Americanism Redux: August 10, Your Today, On The Journey To The American Founding, 250 Years Ago, In 1773

Americanism Redux

August 10, your today, on the journey to the American Founding, 250 years ago, in 1773

Sometimes you’re just in one of those moods.

* * * * * *

Think back in your memory. And write it down. Recall what you’ve seen or read. And write it down. A thing that has stayed in your mind. And write it down. He’s in a mood and decides to think back. 

(Melancholy, by Edvard Munch)

John Adams’s mood for the past few days has been reflective about himself, his place in the world. It’s his genealogy that is on his mind. He knows the names and the years and many of the places of great-great-this person and grand-grand that person and how they trace down to him and his wife Abigail. One went back to England while seven others stayed here in the New World—that’s a point he’s careful to make and record. And on and on. He’s writing it all down.

Is he telling himself something?

William Walker and Thomas Puttrell don’t have the time to reflect on their ancestors and write it all down on parchment paper. Nope, they’re on the run, in the colony of Virginia, escapees as white servants serving as forced laborers for Richard Lee. Walker is a convict with white teeth that show when he laughs or smiles, and he also walks with an unusual swing in his step. Puttrell has white teeth as well and talks very fast. They’ve had help in their get-away, “connivance” it’s called, from a husband and wife, the Slavins. If Walker and Puttrell are caught, they’ll curse their teeth for giving them away.

You don’t see a lot of whiteness these days in the 1773 Tidewater when you watch someone talk.

John Posey has been on the run, too, though more from life than from any specific thing. He has spent the last week at the elegant Potomac River valley estate called Mount Vernon, owned by George and Martha Washington. He’s dirt-poor, recovering from an illness, a former prison inmate, and down on his luck. All week he’s been staying in rough quarters near the plantation house, an uninvited visitor who became a guest of sorts. He’s known the Washingtons for several years. They’ve been kind to him and now he needs another favor. But he couldn’t do it, couldn’t stand in front of the Washingtons and ask them directly for money to help stabilize his life. So, a day after he’s left Mount Vernon, he writes a letter where he admits “I could not have the Face to Doe” the request in front of them. The quill pen gives him distance: please send money. Please help me.

George Washington will comply and, for a while, life’s hounds slow down on the trail of John Posey.

(John Posey’s view of Mount Vernon)

Speaking of money, a new royal order is out from the Spanish monarchy, though not the British version. For two more years gold and silver currency will be accepted as exchange across the Spanish empire. But by this date in 1775, twenty-four months from now, that’s over. Plan accordingly.

As for enforcement of the decree? Well, somehow that will happen…after all, an empire is all-powerful.

(Spanish gold coin)

Plans are on the minds of two collections of people today within the British Empire. They’ve formed together separately to do the same shared thing. One group is a group of Presbyterian Christians from the colonies of North Carolina and Pennsylvania. They’re writing in urgent terms to the royal governor of Georgia, seeking a slice of land from a vast land deal made with Native tribes. If the governor agrees, their future is set. The other group is from the colony of New Jersey, led by the Swayze family. Samuel Swayze is starting a Congregational Church in British West Florida, the first in this area (in the future American territory and state of Mississippi, the future county of Adams, the future town of Kingston). Swayze’s group also avidly supports the British monarch and the British Empire.

Generations from now, in a span of time and family lineage similar to what John Adams is writing about today, the Swayze family will include a young man named Patrick. He’ll be an actor.

(The descendant)

Weeks from now, before Christmas, the Presbyterian settlers in Georgia will be dead. Killed, scalped, and burned by outraged Creek Native tribes who never agreed to any land deal. The smoke and ash from the bodies will drift toward descendants on a tree still growing.

(upward into the trees)

You think back from where you are now. You think ahead to where you want to be, where you will be, where you can be.


The past few days have been bursting with exploration, discovery, adventure, life’s wondrous and perilous edges. Astounding happenings in the compression of this week.

Two ships slog their way through the ice toward the North Pole. The “Racehorse” and the “Carcass” are British vessels exploring the top of the world. The cloth of the Union Jack flag is stiff from the cold.

A man in Paris, France wipes the lens of a telescope pointed toward the heavens. Charles Messier smiles the smile of excitement as he cleans the glass. He’s seen the Andromeda Nebula, a tremendous sight, to be sure, though something others have seen. But it’s what he saw faintly just to the north of it, the reckoned direction, that makes him joyful and amazed. He is sure there is another nebula out there, as yet unknown and unnamed. Until today.

Bernard Romans walks out of a printer’s shop in Philadelphia, the city where many people come to engage in discovery, innovation, and advancement. He’s successfully pitched the idea of publishing three maps he’s drawn, along with narrative text, about his journeys to West Florida. Copper plate engravings, navigational drawings done with artistic flair, and stirring descriptions will capture a reading audience, Romans believes. It’s been a whirlwind for him, finding triumph after a disastrous accident at sea where his vessel overturned and he lost all the seeds and plants he’d secured in his West Florida travels. He thanks God he managed to save the maps.

(a sketch from Romans’ work)

For You Now

What do you need for a new life and a next chance?

Adams needs to know where he’s come from.

Walker and Puttrell need a lucky break to avoid their pursuers, and anyone can be their pursuer.

Posey needs life to back away, to ease the pressure and open a door, any door.

Anyone in the Spanish empire with precious metals in their pockets needs to write down the date two years off, or otherwise ignore the mandate as another belch from the capital.

Two groups of people have rolled the dice with bold choices and they’ll need a deep breath for when the numbers turn up.

All of them are in a context of limits that no one has thought, or dared, to change. Until someone does. When that happens, the world grows, by a little or by a lot. When that happens, someone sees a space open up which they assume is empty. When that happens, desire emerges, both to share and to withhold. And what will I need?

(toward limits)


Take a moment and consider: is what you need within your reach? And is what the American nation needs something you think we can secure?

(beyond limits)