Why Jan 6 Protesters Have Little in Common with Revolutionary Patriots

By certain circumstances, most of my ancestral lines include New England Revolutionary War Patriots, and I have just finished doing extensive research on their lives and situations. Meanwhile, January 6th MAGA protestors (an apparent hodgepodge of QAnon, Proud Boys, Anti-Vaxers, and various Trump-supporting elements) like to compare themselves to 1776 Patriots, but the original Patriots were fighting largely for self-rule while the latter apparently for the rights to be racist, make others sick, and run stop-lights. The latter pretty much hates on Jews, Freemasons, and the French, while the former realized they never would have won without THE JEWS, FREEMASONS, and especially THE FRENCH!

The “Spirit of ‘76” was fed by a need for self-determination, not Christian Nationalism/Anarchy/Anti-Science & Immigration themes (the racism question is complex, as both British and Southern Patriots condoned slavery)

After the posting of the Revolutionary War Database on Ancestry.com and elsewhere, plus the generous Veteran’s Administration restoration of a few ancestral headstones, I’ve learned that most of my ancestors were New England Revolutionary War Patriots. This is because most of them ended up in rural Upstate New York in the late 1700s (with government War Bounty lands to compensate them for their services), where they met each other, married, and farmed. Though they were largely Congregationalist, Baptist, and Presbyterian, Freemason symbols have been found on some of their gravestones. Research of that era shows that Jews such as Haym Salomon helped finance the war, and possibly shared Masonic ideals such as peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, and most importantly, Democratic self-determination. These ideals were not confined to Freemasons or Jews, and were certainly shared by non-Masons like Thomas Jefferson and Baptist founder Rev. Roger Williams 100 years prior. Most involvement of Freemasonry in the Revolution follows the “Correlation is not Causation” argument, as though many Patriots belonged to this adult boy-scout like organization, they were not likely a major part of Colonial management and War conduct. So now let’s cut to Jan. 6, 2021, where a bunch of unruly “Patriots” are storming the Capitol, trying to overturn the election, and having a supposed “Lexington and Concord” moment. Actually, this event has more in common with Hitler’s “Beer Hall Putsch” riot than anything in 1776. Fueled by themes of anti-immigration, anti-vaccination, racism, deception, and anarchy, these values are less “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” than “2-year old refuses to drink his milk”. However, the one commonality may be the rural farmer to urban merchant “elite” dynamic that was at work even then. (Tabbert, 2022), (historyplace.com, n.d.)

THE BACKDROP OF NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTIONARY WAR PATRIOTS: We all know about things like the “Boston Tea Party”, and the struggle of merchants in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia to conduct trade freely (when controlled by the British). But in my case, forget all that since my people were mostly farmers in the frontier regions of Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey. The values of urban vs. rural people then were not unlike now, in that “Blue State” colonists hated British taxes (without being able to vote upon them) and “Red State” colonists (who had a pooled or barter economy), were land-rich and cash poor, less prone to taxes (initially). The “Red Staters” often had shaky land title (there were overlapping land grants then, with questionable court systems and inaccurate surveying) and often threatened by Native Americans. There were also Loyalists (often Dutch, German, Scots, or some Brits who liked the mother country’s protections). However, “self-determination” was the unifying cause of “Red” and “Blue” Patriots, as they were tired of being taxed to pay for the Mother County’s wars and didn’t like receiving things like the Mother Country’s convicts and undesirables. There were complex interactions between the various religions (Puritans were Congregationalists, Scots-Irish Presbyterians, Quakers and Anabaptists Pacifist and weird) and Native American tribes (divided mostly among pro-French and pro-British lines). There were few Catholics then (mostly in Maryland and South) while the New England generally eschewed slavery. Rhode Island and New York City were religiously tolerant (a crucible for Jews and Freemasons) while the rest of New England was a kind of step-beyond Puritanism. The end result was a triangle of sentiments, 1) British military and other authorities, 2) Colonial farmers and merchants (somewhat tolerant, mostly religious and freedom-loving, often Freemasons), and 3) the rest (mostly Loyalist Dutch, Germans, and odd religious offshoots, British Colonial Loyalists who mostly ended up in Canada). There were also some wild-cards, like the rural Appalachian Scots-Irish who probably weren’t interested in a war until someone said “we’ll pay you to shoot Brits from behind trees”.

January 6th 2020 bears little resemblance to July 4th 1776, unless you consider that both wanted change

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE WAR: After the Revolution, one probably has some vague memory of events like the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Hamiltonian Federalism vs Jeffersonian State’s Rights, the Shays and Whiskey Rebellions. These were actually a big deal in the formation of our County (and disputes that exist to this day). After Freemason Ben Franklin so successfully lobbied the French to come to our aid to help win the war (especially at Yorktown in 1781), he met with two other diplomats (John Jay who hated the French, and John Adams who hated Franklin) to negotiate a peace. The British negotiators were the rather-favorable-to-the-Colonies David Hartley and Richard Oswald. At this point, the Colonial wars had cost both Britain and France a great deal of money, and each were eager to come to terms. Additionally, the British Whigs never really condoned the war, which they saw as a heavy-handed Tory Party and King George vendetta against the bratty Colonial upstarts (remember, the Colonies were the first to seek “independence” from Britain, surely a threatening idea at the time). Thus, there were many friendly “backchannels” between the Colonies and Britain (some of them Masonic) and generous terms were offered (including most all the lands West to the Mississippi). This “here’s a bunch of land if you help us screw over the French” deal appalled Franklin (who saw it as betrayal), but he was outvoted and signed on. Hartley and Oswald were wise in basically using the treaty to make these new Americans good trading partners (at the expense of their French, Spanish, and Dutch rivals).

As our new government subsequently struggled to pay its debts, a rivalry ensued between first President (and Freemason) George Washington’s ally Alexander Hamilton (who favored a strong central government backed mostly by urban merchants and banks) and Thomas Jefferson (who favored farmers and emerging rural State’s rights). At this time, many of the rural war veterans had not been paid, and Hamilton’s new taxes threatened foreclosure on their lands (since they were land-rich, cash-poor). Urban merchants were in on a sort of rural foreclosure racket, setting themselves up as attorneys in poorly-regulated rural kangaroo courts, with draconian tax-payment terms. The subsequent “Shay’s Rebellion” in rural western New England (involving some of my ancestors) was a rather appropriate “we fought a war against unfair taxation, only to be unfairly taxed by the victors to pay for the war” response, and put down by Washington’s Federal Authorities in the late 1780s. Similarly the “Whiskey Rebellion” was a farmer’s revolt against the new taxation of spirits, which many farmers were selling to raise cash. This rebellion was also foiled by Washington in rural Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and both events were seen as a victory for Washington’s Federalist policies. The little-known aftermath of both rebellions was that the farmers were “bought off” by what turned out to be generous war-bounty land grants (Upstate New York in the case of the Shaysites, my ancestors). This allowed war veterans to sell their previous lands to pay their taxes, while erasing the Federal Government’s war debt obligations. Unfortunately, some of these new lands came at the expense of Native Americans, who had picked the wrong side (Britain) in the war. (Benjamin-franklin-history.org, 2014),((history.com, n.d.),(history.com, n.d.),(let.rug.nl, 2012)

The Whiskey and Shay’s Rebellions were the result of inland farmers not getting paid for fighting for American freedom, while getting taxed to the point of losing their lands (all for a war to supposedly fight unfair taxation). All ended peacefully when newly acquired Western “Bounty Lands” were handed to the “rebels”.

JAN 6 MAGA PROTESTERS: I’m trying hard to find some Declaration of Independence parallel with the Jan 6th protestors, not having much success. Even 2nd Amendment “right to bear arms” is accompanied by “a well-regulated militia” proviso, which the original Patriots were, the Jan 6th and Charlottesville protestors were not. Our country ended up being a blend of Hamiltonian Federalism and Jeffersonian states-rights, yet like bratty teenagers the Jan 6th crowd wants it selectively their way to suit Christian Nationalist, QAnon, or Proud-Boy government overreach on Abortion, LGBT, gun-control/immigration. My rural ancestors were mostly concerned with keeping their lands, raising their kids, crops and animals, quietly going to their church or Lodge. They likely didn’t have time for bigotry or trying to control others, and besides, their Lodge or church may have discouraged that action. What’s happened to us as a society, when rural people essentially stop farming and observing bedrock Christian values such as “love thy neighbor”? My rural/ancestral sympathies going in for hard-working God-fearing country people versus money-grubbing urbanites go out the window when they steal Pelosi’s laptop, shout “Let’s hang Mike Pence” or text “We raped A.O.C!”. Anti-vax? Why even religious leader Cotton Mather advocated for smallpox inoculation in the 1720s, what’s happening with religious orthodoxies advocate for sickness, racism, senseless violence, and pollution? Many of today’s issues would be foreign to the original Patriots, but they seemed to have purer ideals (I know what you’re thinking, but remember, New Englanders were anti-slavery and were later to become the center of the Abolition Movement).

WHY THE TWO HAVE LITTLE IN COMMON: Generously, one could say that the MAGA protesters have some Patriotic Jeffersonian values, as they tend heavily towards a kind of rural (and minimal) States-rights form of government (except they contradict themselves with pleas for National immigration, gun and abortion laws). For a group that supports law and order (with a strong police force and a “well-armed militia”), the Jan. 6th riots also represent a curious nose-thumbing to the “rule of law”, by promoting a highly-dubious “unfair election” theory. The rest of their “Patriotic Ideals” generally involve a kind of hedonism, like trying to stab Capitol Guard police with American flag poles, dressing like a Viking version of Pan, or taking a dump on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. By contrast, though having some dissimilar views and a few bad actors, the original American Patriots were united by the concept of self-determination (the hallmark of Democracy). To my knowledge, they were grateful to have a vote, and thoughts of restricting or skewing other’s votes didn’t cross their minds (though ignorant revisionists with an agenda may claim otherwise). Our 1776 patriots were fighting for the right to peaceful assembly, and Jan. 6th was anything but peaceful, and more a plea to Fascism or Anarchy than Democracy.

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Vern Scott

Scott lives in the SF Bay Area and writes confidently about Engineering, History, Politics, and Health