The Liberty Rent: Learning from History to Win Today

By | November 10, 2015

An early 19th century organization used a radical new approach to their own membership to build strength in numbers, defy the British government, and win for their cause. They provide a blueprint for the grassroots today.

What political issue are you most passionate about? The right to keep and bear arms? Ending the War on Drugs? Combating the militarization of police departments? Putting a stop to the NSA’s surveillance programs? Advocating the return of sound money?

One way or another, the Tenth Amendment Center is fighting on these fronts, and others, promoting model legislation with state legislators, tracking the bills as they move through committees for floor votes, and educating more and more people about the principles of liberty. As our annual State of the Nullification Movement Report shows, we continue to make advances on all fronts.

However, there is still much more to be done.

In order to take things to the next level, we will need to transition to a more effective operating model. Most importantly, it’s going to need the support of liberty lovers, no matter how great or small their contribution.

The way to do this is for Americans to become TAC members and make monthly contributions in whatever capacity they can. Each membership represents a meaningful declaration of support for nullification and indictment against federal tyranny. Whether members join at $300 a month or $3, they play a vital role in our success.

Thankfully, other liberty-minded movements in history using the same model demonstrated that this not mere hypothetical conjecturing.

In the early 1800s, Irish activist Daniel O’Connell founded the Catholic Association, arguably the first mass mobilization political movement in Europe. The organization campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, the ability for Catholics to sit in Parliament.

Although other similar organizations had been founded in the past, none of them had been able to achieve success. At first, O’Connell followed the conservative membership model, which relied on a hefty annual subscription worth six months’ rent for an average farmer. Consequently, only the middle and upper class could afford such a price.

However, shortly thereafter O’Connell created a new membership at the cost of a penny per month, known as the “Catholic Rent.” It was a price even the poorest of the poor could afford to pay, and as a result their membership numbers swelled to the point where the association no longer represented merely certain classes of Irish Catholics, but the whole of the Irish Catholic population.

Furthermore, the Catholic Rent provided the association with two critical advantages. One, it now had a constant supply of funds to run a constant campaign, rather than intermittent due to uncertainty over money. Second, the mass membership gave O’Donnell moral authority to say he spoke on behalf of the Irish people, since so many of them across all classes were financially supporting him.

There were also benefits for the Irish people as well. The association was no longer campaigning on behalf of just the upper classes or well-to-do Irish, but the ordinary man who in effect had a share in the ownership of the organization. As a result, their financial involvement meant more political involvement on the part of ordinary members, who now had a means of getting their voice heard.

The success of this transition is indicated by the initial response by the British government, which was to ban it in 1825. In response, O’Connell simply changed the name and continued the same activities.

It wasn’t too long after when O’Connell achieved victory with the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill in 1829, which finally allowed Catholics to sit in the Parliament at Westminster.

This model provides us with the blueprint for our future victory for liberty.

Many people cannot, for a variety of practical reasons, actively participate in political activism. That is what we at the TAC are here for, to do the necessary legwork on behalf of people who are tired of government violating the Constitution and liberty. Through memberships, as little as $3 a month, they help provide us with the financial support necessary to continue the struggle. They also provide a stable funding mechanism through which we can make long-term plans without concerns as to whether or not the same funds will be available in the future.

Additionally, this kind of support means we will spend less time fundraising and more time nullifying.

Membership is not just about donations; it’s about a reflection of political will. One of the reasons the British passed the Catholic Relief Bill was to allow O’Connell, who had been elected to office in County Clare, to sit in Parliament. They knew not just from O’Connell’s electoral success but his association’s impressive membership size, that he represented the Irish Catholics, who made up most of the population in Ireland. They realized that barring him from representing the county might lead to yet another rebellion.

Likewise, we can achieve greater success convincing state legislators to introduce and support nullification bills if they know to oppose us is to stand against their constituents who, unlike us, they will have to answer to when election season arrives. The more members we have with a financial stake in the TAC, the harder it will be for our opponents and unfriendly media outlets to dismiss us as fringe or merely representing a handful of radical extremists.

TAC memberships also give you an opportunity to establish stronger connections to the work they believe in. By financially supporting us, you can share in our successes. When we are able to get a nullification bill passed into law, it is not just the victory of those directly involved. It is the victory of you, and every single TAC member.

As our latest report demonstrates, we have been able to yield impressive results despite a shoestring budget. How much greater will those results be when thousands and thousands of more Americans join and our coffers are sufficient to mount a formidable offensive against the feds?

If anyone has worries about us straying from our original purpose, like so many other political organizations, prospective members have nothing to fear. Our strategy is not about getting the right people elected. Our “success” is not measured by who wins elections. We don’t endorse political candidates, and in keeping with the views of many Founding Fathers, we hold allegiance to no political party.

The only thing we’re concerned with, no matter the issue, is the Constitution. Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses.

Not everyone took up arms in the War for Independence. There were those still engaging in commerce and trade, running businesses, plowing farms, providing goods and services. But those who contributed money, supplies, or food to the war effort were no less critical than the Continental soldier who fought on the battlefield.

The formula for our success is standing by, ready to carry out. All that remains is for Americans to join us and make it happen.

Category: Liberty
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