The Birth of Chief Justice John Marshall, 1755

2023-09-25T15:39:23-05:00September 25, 2023|HH 2023|

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” —Micah 6:8

The Birth of Chief Justice John Marshall,
September 24, 1755

John Marshall was one of the most important men of his age or any age: soldier, lawyer, statesman, diplomat, congressman, secretary of state, and the most powerful and transformative Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the history of the United States. John first saw the light of day on September 24, 1755, as the first of fifteen children (all of whom lived well into adulthood) born to Thomas Marshall in the village of Germantown in Fauquier County, Virginia. Thomas served as land agent for Lord Fairfax of Cameron, the only resident peer of Scotland living in America, and owner of more than five million acres, thirty plantations and hundreds of slaves. Lord Fairfax also employed seventeen-year-old George Washington as surveyor of his lands in the Shenandoah River Valley.

Birthplace of John Marshall in Germantown, Virginia

Marshall’s parents home-schooled him but for one year of formal schooling (where he befriended fellow student, future President James Monroe). John’s parents provided him with plenty of excellent books and he became a life-long voracious reader, mastering Blackstone’s Law Commentaries. A clergyman from Glasgow, Scotland lived on the Marshall estate and tutored John in exchange for room and board. Looking back on his youth, as Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Marshall said of his father that “to his care I am indebted for anything valuable which I may have acquired in my youth. He was my only intelligent companion, and was both a watchful parent and an affectionate friend.”

John Marshall (1755-1835)

In the War for American Independence, John served in the 11th Virginia Infantry as a lieutenant, fighting in the Battle of Brandywine, and surviving the winter at Valley Forge. He was furloughed in 1780 to attend The College of William and Mary where he read law with George Wythe, the foremost legal mind in the colonies. He rejoined his military command in 1781 and was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses the following year. John’s legal career prospered after he purchased his cousin Edmund Randolph’s firm in Richmond, upon the latter’s election to the Governorship.

Marshall’s Richmond, Virginia home

Marshall came to the conviction that the Articles of Confederation were too weak to sustain the Union of the States, and thus supported the Constitutional Convention and its creation of the Constitution of the United States in 1789, Marshall fought for its ratification in Virginia, working hand-in-glove with James Madison and George Washington against Patrick Henry and the Anti-federalists. As the country divided into political factions during the 1790s, Marshall teamed up with Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist party against his distant cousin Thomas Jefferson, arguing for neutrality in foreign affairs, high tariffs, and a more powerful chief executive. He got to argue an important case before the Supreme Court, making a powerful impression, though he lost the case.

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838)

Federalist President John Adams sent Marshall with two other prominent politicians to France as envoys to protest the revolutionary French depredations against American shipping. French Foreign Minister Talleyrand demanded bribes to meet with the American diplomats, triggering the XYZ Affair and the “Quasi-war” with France. With his high reputation as a lawyer and experience in diplomacy, Marshall’s political career bloomed with election to Congress as a representative, and his selection as Secretary of State with the express purpose of ending the Quasi-war with France, bolstering relations with Britain, and ending the war against the Barbary pirates.

President John Adams’ nomination of John Marshall to the position of Supreme Court Justice, dated and signed January 20, 1801

With the Adams presidency winding down, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court died and the president nominated Marshall, who was confirmed by the senate while continuing as Secretary of State! Adams later said that “my gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life.” He would serve in that position from 1801 to 1835, increasing the power of the Court exponentially and shaping the legal system of the United States for all time. “His influence on learned men of the law came from the charismatic force of his personality and his ability to seize upon the key elements of a case and make highly persuasive arguments.”* The Marshall court issued 1,000 decisions during his tenure, and he authored about half of them. Some of the most important decisions include Marbury vs. Madison, the first case in which the Court struck down a federal law as unconstitutional, asserting the power of judicial review. Fletcher vs. Peck was the first case to declare a state law unconstitutional. In McCullough v. Maryland, the court claimed the Constitution possessed “implied powers” to act on behalf of the American people. Many other important decisions came from the Marshall Court in the thirty-four years of influence. In one case, President Andrew Jackson, a bitter political enemy of Marshall, implied he would not enforce a court ruling regarding the unconstitutional arrest of missionaries to the Cherokee.

The text of the McCulloch v. Maryland decision, as recorded in the minutes of the Supreme Court

A quote from Marbury vs. Madison shadowed by the John Marshall monument

In the midst of his court duties, Marshall wrote a five-volume biography of George Washington—the first presidential biography—and prepared an abridgement which was published three years after his death. The great justice was married to Mary “Polly” Ambler who bore him ten children, six of whom lived to adulthood. He owned, bought and sold hundreds of slaves in his lifetime. A large number of his relatives fought for the Confederacy; his grandson James K. Marshall, a graduate of VMI, was killed leading Pettigrew’s Brigade in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. Marshall was also an active Freemason, rising to “Grand-Master of Masons in Virginia.” His biographers claim that he “was not religious, rejected the deity of Christ, but attended Episcopal churches on occasion.” He died in 1835.

Statue of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in a plaza at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, named for the famed jurist

Wreath-laying at Marshall Memorial, US Capitol, Washington, DC, 1928

Dozens of towns, counties, and schools are named after John Marshall. Monuments to his memory can be found in Virginia, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. A half-dozen colleges and universities bear his name. The influence of this one man on the legal heritage of the nation cannot be over-stated. The winds of Providence can be seen in many ways throughout the long life of John Marshall of Virginia.

*The Life of John Marshall by Albert J. Beveridge, Vol. 4

The Council of Trent Moved to Bologna, 1549

2023-09-18T12:00:13-05:00September 18, 2023|HH 2023|

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock…” —Acts of the Apostles 20:29

The Council of Trent Moved to Bologna,
September 17, 1549

The German Augustinian friar and theologian Martin Luther, upset over the sale of indulgences, tacked his 95 complaints against the Catholic Church on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Saxony on October 31, 1517. He argued that significant reform was needed in the Church, which placed him in a long line of clerical and academic critics dissatisfied with some of the beliefs and practices of the Medieval Roman Church. While the ecclesiastical and government authorities of the Holy Roman Empire addressed the continuing attacks and challenges of the brilliant German professor, his publications, preaching, and public dissent encouraged many other priests and monks in other German states and several other European countries such as France, Netherlands, England, Switzerland and others, to go public with their dissatisfactions and exposures of moral and theological corruption in the Church.

The original doors of All Saints’ Church, Wittenberg—on which Luther nailed his 95 Theses in 1517—were destroyed by fire, so in 1857, King Frederick William IV of Prussia ordered a replacement be made, this time with Luther’s theses engraved into the doors

Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenburg, October 31, 1517

Within several years, the protests and desire for reform could not be contained and the “Protestant Reformation” had taken on a life of its own, creating what proved to be irreparable separations from the Roman ecclesiastical system. When parochial solutions failed to stem the tide, the Pope called for a formal ecumenical Council of the Church to address the concerns of the reformers and to codify Catholic doctrine. They met at Trent in northern Italy, a civil jurisdiction ruled by a bishop-prince of the Holy Roman Empire. The results defined what beliefs were anathema and those approved by the Papacy and the Church, and thus spurred on the “counter-reformation.”

Council of Trent, painting in the Museo del Palazzo del Buonconsiglio, Trent, Italy

The Council of Trent lasted on and off from 1545 (the year before Luther’s death) until 1663 (the year after the death of reformer John Calvin). Every prince and every kingdom in Europe were affected by the Protestant Reformation, but many hoped some form of unity could prevail. On September 17, 1549, Pope Paul III tried to move the venue to the Italian City of Bologna, but had to suspend the Council when the powerful Holy Roman Emperor Charles V forbade Spanish and German prelates from attending. The Italian Pope would have possessed more control over the direction of the debates, and the political contentions and wars in the German states at that time were creating havoc in the Empire. Political considerations intertwined with the Council from the start. Emperor Charles V hated France and distrusted the Pope. The “Lutherans” did not want the Pope involved at all. Luther had burned the papal bull issued by Leo X, which threatened excommunication and had declared forty-one of Dr. Luther’s propositions heretical. As it turned out, none of the Popes who reigned during the duration of the Council ever attended, which was a condition of Charles V.

Pope Paul III (1468-1549) served as Pope from 1534-1549, and convened the first meeting of the Council of Trent in 1545 as well as oversaw the first 8 sessions until his death in 1549

Pope Julius III (1487-1555) oversaw the twelfth to sixteenth sessions (1551–52) of the Council of Trent

Pope Pius IV (1499-1565) oversaw the seventeenth to twenty-fifth sessions (1562–63) of the Council of Trent

The convocation reconvened in 1551 for one year. The Protestants were keen to reopen debates over definitions and doctrines already debated, and most decided upon, and called for bishops to be released from their allegiance to the Papacy. No agreements could be made, in particular, over the authority of the Church and the doctrine of justification. Furthermore, Protestants were not given the right to vote which ended any cooperation. Coupled with a military defeat of Charles V in battle, the Church closed the meeting and no Protestant voice would again be heard. The Council could not reopen until 1661, upon the death of the rabidly anti-Protestant Pius IV (Gian Pietro Carafa). In the interim, he had installed the Roman Inquisition, reined in the Jesuits, and forced the Jews to wear distinctive yellow hats, herding them into ghettos. He also issued the first Roman Index of banned books, which included all the works of Erasmus.

Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) was a Dutch humanist, Catholic theologian, educationalist, satirist and philosopher

The Spanish Inquisition at work

When the Council convened its last meeting, which lasted about a year, the Jesuits dominated, and a French hope for some conciliation with Protestantism had no possibility of success—Italian bishops overwhelmingly controlled the outcomes. The Council of Trent achieved its twofold goals of condemning the principles and doctrines of Protestantism and clarifying the doctrines of the Catholic Church on all disputed points. The Church officially sought the reform of some of the abuses and issues that triggered the protests in the first place, like the moral corruption of priests and nuns, indulgences and the like. The Council issued decrees which defined Church doctrine on disputed issues and made explicit its condemnation of Protestant beliefs in a litany of curses upon those who held to those beliefs.

Elevation of the chalice after the consecration during a Tridentine Solemn Mass

The Council affirmed the veneration of the Virgin Mary, church tradition as authoritative as Scripture, reaffirmed seven sacraments of the Church, and, for the first time, used the term transubstantiation as the true meaning of the Mass, and that the sacrifice was to be offered for the living and the dead. They affirmed the Tridentine Mass, which codified Latin as the language of worship and ceremony. A brief summary of a few of the anathemas (curses) of the dozens issued: Let anyone who saith the following be accursed:

Anyone who saith that by Faith alone are the impious justified . . . without man’s cooperation.

Anyone who saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification.

Anyone who saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him).

Anyone who saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament.

Satan distributing indulgences, an illumination from a Czech manuscript, 1490s; Jan Hus (the main leader of the Bohemian Reformation) had condemned the selling of indulgences in 1412

If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue.

If any one saith, that it is an imposture to celebrate masses in honor of the saints, and for obtaining their intercession with God, as the Church intends.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church today cites these canons and all the others still in force, and quotes directly from them in teaching the doctrines of the Church. Perhaps those Protestants who want to reunite with the Roman Church ought to take note or check their history and Bibles at the door. The Roman Church still considers you the wolves.

The Catholic church selling Indulgences

The Battle of Brandywine, 1777

2023-09-11T13:52:40-05:00September 11, 2023|HH 2023|

The Battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777

The American cause in the War for Independence had gotten a life-saving boost in the victories George Washington scored over the British army in the Christmas surprise at Trenton and the follow-up at Princeton in the winter of 1776-77. General Howe, commander of the British forces in America, called into question his decision to capture Philadelphia without substantial reinforcements, and so wrote to Lord Germaine who was trying to run the war from London. In March 1777, Germaine wrote Howe to continue his plans to take Philadelphia, but could only count on 3,000 more troops, far below the 7,000 Howe thought necessary to secure Pennsylvania. Another British expeditionary force under General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne was launched from Canada against New York, and Germaine almost changed his mind to send Lord Howe to assist in New York. But the winds of providence sent Howe to Pennsylvania to meet George Washington along the Brandywine River near Chadd’s Ford, a hop, skip and jump from Philadelphia. In May, Howe received the orders and set in motion the invasion of Pennsylvania.

General John Burgoyne (1722-1792)

Lord George Germaine (1716-1785)

The Brandywine Creek at Chadd’s Ford

By July, the troops were aboard transports preparing to sail from their billets in New York City to the Delaware River and move upon Philadelphia. Only General Cornwallis and Brigadier General James Grant were told where they were headed. Many, including Washington himself, thought the redcoats might sail north to help Burgoyne. In fact, orders to that effect had been sent from London but did not arrive until August, after General Howe had embarked on the Pennsylvania Campaign. God controls the ocean communication currents also.

General Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805)

General James Grant (1720–1806)

The defensive fortifications on the Delaware River convinced Howe to flank their way into Philadelphia via Chadd’s Ford. As Washington realized the British forces were headed to Philadelphia, he sent orders for American General “Mad” Anthony Wayne to gather the Pennsylvania militia, and sent reinforcements to defend supply points potentially within enemy reach. He had to solve supply and discipline problems and consult with Congress concerning the coming campaign and possible evacuation. By mid-August, Washington was “again befuddled concerning Howe’s objective”, but a reliable report came on August 22 that the British fleet was in the Chesapeake Bay. Calls went out for Delaware and New Jersey militia to join Washington’s forces. On August 24, the commander-in-chief conducted a grand march through Philadelphia to encourage the town’s people with a show of strength in the coming crisis.

Howard Pyle’s iconic painting, Nation Makers, depicts American troops at Brandywine and is displayed at the Brandywine River Museum

The British army aboard the ships had a miserable voyage—one German officer wrote that the bread had worms, the water stunk, the meat was inedible and the ship was full of lice. After almost two months aboard ship, about sixty German and English soldiers died on the voyage as storms battered the fleet. Four hundred horses were lost at sea. Despite the inauspicious beginning of the campaign, the redcoats finally landed unopposed at Head of Elk, Maryland. Despite five hundred soldiers sick and unable to continue, the British force moved north toward the Brandywine River where the Americans waited. A few army deserters and Tories from Philadelphia provided all the information General Howe needed to conduct his tactical operations.

Detail of a 1777 military map: Cooch’s Bridge is just to the right of Iron Hill; Philadelphia is off to the northeast; Head of Elk can be seen on the left along the Elk River. The Brandywine River is marked here as Christiana Creek, an alternate name.

On September 3, the Americans fought a delaying action at Cooch’s Bridge, the only battle of the war fought in Delaware. The Hessian brigades pressed on and Washington’s advance forces fell back to Chadd’s Ford, just over the Delaware line in Pennsylvania. The stage was set for the great Battle of Brandywine on September 11 that doomed Philadelphia.

Washington’s Headquarters at the Battle of Brandywine

Washington decided to make a stand behind the Brandywine River. He took over several local Quaker homes as headquarters and called together his brigadier generals and senior staff members, including Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, John Sullivan, William Alexander (“Lord Stirling”), the Marquis de Lafayette, Anthony Wayne, and a few others of high rank who would do great service over the next few years, like Alexander Hamilton, John Peter Muhlenberg, Israel Putnam, and Casimir Pulaski, all men whose names were commonly known by American school children until the 1960s. Remembering well the British penchant for flanking attacks, Washington was zealous to protect the fords and subsequently gathered a number of local patriots known for both their loyalty and knowledge of the terrain.

A Hessian map of the Philadelphia area at the time of the Battle of Brandywine

A company from Canada—recruited near Albany, NY—guarded one of the fords and another guard was commanded by a former officer in the British Highland Regiment, the 44th Foot. No doubt he did not fancy getting captured by his former regiment (popularly known as The Black Watch). The night before the battle, the Rev. Jacob Trout preached a powerful and motivating sermon to the troops and Washington wrote that he hoped a kind providence would be their lot on the morrow.

The Brandywine Battlefield today

Lord General Charles Cornwallis and His Excellency Lieut. General Knyphausen (Howe’s wing commanders) set out for the crossings at dawn the next morning. The two sides collided a mile from Chadd’s Ford and the battle was on. Howe intended to pin the Americans in position there, while a flanking column with the other half of the army crossed far above the main ford to strike on the flank. Washington sent patrols to discover the whereabouts of what proved to be 7,000 picked men commanded by Howe himself, marching to flank the American army. Conflicting reports from scouts delayed Washington’s response, allowing the British force to cross upriver and attack on the flank and rear of the American line. Generals Stephens and Alexander were sent to confront Howe at the Birmingham Meeting House northwest of his main position. The battle surged back and forth with great acts of heroism and high casualties, but in the end, the Americans were forced to fall back and yield the day to General Howe. Washington himself, providentially and unknowingly, escaped death from the best rifleman in the British army who would not pull the trigger on an enemy soldier with his back turned.

The Birmingham Friends Meetinghouse on the Brandywine Battlefield today

At the cost of about 1,300 American casualties and perhaps more than 1,700 British and Germans, Howe had opened the road to Philadelphia. The Congress escaped capture, Washington kept his army together at Valley Forge, and General Burgoyne began the battle eight days later in New York that lost him his army, and, in the long run, the war. Victories are often temporary.

The Brandywine Battlefield today

SAVE THE DATE: Join us next spring in Philadelphia, site of the Continental Congress & signing of the Declaration of Independence. Follow General Washington from his loss at Brandywine, to his Delaware crossing & surprising victory at Princeton, & much more! Learn More >

Resources for Further Study

  • For further study, read September 11, 1777: Washington’s Defeat at Brandywine Dooms Philadelphia, by Bruce E. Mowday.

The “Munich Massacre” at the Olympics, 1972

2023-09-11T13:43:29-05:00September 8, 2023|HH 2023|

“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” —Genesis 9:6

The “Munich Massacre” at the Olympics, September 5-6, 1972

Islamic countries, especially the Arab nations, have never accepted the State of Israel as a legitimate member of the family of nations. Israel has fought and won eight recognized separate wars since 1948 to maintain their independence. They have also been the targets of numerous terrorist acts and are recognized by only 165 out of the 192 member countries of the United Nations. Israel’s defensive capabilities are legendary, including responses to terrorism and random missile attacks. On September 5, 1972, a Fatah terrorist organization known as Black September conducted a raid on the Israeli national Olympic team in the Olympic village in Munich, Germany, and killed eleven athletes. Israel held the planners and perpetrators accountable.

Procession of athletes in the Olympic Stadium during the 1972 Summer Olympics, Munich, Germany

The XX Olympiad had begun on August 26, the first to be held in Germany since Hitler’s 1936 extravaganza. Hoping to show the world their full return to the community of nations and repudiation of their Nazi past, the German security forces were to be unarmed, unobtrusive and non-confrontational. At 4:30am on September 5, a hit team of Palestinian assassins dressed as athletes, scaled the fence around the Israeli compound and, using stolen pass keys, slipped into the Israeli dormitory. They were confronted by wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg and a referee, Yossef Gutfreund. Weinburg was wounded and forced to lead the terrorist team to the other dorm rooms. The shooters bypassed Room Two, perhaps aware that it contained the Jewish shooting team and they might not fare well in a close encounter with some of the best marksmen in the world at the beginning of their attack. Two wrestlers fought back and were gunned down. Nine hostages were taken.

Israeli hostages Kehat Shorr (left) and Andre Spitzer (right) talk to West German officials

The operation by Black September was nicknamed “Iqrit and Biram”, after two Palestinian Christian villages (seen above L-R) whose inhabitants were expelled by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War

The Palestinians demanded the release of Fatah terrorists held in Israeli jails, as well as two members of the European terrorist network headquartered in France, popularly known as the Baader-Meinhoff gang of the “Red Brigades.” They wanted a plane to fly them and the hostages to a friendly Arab country in the Middle East. While negotiations proceeded and a billion people around the world watched the entire episode unfold on television, the Germans planned a rescue mission, deciding at the last minute to stand down their army hostage rescue team. At 10:00 p.m. the bound and blindfolded athletes were taken to waiting helicopters and flown to a nearby airbase and the awaiting Boeing 727 that would take them to the Middle East.

Front view of Connollystraße 31 in 2007—the window of Apartment 1 (where the first confrontation occurred) is to the left of and below the balcony

The German police set up an ambush in the wrong places, and had no radios, trained snipers or proper rifles. The German constitution prohibited the Army from assisting the police. The plane was filled with seventeen police officers, all of whom left their post before the arrival of the helicopters. Armored cars that were supposed to assist in the assault were stuck in traffic. When the helos arrived, two Arabs ran up the ladder to the plane, recognized the ambush, and opened fire on the police. In the immediate shootout that followed, two terrorists and one policeman were killed. They tossed a grenade into one helicopter, killing all but one of the hostages, and machine gunned the other helicopter, killing the rest.

A damaged helicopter at Fürstenfeldbruck, a NATO airbase, in the aftermath of the ambush

When the armored cars finally arrived in the darkness they opened fire without knowing the situation and struck down two of their own men. When all was over, five terrorists were dead and three captured. The Israeli Olympic team lost eleven members. Less than two months after the massacre, Black September terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa passenger plane and demanded the three incarcerated Palestinians be released. The German authorities quickly assented and the killers were welcomed in Libya as heroes.

Golda Meir (1898-1978)—born Golda Mabovitch to Ukrainian Jewish parents in Kiev—was the only female Israeli Prime Minister (1969 to 1974), and after the incident in Munich authorized the retaliatory “Operation Wrath of God” which would continue for as long as 20 years and result in multiple bombings and massacres of both military and civilian Palestinians

In the aftermath of the Munich massacre, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir authorized a clandestine operation known “The Wrath of God” to find and assassinate everyone involved in the terrorist operation, both organizers and operatives. The Israeli teams secretly penetrated the terrorist networks operating in Europe: The Red Brigades, The Irish Republican Army, Black September and the others, gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of the perpetrators. Mossad—Israel’s secretive and hyper-competent foreign intelligence agency—put together teams with experts in explosives, forgery, weapons, and logistics, which operated for seven years until the last accessible target fell by car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon in 1979. The incredible aftermath of vengeance by the Mossad agents has been depicted on film and in books, but the full story probably cannot be publicly known.

Whitman Mission Established, 1846

2023-08-28T11:13:35-05:00August 28, 2023|HH 2023|

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” —Matthew 16:24, 25

Whitman Mission Established, August 30, 1846

Every state is allowed to install two memorial state representative images in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. In 1953 the State of Washington set up a beautiful bronze statue of a frontiersman in buckskins with a Bible under one arm and his saddlebags under the other. The statue represents the Presbyterian missionary Marcus Whitman, an intrepid and skilled frontier doctor and preacher of the Gospel. He blazed a trail to the Oregon Territory, where he brought the Word of God to the Nez Perce and Ojibwa tribes. On August 30, 1846, he and his new wife Narcissa began their ministry to the latter tribe. The following year they were martyred along with twelve other settlers, near Walla Walla. In 2021, Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation to remove his statue in Washington, D.C. and replace it with that of a Native American “environmental activist.” Away with the hegemonic white supremacist Bible-thumper!

Marcus Whitman bronze memorial by Avard Fairbanks, given in 1953, as shown in the National Statuary Hall, U.S. Capitol, 2011

The Whitman Mission is established

Whitman was born in 1802 in western New York, and after the death of his father Beza, he was sent to Massachusetts to live with relatives. He believed he was called of God to preach, but was too poor to attend seminary. Instead, he received medical training to pursue a career of service. He apprenticed with a doctor and was awarded a medical degree from Fairfield Medical College. After attaining his MD, Marcus set up a medical practice and became a church elder. In 1835 he joined missionary Samuel Parker and travelled to the far west to assist in bringing the Gospel to the Nez Perce and providing medical help to trappers during an outbreak of cholera.

The Rocky Mountain Rendezvous was an annual rendezvous, held between 1825 and 1840 at various locations, organized by a fur trading company at which trappers and mountain men sold their furs and hides and replenished their supplies

The following year, Whitman married Narcissa Prentiss, a physics and chemistry teacher who believed that God had called her to the mission field, but was denied because she had no husband. Marcus fixed that problem and they began preparations to journey to the Northwest Territories. They adopted eleven orphaned children with the surname of Sager and established a boarding school for settler’s children. Whitman joined a wagon train of fur traders heading for the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, establishing several missions along the way, ending eventually in the Blue Mountains, near modern Walla Walla, in Cause tribal territory. Narcissa became the first white woman to cross the Rockies; they farmed and provided medical care and learned the native languages, as well as establishing a school for native children.

Marcus Whitman (1802-1847)

Narcissa Whitman (1808-1847)

In 1842 Marcus Whitman returned to the east and accompanied wagon trains of “the great migration” westward again, establishing the “Oregon Trail” for future homesteaders. With the influx of new settlers came diseases that sometimes devastated native populations, who had no immunity to European maladies. In one such epidemic of measles, many of the Cayuse died, especially children. The Whitmans tried to nurse the sick and comfort the dying, but half of the Cayuse died nonetheless. According to ethno-historians, in the Cayuse culture, when a member of the tribe died under care of a medicine man, the family had the right to kill him. They apparently blamed the Whitmans for bringing the disease that could not be healed, and slaughtered the missionaries and twelve other settlers, kidnapping many women and children, and adopting some of them into the tribe to replace their losses. In the “Cayuse War” that followed, five men of the tribe were hanged for murder.

During the Whitman massacre, many captives were also taken, among them 17-year-old Lorinda Bewley, shown here with her captor, Five Crows, who spared her life in hopes of taking her as his wife

The massacre of Marcus Whitman and his fellow missionaries

The mission continued and the martyred Dr. Whitman and wife were praised and memorialized with Whitman College, the naming of schools, streets and a national park. There are three monuments to Dr. Whitman, but the one in Washington, D.C. has fallen victim once again to intolerance, superstition, and the war on Christianity.

The grave of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the other victims of the Whitman Mission Massacre, including several of the seven Sager children whom the Whitmans had adopted after they were orphaned along the Oregon Trail

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