Monday, September 16, 2019

Learning about the DAR and the Constitution

by Paula Gail Benson

I remember hearing about the DAR or Daughters of the American Revolution most of my life. While I had no family who were members, I grew up in South Carolina, the location of 200 Revolutionary War battles. As a child, my parents took me on a trip to Washington, D.C. and Virginia to see Monticello, Williamsburg, and Mount Vernon, which was restored by a South Carolinian, Ann Pamela Cunningham, in the 1850s.

Ann Pamela Cunningham
Cunningham grew up in Laurens, South Carolina. As a teenager, she was crippled from a riding accident. She never married. During a time of mounting discord between the states, she devoted herself to raising money and awareness about the condition of the first President’s home and appealed to women throughout the nation to help in the restoration effort. With help, she raised the funds to buy the property and established the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the oldest historical preservation society in the United States. For more information see: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ann-pamela-cunningham


Theodosia Burr
Last week, a dear friend, Gini Abee, invited me to attend a meeting of her DAR chapter, located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and named after Theodosia Burr, the daughter of Aaron Burr and wife of South Carolina Governor Joseph Alston. (Musical theater enthusiasts will recognize the name from a beautiful song in Hamilton.)

The chapter’s projects include historic preservation, education, and commemorative endeavors. Their program had a “Conservation Minute,” endorsing a “no straw September” campaign to help eliminate the environmental effect of discarded plastic straws, and a “National Defense Minute,” highlighting the forever stamps to be released in February to honor military working dogs. Please check out the chapter’s activities on their website: https://www.myrtlebeachdar.org/

I particularly enjoyed the presentation given by author and constitutional scholar Ron Gragg, who spoke about the work of the Constitutional Convention and the concerns arising from incorporating the principles of the Declaration of Independence into the Constitution with care in order to balance the power of the government with the rights of the individuals. He described George Washington, aged fifty-six when elected President, taking the oath of office. Gragg said that Washington added the words “so help me God” and, at the end, bent to kiss the scriptures where he had placed his hand.

What I did not realize was that the Constitution Convention met for the last time and signed the draft Constitution on September 17, 1787. In recognition of this anniversary, the Myrtle Beach Chapter will gather to ring a bell thirteen times, for the original thirteen colonies.

The meeting was a delightful celebration of the Constitution combined with efforts to help future generations understand the importance of that document and the history that created it. I’m very grateful to Gini and the members who welcomed me so warmly. And, this week, I’m proud to join with them in remembering the signing of the Constitution of the United States.
Gini Abee and Paula Gail Benson (Photo by Michelle Cox)

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