Growing up in the Northeast
Connecticut is third smallest state in the nation – after Delaware and neighboring Rhode Island…and the fifth to “join” the Union which means ratify the Constitution. However, its impact on our country’s development is not so small. If you were one of those few kids who actually stayed awake during American history you may remember that it was Roger Sherman of New Haven, CT who proposed what came to be known as the Great Compromise…or sometimes called the Connecticut Compromise.
Let’s go back for a moment to that sweltering summer of 1787 in Philadelphia. We had been an independent nation for just over a decade. The Revolution was won. We’d gotten rid of the Brits. Sent them packing. We were making an honest effort at governing ourselves. The system of government in effect at the time, known as the Articles of Confederation, just wasn’t working effectively. Congress was serving as both the legislative and the executive branches of government. When a quick decision was needed Congress would sit around and debate it to death. The governmental structure needed a strong Executive. One person who had the authority to make a decision about foreign policy or military matters – – and make it quickly, if needed.
A confederation, by its very definition, means the individual members have more authority than the central government. So let’s say, for instance, Congress decided, “We need troops to fight the Revolution”….any state, New Hampshire, Georgia, or anyone of the others could say, “Nah, we ain’t doin that…we don’t want to”.
Fast forward 75 years…it’s 1862….we’re in the midst of the Civil War. Southern President Jefferson Davis is trying to get each of the Confederate States to contribute to the effort to fight the Union….he needs resources: weapons, troops, food, fuel, horses, money, materiel from the individual members of the ‘Confederate States of America”. When he demands these the states tell him “Nah, we ain’t doin that…we don’t want to”. And he could not compel them. His government didn’t have the authority. Remember one of the big complaints of our southern brethren was states’ rights. When their system was set up they made sure each state had the right to say no to the central government – – and they did.
You may recall when the Soviet Union dissolved on Christmas Day in 1991 they promptly adopted for themselves the new name of “Confederation of Independent States” or the CIS as we called them. That lasted less time than a bottle of vodka in Boris Yeltsin’s hands. They split asunder very, very quickly. Such is the very nature of a confederacy. It just doesn’t work.
Back to that summer of 1787: a constitutional convention was called in Philly with the idea of modifying the Articles. They wound up throwing the Articles out altogether and starting over from scratch. And from that ‘scratch’ emerged the document that today we know as the Constitution of the United States of America. Only seven articles, just 27 Amendments, it’s the longest standing system of government of any country in the world.
So what does Connecticut have to do with this? I was just getting around to that.
Back then the larger states…that is to say the states with larger populations: Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania….they wanted greater representation because they had more people. Not a terribly unreasonable argument. The smaller states: Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut…they wanted all states represented equally….after all that was only fair, right?
So our boy from New Haven, CT Roger Sherman says: “How ’bout this – in the legislative branch of the government, which we’ll call Congress, we’ll have TWO chambers or “houses”. In the one chamber all the states are represented equally with two people from each state. We’ll call that the United States Senate. In the second chamber each state will have a number of representatives proportional to that state’s population. That chamber we’ll call the United States House of Representatives.”
That’s how we got the Congress we have today. Thanks to Roger Sherman and his Compromise. It’s called a bi-cameral (two-chamber) legislature. Each of the fifty states has a similar set up except Nebraska which has a uni-cameral (one-chamber) legislature. So I guess in a way that you could say we’re at least partially responsible for the clumsy way our government works, or doesn’t work….as the case may be.
Does this arrangement make for efficient governing? No. Is it often messy? Yes, sometimes. But it gives the greatest voice to the greatest number of people and that’s the goal. You want efficiency? Hitler’s government was efficient. So was Stalin’s.
Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government the world has ever seen…except for every other form of government that’s ever been tried.”
Connecticut: We Love Weapons
Back to Connecticut…what else besides the Constitutional Compromise has this little state done for the country? We are big into contributing to the nation’s defense. At last count Pratt and Whitney Aircraft has five manufacturing facilities throughout the state that make aircraft engines for both military and civilian aircraft. Being an Air Force guy I always like to point out the F100 engine which is the powerplant in the USAF’s F-15.
Pratt and Whitney is part of United Technologies based in West Hartford, CT.
Igor Sikorsky was a Russian emigrant who founded Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, CT. They make eight military and at least five civilian aircraft, mostly helicopters. You’ve all heard of the the movie Black Hawk Down about the loss of one of our choppers in Somalia….the Blackhawk is made by Sikorsky in Stratford, CT. The recent return of the American solider in Afghanistan, Bowe Bergdahl…..that was a Sikorsky Blackhawk. Marine One, the President’s helicopter, also uses the Blackhawk.
Sikorsky Aircraft is also part of United Technologies based in West Hartford, CT.
Electric Boat makes the Los Angeles Class submarines, the Seawolf Class submarines, the Ohio and Virginia Class submarines and they do it all at Groton, CT.
Electric Boat is part of General Dynamics with facilities in Stamford, Danbury, Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, CT.
Lastly, the United States Coast Guard Academy is located at New London, CT.Like West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy, the USCGA is a four-year military education leading to an officer’s commission and a career projecting American seapower. The Coast Guard does a lot more than patrol the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and rescue sailors caught in storms. They played an integral role in naval ops in all recent Middle Eastern military operations.
As proud as we are to be Connecticut Yankees, we have one or two skeletons in our closet too. Norwich, Connecticut is the home of Benedict Arnold. During the Revolution he tried to sell out the American cause by turning over West Point to the British. He conspired with a British intelligence officer named John André to leave West Point virtually undefended enabling the British to take it without a fight.
Controlling West Point would have given the Brits control of naval traffic on the Hudson River and effectively dividing the Northeast from the rest of the country. The point here is this: in the history of our nation the name Benedict Arnold is synonymous with traitor. He exemplifies someone who puts his own personal greed above the interests of his nation and betrays his country.
The whole plot was uncovered when André was stopped by some Americans on his way back to the safety of a nearby British warship. The plans, in Arnold’s handwriting, were discovered in André’s boots. We tried him for the spy that he was and then we hanged his ass.
Years later Arnold died a pauper in Britain. His obituary noted, “We have no more use for a traitor than the Americans do.”
Historians point out that Arnold felt his contributions to the American war effort were not sufficiently recognized. There might be a sliver of truth in that. One such example could be the battle of Saratoga in upstate New York in the fall of 1777. While Arnold’s contributions to the American victory at Saratoga were significant much of the credit went to his rival General Horatio Gates.
While military governor of Philadelphia Arnold was accused of using his position for personal gain prompting Pennsylvania Governor Joseph Reed to threaten General Washington with withdrawing Pennsylvania’s support of the Continental Army if Washington did not reprimand Arnold. Reluctantly, Washington issued a letter of reprimand to Arnold to pacify Reed. This infuriated Arnold.
While in Philadelphia Arnold fell in love with Peggy Shippen, beautiful daughter of a well-to-do family known to have loyalist sympathies. Arnold and Shippen were married. She arranged the meeting between her husband and her former suitor British Major John André. There the conspiracy was born and with it Arnold’s treason.
Connecticut is a small state that has played a big role in our nation’s development. In recent news articles it’s been described as a difficult place to live due to the high cost of living, high overall tax burden and high unemployment. We’ve also been described as the 4th ‘smartest’ state in the nation and enjoy the highest per-capita income of all the 50 states….according to http://www.thestreet.com/story/12712489/7/the-10-dumbest-states-in-america.html
Lastly, the University of Connecticut at Storrs has a kick-ass women’s basketball team that has just (April 2015) won it’s tenth national title.