APRIL ARF Serial: Popular Support for Separation

POPULAR SUPPORT FOR SEPARATION:

The American Revolution was, in fact, not avidly supported by the majority of the American Population.  To cite a commonplace historical ruling, the Separatist faction only consisted of about 33% of those residing in the colonies during the period herein considered.  Loyalists made up approximately another 33%, while those committed to neither party made up the remaining 33%.(1)

These figures should point to several things; first, the Separatists needed to control the non-committed population through fear, exercising considerable efforts in attaining that objective. Second, the groups composing each of the factions had differing interests, and therefore would be engaged in different businesses, churches and social classes. An examination of this distribution, as best it can be made, will shed considerable light on the interests of each movement. Third, the victorious faction would have to protect its power in some way after gaining any ground. An investigation into the ways power was achieved, maintained and institutionalized will illuminate the interests of each party more clearly.

The first faction to be considered is necessarily that of the Separatists.  This party boasted such personages leading them as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Patric Henry, Philip Schuyler and sundry others yet to be mentioned.  Even a cursory investigation into these persons into the characters, interests, and businesses of these persons should quickly give an overview of the party’s common goals, interests and intentions.

To start with John Hancock, we have an already-unflattering view of the Separatist party.(1)  A known smuggler continually engaged in dodging taxes and government Customs agents, John Hancock’s commercial interests were principally mercantile. Hancock was a Supporter of the Non-Importation movement due to the fact his smuggled tea sold at a higher price than that which would be imported by the East India Company.  Further, Hancock’s opposition to British rule can be summarized very simply: increased government activity enforcing commercial law cuts into business, and increased taxes reduce profits.  A member of the Sons of Liberty, Hancock was a central figure in councils whose decisions included threats on competing shipping companies and their personnel, destroyed the property of same during the Boston Tea Party, resolved to boycott and target for political violence those who continued to import British Manufactures, and sundry other major Ethical and Moral, to let alone Legal transgressions.

Philip Schuyler also illustrates the group which supported the revolution very well. A landed aristocrat from Albany, New York, he had established himself in all aspects of trade, including lumber, agricultural products, shipping, the West Indies trade and a massive landholder.  Also active in provincial politics, he looked with disdain on Democratic ideals, and the Separatist cause stood to remove British laws limiting his own gain in landholding and business.  Attempting to establish himself as a pseudo-feudal lord in the leases he gave to tenants, his landholding and commercial interests would be greatly forwarded by independence. (2)

George Washington, as Aforementioned was an investor in the Ohio Companies, and stood to loose money thereupon due to the passing of the Quebec Act.  Further, as a Wealthy Virginia Plantation Owner, taxes on Glass, Lead, Tin, Paper, Tea and other British Manufactures would have impaired his ability to maintain his plantation, reduced profits and, as proposed by T. H. Breen, Impair his ability to be British through the acquisition of the latest British fashions and goods.(3)  As Washington, and most Colonial Gentry were British only by extraction, this imitation of the British Gentry in every way was what made them British, their final Aspiration. Thus, opposition to the British rule comes, arguably, from economic and social standing, and risk to investment caused thereby.

Since the majority of the Separatist Party’s leaders were composed of this set of society, it stands to reason that their interests would dominate the party. Such goals as reduced taxation, a clear path for business and profits, open lands for speculation and loose enforcement of the law would be the primary planks of their platform.

It was observed by many in the time period that those who supported the Separatist cause were generally not in the interests of the populace as a whole.  In such works as “At a Meeting of the TRUE Sons of Liberty, in the City of New-York” they are described as being elitist, and not reflecting the general interest of the populace. As stated in the aforementioned satire:

2. RESOLVED, That we have the whole Sense of the City, County, Province, and all the Colonies, concentrated in our own Persons.

3. RESOLVED, Therefore, that a general Congress (saving Appearances) would be unnecessary and useless.

6. RESOLVED, That the fittest Persons to carry on this great, good, necessary and godly Work, are not such as the Freeholders, in their respective Counties and Colonies, have elected to be their Representatives they being supposed to be Men of Conscience and Understanding–but such only as OURSELVES; who have not been used to Speculation and Refinement; but simply fitted, by our Lives and Conversation, for right-forward Doings; which are the only Doings, in these distresful[Sic] Times, that ought to go right forward.

 

15. RESOLVED, That it is a General Mark of Patriotism, to eat the King’s Bread, and abuse him for giving it.

 

The question which arises is how one would get the rest of the population to side with this party. The answer is, as aforementioned, producing a state of fear against one’s opponents. Once this environment is established, the populace sides with the revolutionary party, with those who are implicitly protecting them from the “feared other.” The same techniques were of course used by the revolutionary Fascists in the 20th century.

This faction was, in most cases, a minority of the population (1). As explained in a broadside addressed “To the respectable body of Gentlemen…” in New York, “a Number of persons, very inconsiderable in comparison to the Number who constitute the Body of the freeholders and freemen of this city… have presumed to call themselves a Committee from the Body of the Inhabitants of the City, and in that Character have arbitrarily censured and threatened several worthy and respectable Persons amongst our Fellow Citizens.”

To then consider the opposition, or Loyalist party, it consisted principally of Crown Officers, the Mercantile classes engaged in licit enterprises, tradesmen, and, of course, some of the general populace.  Added to this is a large number of Liberated slaves during the revolutionary war who sided with the British to gain their freedom, and the illustration of this party is a bit different than that of the Separatists.(1)

This is the party which almost entirely followed along within the law, both in commerce and political action.  I have found it challenging to discover evidence of Loyalist mob violence, secret committees or most any form of extralegal activity.  Such activities were deemed not only underhanded, but under the station of the loyalist.

The evidence presented by Loyalist Propaganda shows a much more balanced view of the situation, and shows an adherence to rational argument or satire. While the Sons of Liberty are declaimed, it is on the grounds that their meetings are illegal, as are their methods.  Further, in regards to their representation of public opinion and the root of issues, they clearly and concisely point to the roots of the problem: The merchants siding for non-importation in their commercial interest, and that minority falsely determining their opinions to be that of the general population by underhanded methods.

There were Loyalist organizations which held a more martial footing. Militias were formed as violence rose in frequency and war loomed on the horizon, and a few of those were Loyalist units.  Some of these were supported by the local British military commands, others were essentially independent companies.  Raised to defend against Separatist violence, these units eventually became the foundations of several Royal American Regiments such as the Queen’s Rangers.(1)

Despite the presence of these militias, however, there is little to indicate their widespread use in political violence of the same type (and scope) as the Sons of Liberty.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Allen, Thomas B. Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2010)   The estimate is vary general, and of course varies over time and location during the period in question. The element of true import, is that the portion of the population actively supporting the Separatist cause was NEVER IN THE MAJORITY.  In fact, the end of the Revolution saw between 16-20% of the population of the new United States flee the country.  Based on this, there is clear indication of the minority of the Revolutionaries.
  2. Gerlach, Don R. Philip Schuyler and the American Revolution in New York 1733-1777. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1964)
  3. Breen, T.H. “‘Baubles of Briton’: The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century.” Past and Present, No. 119 (May 1988) PP. 73-104

Profit?

What is Profit?

Profit, in the case of everything but a Sole Proprietorship, is a numerical measurement of exactly how much a company has screwed over their customers.

Profits are defined as the money left over once all employees and bills have been paid. This includes, of course, CEO Salaries, down to Janitors, and the Electric bills alongside everything else. While it is nearly impossible to perfectly predict the operating expenses of a business for a year, which will preclude a wise business executive from targeting 0 profit, this does not morally allow for excessive profit.

If a company is making a profit, there are one of two things wrong: They are either underpaying their employees, or overcharging their customers. Both of these practices fall under the heading of “Placing Personal Gain Before Human Life,” also defined as “Evil.” In the first case, a company has convinced their customers the goods and services offered are worth the asking price. However, the employees, who create these selfsame goods and services, are not paid their full share of this asking price. As it is their labor which produces the asking price (the quality of their work and devotion) not paying them the fair share of what they are worth is essentially theft of labor. While there are arguments to be made from the Contract standpoint, the contract becomes morally void with this instance of labor theft.

The second case, Overcharging Customers, in principal is the same, but directed towards Customers instead of employees. The Company simply abuses its customers by taking from them the chance to use the money which is absorbed into the company’s profits. In most cases, both of these principals are in play simultaneously: While the Customer has more resources than necessary taken in exchange, the employees never see this money either.

The exception to the above rule is in Sole Proprietorship, wherein Profit is normally measured before the owner is paid. In this case, the cost of the owner’s living must be subtracted before a profit is attained.

While some profit is good (It means a company is not failing, and therefore potentially losing jobs), excessive profit is simply theft from all of us. A profit which allows for expansion, recovering from emergencies and continuing in the face of a short-term loss are all acceptable, even responsible practice, this can all be budgeted for in a company system (and therefore not count against profit).

So, why are we so damn focused on everything in the Stock Market making a profit? It’s bad for us all, since that is simply a measure of how badly we’re being abused by those same companies.

March ARF Serial: Propaganda

PROPAGANDA: Conning the Masses.

Propaganda is defined as Biased Information spread to shape public opinion and behavior. This is achieved through the use of lies, half truths, oversimplification of complex issues, a selective telling of fact and using emotional responses to override rational thinking. Much of what was printed and disseminated by the Separatist party during the American Revolution fits under this heading, as does some of that printed by the Loyalists. This section will treat the many types and techniques of propaganda in use during the Revolution.

The Declaration of Independence is, frankly, a well written piece of fiction designed to cover over, misrepresent or fabricate platforms which show the justice of the Independence Movement in the 13 Mainland North American Colonies.(1,2) These claims, made famous as the justification for separation from Great Briton are clearly well within the definition of Propaganda: Biased Information spread to shape public opinion and behavior.

To treat more fully only several of the individual complaints and impositions of the Declaration will make the clear attempt at disinformation more transparent.  Using the main tools of propagandists throughout history (half-truths, Omission of critical information, false dichotomy, attacking enemies and the use of emotional instead of reasoned pleas) the Continental Congress spread it’s message by not only this but other printings which will be addressed later on.

The principal complaints contained in the Declaration of Independence are as follows: (All Original Text is in Italic Typeface, and are numbered in order of appearance in the Declaration).(2)

  1. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. This is a reference to the Massachusetts Capital and assembly being moved to Salem Massachusetts after Boston was deemed too dangerous to host the Royal Government (See Political Violence from February) (3).  The Fact that this is not mentioned or even implied by the declaration’s authors shows this as a half-truth.
  1. He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. These dissolutions were made only after  the increased violence mentioned above, and after the representatives had passed laws and resolutions which were bordering on treason.
  1. He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. This so-called swarm of officers harassing the people were in fact principally Customs officers charged with cutting down on smuggling in wines, tea, manufactured goods and suchlike goods. Such famous personages such as John Hancock were engaged in this trade, and such a governmental crackdown on illegal activity would be firmly against his financial interests. (3)
  1. He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature. There should be no need to mention the necessity of security forces to protect the King’s officers from the mob violence covered in the previous section on Political Violence. Further, such an environment as that in Massachusetts colony of generalized mob violence Martial Law would be the procedure used by most governments now as well as then.

14.A. For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us. The Quartering Act had been in effect in England and other regions of the British Empire for many years, and had been extended to the colonies when the army was sent to counter the French and Indian threat in the 1750s.  This was eventually approved by colonial legislatures such as New York in 1771. Further, the troops were requested by the colonies in the first place, therefore the extension of the quartering act was a logical action. (4)

In addition, the American Separatists failed to understand the original intent of the Quartering Act, which was to bring troops quartered for long periods of time in one place into closer contact with the local population.  This was found to be effective in preventing problems between the soldiery and civilians as the soldiers became a part of the community. This only happens, however, when the civil population is not actively engaged in harassing, attacking and slighting the forces stationed among them.

14.B. For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states: A clear reference to the Boston Massacre, the soldiers were acquitted due to the fact that they were the party attacked by a rioting crowd. Another example of the use of selective evidence.(5)

14.C. For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world: Another pointer to Boston. After the destruction of the tea in 1773, Boston harbor was shut down as a punitive measure, with intent to bring the political violence into check.  This was a reactive movement by parliament, well within reason considering the political climate of the city.

14.D. For imposing taxes on us without our consent: The claim “no taxation without representation” is entirely a rallying cry without foundation. The colonies were clearly under the authority of Parliament, and further, were the colonies represented therein, they would have been out voted by the other members and taxed just the same.

14.G. For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:  The Quebec Act placed all territory past the Proclamation Line of 1763 under the government of the province of Quebec, instead of the thirteen colonies. The investors in the Ohio Company and similar ventures (George Washington among them) had already invested considerable money into the Ohio country, and thus stood to loose a large amount of money with this new development.(6)

  1. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. The forming of Loyalist militias, Regular regiments and Ranging Companies to act in opposition to the Separatist forces were a natural military course of action and cannot be claimed as abnormal or termed as “Domestic Insurrection.”  The Native population siding with the British was entirely their decision, and based on the Natives’ best interest. To claim otherwise is to obscure the finer points of the North American political scene at the end of the 18th century.

Other propaganda such as the extremely numerous handbills, broadsides and newspapers all had the same mission. (7)   By misrepresenting the facts of the cases they presented, these works were all used to sway public opinion in favor of Separation by obfuscation of the actual issues.  Hundreds of such items were printed throughout the revolution and before, however, only several examples will be cited here for the sake of brevity, clarity and the author’s sanity.

A Bloody butchery, by the British Troops: or, The runaway of the Regulars” was an account of the battles of Lexington and Concord published in Salem, Massachusetts in 1775.  It contains two accounts of the day’s events, as well as a section giving the casualty lists for the Massachusetts Militias involved.  These accounts, when read over with even the slightest knowledge of the battles of Lexington and Concord, are so far askew from the reality of the situation as to be laughable. Word Choice, nomenclature, and the implications made are all essentially the recipe for propaganda: Attributing all wrong to the enemy forces, while praising friendly troops as Morally superior pillars of justice.

By attributing the first fire to an order given by the British commander, the collected Separatist troops as a Militia involved in their routine Exercises, and eliciting emotional response through descriptions of “the savage barbarity exercised upon the bodies of…[Separatist] wounded” without mention of the Operation’s origin or purpose, it uses half-truths to gain support for the cause.

Similar techniques are used in many other handbills, advertisements, broadsides and the very catchy, easily spread medium of music.  

Propaganda was also used, much like that of the fascist parties of the first half of the Twentieth Century, to advertise and mark “Public Enemies” or Enemies of the State.  Such tools were the main distinguishing features of such “Internal Enemies,” as they otherwise appeared identical to the rest of the population.  As advertised in Boston, in 1768:

The true Sons of Liberty

And Supporters of the Non-Importation
Agreement,

ARE determined to resent any the least Insult or Menace offer’d to any one or more of the several Committees appointed by the Body at Faneuil-Hall, and chastise any one or more of them as they deserve; and will also support the Printers in any Thing the Committees shall desire them to print.

AS a Warning to any one that shall affront as aforesaid, upon sure Information given, one of these Advertisements will be posted up at the Door or Dwelling-House of the Offender.

 

This was clearly meant as both a warning against any action contrary to the approved party line, and as a marker for targeting so-called “Enemies of [Liberty/The State/Party/Race/Colonies, etc, Ad Infinitum]” who would otherwise be invisible.  This is analogous to forcing Jews to wear Stars of David in Nazi Germany: an invisible, internal enemy is now visible; an Internal Enemy made External, so it can be targeted by public ridicule, social stigma and mob violence.

During the time period under consideration, those thus marked were frequently attacked, publicly ridiculed and targeted for general harassment, as seen with the examples Aforementioned. These persons were targeted and defamed “as an Enemy to his Country, a Post to Society, and a vile Disturber of the Peace, Police, and good Order…” or similar charges.  The incessant affirmation that all opposed to the Separatist view were “Enemies of the colonies” intent on supporting actions which would “undoubtedly be the means of inslaving(Sic) the whole continent” served to inscribe the same thought on the hearts and minds of those who read and heard the message daily. As with any message, marketing an Idea and having it gain a near-subconscious foothold requires frequent repetition.  Once this feeling was instilled, the implication of such activities would land the targeted persons on the list of those to harass.

Further, news reports of loyalists being attacked and abused are a form of threat in and of themselves, serving as a warning for those who have not made up their minds or are loyalists themselves.

Another Medium which gave promise for frequent repetition, easy memorization and fast dissemination was music (8).  Songs were rewritten, new sets of lyrics to well known tunes would have spread like wildfire after they were distributed in broadside form (a long-standing tradition by thee 18th century).  Some examples through the revolutionary period were “The Battle of the Kegs and “The new Massachusetts Liberty Song To the Tune of the British Grenadier.  While the Battle of the Kegs derides the British Army as a generally comic enemy esteeming the defeat of empty barrels as grand heroics, it simultaneously makes them less formidable due to that. It also conveys news of actual events, and serves to keep the populace up to date on the developments in the war.  

The earlier song from Massachusetts aggrandizes resistance to extra-continental authority while not actually mentioning any of the reasons why such action would be needed, justified or accomplished. However, the continual repetition of these themes would have quickly settled into the  minds of those who heard it. Both these examples are written to easily sung, well known and popular tunes (Yankee Doodle and British Grenadiers, respectively), making them very easily passed on, person to person, colony to colony.

Other mediums such as handbills, informational broadsides and newspapers were exploited as well, and to great effect. They spread quickly through the Post and from hand to hand, colony to colony.  Further, these items were read in public places, where the news would be passed on mouth to mouth (9).  These publications were just as biased as any of the others available, frequently involving the same disinformation.

Take for an example An Account of a late Military Massacre at Boston, a broadside published early in 1770 at New York.  It describes the so-called massacre as a premeditated action on the part of the British troops against peacefully assembled, concerned citizens, mostly young persons, occasionally throwing snowballs.  After a short time, so it claims, Capt. Preston, the Commanding Officer of the guard detachment gave the order to fire on this assembly.  The account entirely fails to mention the crowd was armed with clubs, staves, and similar weaponry, and was in a riotous posture.  That the crowd had assaulted the lone guard initially posted at King Street, to the point where he felt obliged to call out the reserve guard under Capt. Preston, was also conspicuously absent from the account (5).  Thus, a riot and assault on Government officers charged with enforcing the law turns into an infamous massacre.  

Such a representation of British Troops especially, but also those loyal to the king in general, is designed to instill fear in the populace of these groups.  Characterizing the British Soldier as a murdering savage, those opposed to the Non-Importation as those intent on Enslaving the populace, and supporters of the Stamp Act in the same manner is calculated to bring public opinion against them.  The same was done to the Jews in Nazi Germany, as well as Communists, Socialists, Unionists and any other group not toeing the party line.  On the other side, this fear was spread to the targeted groups through the actions of organizations such as the Falangalists, SA, Sons of Liberty, Fascisti and even unaffiliated individuals sympathetic to the Revolutionary cause.  Through such harassment and hostility, conformity was established or those who were able fled. Any who remained loyal to their established government were usually then imprisoned thereby establishing the political homogeneity sought by the revolutionary powers.

In the interest of not continuing this section of the paper Ad Infinitum, suffice it to say that even if this were an exhaustive study of Separatist propaganda and printings, it would find little variation in these patterns for any sample taken.

On the other hand, most Loyalist propaganda came in the form of Legalistic protests, or Satires of the Sons of Liberty and their actions. Many of the Later are quite to the point, and effective.  There are quite a few examples clearly pointing out the economic implications of Separatist actions, the absurdity of the Sons of Liberty’s resolutions for the general Populace, and are actually quite searing.

The Connections should be, to any person possessed of the most limited knowledge of Nazi Germany, quite obvious. Propaganda throughout the reign of the National Socialist Party engaged in Disinformation, misrepresentation and outright fiction so plainly that no documentation should be needed.  The pointing out, or more accurately, fabrication of Enemies to the State, their Identification and the installation of fear throughout Germany was made manifest through propaganda. Once Identified, these persons were routinely threatened, beaten, assaulted, subjected to mob violence and forced into compliance or flight.  The same as done in the Aforementioned examples from the American Revolution.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Davidson, Philip G. “Whig Propagandists of the American Revolution” The American Historical Review Vol. 39 No. 3 (April 1934) pp 442-453 Jstor.org (Accessed 18 June 2011)
  2. The U.S. Constitution and Fascinating Facts About it 7th ed. (Naperville, IL: Oak Hill, 2006)
  3. Allen, Thomas B. Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2010)
  4. Cuthbertson, Bennett A System for the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry, 2nd ed. (London, UK: J. Millan 1779)
  5. York, Niel Longley “Rival Truths, political Accommodation and the Boston ‘Massacre'” Massachusetts Historical Review Vol. 11, pp 60. Jstor.org (Accessed 24 February 2011)
  6. “Thomas Glassock to George Washington, 22 August 1773.” The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress American Memory Collection.  http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mgw:@field(DOCID+@lit(lw040144)) (Accessed 21 April 2011)
  7. Davidson, Philip G. “Whig Propagandists of the American Revolution” The American Historical Review Vol. 39 No. 3 (April 1934) pp 442-453
  8. Schlesinger, Arthur M. “A Note on Songs as Whig Propaganda 1765-1776” William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series Vol. 11 No. 1 (January, 1954) pp 78-88  www.Jstor.org (Accessed 24 February 2011)
  9. Clark, Charles E. The Public Prints (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1994)

February ARF Serial: Political Violence

POLITICAL VIOLENCE: The Truth About  National Unity.

Some level of Political Violence has been an aspect of most all revolutions throughout history. However, it was brought to a very well planned, coordinated and executed level in the American Revolution: Targets are designated through propaganda, Threats are made systematically, militias are organized and small parties of thugs are continually active (1).  This level of violence against any and all opposition parties is intentionally executed to gain the compliance or expulsion of those who disagree through a state of fear, and to encourage a continued support by those who may be lukewarm supporters of the party.

Attacking and threatening Government officers in the conduct of their duties, inciting riot, destroying the property and lives of political rivals, and instigating armed insurrection are only a partial list of the acts committed in the name of “Liberty.”  These actions were mostly performed and coordinated by the Sons of Liberty, a loose organization of those with rising or established commercial interests which were being undercut by royal government.

For the period of one year alone, there are several examples of these activities. The attacks on Mein and Fleeming, Boston Printers, who were clearly in support of the British Government due to their publication of shipping manifests embarrassing to those who had signed the Non-Importation agreement were a clear example of such threats escalating to beatings and then resulting in the departure of loyalists (or any other opponents of the Whigs) from the Colonies. A similar target was Patrick McMaster, a Boston Merchant who had refused to sign the Non-Importation agreement, was to be tarred and feathered due to his reticence in regards to importation.  This came after a full year of vandalism, attacks upon his character and other minor affronts (2). 

In addition Henry Houlton, a Commissioner of Customs, and his Family were attacked on the night of 19 June 1770.  As Crown officials, they would clearly be against the Whig agenda.  During the attack windows were smashed and the occupants of the house terrorized. After this incident, the family moved to  Castle William in Boston Harbor to avoid further assaults. They had fled Boston before due to worries about their personal safety at the hands of such targeted Mob Violence (2).

The Gaspee Incident, outside Providence, Rhode Island in June of 1772 was a prime example of political violence targeting Crown Officials. Planned and put into action by a prominent Merchant of the town, the Customs schooner Gaspee was burned after it ran aground.  Such attacks on Government officers and offices were commonplace, and frequently organized by those with the most to gain from the revolution.(1)

Attacks upon other government figures were commonplace. Some well known incidents occurred in 1765, the Royal Stamp collector in Boston was tarred and feathered while carrying out his duties, while in New York, armed parties confiscated Stamps before they could be landed from the ships.(4)  Countless others happened, and with such frequency that going over all of them would drag out this paper Ad Infinitum.

The attitude of the Separatist party was lampooned accurately by a Loyalist Satire writer from New York. In a broadside entitled At a meeting of the true sons of Liberty, the attitude of the Separatists is clearly represented in the last lines of this scathing satire: “RESOLVED, lastly, That every Man, Woman, or Child, who doth not agree with our Sentiments, whether he, she, or they, understand them or not, is an Enemy to his Country, wheresoever he was born, and a Jacobite in Principle, whatever he may think of it; and that he ought at least to be tarred and feathered, if not hanged, drawn and quartered; all Statutes, Laws and Ordinances whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Aside from these, there were outright attacks on the British Army perpetrated by the Separatist party.  The Boston Massacre is a prime example.  It describes the so-called massacre as a premeditated action on the part of the British troops against peacefully assembled, concerned citizens, mostly young persons, occasionally throwing snowballs.  After a short time, so it claims, Capt. Preston, the Commanding Officer of the guard detachment gave the order to fire on this assembly.  The account entirely fails to mention the crowd was armed with clubs, staves, and similar weaponry, and was in a riotous posture.  That the crowd had assaulted the lone guard initially posted at King Street, to the point where he felt obliged to call out the reserve guard under Capt. Preston, was also conspicuously absent from the account.(5)

Also of Note, from the same time as the Boston Massacre, is the “Battle of Golden Hill” in New York. Occurring in January of 1770, the “Battle” resulted in one civilian killed and one wounded. Caused by a mob harassing British Soldiers removing a Liberty Pole, the small skirmish was a local affair which was calmed over quickly, but was still a blatant attack on Government Forces. (1)

Political Violence should not be listed as solely physical attacks. Destruction of property, threats, and other forms of Mental and Physical Violence fall under the same heading.

Propaganda was used much like that of the fascist parties of the first half of the Twentieth Century, to advertise and mark “Public Enemies” or Enemies of the State.  Such tools were the main distinguishing features of such “Internal Enemies,” as they otherwise appeared identical to the rest of the population. Marking these targeted persons, through publishing their names in newspaper advertisements, visually marking their residences, stores or persons, or through exposing them by other means, they can be kept in a state of fear and anxiety which is intended to cause compliance.(6)

The advertisements were occasionally only very thinly veiled threats. Knowing then the Sons of Liberty were the persons posting such advertisements, it must have been quite disconcerting to hear that one “shall be deemed Enemies to the Colonies, and treated accordingly.”  With the precedents established for treatment accorded enemies of the colonies by the Sons of Liberty, this is clearly a threat to life, limb and property. It was (and still is) in fact considered better to leave subjects in a state of fear to gain compliance, as actual pain or attacks are more likely to be overcome.(6) However, a target must first be marked before it can effectively be exposed to public abuse or threatened by mob violence, which was the purpose of these pieces of propaganda.

At the time of the Boston Tea Party, Clear, public and unmistakable threats were made against the captains of ships laden with tea should they allow any tea to be landed.  Further, to prevent any tea from being landed secretly, or in violation of the resolutions mentioned therein, a guard of 25 men was appointed to stand at the wharves of the ships until they left the harbor. Another Resolution was that any person shipping or receiving tea into the colony should be treated and esteemed “an Enemy to his Country.” 

During the time period under consideration, those thus marked were frequently attacked, publicly ridiculed and targeted for general harassment, as seen with the examples in this chapter. Many were subsequently forced to relocate, or publicly comply with the publishers’ demands. As can be seen in the non-importation and Stamp Act crises, some of those targeted by the Sons of Liberty caved under the weight of such fear, publicizing their compliance to avoid violence.

There are dozens more examples of such acts, generalized against any and all persons opposed to the Whig viewpoint. The burning of the Peggy Stewart in Maryland, which carried tea into Annapolis serves as an example.,  (7) A Large mob forced the owners into burning the ship and cargo to save their lives, as explained in the Virginia Gazette for 6 April 1776 (3).  As early as 1770, Voters were being suppressed in their attempts to gain a secret ballet.   Such actions are clear evidence, and were so prevalent as to make many areas entirely unsafe for Loyalist sympathizers.

To point out the range of these acts, there were even Loyalist executed in multiple states for their political affiliations. The Virginia Gazette archives from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation contain dozens of reports of their executions, from though out the colonies. (3) Some of these executions were also of men taken under arms, who had the right to be treated as prisoners of war, as mentioned in the Virginia Gazette of 20 June 1777. (3) 

To consider the other side of the coin, there was some limited violence from the Loyalist party as well. Armed societies did rise throughout the colonies, essentially associations for their mutual defense.  These militias, however, were not nearly as active as those of the Separatists. With the exception of impoverished tenants on Cortlandt, Livingston and Claverack Manors in New York, who rose in a Jacquerie in early 1777 (7). 

The similarities of these activities to those of the Fascist parties in the 1930s should need no Documentation or explanation. Using Generalized violence to silence opposition has been a hallmark of every oppressive regime based upon a lack of rational principals since the dawn of time.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Schlesinger, Arthur M. “Political Mobs and the American Revolution 1765-1776” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Vol. 99 No. 4 (30 August 1955) pp 244-250  www.jstor.org (Accessed 24 February 2011)
  2. Nicolson, Colin “A plan “to banish all the Scotchmen”: Victomization and political mobilization in pre-revolutionary Boston.” Massachusetts Historical Review, Vol. 9 (2007) pp 64 Jstor.org (Accessed 24 February 2011).
  3. Virginia Gazette Archives Online, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/VirginiaGazette
  4. Gerlach, Don R. Philip Schuyler and the American Revolution in New York 1733-1777. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1964)
  5. York, Niel Longley “Rival Truths, political Accommodation and the Boston ‘Massacre'” Massachusetts Historical Review Vol. 11, pp 60. Jstor.org (Accessed 24 February 2011)
  6. CIA, Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983 http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/index.htm#hre (Accessed 25 April 2011)
  7. Allen, Thomas B. Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2010)