Tag Archives: Revolutionary War

A Thumbnail for the 4th of July — By Juliet Waldron

AhamiltonHe wasn’t born here, but in the British West Indies, on the small volcanic island of Nevis, the son of a strong-willed woman and the younger son of a Scottish Duke. He’s been more or less been (except for his appearance on our Ten Dollar Bill) pushed out of the American pantheon, but here, the day before our national holiday, I’d like to say a few words about Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton was sent here at seventeen to attend King’s College (now Columbia) by planters who thought such a bright kid should have a chance to become something more than a clerk. (Working in an office, learning the realities of the three-corner trade, had been his only means of support from the age of eleven.) When the Revolution broke out, Hamilton was at first a loyalist, but, fortunately for us, he changed his mind. Soon, the college money went to outfit an artillery company of which he became the captain, a rank earned in our fledgling military because he knew trig, and therefore could use his weapons. BTW 18th Century artillerymen stood on the front lines and took fire, both from the enemy and from the not infrequent explosions of the rusty old French & Indian War cannons they’d commandeered from local armories. Hamilton survived the first years of the war in this way until he came to the attention of George Washington, who was in need of bright young men who knew how to push paper and assist their over-worked commander-in-chief as aides de camp.

On the issue of slavery, Hamilton differed from other prominent founders. During the Revolutionary War, he and his South Carolina planter friend, John Laurens, proposed our Congress declare that slaves willing to bear arms on the Patriot side would be set free, formed into companies and armed to fight. You can imagine the kind of reception this out-of-the-box notion received. He also expressed the then broad-minded belief that blacks’ “natural facilities” were “as good as that of whites.” Later, after the Revolution, he joined John Jay’s New York Manumission society and was active in the cause of ending slavery in that state. He, personally, never owned slaves.

Although there are plenty of other ways in which Hamilton was a man who saw far ahead of his agrarian-minded contemporaries, his fame has steadily diminished. I think this is because neither Left nor Right can completely claim him. He marched to his own drummer, and that drummer was a strong pragmatism—what is now called “the real world solution”—which still doesn’t seem to be very popular among our legislators. He wasn’t drawn to ivory tower thinking, but to what would work—what would make America a great nation. He wanted roads and bridges. He wanted “manufacturies;” he wanted insurance and banks, and all the related industrial development which has carried us into the forefront of nations. Of capitalism, he had no illusions. He knew that wealthy, privileged people might do the “right thing,” but only if they could be motivated by self-interest. He knew how to horse trade and thoroughly understood the concept of “mutually beneficial.”

More than all these things, though, I think he wanted to see America become a meritocracy, where the cream rose to the top. He believed in justice, too, and in his legal career, tried to see it done, and not just available for those who had the coin to pay. As a young man, he defended a small business owner, a ferryman who’d been whipped by a wealthy landowner for refusing to be always at his beck and call. Hamilton never forgot what it had been like to try to make his way in a world governed by privilege, without wealth or family. Surely, this man is a stellar example of “the American Way.”

~~~Juliet Waldron

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How important is research? by S M Senden

I have been complimented over and over again about the depth of my research for Clara’s Wish, and my ability to re-create another era so readers feel as if they are right there.  In preparing for an interview, someone asked me that question ‘How Important is research?’  They thought that research amounted to reading a couple of books, looking up some things on the internet and that would be it.  Then I would be ready to write a book set in another era.

I had to laugh at that, for research ~ at least for me ~ can become a deep quagmire that is difficult to extract myself.  But then I do consider myself a devoted history geek.  Once I find myself doing some research on a subject, all too soon it points me in another direction, to another book, to another set of references and so on.

I am currently researching two historical settings for two books I am writing.  The periods are sufficiently diverse that it is easy for me to keep the research separate in my mind.  One of these stories is set primarily in Europe in the late 1700’s about the time of the American Revolution, running through the French Revolution and into the Napoleonic era.

The story is about a young girl, Eleanor, who has finished her education in the French convent and comes home to live in England with her only living relative ~ her sister.  The sister has married well and has young children.  They introduce Eleanor into the society of the Bon Ton hoping to find her a suitable husband.

In researching this strata of society, I was caught up in the amazing and volatile times in which they lived.  Since I am a hopeless history geek, I like to have readers learn something as well as be swept along in a good story.  Dorothy Sayers always managed to teach readers something, and I aspire to emulate her.  I read about the people that I wanted to include, in some way in my book, for their lives were extraordinary.  Some in particular are Madame Tussaud, Miss Lenormand, the Duchess of Devonshire and the possibilities that arise when the some of these people meet at Spa in Belgium with a whisper of possible spies and political intrigue.

I have no idea at this point where all my research may take me.  I have the idea for the story and what I would like to have happen to the main characters.  Yet, I do not know how this will end.  My research may change the story or it may reinforce it.  That is the process that I love, creating, pulling research and story together to make another era come alive, not just for me, but for those who read the words I have written.

So, how much research is enough?  I can only say that ~ for me ~ my research never seems to end, for it always points me in a new direction.  However, I do have to get the story written, and as I continue the research process, I can add or take something away and make corrections as I work.  Sooner or later, I will need to say, enough and hope that I have done my best to create another era and bring a fulfilling experience to my readers.

Right now, I better get back to research, for there are still so many books to read!

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Schuyler RIP

We lost a cat recently. He was one of the “legendary” one. Every lover of the domestic feline knows what I mean. These cats have strong personalities and compelling backstories, rather like the best kind of character.

Cat owners usually have a pair or more of the furry dominators in residence, and this is because   “You can’t have just one” is as true of cats as it is of potato chips. The standouts aren’t common. You may only host two or three of these in a lifetime of pet parenthood. It isn’t just that these special cats are sociable, interested  in the doings of their owners and in keeping them company. These cats possess an elusive, mystical aura.  

Schuyler came off the hard streets of an adjacent comatose steel town. He was about two years old when we found him at that Humane Society, with a tail broken in several places and a bad hip.  He called to us, then reached through the cage bars to hook my sleeve. It didn’t take my husband and I long to realize he was the one. We learned that he had been dropped off by some people who couldn’t keep him, but thought well enough of him to try this last resort method of finding him a home. I was working on Revolutionary War  novels at that time, and already had a “Hamilton,” so he was named for another favorite character: “Major General Philip Schuyler.”

He was skinny and roman-nosed. He would always favor one back leg, but when our Vet first checked him out, she said he was basically healthy. “Just feed him up, and he’ll be fine,” was her advice. As you can see from the picture, “feeding him up” was not a problem.

There were three other cats here when he came, but he quickly promoted himself to what the German’s call “Furst” a/k/a  Top Cat. I don’t remember much fighting, but his long Tom-Cat-hood and streetfighting experience probably gave him the edge to psych out his new mates. Schuyler quickly became my husband’s favorite. He spent most of his fourteen years either in his lap or curled up beside him.  He greeted Chris when he came home from work, and said good-bye, too, every morning.  Sky stayed with him tirelessly while my husband endured a slow recovery from cancer surgery.

He was a pretty cat, the kind you’d see in a Flemish painting, curled on a bench in a black-and-white tiled kitchen scene. He had pink paws and a pink nose and shell pink ears. One of my online friends, seeing his picture, observed that he had “TES.” I had never heard of TES, so she explained that her cat also had this condition. She said it meant “translucent ear syndrome.”

Sky was a hunter, as you’d expect from an ex-stray, and merciless to mousies and voles. Many mornings we found them laid as offerings on our front steps. He had a musical purr. He also had a great fondness for doughnuts. We quickly learned that we had to hide these inside a cupboard, because if we simply set them on the counter, they’d be on the floor in the next second, the bag torn apart, the contents spilled and hastily gobbled. So much for the notion that cats don’t enjoy sugar!

Sadly, he’s with his mates now, in our pet necropolis. This autumn, I’ll plant daffodils on his grave. RIP Schuyler.

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