27 AHMP: Committees of Correspondence: A Powerful Model for Today's Patriot
As you know, I believe that we must learn from the past and allow the people, documents, and events surrounding America's Founding to guide us in our mission to restore our constitutional republic. This podcast is about a powerful vehicle that the Founders used to coordinate and effectuate change prior to the revolution. That vehicle was known as a committee of correspondence.
So what is a committee of correspondence? How did the colonists use these committees to interact with other colonists and the British authorities? Just how might the British Parliament’s actions in 1774 resemble those of the United States Government in recent years? I hope that my answers to the final question will be a good example of how the response of the colonists can give us a plan of action for the future.
But before we get to that let’s learn a bit about committees of correspondence together, shall we?
Initially, committees of correspondence were groups of colonists who came together to address or resolve a specific issue. They were primarily organized, and members were selected, as a result of town meetings. For example, a committee was organized in the colony of Massachusetts Bay to urge other colonies to send representatives to the Stamp Act Congress. After the issue was resolved the committee quickly disbanded. Remember that they functioned in a time in an environment where the guarantees of liberty were fleeting and often subject to the whims of the Crown, the Parliament, and even local authorities empowered by the British. Consequently, it was unwise for a group of citizens to coalesce and continually voice their grievances to local authorities. Had they done so, those colonists might have quickly found themselves on a boat bound for the Tower of London. There were, after all no protections from unreasonable search and seizure, warrants without probable cause, arrest without indictment, let alone the rights to confront one’s accusers or speak one’s mind freely!
However, as the British Parliament continued to impose increasingly restrictive regulations and hefty taxes on the Colonies, ongoing committees of correspondence were established to communicate with one another and plan coordinated responses. The first such standing committee of correspondence was established in 1772 in the town of Boston. When you hear progressive historians and analysists lament that the revolution was driven by a small band of radical whig activitists consider the following. The large group of colonists who were present at the town meeting in Boston on November 2, 1772 unanimously agreed, as proposed by Samuel Adams “That a Committee of Correspondence be appointed to consist of twenty-one Persons – to state the Rights of the Colonists and of this Province in particular, as Men, as Christians, and as Subjects, to communicate and publish the same to the several Towns in this Province and to the World as the sense of this Town, with the Infringements and Violations thereof that have been, or from time to time may be made – Also requesting of each Town a free communication of their Sentiments on this Subject.”
So rather than simply choosing to cry out against injustice and tyranny on an individual basis, or to create a committee that was limited to address one specific issue and then disband, the town of Boston voted to have a committee of its most prestigious and actively engaged citizens, and that committee was to directly confront the provincial governor and coordinate with the people of other towns and other colonies on an ongoing basis. So what had been created, in effect, is something akin to one of the current tea party groups or conservative groups which monitor and responds to the actions of those on the left, our elected officials, or those unelected and unaccountable members of the regulatory or bureaucratic class. But again,