walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

a rebellion every 20 years? some context would be nice

Once upon a time, in these United States of America, when there were far fewer of them, and our independence from Britain was quite fresh, and our legal system was very, very different, there was a rebellion in the state in which I now reside.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shays%27_Rebellion

Needless to say, I'm somewhat sympathetic to the rebels; I disapprove of debtors' prisons. TJ had a few things to say on the subject in a letter to William Smith:

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/issues/96oct/obrien/blood.htm

In this letter is a remark that is frequently quoted by Tea Partiers:

"God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion."

Even a superficial reading indicates that TJ was _not_ sympathetic to the rebels, and thought their cause was not just (Fucking hypocrite. I loathe TJ. Man never paid his own debts and yet thought it right to jail men for not paying theirs. And I'm not even going anywhere near the whole currency issue at the base of this particular tragedy.) -- but that it was good to have such rebellion. "The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?" TJ figured an occasional uprising by idiots (that would be the people wanting taxes lowered and a better solution to intractable debt burden than jail) to be put down viciously would be good all 'round. And the government thinking they should make some changes to avoid a reprise of Shay's Rebellion? "Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts".

The tea partiers have identified some of the spirit of TJ. They have, however, misapprehended which side he would have put them on. Quoting the 20 years comment from TJ is, um, unwise.

ETA: You know, spoken like a slave owner. I have to imagine that a slave owner would much rather have a small uprising to put down violently every little bit so that the population would have a vivid recollection to keep them in line, rather than a really big uprising after everyone who saw the last one had died, big enough to require a massacre to put down -- if you have to kill a lot of slaves, the economics turn against the owner. What a creepy, creepy man to regard as a hero.
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