As If An Enemy’s Country.

Sipsey Street Irregulars

For some weeks my insomniac reading has been a marvelous volume my friend Stewart Rhodes sent me, which I have just finished reading: As If an Enemy’s Country: The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of Revolution by Richard Archer.

There are many lessons for us today, beginning with understanding the growing sense of alienation of the colonists from the mother country caused by the force of occupation which was forced upon Bostonians with landing of the Regulars on 28 September 1768.  

Though (the British troops) had not experienced the violent confrontation that had been rumored, for the most part they were met with sullen stares and silence. More overt opposition would come soon enough. “All is at present quiet,” Andrew Eliot wrote in mid-October, “but there is a general gloom and uneasiness.” He portrayed Boston as a garrisoned town, a recurring characterization used by town residents. Over time, the resentment grew. On April 15, 1769, the Massachusetts Council, writing the Earl of Hillsborough, secretary of state for the American colonies, complained that the secrecy and circumstances attending the landing of troops in Boston were “as if an Enemy’s Country.” The ministry was treating American colonists, Boston in particular, as alien land, and colonists, Bostonians in particular, recognized the change. Their loyalty to England was shaken. The immediate issue facing them was how to remove the occupying force. The larger issue was the colonies’ place within the empire, and indeed whether there should be a place for them within the empire. (pp. xvi-xvii)

That was settled, of course, by Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775, but note, all you who claim to impatient at the tempo of events in our own resistance to the present-day regime, that we are talking here about a slow process that began with the Stamp Act resistance ten years before “the shot heard ’round the world.”

The occupation was taking its toll, and it would continue to do so. In the summer of 1769 the moderate minister Andrew Eliot reexamined his previous position. “I have sometimes given offence by opposing some measures among us which I thought rash,” he wrote a British correspondent, “but I begin to think I have been mistaken. Every step the ministry takes, serves to justify our warmest measures — and it is now plain that if they had not had their hands full at home, they would have crushed the Colonies, and that, if we had not been vigorous in our opposition, we had lost all.” Eliot was not alone in holding these emerging and increasingly militant views. (Page 143)

Resistance is a process. Our movement, as I’ve written and said many times before, is one galvanized by events. As the regime continues to throw away its own Mandate of Heaven for all to see, and today’s forces of occupation of the federal,state and local police forces continue to identify themselves with that tyrannical regime and its self-delegitimization, more and more folks are coming around to our side. Yet the Founders, while using some street violence (such as breaking windows) and threats to achieve their purpose were always cognizant of the limits of offensive violence and the danger it posed to their own legitimacy.

At a public meeting, a friend of the crown was dealt with, but only to a point:

As Murray attempted to leave the Hall, someone yanked off his wig, revealing his bald head. Members of the popular party quickly surrounded him to prevent further abuse. One of the group, Lewis Gray, made clear its concern: “No violence, or you’ll hurt the cause.” As they made their way out of Faneuil Hall, Murray’s wig disdainfully danced on a stick close behind.” (Page 157)

Yet it was the occupation itself — the attempt by the ministry to enforce their will at the point of a bayonet –that made the revolution possible. Archer sums up:

The stationing of troops was the turning point in the radicalization of Boston opinion. Earlier responses had contained anger and frustration, but also the determination to find a solution within the confines of the imperial system. The colonists made excuses. British officials must not understand the financial and personal sacrifices people had made in the war against the french and their allies. They must not comprehend the economic and social disruption in the war’s aftermath. They would respond reasonably once they discovered the mistakes they had made. When instead ministries and Parliament ignored colonial conditions and pleas and imposed more taxes withou consent and with an even stronger apparatus for enforcement, the impact on Boston was greater than in other colonial cities, and hence their was greater alienation.

 

The placing of four regiments in Boston as a police force to support British officials rather than as an army to protect the population certified that the town was being occupied as a hostile country and that Bostonians were viewed as an enemy people. That certainly was the impression of the citizens of Boston. The townspeople could not escape checkpoints, drills, thrust bayonets, angry and profane words, whippings on the Common, redcoats with their wives, children, camp followers, and hangers-on cluttering the streets, and ultimately musket balls and death. They were hardly innocent themselves, often provoking the soldiers. They had not, however, invited the regiments. Just like a bayonet, the standing army was thrust at them. In their minds, they became not a subordinate but a separate people. They increasingly perceived themselves as Americans rather than British. The first American revolution was in Bostonians’ sense of their identity. (Page 228)

Archer ends his volume with the immediate aftermath of the Boston Massacre. And yet it was still almost five years before 19 April 1775 — Five years of the Founders doing their best to maneuver the forces of the Crown into making the first, legitimacy-destroying act of offensive violence.

I highly recommend this book to present day Sons of Liberty. History may not exactly repeat, but it often stutters. Learn from the Founders.

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