Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Attorney General’

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Portrait of John J. Crittenden

I have not been writing as often in this blog recently because several weeks ago I fell and broke some ribs.  So I have been unable to ride.  No, I did not fall while riding a bike.  However, it was related to biking.  I wanted to go mountain biking on a section of the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail near Mount Vernon.  However, not being an experienced mountain biker and having never previously ridden on that particular mixed-use trail, I decided to hike it first to scout it out and see if it is within my skill set to try mountain biking there.  It was while I was hiking that my foot got caught under an exposed tree root and I fell on a rocky part of the trail, breaking several ribs.  So I decided that since I could not even walk it without hurting myself, perhaps I should first get a little more experience mountain biking on easier trails before going back there to ride.

Having given my ribs enough time to heal, I now feel much better.  But since I haven’t ridden in almost a month, I decided to transition back into riding and make sure that I don’t overdo it.  So for today’s lunchtime ride, I rode to the nearby National Portrait Gallery, located at 8th and F Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood, to see a painting of John J. Crittenden. He was a politician from the state of Kentucky, and represented that state in both the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate, and twice served as the U.S. Attorney General.  I went there because tomorrow is the anniversary of Congress’ passage of the Crittenden Resolution, which was named after him.

On July 25th in 1861, just three and a half months after the beginning of the Civil War, the U.S. Congress passed the Crittenden Resolution (also referred to as the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution). The resolution declared that the war was being waged for the reunion of the states and not to interfere with the institutions of the South, including taking any actions against the “peculiar” institution of slavery. The war was fought not for “overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States,” but to “defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union.” The implication was that war would end when the seceding states returned to the Union, with slavery remaining intact.

This meant that for the first year and a half of the Civil War, reunification of the United States was the official goal of the North.  It was not until President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of September 1862 that the abolishment of slavery became a goal.  The Crittenden Resolution is sometimes confused with the Corwin Amendment, a proposal to amend the U. S. Constitution adopted by the previous 36th Congress, which attempted to constitutionalize slavery. It was adopted by the necessary two-thirds margin in both houses of Congress and submitted to the states for ratification. It was ratified by three states before the war pre-empted further debate.

Today it is difficult to comprehend American society, as it existed back then, in which the institution of slavery was supported or tolerated by the public, and endorsed by the Federal government. However, as difficult as it is to comprehend, we must try. We must try to understand so we can not only understand our own history, but because slavery still exists in this world.  Currently there are approximately 27 million slaves in the world – people forced to work without pay, under threat of violence and unable to walk away. Since slavery feeds directly into the global economy, it makes sense that we would be concerned by the ways in which slavery flows into our homes through the products we buy and the investments we make. Slaves harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast, make charcoal used to produce steel in Brazil, weave carpets in India—the list goes on. These products reach our stores and our homes. So think before you buy, because slavery is not just a thing of the past.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Robert Francis Kennedy, who was born on this day in 1925. Commonly known as “Bobby” or by his initials RFK, he was the seventh of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Bobby was more than eight years younger than his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and more than six years older than his other brother, Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy.

In addition to being a Senator from New York and a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1968 election before being the second member of the Kennedy family to be assassinated, Bobby also served as the 64th U.S. Attorney General from 1961 to 1964, having been appointed to the position by and serving under his older brother, President John F. Kennedy.

In recognition of today’s anniversary of his birth, on this bike ride I went by the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, which was renamed in his honor on what would have been his 76th birthday, in a ceremony conducted by President George W. Bush in 2001. Serving as the headquarters of the Justice Department, the building is located at 950 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), on a trapezoidal lot which is bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue to the north, Constitution Avenue to the south, 9th Street to the east, and 10th Street to the west, in the Federal Triangle area of downtown D.C.

Completed in 1935, the building was design by Zantzinger, Borie, and Medary utilizing influences from neoclassical and Art Deco architectural styles. The original facades, lobbies, corridors, library, Great Hall, executive suites and private offices retain their original materials and design, including the extensive use of ornamental aluminum. Today the building retains exceptional historic integrity, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site.

The building’s design is similar to other Federal Triangle buildings, with an Indiana limestone facade over a steel frame, red-tile hip roof, and colonnades, as well as interior courtyards to provide natural light and ventilation. However, it distinguishes itself from other Federal Triangle buildings by its Art Deco elements and the innovative use of aluminum for details that were traditionally cast in bronze. For example, all entrances to the building feature 20-foot high aluminum doors that slide into recessed pockets. Interior stair railings, grillwork, and door trim are aluminum, as are Art Deco torchieres, doors for the building’s 25 elevators, and more than 10,000 light fixtures.

The building houses the Department of Justice, a cabinet-level executive department led by the Attorney General and responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice in the United States. Several Federal law enforcement agencies are currently administered by the Department of Justice, including the United States Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Office of the Inspector General. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also a component of the Department of Justice, and was originally housed in the same building, until 1974 when it moved into its own headquarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building directly across the street on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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