Many today don’t realize that we are facing the same sort of tactics by our own Federal government that our forefathers faced from the British just prior to the War for Independence. In fact, I’ll venture to guess that most people never were taught in school what follows in this article. That’s right, gun control is nothing new now, nor was it even new in the twentieth century. It was very much alive in the eighteenth century. So when someone comes along telling you “the founding fathers wouldn’t have envisioned this or that” with regards to arms, just remind them of what they faced during their lifetimes when the primary weapons were single shot muskets and cannons.
Following the events of December 16, 1773 in which the Sons of Liberty in Boston made a political protest of the tax policy of the British government and the East India Company that controlled all the tea that was imported into the colonies in Boston Harbor. Disguised as Indians, a group numbering anywhere from 30 to 130 men dumped 342 chests of tea into the sea over the course of three hours.
As a result of this protest, Parliament, with the direct encouragement of King George III, passed the Coercive Acts, or as they were properly known the Restraining Acts, in 1774. These acts are as follows:
Boston Port Act (June 1, 1774)
Quartering Act (June 2, 1774)
Administration of Justice Act (May 20, 1774)
Massachusetts Government Act (May 20, 1774)
Though Parliament was warned by men like Edmund Burke and Lord Chatham that such legislation would not be wise and would only provoke the colonists more, they failed to listen to reason.
Patriots that heard of the Acts determined that they would fight and die rather than see such laws enforced upon them by the British Army. The Patriots of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, resolved: “That in the event of Great Britain attempting to force unjust laws upon us by the strength of arms, our cause we leave to heaven and our rifles.” Interestingly enough, a South Carolina newspaper essay, which was reprinted in Virginia at the time, recorded that any law that required the military to enforce it was “necessarily illegitimate,” according to David B. Kopel.
In Massachusetts, the Royal Governor, General Thomas Gage, forbid town meetings from taking place more than once a year. So when an illegal meeting was taking place in Salem, he sent in the British Redcoats to break it up. They were met with 3,000 armed Americans and they retreated. Interestingly enough, Gage’s aide, John Andrews, said that anyone in the area that was 16 years or older owned a firearm and had gunpowder. If you were wondering, yes this is where the issue of the First Amendment came from and where “town hall meetings” originated from. Let’s just say in Massachusetts, it was “getting real.”
The British realized that they could not control the people with only 2,000 troops in Boston. So what did they do? They sought to eliminate the people’s ability to firearms and gun powder.
Remember, at one time it was law in the colonies for militiamen to own their own firearms and have a minimum quantity of gunpowder on hand, though all could not afford it. Remember too, that this powder was not stable like that we use today.
On September 1, 1774, just before dawn, Gage sent approximately 260 Redcoats up the Mystic River to seize several hundred barrels of powder from the Charlestown powder house and this became known as the “Powder Alarm.”
The militia at the time produced 20,000 men who mobilized and began marching towards Boston. American colonists believed that if the British were going to use force or violence to seize arms or powder, it was an act of war and they would respond in kind. This is what happened the following year.
Five days after the Powder Alarm, on September 6, the militia of the towns of Worcester County assembled on the Worcester Common. Backed by the formidable array, the Worcester Convention took over the reins of government, and ordered the resignations of all militia officers, who had received their commissions from the Royal Governor. The officers promptly resigned and then received new commissions from the Worcester Convention.
That same day, the people of Suffolk County (which includes Boston) assembled and adopted the Suffolk Resolves. The 19-point Resolves complained about the Powder Alarm, and then took control of the local militia away from the Royal Governor (by replacing the Governor’s appointed officers with officers elected by the militia) and resolved to engage in group practice with arms at least weekly.
The First Continental Congress, which had just assembled in Philadelphia, unanimously endorsed the Suffolk Resolves and urged all the other colonies to send supplies to help the Bostonians.
Governor Gage directed the Redcoats to begin general, warrantless searches for arms and ammunition. According to the Boston Gazette, of all General Gage’s offenses, “what most irritated the People” was “seizing their Arms and Ammunition.”
Perhaps you are seeing exactly where the Bill of Rights came from. It was borne out of the injustices that were done to the Colonists by a tyrannical government.
The Massachusetts Assembly convened so that representatives could reassemble as the “Provincial Congress.” Gage declared the assembly illegal. Notice that didn’t stop it. Then on October 26, 1774 they adopted a resolution which condemned military rule and criticized Gage for “unlawfully seizing and retaining large quantities of ammunition in the arsenal at Boston.”
Gage was urged a week prior by Lord Dartmouth, the Royal Secretary of State for America, to disarm New England. Two days after the letter was dispatched from Dartmouth, King George III and Parliament blocked the importation of arms and ammunition to Americans. While the order required a permit to export arms or ammunition from Great Britain to America, the reality was that no permits were granted. This effectively blocked arms and ammunition being imported to the colonies. Does this sound familiar to the kind of talk we hear today regarding certain types of weapons and ammunition? I think it does.
Founding Father Ben Franklin set out to import arms and ammunition from France, Spain and the Netherlands.
Paul Revere took to New Hampshire to warn of British ships approaching with the express purpose that they were going to be seizing firearms, cannons and gunpowder at Fort William and Mary. Four hundred New Hampshire patriots moved preemptively to capture those arms on December 14, 1774. A prominent New Hampshire paper at the time said the capture was both “prudent” and “proper.” They also reminded their readers of the ancient Carthagians who consented to “deliver up all their Arms to the Romans” and then overcome by them soon after.
Kopel gives great insight as he writes,
“The British government was not, in a purely formal sense, attempting to abolish the Americans’ common law right of self-defense. Yet in practice, that was precisely what the British were attempting. First, by disarming the Americans, the British were attempting to make the practical exercise of the right of personal self-defense much more difficult. Second, and more fundamentally, the Americans made no distinction between self-defense against a lone criminal or against a criminal government. To the Americans, and to their British Whig ancestors, the right of self-defense necessarily implied the right of armed self-defense against tyranny.”
Things became more heated and pressed in the following months. On March 23, 1775 Patrick Henry gave his famous speech to the Virginia legislature. During that speech Henry declared, “The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.”
That convention put forth a committee which included Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. The purpose of this committee was “to prepare a plan for the embodying, arming, and disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient” to defend their commonwealth. This convention then urged “that every Man be provided with a good Rifle” and “that every Horseman be provided . . . with Pistols and Holsters, a Carbine, or other Firelock.”
Can you imagine our legislature putting forth something like that today? Frankly, I would love to see it!
Ultimately, do you know what started America’s War for Independence? That’s right, it was a tyrannical government that soft peddled “self-defense” while banning firearms and gunpowder.
On April 19, 1775, British and American soldiers exchanged fire in the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord. On the night of April 18, the royal governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, commanded by King George III to suppress the rebellious Americans, had ordered 700 British soldiers, under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and Marine Major John Pitcairn, to seize the colonists’ arms and gunpowder stores in Concord.
At Lexington Green, the British were met by approximately seventy American Minute Men led by John Parker. At the North Bridge in Concord, the British were confronted again, this time by 300 to 400 armed colonists, and were forced to march back to Boston with the Americans firing on them all the way. By the end of the day, the colonists were singing “Yankee Doodle” and the American Revolution had begun. You can read a timeline of the events that followed here.
With the Americans pushing back against the British use of military force to seize their firearms, Gage sought to offer the people of Boston the opportunity to leave town, but only if they surrendered their arms. Some accepted the offer and some 2,674 guns were surrendered. Gage didn’t let the people go.
While Benjamin Franklin had just returned from London on an unsuccessful diplomatic trip, he “was highly pleased to find the Americans arming and preparing for the worst events.”
On June 19, 1775, Gage finally gave an ultimatum to the Bostonians. They were to surrender their arms. Anyone that was found in possession of arms would be deemed guilty of treason.
Just weeks later on July 6, 1775 the Continental Congress issued A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in Congress at Philadelphia, Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms. This was written by Thomas Jefferson and Pennsylvania lawyer John Dickinson.
We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or resistance by force.—The latter is our choice—We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery.—Honour, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them.
Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable… With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.
Kurt Nimmo recites what followed:
The document was drafted after England sent soldiers to “restore order” in the Colonies and the Second Continental Congress thought it necessary to raise an army and justify its actions.
It also underscored the necessity to bear arms against tyranny – a concept that is almost entirely lost today as the United Nations conspires to register and confiscate the firearms of Americans and ill-informed citizens defend the Second Amendment as the right to own a gun for hunting.
Two days later, on July 8, 1775, the Olive Branch Petition was issued. It proposed a final peace deal with England and promised loyalty to the British government if it repealed the Coercive Acts and ended its taxation without representation policies.
The Olive Branch Petition was summarily dismissed by King George’s official, stating that the Colonies were in a state of rebellion. The English Parliament then passed the American Prohibitory Act, which forbid any further trade with the Colonies. In other words, they imposed what we call today sanctions, which became a further act of war against the colonies.
The rest, as they say is history, but this is the history before that.
Now we are facing similar infringements upon our liberties, not by a tyrannical government on the other side of the globe with a few troops here on our soil, but by our own Federal government. They are taking the same steps that the British did against our forefathers. The question for you my fellow Americans, is this: Will you surrender to tyranny or will you stand against it? No one can make that choice for you, but remember the lessons of the past that those who surrender their arms, inevitably surrender their liberty and with it their lives. May God grant you strength to stand against tyranny.