Valley Forge and the Creation of Due Process

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From December 19th to June 1778, the Continental Army of 12,500 soldiers settled into Valley Forge. The army headed by George Washington that had been traveling for many months to stay just ahead of the pursuing British Army. Tired of travelling, Valley Forge was going to be the army’s winter quarters.

This small band of soldiers, a minor amount of the 2.5 million people who lived in the American colonies during this time, had suffered a lot. Over the previous months many had left the army, discouraged by enduring long days of travel and few victories. All that was left were these loyal patriots. As Thomas Paine said many years ago, they weren’t Summer Soldiers.

One in three had usable shoes and they were poorly fed. During the coming winter 2,500 would die. They lived in 2000 huts hastily built. Many days they only ate “firecakes”, made out water, flour and small amount of meat. Barely enough to keep them alive.

Local farmers wouldn’t accept the currency of the colonies and would not supply food to the army. The only valid currency was the British currency.

All that stood between a lost cause and the creation of a nation, was this small band of poorly fed and ill-equipped men.

Many of us know the end of this story. Washington would lead this band of men across the Delaware and win a victory against the Hessians. France would decide to help later that Spring, adding more soldiers to fight. 500 women would join this band to sew new clothes and improve camp conditions. By June 1778 the army was on its way to be righted.

Over the next few years, with the help of France, success started to come. Combined with a discouraged British population, tired of being taxed to fight a war they didn’t see a benefit, the Revolutionary war would end. The American’s won a final victory at Yorktown and the Revolutionary War was over.

What did this small band accomplish that difficult winter in Valley Forge? They held on despite overwhelming odds to keep the dream of creating a new democracy alive.

According to the website,, no democracy existed in 1784. Today, four billion people throughout our globe live in a democracy. The cry for freedom has been the largest political movement over the last two centuries. These 12,500 soldiers were catalyst of this great movement.

They held on to create what would become today the world’s longest surviving democracy. They fought for the rights of citizens to have Due Process and a voice.

They fought to create a environment where free people would no longer be tried as if guilty, but as innocent. No longer could the whims of a faraway ruler dictate the legal system. No longer would the court of public opinion dictate guilt or innocence. Every person would have the right to due process.

While we are not a perfect country, we are more perfect than most thanks to this small band of soldiers.

It dismays me today to see people found guilty in the media without a fair trial. It dismays me today when I see people blamed without a full airing of the facts. All that the soldiers fought for over 2 centuries ago is put a risk when this happens.

I know that the media has to raise up important issues. But they shouldn’t be trying people in the court of public opinion, all to generate more ad revenue to keep their enterprise afloat. True Journalism reports facts and expresses informed opinions. When we use journalism to promote or take sides, it will diminish the importance journalism has on maintaining freedom.

Each person should be tried fairly in the court of law. Those who file claims falsely should also be part of our judicial system based on Due Process.

I think of the destitute conditions of Valley Forge and how a few held on to give us a free place to live. A place where we all have Due Process, both for the accused and the accuser. Valley Forge wasn’t a simple sacrifice of endurance. It was a heroic stand by those who came before us that believed in a dream of freedom. A dream that prevented maddening crowds from avoiding the facts. A dream that created a fair playing field for all. A dream to create the inalienable rights deserved by all citizens of our world.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Marko Horvat

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