Boston Lockdown: An Odd Reminder Of “Patriot’s Day”

I’ve heard of schools being in lockdown, but never whole cities—certainly not a city the size of Boston. And yet it happened yesterday.

It happened because of a series of events set in motion on Patriot’s Day—the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

What is Patriot’s Day?

“Patriot’s Day (or Patriots’ Day) commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, which were fought near Boston in 1775. Patriot’s Day is annually held on the third Monday of April. It should not be confused with Patriot Day, held on September 11 to mark the anniversary of terrorist attacks in the USA in 2001.”

The Battle(s) of Lexington and Concord was a spontaneous defense action—the first outbreak of the war for Independence—against an attempt by British regulars to find and confiscate stored arms. Militias answered a call to resist this incursion and opened fire on the military forces of a world superpower.

These “militia” men were not professional soldiers or law enforcement officers; they were just people who worked for a living and owned a rifle. They were born and raised in a culture where law enforcement was done by volunteers who were summoned in response to a problem, and who equipped themselves for the task. In fact, the Sons of Liberty and other resistance movements were natural outgrowths of this basic societal tradition. The people both followed and enforce their own law. They followed leaders (and sometimes worked without him if he was too fearful of the British navy), but there leaders had no body of armed troops. They relied on the people themselves.

Even as late as 1831, when Alexis de Tocqueville observed the United States, he noticed this feature of American culture:

“In America the means that the authorities have at their disposal for the discovery of crimes and the arrest of criminals are few. A state police does not exist, and passports are unknown. The criminal police of the United States cannot be compared with that of France; the magistrates and public agents are not numerous; they do not always initiate the measures for arresting the guilty; and the examinations of prisoners are rapid and oral. Yet I believe that in no country does crime more rarely elude punishment. The reason is that everyone conceives himself to be interested in furnishing evidence of the crime and in seizing the delinquent. During my stay in the United States I witnessed the spontaneous formation of committees in a county for the pursuit and prosecution of a man who had committed a great crime. In Europe a criminal is an unhappy man who is struggling for his life against the agents of power, while the people are merely a spectator of the conflict; in America he is looked upon as an enemy of the human race, and the whole of mankind is against him.”

As Bostonians were ordered to stay in their homes, open the door for no one except state police agents, and allow the professionals to hunt down the malefactor, you have to notice how completely American society has changed.