Category Archives: Empires and Revolutions



Rebels Against Authority

For United States Independence Day:

In 2010 the Samuel Adams beer company trumpeted beer’s role in the founding of the nation. It claimed that William Bradford’s Pilgrims came ashore in Plymouth, Massachusetts, only because they were “out of beer.” (Bradford actually wrote that the Pilgrims made straight for land- “whatsoever it was they cared not”- because they had “no water, no beere, nor any woode.”) The Boston beer company further claimed that the American Revolution originated in the taverns of New England. “The revolutionaries gathered over beer to plot their rebellion,” it proposed, adding that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were home brewers. Samuel Adams inherited his father’s beer company, although he clearly preferred fermenting rebellion to fermenting beer. Actually, Adams chief claim to posterity is related to tea! LOL

Yet the founders are so deeply embedded in our culture that their names, in addition to appearing on beer bottles, can be spotted almost everywhere. “Washington” is the name of 31 counties and 42 cities. Iowa and Indiana combined, have nearly 100 “Washington” townships; California has 28 “Washington Elementary Schools.” After “Main Street,” Washington is the most common street name in the United States. School children also relish his name. Washington is considered a favored elementary American hero, and his birthday was declared a national holiday in 1968, which many schools honor by closing the school for that day.

Indeed, the founders now loom so large that is may seem that they could not have lost to the British. But their triumph was not inevitable. In fact, it was most probably not even likely. To understand the American Revolution, we must examine if from the perspective of the past, before the names of the founders adorned beer bottles and elementary schools, and before the United States became a mighty nation. The simple truth is that the American Revolution was accomplished by men and women who did not know they would succeed (and many of them thought they would surely lose). At the outset, they did not even know whether they sought British concessions or independence, whether most colonist would side with them or remain loyal to His Majesty’s government, whether foreign powers such as France could be enlisted to provide support (which when they did, enabled the colonist to win), whether rebellion against political authority in London would undermine social order in America, or whether the many different peoples of the colonies could be knitted together into a single nation. The revolutionaries did know, however, that if they failed they would likely face arrest, imprisonment, and even death. All revolutions are based on an expectation that if you fail you are finished, but also on an ideal, that you are willing to fight and die for your cause regardless.

As the rebellion escalated into a full-scale war for independence, the colonist confronted the challenge of creating and financing an army that could defeat the mightiest empire in the world. In the midst of fighting, and in the wake of freedom from British rule, they faced an even greater challenge- the founding of a new nation, with a new government and a new national spirit.


Samuel Adams Beer logo, 1860

William Walcutt’s 1857 painting, “Pulling Down the Statue of George III at Bowling Green”

Washington School built in1904 in Shawnee, Farrell Park, Oklahoma

c.1876 The Grand Union Flag, also known as the Continental Colors, said to be the first National Flag of the United States.


Josephine Bonaparte, Empress of France (1763 – 1814)


The Coronation of Josephine

Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, was born in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique. She was from a wealthy white Creole family that owned a sugar plantation. Little did she know that she was destined for greatness as the first wife, love, and Empress of Napoleon Bonaparte.

When Josephine met Napoleon, she was already a mature widow with two children, as she was married to a French aristocrat who did not escape the Reign of Terror. Josephine had spent many traumatic months as a prisoner and was spared when Maximilien Robespierre was arrested and executed. He was responsible for her imprisonment and her first husband’s execution. In fact her first husband was executed only five days before he was. It is likely that Josephine would have followed her husband shortly to the guillotine. Being through such an ordeal took a toll on Josephine and when she was released she sought comfort in spending what she obtained from her late husband’s estate and taking several prominent lovers.

She met Napoleon in 1795, when he was only a Corsican-Italian officer in the French army, engaged to who would become a future Queen of Sweden. At the time Josephine was involved in an affair with Paul François Jean Nicolas, Vicomte de Barras. Shortly after they met Napoleon bombarded her with heavily passionate love letters and pursued her relentlessly. Many of these letters still survive today, along with letters that Napoleon wrote Josephine throughout their marriage. It was after she met Napoleon that she began to use the name Josephine, for before she had always been known as Rose. Napoleon preferred Josephine.

In 1796, right after Napoleon broke his engagement to his fiance, he married Josephine. This outraged his family, who felt Josephine was way beneath them as they were Italian nobility by ancestry. His mother and sisters were especially displeased. Josephine had possessed aristocratic mannerisms that they actually lacked, and they mistook that for haughtiness and pride. Also, she was six years older than Napoleon and had children from her previous marriage. They were especially resentful at how well Napoleon treated Josephine’s children, as if they were his own to an extant. None of this mattered however, as letters prove, Napoleon was passionately in love with Josephine.

One wonders if Josephine was as in love with Napoleon as he was with her, for soon after the marriage Napoleon left to lead the French army into Italy. Almost immediately after he was gone, Josephine began and affair with a Hussar Lieutenant, Hippolyte Charles. During the Empire Era, it was not uncommon and even considered fashionable for even women to have extra-marital lovers. Napoleon was enraged when he found out, and thus began their torrid love affairs and volatile love-hate relationship. Even though they both carried on openly with lovers, Josephine never thought of leaving Napoleon, and Napoleon never stopped loving Josephine.

When Napoleon became emperor in 1804, the coronation was immaculate. Pope Pius VII officiated the ceremony that took place in the Notre Dame de Paris, where Napoleon crowned himself, and then crowned Josephine. The ceremony was not so joyous for Josephine, as she was already under scrutiny by Napoleon and his family because she had not given Napoleon any children. Her sister-in-laws, who carried her train during the ceremony were no friends of hers. Almost everyone around her, disliked her. The fact that Napoleon still loved her and did crown her must have been some consolation and triumph.

A few years later, Josephine really felt hopeless, as she still did not bear an heir. Now that her husband was Emperor it was imperative that he have one. As Empress it was her duty and she failed. The trauma and terror she suffered imprisoned during the Reign of Terror very possibly took its toll on her health and body. It is not uncommon that women be brought to premature menopause when they suffer from very stressful and traumatic experiences. Post traumatic stress disorder could have caused her to become barren. The fact that she had two children with her previous husband, before the terror, and that Napoleon had at least one illegitimate child that he claimed, proves that both were capable.

Napoleon had no choice to set aside Josephine and remarry. Even though they divorced and Napoleon remarried, he still allowed her to carry the title of Empress along side his new wife. He even continued to have a good relationship with her children. He would tell several people that he still loved Josephine, even though he did not respect her, which was mostly due to her numerous and open infidelities during their marriage. He would love her until his death as her name was one of his last words.

Coronation of Josephine