In the Boston Tea Party of 1773, a rowdy mob of American colonists dumped a shipload of tea into the harbor to protest a new tax. Unruly demand for change is a deep-rooted American tradition. So is the call for “law and order” to defend the status quo.
Against wider suffrage. In Rhode Island in the 1840s, armed protesters demanded voting rights for all white men regardless of wealth. Opponents formed a Law and Order Party to preserve the old colonial charter, which allowed only men of property to vote.
Against abolition. “Bleeding Kansas” in the 1850s was awash in violence between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions. A pro-slavery Law and Order Party accused its opponents of criminal fanaticism and met bloodshed with bloodshed.
Against alcohol. In the later 1800s and early 1900s, temperance sentiment was strongest among Protestants of English descent. Disdainful of beer-drinking Irish and German Catholic immigrants, they formed local Law and Order Leagues to enforce anti-liquor ordinances.
In each case, law and order won out in the short run. The expanded-suffrage leader in Rhode Island was sentenced to life in prison. Questioning the legality of slavery in Kansas could bring five years imprisonment. The 18th Amendment made Prohibition federal law. In the longer run, social change proved beyond the power of law and order to prevent.
9/7/2020 10:44:55 am
Thank you for a very nice perspective of how the long arc bends towards justice.
9/7/2020 04:01:50 pm
Matt, glad you find it so. History never repeats itself in its entirety, and broad patterns recur all the time. To me, whether a comparison is helpful depends on whether the point it's trying to make holds up. Mine that "law and order" has been a call to resist societal change holds up despite differences between the two tea parties (the Boston protesters resented the change that gave the colonies less autonomy than they were used to). Had I used the argument primarily to argue that protests should always include burning down storefronts and maximum generalized property damage, the; contrast between tea parties would be relevant.
9/8/2020 07:14:50 am
Presumably the modern Tea Party embraced that name to align itself with the American tradition of protest. The rowdy wing of that tradition includes the protest in Charlottesville (where one counter-protester was killed) and those protesting the COVID restrictions. But I don't hear "law and order" invoked against them.
9/7/2020 01:48:39 pm
Good examples -- As I know you know, you can find them in England too. I'd be interested in a look at your perspective on that.
9/7/2020 04:14:15 pm
Thanks, Beth. I'm well aware for protests and suppression in England - I didn't look into whether the exact phrase "law and order" is of long standing there. Would be interesting to know. Do you have particular examples in mind?
9/9/2020 11:05:58 am
By a "circle the differences" puzzle, I meant this:
9/10/2020 07:09:53 am
Thanks, Matt. I remember children's pictures and also photographs that are identical in all but one way, the puzzle being to find it. In real life, there are always (I suspect) multiple differences. And often bias in which ones we see.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.