Why We Cherish History
Jay shares thoughts on the value of history and why it provides a vital foundation for our future.
The stories of our past provide the glue that binds us together. A set of common experiences, shared values. Challenges that we have overcome, good times and difficult times. And, taken all together, these weave a pattern and a strong fabric from which we can move forward. We in America, and especially here in New Hampshire, are fortunate to live in a place where history is all around us. And, at the Sunshine Report, we love to share the fascinating stories of our past – to highlight and educate, but also to provide the basis for sketching a positive, exciting vision for the future.
In his famed book What is a Nation? French scholar and philosopher Ernest Renan, whose work has influenced much of our own understanding of the United States, articulated that a nation is a soul, and a spiritual principle, which can only exist based on the possession of a rich legacy of common memories, struggles, and heritage. Though we are a relatively young nation, we here in the USA share a strong history, one that laid the foundation for a wave of democratic reform throughout the world which still continues today. We’ve faced an incredible amount of adversity at our fairly young age as well, and it's how we’ve risen to the occasion in these moments throughout our history that allow the bonds we share as Americans to exist, the bonds which as Renan described, make up the soul of this American nation.
That is why it’s important for us to not only remember our history, but to be grateful for it as well. The lessons our history provides gives great insight into who we are, where we came and who we still aspire to be. Have we lived up to our guiding principles, or do we still have work to be done? Our history gives us perspective and reminds us that how we evolve as a nation is in fact a choice we must make. By looking back on certain moments of our history, whether it be the call to arms that was answered by the greatest generation during World War II, our struggles during the 1960’s, or our great American resurgence during the Reagan years, we are able to better grasp both what’s possible when we embrace our ideals and work together. I often speak about America being an experiment, and it’s our history that ultimately makes this experiment so extraordinary, so special and ultimately so very successful.
At a time when we are told we are divided unlike ever before, it’s my belief that we’re simply being challenged to once again realize our shared history. We accomplish more when we collectively acknowledge and respect our history, both as a means of showing gratitude for those who came before us and for the work still left to be done to live up to our ideals. And as we go into this Thanksgiving holiday, I couldn’t think of a better time to demonstrate just how grateful we are for our shared history of this nation we love so dearly.
Granite State History – You Can Easily Visit
If you’ve got a few extra minutes and you’d like to enjoy some great New Hampshire history, there is no better place to soak it all in than a trip to our State Capitol building in Concord. As many know, the Capitol building is historic not because it’s the oldest capitol building in the country (that belongs to Maryland), but because it is the oldest in terms of most consecutive years the House and Senate Chambers being used for official duties. But the visit I have in mind for you is actually to the grounds of the State House rather than going inside.
In front of the Capitol stand three statues, honoring the services of General John Stark, Honorable Daniel Webster, and President Franklin Pierce.
General John Stark was a true statesman. He was a General in the New Hampshire Militia, credited with winning the Battle of Saratoga, the turning point for the American Revolution which would ultimately lead to our independence from Great Britain. But most importantly, John Stark coined our state motto “Live Free or Die." And, as you may or may not also know, the full quote is actually, “Live Free or Die; Death is Not the Worst of Evils.”
The Second Statue is of Daniel Webster.
For those who don't know, Daniel Webster was a Congressman from New Hampshire and a Senator from Massachusetts. He was also arguably the most famous statesman of his time. Fun fact: On July 4, 1825, Daniel Webster eulogized both Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who passed away hours apart from each other. A poor farm boy from Salisbury, New Hampshire, Daniel Webster went on to become the only person in U.S. history to serve as Secretary of State for three consecutive Presidents. Check out his statue on the lawn in front of the Capitol.
The Third Statue is President Franklin Pierce.
Franklin Pierce is the only President from New Hampshire. His meteoric rise in public service was truly remarkable. In 1831, at the age of 27, Franklin Pierce was elected Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. The following year, Franklin Pierce was elected to serve in Congress and filled one of the five congressional seats New Hampshire had at the time (today we have only two congressional districts). After two terms in the House, Franklin Pierce was elected to the United States Senate, he was 32 and at the time was the youngest member of the Senate. Before being elected the 14th President of the United States, Franklin Pierce served in the volunteer army in the Mexican American War. He rose to the rank of brigadier general and became a well-known leader and statesman to many. Despite being away from politics for nearly a decade, the Democratic Party on the 49th round of balloting selected Franklin Pierce to be their nominee in the general election, and Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire would go on to win all but four states in the 1852 Presidential Election.
So much history right here in New Hampshire and you can be part of even more history honoring one of these gentlemen. Next Tuesday, November 23rd at 10am there will be a wreath laying ceremony to celebrate the 246th birthday of Franklin Pierce. The event is open to the public and will be taking place at the Old North Cemetery in Concord.
Austin Corbin – Newport Native, American Tycoon
The story of Austin Corbin is a truly wild tale that taken at face value is almost impossible to believe. Corbin was from my hometown of Newport, NH and the son of the town doctor. Born in a small house near the North Newport Covered Bridge, he went on to Harvard Law School, and then made his way to Davenport, Iowa and that is where his true rise to success began.
In Iowa, Corbin went into the banking industry and was a partner at a local bank. When the 1857 financial panic hit, his bank was the only bank in the country not to suspend making payments. Turned out this set him up for the future and helped him succeed in launching the first national bank – of course with a little help from his cousin, Salmon Chase who happened to be Secretary of the Treasury at the time. Ever heard of Chase bank? Yes, it is named after Austin’s cousin, Salmon. Corbin would then take this success to New York City where he decided to jump into the railroad business with both feet, acquiring and consolidating all the major lines on Long Island – thus creating the Long Island Railroad. Yes, this young man who grew up in the small town of Newport became a railroad tycoon and the owner of the Long Island Railroad (LIRR).
But Corbin couldn’t ignore his New Hampshire upbringing and bought his childhood home in Newport, which he tore down, except for his room growing up. In Newport, he always fancied himself a farmer and he began to buy up farmland in the adjacent town of Croydon, NH, as well as some of the surrounding towns until at one point he had amassed 60 farms. So, what did he do with these farms? He turned them into an animal preserve, erected a 26-mile-long fence and imported exotic wild game including buffalos. And, this perhaps would be his longest lasting legacy.
Today, the animal preserve is still around. This 25,000-acre property is larger than 60 percent of NH’s towns and has an exclusive membership list of 30 people. Finding information on the preserve (officially called the Blue Mountain Forest Preserve Association) is difficult at best but the neighbors of the preserve talk about hearing the bugling of Elk and occasionally see wild European Boar.
Corbin would die on his way to the preserve when his carriage was overturned after he opened an umbrella and spooked the horses. After his death, the New York Times ran a front page notice of his passing and today there is still a building in Manhattan, downtown near Wall Street, the Corbin Building, that bears his name.
Positive Profile of the Week – Senator Judd Gregg
This week we are delighted to highlight a true New Hampshire leader, a person who has devoted his career to serving the people of the Granite State and has won respect far and wide. I am of course referring to former Senator Judd Gregg.
Judd resides in Rye, New Hampshire with his wife Kathy. The two are retired from public service and enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. Both Judd and Kathy truly deserve to rest for they worked tirelessly for the State of New Hampshire dating back to 1979.
Judd is the son of former New Hampshire Governor Hugh Gregg. A graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Columbia University, and Boston University Law School, Judd went on to practice law while he and wife Kathy raised their young family. In 1978, Judd’s political career would begin by winning a seat on the New Hampshire Executive Council. In 1980, when James Cleveland announced his retirement from Congress after 18 years in office. Judd announced his candidacy, won his party's nomination and went on to win the 2nd Congressional District seat where he served for 4 terms. In 1988, then Congressman Gregg would run for Governor succeeding Gov. John H. Sununu. After serving two terms and leaving the state with a $21 million surplus, Judd was elected to the United States Senate.
In the Senate, Judd served as Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Banking Committee. He was amongst the most highly respected and powerful members of the Senate. He was a proponent for cutting taxes and reigning in spending. He worked across the aisle to ensure our troops had the resources they needed both at home and abroad. He worked tirelessly for the people of New Hampshire and made it a point to stay close to those he served. Every 4th of July Parade you would see Judd Gregg and his dedicated team marching the parade route handing out moose pins, thunder sticks, and his well-known green head feathers for the kids.
Senator Gregg worked closely with President George W. Bush. Judd played a key role in 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns for Bush. Judd took on the role of both Al Gore and John Kerry in debate prep for the Bush Campaign. Senator Gregg would accompany President Bush aboard Air Force One on trips to New Hampshire, have meetings on key finance policy in the Oval Office and would relax with the first Family at Camp David.
Senator Judd Gregg served in a highly substantive and successful manner. He was ready when needed, rose to the task, and then retired from public office only to return home, away from the spotlight, but with an unwavering and continued commitment to New Hampshire and our great nation. We are deeply grateful for all that he has accomplished and for his many contributions to our well-being. Thank you, Senator Gregg!
Quotes of the Week: History
“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” ― Edmund Burke
“Study the past if you would define the future.” ― Confucius
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” ― George Orwell
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” ― Winston S. Churchill
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.” ― Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays