Back in July, an article surfaced on the internet claiming that an unsuccessful gun raid occurred and that 72 people had been killed, along with 200 wounded, when the government attempted to confiscate banned assault weapons. Some extremely conservative websites, whose hosts apparently didn’t read beyond the headline, reposted the article in full to their sites (or in snippets) and individuals—apparently excited that such an event had occurred—took to Facebook in rage over the incident. This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, but this one is unique in that the author attempts to replicate history by throwing it mish-mosh into a modern day setting.
The article can be found here, but included below are some snippets:
National guard units seeking to confiscate a cache of recently banned assault weapons were ambushed on April 19th by elements of a Para-military extremist faction. Military and law enforcement sources estimate that 72 were killed and more than 200 injured before government forces were compelled to withdraw.
Speaking after the clash, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage declared that the extremist faction, which was made up of local citizens, has links to the radical right-wing tax protest movement. Gage blamed the extremists for recent incidents of vandalism directed against internal revenue offices.
Gage issued a ban on military-style assault weapons and ammunition earlier in the week. This decision followed a meeting in early this month between government and military leaders at which the governor authorized the forcible confiscation of illegal arms.
Of course the article isn’t true. It’s a fluff piece (that is, a fictional narrative); while never stating it directly (a clever ploy or just an oversight, we’ll not know). The giveaway, aside from the last paragraph which mentions Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, is this line at the very end:
. . . And this, people, is how the American Revolution began… April 20, 1775
Over the past few months, I have been getting a ton of attention in Google hits from people apparently searching for this article. The troubling question I have is whether people actually believe this to be a true story. Even those who recognize it as a fictional polemical work seem to think that it accurately illustrates what the author suggests, that this is somehow similar—in scope and in dimension—to how the Revolution in America began in 1775.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Despite the author’s intentions, whatever they may be, they manage to simultaneously appropriate and fabricate revolutionary history by (although not transparent to some) misleading their readers and inciting fear.
While the author clearly attempts to make historical associations, he makes them in all the wrong ways. Historians cringe when they see this sort of drivel pass across their screens. The author does such a horrible job at drawing useful comparisons, the narrative actually reads like someone with only a very basic or elementary level education wrote it. The political point the author is making is overshadowed by their horrendous grasp of the historical details of the Revolution, to the point that it is actually laughable.
For example, by the time of the Battle of Lexington in April of 1775 the Revolution had already been underway for months.
The Revolution Began in 1774 and not in 1775
In the Summer of 1774, Parliament in the UK drew up and enacted the implementation of the Massachusetts Government Act, which among other items, laid out this clause:
[T]hat from and after August 1, 1774, so much of the charter … [of 1691] … which relates to the time and manner of electing the assistants or counsellors for the said province, be revoked, … and that the offices of all counsellors and assistants, elected and appointed in pursuance thereof, shall from thenceforth cease and determine: And that, from and after the said August 1, 1774, the council, or court of assistants of the said province for the time being, shall be composed of such of the inhabitants or proprietors of lands within the same as shall be thereunto nominated and appointed by his Majesty.
In other words, the free election of officials by the people of Massachusetts was dissolved and in place of said officials, the King would appoint his servants or Loyalists in charge of the legislative branch (including judges). Out of fear that these advocates for the king, with their seats of power established, would take control of their livestock and farms (this is important—no discussion of their firearms or their ammunition is found), the citizens of Worcester County called a general meeting of all the local counties and decided to establish resistance.
Though General Gage (not a governor, but the military commander) issued a threat that he would bring in troops to subdue the revolt, he backed down. Over 4,000 militia—militia that had been sanctioned under the Crown since the days of the first settlements (many armed by the British Government, in point of fact)—took to the County seat of Worcester and forced every Loyalist to the crown, and every new legislative official seated by the King, to recant and apologize.
This action inspired other Counties in Massachusetts to do the same, which then spread across the colonies in America. Tories and those loyal to the King were ridiculed and mocked and their property seized and houses destroyed in order to get them to leave town. It worked. It was absolutely near bloodless (perhaps a few scrapes to the ego occurred); not a single shot was fired at anyone to the point of wounding or killing. New County governments were installed nearly everywhere in the North and some in the South (some Counties in the South remained Loyal for a time). And the colony of New York found itself embroiled in a political civil war (as many Loyalists fled there). And within weeks of this event, the first Continental Congress would be held (in September, 1774).
In other words, by the time the first shot rang out on April 19, 1775 (note: not on the 20th, as the Article suggests), the provincial governments throughout Massachusetts were all run by American elected officials. This includes the local towns of Lexington and Concord (but not in the city of Boston; another bizarre claim made by the author). These were not ‘paramilitary radicals’ but were, in fact, representing the majority of the people in the New England. And their frustration did not come about due to universal healthcare or assault weapons bans—but a tax on trade goods that many Americans felt was unjustified (the tax was meant to support a war with France in which the American colonists were not involved; they also had no representation in Parliament in order to vocalize their misgivings about the laws).
Militia, the National Guard, and Paramilitary Forces?
The article makes the association between the National Guard and the British Regulars, which is hard to swallow. The ‘paramilitary force’ which the author holds up as the victors are not in any way remotely similar to the militia or minutemen at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
The militiaman in the eighteenth century was not an unofficial fighting force that worked outside the government (as paramilitary armies usually do), but were THE military force of the colonies. The militia were regulated by the government (locally and regionally) and by parliament prior to the Revolution. There were strict laws set forth by the legislatures of Great Britain which required the provincial colonial committees to organize, to arm, and to train the militia regularly. In fact, the militia–particularly in New England and Pennsylvania where the threat of invasion by the French from Canada and native tribes from the West and North was all too common–were so well regulated that when the provincial governments set up by Great Britain were dissolved in 1774, the new colonial committees utilized the British system for some time until a new system, under General Washington and Baron von Steuben, went into place at Valley Forge later in the war.
Of course there was a difference between the militia and the Continental Line, particularly upon Washington’s arrival at the Siege of Boston in July of 1775. When the first fighting broke out, the only troops were militia. When the Continental Congress heard of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, they put out a call for troops for a new Continental Army. Many of the soldiers who had initially joined militia units would later join the Continental Line once their enlistments ran out.
So the notion that the militiamen were like the unsanctioned, backyard “militia” of our modern day is just as backwards and anachronistic as the notion that the revolution started over gun control.
Incidentally, the National Guard of today are the descendants of the American militia force. Many of the older Guard units can trace their “lineage” back to specific units during the American Revolution. Why the National Guard—which is state run (until called into actual service of the United States)—would be associated with the British Regulars is beyond me (and anyone who knows anything about the history of the Guard).
If the author were trying to replicate a modern setting, wouldn’t it be law enforcement that would confiscate illegal firearms? After all, law enforcement is meant to enforce civilian legislation (as all Americans should know); the military has its own branch of legislation (JAG—which happened to have been instituted by general Washington). The National Guard would not be called up to confiscate illegal weapons (in fact in all the state-run buy-back programs for firearms, it is civilian law enforcement taking back the weapons).
This whole section of the article is rank with misconstrued details and terrible research. But what comes next is perhaps the worst bit of it.
Samuel Adams and Paul Revere?
What is most frustrating about the article’s content is the author’s ignorance about the political structure of the early American government. In his narrative, this paramilitary group is clearly the group of protagonists against the government (antagonists). And yet as leaders of this paramilitary group, set in our modern time, he includes legendary Federalist (pro-central government) Paul Revere and also Sam Adams, who famously wrote that “the man who dares rebel against the laws of a republic [as opposed to rebelling against monarchies) ought to suffer death,” and incorporated this very language into his Riot Act, which was meant to severely punish any mob (you know, like nonsanctioned, paramilitary groups) that would rise up against the United States in any form. This was widely supported and passed by the state government (made up of elected officials), along with a Militia Act, which threatened court martial and death upon militia officers and soldiers who refused to muster to quell riots and usurpers upon direction of the governor.
In other words, the author failed to take into account the fact that in our modern society, we live in a free republic—not a monarchy. In other words, if laws by the government are made (FYI, such laws don’t exist, nor have they ever) to strip Americans of their assault rifles, those laws would come from publically-elected government officials (as in, the majority voted for those officials and, therefore, voted in support of such legislation) and, by extension, the populace of the country. Sam Adams understood the difference between this form of government, the government we currently live in, and the form of government that the King of England ruled (a monarchy) where rules were placed on people (i.e., the majority) without the need of their vote or consent. And for Sam Adams, anyone who went against these practices were not only committing treason, they deserved death (read more about uprisings in American history and how misconstrued is the political movement of the tea party patriots here).
Paul Revere, the Federalist that he was, would not have supported a paramilitary organization against a Republican government. No, he would have been the one with “Governor Gage” calling in more backup to suppress the paramilitary troops for not abiding by the laws of the land.
The most puzzling part of this narrative is why the author felt so inclined to write the piece to begin with, as their knowledge of the period is so narrowed and limited. It seems that, as I said earlier, the only reason such a narrative exists at all is to incite fear in the readers; especially those who fall in line with the silly and unsupported arguments made by David Kopel and David Barton (who both falsely believe the Revolutionary War started over gun control in 1775). This fictional story seems to appeal most with those people who want to make the Revolutionary War–and that era in our past–about modern social issues.
I’ve isolated these anachronisms and falsities in this author’s narrative to illustrate clearly the problems of this narrative. The real irony here is that the author is attempting to ‘lecture through narrative’; his underlying theme is “This happened once, it can happen again”. But he fails to draw upon accurate history, so in turn the past he is attempting to recreate is one of his own fancy.
It reminds me of the time when Herman Cain, while lecturing on the importance of knowing the Constitution, confused the Constitution for the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps the element is true—Americans are very ignorant about their own government’s founding—but the execution is terrible and ill-contrived. Indeed it is so because the persons lecturing on the ignorance of Americans are, themselves, horribly ignorant. That, my dear reader, is the real scandal about this piece of fiction.