Tag Archives: american revolution

Today in 1776: “… conceived in liberty…”

4 Jul

Today in 1776, fifty-six men gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to discuss a public declaration of the adoption of the Lee resolution, “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent states…”

The Declaration of Independence, originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was debated, edited, and ultimately adopted by the end of the day. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” it said, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Jefferson would later write over and over again of the “sacred fire” kindled on that July day, and he knew that the light of liberty would “spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished…” (letter to John Adams, September 12, 1821). And throughout history, Jefferson has been proved right, even in his own country. Though Jefferson was never able to reconcile the issue of slavery for the Republic or even in his own personal circumstances, the sacred fire which he so succinctly captured in the Declaration would still be burning to set men free four-score and seven years later.

On July 4, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was leading the Army of Northern Virginia in retreat to the Potomac after the defeat at Gettysburg, and Ulysses S. Grant was leading the Union army under his command to victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The tide of Civil War was turning.

Today, our nation was, as Abraham Lincoln put it in his Gettysburg Address, “conceived in liberty.” Our country was “trusted with the destinies of this solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the earth…” (Jefferson, March 4, 1808), and today light and liberty are still on steady advance.

Happy Independence Day, friends. May every day find us “…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” for the continual support of the freedoms upon which our country was founded, together may “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Today in 1775: “…the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends…”

17 Jun

Today in 1775, British General William Howe lands troops on the Charlestown Penninsula and marches them up Breed’s Hill, just below Bunker Hill and fortified by the American militia, and what becomes known as the Battle of Bunker Hill begins. Though the Americans were outnumbered and eventually forced to retreat, the the British casualties were far, FAR higher than the American losses.

Abigail Adams wrote the following to her husband on June 18, 1775:

“The Day; perhaps the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends. my bursting Heart must find vent at my pen. I have just heard that our dear Friend Dr. Warren is no more but fell gloriously fighting for his Country-saying better to die honourably in the field than ignominiously hang upon the Gallows. great is our Loss. He has distinguished himself in every engagement, by his courage and fortitude, by animating the Soldiers & leading them on by his own example — a particular account of these dreadful, but I hope Glorious Days will be transmitted you, no doubt in the exactest manner.

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong — but the God of Israel is he that giveth strength & power unto his people. Trust in him at all times ye people pour out your hearts before him. God is a refuge for us. –Charlstown is laid in ashes. The Battle began upon our intrenchments upon Bunkers Hill, a Saturday morning about 3 oclock & has not ceased yet & tis now 3 o’clock Sabbeth afternoon…” 

Dr. Joseph Warren, friend of the Adams’, was the influential leader of the cause of liberty in Boston. In fact, it was Warren who sent Paul Revere on his infamous Midnight Ride to warn of the British approach to Lexington and Concord. His death was a major blow to the Americans. You can read more about Warren here.

Of personal note, one of my Patriot ancestors, Reuben Woolworth, was there. He was 22 at the time.

Reuben was one of twelve* brothers born to Timothy and Mercy Woolworth of Suffield, Connecticut. He was one of five Woolworth children to serve in the Revolutionary War; he also was at the Battle of Lexington and the Siege of New York.

*And that’s just the boys, yall. The Woolworths had two daughters, Mercy and Lucy. That’s fourteen kids. Phew.

Today in 1776: “… all men are born equally free…”

12 Jun

Today in 1776, the First Virginia Convention in Williamsburg adopts the Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason. The language used in the Virginia Declaration of Rights was used by Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence, which would be adopted by the Continental Congress a few weeks later:

“… all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

You can read the entire Declaration of Rights at Archives.gov.

Today in 1776: “Certain resolutions concerning independency…”

7 Jun

On this day in 1776, the delegates to the Second Continental Congress gathered in Independence Hall (then, the Pennsylvania State House) and began deliberations on miscellaneous items related to the defense of America against the British. A Committee had just been established to investigate a matter related to gunpowder being manufactured at a mill in Frankford, PA, when Richard Henry Lee stood to be recognized.

Having been freed by the Virginia Assembly to do so, he proposed a resolution:

“… That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” 

The resolution would be debated and postponed off and on throughout the month of June. It came to a vote on July 2, 1776, and was approved by a vote of 12-0, with one abstention.

 

A Very Revolutionary Road Trip: Colonial Williamsburg, VA

6 Jun
The Capitol at Colonial Williamsburg.

The Capitol at Colonial Williamsburg.

It seems appropriate that, as most of the events I blogged about this week either happened in Williamsburg or were instigated in Virginia, I ought to recommend it as a stop on the Very Revolutionary Road Trip. … I would have included it anyway because if I was given the opportunity, I’d pack up and move there tomorrow because I am the nerdiest girl who ever lived… but that’s a story for another day.

Williamsburg, as I discussed earlier this week, became the capital of Virginia in the 1690’s after fire destroyed the Jamestown Statehouse for the third time.  It remained the capital until 1779 when Governor Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia legislature moved to Richmond, which was considered a more defensible position (perhaps against the British, not so much).

It was in Williamsburg where the Virginia legislature instructed Richard Henry Lee to make a motion in the Continental Congress for independence from England. Williamsburg was where Thomas Jefferson learned law and liberty from George Wythe, where George Washington got his first lick at politics in the Virginia House of Burgesses, where Patrick Henry served as the first governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia… I could go on for days. It’s importance cannot be understated.

Also not to be understated is the magnificence of the restoration of the historic area and the historical programs. Every day on Duke of Gloucester Street, you can walk into shops and government buildings as though you had walked through a door into the 18th century. In the afternoons, you can take part in the Revolutionary City program, which is a sort-of roving outdoor play that portrays the different experiences of early Americans during the War for Independence.

If you go, don’t miss any opportunity to see George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, and be sure to stop at Chowning’s Tavern at 9pm for 18th century tavern entertainment! Drinks, games, music, and other entertainment make for an excellent end to any day.

Visit their website for more details — but just take my word for it and go. I mean it. Now. Why are you still here?? Get in your car and start driving!

Today in 1779: Virginia gets a new capital

5 Jun

Today in 1779, Virginia’s house of delegates approves legislation to move the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond, hoping that the more inland location will assist in a better defense against the invading British. … Alas, not really (see: yesterday).

Richmond was also home to Patrick Henry during some of his most boisterous years; he argued the Parson’s Cause case in Hanover Courthouse on Route 301, and he delivered his “give me liberty, or give me death!” speech at St. John’s Church.

The capital city of Virginia also served as the capital city of the Confederacy during the Civil War. You can still visit and tour the Museum and White House of the Confederacy today.

And while I’m on the subject of the Civil War, you know we’re in the sesquicentennial years, yes? At this moment 150 years ago, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army was invading the North, driving towards what was widely assumed to be a Confederate victory and ultimate end of the war. Wedged between the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and victory, was a little town in Pennsylvania named Gettysburg.

Today in 1781: Jefferson and the Virginia legislature flee from the British

4 Jun

As I mentioned on Saturday, 1781 wasn’t Thomas Jefferson’s best year ever. He was in his first and only term as governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and with the Commonwealth’s economy limping along and its best-performing militia employed elsewhere, Virginia was an open field for the British. The government of the Commonwealth had recently moved the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond, hoping that a more inland location would make the capital more defensible. Alas, it was not to be.

A gent by the name of Benedict Arnold (ahemhem), who was in command of the British regulars sent to maraud along the James River, made its way to Richmond, and burned it to the ground. Separately, another detachment of British troops closed in on Charlottesville and Monticello. Governor Jefferson got wind of their coming just in the nick of time to saddle his horse and flee, a move which saved his life but haunted his political career for the rest of his life.(1)

Of course, it was 1781, and the British’s triumph would not last for long. In the following October, the Americans trapped Lord Cornwallis in a little town on the York River… But that’s a story for another day!

As a matter of interest, you can still tour Richmond’s Capitol, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson (2).

(1) Ellis, Joseph J. (1997), American Sphinx. New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
(2) OF COURSE IT WAS. I mean, what colonial-era building HASN’T been designed and/or blue-printed by Thomas Jefferson?!