Friday, June 29, 2012

The Declaration of Independence and the Towns of Independence

Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence aloud on Independence Day? 

Reading this document on that day can make you rethink what it meant for an 18th century citizen to call a king a tyrant, and choose to stand not just for independence but for democracy. 

The Declaration is about much more than only protesting taxation without representation. It is a short but very strong statement about the rights of man and the responsibility of those who govern.

The Declaration of Independence (

If you've never read the Declaration of Independence aloud, let this 4th of July be different. It won't take long and what you will find probably will surprise and maybe even shock you.
Your own copy of the Declaration of Independence
Just click here for a printer friendly version (courtesy of the National Archives) or scroll down to the bottom of this blog.

The original draft
To see the original rough or "fair" draft of the Declaration as written in Thomas Jefferson's own hand, click here.

Quick facts about the Declaration 
• 56 people signed the Declaration (see full list at bottom of blog)
• The 2nd Continental Congress first voted for independence on July 2, 1776.
• The Declaration was not completely corrected and approved until July 4, 1776.
• The first printing was made late the same day it was voted on.
• The Declaration was first publicly posted and read aloud throughout the colonies on July 5, including distribution to the Continental Army.
• General Washington read the Declaration aloud to his troops on July 9.
• The first printed copy of the Declaration is called the Dunlap Broadside after the Philadelphia printer who made the first copies. 26 copies still exist. 
• Though we know it as a declaration of independence, to the King it was a formal declaration of war.
• Signing the Declaration was an act of treason and punishable by death.

For more facts about the Declaration, visit this link to the National Archives.

How many cities are named after Independence?

It turns out, quite a few!
We think we've created a totally complete list. (Thank you, Rand McNally maps.)  If we've missed your town, let us know so we can add it.

Cities and towns named Independence: 
East Independence, Missouri
Independence, Alabama
Independence, California
Independence, Indiana
Independence, Illinois
Independence, Iowa
Independence, Kansas
Independence, Kentucky
Independence, Louisiana
Independence, Michigan
Independence, Minnesota (West of Duluth)
Independence, Minnesota (West of St. Paul)
Independence, Mississippi
Independence, Missouri
Independence, New Jersey
Independence, New York
Independence, Ohio
Independence, Oklahoma
Independence, Oregon
Independence, Pennsylvania
Independence, Tenessee
Independence, Texas
Independence, Virginia
Independence, West Virginia

Independence, Wisconsin
Independence Corner, New Jersey
Independence Hill, Indiana
Mount Independence, Pennsylvania
Point Independence,  Massachusetts
West Independence, Ohio

Cities and towns named after George Washington:

George Washington, c. 1782. Bio courtesy of
George Washington, Grant Co., Washington
George Washington Village, Virginia
Georgetown, Delaware
Georgetown, Georgia
Georgetown, Illinois
Georgetown, Indiana
Georgetown, Kentucky
Georgetown, Massachusetts
Georgetown, Michigan
Georgetown, Ohio
Georgetown, Pennsylvania
Georgetown, South Carolina
Georgetown, Texas
Port Washington, New York
Port Washington, Wisconsin
Washington, Connecticut
Washington DC
Washington, Illinois
Washington, Indiana
Washington, Iowa
Washington, Kansas
Washington,  Massachusetts
Washington Township, Michigan
Washington, Missouri
Washington, New Hampshire
Washington, New Jersey
Washington, North Carolina
Washington, Pennsylvania
Washington, Ohio
Washington Court House, Ohio
Washington Crossing, NJ
Washington's Crossing, Pennsylvania
Washington Terrace, Utah
Washingtonville, New York
Washingtonville, Pennsylvania
Washington Center, Indiana
Washington Center, Missouri
Washington Camp, Arizona
Washington Corner, Virginia
Washington Corners, New Jersey
Washington Township, New Jersey

A full transcript of the Declaration of Independence:
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable 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, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signers and the states they represent:
   John Hancock
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton
  Samuel Chase
  William Paca
  Thomas Stone
  Charles Carroll of Carrollton
  George Wythe
  Richard Henry Lee
  Thomas Jefferson
  Benjamin Harrison
  Thomas Nelson, Jr.
  Francis Lightfoot Lee
  Carter Braxton
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   Matthew Thornton
   William Whipple
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott

Let it fly!  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Flag of West Virginia

The flag of West Virginia, the 35th state
On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state in the Union. A free state, West Virginia was one of several new states created prior to the Civil War with a hope to balancing Congress and thus prevent a war over slavery.

The design of the West Virginia state flag was passed in the spring of 1929. The flag has a field of white surrounded by a wide, blue border. Centered in the middle of the white field is a version of the state seal designed especially for the flag. It contains several classical elements including two banners, a garland , a baroque style implied shield, the state motto, and a symbolic depiction of the state's roots and early industry. 

The West Virginia seal as designed for its flag.
 The red banner at the top holds the state's name: State of West Virginia. Below this is a lush, green and red garland of rhododendron, the state flower. Inside this garland is a baroque style shield in the color gold. This circlet  includes the official state seal as designed for the flag along with the state motto.

The state motto is Montani Semper Liberi, Latin for "mountaineers are always free." The motto, also in a red banner, is centered inside the bottom of the gold circlet. Above this, the seal contains a picture of two men, one is a farmer and the other is a miner. Between them is a large rock with the date of West Virginia's statehood, June 20, 1863.

The Liberty cap from American and French revolutions.
Below the miner, farmer and great rock are two crossed rifles. At the juncture sits a red Liberty cap.

The Liberty cap or Phrygian cap dates to ancient Rome and is associated with the hats worn by freed slaves.

Let it fly!

Blackwater Falls in Beartown State Park, Pocahontas County, West Virginia. It doesn't get more magical than this.

The Flags of New Hampshire and Virginia

The Liberty Tree
New Hampshire and Virginia are the 9th and 10th states to join the Union. Both gained statehood during the month of June. New Hampshire's statehood date is June 21, 1788. Virginia arrived 4 days later on June 25, 1788.

New Hampshire's state flag
The flag of New Hampshire is a clean and classic design employing a field of blue with the state seal in the middle surrounded by the legend, "Seal of the State of New Hampshire 1776." The legend is further encircled by a ring of laurel leaves and nine stars to represent New Hampshire's standing as the 9th of the original 13 colonies.

The design was adopted in 1909 and has had but a single change since which was to clarify the design of the seal.
The flag of Virginia, like New Hampshire's flag, consists of a blue field with the official seal in the center. Specifically, it includes Virginia's coat of arms from the Continental Convention of 1776. George Mason and Thomas Jefferson's law professor, George Wythe, designed the seal.

Flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia
This coat of arms is both arresting and highly symbolic as it features Virtue, portrayed as "an Amazon" in classical Greek garb of helmet and toga. Virtue holds a spear in one hand, its point resting on the ground; and a sword in the other, pointing up. Virtue, symbolizing Virginia, has its foot resting on the seemingly dead figure of a man representing tyranny. A crown is on the ground beside the fallen tyrant. The legend reads: Sic Semper Tyrannis ("Thus always to tyrants" i.e., "death to tyrants").

Where have I heard that phrase before?
"Sic semper tyrannis" is generally attributed to Brutus after Caesar's stabbing. John Wilkes Booth uttered the phrase after shooting President Lincoln.

The First Flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Formally, Virginia is a commonwealth rather than a state, a designation also used by Kentucky, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia, however, was not adopted until after Virginia seceded from the Union. In preparing for the upcoming civil war, the Virginia Convention of 1861 (the Secession Convention) first voted to repeal its ratification of the US Constitution (April 17, 1861) making it an independent state and free to adopt another constitution, that of the Confederacy. Less than a fortnight later, it voted in its official flag (April 30, 1861).

George Wyte
Changes to Virginia's flag, like New Hampshire's flag, have been minimal. They include a white fringe added to the fly in 1930, and an ornamental border of Virginia Creeper that was added around the seal in 1931. Colors were codified in 1949.

The Great Minds Link
George Wyte not only taught law to Jefferson but also Henry Clay and James Monroe. To find out more about this man, the first law professor in America, go to this link:
George Mason

Who was George Mason? 
If George Wyte was our first law professor, George Mason was the mastermind behind both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Mason is the framer of the forerunner to those documents, the Virginia Declaration of Rights. To read this document, go to this link:

The Civil Rights Act: Getting It Right

On June 19, 1964, the US Civil Rights Act is approved by the Senate, 73 to 27. It endured an 83-day filibuster. Nine of those days superceded a call for closure on the subject. On July 2, 1964, it becomes law.

Here is President Johnson's announcement of the bill's passage on television:

Here is a link to the original New York Times article and a transcript.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Bill begins: 
To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "Civil Rights Act of 1964".

Pres. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act. Dr. ML King is right bend him. (courtesy LBJ Library, University of Texas)

Let it fly!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Declaration of Independence

Vintage postcard of signing the Declaration
Words heard round the world.
If you've never read the entire Declaration of Independence, you really should. It doesn't take long. It's a short statement of purpose and then a list, a mighty list, of how King George abused his power.

That's it. That's our national mission statement. The Founding Fathers argue – using ethics and reason – that people have a right to be governed fairly and that when governments abuse that right, it is inevitable and reasonable for the people to demand new and accountable government.

What constitutes abuse of power? It was not just taxation without representation.

It is about disbanding local courts, about installing soldiers in people's homes during a time of peace.

It is about kidnapping sailors and forcing them to join the King's navy.

There are two pages of itemized abuse. It's a good read and you can check it out here.

Restoring the Declaration
Keeping it alive is our responsibility. Keeping it in physical condition belongs to the National Archives. Check out this video about restoring the Declaration of Independence.
A copy of the Declaration with small flag.
A hand-written copy 
by Mr. Jefferson
Here is a link to an early hand-written draft of the Declaration, written in Jefferson's own hand. It is part of the collection at Princeton University. It includes a link to a typed, 7 page version of the document which is easier to read and still includes all the notes from the original.
You don't have to read it. You can listen!
To hear the annual reading aloud of this document by the NPR staff of Morning Edition. Don't want to read it aloud yourself? think it might be kinda dull? Fair enough. But check this out. It might change your mind about those words heard round the world.
Your own copy of  
The Declaration of Independence is a click away.

For ideas about how to decorate with bunting or how to make a flag bouquet, read Decorating for July 4: Here Come the Cockades!

Bunting and more bunting!
To find find out how to raise and lower the flag correctly, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Let It Fly!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Flag Day: A History

Vintage post card with patriotic theme (web archive)
It is Philadelphia in the year 1777. The 2nd Continental Congress is meeting every day including this, the Saturday of June 14.

The business of the day includes everything from the suspension of a Massachusetts sea captain "of doubtful character," to the provisioning of New York state with 2,000 bushels of salt as they have been severely shorted from the war and the closing of her harbors.

Other business includes new duties for Major General Benedict Arnold and Captain John Paul Jones. Arnold is given command of "all the [new] militia now at Bristol" and along the Hudson River to the east of Philadelphia. Captain Jones is made commander of the warship Ranger.

The flag, Betsy Ross, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin  (web archive)

Within the day's debate, discussion, and decisions is a simple, 31-word sentence that codifies the symbol of this new nation. It is the description of her flag:

Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address (photo:
"With malice toward none; with charity 
for all..."
Although the national flag is created during the Revolution, it is not until the Civil War had torn this nation apart that the idea of celebrating the flag as a symbol of unity is born. Needless to say, the idea is not immediately popular in the American South.

The first Flag Day parade was ... where?
Many places lay claim to the first Flag Day parade. Its history is a story of pride, of celebration – and of patience!

• In 1861, George Morris of Hartford, CT organizes a Flag Day parade in June. This is the first year of the Civil War. Fort Sumter, its first battle, is as recent as April 12.

(photo: National Flag Day Foundation)
• In 1885, Bernard Cigrand organizes a Flag Day in Wisconsin. In 1894, Cigrand organizes another in Chicago. Reports indicate that over 300.000 children participated in parades throughout the city's parks. Cigrand claimed he gave over 2,000 speeches on creating a national holiday to celebrate the flag. He is the founder of the American Flag Day Association and later became a president of the National Flag Day Society. Needless to say, Cigrand is regarded by many as the father of Flag Day. 

Before Flag Day became a national holiday, however, there were several notable flag celebrations.

 • In 1887, 100 years after that first June 14, Congress orders the flag to be flown from all public buildings throughout the nation ( 

Seminal versions of the flag from our history.
• In 1907, the Elks make it an annual tradition to fly the flag on June 14.

• In 1909, Fairfield, WA has its first Flag Day parade. This and Morris' Hartford, CT parade are the oldest Flag Day parades recorded and though both are long running, neither has been continuous. 

• In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson makes Flag Day an official "day" which is not at all the same thing as being a national holiday. The date coincides with American involvement in World War I. In 1914, however, the President had declared the first Mother's Day as a time to fly the flag.

Flag Day, June, c. 1914 (Library of Congress)
• In 1949, President Harry Truman makes Flag Day an official national holiday. Although Cigrand has passed away, William Kerr, a colleague of Cigrand's and the founder of the National Flag Day Society (the National Flag Day Foundation) is in attendance at the president's invitation.

• In 1950, Appleton, WI hosts its first Flag Day parade, a parade which has been running continuously!

• In 1952, Quincy, MA began its parade which also has been held every year ever since!

But the biggest parade (according to online sources), a parade claiming to draw as many as 50,000 people in a city with a population of about that same number, is the Troy, NY Flag Day parade

These pictures are from 2012 Flag Day parades and one very special one from Troy, NY's 2011 Flag Day parade.

Flag Day parade, Troy, NY (TimesUnion©, 2012)
Flag Day parade, NYC (prleap©, 2012)
Flag Day parade, Palymyra, MO (PalmyraSpectator©, 2012)
Let it fly!
Uncle Sam in Troy, NY, his birthplace (Mikecny's©, 2011)