“…those who study…the American Revolution and the years immediately following it cannot escape the conclusion that this was…one of the great periods of history in which to be alive.” (Robert G. Athearn, A New Nation, American Heritage Illustrated History of the United States, Volume 4)
We live our lives day-to-day, so many similar details & routines swallowing up those days. This is the nature of things. Pretty much unavoidable for many of us. For me, these details & routines play out in the United States of America, the land first set aside for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Considering this, it seems that my experiences here should be much more vividly colored! They should be pulsing, thrilling, and rivetingly focused.
Well, much of the time, they are not.
Splotched on top of what they are not, frequently enough to weigh me down, are forays into things Islamic and Middle Eastern. I am led down the paths of the knowledge of jihad, sharia law, homeland security, and counter-terrorism. Because of these things, I have also felt the weight of the glory of profound honor for our troops. Because of these things, every day, more & more I deeply respect and highly value all those who serve in our covert operations, our surveillance and our intelligence missions.
I can live the life that I do, the way that I do it, because these men & women, these soldiers & patriots, serve, defend & protect the American homeland and the American way. They make it possible. Because they make it possible, the environment necessary for freedom to flourish and be maintained yet continues. In that environment may yet continue debates over Constitutionality, national and political challenges, government scandals…protests, strikes & sit-ins…the good, the bad & the ugly can continue to come and go in these United States of America. And if you have the eyes and heart to see it, amidst & throughout it all, is the spirit of the men & women who started this ball rolling over 235 years ago.
Let’s take Congress, for instance…
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times – the American people complaining about their elected representatives in the House & Senate. I am not saying the complaints are without good reason – I’m just saying, complaints frequently abound!
Well, so it was in 1783.
Of course, the scenario at that time was quite different from today’s. The United States of America was barely just born. Can you even imagine it?!! On the verge of a final peace treaty with her former monarch, a fully free and independent new nation, burgeoning with magnificence, her potential boundless. Where, oh where to begin? Most fortunately for America, “Never has a young nation been so richly endowed with vigorous leaders” because she “…had need of all the brilliance that the Founding Fathers could bring to bear…” (Athearn) That potential, boundless though it was, was fraught with risk. How does one harness freedom? Yet without some sort of guiding rein…some form of structure…anarchy, chaos and destruction could be lying in wait in a rocky, uncharted future.
At this time, the United States had the least government of any country in the civilized world. A far cry from Washington, D.C today, isn’t it? All over the Internet, I see cries for less government. People hate Washington. Many are the times I’ve read/heard the general sentiment, ‘Let’s fire ’em all, elect a whole new Congress’. Turns out the Congress of post-Revolution days wasn’t all that popular either. For different reasons, perhaps, but I think it bears pointing out that Congress was “abused, laughed at, and cursed in every company”. (Athearn) Congress was so abused, in fact, that in the summer of 1783, they literally fled for their very safety, from Philadelphia to Princeton, New Jersey. They had to escape across the river!
Aggravated to the point of mutinous revolt, Philadelphia & Lancaster troops surrounded Congress Assembled at Independence Hall, demanding back pay for their military service. Both the Congress and its President, Elias Boudinot, were held hostage there until they somehow managed to slip away and seek the protection of the New Jersey militia.
…sooo…irate, disgruntled citizens of the United States of America, thronging the streets of Philadelphia, protesting economic conditions & demanding satisfaction…bearing arms, no less!…sounds like America to me! The way it is, the way it was and the way it was intended to be.
Sadly – yet almost with a twist of wry humor – not only were citizens disgusted with Congress, it sounds like even Congress was disgusted with itself. There was a six month period, through 1785 into 1786, during which there were only three days “when enough members were present to conduct business.” This kind of discontent & frustration reminds me of the mood often prevalent at my place of employment – many of us, if we did not need the money, would just throw in the towel. One scenario government, the other civilian, centuries apart yet with a familiar ring – America then, America now.