A little Independent reading for Independence Day –
The people who founded this nation aren’t moldy mannequins in history’s closet — they’re inspirational figures for modern America as we celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich recently said he had a “man crush” on Alexander Hamilton, and Sarah Palin got into a debate about Paul Revere. So here’s to life, liberty and the pursuit of historical trivia:
1 Paul Revere did not shout “The British are coming!” Stop and think about it — he was a British subject at the time. In fact, he said the “regulars” were coming — regular uniformed troops. But regulars had one too many syllables for poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
2 Before President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet on “The West Wing,” there was Josiah Bartlett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The New Hampshire physician is credited with saving the lives of people suffering from diphtheria by breaking with the common practice of bloodletting or sweating and treating them with Peruvian bark, which contains quinine.
3 The phrase “Founding Father” is widely credited to President Warren Harding, who said it at the 1916 Republican National Convention in Chicago when he was still a senator. (And by Harding, we mean Judson Welliver, a campaign aide who wrote his speeches.)
4 Phillis Wheatley, whose first name came from the slave ship that brought her from Africa as a child, was too frail for housework but brilliant at poetry. She wrote patriotic verse honoring George Washington and was welcomed at his headquarters — a remarkable meeting considering she was a slave and he a slaveowner. (Four of the first five U.S. presidents owned slaves, the exception being John Adams.)
5 You probably haven’t heard of Button Gwinnett unless you’re an avid autograph collector. The Georgia politician, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, died violently during the Revolutionary War — but in a duel, not while fighting the British. That early demise makes his signature quite rare, and some say it’s the most valuable of any American’s. A Gwinnett letter fetched $722,500 at auction last year.