Saturday, January 2, 2010

Watering The Tree Of Liberty

A fellow named Gary Warren has a letter in the Spokesman Review today.

Will we accept our democratic republic coming full circle into functional, if not oppressive bondage? The willful usurpation of both the Constitution and the lawful desires of the plurality of the people corruptly morphs representatives into rulers, liberty into servitude.
It is tragic how many of our originating 28 grievances towards the Crown can be objectively leveled against the federal government. Must “We the People” again be forced to restart the eight-stage cycle by watering “the tree of liberty?”

The Declaration of Independence has a laundry list of grievances that I suspect most Americans, including me until this morning, are unfamiliar with. After all, not many of our citizens have a complete history of their country thoroughly embedded in their minds let alone at the forefront. Reading through the list of grievances, I am unable to find a single one that applies to our government today. Curiously, I do find a similarity between the very first grievance, refusing assent to laws and the practice of signing statements that presidents, beginning with Ronald Reagan, have used to challenge or interpret the law as passed by Congress. George W. Bush's statements contained 1100 challenges. But other than that, I don't see that any of the other grievances apply.

At the end of his letter, Mr Warren mentions watering "the tree of liberty" which makes reference to a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote not long after the new U.S. Constitution was completed, some eleven years after the declaration was issued. In that letter, Jefferson makes reference to a single insurrection.

The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion.

Jefferson complains about the lies printed in British newspapers claiming that America is in a state of anarchy. Then he makes light of the Shays Rebellion which he says was founded in ignorance. I don't understand what he means by saying we shouldn't go 20 years without a rebellion borne of ignorance. His next two sentences are prescient.

The people cannot be all, & always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.

The parallels to the nonsense coming from the Tea Party are striking.

If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.

We have always had plenty of people who preserve the spirit of resistance. The Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society, the Aryan Nations and the Watchman on the Walls to name a few. There are more out there and they all have one thing in common. They are borne of ignorance. Yes, I am being selective. I'm leaving out those who protest government actions such as war, violating civil rights, making unfair trade agreements, etc.

Jefferson said we should set them right as to the facts and then pardon and pacify them. But if a few die then so what? It's the natural manure for the tree of liberty. I take that as a calloused remark.

Gary Warren should not be so hasty to have the tree of liberty watered. Not that giving him the facts will make a difference to him.


Barb Chamberlain said...

I could almost read "God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion" to be a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek comment meaning, "We'd be lucky to go so much as 20 years without ignorant people putting on some kind of rebellion."

It seems to me he's also saying that even if they have their facts wrong--and the more important the issue, the bigger their sense of wrong--we need the energy of their opposition. This keeps the rulers on their toes so they will be more vigilant in the protection of our liberties, lest the rulers be overthrown.

My own thought these days whenever I see someone talking about watering the tree of liberty is that they mean for the blood to come from someone else--not that they plan to be the "patriots" who give the tree its manure.


Hank Greer said...

Very good points, Barb. I didn't see the sarcasm but it certainly could be so.

And your second paragraph is spot on. Exactly the words I couldn't figure out for myself.

Lucas said...

That is a good way to look at that statement, Barb.

I think most of these people are scared. After being the dominant force in American politics since the country was founded, all of a sudden white men aren't that important. If you aren't comfortable with embracing other people's points of view that is a scary place to be.

It does worry me when I hear all this talk about the tree of liberty and revolution from people who profess to be hyper-patriotic. Sinclair Lewis said "Fascism will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible."