Jamestown: What’s new after 400 years?

I have always thought that Jamestown (June 2007) was sold short when compared to Plymouth. Thanks to Dr. William Kelso for giving us new information supported with facts.

William Moye
Via e-mail

The article “Jamestown at 400: Digging for Truth” was enlightening but included one misconception. Dr. Kelso is quoted as saying that “as far as I can determine, Jamestown was the first permanent English colony anywhere on earth.” Obviously he has overlooked the forced colonization of Ireland.

Stephen O’Brien
Anchorage, Alaska

The Powers of the President

Regarding the June issue’s article “Because I Said So,” there is no reference in the piece to the mammoth 2006 defense bill provisions.

There is a rider with two stealth provisions in the 591-page bill (PL109-364) that makes it easier for the government to declare martial law. Under the new provisions, the president can use the military as a domestic police force. The president does not even have to notify Congress until after he has done so.

The reason we do not want the military patrolling our streets is that under military law, the Bill of Rights becomes null and void, and strips the American people of any vestige of freedom. There will be no rules, no protections, no judicial oversight and no elections. The “any condition” language in the bill opens the door for total power—a dictatorship.

Congress has failed to exercise its power to check the growing power of the executive branch.

Donnel J. Hubbard
Culpeper, Va.

One of the reasons I have always enjoyed your magazine is that it presents the facts of our great history and leaves the daily politics behind. That was until I read Matthew Crenson’s and Benjamin Ginsberg’s article on the history of “abuses” of the Constitution by the executive branch.

I am not a history scholar, but the authors have completely missed the mark on their most recent perceived abuse. The statement that “Bush is hardly the first president to start a foreign war on his own initiative” strikes me as ignorance of the facts at best or outright left-wing talking points at worst.

I suppose one could argue about who started the War on Terror, however, there is no argument on who backed the president to use the force he deemed necessary to fight the threats to our country. Please refer Mr. Crenson and Mr. Ginsberg to House Joint Resolution 114. It passed the House on October 10, 2002, by a vote of 296-133, and the Senate on October 11 by a vote of 77-23. That hardly seems like one single president’s “initiative.”

Please remind your contributors to stick to the facts and leave their political leanings at the ballot box. I am not interested in revisionist history.

Joel Wuebker
Minster, Ohio

English as First—and Only—Language

I have just finished reading “Speaking American” in your August 2007 issue. Contrary to your statement that “there was no vote regarding a national language,” my wife went to school in Malaga, N.J., in the 1940s and her history textbook indicated that decisions were made by the Founders regarding the national language, the national bird, flower, etc., and that there was a vote and English won by one vote. I never read it myself in a history text, but I suspect many others were taught this as fact.

Robert McConnell
Alhambra, Calif.

Editor’s note: Sometimes even textbooks get things wrong. Many people believe there was a vote to make English the national language, but neither in the Constitutional Convention nor the Constitution itself is reference made to any national language. As author Friederike Baer pointed out in her article, a 1795 vote in Congress to have federal documents printed in German as well as English was rejected. This incident has come to be known as the “Muhlenberg Myth,” named for then Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg, a Pennsylvania German.

Memories Come Flooding Back

I enjoyed reading Chris Chandler’s article on the 1937 Ohio River flood (August 2007). It brought back a childhood memory. In 1937 I was a 12-year-old living in Steubenville, Ohio, 22 miles downstream from Pittsburgh, Pa. At that time, a local theater had an amateur show every Saturday. The weekend of the flood, as the lower streets of Steubenville were underwater, I participated in the show. I played “Beautiful Ohio” on my Hawaiian guitar (now called a steel guitar or Dobro) and won $5. That was rather good money for a 12-year-old in 1937.

Rob R. MacGregor
Winchester, Va.