SAMUEL CHASE-PARADOXAL PATRIOT

 

Samuel Chase-Samuel Chase-Associate Justice Supreme Court-Paradoxal Patriot
Samuel Chase-Associate Justice Supreme Court

 

 

Samuel Chase of Maryland was a very partisan person. He was known to use rough language and to be harsh with people, but he was a delegate to both the first and second Continental Congresses. He signed the Articles of Association, the Olive Branch Petition, and the Declaration of Independence. Following the war, he was appointed to the United States Supreme Court. He was impeached by the House of Representatives for partisanship and for being obnoxious and offensive, but the Senate did not convict him. Chase is the first, and only, Supreme Court Justice to be impeached. 

Born 17 April 1741 in Somerset County, Maryland Colony, Samuel was the son of Thomas and Matilda Walker Chase. Samuel’s family had been middle-class citizens of London, England, and had emigrated to the Maryland Colony in the 1730’s. An uncle, Richard, was an Anglican priest and emigrated in 1734. Richard became a close friend and chaplain of Lord Baltimore. 

Thomas Chase had graduated from both Eton and Cambridge. At Eton he earned honors in Latin and Hebrew. He studied medicine at Cambridge. He kicked around teaching and then practicing medicine and in 1739 became an Anglican Priest. Shortly after he migrated to Somerset County, Maryland and became Rector of Somerset Parish. 

Samuel’s mother, Matilda Walker, was the daughter of prominent Somerset County Merchants and planters. They were also patrons of the Church of England. 

Thomas and Matilda married in 1740 and they moved in with her parents. Matilda apparently died giving birth to Samuel. Despite his medical training, Thomas could not save his wife. 

In February 1744, the Governor of Maryland appointed Thomas Rector of St. Paul’s Parish in Baltimore County. St. Paul’s was a large parish and included the small town of Baltimore. Rector Chase lived well beyond his means to keep up with his wealthy communicants and was in financial trouble most of his life. Samuel followed his father’s financial example. 

Not much is known about Samuel Chase’s early life. He and his grandnephew, Jeremiah Chase became close friends, and both were home schooled by Rector Chase. They received a classical education. They were taught Latin, Greek, literature, and history, which was probably equivalent to a college education of the time. Samuel and Jeremiah remained friends and both became attorneys, legislators, and judges. 

In 1759 Samuel moved to Annapolis, Maryland. He entered the law offices of Holland and Hall to study law. It cost around 50 Pounds Sterling to enter a law firm for training, and Samuel was strapped for money. He sped up his studies and tried to find new sources of income. There is no evidence that he found any other income. 

One reason he never found new sources of income was because he had an active social life. Chase was eventually accepted into one of the local social clubs. These clubs were symbols of being a “gentleman.”  

At his club, Samuel met William Paca, the son of a wealthy Harford County, Maryland family. The two developed a friendship that lasted a lifetime. They were quite different. Samuel was gregarious and impetuous. William was inclined to stay in the background and influence others with his writings. They would become important in the coming rebellion, both would sign the Declaration of Independence, and William would become Governor of Maryland. 

Ann Baldwin Chase and Daughters by Charles-Peale-Maryland Historical Society-Samuel Chase-Paradoxal Patriot
Ann Baldwin Chase and Daughters by Charles Peale-Maryland Historical Society

Samuel met Ann Nancy Baldwin of Annapolis and they quickly fell in love. They were married on 2 May 1762 in Annapolis. One source said, “The match was one of love, not convenience for Samuel’s bride enhanced neither his social standing nor his material prosperity.” The couple lived on the edge of poverty until Samuel was admitted to the Bar in March 1763. They had seven children with four surviving childhood. 

Also in 1762, Chase was expelled from the Forensic Club, an Annapolis debating society, for “extremely irregular and indecent” behavior.

In the early years of his law practice, Samuel had to take cases that experienced attorneys generally would not take. However, by taking these cases he built a long-lasting constituency of ordinary people (“middling sort”) who later formed his political base. He represented these people pro bono or for small fees. His efforts often allowed his clients to get back on their feet and to pay what they owed. 

The strength of Chase’s constituency was shown in October 1764 when he worked with two tradesmen seeking office on the ten-member Annapolis Common Council. The members were supposed to be elected by the citizens, but the council had become a self-perpetuating body that ignored most of the city’s needs. Samuel mobilized the city’s shopkeepers and artisans to vote the two candidates into office. 

In November Samuel Chase began his political career by successfully running for one of Annapolis’ seats in the Maryland General Assembly Lower House. He had mobilized the politically disaffected and his own constituency to win a highly contested, vicious, and nasty election. He had already become a prominent and powerful politician in Annapolis. 

Samuel’s election coincided with Parliament’s passage of the Stamp Act. Opposition spread throughout the colonies since it was the first British attempt to directly tax them. In Maryland, Lord Baltimore saw the Stamp Act as a direct violation of the 1632 charter that promised Maryland immunity from taxation by the Crown. Lord Baltimore’s government was obligated to enforce the law but was not inclined to do so. 

Patriots in Massachusetts had concluded that the Stamp Act could not be enforced if stamped paper was not available. They intimidated the person responsible for distributing the stamped paper and forced him to resign. 

When the word about Massachusetts reached Maryland, a mob led by Samuel Chase on 26 August fashioned an effigy of a merchant named Zachariah Hood who was to distribute stamped paper. The treatment of the effigy left no doubt what was in store for Hood. Other such demonstrations spread throughout the Colony. 

Two days later, the mob reassembled and tore down the building Hood was going to use to store the stamped paper. Hood feared for his life and fled to New York. The Royal Governor, Horatio Sharpe, transferred the stamped paper to a British warship for safe keeping. 

Since no stamped paper was available, the Stamp Act could not be enforced. Business and government proceeded without the paper in defiance of the Crown. 

William Paca-Samuel Chase-Paradoxal Patriot
William Paca

Resistance to the Stamp Act had spawned the Sons of Liberty in some colonies and the New York Sons urged Patriots in Maryland to do the same, and they did. The Reverend Thomas Chase was a member in Baltimore Town and in Annapolis the organizers were Samuel Chase and William Paca. 

In March 1766, the Stamp Act was repealed. Resistance to the Act had made Chase a prominent political figure in Maryland. He remained a member of the General Assembly until 1784. He had gained a reputation as an exceptionally hard worker. 

Marylanders became increasingly anti-British, although the Tea Act did not cause the furor that it did in the north. Maryland formed a Committee of Correspondence in October 1773 and Chase became a member. 

In May 1774, Parliament passed the first of a series of acts that became known as “The Intolerable Acts.” The Port of Boston was closed by the British and the other colonies saw Boston suffering because of British tyranny and rallied in support of Boston. When word of Parliament’s action reached Annapolis, Chase convened a public meeting on 25 May. He called for a boycott of all trade with Britain, which all of Maryland embraced. Maryland also called for a Continental Congress to examine the Colonies’ “relationship with Britain.” 

  

Samuel Chase, and others, were now guilty of sedition in the eyes of the Crown. However, these Patriots surged ahead towards revolution. Chase, Paca, and others were selected to represent Maryland in the First Continental Congress. Chase arrived in Philadelphia on 3 September and began meeting delegates from other colonies. He met John Adams who became a lifelong friend. 

The Congress was deeply divided between those wanting independence and those that wanted it both ways. All did agree that an armed rebellion was “out of the question.” Many in Congress believed that things could still be patched up and things could go back to normal; however, the Crown and the Patriots had reached the point of no return. 

Congress compromised and called for an import boycott in December 1774 and an export boycott in September 1775 if Parliament would not compromise. Chase was opposed to any delay in the boycotts but could not carry the day. At this point, he refused to align himself with either the radicals or conservatives. 

The little-known Articles of Association were passed on 20 October 1774. This act was simply a way to recognize that a boycott of trade with Britain was necessary in all 13 colonies. 

Burning of the Peggy Stewart-Maryland State Archives-Samuel Chase-Paradoxal Patriot
Burning of the Peggy Stewart-Maryland State Archives

The Maryland delegates found political chaos when they returned home. The ship Peggy Stewart and her cargo of tea had been burned in Annapolis Harbor on 19 October 1774. The burning of the Peggy Stewart was a powerful demonstration of the revolutionary fervor brewing in Maryland. Chase took advantage of the situation to expand his political power and to put down Tory resistance. He became the most powerful politician in Maryland. 

By early 1775, the rift with Britain had worsened and Chase was determined to resist all British actions that violated colonial rights. He believed: the British “must either give up the Right of Taxation, or force obedience by the sword.” 

In a 5 February letter to James Duane, a New York delegate to Congress, Samuel wrote: 

“When I reflect on the enormous Influence of the Crown, the System of Corruption introduced as the Art of Government, the Venality of the Electors (the radical Source of every other Evil), the open and repeated violations, by Parliament of the Constitution. . I have not the least Dawn of Hope in the Justice, Humanity, Wisdom /or Virtue of the British Nation. I consider them as one of the most abandoned and wicked People under the Sun . . . Our Dependence must be on God and ourselves.” 

The fighting at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts in April 1775 was the first battle with the British military and was a turning point to revolution. Chase called for a transfer of power from the existing colonial government to the Provincial Convention. Maryland’s government peacefully passed to the revolutionary authorities. 

 

Samuel Chase then returned to the Second Continental Congress. On 5 July 1775 they passed the “Olive Branch Petition” which was an effort to compromise with the Crown and avert war. It was rejected by the King. 

Chase was appointed to a commission of delegates that traveled to Quebec in an attempt to get the Canadians to join the colonies in a Free America Association. The group left Philadelphia on 26 March 1776. The mission failed and the group arrived back in Philadelphia on 11 June. An American military operation against Canada also failed due to a lack of Congressional support and poor leadership. 

On 28 April 1776, Chase wrote to John Adams to push for Congress to give full attention to the war effort: 

“Do not spend your precious Time on Debates about our Independency. In my Judgement You have no alternative between Independency and Slavery, and what American can hesitate in the Choice, but don’t harangue about it, act as if it were [independent]. Make every preparation for War, take all prudent Measures to procure Success for our Arms, and the Consequence is obvious.” 

Richard Henry Lee-Samuel Chase-Paradoxal Patriot
Richard Henry Lee

Congress was still divided on the question of independence and on 7 June 1776, Virginian Richard Henry Lee introduced his resolution for complete independence from Britain. This resolution forced the Congress to seriously consider independence. 

Chase learned that the Maryland Provincial Convention had ordered its delegates to work for reconciliation, and to oppose independence. Samuel Chase then returned to Annapolis. During the last half of June, he and Charles Carroll visited counties throughout Maryland rousing the people to action. On 28 June, the Convention was confronted by a horde of people demanding separation from Britain. They quickly authorized Maryland’s Congressional delegates to vote for independence. 

Immediately after the decision, Samuel rode the 150 miles to Philadelphia in two days. On the morning of 1 July, he informed the other Maryland delegates that they could vote for independence, but he could not stay for the vote. His wife, Ann, was seriously ill, so he returned to Annapolis to be with her. He missed the 2 July vote for independence and the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. There is no known record of Ann Chase’s death, but it was between 1776 and 1779. 

Samuel returned to Congress on 17 July 1776 and on 2 August he and most of the other delegates formally signed the Declaration of Independence. During the war, he became involved with the problems of provisioning the troops, particularly Maryland troops. 

For several years, Chase spent more time building up his law practice. He began accepting students into his law office. One student was William Pickney who later became Attorney General of the United States. He also helped draft a new Constitution for Maryland.  

Back in Congress, Chase was active in the debate on the Articles of Confederation, which were adopted on 15 November 1777. He campaigned for the new national government to control the frontier lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, but Congress let the states retain their colonial boundaries.  

In 1778, Samuel became involved in a major scandal. He tried to corner the flour market during the time Congress was authorizing the purchase of flour for the Continental Army. As a result, he lost his seat in Congress and much of his reputation. Alexander Hamilton intensely despised Chase and wrote in a New York newspaper:  

“It is your lot to have the peculiar privilege of being universally despised…” 

The income from Chase’s law practice was not sufficient to maintain his lifestyle, so he sought other sources. In the late 1770’s he was a member of a group that operated a saltworks. He was a partner with John Dorsey and Co, which made large purchases of grain and is what resulted in his trouble and loss of his congressional seat. He also invested in an ironworks, an unsuccessful attempt to improve navigation in the Potomac River, a Baltimore wharf, a lumberyard, and a pile driving machine. He also wanted Congress to authorize paper money during the mid-1780’s depression, which would have enriched him.

Maryland’s pre-revolution government had bought stock in the Bank of England using tax money. By 1783 the total value of the stock was about 120,000 pounds sterling, and Maryland wanted the money to reduce their war debts. The governor was William Paca, and he selected Samuel Chase to be the state’s agent. Chase sailed for England in August 1783. 

The London trustees for Maryland had long relationships with Maryland’s former government and refused to release the funds. After months of wrangling, the Court of Chancery took control of the funds pending a political solution. Chase sailed back in August 1784. The settlement was not reached until 1804. Maryland received about 140,000 pounds sterling and Chase received 6,500 pounds sterling commission. However, Maryland refused to pay his expenses and he sued them. Settlement of the suit did not come until 1910. 

While in England, Samuel met and married Hannah Kitty Giles, daughter of Dr. Samuel Giles of Kent Bury. They were married on 3 March 1784. The bride was “a woman of good family, sound education, and a forceful personality.” Hannah and Samuel eventually had two children. 

Chase was eventually reappointed to the Congress for two years, but he rarely attended sessions and played only a minor role. However, he remained a powerful political figure in Maryland. 

In 1786, Samuel and his family moved to Baltimore where he believed his law practice could make more money because the town was growing rapidly. In February Colonel John Howard, a leading Baltimore developer, gave Chase one square of ten lots near the center of the city. Chase built a large brick townhouse on one of his lots. 

Howard also offered Chase another square of ten lots if Baltimore became the capital of Maryland and the government buildings were built on his land. Howard believed Chase had enough political influence to convince the Maryland legislature to make the move. Obviously, the capital of Maryland is still in Annapolis, so Howard was wrong. 

Prior to the May 1787 Constitutional Convention political parties were organized. Two parties were organized-the Federalists and the Antifederalists. The Federalists believed in a strong central government and the Antifederalists believed political power should be in the states. Samuel Chase was an Antifederalist. Maryland was firmly in the Federalist camp. 

Chase, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and William Paca all turned down appointments to the Constitutional Convention. Once the Constitution was drafted, Chase was opposed to it because he believed there was no protection of the rights of states nor individuals. Maryland’s Constitutional Convention began on 21 April 1788 and both Chase and Paca presented their reservations of the document; however, on 26 April Maryland ratified the Constitution by a vote of 63 to 11. 

Chase ran for a seat in the Maryland General Assembly, but the Federalists were in power and declared sending Chase to the Assembly “would be entrusting one’s house keys to a burglar.” Chase was defeated. He was bankrupt and out of power but still had to provide for his family. 

President George Washington-Samuel Chase-Paradoxal Patriot
President George Washington

The election of Chase’s friend, George Washington, to the presidency and the 1789 passage of the Bill of Rights influenced Chase to convert to the Federalist party. He wrote President Washington asking for appointment to the Supreme Court, but Washington already had a slate of candidates. Also, he was still an Antifederalist in the eyes of most Federalists. 

Maryland Governor John Howard appointed Chase to be Chief judge of the new Maryland General Court in August 1791. In December 1791 he also appointed Chase Chief Justice of the new Baltimore Court of Oyer and Terminer. This resulted in a decent income but there was a problem: an appeal from the Baltimore Court would go to the General Court and Samuel Chase would be the judge in both courts. 

The French Revolution had descended into the Reign of Terror and by 1793 France and England were at war. President Washington declared American neutrality, but the British began seizing American ships trading with the French and the French were seizing American ships trading with Britain. In reaction, Congress shut down American ports with a two-month embargo on foreign trade. Baltimore, with so many idle sailors, became a violent place. Chase’s Baltimore court was a major factor in suppressing mob violence and in restoring order. 

In 1792 James McHenry had become a chief advisor to President Washington. He was impressed with Chase’s “defense of order” and his conversion to the Federalist Party. He recommended Chase for a national position. On 20 January 1796 Washington was ready to nominate Chase for the Supreme Court and McHenry to be Secretary of War. Both men accepted. Chase’s appointment angered many Federalists. 

The Supreme Court was still finding how it would function as an equal and separate branch among the three branches of government. By 1800, the justices’ decisions and opinions developed the court’s place, and Samuel Chase was a major contributor to this. In 1801 when John Marshall became Chief Justice, Samuel Chase became a trusted advisor. 

During the early 1790’s, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had founded the Republican Party, which was a thorn in the side of the Federalists. The Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 was passed to silence the Republicans. The First Amendment was greatly bruised by the Act but survived intact. 

Samuel Chase was an ardent party member in presiding over grand jury sessions and circuit court trials under the Sedition Act. He was intemperate, caustic, opinionated, and not even-handed.  

Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801 and wanted to replace Federalist judges at all levels as fast as possible. He had to wait for retirements or deaths, but he was impatient and looked for a Supreme Court justice that could be impeached. He picked Chase who he already disliked. 

In January 1804, House member, Virginian John Randolph, moved to establish a committee of impeachment inquiry. They recommended impeachment based on Chase’s conduct in two trials. The Articles were presented to the House but not acted on until November. Chase had asked Alexander Hamilton to be one of his attorneys, but Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. Ironically, Burr, As Vice President would have presided over Chase’s trial in the Senate. 

The Senate trial began on 2 January 1805 and lasted until 20 February. On 1 March Chase was acquitted on all counts. He returned to the Supreme Court, but he was ill, crippled, in debt, disgraced, and he sank into obscurity. He did continue to assist and advise John Marshall. Due to illness, he missed the 1807 and 1811 sessions. 

By 1811, Samuel’s health prevented him from horseback riding, so he substituted a daily carriage ride through Baltimore and the surrounding area. He knew his days were numbered, so he sent for the rector of St. Paul’s and received the Holy Eucharist. On 19 June, he was totally exhausted after his carriage ride, and he knew the end was near. His physicians and rector were called and at 11:00 PM he died so quietly that his family hardly realized he was gone. His cause of death was listed as “ossification of the heart.” 

Samuel Chase was given a simple funeral at St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore where his father had been rector and where he worshipped. He was buried in St. Paul’s Church cemetery. He had asked that only his name and dates of birth and death be inscribed on his tombstone. 

Chase Gravestone-Samuel Chase-Paradoxal Patriot
Chase Gravestone

Samuel Chase was reburied in a plot with his father, and when his wife, Kitty died, she was buried in the same plot and a new tombstone was erected. 

It is not easy to describe Samuel Chase. He was domineering, caustic, overbearing, aggressive, gregarious, overwhelming in stature and voice, and he had terrible table manners. He had a florid complexion and excitement, or anger made his face even more red. He also dominated a room because he was over six feet tall and weighed about 240 pounds, which made him bigger than most men of his time. He was also highly intelligent with a sense of humor and a deep love for his family. 

Samuel’s acquittal of impeachment charges firmly reinforced the Constitutional separation of powers. Had he been convicted, the future of the judiciary as a separate and equal branch of our government would have been in danger. 

A life-sized portrait of Chase hangs in the Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House in Annapolis with portraits of the other three Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence-William Paca, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and Thomas Stone. Another portrait by Charles Peale hangs in the Second United States Bank in Philadelphia with the other six members of the Continental Congress that selected George Washington to command the Continental Army.  

His name appears on the memorial of the Signers in Washington, DC and a World War II Liberty Ship was named in his honor.  

Oliver Wolcott-Soldier and Statesman

 

 

Oliver Wolcott-Oliver Wolcott-Soldier and Statesman
Oliver Wolcott

Oliver Wolcott was a wealthy and well-educated founding father. He signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, but he was also a leader of militia who fought in the war. He began as a Captain and rose to the rank of major general by war’s end. Oliver served in many local, state, and federal positions, the last being governor of Connecticut. 

Born on 20 November 1726 at Windsor, Connecticut, Oliver Wolcott was the fourteenth of fifteen children (eight survived childhood) and the youngest son of Royal Governor Roger Wolcott and Sarah Drake. The Wolcott and the Drake families were early settlers of New England and were prominent in local affairs. 

Oliver graduated from Yale College in 1747 at the top of his class. He began his military career as a militia captain during King George’s War (1744-1748). He organized a militia unit that was part of an unsuccessful British expedition against the French in New France. This war accomplished nothing. Everything stayed the same as it was before the war. 

After the war, Oliver returned to Goshen, Connecticut to study medicine with his brother, Dr. Alexander Wolcott. Oliver did not find medicine to be his calling. His father owned property in Litchfield, Connecticut so he moved there and took up the practice of law. He also set up a mercantile business. 

The County of Litchfield was founded in 1751 and Oliver Wolcott was elected the first sheriff. He held this position for 20 years.  

Laura Collins Wolcott-Oliver Wolcott-Soldier and Statesman
Laura Collins Wolcott

On 21 January 1755 Oliver Wolcott married Lorraine (Laura) Collins of Guilford, Connecticut. Laura was the daughter of Captain Daniel Collins and Lois Cornwall. Daniel was a sea captain. Daniel and Lois both descended from early and influential New England settlers. 

Laura and Oliver had five children with four surviving childhood. After their marriage, the Wolcott home was known for generous hospitality, especially for those that shared their belief in independence. The Wolcotts were devout Congregationalists.  

Oliver Wolcott became known for his hard work and integrity and was elected to the Connecticut legislature lower house in 1764, 1767-68, and1770. He was elected to the upper house 1771-1786. He was probate judge 1772-1781, and county judge 1774-1778. 

In addition to his political service, Oliver was active in the militia, devoting time each year to duty and training. He was promoted to the rank of major in 1771 and to colonel in 1774. 

In the spring of 1775, the legislature named Oliver to oversee the commissary for Connecticut troops and in the summer the Continental Congress chose him to be Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Northern Department. As commissioner he attended a conference with the Iroquois (Six Nations) in Albany, New York. This meeting resulted in a treaty that temporarily committed the Iroquois to neutrality in the war with Britain. 

Before the end of 1775, Wolcott took part in the arbitration of land disputes between Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. 

Wolcott was an ardent supporter of independence, but like many others his involvement came at a price. Shortly after the 19 April 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, he reflected on the future of his mercantile business during the volatile atmosphere. He wrote: “With regard to my own Business, I have neither time nor opportunity.” 

Oliver Wolcott was elected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775. He served until 1783 except for one year, 1779. However, he was absent much of the time due to his military duties with the Connecticut militia. He took his seat in January 1776 and was quite optimistic that independence would be declared. In April 1776 he wrote “A final separation between the countries I consider as unavoidable,”  

Wolcott was in attendance during the initial debates but missed the final debates and the vote on the Declaration of Independence because in June he returned to his home because of a serious illness. He was unable to sign the Declaration until September of 1776. 

When he recovered from his illness, Wolcott did not immediately return to Congress. He was promoted to brigadier general and in August 1776 was given command of 14 regiments of militia which he organized into brigades. He then moved his force to take part in the battles around New York City by reinforcing General Putnam on the Hudson River.  

Wolcott was in New York City when General George Washington read the Declaration of Independence to his troops. Afterward, a crowd toppled the 4,000-pound equestrian statue of King George III. The statue was made of lead, and it was smashed into pieces. Wolcott had the pieces moved to Litchfield where the lead was cast into bullets by his family and neighbors. They produced more than 40,000 bullets for the army. 

The battle for New York and its deep-water harbor was lost and British General Howe occupied New York City in late September. The British would occupy the city for seven years. 

Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga-Oliver Wolcott-Soldier and Statesman
Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga

In December 1776 Wolcott assumed command of the 6th Militia Brigade in northwestern Connecticut. In September 1777 he led a force of 300 volunteers from his brigade to join General Horatio Gates’ army against British General Burgoyne. The Americans won this campaign and Burgoyne surrendered to Gates at Saratoga, New York on 17 October. This was the first time in history that a British army had surrendered to another country. 

Oliver returned to Congress after the Saratoga campaign. The Congress was meeting in York, Pennsylvania from September 1777 to June 1778 because the British had occupied Philadelphia. Congress passed the Articles of Confederation in November 1777 and Wolcott was one of the signers. 

Wolcott was promoted to the rank of major general and was responsible for the defense of the Connecticut seacoast. Royal Governor William Tryon was plundering the seacoast in the summer of 1780 and Wolcott commanded a division of state militia that drove Tryon back. 

In May 1780 Wolcott was added to the Council of Safety, the Connecticut executive committee for prosecution of the war. 

Wolcott was re-elected to Congress in 1780, but his military service often interfered with his attendance, and he had to balance the two responsibilities.

Oliver left Congress in 1783 and returned to Litchfield, but his days of service were not yet over. In 1784 he helped negotiate the Second Treaty of Fort Stanwix, New York in which the Iroquois ceded their land in New York and Pennsylvania to the United States. 

Oliver Wolcott was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut in 1786 and held that office for ten years. He was a member of the Connecticut convention that ratified the United States Constitution in 1787. In 1789 he helped negotiate with the Wyandotte Tribe to give up their land in the Western Reserve (present day Ohio). 

Laura Collins Wolcott died in Litchfield on 19 April 1794. Laura and Oliver had been married for nearly 40 years. They had a close relationship despite Oliver being gone much of the time serving as a member of congress and as an active military officer. Laura managed their home and business, and raised and educated their children during his absences. She is buried in the East Cemetery in Litchfield. 

Wolcott was a 1796 presidential elector. He cast his vote for John Adams who became the second president of the United States in 1797.  

The governor of Connecticut, Samuel Huntington, who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, died 5 January 1796, and Oliver Wolcott became Governor. His father had held this position 45 years earlier and a son, Oliver Wolcott, Jr, would be elected governor in 1817. 

Governor Oliver Wolcott issued the following proclamation in Litchfield on October 25, 1797: 

 I have, therefore, with the Advice of Council, and by the Desire of the House of Representatives, thought proper to appoint, and do hereby appoint, Thursday the sixteenth day of November next to be observed as a Day of public THANKSGIVING and PRAYER to Almighty God, throughout this State;” 

Oliver Wolcott Grave-Oliver Wolcott-Soldier and Statesman
Oliver Wolcott Grave

Oliver Wolcott died on 1 December 1797 at the age of 71. He had served as Governor for only 11 months. He was buried next to his wife Laura in the East Cemetery in Litchfield. 

Wolcott, like many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, is largely forgotten today yet he played a significant role in achieving independence and in organizing the new nation. He certainly was a successful politician, but he also backed up his words with the sting of battle. The leaders of the Revolution regarded Wolcott as a brave defender of the cause. 

Historian Lossing described Wolcott: “As a patriot and a statesman, a Christian and a man, Governor Wolcott presented a bright example for inflexibility, virtue, piety, and integrity were his prominent characteristics.” 

There are no heroic statues or other great memorials to Oliver Wolcott but a town in Connecticut is named for him, as is the Oliver Wolcott Technical High School in Torrington, Connecticut. The home he built in 1753 in Litchfield is in private hands but is a National Historic Landmark. In 1792, Wolcott received an honorary degree from his alma mater, Yale College. He also was president of the Connecticut Society of Arts and Sciences. By far, the most important memorials are his many descendants who have continued his example of service. 

 

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

The Redcoats are Coming

 

English Red Coat Infantryman-The Redcoats are Coming..
English Red Coat Infantryman

In America, the British army that occupied the colonies and fought against American patriots in the Revolutionary War are forever known as “redcoats.” Obviously, this name is derived from the red or scarlet upper garment that most of the British soldiers wore. Many would say that red made the soldier a better target, but the British wore red for about 250 years. This article is because of my curiosity about the origin of the British red coats. When and why did they adopt the red coats? Did all types of units wear red? Did all ranks wear red? I hope this article answers all these questions plus a few I did not think of. 

Before the introduction of firearms to the battlefield, body armor was used by any soldier that could afford it. The armor ranged from the full body suits that aristocrat knights used. They made up the feared heavy cavalry. The common soldier was lucky if he could afford a breast plate. 

Armor was important until the mid-16th century to early 17th century when firearms came into widespread use with guns that were plentiful and simple to operate. Since the projectile fired from a firearm easily penetrated body armor, mounted and heavily armored knights became obsolete. The elimination of metal body armor resulted in armies developing distinctive cloth uniforms.  

Another important change was that firearms could be used effectively by nearly anyone, so mercenaries were no longer needed, and the ranks became filled with trained commoners. Officer ranks continued to be mostly filled with aristocrats. The introduction and development of firearms had more impact on warfare than any other advance for nearly a thousand years. 

Yeomen Warders (Beefeaters) at Tower of London-The Redcoats are Coming
Yeomen Warders (Beefeaters) at Tower of London-

The English had a history of red military clothing long before it became the official color. The Yeomen of the Guard and the Yeomen Warders were both formed in 1485 and wore Tudor red and gold. The Gentlemen Pensioners of King James I (Reign 1603-1625) wore red. In the first battle of the English Civil War, Royalists troops wore red as did at least two Parliamentary units. 

The English fighting in Ireland during the reign of Elizabeth I (Reign 1558-1603) wore red and were often referred to as “red coats.” by the Irish. During the Anglo-Spanish War, the English pike men and arquebusiers (arquebus is matchlock firearm) fighting with their Dutch allies wore red cassocks. 

The English red coat was officially adopted in February 1645 when the English Parliament passed the “New Model Army Ordnance.” The new English Army paper strength was 22,000 men – 11 cavalry regiments of 600-men each; 12 infantry regiments of 1,200 men each; one 1,000-man dragoon regiment; and 900 artillery men. The infantry regiments were to wear Venetian red coats with white, blue, or yellow facings. 

Many people believe red just made the soldier more visible, but it did not. The firearms of the day were very inaccurate so the British began to fight in lines to concentrate their fire. The soldiers just pointed their muskets at the enemy. They advanced shoulder-to-shoulder to a range of about 60 yards, and on command stopped and raised their muskets and all fired on command. They knelt to reload and the next rank would fire. They advanced relentlessly toward the enemy. 

Black powder produces copious amounts of acrid smoke which obscured the battlefield, but the red coats stood out. This allowed British officers to maintain better control of the situation, which gave them the advantage. 

The English red coat made its continental European battlefield debut in 1658 at the Battle of the Dunes. The English troops had arrived at the port of Calais the previous year and “every man had a new red coat and a new pair of shoes.” 

The English proved their mettle by storming 150-foot-high sand dunes that were defended by experienced Spanish soldiers positioned on the crests of the dunes. The English pushed the Spaniards from the crests with musket fire and pikes. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to scale a sand dune while under fire. 

After the Restoration in 1660, red continued to be worn by English infantry. However, this was the result of circumstances rather than policy. The cost of the dye was relatively cheap and the color was “fast” and did not fade much. Grey and blue coats were also being worn while the military was being reorganized. 

On 16 January 1707, a royal warrant established the “Board of General Officers” to regulate the clothing of the army and uniforms had to conform to their instructions. The design of the coats tended to be based on those of European armies. In 1747, regulations were issued to set the color of facings of the long coat to identify regiments. The red long coat was to be worn with a white or buff colored waistcoat. 

 Eighteenth Century Royal Navy Frigate Under Full Sail-The Redcoats are Coming

Eighteenth Century Royal Navy Frigate Under Full Sail

By the time of the American Revolution, Britain had conquered territory that spanned the globe, with prominent colonies in the Caribbean, North America, and India. It had vast wealth, strengthened by trade, and protected by a powerful navy and a professional army. Although the British army was powerful. It was not yet among the most powerful and the navy did not yet “rule the seas.” During the reign of Victoria (1837-1901), they reached their zenith with a vast empire, and they held most of it until World War II. 

In the cultural memory of the United States, it was “redcoats” that fought against the Patriots during the War for Independence, but at the time, the British were referred to as “Regulars” or “King’s Men” in most accounts. Most British infantry wore the long red coat, but German mercenaries and some Loyalist units wore green or blue uniforms. 

Other names for the British military included “bloody backs” which referred to the color of their coats and to the use of flogging for punishment for military offenses. In the Boston area the British were often referred to as “lobsters.” 

 The term “redcoat” was used colloquially, and George Washington was known to use the term in personal letters. My favorite use of the term was by Continental Major General John Stark. Before the 16 August 1777 Battle of Bennington, New York, Stark reportedly said to his troops: “There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow.” Stark scored a decisive victory.

During the Revolution, the British still wore the long coat (usually red) usually with a buff colored (or white) waistcoat. In 1797 the long coat was replaced with a tight-fitting coatee fastened with a single row of buttons with white lace loops on either side. 

The American Revolution officially ended in 1783. The last British soldiers boarded ships in November 1783 and finally departed the United States of America. 

The British have been involved in many wars since 1066 when William the Conqueror defeated Harold II and became King of England. These early wars were mostly internal or against French kingdoms. However, when the English began to build an empire, conflicts were scattered all over the globe and Britain was usually over-extended. They overcame this with training, organization and grit, so their empire building continued. 

Britain never had a particularly large ground force and depended on their growing navy to project power. The ground forces made up for their small numbers by being well trained and well-armed, but their real strength was discipline. The English navy eventually became the most powerful in the world. “Brittania rules the seas” was a slogan known throughout the world. They held that designation until World War II. 

 British Reenactors in War of 1812 Uniforms-The Redcoats are coming

British Reenactors in War of 1812 Uniforms

The next conflict between the USA and Britain was the War of 1812, but between 1783 and 1812, Britain had been involved in no less than 20 wars around the world. During those 29 years the British uniform had gradually changed and by 1812 consisted of grey trousers, red coatee, white cross-over bayonet belt, and a hat of heavy velvet and leather known as the Belgic Shako. 

The War of 1812 ended in 1815 with an American victory. This victory finally convinced the British that the Americans were in fact free of the British yoke. 

The British continued fighting many wars all over the world as they continued to expand and secure their empire. Their next major war was the Crimean War (1853-1856). The British were allied with the French against Russia. 

Most of us know little about the Crimean War-the charge of the Light Brigade and Florence Nightingale. It was a brutal war and for the British it was infamous for its high death rate from disease and frostbite due to inadequate uniforms, terrible sanitary conditions, and poor medical treatment. It was one of the first conflicts in which military forces used modern technologies such as explosive naval shells, railroads, telegraph, and the deadly Minie rifle. 

The Crimean War was also one of the first to be documented extensively by newspaper correspondents and photographers.  The newspapers quickly made the war a symbol of logistical, medical, and tactical failures, and of gross mismanagement. The British public demanded reforms, but the traditional aristocratic leadership of the army blocked all serious reforms. The outbreak of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 shifted public attention and talk of reform ended. 

British uniforms during the Crimean War were nearly identical as those of the War of 1812 and were totally inadequate for the hard campaigning and the bitter winters of Crimea. The arrival of some cold weather gear before the second winter improved things slightly. 

Following are edited excerpts from an on-line post that I fact checked. It summarizes a lot of uniform information during the Crimean War 

“The British infantryman who boarded a transport at Southampton or Portsmouth wore a very elegant costume. On his head was a tapering, cylindrical shako. Around his neck was a high collar, and a leather neck-stock. His red coat had ten buttons, evenly spaced and bordered in white tape, and cut off at the waist with tails. His trousers were dark grey with a red stripe running down the side of each leg. His collar and cuffs were a color unique to his regiment.” 

“He wore a belt carrying his cartridge box over his left shoulder, a new-fangled waist-belt with a frog to hold his bayonet. On his back was a bulky, box shaped knapsack- tremendously uncomfortable. He carried a water bottle and haversack on the march.” 

“The cavalry had a unique appearance- Dragoons of the ‘Heavy Brigade’ wore brass or silver helmets, with short-tailed red coats and dark grey trousers. Light Dragoons and Lancers were both part of the famous Light Brigade and wore double-breasted blue coats. The Lancers wore a curious Czapka headdress. The Hussars wore a braided blue coat and a fur busby headdress.” 

“The Guards, Highlanders, and the Rifle Brigade wore unique uniforms. The Guards wore imposing bearskin Headdresses and double-breasted coats, the Highlanders wore feather bonnets and kilts. The Rifle Brigade wore green uniforms.” 

“Artillerymen wore a uniform similar to the infantry, but with a blue, double-breasted coat instead of a red, single-breasted one. The horse artillery wore a Hussar-style uniform.” 

 The Crimean War proved how unfitted the British soldier’s uniform was to fight in. They were fighting in uniforms that were designed more for parade than for fighting. The troops had known this for a long time, but the inadequacies had been ignored by the upper ranks. 

A more comfortable single-breasted tunic was finally introduced in 1855. Following the Childers Reforms of 1881 an attempt at standardization was made with English and Welsh regiments having white facings, Scottish yellow, Irish green, and Royal regiments dark blue. 

 The last time British soldiers fought in scarlet and blue uniforms was on 30 December 1885 in the Battle of Gennis in the Sudan. They were sent to take part in the Nile Campaign of 1884-1885. Some regiments sent from India wore khaki drill uniforms. The detachment that reached Khartoum on 28 January 1885 were ordered to fight in their red coats so the Mahdist rebels would know that the “real” British had arrived. 

The British adopted Khaki Service Dress in 1902. A few regiments continued to wear scarlet tunics on parade and off-duty until the start of World War I in 1914. General issue of scarlet tunics was stopped in 1914. 

The Brigade of Guards resumed wearing scarlet full dress uniforms in 1920, but in the rest of the army only regimental bands and officers and senior NCOs in mess dress were authorized to wear red coats. 

Funeral Procession of Queen Elizabeth II-The Redcoats are Coming
Funeral Procession of Queen Elizabeth II

The pageantry of the scarlet tunics and distinctive head gear on ceremonial occasions is always impressive. The British really know how to display their military and their history. 

Most countries that were former British colonies, including the USA, display their British history by adopting red coats for ceremonial occasions. The US Third Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Fife and Drum Corps wear red coats on ceremonial occasions. 

The British will always be known for their “red coats” and their well trained and brave soldiers who delivered an empire to the British monarchy. The British have a military tradition that goes back to 1066 and earlier, and they are justifiably proud.

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON-SOLID PATRIOT

 

 

Samuel Huntington-Samuel Huntington-Solid Patriot
Samuel Huntington-From Samuel Huntington Trust

Samuel Huntington of Connecticut is another founding father that is not widely known; however, he had a long and interesting life of service. He was a lawyer, a jurist, a statesman, and most importantly a patriot. He signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. He also served as president of the Continental Congress 1779-1781, President of the United States in Congress Assembled in 1781, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court 1784-1785. He was elected Governor of Connecticut in 1786 and served in that office until his death in 1796. He was the first American governor to die while in office. 

Samuel Huntington was born on 16 July 1731 in Scotland Parish, Town of Windham, Connecticut (present day Scotland). He was the fourth of ten children and the second oldest son of Nathaniel Huntington and Mehetabel Thurston. Nathaniel’s family had arrived in New England in 1633. He was a farmer and clothier who built a home in Windham in 1732. The original house still stands and serves as a museum. 

Nathaniel was active in the community and was one of the petitioners for permission to settle a minister in their part of town. He donated land for a meeting house and hosted the first meetings. 

Eldest son, Nathaniel attended Yale College and became a minister in Ellington, Connecticut. Other brothers also attended college, but Samuel worked on the family farm and did not have a formal education except for the rudimentary academic training in the “common schools.” These schools mostly taught the basics of reading, writing and elementary mathematics geared to allow the young to be successful in the trades by preparing them for apprenticeships. Samuel was apprenticed to a cooper at the age of 16. He also had to continue working on the family farm. 

Despite having little free time, Samuel wanted to learn so he borrowed books from the Reverend Ebenezer Devotion’s library and from local lawyers. His self-education eventually paid off and he was admitted to the bar in Windham in 1754. Samuel moved to Norwich, Connecticut to begin his legal practice. 

Martha Devotion Huntington-Samuel Huntington-Solid Patriot
Martha Devotion Huntington

Samuel apparently was interested in more than the library at Reverend Devotion’s because he married Martha Devotion on 17 April 1761. Martha was the daughter of the Reverend and his wife Martha Lothrop. The Devotion family had also settled in the colony early, having arrived in 1632. 

Martha and Samuel had no children. Martha’s sister, Hannah, was married to Samuel’s brother, the Reverend Joseph Huntington. Hannah died in 1771, and Samuel and Martha adopted their two children. The son, Samuel H. Huntington became governor of Ohio in 1810 and the daughter, Frances, married the Reverend Edward D. Griffin, president of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. 

In 1764, Samuel’s political career began with his election to be one of the Norwich representatives to the Connecticut Assembly. He distinguished himself and was re-elected every year for ten years.  

Huntington was ambitious but not arrogant, skillful but not polished. He got things done diplomatically using persuasion and compromise, and he was respected by both freemen and the elite. 

Royal Governor Jonathan Trumbull appointed Huntington King’s Attorney in 1765. He remained in that position until 1774 when Governor Trumbull appointed him to the Connecticut Superior Court. This position carried with it a seat on the Governor’s Council, which served as the upper house of the Connecticut Assembly. Samuel was named Chief Justice in 1778. 

While his political career was developing, the troubles with the mother country were getting more intense, especially in Boston, Massachusetts. Huntington probably hoped compromise could be reached, but Britain’s use of taxes and force to control the colonies changed his beliefs. Although not a radical, Samuel Huntington became an advocate of separation from Britain. He publicly spoke out against the British taxes levied on the colonies, which put him with the majority of the Connecticut Assembly. 

In October 1775, the Assembly elected Samuel to be one of the Connecticut delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He traveled to Philadelphia with fellow delegate Oliver Wolcott in January 1776. It was a difficult two-week-long journey, arriving on 15 January. Samuel soon suffered with a bout of smallpox and could not attend Congress until February. 

Signing Declaration of Independence by RE Pine-Samuel Huntington-Solid Patriot
Signing Declaration of Independence by RE Pine

When the Richard Henry Lee resolution for independence was brought to the floor on 2 July 1776, Huntington voted for it. He then voted for the final draft of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776, and signed the Declaration on 2 August 1776. 

Samuel Huntington established a reputation for steady hard work and for a calm demeanor in tense situations. He was not known for learned or brilliant speech. He had a heavy load of committee assignments, so he spent long days in Congress. He disliked the city and received inadequate pay for his living expenses. He worried about and missed his family, and he worried about his business. He wanted to finish his work and return to his home and family as soon as possible.  

It was November before Huntington returned to Norwich and he was immediately faced with the problems of the local war effort — rising prices, raising provisions, raising militia, and defending the coast. He was elected for the 1777 Congress but there was much to be done in Connecticut, so he declined. In July 1777, he and representatives from New England and New York met to discuss economic problems caused by the war. 

Samuel returned to Congress in February 1778. Congress had adopted the Articles of Confederation. The Articles had many weaknesses, but Samuel recognized the need for some kind of unified government and strongly supported the document. After signing the final draft of the Articles, Huntington returned home; however, he was again elected to Congress. He returned to Philadelphia in May 1779. 

The new session of Congress involved even more committee assignments for Samuel, including a committee to draft instructions for negotiating a peace treaty with Britain. He also concentrated on problems with military pay and a weak currency. 

In September 1779, Huntington was preparing to return to Connecticut when he was elected President of the Continental Congress to replace John Jay who had been appointed minister to Spain. He was an excellent choice because he had considerable experience and did not have any regional biases. Pennsylvania delegate, Benjamin Rush described Huntington as: “a sensible, candid and worthy man, and wholly free from State prejudices.” 

Samuel had been away from his wife since May, and it was apparent that he would need to stay in Philadelphia for the full year of his presidency, so he sent for Martha. She arrived in December and immediately suffered a bout of smallpox. 

The Congressional presidency did not include extra pay, but Congress supplied a home, food, household supplies and staff. However, it was still a financial burden because he was expected to entertain members of Congress and foreign dignitaries. He received help in the form of additional funds from the Connecticut government, but it was not enough to cover his expenses. At the same time, his business interests and law practice in Connecticut continued to waste away. 

Huntington presided over a very contentious Congress, which tested his diplomatic skills and patience. He was also faced with the need for copious amounts of official correspondence. Although he no longer served on committees, he was still an active Connecticut delegate. As president he dealt with absenteeism, bad mail service, and constant worry about the war and the fragile economy. 

Samuel expected to return to Connecticut when his term as president expired in September 1780, but Congress voted to keep him for another year. The Articles of Confederation became the official constitution on 1 March 1781 when the last hold-out state, Maryland, ratified the document. The United States became an official nation, and Samuel Huntington became the first President of “The United States in Congress Assembled.” 

By July 1781. Samuel was tired and probably in poor health, so he resigned and returned to Connecticut. Business matters had been neglected for too long, but his judgeship and seat on the Governor’s Council had been held for him. He arrived in Norwich on 25 July 1781. 

Massacre at Fort Griswold-Samuel Huntington-Solid Patriot
Massacre at Fort Griswold-Revolutionary War Journal

On 6 September, a British force of 1,700 men under the command of the traitor (and native of Norwich), Benedict Arnold, attacked New London and Groton. They burned both towns and attacked Fort Griswold. After a brave defense, the Fort Griswold commander surrendered the garrison. The British commander accepted the American commander’s sword and then killed him with it. The British troops then slaughtered many of the wounded and prisoners before burning the fort and withdrawing. The American losses were about 150 killed or wounded. 

In the fall of 1781, Samuel resumed his seat in the state General Assembly and quickly became quite active in committee work. He served for two years. He drafted many documents including the first copyright law in America. 

Huntington was re-elected to the United States Congress in May 1782, but declined to serve. Elected again in 1783, he chose to serve once more, and traveled to Princeton, New Jersey. Congress was meeting in Princeton to get away from “mutinous troops” who were demanding action on back pay and other benefits that Congress had promised them during the war. The “mutiny” ended soon, but Congress was slow to act on the troop’s legitimate demands. 

Congress only met in Princeton for about four months and accomplished little during that time. The war had ended, although not officially, and Congress was faced with establishing a new and unique nation that had been at war for over eight years. Among the other subjects considered by the Congress were military pay, and the choice of a location for a national capital. 

Samuel Huntington had previously served in Congress during some of the most difficult and discouraging years of the war. He must have felt considerable pride when in October 1783 word arrived that the Treaty of Paris was signed, and the long war was finally officially over. America was free. 

Samuel Huntington left Congress for the last time in November 1783 and returned to Norwich. However, his service to the new nation was not over. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut in 1784 and again in 1785. He also was working to rebuild his long-neglected law practice. 

Elected Lieutenant Governor again in 1786, Samuel had taken the oath of office when fate intervened. No candidate for governor had won a majority of the popular vote so it was up to the General Assembly to select the governor. They selected Samuel Huntington. 

Huntington faced a formidable challenge. Like most other states, Connecticut had suffered much social and economic upheaval during, and immediately after the war. He provided strong leadership, and the Assembly passed tax exemptions and other financial incentives to aid developing industries. The state also introduced procedures for handling claims by those injured during the Revolution. 

Western Reserve today Part of Ohio-Samuel Huntington-Solid Patriot
Western Reserve today Part of Ohio

Under Connecticut’s 1662 Charter, they held claim to land west of the Appalachian Mountains. Connecticut and other states relinquished their western claims to the United States in 1786 in return for the US assuming their war debts. The US then established the “Northwest Territory” in 1787. Connecticut had retained the eastern part of its western lands south of Lake Erie, referred to as the “Western Reserve.” Under Huntington’s leadership, Connecticut sold this land to speculators in 1795 or 1796. The money received from this deal was used to compensate those who had lost “homes or other property” to British actions during the war. The rest of the money was used to establish a permanent school fund. 

Samuel’s beloved wife, Martha Devotion Huntington, died at Norwich on 4 June 1794. She was buried in the Old Norwichtown Cemetery in Norwich. His brother, Joseph, died two years later. Following Martha’s death, Samuel’s health, which had been fragile most of his adult life, began to deteriorate. 

As the economy improved and stabilized, Connecticut’s first banks were organized, the Connecticut Medical Society was incorporated, and support was given to struggling Yale College. Plans were made to construct a large State House in Hartford to accommodate the General Assembly, but it was not dedicated until after Huntington’s death in 1796. 

Connecticut began considering ratification of the United States Constitution on 4 January 1788. The Connecticut delegation to Congress had been instrumental in the compromise (the Connecticut Compromise) that established the two-house legislative system we have today. Huntington was one of the speakers who strongly supported the Constitution, and on 9 January it was ratified by the state of Connecticut, the fifth state to do so. 

Samuel Huntington had been governor of Connecticut for nearly ten years when he died on 5 January 1796. His health had been declining since the death of his wife Martha in 1794. Huntington died of “dropsy of the chest.” 

Dropsy was an early term used to describe generalized swelling of the tissue caused by fluid retention (edema). The major underlying causes of dropsy are congestive heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, and malnutrition. Because these were not clearly differentiated before the nineteenth century, a historical diagnosis of cause cannot be made. However, heart failure was the most frequent of the four. 

Eighteenth century treatment of dropsy was very rudimentary and centered around the reduction of fluids. By far the most common method was bloodletting, but tubes inserted into body cavities were also used. These methods could not diagnose the underlying cause of dropsy, so the prognosis most often was death. 

Samuel and Martha Huntington Grave-Samuel Huntington-Solid Patriot
Samuel and Martha Huntington Grave

Samuel Huntington was buried in the Old Norwichtown Cemetery in Norwich. His and Martha’s grave monument is a marble slab in a brick wall. Newspaper accounts of Governor Huntington’s funeral report a procession of bands and dignitaries from his home to Norwich Church. His pastor and friend, Joseph Strong preached the funeral sermon. He described Huntington as “naturally amiable” with a “candid and deliberate manner.” He emphasized Huntington’s close family relationships. 

No matter where his service had taken him, Huntington had longed to be home in Norwich with his beloved wife and their two adopted children. He was a faithful family man that also served his country any way that he could. His open-minded and diplomatic nature coupled with his intellect carried him to high office and gained him the respect and friendship of his peers. 

At the time of his death, Samuel Huntington was well-known and respected in the nation he helped found and organize. He had been awarded honorary degrees by Princeton, Dartmouth, and Yale. He was friends with the giants of the founding of the United States including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. 

Over time, Huntington’s fame waned and today few people have even heard of him, much less know of his accomplishments. To add insult to injury, Huntington, Connecticut, which was founded in 1789, was renamed Shelton in 1919. Pennsylvania and Indiana each have a town named after him and a public school in Norwich still bears his name. Not much of a legacy for a man that gave so much to his country. The signers of the Declaration of Independence should all be remembered and honored by all generations of Americans. Without them, we would still be British subjects, and without the USA much of the world, including Great Britain, would probably be speaking German or Japanese. 

The Gaspee Affair-An Act of War

The 1772 burning of the HMS Gaspee was a significant, but lesser-known violent action in the lead-up to the American Revolution. It was perpetrated by prominent citizens of Rhode Island and was an act of open defiance against the authority of the British Crown. The event sharply increased tensions between colonials and the Crown. Tensions were already strained close to the breaking point because of the Boston Massacre that had occurred in 1770. The affair marked the first overt acts of violent uprising against Crown authority in British North America. It preceded the Boston Tea Party by more than a year and little Rhode Island pushed all 13 colonies closer to the coming war for independence. 

Map of Rhode Island-The Gaspee Affair-Act of War
Map of Rhode Island

The Gaspee Affair and other early defiant acts occurred in Narragansett Bay which should be described to set the scene. This bay is an inlet of the North Atlantic. It extends northward from Rhode Island Sound for 28 miles and almost divides Rhode Island into two parts. The bay is 3 to 12 miles wide. Several rivers empty into the bay, and it contains at least two large islands. Mount Hope Bay is a northeastern arm of the Narragansett. The Sakonnet River is a tidal strait that separates the island of Rhode from the mainland. 

Narragansett Bay features deep water anchorage and includes at least two major ports-Providence and Newport. The bay is large enough for ships to maneuver and to anchor without blocking shipping lanes. The bay was, and still is, a major and active shipping center. During colonial days, it was vital to British and American traders and to the Royal Navy. 

During much of the eighteenth century, Britain was at war. While at war, Britain did not want to antagonize its overseas colonies and risk the loss of vital and lucrative trade. Being somewhat ignored by the mother country, the colonists became more self-governing and much more independent.  

The Rhode Island government was elected by the people, and they believed only their elected representatives could levy taxes on Rhode Island individuals and businesses. On the other hand, the British Parliament always believed they had the constitutional right to tax any English person or business anywhere in English colonies. 

King George III-The Gaspee Affair-Act of War
King George III

Following the global British victories over France in the 1756-1763 Seven Years War (French and Indian War in America), the British attempted to regain control over their colonies and to recoup the cost of the war. The Crown immediately antagonized all 13 colonies by the Royal Proclamation of 1763. This proclamation prohibited all English colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains, which was unacceptable to the colonists. Many of them already had land claims in the west and the colonies were growing rapidly.

The British also believed that since the war had been partially fought to protect the colonies, it was only fair that the colonists help pay for it. The British also stationed about 10,000 troops in the American colonies for defense, and to keep their large standing army out of England. The main reason the British military was not demobilized after the war was that it would put about 1,500 politically well-connected officers out of work. 

Parliament believed the colonists should be willing to pay taxes to help pay for garrisoning troops in the colonies. However, Britain had never before levied direct taxes on the colonies, and they greatly underestimated the resistance that would come from the Americans when they did.  

Rhode Islanders increasingly resisted the British attempts to regain control of the colonies by new taxes such as the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend acts. Also, British rules and policies interfered with the colony’s traditional businesses. Many of these businesses were involved with the lucrative slave trade. Rhode Islanders were also convinced that the Sugar Act and Molasses Tax would adversely affect rum production and suppress their economy even more. 

Even before major unrest began in Boston, Rhode Island was a hotbed of resistance and independent feeling, and they did not want to pay money into the British treasury. To avoid the duties on merchant ship’s cargo, smuggling became a way of life for Rhode Islanders. The British responded by increasing their enforcement of customs in all American ports. They also deputized Royal Navy officers to enforce the customs laws. Rhode Island law gave local sheriffs the authority to enforce civil law in the Narragansett Bay, so they believed the British military had no enforcement rights. 

In 1763 the British purchased six Marblehead sloops and schooners, including the Gaspee, to bolster their duty enforcement. These ships were fast, armed with cannon, and small arms were available for the crew. The Admiralty deployed several of these ships to patrol the American coastline to inspect the cargos of American merchant ships. One of these Royal Navy ships, the six-gun HMS St. John, was stationed at the port of Newport in 1764. 

Rhode Islanders had always disliked the British customs service and now the St John was increasing enforcement in Narragansett Bay. Enforcement also became more aggressive and more intrusive. The St John crew made matters worse by pressing locals into service and they were accused of stealing from local merchants. They were confronted by a local sheriff and other authorities, and the dispute became so heated that the captain of the St John decided to sail out of Newport waters for their safety. 

As the St John was sailing away, the port’s defensive cannon crews were ordered to fire on her. They fired but the ship was out of range. There were no casualties during the incident, but this was the first time American guns had fired on a Royal Navy vessel. The colonists had shown that they were willing to risk war by physically standing up against British power. 

Relations between all 13 colonies and Britain continued to deteriorate. In 1764, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which was strenuously opposed. Americans insisted the act violated their rights since they were not represented in Parliament. 

Although the Stamp Act was rescinded in 1766, it was closely followed by another package of new taxes and regulations known as the Townshend Acts of 1767 and 1768. These acts were hated even more than the Stamp Act. American resistance stiffened and became more militant and, in most colonies, spawned the effective militant group, the Sons of Liberty. “No Taxation without representation” became the rallying call in all 13 colonies. The Sons of Liberty were organizing and leading protests and riots targeting the Townshend Acts, and they were also slowly developing the case for revolution. 

To meet the increased resistance, the British reinforced their military presence trying to intimidate the locals. This allowed the British to confront even minor threats with overwhelming force. The overt resistance by the Americans and their obvious dislike of the troops caused the British troops to be nervous and they became even more aggressive trying to establish control.  

In October 1768, the British sent more troops to Boston, Massachusetts to “keep the peace.” All this did was increase tension and resistance and it boiled over on 5 March 1770. Colonists taunted a lone British sentry and became threatening. The soldier was reinforced, the situation deteriorated, and the nine British soldiers fired a volley into the crowd killing five colonists. The colonists named the incident the “Boston Massacre.” 

Revere Depiction of Boston Massacre-The Gaspee Affair-Act of War
Revere Depiction of Boston Massacre

News of the Boston Massacre, accompanied by an inflammatory and inaccurate depiction of the shooting by Paul Revere, traveled to all 13 colonies. Tension and unrest spiked throughout the colonies and the British troops became even more nervous. This was one more violent step on the road to open war and revolution. 

Later in March, the HMS Gaspee sailed into Narragansett Bay and into an atmosphere of increased revolutionary fervor. The Gaspee was an 8-gun-schooner with a 19-man-crew. It was commanded by Royal Navy Lieutenant William Dudingston. Like the St John, Dudingston’s orders were to combat smuggling by inspecting the cargo of American merchant ships and by confiscating all contraband.  

Dudingston soon gained a reputation for excessive enforcement that probably exceeded his authority. The Gaspee crew was boarding and detaining American ships without clear cause and confiscating their cargos. Since the British crew was allowed to keep a portion of what they confiscated, it appeared their actions were often motivated by greed rather than a sense of duty. 

The Gaspee detained and boarded an American sloop, the Fortune, which was carrying undeclared barrels of rum. Lieutenant Dudingston ordered that the Fortune and its crew and cargo be sent to Boston where the Americans would be tried by a vice-admiralty court. The Rhode Island colonial authorities were enraged claiming Dudingston’s actions were illegal under the Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663. The charter stated any arrest within the colony would be tried in the colony. Local resentment rose and a Rhode Island sheriff threatened to arrest Dudingston. 

Royal Navy Admiral John Montague-The Gaspee Affair-Act of War
Royal Navy Admiral John Montague

Dudingston consulted with his superior, Admiral John Montague who wrote an angry letter to the sheriff and Joseph Wanton, Governor of Rhode Island. Montague threatened to hang as a pirate anyone who tried to rescue any vessel confiscated by the Royal Navy. Wanton was not intimidated and responded with a defiant letter. He implied that Dudingston was the pirate and he informed Montague that the Admiralty had no right to give orders to colonial governors. He continued, “as to your advice not to send the sheriff onboard any boat of your squadron, please know that I will send the sheriff of this colony at any time, and to any place, within the body of it, as I see fit.” 

The situation was already deteriorating, and this exchange did nothing to reduce tension. The arrogance of British authorities like Dudingston and Montague, was more than many colonists, particularly Rhode Islanders, could tolerate and some plotted to resolve the Gaspee “problem” on their own. 

The opportunity came on 9 June 1772. The Gaspee was pursuing the packet ship, Hannah. (Packet ships were medium sized vessels used for international trade but had shallow enough draft to sail into rivers.) The Hannah sailed to shallow water and when the pursuing Gaspee entered the shallows at full sail, she ran aground near Warwick at a land point called Namquid Point (now known as Gaspee Point). The crew of the Hannah later claimed they intentionally lured Gaspee to the shallows. 

No matter why it happened, the Gaspee was stuck tight, and the crew could not free her. Dudingston had no choice but to wait for high tide to free his ship.  

John Brown-The Gaspee Affair-Act of War
John Brown

The news about the predicament of the Gaspee reached Providence and a late-night meeting of the Sons of Liberty was held in a local tavern. They laid plans to take advantage of the situation by raiding the trapped ship. The raiding party was mostly made up of prominent citizens and was led by an influential merchant and Bristol County Sheriff named John Brown. A man identified as Captain Whipple was placed in command of the actual attack since he was an experienced sea captain who had engaged in naval combat. The Sons of Liberty members cast lead bullets before the raiding party boarded longboats with muffled oarlocks. 

The raiders claimed they had eight or nine longboats and 64-100 men. Lieutenant Dudingston later made the ridiculous claim of dozens of longboats and over 250 colonists. The Gaspee deck could not have held anywhere near that number. 

Brown’s raiders approached the Gaspee at about two AM on 10 June. They positioned their longboats to minimize any risk of cannon fire. They boarded the ship before the watch could sound the alarm and caught the sleeping crew by surprise. The crew’s weapons were locked away in a chest. Once on board, Brown assumed command, and the raiders claimed to have a warrant for Dudingston’s arrest. The ever-hot-headed Dudingston tried to resist and was shot in the groin by Joseph Bucklin who proclaimed when Dudingston fell, “I have killed the rascal.” This ended any thoughts the crew may have had about resisting and Dudingston surrendered the ship.

The shot had severed Dudingston’s femoral artery, which was usually fatal , and he was bleeding out fast. Doctor John Mawney  was in the raiding party, and he applied a compression bandage to the wound which stopped the bleeding and saved Dudingston’s life. 

Artist Depiction of HMS Gaspee Burning-The Gaspee Affair-Act of War
Artist Depiction of HMS Gaspee Burning

The raiders took their time and read through the Gaspee’s papers.  They arrested the crew, bound their hands, and loaded everyone into the longboats. They torched the ship and shoved off towards shore. They did hesitate for a short time to watch the Gaspee burn. The fire eventually reached the powder magazines, and a great explosion destroyed the hated Gaspee. 

Once they reached shore, Brown’s raiders abandoned the Gaspee crew and returned to Providence. Dudingston tended his wound for the next few days but was then arrested by the sheriff and charged with “illegal seizure of cargo.”

Admiral Montague was livid over the loss of a Royal Navy ship to raiders, and he had to pay a big fine to free Dudingston. He then sent Dudingston to England to be court-martialed for the loss of the Gaspee. 

Lieutenant Dudingston was in trouble because the British Admiralty believed there was never a legitimate reason to surrender a Royal Navy vessel. However, Dudingston was eventually acquitted and resumed his naval career. He later served in the American War for Independence and achieved the rank of admiral. 

The Admiralty was outraged that a Royal Navy vessel was boarded and destroyed so easily. Montague launched an investigation to identify the raiders with the intention of sending them to England to be tried for treason. To avoid any action against colony authorities, Governor Wanton condemned the raid and “cooperated” with the investigation. He offered an anemic 100-pound reward for information leading to arrests. A very angry King George III offered a reward of 1,000 pounds, a fortune to ordinary citizens. The Gaspee had been purchased for only 545 pounds. 

In January 1773, a commission was appointed by the King to investigate the incident, identify the raiders and try them for treason. Governor Wanton was placed in charge, and their first finding was that no Rhode Island civil officials were involved. 

During months of interviews, only one alleged eyewitness was found. He was Aaron Briggs, an indentured servant of African and Indian descent who may have been a rower of one of the longboats. He supplied the names of five important merchants, including John Brown. Wanton doubted this testimony and questioned Briggs’ masters who claimed Briggs had been on their farm the night of 9-10 June. They testified he could not have witnessed the incident. The Briggs testimony was thrown out despite Montague believing him. Briggs felt threatened by those he named, so the British Navy supplied protection for him. No one was ever identified and charged for burning the Gaspee, nor for wounding Lieutenant Dudingston. 

The identities of the raiders were not made public until after the Revolutionary War, even though they were well known by Rhode Islanders. Probably one of the best kept secrets in history. 

Even though no Americans were punished for the Gaspee Affair, colonial leaders saw a threat in the investigation. The commission was granted authority to extradite those accused to England for trial. Witnesses and evidence would also be sent to England. This was a clear violation of colonist’s rights. They were guaranteed by their charter to be tried by a jury of their peers. Colonial newspapers reported this and purposely inflamed the political situation throughout the colonies.  

Leaders in Virginia Colony, including Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry decided an organization was needed to protect American’s right to a fair trial. They created a permanent intercolonial committee of correspondence to coordinate responses to actions threatening American rights and liberties. Within a year every colony except Pennsylvania had formed a similar committee. The Gaspee Affair was uniting Americans in a common cause. 

Eighteen months after the Gaspee Affair, the Boston Tea Party caused bigger political waves and is better known.  

Even though the Gaspee Affair is not a well-known event, it was quite significant. It raised tensions between the Americans and the Crown when relations were already deteriorating. It also demonstrated that the British military was not invincible and could be challenged, even by civilians. 

Americans had planned an armed raid on a Royal Navy vessel. They had forcefully boarded and then destroyed the ship, they had captured and detained the ship’s crew, and had purposely shot a British military officer. Earlier they had fired on the HMS St John. 

When the details reached Britain, the Gaspee Affair was called “treason” and an “act of war” by Parliament and the King. No earlier incident had ever produced such a response by the British government.

The Americans did not yet recognize that they were at war, but the British realized that war had already started, and they began the necessary preparations to fight it. They began to assemble a large naval fleet and additional troops to reinforce their forces in North America. However, it was too late in 1774 to safely cross the Atlantic, so it was spring 1775 when these reinforcements set sail for America. The Battles of Lexington and Concord occurred in April 1775, so the British were correct in their assessment of the situation. 

The American Revolutionary War was not precipitated by a single action or event. In the beginning, only a few Americans saw a need for separation from the mother country. Overreach by the Crown, and a long series of political and military confrontations accompanied by agitation from the committed separatists gradually convinced most of the people to revolt. Independence was finally won by ordinary people who were unified. They fought and died for a new concept of freedom from tyrants and government by and for the people. 

William Ellery-Rhode Island Patriot

 

William Ellery Portrait-William Ellery-Rhode Island Patriot
William Ellery Portrait

William Ellery of Rhode Island is another lesser-known founding father who gained little recognition outside of his lifelong residence of Newport. However, he was an important Patriot who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. Rather than leaving Congress for other pursuits, he served in Congress for 10 years doing the demanding work of establishing a government like none the world had ever seen. William Ellery also served in local positions in Rhode Island and as a federal customs collector for the district of Newport for thirty years. 

Born in Newport, Rhode Island on 22 December 1727, William Ellery was the second son of William and Elizabeth Almy Ellery. William Senior was a wealthy merchant. He also was Speaker of the House of Deputies, a judge of the County Court, a member of the Newport Town Council, and deputy governor of Rhode Island. 

The senior Ellery graduated from Harvard in 1722. He became a successful merchant and inherited a major part of his father’s estate. He recognized that a good education was essential for a young person’s future so young William was tutored by his father and was able to enter Harvard at the age of 16. 

After graduation from Harvard in 1747, young William returned to Newport and entered his father’s mercantile business where he learned the details of shipping and international trade. He was also commissioned as an officer in the small Rhode Island Navy where he learned about naval affairs. In 1748, he became a Master Mason. 

On 11 October 1750, William married Ann Remington of Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Jonathan and Lucy Bradstreet Remington and was a highly educated and accomplished young lady. William and Ann had seven children with five surviving childhood. Ann died after 14 years of marriage on 7 September 1764 and was buried in Cambridge. 

After a few years in the mercantile business young William realized it was not his preferred profession. He was a customs collector for a while and then became a clerk to the Rhode Island General Assembly. He took up study of the law and began his own law practice by 1770. Law seemed to be his calling. His practice was very successful, and he prospered. About this time, he caught the political fever and politics became his passion. 

Ellery was particularly active in politics because of the increasing British taxes on the colonies and British interference in the colonists self-governing. He saw no logical reason for being controlled by a monarchy 3,000 miles away, and he became an ardent and vocal proponent of separation from the mother country. He also became active in the Rhode Island Sons of Liberty. 

Disputes with England became more intense in 1765 and William helped lead a riotous march of Rhode Islanders through Providence in resistance to the Stamp Act. He also supported resistance to the Intolerable Acts of 1767. 

Abigail Cary and William Ellery married on 28 June 1767. Abigail was the daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Wanton Cary. William and Abigail had eight children but only two survived childhood. 

The First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the fall of 1774 and Ellery admired their stand against British authority. He had connections to important Patriots in other colonies and was educating himself on the issues. He made no secret that he wanted to serve in the Congress. 

After the battles of Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775, Ellery became concerned that an “accommodation” with England was being suggested by some in Congress. He stated “…. There is liberty and fire enough, it only requires the application of the bellows. Blow, then, a blast that will shake this country. 

Samuel Ward, a Rhode Island delegate to Congress died of smallpox in March of 1776. William Ellery was chosen to replace Ward. Ellery traveled to Philadelphia and took his seat after presenting his credentials on 16 May 1776. He was present for the 7 June reading of Richard Henry Lee’s resolution to declare independence, and he voted for the resolution on 2 July. William Ellery voted for the final draft of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. 

On 10 July, William wrote to his brother, Benjamin including this sentence: “We have lived to see a period which a few years ago no human forecast could have imagined-to see these Colonies shake off and declare themselves independent of a State which they once gloried to call parent…” 

Ellery also wrote to the Reverend Ezra Siles, President of Yale on 20 July including the following; We “must forget our former love of our British brethren. The sword must determine our quarrel.” 

Signing Declaration of Independence -William Ellery-Rhode Island Patriot
Signing Declaration of Independence

On 2 August 1776, most delegates signed the Declaration. He wrote this about that momentous event: “I was determined to see how they all looked as they signed what might be their death warrant, I placed myself beside the Secretary Charles Thompson and eyed each closely as he affixed each name to the document. Undaunted resolution was displayed in every countenance.” 

Ellery served in the Congress for ten years and he served on several committees. He was appointed to the Marine Committee and the Admiralty Court because he had connections with shipping magnets and had knowledge of naval matters. He participated in the debate on and voted for the Articles of Confederation in 1777. The Articles served as the first “constitution” and established the title of the United States of America. (The Articles were not adequate, and the country almost went under before the Constitution of the United States of America was adopted on 17 September 1787.) 

The British recognized that Newport, Rhode Island had one of the best deep-water ports in the colonies and they occupied the city from 1776 to 1779. The occupying troops essentially destroyed the city. The British knew Ellery had signed the Declaration, so they burned his home to the ground and destroyed all other property of his. 

A Congressional Committee was selected to investigate what I will call: The “Silas Deane Affair,” which involved a secret mission to France and bad relations between the American team members. I don’t know what the committee reported but Silas Deane died under mysterious circumstances in 1779. 

Ellery was a member of another committee that tried to sort out the often-competing jurisdictions of the Admiralty Courts and Federal courts. This problem was not solved until the 1840’s. 

British Surrender at Yorktown-Trumbull-William Ellery-Rhode Island Patriot
British Surrender at Yorktown-Trumbull

The surrender of the British army commanded by General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown on 19 October 1781 ended most of the fighting of the Revolutionary War. The treaty of Paris, which officially ended the War, was signed on 3 September 1783, and took effect on 12 May 1784. The last British troops left American soil on 25 November 1783. 

While still serving in Congress, William became a justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court from May 1780 to May 1781 and was Chief Justice from June 1785 to May 1786. 

In 1782 Ellery was appointed by Congress to officially thank Major General Nathanael Greene for his valuable service in the Southern Campaign of the War. 

Ellery joined with Rufus King of New York in 1785 in a concerted but unsuccessful effort to have slavery abolished in the United States. 

In 1786 William Ellery left Congress after ten years to accept an appointment as commissioner of the Continental Loan Office for Rhode Island. He served until 1790. The need to recover his own finances may have caused him to accept this position. The British had wiped out his possessions in Newport and during his long service in Congress he was unable to conduct his law practice. 

In 1790, President of the “new” United States of America George Washington appointed Ellery customs collector for the District of Newport. He held this position for thirty years until his death. He served through changes in political administrations and five presidents, probably because of his competence and his earlier service to the Revolution. 

Abigail died on 27 July 1793 in Newport. She was buried in the Common Burial Ground in Newport. 

Ellery prospered in his later years. He also kept active in public affairs, in scholarly pursuits, and correspondence. He had earned the respect and friendship of many of his contemporaries and others often sought his advice. His influence, both in and out of Congress, was considerable. 

William Ellery was a true intellectual. He was widely read, not only in English, but in Greek and Latin. He loved the classics and urged his children and grandchildren to devote as much time and patience as necessary to acquire a sound understanding of the great classical works. 

William Ellery Grave-William Ellery-Rhode Island Patriot
William Ellery Grave

Love of the classics continued through Ellery’s last days. He was actively translating Virgil’s Aeneid and Horace’s Espistles. He died sitting in a chair reading Cicero’s De Officiis on 15 February 1820. He was initially buried in Coggeshall Cemetery in Newport, but later, he was given a tomb in the Common Burial Ground in Newport.  

William Ellery died at 92 years old, one of only three signers of the Declaration to live into their 90s. The other two were John Adams and Charles Carroll of Carrollton. 

William Ellery’s name appears on the Signers Memorial in Washington, DC, but there are no great monuments honoring him. A town in New York is named after him and a street in Middletown, Rhode Island bears his name. 

The Rhode Island Sons of the Revolution and the William Ellery Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution conduct a commemoration at Ellery’s grave every Independence Day. This is a meaningful tribute for an American patriot and a great man. 

Not long before his death, Ellery had summed up his career as follows: “I have been a clerk of the court, a quack lawyer, a member of Congress, one of the lords of the Admiralty, a judge, a loan officer, and finally a Collector of the customs and thus, not without great difficulty, but as honestly, thank God, as most men, I have got through the journey of a varied and sometimes anxious life.” 

Brown Bess-Gun That Won an Empire

 

Brown Bess with Bayonet-Brown Bess-Gun That Won an Empire
Brown Bess with Bayonet-

Brown Bess is not a reference to a woman but is the name given to the gun that won the British Empire. Nobody knows for sure why the name was adopted by the troops, but it still is the name we all know. The Brown Bess musket was introduced early in the eighteenth century and was the British military’s principal longarm until the introduction of a percussion cap smoothbore musket in 1838. The Brown Bess was used in early wars in the American colonies, by both sides in the War for American Independence, in the conquest of India and in the Napoleonic wars. Bess was altered several times to meet changing demands, but its basic design remained intact.  

The long development of infantry firearms was made possible by the invention of gunpowder. The earliest proved reference to gunpowder was in China in 808 AD. Gunpowder was initially used for medicinal purposes and fireworks. The first military application was before 1000 AD when it was used for fire arrows. 

During the first half of the Twelfth Century, the Chinese introduced the “Fire Lance” which was a spear with a gunpowder charge in a bamboo tube attached to the end. Initially, it would shoot out a flame much like a miniature flame thrower, but later it was used to propel broken pottery and iron pellets. 

Chinese Hand Cannon-Brown Bess-Gun That Won an Empire
Chinese Hand Cannon

The Chinese probably developed the “hand cannon” about 1280 AD, which was the first weapon we would consider to be a “gun.” It was a cast bronze (later iron) tube with a bore of about one inch and a bulbous base to withstand the expansion of powder ignition. There was a touch hole for igniting the powder charge. These unwieldy weapons were heavy, weighing at least ten pounds. They were often deployed with the fire lance, which made a terrifying combination.  

Technology developed slowly in China and Eurasia, and it took almost 400 years to work its way to Europe. The pace of European firearms development soon surpassed the Far East.  

During the early fourteenth century European armies were armed with grenades and an improved version of hand cannons. As previously noted, hand cannons were unwieldly and heavy. Reloading was slow and difficult, and the presence of unprotected gunpowder and lighting devices was dangerous. 

The arquebus was the first technological advance after the hand cannon. It was introduced during the early fifteenth century and had a longer straight barrel, and an external powder pan that held the powder to ignite the main charge in the barrel. The powder in the pan was ignited by a fuse that was held by the soldier. The fuse was a cord of hemp or flax that had been chemically treated to burn (smolder) slowly. The arquebus required both hands to be fired and was usually mounted on a stand to permit priming and firing. 

Even though the arquebus was a vast improvement from hand cannons, it was dangerous because the soldier had to carry substantial amounts of powder and the presence of the burning fuse sometimes resulted in unintended ignition which injured the operator and those close to him. Also, during rain if the fuse and the powder got wet, they became useless. 

Later in the fifteenth century the matchlock was invented. It was the first gun with a trigger and was the first true shoulder fired firearm. The trigger activated a mechanical device that moved a fuse to the powder pan to ignite the powder. The matchlock was a major improvement but was still usually useless in the rain. 

Large numbers of the arquebus and the matchlock were adopted by many armies but did not result in significant new tactics. Firearms were often deployed among the pikemen in fighting squares to strengthen their defense against cavalry charges. Also during this time, volley fire was pioneered by the Chinese and Ottomans. Firearms were making war more organized and more lethal. 

The introduction of the wheellock in the early sixteenth century was a gigantic step forward in the design of firearms. It was the first self-igniting gun in history. It achieved this with an elaborate spring-loaded mechanism that would grind a toothed cog against a piece of pyrite to generate sparks – like a modern Zippo lighter. Once loaded and wound, the wheellock could easily be fired with one hand. It seldom fired accidentally so was safer than earlier designs. 

Unfortunately, the wheellock required enormous skill and cost to manufacture. This made it impractical for most military use, but it was another technological step in the development of military firearms. 

The snaphance lock was an early version of the flintlock and was the first to be designated a “musket.”  (Musket is defined as an infantryman’s light gun with a long barrel, typically smooth-bored, muzzleloading and fired from the shoulder.) The snaphance lock spanned the time between the wheellock and the later improved flintlock. It was heavier than the later flintlock, and the technology was much more crude. This gun was developed in the mid-sixteenth century and became popular with many armies, particularly in the pistol version. However, it had many shortcomings. It did not have a half-cock feature which made the hammer more likely to accidentally discharge the weapon when the hammer was being cocked or uncocked. Also, the weight of this gun made it unwieldly. 

The early seventeenth century saw the introduction of the improved flintlock musket. The flintlock was lighter, less prone to misfires, and had a much faster reloading rate. By the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 flintlocks were becoming the dominant infantry weapon on European battlefields.                                  The mechanics of the operation of a flintlock are as follows: squeezing the trigger causes the hammer, which holds a flint, to strike an upright member (frizzen) which shaves off iron to create sparks. The hammer’s blow also snaps the frizzen back to expose the gunpowder in the pan. The pan’s gunpowder ignites, and it flashes through a small hole in the side of the barrel to ignite the gunpowder inside the barrel. 

All versions of Infantry firearms were being manufactured in many countries and the quality varied considerably. Typically, armies did not have a standard firearm and combatants usually provided their own weapon. There were no significant firearm tactics. This was a transition period, and most battles were being fought using old tactics, but with guns. Battle was still a melee of individual fights. 

King George I-Brown Bess-Gun That Won an Empire
King George I

The reign of British King William III (William of Orange) began in 1689 when he and his wife replaced the deposed James II. William brought foreign troops and a mixture of foreign weapons to Britain. Especially in times of war, such a variety of weapons is a logistics nightmare. Foreign arms still dominated in the British military when the Reign of George I began on 1 August 1714. George I recognized that Britain’s army needed standardization and organization. 

In 1715 George I’s government created a “Board of Ordnance” to set weapon standards and manufacture. These changes did not happen quickly, but it was the time when the Brown Bess gradually emerged as the “King’s Arm.” 

Britain adopted this improved flintlock with the half-cock safety feature. It was sturdier than its predecessors and better withstood battle conditions and soldier abuse. It was designed for a socket bayonet that attached around the barrel. Previously, bayonets were inserted into the weapon’s bore and had to be removed prior to firing. The bayonet eliminated the need for pikemen and transformed the infantry into the most important branch of the early modern military. 

The term “Brown Bess” first appeared in print in 1785 but had been used by the troops since at least 1760. The origin of the name is unknown but there are many theories and opinions. None of those “hold water” so the origin is likely to remain unknown indefinitely. 

There were three major versions (patterns) of the Brown Bess musket, and each version had several variants. They all weighed between nine and 11 pounds. 

The Long Land Pattern was 62 inches long with a 46-inch barrel. Production continued into 1790. 

The Short Land Pattern was first introduced in 1768 and was widely used during the American Revolution. With a length of 58 inches and a 42-inch barrel it was in service in the last years of the 18th Century. 

A Short Land New Pattern version was introduced in 1812 for light infantry and featured a reinforced hammer. 

The India Pattern was 55 inches long and had a 39-inch barrel. It was introduced in large numbers after 1793. A naval variant had a 37-inch barrel. The India Pattern was originally an economy version produced for the British East India Company. It would end up becoming the most widely used British firearm during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). More than a million were manufactured before production ended. In addition to being Britain’s principal infantry weapon, it was exported to the King’s allies on the European Continent. 

Brown Bess pre-dated the era of standardized mass production, and its barrels were manufactured in a less-than-consistent cottage industry. The barrel bores were not consistent which degraded the accuracy of many muskets.  

Early metal lock plates were made in a small district in Birmingham by inter-related families. Metal parts were mated to stocks and proofed in the Tower of London. Lock plates were stamped “Tower” and “GR” above an etched crown. GR were the initials for Georgius Rex, the Latin form of King George. 

The adoption of the Brown Bess revolutionized British logistics because all infantrymen were issued one basic long arm. This meant British Supply had to stock only one weapon and spare parts. Only one mixture of gunpowder had to be stocked. Lead was provided to the troops so they could cast their own balls. These lead balls caused terrible wounds because the soft lead expanded and fragmented upon impact. Numerous lead particles pierced the body. If the man made it to medical treatment, it was nearly impossible for the medic to remove all the lead in a gunshot wound. 

Bess could theoretically hit a target at 650 yards at a five-degree elevation. However, its actual effective range was far shorter. British Colonel George Hanger wrote the following in1814: “A musket that is not exceedingly ill-bored may strike the figure of a man at 80 yards. Perhaps even a hundred. But as to firing at a man at 200 yards with a common musket, you may as well fire at the moon with the same hope of hitting your target.” 

During the British retreat from the battle at Concord, Massachusetts on 19 April 1775, their troops were constantly sniped at by colonial militiamen who were firing at ranges of 30 yards or less. The militia were able to stabilize their muskets on features such as stone walls and were shooting slightly downward, but only one ball in 400 struck a target. This was typical of the era. 

Linear Formation in Action-Brown Bess-Gun That Won an Empire
Linear Formation in Action

To compensate for the poor accuracy of their muskets, the British wisely chose to concentrate their musket fire into a smaller area by using a . Lines (echelons) of men slowly marched shoulder-to-shoulder towards the enemy. When they reached the effective range of their muskets (40-60 yards) they stopped. On command, the leading line leveled their muskets in unison and fired on command. They then knelt to reload while the line behind them fired. Their reload rate was 15 to 20 seconds. If the volley fire staggered or confused the enemy, they would continue this slow march forward and sweep the enemy from the field. If the enemy stood firm, they would continue to advance shoulder-to-shoulder with bayonets fixed and engage in hand-to-hand fighting. 

Volley Fire in Combat-Brown Bess-Gun That Won an Empire
Volley Fire in Combat

Even using linear tactics and volley fire, most balls did not hit their target. Volleys were usually too high because most soldiers did not take recoil into consideration. Officers and NCOs were constantly admonishing the men to aim low, but whole stands of trees behind enemy lines were often reduced to stumps. 

The black powder used by the muskets was very dirty and musket fire resulted in thick clouds of foul-smelling smoke. After a few volleys visibility was often reduced to a few feet and soldiers had to fire at enemy muzzle flashes. 

The 18 June 1815 Battle of Waterloo was a typical bloody battle of that era. This battle pitted Napoleon’s French Army against a coalition commanded by Britain’s Duke of Wellington and Prussian General Blucher. The battle did not begin until 11:30 AM and ended before dusk. During that brief time, 55,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing. Despite the number of casualties, it is estimated that less than one percent of balls fired hit a target. 

Other armies, including the American Continental Army, adopted linear tactics and volley fire. The Continentals were armed Brown Bess muskets and had adopted the British tactics, The Americans had been British subjects and had served in British wars that were fought in North America. The Brown Bess was widely respected and readily available in large numbers.  Most able-bodied men in the American colonies were required to be armed for militia duty and most of them were armed with a Brown Bess. 

Even when opposing armies used linear tactics and volley fire, the British still held the advantage. This advantage was reloading speed which was the result of excellent training. As noted earlier, the British infantryman could reload every 15 to 20 seconds. Even though this speed was reduced during the heat of battle, it was usually far superior to others. 

With the exception of the American colonies, the British went on to win an empire using the Brown Bess and linear tactics. The British Empire eventually encompassed over a quarter of the earth’s population and brought great wealth to Britain. The statement that “the Sun never sets on the British Empire” was true. The British managed to hold this empire until the decade following World War II when anti-colonial sentiment swept the world. 

 

Brown Bess was the British infantryman’s long gun from 1722 to 1838 when it was replaced with a percussion cap smoothbore musket. It had served in many wars all over the world by the British and it was usually victorious. Even after retirement in 1838, the old girl saw service in other armies. Bess was used in the Texas Revolution of 1836, and the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. She saw service in the First Opium War of 1839-1842, the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and in the 1879 Zulu War. 

A British veteran corporal on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo reportedly stated to another soldier: “You can pray to Jesus all you like, but the only religion I need is my Brown Bess and my bayonet.”  

The author Rudyard Kipling was the poet of Empire, and he wrote: “If we as Britons have reason to bless any arms-save our Mother’s-those arms are Brown Bess….” 

Thomas Heyward Jr.-Stalwart Patriot

 

Thomas Heyward Jr-Thomas Heyward Jr-Stalwart Patriot
Thomas Heyward Jr

Founding Father Thomas Heyward Jr. was a successful planter, lawyer, legislator, and judge. He was an early advocate for independence from Britain and represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress where he signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. Heyward not only talked about independence, but he also fought for it as a militia artillery officer in the Continental Army. He was captured by the British and imprisoned for nearly a year. 

Born on 28 July 1746 at Old House Plantation in St. Luke’s Parish (now Jasper County) in the “low country” of South Carolina, Thomas was the eldest son of Daniel and Maria Miles Heyward. The Heywards had been in America for five generations and Daniel was one of the wealthiest planters of his day. Maria was the daughter of William and Mary Butler Miles of St. Andrew Parish (Berkely County), South Carolina. Thomas was given the suffix “junior” to differentiate him from an uncle of the same name. 

Daniel Heyward was a believer in the importance of education, so Thomas was provided with a classical education and some legal training locally. Daniel was also a strong loyalist devoted to the British Crown, so he sent Thomas to England to complete his legal preparation. He was admitted to the Middle Temple, Cambridge University and later was admitted to the bar in England. 

During his stay in England, Thomas learned that a colonial British subject was considered inferior to native-born Englishmen and that the touted English rights did not apply equally to colonists. The prejudice was blatant and was also obvious in the Crown appointments to positions in the colonies, which went to native-born Englishmen most of the time. This prejudice convinced Thomas that the colonies should be free and independent from the mother country. 

Following his education, Thomas toured Europe. He enjoyed visiting the European countries, but he found the Europeans to be indolent and haughty compared to the industry and simplicity of most Americans. Thomas was happy to leave Europe behind and return to South Carolina where he was admitted to the Charleston Bar in 1771. 

Heyward began the practice of law in Charleston. His law business was successful, but he still found the time to return to Old House plantation to assist in the management of the family’s vast holdings. 

In 1772 or 1773, Thomas Heyward married Elizabeth Matthews. She was the daughter of Colonel John and Sarah Gibbes Matthews. Her brother, John, became Governor of South Carolina. Thomas and Elizabeth had six children but only one survived childhood. 

 Thomas rose in prominence as an American patriot and became even more vocal about independence as news of British actions and patriot resistance in Massachusetts reached Charleston. Thomas’ actions and words humiliated and angered his loyalist father. 

Thomas was elected to the General Assembly of South Carolina in 1772. He served until 1775 when Lord William Campbell, the last Royal Governor, dissolved the assembly and fled the country. 

Heyward was elected to the first Provincial Congress in January 1775 and the Second Provincial Congress in June 1775. During the second congress, he was appointed to a committee to draft a new South Carolina constitution. The new constitution was adopted on 26 March 1776 and the congress became the state’s first General Assembly. 

Thomas Heyward was elected to the First Continental Congress that met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a supporter of the Lee resolution to declare independence from England. He voted for independence on 2 July 1776 and voted to accept the final text of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. Later, probably on 2 August, he and the other three South Carolina delegates, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Lynch, and Arthur Middleton signed the Declaration.  

Thomas Heyward’s father warned him that the British would probably hang him for his actions, but Thomas didn’t care. Luckily, Thomas and his father put aside politics and reconciled before the 11 October 1777 death of his father. 

 In 1778 Thomas was again elected to the South Carolina General Assembly serving until 1790. He was also elected to the Second Continental Congress. In Congress he took part in the debate on the Articles of Confederation and on 9 July 1778 he signed the final draft of the Articles. The South Carolina General Assembly appointed Thomas to the office of circuit judge. 

At the end of 1778 Heyward left the Continental Congress and returned to South Carolina to help manage the family plantation and to begin his judicial duties at Charleston where he owned a home. He never returned to the Continental Congress. 

Continental Army Artillery Battery in the Field-Thomas Heyward Jr-Stalwart Patriot
Continental Army Artillery Battery in the Field

Thomas Heyward, like his fellow Declaration signer Edward Rutledge, was a member of the South Carolina militia. Heyward was a captain of the Charles Town Battalion of Artillery, which consisted of one company (one gun in SC Colonial militia). To prepare for combat, the unit was reorganized into three companies. The company commanders were Heyward, Edward Rutledge, and Anthony Toomer. 

The British commanded by General Augustine Provost advanced from their base in Savannah, Georgia into the interior of Georgia where they threatened Charleston. British Major James Gardiner landed a force on Port Royal Island. American General William Moultrie’s army, including the Charles Town Battalion, marched out to oppose Gardiner.  

Moultrie prevailed in the 3 February 1779 Battle of Port Royal and Gardiner withdrew. The Charles Town artillery played a pivotable role in the victory. Gardiner suffered over 50 casualties and left seven dead on the field. Moultrie suffered seven killed and 33 wounded, including Heyward who had an arm wound. Moultrie remarked that Heyward had “behaved gallantly.” 

Heyward’s next major action was in April and May 1780 when British General Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot laid siege to Charleston. This was the longest siege of the war and the largest battle in South Carolina, in terms of troops engaged. In recognition of his earlier performance at Port Royal, Heyward was given command of the cannon and 26 men in “Hornwork” a key fortification in the American defenses. This was a dangerous position because it was a major target of the British mortars. 

The Americans put up a gallant defense but were forced to surrender on 12 May 1780. Militia officers were paroled into the city, but Heyward, Rutledge and other prominent patriots considered “ringleaders of the rebellion” were moved to St. Augustine, Florida where they were detained on prison ships. The conditions on prison ships was terrible. The constant high humidity and crowded quarters was a breeding ground for disease, particularly lung disease. During Heyward’s imprisonment, the British destroyed his plantation and confiscated much of his property. Thomas and the others were released in a prisoner exchange after about 11 months of detention.  

Once released, Heyward was transported by ship to Philadelphia. During the voyage he fell overboard and nearly drowned before being rescued. His wife, Elizabeth had traveled from South Carolina to Philadelphia to be with him after his release. Sadly, Elizabeth died during childbirth on 16 August 1782. She was buried in St. Peter’s Episcopal Churchyard in Philadelphia. Thomas was devastated by her death.

Heyward returned to Charleston in 1782 to assume his duties as a judge. He helped establish much needed educational standards for acceptance to the South Carolina bar. He also served in the South Carolina General Assembly until 1790. Being very public-minded, Thomas also was a vestryman in St. Micheal’s Parish, held many commissioner positions, was a warden in Charleston’s Sixth Ward, and was a trustee of the College of Charleston. 

Thomas was one of the founders of the Agricultural Society of South Carolina in 1785 and was the first president. The organization persuaded Andre Michaux, a famous French botanist, to visit South Carolina. Michaux helped introduce new crops in the area. 

Elizabeth Savage Heyward-Thomas Heyward Jr-Stalwart Patriot
Elizabeth Savage Heyward

On 8 May 1786, Thomas married Elizabeth Savage. She was the daughter of Colonel Thomas and Mary Elliott Savage of Charleston. Colonel Savage owned the Silk Hope Plantation near Savannah, Georgia. Thomas and Elizabeth had three children that all survived childhood.  

Thomas also acquired White Hall Plantation in St. Luke’s Parish in 1786 and made extensive repairs and improvements to the manor. White Hall became the home of Thomas and Elizabeth. He also owned two homes in Charleston but sold one by the time he retired.   

In 1788 Thomas was a delegate to the South Carolina Constitutional Convention. He was a staunch supporter of the US Constitution. South Carolina easily ratified the document on 23 May1788, the eighth state to do so.

Thomas Heyward was a delegate to the convention that adopted a new constitution for the state in1790. Later in 1790 he retired from public life so he could manage his plantation and devote more time to his family. 

President George Washington toured the southern states in 1791. The city of Charleston rented the Heyward home for use by the President during his week-long visit to the city. Washington also stopped on his trip to Savannah to spend the night with Judge Thomas and Elizabeth Heyward at White Hall. A large party was held at White Hall to honor the President. 

Heyward enjoyed his retirement from public life, and he enjoyed managing the large White Hall Plantation. He resigned from the Agricultural Society in 1798 due to poor health but his health deteriorated steadily until he died on 17 April 1809. He was buried in the family cemetery at Old House Plantation. This cemetery is a designated South Carolina historic site. White Hall manor burned to the ground in 1885, and Old House Manor was burned by Union General Sherman in 1865. No images of White Hall have survived. 

Thomas’ peers apparently respected and liked him. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Signer from Pennsylvania and a prominent Philadelphia physician and medical teacher, had this to say about him: “he was a firm Republican of good education and most amicable manners. He possessed an elegant political genius, which he sometimes exercised with success upon the various events of the war.” 

Thomas Heyward Jr Gravestone-Thomas Heyward Jr-Stalwart Patriot
Thomas Heyward Jr Gravestone

Other than the Signers Monument in Washington, DC, I found no monuments honoring Heyward outside of South Carolina. And there is only one monument in South Carolina. The state erected a memorial stone topped with a bust of Heyward at his grave. A school was named after him, but it is under consideration to be renamed because Heyward owned slaves. Thomas Heyward gave much to the political founding and early organization of the United States and he fought to expel the British. He does not deserve to be erased. 

 

EIGHTEENTH CENTURY BATTLE TACTICS

 

Brittanica was kind enough to supply a very complete definition of “Tactics.” I am reprinting it here: 

“tactics, in warfare, the art and science of fighting battles on land, on sea, and in the air. It is concerned with the approach to combat; the disposition of troops and other personalities; the use made of various arms, ships, or aircraft; and the execution of movements for attack or defense. The word tactics originates in the Greek taxis, meaning order, arrangement, or disposition, including the kind of disposition in which armed formations used to enter and fight battles. From this, the Greek historian Xenophon derived the term tactica, the art of drawing up soldiers in array. Likewise, the Tactica, an early 10th-century handbook probably written under the supervision of the Byzantine emperor Leo VI the Wise, dealt with formations as well as weapons and the ways of fighting with them. The term tactics fell into disuse during the European Middle Ages. It reappeared only toward the end of the 17th century, when “Tacticks” was used by English encyclopaedist John Harris to mean “the Art of Disposing any Number of Men into a proposed form of Battle.” “Further development took place toward the end of the 18th century. Until then, authors had considered fighting to be almost the sum total of war; now, however, it began to be regarded as merely one part of war. The art of fighting itself continued to carry the name tactics, whereas that of making the fight take place under the most favourable circumstances, as well as utilizing it after it had taken place, was given a new name: strategy. Since then, the terms tactics and strategy have usually marched together, but over time each has acquired both a prescriptive and a descriptive meaning. There have also been attempts to distinguish between minor tactics, the art of fighting individuals or small units, and grand tactics, a term coined about 1780 by the French military author Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte de Guibert to describe the conduct of major battles. However, this distinction seems to have been lost recently.” 

The preceding is a great definition and brief history of the term, but I like to define tactics as: the planning that results in the mud and blood of war. 

 

 

Cartoon of Ancient Combat-Eighteenth Century Battle tactics
Cartoon of Ancient Combat

No matter how you define it, tactics have been used in one form or another beginning when ancient man realized that if he teamed up with others and ambushed their enemy, they had a better chance of destroying him. This was a modest beginning of combatants using battle tactics. 

When early empires such as Egypt, the Hittites and others began to appear, there was a need for large armies with weapons that were more lethal. The rulers first had to win control of the people and lands. They then had to stabilize and defend it. Most of those that became militarily powerful, would eventually seek to expand their borders. These conflicts between empires led to the pursuit of better and more lethal weapons and better tactics to gain the advantage over their enemies. 

The first evidence of horses in warfare was in Eurasia between 4000 and 3000 BC. By1600 BC, improved harness and chariot designs made chariot warfare common in the Near East. Formal cavalry tactics eventually replaced the chariot because they were more flexible. Also, by the Hellenistic era, Alexander the Great neutralized chariots by opening his defensive lines and entrapping them. Then the rear ranks could overwhelm and destroy them. 

The effectiveness of horses in warfare was revolutionized by the three inventions: the saddle, the stirrup, and the horse collar. 

The saddle was invented about 800 BC and made the rider more stable during battle and allowed him to travel longer distances. Anyone who has ridden a horse bareback for any extended time understands the significance of this invention. 

Mounted Warriors Using Stirrups-Eighteenth Century Battle Tactics
Mounted Warriors Using Stirrups

In his tome “The History of War” British Field Marshal Montgomery wrote that the invention of the stirrup in Asia in about 200 BC was the most significant military advance in history. Without stirrups the warrior had little leverage, so his sword blows were usually not lethal and when using a spear or lance, he was easily unhorsed. The invention of the stirrup alleviated these shortcomings and enormously increased the value and longevity of the mounted warrior.

Horse cavalry units were active worldwide into the early twentieth century. In Libya, Omar al-Mukhtar (known as the “Lion of the Desert”) fought the Italians, who were armed with modern weapons, to a standstill with lightly armed mounted warriors from 1911 to 1931. 

Polish cavalry opposed the Nazi German invasion of Poland in 1939. They displayed extreme courage against the modern German forces but did not frontally attack German tanks despite the persistent myth to the contrary. Despite the brave Polish resistance, Poland was defeated by the Nazis, but the Polish underground was quite active and effective throughout occupation. 

The invention of the “simple” horse collar in China about 400 AD revolutionized the use of horses. The collar allows horses to use their shoulders to pull loads, which is the most efficient and most effective use of their strength. Horses then replaced oxen as the primary beasts of burden because they were faster and could do twice the work in half the time. They plowed fields, and moved all types of supplies, including heavy weapons, ordnance, and men. 

Elephants were used by some early Asian and African armies. The elephants were used much like today’s armor. They were terrifying to the enemy and sometimes broke the enemy’s defenses and destroyed them. However, elephants often went berserk when wounded or frightened and decimated friendly forces–an early form of friendly fire casualties. 

Weapons development is a never-ending process but began with ancient man throwing rocks and using clubs. Spears in one form or another, became a staple for centuries and were used by some cavalry units through the nineteenth century.  

Bows and arrows were used by early man as early as 64,000 years ago, mainly for hunting. They were first used effectively in warfare about 600 BC by mounted warriors from the Asian Steppes who fired volleys of arrows. The Greeks had never seen a person on horseback, and the first sight of these riders racing toward them while firing volleys of arrows must have been terrifying. 

English Long Bowmen-Eighteenth Century Battle tactics
English Long Bowmen

In Europe, the English became the masters of archery with the development of the powerful longbow and the requirement that all common men be proficient in its use. All able-bodied English and Welsh males starting at eight years old were required by the Crown to practice with the bow for several hours every day. The longbow had a draw weight of 90-180 pounds, with most in the upper range. English and Welsh archers developed powerful upper body strength which allowed them to fire arrows faster and longer. The effective range with a standard weight arrow was about 1,000 feet. The reload rate was eight to ten arrows per minute. 

In the 1415 battle of Agincourt in France, the English commanded by King Henry V defeated a vastly superior French army by decimating the attacking French heavy cavalry and infantry by the effective use of the longbow. The English had about 3,000 archers who rained about 96,000 arrows (at only 8 arrows per man per minute) every 4 minutes on the French. The French were thrown into a confused mass of dead and wounded men, knights, and horses. This allowed the English to move in with swords, spears, battleaxes, etc. to slaughter the survivors. 

Spear heads, arrowheads, and axe heads were first fabricated from stone. The advent of the metal ages (Copper Age 3200 BC-2300 BC, Bronze Age 2300 BC-700 BC and Iron Age 700 BC-1BC) and the use of those metals and simple alloys made weapons stronger, more lethal, and lighter. The development of metallurgy also allowed the development of solid body armor, helmets, and chainmail.  

The Iron Age was the advent of cheaper metal which made it possible for farmers to afford iron plows and other equipment. This increased agricultural production jumpstarted economic development and prosperity. People were healthier because of improved diets. Armies were more effective because they were better fed. 

As empires became healthier, larger, and more prosperous, warfare became more organized, and tactics evolved to make more effective use of animals and weapons. The great early military commanders/rulers such as Alexander the Great, Cyrus the Great, Attila the Hun, Sun Tzu and others began to appear. War between empires became more common as they all got stronger. These empires used their armies and navies to defend and expand their borders and influence. Another important use of large and strong military forces was to protect the autocratic power of monarchs.  

As the centuries went on powerful and more stable nations such as France, England, Spain, China, Portugal, Italy, and Japan were organized. Ambitious and aggressive monarchs ruled these nations. 

The introduction and development of firearms had more impact on warfare than any other advance for nearly a thousand years. Since firearms could be used effectively by nearly anyone, mercenaries were no longer needed to fill the ranks of armies. The ranks eventually became filled with large numbers of trained commoners. Officer ranks continued to be mostly filled with aristocrats. 

Gunpowder was first produced in China in the tenth century and was initially used for fireworks, but in the eleventh century the Chinese began making crude firearms. These were handheld bamboo and metal tubes that used gunpowder to propel a small metal ball. Technology developed slowly in China and Eurasia, and it took almost 400 years to work its way to Europe. The pace of European firearms development soon left the Far East in a cloud of dust. 

Infantryman with Hand-Held Fuse Fired Firearm-Eighteenth Century Battle Tactics
Infantryman with Hand-Held Fuse Fired Firearm

The first recorded use of firearms in battle by a European army was in 1364. These firearms were very crude and difficult to fire requiring the use of both hands. One hand to hold the weapon on a stand and the other to ignite the powder with a fuse. 

During the fifteenth century the matchlock was invented, which was the first true shoulder fired firearm. A mechanical device on the gun moved a fuse to ignite the powder. The matchlock was replaced by the flintlock during the late 1600’s.  

This flintlock used a mechanical device (hammer) holding a flint to strike a metal powder pan to create a spark that ignited the powder. The flintlock was lighter, less prone to misfires, and had a much faster reloading rate.  

Fast moving light-cavalry could still overwhelm infantry units that were using flintlock muskets, so the infantry was reinforced with pikemen to defend against them. The introduction of the bayonet about 1690 eliminated the need for pikemen. The bayonet transformed the infantry into the most important branch of the early modern military. 

Since the projectile fired from a firearm easily penetrated body armor, mounted and heavily armored knights became obsolete. The elimination of metal body armor resulted in armies developing distinctive cloth uniforms. 

Early cannon was merely an iron tube with a hole to allow ignition of the powder, which propelled a small ball. However, the design and metallurgy of the tube advanced rapidly. The breech of the cannon is the rear where ignition occurs which results in high pressure as the ignition overcomes the inertia of the ball. This required a large diameter breech until the use of iron and iron alloys increased the strength of the metal allowing the breech diameter to be reduced which reduced weight. 

The tubes were eventually mounted on strong carriages. On ships the carriage featured small wheels to allow the gun to recoil safely straight backwards and to allow the gun crew to quickly move it back to the firing position. This all had to occur in cramped quarters under enemy fire. 

Eighteenth Century Cannon-Eighteenth Century Battle Tactics
Eighteenth Century Cannon

Ground forces mounted cannon on carriages that featured large wheels to allow easier road and battlefield travel. Initially gun crews physically moved the guns, which was notoriously slow and limited their effectiveness. The next step was to use draught animals to pull the guns and to pull caissons, which carried the gun crew and their ammunition and equipment. 

The greater mobility of cannon on the battlefield allowed commanders to effectively deploy the guns more quickly. Concentrated cannon fire could decimate infantry formations and destroy fortifications. The great castles were no match for cannon fire and most city walls could be easily breached. Sieges, which in the past lasted months and even years, were completed in days or weeks in most cases.  

Warfare had become too large and complex to be completely controlled by a single commander. As a result, most countries established military/civilian/ government organizations to develop and carry out military/political policy and strategy. By the eighteenth century, most, but not all, armies and navies were well trained and staffed with commoners commanded by aristocratic officers.  

Eighteenth century tactics included some from earlier centuries. Earlier European wars had resulted in a large number of casualties and much devastation. This severely depleted resources and treasuries. Monarchs wanted to avoid such waste, so new tactics were developed. 

Maneuver became paramount so that actual combat was often avoided for extended periods as each army jockeyed for the strongest position. When battle did occur, it was usually very brutal, but domination rather than annihilation was the goal. Once a battle ended, the retreating army was not pursued and destroyed. 

These tactics did not last long because large armies meant strong nations could dominate larger areas and weaker nations. Colonial empires were being formed by the major powers and indigenous forces had to be destroyed or compromised, and the new territories had to be defended to make them safe for colonization. This required armies and navies to be even larger to defend far-flung colonial empires, and still defend the homeland. 

Many seventeenth and eighteenth battle commanders were brilliant tacticians but once they closed with the enemy fighting became a melee of individual battles using personal weapons such as firearms, spears, swords, battle axes, etc.  

It was obvious that the new more lethal weapons and the increased troop strength needed new and better organization and tactics. To be effective, an army must function as a team with all the parts acting in concert and supporting each other so that they can execute complex and difficult maneuvers often under fire. The armies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries adjusted rapidly.  

Light cavalry was still an essential unit. It was deployed to guard the flanks of an army on the move and became the “eyes” of the commander since they also conducted reconnaissance. The rapid mobility of these mounted units allowed them to cover large areas. During battle they continued to protect the flanks but could still be used as shock troops against vulnerable points in the enemy’s lines, and to aid friendly infantry that was being overwhelmed. 

Artillery units were “bulky” with heavy guns, caissons carrying ammunition and equipment, teams of horses and large crews. They had to rapidly deploy to any position selected by the commander and be quickly prepared to fire. They also had to be capable of moving to new positions on an active battleground. 

The infantry had to be capable of deploying rapidly from a moving column to a fighting formation on the battlefield. They had to be ready to attack, defend, or retreat. Since Roman times, the basic infantry formation was the “square,” which put troops on four fronts with the ability to defend or attack with minimal movement. The interior of the square held troops with a variety of weapons, and replacements for the outer lines. The square supplied stability and cohesion, and the capability for rapid change. 

It was obvious that extensive and concentrated troop training was needed, and all major armies soon adopted such training. The Germans adopted the most demanding and most effective training, but it was also brutal. 

No army can succeed in combat without access to supplies and replacements. Bureaucracies were organized to support the armies by setting up reliable procurement of supplies, weapons, and ordnance. They had to have reliable transportation methods and schedules for delivery. This logistical tail also had to be defended. 

An effective army needs a truly professional chain of command with recognizable symbols of rank. Each country developed their own version of command, but all eventually had at least some form of the following. 

The overall commander needs a staff to handle the bureaucracy of the army, and he needs subordinate combat commanders for the largest maneuver units and for any independent cavalry, infantry, or artillery units. In the best organized armies, the large maneuver units were self-contained with their own infantry, cavalry, and artillery. This allowed them to be manageable in size, and to operate independently if necessary. It also made overall command and control more flexible and more reliable. 

A complete battle organization also needs lower ranking officers supported by non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to provide direct leadership to the enlisted men. These men commanded the basic fighting units. 

The command structures and training methods of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century armies were the forerunners of today’s military, which continues to adjust organization and command structure to meet changing threats and different environments. 

Once an army was organized, battle tactics had to be developed to best meet the enemy and to best use available weapons. The smooth-bore musket was the weapon of the infantry. They were lethal but notoriously inaccurate, so it was necessary to optimize their effectiveness.  

British Attack Using Linear Tactics-Eighteenth Century Battle Tactics
British Attack Using Linear Tactic

The solution was to concentrate the musket fire into a smaller area by using a linear formation of lines (echelons) of men that slowly marched shoulder-to-shoulder towards the enemy. When they reached the effective range of their muskets (40-60 yards) they stopped. On command, the leading line leveled their muskets in unison and fired on command. They then knelt to reload while the line behind them fired. Their reload rate was about 15 seconds. If the volley fire staggered or confused the enemy, they would continue the slow march forward and sweep the enemy from the field. If the enemy stood firm, they would continue to advance shoulder-to-shoulder with bayonets fixed and engage in hand-to-hand fighting.  

Defending forces often used the linear formation to maximize and concentrate their fire power.  

 Artillery was sometimes used to “soften” the defenders and weaken their will to fight. However, offensive artillery was often of limited value because many officers were not talented users of artillery. (American Continental General Henry Knox was a notable exception.) Cannon in defensive lines was very lethal against advancing troops.  

Late in the eighteenth-century Napolean developed effective artillery tactics and his tactics have been studied and copied ever since. 

 Warfare was changed forever during the eighteenth century. No military commander had to sacrifice large numbers of troops in major offensive attacks where he had little control once the opposing forces closed. His army was now better organized, had better lower-level officers, improved command and control, and had well trained and committed troops armed with firearms. With this organization a field commander could coordinate and maximize the use of artillery, cavalry, and infantry.  

National leaders now had a powerful tool to colonize weaker nations to expand their power, obtain scarce resources and fill their treasuries. Colonization of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas began in the fifteenth century. England became a major colonizer throughout the world including the West Indies and North America. England had a very professional and strong army, and they were gradually strengthening their naval forces. England was also blessed with excellent army and naval officers at all levels who stabilized and expanded their fighting capabilities. 

The English North American colonies eventually rebelled against the mother country and the American Revolutionary War began in 1775. The Americans now had to build an army from the ground up. Luckily, many Americans, including George Washington, had served with the English army in the many wars that had been fought in the New World. This supplied a cadre of experienced officers that became the core of the new Continental Army. The colonies also had many armed militia units. Militia were the first to confront English power at Concord. 

Many believe that Americans won the war because they adopted guerilla war, Indian tactics and snipers that targeted English officers. While it is true that such tactics often kept the English off balance, these tactics alone could not win the war. Washington was trying to train a conventional army to use the same tactics as the English while he was engaged in combat operations. This was an impossible situation. 

Washington was not succeeding at training his army fast enough; however, in February 1778, Washington met Prussian Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben who in a letter to Washington, stated the “only object” of his “greatest ambition” was to “render your Country all the Services in my Power, and to deserve the title of the Citizen of America by fighting for the Cause of your Liberty.” 

Major General Von Steuben-Eighteenth Century Battle Tactics
Major General Von Steuben

Von Steuben was appointed to the rank of Major General and Inspector General of the Continental Army. He promptly formed a model company of soldiers and trained them to march, use the bayonet, and execute orders quickly on the battlefield. In turn, this company trained all the able-bodied soldiers at Valley Forge. 

Von Steuben was just what the Continental Army needed and by June 1778 he delivered to Washington a competent army that was well trained in conventional battle tactics. 

The Americans used the linear formations very effectively once they were trained. However, they did introduce unconventional tactics to the battlefield. Guerilla warfare was known in Europe, but in America necessity drove its use.    

The Americans used tactics they learned from fighting Indians. This included using cover and concealment, hit and run attacks, ambushes, and sniper fire. Many American irregulars had rifled muskets that were more accurate with longer effective range than smooth bores. Their downside was that reloading was much slower than smooth bores, but they were made to order for snipers. 

American snipers targeted English officers as well as enlisted men. Targeting officers was considered unbecoming of civilized men by the English, but it was effective. 

 Unconventional tactics were used less in the north where Washington was fighting a conventional war. They were used extensively in the south where the English moved major forces in 1778.  

The Continental victory at Saratoga in 1777 and the American treaty with the French in 1778 had transformed the war. The British were faced with a global conflict with France, so they changed their strategy. Rather than mounting a full-scale military campaign against the now well-trained Continental Army in the north, they decided to focus their efforts on the loyalists, who they still believed were the majority of the American population, especially in the south. Sir General Henry Clinton initially commanded the British forces in the south, but he was replaced in 1780 by Lieutenant General George Cornwallis. 

The British had occupied Savannah, Georgia, in late 1778 and Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1779. They also struck a disastrous blow to General Horatio Gates’ forces at Camden, South Carolina, in August 1780. However, the British had greatly overestimated loyalist sentiment, and had underestimated the logistical problems they would encounter. 

 American Generals Nathanael Greene and Daniel Morgan commanded Continental forces in the south. They were both brilliant military leaders, but they were greatly outnumbered so they turned to guerrilla and hit-and-run warfare. General Francis Marion became famous as the “Swamp Fox” because he led such a successful guerilla campaign.  

  The combination of conventional and unconventional forces in the south fought the English to a standstill and interdicted their supply lines. General Cornwallis was forced to move to Yorktown, Virginia where he expected to meet an English Fleet to get reinforcements and supplies. However, a French fleet drove the British fleet away.  

British Surrender at Yorktown-Eighteenth Century Battle Tactics
British Surrender at Yorktown

A very rapid concentration of American and French forces trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown, forcing him to surrender on 19 October 1781. This essentially ended the Revolutionary War fighting.  The British sued for peace and the 3 September 1783 Treaty of Paris officially ended the war. 

The eighteenth-century infantrymen were probably the most disciplined and best trained the world has ever seen. They fought with courage and resiliency all over the world and won vast empires for their sovereigns. The tactics they used were sound and effective. Forms of their linear tactics were used by armies through World War I. 

In conclusion, tactics have a way of changing slowly and becoming politicized. This usually results in high casualties until the military and civilian leaders learn and develop new tactics or are replaced. There are many modern examples. These are just a few: 

In World War I trench warfare with sporadic frontal assaults continued even though early tanks had proved their effectiveness. By World War II the Germans had proved the effectiveness of mechanized forces, air power, and airborne assaults, which set tactics for the war in Europe. However, politics prevented General Patton from taking Berlin which would have greatly changed the balance of power of the Cold War.  

In the Pacific, Americans did not share intelligence about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. In Korea, General MacArthur was not allowed to destroy the Yalu River bridges. When major American troops entered Viet Nam, the war was initially fought like WW II with large sweep operations that were ineffective against unconvential forces. Politics caused the cancellation of air cover for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. 

Hopefully, we have learned from our past mistakes.  

Thomas McKean-Forgotten Founder

 

  

Thomas McKean-Thomas McKean-Forgotten Founder
Thomas McKean

Thomas McKean was a president before Washington and supported judicial review before John Marshall. He voted for the Declaration of Independence, but the next day marched with his militia unit to participate in the defense of New York City delaying his signing of the Declaration until at least 1777. For five years McKean was a Delaware delegate in the Continental Congress while also serving as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. Despite the above facts and more, Thomas McKean is forgotten in most discussions of our founders. 

Born in New London Township, Chester County in the colony of Pennsylvania on 19 March 1734, Thomas McKean was the second of four children of William McKean and Letitia Finney McKean. The McKeans were Irish Protestants and Thomas’ grandparents, William and Susannah, had emigrated from County Antrim in 1725 settling on the 300-acre Logan Plantation in Chester County. 

Thomas’ father was an innkeeper in New London and at some point, moved to Logan Plantation and was a tavern keeper until his death in 1769. Thomas’ mother Letitia was the daughter of Robert and Dorothea Finney of Thunder Hill Plantation in New London Township. 

Thomas McKean was home schooled until he was nine years old. Then, he and his older brother, Robert, were sent to the New London Academy to continue their education under the tutelage of Rev. Francis Allison. 

Once he completed his studies at New London Academy, Thomas moved to Newcastle, Delaware to study law under his cousin, David Finney. Thomas was quite intelligent, worked hard and advanced rapidly. After only a few months, he was appointed a clerk of the prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas. In 1754 he was admitted to the bar in the Court of Common Pleas for Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex Counties. Also in 1754, Thomas was admitted to the bar in Chester and Philadelphia Counties in Pennsylvania. He accomplished all this before reaching 21 years of age. 

McKean also recognized the need for a strong local militia so in December 1757 he enlisted in Richard William’s Pennsylvania Company of Foot.  

Delaware Governor John Penn appointed Thomas Deputy Attorney General of Sussex County in 1756 and he served for two years. He was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1758. He was elected to the Delaware House of Assembly in 1762 and served for seven years. He was speaker of the house three times.  

Mary Borden McKean-Thomas McKean-Forgotten Founder
Mary Borden McKean

In 1763, Thomas married Mary Borden of Bordentown, New Jersey. She was the eldest daughter of Thomas Borden, a wealthy and public-spirited man who was an active patriot during the Revolutionary War. Mary and her sister, Ann were said to be “the handsomest girls in New Jersey.” Ann married Francis Hopkinson who also became a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

Thomas and Mary McKean made their home in Newcastle. They had six children with five surviving childhood.  

Governor John Penn appointed Thomas the Sole Notary Public for Lower Counties in 1765. McKean, Caesar Rodney, and George Read were appointed to the Delaware Committee of Correspondence, which was a revolutionary inter-colony coordinating organization. Also in 1765, Governor Penn appointed McKean to the position of Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. 

McKean was quite active in all his positions and became known for his forward thinking and hard work. In his position of Judge of the Court of Common Pleas he ruled that all court proceedings be recorded on unstamped paper, which meant that the Stamp Act taxes would not be paid. This was but one of the changes in the courts and Continental Congress that he proposed that would have long-lasting effects on the entire country. 

Delaware was deeply divided about separation from Britain at the time. The Country Party advocated independence and Thomas McKean was one of the party’s most outspoken members. When British policies became even more intrusive, opposition increased in Delaware. McKean and Caesar Rodney were selected to  represent Delaware in the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. 

During the Stamp Act Congress McKean stressed the rights of the Colonies and helped organize resistance to the Townshend Duties. Thomas also proposed a voting procedure that the Continental Congress later adopted that each colony should have one vote no matter its size or population. Later this principle was also adopted by the United States Constitution by establishing that each state would have two senators no matter size or population. 

During the last day of the congress, several members, including President Timothy Ruggles, refused to sign the memorial of rights and grievances. McKean confronted Ruggles’ reason for his stance. The confrontation became so heated that Ruggles challenged McKean to a duel. McKean accepted, but the duel did not take place because Ruggles fled in disgrace early the next morning. He became a leading Tory in Massachusetts and eventually fled to Nova Scotia. 

On 12 March 1773, Mary McKean died at the age of thirty. The couple had been married only ten years and she left a young family of two sons and four daughters. The youngest child was only two weeks old. Mary was buried in the Immanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery in Newcastle.

Sarah Armitage McKean-Thomas McKean-Forgotten Founder
Sarah Armitage McKean

Thomas married again on 2 September 1774 to Sarah Armitage of Newcastle. She was the daughter of Samuel and Mary Harvey Armitage. The couple lived at 3rd and Pine Streets in Philadelphia. They had four children, one died during infancy.  

Events were now moving rapidly towards independence and in 1774, Thomas was appointed a Delaware delegate to the First Continental Congress. He was appointed to the Second Continental Congress in 1775. 

While in Congress, McKean signed the Articles of Association (established a boycott of British goods) in 1774, and the Olive Branch Petition (sought reconciliation with the Crown) in 1775. 

Debate on the Lee resolution for independence was taking place in late June 1776, and full-scale revolution was in the air. Fellow delegate George Read was opposed to independence and Caesar Rodney, who was pro-independence, was home in Delaware. McKean sent an urgent dispatch to Rodney requesting he return to Philadelphia as soon as possible. Rodney was quite ill but rode horseback all night through stormy weather to break the tie vote on 2 July while still in his muddy riding clothes and boots. 

On 4 July 1776, the Congress voted to accept the Declaration of Independence final draft. Most members, including George Read, signed the Declaration on 2 August 1776. Thomas McKean did not sign on that date because he had marched off to war on 5 July. 

Six members signed late but the McKean signing date is the subject of debate. Even McKean may have been wrong about the date. Most historians believe he signed in 1777 but others believe he did not sign until 1781. The fact is that he was the last to sign. Based on the evidence, I believe he signed in 1777. 

Thomas McKean left Philadelphia on 5 July. He was now colonel and commander of the 4th Battalion of Pennsylvania Associators. They marched north to Perth Amboy, New Jersey to aid General Washington in the defense of New York City. The city was of considerable strategic importance because of its large deepwater seaport. 

The British were commanded by General Sir William Howe who also recognized the importance of the port of New York. He launched his campaign to take New York City and New Jersey in August 1777 against Washington’s poorly trained and inexperienced troops. He succeeded in driving Washington out of the city in January 1777. Washington was able to make an orderly withdrawal, which saved his army to train and fight and eventually win the war. 

The Pennsylvania Associators was engaged in the New York campaign and performed well. They earned a reputation for bravery and as a result, suffered fairly heavy casualties. 

The British held the city and used it as a base of operations until the end of the War for American Independence. The British New York garrison was the last British unit to withdraw from American soil. 

My sources did not provide a date that McKean returned to Congress although one claimed it was after the Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania, which was fought on 11 September 1777. We do know that he was selected Chief Justice of Pennsylvania on 28 July 1777. He served in this position for 22 years. 

McKean also briefly served as chief executive of Delaware in 1777. At that time, this position was mostly ceremonial with little power and was known as “President” rather than Governor. 

John Adams-Thomas McKean-Forgotten Founder
John Adams

On 8 November 1779, Thomas wrote an interesting letter to his friend, John Adams. The letter contained the following comments: 

“I have had my full share of the anxieties, cares, and troubles of the present war. For some time I was obliged to act as President of Delaware State, and as chief justice of this (Pennsylvania). General Howe had just landed (August 1777) at the head of Elk River, when I undertook to discharge these two important trusts.” 

“The consequence was, to be hunted like a fox by the enemy, and envied, by those who ought to have been my friends. I was compelled to remove my family five times in a few months, and at last fixed them in a little log house on the banks of the Susquehanna, more than a hundred miles from this place; but safety was not to be found there, for they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians.” 

As Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, Thomas McKean had a significant impact on the developing American judiciary. He ruled that the Pennsylvania Constitution gave the court the right to strike down any legislative act it deemed unconstitutional. This preceded by ten years the US Supreme court establishment of the doctrine of judicial review, He also strengthened the rights of defendants and advocated for penal reform.  

The most controversial action of the McKean Court involved a newspaper editor (Eleazer Oswald) that printed very unflattering articles about the justices. This angered them, so they fined Oswald and jailed him for a month. Oswald demanded release after a month. However, the Sherriff did not know what to do without instructions, so he asked McKean. Not knowing Oswald had served his time, McKean ordered him to be jailed longer. Once he learned of his error, he ordered Oswald released. 

Oswald then complained to the General Assembly that the court had exceeded its constitutional powers and a motion for impeachment was entered. After three days of meetings the assembly determined that they could not interfere because the court got its powers directly from the Constitution. The impeachment motion failed by a large margin. The justices were actually in the wrong because they unlawfully used their power against a man who had legally insulted them. 

In July 1781 McKean was elected President of the Continental Congress. The Pennsylvania Constitution forbade holding more than one office at a time, but it was decided that it did not apply to out of state offices. 

Nearly four years after the Treaty of Paris ended the American War for Independence, the Constitutional Convention was convened on 14 March 1787. The convention was to improve the Articles of Confederation but by 17 September they had drafted an entirely new Constitution for the United States of America.  

The draft Constitution was then presented to the thirteen states for ratification. Thomas McKean was appointed to the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention. During the considerations, McKean moved the draft Constitution be read in its entirety on the first two days. McKean also moved that they ratify the draft Constitution. He eloquently argued for ratification concluding his speech with  these words: 

“The objections of this constitution having been answered, and all done away, it remains pure and unhurt; and this alone as a forcible argument of its goodness * * * * The law, sir, has been my study from my infancy, and my only profession. I have gone through the circle of offices, in the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the government; and from all my study, observation and experience, I must declare that from a full examination and due consideration of this system, it appears to the best the world has yet seen.” 

 

On 12 December 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution, by a vote of 46 to 23. Pennsylvania was the first large state to ratify, as well as the first state to endure a serious Anti-Federalist challenge to ratification. McKean led the fight against the Anti-Federalists. 

McKean became a delegate to the Pennsylvania State Constitutional Convention in 1789. He was a major contributor to the proceedings and the new Constitution of Pennsylvania was adopted in 1790. He also co-authored “Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States” in 1790. 

 

McKean’s life slowed down after the relative chaos of Federal and State organizing and stabilization that followed the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War. However, he stayed busy as Pennsylvania Chief Justice. 

On 7 December 1799 Thomas McKean stepped down from the position of Chief Justice but was then elected Governor of Pennsylvania serving until 20 December 1808. He had been re-elected twice. McKean had become an Antifederalist and used his position to remove Federalists from positions in the state government. 

When running for his third term as governor in 1805, McKean lost the support of his own Republican Party, so he allied with the Antifederalists. He also was skewered by an influential newspaper and things got nasty. McKean filed a libel lawsuit against the newspaper that was eventually successful. However, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to impeach McKean, but his friends prevented a trial for the rest of his term and the matter was dropped. 

 

Despite all the controversy, McKean had expanded free education for all. Later he led a citizens group that organized a strong defense for Philadelphia during the War of 1812. 

 

After completing his tenure as governor in 1808, McKean lived a fairly quiet life in Philadelphia. He wrote, discussed politics, and enjoyed the considerable wealth he had earned from investments and real estate. 

 

Thomas McKean Grave-Thomas McKean-Forgotten Founder
Thomas McKean Grave

Thomas McKean died on 24 June 1817 at the age of eighty-three. After his death only five signers of the Declaration of Independence remained alive. He was buried at the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery on Market Street in Philadelphia. Later his body was moved to Laurel Cemetery in Philadelphia. His wife Sarah survived him. She died in 1820 and was also buried in Laurel Cemetery. 

 

Thomas McKean contributed much to the founding and organizing of the United States of America, but he is generally forgotten by history. One major reason may lie with his personality which was described as: 

 

“Thomas McKean was over six feet tall. Frequently he was seen wearing a large cocked hat, fashionable at the time and was never without his gold-headed cane. It is said that he had a quick temper and a vigorous personality. He had a thin face; hawk’s nose and his eyes would be described by some as ‘hot.’ Some wondered at his popularity with his clients as he was known for a “lofty and often tactless manner that antagonized many people.” He tended to be, what some might describe as a loner, seldom mixing with others except on public occasions.” 

 

On the other hand, McKean was known for his intelligence and work ethic. John Adams, who was not known to be complimentary of many, described him as: 

 

“one of the three men in the Continental Congress who appeared to me to see more clearly to the end of the business than any others in the body.”  

 

No matter the reason for McKean’s absence from the list of famous Founding Fathers, he deserves much more recognition than having a county, a high school, a street, and two buildings at colleges named after him. I can find no other McKean memorials other than the Descendants of the Signers plaque on his grave and the Signers Monument in Washington, D.C. Not much for a man who contributed so much.

George Walton-Zealot for Liberty

 

 

George Walton-Zealot for Liberty
George Walton

 

 

George Walton is another signer of the Declaration of Independence that overcame humble and difficult origins to become a successful lawyer and politician and a Founding Father. He was an ardent and early proponent of Independence, and he backed up his words with action by serving in combat. He was wounded and captured by the British until being released in a prisoner exchange eight months later. Walton represented his adopted home of Georgia at both the state and federal level.  

The childhood of George Walton is not well documented, and dates used by historians vary as much as ten years.  

George Walton was one of three or four children born to Robert and Mary Hughes Walton during the 1740’s in Cumberland County, Province of Virginia. His family was poor and both parents died when he was between 7 and 12 years old. He was raised by his uncle, also named George Walton, of Prince Edward County, Virginia, who oversaw his welfare until he was apprenticed to a carpenter. His uncle did not let George read books because he saw it as a waste of time.

The master carpenter worked George hard during the day. George wanted to educate himself, but the master denied him a candle to use for reading at night. Walton collected lightwood to burn in place of a candle and  read as much as possible. 

The master carpenter eventually became impressed by Walton’s perseverance and allowed him to keep some of the wages from some of his work. His apprenticeship expired in 1769 and George saw the Province of Georgia as a land of opportunity where he could succeed using his intellect, which had developed considerably because of his self-study.  

George Walton did not have an easy early life and he had to overcome many obstacles. He had to physically work hard, and to mentally work hard to educate himself. He also had to overcome the prejudice of those who did not believe that an orphaned carpenter could succeed in a world that often required family connections in the seats of power. He overcame it all with his grit and determination. His personality traits, good and bad, were molded by his battles, and this is a good place to summarize them: 

George Walton was a short, handsome, and personable man who was proud and often quite arrogant. He was dignified and stern and had a violent temper. However, he was warm to his friends. He was a politician who kept his promises. Walton was passionate, particularly in the cause of liberty. His zeal for liberty allowed him to rise to higher prominence and to secure more public favor and confidence, than he would have otherwise. He tended to be a “nitpicker” and was sometimes sarcastic beyond the rules of propriety. Walton was often contemptuous of public opinion, especially when it differed from his own. 

 

James Ogelthorpe-George Walton-Zealot for Liberty
James Ogelthorpe

Georgia, established in 1733 by James Oglethorpe and a small group of settlers, was the newest and last British colony in North America. King George II originally intended for the colony’s settlers to be the “worthy poor” from debtor prisons, but economic realities overruled social engineering. However, the King granted no large land grants, and each man was required to work his own land. Slavery and rum were banned. 

Most of the rules changed when Oglethorpe returned to England ten years later. He had made peace with the local Indians, but an aggressive Spanish Florida bordered on the south. Although the colony was developing, large-scale settlement did not begin until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 when the English acquired Florida and the Spanish threat ended. 

After moving to Georgia in 1769, George Walton saw his self-study pay off and he entered the Savannah office of Lawyer Henry Young to study law. In 1774, he was admitted to the bar and established his own practice in Savannah. Determined to succeed, George rapidly became one of the most successful lawyers in Georgia. 

George Walton married Dorothy Camber in Savannah in 1775 (some historians say 1778). Dorothy was born in 1754 in Chatham County, Georgia, the daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Camber. Dorothy was a teenaged girl, attractive, poised, with the dignity and decorum of a well-bred British woman. She was mature, had a fine mind, had a great capacity for love and loyalty, and was capable of firm decisions.  

Thomas Camber was a large landowner and was loyal to the Crown, and to him George Walton was a traitor. He forbade Dorothy’s relationship with Walton, but this did not stop their courtship and marriage. 

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Dorothy’s father was returning to England and insisted that she go with him, but she refused to leave George. 

 George and Dorothy had two sons that both lived to adulthood. 

 The English King and Parliament was exercising much more direct and intrusive control of their colonies in North America and Americans in other provinces were actively resisting. George Walton was already an ardent advocate of independence and he and other local patriots began organizing to preserve their rights and liberties. They began by cooperating with patriots in other provinces. They also reached out to patriot groups in other Georgia parishes, and they formed the Georgia Provincial Congress in 1775.  

Walton was appointed Secretary of the congress and President of the Council of Safety. However, the people of Georgia were lukewarm to independence at best, and not ready to resist the Crown. As a result, the congress did not send delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Georgia was the only colony not represented. 

Finally, in the winter of 1776, Georgians began to avidly support resistance to the Crown, and the Georgia Assembly openly declared for the patriot cause. In February, the Assembly appointed delegates to the Second Continental Congress. George Walton was one of the four appointed. 

The Royal Governor of Georgia was incensed by the Assembly’s “treasonable act” and threatened to use military force against them. The Assembly simply ignored the Governor and continued to establish a new government. Archibald Bulloch was named President of the new government’s Executive Council, which made him the first elected Governor of the Province. 

 

Signing the Declaration 0f Independence by Trumbull-George Walton-Zealot for Liberty
Signing the Declaration 0f Independence by Trumbull

George Walton was elected to the Continental Congress in February 1776, but may not have arrived in Philadelphia until June. He joined the Congress and declared his support for separation from England. He voted for independence on 2 July and on the final version of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. The Georgia delegation (George Walton, Button Gwinnett, and Lyman Hall) signed the Declaration of Independence on 2 August 1776 as did most delegates.  

In October 1776, Walton was re-elected to the Continental Congress. He served as a delegate until the end of 1778.  

In December 1776, British forces threatened Philadelphia causing Congress to flee to Baltimore, Maryland. George Walton, Robert Morris, and George Clymer remained behind to carry on essential congressional business. The enemy withdrew without attacking Philadelphia, so Congress returned in February 1777. 

In December 1778, George Walton was commissioned Colonel of the Georgia militia. He then traveled south and took part in the first Battle of Savannah. 

On 29 December1778, British Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell and his force of between 2,500 and 3,600 troops, launched a surprise attack on American forces defending Savannah. American Major General Robert Howe and his force of 650 to 900 men were severely outnumbered. 

Campbell outflanked the Continental forces and Howe ordered his army to withdraw. During the withdrawal, the Georgia Brigade took heavy losses when it was cut off. They suffered 83 casualties and another 483 were captured. During the fighting Colonel Walton was shot in the thigh causing him to fall from his horse. He was taken prisoner by the British and was held until September 1779 when he was exchanged for a British Navy Captain. 

Restored Meadow Gardens-George Walton-Zealot for Liberty
Restored Meadow Gardens

After his release, Walton purchased a home in Augusta, Georgia. He also purchased additional adjacent land and named his new home, “Meadow Gardens.”  

In October 1779, Walton was appointed Governor of Georgia but resigned in January 1780 because he was elected to Congress for another two years. During this time, Walton was involved in an unsavory incident, which resulted in him being censured by the legislature in 1783.  

The incident involved Button Gwinnett and General Lachlan McIntosh. It was a long and personal dispute over command of Georgia troops, political machinations, and a public insult. Walton was a friend of General McIntosh and leader of a group that opposed Gwinnett. George Walton allegedly had sent a forged letter to Congress that had resulted in McIntosh being relieved from his command. He blamed his rival Gwinnett and publicly insulted him. Gwinnett demanded “satisfaction,” and they met on the field of honor. The duel resulted in Gwinnett being mortally wounded by McIntosh who was also wounded. 

After the duel and Walton’s censure, General McIntosh’s son, Captain William McIntosh publicly “horse-whipped” Walton and was court-martialed for his actions. 

Despite the incident, George Walton’s career continued. In 1783 he was appointed Chief Justice of Georgia, a position he held until his death. Also in1783, he was named one of the Commissioners to negotiate a treaty with the Cherokee Tribe in Tennessee. The resultant treaty established a boundary separating Georgia and Tennessee and the Cherokee tribes. This and most treaties with Indians were “fleeting” because settlers continued to crowd them out of their lands and the Indians retaliated. 

In 1789 Walton served as a Presidential Elector and was again elected governor. During his term, the Creek Indians were pacified, a new state constitution was adopted, and the capital was moved to Augusta, which was a small country town. Being a resident of Augusta, Walton took an active part in transforming it from a country village to the new state capital. He helped set up a governing body for the town. He also pushed for adoption of a checkerboard pattern of lots and for the construction of a jail, a courthouse, and a school. Although he had not attended a school, he was a promoter of education. He was a founder of the Richmond Academy High School in Augusta, and he hired the first headmaster. He also managed to have 250 acres on a hill above the town reserved for a college. He campaigned to have the state move Franklin College (later the University of Georgia) to Augusta, but he lost out to Athens. Today the 250 acres are occupied by Augusta College. 

Walton was elected to the United States Senate in 1798. He served one year and then retired to private life at Meadow Gardens. However, he did continue his state judicial duties until his death. 

Georgia Declaration of Independence Signers Monument-Augusta-George Walton-Zealot for Liberty
Georgia Declaration of Independence Signers Monument-Augusta

During his later years, Walton suffered from frequent and long bouts of gout, which probably caused his health to deteriorate. He died on 2 February 1804 and was buried in Rosney Cemetery located on a nephew’s plantation in Augusta. Later, his body was moved to the stone obelisk memorial to the three Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence in Augusta. The memorial was dedicated on 4 July 1848. He and Lyman Hall are buried in a crypt below the obelisk. Button Gwinnett was to be buried there too, but his grave has never been found. 

George Walton served his nation and his adopted home of Georgia for his entire adult life. He signed the Declaration of Independence, and his name is enshrined on the Signers Monument in Augusta and the signer’s memorial in Washington, DC. George Washington visited George Walton at Meadow Gardens in 1791 and Lafayette visited the Walton family during his 1825 tour of the United States. Walton County, Georgia is named after George Walton as are at least two schools. A bust of Walton is in the Georgia State Capitol Building.  

George Walton was an American patriot who participated in the founding and establishment of the United States of America. 

Early American Households

 

 

 

 Romanticized Depiction of Colonial Family-Earl American Households
Romanticized Depiction of Colonial Family

Early American  households sounds like a mundane subject, but we have been taught an unrealistic view of them. Families formed the  base for revolution. Revolution could not have happened without strong, patriotic, and religious families. Most depictions of early families are romanticized. They show very clean people wearing immaculate clothing. Homes  are shown as very clean and neat, and food is plentiful and perfectly prepared. This is okay for children’s books, but it is not true. Most people, especially common folks, did not bathe very often. They had little clothing and what they had was worn for long periods.

The first permanent English settlement was Jamestown (Virginia) in 1607. The second settlement, Massachusetts Bay, was not established until 1620. Between 1630 and 1640 more than 20,000 new colonists arrived, and a high level of migration continued through the colonial period. 

Most migrants were English hoping to improve their lives. They also wanted to escape a social system that kept a person in the class they were born into. Although the European model of strict social classes was not enforced in the American colonies, there was a loose form of social status as follows: 

    1. Wealthy landowners
    2. Merchants and clerics
    3. Farmers, Artisans and Laborers 
    4. Indentured Servants
    5. American Indians
    6. Slaves 

There was considerable fluidity within the classes, except for the last two. There were free-born blacks and freed slaves, but they usually could not move up the ladder much. Indians and slaves could not move up at all.

Most Americans respected those who worked hard and succeeded, which encouraged others to emulate them. Americans were restless and wanted to succeed, which resulted in the pressure to move west for more land and more opportunity. 

Most migrants were male and came to the New World voluntarily. However, the new colonists included a substantial number of convicts, orphans, mental patients, etc. England was using the colonies as a place to empty their prisons and other institutions, a practice they later continued on a larger scale in Australia. 

The cost to cross the Atlantic was out of the reach of most common people, so many came as indentured servants. These people contracted to work for four to seven years for the cost of passage to the colonies, food, and shelter. This was voluntary slavery, but at the end of their service they were given land, tools, and a firearm. In the early days of the colonies, some former indentured servants rose to the elite class. 

After experiencing a hazardous, crowded, and uncomfortable Atlantic crossing, new migrants found the New World challenging. There were no aid programs and they had to obtain shelter and food right away. They had to work hard just to survive. Many became small farmers or laborers.

Typical Log Cabin-Early American Households
Typical Log Cabin

Migrants had to construct a home with their own hands. This was usually a one-room wooden or log structure with dirt floors, a fireplace and sometimes a sleeping loft. Many homes had thatched roofs. Most towns featured wood frame houses. 

Obviously, wooden structures were prone to fire since the fireplaces, oil lamps and candles were all a threat. Most large towns and cities suffered multiple catastrophic fires, which resulted in moving to stone and brick structures. 

Most small homes had no glass windows because glass was very expensive and in short supply. Window openings were covered with cloth or paper or whatever was available. Various herbs were hung around to repel insects. Most of these homes had dirt floors and little furniture. The furniture usually had to be handmade. Early settlers had to import needed items if they could afford to do so. Otherwise, items had to be made, or they had to do without. 

New settlers also faced many physical and environmental dangers. There were few doctors, and most were in the larger towns such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Many of the early doctors still used bloodletting as their treatment for practically everything. Work related accidents, particularly farm accidents, were a major cause of death and disability and remained so until the late nineteenth century. 

Minor illnesses were usually treated in the home using home remedies. The major diseases that settlers faced included Yellow Fever, Smallpox, Malaria, and Typhoid. These often reached epidemic proportions. The well-to-do in big towns and cities moved their families to the country during epidemics and wealthy planters had second homes away from outbreaks of these diseases. Poorer people had to tough it out where they were and consequently suffered the most deaths. 

Childbirth was the major killer of women. They were expected to marry and have children because children provided labor and an expanding population was necessary for the longevity of society. The death of so many women resulted in many young widowers who tended to remarry, often to much younger women, very quickly. This also meant that men could father even more children.

A little-known fact is that our colonial forebears had a very liberal view of pre-marital sex. Women were often in short supply and there was little time for courtship. A substantial percentage of women were pregnant when married and this was totally acceptable, and often encouraged.  Preachers were in short supply in rural areas and couples could not wait for traveling preachers to show up. They got pregnant, moved in together, and made it official when a preacher showed up. More prudish attitudes on sex did not happen until the mid-nineteenth century 

The second generation in the colonies tended to be healthier than their parents. The Europe the parents had left was very crowded. Communicable diseases were rampant among the poor, food was expensive, and much of it was vermin infested. Potable water was nearly impossible to find. 

The children of even the poorest new settlers lived in a much healthier environment. More space, cleaner air and water. Food was cleaner and included fresh vegetables and meat because most people had gardens and could hunt for fresh meat. This resulted in children that were more resistant to disease and were healthier in general. However, most people believed bathing was unhealthy so personal hygiene was really bad compared to modern standards

One other factor contributed to the dangers faced by colonists, particularly those living in isolated communities and farms. Indian tribes were not pleased with the encroachment on their lands and conducted deadly raids against the settlers. Most raids were conducted by small war parties and resulted in few casualties on either side, but some resulted in multiple deaths and wide destruction of homesteads. 

Colonial-era Indian Warrior-Early American Households-
Colonial-era Indian Warrior

Settlers retaliated with the same brutality and massacre of Indians were common. There were multiple Indian wars with many casualties on both sides, but the better armed settlers had the advantage over the long run.

Wars between the colonial powers featured Indian tribes allying themselves with the warring side they perceived most friendly to them. In truth, the Indians always lost because no colonial group really sided with them.  

Early Indian wars were the precursor to those that would plague the westward expansion of the United States for nearly 200 years. Unfortunately, whites had a history of broken promises, and the conflicts would result in thousands of deaths, particularly Indian deaths.  

The family was, and still is, the fundamental unit of society. Despite the many challenges faced by colonial settlers, they settled into a life of family unity, religion, and hard work. Women who survived multiple childbirths often gave birth to 10 to 15 children, but Infant mortality was about 50 percent.  

The average family size is a matter for debate, but it is true that rural families were usually larger than urban families.  Farmers and other groups with high labor requirements had the most children because more children meant more laborers, which resulted in greater profits. Colonial households often included stepchildren, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other extended family members. 

Typical Log Church-Early American Households
Typical Log Church

Most early Americans were Christian and deeply religious. Religion was the glue that held society together and gave common people hope for the future. Congregations initially met in homes until churches could be built. Sabbath services were well attended and gave people a chance to visit with neighbors. Sabbath attendance was required in some areas of New England.  

Colonial religion included a belief in the supernatural world of angels and evil spirits and those forces were competing and always nearby. These beliefs could occasionally get out of hand and result in unintended consequences. The most infamous of such a time was the Salem Witch Trials. 

Generally speaking, men were responsible for outside work and women oversaw household chores including raising the children. All had to work hard and when children were old enough, they were required to help the adults.  

Women were in charge of educating the children. They taught the children to read and to do simple arithmetic. Most used the Christian Bible to teach children to read. This served a dual purpose in that it also provided religious and moral instruction, which was necessary for a stable and cohesive society.  

This level of education was sufficient for the working class, and few went on to more formal education. Massachusetts was the only colony to require public education The wealthier classes usually sent their male children to more advanced schools to prepare them for entry to society and for careers in law or other professions. 

Drawing of Typical Small Colonial Fort-Early American Households
Drawing of Typical Small Colonial Fort

Some settlers were very isolated and far from civilization. They did not have a community of any kind other than their family and the local Indians. These settlers often had gathered up all their nuclear and extended family and moved far from civilization. They would first build a fort for protection. They farmed, raised livestock, and hunted. They tried to have a mutually useful relationship with the local Indians but were ready to defend themselves and strike back when necessary.  

My own ancestors moved into the Smokey Mountains of what is now known as Tennessee during colonial days because “the east was too crowded, and taxes were too high.” They did what is outlined above. From there some of them moved on west as far as California and Alaska trying to stay ahead of civilization. Later when other settlers arrived, some of the remaining family assisted in building a town.  

A day in the life of a farming family was work from sunup to sundown. The father and any other adult males in the family worked in the fields. They were assisted by the male children who were old enough to assist in this physically demanding and dangerous work. Depending on the adult, this age could be 10-years old or even younger. 

Man-Powered Cultivator-Early American Households
Man-Powered Cultivator

Farming was all done by hand. Some could not afford draft animals and the biggest males pulled the plow with a youngster guiding the plow. Guiding the plow was not as easy as it sounds. Even with draft animals this work was very demanding. 

Equipment had to be maintained and repaired, which was often done during the evening. Most of the equipment was homemade and crude. Small grain seeding was broadcast but seed corn had to be pushed into the soil. Small grain harvesting was done by beating it on a hard surface, as it had been done for thousands of years. 

Colonial Women at Work-Early American Households
Colonial Women at Work

While the men worked outside, women were working just as hard inside. They prepared three meals a day, using pots in the fireplace. There was no store to get food, so they had to prepare everything from scratch using menu items that were grown in their garden. Flour was made by crushing wheat grown on their farm. If they were lucky, they had cows or goats to give milk and some for slaughter. Hunting wild game was the most common source of meat. Meals were basic with no frills. Women sometimes baked sweets for a treat. Fruit sugar provided the sweetness because refined sugar was a real luxury. 

Adult women were assisted by the girls in the family and very young boys. The children took care of the family garden until they were old enough to do adult work. 

Sewing was quite important so they could make and repair clothing and bedding. Washing clothing and bedding was done using a hand washboard often in a nearby stream. Washed items had to be wrung out by hand and hung on a clothesline. If any pressing was done, the iron was heavy cast iron, and it was heated in the fireplace. Washing clothing and bedding was not done often because people did not see cleanliness as a priority.

Life was not easy for women. They had children often and many died during childbirth. Sometimes they had no help giving birth other than their daughters and husband. About 50 percent of children did not survive childhood so deaths were frequent. Family graveyards filled up rapidly. 

Usually, bedtime was at sundown because all were tired, and candles had to be handmade and could not be wasted. If the home had a loft the parents slept there. If there was no loft they slept on the floor (usually a dirt floor) with the children. 

Homemade Doll-Early American Households
Homemade Doll-

Although all members of a family were required to work hard and long hours, there was some time for play and relaxation. Children found time to play with homemade toys and they played games, such as tag. Sledding during the winter was popular in the north. 

Families sometimes gathered with neighbors to share a meal and to have games. Usually, these gatherings were held to accomplish some community project such as a barn raising or crop harvesting. Women often gathered for sewing bees, canning food, and other large projects. 

Our ancestors endured much while building this country and they sometimes had to defend their homes from Indian raids. Some families were wiped out by Indians and in some cases children and women were taken captive. Indians also destroyed crops and killed livestock. Disease could also wipe out entire families.

The death of a husband or wife could be catastrophic because the survivors had to take on all that person’s work. If a surviving spouse could find another mate, they did so as soon as possible because survival often depended on it.  

Early families were independent, hard working, and they persevered. They built a national community of patriots that made the Revolution possible. The elite provided the words and organization, but it was mostly the hard-working common people that fought for and physically built the country. 

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.
    1.  
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
Voltaire

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.