The “Patriots of 1776” actually began with the Boston Massacre in March 1770, which was a street protest against unfair taxation. Sam Adams, to my mind the “real” Adams in the American pantheon of Founders, actually was a brewer, and I keep a cold bottle in the fridge just for any special toast. Sam should be the one you look up first.
You know my preference for “Dark Alley” activities against the organized Mob of modern American government. (I’d love to be able to put together a handbook, for there are several categories of bad people out there, all age groups, and all different professions, each of which needs to be dealt with differently.) Well, Sam Adams started it after the Boston Massacre in 1770, six years before the Declaration, when he devised “committees of correspondence” throughout the colonies, dark alley stuff about street tactics, leading up to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, three years before the Declaration, and early-warning systems, such as Paul Revere in April 1775, giving a heads-up about the coming fights at Lexington and Concord, still a full year before before the Declaration, and to some extent Tom Paine’s “Common Sense”, six months before the Declaration, (and still the best selling book of any book ever printed in America, next to the Bible.) How Paine did it was to keep it simple, 57 pages, which lit different fuses in just about every House with a few paragraphs that were of particular importance that portion of the readers. (Get a copy and you’ll see what I man.) Virtually every household was moved to action in some fashion. (There’s a lesson here about patience and keeping your cool about you.)
Most of you don’t know that Thomas Paine’s book had a direct and immediate impact on the delegates sitting around chewing the fat in Philadelphia, wondering “What to do?”, “What to do”? A “declaration of separation” from the English had been discussed for about a year, but it was the people back home who decided that they should vote to “declare their independence”…or else.
(If you’re under 40 you may want to look this up as I doubt you were taught any of this, or its meaning, in high school…I first read about it in 5th Grade around 1956, fyi. And if you have a liberal arts degree, you were likely only given the Devil’s point of view about these events.)
Paine’s message was conveyed to members of Congress by a variety of ways, and with a variety of threats. That’s how politics worked then. Some viewed the Revolution as a moral issue, others an economic issue, still others just a visceral dislike for the bullying English who really did expect you to stand aside when they came prancing down the sidewalk. Thomas Paine covered just about everyone one of those issues, and moved them all in the same direction.
It was then for George Washington and a bunch of local militias to organize the next steps, which took six long years to complete.
In my view Sam Adams was the first flash point, then “Common Sense” brought the whole of Colonial America to a boiling point that their Congress could no longer ignore.
And I’m sticking to that.
84 years later, the same sort of thing happened, only over more clearly-defined moral issues, namely, in God’s design (and almost all Americans claimed a deep belief in God) “who is, and who is not, qualified to be considered “a person”, as the Constitution referred to it. Short answer: Dredd Scott and Slavery, which had dogged the original Founders 84 years earlier. It also was a flash point pointed directly toward the original Democratic Party which made slavery an anchor in its platform; only not in ending it but in preserving it as a means of political control, and profit.
The Democratic Party was started in 1828 by an anti-slavery northerner named Martin Van Buren and a slave-holding Tennessean named Andrew Jackson. Jackson believed the presidency was “stolen” from him in 1824 when none of the four candidates in that election could garner the required electoral vote. He had by far the most votes cast and electoral votes, but the election was thrown into the House of Representatives (XII Amendment), where John Quincy Adams, the son of Founding father John Adams, and #2 behind Jackson, (and least memorable or capable of all the Adamses) became president with the help of some backroom dealing of the #3 candidate, Henry Clay.
Now the flash point of slavery had been simmering since the days of the Constitution. But anti-slavery people were split between abolitionists who wanted it outlawed outright, (and yes, with secession or civil war threatened all long) while some of the anti-slavers like John Adams believed slavery would die a natural death from the changing economy, so why stir up hatred and animosity when it was likely to just fade away?
But in 1794, 7 years after the United States had been formed, a Massachuck (man from Massachusetts) named Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin, which mechanically separated cotton fibers from their seeds, thus speeding up the process several fold. In doing so, that threw all the southern territories drained by the Mississippi River into mass cotton producing areas with a “cotton rush” of new landowners and slave owners into the market over 30+ years. With those territories aching to become states, and the South aching to grab off a majority in Congress, a competition resulted in a kind of tit-for-tat race which Van Buren’s new Democrat Party cynically hoped to capitalize on. The Party saw maintaining a balance of power between Free and Slave states to be both a “good thing” and a profitable one, controlling Washington politics in all but 8 years between 1828 and 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected, thus setting off the Civil War.
All sorts of causes for the Civil have been chosen by the finest of historians over my lifetime alone. But flash points? Well, Abe Lincoln I hear most often? Only if you want to blame him for breathing. Lincoln ran on a Republican Party ticket which carried the abolition of slavery on its banner. Seven southern states seceded before Lincoln was even inaugurated, the remaining four (VA, NC, TN, AR) after Fort Sumpter was fired on a month after Lincoln was sworn in. I’m not sure what Lincoln would have done, or how quickly, had the South not fired first, but he did not have at his disposal an army of old political hands to forge a wartime cabinet, nor did he have an army, seeing how many of America’s military leaders (RE Lee, Jackson) had all gone with the South.
So the “flash point” of the Civil War was of Ft Sumpter, which, I can only assume, was based on a military estimation that the Yankees, Federals, or North (whatever you want to call them) would not be able to respond quickly enough to prevent them from establishing strong defenses at key ports and strategic locations; considering the Yankees were not able to muster and train enough men fast enough, or provide the leadership to lead them. i order to interdict the South.
Sounds good on paper, I guess. But other unheralded flash points were the arrogance and pride of the aristocratic gentility (think French, Mark Twain sure did) the South had created, considering themselves superior to the pedestrian ways North, who they believed could never muster the sort of gallant leadership they could, thus assuming the Ft Sumpter “fire the first shot” gambit would work. In like manner they also never believed that a backwoods rube like Abraham Lincoln could manage such an enterprise from the front office as chief executive, nor did he have the capacity for that relentless refusal to fail that he later displayed.
But that final, and telling flash point: No southern aristocrat could imagine in his wildest dreams that six million (count ’em) 6,000,000 young men would jump out of their safe, warm farm cots in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Maine, and enlist to go free 4 million black people they had never ever seen and only because two generations of preachers in small churches from Maine to Minnesota had told them slavery was an abomination to God.
Lincoln got his army, and after two years of searching, found his leadership, and the rest was history. Appomattox was Yorktown redux.
About where we are today, in similar, we’ve seen over a decade of flash points building up, only it appears it will be decided by several head-to-head confrontations between Republicans.
Much like the South’s aristocratic view of the North, modern Democrats with a leadership born of wealth and privilege, and millions of Americans “on their payroll, or teat” (you decide) view Republicans as pedestrian middle managers in a textile mill, and a Republican leadership that for years has shown a disabling fear of appearing contrary. They have the same John C Calhoun-Jefferson Davis opinion of ordinary American, apparently many Republican wannabes in the swing states involved in this election drama, and who only have only fingertip control of their legislatures, the deeper street-level institutions all Democrat, they felt it a safe bet to go big on “the steal”, for even if caught, the Republican ne’er-do-wells would not have the spine to do much about it.
Like saving slavery, ending Trumpism was worth the risk, once again, just like 1860, having no idea what those now 80 million, and counting, Americans of low-degree might do.
The first flash point, after 11 months, has resulted in the Arizona audit, in which a Republican legislature stands more or less athwart a Republican executive branch, while Democrats stand off to the side. The audit did not go Democrats’ way, but it is the after-action that decides. Other states are also contemplating audits as well.
It can get out of hand in Arizona if the Republicans play Republican nice-guy politics with one another, as Maricopa and Pima County Democrats expect, giving the voters a “Sorry, we messed up, but we’ll do better next time” shrug, or, in the alternative, vote to decertify, thus pinning the governor, secretary of state, et al, and various county governments, up against the wall.
There is a fire smoldering here. A big one.
And it will begin with Republican vs Republican. So just remember your general history about the Republicans
The Republican Party was founded on the , “Doctrine of Liberty” but largely abandoned by its political class after the Civil War, bathed in the spoils of war. But the American people held onto it, and have “tea-partied up” since 2010, thanks to Barack Obama, and held onto on it for well over a decade now.
Finally, in 2016 the American people chose a leader that didn’t comport with much of the Republican Party’s leadership. Those voters represented a flash-point as if Sam Adams had personally designed it. The Doctrine of Liberty is still alive. And by 2020 millions more Americans from the other side, including a large number of African-Americans, came over to the Trump view of American freedom. So many, in fact, the “Ft Sumpter Democrats” had to steal electoral votes in Republican states in 2020. It didn’t happen overnight either. Virginians saw this in 2013 when the class-based Republican Party sat by and allowed a man that is today up for a second term to steal yet another election. In 2013 Terry McAuliffe stole it under the complacent noses of the Republican Party, who ran the state election apparatus at the time. Thanks to that loss, Democrats are in charge of the entire statewide election apparatus.
Much like “the long Train of Abuses and Usurpations” listed by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, and outlined by Thomas Paine, each a major flash point, this can go in several different ways, but in all likelihood, none in the direction Democrats will want. I expect their passports are made and bags packed, should they need to get out of Dodge in a hurry.
If you see a flash point, join it.