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Encounters 9, Troubling Times

February 10, 2017

The times were filled with controversy: true 242 years ago, but true today and probably most of the 242 years intervening. What’s new? The players are new and the plot thickens. Listen—

Disturbances like the Boston Tea Party had to be stopped, so Britain sent regulars to Lexington and Concord to confiscate weapons. The colonists responded with force, sending the Brits back to Boston. The red-coats came and went.

Emerging as a natural leader, George Washington, delegate from Virginia, attended the Continental Congress to discuss Britain’s role in the colonies. John Adams suggested that George Washington be appointed general and commander of the forces outside Boston. Colonial Militias needed to be united under one leader. George reluctantly accepted, declaring he needed no salary, only expenses, but never was a man more reluctant to give up domestic happiness.

He wrote to his wife that his “sense of honor and responsibility would not allow him to refuse” and he hoped she would spend her time without him “as agreeably as possible.” Becoming like a daughter, Nelly Calvert had remained at Mount Vernon after the death of Patsy. Her presence was a comfort, but George wrote Martha seven letters in the first week of his absence.

By 1775 Washington’s army was in dire need of attention. Realizing he could not go home or the entire army would desert, he invited Martha to join him at his winter camp. Traveling was not an easy venture, especially for women. Roads were few and impassible in bad weather. Coaches were uncomfortable, bouncing passengers up, down, and sideways. There were few inns, and guests were expected to share rooms, even beds. Women were expected to travel within their circle of friends.

Martha was not to be discouraged: she would follow George to the ends of the earth, and she didn’t travel lightly. Hams, blankets, clothes and endless skeins of knitting wool accompanied her to see her husband in Cambridge.

Years later she wrote, “I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be, for I have learnt from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances; we carry the seeds of the one, or the other, about with us in our minds wherever we go.”

Now, how did she learn that in the middle of the American Revolution?

to be contd.

 

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