Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sons of Liberty in Providence

This week I return to the city of my birth, Providence, Rhode Island, for a high school reunion. I've graduated from a number of schools, but I've never been to a reunion before. This should be interesting.

This morning I was reading a speech given in Providence in 1768 by a man named Silas Downer. Downer was a Son of Liberty and the speech was given on the occasion of the planting of a Tree of Liberty.

Downer brought out a great many points about that British colony that I never pondered while growing up in that city. Here is one quote from that speech.

"The public worship of God, and the education of children and youth, were never more encouraged in any part of the globe. The laws which they made for the general advantage were exactly carried into execution. In fine, no country ever experienced more perfect felicity. Religion, learning, and a pure administration of justice were exceeding conspicuous, and kept even pace with the population of the country." *

This quote is packed full of items for which we might pine today. Worship without persecution or ridicule is certainly to be desired. While Christians are not generally in physical danger in this nation today, we have certainly been marginalized. Much of this is, of course, our own doing, but that's a discourse for another day. The worship which is encouraged in this land today is all about money, self, and Barack Obama. These are the wrong objects for proper worship.

Laws being made to the general advantage is certainly a novel concept. It seems that laws are enacted these days only for the general advantage of the legislators. Having the laws "exactly carried into execution," would certainly change things, as well. Arizona would have had no need to pass legislation regarding illegal immigration if federal law were carried into execution. Many categories of law are ignored regularly, which were originally passed for the general advantage of the people of these United States.

Silas Downer obviously had his head on straight. I wonder if anyone in the public schools of Providence knows of his existence and of the marvelous things he said and wrote. I know I didn't. It certainly would not be a bad idea to use his "Son of Liberty" speech to teach about colonial history.

I have what I expect are the normal apprehensions about this reunion. I have not seen most of these people since JFK was president. Will I remember them? Will they remember me? If they do remember me, what memories will they be? I'll find out soon.

* This quote is from American Political Writing During the Founding Era, 1760-1805, Volume 1.
Thank you Warren, for the loan.