Way back on Sunday, I wrote about the history of the Declaration of Independence and how everything you’d learned in school was wrong. Since people know how to find me on Facebook I expected some interesting backlash. Instead, aside from a few smarmy comments from our oversea’s readers, I mostly got the equivalent of “Oh, gosh, wow, that makes sense.” You see, if you ever read the document that is supposed to be the Declaration, you’d notice right away that it’s just a well written list of grievances. It never actually declares anything. Which would seem to be a necessary ingredient for a document bearing that name. But, since the actual Declaration of Independence is a walloping one sentence long and not very elegant, I guess historians decided to go with the more literary effort. For those of you who missed it, here is the entire Declaration of Independence as written by Richard Henry Lee.
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
That was approved by 12 of the 13 colonies, with New York abstaining, and it was delivered on July 2nd to British authorities.
However, that is not the only bit of American history that got fuzzed over time. Hal Stanton, over at TRU tv, took a look a quite a few other items that you may think you know. Since the article is long I’m only going to highlight a few of them. But, if you have some time, make sure to read it all, it’s very well written and researched.
America Is A Democracy
In the current age, America and democracy are synonymous. Little do most Americans know they don’t actually live in a democracy. America was actually founded as a Constitutional Republic, as stated in the Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance. In an Economist ranking of the world’s democratic countries in 2006, America didn’t even crack the top 10.
The Founding Fathers Were Christian
This is both true and false. A large number of the Founding Fathers were associated with various sects of the Christian church, like Protestantism and Lutheranism. However, many still openly opposed organized religion. Thomas Jefferson practiced Deism, which contends that reason and observation of the natural world are enough to determine the universe has a creator without the need for organized religion.
While it’s true that the occasion we now know as Thanksgiving first occurred between Pilgrims and nearby Indians, it originally was three days long and served to salute the annual harvest. (Imagine our modern version of stuffing and turkeys for three days.) For the Pilgrims, Thanksgiving was intended to be a religious holiday of fasting and prayer, but only turned to a feast after the rains came during one such period in 1623.
The Native Americans were Savages
Hollywood has certainly popularized the image of brutes dressed in feathers and buffalo leather, aiming to harm a good-ole tobacco spitting cowboy, but the truth of the matter is a bit more complex.
In the book “A People’s History of the United States,” author Howard Zinn quotes Christopher Columbus’s first impressions of the Indians, saying “They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…. They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
It’s A Free Country
There is a general belief that we can walk anywhere, rest anywhere or do whatever we need to do to survive. Tell that to the homeless. Although courts struck down laws against vagrancy years ago, sleeping on the streets or in public parks is still illegal, as is hitchhiking, panhandling and other “freebies” broke people need to survive.
And there are countless laws and ordinances designed to give police officers probable cause to violate our freedoms. In June 2011, a woman in Rochester, New York was arrested simply for filming a traffic stop from her front lawn, proving that we aren’t free — even if we stay in our yards.
The Federal Reserve Is U.S. Owned & Operated
The Fed conducts the nation’s monetary policy, but faces no regulation from the government aside from the appointment of its President and Board of Governors. Otherwise, the central bank can do what it pleases.
Recent proof comes direct from former Chairman Alan Greenspan, who stated point blank that the U.S. Government cannot do anything to influence the Fed’s policy. And, more recently, according to Bloomberg News, the bank refused “to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from [the bailout] and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.”
Christopher Columbus Discovered America
The “Columbus discovered America” myth doesn’t seem to be dying off. For starters, Native Americans occupied the territory for centuries before his arrival. But the Scandinavians were also here previously: their Vikings were known to have landed 500 years before Columbus did, yet Columbus gets the credit as the man who discovered America during his Spanish Empire-financed voyage in search of gold.
The Statue of Liberty Is An Ode to American Greatness
Based on the broken shackles at its feet and the politics of its creator, it comes as little surprise that rumors have built up that the Statue of Liberty is a tribute to the end of slavery. Frederic Bartholdi’s statue has given the National Office of Parks and Recreations second thoughts in the past couple of years, and the department has conducted a thorough investigation.
They found the rumor of slavery was based on a single marketing pamphlet by Bartholdi, which they deemed to be false, but they did find that it is most likely true that Lady Liberty was modeled from the body of an African woman. Bartholdi had studied African women for a prior commission on an Egyptian statue, but when that project was scrapped, the studies became the foundation for the green Lady.
“The British Are Coming”
Sarah Palin’s recent flub brought attention to this inexhaustible myth. While her retelling of history was creative, the truth of the matter is that the wealthy silversmith and organizer of the “alarm system” set to warn of British invasion, Revere, was tipped off by Joseph Warren that British troops were heading after Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
Revere set out and informed every messenger and rider he could about the movement. By the end of the night, it’s figured nearly 40 men were sending out similar warnings by the time Revere crossed the Charles and warned every home in Charlestown of the British arrival. According to local sources, secrecy needed to be maintained and so Revere actually yelling, “The British are coming” would have been ill-advised, so the more stealthy “The Regulars are coming out” was used.
George Washington And The Cherry Tree
According to UVA scholars, Washington chopping down his Cherry Tree is pure myth, an attempt to construct a legend around the nation’s first President after Washington’s initial biography painted him as “cold and colorless.” The moral of the Cherry Tree story was Washington’s humility and honesty, a fable attributed to the leader’s refusal to continue serving, thus contradicting the grab for power and tyranny from which the nation had just escaped.
There’s plenty more in the original article, but this should be more than enough to give you something to chat about at the water cooler.
One thing you’ll learn, if you study history, is that the great moments you read about are, more often than not, the culmination of many little moments you never suspected. The Declaration of Independence is just one such event.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way you should have plenty of free time to learn how things really occurred.
Or, you can just go back to your PS3 and forget about everything until the next revolution comes along.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!