Saturday, July 04, 2009

Niagara’s 4th

Happy Independence Day.

Twenty years before the American Revolution, Britain and France fought for control of North America in a conflict known as the French and Indian War.

In July 1759 a British army, accompanied by almost 1,000 Iroquois allies, laid siege to French-held Fort Niagara. After 19 days, the fort’s walls had been breached by artillery fire, and a French and Indian relief column was defeated just a mile from the fort in a bloody morning battle. On July 25, the French surrendered the fort, ushering in an era of British control of the Great Lakes.

Old Fort Niagara is a National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site that welcomes more than 100,000 visitors every year. It offers a unique collection of original military architecture and fortifications from the 18th Century and the 19th Century, as well as living history events and programs, historical exhibits and collections, archaeology, and education.

Six years after Fort Niagara fell some citizens of Boston created the first Liberty Tree. Farmers going to market discovered that an effigy had been hung a big elm tree in Deacon Elliott’s grove. The hanged figure represented Boston merchant Andrew Oliver who’d agreed to collect a new “Stamp Tax” levied on the colonists by Parliament to pay for that war.

American colonists really, really resented having to pay the Mother Country for warring on their behalf (this kind of thing probably sounds familiar to you). That Liberty Tree was the first sign there was going to be trouble between America and Britain. It was one of the earliest conceptual expressions of liberty itself.

Thinking liberty led to independence and the document with the word in its title. As soon as it appeared in 1776, the talking heads of the day started arguing about what liberty, freedom and equality really meant. But the writer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was typically ambiguous – he wrote that the text was intended “to be an expression of the American mind, and to give that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.”

Now it’s two-and-a-half centuries since the siege in upstate New York. Jo-Anne and Frank White the Photographer are in Youngstown celebrating the 4th of July and the 250th anniversary of the Fort Niagara battle. Frank has promised to send holiday snaps. Meantime I’ll sponge the ones you see here. And Barbara and I will be celebrating with Sam and Georgia Akers in the Heights.

Whether you’re in Houston or Youngstown or Paris or Baghdad, let’s join in observing the 4th. Listen to the Declaration of Independence, that “expression of the American mind,” right here. Let it stir you up.

We have the liberty to enjoy the widest range of freedoms in the world. Today, we commemorate the independence that gave us that liberty.

Happy 4th of July.

Vacation photography by “Klare and John” Shober posted on Panoramio, from whence I borrowed them.


Myron Hrabe said...

Happy 4th of July!! Truly we all should be thankful for our liberties that our forefathers did for us, what a great foresight, also for our GI's that gave there lives that we could have our family get-togethers, go to our own church today, etc.
Good hearing from you, have a good day and stay well.

Mary Jo Martin said...

Beutiful and interesting sentiments, RLB. I am proud to come from a family with lots of military people in it. And, grateful for what they and all of the others who stood up for our freedoms accomplished.

God Bless America!

Solange Solomon said...

Dear Richard, I have read your blog and duly and happily celebrated with a drink.

By declaring Independence on July 4th 1776, the Americans showed us the way to Liberty and Democracy.

Approximately a decade later, in 1789, the French, after pulling down the Bastille and going through a number of vicissitudes, declared themselves free. Today the event is still celebrated every July 14th, by a colourful parade of many miltary corps in full regimentals, walking, riding, driving and flying over and down the Champs Elysées watched by the President, his government and their numerous happy guests who afterwards will attend the traditional garden-party at the Elysée, the French White House.

The day being a bank holiday, the remainder of the French people may watch the ceremony on tv,hear the journalists' trite comments and listen to the superb military brass bands, which I usually do. Later on, there are fireworks and outdoors popular balls.

It has been a treat to spend Benjamin's wedding weekend with Barbara and you. Such a nice, warm-hearted memory. Keep well. Fondly,

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Happy Bastille Day, Solange!