Week 6 is already here! By now your children should be able to relate many of our Founding Fathers’ philosophies to the First Great Awakening, the Age of Enlightenment or both. Thomas Jefferson’s “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is directly relates to the Age of Enlightenment because he copies it directly from John Locke.
The relation between Locke’s political views and his view of happiness should be pretty clear from what has been said. Since God has given each person the desire to pursue happiness as a law of nature, the government should not try to interfere with an individual’s pursuit of happiness. Thus we have to give each person liberty: the freedom to live as he pleases, the freedom to experience his or her own kind of happiness so long as that freedom is compatible with the freedom of others to do likewise. Thus we derive the basic right of liberty from the right to pursue happiness. Even though Locke believed the path of virtue to be the “best bet” towards everlasting happiness, the government should not prescribe any particular path to happiness. First of all, it is impossible to compel virtue since it must be freely chosen by the individual. Furthermore, history has shown that attempts to impose happiness upon the people invariably result in profound unhappiness. Locke’s viewpoint here is prophetic when we look at the failure of 20th Century attempts to achieve utopia, whether through Fascism, Communism, or Nationalism. The Pursuit of Happiness
Declaration of Independence
For our Little Ones:
The Declaration of Independence is one of our three primary founding documents. The Declaration of Independence sets out the framework for what colonists believed was fair and right. “All men are created equal” was a reference to the colonists view that they were equal to citizens in England and that they should be treated fairly. Several leaders opposed this statement because they felt that all should include slaves. Unfortunately, slavery was allowed in America until the end of the Civil War. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are the other two founding documents. John Hancock was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence. He signed it right in the middle and very large. Later, General Gage was sent to find John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Paul Revere rode late that night calling out for them to hide.
Even after the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did–like John Adams– were considered radical. Things changed over the course of the next year, however, as Britain attempted to crush the rebels with all the force of its great army. In his message to Parliament in October 1775, King George III railed against the rebellious colonies and ordered the enlargement of the royal army and navy. News of his words reached America in January 1776, strengthening the radicals’ cause and leading many conservatives to abandon their hopes of reconciliation. That same month, the recent British immigrant Thomas Paine published “Common Sense,” in which he argued that independence was a “natural right” and the only possible course for the colonies; the pamphlet sold more than 150,000 copies in its first few weeks in publication.
In March 1776, North Carolina’s revolutionary convention became the first to vote in favor of independence; seven other colonies had followed suit by mid-May. On June 7, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence before the Continental Congress when it met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution and called a recess for several weeks. Before departing, however, the delegates also appointed a five-man committee–including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York–to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. That document would become known as the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson Drafts the Declaration of the Independence
Jefferson had earned a reputation as an eloquent voice for the patriotic cause after his 1774 publication of “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” and he was given the task of producing a draft of what would become the Declaration of Independence. As he wrote in 1823, the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught [sic]. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections….I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.”
As Jefferson drafted it, the Declaration of Independence was divided into five sections, including an introduction, a preamble, a body (divided into two sections) and a conclusion. In general terms, the introduction effectively stated that seeking independence from Britain had become “necessary” for the colonies. While the body of the document outlined a list of grievances against the British crown, the preamble includes its most famous passage: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The Vote for Independence
The Continental Congress reconvened on July 1, and the following day 12 of the 13 colonies adopted Lee’s resolution for independence. The process of consideration and revision of Jefferson’s declaration (including Adams’ and Franklin’s corrections) continued on July 3 and into the late morning of July 4, during which Congress deleted and revised some one-fifth of its text. The delegates made no changes to that key preamble, however, and the basic document remained Jefferson’s words. Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence later on July 4 (though most historians now accept that the document was not signed until August 2).
As the first formal statement by a nation’s people asserting their right to choose their own government, the Declaration of Independence became a significant landmark in the history of democracy. In addition to its importance in the fate of the fledgling American nation, it also exerted a tremendous influence outside the United States, most memorably in France during the French Revolution. Together with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence can be counted as one of the three essential founding documents of the United States government.
Washington Crosses the Delaware
History.com: During the American Revolution, Patriot General George Washington crosses the Delaware River with 5,400 troops, hoping to surprise a Hessian force celebrating Christmas at their winter quarters in Trenton, New Jersey. The unconventional attack came after several months of substantial defeats for Washington’s army that had resulted in the loss of New York City and other strategic points in the region.
At about 11 p.m. on Christmas, Washington’s army commenced its crossing of the half-frozen river at three locations. The 2,400 soldiers led by Washington successfully braved the icy and freezing river and reached the New Jersey side of the Delaware just before dawn. The other two divisions, made up of some 3,000 men and crucial artillery, failed to reach the meeting point at the appointed time.
At approximately 8 a.m. on the morning of December 26, Washington’s remaining force, separated into two columns, reached the outskirts of Trenton and descended on the unsuspecting Hessians. Trenton’s 1,400 Hessian defenders were groggy from the previous evening’s festivities and underestimated the Patriot threat after months of decisive British victories throughout New York. Washington’s men quickly overwhelmed the Germans’ defenses, and by 9:30 a.m. the town was surrounded. Although several hundred Hessians escaped, nearly 1,000 were captured at the cost of only four American lives. However, because most of Washington’s army had failed to cross the Delaware, he was without adequate artillery or men and was forced to withdraw from the town.
The victory was not particularly significant from a strategic point of view, but news of Washington’s initiative raised the spirits of the American colonists, who previously feared that the Continental Army was incapable of victory.
Cavaet: this isn’t my favorite video but the others sprinkled profanities throughout. You might consider viewing alternatives with your children.
Battle of Yorktown
Pleading illness, Cornwallis did not attend the formal surrender ceremony, held on October 19. Instead, his second in command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders.
Although the war persisted on the high seas and in other theaters, the Patriot victory at Yorktown ended fighting in the American colonies. Peace negotiations began in 1782, and on September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation after eight years of war.