Mayor of Bristol
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
Bristol is celebrating the 4th of July – an opportunity to get together with friends and family, to celebrate graduations and thank our military for their service in upholding the many rights and freedoms we enjoy.
This summer holiday links to the Declaration of Independence that was signed 243 years ago. When Americans declared independence in 1776, they set forth to pursue new, independent economic policies of free trade and free immigration. The Committee of Five, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who drew up the document, condemned King George III for ‘cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.’
The Declaration also condemned George III for his restrictions on immigration. Well-designed states, patriots believed, should promote immigration ‘to encourage … migrations hither.’ The new America welcomed new immigrants who they knew would bring skills to enhance industry and development. ‘The new settlers to America,’ Franklin maintained, also created ‘a growing demand for our merchandise, to the greater employment of our manufacturers’.
As these economic and immigration policies are discussed today, it gives us another opportunity to celebrate Bristol’s history and diversity as many generations came here in the “pursuit of happiness and a better life.”
Last week, City staff combed through historic files to piece together how the North Shore Development, a subdivision on Cedar Lake, was approved in 1936. The deed held the necessary answer to a prickly issue of rights that has embroiled this entire neighborhood and was affecting quality of life issues, and this area’s “pursuit of happiness” to enjoy their property.
This particular neighborhood of Ipswitch Road and Salem Lane was settled in the early 1940s and some of the first owners were my family members who had arrived in Bristol in 1929 from Italy and first settled in the tenements of upper North Main Street, where they set out to learn the language and open businesses – in the case of my grandfather Archangelo Zoppo, a shoemaker’s shop while also working at the Ingraham and American Silver factories. Meanwhile, his sister’s family opened Verdile’s Shoe Store on North Main. The children attended the North Side School and the entire family walked to St. Anthony’s Church each Sunday. Purchasing their own land to build homes of their own fulfilled their American dream. In fact, the children and grandchildren of these original immigrants still live there today.
This week, our residents celebrated the holiday at Lake Compounce, which has served as a cool respite for generations of Bristolites who would take the trolley there to get relief from summer heat; and at our Park pools at Rockwell and Page, given by and named for two of Bristol’s wealthy industrialists who knew that green space was important to the citizens. Fans also gathered at historic Muzzy Field to watch the Bristol Blues, comprised of a group of boys from across the country playing here for the summer, and enjoyed seeing friends at the downtown Farmers Market where the season’s first crop of sweet corn was available, reminiscent of decades ago when each neighborhood had their own markets where people shopped almost daily, picking up staples and trading gossip and news.
Quality of life in our community is directly tied to the pursuit of happiness. This 4th of July, the City Council and I encourage everyone to reflect on our history and the role that so many “new Americans” played during the last 150 years as clock-making and ball bearing productions pawned thousands of jobs and provided living wages for families; how their customs and faith contributed to Bristol’s landscape, and how the new wave of immigration is doing the same today.