Tampa Chapter - November 2018
Revolution History note
Chapter Facebook Page
Wreaths Across America
Color Guard Activities & Opportunities
Other Dates of Interest
The next meeting of the Tampa Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, will be held on Saturday, November 17, at the Golden Corral in Temple Terrace. Please remember to pay on your way in and keep your receipt for the waitress. If possible, the room will be open and set up by 11:30 for social time and lunch. The formal meeting will start around 12:00 Noon. The street address for the Golden Corral is: 11801 N 56th St.
Tampa, FL 33617
Every year, in the fall, we set aside one monthly meeting to present the SAR Public Service Awards and recognize some of our first responders. This year we have five recipients from the Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. Come out and show your support for our local public servants.
Last month’s meeting featured our own Bob Yarnell giving his annual presentation on the US Constitution. This year he explained the “Great Compromise” that resulted in a Constitution the majority of the delegates present could accept and support.
American Revolution Notes:
This month is part two of our series on the historiography of the American break with England. The last month’s installment covered the main trends in the 18th and 19th centuries. This month will focus on the 20th century.
Early 1900 Historians -An Economic View
Society became more complex by the 1900’s and historians looked for more complex causes. In 1908 Sydney George Fischer wrote The Struggle for American Independence, the first detailed look at the Revolution since Bancroft wrote in the mid-1800’s. Fischer emphasized large forces, not individuals. His book took away much of the drama of the story that was the backbone of Bancroft’s work and tended to exonerate England from the evil veil Bancroft had placed on her.
Fischer was followed relatively quickly by three historians who all viewed the American Revolution through an economic lens with an emphasis on class warfare and economic determinism. Arthur Schlesinger put the blame on colonial merchants. British policies hit them in the pocket book and so they invented the vocabulary of liberty and freedom to stir up the masses to become their foot soldiers. According to Schlesinger, they manipulated the mob to their own ends. “No taxation”, constitutional issues, and the King is a villain were just a smoke screen.
However, there came a point when the merchants could no longer control the mob. And, Schlesinger concludes, the proletariat (small farmers/mechanics/urban poor) walking hand in hand with the Tidewater radicals from the south, wrested control away from the evil merchants and thus the Revolution was a success because it resulted in a victory for the masses.*
Claude van Tyne, in 1922, and the Charles Andrews in 1924, both jumped on the economic interpretation bandwagon. Trade and commerce, the proletariat vs the merchants; this is how to understand the American Revolution, not the smoke screen of colonial rights.
The mid-1900s: Imperialist school; Namier School; back to the beginning
In the early 50’s Lawrence Gibson wrote The Coming of the American Revolution. While he likewise claimed the break with England was due mainly to the clash of interests, he can also be placed in what is called the Imperial School of interpretation of the American Revolution. The Imperial school emphasizes England’s problems of empire following the French and Indian war: the problem of debt, the problem of garrisoning the empire and the problem of administering the empire. And, particularly in N. America, with the French threat on the frontier removed, the added problem of trying to prevent colonial movement into the interior. All of these played a part in Britain’s difficulty in coming up with policies to deal with these problems. Thus, the political unrest in the colonies which might have been controlled by compromise had the English leadership been able to understand it and been more creative, was turned to revolt by coercion.
Another English “school” of historical thought that influenced some American historians was the Namier school. It is named after British historian Lewis Namier, one of the first historians to write history by psychoanalyzing their subjects. In this case, Namier studied George III and concluded that he was not the strong, decisive (and evil) King as often taught in American schools. Rather he was a dutiful King who believed his duty was to protect the power of Parliament, which explains why he ignored the pleas from America to reign in what they viewed as a rogue Parliament. He sided with Parliament. Which meant that once the war started, George III believed he had to see it through to a victory. And, Namier adds, he was easily influenced by whoever happened to be advising him at any given time or whoever had his ear last. This, not malice, caused his perceived waffling at times on the colonial question. While the Namier school has lost most of its adherents, it is still influential on the fringes of historiography of the Revolution, especially among members of the Imperial school.
Then, in 1953 Edmund and Helen Morgan wrote The Stamp Act Crisis. With its publication we had now come full circle. We were back to David Ramsey. The Revolution was caused by the constitutional crisis brought on by the Stamp Act. The American reaction to the Stamp Act brought forth leaders who were able to articulate the colonial point of view. And, while the problems might have been solved, it required officials in London with better long-range vision and a clearer understanding of the colonial situation than were available.
The Ideological Approach
In the late 60’s Bernard Bailyn published The Ideological Origins of the American revolution. This new interpretation emphasized the role of ideas in causing the American Revolution. Caroline Robbins in her book on Eighteenth Century England found that a group of writers, most notably John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, rejected the prevailing Whig view that permeated the English government in the early 1700’s, and wrote about the natural rights and individual liberty ideas of John Locke. Bailyn discovered that their views, published in English newspapers as the Cato letters, were widely reprinted and circulated in the American colonies. What Trenchard and Gordon did was take Locke’s abstract ideas and make them more concrete. They emphasized that government power was always the great enemy of liberty. Bailyn asserted that the colonists read these pamphlets and essays and thus, the revolution was about ideas of liberty and individual freedom. He agrees partially with Bancroft that the British authorities were indeed conspiring to invade American liberties, but he adds the layer of a well-read populace influenced by the ideas of Locke, the Scottish Enlightenment and the Levelers to provide the main reason and impetus for the break with England.
So, there you have it.
Ø A constitutional crisis started by the Stamp Act
Ø A conscious assault on liberty by the crown
Ø Economic determinism
Ø Marxists class struggle
Ø England’s inability to cope with the problems of empire
Ø A wishy-washy King determined to defend Parliament
Ø A populace inspired by the libertarian ideas transmitted from Lilbourne to Locke to Trenchard to the colonists.
I leave it to you to choose which you think is most accurate.
After reading this and last month’s column try to figure out:
Which one (or combination) were you taught?
Which one (or combination) do you most agree with now?
Which one (or ones) should be taught in schools?
Your answers might make good pre-meeting lunch conversation. If time permits during the meeting, I can tell you which I teach. This past semester I had my students read what you all are reading and after we had finished the Revolution, I asked them to identify which I had just taught them. They were remarkably accurate in their answer.
*The sequel to this interpretation is Charles Beard’s Economic Interpretation of the U S Constitution in which he states that the upper classes staged a counter-revolution when they took control of the Philadelphia convention and wrote the Constitution. Beard believed this rolled back many of the gains made by the revolution. Several years ago, in this space, I wrote about Beard’s interpretation. While it, like the economic interpretations of the early 20th century, has been thoroughly criticized and disproven, it is still taught in many colleges and universities.
From the President - The new face book page for the Tampa Sons of the American Revolution is Tampa Sar. The password to add anything is American1776.
Please feel free to upload pictures or comments. Invite all your friends to look.
Wreaths Across America
The Tampa Chapter will once again sponsor the Wreaths Across America at the American Legion Post #5 Veterans Cemetery at 3810 W Kennedy Blvd. The formal ceremony is on Saturday, December 15, and will constitute our December Meeting. We will gather informally after the Ceremony to discuss any urgent business. Our Chapter Color Guard will, once again, present the Colors at this Ceremony. The C.A.R. has been invited to join us. The Ceremony starts at 12:00, but you should be there by 11:30.
For those of you not familiar with Wreaths Across America, please go to wreathsacrossamerica.org and learn their story.
Attached is the 2018 WAA wreath sponsorship form. Use this form, write a check and mail it in, or go to their website, click on the sponsorship link and make your donation on-line, or you can bring a check to this meeting and we can mail them in as a group. The location code for the American Legion Post #5 Cemetery is FLAMLC. The group code for the Tampa Chapter is FL0127P. You can always designate any one of the hundreds of other Veterans Cemeteries participating in WAA. Just search their website for other locations. The donation must be in their hands no later than December 3 for your wreaths to be delivered to the cemetery of your choice.
Color Guard Activities & Opportunities
· October 30 – met Honor Flight Mission #34 at the Clearwater-
St. Petersburg Airport. Present were Pres John Goolsby, VP David Bryant, Bill Swain and Dick Young.
· November 10 – Marched in Veterans Day Parade at James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa. Also, in the Parade were the Fort Brooke Society of C.A.R. and the Desoto and Tampa Chapters of DAR. Present were (L-R) John Stewart (St Petersburg), Terry Doan, Dick Young, President John Goolsby, Bill Swain, Alan Bell (CG Commander) and VP David Bryant.
· December 15 - the Tampa Chapter will participate in the Presentation of the Colors and laying of the wreaths at the Wreaths Across America Ceremony at American Legion Post #5 on Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa. Everyone may participate, in uniform or not. Details will be discussed at this meeting.
· March 9 – Commemoration of Last Naval Battle on Merritt Island (this is a National SAR Event)
· March 30 – Commemoration of the Battle of Thomas Creek in Jacksonville
Dates for the next two meetings are below:
Dec. 15 Wreaths Across America Ceremony at American Legion Post #5
Jan. 5 Officer Installation at The Rusty Pelican
Other Dates of Interest
Dec 15 Wreaths Across America
Feb 2 Florida SAR Winter BOM & Rumbaugh Oration Contest
Feb 22 George Washington’s Birthday
Chapter Website—remember you can find information about the chapter and programs on the chapter website. http://www.tampasar.org/
One of the duties of the Chapter Chaplain is to send cards to our members that are sick. Another is to send a sympathy card to the family of a member who has passed away. If you know of anyone that should be the recipient of these cards please mention it to Chaplain Sessums or one of the other officers at our next meeting.
Chapter officers and committee chairman are encouraged to send any pertinent information they wish included in the newsletter to the editor.