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To make a subject interesting and beneficial to us we must have a personal interest in it. This is brought about in three ways: It touches our pride, if it be our country; it excites our curiosity as to what it really is, if it be history; and we desire to know what part our ancestors took in it, if it be war.


So, we see the period of the Revolutionary war possesses all three of these elements; and was in reality the beginning of true American life--"America for Americans."

Prior to this time (during the Colonial period) America was under the dominion of the lords proprietors--covering the years of 1663 to 1729--and royal governors--from 1729 to 1775--the appointees of the English sovereign, and whose rule was for self-aggrandizement. The very word "Revolutionary" proclaims oppression, for where there is justice shown by the ruler to the subjects there is no revolt, nor will there ever be.

We usually think of the battle of Lexington (April 19, 1775,) as being the bugle note that culminated in the Declaration of Independence and reached its final grand chord at Yorktown, October 19, 1781; but on the 16th of May, 1771, some citizens of North Carolina, finding the extortions and exactions of the royal governor, Tryon, more than they could or would bear, took up arms in self-defense and fought on the Alamance River what was in reality the first battle of the Revolution.

The citizens' loss was thirty-six men, while the governor lost almost sixty of his royal troops. This battle of the Alamance was the seed sown that budded in the Declaration of Mecklenburg in 1775, and came to full flower in the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

There were stages in this flower of American liberty to which we will give a cursory glance.

The determination of the colonies not to purchase British goods had a marked effect on England. Commercial depression followed, and public opinion soon demanded some concession to the Americans.

All taxes were remitted or repealed except that upon tea; when there followed the most exciting, if not the most enjoyable party in the world's history--the "Boston Tea Party," which occurred on the evening of December 16, 1773.

This was followed in March, 1774, by the Boston Port Bill, the first in the series of retaliation by England for the "Tea Party."

At the instigation of Virginia a new convention of the colonies was called to meet September, 1774, to consider "the grievances of the people." This was the second Colonial and the first Continental congress to meet in America, and occurred September 5, 1774, at Philadelphia. All the colonies were represented, except Georgia, whose governor would not allow it.

They then adjourned to meet May 10, 1775, after having passed a declaration of rights, framed an address to the king and people of England, and recommended the suspension of all commercial relations with the mother country.

The British minister, William Pitt, wrote of that congress: "For solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity and wisdom of conclusion, no nation or body of men can stand in preference to the general congress of Philadelphia."

Henceforth the Colonists were known as "Continentals," in contradistinction to the "Royalists" or "Tories," who were the adherents of the crown.

No period of our history holds more for the student, young or old, than this of the Revolutionary war, or possesses greater charm when once taken up.

No man or woman can be as good a citizen without some knowledge of this most interesting subject, nor enjoy so fully their grand country!

Some one has pertinently said "history is innumerable biographies;" and what child or grown person is there who does not enjoy being told of some "great person?" Every man, private, military or civil officer, who took part in the Revolutionary war was great!

It is not generally known that the _executive power_ of the state rested in those troublesome times in the county committees; but it was they who executed all the orders of the Continental Congress.

The provincial council was for the whole state; the district committee for the safety of each district, and the county and town committees for each county and town.

It was through the thought, loyalty and enduring bravery of the men who constituted these committees, that we of today have a constitution that gives us "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"--in whatever manner pleases us, so long as it does not trespass on another's well being.

We do not give half the honor we should to our ancestry, who have done so much for us! We zealously seek and preserve the pedigrees of our horses, cows and chickens, and really do not _know_ whether we come from a mushroom or a monkey!

When we think of it, it is a much more honorable and greater thing to be a Son or Daughter of the American Revolution, than to be a prince or princess, for one comes through noble deeds done by thinking, justice-loving men, and the other through an accident of birth. Let us examine a little into a few of these "biographies" and see wherein their greatness lies, that they like righteous Abel, "though dead yet speak."

The number seven stands for completeness and perfection--let us see if seven imaginary questions can be answered by their lives.

James Edward Oglethorpe was born in 1696, and died in 1785--two years after the Revolutionary war. He planted the Colony of Georgia, in which the oppressed found refuge. He had served in the army of Prince Eugene of Savoy in the war with the Turks. He founded the city of Savannah, Georgia. He exported to England the first silk made in the colonies, of which the queen had a dress made. King George II gave him a seal representing a family of silk worms, with their motto: "Not for ourselves but for others." He forbade the importation of rum into the colony. He refused the command of the British forces sent in 1775 to reduce, or subdue the American Colonies. In this life told in seven questions, or rather answered, we find much--a religious man, a soldier, an architect (of a city), one versed in commerce, a wise legislator and a man who had the respect of the king--the head of England.

The next in chronological order is Benjamin Franklin (for whom our little city is named), born in 1706, died in 1790. He discovered the identity of lightning and electricity, and invented the lightning rods. He was an early printer who edited and published "Poor Richard's Almanac." Of him it was said, "He snatched the lightning from heaven and the sceptre from tyrants."

He founded the first circulating library in America. His portrait is seen to-day on every one-cent postage stamp. He was America's ambassador to France during the Revolutionary war.

He said after signing the Declaration of Independence, "We must all hang together or we shall all hang separately."

In him, we find an inventor and discoverer, an editor and author, a benefactor, a politician and statesman, and one whose face we daily see on account of his greatness.

George Washington was born 1732, and died 1799. He was the first president of the United States--"The Father of His Country," the commander-in-chief of the American forces in the Revolutionary war. He was the hero of Valley Forge, and the one to receive the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

He was the president of the convention that framed the United States constitution. The one of whom it was said, "He was the first in war, the first in peace, and the first in the hearts of his countrymen." It is his--and his only--birthday America celebrates as a national holiday. Of him Lord Byron said, "The first, the last, and the best, the Cincinnatus of the West." How much do seven short paragraphs tell!

Patrick Henry was born in 1736, died 1799, the same year that Washington "passed away;" and like his, this life can speak for itself. He was the most famous orator of the Revolution. He said, "give me liberty or give me death!" He also said, "We must fight. An appeal to arms and to the god of battles is all that is left us. I repeat it, sir, we must fight." Another saying of his was, "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell, and George III--may profit by their example." Again, "The people, and only the people, have a right to tax the people." He won in the famous Parson's case, the epithet of "The Orator of Nature." He was the first governor of the Colony of Virginia after it became a state.

John Hancock was born in 1737, and died 1793. He first signed the Declaration of Independence. He was a rich Boston merchant as well as a Revolutionary leader. He was chosen president of the Continental congress in 1775. He and Samuel Adams were the two especially excepted from pardon offered the "rebels" by the English.

As president of congress he signed the commission of George Washington as commander-in-chief of the army.

When he signed the Declaration of Independence he said, "The British ministry can read that name without spectacles; let them double their reward." He was elected the first governor of the state of Massachusetts in 1780.

Anthony Wayne was born in 1745, and died in 1796. He was often called "Mad Anthony" on account of his intrepidity. He was the hero of Stony Point. He built a fort on the spot of St. Clair's defeat and named it Fort Recovery. He was made commander-in-chief of the Army of the Northwest in 1792. He gained a great victory over the Miami Indians in Ohio in 1794. He, as a Revolutionary general, banished whiskey from his camp calling it "ardent poison"--from whence came the expression "ardent spirits" when applied to stimulants. Major Andre composed a poem about him called the "Cow Chase," showing how he captured supplies for the Americans.

Alexander Hamilton was born in 1757, and died in 1804. He was aide-de-camp to Washington in 1777--the most trying year of the entire Revolutionary war. He succeeded Washington as commander-in-chief of the United States army. He was the first secretary of the treasury of the United States. He founded the financial system of the United States. He was the Revolutionary statesman who said, "Reformers make opinions, and opinions make parties"--a true aphorism to-day. He is known as the "prince of politicians, or America's greatest political genius." His brilliant career was cut short at the age of 43 by Aaron Burr--whose life is summed up in two sad, bitter lines:

    "His country's curse, his children's shame; Outcast of virtue, peace and fame."

Although John Paul Jones was not a Revolutionary soldier on the land, yet he was "the Washington of the Seas."

He was born in 1747 and died 1792. He was the first to hoist an American naval flag on board an American frigate. He fought the first naval engagement under the United States' national ensign or flag.

He commanded the "Bon Homme Richard" in the great sea fight with the _Serapis_ in the English Channel.

He said, after the commander of the "Serapis" had been knighted, "if I should have the good fortune to meet him again, I will make a lord of him." He was presented with a sword by Louis XVI for his services against the English. He was appointed rear-admiral of the Russian fleet by Catherine II.

These are but a few of the many men who did so valiantly their part during the Revolutionary period.


  Susie Gentry, "State Vice-Regent, D. A. R."

(A talk made to the public school teachers of Williamson County--at the request of the superintendent of instruction--in Franklin, Tennessee, January 13, 1906.)--_American Monthly Magazine.