Cer­e­mony hon­ors Dec­la­ra­tion signer

Speaker out­lines en­dur­ing vi­sion of na­tion’s founders

Record Observer - - Front Page - By KRIS GE­ORGE Spe­cial to The Record Ob­server

QUEEN­STOWN — De­spite the heat and hu­mid­ity, a large crowd gath­ered out­side the Houghton House on Mon­day for the 55th an­nual In­de­pen­dence Day cer­e­mony spon­sored by Queen Anne’s County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and the Aspen In­sti­tute.

The an­nual cer­e­mony pays trib­ute to early pa­triot Wil­liam Paca, one of four Mary­lan­ders who signed the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence in 1776. Paca, who owned an es­tate on nearby Wye Is­land, served as a Mary­land gover­nor and a fed­eral judge. He died in 1799 at age 59. The Paca fam­ily in­her­ited a se­cond es­tate, Wye Plan­ta­tion, now the site of Houghton House, owned by the Wye In­sti­tute. The cer­e­mony, which be­gan in 1961 at the be­hest of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., who owned Houghton House and the sur­round­ing prop­erty, in­vites com­mu­nity mem­bers to show their re­spect to Paca, and to pon­der the revo­lu­tion­ary doc­u­ment that gave Amer­i­cans their free­dom.

Houghton and his wife do­nated the 1,100-acre prop­erty con­tain­ing the old Wye House and the gravesite of Paca to the Aspen In­sti­tute, an ed­u­ca­tional and pol­icy stud­ies or­ga­ni­za­tion, in 1979. The Aspen In­sti­tute and the Queen Anne’s County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety have kept the tra­di­tional memo­rial event alive.

Mon­day’s event be­gan with an in­vo­ca­tion by Pas­tor Dane Rada, United Methodist Church, Wye Mills and a solo per­for­mance of the “Star Span­gled Ban­ner” by Kristi Rada.

Two wreaths were placed at Paca’s gravesite — one by He­lene Butte, re­gent with the Gen­eral Perry Ben­son Chap­ter of the Na­tional So­ci­ety Daugh­ters of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, and one by Dr. War­ren Tewes, past pres­i­dent of the Col. Tench Til­gh­man Chap­ter of the Na­tional So­ci­ety, Sons of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. Fred­er­ick T. Kirsch, a mem­ber of the Col. Tench Til­gh­man Chap­ter of the NSSAR, per­formed the tra­di­tional bell ring­ing.

The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Com­mu­nity Band per­formed “taps” for the 100 guests in at­ten­dance who had come for the wreath­lay­ing cer­e­mony.

After the cer­e­mony at the gravesite, which was led by Barbara Pivec, Queen Anne’s County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety pres­i­dent, guests moved to the gar­dens be­hind the house.

Scott MacGlashan, clerk of court for Queen Anne’s County, rec­og­nized the vet­er­ans in the au­di­ence. He also rec­og­nized long­time Queen Anne’s County res­i­dent and jour­nal­ist Dan Tabler for his ser­vice to the coun­try.

The key­note speaker was Dr. Robert Chiles, who serves as a se­nior lec­turer for the Univer­sity of Mary­land’s His­tory depart­ment. Chiles has de­liv­ered guest lec­tures for the New York State Li­brary and C-Span’s “His­tory TV.” He has pub­lished var­i­ous ar­ti­cles and es­says and his first book, “The Rev­o­lu­tion of ‘28” Al Smith, Amer­i­can Pro­gres­sivism and the “Com­ing of the New Deal,” will be pub­lished in March 2018. He lives in Bal­ti­more.

Chiles dis­cussed “The En­dur­ing Vi­sion of the Found­ing Gen­er­a­tion,” which fo­cused on the idea that the words of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence re­main as rel­e­vant to­day as it was in 1776.

The se­cond line of 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” re­mains our na­tional creed, he said.

“The vi­sion of our found­ing fa­thers, the ide­ol­ogy that they set forth, has re­mained cen­tral to the Amer­i­can story,” Chiles said.

He said our fore­fa­thers’ phi­los­o­phy was in­no­va­tive for its time.

“It all be­gins with the founders them­selves. There’s a rea­son why the Fourth of July mat­ters,” Chiles said. “What made our rev­o­lu­tion so revo­lu­tion­ary? We can­not af­ford to for­get just how rad­i­cal the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence was. A group of rel­a­tively priv­i­leged and ed­u­cated men saw that the good of all people was a fun­da­men­tal right. It took such men — who were will­ing to sac­ri­fice their own wealth and pros­per­ity — for that prin­ci­ple.

Their vi­sion is what made the rev­o­lu­tion so rev­o­lu­tionar y, Chiles said.

The Civil War and other revo­lu­tion­ary times in our na­tion’s his­tory have all taken place when our coun­try’s lead­er­ship has fallen short in their ex­e­cu­tion of those found­ing ideals, Chiles said.

“Through­out his­tory, even in our dark­est mo­ments, Amer­i­cans have been able to turn to our found­ing fa­thers and find the fun­da­men­tal hope in their en­dur­ing vi­sion,” he said.

List­ing ex­am­ples through­out his­tory of revo­lu­tion­ary fig­ures who have evoked changes in our coun­try’s ide­ol­ogy, such as women’s suffrage ac­tivist El­iz­a­beth Cady Stan­ton and so­cial re­former and 19th-cen­tury abo­li­tion­ist Fred­er­ick Douglass, Chiles high­lighted the role our coun­try’s found­ing ide­ol­ogy played in their ad­vo­cacy for the groups they sought to gar­ner rights for.

“They found en­cour­age­ment and hope in the words of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence,” said Chiles, quot­ing Fred­er­ick Douglass’s renowned speech, given on July 5, 1852. Douglass de­liv­ered the speech about the hypocrisy of a na­tion cel­e­brat­ing its free­dom when mil­lions of its people were bound by slav­ery.

“The 4th of July is the first great fact in your na­tion’s his­tory — the very ring­bolt in the chain of your yet-un­de­vel­oped destiny,” said Douglass. “I, there­fore, leave off where I be­gan: With hope, while draw­ing en­cour­age­ment from the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, the great prin­ci­ples it con­tains and the ge­nius of Amer­i­can In­sti­tu­tions, my spirit is cheered by the ob­vi­ous ten­den­cies of the age.”

PHOTO BY KRIS GE­ORGE

Dr. War­ren Tewes, past pres­i­dent of the Col. Tench Til­gh­man Chap­ter of the Na­tional So­ci­ety, Sons of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, places a wreath at the gravesite of Wil­liam Paca, one of the sign­ers of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence.

Mem­bers of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Com­mu­nity Band per­form “God Bless Amer­ica” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” dur­ing the Wil­liam Paca In­de­pen­dence Day cer­e­mony.

PHO­TOS BY KRIS GE­ORGE

Robert Chiles, Ph.D., speaks to guests of the an­nual Wil­liam Paca In­de­pen­dence Day memo­rial event about the en­dur­ing legacy of the found­ing gen­er­a­tion.

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