Happy 4th Of July, Representative Government

Thursday, July 4, 2019 - by Linda Moss Mines
As a former U. S. History and Government teacher, the Chattanooga - Hamilton County Historian and a proud member of the Chief John Ross Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, July 4th may be my favorite national holiday. I must admit that I can hear Thomas Jefferson’s stirring words echoing in my soul every time the Declaration of Independence is mentioned in a speech or in print. Now only does the most famous statement, “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” increase the rate of my pulse, but other phrases reinforce the unique experiment drafted in that document.
When Jefferson chose to explain the reason for drafting the Declaration of Independence and listed English King George III’s violations of the inherent rights of English citizens, he is proclaiming for the colonists and interested international parties a profound principle of government established long before 1776 and accepted by the majority of the English colonists. While only a third of colonists will go on to openly support the revolution in the coming days, most believed strongly that each possessed basic rights guaranteed through English history via the Magna Carta [1215], the Petition of Rights [1628] and the English Bill of Rights [1689]. In fact, they could point to their own historical record and documents to assert a belief in self-government.

When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth three hundred and ninety-nine years ago, the leaders of the group realized that they were not stepping out onto the ground secured for them through the charter granted. Instead, their rough voyage had forced them north and into a very different harbor and landing site. In a stroke of brilliance, they drafted the Mayflower Compact, a set of rules outlining a self-governance plan. As a group, they understood that living in a settlement without rules could lead to chaos and conflict and that a system of government, even for a group of barely 100 individuals, was necessary. The government devised, based on majority rule, became the first to create a representative government based on common agreement of basic rules and signed by a majority of the adult males, including an indentured servant. The signers agreed that they would remain loyal subjects of the English crown, live in accordance with the Christian faith, and create laws and ordinances for the “good of the colony and abide by those laws.”

But the idea of self-governance had already been considered and endorsed in the Virginia colony. Four hundred years ago, on June 30, 1619, the House of Burgesses - - the first legislative assembly in the American colonies - - met in a church in Jamestown. With Virginia Colonial Governor George Yeardley and twenty-two burgesses, representing eleven settlements, present, the Burgesses were properly elected to conduct the business of the colony. King James I, a staunch believer in the divine right of monarchs to rule without interference from either his own Parliament or the upstart colonists, attempted to dissolve the House of Burgesses. The Virginians simply refused and continued to meet on a yearly basis to conduct necessary business. As additional colonies were settled, each demanded its own legislature, in defiance of the Crown. 

So, on the Fourth of July, when you unfurl your flag, light your fireworks and consider this noble experiment in self-government and our Founding Fathers and Mothers’ willingness to suffer personal and financial losses to create a new nation, remember the Mayflower Compact and the Virginia House of Burgesses. As Jefferson, with assistance from John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert Livingston of New York, presented the Declaration of Independence for the signatures of the now famous delegates to the Second Continental Congress, he was affirming a belief already more than 150 years old in the colonies. 

Freedom! The Rule of Law! The Right to Self-Determination! We have every reason to celebrate. If you need me, I’ll be in Lookout Valley, flying my flags and singing ‘Yankee Doodle’. Happy Fourth of July.


John Shearer: Remembering The Summer Of 1980 In Chattanooga

Civil War Sites Preservation Grant Fund Applications Being Accepted

History Sources In Our Area


Do you ever think back to where you were or what you were doing 10, 20 or 50 years ago during a certain month or season? The summer of 1980, when I was 20 and just finishing my second year ... (click for more)

The Tennessee Wars Commission, the Tennessee Historical Commission program devoted to preserving the state’s significant military history has announced that they will begin accepting grant applications ... (click for more)

I am taking the risk of not mentioning some of the outstanding authors of articles and books that will inform the readers and new comers to the history of the Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia ... (click for more)



Memories

John Shearer: Remembering The Summer Of 1980 In Chattanooga

Do you ever think back to where you were or what you were doing 10, 20 or 50 years ago during a certain month or season? The summer of 1980, when I was 20 and just finishing my second year at the University of Georgia, especially stands out due to several events important to me and the entire Chattanooga community. Most of my memories of that summer involve working at ... (click for more)

Civil War Sites Preservation Grant Fund Applications Being Accepted

The Tennessee Wars Commission, the Tennessee Historical Commission program devoted to preserving the state’s significant military history has announced that they will begin accepting grant applications on Aug. 17 for the Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. The Civil War Sites Preservation Fund, begun in 2013, is a key source for matching funds for the acquisition and preservation ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Hamilton County Has No More Coronavirus Deaths, 78 New Cases; State Has 8 More Deaths

The Hamilton County Health Department reported on Sunday that the total number of Hamilton County resident deaths remains at 54. Total cases now are 6,109 in Hamilton County, an increase of 78. Tennessee had 8 more deaths bringing the toll to 1,223. There were 2,127 new cases for a total of 122,712. There were 42 more hospitalized to bring that total to 5,304. There ... (click for more)

Hayes Ledford, Former Chief Of Staff To Governor Don Sundquist, Rep. Gerald McCormick, Dies Unexpectedly

Hayes P. Ledford, 47, former chief of staff for Governor Don Sunquist and Rep. Gerald McCormick, has died unexpectedly. He was born October 4, 1972, in Charlotte, N.C., to Jean Howell and Peyton Ledford. He was a graduate ('91) of Red Bank High School and UTC with a degree in political science. He was a long time lobbyist, business and political consultant. He and his ... (click for more)

Opinion

Thanks To District 1

I want to thank all of the citizens in District 1 who voted for me to continue being your Hamilton County School Board Representative. After I won the race on Thursday, I was asked by a reporter, “Why do you think the voters in District 1 continue to elect you after 16 years?” I answered, “Because I know what my job is as a school board member. It is to be the voice of the people ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Christians … And Trump

The August primaries in Tennessee are now over, so we shift our gaze to the November presidential elections. On Fox News yesterday, commentator Greg Gutfeld boldly predicted that the “real reason” Democrat challenger Joe Biden has not named a vice-president running mate is because Joe is battling some very troubling mental cognizance issues that are now of such concern Biden will ... (click for more)