A series of imperial wars fought by the Kings of England culminating in the French and Indian War almost bankrupted England. At the end of the war England was paying to maintain 10,000 troops in the North American colonies as well as fleets to protect America’s maritime trade.
Americans had fought in the war including the first shots fired, under George Washington at Fort Necessity in Ohio. With the people of England already restive under crushing taxes, the English politicians decided they would tax the American colonists to help pay off the massive war debt and to bear the cost of the colonies future defense.
First they tried the Stamp Act requiring the use of approved or stamped government-issued paper for all legal documents such as will, deeds and diplomas. This brought our ancestors out into the streets. They marched in protest. The Governor of New York, where the first shipment of officially stamped paper was to arrive, was burned in effigy. They attacked the home of a British officer who had boasted he would collect the stamp tax by force of arms if necessary. The Americans organized the states to act in unison calling the Stamp Act Congress to coordinate a boycott and to decide upon other measures of resistance to “Taxation without representation.” In the face of this heroic opposition the British Government repealed the Stamp Act.
By this time the level of taxation in England produced riots and political turmoil, so the government once again tried to balance the budget on the backs of the Americans with the Townsend Acts. These Acts included reprisals for the recent resistance to the Stamp Act such as: restraints upon the colonial assemblies, new courts to enforce the laws, troops quartered in private homes, and once again taxes, custom fees, and import duties enforced by the British military.
Once again our ancestors stood against the tyranny of taxation without representation and eventually forced the British to also repeal these offensive measures. Not giving up on the idea of raising the money they needed from the colonies these disconnected leaders, far removed from the people, next passed the Tea Act. This Act was designed to help the English East India Company avoid bankruptcy by giving them a monopoly on the importation of tea into the colonies.
The Company was able to sell at a lower price including the required tax than any tea smuggled in without the tax. The British reasoned the Americans would willingly pay the tax if they were able to pay it and still get tea for a lower price than without it. But they reckoned without the strength of our principles. This was still taxation without representation and our ancestors would have none of it.
When two ships arrived in Boston Harbor filled with the Company’s tea Samuel Adams vowed it would never be unloaded. Adams held a series of public meetings in the Old South Meeting House. Not able to fit in the building, crowds as large as 5,000 filled the surrounding streets. They demanded that the ships leave. When the agents of the Company refused Adams led a group of men, disguised as Mohawk Indians, to Griffin’s Wharf. The vessels were boarded; the Patriots took the cargo of 342 chests, and threw them into the harbor to the encouragement of a cheering crowd on the dock. This “Tea Party” was repeated in other ports throughout America.
Taxation without representation was the burden too evil to bear for our ancestors. They faced tax burdens that never neared 1 or 2 % and we, their descendants, meekly line up to pay many times that to a government which no longer hears us as we petition them in every way we know to stop the over-the-top spending and return to financial reality.
Today many have forgotten that the “TEA” in the modern Tea Party stands for “Taxed Enough Already!” Millions express frustration and the belief that our elected representatives no longer pay any attention to us once they get to Washington. Our newly elected conservative majority joins the insider parade reaffirming the Patriot Act and passing continuing resolution after continuing resolution. Are we about to learn that if History doesn’t exactly repeat itself it sure does rhyme?
To a generation who have watched our beloved nation fall from the greatest creditor to the greatest debtor, from the greatest manufacturer to an open market for Chinese expansion “Taxed Enough Already” and “No Taxation Without Representation” are starting to sound close enough for blank verse.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. Get the latest dispatches from the History of the Future and find books by Dr. Owens @ http://drrobertowens.com. Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.
© 2011 Robert R. Owens