What is Antifa?

Anti Fascist Action

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President a few years back, those on the left have held his rhetoric responsible for the rise of the “alt-right” and the normalization of white supremacist organizations in America.  It’s hard to argue with that fact; two years ago I couldn’t name anyone associated with the white supremacist movement. Sitting here today, names like “Richard Spencer,” “Augustus Invictus,” “Chris Cantwell,” and asian television personality – “Tila Tequila” all come to mind when I think of modern white supremacists. While not everyone associated with the alt-right is a racist, it seems as though many members of the movement are comfortable moving within those social circles, which doesn’t help their public perception.  

While the “alt-right” has been emboldened by the Trump Administration, so have those on the far-left end of the spectrum.The actions, and perception, of the Trump Administration have led to a steady rise in Antifa. The purpose of the far-left organization is to rid the world of “fascists” be any means necessary, even violence. In the mainstream media, “Antifa” are often referred to as “protesters.”

Militant leftists didn’t greet white supremacists in Charlottesville, “protesters” did.

Far left extremists didn’t protest Ann Coulter’s appearance at Cal-Berkeley; “protesters” did.

Radicals didn’t stop Republicans from marching at a Portland parade under threat of violence; “a group of protesters” did.

Their historical aim is to fight fascism, but recently the group defines fascism as anyone they disagree with. Actual fascism if much worse.

What is Fascism?

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Fascism is a political ideology that dominated many parts of central, eastern, and southern Europe in the early to mid 1900’s.  Generally, fascism is a  radical form of authoritarian-nationalism, characterized by a dictator and suppression of opposition. Historian Mark Bray defines Fascism as:

“a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

The most famous name in Fascism is former best friend of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini.

In 1922 Mussolini was named Prime Minister of Italy.  Two years later, in 1924, he named himself dictator.

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Fascist propaganda under Mussolini



Millions of fellow citizens meanwhile concluded that, if not the man to finish what the great work of national unification had begun, Mussolini was at least a lesser evil.

In 1924, there was a near-meltdown when Fascists murdered Giacomo Matteotti, a Socialist parliamentarian. Bosworth surmises that he was about to blow the whistle on hanky-panky with a U.S. oil company.

Mussolini rode out the crisis by declaring himself dictator. He then kept regular office hours and maintained an ostentatiously clean desk. By the 1930s, membership in the party approached 5 million, and membership in one or another Fascist affiliate extended to nearly half the population.”

Eventually Mussolini was so loathed the Italians ended up executing him in April of 1945, then dragged his body, along with the bodies of other fascists, to the “Piazzale Loreto” for public display.

Fascism, at its core, values the good of the nation over the good of the individual. It is an ideology that is directly incompatible with liberty. In general, there are 14 characteristics of Fascism, including:

  • Powerful and continuing nationalism
  • Disdain for Human Rights
  • Identification of enemies/Using Scapegoats
  • Strong military

When you read through the characteristics it’s easy to see the overlap between beliefs held by Mussolini and Hitler. You can also see some shared characteristics between white supremacy groups and fascism, and if you, like Antifa, believe that Trump is supporting white supremacy than it is easy to understand why Antifa is calling Trump and his supporters “fascists.”

 

So What is Antifa?

 

Antifa

““Of course we’ll have it (fascism). We’ll have it under the guise of anti-fascism.” – Huey Long

In short, Antifa is a far-left militant group dedicated to fighting “fascism” in the United States and abroad. According to historian, and antifa expert Mark Bray, activists believe that “fascists” lose their first amendment rights when they use violence and intimidation to repress people.

This belief means that individuals must take any and all action necessary to stop their enemies; even if it means using violence and intimidation to repress people.

History of Fighting Fascism:

Antifa is hardly a new idea. As long as there has been fascism, there have been people resisting the idea, most groups do so peacefully. The idea of violent resistance to fascism is hardly new, however.  It seems likely that the violent version of modern Antifa protesters has it’s roots in a protest from 1936. After Francisco Franco became Spain’s fascist dictator; people in London protested the British Union of Fascists in the “Battle of Cable Street.” The “Battle of Cable Street” provided a blueprint for future antifascists; a strong, unified front willing to fight can defeat anyone.

The modern term “Antifa” has it’s roots in the “Anti-Fascist Action,” a German anti-fascist movement most popular in Europe during the 1930’s, but saw a spike in popularity again in the 1980’s. The movement gained some momentum with punk rock bands in the 80’s and 90’s, however, the leaders of the movement determined that most American’s weren’t familiar enough with Fascism to take a stand.  For this reason the American counterpart to the “Anti-Fascist Action” that was popular in Europe, went by “Anti-Racist Action.” After all, almost everyone is against racism.

The movement received its most media attention, prior to this year in 2002. During a meeting of white supremacists belonging to “World Church of the Creator” in Pennsylvania, “Anti-Racist Action” protesters showed up. 25 people ended up getting  arrested in the fighting that followed.

How Are They Organized? And What Do They Believe?

What makes Antifa so difficult to understand, and so easy to discredit, is the fact that there is no nationally organized Antifa. Antifa exists as a network of regional affiliates. While they all aim to fight racism, the loose affiliations mean that there is never any official statement. This also means that people (myself included) often fall for fake antifa accounts.  

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Antifa protester showing his opposition to the first amendment.

Antifa members are anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-Nazi, and anti-capitalism. The Washington Post describes them as a far-left group dedicated to fighting the alt-right. The majority view themselves as communists and socialists (or the seemingly contradictory “anarcho-communist”). Emboldened by the “Battle of Cable Street,” modern Antifa groups relish the opportunity to violently resist anyone they deem as a “fascist,” often resorting to violence while dressed in bandana’s and glasses as a way to conceal their identity.

 

What Have They Done?

The growing problem with Antifa is their inability to distinguish between dissenting idea’s, and fascism. On pro-Antifa website “refusefascism.org,” as part of their “Call To Action!” the author (without including any examples of the Trump/Pence administration of repressing anyone), wrote:

The Trump/Pence regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law… IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.”

The irony of this sentiment is that Antifa fully supports repressing rights. Remember, according to historian, and antifa expert Mark Bray; activists believe that “fascists” lose their first amendment rights when they use violence and intimidation to repress people. Because of this belief, Antifa can justify being against just about anyone. Hell last week Boston Antifa groups hung up posters around the city that would help people identify “fascists.” The symbols included a thin blue line (in support of cops) and anyone with an “Infowars” symbol near them. 

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Hate symbols, according to Boston Antifa

With all that being said, it’s not as though Antifa has been acting with any subtlety. In Portland, Antifa used slingshots to fling human waste at police officers. Last weekend Antifa confronted free speech protesters in Boston, leading to 33 arrests.  And in Charlottesville earlier this month, Antifa confronted white supremacists, resulting in violence and the death of a woman.

Earlier this year they rallied against free speech in Berkeley, CA, when Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak, leading to violence and at least 6 arrests. Protesters claimed they were protesting “bigots trying to normalize hate.” While ignoring the fact that in doing so they were spreading hate and suppressing dissenting points of view (a key element of fascism).

Antifa is the reason Politico called Portland “America’s Most Politically Violent City.”  Antifa sent threatening emails to parade organizers in Portland telling them the parade would end in violence if the Multnomah County Republicans were allowed to have a float in the annual “Avenue of the Roses” parade. In the emails Antifa made it clear that they considered anyone who supported Trump to be a fascist. The parade was then cancelled because of the threat.

How is Antifa Viewed?

In years past, the mainstream left has, condemned the violent actions of those on the fringe left who would be willing to use violence on enemies. While some on the left reject the idea that Antifa is anything other than an organizing strategy, other’s on the left have fully fed into the hyperbole that Trump is a fascist.

Over at “The Nation,” Frida Berrigan exclaims we’re living in a fascist society under Trump, explaining that with Trump in the White House, the end of life in America is upon us.  Osita Nwanevu, at “Slate,”  posted a video praising protesters who took violent action against the despicable white supremacist Richard Spencer.  While this week over at CNN, Sara Ganim and Chris Welch profiled antifa with the original headline “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists Seek Peace Through Violence.” After a few hours of bad press, the headline was changed.

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This is why it’s hard to take CNN seriously.

This week opponents of Antifa received the necessary number of signatures needed on a petition to trigger a mandatory response from the White House. The petition called on the Trump Administration to label Antifa as a terrorist organization. While Noam Chomsky, one of the most cited academics in history, and a massive liberal, called Antifa a “major gift to the right.”

 

The Impact of Antifa?

 

It’s difficult to comprehend what, if any, impact “Antifa” will have on American society moving forward.  Even though membership and notoriety has soared in response to Trump, “Antifa” still makes up an exceptionally small percentage of the left.  With that said, 18 months ago we would have said the same thing in regards to the alt-right.

Overall Antifa is a loose network of regional affiliates who fight a political ideology that calls for suppression, by attempting to suppress those that they feel are trying to suppress others. The danger presented by Antifa is their casual acceptance of violence, and willingness to suppress individual rights.

 

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CalExit Will Never Happen

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After the election of Donald Trump, many people got irrational, particularly Governor Jerry Brown, and the people of California (who ironically opened an embassy in Moscow in protest). Since then, many people, both in California and across the country, have pushed for the Golden State’s secession. Last Tuesday, California’s Attorney General decided to humor the #CalExit organizers.

Last Tuesday, California Attorney General  Xavier Becerra apparently finished his scotch, said “what the hell,” and gave his stamp of approval for a group of people to begin gathering the more than 585,000 signatures needed to allow a ballot initiative that would allow a ballot initiative calling for secession to be put on the 2018 ballot. If the ballot measure were to somehow pass, a commission would form to explore how the state could secede from the United States, unfortunately, this will never happen. calexit dos.jpg

Secession isn’t a new idea, outside the Civil War, the idea pops up every couple of years, normally in Texas, and at that time realists endlessly mock these attempts, and for good reason, the fact remains that there is no way to secede from the Union written in the Constitution.  Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution deals with how to admit a new state into the country, but the reverse is never discussed, and has been dismissed outright by plenty of respectable legal scholars.

In 2006, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was asked by screenwriter Dan Turkewitz if a group of people suing the government for the right to secede would be a good plot point. Scalia responded saying that state’s do not have the right to secede. In his letter back to Turkewitz, Scalia said that such an issue would never even reach the Supreme Court:

“To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. … Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.”

Scalia.jpgWhat Justice Scalia pointed out in that first line is something most people don’t realize.  In the eyes of the United States government, there no such thing as the “Confederate States of America.” The southern states, in their mind, were just occupied by hostile citizens. This line of thinking was pointed out in the 1869 Supreme Court case Texas v. White.  This case argued that Texas’s Confederate state legislature had illegally sold bonds that were owned by Texas, and issued by the United States government as part of the compromise of 1850. While ruling on this case, the justices wrote;

“The Constitution, in all its provisions… looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.”

So while Jefferson Davis and his friends may have seen themselves as an independent country, the United States hadn’t given them the go-ahead to secede, so they had no sovereignty. The Civil War was a war for independence, much like the American Revolution was a war for independence. We had to defeat the British before getting the go-ahead to secede; if we had lost, we’d have socialized medicine and a government that doesn’t respect individual rights, and do we really want that?

While it amuses us to think that a state that disagrees with our own core ideologies could soon be gone, it is unlikely to happen. So unfortunately it looks as though referring to San Francisco as a “foreign country” will remain hyperbole.

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Is History Repeating Itself?

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In 1973, former Attorney General Elliott Richardson was assigned a task; appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into the Watergate Scandal. Richardson turned to his former Harvard Law Professor, Archibald Cox. Appointing Cox as special prosecutor, as it turns out, was the beginning of the end for President Nixon.

Drunk on power, Nixon saw himself as untouchable, he felt as though he had the support of his party, and that he had loyal men working to clear his name. As he started to doubt that loyalty, it all came crashing down on October 23, 1973. On what later became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” the White House announced the dismissals, and resignations of special prosecutor Cox, Attorney General Richardson, and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, abolishing the office of special prosecutor all together, and handing the investigation over to the Justice Department.

The entire ordeal unfolded because Nixon thought he was untouchable, he refused to turn over documents and tapes related to the investigation, and when challenged he demanded that Richardson fire Cox. When Richardson refused, Nixon pressured Richardson to resign. Upon the resignation of Elliott Richardson, William Ruckelshaus was promoted to acting Attorney General and given the same orders, when Ruckelshaus refused, Nixon forced him to resign.  The law states that when there is no Attorney General, the Solicitor General – in this case Robert Bork – becomes the acting Attorney General. Unlike his predecessors, Bork followed Nixon’s orders and fired Archibald Cox. As if that wasn’t enough bad PR, the scene got even uglier when word got out that the FBI, at the request of the White House, had sealed off access to the offices of those that had been forced out.

Soon after the “Saturday Night Massacre” support for Nixon within Congress began to erode. The House Judiciary Committee announced they would move ahead with impeachment proceedings, and the Supreme Court ordered the White House to turn over all the tapes and documents they had in relation to Watergate.

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Elliott Richardson and Richard Nixon

Within 10 months of the entire ordeal Nixon resigned.

It is impossible to look at President Trump, and the way he has handled himself, and not draw comparisons to Nixon. Like Nixon, Trump is being investigated by a special counselor, Robert Mueller, who is looking into possible Russian involvement into the 2016 Presidential election. Like Nixon, Trump has demanded absolute loyalty from those he works with. Former FBI director James Comey has testified to this. Comey testified that Trump had demanded loyalty from him, then ordered him to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia.  When he refused to comply, James Comey was fired. Like Nixon, Trump is frustrated with his Attorney General, publicly humiliating him on numerous occasions. President Trump probably sees the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any investigation into Russia as a personal betrayal. After all, being named Attorney General was a reward to Sessions for his early support as he sought the presidency.

The recusal of Sessions has left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of the investigation into possible Russian meddling, and for over a month now, it has been widely reported that Trump wants to fire Mueller. The problem is, he doesn’t have that power, only the Attorney General does, and since Sessions has recused himself from this investigation, that means only Rosenstein has that power. What Trump can do, however, is pull a Nixon; request that Rosenstein fires Mueller or face the consequences, which would probably mean he would be fired.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions

In my mind it seems that Trumps public temper tantrum against Jeff Sessions is his way of acting out in frustration. Trump probably believes that if Sessions hadn’t recused himself, he would be willing to fire Mueller and put an end to this investigation. Instead he is stuck with a Deputy Attorney General that isn’t as loyal to Trump as Sessions had been.

Power corrupts. In both the Watergate scandal, and the Russia investigation, a paranoid President that demands absolute loyalty has gone out of his way to control an outcome. Sally Yates, Michael Flynn, Preet Bharara, Katie Walsh, James Comey, Michael Dubke, Walter Shaub, Sean Spicer, and Michael Short have all either been fired or resigned since Trump took office on January 20th. The Trump administration has gone out of their way to prove that loyalty is the only thing that matters. While it’s impossible to know what Trump’s legacy will ultimately be, it’s hard not to see that history may be repeating itself.

Independence Day, What Actually Happened on July 4th, 1776

Yesterday a good friend and I attended a political function for the announcement of Missouri’s Senate race, Austin Petersen. As we listened to the crowd cheer and scream I was beginning to wonder if most people truly understood the importance of July 4th, 1776. Having spent the majority of my life as a history lover I didn’t think much of it and went on with the evenings festivities.

On that late evening listening to the fireworks from everyone celebrating Independence Day I stumbled upon a tongue-in-cheek meme that describes what colonists were rebelling against. After reading the comments it occurred to me that in fact most people truly don’t understand the reasons behind colonial rebellion. Every comment was pointing out this day is about how we gain our Independence and how it’s a day to support our armed forces. I do not disagree with the later of those points, however July 4th, 1776 is NOT the day the thirteen original colonies gained their independence. It was the day that the 13 Colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, it had been written two days prior by the Continental Congress, July 2nd, 1776.

The American Revolution had in fact began April 19th, 1775 in Concord, MA. This was the first of many battles to come, and also marked the beginning of the American people rebelling against their tyrannical king, King George III. During the next 8 years the American people would experience The Stamp Act, Sugar Act, Townshend Acts, and numerous other acts against the American people by the British Crown. After 8 years of war and numerous deaths, the 13 Colonies would gain their Independence on September 3rd, 1783. Yes, you’ve read that right, no matter what your calendar at work says, September 3rd, 1783 is our true Independence Day, not July 4th, 1776.

All that being said I hope at minimum this provides you a bit a history refresher, as all of us learned these things as 6th Graders, but have forgotten. So come September 3rd I am going to assume you’ll be drinking Jack Daniels and slamming back a cold Yuengling.

 

Five Forgotten Founding Fathers: John Jay

 

John Jay was not among the 56 delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence. At that point in time his duties as a New York Congressman prevented him from voting on, or signing the Declaration.  Despite not being at Independence Hall on August 2nd, 1776 to sign the document, few men had as great an impact on American History as John Jay.

Unlike Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whose legacies have been honored by beer and financial services companies, the name “John Jay” was most recently in the news earlier this week after a fight broke out at his namesake high school, resulting in 2 people being stabbed, and one being bitten in the chest. The first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court deserves better.

Early Life

Born to a prominent, wealthy family in New York, John Jay was rather unique among the Founding Fathers in the sense that he had no British ancestry. His father’s family descended from France, while his mother’s family was Dutch.

In 1685 John’s grandfather, Augustus Jay, moved to New York from France to escape religious persecution.  Once in New York, Augustus became a successful merchant, passing his business on to his son, Peter.  The success of the Jay family allowed Peter the opportunity to marry Mary Van Cortland, whose father Jacobus twice served as mayor of New York City.  

John’s childhood was rather bland. Spending most of his time studying, Jay would go on to receive his law degree from what is now Columbia University.

Politics and Revolution

As a successful young lawyer, Jay fought for property rights, and preserving the rule of law. His beliefs got him selected as a delegate to the First, and Second Continental Congresses where he was a member of the conservative faction that tirelessly resisted infringement by the British on American rights.

Although Jay initially sough reconciliation, John Jay had no ties to Britain, he had no qualms in speaking out against the crown, he saw himself as an American, not as a British subject.  

Although his duties to the state of New York prevented him from voting on the Declaration of Independence, Jay did his part, serving on the congressional committee that would monitor British actions within the state.

In 1777, as the American Revolution was going on around him, Jay drafted the New York State Constitution, which more effectively limited government than charters in other states.  Also in 1777, Jay was selected to serve as the Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, experience which would help prepare him to become our nations first Chief Justice.

John Jay: Diplomat

In the fall of 1779 John Jay was named the American minister to Spain with the goal of convincing the Spaniards to give us a loan. The Spanish were not overly receptive of Jay, refusing to recognize American independence for fear that recognition would spark revolution in their own colonies. Jay did, however, convince the Spanish to loan us $170,000.

In 1782 John Jay met up with Ben Franklin and John Adams to help negotiate the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the American Revolution securing American independence. Jay negotiated one hell of a deal, from Britannica:

By the terms of the U.S.-Britain treaty, Britain recognized the independence of the United States with generous boundaries to the Mississippi River but retained Canada. Access to the Newfoundland fisheries was guaranteed to Americans, and navigation of the Mississippi was to be open to both Great Britain and the United States. Creditors of neither country were to be impeded in the collection of their debts, and Congress was to recommend to the states that American loyalists be treated fairly and their confiscated property restored. (Some of these provisions were to cause later difficulties and disputes.)

Federalist Papers

Jay joined Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in writing 85 essays under the pseudonym  “Publius” in support of ratifying the Constitution.  John Jay’s support of the Constitution was based on the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, pointing out to the people of New York:

The Congress under the Articles of Confederation may make war, but are not empowered to raise men or money to carry it on—they may make peace, but without power to see the terms of it observed—they may form alliances, but without ability to comply with the stipulations on their part—they may enter into treaties of commerce, but without power to [e]nforce them at home or abroad…—In short, they may consult, and deliberate, and recommend, and make requisitions, and they who please may regard them.

Although the Federalist Papers consist of 85 essays, Jay only wrote 5 of them (2-5, and 64). In these papers, Jay lays out his reasoning for supporting a unified government.

The Jay Court

The Supreme Court is laid out in Article III of the Constitution, although the Federal Court System wasn’t laid out until the Judiciary Act of 1789. Under this act, 13 district courts, 3 circuit courts, and the Supreme Court were all officially created.  From 1789 till 1795 John Jay served as the first Chief Justice of that court, during that 6 year period, the court only heard four cases.

The 1793 case Chisholm v. Georgia was the first major Supreme Court case. During the war, Georgia had seized land from those loyal to the crown. After the war, they had refused to return the land.  The Jay Court ruled that states could be sued in federal court.

During his time as Chief Justice, John Jay traveled to Britain to negotiate what has become known as the “Jay Treaty.” The treaty helped prevent a second war between America and Britain, and resolved 3 key issues:

Tensions between the United States and Britain remained high after the Revolutionary War as a result of three key issues. British exports flooded U.S. markets, while American exports were blocked by British trade restrictions and tariffs. The British occupation of northern forts that the British Government had agreed to vacate in the Treaty of Paris (1783) as well as recurrent Native American attacks in these areas also frustrated Americans. Finally, Britain’s impressments of American sailors and seizure of naval and military supplies bound to enemy ports on neutral ships brought the two nations to the brink of war in the late 1700s.

While he may not be the most well known founding father, the role he played in the birth of America is undeniable. This Tuesday, make a toast to John Jay: America’s utility knife.

Five Forgotten Founding Fathers: John Hancock

 

With only a week before we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence; which, for our foreign readers, is an American holiday where we celebrate freedom from the British Empire by drinking a reckless amount of beer before playing with explosives, I thought it would be fun to profile some of the guys responsible for making the fourth so special.

Everyone knows who John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington are, but revolution was a team effort, and much like how the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t have won the 2015 NBA Title without Andre Iguodala, America wouldn’t be possible without John Hancock.

Most famous for being the largest signatory of the “Declaration of Independence,” Hancock was a fundamental player in the uprising of the colonies.

Early Life

Born January 23, 1737, John Hancock was named after his father, a clergyman who baptized John Adams in 1735.  The senior John Hancock, died while his son was still a child. Holding the belief that a child should have a father figure, his mother Mary sent John to live with his uncle Thomas, a wealthy merchant, and his aunt Lydia in 1744.

Thomas and Lydia had no children, and raised John as their own. Thomas soon began to groom John to take over “Hancock House,” which imported manufactured goods from Britain, while exporting rum, whale oil, fish, and other goods.  The business meant that the Hancock’s were one of Boston’s wealthiest families.

John Hancock was considered to be exceptionally smart. Upon graduating from Harvard at age 17, he went to work for his uncle, where he negotiated some exceptionally profitable trade contracts between “Hancock House” and Britain during the French and Indian War.  His success led him to spend a year living in London, where he witnessed the coronation of King George III in 1761.  

John Hancock was a man who actively sought wealth and power, joining the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew in 1762, gave him access to some of the wealthiest and most influential residents of Boston, connections he would leverage in his political career and during the revolution. In 1763, due to his uncle’s failing health, John Hancock took control of “Hancock House,” cementing his rise as an influential Bostonian.

The Hancock family had a generous history, endearing themselves to the city of Boston by giving generously to the church and the poor.  Upon his death in 1764, Thomas Hancock freed the family slaves, and there is no record of John Hancock ever trying to buy or sell slaves.

Political Beginnings

The French and Indian War, known as “The 7 Years War” elsewhere, had historically high costs due to the location (travelling across the ocean to fight in North America), bribing Native Americans, and loss of product due to smugglers. This caused the British debt to double between 1754 and 1763. 

The 7 Years War doubled Great Britain’s debt in only 9 years.

The “Molasses Act” which had been enacted to raise funds for the war, was set to expire in 1763. Lacking funds, it was extended and in 1764 and became known as the “Sugar Act.” The tax caused outrage, especially in Massachusetts where Samuel Adams and James Otis led protests against “taxation without representation.” The argument essentially boiled down to the fact that Adams did not feel that Parliament could enact taxes against colonists if the colonists had nobody arguing on their behalf in Parliament.

Around the same time, John Hancock; the influential, wealthy, and generous merchant, was selected as one of Boston’s five “selectmen” in charge of governing Boston.  Initially Hancock looked to take a moderate stance on the “Stamp act” and resulting protests.  He wanted to maintain his standing as a loyal British subject. That began to change, and in 1765, possibly inspired by his friend John Adams, Hancock actively joined the resistance.  His popularity got him elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1766.

Igniting the Flames of Revolution

The passage of the “Townshend Acts” by British Parliament in 1767 levied new taxes on merchants in the colonies.  The acts established the “American Customs Board” as a way to catch more smugglers. Colonists rightfully felt that these acts posed a threat to their established tradition of self-government, leading to protests against “Taxation Without Representation” taking place across Massachusetts.  

These acts directly affected Hancock on April 9, 1768 when two customs agents, known as “tidesmen,” tried to board one of Hancock’s briggs, “The Lydia.” When Hancock realized they lacked a warrant, he refused them entry. Massachusetts Attorney General Jonathan Sewall ruled in Hancock’s favor. Some of Hancock’s admirers refer to this act as the “first physical resistance of British authority” and therefore credit Hancock with starting the revolution.

The “Townshend Acts” led to the “Boston Tea Party.”

Hancock came under further suspicion in 1768 when his ship Liberty  showed up to port carrying only ¼ of its capacity. Britain suspected he was unloading most of his haul in order to avoid taxes. Upon being brought up on charges, Hancock enlisted his old friend John Adams to defend him against the crown.  After a long, drawn out trial which took five months, the charges were inexplicably dropped.  

The incident with “Liberty” helped to reinforce the British decision to crack down on opposition throughout Massachusetts.

Revolution

Hancock’s political career was kicked into high gear in 1774, when  Massachusetts selected him to replace James Bowdoin at the second continental congress. On May 24, 1775, his colleagues named him the president of the Second Continental Congress.  

Hancock’s position was unique.  Not only was he the president of Congress, but Hancock simultaneously served as the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, giving him an enormous amount of power.  At the time, Massachusetts was Great Britain’s biggest problem, so by electing Hancock as their president, the Second Continental Congress was recognizing Hancock’s importance. Specifically his ability to effectively communicate with both rich moderates, and radical Patriots.

The thought of revolution made Congress a target. In April of 1775 the Lord of Dartmouth ordered British General Thomas Gage to arrest members of the Provincial Congress on charges of treason and rebellion. Feeling emboldened, on April 18, 1775 General Gage sent troops to Concord to seize military suppli

The battles of Lexington and Concord marked the first military engagements of the revolution.

es being stored by the colonists. Patriots also believed that Gage was heading to Lexington to arrest Hancock and Samuel Adams, who had been resting at Hancock’s old family home. This prompted Paul Revere to ride to Lexington to warn Hancock and Adams of impending danger. The two managed to escape right before the Battle of Lexington and Concord which became the first battle in the American Revolution. After the battle, General Gage issued a pardon to any colonist who would lay down their arms. The pardon excluded Hancock and Adams, which strengthened Patriot resolve.

 

John Hancock was so much more than the first signatory of the “Declaration of Independence.” He was a businessman, a philanthropist, an assemblyman, the president of the most important Congress in American history, and a rebel who would later serve as the first governor of Massachusetts. His unique position as a wealthy merchant who believed in revolution helped to energize Boston to rise up against the British.  This fourth of July, crack a cold one in honor of John Hancock.

6 Podcasts To Help You Win More Facebook Arguments

 

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Do you enjoy getting in politically charged Facebook arguments with complete strangers? Do you like to sound smarter than you really are? And do you also hate to read, while showing a healthy distrust of the mainstream media? Of course you do. Here’s a few podcasts to help you squash your friends Bernie boner at your next cookout.

 

The Jason Stapleton Program

 

Former Marine Jason Stapleton spent years as a marine, traveling the world.  During his time abroad, Jason learned about foreign exchange currency trading. After leaving the military, he created his company’s “Trade Empowered” and “Main Street Alpha” to help train people on how to trade foreign currency.  

His show, which airs daily, discusses current political and economic topics both at home and around the world, he has interviewed guests like Tom Woods and Thomas Massie. A clear and effective communicator, Jason seamlessly breaks down common arguments brought forth by liberals

 

The Tom Woods Show

 

There are few people who hold as much influence within the liberty movement as Tom Woods.  The Harvard and Columbia educated senior fellow of the “Ludwig Von Mises Institute” has written numerous books about political thought and history.

A staple for many libertarians, “The Tom Woods Show” is his daily podcast. Woods discusses a wide range of topics; from history and economics, to foreign affairs.  His engaging show has over 900 episodes, so chances are he’s addressed whatever topic you’re looking to learn about.

 

Free Thoughts

Hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, “Free Thoughts” is a weekly podcast that takes an in-depth look at libertarianism.  What makes this podcast unique is that it takes a more academic look at current issues. Instead of talking about markets, for example, the podcast talks about markets while citing and explaining academic journals that deal with markets. This podcast is perfect for anyone who really wants to sound impressive on Reddit.

 

Cato Daily Podcast

 

Hosted by Caleb Brown, and featuring various “Cato Institute” fellows, this daily podcast is perfect for those with a short attention span. Most episodes are under 20 minutes and focus on a single topic, delivered in a clear, concise fashion.

 

Johnny Rocket Launch Pad-Libertarian Rock ‘n Roll Experience

 


 

Probably the most entertaining liberty podcast around, Johnny Rocket combines libertarian thought with humor, alcohol, and terrible language. Definitely not safe for work, the Seattle based podcast sounds more like an edgy morning show than a political podcast.

 

Excursions into Libertarian Thought

                 

 

The complete opposite of Johnny Rocket, George H. Smith’s podcast discusses the history of libertarianism, giving you a great foundation of libertarian philosophy.  These episodes are also short, generally running about 15 minutes.

 

Contra Krugman

 

Paul Krugman is an economist, professor, and columnist for the New York Times, best known for winning the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2008 for his work associated with “New Trade Theory.” Since then he has made some outlandish claims, famously claiming that the internet would be irrelevant by 2005.

This guy won a Nobel Prize.

 

“Contra Krugman,”  the podcast by Bob Murphy and Tom Woods, is a weekly podcast dedicated to breaking down a tweet, statement, article, or essay by Krugman.  The aim of the show is to teach us about economics by refuting a Keynesian.