An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links
to Mythologies, Fairy Tales & Folklore,
Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.


Sections include:

TODAY'S ISSUES [Added 2012]

The Declaration of Independence

...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....
For a photograph of the full text of the Declaration of Independence,
the names of all fifty-six signers,
and the 15 American states they represented, see:

The Five Founding FathersWho Drafted the Declaration of Independence

The process of drafting the Declaration of Independence began with Richard Henry Lee of Virginia [scroll down to see his signature among 6 other Virginians on the final document]:
...In 1775 he wrote the second address of Congress to the people of Great Britain; and from his seat in that body, in June, 1776, he offered the famous resolution which declared the English-American colonies to be "free and independent States." It is said that his speech on that occasion was a brilliant display of eloquence....
Lee's contribution was soon followed by the painstaking work of five men: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston:
It was very important to have Lee's resolution for independence, offered June 7, 1776, prefaced by a preamble that should clearly declare the causes which impelled the representatives of the people to adopt it. To avoid loss of time, a committee was appointed (June 11) to prepare such declaration. The committee was composed of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Mr. Lee having been called home before the appointment of the committee, Mr. Jefferson was put in his place. He was requested by the committee, after discussing the topics, to make a draft of a declaration of independence. It was discussed in committee, amended very slightly, and finally reported. Debates upon it were long and animated. There was some opposition to voting for independence at all, and it was considerably amended. It was evident from the beginning that a majority of the colonies would vote for independence (the vote in Congress was by colonies), but it was important that the vote should be unanimous....

On Thursday, July 4, 1776, agreeable to the order of the day, Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to consider the declaration, President John Hancock in the chair. The secretary, Benjamin Harrison, reported that the committee had agreed upon a declaration, which was read and adopted....
If you are interested in comparing Thomas Jefferson's "original Rough draught" with the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, this link will take you to that "draught."

Detail of American Signatories of the Declaration of Independence based on John Trumbull
[7/4/12: Dead link -- see below for full version]:
This intriguing link reveals that Thomas Jefferson changed the word 'subjects' to 'citizens' in the Declaration of Independence.  The story is by Marc Kaufman, Washington Post Staff Writer, from Saturday, July 3, 2010. It is an engrossing technological detective story.  Here is how it opens:
"Subjects." That's what Thomas Jefferson first wrote in an early draft of the Declaration of Independence to describe the people of the 13 colonies. But in a moment when history took a sharp turn, Jefferson sought quite methodically to expunge the word, to wipe it out of existence and write over it. Many words were crossed out and replaced in the draft, but only one was obliterated.

Over the smudge, Jefferson then wrote the word "citizens." No longer subjects to the crown, the colonists became something different: a people whose allegiance was to one another, not to a faraway monarch. Scholars of the revolution have long speculated about the "citizens" smear -- wondering whether the erased word was "patriots" or "residents" -- but now the Library of Congress has determined that the change was far more dramatic.

Using a modified version of the kind of spectral imaging technology developed for the military and for monitoring agriculture, research scientists teased apart the mystery and reconstructed the word that Jefferson banished in 1776. "Seldom can we re-create a moment in history in such a dramatic and living way," Library of Congress preservation director Dianne van der Reyden said at Friday's announcement of the discovery. "It's almost like we can see him write 'subjects' and then quickly decide that's not what he wanted to say at all, that he didn't even want a record of it," she said. "Really, it sends chills down the spine...."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  [7/4/12: Dead link -- see below]:
Note: this blog was posted on July 3, 2009. Please go to the original link (above) if you wish to read the often excellent comments from readers. The entire blog itself has been copied below:
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence, but it’s not often that we hear about what they endured because of their mutual pledge to stand up for our Independence from Britain.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary War, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Signatures of  seven men from Virginia who signed the Declaration of Independence

Carter Braxton of Virginia [see his signature above], a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and his properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his Headquarters. The owner quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart of New Jersey was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Lewis Morris and Philip Livingston suffered similar fates.

What kind of sacrifices do we see from those in our present Congress and Senate? They rarely take the time to read legislation before they vote on it, because after all…that would mean they couldn’t deny that they knew about the tax breaks they gave their favorite campaign contributor. Many of them line their pockets with money from special interest groups such as credit card companies, mortgage companies, or big oil companies. Some use taxpayer money so they can go on boondoggle trips with their families or they “investigate” golf courses all over the world.

How often does our Congress actually work?  ….

Many citizens of today take their liberties for granted and for some reason, are not opposed to having their rights and freedoms taken away from them, as long as it’s being taken away from the political party they are affiliated with. Isn’t it about time we start holding our elected officials accountable for their actions…whether they be Republican, Democrat or Independent?

“We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
-Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Benjamin Franklin
By Michael J. Deas
Here are two excerpts from this entry-level site on Ben Franklin:
Benjamin Franklin stands tall among a small group of men we call our Founding Fathers. Ben used his diplomacy skills to serve his fellow countrymen. His role in the American Revolution was not played out on the battlefields like George Washington, but rather in the halls and staterooms of governments. His clear vision of the way things should be, and his skill in both writing and negotiating, helped him to shape the future of the United States of America.

Ben stands alone as the only person to have signed all four of the documents which helped to create the United States: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance, Amity, and Commerce with France (1778), the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the United States (1782), and the Constitution (1787). He actually helped to write parts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. No other individual was more involved in the birth of our nation....

For longer, more detailed information on Franklin's life, including many illustrations, see:
This site provides brief, but excellent biographies of 11 of the Founding Fathers: George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, George Mason, Gouverneur Morris, Roger Sherman, James Wilson, and Edmund Randolph.  The bios are well written with a sharp eye for details.  Each one covers the man's highest political office, other accomplishments, politics, closest crony, and several quotes.  About James Wilson, for example, here's a passage on his politics which gives a surprising perspective on the other men as well:
...He was a strong supporter of a republican form of government in which the people choose the representatives in government, and was in favor of the “power” of the people during a time period when many of the political visionaries did not believe in democracy.  The democracy that we know today did not really take shape until the 1820’s with the advent of Andrew Jackson.  Wilson felt that people and their individual rights took priority over those of property rights, and was opposed to slavery....
This site offers useful, often quite lengthy (and illustrated) biographies of 103 of the Founding Fathers, divided into three sections, depending up which documents they signed: Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and/or U.S. Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson
(See link directly below)
[Added 4 July 2012]: This link will take you to a video of PBS's Bill Moyers' discussion of Thomas Jefferson's racist betrayal of blacks. Here is how it opens:
In this video essay, Bill reflects on the origins and lessons of Independence Day. We should remember, he says, that behind this Fourth of July holiday are human beings, like Thomas Jefferson, who were as flawed and conflicted as they were inspired, who espoused great humanistic ideals while behaving with reprehensible racial discrimination. That conflict — between what we know and how we live — is still a struggle in contemporary politics and society....

The 39 Signers of the U.S. Constitution
For a numbered chart identifying each man, see:

Although this "Congress for Kids" site is designed for children (and offers projects geared to age-appropriate interest-levels -- like crossword puzzles, etc), it's actually an engaging, brief introduction to material that's useful for all ages, especially if you just want a quick overview. Here are some excerpts relating to how the Constitution was written:
...the Constitution was drafted in fewer than one hundred working days in secret, behind locked doors that were guarded by sentries....

...Before the Constitutional Convention began, a rules committee decided how the process would work. No matter how many delegates a state sent, each state was given only one vote. If a state sent more than one delegate, all delegates had to come to an agreement about their state's one vote. Any delegate could voice an opinion. All proceedings would be kept secret until the Constitutional Convention presented a finished Constitution....
In this continuing page from the above site, here are more excerpts:
Did you know the Constitution was written in the same Pennsylvania State House where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where George Washington received his commission as Commander of the Continental Army?....

...The Constitutional Convention met for 4 months. The 55 delegates were seldom all together at once because the weather was bad and travel was difficult. About 35 delegates were present during the process of writing the Constitution....
In another continuing page from the above children's site is information on the "Great Compromise," which gave us our dual legislature, the Senate and House of Representatives:
Delegates to the Constitutional Convention came from different backgrounds and held different political views. For example, they argued about how many representatives each state should be allowed. The larger states favored the Virginia Plan. According to the Virginia Plan, each state would have a different number of representatives based on the state's population. The smaller states favored the New Jersey Plan. According to the New Jersey Plan, the number of representatives would be the same for each state.

A delegate from Connecticut, Roger Sherman, proposed a two-house legislature, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Senate would have an equal number of representatives from each state. This would satisfy the states with smaller populations. The House of Representatives would include one representative for each 30,000 individuals in a state. This pleased states with larger populations.

This two-house legislature plan worked for all states and became known as the Great Compromise.
Whether for teachers or students, this is an amazing collection of sites providing documents, biographies, letters, journals, treaties, and other data connected with the history of the U.S. Constitution. There are also activities, lesson plans, etc for teachers. One eye-opening link, for example, looks at the framers' conflicting opinions on the Constitution:  Another looks at papers by and for George Washington, including "a staggering 17,400 letters and documents" -- examples: letters Washington wrote to James Madison about the Constitution:
This is "Founding Documents," another mind-boggling collection of documents, primary sources, rough drafts, debates, letters, papers, scanned images of original pages, "History & Economics Related to Constitutional Matters," landmark court decisions, Supreme Court decisions, and so much more, all color-coded so you can select the format you want from major American collections. Nor is all this restricted to American documents alone.  There are also links to:
# HTML Version The Athenian Constitution, Aristotle (350 BC). Also see the site at MIT.
# HTML Version Text Version Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy.
# HTML Version Text Version Image Version Magna Carta.
"Journals of the Continental Congress." Here is how this site opens:
The First Continental Congress met from September 5 to October 26, 1774. The Second Continental Congress ran from May 10, 1775, to March 2, 1789. The Journals of the Continental Congress are the records of the daily proceedings of the Congress as kept by the office of its secretary, Charles Thomson. The Journals were printed contemporaneously in different editions and in several subsequent reprint editions. None of these editions, however, includes the "Secret Journals," confidential sections of the records, which were not published until 1821....
I naturally typed "Secret Journals" into the search-function and it came up with 100 hits. I'll leave it to you to do the same and explore, if you're so inclined <smile>.
I assumed that all the Founding Fathers' papers, diaries, etc had been published long ago.  That turns out not to be true, as is made clear by this fascinating article republished in the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Pressure's on to publish Founding Fathers' papers" by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum of The Washington Post, December 15, 2007.


John Locke
"Democracy and the Origins of the U.S. Constitution": this article is an overview of the history of democracy, starting with ancient Athens and then looking at four other sources, including the Magna Carta of 1215 AD; the Pilgrims' Mayflower Compact of 1620; the English Bill of Rights of 1688; and John Locke (1632-1704).  Below is a passage on Locke:
No other individual influenced the author of the Declaration of Independence more than Unitarian John Locke (1632-1704). He was a British philosopher who rejected the idea that Kings had a divine right to rule. Instead, Locke argued that people are the source of power, not kings.

Locke argued that people are born with certain "natural" or "inalienable" rights. These include the right to "life, liberty and property." Government did not give people these rights; rather they are born with them and as such, no government can take them away.

According to Locke, people formed governments to protect their rights, which he called a "social contract." People agreed to obey the government and in return, government had the responsibility to protect peoples' natural rights.

Locke also argued that if the government failed to protect our natural rights, then the people had the right to replace the government. Locke's ideas became very influential in developing democratic ideas. Thomas Jefferson, in writing the Declaration of Independence, drew heavily from the writings of John Locke....

As will be seen below, however, Jefferson disagreed with Locke about property as a natural right, replacing it in the Declaration of Independence with "the pursuit of happiness." Others, of course, embraced it, at least in personal decision-making.  It should be noted that Locke's concept of owning property as a "natural right" is "natural" only in Western philosophy.  In the philosophies of our ancestral, nomadic, gatherer-hunter peoples, the idea that any human could "own" land was incomprehensible, for they knew land to be sacred, meant to be shared by all, like light, air, water, and food.  Therefore, to call property ownership a natural right, in the sense of an absolute principle, is incorrect.  Property rights are ours only because most of us come from a long line of city-dwellers who could not have created city-states like Athens, along with trade-networks of farflung urban centers, without the ownership of property and its accompanying accumulation of wealth and power. Thus, far from being a "natural right," we might term it simply an agri-urban opportunity, derived from our ancestors' building of cities surrounded by agricultural fields, whose produce supported each hub.

Thomas Paine

In addition to Thomas Jefferson, other Founding Fathers were also conflicted on this score -- Ben Franklin, for example, and Thomas Paine, who wanted a payment of 15 pounds sterling made to each resident who reached the age of 21 to compensate him or her for the loss of what the "property rights" of others now denied him.  Paine:

[15] There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it....

[22] Create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property.

[24] I have already established the principle, namely, that the earth, in its natural uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race; that in that state, every person would have been born to property; and that the system of landed property, by its inseparable connection with cultivation, and with what is called civilized life, has absorbed the property of all those whom it dispossessed, without providing, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss.
                                                                          --From Thomas Paine's Agrarian Justice.

[For a useful summary of Paine's views as laid out in Agrarian Justice, see:
[Updated 7/4/12 to Web Archive since original link is now broken]
To European immigrants, many of whom were not property owners in the Old World (only one in ten were landowners there, but nine out of ten in the New World), protecting their property rights in the New World could reasonably be viewed as a "natural" function of government, but not of nature.  The willing acceptance on the part of many, however, of Locke's argument that the right to property was a natural right, an inalienable right, unfortunately led to a false sense of entitlement. What we thereby lost was any awareness of the truly "natural rights" of peoples, animals, and plants already inhabiting the land we claimed.  Thus, in our arrogance, we slaughtered wild creatures at will; we herded native peoples onto reservations, stealing their land and water, massacring those who oppose us; we despoiled Africa, enslaving her peoples, making it legal to "own" them; we recklessly changed the course of rivers to suit our own needs; we hacked down forests until we had nothing left but vast dust bowls; and even now we are blindly poisoning our farmland with chemicals and wondering why so many new ailments are afflicting us.  The list of abuses in the name of "property rights" is endless.

So "property rights" remains a tricky concept, totally alien to any "natural right." We obviously cannot do away with them but what we need is to find a sensible balance between appropriate ownership -- in which one another's rights are respected -- and inappropriate ownership in which "have-nots" are oppressed and hounded by "haves" who possess the political power to do so.  In resisting local lawn ordinances, for example, those who lack resources feel harassed by those who consider their own property rights of greater value than the rights of their humblest citizens.  That is where the line cries out to be drawn -- the life, liberty, and property rights of the humblest, whether they are needy, elderly, or ill, must be respected and protected.

Finally, Locke's theological views are also the subject of much debate -- the passage below is greatly simplified but at least it gives a useful sense of ideas that were "in the air" when the U.S. Constitution was being written:

...I should be very clear here in regards to the Founding Fathers of America (Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, etc.): If one claims they were Deists on the basis of "God went away" and the radical French Enlightenment of Voltaire and the French Encyclopedists, the answer is clearly no. They clearly believed God was both present and active. They also clearly drew their moral beliefs from Christianity. Most/all clearly rejected the doctrines of the Trinity, Original Sin, predestination, etc. In other words it was often a rejection of Calvinism. (The Puritans) For the most part they would be rational theists or Unitarians....
[Added 3 July 2011]: This is an interesting, brief piece from last year's July 3, 2010 New York Times: "America’s Revolution: The Prequel," by Adrian Tinniswood. Here's an excerpt:
...It is a fact rarely discussed on either side of the Atlantic that American colonists played a crucial role in the English Civil War, the bitter struggle between King Charles I and Parliament that tore England apart in the 1640s. The English Revolution — and that is just what it was — can be interpreted in all kinds of ways: as a religious fight between pathologically earnest Puritans and the Catholic-leaning bishops of the Church of England; as an uprising by a nascent merchant class determined to throw off the shackles of medieval feudalism; as right-but-repulsive Roundheads bashing the wrong-but-romantic Cavaliers.

It was all those things. But it was also a battle against the arbitrary tyranny of the crown that prefigured America’s own struggle for independence. And hundreds of American colonists cared enough about that struggle to sail back across the vast Atlantic, to build a city upon a hill — not in the frightening, alien landscape of Massachusetts but in the familiar fields and townships of England....


Canassatego, the great Iroquois chief, advising the assembled colonial governors
on Iroquois concepts of unity in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1744.
Artwork by John Kahionhes Fadden (also see directly below for portal page)
This is "The Six Nations: Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth," a richly illustrated portal page for several carefully footnoted online books, including: Exemplar of Liberty, Native America and the Evolution of Democracy, 1990, by Donald A. Grinde, Jr., Professor and Chair of American Studies at the University of Buffalo, and Bruce E. Johansen, Professor of Communication and Native American Studies University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Here is how it opens:
The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois [1] Confederacy, call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House. Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations was five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations....
..This is Chapter 8 of the above book: "Images of native America in the writings of Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine."  It is scholarly and impressive in its documentation of Native American influences and social contacts with the Founding Fathers.  The material is little known, almost never taught in American schools, and really well worth reading in its entirety.  Here are a few excerpts from the first half of this chapter (FYI: the chapter runs only about 18-20 pages, including some large drawings; the rest of the space is taken up with detailed footnotes):
...By 1776, Iroquois imagery was used not only in treatymaking but also as a pervasive idiom in American society. A few weeks after Paine's use of Iroquois imagery, John Adams (Paine's fellow delegate from Massachusetts) would have dinner with several Caughnawaga Mohawk chiefs and their wives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. George Washington and his staff also were present. Washington introduced Adams to the Mohawks chiefs as one of the members "of the Grand Council Fire at Philadelphia" and Adams noted in a letter to his wife that the Mohawks were impressed with Washington's introduction. Although it can be argued that George Washington and the Continental Congress used American Indian rhetoric and imagery to explain to Native American people the nature of the new American government, such an argument does not explain how such rhetoric begins to occur in Robert Treat Paine's private correspondence to Non-Indians. Actually, the ideas and symbols of Native America became important facets in the formation of a new American identity.[4]....

Anyone who believes the United States was molded primarily in Europe's image should listen to Benjamin Franklin, who so much embodied the spirit of America in Europe that he came to be called a "savage as philosopher."[8]

    Whoever has traveled through the various parts of Europe, and observed how small is the proportion of the people in affluence or easy circumstances there, compared with those in poverty and misery; the few rich and haughty landlords, the multitude of poor, abject, rack-rented, tythe-paying tenants, and half-paid and half-starved laborers; and view here [in America] the happy mediocrity that so generally prevails throughout these States, where the cultivator works for himself, and supports his family in decent plenty, will, methinks, see the evident and great difference in our favor.[9]....
...Twenty two years after the Albany Plan had been formulated with Iroquois advice, the image of the American Indian held by founders such as Franklin, Jefferson and Paine was helping shape the ideas that kindled the American revolution. Within a month, Jefferson's Declaration of Independence would demand the same rights for the colonists that prominent Americans, as well as European savants, had seen illustrated in the native

Jefferson repeated the same sentiment to the Earl of Buchan: "Bless the almighty being who, in gathering together the waters of the heavens, divided the dry land of your hemisphere from the dry land of ours."[13] Americans had not only encountered a new vision of society in their experience with American Indians but they also developed new concepts about land ownership that were quite different from their European ancestors....

...While those who founded the United States carried plentiful European cultural baggage, their writings at the time show that they reached out for other examples: to European antiquity, especially, and to societies native to America. Memories of one seemed, according to common intellectual assumptions of the time, to reinforce the reality of the other. American Indian societies were consistently cited as living examples of a distant European Golden Age -- to some they seemed Greek, or Roman, Celtic, or even Jewish.

Too much government and law bred tyranny, Jefferson reasoned. When comparing the governments of France and Britain to those of the American Indians, Jefferson left no doubt which he favored:

    As for France, and England, with all their preeminence in science, the one is a den of robbers, and the other of pirates, as if science produces no better fruits than tyranny, murder, rapine and destitution of national morality. I would rather wish our country to be ignorant, honest and estimable as our neighboring savages. [35] ....
Not only was America distinct from Europe, but Britain, according to Franklin, had no right under natural law to claim land in the New World. To support his position, Franklin used an argument strikingly similar to that which he had often heard (or read) native Americans make at treaty councils as he started his diplomatic career in the 1750s. Franklin argued that the land belonged to its native inhabitants by natural right. The colonists could lay clam to portions of it by negotiating a transfer of ownership (by treaty), or by winning it in war. The mere claim of a European secular or religious sovereign was not enough....

Franklin's argument also was strikingly similar to that of Roger Williams a century and a half earlier. Franklin's argument was political and Williams' was religious when he stated that the Puritans' claim to land in the New World was invalid. Both invoked the Indians' title to America by natural right, and used this right as an example by which property rights should be governed....

Throughout his life, Jefferson frequently voiced respect for Native Americans. For example, in 1785 he wrote,

    I am safe in affirming that the proofs of genius given by the Indians place them on a level with the whites. . . . I have seen some thousands myself, and conversed much with them. . . . I believe the Indian to be in body and mind equal to the white man. [50] ....
Jefferson complained that traditional university curricula, based on European precedents, did not pay enough attention to the natural history and cultures of the Americas and Africa. When Jefferson designed a curriculum for the University of Virginia, he included traditional European subjects, and added courses in American Indian cultures and languages.[56] To Jefferson, control of educational content was just one more way in which British mercantile-imperialism sought to dominate (and often exterminate) native peoples, from Ireland, to Africa, to America, "wherever Anglo-mercantile cupidity can find a two-penny interest in deluging the world with human blood."[57]....

American Indians and their societies figured into conceptions of life, liberty, and happiness in the mind of Jefferson, who authored the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, and Franklin, who operated in many ways as Jefferson's revolutionary mentor. A major debate at the time resulted in the phrase "happiness" being substituted for "property," in which the two founders' description of American Indian societies played a provocative role.[60] Both sought to create a society that operated as much as possible on consensus and public opinion, while citing the same mechanisms in native societies. Both described Indians' passion for liberty while making it a patriotic rallying cry; they admired Indians' notions of happiness while seeking a definition that would suit the new nation....

The above excerpts come only from the first half of this chapter -- there is much, much more that's engrossing and eye-opening.  If you have the time, it's definitely worth exploring!


Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall:
[7/4/12: updated link as original one is broken]
In 1987, the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's powerful and probing intellect looked at the flawed history of the U.S. Constitution.  Excerpts from his speech:
...The focus of this celebration invites a complacent belief that the vision of those who debated and compromised in Philadelphia yielded the "more perfect Union" it is said we now enjoy.

I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever "fixed" at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite "The Constitution," they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.

For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution we need look no further than the first three words of the document's preamble: 'We the People." When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America's citizens. "We the People" included, in the words of the Framers, "the whole Number of free Persons." United States Constitution, Art. 1, 52 (Sept. 17, 1787). On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes  at threefifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years. The 19th Amendment (ratified in 1920).

These omissions were intentional. The record of the Framers' debates on the slave question is especially clear: The Southern States acceded to the demands of the New England States for giving Congress broad power to regulate commerce, in exchange for the right to continue the slave trade. The economic interests of the regions coalesced: New Englanders engaged in the "carrying trade" would profit from transporting slaves from Africa as well as goods produced in America by slave labor. The perpetuation of slavery ensured the primary source of wealth in the Southern States....

...Moral principles against slavery, for those who had them, were compromised, with no explanation of the conflicting principles for which the American Revolutionary War had ostensibly been fought: the selfevident truths "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." Declaration of independence (July 4, 1776)....

Pennsylvania's Governor Morris provides an example. He opposed slavery and the counting of slaves in determining the basis for representation in Congress. At the Convention he objected that

      "The inhabitant of Georgia [or] South Carolina who goes to the coast of Africa, and in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections and damns them to the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in a Government instituted for protection of the rights of mankind, than the Citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey who views with a laudable horror, so nefarious a Practice." Farrand, ad., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, vol. 11, 222 (New Haven, Conn., 1911).
And yet Governor Morris eventually accepted the threefifths accommodation. In fact, he wrote the final draft of the Constitution, the very document the bicentennial will commemorate....

No doubt it will be said, when the unpleasant truth of the history of slavery in America is mentioned during this bicentennial year, that the Constitution was a product of its times, and embodied a compromise which, under other circumstances, would not have been made. But the effects of the Framers' compromise have remained for generations. They arose from the contradiction between guaranteeing liberty and justice to all, and denying both to Negroes....

What is striking is the role legal principles have played throughout America's history in determining the condition of Negroes. They were enslaved by law, emancipated by law, disenfranchised and segregated by law; and, finally, they have begun to win equality by law. Along the way, new constitutional principles have emerged to meet the challenges of a changing society. The progress has been dramatic, and it will continue.

The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 could not have envisioned these changes. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendent of an African slave. We the People" no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the Framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of "liberty," "justice," and "equality," and who strived to better them.

And so we must be careful, when focusing on the events which took place in Philadelphia two centuries ago, that we not overlook the momentous events which followed, and thereby lose our proper sense of perspective. Otherwise, the odds are that for many Americans the bicentennial celebration will be little more than a blind pilgrimage to the shrine of the original document now stored in a vault in the National Archives. If we seek, instead, a sensitive understanding of the Constitution's inherent defects, and its promising evolution through 200 years of history, the celebration...will, in my view, be a far more meaningful and humbling experience. We will see that the true miracle was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life, a life nurtured through two turbulent centuries of our own making, and a life embodying much good fortune that was not....
[Updated to Web Archive 4 July 2012]
This is "The Constitution and Due Process" by Professor Kenneth J. Pennington, who wrote this when he was at Syracuse University (7/4/12: apparently he is now at Catholic University).  This article is especially crucial today when so-called "illegals" are so much in the news. Their rights actually date back to the late 13th century in Europe! -- an eye-opening insight for contemporary Americans trying to annul those rights.  Excerpts:
...The question is, then, how did individuals lose this right in the modern world? The answer is relatively simple and straightforward. With the rise of the national territorial state during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the state laid claim to absolute legislative and judicial sovereignty.... The battle between the state and the individual in the twentieth century has been one-sided and brutal. In almost every contest between the two during the past hundred years, here and abroad, individual rights have been trampled by the state and its courts.

Our founding fathers drafted our Constitution just before the state triumphed. Its language and the wording of the Bill of Rights belong to an earlier era.... The founding fathers did not conceive of rights only in territorial terms as we do today. Jefferson would be shocked if he were told that we now consider his "Men" as being only citizens or legal residents of the United States. There were no citizens of the United States of America on July 4, 1776, only persons residing in a new land. When the United States was established, many persons had no wish to become its citizens. Loyalists, Indians, French, Spaniards, African Americans, and women were included in a territorial state that took two centuries to grant all of them their full legal rights as "persons."....

If we take rights seriously, we may see that the equivocal language of our Constitution furnishes a vehicle and a formidable legal argument for recognizing the rights of all persons, even illegal immigrants, terrorists, and other enemies of the state.... After all, when we take the rights of any human beings away, we undermine the absolute guarantee of all of our rights for each of us.


Drafting the Declaration of Independence
[4 July 2012: acroll down this very long page to find the image]
This is "Standing the Founding Fathers on Their Heads" by Dr. Richard V. Pierard, professor of history at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. This article appeared in the Christian Century, April 20, 1983, pp. 368-372. The article is excellent on religion, including its dangers, as viewed by the Founding Fathers. Here are some excerpts from a long, thoughtful, carefully crafted paper:
The most advanced affirmations of religious liberty at the time of the founding of the republic, Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (submitted to the Virginia legislature in 1779 and enacted 1786) and James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessment (1785), were not widely known until our century. Even the hallowed phrase that the First Amendment built "a wall of separation between church and state" saw the light of day not in a court ruling or piece of legislation, but in a letter from President Jefferson to the Danbury, Connecticut, Baptist Association in 1802. It was not until the 1878 Mormon polygamy decision that the Supreme Court accorded this principle legal recognition.

During the 19th century, evangelical Protestants saw separation as a cornerstone of American freedom -- but interpreted it in the light of their own pre-eminent position in society. But as pluralism increased and evangelical predominance eroded, a broader understanding of the limits of religious freedom became necessary. Although Protestants had relied on it to combat Catholic encroachment in matters like public funding for parochial schools. new questions such as released time for religious instruction, prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, tax exemptions for churches and other religious bodies, and the very meaning of religion itself occupied the attention of jurists. In case after case in the post-World War II decades, Protestant evangelicals found that their views had to compete with others for official acceptance and that their understanding of public religious observances was no longer the accepted norm.

Accordingly, more and more evangelicals have reacted against the doctrine, and some now completely reject it....

... A whole contingent of evangelical Joshuas has arrived on the scene, hoping to bring down the wall of separation between church and state. That their campaign to bring America "back to God" will, if successful, mean the imposition of their deeply felt religious values upon the nation at large goes without saying.

There are a number of ways in which evangelicals are whittling away at the doctrine of separation, and in effect are "standing the founding fathers on their heads." I would like to focus on three themes that appear repeatedly in the literature now flooding Christian bookstores....

What follows is engrossing, no matter which side you're on. Here is how he concludes his paper:
... I, for one, feel that the recent court actions upholding a ban on student-conducted, voluntary religious meetings on school property before or after regular class hours serve unnecessarily to arouse animosity and motivate people to tamper with the Constitution by pushing for a prayer amendment. Schools should also pay more attention to the philosophical issues raised by the controversy over creation and evolution -- although attentiveness should not mean sneaking in sectarian teaching of religion under the subterfuge of "scientific creationism."

On the other hand, evangelicals who promote a warped view of American history in an effort to undo the court rulings on church-state affairs ignore a fundamental point made by Roger Williams more than 300 years ago: "No civil state or country can be truly called Christian, although the Christians be in it." The vague theism of the founding fathers and framers of the Constitution was in effect a civil religion, and this they did establish. The civil faith did draw from the ideals of theism, but it is wrong to assume that therefore the country was founded on Christian beliefs and thus is a Christian nation.

Speaking as an evangelical myself, I agree that such a theocratic construction is inconsistent with Christianity. The kingdom of heaven is in the hearts of people, and its citizens are found throughout the world. It cannot be restricted to a particular locale or people, regardless of formal religious establishments or the enshrinement of pious references to the deity in historic statements, public documents, and speeches by politicians. In a generalized sense America is a nation under God, as all countries are. But it violates our historic tradition as well as the tenets of Christianity to say that we were or are now a Christian nation. That is standing the founding fathers on their heads with a vengeance, and this I categorically reject.

The Liberty Window
Library of Congress Exhibition, Section IV
[See directly below]
This undated project from the Library of Congress, "Religion & the Founding of the American Republic," explores in great detail and depth various conflicting religious strands in the United States.  There are a total of seven impressive exhibitions containing both text and images. Here is the project's introduction:
This exhibition demonstrates that many of the colonies that in 1776 became the United States of America were settled by men and women of deep religious convictions who in the seventeenth century crossed the Atlantic Ocean to practice their faith freely. That the religious intensity of the original settlers would diminish to some extent over time was perhaps to be expected, but new waves of eighteenth century immigrants brought their own religious fervor across the Atlantic and the nation's first major religious revival in the middle of the eighteenth century injected new vigor into American religion. The result was that a religious people rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776, and that most American statesmen, when they began to form new governments at the state and national levels, shared the convictions of most of their constituents that religion was, to quote Alexis de Tocqueville's observation, indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. The efforts of the Founders of the American nation to define the role of religious faith in public life and the degree to which it could be supported by public officials that was not inconsistent with the revolutionary imperatives of the equality and freedom of all citizens is the central question which this exhibition explores.
That "central question which this exhibition explores" is actually, as far as my brief exploration of this site could determine, not addressed very rigorously.  The Library of Congress appears to want to please everyone, which waters down the impact.  The closest the site comes to exploring "the central question" will be found in parts I and II of Section Six, "Religion and the Federal Government" at:

Despite my disappointment with its wobbly handling of "the central question" (I found no mention of deism, for example), this is a project well worth visiting and has much of interest to recommend it. [4 July 2012: now on Web Archive]
This site fills in an important gap left by the above exhibition -- it is "American Founding Fathers and Deism" an excellent overview by Brian J O'Malley, Saturday, February 7th 2009.  Excerpts:
An idea floating around the Internet and popular culture incorrectly says the founding fathers of American democracy were atheists.  Many others believe that America is based upon religious principles, which is equally untrue, as evidenced in the separation of church and state provision in the Constitution.

Several key founding fathers believed in Deism that neither endorses religious faith nor refutes it entirely.  This philosophical outlook likely influenced much of the debate during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  Religion’s explicit exclusion from the affairs of government is entirely consistent with a Deist belief system.

Among the most famous American Deists were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen.  The framers of the Constitution grew up and lived their entire lives during the height of what is now referred to as the Age of Enlightenment - an age dominated by reason that questioned core issues ranging from our ruling institutions to the nature of being itself.  The theoretical fabric of U.S. Constitution most likely owes much more to the ideals of the Enlightenment period than to any religion or lack thereof.

Deism is interesting, because it’s not a religion as traditionally conceived, however adherents acknowledge a higher power that’s rationally evident but not a matter of blind faith....

...God is knowable through rational thought and observation of natural processes; faith is both unnecessary and regarded as somewhat dangerous because it often leads to inflamed passions with no basis in substantive reality.  This viewpoint would certainly explain why the Constitution precludes faith as a factor in the politics of government.  Deists do not respect dogma.

... Justice, mercy and the equality of all people are central to a Deist’s belief system.  They further have no interest in interfering with the beliefs of others.

On the other hand, Deists reject the notion that any book is inherently holy or contains the “word of God.”  They find divinity in the natural order of things....

The afterlife for a Deist is an unknowable quantity, but nature provides clues indicating that life takes another form after death.  A Deist embraces the idea of Bertolt Brecht, who said, “Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life.”

Deists do not believe that Christ was divine, born of a virgin or resurrected.  Although there’s great respect for Christ as a moral teacher, Deists do not support the idea of miracles or Christ’s relationship with God as being particularly special apart from any other person’s....

There’s no clergy in Deism, because equality is a basic tenet, and there are no organized gatherings or prayer services.  In this regard, Deism is much more a philosophy than religion.  Prayer for a Deist consists mostly of giving thanks for the natural processes that provide for each of us without effort.  There’s no need to supplicate or beg for divine intervention in a Deist’s belief system.  A moral and successful life only requires rational thought and sensible responsibility.
This is "Refutations of "Christian Nation" in quotes from Founding Fathers," posted by yellerpup, Feb. 24th 2008, 12:57 PM.  Here is how it opens:
The founding fathers knew well the dangers of religious fundamentalism, particulary the Puritan Christian brand of it. Most of our well-known founders were "Deists," who held that neither Jesus or anyone else was divine (or else we all were divine...which is what I prefer). I mail this to everyone who forwards me that tired old "proof" of Christian Nationhood. Taken from various sources.
And here are two of the quotes:
"I have found Christian dogma unintelligible...Some books on Deism fell into my hands...It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared much stronger than the refutations; in short I soon became a thorough deist."
-Benjamin Franklin, "Toward the Mystery" (autobiography)

"As the government of the United States of America is not on any sense founded on the Christian Religion, - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of of Musselmen (Muslims), - and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
-Treaty of Tripoli, signed into law by John Adams
"Did Madison ever say that religion is the foundation of government?" This page by Jim Allison debunks such claims made by the right about James Madison. The page also provides links to other pages of his, each of which refutes further false claims about the Founding Fathers.


Charles Weisgerber's 1893 painting of "The Birth of the Flag,"
helped make Betsy Ross the most famous woman in American history.
Since no images of Ross existed, Weisgerber created her face
from photographs of her daughters and other female relatives.
Pennsylvania State Museum -- from: Explore PA History
[This brief 2 sentence intro added 3 July 2011]: I was hoping for great data on the women of this period but the 18th century kept records on males, not their women. Thus, all I found last year when I started this page were these intriguing sites on Betsy Ross, who didn't even rate a portrait in her day.

This is "Betsy Ross and Her Rough Draft," an engaging little site with an image of her first "X"-draft of the flag (later used by the South in the Civil War) as well as her finished "O" version. Here are some excerpts:

What is known is that she married at the age of 21 in 1773, but her husband died in 1776, sending her future into doubt. It was in May or June of 1776 when George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris gave her a chance to prove herself.

As a young, inexperienced seamstress she required several drafts. She was told to include the colors red, white, and blue. The flag would also need to contain thirteen stars to stand for each of the colonies.

The first flag concept presented by Betsy Ross was received with lukewarm reviews by the Colonial Flag Committee. The largest complaint was that it provided little room in case more colonies were created in the years to come. There were those in the committee who were happy with how it met the required colors and number of stars....

For Betsy, the second time was a bit better as her second concept was met with mixed but mostly positive opinions within the committee....

When asked after the final meeting about the flags, George Washington said, “I really liked the first concept, and I wish we could’ve used it. I voted for it, but we’ve got some politicians in here looking to make their mark on history. It’s a shame that the first one wasn’t selected. Mr. Franklin and I, among others, were disappointed in the final decision, but we’ll move past this.” ....
This brief page doesn't always load well so I'm quoting it in full -- I especially like this phrase: "...the circle of stars....represents equality among the American states" -- no evidence is presented, however, to verify that this was indeed the intent of the star-circle.
The Betsy Ross Flag is an early design of the American flag popularly attributed to Betsy Ross using the common motifs of alternating red-and-white striped field with white stars in a blue canton. The flag was designed during the American Revolution and features 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies. The distinctive feature of the Ross flag is the arrangement of the five-pointed stars in a circle. According to legend, the original Betsy Ross flag was made in 1776, when a small committee, including George Washington and George Ross, a relative of hers, visited Betsy and discussed the need for a new American flag. Betsy’s contribution to the design was a five-pointed star and she accepted the job to sew the first.

The flag was in use by 1777.  Alfred B. Street described it at the surrender of General Burgoyne and understood the circle of stars to represent equality among the American states. It is one of the oldest versions of any U.S. flag known to exist; while it is not the Original American Flag artifact in cloth form, its likeness appears on older physical relics, namely, the contemporary battlefield paintings by John Trumbull and Charles Willson Peale. They depict the circular star arrangement being flown from ship masts and many other places, and thus provide the first known historical documentation on the flag’s appearance.
This site explores interesting aspects of Betsy Ross' life -- an additional link goes to a page about other flags of the period and includes a linked page of affidavits from Betsy Ross' descendants.
This page casts a skeptical eye on some aspects of the story but nevertheless covers the familiar details well.
This is "Did Betsy Ross really make the first American flag?" by Jane McGrath -- another site questioning the authenticity of the popular story.  I'm impressed, however, by the above site offering affidavits from her descendants, unless those were taken under less than satisfactory conditions. There remains a great deal of mystery about this woman.
Answers to many of the mysteries might lie in a 2010 biography by historian Marla Miller: Betsy Ross and the Making of America. The webpage comes from Ann M. Little, an Associate Professor in the History Department at Colorado State University. Here are several lengthy passages from Little:
...Marla Miller is candid about the challenges of writing a biography of a person whom most of us–especially professional historians–have long since relegated to the kiddie lit/grade school play bin without a second thought.  Trained as a professional historian in the 1990s, I assumed Betsy Ross was half-myth, half-misguided Colonial Revival fantasy that romanticized colonial women as spinners and seamstresses.  (This is an important theme Miller explored in her first book, The Needle’s Eye:  Women and Work in the Age of Revolution, 2006).

Miller writes[:] "...No scholarly biography of Ross has ever been published; her legend looms so large that her life itself has been largely overlooked.”  There are no Betsy Ross papers–in spite of her half-century of work as an upholsterer and her care for dozens and dozens of extended family members, there are few records of these labors, and none in her own hand.  There are no letters or journals that might provide some insight into her inner life as she endured Revolution, war, and widowhood three times over.  What Miller says about Betsy can be said about most women subjects:  “her descendants saw no need to preserve the letters she wrote, the shop accounts she kept, or any other record of her thought or actions,” 13.

Nevertheless, Miller’s story about the woman known as Betsy, and variously as Griscom (her family name), Ross, Ashburn, and finally Claypoole (her third husband, and the name she kept the longest), is a beautifully written and absorbing tale of the different Bestys, her many families, and of their times in Revolutionary Philadelphia and of the capital city in the Early Republic.  She discovers as much about the real Betsy as can possibly be gleaned from archival, museum, and material sources in this impressive definitive biography.  From her English Quaker great-grandfather Griscom’s arrival in New Jersey in the late seventeenth century to her death in 1836, Miller shows how Betsy’s family and their fortunes rose and fell with the city’s fortunes.  Descended from skilled craftsmen and artisans on both sides–carpenters, cabinet makers, silversmiths, staymakers, and upholsterers–Miller shows that it was nearly impossible for the girls (and the one surviving boy) in Betsy’s family not to be trained in one of these trades.  Betsy became a skilled upholsterer, trained first by her great-Aunt Sarah Griscom, a staymaker, and then by a prominent upholsterer, John Webster.  Miller’s evocation of Philadelphia in this period is that of a small town filled with early American “celebrities,” kind [of] like Aspen over the winter holidays.  The Drinkers (Henry and Elizabeth), Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and of course George Washington make their appearances on a regular basis through their various business and personal dealings with members of the extended Griscom, Ross, and Claypoole families.  Everyone knew everyone else, and if Betsy didn’t keep a diary about her various sisters’ troubles, you can be sure that Elizabeth Drinker did.

Feminist scholars and early Americanists will wonder:  is it really all that surprising that Betsy Ross hasn’t been subjected to serious scrutiny, even after the tremendous successes of biographies of relatively or entirely obscure Americans in this period, like Martha Ballard, George Robert Twelves Hughes, and William Cooper?  I don’t think so–because the history of the Revolution and Early Republic has regarded women like Superman regards Kryptonite–very, very cautiously, if at all.  Ross is problematic because she’s a woman who was engaged in clearly political work.  But, in this field women are either evoked to remind us of their irrelevance in the supposedly he-man experiences of war and governing a new nation, or they’re examined only in their special, and adamantly apolitical “separate sphere.”  (A few notable exceptions focus on women’s engagement with politics in this period–Linda K. Kerber’s Women of the Republic and more recently, Rosemarie Zagarri’s Revolutionary Backlash, whose very title suggests the problematics of writing about women in the Revolution era.)  Miller’s story of Betsy–whateveryouwanttocallher–is particularly valuable because she discards both historiographical conventions and shows that there was no such thing as separate spheres in her workaday world and in the political mentalité of Revolutionary Philadelphia.  Separate spheres existed mostly in the minds of men who chose to distribute the rights and responsibilities of colonial and early national citizenship unequally, and who used their power to keep it that way....

Miller is a dogged researcher, and the details she has mined from nearly every archival and secondary source on Revolution-era Philadelphia is truly remarkable.  Her book begs the question–surprise!–as to how to write a scholarly biography about an individual who left no written records that were preserved?  Miller’s technique is to evoke vividly (and in as much detail as she can muster) Betsy’s world, and to explore meticulously Betsy’s likely reactions or thoughts at important turning points.  Unfortunately, like most free women in colonial Anglo-America, Betsy appears in the historical record only when she gets married or has a child.  (Advertisements for her shop give Miller more information than we have about most free women in this period.)....

It sounds like a splendid piece of historical detective work and I look forward to learning more.  There were, of course, other women who were important in this time-period, but as Miller's work makes clear, very little was ever saved that could prove it.  Did the men drafting the Declaration of Independence, for example, ever discuss concepts and wording with their wives?  It is more than likely that they did -- and that the ideas of those women played a significant role in the crafting of those documents.  But which male would openly have said to his colleagues, "You know, I discussed this with my wife last night and she made a most interesting suggestion -----"?  It's far more likely that he would have presented such suggestions as his own.


Note: I took many of these from GoodReads, where there are hundreds more.......


Lady Liberty Watching the Signing the Declaration of Independence
I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country.
        ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Logan. November 12, 1816

You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.
        ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely. June 25, 1819

I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!
        ~ John Adams, a Unitarian, letter to Thomas Jefferson

Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. ...Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.
        ~ John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" [1787-1788]

If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [England] and in New England.
        ~ Benjamin Franklin, essay, "Toleration"

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek Church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my church. Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity.
        ~ Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason

I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe … Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. — From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence, I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing. Make them intelligent, and they will be vigilant; give them the means of detecting the wrong, and they will apply the remedy.
        ~ Daniel Webster

I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right."
        ~ Carl Schurz (Speeches, Correspondence And Political Papers Of Carl Schurz V5: January 30, 1889-December 27, 1898)

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.
        ~ Harry S. Truman

You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
        ~ Malcolm X (By Any Means Necessary)

It might be a good idea if the various countries of the world would occasionally swap history books, just to see what other people are doing with the same set of facts.
        ~ Bill Vaughan, journalist (1915-1977)

Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian.
        ~ Robert Orben

Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
        ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Social conservatism and neoconservatism have revived authoritarian conservatism, and not for the better of conservatism or American democracy. True conservatism is cautious and prudent. Authoritarianism is rash and radical. American democracy has benefited from true conservatism, but authoritarianism offers potentially serious trouble for any democracy.
        ~ John W. Dean in Conservatives Without Conscience

Our 'neoconservatives' are neither new nor conservative, but old as Bablyon and evil as Hell.
        ~ Edward Abbey

World events do not occur by accident. They are made to happen, whether it is to do with national issues or commerce; and most of them are staged and managed by those who hold the purse strings.
        ~ Denis Healey

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.
        ~ Sinclair Lewis

A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life."
        ~ John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"

A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?
        ~ George Washington

I don't care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations...I don't think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren't there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?
        ~ Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana

I am not an atheist but an earthiest. Be true to the earth.
        ~ Edward Abbey

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?
        ~ Mahatma Gandhi

All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal.
        ~ John Steinbeck

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
        ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of Constitutional power.
        ~ Thomas Jefferson


America the Beautiful: "From sea to shining sea"
Beautiful lightning strike off the Santa Rosa, California coast

[Added 4 July 2012]: From my friend and colleague, Patricia Monaghan, comes this Huff Post link that's very relevant for the 4th of July. It includes fascinating data on radical poets, musicians, and progressives -- e.g., the lesbian professor from New England who wrote "America the Beautiful," the socialist who wrote the "Pledge of Allegiance," and much more. To quote Patricia: "Wonderful information for the 4th of July."

        [Added 4 July 2012]: This eye-opening article is "Remembering the Violence and Elitism Behind US Independence."
        Here is how it opens:

David Swanson, War Is a Crime: "It's just possible that the space of 236 years and a truckload of fireworks are obscuring our vision. It's hard for us to see what should be obvious. Many nations - including Canada as the nearest example - have gained their independence without wars. We claim that a war was for independence, but if we could have had all the same advantages without the war, would that not have been better?"...
        Don't miss this sensible, well-researched, thought-provoking article.


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MythingLinks Search Engine
Cross-cultural, Multi-regional, Interdisciplinary Collections
General Reference Page  (online libraries, reference help, literary texts, world languages, word-lover sites, help on writing research papers, copyright information, film plots, themes, and/or films representing various historical periods)
Special Interest Sites for Pacifica Faculty, Students & Colleagues(includes Jung, Campbell, Freud, Eliade, Otto, Hillman, other depth psychologists, mysticism, anthropology, religious studies, archetypal perspectives, foundations for mythology & psychology, relevant journals, books, videos, etc.)
Teachers' Reference Page for Primary & Secondary School Education


To: Mother's Day Page

To: Memorial Day Page

To: Martin Luther King on a Guaranteed Annual Income

To: Common Themes, East & West: Gender Issues: Women, Part I

To: Common Themes, East & West: Gender Issues: Women, Part II

To: Common Themes, East & West: Wars, Weapons, and Lies: The Dehumanizing Impulse

To: Common Themes, East & West: Artists & Muses: The Creative Impulse

My complete Site Map will be found on my Home page.
My e-mail address is near the bottom of that page.
This page created with Netscape Gold 4.7
Text and Design:
Copyright © 2010-2012  by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved

Mirror page created February 17-23, 2010
Latest updates: May 6, 2010;
Completed over June 30th - July 6th, 2010.
Launched as a Myth*ing Links page on 7 July 2010;
then added new "Related Myth*ing Links" links to Gender + MLK.

3 July 2011: totally re-organized this page into specific categories
so that topics of interest will be easier for people to find.
Added brief Intro to Betsy Ross section.
Added new link from last year that I had no time to grok back then.

4 July 2012, c. 6:30pm-7:30pm EDT: updated broken links,
thanks to Michaela, my diliogent Links-Elf.
We were both  surprised that there were so many broken links --
I'd hoped this would be a stable, low-maintenance page <wry smile>.
9:30pm: Added a great new link from Huff Post.
10:30pm: Added an excellent video-link from PBS' Bill Moyers on Thoman Jefferson's racism.
c. 11:30am: added eye-opening article:
"Remembering the Violence and Elitism Behind US Independence."