How lame is this tea bag thing? Seriously?
Has anyone taken U.S. History 101? Anyone gone to high school? Do they just remember that this had something to do with taxes? Because that’s what the extent of their knowledge seems to be.
Has anyone done their research, or does this just sound like a clever way to get attention?
I have to admit straight out of the gate that I would’ve easily fell into this category of people who knew next to nothing about the Boston Tea Party but remnants of what my high school history course made it into my brain. Back in my conservative days, chances are we would’ve bought our own tea bag to send to the President.
And we would’ve been stupid, stupid, stupid.
What was the Boston Tea Party about? Taxes? Yes. But the similarities truly do stop there.
Back in the mid-Eighteenth century, American colonists were beginning to form a sense of American identity separate from the British. The British didn’t like the potential for a revolt – they wanted the colonists to remain dependent on them so they imposed various tariffs and laws. Following the Seven Years War between America (who the British fought with) and the Indian people, Britain, in an effort to keep any uprisings at bay, kept 10,000 troops in North America. This was an expensive move and Britain needed money.
So they imposed the Sugar Act – a tariff (or tax) on imported sugar to the colonies and moved to make it difficult if not impossible for the colonists to smuggle sugar. The colonists had no say. The courts of vice-admirality used to force these taxes didn’t assume innocence before proven guilty. There was no trial. There was no representation. Therefore “Taxation without representation is tyranny” – James Otis, Massachusetts lawyer.
Britain felt it was only fair for the American colonists to help pay for the costs incurred by the French-Indian/Seven Years War, and so felt no regret for their actions.
To make matters worse, since the colonial taxes remained lower than those in Britain, Britain decided to impose yet another tax in a measure called the Stamp Act. This placed a tax on anything on printed paper (newspapers, letters, licenses, ship papers, playing cards, etc). This stamped paper had to be bought with hard money during a time when the economy wasn’t doing so well.
Britain’s response? “Eh, you’re represented about as well as we are here in Britain. Kinda like how citizens here represent those who cannot vote, such as women, slaves, and children.”
(sounds like us, huh? ugh. we're soooo unrepresented here.)
The colonists hated this response and it only heightened their resolve to fight against “Taxation without representation.” (Yeah, sucks to not have a voice and have yours depend on someone you don’t know/can’t see/have no or little contact with, huh? I wonder if this made anyone think of women’s suffrage if not the black man’s vote. Doubt it.)
And the center of all protests came from…Boston.
The taxes created for a worsening economy adding to the skyrocketing unemployment and inflation rates. Samuel Adams, of the beer brand, became a leader for this movement in Boston, including a group who called themselves the Sons of Liberty, who called for protesting by way of pamphlets and petitions. In time, Britain was unable to enforce the Stamp Act since all stamp distributors had left the area. And the colonists were calling for a halt to importation of goods to pressure Britain who, by 1766, repealed the Stamp Act and reduced the Sugar Act.
But they also made a Declaratory Act which basically said they could do whatever they wanted anytime they wanted. They were just being nice by repealing and reducing those acts, basically. Not backing down.
Britain’s national debt wasn’t going away. Riots and tax protests ensued at the mainland, and Britain cared more for the protests occurring at home than in the colonies which showed in their Revenue Act which called for a tax on imports such as glass, paint, paper and tea.
In October 1767, a meeting in Boston reignited the call for nonimportation as they drew a list of British products to boycott. They called for people to live more frugally and stimulate the local economy, which the small towns are rural areas loved. In time, all colonies but one enacted legislation to ban importing British goods, bringing the value of these imports down by nearly half.
By 1773, Parliament imposed a tax on tea which infuriated the colonists (who loved tea – after all) and incited rebellion and later passed the Tea Act which placed a monopoly on tea to the East India Company, a company ready to collapse in bankruptcy. Parliament didn’t want it to fail and knew the colonists loved their tea as much as they did. In time, the consumption and purchase of tea was seen as an act of treachery.
The Boston Tea Party took place late that November when Bostonians disguised themselves as Indians, boarded the ships, and dumped all the tea into the harbor, pissing off the British and making them question what authority, if any, they still had in the colonies and leading them to other Acts to punish Massachusetts. In time, we'd have the American Revolution.
Sounds just like today, eh?
Anyway, on a fun note: this is why Americans drink coffee and not tea.
See also the New York Times Online: Tax Day Is Met With Tea Parties. (registration required)
Brian Schuster on YouTube (Thank you, Project Mayhem!). I am doing my best to keep all my coarse jokes to myself, but Schuster does a good enough job I guess. I much prefer Rachel Maddow or Olbermann.
*Source: Out of Many: A History of the American People, Vol. 1. 5th Ed. 136-142
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