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.

The following essays present condensed, easily read, histories of the courageous people who settled in the New World, and who dared to change their lives from being indentured subjects to being free, self-governing citizens.  Along with highlighting the fascinating lives of familiar names like John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, there is particular focus given to their boyhood experiences which helped prepare them for their future roles as key figures in our founding. 

Among these remarkable Founding Fathers’ stories, special attention has been paid to the boyhood, youth, and adulthood of George Washington: the person who his peers and country called the, “Indispensable Man.”   His unshakable faith in freedom, along with his character and leadership, had a profound effect on his army throughout the eight grueling years of war against the powerful British army.  When the British were finally defeated, and the United States was recognized as a sovereign nation, Washington was the only person the entire country trusted to become its first President.     

In the 1700s, many of the people living in the thirteen colonies felt the heavy hand of tyranny meted out by King George III, and they ultimately agreed that freedom was worth fighting for.  They, and the Founders, knew that opposing the British Crown meant certain ruin and even death.  But, as Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” so, against almost insurmountable odds, they stood their ground for freedom.

Through these essays, we would like to introduce some of the everyday Americans who may not be known.  Meet the men and women of General Washington’s Culper Spy Ring; the “brave and gallant soldier” Salem Poor, a black man who fought against the British at the Battle of Bunker Hill; and sixteen-year-old Connecticut Patriot, Sybil Ludington, who rode forty miles one 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.”  This latter phrase has been used both to praise and criticize the U.S. and its people.  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 resources readily available which can expand our understanding of what the Founding Fathers knew about world civilizations, while giving perspective to the brilliance and courage they possessed in order to create the blueprint that changed history: The Declaration of Independence.  With much deliberation, they then went on to give us the basis for our Republic in the writing of The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Please help keep this exciting history alive by passing our heritage on to your family and friends.  

As President Ronald Regan said, “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