Brow Beat

Send In the Troops

A detail from Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre showing a line of British soldiers firing their muskets into a crowd.
The troops. Paul Revere

Editor’s note: I want to explain why we are publishing the brief anthology that follows. We understand that, historically speaking, many people found the arguments collected below to be painful, even fatal. We believe that is one reason we must broadcast these ideas to the world under our imprimatur and promote them on the internet.

The Ship by which I write will bring you Accounts of fresh Commotions in Boston. … [If] a determined Resolution is taken, to inforce at all Events, a due Submission to that Dependence on the Parent State to which all Colonies have ever been Subjected, you cannot act with too much Vigour: Warm and Spirited Resolves with Speedy Execution in Consequence thereof, will be the only Effectual means to put a Stop to the Seditious Spirit, and daring Threats of Rebellion so prevalent in this Country. The Moderation and Forbearance hitherto shown by Great Britain, has been Construed into Timidity, and served only to raise Sedition and Mutiny, to a higher Pitch. … if measures are taken to subdue them, it is to be hoped they will be taken Effectually, and nothing done by halves. Quash this Spirit at a Blow, without too much regard to the Expence, and it will prove œconomy in the End. Such Resolute and determined Conduct, will Astonish the rest of the Provinces, and damp the Spirit of Insurrection, that may lurk amongst them, and prevents its appearance.

—Gen. Thomas Gage, letter to Secretary at War William Barrington, June 28, 1768. One year, eight months, and seven days before the Boston Massacre.

The numerous Public Meetings which have lately taken place at Stockport, and the adjacent parts of Lancaster, their manifest purposes, and the language which has been held at them, have engaged the serious attention of his Majesty’s Government. … The utmost vigilance and activity on the part of the Magistrates in those districts to which I referred, is indispensably and urgently necessary, to maintain and enforce, if requisite, obedience to the laws, and to bring justice to those offenders by whom they may be violated. For these purposes it is urgently hoped that the power of the Civil Authorities will be fully sufficient; but as a measure of precaution, your Lordship is desired to give immediate directions to several Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry in the county of Chester, to hold themselves in readiness to attend to any call for support and assistance, which, in case of necessity, they may receive from the Magistrates; and the utmost confidence is justly placed in the zeal and promptitude with which, under such circumstances, the call will be obeyed.

—Lord Sidmouth, letter to the lord lieutenant of Chester County, July 7, 1819. Five weeks and five days before the Peterloo Massacre.

When the Mexican Army intervenes to keep internal order, it should be respected, because it has the weapons we have entrusted to it; because this is one of the fundamental functions for which it was created; and because for long years, and on many occasions … it has proven to be an army that limits itself to maintaining or reestablishing order, without exceeding the constitutional functions it has been assigned.

Our armed forces do not take sides for or against the people or individuals in conflict, nor do they tend to favor one side or the other; they guarantee order. This, in turn, allows institutions to freely function so that they can resolve, in accordance with the law, the problems that gave rise to the conflict that required military intervention.

All of Mexico knows that when the army intervenes, it is to safeguard tranquility, not to oppress people. … We will defend like men everything that we should defend: our property, our homes, integrity, life, liberty, and honor.

—President of Mexico Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, State of the Union address, Sept. 1, 1968. One month and one day before the Tlatelolco Massacre.

the civil power has a clear duty to try to cope with a situation itself by all possible means before summoning military aid. To ask for military help is an extreme step, and it involves troops in the most disagreeable of tasks. Nevertheless, once the situation clearly deteriorated to the point where the civil power required assistance, we did not hesitate to seek it and the response of the United Kingdom government was swift and decisive. They have demonstrated, as we knew they would, that citizens in this part of the United Kingdom are entitled to no less protection than their fellow citizens in Great Britain. … Let me make this very clear. The Army is here to assist the civil authority.

—Prime Minister of Northern Ireland James Chichester-Clark, speech of Aug. 17, 1969. Two years, five months, and 13 days before Bloody Sunday.

We have seen here at the City of Kent, especially, probably the most vicious forms of campus-oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups and their allies in the State of Ohio. … Now it ceases to be a problem of the Colleges in Ohio. This, now, is the problem of the State of Ohio and I want to assure you that we’re going to employ every force of law that we have under our authority not only to get to the bottom of the situation here in Kent—on the campus, in the city—and we have asked the complete cooperation of the District Attorney of the Federal Government. … When they start taking over communities, this is when we’re going to use every part of the law enforcement agencies of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. … We are going to eradicate the problem—we’re not going to treat the symptoms. … These people just move from one campus to another and terrorize a community. They’re worse than the Brown Shirts and the communist element and also the “Night Riders” and the vigilantes. They’re the worst type of people in America. And I want to say that they’re not going to take over the campus.

—Gov. James A. Rhodes, speech on campus disorders in Kent, May 3, 1970. One day before the Kent State Massacre.

Taking into consideration the feelings of grief suffered by the masses, the party and government have adopted an attitude of tolerance and restraint toward some improper words uttered and actions carried out by the young students when they were emotionally agitated. … what this extremely small number of people did was not to join in the activities to mourn Comrade Hu Yaobang or to advance the course of socialist democracy in China. Neither were they out to give vent to their grievances. Flaunting the banner of democracy, they undermined democracy and the legal system. Their purpose was to sow dissension among the people, plunge the whole country into chaos and sabotage the political situation of stability and unity. This is a planned conspiracy and a disturbance. … If we are tolerant of or conniving with this disturbance and let it go unchecked, a seriously chaotic state will appear. … All comrades in the party and the people throughout the country must soberly recognize the fact that our country will have no peaceful days if this disturbance is not checked resolutely. 

People’s Daily editorial, April 26, 1989. Five weeks and four days before the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

What’s your favorite argument for deploying the military to control protests? Let us know in the marketplace of ideas!

Update, June 3: This article has been updated to amend the editor’s note.