Like a bad gossip, history is very good at telling us what happened. Never very good at telling us why.
We know that Moses Rolfe moved his large family from Massachusetts to Vermont -- and then on to Canada. To the recently-incorporated former French colony of Quebec. The year is less clear. But both moves followed the American War of Independence.
It is easy to forget that not all American colonists were avid supporters of the American Revolution. And we really do not know exactly where the Rolfe clan came down on the issue.
They were part of the original group of settlers that came to Newbury colony in 1634. Like their cousin countrymen at Plymouth, they came to America to escape religious persecution in England, and to worship as their consciences saw fit. For almost 150 years, they settled and farmed in the northeastern corner of what would eventually become Massachusetts.
For whatever reason, they packed up their DNA and headed to Vermont -- and on to Canada. Slipping back into the United States (through Minnesota) in the 1880s.
I have no idea what type of governmental documents they had for both international moves. I suspect none. That may be one reason I am not a big defend-the-borders advocate. If they had been faced with contemporary bureaucracy, I suspect I would have been celebrating Canada Day last week rather than Independence Day today.
And that is why I am teling this tale of Moses Rolfe. He was, as the genealogists love to say, my fourth great grandfather on my mother's side. As it turns out, my father's genes were floating around in the same Newbury pool. Mixing with my mother's. Like some Ozark gentry, I am my own cousin.
But this is not a tale about me. It is about the men who fought in the American War of Independence. I am glad the forces of independence won. This experiment that is America would never have occurred if the Tories (a derisive term I picked up in my youth -- probably from watching Swamp Fox) had won.
If the Rolfes left because America no longer held the same promise for them as their ancestors who arrived in the early 1600s, we do know that one branch decided to return. What lured them across the border into Minnesota, we will never know. Maybe it was the balmy climate.
The point is, they returned. Perhaps like the prodigal son -- seeking the ideals they originally sought in the 1600s.
What we do know is each subsequent generation produced men and women who were willing to defend those principles that drove them across the Atlantic in tiny ships. Principles that would be articulated 150 years later:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Each Inependence Day, I put out the Union Jack in remembrance of my familiy members who may have retained an llegiance to the British crown. For a while.
And then became American patriots to the core.
To them, and to you, I wish a very happy Fourth of July. Where freedom rings.