Journey to the American Founding
March 23 1773
The stories we’re seeing from the last half of 1772 and early 1773 are a mixture of change and continuity. Surrounding the mixture is an intensification of actions and decisions. The new and old twist together in revolving cycles. The pace is not what it once was—it has picked up speed.
Excerpts from: Americanism Redux: March 23, on the journey to the American Founding, 250 years ago today, in 1773
Overall, the mood was rather bright and upbeat. That’s what he thought, at any rate.
Everyone seemed relieved that the biggest crime threat of this young year was dealt with, the law-breakers caught, tried, and punished. Always a good thing when counterfeiters are taken off the street and people have faith in the value and legitimacy of their money.
Virginians, go have a celebratory drink. Your colonial government is on the job. So says the royal governor, Lord Dunmore. . .
A slight hiccup, though. One small point of concern. At least that’s the way Dunmore phrases it in his official report to imperial authorities in England. He describes the legislative session that had lasted the prior two months before today, 250 years ago, concluding with these words:
“There were resolves which show a little ill humor in the House of Burgesses, but I thought them so insignificant that I took no matter of notice of them.”
The “resolves” were passed unanimously. Not a single “no” vote. The subject of these resolves was the organization of a “committee of correspondence” similar to what had sparked and spread across Massachusetts and surrounding colonies over the past weeks. Moreover, the resolves expressed the same zeal for protecting and safeguarding “ancient” rights and privileges in the British colonies. . .
Eleven men comprise the Virginia Committee of Correspondence. A sprinkling of radicals and moderates exist among them. The question is what defines the terms, how enduring the terms are, and which term proves weaker and more elastic than the other.
This dozen-minus-one has moved quickly in recent hours. They’ve chosen a three-man executive committee. They’ve drafted a cover letter to be sent to each colonial legislature and its “Speaker” or elected presiding officer. The letter encourages all Speakers and legislatures to increase their interaction about new imperial, anti-colonial policies. . .
A particular member of the dozen-minus-one seems to stand out—Dabney Carr. Carr is quick-witted, serious, dutiful, hard-working, humble, modest, and avoids excess. His brother-in-law, Thomas Jefferson, is excited for his prospects and counts himself Carr’s biggest supporter and champion.
Carr sees the eleven-man Committee of Correspondence as perhaps the most important undertaking of his young life. . .
As Virginia’s royal governor closes the legislative session and the Legislature’s eleven-man Committee of Correspondence springs to life, 35-year old Phoebe Lewis Morton walks into the warehouse and mercantile store in Philadelphia. Slowly, she moves among the items—bottles of wine and rum, barrels of sugar and tea and coffee, containers with ginger and allspice and nutmeg, a stack of steel rods, boxes of gunpowder and bullets, and piles of cloth and woven sheets. She glides the fingers of one hand along two massive millstones, each four feet thick and nearly five feet in diameter. The variety and assortment astound.
Phoebe turns here, turns there, winding her way around the stacks. Every sight reminds her of him. The entire inventory reminds her of his life together with hers. But he’s dead now, and she’s a widow. The family business of Morton and Morton is liquidating after the death of Phoebe’s husband, Samuel. . .
So what’s next? No children and no husband, no family business anymore, no certainty for April or May or June. Phoebe is a devout Quaker, serious in her faith and its daily action. Likely she’ll draw the attention of another Quaker man. Possibly she’ll take a second Quaker husband. Phoebe wonders about the spring which still hasn’t sprung.
Two years younger than Phoebe Morton, today 250 years ago, is 33-year old Togulki. It’s evening along the Chattahoochee River in the town called Coweta, west of the British colony, Georgia. Togulki has blue coloring drawn on his chest and arms. He will stay up late smoking a pipe with other elders—male and female—in his family clan of the culture named the Lower Creek Nation. He’s living in the town where his mother lived, since every person among the Lower Creek natives follows the lineage of their mother. . .
Togulki is still deciding whether to attend a big meeting planned for the Georgian community, Augusta. The meeting is set for later this spring. British and colonial officials have pushed the event on the Cherokee tribes, the Upper Creek tribes, and like the dominos that fall one to another, the Lower Creek tribes. Native leaders, traders, elders, warriors and more have accumulated debts to British and colonial merchants and brokers. The white men are demanding payments due and they don’t want wampum, or Native currency. . .
Togulki is the latest in his mother’s family line to be among the visible Native leaders in these tensions. At Augusta can he stand in the footprints of his grandfather and father? No doubt there will be multi-lingual debates, discussions, haranguing, and strong-arming. Facial expressions, nonverbal communication, hidden agendas, half-truths, and flat-out lies and deceit. Individual people and people-based forces. Sincere gifts and dangerous substance abuse.
Across the Chattahoochee, the smell of pipe tobacco and the soft hoots of owls arise. Across Philadelphia, the goods and wares of a dead businessman’s widow spread. Across the British colonies, the next achievements of a young leader harken. Togulki, Phoebe, Dabney. . .
For You Now
The flow of time in your life, your community’s life, your everything’s life, goes in one direction—forward. Like the water in a river. Which means that the future is Down River, ahead of where you right now. It may be a minute ahead, a day, a year, or more, but whatever the length, it is forward from the present and I call the future Down River.
Look Down River in our story from today, 250 years ago.
Down River a few weeks and Dabney Carr dies, unexpectedly. We will never know the contributions he would have made. . .
Consider reminding yourself, three months from now, to look back at today and identify the thing that happened which no one expected in the ninety days of time. Does it point to something?
TITLE: Americanism Redux: March 23, on the journey to the American Founding, 250 years ago today, in 1773
By Dr. Dan Miller
To know us better then is to know us more fully now. Welcome to Americanism Redux and my one-a-week stories of 250 years ago. For the all the stories thus far, Visit Historical Solutions, Dr Dan Miller’s website>
Journey to the American Founding
Welcome to Americanism Redux, a series by historian author, Dr. Dan Miller. He explores what Americanism meant 250 years ago and its significance for America today.
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