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Memories of the 28th Century

Its Natural Manure

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Extract from Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith
Paris Nov. 13. 1787.
the people can not be all, & always, well informed. the part which is wrong [. . .] will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. we have had 13. states independent 11. years. there has been one rebellion. that comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. what country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? let them take arms. the remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. what signify a few lives lost in a century or two? the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. it is it’s natural manure.

I was reminded of this a while ago, and now that I have reread it, I see that it is more appropriate to recent events than I originally thought. The part of the population that was wrong did have misconceptions, and they have done mischief. Perhaps we can move on, as those people become progressively more educated about the country and how political action works. If the blood of so few is adequate to feed the tree of Liberty, then perhaps we should rejoice that the tree didn't require the blood of thousands or hundreds of thousands. But as I tried to think of occasions that resulted in patriots' blood being shed, I couldn't enumerate them. I can remember people being injured or killed during civil rights activities in the South, but I remember few details[ there was a bridge in Montgomery, Al., I think, and several were badly injured. I remember some people doing some education who were murdered, and there were. There were many marches,and it wasn't unusual for blood to be shed.

Then I started thinking about Anti-war demonstrations during the 60's and 70's, and I could think of Marches on Washington, but the only violence was at Kent State University, where four were killed. I am sure that skin and blood ended up on pavement in other places, and that is still going on.

Going back further, there were pitched battles between moonshiners and Revenuers during the Prohibition Era, and that was a matter of liberty, even though people usually regard it as organized criminals who were opposed by the forces of good, but the laws involved attacked basic liberties. On top of that, we can pile the ongoing attempts to DE-criminalize drugs. That was a fake issue that was whistled up with collections of lies starting around 1900. Using “sin taxes” to support government is traditional in this country, and “sin taxes” restrict liberties. Similarly, prostitution is of the same nature. When Jefferson made those comments cited above, there were no sin taxes, and prostitution was legal, with restrictions on locations, and no sane king ever tried to ban prostitution or restrict strong drink.

I haven't mentioned the biggest example of the blood of patriots being shed, the Civil War. Regardless, of how one feels about that war, the soldiers on both sides were patriots, and it was a fine example of old men sending young men to their deaths. In the end, liberties were also among the damaged, as was the federal constitution.

Then there were all the wars in which the U.S.A. became involved to restrict the rights of some peasants in some foreign country, so that some Americans could make money. I don't know which was first, probably the fights against the Barbary Pirates/ I can't fault those who went to war against them, because they were trying to assist citizens in their lawful activities. But I do fault the U.S. For going to war against the lawfully elected government on Nicaragua in the 1820's in the hope of getting a route for a canal for Commodore Vanderbilt. Although William Walker isn't regarded as a fighter for liberty, he did fight for the people of Nicaragua against those who were taking advantage of them, and some American patriots shed blood for the tree.

Washington wasted little time before feeding the tree, but in the Whiskey Rebellion, he was fighting against liberty and for taxes.

Let's not even think about the cowboys and soldiers against the Indians. Both sides were fighting for liberty, and both sides fed the tree.

Then there were the Asian who were on the way of Geo-political powers. The Korean War hasn't completely ended, yet, and it is better to avoid thinking about it; it's a no-win. The one in Vietnam was one of the deadliest misunderstanding in history. The world would be a better place, if the Versailles Conference had listened to Ho Chi Minh, but it didn't.

I didn't mention the struggles of labor unions that poured out food for the tree, but that's what happened, and it wasn't pleasant.

I expect that readers can think of other examples of patriots providing food for the tree of liberty.

Updated 01-18-2021 at 10:37 PM by PeterL