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Why Each New England State Feels Superior

Why Each New England State Feels Superior
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Welcome to the January 2010 edition of “Jud’s New England Journal,” the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine, published since 1935 in Dublin, New Hampshire.

Some things in our past just never seem to get settled …

Some years ago, there began a running debate among Yankee subscribers on the subject of why each New England state feels superior to the other five. It started with a letter from New Hampshire that we published, a letter claiming that the Granite State was superior because “the first military action of the Revolutionary War” occurred at Fort William and Mary in New Castle, New Hampshire, in December 1774. Then the flood of letters began. Here are a few of the excerpts …

“The Fort William and Mary episode was simply a mob action prior to the Revolution. The first offensive action of the American Revolution was taken by Vermonters when Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain boys rowed across Lake Champlain on May 10, 1775, and captured Fort Ticonderoga.”

“If Ethan Allen, his brother Ira, and Remember Baker led the Green Mountain boys on the first bona fide military action of the Revolution, then Connecticut deserves the credit. All three hailed from Litchfield, Connecticut.”

“Rhode Islanders feel superior in the certain knowledge that the first military action of the American Revolution was the burning and sinking of HMS Gaspee, a British man-of-war, on June 9, 1772. In fact, she’s still out there on the bottom off Pawtuxet today. King George called it an act of ‘war against the King,’ and I don’t think you need a better authority than that!”

“What we’re really proud of here in Connecticut is that we had our own ‘Declaration of Independence’ on June 18, 1776 — some 20 days before our first national Independence Day on July 4, 1776.”

“Connecticut may be interested to know that Rhode Island adopted a declaration of independence a month and a half before Connecticut did. Rhode Island, not Connecticut, was therefore the first sovereign state in the New World.”

“The first declaration of independence in America was written on October 10, 1774 — long before either Rhode Island or Connecticut did any such thing. On that date, the citizens of Chester, Vermont, stated that ‘all the acts of the British Parliament tending to take away rights of freedom ought not to be obeyed.’ “

“They may talk and shout a lot in the other five New England states, but Massachusetts was the first to shed blood for the cause of liberty. And this occurred at North Bridge in Salem, Massachusetts, one month and 21 days before the fight at Concord’s North Bridge. In a confrontation between a British regiment in search of colonial arms and a group of citizens bent on blocking their passage across Salem’s North Bridge, ‘a scuffle ensued between the soldiers and those in the gondolas,’ according to the 1878 Standard History of Essex County, ‘and Joseph Whicher, a foreman in a local distillery, received a wound from a British bayonette, drawing blood, and of which he was afterwards exceedingly proud.’ “

What about Maine? Well, we didn’t hear from many in Maine. Except for this one, which, you might say, managed, in one short sentence, to pretty much trump everyone else:

“Maine,” the letter writer from Presque Isle noted, “was settled 16 years before anybody but the Indians stepped on Plymouth Rock.”

Touche.

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Why Each New England State Feels Superior

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