The Boston Tea Party and Its Protest Against Government Power Concentrated in a Far-Distant Land

HISTORY - Boston Tea Party (BEST)

by Diane Rufino, December 20, 2018

Four days ago, a date came and went without much mention. Yet it was so significant.

On December 16, 1773, some 30 to 130 protesters, mostly members of the Sons of Liberty, dressed up as Mohawk Indians, boarded three British ships (the Beaver, Dartmouth, and Eleanor), and dumped all its cargo of tea. In all, they dumped 342 chests of British East India Company tea, weighing over 92,000 pounds (roughly 46 tons) into Boston Harbor. The cargo was worth more than $1,700,000 dollars in today’s money. Merchant John Andrews wrote in his December 18, 1773 letter, “ten thousand pounds sterling of the East India Company’s tea was destroyed the evening before last…” The British East India Company reported £9,659 worth of damage caused by the Boston Tea Party.

The chests were smashed using an assortment of axes but aside from the tea and one  broken padlock, historical accounts of the event record no damage was done to any of the three ships, the crew or any other items onboard the ships. The padlock was the personal property of one of the ships’ captains, and was promptly replaced the next day by the Patriots. Nothing was stolen or looted from the ships, not even the tea. One participant tried to steal some tea but was reprimanded and stopped. The Sons of Liberty were very careful about how the action was carried out and made sure nothing besides the tea was damaged and they took great care to avoid any destruction of personal property. After the destruction of the tea, the participants swept the decks of the ships clean and anything that was moved was put back in its proper place.

The point of this seemingly useless emphasis on detail is that the Sons of Liberty used the event as a protest, carefully and glaringly obvious as one aimed at the importation of the East India Company tea pursuant to the Tea Act. It wasn’t a protest against Britain in general and it wasn’t a protest against the East India Company. It was a protest designed to show the colonists’ resistance to a law that was passed in abuse of government power. They were interposing to exert their liberty rights.

The Boston Tea Party wasn’t about the AMOUNT of tax on the tea, because in reality, the tax would have lowered the amount colonists would pay for tea. (In fact, King George thought the Tea Act would be welcome in the colonies because finally, it was going to save them money). No, the Boston Tea Party was about two things:  (1) The Tea Act was passed by a legislature that did not allow any representatives from the colonies (in violation of the English Bill of Rights of 1689, with its precursor being the Magna Carta; the Magna Carta introduced the concept of “Taxation with Representation”), and (2)  The Tea Act established a monopoly on the sale of tea, destroying the free market on the item and putting colonial traders out of business (or making criminals out of them should they dare to continue selling tea), thus highlighting the lack of procedures in government to protect and respect the rights of the colonies.

I bring this last point up because, as you would have noticed by reading the list of grievances against King George III in the Declaration of Independence, gradually, the King and Parliament came to exert complete control and governance over the colonies and the colonists; the last straw came when, at Lexington & Concord, the Redcoats attempted to destroy the colonial arsenal of ammunition, and then the King sent a decree to all Royal governors and the Royal Navy to block all importation of guns and ammunition to the colonies, and then in Virginia (1775), when Royal Governor Dunmore disbanded the colonial legislature, seized ammunition stores, and sought to confiscate colonial stockpiles of ammunition (prompting Patrick Henry to introduce resolutions to raise colonial militias and to deliver his famous “Give me Liberty or Give me Death!” speech). The last and most valuable of the rights of the colonists (recognized in the English Bill of Rights) were their rights of self-defense and self-determination. They would be worth fighting for.

Effective and responsive government in a free land is government that is closest to the people. A government that attempts to control people from a distant land (or a distant part of the country) is not responsible government. It is not what our Founders intended. That is why our Founders gave us a limited federal government; a federation of sovereign states. That is why we have the Tenth Amendment.

In a speech Ronald Reagan delivered on October 27, 1964 in support of Barry Goldwater (the conservative candidate), this idea was put clearly to the American people. Reagan said:

“And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.

This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

The Sons of Liberty, along with our great founding fathers, resisted, with every means possible, all attempts of the King and Parliament to concentrate power and control over the colonies and colonists from the far-off land of Great Britain. That control came at a huge cost – the loss of natural rights and rights specifically enumerated in the various charters of England and in its Bill of Rights.

We as Americans are allowing that very same thing to happen to us – allowing almost all government control to be concentrated in DC, to be carried out by a group of corrupt human beings more beholden to a political party than to the people themselves. How can we justify this when our history is one defined by the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution?

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Anyway, I hope you will take the time to read my good friend Dave Benner’s article on the Boston Tea Party. “Today in History: The Boston Tea Party” [https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2018/12/16/today-in-history-the-boston-tea-party/ ].  In that article, Mr. Benner writes:

Contrary to popular belief, this was not specifically a tax protest – the patriots did object to taxes levied without representation, but 1773 Tea Act had actually lowered the taxes on tea. Instead, the colonists disavowed mercantile practices of the British government, specifically the tea monopoly that was granted to the East India Tea Company through the law. Additionally, they renounced the idea that Parliamentary law was supreme over all of the British Empire and could override the will of the colonial assemblies.

Upon learning of the event, John Adams wrote: “This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, so intrepid, and so inflexible, and it must have so important Consequence sand so lasting, that I cannot but consider it as an Ecpocha in History.”

Although it was the most famous event called a “Tea Party,” other states resisted the implementation of the act as well. In South Carolina, patriots dumped tea into the Cooper River. In Annapolis, a ship carrying loads of tea was put to the torch. In New York and Philadelphia, the ships bringing the tea were rejected and turned back to England.

In Edenton, North Carolina, Penelope Barker organized a group of patriot women and signed a document of rebuke against the act and pledged to boycott British goods. They agreed to obstruct the policy “until such time that all acts which tend to enslave our Native country shall be repealed.” Effectively, all states meddled with the enforcement of the law in the same ways they had resisted the Stamp Act, effectively nullifying it.

As I hope most of us remember from our study of early American History, the British responded harshly to the Boston Tea Party. Parliament responded by passing a series of four acts collectively known as the Coercive Acts of 1774. The Acts were meant to punitive, to punish the Massachusetts colonists for their Tea Party protest. Parliament hoped these punitive measures would, by making an example of Massachusetts, reverse the trend of colonial resistance to parliamentary authority that had begun with the 1765 Stamp Act.

The first of the four Acts was The Boston Port Act which closed the port of Boston until the colonists paid for the destroyed tea and the king was satisfied that order had been restored.  This, of course, crippled the colony’s maritime economy. The second of the Acts was The Massachusetts Government Act, which essentially abolished the colonial government. It unilaterally took away Massachusetts’ charter and brought it under control of the British government, and for that reason, it provoked even more outrage than the Port Act. Under the terms of the Government Act, almost all positions in the colonial government were to be appointed by the governor, Parliament, or king. The act also severely limited town meetings in Massachusetts to one per year.  The third act, The Administration of Justice Act, allowed the Royal governor to order trials of accused royal officials to take place in Great Britain or elsewhere within the Empire if he decided that the defendant could not get a fair trial in Massachusetts. And the fourth, the Quartering Act, allowed a governor to house soldiers in certain buildings if suitable quarters were not provided. Unlike the other acts, the Quartering Act applied to all the colonies.

The Intolerable Acts were so harsh that the colonists referred to them as the Intolerable Acts.

Quickly, the Intolerable Acts would set the colonies on a course that would lead to war and ultimately to our independence. Months after the Intolerable Acts were imposed on Massachusetts, the First Continental Congress was called in order to address the conduct by Great Britain towards her colonies. The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from September 5 – October 26, 1774. Three achievements came of that historic meeting:  (1) The twelve colonies who sent representatives to the Congress agreed to boycott the import of British goods beginning on December 1, 1774: (2) The representatives called for a second Continental Congress to meet in May of the following year; and (3) The Congress approved a Petition to the King of England (King George III) which it sent before adjourning. That Petition explained to his majesty that if it had not been for the acts of oppression forced upon the colonies by the British Parliament, the American people would be standing behind British rule. It further appealed to the King to interceded on their behalf (in regard to their opposition to and subjugation under the Coercive Acts) and to call for their repeal.

The colonists appealed to the King with these words: “To a Sovereign, who glories in the name of Briton, the bare recital of these Acts must, we presume, justify the loyal subjects, who fly to the foot of his Throne, and implore his clemency for protection against them…..”  [The Petition can be read at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petition_to_the_King ] King George never gave the Colonies a formal reply to their petition. In fact, it is said he compared the colonists to petulant children who were rebelling rather than protesting. Although the Petition was not meant for Parliament, the King sent it there where it also received little attention and no response.

On April 19, 1775, the first shots of the revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord after a contingent of British redcoats marched from Boston to arrest the tea party planners Samuel Adams and John Hancock and to destroy the munitions stockpiled at Concord. The following month, on May 11, the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, no longer to tasked with smoothing relations with Britain but now to plan and manage the war that was certainly coming.

On June 14, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution to establish the Continental Army, to coordinate the military efforts of the colonies in their revolt against the rule of Great Britain, and five days later, on June 19, George Washington was appointed General of that Army. Still hoping to prevent war, the Second Continental Congress, on July 5, agreed to send a petition to King George asking him to reach an agreement with the Americans. This petition was termed “The Olive Branch Petition.” The following day, the Congress adopted the “Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms” to follow the Olive Branch Petition and explain why the American colonies were fighting.

The “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms,” which was written by John Dickinson but relying on language from Thomas Jefferson, would be the final attempt on the part of the colonies to avoid war with Great Britain. Just as the Petition asserted the year before, The Declaration of Causes affirmed American loyalty to Great Britain and beseeched King George III to prevent further conflict. Like the petitions presented to the earlier Kings of England, the one sent by the colonies listed their grievances (again reminding the King of their right to have representation when being taxed and their concerns over the growing tyranny over the colonies), gave their reasons for fighting the British, and stated that the American colonies are “resolved to die free men rather than live as slaves.” When the Petition and Declaration arrived in August and were handed to the King, he refused to read them. Yet, on August 23, he proceeded to formally declare the colonies to be in a state of active rebellion against the Crown (Proclamation of Rebellion) and declared the colonists to be traitors.

It is said that up until this Petition, Benjamin Franklin held great regard and affection for Great Britain and valued his status as a British subject. But when the King chose not to respond to the Petition, nor to even acknowledge the colonists’ legitimate grievances, and when Parliament did the same, he realized that his affections and loyalty to Great Britain were ill-placed and that the relationship between the colonies and the Crown was in a fatal state of disunity, and from that moment on, he was in favor of independence from Great Britain. After he voted in favor of sending the Petition, Franklin penned a letter to a friend there, William Straham. Straham was a British Member of Parliament who had, until that point, been a good friend of his for at least thirty years. In that letter, Franklin vented his anger and frustrations:

“You are a Member of Parliament, and one of that Majority which has doomed my country to destruction. You have begun to burn our towns, and murder our people. Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations! You and I were long friends: You are now my enemy, and I am Yours.  —  B. Franklin.”

The Second Continental Congress continued to meet in 1776, with the war in full swing. On July 2, the Congress adopted the Lee Resolution, formally declaring independence from Great Britain (“Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”), and finally, on July 4, the longer Declaration of Independence (listing the many grievances against the King and Parliament) was adopted.

To reject the principles that drove the Sons of Liberty and other colonial protesters to destroy the tea in Boston that cold December evening in 1773, to diminish its impact on our founding. or to fail to understand its influence on our Founders’ intent for government is to help send our country on its way to government supremacy over our lives. It is to accept that government tyranny is acceptable. It is to submit to the easier course of action which is that we can tolerate government violating and limiting our liberty rights.

Ronald Reagan, in that famous speech mentioned above, had this to say:  “You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: [up] man’s old — old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.”

 

References:

“The Boston Tea Party Destruction of the Tea” –  https://www.bostonteapartyship.com/the-destruction-of-the-tea

Dave Benner, “Today in History: The Boston Tea Party,” Tenth Amendment Center, December 16, 2018.  Referenced at:  https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2018/12/16/today-in-history-the-boston-tea-party/

Ronald Reagan, speech of October 27, 1964 (“A Time for Choosing”) – https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ronaldreaganatimeforchoosing.htm

David B. Kopel, “How the British Gun Control Program Precipitated the American Revolution,” Charleston Law Review, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Winter 2012).  Referenced at:  http://www.academia.edu/10621580/How_the_British_Gun_Control_Program_Precipitated_the_American_Revolution

David B. Kopel, “The American Revolution Against British Gun Control” Administrative and Regulatory Law News (American Bar Association), Vol. 37, no. 4 (Summer 2012).  Referenced at:  http://www.davekopel.org/2A/LawRev/american-revolution-against-british-gun-control.html

“Benjamin Franklin Joins the Revolution,” The Smithsonian.  Referenced at:  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/benjamin-franklin-joins-the-revolution-87199988/

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A Government That Wants to Control Us, Not Represent Us

TYRANNY   by Diane Rufino

George S. Liberty recently wrote a rant about government on his blogsite after he watched a news clip about Jonathan Gruber, the controversial architect of Obamacare.  His theme was how audacious and contemptible the government has become regarding the American people.  Clearly, the government has little respect for the people. It feigns loyalty to them only when it comes to election time or when it serves its purposes in enlarging the federal institution. As George wrote: “It’s clear that government feels it must oversee us rather than represent us. It knows best.”

The federal government is steadily becoming more antagonistic and repugnant to the People.  Its interests are not the interests of the American people. In fact, too many times, its interests are exactly opposed to their interests.  Look at the immigration issue, look at the erosion of race relations at the direct hands of the current administration, and look at the soft stance the current administration is taking with respect with the greatest evil the world has encountered since Nazi Germany and its designs for genocide of the Jews and world domination.  When has America ever stood by and watched its citizens being brutally beheaded?  The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, for example, which violates so many precious American liberties that this article dares not even go into them, was passed with a level of deception and duplicity that hasn’t been seen in this country since the days of the Civil War and Reconstruction. As if the backdoor deals, threats, and political promises make by the President weren’t enough, as if his promise to the American people, through an interview with George Stephanopolous, that the mandate was not a tax only to have the mandate officially classified as a tax (and supported and justified by the government’s taxing power) wasn’t enough, and as if the promises of lower healthcare costs (and retention of one’s doctor) only to see costs skyrocket, doctors lost, and businesses suffer wasn’t enough, we now learn that the architect of the healthcare bill “counted on the stupidity of the American people” in getting the bill passed in the court of public opinion.  He said that if more people knew what was written in the bill, it would have never passed. “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that.  In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass… Look, I wish we could have made it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

This government – OUR government – a government supposedly of the people, by the people and for the people –  purposely set out to deceive We the People.  Wow.  I mean, WOW!  Can you believe the audacity of our government?  King George III of England seemed audacious at one time.  He and the British Parliament took the liberty of taxing the American colonies to cover the costs incurred by the British in fighting the French in the French & Indian War (to clear claim to the New World territories) and the costs to protect them.  Yes, the tax was ultimately being used to serve and benefit the colonies, but it was the fact that the King didn’t first provide them with a seat in Parliament to give them representation with respect to legislation that affected them which set them off.  This failure of the King to safeguard their rights as Englishmen (as laid out in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, among other charters) is what gave birth to the Sons of Liberty, led to the Boston Tea Party, the shots at Concord & Lexington, the Declaration of Independence, and ultimately to our secession from Great Britain.  The lack of transparency, the duplicity, the contempt, etc…..  King Obama and his Congress of rats and weasels all of a sudden don’t seem much different from King George.

As I hear news story after news story showing just what a leviathan that our government has become – in both size and attitude –  I can’t help but reflect upon the genius of our Founding Fathers.  Thomas Jefferson repeatedly explained how government would work best. In 1816, he wrote to his friend Joseph Cabell: “”The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the function he is competent to.  Let the National Government be entrusted with the defense of the nation and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the

counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself.  It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.”  The federal government was never intended to have such concentrated power and authority over the states and over the lives and property of the people. Whatever happened to these documents: “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…..”     And “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The highly intuitive and intellectual geniuses that debated and drafted our Constitution knew very well what could happen if the populace became complacent and tacitly surrendered their freedom to the designs of government. Thomas Jefferson and others warned that government would tend to grow itself and put its own interests above those of the people.  The delegates to the Philadelphia Convention thought they addressed this problem by creating separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches and by building into government various levels of checks and balances.  Madison’s essays – Federalist No 47 and No. 51 – addressed these important design features.  Aside from the separation of powers and the systems of checks and balances, our Founders believed the two most powerful checks on government would be the States (federalism; Tenth Amendment) and the People themselves (ever vigilante of their liberties).

The question is this: Once government becomes self-serving rather than freedom-serving, are we stuck with it?  The answer is no.  Lucky for us, the sheer brilliance of our Founders can be seen in the plain words of our country’s charter of freedom – the Declaration of Independence:

“…….That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

But the obvious follow-up question is this:  At what point do we “alter or abolish” our government?  Jefferson addresses that question in that second paragraph:

“…… Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.“

At this point, so many of our precious liberties – certainly our rights to property and now our rights to make basic choices regarding our lives, our associations, our conscience, and our health – are not secured by our government. In fact, government is assaulting and eroding them. Our right to bear arms, the one right that helps us secure all others, has become ever so tenuous.  Is now the time to “alter or abolish” our government?

Judging by the sheer volume of Americans that the government has managed to shackle to its existence and its programs, individual liberty may no longer be that “precious gem” (as James Madison once called it at the Virginia Ratifying Convention) that should be placed above all else. There was a time when it was.

And government knows this.  Perhaps that was the very intent of government when it set on its path to become the great leviathan that it currently is. Maybe it knew that the people had to be coerced into surrendering their liberties – by promising them stuff and taking care of them from cradle to grave and by convincing them that the promise of guaranteed freedom isn’t the same as a guaranteed paycheck or guaranteed housing or guaranteed healthcare.

Maybe those government officials who have sought over the years to use the full power of the government to divest it of its constitutional moorings studied Federalist No 51.  In that essay, James Madison wrote: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

People can’t control government like they are supposed to if government controls them.  And make no mistake about it…. Government today DOES control the American people.

Combine the complacency that people have on account of the emphasis that the leviathan places on social and welfare programs with the “experience that hath been shown” of human nature to be “disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”  This looks like a perfect recipe for government longevity and acceptance of tyranny.  And so, in one of his arguments, George S. Liberty writes: “The government will continue to take, and take, and take. And it will push, push, and push –  all in the design to sustain itself at the expense of the populacebecause it knows that people are more inclined to suffer the consequences than to right themselves. The government banks on the fact that we are timid.”

It cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals — that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government — that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens’ protection against the government.

In other words, in this country, it is freedom that is enlarged.….   NOT the government.  Freedom must endure at all costs; NOT government.  Government must not be perpetual, if it be at the expense of individual freedom.  But individual freedom MUST be perpetual, even and perhaps especially at the expense of government.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust. Whether our Constitution has hit on the exact degree of control necessary, is yet under experiment.” (in a letter to M. van der Kemp, 1812)  Maybe our future generations of Americans are better served in our public schools by spending a month every year learning what our Founding Fathers had to say about civic duty instead of constantly re-learning about slavery and Jim Crow (the wounds that no one seems to want to let heal).

So, where are today’s Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Sam Adams, and George Washington?

If ever we needed these men – or their spirits – it is now.