Sunday, September 11, 2011

Party Like It's 9/11...

First of all, I apologize about the title but I needed to hook you into reading this somehow. I was not so sure how to write this piece but I felt like I needed to. I'd like to say first that I am not trying to take away from the horrors that happened on September 11, 2001. I am not trying to brush it off as if nothing happened. It has been ten years since that fateful day and our nation has suffered, rebuilt and is trying to move forward still. But I think it is time that something positive is said about the date September 11 and an event that shows that Americans have always been resilient and never a people that is willing just sit around and take the easy road. I am talking about a meeting between Americans and British officials, in a small house on Staten Island, that helped seal the creating of the United States of America.

                                                                               National Archive

So in custom with my writing fashion I will give you a little background information that lead up to the meeting that took place in this house. 1776 is perhaps the most influential year in America History. In January, Thomas Paine's Common Sense was sweeping the nation. By March, Washington and the Continental Army had successfully taken the city of Boston. As of May, Rhode Island was the first colony to renounce their loyalties to the crown. July, well we all know what happened, but for those that slept through their history classes, the Declaration of Independence official broke ties with England. In August, Washington begins the "Retreat to Victory." September, had the first submarine attack in history (which failed but still a submarine in 1776 is pretty impressive). All these events and more that I haven't listened (i.e. battles, uprisings, troop build up, etc.) all led to Lord Richard Howe's attempt to end the Revolution before it was a full scale war.


Now, who is Lord Howe and what does he have to gain from a peace agreement? Well first, Howe was a career military man. he served in the War of the Austrian Succession and the French and Indian Wars. He was the brother of Lord William and George Howe (big shot generals on the British side). But his role in the American Revolution was different. Howe was known for his naval tactics and success as a leader. But in the Colonies he was also a peace commissioner. This, in short, meant the British were playing good cop/bad cop and Richard Howe played the role of good cop. Howe wasn't just given that role however, from the very start of the war he had a soft spot in his heart for the underdog American cause. He was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin through the London Society. This closeness to a leading American figure and his sympathy for the cause landed Howe the position of trying to smooth things over and get the colonies back in line. This all culminated on September 11 on Staten Island. But before I can reveal the details of the meeting lets talk about some of our beloved forefathers.


Here they come to save the day! Now for sure we can all recognize at least one of these brave gentlemen, and that is Mr. Benjamin Franklin. Along with Mr. Franklin was the Boston's own bad boy John Adams (left) and the world famous Edward Rutledge (right)... Okay, so Rutledge isn't as appreciated as Franklin and Adams but after you read this, he will be. Since most people don't know to much about Edward Rutledge let me give you a 10¢ biography. Rutledge was a politician from South Carolina. He was educated at Oxford University and became a lawyer. As for his role in the Revolution, he signed the Declaration of Independence, served at an artillery captain and fought in the Battle of Beaufort (1779). As for Adams and Franklin, if i have to explain who they are you should probably go back and retake every history class you have taken...ever. But why those three? Well, Adams and Franklin were two of the major forces behind the operations of American Independence and Rutledge fits in because he is the new kid on the block and has newer views and could use the experience ( I mean could you ask for two better teachers?). So the three Patriots hopped into a row boat and were paddled from Perth Amboy to Staten Island. On arrival they were greeted warmly by their British counterparts and without any problems began the meeting.


 So, in 1776 there wasn't a crowd of history buffs watching the meeting and it certainly wasn't held outside like some kind of company picnic but this was the only picture I can find of the meeting. What really happened was the Conference House at one point belonged to a Loyalist, who let the Redcoats use it as a small military barracks. So those crafty Brits cleared out a room and set up a fancy smancy meeting room. As they sat down, Lord Howe gave them the run-down of what the British wanted. First and foremost, the British wanted the Continental Congress to void the Declaration of Independence. Of course, they went right for the neck. The British were running low on funds and the last thing they needed was to support another war. The idea was void the Declaration and the colonies and England can go back to the days of yesteryear. However, before Franklin, Adams and Rutludge left they were given strict orders that the Declaration could not be undone. After the Americans held their ground Howe refused to continue talks. But what would he have said? Well basically that if the Declaration was undone that the British would not retaliate against known Patriots or punish the colonies. In short they were willing to let bygones be bygones, the whole Revolution would be just water under the bridge, the agreement would to quintessential burying of the hatchet. But the Patriots were, well, Patriots and were not going to take any deal short of Independence. So the meeting ended and Triple Trouble (Franklin, Adams and Rutludge) made their way back to New Jersey. However, they were followed back to the boat by Howe who continued to try to change their minds in order to end the war. The war then continued for another five years and well we all know the outcome since we aren't singing God Save the Queen to the Union Jack before every sporting event. But the date of 9/11/1776 is forgotten as a great day in American History. It should be looked back on and remembered with great reverence and seen as a shining example of the greatness of the American spirit which still echoes to this day.


So how are these two events related and why did I write this? Well the events aren't directly related, more the events that follow. In 1776 we see three Patriots face off against the Evil Empire, stare it right in the face and scoff at it and the idea of turning down Independence. In 2001, we witnessed perhaps the greatest tragedy in American History, but we looked that devastation in the eye, came together as a country, celebrated every survivor and mourned every loss, together. Today, 10 years later, we can look to Ground Zero and see the legacy of 9/11. Now there is a grave for those lost and for the memories of the survivors and families. We now, as Americans, have a place to memorialize not just the events of that day but a memorial to American resilience. Also at this sight, which I highly doubt is a coincidence, the new Freedom Tower measures exactly 1776 feet perhaps in reference to the events of 9/11/76, but back to my point. We could have just accepted it and stalled as a nation, but we didn't do it in 1776 and we wouldn't do it in 2001. The point of writing this piece was to show that 9/11 now should be seen as a day that we can be proud to be Americans. A day that represents how we never take the easy road, how we can in the darkest of times, stand tall and not walk away from our problems. I think it is time not just that 1776 is remembered for the bravery of Adams, Franklin and Rutledge but now we can have an end note to the 9/11 era and look at it as another example of American persistence, resilience, pride and greatness. In closing, I'd like to wish comfort to those who have lost friends and family, to my readers I hope you can take something away from this and in true red, white, and blue tradition may God bless the United States of America.

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