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'While Evils Are Sufferable': The Trump Verdict, the 2024 Election and Lessons Learned in 1775-76

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For Americans who grew up during an era of relative serenity, some historical questions produced only speculative answers. In other words, our personal experience could not explain why people who lived in strife-filled times behaved as they did. We had theories, of course, based on surviving evidence and an understanding of human nature. But we never felt much strife ourselves and, therefore, seldom thought very seriously about the application of those theories.

For instance, in the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson described human beings as “more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” That raises a historical question that only those who have lived through strife-filled times can answer from experience. Namely, when and why did Jefferson and his fellow revolutionaries decide that they could no longer suffer those evils?

Following his conviction last Thursday in a Soviet-style hush-money trial in New York City, former President Donald Trump’s campaign referred to him as a “political prisoner” of President Joe Biden’s despotic regime and raised record-setting donations as a result. When asked about that claim the following day, Biden grinned an evil grin, as seen in the video below.

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Trump’s conviction at the hands of Democratic Party operatives, Biden’s villainous response and the entire pattern of persecution that has unfolded over the last eight years has many Americans wondering if the regime’s tyranny will soon push us beyond the point of no return. Indeed, with Trump administration officials and Trump supporters languishing in prison, and with the former president himself possibly joining them, we might regard that proverbial Rubicon as long-since crossed.

What, therefore, can our Revolutionary-Era ancestors tell us about how long evils remain sufferable, and why?

First, we must remember that the American Revolution followed what Jefferson called a “long train of abuses and usurpations.” In light of all that the establishment has done to Trump and his supporters since 2016, we can certainly relate.

Likewise, Jefferson, John Adams and other Founding Fathers described that “long train” in conspiratorial terms. By 1776, they had observed a pattern of British tyranny, “pursuing invariably the same Object” and revealing “a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism,” as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration.

So why did the Founding Fathers endure those evils for as long as they did?

In short, until very late in 1775, they believed that they had one final appeal to the sovereign.

Much confusion about the Founding Fathers’ attitudes toward King George III of Great Britain has come down to posterity. Because the Declaration leveled charges against the king, subsequent generations have assumed that American Revolutionaries had a grievance against monarchical authority in general.

But they did not — at least not until late in the crisis. In fact, from the Stamp Act of 1765 onward, evidence shows that American colonists objected to Parliament’s claims of sovereignty throughout the British Empire and that the colonists generally blamed the king’s advisors for misrepresenting American grievances. Conversely, they regarded the monarch as the only source of authority who united the empire. Until the very end, reluctant American rebels held out hope that the king would recognize their plight and help them.

Indeed, the sequence of events in 1775 confirmed as much.

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New England colonists and British troops fought one another at the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19. Two months later, on June 17, they fought again in the much larger and costlier Battle of Bunker Hill.

On July 8, the Second Continental Congress responded with the Petition to the King, better known as the “Olive Branch Petition.”

“To the King’s most excellent Majesty: MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, your Majesty’s faithful subjects,” the petition began.

The king’s humble petitioners in Congress pleaded “that your royal authority and influence may be graciously interposed to procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies” and thereby produce “a happy and permanent reconciliation.”

In other words, members of Congress hoped that the sovereign king would rescue both sides from the brink. And they maintained this hope despite the outbreak of war near Boston, Massachusetts.

King George III did not even bother to read the petition. Instead, on Aug. 23, he issued a proclamation declaring his American subjects, “misled by dangerous and ill-designing Men,” to be in open rebellion. And he directed his American officers, civil and military, to suppress said rebellion.

When news of the king’s proclamation finally reached America, Congress struck a very different tone from the Olive Branch Petition.

“We condemn, and with arms in our hands, — a resource which Freemen will never part with, — ;we oppose the claim and exercise of unconstitutional powers, to which neither the Crown nor Parliament were ever entitled,” Congress’ Dec. 6 response to the proclamation read.

“Our sagacious ancestors provided mounds against the inundation of tyranny and lawless power,” they added.

Thus, the final appeal to the sovereign had failed.

But then, something else happened. In short, our own sagacious ancestors established new grounds for that same appeal. They did this not by crowning a new monarch but by recognizing a new sovereign authority: the People.

With that world-changing recognition, they taught posterity never to appeal to tyrants. Appeal to Heaven, first and foremost. But among earthly authorities, appeal only to the sovereign People.

Trump and his supporters must now make this appeal. As long as evils remain sufferable, only the sovereign people can peacefully redeem this nation from a tyrannical regime.

Among its many crimes, that regime has shed blood both at home and abroad in order to preserve its power.

Therefore, the 2024 presidential election has assumed the character of the Olive Branch Petition. Aggrieved citizens must make their final appeal not to a king but to their fellow sovereign American voters.

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Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.
Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.




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