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Address given August 22, 2009 at the Floridians Unite Tea Party at Lake Eola, Downtown Orlando Florida

Economic freedom and personal freedom -They go hand in hand. That’s what started the first tea party 236 years ago, and that’s what this tea party is also about.

In 1773, England’s parliament passed the Tea Act, giving the British East India Company a monopoly to trade tea in the colonies.  Yes, this began over a government sponsored monopoly. This led to the Boston Tea Party December 16, 1773, where a group of colonists dressed as Indians dumped tea from three ships into Boston Harbor. In response, the British government passed what history calls the “Intolerable Acts”.  These were four Acts of law passed to punish the colonists for their Tea Party. One of these acts closed the Boston Harbor to free trade forcing the colonies to buy only British goods – you know, a government sponsored, single payer system. The British also extended the power their appointed governors had over the colonies – we might call those appointees czars today. And there was the Quartering Act, giving British Military the power to take over private businesses, homes and any other resources deemed necessary for the benefit of the government.  Yes, it was government, the British government back then, taking away everything that rightfully belonged to the people of America.

In response to the “Intolerable Acts,” 12 of our colonies met in Philadelphia in September of 1774. This was the creation of our First Congress. Back then, our Congress mustered the courage to call for a boycott of British goods.  And what did the British government do in response? They went right after our personal weapons. In April 1775, British troops traveled to Lexington and Concord to take control of stored colonial gunpowder.  We know this day, April 19th 1775, as Patriot Day; the day “the shot heard around the world” was fired at North Bridge in Concord Massachusetts. That first shot was in defense of the right of each American to defend themselves.

Later in October the British, to show who’s boss I guess, would burn the town of Portland, Maine, destroying the homes of a thousand people just at winter approached. And then on June 29th 1776, just a few days before our forefathers were to sign their declaration, British General Howe landed an invasion force of 32,000 troops, including 18,000 German mercenaries (Hessian troops) just off Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Quite a history isn’t it? Now what would make 56 men sign a declaration that would immediately turn them into traitors to be hunted down by the most powerful army and navy in the world? Remember, there were over 40,000 British troops on American soil the day they all would sign the declaration. Our forefathers knew the risks. We know this because of the last line in the Declaration of Independence reads: “And, for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

As our forefathers signed that document, they knew King George III would have every one of them rounded up and hanged, and have their property seized.  Who were these brave and resolute people we call our forefathers?

The signers of the Declaration of Independence would include two future presidents–Jefferson and Adams. Twenty-four of the fifty-six signers of the declaration had been educated and employed in law. Eleven were merchants and nine were large plantation owners. Nine would die during the Revolutionary War. Twelve would have their homes ransacked or destroyed. When the British overran New Jersey, declaration signer John Hart had his home looted. His wife died as a result. Abraham Clark saw two of his sons imprisoned by the British Navy. John Witherspoon’s son, James, was killed by the British. Thomas Nelson’s home served as headquarters for British General Cornwallis during the siege of Yorktown. Legend has it that Nelson advised George Washington to fire on his own home. The home was destroyed. and several leading figures of the Continental Congress, including its first signer, John Hancock, had bounties placed on them for their capture. That did not, however, prevent Hancock from signing the declaration first and very boldly so the King could see Hancock’s name, even without glasses.

If we briefly look at the second paragraph of the declaration we read about our rights:  It reads, “that they (you and I) are endowed by their Creator (that’s our God) with certain inalienable rights (these are rights that cannot be taken away by any government) that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Notice that the phrase “among these” implies that there are more than just these three rights.  Then it says “to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This is to say that WE let ourselves be governed and indeed WE elect the government who will govern us. The Declaration of Independence, goes on to read: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends (securing the inalienable rights) it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute a new government.”  This means we can vote them out of office.

We are here today because our government is again levying more “Intolerable Acts” upon its people. Only you can decide if your government has become destructive to your God-given rights.  But before this Tea Party continues tonight, I need to tell you about one more signer, a very special man, Caesar Rodney.

rodneyquarterCaesar Rodney knew that to overcome unfair and unjust treatment, Americans would have to rally around a common purpose, that purpose declared 233 years ago, to denounce those “Intolerable Acts” of government. Unity and our common cause for freedom would make the difference in winning a revolution.

He was a wealthy man. He did not have to engage in this declaration signing or this fight. He could have paid his taxes and enjoyed his life. Rodney was also ill, having severe asthma and cancer on his face.  But he chose not to sit by and be neutral. One evening just before the signing, Rodney rode his horse 80 miles through a thunderstorm so that he could cast the vote to break a tie and bring Delaware into the revolution.

Rodney’s efforts not only brought Delaware along but also New York and two other colonies. Now all 13 colonies were together, truly a “UNITED” States of America. The result was not just a declaration, but “The UNANIMOUS Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.” The all important unity of our forefathers gave us the right to rally here today, a gathering of the governed. Again it is time for unity and it is time for each of us to make our voice heard in Washington, Tallahassee and in our local communities.

Remember that line in our declaration “we mutually pledge to each other.” Today, please pledge you will make your voice heard – write your congressmen and senators – write often. Pledge that you will make your vote count – know who you are voting for – vote for people who understand the responsibilities of leadership and the price paid for our freedom – hold them accountable. And pledge that your children will have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – don’t pass on to them what is our problem to fix today.

I would like to close with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, our author of the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America: “When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”