Does this sound like the abuse that apologists for Big Government fling at the modern Tea Party?

It should. Tea Party activists have been the victims of some incredible verbal smears—especially considering that (unlike leftist demonstrators) they have been almost uniformly peaceful and law-abiding. But modern Tea Partiers can point with pride to the fact that the patriots who stood up for freedom before the American Revolution were rewarded with the same kind of mindless abuse.

In some ways, the situation in the British Empire before the American Revolution resembles that in the United States today. On the one side were the American patriots and their British Whig sympathizers, who insisted that under the British constitution colonists were entitled to certain rights and freedoms, and that the corrupt central government in London had extended its power far beyond constitutional limits.

On the other side were British and American Tories, who often were the direct or indirect beneficiaries of cushy privileges from the British government.

Well before the Revolution, when the Patriots were simply seeking redress of grievances, they became victims of an incredible campaign of Tory abuse. This was the sort of abuse hurled by people who know deep down the privileges they enjoy are undeserved, and therefore cloak that knowledge with the bravado of moral superiority.

Among many other names, Tories called colonial American patriots “zealots of anarchy”. . . “Those who . . . hate[] their country” who “multiply with the fecundity of their own rattle-snakes” . . . “blusterers” and “criminals.”

Patriots’ ideas were characterized as “seditious” . . . “falsehood maintained by fraud” . . . “Madness. . . misrule, uproar, violence, and confusion” . . . “airy bursts of malevolence” . . . “insolence” . . . “frenzy.”

Tory Samuel Johnson (who was then receiving regular payments from the Crown) came up with this gem: The views of the colonists, he said, were “antipatriotric prejudices [which] are the abortions of folly impregnated by faction.”

If Americans like John Adams, John Dickinson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin could take this kind of calumny simply because they stood up for freedom, then modern Tea Party activists can be proud to join them.

Rob Natelson

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