“Thomas, I will not have you killed, leaving me with our son James all alone to raise. He is not even two years old. You can’t do this. It isn’t fair” yelled 19 year old Elizabeth White to her husband. Thomas White, 15 years Elizabeth’s senior, was dumb struck by his wife’s angry terror. He looked down at her red face and trembling hands as young James sat on the floor staring in silence.
“But Elizabeth, it was you who were so angry that the British flooded Boston with the cheap tea that is driving our own local merchants to ruin. It was you who said they had to be stopped. I thought you would be proud of me, not angry.”
“I know what I said, Thomas” Elizabeth replied in a calmer voice. “But you know I never thought that would mean you would risk your life by sneaking aboard their ships and throwing their bloody tea into the harbor. It has been barely four years ago that young Edward Garrick cursed at the British soldier and they responded by massacring five of our neighbors at the Customs House in broad daylight. What do you think they will do to you if they catch you destroying their precious tea?”
“Elizabeth, I do love you and James so. But I have made a pact with Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. This is an act we must take. It is either we act now or it gets worse later. I cannot allow the British to dictate every aspect of our lives. They spy, lie, steal, kidnap or whatever they need to do to hold power over us. I cannot….NO….I will not let our son be raised as a second class citizen.”
Thomas White and Elizabeth (Jones) White are my 4th Great Grandparents. History does not record whether or not that exact conversation occurred between Thomas and Elizabeth before the Boston Tea Party took place on the evening of December 16, 1773. However, if those exact words were not exchanged, I am convinced something very close to them was.
I do know that Thomas White was a member of the Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, and that he was a participant in the Boston Tea Party. I know that he served in the Continental Army in the Second Pennsylvania Regiment before, during and after the Revolutionary War. I also know that this inscription is on the monument that marks his and Elizabeth’s final resting place;
"IN MEMORIUM OF THOMAS WHITE
ONE OF THE BRAVE HEROES
OF THE BOSTON TEA PARTY, DEC. 16, 1773,
AND A REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIER AND PATRIOT FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDANCE,
IN IRELAND, MARCH 19, 1739,
DIED SEPT. 13, 1820,
AGED 81 Y'RS, 5 MO'S, 24 DAYS
SOLDIER, REST! THY WARFARE
O'ER DREAM OF FIGHTING FIELDS NO MORE.
HOW SLEEP THE BRAVE WHO
SINK TO REST,
BY ALL THEIR COUNTRY'S
The right to be free from government intrusion into our lives as citizens is not just something I believe in. It is, I am humbly proud to say, my heritage.
The Patriot Act causes a visceral reaction deep within me. Not just because of some of the alarming provisions contained within it, but more because of the name. I suspect the authors intentionally used the name “Patriot Act” to conjure up the tag of disloyalty if others opposed its onerous provisions. The authors knew they could not appeal to our reason, therefore, they settled for appealing to our fears. I suspect Thomas White, one the original true Patriots, would have reacted much as I have.
Within this current national atmosphere the Portland City Council must decide whether or not to approve a memorandum of agreement for the next year that causes the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to assign two full time Portland Police Officers to the so called Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and join forces with the FBI to investigate possible terrorists amongst us.
Some have questioned my patriotism for the position I have taken. I have found that ironic given that I believe that through my vote I am attempting to adhere to the principles Thomas White and his fellow Patriots fought for in the American War of Independence. That is, a government that exists only to serve the people through its elected representatives. A government that respects the freedom of its citizens to assemble, speak freely and practice the religion of their choosing….or not.
While the role of the federal government being in charge of the JTTF has dominated the debate so far, suffice it to say that some in the command structure of the Portland Police Bureau have shown me in the past year that I would be foolish to accept on faith that they are committed to making sure that individual civil rights will be respected without effective oversight by the Mayor. Therefore, I will not support any agreement to participate in the JTTF that does not give at least the Mayor -if not those Commissioners that ask for it- the same security clearance as the officers assigned to the JTTF.
Since becoming a member of the Portland City Council, I have become concerned that there has not been effective oversight of the Portland Police Bureau. I also believe that is about to change….dramatically. That is a very good thing.
However, I also know that the PPB not participating in the JTTF does not hamper our ability one bit to investigate true threats to our citizen’s need to be secure. If the FBI wants the assistance of the PPB in an investigation, they need only request assistance from the Mayor’s office and, assuming the request is based on a real need, the Mayor will assign as many Portland Police Officers as is required to deal with a legitimate investigation.
I also think that it is not an unhealthy thing to have clear lines of delineation between our local police and the federal police. While both entities should cooperate to the extent possible, our local police should be more in tune with our community and its specific concerns. In instances where the federal police may cross over the civil rights line, I would aspire to a time when our police would call the feds on that. Again and unfortunately, my experience with some in the command structure of the PPB leads me to believe that would not happen today.
I know what I write here will not sit well with some in our community nor within the PPB. I am sorry about that. However, I say what I do and will vote the way I have indicated only because of the rights afforded to us as American citizens by those who fought and died in all of America's wars to secure for us those rights.