Ask Not For Whom the Liberty Bell Tolls…
…It really does toll for Thee
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By Eric Nilsson
ETP Member since 2008 and Lamplighter Newsletter Layout Designer
On 4 July 1776 the Liberty Bell did not peal, nor did thousands throng Independence Hall to celebrate the signing. That would happen on 8 July 1776. John Hancock, presiding over the 2nd Continental Congress, did not sign the original, nor did Charles Thomson, the Congress’ Secretary; these names were added on a separate sheet of paper and everything was sent to the printer on the evening of 4 July. There were between 100 and 200 copies printed in the typescript of the time, to be read to citizens throughout the colonies. The first reading was on 8 July by Colonel John Nixon at the State House yard in Philadelphia and the Bell rang loud.
In 1776, the population of the colonies was about 2.5 million; this did not include slaves, the majority of whom were in the southern colonies. In addition, the population was larger in the middle colonies: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, De-laware, and Maryland than in the other regions (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia). Slaves and indentured servants constituted the largest portion of unskilled labor throughout the colonies.
New England states did not have good soil for agriculture, but they had abundant forests and, being close to the sea, a trade in fish. For this reason, New England colonies became known for ship building and fishing. The middle colonies became known for commerce, with New York (Manhattan) and Philadelphia the two major commercial hubs. The southern colonies produced cotton, tobacco, and rice. These were traded either in England, the West Indies (another English colony), or with other countries. Because English companies lost money when the colonies traded to foreigners, they resorted to Par-liament to regain advantage.
Why did the colonies declare independence from a somewhat benevolent kingdom? In large part, the freedoms available to the English were not as readily available to colonists. In addition, businesses could only trade with England or face severe penalties. Monopolistic practices, a cause of the Boston Tea Party protest, prompted businesses to rally against the King’s interference in the commerce of the colonies. The colonies also protested high taxes without having representatives in the English Parliament. While England after the French and Indian Wars gained territory from the Atlantic to Michigan, it restricted land use between the Alleghenies, Florida, the Mississippi, and Quebec to Indians. These constraints proved to be too much for the colonists, especially as the population grew by leaps and bounds.
These events took place over decades, festering in the minds of the wealthy colonists and businessmen until 1775.
Although colonial Minutemen engaged the British on 19 April 1775 and King George III declared the colonies in rebellion., as was typical of the time the King’s declaration did not reach American shores for months and, when it did, it took as many months to be disseminated throughout the colonies. It took that long for the colonial legislatures to act and send representatives to the colonial capitol in Philadelphia. As England’s forces were massing to quell the rebellious colonies, the various representatives voted first on Richard Henry Lee’s resolution, then on Thomas Jefferson’s resolution, the text of which later became the Declaration of Independence.
On July 4, as we celebrate America’s breaking of its bonds with England, take time to appreciate an age where the “shot heard round the world” sped as a somnolent sloth. Pause and consider what was sacrificed so that, however bad things may seem, today’s events could occur on a free soil, enacted by free Americans.
The Declaration of Independence
America’s Colonial Period, by Carole E, Scott
About Colonial American Economics, by Edwin Thomas
Early American Colonial Life: Politics and Economics. by Greg D. Feldmeth
Chapter 2: The Colonial Period http://usinfo.org/oah/ch2.htm
Chapter 3: The Road to Independence http://usinfo.org/oah/ch3.htm
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