Colonists at a Crossroads
In 1765, The Stamp Act was a tax imposed by British Parliament on the U.S. colonies. It required that most printed materials in the colonies carry a tax stamp. This was a revenue generating scheme that was meant to pay for British soldiers who remained in North America following the Seven Years War. The British citizens weren’t too keen on having standing armies on British soil, nor was Britain ready to continue paying the soldiers’ salaries while they were stationed abroad. So, to avoid bringing fifteen hundred soldiers back to Britain unemployed, it was better to leave them across the pond to keep an eye on those pesky colonists. Since the colonists were the direct beneficiaries of the soldiers’ presence, as they were a source of protection, it was only natural to charge the colonists for the soldiers’ services. At least, that was the King’s line of thinking.
King George used Writs of Assistance to enforce the Stamp Act. The Writs of Assistance were essentially transferable search warrants with no expiration date. They allowed British troops entry into private homes to make sure the colonists were complying with the Stamp Act. These violations of personal privacy turned many of the colonists against the British government. The Stamp Act is credited with bringing together numerous underground patriot groups who opposed the growing tyranny of the Crown. Before the Stamp Act, underground patriot groups such as the Sons of Liberty were peppered throughout the colonies but weren’t coordinated in their efforts. As these groups began to work together toward repealing the Stamp Act, they set the stage for the next landmark in the American Revolution: The Boston Tea Party.
The Boston Tea Party was not all about tea. Though the Tea Act of 1773 served as the catalyst for the infamous act of rebellion, it actually reduced the price of tea for the colonists. Before the Tea Act, Great Britain had a monopoly on the tea going to the colonies. The Tea Act allowed the Dutch East India Company to export tea directly to the colonies, at a lower cost. However, there was still a three pence duty which was going straight to Great Britain, tacked on to the price of every pound of tea. That tax was the King’s “cut,” which was unacceptable to the colonists.The colonists responded with an ultimatum. They gave the merchant’s ships twenty-one days to leave port with their cargo and high tail it back across the Atlantic. Three of those ships, which had three hundred and forty-two chests of tea on board, refused to leave Boston Harbor. The colonists were at a crossroads. It was time to put up or shut up.
In front of seven thousand patriots gathered at the Old South Meeting House, Samuel Adams issued a rousing call to action. Adams said, “This meeting can do nothing further to save the country!” On that cue roughly one hundred colonists, disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded those ships in the Boston Harbor and tossed ninety-thousand pounds of tea into the water. The Boston Tea Party wasn’t an overnight rebellion. It was a green shoot sprouting from the seeds of liberty planted almost a decade before; seeds that started to take root with the Stamp Act of 1765. It wasn’t really about the Tea Act. It wasn’t even about the three pence levy on tea. Tea wasn’t what drove a handful of rebels to dump three hundred and forty-two chests into the Boston Harbor and ultimately ignite the American Revolution. The Tea Party was simply the tipping point. It was the response to two key concerns in the hearts and minds of the colonists. The first was Parliament’s growing intrusion into the lives of the people. The second was taxation without representation.
America at a Crossroads
I believe America has reached a second tipping point. Americans are angry. Americans are frustrated. They see the destruction of this country happening before their eyes, with breathtaking speed, and feel like there is nothing they can do to stop it. The deck seems to be stacked against the citizens, in favor of the politically connected. Career politicians do the bidding of special interests and fail to respond to the wishes of the constituents they were elected to represent.
When it comes time to cast our vote at the ballot box, our choices are nearly indistinguishable. In a nation of over three hundred million citizens, are these really the best candidates we can produce? Tweedle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum. Coke or Pepsi. In the end, we somehow end up with more of the same rather than the “real change” promised by both sides of the aisle. Political insiders dominate Washington, and it’s almost impossible for average Americans to run for office. Concerned citizens, who stand up and decide to make a difference, can’t spare the time, or raise the necessary capital, to compete with the “chosen ones” who have political party backing. Even if we did have real choices for change, Congressional districts are rigged to ensure that the incumbents of Party X get into power, and stay there.
Here’s the bad news: Those factors are what drive some Americans to just give up. Why try when it won’t make a difference? One-third of all registered voters didn’t even participate in the 2008 Presidential Election, and that’s with a record turnout1. Our nation, which was supposed to be “of the People, for the People, and by the People,” is unrecognizable when compared to the vision of our founders.
There’s also good news: These factors are driving other Americans to take action, many for the first time in their lives. That’s what brought us to our tipping point. Instead of a tea tax, the healthcare issue has been the major catalyst for this new wave of activism. The debate over national healthcare reform has motivated a huge number of people to finally get involved, because now it’s getting very personal.
Guess what? It’s not really all about healthcare, any more than it was about tea two hundred and thirty-seven years ago. Healthcare is almost an afterthought when you listen to protestors speak their minds. Instead, they are talking about the Constitution, excessive taxes, personal liberty, and big government. It’s the same two issues that the Boston Tea Party was really all about.
First, the federal government’s growing intrusion into the lives of the people. Second, taxation without representation. The federal government’s unconstitutional meddling in our lives has led many Americans to start asking questions. Just how far will we let the government reach? That is the question at the heart of the State Sovereignty movement, the Tea Party rallies, and the vocal opposition by average people to nearly every piece of legislation currently being proposed by Washington.
Like the original Tea Party Patriots in 1773, average Americans are rising up to say, “No More!”“Taxed Enough Already” is our “Taxation Without Representation.” When hundreds to one were against TARP, sixty-seven percent were opposed to the GM takeover2, and only thirty-seven percent supported the stimulus package3, we are being taxed without our representation. In every case where the federal government is taking the hard earned dollars of American citizens and spending them on programs we do not support, it is taxation without representation. Whether it is the latest bank bailout or “Cash For Clunkers,” each of these measures is, in one way or another, a new tax on the American worker. We have “representatives” but they do not truly represent us. The three thousand miles that separates some constituents from their member of Congress in Washington isn’t much different from the three thousand miles that separated the colonists from their rulers in Britain. As citizens, we have lost our voice in Washington, and we know it.
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