Discover Kent’s connection with American Independence Day!
We find history fascinating – it can have a reputation for being a boring subject but we think most people share our interest of discovering what went on in the olden days. We always find it surprising finding connections that we never knew – such as the connections of Kent with American Independence.
As we all know, July 4th is American Independence Day. So how does that connect to us here in Kent?
A famous visitor to Tenterden was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of America.
The Founding Fathers of America were a group of (predominantly wealthy) plantation owners and businessmen who united 13 disparate colonies, fought for independence from Britain and penned a series of influential governing documents. They set out their grievances in the ‘Declaration of Independence’.
In 1774 Benjamin Franklin visited Tenterden to listen to Joseph Priestley preach at The Unitarian Chapel which was previously The Old Meeting House. Benjamin later went to The Manse House for a cup of tea! Joseph Priestley was an Englishman by birth - a Leeds man who was deeply involved in politics and religion, as well as science.
Joseph published over 150 works and was the man who discovered that oxygen is a component of air. He invented carbonated water (he’s the founder of our fizzy drinks!) and he found the answers to age old questions of why and how things burn. Also a founder of the Unitarian religion, Joseph Priestley’s controversial works led to him having to flee to London, and later to flee to the United States where he spent his last years.
Up the road in Sandwich lived Thomas Paine. He was originally from Norfolk and moved to Sandwich in 1759 where he married Mary Lambert on 27th September 1759 in St Peter’s Church. She was without family, an ‘orphan of Sandwich’ and they lived in his rented house in New Street. All did not go well - the business they had failed and Mary passed away in childbirth a year after their marriage. Thomas moved on to have a varied career including being a teacher and also an excise man. He became a political activist, producing leaflets calling for employment and civil rights. Over some years Paine travelled widely - being involved in both the American and French Revolutions. The British government eventually outlawed him for his views on religion and the crown. Benjamin Franklin met with Thomas Paine in London in 1772 and 1773.
Thomas’ most famous work was later - ‘The Rights of Man’ in 1791 and he is credited with being the first person to coin the now common phrase “the United States of America”. Thomas Paine moved to America permanently and was a regularly published writer. He died in 1809 by which time he owned a farm and was an American citizen.
American Independence was achieved on 4th July 1776. Our county of Kent played a part!