History is the North Star, guiding my novels in the direction they must go. Everything else fits in around it, and I’ve found that by faithfully following what is known, fictional situations simply sprout like spring seeds in the garden.
Take this serene painting, for example. It is dated June, 1776, and presumably takes place in Philadelphia where Betsy Ross had a shop. Everyone is dressed neatly, hair combed, everyone is is clean, and there is no suggestion of the disaster that would happen the following winter, when the Continental Army camped and starved and froze to death at nearby Valley Forge.The men are admiring Betsy Ross’s new flag, except for General Washington, who seems more interested in the child on his knee than in Betsy, who is showing the guys how to make a five-pointed star. All very nice, even though Betsy’s involvement with the first flag is questionable, according to Wikipedia, and a lot of people were going to get very dirty and very messy and very hungry very quickly.
.It seems that there were many different flags, representing this colony or that, this unit or that, but this one is most often associated with the Revolution itself. It was devised by Ben Franklin on the occasion of a colonial meet-up in 1750, in an attempt to get the colonies to cooperate with one another in responding to the French-Indian menace. Factional turf wars, however, prevented anything from happening. Still, the idea was a good one, and it was easily understood by everyone.
I find, however, that the actual causes of the Revolution aren’t widely understood, aside from knowing that taxation without representation was a catchword, and that the king was a bad guy (whoever he was).
At the present writing, February 2018, few of us deny that the nation is divided and that democracy is at risk. I believe American History and Civics hasn’t been taught in our public schools for a long time, which is another risk factor. Add to it the “fly over” states whose majority observe a fundamentalist religion that rejects new ideas — all of them — the risk climbs higher and higher.
But I think this isn’t the first time we’ve been at risk. In fact, we were at risk long before the Revolution, and only Samuel Adams appeared to see it. For all these reasons, I’m going to focus on the initial risk, which is very much like the one we face today. Now as then, it shows us what to look for (besides taxation without representation) and is uncannily similar to the news of the moment. I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I have!