【N.J】 Lessons from a patriot – – – New Jersey News

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I’ve usually considered my family origins to be Welsh. The name “Morgan” is associated with the sea, although a Welshman once told me with a twinkle in his eye that the name meant someone who sings in a seaside pub.

It took me some time to realize that my Irish roots were as strong as my Welsh ones. My mother’s family name was Lyon, and my brother’s middle name was as well. That name got both of us interested, and my brother, more the historian than I, discovered that what he thought was our Irish American roots was Matthew Lyon, a rabble-rousing congressman who was thrown in jail by President John Adams for calling him a tyrant.  He once got into a fight on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives over a political issue. Makes today’s bouts in the House seem mild.

The mutual interest in our long-neglected family member led us to explore more about Matthew Lyon, a Revolutionary War hero and patriot who resisted British rule and stood squarely in the tradition of those who stood for democracy — the rule of the people as opposed to kings or dictators.

The result of our interest in Matthew Lyon was the publication of “Against Tyranny,” the story of Lyon’s rise from being an indentured servant who had to work off the costs of his voyage from Ireland to America and who later became the founder of two towns, the first congressman from Vermont and later an elected Kentucky congressman.

While both my brother and I marveled at Lyon’s story, we wondered what he might say to us today as we struggle with what it means to be a democratic republic. Here’s what we imagined Matthew Lyon might say to us today to guard our democratic republic.

“First and foremost, protect and defend your First Amendment. It is the very source of your freedom, and anyone who seeks to diminish the protections there is not a patriot. So let me remind you of those precious rights we defined in 1789: Congress cannot make a law establishing any religion or prohibiting the exercise of that religion; it cannot abridge freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of people to peacefully assemble to petition the government to right wrongs.

“Second, beware when too much power is invested in too few people, whether in business or politics. Too much power in too few hands can lead to tyranny and often to its abuse.

“Third, beware of foreign alliances. How well I remember the words warning us against foreign alliances by our departing President George Washington. He didn’t say we shouldn’t have them; he just cautioned against finding our country taken over by another, as he might well have thought after fighting the British. He also warned us to beware of partisan politicians who seem to care more about power and money than democracy.

“Fourth, protect and defend your republic, whether from without or within. I am of the opinion that the worst threats come from within, those who would subvert the values we uphold, as Jefferson wrote, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In two simple words would be my best guidance: Resist tyranny.”

John C. Morgan and Richard Lyon Morgan, writers and teachers, co-authored four books, the last  “Resisting Tyranny: The Story of Matthew Lyon, Early American Patriot”, Resource Publications, 2018. 

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