As our nation’s Founders designed their plan for a more perfect union, they understood that the success of a modern republic would require more than a political document like the Constitution. From their study of history, the Founders had learned of the pitfalls of republics before this one. They concluded that even the Constitution alone could not curb individual selfishness. They believed that virtues were necessary for sustaining the American experiment. Their fervent prayers were an integral part of the birth of our nation.
This Week in History
May 4, 1494 – Christopher Columbus Second Expedition Discovers Jamaica
Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there on his second exploration in 1494. His probable landing point was Dry Harbor, now called Discovery Bay.
The Arawak and Taino indigenous people, originating in South America, were settled on the island, having arrived somewhere between 4000 and 1000 BC. When Columbus arrived, there were more than 200 villages, ruled by chieftains. The south coast of the island was the most populated.
The first Spanish settlement on the island, Sevilla, was established in 1509 and abandoned around 1524 because it was deemed unhealthy. The Spanish moved their capitol to St. Jargo de la Vega, now called Spanish Town at St. Catherine, around 1534.
Jamaica became a refuge for Jews in the New World, also attracting those who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal. A settlement of Jews had arrived in 1510, soon after the son of Christopher Columbus settled on the island.
The English captured Jamaica in 1565, and it would be until 1962 that Jamaica gained its independence from the United Kingdom.
Presidential Quote of the Week
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), 18th President of the United States
Your favor of yesterday asking a message from me to the children and youth of the United States, to accompany your Centennial number, is this morning received. My advice to Sunday Schools, no matter what their denomination, is: Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts; and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this Book are we indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this must we look as our guide in the future. ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.’ – Ulysses S. Grant to the Editor of the Sunday School Times in Philadelphia, June 6, 1876
Ulysses Simpson Grant (initially Hiram Ulysses Grant) was born in April 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio. His father was a farmer, and both parents were Pennsylvania natives. He was raised in the village of Georgetown in Brown County, Ohio. At the age of 17, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. At school he was nicknamed “Sam”, signing his name “U. Sam Grant”. When asked what the letter “U” stood for he said, “Uncle.” He was the first “Uncle Sam.” He graduated from West Point in 1843 with the rank of lieutenant.
The Mexican-American War began just three years later and Lt. Grant served under Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Although assigned as a quartermaster, he got close enough to the front lines to see action, participating in battles in Palo Alto, Monterey and Veracruz, among others.
Lt. Grant remained in the army and was assigned to several different posts. He was sent to Fort Vancouver in the Washington Territory in 1853, and later Fort Humboldt on the northwest California coast. A civilian at age 32, Grant struggled through seven lean years financially, working for his father-in-law on a Missouri farm, and later in a leather shop in Illinois.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, President Lincoln put out a call for 75,000 volunteers. Grant helped recruit a company of volunteers and accompanied it to Springfield, Illinois, thus beginning his Civil War service, which would ultimately see him become the Commanding General of the Union forces. It was to Grant, that General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, ending the war between the states. After the war, in July 1866, Congress authorized the newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States, the equivalent of a full (four-star) general in the modern Army. Grant was appointed as such by President Andrew Johnson on the same day.
In 1868 Grant was elected the 18th President of the United States and was re-elected in 1872. He presided over the second half of Reconstruction, and had great concern for the plight of the African Americans, being a true civil rights activist.
At the end of his second term in the White House, Grant spent over two years traveling the world with his wife. They dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, with Prince Bismark in Germany, and with the Japanese Emperor in Tokyo. They also ventured into Russia, Egypt, the Holy Land, Siam and Burma. The trip, although successful, was costly, and when Grant returned to America most of his funds were depleted. Shortly thereafter, he learned that he was suffering from throat cancer. Destitute at his death in 1885, he had managed to finish his memoir only days before. Sales of his writings provided for his family.
Grant was married to Julia Dent, and together they had five children.
President Grant and his wife are buried in Grant’s Tomb, Riverside Park, New York, the largest mausoleum in North America.