The right to protest in America has a history of a longstanding protection from the state. These rights fall under the umbrella of freedom of assembly as well as the freedom of speech among the citizens. These rights not only give the citizens the ability to protest verbally, but also to organize peaceful protests and marches in public places. These rights are also not conditional since the state has the interest of maintaining public order and peace. The state is thus under obligation to make sure that the interests of American citizens are fully gratified within the boundaries of the constitution.
America is one of the few nations that have an ancient history of citizen protests against the federal government and laws. It all began in the 1760s during the declaration of independence where the government faced a series of protests. To date, the citizens of the United States of America still hold protests and even threaten to secede from the United States in the event the federal government fails to address their issues satisfactorily. This essay conducts an in depth analysis of the causes of these protests and whether the American citizens have it in their rights to go against the decisions of the federal government. The essay will also take into consideration the various instances where American citizens protested against the government and the reasons for doing the same.
Instances of Dissatisfaction with the Federal Government
The age of Revolution sparked as a series of protests against the government upon the introduction of various intolerable Acts that the colonists could not accept. The Declaration of Independence represents one of the major historical events when the protests against the federal government intensified. Among these are levying taxes from the colonists without their approval and dissolving the colonial assemblies. In addition, since parliament needed more revenues from citizens, a law was enacted to help raise money fast.
This Act therefore increased duties that were imposed on non-British goods. The age of Revolution also witnessed the Currency Act, which prohibited Americans from using their own currencies, to come into place. This development angered many people and led to the formation of groups that aimed at peaceful demonstrations against the British authorities.
Another outstanding period of protests in American history is when the Sugar Act was enacted. In Massachusetts, protesters expressed serious outrage against taxation by parliament. They resorted to form united protests in their localities. As a result, they began to stop using British goods and continuously opposed the various policies, which were introduced to them.
The Quartering Act, enacted shortly afterwards to provide a framework for the Americans to ensure supplies to the barracks of British troops, served to worsen the already volatile situation. During the same time, the Stamp Act was passed to impose a direct tax on the American colonists. In response, they formed a secret society known as “Sons of Liberty” to intimidate the stamp agents sent to them. Many people employed to facilitate the stamping process, resigned due to the intimidation they got from the colonists.
Another historic protest period in the history of the US was Shay’s rebellion. This armed uprising occurred in Massachusetts between 1786 and 1787. The Shay revolution was instigated by various issues, some of which included financial hardship after the economic depression, harsh government policies and credit squeeze which came about due to lack of proper currency. The protesters were the war veterans who spearheaded a shutdown of courts thus crippling the hearings on debt collection that were ongoing.
Since this rebellion was politically motivated, reforms on articles of confederation were greatly necessary. This rebellion therefore, had an influence on the contents of the American constitution. Its consequences dominated various discussions and debates hence bringing a big impact on the laws governing the country. Several amendments were made based on this historical event.
The time of Anti-Federalists and Federalists also saw a number of protests from American citizens. The Anti-Federalists were against the establishment of a strong federal government, as well as the approval of the constitution in 1788. The Anti-Federalists were especially concerned that the articles of confederation bestowed too much power to the government and this increased the likelihood of it turning into a monarchy. During this time, many Anti-Federalists came out strongly and opposed the centralized system of government. The enactment of the bill of rights and the approval of the constitution drained the enthusiasm of Anti-Federalist movement.
Moreover, protests were seen to rise in the US during the broad versus the strict construction of the constitution. The strict constructionists wanted the congress to be allowed to exercise limited powers to make the government small and easy to operate. The broad constructionists, on the other hand, demanded for a system of government where the Congress would be allowed to exercise many implied powers to ensure that the government has maximum participation in the shaping of events in the states.
As a result of this antagonism, there was a great disagreement between the Americans who supported Jefferson’s strict constructionist policies and Hamilton’s supporters who advocated for a broad constructionist perspective. This controversy led to a split in George Washington’s government, hence the formation of the first political parties in America. These were the democratic republicans and the Federalists. To date, this argument is still prevalent among the citizens of the US, hence the political split in support of the Democrats and the Republican parties.
This antagonism propelled Thomas Jefferson to presidency because he promised to reduce the scope and size of the government. The current trend in the American politics is based on many pledging their allegiance to either the Democrat Party or the Republican Party. It is also evident that if a member of the Democrat Party wins during elections, the Republican Party members largely oppose their way of ruling terming it as insufficient in meeting the nations’ needs. Democrats felt that the federal system of government would have a lot of implied power over the citizens while the federalists (Republicans) thought otherwise.
In the late 1790s, the Whiskey rebellion took shape during the presidency of George Washington. This rebellion was instigated by the government’s decision to tax farmers who made whiskey using their grain leftovers. This payment of the tax was a scheme by Hamilton to make the federal government more powerful. Many farmers opposed to this move and refused to pay taxes. Instead, they resisted and fought against the government’s move. They joined the united fight for the American Revolution, particularly against taxation without any local representation. The federal government, however, maintained that the stated taxes were legal and that the Congress acted within its mandate to give such directives.
The nullification crisis also led to protests in the US. It happened when Andrew Jackson was the president of the US. During this time, South Carolina decided to overturn federal tariffs instituted between 1828 and 1832 under the claim that they were unconstitutional. Instead, they enacted a controversial and protective tariff, formerly known as the “tariff of abomination.” Most people from South Carolina opposed this tariff. The state was adversely affected by the economic depreciation that occurred in the 1820s and many South Carolina political activists blamed it on the national tariff, which was imposed on them. Slowly, South Carolina politics built tension around the tariff issues and it fully blew after the nullification crisis.
The secession of the confederate states also led to a number of conflicts in the states of America. The attacks that followed led to a series of conflicts where members of certain states opposed the federal government. There was an attack on Fort Sumter due to the confederate government, which was constantly at loggerheads with the other states. Most of these controversies were based on whether or not to maintain and expand slavery. Tensions arose leading to civil wars, which resulted in heavy damages on the Southern regions.
The above conflicts and controversies explicitly reveal the path that the United States of America followed towards reaching its current political and economic position. They also explain why certain events unfold in a certain manner. The country is comprised of citizens with diverse ideological differences in terms of the political orientation. Conflicts and protects in America are not a new phenomenon. They began on the days of independence and to date the trend is still shaping the political image of the states. This is reflected in terms of voting as well as support for the ruling government.
In support of freedom of speech and expression, there was an amendment to the constitution that demanded that Congress was not to make any law that would be deterring the freedom of the press or speech of any person, or even the right of the citizens to assemble peacefully. Similarly, the Texas constitution also offers a similar position to the citizens; article 1 Sec. 8 and 27 give the citizens the right to speak, publish or write their opinions on any subject as well as the right to assemble. With all these rights at their disposal, American citizens can make and express independent decisions regarding their ideas on the aspects of government.
Expression of displeasure with the leaders or the government is their right, and barring them from doing the same is a breach of the US law. The US is often regarded as the land of the free and brave, and this is reflected in their political, economic and social undertakings. Americans therefore have rights to protest or secede from the United States in case the federal government’s undertakings are not propitious to them. The political parties are still the major determinants of the people’s ideologies and attitudes towards the government.