This is an incredible discovery for history and an archeological goldmine, but what’s really striking to me is how it makes the airy — our founding fathers, the men who wrote the laws we wrestle with right now — real. It’s a powerful feeling.
Because even though time is “a flat circle,” and history can “come alive” at your average living history museum, it can be hard to imagine that there are real people behind the ideas that we think about as Americans and humans. Ideas last — the Constitution, that beautiful document, survives, mutates, and endures — but so often, it’s hard to reconcile the idea that there were people building America over 200 years ago, and that they had the oddities, foibles, and quirks that real life people have. They’re too often categorized as ideas, concepts, and living saints of democracy.
For me, this summer I happened upon a signed copy of W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk. I wasn’t even sure if it was a real signed copy at first. Once I realized that it was genuine — that W.E.B. DuBois was flesh and blood, putting pen to paper — it was a very heady experience. There was this energy coming from the signature. Too often our heroes and our people who survived in history become mere thoughts. It’s a rich experience to see that they were funny, strange people.
So this time capsule is immensely endearing. Adams and Revere wanted to keep records of 1795 for posterity’s sake. They collected coins, newspapers, and a fancy silver plate. They left their mark on America, but they also left their tiny little mark on this silver pouch. Our founding fathers may be abused on a daily basis for the sake of political arguments, but underneath it all, they were some guys that wanted us to know what their coins looked like and that America was celebrating its 20th anniversary. They were proud of their work. They actually existed.