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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Golden Jubilee Celebration

On June 17, 18 & 19, 1906, Philadelphia played host to a celebration of the first 50 years of the Republican Party. Being that the first convention of the Republican Party was held in Pittsburgh, PA on February 22, 1856, the Golden Jubilee Celebration of the Republican Party in Philadelphia spotlighted the Grand Old Party’s first half-century and “the reminiscences of men who were present at the birth of the party in 1856.” Included in the three-day event was a general meeting at which historical addresses were made, along with “the annual convention of the National League of Republican Clubs; the Annual Convention of the Pennsylvania State League; a public meeting at the Academy of Music; a great street parade of Republican clubs and various excursions and entertainments for the visiting delegates.”

A full record of the proceedings and “stenographic report of the addresses” was compiled by author Addison Burk, with a 226-page volume published in 1906, accurately piecing together the many fragmentary contributions to the history of the Republican party which were detailed during the event. Burk’s complete Golden Jubilee Celebration of the Republican Party in turn presented a comprehensive picture of the GOP’s golden anniversary, which first officially nominated J. C. Fremont in 1856 but found its first presidential success story soon after with the election of Abraham Lincoln as commander-in-chief four short years later.

It is said the Republican Party was founded in 1854 in Ripon, Wisconsin by anti-slavery expansion activists and modernizers, while the first official party convention was said to take place on July 6, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. Perhaps stoking the coals of debate, many of those Philadelphia attendees in 1906 actually recalled the earliest formation of the party as occurring in a small grocery store in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the years leading up to the 1856 convention in the city of Pittsburgh. At the gala three-day Golden Jubilee 50 years later, the shop’s owner, David Calhoun Herbst, was invited to address the Republican revelers, where he was introduced as “a man who was present at the birth of the Republican Party in Lafayette Hall, Pittsburgh.”

Herbst gave what was later reported in local papers as an impassioned historical perspective of the Republican Party, leading off his speech by saying “On an occasion like this on the anniversary of the Grand Old Republican Party, it seems appropriate and pertinent to present a kind of family tree to show the inception and reasons for its birth.” Herbst then went into a historical synopsis of the first hundred years of American politics, beginning with the unanimous election of George Washington in the 1700s and leading up to the death in office of Whig candidate President William Henry Harrison in the mid 1800’s, which Herbst said “left the helm of state in the hands of untrusty John Tyler.”

“Americans feeling keenly the loss of their loyal president, deemed it essential to gather their hosts and give battle again against the Free Trade Slave-holding Democracy” Herbst added, which he then explained had laid out the grounds for a new American movement.
“On a cold winter’s night a coterie of deep thinking men of all shades of politics, met at Herbst’s grocery store at the corner of Third and Cherry Alley, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, to formulate, if possible, a basis for a new political party upon which all political factions opposed to the free-trade pro-slavery Democracy, might unite for its overthrow.” According to Herbst, that winter was exceptionally cold, but he described “the cold blasts and heavy snow outside that little grocery did not chill the ardor of those inside. Besides, our debates got warm, especially when we sought a name for our new creation.”

In a 1921 article in the Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, it was said that all shades of political opinion were represented at those early rallies at the Herbst Grocery Store, with active participation from Whigs, Democrats, Abolitionists, Free Soilers, and Washingtonians. “Among them were a number who were active in politics” the magazine reported, adding “their object was to formulate a basis for a new political party upon which all the factions opposed to the pro-slavery Democracy.”

“Our selection of a name was a thorn in the flesh and threatened several times to break up our gathering,” Herbst told those in attendance at the Golden Jubilee. “One night, it was necessary to lock all in, and that night Captain Charles Naylor stood up on the counter of the grocery, with a wave of the hand said ‘peace be still’.” Naylor was a lawyer elected to the 26th Congress as a Whig, but he declined candidacy for renomination in 1840. Naylor had raised a company of volunteers known as the Philadelphia Rangers and served as captain in the Mexican-American War, settling back into law in Pittsburgh soon after.

Herbst continued, “Struck by his attitude and remark we were amazed and hushed. He smilingly remarked: ‘that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,’ and after a few words, he said, Spartan-like: ‘We have a great Republic as our nation, why not call our new party, Republican?” After Captain Naylor’s grand announcement, Herbst recalled the first moment of silence in the room as the name began to register in the minds of those in attendance. “And so it was, the word Republican went forth among all the people,” Herbst said at the Golden Jubilee, saying the first convention in Pittsburgh to follow in 1856 would be most logical, “Lafayette Hall was selected as an appropriate pace for the public christening of the new political child.”

The words of my great-great-great-grandfather David Calhoun Herbst can be found on page 148 of the Golden Jubilee of the Republican Party of 1906 by Addison Burk, contributed by the New York Public Library and preserved electronically at the Internet Archive, a non-profit group which offers permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

United We Fish - Washington DC 02/24/2010

If not now, when?

Born in the late 60’s, I’m part of a broad-based American generation often referred to as Generation X. We are the 30- and 40-somethings who entered the world after the Baby Boom era during a 20-year span between 1961 and 1981, sometimes referred to as the “baby bust” generation.

Raised during a veritable spiritual awakening in the 60’s and 70’s, I grew up in the years of, and the decade following, the Vietnam War, my mind’s eye forever etched with the images of those Baby Boomers before who burned their bras and draft cards, rallied against the war, and marched on the National Mall in a call for peace, civil rights, and the end of world oppression and apartheid.

From the time that I was a teenager through my idealistic 20’s, I’d often wondered aloud about the 60’s and 70’s youth rebellion, and whether I would’ve chosen to have become a part of the movement. A disciple of classic rock and the words and lyrics that energized a cultural era, I’d often lay in bed at night with the headphones on and the turntable skipping across a well-worn Dylan or Doors album, pondering the very thought of organized protest and my own place in the democratic process.

Now a married man of 42, with two kids at home, bills to pay and the vinyl records stowed away in boxes (those headphones replaced by earbuds) I still occasionally wonder if any national or global conflict would ever so consume me with anger and frustration, enough that my stomach burned with passion and my heart brimming resolve. Could my own government’s repressive actions or gross inaction ever lead me to throw open the doors of dissent, to scream from the pulpit and take to the streets in formal protest? In my lifetime, could I ever find a common cause with like-minded individuals across the generational divide, to unite as one and rally on the steps of the Capitol in a grand celebration of the First Amendment’s promise to allow any and all Americans “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Today, my fellow saltwater angler, I offer you a personal invitation to democracy and dissent. Our federal government has ignored our plight, while closed-door preservationists have shut us out of the conservation equation, and in turn the entire democratic process. Our time to act has come, and our reason to come together is clear - united we fish.

Many of our national sportfishing associations, conservation groups, multi-national tackle corporations and industry trade alliances have buttoned-up in the face of the preservationist movement, convening privately in their corporate boardrooms while battening down the hatches during our economic disaster, preferring instead to try to ride out the storm of anti-fishing pressure from non-governmental environmental organizations. Left behind to carry the flag and rally the troops are the individual anglers, shop owners, boat dealers, dockmasters, captains and ‘mom & pop’ businesses who’ve been scratching and clawing at every last scrap of access to a once public resource.

We are the stakeholders in the coastal communities, we are the fishermen who understand most about the future sustainability of our fisheries, and we are the people who make up the human resource portion of our marine fisheries.

For my generation, this may be our only opportunity ever “peaceably to assemble,” to stand together before Congress in an organized, respectful protest for our right to free and open access. For our coastal fishing communities nationwide, it is most certainly feels like the last chance we have to preserve more 300 years of heritage and tradition.

On February 24th, 2010, the saltwater fishermen of America will stand united on the steps of the Capitol in a call on legislators to recognize our right to fish. At risk is public access for more than 12 million saltwater anglers, and the lifeblood of our coastal communities that rely on a healthy, sustained fishery. For the first time in American history, the nation’s saltwater fishermen – both commercial and recreational alike – will stand together as one upon the grand international stage of freedom, Area Number One between Constitution and Independence Avenues in Washington DC.

From Generation X, to the Baby Boomers and our parents and grandparents from the Greatest Generation, I hope you will all join me for this historic event in defense of our right to fish. Once-in-a-lifetime doesn’t come around again.