The Spirit of 1776: Lafayette Park and the First Amendment

The Spirit of 1776:

Lafayette Park
and the First Amendment

1776-1980 | 1981-Reagan | 1989-Bush | 1993-Clinton | Current Situation | Upcoming Events

Many vigils have occurred on the north side of the White House since 1917, about hundreds of important issues -- for suffrage and peace -- for civil rights -- against wars.

In the spirit of the July 4, 1776, Declaration of Independence, and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Lafayette Park was set aside for the people by America's favorite "Founding Father," Thomas Jefferson, when the White House was designed in the late 1700's. Jefferson, when he retired in 1809, told a group in Maryland, "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

President Dwight Eisenhower's parting remarks as he left office a century and a half later echoed the theme: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." One of these days, Eisenhower said, people are going to want peace so much that governments will have to get out of the way and let them have it.

John Adams, the first President to live in the White House, had a prayer engraved on the fireplace that the building be occupied by only "Honest and Wise Men."

If the current occupant of the White House would like to step into those shoes, he needs to shrink the police and military which overwhelm civil liberties, stop the arms trade, and bury permanently the weapons of mass destruction. As Native American Chief Seattle warned us in 1854, "Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

April 19, 1913
"Lafayette Square," Evening Star

In 1917, there was a small group of women who understood this concept. Suffragists who were opposed to President Wilson going to war held a vigil outside the White House.

January 27, 1917
"White House Pickets," Washington Star

May 21, 1924
"History of Lafayette Square," Washington Star

May 29, 1938
"Peace Pickets," Sunday Star

May 14, 1941
"Picketing Goes On As White House Aide Disperses Soldiers," Washington Star

June 22, 1941
"White House Pickets Stop At 1,029 Hours," Washington Post

Albert Einstein on Nuclear Weapons

December 10, 1948
United Nations "Universal Declaration of Human Rights"

Terminiello v. Chicago re "Free Speech"

March 15, 1953
"Bill in House Asks Ban on White House Picketing," Washington Star

July 14, 1954
"Morse Stops White House Picket Bill," Washington Post

July 15, 1954
"On New Move to Ban White House Pickets," Washington Star

October 17, 1963
"Picketing of the White House," Washington Post

March 21, 1965
"Snow Drifts," Washington Star

April 3, 1966
"Camping Near White House," AP Wirephoto

April 3, 1966
Brown v. Louisiana

April 4, 1966
"Tenting in the Park," AP Wirephoto

May, 1972
"Journey for Peace," AP Wire

June 2, 1972
"Quaker Vigil is One Year Old," Washington Star

October 27, 1973
"Pickets at White House," Star News

October, 1973
"US Fails in Move to Curb Protesters," Washington Post

"All the President's Men," by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Chapter 13, pp. 262-5

May 11, 1976
Abney vs. USA "Sleep is Expressive Conduct"

Current Situation
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