In the Room Where It Happens: The Legacy of the Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.[1]

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 📜
John Trumbull’s proud and bold image had been inspired by the recollections and  musings of Thomas Jefferson, of which Trumbull wrote, succinctly enough, “I began the composition of the Declaration of Independence, with the assistance of [Jefferson’s] information and advice.” Such a strong display would stand in stark contrast to Adams’ later reflections of this event. 📜
In a letter to William Plumer dated 28 March 1813, John Adams wrote, “They who were then members, all signed it, and, as I could not see their hearts, it would be hard for me to say that they did not approve it; but, as far as I could penetrate the intricate, internal foldings of their souls, I then believed, and have not since altered my opinion, that there were several who signed with regret, and several others, with many doubts and much lukewarmness.” John Adams recalls a moment of sober trepidation, and stepping into an unknown—a new frontier. 📜
Of this political and social frontier, Dr. Benjamin Rush argued in January 1787, “The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection.” 📜
All the great work.  All the hard yoga—the flexing, strengthening and breathing—of building a new nation that lives in harmony with its democratic and revolutionary principles would come after the war, and still in progress. 📜 Slightly more on my blog, click on my Linktr.ee then my Linkin.bio 📜 #sonoftheamericanrevolution #happyfourthofjuly #independenceday #independenceday2020 #declarationofindependence #johntrumbull #thomasjefferson #benjaminrush #johnadams #americanhistory #americanstudies #iteachhistory #teachersofinstagram #writersofinstagram #artoftheday

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John Trumbull’s proud and bold image had been inspired by the recollections and  musings of Thomas Jefferson, of which Trumbull wrote, succinctly enough, “I began the composition of the Declaration of Independence, with the assistance of [Jefferson’s] information and advice.”[2]  Such a strong display would stand in stark contrast to Adams’ later reflections of this event.

In a letter to William Plumer dated 28 March 1813, John Adams wrote, “They who were then members, all signed it, and, as I could not see their hearts, it would be hard for me to say that they did not approve it; but, as far as I could penetrate the intricate, internal foldings of their souls, I then believed, and have not since altered my opinion, that there were several who signed with regret, and several others, with many doubts and much lukewarmness.”[3]  John Adams recalls a moment of sober trepidation, and stepping into an unknown—a new frontier.

Of this political and social frontier, Dr. Benjamin Rush argued in January 1787, “The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection.”[4]

All the great work.  All the hard yoga—the flexing, strengthening and breathing—of building a new nation that lives in harmony with its democratic and revolutionary principles would come after the war, and still in progress.

Ancestry.com recreated Trumbull’s painting with a 2017 advertisement “Declaration Descendants” with an intentional multicultural and diverse cast that also included women, amongst whom was the Rev W. Douglas Banks, the 5th-great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.  Of his participation and connection to Jefferson, Banks writes, “I do not celebrate Thomas Jefferson or Sally Hemings. I celebrate opportunities where I can overcome the flaws in my family tree and embrace the greatness of my inheritance.”[5]

I closed my school year and lesson with the ninth grade with these exact thoughts and quotations with the final challenge, reflect on Benjamin Rush and Rev. Banks and consider this: “We can celebrate those opportunities where we can overcome the flaws of our country’s history and embrace the greatness of its promise.”

[1] “The Declaration of Independence,” National Archives, October 30, 2015, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration.

[2] John Trumbull, The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, Oil on canvas, 20 7/8 x 31 in., Yale University Art Gallery, accessed June 18, 2020, https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/69.

[3] John Adams, The Political Writings of John Adams (Regnery Publishing, 2001), 680.

[4] Benjamin Rush, “Address to the People of the United States,” https://archive.csac.history.wisc.edu/Benjamin_Rush.pdf.

[5] Rev W. Douglas Banks, “We Are All In The Room,” Huffington Post (blog), July 11, 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/we-are-all-in-the-room_us_5964fdc5e4b005b0fdc8a8c0.

Multicultural and Anti-Racist Resources

Hello!  As a history and social studies teacher at a private high school, I help young people understand the evolution of the human consciousness and how to make sense of difficult questions of living in the social world.  I help students with the “hard yoga” — the flex-work, strengthening and breathing — of living in world.

Building diverse and inclusive communities, and undoing America’s legacy and racial inequality, will require more than virtue signaling with badges and memes or a selfie at a protest, it will take more passing the collection plate donating to a charity, and it will take more than “listening” and talking about how we listened, and “reading” and talking about what we read.   But these are all starts.  Allow me to share some of my resources and suggestions with you:

And this is just a start!  #blacklivesmatter

Be well!

 

“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Wish for You …

“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Introduction to My Latest

Welcome to my professional page. I’m Stephen McDonald. I am, in no order of consequence: a writer, a photographer, an explorer, an Americanist cultural and historical scholar, a Progressive Christian and a devoted father a much beloved daughter. (Maybe the best for last!)

This page will include my thoughts, queries, musings and links to my writing. I also hope to include links to historical sites and places of significance that I visit to share them with you. Additional plans not limited to this page include educational videos and podcasts.

Please like my Facebook Page and follow my Instagram.

I studied at the University of Vermont but finished my undergraduate degree with a BA in American Studies from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Presently, I am a graduate student pursuing an MA in American Studies from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Presently, I am writing my thesis exploring tribal identity and sovereignty of northeastern Native American tribes, focusing on the Ramapough Lunaape Nation.

My research interests include: Hudson Valley and New England history, American literature, American art, American music, social history, immigration and the peopling of America, slave narratives, immigrant narratives, social inequality, environmentalism, education, American social thought, progressive theology, and religion in American life.

Additional interests include psychology, economics, health care, science and technology, homesteading, country living, farming and sustainable agriculture. I like to sail. I make candles and dabble in woodworking. And I’m pretty good cook. I learned and continue to play three instruments: the guitar, the violin, and the saxophone. And I am fascinated by genealogical research and family history.

Pennsylvania is where I was raised. New York is where I live. Connecticut is where I study. Maine is where my heart lies.

After life transforming experience and finding renewed solace in my Christian faith, I am open to motivational speaking.

Please follow my blog if you like what you read.  Please contact me with any thoughts, words, queries you may have.

Thank you.  And Enjoy!

Stephen