Sons of Liberty
Prayer, Unity, & Patriot the Horse with thomas jefferson
IT WAS TIME to begin.
“Is everyone going to Skateland tonight?” I asked as my Band of Patriots who gathered in my classroom for the planned time-travel adventure. “I hope you can all contribute to our school’s fundraiser tonight.”
“I will be there,” Raven said, raising her hand. “Skate Night is so much fun.”
“That’s because you are the reigning limbo skate champ,” Jax said, “but maybe I can beat you tonight. I’m feeling limber today.”
“Moe can beat me sometimes. He’s good at limbo. Who knew he could do the splits on skates?”
“You can be limbo champ again this year,” Moe grumbled. “I’m not going to Skate Night.” He slunk down in his chair.
“Why not?” I asked. “It’s ‘buy one pickle, get one for a penny night.”
“I don’t like pickles anymore,” Moe said.
“Is that really why you’re not going?” Raven asked. “Do you have a date with Lilly Bunker or something?” she joked.
“No! I never dated her!”
“You could bring Lilly to Skate Night,” Amelia antagonized. “Lilly and you could be the only couple skating in the Couple’s Skate.”
The kids snickered at the image of Moe couple skating.
“I don’t even like skating. And I don’t like Lilly Bunker!”
“Sorry,” Raven said with no real sympathy before cracking up again. “You’re usually at every skate party. Why wouldn’t you come tonight, unless—”
“Unless, what?” Moe asked reluctantly.
“Unless you’re busy, like you have a date!”
“I don’t have a date!” Moe demanded. “I’m grounded, okay? That’s why I can’t go to Skate Night. Are you happy now?” Moe threw his arms in the air.
“Oh, sorry, you should’ve just said that,” Raven said, sympathy wide over her expression.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t want anyone to know because nobody ever gets grounded but me anymore. It’s not fair.”
“That’s funny,” I said.
“Thanks a lot, Mr. Franklin.” Moe’s voice was drenched in sarcasm. “I’m glad you think my privileges taken from me is funny!”
“Oh, no!” I said. “I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant. I mean . . . I was just reading about America getting ‘grounded’ before class.”
“America was grounded?” Moe asked.
“Yep, pretty much. While your parents have a right to ground you, no one has the authority to ground America.”
“What did the colonists in America do?” Moe asked, completely forgetting his sour mood.
“They were doing what normal settlers usually do: building towns, structuring a governing system, doing their own thing, and England kept trying to control them and tell them what they were allowed to do and what they weren’t. But the colonies were founded on their own, by private individuals who lived under their own rule apart from their old countries, so they didn’t think another country had the right to tell them what to do. To make things worse, England had just won the French and Indian War and needed money to pay for it, so they decided to make America pay for England’s debt. That’s when the colonists here in America said enough was enough, and they dumped out all the tea in Boston that England was trying to unfairly tax Americans for.”
“The Boston Tea Party!” Jax said.
“Yes, that was the Boston Tea Party. The colonies and our country that resulted were founded on religious and individual liberty and the Sons of Liberty wouldn’t have it any other way. However, in retribution England decided to ‘ground’ America for it. On June 1, 1774, England would block Boston’s harbor with war ships so that no other ships could come in and bring them goods, supplies, or trade. This would destroy Boston and their economy!”
“What did the colonists do then? The blockade was a direct violation of the colonists’ individual liberty!” Moe asked.
“You’re right, Moe,” Jax chimed in. “Our individual liberty is all we have! We have to fight for it.”
Moe was really getting into it now and all but forgetting about his parents grounding him. The other kids were noticing it too and encouraging him along. My only fear was that he’d bring this argument home.
“Thomas Jefferson was in a burgess meeting in Virginia when he heard about England’s plan, called the Boston Port Act, and he and his friends were furious. What they did about it would amaze you and helped the colonies come together in a surge of patriotic unity. It ended up being the event that got the colonies on the same page to work together. It evolved into the American Revolution.”
“What did Thomas Jefferson do?” Amelia asked.
“The British were going to close the port starting on June 1, so the settlers did something the day of June 1 so infuriating that the English officials banned them from meeting again or conducting business for the colonies. Let me ask you: What have I taught you in class about how America was founded?” I asked the class.
“Our brave founding fathers,” Amelia quoted me, “left their own countries to come to America to escape religious persecution and to establish freedom of religion and personal liberties, founding this great nation on strong morals, principles, and values.”
“Exactly!” I said, quite proud of myself for instilling that in my students’ memories. “Do you want to see what all of that looked like? We can go to Virginia and see what the colonists did when they got grounded by Britain.”
The students knew this meant time travel! They stood in a circle and held hands, ready for a twisty, turbulent time tunnel.
I set the timepiece Benjamin Franklin had given me to June 1, 1771. As the past whizzed by in flashes I hollered out, “Virginia.” The vacuum sucked us through the generations, whipping our hair fiercely backward and then forward until it plopped us into our new reality.
We landed on the countryside on a warm summery morning, where mobs of white daisies lined a dusty path. I was wearing an immaculate black suit with coattails and knickers to my knees. I saw that all the boys from class were wearing bow ties and blazers as well.
“Look at Moe!” Raven said. “He looks ridiculous!”
Moe was all decked out. His wig had a braid in the back with a bow on the end, and his knickers were pants that gathered at his knees and then white tights went down to his funny, sized thirteen penny loafers. Moe looked down at himself. “I always get the clown suit!”
It smelled like a dairy farm, and the heat from my suffocating necktie increased by the second. A shadow moved over me and snorted, spaying me in the face with drool. A huge brown filly stomped its feet proudly and then trotted in circles around us. Sitting in her saddle were Amelia holding the reins and Jax holding onto her for dear life!
“Jax!” Amelia scolded. “What are you doing? Get your own horse! I’m on this one.”
“I can’t help it. This is where the time vortex threw me out!” The small saddle offered Jax very little seating, and he kept sliding around. “Don’t act mad. It’ll spook the horse, and I’m having a hard time holding on already.”
“Well, don’t hold onto me,” Amelia ordered. She sat sidesaddle and had on a long yellow dress with riding boots.
“Is it easier to ride side-saddle?” Jax asked.
“I don’t know! I’m just trying not to run over these people.” Amelia kept pulling back on the filly’s reins to stop it from moving around, but that just made her jerk more.
There were townspeople making their way up the road to us. Children raced and laughed, picked daisies, and chased, all wearing their Sunday best: bonnets and bows, knickers and ties.
Wagons and carriages also passed, kicking up the dust in their wake. Many horseback riders trotted up the hill on the road ahead. I took the reins and led the filly carrying Jax and Amelia. Moe and Raven walked beside me. We followed the townspeople up the dirt path. We passed a horseshoe shop out in the countryside, and the man stopped banging on the iron, called to his family, and came out to walk with us. We passed farmers milking their cows in the barn. They abandoned their work and, wiping their hands on their aprons, joined everyone else on our walk.
“Where are we all going?” Moe asked, scratching his wig. “This thing itches!”
“Extra! Extra!” a newsman called behind us. He carried a satchel stuffed with newsletters. “Today is the day! June 1, 1771, the day England blocks off Boston’s port and cuts off all trade! Thomas Jefferson says it’s a hostile invasion of our sister colony, Massachusetts. Read it all here!”
We reached the top of the hill where a redbrick church sat with arched windows and a white steeple. Carriages and horses were tied up outside, and people were all milling about in great excitement.
“They are all headed to the church,” Amelia observed. “C’mon, horse . . . to the church!” she told the animal and jabbed her heels in its side. The horse spun around in circles and I lost the reins.
“Don’t call it horse,” Jax said. “You have to give it a name.”
“What name, like Brainless? That’s a good name for this horse.”
“No,” Jax said and pulled himself on better. “Call her Patriot. That has a brave, heroic sound to it.” Jax patted the horse. “Can you take us to the church, Patriot?” Jax asked the massive animal as if he were talking to a toddler.
Patriot stopped circling and looked toward the church.
“Yes, there’s the church,” Jax said. “Will you take us there, please?”
Patriot turned and trotted for the church.
“Oh, geez.” Amelia rolled her eyes, bopping up and down in the saddle.
“You just needed to say please,” Jax instructed.
Thomas Jefferson stood tall just inside the church. “Thank you for giving up your day for our cause!” He had one hand behind his back and was showing families in. “Thank you for showing your support to all thirteen colonies.”
“Read all about it!” the newsman called out from behind us as we appraoched. “The state of Virginia is coming together, leaving their labor and chores all day to protest England’s blockade in Boston. Protect our rights! Virginia’s governor from England has already taken away our rights to have meetings. He now forbids the burgesses of Virginia to meet and talk about what we need to do! What rights will they take next?”
Bells chimed atop the church building, announcing nine o’clock one clang at a time.
Everyone around filed into the church, and my Band of Patriots and I sat in the back row. The morning sun leaked into the arched, stained-glass windows, shimmering a rainbow of colors into our midst. The energy in the church was palpable.
A tall man with black, wavy hair in a low ponytail walked up the few stairs to the platform at the front. “I am Patrick Henry, a Virginian representative. Thomas Jefferson should be the man up here talking, for it is his words I will be speaking. He is the great writer who penned a request for this momentous protest, but he has stage fright.”
Henry stepped back and offered the stage to Thomas Jefferson, who sat in the front row of the audience. Jefferson shook his head vehemently with a look of mortification. Henry winked at Jefferson, then giving his attention to the crowd. “Stage freight, I say.” Everybody laughed.
“Today is June 1,” Patrick Henry continued. “When the news of the oppression that would take place today in our fellow colony of Massachusetts reached Virginia, we were appalled. We decided to take a stand against Britain’s tyranny from here in Virginia. These upright, courageous men, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee, along with me, agreed that we must boldly take a stand in line with Massachusetts. That’s when Thomas wrote the resolution that urged Virginia's colonists to ‘implore the Divine Interposition for averting the heavy Calamity, which threatens Destruction to our civil Rights, and the Evils of civil War; to give us one Heart and one Mind firmly to oppose, by all just and proper Means, every Injury to American Rights.’ Jefferson also pleaded for our colony to take part in this official day of prayer, humiliation, and fasting in order to come as one to ask for wisdom in forming a homeland and for the Lord to guide and protect us as we confront the foes that rob liberties God has given us. This is a new call to men, women, boys and girls, young and old, to fight our foes in spirit, mind, and body but, most importantly, with the Lord’s assistance. Our men called for Virginia to make a stand, and look at the turn out in Williamsburg!”
“Sir! Sir!” A pageboy ran into the church building huffing for air. “Reports from the south say that all of Jamestown and the surrounding towns have stopped work all day to pray together! And reports to the west are saying the same of Richmond! The whole province of Virginia is on its knees in prayer to God!”
“We don’t know what the Lord has in store for the thirteen colonies,” Henry said, “but I know with us turning to God in unison, He is on our side and we will do well. The first thing we are going to do as a united people is refuse to buy anything brought here by Britain. England is taking Boston’s port from the people, among many of our other rights. Let us show them that they cannot do this!”
“Hurrah!” many of the crowd cheered. “Amen!”
“I will ask for the minister to come lead us in our official day of prayer.”
While Patrick Henry walked off the stage, I motioned to the students to follow me outside. We stepped out of the church, and Patriot trotted over to nuzzle Jax. “Hello, girl!” Jax rubbed Patriot’s nose.
“There was such a cool feeling in there,” Raven noticed. “Everyone was buzzing with a certain loyalty to the colonies.”
“That’s patriotism,” I said. “It’s culminating all around us as we speak.”
“Whoa,” Moe said.
My Band of Patriots took a moment of silence to let the moment set in. Raven even followed along with the prayer inside.
I huddled the kids behind a great big oak tree and harnessed Patriot to it. I set the timepiece and we travelled back to our classroom.
“So having an official day of prayer made the British government even angrier?” Amelia asked, situating herself in her seat. “Why would praying upset them?”
“It wasn’t the act of prayer that was so bad to the British government,” I answered. “It was the new idea of unity among the thirteen colonies, their new patriotism for America, and their rebellion against England that they all showed that day. Together, they asked God to help them rise up against Britain and lead the colonists to break free from Britain’s unfair control. That’s what was threatening to Britain’s government.”
“It worked!” Jax said. “Our history book says that after the day of prayer and fasting, the colonists immediately started meeting secretly about having their own government and their own nation, starting the Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson said that on June 1, ‘the effect of the day through the whole colony was like a shock of electricity.’ It prompted Virginians to choose representatives who wanted to establish American independence. What ended up bringing on the birth of the American nation was all started by an act of faith. Just two years after the day of prayer, Thomas Jefferson wrote, and they all signed, the Declaration of Independence!”
“That’s right, Jax. Our founding fathers knew how crucial it was to have God leading them through any situation,” I added. “They had so many monstrous obstacles, and they put God in charge. It’s a good example of how our country thrived and how we should live today.”
“I need to discuss my liberties with my parents,” Moe added gleefully.
“No you don’t, Moe. Just tell them how much you learned today and I’m sure they’ll amend their current grounding of you.”
Jax pulled his t-shirt up to his nose and scowled. “I smell like horse sweat.”
Then, through the outside open window of the classroom, a horse leaned its head in over Jax’s face. It was Patriot! She neighed and nudged Jax through the window. “Patriot!” Jax cried. “Oh no! I must’ve been petting her when Mr. Franklin sent us forward in time!”
The kids jumped up on desks and surrounded Patriot through the open window, rubbing her mane and scratching her head. Patriot loved it, nuzzling Jax.
“Guys!” I clamored. “We can’t keep her here! Principal Kermugin would fire me for sure.”
“I have to take her back when you guys leave,” I said. “Someone in the eighteenth century will be missing her soon.”
All the kids hung on Patriot. Even Amelia rubbed her nose . . . until Patriot sneezed in her face. Everyone laughed.
“Ew!” Emilia smeared her hand down her face. “I’m covered in horse snot!”
“Yeah,” Moe said, “but it’s horse snot from Patriot! Our horse from the American founding!”