Portsmouth residents declare their independence

Carlton Johnson takes his turn reading a passage from The Declaration of Independence. Photo by Jim McGaw. Carlton Johnson takes his turn reading a passage from The Declaration of Independence. Photo by Jim McGaw.

PORTSMOUTH — Two hundred and thirty-eight years after Rhode Island became one of 13 thirteen American colonies to declare itself independent from the British Empire, about three dozen local residents Friday renewed their vows to be free.

Local resident Anne Wagner hosted a public reading of The Declaration of Independence at the Portsmouth Free Public Library, which she said was a perfect way to kick off Independence Day.

The event was originally set to be held on the library grounds near the Blue Star Memorial Garden, but heavy rains moved it inside.

More than 30 people took turns reading passages of the fabled document from small booklets that Ms. Wagner had purchased and freely distributed. After the reading of the 1,337-word text was over, Ms. Wagner asked everyone to reflect on the statement’s meaning.

“Does it sink into us more what an incredible miracle this was, to declare these offenses against the British king?” she said. “They ruled the world, Britain did — the seas and the land. And here we pipsqueak Colonists declared that they were doing wrong to us.

“The Colonists had come to their wits’ end. They still thought of themselves as British citizens, but they were not being treated as British citizens. And so, having no other recourse, they declared their independence.”

Afterwards, Carlton Johnson, a member of VFW Post 5390, said the VFW works with local Boy Scouts in educating them about documents such as the Declaration of Independence.

“When we do those merit badges we usually go over Bill of Rights and all that stuff so it’s really a good history lesson for the scouts. A lot of time when they go over those things in school, they already know about it, so they’re way ahead of their peers,” said Mr. Johnson, who was impressed by how people participated in the event.

“I gave out 43 flags to everybody today, so we had a really nice turnout,” he said.

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