In 1841, Thomas W. Dorr led an effort to remove property ownership restrictions from voting requirements in Rhode Island. He had been educated at Harvard as a lawyer, and realizing that the small state had no written constitution, he set out to create one. He convened a constitutional convention, wrote an elegant letter to citizens, and proclaimed himself governor in a referendum based on the new, restriction-free suffrage.
Strange as it is, the State of Rhode Island, so far famed for Religious liberty, seems to have become insensible to the claims of Political liberty. It is the only State in this great Republican Confederacy in which the People have not limited the power of their Legislature by a written Constitution; the only State in the Union in which the People suffer a fair and equal representation of their interests to be defeated by a rotten borough system….
We contend then That a participation in the choice of those who make and administer laws is a Natural Right; which cannot be abridged nor suspended any farther than the greatest good of the greatest number imperative requires….
In simpler terms, Dorr believed the elections were rigged, and the results were poisoned because Rhode Island operated on the same charter granted it by jolly old England before the Revolution. Dorr made it his mission to “fix the glitch.”
Of course, the legal authorities didn’t take well to Dorr’s action, being that he did it without any imprimatur of the governor or other political leaders. Governor Samuel Ward King, who won the election under the existing charter sought remedy in the courts, which granted that Gov. King’s election was valid and Dorr’s was not.
Proceeding from that premise, King began having Dorr’s “administration” arrested. Dorr responded by summoning 300 of his supporters, who stole two light cannon from a state militia post. They then surrounded the city arsenal, ordering the garrison to surrender to the mob. The garrison refused. Dorr’s men then fired the light cannon, which were either rendered inoperable by their aged state, or by wet powder. No cannonballs flew despite a great noise and smoke from the guns’ barrels. After a few attempts, the men scattered.
Dorr fled to New York and tried again to rally his “troops,” failing to gather even the 300 who originally answered the call. He was finally captured in 1843 and sentenced to life in prison for treason. The people Dorr represented, largely Irish immigrants who were too poor to afford the “poll tax” of wealth required to vote, never abandoned him or his cause. After 11 years in prison, as a celebrity, the state exonerated him and released him, and he died shortly afterwards. Dorr’s grave still bears the title “Governor Thomas Wilson Dorr,” as he died convinced in the rightness of his cause.
The entire insurrection is now called the “Dorr Rebellion” and it’s one of those little quirks of New England history that Rhode Islanders know about, but about which few others care, like coffee milk, Newport Creamery and duck pin bowling.
Let me ask a few questions: what was Dorr fighting for? Was it a good cause? Was it a good fight?
In fact, while Dorr was still a fugitive, Rhode Island citizens did pass a new constitution, removing the property ownership requirements for voting. But Dorr and some of his insurrectionists went to prison nonetheless.
Eighteen years later, John Brown, an extreme abolitionist, raided the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His goal was to arm slaves and begin a mass rebellion against southern slave owners. Brown and his men were captured, in what was at the time called an insurrection, by a company of Marines, ironically commanded by then-Colonel Robert E. Lee, who happened to be in the area returning from leave. Brown was taken into custody by two other future Civil War Confederate generals: “Jeb” Stuart and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Brown became a hero to the abolitionist cause. He was tried, convicted, and executed by hanging on December 2, a mere 45 days after being arrested. Brown’s hanging, and his celebrity was one of the many sparks that lit the fuse on the Civil War.
Again: what was Brown fighting for? Was it a good cause? Was it a good fight?
On January 6th, the sitting President of the United States told a large crowed who had gathered at his invitation on the Ellipse in front of the White House, to march on the Capitol and deal with Senators and Representatives who were, in his words, supporting a “stolen election.”
The courts had found, in every single case–at least 59 times–that Trump’s legal team lacked the evidence required to change a single state’s election results. Many of the judges that ruled on the lawsuits were themselves appointed by President Trump. Georgia conducted a hand recount of every single paper ballot (all of them!), then did another machine recount at the Trump campaign’s request. In states where recounts had to be paid for out of the pocket of the campaign requesting them, Trump’s team declined to request it. Why? Because they knew it wasn’t going to change the result.
Georgia also, at the request and by agreement with the state Republican Party, had the respected Georgia Bureau of Investigation conduct an audit of ten percent of the security envelopes that were used to return mail-in ballots, in Cobb County, one of the most populous counties in Georgia. The audit found that the number of discrepancies was 67 times lower than the results would need to be to change the result of the election.
Yet, the president continued to claim that the election was stolen from him. You might say that Trump has fought the good fight: removing critical race theory training from government offices; restoring correct due process and Title IX procedures to the Department of Education; supporting Israel, containing Iran, and guaranteeing a stronger peace in the Middle East; forcing our allies to pay more in keeping with NATO’s two-percent goal for defense spending; being the first president to personally address the March for Life; and rejecting the utter Chicken Little doomsaying of the climate change consigliere.
Those are all good fights.
You can even say it’s a good cause to examine the potential for voter fraud if the nation were to convert to an all-mail election system. We’ve seen the problems it has created in states like California. But it’s not enough to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in America, we don’t get do-overs in elections because we don’t like the results, or the rules in effect when the voting happened.
Also, Trump fomented an insurrection against his own government in a bid to stay in power.
Regardless of what you think about all the good fights, that one was not a good fight, nor was it a good cause.
Maybe history will be kinder to President Trump than the main stream media is today. Maybe the Trump insurrection will find its place in the history books like the Bonus Army riots, the Dorr rebellion, and Harpers Ferry. That is for future historians to decide.
Today, we are left with the carnage, the betrayal of trust of the very government, of which the current president leads the Executive Branch, and the deaths of five (now six) American citizens, including police officers in the line of duty.
No amount of “whataboutism” of what policies Joe Biden might advocate, or what a Democrat-controlled House, Senate and White House might do to Trump’s good fight legacy, or what political races might be affected in the future, can cover for the blood of citizens killed in the insurrection of January 6th. No amount of politics is worth the price paid in the insult to our Republic made by raising a Trump flag on the Capitol grounds after lowering Old Glory.
No amount of “no true Scotsman” fallacies will detract from the fact that QAnon is a Trump-loving group (the president’s own words, “They like me very much”). QAnon devotees stormed the U.S. Capitol in an act of insurrection, in a bid to overthrow the results of the 2020 election by force, to force the Legislative Branch of our government to suborn itself to the wishes of the leader of the Executive Branch. Were it to work, the Spanish word for that action is “auto golpe,” or self coup. Another word for it is a putsch, or a coup d’état.
Nothing that Antifa, or BLM, or Democrats defunding the police have done can balance the scale to justify this rebellion. No amount of “it wasn’t me” will erase the stain of self-identified Christians carrying a cross into the U.S. Capitol, having gained it by breaking and entering. Taking the Capitol is not a Christian act, mind you.
I don’t expect to convince those who believe the fight is worth the price paid. The Bible, in Proverbs chapter 9 warns: ““He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” I know better than to rebuke the true believers in the Trump insurrection–they’d choose their messiah and a wooden cross in the Capitol over the old rugged one that bore their Savior, who died despite having the power to summon ten thousand angels to overwhelm his executioners.
Those who stormed the Capitol may say they were fighting for the values of the old rugged cross. But their battle was as wrong as Thomas Dorr’s, and John Brown’s. Violence has a place in effecting change, at times, but never in the overturning of legally, duly elected political leaders, and especially never in the peaceful transfer of power in the greatest free republic in the history of the world.
It was Donald J. Trump, and those who gathered at his call, who did this. Not Antifa, not the media, not the Democrats, and not Joe Biden. If you have a voice and a platform in this nation (if it hasn’t been removed from under you yet), stop claiming these things.
The good causes are worth fighting for. Victories against Biden, Harris, and the left’s misguided policies are worth effort to gain them. Now all those victories are in great danger, because the good cause, and the good fight, has brought shame and reproach upon those who fight for it.
Democrats are people too, and they are citizens of the United States. They are entitled to the same rights, protections, and liberties as conservatives, including the ones who believe what QAnon professes. They are allowed to believe that Greta Thunberg is a modern day climate prophetess, that if you’re not an anti-racist, you must be a racist, and that all police are corrupt white supremacists at heart; QAnon is allowed to believe that Bill Gates is the antichrist, that the COVID-19 vaccine is a mark of the beast, and that Dominion Voting Systems is overrun by Venezuelan hackers.
That doesn’t make any of those beliefs true, or worth fighting for. I, for one, will not lift a finger to fight for anything QAnon believes, and in fact, I will fight against them with the same fervor as I fight against the lies of the far-left.
What we are fighting for is the ability of our republic to conserve the values we hold dear. But to do that, we must first conserve the republic. Donald Trump and his supporters have placed themselves on the wrong side of that battle, even thought they might be on “my” side in other battles. We are done fighting those other battles right now–let future historians work that out.
For now, as far as I’m concerned, I fight for the republic, which means I fight against Donald J. Trump. If he had an ounce of humility, backbone, or civic-mindedness, he’d resign today. But like Thomas Dorr, Trump will probably go to his grave with the title “President Donald J. Trump” on his tombstone. In Trump’s case, the title “President” will be as undeserved as Dorr’s “Governor” epitaph.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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