America’s Founding Family
It was a foggy day turned clear in May of 1682 on the Delaware River. The HMS Welcome carrying Thomas Minshall and wife Margaret of Lachford, Cheshire, England (my grand parents x 11) were landing at Upland, a Swedish outpost, now Chester, Pennsylvania. He and his family had purchased land, some 373 acres from “Brother Penn” (William) a fellow Quaker.
The Minshall’s were some of the first frontier settlers in America, building their piece of paradise almost 5 miles inland near the current town of Media, Pennsylvania.
The reason these Quakers escaped to America: all other religions, yea even their own rulers, arrested and beat them whenever possible. Their neighbors “back home” scorned and terrorized them. Their crime was their Christian belief, direct from the mouth of Jesus, that war and violence against persons was evil and not to be joined into by Godly people. These “Friends” were not even welcome in the colonies; Massachusetts (Congregationalist) out and out expelled them.
My Quaker ancestor’s dream: “to create a community where ALL people would be welcome and find safety without violence and be free from war.”
We Minshalls have been in America ever since, now celebrating our 330th year as Americans. Few of us, if any, are still Quakers; of all things I served as a “Congregationalist” (UCC) minister for years. The family record has Griffith Minshall going against the Quaker “peace” rule to fight in the revolution in 1777. Upon his return (1781) he needed to “repent of his military way” in order to reenter the Wilmington, Delaware Quaker Monthly Meeting from which he had been cast out.
In the interest of full disclosure while normally salt of the earth types we had some spices in our soup: (1) Moses Minshall was ousted by the Quakers in 1757 as an alleged “commander of a privateer vessel” and (2) his wife was expelled for “drinking spirituous liquor to excess.” Another Minshall (3) just 50 years later was “dequakerized” after being found “too familiar” with a fellow member’s wife (sounds like we’re as American as apple pie).
Religious stuff aside, just imagine what these “nation founders” would say to find their country has evolved into a war driven empire, searching the world for commodities (oil, diamonds, tin, produce, cheap labor) we can “appropriate” from others. Just picture these peace seeking pilgrims’ facial expression discovering the violent combatant their society has become.
Ponder what would go through the heart of Thomas Minshall, who believed in hard work and honest success to be shared with others, discovering his legacy was a nation where 10% of the population live like mid-eastern glutinous sultans draining resources away from the majority, young, old and lesser endowed, fighting to hoard even health care for their “in group” only – just imagine!!!
Last week I found myself standing before the liberty Bell just 20 miles from where my ancestors landed. A young, newly arrived Haitian friend asked: “what does this mean; I do not know of this bell?”
As I unfolded the story of July 1776 and the great dream of thousands of families like mine, tears of immense pride came to my eyes and my heart was filled with gratitude for those families from every shore that have gone before. But, I also shed tears of sadness remembering the millions of dead from every family that comes from war; knowing full well “there has NEVER been a good war – nor a bad peace” (Ben Franklin).
I am equally sure if there is any hope to get to the place where we, as a species, can break free from our animal selves and stop killing each other and live in peace as the Minshall’s of 1682 envisioned; it is here in the USA. Now it’s our turn to make the dream come true.
Now residing of Baltimore, just 30 blocks from the birth site of the “Star Spangled Banner,” I continue to press my founding family’s dream that we may indeed be the “land of the free and the home of the brave” – FREE from the stench of violence and BRAVE enough to support peace instead of war – For God’s Sake!
Dr. Britt Minshall is an author of several books and a speaker on societal behaviors impacting politics, religion and wealth. He travels and ministers extensively in Haiti. He is a Pastor Emeritus in The United Church of Christ, a Minister in the Full Gospel Fellowship and a regular contributor on Fox Television Network, Public Radio, and National media. He is also a former Security Agency operator and INTERPOL Officer. His police career was compromised when he became a Freedom Rider in the mid- sixties.
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