American “Notions of Independence”

7th Annual Florida Council for History Education Conference

St. Augustine, Florida
July 28-29, 2023

Primary sources from our rare library collections will be shared with participants to consider perhaps “the” pivotal turning point in America’s history—declaring independence from Great Britain. Educators will begin with a letter written by British army captain John Gunning during the Siege of Boston in which he sums up American attitudes on the subject of independence: “the same spirit shows itself from Nova Scotia to the Carolinas; burning with the fiercest flame in Philadelphia, New York and New England . . . The People I say presuming on their numbers, and animated by Notions of Independence, are and have been determined for some years past to throw off the British yoke.” Participants will also examine a series of letters from Captain Jonathan Birge to his family in Connecticut chronicling his unit’s campaign through New York from August through October 1776, to appreciate how ordinary Americans were motivated by the Enlightenment ideals put forward in the Declaration of Independence. Cpt. Birge was a commissioned officer in the Crown’s Army before events in 1775 moved him to declare himself an American first, and an Englishman second, and accept a commission in the Continental Army. Online lessons created by Florida-based ARI master teacher Anne Hester and master teacher Robert Schulte are spotlighted as well—with Ms. Hester and fellow Florida-based ARI master teacher Rob Moor presenting their experience researching with our library and museum collections virtually from Anderson House.

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