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Trip to Williamsburg

November 6, 2008

We went on this trip Monday with our homeschool group: NLSV. We got an affordable deal, thanks to the Colonial Williamsburg/REACH Home Educators Day. I loved it; I thought it was fascinating! But for my kids, I think I traveled a long way just to throw marshmallows. :-/

On the other hand, maybe it fits in with my coathook theory. When James and I started talking about the Colonial and Revolutionary era today, he remembered several things he saw, and it gave us fodder for discussion.

We hung out with several other families, and the kids had a blast with their friends! Trishy took a liking to a 5-year-old named Riesling. Jam palled around with his best friend, Aengus. And Sarah hung out with Aengus’s mom, talking her ear off about her obsession: movies. 😀

We toured a 1775 farm, including a slave house where a wonderful interpreter told us what life was like. The slave house was actually the main house, at least for the first 2-3 generations after a family arrived in America. There were several pallets on the dirt floor for sleeping, a simple fireplace, and a few cooking implements. Beside each pallet, a hole was dug in the ground. This was a place for the family member (and later, a slave) to keep all his worldly possessions, like a lock of hair and a shard of glass. This is quite different from the public’s perception of Colonial life, and it certainly doesn’t match our Hollywood image of a Southern plantation. The interpreter almost laughed when I asked where the “Big House” was. 🙂

We also toured the governor’s mansion. There was a revolutionary program with various costumed interpreters. It was terrific! We heard a slave woman, “Eve,” talk about the unfinished work of the Declaration of Independence. We walked around town and talked to surveyors, basket makers, and wig makers. At one point everyone was shooed from the street, with pomp and circumstance, because Martha Washington’s carriage was coming through. We also saw “Patrick Henry” give his most famous speech:

In his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech, he talked about the need to give up false hope and stand firm against an enemy. It certainly had echoes in our time. He mentioned the names of a number of legislators who opposed his resolution for war with England. I realized I had never heard of any of them, though I’d certainly heard of Patrick Henry. It seemed an interesting and sad point. It seems that peacemakers rarely make history. I realized that when I study wars with my kids, I’d like to show the other side. For example, what about the stories of the pacifists, the Mennonites (an important group in THIS area) and the Quakers?

We also heard George Washington give his famous farewell address; Sarah and I had just read a snippet of it, in Are You Liberal, Conservative or Confused?, the week before. Of course, nearly every word is very timely. Here is a snippets.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. (Why am I seeing Dubya’s face in my mind right now?). A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way, which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

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