Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Tea Parties

April 15 of this year was designated the "tea party" day by a gaggle of conservative commentators, bloggers, and news/entertainment outlets. I didn't attend one. In fact, I never came close to one. I was busy taking my morning walk, mailing in my state tax return, and mailing in my estimated tax payments for the current year. I went to lunch with some friends. I went shopping at CostCo. Afterward I took a two-hour nap. Then I had dinner. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer had a segment about tea parties in the Nation's capital and in a few other places. I don't know how big a deal it was.

Perhaps it was a big deal. The impression I have is that the people who organized it don't know as much as they should about American history. They seem to believe that the original Boston Tea Party was a tax revolt, that people were objecting to the high tax on tea. Later propagandists for the American Revolution may have put the tax spin on the affair. Actually, it was a demonstration against the monopoly the British government of George III had granted to some English firm to ship tea from China to the American Colonies. Before the monopoly was granted, American firms using American ships had been making a nice profit from the tea importing business. Now the evil and greedy King George had taken away their livelihood by granting the monopoly.

Our history books don't present the monopoly aspect of the BTP. They emphasize the rallying cries of the American Revolutionaries: no taxation without representation. There was also the resistance to the Stamp Act, which required that any official document should have a stamp affixed to it. When I visited England in 1955 I discovered that the Stamp Act was still alive and well there. An official document had to have a government stamp attached, such as a half-penny postage stamp. A very onerous tax, indeed!


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