Tag Archives: American Revolution

Everyday People and the American Revolution

By John W. Whitehead

We elevate the events of the American Revolution to near-mythical status all too often and forget that the real revolutionaries were people just like you and me. Caught up in the drama of Red Coats marching, muskets exploding and flags waving in the night, we lose sight of the enduring significance of the Revolution and what makes it relevant to our world today. Those revolutionaries, by and large, were neither agitators nor hotheads. They were not looking for trouble or trying to start a fight. Like many today, they were simply trying to make it from one day to another, a task that was increasingly difficult as Britain’s rule became more and more oppressive.

The American Revolution did not so much start with a bang as with a whimper—a literal cry for relief from people groaning under the weight of Britain’s demands. The seeds of discontent had been sown early on. By the time the Stamp Act went into effect on November 1, 1765, the rumbling had become a roar.

The Stamp Act, passed by the British Parliament with no representation from the colonies (thus raising the battle cry of “no taxation without representation”), required that revenue stamps be affixed to all printed materials. It was an onerous tax that affected every colonist who engaged in any type of business. Outraged at the imposition, the colonists responded with a flood of pamphlets, speeches and resolutions. They staged a boycott of British goods and organized public protests, mass meetings, parades, bonfires and other demonstrations.

Mercy Otis Warren was an active propagandist against the British and a prime example of the critical, and often overlooked, role that women played in the Revolution. Historian Nina Baym writes, “With the exception of Abigail Adams, no woman in New England was more embroiled in revolutionary political talk than Mercy Otis Warren.” Warren penned several plays as a form of protest, including The Group in 1775. As Baym writes: “The Group is a brilliant defense of the revolutionary cause, a political play without a patriot in it. In letting the opposition drop their masks of decency, Warren exposes them as creatures of expediency and selfishness, men who are domestic as well as political tyrants.”

Although Parliament repealed the Stamp Tax in 1766, it boldly moved to pass the Townshend Acts a year later. The Townshend Acts addressed several issues. First, any laws passed by the New York legislature were suspended until the colony complied with the Quartering Act, which required that beds and supplies be provided for the king’s soldiers. And duties (or taxes) were imposed on American imports of glass, lead, paint, paper and tea.

Americans responded in outrage through printed materials and boycotts. In Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer, which appeared in newspapers and pamphlets, attorney John Dickinson argued that Parliament had no right to levy taxes for revenue. He also cautioned that the cause of liberty be advanced with moderation. But as historians George Brown Tindall and David Emory Shi write, “Such conciliatory language led John Adams to dismiss Dickinson as a ‘piddling genius.’” Samuel Adams responded by organizing protests in Boston. And in 1768, Samuel Adams and James Otis circulated a letter throughout the colonies that reiterated their concerns about the illegality of British taxation and asked for support from the other colonists. When an official in London ordered that the letter be withdrawn, they refused. By 1773, Samuel Adams had convinced the Boston town meeting to form a “Committee of Correspondence,” a group of protesting American colonists. The Committee issued a statement of rights and grievances and invited other towns to do the same.

Thereafter, Committees of Correspondence sprang up across Massachusetts. And in 1773, the Virginia Assembly proposed the formation of Committees of Correspondence on an inter-colonial basis. A network of committees spread across the colonies, mobilizing public opinion and preventing colonial resentments from boiling over. As a result, the Committees of Correspondence played a critical role in the unification of the colonies. Author Nat Hentoff writes:

In 1805, Mercy Otis Warren—in her History of the Rise and Progress and Termination of the American Revolutions, emphasized: “Perhaps no single step contributed so much to cement the union of the colonies, and the final acquisition of independence, as the establishment of the Committees of Correspondence . . . that produced unanimity and energy throughout the continent.” These patriots spread the news throughout the colonies about such British subversions of fundamental liberties as the general search warrant that gave British customs officers free reign to invade homes and offices in pursuit of contraband.

We would do well to remember that, in the end, it was the courage and resolve of common, everyday people that carried the day. Courage was a key ingredient in the makeup of the revolutionaries. The following vignette offers a glimpse of one man’s strong stand in the face of the British army.

Two months before the battles of Lexington and Concord, the British sent Colonel Leslie with 240 men to seize arms and ammunition which the rebels had stored in Salem. As the troops approached town, residents halted their progress by lifting the Northfield drawbridge. Several inhabitants climbed onto the raised leaf of the bridge and engaged in a shouting match with Colonel Leslie on the other side. William Gavett, an eyewitness, reported the incident:

In the course of the debate between Colonel Leslie and the inhabitants, the colonel remarked that he was upon the King’s Highway and would not be prevented passing over the bridge.

Old Mr. James Barr, an Englishman and a man of much nerve, then replied to him: “It is not the King’s Highway; it is a road built by the owners of the lots on the other side, and no king, country or town has anything to do with it.”

Colonel Leslie was taken aback, but he pressed the issue; James Barr held firm, knowing he was in the right. In the end, Leslie promised to march only fifty rods “without troubling or disturbing anything” if the residents of Salem would lower the bridge. The bridge came down, Leslie kept his word, and the opening battle of the American Revolution was postponed. Old James Barr had taken on the British empire with a few simple words.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about the Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

The Plight of Marco Sauceda and the Loss of Our Freedoms

By John W. Whitehead

“A person should feel secure in their own home. No matter black, white, Hispanic, Asian, I don’t care who they are, they should feel secure in their own home. The police have no right to come in your house and push you around and beat you up and do the things they did on March, 15, 2009.”—Ryan Deaton, defense attorney for Marco Sauceda

Too often, we elevate the events of the American Revolution to near-mythic status and forget that the real revolutionaries were neither agitators nor hotheads, neither looking for trouble nor trying to start a fight. Rather, they were people just like you and me, simply trying to make it from one day to another, a task that was increasingly difficult as Britain’s rule became more and more oppressive.

America was born during a time of martial law, when government troops stationed themselves in homes and trespassed on property without regard for the rights of owners. Prior to the American Revolution, there was virtually no right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. As a consequence, British soldiers entered homes and places of business, virtually at will. The effects on the American people were devastating and long-lasting. As one colonist wrote, “our houses, and even our bedchambers, are exposed to be ransacked, our boxes, trunks, and chests broke open, ravaged and plundered by wretches whom no prudent man would venture to employ even as menial servants.”

Fast forward more than 200 years and we seem to have come full circle, once again being victimized by government agents that show little regard for our property or our persons. Indeed, if you want to get a sense of what “justice” in America has been reduced to, just consider the case of 30-year-old Marco Sauceda, who was recently sentenced to serve 30 days in jail and pay a $500 fine for resisting arrest after police mistook him for a burglar in his own home.

Police entered Sauceda’s Texas home on March 15, 2009, allegedly after a neighbor reported seeing a black man kicking in the front door. Obviously frightened, Sauceda, a Honduran immigrant who speaks no English and has the mind of a child, barricaded himself in his bathroom in response to the police invasion. When police did finally get Sauceda out of the bathroom, they pepper-sprayed him, shot him with a pepper ball gun and wrestled him to the ground.

Anyone with an ounce of sense would recognize that there’s something wrong when an innocent man with the mental acuity of a child is not only subjected to a warrantless invasion of his home by police officers but is physically brutalized by those same government agents and then forced to serve time for resisting arrest. And in fact, the jurors in Sauceda’s case did recognize that he had been wronged, but other than asking the judge for leniency in sentencing, they did nothing to right that wrong—they rendered him guilty. The judge was no better, going so far as to suggest that the unarmed Sauceda should have been sentenced to six months in jail for, believe it or not, putting the police officers—who were armed to the teeth, no doubt—in harm’s way.

This case highlights everything that is wrong with the so-called criminal justice system in America, a system whose shortcomings are more often condoned by the judiciary than set right. Unfortunately, whatever protections we have under the law are being steadily eroded by legislation and court rulings that render the individual completely defenseless against the encroachments of the state. In a very real sense, we truly are back to where we started in those pre-Revolutionary War days, seemingly having learned next to nothing from those early days of tyranny at the hands of the British crown.

We are once again being subjected to broad search warrants, government agents trespassing on property without regard for the rights of owners and the blurring of all distinctions—for purposes of searches and seizures—between what is private and public property. Once again, the courts and state legislatures are seen to favor the interests of government officials, especially law enforcement, even if it comes at the expense of civil liberties. Indeed, there is no true justice in a court system where the judge, the prosecutor and the police form a triad against the accused. And once again, Americans are finding themselves underrepresented, overtaxed and forced at gunpoint, practically, to dance to the government’s tune. The similarities to pre-Revolutionary America are startling.

As government invariably oversteps its authority, Americans are faced with the pressing need to maintain the Constitution’s checks against governmental power and abuse. After all, it was not idle rhetoric that prompted the framers of the Constitution to begin with the words “We the people.”

We must remember that our freedoms were created with extraordinary care and foresight, but they were not meant simply for the moment. Our precious liberties were to be passed on to our descendants indefinitely. As the Preamble to the Constitution declares, the Constitution was drafted to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Formally adopted on September 17, 1787, it has long served as the bulwark of American freedom. And we the citizens are entrusted as guardians of those freedoms. When we shirk that duty, we leave ourselves wide open for an authoritarian regime to rise to power, place restrictions on our freedoms and usurp our right to govern ourselves.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about the Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Can America Restore Its Judeo-Christian Heritage?

By Prof. Paul Eidelberg

Do you know that the American Declaration of Independence is a theocratic as well as a political document? Do you know, as Lincoln knew, that the Declaration contains the philosophy of the American Constitution?

The signers of that revolutionary document justified their rebellion against the laws of Great Britain by appealing to a Higher Law, “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Judging, however, from the Senate confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayer and Elena Kagan, neither of these new Supreme Court justices understands or agrees that only God can endow the American people with the rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and make them “inalienable.” Mr. Obama and his appointees do not understand that without this Higher Law doctrine, the Declaration’s long list of grievances against the British Crown would be nothing more than arbitrary expressions of discontent having no moral justification.

In the absence of that Higher Law, however, the Court can rule that “everything is justiciable,” including those inalienable God-given rights. These smug, know-nothing individuals would strip the Constitution of any moral foundation and open the door to unlimited government or tyranny.

Americans needs reminding that the laws and institutions prescribed in their Constitution were designed to preclude the evils enumerated in the Declaration. The Framers of the Constitution effectively translated into political and institutional terms the theological manifesto of that document.[i] Yet, no one deemed the Government established under the Constitution a theocracy—quite apart from the First Amendment’s clause regarding religion. That Amendment, as initially understood, simply prohibited Congress from establishing a State religion. Revolted by the example of England, the American Founding Fathers refused to sacralize the modern nation-state, which they deemed powerful enough without investing it with religious authority. America’s monotheistic culture was opposed to a state religion.

That culture was rooted in the Judeo-Christian heritage, in which not the State but the People are sovereign under God.[ii] If we think within the context of such a culture and maintain intellectual detachment from our present culture of Triumphant Secularism, it will be obvious that the First Amendment does not prevent Congress from passing laws supportive of the ethical monotheism or universal moral principles of the Declaration.

The ethical monotheism of early America was of paramount significance. Many early American statesmen and educators were schooled in Hebraic civilization. The second President of the United States, John Adams, a Harvard graduate and signer of the Declaration, had this to say of the Jewish people:

The Jews have done more to civilize men than any other nation…. They are the most glorious Nation that ever inhabited the earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a bauble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily than any other Nation, ancient or modern.[iii]

The curriculum at Harvard, like those of other early American colleges and universities, was designed by learned and liberal men of “Old Testament” persuasion. Harvard president Increase Mather (1685-1701) was an ardent Hebraist. His writings contain numerous quotations from the Talmud as well as from the works of Sa’adia Gaon, Rashi, Maimonides and other classic Jewish commentators.

Yale University president Ezra Stiles readily discoursed on the Mishna and Talmud with visiting rabbinical authorities. Hebrew and the study of Hebraic laws and institutions were an integral part of Yale’s as well as of Harvard’s curriculum. Much the same may be said of King’s College (later Columbia University), William and Mary, Rutgers, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown University. Hebrew learning was then deemed a basic element of liberal education.

This attitude was not merely academic. On May 31, 1775, almost on the eve of the American Revolution, Harvard president Samuel Langdon, addressing the Congress of Massachusetts Bay, declared: “Every nation … has a right to set up over itself any form of government which to it may appear most conducive to its common welfare. The civil polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model.” (Emphasis added.)

Although Jefferson was no admirer of the Hebrew Bible, he framed the Declaration with a view to galvanizing the Bible-reading public in support of the Revolution. When he became President he supported Baptist churches.

During the colonial and constitution-making period, the Americans, especially the Puritans, adapted various Hebraic laws for their own governance. The legislation of New Haven, for example, was based on the premise that “the judicial laws of God, as they were delivered by Moses … being neither … ceremonial, nor ha[ving] any reference to Canaan, shall … generally bind all offenders, till they be branched out into particulars hereafter.”

Of course, the Jewish roots of the American Constitution should not obscure the fact that America is first and foremost a Christian nation (Barack Obama to the contrary notwithstanding). This was confirmed in a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court as late as 1892! In the case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, Justice Brewer wrote:

? If we examine the constitutions of the various states, we find in them a constant recognition of religious obligations. Every Constitution of every one of the … states contains language which, either directly or by clear implication, recognizes a profound reverence for religion, and an assumption that its influence in all human affairs is essential to the wellbeing of the community.

? Even the Constitution of the United States, which is supposed to have little touch upon the private life of the individual, contains in the First Amendment a declaration common to the constitutions of all the states, as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”… [and yet] also provides in Article I, Section 7, a provision common to many constitutions, that the executive shall have ten days (Sundays excepted) within which to determine whether he will approve or veto a bill. There is no dissonance in these declarations. … They affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation…. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people.

? In People v. Ruggles (1811), Chancellor Kent, the great commentator on American law, speaking as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, said [in a case involving blasphemous publications]: “The people of this state, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity as the rule of their faith and practice, and to scandalize the author of these doctrines is not only, in a religious point of view, extremely impious, but, even in respect to the obligations due to society, is a gross violation of decency and good order. . . . The free, equal, and undisturbed enjoyment of religious opinion, whatever it may be, and free and decent discussions on any religious subject, is granted and secured; but to revile, with malicious and blasphemous contempt, the religion professed by almost the whole community is an abuse of that right.

? Nor are we bound by any expressions in the Constitution … either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately the like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet or of the Grand Lama, and for this plain reason, that the case [before us] assumes that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors.

Chancellor Kent’s denigration of Muhammad and the Grand Lama is of course shocking. But we were speaking of the Judeo-Christian heritage underlying the Declaration and the Constitution.

This heritage of “natural rights” or of “natural law” has been eviscerated by the academic doctrine of moral relativism and its political counterpart the Progressive Movement. Although the institutional structure of the Constitution remains largely intact, the Supreme Court’s amoral and government-expanding interpretation of various constitutional amendments has spawned unfettered freedom of expression and indiscriminate equality, which have vulgarized and secularized America and buried the meritocracy that was to coexist with democracy. America now has a leveling and meaningless or “evolutionary constitution.” The immutable “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” have been replaced by historical relativism. Evolution has produced a leviathan, a “nanny state,” dispensing “entitlements” which not only stifles entrepreneurship. Rewards without effort undermine the sense of shame.

This is the smug, know-nothing agenda of America’s first anti-American president. Can America overcome this degradation and restore its Judeo-Christian heritage?


[i] I do not ignore the influence of Locke and Montesquieu, whose mentality, however, is hardly conceivable apart from the Biblical tradition.

[ii] This paragraph (except for references to the Torah) is indebted to Professor Will Morrisey in an email to the author. I am especially grateful for his reference to the cultural aspect of the First Amendment.

[iii] Cited in Pathways to the Torah (Jerusalem: Aish HaTorah Publications, 1988), p. A6.2. See Paul Eidelberg, The Philosophy of the American Constitution: A Reinterpretation of the Intentions of the Founding Fathers (New York: Free Press, 1968; University Press of America, 1988, Appendix 2.

Source: Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, September 6, 2010.

Lesbian Bus Driver Berates Girl Over Her Christian Views

In 2008, a lesbian bus driver was caught on video bullying a Christian girl. The video shows the repeated verbal attacks were elicited by the girl’s expressed views about abortion same-sex marriage. The girl’s father complained to the Indiana’s Carmel School District officials, but the school board officials defended the abusive actions of the lesbian driver. Attorneys representing the middle school girl and her parents have filed a lawsuit against the driver and the school system.

If the driver had been religious and had lectured a gay student for her views, the school board would have fired the driver as soon as the gay students parents had complained, and rightfully so. No school employee has a right to berate, belittle, or verbally attack any student for his or her views.

Based on other incidents over the past few years, it appears so-called gay rights trump the rights of all other Americans. This is nothing new. The end result of gay rights is as ancient as Semites like Abraham and his nephew Lott. The lesson taught by the story about Sodom and Gomorrah in chapters 18-19 of Genesis is that tolerance of immoral behaviors eventually results in zero rights except those approved by gays and their supporters. Gay rights is therefore just another subtle form of tyranny.

One bright spot in the history of tyranny is George Washington’s victory over gay British generals, womanizing British commanders, and partying officers. If it wasn’t for them, American liberty would have been a misty dream of past revolutions buried in a dusty grave with many hopes for thecommon goods of true justice. (Read God In The Trenches by Larkin Spivey for this part of American history.)