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Annual Bucks County Ancestry Fair

The Bookends of Liberty: 300 Years of the Growth of Freedom in North America

The 2020 Ancestry Fair of the Bucks County Genealogical Society will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Compact and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States with The Bookends of Liberty: 300 Years of the Growth of Freedom in North America. Our program will cover the unique opportunities and challenges the records of these events present for genealogists as well as the social history of these two important milestones.

In 1620, the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts. Before formally disembarking from their ship, the passengers drafted an agreement for governing their settlement. Known today as the Mayflower Compact, this brief document–less than 200 words–was an important milestone in government. The first constitution of modern times, it established a tradition of democratic self-government under the rule of law for the New World. In 1802, John Quincy Adams called it “the only instance, in human history, of that positive, original social compact, which…philosophers have imagined as the only legitimate source of government.”

For all its foresight, the Mayflower Compact did not establish comprehensive liberties. It excluded women and indentured servants. It failed to preclude the practice of slavery, which would be introduced into the North American colonies in 1619. The Mayflower Compact might best be considered the opening chapter in a centuries-long effort to extend civil liberties to all. In 1776 and 1787, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution respectively articulated an expanded vision of liberty and self-determination. In the 300 years following the Compact, full civil rights and the electoral franchise were extended in turn to all “freemen,” to emancipated slaves, and to new immigrants. The final chapter, the extension of those privileges to women, came with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

The Bookends of Liberty: 300 Years of the Growth of Freedom in North America will feature David Alan Lambert and Gena Philibert-Ortega, both nationally renowned experts in these subject areas.

Annual Bucks County Ancestry Fair is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media