“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ― Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin.
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” — The Declaration of Independence.
Like today, Americans 250 years ago faced an openly hostile government that was determined to prove its dominion regardless of cost.
By: Nathan Stone, The Federalist, December 16, 2023:
They came like torches in the night, swarming over the sides of the three ships anchored in Griffin Harbor: the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver. Their faces were painted black, red, and copper from lamp soot and paint, bodies wrapped in blankets or wearing “old frocks, red woollen caps, gowns, and all manner of like devices.”
Axes pecked away at locks. Three hundred and forty wooden crates were cracked, scalped, and gutted, their 92,000 pounds of black powdered innards thrown into the water, turning it dark. After three hours, it was over. The only piece of personal property destroyed during the exercise was a padlock belonging to one of the captains, and this was replaced the next day.
The Boston Tea Party — which occurred 250 years ago this Dec. 16 — may not have been the spark that ignited the American Revolution, but it set the pieces up for the great conflict. Because of the tea’s destruction, Parliament retaliated throughout 1774 with the Coercive Acts.
The Boston Port Bill (March 25) closed Boston Harbor to any and all trade; the Massachusetts Government Act (May 20) replaced the elected delegates of the Massachusetts Council with the king’s appointees, gave the royal governor the power to select sheriffs and sheriffs the power to select juries, and restricted town meetings; the Impartial Administration of Justice Act (May 20) empowered the royal governor to move trials out of Massachusetts as far as Britain, depriving the colonists of impartial trials by jury (a right that went back to 1215 and the Magna Carta); and the Quartering Act (June 2), which was applied to all the colonies, allowed officers to demand better accommodations for their troops. While the act specified that troops be put up in “uninhabited houses, out-houses, barns, or other buildings,” and not in private homes, Americans were to be billed for all the expenses tallied up by their “guests.”
The American response was sharp. “For flagrant injustice and barbarity, one might search in vain among the archives of Constantinople to find a match for it,” declared Samuel Adams. John Dickinson of Philadelphia said that “the insanity of Parliament has acted like inspiration in America. The Colonists now know what is designed against them.”
Resistance in the form of days of fasting and prayer called for by colonial assemblies and resolutions pledging a boycott of British goods swept across the Atlantic seaboard. Later that September, the First Continental Congress met and drafted the Continental Association, an intercolonial alliance that would ban all imports and exports to and from the mother country. Some delegates, such as John Adams, with Nostradamus eyes, could already see the final break still seven months away. And something even more important happened. According to historian Joseph Ellis:
Previously, the only identity the colonists shared in common was membership in the British Empire. During the summer of 1774 a major shift was occurring. They now shared a common conviction that their equal status within the empire was being downgraded. What was happening to their brothers and sisters in Boston was a preview of what soon could be happening to them.
Ironically, the British forged the very spirit that would ultimately defeat them in 1781.
Although only a prelude to the Revolution, the Boston Tea Party still has pertinent lessons for us today, especially in our specific moment. Like today, Americans 250 years ago faced an openly hostile government, much stronger than they were, and it was determined to prove its dominion over the colonies regardless of cost. The specifics have changed, but the familiar beats can be distinctly heard.
Lessons from the Past
The first lesson is to fight intelligently. When we think of the revolution, we think of the Spirit of ’76, the Minutemen at Lexington, Washington crossing the Delaware. We think of marches and speeches and flags defiantly waving. But 12 whole years of organization, planning, and activities came before the first actual line of resistance formed on Lexington Green.
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EDITORS NOTE: This Geller Report is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.