Those Pesky Veterans

There is an eternal love-hate relationship between those who hold the scepter of Power and their former bearers-of-arms who they wielded against their enemies real or imagined, foreign or domestic. This is not unique in modern times nor just Western civilizations. Veterans themselves often chafe at the lackeys of those currently in power and how their image is manipulated in the eyes of the public.

The truth is that the wielder of the scepter sometimes does have to be concerned about veterans. On August 11th, 1766 this concern would manifest itself in the form of a naval captain, born in the colonies, who had formerly fought on the side of Great Britain during the French and Indian War (Seven Years War in Europe). His name was Isaac Sears and before day’s end he would find himself on the receiving end of a British bayonet.

Why he was in front of an outraged crowd of Colonials that day was obvious. The evening before British troops had descended upon the Liberty Pole and chopped it down. The Liberty Pole had been erected by the Sons of Neptune at the time to recognize the repeal of the Stamp Act. But who were the leaders of the Sons of Neptune?

New York’s Liberty Pole was largely the work of four Whig leaders: John Lamb, Joseph Allicocke, Isaac Sears, and Alexander McDougall. Their biographies were typical Manhattan stories. All were self-made men, humble in their origins and mixed in their ethnicity.

*Note to Student Readers: “Whig leaders” in this case means the Whig movement and does not refer to the Whig Political Party of the early 19th century.

Isaac Sears had been successful at sea during the war and returned to monetize his contacts in foreign ports into a small trading business. His straight talk and blunt language being more at home among the lumpers and longshoreman, the New York elites sarcastically dubbed the upstart nouveau-riche as “King Sears”.

After the war, Sears established himself as a West Indian merchant in New York, where by his mid-thirties he was living like a gentleman-though everyone could tell by his quarterdeck manners that he wasn’t one.

The notoriously tight-fisted merchant class needed to maneuver between the New York aristocratic elite, who had the King’s favor and whose gold they cherished, and the community of skilled workers in which they lived.  When it came time to organize an opposition without getting their own hands dirty or their own names sullied, they would choose for one of their leaders to be Isaac Sears.

Many leading names were proposed, but all refused the duty. Finally five men volunteered their services and were accepted. They were the most ardent members of the Sons of Liberty, and included Isaac Sears, John Lamb, Gershom Mott, William Wiley, and Thomas Robinson. Although Sears and Lamb were merchants and popular leaders, it is curious that the two hundred assembled conservative merchants of New York selected men having relatively little involvement in city affairs.

There are always military units that can be deployed in a pinch when you need to apply armed violence against a people. In this case the unit without qualms in that regard would be the 28th Foot. General Thomas Gage called for the unit to march down from Quebec and lodge themselves at the north end of the city. The troops would arrive earlier in August, just in time to make their mark.

New Yorkers reviled the Regulars and gathered around the Liberty Pole to tell them so. The Regulars made clear their contempt for the colonists and began to look upon the Liberty Pole as an affront to their honor. On the night of August 10, a party of soldiers from the Twenty-eighth Foot sallied from their barracks and cut down the Liberty Pole.

This event and the subsequent actions would be reported in print media. A protest occurred the next day (August 11th) at the site of the Pole where Issac Sears was found staring down the muskets and bayonets of the soldiers. It is from the sworn testimony of a carpenter that we know what happened next.

…that as soon as they came up to the deponent and others, they, the soldiers, fell foul of them by cutting and flashing every one that fell in their way; and those with him were obliged to retire for safety; that the said soldiers pursued them as far as Chaple-Street; that several persons were cut and wounded by the said soldiers, particularly Captain Sears, and John Berrien, and further saith not.

Fear and intimidation work because of the near-mythological aura carefully cultivated and cast upon those who hold the scepter of Power and their bearers-of-arms. Veterans have served the other side in some capacity and know the illusion for what it is. While some veterans may still feel loyalty towards the scepter, even if not its bearer, others will calmly ignore it. Some few will stand in opposition as Issac Sears did when that force is used to suppress the liberties of themselves and those they love.

 

The Year of The Woman

Feudal obligation seems quite at odds with the character that was the American Colonies, yet it existed until the colonial yoke was thrown off. Up until 1938 there was a clause in the New York Constitution banning feudal tenures, written  in part  from the discord of the summer of 1766. This was not mild resentment expressed in the form of opinions written in local newspapers.

The City alarmed from the approach of Country levellers called the West Chester men. The Militia ordered to hold themselves in readiness. Letters Received from them in town declaring that if Mr. Courtlandt does not give them a grant forever of his Lands, they will march with their Body now collected and pull down his house in town…

Of course, the leaders of the movement would be eventually rounded up following a skirmish in Dutchess Country between the levellers and the 28th Regiment. Mr. Prendergast would escape but was eventually persuaded by his wife to turn himself in.

A governmental proclamation issued on April 30, 1766, offered a reward for the seizure of specifically named leaders of the farmers’ movement, including William Prendergast. By the end of June, 1766, the movement involved approximately 1,700 tenant farmers, armed with firearms. They were known as “levelers,” because they believed that their equitable claim to the land should be recognized and their leases converted into fee simple titles. On June 20th, the Governor’s Council sent the Twenty-Eighth Regiment to disperse the crowd and arrest the leaders.

There are those who would applaud a boot on the neck of the oppressed as long as the ones wearing the boots are waving the right flag. Things were not so different in 1766. William Livingston, who would become Governor of New Jersey, was one such person. Both he and his partners in law had a vested interest in ensuring the preeminence of titled landholders. It is unsurprising then that when it came time for justice, his partners would be on the side prosecuting William Prendergast.

Scott and Smith personally prosecuted William Prendergast, the leveller leader, who wanted to distribute property more evenly. Although Livingston was not directly connected to the proceedings, he sympathized with his relatives and friends who wanted to protect their vested interests.

It is the trial where the wife of Mr. Prendergast makes an appearance and shows those around her why she should not be underestimated. Charged with high treason, William Prendergast was forbidden legal counsel but the attorney general could not keep his wife, Mehitable, from being at the trial. Indeed it was she who acted as his defense.

The young Quaker lady exercised orderly logic and personal charm in the defense of her husband in the old Poughkeepsie Courthouse that day.

But William and Mehitable indeed had a very difficult task since the jury she was accused of influencing for her husband was “stacked”.

Not surprisingly, the jury found Mr. Prendergast guilty of high treason. The landholders were all quite pleased with their ability to put the matter to rest while keeping their own hands clean and their positions secure. It was not a shock to anyone when the judge handed down the sentence to be carried out on September 28th.

The prisoner be led back to the place whence he came, and from thence shall be drawn on a hurdle to the place for execution, and then shall be hanged by the neck, and then shall be cut down alive, and his entrails and privy members shall be cut from his body, and shall be burned in his sight, and his head shall be cut off, and his body shall be divided in four parts, and shall be disposed of at the king’s pleasure.

(Note for children who still study the Constitution in school: When the 8th Amendment says “…nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”, the Founders really were not thinking about whether a convicted criminal being served day-old bread was a cruel or unusual form of punishment.)

This might be where the story ends, except the title of this post is “The Year of The Woman” and Mehitable Prendergast is not even close to being done yet. Before the ink was even dry on her husband’s sentence, she was on horseback alone making a trip to the governor’s mansion, operating on no sleep – just grit and determination.

After completing the exhausting trip of some 80 miles, she immediately dismounted, begged and was given and audience with the governor.

No doubt using the same skill with which she tried to defend her husband before the jury, she pleaded her case before the governor. This time there was more success – she was able to get the governor to write out a reprieve until such time as the pardon request could get to London. Mehitable’s job was not yet done however. There was a serious risk that the tenant farmers would rise up once again as a result of her husband’s death sentence. The other possibility being that landholders would move to push up the execution.  So, she turned around and rode back at the best speed she could manage.

Her fatigue must have been incredible and she must have longed for her own home and sleep. In less than three days she had ridden horseback and alone for 160 miles, obtained a pardon, and all this after the trial ordeal of 24 sleepless hours.

Six months later, news would arrive on a ship from London that a Royal pardon had been given. The Prendergasts would eventually head out into the frontier and settle in Tennessee for a while before eventually returning to New York.  It seems to me that Mehitable Prendergast is at least as important to United States history as Shirley Chisholm, the New York politician nominated by the National Women’s Political Caucus at the 1972 DNC Convention and who was the subject of the documentary Year Of The Woman.

When assimilation goes bad, empires fall.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A people find themselves fleeing into southern Europe, forced from their homelands by war and unspeakable violence. Their culture is obviously at odds with those of the region that they are moving into. Their peoples are a tribal society with a strong authoritarian bent. They are well recognized as blood thirsty warriors themselves. Oh, and did I mention that they REALLY did not like Christians?

It is said that a wooden image was placed on a wagon, and that those instructed by Athanaric to undertake this task wheeled it round to the tent of any of those who were denounced as Christians and ordered them to do homage and sacrifice to it; and the tents of those who refused to do so were burned, with the people inside.

When the chief men in Gothia began to be moved against the Christians, compelling them to eat sacrificial meat, it occurred to some of the pagans in the village in which Saba lived to make the Christians who belonged to them eat publicly before the persecutors meat that had not been sacrificed in place of that which had, hoping thereby to preserve the innocence of their own people and at the same time to deceive the persecutors. Learning this, the blessed Saba not only himself refused to touch the forbidden meat but advanced into the midst of the gathering and bore witness, saying to everyone, ‘If anyone eats of that meat, this man cannot be a Christian’, and he prevented them all from falling into the Devil’s snare.

Heard that one, huh? Well for those who haven’t, it is the middle decades of the Fourth Century AD. Several tribes of Goths have left their homelands heading west, avoiding death, destruction and subjugation by the Huns.

So here were these multitudes, unable to return to their homes yet their path blocked by the Roman Empire. Never ones to let their past actions stand in their way, they sent envoys to Emperor Valens entreating him to allow their peoples to move into Thracia.

After long deliberation by common consent they finally sent ambassadors into Romania to the Emperor Valens, brother of Valentinian, the elder Emperor, to say that if he would give them part of Thrace or Moesia to keep, they would submit themselves to his laws and commands. That he might have greater confidence in them, they promised to become Christians, if he would give them teachers who spoke their language.  When Valens learned this, he gladly and promptly granted what he had himself intended to ask. He received the Getae into the region of Moesia and placed them there as a wall of defense for his kingdom against other tribes.

On one hand, Emperor Valens was being presented with a fait accompli. The Goths were going to cross into Thracia whether he wanted them to or not. He had neither the forces nor the fortitude to stop them.

So….

In 376 as many as 1 million Goths gathered on the northern bank of the Danube, requesting permission to enter the Empire. Valens was in Antioch (modern day south-central Turkey) and his military forces were preoccupied with conflicts on the Persian frontier. Being in no position to actually prevent the Goths’ migration across the frontier, Valens “permitted” their entry. Under the leadership of two judges, Fritigern and Alavius, these Goths were settled in Thrace.

One could also claim that the good Emperor was being magnanimous, doing charitable work and spreading the word of the Church in the process. Bringing the wretched out of the cold, miserable wilderness and enlightening them through “civilization.” If only! If one is to believe Professor Strauss (who also has a nice Blog that is kept up to date), the Emperor’s actions were just about everything but noble. In his counterfactual essay titled “The Dark Ages Made Lighter“, he opens this way:

He was no humanitarian. Valens knew that the Visigoths were dangerous warriors but he planned to co-opt them and add them to his armies, which already had a Visigoth contingent. He needed more soldiers to fight Persia. He also knew that Visigothic refugees would bring wealth with them, which his officials could skim off, if not plunder outright – corruption being a depressing reality of Late Roman administration. In return, he insisted that the Visigoths lay down their arms when they crossed the Danube. The Visigoths agreed, but Valens should have known better.

Of course, not only did they keep their weapons but also their sacred objects to keep practicing their religion. Perceived, and actual, slights would eventually explode into conflict. This conflict would play out inside the borders of the Empire now – an external threat internalized.

Soon famine and want came upon them, as often happens to a people not yet well settled in a country. Their princes and the leaders who ruled them in place of kings, that is Fritigern, Alatheus and Safrac, began to lament the plight of their army and begged Lupicinus and Maximus, the Roman commanders, to open a market. But to what will not the “cursed lust for gold” compel men to assent? The generals, swayed by avarice, sold them at a high price not only the flesh of sheep and oxen, but even the carcasses of dogs and unclean animals, so that a slave would be bartered for a loaf of bread or ten pounds of meat. When their goods and chattels failed, the greedy trader demanded their sons in return for the necessities of life. And the parents consented even to this, in order to provide for the safety of their children, arguing that it was better to lose liberty than life; and indeed it is better that one be sold, if he will be mercifully fed, than that he should be kept free only to die.

Lupicinus would attempt to terminate the leadership of the refugees before open revolt occurred. Fritigern recognized the Roman commander’s duplicity and was able to escape the trap that had been set for him. Emperor Valens had set up the dominoes and Fritigern would get them tumbling and set a course of events that would ultimately put and end to Empire.

What followed was the Gothic War of 376 – 382, punctuated by the defeat (and death) of Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The massacre of two thirds of Valens army was the most stunning defeat that Rome had ever suffered at the hands of northern barbarians.

The end of the Gothic War in 382 would find the Empire forced to accept the Gothic tribes within their borders on the Goth’s terms. No longer required to assimilate, they would keep their own laws and culture. Momentum would carry the Roman Empire on for several more decades, but again and again it would find itself torn apart by internal strife and pressed on it extents by the inability to prevent the influx of other barbarian tribes.

What A Secret Treaty Wrought

It funny how Rulers removed from the situation on the ground, so often come up with “brilliant solutions” that then play out for years to come. No- this isn’t about the Asia Minor Agreement of 1916 AKA Sykes-Picot. Though that is another fine example that we are currently living with.

This secret treaty would ultimately result in the first large scale rebellion on the North American continent. The Treaty of Fountainebleau was inked in 1762 by the hands of Duke de Choiseul on behalf of King Louis XV of France and Marquis de Grimaldi for King Charles III of Spain. With a stroke of the pen the inhabitants of roughly a third of the Lower 48 was quitclaimed between regents like so many poker chips. It would be almost two years before the Europeans colonists in the Mississippi Valley knew what happened.

I missed this as a sestercentennial post earlier this month. On March 5th, 1766, Governor Antonio de Ulloa arrived in New Orleans to officially take possession of the former French colonists. He was given a Twelve Point Plan by King Charles III before he left. In addition to swapping the allegiances of the colonists, King Louis XV also gave the Spanish the means co-opt the French soldiers left behind. The Governor would only bring 75 soldiers with him. What could possibly go wrong? Both regents were very confident that those in Louisiana would be content with swapping one Catholic master for another.

There was a book written in 1976 on this rebellion. A Book Review is available. I’ll have to see if I can find a used copy on Amazon. The secret treaty helped to keep the colony out of the hands of Great Britain when French possessions were divided at the end of the Seven Years War. Specifically:

Great Britain officially conceded Spanish ownership of Louisiana in February 1763 in one of the series of treaties ending the French and Indian War. This gesture was a mere formality, for the territory had been in Spanish hands for almost three months.

In typical aristocratic fashion, the new governor would choose not to wield control over the colonials from the seat of government in New Orleans, but rather stay in his manor downriver in La Balize. Since Spanish power in the Americas was focused in Havana, perhaps he felt more secure being on the coast.

The next 24 months would increase the simmering resentment among the locals. Periodic post will be made on these anniversary events as well. In the meantime, take a look at this short summary of the events about to unfold.

By January 1765, the shock had now worn off, and the people of Louisiana felt angry and fearful. They had been abandoned by France, and now their freedoms and sources of wealth could be terminated by the Spanish. Some people conducted mass meetings demanding that France continue their control of Louisiana. The situation was becoming more explosive when, on 4 February 1765, Governor d’Abbadie died of a sudden illness.

 

Thirteen Clocks and the Myth of a Glorious Leader

It is the silly season. A presidential election that happen every four years. While this is not a political blog per se, it is about the importance of fundamental principles in society.

John Adams once wrote in a to Letter to Hezekiah Niles, marveling on the solidarity of American colonists, that:

The complete accomplishment of it in so short a time and by such simple means was perhaps a singular example in the history of mankind. Thirteen clocks were made to strike together – a perfection of mechanism which no artist had ever before effected.

There were no political parties represented at the First Continental Congress, nor the Second Continental Congress, nor the 1st Confederation Congress, nor even the 1st United States Congress. Neither was there a single Glorious leader guiding omnipotently though these years. What there was were colonists, some formally educated and others not, who stood on their principles and self interests. That Parliament had little desire take up their modest petitions was obvious up and down the seaboard. The list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence is a good two-thirds of the document because the interest of Carolinians were not the same as New Englanders.  The arrogance of the remote ruling class applied equally to all colonists.

Today, both parties are facing philosophical and regional insurrections the likes of which have not been seen in modern history. To simultaneously see this level dissension across BOTH parties you would have to go back to the 1860 election. The Donald and The Bern have both tapped into a simmering discontent, even if their approaches are vastly different.

Rather than looking for A Party to express their will, a significant portion of the electorate are looking for A Person – the quintessential Supertribal Leader from Desmond Morris’ Human Zoo. The parties have decided to look out only for their own interests. Better to have a known quantity in the White House instead of a wild-card, even if they are from the other party.

To match John Adams marveling of making the thirteen clocks strike at the same time, there is also the miracle that the leadership of the rebellion was decentralized. As children we are taught some of the names of “Founding Fathers” in school, but history has really only focused on a few names of military heroes and those who held public office later. Lets take a look at someone that has probably never graced a high school textbook – Captain John Felt.

Before Lexington and Concord, General Gage conducted a powder raid up the coast at Salem, Massachusetts. An account of the day’s events can be found in this text by Charles Endicott, however here is the important part:

At the moment these words were uttered by Captain Felt, a thrill of confidence was felt through the whole multitude. The people saw at once that he was just the man for the present emergency, and with unanimous, though tacit consent, looked to him as their leader in any movement which should he made for the further defence of the bridge.

Here is someone in the community who is respected, not for his words, but for his deeds. Here on the Sabbath, John Felt finds himself standing before a column of Red Coats, and doing the only thing he can do – the right thing. Colonel Leslie who was in charge of the Regulars was none too pleased with being waylaid at the North Bridge, unable to pass.

The Colonel then complained that his soldiers were much insulted, and expressed his determination to cross the bridge, saying he was upon the King’s highway and would not be prevented from passing freely over it. Old Mr. James Barr replied “it’ 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 any control over it.” The Colonel remarked “there may be two sides to that,” and Mr. Barr rejoined ” Egad I think it will be the best way for you to conclude the King has nothing to do with it.”

And there you have it. Parliament may not have been able to comprehend the level of discontent over their magnanimous ruling of the colonies – “it’s not the King’s highway…” Locals had decided to build the bridge and lay the byway.

Here’s a comparison. Try to get a township road district to put in a bridge over a creek today. You need to get the approval of the state Department of Transportation, and since you’re crossing a waterway – and all waterways are Federal, you’ll need the Corps approval, and of course the EPA will be involved since the construction may divert pollutants. Don’t forget that there may be a rare subspecies of bull frogs who will be adversely affected.  Time to bring in the Department of Interior and their various minions.

No single misguided Leader got the country to where it is today and no Glorious Leader has the capacity to keep their promises. At best, the two party system can be shaken up. Will it shatter like 1860? Only time will tell.

“…Utterly null and void to all in purposes whatsoever.”

There is always a risk when taking any position opposite that of your Rulers. In 1766, “The System” was the British Parliament. Faced with obnoxious opposition to their Stamp Act, the deliberative body would take it upon themselves to correct the problem. In the same breath that they would repeal the Stamp Act on March 18, 1766, they would issue the Declaratory Act.

And be it further declared and enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all resolutions, votes, orders, and proceedings, in any of the said colonies or plantations, whereby the power and authority of the parliament of Great Britain, to make laws and statutes as aforesaid, is denied, or drawn into question, arc, and are hereby declared to be, utterly null and void to all in purposes whatsoever.

This is the intellectual elite’s version of patting themselves on their powdered wigs and saying “Neener, neener!” What they did was basically state that the American colonists were too stupid and incapable of higher thinking when they were being worked up into a frenzy by self-interested radical firebrands.

Whew! I’m sure glad that we’ve moved past that level of rhetoric.

The arrogance and complete disconnect from what was going on in the hinterlands that were the American colonies is really hard to grasp. Two hundred and fifty years removed it seems so obvious. They were losing control of the political situation and were oblivious – truly incapable of understanding the depth of colonial discontent.  Here are a Few Pages of the debates on the repeal and Declaratory Act originally assembled back in 1919. Its a fairly short read but the dialog between the MPs is illustrative.

Generally speaking, the colonials didn’t buy it for a minute. Evidently they remained too stupid and inflamed. In this Anonymous Letter, the author calls out the MP’s for their headlong rush to the gentle precipice.

SIR: The Declaratory Act, passed by the Parliament at the time they repealed the Stamp Act, was such a violation of the Constitution, such an assumption of new powers, so subversive of liberty, and so destructive of properly, that it deserves particular observation….The abuse of these powers, or the attempt of one branch of the Legislature to extend its peculiar powers so as to abridge those of the others, has been the foundation of many civil wars and struggles in Britain.

Whew! It’s also a good thing that we’ve moved beyond an arrogant ruling class who would abuse the powers of a branch of government.

They would not learn their lesson, even twelves years on when a Peace Delegation would be sent to the Continental Congress in 1778. I came across this Facebook Post in my readings earlier this week and thought that it dovetailed nicely with the anniversary of the Declaratory Act.

The House of Commons creates a peace commission to negotiate with the American patriots because of France’s recognition of the United States. This commission travels to Philadelphia and accedes to all demands except for independence. The Continental Congress rejects their offer.

It was almost an exact restatement of the Declaratory Act. Of course we will address your petty grievances little minions as long as you realize that the Rules Laid Down By Parliament and Assented to by His Majesty the King remain preeminent and inviolable. Your little colonial congresses and town halls mean nothing to us.

The newspapers of the colonies were the Internet of their day, where the radical firebrands could write letters anonymously and stir up the masses. Even the editors were a little slow on the uptake. This was, in part, due to the elation that most felt – they had triumphed over “The System” and the Stamp Act had been repealed. It was less obvious in March of 1766 that while TPTB were publicly being contrite, that they were also laying the groundwork for dealing with future dissent more harshly. The long, hot summer of 1766 had yet to start.

 

Cape Fear and Second, and Third chances

No, this post is not about the Martin Scorsese film re-make from the 1990’s.

On the 26th day of February in 1766, His Excellency, the Royal Governor William Tryon signed a proclamation letting slip the dogs of wars upon His Majesty’s subjects in the colony of North Carolina.

By His Excellency William Tryon Esquire

Whereas a few days since a great number of Armed persons did tumultuously Assemble themselves together both at Wilmington and Brunswick to the Disturbances of the peace and good government of this Province, and in violation of the Laws of their Country by which they have subjected themselves to the severest penalties incurred by the several Laws to prevent Riotous and Seditious meetings—I have therefore thought proper By and with the advice and consent of His Majestys Council to issue this Proclamation strictly charging and commanding all officers both civil and Military to exert their Authority in suppressing all such illegal proceedings, as they shall answer the Contrary at their Peril.

Given under my hand and the Great Seal &c at Brunswick 26th day of February 1766 &c

Wm TRYON.
Cracking down on subjects who disturb the peace and hinder good governance – what reasonable person could possibly be against that?
Armed persons! Tumultuous assemblage! Goodness, gracious! What could have instigated such an outrage? On a sliver of land between the west bank of the Cape Fear River and Orton Pond, in the middle of unincorporated nowhere-land, stands a little plaque which might give the gentle reader a bit of insight.
On the 10th of February 1766, this building, known as Tryon’s Palace, was surrounded by one hundred and fifty armed men of the Cape Fear, led by George Moore of Orton and Cornelius Harnett, who resisted for the first time on this continent the authority of their Sovereign Lord the King, by demanding from Gov. Tryon the person of Capt. Lobb, H.M.S. Viper, and the surrender of the odious emblems of the British Parliament’s Stamp Act committed to his care which had been brought to Brunswick by Capt. Phipps in H.M.S. Diligence. Subsequently, on the 21st day of February 1766, at 10 A.M. a body of five hundred Cape Fear men, in arms, under Cornelius Harnett and Col. James Moore, surrounded this house and demanded the surrender of H.M. Comptroller, Mr. Pennington, and required of him an oath that he would never issue any stamped paper in this Province of North Carolina.
On this day, Mr. Harnett and Col. Moore would be standing on the side of personal liberty little knowing that in a few short years they would be co-opted into the pay of the Royal Governor against pioneers in the western part of the colony who would be standing up for their freedom in the War of Regulation. For his efforts against the pioneers, the King’s coffers would kick out “thirty pieces of silver” (inflation-adjusted to 100 pounds Sterling, of course).

This house taking into consideration the account of Mr. Cornelius Harnett in the late expedition against the insurgents and fully convinced of the great service rendered his country by his zeal and activity therein.

“Resolved, That he be allowed one hundred pounds to defray the extraordinary expend he was at in that service.

The good Colonel would go on to command an artillery regiment at the Battle of Almance that would become the turning point in the War of Regulation. Fate occasionally grant’s a person a second, or even third chance. Such would be the case for both Colonel Moore and Mr. Harnett during the War for Independence. Both would find themselves fighting on the side for liberty once again.

The same could not be said for Royal Governor Tryon. Following his decree, Capt. Lobb’s would strike out against the local community with the power of the Sovereign behind him – using Royal Marines to destroy the community’s privately held artillery pieces (not unlike these.)

Three days later boats from both Viper and Diligence combined in a nighttime amphibious operation to secretly infiltrate Fort Johnston that overlooked the harbor and to spike all of the colonial cannon found ther. With the ship’s guns run out of their ports the next morning, Lobb and Phipps released the three merchant vessels thereby diffusing further unrest in the colony.

Governor Tryon is alternately described in history books as either an honest, thoughtful, and efficient manager of his King’s subjects or as a thoroughly ruthless oppressor wielding his King’s power. The Governor would eventually leave North Carolina and find himself as a wartime Governor in the colony of New York. It is unsurprising that New York would ultimately be the last bastion of Tory support in the American colonies. Even Mayor Matthews would find himself following in the long lines of footsteps of other New York City mayors, being completely beholden to power and the maintenance of the status quo. The Governor, with the Mayor’s help, would eventually undertake an audacious operation against General Washington.

Those warnings aside, Tryon continued to successfully recruit from the lower classes, as well as at least one member from the elite, none other than David Matthews (c.1739-1800), the mayor of New York City. Unfortunately for Matthews, the Committee of Safety was on to him and on June 21, as the plotters designs were becoming known, it sought and received approval from Washington for his immediate arrest.

Targeting the head of a military operation is a legitimate wartime stratagem, especially in a civil war which the War for Independence truly was. Even when unsuccessful, such an operation can throw the opposition’s high command into chaos. The plot against General Eisenhower illustrates how in modern times even the risk of such an operation can tie up resources and interrupt timetables. While the German Commando Otto Skorzeny never admitted to directing such an action against the general, the effects of the mere rumors were enough.

Franklin’s Testimony Before the House of Commons concerning the Stamp Act – February 13, 1766

On March 22, 1765, the Stamp Act was passed without debate. This legislative act was not unique. Indeed, the colonies had suffered for decades under various pieces of inked parchment which favored the interests of mercantilists in the Isles at the expense of colonials. The Hat Act of 1732, the Molasses Act of 1733, the Iron Act of 1750, the Navigation Acts of 1763, etc.

In the name of all that was “fair”, the revenues collected by the levy would remain in the North American colonies to pay for the King’s troops who were there merely to preserve the security of his loyal subjects. Even the collectors of the tax would be by the hands of the colonials themselves. These tax collectors would, of course, have a royal appointment as stamp agents. Given the magnanimity of the King in these terms it was surprising, to those in the halls of power in London, that there had been such a fuss of late in “sail past country”. It is therefore fortunate that Dr. Franklin happened to be available to provide some perspective. I do hope that someone treated him to a bottle of Cheval Blanc afterwards!

Thus is was that Dr. Franklin found himself under examination by the House of Commons that March day.

Q. Are not the colonies, from their circumstances, very able to pay the stamp duty?

— In my opinion, there is not gold and silver enough in the colonies to pay the stamp duty for one year.

Q. Don’t you know that the money arising from the stamps was all to be laid out in America?

— I know it is appropriated by the act to the American service; but it will be spent in the conquered colonies, where the soldiers are, not in the colonies that pay it.

For clarification, the “conquered colonies” would be those areas lost by France and brought into the Empire following the Seven Years War.

Q. Do not you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty, if it was moderated?

— No, never, unless compelled by force of arms.

No mincing words there.

Q. And have they not still the same respect for parliament?

— No; it is greatly lessened.

Q. To what cause is that owing?

— To a concurrence of causes; the restraints lately laid on their trade, by which the bringing of foreign gold and silver into the colonies was prevented; the prohibition of making paper money among themselves; and then demand a new and heavy tax by stamps; taking away at the same, trials by juries, and refusing to receive and hear their humble petitions.

Q. Don’t you think they would submit to the Stamp Act, if it was modified, the obnoxious parts taken out, and the duty reduced to some particulars, of small moment?

— No; they will never submit to it.

Repeat the same question asked previously, but reword it slightly. I guess that legalese is the same going back to Sumerian times. Dr. Franklin performed a great service for the colonies with his testimony. The robed and wigged authority figures were just in no particular mood to listen. Go through the motions. Investigate. This too shall pass.

It was business in London as usual.

 

Sestercentennial

Sestercentennial. Two hundred and fifty year anniversary. This same period can also be expressed as quarter-millennial. A length of time that spans roughly ten familial generations. It also happens to be about twice as long as the generally recognized period of Imperial Rome (at least the Western Empire.) Five hundred years encompassing the period from when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon until the assassination of Valentinian III. By the time Flavius wrote his Epitoma Rei Militaris, Imperial Rome was well past her peak and his call to a return to ‘first principles’ fell upon ears the were generations removed from Peak Glory.

The American Revolution is currently going through its sestercentennial now as well. What, you say! Everyone knows the Revolution started with the Boston Massacre, or the Tea Party, or on Lexington Green. Who cares, right? The Revolution was about a bunch of greedy old white slavers trying to avoid the King’s rightful taxation, and who decided to revolt at the drop of a hat.

Well, not so much. School curriculums and internet encyclopedias make for lazy thinking. Spoon fed pablum and push button insipidity. Easy answers are seductive. Questioning is good, but avoid those who provide pat answers like the plague, or at least recognize that you are being manipulated. As the KOG said to Edward R. Murrow “The trouble with you is that you want easy answers, but you don’t know the proper questions,”

Embrace the warts and ride the chaos. Check your presentistic views and prejudices at the dust cover (virtual or otherwise.) With a more thorough understanding of the past, the “proper questions” become clear and the simplistic answers become glaringly obvious when offered in response.

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