Lenz: With The Clothes On Their Backs

Richard Singletary Dunham was the patriarch of the Singletary family in America. If the family tradition is true, then he was the lost heir of Dunham and was born in England. We know that his birth predates the earliest New England settlement and that American papers carried some notices about Singletary heirs and unclaimed estates in England.

In the last quarter of the sixteenth century, there was living in England, a family of title and large estates by the name of Dunham (so the tradition has it, but the Massachusetts records have it Donham). Of this family there were two branches. In case of the death of the last male of the elder branch, the title and estate would pass to the nearest male relative of younger branch. It so happened that every male of the elder branch died except one small boy.

One morning it was discovered that he was missing and that his nurse was missing also. Although a thorough search was made and bloodhounds were used in the search, neither he nor his nurse could be found. As the years passed, nothing further was heard of him. The heir of the younger branch of the family instituted a law suit to obtain the property; whether or not he obtained the property in the absence of the real heir is not clear.

Many years after this happened, the child’s nurse lay on her death bed and made an affidavit that she had been employed to destroy the child. She had found that she could not do this and had decided to seek a home in the new world. She had hidden herself and the child in a dense hazel thicket and had been terrified when she heard the dogs. Fortunately, the scent was cold, and the dogs were called off. For a day and a night she lay hidden; then she made her way to a ship, in which she embarked with the child to America.

On reaching America, she deserted the child, leaving him in the care of the captain of the ship, who adopted him. Before she left, she gave the child the name of Singletarry because he was alone in the world and because he would remain (or tarry) in the new world. She shortly returned to England.

The above written and sworn confession of the nurse was believed to be true; and detectives were sent to America to investigate the matter. A young man was found bearing the name Singletary, whose age corresponded with that of the lost heir of the Dunham estates and who could give no account of his forebears. The captain of the ship on which the child was deserted had adopted him under the name that the nurse had given him, having no idea of his real name or lineage. And the captain was now dead. Indeed, such care had been taken to destroy all trace of his name or ancestry that no one could say positively that he was the person sought. While he was believed to be the heir, the evidence was not sufficient to satisfy the English court and put him in possession of the property.

Such is the tradition that has been handed down through many generations of the Singletary family; wherever the name is found all over the United States, the family member is familiar with the story. There appears to be some truth in the story in a legal document that appears in the Archives of Massachusetts, recorded in 1702, the whole family is referred to as “Donham, alias Singletary.”

Why is this story relevant? If the legend is true, and if that nurse had chosen security instead of adventure, President Barack Obama may have become the Prime Minister of England or never been born at all. Richard Singletary Dunham, was the ninth great-grandfather of Barack Obama. (Source)

I was born an American citizen. I never chose to be an American. Therefore my beliefs on American citizenship, necessarily carry less weight than someone who chose US citizenship. I have a different view of what it means to be an American than the typical libertarian. I take great pride in calling myself one. Does that make me an evil nationalistic statist? I do not think so.

If you know me personally, then you know I have a sick sense of humor.

I have long believed that late night comedy shows were never intended for me…until I saw Craig Ferguson. Unfortunately, most Americans do not stay up and watch his brilliant monologues. In my opinion, he runs comedic circles around all of the other hosts, however that is not the only reason I watch him.

Craig Ferguson wrote an autobiography back in 2010, and because I was a fan, I bought it to support him. I was not nearly as politically oriented at that time, so upon reading it, an unquenchable thirst for American history and political philosophy was born. I can say with certainty that if were not for Craig Ferguson, I would never be a contributor to We Are Libertarians.

In his book, American on Purpose, he wrote:

“America truly is the best idea for a country that anyone has ever come up with so far. Not only because we value democracy and the rights of the individual, but because we are always our own most effective voice of dissent….We must never mistake disagreement between Americans on political or moral issues to be an indication of their level of patriotism. If you don’t like what I say or don’t agree with where I stand on certain issues, then good. I’m glad we’re in America, and don’t have to oppress each other over it. We’re not just a nation, we’re not an ethnicity. We are a dream of justice that people have had for a thousand years.” –Craig Ferguson, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot

Every time I read that excerpt I get chills. America is an idea and a dream of justice. It started with a belief in self-governance. Man decided that he was in fact fit to rule himself, rulers be damned.

People forget that America has not always been a geographic identifier. We are a country of immigrants. Individuals who risked death in pursuit of a better life, more freedom,  and a better future for their ancestors. So why is today’s immigration debate dominated by fear and exclusion?

So what if we allow a terrorist to become a citizen?

So what if our cultural values change?

So what if Spanish becomes our national language?

I can sympathize with individuals who want a more exclusionary America. GOP opponents of amnesty see a rapidly changing world. The Depression generation and Baby Boomers have seen more technological and societal change in the last fifty years than arguably any other group of people in history. But is unfamiliarity a good enough reason to abandon principle?

If a terrorist wants to become a citizen under false pretenses,  I say let him. If he or she gets out of line, there is a 2nd Amendment solution. Each of us has the human right to self-protection and, in America, the right to bear arms.

If Spanish becomes the language of the United States, I say oh well.

Ellis Island was the gateway to America for nearly all of our ancestors. They settled in the neighborhoods of New York. Only within the last sixty years or so did English become the dominant language in those neighborhoods. English is the adopted language of America.

I do not say I am proud to be an American because I believe we are inherently better than all other countries. I say it because I am proud to be an ancestor of the courageous immigrants that came to the new world. I say it because I am proud of the sentiment behind our revolutionary founding.

When I see a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag it gives me great hope for libertarianism. It serves as a reminder that not only can we throw off an oppressive government and rule ourselves, but that such a sentiment may very well be in our blood.

Our ancestral history is one of adventure, which means to me that an adventurous spirit is the original American trait. Craig Ferguson once wrote,

“I didn’t become any less Scottish when I became an American. The two are not mutually  exclusive. I am proud of my heritage. I will always be Scottish in my heart, but my soul is American, which means: between safety and adventure, I choose adventure.”

Shouldn’t we be welcoming the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States who live under constant threat of deportation and criminal charges? What law are they breaking?

Is risking it all in the pursuit of a better life against the law? What could be more American than that?

Illegal immigrants are American on purpose. Can opponents of amnesty say the same? Can you? Can I?

I opened this post with a clip from one of my favorite shows, The West Wing. In case you did not watch the clip, President Bartlet says,

“With the clothes on their backs, they came through a storm. And the ones that didn’t die want a better life.And they want it here. Talk about impressive.”

We should be so lucky to call such impressive individuals fellow citizens.

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Greg Lenz is a reformed Conservative. I've slowly evolved my position from Conservative Republican to it's current status of Libertarian Republican. I'm aware people hate the Libertarian Republican label, but ultimately I'm a pragmatist. Economic issues are my primary concern therefore I do support Republican candidates from time to time (Rand Paul 2016). As of late, I find myself flirting with Minarchism. The writings of William F. Buckley, Ayn Rand, and Thomas Jefferson have played the biggest role in shaping my beliefs.

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