Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

Women of Washington is an educational organization with a focus on understanding local, national, and global issues that are critical to our world today.

IN SEARCH FOR FREEDOM Essays on America’s Founding

INTRODUCTION

In 1776, the American Founders interrupted thousands of years of worldwide authoritarian rule by creating a new nation, governed by a free people and thus, the United States of America was born.

From the founding of the Jamestown Colony in 1607, to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1791, the following essays present condensed, easily read, histories of the courageous people who settled in the New World. 

Beginning in England in the early 1600s, a group of men and women dared to challenge their king who refused to allow them religious freedom gathered their families and, at great personal peril, sailed to the foreign and unsettled land of North America.  After having settled in the Massachusetts' teritory, history books began referring to these courageous people as the Pilgrims because of their willingness to travel to the New World in order to live free of religious tyranny.  We'll begin our essays with their story, not only as a study in courage but also, because they succeeded in introducing a system of democracy which influenced the future Founding Fathers of our U.S. Constitution. 

As generations of New Englanders continued to farm the land and build communities they produced, among other historic figures, two of our best-known Founding Fathers: John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.  To get a sense of what it was like growing up in the pre-Revolutionary War colonies, we'll look at their boyhood years in Massachusetts, as well as those of two other young lads from Virginia, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

There are many more remarkable stories, both of other Founders as well as the everyday men, women, and even children, whom you will meet as we travel through our early Colonial American history together.    
     
In the 1700s, many of the people living in the thirteen colonies felt the heavy hand of tyranny meted out by King George III.  Fortunately, there were colonists who decided that freedom was worth fighting for.  They, and the Founders, knew that opposing the British Crown meant certain ruin and even death.  But on March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry defiantly said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  So, against almost insurmountable odds, the colonists stood their ground for freedom.

The sacrifices made by the colonists during the eight grueling years of the Revolutionary War were unimaginable.  However, because of George Washington's strength of character and unshakable faith in creating a free country, they put their trust in him to lead them through those terrible years.  Washington was the one person whom, whom his close associates and, later the country as a whole, called the "Indispensable Man."  After defeating the British, Washington retired to his beloved Mt. Vernon, only to be called back into service as the First President of the United States.

Through these essays we would like to introduce some of the early Americans whose stories may have been lost to history.  Meet the men and women of General Washington’s Spy Ring.  And, Salem Poor, a black man who was praised by his commanders as a "brave and gallant soldier" in the fight against the British at Bunker Hill. fought against the British at Bunker Hill.  And, we all know the story of Paul Revere's midnight ride, but also meet the sixteen-year-old Connecticut Patriot, Sybil Ludington, who rode her horse for forty miles, one stormy night, to warn fellow colonists to muster because “The British were burning Danbury.”

In the 1800’s, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville traversed American cities and towns gathering insights for his book, Democracy in America, in which he explained, “America is great because America is good.”  He also coined the phrase, “American Exceptionalism.”  As Dr. Matthew Spalding explains in his book, We Still Hold These Truths, America is exceptional because ours is the only nation in history founded on principles of freedom and the sovereignty of its people.

As you follow these stories of our founding ancestors, from the Pilgrims to the Patriots, it is hoped that you will experience a sense of being present during their courageous stand against tyranny.  There are many excellent books and online resources which can expand our understanding about the early days of our country's founding.  In layman's terms, or for serious students of history, information is readily available on how our Founding Fathers assembled the best qualities from past civilizations, as they formulated their innovated ideas on how to build the freest nation known to mankind.  Through their brilliance, forethought and determination, they created the blueprint that changed history: The Declaration of Independence.  With much deliberation they then went on to give us the basis of our Republic in the writing of The U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Please help keep this exciting history alive by sharing our heritage on to your family and friends. 

As President Ronald Regan is quoted as saying, “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.  It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.” 

                                                                - Judy Leithe