I have been noticing recently that many of a liberal bent have been busy attacking the Tea Party Movement. You don’t have to be particularly observant to pick up on this. There have been accusations of prejudice, hints that this might lead to violence, and the like, not to mention the outright derision that has been present from the first.
Perhaps it is the national memory of the original Tea Party that has caused that, but I suspect that most likely, it is a result of opponents cynically attempting to create a false image based upon the name. If we are to understand the meaning of the name, we have to really understand the history of the event. You see, the Tea Party was not a mob action, nor was it a random act of violence. Rather, it was a considered response to oppressive actions upon the people by the ruling government. It was a last resort action after all attempts to work within the system had been exhausted and no other recourse was left.
Whole books have been written on this subject, but the Tea Party came as the culmination of many years of heavy handed rule by the British Parliament. Indeed, as one reads the history of grievances, it at times seems that the British government deliberately contrived to instigate conflict. This of course is not true. I’m not sure if it was a result of arrogance, greed, or just a lack of understanding, but it seems that time and again the government did exactly the opposite they should have.
So it is today, for what is at the heart of the Tea Party Movement today is not rebellion, hatred, prejudice, or any such thing. Instead, it is a response to a government that is increasingly out of touch with the will and desire of the majority of the people. I have been to some Tea Party gatherings, and what I have seen has not been a mob, but a peaceful gathering of people from across the spectrum, racially, politically, financially and just about any other “ally” you can think of. What unites them is a deep love for their country and deep concern for the direction it is being taken.
I want to take a minute to look at one of the founders of our nation, John Adams. John was a deeply religious man, a Congregationalist, and at his heart, a simple country man. If he had his choice, he would have been content to farm all his life. Yet as the oldest son, he was expected to go to Harvard, and so he did. He graduated, taught school, and falling in love with the law, became a lawyer. Although a patriot and concerned with the injustices he observed, he was strongly opposed to mob violence. In fact, he defended the British troops involved in the infamous “Boston Massacre.” Yet, when it came to the Tea Party, he thoroughly approved, writing in his diary:
“This is the most magnificent movement of all. There is a dignity, a majesty, a sublimity in the last effort of the patriots that I greatly admire. The people should never rise without doing something to be remembered, something so firm, so intrepid, and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences, and so lasting, that I can not but consider it an epochs in history … Many persons wish that as many dead carcasses were floating in the harbor, as there are chests of tea. What measures will the ministry take? Will they punish us? How? By quartering troops upon us? By annulling our charter? By laying on more duties? By restraining our trade? By sacrifice of individuals? Or how?”
I said earlier, that the original tea party was a “considered response.” The very “dumping” of surplus tea and the restrictions on trade, let alone the duty imposed was offensive to the colonies. Yet they did not resort to violence. The Tea Party came after repeated attempts to convince Governor Hutchins to allow the ships to turn around and return to England. He refused, insisting that all duty be paid by the province before he would release the ships. It was arranged and planned to avoid bloodshed, and was timed to occur during the ebb tide to avoid interference with the British warship anchored in the outer harbor.
John Adams, as a man of peace and law, approved of this action, knowing that there would be certain retribution. Yet, he recognized that the time had come to take a stand for what was right. So it is today, the time has come to take a stand for what we believe is right. No, not with violence, for today we have other ways, the foremost of which is the polling place. Free speech is a guarantee of our constitution. So we will speak out. No one is required to mutely agree with the government, rather it is our DUTY to openly, and rationally express our views, in public and in the voting booth. Abraham Lincoln used the phrase “government of the people, by the people and for the people. Our Constitution begins with the words, “We the People of the United States ….” I fear that many have forgotten that this nation is intended to be governed by the PEOPLE. It is when we allow people to convince us that we are to passively allow others – better educated, smarter, better equipped to govern and tell us what we ought to think and do that this nation is in peril.
So then let us learn from our founders, stand for what we believe in. Everyone doesn’t have to agree, but we all have to listen and respect the opinions of one another. Finally, let us remember some words from our founders:
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” Patrick Henry
“He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of this country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man….The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.” Samuel Adams
“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.” Thomas Paine
“We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts–not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” Abraham Lincoln (OK not a founder, but still one of our greatest presidents.)