April Morning

Here Once The Embattled Farmers Stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world…

Minute Man Concord MA

April 19, 1775

What made the farmers fight in 1775?

Judge Millen Chamberlain in 1842, when he was twenty-one, interviewed Captain Preston, a ninety-year-old veteran of the Concord fight: “Did you take up arms against intolerable oppression?” he asked.

“Oppression?” replied the old man. “I didn’t feel them.”

“What, were you not oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

“I never saw one of those stamps. I certainly never paid a penny for one of them.”

“Well, what then about the tea tax?”

“I never drank a drop of the stuff; the boys threw it all overboard.”

“Then I suppose you had been reading Harington or Sidney and Locke about the eternal principles of liberty?”

“Never heard of ’em. We read only the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ Psalms and Hymns, and the Almanac.”

“Well, then, what was the matter? And what did you mean in going to the fight?”

“Young man, what we meant in going for those redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves, and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.”

Follow the links for the story of the people of that April morning with timelines, commentary, videos, and maps.

April 19th, 1775Patriots’ Day

Hour by HourDetails of the Day

The Old North ChurchOne If By Land, Two If By Sea

Paul Revere’s Ride

Hancock-Clarke HouseBuckman TavernHartwell Tavern

Battle RoadThe King’s Own

Lexington Battle GreenAn Eyewitness Account

Battle at Concord’s North BridgeConcord Battle Road

Meriam’s CornerParker’s RevengeMunroe Tavern

Blogging the RedcoatsBlogging the Revolution

Mapping The RidesMapping The RegionMapping The Revolution

“…for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world…”
John Winthrop, 1630

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Hover your cursor across the phrases, because a few have more than one link!
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Concord Hymn.
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, (Oxford University Press: 1965) 212-213. Emphasis added.

“…the acts and choices of ordinary people…”

One reason I love history so much is its stories of courage and perseverance by men and women in the face of disaster. When you read the history of our country, you see this again and again. You also see something else. You see timings and deliverances that can only be called miraculous—when the disaster of one day is turned around by events of the next.

In Washington’s Crossing David Hackett Fischer gives us the circumstances of the writing and impact of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, The American Crisis. After George Washington’s debilitating military defeats in New York from August to November 1776, described by Fischer as a “A Cataract of Disaster,” Washington retreated across New Jersey into Pennsylvania as Cornwallis pursued him. Thomas Paine had previously joined the army in July of that year. In his chapter, “The Crisis: Thomas Paine and the Black Times of 1776,” Fischer writes:

“…The army was shrinking before his eyes, and the people of New Jersey were not turning out to support it. Paine concluded that something had to be done. “It was necessary,” he decided, that “the country should be strongly animated.”

“On November 22, when the army was crossing the Passaic River, Paine came to a decision. He resolved to write another pamphlet, like Common Sense but with a different message….

“A rough draft was more or less complete by the time he crossed the Delaware River. He carried it to Philadelphia, but when he reached the city, he was shocked to find the houses shuttered, the streets deserted….The air of panic in the town increased Thomas Paine’s sense of urgency. He remembered, “I sat down and in what I may call a passion of patriotism, wrote the first number” of his new pamphlet in a final draft.

“He called it The American Crisis. The first sentence had the cadence of a drumbeat. Even after two hundred years, its opening phrases still have the power to lift a reader out of his seat. “There are the times that try men’s souls,” Paine began. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it NOW deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

“…Such was the panic and chaos in Philadelphia that it took Thomas Paine ten days to get his essay into print. Finally, the first number of The American Crisis appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal on December 19, 1776. Four days later it was published as a pamphlet. Paine insisted that it be sold for two pennies, just enough to pay the printer’s expenses. The author asked nothing for himself and encouraged printers everywhere to copy it freely. It traveled through the country as fast as galloping horses could carry it.

“Within a day of its first publication it was circulating in the camp of the Continental army along the Delaware River. Even Paine’s bitter political rival James Cheetham testified to its impact. Cheetham wrote that The Crisis was “read in the camp, to every corporal’s guard, and in the army, and out of it had more than the intended effect.” The troops used its first sentence as a watchword and later as a battle cry….

“There is an old American folk tale about George Washington and the Crossing of the Delaware. It tells us that the new American republic nearly failed in the winter of 1776, that George Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas night, and that his victory at Trenton revived the Revolution. All of this story is true, but it is not the whole truth. There was more to it. The great revival did not follow the battles of Trenton and Princeton, important as they were. It preceded them, and made those events possible (though not inevitable). Further, the revival did not rise solely from the leadership of George Washington himself, great as he was a general and a man…it emerged from the efforts of many soldiers and civilians, merchants and farmers, leaders in the army and members of Congress. Most of all it rose from the acts and choices of ordinary people in the valley of the Delaware, as Thomas Paine’s American Crisis began to circulate among them.

“This great revival grew from defeat, not from victory. The awakening was a response to a disaster. Doctor Benjamin Rush, who had a major role in the event, believed that this was the way a free republic would always work, and the American republic in particular. He thought it was a national habit of the American people (maybe all free people) not to deal with a difficult problem until it was nearly impossible. “Our republics cannot exist long in prosperity,” Rush wrote “We require adversity and appear to possess most of the republican spirit when most depressed.””1

On December 18, 1776, George Washington had written to his brother, John A. Washington, and to another relative, Samuel Washington. This is the letter to his brother. The bracketed phrase within it was part of his letter to Samuel Washington.

“I have no doubt but that General Howe will still make an attempt upon Philadelphia this Winter. I see nothing to oppose him a fortnight hence, as the time of all the Troops, except those of Virginia (reduced almost to nothing,) and Smallwood’s Regiment of Maryland, (equally as bad) will expire in less than that time. In a word my dear Sir, if every nerve is not strain’d to recruit the New Army with all possible expedition, I think the game is pretty near up, owing, in a great measure, to the insidious Arts of the Enemy, and disaffection of the Colonies before mentioned, but principally to the accursed policy of short Inlistments, and placing too great a dependence on the Militia the Evil consequences of which were foretold 15 Months ago with a spirit almost Prophetick….

“You can form no Idea of the perplexity of my Situation. No Man, I believe, ever had a greater choice of difficulties and less means to extricate himself from them. However under a full persuasion of the justice of our Cause I cannot [but think the prospect will brighten, although for a wise purpose it is, at present hid under a cloud] entertain an Idea that it will finally sink tho’ it may remain for some time under a Cloud.”2

Those letters were written the day before The American Crisis was published in the Pennsylvania Journal and five days before it was printed as a pamphlet for widespread distribution. Washington did not know the events that would follow in the days after he wrote those bleak words. But that great man persevered.

Paine opened his December Crisis by writing, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Today again our souls are tried and tested, and who will we discover that we are? I don’t know. I cannot tell you the extent or depth of the character of our country or if the acts and choices of ordinary people of today will fare well. Our souls are tried individually, but our acts and choices always affect and influence others.

Is the game pretty near up for us? Again, I don’t know. But I encourage and exhort you not to mire yourself or others in cynicism or contempt, but within your own realm of influence to speak the truth, to build up others, and to consider the task that with your soul and your skill you should do.

Remember what I wrote earlier about timings and deliverances in our nation’s history that can only be called miraculous—when the disaster of one day was turned around by events of the next? I would also encourage and exhort you to pray. Some of you who read this may not share my faith, but for those who do, remember to seek God’s mercy and help for our nation.

When Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of prayer and fasting in 1863, he wrote, “We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own…3 Read Lincoln’s words. May God grant us to turn back to Him, for the results of the poverty of our lack of a deep and abiding faith in God is seen everywhere.

These are the days of the acts and choices of ordinary people. Of grit and endurance. Of everyday exasperation and depressing setbacks. Whether the game is up for us or not, remember the courage and faith of those who preceded us. Be worthy of them, and leave the results in the hands of God.
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Thomas Paine, The American Crisis: The first page of the original printing of the first volume. {{PD-US}} – published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.
1David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (Oxford University Press, New York): 80, 127, 138, 140-143.
2The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799: Library of Congress. Thanks to Stacey McCain for his post, ‘I think the game is pretty near up,’ that I found after my initial writing of this post. The phrase caught my eye, and I tracked it down to these letters of Washington.
3Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day: Abraham Lincoln Online.

Of plimoth plantation: Thanksgiving 2016

Years ago I had a history instructor who taught me about the importance of primary source documents—those letters, diaries, receipts and papers written by men and women during their own time about their own lives—compared with secondary sources written at a later date about people and events by those who had no first hand knowledge. I’ve always loved to go back to those primary sources because reading the actual words of those who are describing their own experience removes history from the past and brings it into our time. I begin to understand and know those people and realize they were flesh and blood as we are.

The story of the Pilgrims is not just any past, it is our past as a nation. That past is both foundation and prologue to our present, and it can also give guidance for our future. The hopes, anxieties and courage of that company Of plimoth plantation not only describe days long gone, but also gives insight for our own times. The Pilgrims are our very own historic wake-up call of compare and contrast. We’ve never experienced their reality.

During Thanksgiving week of 2012 I wrote several posts about the early years of Plimoth Plantation and the role of Thanksgiving in our nation’s history. I’ve repeated a few of them over the last four years, but now after another Presidential election I’m reediting and publishing all of them this week, because not only did the Pilgrims gave us a foundation of self-government, a beneficial prosperity, and a Christian heritage of beliefs, character, and world view, but in their writings and in their lives they also left us wisdom and warning for our future.
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Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, William Halsall: PD-US.

What Made The Farmers Fight?

Here Once The Embattled Farmers Stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world…

Minute Man Concord MA

April 19, 1775

What made the farmers fight in 1775?

Judge Millen Chamberlain in 1842, when he was twenty-one, interviewed Captain Preston, a ninety-year-old veteran of the Concord fight: “Did you take up arms against intolerable oppression?” he asked.

“Oppression?” replied the old man. “I didn’t feel them.”

“What, were you not oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

“I never saw one of those stamps. I certainly never paid a penny for one of them.”

“Well, what then about the tea tax?”

“I never drank a drop of the stuff; the boys threw it all overboard.”

“Then I suppose you had been reading Harington or Sidney and Locke about the eternal principles of liberty?”

“Never heard of ’em. We read only the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ Psalms and Hymns, and the Almanac.”

“Well, then, what was the matter? And what did you mean in going to the fight?”

“Young man, what we meant in going for those redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves, and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.

Follow the links for the story of the people of that April morning with timelines, commentary, videos, and maps.

April 19th, 1775Patriots’ Day

Hour by HourDetails of the Day

The Old North ChurchOne If By Land, Two If By Sea

Paul Revere’s Ride

Hancock-Clarke HouseBuckman TavernHartwell Tavern

Battle RoadThe King’s Own

Lexington Battle GreenAn Eyewitness Account

Battle at Concord’s North BridgeConcord Battle Road

Meriam’s CornerParker’s RevengeMunroe Tavern

Blogging the RedcoatsBlogging the Revolution

Mapping The RidesMapping The RegionMapping The Revolution

…for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world…
John Winthrop, 1630

__________
Check out each word of Paul Revere’s Ride, because each one has a different link!
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Concord Hymn.
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, (Oxford University Press: 1965) 212-213. Emphasis added.

Washington With Some Words On The 2016 Election

We call it his Farewell Address, but in truth it was an open letter from George Washington to Americans for whom he held:

“…a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people…”

Think about that for a minute.  Let Washington’s words sink in. He was well aware of dangers that would come to our Republic, and he left us his analysis and prescription on what was all-important to the permanency of our felicity—our happiness—as a people.

In its introduction to the Farewell Address Heritage Foundation comments:

“…With the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the Farewell Address constitutes the central statement of the American purpose.”

You can read the entire letter at the Heritage link. The quotes I’m pulling from it are Washington’s warnings about those who would destroy our government, and his advice on the mindset and lives of Americans who would preserve it.

Washington reminds us of the basis of our government, the foundational importance of the rule of law, and the subversion of those principles by those who would undermine and destroy the principles of the Constitution.

Consider Washington’s words as part of the “central statement of the American purpose.” Consider them carefully before you vote.

“…The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

Now carefully read the next few paragraphs.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency…”

“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

“Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown…”

I see in these above words of Washington not only an indictment of Leftists and progressives such as Obama who have subverted the law for their own ends, but also an indictment of a demagogue such as Trump who “answers popular ends,” feeding emotions as he declares he’ll make America great again, even as he says things that reveal his ignorance of the Constitution and promise a strongman use of power that would destroy our heritage as a free people.

Washington also advised us on the mindset necessary for the preservation of our liberties.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Washington recommends to us the blessing of religion and morality, but here there is also an indictment of self-identified conservatives whose words and lives indicate they flatly disagree with Washington that, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Current events prove Washington was right.

The corruption in the White House, the betrayal by Congress of their constituents, the sensationalism and immorality fostered by the media, and the you-only-live-once mentality of Americans have brought us to the present dilemma.

Hear these poignant words, and take to heart the wisdom this great man left for us.

Washington, George“In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will controul the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated…”Washington, George signature
Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

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Each year on George Washington’s Birthday, the United States Senate reads Washington’s Farewell Address. Would that they would heed his words.

Signature of George Washington, Raeky: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.