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Why do we study history at BHI? Because we want to know where we are going. Consider the following example:  In 1761, there was a lawyer in Boston by the name of James Otis. As an Advocate General in the Vice Admiralty Court, part of Otis’ job was the prosecution of outlaw smugglers, a large problem in the Colonies. When the Crown decided to assert their power and get control of the smuggling situation, they introduced the Writs of Assistance. These Writs allowed customs officers to search people’s homes, ships and stores without a warrant. Otis was not in any way pro-smuggler, but he knew that these new writs were clearly contrary to the rights of a British Citizen. 

Now back to the present. In the days before the 2007 recess, Congress has been passing rapid fire legislature like a 6th grader slamming out his last math questions before the school bell rings. In the flurry of activity, a bill was passed that was not well debated, or possibly even well read. Congress, in an effort to improve our national intelligence gathering abilities, granted broad new surveillance options to the Executive Branch.  These options could include physical searches of American citizens here on US soil, the collection of Americans business records, and extended wiretapping--all without court approval. That is contrary to the Constitution’s 4th amendment, which says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The White House emphasized that there would be strict rules in place to minimize the extent to which Americans would be caught up in the surveillance. Note: they said “There will be strict rules”, not there are strict rules.

  In 1761, Otis went against the Crown (his employer and government) and argued for Boston Merchants that the Writs of Assistance violated the “natural” rights of the colonist. This argument would be made again 15 years later by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration Of Independence and was the beginning of what would be the 4th Amendment. Otis became the first to explore the idea that British subjects in America were not being given their full rights as English Citizens. Later, Otis would be central in the forming of the Sons of Liberty in Boston, and even joined the fight at Breed’s Hill. After Otis’ death, John Adams had this to say about him: "I have been young and now I am old, and I solemnly say I have never known a man whose love of country was more ardent or sincere, never one who suffered so much, never one whose service for any 10 years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770."

            In 2007, we need a new James Otis; better yet, we need many.  Let’s assume that we all trust the President with these sweeping new powers. Do we trust everyone that works for the President not to abuse these new powers? Or how about everyone that works for the people who work for the President? How about a future President not yet elected and their administration? Or what about the fact that, even if you do trust all these people, the new powers are just plain contrary to our Constitution?  You remember the Constitution, right? Those fancy papers under glass at the National Archives?

            Citizens, we have been down this road before.   At Breed’s Hill Institute we focus on educating people about our nation’s founding history. Simply put, we try to remind people of who we are and where we come from as a society. Our mission is to preserve American liberty through education, because only through understanding liberty and the struggles to establish and keep it can we expect to appreciate and preserve it. The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, but the Revolution itself continues.  We must all continue the fight.

The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors; they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, it we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men."
-- Samuel Adams

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