Over the course of this spring semester here at the Hudson River Valley Institute, I will be synthesizing a research paper on the 1788 New York Constitutional Convention. It was at this convention that state ratification of the US Constitution was discussed and ultimately agreed upon. At the time, Poughkeepsie was the capital of the state so it was in this very area where the decision to ratify the Constitution took place. At the convention were several key figures of both the federalist and antifederalist movements including Alexander Hamilton (Federalist) as well as Governor of New York George Clinton (Anti-Federalist). Though ratification was originally out of favor, by the end of the convention, with a vote of 31 to 27, New York became the 11th state to ratify the Constitution.
This moment in Poughkeepsie’s history was monumental not just for the state of New York but for the newly founded United States as well. At this point, New York was one of the largest states in the union and had significant influence within the country. The consequences of not legitimizing the Constitution would be succession for the newly formed United States, an inconceivable notion considering the United States Federal Government was headquartered in New York City. Had New York not ratified the Constitution, perhaps remaining states would make a similar choice and choose to not ratify as well. The convention in Poughkeepsie represented a substantial compromise thus far in American history. The Anti-Federalists who had been so adamant about not signing the Constitution were ultimately swayed (for the most part as it was not a unanimous vote) in their decision on the grounds that certain amendments be added to the Constitution. These amendments would later be known as the Bill of Rights yet unfortunately for some Anti-Federalists, the promise of a future addition rather than a guarantee of an immediate insertion of these amendments resulted in the degradation of several political careers. The opposite was true for Alexander Hamilton as well as his fellow Federalists because not only had they turned a minority opinion into a majority vote but Constitutional ratification was soon a reality for not just New York but the entire nation.
As the vote in New York marked a pivotal point in the ratification of the Constitution, the main body of my research will be focused on the convention itself. However it is also pertinent to observe the circumstances leading up to the meeting in Poughkeepsie as well as the ramifications following that meeting. Perhaps there could be an argument suggesting that had certain states failed to ratify the Constitution leading up to, and during, the conference, then a different course of events would have transpired.
George Washington at War – 1776, by John Koopman III is an eloquent tale of historical fiction, set during the American Revolution. Koopman, who is a General Washington re-enactor, skillfully uses the novel to explore the character of Washington but also draw attention to issues of war that connect the past to the present such as PTSD. In this the book can speak across time as it shares some universal truths of armed conflict.
Throughout the book, Koopman III never explicitly states the condition of war time trauma. Nor does the author state opinions one way or another. Instead, he guides you there by using the book, so that the reader can come to his or her own conclusion about the topic, instead of trying to tell his readers how to think.
Specific characters create an overarching feel for the war and for the books main subject General Washington. Billy Lee’s relationship to the general allows us to experience insight into the great man’s character, and by extension Koopman III’s interpretation of the man. “Billy Lee who was very intimate with the General’s moods knew in an instance what the problem was.” Also “The fact that he looked away when Mr. Cunningham brought up the anniversary explained everything.” Koopman III, in this part of the novel, does not explicitly explain what had happened to Washington. Instead, he provides hints at how war still haunts such a powerful man.
The issue is continued in the conversation between Billy Lee and Mr. Cunningham in which Mr. Lee states, “I caution you, it is not wise to bring up the subject of war unless the General initiates the discussion.” However, Washington is also affected by nature, “The burst of thunder had brought Washington back to the siege of Boston”. In this regard, Koopman III is illustrating how Washington is still haunted by the war and anything can cause him to be put back in the war. In this instance, Koopman III highlights how truly awful this silent problem is and how greatly it can affect a man or woman.
This problem is apparent in another character in the novel. Bellamy, who had watched a friend of his get killed by Hessians and as he was forced back into the tragic memory, he became enraged. “Bellamy then grabbed the Hessian by the shirt collar and repeatedly punched him in the head with the force of a blacksmith’s hammer. After several blows Bellamy began to strangle him and yelled, “You Hessian bastard! You butchered Thomas!” More violent in comparison to Washington, however, it is still clear that both men are dealing with the same issue.
Koopman III also offers a look into a part of the war that many may not have thought of, how animals were affected by war. For instance, out of Washington’s two war horses, Nelson, was his favorite in battle because Blueskin “could not stand fire well.” Of course, many have heard of humans being affected in such a manner but, it is uncertain how many made that same connection in regards to animals.
George Washington at War – 1776 is highly recommended because it appeals to both history fanatics and those looking for a fast paced, action packed story. On one hand it’s a celebratory exploration of one of America’s greatest figures, yet Koopman III also includes an issue that is prevalent in today’s society as well. He skillfully uses two different characters to highlight such a problem. Washington, suffering more silently, where Bellamy suffers more outwardly. George Washington at War – 1776 is an eloquent book which ties history with a very important issue which plagues some men and women of war. By the end of the book, we have a multidimensional look at the figure of General Washington, but also of the ravages of war upon the psyche. If you are interested in learning about General Washington and his horses at war, you can order the book at:
Marist College was not exactly on my radar when I began the process of searching for my place of higher learning following high school graduation. Upon my first unofficial tour, Marist was a breath of fresh air because it was the first campus I got to know without the help of a guide or some fancy letter in the mail telling me of all the school’s offerings. I entered as an undeclared student and that followed me into my sophomore year, which found me with a very defined group of friends yet no clear choice of major. Call it naïve, but social studies and history were things I considered second nature prior to college so I thought that maybe that would translate well within academia. Thus, by the end of my second year at school, I became a political science major.
I may not be the most forward thinking person but I am incredibly concerned with what I do in the now. That may sound cliché but it is a very important part of who I am because in my opinion, time is our most finite resource and as such I do my best to spend it in the most efficient ways possible. I rarely enjoy free time, aside from the occasional yet much needed nap, I much prefer to be busy throughout the day. Those mornings that keep me occupied enough to turn into afternoons and evenings without my knowing…those are my favorite. Hard work is something I see as challenging yet incredibly necessary in keeping a routine schedule and I am a fan of all the various forms in which it may manifest, be it academic busy work or hands on tasks that require more tangible tools than just the mind and a pen. At the end of the day, I like to consider myself a jack of several trades…I am still working on the “all” part of that phrase because “master of none” is certainly applicable.
If my upbringing in small-town America taught me anything it was to be humble because when I say that the student population at Marist College and that of my hometown of Saranac Lake, NY are rather equal, I do so without hyperbole. I could easily count the number of stoplights and chain restaurants within my town on both hands and what’s more, my house is a solid 15 minutes outside of said town and another 5 into the woods. Needless to say my first trip to Starbucks did not happen until I came to Marist, but that is the nature of college…a lot of firsts. Now as a senior, I relish in the fact that the amenities I missed out on while in the North Country (a preferred nomenclature for northern New York as “Upstate” simply does not apply) are now at the very least familiar to me after my three and half years here. On a similar reflective note, I consider myself very blessed to come from such unique area while adapting the lifestyle it instilled within me to what I consider a more metropolitan living with the group of people I deem friends and acquaintances.
Make no mistake, the uncertainty regarding my major manifests once again regarding my future after school. However while I may have yet to discover what kind of job I am suited for, I have an idea of the type of life I would like to have. By that I mean that I want my work to take me places, I want experiences almost more than I want a career because the minute I settle into a cozy desk job at some company with an employer that sees me as a chair warmer…that is when I sell out. If ever a college student in their early 20’s could make a summation of their life thus far, my attempt would be to describe somebody who perhaps took a more unorthodox approach to getting what they wanted out of life. I thrive under the notion that perhaps my path is not the most simplistic with the most predictable outcome but at the very least it has gotten me to a point in life where my next move is rather independent of anything I have since accomplished.
Meet, and hear, our regional literati for a reading Thursday Feb 11 at 6:30 in Hancock 2023, second floor of the Hancock Center at Marist College.
The following In|Filtration poets will read from their luminous, voluminous, including-us works: Dorothy Albertini, Celia Bland, Brenda Coultas, Tim Davis, Chris Funkhouser, Lea Graham, Nancy O. Graham, Jim Handlin, Claire Hero, Daniel Gilhuly, Timothy Liu, Lori Anderson Moseman, Mark Novak, George Quasha, Sparrow, Charles Stein and Ronald Whiteurs. This event will include interstitial screenings of Quasha’s “Axial Landscapes” of the Hudson Valley.
In|Filtration is an anthology of contemporary Hudson Valley poetry that in one sense or another is innovative. The poets’ work is sometimes formally original and other times innovative in the use of more familiar poetic forms: old bottle/new wine; new bottle/old wine; and, quite often, new bottle/new wine. Much of the poetry here is directly or indirectly in conversation with national and international movements directed toward more exploratory uses of the medium—work that goes beyond the explorer’s map into uncharted territories, places where the map tatters in the explorer’s pocket and another world begins. Like explorers the editors have sought to map the contemporary currents of radical poetics in the Hudson Valley. There is truly an enormous wealth of poetic activity in the region, and of course such an exploration cannot be comprehensive Themselves poets, the editors present what they take to be the salient characteristic of the region in their essay “A Hudson Valley Salt Line” at the end of the anthology, pointing to the geological, human and cultural histories of the Hudson Valley as they dovetail with its poetries. They also provide their rationale for the title In|Filtration with particular reference to the Hudson River’s salt line, which becomes the essay’s key trope.
For review copies, an interview & other requests contact Sam Truitt, Station Hill of Barrytown at 845-758-5293; via email at email@example.com; and/or via mail at Station Hill Press, 120 Station Hill Road, Barrytown, NY 12507.