‘Richmond’ Category


Basic – The Constitution

Posted from the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas by Linda Lou Burton – For $19.95 you can order a facsimile of the Constitution of the United States as it was originally written, way back in 1787. Not kidding – the folks at the National Archives have gone to the trouble of printing all four pages in a 23 x 28 size, on paper that is crinkled and aged in appearance. Go to their store at if you want to see it as it was handwritten, and signed. If you have trouble reading the flourishing script, get yourself a copy of the transcribed version. Or go digital. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript

The point is – if you live, and work, and play, and sleep, and eat, in the United States, it’s vital that you understand just what that means with regard to your responsibilities, and your privileges. So start by reading the Constitution.

The United States Constitution consists of a Preamble and seven Articles, addressing the idea of a country of united states (there were 13 at the time), and providing directions for how it would work; a “recipe” for a new country. It was created and presented in September 1787 by 55 men representing the states of:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

Note: Rhode Island declined to send delegates.

The Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article I – Legislative

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Sections 2-10 describe the scope and limits of these powers, and specify the who, what, and when for election of a person to legislative office.

Article II -Executive

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

Sections 2 and 3 outline the duties, responsibilities, and powers of an elected president and Section 4 addresses the removal of an elected president.

Section 4.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III – Judicial

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Sections 2 and 3 further outline the duties, responsibilities, and powers of the United States judiciary.

Article IV – States and Citizens

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section 2.

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States. A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

Sections 3 and 4 outline the admission of new states, and the protections for each state.

Article V – Amendments

Provisions made for amendments to the Constitution as deemed necessary and appropriate.

Article VI – Debts and Oaths

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Article VII – Ratification

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

What Happened Next

Only 39 men actually signed the Constitution, which illustrates just how hard a task it was to get agreement on this “never done before” undertaking. It was crafted by men representing very different interests and views, who cared enough to come together and, after three hot summer months of thrashing out ideas, move forward in compromise. The delegates ranged in age from Jonathan Dayton, aged 26, to Benjamin Franklin, aged 81, who was so infirm that he had to be carried to sessions. Five states – Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut – ratified the Constitution quickly; followed by Maryland and South Carolina; the ninth state to ratify was New Hampshire. It was agreed that the Constitution would go into effect March 4, 1789. Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island were the last four states to complete the ratification process, by May of 1790.

Today the United States Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world. It consists of 4,543 words. Check out that original, the beginnings of the framework of the United States.

Give it a read. It’s a basic.

A BONUS – The National Archives not only offers you the opportunity to see that document and all those signatures, beginning with George Washington’s, but allows you to add your digital signature!  https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/join-the-signers

Footnote: Jacob Shallus was the “engrosser” who penned the document on four sheets of parchment made from treated animal skin (the conservator at the Archives says it was either calf, goat, or sheep skin). He used a goose quill with ink made of iron filings in oak gall. It started out black, but has aged to a brown color. Jacob, who was 37 at the time, was paid $30 for his work; he was Assistant Clerk to the Pennsylvania Assembly at the time, so likely was chosen for the job due to the Convention’s desire for speedy drafting; he was there and available to do the job. His name appears nowhere on the document.

Upcoming posts: Amendments, Growth, Changes

Tomorrow: The Oaths


#3. Jefferson, Thomas

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas –Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was, to put it plainly, a Wonder Man. So far I’ve only found one thing he didn’t do, and that was “sit still.” He was a statesman, diplomat, and lawyer. He was an architect, farmer, and inventor. He collected books by the thousands and spoke as many languages as he had reason to learn. He was the second vice president of the United States, and the third president. He was governor of Virginia and founder of the University of Virginia. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, he sent the Barbary Pirates skedaddling, and, oh yes, don’t forget – he doubled the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. What can explain it? I think Thomas ate his Wheaties! Would Thomas come to your party? You betcha, and he would probably bring his violin along to entertain everyone. He and Patrick Henry used to hang together In Williamsburg doing just that.

Thomas entered the College of William & Mary at age 16; he studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under professor William Small, who held Friday “dinner parties” where politics and philosophy were discussed. Although Thomas frittered away his first year dancing and squandering his money, he vowed in his second year to study “fifteen hours a day” and graduated in two years. He obtained a law license while working as a clerk under the tutelage of George Wythe, a noted law professor; and he read – he studied not only law and philosophy, he studied history, religion, ethics, science, and agriculture. Wythe was so impressed with Thomas he later bequeathed him his entire library.

The adage “to make good old people you have to start them young” must have been in Peter Jefferson’s head when his son Thomas came into the world. Thomas was third of ten children, and the first son. Peter Jefferson had no formal education, but studied and improved himself; he inherited land, and managed plantations – his own in Eastern Virginia and that of the Shadwell family in the Piedmont (where Thomas was born). Peter and wife Jane offered a privileged life for their family; they frequently entertained, enjoyed classic books and music, and attended dances. They also hosted Native Americans who traveled through on official business in Williamsburg. Peter entered Thomas into an English school at age five; at age nine Thomas was sent to a school run by a Scottish Presbyterian minister, and began the study of Latin, Greek, and French. He also began studying the natural world, and riding horses. When Peter died in 1757, his estate was divided between his two sons Thomas and Randolph; Thomas inherited 5,000 acres of land – including Monticello – at the age of 14, and assumed full authority over his property at age 21.

When you think about “expectations and reality” in the year 2020 – imagine heading off to college at 16, a wealthy landowner; imagine laughing it up and partying and spending all your money for a year; imagine wising up and buckling down and going on to become a Wonder Man. What would YOU do? There is a key statement Thomas made that I believe is an important factor for success. Five words, on record, that Thomas wrote to John Adams:

(Cell phone scrollers, note that!) Thomas amassed three different libraries in his lifetime. Those books left to him by George Wythe and the ones he inherited from his father were destroyed in a fire in 1770. Believe it or not, he had replenished his collection with 1,250 titles by 1773! By 1814, he owned 6,500 volumnes. After the British burned the White House, which contained the Library of Congress, on August 24, 1814, Thomas sold his books to the US Government to help jumpstart their collection and started his third personal library; when he died in 1826 it had grown to almost 2,000 volumes.

His Government Positions

  • Member of Virginia House of Burgesses, 1769-74.
  • Member of Continental Congress, 1775-76.
  • Governor of Virginia, 1779-81.
  • Member of Continental Congress, 1783-85.
  • Minister to France, 1785-89.
  • Secretary of State, 1790-93 (under Washington)
  • Vice President, 1797-1801 (under J. Adams)
  • 3rd President of the United States, 1801-1809

Keep the above dates in mind as we look at Thomas’ personal life. He married Martha Wayles in 1772 – she was 24, he was 29 and a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Martha’s first husband and first child had died; she brought considerable property to her marriage to Thomas, allowing him to greatly expand Monticello. The couple shared an interest in literature, horses, and music – she played the harpsichord and he the violin. Together they had six children but only two daughters lived to adulthood; and sadly, Martha died in 1882, ten years into the marriage. She did serve as First Lady of Virginia during Thomas’ governorship, but during the years he was Minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President, and President – 1783-1809 –Thomas was a widower. His relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave, has been the subject of controversy for years; in 2012, the Smithsonian Institution and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation held a major exhibit at the National Museum of American History: Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: The Paradox of Liberty; it says that “evidence strongly supports the conclusion that [Thomas] Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings’ six children.” It is a certainty that Martha Jefferson made Thomas promise never to remarry after her death, and he kept that promise.

Inauguration One

Several interesting things marked Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration on March 4, 1801; the first time an inauguration was held in Washington, DC. The temperature was mild that day; an artillery company on Capitol Hill fired shots to welcome the daybreak. Thomas was staying at Conrad & McMunn’s boarding house on the south side of the Capitol. In contrast to his predecessors, he dressed plainly, arrived alone on horseback, and retired his own horse to the nearby stable. He’d given a copy of his speech to the National Intelligencer to be published right after delivery, another first; the theme was reconciliation after the bitterly partisan election. He gave his 1,721-word speech in the Capitol’s Senate chamber, and then took the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice John Marshal. In what would become standard practice, the Marine Band played for the first time at the inauguration. Outgoing President John Adams, distraught over his loss of the election as well as the death of his son Charles, was already on the morning stagecoach out of town.

Inauguration Two

Thomas Jefferson rode to the Capitol on horseback on March 4, 1805, but much of Congress had already left after the body had adjourned following Burr’s farewell address before the Senate a couple of days earlier. The inaugural ceremony was modest; Thomas spoke softly and quietly and provided copies of his inaugural address. In the speech, he addressed the recent acquisition of Louisiana, the Federalists’ diminishing influence, and the need for freedom of the press, though he also criticized recent press attacks against him. His successful first term had brought him back into office in a landslide vote of 162 to 14; achievements were a strong economy, lower taxes, and the Louisiana Purchase.

Voter participation grew during Jefferson’s presidency, increasing to “unimaginable levels” compared to the Federalist Era, with turnout of about 67,000 in 1800 rising to about 143,000 in 1804.

And Then

After retiring from public office, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He envisioned a university free of church influences where students could specialize in many new areas not offered at other colleges. He believed that education was necessary for a stable society, and that publicly funded schools should be accessible to students from all social strata. He organized the state legislative campaign for the University’s charter and, with the assistance of Edmund Bacon, purchased the location. He was the principal designer of the buildings, planned the  curriculum, and served as the first rector. The university had a library rather than a church at its center, emphasizing its secular nature—a controversial aspect at the time. He bequeathed most of his library to the university upon his death – Independence Day, July 4, 1826.

My personal favorite of Thomas Jefferson’s thousands of accomplishments, (besides that of being such an avid book collector) is the Louisiana Purchase. I live in Arkansas, near the “Louisiana Purchase Marker” which makes me a part of “living history” in a touchable form; I also lived near the Ouachita River, where the famous Dunbar-Hunter Expedition passed through in 1804-1805. Thomas sent out four expeditions in all: the Freeman-Custis (1806) on the Red River, the Zebulon Pike Expedition (1806-1807) into the Rocky Mountains; and of course the Lewis & Clark Expedition (1803-1806) that made it to the Pacific Ocean. And there was all that tinkering he did – he invented a revolving bookstand (natural for a book lover), the swivel chair, and many other practical and useful devices. In addition to all the beautiful buildings at Monticello and the University of Virginia, he also designed one of the prettiest state capitols – Richmond, Virginia.

Like I said – the man never sat still.

Tomorrow: #4. Madison, James



#1. Washington, George

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was red headed. Does that surprise you? The image in my mind when I hear the name “George Washington” is of a rather somber fellow with powdered-white hair. After all, that’s the picture hanging in almost every classroom in the United States. In truth, this red-headed fellow had sparkling grey-blue eyes, was more than six feet tall, and was known for his great strength. If George were alive today, you’d want him at your parties. He was a bit reserved, but had a strong presence and was well respected. He was rugged; he loved horses and collected thoroughbreds. He loved to hunt – foxes, deer, ducks and other game. But George was also an excellent dancer and loved the theater. He drank in moderation but opposed excessive drinking, smoking, gambling, and profanity.

George was a good husband; when he married widow Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759 – he was 26, she was 27 – he assumed the role of husband, father to Martha’s two children Patsy and Jacky, and manager of Martha’s considerable estate. When Patsy died suddenly, George canceled all business dealings to stay by Martha’s side for three months. When Jacky died at the age of 26, George and Martha took in their grandchildren Nelly and Washy (George Washington Custis) and raised them. They never had children together, to the regret of both.

“Second shift” parenting was common at this point in history – one parent died, the other remarried, and children often grew up with half-siblings and a step-parent. Fortunes were gained through inheritance; land was the most desirable of assets. When George was born as the first child of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington in 1732, he had three older half-siblings from Augustine’s marriage to Jane Butler. Lawrence was 14, Augustine Jr was 12, and Jane was 10. George was just a year old when sister Betty was born; then Samuel, John Augustine, Charles, and Mildred by the time George was 7 years old. Augustine Washington was a prominent public figure; his own father had made a fortune in land speculation. When Augustine died in 1743, George, at the age of 11, inherited 10 slaves and Ferry Farm, near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Lawrence, age 25, inherited the land that became Mount Vernon.

George’s mother Mary never remarried, but chose to manage her land and raise her children on her own. She was unable to send George to school in England, where the older boys were educated; but George did learn mathematics, trigonometry, and land surveying and became a talented draftsman and map maker. George often visited Mount Vernon, and Belvoir, a plantation that belonged to Lawrence’s father-in-law William Fairfax. Fairfax became George’s patron; after George received a surveyor’s license from William & Mary College, Fairfax appointed him Surveyor of Culpepper County. George became familiar with the frontier region and by 1752, at the age of 20, had bought 1,500 acres in the Valley.

That’s how a career begins and a fortune builds; when Lawrence died George leased Mount Vernon from his widow; when she died he inherited the property. When George and Martha married in 1759 she and her children moved to Mount Vernon; it is where George died in 1799, and Martha in 1802; both are buried there. By occupation, George was a planter; he grew tobacco, wheat, and corn. He was counted among the social and political elite of Virginia; inviting guests to Mount Vernon; enjoying leisure time; and eventually becoming politically active.

Lest George’s life sound too peaceful and laid back, there were a few other things going on. For instance, George had an unbelievable military career. He fought in a lot of battles! He had two horses shot out from under him in the same battle! He had bullet holes in his coat and hat! He was a fighter, and he never, ever gave up! George was a Colonel in the Colonial forces; General and Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, and a Lieutenant General in the US Army. We’re familiar with the famous Emanuel Leutze painting of Washington Crossing The Delaware; it would take a gallery to house portraits of all the battles he fought, in all the different campaigns. To name a few:

French and Indian War (1754-1763; George was 22-31): Battle of Jumonville Glen – Battle of Fort Necessity – Braddock Expedition – Battle of the Monongahela – Forbes Expedition

American Revolutionary War (1775-1783: George was 43-51): Boston campaign – New York and New Jersey campaign – Philadelphia campaign – Yorktown campaign

His military service took place before his marriage to Martha and during; when the Treaty of Paris was signed in Annapolis in 1783, and Great Britain officially recognized the independence of the United States, George resigned as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army with plans to retire to Mount Vernon, and a peaceful life with Martha.

It didn’t turn out that way. Before he returned to private life, he called for a strong union, sending a letter to all states saying that the Articles of Confederation were no more than a “rope of sand” linking the states. He believed the nation was on the verge of anarchy and confusion, and that a national constitution unifying the states under a strong central government was essential. You know your history – a Constitutional Convention, delegates from all states convened in Philadelphia, a new constitution was called for; continued discussion and disagreement until finally, on February 4, 1789, the state electors voted for a president. There was no quorum present to count the votes until April 5; the next day the votes were tallied and Congressional Secretary Charles Thomson was sent to Mount Vernon to tell George he had won the majority of every state’s electoral votes. John Adams received the second highest vote count, so would be vice-president.

Just think – no campaigning, no national TV debating; and most interesting of all – no desire to BE president of this newly emerging entity called the “United States.” George admitted to “anxious and painful sensations” about leaving Mount Vernon, but departed for New York City on April 16 to be inaugurated. He took the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789 at the age of 57. A crowd of 10,000 gathered; there was a parade complete with marching band, foreign dignitaries, and statesmen; the militia fired a 13-gun salute. George read a speech in the Senate Chamber, asking that “the Almighty Being who rules over the universe…consecrate the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States.”

These essays are not about the presidency, but rather the road TO the presidency, and the type of person who won the attention of the electorate. George is unique in that he didn’t set out to “be” president; but he did establish many basic principles that are expected of a president today. For example, unlike the kingly rulers of European countries, George did not want to be called “His Excellency” or “His Highness.” “Mr President” was ample title for him. Other executive precedents included an inaugural address, messages to Congress, and the Cabinet form of management. He refused a salary for serving his country; Congress however insisted and provided him with $25,000 annually to help defray costs.

George was an able administrator and a good judge of talent and character. He talked regularly with department heads, tolerated opposing views, and conducted a smooth transition of power to his successor. He was apolitical and opposed the formation of parties. Although he owned slaves, and supported measures passed by Congress to protect slavery, he later became troubled with the institution of slavery and freed his slaves in a 1799 will, with the provision that the old and young freed people be taken care of indefinitely and the young taught to read and write and placed in suitable occupations. He endeavored to assimilate Native Americans into Anglo-American culture but combated indigenous resistance during instances of violent conflict. He urged broad religious freedom in his roles as general and president, emphasizing religious toleration in a nation with numerous denominations. He publicly attended services of different Christian denominations and prohibited anti-Catholic celebrations in the Army. He engaged workers at Mount Vernon without regard for religious belief or affiliation. He was rooted in the ideas, values, and modes of thinking of the Enlightenment, but harbored no contempt of organized Christianity and its clergy, “We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition.” He proclaimed November 26 as a day of Thanksgiving, always spending the day fasting and taking food to those in prison.

The president’s office was in New York for sixteen months; then moved to Philadelphia, where George and Martha lived from November 1790 to March 1797, before returning to their beloved Mount Vernon at the end of George’s presidency. On December 12, 1799, George inspected his farms on horseback in snow and sleet. He had a sore throat the following day but again went out in freezing, snowy weather to mark trees for cutting. Chest congestion and sore throat followed; he died swiftly on December 14, with Martha seated by his bed. He was 67. As word of his death traveled, church bells rang, businesses closed, and memorial processions were held in major cities. Martha wore a black mourning cape for a year.

George Washington’s legacy endures as one of the most influential in American history. He was called the “Father of His Country” as early as 1778. Congress proclaimed his birthday as a federal holiday in 1885. Many places and monuments have been named in honor of George Washington, most notably the nation’s capital, and the state of Washington. Twentieth-century biographer Douglas Freeman has stated: “The great big thing stamped across that man is character.” Historian David Fischer goes on to define that character as “integrity, self discipline, courage, absolute honesty, resolve, and decision; but also forbearance, decency, and respect for others.”

The mark for the leader of the United States was set high at the start. Which of the next 44 presidents measured up to that?

Which of those characteristics are important to you, as you cast your vote on November 3?



An Invite From DAR

1 DAR Presentation ArkadelphiaLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I was invited by Charlotte Jeffers, Regent of the Arkadelphia Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, to speak at their April 14 meeting. “Do you want me to talk about the history of the capital cities, or my travel experiences?” I asked. “What will everyone be most interested in?” “We are interested in everything,” was the reply, so I decided to focus on our likeminded objectives, which sent me to the DAR national website.

I learned that DAR was founded October 11, 1890 and incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress. Objectives are listed as Historical, Educational, and Patriotic, so I honed in on the “educational” factor, since that is a primary objective of Capital Cities USA. For DAR, “to promote…institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion.” For Capital Cities USA, “to build community, character and citizenship through humanities education.” From Objectives to Methodology explains the Journey Across America: Item 1 – to assess civic, community and historic resources in the 50 capital cities of the United States and their capitol buildings by gathering data through on-site visits to each capitol and capital city. In a nutshell!

I began my talk with bottom-line statistics – departed February 28, 2012 and concluded December 18, 2013 for a total of 659 days. Traveled 31,710 miles and spent time in 50 state capitols and the national capitol in DC. Shared neighborhoods with 12,947,450 people as I lived two weeks in each capital city. (With my two cats, no less.) I shared a map showing the 75 overnight stops I made before settling down in Arkadelphia, and then moved into story telling.

“What learning opportunities did I find in the capitols?” I focused on five that were exceptional:
• Austin, Texas – Most Extensive Visitor Services
• Boise, Idaho – Most Inspiring Kids Tour
• Atlanta, Georgia – Tie With Springfield, Illinois as Most Welcoming
• Springfield, Illinois – Tie with Atlanta, Georgia as Most Welcoming
• Montpelier, Vermont – Most Intimate & Inviting, Best Volunteer Program, Most Meticulous Restoration

» read more


Serious Business

20 red coat jogger plus walk plus bldgsLinda Burton posting from Richmond, Virginia – TD Robinson takes his job seriously. TD is a security guard; he waved me to a stop as I drove riverside along the James. It was the first day of spring and I had the window of the Scion down; enjoying the fresh air and sunshine; waving at the joggers and walkers taking advantage of the footbridges leading to islands in the river. “How are you ma’am?” he asked politely. I realized the road had ended; a large brick building stood to my right. “I think my riverside drive is over,” I laughed. “Where am I?” “You are on private property,” TD replied. I asked what business I had reached, but TD answered only “Private. Property.” Dominion was printed on his badge; I pointed out that fact. With a sideways nod of his head, he offered up this response “You 20 tall bldg and carcan look, but I can’t tell.” With a sideways nod of my head, I turned the car and headed back towards the city. I was feeling a little testy by now; first I was unable to find parking near the capitol for a spring-day’s walk around the grounds; now my drive along the river was halted. I stopped in the cobblestoned traffic circle on Tredegar to get a few photos for my collection; I wanted to remember where I was on the first day of spring, 2013; then I crossed the river and headed back to my hotel. But I’m thinking all the way – just what businesses are in those tall buildings overlooking the river? Turns out, six Fortune 500 companies are located in Richmond. And Dominion is one of them. » read more


Sophisticated Simplicity

15 washington rotundaLinda Burton posting from Richmond, Virginia – If you want to know what George Washington really looked like, go to the Virginia state capitol. Centered in the rotunda against the simplicity of a formal backdrop of black and white stands a life-size statue of Washington, considered by his contemporaries to be “a perfect likeness.” It was June 1784 when the Virginia General Assembly commissioned the statue to be made; Thomas Jefferson, on a diplomatic mission in France, secured the services of French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon for the work. Houdon didn’t guess at his task; in the fall of 1785 he traveled to Mount Vernon to study his subject. He made a plaster mask of Washington’s head and took detailed measurements of his body; from this he modeled a terra cotta bust to take back to his workshop in France. 15 washington cThe resulting statue, carved of Carrara marble, was shipped to America in 1796 and has graced the capitol’s rotunda since. It is considered to be Virginia’s greatest treasure and one of the world’s finest portrait sculptures; it is the only full-length statue for which the first President posed. Although Washington’s sword is by his side and he wears his Revolutionary uniform, he 15 statue and rotundacarries a civilian walking cane and stands over a plough; Houdon sought to show the balance between Washington’s life as a soldier, statesman, and private citizen. In the niches of the rotunda are busts of other Virginia-born presidents who succeeded Washington – Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson – and another work by Houdon; that of LaFayette, the French citizen who was a Major General in service to the United States during the Revolutionary War. But more about the rotunda itself, a magnificent two-story space capped by a dome; a dome that is invisible from the outside. » read more


Right Here In River City

13 rafting the rapidsLinda Burton posting from Richmond, Virginia – “The idle brain is the devil’s playground,” goes Meredith Wilson’s song Ya Got Trouble, pointing out the dire things that might happen “right here in River City” if young folks don’t have enough to do. That warning was a highlight of 1957’s Broadway hit, The Music Man, and here in this River City by the James, it has been heeded, because nobody, young or old, has reason to be idle here. Outside magazine last year named Richmond the “Best River City in America,” probably because of the Class IV whitewater the James provides and the 500 acres of parkland that offer outstanding mountain biking and running trails. But when I looked into the “sports and recreation” aspects of this capital city on the river, I found that Richmond residents have a variety of gung-ho goings on to choose from. Biking ranks high, to be sure, and has some 13 muddy buddyinteresting twists, like the Anthem Moonlight Ride under a full moon, in costume; and the Grand Fondo, an all-age, all-fitness ride that covers 100 miles of the Region’s roads. The Muddy Buddy sounds like the most fun; held at Pocahontas State Park in the rainy spring, it’s a 6-mile race for two-person teams on bikes, and on feet; challenging terrain and mud pits make up the obstacle course. There’ll be some serious biking in 2015 as Richmond hosts the World Road Cycling Championship; it hasn’t been held in the USA since 1986, when it took place in Colorado Springs. Planners are busy now with the infrastructure development for this amazing race. As to everything else going on in River City, you’re going to need a long piece of paper to write it all down. » read more


Few Will Be Grieved

11 Poe pictureLinda Burton posting from Richmond, Virginia – “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved.” Part of a long obituary published in the New York Tribune on October 9, 1849 and signed simply “Ludwig,” this unflattering piece was later published throughout the country. “Ludwig” was revealed as Rufus Griswold, who obviously didn’t like Poe very much; he later wrote a biographical article of Poe and depicted him as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman. Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) had his enemies and his critics, to be sure; yet today this American author and poet continues to influence literature around the world; his work appears throughout popular culture. He is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre; every year the Mystery Writers of America presents the Edgar Award to someone for distinguished work in the mystery genre. 11 Poe raven signHe is further credited with contributing to the science fiction genre, and was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through his writing alone. A number of the homes Poe lived in are dedicated museums today; although he never lived in the Old Stone House in Richmond, it houses the Edgar Allen Poe Museum and displays many items Poe used during his time with his foster parents, John and Sarah Allan; it also features several rare first printings of his works. That’s where I went looking, looking, looking for some ghostly lingerings of this brooding man whose life so often focused on death. » read more


Trailing History

09 jackson statueLinda Burton posting from Richmond, Virginia – I need to put my waders on. History is knee-deep here in Richmond, and then some; it is layered and twined with life as it goes on today. Every downtown street and hill top and river bottom is slathered with the taste of it; first-graders on a yellow bus circle Stonewall Jackson’s statue on the way to school. Sunday skateboarders veer down Bank Street, just below the pristine white-columned capitol, first used in 1792, French-inspired, Thomas Jefferson designed. A man walks his red-collared dog in Great Shiplock Park, they stroll the edge of James River on this side of Manchester Docks, where 09 capitol from bankslaves once arrived from Africa. Across the street condo dwellers live in downtown luxury, it’s the reconverted buildings of Tobacco Row where Lucky Strike is bricked into the factory’s chimney, left behind as a historic masterpiece. Suburban dwellers cross Lee Bridge and head home on J D Hway, that’s Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis, you know; the road is dotted with historic markers directing you to battle sites. Steven Spielberg filmed the movie Lincoln here; no city is more central to the Civil War. But go back farther than that; think John Smith, and Pocahontas, and the Jamestown settlement just downstream. Think 09 st johns churchRevolution, and Patrick Henry, whose famous words rang out in St John’s Church on East Broad; “Give me liberty, or give me death.” It’s more than I can wade through in two weeks; I’m dividing the organized trails into groups for exploring, to get at least an overview; early European settlement days; Revolutionary War; and Civil War. Put on your boots and follow me. » read more