A Time For Freedom, by Lynne
Cheney, Simon & Schuster, New York, © 2005, ISBN: 13-978-1-4169-0925-5, 282 pp,
$15.95 US, $21.95 CAN.
“No one can fully appreciate the great fortune we have to be Americans without knowing the events that brought us to where we are today.” –Lynne Cheney
Review by Del
Lynne Cheney, a teacher, states in her introduction that our freedom and strength are products of the past, and although the choices made by the brave men and women who preceded us do not offer sure guidance to the future, they offer the best guidance that we have.
Unfortunately, fewer and fewer of us are leaving
school knowing the basic facts of our history. One study found that two thirds of
seventeen-year-olds could not identify the half-century in which the Civil War
occurred. A survey of seniors at elite colleges and universities showed that only one
out of five was familiar with the words of the Gettysburg Address. A significant
number of seniors thought that Ulysses S. Grant was a general in the Revolutionary
Facts alone are not enough for understanding history
of course, but without the facts understanding is impossible. A full appreciation of
the achievement represented by the Nineteenth Amendment, ratified in 1920, requires
knowing that women first organized to work for the right to vote in 1848, more than
seventy years before. Comprehending why the Civil War occurred in the 1860s requires
knowing that our nation expanded dramatically in the 1840s. It was a question of
whether new states would be free or slave that finally made it impossible to paper
over the great moral contradiction that slavery represented in a nation dedicated to
Cheney feels that some dates should be locked in our
memory—1492, 1607, 1620, 1776, and 1787 for starters. But it is equally important
to be familiar enough with the order of events so that one has a sense of the
progress of our national story. We should all understand that when the delegates to
the Continental Congress declared that “all men are created equal,” they provided
more than a rationale for independence; they gave inspiration to generations of men
and women whose struggles would make that ideal a reality for more and ever more
This book is a time line of the events in our
nation’s history. She chose to highlight our political history rather than many
other areas of importance. She feels the history of the entire world ought to be a
subject of interest for students. But in A Time for Freedom, she chose to
start with America. This is our home—how lucky we are that it is.
We shall highlight a few dozen of the hundreds of dates she has listed hoping that will inspire you to obtain a copy of her book and search further.
Under the sponsorship of King Ferdinand and Queen
Isabella of Spain, Christopher Columbus and his crew sail three ships, the Niña,
the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, more than three thousand nautical miles
across the Atlantic. Hoping to find the Indies, Columbus lands instead on an island
in the Bahamas that he names San Salvador, or “Holy Savior.” Columbus made four
voyages to the New World, which he persisted in believing was the Indies. He died
ignorant of his real accomplishment.
“An age will come after many years when the ocean
will loose the chains of things, and a huge land lie revealed.” –A Prophecy in
Seneca’s Medea, a play Columbus knew well
“The prophecy was fulfilled by my father the admiral, in the year 1492.” –Ferdinand Columbus, writing alongside the prophecy in his father’s copy of Seneca
John Cabot, sailing for Henry VII of England, reaches
North America aboard a small ship, the Mathew. Almost a century will pass, but his
voyage will become the basis for English claims in the New World. John Cabot, or
Giovanni Caboto, was an Italian like Christopher Columbus, or Christoforo Colombo.
Cabot, too, was seeking a short route to the Indies.
Inspired by news of voyages taken by Florentine
merchant Amerigo Vespucci, who traveled to the New World around the turn of the
sixteenth century, mapmaker Martin Waldseemüller names the new land America.
Waldseemüller apparently had a change of heart about naming the New World after
Vespucci. In a 1513 atlas, he calls the new land Terra Incognita and credited
Columbus with its discovery. But by then it was too late, and America it was.
Spanish exploration of mainland North America begins
with Juan Ponce de León on the east coast of Florida. Among the others who will
search for riches in the mainland are Hernando de Soto and Francisco Vásquez de
Coronado. The Conquistadores, who explored the land that is today the United States
found little gold. But Hernan Cortés, who conquered the Aztecs in Mexico in 1521,
and Francisco Pizarro, who conquered the Incas in Peru in the 1530s, found tons of
precious metal to ship back to Spain.
French explorer Jacques Cartier makes the first of
three voyages to North America. August 10 is the feast day of Saint Lawrence, a Roman
Martyr who was put on a grill and roasted alive. When Cartier sailed into a
well-protected harbor on August 10, 1535, he names it after the saint, and from
thence came the names of the Gulf, the River, and the Mountain Range.
At the direction off Philip II of Spain, Gen. Pedro
Menéndez de Avilés establishes the first permanent European settlement in North
America: Saint Augustine in Florida.
Three ships from England, the Susan Constant,
the Discover, and the Godspeed, enter Chesapeake Bay and sail up the
James River. The passengers, some one hundred men, found Jamestown, Virginia, the
first permanent English settlement in America.
“There was no talk, no hope, no work, but dig gold,
wash gold, refine gold, load gold.” –John Smith, a leader of the Jamestown
settlement, who managed to convince the colonists that since there was no gold, they
should plant crops.
Pilgrims sail aboard the Mayflower from
England to the New World, dropping anchor off Cape Cod. After forty-one men aboard
the ship sign the Mayflower Compact, a plan for governance, the Pilgrims go ashore.
“Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought
safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had
brought them over the fast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils
and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their
proper element.” –William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony
The Pilgrims celebrate the autumn harvest in 1621,
feasting on turkey, duck, and venison with Indians of the Wampanoag nation.
“Our harvest being gotten in, . . . many of the Indians [came] amongst us, and
among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three
days we entertained and feasted.” –Edward Winslow, a Mayflower passenger
To protect their claim to lands they call New
Netherland, the Dutch establish the settlement of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island.
“They have purchased the Island of Manhattes from
the Indians for the value of 60 guilders.” –Peter Schagen, Dutch West India
Company official, 1626
John Winthrop and Puritan followers arrive from
England and establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where they hope to create a pure
and godly community. In the decade ahead thousands will follow in the Great
“He shall make us a praise and glory [so] that men
shall say of succeeding [colonies], ‘May the Lord make it like that of New
England.’ For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of
all people are upon us.” –John Winthrop, Puritan Leader
Roger Williams is expelled from Massachusetts for his
beliefs. He flees to Narragansett Bay and, in a few years establishes the colony of
Rhode Island, where Protestants, Jews, and Catholics are all free to worship.
“True civility and Christianity may both flourish
in a state or kingdom, notwithstanding the permission of divers and contrary
consciences, either of Jew or Gentile.” –Roger Williams
Also in 1636, Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay
Colony found Harvard College. The first president of Harvard, Henry Dunster, set
forth rules and precepts for the school. Every student had to write and speak Latin,
diligently attend lectures, and “Be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to
consider well, [that] the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus
Christ which is eternal Life.
“After God had carried us safe to New England, and
we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for out livelihood, reared convenient
places for God’s worship, and settle the civil government: One of the next things
we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning, and perpetuate it to
posterity.” –Members of Harvard’s first board of overseers
CREATING A NATION:
In a conflict that will be known as the French and
Indian War, British forces fighting with colonists at their side, defeat the French
and their Indian allies. Their victory gives the British control of Canada as well as
lands east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachian Mountains.
In an early battle of the French and Indian War,
forces under Gen. Edward Braddock suffered a great defeat near Fort Duquesne. The
General and hundreds of his men were killed, but surviving and acquitting himself
bravely was twenty-three-year-old George Washington, who had two horses shot out from
under him and four musket balls go through his clothes.
The British government forbids colonists from moving
west of the Appalachia Mountains, but colonists ignore the edict and go anyway.
“As I have heard . . . a circumstantial account of
my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting both, and
of assuring you that I now exist and appear in the land of the living.” –George
Washington, to his brother
The British try to raise money with the Stamp Act, a
tax on colonists that is met with protest and boycott.
“If this be treason, make the most of it.”
–Patrick Henry, denouncing King George and the Stamp Act
The Townshend Acts, a new British effort to tax
Americans, spur protest and boycott.
“First strip a person naked, then heat the tar
until it is thin, and pour it upon the naked flesh, or rub it over with a tar brush .
. . After which, sprinkle decently upon the tar, whilst it is yet warm, as many
feathers as will stick to it.” –Instructions for tarring and feathering, a
technique sometimes used by colonists to intimidate British officials and
“The Liberty Song,” America’s first patriotic
song, is published.
Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all!
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!
–John Dickinson, supporter of the colonial cause
“The Liberty Song,” seldom performed today, was
sung by the choir of Dickinson College (Named after John Dickinson) on November 9,
2001, as a tribute to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
Father Junipero Serra, sent by the government of
Spain, arrives at San Diego, where he founds the first of California’s missions
dedicated to converting the Indians of California to Catholicism.
The British parliament repeals the Townshend Acts,
except for the tax on tea. Three years later Bostonians, disguised as Indians,
boarded ships in Boston Harbor and dump tea into the bay.
“This destruction of the tea is so bold, so daring,
so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences, and so
last, that I can’t but consider it as an epocha in history.” –John Adams
The First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia.
It declares Parliament has violated colonists’ rights and urges preparations for
“To these grievous acts and measures, Americans
cannot submit.” –First Continental Congress
Virginia’s leaders vote to raise an armed militia.
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be
purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not
what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
British troops moving to seize a store of arms in
Concord, Massachusetts, encountered militiamen at Lexington, and shooting breaks out,
leaving eight colonists dead. A skirmish at North Bridge forces the British to
retreat; by the time they make it back to Boston, 273 redcoats are killed, wounded or
“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon,
but if they mean to have war, let it begin here.” –Militia Captain John Parker
One the night of April 18, 1775, both Paul Revere and
William Dawes rode to sound the alarm that the redcoats were coming. They reached
Lexington but then ran into a British patrol. Dawes turned back, and Revere was
arrested, but Dr. Samuel Prescott, who had joined Revere and Dawes, made it to
Concord and alerted the militia there.
The Second Continental Congress chooses George
Washington to head the Continental Army.
“I assure you, in the most solemn manner, that, so
far from seeking this appointment I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it,
not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the family, but from a
consciousness of its being a trust too great for my capacity . . . But, as it has
been a kind of destiny that has thrown me upon this service, I shall hope that my
undertaking of it, is designed to answer some good purpose. –George Washington, in
a letter to Martha Washington
In what will become known as the Battle of Bunker
Hill, the British attack American Militiamen dug in on Breed’s Hill and drive them
off, but only after suffering more than one thousand casualties.
“I wish [we] could sell them another hill at the
same price.” –American General Nathanael Greene
Thomas Paine’s essay Common Sense lays out
the case for revolution.
“The period of debate is closed. Arms, as the last
resource, decide the contest . . . The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of
nature cries, ’Tis Time to Part.” –Thomas Paine
July 4, 1776
The Continental Congress formally approves the
Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain
unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness.” –The Declaration of Independence
Congress adopts the Stars and Stripes.
“Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United
States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen
stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” –Continental
The Articles of Confederation are ratified and become
the governing framework for the thirteen states.
With the help of a French fleet and troops, American
forces under the command of General Washington defeat General Charles Cornwallis and
his forces at Yorktown, effectively ending the war.
“Oh God! It is all over.” –British Prime
Minister Lord North, according to legend
The Treaty of Paris formally ends the Revolutionary
“The citizens of America . . . are, from this
period, to be considered as the actors on a most conspicuous theater, which seems to
be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and
felicity.” –George Washington, Circular to the States
Delegates meeting in Philadelphia create a new and
stronger framework for government, the Constitution of the United States.
“We the people of the United States, in order to
form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide
for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of
liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for
the United States of America.” –Preamble to the Constitution
George Washington is sworn in as the first president
of the United States.
“I walk on untrodden ground.” –President George
The above few selections from the first two chapters
reveal an important portion of the Time Line of our political heritage. The other
five chapters take us to the present “Calling of our Time.” Placing the important
happenings and great figures of our history into context and showing the expansion of
our freedom in this land that we love, A Time for Freedom is a book families
will cherish and want to share together.
Lynne Cheney has also written NY Times bestsellers America: A Patriotic Primer, A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women, and When Washington Crossed the Delaware: A Wintertime Story for Young Patriots. She is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.