If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
— Abigail Adams
We watched John Adams this week and I was struck by a realization I had never had before. As I watched the drama of the Revolution unfold, I was reminded again and again that the real reason those shots were heard round the world wasn’t because of tea or paper taxes.
It wasn’t because Americans were colonized by some outside society (though I could understand a Native American revolution for that very reason). In fact, these people loved Britain. They were British. They grew up British and emulated the British way. That’s how it had been since they were born. They were taught in their schools about the superior British form of government which balanced the rule of a monarch with the Republican ideals of Parlaiment. They were taught that, as British citizens, they had certain rights in government.
But then, as they began to find their strength as Colonies, they began to see something wrong with this system. Yes…they were British…but…why did they not have the same rights as those in England? Why were they told what was best for them without listening to their input.
Why, in short, did they not have their God-given VOICE?!
“Taxation without Representation” All that really was, boiled down to its basic meaning, was, “We demand to be part of the decision making for our own lives.”
And I felt the injustice of it all well up inside of me and I screamed it inside of me, “I demand my voice! I demand my voice!”
Some in England actually understood the American cause. They sympathized with it. More often, however, Englishmen could not understand what the big deal was. “Didn’t England give them protection? Didn’t England provide for them in trade? The shelfish, shelfish colonies. Selfish, whining colonies.”
When King George’s letter reached the Continental Congress in early 1776, it read like an echo to something I feel I’ve heard implicitly. “To those who continue to insight protest, I will treat them as traitors. To those who renounce their false and nefarious ideals, I will warmly accept them into my protection.”
And I saw the actor’s faces in that Philadelphia room. And I felt the hurt and rage. Hurt that the entity they had so loved and honored for their entire lives would cast them out without even listening to their rightful pleas. Rage for the same reasons.
And I saw determination in most as the realization stole upon them that this was the moment to chose their humanity, to stand up for their rights and their honor. To stand up for themselves.
And they claimed their voice.
…but could only claim it by separating themselves from their country…By claiming independence. And I wonder how long I can stand there in the Continental Congress of my mind before deciding if my fight is the same fight, my betrayal the same betrayal. Am I a Dickinson or an Adams? Will I choose painful toleration and hope for change or will I choose Independence?
I don’t know. Everyday I feel as if I’m reading King George’s letter…
24 year old graduate student
Community College professor
Married to wonderfulity