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The History Channel, the Samuel Adams Brewing Company, and the writers and producers of the mini-series “Sons of Liberty” ought to be deeply ashamed for the tortured view of American History to which viewers were treated the last week in January. Artists are certainly entitled to spin, embellish, and even introduce items of their own creation when telling history to an audience. But I have never before witnessed such a blatant and cynical effort to distort and pervert the facts of the American Revolution for the benefit of a crudely obvious political agenda.
The American Revolution was a brand new phenomenon bursting on the world scene in the 1770s and 80s. People of all walks of life and all levels of wealth and education banded together to make the democratic republic for which they groomed themselves for more than a hundred and fifty years before Lexington and Concord. The records are voluminous; it is not as though we don’t know who the players were, what they wanted, or the issues over which they fought.
“No Taxation without representation,” was the rallying cry from the 1760s when Great Britain imposed taxes on sugar and (notary type) stamps. Riots and demonstrations, not to mention boycotts, followed the 1765 imposition of the Stamp Tax. It got so ugly the British were unable to find Americans to collect the tax and eventually repealed it. Other efforts followed – including the Intolerable Acts – sparking continuing and escalating resistance that culminated in the December 1773 Boston Tea Party. Patriots belonging to an underground organization known as the Sons of Liberty commandeered three British government-owned tea ships and destroyed the tea cargo by pitching it into Boston Harbor.
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According to the History Channel fiasco, it was an economic conflict more than a political one. We are told the wealthy merchants – of Boston and Britain – wanted to bleed the colonials, most of whom could not even find jobs with which to support their families. We are told Samuel Adams (did I mention the series primary sponsor?) is the lonely catalyst seeking social justice for his fellow colonists as other leaders eventually rally around him in his radicalism. Taxation without representation is never mentioned in three nights. What is beaten into the audience is that it is all about class warfare. The ruling classes – British government and wealthy merchants – live to stick it to the poor of the colonies. One could paint the wealthy as the Republicans and the poor revolutionaries as the Democrats asking only that the rich pay their fair share. The producers even set up wealthy John Hancock against destitute Sam Adams to symbolize the conflict in personal terms. Eventually, Hancock’s brethren turn on him; and he joins the revolutionaries, carefully and clearly explaining to his new homeys how it is – a perfectly simplistic portrait of a Marxist analysis of society. The only problem is the set-up is a lie from start to finish.
In fact, Hancock (though wealthy) was protégé to the much older Adams. In fact, the conflict was about the very prosperous colonies in which people of all classes were building a life. Adams himself was a prominent political leader and editor of a newspaper. The British attitude was they had saved the colonists’ from destruction in the French and Indian War – although it was more like the colonists saving British hind ends – and now they must share some of their prosperity to pay for the war after 1763.
Although there was plenty of socio-economic stratification in colonial times, Americans lived in a much more egalitarian culture than the one they left behind. The literacy rate – usually a sign of shared opportunity – was phenomenal; most people knew and cherished their history (especially their Biblical heritage) and participated in government. The first colonial legislature had been operating in Virginia since 1619, and all the colonies followed suit. Sam Adams was an elected official before becoming a revolutionary leader and never operated outside the political structure. The price of tea was actually lower at the time of the Tea Party – even with the new tax. Rather, it was the imposition of any restrictions on their freedom by a body not accountable to them that enraged them– as every American child should know by Middle School.
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Of course, they manage to delete the Great Awakening of the 1730s and 40s as the catalyst that made an American people under God. It is the Awakening that forged the union in shared revelation of God in Christ that was capable of joining together to fight a war and produce a constitutional government and create a culture – ultimately – in which all could obtain life, liberty, and pursue happiness as they chose. But every secular depiction leaves out the most important part of our heritage, and I’m just sayin…
The televised depiction descends into silliness – as works of art do when they trash reality in favor of agenda. When the militia in Concord hear of battle in nearby Lexington, they haul and hide their gunpowder and cannon in furrowed fields in the time it takes to march from one town to another. When the Brits search the farm, a small band of colonials opens fire from the trees and drives them off. When the colonials see the British fleet about to land in front of them, someone says, “We’d better fortify Bunker Hill”–like that can be done in the hour or two while the British form and march.
In fact, the colonial intelligence system was far better than the British; and they knew of General Gage’s plans weeks in advance. Most of the munitions stored in Concord were long gone by the time troops arrived. Some had been hidden in fields, but well ahead of arriving British. Although Lexington was a skirmish only – Adams and Hancock too were long gone – Concord was a pitched battle in and around Concord Bridge where the “shot heard round the world was fired”; and a numerically superior militia tore into and drove off the advancing British. Later in the day, a relief force arrived to enable the British retreat to Boston; many more were killed by colonial snipers on that march. Oh, and the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on the previously fortified Breeds Hill.
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The History Channel seems never to have heard of either Concord Bridge or Breeds Hill. But they claim to know a lot about class warfare. Which makes them politically correct and factually idiotic. Frankly, given the abundance of documentation on these events and their causes, it is inconceivable that a true story could be so utterly distorted unless the storytellers chose to re-invent history for reasons that seem good to them. In case anyone is wondering, I do hold it against them. Lying is evil. Always.
When the Hebrew people were decimated and led into exile by first the invading Assyrians and later the Babylonians – both from modern Iraq – God promised to restore them beyond imagination. He promised them such abundance that they would be a blessing to their neighbors, and He has kept that promise in spades with the founding and flourishing of modern Israel. But He laid a condition on the promise. “These are the things you are to do,” says God in Zechariah 8:16-17. “Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgments in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the Lord.”
I hope every reader will let the History Channel and Samuel Adams Breweries know just what they think of their lying and manipulating of our stories, our founding fathers, and the American people, Christian or no. I hope they pay a much higher price than the costs of production and advertising – that others may profit from their lesson learned. But of far greater importance is the import of the promise and its accompanying condition for each reader. If we would hold the plutocrats of beer and broadcasting – and government – accountable for truth and fair dealing, we had better repent of our dealings with each other and render true accounts ourselves.
Whether we think ourselves capable – even under God – of turning back the tide of abusive power abroad in the land today is neither here nor there. The people of the Bible – at God’s insistence as much as His inspiration – invented the concept that He is God of each as well as God of all. With that came the concept of personal responsibility. At the end of the day, it is not about all so much as it is about each. Babylon is on the way, but so is our redemption if we will have it.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.