New Deal 2.0 posted a fascinating article yesterday about the history of debtor/creditor conflict in the United States and the many ways in which colonial Americans fought back against a system that virtually guaranteed foreclosure in many cases and helped the rich to keep getting richer even as ordinary folks struggled to get ahead and fell deeper in debt. This is not the early America we acted out in grade school plays and believe we’re celebrating on the 4th of July!
Crowds could be flamboyantly scary and even violent, but they did not run amok, merely venting. In carefully organized disruptions, people moved en masse into courthouses where debt cases were heard, shutting down a judicial process they considered unjust. They felled huge trees across roads to prevent sheriffs from repossessing homes. They enforced no-buy covenants when foreclosed property went up for auction. They staged daring rescues of prisoners held on debt charges. Serving on juries in debt cases, they refused to convict. Well before the famous Stamp Act riots and other acts of resistance to new British trade laws, American life involved orchestrated crowd actions to prevent financial injustice and push government to act on behalf of ordinary people.
Added bonus: the post begins with a nod to Max’s “legal jiu jitsu” and that of his brethren in the “foreclosure resistance movement”.