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“Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
~ Patrick Henry before the 2nd Virginia Convention, 1775
Excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s “The History of the Order of Freedom”, unpublished internal work, 1913
In March of 1775 George Washington was given the future technology from the Stranger and was tasked with determining a way to accomplish his new mission, or rather determining where to even begin. We know very little about these heady initial days as, for obvious reasons, Washington and the initial members of the Order refused to keep physical notes about these momentous events. That said, later notes allow us to piece together these events which combine with the oral tradition from the Order’s earliest days. We know that Washington spent some time testing the equipment that the Stranger brought and we know that he was not in a rush to formulate a plan of action. He kept the meeting with the Stranger and the capabilities of the technology a closely guarded secret. He shared his story and the technology with his wife, Martha Washington, less out of enthusiasm and seemingly more out of a desire for counsel.
We know nothing of this time. Surely the Washingtons harbored moral dilemmas and perhaps even questions about time and space and the typical questions and concerns that any new initiate holds.
After a period of “a little over a month” the Washingtons determined a plan, likely spurred on by the rumors of the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord. Knowing conflict to be certain, Washington initiated the Order of Freedom. Legend holds that, for a time, Washington considered using the technology to stop the imminent revolution, repair the excesses of London, and work towards his goals via the already extensive British Empire. Obviously, any considerations came to naught.
Taking the fact that the Stranger left multiple pieces of technology, Washington forwent a lone wolf approach and opted to create a team. Another legend holds that Washington considered pressing some of his trusted masonic-military brethren into service, but, obviously, this came to naught as well. Instead, Washington opted to craft a team from the leading statesmen of the British North American colonies. Order members have debated his final list since the founding of the Order.
Washington enlisted John and Samuel Adams and John Hancock of Massachusetts. From his homeland, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee were inducted early on. The young burgess, Thomas Jefferson, would be the last initial member brought in, it is believed to provide a youthful perspective. The members could not have chosen a more promising member. The esteemed Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania joined and played a key role in suggesting members from more distant colonies.
Of course, until this point, revolutionary thought and talk had been confined to the Atlantic seaboard colonies (and even then Georgia failed to send delegates to the First Continental Congress). Bostonian patriots received passive support during the closure of their harbor from Quebec and the Bahamas, but few anticipated a widespread revolt across the British Empire (though many hoped for such). While we have few records, surely the initial membership harbored doubts about the ability of the revolution to include a large French-Catholic population or support Caribbean planters against the might of the Royal Navy. Economic factors were certainly considered. Many in Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia questioned the usefulness of a revolution when their economies were dependent on exporting crops to Britain. These concerns multiplied in the Caribbean where the utterly dominant sugar economy was even more dependent on Britain (for trade, food, protection and the flow of new slaves). Similar concerns existed in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, St. John’s Island and Newfoundland where British trade in timbers and fish (particularly cod) ruled the local economies. Terror abounded in many locations about potential slave revolts (and British support of rebelling slaves) if their colonies rose against the Crown.
Yet, it appears that Washington and the initial membership made the effort to defy the odds, opting to rely on the technology to tackle unexpected problems.
In the summer of 1775, the Order made it a priority to bring export the revolution and hand selected leaders to join their cause. Washington and the Adams cousins made a secret expedition to Montreal on a June night and in doing so convinced the Québécois to send a delegation to the Continental Congress. In the same trip they found two Canadian leaders to join the Order itself. A Haligonian merchant and city leader named John Harper proved receptive to their cause. He was a critical addition as Halifax was the key British naval port to the Canadian Maritimes. An even more impressive turn came in the form of the royal Governor of Quebec, Guy Carleton. Carleton, by all accounts, was an ardent royalist and only turned when Washington demonstrated the technology and proved the truthfulness of the Stranger’s mission. We do have records from later about Carleton’s thought processes and everything seemed to hinge on the Stranger’s amazing appearance and the mission. Carleton never fully embraced the passions of the revolution and hated the bloodshed which he saw to be useless, but instead painted himself as as enlightenment thinker and defender of Quebec. The only thing that allowed him to abandon the Crown and his oaths (no small task for any of these men) was the mission and the larger role of saving mankind in the long term versus preserving his honor in the short term. Even then, he was given some weeks to make arrangements in Quebec, remove family members to Canada, and sell valuable estates and holdings.
To the south, Franklin, Henry and Hancock found replicated gold to be the key to their success. A summer of sweltering island hopping and key payoffs secured numerous small delegations to the Continental Congress from the Caribbean. In an effort to maintain some balance in the Order as well, two islanders were brought on as happened in the Canadas. Governor John Dalling of Jamaica, similar to Carleton, was a key addition to the order as he secured the large fabulously wealthy island. In a seemingly happenstance trip by Franklin to Grenada, the eccentric Philadelphian “discovered” (as he put it) a disgruntled royal navy officer named William Briggs who seemed ready to travel to the revolting colonies and find work in the naval war that would surely develop between the colonies and England. Instead of encouraging him to desert, he inducted him into the Order and charged him with the critical task of capturing royal navy ships stationed in the Caribbean and turning other officers and crew. His reasoning was the Caribbean would not hold long if the Royal Navy remained loyal and could regroup its various fleets. The Caribbean might have a punchers chance if it could capture the navy anchored in its midst and use it to keep a stunned British fleet on its toes, especially if London had to deal with a naval war from the Arctic to the Equator.
After a summer of tireless effort, and more travel than most men undertook in a lifetime for their day, these ten men comprised the Order of Freedom. Perhaps more impressively, every British possession in the New World with the exception of Bermuda (and the ill-defined central american protectorates) had sent a delegate or delegation to the Continental Congress. In one summer, 13 coastal provinces had blossomed to the entirety of the British North American empire London had fought and paid so dearly for over the course of nearly two centuries.
What these men did not know was that their efforts from that fateful March day through August of 1775 had laid the foundations for a new world order. Not only had the destiny of the United States been changed but the destinies of these men had changed as well. The Order of Freedom had been established but now it was time for these men to conduct and manage a war for independence while maintaining their own secrecy.
———- Author’s Notes ———–
: On Feb. 5, 2018 I went in and made a fairly extensive retcon of this chapter to better reflect Roosevelt’s writing style.
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