Mather ,Byles a little known colonist from Massachusetts is known for the statement he made in supporting the King of England during the Revolution, “Which is better – to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away, or by three thousand tyrants one mile away.”
Considering the current state of affairs in this state and across the country, I wonder how our founding fathers would answer him in hindsight. Every American child is taught (at least they used to be) that a group of patriots dressed as Native-Americans boarded ships loaded with tea and dumped it into Boston Harbor as an act of rebellion against a tyrannical king’s taxation policies. What few American’s really know about the Boston Tea Party is that the patriots who committed this act of treason were in fact doing so at the expense of their own pocket book.
The Tea Act was more complicated then a simple tax on imported goods. Tea imported to the colonies had been taxed for many years, what the Tea Act was attempting to do was provide the American Colonists an incentive to purchase tea taxed by the crown rather than paying for smuggled tea of which the crown did not receive a revenue. The key provision to the Tea Act was that duties collectors would be forced through coercion to enforce the tea taxes and confiscate smuggled tea. Essentially, it made them do their job. However, the crown believed that the best way to pacify the upstart American’s and still get their revenue was to reduce the tax on tea so as to make smuggled tea of inferior quality more expensive than the tea that was taxed.
The prevailing attitude in Parliament and among King George III’s advisers was that this was a compromise with the colonies in an effort to have them “pay their fair share” of the cost for the French and Indian War. How wrong they were. With every legal act, tax, and directive by the rightful government of the colonies located in England, the colonies resisted on the principle that it was not deed, but the intent that provoked. Our founding fathers were not angry over the acts of parliament and the crown in and of themselves, but of the attitude, the deliberate lack of respect and disdain the government of Great Britain Had for its citizens. This feeling among the colonists was succinctly explained when Thomas Jefferson wrote, “…governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
The founding fathers were acutely aware of the need for civil reproach toward the governing power and said so once again in Jefferson’s words, “…Prudence…will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes…experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed…”. How could it be otherwise when for ten years prior to the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the colonists peacefully approached their government for redress of their grievances.
The idea of a government not respecting their citizens can be seen in revolutions throughout history, particularly in the Middle East today, but it can clearly be seen in how the British government treated the colonists on the eve of the Declaration of Independence. British General William Howe had been sent to America by the British Government in the naive belief that because he had lived among them he could reason with them. He brought a carrot and a stick; He was given full authority to concede to every demand by the Continental Congress save independence. Full pardons for nearly every revolutionary were to be granted. If not, he was given full discretion to bring the rebellion to its knees. When his offer was met with disdain by John Adams General Howe replied, “Mr. Adams is a decided character.” The point was missed; the government had no intention of recognizing the spirit and intent of the revolution while conceding to all the specific points of it.
So how can we translate this to our time? Let us consider the continual encroachment of the federal and state governments into the lives of the citizens. Tacticus wrote, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” We should ask ourselves if Tacitus was referring to the citizenry or the state. From unhelpful federal agencies to nanny-state laws; to over-bloated budgets and burdensome taxation as well as the myriad fees, assessments, fines, and regulations, at every level our government is no longer seeking the consent of the governed.
More terrifying is the government’s lack of respect indeed disdain for the voice and will of the people. The rise of the “Tea Party” movement is a symptom of the peoples desire to be heard. Unfortunately, some of our elected officials, and I deliberately do not call them leaders or representatives for they are neither, are in some ways trying to pacify the movement by conceding to the demands without recognizing the movement’s spirit. While others are outright belligerent toward the movement, showing a hatred that cannot be quelled until the movement is destroyed and its leaders discredited.
Ben Franklin said of the American Rebellion, “Revolutions come into this world like bastard children… half compromise, half improvise.” There is a rumbling in this country, a deep seeded desire to return to founding principles. This rumbling is not a revolution…yet. The fear is that America like any other nation in history “can have it happen here”. The question is can the founding principles of our nation survive so that the social contract between the government and the people can peaceably mend the chasm that is splitting us apart.
Ten years before Patrick Henry shouted “Give me liberty or give me death”, he spoke more patiently, “…Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the first his Cromwell, and George the third… may profit by their example…” If reconciliation is to be made it must first come from our government, for we have consented to be governed by them so the burden of rightful governance falls to them.
I am not a Tea Party member. I do not attend their meetings or espouse their views in as much as I can agree and disagree in civil discourse with their movement. I am not a revolutionary, or a rabble rouser. I am neither anti-American nor anti-American Government. I am a citizen and a patriot, a student of history, and an advocate of peaceful demonstration. In all things I am an American.
Written By - Donovan Weir
Donovan Weir is a part-time actor who can be occasionally seen performing theatrical work in the Los Angeles area. His credits include “John” in Miss Saigon and “Dan Costa” in the world premier of The Justice Channel. He is a former First Vice President of the Hollywood Congress of Republicans and resides in Simi Valley with his wife and five children.