This is a copy of a page from the Bible of my first Virginian and American Bowden ancestor. John Bowden. His five sons’ names are written here. John (II), born in 1750 – my direct ancestor, served in a Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line. His brother, Thomas, did too and made Sergeant. Brother, Jesse, died in Philadelphia. The other boys served in the Virginia militia.
I wish I knew what they said around the table at the farmhouse around July 4th, 1776. They were in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. All farmers. The old man, John, was transported as a criminal from Kent County, England in 1752 – according to our family story. Looks like the young family followed, if we have it correct. John was a “rent assessor” in the 1760s inventorying estates for Virginia’s death taxes. So, he definitely could read and write.
If he was appointed a rent assessor to supplement his income as a farmer, he had to know someone in the County political world. Virginia at the time was called (by Dr. Kevin Gutzman) a “cousinocracy.” Bowdens weren’t part of the First Families of Virginia. Bowdens were farmers.
Virginia had declared its independence in June. On July4th all the states banded together in declaration of independence for ‘these’ United States of America.
So, why did the Bowdens cast their lot with the Patriots? Why did they choose Independence for Virginia and the other states? Why did they choose revolution and war?
If they lost the revolution and war, they all could be hung. Their property could be seized and their families cast off in exile or destitute on the land. They could be killed or die of disease in the Army. Brother Jesse would die young.
Why did they do it? What did they say to one another? What did their mother, Peggy Webb, their sisters and wives, those that were married then, say?
I wish I knew.
Around the election of 1992, I highlighted the key sections of the Declaration of Independence. I asked myself under what conditions would ” a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them (me) under absolute Desportism: (so) it is their (my) right, it is their (my) duty to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their (my) future security.”
I made a very short list. If the government drafted my daughter’s into the Infantry, I would resist. If the government denied me my free speech and worship, I would resist.
I still will resist, as long as I am vigorous, if my freedom of worship or free speech is challenged. I would do for non-violent civil disobedience first. I would encourage massive civil disobedience.
Choosing revolution and war is a step into the abyss. It would take a lot of provocation – actual threats to my family, faith and freedom – to choose independence, revolution and war again.
(In 1861, several state legislatures choose Independence by secession from the voluntary union of the 1787 Constitution. Refusing to support secession in those states was an act of revolution and war.)
What were the family conversations in 1776?
I know what guided them.
It will guide me, too. It will guide my seed and their seed and their seed’s seed, Good Lord Willing, forever more (Isaiah 59:21). Whether there is a United States of America or not.
Happy Birthday, America. Hope we restore the Constitution – and help you recover, thrive and keep asceninding as the United States of America throughout this century – and more.