Monday, July 04, 2005


Me thinks it's abundantly appropriate to comment on our glorious Nation's birth today. We celebrate every year on this date because of the acceptance of the Declaration of Independence. However, this act by the "Continental Congress" at the time above was only the "tip of the iceberg" so to speak...(to mix metaphors). Independence had been in the minds and acts of a growing number of colonists for many years prior and even more frustrating years to follow. It is a fascinating story documented in a recent book by David McCullough. I heard it on my car CD player narrated by him a few days ago. What a stirring story of tenacity and grit. It inspires awe and pride in our fore fathers...especially Geo. Washington (as my son Trev used to say).

You hear all the familiar tales of him and his not being able to lie about chopping down his father's cherry tree etc. but the real fascination with the man is his steel resolve and his "never, ever giving up in the face of overwhelming odds. McCullough tells his story through reading his letters and journals (blogs) and you are, at first, impressed with his command of the language and the formal way of expressing his thoughts, his disappointments, discouragements etc. He was a very reluctant "Commander-in-Chief" and yet he realized there was no one else at the time with his experience and wealth/accomplishment/organizing ability who could undertake such a mission. He and his "rag-tag" straggling group of "left-over" men hung on against all kinds of odds, weather, out-numbered and ill-equipped, non-support from deserters and loyalists and would not quit. He was roundly criticized for his indecisiveness as a general by his subordinates regularly and yet he came up with some strategic moves in 1776 that set the course and defined the mission and the nation for years.

I was motivated to check into all this when my new boss asked in a sales meeting, "Just how many battles Washington had actually won during the war." I was embarassed not to know having taught it for years. At elementary level we didn't get into the wars and battles that much I confess. I found out that prior to this "turning point" year, the battle for Bunker Hill (actually Breed's Hill) was considered a defeat but it cost the British dearly. Washington's first "win" was simply an "out-positioning" move of stealth at night. He and his men/key generals too, took Dorchester Heights above Boston by placing canons taken from Fort Ticonderoga. He forced the Red Coats to leave the Boston area. Then after several strategic escapes Geo led his bedraggled "left-overs" (those who didn't quit or die from rampant disease) back across the Delaware River in the dead of winter on Christmas to totally surprise the Hessians (hired mercenaries). A very illogical move and again very sneaky. This was inTrenton, N.J. He then has a victory near Princeton, N.J. just after New Year's of 1777. These decisive victories rallied the Nation and convinced them (many doubters) that we were really a New Nation and had a right to do what needed to be done.

During this same year, off the battlefields, Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" started to change opinion in a more calm and logical way. "Engagement is crucial, one person can make a difference, an idea can change the world." This idea is still as valid as it was 229 years ago. Thomas Paine went to "the people" with his readable book of ideas. He was maybe the "first blogger" in a crazy sense. He had no mass media and yet his message got out there and influenced Geo. and the leaders who supplied and supported him and his men from Philadelphia ie. Ben, John H., Tom J. and so on.

One wonders how Geo. had such leadership and power to persuade his ill-shod, half naked group to do what they did. An article in today's Times says that it was partly, if not mostly, because of outrage over the tax on rum...not tea. These men were kept warm on the inside with rum...not tea. Before the Boston Tea Party there were more outrages laws and taxes against molassas and sugar trade with France by England. France's colonies had a better molassas/ie. rum and England didn't want the colonies buying/using it. And yet it was that weekly provision of rum that kept many of the "continental soldiers" going during the bitter cold winter of 1776. It was the preferred drink of the colonists who, on average, consumed 4 gallons a year. Paul Revere is reported to have had a nice rum toddy before his famous ride. This was simply a sugared, watered rum warmed with a hot poker. Yes, and isn't it "interesting" that today, one of our main ways of "celebrating the 4th" is...picnicing, tail-gating, parading, watching fireworks (bombarments) and...drinking the "distilled spirits" Happy Fourth Everyone! Bob


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