Unalienable Rights

by Leah Hotchkiss

Just a little grammar lesson…words have meaning. Especially in court, whose language and thought processes are based in the dead (not open to change) and very specific Latin language.

Unalienable (un aLIENable): Incapable of being alienated, that is, sold and transferred." Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, page 1523: You can not surrender, sell or transfer unalienable rights, they are a gift from the creator to the individual and can not under any circumstances be surrendered or taken. All individual’s have unalienable rights.

Inalienable: Rights which are not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the consent of the one possessing such rights. Morrison v. State, Mo. App., 252 S.W.2d 97, 101.

You can surrender, sell or transfer inalienable rights if you consent either actually or constructively. Inalienable rights are not inherent in man and can be alienated by government. Persons have inalienable rights. Most state constitutions recognize only inalienable rights.

A libel on their character. . .

    No Taxation without Representation I may have blogged about this before. One sometimes loses track. But I continue to read through the History of the Town of Lexington by Charles Hudson, published in 1868. It is so beautifully written and gives such an inspiring view looking back on these people and these times.
     If we were to do a “man on the street” interview with folks, and asked them why the Colonists fought for Independence, if they had any idea at all, the likely answer would be a rote “no taxation without representation.”
     I can’t refute that statement any better than Hudson does, so I’ll just leave you with this passage:

It is a libel upon the character of our fathers, to say that they involved the country in all the horrors of war, rather than pay a petty tax upon stamped paper and tea. They had motives higher, purer, and holier, than that of avoiding the payment of an insignificant tax. They planted themselves upon the great principles of human rights — of fealty to their country, and fidelity to their God. They felt that they had personal rights which they were bound to defend — a duty they owed to posterity, which they were under a sacred obligation to discharge — a devotion to the Most High, which it were treason to disregard. Such were the motives and the convictions of our patriot sires. They fought not to conquer, but to defend; not to humble a foe, but to build up a commonwealth on the great principles of equal rights. To these duties they were prompted by the dictates of patriotism, and the teachings of the Word of Life.

And now for something a little different. . .

 

I’m a day late, here.  Had some issues getting this thing put together and online.  I hope it was worth the wait.

Last week, I was privileged to tell the overview of April 19th, 1775 to the local Kiwanis Club.  Now, mind you, I can tell this story in about an hour and a half.  We had 30 minutes and had a few other stories to tell.  The gauntlet thrown down, I picked up the challenge and here is a "short" version of this inspiring story.  Enjoy. 

 

Why dump that tea?

I never quite understood the reason why Sam Adams and the Boston Patriots felt they had to dump that tea in the harbor.  I have a hunch I’m not alone. 

Here’s the deal. . .

The Townshend Acts of 1767 – a series of taxes placed on the Colonies by Parliament.

These taxes really riled up the Colonials. Their charters stated that there would be no taxes except by their own consent. They didn’t mind taxes, per se. They minded not having any voice in Parliament. So these Acts were very unpopular and boycotts ensued.

So, in 1773, Parliament came up with a sinister plan. They dropped the majority of these taxes but kept the tax on tea. Meanwhile, the East India Company, because they squawked at their downturn in business because of the boycotts and such, sucked up to the King and Parliament (lobbied) and they granted the EIC a monopoly on tea in America. Then, the British government lowered the taxes on tea, thinking that the Americans would not give up their beloved tea for the paltry taxes left on the tea.

Whoops, big misjudgment.

Here’s the resolve of the Town of Lexington regarding those East India ships carrying the tea.

"And further, we are more especially alarmed, as by these crafty measures, the revenue Act is to be established, and the rights and
liberties of Americans forever sapped and destroyed. These appear to us to be sacrifices we must make; and these are the costly pledges that must be given into the hands of the oppressor. The moment we receive this detested article (the tea on the East India ships),
the tribute will be established upon us. For nothing short of this will ever fill the mouth of the oppressor, or gorge the insatiate appetite of lust and ambition.

Once admit this subtle, wicked ministerial plan to take place — once permit this tea, thus imposed upon us by the East India Company, to be landed, received and vended, by their consignees, factors, etc., the badge of our slavery is fixed, the foundation of ruin is surely laid, and unless a wise and powerful God, by some unforeseen revolution in Providence, shall prevent, we shall soon be obliged to bid farewell to the once flourishing trade of America, and an everlasting adieu to those glorious rights and liberties, for which our worthy ancestors so earnestly prayed, so bravely fought, so freely bled!"

So, why did they dump the tea into the harbor? Because they knew that this was just the camel’s nose under the tent. They were pretty smart.

Next week we’ll answer the question: Why did they dress as Indians? It’s not what you’ve been told.

Context and Culloden

One of the many complaints I have about the way history is taught in schools is how disconnected it is. I was visiting yesterday with a former history teacher that said she remembered one test she had to give that had a number of famous generals that the kids had to identify by first, middle and last name. If the student missed any part of that the answer was wrong.

What is that about? Does that kind of “history” light a fire in students that will lead them to finding out who they are? I’m not thinking so.

History is STORY. It’s real people set in real circumstances who have their own context.

Here’s an example: General Thomas Gage.

In his book, Paul Revere’s Ride, David Hackett Fischer puts General Gage into context.

In 1775, Gage was a man trying hard to avoid war. Gage had been a soldier for over thirty years. And he was a good commander, a good soldier. But he had learned to detest war.

In 1745, he’d been present at Fontonoy, one of the bloodiest battles in the 18th Century, where 30,000 men fell on Flander’s Field.


One year later, he watched the defeat of the Highland Clans on Drumossie Moor. The slaughter at Culloden broke the Highlanders, leaving that field knee-deep in blood and tartan.

Gage then was sent to America, where he commanded the vanguard of General Braddock’s expedition against the French. That mission turned to disaster as the British troops were ambushed by the French and Indians. General Braddock was killed. Gage, though wounded, kept the way open for George Washington and his men to escape. Ironic.

By April 19th, 1775, Gage was a man who wanted peace. But he was stuck between those pesky Insurrectionists and King George. The King had ordered Gage to put this rebellion down. After the Powder Alarm of September ‘74, Gage realized that his troops were sorely outnumbered and asking the Parliament for 20,000 more men. Parliament said no.

Gage’s only option, at that point, was to use the troops he had to disarm the American Patriots.

I guess the point is: Context. Without context, how can history mean anything? What was Thomas Gage’s middle name, anyway?

Slavery and Neglect

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/13/67/84/136784d102341a62af4020974c6c561a.jpgIn a previous post, I mentioned that the Reverend Jonas Clarke from Lexington probably did more to prepare his people for the eventualities of April 19th, 1775 than any other. Not that he was alone. He absolutely wasn’t. The message of liberty and throwing off the chains of slavery was a message preached from the majority of pulpits in 1775. I’ve also read that, if we didn’t have the writings of the founding fathers, but we had the writings of Clarke, we’d know everything we need to know about the reasons for the Revolution.

I’m reading The History of the Town of Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1868, by Charles Hudson. It’s an amazing read. I won’t highlight a book that old but I have sticky-tagged almost every page.

Hudson gives us the text of many of the town’s resolutions, all penned by Rev. Clarke. In 1772, a measure was afoot to disconnect the Judges in the Colonies from the people by granting their salaries directly from Parliament. In a resolution of January, 1772, the patriarchs of Lexington were responded. This is from that text:

“That thus, whether successful or not, succeeding generations might know that we understood our rights and liberties, and were neither afraid nor ashamed to assert and maintain them; and that we ourselves may have at least this consolation in our chains, that it was not through our neglect that this people were enslaved.”

And, a week or so ago, in the segment on Robert Munroe, we read this: “Two other descendants of his enlisted from a neighboring city during the Rebellion, and there were probably others who followed their example. Some have predicted that this country will degenerate through a lack of interest in her welfare; but I believe that we shall always have men in time of need of the spirit of Robert Munroe, who will spring to the front, and bravely defend what the fathers won.” (Oct. 12, 1857)

Neglect. The Lexington Patriots were relying on their posterity to make sure slavery did not come upon them by neglect.

Sons of Liberty Flag

     We’ve all heard of the Sons of Liberty.  They were the secret group of Patriots who organized the Boston Tea Party.  But they were so much more.
     They kept track of British troop movements, rode in secret missions to warn when General Gage was sending troops to confiscate arms and powder, and they organized help for Boston when the Intolerable Acts closed Boston Harbor.
     Their flag was made up of nine vertical strips which represented the Loyal Nine.
      These nine men were the founders of the Sons of Liberty in 1765.  The Loyal Nine were even more secret than the Sons of Liberty.  It is only now that we know who they were.  Their names will likely not even ring a bell with you.  They didn’t with me.
J     ohn Avery, Henry Bass, a cousin of Samuel Adams, Thomas Chase,  Stephen Cleverly, Thomas Crafts, Benjamin Edes, Joseph Field, John Smith, George Trott.
     These men went on to be very active in the Sons of Liberty.  At least four of them participated in the Boston Tea Party. 
     The flag became knows as the “Rebellious Stripes.”  It was outlawed by the Crown.  The Colonists merely switched the strips to horizontal and kept using it.  Eventually, they added more strips to equal 13 strips.
     As you’ll see in future posts, this 13 stripe Sons of Liberty flag was used in many of the famous Revolutionary War era flags.  I can’t wait to tell you about my favorite flag.  No hints – be patient. 
 

Spinning and Weaving

In 1767, in their continuing efforts to raise money from the Colonies, where the economy was in really good shape, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which "placed new duties on paper, paint, lead, glass, and tea that were imported into the colonies." **  The response from the Colonies should have been expected after the responses to the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, but either Parliament didn’t concern itself with consequences or it was tone deaf to the way the tide was turning in the Colonies.

One response was the boycott of British goods being imported into America.

The result of this boycott was that American women stopped buying imported fabric, for the most part.  So, they were stuck with learning forgotten skills of their mothers and grandmothers.

And they began to spin and weave again.

Most homes had at least one spinning wheel.  Many had more than one.  They were usually kept upstairs in the "bedrooms".  Those rooms were used not only for storage but for work as well.  Spinning was one of these jobs.  My guess – and it’s only a guess – is that the spinning wheels might have been brought downstairs or even set up outside when it was too hot to work up stairs.  The wheels were not all that big and could have been easily moved.

On the other hand, looms were not an item in each home.  They were a community item.  I can picture weaving bees much like sewing bees. Weaver of Tartan © Jax Hunter

Add this work into the daily chores – cleaning, laundry, baking break, cooking, gardening and you have very busy moms.

So when you see reenactors in Revolutionary garb, remember the hands that spun the wool or flax and then wove the fabric to make all the clothes represented there.  As I’ve mentioned before, these people had little time for Revolution. 

Whilst I was reading “April Morning”

I’ve always been hesitant to read history.  Not because I don’t love history.  I do.  And historical fiction is such a pleasant way to learn history.  But with some history – that which is awash in politics – how can you be sure that what you’re reading is accurate.  I think the best way is to get down to original sources.  But unless the author you are reading used original sources in his research, then you never know what you’re going to get.

April MorningIn an effort to immerse myself in the 18th Century, I’ve been reading what I can get my hands on.  On of those books is April Morning by Howard Fast (1961)

Last night, I came upon this:

This is a conversation between the main character’s father, Moses, and the Reverend Clarke.

“They were here tonight.”   (The Reverend speaking)
“Who?”
“Sam Adams and John Hancock.”
“Oh, no,” Father said. “Now what in heaven’s name were they doing here?”
The Reverend shrugged, the gesture saying better than words that these were two men with their own ways.
“Where were they?”
“At my house.”
“And now?”
“I didn’t want them here,” the Reverend said bitterly. “Would you want them here, Moses?”
“We got our troubles here.”
“So it seemed to me. I can’t understand any more how this started and the way it is building up. Who chose tonight? Ourselves? The devil? The British? No, I didn’t want them here, and I told them to go to Burlington–”
“They left?”
“About an hour ago, Moses. They have their problems and we have ours.”

I promptly closed the book and I’m not sure I’ll keep reading.  There is so much wrong with this section. I’ll just point out a few.

  • It suggests a disdain by the Reverend Clarke for Adams and Hancock, for their cause.  This could not be further from the truth.  It is said of Clarke that, if we had no writings from the Founding Fathers, but had his sermons, we would know the causes of the Revolution
  • It suggests that Adams and Hancock being at Clarke’s house was unusual.  It wasn’t.  It was a safe place out of the city.  They were there often.  Hancock had practically grown up in that house.
  • It suggests that Clarke was clueless about what was happening around him.  Again, he’d prepared Lexington so well for this night that there was no better place for the events that followed.
  • And probably the biggest problem with this “story” is that it left out Paul Revere entirely.  He arrived at the Clarke house at midnight, urging Hancock and Adams to get to safety ahead of the Redcoat Army.  And, after Revere was captured and then released, he returned to the house, found the two leaders still there.  At that point, they were convinced to leave.

So, if Fast got this wrong, how much other stuff is wrong that I won’t recognize?  How much will the unsuspecting reader take in and assume is fact?  How do we find books we can trust?

Well, I hope mine will be trustworthy.  There will be fiction wrapped around fact in my books.  There has to be.  But I will do my best to present the fiction as reliable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

 

Revolutionary Symbols: The Pine Tree

Pinus_strobus_old_tree_Appalachian_ParkThe White Pine of New England.  It’s the Sequoia of the East Coast.  And it has a long history in the making of America.  It also plays a role in Revolution.

Shortly after the first settlers arrived on the shores of what would become New England, they discovered this amazing tree.  It grows straight and strong,  hundreds of feet tall.  But it is also a very light wood and easily worked.  Its contribution to the industry and economy of the Colonies cannot be overstated.  These massive trunks became the masts for ships all over the world. And other wood harvested was crafted into a wide array of shipbuilding pieces and even items for farm and household use.

And here’s the rub.  The English Navy needed these trees for their ships.  So, of course, the King just marked them as his.  So let it be done.  The Kings Surveyors were authorized to search out and mark trees within ten miles of any navigable waters.  Broad_arrow_288They were so thorough that only the smaller trees were left for Americans’ use.  The fine for cutting down one of the trees marked with the Broad Arrow of the King was £100.

For the most part, Americans ignored the marks and took the trees anyway.  And England pretty  much said nothing.  Until the 1770’s.  And then the enforcement became intolerable.  The very livelihood of New England was threatened and the Colonists wouldn’t stand for it.  Who was this King to tell Americans they could not use trees they owned?  Resentments flared into  skirmishes throughout New England, with such names as “The White Pine War” and “The Pine Tree Riot”.

New_England_combo_flag.svg

And the pine tree became yet another symbol rallying Americans to stand for Liberty.