From the February 2009 Idaho Observer:

Committees of correspondence protection, safety and you, your family, neighborhood, county, state and country

The problems in America today are worsening. Under the present "regime" (meet the new regime, same as the old regime) the economy and everything associated with it will continue to get worse because every government policy, both existing and proposed, promises to hasten rather than retard our national spiral downward. So, when will we do something to protect ourselves from the traitors and fools actively sinking the "USS America?" Shall we wait until there are no jobs to be had? Until there is no food on store shelves and the dollar hyperinflates to the point of valuelessness? Shall we wait until government employees just stay home because their paychecks stop coming then wait until the trucks stop and the lights go out? If we wait until these things happen, systems that keep sewage, toxic chemicals and other environmental contaminants contained will fall apart and our world will quickly become uninhabitable. Under such conditions, epidemics of acute and chronic illnesses will worsen and deepen until almost everyone is severely weakened and unable to take care of themselves. The present regime will fail under these circumstances and the resultant power vacuum will likely make our worst Hollywood "after-the-blast" nightmares come true. But it does not have to be this way. Following is an overview of the committees of safety concept from a historical perspective and how it can be adapted to serve us well in the presently devolving political and cultural circumstances of modern America.

by Don Harkins

The "committees of safety" concept originated in 18th century England and was brought to the New World by colonists who believed in the "sovereign rights of the Englishman." These rights, as we apply them to modern law, are rooted in the Magna Carta (1215) but are merely "codified" for legal purposes since all creatures have a universally-respected right to protect and defend themselves. By logical extension, all creatures (including colonial and modern Americans) have a universal right to assemble, organize and, with their combined numbers, better protect themselves and each other’s individual and mutual interests. Further, communities of people since the dawn of mankind have worked together to better provide for their common safety, interests and defense.

By the mid-1700s, an estimated 80 percent of communities established among the 13 British colonies had formed committees of safety that functioned as parallel governments to British rule. Because the times and circumstances warranted it, many committees of safety formed militias for the common defense and committees of correspondence sent representatives to meet with the Crown’s governors on the peoples’ behalf.

The Crown’s tyranny through excessive taxation and the enforcement of oppressive laws increased through the 1760s and 1770s. During this time, committees of safety became more tightly knit and the militias more active to defend the colonists from British governors who refused to consider their respectfully-submitted petitions for redress of grievances. While few modern Americans have ever heard about Founding era committees of safety and correspondence, most are familiar with at least three of the committees’ most famous moments: "No taxation without representation" and the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s ride and the battles of Lexington and Concord.

It is not an overstatement to say that committees of safety were the foundation of organized colonial resistance to British tyranny that led to the birth of our nation.

Cultural challenges

The time to reinvent neighborhood committees of safety and to directly communicate with local government through committees of correspondence has returned to America. Under the presently worsening social, political and economic conditions, renewed interest in the committees-of-safety concept is spreading across the nation like wildfire. Those actively elevating the concept into action are facing a serious challenge: At the most basic level of community life—the neighborhood—there exists a culturally-institutionalized level of interaction among modern American neighbors that is arguably the lowest of any culture in world history. To our political, social and fiscal detriment, most American communities today are comprised of people who do not know each other because their professional and social circles do not intersect—even if their homes and/or yards are adjoining.

The challenge is even greater because the Great Depression was so long ago and we have not seen war on American soil since 1865. It is, therefore, nearly impossible for most Americans to visualize what life would be like if we were under attack in our homes or if store shelves were empty, most businesses were closed and there was no electricity—until they just close their eyes and think about it for five minutes. If you haven’t yet done that yourself, go ahead and do it now.

After that simple exercise, one should feel a significant degree of alarm. At this point we can either be paralyzed by fear or begin preparing to survive whatever disruptions our logic and reason determine may come our way in the near future.

The coming storm

There are 305 or so million people currently living in America as our nation experiences the worst economic downturn since 1929. The nation is already experiencing a severe "recession" that will almost inevitably develop into a full-blown "depression." But that is the "best case" scenario. There are a myriad of global and domestic indicators strongly suggesting that people should consider preparing to survive a socio/economic storm of cataclysmic proportions.

If and when we enter a depression (or worse), the trucks could stop running and the lights may go out. At that moment, our own levels of personal preparedness and how well we have organized our neighborhoods will determine the severity of discomfort and inconvenience we will be forced to endure until a state of normalcy returns.

At this moment in history, it matters not whether you are certain Obama is here to save the world or if you have been studying the global conspiracy since 1947: We all need food, water and shelter—and each other—to survive an extended emergency. We must, at this time, summon the common sense of cavemen and colonists, become acquainted with our neighbors and initiate meetings with them to discuss what we are going to do, as individual households and as potentially inter-dependent communities, if the trucks stop running and the lights go out.

The militia

The most cursory Google search on "committees of safety" will reveal a close historical link to the term "militia." Historically, everyone who could rise in defense of his community when called upon (but preferably men between the ages of 16 and 45) is part of "the militia." A militia is created by and takes its orders from civil bodies like federal, state and local governments—and committees of safety. So, unless neighbors in committee vote to form one of necessity, a militia has no lawful authority to exist and, therefore, cannot receive lawful orders to obey.

Today, the militia is depicted as gun toting, right-wing radicals who hate government. The historical description of "militia" describes what people have always done to protect each other; the latter description is a government-preferred, media-supported fallacy intended to discourage people from protecting each other.

Committees of correspondence

As neighbors meet to communicate the urgencies of the day and begin organizing accordingly, adjoining neighborhoods will catch on. Communications between "neighboring neighbors" will develop naturally as ideas and experiences are shared. Within weeks or months, several committees of safety in an area will have formed. United under the common purpose of organizing our communities to survive whatever calamities may come, committees that have formed within a geographic region will gather to discuss issues of common interest and concern. When many people come together in such a fashion, particularly under urgent circumstances, they will develop a unified political voice. They will then naturally form committees of correspondence to communicate with other committees in the area and/or send representatives to express their interests and concerns to government officials.

The people’s political voice, as represented by committees of correspondence, is amplified by the lawful authority of their interests and the urgency of their grievances. Like it or not, history shows that martial authorities only respect the people’s interests or redress their grievances to the extent that they are capable of enforcing their demands.

Some things never change

It is appropriate to end this essay by revisiting the Founding era to show that, while times and technology may have changed over the last 250 years, the relationships between people and governments have not.

As noted previously, nearly every community in America between 1760-1780 was organized to promote the safety of its members and protect their common interests through committees of safety. Consider a 1775 resolution agreed to by an association of committees from Albany, New York, adapt some of the language to modern parlance and apply the urgency New Yorkers felt in 1775 to our current situation in 2009:

A General Association agreed to and subscribed by the Members of the several Committees of the City and County of Albany.

PERSUADED that the salvation of the Rights and Liberties of America depends under God on the firm Union of it’s Inhabitants, in a Vigorous prosecution of the Measures necessary for it’s Safety; and convinced of the necessity of preventing the Anarchy and Confusion, which attend a Dissolution of the Powers of Government

WE the Freemen, Freeholders and Inhabitants of the City and County of Albany being greatly Alarmed at the avowed Design of the Ministry, to raise a Revenue in America; and shocked by the Bloody Scene now acting in the Massachusetts Bay

Do in the most Solemn Manner resolve never to become Slaves; and do associate under all the Ties of Religion, Honour, and Love to our Country, to adopt and endeavour to carry into Execution whatever Measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress, or resolved upon by our Provincial Convention for the purpose of preserving our Constitution, and opposing the Execution of the several Arbitrary and oppressive Acts of the British Parliament until a Reconciliation between Great Britain and America on Constitutional Principles (which we most ardently desire) can be obtained;

And that we will in all things follow the Advice of our General Committee respecting the purpose aforesaid, the preservation of Peace and good Order and the safety of Individuals and private Property.

The resolution above from 1775 America concludes by stating the agreed purpose of the committees assembled is "…the preservation of Peace and good Order and the safety of Individuals and private Property." Today in America we should be no less committed to the peace, good order and safety of each other and our property. How appropriate that the best plans to promote our own safety and security begin with knowing our neighbors.