Sunday, July 04, 2010

America's Forgotten Founding Fathers

"Independence Day typically focuses attention on a cast of characters known as the Founding Fathers. Curiosity about these leaders—George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, to name only the most famous—seems insatiable. What we might ask is missing from this familiar narrative of the American Revolution? The answer, of course, is the ordinary people who sacrificed so much to achieve independence," writes T. H. Breen. "Even those who favor a more expansive view of our revolutionary history sometimes question whether surviving records allow us to reconstruct the lives of the ordinary people. This is not a serious challenge. These men and women have always been hiding in plain sight. During the two years before the delegates to the Continental Congress issued a formal Declaration of Independence, ordinary Americans launched an insurgency that energized resistance to British rule. They drove the revolution forward, often staking out positions more radical than those of their leaders. Matthew Patten owned a hardscrabble farm in Bedford, New Hampshire. What distinguished him from his neighbors was his marvelous diary that chronicled how he and the members of his family were drawn—slowly, often reluctantly—into the resistance movement. His reflections remind us how revolutions transform local communities." READ MORE