Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fifty-two Words

Constitution of the United States
Because I am writing a manuscript about a homesteader and his community actively involved in a political movement, and because this is a Presidential election year, it seemed important that I take a look at the American Constitution.

As an attorney and as the author of two books dealing with Constitutional issues, I am probably more familiar with the Constitution than most Americans, but an occasional review of the document that forms the basis for our government is important for all of us.

After the Civil War (during the years of the late 1800s when the populist movement was evolving), the two major American political parties showed the influence of the war.  In the North, the Republican Party of Lincoln predominated, and Black voters in the South also tended to vote Republican.  Most land-owning Southern White voters were Democrats.

In Isaac Werner's community many settlers had taken advantage of the benefit given Union Soldiers, crediting a year toward their homestead claim's 5-year residency requirement for each year of military service for the Union.  That resulted in a strong Republican membership among Kansas settlers throughout the state, which continues to the present time.

Then, as now, there was a gulf between the wealthy and the working classes, and the populist movement sought to establish a third party that represented farmers, ranchers, factory workers, and other members of the working classes.  There were many attempts to organize, but the most successful was the People's Party.  Workers believed that both Republican and Democratic candidates for political office forgot the promises made to workers during their campaigns and were more influenced by the wealthy and powerful once they were in office.  The People's Party sought to elect candidates that worked toward goals of the working people of the nation once they were elected.

Signing of the Constitution
The men who came together to draft our Constitution expressly intended to "promote the general welfare" when they signed their names to the document dated September 17, 1787.  A century later, it seemed to the working classes that politicians were more influenced by promoting the welfare of powerful and wealthy men than in acting on behalf of all Americans.

Workers also questioned the even-handedness of Justice, with such examples of the power of the wealthy in hiring private mercenaries like the Pinkertons and in using political influence to call out government forces against peaceful strikers.

Among the books inventoried for Isaac's estate was the "History of the United States."  I do not know if Isaac had a copy of the Constitution, but he had so many books that many were sold at his estate sale by the box rather than individual titles.  In addition, prior to his death he donated nearly one hundred of his books to the community library of the Farmers' Alliance during the populist movement, and many of those books were of a political nature.  It is almost certain that Isaac was very familiar with the Constitution.

When the Constitution was written, providing for the common defense involved reliance on the militia of the separate states, a reliance reflected in the 2nd Amendment.

An important role of the government and those elected to serve the people is often overlooked.  That duty is "to insure domestic Tranquility," a responsibility some political rhetoric seems to disregard during election campaigns--in Isaac's time and today!

The opening fifty-two words of the Constitution are:  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.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Waiting & Rejection

From my Calla Book Collection
Brevity is one of the writing blogs I occasionally follow, and a post titled "Turning the Tables:  The Art of Waiting" caught my attention. Sandra A. Miller and Marc Zegans shared their feelings about waiting to hear from a publisher after submitting a proposal, beginning with the basic truth:  "Waiting sucks!"  It was Marc who offered the best solution:  "The key is to not wait."

I probably think he offered the best advice because that is my approach as well.  Of course, what makes waiting so difficult is the fear of rejection, and Marc has a suggestion to confront that fear:  "...we can simply admit it, tell a friend, decide what we'll do if things don't turn out as hoped, and then plunge back into life."  So, here I am telling my blog friends that I am awaiting a reply from a publisher to whom I have submitted a proposal for Bachelor Homesteader.  

From my Children's Books Collection
I am way ahead of his advice about plunging back into life.  One way I do that is by reading.  I even found a study reported by Nicholas Bakalar in which researchers using data from 3,635 people over the age of 50 (who were participating in a larger health study) divided the sample into three groups:  non-book readers, readers up to 3 1/2 hours a week, and readers more than 3 1/2 hours a week.  They found that book readers lived, on average, almost 2 1/2 years longer than non-book readers, with the 3 1/2 hours or less 17% less likely to die over the 12 years of follow-up and those reading more 23% less likely to die over that period.  Even reading half an hour each day had a significant survival advantage.  For newspaper and periodical readers there were significant but weaker survival advantages.  Wow!  Just another reason to read books!!

With all the focus on construction projects recently, there are things besides reading books that I enjoy but have neglected.  One of those things is spending time at my drawing board, and the pencil drawing of Father Time for my New Year's post was my last time in my studio.  But, at last I sat down to draw a portrait I have wanted to do since my subjects were about 2-year-olds, and now they are young scholars.  I also did a drawing of our cat.  Children and pets are my favorite subjects.

Quilt in progress with old machine
Another thing I enjoy is quilting, and my husband bought me a wonderful new sewing machine over two and a half years ago that hasn't sewn a stitch since we brought it home.  I have completed the task of straightening up my sewing room so I can get to my machine, which is at least a start.  I started once before, trying to discipline myself by beginning step-by-step, reading the instructions page-by-page before actually plugging in the machine.  I didn't get beyond the pages identifying all the parts!  My current approach is just to plug in the machine and go for it!  Even if I break my promise to finally do some sewing, at least the sewing room is neat as a apt cliche'.  

Marc's advice recommended doing a mini-project, suggesting "Pick[ing] something small that will take your mind off things then reward yourself for doing it."  Maybe confronting all the challenges of my fancy sewing machine is too much.  But, then again, I am typing this on my new computer with Windows 10, so how much harder can the sewing machine be?

Cross your fingers for me that this publisher will like my proposal.  And invite all your friends to my blog and my author's face book page so I can show a publisher a devoted following.  I spent much of the late spring and early summer editing and tightening the manuscript, and I confess that having laid it aside for such a long time made me  more brutally objective in my editing.  I believe the manuscript is stronger, and I hope the editor reading the sample chapters that accompanied my proposal agrees.  In the meantime, I may just start a quilt!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Remember the Maine!

Political cartoon from the County Capital
On August 12, 1898 representatives of the United States signed a peace protocol with Spanish representatives in Washington, D.C. ending the short-lived Spanish-American War.  Although Isaac B. Werner died in 1895, his estate remained open until 1898, and my manuscript continues his story and the story of the Populist Movement until the closing of his estate.

The arc of Isaac's life on the Kansas prairie and the arc of the Populist Movement during the 1880s and 1890s ran a similar path, and I use that parallel arc in structuring the manuscript.

The Spanish-American War may be little known by most Americans; yet, it played an important part in the international role America has played and continues to play today. 

Political cartoon from the County Capital
Isaac's community certainly knew about events leading up to the War, for both cartoons in this blog came from their populist newspaper, the County Capital.  In addition, articles from the newspapers published by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were re-published locally.  These reports emphasized Spanish atrocities committed against the Cubans, reports that drove the call for war.

The explosion sinking the U.S. battleship Maine was what ultimately led to the War, first having been identified as resulting from a mine and only later explained as an explosion of a boiler on the ship.  The atrocities and the explosion stirred the sympathies and anger of Americans to support a declaration of war, but the philosophy of America's "Manifest Destiny" to expand also played a role.  By 1898 expansion had reached the west coast of the continental United States, and many believed it was time to look beyond our continental boundaries.  That was not, however, what stirred the common people.

Charge of the Rough Riders
There was also a split over how to pay for the war.  The populists generally favored a pay-as-you-go approach through taxes, but the wealthier class favored bonds.  The cartoon above-left expresses that disagreement.  Its caption reads:  "Hanna:  I don't see anything down there that money won't pay for."  This is a reference to a speech given by Nebraska Senator Allen opposing the issuance of bonds:  "There is not one of that power, sir, who would not see this government sunk to the bottom of the ocean if he could make a fortune by it.  There is not an impulse of patriotism, not a feeling of affection for the government among them.  The government is to them simply a carcass upon which they can feed and fatten."  President McKinley's advisor, Hanna, is depicted as the diver whispering into Uncle Sam's ear to go to war.

The Spanish-American War lasted only about 3 months, and many of its soldiers were drawn from the unemployed.  The cartoon above-right illustrates the post-war reality for these men.  In the years leading up to the war, many jobless men were living on hand-outs, traveling in search of work.  These "tramps" may have found temporary employment as soldiers, but when the war ended there remained no jobs for them.

Cuba obtained their freedom from Spain, although the U.S. army occupied Cuba until 1902 and it remained under U.S. supervision until 1934.  Puerto Rico and Guam became U.S. territories, and the Philippines did not gain independence from the U.S. until 1946. 

John Hay signs Treaty of Paris ending Spanish-American War
For many Americans today, their primary acquaintance with the Spanish-American War is of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders; however, battles fought on water were probably more important to the defeat of the Spanish.  The Battle of San Juan Hill fought by Roosevelt and the Rough Riders was the main land battle, but the sea battles and the siege at Santiago de Cuba, which led the Spanish Commander for that city to surrender on July 17, 1898 are regarded as the pivotal battles.

About 350 Americans died in fighting for the Cubans, but far more died of disease contracted during the war.  For the Spanish, the war signaled the collapse of the mighty Spanish Empire.  For America, it introduced the U.S. as a major world player.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

One Community's Country School

District 70 School, Stafford County, KS
Because early settlers valued the importance of education, providing schools for their children was a high priority.  I have written several blogs about early schools which can be found in the blog archives.  "Early Kansas Schools," 12-17-2015; "Isaac Builds a School House," 10-11-2012; "One Room Schoolhouse Surprise," 7-12-2012; "Once There was a Community," 3-5-2015; and "Back to School," 9-24-2015.

However, I had the opportunity to examine the records of one Stafford County country school--records that dated from 1885 to 1940--and they provided an interesting glimpse of a specific community.  Naturally, I was particularly interested in the early records which covered the time period during which Isaac Werner helped build District 33, Emerson School in Stafford Co., KS and attended various community meetings in the school.

The records I examined were of School District 57, in Stafford County, Kansas, Township 24, Range 15, sections 19, 20, 30, 29, half of 28, 31, 32, half of 33, 6, 5, and half of 4.  School District 57 was located just a few miles southwest of Macksville.
Today's students travel miles to reach school, but before there were buses and cars that could cover long distances quickly, schools were located nearby the families they served.  District 57 served 8 full sections and 3 half sections, drawing its students from 9 1/2 square miles.  
The Clerk's Record for District 57 states that the school district was formed May 9, 1885, notices having been posted April 28, 1885.  At the first district meeting on May 9, 1885 the following officers were elected:  R. T. Anderson, Director; J. L. Carter, Treasurer; and C. E. Seibert, Clerk.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs describing early country schools, children were needed to help with the farm during busy planting, hoeing, watering, and harvesting seasons, so school was conducted during a Fall Term after harvest and a Spring Term prior to planting.  Unfortunately, the school terms occurred during months of more severe weather, which may account for some of the absences I observed in the attendance records.

Eight family surnames were represented among the 1887 Fall Term and 1888 Spring Term at District 57.  Among the 16 students, ages ranged from 5 to 15.  The teacher's method of keeping attendance was confusing, with classes in September, October, and November, but possibly December as well, as there appeared to have been a total of 95 days of instruction.  The same students are listed for the Spring Term, although one 14-year-old boy who did not attend in the fall attended spring classes and entries were made for an unnamed student.  Classes ended May 11, 1888, with a total of 60 days of instruction.  Twelve children had perfect attendance, but 4 boys missed more than 20 days, perhaps at the end of the term when they were needed to work in the fields.

Emerson School House Isaac Werner helped build
Through 1888 the teachers' salaries were $30 a month, except for the last teacher, who received $32.50.  In 1889 the salary reverted to $30, but 1891-1894 the salary was $35 a month.  The Annual Statistical Report posted in another part of the Record indicates that there was no difference between salaries of female and male teachers over those years reported. 

Lumber for the school house was $198 + 30; freight on the school furniture was $27.88; digging the well was $12.50 and the pump was $8.50; the stove and fixtures were $19.10; and plastering the school walls was $49.50.  Charges for coal were $5.50 a half ton.  One expense that stood out as a significant measure of the community's respect for the children's education was $12.50 for a Dictionary!  While these amounts may seem small today, this was a huge expenditure for so few families to share in such hard times.

It was fun browsing through the records of one community's commitment to the future of their children.  I hope you enjoyed looking back about a century and a quarter with me.