By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Wilhelm Heinrich Florus Graf von Schwerin. A name little known to most scholars of the American Revolution.
His importance comes from 10 letters he wrote his uncle between August 1, 1780 and December 20, 1781.
Von Schwerin, a German aristocrat and professional military man, served as a German sous-Lieutenant in the French Army under Comte De Rochambeau. He is important to history because his letters provide an eyewitness account of the taking of Redoubts Nine and Ten during the Battle of Yorktown, leading to the surrender of Lieutenant General Charles Lord Cornwallis and his British Army.
It is a great lesson for those who are military buffs, but has little relevance to this column.
In one of his letters to his uncle, a German aristocrat named Riengard Graf Zu Wied, he related an incident that shows the spirit that once flowed through the heart and soul of the people who resided in this once-great country. His correspondence to his uncle detailed a chance meeting that had occurred while the French Army was in winter quarters at Philadelphia.
He went on to say that a one-horse chaise, driven by a man, accompanied by two women, stopped at his tent. Schwerin recognized one of the women as a former servant at his uncle’s home in Dierdorf. Accompanying the woman was her sister, who had married a successful beer brewer in Philadelphia. They invited Schwerin to dinner at their well-furnished mansion.
That night at the home, Schwerin met a man named Dichon. Dichon had been one of his uncle’s servants back in Dierdorf. He and his brother had left Prussia and come to America, starting and successfully growing a shipping business.
Dichon related that they had suffered a bit of bad luck. One of their ships had been captured by the British. The loss of the ship and cargo amounted to 40,000 Florins, a great sum even for a well-heeled European aristocrat. The brothers shrugged off the loss because their success in America had provided them enough money to easily cover the ship’s seizing.
This was the spirit that once ran through America: unlike the European class system, your ability to achieve success and rise above your assigned station in life was limited only by your ambition. Respect was measured by your success, not a birth station.
One’s hard work leading to success and large financial gains made a person a role model, someone to emulate. Sporting these characteristics in today’s world brings condemnation.
Today our country has been taken over by political leaders and their coattail-hanging cronies who seek to abandon the proven success of our Constitution and our unique American culture created by it. They seek to replace it with a French Jacobin model where mediocrity is success and wealth is evil. Regardless of their shortcomings, everyone should be looked at the same. It’s only fair.
People exhibiting superior skills honed over the years, such as physicians, administrators and successful business owners, are publically scorned when their financial success is published in a newspaper.
Many people went to school and did nothing but take up space and waste the money that property taxpayers anteed up to educate them. Now, finding themselves with no skills, they look to the public to support them. After all—it’s not fair!
Then there are those who studied in school and went on to college. Once there, they opted for partying over studying. Now lacking the skills needed to advance their careers, they find their poor choices have stifled their careers. It’s not fair!
Then there are those victimized by drugs, alcohol abuse or foolish behavior. Their poor decisions have made them unemployable. It’s not fair!
Remember, the next time you hear some philosophy-driven, common-sense-lacking, reality-deficit expert rail against people they claim are waging a war on the poor—if you feel you are being overtaxed—he’s probably talking about you.
After all, what did the above-mentioned poor souls fail to do to deserve the place in life they now find themselves?