View Full Version : American revolution: Colonies fight for independence

The Brain
March 14th, 2003, 10:35 PM
This story of the conceptualization and implementation of a new form of democracy either in responce to seemingly unfair and tyranical rule of distant authorities and the actual war itself is arguably the greatest story ever told. The events set in NYC and its general area have seemed to escape many of the current day New Yorkers. Any takers?

March 17th, 2003, 11:57 AM
Definitely. It is a fascinating part of our history.

A few quick images to establish a setting.....

Great Fire of New York - 1776


George Washington urged civilians to flee the city when British attack appeared imminent.


Battle of Long Island


Ruins of Trinity Church after the Great Fire of 1776


Pulling down the George III statue at Bowling Green




July 5th, 2007, 10:29 AM
This thread ^^^ has lost some of its charm -- and pictures :( ...

July 5th, 2007, 10:52 AM
A Country’s Past Is Unearthed,
and Comes Into Focus

Mike Mergen for The New York Times
The remains of a brick and stone mansion being excavated in Philadelphia.
George Washington lived there in the 1790s, as did his slaves.

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/04/us/04dig-.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)
July 4, 2007

PHILADELPHIA, July 3 — On the stretch of land where the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Constitution drafted and the Liberty Bell first tolled, pre-Independence Day crowds peered from a wooden platform into a 10-foot-deep dirt hole that is revealing more complex notions of the nation’s history.

Digging through layers of soil, brick and mortar, archaeologists for the city and the National Park Service have exposed remains of a four-story brick and stone mansion that was home to George Washington and John Adams, and was the seat of the executive branch before the White House was finished.

Historians and community activists began demanding the excavation in 2002, after the site, which is adjacent to the Liberty Bell Center, was found to be above the mansion’s living quarters for nine household slaves that Washington brought here from Mount Vernon. Thousands of people have visited since digging began in March, the makeshift observation deck atop the hole serving as a platform for reflection and dialogue on the nature and roots of liberty.

Nathan Buchanan, 25, a graduate student from Spruce Pine, N.C., said Tuesday that the excavation presented him with “the whole picture of history.”

“It’s a historical site that gives a voice to all the sides,” he said.

Private collection
The home was once the seat of the executive branch.

Built from 1767 to 1769, the mansion, which stood at 190 High Street, was used by the British during the Revolutionary War and later leased to the city by Robert Morris, a financier who was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It was there that Washington signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, by which Congress ensured the right of owners to reclaim slaves as lost “property,” and from there that Martha Washington’s personal slave, Oney Judge, and the family’s cook, Hercules, eventually fled to freedom. John Adams, who never owned slaves, lived in the house until he moved to Washington in 1800.

Many visitors to the site, a 60-by-90-foot hole on what is now Market Street, say it speaks to the complicated bond between freedom and slavery, crystallizing a debate about injustice that Americans continue to struggle with. “It challenges what people know and what they thought they knew about the country they live in,” said Jed Levin, an archaeologist for the Park Service.

“It’s up to us now to look at our own lives,” said Tom Hill, 55, an accounting manager from Petersburg, Ky. “Someone may look back at us and say, ‘How could those people have done that?’ ”

Mike Mergen for The New York Times
Lovely Elysee, a field technician, sifting through rubble at the site.

By the 1830s, all but part of a wall of the mansion had been razed. The site was later built upon, and in the 1950s, the ground was leveled for the landscaping of Independence Mall. The hole reveals a series of trenches, delineating rooms, where archaeologists translate their work for onlookers and describe discoveries. Among these were an underground passage through which slaves moved between the kitchen and the main house, and a bow window thought to have inspired the Oval Office of the White House.

Although the site has yielded few artifacts, it is fertile ground for historical reinterpretation. “It’s a symbol of things that have not been valued in the past,” said Edward Lawler, a historian with the Independence Hall Association.

Early efforts to end slavery in Pennsylvania resulted in the passage of the Gradual Abolition Act of 1780, which allowed Washington, as a citizen of Virginia, to keep his slaves here for six months, at which point they were entitled to freedom. But Washington circumvented the Pennsylvania law, Mr. Lawler said, by rotating the slaves across state lines.

Cheryl Murray, 58, a retired Internal Revenue Service worker from Philadelphia, leaned against the railing above the hole on Tuesday. “Philly is the birthplace of freedom,” Ms. Murray said, “but this part of history has not been told.”

Her friend Mildred Bey, 54, who works for the Department of Defense, said, “People are taught to believe that slavery was down South but not here.”

Two other Philadelphians, Bill Hempsey, 78, a retiree who is white, and Wayne Gibbons, 58, a doctor who is black, stood at the edge of the excavation, listening intently.

“It’s part of history, and it’s been underground,” Mr. Hempsey remarked.

Dr. Gibbons said, “Truth buried will at some point rise,” and added, “Independence Day is something to celebrate, but in the context of understanding the price paid for freedom.”

The men, who had met for the first time only minutes earlier, ended their conversation shaking hands.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

July 6th, 2007, 10:13 PM
New York Times Magazine
July 1, 2007

Loyal to a Fault


Every Independence Day we celebrate the founding of the world’s most powerful — and for some, inspirational — nation. Yet for several months after July 4, 1776, the self-proclaimed United States of America looked set to go down in history as a nation that never was. That August, in the biggest battle of the Revolution, the British trounced the Continental Army on Long Island, nearly forcing an American surrender.

Illustration from the Granger Collection

As Washington’s beleaguered soldiers retreated through New Jersey, thousands of Americans loyal to King George III surged into New York City — where they would remain under British protection for the rest of the war. These loyalists had no desire “to dissolve the political bands” with Britain, as the Declaration of Independence demanded. Instead, as they explained in a petition to British authorities, they “steadily and uniformly opposed” this “most unnatural, unprovoked Rebellion, that ever disgraced the annals of Time.” While the rebels sought to sever the connection between Britain and the colonies, the loyalists “most ardently wish[ed] for a restoration of that union between them.” Where the rebels challenged the king, the loyalists staunchly upheld royal authority: they had “borne true Allegiance to His Majesty, and the most warm and affectionate attachment to his Person and Government.”

During three days in November 1776, this petition sat in Scott’s Tavern, on Wall Street, to be signed by anyone who wished. A frank declaration of dependence, it completely lacks the revolutionary genius and rhetorical grace of our hallowed July 4 document. Yet in all, more than 700 people put their names to the parchment — 12 times the number who signed the Declaration of Independence. Among the signatories were pillars of New York society: wealthy merchants like Hugh Wallace, who commanded vast tracts of land and capital; members of some of New York’s most prominent families, the DeLanceys, the Livingstons and the Philipses; and the clergymen Charles Inglis and Samuel Seabury, who published articulate rebuttals to rebel pamphlets like Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” But most of the names belonged to the ordinary people who made New York run: tavern keepers and carpenters; farmers from the Hudson Valley or New Jersey; men like the baker James Orchard, who supplied bread for British troops; the Greenwich blacksmith James Stewart, who joined the British Army; and the hairdresser and perfumer James Deas.

Loyalists are the American Revolution’s guilty secret: rarely spoken of, hauntingly present. At least one in five Americans is believed to have remained loyal to Britain during the war. They expressed their opinions passively and actively: refusing to forswear allegiance to the king, signing petitions or joining loyalist military regiments — as nearly 20,000 men did — to defend their vision of British America. In retaliation, they faced harassment from their peers, most vividly (if rarely) by tarring and feathering. Some would suffer for their loyalty in open battle; others faced sanctions from state legislatures, which could strip them of their land and possessions, imprison them or formally banish them.

The Tories, as the patriots pejoratively called them, are still often caricatured as elitist and out of touch, foreign, even treacherous. Granted, their dream of a continued imperial relationship with Britain had none of the political innovation that gave rise to the new republic. And yet it bears stressing that our “self-evident” founding principles were not seen that way by fully one-fifth of the population. Many of the United States’ first and most passionate critics were Americans themselves.

After the Revolutionary War ended, thousands of loyalists blended into the nation, and their descendants participated in shaping American society.

But many — as many as 1 in 30 Americans — did not. Feeling insecure and unwelcome in the United States, and attracted by British promises of land and compensation, some 80,000 loyalists left their homes to build new lives elsewhere in the still-vigorous British Empire. About half fled north to Canada, among them more than 3,000 black loyalists — former slaves who had been granted freedom in exchange for fighting for the British — and several hundred Mohawk Indians, longstanding British allies. Many loyalists entered Jamaican society as doctors, printers, merchants and planters — or tried their luck at cotton planting on the out-islands of the Bahamas. In perhaps the most intriguing migration, a contingent of just under 1,200 black loyalists relocated in 1792 from Nova Scotia to the experimental free black colony of Sierra Leone. Some of their black peers wound up yet farther afield, among the first convicts shipped out to Australia’s Botany Bay. And a few loyalists made their way to India — including two of Benedict Arnold’s sons, who found love, war and death as officers in the East India Company’s army.

The scale and range of this exodus point to a gap in popular understandings of the American revolutionary tradition. We pride ourselves on the freedom and tolerance embedded in our founding principles. We have also recently begun to acknowledge the discrepancy between the nation’s vaunted commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and the gross abuse of these principles in practice — through slavery above all. (Compared with the United States, the British Empire looked like a good bet if you were an enslaved black or a Native American.) But the loyalist émigrés had experienced a form of exclusion that is less familiarly American: one based on political affiliation. Unlike slaves and Native Americans, who were never assumed to be part of the republic’s political fabric, the majority of loyalist families were headed by white, property-owning men, who if not for their allegiances would otherwise have been enfranchised members of the new polity. In opting for the king, they were motivated not only by economic interests and trans-Atlantic cultural ties but also by a coherent set of political beliefs.

Loyalists believed they already lived under a constitution — a British Constitution — directed by the supreme figure of the king. Republicanism was treason; it heralded descent into anarchy and violence. As the minister Charles Inglis explained in his rejoinder to Paine’s “Common Sense,” under a republic “all property . . . would be unhinged,” “the old Constitution would be totally subverted,” thousands would be forced to “wound their conscience” by renouncing the king, “torrents of blood will be spilt and thousands reduced to beggary and wretchedness” — and after all that, judging from history, chances were high Americans would end up in “thralldom” to an individual despot. “Even Hobbes would blush,” he said, to acknowledge Paine as “a disciple.”

Though many loyalists technically left by choice, freedom meant little if your property had been confiscated or your person threatened. It is no wonder, then, that the loyalist migrants routinely referred to themselves as refugees, since like many modern asylum seekers they moved under a shadow of trauma and fear. Their accounts of their plight — in letters, diaries, claims and petitions for support — form a wrenching archive of woe. Even the wealthy Hugh Wallace, the first person to sign the New York declaration, was reduced to loneliness, illness and deprivation. “If ever man was to be pitied, he is,” his brother reported, not long after the war’s end. “His losses hang heavy on him & his being from his wife hurts him much.”

So effectively did the loyalists articulate their distresses that the British government established a commission to reimburse them for their losses (though few were satisfied with the ultimate rewards they received).

Still, even as the loyalists put down roots in the British Empire, it seemed that they had not left every trace of America behind. For what should they promptly express abroad but an uncannily American desire for greater political representation — much to the chagrin of British officials. Fired up by an “American spirit of innovation,” as one disgruntled British governor put it, loyalists clamored for participation everywhere from the Canadian Maritimes to the Bahamas to Sierra Leone. In some settings, they achieved it. Thanks in part to the loyalists’ political legacy, Canada gained limited self-government earlier than any other British colony, providing a template for later home rule and decolonization. Apparently you could take the colonists out of America, but something American in them endured.

The American Revolution went well, as revolutions go: no guillotines, no gulags. But the democratic revolution was nonetheless violent. The American way was established by force, and those who did not renounce their old allegiances in favor of the new government paid a price. Then again, there may be a cue to be taken from the surprising way in which loyalists, victims of the American idea, became unwitting emissaries of American values. American-ness comes in many shapes and forms and holds a peculiar appeal, even to some of its critics. After all, despite its imperfections, our most successful exercise in nation-building continues to be our own.

Maya Jasanoff is an associate professor of British history at Harvard University. She is the author of “Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850”

Copyright 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)