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From the Beginning in 1773 until Today, we are committed to the defense of Individual Freedom, Liberty and Prosperity! We are the TEA Party - Totally Engaged Americans!
by Jenny Beth Martin, Honorary Chairman of TEA Patriots Action, December 16, 2023
Two hundred fifty years ago today, our forefathers launched a revolution that swept the colonies and, eventually, the world. Two hundred thirty-two years ago Friday, some of those very same patriots ratified the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which we’ve come to call the Bill of Rights. For both events, and for the war they fought, the privation they suffered, and the victories they achieved between December 1773 and December 1791, we, and the world, should be grateful.
On December 16, 1773, a band of patriots calling themselves the Sons of Liberty – angered by the British Parliament’s decision earlier that year to bail out the British East India Company by granting it a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies, voted through by a parliament that included no representatives of those who were to be affected by the policy – dressed themselves as Mohawk Indians and boarded three ships harbored at Griffin’s Wharf, then dumped 342 chests of tea, worth millions of dollars in today’s currency, overboard.
Read: Boston Tea Party comes back to life in reinactment celebration of 250th anniversary!
King George III and the British Parliament responded by enacting the Coercive Acts (later known as the Intolerable Acts): Boston Harbor was ordered closed until the lost tea was paid for; the Massachusetts Constitution was abrogated, and Massachusetts lost its right, unique among the colonies, to elect its own executive council; martial law was instituted in the state, by moving judicial authority to Britain; and colonists all over America were required to quarter British troops on demand.
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The King thought the new laws would quash the revolutionary fervor in the colonies. Instead, they backfired – the other colonies saw the laws as further evidence of British tyranny and rallied to aid Massachusetts. Within a few months, delegates from all over gathered to form the First Continental Congress. Soon, the war would be on.
It wasn’t the war itself, but the ideas that propelled it, that made such a difference – revolutionary ideas regarding sovereignty, and the rights of man. The idea that all men are created equal, the idea that all men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, the idea that governments are instituted for the purpose of protecting these rights, and the idea that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed – these ideas had been discussed for some time, but had never before been so eloquently explained and then implemented in the creation of a new nation.
It took those patriots years of experience, experiments and failures, before they got it right in 1787 with the drafting of the Constitution. Even after years of failure with the weak national government established by the Articles of Confederation, some were still fearful of the creation of what they saw as a too-powerful central government, and they demanded the inclusion of a series of amendments to specifically lay out the rights to be guaranteed to individuals and states under the new working order as the price for their votes to ratify the new Constitution.
James Madison, a member of the First Congress, drafted multiple amendments to assuage these concerns. In 1789, that First Congress sent to the states for ratification 12 proposed amendments; on December 15, 1791, the Virginia General Assembly ratified amendments three through 12 (as had 10 other states previously), making the Old Dominion the last state necessary to ratify the amendments. The amendments were added to the Constitution as the first 10 amendments, what we now call the Bill of Rights.
First among the ratified amendments is the right to freedom of religion, and speech, and the press, and the right to assemble and to petition the government. These rights are known and revered around the world. They allow us to enjoy the freedom to worship as our consciences dictate, to comment on and even to criticize our government, and its actions, and the persons involved in making decisions, without fear of reprisal by the government, in a way unknown in the rest of the world.
The Second Amendment guarantees the right to self-defense; the Third Amendment specifically targeted that odious provision of the Intolerable Acts requiring colonists to quarter British troops on demand, and prohibited such action. The Fourth, Fifth, Six, Seventh, and Eighth amendments all addressed various restrictions limiting government action against individuals. The Ninth amendment says that if we, the authors of the Constitution, failed to specifically mention a certain right, that does not mean, and should not be interpreted to mean, that the people do not retain that right; and the Tenth Amendment flips the Ninth on its head, and declares affirmatively that any powers not specifically granted by the Constitution to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people.
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At Tea Party Patriots Action, we understand and revere these rights, and we take action to guard and protect them. In our early days, our members and supporters were targeted by the federal government – the IRS demanded information from us regarding the nature of the speeches made and the speakers who spoke at our meetings, and even of the prayers said at our meetings, in violation of our rights to assemble freely and to speak freely and to petition the government. We fought back, and the government acknowledged wrongdoing.
Today, we maintain that vigilance. As our forefathers knew, the issues they were dealing with – how best to construct a self-governing polity – would be argued over in perpetuity. Whether we are organizing rallies in defense of personal freedom, or economic freedom, or health care freedom, or fighting for a debt-free future, or working with members of the House and Senate to protect our freedoms as Congress debates key issues – FISA reauthorization, legislation that will impact election integrity, legislative remedies for broken policies on the southern border, moving to confirm or reject nominees to the courts or to various high government positions, and dozens of other issues that come up on a regular basis – we are on guard, on the watch.
We remember December 16, 1773 as the day the fire was lit, and we remember December 15, 1791, as the day our rights were guaranteed by our government. We celebrate our forebears and their magnificent contribution to the chronicles of human liberty, and we honor them this week, on these two special days of commemoration. God bless America!