In 1768, amid escalating tensions between the British government and independence-minded "radicals" in New England, two full regiments were deployed in Boston as peacekeepers. Their presence was, in historian David Ramsay’s elegantly ominous phrase, “a fruitful source of uneasiness.”
London tried to preserve the pretense that the troops sent to police the colonies were deployed to maintain public order. However, as Ramsay observes, there was “a general conviction” within the population that the Redcoats had been dispatched as tax collectors, and “there could be no security for their property” until they were forced to leave.
By 1770, royal pronouncements and speeches in both houses of parliament increasingly characterized the Americans “as a factious turbulent people, who aimed at throwing off all subordination to Great Britain,” Ramsay continues. That hostility was reciprocated by “fiery spirits” in Boston “who thought it an indignity to have troops quartered among them, [and] were constantly exciting the townspeople to quarrel with the soldiers.”
Benjamin Franklin, who at the time had not abandoned hope of reconciliation between the Throne and the colonies, warned that stationing troops in Boston was akin to "setting up a smith's forge in a magazine of gunpowder." A random spark was set off on March 2, 1770, when a British soldier got into a shouting match with a local resident. Within hours a melee had broken out between Redcoats and "radicals” that rapidly escalated into a mob scene. Punches were thrown, and property was damaged, but nobody was killed.
Three days later, a contingent of armed Redcoats under the command of one Captain Preston was set upon by what one American historian later called "a crowd of disorderly loafers and boys of the town." The troops had responded to what would now be called an “officer in distress” call from a sentry named Hugh White, who had gotten into an argument with a wig-maker over an unpaid bill.
In his History of the American Revolution, Ramsay records that the British troops "were pressed upon, insulted and pelted by a mob armed with clubs, sticks, and snowballs covering stones. They were also dared to fire. In this situation, one of the soldiers who had received a blow, in resentment fired at the supposed aggressor.” That soldier, Private Hugh Montgomery, had been beaten to his knees by a club-wielding assailant before screaming “Damn you, fire!” to his comrades.
Eight people in the crowd were wounded, three of them fatally. The first to fall was a black man named Crispus Attucks. A widely circulated illustration of the event depicts Attucks desperately trying to fend off the fatal attack by reaching for the soldier’s gun – an act we are insistently, and incorrectly, told is a capital offense.
In the interest of “officer safety,” the troops were withdrawn. The mortal remains of Attucks and his two comrades were buried in a ceremony intended “to express the indignation of the inhabitants at the slaughter of their brethren, by soldiers quartered among them, in violation of their civil liberties.”
Rather than escalating the military occupation of Boston in order to suppress the revolt, British colonial authorities indicted Captain Preston and his subordinates for “willful and felonious murder.” At trial they enjoyed the earnest and capable representation of “radical” attorney John Adams.
The jury, in defiance of the prevailing public sentiment, found mitigation in the fact that the soldiers had been "insulted, threatened, and pelted, before they fired," wrote Ramsay. Preston and five of his men were acquitted. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter and subsequently branded. The trial, Ramsay concludes, "reflected great honor on John Adams, and [his assistant] Josiah Quincy and also on the integrity of the jury...."
The verdict of public opinion diverged sharply from the outcome of the trial. Skillful propagandists like Samuel Adams (who had helped incite the riot that precipitated the killings) and Paul Revere elided some facts, misrepresented others, and immortalized the event as the “Boston Massacre.”
“The anniversary of it was observed with great solemnity,” Ramsay recorded. “Eloquent orators were successively employed to deliver an annual oration, to preserve the remembrance of it fresh in their minds. On these occasions the blessings of liberty – the horrors of slavery – the dangers of a standing army – the rights of the colonies, and a variety of such topics were presented to the public view, under the most pleasing and alarming forms. These annual orations administered fuel to the fire of liberty, and kept it burning, with an incessant flame.”
It does no injury to the truth to suggest that the effort to capitalize on the “Boston Massacre” was the pre-Independence equivalent of today’s “Hands Up – Don’t Shoot” agitprop campaign. The victims in the March 5, 1770 event had assaulted law enforcement officers, after all. Some, perhaps most, of them were disreputable people who today would be casually denigrated as “thugs.”
Attucks himself, the first martyr in the cause of American Independence, was a law-breaker, a runaway slave of dubious parentage. In addition to committing an act of “theft” by absconding with the “property” of his supposed master, Attucks used fraudulent means to conceal his identity and obtain employment on a whaling ship.
In contemporary terms, he was a virtual behemoth, standing six foot two inches tall and blessed with the brawny and well-conditioned physique of a man who earned a living by casting harpoons, dragging nets, and pulling on thick, heavy nets. Some accounts of the Boston Massacre cast Attucks in the central role, agitating the crowd and organizing the assault on law enforcement.
Obviously, this was no gentle giant. He was an impudent, violent man with no respect for authority and a dangerous gift for inciting rebellion against public order. He fought the law, and the law won – at least from the perspective of his detractors among British loyalists in the colonies.
New York Post columnist Bob McManus, the bejowled defender of police abuse, recently provided us with the Tory perspective on the murder of Eric Garner by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who – unlike Captain Preston and his soldiers – will never stand trial for that crime.
“Eric Garner was a career petty criminal who’d experienced dozens of arrests, but had learned nothing from them,” sniffs McManus. “He was on the street July 17, selling untaxed cigarettes one at a time – which, as inconsequential as it seems, happens to be a crime.”
Garner was a “career criminal” in the mold of John Hancock, who made himself tremendously wealthy by smuggling untaxed goods. On McManus’s premises, Hancock would have to be regarded as a veritable crime lord.
Even if we characterize Garner as a “career criminal” rather than a micro-entrepreneur, the salient fact here is that there is no evidence at all that Garner was selling cigarettes on the day he was murdered by the police. He was killed because he dared to assert self-ownership in the face of unwanted attention from a member of the State’s coercive caste.
Eric Garner’s death, McManus pontificates, was a tragic but necessary demonstration of the futility of resisting the power of the divine State: “He was a victim of himself. It’s just that simple.”
In the moments leading up to his death, Garner had acted as a peacemaker, stopping a fight that the NYPD’s armed tax enforcers had chosen to ignore. Crispus Attucks, on the other hand, spent the last moments of his life inciting a rebellion against the collection agents of a much less oppressive government. McManus, who causally vilifies the former, most likely venerates the latter. People who cherish individual liberty should honor the memory of both.
The “Boston Massacre” represented what we could call “Peak Redcoat” – the moment at which it became clear that the existing regime, administered through a military occupation, simply could not endure.
The unpunished murder of Eric Garner could well signify that our present system has reached the point of “Peak Jackboot.” It is worth remembering, however, that the Regime ruling us is immeasurably more powerful, corrupt, and violent than that of George III, which allowed the colonial policemen who had killed Attucks and two others to stand trial for their actions.
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Dum spiro, pugno!
Dum spiro, pugno!
Excellent writing as usual. And I think you're so right in identifying a strange and very disquieting time that has arisen in American history. You can sense a palpable uneasiness welling up, the gathering clouds, the strains grown so taught they now seem to herald inevitable rebellion.
I believe that rebellion now would be a huge mistake. I dislike some of the things I see police get up to now days. Read about rebellion. Learn. It is a decision that will at minimum doom thousands of citizens to a violent death. I would rather we work as a super majority to change the rule of law, and the way it is enforced. Once rebellion begins America ends. And as flawed as it is I believe we'll find our new masters much more violent and dismissive of human rights.
When submission becomes untenable, rebellion of some form becomes imperative. I vastly prefer that the revolt take the form of exposure, mobilization, active non-cooperation, and -- where necessary -- interposition.
As indicated in the final paragraph, I am also convinced that the Regime under which we're living will probably not be amenable to reform through those means. This doesn't absolve us of our responsibility to exhaust every conceivable peaceful alternative.
Mr. Grigg, greetings and glad I found your blog. I'm a long time (complete adult lifetime) law enforcement officer, and libertarian, to the degree one can be both.
Although I'm a criminal investigator now, and the last nearly two decades, I did my street time in a rather "tough" "black" neighborhood on the East Coast.
I can relate to both Ferguson and the NYC situation, because I, as most guys who've done street time, have been involved in both types of situations. They both present different issues, from both a "law and order" and libertarian perspective, and I'm much more concerned about the social/cultural underpinnings of both, than I am, necessarily, of the outcomes, per se...not to diminish those outcomes.
I largely believe the (negative) accounts of Michael Brown, strong-arm robbing the store (wish the owner had shot him actually), and punking the cop with some fisticuffs. A 300 pound man on drugs (apparently confirmed), punching you in the face (a man who KNOWS he just committed another felony), when you are an armed "rep" of the people/state, is a serious matter, which is why cops, white and black are shot/killed all the time by citizens. Not that I make a legal claim of justification in my post here but I'd have bet a few paychecks that Brown would have gone on to murder someone, given his historical track record. He literally WAS a menace to society, and when he punched the cop, and charged him (as the testimony revealed) he got what one can expect.
Having said that, as you properly note, Eric Garner was a micro-entrepreneur essentially not bothering anyone but the merchants who took offense that he had the temerity to make 10 cents or whatever, off a single cigarette. If all wars are about money, all police interactions are about commerce and the protection of the so-called "privileged" class (yes, it does exist).
Swarming Eric Garner like he had just jacked a store of cigarillos was the natural outcome of state-controlled tobacco (and other) markets--completely SUPPORTED BY LIBERALS..the same ones that are protesting. The "choke hold" the cop used in the take down, actually wasn't even a choke hold, but merely an "anything goes" takedown, after Garner "resisting" state power to control his economic livelihood (if he was even selling cigs, as the complainant's allege).
The fact that he was an extremely overweight, out-of-shape, welfare king most likely (bet money on it), with six kids (bet money they are on welfare), and a rap sheet, and could have died while standing there talking to the police, says as much about the current state of affairs as the police “en masse” response to someone make a few bucks on the side, without going through the rigors of state blessing to sell a product to willing buyers.
The entire interaction bespeaks the level of idiocy our society has crept to over the last 50 years. Did the cop mean to kill him? Of course not, he, like others (see massive SWAT take downs of prescription drug users at their homes) has bought into the drone-like response that the state has empowered police with—along with the ideal that we are serving some greater societal good related to protection of personal safety, when in fact it’s private commerce. Oath Keepers protected personal safety and PRIVATE interests of small businesses in Ferguson, while over-militarized cops rode around in tanks more fitting to Mogadishu than a town of a few thousand….all the while, essentially not stopping the destruction of businesses who lack the same “pull” as the economic forces of Washington/Liberal-left-Race lobby…that wanted the town to burn down.
I will be curious as to your thoughts, as I close, on the coming NEXT proxy war between cops and the “people” (largely of color), when privileged WHITE WOMEN get the powers of the state to start stopping men (of color) from “catcalling”. Eventually, such stops will lead to Garneresque outcomes (“Excuse me sir, we had a complaint you said “Good morning beautiful” to a privileged Jewish woman who instead of being at work, was walking around taping for 10 hours in NYC…in what universe do you NOT realize she is above your station , and that we, the executive/enforcement arm of the state will be here to ensure she can have you locked up….only to have her later protest (as a liberal white Jewish woman) when someone like you “dies” in our custody…”) We’re both puppets for the elite Romans that want to ensure their “safety” in person and in markets…but who will feed us to the lions when the script goes astray.
Thanks William, for bringing this perspective. Not only were men like Attucks and Sam Adams rowdies, but I'd be willing to bet that virtually every rebellion for liberty has been started by rowdies and people with questionable backgrounds. People with comfortable, easy lives do not rebel. They mostly fit themselves into whatever system (however reprehensible) exists at the moment.
What amazes me is that there are some people who try to excuse what happened to Garner - as if someone not an "only one" would be so quickly let off the hook for causing another's death in the same fashion. Death for a few cents in tax revenue (just like Waco!). The system, for these people, is never to be questioned. There are boots to be licked, and they are determined to lick them.
Oh, one more thing. As to "peak jackboot", you might find this short piece I wrote a while back to be interesting:
The people in government whom have willfully disregarded the Constition and of course their oath to uphold it. Have moved little by little to inprision the Americian people within the borders of their own country. The first big step was to disregard the Coin Act. Creating an illegal currency to become the masters of all aspects of life's normal functions. Pretty much all freedom was lost by government having absolute control of the common currency. Pastors can not preach against sin if the government and its employees are engaged in wholesale sin. The government will destroy that pastor and the church he and his flock worship at, because of the 501 (C) (3) laws.
History has soundly proved modern man is ruthless and violent by governments murdering no less than 185 million of their own citizens during the 20th century. These are not war deaths which could be also counted. This 185 million murders are of disarmed common citizens, old people, children and all living breathing people. Government can not be anything but limited because if it grows death will lay in its wake. Which all starts with control, absolute control of the currency. The founders knew this which is why there was the Coin Act.
Try and find a bank that is still wiring money off shore. Only the very largest will do that any longer, forcing businesses to change to the large banks to buy needed business goods fron off shore suppliers. All under the lie, the War On Drugs and money laundering. You ain't seen anything yet and it's going to start happening fast.
A very well written article . The likes of which are seldom seen . I have learned a great deal and thank you.
You claim no evidence has surfaced re: Garner selling loosies at the time of his killing - I haven't found a good source on that yet. What did you use for that?
Celictus - I find your interpretation of the evidence at hand for the Ferguson murder pretty outrageous, but that stems from your over-credulity for the testimony given to the g.j. A big Black with petty criminal history as a kid in a poor-ass town is not a menace in the making.
Joshua, since Garner was killed in June I've spent hours trying to find any report of cigarettes being found on his person or at the scene, and haven;t been able to find one. I've taken the absence of reported evidence as evidence of an absence, if you will.
In the last few days, the union thugs in the NYPD have anonymously dumped the entire chamber-pot of unsubstantiated allegations in Garner's record, traducing the dead and now entirely defenseless victim. "Speak no ill of the dead" doesn't apply to victims of criminal violence by the police. I'm sure that if loosies had been found, we would have seen the evidence in the ongoing data-dump.
Thank you. This is an excellent example of writing facts in ways opposite to the received wisdom of the state idolators and government historians.
Keep it up. Don't stop writing. Please.
Hi, fellow anarchist Stefan Molyneux broadcast a treatment of the Garner incident from his point of view. It's worthwhile absorbing.
All cops are beholden to the state. They threaten the use of deadly force to enforce the opinion called "law".
Perhaps with the advent of autonomous non-meat based robots taking their place, and their jobs, cops will awaken from their comfy unionized slumber to realize their parasitism on society. I do hope once they join the ranks of so many currently unemployed americans, they are ostracised from any form of employment. Let them approach their end wishing they could have changed their behaviour when alive and costumed, as scrooge did, before they blow their brains out.
HEAR, HEAR! Superb article. Should be required reading for police forces nationwide.
We have seen multiple "Boston Massacres" just in the present year. What must surely follow, has been coming a long time...
"I know that all of these places and all of these people are part of the battlefield ,not just because I am a soldier, and have experienced a few battlefields in my day; but also because our President declares that even our own homes are on the battlefield, whether we wish them to be or not, and I have no choice but to believe him; it’s not just that the NDAA passed – a battlefield is not defined by law; it’s the profound build-up of martial power and resources across my once-great nation which tells me a battle is being prepared here. "
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