The Jackson Herald - June 30, 1999
- 'Uncle Jacob' and the Revolution
Nobody really knows what happened
to Jacob Buffington. By 1787, he had fled the country, perhaps
returning to England, or maybe hiding out somewhere in Canada.
Jacob, you see, was a Tory, loyal to the British during the American
Revolution. Although he isn't a direct ancestor to my family,
great-great-great-great-great-great-great-uncle Jacob didn't
choose to break with England when the radicals threw tea into
Boston Harbor and told King George to butt out.
Like a number of his countrymen, Jacob remained loyal to the
British Crown even after the series of events that led up to
the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Although that date has become an important national holiday,
it does perpetuate something of a romanticized view of our Early
American ancestors. Not all of those in the Colonies, as our
states were then called, felt moved to embrace the seemingly
radical call for independence. In fact, even those who signed
the Declaration had earlier remained loyal to the king, blaming
those under him for the various problems between England and
the Colonies. Just a year before, in 1775, the clashes at Concord
and Lexington had taken place and provoked outrage against the
British. Even in that hostile climate, however, moderate leaders
stopped a movement calling for independence and instead, petitioned
the king for "relief."
Those same moderates continued to block a declaration of independence
by the colonies in May and June 1776, until finally, on July
4, enough of the colonies agreed to sign on the document.
But even then, the support for total independence from England
was not without question. The people we now consider as the Fathers
of our nation were at the time a small band of radicals who were
willing to abandon the economic and political security of having
ties with England. To many, like "Uncle Jacob," that
must have been a frightening prospect.
But that makes what the Founding Fathers did even more amazing
- that they would rebel against the comfortable status quo and
plot the course for an independent future. At the time, the prospects
for success were dim. The infant nation faced a country four
times larger than itself. Had it not been for a series of lucky
breaks, those who signed the document on July 4, 1776, may have
been tried and hanged as traitors.
I've often wondered if I had lived at that time, would I have
thrown my lot with the radicals, or would I have preferred to
stay with the security of being a part of the British Empire?
I'd like to think that I'd have had the wisdom and foresight
to join the Revolution, but in fact, I might have high-tailed
it out of the nation with "Uncle Jacob" and other Tories.
Change, especially radical change, is not easy. We all like the
comforts of the status quo, even when we may disagree with some
of the details.
So when you celebrate the July 4th holiday this weekend, ask
yourself which side you would have taken had you lived 224 years
ago - would you have had the courage to follow a small band of
radicals, or would you have avoided conflict by supporting the
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Jackson Herald
June 30, 1999
Schools should demand civility
At one time, schools were institutions
that demanded respect from students and parents. But no longer
is that true. Recent events across the nation and in our own
local community show that such respect has eroded to an alarmingly
Now, we don't always agree with how public schools are run, but
that doesn't mean we have less respect for them as an institution.
Whatever policy problems public education may have, it still
deserves civility from its patrons.
Yet such civility is in short supply. Many students no longer
talk to teachers or administrators in respectful tones. Some
wear outlandish clothing as a sign of contempt for their school
environment. Even worse, many parents show an alarming level
of contempt for their kids' school officials, defending "little
Johnny" and excusing his bad behavior by blaming teachers
Some of the problem has been brought on by school officials themselves.
When public education took on the dual role of also being a social
welfare agency, it lowered its institutional and community standing.
But the main problem has been the overall decline in social civility
throughout our culture, a decline that has now seeped deep into
It is time, we believe, for public schools to again demand civility
from students and parents.
First, every school system should adopt a uniform dress code,
or some strict dress code rules. Moreover, those rules should
be enforced consistently and across class lines.
Second, every school system should strengthen its code of student
conduct. Not only should that cover the use of foul language
on campus, but it should also demand that students address teachers
and administrators in civil, polite, deferential tones.
Finally, every school system should expect its parent patrons
to also communicate in civil tones. School leaders should make
every effort to listen to concerns that parents may have and
address those which are legitimate. But that doesn't mean school
leaders should put up with parents who have lost their cool or
who refuse to be reasonable in their discussions.
So rather than lamenting the effect of our cultural tides on
their schools, public education leaders should stand like a firm
rock on the shore, a place that is solid even when surrounded
by cultural storms.
That won't solve all the problems in our schools by any measure,
but it would go a long way toward regaining the trust and respect
of both students and parents. Moreover, it would begin to instill
some civil habits in our children that hopefully they would carry
on into other aspects of their lives.