Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day Follies

I had a great Independence Day! Earlier last month the Brazilian head instructor at the gym asked what do people do on Independence Day in the US. We said that mostly they do BBQ parties. The instructor thought it would be a great idea to do a special class then do a Brazilian BBQ. The students thought that it was something that would be fun.
So, I went to the gym for the special BJJ class, which was a quick warm up and sparring for two hours. Fun, but it wore me out. After that we had the Brazilian BBQ which was steaks, chicken, and sausages seasoned with Brazilian sea salt. Very tasty. It was a lot of fun to hang out with the other students, wives, and instructors, and get to know everybody as people. Being that there were foreigners there, the inevitable questions came out, with the inevitable wrong answers... I didn't mean to be a know it all, but it seemed that I was with all of the incorrect answers to the basic questions. Eventually, the questions were directed at me from both foreign and domestic sources.
I don't begrudge the Americans or the American school system for their lack of knowledge. Really this kind of stuff is just glossed over in schools, and it really doesn't pertain to anybody's daily life. I am kind of a history buff, so I like to read about these things. Anyway these are some of the myths, misconceptions, and wrong answers that we went over.

July 4th 1776 was when the Revolutionary war ended/began.
Nope. The revolutionary war is typically said to have started April 18th, 1775 with the seizing of munitions at Concord, Massachusetts. Really the war had being going on in Massachusetts since 1773 with several terrorist raids and small skirmishes here and there, but April 18, 1775 was when the open war with two recognizable forces started fighting.

The war ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris (but not ratified by the United States until January of 1774...).
In fact, July 4th was the date when the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Continental Congress, and sent to King George. Many years of war were ahead, and the outcome was far from certain.

The war ended cleanly after the last battle and the troops went home.
Not really. Yes the British troops went home, but a major ally to the British were the Native American tribes, who the British continually supported, and the new United States government had to fight a continuing war with for the next 25 years. Along with this the British continually would set upon American ships, claim them for the crown and press them in to British service. All of these hostilities finally ended (sort of) with the War of 1812 (which ended in 1815...).

George Washington wrote the Declaration of Independence
This one kind of shocked me, but oh well...
The "Committee of Five" officially wrote the Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Jefferson being its primary author. The Committee of Five consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Rodger Sherman, and Robert Livingston.
I must admit to my shame, that I never remember Robert Livingston and Rodger Sherman. Their place in history has been outshone by one of the worlds greatest inventors and authors, and two future Presidents.

In fact George Washington was busy fighting a war, and the only association he had with the Declaration was to urge that it be ratified to garner support from the people for his army. Washington did not sign the Declaration.

The Declaration of Independence is a Christian document
Nope. Jefferson put many references to the Christian god in the document, which Franklin, a deist, rewrote as "Creator." Franklin was very worried that the staunch Christians from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania would press to form the country with Christianity as its official religion. Franklin liked the way that Jefferson had noted that the unalienable rights came not from government, but from someplace else. Using the generic word Creator rather than God, made the document accessible to any religion. To the Jews/Christians, creator meant God. To the Muhammadans (word used at the time for the Muslims) it meant Allah. So on and so forth.

The Americans won because they used unconventional warfare against the British
Not really. The unconventional warfare was mainly used in the south to keep the large British force from uniting their forces and destroying Washington's Army. The war was won by the Americans eventually getting their act together and fighting a war of attrition that they knew they would win especially with the British being so far from home, and fighting another war with France. After Lord Cornwallis was defeated at Yorktown, the British just got tired of the war, ran out of money, cut their losses and ended it.

The Revolutionary War is a fascinating time in history. The men who fought it, the battles, the politics, it is as an exciting time in the past that has ever been.

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