Tarheel Founding Fathers

What better way to start off a vacation than a...boring history lesson? I must have gotten my wires crossed somewhere. I was really excited about this a few minutes ago...oh well, I've started this thing, so I have to finish it, or I'll toss and turn all night.

Over the years that the Continental Congress met and hashed out the details that became our Constitution, North Carolina sent several delegates to be our voice. But I decided (for now) to focus on the three who were in attendance on our first birthday and were signatories of the Declaration Of Independence, namely Joseph Hewes, William Hooper and John Penn.

Joseph Hewes was a Princeton-schooled Quaker, but he was also a revolutionary at heart. And although he was a rather successful merchant, his friends and neighbors chose him to represent them because of his strength of character and sense of what is right, not because he had some coins jingling in his pocket. Such was their confidence in Hewes and the other two delegates that:

No delegates to this congress carried with them credentials of a bolder stamp, than those from North Carolina. They were invested with such powers as might "make any acts done by them, or consent given in behalf of this province, obligatory in honor upon any inhabitant thereof, who is not an alien to his country's good, and an apostate to the liberties of America."

Many of the delegates from the various states had in mind that reconciliation with Britain was the best course of action. Hewes knew better, and had been advocating for a break from the crown for a few years before he was sent to Philadelphia. As he was a Quaker itching for a fight, he was somewhat scorned by many of the other delegates. But his kind of spirit is exactly what we as a country needed back then, and he fit in well with those other troublemakers who, against all odds, gave us the freedoms we now enjoy.

Here's a letter from Hewes to James Iredell in May of 1776:

Dear Sir Philadelphia 17th May 1776
This being a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer (or in Vulgar language Congress Sunday) (1) I mean to steal as much time from my private devotions as will serve to acknowledge the receipt of your agreeable favour of the 29th ultimo (2) which has just reached me. Complaints of distresses made to our friends it is said is some alleviation of them- I cannot say the observation is true, however I must complain a little, an obstinate ague & Fever or rather an intermitting Fever persecutes me continually. I have no way to remove it unless I retire from Congress and from public business, this I am determined not to do till No. Carolina sends a further delegation provided I am able to crawl to the Congress Chamber. So much for self, a little politicks and I have done. Much of our time is employed in raising Men, making Cannon, Muskets & money, finding out ways & means of supplying our Troops with Cloaths, provisions & amunition. We appear to have everything we want. We resolve to raise regiments, resolve to make Cannon, resolve to make & import muskets, powder and Cloathing, but it is a melancholly truth that near half of our men, Cannon, muskets, powder, Clothe &c is to be found no where but on paper. We are not discouraged at this, if our Situation was ten times worse I would not agree to give up our cause. To the whole force of Great Britain has been added near half of Germany, 25,000 Hessians, Waldeckers and others have been expected for some time past, indeed the report of this day is, that a large detachment of them with the Commissioners are arived at Halifax in Nova Scotia. The latter, it is said are coming here to treat with Congress, in the mean time the former are to wait the event of the Treaty; if it succeeds not, they are to spread the horror and devastations of War from one end of the Continent to the other. Whither this be true or only the lye of the day I know not. It is too true that a great number of those Germans are taken into British pay. I have not heard any thing from your Congress at Halifax since the 22d of April. I am anxious to know how they go on in forming a Constitution, and more Anxious to know how they defend their Country, for I expect a formal attack has been made on it before this day. This you will receive by Mr Louther to whom I must refer you, he is just from head quarters and will be able to give you some acco. of our army. My Compliments to Mrs. Iredell & Mrs Blair. You and they have always the best wishes of, Dear Sir, your much obliged, & very huml Servt, Joseph Hewes

:) You gotta love that, "So much for self, a little politicks and I have done." Hewes was also the very first Secretary of the Navy.

William Hooper had a lot in common with many of the other delegates, in that he was a somewhat reluctant revolutionary. He was an active member of the colonial government under Tryon, and even accompanied the colonial forces when they defeated the Regulators here in Alamance, so he must have felt out of place being chosen as a delegate.

But he eventually came to realize the inevitability of war with Britain, although he accepted it with a dour fatalism. From a letter to Iredell:

My dear Friend Philadelphia January 6th 1776
So great has been my proportion of scribbling publick letters, that I have not had an opportunity to pay that respect to my private connections to which they have so just a Claim, to you to whom I owe it as a duty, as well as a testimony of Sincere reciprocal esteem.
That day, I hope, is not at a great distance, when retired from the bustle of publick life, I shall enjoy all the sweets of domestick retirement & private friendship. I am weary of politicks, it is a study that corrupts the human heart, degrades the Idea of human nature, and drives men to expedients that morality must condemn. Deep stratagems, dark disguise, Fiction, falsehood, are but the fair side of the picture of a perfect, politician-a Machiavel-a Hobbs-a Richlieu-a North. No, my Friend, the Science of politicks is not to be learned in the principles of the laws of nature and Nations, it is wrote only in the recesses of the mind of princes, and Vice assumes another name, when it ministers to the strength and importance of the state. The black part of the Character is ascribed to this and Virtues if any there are, are the personal property of the prince. Hide the picture ! 'tis a horrid one.
We have met with nothing of much importance lately from the Continental Armies. A scarcity of Gunpowder has for some time past kept them inactive, that Want is now plentifully supplied, and I suppose e'er long we shall hear of the happy effects. To what are we reduced, that we can hear of bloodshed without remorse; and amidst the horror of this unnatural War derive consolation from a conquest sealed with the blood of our fellow subjects. Yes, Britain, It is the Criterion of thy existence; thy greatness totters. Luxury & Wealth with every vice in their train, are hurrying thee down the precipice, & liberty shuddering at thy fate is seeking an Asylum westward. Oh Heaven still check her approaching Ruin, restore her to reason, restore her to the Affection of her American Subjects. May she long flourish the guardian of freedom and when that Change comes and come it must, that America must become the seat of Empire, may Britain gently verge down the decline of life, and sink away in the Arms of her American Sons. A Fleet is begun here at the Continental Expense, Should it's success be great it will much exceed my expectations. It has a formidable power to cope with, the luxury of Britain has not yet enervated its seamen. However if this War continues, which God forbid, A Navy we must have. That of the United Provinces was trifling in its commencement, its increase and importance shewed the propriety of it. Some small armed Vessels about Boston have made some valuable acquisitions.
This City scarce feels the interruption of trade. The Manufacturers, Mechanicks & Seamen find employment in the publick works. And the Merchants find means to dispose of their Commodities which are necessary to procure the means of Offence e defence. The Eastern Colonies furnish Soldiers and the necessaries for subsisting them, so that much of the Continental money will center with them. Their poor are employed and none left for clamor. The Southern Colonies will feel it first.

Possibly because he had been such a strong supporter of the colonial regime, the British attempted to capture Hooper numerous times, and eventually burned to the ground all of his property in the Wilmington area. I can't help but feel some sympathy for his plight. But I've also walked the Battleground here in Alamance on more than one occasion, and I know that justice often finds its own way in this world, regardless of what we do to help or hinder it.

John Penn was a distant relative of William Penn, and was a delegate from what is now Vance County. He was pretty much a self-taught lawyer, and developed a strong reputation in the courtroom.

In this letter to Samuel Johnston, he discusses the plot to kill Washington and implicates Tryon:

Dear Sir Philada. June 28th. 1776 I arrived here several days ago in good health & found Mr. Hewes well. I am truly sorry to inform you that our affairs are in a bad situation in Canada. I fear by the time you receive this our army will have left that Country. Unfortunately for us the small pox has gone through our Troops there, which has in some measure occasioned our misfortunes. I expect we shall be able to make a stand at the lakes. General Burgoin with a very considerable force arrived in Canada some time ago. He lately made Prisoners Brigad General Thompson and several other officers tho' we had but few men killed or taken at the time. A dangerious plot has lately been discovered at New York. The design was to blow up the Magazine and kill General Washington, a large number are under confinement some of note. Governor Tryon is at the bottom, several of the General's Guard were bribed, it seems when the whole is made known we shall be much surprised. The famous Rogers that was so active last war is one of the number & now confined.
The first day of July will be made remarcable; then the question relative to Independance will be ajitated and there is no doubt but a total seperation from Britain will take place. This Province is for it; indeed so are all except Maryland & her people are coming over fast, I shall be much obliged to you to give the inclosed letters passes and when you have an opportunity to let me know what is doing in the busie world your way. I am with great respect, Dear Sir, Your mo. obt. Servt. John Penn

And I leave you with a letter written some five years later to the worried wife of a hero:

Dear Madam. Philadelphia 27th March 1781. I have been honored with your very agreable Letter of ; but have it not about me. Should you pursue your Intention of going to the Southward, I shall be peculiarly happy in seeing you on the Way. We have not Accounts of late from General Greene, but a Letter received Yesterday from Governor Jefferson of Virginia, gives us the following Intelligence.(1) "That on the fifteenth of this Month a General Action was fought between the two Armies, wch. continued incessant for an hour and a Quarter; That General Greene then retired in good Order, unpursued, one Mile and an half, with the Loss of four Pieces of Canon and between two & three hundred killed and wounded. The Enemies Loss between five and six hundred: That General Greene intended a second Attack the day following, but was prevented by Rain; That every Circumstance indicated a new Engagement." This Acct. the Governor received from a Capt. of Artillery who was in Action. I now know what the Sensations of your Breast will be upon reading so far; But lest your Cheeks should become too crimson, I shall not mention them; For you are sensible I can never command my own Countenance When that of a Lady is agitated. However, This, to me, & most People who think cooly, is very good Intelligence. For Considering the small Number of our Continental Troops, and the irregular Nature of the Southern Militia, we might have expected a total Defeat, instead of a Conflict so equally maintained. To convince the Militia that they can fight is half making them Veterans; And We may safely pronounce General Greene's Strength after the Battle, a Quarter greater than before. So true it is that all the Benefits of a long Experience may be gained in an Hour. I have not felt so firm a Persuasion of Success from the Beginning as at present. Perhaps you may think me too anxious on the Side of Friendship, and too much interested in your Felicity to indulge different Reflections; But I give you the Account exactly as we have received it; & shall repeat my Information as soon as more authentic Intelligence shall be obtained. I love Sincerity for its own sake as well as for the Relation it bears to social Connection, And I declare upon my Honor, America ought, and doubtless will record this Event as much in her Favor. It would perhaps be indelicate to suggest in this Way, my own, or the Opinion of others upon the military Conduct of General Greene, during this most critical, distressing and important Command in the Southern Department. Human Tenderness however demands one Tribute; His military Character is universally admired. Be pleased to make my best Respects to our good Friends, and accept the best Wishes of your very obedient & most humble Servt. J.M. Varnum

Happy Independence Day, my friends. :)

Comments

Fascinating

Thank you, dear friend, for this most delightful Lesson in History and politicks.

I am weary of politicks, it is a study that corrupts the human heart, degrades the Idea of human nature, and drives men to expedients that morality must condemn. Deep stratagems, dark disguise, Fiction, falsehood, are but the fair side of the picture of a perfect, politician-a Machiavel-a Hobbs-a Richlieu-a North. No, my Friend, the Science of politicks is not to be learned in the principles of the laws of nature and Nations, it is wrote only in the recesses of the mind of princes, and Vice assumes another name, when it ministers to the strength and importance of the state. The black part of the Character is ascribed to this and Virtues if any there are, are the personal property of the prince. Hide the picture ! 'tis a horrid one.

Tis the Essential Nature of Human beings to choose Greed over Comity at ever turn?

Locke's folly

(and the folly of his current followers) is that self-interest (greed) when exercised by an individual (as opposed to an organization) is healthy and distributes power amongst the many instead of the few (tyrants). But there really is no difference. The greedy gravitate towards each other to enhance their holdings, and the organization is formed anyway.

Hooper knew this, as he illustrates in a letter to Hewes about the potential dangers of building an Army the wrong way:

From the many difficulties which attend the raising an Army here and to the Eastward I cannot too earnestly press upon you the necessity of forwarding by every possible method the recruiting Service. The Bounty & pay are both enormous & I hope will secure us success in recruiting & to the Southward tho the Eastern Gentry are not yet satisfied & wish to screw us up a few pegs higher-but they will be disappointed for in my opinion matters are now come to this. Give way to the extortion of the Army & you part with the property of the Continent to them and become Slaves to their Avarice & Caprice. Disband your Army & you are Slaves to a British Tyrant. Your Slavery differs only in the name of the Superiour, if I am a Slave let me have one rather than 60,000 Masters. However these Gentry will soon I hope be brought to reason & we shall have a formidable force on reasonable Terms.

One good thing about having "reluctant revolutionaries" is that they aren't so fervently single-minded in the desire for change, and any (new) course of action is scrutinized closely. We could have done with a little more of that five years ago.

God bless their revolutionary minds

Reluctant politicians who saw the writing on the wall and acted courageously on that wisdom.

I can't help reading the descriptions on Britain's arrogance and blush at the imperialism that America grasps for now.

Yes, Britain, It is the Criterion of thy existence; thy greatness totters. Luxury & Wealth with every vice in their train, are hurrying thee down the precipice, & liberty shuddering at thy fate is seeking an Asylum westward.

Thanks for this historical snapshot of 1776. It's enlightening to remember and respect the struggles of the past.

That reminds me, if you haven't signed this impeachment petition yet; the only one that matters, do it for Liberty's sake now:
Dennis Kucinch will hand deliver your message to your Congress Critter

Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

My critter would probably wipe his

...desk off with it (Howard Coble), but I might do it anyway just to give him something to do. ;)

Well done, sir. Makes me want to don a tricorner'd

hat and write papers decrying our subservience to King George ... oh wait ... I've been doing that for the last 6 or 7 years.

1-20-09 ... our next Independance Day.

A nice bit of research.

Person County Democrats

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

Styles really haven't changed that much

This was taken in downtown Greensboro today at the Fun Fourth Festival. I think he's supposed to be Nathaniel Greene. I guess I could have asked him, but he had the air of The Thespian about him. As I'm mildly allergic to those types, I snapped the picture and briskly moved on. ;)

Thespians!! Oh no, not Thespians!!

... he had the air of The Thespian about him. As I'm mildly allergic to those types, I snapped the picture and briskly moved on.

Awwww. I bet he had a nice 30 minute soliloquy ready for you. :)

Thanks for the pic, tricorner hat and all.

Person County Democrats

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

This is wonderful!

Thank you for doing this research! The American Revolution is my favorite period of history to study - and I did not know anything about these Tarheels. What a treasure you've brought to us. Seriously - this is great!

More, please!

Can we, instead, start talking about "for the good of North Carolina?" --Leslie H.
Pointing at Naked Emperors

Here's one for a Jersey girl:

This subsequently published letter composed by a group of Congressmen was a message to the Hessians occupying Trenton:

It is with no small pleasure, when in this first address we ever made to you we must call you enemies, that we can affirm you to be unprovoked enemies. We have not invaded your country, slaughtered wounded or captivated your parents children or kinsfolk, burned plundered or desolated your towns and villages, wasted your farms and cottages, spoiled you of your goods, or annoyed your trade. On the contrary, all your countrymen who dwell among us, were received as friends, and treated as brethren, participating equally with our selves of all our rights, franchises and privileges. We have not aided ambitious princes and potentates in subjugating you. We should glory being instrumental in the deliverance of mankind from bondage and oppression. What then induced you to join in this quarrel with our foes, strangers to you, unconnected with you, and at so great a distance from both you and us? Do you think the cause you are engaged in just on your side? To decide that we might safely appeal to the judicious and impartial-but we have appealed to the righteous judge of all the earth, inspired with humble confidence and well-grounded hopes, that the lord of hosts will fight our battles, whilst we are vindicating that inheritance we own ourselves indebted to his bounty alone for. Were you compelled by your sovereigns to undertake the bloody work of butchering your unoffending fellow creatures? Disdain the inhuman office, disgraceful to the soldier. Did lust of conquest prompt you? The victory, unattainable by you if heaven was not against us, which we know of no good reason you have to expect, or we to dread, shall cost you more than the benefits derived from it will be equivalent to; since it will be disputed by those who are resolved inflexibly to live no longer than they can enjoy the liberty you are hired to rob them of, and who are conscious of a dignity of character, which a contempt of every danger threatening the loss of that blessing seldom fails to accompany. Were you tempted by the prospect of exchanging the land you left for happier regions,-for a land of plenty and abhorrent of despotism? We wish this may be your motive; because we have the means, and want not inclination, to gratify your desires, if they be not hostile, without loss to ourselves, perhaps with less expense, certainly with more honour and with more advantage to you than victory can promise. Numberless germans and other foreigners settled in this country will testify this truth. To give you farther assurance of it, we have resolved,
Mistake not this for an expedient suggested by fear. In military virtue we doubt not americans will prove themselves to be second to none; their numbers exceed you and your confederates; in resources they now do or soon will abound. Neither suppose that we would seduce you to a treacherous defection. If you have been persuaded to believe, that it is your duty, or will be your interest to assist those who prepare, in vain we trust, to destroy us; go on; and, when you shall fall into our hands, and experience less severity of punishment than ruffians, and savages deserve, attribute it to that lenity, which is never separate from magnanimity. But if, exercising your own judgments, you have spirit enough to assert that freedom which all men are born to, associate yourselves with those who desire, and think they are able to secure it, with all the blessings of peace, to you and your posterity.

They should have listened. They were continually harassed by the New Jersey militia until the day after Christmas, when they were routed by the Continental Army and their flag sent to Congress as a trophy. ;)

Wonderful!

The story of the Trenton rout, and the crossing of the Delaware was always well told and well taught in NJ. We were, I suspect, the crossroads of the revolution. In fact, in the town LoftT and I grew up in, there was the Dey Mansion, were Washington made his headquarters in 1780. It was there that he learned of the treachery of Benedict Arnold.

Our town itself was named after General Anthony Wayne. (Mad Anthony Wayne - which may explain something about those of us who grew up in the town.)

Can we, instead, start talking about "for the good of North Carolina?" --Leslie H.
Pointing at Naked Emperors

What a wonderful gift, these

What a wonderful gift, these voices from our past. They speak to us today. Thank you very much.

I'm bookmarking this! You've made my night.

My Dad and I sat and watched part of the "Revolution" series on history channel today while everyone was out/asleep.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Did you get a chance to watch

the John Adams miniseries on HBO recently? My younger son initially said, "There's no way I'm wasting my time watching that mess."

But he watched it in secret for a few weeks before admitting, "That's a really good show."

"I thought you said it was stupid?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

;)

We have that saved on DVR,

just in case we want to go back and watch it before we purchase the DVD's. Laura Linney, who played Abigail Adams, deserves every award she can receive for her acting, as does Paul Giamatti, who played John Adams. It was fairly faithful to the David McCullogh book (he consulted on the screenplay, I think.)

What heros these people were. I'm not sure I could sacrifice what they did for any cause.

Can we, instead, start talking about "for the good of North Carolina?" --Leslie H.
Pointing at Naked Emperors