Pat Wahler

Penning stories to savor.

Tag: Civil War

The Mother of Thanksgiving

The scent of a turkey roasting in the oven.  Mashed potatoes covered with home-made gravy that melts in your mouth. Cinnamon-sweetened pumpkin pie served with plenty of fresh whipped cream. These are only a few of the delights offered by one of our country’s most decadent culinary events.

Thanksgiving is a mere eight days away and most of us are scurrying to stock up on the supplies necessary to create America’s annual traditional feast.

While the idea may have originated from the pilgrims – even though their meal looked far different from what is served today – it took the efforts of a woman to formally establish the tradition.

Sarah Josepha Hale, Mother of Thanksgiving. (Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Known as the Mother of Thanksgiving, Sarah Josepha Hale lobbied for the creation of a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks. Sarah, an accomplished and prolific writer, became editor of the most influential journal of its day, Godey’s Ladies Book, a position she held for forty years. Sarah wrote many editorials championing the idea of establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday before playing her most important card on September 28, 1862. With America in the midst of the horrors of the Civil War, she wrote a letter to President Lincoln asking him to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and “permanently an American custom and institution”. Lincoln must have agreed, for within a week, an official proclamation was issued setting the observance for the final Thursday in November to “help heal the wounds of the nation”.

In her spare time, (when she wasn’t busy establishing national holidays or editing), Sarah penned books, poems, and articles; she advocated on behalf of women’s education, encouraged the publication of American writers, campaigned for a unified American culture, and promoted the preservation of historical sites. Oh yes, and she wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, too.

Arbiter of fashion, food, and literary delights, thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale. (Public Domain)

I must admit her efforts to make a better America have me feeling like a total slacker, so here’s a gentle reminder from me to you. While you’re gathering ingredients for the holiday meal, please consider picking up a few extra things for your local food pantry. A little can help a lot, and I feel sure Sarah Josepha Hale would nod in approval at your kindness.

Finally, and just in time for Thanksgiving, I’ve posted a new recipe. Click on the Easy-Peasy Recipe tab for a simple and delicious way to prepare sweet potatoes that does NOT involve marshmallows or brown sugar. I think you’ll like it!

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Tax Time

For the past few weeks I’ve been sorting pieces of paper from the basket where they’ve been hiding for the past year, and writing out categorized lists of income and expenses. While this can be an eye-opening (and sometimes horrifying) exercise, it’s the first baby steps I take when getting ready to file my taxes.

Me, at tax time. (Quickmeme.com photo)

Tax time isn’t a celebration. For most people, including me, the idea of preparing taxes only prompts fear, aggravation, and helplessness. Add frustration to the mix once you start dealing with Form A, part 3, subsection d. But no worries. If you have any questions, all you need to do is refer to a booklet containing over one hundred pages of instruction.

If we have to pay, can’t it at least be a tad bit easier?

Ah, taxes…

Even though everyone understands why we must pay them–to fund the structures and services that keep our country rolling–I don’t think anyone is particularly thrilled about the idea of doing it. And that isn’t a recent phenomenon.

Income taxes were “officially” launched in 1862, when President Lincoln needed revenue to help fund hefty Civil War expenses.  He signed a bill into law that would levy a three percent tax on incomes between $600 and $10,000, and a five percent tax on incomes of more than $10,000.

Lincoln discussing matters with General McClellan and other officers. Probably about how expensive it is to run a war. (Library of Congress photo)

It likely won’t surprise anyone to know the people weren’t happy about this development. Congress finally succumbed to pressure, and cut the tax rate in 1867. However, this did not sufficiently cheer taxpayers, and the income tax was repealed in 1872.

Sadly, the people’s joy would be short-lived. In 1894, income taxes were revived, but not without a resounding fight. So, in 1895, the Supreme Court stepped in to rule the income tax unconstitutional as it was a direct tax, not apportioned among the states on the basis of population.

In 1909, President Taft tried to set up income taxes again, and recommended Congress give the government power to tax income without apportioning by population. Much debate and bickering ensued, but the 16th amendment was finally ratified, giving Congress the power to lay and collect tax on incomes from whatever source, without regard to apportionment.

And we’ve been paying income taxes ever since.

You’ll be happy to know, after days of angst and struggle, I did my civic duty by completing a ridiculously complicated form, and filing my taxes. What a wonderful feeling to press the “submit” button. I actually became giddy once the whole transaction had been completed.

The best thing about filing income taxes is getting a refund.

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