Liberty Chronicles, Ep. 25; The First Patriot Coalition

Liberty Chronicles, Ep. 25; The First Patriot Coalition


Anthony Comegna: For every successful revolution,
there may be dozens that fail. For every 1776, there is a 1741. That year, African slaves, Spanish sailors,
Irish servants and soldiers, and antinomian dissenters conspired to burn New York’s Fort
George and murder the city’s wealthy and powerful inhabitants. They hatched their plot at John Huston’s tavern
and spread word to the surrounding countryside [00:00:30] and down Long Island. At the sight of flames from the city, country
slaves and servants should rise up, kill their masters, and move on the city, where they
would welcome a Spanish flotilla of conquerors and personal freedom. Welcome to Liberty Chronicles, a project of
libertarianism.org. I’m Anthony Comegna. [00:01:00] At least, that was the plan. The chief arsonist chosen by the conspirators
was named Quack, and he set the fires too early. He either panicked, he was angry, or fearful
that the plot would be discovered, and he set the fire on March 17th, rather than May. Most people were not ready, certainly not
out in the countryside. While Fort George did burn, the revolution
failed. Strong winds carried the fire to burn the
governor’s mansion, the Anglican church, the army barracks, and the general secretary’s
office, [00:01:30] each one left in smoldering ruins. It terrified the local mercantile elite. In reaction, they burned 13 African plotters
alive and hanged 17 others. With them, they hanged four white conspirators. They reexported 70 slaves throughout the empire
and impressed five Europeans into the army. The tavern keeper’s daughter was banished,
with a newly orphaned child under her care. The mercantile elite hanged the conspirators
bodies around [00:02:00] the city in chains as examples, two of which made the most odd
of impressions. John Huston, again, was the tavern keeper,
a white man with characteristically white features. John Guinn was an African slave with characteristically
African features. But when hanged next to each other, over time,
the bodies changed colors. Guinn’s went from a dark black to being a
bright white. His hair turned gray, and his nose shrunk
in size. Huston’s body turned black, and his [00:02:30]
white hair turned black, too. Spectators of all kinds were forever changed
by this event, and nobody knew quite how to explain it. People who read the Bible, Jeremiah 13:23,
maybe have come up with an explanation. The verse reads, “Can an Ethiopian change
his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed
to doing evil.” John Guinn’s skin, though, did change, so
maybe this slaveholder’s city could be the start of something good, after [00:03:00]
all. It would take concerted individual action. The New York plot was one among many in this
time period, and though it was not successful, some others were. At least 80 conspiracies ripped through the
Caribbean and Atlantic world between 1730 and 1742. This number was six or seven times larger
than the 12 years either before or afterward. The governor of the Leeward Islands identified
the responsible party, a dangerous spirit of liberty, spreading across [00:03:30] imperial
possessions, the hydra of servile rebellion. In 1730, there was a plot in the oldest British
slave colony, Virginia, and the newest, South Carolina. There was a plot in Bermuda and French Louisiana,
which as we’ve seen, was the first slave society in North America. There was another Louisiana rising in 1732,
and the next year, in South Carolina, Danish Saint John and Dutch Guiana. In 1734, there were revolts in British New
Jersey, the Bahamas, Saint Kitts, [00:04:00] and yet another in South Carolina. Over the rest of the decade, plots developed
in Antigua, Anguilla, Saint Martin, Guadalupe, Georgia, Charleston, and Maryland. The Stono Rebellion in South Carolina capped
off the decade. Through the entire course of the 1730s, there
was the Jamaican Maroon War. Maroons on the island’s center were split
between Leeward and Windward factions, both making peace with the British in 1739 to 1740. They maintained a sort of semi-independence
within the British colony. [00:04:30] In Dutch Suriname, Maroons won
similar victories and autonomy. While the arsonist’s flames consumed the colonies
in fear, revolution and counter revolution, the great awakening revived the spirit of
antinomianism in religious hearts. The itinerant preacher, George Whitefield,
railed against slavery, warning slave owners and slave traders of God’s judgment to come. But established interests were powerful, and
most revolutions failed. Those few that were successful enjoyed large
numbers and favorable [00:05:00] geography, or their particular parent empire happened
to be beleaguered somewhere else on the globe. These rebellions and revolutions were not
nationalist events. They were not aimed at creating new structures
to accumulate and wield power. They were devolutionary individualists and
relatively spontaneous responses to early modern power. They wanted to devolve power away from the
center, away from the monarch’s and parliament’s incorporations, down to the people [00:05:30]
who actually occupied space in the world. There’s much in these events for us to admire
and much to admonish. But more than that, they suggest that other
revolutions were possible in the 18th Century Atlantic. These earlier models, the ones that preceded
1776, spoke to the most radical members of that first Patriot Coalition, the one that
made the American Revolution possible, the one that made it successful. If we approach the revolution from above,
[00:06:00] we see a grand mythological moment in nation building, a tale that springs out
of British innovations, plans, and plots against American liberties. But seen from below, the revolution came from
the spontaneous local rebellions going back over a century all across the ocean. Only this time, local elites actually joined
the ongoing popular effort to transform society. Seen from below, the revolution existed in
the hearts and minds of sailors resisting impressment [00:06:30] since the 1740s. It began with the most radical of antinomian
dissenters, those who argued that earthly governments were not binding on liberated
loving souls. It was there with the urban workers who joined
their individual powers to raise wages. The American Revolution was even there with
the workers, sailors, and families of Liverpool, who in 1775, bombed the Mercantile Exchange. The more gentile and aristocratic Sons of
Liberty owed their successful world-shaking revolution [00:07:00] to this centuries long,
constantly bubbling cauldron of resistance from below. When white residents of the colonies took
their widely accepted place in public protest mobs, they often drew on the more overtly
revolutionary examples set by earlier anti-slavery rebels. New Yorkers protesting the Stamp Act in 1765
again attacked Fort George. Sailors and slaves featured highly in major
resistance events, like the burning of [00:07:30] the British ship, Gaspee, in 1772. And Crispus Attucks, of course, died at the
Boston Massacre. American nationalism, such as it was in this
period, was really created from below through a shared sense of uprootedness, and oddly
enough, nationlessness. Yet it was co-opted from above, as local elites
tried to pluck power from the monarch. Many of the dispossessed and outcasts that
occupied the colonies saw themselves as citizens of the world, cosmopolitans [00:08:00] united
by class interests, because all nations of the world had spurned them and declared them
criminals, indigents, or outlaws. When spontaneous colonial mobs won the respect
and support of their more elite neighbors, this global spontaneous conflict against concentrated
power and capital could morph into a more limited battle for national succession from
the empire. The more gentile aristocratic Sons of Liberty
presented themselves as the ordered resistance to imperial [00:08:30] policy, as opposed
to the disorderly and uncontrollable masses. An uncontrollable populous, after all, threatened
elite Americans’ own plans for the new country. The first patriot coalition was charted, so
elites could assume leadership of this spontaneous movement, turning mobs into citizens, and
replacing British power with their own local rule through institutions that they would
create and manage. Enter Tom Paine and Common Sense. [00:09:00] The clearest, most powerful expression
of these kinds of popular ideas about liberty, but a definite fear of unconstrained rebellion. Speaker 2: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Philadelphia,
14 February 1776. The prejudice of Englishmen in favor of their
own government by king, lords and commons arises as much, or more, from national pride
than reason. Individuals are undoubtedly [00:09:30] safer
in England than in some other countries, but the will of the king is as much the law of
the land in Britain as in France. With this difference that instead of proceeding
directly from his mouth, it is handed to the people under the more formidable shape of
an act of Parliament. For the fate of Charles I hath only made kings
more subtle, not more just. Wherefore laying aside all national pride
and prejudice in favor of modes and forms, the plain truth is that is wholly owing to
the constitution [00:10:00] of the people and not to the constitution of the government,
that the crown is not as oppressive in England as in Turkey. Mankind being originally equals in the order
of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance. The distinctions of rich and poor may, in
a great measure, be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh ill-sounding
names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the consequence, but seldom
or never the means, of riches. Though [00:10:30] avarice will preserve a
man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy. But there is another and greater distinction,
for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is the distinction
of men into kings and subjects. How [erasive 00:10:48] men came into the world
so exalted above the rest and distinguished like some new species is worth inquiring into,
and whether they are the means of happiness, or of misery, to mankind. In the early [00:11:00] ages of the world,
according to the Scripture chronology, there were no kings, the consequence of which was
there were no wars. It is the pride of kings, which throw mankind
into confusion. Holland, without a king, hath enjoyed more
peace for this last century than any of the monarchial governments in Europe. Antiquity favors the same remark, for the
quiet and rural lives of the first patriarchs have a happy something in them, which vanishes
away when we come to the history of Jewish royalty. Government by kings [00:11:30] was first introduced
into the world by the heathens from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It was the most prosperous invention the devil
ever set on foot for the promotion of idolatry. The heathens paid divine honors to their deceased
kings, and the Christian world hath improved on the plan by doing the same to their living
ones. How impious is the title of sacred majesty
applied to a worm, who, in the midst of his splendor is crumbling into dust? Anthony Comegna: Tom Paine and Common [00:12:00]
Sense helped make the revolution happen, but more than that, they helped make it successful. Yet even Paine had his fears about what would
follow. Like Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil
War, and Governor Berkeley during Bacon’s Rebellion, Tom Paine feared Massianellos everywhere. By referencing this 17th Century Neapolitan
radical leveler, Paine indicted all sailors, slaves and natives who might recklessly destroy
inequality, along with imperial power. To Paine, there were two types of inequality. [00:12:30] There was natural inequality and
state-made inequality. While natural inequality was beneficial, it
was the source of the division of labor and so much of the wealth of the modern world. State-made inequality produced tension and
war between peoples. Paine feared that people also would misuse
their power, just like states and kings had. He feared that violent Massianellos were everywhere,
just waiting. If the elite refused to allow true republicanism,
they would strike. State-made [00:13:00] inequalities gave these
Massianellos their power, and it must be dismantled if natural inequalities could survive and
thrive. Speaker 2: Whereas it is more than probable
that could we take off the dark covering of antiquity and trace them to their first rise,
that we should find the first of them nothing better than the principal ruffian of some
restless gang, whose savage manners or preeminence and subtility obtained him the title of chief
among plunderers, and who, by increasing [00:13:30] in power and extending his depredations over
all the quiet and defenseless, to purchase their safety by frequent contributions. Perhaps what at first was submitted to as
a convenience was afterwards claimed as a right. England, since the conquest, hath known some
few good monarchs but groaned beneath a much larger number of bad ones. Yet no man in his senses can say that their
claim under William the Conqueror is a very honorable one. A French bastard landing [00:14:00] with an
armed banditti and establishing himself King of England against the consent of the natives
is, in plain terms, a very paltry, rascally original. It certainly hath no divinity in it. However, it is needless to spend much time
in exposing the folly of hereditary right. If there any so weak as to believe it, let
them promiscuously worship the ass and lion and welcome. I shall neither copy their humility nor disturb
their devotion. Yet I should be glad to ask how they suppose
kings came at first. [00:14:30] The question admits but of three
answers, vis either by lot, by election, or by usurpation. If the first king of any country was by election,
that likewise establishes a precedent for the next. For to say that the right of all future generations
is taken away by the act of the first electors in their choice, not only of a king, but of
a family of kings forever, hath no parallel. As to usurpation, no man will be so hardy
as to defend it and that William the Conqueror [00:15:00] was an usurper is a fact not to
be contradicted. The plain truth is that the antiquity of English
monarchy will not bear looking into. But it is not so much the absurdity as the
evil of hereditary succession, which concerns mankind. Did it ensure a race of good and wise men? It would have the seal of divine authority,
but as it opened the door to the foolish, the wicked, and the improper, it hath in it
the nature of oppression. Men [00:15:30] who look upon themselves born
to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent. Selected from the rest of mankind, their minds
are early poisoned by importance, and the world they act in differs so materially from
the world at large that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests. When they succeed to the government are frequently
the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions. Anthony Comegna: [00:16:00] Paine’s bold new
solution to the early modern class war was a synthesis from below. Government must include the revolutionary
rabble. Indeed, government must begin from the bottom
up. Popular republicanism should be practiced
in every village, and people should act as their own rulers, undercutting violent egalitarians
and leaving the gifted free to uplift the rest of us. There would be no more pirates, because there
would be no more emperors. Speaker 2: [00:16:30] But where, says some,
is the king of America? I’ll tell you, friend. He reigns above and doth not make havoc of
mankind like the royal brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective,
even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter. Let it be brought forth, placed on the divine
law, the word of God. Let a crown be placed thereon by which the
world may know that so far as we approve [00:17:00] of monarchy, that in America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is
law, so in free countries, the law ought to be king, and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise,
let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished and scattered among the people
whose right it is. A government of our own is our natural right. When a man seriously reflects on the precariousness
of human affairs, he will become convinced that [00:17:30] is infinitely wiser and safer
to form a constitution of our own in a cool, deliberate manner, while we have it in our
power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance. If we omit it now, some Massianello may hereafter
arise, who laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and the
discontented, and by assuming to themselves the powers of government, may sweep away the
liberties of the continent like a deluge. Should the government of America return again
[00:18:00] into the hands of Britain, the tottering situation of things will be a temptation
for some desperate adventurer to try his fortune. And in such a case, what relief can Britain
give? Ere she could hear the news, the fatal business
might be done and ourselves suffering like the wretched Britons under the oppression
of the conqueror. Ye that oppose independence now, ye know not
what ye do. Ye are opening a door to eternal tyranny,
by keeping vacant the seat of government. There are thousands and tens [00:18:30] of
thousands who would think it glorious to expel from the continent that [Barbars 00:18:34]
in hellish power, which hath stirred up the Indians and Negroes to destroy us. The cruelty hath a double guilt. It is dealing brutality by us and treacherously
by them. Ye that tell us of harmony and reconciliation,
can ye restore to us the time that is past? Can ye give to prostitution its former innocence? Neither can ye reconcile Britain and America. The last cord is now broken. The almighty hath implanted [00:19:00] in
us these unextinguishable feelings for good and wise purposes. They are the guardians of his image in our
hearts. They distinguish us from the herd of common
animals. The social compact would dissolve and justice
be extirpated the earth, or have only a casual existence, were we callous to the touches
of affection. The robber and the murderer would often escape
unpunished, did not the injuries, which are [inaudible 00:19:27] provoke us into justice. Oh ye that [00:19:30] love mankind, ye that
dare oppose not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth. Every spot of the old world is overrun with
oppression. Freedom hath been hunted around the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England
hath given her warning to depart. Oh, receive the fugitive and prepare in time
an asylum for mankind. Anthony Comegna: Historian Carl Becker famously
said there were two questions [00:20:00] at play during the American Revolution. First, shall there be home rule? Will the British or will the Americans rule
over the colonies? Then, who shall rule at home? The first Patriot Coalition provided the critical
mass to answer the first question, and the second Patriot Coalition quickly formed ranks
to chain down potential Massianellos. They used Paine’s methods to acquire power
but decided that holding onto it for themselves was [00:20:30] worth the risks. State by state, new combinations of elites
answered Becker’s second question. They turned corporate charters into state
constitutions and replaced the traditional rights of the mob with the utterly civilized
constitutional convention. The second Patriot Coalition nationalized
the right to revolution during and after the war, stripping it from the cosmopolitan rabble. In confining it, they hoped forever to the
realm of patriotic founding myths. Then who shall [00:21:00] rule at home? The Federalists answered. “We will, and you can like it or leave it.” Liberty Chronicles is a project of libertarianism.org. It is produced by Tess Terrible. If you’ve enjoyed this episode of Liberty
Chronicles, please rate, review, and subscribe to us on iTunes. For more information on Liberty Chronicles,
visit libertarianism.org.

3 thoughts on “Liberty Chronicles, Ep. 25; The First Patriot Coalition

  1. His name was John Hughson, not Huston. My father, growing up said that the Hughson clan was a sept of the clan Macdonald and they had settled in what was the called Hughson's Pond and today is known as lk Mahopac, Ulster county, NY. I believe the infant, John Hughson was the later Capt in the regiment that fought the British in 1776 along with his son, Robert. John Hughson , As I understand it, He and his wife moved to NYC and had a waterfront tavern there. He did not discriminate and allowed all sorts of people in the place and it soon became a place where they could buy and sell stolen goods. And the slaves were notorious for stealing their owners property and disposing of it there.These people were my ancestors.

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