In 1767, the British Parliament adopted the plan offered by Charles Townshend, chancellor of the exchequer, to levy import duties on a range of items used in the American colonies, including paper, lead, glass, dyes, and tea.
The American colonists were outraged. This was an attempt by the Parliament to tax them without their consent. As even Royalist moderate John Dickinson wrote in his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, “[W]e cannot be free without being secure in our property . . . we cannot be secure in our property if without our consent others may as by right take it away . . . taxes imposed on us by Parliament do thus take it away.”
The colonists were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to boycott the goods and break the yoke. Merchants in every colony refused British imports. Many products, tea in particular, were smuggled in from other countries.
The British were in a quandary. The colonial boycott reduced exports to America by nearly ₤1,000,000 during 1768-69, but to repeal the duties would mean to back down. Finally, in 1770, Parliament repealed most of the Townshend taxes, but retained the tax on tea. The smuggling of that product continued.
By 1773, 15-20 million pounds of unsold tea languished in British warehouses. British Prime Minister Lord North decided to reduce—but not repeal—the tea tax, thus underselling the smuggled Dutch tea, and export it to colonial merchants.
The gesture was more than insufficient; it was offensive. The financial cost of the tax was not the issue inflaming the colonists. The true issue was the moral question of whether or not Britain had the right to tax the colonists at all without their consent.
Attempting to undersell the smuggled tea was seen as an attempt at bribery. As one writer explained 20 years later, “[A] free people will not be amused by financial palliatives.”
Seven tea-carrying ships set sail; four for Boston and one each for New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. Most of the New York merchants refused to stock the tea. The people of Philadelphia adopted resolutions declaring that since “the duty imposed by Parliament upon tea landed in America is a tax on the Americans, or levying contributions on them without their consent, it is the duty of every American to oppose this attempt.” The intimidated importers in those two cities sent the tea back. In Charleston, the tea was unloaded and then sat unsold in warehouses.
As usual, the patriots of Boston were rowdier. On the evening of December 16, 168 Sons of Liberty, disguised as Mohawks, rowed out to the anchored tea ships, boarded them, split open the cargo chests, and dumped their contents—-approximately ₤15,000 worth—-into the harbor.
Americans today face similar tyranny. We made it crystal clear that we do not consent to the ersatz financial palliatives offerred in the form of the bank bail-out, the auto bail-out, and the so-called stimulus. Government made it clear that it doesn’t care whether we consent or not, and blew billions of dollars on each of these outrages, billions that we don’t have, meaning that the money has been borrowed from Americans yet unborn, the ultimate taxation without representation.
Just as it did in the middle of the 18th century, popular resistance to this kind of tyranny is building. And some of it is finding expression in “tea parties” across the nation. Picking up on Rick Santelli’s call for a “Chicago Tea Party”, the DontGo Movement, Smart Girl Politics, and Top Conservatives on Twitter organized more than 50 protests, attended by more than 30,000 people, across the nation on February 27. Building on the success of those tea parties, similar protests are being planned for April 15 in more than 120 cities. Michelle Malkin, Dana Loesch, GOPUSA, and American Solutions are co-sponsoring the movement.
Three of those cities are in Virginia. The schedule for Virginia Tea Parties on April 15 is:
Virginia Beach: Virginia Beach Town Center, 11 am – 1 pm
Charlottesville: Downtown Mall by City Hall, 3 pm – 5 pm
Richmond: Kanawha Plaza, 6 pm – 8 pm
If you are a Virginian, I hope you will make it to one of them.