“Taxation without representation is tyranny!” James Otis
“Give me liberty or give me death.” Patrick Henry
“One if by land, two if by sea.” Paul Revere
“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin
“Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” John Parker
Most Americans recognize at least one of these quotes from the American Revolutionary War period. We all learned about the war, the patriots and founding fathers in our U.S. History classes in school. Some of us had better teachers than others which may influence how much we remember. I must have been blessed with good teachers because I grew up with a love of American History — so much so that I taught it to middle grade students in the early 1980’s.
I confess, I am a history geek, especially when it comes to the colonial and Revolutionary War period.
In the fall of 2016, I saw a post of an author I follow about a writer’s retreat in New England. I knew a couple of women on the faculty, including a dear friend of nearly 20 years and the idea of a week in New England in the fall was inviting. I convinced my husband that it would be the perfect opportunity to visit Boston, a place that was on our “bucket list.”
The last time I visited Boston was July 4, 1976. That date should look familiar to you — it was the Bicentennial. I was a teenager on vacation with my family; mom, dad, grandmother, brother, cousins, aunts and uncles. We walked the Freedom Trail and visited the historic sites like the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s home. A fleet of tall ships moored in the harbor along with what seemed like hundreds of boats. We could hear the Boston Pops playing during a most spectacular fireworks display. What an experience that was!
My husband never visited Boston and we never brought our children to New England. Our son had a shellfish allergy and we knew he would be miserable surrounded by so much lobster. Now that we have an empty nest, trips like this are doable. (There are indeed some pluses to living in an empty nest.)
I was not sure what to expect on this New England adventure. I’m a southern girl — born and raised in the South. Well, sort of, some purists don’t consider Florida the true south. But southern is definitely in my blood. I’m a little wary of anything north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Would we be welcomed or would our southern drawl incite negative responses?
I am happy to say that we found Boston and the surrounding area to be delightful. There were so many friendly, helpful folks. It was a true melting pot, people of all nationalities from the Irish waitress at Emmet’s to the islander in Walgreen’s to our waiter who emigrated from Rome 30 years ago.
And, being such a historic city, it was not unusual to see a Benjamin Franklin look-a-like or a woman in colonial garb leading a throng of tourists. Be still my heart. If Boston didn’t have such cold winters I might relocate so I could play dress up and be a tour guide.
The best thing about our time in Boston was a renewed feeling of patriotism in our country. I know that our country is divided on that, patriotism isn’t in vogue right now. But, there was just something about walking the same streets and visiting the same churches and meeting houses as the colonists. It was refreshing to take pause and reflect on the rag-tag band of English colonists who stood up to the mother country which they saw as overbearing. It was inspiring to think about what these men were willing to risk in order to establish what they considered to be an ideal country. Their actions, such as throwing a shipload of tea overboard, were treasonous and they all could have hanged. They were not happy with the way things were and did something about it.
We ended our time in Boston with a visit to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, traveling from the eighteenth century to the twentieth. The most poignant display to me was the case holding the notes from his inaugural address. That speech contained another quote we all should have learned in our history classes.
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy
The Kennedy Library sits on Columbia Point in Boston Harbor, a beautiful setting. Before we left, we took one final look across the harbor, back to Boston—the Cradle of Liberty. It was a time of reflection. What can I do to help this country be a better place? What can I do to promote the ideals of freedom and liberty the patriots fought for over two hundred years ago? It’s something to think about. It’s something to act on.