Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Boston Tea Party: A Model of Political Warfare (Part I)

Any political warfare campaign – be it an attempt to remove a member of the local school board or an effort to foment rebellion in a foreign country – requires a variety of people, all of which the Boston Tea Party had, in its own way. Leaders from the political classes provide access to and familiarity with the traditional levers of political power; even if these cannot be fully utilized, political leadership may at least be able to neutralize them. In the case of the Tea Party, this leadership came from the North End Caucus, a sort of local political club.

Most acts of political warfare require that someone actually do something, be it knocking on doors and promoting a candidate or throwing tea off a ship; these sorts of things can require large numbers of people, often people with skills or experiences differing from those of the political leadership. Tying together the Boston longshoremen and the North End Caucus were middle class Bostonians who had social and familial ties to the world of the wharf. These men were networkers – people with a variety of connections who are able to speak to different audiences – and every political warfare campaign needs them to hold together various elements.

Whatever strata of society they come from or whatever role they play in the campaign, those with something to lose are obvious participants; they have a real stake in the outcome. For the Boston Tea Party it was the "smuggling fraternity" that had such stake and they proved willing cooperators with Samuel Adams (pictured above) and the other patriot leaders.

Finally, allies outside the immediate area of concern can be very helpful, providing moral or material support in times of difficulty; in addition, gathering allies before the opposition does prevents him from gaining any advantage by widening the conflict. Boston's Committee of Correspondence was instrumental in keeping the merchants of Philadelphia and New York in touch with and supportive of the patriot cause.

(Click here for Part II)

1 comment:

Aaron said...

For further information, see John K. Alexander, Samuel Adams: America’s Revolutionary Politician (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), 120-37 and Russell Bourne, Cradle of Violence: How Boston’s Waterfront Mobs Ignited the American Revolution (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006), 181-203.