Tea Party: noisy but careless

The USA’s so-called “founding fathers” are the subject of much reverence, often uncritical, and often confused supporters of the US Constitution in 1787. These founding fathers are an amorphous, undefined large group, and let us concentrate on just two: Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson – all of whom are quoted repeatedly in many a Tea Party publication. The quotations are often less sagacious sayings and more convenient concoctions, shown by the fact that apart from the supposed author, citations are usually missing.

For example, the Worcester Tea Party has the following sayings on their About Us page (2011-11-20):
"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have. The course of history shows us that as a government grows, liberty decreases." - Thomas Jefferson
“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” - Samuel Adams
"The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks." - Samuel Adams
Actually, however, two out of three of these attributions are convenient concoctions, and not the sagacious sayings of celebrated seers. The concocted status of these “quotes” is so well-known that one wonders about the historical knowledge and intellectual abilities of Tea Party activists. Perhaps the activists know and continue to promulgate inaccuracies – at which point we wonder about their motives.
As the Jefferson experts at Monticello.org say about the “Government big enough …”:
We have never found such a statement in Jefferson's writings. As far as we know, this statement actually originates with Gerald R. Ford, who said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have,” in an address to a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974.
This quotation is sometimes followed by, "The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases," which is most likely a misquotation of Jefferson's comment, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, and government to gain ground." — Monticello.org at 2011-11-20. (“yeild” is in the original)
So let us move to Samuel Adams’s “It does not require …”: according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the first recorded use of the word “irate” was 1838, many years after Adams’s death in 1803. The original source of the quote seems to be People magazine, and for a while activists thought the concoction was by John Adams, and the quote appeared on a poster at a Tea-Party rally in September 2009. “The quote is also completely bogus – apparently an indirect attempt at a paraphrase from a 1987 article in Parade magazine that somehow wrongly morphed into a direct quotation from [John] Adams over the years, even though the source, tellingly, is never cited.” (The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals … , 2010). If you go to Wikiquote, we read that the quote has its own heading: Misattributed – that heading has not been challenged.
And what of the third attribution? This is indeed a quotation from Samuel Adams writing as “Candidus”, in an article that starts with the denial of liberty to others, the others being slaves. Does Adams really believe that the colonialist’s slaves are only slaves because they deserve to be slaves? Let us follow the Tea Party example, and cherry-pick quotations:
I Believe that no people ever yet groaned under the heavy yoke of slavery, but when they deserv'd it. — Candidus (Samuel Adams), Boston Gazette, 14 October 1771.
Even though he had strange ideas about how children born of slave parents were responsible for their own slavery (sins of the fathers?), earlier in his life Adams had something important to say about those who speak so vehemently about infringements on liberty:
It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, – to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves. — Samuel Adams, “Loyalty and sedition”, The Advertiser, 1748
Of course there are no officers to speak for the Tea Party, there are many Tea Parties, the many organizations are supposed to have arisen from many spontaneous actions by many worried people – there is no official party position on anything, in fact things are malleable.
This lack of official pronouncements means that anything convenient can be made somebody’s Tea Party position – and there are so many pronouncements. Some in the Tea Party are against tort reform because it restricts freedom and is unconstitutional, whereas others, such as Michelle Bachmann, are in favour of tort reform (though she has vacillated).
Others are just confused, “Inside DC's Tea Party Protests: Turmoil, But No Consensus” (9 Sep 2009):
"I want tort reform, and more competition so that I can choose a plan to buy," she said, though both are goals of the president's plan, which she opposes.

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