Thursday, April 2, 2009

The American Resolves

Piggybacking off of Will Collier's post about a Tea Party Manifesto... I just wanted to put down some thoughts I've been having lately. I won't pretend that these are ideas in finished form, but more of a germ of an idea.
By now, tens of thousands of Americans have taken part in a Tea Party Protest, but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. I suppose if the numbers grow extraordinarily large we might still see more than a handful of politicians showing the slightest bit of interest, but in the meantime should we be content to wait for our numbers to grow loud enough for the legislators to hear? Why aren’t we putting our existing numbers to better use?

In December of 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place following a town meeting, roughly the equivalent to our city council meetings. The idea of using local governments to send a message to their more distant counterparts isn’t unheard of today, although in recent years it seems to be infrequent at best and usually anti-war in nature (yes Berkeley, I’m talking to you). Still, if 3,000 people can show up for a Tea Party rally in Greensburg, South Carolina, can 300 show up at Greensburg’s City Council Meeting? If 1500 people rally in St. Louis, can 150 of them sit in the council chambers for the same purpose? Have you watched a typical city council meeting lately? No one’s there, and those who are there are usually an odd mixture of the intense lone citizen, the interested businessman, perhaps a field trip or two, and those with specific business before the council. City councils usually don’t see large groups like the Tea Party Movement, and those large groups can have a big impact legislatively and in the media when they come together in the arena.

Simply showing up isn’t enough, of course. You have to say something as well. Considering the grassroots support for the ideals of the Tea Party, it isn’t hard to imagine hundreds, if not thousands, of towns (most of them admittedly small) across the country that could approve resolves that condemn the stimulus in practice and/or in theory. This idea, like the Tea Party Movement, has a loose basis in history.

In September of 1774 the leaders of government in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (where Boston was located) passed a series of resolves against Parliament. They were incendiary, far more than the resolves below, but the men who drafted them faced a far different situation than we do. By September of 1774 the bonds of union were already strained to the breaking point, and military action was seen by both sides as not just likely, but certain. There is simply no comparison to our current situation, and we should thank God that is the case.

The Suffolk Resolves also weren’t just directed at Parliament. They were directed towards the people of Massachusetts, and to those of other colonies as well. They demanded that the people in America stand up for themselves or be tainted as cowards and fools for generations to come: If a boundless extent of continent, swarming with millions, will tamely submit to live, move and have their being at the arbitrary will of a licentious minister, they basely yield to voluntary slavery, and future generations shall load their memories with incessant execrations. It wasn’t unusual for our forefathers to think of us. They were far more likely than we are to not just “think of the children”, but of their children’s children as well. We, on the other hand, seem pre-occupied with our present, and the future is left largely unconsidered. In the resolves below, I have included reference to our posterity, for the simple reason that our forefathers were right and we are wrong.

I've also largely kept the 18th Century prose intact, though I realize it would certainly have to be updated for our own 21st Century minds. For the purposes of thought and discussion, however, I wanted the language to remind is of our shared history. Our language is much more functional than pretty these days, but there is genuine beauty to be found in the language of the Suffolk Resolves. They are such eloquent defenses of liberty and emancipation (including the phrase "voluntary slavery" that hearkens back to La Boetie) that it seems a shame for them to be relegated to the scholars and academics instead of remaining the intellectual property and heritage of the American people.


Whereas the power but not the justice, the benevolence but not the wisdom of our representatives, now pursues us, their guiltless children, with unrelenting severity: And whereas, this, then savage and uncultivated desert, was purchased by the toil and treasure, or acquired by the blood and valor of those our venerable progenitors; to us they bequeathed the dearbought inheritance, to our care and protection they consigned it, and the most sacred obligations are upon us to transmit the glorious purchase, unfettered by power, unclogged with shackles, to our innocent and beloved offspring. On the fortitude, on the wisdom and on the exertions of this important day, is suspended the fate of this beacon of freedom, and of unborn millions. If a boundless extent of continent, swarming with millions, will tamely submit to live, move and have their being at the arbitrary will of licentious ministers, they basely yield to voluntary slavery, and future generations shall load their memories with incessant execrations.--On the other hand, if we arrest the hand which would ransack our pockets, if we disarm the parricide which points the dagger to our bosoms, if we nobly defeat that fatal edict which proclaims a power to frame laws for us in all cases whatsoever, thereby entailing the endless and numberless curses of slavery upon us, our heirs and their heirs forever; if we successfully resist that unparalleled usurpation of unconstitutional power, whereby our capital is robbed of the means of life; whereby the laws of our Constitution, that sacred barrier against the encroachments of tyranny, is mutilated and, in effect, annihilated; whereby laws are framed to shelter villains from the hands of justice; whereby the unalienable and inestimable inheritance, which we derived from nature, the constitution of the United States, and the privileges warranted to us in the constitution of our state, is in grave danger of total wreckage, annulment, and vacancy, posterity will acknowledge that virtue which preserved them free and happy; and while we enjoy the rewards and blessings of the faithful, the torrent of panegyrists will roll our reputations to that latest period, when the streams of time shall be absorbed in the abyss of eternity.--Therefore, we have resolved, and do resolve,

1. That whereas the President, Barack Obama, is the lawful president of the United States of America, and justly entitled to the allegiance of all Americans, therefore, we, the heirs and successors of the first founders of this country, do cheerfully acknowledge the said President to be our rightful executive, and that said covenant is the tenure and claim on which are founded our allegiance and support.

2. That it is an indispensable duty which we owe to God, our country, ourselves and posterity, by all lawful ways and means in our power to maintain, defend and preserve those civil and religious rights and liberties, for which many of our fathers fought, bled and died, and to hand them down entire to future generations.

3. That the late acts of the U.S. Congress, and of the executive branch, for signing off on more than one trillion dollars worth of debt that will the burden of those future generations of taxpayers who could not give their consent, for expanding the established role of government in this country, and for spending taxpayer dollars without having read the legislation that legitimized the expenditures, are gross infractions of those rights to which we and our posterity are justly entitled by the laws of nature and the U.S.constitution.

4. That, having gathered informally to express our opposition to these current practices, we, the residents of (name of town here) do hereby ask Congress and the executive branch to listen to the true voices of government, We the People, in our request.

5. That in an attempt to stop the damage already caused to the American ideals of emancipation and self-determination, Congress rejects any new legislation that would require vast infusions of taxpayer money in an attempt to “stimulate” the economy.

6. Finally, that Congress immediately pass legislation that would require stimulus money rejected by recipients to be refunded to taxpayers, instead of continuing to be appropriated for spending by the government.

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