John Witherspoon-Educator-Patriot

John Witherspoon-John Witherspoon-Educator-Patriot
John Witherspoon

Reverend John Witherspoon brought impressive academic credentials and public acclaim when he migrated from Scotland to the American colonies in 1768. He made this move to become president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He turned the college into a successful and prestigious institution, and he became quite popular. He published essays that at first were nonpolitical, but he came to support the American revolutionary cause. He was elected to the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. He spent most of his later years rebuilding the college which had been destroyed by the British during the Revolutionary War. 

(The College of New Jersey did not officially become Princeton University until 1896 but the two names were often used interchangeably. I follow that usage in this essay.) 

John Witherspoon was born in Yester, Gilford, East Lothian, Scotland on 5 February 1723. He was the eldest child of the Reverend James Alexander Witherspoon and Anne Walker. James was the minister of Yester Parish and served on committees in the General Assembly and was Royal Chaplain to the Lord High Commissioner. Anna came from a long line of clergymen. 

John’s mother was his first teacher and she taught him to read by the age of four. He attended the Haddington Grammar School and when he was 13, he was sent to the University of Edinburg. He completed the four-year program in three years earning a Master of Arts Degree. By the time he was 20, John had earned his Doctor of Theology Degree and a license to preach. He received his first parish, Beith, Ayrshire on 11 April 1745. 

John Witherspoon was a dedicated Protestant, nationalist, and supporter of republicanism. He opposed the Roman Catholic Jacobite uprising of 1745-1746 when Charles Edward Stuart, who was trying to reclaim the English throne for his family, invaded. Witherspoon joined other men gathering to fight against the rebellion, but he was soon captured. Following the short-lived Jacobite victory at the Battle of Falkirk Muir, John endured a brief but brutal imprisonment at Doune Castle near Stirling. In April 1746, the English Army put down the uprising. 

Elizabeth Montgomery-John Witherspoon-Educator-Patriot
Elizabeth Montgomery

On 2 September 1748, John Witherspoon married Elizabeth Montgomery. She was the daughter of Robert Montgomery and Janet Cossar. Elizabeth had little education, but her “piety, generosity, and graciousness made her loved by all.” Elizabeth and John had 10 children with 5 surviving to adulthood. 

In1758 Witherspoon became minister of Leigh Kirk, Paisley Parish. During his service as a parish minister, John became a prominent intellectual associated with the moral philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment. He was an evangelical opponent of the Moderates, and he authored three well-known works on theology. 

Reverend Witherspoon’s reputation had reached the American colonies. When the presidency of the College of New Jersey became vacant due to the death of Dr. Samuel Finley, the trustees voted to attempt to hire John Witherspoon. In 1766 a group was dispatched to Scotland to recruit him. The group included two individuals, Dr. Benjamin Rush, and Richard Stockton, that would later be signers of the Declaration of Independence.  

Witherspoon initially declined their offer because his wife was fearful of sea travel. The charming Dr. Rush later met with Elizabeth and convinced her to reconsider. John Witherspoon and his family set sail for Philadelphia on the brigantine, “Peggy” on 18 May 1768. They arrived in August. 

Artist Depiction College of New Jersey, ca 1760-John Witherspoon-Educator-Patriot
Artist Depiction College of New Jersey, ca 1760-

At the age of 45, John Witherspoon became the sixth president of the small Presbyterian College of New Jersey at Princeton. He inherited a school that was in debt, with weak instruction, and an inadequate library. He immediately began fund raising in America and Scotland. He donated 300 of his own books to the library and began purchasing scientific equipment. 

The college thrived under Witherspoon. He instituted numerous academic reforms based on those at Scottish universities. He also strengthened entrance requirements which helped the school compete with Harvard and Yale for students.  

Witherspoon personally taught many courses including divinity and moral philosophy. The latter course he believed was vital for ministers, lawyers, and public servants. He was a firm but good-humored leader and was quite popular among the faculty and students. He also became a major leader in the Presbyterian Church in America. 

James Madison-John Witherspoon-Educator-Patriot
James Madison

The college had been organized in 1746 to primarily train clergymen, but under Witherspoon’s leadership it became a more classical institution that would train many early American leaders. These included James Madison, Aaron Burr, Philip Freneau, William Bradford, and Hugh Henry Brackenridge. Under Witherspoon the college also produced 37 judges (three became Justices of the US Supreme Court), 10 cabinet officers, 12 members of the Continental Congress, 28 US Senators, and 49 US Congressmen. Educating American leaders has continued to this day. 

The many essays that Witherspoon authored and published were initially non-political, but he soon became a supporter of the American revolutionary cause. By 1770 the students were openly advocating for independence and Witherspoon advocated for resistance to the Crown in a commencement address. As a Scotsman, he already distrusted the British monarchy and was concerned about the Crown’s increasing interference in colonial affairs, especially in the church. 

Recent Photo of Tusculum-John Witherspoon-Educator-Patriot
Recent Photo of Tusculum-

Reverend Witherspoon had a country estate constructed in Princeton in 1773. He named the estate “Tusculum.”  It was the Witherspoon’s family home until after John’s death. The house is still occupied today. 

In 1774 John Witherspoon joined the New Jersey Committee of Correspondence and Safety, and he was elected to represent Mercer County in the New Jersey Provincial Assembly. While in the Assembly he successfully pushed for the removal and imprisonment of the Royal Governor.  

The entire year of 1776 was quite eventful for Witherspoon. Early in the year he delivered a sermon entitled “The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men.” This sermon was also published and widely disseminated.  

The sermon was a theological discussion of God’s blessing of man’s endeavors. The text is long and was meant to apply to the American Revolution. Basically, Witherspoon concluded that if your cause was just and your people trusted in God, were pious and obedient, God would help. 

Richard Henry Lee-John Witherspoon-Educator-Patriot
Richard Henry Lee

Later in 1776 Witherspoon was elected to the Continental Congress. He was appointed Congressional Chaplain and in July he voted for Virginian Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence. He voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. He was the only active clergyman among the signers. 

British troops entered New Jersey in 1777 so John closed the College of New Jersey. However, the British occupied the college and burned much it, including the library. Many of his academic papers were also destroyed. That same year, his son James was killed in the Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania. 

Reverend Witherspoon became one of the most influential members of Congress and was a tireless workhorse. He served on over 100 committees and spoke on the floor often. He fought against the flood of paper money, which was being printed to pay for government, personal, and business expenses and was causing high inflation.  He preferred the use of gold and silver.  His influence on this issue can be seen in the US Constitution Article I, Clause 5 which states that American money was to be metal. He also helped draft and then signed the Articles of Confederation. John helped organize the executive departments of the new government. 

Even though he was quite involved in Congress, when the British withdrew from Princeton, John was responsible for and worked on rebuilding the College of New Jersey. The rebuilding was under a deadline of November 1778 when classes were to resume. Rebuilding the college caused Witherspoon considerable personal and financial stress. 

Witherspoon left the Congress in1782 with an outstanding reputation as a patriot, pastor, and educator. He was one of the most influential men in the nation, and he did not slow down. He served two terms in the New Jersey legislature and was instrumental in the New Jersey ratification of the US Constitution on 18 December 1787.  New Jersey was the third state to ratify the Constitution, and they did it in six days.  

Concurrently, Reverend Witherspoon was a major contributor to the organization of the newly independent and national Presbyterian Church. In 1789 he opened the Church’s first General Assembly with a sermon. He also presided over the assembly until a permanent moderator could be elected. 

On 1 October 1789, Elizabeth Witherspoon died suddenly at Tusculum. Sadly, Elizabeth had never been completely content in America. She was buried in Princeton Cemetery. After her death John returned to the State Assembly. 

In 1791 John Witherspoon married the 24-year-old widow Anne Marshall Dill. The couple had two children with one surviving only nine days. 

A shipboard accident in 1784 had blinded Witherspoon in one eye, and later a fall from a horse injured the other eye. He was totally blind by 1792. His health deteriorated but he continued with his College of New Jersey duties with the assistance of his son-in-law, Samuel Stanhope Smith. (Smith was elected president of the college in May 1795.) 

Princeton Statue of John Witherspoon-John Witherspoon-Educator-Patriot
Princeton Statue of John Witherspoon-

John Witherspoon died at Tusculum, on 15 November 1794. Three days later he was buried in Princeton Cemetery. There are many memorials to John Witherspoon, including four major statues: in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC; Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia; University of West Scotland in Paisley, Scotland; and at Princeton. In 2022, Princeton students petitioned to remove the statue because Witherspoon had owned slaves. Several schools and streets that were named for him had his name removed for the same reason. 

No matter the status of efforts to cancel his name, John Witherspoon was a true patriot and outstanding minister and educator. He should be honored for his contributions to the founding of the country, to the organization of the government, and for the development of Princeton into one of the most prestigious universities in the country. It is unfortunate and wrong to sully his reputation by judging him based on today’s moral beliefs by some. 

Education in Early America-1607-1860


Education Early America-1607-1860 

Early One-Room School-Education in Early America-1607-1860
Early One-Room School

Education is considered to be the backbone of a nation, which is true, and education has always been tailored to the needs of the time. Recently there was a concentration on the hard sciences and math to meet the need for workers in the fields of space technology and computer development. The subject of education, however, is a bitter battleground, and each group with an axe to grind has an opinion. Some debates on education are fierce and do nothing but further cement opinions and often have little to do with educating our children. This article looks into education during the 17th ,18th, and early 19th centuries to see what did or did not work and to see how education evolved. 

Many people currently believe that we should get government out of the schools because government’s intentions can be political rather than educational and by the effect of the different political parties. In contrast, many believe the free market could not get the job done. There is no compromise by these groups, and both refer to “history” as a source of their information. 

If you look into history, you will find that for the 200-year period of mid-17th to mid-19th century America, there were few government-controlled schools. By far most educational needs were satisfied by the free market. (In 1860 there were only 300 public schools compared to 6,000 private schools.) During this period, America produced about eight generations of highly skilled and literate men and women. These generations founded and organized a constitutional republic based on freedom and self-government and made it work. They expanded the country, fought and won wars, and the country became a world power. 

Our forefathers were educated in a system that included home, church, associations such as library companies and philosophical societies, circulating libraries, apprenticeships, and private study. There was a slight government involvement in some colonies, mostly in New England where the Puritan influence was strong. 

Many purchased educational services but during my research on our founders, I have been impressed by how many never received any formal education but were entirely self-educated. These men learned enough to intelligently debate complex subjects, operate businesses, and provide professional services. They could compose complex laws, letters, newspaper articles and pamphlets. They had a remarkable command of both oral and written language. 

Early Americans believed that “children are an heritage from the Lord” and parents believed it was their responsibility to teach their children how to make a living and how to live a righteous life. Education usually began with the mother and was continued by the father when the children worked with him. 

Colonial-Era Holy Bible-Education in Early America-1607-1860
Colonial-Era Holy Bible

The mother began teaching the children to read at an early age, but paper was not available to most of the working class. They found alternatives, such as tracing letters in ashes or dust by the fireplace where the mothers did much of their work. They first taught the children the alphabet followed by how to sound out words. A book was then introduced. This was usually the Holy Bible, which was often the only book in the household. 

The Bible was a particularly good primer because many passages were familiar to the children having heard them during church and family devotions. The use of the Bible also had the advantage of teaching moral values. The children learned to read early, and if the family could afford it their education was supplemented with other books. 

Children often learned basic arithmetic (counting, sums, and times) from their fathers. These men used these basics in their work, such as carpentry, building, and planning for planting and harvest. 

Work and “book learning” taught children the value of labor and free enterprise. Idleness was believed to be a sin which would lead to “mischief.” Most families were large, and everybody had their assigned work to support the family. One of the major duties of mothers and other adult females was to educate the younger children and in general they did an outstanding job. 

Later, if children were sent to an organized school, they already knew how to read, write, and “cipher.” If they did not go to school, they were educated enough to function as farmers or clerks and to be informed citizens. Many continued by self-education and became traders, merchants, or skilled tradesmen.  

The growing demand for more education resulted in grammar and secondary schools being organized, especially in and around the major population centers along the Atlantic seaboard. Most were privately owned but some were chartered by local or colony governments. The government-chartered schools received no government funds but were sustained by private donations and tuition. Religious groups, such as Quakers, Lutherans, and others, also established schools and many of them were dedicated to educating the poor, women, and free blacks. 

The education of the young in the south was often fulfilled by “old field” schools. These were school buildings built on unproductive and abandoned farm fields. George Washington received his early education in an old field school. 

Those that could afford it hired private schoolmasters to educate their children. This was particularly popular among the planter class in the south. Many educators advertised their services and those that were good prospered while the incompetent were soon weeded out. They offered to teach the subjects that were in demand, such as Latin, Greek, mathematics, surveying, navigation, accounting, bookkeeping, science, English, and foreign languages. Wealthy Americans often sent their sons to England to obtain an education. 


The Philadelphia area was particularly endowed with educational opportunities offering 16 fine evening schools in 1767. These schools catered mostly to the German population and concentrated on English and vocations. There were also schools for women and blacks. The large Quaker population was educated in their religious schools, and they often provided free schooling for the poor. Many from other states sent their children to boarding schools in Philadelphia.  

Patrick Henry-Education in Early America-1607-1860
Patrick Henry-

Few early Americans wanted or needed a college education. They were generally unimpressed by degrees because they valued experience and character more. Many of our founders including George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Franklin did quite well without a college education. However, for those who wanted it college education was available. Most early college students were pursuing a career in the Christian ministry. Some studied law but most lawyers were self-educated. Colleges mostly offered a “Classical” education. 

In England, the government had granted Cambridge and Oxford a monopoly on granting degrees, but in Colonial America there were nine colleges. They were (in order of their founding): New College (Harvard), College of William and Mary, Collegiate School (Yale), College of New Jersey (Princeton), King’s College (Columbia), College of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania), College of Rhode Island (Brown), Queen’s College (Rutgers), and Dartmouth. 

Thomas Jefferson attended William and Mary and the Father of the Constitution, James Madison attended Princeton. The nine early colleges become part of the fabric of the United States and produced an impressive number of the nation’s leaders and educators. Some of these colleges were started by government, but all were sustained and expanded by voluntary contributions.  

Libraries supplemented all levels of education, but they also allowed individuals with no schooling to self-educate. Demand resulted in the establishment of many libraries. Unlike those in Europe where libraries were restricted to scholars, churchmen, and government officials, American libraries were mostly open to all. Churches also set up libraries, which were open to their parishioners. 

Some libraries were maintained by membership fees, but the fees were often waived if a person showed intellectual promise and character. Public philanthropy made it possible for even the poorest citizens to borrow books.  

Colonial American’s desire for self-improvement led entrepreneurs to develop innovative ways to sell and rent all types of printed matter. One was the “circulating library” which was first opened in Philadelphia in 1767. This library was quite successful and new ones popped up throughout the colonies. These were the forerunners of today’s bookmobiles. 

Philosophical societies were established throughout the colonies. Some of these groups were made up of men who met to discuss their own writings. Some were discussion groups open to all to discuss any books, articles, and pamphlets. Although limited in numbers these societies and discussion groups were highly effective educational tools. 

Church attendance was very high in colonial days (actual membership was much lower since membership was difficult to attain.) Church sermons were often printed, and members of the congregations would meet to study and discuss the sermons. These meetings involved a large part of the population and were an effective learning and religious experience. The sermons were also discussed in the parishioners’ homes. 

Benjamin Franklin-Education in Early America-1607-1860
Benjamin Franklin

The foregoing information shows that early Americans were anxious to learn and that there were many paths to achieve an education. The result was that early Americans were highly literate. An 1800 study by DuPont de Nemours showed that only four in a thousand Americans were unable to read and write. Ben Franklin in his autobiography claimed that libraries alone “have improved the general Conversation of Americans, made the common Tradesmen and Farmers as intelligent as most Gentlemen from other Countries, and perhaps have contributed in some Degree to the Stand so generally made throughout the Colonies in Defence of their Priviledges. 

There was some early state supported schooling beginning in 1790 when Pennsylvania became the first state to require free education for the poor only. New York followed suit in 1805. In 1820, Massachusetts was the first state to have a tuition-free high school for all, and the first state to require compulsory education. By the late 1800s, public education had spread to most states, in a movement often referred to as the “common school movement.” 

Federal involvement began with the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which granted federal lands to new states and set aside a portion of those lands to be used to fund public schools. Serious federal involvement began with the enactment of the Morrill Act. Signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, the first Morrill Act began to fund educational institutions by granting federally controlled land to the states for them to sell, to raise funds, to establish and endow “land-grant” colleges. The mission of these institutions as set forth in the act is to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science, and engineering—although “without excluding other scientific and classical studies.” 

The original Department of Education was created in 1867 to collect information on schools and teaching that would help the States establish effective school systems. In 1980, Congress established the Department of Education as a Cabinet level agency. 

Despite the changes previously noted, actual change in education came about slowly. One-roomed schoolhouses were a part of rural America until at least the 1950’s. In Missouri, where I grew up, consolidation of schools came when I was in Junior High School (1949-1951). Not everybody was pleased with the change but eventually learned to live with it. 

School included strong doses of patriotism and religious beliefs. Corporal punishment was still the rule rather than the exception. I had my butt burned at least twice a month and one teacher would pound on us with a rolled up magazine. This was all done for our own good and we thrived on it. Our vocational agriculture department had received an unbelievable amount of surplus shop equipment and we also acquired a lot of vocational skills. We learned and I owe those teachers and administrators more than I could ever repay.
Education today seems to be in disarray and in need of serious change, but I am confident that it will all be sorted out and that children will again learn the basics that are the foundation that all else is built on. 

George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot


George Clymer-National Portrait Gallery-George Clymer Pennsylvania Patriot
George Clymer-National Portrait Gallery

George Clymer was orphaned at an early age but became a successful merchant and politician. He served in both the first and second Continental Congresses and was one of the earliest and most passionate advocates for a complete break from Britain. He was one of only six men who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. He was a dedicated supporter of General George Washington and a trusted official during the Washington presidency. Clymer remained active in politics until his death. 

George Clymer was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 16 March 1739, the son of Christopher and Deborah Fitzwater Clymer. Both the Clymer and Fitzwater families were early and successful settlers of Pennsylvania. 

George was the only one of three children to survive infancy and he was orphaned at the age of one or seven years old depending on the early records sourced. Christopher Clymer had died in 1734 but his considerable inheritance had dwindled considerably so he had left only a few personal items to George. George’s mother, Deborah, died before George was one year old (or seven). 

Woodford Mansion-George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot
Woodford Mansion

No matter the exact year, George Clymer was orphaned at an early age and was taken in by his mother’s sister, Hannah, and her husband William Coleman. The Coleman’s were childless. William was a successful and wealthy businessman who was active in local politics. The Coleman mansion was known as Woodford, which still stands and is the best example of colonial architecture in the Fairmont Park section of Philadelphia. 

Coleman had helped finance his friend Ben Franklin’s independent printing business. He also worked with Franklin to establish the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society and the College and Academy of Philadelphia (future University of Pennsylvania). He and Franklin worked to arm the city and build fortifications to protect the city from French and Spanish raiders. The pacifist Quaker community officially ostracized Coleman for these militant actions. 

The Colemans never officially adopted George, but he was apparently treated as a son and was raised in the comfort of Woodford. He did not attend school but was an avid reader.  

Clymer learned character, resolve and business acumen from William Coleman. He began working in Coleman’s business by the time he was 14 years old and was eventually made a partner. 

Elizabeth Meredith Clymer-George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot
Elizabeth Meredith Clymer

On 22 March 1765 Clymer married Elizabeth Meredith, the daughter of Reese Meredith. Reese was a Philadelphia merchant who was second in wealth only to Robert Morris. George and Elizabeth had eight children with five surviving childhood. George had admitted to previously fathering an illegitimate child in a letter to the Reverend Richard Peters, Rector of Christ Church. Nothing about the mother nor child is ever mentioned, and no more is known.

William Coleman died in 1769 and left the bulk of his estate, including the business, to Clymer. Soon afterward, George merged this business with the Meredith (Reese and son Samuel) business. The merger resulted in a very profitable trading firm. 

Years earlier Reese Meredith had struck up a conversation with a young Virginia planter who was sitting alone in a public house and invited him to stay at his house. From then on, when George Washington visited Philadelphia, he stayed with the Merediths. 

George Clymer’s family connections put him in the upper strata of power in Philadelphia. His brother-in-law Samuel married Margaret Cadwalader, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Sister-in-law Ann married Henry Hill, the wealthiest wine merchant in Philadelphia. George Washington was one of Hill’s major clients. 

The successful Clymer-Meredith merger allowed George to enter Philadelphia politics in 1769. He served on the Common Council, as Justice of the Peace, and associate justice of the City Court. Concurrently, he was becoming more militant in his opposition to Britain’s increasing control over trade. He joined the Proprietary Party, which advocated active resistance to the Crown. In 1765, he and 400 Philadelphia merchants signed a non-importation agreement in response to the Stamp Act and he helped organize a boycott of the Townsend Act duties. George also authored (under alias) many articles and pamphlets blasting British policy. 

Corporal, 3rd Pennsylvania battalion-George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot
Corporal, 3rd Pennsylvania battalion

Clymer’s outspoken militancy on liberty and independence did not sit well with most influential Philadelphians. Most were Quaker and most were pacifists. They opposed any actions that could lead to war. Despite Quaker calls for caution and reconciliation, Clymer had many allies. His brother-in-law Samuel was disowned by the Quakers for his militancy and Samuel’s wife’s brothers were ardent patriots. When war began John Cadwalader organized the famed 3rd Battalion of City Troops who were known as the “Silk Stocking” Troop. Cadwalader served with Washington at Brandywine and Princeton. Wine merchant Henry Hill publicly expressed revolutionary ideas. Independence was slowly becoming mainstream. 

In 1773 Clymer went to Boston for medical treatment. While there he met the leading New England revolutionaries, including John and Sam Adams, and John Hancock. In his letters, Clymer expressed admiration for the radicals and disdain for the Philadelphia and New York merchants who he saw as self-serving. 

The Tea Act of 1773 was a rallying point for resistance nationally. The Boston radicals communicated with leading Whig radicals in Philadelphia. Clymer and Thomas Mifflin established a committee of correspondence to coordinate information and resistance. News of the 16 December 1773 Boston Tea Party quickly reached Philadelphia, and ten days later a British ship reached Philadelphia. Clymer convinced the captain to return to England without attempting to unload his cargo of tea. 

The British retaliated to patriot resistance in 1774 by closing Boston Harbor, passing the Coercive Acts (known as Intolerable Acts to colonials), and by military occupation of Boston. These acts by the British Parliament crossed a line that was inescapably leading to armed revolution. 

Paul Revere arrived in Philadelphia in May with the Boston Circular Letter that listed the British actions and called for the colonies to meet to discuss reaction to the British. In Philadelphia, moderates and even the Whig party advocated caution and negotiation. Clymer was incensed by this display of timidity. He returned to Boston to find the British to be an alien occupying force, but which was no longer in control. 

In Philadelphia Clymer’s views were rejected and moderates were chosen to represent Pennsylvania in the First Continental Congress. However, radical views were winning out in congress and a boycott of trade with Britain was passed. George Clymer was elected to the Philadelphia committee to enforce the boycott. He played a prominent role in open acts of opposition to the Crown. 

General George Washington-George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot
General George Washington

Open warfare began on 19 April 1775 when British and American forces clashed in the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Militia forces were being organized in the colonies and on 19 June 1775 George Washington was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. George Clymer joined the Committee of Safety, organized by Ben Franklin and Robert Morris, to arm and fortify Pennsylvania. George  was also devoted to efforts to mobilize and supply the Continental Army. 

The Pennsylvania delegation to Congress voted for independence by a slim majority on 2 July 1776 after being released from instructions to vote against it. A new Pennsylvania delegation of radicals, including Clymer, was elected and signed the Declaration of Independence on 20 July. 

Clymer spent much of the summer of 1776 working on a new state constitution, although it turned out to be a huge disappointment. He and 22 others out of the 96-man state convention, refused to sign the completed document.  

When Clymer returned to Congress in the fall of 1776, his first assignment was to inspect the defenses and conditions at Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga. His report was instrumental in focusing Congress’ attention on procurement and supply and on the plight of wounded and sick Continental soldiers 

Upon his return Clymer discovered he had been elected to the new Provincial Assembly and Council as a leading anti-constitutionalist. Reform efforts failed and he resigned his seat when the state government was organized under the Articles of Confederation in 1778. 

In December 1776, the British army had advanced toward Philadelphia, so Congress moved to Baltimore, Maryland. Clymer, Robert Morris, George Walton, and a Georgia delegate remained in Philadelphia to continue the work of keeping General Washington’s army supplied. They opened an office in Philadelphia until Congress returned in February 1777. 

Clymer had moved his family to a farm near Chester, Pennsylvania, 25 miles south of Philadelphia, so they would be close. He often rode horseback late in the day to spend the night with them, returning at dawn the next day. 

The British did occupy Philadelphia in September 1777, and Congress re-located to York, Pennsylvania. The Clymer family also moved to York. 

Sketch of Fort Pitt in 1776-George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot
Sketch of Fort Pitt in 1776

In December 1777, Clymer volunteered to investigate the deteriorating situation on the western frontier and reports of treason at Fort Pitt (now Pittsburg, Pennsylvania). Also, the Delaware and Shawnee Indian tribes were threatening to switch their allegiance to the British. He was at Fort Pitt for four months, two with a Virginia delegate. 

Clymer was not impressed with the quality of the frontiersmen. He believed they were dishonest, corrupt, and self-serving. He doubted they could hold the frontier. Clymer did, however, manage to repair relations with the Indians. 

When Clymer returned, provincial politics prevented his re-election to congress and for the next two years he devoted his time to his commercial interests. At the time, his affairs were mainly concerned with large tracts of land in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and the New York frontier that he had inherited. George’s wealth was increasing substantially.

The British withdrew from Philadelphia in the summer of 1778, so Clymer and his family returned despite out-of-control inflation. By the spring of 1780, the revolution was seriously in danger. Paper money was worthless, the military procurement system was completely broken, the states refused to supply any funds, and the army was rapidly running out of supplies. Even the stocks of flour were almost exhausted, and General Washington doubted the army could last until the harvest. 

Under the leadership of Clymer, Philadelphia merchants banded together to charter a private bank, the Pennsylvania Bank. They raised funds to purchase supplies for the Army until Congress could get around to paying for them. George was a co-director of the bank, and it grew into a huge corporation. They had representatives scouring the countryside in search of supplies. They delivered thousands of barrels of flour and corn, casks of rum, and hundreds of tents to the needy army. 

The merchants won the undying gratitude of General Washington. The Commissary General of the army wrote that they had saved the army from dissolution. Unfortunately, there were accusations of corruption despite the bank having been chartered as a non-profit. Clymer pointed out that no investor made a profit and that many had lost money. 

Because of the success of the Pennsylvania Bank, Clymer was again appointed to Congress in 1781. The country was still having serious financial problems and he was appointed to the finance committee which was chaired by Robert Morris. They were tasked with establishing a national bank and Clymer traveled to the southern states to solicit subscriptions but was unsuccessful.  

George Clymer left congress in late 1782 and moved his family to a home near Princton, New Jersey where he retired. Retirement ended in 1784 when he moved back to Philadelphia to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature. Clymer became more convinced that for the country to survive, a strong federal union had to be formed with the authority to tax and control commerce. 

Independence initially was accompanied by economic problems and unrest. Most of the great powers and many Americans were expecting the nation to fail. During the winter of 1786-87, inflation was rampant and paper money was worthless. Riots erupted in Vermont and New Hampshire, and Captain Daniel Shays launched a rebellion of angry farmers in western Massachusetts. American leaders called for a national convention to re-write the Articles of Confederation. This convention began on 14 May 1787 and reached a quorum on 25 May. 

Constitution of the United States of America-George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot
Constitution of the United States of America

Clymer was elected a delegate to the convention which became known as the Constitutional Convention. He actively campaigned for a strong centralized national government. The debate was lively, contentious, and often bitter, but in September a draft was adopted, signed, and submitted to the states for ratification. George Clymer signed the Constitution and then was a leader in the Pennsylvania ratification convention. The Constitution of the United States was ratified by the states in July 1788. George Washington was elected president and John Adams vice president on 6 April 1789. The Bill of Rights was added on 1 March 1792. 

Clymer was elected to the first United States Congress which convened on 4 March 1789. He proved to be a staunch Federalist and supporter of President Washington. He worked to strengthen government finances by import duties and excise taxes. 

In 1791, Congress levied a tax on every barrel of whiskey distilled in the United States to help pay off the national debt. After serving one term in Congress, Clymer was appointed to the position of Supervisor of Revenue for Pennsylvania, and it was his disagreeable and often dangerous task to collect the new taxes. 

Every year the farmers in Western Pennsylvania converted any excess grain yields to whiskey which provided them with much-needed cash. They defied the Federal tax in what became known as the “Whiskey Rebellion”. Many of the farmers were veterans of the Revolutionary War and believed that defying the tax was standing up for the principles of the Revolution.  

The Whiskey Rebellion was put down in 1794 by 1,500 militia, including George’s son Meredith. This force was led by President Washington and the rebellion ended without an armed clash. All the farmers that were arrested were later acquitted or pardoned.  

The outcome of the Whiskey Rebellion firmly established the right of Congress to levy taxes. 

Meredith Clymer was killed at Fort Pitt in 1794 and George resigned his position, which he then found distasteful. He returned to private life, but not for long. 

In 1796 President Washington again called on Clymer appointing him one of three commissioners to negotiate a new treaty with the Creek and Seminole Indians in Georgia. Clymer sided with the Creeks against what he believed were illegal attempts to annex their tribal lands. The treaty that was negotiated helped turn the southern tribes away from dependence on the Spanish to an alliance with the Americans. 

After the treaty negotiations, Clymer once again returned to private life, but remained very active. In 1803 he became president of the new Philadelphia Bank and in 1805 helped found the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, also becoming president of that organization. He served in both positions until his death. He helped organize the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, and he was already a trustee for the College and Academy of Philadelphia (now University of Pennsylvania). At his death, Clymer had served in that trustee position for 22 years. 

Summerseat Mansion-George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot
Historic Summerseat.

After a brief illness, George Clymer died on 23 January 1813 at Summerseat, an estate a few miles outside Philadelphia at Morrisville. He had purchased and moved to Summerseat in 1806. He was buried in the Friends Meeting House Cemetery at Trenton, New Jersey.  

After the death of George, Elizabeth and her son Henry and his family moved to Northumberland County, PA. She died there in 1815. Her grave location is not known. 

Attack Transport USS George Clymer (APA-27) honors George Clymer, a town in Indiana County, Pennsylvania and a town in New York are named after him as is a school in Philadelphia. A Clymer marker is in the Memorial to the Signers of the Declaration in Savannah, Georgia and in the national Memorial to the Signers in Washington, DC. 

The Signer by Frudakis-George Clymer-Pennsylvania Patriot
The Signer by Frudakis (Shutterstock)

The Signer, sculpted by Evangelos Frudakis in 1980, was dedicated in Signers Park on the former site of the Gilbert Stuart House in 1982 during Philadelphia’s Tercentenary. Inspired by George Clymer, “commemorates the spirit and deeds of all who devoted their lives to the cause of American Freedom.” The Signer is looking heavenward, holding a founding document within his grasp. The bronze statue, standing 9-1/2 feet high on a 6-foot granite base, was a gift of the Independence Hall Association. 

Travel in America-1607-1965


Today we take easy travel around our great country for granted. My wife and I easily drove from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to Sacramento, California in four days. When I visit my Missouri hometown, I am still amazed that most roads are now paved. Interstate highways that were being constructed while I was in college now serve every section of the country. When I was first married and traveled between St. Louis, Missouri and Silver Spring, Maryland, the trip was still made on US 40 through all the towns. Now it is mostly on I-70. This is how much travel has improved just since World War II. 

Travel in the 17th and 18th centuries was, however, a nightmare. “Roads” were often nothing more than glorified foot paths. Travel was difficult, expensive, and often dangerous so most travelers were government officials, merchants and planters who did so for business or official duty. The poor rarely, if ever, traveled away from their homes. 

17th Century Sailing Ship-Travel in America-1607-1965
17th Century Sailing Ship

Most people migrated to the New World from Europe, a trip that was extremely unpleasant and dangerous. The Atlantic crossing took at least six to eight weeks in good weather. The ships were small sailing vessels that were never stable. They rocked with every small wave and in storms were very unstable and in risk of sinking. The passengers were in cramped quarters, and many suffered seasickness for the entire journey. Any illness that popped up was shared by most of the passengers with some dying during the voyage. Piracy was always a threat to early shipping. 

The cost of crossing the Atlantic was so high that only the well-to-do could afford passage. The people who could afford the cost usually made the trip to reestablish their way of life in the New World. Those wanting to travel to America for a better life were usually poor and could not afford passage. Most sold themselves, and even their families, into Indentured Servitude, becoming virtual slaves for a set period to pay for their crossing.  

In addition to Indentured Servants, convicts were deported to the colonies. The English were trying to solve their crime problem by getting rid of the criminals. Between 1718 and 1775 over 52,000 convicts were transported to America, mainly to Maryland and Virginia, to be sold as slaves. Convicts made up a quarter of the British immigrants during the 18th century. 

Once migrants reached the New World, they found a transportation system even more primitive than in Britain and they had to adjust to that reality. 

The usual mode of travel in the colonies was simply walking, and people often walked amazing distances to get supplies or to visit. Travel by horseback was popular among those who could afford a horse. Depending on breeding and capabilities, a horse cost from 5 to 1,000 British pounds and many colonists bought a horse as soon as they could afford the price and the upkeep.  

Successful farmers and merchants often had wheeled wagons and draught animals to move equipment and supplies. The Conestoga Wagon, which became famous later, was used to transport the heaviest loads. Wagons were pulled by teams of horses, mules, or oxen. 

Horse-Drawn Carriage 1930's-Travel in Americ1607-1965
Horse-Drawn Carriage 1930’s-

The well-to-do often had horse-drawn carriages for travel. Like autos today, these carriages, and in particular the horses, could be a public display of wealth. For instance, on 20 June 1775, Thomas Jefferson arrived in Philadelphia to serve in the Second Continental Congress in an ornate carriage drawn by a team of four matched horses. That was a statement for sure. 

 No matter the mode, travel in the colonies was slow. The speed of walking is about 2 to 4 miles per hour, a good horse can consistently walk about 4 mph and trot 8 to 12 mph, horse-drawn wagons about 4 to 8 mph, oxen drawn wagons about 2 mph and carriages about 2 to 4 mph. These speeds are averages on a flat, smooth surface. Roads were usually very rough with wagon wheel ruts as much as two-feet-deep, which was dangerous for men and animals. It was easy for animals to break a leg, and for walkers to break an ankle or leg. Wagons and carriages were rough rides on these roads and broken wheels and axles were common. 

  The first English colonies established in North America were Virginia in 1607 and Massachusetts in 1620. As more settlers arrived, more settlements were established along the Atlantic coast. By 1732 13 colonies had been established. These colonies were organized into three regions known as the Northern, Middle, and Southern. The Northern Colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire quickly became known as New England. The Middle Colonies consisted of New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The Southern Colonies were Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. 

Trade between the three regions and with England was essential and was growing rapidly. Goods were moving easily in and out of coastal ports, but the necessity of moving goods, people, and mail between ports and to other cities demanded a more reliable road network. This was a tall order, however, because most of the countryside outside the towns and cities was still wilderness. 

Responsibility for road and bridge construction and maintenance was given to county courts. This was a logical move since the counties already had working governments, but their effectiveness varied considerably. Most also had a limited tax base. I do genealogical research, so I go through mountains of county records. It amazes me that most early counties had quickly set up governing bodies, courts, and law enforcement. They handled arrests, incarcerations, wills, estates, marriages, divorces, criminal and civil trials despite being in a wilderness. There were local trails and crude roads in the settlements and towns but little more.  

Despite the problems, counties took the road and bridge business seriously. Courts appointed locals to build and maintain specific sections of roads and bridges, but it was difficult for them to track the work. There was a wide range of ability and honesty. Some did so poorly that they had to be replaced, and some took the money and disappeared. 

Most roads were simply paths that were cleared of most trees and brush. Local materials had to be used, and seldom was there a way to hard surface roads. This meant during wet weather the roads turned into quagmires and became severely rutted.  

Wooden Bridge-Travel in America-1607-1965
Wooden Bridge-

There were no nationwide road and bridge standards and bridges were a real problem. Local workers rarely knew enough about bridge construction to put up a structure that was adequate in all conditions. They were generally able to put up a bridge that accommodated light traffic in good weather. Some of these bridges collapsed under heavy loads and many were washed away during heavy storms. 

There was no master plan for a road network that connected the counties, much less connect the major cities and ports. Roads were being built to facilitate movement in local areas, and travel was still a nightmare. 

The south presented a real problem for north-south road construction because of the long coastal shorelines, and long wide rivers, which were formidable obstacles. In the Tidewater areas most east-west travel and commerce moved by boat. This waterborne system of movement was very efficient and cheap but north-south movement was difficult. Roads had to parallel the rivers until the river was narrow enough to construct a bridge. Long bridges were quite difficult to build because of inadequate materials and limited engineering skills.  

Ferries were often used to cross rivers because they could be established rapidly and easily. They had capacity limitations, but many could move substantial amounts of goods in short periods of time. In 1862 General Robert E Lee crossed 35,000 combat troops at White’s Ferry on the upper Potomac River to fight at Antietam and again when he withdrew. 

Although long bridges can be built today, Tidewater roads still mostly follow the original routes. However, now there are a few very long bridges such as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Annapolis, Maryland and the 17-mile-long bridges and tunnels across the Chesapeake Bay that connects the Delmarva Peninsula and Virginia.  

King's Highway Route-Travel in America-1607-1965
King’s Highway Route

The first serious effort to connect all 13 colonies with a usable road came in the mid 17th Century when King Charles II ordered a road constructed connecting all 13 colonies. The road was originally planned to connect the major cities along the Atlantic coast—Boston, Massachusetts to Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston was established in 1670 and was originally known as Charlestown.  

The thinking behind the King’s Road was quite forward-looking and was driven, in part, by the growing necessity to move mail reliably and safely. Mail was being delivered within population centers, but it was a maze of roads and paths that inter-connected even nearby towns.  

Construction was once again the responsibility of county courts so there was a wide range in the quality of the work. The quality of the road was obviously also dependent on terrain. The problems of building along the coast in the southern states is much different than in rocky New England. 

The King’s Road was roughly 1,300 miles long. Most sources indicate that most construction occurred between 1673 to 1753. The roads in New England and New York City were the most advanced at the start. The existing road between Boston and New York City followed the Pequot Indian Path. It was known as the Boston Post Road in recognition of the movement of mail between Boston and New York City. The Boston Post Road became part of the King’s Road when it was widened and smoothed to accommodate carriages.  

Males over the age of 16 were required by law to work a set number of days on the road, but the details differed by state. Forced labor is not usually the best, although a few states continued this requirement into the 20th Century. 

Bridges were again a bigger problem than roads, and counties were required to build bridges over rivers and other natural obstructions. They were usually constructed using wooden timbers. Bridge design was again rudimentary. Some collapsed under heavy loads, and many were washed away. Bridges were high maintenance items, but they were built and rebuilt as needed. 

As construction of King’s Road progressed, portions of it and some bridges charged a toll to help pay for maintenance. Some counties constructed roads parallel to the King’s Road to bypass the tolls, and the bypasses were usually better quality than King’s Road. Many cities built their own roads to the coastal ports to avoid the fees for a lesser quality road. 

King’s Road maintenance quickly deteriorated after completion. This was due to many factors but the most important was the lack of inter-colony management. Like everything else in life, somebody must be in charge to accomplish anything. 

Today, US Route 1 and US Route 17 were built on the King’s Road route in the south. Farther north, US Route 1, US Route 20, US Route 206, and US Route 13 follow the King’s Road. Many state roads were also constructed on the King’s Road route. 

Interest in a north-south Road began to wane with the beginning of major migration to the west, and the need to provide roads for that migration. Early explorers and trappers followed Indian trails west and found fertile ground, and open spaces occupied by Indian tribes. For years most people in the Americas had known little about what lay west over the mountains, but as the explorers and trappers returned and spoke of vast amounts of fertile land, people wanted to start the long and dangerous trek west. 

The need and desire to move west away from civilization was in the soul of Americans from the start of colonization. My own ancestors migrated from Virginia into what became Tennessee in the early 18th Century to “get away from the crowding and high taxes” in the east. 

The Appalachian Mountains were a formidable obstacle to western migration. Moving entire households was much different than trappers moving on foot with a minimum of supplies. The trek was so difficult that some early migrants gave up before crossing the mountains and settled in western Virginia and western Pennsylvania. 

The earliest route to Kentucky was the Wilderness Road which was established by Daniel Boone. Boone and his frontiersmen linked up old Indian paths with trails used for centuries by herds of buffalo. (Yes, buffalo were in much of the east in early America.) In the beginning it was a road in name only, but it was later widened to accommodate wagons. The trip was long—about 800 miles from Philadelphia and it was dangerous.                                                              

Daniel Boone Leading families on Wilderness Road to
Daniel Boone Leading families on Wilderness Road to Kentucky

The Wilderness Road passed through the Cumberland Gap, a natural pass in the Appalachian Mountains. In 1773, Boone and his family led a group of families through the gap into Kentucky. They were followed by thousands of settlers in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. 

The Wilderness Road was the main route to present day Kentucky and Tennessee for years. The population of Kentucky was 73,000 in 1790 (first census) and more than 220,000 in 1800, which shows how much the road was used. 

 Boone’s Wilderness Road operated decades before the 1811 National Road (today US 40) and the 1817 Erie Canal. Those routes opened the Northwest Territory (Midwest) to massive migration.  

The relentless move west had begun and continued for more than another 100 years. Americans were just getting started. Kentucky and Tennessee were early new states, and the great cities of the Midwest were founded and became major centers of industry and business.  

Louisiana Purchase-Travel in America-1607-1965
Louisiana Purchase

The 1803 Louisiana Purchase essentially doubled the size of the United States. Most of this territory was wilderness known only to trappers and a few explorers. President Thomas Jefferson authorized the Lewis and Clarke Expedition to explore and map much of the territory to show the public that the 15-million-dollar cost had not been wasted. 

The only towns in the Louisiana Territory hugged the shores of the Mississippi River but commerce already moved on that mighty river to the well-established port of New Orleans.  

Lewis and Clarke launched their expedition from the major trading center of St. Louis at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Their expedition consisted of 45 men that were experienced in many sciences and experienced frontiersmen.  

The expedition moved up the Missouri River and traveled about 8,000 miles in two years. Their findings launched massive immigration to the west. There were no roads, but wagon trains traveled trails that became famous in American history-the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the California Trail to name just a few. Leaving from St. Joseph, Missouri west coast migrants faced a 2,000-mile-long trek of 4-6 months. These migrants faced hunger, Indian raids, disease, accidents, and death, but they kept coming and populated the far western states and the territory in between. 

The National Road, in many places now known as US Route 40, was built between 1811 and 1834 to reach the western settlements. It was federally funded because George Washington and Thomas Jefferson believed that a trans-Appalachian Road was necessary to unify the young country. 

Poor people traveled west by wagon train. The wealthy could travel by ship. From New York to San Francisco, it was an expensive 4-to-6-week trip of over 7,000 miles around Cape Horn. This too was a hazardous and difficult trip. The weather, particularly around Cape Horn, can be severe and many of the migrants died at sea. 

The roads west of the Appalachian Mountains were slow to develop and travel remained difficult, dangerous, and generally unpleasant into the 20th century. 

By 1912, the Nation’s highways were just emerging from the “Dark Ages” of road building in the second half of the 19th Century. Railroads were being rapidly constructed and dominated interstate transportation of people and goods. Roads were primarily of local interest. Outside cities, “market roads” were maintained, for better or worse, by counties or townships. 

 On 1 July 1913, a group of automobile enthusiasts and industry officials established the Lincoln Highway Association “to procure the establishment of a continuous improved highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, open to lawful traffic of all description without toll charges.” In its time, the Lincoln Highway, which linked New York City and San Francisco, would become the Nation’s premier highway, as well-known as U.S. 66 became and as well-known as I-80 and I-95 are today. 

The Federal-aid highway program would not begin until 1916 and, because of structural problems and the advent of World War I in 1917, would not accomplish much until 1921. The country had about 2,199,600 miles of rural roads and only 190,476 miles (8.66 percent of the total) had improved surfaces of gravel, stone, sand-clay, brick, shells, oiled earth, or bitumen. Many people thought of interstate roads as “peacock alleys” intended for the enjoyment of wealthy travelers who had time to ride around the country in their automobiles. 

 It was not until after World War II that modern American roads and highways were established. During the war, General Dwight D. Eisenhower noted how well the German military moved on the Autobahn highway system, and he became convinced that the US needed a similar highway system. 



President Dwight D. Eisenhower-Travel in America-1607-1965
President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower became president in 1953, and his administration developed a proposal for an interstate highway system, eventually resulting in the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. Unlike earlier American highways, the interstates were designed to be an all-freeway system, with nationally unified standards for construction and signage. While some older freeways were adopted into the system, most of the routes were completely new construction. 

Construction of the original Interstate Highway System was proclaimed complete in 1992, despite deviations from the original 1956 plan and several stretches that did not fully conform with federal standards.  

The interstate system has continued to expand and grow as additional federal funding was provided for new routes to be added, and many more routes are currently either being planned or under construction. 

Interstate Highway System-Travel in America-1607-1965
Interstate Highway System

Interstate highways are owned by the states in which they were built but must meet Federal standards. The standards include controlled access, physical barriers, or median strips between lanes of oncoming traffic, breakdown lanes, no traffic lights, and federally designed traffic signs. 

 This article covers many years and documents how long it took to establish a coherent and reliable highway system in the country. We now have an integrated system of road, rail, and water. It’s not perfect but when not micro-managed, it continues to improve. Although I started out about early American transportation, it seemed to slide into modern times for a more complete picture. I hope you will forgive my insertion of personal information. 

William Williams-A Connecticut Yankee


Portrait of William Williams-William Williams-A Connecticut Yankee
Portrait of William Williams

ILR. William Williams was a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Connecticut. He studied theology and law at Harvard with the intention of becoming a    pastor but volunteered to fight in the French and Indian War. After the war he became a merchant and a politician. He signed the Declaration of Independence. He also assisted in framing the Articles of Confederation but was not a signer. Williams held state and local level offices for over 40 years and was a lifelong church deacon.  

William was born on 18 April 1731 in Lebanon, Connecticut. He was the son of Pastor Solomon Williams and Mary Porter Williams. His father and grandfather both attended Harvard College and were ministers of the Gospel. His father was pastor of the Congregationalist Church in Lebanon for at least 50 years. 

Following his father and grandfather, William enrolled at Harvard at age 16 and graduated four years later. He planned to enter the ministry but enlisted to fight in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He joined his uncle, Colonel Ephraim Williams in a military expedition to the Lake George area in northeast New York. 

On 8 September 1755 British Major General William Johnson commanding 1,200 provincial troops engaged the French in a fierce battle. Colonel Williams commanded a regiment and at the first volley was killed by a shot through the head. Colonel Williams had made a will providing funds for a college that would become Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. 

After his military service, William returned to Lebanon with a contempt for British Army officers in general. He found them to be arrogant and to openly regard colonists as “inferior.” 

William chose to open a store in Lebanon and to become a pastor. He was an excellent businessman and prospered as a merchant. William’s life took an important turn in 1756 when he was elected Town Clerk, a position he held until 1796. He was a Lebanon Selectman from 1760 to 1785. He held a seat, and many positions in the Connecticut Assembly for 45 years.  

On 14 February 1771, William Williams married 25-year-old Mary Trumbull. Mary and William had three children who all survived childhood. 

Mary was the daughter of Royal Governor Jonathan and Faith Robinson Trumbull. Governor Trumbull was the only Royal Governor that supported independence and he held the office of governor until 1784. He also served as the second Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. 

John Trumbull-Self Portrait-William Williams-A Connecticut Ya
John Trumbull-Self Portrait

Mary’s brother was John Trumbull, an artist who became famous as the painter of the Revolution. His works include the four large paintings that hang in the Rotunda of the US Capitol. 

William was a passionate advocate of independence and supported his passion financially and by authoring in alias many articles in the press. He was a member of the Sons of Liberty and helped compose many of the Revolutionary state papers issued by Governor Trumbull. 

In the Connecticut Assembly, Williams supported the 1769 boycott of all British goods to oppose the Townshend Tax Acts and the British occupation of Boston. He was critical of merchants who began to ignore the boycott after repeal of the Townshend Acts except for the tax on tea. He never trusted those merchants again.  

Williams served on committees that responded to the Stamp Tax, Connecticut claims to the Susquehanna lands, the case of the Mohegan Indians, and settlement of the boundary disputes between Connecticut and Massachusetts. 

On 1 July 1774, following enactment of the Coercive Acts by Parliament (known as the Intolerable Acts by Americans) Williams authored an article “To the King” from “America” in the Connecticut Gazette. This article was a scathing attack on the King and mocked the King. 

Between 1773 and 1775 Williams was a colonel in the Connecticut Militia. In 1775, he went door to door to solicit funds to pay the cost of sending Connecticut troops to aid in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. 

Williams served as Probate Judge for the Windham District from 1775 to 1809 and Judge of Windham County Court from 1776 to 1805. As if he didn’t have enough to do, in June 1776, the Assembly appointed him a delegate to the Second Continental Congress to replace Oliver Wolcott who was ill.  

On 12 August, Williams wrote to Wolcott saying he “did not arrive in Philadelphia until near the last of July, after the most Sultry & fatiguing journey I ever performed, by much. The city has been since I came & yet is the most uncomfortable Place that I ever saw….” The summer of 1776 was extremely hot and humid in Philadelphia and Williams was not used to such weather. 

Signing the Declaration of Independence-Trumbull-William Williams-A Connecticut Yankee
Signing the Declaration of Independence-Trumbull

William did not arrive in Philadelphia in time to debate the Declaration of Independence nor to vote on it. He did arrive in time to sign the Declaration in August, becoming a Founding Father. 

On 10 August, William wrote to one of his brothers-in-law, Joseph Trumbull, about the nasty politics of appointing additional general officers to the Continental Army. General Washington had stated he needed the officers for a complete command structure in future battles. Many were appointed and he listed them. 

As the British prepared to land on Long Island, Williams wrote Trumbull expressing his hope for the Continental Army. “I hope … they & all will acquit themselves like men & be strong in the Day of approaching Conflict.”  

After the crushing defeat of the Continental Army in the Battle of Brooklyn on 27 August 1776, Williams wrote Trumbull expressing his hopes and fears. He stated his faith in God and ended with “may God grant Our Officers & soldiers, great Wisdom, Understanding, Courage & Resolution.” 

General Washington successfully evacuated Long Island after being trapped and William wrote Governor Trumbull lamenting the loss of cannon, but he believed the evacuation was necessary after the Continental losses. He mentioned that Congress decreed that New York City was not to be destroyed. 

Williams admitted that the British held the advantage, that more setbacks would be experienced, and that many would die but that “I have always thot that this was a just and righteous cause in which we are engaged…” His trust in God never wavered.  

Williams was a member of the Congressional committee to compose the Articles of Confederation and his letters to those in Connecticut contained information about the debates on the Articles, the duties and powers of government, and the colonies becoming states. William appeared to be satisfied with most decisions but noted that he did not agree with some, and that taxation was a very contentious issue. 

Williams had been criticized by some for resigning his position of colonel in the 12th Connecticut Militia to accept his appointment to the Congress when the war began. In 1781, however, he demonstrated his courage when word reached him in Lebanon that a British force commanded by the traitor Benedict Arnold was attacking New London, Connecticut. William immediately mounted his horse and rode 23 miles in three hours to volunteer his services. The town had been lost and was in flames by the time he arrived. 

During the winter of 1781, a French regiment was stationed at Lebanon. William and his family moved out of their home and turned it over to the French officers. 

In 1788, William was a delegate to the Connecticut convention to consider ratifying the Constitution of the United States. William voted to ratify the Constitution but objected to the clause forbidding religious tests. 

Old Cemetery (now Trumbull Cemetery) Lebanon, Connecticut-William Williams-A Connecticut Yankee
Old Cemetery (now Trumbull Cemetery) Lebanon, Connecticut

Following his service at the ratifying convention, Williams retired from national and state politics and continued his service as a county judge. However, in 1810 his oldest son, Solomon, died, and he never recovered from that loss. His health rapidly declined, and William Williams died on 2 August 1811 at 81 years old.  He was buried at the Old Cemetery (now known as Trumbull Cemetery) in Lebanon. Mary died in 1831 and is buried next to William.

I could find no memorials of William Williams other than the Signer’s Monument in Washington, DC. This is sad since he gave nearly his entire adult life to our nation. He served in so many positions that it is difficult to understand how he had time to be a successful merchant. The man could have had little leisure time. He was involved in the independence and the establishment of our Republic. Remember William Williams. He was a true patriot. 

Benjamin Harrison V-Family of Patriots


Portrait Benjamin Harrison V-Family of Patriots
Portrait Benjamin Harrison V

Benjamin Harrison V was a Virginia planter, merchant, and politician. His parents were from two of the most wealthy and powerful families in Virginia. He inherited several plantations, thousands of acres of land, numerous slaves, a fishery, and a grist mill. He  was elected to the House of Burgesses. During the Second Continental Congress he voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence.  He was the fifth governor of Virginia and later served in the Virginia House. He opposed ratification of the United States Constitution because it did not contain a bill of rights. Harrison died in 1791. One of his sons (William Henry Harrison) and a great-grandson (Benjamin Harrison) became United States Presidents. 

Benjamin Harrison V was born on 5 April 1726 in Charles City County at Berkeley Plantation. (The family did not use the Roman Numerals to designate generations, but historians have inserted them to avoid confusion. I will use the numerals where needed.) Benjamin was the oldest of ten children born to Benjamin Harrison IV and Anne Carter.

Manor House, Berkeley Plantation-Benjamin Harrison V-Family of Patriots
Manor House, Berkeley Plantation

The first Benjamin Harrison reached the colonies about 1630 and became a tobacco planter. By 1633 he was involved in local politics. Benjamins II and III were delegates to the Virginia House of Burgesses. Benjamin IV was Justice of the Peace and represented Charles City County in the House of Burgesses. By this time Benjamin IV had accumulated a large fortune, several plantations, and thousands of acres of land. He built the manor house, Berkeley, in 1726. This manor house overlooks the James River. It is still occupied today and is open to the public. 

Benjamin V’s mother Anne was the daughter of Robert “King” Carter who was the most powerful and most wealthy man in Virginia. He was also very influential in American politics. The “King” owned more than 300,000 acres of land and a thousand slaves. The first Carter to settle in Virginia was John who arrived in 1625. He built the ancestral home, Corotoman, in Lancaster County, Virginia. 

Benjamin V attended the College of William and Mary as did most males of the landed gentry. While at the college he became acquainted with fellow students Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Harrison’s studies were cut short when his father and two sisters were killed by a lightning strike on 12 July 1745. 

Being the oldest male, 19-year-old Benjamin V inherited the bulk of his father’s estate. This included the 1,000-acre Berkeley plantation, several other plantations, thousands of acres of land extending to Surry County and the falls of the James River, a fishery, and a grist mill. He became responsible for the equipment, stock and slaves needed to operate these large holdings. His father did not leave all to his oldest son, so Benjamin V’s siblings inherited another six plantations, possessions, and slaves. 

In 1748, Benjamin married Elizabeth Bassett from New Kent County. Elizabeth was the daughter of Colonel William Bassett and Elizbeth Churchill. Benjamin and Elizabeth were married for 40 years and had eight children that survived childhood. 

In 1749 Harrison was elected to represent Surry County in the House of Burgesses. He served until 1761 and then represented Charles City County 1766-1781, Surry County again 1785-1786 and Charles City County again 1787-1790. 

Portrait King George III-Benjamin Harrison V-Family of Patriots
Portrait King George III

Early in his service in the House of Burgesses, Benjamin was appointed to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances which responded when the Royal Governor of Virginia (Robert Dinwiddie) levied a new tax on land patents. The committee drafted a complaint to the Governor and the King. However, the British Privy Council replied, “that the lower house is a subordinate lawmaking body, and where the King’s decisions are concerned, it counts for nothing.” Later, a compromise was reached with the governor. 

In 1768 Harrison assisted in a response to the Townshend Acts, which had levied taxes on nearly everything the colonists used. Because of the intense colonial opposition, the acts were soon repealed except for the tax on tea. This resulted in the 16 December 1773 Boston Tea Party in Massachusetts and other scattered acts of resistance.

People in all the colonies were inspired by the Boston Tea Party, but some, including Benjamin, believed the East India Company should have been reimbursed for their losses.  

Although relations with the Crown were getting the most attention, the Burgesses did conduct other business. In 1772 Harrison, Thomas Jefferson and four others prepared a petition to the King to end the slave trade from Africa. The King rejected the petition without comment. 

Parliament in 1774 responded to the colonial resistance by enacting even more punitive measures that removed most of the few rights the colonists had. The Parliament called these acts the “Coercive Acts,” but in the colonies they were known as the “Intolerable Acts.” 

The Virginia House of Burgesses condemned the Coercive Acts and called for a Continental Congress. On 5 August 1774, the First Virginia Convention selected Benjamin Harrison to be one of seven Virginia delegates to the Continental Congress which was to convene in Philadelphia. 

Benjamin Harrison left Virginia for the first time and arrived in Philadelphia on 2 September 1774. He arrived with a good reputation and gravitated to the older more conservative delegates. He was distant with the New Englanders, and the more radical, particularly John and Samuel Adams. John Adams was not an admirer of the American South nor of most southerners. In private he often denigrated southerners.  

Portrait John Adams-Benjamin Harrison V-Family of Patriots
Portrait John Adams

The genuine dislike between the Adams’ and Harrison was also because of the Adams’ Puritanism and dislike of human “pleasures” and Harrison’s love of those pleasures. John Adams described Harrison in his diary as “another Sir John Falstaff,” as “obscene,” “profane,” and “impious.” To be fair, John Adams did not like fellow Bostonian John Hancock for the same reasons. John Adams did admit that Harrison had said he was so eager to serve in the Congress that “he would have come on foot.” 

In October Benjamin signed the Continental Association, an agreement to boycott all British goods. This was modeled after the earlier Virginia Association. The First Continental Congress concluded that month with a Petition to the King that requested that the King “attend the colonies’ grievances and restore harmony.” All the delegates signed the doomed document. 

When Harrison returned home, he received a letter from Thomas Jefferson advising him his order for 14 sash windows had arrived from London just prior to the boycott. Jefferson apologized that he had been unable to cancel the order. 

In March 1775, Harrison attended a convention in Richmond made famous by Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech. Also, a resolution to raise a military force passed 65 to 60, which was quite a step for Virginia. Although Harrison probably was in the minority, he was named to a committee to carry out the resolution. He was also elected to the Second Continental Congress. 

It was May 1775 when the Second Continental Congress convened, and Harrison resided in north Philadelphia with his brother-in-law Peyton Randolph and George Washington. Harrison soon was residing alone because Randolph died, and Washington became commander of the Continental Army. Harrison kept busy with the problems of funding and supplying Washington’s army and often corresponded with him. 

In the spring Congress made another attempt at reconciliation with the King with the” Olive Branch Petition” authored by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Harrison was adamantly opposed to the petition, but it passed and was submitted. The King refused to even read the petition and formally declared the colonists to be traitors. 

In November, Harrison, General Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Lynch traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to assess the needs of the army. After ten days, they concluded that military pay should be raised, and the ranks increased to 20,000 men. 

Signing Declaration of Independence-Trumbull-Benjamin Harrison V-Family of Patriots
Signing Declaration of Independence

Benjamin served frequently as chairman of the Committee of the Whole and presided over the final debates of the Lee Resolution for independence. The Committee of Five presented Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration on 28 June 1776. On 1 July the Committee of the Whole resolved to debate the draft and on Thursday 4 July 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted. The Declaration was then sent to be embossed before signing by those present for the vote. 

Harrison was known for his bold sense of humor. Even John Adams had to admit in his diary that “Harrison’s contributions and many pleasantries steadied rough sessions.” Pennsylvania delegate Benjamin Rush recounted an example of this sense of humor that occurred during a 2 August 1766 signing of the Declaration of Independence. He described the session as a scene of “pensive and awful silence” because the delegates believed they were probably signing their death warrants. 

Rush said Harrison interrupted “the silence and gloom of the morning” as delegates filed forward to sign. Rotund and tall Harrison approached the slight Elbridge Gerry who was about to sign and said, “I shall have a great advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes and be with the Angels, but from the lightness of your body you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead.” 

Despite the danger, all delegates proudly and without hesitation signed the Declaration. Afterwards they returned to other business of the Congress. 

As the war intensified, the American Army was conducting on-the-job-training while fighting the superbly trained and experienced British Army. On two occasions between December 1775 and March 1777, the British Army forced Congress to retreat from Philadelphia-first to Baltimore, Maryland and later to York, Pennsylvania. 

During 1777, Harrison became a member of the Committee of Secret Correspondence for the Congress. The main job of the committee was to communicate with American agents in Britain. He was also named Chairman of the Board of War which was to review the army’s moves in the north and the exchange of prisoners. There were fewer prisoner exchanges as the war progressed because the British had no desire to send soldiers back to the American ranks. 

Portrait General George Washington-Benjamin Harrison V-Family of Patriots
Portrait General George Washington

Benjamin became at odds with his friend, General Washington over Marquis de Lafayette’s commission. Harrison insisted it was honorary without pay. Lafayette did serve bravely, and without pay. 

During debate over the Articles of Confederation, Harrison argued unsuccessfully that Virginia should have more representatives than other states based on population and land area. 

Harrison’s congressional service ended in October 1777, and he returned to Virginia. Several of his estates had been ravaged and much of his fortune had been lost. However, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates which had replaced the House of Burgesses. Benjamin was elected Speaker of the House in late 1777 defeating Thomas Jefferson by a vote of 51 to 23. He was re-elected to that position several times. 

In January 1781, the traitor Benedict Arnold commanding a force of 1,600 British and Loyalist soldiers landed at the mouth of the James River. His ultimate target was Richmond, the new capital of Virginia. Harrison quickly evacuated his family from Berkeley and rushed to Philadelphia to seek military support. He obtained supplies and troops, but on a delayed basis, which was no help.

Arnold advanced up the James destroying everything on both sides of the river. When he raided Berkeley, he burned all family portraits so that no likenesses of that family would survive. Most of the other Harrison possessions were destroyed as was a major portion of the manor house. (It took many years for Harrison to repair the damage and to rebuild.) Arnold continued to Richmond and finally withdrew ending his campaign on 19 January 1781. He had destroyed Richmond, and many military facilities and plantations. 

The war continued and was costing the states much of their wealth, and more importantly, their young men. The last major battle of the Revolutionary War was the American/French victory at Yorktown, Virginia when Lord Lieutenant General Cornwallis was forced to surrender himself and his army to General George Washington on 19 October 1781. 

Benjamin Harrison was elected the fifth Governor of Virginia in December 1781 and served three terms. There had been a rapid succession of governors during the unstable war years. The main problem facing the state was money. The war had drained the treasury. Benjamin was able to stabilize the problem, but he could not solve it. He also opposed any new military action against the Indians in the west. 

General George Rogers Clark had urged aggressive action against the western tribes, but Harrison prevented it. Instead, he made treaties with the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Creek tribes which resulted in at least a temporary peace. Harrison and Clark had some very contentious exchanges about Indian policy. 

At the end of Harrison’s last term as governor, General George Washington accepted an invitation to visit him. Washington wrote “And I shall feel an additional pleasure, in offering this tribute of friendship and respect to you, by having the company of Marsqs. de la Fayette.” Washington made the visit in November 1784, but Lafayette was unable to attend.  

Portrait Patrick Henry-Benjamin Harrison-Family of Patriots
Portrait Patrick Henry

Harrison wanted to retire after his service as governor but was re-elected to the Virginia Legislature. He was also re-elected to the Speaker’s position. In 1786 the Virginia Legislature was divided over the place of religion in the state. Benjamin and his brother Carter Henry Harrison supported a measure proposed by Patrick Henry to fund teachers of the Christian religion. This proposal failed and the legislature enacted Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which established separation of church and state. 

In 1788 Harrison was a member of the Ratifying Convention for the United States Constitution. Harrison, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and others opposed ratification because of the strength and size of the central government and the absence of a bill of rights. The Constitution was ratified by a small margin on 25 June 1788. Benjamin stated that he and other dissenters should work to amend the Constitution. (The Bill of Rights was ratified on 15 December 1791.) 

Although George Washington had actively supported ratification of the Constitution, he praised Harrison, writing: “Your individual endeavors to prevent inflammatory measures from being adopted redound greatly to your credit.” 

Harrison continued in the House of Delegates despite being in poor health and having financial difficulties. In 1790, he was nominated for governor, but declined because he supported the incumbent.

Harrison was again elected governor in 1791, and the day after his election he invited a party of friends to dine with him. He had been suffering a great deal from “gout in the stomach” but had nearly recovered. That night he experienced a relapse, and the next day, 24 April 1791, death ended his suffering. The exact cause of death is unknown, but in addition to chronic gout he had been significantly overweight most of his life. 

Benjamin Harrison V Grave-Benjamin Harrison V-Family of Patriots
Benjamin Harrison V Grave

Benjamin Harrison was buried at Berkeley Plantation. His wife, Elizabeth died the following year and is buried next to him. 

A residential hall at William and Mary College is named for Harrison V as is a bridge that crosses the James River near Hopewell, Virginia. 

In addition to the Harrison families’ service already noted, others should be mentioned. Benjamin V’s siblings:  

Brother Carter Henry was a leader in Cumberland County, brother Nathaniel served in the House of Burgesses and the Virginia Senate, brother Henry fought in the French and Indian War, and brother Charles was a brigadier general in the Continental Army. All the girls married into other powerful families. 

Harrison V’s descendants continued the family tradition of service to the country with two being elected President of the United States. His son Benjamin Harrison VI served in the Virginia House of Delegates. Another son, General William Henry Harrison was a congressional delegate for the Northwest Territory, was Governor of Indiana Territory, and served in the War of 1812. He was elected President of the United States in 1840 but died just one month into his presidency.  

William Henry was the father of Ohio Congressman John Scott Harrison who was the father of Benjamin Harrison, a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War and who served in the U.S. Senate. He was elected President of the United States in 1888 defeating incumbent Grover Cleveland 

Benjamin Harrison V is just one member of a large family that has contributed much to the United States from early colonial times to the present-a span of nearly 400 years. This nation is fortunate to have such families. It is always “We the people” that make up this great Republic.  


Sons of Liberty-Political Agitators

One Emblem of Sons of Liberty-Sons of Liberty-Political Agitators
One Emblem of Sons of Liberty

Most have heard of the Sons of Liberty, but the main thing we know is that they were colonial agitators who dumped tea into Boston Harbor. They were much more. Although their original target was British taxes, they quickly realized the need for independence and intensified their efforts. They were a grassroots group of instigators and provocateurs who used civil disobedience, threats, and violence to intimidate loyalists and to tweak the British Crown. They wanted to push moderates into a revolution against the Crown and they succeeded. 

The Seven Years War (French and Indian War in America 1754-1763) was a global war that pushed the British Empire to the brink of financial collapse. The British Empire was also global with colonies in many more places than North America. The Crown saw the American colonies, as a source of new tax revenue. 

The British saw the French and Indian War as a conflict that benefitted the American colonies. They also had to maintain about 10,000 troops in those colonies to protect them. They were correct but did not consider the price the colonials and Indians had paid in blood, destruction, and lost commerce during the war. They also conveniently did not mention the income they derived from trade they had with the American colonies. The colonists provided tobacco, rice, furs and much more to Britain and it was transported in British merchant ships. 

Britains were already bearing extremely high taxes, so Parliament decided to solve their financial plight by new taxes on the colonials and by the 1765 Quartering Act. This act provided British colonial governors with the authority to forcefully quarter soldiers in colonial buildings and homes. The colonials also had to care for the troops and feed them. This was a particularly onerous law that garnered considerable anger. Fortunately, the act expired in 1767. 

Artist Rendition of Anger Over Stamp Act-Sons of Liberty-Political Agitators
Artist Rendition of Anger Over Stamp Act

The first new tax had been the April 1764 Sugar Act which taxed the transport and sale of raw sugar, molasses, and rum. This tax was to be paid only with gold or silver. Smuggling helped circumvent this tax, so it did not raise much money. The British, however, found a way to tax nearly all aspects of colonial life by passing the Stamp Act on 22 March 1765. This was a tax on most documents and paper products and was payable in British Sterling only. 

Colonial anger boiled over, and a secret group in Boston, Massachusetts called the “Loyal Nine” was attracting large crowds around the Liberty Tree in Boston. (The Liberty Tree was a stately elm near Boston Common, which was cut down by Loyalists in 1775.) The Loyal Nine demanded the newly appointed Collector of Stamps walk to the Liberty Tree and resign. Wisely fearing for his life, he walked through town in a driving rain and resigned to the cheers of the crowd. The crowd then trashed his home and burned his office. 

Artist Rendition Tarring and Feathering-Sons of Liberty Political Agitators
Artist Rendition Tarring and Feathering

The Loyal Nine also incited the crowds to riot throughout Boston. The rioters targeted taxable goods and tax collectors. Officials were in danger of being tarred and feathered or killed. They raided the home of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson and stole an estimated 250,000 pounds-sterling of his possessions. 

Portrait of Samuel Adams-Sons of Liberty-Political Agitators
Detail From Portrait of Samuel Adams

After successfully inciting riots, the Loyal Nine began publishing inflammatory patriotic articles in the Boston Gazette under the byline of “The Sons of Liberty.”  The Loyal Nine had become a much larger organization and its membership was no longer secret. Samuel Adams was the founder of the Sons of Liberty and wrote most of the articles for the Gazette. The first Sons of Liberty chapters were organized in Boston and New York City, but chapters were soon organized in all the colonies.  

The group may have taken its name from a speech given in Parliament by Isaac Barre, an Irish member sympathetic to the colonists. He warned that the British government’s behavior “has caused the blood of these sons of liberty to recoil within them.” 

The violent colonial resistance resulted in repeal of the Stamp Act within a year of its passage. However, in retaliation, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act in 1766. This act declared that the British King and Parliament had the power to enact any and all legislation on the colonies. This act was more of a “threat” than a law, but it enhanced the Sons of Liberty slogan of “No Taxation Without Representation.” 

At this point, the Sons of Liberty still considered themselves to be loyal subjects of the Crown, but as British will stiffened, colonial resistance to all British actions increased. The colonial goal was quickly becoming revolution and independence. 

No matter how much the colonials resisted, the British were still in debt and needed money. On 29 June 1767, Parliament passed the “Townsend Acts” which increased taxes and tariffs on most British products, such as lead, paint, paper, ink, porcelain, glass, and tea. The act also allowed British troops to enter any colonist’s home to search for smuggled goods. 

The colonials began to produce as many products as possible to avoid the Townsend taxes and the Sons of Liberty began smuggling in cheaper goods. In 1768, Sons of Liberty member and tea smuggler, John Hancock, was arrested and put on trial. Attorney John Adams successfully defended Hancock, but smuggling was obviously becoming riskier. 

Under the direction of the Sons of Liberty, a total boycott of all British goods was organized. They enforced the boycott in Boston and the surrounding area by threatening merchants and shopkeepers. If a merchant sold British goods his shop was vandalized, and his life was at risk. 

By 1769, the British deployed 2,000 additional soldiers to Boston to help control the colonial unrest and violence. This was an unusually large number of troops for a city that had a population of only 16,000. 

The British were doing everything wrong in their effort to tamp down colonial resistance, and the increased presence of British troops caused more resentment. The area of most colonial resistance was Boston, but resistance was increasing in all thirteen colonies.  

All hopes of even a relative peace were shattered on the evening of 5 March 1770 when the “Boston Massacre” occurred. The “massacre” erupted when a minor incident involving a small group of colonials and a British Army guard at the Customs House escalated into a major confrontation. Additional British soldiers were deployed to aid the guard. 

Revere Rendition of Boston Massacre-Sons of Liberty-Political Agitators
Revere Rendition of Boston Massacre-

The British soldiers were facing a large, angry and aggressive mob of colonists who were throwing rocks and other debris at the soldiers. They were also taunting the soldiers to “shoot.” The soldiers eventually opened fire on the mob, and five colonists were killed and another six wounded. In all the confusion and anger, no one knew why the shooting started. The soldiers were eventually tried with mixed outcomes. They were defended by attorney John Adams. 

The Boston Massacre was a “gift” to the Sons of Liberty because they used it to further enflame passions. Sons of Liberty member Paul Revere made a provocative engraving of the incident that “depicted the brutality and barbarism of the British Army.” This engraving was widely distributed to all the colonies and the resultant rage pushed more colonials toward revolution.  

The increasing resistance by the Sons of Liberty and average citizens caused Parliament to ease most of the new taxes. However, they still needed revenue and continued the high tax on tea. This forced colonists to pay very high taxes for British Tea while importers paid no tax.  A monopoly was created for the British-government-owned East India Company, which undercut local merchants and foreign tea importers, driving many to bankruptcy. 

This is when resistance began to be more serious with increased violent action. In 1773 the British did not believe the colonists would follow through on their stated refusal to pay higher tax on tea and East India ships began arriving in American ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston. This was met with resistance in all the ports and cargos of tea were not allowed to be unloaded except in Charleston where the tea was confiscated and later sold to help pay for the Revolutionary War. 

Artist Rendition of Boston Tea Party-Sons of Liberty-Political Agitators
Artist Rendition of Boston Tea Party

In Boston three ships loaded with tea entered the harbor but the Americans refused to allow the ships to unload. This did not deter the British and the ships docked at Griffin’s Wharf. Instead of purchasing the tea, the Sons of Liberty boarded the ships during the night of 16 December 1773. The boarders were dressed as American Indians and dumped the tea overboard. Known as the “Boston Tea Party,” in three hours, 92,000 pounds of tea was dumped into the harbor, which cost the British Empire over $1,700,000 in today’s dollars 

A fourth Boston bound ship ended up at Cape Cod and its cargo had been sold. The tea was stored in a Boston warehouse, so the Sons of Liberty raided the building and destroyed the tea. Some tea had already been sold to a merchant, so the Sons of Liberty broke into his shop and dumped his tea into the harbor. 

The British did not take the increased acts of resistance lying down. On 28 March 1774 they passed the Coercive Acts (Intolerable Acts to the colonists) which had four major points. It closed Boston Harbor, suspended trial by jury, prohibited elections and meetings of state assemblies, and forced the quartering of British soldiers in private buildings and homes.  

The British correctly expected major resistance to the new laws and took steps to counter it. They also realized that the main hotbed of resistance was New England, and in particular Boston. The British turned to Lieutenant General Thomas Gage. 

Lieutenant General Thomas Gage-Sons of Liberty-Political Agitators
Portrait of Lieutenant General Thomas Gage

Gage was a decorated war hero in the French and Indian War. He served as the Commander-in-Chief of all British Forces in North America from 1763 to 1774. In May 1774 he arrived in Boston to replace Thomas Hutchinson as Royal Governor of Massachusetts. Gage’s orders were to enforce the Coercive Acts. 

By this time, the colonials in Boston and the surrounding areas were politically well-organized in their resistance to British rule and colonial militia groups were armed and ready. Revolution was in the air, and Governor Gage knew that it would be difficult to subdue the well-organized patriots in New England.  

On 19 April 1775, under orders from Britain, Gage sent a detachment of troops to seize patriot munitions in Concord and to apprehend Sons of Liberty leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock. An informant warned Adams and Hancock, allowing them to escape capture. However, the “shot heard around the world” opened the battle between British soldiers and townspeople in Concord and Lexington. This was the first battle of the American Revolution, and nothing could stop the quest for freedom. 

On 12 June 1775, Gage tried a different approach offering amnesty to all Bostonians except Sam Adams and John Hancock. His proclamation read in part: “In this exigency of complicated calamities, I avail myself of the last effort within the bounds of my duty, to spare the effusion; to offer, and I do hereby in his Majesty’s name, offer and promise, his most gracious pardon to all persons who shall forthwith lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects, excepting only…, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whose offences are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment.” 

This proclamation backfired on Gage. It was so patronizing that it infuriated the Bostonians.  Many who had not been sympathetic with the cause became overnight patriots, and some actively joined the resistance. 

Gage’s forces next engaged American militia in the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775. It was technically a British victory but nearly one-third (or 1,500) British troops were left on the field dead, wounded, or captured. Gage was recalled to London in the fall of 1775 where he remained until his death in 1787. 

Portrait of Patrick Henry-Sons of Liberty-Political Agitators
Portrait of Patrick Henry-

The situation in Massachusetts encouraged Sons of Liberty chapters in other colonies to act and patriotic resistance was becoming too much for the British to handle. Lawmakers in Virginia met in 1775 to discuss negotiations with the British King but Sons of Liberty member, Patrick Henry, gave his famous speech that ended: “Give me liberty or give me death!” He moved Virginia away from reconciliation. 

Revolutionary fever was uniting the colonies and war had become inevitable. A continental army was being organized and the Declaration of Independence would be drafted and signed in1776. 

Once war began in earnest, most members of the Sons of Liberty joined the military or became political leaders that drafted our founding documents and established a new government. Some, however, stayed home and terrorized Loyalists. There was open and bloody fighting between Patriots and Loyalists in some areas, and most Loyalists who escaped to Canada lost nearly everything. 

When war ended some Sons of Liberty chapters temporarily reconstituted to influence politics in their states. In New York they managed to get legislation passed to expel Loyalists and to confiscate their property. This violated the Paris Accords peace treaty and Alexander Hamilton defended the Loyalists in court. No matter the court decisions, confiscating and reselling Loyalist property became an American cottage industry.  

The Sons of Liberty defiance of the British, particularly in Boston and New York City, was a major factor in moving Americans to Revolutionary War. It also began an American tradition of grassroots activism that various groups have applied over the years to push for change.   

The importance of one man, Samuel Adams, to the start of the American War for Independence, especially through the Sons of Liberty cannot be minimized. While George Washington eventually led the war effort against the British, “the truth is that there might not have been a fight to begin with had it not been for the work of Sam Adams.”-Historian Les Standiford 

Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans


Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans
Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams, the cousin of John Adams, was a terrible businessman, but an excellent politician. He and John were early agitators for independence. Boston was a hotbed of resistance to the British, and the Adams’ led the way. Sam and John signed the Declaration of Independence. Sam served in the Continental Congress until 1781. He was also active in drafting the Massachusetts Constitution and was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1789. In 1794 he was elected governor of the state and was reelected annually until 1797 when he retired for health reasons.  

Born into an affluent Boston Puritan family, Samuel Adams entered this world on 27 September 1722. His father, Samuel Adams Sr. was a prominent merchant and religious leader who was also involved in local politics. His mother, Mary was the daughter of a local businessman. 

John Locke-Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans
John Locke-

Sam attended the Boston Latin School and then Harvard College. At Harvard he was introduced to the writings of John Locke an influential English philosopher and physician of the Enlightenment. Locke wrote that all people were born with certain rights that could not be taken away, and that governments exist by the consent of the people. These ideas made a powerful impression on Samuel. He wrote his 1743 Harvard master’s degree thesis on the legality of resisting British authority. 

In 1748 Adams’ father died and he inherited the family business, but Sam Adams was a terrible businessman and eventually went bankrupt. He became a city tax collector but was so inept that his office came up short by thousands of pounds. 

Although Sam was a public and personal business failure, he was an active and influential politician, and a persuasive writer. He became more prominent in the 1760’s when the British parliament tried to pay off debt from the Seven Years War (French and Indian War) by imposing new taxes on the colonies. Adams argued that the British were violating colonial rights because they were being taxed without representation. Adams denounced the 1765 Stamp Tax as an attempt “to destroy the liberties of America as with one blow.” 

In 1765, Adams was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a position he would hold for nine years. He also joined a secret group of activists called the “Loyal Nine.” This group evolved into an even more radical group known as the “Sons of Liberty.” 

John Adams-Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans
John Adams

Cousin John Adams (became second President of the United States) described Samuel as a “plain, modest, and virtuous man” but that was an amazing understatement. Sam was a passionate politician, and a propagandist who often embellished the truth when he attacked British officials and policies. He authored a myriad of newspaper letters and essays over many aliases that described British policies and royal officials in the worst possible terms. He was always stirring the pot. 

Sam Adams was a great political organizer. He got men elected that agreed with him, set up groups that acted as he wished, and secured passage of resolutions that he wanted.  

The arrival of British troops in Boston in 1768 was a gift to Sam since it gave him a very visible propaganda target. His many articles portrayed the soldiers as brutal, oppressive, and a danger to colonial wives and daughters. 

Boston Massacre-Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans
Boston Massacre

On 5 March 1770, the Boston Massacre occurred when a confrontation with British soldiers resulted in the British firing into a threatening mob of colonists killing five. Following this incident, Adams led the colonials in a town meeting that demanded and secured the removal of British troops from Boston. Cousin John was a defense attorney for the British troops involved in the incident because he believed any person accused deserved legal representation. 

Sam Adams had been unable to persuade Massachusetts colonists to take extreme steps during the Townshend duties crises (1767-1770). When these duties, except for tea were repealed, the anti-British ardor of the people began to dwindle, but Sam still stirred the pot by reviving old issues and finding new ones. 

The next crisis was caused by Parliament passing the Tea Act of 1773, which gave the East India Company a monopoly on tea sales in the colonies. This act also reduced the duty on imported tea. The Americans would get tea at a lower price than ever; however, if they paid the duty, they would be agreeing that Parliament had the right to tax them. Tea was a staple of colonial life so the British assumed the colonists would rather pay the tax than deny themselves the pleasure of a cup of tea. They were wrong. The colonists were not fooled by Parliament’s ploy. 

When the East India Company sent shipments of tea to Philadelphia and New York the ships were not allowed to dock. In Charleston, the ships were permitted to dock but their cargo was sent to a warehouse where it remained for three years until it was sold to help finance the American Revolution. 

In Boston, the arrival of three tea ships ignited a furious reaction. The crisis came to a head on 16 December 1773, when about 7,000 locals milled about the wharf where the ships were docked. A mass meeting at the Old South Meeting House resolved that the ships should leave the port without payment of the duty. The Collector of Customs refused to allow the ships to leave without payment of the duty, which infuriated the locals. 

Boston Tea Party-Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans
Boston Tea Party

That evening a group of about 200 men, some disguised as Indians, marched to the wharf, boarded the three ships, and dumped the cargos of tea into the water. This act is known as the “Boston Tea Party.” and the protesters were Sons of Liberty members. Although Sam did not take part in the incident, he undoubtedly was one of the planners. 

Adams wrote that the protesters “have acted upon pure and upright principle.” Most colonists agreed, but the reaction in London was swift and harsh. In March 1774 Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts which among other measures closed the Port of Boston. The fuse that led to war had been lit in Boston and Sam Adams was a major leader of the rebellion that exploded. Also in 1774, Sam was elected to the Continental Congress where he and cousin John advocated for independence. 

Battle of Lexington and Concord-Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans
Battle of Lexington and Concord

By 1775, the British authorities had grown tired of Sam Adams and his highly effective and constant agitation. In April, hardliner British Major General and Royal Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Gage led British troops from Boston to Concord to uncover ammunition caches and to capture the agitators Samuel Adams and John Hancock. American spies got wind of the plan and both men escaped, and militiamen confronted the British on Lexington green. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the opening guns of the American Revolution. 

Sam and John Adams exerted considerable influence in the Continental Congress and strongly advocated for independence. In 1776 they voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. Afterwards Sam continued his fiery rhetoric. 

Much of Sam’s rhetoric was aimed at Loyalists—Americans who continued to support the British crown. In a 1776 speech in Philadelphia, he rebuked Loyalists with these words: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom-go from us in peace.” He continued: “We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.” These were direct and harsh words. 

Sam believed Loyalists were as dangerous to American liberty as British soldiers. In Massachusetts, more than 300 Loyalists were banished, and their property confiscated. After the war, Sam Adams opposed allowing Loyalists to return to Massachusetts, fearing that they would work to undermine republican government. 

Sam Adams was the Massachusetts congressional delegate appointed to the committee to draft the Articles of Confederation, the plan for the colonial government. The Articles emphasized state sovereignty, which reflected Congress’ wariness of a strong central government, a concern shared by Adams. 

Adams returned to Boston in 1779 to attend the state constitutional convention. He was appointed to a three-man drafting committee with his cousin John and James Bowdoin. They drafted the Massachusetts Constitution, which was amended by the convention and approved by voters in 1780. 

John Hancock-Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans
John Hancock

In 1781, Sam Adams retired from the Continental Congress but remained active in Massachusetts politics. He focused on promoting virtue, which he considered essential in a republican government. If republican leaders lacked virtue, he believed, liberty was endangered. His major opponent in this campaign was his former friend John Hancock. The two men had a falling out and Sam disapproved of what he viewed as Hancock’s vanity and extravagance. Sam believed this was inappropriate in a republican leader and that Hancock was acting like an aristocrat and courting popularity. Adams favored James Bowdoin for governor and was distressed when Hancock won annual landslide victories. 

Adams’ promotion of public virtue included getting Boston to provide free public education for children, even for girls, which was controversial. Sam became one of the charter members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780. After the Revolutionary War, he joined others, including Thomas Jefferson, in denouncing the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of former army officers which he believed was “a stride towards an hereditary military nobility.” 

Events during and following the Revolutionary War proved the Articles of Confederation were ineffective and needed to be revised. In 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia Convention did not revise the Articles, but instead authored the United States Constitution with a much stronger national government. The Constitution was sent to the states for ratification. Sam opposed it because he believed it gave too much power to the Federal Government. Proponents of the Constitution were labeled Federalists and the opponents were Anti-Federalists. 

Adams was elected to the Massachusetts ratifying convention which met in January 1788. Despite his reservations, Sam rarely spoke but listened carefully to the arguments. He and John Hancock (they had reconciled) finally agreed to support the Constitution, with the agreement that amendments be added later. Even with the support of Hancock and Adams, the Massachusetts convention narrowly ratified the Constitution. 

While Adams was attending the ratifying convention, his only son Samuel Adams, Jr. died at 37 years of age. The younger Adams had been an army surgeon during the Revolutionary War but had fallen ill and never fully recovered. The death was a stunning blow to his father. The younger Adams left his father the certificates that he had earned as a soldier, giving Sam and his wife unexpected financial security in their final years. They did not alter their frugal Puritan lifestyle. 

Sam Adams attempted to re-enter national politics by becoming a candidate for the House of Representatives in the December 1788 election. He lost to Federalist Fisher Ames. Despite his defeat, Sam continued to work for amendments to the Constitution, a movement that led to the addition of the Bill of Rights in 1791. 

In 1789, Sam was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He served in that office until Governor John Hancock’s death in 1793, when he became acting governor. The next year, he was elected governor and was elected to four more annual terms.  

Thomas Jefferson-Samuel Adams-Last of the Puritans
Thomas Jefferson

During the 1796 U. S. presidential election, Sam supported Thomas Jefferson for president, but his Federalist cousin John Adams won the election, with Jefferson becoming vice-president. The Adams cousins remained friends, but Sam was pleased when Jefferson defeated John in the 1800 presidential election. 

Sam Adams retired from politics at the end of his term as governor in 1797. He suffered from what is believed to have been “essential tremor,” a movement disorder that made him unable to write during the last ten years of his life. 

Samuel Adams died in Boston at the age of 81 on 2 October 1803. He was buried at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston. Boston’s Republican newspaper the Independent Chronicle eulogized Sam as the “Father of the American Revolution.” I believe they were correct. 

Long after Sam’s death, orator Edward Everett called him “the last of the Puritans.” 

A statue of Samuel Adams represents Massachusetts in the statuary hall of the US Capitol and another statue of him is in front of Faneuil Hall in Boston. 

One of my favorite Sam Adams quotes is: 

“I firmly believe that the benevolent Creator designed the republican Form of Government for Man.” 

Samuel Adams, 14 April 1785 

Deism-Religion of Reason


Deism-Deism-Religion of Reason

Deism is defined as belief in the existence of God based solely on rational thought without any reliance on organized religions or religious authority. Deism emphasizes the concept of natural theology (that is, God’s existence is revealed through nature). Since the 17th century and during the Age of Enlightenment (especially in 18th century England, France, and North America) some Western philosophers and theologians rejected the religious texts of the major religions and began to appeal only to truths they believed could be established through reason. The Diest movement is important to the founding of our country since some of our founders accepted this philosophy and rejected organized religion and the Christian Bible. 

Deists believe in God and that God created the world. However, most do not believe that God interferes with his creation. God is there but has no interest in the affairs of the world or of its people.  

Deism does not accept any religious text, such as the Holy Bible or the Koran. Deism rejects miraculous events, the Trinity, forgiveness of sins, salvation, and prayer. Of course, the Bible is filled with the miraculous, and is an account of God interacting with His creation. His dominion is everlasting, and humans are “clay” for him to form as he sees fit.

To the Deist, the ultimate act of “control” was when God supposedly took on human form in the person of Jesus Christ whose death and resurrection was to save man from sins of man’s own making. 

Deist beliefs seem to answer the age-old question of “Why would God allow evil in the world that causes innocent people to suffer?” Their answer is that God has nothing to do with the world. He is an uninterested observer. 

Deist thought appeals to those who want “logic” without emotion. The idea that God created the world and then left the people to be completely free from His interference explains everything to Deists. Men allow despots to seize absolute power and commit unspeakable atrocities such as the Holocaust. Then other men try to correct the situation by fighting wars that also cause unbelievable suffering and death, such as WW II. Deists believe God has no role in such worldly events. 

The information in the previous paragraphs presents the “core” beliefs of Deists, but there are many Deists that have different beliefs. Most striking is that some believe that God does sometimes intervene in human affairs; however, most of those do not believe in “miraculous” events. Different Deist beliefs are well-documented, and their essays contain a multitude of complex Biblical and philosophical detail. 

Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury-Deism-Religion of Reason
Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury

Deist thought has existed since ancient times but was first expressed in ancient Greece. However, Deism did not develop into a movement until after the scientific revolution which began in the mid-sixteenth century in England. Lord Herbert of Cherbury believed there are five Common Notions that unify all religious beliefs: 

      1. There is one Supreme God.
      2. God ought to be worshipped.
      3. Virtue and piety are the main parts of divine worship. 
      4. We ought to be remorseful for our sins and repent
      5. Divine goodness dispenses rewards and punishments, both in this life and after it.
Matthew Tindal-Deism-Religion of Reason
Matthew Tindal

The peak of Deism was from 1696-1801 and Lord Herbert’s Common Notions were rejected by John Locke. Matthew Tindal penned Christianity as Old as the Creation in 1730. This became the center of Deist controversy and was called the “Deist Bible.” Tindal’s essays stated that Deist beliefs were based on experience and reason. 

The Age of Enlightenment is defined as the period 1685-1815 and Deism was a part of it. Two major philosophical assertions were developed: reason, along with features of the natural world, is a valid source of religious knowledge, but revelation is not a valid source of religious knowledge. Others expanded on these assertions and produced “Constructive assertions:” 

      1. God exists and created the universe.
      2. God gave humans the ability to reason.


and “Critical assertions:” 

      1. Rejection of all books (including the Bible) that claimed to contain divine revelation.
      2. Rejection of the incomprehensible notion of the Trinity and other religious “mysteries.” 
      3. Rejection of reports of miracles, prophecies, etc.

Deists believed that established religions were corruptions of man’s original religion that they saw as pure, natural, simple, and rational. This original religion was corrupted by priests who manipulated it for personal gain and power over laypeople. This implies that primitive societies should have had “natural” religious beliefs without superstition, but studies of ancient religions showed they were based on emotion and fear of the unknown. 

Benjamin Franklin-Deism-Religion of Reason
Benjamin Franklin

Different Deist philosophers had differing beliefs about immortality of the soul, heaven, and hell. Some rejected these concepts entirely while others believed in damnation of the wicked and heavenly rewards for the virtuous. American Deist Benjamin Franklin believed in reincarnation or resurrection and Tom Paine believed in the “probability” of immortality of the soul.  

Those Deists that were influenced by Newtonian science believed God had established natural laws, set the cosmos in motion, and then stepped away. They rejected the possibility of miracles. To believe God “tinkered” with His creation was insulting to them. 

Some Deists believed in Divine Providence (God’s intervention in the Universe) and so had to accept the possibility of miracles. They believed God was all-powerful and could do as He pleased including temporarily suspending His own natural laws. 

Further complicating the situation, Deists often cannot agree on who is and who is not a Deist. Case in point is David Hume, Scottish philosopher, historian, professor, and essayist. Was he a Deist, atheist, or something else? Hume rejected revelation and miracles; however, he contended that polytheism, not monotheism was the religion of early man. He declared that early man was a barbarian that feared the unknown, was superstitious, and worshipped many gods.  

The thirteen colonies in North America were part of the vast British Empire and those Americans with enough education and leisure time participated in the intellectual life of the empire. The Americans that we know for sure were at least influenced by Deism include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Cornelius Harnett, Gouverneur Morris, Hugh Williamson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and possibly Alexander Hamilton. 

Thomas Jefferson-Deism-Religion of Reason
Thomas Jefferson

Deism was an important influence on Thomas Jefferson’s principles of religious freedom that are found in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Jefferson referred to himself as a Unitarian, but his actions were mostly Deist. His excerpts of the canonical gospels (known as the Jefferson Bible) strip all supernatural and dogmatic references from the narrative of the life of Jesus. Like Franklin, he believed in God’s activity in human affairs. 

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin wrote that when he was young, he read “some books against Deism.” However, he felt the strongest arguments supported Deism and he “soon became a thorough Deist.” At the Constitutional Convention he stated that “the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men.” 

Thomas Paine-Deism-Religion of Reason
Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, noted for his contributions to the American Revolution also penned defenses of Deism and criticism of Abrahamic religions. He promoted Deism and argued against all institutionalized religions and against Christian doctrine in particular. Paine’s 1794 Age of Reason is short and readable. It is probably the only treatise on Deism that is still read and influential today. 

The last major American contributor to Deism was Elihu Palmer who was a very unpopular Christian minister that spoke against the divinity of Jesus. Yellow fever had killed his young wife and blinded him, but he lectured and traveled widely. In 1801 Palmer wrote the “Bible of American Deism,” in his Principles of Nature. He also founded the “Deistical Society of New York” and other Deist societies from Maine to Georgia. 

Voltaire-Deism-Religion of Reason

Although most Deist philosophy was generated in England, it also was being discussed on the European Continent, especially in France where there was a history of religious skepticism. Voltaire was the most famous French Deist. He had been exposed to Deism and Newtonian science during his 1726-1728 exile in England. When he returned to France, he exposed the aristocracy to Deist thought. 

Other famous French Deists included Maximilien, Robespierre, and Rousseau. During the brutal French Revolution, Deism very briefly replaced the deposed Catholic Church.  

According to some, Deism had started a slow decline in the 1730s. The reasons for the decline included: 

      1. Increasing influence of Naturalism and Materialism.
      2. Questions about the ability of reason to address metaphysical questions.
      3. The violence of the French Revolution.
      4. The rise of revivalist movements, such as Pietistic Lutheranism (emphasis on individual devotion), and Methodism.

Although Deism did decline over the years, it did not disappear. During the nineteenth century, Deist rejection of revealed religion evolved into and contributed to British liberal theology and the rise of Unitarianism. 

Modern Deist philosophers try to merge Deism with current ideas and science. This has produced a variety of personal beliefs under the broad classification of Deism, and many Deist subcategories.  

Many modern Deists are divided along the sect’s two classical lines. Some believe God created all and then stepped back to observe man without intervening. They reject miracles, and divine revelations. Others believe God created all, and sometimes interacts with man.  

Today, Deism as a movement has disappeared and most know nothing about it. A small number identify as Deist, but many have beliefs that closely resemble Deism. There are only a few theology philosophers that write about Deist ideas, but Deism impacts our personal moral codes more than we know. 

Deism attempts to explain man’s relationship with God, which is what most established religions also attempt to explain. However, Christian denominations are based on a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ but are still influenced somewhat by Deist thought.  

Early philosophers took what some persons already believed, expanded on it, and called it Deism. They eventually developed the Deist Movement which had a 400-year run. 

I know this article is somewhat disorganized. I found the subject to be confusing but interesting, and this is my attempt to explain it to myself. I read many more publications than I normally research, and most were complicated by obscure theological terms and references. I hope I have removed some of the confusion and shown how this movement even influenced our nation’s birth. 

Lyman Hall-M.D. and Patriot



Lyman Hall-MD and Patriot
Lyman Hall, MD

Lyman Hall was a physician, clergyman, and statesman. He was born in Connecticut but moved to South Carolina and then Georgia where he established a medical practice and a successful plantation. Involved in anti-British politics, he was elected to the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The British destroyed his plantation and summer home, and he was charged with “high treason.” Hall escaped to Philadelphia where he remained until the end of the war. He then rebuilt his homes, re-established his medical practice, and was elected governor of Georgia.

Born on 12 April 1724 in Wallingford, Connecticut, Lyman Hall was the fourth of eight children of John Hall and Mary Street. His paternal grandfather, John Hall, was a member of the Governor’s council, and a justice of the colony’s supreme court. His mother’s father was the Reverend Samuel Street, Wallingford’s first pastor. 

Hall studied theology at Yale College graduating in 1747. He then studied with his uncle, Reverend Samuel Street in Cheshire. He began his own ministry in 1749 in Stratford Parish (now Bridgeport).  

In 1751 Hall was dismissed from his ministry due to allegations about his moral character that he confessed to. He was restored to good standing as a minister because his repentance was accepted. However, he lost his position and for the next two years he was a substitute preacher in churches needing a temporary minister. 

Hall married Abigail Burr in 1752 but she died a year later without children. Later in 1753, he married Mary Osborn from Fairfield. She was the daughter of Samuel and Hannah Osborn. Lyman and Mary had one son who survived childhood. 

Lyman gave up the ministry and returned to Yale to study medicine. He graduated in 1754 and began his medical practice in Wallingford. 

Hall became interested in a group of Massachusetts Puritans who had settled in South Carolina in 1697. They had settled on the Ashley River near Charleston and named their community Dorchester. These people had been quite successful in South Carolina. Dr. Hall was impressed by their success and religious beliefs, and about 1755 he and a group of friends moved their families to the Dorchester, South Carolina area. 

The Hall family and their friends were welcomed to the Dorchester community. Lyman set up his medical practice, which was quickly successful. However, the Dorchester population was increasing faster than land availability. Some chose to move to the Georgia Colony which had been established in 1733 by James Ogelthorpe and a small group of settlers. Plenty of undeveloped land was available and a group from Dorchester obtained a grant for 22,400 acres in the Midway District of St. John’s Parish (now Liberty County). 

Hall and his family accompanied the group to Midway, and He again restarted his medical practice. Later Hall established his own plantation named Hall’s Knoll north of the Midway Meeting House. 

The migrants had first turned their attention to building homes. They built adjacent to swamps that they drained to make land available for the cultivation of rice. Placing residences close to the swamps exposed the settlers to malaria resulting in high mortality. Lyman was a very busy doctor, and his professional skill and bedside manner endeared him to the community and adjacent county. 

The town of Sunbury was laid out on high ground facing the Midway River. Hall and many other members of the Midway settlement built summer residences there to escape the reclaimed swamps during the hot summers when malaria and yellow Fever transmission was highest. 

Despite the problems, life was good for the new settlers and Hall again became involved in politics. The Puritans were ardent supporters of resistance to the Crown and Hall was an outspoken proponent of liberation. He rapidly became a spokesman for St. John’s Parish.  

Royal Governor of Georgia James Wright-Lyman Hall-MD and Patriot
Royal Governor of Georgia James Wright

The citizens of Georgia were mostly loyal to the British Crown and the royal colonial government. Parliament had given generous bounties to settlers, so the Royal Party was active, strong, and dominant. The Royal Governor, James Wright was popular, energetic, and able to block Georgia representation to the 1774 Continental Congressional session. 

The governor’s loyalty to the crown and actions particularly upset the Puritans of St. John’s Parish. Their spokesman, Lyman Hall attended meetings of the “Friends of Liberty” in Savannah where he became allied with independence-minded Button Gwinnett from St. Catherine’s Island.  

The loyalist colonial assembly of Georgia voted for more delays and more negotiations with the King, so the citizens of St. John’s Parish attempted to contract to deal and trade with South Carolina. This would bypass Savannah and put pressure on the Royalists. However, the plan was rejected by the Carolinians. The parish then voted to send Lyman Hall to the Continental Congress as their unofficial delegate. 

Dr. Hall arrived in Philadelphia on 13 May 1775 and presented his credentials to the congress. He was unanimously admitted as a delegate. Since he did not represent the entire colony of Georgia, he could not vote on matters to be decided by the colonies.  

British warships arrived in Savannah Harbor in January 1776. The colonists arrested the Royal Governor and prepared to defend the city. However, the warships were there to seize merchant ships loaded with valuable cargos of rice. In March 1776, the British ships departed with the rice and Governor Wright and his councilors. 

Signing the Declaration of Independence by Robert E Pine-Lyman Hall-MD and Patriot
Signing the Declaration of Independence by Robert E Pine

The Georgia assembly then sent Button Gwinnett and George Walton to join Lyman Hall in Philadelphia to fill their official delegation to the Continental Congress. These three voted for the Declaration of Independence on 2 July 1776 and signed it on 2 August. 

British troops occupied Savannah in 1777 and in 1779 they overran Sunbury and Liberty County. The British burned Hall’s plantation home and summer home to the ground. Hall was charged with “high treason,” but he and his family escaped to Philadelphia where they remained until the end of the war. In 1782 Hall and family returned to Georgia and once again he restarted his medical practice. Hall also began rebuilding his homes and plantation. 

Hall was elected to the new Georgia House of Assembly and in 1783 was elected governor. Georgia had been devastated by the British and Hall’s initial efforts were to establish land offices and sell confiscated Loyalist property. Public debt and military bounties had to be addressed while keeping the peace with Spanish Florida and Indian tribes. 

There was no bureaucracy established to perform the functions of government so on 8 July 1783, Hall called on the legislature in Augusta to establish infrastructure and encourage “principles of religion and virtue among our citizens.” He also championed public education which led to the founding of the University of Georgia in 1785. 

Hall retired from public service in 1784 and resumed his medical practice in Savannah. He sold his Hall’s Knoll Plantation in 1785. He prospered during the next few years and in 1790 purchased the Shell Bluff rice plantation overlooking the Savannah River in Burke County. 

Signer's Monument Augusta, Georgia-Lyman Hall-MD and Patriot
Signer’s Monument Augusta, Georgia

Dr. Lyman Hall died at Shell Bluff on 19 October 1790 leaving Mary a widow with an unmarried son. Both died within a year of Lyman’s death. All three were buried in a brick vault on their plantation. In 1848, Lyman’s remains were moved to Augusta and reburied under the monument honoring the three Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence. Signer George Walton is also buried there but Button Gwinnett’s body was never found. 

Lyman Hall Memorial, Center Street Cemetery, Wallingford, CT-Lyman Hall-MD and Patriot
Lyman Hall Memorial, Center Street Cemetery, Wallingford, CT

Lyman Hall was an early advocate for independence, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and instrumental in the establishment of the Government of the state of Georgia, but there are few Hall memorials. His original gravestone was moved and installed in the Center Street Cemetery in Wallingford, Connecticut in 1857, and there is a Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford. Hall County Georgia is named for him, and a statue of Hall was installed at the county government center in 2019. There is a bust of Hall in the Georgia Capitol building. 

John Hart-Honest Politician


John Hart was a resident of Hunterdon County, New Jersey where he was elected to the Colonial Assembly serving for ten years. He was a New Jersey delegate to the Second Continental Congress and voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. Afterwards, he represented Hunterdon County in the New Jersey General Assembly for many years. In December 1776 British and Hessian troops raided and looted his farm causing him to temporarily go into hiding. Hart died before the end of the Revolutionary War. 

Although there is disagreement on the date and place of John Hart’s birth, his official U.S. Congress biography gives his birth date as 1713 and place of birth as Stonington, Connecticut. At some point, his family moved to Hopewell Township, New Jersey. 

John Hart was one of five children born to Captain Edward Hart and Martha Furman Hart. John was baptized at the Maidenhead Meeting House (now the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville) on 31 December 1713. Edward Hart was a farmer, public assessor, and justice of the peace. He was also leader of the local militia during the French and Indian War (1756-1763). 

Like most men of his time, John had little formal schooling, but he learned to read and write and do figures. His spelling was poor, but that problem was shared by most men. John helped his father build a highly successful farm and later as oldest male; he inherited the farm. John also became a leading member of the community. He was recognized for his honesty and for having common sense. He was also reasonably well-read about law and was a good businessman. 

Deborah Scudder-John Hart-Honest Politician
Deborah Scudder

John fell in love with a beautiful young lady, Deborah Scudder from Scudder Falls. She was the only child of Richard Scudder who was prominent in town affairs. To court Deborah, John had to ride horseback 30 miles round trip to see her. Deborah and John married in 1739 and had 13 children. Twelve survived to adulthood. 

John Hart began acquiring more property in 1740 when he purchased the 192-acre Homestead Plantation in the town of Hopewell. In 1751 he and a brother bought a mill they named Daniel Hart’s Mill. By the 1770’s John Hart had become quite prosperous and the largest landowner in Hopewell with over 600 acres. In 1773 John Hart and his son-in-law John Polhemus bought a substantial mill enterprise in Rocky Hill, New Jersey. John Polhemus became a militia captain and then a captain in the Continental Army. 

John Hart was also generous and civic minded. In 1747 he donated a parcel of his property known as the “lower meadow” to the local Baptists so they could build a church and cemetery. 

As a concerned citizen, John Hart began his public service in 1750 when he was elected to the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1755, which meant he was considered a “gentleman” and could be called John Hart, Esquire. From 1761-1771, Hart served in the Colonial Assembly representing Hunterdon, Morris, and Sussex counties. He was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas in 1768. 

By 1774, Hart was elected to a committee to “elect and appoint Delegates to the First Continental Congress, and to protest the Tea Act.” In 1775 he was elected to the New Jersey Committee of Correspondence. In 1776 he was elected to the New Jersey Provincial Congress and was designated to sign the new “Bill of Credit Notes” which was money issued by the state. He signed 25,000 notes by hand. 

The New Jersey delegation to the First Continental Congress was opposed to independence, so when the new Congress was formed, the whole delegation was replaced. John Hart was elected in June 1776 to be one of five New Jersey delegates to the Second Continental Congress. The other New Jersey delegates were Abraham Clark, Francis Hopkinson, Richard Stockton, and John Witherspoon. 

Signing the Declaration of Independence-John Hart-Honest Politician
Signing the Declaration of Independence

John Hart was a strong proponent for independence and arrived in Philadelphia later in June. Hart voted for the Declaration of Independence and then was the thirteenth man to sign it. 

In August of 1776, a General Assembly was established under the new New Jersey Constitution. Hart was elected to the body and was also elected Speaker. Shortly afterward, he traveled to Hopewell to attend to his ill wife. Sadly, Deborah was terminally ill and died on 8 October with John by her side. 

The family had little time to mourn their loss because in December Washington’s Army was retreating across New Jersey and British and Hessian troops were ravaging the Hopewell area. Two of the youngest Hart children had to find refuge in the homes of relatives. 

New Jersey Historical Marker-John Hart-Honest Politician
New Jersey Historical Marker

John Hart became a hunted man because he had signed the Declaration, was part of the new state government, and had two sons that were Continental officers. He had to hide in the woods and caves in the Sourwood Mountains. This was quite a physical ordeal because of his age. A few people allowed him to spend a night in their homes, but this was dangerous for the homeowners.  

The Hart home and property were looted and severely damaged by the British and Hessian troops. The Continental victories at Trenton and Princeton finally forced the British out of the Hopewell area in late December, so Hart returned home.  

While repairs to his property began, John Hart continued his service as Speaker of the Assembly. He was re-elected twice and served until 7 November 1778.  

In June 1778, Hart offered General Washington his property for the army to use as a bivouac area. Washington accepted and 12 ,000 men occupied Hart’s fields during the growing season. Hart and General Washington dined together at least once during the bivouac. The army was able to rest and refresh for a few days before they moved out on 24 June. Four days later the Continental Army won the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey. 

John Hart Grave-John Hart-Honest Politician
John Hart Grave

On 7 November 1778, John Hart returned to his home in Hopewell. Two days later he notified the Assembly he was too ill with “gravel” (kidney stones) to return to Trenton. He suffered with this very painful condition for more than six months and died on 11 May 1779 at age 66. John and Deborah are both buried at the Old Baptist Meeting House Cemetery on land they had donated to that church.  

Like many of our founders, John Hart died owing money. Due to the shortage of hard currency, depreciation of colonial money, and a glut of land on the market as Loyalist land was being confiscated and sold, most of Hart’s property was sold for a pittance 

John Hart had signed the Declaration of Independence but died four years before the end of the Revolutionary War while the outcome of the war was still in doubt. Had he lived he could have contributed significantly to building the new Government of the United States. He was not a firebrand like the Adams’ nor an intellectual like Jefferson but was a self-made man that could be depended on to carry his weight. 

Hart did not leave much of a paper trail and little was written about him. However, Declaration signer from Pennsylvania, Benjamin Rush described him as “a plain, honest, well  meaning Jersey farmer, with but little education, but with good sense and virtue enough to pursue the true interests of his country.” 

There are no heroic statues of John Hart. There are a few streets and roads in New Jersey named after him, but I could find no other memorials except at his grave. John Hart is an ancestor of Congressman John Hart Brewer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. 

Puritans: God’s Chosen People





Landing at Plymouth Rock-Puritans: God's Chosen People?
Artists Rendition, Landing at Plymouth Rock

Puritans were people who left the Church of England because they believed it was too “Catholic.” Due to their extremist views, they were persecuted in England, and many sought out new homes. Their main migration was in early 1600’s to the sparsely populated northern English colonies in America. The Puritans were escaping persecution, but they persecuted those of other religions. Their increasing numbers and intolerance led to the establishment of new towns and colonies. Puritans laid the foundation for the religious, intellectual, and social order of New England and influence American life to this day. 

The origins of Puritanism are found in the beginnings of the English Reformation, which began in the 1530s when Henry VIII left the Catholic Church and established the Church of England. The Puritans believed the Church of England retained too much of the liturgy and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church. They wanted to “purify” and reform the church, but their numbers were small, and Anglicans believed they were needlessly objecting to aspects of worship that were regarded as harmless and beneficial. 

Puritans began to attract more followers and they refused to compromise their beliefs. They believed the Bible was God’s word and they should emulate the model of Jesus Christ and his disciples. They believed there was nothing more important than a person’s religious beliefs, and that they were God’s chosen people. They encouraged literacy for both sexes because they believed every person should be able to read the Bible. 

Attending the theater was prohibited as were games of chance. Alcohol was allowed but drunkenness was severely frowned upon. Sex was encouraged only within marriage, and both husbands and wives were expected to be able to sexually satisfy each other. Women were considered spiritually and morally inferior to men as they were tainted by the spirit of Eve but were to be respected and cared for as homemakers and bearers of children. 

Beliefs were strongly held by Puritans, and they did not even compromise among themselves. This led to breakaway groups that worshipped and lived separately. 

King Henry VIII of England-Puritans: God's Chosen People?
King Henry VIII of England

Puritans experienced a “roller coaster” existence in England. After Henry VIII established the Church of England in 1534, the cause of Protestantism advanced rapidly under Edward VI (reigned 1547–53). During the reign of Queen Mary (1553–58), however, England returned to Roman Catholicism, and many Protestants were forced into exile. Many fled to Geneva where John Calvin’s church provided an example of a disciplined church. Elizabeth I’s accession in 1558 was welcomed by Protestants; but her early actions disappointed those who sought extensive reform.  

Many Puritans—as they came to be known during a controversy over vestments in the 1560s—sought parliamentary support for a presbyterian organization (church led by a council) for the Church of England. Other Puritans, concerned with the long delay in reform, decided upon a “reformation without delay.” These “Separatists” repudiated the state church and formed congregations based on a direct covenant with God. Both groups, especially the Separatists, were repressed by the establishment.  

Denied the opportunity to reform the Church of England, Puritans turned to preaching, pamphlets, and a variety of experiments in religious organization. Growth also owed much to patrons among the nobility and in Parliament and control of colleges and professorships at Oxford and Cambridge. 

Puritan hopes were raised when the Calvinist James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I as James I of England in 1603. But at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 he dismissed the Puritans’ grievances with the phrase “no bishop, no king.”  Some Puritans were deprived of their positions; others got by with minimal conformity; and others fled England. The pressure for religious conformity increased under Charles I (1625–49) but despite this, Puritanism continued to grow. 

In the 1640s, civil war broke out between Parliament and Charles I, and Puritans were involved in it through the politics of religion. Charles I was executed on 30 January 1649, and the war continued. Following the civil war Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland in December 1653. 

Cromwell’s religious policy favored the Puritans. When Cromwell died in 1658, conservative Puritans supported the restoration of King Charles II hoping for more favorable religious changes. However, they were outmaneuvered, and lost all political power. English Puritans then entered a period known as the Great Persecution. 

Sir Thomas Dale-Puritans: God's Chosen People?
Sir Thomas Dale

Puritanism played a significant role in the seventeenth-century English colonies in the New World. Puritans were not limited to New England but settled in various colonies including Virginia. Sir Thomas Dale brought Puritan ideals and military discipline to Jamestown in 1611 and rescued that settlement from extinction. 

The history of Puritans in Virginia was short—most people of Puritan sentiments were gone by 1650— but by examining their plight, particularly in the 1640s, the importance of religion to English settlers becomes clear.  

The methods used to govern the rapidly expanding Virginia Colony included attempts to bring the Puritan settlers into stricter conformity with the Church of England. Those efforts peaked with the 1641 arrival of Governor Sir William Berkeley and his attempts to remove nonconformists through legislation. The governor was not entirely successful, but the courts ordered the “voluntary” removal of Puritan settlers to the more “tolerant” colony of Maryland.  

To the north, Puritans fleeing the persecution of James I made up half the passengers aboard the Mayflower when it arrived in the New World in 1620. The Mayflower passengers began the settlement of New England by establishing Plymouth Colony. More than half of the Mayflower settlers did not survive the first winter, but with the help of local Indians, the survivors managed to hold onto their settlement. When word of the “success” of the Plymouth settlement reached England in 1622, it led to the period that was designated the Great Migration (or the Puritan Migration). Between 1620-1640 over 20,000 English Puritans migrated to New England, and most settled in Massachusetts. 

John Winthrop-Puritans: God's Chosen People?
John Winthrop

In 1630 a fleet of ships carrying 700 Puritans led by John Winthrop arrived and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony centered on Boston. Winthrop believed the colony would be a city on a hill, which was a reference to the biblical passage of Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set upon a hill cannot be hidden.” Winthrop also believed the colony would draw others to it and be an example of true Christian faith. The Massachusetts Bay Colony quickly absorbed the smaller Plymouth Colony. 

The original pattern of church organization in the Massachusetts Bay colony was a “middle way” between Presbyterianism and Separatism, yet in 1648 four New England Puritan colonies were established with a congregational form of church government (each congregation is independent).  

The New England Puritans fashioned the civil commonwealth according to the framework of the church. Only the ‘chosen” could vote and rule. When this raised problems for second-generation residents, they adopted the Half-Way Covenant, which permitted baptized, moral, and orthodox persons to share the privileges of church membership. 

The Puritans had come to North America to escape religious persecution, but they were not interested in the religious freedom of others. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was ruled by Puritan belief and demanded strict and proper behavior (as defined by the Puritans) from its citizens. Jews, Catholics, Anglicans, Quakers, and other Christian sects were considered to be hell-bound. Quakers were especially hated because they believed a spark of the divine light was present in everyone, so every person was worthy of respect. This contradicted the central Puritan belief in themselves as God’s only “chosen people.” 

Roger Williams-Puritans: God's Chosen People?
Roger Williams

Puritan intolerance of non-Puritans led to further migrations by those groups (and by Puritans who were more tolerant and open-minded), to surrounding regions. The best known was Rhode Island Colony established by Roger Williams who had been banished from Massachusetts Bay. Pennsylvania Colony was founded by the Quaker William Penn. Other religious refugees established the colonies of Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  

Theological disputes between Puritan congregations in the North American colonies, as well as the arrival of people of other faiths, gradually diluted the Puritan hold over communities by the mid-1700s. However, the Puritans influenced the development and culture of the United States in many ways. They rejected Christmas and it was not celebrated until 1870. Public education was valued because only by reading the Bible could one know God’s will. Harvard University was founded by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 to train clergy, and they encouraged medical knowledge and practice. Their strict observance of the Sabbath led to “blue laws” which restricted business activity on Sundays into modern times. 

The Puritans also encouraged racism and sexism because they believed that Africans and Indians were naturally inclined toward Satan or, in the case of women, too weak to resist the devil’s temptations. The persecution of women by witch trials was not confined to Salem, Massachusetts but was also pursued in other New England states.  

The Puritans also engaged in and profited from the slave trade. They sold Indians into slavery at the conclusion of the Pequot Wars of 1636-1638, imported African slaves, and sold salted cod to feed the slaves of Jamestown and the West Indies. 

The American view of Puritans as taught in schools is of gentle religious people in funny clothing that were depicted standing on Plymouth Rock. They settled in New England establishing towns, churches, and government. They celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the local Indians who had helped them survive. They did banish Roger Williams but that was good because he founded Rhode Island. 

Although this view is true, it is highly romanticized. First, at least half of the people who landed at Plymouth Rock were not Puritans. They did establish towns, churches, and government, but they excluded and discriminated against non-Puritans and women. Roger Williams was banished with people who believed as he did, and banishment meant you were out right now. You were on your own to build a new town. 

The Puritans were mentally and physically tough. They were sexist and racist and often cruel. They genuinely believed they were God’s chosen people and could do anything they believed was God’s will. 

Artist Rendition Battle of Bunker Hill-Puritans: God's Chosen People?
Artist Rendition Battle of Bunker Hill

Despite their shortcomings, the Puritans were products of their time, and were the first to settle and bring order to New England. Several Christian denominations owe their existence to the Puritans. In short, the Puritans were essential to the settlement of America. The New England culture produced tough and determined men who were the first to rebel against the British and the first to fight the vastly superior British army.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Benjamin Rush-Controversial M.D.



Benjamin Rush, MD-Benjamin Rush-Controversial MD
Benjamin Rush, MD

Benjamin Rush was an eminent physician, writer, educator, and humanitarian. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and led Pennsylvania’s ratification of the United States Constitution. He opposed slavery, advocated for free public schools, for improved education for women, and for a more enlightened penal system. He was a professor of medical theory and clinical practice, but the quality of medicine he practiced was primitive even for the time. His early studies of mental disorders earned him the title of “father of American psychiatry.” He was the most well-known physician in America at the time of his death. He is also the most controversial 

Benjamin Rush was the fourth of seven children born to John Rush and Susanna Hall. He was born in Byberry Township in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. John Rush was a farmer turned gunsmith who died in 1751 at the age of 39. Susanna then operated two successful stores to care for her family. When Benjamin was eight years old, he was sent to live in Maryland with his uncle, Samuel Finley. He and his older brother Jacob attended a school founded in 1744 by his uncle, which today is known as West Nottingham Academy. 

In 1760, Benjamin earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and then apprenticed under Dr. John Redman in Philadelphia until 1766. At Redman’s urging, Rush furthered his studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland where he earned an M.D. Degree in 1768. 

Rush returned to Philadelphia in 1769 and opened a medical practice. He became a professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania), authored the first American chemistry textbook and several volumes on medical student education. He also published influential patriotic essays. 

Julia Stockton Rush-Benjamin Rush-Controversial MD
Julia Stockton Rush

On 11 January 1776, Dr. Benjamin Rush married 17-year-old Julia Stockton. She was the daughter of his good friend Richard Stockton of Princeton, New Jersey. The officiating minister was Dr. John Witherspoon who he had helped bring to America ten years earlier. Six months later all three would sign the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin and Julia would have thirteen children with nine surviving the first year. 

Rush was active in the Sons of Liberty and was elected to be a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776. He signed the Declaration of Independence and later represented Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania legislature where he led the state’s successful effort to ratify the United States Constitution. In an 1811 letter to John Adams, Rush recounted the signing of the Declaration. In part, he described the “pensive and awful silence” as each man was called to sign what probably would be his death warrant. 

The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777-Trumbull-Benjamin Rush-Controversial MD
The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777-Trumbull

While still serving in the Continental Congress, Dr. Rush served as a medical officer with the Philadelphia militia and later as Surgeon-General of the Middle Department of the Continental Army. He treated the wounded in the field including at Trenton on Christmas Day of 1776 and at Princeton on 3 January 1777. He is depicted on the Trumbull painting The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777. Rush and Washington are depicted riding upon the scene as Mercer is killed. On the right of this painting British Captain William Leslie is shown mortally wounded. Leslie was a good friend of both Washington and Rush. 

Julia Rush and other wives in Philadelphia went door-to-door to raise money for the army and soon raised a substantial sum of money. General Washington asked that the money be used for shirts for the troops. The women sewed 2,200 linen shirts and personalized each one with the name of the woman who made it. In tribute to his wife Benjamin Rush wrote: “Let me here bear testimony to the worth of this excellent woman. She fulfilled every duty as wife, and mother with fidelity and integrity. To me she was always a sincere and honest friend; had I yielded to her advice upon many occasions, I should have known less distress from various causes in my journey through life.” 

Rush found the Army Medical Service to be in total disarray. Inadequate supplies, battle casualties, and remarkably high losses from typhoid, yellow fever and other camp illnesses were compounded by political conflicts between Dr. John Morgan and Dr. William Shippen, Jr.  

Despite the problems, Rush accepted an appointment to the rank of Surgeon-General of the Middle Department of the Continental Army. He issued an order entitled Directions for Preserving the Health of Soldiers. The order was groundbreaking and became a foundation of preventative military medicine. It was repeatedly republished, including as late as 1908.  

Rush also reported on Shippen’s misappropriation of supplies, alterations of official reports, and failure to visit hospitals. This put Rush in the center of a political firestorm. 

General George Washington by Peale-Benjamin Rush-Controversial MD
General George Washington by Peale

The political situation was compounded by Rush writing letters to friends that were critical of General Washington and advocating for his removal from command. This occurred around the time of the Conway Cabal which was a serious effort to replace Washington. Washington learned of Rush’s letters and Shippen demanded Rush’s resignation. He received it early in 1778. 

In an 1812 letter to John Adams, Rush expressed regret for his “gossip” against Washington and praised the general in glowing terms. 

Back in civilian life, Rush was appointed to the staff of Pennsylvania Hospital in 1783 and served in that position until his death. He was appointed treasurer of the United States Mint in 1797 and served until 1813. In 1788 he became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was elected a foreign member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. He was also the founder of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. 

Rush was beloved in Philadelphia where he set an example by caring for the poor. He became world famous for his dedication to duty during the city’s two great yellow fever epidemics that killed nearly 8,000. Rush himself had a severe case of yellow fever. He was honored for his contributions to medicine by medals and presents from the King of Prussia, Queen of Italy, and the Czar of Russia. 

Rush became a professor of medical theory and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania in 1791 even though he personally performed the outdated techniques of bloodletting and purges for most illnesses. During the yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia, he treated patients with bleeding and purges, techniques that were ineffective at best and at worst were fatal. His medical practice began to diminish because of his continued use of those outdated treatments. Some claimed Rush’s bloodletting hastened the deaths of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. 

On a more positive note, Rush was one of the first to seriously study and to try to classify mental disorders. He also pioneered therapies for addictions and mental conditions. His report, Medical Inquiries and Observations, Upon the Diseases of the Mind was published in 1812.  

Mental patients during Rush’s time were considered by many to be animals and were housed in appalling conditions. Treatment included physical restraint, chains, and bloodletting. In 1792 Rush led a successful campaign for the state to build facilities where mental patients could be housed in more humane conditions. Because of his early work, in 1965, the American Psychiatric Association designated Rush the father of American Psychiatry. 

Eastern State Penitentiary-Benjamin Rush Controversial MD
Eastern State Penitentiary

Benjamin Rush was a serious social warrior championing many causes. He fought hard for temperance and was a founding member of the “Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons.” This organization is still active today under the name “Pennsylvania Prison Society.” The group has been responsible for many changes, some good and some bad, over the years. Their efforts certainly brought about improved inmate living conditions. They also greatly influenced the unique design and construction of Eastern State Penitentiary, which operated from 1829 to 1971 in Philadelphia.  

Capital Punishment and criminal punishment in general were subjects that Rush felt strongly about. He pushed the state of Pennsylvania to build the first state penitentiary, the Walnut Street Prison, in 1790. He believed that public punishment, such as placing the person in stocks, which was common at the time, was counterproductive. He proposed private confinement, labor, solitude, and religious instruction. Eastern State Penitentiary was originally designed to put most of Rush’s ideas into practice. 

Rush was totally against the death penalty. His outspoken opposition to capital punishment caused the Pennsylvania legislature in 1794 to abolish the death penalty except for first-degree murder. The death penalty was later reinstated and continues to be controversial today. 

Rush opposed slavery his entire life on both moral and scientific principles. Being a prominent physician and respected college professor, he was a strong voice against the “evils of slavery.” He authored many articles that attacked the slave trade and the institution of slavery at a time when many hesitated to speak up. 

Public education in Pennsylvania was actively promoted by Rush. He wanted children to receive at least a basic education at tax-supported free schools because he believed citizens needed knowledge to protect their rights. Despite his efforts, Pennsylvania had no state-wide system of free schools until the 1830s. 

During Rush’s time, men saw little need for educating women. However, after the Revolution, Rush proposed that “elite” women be educated in language, vocal music, dancing, sciences, bookkeeping, history, and moral philosophy. He saw little need for women to be educated in the more advanced sciences or mathematics and he opposed coed classes. He was instrumental in the founding of the Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia, the first chartered women’s institution of higher learning in the city.  

This concept of education of elite women grew dramatically as women demanded a role in creating the Republic. Since it was generally accepted that a woman’s principal role was to bear children, the image of ideal Republican motherhood emerged. Women were to teach the young about religion, patriotism, the blessings of liberty, and the true meaning of Republicanism. This made women responsible for the continuity of a stable society. 

Rush was a deeply religious man although his religious views were as complicated as the rest of his life. He certainly did not believe in the separation of church and state. He proposed that government require the use of the Holy Bible in schools and that the government furnish every American family with a Bible. He advocated for Bible quotes to be placed over the entrances of all government buildings. Rush believed the United States was the work of God, that men alone could not have authored the founding documents. 

Benjamin Rush Grave-Benjamin Rush Controversial MD
Benjamin Rush Grave

Benjamin Rush died on 19 April 1813 of typhus fever. True to his treatment of his patients, he insisted on being treated by bloodletting. He is buried in the Christ Church Burial Gound in Philadelphia. Julia was buried next to him thirty years later. Benjamin Rush’s gravestone inscription includes the following Biblical quote: “Well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of the Lord.”

A statue of Benjamin Rush is located near the US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery building on the grounds of the old Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. A replica is located at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He has also been honored by having schools, an Indiana County and town, and a state park in Philadelphia named after him. The American Psychiatric Assocation honored him as mentioned earlier. 

I have researched Benjamin Rush more than most of my subjects because he was so famous and admired, but he was also a man of considerable contradictions. He obviously was brilliant, a patriot, an educator, and an advocate for many good changes in society. He educated over 3,000 medical students including many who achieved fame for their excellence. Some of his students established the Rush Medical College in Chicago in his honor.  

Despite being in the forefront of medical education, Rush continued to use outdated and dangerous methods that were often lethal in his own practice. He was apparently a difficult man to deal with because of his huge ego. He was a notorious gossip, and his severe flaws blemish his otherwise outstanding life. I am going to conclude with a few quotes from some of my sources: 

English journalist and politician William Cobbett accused Rush of “killing more patients than he helped” by using bloodletting and purges.  

When John Adams first met Rush he wrote: “An elegant, ingenious body, a sprightly, pretty fellow,” and “Too much of a talker to be a deep thinker, elegant, not great.” 

Later Adams wrote: Rush “was handsome, well-spoken, a gentleman and a very attractive figure—he was also a gossip and was quick to rush to judgement about others. He was supremely confident of his own opinion and decisions, yet shallow and very unscientific in practice.” 

When Rush died, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Adams: “a better man than Rush could not have left us, more benevolent, more learned, of finer genius, or more honest.” 

Adams replied: “I know of no character living or dead, who has done more real good in America.” 

Adams wrote Julia Rush: “there is no one outside my own family whose friendship was so essential to my happiness.” 

Portion of the Conclusion from an essay authored by Robert L. North, M. D. Published by Baylor University Medical Center 13 January 2000:  

“Benjamin Rush has been hailed as “the American Sydenham,” “the Pennsylvania Hippocrates,” the “father of modern psychiatry,” and the founder of American medicine. The American Medical Association erected a statue of him in Washington, DC, the only physician so honored. A medical school is named after him. He was a prolific and facile writer and a very influential teacher. Yet, the only enduring mark he has left on the history of American medicine is his embarrassing, obdurate, messianic insistence, in the face of all factual evidence to the contrary, on the curative powers of heroic depletion therapy.” 

Bacon’s Rebellion 1676-1677



Bacon’s Rebellion is a little-known event in Virginia colonial history. It was the first armed rebellion in the North American colonies in which discontented frontiersman took part. It was led by Nathaniel Bacon against Royal Governor Sir William Berkeley after Berkeley refused Bacon’s request to drive all Indians out of Virginia and his refusal to share his corrupt income. Hundreds of lower-class Virginians joined Bacon. They drove Berkeley out of Jamestown and torched the settlement. Bacon died while still in Jamestown and the rebellion was forcefully put down. 

Since 1634 the Crown had reserved land in the Northern Neck of Virginia for Indians, but by the 1650s European colonists began squatting on this land. Armed clashes between settlers and Indians began and elements of four tribes moved into the area to help the local tribes defend their land. In July 1666, the colonists declared war on the Indians. By 1669 settlers had occupied land on the west of the Potomac River as far north as My Lord’s Island (now Theodore Roosevelt Island). By 1670 settlers had driven most of the Doeg Tribe out of Virginia into Maryland. 

Sir Willam Berkeley-Bacon's Rebellion 1676-1677
Sir Willam Berkeley

Bacon’s Rebellion was mainly a war between the wills of two ambitious and powerful men-William Berkeley and Nathaniel Bacon. Berkeley had been a courtier in the palace of Charles I of England. He was appointed royal governor of the profitable Virginia Colony in 1641 and established his own tobacco plantation (Green Spring House) near Jamestown among other elite planters. 

Between1596 and 1646 there had been three Virginia wars with the Indians known as the Powhatan Wars. Berkeley led the attack that ended the third war. The peace treaty contained provisions giving him and his friends a monopoly on the deerskin and fur trade.  

After King Charles I was executed in 1649 Berkeley offered safe haven to his Royalists friends. The new government censured him, and he resigned his governor position in 1652. He was allowed to keep his lands and he continued the profitable trade with the Indians. 

Berkeley was reinstated governor in 1660 following the return of the monarchy in England and the coronation of King Charles II. Berkeley continued the monopolistic and profitable trade he had with the Indians and the flow of money continued. Berkeley did not share his profits with anyone. 

Nathaniel Bacon-Bacon's Rebellion 1676-1677
Nathaniel Bacon

Nathaniel Bacon was no poor struggling farmer. He was the son of wealthy landowners in England and was well-connected. He was related to William Berkeley by marriage. He spent his youth at Cambridge University and traveling through Europe on family money. In 1663 he was accused of cheating an acquaintance out of his inheritance. Rather than face the consequences, his father sent him to Virginia with a considerable sum of money. Bacon purchased land in the elite plantation area near Jamestown. Berkeley appointed the well-connected Bacon to his council. 

The privileged class in Virginia owned the best land for the cultivation of tobacco, which was the most profitable cash crop. To avoid the “common people” the best land was sold only to men of their elite class, and they maintained their status by controlling politics. The big planters controlled nearly everything in Virginia. 

By 1675 many indentured servants, both white and black, had completed their terms of service and now owned small farms throughout Virginia, particularly in the western frontier. Their land was less fertile than that owned by the elite planter class, so they had to work harder to make a smaller profit. In addition, more people were arriving from Europe every year, and many were settling on land that had been promised to the Indians. This situation caused an increasing number of Indian raids on small farms in the interior. 

Defending Home from Indian Raid-Bacon's Rebellion 1676-1677
Defending Home from Indian Raid

In July, Doeg warriors in Stafford County killed two settlers, burned fields, and killed cattle. Militia then killed ten Doeg warriors and 14 friendly Susquehannocks. Governor Berkeley declared the Susquehannock tribe was involved in the raids and Maryland militia killed five chiefs at the Susquehannock stronghold in Maryland. The Indians retaliated by killing 60 settlers in Maryland and 36 in Virginia. Other tribes joined in, killing settlers, burning houses, and killing livestock as far as the James and York Rivers. 

Bacon pushed for the removal and wholesale slaughter of all Indians, but Berkeley, who was making lots of money trading with them, refused. Since Berkeley would not act, small farmers began to gather to organize their own raiding party. Bacon arrived with a large quantity of brandy. After the brandy was distributed, Bacon was elected leader. 

Against Berkeley’s orders, Bacon’s party moved south and convinced Occaneechi warriors to attack the Susquehannocks. Once the warriors left, the settlers slaughtered all the men, women and children left in the village. 

Upon their return, Bacon’s raiders found that Berkeley was calling for new elections to the House of Burgesses to address the Indian raids. The resulting actions by the Burgesses were not proactive against the Indians. 

Bacon accused Berkeley of corruption. He charged that Berkely gave government positions only to friends and relatives (as he had with Bacon) and was profiting by trading with the Indians, which only upset Bacon because Berkeley would not share with him. He further accused Berkeley of enriching himself at taxpayer expense, which Bacon was likely doing too. 

To make his charges public, Bacon issued his Declaration of the People of Virginia on 30 July 1676 accusing Berkeley with eight counts of corruption. Of course, Bacon did not mention that he had benefited from this corruption. He presented himself as a man of the people who was willing to fight for the small farmers against the tyranny of elitest tidewater planters. (Bacon was an elite tidewater planter.) 

Berkeley denied any wrongdoing and declared Bacon guilty of treason. Bacon claimed he had no quarrel with the Crown so was not guilty of treason. He claimed he was only fighting against corruption and to protect small farmers. 

By this time, Bacon had between 300 and 500 armed followers who had been promised freedom for indentured servants (they made up most of his followers), lower taxes, better land for freemen, and safety for farmers in the interior by eliminating the Indians. Black and white indentured servants, small farmers, and slaves had joined Bacon. He further stirred up class resentment by declaring all their problems were the fault of the wealthy landowners and their corrupt governor. He also claimed Berkeley valued Indian rights above those of English colonists. 

Berkeley had to be under a lot of pressure from other tidewater planters to put a stop to Bacon’s movement because they saw it as a direct and real threat to their domination of all things in the colony. In addition to the threat of direct armed attack, Bacon’s followers were the classes of people who did the work on their plantations. Slavery as we know it did not yet supply most laborers on big plantations. Without this underclass of whites and blacks, the tidewater planters of the time could not maintain their easy lifestyle. 

Bacon decided that he had exhausted all available “legal” avenues to get Berkeley to accept his methods, so he marched his army of followers to Jamestown. The elite planters must have been concerned about their safety when this large, armed, and unruly force moved through their lands. 

Artist's Rendition Burning of Jamestown-Bacon's Rebellion 1676-1677
Artist’s Rendition Burning of Jamestown

There are two quite different accounts of what happened when Bacon’s army entered Jamestown. The account I believe is most likely is that Berkeley, his household, and outnumbered supporters fled Jamestown before Bacon’s army arrived. They retreated across the James River and encamped at Warner Hall, the home of the speaker of the House of Burgesses. Bacon besieged and captured Jamestown and then burned it to the ground on 19 September 1676. 

The second version is more “heroic” and bombastic. When Bacon entered the town, he demanded a commission to lead militia against the Indians. Berkeley refused to yield and when Bacon had his men take aim at him, he “bared his breast” and told Bacon to shoot him. Bacon than had his men threaten the assembled Burgesses who quickly granted the commission. Bacon’s army burned the town on 19 September. 

In both versions, Bacon’s men occupied the ruins of Jamestown and prepared for the expected counterattack by Berkeley. Before the attack came, Bacon died of “Bloody Flux” (dysentery). John Ingram took command, but he was not as charismatic as Bacon and the army began to dissipate and many men returned to their homes. 

Berkeley, aided by armed English merchant ships, attacked, and defeated the remaining rebels. He hanged 23 of the leaders. Ingram was likely in that group. Following the clearing of Jamestown, Berkeley’s forces found and eliminated small pockets of resistance throughout the region. 

King Charles II Portrait-Bacon's Rebellion 1676-1677
King Charles II Portrait

Governor Berkeley felt he had handled Bacon’s Rebellion quite professionally, but King Charles II did not share this opinion. He sent Sir Herbert Jeffreys to order Berkeley back to England to explain himself. The meeting with the king probably would not have gone well but we will never know because Berkeley died shortly after reaching England. 

Jeffreys, with 200 troops he brought to the colony, restored order in Jamestown. He then turned his attention to dismantling the power of the elite planters but died in 1678 before he could accomplish anything. 

The elite planters, many of whom were members of the House Burgesses, realized they had come awfully close to losing their elite status and domination. They were determined to make sure nothing like Bacon’s Rebellion could occur again. First, they passed legislation to ban indentured servitude. It was obvious to them that this program had increased the number of small farms owned by disgruntled and armed citizens. 

They also institutionalized black slavery and made Jamestown a major slave port. Slavery had been slowly increasing since the 1660’s, but the legislation caused the numbers to surge. In 1650 there were only 300 black slaves in the Chesapeake Bay area, but by 1700, there were at least 13,000.  

The legislation’s new taxes purposely favored lower class whites over black freemen. Pitting poor whites against blacks, also pushed the whites closer to the wealthy planters, which further established a society based on racial lines. This way the whites and blacks would never band together again. 

Bacon’s Rebellion also convinced the planters that they had to become leaders in armed conflicts against Indians. This was to establish camaraderie with their lower-class white subordinates while maintaining authority over them. 

To further pander to the small farmers in the interior and to gain their loyalty, the House of Burgesses reinstated the Headright System. The Headright System promised any freeman 50 acres of land that had been taken from Indians. This encouraged more colonization and the slaughter of Indians on land the Indians had been promised by treaty. 

Thomas Jefferson Portrait-Bacon's Rebellion 1676-1677
Thomas Jefferson Portrait

Some historians regard Bacon’s Rebellion as a precursor to the War for American Independence and that Bacon as a great patriot. Thomas Jefferson was one of the believers and this view has continued, especially in Virginia, through the 20th century. It still appears in some textbooks.  

The true motivations were less than noble. This was basically a war between two wealthy, elite landowners who were both jealous, stubborn, greedy, and corrupt. They were both fighting to obtain and retain their share of official corruption without sharing. Rather than a patriotic uprising, it was another example of English colonial greed with the Indians and blacks being the biggest losers.  

Nathanael Greene-Washington’s General




Major General Nathaneal Greene-Nathanael Greene-Washington's General
Major General Nathaneal Greene

Nathanael Greene is another self-educated American military leader and is considered second only to George Washington. In 1780 he was given command of the southern theater of operations where he combined highly effective guerilla warfare with traditional operations and turned the tide of the Revolutionary War. His tactics led to the British retreat to Yorktown, Virginia where Cornwallis was trapped by Washington and eventually surrendered. Unfortunately, Greene died shortly after his retirement from the army, at the age of 43, which denied the new nation of his many talents. 

Nathanael (this is the correct spelling) Greene was born on 7 August 1741 on a farm in Warwick Township, Rhode Island to Mary Mott and Nathanael Greene, Sr. His father was a prosperous Quaker merchant and farmer. He had two older half-brothers from his father’s first marriage and was one of six children born to Mary and Nathanael, Sr. At some point during his childhood, Greene Jr. developed a slight limp that lasted the rest of his life. 

Because of his religious beliefs, Nathaneal, Sr. did not believe in book learning, dancing, or other frivolous activities. Despite this, Nathaneal, Jr was able to convince his father to hire a tutor for him. He studied mathematics, the classics, law, and works on the Age of Enlightenment. 

In 1770, Greene, Jr. moved to Coventry, Rhode Island to take charge of the family-owned foundry. He built a house in Coventry named Speil Hall. Later in 1770, he and his brothers inherited the entire family estate following the death of their father. Greene Jr. used part of his inheritance to assemble a large library that included classic military commentaries by Caesar, Frederick the Great, and Maurice de Saxe. 

Catherine Littlefield Greene-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
Catherine Littlefield Greene

Greene married 19-year-old Catherine Littlefield in July 1774. She was a niece-by-marriage of his distant cousin, William Greene. William was an influential political leader in Rhode Island. One of his younger brothers married a daughter of Samuel Ward another important Rhode Island politician. Ward became an important ally of Nathaneal until his death in 1776. 

Parliament’s actions following the French and Indian War (!754-1763) began the events that eventually led to Revolution. The war had been expensive and the cost of maintaining a military presence to protect the colonies caused the Parliament to begin imposing new taxes on the colonies to recover some of that cost. 

The taxes were not particularly unreasonable since the colonists had played a role in instigating the war and the British military maintained a deterrent force to protect the colonies. However, Parliament did not let the colonists have any input on their deliberations and just assumed the colonists would not seriously object to their edicts. They were very wrong. 

The resistance was made more personal to Greene by British Navy Lieutenant William Dudington commanding HMS Gaspee. The Gaspee was enforcing the hated Navigation Acts in Narragansett Bay when it seized a vessel owned by the Greene brothers. Nathaneal sued Dudington for damages. The lawsuit was ultimately successful but while it was pending, Dudington’s vessel was torched by a group of Rhode Island men on 9 June 1772. This became known as the Gaspee Affair. 

During this time, Greene’s life began to change. He drifted away from the Quaker Faith and was suspended from Quaker meetings. After Parliament’s 1774 passage of taxes that colonials dubbed the “Intolerable Acts,” he helped organize a local militia known as the Kentish Guards. Because of his limp, he was not selected to be an officer. 

The War for American Independence began in April 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. In May the Rhode Island legislature established the Rhode Island Army of Observation and selected Nathanael Greene to command it. Greene’s army deployed to Boston where colonial forces had laid siege to the British garrison. Greene missed the June 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill because he was in Rhode Island. 

General George Washington-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
General George Washington

Also in June, the Second Continental Congress established the Continental Army and gave George Washington command of all colonial forces. His title was stated to be “General and Commander in Chief.” Washington wore three stars but there were no Lieutenant Generals in the Continental Army, and Washington was referred to simply as “General.” Congress also appointed 16 other generals, including Nathanael Greene commissioned to the rank of brigadier general. 

General Washington took command at Boston in July. He organized his army into three divisions, each consisting of two brigades made up of regiments from different colonies. Greene was given command of a brigade of seven regiments.  

The siege of Boston continued until March 1776 when the British were forced out of the city. Greene briefly served as commander of colonial forces in Boston, but he rejoined Washington in April 1776.  

The New York and New Jersey Campaign began after the Boston siege and Washington established his headquarters in Manhattan. Greene was assigned to prepare for the expected invasion of Long Island, and he concentrated on building up fortifications in Brooklyn. Greene also befriended Colonel Henry Knox who had transported cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. These cannon were used to force the British out of Boston.  During this time Greene and several others were promoted to major general (MG). 

The Battle of Long Island, which was the first British move to capture New York City, began on 22 August 1776 when Major General Lord William Howe landed on Long Island and engaged Greene’s units. Greene, however, was not commanding due to illness and MG Israel Putnam had replaced him. Putnam deployed his forces poorly. Howe flanked the Continentals and attacked them from the rear. Some units bravely fought rearguard actions but were overwhelmed and routed. 

Howe delayed two days to prepare his final assault. When he lost his naval support due to a storm, Washington’s forces successfully retreated across the East River to Manhattan. 

Greene urged Washington to burn the city to keep it from falling into British hands, but Congress forbade this. Washington then wanted to fortify the city but his officers, including Greene, convinced him the city could not be defended. Washington withdrew to Harlem Heights as the British continued to move forward. 

A British reconnaissance move on 16 September resulted in a counterattack by the Continentals. The two armies stood and exchanged fire until the British began to run low on ammunition and began a slow retreat. The Continentals pressed their advantage, but Washington withdrew them fearing a trap. The Battle of Harlem Heights was a minor British defeat but was one of the first Continental victories of the war and raised morale. 

Following the Battle of Harlem Heights, Washington placed Greene in command of both Fort Constitution (later Fort Lee) on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River and Fort Washington on the other side of the river. Later, Washington suggested Greene abandon Fort Washington because it was vulnerable to attack, but Greene convinced Washington to continue occupation of the fort. In November 1776, the British attacked the fort capturing it and the 3,000-man garrison. Greene was criticized severely by Congress, but Washington declined to relieve him. 

Shortly after the Battle of Fort Washington, Major General Lord Cornwallis captured Fort Lee and the Continental Army retreated across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. 

Crossing the Delaware-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
Crossing the Delaware-

In a daring and exceedingly difficult maneuver, General Washington’s army crossed the icy and treacherous Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776 and won two crucial battles. In the battle of Trenton, the Americans defeated a formidable garrison of Hessian mercenaries before withdrawing. MG Greene commanded one of the flanking units in this battle while Colonel Knox’s artillery bombarded the Hessians. The units than converged on the garrison rapidly defeating the Hessians. 

A week later the Americans moved on Trenton again to draw the British south. Lord Cornwallis moved south to confront Washington. He engaged Washington but did not defeat him by the end of the day. Cornwallis relaxed because he believed he had Washington trapped. He was wrong. Washington tricked him into thinking he was still in camp while he made a daring night march to capture Princeton on 3 January.  

The Battle of Princeton opened when a British bayonet charge broke Brigadier General (BG) Hugh Mercer’s lines. Mercer was killed trying to rally his troops. General Washington bravely rode between the firing lines, rallied the Americans, and drove the British back. He then pursued the retreating British. The battle moved into Princeton where 200 British regulars were defending a stout stone building. Continental cannon fire caused the British to surrender ending the Battle of Princeton. 

Washington then withdrew back across the Delaware and moved into winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey. 

As a result of these two battles, the Americans gained control of much of New Jersey. More importantly, the morale and unity of the army was improved at a critical time. 

The quarters at Morristown permitted Washinton to keep track of the British who were wintering in New York City and to be able to react if the British moved. The Winter of 1776-1777 was cold, supplies were scarce, and the army began to shrink. Some soldiers deserted, and others refused to reenlist. Fortunately, Washington’s growing popularity helped attract new recruits who he molded into better and more disciplined soldiers. He also made promises of land and cash bounties which came back to haunt the army later. When fighting resumed Washington’s immediate command numbered 11,000 with another 17,000 in New York. 

The army was at Morristown for the first half of 1777. Meanwhile, the British launched a campaign to capture Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the seat of American government. 

General Washington was determined to prevent the capture of Philadelphia so on 11 September 1777 he took up positions along Brandywine Creek. He mistakenly believed that he had blocked all fords across the Brandywine. 

General Sir Willam Howe-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
General Sir Willam Howe

Opposing Washington was Sir William Howe and an army of 15,500 British Regulars and Hessians. Covered by heavy fog, the British moved into position. The Hessians were ordered to demonstrate at Chadds Ford while the bulk of Howe’s forces crossed the Brandywine farther upstream. 

The battle had been raging for hours by the time Howe’s force appeared undetected on the Continental right flank. Washington dispatched troops to shore up his flank. They put up a stiff resistance but were eventually overrun by Howe’s men. Simultaneously, the Hessians hit the Americans near the Quaker meeting house at Chadds Ford. Washington’s lines collapsed. 

To prevent the defeat turning into disaster Washington ordered General Greene’s division to act as a rear-guard while the army escaped to the northeast. Greene’s men counterattacked, going toe-to-toe with the British. When night fell, the Americans fell back in an orderly retreat, led in part by the wounded MG Marquis de Lafayette.  

The defeat allowed the British to occupy Philadelphia, but the bulk of the Continental army survived to fight another day. The Continental Congress moved to York, Pennsylvania. 

After taking the American Capitol, General Howe deployed two brigades of regulars and a contingent of Hessians to the village of Germantown. They totaled about 9,000 men. General Washington decided to attack and destroy this force using a double envelopment with a force of 8,000 Continentals and 3,000 militia. 

Washington set his plan into motion on the night of 3 October by dividing his army to attack the British from multiple directions at dawn. MG John Sullivan was to attack with the main force while General Greene was to attack the flank. The militia, under MG William Smallwood, was to strike the extreme right and rear. Unfortunately for Washington, darkness and a heavy fog delayed the advance and cost him the element of surprise. 

Sullivan’s column was the first to make contact, driving back the British pickets. The British were surprised by the Americans, and some were cut off from the main body. One hundred twenty British troops took shelter in the large stone house known as Cliveden. This fortified position was a thorn in the Americans’ side for the remainder of the battle, with numerous assaults being repulsed with heavy casualties. Sullivan also pushed his men towards the British center. 

Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
Brigadier General “Mad” Anthony Wayne

On the left, one of Sullivan’s divisions, commanded by BG “Mad” Anthony Wayne, became separated in the fog. To make matters worse, Sullivan’s men were beginning to run low on ammunition, causing their fire to slacken. The separation, combined with the lack of fire from their comrades and the commotion of the attack on Cliveden behind them, convinced Wayne’s men that they were cut off, causing them to withdraw. 

Fortunately, Greene arrived in time to strike the British before Wayne could be routed. Only the steadiness and grit of Greene’s and Wayne’s men and the American artillery prevented a total disaster. The American retreat was also aided by the onset of darkness.  

Despite the Battle of Germantown being a British victory, many Europeans, especially the French, were impressed by the determination of the Continental Army. 

In December, the Army established 1777-1778 winter quarters at Valley Forge, 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia. During the winter, General Greene clashed with Thomas Mifflin and other members of the Conway Cabal, which was a group that sought to replace General George Washington with MG Horatio Gates. Their cause failed but not before creating a distraction that the army did not need. 

In March 1778 Greene reluctantly accepted the position of Quartermaster General like a good soldier and set out to do it to the best of his ability. He and his top assistants reorganized his 3,000-person department and established supply depots in strategic places around the country. Although he was a staff officer, Greene continued to attend Washington’s councils-of-war. 

After France allied with America and joined the war in early 1778, the British commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton withdrew from Philadelphia and started moving to New York. Generals Wayne, Lafayette, and Greene recommended to Washington that they attack the British while they moved through New Jersey and Washington agreed. 

On 28 June, Washington and his lead units caught up with the rear guard of the British army near Monmouth, New Jersey. The rear guard was commanded by Lord Cornwallis. MG Charles Lee with a superior force was ordered to attack the British. His men had undergone extensive training during the winter, but Lee lacked confidence in them and did not press his advantage. He ceded the advantage to the British who counterattacked routing the Americans. 

Fleeing, panicked troops met Washinton as he approached the fighting. Enraged, he galloped ahead and angrily took command and rallied the troops to continue the assault. This delaying action gave enough time for the rest of the army to move up.  

Washington placed Greene’s division on the right and Major General Stirling’s division on the left. Lee’s men were turned over to Lafayette and were kept in reserve. Wayne took command of the rest of Lee’s men and occupied Lafayette’s front. Artillery was stationed on both flanks. The fighting was bitter and see-sawed back and forth in the brutal heat for hours. About 6:00 PM the British were exhausted and disengaged. Wayne wanted to press the attack, but Washington believed the men were spent. 

Rather than renewing the fight the next day, Cornwallis slipped away during the night. He gained a day’s march on Washington, and he resumed his move north. 

In July Greene took leave to take part in an attack on the British in Rhode Island. The subsequent battle resulted in the British retreating from the state and Greene resumed his duties as quartermaster general. 

In June 1780 British forces attempted an invasion of New Jersey. Originating in Staten Island and marching through Elizabethtown, New Jersey, they intended to capture the strategic Hobart Gap. This would enable them to march on American headquarters in Morristown. 

The Americans decided to take a stand in the small village of Springfield where General Greene assumed command. 

On 23 June, the British approached in two columns, but General Greene was advantageously positioned. The British force, about 5,000-men strong, with cavalry and almost 20 cannon, seemed sufficient to crush any American army that might oppose them. However, for more than 40 minutes, the Americans fought five times their number to a standstill. The British began to slowly push them back but were unable to breach the American line, so they resorted to burning and looting. After setting fire to Springfield, they retreated to the shore, and crossed over in haste from Elizabethtown to Staten Island. 

The British had lost a rare opportunity for the conquest of New Jersey, and possibly the destruction or dispersion of Washington’s army. Greene’s men had performed gallantly and saved the day. 

Greene resigned his quartermaster job in a letter that also criticized Congress. Some members of Congress wanted Greene’s commission revoked but Washington intervened and saved Greene’s position in the Continental army. 

After General Benedict Arnold defected to the British in September 1780, Greene briefly served as commandant of West Point. He presided over the hanging of John Andre in October 1780. Andre had been Arnold’s contact in the British army. 

By mid-1778, the war in the north had reached a stalemate. The British remained in New York City and Washington was positioned nearby on the Hudson River. France was entering the war, and King George III was demanding that the British army quickly subdue the colonies. Consequently, the British saw the south as their path to victory. There were fewer trained Continental troops in the south, there were many Loyalist militias, and they believed there was little popular support for the war. 

The British occupied Savannah, Georgia in late 1778, Charleston, South Carolina in May 1779, and they engaged the Americans near Camden, South Carolina on 16 August 1780. The Americans were under the command of Major General Horatio Gates and the British were commanded by Lord Cornwallis. The Americans greatly outnumbered the British but were routed and humiliated. 

The Battle of Camden was the worse American defeat of the Revolutionary War. There were pockets of Americans who bravely stood their ground, but the “retreat” was a torrent of desertions and looting. According to American Colonel Otto Williams, MG Gates, and MG Richard Caswell (later governor of North Carolina) were on horseback and ahead of all other deserters. The two generals fled non-stop about 60 miles to Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis

On 14 October 1780 Washington gave command of the Southern Department of the Continental Army to General Greene. Greene assumed command in December. He faced a 6,000-man British army commanded by Lord Cornwallis. The British force included cavalry commanded by Colonel Banastre Tarleton, and many Loyalist militia. Tarleton was intensely hated by the colonials for his brutal treatment of military prisoners and civilians. 

Outnumbered and undersupplied, Greene wisely chose a strategy of “conservation of forces” by not committing his main force units unless victory was likely. He relied on his guerrilla forces to keep the enemy off balance and to provide him with intelligence. This was the perfect tactic since his army was inferior in numbers to the well organized and experienced British. However, the British had a long supply line, which was vulnerable to guerrilla attack, and the population was more loyal to the rebels than the British expected. 

Greene’s key subordinates were his second-in-command professional soldier Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, brilliant cavalry commander Lieutenant Colonel Henry (Light Horse Harry) Lee, Major General Marquis de Lafayette, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan (Morgans Rifles), and Brigadier General Francis (Swamp Fox) Marion. This was an incredibly skilled group of officers that were perfect for the type of war they would wage against the British.  

Brigadier General Daniel Morgan-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
Brigadier General Daniel Morgan

Morgan was a frontiersman, pioneer, and politician from Virginia. He fought in the French and Indian War. He was one of the most respected battlefield tacticians of the Revolutionary War who often used non-conventional tactics. He commanded the famous “Morgan’s Riflemen.” 

Brigadier General Francis (Swamp Fox) Marion-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
Brigadier General Francis (Swamp Fox) Marion

Francis Marion was a South Carolina planter who had fought in the French and Indian War. During that war he learned the Cherokee way of fighting and applied that knowledge to the tactics that earned him the name “Swamp Fox.” Marion and his guerilla force were instrumental in winning the war in the south. They gathered actionable intelligence and kept the British off-balance making them split their forces to try to find and defeat them. 

Before Greene assumed command, loyalist and rebel militias clashed in October at Kings Mountain, South Carolina. The battle was a rebel victory, which delayed Cornwallis’ planned advance into North Carolina. 

Greene went against conventional military wisdom by dividing his forces when facing a superior enemy. He led the main American force southeast while Morgan led a smaller force to the southwest. Cornwallis responded by dividing his forces marching the main detachment against Greene while Tarleton led a contingent against Morgan. 

In the January1781 Battle of Cowpens, Morgan nearly destroyed Tarleton’s force. Tarleton narrowly escaped with only about 200 men. Following the battle, Cornwallis pursued Morgan, burning some of his own supplies to speed up his army’s pace. Greene then linked up with Morgan and moved into North Carolina to pull Cornwallis farther away from his supply lines. 

On 9 February, Greene and his officers decided to continue north to the Dan River on the North Carolina-Virginia border. With the British in close pursuit, Greene again divided his force. He led the main detachment north while sending a small force to harass the pursuing British. Greene crossed the Dan on 14 February, but Cornwallis refused to move any farther from his supply line and turned south to Hillsborough, North Carolina. Greene recrossed the Dan on 22 February. 

Greene continued harassing Cornwallis. In early March he received reinforcements from North Carolina and Virginia doubling his numbers to about 4,000 men. On 14 March Greene moved to Guilford Courthouse and began preparing for an attack by Cornwallis. He established three defensive lines. The first two would be manned by militia and the third by Continental Army regulars.  

On 15 March, the British launched their attack. The first American line fired and fled, the second line held longer, and Cornwallis launched an unsuccessful attack on the third line. They reformed and attacked the left flank of the line but were overwhelmed by Lee’s cavalry. In retaliation, Cornwallis ordered his artillery to fire grapeshot into the fighting, hitting both British and American troops. Greene retreated since his left was collapsing but the British had sustained substantially greater losses. 

After the Battle of Guilford Court House, Cornwallis headed south to Wilmington, North Carolina. Greene gave chase but chose not to attack since much of his militia had returned home. In late April, much to Greene’s surprise, Cornwallis turned and moved north. 

Rather than follow with his main force Greene detached Lafayette to harass Cornwallis while he moved south to challenge British Lieutenant Colonel Francis Rawdon for control of South Carolina and Georgia. On 20 April he began a siege of Camden, South Carolina and established a camp on Hobkirk’s Hill. Rawdon managed to launch a surprise attack on Greene’s position on 25 April. Despite being surprised, Greene quickly recovered and was nearly victorious, when his left collapsed, and his cavalry failed to arrive. To avoid a total defeat, he retreated ending the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill. Both sides suffered a similar number of casualties.  

On !0 May, Rawdon retreated to Charleston, South Carolina conceding control of much of the interior of the state. There was no longer a major British maneuver unit in the interior and Greene wanted Augusta, Georgia taken to eliminate a threat. He dispatched Henry Lee to Augusta where a strong militia force commanded by Colonel Elijah Clarke was already battling for the city. Their combined force launched a major attack on Augusta on 21 May. After a hard fight they captured Augusta on 5 June.  

The Americans then captured a series of British forts, further expanding their control. They besieged the last fort at Ninety-Six, South Carolina and attacked the fort on 18 June. The attack was unsuccessful, but the British soon abandoned the fort. By the end of June 1781, the British controlled only a thin strip of coastal land from Charleston to Savannah.  

After resting through much of July and August and receiving reinforcements, Greene’s Army resumed offensive operations against the British who were under the command of Colonel Alexander Stewart. The Americans engaged the British in South Carolina at Eutaw Springs on the Santee River on 8 September. Both sides entered the battle with about 2,000 men. 

The Americans approached in the early morning, forcing the British soldiers to abandon their uneaten breakfasts to fight. British Major John Majoribanks secured his unit in a stone house, impervious to Lieutenant Colonel William Washington’s cavalry attacks. When the hungry Americans captured the British camp and began to devour the abandoned breakfasts, Majoribanks surprised them. A four-hour inconclusive bloodbath in the burning sun ended with both sides withdrawing from the field.  

More than 500 Americans were killed or wounded in the Battle of Eutaw Springs. The British lost 700 killed, wounded, or missing, the most lost by any army in a single battle during the entire Revolutionary War. Because of his high number of casualties, Stewart withdrew to Charleston to regroup. 

The Battle of Eutaw Springs was one of the hardest fought and bloodiest battles of the Revolution and proved to be the last major engagement of the war in the Carolinas. The Americans had won virtually complete control of the southern department. 

Congress issued Greene a gold medal and passed a resolution congratulating him for his victory at Eutaw Springs. 

Major General Marquis de Lafayette-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General
Major General Marquis de Lafayette

Meanwhile Lafayette with his army of about 4,000 had been shadowing Cornwallis’ army as he moved north through Virginia. Lafayette had just been a pest to Cornwallis, but he was always looking for a chance to catch Cornwallis with his guard down. In July 1781 he thought he had his chance. 

Cornwallis’ army of nearly 7,000 was near Jamestown Island preparing to cross the James River. Lafayette planned to wait until Cornwallis had half his force on the north bank, and then launch an attack on those on the south bank. 

Cornwallis was a very experienced and skillful military leader and prepared a trap to deal with this annoying force of Americans. He made Lafayette believe his army was split to lure him into attacking the entire British force. Lafayette fell for the ruse and the Battle of Green Spring began. 

Lafayette advanced in column formation with General “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s Pennsylvania and Virginia troops of about 900 in the van. They engaged British pickets on the road to Jamestown and pursued them towards the James River. They made it to the Harris farm at about 5:00 in the afternoon. They were far in the advance of the rest of the American column when the British launched a withering counterattack. 

At this point, rather than fall back, General Wayne, in a very unconventional and bold decision ordered his outnumbered force to fix bayonets and advance on the British line which momentarily stunned the British.  

For the next few minutes, the British line and the American line stood about 50 yards apart and fired volley after volley of musket fire into each other. To have stood and fought in an open field at that range would have been a terrifying ordeal, but they stood and fought. One contemporary later called it “Madness!”  

After a few minutes of this close fighting, the American troops were forced to fall back quickly. The impromptu advance Wayne had ordered, succeeded in stalling the British advance and allowed American reinforcements to cover his retreat. Lafayette fell back that night. Cornwallis chose not to give chase and crossed the James River. The British had suffered about 75 killed and wounded and the American army suffered about 150 killed and wounded. 

The Battle of Green Spring was fierce and bloody and was technically a British victory. However, once again the young American army had gone toe-to-toe and proved it was on par with British regulars.  

Cornwallis moved to the tidewater town of Yorktown, Virginia in August. He immediately began fortifying the town and the adjacent promontory of Gloucester Point across the York River. He was to establish a deep-water port and receive supplies and replacements from the British fleet. The British believed their navy would dominate the Cheasepeake Bay and that Cornwallis could maintain seaborne lines of communication with the large British army of General Henry Clinton in New York City. 

General Washington ordered Lafayette to hold Cornwallis in Yorktown. Concurrently, Washington’s 2,500 troops in New York were joined by a French army of 4,000 commanded by Count de Rochambeau. Washington and Rochambeau made plans to attack Cornwallis with the assistance of a large French fleet under the command of the Count de Grasse. On 21 August they crossed the Hudson River and marched south. Covering 200 miles in 15 days, the allied force reached the head of Chesapeake Bay in early September. 

A British fleet under Admiral Thomas Graves failed to break French naval superiority at the Battle of Virginia Capes on 5 September, denying Cornwallis his expected reinforcements. Beginning 14 September, de Grasse transported Washington and Rochambeau’s men down the Chesapeake Bay to Virginia, where they joined Lafayette and completed the encirclement of Yorktown on 28 September. De Grasse landed another 3,000 French troops carried by his fleet. During the first two weeks of October, the 14,000 Franco-American troops gradually tightened the siege. They defeated the fortified British positions with the aid of cannon fire from de Grasse’s warships.  

.Artist Rendering of British Surrender at Yorktown, VA-Nathaneal Greene-Washington's General

Artist Rendering of British Surrender at Yorktown, VA

On 19 October 1781, General Cornwallis surrendered 7,087 officers and men, 900 seamen, 144 cannon, 15 galleys, a frigate, and 30 transport ships. Pleading illness, he did not attend the surrender ceremony. His second-in-command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders. Washington had his second-in-command, Major General Benjamin Lincoln, accept Cornwallis’ sword.

As the British and Hessian troops marched out to surrender their arms and battle flags, the British bands played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.” 

A British fleet carrying 7,000 men set out from New York on 24 October to rescue Cornwallis. After entering the bay, Admiral Graves was informed of the surrender and withdrew rather than engaging the superior French Fleet.

Although the war persisted for a while on the high seas and in other theaters, the victory at Yorktown effectively ended fighting in the American colonies. Peace negotiations began in 1782, and on 3 September 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation after eight years of war.  

After the surrender, the British evacuated Savannah, Georgia on 11 July 1782 and Charleston, South Carolina on 14 September 1782. The last British troops left New York City on 25 November 1783 ending seven years of British occupation. American troops led by General George Washington and New York Governor George Clinton made a triumphant return to New York City. 

General Greene finished the war putting down the remaining loyalist militias and struggling to feed and clothe his army. Congress officially declared the end of the war in April 1783. Greene resigned his commission in late 1783. He initially returned to Newport, Rhode Island, but like many patriots, he faced a mountain of debt. He had paid for much of the supplies for his army and now the creditors wanted their money. Congress, the creditors, and Greene were involved in several plans to pay, but most did not act in good faith. Greene was being hounded so he chose to return to the south where he was loved. 

The credit machinations continued until final settlement in 1854. Greene’s estate received only a small sum. 

The governments of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia had all voted Greene liberal grants of land and money, including an estate called Boone’s Barony in Bamberg County, South Carolina and Mulberry Grove Plantation near Savannah, Georgia. 

Greene made his home at Mulberry Grove Plantation. He purchased slaves to work the plantation, and he settled into his new life. In 1784 he refused appointment to a commission that was to negotiate treaties with Indian tribes, but he did attend the first meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati. 

On 12 June 1786, Greene became ill and died on 19 June at the age of 43. He was interred at the Graham Vault in Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah alongside British Lieutenant Colonel John Maitland who had fought against Greene during the war.  

Greene’s wife Catherine died in 1814. She had often visited Nathaneal no matter where he was located, including the terrible winter at Valley Forge. She gained the admiration and friendship of the other Continental officers including Washington. 

General Nathaneal Greene Monument, Savannah, GA

Through the efforts of Rhode Island Society of the Cincinnati President Asa Bird Gardiner, Greene’s body was reinterred at a fitting monument in Johnson Square in Savannah on 14 November 1902. His son, George was  buried with his father. 

General Washington had designated Greene to be his replacement in case he was killed or captured. Cornwallis wrote that Greene was “as dangerous as Washington.” He was able to merge disparate ineffective units into a cohesive fighting force and was a master at integrating the use of guerilla forces. 

There are many memorials to Greene throughout the United States. His statue, along with the statue of Roger Williams, represents Rhode Island in the US Capitol. Another statue is nearby in Stanton Park. His statues are found in many other locations. Fourteen counties are named after him as well as a river and many schools. Several US naval vessels have been named after him. The Greene 1774 Homestead in Coventry, Rhode Island is preserved and open to the public. 

Nathanael Greene was a great patriot who loved his country and freedom and was willing to fight for them. He is a giant of American history. 

Indentured Servitude-Almost Slavery


 The concept of Indentured Servitude was born of the critical need for labor in the early British colonies in North America and the Caribbean. Only the wealthy could afford passage to the colonies so to solve the problem, the Virginia Company developed the concept of Indentured Servitude. The program allowed the poorer potential immigrant to trade his labor for a set period in exchange for passage to America. The first indentured servants arrived in America sometime between 1607 and 1617. The program was an extreme success with one-half to two-thirds of all immigrants who came to the Americas being indentured servants.  

The success of indentured servitude was based on the terrible economic conditions in Britain and the Rhine area of Germany in the 17th century. A combination of few jobs, very low wages, and too many workers resulted in most workers living in poverty with no hope of improvement. Jobs were abundant in the colonies and the need was growing every day. The poor workers could not afford passage to the British colonies, so indentured servitude was their only ticket to a better life. 

Indenture contracts came in many varieties. The most common was for hard labor but indentures were also found in the trades and clerical work, particularly in the northern colonies. The terms of servitude ranged from one to seven years with the most typical being four years. The vast majority of indentures came willingly, but some were forced, some were prisoners avoiding prison and some came in response to misrepresentation by recruiting agents. 

Many ship captains also got into the business of obtaining indentures because it was so profitable. They sold passage to the colonies to those who could afford the cost. Those who could not pay were contracted to the captain. Upon arrival in a colonial port, the captain advertised the price for the various skills on board and sold the contracts to colonists who needed the labor. 

Artist Depiction of Field Workers-Indentured Servitude-Almost Slavery
Artist Depiction of Field Workers

Indentures were found in all the colonies, but the greatest concentration were in the Chesapeake Bay region and the Upper South. This was the area of the great estates with labor-intensive crops such as tobacco, rice, sugarcane, and cotton. Their very existence depended on the availability of large numbers of laborers. Most trades and clerical positions were in the north where industrialization was taking its first baby steps. 

Some colonists sold their children into servitude so the children could learn a trade and the parents could earn cash. Also, many indentured children were relatives of colonists who used the system to bring family members to America and to profit from their labor.

Indentured service was often extremely hard with harsh working and living conditions and harsh discipline. Indentures had little in the way of legal rights. They were not free and had no political rights until they had completed their financial obligation. Many did not live to see that day because the average life span of the time was short particularly for those doing the hardest physical labor. 

Indentures were the property of their sponsor for the period of the contract and some owners beat and raped them. Some were starved, and did not receive adequate shelter, clothing, or medical care. Females who got pregnant were punished by their service periods being increased more than nine months. Indentures were sometimes treated worse than slaves because slaves had value. 

It is not surprising that many indentures ran away but they were relentlessly pursued and severely punished when captured. 

Once the term of indenture was completed, the individual was freed and received a payment known as a “freedom package.” This could include land, seed corn, arms, a cow, and clothing. Those who had served on southern plantations often moved west and established their own farms. Others that had served in the trades had no problems finding employment or setting up their own  business. They all had many advantages over new immigrants. They were familiar with where the most opportunities existed, some had very generous freedom packages, and they had already become “Americanized.” 

Indentured Servitude was driven by supply and demand and its demise actually began as the number of unemployed workers in Europe declined and other economic factors began to improve in about 1650. Fewer people needed to become indentured servants. Concurrently, the cost of indentured servitude to sponsors was gradually increasing. 

The increased availability of black slaves was also competing with Indentured Servitude. The supply of slaves began to significantly increase by the 18th century driving their cost down. Slaves were owned permanently, had no “freedom package,” and were renewable.  

Sir William Berkeley-Indentured Servitude-Almost Slavery
Sir William Berkeley

In addition to the effects of supply and demand, planters and others found that some freed indentures became competition as they began their own farms and businesses. The large numbers of freed indentures from Chesapeake Bay and Upper South plantations that moved west to set up their own farms soon were in conflict with the Indians. The Indians had become comfortable with the whites staying in the tidewater areas. This conflict caused a social, security and political crisis but the Royal Governor William Berkeley would not support the settlers. He did not want to alienate the Indians because he had a monopoly on the lucrative fur trade. This situation resulted in “Bacon’s Rebellion” in 1676. 

Although a few freed indentures became highly successful and wealthy, the vast majority joined what we now refer to as the “middle class.” It was this hardworking group that became the backbone of the economy. They had survived the treacherous sea journey, and harsh servitude, and were happy to have a modest life as freemen in the rapidly developing colonial economy.  

Indentured Servitude was responsible for rapidly increasing the population of the British colonies significantly. These were working class people who usually had large families and their descendants multiplied exponentially. They had worked hard to be Americans and they were proud. Without Indentured Servitude, I do not believe we could have had enough population to successfully fight a war against the might of the British Empire. Great happenings in history often turn on seemingly insignificant events such as the Virginia Company decision. 


 Indentured servitude is often confused with bound apprentices. The latter was a social program for orphans and children from impoverished families that were under the control of the courts. They were bound out to work as apprentices until a specified age. It was a good program since it kept these children from being supported by taxpayers and prepared them to be productive members of society. Benjamin Franklin was a bound apprentice who illegally fled his apprenticeship to his brother. Another famous bound apprentice was Andrew Johnson who became vice president and upon the death of Abraham Lincoln, became the 17th president of the United States. 

John Penn-North Carolina Dynamo



 John Penn-North Carolina Dynamo
John Penn

John Penn was a man who overcame a serious lack of early education by intense self-study. He served in the Continental Congress for six years. He signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the North Carolina Constitution. He almost single-handedly prepared North Carolina for the British invasion of the south. In 1781 he was summarily relieved of his wartime duties by the envious governor of North Carolina and returned to his law practice. Unfortunately, John Penn’s considerable potential was cut short when he died at the early age of 48. 

John Penn was born on 17 May 1741 near Port Royal in Caroline County, Virginia. He was the only son of Moses Penn and Catherine (Taylor) Penn. Moses was a prosperous farmer and modestly wealthy. However, Moses did not see much value in education, so John attended a common school for only two years. 

When John was 18 years old, his father died unexpectedly thrusting him into the position of head of the family. The farm required immediate attention and his mother needed care and support. He could run the farm, but he realized that he needed education to do a better job and to reach his personal goals. 

 Edmund Pendleton-John Penn-Borth Carolina Dynamo
Edmund Pendleton

John’s uncle, Edmund Pendleton was an accomplished attorney. Thomas Jefferson considered Pendleton to be “the greatest orator” in the colonies and was known for his knowledge and empathy. Jefferson and Adams believed Pendleton’s library had no equal in the colonies. Pendleton took John under his wing and opened his library to him 

John Penn spent every spare moment in this library and Pendleton also exposed him to some of Virginia’s finest lawyers. He learned the fine points and techniques of the law, and just three years after his father’s death John Penn was licensed to practice law in Virginia. This was an amazing accomplishment and demonstrated his determination and intelligence.  

On 28 July 1763, John Penn married Susanna Lyne, the daughter of Henry Lyne. The couple had three children, but only two survived childhood. 

Penn practiced law in Virginia for twelve years during which he distinguished himself as one of the best in Virginia. During this time many of his relatives moved to Granville County, North Carolina so in 1774, he moved his family to the area of Williamsboro, in Granville County. 

There appear to have been two major reasons John Penn made the move farther south. One was that he made some “intemperate” remarks about the king and had been reported. He was charged, tried, and convicted, but the judge limited punishment to a one-penny fine. Penn refused to pay, which made him an even bigger target to royal authorities. He was very vocal about his anti-British opinions and refused to be silenced. 

The other reason for moving was that he had become convinced that total separation from Britain was the only solution to ever increasingly harsh British rule. Many Virginians, including his uncle Edmund Pendleton, had not reached this conclusion. They still hoped the Crown could be convinced to provide the colonists with the same rights as the residents of Great Britain. They still believed that rights came from government. Penn hesitated to disagree publicly with his uncle who was his benefactor, but he could no longer contain his revolutionary beliefs. 

Granville County was the ideal place for Penn because the residents were chaffing under the increasingly harsh British rule and the domination of elite eastern tidewater plantation owners and merchants. They treated the locals like ignorant upstarts and denied them political positions. 

Despite the prejudice, Penn rapidly became a leader in Granville County because of his successful law practice and his freely stated views. He was soon elected to the First Continental Congress and to the Provincial Congress. This alarmed the eastern North Carolina establishment who saw him as an intruder and a threat, but they could not contain him. 

John Penn emerged as a leader in the Provincial Congress in 1775. He was assigned to important committees, which were to organize a temporary form of government and to prepare a state constitution.  

Penn reported to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in late 1775 and declared “My first wish is for America to be free.” He maintained a hectic schedule and in April 1776, he returned to North Carolina to report on actions in Philadelphia. 

The Provincial Congress’ “Halifax Resolves” authorized the three North Carolina delegates to support complete independence. This made North Carolina the first colony to officially declare independence from Britain. 

The delegation returned to Philadelphia during an unbearably sweltering summer, but congress worked with the windows closed. The delegates were miserable in the heat but there were a few moments of humor. On 1 July, John Dickinson was in the second hour of speaking against independence when the building was rattled by a lightning strike. Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island, the oldest delegate, dropped his hickory cane and looked around the room. Penn leaned over Hopkins’ shoulder and explained the lightning had been grounded by Franklin’s lightning rod. Hopkins roared, “I don’t give a damn about any rod or lightning bolt. I’m just tired of Dickinson’s long-winded harangue!” 

 Henry Laurens-John Penn-North Carolina Dynamo
Henry Laurens

Also during the summer heat, Henry Laurens, President of Congress, and John Penn had a heated political disagreement that resulted in plans for a duel. The day of the duel the antagonists and their seconds had breakfast together at their hotel. Rain during the night had turned Philadelphia’s unpaved streets into a quagmire. After breakfast Penn and Laurens walked together toward their appointed dueling ground when they came to a crossing deep in mud. Penn acted to help the older man by offering his arm before attempting to cross the street. Because of this act of kindness, they quickly forgot their disagreement, and returned to the hotel without firing a shot. 

The North Carolina Continental Congress delegation was composed of William Hooper, a strong Tory; Joseph Hewes who changed with the wind; and John Penn. When the vote on the Declaration was taken on 2 July 1776, Hooper abstained, but, according to Thomas Jefferson, Penn fixed Hewes vote and North Carolina voted for independence. Later all three delegates signed the Declaration of Independence. 

North Carolina adopted its Constitution in Dec 1776 and John Penn was a signer. This state constitution officially divided the state government into three branches-executive, legislative and judicial-years before the US Constitution established the same federal organization. 

After independence was declared and war was well underway, many congressional delegates, including Penn, had to take on many more duties. These duties included buying military supplies and ordnance, arranging for shipping, and professionally conducting the necessary financial operations. Communications were slow so the delegates were also the main reporters of major events of the day to their constituents. Penn did all these things while religiously attending numerous committee meetings and regular congressional sessions for almost six years. 

On 10 July 1778, John Penn was the first North Carolina delegate to vote for and sign the Articles of Confederation. He was one of only 16 men that signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. 

In July 1779, the Pennsylvania Packet attacked Congress for ineptitude in financial matters and charged that some delegates were using their position to make fortunes on speculations that undermined the continental currency. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts demanded that the publishers be tried for slander and disrespect of Congress. 

John Penn rose in defense of freedom of speech. He stated that stopping freedom of speech endangered liberty. He also stated “If you (Congress) have the power, which I doubt, and were to imprison the editor for six months, he would come out a far greater man than when he went in. 

By 1778, the war in the north had reached a stalemate and was a quagmire for the British. France was preparing to enter the war, and King George III was demanding that the British army quickly subdue the colonies. Consequently, the British moved their major operations to the south where they believed they could turn the tide. There were fewer trained Continental troops in the south, and the British believed there was little popular support for the war. 

 Major General Horatio Gates-John Penn-North Carolina Dynamo
Major General Horatio Gate

At first it appeared the British were correct in their assessment. They occupied Savannah, Georgia in late 1778 and Charleston, South Carolina in May 1779. They engaged the Americans near Camden, South Carolina on 16 August 1780. The Americans were under the command of Major General Horatio Gates (the hero of Saratoga) and the British were commanded by Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis. The American force was unorganized and was mostly untrained militia. The Americans greatly outnumbered the British but the British fielded mostly regulars. The Americans were easily routed and humiliated in the battle. 

The Battle of Camden was the worse American defeat of the Revolutionary War. There were pockets of Americans who bravely stood their ground, but the “retreat” was a torrent of desertions and looting. Many soldiers dropped their weapons and ran from the field. According to American Colonel Otto Williams, General Gates, and General Richard Caswell (later governor of North Carolina) were on horseback and ahead of all other deserters. The generals fled non-stop about 60 miles to Charlotte, North Carolina.  

In reaction to the Camden defeat, on 23 August, the North Carolina General Assembly appointed Penn to a three-man Board of War to prepare for expected British military operations in that state. Penn took charge when the other two members of the board proved incompetent. 

Major General Nathaniel Greene-John Penn North Carolina Dynamo
Major General Nathaniel Greene

John Penn established effective communications with Major General Nathaniel Greene who had replaced Major General Gates. He raised recruits, found funding for the military, provided transportation and supplies, disarmed Tories, and spurred the people into action. 

John Taylor of Caroline described Penn during this period: “He was surrounded by discouraged friends, helpless citizens, or inveterate foes—but he had a task to discharge—and an arduous one. But nature had formed him for the effort. Indefatigable, cheerful, extremely courteous in his manners, firm in his political principles, and invigorated by an inextinguishable ardor, he went through the crisis with honor to himself, to the satisfaction of the state, and rendered service inestimable to the prosecution of the war.” 

The British had woefully underestimated the loyalty of the people. The Americans waged a savage guerrilla war that devastated the British and kept them off balance. General Greene was able to pick his conventional battles carefully and by 1781 the tide had turned. 

Major Continental victories at King’s Mountain, Cowpens, and General Greene’s standoff with the British at Guilford Courthouse forced Lord Cornwallis to retreat north. His plan was to link up with the British army in the north so they could recover the initiative. 

Cornwallis’ plan failed. He was pursued by Greene through North Carolina and Virginia to Yorktown, Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay. Washington moved rapidly south and linked up with Greene and they trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown. The British expected to receive artillery support and reinforcements from the British Navy but the superior French fleet arrived and drove them out of the area. 

Lieutenant General Lord, Charles Cornwallis-John Penn North Carolina Dynamo
Lieutenant General Lord, Charles Cornwallis

There was no way that Cornwallis could break the American and French siege, so he surrendered at Yorktown on 19 October 1781. This was the last great land battle of the American War for Independence and led to peace through the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  

Penn’s outstanding performance during the southern war caused lesser men to be jealous. The most powerful of them was Thomas Burke, Governor of North Carolina, who in 1781 recalled Penn and abolished the Board of War. He did not recognize nor reward Penn for his service and did not offer him another position. 

John Penn returned to his wife and home in Stovall, North Carolina in late 1781. He had grown weary in the service of his country but had never wavered in his support of independence. Six years in Congress and his support of General Greene’s campaigns had shattered his physical health and mentally exhausted him.  

Signers Monument-Guilford Courthouse National Military Park-John Penn North Carolina Dynamo
Signers Monument-Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Penn resumed his law practice for the next few years but died on 14 September 1788. He was buried a few miles northeast of Stovall. On 25 April 1894, his remains were reburied at the Signers Monument at Guilford Courthouse Military Park at Greensboro, North Carolina. 

John Penn is not a well-known founder, and I could find no other monuments or memorials other than the signer’s monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC. A World War II US Navy attack transport named after him was sunk by the Japanese in 1943. John Penn contributed much to our Independence, but unfortunately like many other founders is known to few. 

The personal sacrifices made by John Penn and other members of the Continental Congress are hard for us to comprehend today. Some traveled more than 700 miles by horseback or stagecoach to reach Philadelphia. The roads were rutted Indian trails that became quagmires when it rained.  

Travelers were subject to attacks by renegade Indians and brutal highwaymen. There were few taverns along the roads and the food was terrible. Patrons slept on the floor, ten or more to a room, with the possibility that in the morning you would be missing your boots, purse, pants, or baggage. 

John Penn received no salary, only an occasional small voucher for travel reimbursement. It took him more than two weeks to travel about 350 miles from Granville County to Philadelphia. 

French and Indian War 1754-1763



The French and Indian War is the fourth and last in the series I am reporting on, and it is the most important because it actually accomplished things. First it resulted in expansion of the British colonies to the Mississippi River and included the acquisition of Florida. Real borders were established. The French were defeated and lost their North American colonies, which removed a threat to the British colonies. This war gave combat leadership experience to many colonial officers including George Washington. These officers would be needed soon because England levied new taxes on the colonies to help pay for the war which was a factor that helped precipitate the American Revolutionary War 

The French and Indian War was once again the American theater of a European War-the Seven Years’ War. However, most Americans view it as a singular conflict that stands alone. In British America, wars were often named after the sitting monarch, but there had been a King George’s War in the 1740’s during the reign of King George II. King George III was on the throne, so Americans named the war after their opponents. 

The French colonial population was only about 75,000, which were mostly in the St. Lawrence River Valley. The British numbered about 1.5 million mainly along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Georgia. Colonists were gradually moving west. Many were moving into the frontier which was dominated by Indians and where both Briton and France claimed ownership. 

Most of the fighting during the French and Indian War took place along the frontiers between New France and the British colonies from Virginia in the south to Newfoundland in the north. There were few regular army troops in North America at the outset of the war but that changed. 

Indians once again took sides in an effort to get a better deal from the expanding Europeans. These alliances tended to be somewhat sporadic depending on the situation. The Iroquois, Catawba and Cherokee were allied with the British colonists. The Wabanaki Confederacy, Algonquin, Lenape. Ottawa, Shawnee, and Wyandot (Huron) were allied with the French colonists. 

Although the French and Indian War officially began in 1754, there was always low-level but deadly conflict between French and British colonists and between colonists and Indians. In the years leading up to the war, the conflict was becoming even more intense and more lethal. 

The New France governor became concerned about the British incursion and expanding influence in the Ohio Territory so in June 1747 he commissioned a military expedition into the area. The expedition consisted of 200 French troops and 30 Indians and was commanded by Pierre-Joseph Celeron. It was to be a show of force to impress the Indians and to discourage any Indian cooperation with the British.  

Celeron’s force moved out in June 1749 and covered about 3,000 miles ending up at the site of present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The expedition was a failure. The Indians told Celeron they owned the Ohio territory and would trade with whoever they wanted to. Celeron even threatened the Miami chief, “Old Briton” but the chief ignored him.  

Celeron’s expedition returned in November 1749 but was preceded by the pessimistic information. This information made its way to London and Paris, and both proposed actions to be taken. Massachusetts Governor William Shirley stated that British colonists would not be safe as long as the French were present. 

The New France governor died on 17 March 1752 and was temporarily replaced by Charles le Moyne de Longueuil. His permanent replacement, Marquis Duquesne would arrive later,  

The continued British activity in the Ohio Territory convinced Longueuil to organize another expedition to punish the Miami tribe for trading with the British. The expedition would consist of 300 men, including French-Canadians and Ottawa warriors. On 21 June 1752 they attacked the trading center at Pickawillany capturing three traders and killing 14 Miami’s including Old Briton who was ritually cannibalized. 

The next French move was to build and garrison forts in Ohio Territory in 1753. They established Fort Presque Isle on Lake Erie’s south shore, (near present day Erie, Pennsylvania) and Fort Le Boeuf (near present day Waterford, Pennsylvania). They also drove off or captured British traders. The British response was not adequate to satisfy their Indian allies. Mohawk Chief Hendrick declared that the long friendly relationship with Iroquois Confederacy was broken. 

Meanwhile, Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie stood to lose a considerable sum of money if the French prevailed. In October 1753 he sent 21-year-old Major George Washington of the Virginia Regiment with a small party to warn the French to leave territory that Virginia claimed. Washington met over dinner with the French commander of Fort Le Boeuf and presented him with a letter from the governor. Of course the French declined to withdraw. 

Washington arrived back in Williamsburg on 16 January 1754. In addition to delivering the French refusal to withdraw, Washington provided intelligence on French military preparations. Dinwiddie had already dispatched 40 men commanded by Captain William Trent to the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers to construct a fort before the French could. A French force of 500 men arrived on 16 April. They allowed the small British force to withdraw and even purchased their construction tools to build what became Fort Duquesne. 

Portrait of Major George Washington-French and Indian War-1754-1763
Portrait of Major George Washington

Governor Dinwiddie ordered Washington to take a larger force to assist Trent. Washington learned of Trent’s retreat while enroute but continued toward Fort Duquesne. Twelve Mingo warriors joined Washington increasing his force to 52. Washington ambushed a scouting party of 40 Canadiens (French colonists of New France) on 28 May1754 killing “many.” This clash became known as the Battle of Jumonville Glen and is considered to be the opening battle of the French and Indian War. 

Washington withdrew a few miles and established Fort Necessity which was attacked on 3 July. Washington was forced to surrender but negotiated a withdrawal under arms. The French force had included Shawnee, Delaware and Mingo warriors. 

News of the two battles soon reached Europe. The British government decided to send an army expedition to “dislodge the French.” Major General Edward Braddock was assigned to command. The French got word of the British plans and Louis XV dispatched six regiments to New France commanded by Baron Dieskau. 

A British fleet set out in February 1755 intending to blockade French ports, but the French had acted quickly, and their fleet had already sailed. British Admiral Edward Hawke detached a fast squadron to North America in an unsuccessful attempt to intercept the French. 

In a second British naval action Admiral Boscawen fired on the French ship Alcide on 8 June 1755, capturing her and two troop ships. The British continued harassing French shipping in 1755 by seizing ships and capturing seamen. 

Major General Braddock-French and Indian War-1754-1763
Major General Braddock

Once General Braddock arrived in the colonies, he developed an overly ambitious 1755 campaign. I think he believed he could win the war quickly and easily. Braddock was to attack Fort Duquesne; Governor William Shirley was to fortify Fort Oswego and to attack Fort Niagara; Sir William Johnson was to capture Fort St. Frederic at Crown Point, New York; and Lieutenant Colonel Robert Monckton was to capture Fort Beausejour to the east on the frontier between Nova Scotia and Acadia. 

Braddock moved out in June commanding a force of 1,500 Army troops and provincial militia. George Washington was one of his aides. The expedition was a disaster. French regulars, Canadian militia, and Indian warriors ambushed and crushed Braddock’s column. Braddock ordered a retreat, but he was killed and about 1,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded. George Washington and Thomas Gage organized the retreat to Virginia. (Washington and Gage would be opponents in the American Revolutionary War.) 

Governor Shirley had no experience commanding large units and was bogged down with logistical problems in his efforts to fortify Fort Oswego. Shirley learned that the French were preparing to attack Oswego when he moved to attack Fort Niagara. He responded by leaving garrisons at Oswego, Fort Bull, and Fort William Henry. He cached supplies at Fort Bull for a future attack on Fort Niagara. 

Sir William Johnson was well organized, and the French saw him as a significant threat. In response the French acted to tighten their supply lines in the Ohio valley and sent a senior officer (Baron Dieskau) to take command of the defense of Frontenac and Fort St. Frederic. Dieskau wanted to attack Johnson at Fort Edward, but Johnson had estalished strong defenses.  

Johnson and Dieskau clashed on 8 September between Fort Edward and Fort William Henry in the Battle of Lake George. They were nearly evenly matched, about 1,500 men each. This battle was a series of well-placed ambushes, a few frontal attacks, good tactical moves by both sides, and excellent use of three cannon by the British. Casualties were close to even, both about 300 killed or wounded. Baron Dieskau was severely wounded personally leading an assault. 

Tactically, the British carried the day in this hard-fought battle. Johnson withdrew to Fort William Henry and the French to Ticonderoga Point where they constructed Fort Carillon (later Fort Ticonderoga). The British had unceremoniously thrown the bodies of French soldiers killed in the battle into a nearby pond which today is still known as “Bloody Pond.” 

Colonel Monckton captured Fort Beausejour in June 1755, which was the only clear British victory. This also interdicted the French land route for reinforcements and supplies to Louisbourg, which isolated the fort. The governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence ordered the deportation of all French-speaking persons from the area. Monckton’s forces and some of Roger’s Rangers forcibly removed thousands of Acadians. They ran down those who resisted and sometimes committed atrocities. 

Following the death of Braddock, William Shirley assumed command of British forces in North America. Shirley proposed an ambitious 1756 campaign, but his plans did not receive enough backing and were dropped. 

Shirley was replaced in January 1756 by Lord Loudoun with Major General James Abercrombie as his second in command. Neither had much campaign experience but in May the French sent three very experienced officers and regular army reinforcements to New France. Major General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm was commander and Chevalier de Levis was his deputy. They were accompanied by Colonel Francois-Charles de Bourlamaque. All three were veterans of the War of Austrian Succession. 

On 18 May 1756, Britain formally declared war on France, which brought the war to Europe where it was known as the Seven Years’ War. American and French colonists, and British and French regulars fought in North America for two years before the Seven Years’ War officially began. 

French Governor Vaudreuil had ambitions to become French commander in chief, so he acted during the 1756 winter before reinforcements arrived. He ordered an attack on the weak British supply chain. His forces attacked and destroyed Fort Bull along with large quantities of supplies including 45,000 pounds of powder. The Vaudreuil initiative set back any British hopes for campaigns on Lake Ontario and endangered Fort Oswego. The French also continued their active and successful efforts to persuade Indians in the Ohio valley to raid British frontier settlements. 

The new British command did not arrive until July, and they were slow to act. Montcalm took advantage of the British inertia. Montcalm was not cautious and executed a strategic feint that completely fooled the British. He moved his headquarters to Ticonderoga seemingly to attack along Lake George, which pinned down Abercrombie in Albany. Montcalm then slipped away and led a successful attack on Fort Oswego. Montcalm did not allow the Indians in his command to strip prisoners of their personal effects, which angered the Indians.  

Cautious British commander Loudoun planned to attack Quebec in 1757. He left a sizable force at Fort William Henry to distract Montcalm while he prepared for the attack on Quebec; however, the Secretary of State for the colonies, William Pitt, ordered him to attack the Fort at Louisbourg first. This expedition was delayed until August when they were prepared to sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, French ships had escaped the British blockade of France and awaited Loudoun at Louisbourg with a fleet that outnumbered the British. Faced with this, Loudoun returned to New York. 

Marquis de Montcalm-French and Indian War 1754-1763
Marquis de Montcalm

The French were also campaigning against Fort William Henry during 1757 while the British were being cautious. In January French irregulars ambushed British rangers near Ticonderoga. In February, they crossed frozen Lake George to William Henry and destroyed storehouses and buildings outside the main fortifications. Montcalm with 7,000 troops laid siege to the fort in early August. Fort commander Lieutenant Colonel George Monro capitulated with an agreement to withdraw under parole (Retain weapons and flags with promise not to fight against the army granting the parole). 

When Monro withdrew his column consisted of his troops, Indian allies, and civilians. Some of Montcalm’s Indian allies who were still angry about being denied loot at Oswego, attacked Monro’s column killing and capturing several hundred men, women, children, and slaves. 

The aftermath of this siege apparently contributed to the transmission of smallpox to remote Indian tribes. Some Indians from west of the Mississippi River reportedly had traveled east to fight in the war and then returned to their home tribes. Some historians believe this explains early infection in the west. 

Fortunes changed in 1758. The blockade of France was limiting the supplies reaching New France. To make matters worse, the 1757 harvest was poor, the winter was hard, and there was a corrupt supply official involved. Also, the massive outbreak of smallpox among the western tribes limited trade. 

Malcolm dedicated his limited resources to defending the St. Lawrence, particularly Carillon, Quebec, and Louisbourg. Vaudreuil unsuccessfully argued for raiding tactics that had worked well in past years. 

British failures in North America combined with failures in the European theater led to the fall of Prime Minister Newcastle and his military advisor the Duke of Cumberland. Newcastle then joined in an uneasy partnership with Pitt, but Pitt dominated military planning. Pitt’s plan for 1758 was primarily developed by Loudoun who had been replaced by Abercrombie as commander in chief after the failures of 1757. 

Portrait of William Pitt-French and Indian war-1754-1763
Portrait of William Pitt

William Pitt was a visionary who saw that winning the French and Indian War should result in total British control of North America and be part of a British empire. This led Pitt to be very aggressive. 

Pitt’s plan called for three major expeditions involving large numbers of regular troops supported by militias and aimed at the heartland of New France. Two of these were successful. 

In the September-October period, 6,000 men led by General John Forbes was sent to drive the French out of the Ohio Territory. The French withdrew from Fort Duquesne which left the British in control of the Ohio River Valley.  

Jeffry Amherst led the expedition against the French fortress at Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. Amherst lay siege to the fort and the French capitulated six weeks later. This was a bittersweet victory because the British had captured this fort during King George’s War. The peace treaty ending that war called for the British to return the fort to the French, which had enraged the British colonists. 

The third expedition led by Abercrombie moved to Fort Carillon with 18,000 regulars, militia and Indians. The French engaged them outside the walls of the fort with only 3 ,600 men. The British force even met the axiom that you need a force ratio of five to one to successfully assault a fortified position so it should have been an easy victory. Instead, the battle was a total disaster. The French soundly defeated the British in the Battle of Carillon. 

Abercrombie withdrew, but he did salvage something from the disaster by sending Lieutenant Colonel John Bradstreet on an expedition that destroyed Fort Frontenac. He also destroyed caches of supplies destined for New France’s western forts and furs destined for Europe. 

Major General Jeffrey Amherst-French and Indian War 1754-1763
Major General Jeffrey Amherst

Abercrombie was recalled and replaced by Major General Jeffery Amherst. 

The French had struggled in most theaters during 1758. They had a new foreign minister, duc de Choiseul who decided to focus on an invasion of Britain to draw British resources away from North America and the European mainland. The invasion failed militarily and politically.  

Meanwhile Pitt was planning major campaigns against New France, and he sent funds to Britain’s main foe in Europe, Prussia. Also, the French Navy lost two naval battles in 1759–Lagos and Quiberon Bay. On the plus side, some French supply ships were able to evade the British blockade. 

Fort Ticonderoga-French and Indian War 1754-1763
Fort Ticonderoga

The British were campaigning in the northwest Canadian frontier to isolate French frontier forts to the west and south. The British had committed adequate men, ordnance, and materiel and were, with a few exceptions, essentially unstoppable. They were overwhelming the French. They captured Fort Ticonderoga (French called it Carillon) and Fort Niagara. They also defeated the French at the Thousand Islands by capturing Fort Levis in the summer of 1759.  

The most pivotal battle was fought in September when after a hard fight British forces commanded by James Wolfe defeated Montcalm in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Both commanders were killed in this battle which resulted in the capitulation of Quebec. This was a big blow to the French, and in April 1760 the French attempted to retake Quebec. Francois Gaston de Levis led this attempt and although he won the Battle of Sainte-Foy, his siege of Quebec failed when British ships arrived to relieve the garrison. After de Levis retreated the British Navy scored a victory near the Restigouche River in New France, which interdicted supplies meant for Levis army. 

In July, Jeffrey Amherst led about 18,000 men in a three-pronged attack on Montreal. The three columns converged on the city and surrounded it in September after eliminating all French resistance along the way. Amherst laid a tight siege against Montreal. There many desertions, including Indian warriors, from the city. On 8 September 1760, de Levis and Marquis de Vaudreuil reluctantly signed the Articles of Capitulation of Montreal. The fall of Quebec and Montreal essentially completed the total conquest of New France by the British.  

Governor Vaudreuil and General Amherst negotiated a deal in Montreal in September that any French residents who chose to remain in the colony would be free to worship in their Roman Catholic tradition, to own property, and to remain undisturbed in their homes. This agreement did not last long because of the British Protestant colonist’s distrust of “popery,” 

Most of the fighting in North America ended in 1760 but continued in Europe between Britain and France. The main exception was the surprise French seizure of St. John’s Newfoundland. General Amherst dispatched a force commanded by his nephew William Amherst. They regained control of Newfoundland after the Battle of Signal Hill in September 1762. 

Once fighting ended, the British provided medical treatment for sick and wounded French soldiers. French regular troops were returned to France on British ships if they agreed not to serve again in the “present war.” 

Many British regular troops stationed in North America were reassigned to the West Indies where they captured French Martinique. They also captured Spanish Havana when Spain joined the conflict on the side of France. 

The French and Indian War and the Seven Years War officially ended on 10 February 1763 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. France ceded all its North American possessions east of the Mississippi River to Britain except for two small islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and fishing rights in the area. They recovered their lost Caribbean possessions. Spain traded Florida to regain Havana. The Spanish also gained Louisiana, including New Orleans, Britain and Spain agreed the Mississippi River would be open to vessels of all nations. 

The French and Indian War added considerable land area to the British colonies and finally established and stabilized borders. It also eliminated a hostile and aggressive enemy from those borders.  

In the wake of the French and Indian War, the Crown believed the colonists should help pay for the war and help pay for and house British troops assigned to protect the colonies. Colonial militia had provided troops for the war, and many believed the British troops were no longer needed. 

The Crown levied new taxes on the colonies. They were met with considerable resistance, but the British went on to pass the Intolerable Acts which infuriated the colonists even more. This was an irresistible force meeting an immovable object and led to the American Revolution. 

One good result of the French and Indian War was that colonial militias had proliferated and were better trained and better armed, and many had combat experience. Also, there was a whole generation of combat experienced colonial officers. Frontier Americans produced the first unconventional warfare military units with skills that were instrumental in future wars. 

Last of Mohicans Movie-French and Indian War 1754-1763
Last of Mohicans Movie-

The French and Indian War is ingrained in the American mind because of What it accomplished and for all the legends and literature that it spawned. The best known is the “Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper whose book is fictional but contains many facts. If you read the book, which generations of us have, or seen the movie you will recognize Monro’s retreat from Fort William Henry and the massacre that followed. Many towns and villages still commemorate French and Indian battles and have local museums containing artifacts from that war. ilur

Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence



Thomas Jefferson-Thomas Jefferson- Author of Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson

I admire Thomas Jefferson so much that I named my only son after him. Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, and the nation’s first secretary of state, second vice president, and third president. His phrase in the Declaration, “all men are created equal” was the most radical and revolutionary ever expressed. His words have come ringing through the years and are still used as a rallying cry for people all over the world who seek freedom. Next to George Washington, he is probably the most admired man in American history. 

President John F. Kennedy honored Jefferson at a 1962 dinner honoring 49 Nobel Prize winners by stating: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” This was quite a tribute to Jefferson. 

Thomas Jefferson was born on 13 April 1743 on his father’s 5,000-acre plantation, Shadwell. Shadwell is located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Rivanna River in the Piedmont region of central Virginia. His father, Peter Jefferson, was a successful planter and surveyor. His mother was Jane Randolph a member of one of the most distinguished families in Virginia. The Jefferson’s had two sons (Jefferson was the eldest) and six daughters. 

When Thomas was three years old the family temporarily relocated to Tuckahoe Plantation located in the Richmond area. The move was necessitated by the death of William Randolph III whose wife had preceded him in death the year before. Randolph’s will had a provision asking that Peter Jefferson come to Tuckahoe to care for his three orphaned children. Peter packed up his entire family and moved to Tuckahoe. 

The Jefferson and Randolph children lived together at Tuckahoe for six years when Thomas began his formal education. He boarded with a local schoolmaster to learn Latin and Greek. In 1760 he enrolled in the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. There he studied under William Small who brought the latest Enlightenment thinking from Scotland and he dined frequently with Governor Francis Fauquier and other high-ranking Virginia officials.  

Young Thomas was a very dedicated student. He studied science, mathematics, rhetoric, philosophy, and literature. He spent 15 hours a day studying, three hours practicing the violin, and six hours eating and sleeping. 

William and Mary educated the sons of the most wealthy and influential Virginia families. Thomas Jefferson became acquainted with many others that would become involved in future revolutionary politics and military. Away from college, he became acquainted with a young man whose pen would also become famous by becoming the voice of revolution—Thomas Paine. 

In 1762 Jefferson began legal studies under George Wythe who also taught John Marshall and Henry Clay. When he was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1767, Jefferson was probably the nation’s best-read lawyer. His practice involved representing mainly small-scale western county planters in land disputes. He gained a reputation as a formidable attorney but came across as an indifferent speaker and somewhat shy. 

Thomas Jefferson’s father had died in 1757. As eldest son, he officially inherited Shadwell in 1764 at 21 years old; however, he had to lease the property from his mother until she died in 1776 because she had a “life estate” for the property. He operated Shadwell mainly as a tobacco plantation.

Jefferson was a meticulous manager and record keeper and was actively involved in the slave trade to keep his slave population young and productive.  The records also indicated that he could be a hard taskmaster, and his punishment could be severe.

About 200 slaves were needed to operate Shadwell  and over Jefferson’s lifetime he owned around 600 slaves. He defended the institution of slavery most of his life, and he believed blacks were inferior to whites. His opinions were not unusual during his time. Most people in the south and many in the north agreed with Jefferson. 

Interestingly, in 1781 Jefferson authored “Notes on the State of Virginia,” which included a discussion of slavery. He described the terrible effects of slavery on both blacks and whites and asserted that it violated the principles of the Revolution.  He also stated his belief in the inferiority of blacks. His stated views on slavery seemed to place him in the forefront of the anti-slavery movement, but his actions did not back up his words in “Notes.”

From his childhood, Jefferson had dreamed of living on a mountain and in 1768, he made the decision to build his home on an 867-foot-high mountain on Shadwell Plantation. He eventually named his new home Monticello (Little Mountain in Italian). Also in 1768, he was a successful candidate for the Virginia House of Burgesses. 

Monticello-Thomas Jefferson-Author of Declaration of Independence

In 1770, fire destroyed the manor house at Shadwell. Thomas’ books and papers were lost in the fire. After the fire, Thomas moved to Monticello, which consisted of one small brick structure. (Now called the South Pavilion.) As construction continued over the years under Jefferson’s close supervision, he referred to Monticello as “my essay in Architecture.” He designed the complete structure. Throughout his career Jefferson would pursue politics with periods of seclusion at his beloved Monticello.  

Jefferson entered politics just as serious opposition to the taxation policies of the British Parliament was beginning. This provided him and many other colonial politicians with the vehicle which they would ride to fame and a new nation. 

Thomas Jefferson was freckled with reddish blond hair, hazel eyes, and a reddish complexion. He was tall for his day (about six feet two inches), awkward and gangly, shy, and was no public speaker. His writing was eloquent and powerful, but he rarely spoke in debates in the Burgesses or later in the Continental Congress. Jefferson’s compositions spoke for him. 

Martha Jefferson-Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence
Martha Jefferson

In 1772, Jefferson married Martha Wales Skelton, an attractive and delicate young widow whose dowry more than doubled his holdings in land and slaves. The couple moved into the partially completed Monticello. The marriage produced six children but only two daughters survived to adulthood. 

In 1774, Jefferson wrote “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” which was published without his permission. This essay stated that the colonies’ ties to Britain were a “voluntary loyalty” to the crown and made Jefferson known beyond Virginia as an early advocate of independence.  

Jefferson’s new reputation resulted in the Virginia legislature appointing him a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. He rode into Philadelphia—and into American history—on 20 June 1775 in an ornate carriage drawn by four horses and accompanied by three slaves, and with a firm belief in the American cause. 

Jefferson’s shyness and poor oratory prevented him from taking an active part in the congressional debates. John Adams remembered that he was silent even in committee meetings but always strongly supported independence. His main job was to draft congressional resolutions so on 11 June 1776 he was appointed to a five-man committee to draft a document to cite the reasons behind Richard Henry Lee’s resolution to break from Great Britain. 

The committee was composed of two New England men, John Adams of Massachusetts, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut; two men from the Middle Colonies, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert R. Livingston of New York; and one southerner, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. 

Presentation of Declaration of Independence-Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence
Presentation of Declaration of Independence

The draft was prepared in a few days with Jefferson being the main author of this document that would change the world. Jefferson later claimed he was not striving for “originality of principle or sentiment” but was seeking to provide “an expression of the American mind,” which meant putting into words ideas already accepted by most Americans. This describes the longest section of the Declaration, which cites the grievances against George III. It does not, however, describe the 55 words that are the bedrock of our Republic and probably the most momentous in human history: 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” 

Much to his chagrin, Congress debated and edited more than 20 percent of Jefferson’s document, but they made no changes to the above section. His contemporaries regarded the final Declaration as a collective effort of the congress, and Jefferson was not recognized as the principal author until the 1790s. 

Jefferson returned to Virginia in October 1776 and began an extensive reform of the state’s legal code to bring it in line with the principles of the Revolution. 

His three areas of reform suggest his own political vision. First, he proposed and secured changes that eliminated primogeniture (primarily inheritance by eldest male) entail (restriction of sale of estates to protect family and class possession) and all other remnants of feudalism that discouraged broad distribution of property. Second, he proposed education reform to guarantee access to lower levels of schooling to all citizens and state support for the most talented students to attend higher levels of education. Third, he advocated a law prohibiting establishment of a state religion and he proposed separation of church and state. 

The last two proposals were bitterly contested, particularly those on religious freedom, which were not enacted until 1786.  

These reforms demonstrate Jefferson’s vision of the role of government. He believed that the privileges and impediments of the past had to be left behind to allow the natural energies of individuals to flow freely. He saw the American Revolution as the first shot in what would become a global battle for liberation from despotic and coercive governments. History shows he was right. 

Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia in 1779 and was riding a wave of political success when disaster struck on two fronts. He was caught off-guard by a surprise British invasion of Virginia in 1780. The state was not prepared and was defenseless. His flight from the approaching British was somewhat unfairly described in the local press as a “cowardly act of abdication.” This would be recalled by his political enemies throughout his career. The second disaster was in September 1782 when his beloved wife died following the difficult birth of their third daughter in May. 

The two disasters caused him to vow to never again desert his family for the country, but this sincere vow was short-lived. He reluctantly agreed to again serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress in December 1782. His major, and especially important, contribution to this congressional session concerned the admittance of new states. Jefferson proposed and congress established that territories in the west had status equal to the original states once certain conditions were met (such as adequate population, and a functioning territorial government).  

Jefferson needed to escape things that reminded him of his beloved Martha, so in 1784 he agreed to replace Benjamin Franklin as American minister to France. Legend has it that he agreed to “succeed” Franklin noting that no one could replace him.  

During his five years in France, Jefferson accomplished little diplomatically mainly because no European power wanted to have treaty relations or trade with a nation they believed would fail. The American government was obviously weak and Great Britain controlled over 80 percent of America’s trade. Efforts by Jefferson to reopen French markets failed since France was already moving towards a political crisis and a brutal revolution. 

Jefferson did help negotiate a $400,000 loan from Dutch bankers, but John Adams who was minister to the Court of St. James (Britain) was the main negotiator. This loan allowed America to consolidate its European debts. 

During his Paris years Jefferson enjoyed the local arts, wine, and food, but warned American tourists to avoid the sins of European society. He brought his two daughters to Paris because of his love for them, but he placed them in a convent. He then wrote them stern lectures about proper behavior. Jefferson, however, had a steamy and very public affair with Maria Cosway, a married woman. 

Jefferson also had a long sexual relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. She had accompanied him to Paris. Some believe this relationship began in France when his affair with Cosway ended, but I doubt this. I believe the Sally Hemings relationship began before his appointment to France. I don’t think he would have brought her to France if she was not already a sexual partner. Jefferson fathered several children with Hemings, and their descendants are now recognized as part of the Jefferson family. 

 As Louis XVI tried to address France’s financial crises, Jefferson believed the French Revolution would be bloodless and result in a constitutional monarchy. Influenced by moderates like the Marquis de Lafayette, he was oblivious to the fact that the French were about to explode into the bloody Reign of Terror. Jefferson believed the French Revolution would follow the American model. He was lucky to depart France in late 1789 just at the onset of mob violence. 

George Washington-Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence
George Washington

When Jefferson returned to the new United States, he was tapped by President George Washington to serve as the first secretary of state. This was a tall order because there had never been a lasting republican nation the size of the United States and no one was sure of how it would turn out. 

Jefferson had been in France during the 1787-1788 constitutional debates and the state ratifying conventions, so he entered the bitter debates of the 1790’s without a history of constitutional convictions. Unlike his close friend James Madison, his major concern was that the Constitution did not include a Bill of Rights. 

During his 1790-1793 service as secretary of state, Jefferson was responsible for foreign policy, but the cabinet was divided into three factions. All embraced the neutrality doctrine but differed on what neutrality looked like. Washington and Vice President John Adams favored absolute neutrality, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton pushed for a pro-English neutrality, and Jefferson favored a pro-French neutrality. Jefferson believed the Franco-American treaty of 1778 obliged the US to this policy to honor the French support during the American Revolution. 

Jefferson also insisted that the French Revolution embodied the “spirit of 76” and even when it turned into a blood bath of executions and mayhem, he insisted they were temporary excesses. He further believed the excesses were justified by larger and more important issues. He never repudiated this view.

When Jefferson was informed of Shay’s Rebellion in 1786, he stated: “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” This attitude dovetails with his view of the French Revolution. 

The Jefferson view of foreign policy never wavered from his admiration of the French. Even after his retirement from office in 1793, he actively opposed the Neutrality Act of 1793 and the Jay Treaty in 1795. He saw these as betrayal of the French and as pacts with the British “harlot.”  

John Adams-Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence
John Adams

John Adams was president 1797-1801 and since Jefferson received the second most votes, he was elected vice president. Jefferson worked behind the scenes to undermine Adams’ efforts to maintain absolute neutrality. Jefferson blamed the “Quasi-War” with France on “our American Anglophiles” rather than the French. His view was that England was corrupt and despotic and France was enlightened and the wave of the future.  

On the domestic scene, Jefferson saw the efforts to develop a strong central government as a plot to subvert the true meaning of the American Revolution. Alexander Hamilton was working to establish a federal financial system and Jefferson was bitterly opposed to Hamilton. Jefferson believed the Federalists were trying to install monarchy and an American aristocracy to rule the country.  

The Federalists and Anti-Federalists formed political parties because of their bitterly different visions on the role of government. George Washington and some others believed the formation of political parties was divisive, but it was a natural progression of organization. The parties called themselves Federalists and Republicans (later Democratic-Republicans).  

Early American politics were very turbulent, personal, and nasty. Today’s politics are much the same, but Jefferson and his contemporaries had just won a brutal revolution against one of the strongest military powers in the world at that time. They had laid out the principles and purposes of a completely new type of government in the Constitution, but now they had to make it work. This was not an easy task and most of the world believed they would fail. I believe they very may well have failed if not for George Washington who was a strong, stabilizing, and calming influence who brought real class to the American image. 

The founders were spiritual, intelligent, tough, opinionated, and ambitious. Each one saw the role of government differently. All of them were willing to fight for their vision of government and some were willing to destroy their opponents any way they could. In the end, they did great, and the government of “we the people” emerged. 

The partnership of Jefferson and James Madison was especially powerful. John Quincey Adams described the partnership as follows; “the mutual influence of these two mighty minds on each other is a phenomenon like the invisible and mysterious movements of the magnet in the physical world.” Their opposition to a strong central government gained them the label of “traitors” by the Federalist press. 

Jefferson was duplicitous and hypocritical in his dealings and some historians are negative about his moral and public character. He was leading a political party while insisting that parties were “evil agents.” In 1796 he unsuccessfully ran for president against John Adams while claiming he did not know he was a candidate. 

The 1800 election was one of the most fiercely contested and nastiest campaigns in American history. The Federalist press described Jefferson as a pagan and atheist, conspirator against the Washington-Adams administrations, a utopian dreamer, an anarchist, and a cunning behind-the-scenes manipulator of Republican propaganda. He was guilty of the last accusation. 

Always acting through intermediaries, Jefferson paid journalists to libel his old friend John Adams and he offered the vice presidency to Aaron Burr for delivering New York’s electoral votes. When Burr and Jefferson tied for the top job, the House, after a lot of backroom wheeling and dealing, elected Jefferson on the 36th ballot. Burr was elected vice president. 

Many wondered if the new nation could survive a Jefferson presidency since he was so defiantly against a strong central government. It was believed by some that he would completely dismantle the government that he had helped found. Despite the worries this was the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in the nation’s history. 

Jefferson gave his inaugural address on 4 March 1801 and his tone was conciliatory stating that “We are all republicans—we are all federalists.” He described his election as a return to the original intentions of the Revolution after those who had erroneously believed in a powerful central government. The people he said, were now unburdened of government restrictions. 

Once he selected a cabinet the real work of governing began. Jefferson had few cabinet meetings because he preferred to conduct business in writing. He did the same with Congress and gave all his presentations in writing. During his two terms as president, Jefferson only delivered two speeches—his inaugural addresses. This was due to his poor oratory skills, and his desire to reduce the visibility of the president. 

Louisiana Territory-Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence
Louisiana Territory

By far the major achievement of Jefferson’s first term, and of his presidency, was the purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803. Nepoleon needed the cash to finance a new war with England. The cost of fifteen million dollars was a huge sum in 1803 and it substantially increased the national debt; however, in the long run it was a stupendous bargain. Louisiana stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and essentially doubled the size of the United States. It also removed the threat of a major foreign power from America’s borders. 

Many historians believe the Louisiana Purchase was the boldest executive action in American history. Jefferson suffered considerable criticism for his action, but he never wavered. He correctly saw it as the future of the country. Even before word of the French approval reached the United States in July 1803, Jefferson dispatched his private secretary, Merriwether Lewis, to lead an exploration of Louisiana and beyond to the Pacific Ocean. 

Jefferson easily won reelection in 1804 over Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and his policies continued to reflect his desire for decentralization. He was dismantling much of the government including the military and federal tax programs. His policies initially enjoyed success because the pause in war between England and France allowed trade with both countries resulting in American prosperity. 

The prosperity did not last long because Napoleon’s war against England resumed resulting in naval blockades in the Atlantic and Caribbean that severely curtailed American trade. Jefferson responded with the Embargo Act of 1807. This act made matters worse because American trade with the major powers was too small to influence their actions and only American traders suffered. In addition, enforcement of the act required coercive powers that Jefferson opposed on principle.  

Despite significant pressure to take sides in the Napoleonic War, Jefferson attempted to maintain American neutrality. This action only enraged the belligerents.  

Jefferson’s second term was marred by some actions that were contrary to his eloquent words. The Federalist Party was dead, but some opposition survived, particularly in New England. Jefferson was outraged by the persistent attacks on his policies and character and instructed the attorneys general in those states to seek indictments against his detractors. This was a clear violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution and of Jefferson’s stated support of a free press and freedom of expression. 

Aaron Burr was also a victim of Jefferson’s wrath. Burr had killed popular Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and many wanted him tried for murder. He was later accused of treason because of a mysterious expedition to the American Southwest and Spanish Texas. Burr allegedly planned to detach some territory from the United States and to establish himself as dictator in Texas. Jefferson illegally issued an order to convict Burr without a trial and sent federal agents to pursue him.

The charges of treason against Burr were never proved because of a distinct lack of evidence. Burr turned himself in and was tried twice and was acquitted both times. Jefferson still demanded Burr be convicted and the feds still pursued him.  Finally Chief Justice John Marshall served as judge in the final Burr trial. Burr was again acquitted.  

Jefferson’s demands for a guilty verdict against Burr and the pursuit by federal authorities was clearly unconstitutional, illegal, and unbecoming of the President of the United States. 

By the time he left office in March 1809, Jefferson was a tired and beaten, and I would say bitter man.  He was anxious to retire to his beloved Monticello. 

Jefferson maintained an active schedule in retirement. His day was organized. He rose at dawn, bathed his feet in cold water, and spent the morning on his correspondence (one year he wrote almost 1,300 letters), and working in his garden. Each afternoon he took a two-hour ride around his grounds. Dinner was usually with his daughter Martha and her 12 children and many guests. Monticello sometimes housed 50 guests. The lack of privacy caused him to build another house on his Bedford estate about 90 miles away for occasional seclusion. 

University of Virginia-Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence
University of Virginia

Three architectural projects consumed Jefferson during his life and remain as his physical legacy. Monticello was always a work-in-progress that was never completed. This beautiful neoclassic manor house and grounds attract thousands of visitors every year. The mansion at Bedford (Poplar Forest) is also neoclassic and a perfect octagon. The site of the University of Virginia was selected and surveyed by Jefferson. He chose the Pantheon of Rome as the model for the rotunda, which is flanked by two rows of living quarters for students and faculty. 

The university embodies everything Jefferson. He selected the books for the library, defined the curriculum, picked the faculty, and chaired the Board of Visitors. Unlike other colleges and universities of the day, the University of Virginia had no religious affiliation and imposed no religious requirements on students. There was no code of conduct except a self-enforced honor system. 

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were giants of the American Revolution, but they became political enemies during the tumultuous formation of political parties in the 1790’s. In 1812 Benjamin Rush successfully arranged a reconciliation between the two. He described them as “the North and South poles of the American Revolution.” They had genuine differences in their concept of government, but they respected each other, and they exchanged 158 letters between 1812 and 1826. Most historians believe these letters are the most intellectually impressive correspondence between statesmen in American history. 

In late June 1826 Jefferson was invited to attend the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in Washington, D.C. Jefferson could not attend because he was in no physical condition to leave Monticello, so he drafted a statement to be read in his place. These were his final words to the people of the United States: 

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.… All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of men. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” 

As these words were being read in Washington, Jefferson was dying at Monticello. He died about half past noon on 4 July 1826. His last conscious words were the preceding evening when he asked, “Is it the Fourth?” In Quincy, Massachusetts, John Adams was also dying. He died in the afternoon of 4 July 1826, and his last words were: “Thomas Jefferson still lives.” It is amazing but fitting that these two American giants should die on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.  

Thomas Jefferson is buried at Monticello. He designed his gravestone and dictated the epitaph which reads:                                              

Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia

Thomas Jefferson Gravestone-Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson Gravestone-

The original monument was erected in 1833 but visitors chipped off fragments for souvenirs. This stone was removed to protect it. Congress funded a new granite stone which was erected in 1883. The family donated the original stone to the University of Missouri in 1885. Missouri was a part of the Louisiana Territory.

Like many of our founders, Jefferson was deeply in debt during his later years. However, Jefferson had been in debt most of his life because of debt inherited from his father-in-law in his wife’s dowry, but mostly because of his lavish lifestyle. By the end of his life, he owed more than $100,000.00 (several million dollars today) and there was no way his heirs could inherit any of his estate. Everything, including Monticello, was auctioned off and Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, was forced to accept charity to sustain her family. 

Jefferson Memorial Washington, D.C.-Thomas Jefferson-Author Declaration of Independence
Jefferson Memorial Washington, D.C.-

Jefferson has been honored in so many ways that I cannot possibly catalog them. I will only say that his memorial in Washington, D.C. is simple and one of the most beautiful. His commanding statue stands before one of his famous statements etched into the wall: 

“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” 



At the start of this bio I expressed how much I admire Thomas Jefferson. I recognize that he had many serious flaws, however, his flaws make him a normal man. I could never admire a man that seemed perfect because I would know it coudn’t be true. 

Ideas and decisions are made and influenced by our personal beliefs and the culture we live in. Society is always evolving, and beliefs change. Even religion evolves over time. My family fought on both sides of the Civil War when thousands of white men died to free black slaves.  Jim Crow and segregation were eliminated in my time and today black and brown people enjoy the same rights as whites, which fulfills Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence.

I am proud of all my ancestors and all Americans who have preceded me. They made decisions that were often flawed, but they made decisions and then lived with the results. 

The Bible declares: “judge not, lest ye be judged.” Maybe we should all remember that passage and try to live by it. 


King George’s War-1744-1748



Sketch of King George II-King George's War-1744-1748
Sketch of King George II

King George’s War (George II) is the fourth in a series of five early colonial wars we are reporting on. Like two of the earlier wars, King George’s War was the colonial theatre of a war in Europe. The heaviest fighting and most of the casualties occurred in the northern British colonies of New York, Massachusetts Bay (including Maine), New Hampshire (including Vermont), and Nova Scotia. Casualties were also very high in the Ohio Valley. As in previous wars, Indian tribes allied with the colonists and suffered the heaviest casualties. The Wabanaki Confederacy was allied with the French and the Iroquois tribes were allied with the British. 

War began between Spain and Britain in 1739. This war was mostly maritime and confined to the Caribbean, Spanish Florida, and the British colony of Georgia. Georgia had been established to serve as a buffer between the Carolinas and Spanish Florida and was doing the job. Spanish privateers operating from St Augustine effectively attacked British shipping from the Carolinas and Georgia for years causing significantly increased trade costs. 

The European conflict, the War of the Austrian Succession, began in 1740. It was nominally over the legitimacy of the accession of Maria Theresa to the Austrian throne. The conflict involved all the Continental European monarchies who were always grasping for more power and property. Britain and France were involved, but initially tried avoid the fighting. This ended in 1743 when British troops that had been sent to the continent were attacked by the French. 

Although Britain and France began fighting in 1743, war between them was not officially declared until 15 March 1744. When news of the war declarations reached the French colonists at Fortress Louisbourg on 5 May they acted quickly to protect their overland supply lines to Quebec. They attacked and destroyed the important British fishing port of Canso, Nova Scotia. Fifty British families were taken prisoner and held at Fortress Louisbourg.  

The French attacking force had sailed from Fortress Louisbourg located on Cape Breton Island. This fort protected the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, which provided access to the Atlantic Ocean for important French outposts of Quebec and Montreal. The fort was also an important base for privateers who were effectively harassing and plundering British shipping. The British quickly recognized that they needed to destroy or neutralize this fort. 

The French and their Indian allies that destroyed Canso also planned to recapture Annapolis Royal (previously French Port Royal), the British capital of Nova Scotia. However, they were unable to execute the plan so in July they opted to attack Fort Anne. This fort protected the Annapolis Royal harbor.  

The Fort Anne garrison was prepared, and the French siege plan failed. The French lacked adequate heavy weapons and withdrew after a few days. In mid-August, the French again attacked Fort Anne and again were unsuccessful. 

Governor William Shirley-King George's War-1744-1748
Governor William Shirley

In 1745, Massachusetts Governor William Shirley raised 4,000 troops and the money to finance them. These troops were to be commanded by Maine Colonel William Pepperell. Their daunting but critical objective was to capture or destroy Fortress Louisbourg. This fort was one of the strongest in North America. It featured strong masonry walls 20 to 30 feet high and was defended by 100 cannon. 

The British attackers had an ace in the hole. They were armed with detailed information about the fort’s defenses and troop morale. This intelligence had been obtained by former British prisoners from Canso who had been held in the fort. The prisoners had been allowed to roam the fort freely and those with past military experience collected the information. 

In April, the British force sailed to Fortress Louisbourg. Vice Admiral Sir Peter Warren’s Royal Navy fleet was wisely positioned to block any French reinforcements. The fort had formidable defenses seaward, but the land approach had much weaker defenses. The French believed a land attack was unlikely. (This thinking is reminiscent of British defense of Singapore in World War II.)  

On 28 June, after a six-week siege followed by a ground assault, the British captured Fortress Louisbourg. This was the most important strategic victory by either side during King George’s War. It also crippled the lucrative French fur trade that had been contributing to the treasury of France. 

Colonel Sir William Pepperell-King George's War-1744-1748
Colonel Sir William Pepperell

Colonel Pepperell was later rewarded by King George II with the title of Baronet. The first American colonial to be honored this way 

Indian allies of the French retaliated for the loss of Fortress Louisbourg by launching their Northeast Coast Campaign. This was a series of attacks on British settlements on the border of Acadia in Maine. About 30 settlers were killed or captured, and many structures were destroyed. Skirmishes and raids were also happening along the northern British colonies and New France border. 

Royal Army Major Geneal Sir William Johnson-King George's War-1744-1748
Royal Army Major Geneal Sir William Johnson

The Ohio Valley frontier was claimed by both Britain and France, and the French were slightly more successful in that area. Their strong position at Crown Point on Lake Champlain was used as a staging base for Indian attacks on British settlements. Royal Army Major General Sir William Johnson retaliated by organizing Iroquois strikes against French positions. Losses on both sides in the Ohio Valley were extremely high but no clear winner emerged.  

On 28 November 1745, a unit composed of 400 French troops and 220 Indians attacked the western frontier village of Saratoga, New York. They killed 30 British colonists, took 100 prisoners, and destroyed the village. The British then abandoned their settlements north of Albany, New York because they could no longer be defended. 

In 1746, the French assembled a large force that was tasked to recapture Fortress Louisbourg and then move against Boston, Massachusetts. However, a major storm scattered the French fleet, and the plan had to be abandoned. A force of 900 French and Indians then raided the Hoosic River Valley near Williamstown, Massachusetts, and captured Fort Massachusetts. 

In 1747, French and Indians attacked Grand Pre, Nova Scotia killing about 70 British soldiers. In 1748, Indian allies of the French conducted an ineffective raid on Schenectady, New York. 

King George’s War ended when France, Britain and the Dutch Republic signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle on 18 October 1748. The treaty established that all land, places, and possessions seized during the war in the colonies be returned to the original owners. Most borders between French and British colonies were left unsettled. 

The colonists had no voice in the treaty negotiations and the British colonists were infuriated about returning Fortress Louisbourg to the French. The French and British colonists hated each other and both mother countries wanted total control of North America. War in the colonies never really stopped, it just returned to the lower level of conflict along borders and Indian raids on the frontier. It was essentially guerrilla warfare and very brutal. Encroachment on Indian land continued and resulted in small but extremely brutal conflicts. 

Iroquois Warrior-King George's War-1744-1748
Iroquois Warrior

Soon after the treaty was signed France and Britain began to quarrel over borders and over ownership of the Ohio River Valley. King George’s War, like earlier wars, had settled nothing. Many, especially Indians, had died in vain, and it was only a matter of time until the next war. 

The next official war, the French and Indian War, exploded on the scene only six years later. It involved larger numbers of French and British regular troops, colonial militias, and Indian tribes. It was even more bloody and brutal than earlier wars. 

George Taylor-Servitude to Founder



Portrait of George Taylor-Servitude to Founder
Portrait of George Taylor

George Taylor’s journey to becoming a founding father differed significantly from others and is one of the more interesting. He imigrated from Ireland in 1736 as an indentured servant to an ironmaster where he learned his lifelong trade. He entered Pennsylvania politics and eventually became a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Of the 56 signers, Taylor was one of only three born in Ireland, the only former indentured servant, and the only tradesman. Sadly, Taylor died before the end of the Revolutionary War and did not witness freedom from England. 

NOTE: Indentured Servitude was an economic system that was popular in the early modern period in Europe and North America. In contrast to chattel slavery, indentured servitude required that a worker sell their labor at no wage in exchange for a fixed payment or to fulfil a legal obligation. These indentures had no regulations for working conditions and sometimes led to brutal working conditions. As a result, many servants died before their obligations had been fulfilled. The debt was then transferred to their living family members. While indentured servitude differed from slavery in its terms and social status, it too was a system of unfree labor that sometimes led to the misery and death of its victims. 

Little is known of George Taylor’s early life. He is believed to have been born in the north of Ireland about 1716. He was probably the son of a Protestant clergyman. Based on his reading and writing skills it is likely he received a good basic education in Ireland. 

Taylor arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1736. To pay for his passage, he had been indentured to Samuel Savage, Jr., who was ironmaster at Coventry Forge northwest of Philadelphia in Chester County. Taylor started as a laborer shoveling coal into the furnace. When it was discovered that he had some education, he was moved to a clerk position. 

In 1738, Savage and his mother, Anna Savage Nutt, built a second mill in Chester County, Warwick Furnace. Three years later, Savage died, and the following year Taylor married his widow, Ann. George and Ann had two children, one girl who died early and a son who survived into adulthood. 

George Taylor had learned the ironmaking business and became ironmaster, managing both ironworks for the next ten years. During that time, the ironworks grew and prospered, and George and Ann became wealthy. In 1747 George was appointed captain in a Chester County militia group, his first public service. 

When Ann’s son, Samuel III, reached legal age in 1752, he became owner of the mills according to the terms of his father’s will. Ann did keep a life right to two farms. 

Artist Depiction of Durham Iron Works-George Taylor-Servitude to Founder
Artist Depiction of Durham Iron Works

The Taylors continued to live at Warwick Furnace until 1755 when George formed a partnership to lease the Durham Furnace in Upper Bucks County for five years with an option for another five years. They moved into the mansion house on the property. This furnace produced cannon ammunition for the Provincial Pennsylvania Government during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). 

Taylor became active in Upper Bucks County and Durham politics in 1757 when he was commissioned justice of the peace. He was commissioned again in 1761 and 1763. 

While still living in Durham, Taylor bought a small stone house in Easton in Northampton County at a 1761 sheriff’s sale. He also acquired a lot across the street where he built a stone stable. The Taylor family moved to this house when the Durham lease expired in 1763 and lived there for about five years. In 1765 they bought a nearby house and sold it to their son, James for 5 shillings and “their natural love and affection.” 

Taylor was elected to the Provincial Assembly in 1764 and served until 1769. He was commissioned justice of the peace for Northampton County serving from 1764 to 1772. 

George Taylor Lehigh Mansion-George Taylor-Servitude to Founder
George Taylor Lehigh Mansion

In 1767 Taylor purchased 331 acres about 15 miles west of Easton. He built an impressive stone mansion on a bluff overlooking the Lehigh River. This home still stands today. Sadly, George’s wife Ann died in 1768. The location of her grave was not recorded. 

Taylor returned to Durham in 1774 having entered into a five-year lease with Joseph Galloway the owner of the ironworks. He leased the ironworks, mines, quarries, forges, and blast furnaces in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The ironworks produced a wide variety of commercial products including Franklin stoves.  

In 1775, Taylor negotiated a contract to produce grape shot, cannon balls, bar shot and cannon for the Continental Army. Taylor received little compensation for supporting the war effort and his wealth decreased significantly. 

In 1775, following the Battle of Bunker Hill, Taylor was commissioned colonel of the 3rd battalion of militia. This was the county’s first step to prepare for the coming conflict with England. 

In October 1775, George Taylor was sent to the Pennsylvania Assembly where he helped draft instructions for the state delegation to the Continental Congress. The instructions were straight forward, do not vote for separation. 

Public sentiment hardened against the Crown and the instructions were rescinded in June 1776. Several delegates still refused to vote for Independence, so on 20 July the Assembly chose five replacements: George Taylor, George Ross, George Clymer, Dr. Benjamin Rush, and James Smith. 

All five replacements travelled to Philadelphia and signed the Declaration of Independence when it was ready for signatures on 2 August 1776. Of the 56 signers, George Taylor was one of only three born in Ireland, the only former indentured servant, and the only tradesman. He had made quite a social and political climb. He was an early example of achieving the American Dream. 

George Taylor was active in the Congress serving on the committee that drew up resolutions calling for the states to raise troops. In January 1777, Congress selected him to arrange and preside at the Indian Treaty Conference in Easton, Pennsylvania. He was elected to the new Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council in March but soon resigned due to illness. 

Taylor’s lease of the Durham Ironworks continued through 1779, but the property was seized because the owner, Joseph Galloway, was a Loyalist and traitor who had fled to the British. The authorities tried to evict Taylor, but the Supreme Executive Council allowed him to complete the terms of his lease 

The Durham Ironworks was sold in 1779 by the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates. It was purchased by George Taylor, Richard Backhouse, Isaac Sidman, and Robert Hooper Jr. Backhouse took over management of the ironworks, and Taylor moved to New Jersey to lease and run the Greenwich Forge in Warren County. 

Taylor moved back to Easton, Pennsylvania in early 1780. He had sold his estate along the Lehigh River and his property in Easton, so he leased a house at Fourth and Ferry Streets.  

George Taylor died on 23 February 1781. He did not live to see the end of the Revolutionary War. He was buried in St. John’s Lutheran Church Cemetery across the street from his fourth and Ferry Streets residence. In 1870 the church property was sold to make room for a school and his body was moved to Easton Cemetery.  

George Taylor Monument & Grave-George Taylor-Servitude to Founder
George Taylor Monument & Grave

Local residents had erected an impressive black Italian marble monument in honor of George Taylor in the Easton Cemetery in 1854. In April 1870, his body was moved again and re-buried in front of the monument. 

Taylor left half of his estate to his five grandchildren (his son James had died in 1775). The other half was left to the five children he had fathered with his housekeeper, Naomi Smith. He never married Naomi. Unfortunately for the beneficiaries, his estate proved to be insolvent. 

George Taylor is not widely known, but he was a patriot. By signing the Declaration of Independence, he risked his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor. He was a hardworking man who started about as low as you possibly could as an indentured servant. He achieved wealth and lived comfortably but when his country called, he answered the call. Serving his country depleted his wealth but he gained the esteem and respect of his contemporaries. 

I want to conclude with what an unknown admirer of George Taylor wrote:  

“George Taylor was one of the brilliant and forceful men of his time, an earnest and ardent patriot in the trying times of his adopted country’s needs, a fearless and able legislator seasoning every act of his long public career, by hard robust, conservative common sense.” 

Queen Anne’s War 1702-1713


Portrait Queen Anne of Great Britain-Queen Anne's War 1702-1713
Portrait Queen Anne of Great Britain

Queen Anne’s War was the third in a series of five early North American wars involving the colonial powers of England, France and Spain and their Indian allies. Once again, war in Europe spilled into the colonies. This time it was the War of Spanish Succession which was fought during the reign of Queen Anne of Britain to prevent the union of the French and Spanish thrones following the death of King Charles II of Spain.  

In North America the Indians and the colonists were continually engaged in low level, but very lethal, conflict. The European settlers gradually pushed into each other’s territory, and they all encroached on Indian lands. The resultant clashes could be very brutal and bloody. The European powers and their colonists were competing for full control of the North American continent. The Indians just wanted all the whites out. These groups were more than willing to raise the conflict level to full-scale war. 

The British colonies were the most populous and stretched from Massachusetts Bay Province in the north to Carolina in the south. Most of the population was concentrated along the coast although a few settlers had reached the east slope of the Appalachian Mountains. Some in Carolina had established trade relations with Indian tribes in the interior.  

The French occupied Acadia (Nova Scotia) and Canada and had pushed to the mouth of the Mississippi River. They established a settlement near present day Biloxi, Mississippi. From there they established trade with western Indian tribes, which interfered with British traders from Carolina. Newfoundland and Hudson Bay had both French and British settlements resulting in uneasy relationships. 

The third European power in North America was Spain. They occupied La Florida where they established a network of missions to convert the Indians to Catholicism and to focus their labor. (A euphemism for enslaving the Indians.) There were conflicting territorial claims between Carolina and Florida south of the Savannah River which was complicated by religion. The Protestant British and the Catholic Spanish loathed each other. 

The Indians were resisting the loss of their ancestral lands, but they realized that in the end they could not defeat the Europeans. Many tribes allied themselves with the Europeans that they thought would give them the best deal. However, in the end, they always lost more land and more warriors.  

In addition, all the Indian tribes had suffered from the endemic infectious diseases the Europeans carried, such as smallpox and VD. The Indians had no immunity to these diseases and had experienced extremely high mortality rates. 

The British were organized into militia companies, but there was little in the way of a regular military presence. The French also had militia companies but had a 500-1,200-man professional defense force that was spread throughout New France. Florida was defended by only a few hundred regular Spanish troops. 

The Colonists and the Indians were armed with smooth-bore muskets. The Indians also carried tomahawks and some bows. Colonial backwoodsmen also carried tomahawks, which was a very lethal and effective weapon in close quarters. The few fortifications were mostly wooden palisades, but most settlements had only individual fortified wooden houses. The only stone fortifications were St. Augustine, Boston, Quebec City, St. John’s, and Port Royal. 

Queen Anne’s War was fought on four fronts: 

    1. In the South–Spanish Florida, British Carolina, and French Louisiana (Parts of present-day Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.)
    2. New England (Connecticut Colony, Rhode Island Colony, Providence Plantations, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, and New Hampshire Colony.), French Acadia (Nova Scotia), and Canada.
    3. Newfoundland
    4. Maritime. 


The South 

Portrait of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville-Queen Anne's War 1702-1713
Portrait of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville

As early as the turn of the eighteenth century, prominent English and French colonists believed that control of the Mississippi River was key to future development and commerce. Both sides developed plans to achieve control and prevent the other’s access. After King William’s War, French Canandian explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville developed “Project sur la Caroline ” a plan to ally with the Indian tribes in the Mississippi watershed to force the English off the continent or at least to the coastal areas. 

In pursuit of “Project sur la Caroline,” d’Iberville established Fort Maurepas near the mouth of the Mississippi River in 1699. He began to use this base and Fort Louis de la Mobile (established 1702) to make alliances with the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Natchez People, and other tribes. 

The English in Carolina were also actively establishing trading networks across the southwestern part of the continent to the Mississippi River. They had little fear of the Spanish in Florida but recognized the threat posed by the French. Carolina governors Joseph Blake and James Moore planned expansion to the south and west to counter French and Spanish interests. 

In January 1702, d’iberville asked the Spanish to organize Indian warriors to attack the English. In response, the Spanish organized a force commanded by Francisco Romo de Uriza which moved out in August to attack English trading centers. The English had warning, however, and prepared a defense at the head of the Flint River. They routed the Spanish and killed or captured 500 Indians. 

After hearing of the hostilities, Carolina Governor Moore led a force of 500 soldiers, militia, and 300 Indians against Spanish Florida. They captured and burned the town of St. Augustine but were unable to take the fort. They withdrew when a Spanish fleet from Havana arrived. 

The Apalachee and Timucua tribes in Florida were virtually wiped out in an expedition by Governor Moore. This raid became known as the Apalachee Massacre of 1704. Many of the survivors relocated to reservations in the Savannah River area. 

In 1706, Carolina repulsed an attack on Charles Town by a combined Spanish and French amphibious force. The attack had originated in Havana. 

The Muscogee (Creek), Yamasee, and Chickasaw were armed and led by English colonists. They dominated the French and Spanish Indian allies. English raids for the rest of the war were mainly conducted by Indians with a small number of whites and included major attacks on Pensacola in 1707 and Mobile in 1709. 


New England, Acadia, and Canada 

The French claimed the Acadia border was the Kennebec River in southern Maine and they and the Wabanaki Confederacy frustrated New England expansion into Acadia. In 1703, a few French Canadians and 500 Indians under the command of Michel Lenauf de la Valliere de Beaubassin attacked New England settlements along the coast. They killed or captured more than 300 settlers. 

New Englanders were unable to defend against French raids, and many of the raids were to secure captives to be held for ransom. Families and communities struggled to raise ransoms. Children were usually adopted by Indian families and were assimilated into the tribes losing their identities. Many adults were sold into slavery. 

In February 1704, fifty French Canadians and 250 Indians attacked Deerfield in Massachusetts Colony. They destroyed the settlement killing many and taking more than 100 captives. In August French and Indians raided Marlborough (now Westborough) taking many captives. 

Artist Rendering of Benjamin Church-Queen Anne's War 1702-1713
Artist Rendering of Benjamin Church

Despite their inability to defend their settlements, the New England colonists were able to retaliate. An Expedition commanded by famous Indian fighter Benjamin Church raided Grand Pre, Chignecto and other French settlements. Casualties were not reported.     

French Priest Father Sebastien was believed to have incited the Norridgewock tribe against New England, so Massachusetts Governor Dudley put a price on his head. In the winter of 1705, the colony dispatched 275 militia under the command of Colonel Winthrop Hilton to Norridgewock to capture Sebastien and sack the village. The priest was warned about the raid and escaped but the English burned the village.  

French and Wabanaki continued raiding northern Massachusetts Colony until the end of the war. The English were never able to mount a good defense against them.  

In May 1707, Governor Dudley organized an expedition commanded by John March to take Port Royal. This 1,600-man force was unable to take the fort, and a follow-up attempt in August also failed. In October 1710, a force of 3,600 British and colonial troops led by Francis Nicholson captured Port Royal. This ended French control of the peninsular portion of Acadia. Resistance and raids along the Maine frontier by the French and Wabanaki continued until the end of the war. The remainder of Acadia (now eastern Maine and New Brunswick) remained disputed territory. 

Artist Depiction of Iroquois Warriors-Queen Anne's War 1702-1713
Artist Depiction of Iroquois Warriors

The French in the heartland of Canada opposed attacking New York because they did not want to arouse the Iroquois. They were more fearful of the Iroquois than the British. New York merchants were opposed to attacking New France because it would interrupt the highly profitable Indian fur trade. Much of this trade came through New France. Despite being pushed to fight, the Iroquois tried to remain neutral throughout the war. 

Francis Nicholson and Samuel Vetch obtained assistance from the Queen for an assault against New France in 1709. The plan was for an overland assault on Montreal via Lake Champlain and a naval assault on Quebec. The plan was aborted when the promised naval support did not show up. The Iroquois were to support this attack but managed to delay until it was obvious the plan would fail. The organizers accompanied by Indian chiefs managed to obtain royal support for the successful capture of Port Royal and for another attack on Quebec in 1711. 

The 1711 plan again called for land- and sea-based attacks but the execution was a disaster. Fifteen ships of the line and transports carrying 5,000 ground troops were under the command of Admiral Hovenden Walker. They arrived at Boston in June which doubled the city’s population. They sailed for Quebec in late July. Sailing in fog, an undisclosed number of ships foundered on the rocky shores near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River. Seven hundred troops were lost, and Walker withdrew. Nicholson had reached Lake George when he was informed of the naval disaster. He also turned back. 

The Iroquois had provided several hundred warriors for the Montreal expedition. However, they had also warned the French of the expedition, effectively playing both sides of the conflict. 



The Coast of Newfoundland was characterized by scattered French and English settlements, and seasonal European fishing stations. Principal towns were fortified–the French at Plaisance on the west side of the Avalon Peninsula and the British at St. John’s on Conception Bay. Most British settlements had been destroyed during King William’s War and the island again became a battleground. 

In August 1702, a British fleet commanded by Commodore John Leake attacked vulnerable French settlements on the coast. The French retaliated during the winter when Governor Daniel d’Auger de Subercase led a French and Mi’kmaq force that destroyed several English settlements. They also unsuccessfully besieged Fort William at St. John’s. 

The French and their allies continued harassment during the summer causing considerable damage. In 1706 the English sent a fleet that destroyed French fishing outposts on the northern coast. A French, Canadian and Mi’kmaq force in December 1708 captured St. John’s and destroyed the fortifications, however, they could not hold it and the British reoccupied it in 1709. 



In addition to the naval activity noted in the previous sections, French privateers based in Acadia and Placentia roamed American waters and dealt a severe blow to New England fishing and shipping industries. The privateers took 102 British prize ships into Placentia, second only to Martinique in the Caribbean. The British had not yet become master of the seas. Brittania did not rule the waves and the French were kicking their rear ends in the Americas. 



Peace came in 1712 when Britain and France declared an armistice. Queen Anne’s War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Britain won Acadia (Nova Scotia), sovereignty over Newfoundland, the Hudson Bay region, and the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts. France recognized British dominance over the Iroquois. They also agreed that commerce with Indians farther inland would be open to all. France retained the islands in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, including Cape Breton Island, and retained fishing rights in the area. 

Portrait Royal Governor Joseph Dudley-Queen Anne's War 1702-1713
Portrait Royal Governor Joseph Dudley

Once again, the treaty did not address Indian interests and concerns. The Abenaki had grown tired of war despite French prodding, and they made peace with New England. Governor Dudley of New Hampshire arranged a peace conference in Portsmouth. Negotiations took place there and at Casco Bay.  

The Abenaki objected to the French ceding eastern Maine and New Brunswick to the British. They did agree to the boundary being the Kennebec River, and to government-run trading posts in their territory. Unbelievably the agreement gave the British sovereignty over Abenaki territory. This “Treaty of Portsmouth” was signed by eight Abenaki tribes on 13 July with others signing later. The Mi’kmaq never signed any treaty until 1726. 


Results of Queen Anne’s War 

Taken in its totality Queen Anne’s War accomplished little. The British gained some territory, but the inhabitants of that territory resisted for years. The French agreed to open the Mississippi River watershed to trade by all nations. The Indians lost ground and population again and were pushed farther west.  

Although New England was the scene of much fighting, they suffered less economic damage than other areas because Boston became an important shipbuilding and trade center. In addition, the area experienced a financial windfall because of the Crown’s military spending in the area. 

The economic costs of the war in the south were high, but there were insignificant territorial changes. The Indian population of Florida was decimated, and the network of Catholic missions was destroyed. The Spanish hold on Florida was permanently weakened. 

British colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia saw little military action during the war but suffered economically. Shipping of their products (mainly tobacco) to Europe was less secure and more expensive and they had several bad harvests. 

Just as in previous colonial wars, too many borders and other problems were left unresolved, and nobody was really satisfied with the outcome. The colonists generally ignored treaty agreements they didn’t like. The Indian tribes had again suffered significant casualties on behalf of their colonial allies with no rewards, and they had lost more of their territory to the colonists.  

Continued instability in Europe, the encroachment of the colonists into each other’s and into Indian territory, and Indian unrest led to a resumption of low-level conflict. Another major war was inevitable. 

William Floyd Stepped Up in New York


Portrait of William Floyd-William Floyd Stepped up in New York
Portrait of William Floyd

William Floyd was a New York state politician and a wealthy Suffolk County farmer. He represented New York in the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The signers mutually pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor and Floyd paid the price when the British destroyed his property. He served in the New York Senate and in 1789 he was elected to the first Congress under the United States Constitution serving until 1791.  

William was the eldest child of a prosperous Long Island family of Welsh descent. He was born on 17 December 1734 in Brookhaven Township, which is now known as Mastic, Long Island. His parents were Nicholl Floyd and Tabitha Smith.  

The Floyd family occupied a 4,400-acre farm that had been purchased by William’s grandfather from the Tangier Smith family about 1688. The house where William was born was built by his father in 1723. 

Since the Floyd family was wealthy and well connected, William would be expected to receive the best education available; however, fate intervened. When he was 17 years old his father died and being the eldest son, he inherited the estate and the responsibility that accompanied it. William did an outstanding job of rapidly learning how to manage such a large estate and how to profit from his products and his tenant farmers. 

Reconstructed Manor House-Mastic Long Island-William Floyd Stepped Up in New York
Reconstructed Manor House-Mastic Long Island

The property was highly productive with grains, forage, vegetables, orchards, and livestock. Since the property fronted on the Atlantic Ocean, William had a shipping dock for trade and for access to a variety of seafood. As estate owner, he dealt with a variety of trades people including carpenters, masons, farriers, and butchers. William’s education was a practical one. He thrived on his responsibilities and increased the family wealth and prestige. 

As a successful, wealthy, and responsible landowner, William earned stature and influence in his community. The Floyd manor house welcomed an extensive circle of political and business connections as well as persons from other distinguished families. Many of the visitors had excellent formal educations and William absorbed much knowledge from them. 

On 23 August 1760, William Floyd married Hannah Jones (or Johnes). Hannah was the daughter of William Jones of Southampton, Long Island. The couple had three children who all lived to adulthood. Little is known about Hannah, but we do know she was very patriotic and supportive of William’s political activities. She took over management of the estate because William’s political activities were requiring more time, and he was seldom home. She reportedly did an excellent job.  

The 1763 Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in Europe and the French and Indian War in the American colonies; however, it ushered in the American march to revolution. The wars had been quite expensive for Britain and the Crown looked to new taxes on the colonies to recover some of the costs. New taxes were also meant to require the colonies to pay more for protection by the British military. The American colonial population did not agree with the taxing logic and resisted. 

As relations with Britain continued to deteriorate, men like William Floyd began to become even more prominent in politics. Floyd became active in Eastern Long Island, particularly in the town of Brookhaven where he was a trustee and an officer in the local militia. In 1769 he was elected to the Provincial Assembly where he became acquainted with political figures from other parts of New York Colony. 

Artist Depiction Battle of Lexington/Concord-William Floyd Stepped Up In New York
Artist Depiction Battle of Lexington/Concord

By 1775 relations with Britain had gotten worse and bloodshed occurred at the Battle of Lexington/Concord on 19 April. Soon after, Floyd was selected to be a New York delegate to the First Continental Congress. He became busy serving on several committees, and on 5 September he became colonel of the Western Regiment of Suffolk County Militia. Floyd split his time between congress and his military duties and kept the New York Provincial Congress informed on matters before the Continental Congress. 

Floyd’s time in the Continental Congress was steady and supportive but he seldom spoke. South Carolina delegate Edmund Rutledge described Floyd as among the “good men who never quit their chairs.” 

Signing the Declaration of Independence-Trumbull-William Floyd Stepped Up In New York
Signing the Declaration of Independence-Trumbull

While General Washington, using the cannon Colonel Henry Knox had brought from Fort Ticonderoga, forced the British out of Boston, Congress was considering independence. New York had not instructed its delegation on the matter, so they were silent during the debate. They were unable to vote on Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence on 2 July or for the final draft on 4 July. They received instructions to vote for independence on 11 July, which resulted in a “unanimous declaration.” William Floyd and other delegates began signing the Declaration of Independence on 2 August 1776. 

The British defeated Washington in the Battle of Long Island on 27 August 1776 and proceeded to overrun the entire island, including Floyd’s home during the next three months. Hannah Floyd barely had time to bury the family silver before the British soldiers arrived and destroyed the estate. Hannah, her three children, and a few neighbors fled across the island and sailed across Long Island Sound to Middletown, Connecticut to shelter with friends. 

On 17 October 1776, William Floyd announced to Congress that “I am now going to try to get some of my effects from the island if it is possible, and shall be absent from Congress a few days, I beg you would excuse me as it is the first time I have absented myself.” Testament to the respect that Floyd had earned, Connecticut Governor Jonathon Trumbull sent an armed party across Long Island Sound to recover the remaining Floyd possessions. 

Floyd never skimped on his responsibilities to his Militia unit or to Congress. He attained the military rank of Major General and served on several committees in Congress. He served a brief time in the New York Senate, but in January 1779 he was sent back to the Continental Congress. 

Hannah Floyd died in Middletown on 16 May 1781 as a result of exposure, fatigue, stress, and unspecified illness. Apparently, the flight from their Long Island estate had long-term effects. 

In 1783, after the war ended, Floyd returned to Long Island to find his estate consisted of ransacked buildings, desolate fields, uprooted trees, burned fences, lost livestock, and an unlivable house. He set to work to rebuild, but he also acquired land on the Mohawk River in Oneida County, which was in the frontier area of New York. 

Widower William Floyd married Joanna Strong on 16 May1784. Joanna was the daughter of Benjah Strong and Martha Mills. William and Joanna had two children who both lived to maturity. Little is known about Joanna. 

On 4 July 1787, Floyd was elected an honorary member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati. In March 1789, he was elected to the first United States Congress under the new Constitution serving until 3 March 1791. He was a presidential elector in 1792 voting for George Washington and George Clinton. 

Floyd Manor House-Westernville, NY-William Floyd Stepped Up In New York
Floyd Manor House-Westernville, NY

The Long Island estate was transferred to William’s son Nicoll in 1794. William and family moved to the large tract of land in Oneida County that he had purchased about ten years previously. In the area now known as Westernville, he built a new home that was essentially a copy of the one at Mastic. 

In 1795, Floyd ran for Lieutenant Governor of New York with Robert Yates on the Democratic-Republican ticket, but they were defeated by Federalists John Jay and Stephen Van Rensselaer. Floyd was a presidential elector in 1800, voting for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr and in 1804 when he voted for Jefferson and George Clinton.    ilr

Floyd was again chosen as a presidential elector in 1820 but he did not attend the Electoral College meeting. Age apparently was catching up with him. Martin Van Buren served in his place. 

Floyd Grave-Westernville Cemetery-William Floyd Stepped Up In New York
Floyd Grave-Westernville Cemetery

Retirement to Oneida County was short for Floyd who died on 4 August 1821. He is buried in the Westernville Cemetery. Joanna Floyd died on 24 November 1826 and is buried next to William. The Floyd graves at Westernville are marked by a large rectangular monument with a plaque recognizing William as a signer that was attached by the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. William is also memorialized by a large horizontal stone at the Floyd Cemetery at Mastic. 

William Floyd is remembered in New York by a statue at the Chamber of Commerce at Mastic and Shirley, by the William Floyd school district, the William Floyd Armed Forces Memorial, and the town of Floyd. The Mastic property of Willam Floyd is now a part of the Fire Island National Seashore and is open to the public. Eight generations of Floyds have managed this 25-room mansion and property. The Westernville home is still occupied and in private hands. 

King William’s War-1689-1698




William III and Mary II-King William's War-1689-1698
William III and Mary II

King William’s War was the North American theater of the Nine Years’ War in Europe. The events in Europe began in 1688 when England’s Catholic King James II was overthrown in the “Glorious Revolution.” England had a significant Catholic population but was overwhelmingly Protestant. The throne was taken by James’ daughter and her husband the Prince of Orange who were Protestants and jointly ruled as William III and Mary II.  James fled to France; a Catholic nation ruled by Louis XIV. The King of France believed in the “divine right of kings” and did not believe in the right of any group to depose any monarch. Consequently, Louis welcomed James to his court and supported his claim to the English throne. ilr 

The Nine Years War was primarily a struggle between Catholic France and Protestant England, although other nations were involved. The English, the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire formed an alliance known as the League of Augsburg to counter French military aggression. 

The Nine Years War spilled into the New World where both France and England had colonies. Their North American colonies were already conflicted over boundaries and were struggling for control of North America, particularly the lucrative fur trade. 

The predominantly Protestant English settlers numbered about 154,000 outnumbering the French by 12 to 1. The English advantage in numbers was, however, diluted by the fact that they were divided into multiple colonies along the Atlantic coast. Also, the English colonies did not cooperate very well, became engulfed in the Glorious Revolution, and lacked effective military leadership.  

Catholic New France was more politically unified in three entities: Acadia on the Atlantic coast, Canada along the Saint Lawrence River up to the Great Lakes, and Louisiana from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico along the Mississippi River. The French population was disproportionally adult male with military backgrounds. Although both sides used allied Indian tribes as force multipliers, the French did it better and made more effective use of hit and run tactics. 

The Indian tribes usually played both sides against the middle quite effectively, but the English allied with the Iroquois Confederacy and the French with the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Iroquois dominated the economically important Great Lakes fur trade and had been at war with the French since 1680 attempting to divert the fur trade from the French to the English. 

Before we begin discussing the war, it is appropriate to review the world the North American settlers lived in. We read about the people and what they accomplished without realizing how dangerous colonial North America was. The country was wild and untamed and was inhabited by numerous Indian tribes that ranged from very warlike to peaceful. However, no Indian tribe wanted to be displaced from their ancestral lands.  

Bison ranged into central Pennsylvania. Bear, mountain lions, and other dangerous predators were native to the entire continent. The land was often extreme and unforgiving to those unprepared and many new settlers died in the midst of plenty. The major cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Charleston were connected by crude road systems and waterways, often through wilderness. Frontier settlements were subject to raids by hostile Indian tribes. War and Indian raids were extremely brutal. Muzzle loading muskets became clubs after the first shot and fighting became hand-to-hand with knives, tomahawks, clubs, and fists. Only the bravest, toughest, and most fit survived and many of those died from disease. 

Indians often killed slowly and cruelly, and the settlers responded with as much and even more cruelty. White children were often taken hostage and sold as slaves or integrated into the tribe thereby losing their identity. 

We see the pictures of men wearing silk clothing and powdered wigs working in ornate surroundings, and women in flowing gowns, but they were the minority. Even these elite lived in conditions that we would consider primitive. The common people were mostly poor and lived in very crude and difficult conditions. I once read that in 1860 you were more likely to meet a violent death than you are to die in today’s combat. It was even worse in 1760. 

Back to the war: 

Map of Dominion of New England-King William's War-1689-1698
Map of Dominion of New England

The northern English colonies had united as the Dominion of New England in 1686 and had been pushing their borders northward into New France. The French were countering by establishing Catholic missions in present day Maine. 

In April 1688, St. Castin’s Trading House in Maine was plundered by English Governor Sir Edmund Andros. In retaliation the Baron de St. Castin and the Wabanaki began raids along the border of New England and Acadia. 

Portrait of Sir Edmund Andros-King William's War-1689-1698
Portrait of Sir Edmund Andros

On 13 February 1689, William III and Mary II officially replaced James II. When news of the Glorious Revolution reached New England in March talk began about overthrowing the Dominion of New England. In April, a mob in Boston overthrew Governor Andros but the organization survived.  

On 17 May England declared war on France, which changed the American hostilities from localized incidents to serious war against committed enemies. The pace of killing increased significantly. 

On 27 June 1689, French allies Abanaki and Pennacook Indians raided Dover, New Hampshire killing 20 and taking 29 captives who were sold into slavery. They also killed four men in Saco, Maine. The English raised 24 men to recover bodies and pursue the Indians but were forced to retreat after losing six. 

Portrait of Baron St. Castin-King William's War-1689-1698
Portrait of Baron St. Castin-

Baron St. Castin attacked New Dartmouth (Newcastle, Maine) on 13 August killing a “few.” This became the first “official” battle of King William’s War. Castin and Father Louis-Perry Thury led an Abanaki war party that destroyed the English fort at Pemaquid in Acadia, which was a serious tactical setback for the English. Castin then attacked Kennebunk, Maine killing two families. 

Also in August, 1,500 Iroqouis warriors attacked the French settlement at Lachine, Quebec. Then Governor General Count Frontenac attacked the Iroquois village of Ononaga, New York. Casualties were not reported in either engagement but were probably high. 

Portrait of Major Benjamin Church-King William's War-1689-1698
Portrait of Major Benjamin Church

The English responded to French actions when Major Benjamin Church conducted the first of his four expeditions into Acadia. In September 1689, Church’s force of 250 soldiers moved to Falmouth to protect the English settlers from Wabanaki warriors. The Wabanaki killed 21 of Church’s men but he was able to force the Indians to retreat. Church then returned to Boston leaving the English settlers unprotected. 

Artist Rendition of French and Indian Winter Attack-King William's War-1689-1698
Artist Rendition of French and Indian Winter Attack

The French were much more aggressive and effective, and in the dead of winter 1690, Count Frontenac organized three expeditions into English territory. One into New York, one into New Hampshire and one into Maine. The progress of these expeditions was marked by plunder, burning and death. 

The 8 February Schenectady, New York Massacre resulted in 60 killed. Thirty-four were killed in the attack on Salmon Falls, New Hampshire on 27 March. On 16 May at Falmouth, the French captured Fort Royal and killed at least 200 settlers who had survived the 1689 massacre. The fall of Fort Royal led to the near depopulation of Maine and exposure of New Hampshire to unopposed attacks. 

Portrait of Sir William Phips-King William's War-1689-1698
Portrait of Sir William Phips

The English responded with a force under the command of Sir William Phips attacking the capital of Acadia, Fort Royal on 9 May. Phips arrived with 736 New England men in seven English ships. Governor de Meneval defended for two days before capitulating The English destroyed the new fort, took control of the settlement, and forced the French inhabitants to declare their “allegiance” to the King of England. 

Phips withdrew but more warships from New York City arrived in June. The English burned and looted the settlement before returning to New York. The French then moved the capital of Acadia to safer territory at Fort Nashwaak (present day Fredericton, New Brunswick). The capital was not returned to Fort Royal until 1699. 

Benjamin Church’s second incursion into Acadia was in September 1690. He led 300 men to “reduce” the Indian population and relieve Fort Pejepscot (present day Brunswick, Maine). He attacked Fort Pejepscot and then attacked an Indian village at Livermore Falls killing three or four as they retreated. They then discovered five English captives and butchered six or seven Indians and took nine prisoners. The Wabanaki retaliated by attacking Church at Cape Elizabeth, Maine on Purpooduc Point. The Indians killed seven and wounded 24. Church withdrew to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. 

Attempting to build on their success at Fort Royal, the English launched a two-pronged attack against French Canada in the fall of 1690. Phips assaulted Quebec with 2,200 Massachusetts troops and was repulsed. General Fitz-john Winthrop was targeted against Montreal with New York and Connecticut militia reinforced by Indian warriors. He failed due to disease and supply problems. The English never launched another major offensive during the war. They fell back to mainly defensive operations and retaliatory raids. 

Portrait of Chief Madockawando-King William's War-1689-1698
Portrait of Chief Madockawando-

The Candlemas Massacre, also known as the Raid on York, took place on 24 January 1692. Chief Madockawando and Father Louis-Perry Thury commanded 200-300 Indians that attacked York, Maine killing about 100 English settlers and capturing about 80. About 500 French and Indians attacked Wells, Maine on 10 June 1692, but the English defeated them after a 48-hour siege.  

Benjamin Church launched his third campaign into Acadia in 1692 leading about 450 troops on raids in the Penobscot region of Maine. Casualties were not reported. 

In the spring of 1692, the Salem, Massachusetts Witch Trials began in the midst of King William’s War. Some historians believe the trials were partly caused by the tension and stress of the war. This could be true but was not included in my research. Suffice it to say, Massachusetts was distracted from the war. The trials finally ended in 1693. Nineteen people had been hanged, one was pressed to death, and a handful died in jail awaiting trial. 

King William’s War continued with mostly sporadic and minor contacts. However, on 18 July 1694, French Soldier Claude-Sebastien de Villieu led about 250 Indians that raided Durham, New Hampshire killing and capturing about 100 English settlers. They also burned about half the dwellings in what became known as the Oyster River Massacre. The French also raided York, Maine and Groton, Masachusetts slaughtering many.

In 1696, Castin and Wabanaki Warriors fought a naval battle in the Bay of Fundy and raided Pernaquid. They then began the Avalon Peninsula Campaign and destroyed nearly every English settlement in Newfoundland.  

In retaliation, Church conducted his fourth campaign into Acadia. He attacked Fort Nashwaak, which was the capital of Acadia. He also raided Chignecto killing the inhabitants of that settlement. 

On 15 March 1697, the French and Indians attacked Haverhill, Massachusetts Bay. Also, the war’s major naval battle, the Battle of Hudson Bay, occurred when one French ship defeated three English ships. The French went on to capture York Factory, an English settlement and important trading post. 

The last battle of the war was the Battle of Damariscotta, Maine on 9 September 1697. English Captain John March led a force that killed 25 Indians. 

The Nine Year’s War in Europe ended on 30 October 1697 when the Treaty of Ryswick was signed. The treaty stipulated that the North American borders between New France and the English colonies would remain unchanged. Some disputed territories were still left unresolved. King William’s War ended officially on 7 January 1699 when the Abenaki and Massachusetts Bay signed a peace treaty at Casco Bay, Maine. 

The Iroquois Five Nations had suffered greatly during the war because of the weakness of their English allies. The French and their Indian allies had ravaged Iroquois towns and had destroyed their crops causing wide-spread hunger while the English remained passive. 

Abandoned entirely by the English after the peace treaty, the Iroquois remained at war with New France until 1701. A peace agreement, known as the Great Peace of Montreal, made peace between New France, the Five Iroquois Nations, and more than 35 other Indian nations. 

King William’s War unfortunately did not settle any of the problems of the competing colonial powers. English and French settlers continued to violate each other’s territory. In addition, the French, English and Spanish still hated each other. This hatred came from their European roots and their open warfare in North America. Settlers clashing over land and forcing Indians from their ancestral lands made for a very volatile world. This continued unrest and friction resulted in the outbreak of the next war, Queen Anne’s War in 1702. 

No matter who said it first, the following quote fits here: “only the dead have seen the end of war.” 



Caesar Rodney-Delaware’s Finast

Statue Caesar Rodney in US Capitol-Caesar Rodney- Delaware's Best
Statue Caesar Rodney in US Capitol

Caesar Rodney was an American hero who neglected his own health to serve in many Continental and state positions. His lifetime struggle with severe asthma and deforming cancer would have relegated most men to the sidelines. He died young but accomplished much including signing the Declaration of Independence. He was a militia officer during the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War and was president of Delaware during most of the Revolution. His overnight ride to vote on the Declaration was the stuff of legends. 

Caesar Rodney was born on 7 October 1728 on the family plantation, Poplar Grove (Byfield today), located on St. Jones Neck in East Dover Hundred in Kent County, Delaware. He was the eldest son of eight children of Caesar Rodney and Elizabeth Crawford.  

The only formal education young Caesar Rodney received was at the Latin School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which ended when his father died in 1746. At age 17, he was the oldest male and therefore heir to his father’s estate. He became responsible for the care of his mother and siblings, and for managing Poplar Grove plantation. Poplar Grove was already a successful and prosperous farm, and the Rodneys were influential members of the local gentry. Caesar was also placed under the guardianship of Nicholas Ridgely, a prominent citizen of Dover, Delaware. It is believed that Ridgely was the source of Rodney’s interest in politics. 

We know that Caesar’s health was terrible. He was tormented his entire life by severe asthma and during his adult life he suffered from a facial cancer. He underwent expensive, painful, and totally futile medical treatments for the cancer. Rodney always wore a green scarf to hide his disfigured face. Despite his health problems, he put all his energy into becoming the single most valuable and productive citizen in Delaware.  

Eighteenth century Delaware was socially and politically divided and volatile. There were two major political parties. The majority Court Party worked well with the colonial government and favored reconciliation with Britain. The minority Country Party favored independence. Despite being members of the gentry, Caesar and his brother Thomas identified with the Country Party. 

The political career of Caesar Rodney began in 1755 when he was appointed sheriff of Kent County. After serving three years he was appointed and elected to many more positions, including Register of Wills, Recorder of Deeds, Clerk of the Orphan’s Court, Justice of the Peace, and judge in the lower courts. He was commissioned captain in the Dover Hundred militia company during the French and Indian War.  

Caesar was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and was a leader of the Delaware Committee of Correspondence. He was Speaker of the Delaware Assembly when Delaware voted to sever all ties with Britain on 15 June 1776. From 1769 through 1777, he was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Lower Counties. 

Thomas McKean, George Read and Caesar Romney served in the Continental Congress from 1774 through 1776. Rodney’s most famous exploit occurred during the debate on the Declaration of Independence. Richard Henry Lee   introduced his resolution for independence on 7 June 1776, which resulted in weeks of contentious debate. Unanimous consent on independence was eluding the congress, so they recessed. During the recess, the Delaware State Assembly released their delegates to vote their individual judgment. 

Artist Depiction of Rodney ride to Philadelphia-Caesar Rodney-Delaware's Finest
Artist Depiction of Rodney ride to Philadelphia

Rodney was in Delaware dealing with militia and Loyalist problems. In Philadelphia, the Delaware vote on independence was deadlocked with McKean “for” and Read “against.” McKean sent a courier to Rodney advising him of the deadlock and he immediately left for Philadelphia. He rode all night through a torrential rainstorm and arrived at Congress on 2 July 1776 muddy, wet, and fatigued but “booted and spurred.” The 80-mile trip had taken eighteen hours and unfortunately Rodney also arrived seriously ill. He broke the Delaware tie which led to the unanimous vote for independence on 4 July 1776. All three Delaware delegates signed the Declaration of Independence in August.

Caesar’s own account of his ride and vote was contained in a letter to Thomas which reads: “I arrived in Congress (tho detained by thunder and rain) time enough to give my voice in the matter of independence…We have now got through the whole of the declaration and ordered it to be printed so that you will soon have the pleasure of seeing it.” 

Loyalist Sentiment in Kent County was strong so Rodney’s vote earned him rejection. He lost his attempt to join the state legislature and was not returned to the Continental Congress. 

Rodney’s friend John Haslet was killed while rallying troops during the 3 January 1777 Battle of Princeton, New Jersey. (The Battles of Trenton [26 December 1776] and Princeton were major morale boosters for the Continentals before they went into winter quarters.) Despite his poor health, Rodney rushed to the Continental Army to fill Haslet’s place, but his friend General Washington believed he would be more useful in Delaware. 

Caesar Rodney served as Delaware’s wartime governor and as major general of the Delaware Militia. The militia was busy dealing with conflicts between Loyalist and Patriot groups in the state and defending against the many British incursions. The British Navy often sailed into Delaware’s many rivers foraging for food, intelligence, and to press men into service. The British also occupied northern Delaware, and at the request of General Washington, Rodney took field command to oppose them. Also, under Rodney’s leadership, Delaware had a record of exceeding its quotas of troops and provisions for the Continental Army.  

In October 1777 Rodney and McKean were returned to the Continental Congress, and Rodney was elected President of Delaware in March 1778. Ratification of the Articles of Confederation was quite contentious in Delaware and consumed much of his flagging energy. Rodney was quite frail. Poor health was catching up with this man who was giving his all to the birth of the nation. 

Rodney was elected to the United States Congress under the Articles of Confederation in 1782 and 1783 but was too ill to attend. He was elected to the Delaware Legislative Council in 1783 and as a final gesture of respect he was appointed speaker. The Council met in Caesar’s home because of his rapidly failing health, but he died before the session ended. 

Rodney Grave Monument-Dover Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery-Caesar Rodney-Delaware's Finest
Rodney Grave Monument-Dover Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery

Caesar Romney died on 26 June 1784 and was buried at his beloved home of Poplar Grove on Byfield plantation. There is a large grave marker for Caesar at Dover Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery, but it is believed a relative is buried there. Most historians believe that Caesar is buried in an unmarked grave in the unmarked family plot at Poplar Grove just east of present-day Dover Air Force Base. He was never married, and willed his estate to his nephew, Caesar Augustus Rodney. The will also provided for the gradual freedom of his Poplar Grove slaves. 

Rodney’s health was bad his entire life. He had severe asthma and endured disfiguring and painful facial cancer for years. Under those circumstances, most men would have withdrawn from the public eye. Rodney, however, immersed himself in service including serving in Congress, and serving in the military during wartime. No Delaware citizen in history has come close to holding the number of significant offices that Caesar Rodney held during his career. Rodney literally worked himself to death helping to found the United States of America. 

There are no known portraits of Caesar Rodney, and we have only two reliable descriptions of him. His brother Thomas described him as having “a great fund of wit and humor of the pleasing kind, so that his conversation was always bright and strong and conducted by wisdom…” The only physical description of Caesar was an entry in the diary of John Adams in September 1774. Adams wrote: “Saturday…this forenoon Mr. Caesar Rodney of the lower counties on Delaware River..was introduced to us. Caesar Rodney is the oddest looking man in the world; he is tall, thin and slender as a reed, pale; his face is not bigger than a large apple, yet there is sense and fire, spirit, wit and humor in his countenance.” 

Rodney Statue Being Removed-Wilmington, Delaware-Caesar Rodney-Delaware's Finest
Rodney Statue Being Removed-Wilmington, Delaware

A statue of Rodney represents Delaware in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. A large equestrian statue of Rodney, memorializing his famous ride, is in Rodney Square in downtown Wilmington, Delaware. (This statue was removed in July 2020 to “protect” it and to allow a “discussion” on monuments of slave owners.) A Delaware school district is named after him. 

Caesar Rodney was a true American patriot whose real monument cannot be removed by those who desecrate statues of patriots and seek to rewrite history. Rodney’s real monument and legacy are his signature on the Declaration of Independence, and other contributions to the cause of freedom that all Americans, including the statue desecraters and removers, still enjoy. 

Signers of the Declaration of Independence-Trumbull-Caesar Rodney-Delaware's Finest
Signers of the Declaration of Independence-Trumbull

Early Colonial Indian Wars

 On 6 March 2022, I published an article entitled “King Philip’s War 1675-1678,” which was an early bloody and destructive Indian war in New England. Conflict between early settlers and Indigenous Indian tribes was inevitable. The settler’s numbers always increased, and they pushed the  Indians west. 

I did some further research after the King Philip’s War article and found it was the first in a series of five Indian wars between 1675 and 1763. During that time most Indian leaders realized that the settlers would eventually overwhelm them, so many allied their tribes with warring European powers to earn a better deal. These alliances did not get them a better deal. The alliances cost the lives of many warriors and they were still pushed out of their land. 

To put the above into perspective, I am posting a slightly modified version of “King Philip’s War.” During the next four months I will publish articles on King William’s War-1688-1689, Queen Anne’s War 1702-1713, King George’s War 1744-1748 and culminating in the bloodiest of all, The French and Indian War 1754-1763. 

These five wars decimated or annihilated many Indian tribes, but many European soldiers and settlers also died. Unfortunately, the wars were also precursors to the many Indian wars the United States would experience until the late nineteenth century.  


King Philip’s War

The 1675-1676 King Philip’s War was a conflict between the New England Colonies and the Wampanoag Indian tribe. Also known as Metacom’s War or the First Indian War, it was the single greatest disaster of 17th century New England. In proportion to population, it was the deadliest war in American history. The war was brutal and bloody. It resulted in the virtual elimination of several Indian tribes and the total destruction of many colonial settlements. It was the last major effort by the Indian tribes to drive the colonists out of New England. The war officially ended with the Treaty of Casco Bay in April 1678. 

Artist Depiction of King Philip-King Philip's War
Artist Depiction of King Philip

This war is named for Metacomet, the Wampanoag chief who adopted the name Philip because of the friendly relations between his father and the Pilgrims. When the Pilgrims settled Plymouth Colony in 1620, they tried to maintain good relations with the native population. The Wampanoag was the first tribe to contact the settlers and they were able to build exceptionally good relations with them. They peacefully traded and exchanged information and gifts.  

Relations began to be strained as a flood of new people began to settle in New England. Unlike the Pilgrims and Puritans who were escaping religious persecution, the new settlers were mostly motivated by profit, which is a not terrible thing, but resulted in a push into Indian lands. The colonies of Rhode Island and Connecticut were founded and as the population rose the Indians could see that they were rapidly losing ground. Also, the critical communication between the early religious settlers and the Indians was being diluted by the greater number of settlers. The Indians were a proud people and greatly resented the intrusions.  They were beginning to realize that resistance was their only option. 

Another factor leading up to war was that King Philip became chief when his older brother, Alexander died. Alexander had been arrested by the English on suspicion that he was planning a war against the colonists. Alexander pledged his loyalty and was released but he had contracted an illness while in Plymouth and died on the way home. Many Wampanoag believed he had been poisoned by the colonists. 

After Philip became chief in 1671, the colonists believed he was planning to avenge Alexander’s death. There was no evidence to support this belief and shows that the colonists were becoming paranoid about Indian intentions. Colonists summoned Philip to Taunton, Massachusetts where they demanded he sign a treaty that required his tribe to surrender their arms. Philip signed. 

A series of incidents in January 1675 set loose the dogs of war. John Sassamon, a Christian Indian told Plymouth’s governor, Josiah Winslow, that King Philip was planning attacks against the colony. Winslow was slow to react, and on 29 January Sassamon was found dead. An Indian informant claimed he witnessed three Wampanoags murder him. The colonists arrested the three and tried and executed them on 8 June. War began soon afterward. 

King Philip led a confederation of his tribe and several other tribes including the Nipmucks, Narragansetts and Pocumtucks. The Mohawks and Mohegans allied with the colonists. The colonists were a New England Confederation of the Massachusetts Colony, New Haven Colony, Plymouth Colony and Connecticut Colony. 

Artist Depiction of Indian Attack-King Philip's War
Artist Depiction of Indian Attack-

Hostilities began on 20 June 1675 when a band of Pokanoket warriors attacked homesteads in the Plymouth Colony settlement of Swansea. They laid siege to the town and destroyed it five days later killing several people. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay sent a punitive force that destroyed the Wampanoag town of Mount Hope. Skirmishes and small raids continued through June. 

On 2 August, Nipmucks ambushed a colonial military unit before attacking Brookfield, Massachusetts and laying siege to the survivors of the ambush. The Indians were driven away two days later by colonial reinforcements. Seven colonists were killed near Lancaster, Massachusetts on 22 August and on 25 August, a three-hour battle near Hatfield, Massachusetts resulted in the deaths of 40 Indians and several soldiers. 

Artist Depiction of Pending Ambush -King Philip's War
Artist Depiction of Pending Ambush

On 1 September, Wampanoag and Nipmuck warriors raided Deerfield, Massachusetts and the next day attacked Northfield, Massachusetts. A relief force commanded by Captain Richard Beers was dispatched to Northfield, but they were ambushed on 4 September losing about 21 killed including Captain Beers. On 18 September Captain Thomas Lathrop was leading 80 men to Deerfield and was ambushed near Northampton. Lathrop and at least 60 of his men were killed. 

In October, a Massachusetts Bay militia unit was ambushed by Nipmucks at Bloody Brook with unknown casualties. The next Indian target was Springfield, Massachusetts, the largest settlement on the Connecticut River. The Indians burned most of the town causing settlers to take shelter. Reinforcing militia managed to drive off the Indians.  

In December, Plymouth Colony governor Winslow led a force of about 1,000 militia and Indian allies against the Narragansett who were wintering at a fort in a frozen swamp. Known as the Great Swamp Fight, Winslow’s force killed about 600 Indians, burned their fort, and destroyed most of their winter stores. 

King Philip established winter quarters with about 500 warriors in New York. The Mohawks launched a surprise attack against Philip in February 1676 and killed more than 70 Wampanoag. Philip withdrew his crippled force to New England. The Mohawks pursued Philip and attacked Algonquian settlements along the way.  

On 10 February 1676, about 400 Nipmucks attacked Lancaster, Massachusetts killing more than 30 colonists. Twenty-four colonists were taken prisoner, including the minister’s wife and child. Four days later, King Philip and his remaining warriors attacked Northampton, Massachusetts. They killed a few colonists and burned many homes. 

On 21 February, about 300 Nipmucks infiltrated Medfield, Massachusetts during the night and fired on the inhabitants as they emerged in the morning. They burned between 40 and 50 homes. On 25 February, the town of Weymouth, Massachusetts was attacked and partially burned. 

March of 1676 was a highly active month for the Indians. On 12 March, warriors attacked William Clark’s garrison at Eel River near Plymouth killing eleven. The Indians also captured the garrison’s provisions, guns, and ammunition, and burned the garrison. The next day, Nipmucks attacked Groton, Massachusetts killing one and burning 65 homes. Refugees leaving the town were ambushed and two more were killed. 

On 17 March, Warwick, Rhode Island was destroyed, and on 26 March Longmeadow and Marlborough, Massachusetts were attacked. Nipmucks attacked  colonial forces near Sudbury, Massachusetts on 27 March. The next day Indians attacked Rehoboth, Massachusetts (now named Seekonk). They burned 40 homes and 30 barns and killed one resident. On 29 March Providence, Rhode Island was attacked, and all 30 homes of the town were burned. No colonials were killed. 

The Indian tribes had been on the offense for nearly a year, and it had begun to take a toll on them. They were unable to hunt or raise crops and some were starving. They were also running out of shot and gunpowder. Many began to doubt they could defeat the colonists and were deserting and surrendering. 

The colonists had access to supplies from other colonies and England, which gave them a significant tactical advantage over the Indians, particularly in the case of a long war. 

In April, Canonchet, the chief of the Narragansett Tribe was captured by Captain Dennison’s company. The colonists handed Canonchet over to his Mohegan enemies who brutally executed him. He was shot, beheaded, and quartered. His head was presented to the Hartford Council as a token of loyalty. 

About 500 Algonquins attacked Sudbury on 21 April and a force of 60 colonial soldiers pursued them when they withdrew. However, the soldiers were trapped when the Indians set fire to the grass and 30 were killed. 

Artist Depiction-Assault on the Narragansett Fort-King Philips War
Artist Depiction-Assault on the Narragansett Fort

Captain William Turner with 150 soldiers attacked an Indian camp at Turner’s Falls in the Battle of Great Falls on 18-19 May. They killed about 200 Indians with a loss of 38 killed. On 20 May, Indians attacked Scituate, Massachusetts. In retaliation for the Battle of Great Falls, Indians attacked Hatfield, Massachusetts on 30 May and killed seven colonists. 

On 12 June, Indians attacked Hadley, Massachusetts but were repulsed  by a unit of Connecticut soldiers. During the battle, a band of Mohawks raided the attacker’s camp and killed Wampanoag and Narragansett women and children. 

The colonists were feeling the effects of constant war and on 19 June, Massachusetts issued a declaration of amnesty for any Indians who would surrender. 

In July, Philip and his Wampanoag warriors returned to the Pocasset region where the war had begun. Despite the efforts of colonial soldiers, the indians were able to evade them by hiding in the woods and swamps. 

 On 1 July, Major Talcott’s Connecticut Allied Force attacked the Narragansetts at Nipsachuck, Rhode Island killing 171 Indians. Two days later, a massacre of Indians took place near Warwick, Rhode Island. Eighty Narragansett warriors surrendered and were slaughtered by Major Talcott’s troops. 

Indians attacked Taunton on 15 July but were repulsed. That same day, the Ninigrit and Niantic tribes formally signed a peace treaty with Massachusetts Bay. 

Captain Benjamin Church’s unit was searching the Plymouth area to find Philip. They found his camp near Bridgewater and attacked it on 20 July. Philip escaped but his wife and son were captured and sold into slavery in the West Indies. 

On 25 July, the Narragansett were defeated near Dedham, Massachusetts. On the same day, about 180 Nipmucks surrendered in Boston, Massachusetts. 

By late summer of 1676, the fighting was slowly ending, but King Philip was still at large, and the war would never completely end until he was killed or captured. In August, an Indian deserter informed Captain Church that Philip was in an old Wampanoag village called Montaup near Mount Hope. Church led a company of troops to Montaup and found Philip and his small band of warriors. The spot later became known as King Philip’s Seat. 

Artist Depiction of King Philip's Head on Pike-King Philip's War
Artist Depiction of King Philip’s Head on Pike

Philip attempted to flee during the fighting but an Indian named John Alderman serving in Church’s company saw Philip, fired, and killed him. Alderman beheaded Philip and sold his head to Plymouth authorities for 30 shillings, which was the going rate for Indian heads during the war. 

Philip’s head was placed on a stake in the village where it remained for 25 years. One of his hands was sent to Boston for display and the four quarters of his body were placed in trees where they hung until they rotted away. 

The war did not end with the death of Philip and fighting spread to the north of New England. Random raids and skirmishes continued until the treaty was signed at Casco Bay in April 1678. Scattered warfare continued in northern New England, mostly because of the interference of the French. This was not corrected until the French and Indian War in 1754-1763 pushed the French out of the area. 

King Philip’s War was bloody, brutal, and destructive. Its effect on both sides was disastrous. More than 600 colonists had been killed, about 1,200 homes had been burned, and about 12 of 90 settlements were destroyed. The New England economy was essentially destroyed by nearly halting all trade including the fur trade, killing 8,000 head of cattle, and causing a decline in the fishing industry. The cost of the war was about 80,000 pounds which led to high taxes. All these factors virtually halted English expansion in New England for nearly 50 years. 

The effect on the Indian tribes was far worse. Their total population of about 20,000 in southern New England at the start of hostilities was drastically reduced. Their minimum losses were about 2,000 killed, about 3,000 died of sickness and starvation, about 1,000 were captured and sold into slavery, and about 2,000 fled west to join the Iroquois and north to join the Abenaki. Many of the smaller tribes no longer existed as organized communities. 

Despite the disastrous effects of the war, it was a turning point in the area. The colonists had eliminated their opposition and gained complete control of Southern New England. This allowed unopposed settlement, which contributed to the eventual economic recovery and expansion. 

The colonists successful defense of the area with their own resources caught the attention of the British government which had dismissed the American colonies as just poor outposts. This new interest resulted in more exploitation of American resources and a restructuring of the charters of the colonies       

Unfortunately, bloody conflicts between Indians and settlers would be repeated many times during the next 200 plus years. Since the dawn of time when a group begins to migrate for any reason into an area already occupied it ends up in war. If you study European history, you find an unrelenting movement west usually resulting in war and the near extinction of one side or the other. Most people move because of persecution or the inability of local agriculture to support them. Such reasons are legitimate, but resistance by those who already occupy an area is also legitimate. It is the dilemma of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object and it rarely happens peacefully. 

New York’s Philip Livingston-Founding Father


Portrait of Philip Livingston-New York's Philip Livingston-Founding Father
Portrait of Philip Livingston

Founding Father Philip Livingston is not widely known, but he was a successful New York City merchant, a philanthropist, a New York politician, a statesman, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He represented New York in the First and Second Continental Congresses, and like many Patriots, did not initially favor separation from Britain. However, when attempts to reach an accommodation were spurned by King George III, he became a Revolutionary. Livingston died unexpectedly while attending the sixth session of Congress in York, Pennsylvania. 

Philip Livingston was born into the wealthy and politically important Hudson River Livingston family on 15 January 1716 at Albany, New York. He was the fourth surviving son of Philip Livingston (1686-1749), 2nd Lord of the Manor; and Catherine Van Brugh daughter of Albany mayor, Captain Pieter Van Brugh. 

The Livingstons traced their American lineage back to Robert Livingston, a native of Scotland who immigrated to the New World in 1672. Robert’s father, Reverend John Livingston, and family were exiled from Scotland to the Netherlands in 1663 for refusing to pledge allegiance to English King Charles II. Nine years later, Robert returned to Scotland following his father’s death and migrated to the New World. Fluent in English and Dutch, he settled in Albany in New York Colony. 

Robert Livingston enriched himself in the fur trade and was respected by both the old Dutch families and the English who had taken over the colony in 1664. He married Alida Schuyler van Rensselaer, which established him in the aristocracy of colonial New York. The New York governor granted him the “lordship and Manor of Livingston” which consisted of 160,000 acres near Albany. His son Philip was 2nd Lord of the Manor and Philip’s eldest son, Robert, was the 3rd Lord of the manor.  

Philip and his younger brother, William, grew up in the Albany area dividing time between an Albany townhouse and the Manor House in Linlithgo. The Manor House was located at the junction of Roeliff Jansen Kill and the Hudson River. This area is now part of the town of Livingston, New York. 

Since Philip was not the eldest son, he was not heir to the family fortune and had to establish a career of his own. He graduated from Yale in 1737 and returned to Albany to serve a mercantile apprenticeship with his father. Through his father’s influence, he became active in local government.  

Portrait of Christina Ten Broeck-New York's Philip Livingston-Founding Father
Portrait of Christina Ten Broeck

On 14 April 1740, Philip married Christina Ten Broeck. She was the daughter of Colonel Birck Ten Broeck and Margarita Cuyler and the sister of Albany Mayor Abraham Ten Broeck. This marriage established Philip in the old Dutch community, which helped his career. Philip and Christina had nine children, five boys and four girls. 

Like many of his relatives, Philip settled in New York City where he entered the import business, trading with British sugar plantations in the West Indies. He made the bulk of his fortune during King George’s War (1744-1748) provisioning and privateering. He also speculated heavily in real estate and the slave trade. Philip maintained a townhouse in Manhattan and a forty-acre estate in Brooklyn Heights. 

Philip became highly active in New York City politics and development. He was a promoter of the founding of Kings College (Columbia University today) and helped organize the New York library. He founded the first Chamber of Commerce and was president and founding member of the St. Andrew’s Society, which was New York’s first benevolent organization. He was one of the first governors of New York Hospital. 

In 1754 Philip became a delegate to the Albany Congress, and also served as a New York City Alderman from 1754 through 1762, His service to the colony and his successful import business earned Philip the respect and admiration of his peers. In 1755, Sir Charles Hardy, Royal Governor of the Province of New York wrote: “among the considerable merchants in this city, no one is more esteemed for energy, promptness and public spirit than Philip Livingston.” 

As a Congressional delegate, Philip joined with other colonies to negotiate with their Indian allies to develop plans for dealing with the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He supported the war and helped efforts to raise and fund troops.  

Philip served in the Provincial House of Representatives from 1763 to 1769. In 1765 he attended the Stamp Act Congress and joined New York City’s Committee of Correspondence. New York established their Provincial Congress in 1775. Philip was president of the Congress and was selected to attend the Continental Congress.  

Presentation of Declaration of Independence 4 July 1776 by John Trumbull-New York's Philip Livingston-Founding Father
Presentation of Declaration of Independence 4 July 1776 by John Trumbull-

In July 1775, Philip signed the Olive Branch Petition, which was a final attempt to negotiate with the Crown. Like many others, he did not initially support a total break with Britain, but when King George III refused to negotiate, Philip became a revolutionary, and was a strong advocate for independence. He voted for the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776 and signed the final copy in August.  

Philip’s brother, William, was a delegate to the Continental Congress from New Jersey where he was a prominent lawyer. He served in Congress from 1774 to June 1776 when he was called to command the New Jersey militia and missed signing the Declaration. William went on to become the first Governor of New Jersey and a signer of the Constitution. 

Robert R. Livingston was a first cousin once removed of Philip and was also a New York delegate to the Continental Congress. He was a member of the Committee of Five who drafted the Declaration, but other duties prevented him from being present for the signing. He became the first Chancellor of New York and administered the oath of office to President George Washington on his first inauguration. 

Artist Depiction of Brooklyn Heights Estate-New York's Philip Livingston-Founding Father
Artist Depiction of Brooklyn Heights Estate

Adoption of the Declaration of Independence was a giant political step, but the war was not going very well. British General Howe was conducting a major campaign to capture New York City. Following the massive and successful British attack on Long Island, Washington and his officers met in Philip’s Brooklyn Heights estate to discuss the military options. Their decision was to make a strategic withdrawal from Long Island and to abandon New York City.  

When the British occupied New York City in late August 1776, Philip and his family fled to Kingston, New York where he maintained another residence. The British used the Livingston’s townhouse as a barracks and the Brooklyn Heights residence as a Royal Navy hospital. Later, the British burned Kingston to the ground as they did the Robert R. Livingston mansion, Clermont, across the Hudson River. 

The New York State Constitution was adopted in April 1777 and Philip was chosen as a senator for the southern district. He also continued to sit in the Continental Congress. The British military had forced the Congress out of Philadelphia, and they had reconvened in York, Pennsylvania. Philip was attending the sixth session of Congress in York on 12 June 1778 when he suddenly died. He had suffered from dropsy (congestive heart failure) for several years and his health began to deteriorate significantly about a year before his death. 

Philip Livingston was buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery in York. His estate was not sufficient to pay his debts and his executors renounced the administration of the estate. In recognition of his loyal service to the state and the nation, on 25 February 1785, the New York legislature passed an act that authorized the state to settle the estate and pay off all the debts. This was quite an exceptional tribute to Philip and showed the great affection and respect New York had for him. 

Philip Livingston Gravesite-New York's Philip Livingston-Founding Father
Philip Livingston Gravesite-

Philip’s name is engraved on one of the 56 granite blocks in the memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC that honors the signers of the Declaration of Independence. His grave in Prospect Hill Cemetery is marked by an obelisk erected by his grandson Stephen Van Rensselaer. Part of the engraving states: “Eminently distinguished for his talents and rectitude, he deservedly enjoyed the confidence of his country and the love and veneration of his friends and children.” A DAR marker identifies him as a “soldier of the Revolutionary War.” In 2005, the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence attached a plaque to the obelisk to recognize him as a signer. 

The second Revolution-The War of 1812 


The 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the American War for Independence, but it left some important situations unaddressed, and the British generally ignored American sovereignty and international rights. The most significant attempt to address this situation was the 1794 Jay’s Treaty, but it was domestically unpopular because it favored the British. The main value of the Jay Treaty was that it temporarily averted a war that the newly established United States was ill-prepared for. Continued British violations and harassment eventually led to the War of 1812. Winning this war firmly established the sovereignty and identity of the United States of America.  

The American Revolutionary War was a world war involving all the world’s major monarchies. Allied with America against Britain were France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Monarchies are not usually big fans of revolts, but the American allies saw the Revolution as an opportunity to weaken Britain. They were concerned that Britain was becoming the most prosperous, powerful, and far-flung empire in the world.  

Despite the agreements made in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the British did not really accept American independence, and like most of the world expected the American experiment in democracy to fail. However, the British knew that peace was desirable to end the excessive costs of a distant war and to rebuild the highly profitable trade with the Americas. They also knew trade would survive if the American government failed because Britain would step in and reestablish their colonial government. 

Artist Depiction of Indian Attack-The Second Revolution-War of 1812
Artist Depiction of Indian Attack

The British illegally maintained forts and military forces in the American fronter and with their Indian allies regularly raided American settlements. In international waters, the powerful Royal Navy harassed American merchant ships. These and other matters were addressed in international negotiations over the years, but the British always outmaneuvered the Americans. The core problem of no British respect of the United States as a sovereign nation was never faced head-on. 

In 1793 the British and other European powers found it necessary set aside their differences to ally against France. War with France was nothing new for Britain, but the master of war Nepoleon was another matter. Nepoleon was not defeated until the 1815 epic battle of Waterloo.

For Britain, the Napoleonic wars were expensive and bloody and overlapped the War of 1812 against the Americans. At the start of the European conflict, the United States declared international rights of neutrality, but the British intercepted and seized American merchant ships trading with France and impressed American sailors. 

The infant United States of America was like a dwarf among giants. The new nation was militarily and economically weak, had not developed a common identity, and was torn by bitter political partisanship. The Federalists and Antifederalists parties were trying to destroy each other by any means.

Portrait of General George Washington-The Second Revolution-The War of 1812
Portrait of General George Washington

President George Washington had warned against political parties and foreign alliances, but politicians had ignored his advice. Washington did, however, provide stability, honor, and order to the first eight years of government. Without Washington there is a good chance that the government would have failed. 

The end of the Revolutionary War had been hailed by most Americans because they were tired of war, but the first government under the Articles of Confederation was weak and ineffective. Also, despite the 1788 ratification of the Constitution of the United States, common people were not affected by it much initially. 

There was a general feeling of instability and worry about the future among the American people even though some saw the possibilities and were starting what eventually became an economic surge. Common people were mostly uneducated and concerned with everyday problems. They did not think much about the lofty ideals and principles that the founders did. They dealt in survival and the reality of the moment, and information moved slowly, particularly on the frontier. 

As previously stated, Americans had not yet developed a national identity, which is necessary for a viable and stable nation. Americans were divided by section, religion, background, and socioeconomic standing. The country was also experiencing a flood of new immigrants. The War had violently pitted Loyalist against Patriot and the scars were slow to heal. Many, especially new immigrants, were moving into the dangerous frontier lured by the promise of cheap land, but they risked conflict with the British and their Indian allies. The new American government was not capable of protecting the settlers. 

The British did not live up to the provisions of the Treaty of Paris, but to be fair, neither did the Americans. Despite agreements to honor the rights of Loyalists and to allow them to sue to recover lost property, confiscation of Loyalist property became a cottage industry. Loyalists who had not fled during the war often faced violent acts of revenge.  

George Washington was the first President of the United States. He served from 1789 to 1797 when he began a well-deserved retirement. After Washington, politics became bitterly partisan, but each early administration contributed to the development of the America we know today.  

The following is a summary of the major accomplishments of the next three administrations to chronicle what was being accomplished leading up to and during the War of 1812. 

Portrait of John Adams-The Second Revolution-The War of 1812
Portrait of John Adams

After a bitter campaign, Washington was succeeded by John Adams of Massachusetts who served one term 1797 to 1801. Adams’ vice president was his major opponent, Thomas Jefferson. At that time the runner-up was elected to that office. This rule was not changed until the 12th Amendment to the Constitution in 1804. 

The Adams administration was known for reason, moral leadership, rule of law, compassion, and a cautious but active foreign policy. He led the country through Fries’s Tax Rebellion, and the largely naval Quasi-War with France. He expanded the military and successfully avoided a major war. He signed the controversial Alien and Sedition Act, which was an attack on constitutional rights, particularly free speech.  

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson-The Second Revolution-The War of 1812
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson

After another very bitter campaign, Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams and his party swept the Federalists out of power. Jefferson served two terms as president 1801-1809. He was a wealthy Virginia planter and brought his strong antifederalist views to the office. He believed in a limited central government with most power being vested in the states. 

Jefferson was determined to roll back all of Adams’ programs and initiatives. He reduced taxes, government spending, the national debt, and repealed the Alien and Sedition Act. He established the US Military Academy at West Point and sent the small US Navy to confront the Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. The important 12th Amendment to the Constitution and the act to prohibit importation of slaves were passed. The Embargo Act of 1807 caused a US depression but did nothing to curtail the European powers. This embargo was repealed the next year. 

Jefferson is best known for acquisition of the Louisiana Territory, which essentially doubled the land area of the United States. He also dispatched the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore and map this vast region and to push all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The Louisiana purchase was negotiated by Secretary of State James Madison and Ambassador to France Robert Livingston for fifteen million dollars. 

Unfortunately, Jefferson spent a lot of time during his second term trying to get his former vice president, Aaron Burr, arrested and convicted for murder. His personal involvement in this matter was unconstitutional since he was interfering with the justice system and was demanding conviction without a fair trial. Burr had killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel and was tried three times and acquitted three times, but that did not satisfy Jefferson. He was not a good person to have as an enemy. 

Jefferson tried to maintain American neutrality during the European wars but relations with Britain became even more strained as time passed. The Royal Navy was increasing their interference with American trade with France. 

Portrait of James Madison-The Second Revolution-The War of 1812
Portrait of James Madison

The next President, James Madison, served from 1809-1817 and was the hand-picked Jefferson candidate. As Secretary of State, he had protested to both Britain and France about their seizure of American ships, but both had ignored the protest. John Randolph stated the protest had the effect of “a shilling pamphlet hurled against eight hundred ships of war.”

When Madison took office, neither he nor Congress could settle on a foreign policy, and their indecision made matters worse. The British increased ship seizures and impressment of American sailors and increased their support of Indian attacks against Americans on the frontier. Finally, Madison issued a war proclamation against Britain on 18 June 1812.  

America was not prepared for war. Congress had not properly organized nor funded a national army. Some states would not support “Mr. Madison’s War” and would not allow their militias to serve. America did have a small, but experienced Navy that had been organized for the Quasi-War with France. Both the British and Americans used Indian allies to augment their numbers. 

Despite all the handicaps, Americans attempted to fight off the superior British, but were usually defeated. The war drug on and Madison was reelected despite some of his own party supporting his opponent. Madison was criticized and blamed for the lack of trade with Europe and New England threatened to secede from the Union.

Artist Depiction of White House Burning-The Second Revolution-The War of 1812
Artist Depiction of White House Burning

The low point came in August 1814 when the British invaded Washington and burned the President’s House, the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and other buildings. The Madison’s had to flee from the city but returned very soon and began to rebuild. Burning the capitol served to galvanize American resolve and the military responded by being more aggressive against the British. 

Artist Depiction of Battle of New Orleans-The Second Revolution-The War of 1812
Artist Depiction of Battle of New Orleans

Both Britain and the US became weary of battle and its costs and agreed to meet in Ghent, United Netherlands (now Belgium) to negotiate an end to the war. The Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814 in Europe. Before word could reach America, General Andrew Jackson’s pick-up army dealt the British a humiliating defeat at the Battle of New Orleans on 8 January 1815. Jackson’s victory prevented a British plot to permanently lay claim to New Orleans and possibly to the entire Louisiana Territory.

While far from perfect, the Treaty of Ghent firmly established the United States as a sovereign nation and guaranteed American borders. British troops finally left the American frontier and retreated into Canada or back to Britain. British interference with trade and impressment of sailors ended. International trade flourished. Except for a few minor incidents, Britain and the US have enjoyed close relations for more than two centuries.

The few but key American naval victories and even fewer ground military victories climaxed by the Battle of New Orleans convinced Americans that the war was gloriously successful, and there was a surge of nationalism. The New England Federalists who had threatened secession were so repudiated that Federalism disappeared as a national political  party. 

Artist Depiction USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) Under Full Sail -The Second Revolution-The War of 1812
Artist Depiction USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) Under Full Sail

After the War of 1812, a small  American standing army was organized and trained. The war also resulted in expanded American sea power and American ships of war guarded the coast and the Great Lakes. US Navy men-of-war proudly sailed the seas displaying the stars and stripes and receiving salutes in ports throughout the world. 

Once blamed for the errors in the war, Madison was eventually hailed for its triumphs. He oversaw the beginning of the rebuilding of Washington, DC and his wife Dolly reestablished social life in the city. At the end of his administration, the Madison’s retired to their mansion in Orange County, Virginia, and the James Monroe administration took over the reins of government  

The War of 1812 was a watershed moment for the United States.  Residents of the country became proud Americans who felt they could accomplish anything, and they moved into the frontier pushing west in droves. Louisiana territory was there for those who had the nerve to venture into that vast but dangerous area. Americans were on the march as one people for the first time, and nothing stopped them until they settled the wilderness all the way to the Pacific Ocean. That spirit still inspires Americans to follow their dreams.

Doomed Spy-Nathan Hale


Stylized Image of Nathan Hale-Doomed Spy Nathan Hale
Stylized Image of Nathan Hale

Most Americans know about the death of Nathan Hale who reportedly said before the British hanged him for espionage, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Hale is one of the best-known figures of the Revolution, but we know little about him, his mission, his capture, or his last words. We know he was a 21-year-old officer in the Continental Army at the time General George Washington needed information on British plans for the invasion of Manhattan. Hale volunteered to spy on the British but was soon captured and hanged. His reported last words have inspired Americans ever since.  

Nathan Hale was born on 6 June 1755 in Coventry, Connecticut. He was the second son of Deacon Richard Hale and Elizabeth Stone Hale. The Hales were a prominent and devout Puritan family. They instilled in their children the importance of hard work, religious virtue, and education.  

Fourteen-year-old Nathan and his older brother, Enoch entered Yale College in 1769. Nathan excelled in literature and debate and graduated with honors at the age of 18. After graduation he became a schoolteacher in East Haddan and later in New London, Connecticut. 

When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Nathan Hale joined a Connecticut militia unit, and was elected lieutenant five months later. His unit participated in the siege of Boston Massachusetts. Some accounts say Hale saw battle there, but others say he remained behind because of teaching contractual obligations. 

On 4 July 1775, Hale received a letter from his Yale classmate and friend, Benjamin Tallmadge who had been in Boston during the siege. He wrote, “Was I in your condition, I think the more extensive service would be my choice. Our Holy Religion, the honor of our God, a glorious country, & a happy constitution is what we have to defend.” Several days later, Hale was commissioned first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment which was commanded by Colonel Charles Webb.  

Hale was also in Knowlton’s Rangers, the first organized American intelligence service organization, which was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton. Nathan Hale was commissioned captain in the Continental Army in January 1776. 

Portrait of General William Howe-Doomed Spy Natham Hale
Portrait of General William Howe

Following the loss of Boston in the spring of 1776, General Washington moved his army to the New York City area, which he correctly believed would be the next British target. British General William Howe recognized the strategic value of New York City and its deep-water port. In August, he began his campaign to take New York City by occupying Staten Island. From there he soundly defeated the Continental Army in the Battle of Long Island pushing Washington into Manhattan. 

Washington needed to learn where Howe intended to launch an amphibious attack on Manhattan so he could deploy against it. He needed a spy behind enemy lines and called for volunteers. Captain Nathan Hale volunteered on 8 September 1776. He was the only volunteer. 

Spying was not considered to be an honorable job for a “gentleman,” but Hale volunteered anyway, out of a sense of duty. He was aware of the danger because spies were summarily and quickly executed by both sides. ILR

Let’s pause here and take stock of Nathan Hale. He was obviously patriotic and well intentioned, but he was a 21-year-old man with virtually no military nor espionage training or experience. He was volunteering for a mission that he was totally unprepared for. He had no training or experience in spy “tradecraft.” He did not even know the most basic steps to avoid detection. Successful amateur spies are very rare. Most meet the same fate as Hale did. 

 Depiction of British Army Entering New York City-Doomed Spy Nathan Hale
Depiction of British Army Entering New York City

Hale planned to pose as a Dutch schoolteacher looking for work; however, he used his real name and reportedly carried his Yale diploma bearing his real name. He was ferried from Norwalk, Connecticut across Long Island Sound to Huntington, New York on British-controlled Long Island on 12 September. However, the military situation changed quickly. Howe invaded Manhattan and forced Washington to withdraw from New York City. The British entered the city on 16 September. Hale also entered the city to spy on the British. 

On 21 September, the Great New York City Fire of 1776 burned 10-25 percent of the city. The British believed Patriots had started the fire and detained 200 of them. This incident caused the British forces to be on high alert for further Patriot “sabotage.” 

Nathan Hale was reportedly captured on 21 September, but who captured him and how he was captured is not known for sure. One version has him being captured while trying to cross Long Island Sound into American-held territory. Another version is that his cousin Samuel Hale who was a Loyalist, recognized him in a tavern and betrayed him. 

Portrait of Robert Rogers-Doomed Spy Nathan Hale
Portrait of Robert Rogers

The most accepted account was written by Consider Tiffany, a Connecticut shopkeeper and Loyalist. His family donated his papers to the Library of Congress in 2000. According to Tiffany, Major Robert Rogers of the Queen’s Rangers saw Hale in a New York City tavern and recognized him having crossed paths with him in late 1775. Rogers was a hero of the French and Indian War but was a disreputable character with a long criminal history and no loyalties. Before being commissioned in the British Army he had unsuccessfully sought a commission from General Washington. 

The story goes that Rogers engaged Hale in conversation and eventually claimed to be a Patriot and a spy. Hale believed he had found a friend and told Rogers everything. Rogers then invited Hale to dine with him at his quarters the next day, and Hale accepted. Four other “Patriots” were at the dinner and a company of British soldiers surrounded the house and arrested Hale.  

Hale was taken to the headquarters of General Howe who personally questioned him. Maps and drawings of fortifications were found on Hale which implicated him as a spy and Rogers provided additional information. At this point Hale gave his name, rank, and his mission. Execution orders were quickly issued. 

Hale was apparently calm while awaiting execution as evidenced by the diary of British officer Frederick MacKensie: “He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good Officer, to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.” 

Depiction of Hanging of Nathan Hale-Doomed Spy Nathan Hale
Depiction of Hanging of Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale was marched along Post Road to the Park of Artillery, which was next to The Dove Tavern (Present day 66th Street and Third Avenue), in the morning of 22 September 1776 and hanged. In those days, hangings were performed with the victim on a wagon or cart that was pulled out from under him. Death was by strangulation and death came slowly. By all accounts Hale met his fate with composure and resolve. As the noose was placed around his neck, he made a “sensible and spirited speech” in defense of his actions and sense of duty.    

Hale’s body was left hanging for several days and was later buried in an unmarked grave. His grave has never been found. 

No official records were kept of Hale’s final words so debate about the accuracy of the sources has continued through the years. The quote I used is the best-known and most used. It originated with British Captain John Montresor who was at the hanging. The next day he spoke with American Captain William Hull under a flag of truce. Hull recorded in his memoirs the following words of Montresor: 

“On the morning of his execution,” continued the officer, “my station was near the fatal spot, and I requested the Provost Marshall (William Cunningham) to permit the prisoner to sit in my marquee, while he was making the necessary preparations. Captain Hale entered: he was calm, and bore himself with gentle dignity, in the consciousness of rectitude and high intentions. He asked for writing materials, which I furnished him: he wrote two letters, one to his mother and one to a brother officer. He was shortly after summoned to the gallows. But a few persons were around him, yet his characteristic dying words were remembered. He said, ‘I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” 

Many historians have questioned the reliability of Hull’s memoirs since Hull was not present at the hanging. Many of them believe Hale spoke some variation of the best-known quote. Joseph Addison’s play “Cato” was quite popular at the time and contained the following: 

How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue!                Who would not be that youth? What pity is it                  that we can die but once to serve our country. 

Obviously, the debate over Hale’s last words has continued. Nathan’s brother Enoch wrote in his diary after he had questioned witnesses that Nathan had given only his name and rank. The 13 February 1777 issue of the Essex Massachusetts Journal stated Hale’s last words in part: “that if he (Hale) had ten thousand lives, he would lay them all down, if called to it, in defense of his injured, bleeding country.” The Massachusetts Independent Chronicle and Universal Advertiser published this version on 17 May 1781: “I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged, that my only regret is, that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.” 

All agree that Hale’s final speech was more than one sentence long, and in that speech, he stated that he regretted having only one life to give for his country. That is what is important, and the Hull version has rung “true” for over 200 years and has inspired generations of Americans. I can remember how deeply impressed I was when I first heard those words, and I am even more impressed now. 

Nathan Hale was a true Patriot that was voluntarily put into a situation that he was not prepared for. His fate was sealed the day he crossed Long Island Sound into enemy territory. He made many mistakes and trusted too many people which resulted in his death. He was young, inexperienced, and naïve. His strong sense of duty and honor did not prepare him for the murky and treacherous world of espionage.  

There are no known portraits of Nathan Hale. He was described by fellow soldier Lieutenant Elisha Bostwick who wrote that Hale had very fair skin, blue eyes, flaxen blond hair, darker eyebrows, was taller than the average male of the time, and had a sharp or piercing voice. He also described him as highly intelligent, athletic, and religious. 

Early Americans needed heroes and Nathan Hale became one of the first. He is still an American hero that we remember and honor for his bravery and conduct when he knew he was to die. We especially remember his words when the noose was around his neck moments before the hangman carried out the sentence of death. 

There are many statues of Hale. The one erected at City Hall Park, New York in1893 by Frederick William MacMonnies established the modern idealized square-jawed image. Statues of Hale are mostly found in New York and Connecticut, including at Yale College, the Hale birthplace, and the Connecticut State House. A statue of Hale also stands in the lobby of the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. 

Nathan Hale Monument Coventry Connecticut-Doomed Spy Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale Monument Coventry Connecticut

In 1846 a large stone monument was erected in honor of Nathan Hale in Coventry, Connecticut. It was one of the first war memorials to be built in the United States. This monument is in the Nathan Hale Cemetery in the South Coventry Historic District.  

Sex in Early America-The Reynolds Affair



Portrait of Alexander Hamilton-Sex in Early America-The Reynolds Affair
Portrait of Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton had the dubious honor of having the first sexual affair of a married American politician to become public. He had an affair with a young married woman, Maria Reynolds, whose husband blackmailed him. Hamilton publicly admitted to the affair after his political enemies accused him of financial corruption during his tenure as Secretary of the Treasury. The scandal lead to quarrels and near duels involving two of the country’s leading statesmen and was a principal factor in the struggle between the Federalists and Antifederalists. 

According to Hamilton, in the summer of 1791, he was with his family in Philadelphia when a young woman called at the door and wished to speak to him in private. Hamilton agreed, and when in private, the woman identified herself as Maria Lewis Reynolds of New York. She claimed that her husband, James, had for a long time treated her cruelly and now had left her and their young daughter for another woman. She claimed she had no means to return to New York and appealed to “Colonel Hamilton to assist a woman in despair.” 

Hamilton told Maria that he was “disposed” to help her but that the time was “inconvenient.” He then asked if he could send money to her place of residence or personally deliver it. Maria must have said that was acceptable. She probably encouraged a personal delivery because that evening Hamilton traveled to her rooming house with a thirty-dollar bank note in his pocket. 

Portrait Believed to be Maria Reynolds-Sex in Early America-The Reynolds Affair
Portrait Believed to be Maria Reynolds

There are few physical descriptions of Maria Reynolds. An acquaintance of Hamilton’s said, “her innocent Countenance appeared to show an innocent Heart.” Hamilton called her “Beauty in distress” and “a pretty woman.” Some alleged she was very emotional and given to weeping. She must have been pretty enough for Hamilton to willingly walk into an obvious trap of seduction. 

When Hamilton arrived at the rooming house Maria escorted him to her bedroom where Hamilton gave her the money. He said, “Some conversation ensued from which it was quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be acceptable.” Hamilton was being seduced and was very willing because the two quickly ended up in bed beginning a year-long affair that caused a political scandal of stunning proportions. 

Politically Hamilton was a Federalist, and he was quite busy during the summer and fall of 1791, the early months of George Washington’s first term. He was Secretary of the Treasury and Customs and was also trying to drive the Antifederalist Thomas Jefferson out of the Cabinet. He was writing scathing articles under aliases about Jefferson’s followers.  

On the business side, Hamilton was preparing his fourth of five Treasury Reports on Manufactures, which when all were enacted replaced near worthless currency, funded a debt of about 75 million dollars, restored credit at home and abroad, created a national banking system, and laid the groundwork for an industrial economy with a powerful central government. All of this was bitterly opposed by Jefferson’s Antifederalist party. 

The demands of his office were arduous and must have taken a great deal of time, but Hamilton always found time for Maria. He often met her at his home since his wife, Elizabeth had taken the children to visit her father in Albany, New York. Using his home for their trysts probably meant the secret was no longer secret. 

Hamilton met Maria’s husband, James Reynolds because Reynolds claimed he had information on misconduct in the Treasury. Hamilton found the information to be of minor importance. Later Reynolds applied for a job in the Treasury Department, but he was turned down. Reynolds knew about his wife’s relationship with Hamilton and encouraged it because he planned to blackmail Hamilton. 

Hamilton continued the affair despite writing that he wanted to end it. He wrote “…. her conduct made it extremely difficult to disentangle myself.” He continued: “My sensibility, perhaps my vanity admitted the possibility of real fondness….”  Obviously, Hamilton was conflicted but kept the affair active. Thirty-four-year-old Alexander Hamilton’s hormones were raging like a teenager.

The plot thickened on 15 December 1791 when Hamilton received two letters—one from Maria and one from her husband. Maria was telling him that her husband had discovered her infidelity, and that he was threatening to inform Mrs. Hamilton if his letter was not answered. She insisted that Hamilton not respond to her husband. However, she begged Hamilton to visit her right away because she was alone, and she felt more for him than herself. 

James Reynolds wrote an “injured husband” letter saying Hamilton was not a friend and had taken advantage of his wife. After the litany of wounded honor, he pointed out that Mrs. Hamilton did not know of the affair. He then insisted on meeting with Hamilton. 

After several meetings and an exchange of letters James Reynolds decided that money would satisfy his wounded honor. Most men found satisfaction on the dueling field. He demanded one thousand dollars with the promise to leave town with his daughter leaving Maria to Hamilton. The money was paid in two installments on 22 December and on 3 January 1792, but Hamilton did not immediately resume his visits to Maria. 

Of course, James Reynolds did not leave town because he planned to continue extorting money. To convince Hamilton to keep visiting Maria, he wrote Hamilton to say he would have no objections to him visiting Maria as a friend to “both of them.” Hamilton did not resume his visits until Maria begged him to visit at least one more time. 

Hamilton visited “once” and then was hooked again and resumed regular visits. This was what James Reynolds wanted and he began demands for what he called “loans,” which Hamilton paid. In March James again encouraged Hamilton’s visits, but in May 1792 he forbade Hamilton to see his wife again.

Hamilton had finally realized that both Reynold’s were involved in extorting money from him. However, he continued visiting Maria through mid-August when he finally complied with James Reynolds’ request and cut off all contact with both of them. Hamilton had paid Reynolds a total of about $1,300 dollars (about $25,000 today), which was about a third of his annual income. Hamilton mistakenly believed that he had heard the last of this affair.  

In November 1792, James Reynolds and Jacob Clingman were jailed for participating in a swindle involving back pay for Revolutionary War veterans using records obtained by a coconspirator in the Treasury Department. In an effort to avoid punishment, Clingman revealed he had knowledge of impropriety and corruption by Alexander Hamilton and insinuated that Hamilton was involved in their swindle. He brought his accusations to the attention of Federalist Frederick A. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania. Although he considered Reynolds to be a “rascal” he passed the information to Senator James Monroe and Congressman Abraham Venable, both Virginians and both Antifederalists. 

Abraham Venable-Sex in Early America-The Reynolds Affair
James Monroe-Sex in Early America-The Reynolds Affair
James Monroe
Frederick A. Muhlenberg-Sex in Early America-The Reynolds Affair
Frederick A. Muhlenberg

The three men interviewed James Reynolds and Maria Reynolds. James provided information on the affair knowing that Hamilton would have to admit to the affair or falsely admit to complicity in the swindle. Maria presented herself as a “victim” of the powerful Hamilton and provided letters that seemed to prove that he had used public funds for private gain. She impugned Hamilton’s character and reputation during the interview. 

After the interviews, they confronted Hamilton. They said they had uncovered “a very improper connection” between him and James Reynolds. With his friend Oliver Wolcott by his side, Hamilton confessed to adultery, infidelity, and submission to blackmail, but denied any dishonesty as a public official. He held nothing back and gave a full and detailed account of his relationship with James and Maria Reynolds. 

Hamilton was candid, and although they were shocked by his indiscretion, the three congressmen were convinced he was innocent of the accusations. They wrote and signed a report to themselves, sealed the documents and agreed to keep it all secret. Hamilton made his own record of the meeting and asked for copies of all the documents from the congressmen. They complied and the copies were made by Antifederalist John Beckley, Clerk of the House of Representatives. Unfortunately for Hamilton, Beckley also made copies for his files. 

In 1793 Hamilton retired to private law practice in New York to spend more time with his wife and five children. He also served as an unofficial adviser to his former boss, President Washington. His life was happy and relaxed. However, in 1797 the Federalists removed John Beckley from his post in the House. Beckley was not pleased and turned over the Hamilton papers to James T. Callender an especially unscrupulous journalist. 

James C. Collender-Sex in Early America-The Reynolds Affair
James C. Collender

Callender was a Scotsman driven from England for literary excesses. He migrated to America and became a political pamphleteer under the aegis of Thomas Jefferson. He ran the Hamilton story in two pamphlets, the first published in June 1797. He included all the documents the Congressmen had prepared, and he opined that Hamilton had used Reynolds and others in his speculation of government securities. He also declared Hamilton had forced James Reynolds to flee the area.