A New Nationality

“We’ve spawned a new race here Mr. Dickenson, rougher, simpler, more violent, more enterprising, less refined. We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation.”

Benjamin Franklin, 1776

 

 

 

 

He started off in a low voice, though you could hear every word. They say he could call on the harps of the blessed when he chose. And this was-just as simple and easy as a man could talk.
But he didn’t start out by condemning or reviling.

He was talking about the things that make a country a country, and a man a man.  And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt-the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those en-slaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days. It wasn’t a spread-eagle speech, but he made you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

 

Published in: on June 28, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on A New Nationality  
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The Real Stephen Hopkins

One of my favorite scenes from the musical 1776 is in the above video where Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island introduces Benjamin Franklin to his insult cards.  In the musical Hopkins is portrayed as a lovable drunken rogue, but a font of common sense when big issues are afoot.  When his vote is decisive on debating independence his comment is to the point:  “I’ve never seen, heard, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about. Hell yes, I’m for debating anything!”

The actual Stephen Hopkins bore little resemblance to his portrayal in 1776.  Born on March 7, 1707, in Providence, Rhode Island, he was the oldest man in Congress in 1776, except for Ben Franklin.  From a prominent Rhode Island family he early developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge, reading voraciously, and training himself in surveying and astronomy.  He became a Justice of the Peace at 23, embarking upon a career in Rhode Island politics.  He swiftly became a justice on the Inferior Court of Common Pleas while serving as Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Deputies.  He made his fortune through an iron foundry and his activities as a merchant. (more…)

Published in: on May 21, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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