Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 6, 1975 · Page 37
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 37

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 6, 1975
Page 37
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Why Did We Revolt? One Answer: Liberty By Don McLeod Tkf Auociated Prtu Sunday Gazelle-Mail One of the hardest things theFounding Fathers had to do was explain the American Revolution. The answer they finally came up with was the only one that works, even today. They were fighting for liberty. Two hundred years ago today--a year in advance of the Declaration of Independence -- the Continental Congress issued a declaration explaining why they were doing such an outrageous thing as rebelling against fellow Englishmen and the mightiest empire on earth. "We have counted the cost of this contest and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery," wrote Thomas Jefferson, the liberal inellectual leader of the Congress, and John Dickinson, the brilliant conservative. "Honor, justice and humanity forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us," Congress said inthe_Declaration of the Causes and Necessities for Taking Up Arms, adopted on July 6, 1775. "We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resiping succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail heredity bondage upon them." BUT WHAT DOES it all mean? On the surface this overblown rhetoric is absurd. Americans were not an oppressed people. In fact they were doing pretty well. Their economic opportunities and personal liberties were among the best in the world. Yet here were prosperous Yankees talking about bondage and slavery, as if a British bayonet was held at every American throat. The simple truth is that the Americans who formed our nation took their liberties that seriously. A threat to their dreams was as offensive as a thrust at their persons. . Two great forces drove the American to revolution long before taxes and tea became an issue. The first was the kind of life they found in the new world. Charleston; West Virginia "fx '/;- - v -*t e ID July 6,1975 From the first English settlers at Jamestown and Plymouth to the embattled farmers at Concord bridge, Americans had learned to work or starve, sink or swim, in a bountiful but dangerous wilderness. It made them self-reliant, suspicious, and excruciatingly independent. Nobody pushed Americans around without a fight. In 1775 the British pushed and got a fight. And Ameria was the land of economic opportunity for all its people. THE TURNING POINT in the developing struggle was a long war between the empires Britain and France. It ended in 1763 and left the British supreme over most of the North American continent. Several things happened because of this war that started the American colonies toward separation. The first was their own perfidy. Some Americans built fortunes supplying both armies at the same time. This prompted an indignant British government to tighten long dormant trade restraints. And when the fighting was over, it was a whole new world. For the first time since the first Englishmen landed, there was no French threat, no Spanish threat, no Indians stirred up by European provacateurs. The push, virgin lands across the Appalachians beckoned to this generation of Americans like California gold did to another. But British policy and the vagaries '.. .Nothing So Dreadful as Voluntary Slavery' Thomas Jefferson One of Authors of Declaration of a world economy entering the industrial age threw up blockades. First the British, seeking to avoid Indian trouble and to simplify administration, L.T. Anderson Take Husband by the Hand and... When Ann Landers is confronted with a question to which there is no handy commonsense answer, she invariably retreats to the "See your clergyman" position. Somehow, I suspect her reliance on clergymen as marriage counselors is responsible for her own divorce. I'm not as startled by the announcement of her divorce as many of her constituents are. I know that a woman who believes a firm handshake and a steady eye are indicative of good character is capable of other error, both in and out of the house. When Miss Landers gave the incredible advice that automatic trust could be placed in a person who shakes hands firmly and looks people squarely in the eye, I was moved to write her. I TOLD HER of the steely-eyed, hand gripping former governor of West Virginia who was at that time in a federal slammer for bribing a juror. She made a gracious reply, so I will assume it is all right for me to tell her how to preserve her next marriage. Dear Troubled: First, make certain that you don't run to a clergyman when you and your husband have a fight. If you could see some of the clergymen we have down here in the front rank of the textbook protest, you would know what I mean. Don't run to a psychiatrist, either. They cost more than clergymen but understand no better than the rest of us why we're not supposed to use the "guest" towels. Don't run to a relative and don't run to a neighbor. Take your husband by the hand and run to a dirty movie. '60s Counterculture Schools Still Alive drew a line down the Appalachian ridge and told the colonists, not to step across it. The order ran counter to the colonists' desire for physical freedom. It also put restraints on the economic prospects of Americans, from the biggest land speculator to the smallest sodbuster looking for a better farm. And it came at a time when worldwide depression made the need for new opportunity greater than ever. THE DEPRESSION stunned Americans and made them resentful of threats to the American dream of security for anyone willing to work for it. And there was a war debt, which the British wanted the American colonists to help pay. They also thought it was about time they brought some order to the commerce of the newly secured empire. These efforts, in the context of deepening suspicion and resentment in America, were the immediate cause of the Revolutionary War. First the British began enforcing a long string of merchantile restrictions on colonial trade. They cramped the Southern planter, the Boston merchant, the subsist- ance farmer, the simple shopkeeper. Then there was the Stamp Act, which meant an American couldn't buy a newspaper or a drink at his tavern without paying a little extra. Next came the famous Tbwhsend Duties which sought to get around the revulsion to direct taxation and substitute a disguised tap on colonial purses through import duties on glass, lead, paint, paper and tea. To make it worse the taxes had to be paid in hard currency at the same time the colonies were prohibited from printing paper money. Eventually everything in America moved on credit controlled in England. The tight money situation makes today's credit crunch look like boom times. ,i Teacher Joe Toner Hands Ott Roses Last Day at Milwaukee's Rainbow School .» I. By Timothy Harper MILWAUKEE, Wis. - UP) - "There's no real way of doing things at Rainbow." Chris Hollibush, coordinator of Milwaukee's Rainbow School, is bemused as she recounts the eight frenetic weeks in 1972 when she and several other parents decided to start their own alternative school in an old apartment building. "It's a process that keeps evolving," she shrugs. "Every year we have more kids, but fewer desks and fewer chairs." Rainbow is one of the more successful counterculture schools started throughout the United States by idealistic young people in the '60s. Although times have changed, many parents believe that these alternative schools still are the best way to pass on. their values to their children. The New Schools Exchange Clearing House in Pettigrew, Ark., lists 1,200 privately run "alternative" schools in communities around the United States. They have 50,000 children enrolled, mostly in the grades prior to high school. Some of the students are noticeably different than contemporaries in public schools. "My 13-year-old daughter Robin started at a public high school last fall after two . years at Rainbow," Ms. Hollibush says. "She felt very ignorant. She didn't know all the facts and figures the other kids did. The amount she doesn't know about geography astounds me. "On the other hand, she's already had two' books of poetry published." »· IT WAS MORE important for Robin, Ms. Hollibush believes, to spend her years at Rainbow grappling with new ideas and concepts than memorizing the Gettysburg Address or conquering the rudiments of algebra. There have been no comprehensive studies of how students from alternative elementary schools -- which meet education standards in md^t states if they have certified teachers and if students attend a certain number of days each year -- perform later in public high schools. But alternative education's supporters say most of the graduates are not handicapped by a lack of basic information because their eagerness to team allows them to catch up to their classmates in traditional schools quickly. Rainbow, which rents the apartment building space it uses, finished its third full academic year last month and is therefore older than most alternative schools now operating. It's also more structured than most. During .the school term, all 50 children (the oldest 12) spend the first hour of the day on language or math. Teachers wander from room to room, occasionally lecturing to all, but more often stooping to help individuals. The children sit, stand, walk, hop, wiggle, lie on the floor, talk and yell, seemingly at will. "We try to work on basic skills as unobtrusively as possible, says Ms. Hollibush, who prefers that designation. "Reading a traffic sign is reading, and measuring a table is math. We don't try to push anybody into anything." The rest of the day is spent in informal classes, studying subjects selected by the teachers and students for that month. Topics include city living, war, pollution, union organizing, geology. And there is individualized activity for students who prefer to curl up with a book. "Nobody," Ms. Hollibush says firmly, "is allowed to do nothing." But there are motivation problems, she concedes, particularly among children coming to Rainbow from other schools. "After the public schools, this type of freedom is sometimes hard to handle," she says. A few alternative schools mete out traditional spankings; some simply ignore those who misbehave. "The worst punishment at Rainbow is to be kept at home," Ms. Hollibush says. "Not being allowed to come to school is the worst thing that can happen here." MOST FREE SCHOOL teachers are young and underpaid. Many work only for room and board in cooperative communities born as farm communes. Some are drawn to alternative schools because they will be able to say and do what they want; others simply couldn't find "real" teaching jobs. Rainbow's three teachers, one for preschoolers and two for elementary age students, each earn $400 a month. Frank Lindenfeld, a free school founder THE TAXES and restrictions, then, were not abstract grievances. They touched the stuff of daily life and were very real threats to the economic security and aspirations of many Americans. If the merchant suffered, so did the consumer. The colonists resented what was hap- in the 1960s when he was a sociology pro- pening to the cost of living, to their econ- fessor at the University of California at omic freedom, the chance of advance- Berkeley, says the alternative movement. m ent, even the right to move about freely will continue to grow as long as the teach- \ n the land - the essence of liberty to the ing job market is tight. . ever, wandering pioneer. "It might continue for several more By boycott, threat, bullying and implor- years," says Lindenfeld, now a professor ing, the Americans won repeal of the at Cheyney (Pa.) State College, "as teach- stamp Act and most of the Townsend Duing graduates find it increasingly difficult ties. But their resistance irritated the Brito obtain public school jobs and find alter- tish and brought further encroachments native schools that provide them with by them. work, if not necessarily with money." 'The British appointed customs agents Perhaps the most volatile fuel for the al- who were just as crooked as any American ternative movement is disdain for U.S. smuggler, and sent troops to back them public education. U p. "Public schools teach people to hate General writs allowed searchers at ran- learning," Ms. Hollibush declares, and dom. Troops were quartered on private Scott Davies, 21-year-old director of the property. Admiralty Courts tried viola- Bay City Alternative School in Green Bay, tions without jury. Finally. Britain pro- agrees. "The students who do well here do claimed that traitors could be shipped to so basically because they feel they were England for trial, being held back in traditional schools." Davies says. · Rainbow evaluates its students regularly in handwritten notes from teacher to parents. A few alternative schools grade tougher England got. Friends may solve with the usual ABCs. but more simply give differences which enemies cannot, and students straight A'. Americans and Englishmen were becom- "You grade eggs, not children," says ing less and less friendly. Barbara Zwayer of the Marietta Johnson The Tea Act finally did it. It would have THE MORE Americans resisted, the School for Organic Education in Fairhope. meant cheaper tea despite a token tax, but it gave monopolies to English merchants and probably would have bankrupt many Americans. When Bostonians dumped a load of tea rather than submit to more impositions. Ala. * THE BIGGEST problems have dollar signs in front. Monthly assessments ranging from $10 to $100 or more per family are barely enough to cover Rainbow's sala- the English retaliated with even harsher ries, $120 monthly in rent and miscella- restrictions, including the closing of the neous in the $12,000 annual budget. port of Boston. That precipitated war. Lindenfeld says the number of free In fact, until the fighting started in the of schools has increased steadily from a mere three dozen in 1967 to nearly LOOO in 1973 and 1,200 today. But one-third of the schools founded during that period were gone within a year, he says, and two-thirds had folded within two years. "They hold together for a semester or a year, then fold because of lack of money, poor organization, factional disputes, outside pressures or new interests that appeal to participants," he says. "Only a few persist over the years without either going broke or abandoning their ideals.'" Through all the turmoil, the children seem unaffected. They may like school a bit more, they may be more forthright, they're still kids. spring ol 1775. British offenses against America were really not as bad as Americans came to think they were. Parliament and King did not actually ruin American business and put an end to opportunity. But for more than a decade Americans feared this would happen. And it came close enough to happening to justify their fears. To be free meant more to the colonists than abstract politics. It meant freedom from all kinds of restraints, potential or actual. It meant freedom of movement, freedom to advance. So the issue of the American Revolution really was freedom -- as each colonial American defined it for himself. i

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