I had only a faint recollection from my sophomore high school course in American history of the circumstances that led to the Boston Tea Party event. Colonists in Boston, some disguised as American Indians, tossed an imported cargo of tea into Boston Harbor.
As I recall, the colonists objected to paying a tax on the tea imposed by the British monarch, King William III, which the colonists had not approved by their representatives. Undoubtedly there been a more detailed explanation of the circumstances provided in the school textbook but, if so, it has faded into the deep and inaccessible recesses of my aged memory.
And yet, like a Dickens ghost from the past, a remnant of that faint recollection of the event came to mind triggered by the astounding election results of this past November, and for that reason I craved a more detailed understanding of that historical event and what relevance it might have for me and this recent election.
The colonists at that time had considerable autonomy. They were British citizens but also enjoyed self-governance in many respects. They chose and paid their own governing bodies. And absent representation in Parliament they could not be taxed under the British Constitution.
The British Crown needed money. It had taken over choosing colonial officials and their payment. Parliament passed the Tea Act to raise revenue and to prop up the failing East India Company, its chief importer of tea. Seven East India Company ships, each loaded with tea, entered harbors, four in Boston and one each in New York, Philadelphia and Charleston.
On Dec. 16, 1773, Boston Harbor became awash with tea. Parliament responded in 1774 by passing The Coercive Acts or Intolerable Acts, ending local government in Massachusetts and also closing Boston commerce. The colonists responded with the First Continental Congress and petitioned Parliament, the Crown, to repeal the Acts.
To be sure, other grievances eventually brought the colonists to declare independence from an overbearing monarchy: the Quartering Act, requiring colonists to house and feed British soldiers in private homes; the Sugar Act (tax); a proclamation forbidding colonization beyond the Appalachian Mountains; the Currency Act, prohibiting the printing of money.
The tipping point for colonial revolt was inevitably reached as the colonies saw their constitutional freedom constantly eroded. It was increasingly clear to them that the king and parliament considered the American colonies as no more than a means to an end, sustaining the ruling class.
On Nov. 4, 2014, a profound shift in political power occurred. The magnitude of the shift encompassed and extended beyond the pervasiveness of the Republican Party’s historical control of both Congressional houses. It swept governorships into that party’s orbit where it never had been thought possible, to wit, Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois.
And just as those disguised colonists in Boston were the first to throw overboard not only tea but symbolically the yoke of an oppressive and unconstitutional exercise of power, so too, on Nov.4, the American electorate threw off the same unbridled control of their constitutionally protected freedoms.
While it was open warfare that put an end to a British monarch’s obsessive indulgence of power, our founding fathers saw to it that our new nation henceforth would loose itself from the grip of tyrannical elitism not by war but by exercising at the ballot box our inalienable right to freedom.
The Tea Party action of 1773 was clearly symbolic and a far cry from the finality of the British surrender at Yorktown. While the Nov. 4 election results are far more than just symbolic, the war of freedom from the present governmental tyranny has yet to be undertaken. We The People must press our elected representatives to take up now the patriotic challenge that was so gallantly and perseveringly undertaken and won by our courageous forefathers.
The writer lives in Carolina Shores, N.C.