Sunday, October 9, 2011

Some Empowering Inspiration....?

When soldiers opened fire on a crowd that was taunting them over government tyranny, five men were killed. This became known in the press and forever as The Boston Massacre.  It was 1770.  John Adams, a lawyer fighting for American independence, defended the British soldiers, at great peril to the success of his own career.  The only American lawyer willing to take the case, he said he was firm in the belief that no man in a free country should be denied the right to counsel and a fair trial. He was convinced, on principle, that the case was of utmost importance.  He would be hazarding his hard earned reputation, and in his words, “incurring a clamor and popular suspicions and prejudices.”

David McCollough wrote the above in John Adams, Simon and Shuster, 2001. ........ I often wonder about the principles that led to our American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, since I read such a wide variety of opinion about how our Constitution was formed, and about our current loyalties to that document. McCollough has unearthed detailed information about the original ideals, through the writings and letters of John Adams, who later became our second President, 1797-1801. It appears that much of the dignified, respectful resolutions toward freedom and individual liberties came from John Adams.  At least, he was best equipped and disposed to collect the ideas and write it all down.  But the thinking on the Boston “Massacre” was his own. The words compel, given the current growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Protesting crowds, however high the intentions, can lead to violence.  Much depends on the police:

John Adams: “We have entertained a great variety of phrases to avoid calling this sort of people a mob. Some call them shavers, some call them geniuses. The plain English is, gentlemen, [it was] most probably a motley rabble of saucy boys, Negroes and mulattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jacktars. And why should we scruple to call such a people a mob, I can’t conceive, unless the name is too respectable for them. The sun is not about to stand still or go out, nor the rivers to dry up because there was a mob in Boston on the 5th of March that attacked a party of soldiers…Soldiers quartered in a populous town will always occasion two mobs where they prevent one. They are wretched conservators of the peace.”

He described how the shrieking “rabble” pelted the soldiers with snowballs, oyster shells, sticks, “every species of rubbish,” as a cry went up to “Kill them! Kill them!” One soldier had been knocked down with a club then hit again as soon as he could rise. “Do you expect he should behave like a stoic philosopher, lost in apathy?” Adams asked. Self-defense was the primary canon of the law of nature. Better that many guilty persons escape unpunished than one innocent person should be punished. “The reason is, because it’s of more importance to community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished.”  (To me, this translates to innocent til proven guilty and if there’s a doubt let them go. So why are our prisons so full?)

“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams told the jury, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  The jury remained out two and a half hours. Of the eight soldiers, six were acquitted and two found guilty of manslaughter, for which they were branded on their thumbs.  John Adams later said the defense was “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”

I support the Occupy Wall Street movement. Who wouldn’t?  Federal Reserve Chairmen Ben Bernanke said "Like everyone else, I'm dissatisfied with what the economy's doing right now. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they're dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can't blame them."

My investments are shrinking with everyone else’s. But I’m not ready to hit the streets, because of the potential personal danger.  I am an old lady, not very strong. I don’t know if this is cowardice or not. Thought I’d write about it first and see what happened next.  I find the words of John Adams most inspiring and practical. They make sense.  He said: “The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people.  As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved…”  That’s us, folks. Not a mob, but intelligent, moral people.  I do have a Bank of America account I can close.

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