and dozens of recounts Jefferson selected by House of Representatives with Burr beating out John Adams in his re-election bid; no popular vote
-Election of 1804: Electoral vote 162-14 over Charles C. Pinckney; no popular vote

Random thought #1: The world population reached 1 billion in 1802

Random thought #2: James Callender is perhaps one of the earliest publishers to be considered a 'National Enquirer' or 'Tmz' type person... He threatened and followed through on promises to report on findings about Jefferson including his belief that Jefferson was having sex with at least one of his black slaves. In modern times it was famously reported that DNA testing linked black ancestors to Jefferson, though it was not conclusive if it was Thomas Jefferson as multiple Jefferson were known to reside in the same place.

Random thought #3: in 1803 the Louisiana purchase was completed which amounted to $15 million dollars, or 3 cents per acre, for basically all the land going west... This effectively doubled the size of the United States/ It was actually James Monroe who played the major part of being in France to solidify the deal. Once purchased Jefferson eagerly sent out the team of Lewis and Clark to map out and report on findings in 1804.

Random thought #4: Before winning second term election, Aaron Burr decided to jump ship from Jefferson feeling the Vice Presidency was a stale political post. He wanted the post of Governor of New York, which Alexander Hamilton was not too excited to allow. Hamilton admitted, after being confronted by Burr, that he had indeed slandered him in an effort to thwart his chances at winning. Burr challenged him to what is now an historic duel, in which Burr shot and killed Hamilton. This basically killed his political life as well.

Burr then went on work towards a plan to seize a large portion of the newly owned Louisiana territory (for reasons that would take too long) and eventually was tried for treason in court - he was acquitted when the trial judge and many of those involved found great fault with Jefferson for already voicing his opinion that Burr was in fact guilty.

Random thought #5: Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence because his peers deemed him the best writer of all, and he took tremendous pride in his work. Late in life he made sure that his tombstone would read his three proudest achievements in life:

"Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for
religious freedom and Father
of the University of Virginia"

Jefferson believed strongly in allowing states to govern themselves as much as possible and that the central government play a more minimal role in the overall day to day activities of the union. He had a troubled personal life with the death of many infant children and an untimely death of his wife. If it weren't for these tragedies, however, it is very likely he would not have achieved much of what he did, for he quite often 'retired' to his home and gardens and writings and would have been content had it not been for th edeath of his wife, which ultimately brought him back to politics.

Thoughts on his inaugural addresses:

My main thought is that I was bored reading his inaugural addresses. In his first he spends quite a bit of time appeasing opposing factions who supported Aarron Burr, keenly aware that he was given the post by the slimmest of margins and not wanting upset 50% of those around him. In his second address he does bring up one very important issue with our political system - the separation of church and state - which is something that, although he greatly felt was necessary, he was unable to fully have passed during his time. I also freely admit to not delving into these two speeches too much because I really just wasn't feeling them, even after a second skimming.

The American President: #2 John Adams

Love me some Paul G!

Please feel free to add anything you want about John Adams

- 2nd President of the USA; Born Oct. 30, 1735 in Braintree (now Quincy), MA; Died July 4th (what a patriot!), 1826 in Quincy, MA, (coincidentally (???) just hours after Thomas Jefferson)

- One term President (March 4th, 1797-March 4th, 1801)

-Adams was the 3rd oldest President to die at age 90 and 253 days, broken only by Ronald Reagan at 93 years 119 days and then by Gerald Ford at 93 years 165 days.
- Nicknames included: Architect of the Revolution and Colossus of debate
- Religion: Unitarian
- Harvard graduate – 1755

-Schoolmaster and lawyer by profession
-Adams spent a considerable amount of time in his early years abroad as ambassador and in other roles working with Britain and France and others to ensure a peaceful existence – he was abroad when the Constitution was put into place.
- Considered founder of the Navy, though no military experience

- MA delegate to Continental Congress (1774-1777); Commissioner to France (1778); Vice President (1789-1797)
- Lost re-election to his own Vice-President, Thomas Jefferson – the two had been quite close at one point, then they drifted far apart politically, only to be reunited through letters during their later years in life.
-Election of 1796 was Adams: 71; Jefferson 68 with no popular vote

-The law stated that the man who came in second would be Vice-President, thus creating the first and only time in our history that opposing political parties took the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, Jefferson being of the newly created Democratic-Republican Party.

- Following Washington was a tough and likely thankless task, but Adams is considered to have done a decent job in the context of history. He is noted, however, for having a tendency to express views that would lead people to believe he still though quite favorably of the old monarch ways, which led many to see him as ‘above’ the common people. He is also blasted for his defense of the Congressional act Alien and Sedation, which in 1798 was aimed at tougher laws against immigrants becoming citizens (mainly pro-French and pro-Jefferson) and it also gave the President more power to deport foreigners who he believed were endangering the nation. Most notably from the Act, though, was the power it gave to prosecute publications and make it illegal to report ‘false, scandalous, and malicious’ items about the government. Jefferson was vehement in his criticism and fought hard to show that states had the right to nullify any federal law they felt was objectionable – this would later be the basis for the southern states in their quest to secede from the union.

Thoughts on his inaugural address of March 4th, 1797:

In the first 6 paragraphs or so Adams speaks of the newly formed union in terms of its growth, from nothing to something strong in so short a period of time. He speaks of his time abroad (over 10 years) and how upon his return he was very pleased with the way the Constitution was put into place and the way that government had been established. He warns of the inherent evil that can exist in politics and how even a small amount of corruption can bring everything crashing down – that people need to be very aware of the process. He then goes on to praise the work of George Washington and then a long long long long long paragraph that ultimately sums up his thankfulness for the position and his swearing to do his duty to the best of his ability… he ends with a nod to the heavens and the ‘Being who is supreme over all…’

The American President: #1 George Washington

I am reading The American President: A Complete History (By Kathryn Moore) which gives details of each President and their lives as well as their complete inaugural address.

This WILL take a long time... but I am going to make a post after reading each section with stats and thoughts, starting with #1 George Washington. I am trying to be objective without personal political injections. I don’t know much about Presidential history so I’ll just put down what I find informative and interesting, spending more or less time on each one as I see fit.

Please feel free to add anything you want about George Washington!

-1st President of the USA: Born Feb 22, 1732 (Westmoreland County, VA; died December 14, 1799 (Mount Vernon, VA)

-2 term President; Vice-President: John Adams (1789-1797)
-Religion: Episcopalian
-No political party (opposed formation of political parties)
-Lieutenant Colonel in the French and Indian War
-Led Continental Army to victory against the British in Revolutionary War
-(Only person ever to be elected unanimously by the Electoral College) – newly formed
-1789 and 1792 elected
-No popular vote

Thoughts on his address of April 30th, 1789:

After his initial remarks to everyone, about 1/3 of his address discusses an ‘Almighty Being who rules over the universe” -and as times change so do the tones of the addresses… it will take a long time before I reach present day, but I am going to go out on a limb and assume that almost all of these speeches bring up a higher power.

Second term – March 4th, 1793

Just 2 paragraphs and 135 words in length, Washington quickly sums up the notion that he is to be held to a standard in accordance with the great power he is being bestowed, and if any find that he is in the wrong they can bring that against him.

He is known for his thoughts on his newly formed post: “I walk upon untrodden ground” and for his precedent in serving two terms (until FDR) as well as his adherence to the title of “President of the United States” or “Mister President”, believing that “His Excellency” was too monarchial sounding.

Final thoughts: Everything written about Washington tells of his love for the Constitution and his want for the people of the USA to be happy in their pursuits. He is not known for ‘wanting’ the powerful position but is known for accepting the responsibility bestowed upon him.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You can spare 2:57 right?

A short break from movie reviews to bring you one of the greatest. Give it 3 minutes and your day will be brighter. A small gift from me to you.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Mini-Movie Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Director - Jon Favreau
PG-13; 124 min
Robert Downey Jr. – Tony Stark
Don Cheadle – ‘Rhodey’ (no, seriously, Cheadle did this film)
Scarlett Johansson – Natalie
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
Sam Rockwell – Justin Hammer
Mickey Rourke – Ivan
Jon Favreau – Happy
Garry Shandling – Senator Stern

Iron Man 2 never really stood a chance at succeeding in the ways which the original film did, but putting all that aside I will say that I found the new incarnation of the flying Robocop to be better than expected and in no way a waste of my time.

Clearly the cast is gigantic in pop stature and it would have taken a monumental fail of epic proportions for this film to not be at least somewhat enjoyable. How can anyone not at least find something to like between the uber-arrogant Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role, or the out of this world sexy Scarlett Johansson, or the subdued but always a comical genius Garry Shandling, or the re-invented Mickey Rourke as the ‘villain’?

With all that said, the movie falls flat in comparison to the first, and unfortunately I didn’t find too much to care for about the Rourke character – the role pretty much could have been filled by any number of actors – I didn’t feel that his particular essence brought anything to the film.

What really sealed this film for me as at least an average summer blockbuster (and not as some ridiculously awful piece of garbage like The Losers (2010)) was the part of Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, the foe of Tony Stark. What a remarkable, snarky performance. This guy nailed every single line and even when you were not expecting it he pulled out a comic piece of genius. His positioning and movements enhanced the lines he was delivering and in a movie full of somewhat ho-hum acting and humor he took the bull by the horns and rode away with the show. If you’re on the fence about seeing this one I suggest you do so for no other reason than Sam Rockwell – if there was an Oscar for best comedic performance he would win hands down.

*** out of 5