February 20, 2023

The Mother Of Presidents Is The Mother Of Liberty

There is so much to love about Virginia.

Start in her deep southwestern Blue Ridge mountains where sunsets are burnt in purple and orange and pink.  Travel north and east into the Shenandoah Valley with its rolling meadows and horse farms.  Move further east and pick your poison: Do you want to go to Virginia Beach or Colonial Williamsburg?  The Navy yards of Norfolk or the history of Richmond or the Northern Neck?  You know, the Chincoteague ponies are a thing, and the Mathews Men did their part to win World War Two.

But on this Presidents’ Day, we should be reminded that the Old Dominion is the Mother of Presidents–but she is also the Mother of Liberty.  Washington.  Jefferson.  Madison.  Harrison.  Tyler.  Monroe.  Taylor.  (Can we forget Wilson, please?  Is there some way we can assign him to another state or territory?)  The Commonwealth of Virginia has given America eight of her forty six executives.

And, yet. . ..

That’s hardly everything Virginia has given these fifty United States.  The Declaration of Independence.  The United States Constitution.  Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which gave rise to our Constitution’s First Amendment.  James Armistead Lafayette was a Virginian slave who served as a spy for the American cause–and was granted his emancipation from the Virginia General Assembly, as a result.  He was a key figure in exposing Benedict Arnold, and he supplied important intelligence that helped Washington best Cornwallis at Yorktown.  Virginia’s General Assembly is the longest continuous legislative body in these United States.  We could go on at length.

Massachusetts started the conflict that gave America her liberty.  South Carolina, with more Revolutionary War battles that any other colony, effectively won that war.  But Virginia gave the United States her statesmen, her ideas, her documents to provide her with the concepts and structure and vision of liberty.  There is a sense in which the historian Kevin Gutzman is correct: All of the United States is, in a way, Virginia.

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