by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
His last name was Bushnell, and if his voice had not been raised during jury deliberations in 1670 William Penn, who had defied the Crown and preached his Quaker faith, would not have lived to found Pennsylvania. Many in Ashtabula have roots in the former colony east of here, which he named.
Bushnell and his fellow jurors were confined and fined for their temerity when they defied the royal mandate to find Penn guilty. The lives of Penn and his friend, Mead, hung by two dissenting votes.
The judge sent the jury back three times to reconsider their verdict saying, “a verdict that the court will accept, and you shall be locked up without meat, drink, fire, and tobacco....We will have a verdict by the help of God or you will starve for it."
It took a writ of Habeas Corpus to free the jurors, Penn and Mead. Penn came to the colonies and so was Pennsylvania founded.
The English tradition for the Common Law and the rights of the people to defy the dictates of authority again influenced the writing in 1735 during the trial of John Peter Zenger, who had defied the Royal Governor of New York and published the truth about him.
Zenger languished in prison for eight months before standing trial. But the publication of his newspaper continued, overseen by his wife.Words, the truth, are the first defense against oppression. Disinformation and the suppression of truth destroy freedom. The Founders, who were certainly aware of both precedents, Penn and Zenger. They understood the nasty tendencies of government to use its power to stifle dissent and the truth.
The ratification of the Constitution hung in the balance as Mason traded with Madison and the deciding factor was the inclusion of the Bill of Rights that secured to each of us guarantees for the limitation of government power.
It is the ideas thus enshrined that connect us to the truth of America's Mission Statement. America is made up of people who are, themselves, the government. The truth matters.
Today, it is the suppression of the truth by authorities by redaction, evasion and deceit again threaten the essential freedoms won for us by our ancestors. We need the facts because truth is the foundation of freedom.
April 18th marks the 260th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Get the truth, it matters to each of us.