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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Remember, Remember, The First Of September

On the anniversary of the Powder Alarm, it's probably good to remark not only on that particular incident, but also provide the context within which it took place:

The Massachusetts Revolution of 1774 was the most successful popular uprising in the nation's history, the only one to remove existing political authority.  Despite its power--or possibly because of its power--this momentous event has been virtually lost to history.
...
The very strengths of the Revolution of 1774 have insured its anonymity.  The force of the people was so overwhelming that violence became unnecessary.  The handful of Crown-appointed officials...when confronted by 4,622 angry militiamen, had no choice but to submit.  Had opposition been stronger, there might have been violence; that would have made for a bloodier tale but a weaker revolution.
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The United States owes its very existence to the premise that all authority resides with the people, yet our standard telling of history does not reflect this fundamental principle.  The story of the revolution before the Revolution can remind us of what we are all about.

Some more deets on that successful, bloodless revolution in Mass:

For ordinary citizens, the most visible sign of direct British rule under [1774's Coercive] Acts was to be seen in each county’s Court of Common Pleas. These courts, in session four times a year, heard hundreds of cases, most involving the nonpayment of debts. The courts, with their power to foreclose on property, would now be presided over by new judges, appointed by the royal governor and answerable only to him. Understandably, the county courthouses became the focus of the colonists’ resistance to the new regime:

    * When the governor’s new judges arrived at the Worcester County courthouse, they were met by a crowd of five or six thousand citizens, including one thousand armed militamen. The judges, sheriffs, and lawyers were forced to process in front of the crowd and repeatedly promise not to hold court under the terms of the Acts.

    * In Great Barrington, 1500 unarmed men packed the courthouse so full that the judges literally could not take their seats.

    * In Springfield, a crowd of about 3000 forced the judges and other officials to resign their positions.

In addition to closing the courts, crowds throughout the colony forced the resignations (or escapes into Boston) of all thirty-six of the governor’s councilors, including Thomas Oliver, the lieutentant governor of the colony. They also ignored the prohibition against nonapproved town meetings; they not only met, they held elections, and began to assemble an armed colonial militia. In short, they simply ignored the royal government and proceeded to set up their own.

In a period of about thirty days, from mid-August to mid-September of 1774, the ordinary people of rural Massachusetts, mostly farmers, ended British rule over themselves and their countryside forever. With no real organization, no official leaders, no fixed institutions – and no bloodshed – they went up against the most powerful empire on earth, and won. Their victory resulted from the sheer force of their numbers, along with their unshakable determination to be their own rulers. As one British loyalist unhappily put it at the time: “Government has now devolved upon the people; and they seem to be for using it.”

Not exactly Gandhian, but the force used didn't devolve into violent bloodshed, and freed one Colony from the yoke of British oppression.  The only question remaining was whether the rest of America would join in the fight for liberty...

ntodd

September 1, 2012 | Permalink

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