Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · War!
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British invaders overwhelmed Mackinac 200 years ago this week

Patrick Sullivan - July 16th, 2012  

British soldiers didn’t take Mackinac Island entirely by surprise 200 years ago, though they may as well have.

When the British invaded on July 17, 1812, they found the Americans unprepared because news of the war had not yet reached this frontier outpost, even though President James Madison had declared war on the British a month earlier.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some suspicious activity going on around the Straits of Mackinac leading up to the siege -- a day before the British arrived in a flotilla from St. Joseph Island, near Sault Ste. Marie, the commander of Fort Mackinac had a sense of foreboding.

Lt. Porter Hanks watched as canoe after canoe carrying Native American warriors cut through Lake Huron and passed the southern shore of the island, headed east toward Fort St. Joseph.

What was more disconcerting, said Craig Wilson, museum historian for the Mackinac State Historic Parks, was the temperament of the Native Americans.

“He had noticed large numbers of native people heading up towards St. Joseph Island, but he also says that the native people were acting coolly toward him, they weren’t as friendly as they had been, so that kind of aroused his suspicions,” Wilson said.

A day before war was to break out in Michigan, the American commander decided to send a spy into Canada.


A question arises, though, as the British prepared an attack and the Americans on Mackinac Island were completely unaware -- how was it that the British forces in the Upper Great Lakes found out so much sooner than the Americans that war had been declared?

Didn’t the Americans make it a priority to alert their forts in the frontier?

“I don’t know that they didn’t make it a priority,” said Phil Porter, executive director of Mackinac State Historic Parks and chairman of the Michigan War of 1812 committee. “You have to be cognizant of communication processes at that time. There was really no way to get word out here until it was physically brought.”

It happened that the British were lucky. John Jacob Astor, magnate and owner of the American Fur Company, was near Washington when war was declared.

Astor wanted to protect his interests so he sent out a messenger to warn his far-flung fur trading offices. One of those happened to be on St. Joseph’s Island, in Ontario, where Astor’s messenger reached his company and also alerted the British to the war around July 4, 1812.

Having early knowledge of the war first gave the British a huge advantage, but the news shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. There had been tension between the Americans and the British for years.

Although much of the conflict between the countries took place on the Atlantic Ocean over trade and the impressing of American sailors by the British to fight Napoleon in Europe, there was also concern in the west among Americans that the British were arming native tribes and encouraging hostility toward the Americans.

“I think both British and American forces on the frontier were aware that there was a declining relationship between the United States and Great Britain, and had been for some time,” Porter said.


When British Capt. Charles Roberts, commander of Fort St. Joseph, learned of the war, he knew immediately he needed to bolster his force, which consisted of a garrison of 39 men.

Roberts began enlisting fur traders and French Canadians to help with the task of taking Mackinac Island, a fort the British had built and then lost after the Revolutionary War. Roberts also recruited hundreds of Odawa, Ojibway, Winnebego, Menominee and Dakota warriors.

The British wanted Mackinac because, in addition to its strategic importance, it was the hub of the fur trade, which at the time was the region’s economic engine.

“The fur trade was essentially what everybody was up here to do, there wasn’t much else,” Wilson said.

In less than two weeks, Roberts had assembled a force of over 600 men. The small army launched on the schooner Caledonia, along with a fleet of canoes, for the 45 mile journey to the island, which they planned to take by surprise.

“One of the things that the British had worked very, very hard at, for about five years, was cultivating these good relationships with Native peoples, with local Canadians, and really keeping their troops on their toes,” Wilson said. “The Americans were content to just believe that once war was declared, everyone would up and volunteer for the war, which did not happen.”


Just as this flotilla of the British and their allies headed to Mackinac Island, the spy recruited by Lt. Hanks was headed the opposite way to St. Joseph’s.

Hanks had tapped a man who owned a farm in the island for the mission, Michael Dousman, because Dousman was a member of the American militia and he was a fur trader. Hanks believed this meant he could be trusted and his presence on St. Joseph’s wouldn’t arouse suspicions.

Dousman’s mission was doomed, however.

“He only made it about half way there when he got captured by the flotilla that was coming this way for the attack,” Porter said.

It’s unclear exactly what role Dousman played for the British -- whether he was forced by circumstances to cooperate, or whether he actually switched sides and willingly aided the British. Either way, he served the British well during the invasion.

“When they got to the island, he was allowed to go free with the understanding that he would go to the village, gather the civilians under the protection of the British, and he would not warn the American commander,” Porter said. “It appears as though he did keep his word.”


On a typical day on Mackinac Island, for an ordinary soldier, life would have been pretty dull in 1812.

“Your normal daily routine would consist of waking up at the same time, taking your meals at the same time, performing a lot of manual labor to keep the fort maintained, doing construction work and things like that, performing standing guard duty, going to drills -- basically the same thing day in and day out,” Wilson said.

An invasion of the island by foreign troops definitely would have gotten the American troops’ hearts pumping.

On July 17, 1812, for almost all of the soldiers at Fort Mackinac, the day was like any other day, until 10 a.m.

“The events of the 17th were probably the most exciting thing that most of these men had experienced, but not in a good way, “ Wilson said. “It literally seems like the British showed up and it was a complete surprise.”

At 10 a.m., the British shot a cannon ball over the fort.

“You would have woken up in the morning and at 10 o’clock, you would have been quite surprised to hear the roar of a cannon behind your fort,” Porter said. “That’s when the British fired a single shot to announce they were in position and prepared to attack.”

The Americans soon learned the British and their allies had occupied high ground above the fort and the Americans were outnumbered.


Hanks must have been in an awkward position. He didn’t ask to become commander of the military at Mackinac Island. And now it was under siege.

Taking command of the island “was probably something he never expected to do,” Wilson said. “He had gone up there with a commanding officer who happened to die in 1811, and no replacement was ever sent up, so Hanks got the job.”

Hanks might have suspected something was up that day, but he apparently didn’t expect an invasion.

“He even says in his official report to William Hull (the Army commander in Detroit), the moment he saw this British force up on the heights, he says, ‘This was my first information of war,’ this is the first time he’s even aware this was happening,” Wilson said.

That morning, the British and their allies landed on the north end of the island at around 3 a.m.

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