Baron Von Graham’s Lies
In the Winter of 1788, a foreign Military Officer was sent to Valley Forge. His name? Friedrich Von Steuben.
Von Steuben came to Washington’s camp in late February of 1778, with a background of service to various European Armies, a large outstanding debt to his creditors and numerous wild rumors about his behavior while in the Service and whether or not that service was even what he claimed it to have been. Washington, however, was desperate for any professional help for his rag-tag force, suffering through the winter at Valley Forge. He appointed the Baron as temporary Inspector General, and tasked him with improving the conditions and performance of the Continental Army.
The questions about the Barons past were never really answered, or even addressed. But he did go down in American history as the man who built the Continental Army into a full fledged fighting force. He would later retire form the Army and become the founder of the Society of Cincinnatus. Despite numerous land grants by grateful States and a Congressional pension for his service, the questions always swirled about his past, never answered. And he managed to continue to run up debts which plagued him until he died, virtually penniless in 1794.
The man who saved the Continental Army, remained an enigma and a mystery.
This past week, a Washington State Assemblyman, Graham Hunt resigned his set as a legislator when it became apparent that his military service record did not match up to the claims he had made about it during his campaign. His statement, however, was more about how he felt distracted, rather than an apology for his lies.
Some years ago, in Claremont, California, a Water Board Member by the name of Alvarez claimed to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. When it was discovered that he was lying, he was indicted under the 2003 Stolen Valor Act. Alvarez argued that the Act was a violation of the 1st Amendment, and while initially rejected by lower Courts, the case made it’s way to the US Supreme Court where in a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the Stolen Valor Act was indeed, an unconstitutional violation of the 1st Amendments guarantee of Free Speech, ruling that false statements are not, solely because they are false, excluded from the 1st Amendment.
So today, how should we react to yet another politician who felt compelled to lie and dishonor himself about a military service record? Moreover, was the purpose of that lie simply to feel good about himself, or was it to help him gain power, reward and influence over the citizens to whom he lied?