While counterintuitive to consider it so, I recently discovered some interesting realities of how we Texans share some collective heritage with our Northern countrymen.
My youngest daughter is pursuing a career that has taken her to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she now lives for several months each year.
A recent visit there acquainted me with some unexpected commonalities most of us here would not expect to find as far away as New England — a place we might believe to be very unlike our part of the country.
Folks around these parts may travel to the far upper Northeast corners of the country at this time of the year to enjoy the fall foliage but miss some history of the founding of our nation that is connected to our own origins.
When pilgrims first arrived on the shores of New Hampshire in 1623 they came looking for a new life.
It would be another 200 years before Stephen F. Austin would lead the first settlers to the frontier of Texas, but they all made that journey for the same reasons as their Northern counterparts.
Led by three insurrectionists who would later represent the state in the Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia, New Hampshire became the first colony to remove the royal governor and declare its independence from Great Britain.
Doing so months before the Declaration of Independence was adopted made the small state its own republic — just as Texas would do only 60 years later.
You may still visit the Portsmouth home of William Whipple, who, along with his fellow congressman Josiah Bartlett, were the first two signers of the Declaration right after John Hancock.
The third, Matthew Thornton, would add his signature when the joined the Congress a couple of months later.
These men were the personification of the state’s famous motto — “Live Free or Die!” They knew their rebellious behavior was a hanging offense but declaring their birthright to freedom was well worth the risk.
Such an aggressive statement of resolve against tyranny would echo through the little Texas town of Gonzales in 1835 in the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution.
When Mexican soldiers approached Gonzales with orders to seize the town’s cannon, they were greeted with a flag bearing the famous and proud words, “Come and Take It.”
We also took a look at the Portsmouth home once occupied by John Paul Jones, considered the founder of the U.S. Navy. Off the coast of England where he was harassing British shipping, he was engaged in a desperate sea battle with a far superior English vessel that had all but destroyed Jones’ USS Bonhomme Richard.
When the commander of the HMS Serapis demanded Jones’ surrender, he famously declared, “I have not yet begun to fight” — words he shouted while surrounded by a scene he later recorded in his journal as “carnage, wreck, and ruin.”
Such an expression of resolve would find its way onto the letter penned by Col. William Travis leading the defense of the Alamo on Feb. 24, 1836. “I shall never surrender or retreat,” a phrase he emphasized by underlining it and then concluded in boldness reminiscent of Jones’ resolve, “Victory or Death.”
New Hampshire is one of the swing states when calculations are being made on the outcome of presidential elections. By narrow margins, the Democratic candidate has won those four electoral votes in recent times.
The single exception is the 2000 race when the state was captured by Texan George W. Bush. He won the presidency with one electoral vote to spare, so those few New Hampshire votes made the difference.
Oh, and yes, the leaves are beautiful there this time of year.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and was an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the EPA.