04 July 2008

Happy 4th of July!

4th of July now, I'm back from my travels, and celebrating the date. One thing I do on the 4th is to re-read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Actually, not so much the declaration as the Constitution. While the Declaration did prompt the following events, it is the Constitution which really defined who we were or at least wanted to be. Much of the better part our history is a matter of applying the ideals of the Constitution to a greater fraction of the people.

I've also started fooling with genealogy in the past year, most of which I won't inflict on you as it's really only of interest to me (and perhaps some of my relatives). (But the story of my ancestor at the bombing of Fort McHenry ... surely that's of interest to all? ... well, maybe not.) One thing I've taken as given is that, ultimately, I'm related to everybody, and have ancestors from everywhere. One thing that means is that in every war, I figure I have relatives on both sides. For our revolution, this turns out to be true within a single family. My great-to-the-something ancestor Zeboath Brittain and the other two older brothers fought for the revolution, while the three younger brothers fought for the Empire. After the Empire lost, they moved to Nova Scotia. Dad, William, was also an empire loyalist, outspokenly so and jailed for it a time or two during the war. But he stayed (along with his wife, who was apparently equally vocal in favor of the revolution) after the war settled down.

It's a reminder, though, that the decision to revolt was not very clear-cut at the time. Rather few participated on either side, and among those families that did, it doesn't seem very one-sided as to which side they'd go for. This is part of the answer, I guess, as to why Canada neither joined in the rebellion, nor conducted their own later (by the way, happy Canada day 3 days late). A different genealogical perspective is that post-revolution, the life expectancy of USAns plummeted. Or maybe that's just my ancestors (though I doubt it).

Since we're in July, also a happy Bastille day (early, July 14th) to my French friends. (My known French ancestors were out of the country before the revolution; but 60+% of my ancestors are still unknown, so I'll assume some were still there.) During my recent vacation/working trip, I was in France (Paris and Perros-Guirec Brittany) for a week. Walked down from the Arc de Triumphe to the Place de la Concorde, among other things. No visit to the Bastille, but my wife and I did visit Versailles, which had its own drama in the Revolution. It's more than a little odd to think about how the support of France (Louis XVI, draining coffers and raising taxes) for our revolution helped bring about its revolution. Worked out better for us than France, or at least Louis.

Anyhow, whether it's "Libertie, Egalitie, Fraternitie", "We hold these truths to be self-evident ...", "We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, ...", this is a good time to think about what our ideals are, the best possible arrangements for our societies is, and how to move from where we are currently to where that better situation is.


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