J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Firm on this Basis Liberty Shall Stand

“About this image you want to include in your history textbook—we see potential problems with it.”

“Really? The rights are clear. It comes from the masthead of John Holt’s New York Journal in late 1774. And the Continental Congress adopted it about the same time.”

“Okay, but we have questions about how high-school students will…interpret it.”

“There’s a lot of symbolism in there—I think that’s a plus. There’s the rejoined ‘Join, or Die’ serpent as an icon of unity, and the Magna Carta, and the Liberty Pole—”

“Yes, the Liberty Pole.”

“With the Liberty Cap on top.”

“That’s the part we think might present problems for teachers.”

“Oh, and the hands—those represent the twelve colonies at the First Continental Congress. They’re making the pole stand up straight.”

“You’re not helping your case here.”

“In 1775 the engraver John Norman updated this symbol for America’s first architecture book. He dedicated it to Hancock and ‘all the MEMBERS’ of Congress.”

“Really, you should just stop talking.”

5 comments:

RodFleck said...

Oh that was well worth a chuckle this morning....thanks for a great blog that I find myself learning more and more every time I read a new post! Happy New Year and enjoy 2015.

G. Lovely said...

There was a time when I would have assumed that in the post-Puritan/pre-Freudian era the drawing was made, what are, to us, obvious associations, were totally unconscious. Then I read this statement included in Michael Waldma's "The Second Amendment: A Biography" that was purportedly made by Elbrigdge Gerry in 1787 during the Constitutional debates:

"A standing army is like a standing member. It's an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure."

Happy New Year, and be careful out there!

J. L. Bell said...

I can trace that Gerry quotation to Samuel Eliot Morrison’s Oxford History of the American People in 1965, and he attributed it to “oral tradition.” Morrison descended from Harrison Gray Otis, who might conceivably have heard the story and passed it on within the family. Wish we had a more solid source, but this isn’t the sort of remark the Victorians cared to preserve in print.

Happy New Year to all!

EWBarnes said...

Very funny! Thank you for a new year's chuckle first thing.

Roger said...

This posting, kind sir, is a stroke of genius!...ahem...I mean...When it comes to learned discourse, your are a master of debate....I mean...To Parliament, we say, "don't tread on me", and in defense of our rights we will pick up the sword to inflict a big prick! ...I mean...okay...I will stop talking now...Happy New Year!