A Lesson from the History Books

As much of America was taking a break from New Year celebrations, the citizens of Burns Oregon found themselves at the center of the armed takeover of a Federal facility. Dozens of armed militia, reportedly under the command of Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, took control of an administrative building at the nearby Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Militia members acknowledge being armed but claim they will not resort to violence unless authorities provoke them to do so. So, how did this happen and what should be done now?

“Why” is a question neither side can readily answer. Bundy claims his group is there to support local ranchers Dwight & Steve Hammond who were recently ordered to return to prison in connection with an ongoing court battle following federal arson charges. Locals, even those supporting the Hammonds, claim Bundy is using this local event as a springboard for a larger anti-government agenda that they do not support. Even press conferences by Bundy do little to shed light on the exact reason, other than a decades-old feud with various federal agencies concerning land use and rights for western ranchers.

For many, the question of what should be done is a grey area. Some support the ranchers and their grievances, even if they do not condone Bundy’s methods. Others claim these militias are merely following in the footsteps of earlier Sons of Liberty, standing up against an unjust government in the only manner available to them. Regardless of what side you find yourself, the fact remains that armed citizens have illegally taken charge of a government office. As far as following in the footsteps of early patriots, let’s see how one of those Patriots addressed a similar issue.

George Washington gathers troops to quell the Whiskey Rebellion
George Washington gathers troops to quell the Whiskey Rebellion

The year was 1794 and three years earlier Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton had established an excess tax on distilled spirits, whisky, to pay for the mounting debt from the Revolutionary War. The new tax affected mostly farmers who distilled the corn, rye and grain they grew as the whisky was easier and cheaper to ship east than the produce itself. Especially hard hit were the small farmers of Western Pennsylvania, which was then-considered the frontier.

Since the tax was first imposed, many farmers simply refused to pay. Negotiations had been attempted, and elected officials had tried to intervene- even President George Washington had called for calm. But, by the summer of 1794, emotions were high and a group of farmers stormed the local tax collector’s home and burned it. A line had been crossed, and President Washington was faced with a dilemma – armed citizens had threatened a government representative and burned his home (and government office) in the process.

Even as a famous Son of Liberty, President Washington determined that, once the line had been crossed, swift action was required. He ordered an armed militia of over 12,000 men to advance on the Pittsburgh frontier with orders to put down the Rebellion. Furthermore, Washington himself led the troops west. In the end, the majority of “rebels” disbursed before the troops arrived and, although 150 men were charged with treason, only two were ever convicted. Those two were eventually pardoned by Washington himself, who believed the message had been heard – you cannot raise arms against the government, even one you’ve elected.

So, in light of what an original patriot and Son of Liberty chose to do in similar circumstances, what do you think should happen in Oregon?

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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