Friday, January 18, 2008

The Sons of Liberty and Nullification of State Power

In 1765 the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act. This act was applicable to Britian's North American colonies. The act called for a one cent tax on all newspapers, wills, codcils, manifests,contracts,paper, glass, lead, and paint. The act was part of a larger plan of the British government to tighten it's hold on it's American colonies after the Seven Years War with France, which ended in 1763. The object of this essay is to give a history lesson. This lesson has been lost, but provides an excellent example of what an oppressed and determined people can do to resist tyrannical government power and actions.

What did the colonists do? They did two very important things. They formed into secret organizations like the Sons of Liberty, and they forcibly resisted and nullified the Stamp Act. Yes, I said "nullify". This word makes statists the world over gasp with trepidation. Through the actions of the Sons of Liberty, protests, mass meetings, inflammatory news articles, and sometimes violence was employed to thoroughly disable and nullify the act. Many conspiracy theorists will also gasp and fret that the birth of the American Revolution was started by a secret society. Yes, the Sons eventually came out publicly, but even today we do not know their full membership. Let's examine some of their tactics.

Secret Meetings

In Boston, Newport, New York, New Haven, Ct, Savannah, Ga, Philadelphia and Charleston men calling themselves "Sons of Liberty",after the name given to the colonists by Colonel Issac Barre in the British Parliament, organized themselves to resist the hated Stamp Act. Many of these men came from the upper classes, but a large section of them came from the colonial middle and lower classes. In these meetings they vowed to oppose the Stamp Act and prevent it from being enforced in America, effectively nullifiying it. Stamp collectors were threatened, beated, tarred and feathered, harrassed, and in some cases had their property destroyed. Many were made to sign pledges to refuse to collect the tax, and were threatened to be labled "enemies to their country" if they didn't reject their new positions. Many Marxist historians, while praising the resistance of the Sons of Liberty, condemn them as rich white men who only cared about their own liberty. Of course in any mass movement there will be people who are myopic and concerned only with their own interests. To broadly paint the leaders of these secret societies as selfish only furthers the Marxist myth of class warfare. The fact is, no revolution can survive without leadership. This leadership generally comes from the upper and middle classes, and all revolutions up to our day have proven this. What revolutionary leaders cannot do is continue any revolution without the mass support of the populace. Let's examine this further.

Support of the Masses

When one truly examines the American Revolution it is apparent that it was a mass movement of the colonial population. Murray Rothbard, in his four volume history of the American colonies, Conceived in Liberty, details this in full. Men in the Sons of Liberty, Masonic Lodges,and colonial churches lead the charge, but it was the people who made the Revolution possible. From 1765 through 1776 the American people were subjected to increasing tyranny from the British establishement in America. Higher taxes, impressment of sailors, nepotism in the colonial governments, dual officeholding, enforcement of mercantilist laws, like the Navagation Acts, suspension of several legislatures, particularly New York and Massachusetts, and the keeping of a standing military in the midst of the civilian population all contributed to the restivness of the colonial population. The Boston Tea Party, the burning of the British warship Gaspee in Rhode Island, tarring and feathering of royal officials,
threats and protests against Stamp agents, are just a few examples of the
actions of the people. The people were lead by men like Samuel Adams, Charles Thomson, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson,Joseph Warren, John Adams,most of whom were members of secret societies like the Masons and Sons of Liberty. These men lead the populace in nullifying the power of the British government in America.

The Nullification of British Power

Throughout the period of the American Revolution, royal governors and officials routinely complained about the violence of the populace and how their authority was threatened by the revolutionaries. They recongnized that their power was slowly evaporating. They saw laws like the Stamp Act repealed due to pressure and threats, the Townshend duties resisted by nonimporation agreements, mass meetings in defiance of law, and confrontations with soliders, like the Boston Massacre, and colonial assemblies asserting their power. This nullification movement was lead by secret societies like the Sons of Liberty, behind closed doors. Masonic lodges met and developed plans and agreements for their members to utilize for resistance. Leaders met in taverns and coffeehouses to discuss resistance measures and plot, yes plot, future actions. These combinations effectively nullified and eviscerated British power. We could learn from their examples. Americans should use non violent means to resist the following:

1) Any attempt to submerge the USA into a North American Union with Canada and Mexico

2) A war with Iran

3) Increased power for the UN or WTO

4) Continued abuse of eminent domain

5) Fascistic measures destroying American liberties

6) Any gun control legislation

7) Any attempt to increase the power of the federal government

8)Any attempt to institute a draft or civilian conscription

9) Any law or act that further restricts liberty

10)Any attempt by the federal government to suppress a secession movement within the USA

11) Further evisceration of our constitutional rights and liberties (particularly the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments). The Bush Administration's attack on attorney-client privilege is particularly appalling.

I am in no way advocating any violence. I do not believe that we are at that stage. Non violence protest and action should always be a first step.

The New Stasi

The Stasi was the feared and ruthless secret police of the German Democratic Republic or more appropriately, Communist East Germany. In America today the neocon rightwing and leftist groups are building a new despotism in our nation of liberty. In the growing power of the Federal government are the building blocks of a new Stasi, so to speak. The FBI, DIA, ATF, and DOJ are amassing great power through laws like the PATRIOT Act, The Real ID Act, and the definition of some American prisoners as "enemy combatants". People may laugh, joke or wave my comments asideas paranoia, but the building of this massive power structure is real. A new "Sons of Liberty" type movement is needed.

Liberty and freedom are not free. Both are typically destroyed by the overpowering hand of the state. It doesn't matter if you are rightwing, leftwing or libertarian. Our freedoms are ours to have, not government's to grant.