Today Americans boast a whoppingly deplorable literacy rate of about 86% depending on how you measure literacy. Compare this to Colonial New England where, discounting slaves, women, indentured servants, and indians, in a time when books, newpapers, and magazines were largely unobtainable, the literacy rate was almost 60%*. Today with telephones, television, radio, and various other modern communications, we forget that our nation was founded by people who focused on the written word and the power of the press.
It is no coincidence that the FIRST ammendment, the first of the personal rights guaranteed under the Constitution is a safeguard on religion, assembly, free speech, and the freedom of the press. You see, without sure exercise of these inherent rights, we would not have a country. Our revolution was not won by armies in the field. By all measures, the Continental Army lost nearly every battle they engaged in. Our Revolution, the revolution that spread to France and then around the world was a revolution of ideas spread by the written word. We won the war of letters. In Colonial America, the pen was truly more powerful than the sword.
So here is my challenge to you, put a few important documents in your backpack and pull them out to show when you interact with the public during your next re-encatment. You can buy recreated books and pamphlets at Townsends or you can create them yourselves. Below are a few fonts that you can use to print copies for yourself at home. Show the public that you are a free man, a literate soldier who knows why he is fighting for his country! I would love to see a time when every member of the Continential Line carries three key documents with them:
- A religious book (The Book of Common Prayer for Anglicans, a Sidur for Jews, an Old Testiment for non-Anglican Protestants, or something similar)
- A copy of Common Sense, and
- A handwritten letter** either to or from you to home
By showing that we are learned free soldiers, we reinforce the patriotic message of our Revolutionary history.
Links to fonts for you to use in your documents:
18th Century Poor Richard Colonial Dame
JSL Ancient Essays 1743 Caslon Antique
** Yes, written with a quill or nib pen!
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