OTD in History… January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense argues for American independence

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OTD in History… January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense argues for American independence

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine (1737–1809) publishes anonymously his pamphlet Common Sense arguing for American independence from Great Britain. The popular pamphlet written as a sermon delineated the colonies “grievances” against the British Parliament and the monarchy. The pamphlet’s philosophy “united the colonies” behind the idea of independence, and its publication is considered a major turning point in the road towards American independence, which the Second Continental Congress declared barely six months later. Historian Peter D. G. Thomas indicated, “The crisis of 1774 became the war of 1775 and the revolution of 1776.” (Thackeray, 297) While historian Gordon Wood in his book The American Revolution: A History notes “Common Sense was the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire Revolutionary era; it went through twenty-five editions in 1776 alone,” and sold 500,000 copies. (Wood, 55)

Source: History.com

Paine arrived from Britain in November 1774 with a “letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin,” before the outbreak of the fighting between the colonists and Britain with the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. Colonists were aggrieved with Britain for their taxation without representation, and then the Coercive Acts of 1774 in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party of December 1773. Paine believed the problem the colonists had against moving forward towards independence was their ties with Britain and belief that reconciliation was still a possibility. The situation only exacerbated in 1775 with the Battles of Lexington, Concord and then in June with the Battle of Bunker Hill. On July 5, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Olive Branch Petition the thirteen colonies’ last appeal to avoid a full war with Great Britain, while almost simultaneously on July 6, adopted a Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. King George III refused to read the petition, and instead, on August 23, 1775, issued “A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition” saying the colonies were in an “open and avowed rebellion” after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Then to force conciliation Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act at the end of 1775, prohibiting trade or else American ships would be seized.

In the fall of 1775, Paine began writing Common Sense under the working title Plain Truth, which he originally intended to be a series letters published in Philadelphia newspapers, however, it soon grew too long and he decided to publish it as a pamphlet upon the recommendation of Benjamin Rush. Robert Bell published the first edition, Bell publicized it so much that it began a best seller and there were demands for a second printing, however, Paine discovered Bell made no money from the sales. Incensed, Paine decided that the Bradford Brothers, who published the Pennsylvania Evening Post would publish his expanded second edition with additional appendices. Bell, however, refused to cease publishing a second edition. The war between the two and the rivaling publications drummed up interest with the public and contributed to sales.

Source: Brandeis University Special Collections

According to historians Frank W. Thackeray and John E. Findling in their book Events That Changed America in the Eighteenth Century explain, in Common Sense Thomas Paine “argued the advantages of a separate national existence.” Paine claimed America could have free trade with any nation, be free from being involved with European wars, and live without “the small island” of Britain ruling a “continent” from “3,000 miles away.” Paine argued that Americans should “immediately declare independence “For God’s sake let us come to a final separation… the birthday of the new world is at hand.” Paine concluded, “To know whether it be the interest of this continent to be Independent, we need only ask this simple question: Is it the interest of a man to be a boy all his life?” (Thackeray, 97–98)

For the first time Paine argued that King George III or as he referred to him a “royal brute” was responsible for the policies imposed on the colonies and Prime Minister Lord Frederick North was doing the king’s bidding. Part of Paine’s revolutionary argument was, “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America,” when at that point colonists saw themselves as British subjects. Paine argued, “This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.” Colonists and even the Continental Congress distinguished the policies of the prime minister and parliament from the monarchy, for the first time Paine linked the two as equally as bad for the colonies.

Thackeray and Findling believe “Common Sense was an important piece of propaganda… it helped prepare the public for the final break.” (Thackeray, 97–98) Founding Father John Adams declared, “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” Paine also reached out to a new audience the “common people” with Common Sense, the “artisans” and those frequenting the taverns by not using Latin and referencing literature replacing it references to the “Bible and Book of Common Prayer.” Paine declared, “I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense.” As Wood explains, “Although Paine was criticized for using ungrammatical language and coarse imagery, he showed the common people, who in the past had not been very involved in politics, that fancy words and Latin quotations no longer mattered as much as honesty and sincerity and the natural revelation of feelings.” (Wood, 55)

Paine would go on to fight in the American Revolution until 1777, when he worked for the Second Continental Congress in the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Upon returning to Britain in 1787, Paine continued writing pamphlets championing the French Revolution with “The Rights of Man.” In the pamphlet, he attacked Member of Parliament Edmund Burke, which forced him to flee from Britain to France. In 1792, Britain issued a writ for Paine’s arrest because he advocated overthrowing governments, he was found guilty of seditious libel against Burke “in absentia.” Paine fled to France and he was elected to the French National Convention but by December 1793, he was arrested and in a French prison. In November 1794, Paine was released after James Monroe intervened. The same year Paine published The Age of Reasonarguing against Christianity and in favor of deism. In 1802, Paine returned to America but his influence waned after he criticized President George Washington and because of his views on Christianity. Common Sense, however, remains the best-selling book published in the United States.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Thackeray, Frank W. Events That Changed America in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998.

“Common Sense (pamphlet).” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_(pamphlet)

“Thomas Paine.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine

Wood, Gordon S. American Revolution: A History. New York: Random House, 2003.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in Judaic Studies at Concordia University. She is the author of “Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896.” She is a journalist, librarian and historian and a former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education and political journalism.

 

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OTD in history… June 21, 1888, the United States Constitution is ratified becomes law

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OTD in history… June 21, 1888, the United States Constitution is ratified becomes law

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, June 21, 1788, the United States Constitution is ratified after New Hampshire became the ninth out of thirteen states to ratify it, making the Constitution “the law of the land.” After the Revolutionary War, the loose Articles of Confederation did not give the government enough power to govern the new nation. Congress agreed they needed to be revised to create a new constitution. The Constitutional Convention met beginning on May 25, 1787, at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia now known as Independence Hall. Three months later on September 17, 1787, the Congress completed their task of creating a Constitution, which dictated the new federal government with checks and balances, and three branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial. The document created and ratified only 10 months later is still 231 years later up for interpretation and has grown with 27 additional amendments to fit the country’s changing needs.

The Articles of Confederation gave the unicameral Congress with one representative from each state very little power, for anything to get accomplished nine states had to vote in favor. As Frank W. Thackeray and John E. Findling write in their book “Events that changed the world in the eighteenth century,” “Congress was given authority to control foreign affairs, declare war and make peace, coin money, borrow money, requisition states for money, settle interstate disputes, govern the western territory and admit new states, run the postal service, and handle Indian affairs.” (Thackeray and Findling, 133) However, the major problems facing Congress was that they not “authorized to levy taxes or regulate interstate commerce,” and they had “no powers of enforcement.” In 1786, George Washington remarked, “I predict the worst consequences from a half-starved limping government, always moving upon crutches and tottering at every step,” and in 1787, Alexander Hamilton declared the country had “almost the last stage of national humiliation.” (Thackeray and Findling 134)

When the 55 delegates with George Washington as the president met for the Constitutional Convention, they thought they would mostly being amending the Articles of Confederation; however, most wanted a new document. The main points they had to resolve were “representation in Congress, separation of powers, and division of power between the states and the national government.” (Thackeray and Findling, 134) They created two houses a lower House of Representatives, based on population taking into account slaves voted by the people, and an “equally represented” upper house, the Senate was chosen by the state legislatures. Three branches of government were created, legislative, executive and judicial, with “an elaborate set of checks and balances,” which included, “a presidential veto, Congressional authority over money matters, and lifetime tenure for judges.” As for the division of powers, the central government would be able “to levy taxes, regulate foreign and interstate commerce, and pass laws” to implement their powers. (Thackeray and Findling, 135)

In total, there were seven articles to the Constitution. The Constitution began with “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.”

In September 1787, at the conclusion of the convention 38 out of the 41 delegates signed the new Constitution. To become law, Article VII stipulated nine out of the thirteen states had to ratify it. The Constitution became a subject of much debate, which those supporting called Federalists and those that opposed called anti-Federalists, the factions ended up led by the philosophies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson respectively. The main concerns were the lack of guarantees for “fundamental liberties” and the issue of states’ rights stemming from the fear of “authoritarian central government.” (Thackeray and Findling, 136)

Each state held a ratification convention. Right off, the smaller states starting on December 7, which included “Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut” ratified the Constitution quickly in December and January. Massachusetts, however, put up a fight concerned about the lack of guarantees for “basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press.” In February 1888, the state promised that a Bill of Rights would be amended to the Constitution and then the state narrowly ratified it. Then in April and May Maryland and South Carolina ratified the constitution, however, it failed to pass in Rhode Island in March. On June 21, New Hampshire ratified the Constitution passing it into law.

The two largest states Virginia and New York were on the fence, and although nine states ratified the Constitution, it was necessary for the two states to pass it as well for governing. In Virginia, Washington used his “influence” to ensure ratification in June. In New York it was more complicated the two factions Federalists led by Hamilton and anti-Federalists by Governor George Clinton were dueling it out at the convention, Clinton popularity was preventing ratification. To sway the delegates, Hamilton joined James Madison and John Jay where they wrote a series of commentary in favor of the Constitution called the Federalist Papers. The 85 essays were able to persuade the delegates to ratify the Constitution in July.

Elections were set for December 15, 1788, to Saturday, January 10, 1789, and the government would convene on March 4, 1789, with George Washington elected the first president and John Adams as Vice President. Six months later on September 25, 1789, Congress with Madison added 12 amendments known as the Bill of Rights, which were then sent to the states to ratify. In November 1789, North Carolina ratified the Constitution. All that was left was holder over Rhode Island, who found fault with the federal government controlling the currency and slavery, when the government “threatened” to cut “commercial ties,” Rhode Island narrowly ratified the Constitution on May 29, 1890, becoming the 13th state to do so. It took over a year later on December 15, 1791, for all the states to ratify the Bill of Rights.

The United States Constitution is the oldest working and most successful in history. The Founding Fathers created a document that had the forethought to grow and expand as the nation, its territories did and times changed. Historian Pauline Maier in her book Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787–1788 concludes, “The Constitution they gave us proved more successful than its most devoted advocated imagined: It has guided the United States as its boundaries expanded from the Mississippi to the Pacific and its influence spread over the world… Without the Constitution’s critics determined opposition, however, the first ten amendments would not have become a part of the Constitution for later generations to transform into a powerful instrument for the defense of American freedom.” (Maier, 467, 468) Whatever crisis the country has faced or will and whoever becomes the president and whether they abuse their power or not, the Constitution is a living document that protects the nation and its people and their future guaranteeing freedom and the continuation of the oldest and most successful democratic experiment.

SOURCES & READ MORE

Klarman, Michael J. The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution. New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2016.

Maier, Pauline. Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787–1788. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

History December 30, 2016: Universities continue dropping American history requirement as enrollment problems plague departments

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Universities continue dropping American history requirement as enrollment problems plague departments

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Another university in the United States is joining the ranks of those dropping the requirement that their history majors complete a course in American history to graduate. George Washington University has become the latest university to drop the American history requirement. Less than a third of any of the universities and colleges listed in US News’ Best Colleges top 25 universities and colleges even require an American history course of their majors, with private colleges and universities leading the way, while more public schools maintain the requirement.

The issue, which is creating a new generation illiterate about the history of the very country they live in, was the topic of a recent report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni entitled “No U.S. History? How College History Departments Leave the United States out of the Major.” In universities’ attempt to give students more freedom in their education they are creating a new generation ill informed of the history of their nation and lacking the tools necessary for an enlightened electorate, citizens and future leaders. The greater problem, however, is the “dramatic” declining graduation rates in history degrees and enrollment in history courses according to the American Historical Association.

The 21st Century University is completing the process that philosopher Harold Bloom lamented in his 1987 book “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students.” In his book, which amounted to a manifesto, Bloom charged universities of a politically liberal agenda that deprived students of learning the humanities and the great books of Western thought and civilization referred to as a liberal education in exchange for self-interest at the same time failing its students. Bloom’s book and article that preceded it were inspired by the culture wars of the 1980s where universities were dropping other traditional requirements for their students and altering their curriculum that has continued evolved into the one common on university campuses today. Bloom was fighting a war on the elite universities particularly the Ivy League that he believed assaulted traditional education creating a conflict between “culture and civilization.”

Now universities are completing their war on Western civilization by dropping American history requirements from their history majors. University history education has been practically taken over by obscure areas and sub-topics focusing on social history versus political history, now global history is taking preeminence over studying American history or even European history. Long gone are the days when history departments required a foreign language component of their majors while theses are also mostly going to the wayside, now most universities just loosely require time-periods and general geographic areas.

Some universities still require their students to take a survey course in either American, European, World or another geographic location; others allow micro-histories to substitute or even allow high grades in high school Advanced Placement (AP) credits in US History to suffice. Some university history departments have geographic requirements, but they do not include the United States, some even require that students take specific areas from “African, Asian, and Middle Eastern history or in Latin American history.” In total 34 colleges have “general geographical-distribution requirements “that explicitly exclude the US.

When there is an American history requirement history departments are too “lax” allowing micro-histories, mostly social history which ACTA calls “trendy, highly specialized courses” to substitute. These courses do not as “KC Johnson, senior professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center” notes cover essentials for a proper historical perspective on the US leading Johnson to question, “What happened to fields such as military, constitutional, and diplomatic history?” In total, 11 history departments at the top schools allow students to fulfill American history requirements with micro-history courses that barely touch on the most important events and issues in American history.

Bloom was concerned even in 1987 about the lack of American history being taught, writing, “The upshot of all of this for the education of young Americans is that they know much less about American history and those who were held to be its heroes. This was one of the few things that they used to come to college with that had something to do with their lives. Nothing has taken its place except a smattering of facts learned about other nations or cultures and a few social science formulas.” (Bloom, p. 34)

Nearly thirty years later, Michael Poliakoff, ACTA’s president-elect commented with the same lament Bloom had, “Historical illiteracy is the inevitable consequence of lax college requirements, and that ignorance leads to civic disempowerment. A democratic republic cannot thrive without well-informed citizens and leaders. Elite colleges and universities, in particular, let the nation down when the examples they set devalue the study of United States history.” While Eric Bledsoe, ACTA’s director of curricular improvementand academic outreach noted: “It is the obligation of higher education to ensure that all students, especially history majors, understand their own history.”

ACTA’s report “No U.S. History? How College History Departments Leave the United States out of the Major” examined how or if universities and colleges require an American history course of their history majors. The report determined that only 23 universities or colleges in the top 25 of US News Best Colleges “out of 76 require a course on our nation’s history.” ACTA indicated of “Top 25 Liberal Arts Colleges: 7 require U.S. history, of the Top 25 National Universities: 4 require U.S. History, and of the Top 25 Public Institutions: 14 require U.S. history.” Private universities especially the Ivy League are the worst offenders with only Princeton and Columbia University requiring an American history course but Princeton allows courses that are “narrow in scope” and not comprehensive surveys that give the greatest exposure even if it is at an introductory level.

Without requiring American history in US history departments, students are left with nothing more than basic high school courses in American and European history that do not have the analytical depth of a college course taught by a professional academic. ACTA argues that without knowledge of American history, students lack the background they need to study other geographic areas. The greater problem is that graduates are ignorant in one of the most important roles they will play after their academic careers that of citizens and possibly leaders. ACTA pointed out that educating future “citizens,” “leaders” is an important part of many colleges’ mission statements including Harvard, and without an American history requirement the colleges are not fulfilling their obligations.

History departments are arguing that students are going to take American history whether they are required or not. The real problem is dwindling enrollment numbers of history majors, an issue the discipline has been dealing with for the past couple of years. Declining enrollment was the reason George Washington University got rid of their American history requirement.
Katrin Schultheiss, the chair of the GWU history department told the student newspaper the Hatchet, “I think the main gain for students is that they have a great deal more flexibility than they had before, and they can adapt it to whatever their plans are for the future. Whatever they want to do, there’s a way to make the history department work for them.”

For many history departments like those at GWU, funding is tied to enrollment, gaining more students is key. After the great economic recession in 2008 history departments began to see a decline in enrollment for history majors as did other humanities disciplines, students chose instead majors with a distinct career path particularly STEM, science, technology, engineering and math instead to ensure more stable employment after graduation. History departments looked to appeal to students and entice them to take a major in the discipline to keep up with the declining enrollment numbers.

The American Historical Association conducted surveys earlier this year that showed a continued drop in students graduating with a degree in history and that in general there was a decline in college students taking history courses. Julia Brookins, the special projects coordinator at the AHA, authored the results and suggestions to help curb the declines. Brookins writing “New Data Show Large Drop in History Bachelor’s Degrees” published in March 2016 in the AHA’s “Perspectives on History” looked at data from the National Center for Education Statistics and determined that there was “dramatic decline in the number of bachelor’s degrees in history awarded in 2014.”

History departments saw an unprecedented 9.1 percent decrease in history degree granted in 2014 from 34,360 to 31,233, whereas in 2013 the decline from the previous year was only 2.8 percent. The decline was disproportionate at “very high research” universities with 13.3 percent, whereas at liberal arts colleges the decline was only 2.6 percent. Although bachelor degrees granted increased by 1.6 percent, history degrees only compromise 1.7 percent of all bachelor degrees granted.

In general, there is a decline in the number of students enrolling in undergraduate history courses. Brookins writing in “Survey Finds Fewer Students Enrolling in College History Courses” published in September 2016 described the results of a survey AHA conducted of 123 history departments in the US and Canada looking at undergraduate enrollment during the 2014–15 academic year. The results determined that there have enrollment declines at 96 departments with only 27 seeing increases, 55 departments had declines of 10 percent and over. The decline was greatest at public universities and colleges with a median drop of 9.2 percent versus private schools, which only saw a drop of 7.6 percent. History departments seem only to be able to attract students to introductory survey courses with them only seeing 4.8 percent of an enrollment decrease in comparison to the more specified upper-level courses that have seen a 7.6 percent decline.

The AHA gave history departments some suggestions to increase enrollment with Brookins’ article “The Decline in History Majors: What Is to Be Done?” published in May 2016. The AHA looked to determine whether departments’ moving away from the traditional focus on the United States and Europe hindered enrollment; their conclusion proved the “contrary.” According to the AHA, “departments with diverse specializations ‘were more likely to have increased their share of bachelor’s degrees’ than those without them. Also, the analysis ‘found that . . . a wide majority of departments continue to list themselves as having a specialization in the US and Europe.’”

Part of the AHA’s recommendations for history departments looking to recruit students was to move away from relying on introductory surveys, and instead, add more diverse course offerings. The AHA believes that getting rid of “designated distribution requirements” actually helps attract students to the department. Prospective employment also has been an issue with history graduates, with teaching or going on to law school the primary professional goals for history majors not looking to continue graduate study in the discipline.

Departments also need to appeal to more female students as history majors tend to be still more male than female by a 3:2 ratio, Focusing on social history helps, but departments still have problems recruiting minorities, with 74.4 percent of history graduates being white. Departments veering away from American history and European history and towards Africa/Asia/ Middle East and Global areas is an attempt to appeal to minority students whose numbers are also declining among history graduates except black men where there was an increase of history graduates in 2014 up 4.9 percent.

To balance out the changes in requirements history departments are looking to instill core competencies of historical analysis, writing, and research, skills students can use for future employment in a variety of fields. GWU’s Thomas Long, “an assistant history professor and the coordinator for undergraduate advising,” says that is the philosophy behind the departments to revise their requirements. Long explained, “You should graduate with a history major able to do three things: You should know how we got where we are, you should be able to write, and you should be able to think critically. If you graduate with those skills, you can really do anything.”

Most departments see giving their students access to a different way to specialize as keys to maintaining and even possibly increasing enrollment numbers and student success after graduation. Unfortunately, as Bloom worried about nearly 30 years ago, it is coming at the expense of a traditional education in Western civilization, with American history the latest victim to the changing trends in higher education.

Sources

American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), “No U.S. History? How College History Departments Leave the United States out of the Major,” July 2016

Allan Bloom. “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students.” New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.

Julia Brookins, “New Data Show Large Drop in History Bachelor’s Degrees,” Perspectives on History, American Historical Association, March 2016, https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/march-2016/new-data-show-large-drop-in-history-bachelors-degrees

Julia Brookins, “The Decline in History Majors: What Is to Be Done?,” Perspectives on History,
American Historical Association, May 2016 https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/may-2016/the-decline-in-history-majors

Julia Brookins, “Survey Finds Fewer Students Enrolling in College History Courses,” Perspectives on History, American Historical Association, September 2016 https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2016/survey-finds-fewer-students-enrolling-in-college-history-courses

Kate Hardiman, “U.S. history no longer a requirement for history majors at George Washington University,” The College Fix, December 22, 2016, http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/30469/

Scott Jaschik, “History Enrollments Drop,” Inside Higher Ed, September 6, 2016 https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/09/06/survey-finds-decline-history-enrollments

Lily Werlinich, “History department changes major requirements to draw in students,” “The George Washington Hatchet,” November 13, 2016 http://www.gwhatchet.com/2016/11/13/history-department-changes-major-requirements-to-draw-in-students/

Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor with a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

On this day in history November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas launching four days of national mourning

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On this day in history November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas launching four days of national mourning

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history… November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States (1961–63) was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. by Lee Harvey Oswald, while in a Presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas heading towards the Texas School Book Depository. Kennedy was in an open limousine waving at the cheering crowd with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nelly when three shots in succession erupted, which hit the President, and the Governor. Governor Connally was hit just once, while President Kennedy was hit twice, fatally. The motorcade rushed to Parkland Hospital, where President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 46 years-old, 30 minutes after the shooting. For three days after the shooting, the nation mourned the loss of their young president culminating in a state funeral on November 25.

President Kennedy’s visit to Texas was part of his early re-election campaign strategy, where he hoped in 1964 to win Florida and Texas. Although the president had not formally announced his re-election, he already started touring states. In Texas, Kennedy was looking to bring squabbling factions of the state’s Democratic Party together. President Kennedy and First Lady Jackie left Washington on Thursday, Nov. 21, where they would go on a “two-day, five-city tour of Texas.”

On that fateful day, Friday, Nov. 22, the Kennedys started out in Fort Worth that rainy morning, before taking a thirteen-minute flight to Dallas. Arriving at Love Field, the Kennedys were greeted by the public, with someone handing Jackie a bouquet of red roses. In Dallas, the rain stopped, and the Kennedys joined the Texas first couple the Connallys in a now open top, convertible. They had to travel only ten miles to reach their destination, the Trade Mart; Kennedy was supposed to address a “luncheon.”

They never reached there. On route, Kennedy and Connally were both shot, but the president more seriously, with wounds in his head and neck, he “slumped over” into Jackie’s lap, and where she shielded him as the motorcade now sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital. There was little that could be done to save the president, and he received last rites before being announced dead at 1 p.m., a mere half hour after he was shot. In the book “The Kennedy Detail” Secret Service agent Clint Hill recalled, “It has taken me decades to learn to cope with the guilt and sense of responsibility for the president’s death, and I have made it a practice to keep my memories to myself. I don’t talk to anybody about that day.

President Kenney would return to Love Field where barely three hours before he arrived alive, leaving in a casket boarding Air Force One. Inside the “crowded” plane US District Court Judge Sarah Hughes swore in Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson as the 36th US president at 2:38 p.m. Jackie Kennedy was standing by Johnson’s side, still wearing the clothes stained with the president’s blood.

CBS News was the first to report Kennedy had been shot at 12:40 p.m. CT as the network cut into popular soap opera “As the World Turns” to report what had happened to the president. Anchor Walter Cronkite went live at 12:48 p.m. Cronkite announced the president’s death as he took off his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes. There was an immediate outpouring of grief by the nation after news of the assassination broke, as they mourned the loss of an idealized young President. Robert Thompson, “a professor of pop culture and television at Syracuse University” commented, “While we didn’t see the assassination live, the television show about the assassination was a four-day long drama that played on national television.”

Police arrested Oswald, an hour after the shots were fired. Oswald, a Soviet sympathizer with ties to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, had shot Kennedy from the school book depository building, where he recently began to work. Two days later, Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner fatally shot Oswald, as he was being transferred from Dallas Police Headquarters to the Dallas County Jail; Ruby claimed he wanted to spare Jackie Kennedy any further grief.

The nation proceeded into four days of mourning, culminating three days later on November 25, 1963, when a state funeral was held for the slain president. According to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Jackie Kennedy modeled the funeral after President Abraham Lincoln’s, Lincoln had been assassinated nearly a 100 years before. On Saturday, November 23, as Kennedy’s body was in repose in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours, President Johnson declared the day a national day of mourning. On Sunday, November 24, the President’s coffin was carried by the same horse-drawn carriage as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Unknown Soldier before him, to the Capitol building where his body laid in state for 21 hours, with 250,000 people visiting his casket in the Capitol’s Rotunda.

On that Monday, November 25, one million people gathered on the route of the processional from the Capitol to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where the funeral was held. Foreign dignitaries from 100 countries, including 19 heads of state came to pay their respects, and millions of Americans and 23 countries watched the assassination coverage and then funeral on TV, which was covered by then three big networks; ABC, CBS, and NBC. John B. Mayo in his 1967 book “Bulletin From Dallas: The President Is From Dead” determined that “CBS clocked in with 55 total hours, ABC played 60 hours and NBC — airing an all-night vigil from the Capitol Rotunda on Sunday — broadcast 71 hours of coverage that weekend.”

After the Requiem Mass, as the President’s body was carried from the cathedral, three-year-old John Jr. saluted his father’s casket giving the mourning nation an iconic image to remember. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia after the service Jackie Kennedy and the president’s brothers Robert and Edward lit an eternal flame that remains burning over the President’s gravesite.

In 2010, historian Ellen Fitzpatrick published her book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation.” Speaking to PBS’s Newshour about the purpose of the book and looking back at the memory of President Kennedy, she claimed; “And what I was trying to get at was how Americans at the moment viewed John F. Kennedy. It seemed to me that, in the decades since his death, there’s been so much historical revisionism, much of it appropriate, that dismantled the hagiography that grew up around him in the immediate aftermath of his assassination.”

Continuing, Fitzpatrick explained, “It had become increasingly difficult for students, for younger people, even people of my own generation, to recover that moment, the kind of idealism and faith that people had and the way that President Kennedy was viewed in his time… So, I was thinking, how can I recapture this? And I went into the archives. I asked the archivist. I remembered the condolence letters. I remembered Mrs. Kennedy thanking the public.”

Historian Alan Brinkley eloquently honored Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death in 2013, with an article in the Atlantic Magazine, simply titled the “Legacy of John Kennedy” doing just that looking at the mystique of the 35th president that has only grown with time. Brinkley explains the reason why Kennedy remains a legend despite many failed policies and the introduction of far sweeping laws that passed during his successor’s administration. Brinkley writes Kennedy “remains a powerful symbol of a lost moment, of a soaring idealism and hopefulness that subsequent generations still try to recover. His allure-the romantic, almost mystic, associations his name evokes-not only survives but flourishes.”

After the most bruising and ugly presidential election in perhaps American history, the image Kennedy invoked is a sharp contrast to the political reality of today making Brinkley’s conclusion even more powerful. Brinkley expressed, Kennedy’s “legacy has only grown in the 50 years since his death. That he still embodies a rare moment of public activism explains much of his continuing appeal: He reminds many Americans of an age when it was possible to believe that politics could speak to society’s moral yearnings and be harnessed to its highest aspirations. More than anything, perhaps, Kennedy reminds us of a time when the nation’s capacities looked limitless, when its future seemed unbounded, when Americans believed that they could solve hard problems and accomplish bold deeds.” Whether Democrat or Republican it impossible in the era of Donald Trump not to wish for the idealism of the Kennedy era and ponder what if…

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a over dozen years experience in education & political journalism.