Wednesday, 06 April 2011

1776 and 2011: Transporting Us Beyond Seas

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As the anniversary of “that famous day” on “the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five” approaches, you may recall that one goal of “the midnight ride of Paul Revere” was warning John Hancock and Sam Adams. The two were between Congresses, so to speak: having attended Massachusetts’ Provincial one, they would shortly head to Philadelphia for the Second Continental. In the interim, they didn’t risk returning to Boston with its infestation of Redcoats; rather, they stayed in Lexington at the home of Rev. Jonas Clarke, a staunch Patriot. Hancock must have felt especially secure: as a boy, he had lived with his grandfather, then the town’s preacher, in that same parsonage for 6 years after his father died.

But whatever comfort he felt was only an illusion. Politicians in the 18th-century British Empire were as stubborn and as impervious to reason as those in the 21st-century American one. They had convinced themselves that the “troubles” in the colonies had nothing to do with the Empire’s abuses and tyranny; instead, a couple of Boston’s malcontents were stirring up their countrymen. Arrest those ringleaders, and everyone else would settle down to loyal subjugation once again.