TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
by Gene Benedict
Those Last Few Harrowing Days
“When, in the course of human events…”
Let’s take a trip back two and a quarter centuries or so to those earlier days. Let’s visit as best we can those last several days leading up to the real reason for this weekend’s celebration, the Fourth of July, Independence Day. That period when those brave men signed what they knew could well be their own death warrants. Those last few harrowing days culminating in the signing of what is known as the Declaration of Independence.
The Continental Congress had been called originally for the purpose of finding common ground for a unified presence of the thirteen colonies and several territories under the protection of the Crown. For that is what it was, thirteen diverse colonies with governors appointed by the Crown and serving at the discretion of the Crown.
A few thousand British soldiers were on the soil, mainly as a message to foreign countries that those colonies in the New World were British Crown Colonies, they were to serve as policemen to keep order. The colonists soon learned that the troops really didn’t want to be here and they wanted to avoid conflict at all costs.
Sheriffs sprung up and militias came into being, the militias primarily to fend off marauding Indians and the French to the North, not to be in conflict with the Crown. Ben Franklin from New York and later Pennsylvania formed a militia from money from a lottery, the first lottery in the New World, in Philadelphia.
Fifty some odd men, give or take, met to find common ground. The governors and their representatives were invited. The governor’s representatives soon became bored and left. Then the doors closed and the locks came out. The delegates met in private, an illegal assembly sworn to secrecy.
There was Benjamin Franklin, the printer from Philadelphia, the Englishman’s Englishman. There was Thomas Jefferson, the quiet diplomat from Virginia who would rather be back on the farm at Monticello. There was Patrick Henry, some say was from Virginia, who knows? And George Washington, engineer, who would rather lay out the land for development than get involved with politics. And there was John Hancock, John Adams, Sam Adams, and a whole host of individuals who had been in meeting rooms long enough and wanted to get back home.
The delegations from Georgia and the Carolinas were ready to walk out, to leave, to go home to their farms, their families, and that quiet diplomat, Tom, talked them into staying just a little longer. All of them, down to the last, knew they were involved in treasonous activities.
The colonies had been here a hundred thirty and some odd years and were now prosperous and major exporters to the outside world. The Crown needed the colonies to feed their greed. They tried taxes, the Stamp Act, the tax on tea that led to the Boston Tea Party. They tried oppression and they spawned rebellion.
The talk at the Continental Congress turned. The colonies had found their common ground; resist oppression, resist the Crown. Who needs the Crown anyway? Ben argued against it. “Let's’ find a way, we are all Englishmen, we need to realize that.” Pat, the hot head in the bunch and the youngest of the group, kept up his theme, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
George, the engineer, reluctantly began forming plans to raise a super militia, a Continental Army. George wanted to be back in lower Virginia surveying the land now known as the Great Dismal Swamp. And Tom, ever the scribe, ever the writer, ever the thinker, wrote draft after draft, long hand, at night for the group to consider the next day.
Finally in the wee hours on July 2, 1776, the draft was redlined and signed, all fifty-four or so in attendance agreeing, many reluctantly, to sever the connection to the Crown. They knew in the worst case they would be hung for treason. They also knew that any combat would be on their turf and hoped that the British would tire of that quickly.
So now we have it, the United States of America, and it all comes down to those last harrowing days and the finale and those now famous words, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bonds…”
Thank you, Ben. Thank you, George. Thank you, Pat. And thank you, especially you, Tom, for being the glue that held it all together and for finding the correct words to make it unquestionable. To make it the magnificent piece of World Literature that today is our mainstay.
So on Saturday this coming, remember those guys in that illegal assembly that made it all possible, that made this “the land of the free and the home of the brave…”
Until next time…
Copyright © by Gene Benedict - July 2015