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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Saturday, July 04, 2020

There Once Was a Man from Virginia

Yesterday the Journal of the American Revolution observed Independence Day (Observed) by publishing contributors’ limericks about the Declaration of Independence.

I had one in that bunch, but I wrote others before choosing which to submit. Since the J.A.R. would publish only one, I’m sharing the rest here, you lucky people.

Here’s the verse that appeared in the J.A.R. round-up:
“Since our new circumstances allow,”
Said Congress, “we’ll separate now!”
But all the while,
Upon Staten Isle
A British advance force asked, “Howe?”
On 2 July 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence, and on 4 July it approved its formal public declaration. In between, on 3 July, the British military under Adm. Richard Howe and Gen. William Howe began to land 10,000 troops on Staten Island.

Here’s one in the voice of Thomas Jefferson:
“With high-minded principles, my
Declaration nobly states why
We plan to leave, and says
Plenty of grievances,
But the bottom line’s ‘This is goodbye.’”
And speaking of grievances, some analyses of the Declaration’s complaints:
The king like a tyrant “assented”
To laws unjust and resented.
A well-founded cause?
A lot of those laws
Were never in fact implemented.

The king brought on “Indian savages,”
Well known for their “merciless” ravages.
That abuse was the worst!
(Though we did do it first,
So it all evened out in the averages.)
On John Adams’s immediate response to the vote:
Independency, John Adams reckoned,
Would be glorious, far-reaching, and fecund.
But as for the dating,
He foresaw celebrating
Not on the 4th, but the 2nd.
Finally, what turned out to be a well-founded anecdote about Benjamin Harrison, Elbridge Gerry, and signing the Declaration:
Big Harrison said to wee Gerry,
“After signing this, you should be wary.
When it comes time to hang, I’ll
Die quick, but you’ll dangle
For hours, and that will be scary.”
Enjoy the Fourth!

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