The signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787 by 39 representatives of 12 states was a major step—formalized less than a year later when New Hampshire became the ninth state to …
The signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787 by 39 representatives of 12 states was a major step—formalized less than a year later when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it— toward Americans becoming, in the words of John Jay, “the first people whom heaven has favored with an opportunity of deliberating upon, and choosing the forms of government under which they should live.”
The framers of the Constitution well knew that the freedoms the extraordinary document secured for the people could not be maintained without an educated citizenry. John Jay, for one, wrote that “knowledge is the soul of a republic,” while Benjamin Rush declared that “without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights,” and Thomas Jefferson often expressed the sentiment that there could be no freedom without education.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to Charles Yancey in 1816, reiterating a sentiment he had expressed in 1779 when he wrote that the “most effectual means of preventing [the perversion of power into tyranny are] to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts which history exhibits.”
Clearly, the founders recognized that education—and history education in particular-- was a critical component of self-government as defined in the Constitution, so perhaps it is fitting that in celebrating the national holiday of Constitution Day, and Constitution Week, the non-profit history education group, The Delaware Company is sponsoring another Highland History Hike at the Minisink Battleground Park on Saturday, September 18.
The Delaware Company is mandated by its mission statement “to promote and support the history and the historic landmarks of the Upper Delaware and beyond through education, outreach, and fundraising,” and their emphasis has always been on education. The Highland History Hike is yet another effort by the group to fulfill its mission by giving participants what Jefferson called “the knowledge of those fact which history exhibits.”
The hike—which the group describes as “more of a saunter” is the latest in a long line of innovative educational programs devised by The Delaware Company’s ambitious Executive Director, Debra Conway. Previous educational programs have included numerous other history hikes at various venues, as well as local beer tastings on Washington’s Birthday that focused on the role of the tavern—as schoolhouse, courthouse, and house of God, as well as drinking establishment-- in colonial America, and Halloween lantern tours at Fort Delware that featured history lessons from early America in the guise of ghost stories. Another of those events is scheduled for October 9 at the Fort.
But first is the Highland History Hike, which will be led by and narrated by the Sullivan County Historian, and gets underway at 2 p.m. at the Battleground, located on County Rd. 168, just off Route 97, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, about four miles north of Barryville.
Topics to be covered in the narration in addition to a discussion of the Battle of Minisink and the events leading up to it, will include the Cushetunk settlement, the settlers’ relationship with the Native Americans, and their view of the American struggle for independence. The hike—that is, saunter--is expected to last about an hour. It is free and the public is invited.
James Madison, who had a little something to do with the U.S. Constitution, once wrote that “a diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” Those joining the Highland History Hike next Saturday are likely to have at least some knowledge diffused upon them.
John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will lead and narrate the Highland History Hike at the Minisink Battleground Park beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 18.