Violence and politics

  • 14 March 2016
  • NormanL
Violence and politics

With all the news stories about protestors crashing campaign events, violence, angry words, and much more, it's useful to look back at history to see if anything like this has happened before.

Sure enough, it has. There's a long tradition of protest, even armed conflict, directed at political candidates, office holders, governments, and among politicians themseves. For example:

The American tradition of political violence goes back as far as the colonial era, when Nathaniel Bacon and a sizable number of Virginians rose up in armed rebellion against the royal governor of the colony in 1676. Other armed uprisings took place against colonial authority in New York and Maryland in the late 17th century. In the 1760s, on the eve of the American Revolution, political violence broke out in the backcountry of the Carolinas, where disenchanted frontiersmen took up arms to fight for more equitable representation in their colonial legislatures, but these illegal posses often consisted of nothing more than roaming bands of thieves and cutthroats. By the early 1770s, Ethan Allen — the Vermont patriot, not the furniture salesman — led his Green Mountain Boys into violent confrontations with New Yorkers over border disputes, while Connecticut Yankees clashed with Pennsylvanians for political dominance over the settlements along the Susquehanna River. Pennsylvania, in fact, was a maelstrom, for a rebellion of Western Scotch-Irish settlers marched on the Quaker-dominated government in Philadelphia in their own bid for increased representation in the colony’s assembly.

This doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to violence, or to protestors who use extreme means to make themselves heard (or by extension, to silence others).

What we should keep in mind is that there is very little new in politics. It's a rough business, that sometimes gets downright nasty, and our history has the scars to show for it.