A "Revolutionary" Journey (Williamsburg & Washington D.C.)Author: Host Ciao (More Trip Reviews by Host Ciao)
Date of Trip: December 2008
The first was about Revolutionary Viewpoints. It was a discussion in the Capital about whether or not the colony of Virginia should declare independence. (And here we couldn't take pictures -- darn it. However, I did understand this rule.) We received some background information and listened to three people explain their positions. One was a woman whose millinery business was failing because of no goods from England. Another was a man who loved Williamsburg but felt he had to follow the crown. He was going back to England even though his brother was fighting for the colonies. The Chairman of the House of Burgesses was the third. He was for declaring Independence.
Everybody was given a card with a description of a real person who would have attended such a meeting along with a speech. I was John Tabb, the delegate from Amelia County. We could be recognized and give our speeches if we wanted to. Mine was a fairly wishy-washy man. He was worried because his father-in-law in England said the only way to defeat Great Britain was to ally with France, our enemy in the recent war. Might that not mean a French king and would that be better or worse than a British King? "Gentlemen, think about what you are asking us to do." I gave my little speech early to get the fence sitter out of the way.
After listening to some more speeches (some did not participate), I decided to "change my mind." I spoke again saying that just because other colonies were afraid there was no reason why Virginia shouldn't be the first to proclaim Independence. There had been some mutterings about those wild men dumping tea in Boston Harbor. Finally a vote was taken and we (the Virginia House of Burgesses) voted to declare Independence.
I had a short break before my next program and looked for a place to get something to eat. The only nearby restaurant required reservations, and I didn't have time to go farther down the street so I headed back to the Capital. I was early for my next program, "Cry Witch" so I ended up being seated next to the Royal Governor on the main court of justices.
A widow woman was accused by a man and his wife of causing her to lose her baby boy after the widow had told the man he would regret his actions. The widow was also said to have been seen dancing around a fire in man's clothes and also she floated instead of sinking in the water trial. A midwife testified that she and 11 other midwifes had inspected the widow and the black marks on the widow's body did not bleed when pinched. The midwife also threw a wonderful fit of hysterics. The Prosecutor kept pointing at the widow and calling her guilty, very loudly too.
The Governor tried all the questioning he could do and finally insisted on one more test. Though the Prosecutor said this test was only for a church court, the Governor said it must be done. The widow had to recite the Lord's Prayer. She said that she could, but had problems and finally collapsed without finishing. She was helped out and we had to vote. While none of the witnesses seemed at all believable in 2008, we had agreed to be citizens and justices in the early 1700's. It was difficult, but I, along with most of the people there, voted for conviction, which was a death sentence. No one voted not guilty.
This widow was a real person, but there is not record to tell if she was executed. The records were moved to Richmond when Jefferson moved the capital there and were burned in a major fire. A will in her name from a later date was found in Williamsburg so no one really knows what happened to her after the trial.
Both of these programs were marvelous and the actor/interpreters were too. The second was described as not for children and some of the language and actions could be scary for them I believe.
A special bus was near the Capital to take us back to the Visitors Center, which was very close to my hotel. But it was after 10, when Huzzah, the next door restaurant closed so my wonderful supper this night consisted of corn curls and a cookie I had bought somewhere.
I started my second day by doing some Christmas shopping at the two stores in the Visitors Center and shipping purchases home. Seemed really cheap compared to all the boxes I have sent home from Italy over the years.
I decided to walk over to the Historical Center, and I am very glad I did. I discovered New Hope, a farm plantation that is being set up. While it is not finished, it is still very interesting, and interpreters are there to explain what they are doing and what will eventually be done. For example the main house is only staked out. This will be a working farm, not one of the big plantations we may have read about in history books.
First I visited the cook house where a black interpreter discussed not only the cooking but also how those who survived slavery had to be strong, and after questions from several people told us that she also visits schools to let children know that this strength was necessary. Other buildings that are done include the smoke house, barn, slave house, and two gardens.
In one area of the farm a crew was working on building the coffee house that when finished will be taken apart and moved to the main street in the center. This will be above where two Revolutionary City scenes were held the day before. The men were using 1700 tools such as hand drills. One was trimming a long wooden beam by using an ax to take off thin slices.
I also talked to the candle maker. He said that at the present time they buy the beeswax, but they melt it and dip the candles in the old fashioned was. I highly recommend a visit to this farm. I spent well over an hour there.
At the courthouse three civil cases were tried in the presentation. All five or six parts were played by audience members given information about the characters. The judge was the same interpreter who had taken the part of the Randolph who was going back to England in last night's Revolutionary Viewpoints. All three cases were bound over until the next month for decision or further evidence.
After watching the shoe maker working with the 18th Century tools, I found out about a tour at Wetherburn's Tavern, another original building. The guides here are not costumed interpreters. I believe they might be members of the Williamsburg Foundation. Colonial Taverns sold food as well as drink and offered lodgings. According to the guide this tavern was a cut above the others and offered special rooms and more than one level of accommodation and dining.
Up at the Capital two guides explained the Court side (where we had convicted the witch the night before) and the House of Burgesses side, where the Royal Governor dismissed the House when they were talking Revolution. Again there was much interesting information given. I ate lunch at Shield's Tavern, a warren of small rooms, but very interesting. Food was very good. I had a country ham sandwich with cheese served with a bit of red pepper relish; also roasted potatoes. I drank Shield's ginger ale, which was very good too.
The weather Tuesday November 18 was very cold for Williamsburg so the Revolutionary City activities were somewhat curtailed and all moved inside. Two scenes were held in the capital, both in the Court. The one I can remember featured a trial of a man heard talking against the Revolution, and one or the other of them ended with the defendant being taken out to be tarred and feathered. One of the main witnesses, a very nervous bar tender, was played by the same interpreter who had lead the House of Burgesses in the Revolutionary Viewpoint night program.
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