Support America by Defending Rights

...or stand idly by and surrender to the capricious will of tyrants

Throwing bricks at police, burning down property, toppling historic statues, assembly of weapon-carrying activists, deployment of militarized police, shooting of protestors, and the threat of city-takeovers by the federal government – all expressions of today’s social unrest? True. But also true for the events preceding the American Revolution, except that the bricks were snowballs and the militarized police were British “redcoats.” But the eighteenth century protesters’ impromptu switch from compacted snow to stones and oyster shells quickly provoked a hail of musket fire, sending five patriots to an early grave.(1) This infamous event, which soon became known as the Boston Massacre, sent a shock wave of fury through the city, Massachusetts, and the other twelve colonies. And the rest is history – literally. 

When the Bostonians learned that the Governor was sympathetic to the British cause, they set fire to his home. In retaliation to this and the Boston Tea Party (which occurred soon after) Britain deployed an additional 3,000 troops to occupy Boston, dissolved the Massachusetts’ general assembly, and revoked its colonial charter, essentially bringing the people of Massachusetts under the direct rule of the British Monarch.(2) And as the conflict evolved and independence declared, patriots toppled the statue of King George III that stood in lower Manhattan, which was later liquified to make “melted majesty” musket balls to be fired at the British during the battles that lay ahead.(3)

During these “times that try men's souls,(4)” as protests over taxation turned violent and progressed into the armed rebellion that became our Revolutionary War, some colonists continued to remain loyal to the British Crown. Weather one’s motives were economic (resultant loss of business, notwithstanding any war profiteering), religious (commitment to peace and nonviolence), ideological (respect for authority and the rule of law), sentimental (long-standing attachment to Britain, perhaps through family), or simply resistance to change, there is one factor that almost certainly must have been a compelling reason to remain loyal – fear. While across the ocean, as full-out war began to rage in the colonies, an enraged King George had a declaration of his own – that any participant in this insurrection will be hanged for treason.(5)

Prior to 1776, there was a certain amount of grey area between loyalist and patriot. Even Ben Franklin himself, whose own son openly supported the British effort during the war, maintained a home in London and relished the English culture.(6) But after July 4, 1776, there was no longer any intermediate between these two mutually exclusive categories – either you supported the cause for American independence or you didn’t. And if history had gone another way and Britain prevailed, it is likely that Ben Franklin’s affection for England would not have spared him from the noose. 

This sharpened distinction between loyalist and patriot created a climate of mutual and vitriolic disgust for the other side in which the opposing forces subjected one another to public humiliation and even violence. More often, victims of such violence were loyalists who, in some cases, were driven from their looted and burning homes. Some were even tarred and feathered.(7) And this national mood continued long after the war ended with the passing of laws such as:  The Act to Regulate Elections (1778) which prohibited loyalists from voting or holding office; The Banishing Act (1778) which provided that persons of “equivocal and suspected character” could be exiled from New York State; The Forfeitures Act (1779) which enabled the state to confiscate the property of any loyalist; and The Citation Act (1782) which protected patriots from being sued by loyalists for debts.(8)

Fast forward to today when terms such as Federalist, Torre, and Loyalist have been replaced with blatantly polarizing titles such conservative/liberal and right/left, while both sides having claimed the title “Patriot.” Considering how much compromise the founding fathers had to reach, and in some cases, overcoming mutual contempt, in order to initiate this “great experiment” of self-governing, it’s a wonder it has lasted almost 250 years. Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s hatred for one another often required President Washington’s arbitration.(9) May one accurately assert that today’s intense hatred for the other side is a symptom our national DNA, present since birth? If so, then it may be only natural that this this rancor ebbs and flows in synchronization with national crises, having reached high tide during the Civil War. In was then, in order to “save the union,” President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus by throwing the Maryland legislators in jail without a trial in order to avoid the State’s secession.(10)

So, it should come as little surprise that modern U.S. presidents have also violated their sworn oath to uphold the Constitution by paradoxically trampling all over it in order to ostensibly protect it. Wasn’t it Obama who executed U.S. citizens without due process and Trump who has committed multiple violations of the Posse Comitatus Act? But what should come as more surprise, however, is the willingness of the American people on both sides to give their respective leaders a pass on defying the Constitution. 

And here we now stand, at a pivotal point in our Nation’s history, where citizens who have committed no crime are being abducted off the street by unidentified men dressed like soldiers and hauled off to destinations unknown. At the same time, thoughtful, caring people are being cancelled for wrong-think because their ideas don’t match the “woke narrative.” But unlike pre-revolution America, there is no modern day version of Paul Revere who would have warned us that “the British are coming.” The words of Thomas Paine, which helped ignite the American Revolution, seem to have faded into obscurity. And unless we stop picking and choosing who should have rights – right to assemble – right to speak freely – right to bear arms – all guaranteed for all under the U.S Constitution, we will render the document invalid and useless. 

Conservative, liberal, left, right – the only label that truly matters is patriot. In that sense, its July 4, 1776 all over again when, on that fateful day, one had to choose what side to be on. So today, as in 1776, there are only two choices: 1) support America by defending the rights of all Americans, even though you may not like their point of view; or 2) stand idly by and surrender to the capricious will of tyrants. Which side are you on?

Resources:

1 2018, August. The American Revolution – Over Simplified (Part 1).

2 Ibid.

3 M*AR. 2017, July. “Melted Majesty” Musket Ball Discovered at Monmouth Battlefield to be Displayed at Museum for July 9 Anniversary. https://www.amrevmuseum.org/press-room/press-releases/%E2%80%9Cmelted-majesty%E2%80%9D-musket-ball-discovered-monmouth-battlefield-be-displayed

4 Thomas Paine. 1776, January. Common Sense

5 2020, August. British Reply to the Declaration: Summary & Analysis. https://study.com/academy/lesson/british-reply-to-the-declaration-summary-analysis.html

6 George Goodwin. 2017, July. Smithsonian Magazine. Ben Franklin Was One-Fifth Revolutionary, Four-Fifths London Intellectual. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ben-franklin-was-one-fifth-revolutionary-four-fifths-london-intellectual-180958256/

7 US History.Org. 2020, August. The American Revolution 11b. Loyalists, Fence-sitters, and Patriots. https://www.ushistory.org/us/11b.asp#:~:text=Patriots%20subjected%20Loyalists%20to%20public,vandalized%2C%20looted%2C%20and%20burned.&text=Benjamin%20Franklin's%20son%2C%20William%2C%20a,British%20effort%20during%20the%20war.

8 Dianne L. Durant. 2020, August. Hamilton Defends Former Loyalists, 1784 (Hamilton 47). https://diannedurantewriter.com/archives/2213

9 Joanne B. Freeman. 2020, August. Jefferson and Hamilton, Political Rivals in Washington's Cabinet. https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/the-first-president/washingtons-presidential-cabinet/jefferson-and-hamilton-political-rivals/

10 Scott Bomboy. 2020, May. Lincoln and Taney’s Great Writ Showdown. https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/lincoln-and-taneys-great-writ-showdown