Diaries and Journals?
I had a document sitting on my desk the other day that I was due to return to the owner. This document was in a plastic bag to help protect it and well… it got me thinking. One of the things that I’ve found myself repeatedly accessing, when conducting research for the show, are the diaries and journals of those who made history or were a witness to it. The people who wrote these documents confided their most personal private thoughts and feelings, many times including their emotional hurts.
In most instances these historical records were not written with an eye toward the future. I wonder if these people would be horrified to learn that their diary or journal had been reproduced, sold on Amazon or kept in a University library for anyone to peruse. Would they be upset, angry or flattered? Some obviously would not mind, though others I suspect would be terribly embarrassed… maybe even a little hurt.
From a historical research perspective, I am extremely grateful to be able to have the privilege to access these documents. It helps me better understand what these people went through, endured and witnessed. I feel it opens an unfiltered window to the past and helps me to get to know them better.
In a previous blog I wondered about the loss of the art of writing. Perhaps it’s time we all kept a diary or journal. Maybe one day in the far far future a historian or researcher will get just a little bit excited over one of ‘our’ journals. I’ve experienced that excitement myself. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they found something of value to help them better understand us and our time period?
I’m thinking that tonight… after my recording session… I will take a little time to write about my day. Maybe you should as well…
Adams, Americans, Beer and History
I have always found it interesting and a little amusing (in a sad way) that when Samuel Adams is mentioned many Americans think of beer first and the Revolution second. And as a student of mine once said in a class, “He made great beer.”
To be honest the beer is quite good… I enjoy it, but why would we today not remember someone who many historians consider to be the “Father” of the American Revolution? When the Revolution is brought up most remember some of the more famous founding fathers such as John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams… the list goes on.
Sam Adams was probably the man most singly responsible for shaping the events that took place on April 19th, 1775. He was the first who recognized that liberty for the colonies meant a break from the mother country and a break meant a fight. He well knew Englandwould not idly give up her possessions and Sam set about working toward his vision of liberty.
Many have branded him as a man who was a wild radical stirring up the mob and relying upon mass violence to achieve his ends, however this is far from a true characterization of Adams. He was definitely involved with the mob to achieve his ends, however he was more than that… and was clearly a tireless political advocate and worker. He seems to have displayed a deep intuitive understanding of others’ motivations and he was not afraid of allowing others to take credit for his inspiration or ideas thinking that his ideas were theirs. He was a brilliant manager, motivator and promoter. He made himself available to attend meetings, rallies day or night… rain, sleet, ice or snow. He wrote highly thoughtful articles, letters, petitions and pamphlets based upon heavily reasoned arguments in favor of his chief cause… liberty. His readers were literate… educated… many incredibly well read or self-educated and his writing enticed the interest and attention of the likes of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Payne, Benjamin Rush and many others. Thomas Jefferson aptly named Adams… quote “the Patriarch of Liberty!”
Sam directly organized committees of correspondence throughout the province and other colonies to collaborate and share information and this alone allowed many people from distant and disparate colonies to really share information and communicate for the first time. Up until this point many people’s world revolved around their little community, some isolated and or insulated from the outside world others not. These committees of correspondence began many Americans thinking about more than just their community or state identity. An idea slowly began coalescing that they were in the same boat together… they were not just New Yorkers, of Virginians, New Englanders, etc… but Americans. Without Sam this may not have been possible. Of course a portion of the population disagreed and hence the reason why the American War of Independencewas really a terrible and brutal civil war.
Today, unlike many of the founding fathers we Americans have come to honor… Sam Adams in a way slipped off into obscurity. We do not think of him as one of the principal leaders who brought about the revolution. I think it is sad that Paul Revere is more recognized than Sam Adams and today we associate beer with him or think of his better known cousin John, when all along it was Sam Adams working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring about liberty. How did this happen? How could we Americans forget someone so pivotal? The answer in my mind is very simple. When many other founding fathers wrote their memoirs Sam chose not to write his. He simply did not consider it important. Sam seems to have cared more for liberty than history’s judgment and as a result he slipped off into the mists of history… and 226 years later… we Americans enjoy the beer named in his honor, many not realizing or even recognizing the liberty and freedom they enjoy today can be traced directly to ‘his’ tireless work and effort to bring 13 disparate and unique colonies to a common purpose and revolution.
So on this April 19th, 2011… give Sam some thought and a word of thanks. Also, if you are a beer drinker have a beer in his honor.