Why history is important to America today.
Remembering how it began and what it can be
A little group of extraordinary people
I have always been interested in early America. I have no particular reason to be, except that I find the mix of people and culture- the brilliance, creativity and daring of a people having just emerged from a thousand years of darkness, ignorance, superstition, and religious oppression- amazing and unique to this little crevice of time and place. When curiosity led me to begin researching my own family lineage and ancestry,I found that my keen interest was imbedded in me more deeply than I realized. I found that nearly every line going back in my family was present in early America. !7th century early in most cases, and a few into the early 18th century. I'm amazed to know I carry a little bit of early American dna around with me.
Hope and bravery
These people willing to travel across an ocean into the great unknown, never to see their families or homeland again, who had courage and faith enough to trust God and go. They were adventurers who hoped for a better future, no matter what it took. That hope and bravery sustained them after they arrived, and half of them died the first winter. But more continued to come, and build and learn and discover and persevere through births and illness and death, weather extremes,lack of food and shelter, and strange natives they did not know or understand.
Religious freedom in the New World?
But these same people, who, as they began to knit together as New Englanders, also began to fall into what they knew. Oppression and narrow-mindedness and extremism about doctrine and theology began to butt it's ugly head in this new community of people. Questioning the religious leaders, divergence of any kind and independent thinking were condemned or banished from the community. Ironically, people who came to this new land to get away from religious persecution were the same ones who condemned, banished and indirectly caused the killing of thinking Christians like Anne Hutchinson. Who, even though she had shown herself to be a faithful and true servant of God, did not fit into the mold of the legalistic henchmen who headed the religious communities and believed with all of their heart they knew the will of God and sat in judgement on His behalf.
The perfect climate for witch hunting-
And then there were the Salem witch trials. Borne of the same kind of primitive thinking, superstition overrode reason as ancient beliefs surfaced about good and evil in humankind. Being surrounded by constant judgement, death and condemnation, hysteria ran rampant over a group of girls thought to be witches. What transpired is one of the most bizarre, shameful episodes of all American history.
America learns something
But what was delivered from that very generation is almost unfathomable. Samuel Sewell -a Puritan and judge who wrote an extensive diary, was involved in the Salem witch trials and was the only judge to later recant his judgments publicly, after he realized that New England had let itself become swept up in the hysteria. His life events and his ties to the next generation provide a glimpse of the magnitude of changes taking place at the time in the minds and hearts of men.
A Puritan's diary entry foretells
Sewell wrote a wonderful little entry in his diary which described a meeting at a fellow Puritan's home, a Mr Josiah Franklin, whose son, Benjamin, he mentions as being a toddler and present at the meetingThat Puritan son was, one in the same, our beloved Benjamin Franklin, who would be instrumental in the forming of America with the pursuit of those traits that had been condemned by his father's generation: Independent thinking, creativity, the idea that wholeness physically, spiritually, intellectually, and monetarily, should not only be cultivated, but passionately sought after by man. And that not only should they truly strive for usefulness and discipline in their daily lives, but that they should enjoy their time on earth as well. Laughter, learning, passion, debate, creativity and curiosity were part of becoming who you were supposed to be. Who God had made you to be. That was a fairly new concept, thinking about who you were to become. Having freedoms to pursue the things that would make you the whole human being you were meant to be.
Brilliant and strange new ideas
This generation of men - the individuals who would devise and put into motion a reasoned, brilliant and courageous idea of a new kind of government and in land open to all- would have the ability to see not only out of their time into a future society of people, but also to see mankind and his place in this world; his relationship with his fellow man, the organization and play and freedoms needed to give this new breed of man an opportunity to do what he was meant to do by God. Deists and Christians alike, they did not fail to name God as the inspiration, navigator, and protector of this new experiment. The greatest experiment a small group of men ,with brilliantly strange and wonderful ideas, had ever embarked upon.
And this new thinking ushered in a group of men in a span of time, coming together for a common purpose, unlike any time before. This group of people looked back over the history of mankind and came to the conclusion that we could be masters of our own destiny if we created a groundwork where men were free to think and worship and live out from under the constraints of an all powerful king or a church. That the good and common man knew best for his family and his future, and if given the tools to do it, could become a viable, active member of government. So they created a government "Of the People, For the People" , and called it the "great experiment".
These Americans and founders of our country were not perfect, and the country they created has not been without flaw. But it has been blessed beyond anything they could have imagined, and we have been the recipients of all of it. This group of gifted people knew how to use language to decipher and explain their new and daring plan. They understood the innovation, sacrifice and work that would have to be done . The knew Latin, studies Socrates, read voraciously, and believed in a God who was leading them to this new time and place..
America's founders were not only white men. The men who founded our country were supported by equally brave, daring and wise women. They were the workers behind it all, who kept moving things along quietly in the background with strength and determination.The Native Americans who, although realizing the struggle that was upon their land and their way of life, helped the early Americans, lent their knowledge and wisdom and would pay dearly for this wave of newcomers. Yet this country began with them, and the land and sky and mountains retains their ancient presence. America's identity is forever tied to the Native American, and owes much more than can ever be repaid to the people whose land was taken from them..The African slaves brought over, their suffering and separation from their homeland and family are another sin of America that can never be made right. Yet, we have this amazing tapestry now in the 21st century that would not have been possible otherwise. We, the remnants of those early people, slaves, slave owners, Native Americans and immigrants, live now as one people in a new world where freedom has finally caught up.
The importance of remembering early America I hope we don't let ourselves or our children forget about those early Americans, Our lives as Americans have been plentiful because of the courage, intelligence and tenacity of the people who came before us. As our country continues to grow and transform with the needs of the 21st century, I hope we remember that we are all part of this wonderful fabric we call our country and are only as good as the people living in it . I hope we strive to be better and live up to the idea of America ,and keep alive those ideals first dreamed up in this new land so long ago.
You may also be interested in reading my review of "To try men's souls" - a book about the winter of 1776 and the pivotal battle of Trenton. http://grinnin1.hubpages.com/_1f0tbzjtr9ejm/hub/To-Try-Mens-Souls-by-Newt-Gingrich-and-William-R-Forstchen-book-review