Recruiting In December of 1775, the newly appointed leader of the Continental Army, General George Washington was in a quandary. All Winter he had been working to bottle up British General Howe in Boston by building field-works and defensive positions around the city. He was hoping that when General Knox arrived from Fort Ticonderoga with field artillery pieces he would be able to force Howe and the British from Boston altogether.
But he had a problem recruiting for his all-volunteer army. In the short months after the Battle at Bunker Hill and with only days left in most of the soldiers enlistments most were planning to leave the Army. According to David McCullough's terrific new book "1776" it was reported that
Of eleven regiments, or roughly 10,000 men, fewer than 1,000 had agreed to stay. Some stimulus besides love of country must be found to make men want to serve, Washington advised Congress. Paying the troops a few months in advance might help, he wrote, but again he had no money at hand.
Showing a different relationship with the press than the military often enjoys today, the New England Chronicle printed a piece signed by "A Freeman" which argued for a renewed devotion to the cause of liberty
Your extertions in the cause of freedom, guided by wisdom and animated by zeal and courage, have gained you the love and confidence of your grateful countrymen; and they look to you, who are experienced veterans, and trust that you will still be the guardians of America. As I have the honor to be an American, and one among the free millions, who are defended by your valor, I would pay the tribute of thanks, and express my gratitude, while I solicit you to continue in your present, honorable and important station...
Two things happened to change the situation on the ground in that Winter of 1775-6: one was news of King George's address to Parliament (which had taken place in October), and Howe's burning of Falmouth Mass. Both inspired rage and indignation among the troops.
Of course, there was also Congress's promise of more money for the troops.
A year later, a similar situation arose, this time at an even more crucial point:building on the success at the Battle of Trenton.
The enlistment period of most of his army was due to expire on January 1st, 1777. The extremely successful attack on Trenton, defeating the much vaunted Hessians had given a boost to his army. It also pissed off Howe who sent a team to counter-attack. Washington decided to press his advantage and outflank the arriving troops by attacking their supply lines at Princeton. But many of his veterans were planning on heading home. According to David McCullough
At Trenton, Washington drew up his forces on the low ridge along the south side of the Assunpink Creek, with the Delaware on their left flank, a patch of woods to their right. It was December 30th. The following day, the last day of 1776, he made a dramatic appeal to the veteran troops of the Continental Army to stay with him.
Having no authority to do so, he offered a bounty of ten dollars for all who would stay another six months after their enlistments expired that day-a considerable sum for men whose pay was six dollars a month....
Washington got his army to stay together for another six months and went on that month to deal another blow to the British at Princeton.
Some have called enlistment incentives and reenlistment bonuses being offered by the military as bribery. I don't. People have to live and pay the bills. People want a better life for themselves. What worked on a peacetime army does not always work in an army on a war footing because in peacetime, many will take what the government offers without expectation of having to risk their lives. A wartime military is such that when you enlist, you do so with a reasonable expectation of having to be a war-fighter. The enlisted ranks (especially) get less pay than they deserve to begin with and this is especially true when a war is on.
No one wants a return to the draft. But it is also true that the incentives to risk your life for the liberal ideals of freedom and democracy take more than idealism, especially when the "idealists" of the Left tend to run for cover when the first shot is fired.
But it also takes more than money.
When the money he offered his troops did not immediately bring the desired, and necessary effect, General Washington addressed the troops there on that ridge above the Assunpink Creek and said
My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.
The money and the ideal caused his troops to commit.
"God Almighty," wrote Nathanial Greene, "inclined their hearts to listen to the proposal and they engaged anew."
To this day I believe that the cause of liberalism, the cause of freedom and democracy, is on the right side of history.
Just as it was in 1776.
With friends like this... Vermont blogger Cathy Resmer points to a story regarding the efforts of US House Representative Pete Sessions to introduce a bill disingenuously titled "Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005" which proposes to
"prohibit municipal governments from offering telecommunications, information, or cable services except to remedy market failures by private enterprise to provide such services."
I take it that Rep Sessions is no small government Federalist. First, what the hell is this doing being proposed at the Federal level? Perhaps because it failed at the state level? In Texas?>
Generally speaking I have no more of a stomach for Left leaning folks who rail against government while proposing Big Government than I have for "conservatives" who are willing to trade Federalism for corporate profits.
Hey! Sessions! Keep your hands off my Wi-Fi. It's not like I won't be paying for it in taxes fer cris'sakes.
The New Feminism Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali born Dutch legislator who is supposed to be in hiding. Why?
On television the slim, pantsuit-clad, Somali-born legislator demanded that the Dutch intelligence service investigate the honor killings of Muslim girls. In the pages of newspapers she harangued the health authorities to examine schoolgirls for evidence of genital mutilation. At prize ceremonies she warned European governments that women in their Muslim communities remain under threat.
Uh oh. That's the kinda stuff that got filmaker Theo Van Gogh killed.
Her critics say
In a series of "Letters to Hirsi Ali" published this spring in the newspaper De Volkskrant, several well-known, mostly male writers charged her with poisoning the political atmosphere with her strident attacks on Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. They argued that by pandering to Dutch prejudices and putting Muslims on the defensive, she contributes to the very Islamic radicalization she claims to want to stop. In a book rushed into print in February, the popular historian Geert Mak went so far as to compare [Theo Van Gogh's film] Submission to Joseph Goebbels's infamous Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew.
Of course, these people have nothing at stake. At least nothing similar to what's at stake for Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Seven months ago, Hirsi Ali's implacable campaign against what she views as Islam's oppression of women prompted a Muslim fanatic to ritually slaughter Theo van Gogh, her Dutch collaborator on the film Submission. The murderer used his knife to affix a five-page letter to the corpse promising the same treatment for Hirsi Ali and another Dutch politician who has criticized Islam. The murder sent Dutch society into paroxysms of rage and fear, sparking dozens of attacks on mosques and schools. But it didn't seem to faze Hirsi Ali. In a series of defiant interviews, the former refugee refused to be intimidated. When a group of Muslims tried to block her from making a sequel to Submission, she fought back in court and won. Like a dark avenging angel, she seemed to loom over Holland's wintry Dutch, her ubiquitous media presence a virtual guarantee of further conflict.
It seems some are willing to fight.
Sissy Willis has more