June 27, 2006
(Crossposted at the Daily Kos.)
Our Founding Moonbat
It has been said that his journalism is "unfair" and "vicious" and "takes a back seat to everyone, including Jayson Blair, in terms of ethics", that it "might well have been the best fiction written in the English language", that "every dip of his pen stung like a horned snake", and that he was "loose cannon" whose "ninety-proof prose" incited the "rabble". His lifelong political enemy called him "the great incendiary" and a master of the puppets, deplored his "obstinacy and inflexible disposition", and also accused him of "defalcation" (a quaint expression for embezzlement). It's been said that "like most men contending solely for a principle he was distinctly a 'trouble-maker.'" And finally, the authorities declared that his "offenses are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration but that of condign punishment."
I know what you're thinking, these are probably more fulminations about a lefty blogger from some MSM pundits; probably David Brooks or Lee Siegel, considering the florid language, but maybe it's David Broder or Maureen Dowd or Richard Cohen. And who's the blogger? Well it must be Kos, of course, or maybe now they're picking on another member of the "blogger A-list".
In fact, the object of all that contempt was an agitator, pundit and political organizer; a delegate to the Continental Congress; a signer of the Declaration of Independence; and a Governor of Massachusetts: Samuel Adams. Among the Founding Fathers, none of whom was a slouch when it came to patriotic passion, Adams was undoubtedly the most radical, uncompromising and inflammatory. If he were alive today, he would surely be a flaming lefty blogger, probably one of the "A-List", with a large following; but the MSM would be calling him a Kingpin, rabid and venomous, vituperative, thuggish and fascist; and the wingnuts would be calling him an unhinged moonbat.
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds. -- Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was a fierce patriot, passionate, polemical, eloquent, zealous, righteous, rebellious and rabble-rousing. He was known as a formidable orator, immensely skillful at stirring up the passions of the crowds. And he was a deeply philosophical thinker, whose ideas are woven into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He was a founder and leader of the Boston Sons of Liberty, which included Paul Revere and his second cousin John Adams (who later became the second President). The Sons were semi-secret groups that existed throughout the colonies with little or no central organization, and were known as radicals; they were among the earliest advocates of independence and were openly hostile to the British. In some cases, the Sons went over to vandalism and violence -- burnings in effigy of tax collectors and other authorities; burnings of the property of crown officials. In 1765, in the midst of unrest about the Stamp Act, a Boston mob sacked and burned the home of Thomas Hutchinson, then the Lt. Governor of the colony of Massachusetts. Sam Adams denounced the incident as "mobbish", and some historians believe he wasn't involved, but Hutchinson blamed him, and the two men were bitter rivals ever since.
Adams wrote polemical articles in the Boston Gazette under a variety of pseudonyms that could easily pass as blogger handles on the Daily Kos: "Vindex", "Candidus", "Determinatus", "A Chatterer". He coined the term Boston Massacre for an incident on March 5th, 1770, when British troops fired into a crowd, killing five. Many of his Gazette articles were devoted to exposing the events of that day, and fanning the fires of outrage in the population. Shortly after the shooting, he led a town meeting in which he delivered a spirited harangue; he then went as a member of a committee to personally demand that Hutchinson, then the colonial Governor, remove British regiments from Boston. After tense maneuvering and more popular protests led by Adams, Hutchinson eventually relented.
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom -- go from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen! -- Samuel Adams, 1776
Adams helped organize the Boston Tea Party in 1773. He whipped up the crowd in a speech at the port that day, and then by some accounts he returned at night disguised as a Mohawk to personally lead a group of men who boarded a ship and dumped crates of tea into Boston Harbor. By 1775, tensions in the Boston area were such that British General Gage dispatched troops to seize weapons caches held by colonists, and to arrest Adams and John Hancock. But rebels got wind of their plans, so Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott went on their famous nighttime ride to warn colonists of the advancing troops. Revere alerted Adams and Hancock, who managed to escape, and when the British troops reached Lexington and Concord, shots were heard round the world, and they were hounded all the way on their retreat back to Boston.
When they set their minds to creating a new nation, Adams and the other Founders were informed by their experience with a monarchy that they regarded as tyranny, and were determined to craft a republic in which that kind of abuse of power would be structurally impossible. It is because of this, more than anything else, that they insisted on limited powers of the President, checked and balanced by the legislative and judicial branches. Ever the ideological purist, Adams favored the loose union of the Articles of Confederation, and initially opposed the Constitution as granting too much power to the federal government. But he eventually came around and helped the Constitution get ratified in Massachusetts, on the understanding that a Bill of Rights would quickly be added.
How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words! -- Samuel Adams, 1776
If we could get Sam Adams through a time machine, he would probably be overwhelmed to see what's become of the nation he helped create, but I think he would have little trouble recognizing the crisis that the republic presently faces. What would he have to say about our latter-day tyrants, our lying, cheating, torturing, hate-spewing, fundamentalist chickenhawk war-mongers? What would he think of these people who treat essential principles of the Constitution -- the separation of powers, freedom from unwarranted search and seizure, and high crimes and misdemeanors -- like just another political football? What would he say about the lack of institutional pride in a Congress that meekly forks over its power to the executive, only because its majority party is the party of the President? What would he think of an Administration that threatens to prosecute journalists who expose its malfeasance? And what would he think of journalists who uncritically pass on the party line of those in power, even to the point of publishing rank falsehoods? And what would he say of an opposition party with leaders who are unwilling to take a principled stand against all of these abuses, because of fear and political calculation?
A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.... While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.... If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security. -- Samuel Adams
It is a very great mistake to imagine that the object of loyalty is the authority and interest of one individual man, however dignified by the applause or enriched by the success of popular actions. -- Samuel Adams
If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin. -- Samuel Adams, 1780
In the year of Independence, Samuel Adams had sage advice for his countrymen that is no less relevant to us today, two hundred thirty years later:
Let us contemplate our forefathers, and posterity, and resolve to maintain the rights bequeathed to us from the former, for the sake of the latter. The necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. Let us remember that "if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom." It is a very serious consideration...that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event. -- Samuel Adams, 1776