HERITAGE


From: rick.boswell@gmail.com
To: lpitts@miamiherald.com


Mr. Pitts,


From your intelligent observations on truth, reason, knowledge and objectivity I recognized you immediately as a fellow Mensan (my National Number: 100176527) and I would appreciate your advice.


I directly descend from 6 well-documented veterans of the American Revolutionary War (my Sons of the American Revolution National Number: 160983), 4 more that are in the process of being documented, and over 50 of their grandsons and great-grandsons who volunteered and served the Confederacy (my Military Order of the Stars and Bars ID# 7154, my Sons of Confederate Veterans ID# 243643). These grandsons and great-grandsons served for, as many of them said and wrote in their "letters home", the same reasons as their grandfathers; liberty from oppressive government and taxation and to defend their homes and families from an invading army.


One of my ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War was brought to America as a slave (they were called "indentured servants" until Anthony Johnson, a black former "indentured servant" won his case for the "lifetime servitude" of John Casor and became the first owner of the first legal lifetime slave in America:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Johnson_(American_Colonial)


According to the earliest known court records, slavery was first established in Virginia in 1654, when Johnson convinced the court in Northampton County that he was entitled to the lifetime services of John Casor, also a black man. Claiming that he had been imported as an indentured servant, Casor attempted to transfer what he argued was his remaining time of service to Robert Parker, a white, but Johnson insisted that he "had ye Negro for his life."

[1]


The court ruled that "seriously consideringe and maturely weighing the premisses, that the said Mr. Robert Parker most unjustly keepeth the said Negro from Anthony Johnson his master….It is therefore the Judgement of the Court and ordered That the said John Casor Negro forthwith returne unto the service of the said master Anthony Johnson, And that Mr. Robert Parker make payment of all charges in the suit."


The unfortunate defendant in the court action, John Casor, thus became the first individual in Virginia known to be legally declared a slave by the government (before this case legally defined bondage had not yet fully taken hold in Virginia, although it had already by the 1630s in Massachusetts; in Virginia blacks were indentured servants up until slavery gradually took effect). Fortunately my ancestor, like Mr Johnson, was released when his seven year term of slavery was ended and went on, like Mr. Johnson, to become a successful Colonialist and his son a soldier in the American Revolution. I think it fortunate that he was brought to America, even against his will, otherwise I might be not be living in this great country and enjoying the freedoms which are still available to me.


Had we lost the American Revolutionary War my ancestors who served would have been considered traitors and would probably have been drawn and quartered by the British. Had that been the case should I be ashamed of them? Those same ancestors who won and are now considered "heroes" and "patriots" by most Americans? My Confederate veteran ancestors, those who survived the war, at least, would not have suffered the same fate because, as a scholar of history like yourself knows, the Radical Republicans who wanted to prosecute Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and others as "traitors" were advised by many legal scholars and the United States Supreme Court that Confederates were not "traitors", according to the Constitution of the United States of America. One of those Confederate patriot ancestors, my 3rd great-grandfather Phillip Jefferson Ham was wounded at Chicamauga but recovered in time to re-join his company and lose his left arm in the Battle of Peachtree Creek. He survived the war and was, in 1887, one of the founding trustees of what is now Troy University in Troy, Alabama, which has campuses around the world and, I am told, the second largest enrollment of any college. Another, 1st Lt. Francis Marion Rushing (named for the soldier his grandfather Matthew Rushing served under in the Revolutionary War) went on to a career as a greatly admired doctor and judge.


In your enlightened opinion should I be proud or ashamed of these ancestors? Should I remember and honor them or should I deny them, desecrate their graves, and burn the letters, photographs and memorabilia from them which have been handed down from generation to generation in my family? Should I honor and preserve my "Roots"?


Should, as the United States government has decreed many times, I have the right to publicly display and honor the flag for which they fought and died?


Were you to learn, today, that you are a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson would you be proud or ashamed? Are you proud of your ancestors? Why?


I would greatly appreciate your deeper thoughts and carefully considered opinions on our heritage.


I am sure that you, like myself, are a great admirer of Prof. Walter Williams, with whom I have never disagreed. I treasure one of his books, the fourth collection of his nationally syndicated newspaper columns, "MORE LIBERTY MEANS LESS GOVERNMENT….Our Founders Knew This Well" which he was kind enough to inscribe for me. I highly recommend his current weekly columns which can be read on-line at http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/wew/articles.html and all of his past archived columns, collections and books.


He is one of my few remaining "heroes" and, for me, the model for intelligence, reason, education and objectivity. I’m sure that you are familiar with his writings and agree.


Thank you for your patience and for your response, which I will expect in the near future.


The real problem in America is not so much what people don’t know but, rather, what they think they know that just ain’t so. Will Rogers


Rick Boswell