Slavery and Neglect

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/13/67/84/136784d102341a62af4020974c6c561a.jpgIn a previous post, I mentioned that the Reverend Jonas Clarke from Lexington probably did more to prepare his people for the eventualities of April 19th, 1775 than any other. Not that he was alone. He absolutely wasn’t. The message of liberty and throwing off the chains of slavery was a message preached from the majority of pulpits in 1775. I’ve also read that, if we didn’t have the writings of the founding fathers, but we had the writings of Clarke, we’d know everything we need to know about the reasons for the Revolution.

I’m reading The History of the Town of Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1868, by Charles Hudson. It’s an amazing read. I won’t highlight a book that old but I have sticky-tagged almost every page.

Hudson gives us the text of many of the town’s resolutions, all penned by Rev. Clarke. In 1772, a measure was afoot to disconnect the Judges in the Colonies from the people by granting their salaries directly from Parliament. In a resolution of January, 1772, the patriarchs of Lexington were responded. This is from that text:

“That thus, whether successful or not, succeeding generations might know that we understood our rights and liberties, and were neither afraid nor ashamed to assert and maintain them; and that we ourselves may have at least this consolation in our chains, that it was not through our neglect that this people were enslaved.”

And, a week or so ago, in the segment on Robert Munroe, we read this: “Two other descendants of his enlisted from a neighboring city during the Rebellion, and there were probably others who followed their example. Some have predicted that this country will degenerate through a lack of interest in her welfare; but I believe that we shall always have men in time of need of the spirit of Robert Munroe, who will spring to the front, and bravely defend what the fathers won.” (Oct. 12, 1857)

Neglect. The Lexington Patriots were relying on their posterity to make sure slavery did not come upon them by neglect.

Whilst I was reading “April Morning”

I’ve always been hesitant to read history.  Not because I don’t love history.  I do.  And historical fiction is such a pleasant way to learn history.  But with some history – that which is awash in politics – how can you be sure that what you’re reading is accurate.  I think the best way is to get down to original sources.  But unless the author you are reading used original sources in his research, then you never know what you’re going to get.

April MorningIn an effort to immerse myself in the 18th Century, I’ve been reading what I can get my hands on.  On of those books is April Morning by Howard Fast (1961)

Last night, I came upon this:

This is a conversation between the main character’s father, Moses, and the Reverend Clarke.

“They were here tonight.”   (The Reverend speaking)
“Who?”
“Sam Adams and John Hancock.”
“Oh, no,” Father said. “Now what in heaven’s name were they doing here?”
The Reverend shrugged, the gesture saying better than words that these were two men with their own ways.
“Where were they?”
“At my house.”
“And now?”
“I didn’t want them here,” the Reverend said bitterly. “Would you want them here, Moses?”
“We got our troubles here.”
“So it seemed to me. I can’t understand any more how this started and the way it is building up. Who chose tonight? Ourselves? The devil? The British? No, I didn’t want them here, and I told them to go to Burlington–”
“They left?”
“About an hour ago, Moses. They have their problems and we have ours.”

I promptly closed the book and I’m not sure I’ll keep reading.  There is so much wrong with this section. I’ll just point out a few.

  • It suggests a disdain by the Reverend Clarke for Adams and Hancock, for their cause.  This could not be further from the truth.  It is said of Clarke that, if we had no writings from the Founding Fathers, but had his sermons, we would know the causes of the Revolution
  • It suggests that Adams and Hancock being at Clarke’s house was unusual.  It wasn’t.  It was a safe place out of the city.  They were there often.  Hancock had practically grown up in that house.
  • It suggests that Clarke was clueless about what was happening around him.  Again, he’d prepared Lexington so well for this night that there was no better place for the events that followed.
  • And probably the biggest problem with this “story” is that it left out Paul Revere entirely.  He arrived at the Clarke house at midnight, urging Hancock and Adams to get to safety ahead of the Redcoat Army.  And, after Revere was captured and then released, he returned to the house, found the two leaders still there.  At that point, they were convinced to leave.

So, if Fast got this wrong, how much other stuff is wrong that I won’t recognize?  How much will the unsuspecting reader take in and assume is fact?  How do we find books we can trust?

Well, I hope mine will be trustworthy.  There will be fiction wrapped around fact in my books.  There has to be.  But I will do my best to present the fiction as reliable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

 

Harry Gould – Concord

9C Harry GouldMistakes happen.  This card is wrong.

On the morning of April 19th, Harry Gould was just eighteen. However,  he was not from Lexington, but from Concord.  And he didn’t muster on Lexington Green but in Concord.

History reports that Harry was “panic struck at the first sound of the British drums.”  We also know that, as the Redcoat Army approached Concord, the early morning sun glinted ominously on the British Bayonets.

As a side note, the movie “April Morning” does an amazing job of portraying the sound of the drums.  I had never given the noise much thought, thinking that the whole music-to-make-war-by thing was rather silly.  Then I watched that movie.  The sound of the drums was overwhelmingly loud.  Scary loud.  I can imagine this young man being terrified by the sound.

Let’s also remember that blood had already been shed that morning.  The Concord Militia and those gathered there knew that things had gone south in Lexington.  They were likely still hoping to not have further bloodshed, but they also were aware that this might be impossible now.

So, as they watched the eight hundred Redcoat soldiers approach, the sights and sounds incredibly frightful, thirty-two year old Reverend William Emerson (Grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson) moved quietly among the American soldiers, encouraging them.  Like his counterpart in Lexington, Reverend Jonas Clarke, he had been preparing his congregation for this day.  They had taught them about Liberty and Tyranny and the just cause of standing in the face of evil.

“Stand your ground, Harry, your cause is just and God will bless you,” Emerson told him.

They stood their ground.  Their cause was just.  And God did bless them.