Conceived in Liberty, Vol. III
Advance to Revolution 1760-1775
by Murray N. Rothbard
In this volume, Dr. Rothbard discusses the brief time between the end of the French and Indian War which ended, as we have just seen, in the iron rule of the British, and the outbreak of war at Lexington and Concord (1).
As Volume III opens, England was lord and master of everything it surveyed. But a libertarian undercurrent survived in the colonies. It takes longer than two or three short decades to stamp out libertarianism. Look at how long it took in the United States. In my Three Enemies (2) I discussed this and it seems that we were a libertarian nation until around the 1850s, or for about 75 years, and then the people started to be duped into dependence on government to take responsibility for them. Every generation has seen more government programs, more taxes, more spending, and further inroads of government into every aspect of life. Government takeover of schooling put an end to independent thought outside narrow parameters. Cooked-up reasons for wars have spread hysteria and lightened people’s wallets. Various hysterias ranging from “terrorism” to “obesity” have people running to Big Brother for protection. And now, the government is trying to completely take over health care. What will this bring about? Certainly not freedom or financial solvency, and certainly not improved health.
We have become a socialized nation of little kids who are crying and tugging at the government’s arm. A libertarian’s nightmare!
But, it took at least a hundred years before there was an end of individualist talk in the mainstream media. The Goldwater campaign in 1964 is the last time I have heard a steady stream of serious talk of individual rights. Today you might occasionally see Ron Paul or some other individualist for all of five minutes. Libertarian Party Presidential Nomination Conventions are seen on C-SPAN. Otherwise there is nothing at all. Individualism is kaput. Dead in the water. You have to go on the Internet to get news items of how the government is flattening individuals.
Meanwhile, the libertarian sentiment among the colonists survived in 1760 when the English were playing god. Many had been living when the colonies were left alone to prosper, they had seen with their own eyes how the English treated individuals, and they didn’t like it. This is how Volume III opens.
Now that the Brits had all that Ohio land, they wondered what they would do with it. I think we already saw that they had or let Virginia grant huge tracts – hundreds of thousands of acres to favored cronies. The Indians were supposed to get a cut of their own land, but that was abruptly canceled. What they did get was a prohibition against selling them ammunition and rum, and an admonition to behave (3). After being treated as the human beings they were by the French, they were now being treated as inferiors by the English.
So, it should surprise nobody that the Indians arose. Ottawa Chief Pontiac headed up the rebellion, called Pontiac’s Rebellion, and it was successful, spurring on other Indians to the east. Authority acted as authority always does, with a crackdown, and of course this escalated the conflict, since liberty acted as liberty always should (4).
The British general engineered a smallpox epidemic among the Indians, beginning the “art” of germ warfare (5).
Eventually, peace resumed, it seems to me in a draw (6).
A long time before they knew about Pontiac’s Rebellion, the English were considering giving the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys west of the Appalachians to the Indians for their exclusive use. Pontiac’s Rebellion did not cause this but expedited it (7). It would be ruled militarily and no whites would be allowed there. The ulterior motive was, of course, mercantilist. Keeping the whites along the coastline would bolster trade with English business (8). Government officials’ and their cronies’ interests were more important than the common people’s. So ... what else is new?
Fortunately, some settlers defied the ban and went ahead and settled to the west anyway.
The Brits had their soldiers stationed in America to “protect” the Americans ... from what? Now that the French and Indians were gone, whom the Americans did not necessarily want gone, why were they here? To enforce mercantilist rules, and force the Americans to pay them to do it (9).
One of the taxes, an excise tax on cider, was levied in such a way that it affected “liberal” gentry (presumably that means upper-middle or upper class) who apparently made the cider at home. There were protests, even riots, under the slogan “Liberty, property and no excise!” (10). It took a couple of years, but the tax was finally repealed.
The English needed to raise money to support the army and bureaucrats who were doing so much harm to the colonists, so the idea of a tax stamp was hatched (11).
Old, nearly forgotten acts such as the Navigation Act, Hat Act, and Molasses Act mentioned in Volume II were renewed and vigorously enforced. In Massachusetts, “Writs of Assistance” gave customs officials leave to invade private property to look for “smuggled” items (12). These writs precipitated some political action; a couple of parties formed. The Popular (or “Smugglers’”) Party was the liberal party, and Samuel Adams was associated with it. The Prerogative Party consisted of Tory establishmentarians.
Samuel Adams is a household name among libertarians today; many local clubs are named after him. He was a real radical agitator at the time (13).
The Molasses Act provoked the greatest response from colonial merchants. Molasses was a staple being imported from the West Indies in exchange for exported goods. The tariff was high, and had been enforced but laxly until around 1764, so businesses organized for its non-renewal (14). They lobbied their legislatures to send letters to the Crown explaining why the tax was a major burden.
However, this move failed. The mistake was to urge a lower tax on molasses rather than to urge outright repeal on principle. The Crown came down even harder to enforce the tax, added other goods to be taxed, and also taxed intercolonial trade.
Cases were tried in “vice admiralty” courts which, unlike common law courts, had no juries. The burden of proof was on the defendant (15). The court was ’way off in Halifax and the judge was an Englishman appointed by the Crown (16). This was about as fair as a military tribunal. Before this crackdown, the courts had been pretty lenient, often acquitting the “offending” merchant.
News of this new law reached America in May, 1764, and set off a storm of protest. The protest centered in Boston, where Samuel Adams drew up a set of instructions to their representatives in the Massachusetts House, and that was ratified by the town meeting. It claimed that the taxes violated the charter right to self-government, and it called for uniting the other colonies in protest. The protest went from the House to London along with an essay by liberal James Otis, Jr., called “The State of the Rights of the Colonies” which claimed that the taxes were contrary to the Magna Charta and common law (17).
Later on, the House sent word to London that the colonies should be exempt from the taxes because of the “British right of no taxation without representation,” but unfortunately the Council (much like a Senate) watered it down on pragmatic grounds, saying that only “internal” taxation was intolerable (18).
That killed it.
In Connecticut and Rhode Island, the very same thing happened. The epistle sent to London was also watered down. In both cases, the oligarchy representatives shot down any attempt to actually rebel against taxation without representation.
The New York statement, however, said flatly that taxation without representation was an infringement of a property right. Period. There was no nonsense about any “internal” vs. “external” taxation (19).
Pennsylvania was another story. The Keystoners were cowed completely, and there the controversy was between oligarchic rule and royal rule, for all the difference it made and to the libertarian that was not much. The lone voice for freedom was John Dickinson and a liberal opposition rose because of his actions. His idea was that government cannot alter rights without the consent of the governed, another idea to play a role in the Revolution (20).
In New Jersey, the controversy was over the presence of British troops who were supposedly there to protect against the Indians. All the whites and Indians wanted was peaceful trade, and this is what they had until the troops arrived. After that, problems began with the Indians who were (rightfully) suspicious (21).
There is a lesson to be learned here and I wish the Obama administration would listen to its own campaign promises to heed it. (I wish equally fervently that the Bush administration and administrations before it had understood these concepts – nay – I wish the American people would think a little bit and tell the imperialist officials to either shape up or ship out.) The lesson is, leave things alone! Sending troops into places will make things worse and arouse suspicion and anger. Why do you think 9-11 happened? Because we are “free” and prosperous? Give me a break! It was because we have troops in more than 100 countries making people mad, and there are those who can and will seek revenge.
Of course the Indians were suspicious and angry. So, of course, problems occurred as a result of troop presence.
The duties on molasses and other goods were almost impossible to enforce as the colonists and their officials stonewalled enforcement at every turn, and impressment into the British forces was met with fierce resistance (22). Not only that, but there was a more indirect resistance by manufacturing locally items that could substitute for taxed imported items, thus circumventing the tax.
With all this talk about resistance in the years leading up to the Revolution, I thought I could detect the pleasant aroma of tea. However, Dr. Rothbard turns to ideology and religion. This is important, as the Church of England wanted to ride in on the coat tails of the English crackdown by establishing Anglican bishops in America (23). Liberals, including most Anglicans, opposed that, including libertarian minister Jonathan Mayhew. He argued that liberty is taken away gradually, as people acclimatize to the loss of liberty gradually (24). It is the frog in the kettle that heats up gradually who is cooked before he realizes what happened. Or the camel’s first getting his nose in the tent. I call it “gradualism.” There are numerous examples, the income tax being one (you should know how that started out).
Mayhew’s pamphlets were influential, and John Adams carried the ball reminding people that the Anglican church was established in England, and the Crown’s taxes could get it established in America too (25). Mayhew’s influence even brought the Calvinists around to his side, the Calvinists being much like today’s neoconservatives.
Fierce resistance caused a back-off by the church, but rumors continued to fly, so resistance grew (26).
Then there was the saga of John Wilkes (27) in England, who put out a radical liberal (libertarian) weekly. He was denounced by the establishment and revered by the less affluent. He did make some mistakes, one of which was to publish some smut on the side, and that nearly did him in. But, in the end, he was a hero to the people, who interfered with the burning of his libertarian publication. This agitation further set the stage for the American Revolution.
And, now we come to something I have been waiting for, a major milestone to the Revolution: the Stamp Act. This would be devastating to the colonies. At first it was to be low, but the establishment so much as admitted that the low rate would get the colonists accustomed to the idea, then the rate would go up (another example of gradualism). The idea was that importers would get a paper stamped, presumably to prove that the tax was paid (28).
The colonists were alarmed, so the Brits held out an olive branch (not a real one) and said they might forgo the stamp tax if the colonies would raise the money themselves. How much money was undetermined, so this offer was worthless (29).
Many of the colonies sent protests to England, but most of the protest was appeasement rather than the digging in of heels (30). We all know what happens when you appease a spoiled child. I fear Benjamin Franklin was the primary appeaser. One of his schemes was for an inter-colonial currency of paper, some of which would be sent directly to England. Guess who would get the lucrative printing contract (31). This did not happen, thank goodness.
But the Stamp Act passed and wreaked havoc over every aspect of the colonists’ lives. Even newspapers were taxed, and author names were required for publication (32). The newspaper tax backfired on printer Franklin, serving him right.
Either total submission or rebellion was the choice. There was no middle ground. We know that, in the end, the right side won, but let’s see how.
The Americans had many grievances, but it appeared as though the Stamp Act would be a tipping point. Dr. Rothbard has some words to say about revolution in general (whether that revolution be a violent one like the American Revolution where a war must be fought or a non-violent, intellectual one such as what the Ron Paul movement and the Libertarian Party are trying to effect now). If it is to occur, it is necessary to have a good percentage of the population on board. It is also necessary to have leadership (maybe in the sense of spokespeople) so as to spark the revolution and to make sure dissidents know they are not alone (33). How many people across the country thought they were very few in number until Ron Paul finally got covered by the news (not very well, but covered) as he ran for the 2008 nomination? The establishment felt very threatened! Imagine what could have happened were most people educated!
A leader came out of Virginia. That was Patrick Henry (yes, that Patrick Henry), an attorney who had already won a court case that ruffled establishment feathers. Just at the right time, in May of 1765, between the time the Stamp Act was passed in England and the time it was to go into effect, Henry was elected to Virginia’s House of Burgesses. The staid House had all but given up any protest at all, but Henry stirred it up again by drafting five resolutions against the Stamp Act. Younger members rallied around these resolutions while older ones did not want to rock the boat.
I swear that, even if I live to be 150, I will (all else equal) side with youth in the battle between youth and age. It is so discouraging to see good principles sacrificed to not rocking the boat. What’s not to like about rocking the boat? After all, if you are going to row the boat, you have to rock it!
Well, Patrick Henry certainly rocked the boat! A young fellow named Thomas Jefferson was very impressed! (34).
All five resolutions passed. The margin was narrow but they passed. Unfortunately, even Patrick Henry made some errors. Once the resolutions were passed, he went home. After he left, the opposition reared its ugly head and made a resolution to rescind the resolutions. In one case they succeeded (35).
News of the Henry resolutions traveled quickly, and the people lapped it up. It is too bad that those who enforced and judged were not under the assemblies, but under the Crown. Civil disobedience was the only option (36).
The people were quite pleased with Patrick Henry. But, move over, Pat, for Sam Adams in Boston. Most of the old liberals had either died or become moderate. Sam Adams wanted to take the protest to the streets, and to aim it at the low-echelon bureaucrats who were administering the actual stamps (37). He got together a group of nine stalwarts, called the Loyal Nine, to lead. They were diverse small business people. They got a variety of people, ranging from wealthy merchants to gang members of Boston, and trained them (38). Later in the summer, Adams gave the signal and they all hit the streets. This riot set the pace for protests not just against the stamps but for protests all the way to the American Revolution (39).
They hung stamp-masters in effigy. I am glad they had the presence of mind to use effigies. Today’s left, not believing in any real rights, could conceivably just hang a real person. Of course, these stamp masters did deserve to be hanged, but due process is really the way to deal with such. And, one thing is for sure, whenever there is a march today it is almost always to plead for government money or for more regulations heaped on somebody. It is almost never a demand to be left alone.
The establishment tried to cut the effigy down, but the people would not allow it. Rather, that night, the people cut it down and marched it around in a “funeral” procession!
But, even they did perpetrate some violence by threatening the life of a stamp-master (who had fled) and rampaging through his home (40).
All this happened on August 14, 1765. Dr. Rothbard calls it a day to live as liberty rose (41). I agree; it should be a holiday, even if only to give federal bureaucrats one less day to mess us up.
The next day, the demonstrations continued. They demanded the resignation of stamp-masters, which they got and which ended the stamp. But the people realized that the enemy was actually the Crown’s higher-ups. The local head honcho had his house and office torn up, and his list of tax violators destroyed.
The freedom-loving people had made their point and quieted down. Adams took this time to shore up his organization: The Loyal Nine expanded into the Sons of Liberty. They were from all walks of life and all incomes. They were rich, poor, and middle class, merchants and farmers. Actually, so were the royal bureaucrats they were fighting (42). So this was not any “class struggle” despite what left-leaning historians will tell you (43). It was part of the struggle between collectivist authority and individual freedom.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island was still fairly libertarian. News of the rebellion in Boston reached them, they swung into action. The mob actions in Boston and in Connecticut were described in the Providence and Newport newspapers (44). Actions started in Rhode Island right away with marches and effigies, followed later by demands for resignations, ransackings and razings of the homes of royal bureaucrats (45).
Basically the same scenario played out in all the colonies. The stamp-master would arrive but quickly be met by a crowd of Sons of Liberty, and would soon resign.
The colonies’ assemblies could not do very much about the Stamp Act except to send protests to England. They could not just nullify the Act as nullification would have to have the royal governor’s signature which they would not be able to get. So they sent protests. These were largely ineffective, except for Patrick Henry’s Virginia Resolves which, as we have seen, caused quite a splash (46).
The one official protest that made any headway was the Stamp Act Congress, a convention of assembly-members from the colonies. This body agreed that the stamp tax was evil, among other basic things. What they could not agree on was the scope of England’s authority over the colonies. In the end, their declaration said that they owed “all due subordination” (emphasis mine) to Parliament, and because “due” remained undefined it was up to the individual to define it. Then they drew up the protests to England, based on the declaration. Back home, their assemblies all approved the Congress’s actions (47).
So, the stamp masters were gone and the stamped paper was destroyed by the demonstrators. Now, the colonists had a decision to make. Should they carry on business without the stamps thus ignoring the law? Or should they not carry out any transactions that were affected so as to avoid breaking the law? My own two cents is that the law was certainly immoral and probably technically illegal, so there was no reason to obey it. But what did they do?
The royal governors were pretty naive and even after the protests they expected the colonists not to break the law, stymieing the economy to the point of famine. Then they would break and go ahead and use the stamps and pay the tax (48).
But the colonists, naturally, went ahead with all the transactions without the stamps. Even newspapers, which were the most overt, published. The only problem was exports. Smuggling was one solution to that problem (49). The stamp was necessary to prevent British seizure of ships (50). Also dealings with the government were a problem.
The government officials floundered around, not knowing what to do, so the Sons of Liberty bore down on them and gave them until December 17 (it was early November, and the law had gone into effect on November 1) to either go or get off the pot, or the Sons would storm the customs house. The government finally acted, and officials finally allowed ships to export without stamps. So, on December 17, the Sons partied, Samuel Adams as the guest of honor.
It went on ... enforcement of the Stamp Act was shut down and it was, in effect, nullified. With that, the whole government authority was stymied (51). Voluntary organizations like the Sons of Liberty filled the vacuum, along with local governments.
Dr. Rothbard says that whenever there is a breakaway of popular allegiance to government, there is an increase in individual self-government and voluntary cooperation (52). I guess that when people learn that Big Brother is not going to take care of them, they rise to the occasion and take care of themselves. There is a quote from Lysander Spooner in which he said that the lone individual has as much a right to defend himself from government marauders (my terminology, not his) as any group has (53). In other words, acting alone is no more criminal than acting in a group.
So, why didn’t Britain send troops? They knew it would take an army to put down the resistance. So, why didn’t they?
It was because the colonists were armed.
The Sons of Liberty organizations moved to guard against an armed attack from England by uniting and pledging mutual aid (54).
Britain repealed the Stamp Act but didn’t simply throw in the towel. The king had a falling-out with a Tory (pro-stamp mercantilist) cabinet minister and tossed him out, replacing him with a Whig (anti-stamp, pro-free-market). The Whigs were friendly to merchants and, obviously, those merchants who dealt with America wanted not just to end the stamp tax but to end mercantilism in general (55).
Must be they had the education and backbone to resist pro-government propaganda. Would that today’s small-business people were not so eager to be “protected” or, at least, not so resigned to the plethora of regulations they must adhere to.
There was a lot of struggle, and some chicanery on both sides, but the Stamp Act was repealed. There was a lot of partying on both sides of the Atlantic. The celebrations might have been premature, however, as Parliament also passed a “Declarative Act” which re-asserted Parliament’s authority over the colonies, and was ambiguous over whether that authority included the right to tax (56). Some Sons of Liberty realized they were not quite out of the woods because of that (57).
There was still not complete freedom as some restrictions such as the Navigation Acts and some taxes remained. It was much better than before. A fellow named William Pitt was selected by the king to head up the Cabinet, which was composed of Tory imperialists. At first, the Americans were delighted since Pitt had a libertarian history. But Pitt, who apparently did not have both oars in the water, vacillated from one side to the other. Rothbard had brought Pitt’s name up a few times and Pitt seemed to be unstable. So, more astute colonists hedged their bets on Pitt and the future of freedom (58).
There was another law imposed by England that was an egregious infringement on the God-given property rights of colonists. That was the Mutiny Act. While troops were occupying them, the colonists were required to quarter these troops in their private homes. This was modified slightly to exclude actual homes, but include people’s barns and inns. I would not want to check into any Motel 6 where government officials are staying (today’s government officials probably stay at the Ritz Carlton anyway), even though today obviously we are not being occupied by a foreign army and no motel has to accept any freeloading guests it does not want (at least overtly). But it must have been bad for business when British troops were running around in the halls of inns like unsupervised children (probably) and it certainly was not good for privacy if they could strut right into your barn and make themselves at home with their whiskey, candles, and all.
So, the soldiers were quartered at seaports to “protect” the colonists from some “enemy.” Just what enemy? If there were any enemy it was on the frontier and that was dubious. The whole idea was intimidation. People could see right through it. Once the Stamp Act was repealed, the Brits started fierce enforcement of the Mutiny Act (59).
Today’s scanners at airports can see right through your clothing, so that government bureaucrats can see your everything, but people today cannot see through the government’s obvious efforts to scare us all into submission.
And, of course, then as now, the people had to pay to have their rights infringed.
Compliance was only partial in many colonies. But the British expected complete submission, as usual, and, as Dr. Rothbard puts it, this partial compliance was like waving a red flag in front of a bull (60). (Editor’s note: John Bull?) I’d simply add that this bull had a low I.Q. even for a bull. (Irish Editor’s note: Definitely John Bull!) William Pitt showed his true colors over this and also over a petition from 240 New York merchants that respectfully pleaded for use of their God-given right to operate in a free market with no restrictions or navigation laws. He got Parliament to dissolve the New York Assembly. This never happened because the Assembly caved amid vehement protests from our side. They caved because of lack of support from neighboring colonies, who quartered troops for them (61).
The landed oligarchy in New York, who had received government land grants, were grateful for the troops, however, and this might be a big reason for the Assembly’s failure to uphold freedom. The troops were suppressing a tenant rebellion. The British government had taken large tracts of land away from the Indians and given it to favored cronies. Tenants on that land knew this was wrong and that the land rightfully belonged to the Indians, and the tenants bought the land in a free exchange from the Indians. They knew that morally they did not have to pay any rent to the oligarchs to whom the government “granted” the land (62).
In at least the case of one oligarch, it was taken to court, which was no better than a kangaroo court, the Indians and tenants having no legal representation and the oligarchs showing phony bills of sales they said were from the Indians. The judges themselves were land grant recipients, so you can guess what happened (63).
This occurred when the Stamp Act tax fight was going on and the tenants of that manor were inspired. They called a tenants’ meeting, at which they decided on some measures, not the least of which was forming a militia. In two other cases at two other manors, tenants demanded to buy outright their land and/or demanded an end to rent and taxes. They rescued leaders who had been arrested and jailed (64).
At the end of the day, the tenants lost their legal battle, and many of them left New York. It is regrettable that social concerns kept the Sons of Liberty from entering the fight, since they and the tenants were fighting for the same thing (65).
The Townshend Acts of 1767 were the next major catastrophe. These used the false distinction between “internal” and “external” taxation. They would levy “external” duties and institute measures to enforce imperial customs and regulations. Money collected, of course, went towards imperialist rule over the colonies. Follow-up measures increased enforcement and expanded the number of courts (66).
Of course, resistance began immediately and it started in the libertarian hotbed of Boston. A list of imported goods that were affected by the Townshend Acts was made and distributed with the idea of boycotting those imported goods and buying locally made goods and substitutes (67).
Unlike the Stamp Act which was both internal and external, the Townshend Acts only applied externally, i.e., to imports. This is why resistance to the Stamp Act had to be armed in order to unseat royal bureaucrats, and resistance to Townshend could be done by boycotts and smuggling (68).
But, were uncoordinated boycotts and petitions enough? No, so they tried to organize, but Philadelphia, a big city full of merchants who were on the Tory side, would not cooperate. So the organization failed (69).
Boston merchants decided to go ahead with the boycott anyway and were soon joined by New York and other areas. Merchants who refused to boycott were themselves boycotted. It took a few months, but Philadelphia merchants finally came around. Success was nigh (70).
Well ... not quite. They succeeded in uniting the colonies in the boycott but not in getting the British government to relent. A protest letter from Massachusetts infuriated the British. The governor of Massachusetts knew that would happen and saved his own posterior by dissolving the Assembly. Sure enough, Britain forbade the Assembly to meet until it repudiated the letter (71). The Americans were angered; in fact the conservative George Washington (who we recall fought on the wrong side before) was beginning to come around, which as we know he finally did to the extent he fought on our side in the Revolutionary War.
A crackdown came to Boston. The Assembly, before it was dissolved, voted overwhelmingly not to rescind the letter of protest. Attempts were made to strictly enforce the Townshend Acts but the people got around them whenever they could. The people hit the streets again, captured ships were liberated and customs officials were tarred and feathered (72).
Two radicals who were active in the protests were Paul Revere and John Hancock. I think we will hear more about them later. John Hancock was a wealthy businessman (“class struggle” goes out the window ... again) who had at least two ships in the harbor with imported goods on board, and he refused to allow customs officials aboard. The British towed one of the ships out to where their own battleship was to keep the people from liberating it. This escalated the conflict even more. A Stamp Act type protest happened all over again: Tax commissioners were threatened and had to flee (73).
Meanwhile, John Hancock’s ship was still being held on the trumped-up charge of unloading wine and not paying the duty. Hancock was held with very high bail, and then tried. We will hear more about that, and the able John Adams who defended him in court.
Meanwhile in England, thanks to an English fellow named John Wilkes who had been ejected or had fled from England for his activism and was living in France, the libertarian movement began to blossom again around 1768. This activity was an inspiration to Americans. It was also a major encouragement to Wilkes who returned home despite not being allowed to. He ran for Parliament in London in the primaries and lost, so carpetbagged to another county and ran in the general election. This time he won, and his supporters, who did not always behave like libertarians, rioted for days, breaking Tories’ windows and otherwise being destructive (74).
What would the government do with Wilkes? Some wanted severe punishment, particularly since he had already been in trouble. That is exactly when the Massachusetts letter arrived (75). (Talk about splendid timing!) Of course, the establishment could have made the obvious connection between the Wilkes movement and the letter. Wilkes went to jail.
Although activists wanted to rescue him, he declined as he wanted to obey the royal command. Why I don’t know, but possibly his seat in Parliament was in jeopardy.
At least 20,000 marched! That was a lot of people in those days! They gathered in St. George’s Fields, where troops were sent “to keep order.” The scenario was quite similar to today’s demonstrations (except these people, rather than pleading for a handout, were demanding liberty). Very often today, if there is trouble at a demonstration, it is started by police or their “agents provocateur.” Chances are this was the case at St. George’s Fields in 1768. Had this occurred only two years later, it would have been exactly 200 years before four innocent students were gunned down at Kent State. Human nature never changes. Only individuals change by applying their God-given free will.
John Wilkes was a hero because he obeyed the dictates of his conscience and not the dictates of the establishment.
In any case, the crowd and the soldiers at the Fields became more restive. Slogans were chanted, some of which I won’t repeat, including that this was an opportunity for revolution. A justice read the riot act only to be pelted with stones. One stone hit him, and soldiers opened fire killing a half-dozen. A policeman reported that the troops seemed to enjoy firing on the crowd (76).
The Wilkes supporters then went and tore up the houses of leading Tories. (I am not sure I advocate this sort of thing even if it served the Tories right, since they did have families who were, or might have been, innocent.) Those who were arrested lucked out for the most part as grand juries were more inclined to indict soldiers than demonstrators. But the culprits in the killings wound up acquitted (77). John Wilkes was sentenced to 22 months for a list of charges.
The movement picked up steam, goaded by these recent events. The government was asking for it and would get it. Correspondence to and from Wilkes in prison and the Americans showed their solidarity and bolstered hope on both sides of the Atlantic (78).
In Boston, resistance to the Townshend Acts was ongoing. The boycott continued and there was also resistance to a rigid crackdown on “illegal” trade concentrated in Boston. Britain had gone forward with the decision to send troops there against which the people prepared to dig in their heels, to the center of the earth if need be (79). Thank goodness ordinary people had arms! Had the government taken the arms away from people there would not have ever been the kind of America we all want back. But, of course, this is what gun control is all about, isn’t it? It is not so much about guns as it is about control! These people had a backbone and never would have given up so much as a round of ammunition (well, maybe one round to shoot the assailant who was trying to get the gun) and maybe the Brits knew better than to try.
But they steeled themselves for the onslaught of redcoats. In the absence of the Assembly which the governor and Crown had dissolved, the focus of the resistance was the Boston town meeting. The town meeting had the authority to order citizens to carry arms. This is a form of gun control, of course, but it is a lot better than the other kind. To fool the establishment, the “reason” given was the possibility of a war with France.
When the troops arrived, the Boston Sons of Liberty did not simply go out and shoot. This could have caused other towns to back off. They did not do a whole lot right away. Meanwhile, John Hancock’s trial lasted for months, but the various arguments by lawyer John Adams about technical issues caused the prosecution to tire and to drop charges (80). Hancock’s popularity did not hurt either.
Dr. Rothbard went on for a while about the boycotts of imported British goods to protest the Townshend Acts. The main point here, I think, was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the boycott. Merchants who did not participate were themselves boycotted. Those who still did not participate were listed in pamphlets so that everyone would know. This was embarrassing and terrible for business, so most of them finally participated. If the government were really interested in consumer protection, it would back off and allow consumers to do their own protecting by boycotting and spreading the word on businesses that ignored health, safety, and other benefits. Look at how Toyota sales have suffered because of safety issues! There is no need for government to step in.
There were incidents of violence on both sides of the dispute. Murray Rothbard, on numerous occasions, has pointed out the major difference between self-defense, which includes one’s attack on someone who is trying to use coercion, and offense, which includes the use of force to infringe on one’s God-given rights (81).
Troop presence in Boston was making the people justifiably angry. Scuffles occurred, and a soldier shot and killed one little boy and wounded another. This touched off a major firestorm, and the boy’s funeral procession was miles long (82). (It is worthwhile noting that as oppressive as the regime was, no permit was required which shows how much oppression we have today that people now take for granted. Of course, traffic has grown and changed, but so what? Rights do not change.)
Clashes continued and, two weeks later, a young apprentice (probably not much more than a child) was smacked by a soldier with his musket for talking about the child killing. A crowd gathered where troops were stationed and the apparent attacker was seen and attacked by the crowd. Soldiers fired, killing five and wounding six. This was the “Boston Massacre” (83).
The people withdrew but vowed to return, this time armed. The Boston Massacre was the last straw. The people met and selected John Adams and John Hancock to go to the governor and demand the troops leave or be destroyed by 15,000 armed citizens. The demand was met by a frightened governor and soldiers were withdrawn to Castle William (84). I don’t know how far away that was, but wasn’t it a good thing citizens could be armed? All this could repeat at some point, so we need to exercise our God-given, Constitutional-protected, unconditional right to bear arms.
The next job was to bring to justice the guilty parties in the Massacre. The city authorities arrested them, but the Crown dragged its feet, delaying the trial and skewing the jury, bringing about acquittals or light sentences. What this showed was the futility of depending on royally appointed courts for justice (85).
So the Sons of Liberty formed a militia. Rumors were rife about a new troop arrival (86).
In New York there was also conflict. The Assembly had caved in to British pressure to see that the troops had supplies, so many wanted to imitate the brave of Boston. One of the major complaints against the British soldiers was that many of them were hiring themselves out undercutting local labor. They were also repeatedly cutting down the “Liberty Pole” which commemorated the repeal of the Stamp Act. A clash occurred between soldiers with bayonets and people with chains and sticks, wounding several citizens. This was the Battle of Golden Hill (87).
Because New York was under the oligarchy, the Sons of Liberty were not a dominant movement. The clash caused a conservative backlash. Alexander McDougall, a major pamphleteer, was the “John Wilkes of America” and emulated the brave Wilkes. The turncoat Assembly had him locked up until the end of their session, when charges of “high contempt” were dropped.
McDougall was pleased to be associated with Wilkes, as Wilkes had an enormous following both sides of the Atlantic and unified the entire movement. John Wilkes was revered; his was a household name among the libertarians just as Murray Rothbard’s and Ron Paul’s are today.
In fact, possibly Ron Paul is the John Wilkes of today; he has unified the entire movement, which seemed to be splintered before into organizations from the moderate Cato Institute to the Libertarian Party (88) to the International Society for Individual Liberty (particularly important if you are overseas) (89) to the radical Ludwig von Mises Institute (90) which I strongly support as I am a radical libertarian myself. And then, of course, there are the Tea Parties. As I write this, some of the Tea Parties have been “hijacked” by neoconservatives, but we hope the Ron Paul supporters will take them back.
Ron Paul is supported by individuals from all these libertarian camps and a plurality (if not a majority) of these are also a member of his Campaign for Liberty (91) or its youth arm, Young Americans for Liberty (92). We fervently hope that we can restore liberty now just as the Wilkes/Sons of Liberty movement restored liberty in the late eighteenth century.
Libertarians in Wilkes’ day read History of England by libertarian Catherine Macaulay (93) just as today we read the Conceived in Liberty series by Rothbard which I am currently reviewing. It might pay to read Macaulay today. History, my worst subject in school because of complete lack of interest or appreciation, is important, as without it past mistakes will be repeated. Not that my best subjects, lunch and gym, should be removed from the curricula of course. Certainly not.
Anyway, these libertarians were very educated in a time that the establishment would not even publish a woman, much less study her work
Unfortunately, a schism came about in the movement in England. England had taken over the Falkland Islands from Spain, and now Spain wanted them back, but English imperialist Tories did not want to give them up. Some of these Tories talked a good libertarian talk, and some thought it would be a good idea to form a coalition. Wilkes was by then an alderman in London, and when impressment (on-the-spot draft) was to begin for the fight with Spain, Wilkes would not cooperate. Some said he was undermining public safety and appeasing the enemy (94).
This is very similar to the schism in the Libertarian Party and the rest of the movement today: pragmatism vs. principle. Some are in favor of the war in Afghanistan because we “need” to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. (He has been dead for years, I am 90 percent sure.) Some even favored the war in Iraq. We need to “widen our umbrella” or we will not win any elections. This is what the pragmatists say.
Anyway, the warmongers could talk a good libertarian talk (still can) and some were hoodwinked (still are), so this divided the movement and made it much less effective (still does) (95).
If we were going to win, it would be in America (96).
As for the Townshend Acts, England had so many problems that it decided to give in part-way on the Acts. There was the Falklands problem, the Wilkes crowd leaning on them, major trouble in the colonies as we know, and some problems in Ireland. Besides this, another problem at home was losses incurred by businesspeople because of the boycott. It was decided to repeal all the taxes except the one on tea. Tea was the biggest cash cow of the taxes, and does not grow in England, so it was chosen. To retain this tax alone would bring in the money and soften American resolve, wrecking the boycott. Also it would make the point that Parliament still had the “right” to tax America.
So, how were the colonies to react? Continue the boycott? Or end it? Or boycott tea only? The colonies took the high road except in three cases. In two cases merchants were themselves boycotted and finally re-joined the boycott against British imports (97).
There was a lot of trouble between supporters of the boycott and opponents who wanted to boycott only tea. There was a student demonstration for total boycott at Princeton and among the marchers was a young man named James Madison (98).
But, one by one, the colonies partially caved, and ended the boycott against everything except tea (99). At least the British did not gain much revenue, as tea was the main cash cow for tax revenue. That was certainly a factor.
The disagreement with England over whether the colonists were human and had rights or not was center stage in the colonies. But other issues were present as you can never get complete agreement among people on anything.
Dr. Rothbard teaches us a couple of important things. One is that government is slow while private people are quick. That’s relative; I am always complaining about most people being so slow, but compared to government, they’re quick. Look at how fast privately raised aid got to Haiti after the earthquake and look at how slow government is. It is nearly two weeks later as I write this and the help sits on the tarmac at Port-au-Prince because of government rules and top-down “organization.” I want to scream out: Deliver it anyway to where it is needed! People wait to be told what to do. I’d like to go down there and deliver it myself! But I would probably be shot by the U.N.
The other lesson Dr. Rothbard is teaching in this series is that representation in government favors older settlements over newer ones. People move and populate new places, but reapportionment follows much later (100).
This problem is why the Constitution calls for a census every ten years. “But Alice,” you may be saying, “why do you say you ‘never have and never will’ answer the census?” It is because the census we have and the census the Constitution mandates are two different animals. The census the Constitution mandates is simply a head-count of how many citizens live where, an “enumeration.” Depending on how “enumeration” is defined, maybe they can ask names. However, the census we have now asks a multitude of irrelevant questions. The 2010 questionnaire is shorter, but it still asks for one name, and the sex, race, and age of each of a home’s occupants. It does not ask if one is a citizen or foreigner. All are expected to be counted and to answer all of the questions, both citizens and foreigners. Now, how can that be accurate for representation in law-making bodies? In January, we were already being told to comply with a carrot and stick approach. In my state we are being told that the state will lose almost $10,000 over the next ten years in federal funds for each person who does not answer. What an insult to someone who knows economics! We are gouged to the bone for federal taxes, and then we are fed that line? That is the oldest “pick-up” line there is! We should have kept that money in the state’s federal taxpayers’ pockets in the first place! Of course! Not only in this state, but in all the states. Some carrot! This money will not land in your pocket.
The stick, of course is the threat of fines (101). The fine will not be paid by the state, either.
I am not answering, not only because of the inaccuracies, but because of the intrusive nature of the questions and because of the compulsion. They will not get any answers no matter how hard they try!
Anyway, back to Rothbard, inaccurate representation skewed toward older settlements was a bone of contention among the colonists. He was discussing South Carolina in particular in this, Chapter 50, where this problem occurred. Also, in South Carolina, there was the problem of inequitable property taxes. (I should say “equal,” not “equitable” since an “equitable tax” is a contradiction in terms.) Lower-valued land outside Charleston was taxed by the acre and not according to market value, which was unfair to poorer country people (102). But the main complaint in the country was poor (or absent) law enforcement giving rise to outlaw gang activity. Finally, the back-country people had to band together into a gang of their own to end the crime. The people chose a thousand men, who would be “Regulators” and who would take care of the criminals by vigilante justice. The justice was not always completely just, but it did solve the crime problem. Of course, government is all too often on the wrong side, and the governor and Assembly took the side of the crooks. Later, the Regulators’ side was presented in a better fashion, and the Assembly became more sympathetic and legalized the Regulators, even sending help. The anti-crime effort succeeded (103).
Of course, power does corrupt, and just as in the Sons of Liberty, some Regulators were too anxious. Some of the back-country poor were petty thieves who needed to be stopped, but some were making a living in unsavory and immoral ways that did not infringe on anyone’s rights so should be outside the scope of government, such as prostitution and gambling. Others, simply homesteading unused land, were labeled “squatters,” and then there were vagrants. More-wealthy people always seem to look down their noses at these types. There was apparently a labor shortage and these people did not want to work for somebody else, and that made potential employers angry. So the Regulators turned to harassment of these people. There was forced labor and floggings. If a wife thought her husband was not bringing home enough bacon, she had him flogged (104). This was mentioned, but that probably worked both ways if she did not fry it in a pan sufficiently.
The Regulators did not stop there. They tossed the South Carolina government out of their area when victims tried to sue in the courts. The state caved because they had enough problems already in preventing a slave revolt (105).
So another private group had to rise to defend against the Regulators, who had been formed to defend against criminals and then at least some had turned into criminals. This new group was called the “Moderator Movement.” These were deputized by a Charleston judge to serve warrants.
Long story short, the Regulators and the Moderators agreed to disband if the Assembly and the Council brought courts and law enforcement to the back country, which they did (106).
So, in South Carolina, the government had refused to raise a finger to enforce the law. In North Carolina, it was pretty much the opposite. Crooked sheriffs and other officials charged outrageous quitrents, taxes, and fees. People had to pay the sheriff to collect fees. The “poll tax” was the worst on the poor. A sheriff might come calling without notice and demand the money on the spot, and if the citizen could not pay, the sheriff took his land to re-sell (usually to a crony) right then and there (107).
Finally, a couple of libertarian reform groups called meetings of neighborhood delegates which were unsanctioned but took place anyway. They hailed the Sons of Liberty and called for liberty at home. They warned that power corrupts and that they would keep watch on their rulers (108).
It was difficult to find copies of the laws everyone had to live by, but a judge found one. Extortionate court fees were illegal! But the judge was silenced by the losing of his post (109).
The peaceful protests were ignored, so the people decided they had to become, shall we say, more forthright. Taxes continued, and a very large sum was appropriated by the North Carolina Assembly for a governor’s mansion (when so many people were poor). This brought about the group named after the Regulators, but this was entirely different from the group in South Carolina. These Regulators announced a tax strike until grievances were redressed. Of course, officials never listen to mere citizens. The Regulators offered to meet with the sheriff and officials to give them a chance to account for how money was spent. The olive branch resulted in the sheriff stealing a man’s horse and saddle, and selling them for some “unpaid” tax levy. A crowd charged the sheriff and liberated the horse. An official threatened to fire into the crowd, so the crowd shot up an official’s roof (110).
The militia was called out by the authorities, but because many militiamen were sympathetic to the people, few turned out.
Later, the governor fooled the Regulators by saying if they would go home and behave, he would ask the Assembly to redress their grievances. Of course, no such thing would happen, as Dr. Rothbard points out the old principle of English rebels: Grievances must be redressed before the edge of protest is softened (111).
Let us notice and learn that lesson right now! Don’t let up on your protest until after grievances are redressed.
What the Regulators got for “behaving” was a demand for submission, for an end to their meetings and for the payment of their taxes! This is what happens when you give in to authority! More authority! Authoritarians are intoxicated by submission.
But, at least they disobeyed this latter edict. A sheriff walked in on a meeting demanding tax payment. They refused, and about a week later they marched on the county seat. Things escalated, but, alas, the Regulators dispersed on promise of a meeting to account for the money. For shame – fool them twice, shame on them (112).
Well, enough said. Freedom gains and freedom loses, on and on it goes. Oftentimes it goes on because people refuse to learn the lesson Dr. Rothbard just taught: Do not let up on your protest. Keep leaning on them until they have already redressed your grievances. The Regulators sold out, failing time and again to heed this lesson and the establishment laughed all the way to the bank.
By 1771, the Regulators were finally waking up to this lesson after being jerked around that way for so long. While some had decided to fight fire with fire, they were divided and some still wanted to go crawling back for more “negotiations.” Without leadership in the battle that was fought against the militia, called the Battle of Alamance, the Regulators were soundly trounced. Most of the leaders fled the area and the rest were captured (113).
Meanwhile, among the other colonies, there was a lull in the trouble once the Townshend Acts were repealed and the importation boycott ended in 1770. But British troops were still stationed in Massachusetts, both on land and on the sea. This, in addition to Britain’s decision to pay the governor’s salary, was the winds of change. If government officials were to be paid by the British rather than the colonists, this would mean they would be controlled by Britain. He who pays the piper ... (114).
The liberals had been split, and the Tories said the liberals were leaning toward “anarchy” in the name of “freedom,” and opposing the Puritan religion. Sam Adams, who believed in Puritan values, said this was not true. The deists and rationalists should be judged by their politics, not their religion. Of course, a lot of stalwarts had fallen away, which weakened the libertarian movement. Only Samuel Adams forged ahead; maybe he realized, Dr. Rothbard says, that no movement proceeds in a straight line, but is stop-and-go, kind of like some of our freeways. You are not sure you will ever get there, you want to give up, but if you hang in there you will arrive at last (115).
The seeds of the next advance were being sewn. The British started paying judges’ salaries in Massachusetts next, as predicted (116).
Trouble was brewing in Rhode Island as customs enforcement cracked down in 1771. The lull had ended there. The British ship Gaspee arrived, and its commander shot at practically every ship under color of law. The sailors also acted like pirates, stealing on land and sea. When the ship ran aground, the people of Providence were overjoyed, ran right out there and burned the Gaspee. The British retaliated in two ways: They formed a commission to find the “guilty” and drag them to England for trial, and they made the decision that England would pay judicial salaries in Massachusetts out of customs revenue (117). We knew that, but apparently the Gaspee incident was what precipitated it.
Samuel Adams called a Boston town meeting, and this meeting formed a standing “Committee of Correspondence.” Because it was time, he thought, to declare if they were to be free men or slaves, the job of this committee would be to expound the rights of the colonists and communicate its declarations to other towns (118).
The committee hammered out the “Boston Resolves.” It listed the colonists’ rights and how they were infringed. The case rested on natural rights as opposed to positive law. It reminds me of the Declaration of Independence which, of course, followed shortly. Rights listed were life, liberty, property, support and defense of rights, and ability to leave the society one is in. Infringements included taxation and legislation without representation, quartering of troops in homes without owner consent, and payment of officials’ salaries by Britain out of taxes (119).
The Resolves and the committee idea spread like wildfire. The Resolves were endorsed in hundreds of towns. It was the propertied people who took the lead, but all income levels joined in (120). This was more about freedom to manage one’s own life and to keep what one earns than anything else.
And, needless to say, in the 1773 elections there was a liberal sweep (121). I wonder what it feels like to have one’s own party sweep an election like that. Since I am getting older and freedom is getting weaker, it does not look good for a Libertarian sweep in my lifetime. Oh well. At least where I am going next there will not be any civil government as we know it. (Editor’s query: All the politicians will be in the hot place?)
Actually, Virginia was ahead of Massachusetts; Committees of Correspondence had been suggested six years previously, and now the likes of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson were leaders in their House. Actually the local committees were the instruments of agitation where the Sons of Liberty went, as they were not tied down by provincial (state) lawmakers and could turn on a dime (122). The Crown got no cooperation from any local authorities so could not chase down any “guilty” parties, and lawsuits against the British succeeded (123).
We come to the tea situation. I have been waiting for Dr. Rothbard to get to the Boston Tea Party, and finally it looks like that is nigh, what with the duties on, and boycott of, tea. The English share of the tea market was not over eight percent, so I think it was the principle of the matter, and principles do come first. Of course also, Dr. Rothbard points out that the tea monopoly granted to the East India Company skewed prices, among other things, and that also makes a difference, not to mention inflationary credit expansion. In any case, the East India Company’s monopoly was a real bone of contention with the American people, along with the famine in Bengal which they believed the Company caused (124).
The tea policy whipped up opposition, particularly in New York, and was led by Edmund Burke (125).
The East India Company had a government-granted monopoly on English tea and had almost the force of law. It selected a few cronies to distribute the tea and no other merchant could deal. Merchants were angry and decided to act. Benjamin Franklin, who was possibly going straight by now, unearthed some old letters of the governor urging Britain adopt tough policies against the colonists, and Franklin sent these to the Assembly. Sam Adams published them. Not only that, three of the cronies who got distributorships in Boston were governor’s relatives. The people demanded their resignation but didn’t get it. The distributors had the backing of the governor so dug in their heels until the tea actually arrived, then they sought refuge with British troops (126).
Sam Adams was determined to stop the tea ship from landing. He called on towns’ committees of correspondence and for mass meetings, and it was decided that the ships be sent straight back, without off-loading and with no duties paid. Then the governor would not allow the ships to leave until the duties were paid, leaving them stranded. After twenty days, Customs could take the ships and cargo. This must not happen; it would be better to destroy it all. One day before the twenty days was up, a mass meeting was called to decide what to do. We all know; even establishment history books admit to the heroism. That night, more than 100 Sons of Liberty, from all walks of life and all income levels, disguised as Mohawk Indians, snuck out to the ships and tossed the whole cargo overboard. I wonder how it tasted to the fish. They probably partied on the caffeine. There was no violence and no destruction. The Sons just did their thing and left (127).
John Adams called this “the most magnificent moment” of all the actions, and he was right as even the establishment schools teach the Boston Tea Party. Their versions might not be totally accurate, but they teach it, or at least they did not too long ago. It radicalized many people (of course it also scared the timid).
In the other colonies for the most part it was easier for the Sons of Liberty. When it demanded that the monopoly’s distributors resign, they did, and when the Sons would not allow tea to be offloaded, the ships headed back. At least once, tea was dumped overboard again and at least once a ship was taken by Customs and the tea stored (128).
The Boston Tea Party really jolted the British, who thought things were pretty quiet in the colonies. Boy, were they wrong! They saw that they had to go one way or the other, either back off and leave the colonies pretty much alone, or to crush them in a major crackdown. Of course we know what the Tories chose (129).
Britain decided to confine its efforts to Boston, and Parliament presented four “Coercive Acts.” First, there was the Boston Port Act, closing Boston’s port until the town paid East India for the tea and the Crown for duties on it (130).
Then, there was the Massachusetts Government Act. That would end the Massachusetts Charter and Council, and install a royally appointed body. The royal governor would appoint other officials. There would be no more town meetings or agenda acted upon without governor permission (131).
The Administration of Justice Act gave leniency to officials committing crimes on duty, and the Quartering Act required colonies to quarter British troops (132).
Yet another, the Quebec Act, fastened a permanent government on Quebec and expanded Quebec’s borders. Most historians have praised this, but Dr. Rothbard does not and we can almost see why without reading further. The people there were French who had been left alone since they were conquered. They were thought by the British to be an inferior race that needed to be ruled. The Act took away some basic rights, including religious freedom, and imposed taxes to be used to pay officials (133).
The Americans wondered if this was their future too. They started to call the above Acts the “Intolerable Acts.” The gauntlet was down and the steam was up in Boston. Would the other colonies rally behind them? The town meeting and committee of correspondence met to decide what to do. They sent word to the other colonies asking for a boycott of both imports and exports until the Port Act was repealed. It is interesting to note that it was Paul Revere who took some of these messages (134).
The colonies responded valiantly. Packages of aid poured into Boston, and on the day the Port Act went into effect, people hit the streets as they should this very day. Not everybody was in agreement, however. Some merchants were more interested in making money (which is also a fine principle as profits are a barometer of how well customers are pleased) than supporting this cause (135). Everyone has his own scale of values and we all need to respect that, but you do not need to patronize a business, and these merchants did lose business (136). The boycott is a potent tool, and a staple in free-market regulation. Some of the colonies were reluctant to support Boston (137). Some former supporters of the Sons of Liberty were becoming more conservative and backing off. They wanted to go the route of selecting delegates to a congress to petition Britain, meaning to go hat-in-hand, begging, rather than to dig in their heels and make demands. Pleading with a government for what is rightfully yours does not work! It never has and never will.
However, the moderates won the day, and the radicals decided to join them in electing a congress. They did not sell out any principles, but decided that the moderates’ tactics would have to do.
This congress was called the “Continental Congress” (138). The main issue was whether to boycott, and the colonies chose delegates according to that.
Virginia made the most radical statement advocating the boycott of all imports (except medicine) from and all exports to England until all grievances were redressed. There was also talk of armed resistance and secession. Of course, with the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and an apparently reformed George Washington around, no wonder. George Mason and Richard Henry Lee were no slouches, either (139).
Meanwhile, back in Boston, the new governor, the new boss who was the same as the old boss, and actually worse, had received a large number of British troops. The people used passive resistance and non-cooperation, an example of which was their refusal to quarter troops, who had to camp out. It was summer then, but fall would arrive soon in Boston, followed by winter.
The governor was in a position where a large number of people, probably a majority, were against him, so he did what governments do: He mobilized the troops. The militia responded by getting ready to defend the people (140).
On September 5, 1774, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Present were the individuals I listed above along with Samuel Adams and John Adams (who were distant cousins). These were the radical leaders who believed that rights come from God or nature. There were plenty of conservatives there, however, who did not care about that but wanted to confine statements of grievances to British law.
Samuel Adams went right to work for the radical (libertarian) cause. He sent back to Boston for radicals there to draw up some resolves (they had to meet out of town as the British had outlawed such a meeting). These resolves were against the Coercive Acts, for civil disobedience, and for non-payment of taxes. They even called for a dual government that would ignore the British. They called on the Continental Congress to boycott all trade with England. Paul Revere hurried the resolves down to the Congress in Philadelphia. These swayed the Congress enough that the radicals prevailed. John Adams remarked that it was one of the happiest days of his life (141). I believe it because I was living in California when Proposition 13 (property tax limit) passed and later when Proposition 215 (medical marijuana) passed, and I was overjoyed both times. This was small potatoes compared to the Continental Congress’s radical victories.
Everything had passed except the dual government resolve, which ran into trouble. The Tories (conservatives) wanted to move the other way, toward a colonial central government, which was to be not much more than the king’s and Parliament’s puppet. This plan lost the vote, but barely, so Tory influence was significant (142).
Now they came to a declaration of rights. A Tory was in charge of the writing, so the supremely important natural rights to life, liberty, and property were played down. Rights like petition, trial by jury, assembly, etc., were played up. These are perfectly legitimate rights, of course, but they had more to do with government. And it opened the door to regulation. The Congress’s address to the king contained “proper” obeisance (143). This was moderate at best and must have galled the disappointed radicals.
At the end of the Congress, the Continental Association was begun as an ongoing association until all grievances had been redressed. If grievances still prevailed, the Congress would meet again in six months.
At the end of the day, the Congress backed Massachusetts on the Coercive Acts issue, so was a general success (144).
In the colonies, enforcement committees for the Association were formed to see to the terms of the Congress. Not all the colonies went along. New York and Georgia in particular were more inclined toward obeying British rule (145).
Dr. Rothbard took time to point out that the libertarian Association movement, except in a very few isolated cases, used non-violent, libertarian means to achieve the goals, and did so with major success. This proves that these methods do work (146). What impresses me the most about these protesters is they realized that part and parcel of freedom is responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are two sides to the same coin. This is why little tiny children cannot be entirely free. While they have rights, they do not yet know how to exercise these rights. To be free, one must be required to take responsibility for one’s own actions. Little kids cannot do that yet. They need to learn and by the time they are big children or young teenagers they should know. They should be required to take responsibility for themselves by the early or mid-teens, ready or not. If they have not learned by then, they never will. The colonists understood that, and their protests were for the most part responsible. Today we are subjected to such a sheltered youth that many never really grow up. They have to do exactly what they are told and abstain from any critical thought until they are eighteen, and by then it is way too late. They go on obeying from there on in. If they protest, it is to plead for government benefits. But, of course, that is what the establishment wants: infantile dependence. Is it not?
The boycott was a major success. It had the desired effect on British merchants, and they in turn pressured Parliament to repeal the Coercive Acts. In fact, in London, merchants even set up a relief fund for depressed New England (147). But the Tory government dug in its heels claiming that government purposes over-ride the interests of commerce. They passed the New England Restraining Act which forbade New England from trading with anyone but England (148).
They also mocked the colonies by passing another act which would allow the colonies to “tax themselves” to pay royal salaries, the tax rate being dictated by Britain, of course (149).
Before the colonies even had time to say “Bullfeathers!” though, Lexington and Concord happened.
The Whigs’ anti-Coercive Acts campaign in England was unsuccessful. At the same time, the Tories were waging their own campaign in America. They cried out for “liberty” while denouncing the libertarian rebels. Of course they fooled nobody. Too bad people today are not that astute. I keep hearing high-sounding phrases about freedom coming from high officials even as they tax us blind and try to convince us (successfully, all too often) that a tax break is a subsidy.
What Tory journalists were doing was to confuse government mandates with voluntary boycotts, pretending that a boycott was a form of coercion, and accusing the rebels of “tyranny” and “anarchy” in the same breath (150).
In the fall of 1775, the radicals appointed a committee, the Committee of Safety, to call on the militia to collect munitions and supplies in case the British attacked. Also, the best qualified militiamen were recruited to form the “minutemen,” as they would drop everything and go if called (151). The entire militia made ready. They were trained with the same ideas as their politics, as free individuals rather than obedient automatons (152). I always wondered how a militia of private citizens could prevail against the British Redcoats, except by divine intervention. I guess now I know. The money and supplies were obtained by voluntary means, church offering plates being one. Many Congregational ministers backed the rebellion, calling for the separation of church and state, and the God-given rights of life and liberty. The Baptists were lukewarm, and the Anglicans were on the other side (153).
Everything was coming to a head. In Virginia, the House of Burgesses met. They did so without the governor’s authorization which they needed to meet legally. There, Patrick Henry made his famous speech. We all know some of the speech’s beautiful content. The reason for it was a resolution he wanted passed that would strengthen the Virginia militia to oppose the British. The resolution barely squeaked through due to conservative opposition. The conservatives would have watered down the militia effort were it not for the fact that in Virginia, as in many other colonies, militiamen elected their officers and funding was by voluntary contribution (154).
The British were positive they could crush the Americans. After all, they were trained to march in lockstep and take orders. The Americans thought for themselves. A military mind would say this was a slam dunk. Well, we’ll see.
They planned a pre-emptive strike against the Americans, and their first job was to arrest rebel leaders, especially John Hancock and Sam Adams. Fortunately, those two were not in. They had gone to Lexington or Concord where there stores of military supplies the rebels had stashed. The British followed them there to arrest them and take the supplies. They learned that this would not be a “piece of cake” since the general population was on the side of the rebels. Their troop movements and strategies were soon discovered, so no secrets were kept (155).
Paul Revere’s famous ride took place when he rode to Lexington to warn Hancock and Adams. Revere was captured, unfortunately, so someone else rode on to Concord. The Minutemen gathered and, long story short, the battle of Lexington and Concord took place. First at Lexington, the Americans were badly outnumbered and lost. However, at Concord, the Americans were smarter. They waited while the cocky British swaggered in to help themselves to the stored supplies. Then the Americans ambushed them, and armed citizens ambushed them all the way back to Boston (156).
Lexington and Concord (“the shot heard around the world”) was the beginning of armed revolution. It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that without a citizenry that used its God-given right to keep and bear arms – no licenses, registrations, or permits – we would never have had the free country we had for so long. We could become free again, but one crucial thing we must have is the total repeal of all gun laws.
But the vital force behind all this is the expansion of libertarian thought. All the firearms in the world are no help unless they are used, and they will not be used unless people are really determined. How did they get so determined?
One lone Englishman by the name of Thomas Hollis V was an ardent libertarian. In 1754 he hatched a plan to disseminate books on liberty worldwide. Perhaps he can be considered the forerunner of today’s Ludwig von Mises Institute. He worked alone, which is really the best way; no long discussions, meetings, or consensus, just a decision made and acted upon. One can just go ahead and do things, not have to “run it by” anybody and then wait for someone to “get back to” you. Fortunately, Hollis was wealthy enough to finance his effort. He distributed the works of Locke, Milton, and other liberal (classical, of course) writers to European countries first, but when the Stamp Act occurred, he turned his attention to the New World. He sent hundreds of works to the library at Harvard, and started a correspondence with influential liberal ministers in Massachusetts. In England, he was also involved with the Wilkes movement and was, of course, on the radical side of the dispute between the principled radicals and the pragmatic moderates (157). It reminds me of the schism in today’s Libertarian Party, and unless the radicals take the reins back, the Party will be useless.
John Locke’s works had always been widely read in America, especially now with Hollis’s work, and especially after Civil Government was reprinted in 1773 (158).
Even more consistent than Locke on the inalienability of natural rights was German philosopher Christian Wolff, in Institutiones (1750). Thomas Jefferson had his own copy of that and had marked it up. Swiss writer Emerich de Vattel also influenced some of the Founders. The French liberal Voltaire did too, as he pointed out that warring states were comparable to armed gangs. Political history, he said, was all violence foisted on populations by states. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was also influential in his defense of the people against rulers, but was inconsistent. The list goes on and on; the American people were well-educated and galvanized for freedom.
Another radical libertarian who did a lot of good was Ethan Allen. He was in New Hampshire when the New York governor got the notion that settlers who had bought New Hampshire land were squatters and decided to evict them and give the land to favored oligarchs. Allen and many of the settlers formed a resistance group called the Green Mountain Boys. Dr. Rothbard described their tactics against the New York soldiers as “guerrilla warfare” and discusses guerrilla warfare a bit. The showdown reminded me of Lexington and Concord, driving home the point yet again that citizens are either armed or they are slaves. When Lexington and Concord occurred and the revolution began, the Green Mountain Boys joined right in (159).
Dr. Rothbard winds down Volume III with two statements about the Revolutionary War. One is that the people were behind it, maybe not 100 percent, but the majority supported it (160). The other statement was that the war was fought for both political and economic reasons (161). Freedom and prosperity go together. They seemed to understand that. To throw off the yoke of British economic despotism (mercantilism) in favor of a free market (capitalism) would mean individual freedom and individual prosperity. Today’s Obama-supporting left would have you believe that a free market will impoverish the many and enrich the very few. This is not true as has been shown again and again. In fact, it is the opposite of the truth. And the Bush-supporting neoconservative would have you believe that the despotism of the Bush administration is freedom! That is pure insanity. There is no dichotomy between liberty and property; human rights and property rights are the same rights. They knew that in 1776. Later generations made the false distinction (162).
So, why did the Americans of 1776 want freedom so badly? For the same reasons those Americans of 2010 do, that is, those who understand it do. Just what is the essence of the state? It is an elite few ruling over and living off the powerless many (163). Most people have to spend most of their time making a living, so this minority elite are full-time professionals at ruling. But why, other than lack of free time, does the majority obey (164)?
This is where the intellectuals come in. The rulers must somehow get the intellectuals to go along. There was a time when religious intellectuals were used. In fact, today some ministers are telling their congregations to obey the civil “authorities,” especially in the event of some dire emergency and they trot out Romans 13. This would require an essay in itself. Romans 13 does say to obey authority. But is this authority the kind of authority experts have? Does it mean that I should take to heart the advice of my pastor? I think it does. Or does it mean to obey civil government authority? If it does, since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, then I only need to obey laws and orders that are Constitutional, and darn few are these days.
But, rather than religious intellectuals, the intellectuals who are in the government’s stable today are the scientists. Al Gore and his crowd are urging us to accept more government intrusion and restrictions to “save the planet.” Then there are TV doctors such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta. A thinking person must do his homework and make his own decisions. I watch all those medical shows. There are lots of opportunities to learn new things about staying healthy, but I must separate the sheep from the goats. One needs to realize that the mainstream media is part of the establishment and therefore hand in glove with government, and one needs to allow for this during all programs. The only real point of view you see is that government must act to solve problems. The difference is only in what way. Only the Internet is a source of varying views, and government takeover of that is only a matter of time.
Does anybody know of an offshore site to mirror this blog?
In any case, one main reason the elite wants to aggrandize state power is for the booty taken from the citizenry, and the job of the intellectuals is to make the people believe this is in the people’s interest (165).
But, what about those times when some people realize that the emperor wears no clothes? Usually this opposition is ideological rather than economic (166). This is true. Economically I have nothing to gain by railing against the system. In fact, someday I could be destitute or worse. But, I am a libertarian, rain or shine, and have to act. This is what God created me for, so I have to do it.
Many people have to be fired up over something to get them to stop turning the other cheek (and start turning over tables in the temple, so to speak) to the authority that slaps them over and over. It has to be philosophy, a belief system, and has to be motivated by the right kind of intellectuals. This is what Ron Paul and others are trying to accomplish. Even Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are doing something. I don’t know how close to being a libertarian either of them is (both are pro-war which is not good), but at least they are loudly opposing the Obama administration. That is a start. All these people are well-to-do, but there is a strong temptation to sell out because of the economic advantages of that. Ron Paul, bless him, has hung tough for decades, but he is one in a million.
So, the ideology needs to be fierce. Ideas have to come before tangibles. So, as far as the popularly supported American Revolution is concerned, this proves that people were guided by ideas and not purely economics. Economics did enter in, of course, since people knew that freedom and prosperity go together. But they also knew that economic gains would come later, and they might suffer more in the present for their ideas.
(1) Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty Volume III Advance to Revolution, 1760-1775 (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999) P. 12.
(3) Ibid. P. 19, 20.
(4) Ibid. P. 21.
(5) Ibid. P. 21, 22.
(6) Ibid. P. 23.
(7) Ibid. P. 24.
(8) Ibid. P. 25.
(9) Ibid. P. 28.
(10) Ibid. P. 30.
(11) Ibid. P. 33.
(12) Ibid. P. 37-39.
(13) Ibid. P. 39
(14) Ibid. P. 42, 43.
(15) Ibid. P. 47.
(16) Ibid. P. 45, 46.
(17) Ibid. P. 48.
(18) Ibid. P. 49.
(19) Ibid. P. 55.
(20) Ibid. P. 58.
(21) Ibid. P. 59.
(22) Ibid. P. 65, 66.
(23) Ibid. P. 71, 72.
(24) Ibid. P. 72.
(25) Ibid. P. 72.
(26) Ibid. P. 73.
(27) Ibid. P. 80-84.
(28) Ibid. P. 89, 90.
(29) Ibid. P. 90.
(30) Ibid. P. 91.
(31) Ibid. P. 92.
(32) Ibid. P. 94.
(33) Ibid. P. 97.
(34) Ibid. P. 100.
(35) Ibid. P. 100, 101.
(36) Ibid. P. 101.
(37) Ibid. P. 104.
(38) Ibid. P. 104.
(39) Ibid. P. 105.
(40) Ibid. P. 106.
(41) Ibid. P. 106.
(42) Ibid. P. 109.
(43) Ibid. P. 108.
(44) Ibid. P. 110.
(45) Ibid. P. 111.
(46) Ibid. P. 125.
(47) Ibid. P. 128.
(48) Ibid. P. 130.
(49) Ibid. P. 132.
(50) Ibid. P. 131.
(51) Ibid. P. 138.
(52) Ibid. P. 138, 139.
(53) Ibid. P. 139.
(54) Ibid. P. 141.
(55) Ibid. P. 144.
(56) Ibid. P. 152.
(57) Ibid. P. 154, 155.
(58) Ibid. P. 156.
(59) Ibid. P. 159.
(60) Ibid. P. 160.
(61) Ibid. P. 160, 161.
(62) Ibid. P. 162.
(63) Ibid. P. 163.
(64) Ibid. P. 163.
(65) Ibid. P. 165.
(66) Ibid. P. 166, 167.
(67) Ibid. P. 169.
(68) Ibid. P. 169.
(69) Ibid. P. 170.
(70) Ibid. P. 171.
(71) Ibid. P. 172.
(72) Ibid. P. 174.
(73) Ibid. P. 175.
(74) Ibid. P. 178.
(75) Ibid. P. 178.
(76) Ibid. P. 179.
(77) Ibid. P. 179.
(78) Ibid. P. 180.
(79) Ibid. P. 181.
(80) Ibid. P. 183.
(81) Ibid. P. 196, 197.
(82) Ibid. P. 199.
(83) Ibid. P. 199, 200.
(84) Ibid. P. 200.
(85) Ibid. P. 201.
(86) Ibid. P. 201.
(87) Ibid. P. 204.
(93) Rothbard P. 208.
(94) Ibid. P. 210.
(95) Ibid. P. 210.
(96) Ibid. P. 211.
(97) Ibid. P. 215, 216.
(98) Ibid. P. 220.
(99) Ibid. P. 221.
(100) Ibid. P. 227.
Paul, Ron, “None of Your Business” 7-13-04, and
Barnett, Gary D. “The 2010 Census: Beware of the State’s Assault on Privacy” 1-28-10. Reasons the Census is unconstitutional and it offers encouragement to us resisters.
(102) Rothbard P. 227.
(103) Ibid. P. 228, 229.
(104) Ibid. P. 229, 230.
(105) Ibid. P. 231.
(106) Ibid. P. 232.
(107) Ibid. P. 234.
(108) Ibid. P. 235.
(109) Ibid. P. 235.
(110) Ibid. P. 236.
(111) Ibid. P. 237.
(112) Ibid. P. 238.
(113) Ibid. P. 244.
(114) Ibid. P. 249.
(115) Ibid. P. 250.
(116) Ibid. P. 250.
(117) Ibid. P. 254.
(118) Ibid. P. 255.
(119) Ibid. P. 256.
(120) Ibid. P. 257.
(121) Ibid. P. 257.
(122) Ibid. P. 258.
(123) Ibid. P. 259.
(124) Ibid. P. 260-264.
(125) Ibid. P. 264.
(126) Ibid. P. 266.
(127) Ibid. P. 267.
(128) Ibid. P. 271.
(129) Ibid. P. 272.
(130) Ibid. P. 273.
(131) Ibid. P. 274.
(132) Ibid. P. 275.
(133) Ibid. P. 276, 277.
(134) Ibid. P. 279.
(135) Ibid. P. 280.
(136) Ibid. P. 280, 281.
(137) Ibid. P. 282, 283.
(138) Ibid. P. 284.
(139) Ibid. P. 291.
(140) Ibid. P. 294, 295.
(141) Ibid. P. 297.
(142) Ibid. P. 298.
(143) Ibid. P. 299.
(144) Ibid. P. 300.
(145) Ibid. P. 302, 303.
(146) Ibid. P. 304.
(147) Ibid. P. 311.
(148) Ibid. P. 312.
(149) Ibid. P. 312.
(150) Ibid. P. 316.
(151) Ibid. P. 319.
(152) Ibid. P. 320.
(153) Ibid. P. 321.
(154) Ibid. P. 323, 324.
(155) Ibid. P. 327.
(156) Ibid. P. 328, 329.
(157) Ibid. P. 334.
(158) Ibid. P. 335