The Man in the
Tricorn Hat

September 13th, 2010 at 8:26 am | 9 Comments |

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Whether you believe that the tea party movement is a spontaneous mass organization of regular people, click or a massive Koch brother-funded Astroturf conspiracy, cialis one thing can be agreed upon: the same people keep attending these events. Perhaps no site is more baffling or inspiring (depending on your point of view) at a tea party than the historical re-enactors who dress up as 18th century patriots. They always manage to make a tea party rally. For the most recent 9/12 rally, pills they didn’t simply show up in colonial regalia, they paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue as a marching band, attracting the admiration of their fellow tea partiers as well as the attention of fellow travelers in D.C.

While it’s possible that this was not the first time that an event like this had been organized, it’s hard to see how that could have been possible. Previous tea party rallies in DC had been held at fixed locations, usually on the National Mall at either the Washington Monument or in front of the Capitol. This rally started at the Washington Monument, but then turned into a march towards the Capitol building.

FreedomWorks volunteers were busy herding the tea partiers to make sure they took up only two lanes of the road. The crowd (which will be subject to endless estimates about its size) was compressed from a mass of signs and placards to a snake of signs and placards, though the fastest way to the front of the line remained skipping the line and walking on the sidewalk.

In the middle of the march, one could hear the The Battle Hymn of the Republic playing on flutes and drums by a cadre of re-enactors. A ring of journalists and cameramen encircled them. In addition to patriotic tunes, they also chanted “Not black and white, lets unite” to emphasize their belief that the Tea Party is not based on racism, and is instead based on opposition to Obama’s policy.


FrumForum spoke with the man who was able to get the re-enactors together, it turned to be organized by none other than “Button Gwinnett”, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (His real name is William Temple but he enjoys starting his interviews in character.) He said that it was his idea to organize the musical component of the rally, and that he makes a point to attend as many tea party events as possible, not just the big rallies and conventions. He also is a pastor and owns his own business, so is able to self-finance his re-enacting passion.

His political views can be understood as a form of constitutionalism: “We’re all about the constitution…do away with the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, Energy, that new one they are trying to create—healthcare—Commerce, we don’t need any of these and these powers do not belong in the constitution, they belong to the states.” He suggested that the healthcare bill’s individual mandate for citizens requiring them to purchase health insurance was the first true act of tyranny that the new administration had undertaken.

“Button Gwinnett” has gone out of his way to appear at many tea party events, and so in an odd way, seems to be forming part of how history will view the tea party movement. He has already appeared in numerous videos and photo galleries and is a common sight in stock photos of tea party events.  In the process he seems to have inadvertently become a suitable metaphor for the movement. He is a business owner who attends tea party events in his free time—not necessarily a “professional” activist. He is concerned about modern-day policies yet he believes the solution can be found in documents from the 18th century. He also seems entirely comfortable, and in fact relishes, the theatrics that the tea party tends to use to make their points.

While it is easy for a cynic (such as a FrumForum blogger) to tease the tea partiers for believing that Hamilton was wrong to push for a central bank, and by claiming that they would have been on the wrong side of the divide if they held to their “States’ Rights” positions during the Civil War, the truth is that this is not what possesses someone to put on a costume and march in Washington D.C., and it’s highly unlikely that the Koch brothers are buying his outfits either.

At the end of the day, this is just how people express their political frustration and anger at government in the 21st century, by evoking the lost era of perfection that they believe existed in the 18th century.

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Oldskool

    Woodstock had Wavy Gravy, so…

  • easton

    Enjoy your 15 minutes while it lasts buddy boy.

  • anniemargret

    Well, the good thing is…is that he can always wear it again for Halloween.

  • TerryF98

    Faux patriotism as a thin veneer over racism.

  • Madeline

    His real name is William Temple but he enjoys starting his interviews in character.

    Oh, brother. I bet prior to joining the tea party, he was a Harry Potter LARPer.

  • TerryF98

    Here ladies and gentlemen is the Tea Party in all it’s glory, now talking about “Second amendment solutions” against their own side!

    The chairman of the Delaware Republican Party received a death threat last week over his support for Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del) over Tea Party challenger Christine O’Donnell in the state’s upcoming Senate primary, a party official confirmed.

    The threat, issued in the form of an email, told chairman Tom Ross that he deserves “a bullet in the head” for backing “political ass-kissing RINO’s” [Republicans in name only].

    “It is one thing to have your country screwed over by socialists, it is far worse to be backstabbed by people pretending to be your friends,” the email read. “We will either rid the GOP of pieces of shit like you, or we will start a new ‘Common Sense Conservative’ party and render you all useless.”

  • MSheridan

    Regarding this:He suggested that the healthcare bill’s individual mandate for citizens requiring them to purchase health insurance was the first true act of tyranny that the new administration had undertaken.I wonder if he is unaware or uncaring that the founding fathers adopted the first “individual mandate” back in 1792. The mandate was included in a series of laws known as the Militia Acts, the first of which gave the President authority to call out the militias and imposed penalties on any militiaman who refused to obey orders. The second Militia Act included this individual mandate: all free, able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 “shall, within six months… provide himself with a good musket or firelock” or “a good rifle.” All men of age were also ordered to equip themselves with ammunition and “a knapsack” to carry supplies.

    So, does William Temple consider the Militia Acts to be the first act of tyranny in the administration of George Washington? If so, why does he dress in the mode of the day (clearly no different than our own in this regard)? If not, what does he consider the difference to be?

  • medinnus

    TerryF98 – Can you cite the source of that?

  • MSheridan

    @medinnus, at a guess he got it from this linked piece on this very site.