Thursday, July 23, 2015

History of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is a famous document, but without historic context, it doesn’t often make sense to us in the 21st century. Why, after 150 years of peaceful colonization, did the Colonists decide to rebel against the King of England? What did the British do that angered them so much? What’s with the long list of offenses committed by the King?  I’ll take each section a little at a time and try to give a bit of background, and hopefully bring this daring, treasonous document to life. 
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
Our founders knew that “in the course of human events,” (or the history of the world), there had been many occasions for “one people to dissolve the political bands which ha[d] connected them with another.” History was their guide to the rights which the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” had entitled them.
Our founders were educated in World History (or as they knew it: “history”), which is packed with stories of revolution. Every continent in every century had its own group of oppressed people who finally recognized the tyranny they were under and decided to risk everything for independence. In Ancient times, Egypt had plenty of rebellions, the Babylonians rebelled against the Assyrian Empire, Greeks threw off the bondage of the Persians, and there were several failed attempts to overthrow Roman rule.
 In the Dark Ages, overcoming the Roman Empire became a more successful venture by the Jews, the Celts, and the Germanic tribes, while China saw many successful (and not-so-successful) attempts at Revolution through the first millennium, and the map of Europe and the Middle East saw continual change due to constant upheaval and revolt in the Muslim world.
The Middle Ages brought about major changes in the Western World (and the East) that would influence the future of “human rights,” including Scottish Wars for Independence, English peasant revolts, and many uprisings by the Swedish, Vietnamese, French, Persians, Italians, and more. The Magna Carta, signed in 1215, revolutionized the idea of the limited power of governing authorities.

William Wallace

So you see, the idea of Revolution was not a radical one; it was generally understood by our founders that we were entitled to equal station by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God. The purpose of the document to follow this opening paragraph would be to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation” from the British King. 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Founders largely believed in a Supreme Being, the Creator of the World: God. In Genesis we read about God’s creation of the earth and the creation of man: LIFE. We read that He gave man dominion over the earth and the animals, and the freedom to make our own choices (even if the consequences were negative): LIBERTY. We read that He created us to be fruitful and multiply, to eat the fruit of the land, and to enjoy His creation: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. These rights, these gifts were not the gifts of any benevolent monarch or government; they were the gift of our Creator from the beginning of time.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
The Founders were also students of John Locke, the English Philosopher. Many of his thoughts on civil governments are echoed throughout the Declaration of Independence, specifically this line on the consent of the governed. In his 2nd Treatise Locke wrote: “For no government can have a right to obedience from a people who have not rightly consented to it; which they can never be supposed to do, til either they are put in a full state of liberty to choose their government and governors, or at least til they have such standing laws, to which they have by themselves or their representatives given their free consent; and also til they are allowed their due property, which is so to be proprieters of what they have, that nobody can take away any part of it without their own consent, without which men under any government are not in the state of free men, but are direct slaves under the force of war.”
Many of these truths had been continually violated by the British army in the colonies, as we will discuss soon in the long list of violations by the King; but for now, keep in mind that the Americans were trained and educated to think like Locke while they were being increasingly treated like slaves of the crown.
So it only follows that they would think this:
“--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
*Note: The framers of this text truly did believe that “all men are created equal” and slaves were no exception. Thomas Jefferson originally included a paragraph about the horrors of slavery and how the King of England was responsible for it (and was trying to bribe the slaves with freedom in exchange for the murder of the Colonists). Although a slave owner himself, he knew that a truly free nation would not condone slavery. But this brought about intense debate.
A minority of Southern delegates would not consent to this addition, and some Northern delegates would not compromise their trade with merchants who were part of the slave trade. In order to declare Independence, the agreement had to be unanimous. So this one paragraph was removed from the final text. So while Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and many other American Founders continued to hold slaves, they also petitioned for the end of slavery in America and worked to prepare their own slaves for a free life in the future.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;”
It was not for “light and transient causes” that a revolution should take place; the Founders understood what a serious undertaking it would be to defy the most powerful King in the world. They understood that they were literally risking their lives. It would be considered treason, but it was a daring feat for a weighty matter: INDEPENDENCE.
They also understood the human mind:
“…and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
This has proven true all throughout history. Just like the slow boiling of a frog in a pot, the American colonists had been gradually subjected to tyranny, at first almost unrecognizable, and then at the end, as blatant disregard for any rights of their own.
How did they go from respecting the authority of Britain to wanting a Revolution? In a nutshell, Britain was a conquering nation, and had its armies spread all over the world. Colonization takes funds, and the British coffers were running low. The King’s solution to this was to make the Colonies pay the cost of having the British rule over them. Taxes rose, British soldiers exerted more and more authority, and the Colonists lost more and more rights. The Colonists felt it only proper that if they were to be taxed, they should also be represented in Parliament. King George was appalled at such a suggestion.
That infamous independent spirit first bred by their Puritan fathers combined with increasingly heavy-handed British regulations on trade, taxes, and laws awakened the Colonists to the realization that they had reached a turning point.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.”

You can almost see Thomas Jefferson furiously writing with passion at the thought that “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government!” 
Thomas Jefferson

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
The Colonists submitted various laws for the good of the Colonies, to which the King refused to agree, denying their right to “consent of the governed” and a right to representation in Parliament.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
Each colony was ruled by a British-appointed Governor, and for the most part, this was okay. Remember: the Colonists were once loyal subjects to the crown, so this was normal. But as the King imposed harsher laws on the Colonists, they became more rebellious. When the Colonial assemblies passed laws, they had to await the approval of the Governor by the King’s permission, which oftentimes was not given, or was postponed for YEARS.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 
In this case, the Colonists were asking for representation IN THEIR OWN Colonies. As population in creased, New York, New Hampshire, and South Carolina asked for additional delegates to their own assemblies, and King George would not even allow that.
A representation of the first colonial assembly in Virginia in 1619: colored engraving, English, 19th century.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
In several Colonies, the colonial Governor would change the official meeting place of legislators too far for normal travel and away from where official records and documents were housed. It was a childish game, intended to confuse and frustrate the Americans.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
Freedom of Speech was now becoming non-existent in the Colonies. If a Colonial Assembly met to declare the wrongs of King or Parliament, the King ordered that Assembly to be dissolved. His sole intent was to crush opposition. This is typical of a Monarchy, and typical throughout the history of the world.
The Founders were not even close to being finished with the King’s “establishment of Tyranny.” 

This is a perfect example of Tyranny at its finest: preventing the settlement of people on unused lands and preventing new immigrants from settling in the American colonies. As we know, pioneers are the backbone of America’s settling; yet King George wanted to control everything about that land.


Several states were left without local courts because the King felt that this was for him alone to govern. You can see that there were MANY reasons for the phrase “consent of the governed.” There was no way to protect life and property without a court of justice.


Here are more glimpses into the future of the U.S. Constitution. The English King took firm control over colonial judges, both removing them from their office when he saw fit, and demanding that they refuse to bow to the local legislature. A true abuse of power resulted from judges being ruled solely by a tyrant King.


The Colonies were in a constant battle to direct the laws of their own land, while the King set up new and ingenious offices to prevent any self-government. In this case, military courts became his method of enforcing his tyrannical trade laws.


When the French and Indian War ended, British troops never went back to England. Further, the Quartering Act of 1765 required the colonies to be financially liable for the British troops. A standing army was viewed as a threat to any freedom the Colonists might have, and rightly so. With the continual tightening of British rule, the Colonists had much to fear if they resisted.


General Thomas Gage

In 1774, British General Gage was also appointed as Governor of Massachusetts. He was not elected. The following year he declared martial law. The Colonists knew that an appointed military commander and executive had no reprisals to fear, and therefore could rule in any form he wished. This became one of a list of Intolerable Acts by the British crown. Others included closing the port of Boston to all trade, and establishing the Catholic Church as the official church of Quebec (which the British determined extended down into the Ohio Valley, thereby denying freedom of worship in the American colonies).

The U.S. Constitution would similarly declare the President to be Commander in Chief of the U.S. Military, but the difference is that the President is elected to limited terms. Now follows a complete list of the Intolerable Acts, mentioned above.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

The Colonists, up to this point, recognized England as their “homeland” and the King as their authority under the British constitution (‘our constitution”). However, the Parliament was not included in this constitutional authority, but the King increasingly gave Parliament legislative powers over the Colonies.

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
By proclamation of the King, colonists were required to provide housing for British soldiers. Unspeakable abuses of individual citizens accompanied this “quartering.” The 3rd Amendment to the Constitution would prevent this kind of abuse of freedom.

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
If a British soldier was accused of murder, he was protected from any real punishment by being removed from the place (in this case, Massachussetts) where the crime was committed, to a territory outside that colony’s legal authority, and the trial was a sham.

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
After the Boston Tea Party, the King was so angry that he intended to punish the citizens of Boston by closing their port. His purpose was to deprive the Massachusetts colony of much needed trade from around the world.

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 
Here we go back to the main point of this whole Declaration: consent of the governed. The Stamp Act was the first of many that would require American colonists to pay taxes to the British government. Every time the colonies cried foul, the King would issue more. They petitioned for fair treatment, and were rewarded with even more regulations.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
As more taxes were imposed, instances of smuggling increased. The British government handled these cases swiftly in British military courts with no jury present. The 6th and 7th Amendments to the Constitution were born from this experience.

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
Charges of murder against a colonist could result in a trial that might (and often did) take place in England or other British colonies. Remember, a sea voyage could take weeks or months, essentially removing a person from their homeland for a very extended period, possibly with no hope of returning.
British War Ship

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
This refers to the Quebec Act, mentioned in Part 5. The British government declared Catholicism the official religion of the Candadian Province, and ADDED that the Province now extended well into American territories, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. This was also an effort to prevent westward expansion.

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
Since the Pilgrims first settled in Plymouth, charters of one kind or another had been in existence in Massachusetts. The charters outlined the government of the colony allowed by the British monarchy. The charter referred to here gave the colonists freedom of religion, but appointed governors by the monarchy instead of elected by the people.

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
This was absolute tyranny over the Colonies. King George unequivocally believed that he ruled supreme and that the colonists must live by his command. Thus, consent of the governed was ignored and absolute monarchy was imposed from across the wide Atlantic. When the colonists insisted on electing their own local legislatures, the King simply “suspended” them.
The long list of complaints to the King is about to wind up…
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
In a vicious circle of events, the King and Parliament implemented increased rule over the Colonists, so the Colonists became rebellious and “independent.” This finally resulted in the King declaring that the American Colonies were no longer under the protection of the King, and he declared it on two separate occasions while he increased his war against them.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
This was all a result of the increased warfare taking place in the Colonies since the Boston Massacre of 1770.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
The battles of Lexington and Concord were a shock to the British Army. A disorganized band of farmers and family men somehow employed guerilla tactics that exhausted and defeated the well-organized British soldiers after the “shot heard ‘round the world.” The British underestimated the fighting fury of freedom-minded settlers and, despite their superior training, supply of arms, and reinforcements, repeatedly failed to squash this rebellion. The King turned to paid soldiers from neighboring European countries (“Mercenaries”) to reinforce his troops.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 
King George’s anger knew no bounds. He began authorizing the capture of any ships trading with the Americans. Not only were they captured, cutting of trade with the Colonies, but the crew were pressed into the service of the British military to fight against the Colonists. In many cases, they would be forced to fight against their own friends and kin.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
King George attempted to employ the Indian tribes in his battle against the Americans. The Americans had enough experience with hostile Indians to know that this was a determined brutal attack on even the women and children. The Cayuga and Seneca were among several tribes to fight with the British.
Thus ends the list of specific injuries of King George to the American Colonies, followed by a reminder that they had tried very hard to be loyal subjects to the Crown.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
As excessive taxes and regulations grew, the Colonists attempted to reason and plead with England. One example was The Stamp Act Congress of 1765, which resulted in an early bill of rights and a statement of grievances, to which Parliament conceded. (The Stamp Act put a tax on every form of printed paper in the Colonies; the Colonists feared that this would soon lead to the loss of free speech.) The Colonists sent various versions of pleas to the King, asking for peace and fairness in exchange for their loyalty. He either ignored these or responded with more heavy-handed measures. So they declared him openly to be a Tyrant.
Now Jefferson wraps up the resolution:
Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
The Colonists repeatedly attempted to appeal for justice at British citizens. They were, up to this day, subjects of the British crown, sharing the same ancestry as British citizens and were perfectly happy to remain so. Despite these pleas for justice and equality, they were treated as slaves to the King, and finally “denounced our Separation” and declared themselves citizens of a new nation, and enemies of their former friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
The men who signed this document were representatives of all thirteen colonies. The separation from Britain was a unanimous decision. They would no longer consider themselves British subjects; they would form their own government, fight their own wars.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
These signers were willfully committing treason, and they felt the weight of it. Revolution is no small undertaking. You can imagine being in that room in Philadelphia: the fear of what they were about to publish, the anger at the King, the uncertainty of the future. But each of these men knew that freedom was worth the price they might be asked to pay.

So, what was the British response?
His Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech to Both Houses of Parliament on Thursday, October 31, 1776
“My Lords, and Gentlemen,
Nothing could have afforded Me so much Satisfaction as to have been able to inform you, at the Opening of this Session, that the Troubles, which have so long distracted My Colonies in North America, were at an End; and that My unhappy People, recovered from their Delusion, had delivered themselves from the Oppression of their Leaders, and returned to their Duty. But so daring and desperate is the Spirit of those Leaders, whose Object has always been Dominion and Power, that they have now openly renounced all Allegiance to the Crown, and all political Connection with this Country. They have rejected, with Circumstances of Indignity and Insult, the Means of Conciliation held out to them under the Authority of Our Commission: and have presumed to set up their rebellious Confederacies for Independent States. If their Treason be suffered to take Root, much Mischief must grow from it, to the Safety of My loyal Colonies, to the Commerce of My Kingdoms, and indeed to the present System of all Europe. One great Advantage, however, will be derived from the Object of the Rebels being openly avowed, and clearly understood. We shall have Unanimity at Home, founded in the general Conviction of the Justice and Necessity of Our Measures.
. . .
My Lords, and Gentlemen, in this arduous Contest I can have no other Object but to promote the true Interests of all My Subjects. No people ever enjoyed more Happiness, or lived under a milder Government, than those now revolted Provinces: the Improvements in every Art, of which they boast, declare it: their Numbers, their Wealth, their Strength by Sea and Land, which they think sufficient to enable them to make Head against the whole Power of the Mother Country, are irrefragable Proofs of it. My Desire is to restore to them the Blessings of Law and Liberty, equally enjoyed by every British Subject, which they have fatally and desperately exchanged for all the Calamities of War, and the arbitrary Tyranny of their Chiefs.”

 It is important to remember that although Independence was declared, it was not immediate. They Continental Army would fight for 5 long years before they actually won.
On July 2, the delegates voted to adopt the Declaration. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail how it should be celebrated (although now we celebrate on the date it was approved – the 4th):
It “will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm, but I am not – I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.”

 This Declaration makes so  much sense with the context explained. Every American should read it on Independence Day. Read it with your families. Share the real and factual history of our nation and preserve it for future generations!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

McGuffey 1848 "High School" Lesson: Character of the Puritan Fathers of New England

I recently won this gem on eBay for $5.20. The history of education in America has always fascinated me, but this historic book is like a time capsule from the era of one-room schools, organized and funded by the local parents in each town (what a concept, huh?), and also used in the homes of families on the frontier with no access to a school.

It was written in a time before God was expelled from the classroom; when Americans understood the true intent of "separation of church and state;" when patriotism was a trait to be desired, and oppression and tyranny were to be spurned at even the cost of lands and possessions.

The McGuffey readers were one of two series of textbooks used in educating children in those first days of America. The other was the New England Primer. This particular 4th reader was designed for the highest level of grammar school education. Keep in mind, grades K-12 had not been invented; when a student completed all of the readers, they were finished with school. It typically took about half the time to educate the children that it does in modern times. (For an example of this, see my post about Laura Ingalls Wilder's education here.)

Yet, some great minds were born in the schools that used these books.

"McGuffey Readers played an important role in American history. Most prominent post-Civil War and turn-of-the-Century American figures credited their initial success in learning to the Readers, which provided a guide to what was occurring in the public school movement and in American culture during the 19th century." (source)

I'm going to share Lesson XCVI with you today. It's just your average 1848 English lesson, complete with Rules for Reading and Words to be Spelled and Defined. (Punctuation is just the way it's shown in the reader.)


Character of the Puritan Fathers of New England

1. One of the most prominent features which distinguished our forefathers was their determined resistance to oppression. They seemed born and brought up, for the high and special purpose of showing the world, that the civil and religious rights of man, the rights of self-government, of conscience, and independent thought, are not merely things to be talked of, and woven into theories, but to be adopted with the whole strength and ardor of the mind, and felt in the profoundest recesses of the heart, and carried out into the general life, and made the foundation of practical usefulness, and visible beauty, and true nobility.

2. Liberty with them, was an object of too serious desire and stern resolve, to be personified, allegorized, and enshrined. They made no goddess of it, as the ancients did: they had not time nor inclination for such trifling; they felt that liberty was the simple bright right of every human creature; they called it so; they claimed it as such; they reverence and held it fast as the unalienable gift of the Creator, which was not to be surrendered to power, nor sold for wages.

3. It was theirs, as men; without it, they did not esteem themselves men; more than any other privilege or possession, it was essential to their happiness, for it was essential to their original nature; and therefore they preferred it above wealth, and ease, and country; and that they might enjoy and exercise it fully, they forsook houses, and lands, and kindred, their homes, their native soil, and their fathers' graves.

4. They left all these; they left England, which, whatever it might have been called, was not to them a land of freedom; they launched forth on the pathless ocean, the wide, fathomless ocean, soiled not by the earth beneath, and bounded, all round and above, only by heaven; and it seemed to them like that better and sublimer freedom, which their country knew not, but of which they had the conception and image in their hearts; and, after a toilsome and painful voyage, they came to a hard and wintery coast, unfruitful and desolate, but unguarded and boundless; its calm silence interrupted not the ascent of their prayers; it had no eyes to watch, no ears to hearken, no tongues to report of them; here, again, there was an answer to their soul's desire, and they were satisfied, and gave thanks; they saw that they were free, and the desert smiled.

5. I am telling an old tale; but it is one which must be told, when we speak of those men. It is to be added, that they transmitted their principles to their children, and that peopled by such a race, our country was always free. So long as its inhabitants were unmolested by the mother country, in the exercise of their important rights, they submitted to the form of English government; but when those rights were invaded, they spurned even the form away.

6. This act was the revolution, which came of course, and spontaneously, and had nothing in it of the wonderful or unforseen. The wonder would have been, if it had not occurred. It was indeed, a happy and glorious event, but by no means unnatural; and I intend no slight to the revered actors in the revolution, when I assert that their fathers before them were as free as they - every whit as free.

7. The principles of the revolution were not the suddenly acquired property of a few bosoms; they were abroad in the land ages before; they had always been taught, like the truths of the Bible; they had descended from father to son, down from those primitive days, when the pilgrim, established in his simple dwelling, and seated as his blazing fire, piled high from the forest that shaded his door, repeated to his listening children the story of his wrongs and his resistance, and bade them rejoice, though the wild winds and the wild beasts were howling without, that they had nothing to fear from great men's oppression.

8. Here were the beginnings of the revolution. Every setter's hearth was a school of independence; the scholars were apt, and the lessons sunk deeply; and thus it came that our country was always free; it could not be other than free.

9. As deeply seated as was the principle of liberty and resistance to arbitrary power, in the breasts of the Puritans, it was not more so than their piety and sense of religious obligation. They were emphatically a people whose God was the Lord. Their form of government was as strictly theocratical, if direct communication be excepted, as was that of the Jews; insomuch that it would be difficult to say, where there was any civil authority among them entirely distinct from ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

10. Whenever a few of them settled a town, they immediately gathered themselves into a church; and their elders were magistrates, and their code of laws was the Pentateuch. These were forms, it is true, but forms which faithfully indicated principles and feelings; for no people could have adopted such forms, who were not thoroughly imbued with the spirit, and bent on the practice, of religion.

11. God was their King; and they regarded him as truly and literally so, as if he had dwelt in a visible palace in the midst of their state. They were his devoted, resolute, humble subjects; they undertook nothing which they did not beg of him to prosper; they accomplished nothing without rendering to him the praise; they suffered nothing without carrying up their sorrows to his throne; they ate nothing which they did not implore him to bless.

12. Their piety was not merely external; it was sincere; it had the proof of a good tree in bearing good froot; it produced and sustained a strict morality. their tenacious purity of manners and speech obtained for them, in the mother country, their name of Puritans, which, though given in derision, was as honorable as appelation as was ever bestowed by man on man.

13. That there were hypocrrites among them, is not to be doubted; but they were rare; the men who voluntarily exciled themselves to an unknown coast, and endured there every toil and hardship for conscience' sake, and that they might serve God in their own manner, were not likely to set conscience at defiance, and make the services of God a mockery; they were not likely to be, neither were they, hypocrites. I do not know that it would be arrogating too much for them to say, that, on the extended surface of the globe, there was not a single community of men to be compared with them, in respects of deep religious impressions, and an exact performance of moral duty.

- Greenwood

What was one of the prominent traits of character in the Puritans?
How did they regard Liberty?
What was their conduct in support of liberty?
Why was the revolution a perfectly natural event?, or just what might have been expected?
From whence derived the principles of the revolution?
How were their systems of government formed?
What was the character of their piety?
As a community, how will they bear comparison for moral worth, with all other communities, past and present?

What are the pronouns in the 12th paragraph?
For what noun does "their" stand?
For what does "it" stand?
Parse "which."
Pars the last "as."

Articulate the "h" clearly: high, heart, happiness, heaven, hard, had, hearken, heere, have, happy, whit, howling, hearth, whenever, hypocrites,
Articulate the d: seem'd, talk'd, mind, call'd, preferr'd, England, land, launch'd, soil'd, round, intend.

Spell and define:
1. prominent, self government: 2. unalienable; 3. essential: 4. fathomless: 5. unmolested: 7. pilgrim: 9. ecclesiastical: 11. implore: 12. tenacious: 13. hypocrites.

There's too much good stuff here to comment on; that's why I shared the complete lesson. Imagine our students in the 21st century still practicing reading, grammar, spelling, and vocabulary with this kind of source material! I'll just leave you to ponder the possibilities.

And I plan to share a few more lessons from this "high school" textbook from 19th century America.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Boys, Men, Warriors, and Duck Tape

Raising boys is an interesting pastime. I did not grow up with brothers, and my first 9 years of motherhood were spent raising girls. Then I had 2 boys in 3 years. That certainly changed the dynamic of our household! Now my sons are 7 and 9, and I have learned a LOT in the past few years!

One of the major things I have grasped is that the behaviors that sometimes drive me crazy right now are the behaviors that a great man (a great leader) needs. Men are designed to protect, defend, fight, and rule. It's part of who they are, and it's a good thing!

Century after century of world history demonstrates the need for warriors, defenders of freedom, fighters of injustice, and dragon slayers. Without these valiant men, where would we be? Where would America BE? The answer: it wouldn't even exist.

So, as much as I would like to have my little boys sit down on the couch with nicely combed hair and clean shirts, reading science books and quoting dates and timelines, I also need to let them act like boys. Because in that behavior, they are preparing for who God made them to be. They desire to wrestle, compete, fight, climb, jump, and yell.

Sometimes my house feels like this:

Mel Gibson as William Wallace

They pick up any object and turn it into a weapon. Swords are their favorite. But any object will do for swinging around and fighting imaginary dragons.

Beowulf (source)
It's easy to see that this is not a new thing. In biblical times, warriors were valued highly to defend the common people. God commanded the Isrealites to defeat entire armies with the sword. 

David and Goliath

So, you see, boys are just acting normal. Unfortunately, our society does not encourage this kind of thinking or behavior. I wrote about this in more detail in Displaced Warriors. If we do not encourage manly behavior in boys, we will continue to destroy our chances at raising a generation of real men, and we are desperately close to that even now.

Now, it's all really nice for me to say these things, but how does it translate to the real world? Well, there will be lots of noise and action. And weapons. But there is lots of passion, too. I see real excitement when my boys learn about a new book or story that involves a hero they never heard of. Give them lots of things to read, and not just superhero comics.

The Bible is a great place to start. Ditch the cartoon kiddie-Bibles and let the boys hear and read the real stories. David, Samson, Moses, Joshua, Caleb; there are so many exciting stories of warriors who served God. The only Children's Bible I really love is The Childs Story Bible by Catherine Vos.

History is packed with real stories of heroes, and literature adds even more. For every classic tale, there's an easy version for the young readers. My boys have some favorites (and these change constantly): Eric the Red, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, stories of samurai warriors and ninjas, Ivanhoe, Lord of the Rings, and Saint George and the Dragon. We recently read The Great and Terrible Quest and they couldn't stop asking for "one more chapter!" My favorite abridged versions are the Classic Starts Series. But full versions are not out of the question. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: let younger children listen while you read the unabridged versions, or get the audiobook for them to listen to. Later, when they grow older, they won't be afraid of classic books.

What do these stories have in common? I saw the best description in this article Toward Understanding the Moral Imagination, or Why Fairy Tales Are Necessary, that said, 

Good is good, evil is evil, and good always triumphs over evil.

When boys grow up with the conviction that they are powerful and strong and can by all means defeat evil, there is no stopping what they can do! C. S. Lewis said, "Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."

What else do we do to encourage the manly attitude? Ahem....costumes. When a boy dresses like his hero, he is reborn. There is no other way to put it. 

Shopping for weapons at the Fur Trader's Rendezvous

A Hobbit

A knight

A jungle hunter

A ninja

Cowboy, cowgirl, and Indian

Cousins protecting the princess

As often as possible, when we discover a new hero, we try to assemble a costume to let the boys "play." And we recently downloaded The Battle Book at Warfare by Duct Tape. This is a great starting point for ideas. After a little more online searching, I found this DIY post

And from there we went wild. It was so much fun, that I decided to teach a class at our homeschool co-op for a bunch more boys! Here is the result of 10 weeks' crafting:

It was a wild, fast-paced class, but I think they had fun! We made swords, daggers, sheaths, helmets, breastplates, shields, and gauntlets. A few kids made axes and throwing stars with their free time. Instead of giving you a list of links, I'll share my Pinterest Board with all the DIY links, real weapons pictures, and even some ideas we didn't get to (like bows and arrows, and armor made from foam). 

Now, I know that not all boys will grow up to wield swords, so to speak, but the spirit is the same. Warriors and fighters take many forms: fathers, pastors, teachers, coaches, and world leaders. If they grow up knowing that good is good, evil is evil, and good triumphs evil, they become men who know they can change the world. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Louis L'amour was an Unschooler {and a Giveaway!}

{affiliate links included}

As I've mentioned before, I am a lifelong fan of Louis L'amour. I have read ALL of his books, which are mostly westerns, and include a few works of historical fiction from other time periods. I'll talk about those in just a bit.

But first, I want to recommend his sort-of-autobiography, which basically illustrates my premise. He was an unschooler before unschooling had a name. This is from the cover:

"...his decision to leave school at fifteen. While his contemporaries attended high school, L'Amour skinned cattle in Texas, worked as a circus roustabout and a mine caretaker, won small-town prize-fighting exhibitions, hoboed across Texas on the Southern Pacific, and shipped out to the West Indies, England, and Singapore as a merchant seaman. Wherever he wandered, his pockets were always bulging with books."

If you've read his books, you know with what detail he describes locations, geography, people, and historical fact. Every full-length novel includes a map. You KNOW when reading that he actually walked the places he describes. His westerns make you feel like you're there. He was self-taught, and experienced. And he had a real knack for storytelling. Combine those qualities and you have the makings of an award-winning writer.

Of course, I have been sold on his books for years. But when I picked up his book Education of a Wandering Man, as a homeschool parent, I was fascinated!

Here are just a few quotes by L'Amour:

The idea of education has been so tied to schools, universities, and professors that many assume there is no other way, but education is available to anyone within reach of a library, a post office, or even a newsstand. 

No matter how much I admire our schools, I know that no university exists that can provide an education; what a university can provide is an outline, to give the learner direction and guidance. The rest one has to do for oneself.

Education should provide the tools for a widening and deepening of life, for increased appreciation for all one sees or experiences. It should equip a person to live well, to understand what is happening about him, for to live life well one must live with awareness. No one can "get" an education, for of necessity education is a continuing process. If it does nothing else, it should provide students with the tools for learning, acquaint them with methods of study and research, methods of pursuing an idea. We can only hope they come upon an idea they wish to pursue.

It is consistently reiterated that education begins in the home, as indeed it does, but what is often forgotten is that morality begins in the home also.

My own education, which is the one I know most about, has been haphazard, a hit and miss affair that was and continues to be thoroughly delightful.

I do know that when I was in the fifth grade my father told me he would give me a three-volume History of the World if I would read it. For the next few months, when my father came home, I would sit on his knee and tell him what I had read during the day.

This is all from Chapter 1! I think you see now the incredible story that is about to begin with his life. When L'Amour finally settled down to write books, they were amazing! Some may ask, "How did he get by without English I and II? He didn't stay in school long enough to write a research paper, or learn Advanced World History!" The incredible point to be made here is that learning doesn't just happen in a school room.

" was interfering with my education."

Anyone interested in education should read this book. Teachers, college professors, superintendents, and parents will benefit from this incredible story of an out-of-the-box type of education (know in the homeschool community as "unschooling").

And then go on and read his novels.

I mentioned his westerns. They are wonderful. Clean language and exciting stories. The Sackett series is extremely popular, but I love them all. Many of his stories include a character being stranded in the desert. L'Amour speaks from his own experience, outlined in Chapter 8. There are stories of Indian raids, battles, and scalpings. L'Amour's own great-grandfather was killed and scalped by the Souix. Numerous fist fights take place in his stories, and he describes each move from his own boxing experience.

Aside from westerns, there is a fabulous medieval tale called The Walking Drum that just may be the best display of L'Amour's extensive knowledge in world history. I first read this one as a teen, and then again as a young mother. With that first child, I knew this would be future required reading for all of my children. My second teen is currently reading it.

The Sackett series begins in the 1600s, tracing the Sackett family from England to the New World, where they settle and move further west with each generation. At least 4 books cover this period: Sackett's Land, To the Far Blue Mountains, Warrior's Path, and Jubal Sackett. Those are on our high-school reading list, as well.

Ride the River is about Echo Sackett, a teenage girl traveling alone in 1830.

Read these to yourself, read them to your kids or have your kids read them. If reading is not pleasureable, get the audio version. We own almost all of them on, and listen to them regularly. The narrations are top-notch. If you don't use Audible yet, oh-my-gosh what are you waiting for?  Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

*Note*  Louis L'Amour uses very occasional humanistic references, and in a couple of books discusses the belief that "we all worship the same God, just different in name" in books that involve American Indian beliefs in detail. It is not overt, and he does not "preach a doctrine" but as a homeschool mom, I appreciate this kind of information up front.

Now, for the fun part! Because I have two copies of Education of a Wandering Man on my bookshelf, I'm going to give one to a lucky reader!

Here are the rules:

For every

  • comment telling me if you've read Louis L'Amour's books
  • share on Facebook
  • share on Pinterest
  • share on Twitter
  • subscribe to 400things
you'll earn 1 chance to win. Leave your comment below telling how many entries you've earned. I will draw a winner on May 1!

Before you go, one last link: on education. I also write (okay, it's been awhile) about Laura Ingall's profound impact on our culture, society, and my own education at Prairie Sense. Hop on over there and read about another interesting take on learning.

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