1776 Quotes

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1776 1776 by David McCullough
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“The year 1776, celebrated as the birth year of the nation and for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was for those who carried the fight for independence forward a year of all-too-few victories, of sustained suffering, disease, hunger, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear, as they would never forget, but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country, and that, too they would never forget.”
David McCullough, 1776
“There are no people on earth in whom a spirit of enthusiastic zeal is so readily kindled, and burns so remarkably, as Americans”
David McCullough, 1776
“It was a day and age that saw no reason why one could not learn whatever was required - learn vitally anything - by the close study of books.”
David McCullough, 1776
“In truth, the situation was worse than they realized, and no one perceived this as clearly as Washington. Seeing things as they were, and not as he would wish them to be, was one of his salient strengths.”
David McCullough, 1776
“as the Sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first thing laid aside when those liberties are firmly established”
David McCullough, 1776
“a leader must look and act the part.”
David McCullough, 1776
“I lament the want of a liberal education. I feel the mist of ignorance to surround me - Nathanael Greene”
David McCullough, 1776
“Indeed, bribery, favoritism, and corruption in a great variety of forms were rampant not only in politics, but in all levels of society.”
David McCullough, 1776
“A people unused to restraint must be led, they will not be drove.”
David McCullough, 1776
“Once, during the Siege of Boston, when almost nothing was going right and General Schuyler had written from Albany to bemoan his troubles, Washington had replied that he understood but that “we must bear up against them, and make the best of mankind as they are, since we cannot have them as we wish.” It was such resolve and an acceptance of mankind and circumstances as they were, not as he wished them to be, that continued to carry Washington through. “I will not however despair,” he now wrote to Governor William Livingston.”
David McCullough, 1776
“Lord Chatham, the King of Prussia, nay, Alexander the Great, never gained more in one campaign than the noble lord has lost-he has lost a whole continent.”
David McCullough, 1776
“And if his youth was obvious, the Glorious Cause was to a large degree a young man’s cause. The commander in chief of the army, George Washington, was himself only forty-three. John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress, was thirty-nine, John Adams, forty, Thomas Jefferson, thirty-two, younger even than the young Rhode Island general. In such times many were being cast in roles seemingly beyond their experience or capacities, and Washington had quickly judged Nathanael Greene to be “an object of confidence.”
David McCullough, 1776
“Strange it was that the British commander-in-chief, known for his chronic gambling, seemed to give no thought to how his American opponent might play his hand. O”
David McCullough, 1776
“The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth,” Paine had written. “Everything that is right or reasonable pleads for separation.”
David McCullough, 1776
“Many, like Henry Knox, saw at once that with the enemy massing for battle so close at hand and independence at last declared by Congress, the war had entered an entirely new stage. The lines were drawn now as never before, the stakes far higher. “The eyes of all America are upon us,” Knox wrote. “As we play our part posterity will bless or curse us.” By renouncing their allegiance to the King, the delegates at Philadelphia had committed treason and embarked on a course from which there could be no turning back. “We are in the very midst of a revolution,” wrote John Adams, “the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.”
David McCullough, 1776
“To the British and those Loyalists who had taken refuge in Boston, they were simply “the rebels,” or “the country people,” undeserving the words “American” or “army.” General John Burgoyne disdainfully dubbed them “a preposterous parade,” a “rabble in arms.”
David McCullough, 1776
“In fact, the Americans of 1776 enjoyed a higher standard of living than any people in the world. Their material wealth was considerably less than it would become in time, still it was a great deal more than others had elsewhere. How people with so much, living on their own land, would ever choose to rebel against the ruler God had put over them and thereby bring down such devastation upon themselves was for the invaders incomprehensible.”
David McCullough, 1776
“Heaven hath decreed that tottering empire Britain to irretrievable ruin and thanks to God, since Providence hath so determined, America must raise an empire of permanent duration, supported upon the grand pillars of Truth, Freedom, and Religion, encouraged by the smiles of Justice and defended by her own patriotic sons. . . . Permit me then to recommend from the sincerity of my heart, ready at all times to bleed in my country’s cause, a Declaration of Independence, and call upon the world and the great God who governs it to witness the necessity, propriety and rectitude thereof. The”
David McCullough, 1776
“The people—why the people are magnificent: in their carriages, which are numerous, in their house furniture, which is fine, in their pride and conceit, which are inimitable, in their profaneness, which is intolerable, in the want of principle, which is prevalent, in their Toryism, which is insufferable.”
David McCullough, 1776
“In fact, the Americans of 1776 enjoyed a higher standard of living than any people in the world.”
David McCullough, 1776
“A British ship’s surgeon who used the privileges of his profession to visit some of the rebel camps, described roads crowded with carts and wagons hauling mostly provisions, but also, he noted, inordinate quantities of rum — “for without New England rum, a New England army could not be kept together.” The rebels, he calculated, were consuming a bottle a day per man.”
David McCullough, 1776
“determined, America must raise an empire of permanent duration, supported upon the grand pillars of Truth, Freedom, and Religion, encouraged by the smiles of Justice and defended by her own patriotic sons. . . . Permit me then to recommend from the sincerity of my heart, ready at all times to bleed in my country’s cause, a Declaration of Independence, and call upon the world and the great God who governs it to witness the necessity, propriety and rectitude thereof. The”
David McCullough, 1776
“Had Howe pressed on the afternoon of the 27th, the British victory could have been total. Or had the wind turned earlier, and the British navy moved into the East River, the war and the chances of an independent United States of America could have been long delayed, or even ended there and then.”
David McCullough, 1776
“Farmers and soldiers knew about the weather. Weather could be the great determiner between failure and success, the great test of one's staying power.”
David McCullough, 1776
“The town, although it had “suffered greatly,” was not in as bad shape as he had expected, he wrote to John Hancock, “and I have a particular pleasure in being able to inform you, sir, that your house has received no damage worth mentioning.” Other fine houses had been much abused by the British, windows broken, furnishings smashed or stolen, books destroyed. But at Hancock’s Beacon Hill mansion all was in order, as General Sullivan also attested, and there was a certain irony in this, since the house had been occupied and maintained by the belligerent General James Grant, who had wanted to lay waste to every town on the New England coast. “Though I believe,” wrote Sullivan, “the brave general had made free with some of the articles in the [wine] cellar.”
David McCullough, 1776
“Crucial to Lee’s plan was the defense of that part of Long Island directly across the East River and particularly the imposing river bluffs near the tiny hamlet called Brooklyn, which was also spelled Breucklyn, Brucklyn, Broucklyn, Brookland, or Brookline, and amounted to no more than seven or eight houses and an old Dutch church that stood in the middle of the Jamaica Road, the main road inland from the Brooklyn ferry landing.”
David McCullough, 1776
“They attended prayers “evening and morning regularly,” their officers setting the example, the paper noted. “On Lord’s day they attend public worship twice, and their deportment in the house of God is such as becomes the place.”
David McCullough, 1776
“(“It seemed to be the principle employment of both armies to look at each other with spyglasses,” wrote the eminent Loyalist Peter Oliver, former chief justice of the province.)”
David McCullough, 1776
“Nothing like it had ever been seen in New York. Housetops were covered with “gazers”; all wharves that offered a view were jammed with people. The total British armada now at anchor in a “long, thick cluster” off Staten Island numbered nearly four hundred ships large and small, seventy-three warships, including eight ships of the line, each mounting 50 guns or more. As British officers happily reminded one another, it was the largest fleet ever seen in American waters. In fact, it was the largest expeditionary force of the eighteenth century, the largest, most powerful force ever sent forth from Britain or any nation.”
David McCullough, 1776
“IN PHILADELPHIA, the same day as the British landing on Staten Island, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress, in a momentous decision, voted to “dissolve the connection” with Great Britain. The news reached New York four days later, on July 6, and at once spontaneous celebrations broke out. “The whole choir of our officers . . . went to a public house to testify our joy at the happy news of Independence. We spent the afternoon merrily,” recorded Isaac Bangs. A letter from John Hancock to Washington, as well as the complete text of the Declaration, followed two days later: That our affairs may take a more favorable turn [Hancock wrote], the Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve the connection between Great Britain and the American colonies, and to declare them free and independent states; as you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration, which I am directed to transmit to you, and to request you will have it proclaimed at the head of the army in the way you shall think most proper.”
David McCullough, 1776

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