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Heroes of the American Revolution
R ecently, I read a really interesting book, “Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past” by historian Ray Raphael. It’s about how a lot of stories we learned in school about the American Revolution, like Paul Revere’s midnight ride or Patrick Henry’s famous saying of “Give me liberty or give me death,” didn’t happen at all, or were just one small part of a much bigger story. There are a lot of layers to the story of the American Revolution. What’s really fascinating is that when you take away those famous stories and storybook myths, the real story is so much cooler. Take the Declaration of Independence, for example. I always thought about the signing of the Declaration of Independence as a top-down thing. A lot of smart guys came together to create this document and when people read it, they realized they were feeling the same thing and decided to fight for their independence. Reading this book, I learned that’s not what happened at all. The American Revolution didn’t start with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776; it started with the Boston Tea Party in 1773. When the British Crown still ruled the 13 colonies, they imposed steep taxes on the colonists to help pay off British debts. To protest “taxation without representation,” a group of colonists stormed ships carrying British tea in the Boston port and dumped all the tea into the harbor.
After losing what today would have been about $1 million in tea, the British passed a series of laws, nicknamed the “Intolerable Acts” by the colonists, to shut down the port of Boston and to forbid the colonists from meeting without permission of the Massachusetts governor — who, incidentally, had been placed in power
demanded their leaders do the bidding of their constituents and vote for independence from British rule. Today, history remembers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Sam Adams, and those Founding Fathers as the main heroes of the American Revolution. While these men were certainly heroes in their own right, so were the 25,000 Americans who died fighting the British, the 300,000 soldiers who put themselves in danger during the war, and the 3 million colonists whose lives were turned upside down as a brand-new country fought for independence. Those men we learn about in school undoubtedly did great things, but to give them most of the credit for the American Revolution does a disservice to how inspiring our story really is. The colonies were full of great men and women who dreamed of freedom, who persuaded their neighbors that freedom was better than subjugation, and who then committed their lives and their possessions to fight for that freedom long before Jefferson started writing what we know as The Declaration of Independence. This Fourth of July, I’ll be celebrating not just the handful of men history remembers, but also the nation of unheralded heroes who helped launch The United States of America.
by the British. This is when the revolution really began. It didn’t start out with all 13 colonies united; it was just the people of Massachusetts against the most powerful army and navy in the world. And the people won. They essentially threw the British out of Massachusetts, removing the governor and the judges from power. The Massachusetts Revolution of 1774 was the most successful popular uprising in our nation’s history to remove leadership. Despite being all but forgotten today, at the time this revolution is what really sparked the call for independence throughout the colonies. Well before Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress began to pen their Declaration of Independence, there were 90 other documents calling for independence written by towns and colonies throughout America. In fact, a lot of what Thomas Jefferson put in the Congressional Declaration of Independence came from the Virginia Declaration of Independence. There was a groundswell of political thinking for freedom as the people
“There was a groundswell of political thinking for freedom…”
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