The Fight for Independence

In Answering Liberty's Call, Anna's husband joins the fight for liberty to realize his dream of religious freedom.

In Answering Liberty’s Call, Benjamin Stone, a character based on my 6x great grandfather, is a patriot and a Baptist preacher. While we’re taught that people came from Europe seeking religious freedom in the American colonies, it really wasn’t that simple.

Some colonies, like Maryland and Pennsylvania, were quite tolerant of all faiths, but in Virginia, the Anglican church ruled. Dissidents, as members of other faiths were called, were persecuted, their leaders imprisoned, and their services often interrupted by mobs. While I was doing research for this book, I gained a great admiration for the colonists who never gave up on their dream of liberty. In Virginia, the Baptists and other dissidents saw independence from the English crown as a path to the religious freedom they craved, for without Crown Rule, the Church of England would have less power in Virginia.

After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Congress ordered that copies be sent to every church in the colonies, to be read aloud to the congregations. In my historical novel, Benjamin Stone has the honor of reading the Declaration aloud to the Carters Run Baptist Church in Fauquier County, Virginia:

The push toward independence gained momentum in all the colonies, and at the end of July, the Continental Congress ordered that copies of a new declaration be sent to all congregations in the colonies.

Benjamin received the document midweek and, treating it with the same reverence he would have afforded a rare religious text, he set about studying it before writing his sermon. When he stood before the congregation that Sunday, he led the service with more than his usual enthusiasm.

“This week I gave a great deal of thought as to how we, as a nation, could come together and find unity, when our people are separated from one another by distance, by heritage, and by our differing faiths.

“It is written, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, ‘For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.’

“This is also true of our nation, for surely there is more that binds us together as Americans than drives us apart. I ask you, what would you be willing to sacrifice to secure a future free from Crown rule for yourselves and your children?

“In Thomas Paine’s Epistle to the Quakers, he asserts that all men dislike violence and want peace, but there comes a time when violence is inevitable. Mr. Paine believes that total separation from England is the only solution to the problems we face. Brothers and Sisters, I, too, believe it is time for us to unite with our countrymen in a common cause.”

He unrolled the parchment. “Copies of this Declaration of Independence, lately signed by members of the Continental Congress, have been forwarded to the ministers of each parish of every denomination in America, to be read aloud. The original document is on its way to England, where it will be presented to King George. I am privileged to be the one to share this message with you.

“In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the power of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind require that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

As he read, Anna scanned the faces of the people in the congregation. She saw on many of them the dawning excitement that she’d experienced a few months before. What would independence from England and Crown rule mean? What would it cost to gain it?

She turned her attention back to Benjamin, who was listing the crimes of the King. When he came to, “He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the lives of our People,” his voice shook for a moment, and he paused to clear his throat. She saw the tears in his eyes, and those that pooled in her own were a combination of pride, patriotism, and fear. She could almost see the fresh flames burst forth from the smoldering coals of his ideals.

Stay tuned for more posts about Answering Liberty’s Call!

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