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colonial williamsburg declaration of independence

The Declaration Of Independence

May 22nd, 2017 Posted by revolutionary war, williamsburg No Comment yet

It was a document that would change history. In an era of Monarchs and landed gentry the idea of freedom for all was probably like going to the moon. People do not surrender power easily and a troubled King 3000 miles away would no doubt view the document as rebellious and ridiculous. Without any thought to the possibility, King George, or any pontiff of the day, would quickly dismiss the Declaration as hogwash by a group slated to be crushed by an imperial army. So why do it?colonial williamsburg declaration of independence

Why The Declaration?

I have read the reason for writing it was as a response to the King’s decree that the founding fathers were traitors. Not that the document would change the mind of anyone, but it does at least serve as a voice from the founders as to why they were rebelling. This is logical since the King never gave a voice to the colonies. This bone of contention continues to be promulgated in this document. Now that all protocol was off the table, there was no reason to hold back on their feelings towards the King. The declaration was the closest thing the future leaders of our nation would have to confront the king with their complaints. It also reaffirms that they were justified in their actions.

The Writers

In June 1776 a five man team was assembled to draft what would be the Declaration of Independence. The beginning of a new type of thinking was starting. An idea of a nation not under Colonial rule,  and not under control of one man, was struggling to emerge. Led by Thomas Jefferson the writers of the Declaration of Independence, would help usher in a new era where common people would have a say in government, not just the elites.

Another oddity of the Declaration of the Independence that many may overlook, is that it was not sent at the beginning of the war. War had been going on in the colonies for a year at this point. War was on and the will of our future nation was pitted against the mightiest empire in the World.

Self Expression

It may seem silly but self expression was a big issue by the Founders with the King. Having no voice fuels a certain type of rage. This rage poured out in the form of armed rebellion. The Declaration serves as a written record of our justification, that they were right to leave English rule. It affirms that the cause was just. It creates a record of why it was done for future generations.

revolutionary war-declaration-of-independence-signatures

War, would of course determine if this new American idea would be allowed to flourish. Without victory, our American Revolution would be nothing more than a footnote in British history of a rebellious colony and their insurrection. But our Declaration was backed by victory. Our will was stronger than the British. Not just did we declare independence, but we had enough resolve to become a nation.

revolutionary war unrest

Our View To The Revolutionary War Through Colonial Williamsburg

March 27th, 2017 Posted by revolutionary war, start of No Comment yet

revolutionary warThe fear of losing your guns is not a new concept started in recent political battles of the 21st century. An entire world, an entire nation, was forged when in April 1775 the British went to seize a local militia arsenal. Without guns, the Patriots would have no future chance to ever challenge the crown. Violence ensued and the Revolutionary conflict began.

But The Revolution Did Not Mean Smooth Sailing For The Colonies

Some misnomers about the revolutionary war. This was not a United Nation. We wanted freedom but we only wanted it for certain groups which was a bizarre paradox. We also didn’t completely agree as a colony whether we should go to war. In fact almost a third of the population were Tories or people who still supported the crown. This left another third deciding to stay neutral due to the potential for retribution if the side they selected lost the war. But One third of the population in the colonies that was adamant that they would fight England for independence.

revolutionary war unrestWar Support Was Not Universal, In Fact It Was Not Even A Majority

It is a strange parallel to today. The idea that a minority faction of the United States population was so passionate that they would change the political climate for everyone is amazing. Even more amazing was the fact that they succeeded against a crown without a majority of colonial support. The military ramifications of war with England were seemingly heavily lopsided in favor of English victory.

The Sun Never Sets..

The English were emerging as the great empire to come in the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century the saying ‘the sun never sets on the British empire’ would be common dogma in other nations. This was an aggressive expansionist nation, very adept at settling new lands and keeping order in them. Insurrections were not new to them, and one of their new world colonies having an uprising would be something they could suffocate quickly and regain firm control of this land.

On top of that a commander who had not had a successful military career when in the employ of the British empire would be in charge. That man was George Washington and it is safe to say the British did not revere him as a great general.

Colonial Williamsburg is our link to the past

And the war would be felt everywhere, including Colonial Williamsburg in a seemingly peaceful settlement. This town gives us a chance to see a dimensional view of the world that would harbor this revolution and the people who would support it, oppose it, or stay neutral. It is a living recreated historical microcosm of the world of the colonies around the time of the American Revolution. Battles in the future would be fought here and this link to the past is a great way to get new insights to day to day life in this conflict.

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valentine's day williamsburg virginia

Valentine’s Day In Colonial Williamsburg

February 6th, 2017 Posted by colonial history, colonial traditions, valentine's day, williamsburg No Comment yet

colonial williamsburg dating traditionsOf all the topics looking at daily life in Williamsburg, courtship and dating don’t jump out as particularly engaging topics. Yes, all cultures have courtship or dating rituals. This being the month of Valentines Day I felt it appropriate to at least try and promulgate the way this aspect of socialization and life was for the English settler and colonist in Williamsburg, Virginia.

But from the outset I had trepidation about doing it. Not because I am afraid I will discover stories that are too torrid for The Williamsburg Walking Tour blog, but fear that the subject may be too stoic and boring. In fact, when I look at the fashions of the 18th century, I am not exactly seeing the club scene.

Corsets, firm religious values, head to toe clothing, manual labor, and the rigors of modern life do not immediately lead me to believe that eros love was really on the mind of the colonist in York County or Williamsburg. But this is not totally true. As always things are not historically the way we think they should be, but follow a different somewhat less predictable route.

Survival First: Love & Life in the Jamestown Settlement

“Love” in the colonies does start out that way. In fact some of the sources I found portrayed life in the Jamestown Settlement to be focused on word “survival”. Not a lot of courting when life is a daily struggle to eat and survive. Thus, marriage was as much about keeping the population going as satisfying the need to be together. But as time went on this started to change.

Valentine’s Day In The Colonies: Fact or Fiction

The historical record of Jamestown did not surprise me, but what did was the role of Valentine’s Day in the 18th Century. I was almost sure that Valentine’s Day was a commercialized rip off of the exploits of the valiant St. Valentine, who was killed because he married people when marriage was outlawed. I just assumed the holiday was puffed up in the 1920s,1940s, or 1950s into the card and candy creation we celebrate today. I was certain that stoic Williamsburg Settlers had no interest in a fluff holiday like Valentine’s Day. But again, this was not so…

The Colonists Did Do SOME of the things we do today as part of the Valentine’s holiday shindig. According to an article I saw on the History Channel website here are some unexpected facts about the Valentine’s traditions in America.

  1. Colonists did exchange handwritten notes expressing love and feelings
  2. Americans started exchanging them as early as 1700s
  3. Members of all social classes did this

What? Weren’t arranged marriages the way of the world in these times. There is no sending Valentines when you are betrothed to a partner you haven’t even seen until the day you walked down the aisle. But as I researched further I found a statistic which kind of summed up how arranged marriages did not affect every Colonist, or even a majority. In fact this statistic kind of shocks me. It stated:

“30 to 40 percent of American brides were pregnant at their weddings.”

This has be a misprint, but it is not. Apparently love finds a way, even in an era of arranged marriages. In fact I would call this the age of musket weddings(instead of shotgun weddings) since I cannot see any Dad, in ANY era, not pressuring the beau to walk down aisle with his paramour when his grandchild is in utero.

And as I thought about it I am not as surprised as I was at first. I mean we are a rebellious unruly people. We rebelled against a King and the most powerful empire of the day over taxes and our right to be represented. If we would do that, rebelling against Dad and Mom about who you are going to date is probably not that big a deal.

And as I continued to research (I am not even going to touch Bundling bags), there is more and more evidence of a dating independence starting as the Colonies expanded in a new world with no caste and completely malleable social order. I guess this is just another case where we as Americans do things our way. And by our way we follow our passions, on the battlefield, in the state houses, and…the bedroom.

 


Bibliography

Cooper, R. (2013) 5 courtship rituals from colonial America. Available at: http://theweek.com/articles/462497/5-courtship-rituals-from-colonial-america (Accessed: 1 February 2017).
History.com (2009) ‘History of Valentine’s day’, history.com, .

 

Citations, Quotes & Annotations

Cooper, R. (2013) 5 courtship rituals from colonial America. Available at: http://theweek.com/articles/462497/5-courtship-rituals-from-colonial-america (Accessed: 1 February 2017).

(Cooper, 2013)

“30 to 40 percent of American brides were pregnant at their weddings.” (Cooper, 2013)

Note: from article about out of wed lock marriage

History.com (2009) ‘History of Valentine’s day’, history.com, .
(History.com, 2009)

Colonial Williamsburg And The Long Cold Winter

January 11th, 2017 Posted by history, williamsburg, winter No Comment yet

Think of Summer time in Colonial Williamsburg and you get visions of kids going to the exhibits, incredible weather, theme parks, and days of endless fun that go deep into the warm evenings. That is the vision many have of summer in this Colonial town. Now Think of Winter time in Colonial Williamsburg.

Not sure what came to your mind but I know I get pictures of snowfall, stoic red brick buildings, a cold quiet somber place, still beautiful but in a different way. Pleasant and happy do not come to mind. There is a reason. Winter often means tough weather and is a challenge to deal with it’s often harsh punishing effects.

The Harsh Colonial Winter

Winter, as a season, a condition, and a challenge have indelibly helped shaped history, even in this urban remnant of our Revolutionary period known as Williamsburg. Thus, I thought it deserved mention as part of history, if nothing more than as a grinding wheel that has challenged our settlers from the minute they experienced their first harsh North American Winter.

I saw a great article on History.org and it became clear that Winter has shaped or helped influence events from the time of the founders onward. Here are some of the interesting facts I pulled about the specter of Winter in Colonial Williamsburg and America. Here they are:

  • The founding fathers, like Jefferson and Washington, mention their many dealings with the cold hard Virginia Winters in various memoirs and documents of the period
  • Brutal winters almost ended the Colonization of America in the vicious winter of 1609-1610 in Jamestown in which the settlers were starving, and dying, at a rapid pace
  • Winter almost wiped out the Pilgrims up North in the Winter of 1620-1621 as they were woefully unprepared with enough food, and knowledge to survive.
  • Winter, among other elements, shaped the architecture of the day as homes needed to be wood or brick dwellings with a robust centralized stove to heat the edifice. The original huts were just not practical to survival(and kind of depressing).
  • Not to unlike life in Europe, the shadow of an oncoming winter shaped the preparations of clothing,food, and firewood through the warmer months to survive the cold ones. In fact, this was the pattern of daily life for most since life cannot continue unless certain preparations are made to sustain life at freezing temperatures and brutal weather.

 

Winter Has Shaped Human History

Winter, even in modern times, has shaped human history. Wars, armies, imageshabits and technology all conform to the will of cold air, ice, and snow. In Colonial Williamsburg, and the rest of Colonial America, it commanded respect and shaped the lives of our Nation as the Founders struggled to develop permanency in this new land.

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Bibliography

McGrath, J. (2015) Scrub up like a mars-bound astronaut with this water-recycling shower. Available at: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home/the-shower-of-the-future-uses-90-percent-less-water/ (Accessed: 6 January 2017).

Citations, Quotes & Annotations

McGrath, J. (2015) Scrub up like a mars-bound astronaut with this water-recycling shower. Available at: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home/the-shower-of-the-future-uses-90-percent-less-water/ (Accessed: 6 January 2017).

(McGrath, 2015)