Gunpowder Plot: why Bermuda should be proud
At the Bermuda Gunpowder Plot re-enactment and dedication of a new interpretive sign at Tobacco Bay on Saturday, August 15, I made remarks regarding historical tourism and Bermuda's role in the American Revolution that I would like to share with your readers:
“First, with regard to historical tourism, let me tell you that I love Bermuda. My family and I have enjoyed your hospitality on several occasions since our first visit in 2005. While preparing for our 2013 trip, I was reminded of the Gunpowder Plot story, and I wondered why Bermuda did not make more of this event. So I reached out to Nancy Arton, regent of the Somers Isles Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution here in Bermuda and Peter Frith of the Bermuda National Trust, both of whom have become dear friends.
“They put on a small but elegant ceremony at the Tucker House Museum in St George's. It was there that I met Kenneth Bascome and Rick Spurling, both tireless promoters of the interests of St George's, and we decided then and there that we would do something special for the 240th anniversary — and today's events are the result.
“I also spoke at length with Governor George Fergusson. Tourism is an important part of Bermuda's economy and we both saw the potential for increasing tourism by drawing on the rich, shared history between the United States and Bermuda, of which the Gunpowder Plot is just a small part.
“I hope that the two historical markers and the interpretive sign that we dedicated on this visit will help Bermuda do more to attract historical tourists. Americans have many choices to go to the beach — what sets Bermuda apart is your unique British-Bermudian culture and your history. I hope you will embrace that history.
“Second, I hope you will embrace and be proud of Bermuda's role in the American Revolution. This event — this gunpowder plot — was important. We needed gunpowder desperately because the British had been rounding it up in the months preceding the Battle of Lexington & Concord, which started open hostilities. Your ancestors gave us that gunpowder in order to ensure an adequate food supply for themselves and their children, and we used that gunpowder to keep the Port of Charleston open to trade with the French, the Dutch and others.
“And all Bermudians can take pride in Bermuda's role in the American Revolution because white and black Bermudians, slave and free, men and women, were all here and were a part of it. More importantly, the American Revolution led to the spread of liberty and freedom throughout the world, and particularly here in Bermuda.
“Dr Clarence Maxwell, a native Bermudian and brilliant young professor at Millersville University, gave a talk in Washington, DC recently, in which he specifically traced the 1834 emancipation of Bermuda's slaves to the American Revolution.
“The short version of his thesis is that slavery was utterly inconsistent with the principles underlying the American Revolution, such as the idea that all men (and women) are created equal.
“Those principles inspired other, more violent (but also more complete) revolutions, including the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution. Those events led the British Parliament to conclude that it needed to end slavery.
“Belatedly, Britain came to the understanding that life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and self-government were basic human rights, available to all. This was by no means the end, but it was an important step on the road to freedom and individual liberty.
“So, Bermudians, despite the fact that it was technically an act of treason at the time, you have ample reason to be proud of your role in the American Revolution and the continuous march of freedom and individual liberty that came in its wake. I hope you will embrace it, take pride in it and share it with the rest of the world.
“Thank you for your generous hospitality and friendship. May God continue to bless Bermuda and the United States.”
MICHAEL J. ELSTON
Vice President General,
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