The American Revolution and the Rhythm of War

Almost a decade had passed since Joseph Borden and other delegates from the colonies met within the walls of the Stamp Act Congress to address concerns over taxes legislated by the British Parliament that affected their liberties. Now, uneasiness loomed as representatives from Virginia met in Williamsburg to discuss the urgency of creating a standing Committee of Correspondence and Inquiry for the purpose of dealing with serious lawful acts and proceedings between their colony and the mother country. In doing so, they also felt that their affairs were intertwined with every aspect of their neighbors and therefore, strongly suggested that each colony should form a similar committee. Copies of the stamped resolutions were then delivered by horseback and stage to various leaders in their respective capitals. Britain viewed the entire episode as nothing more than an act of insurrection instigated by a motley collection of unruly rabble-rousers. Nevertheless, the New Jersey Assembly agreed with Virginia that concentrated efforts involving the attitudes of Great Britain were warranted and established its own Committee of Correspondence and Inquiry with the appointment of nine prominent men to serve, including Joseph Borden. In July of 1774, these members appeared before the first New Jersey Convention in the town of New Brunswick and passed vital measures relating to the growing crisis.

New Jersey’s Royal Governor, William Franklin, was a Loyalist and opposed liberty-minded sentiment by reporting any findings of dissension to Parliament through various channels. Because of this, few citizens were publicly willing to express their distain. However, in private, many supported the direction of the New Jersey Assembly. It wasn’t long before heated political drama erupted over the unyielding viewpoints of Governor Franklin and angry delegates calling for his deposition. Over the course of the next year, the unsettled climate forced him to vacate his waterfront mansion in Burlington for the seclusion of his residence in Perth Amboy.

In September, a collective government body of delegates from every colony except Georgia met at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia to execute the core tasks of their grievances against British authority through discussion and debate. From the moment it was called to order, the intensity of the First Continental Congress was fueled with raw emotion. Although opinions differed according to their geography, the delegates were strongly unified in their cause. After a month of exhaustive efforts, they achieved their objectives with the establishment of the Declaration and Resolves. This set of principles was presented to Parliament. If the principles were not attended to, Congress agreed to meet and contemplate further resistance the following year. This ultimatum resonated soundly in the colonies as incidences like the massacre of innocent civilians and the defiance of the Tea Act in Boston only inflamed cries for independence. Although Quakers clashed with the religious ideologies of New England Puritans, they stood shoulder to shoulder on the issue that an armed conflict with a foreign power was inevitable. The rhythm of war was now pulsating through the currents on both sides of the Atlantic. Everything was changing.

Individuals like Joseph Borden were changing as well. Although he did not attend the First Continental Congress, his views were greatly admired in the small town that bore his name. In light of this, his personal life had bore witness to a wide range of joy and sorrow. He had six grandchildren through his eldest daughter Mary and her marriage to Thomas McKean. Sadly, she did not live long enough to enjoy motherhood and in 1773, died two weeks after giving birth to her last child. Borden’s other daughter, Ann, began a courtship with Francis Hopkinson that led to their marriage in 1768. They would have five children. Their oldest child, Joseph, born in 1770, would reach prominence for composing “Hail Columbia,” our country’s first national anthem.

When the family moved to Bordentown in 1774, they resided in a beautiful brick home that was purchased for them by Joseph Borden as a gift. Built in 1751 by store keeper and land broker, John Imlay, he was the brother-in-law of Joseph Wright, whose wife Patience was destined to become America’s first sculptress and Revolutionary War spy.  The Wrights and their four children lived across the road from the Bordens and often attended religious services together.

As 1775 unfolded, England refused to capitulate to the demands of the colonies and ordered British and Hessian forces to quell rebellious hostilities in New England. On April 19th, heated confrontations between British troops and American colonists in the Massachusetts farm towns of Lexington and Concord lead to hellacious volleys of musket fire that killed several men. Known as “the shot heard around the world,” these military actions set the stage for members of the Second Continental Congress to meet again in Philadelphia and plan for the country’s independence and beyond. Joseph Borden, the ardent patriot, expressed his sincerity as he was chosen by members later in the year to form a Council of War. With this responsibility, he obtained the rank of Colonel and was attached to the First New Jersey Regiment. Being a Quaker, this was not a subtle commitment since the use of firearms towards his fellow man went against his faith. We can only imagine the anguish that his conscious endured as he attended worship countless times in the meeting house that his family helped build. He was not alone as this scene was common across the colonies. So many lives would pay so costly a price upon the altar of freedom.