Showing posts with label Washington. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

On America's Birthday: A "Thank You!" to France

For some reason I will never fully comprehend, there is a tendency among Americans – at least, among self-described flag-waving, ‘patriotic’ types – to roll their eyes and make dismissive comments when it comes to the French, or international politics involving France.  There is almost a knee-jerk ‘put-down of Things French….the way some New Yorkers refer to New Jersey….

But the reality is, the American Revolution – which is embodied in this holiday we call Independence Day – was not an American victory.  In spite of all of our civil mythology about the brave souls at Lexington and Concord, the brutal winter at Valley Forge, escaping from Brooklyn in the fog, Washington Crossing the Delaware, the Battle of Ticonderoga, ...the American Revolution was, at the least,  a Franco-American victory – and one could easily argue that it was largely a French victory.

A mere five months after the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin was dispatched to France (December of 1776) to gain an alliance with the French.  Within weeks, French support of the Americans’ cause was being organized.

King Louis XVI and his foreign minister, the compte de Vergennes arranged for the large-scale sale of  gunpowder and ammunition to the colonists,  who had little capacity for mass production. The French arranged for the undercover use of a Portuguese shipping company to smuggle arms through the Dutch West Indies island of St. Eustatius.  If not for this channel of arms deals, George Washington could not have lasted a year.  In fact, British General Burgoyne’s defeat in the Champlain region of New York occurred entirely at the hands of American marksmen  - firing French ammunition.

In 1777,  Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette sailed for  America at his own expense (the Americans had already run out of money) and became a Major-General in the Continental Army and an aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington at Valley Forge. He uncovered a plot to dismiss Washington, and secured the alliance of the Oneida Tribe for the colonists.  By February 6, 1778, France formally recognized the United States and signed a Treaty of Alliance, leading to numerous engagements between British and French ships in Europe. Lafayette recognized how outnumbered the Americans were, and  returned to France to recruit additional forces.

In the meantime,  the French (under d’Estaing) made attempts at capturing Newport, Rhode Island and Savannah, Georgia.  While unsuccessful, the efforts involved more French forces than American, and gave an early indication of the price France would pay for helping the Americans.

By March 1780, Lafayette returned from France and landed in Boston with his recruits: 5,500 men and 5 frigates.  In addition to Lafayette’s forces, the Americans received another French ally: Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, who arrived in Newport, RI with 7,000 troops and was given the rank of Lt. General in the Continental Army. Rochambeau actually commanded a larger force than George Washington. Rochambeau met up with Washington in Wethersfield, Connecticut to plan a decisive assault on the British.

Washington wanted to drive the British out of both New York City and the Chesapeake Bay, but Rochambeau believed that the Chesapeake would be a more strategic battle. Either way, the Generals determined that additional naval forces would be needed for either effort, and Rochambeau dispatched a request to 

French Navy Lt. General François-Joseph Paul, marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse, commander of the French West Indies forces, to sail to the Chesapeake.  Rochambeau and Washington then restaged their forces in White Plains and Dobbs Ferry, NY. 

De Grasse received the letters in July, agreed with Rochambeau’s analysis, and set sail. At the same time, British General Lord Cornwallis was setting up a major British military presence in the Chesapeake and Potomoc area of Virginia, but was being contained and harassed In Yorktown by Lafayette, who had confronted and contained him there. Washington and Rochambeau set out on a combined march to Virginia, while Cornwallis waited for additional supplies from the British Navy.

 In September 1781, Washington and Rochambeau met up with the Marquis de Lafayette's troops. 
Within days, De Grasse’s naval fleet reached the Chesapeake as planned. The British fleet arrived to deliver supplies to Cornwallis, only to find themselves in a battle with de Grasse for control of the bay in the Battle of the Chesapeake.  The naval battle was a decisive win for the French. 

On September 28, 1781, with DeGrasse’s French fleet blockading the British reinforcements, the combined forces of Rochambeau, Lafayette, and Washington laid siege to Lord Cornwallis’ forces. 

Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781, and American Independence was won.

Ammunition, military expertise, troops, naval power….all were brought to bear by France…and without French participation, there would have been no American victory.  So the next time you have an inclination to say something smug about France or French military capabilities….a  "merci, mes frères!"  might be more appropriate.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Washington State Senate Approves Marriage Equality; Governor Promises to Sign

By a vote of 28-21, the Washington State Senate has just approved SB 6239, moving that state just a few days away from being the eighth American jurisdiction to establish Marriage Equality for same-sex couples. A companion bill in the State House, HB 2516, is widely expected to pass by a comfortable margin, and Governor Chris Gregoire has already announced that she will sign the bill if it gets to her desk. With California’s Marriage Equality law suspended while courts rule on the legality of “Proposition 8,” Washington would become the only western state at the current time to grant full equality to same-sex couples.

The issue was scheduled to be voted on at 6:00 pm Pacific Time, but due to seventeen amendments that were offered and breaks for party caucuses, the final vote did not take place until almost 8:00 pm. Most of the amendments were written to safeguard religious institutions and organizations, not unlike the clauses that were added in the New Hampshire and New York Marriage Equality debates, but were actually redundant as they reiterated protections already codified in state or federal constitutional law. One of the amendments included protections for faith-based social service agencies, which would exempt religious adoption agencies from litigation for refusing to place children with gay families. Proponents agreed to 13 of the 17 amendments, including the exemption for adoption agencies, and these were adopted unanimously with little fuss on the floor.

A few amendments did spark controversy, however. Amendment 15 sought to exempt public officials from performing same-sex marriages if they harbored personal religious objections. It was rejected on a voice vote.

Amendment 14 would have exempted businesses from providing services for gay ceremonies; in an early test of the eventual fate of the bill, Amendment 14 was defeated on a roll-call vote of 22 yeas and 27 nays.

Of all the amendments offered, Amendment 10 was the critical test. Amendment 10, the so-called "Referendum Amendment," sought to subject the eventual decision to a public vote. A call to "let the people vote" is a tactic that opponents of Marriage Equality have used as a rallying call in numerous states, including Maine (where voters repealed an Equalty law) and New Hampshire, where Marriage Equality remains intact. The effort to require a public vote failed by a vote of 23 to 26, foreshadowing the final vote.

Just before the vote was taken, Democratic Senator Kevin Ranker (40th District, San Juan Islands) delivered an emotional speech on the floor about his own father's coming out process and the impact of shame and discrimination on families, ending his statement saying, "today I am proud to stand on the right side of history, to fully support marriage equality and mostly, proud of my father."

While the Senate split largely along party lines, four Republicans, including Cheryl Pflug of Maple Valley and Steve Litzow of Mercer Island crossed the aisle and supported the measure, while three Democrats bolted opposed the bill.

Washington has wrangled non-stop over this issue for almost 15 years, and the vote tonight represents a seismic shift in opinion over those years.

In 1998, state legislators voted to ban same-sex marriage altogether, endorsing a state-wide version of the so-called federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) statute. But in 2006, legislators also adopted Washington’s first civil rights statute for gays, followed one year later with a mechanism that allowed for the registration of Domestic Partnerships. Soon thereafter, lawmakers adopted a civil unions statute that awarded same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples, except for the title of “marriage.” Conservative groups gathered enough signatures to bring this measure up for a popular vote on November 3, 2009, known as Referendum 71 (or “R-71” for short). But in a stunning turnaround of popular opinion, voters in Washington approved the measure by a vote of 53% - 47%.

The current effort to enact full Marriage Equality came down to the wire, as supporters came into the vote seemingly one vote shy of the necessary of the 25 Senate votes needed. Last week, Sen. Jim Kastama of Puyallup announced he would support the measure in the Senate, bringing the number of Senators in favor of the measure to 24, where support appeared to stall, and 6 Senators remained undecided. Reminiscent of the battle in New York State, intense lobbying ensued, with formal support being offered by Nike, Starbucks, and Microsoft, three of the state’s most visible employers. In October, a University of Washington poll found that 43 percent of Washington residents supported the measure. While still less than a majority, this was a significantly higher percentage than the 30% who supported such a measure in a poll taken in 2007. During the debate on the amendments, news services reported that Seanator Brian Hatfield announced that he would provide the 26th vote in favor of the Bill.

Assuming the bill is passed in the House and signed by the Governor, as expected, the law would take effect in June unless opponents find a mechanism to forestall its implementation in court or through petition and referendum.

Friday, February 27, 2009

District of Columbia representatives: an Entirely Unconstitutional Process.

This country continues, at breakneck pace, to destroy its Constitution and eviscerate the Rule of Law. Under Bush, it was done in the name of "National Security." Under Obama, it's done in the name of Populist Mob Rule.

The House of Representatives has voted to permit the non-voting representative from Washington, DC to have full voting rights as a member of Congress. It is argued that it is unfair that the District of Columbia's 592,000 people have no voice of their own in Congress.

I do not argue that point. However, granting these citizens a Representative requires more than Congressional Mob Rule in a fit of moral outrage: it requires a Constitutional Amendment.

Article I, Section 2 of the U. S. Constitution states:

"The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second
Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of
twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who
shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen."

The Constitution is clear that STATES have voting representatives in Congress. Not Districts, Not cities, Not territories.

If Washington DC, with 592,000 people, why not New York City with 8.3 million people? Why not Puerto Rico, with 4 million people?

When the District of Columbia sought the right to vote in Presidential elections, everyone understood that the Constitution only permitted Electors from the States to cast ballots for President. Appropriately, the nation adopted a Constitutional Amendment (the 23rd Amendment) in 1961 to permit DC residents to vote for President.

This is no different. If the residents of DC want to be represented in Congress, there is a clear process: Amend the Constituion, don't just ride roughshod over it.