SAR Compatriot: Eugene Foley
Taking It to the Streets
This last week I was following my ancestors to Western Pennsylvania and their further migration to Kentucky. Of course, I’m taking note of those who were in the French & Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. But I also considered what economic issues might have been a consideration as they moved their sometimes large families from one area to another.
Given the locale of my ancestors, I thought it possible that the Whiskey Rebellion might have been a factor in their move. This also led me to consider the efficacy of the rebellious history of our country, exemplified by the Boston Teaparty and the protests over the Stamp Tax. The Stamp Tax, though imposed without participation of those being subjected to its burden, was a seemingly appropriate attempt to recover costs of defending the colonies against the French and Indians. Similarly, the tax that fomented the Whiskey Rebellion, though not agreed to by the states, might seem an appropriate attempt to recoup federal costs to protect the states.
As it turns out, the Stamp Tax was repealed after only one year. The tax on distilled spirits became peculiarly uncollectable by the States, despite George Washington’s own efforts to enforce it. So, the riotous actions of the citizenry did influence the outcome. While we are appalled by the wanton destruction of property, this has been a part of demonstrating dissatisfaction throughout history. The British gentleman who was tasked with collecting the stamp tax, was hung in effigy and his house looted, including the tiles on its roof…and the rioters knew of his appointment before he did. He resigned soon after notice had gotten to him.
Throughout our history as a nation, our people have taken their mutual concerns to the streets. It does appear, however, that the effectiveness of these showings of concern are not enhanced by violence, on either side of an issue. Be that as it may, governments have a significant role in the acceleration of violence, and with the advent of cell phone recordings, the police response is open to greater scrutiny than ever before. And, as the riots in Hong Kong have made clear, the record of response can be seen around the world.
While the study of our ancestors is a fun and sometimes exciting exploration into our history, it has with it the risk of discovering horrific acts alongside the most heroic. I can’t help but wonder where the balance lies between teaching our children in high school and college the whole story, instead of just the romantic side, that they might hesitate when gatherings begin to become instruments of destruction instead of calls for improvement.
As parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of the next generation of descendants of patriots whose actions made our freedoms possible, WE are the bearers of the histories of our families, both the good and the bad, to the next generation. And WE are the ones who must find the balance of what needs to be passed to future generations that their ignorance does not lead to new injustices, needless loss of life and property and putting our rights and freedoms in jeopardy.