Friday, October 19, 2012

Remembering the reality of time -- Bunker hIll, Yorktown and the Founders

My wall calendar informs me that the Revolutionary War ended 231 years ago today. My wall calendar is, of course, wrong technically. The war didn't actually end until the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Oct. 19, 1781 is when the Siege of Yorktown ended. This was the de facto end of the fighting, but not the war. While nothing of military significance happened after Yorktown, this could not have been known at the time.

Which helps us keep in perspective that the great movements and events of history are only identifiable as such after the fact. The people living through them have a different perspective.

For example, I think for most contemporary Americans, the era of the "founders " is kind of a big blur. There's a "Tea Party," Lexington & Concord, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, Yorktown and then a Constitution. Bang, America is born.

In fact, of course, an entire generation passed while all these events transpired. Let's consider a hypothetical Concord yeoman, 21 years old in  late December, 1773 and the proud father of a newborn son when he receives word of the Boston Tea Party.

He's 22 or 23 years old when he fights as a Concord minuteman during t he Siege of Boston and his boy is not quite 2 years old. By the time of Yorktown our yeoman farmer is 30 or so and his son is 8. The boy marks his 10th birthday around the time the peace treaty is signed and his dad is 32.

The Constitutional Convention occurs while the father is 35 and his son is 14 years old. They are about a year older when the Constitution is ratified and the pair are 37 and 16 respectively when Washington takes the oath of office as the first president. The babe that was swaddling clothes when the Tea Party start the ball rolling is ready to enter his own adult life.

A lot can happen in 16 years, and I think it's safe to say that no one who tossed tea into Boston Harbor could foresee the result 16 years later.

Something to remember, today, as we get ready to vote on Nov. 6. We can't really know what the world of 2028 will look like. A lot can happen in 16 years.

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