By Jeff Salter
I’m delighted to have as my Guest Fox today, the talented author J. Gunnar Grey. It’s difficult to remember exactly when (or over what topic) I first encountered Gunnar, because so many of my wonderful colleagues at Astraea Press have been so considerate to me. So let’s just say I met her on the Facebook group which includes all those participating A.P. authors. We have a LOT of fun over there, folks. And no topic is off-limits!
But I DO recall that her WW2 novel, Deal With the Devil, was among the very first books I read by any of my A.P. colleagues. And that story is terrific.
Anyway, this autumn, I’m catching up on my Guest Foxes — since I had neglected (for many months this year) this very enjoyable aspect of blogging.
It will soon be obvious why I selected a historian for this guest appearance.
Witnessing a Significant Historical Event
By J. Gunnar Grey
August 1787 — The Constitutional Convention
Every window in the Pennsylvania State House Assembly Room stood open, and still the summer heat must have beaten down upon the delegates. Artists’ renditions all show the men as being formally dressed, with powdered wigs arranged just so, cravats tied, breeches buckled, and tailcoats buttoned. Personally, I find this difficult to believe. Are they seriously suggesting that, during the height of summer and the ferocious heat of disagreement and debate, nobody even loosened a tie? All I can say is, if that’s true, then the Founding Fathers who attended the Constitutional Convention and drafted the governing document that formed America, really must have been beings on a totally different plane from the average Joe or Jane. Including me.
The debates were fierce because the Convention’s delegates knew the survival of the nation they’d fought for, that their friends and family members and neighbors had died for, was at stake. The Articles of Confederation had proven too weak, unable to contain the boisterous states. An economic crisis had paralyzed the federal government, squeezed credit dry, made hard currency scarce, and necessitated austerity measures for several states, intended to bring ballooning deficits under control. (Any of this sound familiar?)
Clearly the previous grand plan wasn’t working. It was time to try again.
Wish I’d Seen
There are so many events in history I wish I’d seen. But the Convention, and the rebirth of the United States it created, hold a central place within my soul, not least because so many of the arguments held during that long, hot summer in 1787 remain applicable today. In some ways the election this coming November will be a mere continuation of those Philadelphia debates, because it pits a proponent of a large, powerful federal government against a proponent of a smaller, more nimble government that seeks to delegate certain rights and responsibilities to the states — one more way in which history repeats herself.
And yet — and yet my favorite exchange from the Constitutional Convention is a minor one.
Many early Americans had an inbred distrust of a standing (permanent) army. In an attempt to contain costs, limit the threat that a strong federal government posed to individual liberty, and continue the tradition of the citizen-soldier in preference to a professional one, George Mason of Virginia suggested that only a few small garrisons should be allowed under the Constitution. Several other delegates agreed, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts suggested five thousand men should be sufficient.
Some historians have attributed the next words to George Washington himself, the unanimously-elected president of the Convention. Others claim it was Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina. But everyone agrees the idea behind the words could only have arisen from the general who’d commanded the Continental Army:
He said he would have no objection to such a clause, so long as it was amended to ensure no enemy presumed to invade with an army of more than three thousand.
Cheers for the general. And for our modern-day soldiers.
J. Gunnar Grey writes books. She’s a historian, political junkie, target shooter, and retired adventurer and equestrian, as well as a voracious reader. Occasionally her poor husband surfaces from beneath a pile of paperbacks, gasping for air… but he’s learned to be such a good sport about it.
Captain Kelly Bonham agreed to adopt a war dog, but Pojo’s not what she expected. This German Shepherd isn’t interested in rolling over for a tummy rub; he’s a working dog, a retired bomb sniffer who saw his handler cut in half by a landmine in Afghanistan. That’s serious trauma, and Bonnie wonders if his canine brain is still fully functional.
Now she’s shaking it down with a dog who has more teeth than the law allows. A dog whose behavior is puzzling, threatening, maybe even unhinged.
Can she rescue this war dog … or will he rescue her?
You’ve just had a peek at the Constitutional Convention. Now, which historical event would YOU most want to witness?