“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” I am fascinated by the reaction people seem to have when they hear or repeat this quote. I believe they stand taller, breathe deeper, and their pulse may quicken with a surge of adrenaline triggered by their spirit of liberty and their dreams of freedom. Hearing the words, they mentally celebrate a victory over an oppressive government. Unfortunately, their imagined emotional triumph comes before their impending struggle for political survival even begins.
To his credit, most people know that Thomas Jefferson is the originator of this pithy quote. It is taken from a letter he wrote in 1787 to William S. Smith, John Adams’ secretary and future son-in-law. Jefferson complains that British newspapers and pamphlets are deliberately spreading rumors that the colonies have degraded into total anarchy. This was the British justification for using soldiers to reestablish law and order. Jefferson argues that Shay’s Rebellion is being propagandized out of proportion. Daniel Shays led an armed group of poor farmers who were suffering from excessive debt and taxes, many of whom were being placed in debtor’s prison, and having their property confiscated by the government.
Jefferson writes, “the British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. yet where does this anarchy exist? where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? and can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. they were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. god forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion.”
History often repeats itself. We are experiencing a similar financial crisis in America today. Huge financial institutions such as CitiBank and AIG have announced bankruptcy, and several automotive giants are begging for bailouts. Unemployment is already at 20% and expected to get worse before it gets better. Many are concerned about losing their homes to foreclosure. Although it was a far cry from Shays’ Rebellion, millions of Americans gathered in a thousand cities across the country last month to express widespread discontent with government in general, and with Congress’ profligate spending in particular. The main stream media spent the next four days trying to convince us that our nationwide protest failed due to lack of interest. If thousands of simultaneous Tea Parties had been woefully unsuccessful in communicating our discontent, I seriously doubt they would have been mentioned on television at all.
Jefferson acknowledges that it is often necessary to base our decisions on incomplete information, but he cautions against using that as an excuse for inaction. “The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.” Apathy is a dangerous precondition for slavery. The Founding Fathers were many things, but they can never be accused of being apathetic. Today the Internet and twenty-four hour news channels flood us with so much information that some might argue that we are faced with the problem of too much data rather than not enough. We should not allow ourselves to become so overwhelmed with information (and crisis) that we fail to act, frozen with indecision like a wide-eyed deer in the headlights.
Here is the question that many are afraid to even ask. How does one determine whether or not they have sufficient information (i.e. justification) to act against the government? Many of the recent conversations I’ve had with other patriots have revolved around this very issue. There is rarely, if ever, any debate over the philosophical right we have to overthrow a tyrannical government. However more and more people are openly nervous about the increasing likelihood that physical resistance (i.e. violence) will be necessary to preserve our sovereignty over the government. In other words, we don’t argue IF we can use violence, but carefully (and quietly) debate WHEN we should use it. Isn’t it dangerous to even suggest the use of force against the government? Of course it’s dangerous! The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were also effectively signing their own death warrants. Do you think that “Give me Liberty or give me Death!” is just a clever bumper sticker?
Let us review our history. The Declaration of Independence reminds us that governments are created to secure the rights of the people, and therefore the people always retain the right to “alter or abolish” the government when they believe it is violating those rights. It is ridiculous and dangerously naïve to think that any tyrannical government will be dissuaded from their evil ways by elegant prose and fancy speeches. For nearly fifteen years the colonies tried to negotiate with King George by way of written petition. The result, documented in the Declaration, “In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” It is a waste of time to negotiate with terrorists (or pirates).
The decision to use violence is wisely and necessarily a cautious one. Every effort must be made to arbitrate a peaceful conclusion. In late 1774 delegates from each of the thirteen states gathered in Philadelphia as the Continental Congress. Their purpose was to examine the evidence and decide what should be done about the King. Their conclusion, after much heated debate, was to write and sign the Declaration of Independence. Please note that the Declaration was written one full year after blood had been shed at Lexington and Concord.
Congressional legislation such as the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the Homegrown Terrorism Act are without doubt “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinc[ing] a design to reduce them under absolute despotism”. The Founders would insist that we have not only the right, but also the duty “to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security”. I believe it is time to follow the example of our Founding Fathers. It is time to convene the Continental Congress 2009.
The overall plan is simple. Each state will nominate and select three delegates to represent the state. It is assumed that the delegates will embody the same level of wisdom and passion for liberty demonstrated by the original congress. The 150 delegates will be expected to debate for several weeks over numerous possible courses of action, just as the original Founding Fathers did. Of course, this is more easily said than done. If only a fraction of the population participates in the selection of delegates, then any conclusion they reach can and will be brushed aside as frivolous and irrelevant. Your apathy is a dangerous precondition for your children’s slavery.
I urge you to visit WeThePeopleCongress.org to find out more about this historic effort. Do not procrastinate until you have all the details before you volunteer your services to this project. Do not be deceived and alarmed when the main stream media begins to paint this grassroots organization as an unruly mob advocating anarchy – because they will. If you are concerned for your children… If you are disturbed by news reports about civil unrest in this country… If you want to help find a peaceful resolution to these problems in order to prevent violent confrontation with the government… then devote your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor to the Continental Congress 2009. The only other options are slavery or violent rebellion.
“And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”