Rebels and rebellions…tennis shoes, flags and slavery…. a brief history lesson

“Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white;
that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

UShistory.org

Do you remember back in late June, just before our Nation’s celebration of the 4th of July?

If you’re anything like me, remembering last week can be challenging enough.

But let’s try it.
Let’s try to recall a current event that took place during that time.
It made all the news rounds.

The current event in question is how athletic apparel wear giant Nike had come out with
a commemorative shoe featuring what is known as “the Besty Ross” flag–
just in time for the 4th of July celebration.

And how then former football player and flag protester Colin Kaepernick told the
athletic giant not to sell the shoes because he believed the shoe’s flag
image was steeped in racism?

Remember all of that??

And do you remember that the athletic giant caved to his demands?

First of all, that story alone is enough to make me shake my head.

That a youthful former NFL player could tell a mega-money power company that they shouldn’t do
something and they actually listen to him and don’t do as he says is beyond my
small mind’s thinking.

Oh to be so powerful that the powerful quake.

But here’s the thing.

As an educator and one who had majored in history the majority of her time in college,
I could never allow the uneducated to perpetuate a lie.

I could not allow Betsy Ross, who is obviously not here to defend herself—
I could not allow her name to be forever sullied or associated with racism,
slavery or anything other than freedom.

And the funny thing is…we’re so all about #metoo and women’s rights and girl power,
yet we’ve actually allowed a woman to be painted into the ugly narrative of racism,
falsehoods and lies.

Is that what is known as hypocritical?

Let’s back up a couple of hundred years and let’s look at what that flag is all about.
However, let’s first back up even further and take a look at the woman in question.

Elizabeth Griscom, also known as Betsy, was the 8th of 17 children born to
Samuel Griscom and Rebecca James.
She was born in the colony of Pennsylvania, in the city of Philidelphia in 1752.

The Griscoms were a Quaker family and a family that ran an upholstery business.

Quakers were a religious group founded in 1652 in England by George Fox.
They were a split from the Chruch of England and were devoted to peaceful principals.
And most notably, they were pacifists.

(It might be of interest to know that President Richard Nixon was born to
Quaker parents…but that’s another story for another day)

Quakers, more often than not, married other Quakers.
If one opted to marry outside of the religious denomination then they would be “read out”
or cut off both emotionally and financially from one’s family and religious community.

Upon the completion of her formal Quaker schooling, Betsy’s father apprenticed
her to another upholsterer.
This is when she met John Ross, another apprentice, and member of the Episcopal Chruch.

The two fell in love and actually eloped.
They crossed the Delaware River over into New Jersey where they were married at a
near-by Tavern.

Obviously, the union led to Betsy being cut off from the Quaker community that
she had known since childhood.

She and John were happy and now worshiped at the Episcopal church, Christ Chruch.
The same church that George Washington attended.
There is church documentation that the Ross’ and the Washingtons occupied pews
across the aisle from one another.

This was also during the time that tensions had come to a head between the
Colonists and the British.

The Ross’ were busy with their upholstery business but as the tensions grew,
fabric supplies became scarce and the business all but dried up due to a lack of
demand and materials.

It was at this time that John Ross joined the Continental Army as a volunteer.

He was in charge of guarding a munitions cache.
At some point, the cache exploded, killing John— leaving
Betsy a young widow.

History tells us that at this point, Betsy went back to being a practicing Quaker.

However, this was also the time that there was a rift within the Quaker community itself.

Many of the members believed in the cause for freedom and actually split from the
Quaker body, forming the Fighting Quakers who joined the Continental Army.
Betsy and her new husband, sea captain, Joseph Ashburn, joined the side of the
Fighting Quakers.

Capt. Ashburn was in charge of bringing supplies back to the fighting colonists.
His ship, however, was eventually captured by British forces and he was taken, prisoner.

Joseph actually died in prison…a fact that Betsy would not discover until quite
sometime later.
It was a mutual friend of the family, a fellow sea captain named John Claypoole, who
came to Betsy with the grim news.

Betsy was a widow once again.

Betsy had had no children with her first husband John but had two with Joseph.
Sadly only one survived past infancy.
However, this would not be the end of Betsy’s married life nor that of motherhood.

Betsy married one final time.

This time it was to Joseph’s friend, John Claypoole.
A man, who to no surprise, Betsy convinced to retire from sailing.

The Claypoole’s went on to have 5 children of their own, four of whom survived to adulthood…
So 5 of Betsy’s children actually outlived her and were the ones who would
go on to leave a written testament to their mother’s contribution to
the Colonial fight for freedom.

In a signed affidavit, one of Betsy’s daughter’s recounted her mother’s
involvement with the creating of the unifying 13-star colonial flag.

Bety’s daughter tells of three men from the Continental Congress who came to call
upon her mother.

Robert Morris, the wealthiest man in Pennsylvania and the largest landowner,
Col. George Ross, the uncle to her late husband, as well as General George Washington.

Betsy knew the General quite well as she had not only worshiped alongside him and his
family at Christ Chruch, she had also done some embroidery and sewing work for the General.

Her daughter recounts:
That when the committee (with General Washington) came into her store she showed
them into her parlor, back of her store;
and one of them asked her if she could make a flag and that she replied that she did not know
but she could try.

That they then showed her a drawing roughly executed, of the flag as it was proposed to be
made by the committee, and that she saw in it some defects in its proportions and the
arrangement and shape of the stars.
That she said it was square and a flag should be one third longer than its width,
that the stars were scattered promiscuously over the field,
and she said they should be either in lines or in some adopted form as a circle,
or a star, and that the stars were six-pointed in the drawing,
and she said they should be five pointed.

That the gentlemen of the committee and General Washington very respectfully
considered the suggestions and acted upon them,
General Washington seating himself at a table with a pencil and paper,
altered the drawing and then made a new one according to the suggestions of my mother.
That General Washington seemed to her to be the active one in making the design,
the others having little or nothing to do with it.

That mother went diligently to work upon her flag and soon finished it,
and returned it, the first star-spangled banner that ever was made,
to her employers, that it was run up to the peak of one of the vessels belonging to one of
the committee then lying at the wharf, and was received with shouts of applause by the
few bystanders who happened to be looking on.
That the committee on the same day carried the flag into the Congress sitting in the State House,
and made a report presenting the flag and the drawing and that Congress unanimously approved
and accepted the report.
That the next day Col. Ross called upon my mother and informed her that her work had been approved
and her flag adopted, and he gave orders for the purchase of all the materials and the manufacture
of as many flags as she could make.
And that from that time forward, for over fifty years she continued
to make flags for the United States Government.

The affidavit is signed, notarized and still held as a historical document.

I believe the facts stated in the foregoing Article entitled
“The First American Flag and Who Made It,” are all strictly true.
This affidavit having been signed by Rachel Fletcher with violet ink,
the signature has faded, but is at this time, Seventh Month 24th, 1908,
still plainly legible.

Rachel Fletcher
I, Mary Fletcher Wigert, daughter of the said Rachel Fletcher,
recognize the signature in the rectangular space outlined in black above,
as the signature of my mother Rachel Fletcher.

Mary Fletcher Wigert

Signed in the presence of Mary W. Miller Philadelphia Seventh Mo. 24th, 1908

State of New York

City of New York SS

On the 31st day of July A.D. 1871.
Before me the subscriber a Notary Public in and for the Commonwealth of New York,
duly commissioned, residing in the said City of New York,
personally appeared the above named Rachel Fletcher,
who being duly affirmed did depose and say that the statements above certified
to by her are all strictly true according to the best of her knowledge and belief,
and that she is a daughter of Elizabeth Claypoole.
Affirmed and subscribed before me the day and year aforesaid.
Witness my hand and Notarial Seal.

Th. J. McEvily
Notary Public City & Co. New York

So what we know is that ‘the Betsy Ross’ flag is not a symbol of racism nor slavery.
But rather a symbol of freedom, democracy as it symbolized the birth of a Nation.

Yes the new Nation did have slave labor…as had the colonies prior,
as had the new land when the Spanish, the Dutch and the British had brought with
them slaves who had been in the Carribean and South America working the sugar plantations.

Slavery was not a new problem to a new Nation.
Nor was it a problem created by the new Nation.

It had been a form of “free labor” used by other Nations long before there were 13 colonies
and even before there had been a new land.

And the Quakers were actually one of the first religious groups to denounce the ownership of slaves
and vocally oppose the practice of slavery.

Betsy Ross, the Continental Congress, and the new flag had nothing to do with racism
or slavery…end of sentence.

It would take many more years of growing pains, struggle and eventually a
near-catastrophic internal conflict for this united Nation to come to terms
with what had long been part and parcel of the more negative part of her history.

But to look through the lenses of the 21st century back to a nation’s inception in the 18th century
and to cast condescending judgment is not only lacking in prudence and wisdom,
it is absolutely wrong.

Hindsight does that, doesn’t it?
It grants us the holier than thou ability to tell the past of its grievous mistakes.
But isn’t that how we learn??…from the mistakes of the past???

One day a future will look back on us and tell of our mistakes…
And one of those glaring mistakes will be that we do not know, nor care to
know the truth of our own history.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Perhaps we might then say that a nation that does not know its past,
is doomed to repeat it…

It would, therefore, behoove our up and coming progressive-leaning millennial angst-ridden
generation to do a bit of studying before they continue their attempt at rewriting
our own history.

May God have mercy on us.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagaffs.html

crossing the Rubicon toward the black hole of culture

“[death]…the abyss from where no traveler is permitted to return”
George Washington

Men willingly believe what they wish.
Julius Caesar


(image courtesy NASA)

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the direction our world seems to be headed.
Not a fan of the current demands made by the culture gods.

And my discontent only grows by the minute.
We are being rapidly sucked into the black hole of a culture gone mad.

Black holes are seemingly endless voids that suck in and gobble up everything and
anything that happens to wander into their paths…a merciless vacuum to nothingness…
a seemingly never-ending emptiness where there is no light, no escape, no hope.

If allowed to stay on this current path of cultural madness, we will be swallowed whole,
never to be heard from again…as in no escape, no hope.

And I’ve been reminded of this perilous race of ours toward the black hole of hopelessness
several times this past week.

I had the opportunity of sitting in on a court hearing this past week–
not as a participant mind you, but more or less as an observing supporter.

It’s a long story but we all know that in most court proceedings,
things are not always as they seem.

It’s an odd dance of the legal tit for tat for truth.

Sitting, listening and observing, I found my mouth falling open when I heard the opposing
side’s lawyer feed off of the latest #metoo movement frenzie.

He was describing to the judge the behavior of a now three and a half-year-long deceased
92-year-old man.
Deceased before we had even heard of #metoo.

And yet this latest example of cultural madness was being surreally applied
to a person who was no longer here to defend his reputation which was currently
being tried in a public forum of culture in a courtroom.

Not really sure how a 92-year-old feeble man on a walker, a man who had Parkinson’s disease
and the energy level of a newborn child could aggressively push himself on a couple
of youthful female caregivers, but this is now sadly the times in which we live.

Yet what I was watching was a gross and obvious desperation grab by a lawyer…
all because our culture has gone off the skids of sanity.
And thus a shark hungry lawyer saw an opportunity to feed off the hypersensitivity
of the times.

All because we have cast ourselves outward toward the merciless vacuum of hopelessness…
and the thing is, no one seems to “get it.”
No one seems to grasp that we are creating our own rapid demise as a civilized society.

And thus the reputation of a deceased man was just one more of the latest casualties
of victimization by the black hole created by a culture out of control.

The next incident came later in the week.
I found myself reading a story that I found being repeated on many blog posts.
They were posts referencing a particular story about a young man who had once been a rising
star and prominent Christian in the public forum of culture.

The story is that this young man, who is now a bit older but still one I consider younger,
had written a book that became very popular within the youthful
Chrisitan circuit…basically a how-to-live sort of proclamation and manual to and for
young Christians.

He later went on to become a popular minister–be that self-proclaimed or
theologically trained, I do not know.

Yet sadly this past week, this same young man announced,
in the very public forum of all things social media,
that he was recanting his faith and his Christianity.

He apologized for hurting anyone who had ever worshiped (my word), at his feet,
read his books, listened to his teachings and his preachings…as well as apologized
to those, he may have offended by his ‘narrow-minded’ faith.

And so it was now high time for him to set the record straight…
He had been wrong about everything and oh, by the way, he was also getting divorced.

He was wrong…

Wrong about Jesus.
Wrong about his faith.
Wrong about his marriage.
And thus he was wrong about the Word of God.

He was wrong about sex, marriage, and all the spin-offs found entrenched in our counter-culture’s
obsession with all things anacronyms—LBGTQ_ _ _ _
(add in all the other letters you care to add)

He was, however, lauded for his “confession.”
He was embraced for his “beautiful” apologies as he
eloquently waxed and waned about the need for a new spiritual quest.
He had crossed over the Rubicon and the culture gods were now embracing him.

My friend Shara ( https://scasefamily.com/2019/07/26/kissing-jesus-goodbye/)
responded that “There’s nothing beautiful about denouncing Christ to the world.
Ever.”

My friend IB (https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/deconstructing-josh-harris/)
wondered aloud, whether or not in the wake of his fall, how many others had fallen simply for
their blind following of a fellow Chrisitan rather than following Christ and Christ alone.

I suddenly had a vision of a sinking Peter in a stormy sea when he had diverted his eyes
from his Lord and turned his vision rather to all that was around him.

And so I noted that here was simply another victim to the black hole that our culture
is busily creating.
A black abyss sucking up all that is right and decent and Holy.

Not being familiar with this particular one-time Christian advocate now lost young man,
I thought the story to be just another sad tale of the victimization of our times.

But isn’t that what all of this current culture is all about?
Victimizing, apologizing, recanting and accusing?!

That’s what we’re supposed to do and what the culture gods command us to do, is it not?
Apologize for everything while we accuse everyone of crimes against the Culture.
For culture is no longer a little c but is now the big C of all importance.

And that my friends is the black hole of hopelessness.
Our brave new world of a politically correct society that has no tolerance
for Judaeo /Christian values, morals let alone the word of God.

And so we have a choice…we can either keep our eyes on Culture or we can keep
our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.
But the thing is, we cannot do both.

It’s all pretty simple really, but obviously not as easy as it sounds.
In part because the insidious lies of ‘the Culture’ strive to undermind
what we once thought and lived—

All the while we can find ourselves inching ever closer to the
Culture’s black hole…we just need to finish crossing the Rubicon first.

If God had merely saved us from sins, it would be enough.
In fact, it would be the greatest gift imaginable.
Instead, however, he chose to surpass the limits of our imagination when he came down
from heaven” to save us. Not only did he make himself like us — but he made us like himself.

Leila Miller
from Raising Chaste Catholic Men

Once was blind….

But…and this is a vital truth of the Christian Gospel –
Jesus does not invite and accept ANY of us just as we are.
He came to save us.
He came to make us a new creation.
He came to give us new life.
It makes a mockery of Christ to regard him as some kind of affirming angel
who wants to tell us how good we really are.
Christ did not die on the cross to keep us in our sin,
he died to save us from them!

David Robertson


(blooming loropetalum / Julie Cook / 2018)

It is a hymn written in 1779 that I’d lay money that both Believer and non-beliver alike
could easily and readily recite…

“Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”

I actually prefer the bagpipe rendition myself.

It’s such a familiar tune that we might just find ourselves humming it subconsciously…
unaware that we were even humming…

Yet the back story, as I have discovered with most things that seem larger than life,
is usually far more amazing than the actual “thing”—
and in this case, that thing is a beloved hymn.

Perhaps it is the story that simply adds to the majesty and beauty behind those
haunting words.

In 2006 a wonderful movie come out showcasing the tale behind the famous hymn—
And as with most movies…liberties were undoubtedly taken to “enhance” the emotional
impact upon the viewer.

But the story behind the hymn—involves a man haunted by 20,000 ghosts and another man
who makes his sole mission in life to bring everlasting freedom to countless men,
woman and children.
Colliding tales that need no outside enhancements.

The story, as most already know, focused on William Wilberforce, a young idealist member
of the British Parliment, ardently campaigning to end the British slave trade industry.

The British Empire had been involved in the abducting, buying, selling and trading of
African slaves since the mid 1500’s.
Obviously, this was long before the colonies of a new Nation followed suit.
And yes it was tragically a longstanding yet prolific form of enterprise for the
British Realm…

Slave labor was an integral component in the production of the sugar from the
sugarcane plantations scattered about on the various British owned Caribbean Islands…
Sugarcane equates to sugar which equates to the making of rum.
So the use of slave labor, which was key in the running of the sugarcane plantations,
eventually became an important asset to the early British colonies in
what became the new American settlements in their production of cotton.

And so it was a former English slave ship captain turned Anglican cleric named John Newton
who actually penned the lyrics to what would become the most beloved Christian hymn.
For it was Newton who was the haunted man of the sins of not only his past but of the
past sins of those he had known as well as his own Nation.

Newton and Wilberforce had a long lasting relationship, a relationship that acted as a
catalyst in spurring on the young idealist politician’s lifetime quest as an abolitionist…
A quest which finally in 1807 lead to the eventual end of the British Realm’s
trading in slaves.

Our friend the Wee flea, the Scottish pastor David Robertson, offers a wonderful
observation about a small essay that was written by John Newton concerning his
thoughts and lessons learned about his participation in the slave trading of human beings…
reflections that David believes are just as important for our 21st-century lives and
the current #metoo movement….just as they were almost 200 years ago as an Empire and her people
wrestled with the sins of its past.

#MeToo: 7 lessons for the movement from slave trader John Newton

David follows that post with another equally insightful post concerning the Chruch in Scotland
and it’s reaction to the growing phenomena known as self-identifying along with the transgender
movement which is now invading the lives of the UK’s grammar school children.

Two Churches Struggling with (Gender) Identity