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.
Our Nation’s Godly Heritage
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), Poet, Journalist, Editor
The sacredness of the Bible awes me, and I approach it with the same sort of reverential feeling that an ancient Hebrew might be supposed to feel who was about to touch the ark of God with unhallowed hands. … The very men who, in the pride of their investigations into the secrets of the internal world, turn a look of scorn upon the Christian system of belief, are not aware how much of the peace and order of society, how much the happiness of households, and the purest of those who are the dearest to them, are owing to the influence of that religion extending beyond their sphere. … In my view, the life, the teachings, the labors, and the sufferings of the blessed Jesus, there can be no admiration too profound, no love of which the human heart is capable to warm, no gratitude too earnest and deep of which He is justly the object.
William Cullen Bryant was born in a Massachusetts log cabin. The genealogy of his parents traces back to the Mayflower. He attended Williams College for two years then studied law in Massachusetts. He developed an interest in poetry in early life, publishing numerous thoughtful, meditative works. As a writer, Bryant was an early advocate of American literary nationalism, and his own poetry focusing on nature as a metaphor for truth established a central pattern in the American literary tradition. He has been often referred to as the Father of American Poetry. He broke from the legal profession and became a journalist and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post.
Presidential Quote of the Week
James A. Garfield (1831-1881), 20th President of the United States
“We stand to-day upon an eminence which overlooks a hundred years of national life—a century crowded with perils, but crowned with the triumphs of liberty and law. Before continuing the onward march let us pause on this height for a moment to strengthen our faith and renew our hope by a glance at the pathway along which our people have traveled. … We cannot overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government. When they found, after a short trial, that the confederacy of States, was too weak to meet the necessities of a vigorous and expanding republic, they boldly set it aside, and in its stead established a National Union, founded directly upon the will of the people, endowed with full power of self-preservation and ample authority for the accomplishment of its great object. Under this Constitution the boundaries of freedom have been enlarged, the foundations of order and peace have been strengthened, and the growth of our people in all the better elements of national life has indicated the wisdom of the founders and given new hope to their descendants. Under this Constitution our people long ago made themselves safe against danger from without and secured for their mariners and flag equality of rights on all the seas.” - Inaugural Address, March 4, 1881
James Abram Garfield, known as the last of the “log cabin presidents,” was born in Orange Township, Ohio, in November, 1831. His father died when James was 17 months old, and he was brought up and cared for by his mother and his uncle. He attended local grammar schools, the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in Hiram, Ohio, and then Williams College in Massachusetts. He ultimately decided the academic life was not for him and studied law privately. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1860.
Even before his admittance to the bar, he had entered politics, serving as an Ohio state senator. At the start of the Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Army, and was part of the 42nd Ohio Volunteers. He saw action in at least four major battles. While yet serving on the battlefield, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Ohio. After serving in Congress for 18 years, he was elected United States Senator.
At his party’s political convention of 1880, he gave such a rousing nomination speech for one of the candidates that the delegates decided to nominate him instead, and he was elected President that year. President Garfield had only four months to establish his presidency before being shot by a deranged political office seeker. He lingered after his intense wounds and died from complications, including a massive heart attack and bronchial pneumonia a few months later. He is buried in a mausoleum in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.
Garfield was married to Lucretia Rudolph. They had seven children. He was a minister and an elder for the Disciples of Christ, making him the first and only member of the clergy to serve as President. He was also the first left-handed President.