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September 2, 2011

TEA PARTY 2011 INAPPROPRIATELY NAMED

by profbartling1

The historic context of the Boston Tea Party in 1773  makes clear that the  so-called  Tea Party in 2011  has a misapplied name. The roots of the Boston Tea Party lies in the last of  four 18th century great European and intercolonial wars. Britain and France each with allies were pitted against one another for balance of power on the continent and domination of colonial empire.  The Seven Years War  was The Great War for Empire spanning the globe. The British and French American Colonies part in that struggle is remembered as The French and Indian War, 1754-1763.   Colonial militia played a key role in that struggle. The decisive year  in the global context was 1759, “The Annus Mirabilis”, with the fall of Quebec and French Canada as well as the British Empire’s conquest of French outposts in India. This would serve as the base for eventual British control of India.  The British empire would become the empire “on which he sun never set” .  The Peace of Paris in 1763 ended the French imperial domain in North America with the loss of French Canada.

It is ironical that British control of Canada secured in The Peace of Paris led to The “Burden of Empire” and set  in motion a train of events that twenty years later resulted in the loss of British America. Unprecedented debt built up during the war raised the question of the colonies’ role in paying down that debt.  The heritage of the war brought new problems and colonial resentment. Nationalism was maturing with the colonies increasingly viewing themselves as American.  Acts of Parliament to tax the colonies in  paying their share of the  cost of empire began with the Stamp Tax in 1765  continuing to The Tea Act in 1773.

The decade prior to the Revolution produced a flood of colonial pamphlets, speeches, debate , and resolutions with the theme:  NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.  Countering the colonial argument was the British response  that  the colonies had  VIRTUAL  REPRESENTATION. It was argued that even though the colonies had no vote in Parliament neither did most of the English. Many Englishmen lived in boroughs that had grown and had no right to elect a member . Old boroughs with little or no population still did. Members in Parliament, it was argued,   represented the interests of the whole country and empire. Many colonists saw this as nonsense, neither by logic or their own experience. Colonies based representation more on population and members to live in the districts represented.  Matters moved to revolutionary boil with passage of the Tea Act of 1773. Even though tea was cheaper in the colonies than England Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians on December 16th. dumped the tea into the harbor.  Violation of the principle of No Taxation Without Representation led to the Boston Tea Party, not as the Tea Party 2001 would have it, namely,   NO (NEW)TAXES.   Tea Party 2011 has a wrongheaded and  misapplied name.

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