The Western Lines

July 4, 2010

Liberty – The American Revolution Episodes 1 and 2

Today on Discovery Enterprise we celebrate the two hundred and thirty fourth anniversary of the founding of the United States of America with the first two episodes of the landmark PBS series “Liberty: The American Revolution – “The Reluctant Revolutionaries” and “Blows Must Decide”. This is a six part series hosted by former ABC News journalist Forrest Sawyer and narrated by veteran actor Edward Kirk Herrmann.

In the first installment “The Reluctant Revolutionaries” 1763-1774, we are introduced to the pre-Revolutionary society of colonial America under the British and loyal to the British crown. In 1763, the capitol city of colonial America is London, George Washington is lobbying for a post in the British army, and no one thinks of Boston harbor when they hear talk of tea parties. In a dozen years, the colonies are on the brink of rebellion. What happens to bring this country so quickly near war with England?

In episode two “Blows Must Decide” 1774-1776, a total break from Great Britain remains hard for Americans to imagine, even after shots are fired at Lexington and Concord. Words push matters “Over the Edge” in 1776. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense argues that it is the natural right of men to govern themselves. The Declaration of Independence declares this same idea a “self-evident” truth. For Americans, there is no looking back. There will be war with England.

So our dear readers join us as we celebrate American Independence Day and the founding of the United States of America as an independent nation. And, from of us at Discovery Enterprise – Happy Birthday America!

Liberty: The American Revolution Episode 1 – “The Reluctant Revolutionaries”

Liberty: The American Revolution Episode 2 – “Blows Must Decide” 1774-1776

July 1, 2010

Benjamin Franklin – America’s Renaissance Man

Today on Discovery Enterprise in order to help commemorate the two hundred and thirty fourth anniversary of the founding of the United States of America we explore the life of perhaps the greatest inventive mind that ever graced America’s cultural landscape before the birth of Thomas Edison and the arrival of America’s greatest import – the creative technological genius Nikola Tesla.

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. His signature appears on all the documents related to the founding of our nation from the Declaration of Independence to the Treaty of Paris which formally ended the American Revolutionary War between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the United States of America.

Franklin was a noted polymath, a leading author and printer, a leading satirist, political theorist in colonial America, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.

As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass ‘armonica’. He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania.

Franklin earned the title of “The First American” for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity; as a writer and spokesmen in London for several colonies, then as the first American ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation and embodied the frontier spirit of a young vigorous nation in the making.

So join us today on Discovery Enterprise in our salute to the founding of the United States of America as we honor its greatest son and its one true Renaissance man – Benjamin Franklin.

Modern Marvels – Ben Franklin Tech

July 4, 2009

1421: The Year When China Nearly Discovered America and the World

Today marks the two hundred and thirty third anniversary of the founding of the United States of America. History tells us that the America continent was discovered by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. But, a nascent naval power had the ability to discover and colonize this new world some ninety years before.

The year 1421 could have been a pivotal year in world history and would make a magnificent point of divergence in many an alternate history novel. 1421 could have been the year when Ming dynasty China could have set into motion a series of events that would have led the Chinese to discovery the Americas some ninety years before Christopher Columbus, circumnavigate the globe and transform Imperial China from merely a regional power into a major naval superpower of global extent on which the Sun would never have set. Instead China chose to abrogate its appointment with destiny and retreated into a long period of isolationism. The conquest of the world and control of the oceans were left to the countries of a Europe just awaking from a long period of intellectual slumber. Eventually the new emerging maritime powers of Europe found their way to the shores of the Dragon’s lair and were in due course to carve the carcass of this impotent giant between themselves.
The story of the voyages of Zheng He is a wonderful and cautionary tale of lost opportunity and “might have beens” in the annuals of global history. Zheng He was the admiral of seven major ocean expeditions, that were to voyage as far as Indonesia, India, the Middle-east, the east coast of Africa and as far as Arabia. These voyages took place over the course of the first three decades of the Fifteenth Century (1405-1433). Zheng He’s fleet consisted of three hundred ships and a crew of twenty-eight thousand men. The ships of this majestic fleet dwarfed the exploratory vessels of Portugal, Spain and England during all the Great Age of European Exploration of the latter part of the Fifteenth Century and well into the Seventeenth Century.
There is no real evidence to support Gavin Menzies’ thesis that Zheng He’s fleet went on to round the Cape of Good Hope to then enter the Atlantic Ocean and eventually discover and settle the Americas. And neither is there any compelling evidence that the fleet circumnavigated the world.
In fact, Gavin Menzies’ should have aptly named his book “1421: The Year When China Nearly Discovered America and the World and Nearly Became a World Power”
China had the technology and the navigational skills to accomplish these feats and become a major global power. But, China did not. Why not? The simple answer to that question is that Imperial China chose not to.
When Emperor Yongle died in 1424, factions within the imperial court who opposed the expeditions won the day. Eventually the emergent European powers seized the opportunities afforded to them by engaging in maritime exploration and trade. China eventually fell prey to their domination and was dominated and colonized by them.
The moral of this tale is a simple one- If you do not seize a golden opportunity for success others will. When a great power makes the decision to turn away from a new frontier, it does not mean that that frontier has closed. It only means that other powers will exploit the wealth that lies in wait to be had.
As we enter the second act of the Space Age will the United States heed this lesson of history and establish a new “Celestial Empire” and reap the benefits of the vast treasure troves of the mineral and energy wealth that awaits us out amongst the stars. Or will we leave this golden opportunity to others in our stead?