Why 2021 is not like 1776

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: History

As a sometime student of the American Revolution, I am disturbed by the notion currently floating around that the assault on the Capitol this month, and the sentiment driving it, are in some way like the events leading up to American independence.  Frankly, it is not, and here’s why.

At first blush, you might think the attack resembled riots and violence by the Sons of Liberty in the early 1770s.  Well, no more than it resembled riots and violence by mobs anywhere, in any age, and for any reason.  Mobs are a commonplace tool, often whipped up by demagogues in pursuit of some aim.  But people like Sam Adams, who incited the Sons of Liberty, were not out for personal power.  They did not intend to put or keep any particular man in authority.  Rather than an authoritarian regime, they wanted representative government.

If you learned American history in school, you might remember that by 1770 the colonies had their own legislatures and courts in place.  These had been functioning smoothly, keeping the peace and dispensing justice for decades.  But when the colonists protested that their rights as Englishmen had been abrogated, the Crown dissolved those elected legislatures and dismissed colonial judges.  This was, in fact, one of the things the Sons of Library protested.  The 2021 mob’s intent was to disrupt and defy their own elected legislature (Congress), rather than to defend its existence–without, I might add, presenting any representative body to replace it.  Nor were participants interested in the rulings of their own judiciary, which has repeatedly found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.  They chose one man’s opinion over judicial opinion.

Yes, the colonists eventually had to use force to achieve independence.  But it was not the mobs who achieved it, nor even who led the way.  It was people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and on down the list, people who respected the law and civil order who led the way.  They met peacefully and openly to draw up reasoned petitions, and when they had presented their grievances through every available political channel and been rebuffed,  when they resolved as an elected body to sever ties with the mother country–only then did they appoint George Washington to head an army.  Those were the men and institutions that achieved our independence–not the Sons of Liberty.

In 1776, the rebellion–yes, it was an insurrection–was against a legislative body (Parliament) for whom Americans were not allowed to vote, and an executive power (the king) they had not elected.  In 2021, the insurrection has been against a legislative body for whom we voted, egged on by an executive–also elected–who meant to impede their function.

See the difference?


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