American Colonies, Freedom to Worship, East India Company, Tea Tax, Tea Act, Boston Tea Party, Intolerable Acts, Continental Army and an American Nation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 1st, 2012

Politics 101

As Parliament passed additional Revenue Acts Anger grew in the Colonies, especially in Boston

Prior to 1775 the American colonies were many things.  But there was one thing they were not.  United.  Many people went to America to escape religious persecution.  To live with people of their own faith.  To practice their faith without fear of reprisal or oppression.  And that’s exactly what they did.  Often oppressing fellow colonists who didn’t practice the established faith of the colony.  But they were united in one area.  Their hatred of Catholics.  Papists.  Those who lost their way and began to worship not Jesus Christ but the Pope.  That Whore of Babylon.  The seller of indulgences to buy your way out of purgatory.  And virtue.  So they had that to unite them.  But not much else.

Live and let live, they said.  As long as you worshipped Jesus Christ you were okay.  And weren’t a Jew.  Or a Catholic.  So the different denominations of the Protestant faith lived among their own.  In their own colony.  Their country.  The only sense of country they had.  Virginians weren’t American colonists.  They were Virginians.  Who didn’t much care what was going on up there in Massachusetts.  In fact, they didn’t much like what was happening up there in Massachusetts.  For Virginians were planters.  Yeoman farmers.  People who put their back into their living.  Not like those northern merchants.  And money handlers.  Who reeked just a little too much of the Old World they left.  Sitting on their backsides and making money just by buying and selling the products of other’s labors.

Life in the New World was good.  Yes, there was famine.  Disease.  And the occasional massacre.  But they could live with that.  As long as they had the freedom to worship as they pleased.  But then all that trouble started up there in Boston.  Over taxed and broke Parliament turned to their American colonies to raise some revenue.  Which angered the British Americans.  Because they didn’t sit in Parliament.  The Americans had no representation.  And according to British law taxpayers had to approve all new taxes.  Giving consent to those taxes in Parliament.  The problem with the Americans, apparently, was that they were on the ‘wrong’ side of the Atlantic.  For Britons living on the far side of the Atlantic had those rights.  They didn’t.  As Parliament passed additional revenue acts anger grew in the colonies. Especially in Boston.  Where Parliament installed British administrators to enforce these new revenue acts.  To protect their agents the British sent in the Red coats.  A peacetime occupying army.  Something very un-English that the British Americans did not like.

In Response to the Boston Tea Party Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts and closed the Port of Boston  

But the trouble didn’t end there.  The British made further attempts to raise revenue from the American colonists.  And from the British East India Company.  By taxing their tea.  Making it more expensive than the tea you could buy in the Netherlands.  Where there was no such tax.  So people did what people do with high taxes.  They didn’t pay them.  And smuggled Dutch tea into Great Britain.  And the American colonies.  Which left the East India Company with some warehouses full of tea.  So Parliament cut the tea tax due in Britain to help them.  And tried to make up for these lost revenues by taxing the Americans.  One of the new taxes included in the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767.  In response to the new tea tax the Americans boycotted tea.  Which didn’t help sell any of that warehoused tea.  So Parliament repealed the Townshend Revenue Act.  Well, all of it except the tea tax.  For they didn’t want to appear that they didn’t have the right to tax their subjects.  Represented or not.  And Parliament taxed the tea in Britain again.  This, of course, resulted in lower tea sales.  And the mighty East India Company, that made Britain so wealthy with its vast trade network, was in some serious financial peril.

Lord North, British Prime Minister, didn’t much like this uppity attitude of the Americans.  The East India Company desperately wanted to see those tea taxes cut.  But Lord North did not want to give the Americans that victory.  It was a matter of principle.  At least for him and his fellow Tories in Parliament.  As well as the Crown.  For King George III and Lord North were pretty close.  The Whig opposition was much more sympathetic to their British Brethren on the other side of the Atlantic.  But Lord North was adamant.  They had the right to tax the Americans.  And tax they would.  Besides, cutting the taxes in the Townshend Act caused other problems.  It would also eliminate the revenue it raised to pay the salaries of the colonial officials enforcing these new acts.  And it was important to keep them loyal to the Crown.  No.  The taxes in America would remain.  So their answer was, instead, the Tea Act of 1773.  Which removed the taxes due in Britain.  And allowed the East India Company to ship directly to the America colonies.  Cutting out the middleman.  And bringing the price of British tea below that of the smuggled Dutch tea.  Problem solved.

Well, not exactly.  Because the one thing they did share on both sides of the Atlantic was principle.  And even though British tea was cheaper they didn’t want anything to do with it.  On principle.  Because those Townshend tea taxes were still in force.  And paying them was a tacit admission that Parliament had the right to tax the Americans.  Despite not having any representation in that esteemed assembly.  And this they could not do.  Then came the day three little ships came to Boston harbor in 1773.  Their holds full of that detested British tea.  And a mob in the guise of Mohawk Indians descended to the docks.  Boarded these ships.  And tossed the tea overboard.  In what we call the Boston Tea Party.  Infuriating Lord North, Parliament and King George III.  Who all agreed it was time to act against these uppity Americans.  And act they did.  Passing the punitive Intolerable Acts of 1774.  That closed the Port of Boston.  Replaced the Colonial government in Massachusetts with representatives of the Crown.  Royal officials accused of committing a crime against any American would receive a ‘fair’ trial…in Great Britain (pretty much giving them a license to kill).  Forced the Americans to find room and board for the British Army occupying their cities.  And gave large swaths of land around the Great Lakes and Ohio River Valley to the Province of Quebec.  Recently added to the British Empire during the Seven Years’ War.  After they defeated their most hated and foul enemy.  The French.  Who were very, very Catholic.  As were their colonists who remained in these once French lands that were now British lands.  So to keep them from causing trouble the Quebec Act made things very comfortable for Catholics.  Right in the backyard of Protestant British North America. 

It was in the Continental Army the Country united and fulfilled the Words of the Declaration of Independence

In April of 1775 General Gage heard that there were some arms stored in Concord, Massachusetts.  So he sent some Red coats to go capture or destroy these arms.  Things did not go well for the British.  Militia gathered and stood their ground.  Shots rang out.  No one is sure who fired first.  But whoever did fired the shot heard ’round the world.  On the march back to Boston the British were harassed and picked off by sharpshooters.  Until they limped back into the safety of their Boston garrison.  Where the militia fell upon them and laid siege.  These uppity Americans for all intents and purposes had just declared war against the world’s greatest superpower.  And there was no going back.

In response to the British actions in Boston the colonies assembled in congress.  The Continental Congress.  To discuss what they as a united people should do.  For if these outrages could happen in Boston they could happen in any of the colonies.  And now that they spilled blood they needed someone to lead the American forces in their fight against the Crown.  They selected George Washington.  Who left the Congress to take charge in Boston.  And as he walked the lines at Boston he saw Americans.  And when his army marched to Quebec (to get the now British French-Canadians to join in the good fight) he saw Americans.  It was in the Continental Army the country united.  Fighting alongside in the ranks Washington saw Virginians.  Massachusetts men.  Farmers.  Merchants.  Puritans.  Baptists.  Catholics.  Jews.  Even free blacks.

There was nothing a British American enjoyed more than burning an effigy of the Pope.  That would change in the Army.  And the Army would change the country.  Especially the men who served in the Army.  Men like Washington.  Who first glimpsed a new nation.  A united nation.  That transcended religion.  The states.  Even race.  Which really brought home the words of the Declaration of Independence.  That all men are created equal.  And there’s nothing that makes men more equal than suffering the privations and horrors of war.  Sadly, after the war when the common enemy was no more the spirit of these words became a little more symbolic for some.  But these army veterans would leave their mark.  And their vision would eventually become reality for everyone.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUITH #17: “The raison d’être of federalism is to keep big government small.” -Old Pithy.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 8th, 2010

BONJOUR.  A LITTLE French there.  To go with the use of the French expression ‘raison d’être’.  Which means reason for being.  Sounds better in French, n’est-ce pas?

I like Canada.  Both parts.  The French and the English parts.  I’ve met and become friends with people in Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton and Corner Brook.  And elsewhere.  I like to talk to my Francophone friends about that day on the Plains of Abraham.  And I like to speak French to my Anglophone friends.  And they both like to point out to me what they believe to be America’s lack of tolerance and compassion.

The Canadians may be a tolerant and friendly people.  Everyone says that about them.  That they’re nice.  And they are.  But they have to work at it at times.  For there ain’t a whole lot of love between the French and English.  Not now.  Or then.  When French Canada became British.

Like it or not, that animosity has been at the van of Western Civilization.  And it would compete in the New World.  Colonize it.  Fight in it.  And give birth to a new nation.  One that would break from the ways of the past.

“WHO’S THAT, THEN?” one filthy peasant asked another.

“I don’t know.  Must be a king. ”

“Why?”

“He hasn’t got shit all over him.”

(From Monty Python and the Holy Grail – 1975.)

What is a king?  Besides someone who “hasn’t got shit all over him.”  A king is where sovereignty lies.  And sovereignty?  In a word, supremacy.  Supreme authority. 

The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, was an absolute monarch and his word was the absolute law of the land.  And he could do pretty much whatever the hell he wanted.  He built his gorgeous palace at Versailles.  Because he could.  Over in England, the king was sovereign, too, but Parliament checked his power.  So the British king wasn’t an absolute monarchy.  In England, the king could do whatever he wanted as long as Parliament agreed to pay for it.  For Parliament controlled the purse strings.  There would be no Versailles in England.

Now France and England were always at war.  Their fighting even spilled over into the New World.  The 7 Years War (as the Europeans called this world war) went by a different name in North America.  The French and Indian War.  The British won.  France lost Canada and other colonial possessions.  Their loss, though, was America’s gain.  The French and Indian attacks on the American Colonists ended, leaving them with peace and prosperity.  But it was costly.  As wars are wont to be.

Over in England, Parliament had to pay that cost.  But taxes were already pretty high at the time in England.  If they raised them further, it could cause trouble.  So what to do?  Well, there were some who pointed out that the American colonists really came out the clear winner in this latest contest.  They got peace and prosperity without really paying anything to get it.  Shouldn’t they pick up part of the tab?  I mean, fair is fair, right?

And they probably would have gladly contributed as good English subjects.  However, and this is a big however, they felt they weren’t treated as good English subjects.  In fact, they felt more like Parliament’s bitch than English subjects.  And to add insult to injury, they had no vote in Parliament.

Parliament passed a series of acts that the Americans would call the Intolerable Acts.  Both sides missed opportunities for compromise and peace.  Instead, tempers festered.  Parliament would bitch-slap the colonists.  And the colonists would bitch-slap Parliament.  Eventually throwing some British East Indian tea into the water.

Now Britain’s king, King George, had a bit of a problem on his hands.  The Americans were challenging his sovereign rule.  There was a name for this.  Kings call it treason.  And they kill people for it.  King George was the supreme authority.  Anyone challenging his authority was challenging his right to rule.  That’s why acts of treason are typically punishable by death.  You don’t stand up to kings.  You grovel.  And these uppity Americans surely weren’t groveling.

And just how does a king get this authority?  Well, you don’t vote for them.  They either inherit power.  Or they kill for it.  It’s a story as old as time.  Patricide.  Matricide.  Fratricide.  And sometimes the killing was by someone outside the family.  But that’s how sovereign power changed.  A king or queen died.  Naturally.  Or with a little help.  And when a new sovereign ascended the throne, he or she usually killed all other possible contenders.

If King George didn’t put down the American rebellion, it could spread.  To Canada.  To other English colonies.  Or give someone ideas back at home that the king was weak.  And challenge him for his throne.

These are things kings think about.  Power can be precarious.  Even when it’s absolute.  As King Louis XVI would learn in France.  During the French Revolution, the people, challenging the king’s sovereignty, sent him to the guillotine.  Chopped his head off.  His wife’s, too.  Marie Antoinette.

ENGLAND GAVE BIRTH to modern, representative government.  It was a balance of power between the many (the common people in the House of Commons), the few (the aristocratic rich in the House of Lords) and the one (the sovereign king).  Each provided a check on the others.  The king was the supreme power but he needed money to wage war and build things.  Parliament collected taxes and paid for things they approved of.  And the House of Lords was to keep that spending from getting out of control as they understood money and costs (that’s what rich people are good at).  They were to protect the nation from the evils of pure democracy where the people, once they realize they can, will vote themselves the treasury.

Most of the American colonists were transplanted Englishmen.  Or came from English stock.  They were English subjects (at least in name if not in practice).  They understood representative government.  Their colonial governments were in fact very British.  The Rule of Law was the rule of the land.  The governed consented to taxation.  And the government collected the taxes they consented to. 

You can probably see where this is going.

Taxation without representation was very un-English.  The fact that it was okay in the American colonies chafed the American English subjects.  I mean, it really frosted their shorts.  It wasn’t right.  By English law.  Or by precedent.  Anger at Parliament turned into anger at the king.  Questions of sovereignty arose.  Should the king be sovereign?  Or should the people?  In 1776, the American colonists stated their opinion in a very treasonous document.  The Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The U.S. Constitution emphasized the sovereignty of the people in the preamble.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Kings were out.  The Rule of Law was in.  No aristocracy.  No hereditary offices.  In America, it would be different.  After the Battle of Gettysburg some 75 years later, Abraham Lincoln would reiterate this at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…

…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

THE AMERICAN COLONISTS rebelled and broke away from Great Britain because they were through with being her bitch.  In fact, they weren’t going to be anyone’s bitch.  That’s why there was a lot of opposition to the establishment of a strong, central government.  They didn’t want a national government taking up where Great Britain left off.  And they didn’t want an American president to be just another King George.  The people won their liberty.  And they intended to keep it.  So they could pursue that happiness Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence.

Federalism was the solution.  The states’ governments would retain most of their powers.  Only those things they could not do well (regulate ‘free-trade’ interstate commerce, negotiate trade agreements with other nations, wage war, etc.) would be done by the new national government.  The people would remain sovereign.  Strong state governments and a ‘weak’ central government would share power.  In effect, the new central government was to be the people’s bitch.  But you’d never know that by looking at things today.

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