The Seeds of Revolution, Reborn
by, 08-12-2013 at 10:26 AM (8866 Views)
The Seeds of Revolution, Reborn
RIP Fourth Amendment
By Adam English 2013-08-09
In February 1761, on the second floor of the Old State House in Boston, a former attorney for the British Colonial government that recently resigned in disgust rose to challenge the authorities.
James Otis, Jr. represented 63 merchants who had been subjected to the whims of British customs agents who were effectively "above the law." At issue were the writs of assistance that were used to search any property at any time, and seize anything they decided was contraband.
To promote molasses sales from the British West Indies, Parliament placed a prohibitively high tax on any molasses from non-British colonies. But by catering to one colony, Parliament threatened to ruin another. Colonial America had developed vibrant trade between Dutch, French, and Spanish colonies, exchanging lumber, food, and other products for molasses to make rum.
As historian John C. Miller notes, the tax "... threatened New England with ruin, struck a blow at the economic foundations of the Middle colonies, and at the same time opened the way for the British West Indians — whom the continental colonists regarded as their worst enemies — to wax rich at the expense of their fellow subjects on the mainland."
New England would either have to self-destruct or smuggle in contraband to avoid the tax.
To combat the rampant smuggling of molasses (along with other goods that circumvented a host of restrictive trade regulations), the courts issued the writs of assistance to custom agents.
These British agents could then enter any colonist's home with no advance notice, no probable cause, and no reason given. If an agent wanted to claim something as contraband, it could be seized without recourse. They could also assign their "above the law" status to anyone else they so chose.
On that day, James Otis, Jr. lost his case in spite of a magnificent speech. The very court he stood in issued the writs, and there was little doubt that he stood no chance.
A man in the audience was so impressed by the speech that he later said, "The child independence was then and there born, every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance."
That man was one of our founding fathers, John Adams — and James Otis Jr.'s fiery and righteous speech became a basis for the Fourth Amendment.
I am happy these men are not alive to see what is happening today in the nation they helped to forge...
They would be ashamed at how their struggles have been forgotten, their achievements corrupted.
The King's Agents Are Back
An unintended and tragic consequence of America's misguided War on Drugs is to blame for new and unconstitutional seizures.
In a 1984 omnibus crime bill, Congress authorized local police departments to take a cut of anything they seized from anyone suspected of a crime through civil forfeiture.
Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture empowers cops to seize any property or money they believe was obtained illicitly right on the spot.
The person does not need to be arrested, charged, or convicted for it to happen.
There is no consideration given to the Fourth Amendment.