So in honor of our Independence, today I am setting out on a scavenger hunt because I know that history is often recorded by the winners, not the losers. As a teacher and a parent, I also know without a doubt, that there can be as many sides to an issue as there are people who are concerned about that issue. So let's delve into the early years of United States history.
First, I revisited the song list and lyrics from the musical 1776. The song “But Mr. Adams” clearly demonstrates that no one wanted to write the Declaration of Independence. And why would they? Although those who wrote it felt strongly that the United States had outgrown its colonial status, they also knew writing such a document was an act of sedition. Furthermore, those who signed the Declaration of Independence knew they were committing an act of treason.
While I was watching the video clip, I reflected on a statistic I had been taught as an adult; more on that later. First though, my childhood history lessons taught children that the colonists wanted freedom from England. The teachers, textbooks and TV clips never told us that only some of the colonists wanted to be free from the motherland. In honor of childhood fantasies, let's take a moment to watch this Schoolhouse Rock video titled, “No More Kings.”
Wow! So much of what I was taught was biased and downright inaccurate. As an adult, I learned a much different statistic. I had taken my class to Nature's Classroom Institute for the week. Here they learned about environmentalism and nature every morning, had fun breakout sessions in a variety of topics in throughout the afternoons, and participated in large group simulations in the evenings. One of the simulations was about the U.S. Revolution. It wasn't a lot of fighting, but rather a trading sort of game in which some represented Loyalists, some represented Patriots, and many represented neither. The statistic they taught the children at the end of that simulation was that 1/3 of the colonists in the later half of the 18th century supported King George, another 1/3 wanted to be free from the crown, and the final 1/3 were undecided. Here is a newer statistic I found on my search. Only about 20% of colonists were Loyalists, a small but vocal minority were Patriots, and the majority of the colonists were undecided.
Addendum: One last thing I began to wonder while on my scavenger hunt was what about the first continental congress? Everyone hears about the second continental congress because it led to the Declaration of Independence. Well, the first was just as important, and in fact, led to the second. But I'll let you research that one on your own.
S.L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy and Retrospection.