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John Joachim Zubly

A Disgraced American Revolutionist.

by Michael H. Thomson
July 4, 2007

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John Joachim Zubly
Happy Fourth of July everyone! Major remodeling here at the hacienda has disrupted my schedule. Since I have no carpenters to disrupt my  thoughts this morning, I have a rare opportunity  to write my column, without disruption, before the annual Paeonian Springs 4th of July Parade and talkfest make me busy once again.
The idea for this piece literally came to me in a dream. Probably sparked by some thinking I was doing earlier in the week. I was thinking about the recent attempt to pass a comprehensive immigration bill by our Congress. A second attempt that went down in flames – or as it should be better expressed – a flame that was smothered by emails, faxes, and phone calls.
What if the same level of communication we have today existed in 1776 or earlier? Would there have been a revolution if ideas and counterpoints could be quickly disseminated at that earlier time? What voices would have been heard that were not heard because of time and distance? Would John Joachim Zubly's arguments have been more persuasive if he had a blog?
Zubly is a name that I'm sure doesn't roll off your tongue when thinking of revolutionary heroes. Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Revere, and writer/pamphleteer Thomas Paine much easier come to mind, but Zubly was a strong voice in the years preceding the revolution. The events and the outcome would probably have been very different if Zubly had lived in "connected" Boston instead of "faraway" Savannah.
I came across Zubly several years ago when doing a family research project for a friend of mine in Alabama. My friend is a direct descendant of Zubly's father.
John Joachim Zubly came to the colonies from Switzerland following his father, David Zubly, who settled near Edgefield, South Carolina. Zubly was a Protestant minister whose views were commonly associated with the ideas of John Calvin and Martin Luther. In reality, his branch of Protestantism was more closely associated with Swiss patriot  Huldrych Zwingli who was a contemporary of the more famous Calvin and Luther.
Nevertheless, the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia accepted John Zubly with open arms. From the pulpit, Zubly helped shape American opinion. Zubly wrote pamphlets that would rival Jefferson or Thomas Paine in passion as he decried the atrocities of the British.
In July 1775, Zubly was elected by the citizens of Georgia as their representative to the Second Continental Congress. Unfortunately, for Zubly, while he argued with passion for embargoing British goods, his ideas for working things out peacefully fell upon deaf ears. In fact, those same Georgia citizens who sent him to Philadelphia branded him as a traitor and had him arrested. His considerable property was confiscated and sold while his library – the largest in the colonies – was thrown into the Savannah River.
Zubly's example goes to show that when the bloodlust is on an individual, group, or nation, voices of reason many times are drowned out.
Until next time…

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