History is not simply dates, events and results. Instead, it's people's lives, their hopes and dreams, their situation and their outcomes based on their and other people's actions. While history is learned by looking backward, knowing the outcome, life is lived marching forward, unsure of what might happen.
To understand history, it helps to understand the circumstances of the time. How did people live, who was in charge, who had rights, power and money? What is commonplace in one time and place would be unthinkable in another.
For example, most Americans understand that by law, they have individual rights. In fact, our Declaration of Independence states: "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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
But what many might have forgotten is that our Declaration of Independence was written in a time when it was generally accepted that the monarch, or the king, held the rights. The king had the power to loan rights to people (give nobility titles, etc.) and the power to take rights away.
We not only declared our independence from the king of England, but we stated that we believed in a very different framework. We did not believe that kings and monarchs controlled people's rights. Instead, we believed that God gives individual people rights, that the people then loan them to the government. Therefore the government derives its "just power" from the consent of the governed.
This is a very different framework and understanding of power than what was prevalent in the 1770s.
Why is this of interest today? Because the American people still have the same revolutionary spirit now that they had in 1775. According to a Rasmussen poll released Wednesday (a survey of 1,000 likely voters April 16-17, 95 percent confidence level, 3 percent margin of error), 92 percent of voters "agree that it is important for there to be strict limits on government so that it cannot take away individual rights and freedom." We fought for our freedom, and we want to retain our freedom.
The American Revolutionary war started on April 19, 1775, with the battle of Lexington and Concord. Patrick Henry first uttered the words, "Give me Liberty or give me death," in March of 1775, in Richmond, Va., at St. John's Church.