On This Day: November 25, 1783


George Washington “took back” New York from the British.

The peace treaty had been signed a year before, France had pledged support and recognition of the new United States, but the redcoats remained in New York, waiting for their written orders from London. George Washington vowed that he would not go home, he would not break up his army, until every last British soldier had left.

Nov. 25 was the momentous day that the American troops marched back into town, after the departure of the British.

The exhausted army marched the long way downtown, through what was now a war-ravaged New York City. People lined the streets, throwing laurels in front of Washington’s horse, screaming, crying. It was a huge display of emotion and reverence that made the typically humble Washington feel uncomfortable.

A woman in the crowd that day wrote the following in her diary:

We had been accustomed for a long time to military display in all the finish and finery of [British] garrison life. The troops just leaving us were as if equipped for a show and with their scarlet uniforms and burnished arms made a brilliant display. The troops that marched in, on the contrary, were ill-clad and weather-beaten and made a forlorn appearance. But then, they were our troops and as I looked at them and thought upon all they had done and suffered for us, my heart and my eyes were full.

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5 Responses to On This Day: November 25, 1783

  1. Regina Bartkoff says:

    I have long said I always read your writing on acting, films, theatre but I really have to get to the Founding Father’s stuff. Well now is the time.
    Yesterday on FB there was a picture of a statue of George Washington that was defaced. Everyone on the thread was calling GW, Slaveowner, not GW President. I thought, really? I remember when I was little hearing he owned slaves and thought, oh shit, really? too. And knowing these guys weren’t perfect. But everyone knew by fifth grade GW turned down being made King too. But now I’m thinking stupid talk and actions like this will get Trump reelected. Anyway, I started in reading all you got on GW. There would be no NYC without GW! In 1783 the Redcoats were still here till he chased them out! And so on! I’m continuing reading, thanks Sheila.

    • sheila says:

      Regina – very chaotic uncertain times. the Confederate statues need to go – I went to Monument Way in Richmond during one of my Elvis road trips, and felt the ugliness of that place, I felt the rage, the anger – those statues are GIGANTIC – enough with the “it’s our culture” – Y’all were literal traitors. And these statues are a STAIN. Tear ’em down I won’t miss them. You don’t go to Germany and see statues of Goebbels. I have been thinking a lot about how Germany dismantled its own Nazi-ism following the war – and how it got rid of the symbols of fascism, of the brainwashing that seeped down into the nooks and crannies of even private life. It was a long process – but from what I can tell they have done an honorable job, facing what their country did, what their countrymen inflicted on others. And right-wing fascism has been rising there again – as it is in every liberal democracy on the planet right now. when you have people tearing down a statue of Don Quixote – like happened recently in San Francisco – you wonder – what exactly are you all doing?

      The past is complex. It’s weird – i’ve seen this meme going around that’s like: “You were taught that [famous past American] was [something positive] – when [famous American] actually [something negative]” – and it was a very long list. And I was like, “who is this ‘you’ you’re talking about? I was taught about the negatives as well as the positives.” I have wondered if that was because of where I grew up – the town where I grew up has a very interesting history:
      1. Washington literally slept there. It was one of his pit-stops pre-Revolution, as he traveled around talking to local leaders throughout the colonies.
      2. There was a famous Indian massacre like 5 minutes from where I grew up. We used to go there on field trips, and learned all about the horrors.
      3. My town was an Underground Railroad town. There are cubby-holes in some of the oldest houses where locals would hide runaway slaves.
      4. Rhode Island was steeped in the slave trade.

      So all of that in one town – which is a very New England thing I suppose. So we were taught all of that history – the good and the bad – it was part of the atmosphere. Members of the Narragansett Tribe would come to our classrooms, and talk about the history of their tribe and all of the horrific things their ancestors went through. I mean, the list goes on and on.

      So either the curriculum has vastly changed in the last 25 years – or my town was an anomaly. I recommend Joseph Ellis’ short books on Washington, Adams, and Jefferson – he gets at their contradictions, he gets at their justifications (or lack thereof) for what they were ignoring – he’s a very learned man, and a beautiful and elegant writer. They aren’t biographies so much as they are analysis of each man’s thought process. They were all so different. They give a good three-dimensional tapestry of how these guys thought, sure, but also their influences and the larger surrounding world in which they lived.

      I think that’s one of the reasons Hamilton was such a big deal and why it struck so many people – it was a reminder of the fights were fought back then – over freedom of speech, freedom of assembly – that we are now fighting about AGAIN. If there’s one thing I think we’re learning – and it’s a really good lesson – is that freedom and liberty need to be guarded, protected – nothing is a done deal. AND – the “ideals” put into practical use by these imperfect men are flexible enough to protect people that they would never have even thought of protecting – minority citizens, LGBT, women, you name it – we are protected in the Constitution, even though we weren’t even a factor in their considerations back then. This is because they were “vague” enough in their ideals that those ideals can be expanded to shift with the times. And we’re seeing that now. Which is a positive thing. Hamilton was a reminder – or perhaps the first time people even learned about – Hamilton (one of the reasons why he’s so interesting is that he was completely free of any ties with the slave trade. He was an outsider, he wasn’t “attached” to one state – because each state was wrapped up in slavery to one degree or another. From a very young age, he saw slavery was wrong, end-stop. So he’s an interesting case.) What we are all fighting about now – were the ideals set out by their extremely imperfect men – many of whom felt that slavery was a sin and a stain on the nation but were unable to extricate themselves because it was so deeply intertwined into the culture – it was written into LAW – the whole SYSTEM would have had to be torn down in order to get rid of it – and these guys feared that above all else. They made that compromise with the Southern states so the new nation could be born, and they could get away from the British Empire – and many of them knew that that compromise would come back to haunt them. and of course it did, and it led to a Civil War – which was inevitable and many of them knew it at the time.

      I always think of Thomas Jefferson’s comment: “I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.” He was talking about slavery. He KNEW.

      sorry for the lecture. You know me and “those guys” (i.e. the Founders) – I’ve got THOUGHTS, and I’ve read it all!

      In re: 45 … I am starting to believe he is going to lose. ?? I am afraid to even say that out loud. I have thought he was going to win re-election for a long time but in this past month I am now thinking … that asshole is toast. He LOOKS like a loser (his favorite word for other people). it’s not a done deal yet – and I’m terrified – but when people like Lindsay Graham are starting to murmur negative things, and governors of red states are breaking with that asshole because Covid is now hitting their precious Republican strongholds … I feel like the rats may be abandoning the sinking ship.

      As you know, I don’t want to debate politics on this site – especially not with people who have seen nothing wrong with 45’s regime, and “regime” is what it has been – but I am with you in a lot of ways – I miss Facebook and chatting with you over there – lol!! – so let’s take this to email. It’d be good to keep in touch in these dark weird days. Hope you and C are doing well.

      I am looking forward to the Hamilton film – I just saw a promotional thing about it – it’s coming out at a verrrrrry interesting time. Hmmmm …


    • sheila says:

      and just a warning to others who may be reading:

      If you think tearing down Confederate statues is “erasing history” – I would reply: Keeping them UP is the real erasing of history. Nobody is erasing the past. There are books and museums. Nobody is erasing anything. Calm down.

      You’re on the wrong side of history, just like those Confederate statues continue to commemorate people who were on the wrong side of history.

      I’m so done with that Southern “it’s our culture” bullshit. Enough is enough.

  2. Regina Bartkoff says:

    Thanks Sheila!! Yeah, I was thinking you grew up all around this! I was reading something where you said when you were little your parents driving past John Adam’s house would always say, something like, John and Abigail lived here, and you thought they were relatives, hahaha!
    Well thanks for all this info. I’m nowhere near educated like you, but like I said, I was taught Washington and others had slaves, it wasn’t hidden, but it wasn’t the first thing said and then they were to be just pissed on like they didn’t do anything great at all.
    And yes, I’m getting a little feeling Trump might not be reelected, but I’m afraid to really go there till it happens!

    • sheila says:

      // I’m afraid to really go there till it happens! //

      me too! still so much work to be done. Election in NJ coming up this week. I’M READY.

      and yes – “John and Abigail” were discussed in my family, with no last names necessary. lol

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