Monday, May 27, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The First United States Government

Independence Hall

As I work on each book of this series, I take careful note of all the important historical events—and some obscure ones—that took place during the period I’m covering, whether they make it into the story or not. During the end of Crucible of War and the beginning of Valley of the Shadow, Congress was in the process of devising an official government for our newly independent nation. It’s an interesting subject, and in this post I’m going to flesh it out more than I have space to in the book.

I suspect most people in this country think that the first and only confederation of states in our history was the confederation established by the Southern states during the Civil War. Actually, that would be wrong. In fact, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union established the first official government of the United States of America and served as its first constitution.

Even before passing the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress realized that it was going to be hard, if not impossible, to effectively govern without a, well, government. Congress had taken upon itself unprecedented political, diplomatic, military, and economic authority, and those powers needed to be regarded as legitimate both at home and abroad. In that era few nations had written constitutions; however, most of the 13 states were already busily writing one for themselves. Most leaders keenly felt the need to adopt a written constitution to define the powers and obligations of the new United States as well. Consequently, on June 12, 1776, a day after it appointed a committee to prepare a draft of the Declaration, Congress also appointed a committee to draft a proposed constitution for a union of the states.

Everyone acknowledged the need, but believe me, the process of hammering out a form for the new government acceptable to all the states was a contentious process. Congress was divided between those who wanted a strong centralized government, and those who wanted to protect the power of the individual states. Sound familiar?

After a whole lot of debate, negotiation, and maneuvering between factions, Congress finally approved the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, and sent them to the states for ratification a couple of days later. As a practical matter, even before they were finally ratified by the last of the 13 states on March 1, 1781, the Articles provided legitimacy to Congress at home and abroad to wage the war against Britain, to conduct diplomatic relations with foreign nations and conclude alliances, and to manage domestic territorial issues and Indian relations.

When the Articles were ratified, Congress officially became the Congress of the Confederation. The Articles set rules for current and future operations of the United States government, empowering it to wage war and make peace, negotiate diplomatic and commercial agreements with foreign countries, and decide disputes between the various states. The Articles retained to the states sovereignty over all governmental functions not specifically relinquished to the national government. In other words, the Articles established what was pretty much already in effect: a loose confederation of strong sovereign states held together by a central government that didn’t have a whole lot of real power, most of which continued to reside in the state governments.

And there was the rub. Because of their experience with Britain, the states were suspicious of a strong central government that might restrict their rights and the rights of individual citizens. Again, sound familiar? It’s been a continuing theme in American politics up to this day, and I think that’s generally a good thing. Although robust political discourse can create problems, it also has the potential to keep both federal and local governments in check. You’ll notice that I say “has the potential.” But that’s a subject for another day . . .

After the war ended, many people, especially those who had served in the Continental Army, began to complain that the federal government was too weak to be effective. The Articles didn’t provide for a president, executive agencies, federal courts, and a tax base. Without the power to levy taxes, the federal government had no way to pay off debts incurred during the war except by requesting money from the states. And you can guess how that that was likely to go.

The need for a stronger federal government eventually led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. After another contentious process, the present United States Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation on March 4, 1789, with its first president, George Washington, at its head.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

You’ll find a whole lot more more information online, including at the Library of Congress and Wikipedia, among many other sites.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Marketing Day

One thing authors come to realize pretty quickly is that their books aren’t going to sell unless they spend a goodly amount of time promoting them. How does that work with actually writing new projects? Short answer: You can’t do everything, and something’s gotta to give.

I’ve been wrestling with this dilemma for a long time, especially since a whole lot of my time is dedicated to running Sheaf House, which includes acquiring, editing, and doing production on our projects, not to mention marketing and all the administrative stuff. What’s suffered in the past is the author side of my persona: promoting myself and my books and, consequently, generating sales. You have to have sales in order to keep a series going, so from now on I’m going to set aside dedicated time each week to turn that around. Realistically that’s going to cut into my actual writing time on new projects I have coming up, but unless I can expand my fan base there won’t be any reason to keep on writing or money to publish the books.

Part of my efforts is going to be to update this blog more often. So expect to see fewer and shorter gaps between posts in the future. I can’t guarantee that the daily grind won’t throw a monkey wrench in my schedule from time to time, but I’m going to try. Seriously.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Widow of Gettysburg
By Jocelyn Green
River North, May 2013

When a horrific battle rips through Gettysburg, the farm of Union widow Liberty Holloway is disfigured into a Confederate field hospital, bringing her face to face with unspeakable suffering—and a Confederate scout who awakens her long dormant heart. When the scout doesn't die, as expected, she discovers that he isn't who he claims to be.

While Liberty's future crumbles as her home is destroyed, the past comes rushing back to Bella, a former slave and Liberty's hired help, when she finds herself surrounded by Southern soldiers, one of whom knows the secret that would place Liberty in danger if revealed.
For a limited time the ebook edition of Widow of Gettysburg is available for free. I had the privilege of reading this book in advance, and below is my endorsement.

In the note at the beginning of Widow of Gettysburg, author Jocelyn Green points out that “before ‘Gettysburg’ was a battle, it was a town full of ordinary people, people like you and me.” Green captures the reality of noncombatants caught up in war in a very affecting way. Beginning with the day to day activities of her cast of characters, some of whom are real people of the time, Green portrays how the horrors of battle changed their lives forever and made heroes of civilians. Most moving is the story of Liberty Holloway, a young widow who lost her husband in the war; Bella Jamison, Liberty’s black servant whose live is revealed to be secretly intertwined with Liberty’s; and Silas Ford, the Confederate scout Liberty is drawn to. Painstakingly researched and affectingly written, Widow of Gettysburg will wrench your heart at the same time it reminds you that God is faithful to His people even in the most painful trials.