The Bugler

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Fourth of July: Remembering Our History

Betsy Ross Flag created by Devin Cook. Public Domain

Although America has changed much in the 408 years since settlers from England first came to this continent, we the people are still dealing with similar conflicts as we were then: how to worship as we please and how to manage the relationship between church and state. Virginia became the first permanent settlement of English settlers in 1607 and in 1620 the Puritans, who were escaping religious persecution, set sail for Virginia on the Mayflower, but were blown off course and landed in Cape Cod in the Massachusetts Bay in time for a brutal winter. New Hampshire was settled in 1623. In 1624 a group headed by George Calvert, the first Lord of Baltimore, landed on the eastern shore of Maryland to establish a refuge for Catholics who were escaping persecution.

It was not for another 12 years in 1636 when a group, which in modern terminology were considered "rabble rousers" by the established Puritan hierarchy, left the Massachusetts Bay Colony to establish the River Colony, later known as Connecticut. This group of followers believed that government should be based not just on man's interpretation of God's will but on the consent of the people. The nearby colony of Rhode Island was established the same year because Roger Williams had been kicked out of Massachusetts for his radical thinking, the separation of church and state.

Trade and commerce became important in the settlement of the next colonies with Delaware receiving a charter in 1638. It was not for another fifteen years before another colony was established by a group of eight noblemen from Virginia who had been granted a charter to establish a colony on land south of Virginia. This became Carolina. It wasn't until 1729 when the Crown of England took over this land that it became North Carolina and South Carolina. In 1664 New Jersey was founded and in the same year the busy trading post of New Amsterdam became a formal colony and changed its name to New York in honor of the Duke of York.

It was another 22 years in 1682 before another colony was formed, once again by a group escaping religious persecution. William Penn offered refuge to the Quakers who were being persecuted in England on a land grant that his father willed him. Eighteen years later Pennsylvania had become the third largest colony in the New World.

One hundred and twenty-five years after the first colony was established in Virginia, the thirteenth colony was settled in 1732 when a charter was granted by King Charles II to James Oglethorpe. Oglethorpe was given a charter to develop a colony south of the Carolinas but above Florida. Florida at that time was owned by Spain and King Charles II wanted to protect his interest in the colonies. This area, known as Georgia included much of its current area as well as parts of current day Alabama and Mississippi. It is ironic that Georgia became one of the wealthiest states in the New World given that many of its earliest settlers had been relocated from England and given a new start after their release from debtors' prison.

So a mere one hundred and sixty-nine years after the first colony was established by these brave groups of settlers with unbelievably different backgrounds, but similar in that they were all trying to establish a new life, were able to come together and unite to declare themselves independent. A year later on June 14, 1777 the Second Continental Congress established a precedent that we still have today, a flag with 13 stripes, one for each of the colonies. We must also remember the importance of the brave bodies of work these settlers established in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States as we work through our current challenges as one of the newest countries on the Earth.

Celebrating 800 Years of Democracy

The Magna Carta was signed by King John of England on June 15, 1215 to make peace between the King and the nobility, promising protection of personal rights and later a huge influence for the early American Colonists creating both the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is an important symbol of liberty in American and British legal communities and cited often by politicians and lawmakers.

For more information on the Magna Carta see CNN.com.

Summer Reading

If you are looking for something more exciting than a beach book, an excellent account of the voyage of the Mayflower and the first years of the Plimouth settlement (spelling of Plimouth later changed to Plymouth) and the role of the Pilgrims' ancestors in the settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony can be found in Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War by Nathaniel Philbrick.

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