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Thread: Imnportant Date inHistory: General Warrants, Spark of A Revolution

  1. #1
    Founder's Club Member
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    Nov 2006
    Fairfax Co., VA

    Imnportant Date inHistory: General Warrants, Spark of A Revolution

    Almost missed this one. Many thanks to John Wesley Hall who maintains

    Today is the 251st anniversary of James Otis's arguments in court against Writs of Assistance--a type of general warrant issued to customs inspectors authorizing them to go pretty much anywhere and search for smuggled goods on the slimmest suspicion. No judicial oversight in advance of the search.

    From memory, Otis argued for hours against re-issuing the Writ. Writs expired after the death of the king, in this case, King George II, father of the king who received the Declaration of Independence. The customs officers wanted a new Writ.

    Many colonists were sick and tired of the searches authorized under such writs. Some had written pamphlets against the searchers decrying the breaking of locks and searching of cellars. In one situation, a crowd gathered during a search of a business. Things got a little ugly. The searchers decided it was best to break off the search to avoid the shedding of blood--their own.

    So, Otis, representing himself and people in general, argued for hours against Writs of Assistance. He lost. The court went against him.

    But, during the court session, a young lawyer named John Adams sat in the gallery and watched. Years later Adams would say the spark of revolution was born in that courtroom.

    Furthermore, according to Leonard Levy*, there is a direct, traceable link between the Paxton case, Otis's arguments, and our 4th Amendment. If I happen to recall that link, and the founders involved, I'll post it.

    You can read more about it, and clear up any errors in my memory, here:

    *Also, you can learn more about it in a very good book by Leonard Levy, Origins of the Bill of Rights.

    Fourth Amendment dot com is a great blog about 4A cases and issues. (Its amazing how the courts erode our protections.) Mr. Hall does not comment often about case highlights he posts--they pretty much speak for themselves. But, when he does comment, its pretty good. I unreservedly recommend this blog to anybody interested in 4A issues.
    Last edited by Citizen; 02-24-2012 at 09:41 PM.

  2. #2
    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
    Whatcom County
    Thanks for the post Citizen. I am just as passionate about the 4th as the 2nd.

    This is one of those cases I like to think about when people, talk about those who break unjust laws as criminal. That means our founders were criminals, they broke unjust laws.

    And how the American Revolution wasn't the war for Independence. The Revolution happened as Adams stated in the hearts and minds of the colonist and that eventually lead to the War for Independence. And this case as you pointed out was the spark.

    "Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people . . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."

    John Adams, 1818

    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

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