Small Things Grow Great by Concord

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Cross-posted from the Tenth Amendment Center

by Michael Boldin

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Michael Boldin’s “Tenther Rant” at the end of Episode 20 of TRX: Tenther Radio, which airs live online every Wednesday at 5pm Pacific Time here. Find the show on iTunes at this link.


Concordia res parvae crescunt.

It’s a Latin phrase made popular during the revolutionary period that means “small things grow great by concord.” And in a time when politicians claim the power to control nearly every aspect of your life, it’s a phrase that not only packs wisdom, but gives insight on a possible roadmap to liberty.


In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Quatering Act, which required the colonies to provide housing and provisions for British soldiers. Like unfunded mandates of today, the Colonies had to pay for it all, too. But, when 1,500 British troops arrived at New York City in 1766, the New York Assembly refused to comply, effectively nullifying the act.

The Quartering Act was circumvented in all the colonies other than Pennsylvania. In royal circles, this was yet another sign that the colonies were getting a bit out of control.

In 1767, the British Parliament passed a series of five laws known as the Townshend Acts. Their primary purpose was to raise tax revenue and enforce compliance in the colonies. They included the Revenue Act of 1767, the Indemnity Act, the Commissioners of Customs Act, the Vice Admiralty Court Act, and the New York Restraining Act – a punishment for the very public rejection of the Quartering Act a year earlier.

The “punishment” given to New York? The Assembly had its legislative powers suspended, effectively leaving all decision-making outside the colony. In other words, they had to self-govern as they were told to, or not self-govern at all.

Sound familiar?

The colonies responded. And, although the Townshend Acts didn’t have the same, immediate uproar as the Stamp Act had just two years prior, they were hated and resistance soon became widespread. The most influential response to the acts came from John Dickinson, commonly known as “the Penman of the Revolution.” Opposing the new Acts, he wrote a series of twelve essays known as “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania.”


Dickinson’s warning? Don’t concede to new powers just because they appear to be small, or in the case of the Townshend Acts, because the taxes were low, since such concessions always set a dangerous precedent for new and greater powers in the future.

In the first of his “Letters,” Dickinson spent time discussing the New York Restraining Act. He wrote:

If the parliament may lawfully deprive New York of any of her rights, it may deprive any, or all the other colonies of their rights; and nothing can possibly so much encourage such attempts, as a mutual inattention to the interests of each other. To divide, and thus to destroy, is the first political maxim in attacking those, who are powerful by their union.

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