August 12-Today-250 Years Ago

Americanism Redux

August 12, 250 years ago today

God Almighty, it’s hot. Never seen anything like it.

Her slender, delicate fingers reach to dot the beads of sweat on her forehead. She tucks a few strands of her light-colored hair back under her cloth bonnet. 20-year old Elizabeth may look calm and composed on the outside. Inside, she’s nervous and unsettled. She never thought about love this way.

Love is a part of Elizabeth’s life. Always has been. Her parents love her deeply. They’ve ensured she attended and finished school, learning to read, write, do math, and gain a skill. Her brothers and sisters love her, all eight of them. God loves her, the God of her Quaker faith who reaches her through the Inner Light of quietude and introspection. She knows the love written by Paul in The Book, the love seen in patience, kindness, endurance, gentleness, steadfastness, at one with peace and at odds with evil. The home around her, the Griscom home, stands with love in every room.

Elizabeth hadn’t known until now that love had other sides, too. Unyielding. Undeniable. Unpredictible. Overwhelming. Overpowering. Overcoming.

She thinks today is a day closer to leaving everything and everyone for the new love of her life. John. He has moved her to thinking of a totally different life.

How will her parents and family react? Showing encouragment—with support? Showing acceptance—with understanding? Showing anger, disbelief, and devastation—with refusal and rejection and threats of disownment?

Another dab on her forehead to dry up the sweat.

She doesn’t know what they’ll say or do.

But when the time comes, when love commands and controls, she will become Betsy, she will become Ross. And she will continue to hold The Book, together with a few boxes of pins, needles, yarn, and thread. Her long and slender fingers will weave and sew as the wife of John, as Betsy Ross.


250 years ago today, as Betsy Griscom contemplates the risks of becoming Betsy Ross, the city of Philadelphia is home to a growing identity among a particular group. They call themselves the Leather-Apron Men. They are skilled workers, craftsmen, and tradesmen. Not wealthy enough to own the best houses or property, yet earning significantly more than the poor, these people are hard-driving and hard-working. They include men like John Ross, a master carpenter. Ross hopes to marry a young woman who has fallen deeply in love with him. Elizabeth Griscom is intelligent, quick-thinking, and like John has a skill, hers with textile and fabric-making. If they marry, they’ll join an expanding number of households who are unhappy with political and economic power concentrated among older, well-connected families. And they’ll demand change, to start with, in reducing the high taxes on liquor and on leather for making shoes. After that, they’ll move on to the next wall in their way.

250 years ago today the Leather-Apron Men will organize into a political group and issue a public call for greater respect of their ideas, proposals, and recommendations about “Liberties” and “Privileges” for their “Posterity.”

As the Leather-Apron Men congregate and Elizabeth looks at a life of Ross, a British colonist traveling in England writes to New England friend. The letter-writer has been hearing Englishmen complaining about some of the colonists in America, likely including people wearing leather aprons. What to do with them? “Keep soldiers amongst Them, not so much to awe Them, as to debauch their Morals—Toss off to them all the Toys and Baubles that genius can invent to weaken their Minds, fill Them with Pride and Vanity, and beget in them all possible Extravagance in Dress and Living, that They may be kept poor and made wretched.”

Make them rich in pocket to keep them poor in spirit and the Leather-Apron Men, and prospective new families like the Rosses, will trouble you no more. That’s the thinking along the streets of London.

You Now

Love lifted, carried, and lowered Betsy. She decided a new life awaited her. Having followed love, she would be in a different setting for another discovery, that of a nation created. In this new place and armed with love, she began again. The cost was a family that left her.

There’s nothing stronger as a force for good than love. We say it, pray it, teach it, preach it. Love is the practical manner of life and living to which we aspire.

But here we see love as a force for overcoming that takes a person to a place of risk and danger. Happiness and peace may not appear or if they do, in shapes not first envisioned or intended. Love strengthens as well as comforts, steeling the mind and spirit against self-defeating pursuits.

Love comes from something. Argue about the source for as long as you want but the fundamental won’t change. Something makes love in countless ways. Paul’s best truth was to list love rather than define it.

Betsy will embrace and bury three husbands, three loves, her own lists. She meets, and meets again, and meets once more a part of life that is love, among the sparks and fires. A place and world rises around her, woven like the cloth she so skillfully handles. The problems she sees are within the love she finds but are never more than the love she provides.


What wall is in front you?, and have you tried love in seeking to overcome it? As a quantity, love is in short supply.